These were my favorite books when I was a child. I enjoyed some more than others, but the ones I loved I REALLY LOVED. If I would have read them for t...moreThese were my favorite books when I was a child. I enjoyed some more than others, but the ones I loved I REALLY LOVED. If I would have read them for the first time as an adult my views would probably be a bit different, but I didn't, so suck it and stuff.(less)
Ugh I’m in such a bad mood right now, guys, and bad moods are not conducive to writing reviews. Certainly not good reviews. So right up front, I’m jus...moreUgh I’m in such a bad mood right now, guys, and bad moods are not conducive to writing reviews. Certainly not good reviews. So right up front, I’m just warning you this is going to be a shitty review. I promised myself I would write at least a review per day until I was caught up, and dammit, that’s what I’m going to do.
I’ve never seen The Green Mile. I DVRed it from AMC the night before Michael Clarke Duncan died and it’s been sitting by its morbid little self ever since. I’m afraid to watch it. The only reason I read the book is because I’m tutoring this high school kid and I let him pick a book to read so we could work on his skills and shit, and this is the book he picked because that kid fucking loves Stephen King. So it was like the reverse of when teachers make you read things in high school, which is a kind of trippy thought I just had right now as I’m pulling this review out of my butt.
Anyway, it was a pretty good story. It got a little repetitive at times, but I love stories with conversational narrators. Also stories about prisons. And weird mystical shit (even though I totally didn’t even know that part was coming.) It’s like, one second this is a prison book and I’m thinking I’ll get something along the lines of The Shawshank Redemption except with Death Row, but then all of a sudden WHABAM WELCOME TO NARNIA MOTHERFUCKERS.
Stuff I know: this book is really good for teaching high school kids about motifs, themes, and recurring images. Michael Clarke Duncan was born to play the role of John Coffey. Thank God for penicillin. Stephen King’s brain is crazy. I still haven’t seen The Green Mile.
Honestly, other than for their historical value, and their influence on Elizabethan/Jacobean drama, I find medieval morality/mystery plays completely...moreHonestly, other than for their historical value, and their influence on Elizabethan/Jacobean drama, I find medieval morality/mystery plays completely boring.
Honestly, I’d never even heard of it until it was featured in an episode of Fringe a couple of years ago, and because Fringe is the shit, I decided to check it out. It sounded like something that had been written just for me, and indeed, when I started it I thought I was going to love it. And then the first chapter ended, and I started to get that sinking feeling. And then I got about 1/3 of the way and I wanted to rip my hair out. It was a chore to finish it after that, but I forced myself to do it because a) I hate not finishing books, and b) I kept hoping it would get better.
It’s really hard to explain this book to you, which is part of the reason I picked it up. Usually I love really imaginative fiction. The book begins with a horse running away, only he’s no ordinary horse. He’s clearly intelligent, and he loves to run away to Manhattan as apparently it’s his favorite place in the whole world. Clearly adorable, and I loved this part. And then the horse rescues a man named Peter Lake from a gang of mobsters and they become, uh, friends? Is that the right word? From there it got a bit convoluted and started to lose me. Helprin winds in and out of his own story, telling things in bits and pieces. Peter Lake is a burglar whose parents sent him to American shores as a baby in a tiny model boat because they couldn’t get past Ellis Island. He was raised by a group of pseudo-mystical people called the Baymen, exiled at puberty and slowly evolved into a burglar. He’s caught breaking into the home of a wealthy man with a very sick daughter, Beverly, and he and the daughter fall in love. If it sounds like this is a love story, don’t be fooled. From there, it only gets weird and apocalyptic. There’s people dying and coming back, immortal intelligent horses, long time jumps in the narrative, messiahs, the end of the world, a strange curtain of mystical fog constantly surrounding Manhattan, and bridges sometimes lead other places, but only sometimes. It all sounds cool in theory, but mostly it just confused the fuck out of me.
Other stuff that bothered me: Helprin writes with almost no dialogue, just lots and lots and lots of weird description, most of which would be beautiful on their own but when it’s all you’re getting sentence after sentence, page after page, it was just too much. There wasn’t enough character stuff, and too much emphasis on scenery. He spends five pages describing how the fucking wind feels on Beverly’s face, and about five seconds on her relationship with Peter. it’s just like BOOM they’re in love, for no discernible reason. I know that sometimes things just tend to happen in magical realism, but it really got on my nerves. All of his character’s actions started to feel like affectations after a while because I couldn’t really discern their motivation.
Probably the tipping point for my dislike was the narrator. I know I would have enjoyed this book A LOT more if I hadn’t listened to it on audiobook. The only thing narrator Oliver Wyman got right was Peter’s voice because he does a mean Irish accent. The rest of it he read in this airy annoying tone, emphasizing the wrong words, and doing mostly awful voices for other characters (the worst was Beverly, who I completely loathed because he made her sound so stupid and whiny with his line-readings).
I feel like this was never going to be a book I would love, but I also feel like I didn’t give the book a chance because of narrator. Will probably pick it up in hard copy in the future.(less)
Vladimir: (sententious.) To every man his little cross. (He sighs.) Till he dies. (Afterthought.) And is...moreDeceptively simple and completely absurd. See:
Vladimir: (sententious.) To every man his little cross. (He sighs.) Till he dies. (Afterthought.) And is forgotten.
Vladimir: Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! (Pause. Vehemently.) Let us do something while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed. Others would meet the case equally well, if not better. To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us!
Estragon: I can't go on like this. Vladimir: That's what you think.(less)
Moby-Dick isn't so much a book as it is an experience. Despite the presence of Ahab, Starbuck, Queequeg and the whale, Melville's magnum opus isn't ab...moreMoby-Dick isn't so much a book as it is an experience. Despite the presence of Ahab, Starbuck, Queequeg and the whale, Melville's magnum opus isn't about its characters. It isn't even about it's own story. Sure, on the surface it's about a bunch of guys on a boat chasing a whale, and led by their mad captain into sure death all for the sake of vengeance, but the actual movement of that plot makes up only about ten percent of this brick of a book. We get virtually no backstory on any of the characters, and almost no dialogue, in the traditional sense of the word.
All that matters to Melville is the here and the now, and it matters to him in exhausting detail. The book is basically split into three parts 1) Ishmael (our narrator) meets Queequeg and together they board The Pequod, 2) Extremely detailed but weirdly and fantastically wrong about almost everything science-related (Dear Mr. Melville: WHALES ARE NOT FISH.) descriptions of whales and whaling life and the whaling process, and 3) The Pequod finally meets the White Whale and Ahab meets his doom. of these three parts, #2 is by far the largest, and Ahab and his whale, by far the shortest. Yet, Ahab and the whale are what everyone remembers.
The result of all of this for me was that Moby-Dick ended up feeling more like an extended meditation on life than a novel. Melville's characters are just avatars through which the mysteries of the universe, and the vast incomprehensibilities, wonders, and dangers of the ocean channel themselves. This book isn't about mortals, it's about Gods.
So: while it was definitely worth reading once (despite it's bad reputation and extreme length, made worse by lack of plot), it's not a book I ever see myself reading again. There's just too much of it, and I do mean that in more than a literal sense.(less)
I'm still not quite sure how I feel about this book. What attracted me to it in the first place was the premise: two cities in o...moreOh my. Where to begin?
I'm still not quite sure how I feel about this book. What attracted me to it in the first place was the premise: two cities in one place, but what separates them? It is largely because the answer to that question is so unclear that my response to this book is somewhat muddled.
The first thing that needs to be said is that it took me an exceptionally long time to "get in" to the book. Miéville doesn't even bother with explanations for his extremely complicated creation, or any type of world-building, for that matter. Readerly knowledge of Ul Qoma and Besźel trickles in slowly and never solidifies. Weirdly, this wouldn't be a problem if the book wasn't marked as science fiction/fantasy. If you chose to pretend that nothing fantastic at all were occurring in the premise, and instead treat it as some crazy descendant of Orwell's 1984, you could do so. The pieces are there. But it IS science fiction, fantasy, speculative, etc., and that carries certain expectations.
Miéville utilizes extremely economic language and sparse plotting, which is the mark of an intelligent writer, but more often than not, I think this actually works to The City & the City's detriment. Sci-Fi and fantasy need to be grounded in some sort of reality, yet Miéville provides us with virtually no context, no background for these two cities. How did this type of separation evolve? What are the specifics? This is important stuff when your entire novel is based on the premises that two cities can exist in the same space. But what does that really mean, "in the same place"? Does it mean that there are two entirely separate cities with separate buildings and histories and they just kind of metaphysically overlap one another in alternate universes? Or are Ul Qoma and Besźel literally one city, with the same buildings and everything, and the only thing keeping them apart is policy. At times you could certainly be convinced that all this "unseeing" business is entirely psychological, and at other times that denizens of the "other city" must be appearing as shadows or ghosts, but then something in the narrative pops in and you start to question: just what does this world look like?
Especially in terms of the metaphor Miéville is trying to construct, I think that a concrete description of this world's logistics is necessary and yet Mieville never clarifies, and it becomes a growing problem throughout the novel (admittedly, the central metaphor is very powerful, especially at the end of the novel, even despite the problematic nature of the dual-city concept). But even as Miéville's hero, Tyador Borlu, in the novel's most powerful moment, learns that ultimately, the two cities are only separated by the continued participation of the people who live in them, the moment is kind of cheapened because I still find myself asking: why were they separated in the first place?
The other thing that bothered me about this book is something that might just be chalked up to personal taste. For me, there's a missing element in Miéville's writing. He is very good with words and his sense of how to properly use genre fiction to tell a powerful story is very much intact, but I'm missing the human element. The best sci-fi doesn't just engage readers intellectually and metaphorically, but through emotion as well. It does this by allowing us to identify with characters and situations, and it is exactly that identifying character that this novel is missing. Borlu, to me, was nothing more than an avatar for metaphorical action and plot movement. That is a valid choice for storytelling, but it's not one that engages me beyond a surface level. If not for the genre elements, this book would be in danger of drowning in the quagmire of its own intellectual meanderings. Sometimes authors with such literary aims are so busy trying to impress or to outdo to avoid the stigma of being common or predictable, that they lose sight of what's important in a story. Mieville saves himself this burden by actively embracing not one, but two genres (the other being detective/crime fiction) which are traditionally snubbed by "intellectual" readers. He should be applauded for this. I just wish that I cared about the end result.
Maybe on a second reading some of this would become clearer, but for now: three stars.(less)
Minus a star for the chapter in between the giants and the talking horses, because it was obviousl...more[Second Read, March 2011]
[First Read, November 2003]
Minus a star for the chapter in between the giants and the talking horses, because it was obviously so boring that I can't even remember it, but I like the part where Gulliver pees on the town, so three stars for that. The other star is for Gulliver sitting in between the lady giant's giant boobies.
Part allegorical criticism of British Imperialism, part harrowing apocalypse, and part psycho-social political statement, War of the Worlds, the book,...morePart allegorical criticism of British Imperialism, part harrowing apocalypse, and part psycho-social political statement, War of the Worlds, the book, is quite different from War of the Worlds, the movie (Spielberg, 2005). Namely: it's good. Spielberg's film was all action and no thought right up until that flummoxing ending, but the thoughtful pace of the book just begs for that ending. And Wells's fantastical and metaphorical approach to science fiction has made the genre what it is today.(less)
[4.5 stars, really:] Because I'm such a sucker for this kind of thing. Mothers and daughters, life stories, the humor of bad grammar . . . you know. G...more[4.5 stars, really:] Because I'm such a sucker for this kind of thing. Mothers and daughters, life stories, the humor of bad grammar . . . you know. Good stuff.(less)
This book always makes me feel small and dirty. And then at the end it makes up for it, makes me feel big and wide and wonderful. But mostly it makes...moreThis book always makes me feel small and dirty. And then at the end it makes up for it, makes me feel big and wide and wonderful. But mostly it makes me feel the first thing.(less)
Very good, and it made me think. A lot. But no fifth star because there wasn't any joy in it for me; just anger and sadness, and no satisfaction in ei...moreVery good, and it made me think. A lot. But no fifth star because there wasn't any joy in it for me; just anger and sadness, and no satisfaction in either.(less)