I loved the Marilyn Monroe at the Strand story. There were other stories I loved, but a lot of them felt very similar (which I guess is good for a stoI loved the Marilyn Monroe at the Strand story. There were other stories I loved, but a lot of them felt very similar (which I guess is good for a story collection, and there were some very good ones, but a lot of them bordered more on the sort of suspense/mystery/thriller genre she likes, and that's not quite my thing; she does it well, though, and I did enjoy reading)....more
I haven't read every single story; this was the "textbook" for a creative writing class I took over the summer. It was good. It contains stories fromI haven't read every single story; this was the "textbook" for a creative writing class I took over the summer. It was good. It contains stories from the New Yorker. I gave it a 4 instead of a a 5 for some degree of pretension and samey-ness....more
If I could give 1/2 stars, I might give it a 4.5, since there are some places that feel like they could be more fully fleshed out. But that may partiaIf I could give 1/2 stars, I might give it a 4.5, since there are some places that feel like they could be more fully fleshed out. But that may partially be because I want to follow so many of the stories home and live with them for weeks (I'm looking so forward to being able to do this with her forthcoming novel). One or two stories tie up maybe a little too tightly for me, but it's a debut collection. If this were my first book, I'd walk around wearing a sandwich board of its cover, giving it away to strangers and saying, "Yes, this is my first fucking book. I am really that good." She has a really strong voice, you can tell she cares about her characters, and the stories are tight as (I was going to say something really dirty here, but I didn't) - they are very tight; there's nothing extraneous. The one or two that "disappointed" me disappointed me only because the others are so, so strong. They pull you in but are not clunky-heavy or pretentious-heavy - her voice is solid but also light (not chick-lit or beach-lit light, but smart-light, bemused-light, kind of bittersweet but not cheesy - hard to describe, but hard to describe is usually good in fiction). The stories don't just pass right out of you when you finish them the way some short stories can, but it doesn't feel like she's striving, either. And, unlike a lot of short story collections (I've been reading more of them than I normally do lately and have noted this), her characters are mostly completely different except for, you know, traits that half the population shares ("These five characters all have vaginas") or something. I believe two of the stories feature the same couple but are set several years apart, which I really liked (unless I'm so totally wrong...I still liked both stories; I just might be an idiot!). Also, if you're prone to boredom, the book is designed really well, and Emma Straub looks hot as fuck in her author photo. If you need more incentive, she seems about the exact opposite of an asshole. She was really nice to me when I read a story at WORD after she read at its "Just Working on my Novel" series (she said she liked my story, which may or may not have been true, though she did not strike me as a liar, and it would have been a nice thing to say either way; asked if she could sign the copy of her book I was buying, to which I of course said yes; and wrote the best inscription ever - it's too incriminating - about me, not her - to share here, though). I love her writing and can't wait to devour the rest of her hopefully long and successful career. ...more
I do think this is an outstanding debut collection, and I did really enjoy it. But I have some issues with it. First, it starts out with the wrong stoI do think this is an outstanding debut collection, and I did really enjoy it. But I have some issues with it. First, it starts out with the wrong story, I think. When I first started it, I kind of thought, "Wait, this is getting these kinds of reviews? My friends and favorite booksellers [always trust your independent booksellers] are telling me to read this? I mean, it seems decent so far, but it's not 'ferocious' and amazing." That shouldn't happen. I feel like something like the memoir/stalker story, the dad/frog story, or "It Sounds Like You're Feeling" would have gotten me thinking, "Wow, this girl really is the hot new shit" right away (I would also have said "Very Special Victims" - which would have been my favorite had it not been for the memoir/stalker story simply because I can relate to it strongly, though "VSV" may actually be the "best," but you can't really put a two-part story at the front of a collection, I guess; the tiger story is also great, but it's such a good finale that I would never move it in fantasy editing). The editor should bury the weakest stories in the middle so that the reader is already committed and is reading with the sense that s/he already likes the writer, which makes a good to mediocre story good to great, you know (but maybe that's what I didn't like the first story as much as the others)? Thinking back, though, I see a somewhat chronological, character age-wise, narrative thread running through, which works well for the book's major themes, so perhaps having "Death is Not an Option" first makes the most sense. Maybe I would like it better if I reread it and am focusing too much on what I saw as a kind of amateurish fascination with high school but is really a very well-grasped sense of that period and of that sort of voice. Maybe that it made me uncomfortably ambivalent is a testament to Rivecca's talent (but it didn't make me uncomfortable like, "This subject matter is tough/taboo/really sensitve;" it made me cringe a little in embarrassment, which is similar, maybe - familiarity?). I don't know. I also have an issue with all the characters - aside from tiger story Alma - drinking tea. No one ever drinks coffee? Everyone seriously drinks tea? This seems like something I would have brought up and said, "It makes your characters seem same-y." In some cases, like the hippie story, tea made sense. In others, it seemed a little put-on or conspicuous in a way that was unnecessary and did sort of make me think that perhaps Suzanne Rivecca drinks tea and so had her characters do the same, which may not be fair; perhaps she really thought these women were all tea-drinkers. That would just kind of surprise me.
But, really, she handled the themes really well, she tackled them from multiple points of view, and looked at them from different angles (which is different from different POVs). Even if some of the characters were a little same-y (not just in their tea-drinking), they were generally well-drawn. Her writing is strong: really strong word choices and descriptions (in most instances; there were a few with which I took issue, but I won't nitpick), very little felt unnecessary or not fully cooked. It's clear that she had a strong vision for this, and she carried it through successfully and managed to entertain and provoke in the process.
I would definitely recommend this to people who like short stories, especially in the sort of "women's/sexuality" category (it's so sad that that's a category; there is no "men's/sexuality" category - that's just called "literature"). I think, honestly, I would most highly recommend it to fans of Joyce Carol Oates. Rivecca is not quit Oates (in my opinion, no one is or ever will be, especially not where the short story is concerned), but she's dealing with similar topics and doing so differently but very, very close to as well - and that's a big fucking deal kind of thing to say - especially for me (go look at my bookshelf and count how many JCO books I read compared to any other author - or all other authors combined). ...more
It's not that it was bad; it was a perfectly fine biography of Neutral Milk Hotel (I admit she did a good job of looking at the way Jeff Mangum's beenIt's not that it was bad; it was a perfectly fine biography of Neutral Milk Hotel (I admit she did a good job of looking at the way Jeff Mangum's been exalted to God status while at the same time acknowledging his voice and talent and making him seem like a real person on the page, as she did with the rest of the players; it was also a biography of Neutral Milk Hotel that admittedly used "Aeroplane" as a centerpiece). But I didn't want to read a biography of Neutral Milk Hotel. I wanted to read a book about the album as an album, as a text. I think this is my first 33 1/3 book, so maybe this is just what they are like. It's probably hard to sell many people on the idea of a book about an album as a text. But it could still be mainstream; I can imagine it working. I wouldn't even mind if she interspersed recording info into the analysis. Plus, her analysis of the lyrics was generally flat and just bad, especially considering all the information to which she had access, so I wouldn't want it in her hands, but still. I mean, it was enjoyable. It was wasn't why I bought the book. I guess I should have test-driven it.
If this is what 33 1/3 does to it's "Boys for Pele" book (which will probably never actually come out anyway), I'm going to be so fucking mad. I already know everything publicly available about Tori Amos!
(Also, it took me so long to read such a short book because I started it one day thinking I'd just finish it over the weekend but then got absorbed in something else, never did, and then took it with me to BEA because I didn't want to carry around JCO's gigantic fucking memoir when I knew I'd be picking up a bunch of free galleys AND would have to trek myself over to the A train from the Javits Center every day. So, really, I did finish it in 2.5 days, they were just dispersed.)...more
I wanted badly to love this book, but I couldn't get through it. I thought the dialogue was really, really forced, and when "the plot thickened," I juI wanted badly to love this book, but I couldn't get through it. I thought the dialogue was really, really forced, and when "the plot thickened," I just couldn't go with it. Worse, though: the book is first person-narrated by our hero, and sometimes - too much of the time - it's terribly cheesy, (again) forced, and just plain poorly written. The plot sounds really awesome on the back of the book, but either I didn't read far enough or the publisher is playing up something that's mentioned but did not seem like a crucial point to sell books to people like me, who would not normally buy a detective-ish, dystopian thing (although I like dystopian stuff, I don't read much of it). i almost never do this (put a book down with the intention of NOT picking it back up at some time in the future), but I think I'm doing that with this book. I feel terrible....more
I can't believe it took me so long to read this! At first it was because I didn't like the fucking name (I'm such an idiot), then it was because I thoI can't believe it took me so long to read this! At first it was because I didn't like the fucking name (I'm such an idiot), then it was because I thought that all the deeply-deserved praise (which I called "hype") mixed with the plot made the book poser-ish and hipster-y, and then it was because I'd taken so long to read it that I had other books in line ahead of it. But my friend Jen insisted that I would love it and that I had to read it, and she was right. I did loved it, and I'm obviously glad I read it. The structure is flawless (though, you know, while I love the PowerPoint chapter as a story, I like it less in the context of the book as a whole - not that I don't like it, but it was my least favorite part; however, saying it was my least favorite part of Goon Squad is like saying it's not quit as cute as that other baby panda or monkey with its own pet cat or something). Characterization is amazing (though I did have a slightly difficult time keeping exactly up with every detail and specifically remembering exactly what all the kids were like so that I could connect them with their adults selves, and while I guess that's a failure of my memory - certainly the first thing is - I might have liked a second story about the ones that recur just set a few years in the future because a second story set exactly then would run contrary to the perfect structure), and the dialogue is believable with just the right amount of that "saying a bit more" quality it needs. Pacing is superb. I actually don't think it even took me a chapter or two to get into it. It explores its themes in this really subtle way that's also not at all hard to follow (but not "hitting you over the head" sort of "not hard to follow." Writing all this, I realize it sounds really banal (I guess I would make a terrible book reviewer? I'd do better if I cared more and devoted more time?) and just like "This book is a competent piece of literary fiction." But it really is more than that. A real accomplishment. I believe it's the only Pulitzer winner (totally deserving) I've read in the last year or so aside from Joyce Carol Oates' Blonde, which I don't think it's "better than," but that's neither a fair comparison nor an unbiased opinion, if there were such a thing. Having just watched a TV movie version of that book that was not very good, I'm particularly curious about how HBO is going to make this into a series (hopefully a mini-series and not an actual TV show; I haven't looked into it that hard because when the news came out I hadn't read the book but already owned it and didn't want any spoilers). I really kind of wish they hadn't done that except that I guess it's good for solid books and good for Jennifer Egan. Either way, definitely recommended for my fellow late adopters....more
I accidentally left this book on an Amtrak train, and I'm not sure it comes out until April (it was an ARC). I was really enjoying it, though (page 16I accidentally left this book on an Amtrak train, and I'm not sure it comes out until April (it was an ARC). I was really enjoying it, though (page 160-something-ish?), and will buy a new copy to replace the one I lost.
Update: Re-bought it, started back from where I left off (4/15)....more
I would like to give this four stars, but there's something slightly missing that made me give it a three. It ended a little too quickly, and I thoughI would like to give this four stars, but there's something slightly missing that made me give it a three. It ended a little too quickly, and I thought the titular character could have been given a little more space. It was enjoyable and obviously smart, but I sometimes felt like I was reading a YA novel (not all the time, but at times). Good ending....more
I wanted to really like this book because, while I'm not a huge fan of Steve Earle's records, I like his non-record stuff, like his appearances on TheI wanted to really like this book because, while I'm not a huge fan of Steve Earle's records, I like his non-record stuff, like his appearances on The Wire and 30 Rock. You know, he seems like an awesome guy, and the idea behind the book seemed so interesting. But while it had its interesting moments, it wasn't quite what I expected. I was interested in his use of magical realism, which I found surprising but not quite believable and a little cringe-worthy at points, and the book was a page turner. But it has the marks of a novice writer, and I don't think it would have been published (at least not by a major press with the publicity it got and the same space in bookstores) had it not been written by Steve Earle. However, I did finish it, and I did enjoy reading it, so I gave it a 3. It's just not particularly great, in my opinion. It was all right, though. I mean, I'm glad a read it, but I don't think I'd recommend it to anyone but Steve Earle (or Hank Williams) fans or people with a real interest in drug-related literature....more
I feel like I should give this a five, and I really want to, but I feel like it was lacking that extra, ephemeral quality that makes something a fiveI feel like I should give this a five, and I really want to, but I feel like it was lacking that extra, ephemeral quality that makes something a five for me....more