Reading Artie Lange's life story is like taking a long taxi ride with a guy from Jersey. Every thing that comes out of his mouth walks the line betweeReading Artie Lange's life story is like taking a long taxi ride with a guy from Jersey. Every thing that comes out of his mouth walks the line between being funny and offensive. But at the end of the ride you can't help but like the guy. 3.5 stars: four for the stories and three for the structure....more
In a Dark, Dark Wood is a book for people who don't read books.
It has a great premise and a decent set-up but the execution is terrible. It's a mysteIn a Dark, Dark Wood is a book for people who don't read books.
It has a great premise and a decent set-up but the execution is terrible. It's a mystery in the mold of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None in which a murder is committed in a house in a remote setting and one of the guests is responsible, leaving the narrator -- a crime writer of all things -- to puzzle it out before it's too late. This book has many problems, but its one unforgivable sin is conflating the withholding of information with suspense.
The entire novel is told from the point of view of Leonora who has a lot of baggage, much of which is important to the story, but whenever it comes up the author chooses not to reveal that which the narrator knows to the reader, which is bush league storytelling. The effect of this withholding ruins any possibility for real drama, making it hard to care what happens to the narrator.
Adding insult to injury, there are a great many things Leonora can't remember about the night of the murder, so she is constantly wondering what happened in the recent past while choosing not to reveal what happened long ago. This makes for a terribly frustrating reading experience. Furthermore, the book is overwritten and gives inordinate amount of attention to the wrong things. The final straw for me is when Leonora chooses not to ask certain questions because she's not sure she can face the answers. Had I not been listening to the book through my iPhone I would have tossed the book out the window.
The one redeeming quality of the audio book is that voice actor Imogen Church does an extraordinary job with the many roles she is asked to play. ...more
If you have neither the time nor money but possess the inclination to earn an MFA, might I suggest a close study of Rikki Ducornet's The Deep Zoo: "WeIf you have neither the time nor money but possess the inclination to earn an MFA, might I suggest a close study of Rikki Ducornet's The Deep Zoo: "We are keepers, you and I, of a special gift: if the creative impulse is to remain vital and resurgent, "The book we begin tomorrow must be as if there had been none before, new and outrageous as the morning sun." (Ernst Bloch)...more
A haunting book about the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl told from the villagers, scientists and soldiers who were left to deal with tA haunting book about the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl told from the villagers, scientists and soldiers who were left to deal with the mess and paid a terrible price. Reading this book is like plunging into a world that gets more and more unfamiliar. First there is the Soviet mindset that informs how the players respond, then there's the peasant farmers who seem to exist outside of time and have no concept of what radiation is or does or what too much of it might mean, and finally there's the dark pull of the Zone, the radioactive frontier that captivates those who are compelled to spend time in the villages surrounding the reactor, a place of no birds and poisoned soil that lingers in the imagination even as the body begins to fail. I've never read anything quite like this before. If you were going to write a work of dystopian fiction and needed to invent a world in which the survivors have no real clue what happened to them, this is your ur text. In fact, maybe don't write the dystopian novel and just read this instead. ...more
t's been a while since I read a novel straight through in one sitting but Friedrich Durranmatt's The Pledge is a short, surprising riveting piece of mt's been a while since I read a novel straight through in one sitting but Friedrich Durranmatt's The Pledge is a short, surprising riveting piece of meta-detective fiction. It's also a very obvious influence on season one of True Detective and wasn't surprised to see a few blog posts linking the two, especially after the finale. Will definitely read more and probably read again. ...more
Harrowing and hallucinogenic short fictions about people at the margins and those who look after them. As streetwise as Steven Jesse Bernstein and witHarrowing and hallucinogenic short fictions about people at the margins and those who look after them. As streetwise as Steven Jesse Bernstein and with language as precisely off-kilter as Diane Williams, Pretty Much Dead is a remarkable collection. Unlike many writers of short-short fiction Gottlieb has a knack for creating memorable characters that are troubling and troubled. I saw Gottlieb read at the Beauty Bar in San Francisco during Lit Quake 2015 and knew I had to get this book if only to read "strung," which she performed that night. ...more
A fragmented story of overlapping texts that worms its way into the subconscious and takes possession of the reader. I listened to this on Audible whiA fragmented story of overlapping texts that worms its way into the subconscious and takes possession of the reader. I listened to this on Audible which I don't think is best format for modular stories like this one (although I'd listen to Roxanne Hernandez read terms and conditions on a rental car agreement). A short breath is no substitute for white space. In fact, I bought a copy of the book before I'd finished listening to it and plan on returning to it soon. Part love story, part literary detective story only the trajectories are reversed. Love fragments, etc. The story is batted back and forth between New York and Mexico City and across generations like a shuttlecock in a game of badminton. Luiselli returns again and again to the notion that a city can only be known from below ground, which made me think of this photo I took over the Christmas holiday in Mexico City.
I've avoided reading Ann Beattie for the same reason I've avoided the rest of the dirty realism crowd. I emerged from my literary awakening as an undeI've avoided reading Ann Beattie for the same reason I've avoided the rest of the dirty realism crowd. I emerged from my literary awakening as an undergraduate student to survey the contemporary scene and found much of what was being taught, especially in fiction writing workshops, boring and artless compared to the modernism and postmodernism of Joyce, Woolf, Pynchon, etc. Obviously, I've softened my stance somewhat (though I still consider Carver a sham who set back American letters by at least a decade) which brings me to this unusual collection of linked short stories, The State We're In. These 15 stories are heavy on dialogue, loaded with tangents, and depend on back story enlivened through conversation, which is either coarse and contentious or fussily proper. Beattie's characters are an interesting mix of young and old but they all seem to suffer from various states of disconnectedness, the malaise of the modern age. Stories hinge on gossipy neighbors, dissatisfied lovers, and bickering family members who are unable or unwilling to put aside their perceptions and really get to know each other. This, apparently, is the state we're in, and Beattie's style and approach to storytelling is well-suited to the role of holding up a mirror and showing us our selfie-taking selves. Many reviewers and critics have suggested that Beattie's fidelity to "real talk" and self-indulgent digressions detract from the narrative rather than contribute to it, but I'm not so quick to dismiss these detours as the nattering of old ladies or compulsive complaining of the very young. The stories communicate with each other through shared characters and narrative echoes that work on a deeper level. By linking these disconnected characters together in ways that aren't immediately fathomable, Beattie seems to be suggesting there might be hope for us after all. ...more
An unnerving send-up of the campus novel. Meet Charlie Templeton a lecturer in cultural studies with a nose for trouble. The coke-snorting, colleagueAn unnerving send-up of the campus novel. Meet Charlie Templeton a lecturer in cultural studies with a nose for trouble. The coke-snorting, colleague killing academic has many kinks, chief of which is having sex with unresponsive women that he has drugged. Like American Psycho, the novel includes a number of disquisitions on horror movies, identity politics, terror plots and prog rock but he hates Coldplay so he has that going for him. Looking forward to reading more of Home's work. ...more