Flash is a different read than a novel. It kind of hits you with an intense layered world behind the words. It’s like a painting with mostly white spaFlash is a different read than a novel. It kind of hits you with an intense layered world behind the words. It’s like a painting with mostly white space outlined by paint splashed in just the right places so a meaningful picture emerges, a picture more powerful than one with paint.
Avital Gad-Cykman’s flash collection, Life In, Life Out, is about life, that, like flash, is quick. It is here, it is gone. Live it! Avital loves to use magical realism to reveal a world—intensely lived, and thus beautiful—that lives underneath her words. She uses images and humor to subtly take you away from reality for just that moment in order for you to better feel reality.
Many of these stories are a series of moments that don’t take themselves too seriously. Because it’s here then gone. Why not feel it with charm? Even tragedy can wink at you. Moments start with change, and like her first story, change comes with chaos “Major Chaos came here on of those hot days. … Since I don’t have many visits, I let him in.” Life in.
The stories have amazing imagery. Many surround the theme of war, maybe because Avital has known war, grew up with it, came from a family scarred by it. She writes of it, though, not like a victim but like someone who survives. Life is conflict, then love, then passion. But most of all it is inevitable. “We are happy, happy, happy. Even while lying alone in a bubble bath, we go on referring to ourselves in the plural… We are free to raise our children, while our husbands protect the borders of our land… We would accompany them, but children are moving inside us and out in their insecure ways.”
Some stories describe sibling fights in terms of battles, wars. Some stories show a love of life even at its worst, some reveal moving memories of parents scarred by their past. Most reveal a great fear of loneliness. Survival comes with love and family, so that is the key that binds all stories—this fear of losing, this fear of loneliness.
My favorite story is “Running Away Diary”--- “I bought myself a birthday card with a little joke about going over the hill to pick flowers. I signed the cared and went to the post office to send it. I never received it…..Thursday: Nothing happened. I mean: nothing. if I died then, nobody would have noticed.”
And we want most of all in the life out part of our life in and life out, to feel noticed, to be loved. To feel.
Avital is a marvelous writer and these are amazing stories, amazing moments. Some read like poetry, some like witty, ironic satire, all reveal the importance of warmth and love in challenging lives. Bravo! Read it!
I am a huge fan of Anthony Doerr. Love his short stories too. This is gorgeously written, original and, as all his work, very intelligent. If you areI am a huge fan of Anthony Doerr. Love his short stories too. This is gorgeously written, original and, as all his work, very intelligent. If you are a WWII story fan, this book will pull you right in.
Life is a series of choices, a series of dreams, each impacting the dynamics of relationships in complex ways.
Set in the 1950s--1970s, this historicaLife is a series of choices, a series of dreams, each impacting the dynamics of relationships in complex ways.
Set in the 1950s--1970s, this historical novel about a complicated family impacted by the father’s decisions and dreams is fast paced, clearly written and quite relevant. Bits of history are ambient reminders of what era the reader has been submerged into. The civil rights movement, memorable baseball names and moments, pop culture of the 1960s, Vietnam war. Len gets under the skin of his characters and succeeds in placing the reader right there-- in the small town world of high school games and minor league baseball, the heated drudgery of the foundry, the smokey filled bars, the blue collar culture. I felt that I was right there in the middle of it all.
Don’t miss this book. Easy to buy, easy to read. You’ll finish it fast because you won’t want to leave these characters. ...more
This is not another boarding school book. No PREP. It is far more accomplished, far deeper than that. You know when you read Pamela Erens, you are goinThis is not another boarding school book. No PREP. It is far more accomplished, far deeper than that. You know when you read Pamela Erens, you are going to get energetic writing, flawless language… and more. This is a sophisticated look at sexuality, coming of age and boarding life. It is also an excellent reflection upon just what intimacy is, and what interferes with it. And how perception of others and ourselves impacts our choices in life changing ways. I love how bold this writer is. I really liked The Understory too. Erens takes chances on narration. She takes on male point of view, a very flawed male, and executes it wondefully. She is simply a great talent and Tin House was fortunate to have found her.(less) ...more
This is a superb book. I love Michael Lewis, his style of writing is so great, such fun to read. He can teach you and entertain at the same time. GreaThis is a superb book. I love Michael Lewis, his style of writing is so great, such fun to read. He can teach you and entertain at the same time. Great research. Great writing. And what a story.
If you are voting in November, you simply have to read this book. It's a must. It helps you understand exactly what happened, why Wall Street became like a huge casino, what it did to our country--what it really did--and why regulation is critical.
Set in the 70s, during the era of bussing and all that entailed, UP FROM THE BLUE tells the story of family dysfunction stemming from a mother afflictSet in the 70s, during the era of bussing and all that entailed, UP FROM THE BLUE tells the story of family dysfunction stemming from a mother afflicted with severe manic depression. We start with the girl now grown up and about to have her own child, then we travel back in time to her as a child struggling to understand what is wrong with her mother. The story moves at a fast pace, with well timed twists and turns. Compelling but not disingenuous. It is real and raw.
To me, this is a story about fear, it’s path to prejudice, and how the transcendent power of love conquers it. The character with the courage to love unconditionally is Tillie, a very flawed 8 year old with a huge engine of inner rage rumbling inside her. Tillie’s mother is an embarrassment. She is sick, bizarrely different, and a potential threat to her husband who has a very political Pentagon job. Tillie is well aware of her mother’s issues, so much so, she keeps to herself, debates whether or not to invite friends over. But despite this awareness, Tillie allows herself to fall in love with her mother, because she allows herself to go beyond the sickness and see a unique take her mother brings to life. Tillie’s love is powerful and frustrating. It is the heartbeat of the novel. But it is not enough, because it cannot conquer everyone else’s fear which prevents the mother from seeking help.
The writer brilliantly chooses to tell this story against the backdrop of bussing, subtly comparing racial prejudice to prejudice towards the mentally ill. Stigmatism--which comes of course from the fear of the unknown-- has the same effect on the person of color stepping into a white school in the 70s, as it does on the mentally ill woman forced to live in a military world, where structure and conformity are demanded. As Bus 14 brings in the African Americans, everyone stands back and gawks, as if monsters from another planet have arrived. They are there, but they are not there, reminding us of Tillie’s mother--she is there, but she is not there. One African American girl is so frightened of being the only girl of color in her class, she is allowed time to herself in an office. Again reminding us of Tillie’s mother, so frightened of the world of sameness, she hides from everyone. And Tillie’s reach beyond the fear and prejudice to connect with the girl at school again reminds us of Tillie reach beyond fear and prejudice to see all the good in her mother.
This is a tragic story but it is not depressing, because it has grace and hope. If it were simply another book about family dysfunction, it wouldn’t have staying power. But it does have staying power because of what the story says beyond the words.
About her relationship with her mother, Tillie says once “It wasn’t perfect, but I never needed perfect.”
One of my favorite books of the year. Don't let the fantasy like description scare you away. This isn't a book based upon a gimmicky concept. No way.One of my favorite books of the year. Don't let the fantasy like description scare you away. This isn't a book based upon a gimmicky concept. No way. It is literary, extremely well-written, with very real and original characters. Fast paced, intriguing, with a ton of heart and courage. ...more
I am a fan of Dan Chaon. He not only can write but can also tell a story. This was one of those novels that is a puzzle, with pieces scattered about, nI am a fan of Dan Chaon. He not only can write but can also tell a story. This was one of those novels that is a puzzle, with pieces scattered about, nicely put into place towards the end. It has great energy and very well drawn characters. I hated when it ended. It's so hard to find compelling books nowadays. And this is compelling....more
Cynthia Reeves is a gorgeous poetic writer who weaves a story with lyrical voice, near perfect word choice and lovely imagery.
A woman is dying of breCynthia Reeves is a gorgeous poetic writer who weaves a story with lyrical voice, near perfect word choice and lovely imagery.
A woman is dying of breast cancer and Cynthia takes us on the journey to death. No, not the years, months or even weeks prior to her final release. Cynthia is braver than this. She takes us on the final days, when life is both precious and painful to hold onto.
An intelligent and gorgeous novella. I look forward to more of her work. ...more
I actually read this years ago as research for this book I was working on, also, because I am interested in the topic.
This woman is remarkable. AnyonI actually read this years ago as research for this book I was working on, also, because I am interested in the topic.
This woman is remarkable. Anyone who knows anyone with manic depression, or, thinks they have to RUN from people with emotional illness, should read it. She takes you on a journey through her brain. It is raw, brave and very engaging. Sheds amazing light on the challenges the mentally ill face and the courage it takes to move on....more
I am not finished yet, but I am really loving this book. What a voice, what lyrical, amazing language. He is truly gifted.
OK, I read it.
I cannot helpI am not finished yet, but I am really loving this book. What a voice, what lyrical, amazing language. He is truly gifted.
OK, I read it.
I cannot help but be influenced by our country's current talk about illegal immigrants, which has led to public discourse about immigrants in general. It is a talk that, to many, risks cold analysis, and for some, resentment, anger. So, given this backdrop, I personally cannot help but see this book as primarily an immigrant saga with several themes related to this--painful diaspora, scars from a cruel government carried in the bloodstream (this point is put forth metaphorically, a reference to this as a curse--fuku), passed on to children now here with us, isolation and need for cultural identity (altho this was not a real push in the book, like other immigration sagas I have read. He was very careful not to be immigration-saga-like), the unrequited love of country and culture of one's origin (unrequited when controlled by a cruel and heartless regime).
The overall energy that pulled the story together was represented by the character Oscar Wao's pure, charming, idealistic drive for love. Oscar is a son of an illegal immigrant--part of the Dominican diaspora who came here bruised and worn down from a harsh regime. He grew up in New Jersey, your basic fat kid who escapes his painful life by way of writing and reading. But what makes Oscar unique is his determination, despite obstacles, to find love. The irony of respect and love of women by a man who cannot receive love in return while living in a culture that seems to disrespect women, is, at least to me, the major force of this book. And yet this man, unattractive and rejected sexually, does not give up his idealistic quest, And more importantly, until the end, he never understands that he is able to obtain what other men, who can only be intimate with sex, cannot--a deep and abiding understanding of women. His pure ideals are like the comic characters he reads. He lives in a world of sci fi and fantasy. He writes this world. And it stays there--in fantasy-- until the very end. But when his dream becomes a reality, Oscar, becomes a super hero. I think this character, like all great characters, is symbolic.
Love was a rare thing, easily confused with a million other things, and if anybody knew this to be true it was him.
That about says it all.
Brilliant book. Lots of footnotes that would be annoying if not for Diaz's great humor. I would however recommend researching quickly the Trujillo regime. This will help.
This is a truly outstanding novel. Brilliantly written. Pam Erens is such a talent, so gifted. Outstanding voice and gorgeous prose. She has the abiliThis is a truly outstanding novel. Brilliantly written. Pam Erens is such a talent, so gifted. Outstanding voice and gorgeous prose. She has the ability to crawl right inside the skin of her character and speak to you with such honesty and detail, the world kind of surrounds you.
The language, the metaphors, the pace are all synchronized to create a feeling of loneliness, as personified by a disturbed man named Jack Gorse. Time passes, change happens and yet he stands still. In loneliness, he obsesses, he craves for intimacy, fantasizes about a stranger, longs for time to freeze. Like the flora and fauna in Central Park, he wants time to be protected. But it is not.
While with Jack, nothing is produced, knowlege is consumed--not just with books, but also with his senses. Jack, in his weird way, takes in the world. He-- at least in his mind-- is the understory. But understory is not too stable.
A perfect novella. Perfect length. Beautifully written. Elegant in theme. And filled with heart. A very compassionate writer.
I’m a great test market for a book like this, because, well, I don’t have much respect for women who sleep with other women’s husbands, who have no thI’m a great test market for a book like this, because, well, I don’t have much respect for women who sleep with other women’s husbands, who have no thoughts about the family. I have seen the other side of it, the good woman, loyal, stuck with four children and a man screwing something else that could care less about her and her kids. Call me judgmental. I don’t want to be intimate with these women. I run from them~!
But I was intimate with Pia’s women. There is no way to read Pia Ehrhardt without being intimate. Pia writes so intimately, so sensually, the reading experience is a metaphor for sex. And I didn’t run.
I liked these women, because I was so involved in their world. Pia simply writes the story, with cool, controlled hand, observant eyes. There are no victims, no excuses. Women suffer intense consequences, and their veneer of coldness towards other women falls away, fast. No one escapes consequences in Pia’s world.Whether they become a sexually narcissistic mother who sends the teen off to school, then spends the day screwing her ex-husband’s brother (in a new room every day. Ha). Or whether they help their mothers with affairs and consider them themselves. Or connect with a man whose wife left him for a lover, not to understand this sad husband, but to understand the runaway wife. Whatever their circumstances, Pia allows them no excuse. She presents their world exactly the way it is. No whining. With subtle comments here and there, witty and profound, that help the reader understand.
They all ache. They are lonely. They ache. This comes out clearly in stories about other women in their lives—the sisters and mother. We love them for this intensity. And when we step into the mess they cause, we ache for them. The mother who has to listen to her daughter’s voice squeak out of the phone because the girl disrespects her mother so much she will only speak to her dad. The woman who gets slugged by the married man she carefully manipulated into an affair. We ache for them. (and yet, well, we don’t want them meeting our husbands! LOL)
“There is a thick black line between a woman who stays and a woman who leaves,” says the husband in “Driveway.” To which she responds (to us) a few pages later, “The difference between a woman who stays and a woman who leaves isn’t geography. You can be in the room and long gone; it’s bolting without a destination.”
An excellent book about intense, lonely women who love recklessly because they ache. They ache to be loved. They ache to love.They are in control, and, well, not in control. ...more
There will always be apocalypse: Not just genre writers like Stephen King, but literary writers love (particularly nowadays) to say something about usThere will always be apocalypse: Not just genre writers like Stephen King, but literary writers love (particularly nowadays) to say something about us as we all die. There is Cormac McCarthy with his skies etched in lead, streets littered with corpses, and a man and boy who prove love is the only real thing that survives. And then Delillo who may not say the world is at end but shows that with 9/11 the world is at a point of tremendous change that impacts humanity on a very intimate level-- FALLING MAN. Not to mention other short stories new books coming out (I cannot recall the name of one I read about concerning a terrorist nuclear attack on New York. I am too frightened to read that one) yada yada. What do we look like when the doo doo hits the fan? Everyone wants to know. (because well, after the past seven years of crap in our country? We start thinking about the end.)
But I doubt any of the books tackle the human race, the question of survival, our ultimate ridiculousness like this generation Y writer, Ron Currie. This man is a force to be reckoned with. He writes with energy, courage and a satirical twinkle. He tackles our greatest fears, our eternal flaws, and senseless wars (this one looking to be the beginning of apocalypse) with humor and absurdity because lets face it, if we blow ourselves up, ruin our world, it’s absurd.
Unlike McCarthy who doesn’t say boo about the why, Ron says a whole lot about why. By using absurdism, his statement about why is even more powerful. God comes down to Sudan as Dinka woman in the Darfur region. If God wants to suffer, be spit upon, stoop as low as one can get in order to be as miserable as us humans, yeah, a woman is the right choice, and a woman in Darfur is perfect.
God is not omniscient and powerful. God does not know everything. He just started everything. God is a regular guy. God is feeling a bit guilty. And God is killed, of course, like thousands of other women in Sudan, by men. And this sets off chaos. Dogs eat God and are empowered. They speak Aramaic, have compassion, and obtain magical gifts. One dog survives and is interviewed. It’s hard to tell if he gives truthful answers because he feels so sorry for humans he lies to them to bring hope. And what does this kind of powerless and hopeless dog-God say to the ultimate question: now what? “You’re as naked and alone in this world as you were before finding me.”
And that idea, naked and alone, creates chaos. Bored and thirsty for an idol, parents start worshipping children. (my favorite story). There are suicide packs. There is your basic insanity, the kind that has nothing to do with God being dead, but now takes on a new significance. The story of how the actions of an insane serial killer impacts family is very realistic, excellently portrayed and, of course, now oddly ironic. Who exactly is mad?
There is isolation, misunderstanding. And ultimately there is war. Without God, war now develops between philosophies—genetic proclivity versus free will. USA believes in free will and instigates this war that is fought elsewhere.
The story ends as opposing troops march through Mexico towards the US border where our government has put up a sign, a kind of surrender. The note on that sign is so hilarious, so right on, that there is no way to even express how perfect it is. You simply must read the whole book, then that sign, then the end.