We read this over at the NYRB Classics book group and though I finished it awhile ago, I'm finally finding the time to write it up. It is a long rumin...moreWe read this over at the NYRB Classics book group and though I finished it awhile ago, I'm finally finding the time to write it up. It is a long rumination on the life of one Guernseyman. My blog post, which I found hard to condense for the purposes of this post, is HERE (less)
I decided not to rate this book, because, although I am a fan of Walter's writing, this one wasn't for me. Clearly a lot of people love this book, and...moreI decided not to rate this book, because, although I am a fan of Walter's writing, this one wasn't for me. Clearly a lot of people love this book, and I don't think it needs my dissection. If you don't happen to like this one, though, don't be put off of reading his crime fiction, which tends to be a bit darker. Try Citizen Vince, or Land of the Blind. (less)
Although some aspects of this book strain credibility, I did find there was a lot to like about it. The voice of Little Bee, although not entirely bel...moreAlthough some aspects of this book strain credibility, I did find there was a lot to like about it. The voice of Little Bee, although not entirely believeable to me, is a truly engaging one and seeing the West through her eyes was very thought provoking. I liked Sarah, though she seemed naive for someone with her experience and position.
I really enjoyed this bittersweet novella of Zweig's. I'd long heard of him but this was my first plu...moreA bit from a blog post I just did about this one:
I really enjoyed this bittersweet novella of Zweig's. I'd long heard of him but this was my first plunge into his work. It's a bit of an anti-Cinderella story, I suppose, where the princess does get to go to the ball, but the prince doesn't bother to come find her later. Christine is working in a remote Austrian village in between the two Great Wars. Her mother is an invalid, they are poor and Christine works at the post office, without much hope of change. Out of the blue a wealthy aunt extends her an invitation to join her in a luxury hotel, and Christine begins to live, breathe and dream again. We've had a great discussion over on the New York Review of Books discussion forum here at GoodReads , which is an open group--feel free to join us--we're on to Berlin Stories by Robert Walser.
There is a lot to say about this book, but as someone pointed out to me early on, Zweig was exquisite at rendering subtle psychological states. I was particularly struck by this one, because it shows the mind still remembering its cage:
In this new world even sleep is different: blacker, denser, more drugged, you're completely submerged in yourself. As she awakens Christine hauls her drowned senses out of these new depths, slowly, laboriously, bit by bit, as though from a bottomless well. First she has an uncertain sense of the time. Through her eyelids she sees brightness; the room must be light, it must be day. It's a vague, muffled feeling, followed by an anxious thought (even while she's still asleep): Dont' forget about work! Don't be late! The train of thought she's known for the last ten years begins automatically: The alarm clock will ring now... Don't go back to sleep... Responsibility, responsibility, responsibility... Get up now, work starts at eight, and before that I'll have to get the heat started, make coffee, get the milk, the rolls, tidy up, change mother's bandages, prepare for lunch, and what else? There's something else I have to do today...Right, pay the grocer lady, she reminded me yesterday...No, don't doze off, stay alert, get up when the alarm goes off... But what's the problem today...What's keeping it...Is the alarm clock broken, did I forget to wind it...where's the alarm, it's light in the room...Goodness, maybe I overslept and it's already seven or eight or nine and people are cursing at the wicket the way they did that time when I wasn't feeling well, right away they wanted to complain to the head office...And so many employees are being let go these days... Dear God, I can't be late, I can't oversleep...The long-buried fear of being late is like a mole tunneling under the black soil of sleep. Abruptly the last of it falls away.
I'm always concerned that people won't read this book because the title may stop them. It isn't a religious book at all. It is rather about a man who...moreI'm always concerned that people won't read this book because the title may stop them. It isn't a religious book at all. It is rather about a man who is exiled to one of the poorest parts of Italy because he is resisting Fascism. This is the account of the time he spent among the people there.(less)
But that's not why I gave it five stars. The stars are for my excellent fellow anthology writers. What a diversity of voice...moreI have a story in this one!
But that's not why I gave it five stars. The stars are for my excellent fellow anthology writers. What a diversity of voice and imagination. Here's a bit from a blog post I did about it last night:
Riding on the coattails of my betters, I've got a story in a really terrific new anthology. Grimm Tales, edited by John Kenyon and with an introduction by the Galway master of crime writing himself, Ken Bruen, features a whole host of up and coming crime writers, all working out their own variation on the premise of taking a well known fairy tale and ringing some changes on it in a piece of contemporary crime fiction.
John posted this challenge sometime toward the end of last year on his blog, Things I'd Rather Be Doing (I believe I actually learned about it through the crime community connecting blog of Sean Patrick Reardon, Mindjacker), and about seventeen of us took the challenge and came up with something that looked pretty much like a crime story. There was a contest, and there were first, second and third place winners, but basically everyone just did this in the spirit of fun. That would have seemed to be the end of it, but one way and another John thought maybe a book could be made of it, and Untreed Reads gave him the greenlight for an ebook. I believe we all quite enthusiastically agreed to be part of the project. (I mean, how hard is it to say yes, when the story has already been written?)
John has been faithfully shepherding the project through to publication and keeping us all posted on the book's progress. I don't know why it came as such a surprise to me when a couple of nights ago, he emailed us all that Grimm Tales was live. But it was a pretty exciting one.
As you might suspect, Untreed Reads is all about ebooks, but if you don't have an ereader, don't despair. There is certain to be a format that you can download on to your computer if that's your option.
I'm kind of on a mission to read more spy fiction right now, and this one crossed my path. Accordingn to the publisher's copy about this, Matthew Dunn...moreI'm kind of on a mission to read more spy fiction right now, and this one crossed my path. Accordingn to the publisher's copy about this, Matthew Dunn was a spy himself, and I noticed another reviewer here saying that in person, Mr. Dunn is a very persuasive individual.
I'd say that it's an okay first effort. Dunn does have control of a rather complicated plot, and makes it all come out right. One of the elements that was meant to be a surprise was not that surprising, but in general it was a twisty tale, and I did want to continue to the end to see what happened. The writing seemed a bit wooden and clunky, though competent enough to get the job done. But the whole thing seemed rather stereotyped and unnuanced. The depth of character was zero. The characters were superheroes or supervillains, and I don't actually understand why Dunn would write this, because although the copy says he was an impressive spy, no one is as impressive as his protagonist, or as bad ass as his villain.
I have to say that I wish Dunn had used his own real experience more in this novel, rather than making up another fairly boring superman. (less)
Recently, I pulled a copy of Everybody Knows This is Nowhere off the shelf and dove right in. "Dove right in" is a pretty apt set...moreTaken from my blog...
Recently, I pulled a copy of Everybody Knows This is Nowhere off the shelf and dove right in. "Dove right in" is a pretty apt set up on this book, when I come to think of it, though that's probably all I should say about that. Let's just say that something unexpected happens to a hooker and a john in the course of their normal transactions. It's typical of McFetridge's stories, I think that once the cops arrive, the guy basically just wants to get out of there, but the girl is interested and realizes that this is the most exciting thing that's ever happened to her. However, they are but prologue to our entertainment here, which takes us on a vast tour of what can only be called Toronto on the make.
Americans like me, who live a long way from Toronto and from Canada in general, don't necessarily have a real conception of Toronto at all, but in some ways, the city as portrayed in these books could be likened to the Wild West. A lot of new money and a lot of new population--from everywhere, but, not least, from Quebec, where the radicalization and government takeover of the French speaking populace sent a wide swathe of the English speaking segment of the province to seek new climes in the late seventies.
You've got a lot of characters in Everybody Knows, but Toronto itself is the central unifying factor. A map of the city would be a great help in reading this book, because so much of it involves driving around through different neighborhoods, each with its own microclimate and history.
The police, as far as I can recall, are carryover coppers from the first novel in this cycle Dirty Sweet, but you don't really need to know that. Each is coming from their own specific personal situation outside the crimes they are investigating and one excellent thing John has down is capturing the patter of their daily lives in between bouts of crime solving. In particular, the lore of the police force comes forward in the odd moment--tales handed down, which are wonderful nuggets kneaded into the whole.
This book doesn't really have the kind of plot that can be summarized in a paragraph or two. As with Dirty Sweet, I was impressed by how effectively the plates were all kept spinning. Mainly, the story revolves around pot, or more specifically, pot production and distribution in the Great Lakes region. There are quite a few ideas floating around in the book for those of a criminal persuasion, although beware, felons, there are a lot of disincentives for following this path. Not everybody ends up okay.