Safran makes it work. Of course he never gets to the bottom of anything, and he goes off track, and he's very flawed in his approach ('I keep thinkingSafran makes it work. Of course he never gets to the bottom of anything, and he goes off track, and he's very flawed in his approach ('I keep thinking, what would Janet Malcolm think of this?'). But damn it if he isn't both perceptive and insightful about people, and unafraid about asking the right questions in a really honest and self-deprecating way. He's also genuinely and uniquely funny and not a bad bloody writer. This isn't really a True Crime book (well, I guess it is sort of but only technically) because it doesn't revel in the sordidity (sordidness?) of the crime, and wherever Safran is titillated by a juicy detail, he admits it. This also isn't full of gimmicky pranks, like some of his TV work (some of which I've really enjoyed, but some of which I've found tiresome, irritating or exploitative). Actually this is exploitative but that's part of what he overtly explores, unlike many other writers in the genre. It's actually pretty good... nice one, John. Maybe do some more writing, eh?...more
Hard to review. I kept putting this down, because it was so bleak, and so slow, and did I mention without much hope? But the story is kind of amazing,Hard to review. I kept putting this down, because it was so bleak, and so slow, and did I mention without much hope? But the story is kind of amazing, Mary and her sister barely muddling through a childhood full of violence, chaos, wildness and neglect, though not without love. As a memoir this is so after the fact, Mary 'remembers' so much small (poetic) detail, and I'm a bit like, did you really notice that when you were eight, or does that just sound good now? Not the main events, of course, and she's pretty upbeat about some fairly horrific traumas - I'm sure she was a pretty interesting character as a kid. That's kinda the way she tells it, anyway. The blurb tells me how influential this book was (do they mean that it started the memoir trend that has buoyed publishing in the last twenty years?). This is a very vivid work but I struggled to get through it. She has a poet's sense of pacing. Have I just gone off memoir lately? Hmm....more
Kinda garbled and decidedly implausible. The main character had the personality of a doorknob, and I kept going 'huh?' at the plot. Pretty forgettableKinda garbled and decidedly implausible. The main character had the personality of a doorknob, and I kept going 'huh?' at the plot. Pretty forgettable. Disappointing, as I loved The Teleportation Accident, which was a lot more polished. Sorry, Ned. --- Edit. I've thought more about it, and I think I want Beauman to be, like, more *honest* as a writer. I want him to work on his characters' self-awareness or something. They just seem dopey or something, like they don't think. It just doesn't seem to add anything to my understanding of the world, or provide a pleasurable enough experience in their company to not worry about, I don't know, *edification*. I want more depth, please, depth of any kind. Come on Beauman, bring it. I want to feel like you're trying harder. I know it's your choice to write however you want, and maybe this reads to you like the exact book you'd love to read yourself, but I just think you probably can do more. Anyway, you have plenty of time. You could write maybe 15 more books. So don't waste too many of them. ...more
This was going to be a three star review until about a third of the way through the book. But it didn't go where I thought it would. (view spoiler)[OnThis was going to be a three star review until about a third of the way through the book. But it didn't go where I thought it would. (view spoiler)[Once the attack on Jean-Baptiste had occurred, I thought it was going to go to some kind of dark place, something about punishing the folly of youth and inexperience, or metaphor for loss of innocence in the big city, but he rallies and strengthens - grows up, really, and all of a sudden you can like him. (hide spoiler)] You can really feel Paris, the damp houses, the hangovers, the seediness. It's well-written.
However, I'm quite pissed off at the pull quote preceding the blurb on the back of the novel - it comes from the text about three pages before the end of the book and basically summarises everything that has happened in the story up to that point; yes, up to the ending. I mean, FFS! It's basically a list of all the events in the novel. Thanks, publisher, for all the spoilers!["br"]>["br"]>...more
Well, I want to like Neil Gaiman, and I do, he seems like a nice guy, he doesn't put women in weird roles or anything, which is important in a fantasyWell, I want to like Neil Gaiman, and I do, he seems like a nice guy, he doesn't put women in weird roles or anything, which is important in a fantasy novel I'm going to read; I mean, he seems like a humanist. But it's just so light and flyaway. It's all 100% plot, this, with a bit of Londony atmosphere thrown in (which I like), but mostly the stakes seem incredibly low. Things happen really fast and the consequences are glossed over as you move with snappy dialogue through to the next setup. The character depth and the complexity of the relationships between characters aren't really there. I mean, you can really just whip through it, and I enjoyed reading it, but what does it feed you, really, in the end? I guess it's an intelligent genre novel, and I'm not sure what I expect from fiction anyway, right? Who says it has to be deep? Fantasy isn't about that. The best quality about this book is its use of liminal spaces, this crossing from London above to London below and how those two places co-exist and interact, or not. I think that's the main reason to read the book, unless you're just really, really into 'quest' structures. Reminded me a bit of China Mieville's The City and The City a bit in that regard, but less noiry and less existentially charged. This is more of an 'adventure'.
I think I would really really have loved reading this when I was about 14 years old. ...more
Ew, I feel a bit dirty now. Probably because I related to some of the horrible choices the (it's true, very unlikable) main character Carla made whileEw, I feel a bit dirty now. Probably because I related to some of the horrible choices the (it's true, very unlikable) main character Carla made while on her adventure away from home....more
Boy oh boy. It's kind of a one-sided view of an increasingly unhealthy relationship. If you can even call it a view, as Orton, charming and witty as hBoy oh boy. It's kind of a one-sided view of an increasingly unhealthy relationship. If you can even call it a view, as Orton, charming and witty as he seems, was too self-centred to really see his relationship. I'm not sure how long he could have gone on, denying his own need for and others' need for love. He would have crashed and burned with his own nihilistic hedonism at some point (perhaps when his career was turning down?). You get the sense about a third of the way through the diaries that he's just writing them for future publication. Little did he know the circumstances under which they would be. Also, the introduction by John Lahr is great, as well as his very useful footnotes sometimes drawing on his biographical research on Orton. I'll have to read Prick Up Your Ears too....more
**spoiler alert** Well, it's hard to know how many stars to give this book. If the whole thing was as great as the last 'part about Archimboldi' I'd b**spoiler alert** Well, it's hard to know how many stars to give this book. If the whole thing was as great as the last 'part about Archimboldi' I'd be going for five stars. I feel it got really bogged down in the central 'part about the crimes'; just relentless. And I almost gave up when I was on the part about Fate. This was a book that required a great leap of faith to work through. I do think it's changed me a little bit, and I respect ambition, absolutely. I do believe that not all the digressions were required, and I don't just mean the small digressions of a couple of pages. Is it rude to look at such a work and go 'yeah, about 300 pages less in the middle woulda been great'?
I feel a bit too overwhelmed to really review this properly. I might have to come back to it.
And I feel pretty sad for Juarez, which appears to have been the model for Santa Teresa.
What is it I expect from a novel, anyway? I don't even know. I feel fuller, but also somehow more empty too.
OK, I'm upping it to 4 stars, but I think I can never read it again.
**edit** Every time I looked at my book list I was like 'wha'? four stars?' so I upped it to five. This is a book that I utterly inhabited and I don't mean in like a Harry Potter kind of rollicking kind of way, but like ... oh, how to articulate? It takes you over, like ... something that takes you over (possession? drug addiction?). I guess I mean it inhabited me. And I feel like it's just really still with me. I feel like, I didn't even know what he was doing at the time (and I suspect he could even have done it better) but now I've got this having-read-this-book thing inside me. There aren't that many books that feel so real. Like a body is real. Oh I don't know. For once I'm preferring the stars to the words. Five of them, there it is.
Close generic good-literature-appears-to-be-meaningful quasi-review....more
To be honest I read this such a long time ago that I have really only retained impressions. One of the misanthropy (or 'nastiness') that it's steepedTo be honest I read this such a long time ago that I have really only retained impressions. One of the misanthropy (or 'nastiness') that it's steeped in. Another memory is a line (I believe it's about a rape?) that says "his two tongues entered her two mouths" or something like that; a little piece of violent ickiness that often comes to mind in inconvenient moments, and for which I resent Amis. But now I'm reading Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White, which (although I'm not far in yet) feels like a sort of echo of London Fields, doomed London triangles of bleakness only 120 years earlier. I don't know if it's too soon to tell. The other statement that comes to mind is Juliette Lewis' review of Gabriel Roth's (Woody Allen) character's manuscript in the movie husbands and Wives ... something about it being like Leni Riefenstahl, "brilliant" but "you despise the ideas behind it", which is of course to oversimplify but kind of sums up the conflict I have about these kind of 'brilliant'ly nasty books....more
Oh man, this is a tough one. I don't want to review it under peer pressure. The thing is, Bolaño is brilliant, but frustrating. I respect this book, bOh man, this is a tough one. I don't want to review it under peer pressure. The thing is, Bolaño is brilliant, but frustrating. I respect this book, but I didn't enjoy it. I almost never lost myself in it. I think it's something about his rhythm; it's like wading through the mud. Is it that I've already been through those years of floating around making bad decisions? Bolaño overstays his welcome, a bit, he's the guy who you don't really know well enough but who still asks you for the key to your Paris sublet when he knows you're away for the weekend, and you know full well that if you were going to be there, he would probably not even bother to look you up. Am I confusing the arrogance of his characters with him himself - wait, they're his alter egos, so yeah. I don't know. Sometimes he's so wonderful, but then I resist, resist, resist, while I'm actually reading. The scene he describes is so suffocating. I spent many years in a scene like that. Is that it? I don't know. And it did my head in, the jumping from interviewee to interviewee. Sometimes I loved this book. I loved the final section. But I was just like, let a little bit of light in here, please, almost the *whole* way through. Maybe what I want to say is, I think his experiment works, but I didn't particularly *like* it. It was just so fucking hard to read and all that detachment drove me crazy. Because I suppose I'm looking for a connection in my reading, and he just won't throw you a bone in that department, you know? Just as you find a flow, he dumps that character. But seriously, what am I looking for in a book anyway, eh? I don't want *no* challenge, but I don't want it to feel like work *all the time*. And when it's over I want to feel different, especially if I didn't enjoy the reading. There were a lot of similarities with 2666 and this, actually. (view spoiler)[The literary questing after an elusive writer, mostly. And obviously this compartmentalised structure. (hide spoiler)] Look, it's only my experience, right? Perhaps I read it at the wrong time. Perhaps I was feeling weak (I was). But part of me thinks the book made me feel weak. Weak and dirty and a bit sicker than I already am (which is a bit, actually). Maybe you can only read about misdirected lives when you feel yours is under control, or it's all too much. Also I think maybe I'm prejudiced against poetry. Certainly poets. That's probably not fair, is it?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Look, I know everybody loves this book. I think I am a lightweight when it comes to tone. If it's too oppressive I run screaming. But hey I read thisLook, I know everybody loves this book. I think I am a lightweight when it comes to tone. If it's too oppressive I run screaming. But hey I read this so long ago that I don't know what I would think about it if I read it now....more
Found this hard to love. The pieces are so short, their themes so repetitive. I guess I'm a fan of longer-form narrative. The short interview at the eFound this hard to love. The pieces are so short, their themes so repetitive. I guess I'm a fan of longer-form narrative. The short interview at the end with Tatsumi was very interesting though....more
**spoiler alert** I guess it's pretty hard to follow The Secret History.
MAJOR SPOILERS I don't at all feel like nothing happened in this book, as some**spoiler alert** I guess it's pretty hard to follow The Secret History.
MAJOR SPOILERS I don't at all feel like nothing happened in this book, as some reviewers appear to, and I don't at all have issues with how the murder at the open is closed (it isn't). But it did feel very heavy and slow at times ... I think she writes really well, but the book is very oppressive. It was a relief to hang out with the meth-heads sometimes. It's hard to spend so much time with characters who are so completely in their own worlds for one reason or another. And its all about neglect, it made me want to clean the house and get all my work finished, stet.
Still, it was pretty good. I think it needs to settle with me a bit.
Also, you just want someone to slap that Charlotte....more