not everybody likes fred vargas. but i think she's wonderful! she reminds me in some ways of those scandinavian police procedural writers, most notablnot everybody likes fred vargas. but i think she's wonderful! she reminds me in some ways of those scandinavian police procedural writers, most notably henning mankell. but, then, she's totally different too. her books seem to me to have a kind of folkloric aspect to them, with werewolves for example. or, in this book, with a kind of rewriting of paris as a medieval town in some ways. not surprisingly, then, vargas delves into questions of human brutality and, like many other very good mystery/police procedural writers, she asks questions about what it means to be human (as opposed to werewolf, for example).
vargas is in fact writing in french, and her stories take place in france. there is a little bit of inspector maigret here, too, in the pace. european mysteries are always very different from american mysteries on that score---a much slower pace, with great attention to detail, and with a different kind of denouement.
the details of the mystery are, in my opinion, exquisitely conceived. there are no cheap tricks here....more
there's no getting around it, melville's mastery of language is up there with shakespeare, faulkner, and woolf. it's the kind of language that draws sthere's no getting around it, melville's mastery of language is up there with shakespeare, faulkner, and woolf. it's the kind of language that draws so much attention to itself that, at times, you stop reading for the plot and start reading for the texture of the sentences themselves.
pierre is not so much a story, or a novel, as it is a wildly incoherent narrative progression that, at each stage, seems to turn a corner. the plot certainly turns corners that prove to be irrevocable, as characters make decisions that, as in greek tragedy or shakespeare, inevitably push the action toward a train wreck. but, then, violating even the boundaries of the world the novel set out at the beginning, the story turns and turns in unimaginable directions.
as a story, then, it isn't very cohesive. but as a study of human nature, as bizarre and seeming unreal as it is, melville does seem to get at some of the basic conflicts of human desire, and he certainly plumbs experience to find all of its ambiguities. this is a novel that is both outside the boundaries of normal anything---normal writing, normal experience, normal expectation---and which is also about those kinds of experiences and sensations that seem to be detached from or not easily placeable in the organization of what we accept as normality. he begins by setting out a story that would seem to be traditionally sentimental, and he ends up somewhere entirely different---in uncharted waters.
i've read this book a few times, and have written about it, and still it has more layers of secrets for me every time. it's a book about the strugglesi've read this book a few times, and have written about it, and still it has more layers of secrets for me every time. it's a book about the struggles of childhood, the struggles of adolescence, the struggles of womanhood---the struggles to define oneself against, as in many victorian novels, the restrictions of cultural mores.
for me, this is a book about the conflicts between internal imagination and external realities. and so as much as it's about victorian realities, i think for everybody, and perhaps in a way especially for those women who were plagued by being different as girls, this is a book worth re-reading every few years....more
objects have a life of their own, both in the world and in our imaginations, and this book accounts for how we arrange ourselves and our objects intoobjects have a life of their own, both in the world and in our imaginations, and this book accounts for how we arrange ourselves and our objects into collections, how we fantasize about who we are in the world in relation to objects that are giant or miniature, and for how we try to reimagine ourselves by rearranging the objects around us.
this book also contains one of the most piercing thoughts on writing and death i've ever read:
". . . while speech gains authenticity, writing promises immortality, or at least the immortality of the material world in contrast to the mortality of the body. our terror of the unmarked grave is a terror of the insignificance of a world without writing." (on longing, p. 31)...more
this is a good book. it's not a great book, but it's very good. it's a well-crafted dive into several layers of historical imagination. at each stagethis is a good book. it's not a great book, but it's very good. it's a well-crafted dive into several layers of historical imagination. at each stage the reader is navigated through dense historical investigations, including some delicious research in all kinds of libraries, by way of first-person narratives. this is a very effective way of communicating a great deal of information to the reader. and you have to appreciate this novel's unwillingness to simplify for a wide public. at any rate, as a reader, you don't need to follow the complexities too closely most of the time. this is, after all, a mystery driven by a strange threat, dracula himself, tracked through layers of historical information and layers of folkloric traditions, back and back, until the fanged menace himself begins to take shape. at certain points, this book is actually very creepy to read. it's this combination of goosebumps and rich descriptions of archives that i especially like!...more
i really enjoyed this book---but i thought it started to fall apart a little structurally toward the end. it deserved a stronger ending but somewherei really enjoyed this book---but i thought it started to fall apart a little structurally toward the end. it deserved a stronger ending but somewhere in its increasingly epic scope (borrowing, like the original story of the wizard of oz, from all kinds of epic tropes and quest narrative formulas) it lost its focus and power. still, i really enjoyed this book's way of reimagining a story we all know so well. i think that was part of the point---the way we tell stories just reinforces what we think we know about who people are, what makes people different, and how government and society do and should work. the book is full of a diversity of creatures and species, and also remarkably full of people who don't seem to want to pay attention to what's really going on with those in power. in this sense, especially, i'd say this book is timely....more
this novel is wonderful to read. it moves between an epic, almost biblical scale on the one hand and a minute attention to everyday life and its feelithis novel is wonderful to read. it moves between an epic, almost biblical scale on the one hand and a minute attention to everyday life and its feelings, smells and textures on the other.
it has been years since i read this novel, and though the plot is not clear to me anymore, i can still remember the feeling of reading the novel, its texture, and the images and impressions it created in my mind. ...more
gabriel garcia-marquez is one of the all-time great storytellers. his novels have a magnificent voice that is generous, open, and whimsical. his storigabriel garcia-marquez is one of the all-time great storytellers. his novels have a magnificent voice that is generous, open, and whimsical. his stories invite you in and even seduce you as a reader---in this sense, he is like a fireside storyteller whose work is to entrance his audience with a subtle combination of story, language, and delayed gratification. many, if not all, of his characters are also storytellers of one sort or another and they are always caught in the midst of stories of love or death.
garcia-marquez is known for his magical realism which i can only describe as the presentation of a world that sparkles with an added sheen of the impossible becoming possible at least for a moment to the extent that we are willing to believe in the world as a wonderful and mysterious place. love may never really be satisfying, but it is not the disappointments that inevitably come from love but rather the exceptional possibilities--however short-lived--that interest garcia-marquez. ...more
the rabbit books are about the evolution of a family over the course of the latter half of the twentieth century. they are also about, hold onto yourthe rabbit books are about the evolution of a family over the course of the latter half of the twentieth century. they are also about, hold onto your hat, the nature of social identity and how it's evolved through periods of striving and idealism, wealth and cynicism, and how these characteristics are so strongly built into how we americans think of ourselves and our culture.
it's a story about everyday life and it builds each story of each character slowly and methodically and always through the development of events and problems based in mundane life. this is not a story about big morality, big love, big desire, big idealism, or big anything. humanity does not come out shining with heroism and zeal. it is mostly about getting on with things and finding the less heroic but more realistically human way of dealing with love and the loss of love, desire and its demands for satisfaction, the trenchant low-level greed of american habits of consuming everything from stuff to other people, and all the other basic building blocks of modern/postmodern american life....more
i love updike---i started reading the rabbit books and then got so fully into rabbit that i went through the series pretty quickly.
i liked updike's fi love updike---i started reading the rabbit books and then got so fully into rabbit that i went through the series pretty quickly.
i liked updike's first in the series, "rabbit run," but it took me a while to really love him as much as i did by the time i got to "rabbit is rich". i love the roundness of his stories and his patience in letting his characters develop slowly. updike pays attention to the details of everyday life without making them of monumental importance. but after a while you see that he has carefully built the development of the story to account for the small decisions, habits, and fantasies of his characters without pushing them forward before the groundwork has been laid. this means that a story that can feel very loosely constructed at first ultimately proves to be a well- and efficiently-constructed story. that said, i'm never ready for where he takes me and i know i start to love his characters--none of whom make themselves easily lovable--because i resent the bad things that sometimes happen to them.
updike is modern, in my view, in the sense that a lot of the work in these books seems to me to be asking about the possibilities of love and human connection---he is very careful to avoid sentimentality. so much so that the loneliness of his character can start to become difficult to read. there's a sense of characters who are compartmentalized and isolated through the sheer force of modern ego rather than for any meaningful or existential reason. and there are only moments when real connection is possible---or, maybe more accurately, it's only clear at moment in the texts that the love connections between family members (since this is a series about a man and his family) have been sustained over time even if love is rarely expressed in anything more direct than a muffled and awkward moment. ...more
faulkner is hard to read, for sure. and absalom, absalom! is challenging to say the least. at times it can be really frustrating to read this book--nofaulkner is hard to read, for sure. and absalom, absalom! is challenging to say the least. at times it can be really frustrating to read this book--no matter how much you love language and even faulkner himself. sometimes you just want to read for the story and faulkner constantly delays your gratification even at the level of his sentences which go on and on and on without stopping or letting you know what's going on and without giving you some sense of being oriented in terms of the book so that by the end of the sentence that goes on so long, like this one!, don't you find you've totally forgotten where you started? but, then, it can be kind of a relief to be forced to let go of the plot a little bit and to simply enjoy the pleasure of reading itself. after all, you can always reread or just go on sparknotes to get the story! ...more
many of us first read this in high school where we were taught how to read a book and to decipher its secret meanings. stories, we were taught, are symany of us first read this in high school where we were taught how to read a book and to decipher its secret meanings. stories, we were taught, are systems of meaning and the language, as faulkner makes clear, is only the surface. you have to get down underneath that surface to understand the unstated meanings. sometimes, these meanings are in the structure and form of the novel and not in the meaning of the words. and this is, i think, one of the most valuable things that literature has to teach us.
but at the same time faulkner is, like so many modernist and postmodern writers, amazing to read just for the sheer richness of the language even without any concern for meaning at all. ...more