a whole-hearted kind of irving novel. my irving kick started with the cider house rules and burned quickly through garp (good to start with the classi...morea whole-hearted kind of irving novel. my irving kick started with the cider house rules and burned quickly through garp (good to start with the classics), a widow for one year (didn't like very much), hotel new hampshire, and then owen meany. irving has a kind of roundness and soulfulness on the one hand that really brings you into the characters. they have full and complex voices and sometimes nearly inscrutable relationships. hardly any other authors i can think of have such a light touch that they avoid explanations of characters but, instead, shed light from a dozen angles on each character over the course of a novel so that the reader, should he or she choose to, may find out these characters' complexities all on their own. much like john updike, irving does not give into the temptation to analyse--psychologically or otherwise--his characters. this is one of the pitfalls, in my opinion, of contemporary literature----the belief that psychological depth must adhere to the systems we all believe in (it's about your mother!).
irving is also arch, witty, and even grumpy in his prose. wonderful characteristics in this age of authors holding hands with their readers. this makes the fullness of his characters so much more rich and rewarding.
also, i have never met an author who can deal with death without, again, descending into the most familiar psychological, analytical, or sentimental formulae. death is one of the most difficult themes for any writer; and is equally difficult in an age that denies finality while embracing drama. having read a few irving novels, i now know that death is, in his world, always potentially around the corner. there is something unrelenting in this part of irving's world; and that makes you trust him as a reader.(less)
my first irving novel----how late i came to irving! this novel is full of secrets that you only start to see in hindsight as you reflect on what you'v...moremy first irving novel----how late i came to irving! this novel is full of secrets that you only start to see in hindsight as you reflect on what you've read. irving's depictions of relationships are uniquely complex and full of mysteries that draw me in as a reader and force me to take a very close look. irving is a master of gestures and nuances in novels that can feel, if you aren't reading carefully, like simply a series of short, small actions.
what is extraordinary to me in irving is how much i believe him. his characters are complex without being facile.
i like to read irving novels slowly; otherwise, even though i really want to read them through quickly, i find i miss out on taking the time to consider and to live a little bit in his worlds.(less)
i love irving; i did not love this book. i felt like it had many of the elements of irving, but it didn't fit together. it seemed to me to be trying t...morei love irving; i did not love this book. i felt like it had many of the elements of irving, but it didn't fit together. it seemed to me to be trying too hard to make a point----it is precisely irving's seeming liberation from the modern literary necessity that makes me love his other novels. earnest characters are very dangerous in my view. (less)
i have read this book several times. this is the best book of all time. remember: life is a series of discrete moments that may pass imperceptibly by...morei have read this book several times. this is the best book of all time. remember: life is a series of discrete moments that may pass imperceptibly by if you don't watch closely. this novel is like a labyrinth of mysteries so secret that what is manifest on the page is not one-tenth of what there is to discover. woolf, who i think believed in the fullness of experience without imagining that she could capture it all in mere words, writes my selecting discrete nuggets of time and experience and then laying them side by side. as a modernist, she doesn't try to weave it all together as even the most progressive (in my view) victorians like george eliot did. woolf almost seems sometimes to be doing nothing more than taking note of what is taking place in time while resisting any temptation to interpret or analyse. this is one of my favorite characteristics in all styles of writing.(less)
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 into...moreobjects 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)(less)
not everybody likes fred vargas. but i think she's wonderful! she reminds me in some ways of those scandinavian police procedural writers, most notabl...morenot 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.(less)
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 your...morethe 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.(less)