**spoiler alert** In a funny reversal of review protocol, I am giving this book a higher "star rating" than I will give it in written description. Thi**spoiler alert** In a funny reversal of review protocol, I am giving this book a higher "star rating" than I will give it in written description. This is because in terms of literary and written merit, A Confederacy of Dunces does deserve four stars. The language in this novel is absolutely unique: each character has a distinctive and identifiable voice that is extremely appropriate to his/her character, not the least of whom is the book's idiotic genius protagonist, Ignatius Reilly. Moreover, Toole infuses each turn of events with such well-thought-out irony, his careful crafting of the novel can only be applauded.
All of this being said, I didn't fully enjoy reading this novel. Why? Well, perhaps because I didn't find it laugh-out-loud funny. It was funny, and I kept wanting to laugh, but for some reason, Ignatius (the protagonist) just annoyed me so much that I never could manage to release a chuckle. The character who amused me most, truth be told, was Jones, the vagrant negro who gets a job as a janitor at the Night of Joy after sharing a jail cell with an old man who was mistakenly arrested in lieu of Ignatius. His dialect, his speech mannerisms, his sarcasm--I wished I could have been in the same room as this man!
Most of the characters in this novel annoyed me, and--SPOILER ALERT!!!--because the ending was happy for everyone (Ignatius gets away, his mother gets married, Mr. Levy saves his company, Mancuso gets his big break arresting the evil porn peddler), I felt even more annoyed by the time I got to the end. I wanted insolent, obnoxious Ignatius to get what he deserved. Throughout the whole book, I too had sneered at Mancuso, along with every other character. Why should he have the good fortune of arresting Ms. Lee? She was much smarter than him!
Nevertheless, for me to feel as I do about the various characters, I must admit that the book was written well. My largest literary criticisms were 1) Dr. Talc seemed to me to be an unnecessary character; I did not see how his addition and that subplot lent the book any added interest or meaning and 2) that in light of how uniquely every other character was portrayed, Claude appeared rather faceless and one-dimensional after his role as the "communiss-hating old man" in the jail cell was fulfilled. As Mrs. Reilly's suitor, he faded into the background as a stock character, which was unusual considering how dynamically and colorfully the rest of the cast of characters were portrayed. Note: This was my second time reading this book. I read it specifically to see if I would find New Orleans a more enticing setting after having visited the place last April. Unfortunately, the setting of the book was not addressed in particular detail, so the answer to my query was no. I did, however, realize that upon my first reading, I had skipped over every single one of Ignatius's written passages in my eagerness to "hurry along the story." I am glad that I took the time to read them this time around, because they were usually amusing, if rather wordy and dense (which was why I skipped them in the first place). Considering these passages in the context of both the book and of scholarly writing, this would make an interesting book to teach in high school or college.
Not to jinx it, but I've been having really good luck with short story collections lately!
If you keep at all abreast of the buzz in the literary markeNot to jinx it, but I've been having really good luck with short story collections lately!
If you keep at all abreast of the buzz in the literary marketplace, you've probably heard of this book. The buzz has been good, the reviews have been good, and the jacket is covered in praise from notable authors like Jennifer Egan, Zadie Smith, David Eggers, and Thomas Pynchon. Usually I give zero credit to any quote displayed on a jacket cover, whether I know the author or not, because frankly, just because I like an author's writing doesn't mean we have the same taste in what we read. However, in this instance, all of the buzz and reviews and plugs are accurate. This is most definitely a Work of Art.
I sincerely enjoyed every story in this book. Each one was unique, with characters I cared about, a distinctive style, and a plot that--in some way or another--included a beginning, middle, and end. The only thing that I would say about these stories as a collection (and the only reason why, if I could, I would give this a 4.9 star rating), is that I am not entirely sure how they relate to one another. While one of my favorite themes--that no one can ever know the "full story"--reveals itself in one of my favorite stories in the collection, "Puppy," it is not pervasive throughout every story. Likewise, the style used in that story--shifting perspective between characters, which is also done in the final story in the collection, "Tenth of December"--is not employed in every story. Some stories, such as two of my favorites ("Escape from Spiderhead" and "The Semplica Girl Diaries") are futuristic; yet others are not. Perhaps a more careful reader could discern the linking factor between these stories, but that lack of connection did not tarnish my reading experience.
All in all, this is most definitely a collection worth reading. ...more
Just not in a short story mood, I guess. Although that's what happened last time I tried to start this book! Result: I've read the first story twice .Just not in a short story mood, I guess. Although that's what happened last time I tried to start this book! Result: I've read the first story twice . . . but no further....more
I (like many people, I am sure) sought this book out after finishing Gone Girl. I wanted to see if Flynn's other writing could live up to that bestselI (like many people, I am sure) sought this book out after finishing Gone Girl. I wanted to see if Flynn's other writing could live up to that bestselling novel and, if so, immediately devour it. Devour it I did.
Did this book shock me (in a good way!) as much as Gone Girl did? No. Did it live up to the writing in that book? Definitely, definitely yes.
This is one of those books that achieves success with the unlikable narrator. Camille is a really miserable person. You almost want to feel sorry for her, except she makes all these bad choices like sleeping with men and drinking to avoid, well, life, that you sort of despise her the way you despise a friend you pity.
Then, her mother, father, sister, and essentially every other person in Wind Gap is equally miserable, weird, shallow, or just plain awful. The closest we get to a likable character is Camille's mentor Curry, who is essentially absent the entire novel. Yet, I was compelled to keep reading, and not just by the murder mystery, which I admittedly solved earlier than the characters in the novel did. They might have been miserable people, but they were complex miserable people, and that is what marks the difference between Flynn's novels and so many others.
With two down and one to go, I'm excited to read Dark Places. I'm sure I will not be disapointed....more
If there is one book a single woman in her 30s should not read, it’s this one. Not that I’m in my 30s, of course, but I have always been told my maturIf there is one book a single woman in her 30s should not read, it’s this one. Not that I’m in my 30s, of course, but I have always been told my maturity exceeds my age, so for all intents and purposes, I may as well be 30. I hang out with people in their 30s. Who have husbands. And ex-husbands. And children.
In any case, the reason no single middle-aged woman should read this book is because it so poignantly depicts the lonely, solitary life of its protagonist. Yet the novel itself is not depressing, primarily because it is not telling the story of the protagonist. Instead, the protagonist—also the narrator—is Barbara, a retirement-aged schoolteacher, telling the story of an affair between a much younger coworker, Sheba, and one fifteen-year-old student, Conley. The story of this affair, ultimately, is what drives the novel. However, what the core of this novel is truly about is Barbara: how attached she grows to Sheba, the reasons for her attachment, her abilities to observe and live in a world where she feels she is no longer deemed a participant.
This prospect—to be “already done with life” at age sixty, with no children to occupy your time, no husband to take up your attention, no family to give you a social life and connect you to the community—is horrifying. It is particularly horrifying to a young-ish single woman who is living on her own, with no dating prospects, who is watching her friends one-by-one get married, move into houses, have children. The terror this book invokes, however, is only so real because the book is so well-written. So if you are at a different place in life, or if you think you can weather the self-imposed depression such narration might incite, then I encourage you to pick up this book. It is full of thought-provoking moral ambiguities, in part due to the ages of the characters (15, 30, 60), in part due to the roles they play (wily, heartless young suitor; accused seductress/ spurned lover; cynical, ambivalent, self-pitying storyteller), but primarily because the affair is documented from a third-person point of view, and a subjective point of view that insists it is trying to be objective, at that.
What Was She Thinking has many levels, which is what give me such respect for it. That I felt such a strong reaction makes me respect it even more, regardless of if my reaction was depression, as opposed to elation. The bottom line is, Heller writes well, and this is probably one of the few novels that demonstrates a new way of treating the tired topic of love affairs.
The only thing that saves this from the one-star category is the fact that I can imaging my creative writing professors at Rochester assigning these sThe only thing that saves this from the one-star category is the fact that I can imaging my creative writing professors at Rochester assigning these sorts of short stories, because they are right in line with all of the ones I read for class. I would read and become a bit excited near the end of the first third of the story, hoping with a bit of anticipation that now, after this confusion and meandering, everything will add up and lead to something beautiful or horrendous or at least meaningful. But after finishing the second third of the story, I finally realize that no, the first third was exactly what was going to happen throughout, and I would be destined to finish the story without finding any purpose to it at all, but I would finish it anyway, because I had already invested time and energy in the first two-thirds, and darn it, if there was some surprise at the end that made everything make sense, I didn't want to be such a lazy reader that I would miss it. But I rarely missed anything. And so, after trying four or five stories in Dancing Girls, I returned it to the library. I'll look for a novel the next time I decide to delve into Atwood....more
I got to the final 10-15 pages of this book and finally put it down, not because I couldn't finish, but because I simply saw no reason to do so. EggerI got to the final 10-15 pages of this book and finally put it down, not because I couldn't finish, but because I simply saw no reason to do so. Eggers writes well, that cannot be denied. However, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius goes, very literally, literally nowhere. The narrator spends the novel defending his choices and proving that he will never learn from his mistakes or grow up, even as his younger brother does. Events happen, yet they do not build toward any sort of final, overarching conclusion. Of course, maybe that grand conclusion came in the last ten or so pages, and I missed it. Even if that is the case, however, I'm not sorry I quit when I did. There are other, better novels out there more deserving of my time and attention, so I am a bit sorry I put as much time as I did into reading this one....more
Loved this book! The only drawback is, well, I'm not a screenwriter. But I read this book at the behest of a friend who told me it would help me devisLoved this book! The only drawback is, well, I'm not a screenwriter. But I read this book at the behest of a friend who told me it would help me devise a strategy for working out plots, and it definitely fulfilled that promise.
My favorite aspect of this book was its tone: it reminded me of a coach giving tough-love instruction to his or her athlete. The message--over and over again--is, essentially, "You don't want to do this tedious, agonizing, impossibly hard bit of work? Well suck it up, because it's the only way to get the results that you want. So here's what you've got to do." Snyder's writing style is chatty yet informative. He offers personal experiences and notes from other writers and producers in the industry to exemplify why certain things work or don't work. Yes, at times he gets a tad repetitive, but in a how-to book, you pretty much have to be repetitive to ensure that your point sinks in. So I'll forgive that minor annoyance.
I'm excited to try some of the strategies. Now, if only someone would write this book, exactly the same, only different . . . for novel writers!...more