Taken with a sudden desire to read this book this week, I found there were no copies left at my library, thanks in part to the summer’s Big Friendly RTaken with a sudden desire to read this book this week, I found there were no copies left at my library, thanks in part to the summer’s Big Friendly Read project. Who am I to take a book out of the hands of a babe, anyway? Instead I checked out an ebook from OpenLibrary that turned out to be a PDF scan of the original hardback, preserving all the Quentin Blake illustrations. Perfect.
So I think that, despite having been a big Roald Dahl fan as a child, I never properly read The BFG before now. I could be wrong — the illustrations were all familiar, but the plot was not. It also occurred to me that, as with many of my favorite books from childhood, I have actual visceral memories of reading other Dahl books. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator in our dimly lit kichen. James and the Giant Peach on our sunny striped chair by the window. All of The Twits at my desk during one library period at school. The Witches in the car on the way to the mall by my grandparents’ house; I’d just read the mouse scene, and the whole time we shopped I felt my insides burning as though it were happening to me, too.
One thing that I loved about this but that also gives pause is its atmosphere of quaint Englishness, a quiet old-fashioned feeling of orphanages and village hedgerows and the Queen, despite being published in 1982 when the UK was of course quite a modern and diverse place. (Ahem, that’s the year I was born. Oldness warning: if you read this to your child, you will have to explain what an atlas is. This may be harder for them to believe in than giants.) Indeed, several of the jokes about other nations are in quite bad taste now, if they ever were in good. Like many, I love a classic, nostalgic feeling, but it’s good to be aware. It makes such an enticing and lovely picture but, for sure, a fantasy one.
At any rate, this was so fantastic and hilarious and sweet. I laughed out loud and have begun going around calling things by the names the BFG would use. Perhaps it’s been too long since I’ve read any Dahl books as an adult, since those are generally the traits they’re prized for. But it tickled me terrifically, and I’m so happy I finally had a whim to pick it up. Reading it right now, when I happen to be a brand new parent, only made me overwhelmed with glee to think of sharing it with a new reader in a handful of years. I can’t wait to get to all the others I missed the first time around, too....more
I guess it’s not the best thing when you get to the end of a series and think, “Well, okay. Now I don’t have to read these any more!” So… three stars?I guess it’s not the best thing when you get to the end of a series and think, “Well, okay. Now I don’t have to read these any more!” So… three stars?
It’s fine. But the thing clunked around the way all these books have clunked around, and after having us read fffffffoooouuuurr not especially shortish novels, I wanted to feel like there was more to the package than a bucket with some magicky idea soup in it.
But hey some bits of this book are really, really well done. The other books often have scenes where the author builds up this fantastic atmosphere but, when pressed for specifics, deflates the thing. Here, though, we get some sincerely scary and lovely sections. I especially loved the scenes with Blue’s possessed house, and Mr Gray in the supermarket, and Gansey’s ultimate flock of ravens. A hat needs to be tipped to Henry Cheng, too, a super-welcome character this group of friends has needed all along.
Look, though. This book is meant to be wrapping up a whole tangle of mythical business, and to me its plot just confirmed how weak that business really always was. In particular, (view spoiler)[Glendower (hide spoiler)] was an enormous letdown; it felt like the wrong choice to have him come to nothing. What was the point of using that story? I’ve been curious for four books to find out, but in the end: the author deflates the thing. (view spoiler)[Artemus (hide spoiler)] also disappointed, having been picked up at the end of book three only to sit around and talk to almost no one despite being hugely fascinating and relevant to everything in the plot. (view spoiler)[And Blue is part tree? (hide spoiler)] Or something? Why? Okay.
Ronan, at least, is more important than he was in the last book, so yay Ronan. He gets enough depth even to make Adam feel somewhat interesting and that guy is a drag. But I’m sorry to say that Ronan’s dream magic still does nothing for me, it just doesn’t make sense, and upping the drama and carnage and danger around it — essentially the whole stakes for this final story — consequently doesn’t land because it never felt very right to begin with. At the very climax of the book, Blue says it herself: “I always knew it was going to end like this, but it still doesn’t feel right. Would this ever feel right?” Well! I mean… we’d all been hoping it was going to, guys! Oh well.
So why did I read it then? It’s all about the other moments, the ones that have nothing to do with structure and continuity and world-building, which are not the strong points here. It’s the lives and the destinies of these characters. Destiny is strong with this one. Worrying about Gansey, prophesied to die since the opening of book one, carries a lot of emotional heft. It’s so touching the way everyone is afraid and sad the realer it seems. (Let’s not talk about how this all plays out; I’m afraid the author is going to ring my doorbell right now and hand me a piece of paper that mentions his “rain-spattered shoulders” one more time.) The relationship between him and Blue, also prophesied since the first, brings lovely little swells of emotion too. The other relationship, a satisfying new discovery here, does the same.
That’s where the realness of these characters is, and the hearts of this knotty story: it’s Blue’s family sitting clothed in the bathtub doing a weird ritual and telling her there’s life after high school, and it’s Ronan in his house, his element, hoping high school will just stop existing. It’s Adam’s mother: “At some point she had released him, and she didn’t want him back. She just wanted to see what happened.” There are times these folks all make sense, on their own and together, and those moments are (and have been) a pleasure to read. Even if I don’t really believe in magic, it’s nice that they’ve existed for us anyway.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It's almost funny to me the way each of these books manages a cliffhanger of a sort, even in such a staid style of storytelling. But this time it's aIt's almost funny to me the way each of these books manages a cliffhanger of a sort, even in such a staid style of storytelling. But this time it's a pretty big one. The whole time I read this, I was thinking, "I read this too soon after the other one. I'm bored. I'm definitely going to wait a while before I pick up the last one." And then at the end she gets you!
I do feel the epic, the something, being built up so gradually over these long stories. And I'm still puzzled by why they feel so plain, even when they are digging fingernails into the dirt and clawing up difficult stuff. Psychological insight is one of the things I enjoy most about novels, so I can't figure out why with these books I sort of feel like I'm trapped with a friend who won't stop analyzing every little thing about herself out loud; maybe not everything needs to be remarked upon, okay, friend? (Usually, I am that friend, so I don't even know.)
Partly, Elena and Lila are both so exhausting to our sympathies, I get sort of fatigued by hanging in there with their decisions and enmities and waiting out bad times. And the men. Ladies... these men. Sigh. It's realistic, but again, the experience in real life of hanging in there while people sort themselves out is not always rewarding in the moment. Afterward, sometimes. I think these might feel more rewarding later.
Quite a lot of new things go on in this book, and I liked learning about them. I enjoyed Lila's rise into computer programming (on an IBM System 3 Model 10). I enjoyed Elena's interest in feminist politics, and in the radical academia world of her sister in law. I most enjoyed learning about the student rebellions (there in Italy, but also in France) and the general terrible political chaos of this period in Italy of the late 1960's and 1970's. There is quite a lot more I think will be interesting to learn about this subject.
One of the interesting aspects of these novels to me is its portrait of the postwar generation. Even while I read the first book, which is contained almost 100% within a few blocks of the neighborhood, I felt the need to understand the bigger picture of what was happening to them in their country. You can sense that it matters in the author's arrangement of everything, even if it's not directly on the page. By the time of this third novel, this generation is fighting the wheel that it is being crushed by. That's important, and I want a better understanding of the wheel. (Helpfully, my partner has been reading on this subject lately, and read a history and analysis of Italian unity while I read this -- he recommends it for a picture of modern politics, for those who feel the need. Mostly I just made him explain the political parties to me over dinner.)
I still find it challenging that, because the author is covering so much ground with this series, even over a thousand pages of novels, the readers are tugged along so briskly. I feel like a kid being taken by the hand through a fair or a zoo or somewhere by an adult who needs to get us someplace else and won't let me stop and look. I can't get over things like, Elena gets married and has a baby all inside one shortish chapter. To others, that's the whole novel. Not this novel, I know, but I feel like I could get empathy whiplash. She changes so much so fast, and yet lingers and lingers. It's sort of disorienting and ultimately numbing to me. I wish that these books were tugging at my gut, but they don't quite make it there.
Nevertheless I'm getting on a library list for number four, you know? You know....more
I bought My Brilliant Friend back in November, which apparently is nearly a year ago and let's not get into what this year was like (it was interestinI bought My Brilliant Friend back in November, which apparently is nearly a year ago and let's not get into what this year was like (it was interesting). When I finished that one, I didn't think I was going to read any more! And then a few weeks ago I started stalking library listings for no. 2, signing up for libraries in boroughs I don't even live in, and one day I traveled an hour across town to pick up the one copy in the city actually on a library shelf only to discover that it had been checked out by somebody else just while I walked over. I looked at the fresh gap on the shelf and finally reflected, "I guess I do want to read this?"
Because they're strangely compelling. (To me, it is strange.) And I can't exactly understand what I do like reading them for. They make me frustrated and annoyed and sad. But I get going and then I don't want to stop reading.
The main thing I am continuing to read to figure out is why, in this story of the girls, the protagonist is Elena instead of Lina. There are superficial reasons — firstly, the author's unusual, anonymous, semi-autobiographical style here is clearly portraying a version of herself as Elena, digging into her own view of her life. Also, if Lina's perspective were the first-person, it wouldn't be a story of friendship but would focus instead on her own intense experiences. Their link, the often ugly connection between these lifelong friends, is really Elena's true subject in telling us their story. But in so doing, we watch Lina do and endure so many unbelievable things from afar that we're left sort of dazed and (for me) rather unable to really cope with all that happens to her.
What we read in these books is simultaneously so minute and so epic. A significant amount of the storytelling is not of firsthand events (as in: I am this character having this experience and you're reading while it happens) but is information recounted in one way or another. This arm's-length feeling gets uncomfortably in the way, like, get those arms out of here, I want to go in. But there is a tremendous amount of distance between us and the events, and that's what we have to swim through. We're kept busy, sorting out the boring bits, and trying not to miss the treasures.
We don't get a good look at many of these most marvelous things, and there are several different sorts of layers in the way: Elena is standing in front of our view of Lina's life and thoughts; the author is telling so many events at a distant remove; and the translator is boiling it all down into these dusty, detached words. Not being able to read an original language, it's petty to diss a translator, but I have a very hard time getting the English writing of these books to stir my emotions. I lay the blame twofold: think that Elena Ferrante is playing authorial tricks with us, keeping us aloof, and I think Ann Goldstein is keeping the prose cold and literal. It's a little bit punishing.
But amidst it all, what we get to read about is often so thrilling and, I don't know, chewy. We get adultery and violence and madness and freezing beaches under the stars. Most of all, though, a great amount of the inscrutable drama of the adults in the previous book (during which our protagonists were mostly young children) is revealed in full as a deep, vast foundation for the knotted fates and relationships our characters now all have together. Until this book reminded me, I had forgotten one of the most wonderful ideas of the first novel: the belief as they near adulthood that it is with their generation that they will change the history of their neighborhood, that they will wipe out enemies and allies alike and be new. Being the first generation to be born after the war — and thus the first to discover that the adults they know all have a hidden story — they are the ones who get to remake the world. They are already doing it, as the first novel closes. But then, now, we see.
Anyway, there's something in here, something important in the distance and the reader's fight to be close to the story. I think it's possible that other readers have this insight learned already, and I am still seeking it. I have to work for this one, like Elena studying twice as hard to succeed as a student yet always remaining on the outside. But like her, I'll press on....more
Well, I'm addicted to Louise Erdrich now, this is going to go on. This is only no. 2 for me, but the rest are lining up like dominoes.
This book's notWell, I'm addicted to Louise Erdrich now, this is going to go on. This is only no. 2 for me, but the rest are lining up like dominoes.
This book's not perfect but I loved it to shreds anyway. I'm still not used to her powers; I feel like she's knocking my block straight off when she manages to do one amazing thing after another all in the same book. By the time we were spending a chapter founding a town through a frost-bitten prairie winter in the nineteenth century I was all gone, completely absorbed, I had no idea and I'd climbed right in.
As I sense is one of the author's usual m.o.'s, we get a lot of narrators in this book, which can get tricky and in my opinion is where the only loose threads here come from. For the most part we have three, though a fourth emerges at the end as a sort of surprise to wrap us up. We start with the young girl Evelina, who is less young later on, and she's spectacular. Evelina is a daughter of Clemence and granddaughter of Mooshum (thus cousin to Joe, my last Erdrich protagonist in The Round House), and mainly stays in the present helping us piece everything together although she gets a few wanders of her own. After a bit of that we get Bazil, Judge Coutts (whom I met before as Joe's father — Bazil and Geraldine marry in this book). He, however, is primarily here to reminisce, telling the story of his grandfather, letting old Shamengwa tell a story, and eventually telling of his own first love. And then, in the middle of the book, we zip over to Marn, who takes us on an intense and unbelievable and creepy journey through a cult with Billy Peace.
And it… doesn't have a lot to do with anything else, Marn's story. It's puzzling. I should really like it (cults!!) because it is written in this beautiful and nail-bitey way (how are Erdrich's books so crazy action-packed on top of all the other ways they're good?) but it is way too bright and strong a thread to be a backdrop here — it doesn't work as a short story; we need more. Way more. Marn ends her story with the words "I need to see the judge," and she means Bazil, and we know exactly what she needs to do, and it is immensely exciting, and I thought: aha! Here is the rest of our plot, and I settled in. But then we do not get to see her do it. She's more or less done. It's odd.
(However: that chapter where Marn and Evelina are together in the diner is so incredibly amazing! There's stabbing! And also it's super funny and sweet, somehow! Mooshum telling Evelina how French she looks. And his hopeless flirting in Ojibwe, Evelina translating: "He says the doctor will treat your snakebites. He's the doctor, I'm sure." MOOSHUM. Cracking me up.)
(Also is it just going to be a rule that Mooshum comes close to death in some slightly hilarious manner in every book he's in?)
I DESPERATELY WANT for there to be an outstanding chart or wiki or something on the internet somewhere delineating all of these people, places, and timelines that we get to encounter multiple times in Erdrich's writing. I want them all laid out so I can see who I will get to meet in each book and, as I want to do with Faulkner (and it was damn hard to figure it out with Faulkner!), perhaps move around the canon in order to read one family's story chronologically. This is just candy to me, it has always been pretty much my favorite type of realistic fiction, ever; I am just made for you to build your worlds in me.
Anyway, I'm pretty disappointed, because I think that if I want that to exist I'm going to have to make it myself. (Or, apparently, apprentice myself to her copy editor.) This book, which can only have been someone's literature dissertation because boy is it dense, looks pretty helpful but boy, is it dense (and only includes books to 2006).
In the end I thought this book was fantastic, but that I would have done without two or three of the side bits, which perhaps felt more like they belonged in novels of their own. Which, I guess, is the trouble with big scope; couldn't it always be bigger.
Next up I believe I'm going to have to do Tracks, because as far as I can find chronology-wise, it tells the earliest stories and I'm interested to read some that way. Then maybe Four Souls and The Beet Queen. Or do I just go back to Love Medicine and read them the way she wrote them? Help me, internet. Help.
(The Beet Queen: good DJ name or best DJ name?)...more
Became unexpectedly obsessed with this Victorian book of (mostly) Latin sundial mottoes this week. (Thanks to Andrea K.) I was looking for a motto, foBecame unexpectedly obsessed with this Victorian book of (mostly) Latin sundial mottoes this week. (Thanks to Andrea K.) I was looking for a motto, for an engraving, and that's what I found:
Feeling generous with my five stars, these last couple days. There was so much I loved about this book, all the way through, that really only got inteFeeling generous with my five stars, these last couple days. There was so much I loved about this book, all the way through, that really only got interrupted right at the end. That end! This was a book club pick where it was just not okay for anyone to show up without having finished the last page!
Some people have said: this book isn't sure what it is trying to be. There's some genre mystery, at first, until that sort of goes away. There's some revenge crime. Quite a bit of coming-of-age. Folklore. A decades-long cultural picture of the Anishinaabe reservation town. There's tropes from all sorts, and none specifically from beginning to end. I guess this reads as messy to some, but it didn't to me. Not when the book is this awesome, and not when I enjoyed it all so, so much.
First of all, something is wrong with me and I had never known of Louise Erdrich before somebody selected that we read this one. This is only her fourteenth extremely well-received novel, so, that's understandable, right? Also, she is doing so many things I love in her work. The Faulkner-esque way her characters fit together through each of the novels into family histories, generations, into a town, is one of my favorite uses of literature. I read just one and feel the universe is unfolding its secrets to me. So in a way, this book being great was enough to make a lifelong fan of me, because I want all those secrets, every one. I'll wend my way to more of them, undoubtedly.
Here's what I loved about this one: our young narrator Joe's family, to whom something awful happens, was so loving and real to me. Both his father and his mother were great characters. The way they struggled to cope together, and individually, and managed not to break completely moved me a lot. I felt that the initial plot, of the brutal attack and rape of Joe's mother, was handled well: a woman retreating after a trauma can be a way for her reality to be swept under the rug of the narrative while her men take care of her, but I felt that she emerged at just the right time to prevent this cliche. She airs her story out quite thoroughly (perhaps too thoroughly, for Joe), and though she isn't the main character, we see her recover in a realistic way as the story deepens.
What's it deepen into? One of my favorite threads that emerged is the backstory of the white characters, Linda and Linden, twins with a birth story worthy of a folktale but who are simply our characters' neighbors. I loved the actual folktales of Nanapush (seen previously in Erdrich's novel Tracks) via Joe's loony grandfather, and the ghost. I loved Joe's friends, geeks on a mission. I loved the soldier-priest, letting them watch Alien through the window. And I loved Sonja, and the money.
It deepens into a whole lot more, too, spoilers for which I'm just going to leave out of the review, I think. The finale is hugely shocking and upsetting. I was sure, certain, that someone would stop it from happening. Once I had to really watch it happen — and then the double shocker that comes at the very end — I didn't really know what to think. To my surprise, it all impeded my enthusiasm a bit. It's almost too big to settle. I think I have different feelings about the ending than I do for the rest of the novel. But it probably is one of those stories that couldn't have ended with anything less....more
I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, and I picked a good time to. I figured it for a summer-vacation type of book, and that’s exactly what it iI’ve been meaning to read this for a while, and I picked a good time to. I figured it for a summer-vacation type of book, and that’s exactly what it is: fun and naughty and quick and easy, but not empty either. I read it over the course of one day and two wakeful nights, so it flew right by and I was totally immersed.
This is a book in which engrossingly weak-willed people make terrible childish choices that domino together in delightful catastrophe. (And only one of the characters is actually a two-year-old.) It sounds, I suppose, cringeworthy, but is really entertaining. So much of the writing is ironic and glib and shiny.
e.g. Marie, standing there with Ellen’s daughter:
Marie had been jealous of Ellen all her life, but when she actually thought about Ellen’s life, when she bothered to think about it, it didn’t seem all that great. Her daughter, for instance, had just been kidnapped.
We have to laugh! Because Marie is not a deep thinker, and Marie is really selfish, but the book is simultaneously buoyed by our connection to her. She is sympathetic and likeable while doing most of the wrong things and that’s the miracle of it. I really cared about her background story, I really cared about her rootlessness; there is just enough of a dollop of pathos there that this all makes sense. Plus, everyone else is totally worse!
It’s also smart that the primary emotional thread of the plot has to do with Marie’s attachment to her babysitting charge, two-year-old Caitlin, because this toddler somehow reflects so much of Marie’s character back for us. Although Marie is foolish and thoroughly undisciplined as a childminder (“She used to rely on Caitlin’s judgment completely”), she also actually takes good care of Caitlin. She loves her. Caitlin is her favorite person.
So this was fun to read and I cared about what happened, both in crazy Paris and pursuits beyond. But then!
Complaint about the ending:
(view spoiler)[I have to register a minority opinion and say I was really dissatisfied with the ending. I read the ending at about 75% wakefulness at 4:00 in the morning, so I thought it might just be me, but no. I didn’t miss anything, it just is abrupt. And that’s disappointing, not only because I rrrreally hate an abrupt loose-strings ending on anything (looking at you, indie films!) but because this book’s plot is so exquisitely reckless and fantastic, it practically promises a screamer of an ending. Instead we cut out in the middle of a downbeat amidst the big big mess, with zero resolutions and all the suspense still overhead. So much happens in this book! SO WHAT HAPPENS. Even if it were sloppy, even if some readers wouldn’t be happy with it, I’d rather know what happens. (hide spoiler)]
But you'll probably still have fun with it anyway.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Really? None of my Goodreads friends have read this either? I've been meaning to get to this one for years; I thought it was a little more popular-er.Really? None of my Goodreads friends have read this either? I've been meaning to get to this one for years; I thought it was a little more popular-er.
I think I started reading the Feminist Press collection of stories once, but didn't keep the book with me. I remember reading the introduction, but II think I started reading the Feminist Press collection of stories once, but didn't keep the book with me. I remember reading the introduction, but I don't think I read the story itself....more
Having a little public-domain e-book downloading spree. . I'm getting a lot of great to-reads from the book list 500 Great Books By Women, which got setHaving a little public-domain e-book downloading spree. . I'm getting a lot of great to-reads from the book list 500 Great Books By Women, which got set up as a Goodreads group. There are cool demographics in the list, and I've been tracking them in my reading with a spreadsheet (and so can yoouuu)....more
Having a little public-domain e-book downloading spree.
I think I need a "short story year" soon. . I'm getting a lot of great to-reads from the book lisHaving a little public-domain e-book downloading spree.
I think I need a "short story year" soon. . I'm getting a lot of great to-reads from the book list 500 Great Books By Women, which got set up as a Goodreads group. There are cool demographics in the list, and I've been tracking them in my reading with a spreadsheet (and so can yoouuu)....more
Wow, I am really impressed with these two stories. I liked them so, so much; if I could read a book of six or seven of them, I would love it.
These areWow, I am really impressed with these two stories. I liked them so, so much; if I could read a book of six or seven of them, I would love it.
These are some of the best New-Yorky stories I can remember reading. It's a pretty full genre, but these totally did the trick for me. Each of them encapsulates the deep world of one of the many subcultures, lifestyles, neighborhoods, other divisions by which we all live such very different lives in New York City.
The first one: indie music. "The Missing Clip-On." The Lower East Side/Alphabet City/eventual-Williamsburg-migrants hanging on to the punk rock dream and way of life that thrived/thrives there. The author's details are so deeply recognizable. I recognized types of people I knew, I know what all those venues are like (and also, Two Boots!), I've seen some pretty shitty apartments. The realness really clicked.
None of that would really matter if the story wasn't any good, but I loved it. We get a dual narrative of a kind: first, a first-person girl bassist trying to make it/waiting tables, and second, a story she learns. She buddies with another waitress-musician, and moves into a terrible apartment building, and works on her own shit, searching through her angst in the ways you do. (Also, something crazy happens.) She's a great narrator for the story.
She presents Damon's story to us almost like a folk history of one band's career, but it's far more than that. A sometime musician, he ends up finding his real calling as (I once knew someone who liked to term herself) a "scene-maker": getting his finger on the pulse of the trends, on the teetering precipice of the irony, and then making a bunch of money selling the best t-shirts in Brooklyn. (Ultimately, he styles a band that doesn't really exist yet gets booked anyway. It's not actually as satirical as it sounds.) But what really happens is in his personal story, and what occurs after he falls in love, and what a terrible sad end it all has. His moments of love and openness are monumentally great, so breathtaking and delicately written, and they just legitimize everything in the story that might seem silly. Both narratives are brooding, but full of a journey.
The second story, "Almost Tall," is the reason I got this book. I'd heard about it when it was released separately last year, but I couldn't get a copy. I knew I wanted to, though. The description was so good it drove me mad: a 14-year-old, shipped out to summer ballet program, staying with her rich uncle and his boyfriend, inevitable overwhelmingness! Oh. It's fabulous. I'll take a hundred, sight unseen.
There is a little bit of ballet, but the real cultural immersion comes at the hands of the boyfriend, Eddie, an aging gay man with an overabundance of drama, ridicule, and fashion sense. He lives the penthouse life but never seems to work; he knows the highest of the high but they break his dinner dates. He designs pillows? And he isn't all that nice. Eddie's feelings are probably hurt that he has never been offered a Bravo show.
But despite all this, there is so much realness to him. Dinah, our girl, ends up having to spend most of her time with him, and eventually they strike a strange and precarious kind of workable social partnership. He pretends to be annoyed, yet parades her around and trumpets their "triumphs" at cocktail hours; he doesn't really know her, but makes sure she has some fun. (Until he doesn't.) But all throughout it, we're in Dinah's head, seeing how damn much she can take when somebody rich says something cruel about her (ballerinas, man!), and watching her watch Eddie. And we're with her when she cracks, and is finally given some pieces of true generosity.
The only thing wrong with this book is how much more I want. I want more of Vestal McIntyre's New York City. I hope he might be working on some.
Because this writing is so new, and there's so little info on it available, I'm including some of my absolute favorite quotes. (In spoilers, for space.)
Betsy, a product of a big Jewish family on Long Island, threw this type of abuse around playfully, and I tried my best not to take it to heart – my fragile, only-child-from-Illinois, heart. My Christmas-ornament heart. . “Maybe someday,” her mother said, “they’ll invent a soap that will wash away old tattoos you don’t want anymore.” This sentiment, which, an hour ago, would have struck Damon as mawkish and provincial, nearly made him cry. . At this, Rebecca passed Dinah a smile like a folded note. . But Dinah witnessed moments when Eddie forgot to be himself, when his shoulders melted into his form, his head bowed, and he seemed old and round. This was usually when he was gazing out of cab windows at the passing city. His little fingertips picked at each other, and a crease of worry divided his brow. What do we live for? The question startled Dinah from within. Then the cab reached its destination, and with one inhale Eddie’s angles returned.
I'd love for this little book to get out there more, but it's kind of a weird arrangement. I downloaded this using a trial subscription for the book service Rooster, run by the DailyLit people. During July 2014 you can get this book when you sign up and use the app, but I'm not sure if you can ever get it after that? It's a little complex and annoying, and I don't think the actual service is really for me (I'm not that into curated reading; I only just joined a book club for heaven's sake), but I am so glad I took the opportunity to read these.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Ohhhkay, well. It doesn't matter how long I'd looked forward to reading it; this didn't turn out to be a good book to me. I've read most of this authoOhhhkay, well. It doesn't matter how long I'd looked forward to reading it; this didn't turn out to be a good book to me. I've read most of this author's YA novels, and I was reading her blog back in the days she was working on this one, and it just sounded so exciting. You can read the flap copy now, and it does sound so exciting! But this book just does not work at all, and it's too bad.
I don't want to be mean to it, but. Structurally there's just a lot wrong. Action doesn't make logistical sense, and drags. Unfortunately, this is a book about danger and gangsters, so there are lots of action scenes. Things will happen like, some people need to hide and someone is considering whether to hide them. A suspenseful moment, in the middle of a chase… but the action grinds to a halt while the situation is stated three or four times before it’s resolved, amongst pages and pages of other thoughts, completely unnecessary repetition to communicate something that probably should be implied anyway.
That repetitiveness is probably the hardest to take — this happens frequently, and characters repeat themselves interminably. Everything is over-explained, hardly anything left to our imaginations or sense of suspense. Every few chapters, Palmer says “Doesn’t she know she needs to be getting out of town!" Yes. I thought she would. And once Dymphna learns (view spoiler)[that Kelpie is the same age she is (hide spoiler)] (I cannot believe that is a spoiler but the way it is treated as a big reveal, it is?) it is restated constantly, but all that’s said is "I cannot believe it."
Well, I agree, it's weird. This is a book about two (view spoiler)[sixteen-year-old (hide spoiler)] girls who can see ghosts. It takes forever for us to learn that first point, and forever for them to reveal that second point to each other. One is a high-class prostitute, one is an urchin who's lived in such deprivation she doesn't seem to have basic intelligence about human life. Weirdly, I think this is kind of a thing for this author? Her Magic or Madness series has a similar premise that I recall finding hard to swallow. She likes a feral child.
Hey, wait. Didn’t I say that some of the characters see dead people? Unfortunately it wasn’t as wonderful as it sounds. Giving the benefit of the doubt, I began imagining a daring twist that I’d hoped might come, that (view spoiler)[one of the girls would die and turn into a ghost that only the other could see (hide spoiler)] (otherwise why have the two of them together?), but it didn’t materialize, so to speak.
This author is so creative! And though nothing is perfect, I’ve enjoyed her other books. So I still respect it, because people don’t have ideas like hers all that often.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I caught up on the website and noticed the second part of this series was published online (along with the first, which I read in hard copy). I was buI caught up on the website and noticed the second part of this series was published online (along with the first, which I read in hard copy). I was bummed when I learned that this was only a two-part series — it's a really rich part of the Gunnerkrigg story, but I guess the author's treating it a little differently than I expected, keeping it light. I want some big thing with FEEEEELINGS and he's written some cute thing with fairies. Oh well. Who the heck can argue with that?
So this wraps up Annie's getting acclimated to the forest people when she spends the summer there. Basically in the first issue she feels awkward and shy (and Ysengrin says, deal with your own problems!) and in the second issue she starts to make friends. They uh, get her drunk sort of? And she makes fireworks? I guess basically this could be called Annie Goes to Magic Summer Camp.
She shows a momentof pain, in her hangover sleep. I was glad for a little touch on what this is all about, with her. It's good she's having fun this summer, while she's processing a bunch of sad stuff in her past.
Just, how great is it when they ask her if she has a "love" back home and she says Kat? This is the best comic ever....more
Downloaded this via Google Books out of academic interest -- it is the first full biography (1883!) and seems to be the first source of many often-repDownloaded this via Google Books out of academic interest -- it is the first full biography (1883!) and seems to be the first source of many often-repeated factoids.
More importantly, though, it contains the most thorough account of Eliot's childhood possible, as the author went to her hometown and talked to everyone personally, including her siblings and friends of her father's, which is pretty untoppable today. Mic-drop!
But actually I just want to read all of that sometime because a very quick glance through that chapter reveals claims that little Mary Ann both actually went off with gipsies once AND cut off "one side of her hair in a passion." AHHH <3<3<3<3<3...more
I chose this for my book club because of the ingredients we have here that are great and chewy: an unlikable (female!) central character, an ambiguousI chose this for my book club because of the ingredients we have here that are great and chewy: an unlikable (female!) central character, an ambiguous plot, an examination of privilege and youth and American ignorance, a virgin/whore war in the press and social media, a from-true-life story. But sometimes, while I read, I see in my mind's eye the ingredients of the book all sitting in a pot side by side, but the pot ain't cooking.
Essentially, this book has us inspect the character of Lily Hayes: what is she really like, deep inside? Lily is in jail, in Argentina, awaiting trial for murder of her roommate while studying abroad. Did she do it?
The book uses multiple perspectives to give us its information. Potentially, this is a way to learn bits about Lily through various lenses: her father, her prosecutor, her boyfriend. It's an interesting plan, but ultimately I decided that it actually got in the way. What the author does is more ambitious than just giving us Lily through multiple lenses. What she's really trying to pull off is crafting each one of these people into their own sympathetic literary world, so that in a sense we have at least four protagonists. It's not a bad idea, but they had mixed success with me (outside of Lily I only enjoyed reading Andrew, her father), and eventually I got tired. I started out the book thinking "Wow, so much wonderfully complex introspection!" and by the second half I was thinking "Oh god there is some more introspection!"
But regardless of the execution, there is something beautifully tender about this idea, this antihero of a young American woman. One of the reasons why I felt the multiple perspectives were a hindrance is actually because the time we spend with Lily's own perspective tells us everything we need to know. The author pulls it off perfectly: we see every moment that Lily's viewpoint clashed with what was around her. My favorite thing about this is that it was Katy, the fated roommate, who usually called her out on things. Katy was sharp and observant, and every time Lily noticed this — whoah, how did Katy get that and I missed it? — we get a little shiver for them both. The world, for both of them, is not what it seems: one of them is living on her own self-absorbed planet, and the other simply has so little time left to live.
So, Lily kind of sucks, and that's what's so great about her. I dig getting to know a messy character really well. I will stick by to witness them failing and feel why it's sad for them. Lily is the quintessential 20-year-old college girl. She's pretentiously intellectual and liberal, ignorant of interpersonal politics, won't shut up about how sexually free she is, barrels into cultural immersion without cultural respect, and basically is used to being focused on herself and having others validate it. If it sounds like I'm judging her, of course I am. But if it sounds like we shouldn't all recognize something uncomfy in her, you're wrong. Probably most of us have grown out of it by now, but very likely most people reading this know what it's like to feel that way for at least one second.
Most importantly, Lily is used to not getting into trouble. Layer upon layer of her identity and cultural status — whiteness, money, Americanness, gender, education — have built up a person who is privileged to not be afraid of consequences. Unfortunately, she sees this lack of fear as a personal trait, a strength: I'm so brave and confident and right because I was born this way, I am a creative thinker, I am so free. It makes her proud of how she acts, and that is what gets her into her trouble. These details, in the book, were what made it worth reading for me. Things like the photos on her camera revealing so much of her: disrespecting people in poverty by making "art" of the low moments they can't hide, the diseased faces, the unclothed children. Lots of 20-year-olds feel like they're journalists; lots of 20-year-olds feel like they're right about everything. That is, basically, what she gets prosecuted for. (view spoiler)[We don't really get any good reasons to think that she committed murder. All she did was make people dislike her. (hide spoiler)]
This is, obviously, a close fiction of Amanda Knox's story. And in some ways, it's far too close, as several salient details of the real case are copied down directly into the plot. It's far too many, and looks unimaginative. Probably the author wasn't interested in imagining more to the crime; probably she wanted to focus our attention on everything else I've just mentioned and more. But it looks weird, at the macro level. At any rate, it was interesting to go back and read more in depth about Knox than I had done, and take a note of what aspects of this story this real person dealt with. (This article was an especially good piece on the conviction-by-dislike phenomenon.) Indeed this is still going on for her this very week: today, her final appeal in Italian courts begins; meanwhile, tabloids are reporting on who she was kissing this weekend.
Relatedly, this book put the cold finger of fear in my heart contemplating what a nightmare it would be to have my emails published by subpoena. Man, I hope nothing public ever, ever happens to me.
Not really relatedly, I did harbor one pet theory through the book that I was really disappointed didn't pan out. (view spoiler)[I thought Katy totally, 100% had the hots for Lily. I thought the author was setting this right on up! It would have fit perfectly, and had an amazing impact on the story. We know Katy wrote about sneaking around to keep secret a relationship Lily wouldn't approve of (which was taken to mean Sebastien, but we know wasn't). Katy calls her gorgeous all the time, and Lily notices it. And Katy makes several shy hints, during those scenes, that she has her eye on someone, but nothing is happening "yet." Then, in the aftermath when we get the DNA report of Lily having touched Katy's bra clasp, I was like zing!, yes, this is happening! Something went on between them — Lily, of course, says that she's always expected to "kiss a girl before college was out" — and it's important. But then it didn't go anywhere, and then I learned that even the bra clasp was part of the original Amanda Knox evidence, and then everything was sad and formless again. (hide spoiler)]
Maybe the author almost wanted to think outside the facts, but wouldn't let herself. She's an excellent writer (even if she often uses bizarre vocabularly like "the moon was a glowing auricle in the sky") and I hope she keeps writing novels so I can read her fifth one someday.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more