I bought a beautiful edition of this book to read instead, but no way am I giving this one up. Opposite-greatest copy of all time, MTI edition starrinI bought a beautiful edition of this book to read instead, but no way am I giving this one up. Opposite-greatest copy of all time, MTI edition starring Patrick Stewart. Prize of the collection, this....more
Wow. This was just fantastic! I could hardly stand to put it down, and read the whole thing looking something like: :D
This felt so original, and everyWow. This was just fantastic! I could hardly stand to put it down, and read the whole thing looking something like: :D
This felt so original, and everything just clicked right away. From the beginning, our man Aspen’s narrative voice is dark and glittersome; he’s not entirely right, and that edge just works at you until everything starts to unfold. Which way is this guy going to go?
I love the story, I love the backstory, I loved getting to the bottom of the mysterious bits, I loved not being able to predict how these relationships would end up. I love that people get surprised, not everyone gets what they want, and they have to figure it out. The supernatural bits are explained with just the right levels of detail and magic, without too much boggy chat. The plot pacing is perfect.
Also, we really need to just acknowledge that we’ve got the best title and cover ever here. Love them so much! Aces to the publisher for going with the grim humor of it all. It fits the book so well.
It’s additionally worth saying how immensely, brilliantly different this is from the author’s previous books in the Wishing duology, which do dig into some extremely unique identity questions but also follow a pretty familiar paranormal romance trajectory. I didn’t find anything about Rocks Fall familiar, at all. This author’s turned the uniqueness up to 1100. I cannot wait to see how far she keeps going....more
So, I have loved Samantha Hunt’s writing for a long while, since I bought her first novel in 2004. I own all three of them in hardcover, which is kindSo, I have loved Samantha Hunt’s writing for a long while, since I bought her first novel in 2004. I own all three of them in hardcover, which is kind of special for me. To me, her style has always held a conciseness and glory that made every scene in her two short novels sing out. The chilly, surreal mood of The Seas overtook me when I read it, and there are scenes in The Invention of Everything Else that still take my breath away to remember. I read them and thought, “This is so beautiful that I can hardly believe how lucky I am to actually be reading it in a book.” I haven’t reread them. It’s what I remember.
A fair bit of time has passed since she published one, in 2008, and this time makes a change. This one is certainly out of a somewhat different recipe. I’m not sharp enough to be able to name what the influences are that might have shaped the style of this book for her, but something new is driving. Unfortunately, what was noticeable to me was the lack of those favorite qualities, the weird fluid lovely oddity. Bravery. But in some ways, it makes for a technically stronger novel this time around: there’s a sraightforward present-and-flashback structure that twines together, a twist ending. Style-wise, however, it felt sicker, scarier, dark in a way that made me feel gross instead of casting a spell over me. That’s up some alleys of some people; at the moment it doesn’t seem to be mine.
One interesting thing about this read is that more or less all of Cora’s half of the story is about pregnancy, and I happen to be in the middle of one. This is the first novel I’ve read during where someone is openly reflecting on what that feels like and what she thinks of it. I didn’t identify with it all but there was a kernel for me there that was unique.
Before I was pregnant, I thought carrying a baby meant knowing a baby. That’s not true. … The baby gives me a small kick, taking what’s delicate — lung tissue, tiny see-through fingers, hair fine enough to spin webs — and hardens it into a tough thing, a thing that likes it rough. It’ll grow and I will be the only one who remembers when it was unmarked and delicate as a moth.
One day it will talk to me. It will die. How is that possible?
Anyway, there are a couple of significant things that didn’t work for me in the story, and mainly it has to do with Ruth’s half. I didn’t enjoy much about the apocalyptic, controlling foster home in which she and Nat grow up (this is weird because: I love cults?), and even their relationship struck me as off. I didn’t enjoy reading about their jobs as false mediums for the dead (this is weird because: I love cons? And spooks?) and the deeper they got in freaky trouble the more turned off I felt by the details.
Also the ending.
But what I loved best, with Ruth, was the blizzard. The trio’s strange and unwise foxhole, hiding in a mansion. The cooking, the records, the falling together. There is some great magic in the book there and it warmed me.
It’s why I’m sure I’ll always buy Samantha Hunt’s books in hardcover, why I already am fascinated by what direction she will turn in next. We’re together on this, writer and reader, and I'm happy to wait for years to change, and to see her again....more
I read this book ages ago now, but I'll probably always remember reading its long, harrowing section on the RAF air raid battles while I crossed the AI read this book ages ago now, but I'll probably always remember reading its long, harrowing section on the RAF air raid battles while I crossed the Atlantic on a plane that had just been hit by lightning.
This book was given to me because "I don't know anyone who likes Life After Life more than you," said my friend, which is fair. As such, I've no objections to getting a little more of it to taste, although this book is entirely separate. I appreciate that it's a very different creature than its predecessor. There's nothing more stylistically unusual here than multiple p.o.v. This may be good -- no sense in overusing a nice trick -- but also means that what you get is essentially a normal novel about some normal English folks.
I liked the generational scope we get this time, especially the parenting challenges of each, and the sense of how the old-fashioned became the modern. I was returning from my first trip to London on that flight, which also gave a nice tinge of knowingness to the very last, contemporary bits of the novel. But in the end, I surprised myself by finding the reading hard to get through: it is depressing. And I have a rather high threshold for depressing, and I almost never make that comment, so I don't know. I just felt terrible for everyone.
But for some reason, when I think about what I liked best in this book, I just keep thinking about Teddy's vegetable garden. Thinking of his vegetable garden makes me happy. Plus the nature walks, and boring his wife about snowdrops. And his crazy self-indulgent tromp through France. And the poetry. I liked Teddy, Teddy made me happy. I'm gonna remember him.
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
It's such an odd one, and I wasn't sure what to expect, so I think having some mPicked this up the other night for £2 outside the Vestry House Museum.
It's such an odd one, and I wasn't sure what to expect, so I think having some mixed feelings is okay. Possibly it's the one to revisit after I read all of Fitzgerald's other novels, which I pretty much intend to do, when it might do something different for me.
Fitzgerald's prose is restrained beyond belief, and whether that's typical of her style or her intentions for this work particularly I don't know how to tell yet. There's not quite enough irony in the clipped, straightforward sentences, although often they will suddenly pay off tremendously. Take the ending of the chapter about surgery prep: "Frau Winkler, waiting below on the bottom stair, had been able to hear nothing, but now her patience was rewarded." Go get yourself a sweater for those goosebumps now.
But the plot, too, has a rote feel and is vignetted into extremely short chapters, moving point-by-point through the everyday milestones of the source documents, such as diaries, Fitzgerald obviously relied upon. Fritz studies this then that, apprentices here then goes to work there. A good deal about salt mines. He does this for 100 pages before even meeting Sophie. Perhaps this is one of those reader situations where I was warped by the flap copy, because I assumed that their relationship was the focal point of the novel, and I suppose, really, it is -- but the restraint shown, again, is enormous, and I'm not certain to what effect. Not a bad one. But I haven't decided what.
Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with Novalis other than as this novel's subject. His poetry, though, is used occasionally in the text and it is breathtaking....more
Received a used copy of this from a reseller, with a souvenir photo from North Carolina Aquariums showing five teenage girls being dramatically eatenReceived a used copy of this from a reseller, with a souvenir photo from North Carolina Aquariums showing five teenage girls being dramatically eaten by a green-screen shark, stuck in as a bookmark before Chapter 8.
For a while, I thought this was the same book as one already on my to-read shelf, an immigrant tale with an almost identical cover: Girl in TranslatiFor a while, I thought this was the same book as one already on my to-read shelf, an immigrant tale with an almost identical cover: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok.
But it's not, is it.
I guess I hadn't bothered to go learn what it's really about even after I caught the mistake, but now that I did I find the premise reminds me a lot of the still out-of-print The Light in the Piazza. Which I also have never added to my to-read list, in fact....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: