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
Picked up a 1973 Feminist Press copy of the story at the closing month sale at Skyline Books in NYC. I also reread it on DailyLit, in 2008:
Actual cPicked up a 1973 Feminist Press copy of the story at the closing month sale at Skyline Books in NYC. I also reread it on DailyLit, in 2008:
"Meg did you ever read 'The Yellow Wallpaper' in high school?" "Yes!" "Cool, well you should read it again!" "Is that the one where she walks into the ocean?"
I did like the story in high school and I revisited it via DailyLit over lunch today. DO THIS.
I was stunned (again) how good it is. It's terrifying! And makes its feminist thesis perfectly clear while also being tragic and ominous. Coming from so far away as 1892, it's incredible to think what Gilman must have been like....more
Read via DailyLit in 145 parts over about 5 months. Took a break for a while, but read the last 30 or so at once over the weekend. I love clickin' thaRead via DailyLit in 145 parts over about 5 months. Took a break for a while, but read the last 30 or so at once over the weekend. I love clickin' that "send next installment" link, oh I do.
Now that I'm done giggling over the subtitle on a German edition I just saw: Sitten in der Provinz, let's be serious.
I didn't grow too attached to this book, but I still really liked reading it. The public domain version (I can't find the translation info) is extremely readable, and Flaubert's style is so clear and attentive. So much of the description in the narrative is wonderful, the settings all extremely knowable. In general the author's view became the most compelling aspect: this book basically seems to be about people being tragically stupid. No one here is very nice, nor worthy of niceness, and though that's a little depressing, it's not without truth. Flaubert's eye is merciless, and still he seems to pity the fools.
Even though she's for the most part greatly unsympathetic, Emma never stops being interesting to read about. Her first intoxications with luxury and sensual living make a lot of sense, as does her boredom with her marriage, and her relationship with Leon (both times) is actually rather likable. Her relationship with Rodolphe, in between, wasn't as good -- he's plain smarmy, but it started to be sort of exciting, and then it was over. As her problems piled up with the debts and the secondary characters, I didn't feel so interested, but I guess this book isn't really about the plot.
Like ok, how about we talk about Charles. Oh Charles. Mr. Bovary. I think you were my favorite character. Because Charles: you suck so much, you are actually kind of cute. It's just pathetic. You're the FAIL cat. On and on you go, being so very dumb, so very oblivious, and so very bad at parenting, money, and your job. Oh my gosh you're the worst doctor. The horrible episode with the stable boy and his amputation. So disastrously embarrassing, it was almost funny. But not exactly.
(Sidebar: the old-fashioned medical terms actually add a lot throughout the book; it was worth looking them up to see exactly how wrong or just plain grim they all are.)
By the end, I didn't think that I'd cared very much for the book, because I wasn't quite sure what its purpose really was. But it managed to make that very clear in the last few sections, and I was pleasantly surprised. Even though it is awfully depressing, the long horrible death scene (SO LONG), and the pitiful responses of everyone. The message is pretty clear. Folks are a letdown. And luxury is sort of a joke.
Meg gave me this as a DailyLit gift a couple weeks ago when I needed it, and she recommended "take one before bedtime" and I did. Well I tried. PractiMeg gave me this as a DailyLit gift a couple weeks ago when I needed it, and she recommended "take one before bedtime" and I did. Well I tried. Practice is hard.
Poetry, I don't know you very well, but it's pretty awesome when you work out. This collection starts with a couple of longer pieces, which I liked a lot, particularly "Interim".
Here 'twas as if a weed-choked gate Had opened at my touch, and I had stepped Into some long-forgot, enchanted, strange, Sweet garden of a thousand years ago And suddenly thought, "I have been here before!"...more
Rebecca is a wonderful character, and it was lovely rooting for her and watching her succeed. The bookRead via DailyLit in 89 parts over three months.
Rebecca is a wonderful character, and it was lovely rooting for her and watching her succeed. The book's voice is so sweet, and I liked that it was funny too. I liked to imagine the author who could write a description like "eyes as big as cartwheels."
I appreciated, of course, how very heavily Wiggin seems to have been influenced by The Mill on the Floss. That was a really nice surprise, and lucky for me to read them in this order. There are multiple allusions to that book here, such as:
"It is coming, Emmie," she said presently; "do you remember in The Mill on the Floss, when Maggie Tulliver closed the golden gates of childhood behind her?"
In a lot of ways, Rebecca is Maggie, given another chance. She is far less heartbreaking, though, which is a good thing because I think a heart can only handle one Maggie Tulliver.
I was so impressed by the adults in the book. Rebecca's story is so bright, but the adults influencing her surroundings are given skillful little shades of back-story, a paragraph or so to describe what has shaped them, and it's often very sad. It makes Rebecca's setting very realistic. Her aunt Jane's wisps of backstory on the battlefield are absolutely breathtaking. And I love the introduction of the missionaries in the middle, and her mentorship with her English teacher, whose outlook is shockingly no-nonsense. Sometimes it's easy to assume old books like this cast nothing but gauzy parochial characters, particularly for children, but this book absolutely doesn't.
I was really pleased that Rebecca didn't get married at the end. She didn't not get married, and we pretty much know who is going to marry her, but it was nice to have the ending be all about her. I expected a promise of marriage to be the making of Rebecca's perfect adult happiness, but instead that happiness comes from her family and her own realizations, and that is very gratifying. I think Wiggin really knew what she was doing there.
Before I began the book, I read that Jack London, of all people, had written a fan letter to Wiggin to say, "May I thank you for Rebecca?", as a war correspondent in Manchuria 1904. I never quite forgot it as I read the book -- the idea of a children's book reaching that improbably far, and then also to us, is extraordinary....more
Read on DailyLit in 5 parts. I downloaded this around the same time that I read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Extras, because I learned thRead on DailyLit in 5 parts. I downloaded this around the same time that I read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Extras, because I learned that the themes are similar. It's an interesting short story in the same way those stories are: science has advanced the body's potential, so that almost nothing natural happens any more. Ageless bodies, with (almost) all of time to live.
This story focuses on the grisly math of the concept, and what that means about population, birth, and death. (More or less, the story takes place in a maternity ward.) Actually, I especially wondered about this concept in the Uglies series -- if memory serves, "where babies come from" is never really addressed. This story also shares that series's sort of odd conservationist idealism that seems somehow suspicious.
"Your city thanks you; your country thanks you; your planet thanks you. But the deepest thanks of all is from future generations."...more
I don't really know what to say. To me, old novels sometimes feel too emotionally remote, usually the fault of the conservative stFive thousand stars.
I don't really know what to say. To me, old novels sometimes feel too emotionally remote, usually the fault of the conservative style imposed on them, but this was one of the most emotionally vibrant things I've ever read. Maggie was such a vivid character that every page she's on feels true. And yet, it's such a novel, with themes so richly built. Because of Shannon's numerous discussions of it for many years, I knew most of the ending before starting, but that only made it even richer. The symbolism is effortless and perfect and needed. (And is it really possible people don't like the ending?)
It was a really visceral read: lots of face-clasping and jaw-dropping. Maggie says some of the truest things I've ever seen in fiction, and it's wonderful. Eliot's omniscience says the rest of them. I was stunned how sharp the commentary was, painful and real. She seems to have known everything. So I felt kind of silly for a while; why didn't I listen to Shannon and read it when this happened to her? But really, it doesn't matter, because reading this felt like it was written especially for me to read in my life right now. Which is how your favorite books always make you feel, right? (It's official. I changed my GoodReads relationship status to "Favorite books: The Mill on the Floss.")
Not every page thrilled me to pieces. The aunts remained annoying throughout; I guess I didn't find them as great a foil as they're supposed to be. My interest slackened a little during some of Tom's sections. But I think it is really obvious to point out: Basically my criticism is, "Maggie Tulliver is so outstanding that I longed for her in every chapter that wasn't all about her." Which, really, is not a criticism at all. It's not like it's shortsighted to write a protagonist so good a reader can't stand to be away from her. (I especially think we should have gotten to see as much of Maggie in school as we did Tom. But still: not seriously concerned.)
Though I purchased a copy as I neared the end so I could always have it, I read it all via DailyLit in 242 parts over two months. One of the things I like most about reading through DailyLit emails is that though most pages can be deleted after they're read, emails with passages I really like I save instead. Just in case. (I think this is the same kind of thing that makes people underline or dog-ear pages in real books, but I've never been able to do that.) So in my email right now I have 5 saved pages of Night and Day, 1 page of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and 110 pages of The Mill on the Floss. For a little perspective.
Read via DailyLit in 47 parts. (Edmund Gosse and William Archer translation.) I read this in college in a very bad class, and I was curious about NYC'Read via DailyLit in 47 parts. (Edmund Gosse and William Archer translation.) I read this in college in a very bad class, and I was curious about NYC's new revival so it was time for a reread. Thank goodness! I only remembered what happens at the end, and not at all why.
This read was much more thought-provoking. And somehow, though it is key, I didn't recall the theme of Hedda's pregnancy at all. (It was a really bad class.) And that's not a spoiled revelation; though she only (barely) admits it near the end, everyone else knows this in the first scene. Everyone scrutinizes her body and her expected future, but no one other than the audience acknowledges her unhappiness, and the oncoming child, and her opportunity to destroy the "child" of her only comrade. I just read a review of the current production that cites Hedda as being "evil" and I was shocked, because, what else is a proportionate response to the pain of her mistake.
The other new idea to me was the significant but brief description of her youth with her militant father, as his compatriot and sidekick. The General Gabler, giving his name to her and the play's title. The qualities of the father passed to the daughter, they rode side by side and shared guns, but doomed with a female life, Hedda's only adulthood can be marrying a useless bore. She can say of her pending family, "it is killing me," but in the end that's just not accurate enough.
(3 stars for the public domain translation, but 5 stars forev.)...more
I read this through email on DailyLit in 65 parts, starting September 30. Clearly I enjoyed more than one installment a day.
I'm not even sure why I liI read this through email on DailyLit in 65 parts, starting September 30. Clearly I enjoyed more than one installment a day.
I'm not even sure why I liked this so much.
I was really surprised by how much the sci-fi details were similar to Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, Extras in particular. (Westerfeld mentions this book himself here, but not in much depth.) Cosmetic surgery allowing anyone to look like anything and keep in perfect health, the internal computer interfaces operated by small gestures, and the reputation economy. I did start reading this right after I finished that series, but I would be shocked if Westerfeld hadn't read this right before starting it. Cut from very similar cloth.
I had a lot more fun with the language, symbolism, and ideas here. I love "squirting" information at each other's systems with finger guns. I love the succinct, intriguing flashbacks. And the story's main thrust, Julius's willful spiral after being knocked offline, is really moving. I love that it's not a story of man vs. society, an attack on a big-brother dystopia, as much as a person losing all his bearings and finding his utopia can't help him....more
Read on DailyLit in 197 parts, over 9 months or so because some days I just had to repeatedly click here to receive the next installment immediately.Read on DailyLit in 197 parts, over 9 months or so because some days I just had to repeatedly click here to receive the next installment immediately. I didn't think it would pick up at first, but then they were all in the country at Christmas and I got all excited.
I'd never read Virginia Woolf before, though I bought To the Lighthouse once and even read the start of Mrs. Dalloway. I even liked it. This book, though, is real early Virginia Woolf which means it is disguised as a regular novel. Even within that frame, though, she displays exactly how well she knows people, and already it's scary.
The conventional love-stories format meant I didn't at all expect the turn it took as the main character struggled with female identity and independent thought in 1919 and this is all much more eloquent in the book. This theme was thrilling, though, and the highlight of the novel. Her articulation of her characters' ideas and mistakes is shimmering with insight, several surprising scenes, and sincere feminist need. And I'm glad I know this now!
(Ed. 01/11 - The more I think about this, the more I really liked it. I'd like to read it again.)...more