I can't claim to have read them all (because, especially considering the recent proliferation, who has that kind of time?) but of the many I have read...moreI can't claim to have read them all (because, especially considering the recent proliferation, who has that kind of time?) but of the many I have read, I can say that--as a young adult fantasy novel--A Wizard of Earthsea has few equals.
The book's main character, the young wizard Ged, experiences a beautiful character arc. Born to an impoverished family on the island of Gont, Ged begins to develop powers that garner the attention of his island's powerful mage, Ogion the Silent, who takes Ged as his pupil. But Ged is an impatient child, eager for fame and adventure, which he cannot find on Gont. So Ogion ships him off to the school for wizards on the island of Roke, where Ged's aptitude for magic and his youthful arrogance clash, causing an evil being to escape from another realm. Scarred, both physically and mentally, by this event, Ged slowly recovers from his horrible mistake and tries to serve the people of the archipelago with humility. But over time it becomes clear that he must defeat the dreadful shadow he has released, or die trying. The climax of the book, which takes place adrift at sea, farther east than any inhabitant of Earthsea has ever dared to travel, is riveting.
Speaking of which, the setting of this book--the vast archipelago of Earthsea, comprised of hundreds of islands, most of which are no more than a hundred miles across--makes for an exotic backdrop against which to set this fantastic tale of seafaring cultures, wizards, dragons, and terrifying creatures.
Originally published in 1968, A Wizard of Earthsea is an obvious and worthy heir to Tolkien's The Hobbit. Fans of the Earthsea books love to point out that J.K. Rowling borrowed (or "stole") the idea of a wizard's school from Le Guin, but this is like accusing Le Guin of having ripped off the idea of Ogion from Tolkien's Gandalf. Or accusing Tolkien of having ripped off his idea of Smaug from Beowulf. Besides, it's not the idea that's important, but rather what you do with it, and the wizard's school takes up very little of this book. It's an idea that serves Le Guin's purposes very well, but she was, ultimately, more interested in telling the story of Ged's life once he left the school. Rowling, on the other hand, develops the idea of a school for wizards much more intricately, for her own distinct purposes, in the Harry Potter books. The two series really have very little in common beyond a few basic fantasy concepts.
In any case, fans of young adult fantasy absolutely need to read this book and its sequels. Without judging one as better than the other, I will nonetheless say that it's a shame these books don't share the rabid popularity of the Harry Potter books. Ged is an inspirational character in the best tradition of young adult novels. I recommend it wholeheartedly.(less)
I read this book in preparation for reading The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes Volume III The Novels. I have read only one Sherlock Holmes story ("The...moreI read this book in preparation for reading The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes Volume III The Novels. I have read only one Sherlock Holmes story ("The Speckled Band," for a course on eighteenth-century British literature in college) and, to be honest, didn't find it particularly interesting. I'd never been a fan of mysteries, and since I could never figure out who had "done it" before the author told me, I tended to find them fairly frustrating.
But that was twenty years ago now and, embarrassing as this is to admit, the Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman BBC series and the Guy Ritchie films have done their part in encouraging me to revisit Doyle's work. Plus I've had my eye on Leslie Klinger's beautiful annotated editions for quite some time (as objects as well as for the words they contain).
Michael Dirda's book-length appreciation had the desired effect, in that he has led me to believe that I won't regret my desire to revisit Holmes and Watson in printed form. His enthusiasm for Doyle's work (not just the Holmes stories, but for much of the author's output) is inspiring and eloquently supported by his engaging prose style. After reading Dirda's take, I'm confident that if, after reading the annotated novels, I still don't like the Holmes stories, the fault lies entirely within me rather than in Arthur Conan Doyle.
[Disclaimer: I am an employee of this book's publisher, Princeton University Press. Arguably, this means you should read my "review" (if you can call it that) with a grain of salt, even though I had no direct involvement in its publication and read it only because it interested me personally. Honestly, I wouldn't have even mentioned it if it weren't, y'know, the law.](less)
**spoiler alert** Even Vonnegut's lesser novels are five-star novels. If a genie offered to let me turn all of one author's protagonists into real peo...more**spoiler alert** Even Vonnegut's lesser novels are five-star novels. If a genie offered to let me turn all of one author's protagonists into real people, whom I could then hang out with whenever I wanted, I would choose Vonnegut's. And Rabo Karabekian would be one of the first ones I'd want to visit. We'd go out to his potato barn and he'd tell me stories about the people he'd drawn into his masterpiece, "Now It's the Women's Turn," and then we'd go to his house and we'd stare at Circe Berman's pictures of doomed girls in the foyer, after which he'd show me all the abstract expressionist paintings in the rest of his house, and he'd say thing like, "The darkest secret of this country, I am afraid, is that too many of its citizens imagine that they belong to a much higher civilization somewhere else.... This state of mind allows too many of us to lie and cheat and steal from the rest of us, to sell us junk and addictive poisons and corrupting entertainments. What are the rest of us, after all, but sub-human aborigines?" (171)
And then Circe would fly up from Baltimore and spend the weekend with us, and she'd say things like, "The whole point of war is to put women everywhere in that condition [i.e., in a warzone where they must do anything for food or protection for themselves and the children and the old people, since the young men were dead or gone away]. It's always men against women, with the men only pretending to fight among themselves." (215)
For as sad and painful a place as Vonnegut views the world to be, there is an underlying joy to be found in his writing. His protagonists have often suffered enormously difficult lives. Poor ol' Rabo Karabekian, for example, just wanted to be an artist, yet he was denied at every turn. Who could have guessed that the Sateen Dura-Luxe paint he used early in his career would turn out to lose its integrity and fall off his canvasses several years later? As a result of this one mistake (i.e., simply choosing the wrong kind of paint), his career has become a joke of the art world.
Yet, despite all the defeat he's suffered, and the pain--both emotional (the loss of his second wife) and physical (losing an eye in World War II)--that he's experienced, Rabo is still a man of integrity, with a sense of humor that helps him through those difficult moments in life. He's not just someone I want to hang out with; he's the kind of man I want to be.
By which I mean Kurt Vonnegut is the kind of man I want to be. What a writer he was. What a man. There will never be another like him.(less)
Like David Mitchell's Ghostwritten (which I read not too long ago, hence this lone comparison where none other between these two books really exists)...moreLike David Mitchell's Ghostwritten (which I read not too long ago, hence this lone comparison where none other between these two books really exists), A Visit from the Goon Squad is both a collection of short stories and a novel. To some readers it’s one or the other, and this either/or has become a point of debate for lots of people. So perhaps it’s easiest just to call it a book of fiction—because, really, why does it matter if it doesn’t fit entirely into one category or the other?
What matters to me is that it’s a good book. Personally, I consider it to be not just a collection of short stories, or a novel, but an epic. True, epics usually feature heroic acts and awe-inspiring scenes, but in Goon Squad Egan's characters perform their heroics simply by surviving the apparent climaxes and inevitable disappointments (some greater than others) of their lives. The book has several main characters but we spend the most time, more or less, with two: Bennie Salazar (a punk rocker in his early years and a record producer later on) and Sasha (who is many things but also, at one point, Bennie’s longtime assistant). Visiting moments in the lives of these characters (not just Bennie and Sasha but also their friends and acquaintances) as teenagers, as twentysomethings, as adults, and in older age, the cumulative effect is that of having read a 900-page epic, even though Goon Squad is only 340 pages.
This effect reminds me of how Margaret Atwood can contain the life of her protagonist in a book that’s much shorter than you would expect it to be, given the ground it covers (as in, for example, Lady Oracle, [b:Cat’s Eye|10122319|Exotic Gems, Volume 2 How to Identify and Buy Alexandrite, Andalusite, Chrysoberyl Cat(less)
Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is the best sci-fi/fantasy book I've ever read--and I say this as a deeply devoted fan of both Isaac Asimov and P...moreGene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is the best sci-fi/fantasy book I've ever read--and I say this as a deeply devoted fan of both Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick. So I had high hopes for The Book of the Long Sun, despite having read opinions, seemingly universal among its readers, that it's OK but "not nearly as good as The Book of the New Sun."
I'm only halfway through the Long Sun (Litany is the first half, Epiphany, which I'm reading now, the second), but I have to disagree with those opinions. Sure, it's not better than the New Sun, but it's not worse, either. Early on, I wasn't so sure. Although the Long Sun has a fascinating beginning, full of promise, in which the protagonist, the priestlike Patera Silk, receives an epiphany from the Outsider (one of the "minor" gods of the Whorl), from there the book seems to grind to a halt as Silk almost immediately thereafter conceives of and executes a harebrained scheme to confront/threaten/steal from Blood, a local organized crime boss, who just bought Silk's manteion (read church) out from under him. Silk meets up with the thief Auk, travels to Blood's house, spends a long time trying to break into the house, fails, tries again, finally gets inside, only to become sidetracked by someone else in the house, etc. This little sequence goes on for pages and pages and pages, and I began wondering when something, y'know, interesting would happen. No doubt like many other readers who'd read the New Sun first, I found myself comparing Silk, unfavorably, to Severian, and Silk's somewhat humdrum, decidedly parochial life in the Whorl to Severian's dangerous yet wondrous journey through the dying lands of Urth.
But then things picked up. Silk's life became decidedly less parochial, the seemingly ordinary Whorl in which he resided began to give up some of its secrets, and the characters came alive. More importantly, Wolfe's rich use of the English language is as satisfying here as it is in The Book of the New Sun. The story is also somewhat easier to grasp initially, I think, than the story in the New Sun. The New Sun starts off so strangely, with such a strange cast of characters, and in such a strange world (not to mention with such a strange and unreliable first-person narrator), that I remember struggling to find my footing as I read the first few chapters. No such trouble with the Long Sun, precisely because the Whorl is introduced to readers at such a deliberate, judicious pace (and with a third-person narrator who isn't quite as disorienting as Severian). One has time to adjust one's bearings before the otherworldliness of it all creeps in. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of mysteries to ponder and subtexts to parse, just as in the New Sun, but Wolfe eases you into it here. And Silk continues to grow on me as a character, rivaling Severian as an equally interesting (albeit totally different kind of) character.
I hope I'll have much more to say once I finish Epiphany; for now I'll just say that, if you loved the New Sun but you're hesitating, like I did, to read the Long Sun because of the naysayers out there--don't believe 'em! It's definitely worth reading.(less)
The Poetry Lesson is a work of fictional nonfiction. Or at least I think so. In it, Codrescu recounts the first day of class for his final Introductio...moreThe Poetry Lesson is a work of fictional nonfiction. Or at least I think so. In it, Codrescu recounts the first day of class for his final Introduction to Poetry Writing class at Louisiana State University before his retirement, in 2009. At the beginning of the class he lists the ten tools of poetry, the ten muses of poetry, then introduces us to the thirteen students taking the class. Then, what follows is a (presumably fictional) representation of what it's like to attend the first day of Codrescu's class.
A lot of the book is taken up with Codrescu bestowing a Ghost-Companion on each of his students. A Ghost-Companion, which is one of his ten tools of poetry, is "a poet, dead or alive . . . whose last name begins with the same letter as yours. This is a poet that you will study all semester, read deeply, understand well, google till you’re satisfied, and call on when you feel some difficulty. Any difficulty. Your Ghost-Companion will be a great and generous soul, who will come to your aid not just for your assignments, but also in other situations that neither you nor I can now imagine" (15).
I took several fiction-writing classes in college, but no poetry-writing classes. If Codrescu had taught at my school, I'd be kicking myself for not having taken his class. The Ghost-Companion idea alone is worth the price of tuition. (In fact, I'm half tempted to try contacting Codrescu now and asking him for my own Ghost-Companion, and I don't even write poetry.) He's an interesting, affable teacher in the classroom (or at least portrays himself to be so), and provides brief but illuminating biographies for most of the G-Cs (as he abbreviates it) that he hands out, from Anna Akhmatova to Walt Whitman.
Codrescu also has plenty to say about his own life, both as a poet and as a friend of other poets, including Ted Berrigan and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He also relates several funny, even bawdy anecdotes throughout (though many of these are shared with the reader only, not with his students). There's even a little philosophy (insofar as it pertains to poetry) thrown in as well.
As I mentioned at the top, I presume this recounting is mostly fictional; some of the students Codrescu describes are real characters, in both senses of the word (most notably Matt Borden, of the Borden milk family, who claims that his grandmother insisted on being buried in a decommissioned missile silo). But whether the students are "real" or not, the story Codrescu tells with them feels true. It's a fascinating and inspiring book that practically makes me want to be a poet. (I'd say "a part-time poet" but Codrescu's book makes it clear that there's no such thing; for him, poetry is a creed--you're either a poet or you're not.)
My only disappointment is that the book covers only one, far-too-short class. When, near the end, one of his students reminds him that he still hasn't elucidated most of the "tools of poetry" he wrote on the chalkboard at the beginning of the book, Codrescu says, "That's for next class, we've run out of time now." If I had my way, Codrescu would write a book for each subsequent session of his final semester of teaching. Alas, I don't think it's going to happen, and to our detriment.
[Disclaimer: I am an employee of this book's publisher, Princeton University Press. Arguably, this means you should read my "review" (if you can call it that) with a grain of salt, even though I had no direct involvement in its publication and read it only because it interested me personally. Honestly, I wouldn't have even mentioned it if it weren't, y'know, the law.] (less)
Definitely Margaret Atwood's best novel--of the ones I've read, anyway. Not my favorite of hers (since nothing can replace The Handmaid's Tale, which...moreDefinitely Margaret Atwood's best novel--of the ones I've read, anyway. Not my favorite of hers (since nothing can replace The Handmaid's Tale, which had a tremendous effect on me in college) but still a beautiful, incredibly moving novel. There's something about Atwood's prose that grabs me every time. It's not plainspoken, but not florid either. Perhaps it's her experience as a poet; I'd put her in Nabokov's category--a careful crafts(wo)man. In short, her work makes me want to write the great American novel.
Anyway, the two story tracks complemented each other perfectly, and I loved the superficial newspaper articles that initially set the stage for her to delve more completely into these seemingly straightforward characters. Inventive, engaging, a breeze to read, and inevitably bleak. In other words, the paragon of a Margaret Atwood novel!(less)
Even better than I was expecting, and I was expecting a lot. The Woman in White has compelling characters, memorable villains (I want to get a pug and...moreEven better than I was expecting, and I was expecting a lot. The Woman in White has compelling characters, memorable villains (I want to get a pug and name him Fosco), a twisted plot, some truly harrowing scenes, and prose that is both crisp and intimate. All the interpersonal formality of Victorian England is present, even as the heroes and villains struggle to gain the upper hand over one another, which increased the anxiety this novel produced in me. (As I read, I would find myself silently urging the heroes to drop the courtesy and just run! Needless to say, they never took my advice.)
I was also happily surprised to find such a strong female character at the center of a novel written by a man in the mid-nineteenth century. Marian Halcombe could easily give a character like Jo March a run for her money, particularly since Marian kept her cool under far greater terrors than the little women suffered (and understandably so, of course--this being a "sensation" novel rather than a "realist" novel).
I hesitate to say much more than this because the book is so filled with plot twists that explaining even the most basic plot elements would inevitably give something away that the average reader would prefer to be surprised by. So let me just say that if you enjoy Gothic fiction, adventure fiction, mystery novels, or novels set in the provincial countryside circa 1850, The Woman in White is definitely for you.(less)
**spoiler alert** "You should read my book and accept it on face value, just as I accept what I see . . . without inquiring if it's genuine underneath...more**spoiler alert** "You should read my book and accept it on face value, just as I accept what I see . . . without inquiring if it's genuine underneath. . . ." -Hawthorne Abendsen (p. 254)
I want to say this is PKD's best book, and many would agree with me if I did, but honestly so many of PKD's books are this good--if only in different ways--that I can't honestly say it's my favorite. But it is one of my (many) favorites.
What makes The Man in the High Castle one of his best are the characters, the premise, the details he chooses to utilize in his alternate history, and, most importantly, his themes.
"Historicity" is the key word in this book. What makes the history of an object, a person, a country, or even an entire world, authentic? If two Army Model Colt .44s look identical, but one was used in the American Civil War and the other was built one hundred years later by a counterfeiter, does it matter? A collector of Civil War artifacts would say yes, of course, but if he couldn't tell the difference between them, would it still matter? (A distant cousin of the Zen koan, "If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?")
Likewise, if you live in a dystopian nightmare world where the Nazis and the other Axis Powers won World War II twenty years ago, and you learn that it is in fact an alternate reality to the "real" world where the Nazis were defeated, would it make the alternate world that you're stuck in any less real to you?
Authenticity, as it pertains to the "reality" of one's life, is of course a recurring theme in PKD's fiction, and in The Man in the High Castle he explores it in a way that's significantly different from his other books. The novel starts simply enough, but by the end of it PKD is hitting his readers with ideas so big and mind-blowing that it practically demands an immediate rereading. Fortunately, with rich, (mostly) likeable characters such as Tagomi, Baynes, and Juliana Frink, rereading this book isn't a chore.
The entire book is great, but the last two chapters are particularly amazing. Tagomi's transformative meditation on the wu-infused pendant created by Frank Frink is a true highlight. Julia's visit to Hawthorne Abendsen's house provides possibly the best ending to any of PKD's books. And the final, pessimistic/optimistic thoughts of Baynes (a.k.a. Wegener, the dissident Nazi) are, unfortunately, still as applicable to our fractured modern world as they were fifty years ago:
It goes on, he thought. The internecine hate. Perhaps the seeds are there, in that. They will eat one another at last, and leave the rest of us here and there in the world, still alive. Still enough of us once more to build and hope and make a few simple plans. (p. 247)(less)
Although I majored in English literature, I'm more of a novel/short story enthusiast than a reader of poetry. Generally, the major poets I read in col...moreAlthough I majored in English literature, I'm more of a novel/short story enthusiast than a reader of poetry. Generally, the major poets I read in college (Spenser, Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, Tennyson) put me to sleep. Sacrilege, I know; there were a few I really liked (Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," William Blake, Milton's "Paradise Lost," Christina Rossetti) but these were poets (or poems, anyway) who told stories. I also liked some of the older poems ("Beowulf," "Dream of the Rood," "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"), but more for their historical significance than as works of poetry.
Since graduating, I've tried other, more contemporary poets (Elizabeth Bishop, Sharon Olds, John Ashbery) with some success, but none of them lit my brain on fire. Until I discovered Albert Goldbarth.
I think what I find so enchanting about Goldbarth's poetry is that it doesn't read like poetry. It's philosophy, autobiography, sociology, history, the study of science (particularly physics), and a reflection on the popular culture of the twentieth century, all written with an informality and a gentle sense of humor that makes me want to both ponder the poem I've just read, and move on, eagerly, to reading the next one. I suppose one could argue that all good poetry is supposed to be at least one of these things, but before I read this book I don't think I'd given poetry enough thought to realize it. So I have Albert Goldbarth to thank for that. I see now that poetry isn't just "poetry," or at least it doesn't have to be. It's a synthesis of human thought. So, thank you, Mr. Goldbarth. You saved poetry for this one lapsed English lit major. (less)
Listen: "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much...moreListen: "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters." (164)
Slaughterhouse-Five is probably the first postmodern novel I read, long before I knew that there was such a thing as a "postmodern novel." Back in middle school I didn't put much thought into form. I merely accepted Slaughterhouse-Five as a book about the horrors of war, masquerading as a sci-fi novel, and presented out of chronological order simply to play up the sci-fi elements of the story. But unlike all the other sci-fi I was reading at the time (Asimov, Niven, Clarke), the non-sci-fi elements of Slaughterhouse-Five are the elements that grabbed me.
In other words (since even good sci-fi is often bereft of well-rounded characters), despite what Vonnegut wrote, above, there are some memorable characteristic moments in this book: Kilgore Trout screaming at his team of adolescent newspaper-delivery boys (and one girl); Billy Pilgrim's moments of innocence in the adult bookstore; the two infantry scouts ditching Billy and Roland Weary behind enemy lines; the narrator, Kurt, literally (well, not literally, but literarily) pooping his brains out in the POW camp; the German guards reacting to the obliterated moonscape of their home, Dresden, looking like "a silent film of a barbershop quartet"; poor Billy Pilgrim's reaction upon realizing what condition the two wagon-drawing horses are in, near the end of the book.
This is the book that introduced me to Vonnegut's work--and rightly so, as it is his best novel. I remember reading it in a single sitting the first time around, back when I had my summers off and nothing to do but read. This time it took me two days; not bad, considering I have a full-time job and plenty of things to do other than read. But Slaughterhouse-Five is a book worth experiencing, again and again. If I were to align myself with any one author's world view, it would probably be Vonnegut, despite his sometimes overwhelmingly bleak outlook on life (which is to say, the nearly unbearable burden of being alive). Unlike Vonnegut, I do not consider not-living to be better than living, but I can understand and appreciate why he thought this way. I suppose anyone who lived through what he'd lived through in Dresden would be hard-pressed to feel any differently.(less)
It's been, wow, almost twenty years since I last read The Catcher in the Rye. My previous read-through was in college, for a class on young adult lite...moreIt's been, wow, almost twenty years since I last read The Catcher in the Rye. My previous read-through was in college, for a class on young adult literature. My memory of the book was that I liked it, but I'd forgotten just how much. It's easy to forget that J. D. Salinger's prose style has arguably had more influence on American postwar fiction than any other writer. How amazing that this is true despite his relatively small published output (a novel, four novellas, and a collection of nine short stories).
Even more amazing is that Salinger's stories (and Catcher in the Rye in particular) are still so timely and applicable to modern life. Holden Caulfield's predicament isn't a uniquely 1950s-style predicament. Thanks to reality TV, Fox News, Goldman Sachs, etcetera, these days it seems we're surrounded by more phonies than ever. More generally (and perhaps less controversially--apologies to any Fox News fans out there!), Holden's gradual maturation from child to adult (a transformation that, as far as I'm concerned anyway, hasn't quite happened by the end of the novel) is a transformation that we all go through; perhaps not as painfully as Holden does, but his own experience touches on the experience many of us had as we struggled to become adults. Who of us didn't find ourselves fed up with our friends, acquaintances, and mentors on a regular basis? Who of us weren't occasionally as irritating and obnoxious as Holden can sometimes be? Who of us didn't feel like we were going to lose it completely at the oddest times (or the most appropriate times)?
Reading Catcher in the Rye brought me back to my adolescence again and, while it made me so glad those awkward days are over for me, it also reminded me to appreciate the experiences I had at that age because they helped to form the person I am today. I like to think about Holden Caulfield as an adult, and I don't think he would have turned out in any of the three ways that Mr. Antolini was worried Holden might turn out. The adult Holden may despise the phonies he sees around him, but I suspect he would see fewer and fewer of those types the older he gets. In fact, his reassessment of Mr. Antolini's intentions (after fleeing his former teacher's apartment) is evidence that Holden, perhaps as he matures, won't allow his snap judgments to stand as his only assessment of another person's character. Personally, I know that I could benefit from allowing myself to reconsider what I think and feel about others. It's thanks to J. D. Salinger that I am able to keep this in mind.(less)
As I've been pondering this review, and this book, over the last day or so after having finished reading Next, I've been fluctuating between thinking...moreAs I've been pondering this review, and this book, over the last day or so after having finished reading Next, I've been fluctuating between thinking of it as a five-star book and a four-star book.
It potentially falls short of a five-star book in a few ways: First, despite Hynes's minutely rendered prose (in which he follows his protagonist, Kevin, on a day-long trip to and through the city of Austin, Texas), which impressively evokes real life in a surprisingly tangible way, some of the early spontaneous conversations between Kevin and the characters he bumps into in downtown Austin, seem idealized and scripted (and, hence, unrealistic), which put them disappointingly at odds with the rest of the book in tone and substance. Second, some of Kevin's thoughts are uncomfortably, obliviously chauvinistic, which dampened my enthusiasm for the book.
But it's a five-star book in a lot of ways: First, I related to the protagonist's internal soliloquies (the chauvinistic ones notwithstanding, of course) to such a degree that more than once I said to myself, "This is me." (Which is not the same as thinking "This is my life," because Kevin's life and mine have very little in common, fortunately.) In fact, the book's first sequence is so close to a short story I wrote in college--except that Hynes's prose is so much better than mine--that I had to laugh. Apparently, Next is the book I was trying to write twenty years ago. Second, the book culminates in such a beautiful, poignant way, that it has one of those endings I'll remember, and think about, for a long, long time. For that reason, despite its flaws, I give it five stars.