"Can the imagined gaze of future generations shame us, in Kafka's sense of the word, into remembering?" (251) Into choosing compassion over convenienc...more"Can the imagined gaze of future generations shame us, in Kafka's sense of the word, into remembering?" (251) Into choosing compassion over convenience, because that choice is possible (in this way, at least) for us?
Like all of JSF's work, this book is something that I desperately wish I could telepathically transmit to everyone that I love--that I could force (if only that force would not also constitute a violence) everyone to read. This book has influenced me wildly during the reading process, and as expected, will surely continue to influence me throughout the rest of my life. Par for the course for JSF, I am inspired especially to live deliberately, cultivate different (better?) stories, and learn to forget and (perhaps more importantly) to remember /differently/. However, with this work of nonfiction, the subsequent action holds a different kind of weight--one that is engaged specifically with /this/ world, with this moment presently occupied.(less)
I adore this novel. I am still riding the immediate post-read high, but the consistent return to the question of being or going "underground" is treat...moreI adore this novel. I am still riding the immediate post-read high, but the consistent return to the question of being or going "underground" is treated with a simultaneous delicacy and directness that is haunting. Questions regarding what it means, specifically, to be American, counter-cultural, radical, resistant, alternative, activist, artistic, intelligent echoes throughout this book without ever feeling prescriptive, and she does so by using and perusing the *stuff* that signifies and sustains those cultural categories, the echoes and ephemera between the seventies and nineties, the cacophony and the consequence. The diversity of the novel's characters, the different kinds of activists and idealists, support "Eat the Document" as both archive and discourse. (less)
This one is painful--in a multitude of ways. In some parts painful on account of its beauty, in others because of its inaccessibility. I want to give...moreThis one is painful--in a multitude of ways. In some parts painful on account of its beauty, in others because of its inaccessibility. I want to give it four stars, but the part of me that feels ever-so-slightly left behind won't let me.
I feel (as I imagine many fans do) an intensely deep and rewarding kinship with Anais, and yet pieces of this work left me on the fringes (like Jeanne, near the end, standing outside of the house of incest, looking inside for something left behind). Granted, even those moments were pleasurable, but lacked that inevitably unsustainable force that I've come to depend on. I'm not upset by it, it just needs a little more reading, maybe when I am in a different mental and emotional position.(less)
I read a very good review of this book, that I will mimic here:
"I mainly give Tree of Codes this middle of the road rating, not as a testament to the...moreI read a very good review of this book, that I will mimic here:
"I mainly give Tree of Codes this middle of the road rating, not as a testament to the book -- which I feel might actually be too personal of a reading experience to really rate and explain why to others -- but because I feel that it requires more time, more rereading, before I can give it a really thoughtful star or two, one way or the other."
Tree of Codes is hypnotic, beautiful & sad, simple and impossible in much the same way as Foer's two other novels. The choppy, palimpsestic form of the novel somehow seems to lend even more weight to Foer's brillant sentences. I found that I had to pay more attention to each word and it's relationship to those around it. The downfall of this trick is that I am still not sure how I feel about the whole, distracted as I was from the continuity of the sentences with one another.
As usual, the heady technique, creation, and style behind the novel persuades me to be enamored. However, I am slightly more skeptical of this novel than I was of either Everything is Illuminated or Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. It certainly deserves a re-reading. Or two. Or three. (less)
Honestly, it may be because I turned the last page only a day ago, but I am overwhelmed (in that true book-sense, I haven't been able to shake it) by...moreHonestly, it may be because I turned the last page only a day ago, but I am overwhelmed (in that true book-sense, I haven't been able to shake it) by a sense of ambivalence to Geek Love. On the upside, it is powerful and provocative enough to continually stimulate me and bleed itself into my daily life. On the downside, it feels like it just wasn't that good.
Now, maybe I've been trained too well to mistrust my gut reaction to a book, or to work through them, but I have to give Dunn credit: the girl has done her homework. The freak show/carnival aesthetic was dead on, and if you're interested in any continued examination of the freak, the novel's got 'em real good. But she might have done too much homework, and this book may be less compelling as a creative piece than as one to turn a critical eye to. I find myself having more fun picking at the questions than reading the novel, though the plot is obviously enthralling.
I feel the novel is a little over-ambitious and sells itself short; and luckily for both me and the book, I tend to be attracted to literary disappointments, but I doubt anyone else's commitment to this kind of let down.
Still, one of the comparisons I keep mulling around in my head saved Geek Love from a less-than-four-star (initial, mind you) rating. About halfway through the novel, I had myself convinced that what Dunn had given us, or had attempted to give us anyway, whether intentional or no, was not only a contemporary, but an Americanized One Hundred Years of Solitude. She might have succeeded. (less)
edit: Review written for book club project as "suggested summer reading," but I can't muster the time for a more in depth review at current.
Admittedly, the cover-art is tempting: two columns and eight character sketches that line either side of the front cover with a single strip of red down the center, giving it a Brady Bunch-esque vibe with something missing. As it turns out, what was missing was the plot-line. The Book of Other People is just what the cover proposes: character sketches. All twenty-three stories in the collection follow editor Zadie Smith’s one simple instruction: “make somebody up.” While Smith, author of three novels herself, admits in her introduction that the book “is all about character,” I would go further and say that this collection is, as the title implies, really a book about people on more than one level.
To state the obvious, there are a lot of people, forty-six of them, really, including Smith herself. In addition to the twenty-three characters presented in various forms in The Book of Other People, the collection features an all-star cast of, yes, twenty-three contemporary writers, including Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), and a few mug-shots of “J. Johnson” written by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) and illustrated by Posy Simmonds. Refreshingly, Smith’s collection steps up to the plate and includes graphic novelists like C. Ware, author of Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, thus providing a welcome acknowledgement of the rise of graphic stories and affirmation of their value as an art form.
What the collection might lack in plot it makes up for in variety. While the stories all start in the same place, with just a name, the sketches in the novel range from characters that linger long after the page is turned to minimal, bare outlines. Some of the short pieces feel like a story fully realized in a manner of pages, and personal favorites among them include Edwidge Danticat’s “Lele,” Z.Z. Packer’s doomed “Gideon,” and Toby Litt’s monster.
“Each is its own thing entirely,” says Smith, “the book has no particular thesis or argument to make about fictional character.” But like any good reader, I am skeptical of an author/editor of a collection, an artist, who claims that her production is without specific agenda. While the anthology might not lay out a claim about fictional character, what it argues for is the value of the artist and of imagination, and moreover, the freedom to create not only people but an entire world.
Ensuring this kind of artistic freedom is the fact that the collection is what Smith calls a “charity anthology,” meaning that the authors within submitted their pieces with no expectations of monetary reward, and were consequently free to design their pieces as they wished and not “to please the kind of people who pay [their:] rent.” All benefits from the book go to 826 NYC, a non-profit organization founded by Dave Eggers to facilitate and foster literacy and creativity in students between six and eighteen. As Zadie Smith puts it, “The Book of Other People represents real people making fictional people work for real people,” or in other words, real authors fighting with fiction to maintain a space for future creators and their creations.(less)