A book about a young woman finding herself, with a backdrop composed of stories about women whose lives are given to others, some happily, others forcA book about a young woman finding herself, with a backdrop composed of stories about women whose lives are given to others, some happily, others forcibly. Jennifer Donnelly does a clever job of writing about farming in early twentieth century New York, while also writing about universal questions young people face.
I haven't mentioned that it's a good read. ...more
Here is a book by someone who read Harry Potter, thought to themselves, hey, this makes money. I can do this. And The Lightning Thief has many of theHere is a book by someone who read Harry Potter, thought to themselves, hey, this makes money. I can do this. And The Lightning Thief has many of the tropes of Harry- there is a school, actually a summer camp, a variety of adult figures, some good guys, some bad guys, and a surprise ending. The additional twist is that this is set in a world in which the Greek myths are true, and our hero is the half son of an as yet unknown god. Meanwhile trouble brews on Olympus, as Zeus accuses different people of stealing his lightning bolt.
But style and character are the things that really make Rowlings bump. And Riordan don't got that. ...more
I first read Russell Banks because I found out that he wrote the books that two great movies are based on, "The Sweet Hereafter" and "Affliction." TheI first read Russell Banks because I found out that he wrote the books that two great movies are based on, "The Sweet Hereafter" and "Affliction." The first of these two is an exquisite movie.
In fact, and one doesn't often hear this, especially on Goodreads, but the movie is better than the book. In the movie, directed by Atom Egoyan, the story of a school bus in a upstate NY town going into the lake is dealt with in the aftermath. Most of the children of the town are dead, and lawyers show up, talking about lawsuits. The folktale, "The Pied Piper of Hamlin" is interwoven through this story. At the end, one does not see the folktale as a metaphor, providing one to one correspondence with the characters in the story. Instead, the possible allegorical meanings of the folktale are switched, until the folktale remains as an interpretive schema, the reverberations it provides are about the sadness of losing children, and the fierceness of those who are angry for justice.
Dolores Driscoll, the bus driver, is the Pied Piper. She drove the bus that took the children to the sweet hereafter, a place she feels she herself has reached, though she survived the accident. The lawyer from the big city is the Pied Piper of Hamlin, he promises to solve a problem for the people of the town, and also, like the Piper, he is angry. His only daughter is a heroin addict who keeps hitting him up, and he keeps paying her. Billy Ansel, the one guy in town who stands up against the idea of tearing apart the town with lawsuits, is a leader. He is also destroyed after losing his own two children. Then Nicole, the only other survivor, in a wheel chair is the criple kid who never made it into the happy land in the hole of the mountain. She is alone, without any friends. The shots of the snow covered hillsides and the stanzas of the Pied Piper create a haunting tale about the loss of children and the impossibility of encompassing these losses. It is not a moral tale, though it resonates as a true one.
The book is good. The story is the same as the movie. It deals with sexual abuse, a topic that I have seen Banks deal with before. It is a topic that we do not deal with enough in our culture. Banks has four different narrators. There are passages where the prose rivals the title for poesy. Dolores Driscoll explains her relationship with her wheel chair bound husband, which is in the movie word for word, is one place like this. Another is when Billy Ansel, having lost his wife and twin children, makes an honest calculation of what is left and finds that he has nothing left to live for.
The folktale gave the movie a bit of hope, though it is a dark one. The ending of that story, in which the children end up in a happy place, while the town is bereft always seems a little suspicious. Isn't this just what we tell ourselves to make it okay, to make this awful story palatable for children? But there is no Pied Piper in the book, and all the main characters do not have the glib answers that faith provides. The children are gone. The hereafter is sweet precisely because it is after here, and here is punctured by loss.
This is a good read. Because it follows a life, it doesn't have a traditional plot, but rather is grouped into small series that are interconnected. JThis is a good read. Because it follows a life, it doesn't have a traditional plot, but rather is grouped into small series that are interconnected. Jane tells her life, from when she was a nine year old kid in slavery, to the nineteen fifties with the Civil Rights movement....more
So I always demurred from being a Vonnegut fan in high school and early college, when it was so cool to be a fan, stolidly pushing throughing nineteenSo I always demurred from being a Vonnegut fan in high school and early college, when it was so cool to be a fan, stolidly pushing throughing nineteenth century two pound books of either British or Russian origins. This is because I was an idiot. Vonnegut is no master of plot, but how important is plot where everything is fucked through and through, and nothing is working toward a meaning-
But then that is too simple, he really just tells us what we already know, in whimsical tones, in love with people, but very angry with their condition, and their actions that bring about their condition. Really, he does truly kick ass. ...more
George Saunders in his collection Pastoralia uses highly improbable settings, like workers who live in a caveman display. He has a mild mannered auntGeorge Saunders in his collection Pastoralia uses highly improbable settings, like workers who live in a caveman display. He has a mild mannered aunt comes back as a cussing, horny, zombie who kno. w the truth. Even the stories with no unrealistic elements read as like fables, where the narrative is not bound by the rules of science, or believability.
A common thread in the stories is trapped-ness. In the first story, the actors in the cavemen display have terrible family problems. Their co-workers fall victim to downsizing, as memo after memo threatens them with unemployment. In other stories, people's families are ordinary, with needs that the responsible members lack the ability to meet. Part of the trap is the space between the dreamed of world, and the harshness of real problems. The stories indict our economy, our self help culture and our narratives of control. The narratives invite us to ask whether glory and self actualization is better than loyalty to the ineffectual and broken. Success is shown to be a broken altar.
I would like to blow a trumpet heralding the dethroning of realist fiction. For a long time I've been unable to read contemporary such- with a few exceptions. The advent of the fantastical in serious fiction is over due. Writers such as George Saunders and Kelly Link ride roughshod on contemporary academically produced fiction. Fiction can be important and entertaining at the same time.
You will think about these stories after you finish them and they will resist easy conclusions. ...more
I liked this book. I found it to be similar to "The Things They Carried". This seems to be more factual and less literary, a narration of things as thI liked this book. I found it to be similar to "The Things They Carried". This seems to be more factual and less literary, a narration of things as they happened rather than in the best well to tell them.
It's about Vietnam, how it was horrible, dehumanizing, and fun. It's about the army, how its horrible, dehumanizing, and fun. If you like anti-war lit, this is in the tradition. ...more
Annie Dillard here writes as she always has, with a worshipful sense of the glory of the moment, and a willingness to ask every question and not lookAnnie Dillard here writes as she always has, with a worshipful sense of the glory of the moment, and a willingness to ask every question and not look away. ...more
I enjoyed reading this book. It made me think about my own rationale for my faith. I admire Philip K. Dick for his open-mindedness, in the sense of beI enjoyed reading this book. It made me think about my own rationale for my faith. I admire Philip K. Dick for his open-mindedness, in the sense of being willing to consider all kinds of metaphysical and extraterrestrial possibilities. It’s hard not to agree with Dick that his drug use and loose grip on reality impacted all this. At the same time, I also say that god has spoken to me at times in my life- so where do I get off. Dick tells us at the beginning, that the protagonist, Horselover Fat, is him. He goes on to describe how Fat loses a few friends to death and receives information in a pink beam that, among other things, gives him a needed diagnosis for his son. Fats goes on to investigate the possibility of metaphysical realities, which seems to be the main thing that keeps him from suicide. I give this three stars, because, as a novel, it’s disappointing. As a work of literature, and a memoir of one man’s thoughts, it’s amazing. Okay, I just convinced myself to go with four stars. It’s wonderful to be able to read something so personal by one of the foremost science fiction writers in history. The thing that makes him great is that same commitment to idea exploration. As such his books are sometimes boring, sometimes heartrending beautiful. A Scanner Darkly is a book that highlights his range from boring junkie conversation, to haunting revelations of truth. To read stories of his life, is to see that he is the American Dostievsky- a man of little self-control, ransacked relationships, and myriad dysfunctions. He lived freely, and he wrote so- yet he was no Dionysian, committed to chaos. In the end, as he writes in VALIS, he seeks cohesion, and logic- the Head-Apollo. I find the freedom striking, because I must honestly say that duty guides my life. At some point too clear and strong an understanding of things is a limiting thing for one who gives themselves to the truth. ...more