This book extracted a grudging second star from me for two reasons: 1) all of the seagulls have middle names, and 2) this is just one example of an ovThis book extracted a grudging second star from me for two reasons: 1) all of the seagulls have middle names, and 2) this is just one example of an overall tone of gentle whimsy. But tone aside, this is a fairly one-dimensional book about the mechanics of messiah-hood....more
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a cross between a children’s picture book and a young adult chapter book. In evolutionary biology terms, it is a transThe Invention of Hugo Cabret is a cross between a children’s picture book and a young adult chapter book. In evolutionary biology terms, it is a transitional form, or maybe, more appropriately, a hybrid, since in 2007 it fills a niche in the world of literature never previously occupied.
From the outside, it looks like a substantial novel—at 525 pages, a book that any grade-school student, regardless of age, should be bursting with pride to carry around—and it even has a Part I and Part II and an introduction by a Professor H. Alcofrisbas. However, upon opening the book, one discovers that the first 45 pages are pictures accompanied by not one word of text, and a quick skim through the rest of the book confirms that pictures punctuate the text at regular and frequent intervals.
I’ve often wondered why there are so many books for youngters that are primarily pictures—with greater and lesser amounts of text attached—and so many books for “old” people—with just words on paper, thank you very much—and so few books for intermediate readers and reading levels. An examination of the various qualities that make Hugo Cabret work partly reveals why. For starters, the pictures in Hugo Cabret are black-and-white, in pencil, and so blend in with the text on a pictorial level. Also, pictures and “picture-makers” figure heavily into the plot of Hugo Cabret, and a story having less to do with the pictorial in general might not incorporate pictures into its presentation so successfully. Finally, the sheer volume of work that author and illustrator Brian Selznick had to cope with compared to that required for a typical children’s picture book…well, let’s just say a lesser man and lesser artist would never have attempted it—nor would he have been able to support himself until the book’s eventual publication on the proceeds of earlier books!
Subjectively, I’m less of a fan of Hugo Cabret. Which is to say I’m less attached to what it is than I am to what it is. It takes place in Paris in the 1930s, mostly deep in the bowels of a train station. It treats of orphans and mechanical wind-up human figures known as automata, magic tricks, an early French filmmaker named Georges Méliès, clocks and keys and rockets in the eye. None of which is really my cup of tea, but that’s not to say that none of it is yours. And Selznick’s splicing of motif with motif, theme with theme, medium with medium (itself a magical term, I realize at this moment) is truly unparalleled. Bottom line: the world could use more books like this one....more
I chose this book because I was in search of a gentle, soothing, modern-day narrative with an eye for the changing seasons. “Astrid and Veronika” is mI chose this book because I was in search of a gentle, soothing, modern-day narrative with an eye for the changing seasons. “Astrid and Veronika” is more about the “landscape of a friendship” (Kim Edwards) than actual landscape, but I found its peacefulness, simplicity, narrow scope, and eye for detail genuinely soothing as well as refreshing. A welcome change of pace from the more frenetic, hysterical prose I associate these days with best-sellers. ...more
Every so often, I read a book that reminds me what great writing is. This is one of those books. If you've forgotten what the difference is between "MEvery so often, I read a book that reminds me what great writing is. This is one of those books. If you've forgotten what the difference is between "Marley and Me" and truly great literature, pick up this book and just read the first chapter. I found it refreshing, exhilarating, and challenging, and incidentally, it's a great book to read if you're pondering what "America" really is....more
One of the best Christmas stories of all time. Crazy to think that Dickens had to self-publish it because no publisher would take it--a fact I didn'tOne of the best Christmas stories of all time. Crazy to think that Dickens had to self-publish it because no publisher would take it--a fact I didn't know until this year (thank you, NPR). I also didn't know that Dickens composed "A Christmas Carol" at a rather distressed point in his life, mainly to make money, and over an extremely short period of time. Though the story shows signs of being "dashed off," I always wrongly attributed this to its being rushed by editors into serial publication--for the quick tempo of the narrative and the little curlicues and flourishes in the fiction ("I myself might have regarded a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade..." etc.) seem not so much the result of desperation as the overflow of a joyful, vivacious spirit in good circumstances. Perhaps Dickens, in writing "A Christmas Carol," felt free to lower his own personal authorial standards a bit, and the joyfulness of the work is a result of this easing of the usual self-imposed pressure to create high art and long, complex narrative. Or perhaps he simply knew that despite his current, pinched circumstances he was a good enough writer to cure them, and his joy comes from this confidence. Whatever the reason, this beautiful story communicates some true facet of Christmas which readers (if not editors) everywhere, of all ages, have obtained....more
My overwhelming impression of this book is that it is Dickens at his most Dickensian. I don't mean that it is the best thing he ever wrote, the most lMy overwhelming impression of this book is that it is Dickens at his most Dickensian. I don't mean that it is the best thing he ever wrote, the most literary or influential. (I have yet to read "Great Expectations" and have expectations it will be truly great.) However, I think in "David Copperfield," those qualities which distinguish every Dickens work are exemplified to an inordinate degree: funny names, sentimental domestic scenes, attention to detail, improbable coincidences, lots of action, wry bits of humor and wordplay, characters from all strata of society, truly bleak scenes of cruelty and injustice, foreshadowing, critical comments on politics, law, and institutions of all kinds.
I happened to read "David Copperfield" in a very old volume of P. F. Collier's "Works of Charles Dickens," apparently published before the date of publication was infallibly recorded somewhere in the book itself, and with twenty illustrations by...somebody apparently not worth mentioning. But what an experience to read Dickens in a cloth-bound folio made when pages were still sewn together and decorated on the front by illustrations of Pickwick and Fagin and Sidney Carton in gold leaf! In this edition, the text appears on each page in two columns, side by side--like most Bibles--and I think this, along with the sensation of time-traveling, did much to speed my reading. Or maybe Dickens simply knew how to write a gripping yarn....more
I read this book out of curiosity. Several people (okay, girls) of my acquaintance read it, loved it, and recommended it. And when the movie came out,I read this book out of curiosity. Several people (okay, girls) of my acquaintance read it, loved it, and recommended it. And when the movie came out, I began to think I was missing out on some sort of phenomenon, so I picked up a copy. However, as far as I can tell, if Twilight is a phenomenon, it's one of merely good timing, slick casting, and clever marketing, because the writing itself just ain't there.
I have three major problems with this book, the first being that it comes across as cheap. Its eye-catching trichromatic front cover, three-sentence excerpt on the back cover (What? Nobody had time to write up an actual blurb?), and 250-word-per-page layout all distressed me. The cover is actually a cool idea, I admit, but has nothing to do with the story. Ditto for the epigraph from the book of Genesis: "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it / for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Stephenie Meyer, I don't know if you missed it, but John Milton has already been-there, done-that and done it better. Slapping that epigraph on this book reminds me of nothing so much as a little girl playing dress-up, and I would rather not conflate the book of Genesis with Mommy's eye shadow. Now to be fair, I know "Paradise Lost" isn't YA Fiction--I'm not expecting "Paradise Lost"--but with an epigraph like that, I'm at least expecting Madeleine L'Engle. Lois Lowry. Robert Cormeier.
My second beef with this book is that it's...how do I say this?...tasteless. I don't mean to say offensive (more on that in a second), I mean it's somehow insipid. Vapid. The opposite of pungent. Mild. Soothing. Dull. Reading this book is as mentally nutritious and enjoyable as drinking diet Sprite. Which isn't to say it's stupid, at least not dirt-stupid. You can find words like "cryptic" and "incoherency" in here, and the heroine, we're told, reads Jane Austen and Emily Bronte. However, the book is one-dimensional. Not only is it ONLY about relationships, it's about only ONE relationship and a pretty flimsy, unrealistic one at that.
Which brings me to beef #3. Bella and Edward's relationship is, gosh I'll just say it, sexist and hence unsatisfying. Leaving out the fact that it's a relationship predicated on nothing, a relationship as real as those illustrated by models in underwear ads, it's troubling in its essential dynamics. It begins with a glance, not even a glance, "a brief flash of a glance" (20); she sees him sitting in the school cafeteria, he looks at her. Later she sits next to him in Biology class, he leans away. Bella spends the next several days in a state of profound emotional self-examination, wondering what she did to provoke his gaze then repel him. Sexy. Except, it actually is, somehow. Each time Edward advances, Bella retreats; each time Edward pulls back, Bella stops short wondering what she did wrong. Which is perhaps the most troubling thing about "Twilight." Bella's reactivity provides all the oomph in the relationship; her very dependence and helplessness are sexualized; we're almost led to believe, are what Edward even finds attractive. And while that might be titillating, especially to adolescent girls and the adolescent in all of us, it’s ultimately unsatisfying. I'd rather have a heroine who can bite back.
I don’t mean to pan this book. It kept me reading to the end, even though many passages made me sigh in disgust. There is something affecting about it, a reason so many girls today are going wild for both the book and the movie. On some level, it speaks to something essential in the female condition or at least the adolescent female condition. But I cringe when I think about what today’s girls are gleaning from its pages, and I’m glad that I’m not 11 or 12 right now and reading this book for the first time. ...more
Multiple choice question: Who does Esmeralda marry at the close of the novel? A. Archdeacon Claude Frollo B. Captain Phoebus C. Quasimodo D. Pierre GringoMultiple choice question: Who does Esmeralda marry at the close of the novel? A. Archdeacon Claude Frollo B. Captain Phoebus C. Quasimodo D. Pierre Gringoire E. None of the above--she takes the veil and remains in the Cathedral of Notre Dame for the rest of her life
I'd say if you don't truly know the answer to the above, you need to read this book. It's actually quite good.
P.S. I don't think anybody at Disney even cracked the cover on this one....more