When I picked up this book I wondered if my interest in reading 400 pages about a true account of a hike along the Appalachian Trail would be sustaine...moreWhen I picked up this book I wondered if my interest in reading 400 pages about a true account of a hike along the Appalachian Trail would be sustained. To my surprise, it is captivating. Bryson's writing is engaging, smart and funny.
However, I did put the book down because I couldn't trust its authenticiy. I'm sure most of it happened like he says, but the interactions and dialogue between the characters are obviously contrived, and it drove me crazy.
I don't mind creative non-fiction at all, and David Sedaris' work comes to mind. He is also funny and smart, but with his stories the reader knows they are accounts based on his life, not diary entries or purport to be exact replications.
But Bryson's account of his hike proposes to be a travelogue of sorts, and a true account of his adventure. So, somehow the obvious fiction, or embellished interactions in his story comes off as too fabricated and manipulative.
It's interesting, in looking through the other reviews posted here, I don't see anyone making that observation. It could be I'm being too critical and nitpicky, or I'm just way more savvy. It's gotta be the latter.(less)
I was hoping (seeing this genre story à la True Grit had either won, or was short listed for, a few literary awards) this novel would have impressed m...moreI was hoping (seeing this genre story à la True Grit had either won, or was short listed for, a few literary awards) this novel would have impressed me more than it did. But it was a fun read.(less)
This huge collection (my hardcover has 845 pages of stories) includes many important classic short story writers and I enjoyed most of them. But what...moreThis huge collection (my hardcover has 845 pages of stories) includes many important classic short story writers and I enjoyed most of them. But what made this collection educational and awesome is the editor's short forward on each story, placing the reader in the author's time and place, telling us of the author's influence (or perhaps lack of) on the writing world and the short story genre. I'll likely revisit this one, forever.(less)
A man reflects on his past and recounts the events of his life and tells of the people that have helped shape him into who he is, today. Through much...moreA man reflects on his past and recounts the events of his life and tells of the people that have helped shape him into who he is, today. Through much introspection and philosophising his story is quickly told.
I enjoyed the story but wished it was told differently, with more detail. This one is mostly summary narrative told in the first person point of view, using partial scenes, forming a novella of merely 150 pages. Using full scenes and slower pacing this could easily have become a long, wonderful novel. I can't help but wonder it that was the author's initial intent as the layout for something epic and engrossing is all there. It would have been the novel I would have loved to read.(less)
This biography has everything you wanted to know about Neil Young, and more. Much more! In fact, at 740 pages, the book is way too long.
At first this...moreThis biography has everything you wanted to know about Neil Young, and more. Much more! In fact, at 740 pages, the book is way too long.
At first this reader was fascinated and engaged but by the second half it felt like I was immersed in a gossip magazine and felt guilty for not putting it down. Again, the problem is due to it's length and lack of editing.
However, if you too are curious about this reclusive, shy, self-centered, and often selfish artist, your curiosity will be sated by the end of this bigography. (less)
I'm a little uncomfortable reviewing a novel I didn't finish reading, but, I just couldn't finish it.
The plot in this alternate history sounds great...moreI'm a little uncomfortable reviewing a novel I didn't finish reading, but, I just couldn't finish it.
The plot in this alternate history sounds great and compelling but my problem is with the writing. Most of the story is told using summary narrative, with tons of detail that is simply unnecessary flotsam, and frankly, boring and annoying.
We are told a whole lot about the characters and circumstances but little is clearly shown using scenes or half scenes. Of course, this reviewing business involves a whole lot of subjectivity so let's just say this book wasn't my cup of tea. Even if I don't drink tea. I'm a coffee man. And Scotch, on occasion. And eastern European beer. But I digress. Like this novel! (less)
Well, I feel a little defensive for rating this book only two stars, as in; I didn't like it, because Borges certainly has many followers. Followers t...moreWell, I feel a little defensive for rating this book only two stars, as in; I didn't like it, because Borges certainly has many followers. Followers that are no doubt way smarter and more appreciate than I.
I must confess I was drawn in for a long while because I was wondering if I just wasn't 'getting' Borge's intentions. Was he being tongue-in-cheek, were these stories his modern and playful take on literary narrative, and therefore not everyone's cup of tea? At the end of most of his little ditties (and many could be labeled vignettes, or fables, or slices of bizarre life) I was left thinking, huh? Why am I not impressed by this intellectual meta-storytelling? But mostly by then I was thinking, how bizarre!
I must also say that many of his scenes, characters and strange plots we're fun and fascinating. I could imagine if coming across Borge's stories piecemeal, say in a literary magazine from time to time, how a reader could become curious and drawn to his works over time, which is likely how he developed so many followers. But a huge collection (his complete works) side by side, like with this book is way too much of a serving. And a realization that his take on storytelling is just too puzzling for this reader to appreciate.(less)
Here's an excerpt of a review from a fellow Goodreader...
"...y’know what i mean -- the ‘born alone, die alone’ thing; the seeking out people to share...moreHere's an excerpt of a review from a fellow Goodreader...
"...y’know what i mean -- the ‘born alone, die alone’ thing; the seeking out people to share experience with but always having the nagging feeling that as much as you try, as deep as you go, you can never truly convey the ineffable uniqueness of what it feels like to be ‘you’. or ever truly know another human.
it’s almost unbearable to feel existence so powerfully, to feel the wonderful and mad crush of confusion and happiness and melancholy, to feel alive in a world of music and flesh and ideas... and wonder if anyone truly understands it the way you do. so we write. and we read. and we learn that other people do feel this shit. and they’ve been feeling it way back before homer was writing and they’ll be feeling it up until the world goes pop. and while we never can know if what i'm seeing when i say 'green' is the same as what you're seeing, or what i'm feeling when i say 'love' is the same as what you're feeling...the investigation isn't wholly arid, it does lighten the burden of existence."
by Brian of Goodreads
I haven't bothered commenting on the books I've read lately, but I like this collection a lot and would feel guilty if I didn't add a little something, myself.
What Brian says supports my views on the values of reading and writing. What better ways for us to share what it truly feels like to be part of life, eh? And for passionate atheists like myself, perhaps sharing in others' writings from as way back as Homer is the closest we'll ever get to believing in transmigration of souls or of being part of something spiritual and bigger than our little old selves.
For those interested in the writing craft, here Updike shoes his mastery at storytelling without gimmick or plot, but with honesty and perspicacious observations on what it feels like to be alive; with the ups and downs, the melancholy and exuberance that living entails. Especially those of us who are at or near middle-age, we can relate with the aging protagonists in these stories as they reflect on their past and present while the inevitable end wags its bony finger, calling them forward. (less)
I read this little gem at the cottage in two sittings. First in the screened-in porch, then on the dock with the odd dive in the lake to cool off. It'...moreI read this little gem at the cottage in two sittings. First in the screened-in porch, then on the dock with the odd dive in the lake to cool off. It's a perfect cottage read! Quick, charming and entrancing.
I enjoyed the book. The characters are colourful and varied. The man's contentment, yearning, and nostalgia of happy times passed and love lost, it's all shown well and as a result the mood that's been created is a pleasant one. Plus, these are universal themes and I can certainly relate.
Another reason I liked the book, and this one's tougher to articulate (and relate to, probably) is because I'm reminded of Thomas Hardy's Tess Of The Dubervilles. I was young (16?) and barely remember the story, but the mood and characters feel similar. It was the first time I'd been introduced to characters that seemed smart and charming, yet so staid (pretty hard not to be when you're English, maybe) with yearnings and passions that were restrained but dying to burst out. And it's interesting that in Carr's novel, the only character (including the women) that comes off as outwardly exuberant is the character that is gay. A cliché? Maybe not. (Another trivial observation is that in telling his story the narrator often uses exclamation marks and shows a level of excitement or lightheartedness that contradicts, a little, his younger self. This threw me a little as this, in my mind, made the older Birkin seem content and excited (more excitable than his younger self), and yet, he's recounting lost happiness and lost love, and my overall take is that he is now regretful and not so happy. Hmmm... Maybe I'm making too much of it.)
I do have a couple nitpicks. More than nitpicks, really, more like a couple spots where I found Carr to have chickened out in his storytelling. A couple scenes where more should have been given to better flesh out the protagonist, Tom Birkin.
*** The rest of this review contains spoilers! ****
. . . . . . .
The first scene in question is when Birkin learns that his friend, Moon, is a homosexual. Early on, Birkin recollects this...
I liked him from that first encounter: he was his own man. And he liked me (which always helps).
They become good friends, then later, this...
Knowing Moon was homosexual didn't upset me, though of course it wasn't something I could forget. It was the idea of an independent man, a proud spirit, being shut up like an animal in a military prison and having to put up with the ghastly crew who always seemed to grope their way in to run those places -- that's what appalled me.
Of course, it didn't end there. Don't ask how but, from that day, Moon knew that I knew. Next day, for no reason at all, he said, 'Sex! It's the very devil. Quite merciless! It betrays our manhood, rots our integrity. Isn't it, perhaps, the hell you were asking about, Birkin?'
And from that time on, things were never quite the same between us.
As I type this passage, I see that I'm possibly wrong. At first I thought Carr chickened out of saying that it was Birkin who had an issue, (and according to the Intro, a whole lot of this story is autobiographical) and didn't want to admit it. But maybe Moon is truly embarrassed (this was the 20s, after all) and that nothing is really lacking here. Maybe it's wishful thinking on my part, which is that these two kindred souls should still be good friends, regardless. In any case, that passage is important in showing part of the hell that Moon was going through. And his would surely not be quashed by spending a month in the country.
Here's the next scene that had me wanting more...
So I told her what he'd been doing and leaned forward to point out the site of the Anglo-Saxon chapel. She also turned so that her breasts were pressing against me. And, although we both looked outwards across the meadow, she didn't draw away as quite easily she could have done.
I should have lifted an arm and taken her shoulder, turned her face and kissed her. It was that kind of day. It was why she'd come. Then everything would have been different. ... My heart was racing. I was breathless. She leaned on me, waiting. And I did nothing and said nothing. ... Then she was gone.
The next day he goes calling on her, to make up for his mistake. And of course, he doesn't find her. So, this is his lost love of bygone days, and yes, the reader can make somewhat satisfying, overall speculations on why Birkin did nothing (they were both married, etc). But, Carr should have delved into his character's feelings right there, and give reasons or at least show us specifically how he felt so that we could clearly see (and no doubt relate!) why he froze.(less)