I am consistently bowled over by the quality of Chloe Hooper's prose--wise, atmospheric, wry, and economical. I read with a pencil and ticked off manyI am consistently bowled over by the quality of Chloe Hooper's prose--wise, atmospheric, wry, and economical. I read with a pencil and ticked off many places in the margins where her great writing was on display. I really enjoyed this book, but there were aspects of the story--open-ended questions (like, was money really enough of a reason to accept such a dangerous/mysterious invitation? There was something missing in Liese's sense of knowing herself) that kept me from truly feeling for the characters. That being said, I thought the ending was great, and very satisfying (if completely disturbing), and I found myself reading the book slowly, savoring it for its craft and setting and construction....more
I enjoyed this book; it was beautifully written in a subtle, gradual, smartly dramatic way. The descriptions of the hawk were visceral and evocative.I enjoyed this book; it was beautifully written in a subtle, gradual, smartly dramatic way. The descriptions of the hawk were visceral and evocative. In the end, however, I wasn't swept up in the book, though I felt like I experienced the whole world the author carefully created. I admire the skillful way Wescott wrote this slender volume. I wish more books were allowed to be so understated these days....more
I was really impressed with the intelligent construction and confident voice of this book--there were so many passage of clean, taut writing conveyingI was really impressed with the intelligent construction and confident voice of this book--there were so many passage of clean, taut writing conveying observations that felt true and wisdom that felt earned. I loved all the Harry Potter books, but I see now how their subject, intended audience, and perhaps even the presence to magic itself, must have confined Rowling in terms of exploring this notion of a more trenchant, humanistic omniscience. Also, despite being quite long, the book felt pretty controlled and measured; the short chapters, each ending with a dramatic pinpoint, helped keep my interest, particularly as I read the book over the course of a few months.
All that being said, as I progressed through the book, and as the characters and locations overlapped and became more and more interwoven, I found myself withdrawing from the story. Or, at least feeling a flagging interest in how it all might end. One part of that is because halfway through the book, the darker side of people started coming out, and not just with one person, with nearly everyone. I'm not a prude and I know one of the tropes of the book is to show the seaminess that exists in a picture-perfect town. But nearly everyone in the book had a secret, and usually their secrets were pretty extreme (and topical--like Sukhvinder's) or just outlandish (Cubby Wall's skeleton in the closet--and then his wife's admission at the end to Fats in the car.) Also, crappy parenting is one thing, but the tyranny of Arf's father, the strident mothering of Parminder, Terri's extreme negligence...a lot of it felt one-note, and often gratuitous (also: the scene with Krystal and Oobo...what point did that prove? Just so she could realize she wanted a baby? It felt cruel and excessive).
I don't think that every book has to have someone to root for, good or bad. It helps, but it's not essential. In the end, though, despite the excellent prose and clock-like arrangement of people and events, backstory and foreground narrative, I didn't leave the book caring all that much about these people. And it didn't seem like Rowling really wanted me to. Maybe Krystal was meant to be the most sympathetic, because of her efforts to rise above her terrible situation, but when her one true champion dies in the first few pages, the author is telling us not to hold out that she'll ever have another (and maybe she doesn't deserve one). In that way, the ending didn't come as a surprise to me at all. Even how her brother factored into it.
Again, it's not fair to compare this book to the Harry Potter series, but one thing I was so struck by in those books was the obvious and powerful warmth Rowling had for her characters, large and small. You could sense her relish in creating and developing them as the books progressed and deepened. Reading The Casual Vacancy I felt that same hand at work--the joy and grittiness of rendering real, tangible characters--but I didn't ever feel her affection for them. I saw her strategically moving and arranging them, as determined by the complex diagram of the story, but limiting her attachment by parsing out only tiny amounts of redemption and merit. Despite all the characters and all the activity, the book seemed to lack a beating heart, which I didn't expect from this author. ...more
I was given this box set as a gift and am so grateful for it. I read Peanuts all the time when I was young and always loved them--there was a time wheI was given this box set as a gift and am so grateful for it. I read Peanuts all the time when I was young and always loved them--there was a time when my brother and I would only give each other Peanuts volumes as birthday and Christmas gifts. But now that I'm older, the thing I was most interested in identifying was what it was about the comics--and the characters and the story lines--in Peanuts that struck me so when I was a kid? I know I thought they were funny and a little irreverent and totally imaginative; there was a freedom and singular ownership in what Charles Schulz was doing that I admired: This was HIS world, and no one else could have created it.
But, beyond those things, reading the comics now, I see how unapologetically dark they often are--Lucy's cruelty and imperiousness, Charlie Brown's battles of self-worth and existential value, Schroeder's singular artistic devotion, Linus' philosophic bafflement at misunderstanding and meanness, Snoopy's invention and dreaminess in the face of an "average" life...all these things, infused in these characters--expertly drawn with the most economic use of line and shading--were REAL to me. These themes and shadows felt like the truth. The comics were emotionally nurturing, and spiritually validating, especially as a budding artist and writer.
And yet, again, for all the grim turns into the human psyche these comics take, they still have a beauty and buoyancy to them--they are somehow deeply serious, with so much humanity at stake, while still being joyful and unexpected and so often hilarious. This incredibly complicated balance is the product of a wise, intelligent, and brave mind. Whether I knew it at the time, I think I could feel that mind at work. And I still feel it, now more than ever. I credit these comics and these characters--and Charles Schulz himself, of course--with helping me to form and cement an aspect of my emotional self, here in the "real" world....more
This book, meant (surprisingly) for children, was consistently funny and dark and vivid and odd. Nothing about the way the story unfolds is predictablThis book, meant (surprisingly) for children, was consistently funny and dark and vivid and odd. Nothing about the way the story unfolds is predictable, but at the same time, Horvath secures you so completely and convincingly with the characters and their setting (a rambling old house on the coast of Maine) that the twists and turns the story takes not only surprise you, they make you feel even more included in the offbeat nature of these character's lives. Ratchet, Tilly, Penpen and, eventually, Harper, along with the secondary characters, representing menace and comfort and absurdity, make this a deeply human, contemporary story, against the backdrop of a bleak and mysterious history.
The amazing part of this book, though, is that Horvath is laying out her story on her own terms--not subscribing to any obvious or tired diagram of pacing or plot or outcome. I read this book slowly so as to savor this aspect, and to relish in her choices and details. I'm still undecided about the ending, but I held off getting there for as long as I could--even so, it was satisfying; it made the book feel whole. A rare, unsettling, inspiring read....more
I read this book in one sitting and was completely moved and affected by it--I still thought about it long after I finished it; but I can't bring myseI read this book in one sitting and was completely moved and affected by it--I still thought about it long after I finished it; but I can't bring myself to read it again, which is what I usually do; once you know how it ends, it's too painful to go back. For me, at least. Anyhow, among the great accomplishments of this deeply humanistic and touching story is Green's ability to seamlessly incorporate the technical aspects of illness and treatment within the flow and momentum of the story. It's effortless and, as a result, all the more devastating. The ending is revelation in that it is oddly hopeful, even while it's cut through with the reality of what will eventually take place.
I wish I could recommend this book to everyone I know. But I only find I can recommend it to people without children--young or teenage children, in particular--but not for any other reason than to spare them the painful beauty of this story....more