Buck Shatz is an asshole and I don't like him. Or at least, not very much. His grandson Tequila is an asshole and a sap. I don't like him very much eit...moreBuck Shatz is an asshole and I don't like him. Or at least, not very much. His grandson Tequila is an asshole and a sap. I don't like him very much either. As far as Don't Ever Get Old Goes, that I do like, with some caveats. The story is reasonably taut. The characters well developed. The mystery...meh, pretty obvious. The writing is excellent, humorously dark. Friedman's themes of aging and legacy are well tied to the action, not superfluous meanderings to inject weight. Now for objections. Why such filthy language? Seriously! From an old man! Good grief. Old people these days! Why the idiotic nickname for the grandson? Please, please drop that. It was impossible to take the young man seriously knowing he wanted to be called Tequila. I have had 9th grade girls whose parents actually saddled them with that name. They, not their parents, had the good sense to reject it as a name. Besides it isn't believable outside of Animal House. Just because you get stuck with a fraternity nickname doesn't mean you use it into law school and expect the folks back home to call you that. It provided a bit of humor in the beginning since Buck finds it amusing to introduce Tequila by the name of every alcoholic beverage but Tequila. What humor there might have been in that floundered midway. It seems Friedman realized that and left off with that after the Mojito quip. Friedman could have made better use of the setting. Memphis is a fairly atmospheric town after all. One of the murder motives doesn't quite tie up. It does and it doesn't. The kid really got on my nerves. Advice to Mr Friedman, dump Tequila and make Rose Buck's sidekick. They could be a geriatric, Yiddish lobbing Nick and Nora. Buck smokes enough. Can't see the two tossing back all those martinis, but coffee will do. (less)
When I was a child in the Kingdom by the Sea, yes, that very same Kingdom, we stayed part of the summer at my grandfather's. Considering my grandfathe...moreWhen I was a child in the Kingdom by the Sea, yes, that very same Kingdom, we stayed part of the summer at my grandfather's. Considering my grandfather's immense education, there were surprisingly few books. Actually, there were several bookshelves, but they were loaded with religion books. He was a theologian. And there was Saki. One volume. My father had raised me on Edgar Poe, thus Saki's vague creepiness was not totally to be snubbed. I remember reading the stories and promptly forgetting them. Later I would read the one about the boy and his ferret-God. I remember crying. Other than that, the only one that stood out in my memory was The Open Window. I believe it showed up on a lit crit test. I was unmoved. I don't think I would have bought this volume if it hadn't been for the Gorey illustrations, and I was in NYC. I figured the stories were short enough for a subway ride of the medium length. Oddly, I think I should have been more impressed by Saki at a younger age rather than older, but the converse is true. I quite enjoyed the stories. The earlier ones offer piquant, satiric vignettes of upper-middle-lower aristocratic life in pre-WWI England. I found myself chuckling aloud at times. The later half has the stories that I had remembered, though only vaguely. However this time the mordant humor and laconic tone was not lost on me. Saki's strength lies in what he doesn't tell. While he should not be confused with the truly great masters of the short story; Chekhov, Gogol, Mansfield, he isn't the just a bit better than a hack writer I set him down as in my youth. I don't think he has the depth of understanding, or doesn't display it, as those before mentioned writers, plus there is a lack of sympathy for the human condition that great literature requires. Though falling somewhere between entertainments and great books, the stories are worthy of attention for their craft and humor. (less)
I would not pay $20 something dollars for By the Book. It is fun in spots, but probably better as a column to catch of a Sunday, flying past the Arnol...moreI would not pay $20 something dollars for By the Book. It is fun in spots, but probably better as a column to catch of a Sunday, flying past the Arnold Schwartzengers and such. I just don't much care what Arnold is reading these days. David Mitchell's interview made me love him more than ever. Anne Patchett and he can be my best friends any day. I did pick up some good titles to check out. This is more the sort of book I would buy remaindered or at a Friends of the Library sale. (less)
Before, during or after my reading of a book I sometimes meander through the reviews on goodreads. Usually I end up annoyed, yet even the most annoyin...moreBefore, during or after my reading of a book I sometimes meander through the reviews on goodreads. Usually I end up annoyed, yet even the most annoying of the reviews does help to coalesce my thinking. Sometimes I want to begin my review by countering some of the criticisms. However, I don't. This time I will. There is a current trend among readers to complain that the characters of a book were not likable. Friends, if one wishes to meet nice people with whom one might find some common interests, I recommend you join a club. By no means should you resort to literature. I figure there are two reasons for this. Literature that chronicles the lives of the nice is a lie. We aren't, not a one of us nice. Instead we are nasty, whining, spewing bags of id, ego wrestling with a world of disarranged matter that is messing with our Gestalt on just about every level which makes us whine all the more. Which is to say we are human. You will never get me to sign on to Golding's belief that were are all essentially evil, but we are not especially nice either. Admit it; I am a mess, you're a mess, they're a mess. The world is a mess. The other reason is niceness, besides being a lie, is not very interesting. There is a reason Inferno remains beloved while almost no one reads Paradiso. Read Paradise Regained? Nope, thought not. Yet, Paradise Lost is a gas. To paraphrase Jane Austen, there isn't much fun in the milk of human kindness. I was going to say if readers hope to find nice, they need should read children's books, but that does a disservice to the best of children and the best of children's books. Peter Rabbit was a thief. He ended up with a tummy-ache and was sent to bed early. Yes, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail enjoyed a lovely supper of blackberries, but they didn't have any fun. Worse yet, no one loves them. I want to meet the child who when asked, "who is your favorite storybook character?" answers, "Well, I'm trying to decide between Flopsy, Mopsy or Cottontail." This is a child not to be trusted. Keep your daughters away from him.
The question then isn't about the like- ability of characters, but their verisimilitude. The other is, does the writer develop them in a way that makes us sympathize with the characters' flawed selves. The first is the is good, the last is the stuff of Middlemarch. This is Eliot, Turgenev, Dostoevsky levels of great. So does Zadie Smith do as much in On Beauty. A mitigated yes.
On Beauty which borrows its structure from Forster's Howard's End examines a year in the life of the Belsey and Kipps families. Each family represents the antipodes of the cultural, racial and intellectual warfare which has been roiling in academia since whenever. Certainly since the '80s. The Belsey family, or at least Howard, an untenured professor of art theory who teaches an unpopular art theory class at a not quite Harvard-like college in the Boston area, represents an ironic nihilism. Howard's academic career has largely rested on debunking the greatness of Rembrandt. More lately his academic career has been more about the politics of his own infidelity. The eldest son, Jerome breaks rank and becomes - gasp - a Christian. And bigger gasp - a disciple of Monty Kipps, Howard's nemesis, though the antagonism seems particularly one-sided. Kipps is West Indian-English Christian academic who has become a media star. Belsey sees him as a racist against his own race as Kipps challenges entitlement programs such as Affirmative Action.
The Belsey-Kipps rivalry is a contentious backdrop to the more palpable story of their wives and children, especially Belsey's African-American wife, Kiki, and his youngest son, Levi and of Carl, a young man from the projects who is trying to educate himself. They are the story's heart. Zora, Belsey's daughter, for her own political and romantic purposes takes on Carl as a project. Zora, a particularly loathsome girl, provides the horror. Though ultimately one feels some understanding of her nature, she is just horrid. In the end, Smith leaves it to her to work turn her Mephistophelian wheels which decides the fates of the filial heads. It's right that she do so since often that us how the world works. Levi and Kiki insistence on believing in something bigger than themselves and their family is redeemed. And, they are redeemed, thus so are we. Jerome settles into life as a Christian, not as life-as-a-Christian-as-a-challenge-to-his-family. And in the end. Well, who knows. And, Carl?
If you took up my advice and joined a club to meet nice people you had something in common with, a question. So, how'd that go for you? Exactly how many do you want to kill now if you were the killing type. Yep, that's what I thought.(less)
Excellent! Ms. Nabb's writing is far beyond many in this genre. The depth of character development is impressive. Marshal Guarnaccia is one of the bes...moreExcellent! Ms. Nabb's writing is far beyond many in this genre. The depth of character development is impressive. Marshal Guarnaccia is one of the best developed, most human crime series sleuths around. The setting is used not used as a hip prop, but works on several levels. Suspenseful, even though it was pretty clear who did before hitting the middle. (less)
Why in the world did I read Stargirl? It was laying there for three weeks on my coffee table. Same reason that at nine I read a book about WWII tank w...moreWhy in the world did I read Stargirl? It was laying there for three weeks on my coffee table. Same reason that at nine I read a book about WWII tank warfare in North Africa. And, Alexander Hamilton: Portrait in Paradox at 10. A book lies around long enough, I read it. Besides, people have told me I am Stargirl. Well, yes, and no. I am not at all an extrovert. Instead I am a recovering selective mute pretending to be a extrovert. However, I am a nonconformist, though not as dramatically, as extravagantly so. So, Stargirl. I do not typically read YA fiction written after about 1977. When I do, I am usually disappointed. It is usually so lacking in substance. Too pat in its certainties. Too formulaic. Driven by codes of five year chics cycles. Currently, dystopias. Tomorrow? Angels? Who knows. I teach middle school so from time to time I read what they are reading. I found Spinelli's writing style appealing. His book posed more questions than it answered thus passing the Chekov test. The character Stargirl seemed over the top, yet I have met some of Stargirls as over the top, though none seemed to radiate her well being or unawareness or their impact. In fact, they were ultra aware of their impact, posing, not being. Stargirl's change to ordinary seemed odd except she did like people, and people who like people like to be liked in return. Leo's infatuation and cowardice reads with a piercing honesty. It is the best thing about the book. I would not balk at reading Love, Stargirl if it found its way to my coffee table and sat for a bit, nor, another book by Spinelli. Oddly enough I have been reading a book about another Pied Piper, Randle McMurphy of One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest. (Star rating is based in comparison to other YA books, not adult literary fiction) (less)