This book is remarkably easy to parody. Here, I'll try:
"I was crossing Tompkins Square Park when I ran into a young man wearing a gabardine vest. He sThis book is remarkably easy to parody. Here, I'll try:
"I was crossing Tompkins Square Park when I ran into a young man wearing a gabardine vest. He smiled at me and called me "Sister." It was a young George Carlin. Robert hated him because he frequently had flakes of rye bread in his beard, but I loved how he could make me laugh with his impressions of Mick Jagger. On this morning, though, we wept together at the news that Paul McCartney would have to sell his house in Cannes. It was a sort of paradise for us, even though we'd never been. George gave me a feather to put in my hair, and I took it home and pressed it between two pieces of crepe de chine, where it left a ghostly impression. Robert insisted on using it in a construction, and finally I relented, though I knew I'd never get it back. It was a sacrifice to art, the sort of thing Rimbaud would've done."
I think this parodic potential arises from the book's total and complete lack of irony. This is the most earnest, sincere book I've read in a long time, and that's what makes it so heartbreaking. Smith begins the book with an abundance of naivete, and in many ways, she never loses the idealism with which she begins her career. Written in a lyrical, elegiac tone, this is, at its heart, a book about the bond two artists develop. There's a remarkable amount of honest in the pages, and Smith's and Mapplethorpe's friendship is unique. They were lovers, collaborators, confidants, rivals...Their lives were the stuff of legend, and this book is a valiant effort to put that legend on the page.
If you've ever held the romantic "starving artist" cliche in esteem, this is the book for you. Smith spends paragraphs talking about how hungry she was when she first moved to New York, and she isn't using the word as a euphemism for ambition -- she really needed to eat. Upon her return from a season in Paris, Mapplethorpe greets her in a feverish state, suffering from abscessed wisdom teeth and gonorrhea. And yet! They lived the lives of artists, staying up into the wee hours creating, writing, singing. They knew everyone. Harry Smith, Allen Ginsburg, Sam Shepard, Jim Carroll, Todd Rundgren, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin -- they all passed through Smith's life, and they all make memorable appearances in the book. It's a name-dropper's paradise, and yet, I didn't come away from the book feeling as though Smith was boasting or exaggerating her own life. I'm sure she's omitted some unfortunate moments on her rise to the top, but she seems honest about her own shortcomings (She freely admits that she acted like a jerk after her first big poetry reading, for instance).
I knew nothing of Robert Mapplethorpe beyond his work and the controversy it had caused in the late 80s (I was too young to understand much of what he was trying to say, though I could understand the controversy just fine). The portrait Smith paints of Mapplethorpe is one of a passionate, wildly creative artist, and also of a man driven by his ambition to become famous. Her friendship with him was clearly the defining moment of her life, and reading about it was a pleasure. I often felt lost in this book, and I suspect that that's the only way to read it -- to just plow through it. I don't think I share all of Smith's ideas about art, but I respect her passion and her talent as a writer. Her prose is clear and direct and eminently readable.
And maybe best of all, wherever I took this book, people would comment on it. "I just finished it. It's heartbreaking." Or "I wish I had her passion." I love when I read a book that inspires that kind of connection between people. It makes me feel, even if only for a moment, that I live in the kind of world that Patti Smith lives in....more
I wrote a "Staff Pick" for this on The Millions. Please read it, as I think it speaks to what I loved about the book. I won't repeat that review here,I wrote a "Staff Pick" for this on The Millions. Please read it, as I think it speaks to what I loved about the book. I won't repeat that review here, because I think it's tacky, but also because I have some more thoughts on the book, thoughts I couldn't really fit into that mini-essay.
1. I am not a huge NBA fan, surprisingly enough. I am an enormous and dedicated college basketball fan (Go Cuse!), but I have never been able to translate that love into a love for the pro game. I enjoy watching the playoffs, when I get the chance, and if there's a game on and I've got nothing else to do, I'll watch a bit. But the pro game has always seemed a bit too perfect. The shooters are too good, the best players, too dominant. Every possession seems to play out the same way. The point guard brings the ball down court, they run a play to get the ball to the team's best player, and he breaks his man down off the dribble. Rebound, rinse, and repeat. It's a little dull, isn't it? In the end, every game comes down to "If my best player is better than your best player, we're going to win." Look at how LeBron James carried his weak Cleveland team to the brink of a championship. This book actually went a long way to explaining why I feel this way. The theory they put forward is that, as the players get better and better, more able to do whatever they please, the rewards of taking certain risks -- making the daring pass, running on a fast break -- are greatly reduced. If each shot is more and more makeable as each season goes by, the game becomes about minimizing mistakes in order to make sure you take as many shots as possible. This might lead to a more perfect game, but it doesn't make the game more exciting or more watchable. In fact, it basically sucks what I love about basketball -- the joy, the improvisation, the audacity -- out of the game. Not entirely, mind you, but that's how it feels. It's odd, in a way, because I enjoy the cold rationality of baseball -- if my team is better at not making outs, I will beat you. Not making outs isn't sexy, but it's the key to victory in baseball. In basketball, I just want joy. If I were to build my ideal basketball team, it would be a team that looked to run every time it got the ball. It would have a daring point guard who probably takes too many shots but who will drop your jaw once a game, and will make the big shot when it's there, and it would have at least one guy capable of flight. We'd play the kind of rangy and frustrating zone that Syracuse plays, and we'd press from time to time. Lately that sounds more like a college team to me than a pro one.
2. One of my favorite parts of the book discusses the mid-to-late 1970s NBA. The league was getting "too black" for most of America, but FreeDarko is able to look at this period and see the beauty of it. There were so many great players from that era that have been nearly forgotten by history: Nate Archibald, George Gervin, Moses Malone, etc. One thing I hadn't considered was what separated players like this from the stars of the 80s, 90s, and 00s. FreeDarko claims it's multi-dimensionality. To become a champion in the post-1970s NBA, you had to be able to do a bunch of different things. You couldn't just be a scorer or a rebounder or a great defender. You had to do it all.
3. Bill James has pointed out that baseball has two divergent paths or veins of superstars. There are the popular stars, like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Wilie Mays, and Ken Griffey Jr., and then there are the unpopular superstars, such as Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, and Barry Bonds. There are a lot of reasons for this -- Ty Cobb was a racist, Ted Williams was an ornery cuss, and Barry Bonds was arrogant. But as Bill James suggests, there isn't really a reason any of these players weren't popular in their day. They were cast that way by the media, to a large degree, and then played that role for the rest of their careers. Much has been made of LeBron James making the switch from popular, white-hat player to unpopular, black-hat player. While I would agree that his popularity has plummeted this year, I'm not sure it's as simple as this. Does a similar history of popular and unpopular players exist in the NBA? I don't really think that it does. Sure, Wilt Chamberlain was frequently cast as the unpopular villain in his battles with Bill Russell's good-guy Celtics, but the league's other great rivalries lack this dichotomy. Bird and Magic were both loved. Michael Jordan might have been a villain in reality, but his branding created a more popular version of himself. Perhaps the Shaq-Kobe rivalry could be counted as a popular vs. unpopular rivalry, but hasn't that faded, as Kobe Bryant's jerseys remain the bestselling in the world. Why is it that basketball lacks this history of villainy? I think it's two things: Since the 70s, so many of the best players in the NBA have been black that the game lacks the racial dynamic that baseball had for much of its history. The game is not only played by African Americans, it is loved by African Americans. Can one consider Allen Iverson a villain? Maybe to a certain part of America, but not to the public at large, or at least, not to the African American portion of it. In fact, as this book points out, he was arguably the most popular player in the league between Jordan and LeBron. The other big difference between the NBA and MLB is the dominance of the sneaker companies, particularly Nike. One of the great chapters in this book deals with the manufacturing of a personality for Penny Hardaway. Nike paired him with a Chris Rock-voiced puppet and made him a star, despite the fact that nobody knew a damn thing about him. I would argue that Nike also made Jordan into a classic hero when he easily could've become a great villain. Jordan was an arrogant, ruthless, cut-throat player with a history of gambling, and Nike turned him into a squeaky-clean superhero. Remarkable.
I thoroughly recommend this book to anybody with an interest in the history of the game, but really, anyone with even a passing knowledge of basketball would enjoy it, as the writing is stellar, the illustrations gorgeous, and the depth of thought outstanding....more
**spoiler alert** I didn't love this book as much as I wanted to. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot to recommend it. The storytelling is inventive, a**spoiler alert** I didn't love this book as much as I wanted to. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot to recommend it. The storytelling is inventive, and the world it creates is (mostly) convincing. The scene of the "great escape" was terrifying and thrilling and the absolute high-point of the book for me. Donoghue does a good job of drawing the character of Jack into a realistic, fully-rounded person. He can be petty, he can be a brat. I'm sure there was an impulse to make him something else, so I have to commend her for that.
Where I felt the book came up short was in the narration. There were too many scenes that simply didn't seem believable as seen through Jack's eyes. For instance, the television interview when they are in the clinic. I don't believe that a five-year-old child -- any five-year-old child -- would be that alive to detail. The conceit was stretched paper-thin at that point, and I think it could just never recover. And the narration limited the book in other ways. We don't get a great idea of any other character, even Ma. There can be pleasure in seeing only a part of something, of inferring the rest, but I didn't see quite enough of any of the other characters for the book to feel satisfying (Except Steppa. He's my man).
Also, the mood of this book was unrelentingly grim. Maybe I'm a sensitive soul or something, but I had a lot of trouble even dipping my toe into the story. It was so difficult to imagine Ma and Jack's life. So in the end, this was a classic 3-star book for me -- enjoyable at times, displaying obvious talent, but somewhat unsatisfying and disappointing....more
This reminded me of a Highsmith novel, only the anti-hero's adventures aren't played for suspense in exactly the same way. There aren't really many neThis reminded me of a Highsmith novel, only the anti-hero's adventures aren't played for suspense in exactly the same way. There aren't really many near misses with the authorities, though there are a few twists and turns. But there's the same insane, off-kilter moral equivocating (stealing an old frienemy's husband and child are justifiable, but not stealing a stranger's stroller), the same delusional self-confidence. It takes real talent to walk that tightrope that stretches the span between "I can't believe this person!" and "I hope she makes it!" and Dermansky pulls it off in style.
I loved the repetition of certain phrases -- "the French actress" -- the contempt, the bitterness disguised as something else. Marie was fascinating from page one to the end of the book, and the narrative style was a big reason why.
This is a great book to read on a long flight or a short vacation. It's fun without sacrificing style, and it will keep you turning the pages. I'll admit to being sort of a fanboy for the unlikeable character in fiction, but it's mystifying to me why this book has a 3.44 star rating. It's about a sexy bad girl with big breasts who escapes to France with a louche writer and his daughter. Who doesn't want to read that?...more
Let me start by saying, as I often have to, that I am incapable of giving this book an unbiased reading. My wife wrote it. Now, you might be thinkingLet me start by saying, as I often have to, that I am incapable of giving this book an unbiased reading. My wife wrote it. Now, you might be thinking "Why did you give it only 4 stars, then?!" Good question. I have a few reasons. One, while I love this book, I think Edan has even better books to come, and when I give those 5 stars, I want people to know just how much I mean it. Second, I figure this gives all of my reviews instant credibility. If I give something 4 stars, it means just what it says it means under the stars -- "I loved it."
And I did love this book. The narrator, Joellyn, is a perfectly realized vision of a person in their late-20s or early-30s, a person who is simultaneously smart and lost. Or rather, smart and just starting to find their way. I floundered around for a while in my 20s, and I think this book, like few others I've read, nails that time in one's life. Joellyn has a career, presumably, and she lives alone in an apartment in the city, but she doesn't strike me as a real adult. She's not yet "grown up." And this, of course, is what makes her story so poignant.
I also love the character of Zachary Haas so much. He's just that perfect late-20s guy, right down to his sneakers and crappy free computer bag, and I really identified with him (which maybe says a little too much about me, sadly). I thought Joellyn and Zachary's romance was incredibly true to life. In fact, because so much of the story feels as if it came directly from my world, I think it's important to note how the author does a dazzling job of making the book succeed as more than a mere retelling of a failed relationship. The narrative tricks -- including using a kind of quasi direct address ("I can feel you getting excited about Zachary, and that excitement is dangerous, for this story doesn't end how you want it to.") -- and the book's rueful humor make this so much more than just another girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy story. It is recognizably our world, but the description of it -- the telling of the tale -- has so much more style than life does. I think this is the definition of great realist fiction.
It's that combination of humor and sorrow that I think will end up being Lepucki's trademark style, and it's that humor that sugar-coats what might otherwise be a quite sad story. That's as much as I can say without ruining the story for you. I will add that the 2nd edition of this book, the one that you're likely to find in a bookstore or online at this point, contains one of my favorite stories, "I am the Lion Now." It contains a baby possum (What is the term for a baby possum? A cub? A kid? A puppy?) and at one point, the narration enters the possum's thoughts. It also contains references to the Taliban. How it all connects? Well, read the story to find out.
[One last self-referential note: Others have wondered whether I am a sort of prototype for Zachary Haas. Let me end the speculation now -- I am not. It's true that I had poor personal style in my 20s, and it is also true that there was a time in my life, yes, when I enjoyed the occasional personal pizza. But never, never would I have been so blithely oblivious or confident enough on a first date as to order a salad with raw onions. I wish I had balls like that.]...more
I read this book so long ago (was it actually 2005...good lord) that I can't say much about it. I remember being pretty moved by it, and that it changI read this book so long ago (was it actually 2005...good lord) that I can't say much about it. I remember being pretty moved by it, and that it changed my mind about the Clinton presidency. Highly recommended for those interested in foreign relations, human history, and the immense suffering we seem determined to inflict on each other....more
A masterpiece and a tour de force of pacing and point of view. What separates Le Carre from his competitors is the depth of humanity he gives his charA masterpiece and a tour de force of pacing and point of view. What separates Le Carre from his competitors is the depth of humanity he gives his characters. He's so in tune with human nature--the things that drive us and make us who we are--and it shines through in all his people, but most of all in Smiley, of course.
If something stands out from this book, its the restraint that Le Carre shows. After all, this is really the culmination of all of Smiley's efforts against Karla, the end of a long and painful war. And yet, in key moments, its not Smiley we're with but Esterhase or Guillam or even Mendel, who doesn't really factor into the action here at all. And when the key moments come, Le Carre draws them out masterfully.
I would say that you could read this book without having first read Tinker Tailor, but I think having read that book informed so much about the background here that just the mention of Bill Haydon was sufficient to cast a certain tone over a scene. At any rate, its really a moot point, as you should read both books. To be honest, I couldn't decide which is better, though I enjoyed reading this much more than Tinker Tailor.
To close, a favorite passage, from the last third of the book:
Mendel, a loping, dourly observant man with a taste for keeping bees, said outright that George was pacing himself before his big fight. Mendel had been in the amateur ring in his time, he had boxed middleweight for the Division, and he claimed to recognise the eve-of-match signs: a sobriety, a clarifying loneliness, and what he called a staring sort of look, which showed that Smiley was "thinking about his hands."...more
The novelist John Gardner put forth the notion that fiction should "evoke a vivid and continuous dream." In other words, it should immerse the readerThe novelist John Gardner put forth the notion that fiction should "evoke a vivid and continuous dream." In other words, it should immerse the reader in a world that feels alive, from the beginning of the book to the end. Creating this universe -- be it one that looks and feels like our own or a totally different time and place -- is the challenge of the novelist.
I thought about this notion of the vivid and continuous dream while reading Philip Caputo's Crossers. I'd never read Caputo, never even heard of him, actually, until a family friend recommended him to me and loaned me his copy of the book. "This guy, he knew what was going on down there before anybody," my friend said. The "down there" he was speaking of is the Mexican border, and in that sense, I think he was right.
The book follows Castle, a minor titan of Wall Street who loses his wife in the 9/11 terror attacks. Grief-stricken and broken, he decides to retire from his career in finance and retreat, literally, to the Arizona desert, taking up residence in an old cabin on the outskirts of his cousin's cattle ranch. There he discovers that the desert is a perilous place, overrun with undocumented immigrants making an often deadly dash across the arid landscape and lethal smugglers toting bales of marijuana on their backs. It's a world where minding your own business is a way of life, and riding into the wrong canyon can spell disaster.
Castle's attempts to seclude himself are thwarted first by a comely female rancher, Tessa, and then by the inescapable blight of the drug trade, which finds its way into the business of his cousin Blaine's cattle ranch. Weaving the stories of several characters -- Castle, Blaine, their grandfather Ben Erskine (The last of the great Western cowboys), a double-agent called, enigmatically, The Professor, and the ruthless and erratic druglord Yvonne Menendez -- Caputo creates a compelling portrait of life along the border.
Caputo's knowledge of the Arizona-Sonora desert, the ins-and-outs of the drug trade along its border, and the incredible details of ranch life and the lifestyle of the working cowboys or vaqueros, as they are called throughout, is beyond impressive. Following the rich cast of characters -- the thoughtful widower Castle, the man of intrigue "The Professor," the hothead Blaine -- was a delight. To be pulled along, through the dream -- or more accurately, the nightmare -- of this book, as it slowly unfolded was a pleasure.
If I have a criticism of the book, it's that Caputo's authority is so great when he's operating in an area of expertise, such as cattle ranching, that when he ventures out of what he seems to know, he sometimes strikes a false note. One such example is a description of the crowd at an alt-country show on a college campus. He describes the students as wearing the sweatshirts of the university they attend. This detail -- minor, to be sure -- struck me as incredibly false. At times, the book's one true villain, Yvonne Menendez, felt a little too broadly drawn, that she drifted into caricature. Caputo does a great job of making most of the characters morally ambiguous, and while he does his best to show Yvonne's motives, deeply rooted in history as they are, it came up just short of the kind of nuanced detail that I would wanted. In short, I was hoping for "The Wire" of the Mexican drug trade, and it didn't quite hit that lofty mark.
And in a book of such impeccable detail -- the descriptions of the mesas and canyons of the desert, of the birds and beasts who inhabit it are so obviously from life -- that these brief moments of unreality had the jarring effect of breaking the dream of the narrative, of ripping me out of the world and making me think about the author. And that was a shame.
Thankfully, those sour notes were few and far between, and the plot is so compelling and so well-paced, that I can recommend this book without reservation. To live there, in the foothills of the Huachuca Mountains, for a few weeks, was a true pleasure, and a terrific way to begin the year as a reader. ...more
Some time ago, somebody caused a ruckus on the internet by asserting that, generally speaking, women aren't funny. That this actually caused a controvSome time ago, somebody caused a ruckus on the internet by asserting that, generally speaking, women aren't funny. That this actually caused a controversy of sorts is ridiculous to me. Of course women are funny. Anybody who disagrees hasn't read Julie Klam, Julie Klausner, Sarah Vowell...And they clearly haven't read Rachel Shukert.
This book, following the young Shukert on various European excursions and adventures, is as funny and knowing as any book I've read this. After college, Shukert gets a job as a sort of glorified extra in an experimental play. When the play ends its run in New York, the terrifying and maniacal director takes the show on a brief European tour, from Vienna to Zurich. Shukert has the usual European experiences -- having sex with an older man with an uncircumcised penis, being not-so-silently judged by the snooty Austrian hotel clerk, eating scalding sausages in the company of skinheads -- and some not so usual ones.
At the end of her tour, with few job prospects on the horizon, Shukert takes advantage of a bureaucratic error to stay in Europe indefinitely. She moves to Amsterdam to live with some friends. And that's where the book really gets good. Dental emergencies lead to near-sexual assaults, stolen bicycles bring about horrible karmic payback. Etc, etc.
Not only is this a hilarious and fast read, I really feel like it speaks to issues of class in America in some very subtle ways. With a certain retrospective gaze, Shukert notes that "finding oneself" is a luxury of a certain class of person, that she is privileged to get to traipse about Europe, even when that traipsing is unpleasant or downright horrible. And Shukert's Jewishness lends another layer to the text, positioning her as something of an "other" even in her ancestral homeland of Omaha, Nebraska.
But what I'll remember about this book is not Shukert's ethnicity, but rather how damn funny it is. Sometimes you just need a good laugh, and Shukert, it seems, is willing to be both laughed at and laughed with. She's a good sport, and in that sense, I think Everything is Going to Be Great fits nicely into the genre of "loser fic," even if it isn't fiction (Hopefully Rachel knows I mean this as a complement!).
If the entire book had been the first and the last sections, this would've been 5-stars, hands down. Unfortunately, while I appreciate why the middleIf the entire book had been the first and the last sections, this would've been 5-stars, hands down. Unfortunately, while I appreciate why the middle book needed to be there (and I find myself lingering, in thought, over that section more than any other), I just couldn't stand that gruesome ugly desert of death. I don't think this book is quite a masterpiece -- too messy, too all over the place. But it has its masterful moments. Eventually, I will get to Savage Detectives....more
What to say about this book? It's one of the five best books I've ever read, and I think I've only met one person who considers it anything less thanWhat to say about this book? It's one of the five best books I've ever read, and I think I've only met one person who considers it anything less than one of the best books of the 20th Century. Is that enough to recommend it to you?
I also wrote about this book for The Millions last year. Everything I said then still stands. I can't wait to re-read this....more
While nowhere near as good as Williams's transcendent Stoner, Butcher's Crossing is a fairly riveting story of one man's journey into the West. Will AWhile nowhere near as good as Williams's transcendent Stoner, Butcher's Crossing is a fairly riveting story of one man's journey into the West. Will Andrews, Harvard dropout, travels to the dusty Kansas town of Butcher's Crossing in search of his true self, which he'd previously only found in the woods around Cambridge. In Butcher's Crossing, he seeks out an acquaintance of his father's, McDonald, who runs a trading company, buying and selling buffalo hides. McDonald can tell that Andrews has come to Butcher's Crossing for something other than a business opportunity -- he wants to go out on a hunt -- so he recommends that he talk to a man named Miller. Miller has an idea for a hunt that will put all other hunts to shame. He wants to make an expedition deep into the Colorado Territory, where he once discovered a hidden valley filled with thousands upon thousands of buffalo. After remarkably little consideration, Andrews agrees to fund the expedition and travel along as a skinner.
The book is full of rich, evocative descriptions of rolling plains, rocky mountains, intense heat and bitter, horrible cold. It's also rife with scenes of slaughter and, yes, butchering. You can practically smell the entrails steaming in the summer sun. With relatively sparse dialog, Williams manages to create several very vivid characters, including the bumbling, haunted Charley Hoge, my favorite in the book.
I rarely read Westerns (Might this be my first? I think it is.), so I can't comment on how this either conforms to or deviates from the conventions of the genre. I found the descriptions of how the men lived, of how they survived without all that I enjoy in my daily life (like plumbing and a bed), to be fascinating. And the story -- a lassic quest, really -- offered plenty of action. Indeed, there's a sequence that's as tense and pact with danger as the movie Wages of Fear.
In the end, I found the philosophy of the book to be somewhat opaque, and it's for this that I'm giving the book three stars. If you are looking for a great Western, you'll definitely find it in Butcher's Crossing. But if you want to read Williams at his best, I recommend Stoner instead....more
It feels odd to write a review of a book that so many people have already read and praised. Nevertheless, I will try.
Cloud Atlas is an impressive, atIt feels odd to write a review of a book that so many people have already read and praised. Nevertheless, I will try.
Cloud Atlas is an impressive, at times astounding novel, combining the best elements of post-modern metafiction with straightforward, page-turning genre fare. Comprised of six novellas, each cut into two pieces and told in chronological and then reverse-chronological order, the book manages the delicate feat of changing pace, tone, and setting multiple times while still engaging the reader at every turn.
Common themes unite the six stories -- slavery and freedom, cruelty and human decency, and the cyclical nature of time (particularly as expressed through reincarnation) -- as well as certain planted elements (a common birthmark, certain unique turns of phrase that echo throughout). I found the planted birthmarks and whatnot to be bit tedious, but otherwise, I thought the subtle repetition was masterful. "A crocodile of..." as used to describe a group a children was especially striking.
My favorite section of the book, or rather, the section I found most fascinating, was the last section, chronologically speaking, called "Sloosha's Crossin' and Everything After." Narrated by a goat-herder living in post-apocalyptic (and hence primitive) Hawaii, the story involves a prolonged visit by a woman from an itinerant band of people called the Prescients who maintain a knowledge of the technology of the pre-apocalypse world. I was particularly interested in how the goat-herder told the story, and in the little strange turn the story took at the end.
Cloud Atlas is a book for anyone who enjoys both thinking about narrative as much as reading it. It contains fictions within fictions within fictions, and each of its worlds and characters is a living, breathing soul. To think this book languished on my shelves for years before I gave it a chance. I had wrongly lumped it in with the byzantine work of Thomas Pynchon and William T. Vollmann. Don't make the same mistake I did. This is a big, impressive, thoughtful novel that wouldn't be out of place on the beach. Read it today....more
I read this book so long ago (three months!) that I almost don't remember it. What I do remember is the peculiar experience of reading it. I read it oI read this book so long ago (three months!) that I almost don't remember it. What I do remember is the peculiar experience of reading it. I read it on two flights, and on both, flight attendants tapped me on the shoulder to say "Isn't it great?! I'm on the third one now." It was a very odd experience, as people rarely seem to acknowledge what I'm reading. I don't think I've read a book that was this much in the zeitgeist in years. It was the closest I've come to a mass experience involving a book. So that was interesting.
As for the book itself, it was...okay. I really enjoyed the early Lisbeth Salander sections. She's such a great Tarantino-esque female character (even as she later falls into the dreadful male fantasy aspects of the novel). Once she was more actively integrated into the story, the book really took off. As many people have noted, the beginning of the book was interminable, and the end was also surprisingly drawn out. It was like one of those movies that ends five times. But in between, I have to admit, it was a page-turner. Supremely creepy and very well-plotted.
Was there too much coffee drinking? Yes. Was sex for Blomqvist always bizarrely consequence-free? Yes. Was the book still enjoyable? Yes. Am I dying to read the next installment? No. I can't entirely say why, but it wasn't the kind of reading experience that left me hungry for the next book in the series. I don't think it was quite the equal of Red Dragon and if I'm going to push forward with the second and third volumes of an oft-read series this fall, it will likely be the Smiley trilogy by John le Carré....more