With the possible exception of Night by Elie Wiesel, The Fixer is the most powerful and affecting book I've ever read.
It tells the story of a Jew livi...moreWith the possible exception of Night by Elie Wiesel, The Fixer is the most powerful and affecting book I've ever read.
It tells the story of a Jew living in Russia ~1920. The Fixer is a man who has grown up in the Jewish ghetto and moves into the city of Kiev in an attempt to make a better life for himself.
He gets a job and all is going well until he runs across a man who is passed out, drunk, in the street. After he helps him to his home, the grateful man offers him a well paying job in his warehouse. Though the Fixer knows that it's in an area of Kiev where Jews are not allowed, he accepts the job anyway.
Eventually he is arrested for living in a Jew-Free-Zone and subsequently is charged with the murder of a local boy. The majority of this book takes place in prison, where the fixer tries desperately to get access to a lawyer, to get an indictment or to just understand at all what the charges before him are.
He is poisoned. He is chained to a wall. He's beaten, he's sexually assaulted. Throughout it all, his captures promise to let him go if he will only admit that he killed the boy because 'the Jews' told him to. He is not a religious man, yet he refuses to pass on the blame.
This story was incredibly hard to read. Overall, an outstanding and highly moving book. (less)
When I finished this book I felt very confident that I enjoyed reading it more than I have any other book this year. As I added it to my spreadsheet a...moreWhen I finished this book I felt very confident that I enjoyed reading it more than I have any other book this year. As I added it to my spreadsheet and read through the other books I've read this year, I realized that probably isn't true, but nonetheless I did love this book.
The narrator is John/Johnny, best friend to a dwarf called Owen Meany. This book spanned a good 40+ years, from the time the characters were 8 years old until the surviving one was well into his 50s. The characters were so richly developed and so funny! I will really miss them. In fact, I made a point of reading this 600+ page book as slowly as I could.
I'd read a ton of reviews from people that claimed they hated this more than any other book they were forced to read in school. I can usually understand where former students are coming from when they say things like that, because I basically hated every book I was ever assigned in school (except The Catcher in the Rye, which I later grew to hate, so I'm not sure if that really counts).
But this book! Was so funny! There's this whole chapter on a Christmas Pageant that goes really horribly astray that I could not stop laughing at.
It also had a fair dose of anti-Republican / anti-Vietnam propaganda. Being sympathetic to both of those viewpoints, I can't say that the political shit was a disadvantage, though it did at times seem to take me out of the story for no real reason.
I have never read anything by Irving before but I'm excited to see what else he has for me.
Without question,A Land More Kind Than Home is the best book I've read so far this year. It follows the story of a small, North Carolina church and...moreWithout question, A Land More Kind Than Home is the best book I've read so far this year. It follows the story of a small, North Carolina church and a series of tragedies that befall the parishioners. The writing is breathtaking and impressive in its own right, but I was shocked to see this is Mr. Cash's first novel. This does not read as the first novel of a man who's still learning his way around the narrative process. He's taken off running and his work far exceeds other contemporary 'greats' with dozens of novels under their belts.
The story is told from the first person perspective of a variety of narrators. I sometimes find this type of writing to be clumsy, or to feel gimmicky and unnecessary. That was certainly not the case here. There wasn't a word or phrase out of place, and the variety of voices gave the story a much more interesting and authentic feel.
This is the kind of book that makes you cancel your dinner plans so you can perch uncomfortably on whatever seat is available while you race through the words to try and make sense of it all. Highly recommended.(less)
Anyone who's paid any attention whatsoever to my reading habits knows that Philip Roth is far and away my favorite author. I've made it through about...moreAnyone who's paid any attention whatsoever to my reading habits knows that Philip Roth is far and away my favorite author. I've made it through about half of his books now and while I Married a Communist didn't quite earn the title of my favorite Roth book, it is easily in the top 5.
Many of the novels I've enjoyed by Roth I would hesitate to recommend to someone who's never experienced him before. Often times they build on one another, or I think it's necessary to know certain things about his life or his philosophy to get what you need to from his books. However, I Married a Communist certainly stands on its own and makes an excellent starting point for someone who's never experienced him before.
There were many reasons I loved this book, not the least of which was the total saturation with McCarthy-era politics. The characters were rich, the book was complete. With other authors I'll often read a book and be left wondering what happened after it was over, or I'll be curious about details regarding what happened before the story began. Roth manages to start right in the midst of the story and yet the novel is 100% complete. Though I loved the book I did not feel like it needed a single additional word, nor were any of the words superfluous.
As always, there were many little sentences that proved Roth's understanding of the human condition.
“I'd say to Doris, 'Why doesn't he leave? Why can't he leave?' And do you know what Doris would answer? 'Because he's like everybody – you only realize things when they're over.”
“I headed down the stairs with the seething self-disgust of someone young enough to think that you had to mean everything you said.”
My politics are about as left as you can get and this book certainly focuses on left-wing politics, which is certainly a bonus for me. However, there were several sections regarding the inability of a writer/artist/etc. to be political, and while I generally disagree with that point of view...well, I was a bit swayed.
“Politics is the great generalizer,” Leo told me, “and literature the great particularizer, and not only are they in an inverse relationship to each other – they are also in an antagonistic relationship. To politics, literature is decadent, soft, irrelevant, boring, wrongheaded, dull, something that makes no sense and that really oughtn't to be. Why? Because the particularizing impulse is literature. How can you be a politician and allow the nuance? As an artist the nuance is your task. Your task is not to simplify. Even should you choose to write in the simplest way, a la Hemingway, the task remains to impart the nuance, to elucidate the complication, not to deny the contradiction, but to see where, within the contradiction, lies the tormented human being. To allow the chaos. To let it in. You must let it in.”
Overall, this book reminded me that Roth is the most awarded living author for a reason. Every word he writes is there for a purpose and he rarely oversteps his reach. I would recommend this book to anyone who's interested in literary fiction. (less)
I want to buy 1,000 copies of Blueprints for Building Better Girls and hand them out to random passersby on the streets. I want this book to be rea...moreI want to buy 1,000 copies of Blueprints for Building Better Girls and hand them out to random passersby on the streets. I want this book to be read, immediately, by everyone I've ever known or will ever know. This is incredible stuff. Easily the best book I've read this year. Possibly the best book I've ever read.
It is a series of short stories that center around women and the relationships we have with one another, with our lovers, with our spouses, our children, our parents. Most of the stories intersect with another story in some way. There was laughing, there was crying. There was one particular 8 page section that I had to read out of the corner of my eye because I just couldn't face it head on.
It is brave, and honest, and exceptional in every way. This book made me a wiser person.
Thank you, Goodreads First Reads program for sending me this book and thank you Elissa Schappell for writing it.(less)
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is a book that I wish I'd read years ago. The lessons contained within are heartbreaking, unimaginable and essential....moreThe Jungle by Upton Sinclair is a book that I wish I'd read years ago. The lessons contained within are heartbreaking, unimaginable and essential. The writing was precise, descriptive and affecting. While I didn't exactly enjoy this incredibly depressing book, it was one of the most powerful books I've read.
I know that many reviews complain about Sinclair's Socialist lean, as he does make it very apparent in the last 50 pages that he believes Socialism is the way to avoid the problems depicted in this book, namely the abuse of worker's by the bosses, poverty in general, the link between poverty and crime and the stigma against immigrants.
To me, the protagonist's progression to Socialism made sense, was certainly backed up and was important to the overall text. I'm not sure how so many people seem to separate it from the text and say things like, “Oh, I loved it...except for that last Socialist bit in the end.” Perhaps they are the same sort of people who 'love' The Diary of Anne Frank. You know, except for that whole depressing holocaust part.(less)
I received Diane Keaton's autobiography,Then Again, as a birthday gift. I'm grateful that I did, because if I hadn't I likely would never have pick...moreI received Diane Keaton's autobiography, Then Again, as a birthday gift. I'm grateful that I did, because if I hadn't I likely would never have picked up this fascinating, honest, and sometimes (endearingly) depressing book.
After her mother's death, Diane Keaton ran across dozens and dozens of journals her mother had kept. They're all packed full of anecdotes, pictures, clippings, collages and tons of other really fascinating stuff. Then Again is the story of both Diane's life and that of her mother's. In some parts it's about just one of them, in others it investigates the sometimes bizarre ways that their lives overlapped.
This is an extremely raw and brave book. Diane holds nothing back, and while I've seen other reviewers mention that she comes off as whiny or a name-dropper, I couldn't disagree more. There are parts of this story told through Diane's letters and own journals, and yes sometimes her mid-20s self whined about things. So goes it when you're in your 20s. She could have sugarcoated that, she certainly could have painted herself in a better light, but it wouldn't have the honest feel it does.
While I'm sure this book only covers 1% of who Diane Keaton really is as a person, I was struck with the intimacy in this book and felt when it was all over that I'd been invited to witness a truly tremendous journey. Highly recommended to fans of Diane Keaton and to fans of memoirs / autobiographies.(less)
Tinkers was a gift from my mother for my half birthday and, it turns out, a gift from Mr. Harding as well.
The novel begins: “George Washington Crosby...moreTinkers was a gift from my mother for my half birthday and, it turns out, a gift from Mr. Harding as well.
The novel begins: “George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died.” While the story is told from the viewpoint of George on his deathbed, it weaves in and out of time, from the story of his epileptic father, whose seizures are proceeded by the feeling and taste of lightening, to George’s minister grandfather and through some of George’s childhood memories.
I finished this book only an hour ago and immediately went to read reviews of it. I was surprised to see that, despite having won the 2010 Pulitzer, it had mostly mediocre reviews on Amazon. Most of the complaints were that ‘nothing every happened’ and ‘there was no plot’.
Both are true, but that’s what made this story so beautiful. It wasn’t a story that felt crafted by an author, though the prose was lyrical and delicious. It wasn’t complicated. It wasn’t a story of what happens to people. It wasn’t even a story of who those people were. It was simply a story of what people choose to do with what’s given to them.
George’s father was a small time door to door salesman, traveling via a horse and buggy. Much of the story was the recounting of things that once were fixed, that we are now quick to discard. Clocks, clothing, furniture… things that are now considered disposable that once were worth mending.
Though, during the same time frame that we’re following George’s father helping to mend the broken possessions of his neighbors and customers, his father was himself thrown away. As he aged and his seizures became more violent and severe, the only thing to be done with him was to send him to a home for the criminally insane.
I really don’t know how to put into words what I learned from this book or what I thought about it. For me, reading this book was an experience. It touched me more deeply than anything I’ve read in a long time. This is a book that deserves being re-read, and I have every intention of doing so.
From a review by Elizabeth McCracken: “Paul Harding’s Tinkers is not just a novel – though it is a brilliant novel. It’s an instruction manual on how to look at nearly everything.”(less)
This book is the reason that I write these reviews and the reason that I should not let myself get as behind as I have.
You see, this book was affectin...moreThis book is the reason that I write these reviews and the reason that I should not let myself get as behind as I have.
You see, this book was affecting, powerful and left me covering my mouth in disgust and shock numerous times. Yet, almost a month after having finished it, I don't have the passion to write about it the way that I want to. What I do know is that it was smartly written, uncomfortable to read and that I'll be reading a lot more by Mr. Greene.
I have absolutely no idea what to say about his. Philip Roth is easily my favorite author, ever. He's the kind of dude that could write about my couch...moreI have absolutely no idea what to say about his. Philip Roth is easily my favorite author, ever. He's the kind of dude that could write about my couch for 10,000 pages and I would read it and be completely interested the entire time. He's the most awarded living author, the only author ever to have won three PEN/Faulkner awards. You really, really, need to read something, ANYTHING! by him. Please? AND THEN TELL ME ABOUT IT! (less)
I'm jumping over here! This book spans 50 years and has some of the richest, gooiest descriptions I've ever read. Writing about the humidity, I swear...moreI'm jumping over here! This book spans 50 years and has some of the richest, gooiest descriptions I've ever read. Writing about the humidity, I swear I thought I was sweating despite the fact that my apartment was like 10 degrees. I could read this book over and over. History, politics, really great sly humor.(less)