I'm glad everyone else in the world has already read this book, because it means I don't have to immediately call everyone I know and force them to re...moreI'm glad everyone else in the world has already read this book, because it means I don't have to immediately call everyone I know and force them to read it. This is truly one of the most heartbreaking books I've ever read. It's the kind of book that makes you want to go back in time and fix the past, until you remember that there are still people starving to death, there are still people without access to education or the most basic health care. And then you just want to crawl in a hole and forget about everything, or get really drunk, or both. But instead you finish Angela's Ashes and then move on to a book everyone says is funny, but that 'funny' book turns out to be about a kid who gets his head run over by a mail truck, is orphaned, and lives in an awful, terrible, dangerous 'boy's home,' and even when things start going good for him, you know there's just more danger around the corner. And then the next thing you know, you're a god damn nihilist and there is no turning back.
Without a doubt Philip Roth is my favorite author, and The Plot Against America once again reminded me why that was true.
This may very well be the fir...moreWithout a doubt Philip Roth is my favorite author, and The Plot Against America once again reminded me why that was true.
This may very well be the first alternative history book I've ever read and I have to say, I kind of loved the format. Basically, FDR is defeated and instead the Anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh becomes president. His main platform is one of isolationism - i.e. not becoming involved in WWII. He makes 'agreements' with Hilter and over time the majority of Europe, and eventually Mexico, are taken over by Nazi rule.
Our young protagonist, who goes by the name of Philip Roth, is a Jewish boy living in a Jewish neighborhood in New Jersey. President Lindbergh implements several policies that break up largely Jewish areas and disperse their populations throughout southern states with a low population of Jewish citizens. The purpose of these initiatives is to ensure that there is no Jewish uprising.
This book was harrowing and terrifying. I kept having to remind myself that it didn't happen, that we are all OK, (well, except the 6 million who really did die during that period...). I am not typically a fan of historical fiction, but Roth proves his chops by making the narrative informative, engaging and entirely believable.(less)
It's hard to believe that The Awakening and Other Selected Stories was written in the 1880s. Not only is the story still incredibly relevant, but Ms....moreIt's hard to believe that The Awakening and Other Selected Stories was written in the 1880s. Not only is the story still incredibly relevant, but Ms. Chopin's writing has a bite to it that I haven't seen in the majority of her male contemporaries – let alone the women.
The Awakening is a ~100 page novella which takes up about half of this collection. It's the story of a woman slowly realizing that she doesn't particularly care for being defined as a wife and mother. She'd rather have her own time, her own adventures and create her own heartbreaks. Which is exactly what she does.
Chopin's stories are well known for being very controversial at the time they were published (and in fact many of them were not published until the '60s - not because they wouldn't have sold but because they were simply too racy) and it's not hard to see why. She writes about women who enjoy sex, women who cheat on their husbands and women who are generally bull-headed and willful.
I enjoyed this collection not just because it was one of the first feminist texts, but because the writing was solid. I've read plenty of literature from the turn of the century and certainly it typically sounds like it. Aside from some interesting swear words, the writing in this collection was fresh enough that it could have been written much more recently. (less)
This book is a collection of interviews with and essays about Philip Roth and his work. I want to eat this book. It's full of really clever stories, i...moreThis book is a collection of interviews with and essays about Philip Roth and his work. I want to eat this book. It's full of really clever stories, interesting anecdotes, and a lot of insight into the process of the man I consider to be the greatest living author.
When I read a book, I use Post-It flags to mark passages that I find to be particularly interesting, compelling, or that I think can serve as stand alone examples of the feeling of a book. Usually I'll have 2 or 3 flags in a book.
In this book, I flagged 27 different passages, some of which follow.
On Our Gang, a satirical novel he wrote which depicted the fictional assassination of Richard Nixon, disgusted many who felt that he was calling for the assassination :
"I expect some readers will miss the point, clear as it seems to me. But all I can say to those who will fear for the President's life is that they would do better to lobby for a strong federal gun-control bill than to worry about the influence of Our Gang on potential assassins. Admittedly, it might be easier to push for a bill outlawing literature than for one making it impossible to buy a rifle through the mail for fifteen bucks, but the fact remains, more people are killed in this country every year by bullets than by satires."
On how being a Famous Writer affected his ability to teach:
"In recent years, my public reputation has sometimes accompanied me into the classroom, but usually after the first few weeks, when the students observe that I have neither exposed myself nor set up a stall and attempted to interest them in purchasing my latest book, whatever anxieties or illusions about me they may have had begin to recede and I am largely allowed to be a literature teacher instead of Famous."
On his literature students, and why he likes to teach them :
"They read as though it matters."
Sometimes when I'm working on my own fiction, I start to get discouraged thinking about how I will never been as good as The Greats. I am going to put this next passage above my desk so that the next time I think that way, I will remember that even Roth feels that way at times.
"I just finished reading Updike's Rabbit is Rich in proof. He knows so much, about golf, about porn, about kids, about America. I don't know anything about anything. His hero is a Toyota salesman. Updike knows everything about being a Toyota salesman. Here I live in the country and I don't even know the names of the trees. I'm going to give up writing." (less)
Wow, what a surprisingly delightful book! I received a copy from the publisher and, admittedly it did take me a while to really get into the story. Th...moreWow, what a surprisingly delightful book! I received a copy from the publisher and, admittedly it did take me a while to really get into the story. The book is described as a "fictional memoir" but it didn't read like a memoir to me. It was actually quite stylized and reminded me of "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." It sort of meandered from one moment to the next and the lack of quotation marks was at first difficult to adjust to but later helped the narrative to flow unencumbered.
Once I got into the story I couldn't put it down. It's beautifully written; in fact it's quite lyrical. The story is that of March, who begins life as a rather unhappy soul and descends into a downward spiral of depression and hopelessness. Eventually she slowly begins to come out and find her way in the world.
There did come a point where I worried that the story would go so deep into this woman's troubled mind, that I would somehow lose the empathy I had for her, or perhaps the belief I had that her struggles mirrored many other woman living in the same time period. But the author pulled her out, slowly and realistically, and in the end, while her life wasn't perfect, March indeed had a story that was worth sharing.
I highly recommend this book and hope to convince several of my friends to read it, as the constant literary references and unique story should lead to many interesting discussions. (less)
Her,a memoir by Christa Parravani was absolutely stunning. Stunning in the most fucked up way. Stunning in how I had to read parts of it out of the co...moreHer, a memoir by Christa Parravani was absolutely stunning. Stunning in the most fucked up way. Stunning in how I had to read parts of it out of the corner of my eye because I simply couldn't deal with it. There is so much emotion and pain and grief and sickness and just . . . humanness. The worst side of humanness.This is a memoir about Christa and her identical twin sister, Cara, who tragically died as the result of an overdose. There's a lot more going on though than just a tale of one drug-addicted twin and her sister. I have always been sympathetic to those who struggle with addiction - probably because I am myself a recovering alcoholic - but this is a story that really gets to the heart of what we run from when we run with drugs and/or alcohol.
I don't want to say too much about the content of the plot, but I will say that the pacing was excellent, the writing tight, and the story very affecting. You know from the first few pages that Cara dies, but then we're taken back a number of years to watch her decline. As the time of her death neared I found it harder and harder to read.
When I finally got to the chapter where Cara's death was described, I had to put the book aside for a few days before I could read it. I just wasn't ready to lose her yet. I felt such genuine sadness for this girl, and for her sister who was completely lost without her twin.
This book is not recommended for those who like to read as an escape, because it will make you uncomfortable and sad and angry and any number of other emotions. I would highly recommend it to many other people though, including those who are interested in addiction, twins and hauntingly beautiful tales. If you are the type who likes to read a memoir and feel as though you're reading someone's diary and their innermost thoughts, then this is a book you should run out and get.(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)
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)
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.
This was one of the most difficult books I've ever read. Not in it's word usage or general prose style, but reading about this man's experience in Aus...moreThis was one of the most difficult books I've ever read. Not in it's word usage or general prose style, but reading about this man's experience in Auschwitz and knowing that it was real . . . I had a really hard time getting through it.
This was the story of Primo Levi, a man who lived in Auschwitz and managed to survive. As I was reading this, I kept thinking about how strange the human's want to survive is. If I were in his position, I am not sure that I would continue fighting. I'm not sure I could keep working 18 hours a day, eating one scrap of bread, 1/2 a pint of soup and sleeping on the ground. I'm not sure I would prefer being beaten to being killed. I think I'd prefer they just shoot me. Primo, on the other hand, never gives up - though he does lose hope.
I flagged so much of this book. I both want everyone I know to read this book immediately, and also for no one I know to ever read this book. I am going to just pick a passage at random because I can't go through and read everything I've marked. It's too much and it makes me too sad.
"For human nature is such that grief and pain - even simultaneously suffered - do not add up as a whole in our consciousness, but hide, the lesser behind the greater, according to a definite law of perspective. It is providential and is our means of surviving in the camp. And this is the reason why so often in free life one hears it said that man is never content. In fact it is not a question of human incapacity for a state of absolute happiness, but o an ever-insufficient knowledge of the complex nature of the state of unhappiness; so that the single name of the major cause is given to all its causes, which are composite and set out in an order of urgency. And if the most immediate cause of stress comes to an end, you are grievously amazed to see that another lies behind; and in reality a whole series of others. ... At sunset, the siren of the Feierabend sounds, the end of work; and as we are all satiated, at least for a few hours, no quarrels arise, we feel good, the Kapo feels no urge to hit us, and we are able to think of our mothers and wives, which usually does not happen. For a few hours, we can be unhappy in the manner of free men."
* * * *
It was affecting, moving and devastating. I don't know what else to say about it. (less)
Is this brilliant literature? No, of course not. But I think it's better than many of us literary snobs give it credit for.
The pacing is perfect, the...moreIs this brilliant literature? No, of course not. But I think it's better than many of us literary snobs give it credit for.
The pacing is perfect, the characters are multidimensional and none of them fall back into cliches. Ms. Collins does an exceptional job building tension. I literally burnt my toast while reading this book. I put my bread in the toaster oven, sat down to read while it was toasting, and completely forgot that I was even cooking anything until I realized it reeked of burnt toast in my house.
I'm always a fan of books that get reluctant readers excited about books, but quite frankly many books that fall into that category are just awful. This is not one of those books. I read the other 2 books and definitely this is my favorite of them, though I did enjoy the others. (less)
I wasn't crazy about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and I'm not typically drawn to short stories, but this collection got through to me. If I h...moreI wasn't crazy about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and I'm not typically drawn to short stories, but this collection got through to me. If I hadn't had company in town I would have sat down and devoured it in a sitting. I'm so glad I gave Diaz another shot.(less)
It’s rare that short stories resonate with me. Even when I like the characters, writing, pacing, etc., I typically just feel like a good friend stoppe...moreIt’s rare that short stories resonate with me. Even when I like the characters, writing, pacing, etc., I typically just feel like a good friend stopped by for a minute when they should have stayed the night. I want more! There are a few notable exceptions though, and this collection is an example.
I loved this book for the same reasons I loved Runaway. The characters were engaging, the stories felt complete, and the pacing was impeccable. While other short story writers too frequently give me a glimpse of a person I’d like to know more of, Ms. Munro’s stories all feel to me that they’re exactly as long as they should be. I read this months ago and unfortunately I can’t remember a specific story that stood out, but I am left with a very concrete feeling that this collection was successful for me and has further cemented Ms. Munro as one of my favorite short story writers.(less)
This book was amazing. I'm going to have trouble with this recap because three of the books I've read this year have been books I want to force on peo...moreThis book was amazing. I'm going to have trouble with this recap because three of the books I've read this year have been books I want to force on people; shove them down their throat and make them eat the goodness! I doubt I'll get anyone I know to read this because while it's fairly long (636 pages) it's also really dense. Get yourself a dictionary for this - but in the good way!! It's not like you can't understand what he's trying to say - it's like his language is so gorgeous that you read these words and understand their basic meaning but want to find out exactly when and how you can wow everyone with his words.(less)