'The experience, the experience. Haven't you learned?' Profane didn't have to think long. 'No,' he said, 'offhand I'd say I haven't learned a goddamn...more'The experience, the experience. Haven't you learned?' Profane didn't have to think long. 'No,' he said, 'offhand I'd say I haven't learned a goddamn thing.'"
Moral of the story: our entire trajectory, as animate humans, consists of nothing more than an inevitable progression from being animate to being inanimate. What? You don't find solace in this point? It makes you feel a bit uneasy, and, dare I say, paranoid? Welcome to Thomas Pynchon's world.
"V." is my favorite Pynchon novel--quite the boast, as he is one of my very favorite writers. It holds this esteemed place for two main reasons: because in it he lays the thematic/philosophical foundations upon which all of his other texts are built, and I think that it is his most solidly written novel, at least in terms of "the novel" as a form, or structure, of writing. Yes, many of the themes and ideas are inchoate, and the text, at times, seems immature compared to his later works. But I think it lacks a lot of the over-calculation that tends to impede some of his other works.
Pretentious? Perhaps, but I challenge you to write a novel like this at age 23. This novel flows (yeah, I said it!), challenges the reader, and draws from such disparate sources (hundreds of years of history, science, pop culture, high culture, art, etcetera). These aspects, among so many other in which Pynchon indulges, help to make this one of my most beloved books.(less)
A fabulous exploration of the notions of "fact" versus "fiction," author versus narrator, love versus lust, and everything else related to memory, tim...moreA fabulous exploration of the notions of "fact" versus "fiction," author versus narrator, love versus lust, and everything else related to memory, time, and storytelling. The true talent of Marias's writing lies in his ability to explore, complicate, and indulge these sundry ideas all within the framework of a text that is not quite a novel, memoir, philosphical treatise, nor even a roman a clef, but, rather, a bit of each, yet, at the same time, something wholly different. As Marias explains in his companion piece, *Dark Back of Time,* "...this is not a fiction, though it has to be a story." (less)
One of the most precisely written books. It is also the most violent and, I believe, terrifying book I've read. McCarthy seemlessly appropriates the t...moreOne of the most precisely written books. It is also the most violent and, I believe, terrifying book I've read. McCarthy seemlessly appropriates the traditional western archetype and imbues it with biblical rhetoric, unfathomable violence and gore, and enough fatalism to make even the most cynical post-modernist quake.
A phrase used to review *Blood Meridian* keeps coming to mind: "regeneration through violence." I'm not quite sure "regeneration" is the proper term, as it may be lead one to an unfounded, albeit insubstantial, hope, which I feel is quashed with celerity upon reading this text.
Or, more simply, as my pal Alan summed it up: "I've got three words for you: dead baby tree."
And, yet, this book is so perfect, I will certainly return to it again and again.(less)
It's time for a qualification: *Blood Meridian* is McCarthy's masterpiece, in my opinion. However, *The Crossing* is without a doubt my favorite McCar...moreIt's time for a qualification: *Blood Meridian* is McCarthy's masterpiece, in my opinion. However, *The Crossing* is without a doubt my favorite McCarthy text, and, for me, the most moving. I do understand the criticism surrounding this book, in that there is certainly a "slow" section mid-way. Yet, in this, I find some of McCarthy's best, most pure writing, and I also think that it provides the reader with a much needed respite--of strange sorts, indeed--as it is buttressed, before and after, by two phenomenal episodes--the wolf, and the retrieval of Billy's brother from Mexico. (less)
It's certainly no wonder why Rushdie touted *White Teeth,* as she is truly his postcolonial heiress. It's novels like these--*WT* was written in Smith...moreIt's certainly no wonder why Rushdie touted *White Teeth,* as she is truly his postcolonial heiress. It's novels like these--*WT* was written in Smith's last years of undergad at Cambridge--that inspire me as a reader and completely enervate and intimidate me as a writer. Be it the trilby wearing, domino playing pair in the local North London bar, or the Anglo-Indian, leather jacket-wearing, ladykilling punk rock teenager, each of these characters signify the beautiful hotchpotch that is life. (less)
Matt Weiland, in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review (19 August 2007), sums up my sentiments toward *OtR* precisely:
"Twenty years ago, like so many slack 1...moreMatt Weiland, in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review (19 August 2007), sums up my sentiments toward *OtR* precisely:
"Twenty years ago, like so many slack 17-year-olds before and since, I devoured “On the Road” and it devoured me. The pages of my copy were dog-eared, -nosed and -throated, and I was beholden to the book in ways I can’t quite believe now. Did I really go for midnight drives down by the ruined flour mills with the tape deck blaring Dexter Gordon? Did I really attend a high school costume dance dressed as Jack Kerouac? I know for sure — because proof exists — that the year I graduated I chose this bit of the novel’s last paragraph as my yearbook entry: “And nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old.” By the time I left for college, the book’s spell had begun to fade...Above all, “On the Road” matters for its music: its plaintive, restless hum. In it, Kerouac perfected a melancholy optimism and a yearning for solace a thousand times richer and subtler than the mournful sap that drips down from so many contemporary American films and novels. It’s the lovely ache in the writing of Sherwood Anderson and Arthur Miller, in the cracked voices of Jeff Tweedy and Paul Westerberg. This is the great, lasting appeal of “On the Road,” the reason it will continue to matter to readers for another half-century and more."
I do aim, in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary, to read the new edition, which is the original and unedited scroll that Kerouac churned out in just a few short weeks. (less)
This is my third time through The Sun Also Rises, and I was struck, yet again—a good ten years after having last read this—at the enjoyability of the...moreThis is my third time through The Sun Also Rises, and I was struck, yet again—a good ten years after having last read this—at the enjoyability of the text. It’s funny and lively, and, when approached as a period piece, it’s quite transporting. Of course, the pacing is also wonderful—I’m always impressed with Hemingway’s clarity, conciseness, and control (iceberg method indeed…).
This time around I tried to involved myself more with the characters, and I quickly realized that, while everyone is grappling with their own specific issue (each is “lost” in their own way), each struggle is paralleled in some way with (an)other character(s)—for instance, the shared attraction of Cohn, Barnes, and Campbell with Brett; or, more metaphorically, Jake’s impotence and Brett’s seeming inability to truly love one person. Thus, we truly are presented with a "lost generation," and the connective threads are these shared struggles.
And, yet, as I already mentioned, there is a vitality in the novel, which stems from optimism and passion (however melancholic and nostalgic at times) that I hadn’t really noticed before. Hemingway seems very convinced, in an almost religious / moralistic way (for better or for worse), that there is hope for these characters, and this conviction is what gives the novel a mission, or even a plot (of sorts). It also imbues the text with an energy and joie de vivre, the roots of which I’d not fully grasped in previous readings. (less)
This is a book that I will continue to read and re-read in fragments indefinitely. The critics all pounced on Vollmann's lack of "solutions" or "alter...moreThis is a book that I will continue to read and re-read in fragments indefinitely. The critics all pounced on Vollmann's lack of "solutions" or "alternatives" to poverty, but I think that his exhaustive travels, the explicit recordings of his confrontations with multitudes of impoverished people, his concise yet fluid and beautiful writing, and his receptiveness to each individual situation provide this book with raisons d'etre enough. Often, awareness and confrontation are the most difficult and essential steps in these types of processes; they certainly are the first steps, and that is exactly, and at the very least, what *Poor People* provides.(less)
1) If I could write like any author, Joan Didion would likely be my choice.
2) I read this book in the wake of...moreI'll preface this review with two points:
1) If I could write like any author, Joan Didion would likely be my choice.
2) I read this book in the wake of the deaths of two very dear people to me.
This book is perfect as a non-fiction treatise on death. Flawlessly written, it is amazing, and somewhat disconcerting, to see Joan Didion employ her uncanny observational/critical powers on her own grief. At times the book can seem a bit cold, but that is, I think, due to our inability to fully comprehend Didion's process of, well, processing these tremendously sad events.
*The Year of Magical Thinking* is not just my favorite piece of non-fiction, but it has played a vital role in my own continuous attempts to understand death and its affecting legacies.(less)
There is a reason that this tale is still so revlavent and moving 3000 years after it was first recited. Robert Fagles's magnificent translation besto...moreThere is a reason that this tale is still so revlavent and moving 3000 years after it was first recited. Robert Fagles's magnificent translation bestowes Homer's masterpiece with even more vitality.(less)
Suffice it to say that no other book has had as big of an impact on my life (literally, literarily, artistically, philosophically, etcetera). Is it th...moreSuffice it to say that no other book has had as big of an impact on my life (literally, literarily, artistically, philosophically, etcetera). Is it the greatest novel in the English language? That's impossible to say, though I think that it's as good of a candidate as any other meritorious and lauded tome.(less)