You can tell that David Benioff is a screenwriter while reading City of Thieves. Many books currently floating the bestseller shelves at my local book...moreYou can tell that David Benioff is a screenwriter while reading City of Thieves. Many books currently floating the bestseller shelves at my local bookstore beg--no, grovel--for movie adaptations. At first, I thought City of Thieves was the same. Once I embraced its near cinematic pacing and character development in its written context, Benioff's novel impressed me.
The story follows two characters who would otherwise never have met: Lev, a seventeen year old Jewish boy from Piter (Leningrad) during the Siege of Leningrad, and Kolya, a blond-haired, almost Aryan member of the Red Army charged with desertion. Their interactions with each other made me give the book 4-stars because their dialogue jumped off the page with originality, believability and, at alternating times, humor and tragedy.
The relationship between these two unlikely best friends would be enough for me to recommend the novel. Add to that the historical references (without condescending explanations), the gruesome portrayal of civilian life during WWII, and the unique angle (a crazy mission to find eggs). Benioff has created a piece of engaging fiction with strong historical ties, but the book's strength is that it relies on its characters and conflict and allows the historical backdrop to paint the scene instead of take over the novel. That City of Thieves is based loosely on Benioff's grandfather's experience during the war makes it an even more compelling read.
This book shouldn't take more than a week to read. I gave it four instead of five stars because, at times, it lacked depth and began relying on the stereotypes of the external characters instead of truly developing them. (less)
Piri Thomas wrote his memoir with the most visceral language, taking me straight into the barrio and along a ride that highlights the societal injusti...morePiri Thomas wrote his memoir with the most visceral language, taking me straight into the barrio and along a ride that highlights the societal injustices he and other Puerto Rican Americans faced. This good memoir also provides insight into Latino/a issues, many of which categorically continue today.(less)
I dove into a world with a deathless man and a tiger with emotions real enough to make you choke. Téa Obreht knows how to write beautiful sentences th...moreI dove into a world with a deathless man and a tiger with emotions real enough to make you choke. Téa Obreht knows how to write beautiful sentences that will make you reread them slowly. You don't have to wade through this book; you can swim leisurely.
If it wasn't for the momentary lapses, the trudging through the middle of this book, I would have rated it five stars. The frame story could not compare to Obreht's imaginative power, and that's OK.(less)
I read this book for a Latino/a studies class. Compared to other Chicana literature and other books in the Latino/a genre, this book doesn't stand out...moreI read this book for a Latino/a studies class. Compared to other Chicana literature and other books in the Latino/a genre, this book doesn't stand out for me. It grinds and grinds, but I still didn't connect well to the main character, Estrella. There are moments of outstanding writing or metaphor, but they are overshadowed by prose that is needlessly confusing and hinges on stereotypes of the immigrant experience. I wasn't particularly surprised or enthralled to read it, but was at least content with the poignant ending.(less)
This book was beautiful in the way that skyscrapers are: tall and dazzling but still comprehendible. But like skyscrapers, this book required a lot of...moreThis book was beautiful in the way that skyscrapers are: tall and dazzling but still comprehendible. But like skyscrapers, this book required a lot of scaffolding in order to work, scaffolding that seemed to wink at me on every other page to remind me of the multiple story lines and characters. If the book's motif (time as a goon) and satire could have been found without the elaborate and meticulous construction process, this might have been a five-star review. As it stands, it's still an enjoyable read with quick, accessible writing. The last chapter (vignette? whatever it is) really ties up the satirical message sent by the book.(less)
Great characters and funny, witty writing throughout. Yet, it was sometimes long in the tooth, becoming a bit of a burden toward the middle. Chapters...moreGreat characters and funny, witty writing throughout. Yet, it was sometimes long in the tooth, becoming a bit of a burden toward the middle. Chapters 19 and 20, as everything comes together, redeems the book as the whole cast of characters come together (whether they want to or not) to face the future, what they want in the future, their unremovable past, fate, and the freak randomnness of the world to which the reader is privy. It was good, but it wasn't outstanding.(less)
Clear writing and a deviation from the trend of Realists turning the cog. Overwhelmingly sad at the end and with a good kind of ambiguity. This book i...moreClear writing and a deviation from the trend of Realists turning the cog. Overwhelmingly sad at the end and with a good kind of ambiguity. This book invites many interpretations and, therefore, enjoyment will vary from reader to reader.(less)
I was detached while reading it, which is the point. The first thirty pages have some great characterization. And it made me laugh and cringe througho...moreI was detached while reading it, which is the point. The first thirty pages have some great characterization. And it made me laugh and cringe throughout.(less)
This book exceeded my expectations. I had never read Phillip K. Dick--or any science fiction, for that matter--and went into the book thinking that it...moreThis book exceeded my expectations. I had never read Phillip K. Dick--or any science fiction, for that matter--and went into the book thinking that it would be limited by having to adhere to genre fiction. Also, I have never seen Bladerunner, so I really went into this blindly.
The book was great because it dealt in the world of genre fiction--androids, fake animals, post nuclear war emigration to Mars, and all the rest--yet its themes were complex and really made me think. The constant battle between reality and illusion is the preeminent theme of the novel, yet Dick doesn't necessarily take a stance on it. And despite his saying in interviews after its publication that, essentially, he loathed the androids because of their lack of empathy, his own writing contradicts that view, at times. It's complex and confusing and makes you think longer than it takes to pass your eyes over the text. The last book that I can really remember making me do that was David Foster Wallace's INFINITE JEST, which is of course a much longer and more difficult to parse text. But some of the themes of authenticity and of what it means to be human, to be connected to the world around us, cross over between both books. For that reason and its quick, easy-to-read style, I give DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? 4 stars, and will likely explore science fiction and Dick's work more.(less)
I am among those readers of McCarthy who found him because of THE ROAD and its critical acclaim, so it stands to reason that I would like his other wo...moreI am among those readers of McCarthy who found him because of THE ROAD and its critical acclaim, so it stands to reason that I would like his other work, even those books associated more with the western genre. ALL THE PRETTY HORSES was published the same year I was born. I loved it. The book dances the line between genre fiction and literary fiction, and that's great considering I sometimes abhor the literary condescension and pyrotechnics in so-called literary fiction. The book deals with questions of country, faith, fate, love, individualism, and more. It does so through the lens of characters I liked, a rugged and actively-involved setting, and a prose style which I found refreshingly simple but laced with deep, and sometimes biblical, subtext. (less)
I have a complex relationship with postmodernism. The period's trademark irony and satirical humor can be a bit of a downer sometimes, but the subject...moreI have a complex relationship with postmodernism. The period's trademark irony and satirical humor can be a bit of a downer sometimes, but the subjects tackled by writers like DeLillo are important to me. That being said, White Noise was great. DeLillo's prose was delectable, and the first 100 pages contained some of the most beautiful--if foreboding--musings on the American family I've ever read. I tore through the second part of the book, where an "airborne toxic event" makes mortality into an overbearing reality for the main character, Jack Gladney.
It's in the last third of the novel that I started to be put off a bit by the dark humor and irony so characteristic of postmodernists. It worked in many regards, critiquing consumerism and materialism, as well as pointing out our culture's obsessive fear of death. When it comes to some of the powerful scenes, such as the color and noise of a grocery store, I am reminded of a quote by David Foster Wallace:
If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.
There were of course other takeaways from the book, especially given its current of fearing death, lapping on every other page.
That DFW quote is from a commencement address he delivered, but it also brings to mind one of my favorite Books: Infinite Jest. The difference between David Foster Wallace's take on some of the same subjects in Infinite Jest and DeLillo's in White Noise are several: prose style, structure, and placement in the greater context of postmodernism vs. 'metamodernism.' It comes down to the fact that writers like Wallace have injected sincerity into their characters and plots, whereas I was left cold, numb after finishing White Noise. That's not to say the book was bad; it was great, but having read another writer who in many ways responded to DeLillo in his own writing makes it hard for me to rate White Noise five stars. And I feel awful always comparing what I read to my experience reading Infinite Jest but perhaps that speaks to how much that novel affected me and how well it responded to postmodern themes of the mid to late twentieth century.
If none of that mattered to you, at least read White Noise to see how masterfully DeLillo can string words together.(less)