I am consuming this lovely little book in perhaps the best way possible, listening to the author read it (into one ear) as I stroll casually around thI am consuming this lovely little book in perhaps the best way possible, listening to the author read it (into one ear) as I stroll casually around the neighborhoods of lower Manhattan. To walk the streets of this city guided by a well-informed, loquacious native while at the same time enjoying that blessed New York anonymity: just heavenly. ...more
I enjoyed this. Gilbert performs as expected and desired, encouraging and nudging the reader to drop their reservations, their fears and excuses, andI enjoyed this. Gilbert performs as expected and desired, encouraging and nudging the reader to drop their reservations, their fears and excuses, and create for the pleasure of creation, in a personable, easygoing and commonsensical style. There's nothing particularly new here, but that isn't the point of a book like this: a whole lot of folks will be refreshed for the game of life in these pages, as I was. For a reader who enjoys this, I'd suggest David Bayles' "Art and Fear," - a more concentrated and perhaps more thoughtful rendition - and for more practical advice beyond getting out of the starting blocks, Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit." ...more
My only regret about this book is having read it all at one go, rather than doling out these stories as little treats between other books, as there isMy only regret about this book is having read it all at one go, rather than doling out these stories as little treats between other books, as there is so much richness here that as beautifully poised as these stories are, the whole experience winds up being a bit cloying by the end. This one begs a return journey, but suffice it to say these are among the best short stories I've read. ...more
I always enjoy it when an author strays perhaps not so very far from the reality of life as we know it (the cheap lives of migrant workers, drug addicI always enjoy it when an author strays perhaps not so very far from the reality of life as we know it (the cheap lives of migrant workers, drug addiction, institutionalized racism, slavery), just turning things at an angle, mixing them up a tiny bit to make them feel a bit less commonplace, a bit more improbable (although this is inspired by an actual case) and so that much more revelatory. I feel this way about some of George Saunders' stories too: as different as they are from this grim and gripping odyssey, they tell us just how things are by twisting them just a little bit, enhancing the view with an added element of strangeness. Hannaham's writing and narrative drive is tremendous, doing a neat job of propelling the reader through some very grim and horrific territory, and the voice of Scotty - aka Crack - is a brilliant device for beguiling the reader into some nightmarish realities, but also reflecting just how heavenly hell can seem to junkies on the pipe. It feels like a narrative feat on a par with the voice of Huckleberry Finn in charming the reader into a disconcerting ambivalence about matters one might be otherwise prone to pious judgements over. ...more
I had a couple of major frustrations with this book that I had a hard time getting past. I felt the style, a choppy sometimes self-consciously HemingwI had a couple of major frustrations with this book that I had a hard time getting past. I felt the style, a choppy sometimes self-consciously Hemingwayesque mumble, didn't really work. Very spare writing is, I think, deceptively simple. Whether one likes Hemingway's style (and there are plenty of reasons not to), he usually does a very good job of making his terse prose seem like a distilled or boiled down kind of reality, words that hint at some great unspoken realities. It is "tip of the iceberg" writing, as it were, and I think it is very hard to do well. To me, Heller's rendition of this style feels gimmicky and put-on, straining after an effect without having fully realized the underlying reality: there are a few spots that feel like a bad Hemingway contest.
This became less problematic for me when the plot kicked in, but here's where my bigger issue with the book came in. Heller's novel is a book about a man who commits one or perhaps more acts of murder. It is a crime novel. I read quite a bit of crime fiction, written by literary and genre writers such as Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, James Ellroy, George Pelicanos, Ruth Rendell, Graham Greene, S.J. Rozan, Henning Mankell, P.D. James, Ken Bruen, and many more. And almost every single one of these bring to their subject in title after title far more moral and psychological complexity than Heller brings to his story. I was disappointed at how what should be deeply troubling realities - questions of cruelty, violence, guilt - are rendered with almost cartoonish simplicity. The men who are killed are cardboard villains. The protagonist's struggle is resolved in a seemingly obligatory fit of remorse, and even that seems more like a fit of self-pity. I'm not saying I expect the hero (or anti-hero) to meet with my moral approval - far from it. But I do expect a book that so clearly purports to be about certain issues to actually engage those issues. There just seemed to be whole missing layers of psychological and moral depth here that made this feel like a sketch....more
4 stars for the stories and 5 for pulling them together in this great collection. (I'm pleased to note that almost all of these writers have been feat4 stars for the stories and 5 for pulling them together in this great collection. (I'm pleased to note that almost all of these writers have been featured in Thrilling Tales, my story time for grown ups at Seattle Public Library - and just as pleased to see most of these hard-to-find stories are new to me ; I'll definitely be sharing some of them in the future). If you like this, be sure to check out another great anthology of women crime writers: A Moment on the Edge, edited by Elizabeth George....more