I probably need to read this again and get over myself, but as I rushed through it in a two-day period, I fell in love. I am a sucker for 1) self-abso...moreI probably need to read this again and get over myself, but as I rushed through it in a two-day period, I fell in love. I am a sucker for 1) self-absorbed tortured genius heroes, 2) metafiction (it's a genre piece commenting on itself? how clever! ...), and 3) magic (and magical thinking). If your tolerance for any of those elements is thin, your enjoyment level for The Magicians may find itself in a steep decline.
All in all, though. I loved it. I'm a sucker. It's not a fantasy novel, though, really. There's an air of disappointment with magical systems that serves as a nice little allegory for growing up into disillusionment and realizing that life is meaningless and YOU are NOT SPECIAL! And despite all this deflating realism, it's a page-turner!
I do wish that we could escape the Brilliant Gay archetype of being fabulous and twee and then miserable and alcoholic (set firmly in place by Evelyn Waugh, that asshole), but I suppose Grossman sidesteps that pitfall at the last minute.
Read it read it read it. And if you can get over the novel's sense of smugness, and the fact that it rips off Harry Potter and Narnia (flagrantly! and too conveniently?), I'm pretty sure you'll love it like I do. I am willing to overlook all flaws.(less)
I want Christopher Rice to be better than he is. And really, from what I've read of his trashy bestsellers, he knows how to crank out a page turner. A...moreI want Christopher Rice to be better than he is. And really, from what I've read of his trashy bestsellers, he knows how to crank out a page turner. And this is dirty, trashy fun. It's ridiculous and melodramatic, but in an unintentional sort of a way. And so I gladly demolished it in the space of a couple of days, but in full knowledge that it wasn't really very good at all. These characters are all a little too damaged-and-broken-underneath their Prada-and-sunglasses to be legitimate people, which would be totally okay if this was a satire. But it's not. The book is saturated with postmodern gay stereotypes, some I myself have freely perpetuated in my earlier years (prince of darkness, aloof slut, etc.), and really it's all too easy, these characterizations, and that's my number one issue with Mr. Christopher Rice. He's Bret Easton Ellis without the ironic detachment. Imagine Rules of Attraction (a HILARIOUS book) if Ellis took his characters seriously at all.
I know some gays who take Rice very seriously. He's their Salinger, and his gay characters mean so MUCH to them. But really, they're one-dimensional idealizations of youthful fantasies of what it means to be gay. And there's an inescapable immaturity to their depictions. Rice almost gives us "Randall Stone" as a comment on the folly of those fantasies, but then allows him to dodge a bullet and escape (as a character) back under the cloak of that problematic allure. Foul!
Whatever. The book was fun. The set-pieces, well-constructed. I couldn't get to the denouement quickly enough. I was picturing it as a movie; it thrilled me. I'll probably read more Rice. But I'll never take him seriously. (less)
Oh goodness. I feel like Dismantled is intrinsically flawed. Which is sort of a shame, because it’s a strong concept, with much potential for strong c...moreOh goodness. I feel like Dismantled is intrinsically flawed. Which is sort of a shame, because it’s a strong concept, with much potential for strong commentary on art, guilt, youth, sexual fluidity. Unfortunately, the novel reads one-dimensionally, as if the characters and plot live only to serve McMahon’s themes. Four college friends ten years ago created an anarchic secret society (the “Compassionate Dismantlers”), which blew up in all their faces when their charismatic but dangerous leader Suz died. Now, she might be haunting two of the original members in the form of their daughter’s imaginary friend. All this sounded hokey and contrived to me; I can’t imagine any youthful anarchist naming their group so lamely-- indeed, the name of the group seems more an excuse for the novel’s title and the group’s manifesto, which gives name to the novel’s six sections.
McMahon’s pacing is not to be faulted. Somewhere around the halfway point, the story really takes off, indebted (like most contemporary genre fiction) more to the Hollywood thriller than classic literature. Chapters play out in quick five-page bursts, trading off between parallel scenarios with well-placed cliffhangers. But ultimately, I didn’t buy it.
Suz is supposed to be this amazingly charismatic, enigmatic wunderkind with whom everyone falls in love, but her actions are made up of the worst kind of rote, art-school cliches. She’s never believable as a character, and the rest of the cast tend to follow suit. Tess is sexually and socially repressed. Henry is a guilt-ridden alcoholic, and their daughter is a “precocious, wise beyond her years” type, ridden with heavy-handed OCD tendencies. They all have very obvious arcs, and never feel like anything more than humorless inventions, serving plot mechanics and the seriously heavy-handed theme of art as destruction vs. art as creation.
It’s all rather ridiculous, of course, but the whole thing is treated with serious importance, so that the writing comes off as sophomoric, much like the work of the sort of pretentious college-age, liberal-arts-studying libertines the novel seems to romanticize. Creepy flashes of intrigue and the fact that the whole thing ends economically and strangely are no salvation for a pervasive awareness of the novel’s contrivances. (less)
Okay, so Virginia Woolf's first novel really is pretty delightful, even if it's not as stylistically avant-garde as fans of Orlando, Lighthouse, Dallo...moreOkay, so Virginia Woolf's first novel really is pretty delightful, even if it's not as stylistically avant-garde as fans of Orlando, Lighthouse, Dalloway, Waves etc. would perhaps hope for. It's just as incisive though, as Woolf spends the vast majority of her 375 pages inside her characters' heads. There's very little plot, really, as sheltered youthful heroine Rachel Vinrace leaves her father's care to vacation in South America with her aunt. It's beautifully ironic, really, the setting; typical Victorian stereotypes populate the resort, but they never really leave it, passing time between the meals of the days, escaping the oppressive heat. When six characters take one trip deep into jungle the effect is totally druggy and lush and vividly dangerous. The revelations contained therein feel like a byproduct of the setting. Totally effective.
Rachel, obviously, is a post-Victorian heroine, and she finds much of the routine to be inane, the people insufferable, and eventually the rush of new love to be intoxicating, strange, and not altogether the cure-all bit of rhapsody to which (say) Austen's heroines routinely fall prey. It's mostly about how impossible it is to relate to other people, though to her credit Woolf never gets overtly self-righteous. Nor would I expect her too. That's the real strength, actually. Her criticisms extend to the characters meant to be a bit more enlightened. And though undercurrents of feminism run strong, it's never really about the divide between genders but rather the divide between people. Even the progressives ones. Maybe especially the progressive ones.
All that, and the Dalloways memorably show up for the novel's first segment!(less)
I'm reading this series because my mother is obsessed and it gives us something to talk about. Also, the HBO show is luscious, and I'm a whore for Afr...moreI'm reading this series because my mother is obsessed and it gives us something to talk about. Also, the HBO show is luscious, and I'm a whore for Africa as a setting. Precious Ramotswe is a younger, full-figured Miss Marple, and though her insights (and I suppose, McCall Smith's) are simplistic and occasionally nightmare fodder for feminists, she exists with an agreeable appreciation for life's inherent goodness. As a launch for a series, the book is a success because you always want to spend more time with her. You want to drink redbush tea and sit on her porch and listen to the pauses in between life's rhythms.
The first book introduces her backstory adequately, but it's too episodic to have a narrative drive. If this is supposed to be a detective story, there's not a whole lot of detection going on. But it's pleasant enough to read, and establishes a world that makes you feel cozy, nothing more, nothing less.(less)