I've been a big fan of E. Lockhart books before (namely the imminently re-readable Frankie Landau-Banks), but this one wasn't quite as 'wow' for me. II've been a big fan of E. Lockhart books before (namely the imminently re-readable Frankie Landau-Banks), but this one wasn't quite as 'wow' for me. In terms of atmosphere and milieu, it had a lot going for it, and I actually quite liked that there seemed to be a lot of story and history that existed outside of this particular story (the origin of the Liars' nickname, for instance). There's a nice build-up of tension and drama, but the whole 'twist' ending is not so much of a twist (and really, with all the hinting, I don't totally think it was meant to be), but it resolves a bit like a M. Night Shyamalan film and I'm not sure that's really an effect I'm ever looking for in a novel. ...more
Other than re-reading Music for Chameleons every few years—that probably being my all-time favorite book—I have purposefully spaced out my other CapotOther than re-reading Music for Chameleons every few years—that probably being my all-time favorite book—I have purposefully spaced out my other Capote readings to extend my reading pleasure. Answered Prayers, however, was likely a pleasure I could have forgone. I appreciate some of the characteristic snark and bitchiness (some grade A Capote zingers like "...she looked as if she wore tweed brassieres and played a lot of golf"), and concede that there are some really entertaining scenes (the dinner party with Monty Clift, Dorothy Parker, and Tallulah Bankhead, for instance). Moreover, the book is not without those moments of incisive observation and characterization that even at his most sarcastic and derisive, Capote really excelled at.
Nevertheless, this is, by and large, a cynical, mean-spirited, self-indulgent, and almost self-loathing sort of book. It's a fast read, but it's never quite a fun read, which a novel based on gossip really should be. Instead, he's too self-satisfied when he thinks he's being shocking, too pleased to have ferreted out nasty stories about famous people, and too convinced of his genius to realize that adding the vague patina of fiction wouldn't make this good art.
He could have done better—so much better—and it's frustrating that this is basically the book that tanked his career. More frustrating is that he seemed to believe that it was actually a work of genius.
It's telling, however, that the long chapter/short story "Mojave", which was published in Music for Chameleons, was supposed to have been a part of this book. It's my least favorite part of MforC and I often skip over it. That makes all the more sense now....more
This book was a favorite of a great friend of mine (who gifted it to me in high school, incidentally) and I just now decided to dip back into it becauThis book was a favorite of a great friend of mine (who gifted it to me in high school, incidentally) and I just now decided to dip back into it because I've been trying to do more narrative non-fiction reading and White's essay "Death of a Pig" was referenced by two different authors (Geraldine Brooks and Ian Reid) during a writing workshop I attended in the spring.
There are some lovely essays here—the paean to the pig, yes, but I was also in a bit of a country mode and really enjoyed "Coon Tree" (the bit where he realizes that his poetical description of how raccoons descend from trees is actually just how this one raccoon descends is great) and "The Eye of Edna." And, of course, I have a great soft spot for "Here is New York" with its nearly perfect first line, "On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy."
You do have to be in a mood for 'ol E.B., however, as he can be a great curmudgeon, grumbling about punctuation marks and those galdurn politicians and rambling on at length about his old wood fire stove and The Way Things Were. This isn't to say he's not a nice curmudgeon—he's a curmudgeon I would have gladly spent time with. But sometimes he takes on a sort of muttering, folksy provincialism that can be quite trying.
All the same, a wonderful—and instructive—collection when you're in the mood. ...more
My first John Dickson Carr novel—a Christmas gift bought for the express purpose of being fitting reading for a few days in a country cabin, which itMy first John Dickson Carr novel—a Christmas gift bought for the express purpose of being fitting reading for a few days in a country cabin, which it very much was. Loads of melodrama (gasping, running toward one's lover just to touch hands before turning and running back in the other direction, be-veiled ghosts, passionate embraces, needlessly complicated back story...), and lots of exposition and character explanation delivered through feverish dialog. Take for example, the introduction that the the hefty, enigmatic Dr. Gideon Fell receives, upon his arrival half way through the book:
'For the ordinary case,' interrupted Nick Barclay with an air of dazzling inspiration, 'he'd be no earthly good at all. It's the hundredth instance where he scores. I never met him until tonight, but I've heard all about him. He's the cross-eyed marksman who hits the game without aiming at it; he's the scatterbrained diver you send into murky waters. His special talent is useful only in a case so crazy that nobody else can understand it.'
And even better is the abundance of amazing exclamations from the good doctor, my favorite being, "O Lord! O Bacchus! O my ancient hat!"...more
It is always a pleasant surprise to confirm—or reconfirm, as the case may be—that that great author that “everyone” says is so good, or that “everyoneIt is always a pleasant surprise to confirm—or reconfirm, as the case may be—that that great author that “everyone” says is so good, or that “everyone” is made to read in high school or college, or that Time has declared to be Important, is actually, sincerely worth the hype. So it happens that I’ve had it reconfirmed for myself this year that J.D. Salinger is, yes: really, incredibly good.
I enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye, but I actually read it too late (it wasn’t actually assigned to me in high school, when I really should have read it), and so it maybe hasn't been on the top of my Very Favorites list. Then I loved Franny and Zoey, which still stands as one of those books that I can read over and over, as I always remember loving it, but forget all the details, so then re-read it again and love it all over. Having just finished Nine Stories for the first time, I think it will be one of the latter kinds of books. I may not remember all of the details of each story, but I think the tone of the book will stick with me, and I will undoubtedly read and love it again in the future.
What stood out for me during this reading, stretched out over more than a month, is that I found myself constantly wanting to read little sections or snatches of dialog or wry observations out loud. Not only does Salinger just have an amazing talent for biting dialog which just sounds great to hear spoken, his turns of phrase also just tickle you (me) in a way which makes you want to share it. So it’s in this spirit that I’ve gone back through and found particularly quotable lines to share "aloud."
“A Perfect Day for a Banana Fish”
She was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing.
“Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut”
”Well, wudga marry him for, then?” Mary Jane said.
“Oh, God, I don’t know. He told me he loved Jane Austen. He told me her books meant a great deal to him. That’s exactly what he said. I found out after we were married that he hadn’t even read one of her books. You know who his favorite author is?”
Mary Jane shook her head.
“L. Manning Vines. Ever hear of him?”
“Neither did I. Neither did anybody else. He wrote a book about four men who starved to death in Alaska. Lew doesn’t remember the name of it, but it’s the most beautifully written book he’s ever read. Christ! He isn’t even honest enough to come right out and say he liked it because it was about four guys who starved to death in an igloo or something. He has to say it was beautifully written.”
“Just Before the War with the Eskimos”
Ginnie openly considered Selena the biggest drip at Miss Basehoar’s—a school ostensibly abounding with fair-sized drips—but at the same time she had never known anyone like Selena for bringing a fresh can of tennis balls.
“What happened?” Ginnie asked, looking at him.
“Oh…it’s too long a story. I never bore people I haven’t known for at least a thousand years.”
“For Esme—with Love and Squalor”
”I thought Americans despised tea,” she said.
It wasn’t the observation of a smart aleck but that of a truth-lover or a statistics-lover.
“Yes; quite,” said my guest, in the clear, unmistakable voice of a small-talk detester.
He sighed heavily and said, “Christ, Almighty.” It meant nothing; it was Army.
Loretta was Clay’s girl. They meant to get married at their earliest convenience. She wrote to him fairly regularly, from a paradise of triple exclamation points and inaccurate observations.
Clay stared at him for a moment, then said, rather vividly, as if he were the bearer of exceptionally good news, “I wrote Loretta you had a nervous breakdown."
“Yeah. She’s interested as hell in all that stuff. She’s majoring in psychology.” Clay stretched himself out on the bed, shoes included. “You know what she said? She said nobody gets a nervous breakdown just from the war and all. She says you probably were unstable like, your whole goddamn life.
X bridged his hands over his eyes—the light over the bed seemed to be blinding him—and said that Loretta’s insight into things was always a joy.
“You know that apple Adam ate in the Garden of Eden, referred to in the Bible?” he asked. “You know what in that apple? Logic. Logic and intellectual stuff…I never saw such a bunch of apple-eaters,” he said. He shook his head.
Having finished this book just minutes ago, I'm by no means ready to really write anything of substance about it. However, an initial reaction seems wHaving finished this book just minutes ago, I'm by no means ready to really write anything of substance about it. However, an initial reaction seems warranted, as this was just such an enveloping reading experience. I'm reminded of a bookstore owner's description of his favorite (vampire) novel (Anne Rice's Queen of the Damned, if you're interested): "It's just so large."
For a book that is actually a lot of fun to read (even when the events of the narrative are downright harrowing), A Tale for the Time Being is also a surprisingly dense read, bringing together such a variety of narratives and narrative techniques and schools of thought and iconic (recent) historical moments, that I did have to set it down every now and then and take a breather (I actually spent a week just reading another book from start to finish as a sort of palate cleanser.) A short and incomplete summary of some of the main themes/concepts/subjects: Zen Buddhism, suicide, depression, alternate realities, quantum physics, Schrodinger's cat, the 2011 tsunami in Japan, 9/11, Japanese cosplay communities, bullying in (Japanese) schools, tidal currents, landscape art, and, of course, theories of time...Anyway, it's a lot of food for thought and I imagine that I will be thinking this book over for a long time to come. ...more
My first Elmore Leonard book, and great fun. I knew going in that Leonard has an ear for dialog, but that didn't make it any less of a delight. And itMy first Elmore Leonard book, and great fun. I knew going in that Leonard has an ear for dialog, but that didn't make it any less of a delight. And it's not even that he has an ear for New York mobster dialog, or Hollywood schmuck dialog, although he certainly does. But I would say more that Leonard creates his own internal speech patterns--characters throughout the book drop verbs in much the same way, elide their sentences in a way that flows nicely together and works naturally for spoken dialog. It's fast to read, and fun to read, and pretty much everyone is very clever. You want to read it out loud, because it just sounds great in your head.
There are some really nice plot digressions and complications which make the story nice and twisty (I love the backstory with Chili's leather jacket and standing grudge with Ray Bones), but all ends are tied very satisfactorily by the end. And not in a way that feels cheap, either--just a way that makes you a bit giggly for how darn clever it was.
Leonard makes this kind of writing seem effortless, but it isn't easy to write a book like this: smart dialog, humor, plot thickenings, well-developed characters, and irony that never feels cheap. The only thing I might say that I thought was a bit forced was foreshadowing the climax on the balcony. But this is small stuff. ...more
A beautiful collection, sometimes funny and wryly observant, sometimes disturbing, sometimes just a bit sad. The language is clean and accessible. I rA beautiful collection, sometimes funny and wryly observant, sometimes disturbing, sometimes just a bit sad. The language is clean and accessible. I read the whole thing in one sitting and think I will be re-reading it soon. ...more