Now that I've pulled myself together I can say a few words about Gatsby, like that it's beautiful, and timeless, and feels contemporary--it could haveNow that I've pulled myself together I can say a few words about Gatsby, like that it's beautiful, and timeless, and feels contemporary--it could have been written last year. It's like a razor, shiny and sharp, cutting away everything inessential and probably cutting you too if you get too close, which you probably will.
I think I was in college the first time I read this, although I didn't read it for college--I borrowed a copy from a friend, who'd gotten it from her cousin, who had read it for her eighth-grade English class (the notes in the margin, you can imagine, didn't exactly enhance the experience). But this points up the fact that Gatsby is one of those books that's usually assigned to people who are too young to appreciate it. Even at twenty, I was clearly too young. Better to read it after you've spent some time beating against the current yourself. I'm very glad I gave this another chance. ...more
I was just thinking about this quirky novel-in-stories, a random young-adult book published by a Harlequin imprint back in the 1980s, and which I readI was just thinking about this quirky novel-in-stories, a random young-adult book published by a Harlequin imprint back in the 1980s, and which I read back then when I was a young adult myself. This book RULED. One particular story, about Sylvia playing a game of Trivial Pursuit with the grim reaper to try to keep her dog alive, still moves me to this day when I think about it. Fortunately, I did have the presence of mind to hang onto this book, so maybe one day I'll unearth it and read it again....more
Nick Flynn has been my fantasy poet boyfriend ever since I met him in Seattle about two years ago (do you remember me, Nick? I was wearing a pink scarNick Flynn has been my fantasy poet boyfriend ever since I met him in Seattle about two years ago (do you remember me, Nick? I was wearing a pink scarf with pompom fringe?), but I read several reviews that claimed this book was more experimental than his others, which made me wary. Having now read this, I have no idea what those reviewers were talking about. This was no more experimental than Some Ether or The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands. But it was more beautiful and raw and moving than either of those collections. Can I have about 500 more pages of this, please?...more
There's no possible way I could've not loved this book, given its subject matter--by which I mean publishing, not Salinger. Still, even though I havenThere's no possible way I could've not loved this book, given its subject matter--by which I mean publishing, not Salinger. Still, even though I haven't read Salinger since I was a teenager, this book managed to bring back that feeling of being 13, looking at the first page of Catcher in the Rye and realizing I was about to read something unlike anything I'd ever read before. This memoir also made me want to reread Franny and Zooey--I was too young to really get it the first time around, and I knew it even at the time. As for My Salinger Year itself, it's a love letter to literature, and to being young and figuring out who you are, and for those reasons and many other, more subtle ones, I loved it much more than I thought I would. Probably my favorite book of the year so far....more
I picked this book up at this particular moment for a reason. While I've really liked, even loved, several of the books I've read so far this year, II picked this book up at this particular moment for a reason. While I've really liked, even loved, several of the books I've read so far this year, I haven't really felt blown away by anything. I was looking for something that was going to blow me away, and I thought this book might fit the bill. Luckily for me, I turned out to be totally right.
This book succeeds completely on two levels. On the one level, if you want to learn about what was happening in Sudan in eighties and nineties, this book will tell you pretty much everything you need to know. But fortunately, for all the information that's imparted, Dave Eggers doesn't forget that his book must also work as a novel, and it does. It really, really does. The book is longer than it looks--more than 500 pages--but they go by swiftly. I can't remember the last time I got this absorbed in a book; I would forget my surroundings entirely, and given that I was reading a lot of it on rush-hour trains and crowded train platforms, that's really saying something.
I think my experience of reading this book made me understand what people mean when they call something an "instant classic." That term has always seemed like hyperbole to me--after all, the whole reason books are considered "classics" is because they stand the test of time; there's nothing instant about it. But I truly believe What Is the What is going to be one of those books that's still being read decades from now. There's really no excuse for not reading this at some point. Very highly recommended....more
Oh, my experience rereading this book was so different from my first reading ten years ago. Back then, I don't think I'd read any Ann Patchett yet--I'Oh, my experience rereading this book was so different from my first reading ten years ago. Back then, I don't think I'd read any Ann Patchett yet--I'd read Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face and wanted to know more about her and how she died. Even though Ann was doing the telling, I saw this as Lucy's story.
Fast forward ten years: I've now read and loved three of Ann Patchett's novels and a fair amount of her nonfiction pieces. I'm a fan. Rereading Truth and Beauty, I'm much more interested in Ann's story, and surprised by how much of the book is actually about her. I think the story of Ann's writing life is as fascinating as Lucy's, in its own way--no drama, no self-destructiveness, just someone who gradually made her way from Friday's waitress to wildly successful author via talent, of course, but also sheer force of will and her willingness to engage, day after day, with the page in front of her--something Lucy, it seems, was never able to do. Of course, the book really is about both of them, a true portrait of their friendship, but for me, Ann's part in it assumed its rightful place on this reading.
The parts of the book concerning Lucy's drug addiction really stood out for me this time as well: Lucy's ex-boyfriend Andy, thinking if he can just keep her out of New York (where her dealer lives) she'll stay clean--as if Lucy couldn't find drugs everywhere else in the world. Ann herself desperately wanting Lucy to move to Nashville so she can keep an eye on her--basically be there to stop Lucy if she tries to go off track. Such common behavior among the loved ones of addicts. You think there's something you can do to solve the problem, but the fact is you can't do anything. I felt that aspect of the book much more strongly this time around.
Lucy's bad behavior was less shocking to me this time--probably because it was no longer new to me--but I certainly understand all the reviewers here who wonder why in the world someone like Ann would stay friends with someone like Lucy. To me, the answer is in this passage, one of my favorites in the book:
"Whenever I saw her, I felt like I had been living in another country, doing moderately well in another language, and then she showed up speaking English and suddenly I could speak with all the complexity and nuance that I hadn't even realized was gone. With Lucy I was a native speaker."
Don't we all want to be lucky enough to feel this way? And once we did, wouldn't we do whatever we could to hold onto it?...more
While I was reading this, I was already anticipating giving the book five stars, with four stars based on the book's merits and one star based on theWhile I was reading this, I was already anticipating giving the book five stars, with four stars based on the book's merits and one star based on the fact that I'm kind of obsessed with Ann Patchett and want to be her friend. However, by the time I got to the title essay, I'd decided the book deserved five stars regardless of my slightly demented feelings toward its author. After all, I'd already read one of the book's long-form essays, "The Getaway Car," in electronic form and gave it five stars all on its own--it's one of the best texts on fiction writing out there, in my opinion. Just having that in a print form I can hold in my hand makes the whole book worthwhile. I cried a little while reading the title essay, a fact that will surprise anyone who knows about my decades-long skepticism about marriage (Ann shares those feelings, which makes her story of how her mind was changed more persuasive for me than I was expecting). I also cried a lot at "Dog Without End," a fact that will surprise no one who knows me and my own experiences with pets. Her essay about the controversy Truth & Beauty caused at Clemson University, and her convocation address at that school, are extremely valuable (not to mention interesting), and her piece on her bookstore, which I'd already read online several times and will probably never get tired of, is heartening for anyone who likes bookstores and actual physical books. Really, every essay in this collection is valuable--there are no weak links. I do wish she had included her cute article about her mother's publishing her first novel and immediately attaining the sort of commercial success that up until then (pre-Bel Canto) had eluded Ann--maybe the paperback version will have room for a few more essays? But that's just greed--the book is perfect as is. I feel like I'm a better person for having read it (too much?). Would make a fabulous holiday gift for the book lovers on your list, too--there's something here for everyone. What I'm trying to say is, I liked it....more
I'm not sure I can express exactly why, but I was totally enthralled by this book. Everything was perfectly rendered--1980s USA, 1990s Moscow, the maiI'm not sure I can express exactly why, but I was totally enthralled by this book. Everything was perfectly rendered--1980s USA, 1990s Moscow, the main character herself. I couldn't stop reading this and now that it's over I miss it....more