Reading a biography of Sylvia Plath's summer in New York made me want to read The Bell Jar again, but I rarely reread books, and I thought it had only...moreReading a biography of Sylvia Plath's summer in New York made me want to read The Bell Jar again, but I rarely reread books, and I thought it had only been about three or four years since I'd read it for the first time. Then I checked back and realized it had been over ten years. TEN years. It's not much of an exaggeration to say that just about everything that's happened in my life has happened in the past ten years. Therefore, anything with emotional import must be read again.
I remember loving the book last time, and I think I loved it even more this time. Plath's depiction of depression is amazing--she puts to words things that should be impossible to put to words. The book is also an immersive experience of that particular time and the options you had (or didn't have) if you were a young woman and/or had had a mental illness (as Esther's ex-boyfriend puts it, "I wonder who you'll marry now, Esther. Now you've been...here."). When it's not busy being harrowing, the novel is also very funny (my favorite line: "If there's anything I look down on, it's a man in a blue outfit."). Plath depicts Esther very early on as an avid observer of people, and that trait comes in handy in both the absurd moments and the devastating ones.
I've heard this book described as a sort of female Catcher in the Rye, but I don't really agree. I think a lot of people identify with Holden Caulfield when they're young, but if they go back to the book as adults they're more likely to just be amused, or even annoyed. I don't think the same is true of The Bell Jar. I think with The Bell Jar the qualities you admire are only going to show themselves more vividly and heartbreakingly as you grow up.(less)
This book was tailor-made for the likes of me--I thought it was riveting. It's a fascinating portrait of a bizarre con man who turns out to be a murde...moreThis book was tailor-made for the likes of me--I thought it was riveting. It's a fascinating portrait of a bizarre con man who turns out to be a murderer, but it's more than just some true-crime book. It's also a memoir of a man--a literary novelist--who gets drawn in by someone he thinks is just a rich eccentric, and then has to ask himself what it is that made him such an easy mark. There are reviews here on Goodreads complaining that the book is as much about Walter Kirn as it is about "Clark Rockefeller." Of course it is. That's the point. "Clark Rockefeller" is not us; all we can do is react in disbelief at what he's capable of doing. Walter Kirn, on the other hand, is us--he makes us ask ourselves what we would do in a similar situation, and that makes the whole thing much more interesting. Is Walter Kirn likeable throughout? No--he makes it clear from the start that his motives for befriending Clark are not entirely pure, and he seems rather clueless about human beings in general. But he does a good job of conveying the discombobulation of realizing that someone you thought you knew isn't who you thought they were at all, and the betrayal, anger, and bewilderment that go along with that.
My favorite passage: "We all understand that you can't predict the future, but getting to know an old friend, however perversely, through his murder trial, reveals a truth less commonly acknowledged: you can't predict the past. It can change at any time.... When fresh information discredits past perceptions, the underlying memories remain but they no longer hold their old positions; you're left to draw a new map with displaced landmarks. You thought you were found but you realize you were lost, and someday you may discover that you're lost now."
Nick Hornby's last collection of Believer columns! I'm very sorry this column ended--I miss getting these books and devouring them immediately when th...moreNick Hornby's last collection of Believer columns! I'm very sorry this column ended--I miss getting these books and devouring them immediately when they come out in December. Fortunately, they hold up very well through multiple rereads.(less)
Definitely one of the greats. It's a pageturner, as you wonder what's going to happen with the author's son Nic, and it also has some fascinating insi...moreDefinitely one of the greats. It's a pageturner, as you wonder what's going to happen with the author's son Nic, and it also has some fascinating insights into addiction, both scientific facts and the emotional impact of it all. Should be read by anyone with addiction in their family.(less)
Some really great poems in here, both perfectly structured and very moving. I was surprised by how much I related to these, perhaps more than any othe...moreSome really great poems in here, both perfectly structured and very moving. I was surprised by how much I related to these, perhaps more than any other collection I've read.(less)