I’m about to review a book that was written in 1979, and there’s a good reason for that. The reason being: I just read it. Kane and Abel was written bI’m about to review a book that was written in 1979, and there’s a good reason for that. The reason being: I just read it. Kane and Abel was written by Jeffrey Archer and from the paperback cover I am told over 100 million people have read this book, too. As of today, May 24th, 2012 [Note: when I originally wrote this review], there are 7,015,432,377 people living in the world. So, if my math is correct, you’ve never heard of this book or Jeffrey Archer.
I, too, had not heard of Mr. Archer or his book. Then a few weeks ago, my boss’s boss left our company. As he prepared for his departure, he went through his office trying to discard as much of his personal possessions as possible. Colleagues received pens, desk ornaments, pictures, a company logo embroidered white oxford dress shirt. I even saw him hand out two frequent customer cards for Hale & Hearty (an NYC soup, sandwich & salad chain) (with two stamps on one and three on the other - ten stamps gets you a free soup). Then there was this book, Kane and Abel. He came around to my group and said, “Who wants this book?” He held up this crappy, mass-market paperback novel. It looked like any other mass-market paperback novel, which meant it didn’t look like anything worth reading.
No one said anything.
“This is one of my favorite books ever, ” he said.
I like to read. I try to read books that are good. Books that are well-written, interesting, educational, captivating, non-hackneyed. Sometimes you’re on a roll and you read four or five great books in a row. Other times, you search and search, finding nothing, and you begin to believe that you’ll never find another book worth reading ever again. It’s a vicious cycle. I figured , hey, you like to read, he’s a pretty smart guy, he says it’s a great book, don’t judge a book by its cover, you’re always looking for a good book to read, plus it’s small, it’s easy to carry, which is good because you don’t have an iPad, you don’t even have a Kindle, you’re a loser, why don’t you get a Kindle you cheap bastard, they are only like $100 [back in 2012], you can probably buy one used for $12, seriously, you know three-year olds that have iPads AND Kindles and you, a 32-year old man, still go to the library like some derelict, you make me si-.
“Sure, I’ll take it,” I said.
He handed me the book and I made some ridiculous comment that made it sound like I was going to read it and give him a book report on it, which made even less sense since he was no longer going to be working at the company.
A few weeks went by, during which I finished this other book I was reading, and I needed a new book, so I picked up Kane and Abel. It started off decent. Right off the bat, you can tell what type of book this is. This is a story book. I don’t mean, story book as opposed to, say, a picture book. I mean, this book is all about the story. I like to break authors down into 4 categories:
1. Authors who care more about ideas and plot 2. Authors who care more about language and words 3. Authors who care about both 4. Authors who care about neither
For example, in my opinion, Vladimir Nabakov cares more about language and words. Lolita is a classic more because of how it’s written and the words he uses, then it is because some old guy likes prepubescent girls. Sure, that added to the public’s fixation with the book, but it takes less precedence. John Grisham’s books are all story and plot. Writing? What writing? Meanwhile, a book like Crime & Punishment by Dostoevsky has a stronger plot and story than your standard Nabakov, but cares less about the actual language while placing much more importance on the ideas being expressed in said plot and story.
When you come across an author who equally brings great language to a great story, you have an amazing book. The inverse results in most shit that’s peddled around and we call ‘beach reads’ because that’s all we’ve come to expect from literature.
Kane and Abel begins in category 1 and somewhere around page 300 transforms into a category 4.
I love how the 30th Anniversary, mass-market, paperback version has this quote from quintessential category 1 author Dan Brown on the cover: “The ultimate novel of sibling rivalry.” This quote is inapt because the Kane and Abel in the novel are not siblings. They are not related at all. But, for Dan Brown, whatevs.
Kane and Abel are two men, born on the same day, in completely opposite fashion. Kane is the son of a wealthy Boston banker and he’s brought into this world like Simba being paraded before the subjects of Pride Rock. Abel (born Wladek) is a polish bastard born in the woods to a woman who dies during delivery and is found by the son of a poor trapper. After years of vastly different childhood experiences their lives begin to intersect. If they are siblings of anything, they are siblings of having the same drive and desire to make a name for themselves and bring honor to their families at any cost. They are both intelligent, ambitious men and their predilections lead to the drama that unfolds.
So far, so good. But then, Mr. Archer begins to include details that feel extraneous, plot twists that are too neat, and stuffed in to create more tension, but never would have happened in reality. Towards the end, Archer even throws in a line of dialogue with such self-importance, he seems to not realize how ridiculous it sounds coming from a character he’s built up to be formidable, imposing and un-trendy (i.e., not the sort of guy to make crazy off-the-cuff remarks involving cartoon characters):
'Responsible statement,’ said William [Kane], outraged. 'The Mexican government hasn’t made a responsible statement since they claimed Speedy Gonzales would win the one hundred metres at the Helsinki Olympics.’
Seth McFarlane called, he wants his Family Guy jokes back.
Now maybe the Mexican government really did make that statement (so far I’ve found nothing on Google) and I’m the idiot for not knowing that, but, regardless, that line in that part of the book fits as well as a bear in a bikini (cut to Family Guy animation of a bear in a bikini)
But the real problem with the story is that its premise lacks the basis to support it. These two men are bitter enemies. We get this drilled into our heads over and over. Their hate for each other dramatically affects their spouses, children and grandchildren. But why do they hate each other? For me, the answer is not convincing.
Abel makes his wealth in hotels. Kane through banks. Early in Abel’s career, he is employed by a sympathetic, but careless hotel magnate who ends up losing all of his money in the stock market crash of 1929. All of his hotels are mortgaged to the hilt and he invested the money in the market, which just went belly up. So now he has no money, he can’t repay his mortgages and the bank reclaims the hotels as collateral. This is rough on the magnate guy and he kills himself. Abel blames the bank for his mentor’s death, and, specifically, he blames the one, up-and-coming bank executive who processed the repossession, Mr. William Kane. So he pledges to take Kane down whether it takes one year or the next forty.
Either Polish people take things way too seriously (in which case, I’ll stop making Polish jokes) or this book and its 656 pages don’t have legs to stand on.
Over one hundred million people have read this book. Unless you’re going to the beach for ten straight days, I think we can stop the number there....more
I’ve never had a dog. That may be the reason why I have absolutely no interest in reading Marley & Me or The Art of Racing in the Rain. After watcI’ve never had a dog. That may be the reason why I have absolutely no interest in reading Marley & Me or The Art of Racing in the Rain. After watching the author, Maria Goodavage, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, however, I felt like I would enjoy Soldier Dogs. The book tells the story of our military working dogs (MWDs), how they save lives and are an essential part of our military operations. Not to be confused with Dog Soldiers, a British horror flick where (human) soldiers are attacked by werewolves in the Scottish Highlands.
Soldier Dogs is at times touching, informative and inspiring. You read about feats of bravery where dogs put themselves on the line to save their handlers. You learn about the tremendous bond between handler and dog. You learn about the extensive training dog and handler alike must go through before seeing the front lines. You learn how we get these dogs, where they come from and what they are used for. Most of the dogs are not American. They are purchased overseas in Europe where hunting and tracking dogs have been bred for many more centuries than their U.S. counterparts. These dogs cost thousands of dollars. A sad fact learned (regardless of how well cared for by their handlers and trainers) is that MWDs are classified as equipment. That’s right, Fido is considered on equal par with a rifle, a water bottle, a helmet.
That’s a sticking point in the book. Because so many of these dogs perform acts of heroism, in the eyes of their handlers these dogs deserve recognition - medals for acts of valor. If they do, it’s unofficial. For example, when a human soldier receives a Purple Heart and pins it on his dog. Officially, as pieces of equipment, these dogs don’t and can’t receive commendation. They’re dogs, not people. This distinction causes problems at multiple levels, including how to deal with the dogs when they are no longer able to perform their duties due to either old age, injury or shellshock. Most dogs deal well with the aspects of war that plague their human counterparts: the wastefulness of life, the destruction and devastation, death and dying; to them it’s all a game. They get to search for stuff (in their case: IEDs and other mines and weapons) and they’re rewarded with a chance to play with their favorite squeeze toy or ‘Kong’. They don’t know what they’re looking for. To them it could be as innocuous as pine cones. They just know, if they find it, they get rewarded. Why make things more complicated? More and more dogs, however, are beginning to show symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and dealing with depressed 'equipment’ is becoming a unique struggle for the military.
For the most part, these dogs (equipment or not) are an underappreciated force for good. They are the ones using their exceptionally-developed senses of smell to detect chemicals, IEDs, bomb making parts, ammunition and even bomb making suspects. Some dogs are trained to chase assailants and can track them even hours after they’ve fled the scene like some sort of real-life version of Deja Vu (the one with Denzel Washington); that’s how good their noses are.
The dogs in this book are pretty amazing, just like the soldiers they work beside and protect. If you have any interest in learning about the role dogs play in war and what they go through, then I think you’ll enjoy Dog Soldiers. And if you’ve never had a dog, you may notice yourself wanting one very soon.
[Note: I originally wrote this review in June 2012]...more
The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar, which came out in 2010, is the type of pop psychology book that Malcolm Gladwell made famous, and was mimickedThe Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar, which came out in 2010, is the type of pop psychology book that Malcolm Gladwell made famous, and was mimicked by about a hundred other writers. Atul Gawande. Steven Levitt. Sam Gosling, Nassim Taleb. Alexandra Robbins. Jon Ronson. I can keep naming them. Barbara Ehrenreich. Dan Ariely. Charles Duhigg. Steven Pinker. Barry Schwartz. Jeffrey Kluger. Geoff Colvin. Too many.
So how does the Art of Choosing stack up?
The book tries to answer questions about the importance ‘choice’ plays in our lives. Why do some cultures prefer more choice than others? How do we perceive choice? How can we improve the choices we make? How do the choices that we make impact us? The book does this through a series of vignettes and recapping social psychology experiments and what we’ve learned from them. Experiments with kids, experiments in grocery stores, experiments with kids in grocery stores, etc.
I chose to read this book. The stark image of an apple and orange on the cover got my attention. That was my choice. As I learned in The Art of Choosing, perceiving that I have a choice lets me feel that I have control over the direction my life is heading, which will give me satisfaction. Other tidbits include:
*Sometimes too much choice is debilitating (like how people prefer to choose among 7 items instead of 50) *When it comes to having to choose to let someone die, we don’t want that choice (like letting a doctor decide whether to take your brain damaged newborn off life support) *For more trivial matters, we don’t want to choose what other people chose for us (like my friend telling me to watch Breaking Bad over and over again) *Choice choice choice choice choice
At the end of the day, does it matter? Are you going to sit, paralyzed, and ponder on the choices you make? No, you’re just going to go the grocery store and complain about how there are too many different types of cereal, grab some Lucky Charms and keep going about your miserable existence.
Plus, you’re probably not going to retain much from this book either. Maybe a few stories that you can play up at cocktail parties. At best, the people on the other end of the conversation will think you are well-informed. At worst, they’ll just be impressed that you know how to read. Does anyone other than Malcolm Gladwell retain what they’ve read in his books? Maybe something particular like:
*In Canada, the majority of Junior Hockey players are born in January and February *It takes 10,000 hours of practice at a skill to become expert *Something tipping point
The rest is diffused and lost in the jumble.
What will I take from The Art of Choosing? Probably just one thing: that at the end of the film (and book) Sophie’s Choice, you learn that years ago Meryl Streep’s character had to choose which one of her kids was going to be gassed in a WWII German concentration camp, her son or her daughter. It was an excruciating choice. She chose to let her daughter die. I had never seen the movie (or read the book). Thanks for choosing to spoil the movie for me, Sheena Iyengar.
[Note: I originally wrote this review in July 2012]...more
The other day I reviewed a relatively recent pop-psychology book called, The Art of Choosing. Along with many others, I casually mentioned author AtulThe other day I reviewed a relatively recent pop-psychology book called, The Art of Choosing. Along with many others, I casually mentioned author Atul Gawande. This book is his.
I’ve read all 3 of Atul’s books (we’re on a first name basis). They are all related to medicine. He’s a surgeon and a pretty good author. His first two, Complications and Better, discuss how medicine is in an inexact science with sometimes unrealistic expectations and the challenges doctors face trying to help their patients. They were interesting reads and I got to learn about flesh-eating bacteria and other stuff I hope I never contract. On a scale of 1-10, I give them B+’s.
Then he released The Checklist Manifesto. It’s not specific to medicine, but since that’s what he knows, it’s mostly about medicine.
Newsflash: Humans make mistakes.
We are also proven to be awful at multi-tasking. We can do menial tasks without much concentration and carry a conversation, but ask us to focus attentively on separate tasks and we fail…bigtime. Even when completing well-known tasks, over time we skip steps, we gloss over, we simply forget. I’m just happy I know what to do on the toilet (I think).
That’s where the checklist comes in. Checklists have been proven to reduce accidents and save lives in the aviation industry (and others). Pilots rely on them extensively. But doctors, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend prestigious medical schools, who aced their MCATs, who basically act like Alec Baldwin in Malice, generally scoffed at the idea.
This is the problem Atul faces in the book. Not only how to convert physicians and surgeons into checklist advocates, but deducing the best form and style the checklist should entail. Just having a checklist isn’t enough. In high pressure, time-limited situations, you need to cut the fluff and keep the crux. There’s an art to crafting an effective checklist.
It’s taken me only a few paragraphs to explain the heart of this book, the general premise of which is that checklists can be highly effective tools to reduce both surgical mishaps (e.g., leaving sponges and scalpels inside patients) and hospital-borne illness and infection (e.g., infected lines, doctors washing hands), and account for unforeseen circumstances by making sure the necessary backups are in place and lines of communication between colleagues are open.
Simple enough, right?
It only takes Atul 224 pages to cover the same content. Which isn’t even that long; 224 pages is basically just an excessively verbose novella. Most of his research came from a paper he worked on for the WHO (World Health Organization). He simply added some pop psychology type stuff, talked to people in aviation, stretched out some themes, and so forth.
Most likely, rather than read this book, I could’ve learned everything he had to say in a nicely presented infographic. As a result, I’m slightly bitter for having taken the time to finish it. One thing’s for sure, Atul has a checklist for how to publish a New York Times Bestseller and he follows it faithfully.
[Note: I originally wrote this review in July 2012]...more
The essence of a good novel, fiction or non-fiction, is the story. Is it a good one? Is it compelling? Do the words that you read across the page inteThe essence of a good novel, fiction or non-fiction, is the story. Is it a good one? Is it compelling? Do the words that you read across the page interest you enough that you wish to continue to the next word and the next word or are you so disinterested that you just skim whole pages until you stumble across an interesting passage? Sure, you can have beautiful language that is intelligent and thought provoking, but without a strong story component, you might as well be reading poetry.
James B. Stewart knows how to spin a yarn. I first learned about Mr. Stewart when my friend recommended his novel, Heart of a Soldier, which was about a guy who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. He was a former military man who worked security for Morgan Stanley whose offices were in the towers and he sacrificed his life to save as many people as he could (almost 2,700). It was a great, heart-warming book that offered life lessons worth remembering. I don’t remember what they are off the top of my head, but I’m sure the valuable ones seeped into my brain through some kind of reading osmosis.
I was in the library looking for a new book and saw this one. I saw it was written by James B. Stewart. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize emblazoned on the cover, always a nice touch (he won for Den of Thieves). I read the back. The book, on the whole, looked boring. Some in depth analysis on four of the largest, most recent, criminal perjury cases. Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Barry Bonds, Bernie Madoff. Ugh.
But I started to read the first few pages of chapter one - I skipped the Introduction. Side note: I kind of hate Introductions, who needs a lengthy preamble, let’s just get on with it, shall we?
The first section is on Martha Stewart and her false statements surrounding her selling of Imclone stock based on insider information. Stewart (James B.) introduces the characters and gets right into the action meticulously recreating what happened. He draws you right in.
I didn’t know much about the whole Martha Stewart debacle (or any of the others detailed in the book). When it happened, I could care less. Just another example of the 24 hours new cycle inundating us with nonsense.
Did she do it? Did she lie?
Maybe it’s because I’m a skeptical realist, but I just assumed, of course, she did. It’s always people with power and influence who end up the recipients of insider stock information. You and I, lounging comfortably in Starbucks furniture are not going to be privy to buy now/sell now type secrets. It would be nice, though.
My own predilection towards ignoring major headlines was an initial factor in my non-interest in reading a book on this subject matter, too. But Stewart (James B., again) is just so good.
Like an experienced mystery writer he crafts the pieces together. It’s like watching a murder mystery with the benefit of seeing how it all came to be, the neatness of 20/20 hindsight. Watching it as it unfolds is pretty mesmerizing. How Martha and her broker, Peter Bacanovic, dig themselves deeper and deeper into a hole and take shelter within a flimsy house of cards, how the government agents charged with uncovering the truth struggle with the enormity of the lies, but sense that they are being misled and forge on, searching for that smoking gun, be it document, recording or witness brave enough to crawl out from under the thumbs of their successful and influential patrons who in turn apply serious amounts of pressure to stick to the rehearsed storyline.
And even when the lie is uncovered and staring at them in the face, they still deny and reject responsibility. In their words, it’s all one big misunderstanding.
Perjury, shown throughout Tangled Webs, is rampant. It’s an epidemic. When confronted with wrong-doing people will lie at the first, second and third instance. Anything to keep from admitting that they are not who they think we think they are. They are upstanding citizens. They are honorable, contributing members of society. Not the type of person who would illegally use inside information to save $70,000, or leak classified information about a CIA operative to discredit a harmful political opposition, or ingest banned substances to feed your ego and get an unfair advantage in sports, or create a parallel universe falsifying account statements and funneling a disastrous Ponzi scheme for decades.
When you get trapped in a lie, you tell another. The last one feeds off the one before. Did you take banned substances? No. What about this calendar with your name on it next to letters associated with banned substances? That’s not mine. We found banned substances your trainer’s refrigerator, did he ever give some to you? That’s his stuff, I don’t know what he does with his own stuff. We have a recorded conversation where your trainer mentioned giving you these substances and that they would be untraceable. I don’t know about that. We have testimony that you took this substance. Oh, that’s just Flaxseed Oil, that’s what he said it was, I didn’t ask him. Sir, you’re an elite athlete and your body is your livelihood. You didn’t inquire any further into what you were consuming? No, he knows what he’s doing, I trusted him. I trusted the wrong people.
That’s what you have to do when you give false statements and press on with the lie, you have to flip it around: there’s only one victim here, you.
The other argument is that you’re too smart to cheat and lie so shamelessly. Why would you do it? You’re an uber-successful person. What’s the point of lying when, if it were discovered, it could ruin your credibility, everything that has gone into creating your success. But it doesn’t matter, people will lie through their teeth. Marion Jones, she lied and lied and lied. And when people finally started telling the truth and exposing those lies, we couldn’t trust those statement because they were coming from people who had previously lied. And you can’t believe a liar.
It’s like that social psychology experiment where completely normal/sane people check themselves into insane asylums and as soon as they were admitted everything they did was classified as ‘insane’ behavior. If you chilled on the couch by yourself, your activity was labeled as 'antisocial’. If you told the attendants that you were normal and this was just a joke, they labeled you as 'delusional’. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once a liar always a liar. So how do you parse out the truth from the fiction?
In discussing the cases against Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Barry Bonds and Bernie Madoff, James B. Stewart takes you through each step, letting you see where the wheels began to unhinge. The freeze frames where these titans of society chose subversion and obfuscation instead of admitting their wrong-doing and facing the music.
We know those moments, too. If there’s even a glimmer of chance that you’ll get off unscathed, if the proof is buried so deeply that as long as you keep a straight face you’ll escape punishment, you’ll perpetuate the myth.
We’re setting the wrong example in society.
We’re deceiving ourselves.
Lies on top of lies.
[Note: I originally wrote this review back in August 2012]...more
Sometimes I’m in a book club. What I mean is, I’m technically in a book club and sometimes I:
A. Read the book we’ve picked, B. Attend the meeting we’veSometimes I’m in a book club. What I mean is, I’m technically in a book club and sometimes I:
A. Read the book we’ve picked, B. Attend the meeting we’ve scheduled, and C. Do both of those things.
Too much lately, I don’t do any of those things, but that’s not important right now.
Every year, during the winter holidays, my book club does a book exchange. We bring a book to the meeting and we write numbers on pieces of paper and each of us pulls a number out of a hat. That number is the order in which you randomly choose one of the wrapped-up books. The best number to have is the last number because we have a little twist where you can choose to ‘steal’ a book that someone already selected or grab a fresh one. So during the exchange, you may think the book you picked will end up yours, but someone else can grab it and you'll have to pick again, and someone later can then grab that one from you, too. The person with the last number, gets to choose from every book already selected. You are the master of your own domain. It’s a lot of fun.
This past year, I ended up with Chad Harbach’s debut novel, The Art of Fielding. It’s a signed copy, too. I didn’t know anything about it. The person who brought the book told me that it was about baseball and homosexuality. I said, well, it’s a signed copy, thanks.
I also vaguely remember hearing that the book was receiving a lot of praise from critics. A quality first novel. It had a lot of potential. Plus, it was a signed copy.
So, 8 months later, I finally drew it from my shelf and decided to read it.
And I finished it.
Here is where I give my review: ________________.
But I’m not going to do that. I think the best way to review this book is by taking quotes from people on Amazon who read this book and decided that it was worth their time to go back to Amazon where they did (or maybe didn’t) purchase this book and write a review for other people to read. I’m going to crowdsource my review. It’s a cop-out, but I think you’ll appreciate the smattering of comments from random people.
*Each quote is an actual quote and unedited for grammar or spelling.
Quote: “If you are expecting a novel that is a good read on baseball you are in for a surprise. The descriptive homosexual parts were sickening and I had to skip over them. I’m through with that arthur [sic].”
My thoughts: Personally, the homosexual parts weren’t that vivid. Mostly innuendo. E.g., when a guy gives a blow job for the first time, Harbach describes it metaphorically as getting on your knees and praying. I don’t think he even used the word 'penis’ or 'dick’ or 'the ol’ salami’. If I was the 'arthur’, I would have used a bobbing for apples metaphor.
Quote: “I have never felt compelled to write an online review before. But as someone who reads four or five novels a month (mostly popular fiction) and works in the publishing industry, I find the praise for this book so inexplicable and disturbing that I feel the need to speak out. Cardboard, cliched characters (the coach? Henry’s father? the chef? other nominees?) engaged in laughable dialogue (as you read the book, ask yourself whether you know any college students – any – who talk this way) in a plot held together by cheap TV-esque cleverness (a gay baseball player who after striking out says the pitcher is cute … a scene in which readers are led to believe the main character is overhearing two people engaged in sex behind a door – but only because the writer holds off telling us for a few paragraphs that the character is at the gym outside the weight room). People and themes disappear without a trace (the architect husband? Gone. Aparicio Rodriguez? Disappeared. The zen-like manual, The Art of Fielding, that is the supposed central conceit of the book? Abandoned somewhere mid-novel). For all the complaints here about the ending – and it is truly silly and pretentious – let’s not lose sight of the wreck that precedes it.”
My thoughts: This is pretty spot on, especially how egregiously the forenamed Art of Fielding takes no part in most of the novel. On the other hand, it was a quick read.
Quote: “To say The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach is an intelligent novel is like saying gum is chewy. You have to actually chew gum to know the truth. If you bother to invest the time to read Harbach’s wonderful novel you’ll see the obvious truth to my opening sentence. That this author, a formerly out of work, copy editor with an MFA from the University of Virginia sold his baseball novel for $650,000 shouldn’t be the only reason you read The Art of Fielding, but curiosity about this fact is as good a reason as any.”
My thoughts: Wait, he sold this thing for $650,000? Someone kill me, now. I can’t take a book seriously when people reviewing the book start their review off comparing the novel to chewing gum. Remind me to not chew gum ever again.
Quote: “Really loved this book - amazing depth of the characters, what makes them who they are, and how they interact with one another. Lots of twists and turns as well. Such vivid descriptions, I could almost envision the campus, as well as those depicted in the book.”
My thoughts: This person liked the descriptions.
Quote: “The story gets adult in nature with the introduction of the [sic] Owen - the gay teammate. This novel’s lack of authenticity is writ large in the character of Owen: an openly gay college baseball player would be a major storyline in real life - which this book seems to want to capture - but is dealt with as if he was merely left handed. Owens story is told from the wrong angle, and does little to flesh out the main character Henry.
Henry; is the young college shortstop phenomenon who - inexplicably - one day looses [sic] the ability to throw a baseball with any accuracy. A clearly troubled character on the outside, we never find out much about who he is. The main character is a stranger in his own novel.
This book is ultimately a pleasant enough read; channeling Russo’s Empire Falls, but it doesn’t challenge the reader or go to any great depth.”
My thoughts: Sure.
Quote: “I’m pretty sure I’ve never read a worse book that’s received more hype. The Art of Fielding is to the novel what the summer blockbuster is to the movies: a heavily hyped investment property that appears to contain all the elements of a satisfying story but, on its release, reveals itself as anything but a rewarding experience.”
My thoughts: That’s not really fair to Summer blockbusters.
Quote: “Forbidden love, baseball, an eating disorder, if I pull this novel out by its small parts and plotlines no one understands my praise. It sounds like a bad teen angst drama:( Yet it is the ultimate bildungsroman and so much more. I have been touting this novel to all who will listen as the next, great-American novel.”
My thoughts: I hate when people use long German words like 'bildungsroman’. [Ed. note: schadenfreude isn’t bad]
Quote: “What a terrible book! It started out good, but then it turned ridiculous. Characters disappeared, Henry’s bible "The Art of Fielding” disappeared, the names were silly, the ending was unbelievable, etc., etc. Maybe this could have been a good book it the editor had helped the author rein in his unfortunate impulses and eliminate the multitude of dead ends. As it stands it’s infuriating, and I wish I could have the time back that I spent reading this overhyped drivel.“
My thoughts: Another satisfied reader!
Quote: "One word that crystallizes my opinion of this book: "freshpersons”. I had thought the writing was overwrought, the characters and situations unbelievable, but then I started seeing this word, “freshpersons”. WTF? Who in their right mind can use that word without sounding like a complete tool? Who talks like that? Even the teenage students were saying it. I made it to page 66, right when the college president’s crush was revealed. I understand that this book got a lot of positive press. I’m not sure how that possibly happened.“
My thoughts: E-x-a-c-t-l-y.
[Note: I originally wrote this review back in August 2012]...more