The summer after highschool graduation in 1967, Grady Myers decides to escape from his boring hometown of Boise, Idaho, a “Western backwater where tim...moreThe summer after highschool graduation in 1967, Grady Myers decides to escape from his boring hometown of Boise, Idaho, a “Western backwater where times could’ve easily passed for a decade earlier,” via Vietnam. But the recruiters won’t have him, first because the artistic boy asks for a drafting job and the man says they need combat troops. The second recruiter, on hearing that the boy wants a combat position, rejects him because he wears glasses. Myers spends a semester in college and then, even more bored, “volunteers” for the draft. This time he’s accepted. The rest of “Boocoo Dinky Dow” (2012), a memoir published after Myers’ death, details his transformations from boy to soldier to wounded Vietnam veteran. The book was cowritten with his ex-wife, longtime journalist Julie Titone. The collaboration did not result in a smooth, polished read. Titone clearly felt it was important to honor Myers' voice, not just his stories. I found that lack of polish offputting at first, but I quickly learned to ignore and then to enjoy it. The tone is very much that of a man holding forth over beers at the pub, telling his truth if not THE truth. As with most modern war stories, “Boocoo” is fueled by ironies. For instance, although the soldiers constantly talk about escaping from Vietnam, the young Myers clearly finds soldiering entertaining, right up to and apparently even during the ambush which ends his military career. Another recurrent irony is that, “An infantryman is rarely told more than he needs to know to do his job, and sometimes not even that.” Again and again, the soldiers in “Boocoo Dinky Dow” make life and death decisions in an information vacuum, in a universe in which the rules they grew up by are useless, and most useless of all is that common sense rule that says staying alive is an individual’s primary goal. “Boocoo Dinky Dow” reminded me that wars are (and probably must be) waged by boys turned too suddenly -- and incompletely -- into men.(less)
I'll try to remember to link to the full review when it is published:
McClintock succeeds beautifully at sketching the rich web of Antarctic life and t...moreI'll try to remember to link to the full review when it is published:
McClintock succeeds beautifully at sketching the rich web of Antarctic life and the human-caused changes that challenge it, as well as the ways researchers work to understand these things, but he has neglected to web together a coherent narrative. So "Lost Antarctica" is no page turner: it reads like a series of short, fascinating articles, each ending on the same dire climate change warnings.
This lack of an overarching narrative is no reason for most readers to deny themselves the pleasures of this book, one of which is delightful description. Here's an example from a brief narrative about diving in Antarctica: "Descending first through six feet of sea ice and then, once below the ice, to a depth of about twenty feet, I paused to take in my surroundings. The sea ice above me glowed, filtering sunlight to the depths. I was drifting as if just below the ceiling of a magnificent building whose floor lay eighty feet below me. I was struck by the same sense of awe one experiences entering the Sistine Chapel, only instead of Michelangelo's paintings, I was gazing at a ceiling aglow and adorned with intricate platelets of ice."
The reader interested in Antarctica; in the front lines of the science of climate change; or in the intricate dance of life on Earth will be amply rewarded. McClintock's`articles' offer moments of alternating loveliness and careful, cogent explanation that together allow the reader to feel she has sampled something of the intricacy and wonder of life in Antarctica -- and force her to question whether Antarctica is a harsh place or simply a heartbreakingly vulnerable one.(less)
I can't remember ever writing that I thought "everyone" should read a book but I'm going to now, or close anyway: every American should read this book...moreI can't remember ever writing that I thought "everyone" should read a book but I'm going to now, or close anyway: every American should read this book. I swung back and forth from angry to startled to chagrined to disbelieving and back to angry with every chapter. The author could have repeated the obvious a bit less but in a book that quite literally changed the way I see myself, my country and most of all its history, I forgive him for a bit of repetition.(less)
This book is apparently out of print and that's just wrong. Pat Barker is a truly astounding writer and this book is one of the best treatments I've e...moreThis book is apparently out of print and that's just wrong. Pat Barker is a truly astounding writer and this book is one of the best treatments I've ever read about war and its costs.
There's a thing Barker does better than anyone else I've ever read. She'll leave this logical gap between one sentence and the next and it's just exacly a bit too far, so that you feel yourself make the leap, but it's still makeable. I started this book over three times before I felt like I was doing it justice, but it was worth it.
It's not that she's difficult. More that she's…trusting? She trusts that she has your full attention. (less)
Ok so you can't review your own book. And I won't BUT I do get to click the five star rating to show how great it feels, after 17 years of hired-pen w...moreOk so you can't review your own book. And I won't BUT I do get to click the five star rating to show how great it feels, after 17 years of hired-pen work and two books I couldn't get comfortable with, to have a title that I really, really like(less)
A dystopian novel that paints, and mostly with clean, effective strokes, a coastal America after a combination of nuclear war and a pandemic have esse...moreA dystopian novel that paints, and mostly with clean, effective strokes, a coastal America after a combination of nuclear war and a pandemic have essentially wiped out humanity and, the surviving humans believe, many other species as well.
The book is flawed by a few improbable plot points. Nor was I a huge fan of the novel's overall structure (a story in the present and one in the past, the second narrated to a young boy who mostly ends up being a cardboard device for the first person narrator to talk to), but I absolutely enjoyed the read, found some of the scenes heartbreaking and others encouraging, and, as I was supposed to, thought a lot about the sum of human knowledge and what it would mean to lose it, and also that how humanity goes forward after such a destructive event would mostly be a matter of chance, as in, what do the few who survive believe in? Who are their charismatic leaders and are they good people?(less)
I've been thinking a lot lately about conversations, about how what a book becomes has to do, among other things, with who is talking about it and wit...moreI've been thinking a lot lately about conversations, about how what a book becomes has to do, among other things, with who is talking about it and with what they agree to.
When I saw the back cover of Cheryl's memoir about starting -- as a tedious young idiot with some heavy baggage (literally and figuratively) -- to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and finishing a fair bit wiser, I knew this book would succeed as a conversation because of the number and names of the people whose blerps filled the back cover. Then yesterday I read that Oprah is back with her book picks -- which is awesome -- and that this book was her first pick.
It'll be interesting to see if the book succeeds as itself, outside the conversation that is so far going strong. My money would be on...maybe. Here's why: after about pg 190, I read every word, with pleasure. Several scenes - the descriptions of Crater Lake; the ice cream shop ending; some of the descriptions of what books and poetry do in her head - I read twice.
But before page 190 or so, I half-read, half-scanned, waiting for something to happen, waiting to learn something that would make me care, waiting for something to think about. If the person who loaned me the book hadn't told me she almost quit on it but was glad in the end she didn't, I would have.
It almost felt to me like Cheryl wrote the first half of Wild as a younger, less thoughtful writer. Either that or, attempting to portray that self-absorbed younger self and the tedium of distance hiking, she succeeded too well.
Upshot...the book was worth the read and I'm happy for Cheryl and what I hope is going to be her success.
But I'm most interested to see her turn her skills onto different subject matter. IMO, memoir is the most difficult form. Very few writers should even attempt it and most who do would be smart to finish the draft, learn from it what they can, burn it and move on. That she pulled this off at all makes me think she'll rock her next book. The woman can definitely write. (less)
I really hate when a masterful book is poorly edited. Running into typos in Margaret Atwood's surreal journey into and -- arguably -- through the sane...moreI really hate when a masterful book is poorly edited. Running into typos in Margaret Atwood's surreal journey into and -- arguably -- through the sanest insanity you'll ever encounter is like seeing a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Grrr.
My only criticism of the book per se is that the first person narrator's quasi-stream of thought delivery is challenging to follow and not always as rewarding as I'd like. But I've been spoiled lately with books that have a lot of substance and still read effortlessly. Maybe I'd forgotten how to work for a story. This one is absolutely worth a bit of extra decoding. : )(less)