For two weeks, I breathed and slept this book. I was reminded of Joyce Carol Oates, We were the Mulvaney's--specifically due to character development.For two weeks, I breathed and slept this book. I was reminded of Joyce Carol Oates, We were the Mulvaney's--specifically due to character development. I remember being in awe for most of We Were the Mulvaney's--the characters, and there were many, were just...intensely developed. I read a lot, and these characters were the stuff of real life: diverse, with nicknames, private histories and nuances. This novel, in the tradition of Oates, managed the same feat. Carson McCullers is in there, too--with the narrative switching back and forth between the lives of the people you follow.
I cannot give a more high reference for character development and local color, which Tartt uses like the Southern Woman writer she is--it's utterly outstanding. I could taste Alexandria and absolutely never grew bored of being there during my two week stay.
Sadly, once I got to the end, I realized that's what had kept me going--more so even, than the expectation of plot. It seems, Tartt SO gifted with character analysis and local color (and cross my heat, her first novel is a plot MANIFESTO!), I chugged through all six hundred plus pages of this book without looking back. Marked as a mystery, I did have an expectation for...disclosure. It never came. Instead, it's as if Tartt herself was fooled. I think she was sure the ending, that long-thread she'd been pulling, would finally stop--but it didn't. I almost can't even fault her--it's still SUCH a masterpiece, it is--I loved absolutely every second of it, every auntie, ever little tid-bit no other author would even THINK to include--but I would be lying if I didn't come clean--there is no ending to this book. It's like Tartt got to page 600 and thought, "hm, shoot, this is long, I need to wrap it up," and then forgot she'd started with this involved mystery. Instead she turns her focus to the leading character, and yeah, it's ironic as all get out, but it isn't the ending you want as a reader. You don't feel satisfied in the slightest. I stayed up till nearly four and thought, "really?"
Yet, I'm reluctant to say a word, because, quite frankly, I could never do it. Most writers, even the very most gifted, couldn't do it. Even with no real ending, this book, alone, trumps many of the most fantastically of plot driven novels I've yet to read. I really can't say enough good things about it, except that vital life line of "end" is absent. It is Southern Gothic/grotesque. It is a look into cultures most people won't realize existed, it is a stunner character called Harriet, called Allison, called Robin--on and on it goes, but there really is no ending, she just, got to the last page and said, "I forgot what I was going to say, oh well."
It's disappointing, but still, SO amazing. I could stream-line my self, I could buckle down and write each day and never get close to this--it was a joy to read, but she did over look the fundamental closing. I don't know what happened to Robin. I can analyze and look to all my brain's little cocoons for ideas and potential patterns and "above me" tricks, but the reality is, there not there. She just...didn't finish it....more
As thirty draws nearer and nearer, things which remind me of my mother (now that there are a good five states between us) have become nostalgic and deAs thirty draws nearer and nearer, things which remind me of my mother (now that there are a good five states between us) have become nostalgic and dear. I found a copy of Winnie the Pooh at a used dollar bookstore in Glendale. Had it not been the exact red, cloth hardcover I had on my shelves in a set as a child, I might have passed it by--but as it was, without Now We are Six and The House at Pooh Corner to flank it, it looked lonely. It wasn't until this weekend I picked it up and began to read it--out loud, in true "my mom" form, to Moses, while he listened with half and ear. I read until it became slightly uncomfortable, which, again, is a trait of my mother's, who to this day will read to me long distance. She'll read anything: content isn't a deciding factor, and she'll read at length, even if I've read it, even if I GAVE it to her. My mother's an avid A.A. Milne fan. In fact, she is so fervent a Pooh junkie, I grew up with an automatic out for dishes: if I could recite and entire poem all the way through, I was dish-free. "Our teddy bear is short and fat, which is not to be wondered at..." My older brother, Christopher, is, of course, named after Pooh's owner and Milne's timeless, fictionalized version of his boy, Christopher Robin Milne, and my own name, too, is loosely borrowed from a Milne work in Now We are Six (James, James, Morrison, Morrison, Weatherby George DuPris, took good care of his mother, though he was only three.) I've always though the connections were cute and very sweet--my brother, as a toddler and six year-old DID look like Christopher Robbin, in his sketchy Chapell drawings, complete with sandals, page boy and gingham. However, the most truly magical aspect of reading Milne's work an adult, was the symbiotic nature of my mother and Milne. After years and years of loving him, it would seem my mother has...begun to THINK like him. Or perhaps she always did--the introduction alone, two pages in, had Moses and me laughing at the random thoughts, Pooh's absent minded nature and the narrator, above all, who, remarkably, has the same understated wit as Ron Howard in Arrested Development. Moses and I postponed our errands and plans until we'd gotten all the way to Rabbit's house. Pooh sticks his head in the hole and, upon hearing rustling, asks if anyone is home. Rabbit calls out no, and at first Pooh accepts this, but after a few moments thought he realizes it's got to be Rabbit, or SOMEONE must be there, to say their not home--right? My mother aside, this book is wonderful. Really it is. Winnie the Pooh has become such a deep rooted part of our culture, the existence of Disney's Pooh so usual I'm usually as likely to ponder it as I would a stop sign--it's just THERE. But, upon re-reading, I found myself truly excited by it. THIS is what children should be read before bed--books so silly and nonsensical yet intelligent and sound at the same time, their brains can do nothing but tie them selves into knots and lead them off to sleep. These books, despite the cuteness of Sandra Boyton, are the stuff of bright, thoughtful children who can play with words and rhymes, the kids who can play alone and turn a back yard into a forest. Pooh and his tales are the map of the very full life of a healthy six year-old, before television and video games, before choose your own adventures, when you had to think up the adventure yourself, from beginning to end and you were climbing a tree while you were thinking. To read this book made one remember how much I like my mother, and also how much I would like her as a person I met on the street--this book was a reminder that finding a good book and passing it on is one of the greatest things in the world: absolutely perfect for Goodreads. For those of you that DIDN'T grow up with a Milne groupie for a mom, get this book. It's the stuff of smart, independent kids!...more
It's fun to peruse...but not a cover to cover, to be sure. A little self-indulgent, but it's the Olsen twins. Given their life story, I'd say they'veIt's fun to peruse...but not a cover to cover, to be sure. A little self-indulgent, but it's the Olsen twins. Given their life story, I'd say they've turned out surprisingly well. Fashion is clearly their thing, and a form of art, expression and their "serious" factor. While it's easy to brush aside as another substance-lacking component, it suffices. Jackie Kennedy apparently spent 121,000 in 1961 on a wardrobe. To put that in perspective, JFK's salary as President was 100,000. If Jackie's "style" equals grace and her European poise and love of culture, why can't the Olsen twins make it their serious factor?
The book got a bit self-indulgent. I could do without the self-promoting question forms filled out by each twin, and I don't care much about the "things Mary Kate" loves collages, but the idea of an Olsen interviewing style icons and designers is actually pretty cool.
Oh, and their obviously young--but you knew that. Mary Kate wants to be a wise woman like Lauren Hutton. Godspeed, MK, godspeed....more
Every time I go into a book store (a dangerous place for me to be), I flip though this book. I love the cover, I always wanted to eat at her restauranEvery time I go into a book store (a dangerous place for me to be), I flip though this book. I love the cover, I always wanted to eat at her restaurant and just love the concept. Having not eaten meat in nearly...gees...seven years, I'm quite picky about my cook books. I already don't eat meat, I'm not going to give up the art of real cooking, too. This book is absolutely terrific for the seasoned cook and novice. In fact, as a twenty year-old newbie who grew up without a cook in the home, this book would have been a godsend and bumped me up to "competent" in a few weeks, rather than months/years. Begin at the very beginning: Waters starts with the basics, explaining kitchen must-haves, from pots and pans to pantry staples and seasonal bits to keep in stock. She also goes into fruit and veggies, flours and what makes extra virgin olive oil extra virgin, and when you can use the cheaper "olive oil" instead. She expresses the importance of setting--tasting your food with company and a table, enjoying complex flavor, but also taking pride in what you put in your face. In short, it's a similar message to "French Women Don't Get Fat," except, refreshingly, Waters is an artist and wrote a cook book rather than a self help. No, the recipes aren't low fat. In fact, many involve a bechemel and butter's her best friend: however, the very ground work of this book teaches the most rudimentary basic that most Americans seem to be missing: TASTE your food, love your food--value what you put in your body, love the taste, no matter how simple, and if it's not good, don't eat it. Amazingly, the other aspects of a healthy lifestyle magically fall into place: recycle, compost, eat seasonally and locally, as well as diversely. Eat slowly and thoughtfully, treasure what you put in your mouth. This book, as the title says, really is "a revolution." It is the missing link the French seem to have sustained but so many Americans have forgotten or never knew, in the wake of mixes, powders and preservatives. There is nothing quite like making every piece of your own lasagne. It becomes a canvas, a joy, and completely consuming as an excercise for the brain. When you spend a few hours making your food, it only seems natural to linger around the table and enjoy it. Piece by piece, it falls into place....more
This was the first book Moses and I collectively "owned," he bought a copy in Brooklyn while he was first staying with me and we later had it signed bThis was the first book Moses and I collectively "owned," he bought a copy in Brooklyn while he was first staying with me and we later had it signed by the author at Summer Stage, after her reading was ended prematurely by a summer down pour. We waited in a line of at least fifty in rain so thick you couldn't hear and could hardly breathe, and by the time we reached her we were completely soaked. She was sitting at a folding table beneath a canvas tent to keep her dry, and it was the first time I'd ever seen her. I was amazed by how tiny she was and utterly star-struck.
It was the summer of Joan Didion for me--I'd read two collections of essays and The Year of Magical Thinking in a row. Play It As It Lays was read after she signed it: "To Jamie and Moses--Stay Dry."
Although Maria is similar to Didion in so many ways, her fiction is less assured than her non-fiction. It was a relief to see some brushstrokes, I think, so was/is such a hero to me. I love that she pushes herself to write what she admits to not be her forte.
The novel changes voice several times over--largely, Didion says, because she was not capable of keeping a straight narrative. I can't even say what a comfort that's been to me or even exactly why, just to know that even for someone like her, that sometimes things are very difficult, but you get through them the only way you know how, to the best of your ability. I like that she didn't struggle to perfect a third person or even first, but instead gave into doing the book the only way she knew she could, or did.
And, lastly, I suppose this book is ultimately what put California in my head, as much as meeting Moses, who's a native and had family here. The idea of driving was foreign, peeling a hard-boiled egg between your knees while keeping a car on the freeway, filming movies in Nevada and trying to maintain a sense of decorum and reality in the face of complete faux...
This book is still a subject I often research. I like finding more and more about it, and I guess I love it more on a biographical level than as a straight novel. I can't say if this would make the cut of "best books--"Didion is a non-fiction writer, that I will say, (which is why it is three stars, I try not to let my love of her cloud things).
But Maria stays with me in a way most characters can't. She's a sad, whisper of a person, not the careful, collected and factual person Didion herself is, but the strands of her character show. It's as if the sad parts are compiled into this character.
It's a must-read for those who love the author, and for others, I suppose it's a matter of guts. My mother read it and barely finished. "Too sad," she said, though that statement itself is interesting, since it's certainly no more stark or telling than The Year of Magical Thinking. There's just something about the fictional parts, knowing this character IS NOT totally the author, as her essays are, but something she created. To think this is a creation, self-made rather than lived, I think, is the hard part....more
I was in Palm Springs over the weekend, taking pictures of Lautner and Frey at the "soft" (maybe hard-boiled) opening of The King's Motel. Walking thrI was in Palm Springs over the weekend, taking pictures of Lautner and Frey at the "soft" (maybe hard-boiled) opening of The King's Motel. Walking through the rooms of the not-quite-ready hotel, I was reminded of this book--how she ran a bed and breakfast and how completely taken I was with the idea of such a thing. Specifically, I remember a passage saying the mother, Celia, kept the drawers of her guest rooms filled with odds and ins people would find interesting and want to take. None of the things were expensive and all could be replaced: their whole raison d'etre was to be removed by those staying there, for the people to find some sort of sentimental attachment and want to pocket them.
They were quartz and thimbles, handkerchiefs and postcards, and I remember loving the idea of it and wishing to stay in a bed and breakfast and maybe, some day, run one.
After the weekend in Palm Springs I drove back and mentioned having wanted to run one and reminded myself to add these books, because, quite honestly, there are few I've loved more than Kalpakian's. I found this as a lark, a bargain book, I think, as a teenager, and later sought out it's sequel, Educating Waverly, as soon as it was released.
For me, this book had it all: the lovely Pacific Northwest, which I'd never seen; characters bearing at least three names, which added to their character development intensely--not to mention historical fiction threaded through (Isadora Duncan plays a role as do her ideologies and ballet) and the thought of this island. I know I couldn't get it out of my head: Isadora Island, so isolated and desolate, like Island of the Blue Dolphins or something a kin.
And so, now I've added it: Steps and Exes and Celia and Henry House. I've never heard anyone else mention this novel, and I'm not even sure there's a copy,though I imagine there's still one on the shelves of my bedroom in Missouri--I had to be fifteen or sixteen, but I so saw myself in those characters: hoping my adult self would be a little like Celia and unapologetic and independent--with some of Victoria with her careful nature and sophistication--all mixed with a heritage and lineage found in this book--it truly is great, I'm on a quest to find it again, and I certainly hope I'm not over doing it, but I think it will prove worthy of re-reading and promoting.
**spoiler alert** People write in all the time, I'm finding, to ask about half star ratings. It always seems silly--but for this book, I must admit, I**spoiler alert** People write in all the time, I'm finding, to ask about half star ratings. It always seems silly--but for this book, I must admit, I too, find myself wishing there were the possibility of half a star. Mostly because, this book was nice, the plot was there, the characters were...interesting, unique, a bit too much, but then she also has the "it's New York" concept to fall back on...
This is a female romaine-a-clef, which is good--there need to be more. Occasionally one gets tired of local color and other inherently female tactics and devices used to drive the feminine plot lines home. However, some of that local color, a little twinge of that McCullers, or some of Zelda's ballet obsession du jour or even Sarah Orne Jewitt's solitude wrapped around a little bit of Oates crazy character development...it might have been...that extra thing that made this book a book I'll remember, rather than a book that I almost didn't get through.
Don't get me wrong: once I got into it, I got into it. I read in bed, read during errands, all that good stuff. But, it was hard to care. I had to go back and read the part about Anzac's day again, and the idea that I would forget a name is big. I love names. I'm nearly autistic with names. Rosemary for Rememberence.
And, in part, I feel as though it played on my zipping NYC heart strings. I too, once, was twenty, and lived in New York, read books (At the Strand, which I guess is a loose idea) and wondered, as Joan Didion before me, if it mattered if anyone in the world knew where I was.
I'm also always a sucker for timelessness: like Langston Hughes in his Parisian garret eating baby strawberries and yellow cream, half of me can still turn any open window in to Venice's canals and and field into a field of Gypsies. The Secret of Lost things combined that romanticism with Melville--who, I've honestly never just LOVED (though I did pledge my commitment to 9th grade literature largely on behalf of "I would perfer not to.") That being said, I loved Rosemary's tiny, shabby dump in West Village with no heat and a bathtub in the kitchen. I loved the solitude of her green clock and the precision of her TWO friends (both twice or three times her age, and the third all the way in Australia, the fourth in a Huon Box)...
I loved it, but the reality of the situation is: life is more complicated than Rosemary's, and in trivial ways. Argentinian lost children are terrible, horribly sad, but most 18 year old girls meet people randomly that are closer to their age, even without trying. They shop, they drink, they complain and move out if there's no hot water, and they would randomly make out with some looser in a band at Black Betty than let an albino make a mess in their hand in a rarebook room.
I don't mean to sound insincere, or as though I didn't like it--I did, very much, but I come back to the real classics, like The Secret History, or A Shadow of the Wind, where people are more dimentional, and solitude and simplicity aren't employed as tactics to keep writing easy and manageable. It was good, but it wasn't...Melville...(I like Hawthorn much better)....more
Feeling as though I needed to step outside the Victorian box (because I read a lot of Sarah Water’s that’s something of a hilarious pun, people), I deFeeling as though I needed to step outside the Victorian box (because I read a lot of Sarah Water’s that’s something of a hilarious pun, people), I decided to take up my pal Christine’s recommendation for me (ages ago) and read Bright Shiny Morning. Done as a series of separate stories all taking place in or around Los Angeles, LA is as much a character in this novel as any individual. Most chapters are structured around a specific group of characters and move back and forth between stories, though several “wild card” chapters are tossed in. One describes the interlocking freeways in Southern California and what they mean to natives, while others consist of “fun facts” (some are fun, some are morbid but awesome). Characters are divided into a young Midwestern couple fleeing abusive families; a closeted homosexual actor and his arranged marriage with a lesbian actress, their three adorable children and a very large sexual assault case (nothing says LA like taking a jab at the strange mystery alien that is Tom Cruise); a first generation Mexican American girl born just across the border and a homeless Chablis obsessed 39 year-old who looks 80. With fiction this magnetic, it really does make one think how exhausted Frey must have been by all that “inaccurate” memoir silliness (memoir and truth are oxymoron’s people. All memoirs are hopelessly padded). Frey manages to take LA—not just the beautiful, obvious parts of it, but the whole enchilada, so to speak—from Compton to the Valley; and show you it’s bones—even the dry, smoggy, inland ones, and still make them into a beautiful show. Having recently relocated to the East Coast and missing LA every SINGLE day, Bright and Shiny Morning was a blast of a read—not just because it was innovative and well done, but also because it was the good, the bad, ugly and startling stark beauty that is LA—and usually takes years to find—brought to you in a wonderful book. My only teensy-weensy criticism? The very end felt a little rushed, as though Frey was just a little too ready to end it, but that’s just searching for a downside. I loved every minute of this. ...more