**spoiler alert** Oh how could it be anything but five stars? I got to see David Sedaris read in San Jose earlier this year. He read the bit about Hel...more**spoiler alert** Oh how could it be anything but five stars? I got to see David Sedaris read in San Jose earlier this year. He read the bit about Helen and a few others that didn't make the cut. People are always saying how he's twice as funny when you hear his voice, but I'm not sure I always agree. Not that I didn't love the reading--I did, one of the best times I've had in my life, actually, but in terms of NPR readings, sometimes I think his voice is distracting. I mean, yeah, it's high pitched and breathy, but I already knew that. I just love his sense of humor and strange associations.
I must say I think this is Sedaris' softer side. He seems more willing to touch on things he previously has mentioned, but left more open to interpertation on the reader's behalf. His mother's death, their closeness (although, In DYFiCD he mentiones she's supportive of his homosexuality, etc.), but her over all death and his feelings on the subject are more throughly discussed.
Also his relationship with Hugh, which is always prevelent, nearly reigns supreme. This is absolutely a guy approching his midlife-years--he's given up alcohol, smoking--and he's in a committed relationship that's spanned many years.
I still love his Amy stories, as a huge Amy fan, there's nothing more hilarious than the idea of these two just...well, reviewing beastiality porn in a west village apartment, but I really felt over all like this was a Sedaris more revealing than he has been in previous work. He sort of gets through the vail of funny and lets you see him, which makes it even more funny. Vulnerability is always a nice quality. I like to read it better than I think I like to assume it from his voice intonation. That's just how he talks.(less)
I won't lie. I'm reluctant to give this book four stars...but, you see, I have to, because I DID get up early to read it and I did stay up until two a...moreI won't lie. I'm reluctant to give this book four stars...but, you see, I have to, because I DID get up early to read it and I did stay up until two a.m. on a weeknight. Heck, if I'm being honest, while I did not stay home specifically FOR finishing this book, it made what would have been a pretty crap day enjoyable. But still, I'm hesitant to recommend it. I have this suspicion most of my friends wouldn't get through it. It was, at different points, many things: novice, tricky to follow, going, plot-wise, in a million directions--Sometiems I had to flip back to remember who the hell was who, and, above all, it was kind of unbelievable...well, truly unbelievable. BUT, I didn't get it to be believable, I got it to be entertaining, and so it was...in the same way those Lifetime movies draw you in. It's not real life--there's an EDGE of real, and in a few years, this lady might really, really be something. And, don't get me wrong: it's not that she employed the weird tactic of having a real monster in her book. I dug the monster, it was that she employed a lot of little faulty tactics to keep things chuggin': the pictures of family members on each chapter's cover page (which, I would flip back to look at, so it wasn't pointless, BUT, I did think, serveral times "why do I keep looking? These are just flea market photos this chick found at Alameda or something." So, the tactic worked and didn't. Hard to say, huh? I also feel compelled to mention, I am and nearly always have been, a huge history dork. Like, for instance, history tests weren't so much annoying to study for, but fun, because I like periods, dresses, goings-ons, etc. So it's quite possible this book might just be trash to someone who's not so dorky about the civil war and/or community museums. Because...this was a little like walking through the Elizabeth Roszier gallery (which is, ahem, the local community gallery in my home town in Missouri.) I also hated that Willie's name was something as unusual as Wilhilmina, and nobody said where here American, exhippie mom had yanked it from. There were also parts that read more like short stories I wrote when i was in middle school (but, I couldn't write a four hundred page novel that makes someone get up early in the morning, and she did, so maybe I ought to shut up). Oh, boo. I'm such a black and white kind of gal, it's hard for me to say that this book was good and awful, but that's all I can do. It's quite an accomplishement, it is--it was a fun read, interesting, but I would be lying if I said I found the chracters and/or relationships feesible, or that I didn't spend a LOT of time with my brow furrowed thinking, "really? This many characters or THAT name seemed unworthy of some explaination?" It was quite an well woven story though. It was, it was. I mean, it all checked out like a good episode of Matlock, but...it also was kind of like reading something self-published...a little pedantic, sort of overly ambitious for what I assume to be a first full length novel...A little Crash topics in Calamity Physics--good, but...not with out room for improvement. **To borrow this authors tactic, I am leaving a side: By comparing to CTiCP I hope it is noted that this book is NOT as good as the latter. Just has some similarities and flights of whimsy.(less)
Sometimes I read books so wonderful I think, "wow, I should never try to write anything because it will never be as good as this book." That happened...moreSometimes I read books so wonderful I think, "wow, I should never try to write anything because it will never be as good as this book." That happened when I read this. It happened over and over. And then, when I finished, I read the author's notes and discussion questions. That made me love it even more--he's so passionate about his characters, which is completely obvious when you read this book.
Joyce Carol Oates, though I don't read as much of her as I ought to, has some of the most amazing chracter development I've ever read. The Book Thief is a very, very worthy oponent. I read Oates and am always amazed by how...hm...realistic, of course, the characters are, but, it's just a different sort of conciousness than we're used to, I think. Granted, we're all inside our own heads all the time, but with Oates and with this book, you get a taste of being inside the head's of many, and without that totally obtrusive, too close feeling. (ie: sometimes the more I get to know someone, the less I want to, but that's not the case with Liesel, Papa, Rudy, Max and Mama.)
Second, books on World War II are usually something I find very intriguing. I honestly found this book without knowing much of the plot or outline, but I was pleasently suprised to find it was in league with Elie Wiesel's Nuit and Lois Lowry's Number the Stars (my WWII picks of yester-year closely followed by Lowry's autobiographical Autumn Street, which is different of genre simply because while it deals with WWII, it's set in The US rather than Europe). I have to say, the awareness of childhood as a mirror for books of this nature, it's so stark and...maybe helpful? At some level, the horrors of WWII are easier to take with such an innocence, they're also just as awful, if not twice as appauling--and this book took on an even more substancial edge, because Liesel and her foster family are all German's, rather than neutral or Jewish. This book provided a much needed and appreciated alternate view--you see how Germany wasn't necessarily supportive of the Fuher, but what else can you do? So, it was a nice, new perspective rather than those ridiculous psychological tests from the 1960s to see if German's might have been susceptible to authority and lack of questions...etc.
And, lastly: the narrator is death. Let's talk about what a totally AMAZING, innovative, creative, intreguing narrator! AHHH! SO good! And, Death is someone you actually like: he's very to the point, he's clearly busy, he understand's human nature, though he seems to deal with aspects of it with a sigh and a nod, like an understanding parent. He is often reluctant, but never uncompliant himself, which was a nice compliment to the entire WWII situation.
I loved reading about Death's metamorphisis throughout this book--originally he was too unfeeling, to callous, but eventually the right Death was found. In short, I just loved this book. I did. It was great.(less)
Before I began to read this book, I read a review on here (published in other places too--), which said, more or less, the book was good, but seemed m...moreBefore I began to read this book, I read a review on here (published in other places too--), which said, more or less, the book was good, but seemed more a convergence of two "would be" novels, rather than one really connected book worthy of a Pulitzer. I read it expecting to draw the same conclusion. However; having just finished, I think I disagree. It was long, and it did traverse between two big (big enough for separate books, sure) plot lines, and while I'm generally a believer in "keep it simple, stupid," I think the complexities of this book were well done, educated and if nothing else, epic. I found myself drawing a lot of parallels to Wally Lamb's, I Know This Much is True--which is about Italian twins and goes way back into their histories, too. But, the stories, all of them, were really engaging. I came out of this feeling like I new more about not only Greek culture and history, but Detroit, too, which was pretty cool for one novel. I found the characters totally believable and just...remarkably well formed--and kept looking at the author picture wondering if this was a memoir after all (though he mentions hermaphrodites cannot go bald and he is, but other wise he looks a lot like Cal is supposed to).
Another astounding thing to this book was, adolscence, regardless of gender or decided gender, just seems to suck for most people. Calliope/Cal totally had it rough, but all in all, his/her experiences as a female reminded me of the horror of being 14 I remember. And I can only assume that, for a 15 year-old she/male, the experiences he tells are probably pretty accurate there, too.
There were great little crannies of "outside" story, too--which I was grateful for, when the idea of Greek and hermaphrodite became too intense. I loved reading about "the object" and father/daughter love, I was impressed to the core with the author's ability to begin a story, and like the silk worms in Desdemona's box, keep weaving. A few of the tiny little asides were so unexpectedly typical I was just SURE this was autobiographical...who knows. I haven't done any research, so...
Eh. I think the over-all plot, the messy stuff, the little choices we make that reign supreme on our lives, the uncertainty of self and the fear that, deep down, we will all be found out a "monster," they're all so easy to relate to. This was the ultimate Romain a clef--with a twist, for half the book she's a girl, and Romain a clef is, by definition, man. I was totally taken with both Cal and Callie, their family and history and how we are, deep down, a product of our upbringing AND biology. This was a very novel book--and, in my opinion, absolutely deserving of the praise it received. I couldn't do it. Most of the world couldn't either, hence the award.
But, really, this is a book's book--not since Jane Eyre and A Tale of Two Cities do we see this sort of an epic novel. It really is a throw back to when books lasted over the course of several years. This is a modern classic and it was a good one, at that. I loved reading it.(less)
Oh there is a genre of book I do love. Once upon a time at Hastings in Jefferson City, Missouri, a newly licensed 16 year-old braved the two-lane traf...moreOh there is a genre of book I do love. Once upon a time at Hastings in Jefferson City, Missouri, a newly licensed 16 year-old braved the two-lane traffic of Missouri Blvd. to make her way to the biggest bookstore within a thirty mile radius. Upon the "HARD BACK NEW RELEASES" there was a lovely book, a photograph in hues of blue with silver writing: By the Shore, by Galaxie Craze. Such a silly name, yes, but the book was amazing, voicing priviate thoughts I'd had and never dared admit to anyone, feelings of abandonment, teenage irritations, terrible sleep-overs and lack of acceptance amoung girls your age--the general terrors of middle school life. It took place in England, in an empty Bed and Breakfast on the shore, with a thoughtful 12 year-old called May and her once self-centered, slightly mad mummy and half brother, Eden, who was afraid of egg yolk. I adored it, and have read it several times since, but not until last week, at a Beverly Hills Borders did I stumble upon Playing with Grown Ups, easily comparable, wonderfully the same and yet fabulously different. There is, of course, my over all intrigue with Sophie Dahl. Once a plus sized model, the grand daughter of Rhold Dhal and the character of his book, The BFG--the are the one and the same Sophie. Given her literary royalty status, her beauty seems mildly unncessary, but oh well, it does make for a good story, as it obviously weaves its way into the book. Marina, her mother character is a selfish, mentally ill, ultra-indulgent egoist with a beautiful face and three children she treats more like friends and leaves the partening for an Irish nanny called Nora, who gets them all in trouble for skipping school, eating turkish delight and spending uncomprehensible amounts of money. The characters jetset between rural England, with a lovely farm house, to boarding Schools, London, New York, an Ashram and finally broke and back to England. Kitty, the main chracter and narrator grows up wearing Vivian Westwood and Missoni, all cast offs from her mother, and knows triva like Jackie O's white house weight. And, although she finds it impossible to NOT fall down the same rabbit hole as her mother, actually beliving their lifestyle might be okay, might exist, might be more than a fantacy, at her core she is always good, she is always pure and utterly uncomfortable in her faux surroundings. She always longs for her parents Hay House, the way things were when she was a child. The narration frequently flips to Kitty as an adult, visiting her now grown twin siblings and their mother, now old, who's in the mental ward--she is very changed, Kitty, from her excessive, magpie-like adolscence--perhaps slightly more so than is entirely belivable--when one is raised in such shiny luxury it seems difficult to believe it might entirely disapate and leave a thoughtful, loving, pure person in the wake, yet, the book was wonderful, I read it ravenously and enjoyed every part, as well as related--which is the backbone of books like these--the female romain a clef.(less)
I had a slow start with this book--I kept starting and stopping and reading bits and pieces of other things: Sylvia Plath's journals, etc. But, my rea...moreI had a slow start with this book--I kept starting and stopping and reading bits and pieces of other things: Sylvia Plath's journals, etc. But, my reading for this novel really to a head this weekend: I read close to three hundred pages in a day and finished the book last night, reading the afterward information a loud to my boyfriend (it was so interesting). It was easily one of the most plot-driven, engaging books I've ever read. And, while I would have, I think, enjoyed a touch more prose to the mix, I certainly cannot complain about any aspect of this novel. I enjoyed it very, very much. The frame story organization could have been more profound--this might have very easily transended into classic, if the writing would a little more fluid and the nursing home portions more lucid and in touch to family, memory, etc. But, like A League of Their Own or other loosely historical novels, the plot and experiences were there, and the characters were totally likable, identifiable, and the natural element of history completely keeps it afloat. For a beautiful AND plot driven novel, The Time Traveler's wife and A Shadow of the Wind are nice picks, but this was a great piece of American fan-fare--I loved it. I really did.(less)
**spoiler alert** Without a doubt one of the most wonderful books I've ever read. I know this is not a book I would have been likely to have picked on...more**spoiler alert** Without a doubt one of the most wonderful books I've ever read. I know this is not a book I would have been likely to have picked on my own--I tend to go in the opposite direction. However, the two "middle-aged male" novels I have allowed myself to read have both been wonderful. I think the mind of the middle-aged man is such an intriguing thing for me. Naturally, who am I to say it's authentic, but it does completely pull me in and consume me.
In addition to be one of the most spectacular books I'll ever read, I feel confident saying it was the most difficult, too. There were moments of sheer pain associated with this book.
Multi-themed and as plied as an onion, the associations of life and death, manifested in the ethanization of dogs as well as the brutal murder of six dogs, was nearly impossible for me. Several late nights were involved and I feel confident I've given myself a hand-full of new "concern" wrinkles between my brows.
However, the passages are necessary. Like reading information on the meat and dairy industry, avoiding this knowledge doesn't make it cease, and to read it seemed the only sensible thing to do. It was a perfect tie-in to the devistation of this book, the helplessness that's associated with these characters, so desolate, unstoppable, yet at some level there's a shard of relief to it--the only possible egress.
As a woman perhaps it would be more level-headed of me to focus on the demise of the character Lucy. Or, perhaps demise isn't the appropriate word, but surrender. Personally a plethora of mixed emotions accompanied every passage which revealed more of Lucy's personality. At one level I identified with her, her plight of solitude, to be her own person, rather than a "minor" character. On another level I despised aspects of her, but could not deny there was al ways a level of understanding involved.
To not beat one's head against same wall, to grow, to learn--perhaps there is a level of "giving in" required for aging gracefully, or becoming who we are destined to be.
In the end, I got the impression they all drown. Sad though it was, there was no other option, I suppose. Part of me was enraged with the last passage of this book--the notion of willingly giving up everything simply because you know eventually it will be stripped from you--while I understand the logic, I wanted nothing more than for David, Lucy, Bev and even the music loving dog, to rise up and fight--for rights, futures, happiness. The very idea that every man or woman (or dog) has the right to a pursuit of happiness--well, this book strips every man and thing of this idea. It is not a South African theme, but an American notion. These people are not happy, nor will they ever be, and, more over, they do not seem to have ever been. Perhaps that is reality.
This book was not a happy one, but incredibly thought provoking. I am very glad I've read it, it's definately one of the sorts that make you stronger, more in tune to who you are. But so hard.(less)
There's probably nothing much I "learned" in the introspective sense, but this is a novel like a novel ought to be. This is an epic film on paper, glo...moreThere's probably nothing much I "learned" in the introspective sense, but this is a novel like a novel ought to be. This is an epic film on paper, gloomy and engaging, smokey, noir with crumbling ruins, young love, disfigurment, lust, torture...the stuff of Dumas, DuMauier and, as of late, The Historian. I woke up at five a.m. and had to sweet talk myself back to sleep: all I wanted to do was read. One Friday, after work, I took sanctuary in The Hotel Biron, those little tables in the dark, pages flickering with candles and drank a glass of wine in solitude, completely enthralled in the world of 1940's Barcelona. I walked home from the train at night and found myself saying the characters names beneath my umbrella, hoping no one would hear me talking to myself, but they were, quite simply, too beautiful to ignore: Julian Carax, Daniel Semepere, Beatriz...Tomas, Penelope Aldaya and Nuria Monfort. In a movie this would be too many people, but for this novel they were perfectly seamed, each point of view more entralling and taxing than the one before. Most refreshing, clearly the author wasn't poisoned with the desire to simply keep the reader in the dark: instead this story, with attention, was something you could figure out--because that's the way life is. The mystery itself isn't supposed to shock you intensely into thinking a book is good, that's a dirty trick. Instead, the STORY carried you. You cared about the story and it was a tragity and mystery all the same, simply because you were invested in these people and what became of them. To know them so intimately from childhood to adulthood and old age, to know them through various degrees of point of view seperation--to hear there is no Penelope, and then to know she is a sister, a love, but to some non-existant...well, it's gothic literature at it's very best. With a book like this I am almost, ALMOST tempted to give up my most pedantic and pretentious thoughts, paralells and character development--this story is a story and it's just that good. It is the Phantom of the Opera, those dark tunnels and pressure points, a lake with candles or drawing rooms with no fire in the grate and crazy wives being stored in attics over head. This is, quite literally a timeless tale, and yes, reading it will make you smarter, more interested, more cultured (the back of the book includes a walking tour of Barcelona. I missed Barcelona but I am quite determined to go now, with my copy of A Shadow of the Wind in hand, just like wanting desperately to visit Eastern Europe after I finished The Historian and see it all), but more importantly real life simply fades to black as you become completely, totally and fantastically helpless and wrapped up in the lives of others. While there are fun hybrids--Crash Topics in Calamity Physics, for one, which combine a courses, authors, quotes and plot lines from a thousand famous novels, this book really makes that unnecessary. This is a classic without any help, no cheat cheats necessary. Read it. Read it. Read it.
I think I liked French Women Don't Get Fat, better, simply because I'm not sure I would like either of these girls. Granted, I'm already not a meat-ea...moreI think I liked French Women Don't Get Fat, better, simply because I'm not sure I would like either of these girls. Granted, I'm already not a meat-eater, and they do bring about some interesting points, etc. I would LOVE to stop wearing leather and drinking milk, eating butter and cheese, I even tried, inspired by this book (not to stop wearing leather, baby steps...)but to be vegan. Here's what I found: I'd rather not eat. Ie: I'd rather starve myself. I never felt full, and, unless I had an hour to devote to preparing pasta, sauteed veggies and bred with olive oil, I didn't eat. Try to be vegan and make a quick thirty minute snack...vegan cheese sucks and it is not alvacado season and the night I decided to throw in the towel I had macaroni and cheese, green beans with butter and corn bread. Know why? Because that's what I like. My decision to read this book was largely based on watching No Country for Old Men. I saw the guy get shot in the head with a cow stunner and just really lost it. Yes, that's awful. That's why I don't eat meat, and yes, I believe these two ladies when they say there's puss in milk. I'd believe almost anything about mistreatmetn of animals because it's pretty gastly in those slaughter houses. But, I do not believe restriction and deprication is a plausible means for weight loss. That's called annorexia and I think it's going to give millions of girls a little bit of brain muscle behind their anxieties so they can further mask their relunctance to put a calorie in their face. Knowledge is always good, but this book is a real how to for food avoidance, which most thirteen year-old girls are pretty good out without help...so are some twenty-something year-old girls. Raise your hand if you don't like "carbs" or you're not a beer drinker? Or maybe you don't like chocolate, sweets? See people, that's the funny thing about food--it's diverse. Don't like chocolate? Fine, but what are the chances you don't like pie or creme brulee, either? Sweets are treats for a reason and no, I don't believe it when you tell me you don't like it. Instead, I think the French approch is best: eat thoughtfully, use your head, but extremes are never good, nor are they likely to work long-term. If you really become a master of deprivation then you're always going to be that weird-o that eats of your friends plates, snagging fries and dipping them in in and out shakes when nobody is looking. Don't want to hurt animals? Me either. And, if you're really not wearing leather and in it to win it and that's your life, I wish you the best and actually respect that, but this is a very slippery slope. Ultimately I felt like these girls were playing the ends against the middle: "eating too much of anything is unhealthy," but then they're telling us to pig out on nuts, alvacado and the like...that's still eating "an abundance" of something...the best is to be a concious eater, not hungry, pissed off and, let's face it, poorly dressed. This should not be a diet, it should be a very thought-out, careful decision, not a new reason not to eat or heavily restrict what you do eat.(less)
**spoiler alert** Few writers have the abilty to write from a gender that is not their own with any real believability and Brockmeier isn't one. It's...more**spoiler alert** Few writers have the abilty to write from a gender that is not their own with any real believability and Brockmeier isn't one. It's unfortunate, because the idea for the story was good, dare I say even haunting, but in the end, like Brockmeier's "virus," his inability to make me believe in Laura's character or thought pattern was just as contagious and, ultimately, deadly. Salon's senior writer seemed to think this book was a manifesto. As I mentioned above, I see the creativity and impressiveness. However, all-in-all, it pulled A Widow For a Year on me. I use Irving's Widow For a Year (it's better, over-all, I think), because it was a book in which I was throughly engrossed but it didn't change the fact that for some reason Irving had tried to write as a woman an failed. Widow for a year wasn't ruined by Irving's choice of leading character, but it was hindered. He did such a great job writing her father...shame. I only wish to express my regret that he choose to make the leading character Laura, rather than say, Hank or Mike. I also wish he had made the cast of "city" character's a little smaller, though I understand, the idea is so novel it would be hard to resist showing more of the city through the lense of multiple characters as a means of casting a bigger picture. As it was, there was a lot of "setting" (ironically, typically a female-writers trait--this was supposed to be "all women could write" with any authority since they never did anything, owned anything or went any where) and almost no chracter development. Yes, Laura does do a lot of musings--but really. She has sex with her first journalism professor, she knows it's not going anywhere...blah blah blah. And no, I'm not "every" woman and my opinion is, just that, an opinion, but I do know when I read Wally Lamb I am not obsessively distracted by "that's not accurate or believable." I was with Brockmeier, I was with Widow For a Year...heck, I was with the Di Vinci Code (but that was ALL the characters, they were all trite, though I did still brave winter blackness in Brooklyn at five a.m. to sit and shiver to read it. I did like it. There, I said it. I won't lie. I used to eat baking soda when I was little too, I don't know why but admiting it feels the same.) The City was a cool theory. I like it very much, and many of the asides were good, albiet, word-of-the-day, trite. I liked "red is dead, blue is new" and the notion that people keep doing what they did in life (it gives the idea that at some level we all love what we do a little bit or it at least gives us comfort). But who wouldn't know that Laura's estranged parents would get back together with out the anxieties of the world? And, the aspect for "future" was poorly executed at best--the polar ice caps, for all I know, ARE melting, right? Maybe not as heavily as the story suggests, but certainly not enough for me to know off-hand it's future set. Am i suppose to measure the permafrost or have the committed to memory? Yeah, hearing all large mammals were exstinct kind of tipped me off, but that's pretty subtle to embed that in the last few pages. I would like to read this novel, done over, with a male protagonist and a selection of Brockmeire's top FIVE favorite "city" characters to focus on. Tell me their stories, tell me their thoughts, perceptions and life. In the word's of Mary Poppins, "well begun is half done," and this novel wasn't well begun--the notion was great, the exicution very poor. I'm often jealous of writers, simply because I have good Ideas, I think, most of us do, and I spend a lot of time writing them in notebooks and never having the abilty to write 275 pages about them in detail. Now I realize perhaps that's not such a bad thing--maybe that's a defense mechanism against medicore writing...or maybe it's laziness. (less)
The most obvious comparison is Thomas Mann, Death in Venice, but it also envoked some "gothic" novels: Rebecca, one of my favorites, with that dark, m...moreThe most obvious comparison is Thomas Mann, Death in Venice, but it also envoked some "gothic" novels: Rebecca, one of my favorites, with that dark, mysterious melodrama, opulence, ruin and utter lack of specifics. Manderly is a charred disaster with rhododendrons grown-wild, Robert's "flat" seems to be one level of a once-grand mannor, now a museum to his father and grandfather. It's Venice, but it's never named as such, just as DeMaurier never reveals her narrator's first name, only that of Mr. De Winter's first wife, Rebecca. There are homosexual inclinations--(the housekeeper seems oddly "enthralled" with her previous mistress while Robert openly tells the villagers that Colin is his lover.), murder, violence and some undefined relationship that keeps you reading--for pages and pages in Rebecca, for only a few in The Comfort of Strangers. But, TCoS also provides some sort of abstract notion, as well. It's not as defined as Shelly or DuMaurier, but no less evolved or intentional. Having just finished a book last week I can only describe as "sloppy," this book is decidedly neat: no doubt, McEwan, if asked, could easily explain his choices, motives and decisions, they were carefully embedded within his story from the very begining. And, as is McEwan's signiture, naturally, the character development was astounding, albeit limited--but the very nature of it's limitation seemed so very purposeful. There was a great deal to both Mary, Colin, Caroline and Robert, however, McEwan, for whatever reason (the over-all contribution of darkness, it seems), simply doesn't reveal everything. Colin was once a singer. Now he is not. What he does? Who knows? Given McEwan's careful omission of details, it seemed very avante guard abstract--purposefully sparce in the name of mystery. Typically I might call such a tactic thoughtless but I truly cannot say that about this book. No, it wasn't "perfect," but it was masterfully done--it just is what it is. In school I read Eonesco, Les Chaises: The stage is black, the furniture non-existant, the characters unexplained: You can turn it into what ever you like, but the destinguishing characteristic is this: I think McEwan knows. He absolutely owns the characters--they DO have lives and intentions and they do not simply go dark once a page is turned. There's a reason they do what they do, but we might not figure it out as readers...but then again, we might. I will say this: two things really "got" me in this novel, well, three if you count Caroline as just, a character. But, one, Colin and Mary's "pillow talk:" she wants to chop his arms and legs off to have a torso to have her way with and lone out to friends, while he wants to build a machine of mechanisms, screws and gears to erotically please her for not just days and weeks, but years...(I love the morbid, dirty, sexy mix-mash and muddle of this, so decidedly American/British, since I think Italians and French and others probably wouldn't find it that appauling but probably just cool...but I also love that McEwan isn't afraid to admit that he concieved such a notion...I might hesitate, ancestor of puritans that I am, to even write that in my journal...) And, the second was, as always, not JUST the descriptions of places and setting (nothing will compare to Tallis house): but the sparcely tiled bathrooms, the pillowless beds, the cold feel of the marble floors under Mary's naked back...all of it, you're there, really and truly, even more so than Rebecca, but in a much more physical way, as apposed to just visuals. McEwan is so tactile. I guess that's it.(less)
**spoiler alert** Strangely enough, though I did enjoy the book very much (I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ready to move out of Lyra's world by the co...more**spoiler alert** Strangely enough, though I did enjoy the book very much (I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ready to move out of Lyra's world by the completion of this trilogy) I got weirdly obsessed with the open-ended-ness of the entire thing as well as the predictability. For a book that is so anti-"the authority" this book used biblical themes like they were going out of style (the aren't, they won't but still...). I found myself slightly resentful that no indulgences were EVER allowed. If you haven't read the books, please don't read further if you intend to read them. My bone-to-pick is pretty telling, so I would hate to spoil it for you. I'm very big on self-improvement and a huge part of that sort of thing, granted, is reliant on self-deprecation. To ingulge ALL the time doesn't seem to leave us so much as happy but instead hollow and unable to be fulfilled...blah blah blah. True enough, but NOBODY wound up happy in this book, I mean, not really, at least off-hand. True enough that we are very resilent beings and yeah, Lyra will move on and Will will, too, so will Mary, and it's okay that everyone else dies or sacrifices themselves as martyers, even though Pullman introduces a girl who sacrificed herself as maryter and has been stagnant in the world of the dead and is disillusioned...so why did Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel as well as all the little galvaspugians have to die? I don't mean to sound immature, I know death is a part of life, but basically this book leaves us with this: Lyra loves Will, he loves Lyra, but he can't have her and she cannot have him because they'd die and they'd rather sit on the same bench in other worlds and know the other is still healthy and alive. Well, this book has taught us nothing if not that we have no way of knowing that will actually KEEP them alive. Two, Lord Asriel seemed to love Marissa, but they couldn't ever be together--WHY? Why could they not just be social outcasts and raise the baby Lyra alone and go about distroying the Authority? Because Mrs. Coulter was always so conflicted as to whether she was good or bad or what have you, her weakness, so she became good and then was snuffed out beause it was a very Wharton-like ending, all in all, and a fallen woman cannot be reformed, can she? Even the Bible lets Mary Magdalene live. And Iorek--well, he lives in Svalsbard. Lyra can't live there, so he's out. Roger...well, he is now part of the atmosphere. He's very pleased about it, but he's gone. No parents, but she does manage to do it with Will at what...? Fourteen? That might even be pushing it...thirteen? I'm not prudish, but isn't this the sort of behavior that Pullman has kind of...condemed through most of the book? Isn't that what Lyra's mother did? Did it with a guy and didn't stay with them, which opens that whole can of worms? All in all, as innovative and fantastical and unique as this book was, I thought in the end it was too reliant on old themes. I know we love the old archetypes, but to sort of denounce them and call them stunted and wrong and then use them so heavily seems...unfair. Like people who say they are not religious and shun talking about God and Church on Christmas but still want gifts. This makes me sound like my mother--I'm not even sure how I feel about God, I was totally willing to accept Pullman's ideas on nothingness, but then in the end I was back at square one: that everyone needs rules or they fall apart. There is no utopia. Even if we can see it we have to restrain or we just don't know what to do. Still loved it--it was fantastical and thought provoking, which is everything a book should be. If it hadn't been amazingly creative I wouldn't have this much to say, so it gets a high rating for making me think and care. Not that many books do this now-days, so kudos.(less)
If you haven't read it, there's spoilers, for sure...I'm just musing. So I'm re-writing this, now that I'm on the final pages of the second book, The...moreIf you haven't read it, there's spoilers, for sure...I'm just musing. So I'm re-writing this, now that I'm on the final pages of the second book, The Subtle Knife. I stand by my original analysis of these books: I think they are much closer in relation to L'Engle (Theology and Science with a fantacy twist) than Rowling. I'm a Harry Potter fan to the core, but this is apples to oranges. These books are painful, viscous, monumentally sad in the way that The Neverending Story got you when that damn horse can't think a happy thought and dies in the quicksand (spoiler alert circa 1986). I have to admit, I'm consistantly amazed with Pullman's ability to just...move foward with these stories. Harry Potter is Starwars with all this linniage and stuff, but this stuff is just...wowzers. It's masterfully woven theology, fancy...thought. But, perhaps most importantly is the Tolkien-like use of these worlds and their "character" in the story. The aurora is as much a person and presence as Lord Asriel and of course, I love the use of witches as something positive and untrite: they are wise old sages in beautiful body (nobody likes an ugly witch, admit it.) They are sort of wiccian in nature, I guess, at one with mother-nature, still missunderstood, but also respected and illustrious. They are attached to little and, tough they wax philosophical perhaps to an obnoxious degree, this is a world falling apart, so everybody is a bit keen to listen. And then there's Lyra, who's vibrant and filled with life, the last hope, so to speak, in a very mixed up, damp, cold world. Of course, she just happens to be the daughter of two incredibly vibrant parents, a child of sin, power...lust, whatever. And then, as you're supposed to be, there's the ultra intriguing Mrs. Coulter. Nobody says no to her, she's evil but doesn't seem to really even buy into evil, she buys into self. She can do anything and will do anything, seemingly for power, but it's more personal intrigue, it seems, than anything else. She naturally is charasmatic, beautiful, a born leader (like her daughter), but she's too clever and ruthless for her own good. She'll sacrifice anything to get the root of things--she's pretty much the face of modern science. She's not entirely WRONG, but she'll go to whatever means necessary to extract her information (sperating children from there souls, etc.) She does seem to have a few mildly soft spots, which she regards as rotten--she is marginally into her daughter and seems to at least be sad she has slightly conflicting aspirations than her lover, but ultimately her soul is just like her terrible golden monkey daeomon: ugly, I suppose. I could think about these books forever, especially with the added knowledge of book two. I can tell you I wasn't "hooked" until now--the end or middle of book two. And that reading these is an incredibly painful experience. Originally I loved the idea of daemons and wanted an external one--now I realize it might be more of a vulnerability than I'd like...either way, this is thought provoking and I cannot imagine having read it as a child. Public schools, sunday schools...they'd flip their lid.(less)
I think the Mrs. Coulter character is destined to become an achetype. She is one, of sorts, I'm sure, though I think she must be a new variation. It's...moreI think the Mrs. Coulter character is destined to become an achetype. She is one, of sorts, I'm sure, though I think she must be a new variation. It's like Mrs. Havershim--a character everyone would love to play because they are so obvious, so very what ever they are, but also multi-faceted and with this potential debth. I say "potential" because I'm presently reading The Amber Spyglass, and, until I've finished I won't know if Marisa Coulter is truly evil, or power-hungry, or perhaps a weird hybrid of both with a tinge of maternal. I might be very basic, or simply reading the story like a child and thinking little, but, I really have no idea if she and Lord Asriel are good, or bad, or a little bit of both. To be perfectly honest I even have question about Lyra, as it's indicated in book three she can lie easily and freely, as though she's granted a free passage to do so as long as she divines it good or worthwhile...(ie: on Will's behalf). This kind of thought doesn't seem too far off from her father and mother's singular way of thinking. Naturally I'm intrigued by Grumman, the use of that character and how, despite his seemingly important status throughout the first two books, he is ultimately a pawn, trumped by Will's own significance. I love the impatience of the angels, they are a twist on typical theories of such things--it reminds me of Labyreinth, with the fairies who bite. "What did you expect from fairies?" Good point. What did I expect from angels? The grusomeness of Will's wound, again, was alarming and utterly un-children's book material, but such is the appeal of these books. I worry for Lyra: her faults are discussed at great detail and the expectation for her is high. It occurs to me there might be a bit of darth vader there--hopefully her obession with Rodger's death won't cause her to doubt or fall...and I'm very interested to see what "form" Pantalimon takes in the end. All in all, I know this is an incomplete analysis, but these books truly are a trilogy: I feel unprepared to write a full on review when I'm only partially finished. I'll analyze and combine them all together once I finish, but for now all I can do is speculate and sort of re-group. I'm very invested in these books, with these characters. I'll be very sorry to see them go...but I think it's getting to be that time. The Amber Spyglass is even more involved than the previous two, so hopefully I'll comb through it...and until then...(less)