I really liked this collection of short stories. I can't wait to read more of Gaitskill's work but this is certainly my favorite of what I've read by...moreI really liked this collection of short stories. I can't wait to read more of Gaitskill's work but this is certainly my favorite of what I've read by her so far.
I've always appreciated her ability to wake me up--in particular, her ability to defamiliarize the understandings of intimacy that I become comfortable with--but in this collection the writing itself is so elegant that I feel encouraged to wake up, regardless of the reality that I'm waking up to.
Every once in a while I come across short fiction that shakes me awake, that functions in the way of Kafka's axe-metaphor by breaking the frozen sea within me. However, very rarely does the process of getting broken by a book feel as good as it did when I read Gaitskill's prose in this newest collection of her's. Even when the subject matter is disturbing, Gaitskill effectively mixed in enough comedy and poetic language to make me enjoy her stories without forgetting that I just might become enlightened by them.
For those that believe Gaitskill writes merely to shock us until we are strong enough to think about sex and desire and intimacy as they actually are should certainly read this beautifully poignant book, which, like her previous works, definitely does not coddle when it comes to her descriptions of the physical world(we see the serious philosophical inquiries of a stripper interuppted by the memory of a client who stuck his finger in her ass even though he had promised not to in one story and a jarring pastiche that features a woman who has sex with over 1,000 men, the mating habits of a turtle, and the famous John Henry of folk song legend in another) but the portrait that Gaitskill paints is not wholly dark, despite the reality that she encourages us to face in this collection.
Speaking of facing, I really like that she pays attention to faces in this book. I've been having a lot of difficulty trying to write faces in my fiction, regardless of how much time I've spent reading them lately. I recently consulted a portrait painter that I know for help with this problem that I've been having and, frustrated with her ease in reproducing faces, I was just about ready to decide that the problem is more with the language that I've been using, more with my medium of expression, and less with my own inadequacies--that is, until I started reading this book by Gaitskill.
In "Don't Cry", my favorite story, she offers the following description of a baby's face, which is just one instance of the precision and attention to detail that you'll find in this story alone:
"The baby was beautiful, fragile and small for his age, with a severe mouth, a high forehead, almond-shaped eyes, and slightly pointed ears that made his gaze seem radically attuned. When you held him, you felt the pure unprotected tenderness of an infant, but in those eyes there also was something uncanny and strong, nascent and vibrating with the desire to take form."
"Don't Cry", which takes place in Ethopia, is certainly my favorite story of the collection but I think the whole collection is very beautiful and worth reading for any Gaitskill fan or fan of short fiction. (less)
I wrote this really enthusiastic review a little over a week ago when I finished this novel but I wanted to wait a little while to confirm that I woul...moreI wrote this really enthusiastic review a little over a week ago when I finished this novel but I wanted to wait a little while to confirm that I would still feel the same way after some time has past. I do.
Right now, this is the best book that I have ever read, the most important book that I've ever known, my favorite book, the one that I will keep coming back to read and re-read. When I first started reading this book, I sort of set out to find a way to argue against everyone that’s been raving about it. Then, I thought it was just as important of a book as people were making it out to be from the first section. But I never thought that I would be considering it my favorite book until now.
Seriously, if I was only allowed one book for the rest of my life, right now I think that it would be this one. Never before have I seen an author do so much in one book. It's hard for me to locate what my favorite parts about this book are because there are so many--the dude just knows how to write so well in so many different ways, inhabit so many different modes of thought and voices that I feel like, even if a book only provides a framework to view the world that is the case of the book, this book's world is the biggest out of any world that I've known. I've spent the longest with it than any other book that I've ever read--I started reading it around Christmastime and restarted it twice, not because I necessarily "needed" to (despite having a lot of characters and a lot going on, the book is very readable and very digestible, which is something I'll speak about again in a moment), but because it was so lovely that I didn't mind going back to see what I had missed--but I'm terribly sad to finally finish it tonight, as much as it means that I can get back to the world before this book and it's responsibilities. The book did take over for a little bit. Still, it's reassuring to know that there is so much to go back to in there to enjoy again. I recently started re-reading my favorites (and posting them on this site as I do so), and, as wonderful as that has been, I know that it will be particularly wonderful to come back and re-read this one.
Besides spending so much time with 2666, and re-reading the first three sections two times since Christmas, my experience reading this book was completely different than any other reading experience I've ever had. All of the parts were amazing (I was going to say I liked the second part the best out of those first three but I love them all for different reasons) but the fourth part, “The part about the crimes” took me a very very long time. . I can’t think of a better way for the author to have written that section though and, with the rest of the book that surrounds it, I’m really happy it’s in there but it took me an incredibly long time to get through it. I didn’t necessarily need to take as long as I did but it was written in a way that made me feel bad if I read it as fast as I sometimes read (and I rarely ever read fast), and, quite frankly, I don’t know if I would have been able to handle reading it if I tried to digest all that horror at once. I actually needed to take breaks from the book from time to time when I was reading that section. But I really could never forget the book or its subject matter, even when I wasn’t reading it. I certainly suffered through part four but the final section, and the final few pages of the section in particular, made it all worth it. I had this fear as I was approaching the book’s end that all would be left completely unresolved and then, still feeling this way but accepting the book’s fate and still appreciating the beauty of that final section, I arrived to the ending and found myself cheering out loud. Please read the book until the final page, despite how hard it might be to get there.
Among other things, the book taught me so much about the ethics of reading and the ethics of writing. I hate to simplify it into this--and the book is surely about much more than ethics-- but I'm feeling pretty ethical right now after reading it.
2666 really trains one to read with the heart, to look upon the things that we see with moral considerations and to consider what part our looking really does play. But, most of all, it is a book that got me to believe in writers as the heroes to believe in when my belief in heroes begins to fail.
This book encourages one to believe in writing and the writer as our best bet at battling all the injustice that exists around us in the world and, for me at least, this kind of encouragement couldn’t have come at a better time.
Jeez, I love Bolano. This book rocks. Definitely a must-read for any writer. And, since Bolano is a must-read for any reader, consider picking up this...moreJeez, I love Bolano. This book rocks. Definitely a must-read for any writer. And, since Bolano is a must-read for any reader, consider picking up this one first if you don't have the time for 2666.
This book deserves its own star. I can say rather confidently that this is the most lyrically beautiful piece of fiction that I have ever read (and so...moreThis book deserves its own star. I can say rather confidently that this is the most lyrically beautiful piece of fiction that I have ever read (and so very much more). I LOVE this book...I try to never stop reading it.(less)
A beautiful book. I'm yet to find a book of poetry that explores the mystical power of language and the linguistic power of spirit more intelligently...moreA beautiful book. I'm yet to find a book of poetry that explores the mystical power of language and the linguistic power of spirit more intelligently than this one. (less)
In regards to style, this is probably one of the best books that I have ever read. I don't think there are any other living authors (that I know of at...moreIn regards to style, this is probably one of the best books that I have ever read. I don't think there are any other living authors (that I know of at least) that can do what McCarthy can do with a single sentence. Unfortunately, many writing students try to imitate McCarthy after being inspired by this book and fail miserably (god knows I have--reading Blood Meridian marked the violently tragic end to my former conception of what it means to be a prose stylist). I don't think that this means that it is a book that shouldn't be taught to writing students (after all, trying to write like McCarthy and failing miserably is probably a good experience for any writer willing to test the limits of the language, which should be every writer in my opinion) but that writing teachers should point out how careful McCarthy is with the construction of each and every sentence.
I go back and forth between whether Suttree or this is his best. I know a lot of people that aren't crazy about Blood Meridian who end up loving Suttree (after I convince them to give McCarthy another shot), so I might read that first. Suttree, for various reasons, is also probably better for teaching because it does a few things that this book does not and is probably all around a slightly better book. However, just in terms of style, this book is probably McCarthy's finest achievement (Suttree comes very very close though, in my opinion), and should certainly be read by every writer and fan of literature.
Both outside and in the classroom, this is a classic, like Moby-Dick, that should be read and read again. And not just in terms of what it can teach about style. For those that think this book is as amazing as it is just because of the prose need to read closer. This is not merely a literary artifact or, also like Moby-Dick, an artifact that provides insight into both the historical moment that produced it and the historical phenomenoa that is its subject--it is also the only look of its kind into the violence that is at the heart of humanity (and writing, that technology that first seperated us from the other species), into the function and importance of tragedy, into the dark relationship between art and culture, into the metaphysics of mapmaking, and so so much more. As unique as McCarthy's prose is, the perspective that he offers is expansive and it is not one that is purely of his own creation--the origins of this text are much older.
Please don't wait until then or when the film adaptation comes out to check it out though--one of the most important English-language books that has ever been written. (less)
At the beginning I laughed a few times. By the end of the novella I was taking the whole thing very seriously.
I definitely appreciate this rant of a book. Gaddis does a good job at getting you to begin thinking like his narrator relatively quickly and, since the book is pretty short, on most days, it's not too much time to spend in the head of a desperate dying man who is faced with the impossibility of being able to say what he desires to say. Unfortunately, today was not one of those days for me (too much to do and very little time to do it, much less read rants about too little time and write rants about the rants I've read in the little time I have).
I know I'd like to come back to the book though (another advantage of being short), and there was enough about it that I liked to warrant four stars from this inital glimpse. (less)