Wow - this is an extremely impressive, immersive, moving and genuinely relevant and important book. A still largely misunderstood and even taboo "cond...moreWow - this is an extremely impressive, immersive, moving and genuinely relevant and important book. A still largely misunderstood and even taboo "condition" is explored with such depth but without condescension, sugar coating or easy answers. Practically required reading for teenagers, parents, heck anyone. Wow.(less)
A hypnotic, disturbing and enthralling window into a transgressive mind. I didn't read it as a cautionary tale; it just exists for me as a portal. It...moreA hypnotic, disturbing and enthralling window into a transgressive mind. I didn't read it as a cautionary tale; it just exists for me as a portal. It feels relevant even in 2011. It's clinical, but also erotic in troubling ways, with the fascinating relationship between Ballard, Vaughan and automobile especially striking. I was doubly floored because much of the novel is set where I currently work and live; the motorways and roads around Heathrow, Ashford and Stanwell in the UK. I need a shower and a hug.(less)
A sparely written, beautiful novel with an almost haunted quality. Stylistically more similar to The Hours than his epics Flesh & Blood and Specim...moreA sparely written, beautiful novel with an almost haunted quality. Stylistically more similar to The Hours than his epics Flesh & Blood and Specimen Days, Cunningham's By Nightfall is truthful, heartfelt and utterly beguiling. A meditation on the 'worth' of life, and of beauty, and of art, every paragraph has a neatly turned phase, a wondrous simile, an astonishing idea. The art world our narrator, Peter, inhabits allows for some truly astounding writing, such as the descriptions of the pieces he has so wanted to become successful (paintings and figures that are wrapped and tied up in paper and ribbon, deliberately held from view in order to question what the art beneath could be, thus making it art in itself - which will later come to play in an absolutely heartbreaking reveal). Then there's the 'object' of affection - Ethan - whom Peter gradually starts to have feelings towards, a potentially clichéd, or worse, pandering storyline that is handled with the utmost sensitivity and care, and above all, reality. There's not one ounce of fat or one wasted word in this simply superb novel, which I heartily recommend.(less)
There are books that so (seemingly) effortlessly capture the world in which they are written that yo
...more"Some people really know how to have a good time"
There are books that so (seemingly) effortlessly capture the world in which they are written that you feel you are living, breathing, and sharing the air with the characters. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon's first novel and completed to fulfil his master's requirement at the age of twenty-four, is such a book. I lived all 240 glorious pages - and when I wasn't reading I was daydreaming and dreaming about Art Bechenstein's (the narrator's) experiences, and his wonderful friends.
Art, who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one day runs into Arthur at the library where he works. Over the course of an evening they quickly establish a friendship and Art finds himself in a strange new world that is exciting and fresh. Art's father is a gangster, something he is ashamed of and keeps secret. Art's mother was killed some years ago (how/why is one of the minor mysteries), and he has since been quite alienated, so the new attention he gets becomes addictive. Art soon finds himself in a relationship with Phlox (who he was introduced to by Arthur), a girl of questionable fashion sense who seems to think she's living in a French New Wave film, and in a possible courtship with Arthur, who is gay. Thrown into the mix is the charismatic and aptly mysterious Cleveland, a childhood friend of Arthur's, who is somehow connected with Art's father's dubious work.
Chabon brilliantly and with stunning resonance writes , probably semi-autobiographically, about a wonderfully detailed Pittsburgh of run down apartments, luxurious hotels and enigmatic factories, into which a sexually confused young man stumbles, picks himself up, and strides headlong into the unknown.
"There had been a time in high school, see, when I wrestled with the possibility that I might be gay, a tortuous six-month culmination of years of unpopularity and girllessness. At night I lay in bed and coolly informed myself that I was gay, and that I had better get used to it. The locker room became a place of torment, full of exposed male genitalia that seemed to taunt with my failure to avoid glancing at them, for a fraction of a second that might have seemed accidental, but was, I recognised, a bitter symptom of my perversion".
Chabon's writing is right on the money, and there are paragraphs, passages and chapters that so conveyed some of my own experiences that I was often moved to tears, particularly in Art's dissecting of his friendships with Arthur and Cleveland;
"He didn't say anything. Arthur, who was walking between us, turned to me, a look of mild annoyance on his face. I was surprised to note that apparently Cleveland hadn't told Arthur about my father. I felt a quick thrill when I saw that there was something between Cleveland and me that Arthur wasn't party to, something outside their friendship, and then, just as quickly, I felt sadness and even shame at the nature of that something. It was not what I wanted us to have in common."
A sort-of 80's version of The Catcher in the Rye, crossed with the Lauren Ambrose indie film Swimming, this is one of the finest books I have read and will re-read again. Incidentally, the film version of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which unwisely combines the characters of Cleveland and Arthur as well as changes the poignant but not unhopeful ending, was a huge box office flop and, aside from the performances of a typically amazing Peter Sarsgaard and a decent Jon Foster, is not really worth watching. Pity.
My third book by David Sedaris (following Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim) and my first disappointment. The back co...moreMy third book by David Sedaris (following Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim) and my first disappointment. The back cover of the book inaccurately labels this as memoir, when in fact only two of the six stories are auto-biographical – and, tellingly, those two are the only ones I really enjoyed. Sedaris really should stick with non-fiction, which he writes with flair, humor and poignancy, whereas his fiction sections tend to be so over-the-top and garish that they resemble sketches from a TV series. An especially tiresome chapter is "Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!", written in the style of one of those ghastly round robin newsletters received at Christmas. The novelty wears off quickly. By contrast, "SantaLand Diaries" and "Dinah, the Christmas Whore", which tell of Sedaris’ actual experiences and observations, are funny and truthful. But 67 pages out of 138 isn’t an especially high success rate even in such a slim volume. I’d recommend You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas by Augusten Burroughs for a better selection of seasonal related laughter(less)
I enjoyed this collection of stories from Sedaris even more than his earlier Me Talk Pretty One Day. Reading this on public transport was probably not...moreI enjoyed this collection of stories from Sedaris even more than his earlier Me Talk Pretty One Day. Reading this on public transport was probably not a good idea, however, particularly in the social-starved London capital where I live, as many times reading I burst out laughing loudly, and then sniggered uncontrollably when I tried to keep the volume down. Many of the stories are not only extremely funny but also personally very relatable - in particular Sedaris' explaining of his OCD tallied so much with my own life (particularly my teenage years) that I was filled with joy at the realisation that it isn't unique to my bizarre personality. In terms of poignancy and attention to detail I still feel that Augusten Burroughs has the slight edge, though in truth their writing styles are so different the comparison is hardly fair. In any case, I've now definitely found a new author that I love and have to now read *everything* Sedaris has in print. Joyous.(less)
A stunning, creepy/beautiful read and one of the finest books that very accurately describes and explores a person's memory. Where Heim's Mysterious S...moreA stunning, creepy/beautiful read and one of the finest books that very accurately describes and explores a person's memory. Where Heim's Mysterious Skin was sparsely and shockingly written in a hyper real way, We Disappear is full of detail. It feels like a very personal book, and the "PS" notes at the back where Scott Heim talks about how it was cathartic for him to write seems to attest for this. Very, very highly recommended.(less)
A breezy, sexy, sometimes funny and very quick read - surely set to be the first in a great many future instalments of hustler slash amateur sleuth Ke...moreA breezy, sexy, sometimes funny and very quick read - surely set to be the first in a great many future instalments of hustler slash amateur sleuth Kevin Connor's adventures. Some good characterisation - geek agoraphobic Marc being my fave, and definitely who I hope Kevin ends up with (and if not, can I have him?) - and interesting quirks. It's not a literary masterpiece, but it's an extremely entertaining debut.(less)
**spoiler alert** A stunning, deceptively simple/complex book, told in the form of journal entries from a fifteen year old boy following his failed su...more**spoiler alert** A stunning, deceptively simple/complex book, told in the form of journal entries from a fifteen year old boy following his failed suicide attempt. This book would have helped me more than I can describe had I read this in my teenage years, particularly in my own coming out. It is one of the best books I've ever read about one person eventually coming to terms with his or her own sexuality, and the way in which is written means it can be recommended for anyone from early teens to adult ages. A flawless book.(less)
Whilst not essential Burroughs like Dry, Running With Scissors and Magical Thinking, this collection of seven recollections of Christmas are alternate...moreWhilst not essential Burroughs like Dry, Running With Scissors and Magical Thinking, this collection of seven recollections of Christmas are alternately funny, insightful, depressing, moving and poignant. The Christmas theme limits the longevity somewhat, but Burroughs' gift for humor, observation and resonance shines through. Highly recommended for Auggie lovers.(less)
This is the first Augusten Burroughs book where I haven't been completely wowed. Unlike "Magical Thinking", some of the essays in this collection seem...moreThis is the first Augusten Burroughs book where I haven't been completely wowed. Unlike "Magical Thinking", some of the essays in this collection seem to lack a point. Several just end without seeming to make a point (or raise much interest), and on more than one occasion I was left with the distinct impression that these were unused magazine articles. There are a few chapters that are laugh-out-loud funny - the first half of the book is especially page-turning stuff. But much of the book feels ultimately unfulfilling, and unlike everything else of his I've read ("Magical Thinking", "Dry", "Running With Scissors", "A Wolf At The Table"), there's little of the emotional connection - often cleverly hidden under surface superficiality - I expect. A little disappointing overall.(less)
Burroughs trademark humor is almost entirely absent in this bleak, depressing and incredibly moving memoir of his father - a sociopath who seems incap...moreBurroughs trademark humor is almost entirely absent in this bleak, depressing and incredibly moving memoir of his father - a sociopath who seems incapable of love. A prequel, of sorts, to Running With Scissors and Dry, there's so much truth here I felt at times like I was infringing on something that should be personal. A life-affirming work.(less)
An insightful, very funny and sometimes moving collection of essays. Burroughs meditates on shallowness, love, life, as well as the horror of killing...moreAn insightful, very funny and sometimes moving collection of essays. Burroughs meditates on shallowness, love, life, as well as the horror of killing a mouse and a battle of wits with an 'evil' cleaner. Brilliantly written, as everything that Burroughs writes is.(less)
Wow. Even better than Burroughs' earlier memoir, Running With Scissors. Where Scissors was largely a laugh out loud book with some dramatic moments (a...moreWow. Even better than Burroughs' earlier memoir, Running With Scissors. Where Scissors was largely a laugh out loud book with some dramatic moments (and a VERY disturbing account of childhood and teenagerdom), Dry is more a poignant, painful and gut-wrenching account with some occasional laugh out loud moments. Burroughs' book is totally involving and unputdownable, a skewed take on rehab that holds itz own against the equally stunning A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Though I am not an alcoholic, I could feel all that Burroughs went through and some of his other insights, particularly those of being a gay man, I found personally perceptive. I even bookmarked one paragraph that summed up for me so much the experience of having an all encompassing same sex crush, that I just had to write it down;
"... in a moment of shining epiphany, I realize I didn't actually see him write the number down. Which means he must have written it down before Group. Which at least once, it means he has thought of me outside of Group. Which means that whether consciously or subconsciously, this could have affected his choice of what to wear to Group. Which means that the tight white T-shirt could very well have been meant for me. Sometimes people compare gay men to teenage girls and they are correct, I realize. I think the reason is because gay men didn't get to express their little crushes in high school. So that's why they're like this as adults, obsessing over who wore what T-shirt, and what it means, really."
Stunning, very, very highly recommended to just about anyone who finds the synopsis intriguing. (less)
Wow, there's a lot of hate for this book on goodreads. This seems to be par for the course for me - practically every book I've read recently on here...moreWow, there's a lot of hate for this book on goodreads. This seems to be par for the course for me - practically every book I've read recently on here seems to be the subject for hateful reviews. So, Running with Scissors may not be for the faint of heart. But I completely disagree that Augusten Burroughs is trying to be deliberately shocking. The episodic nature of the book to me is testament to the fact that these are realistic, if often horrific, moments of a life. This is like "A Million Little Pieces" from an early teenager's point of view, only the concentration is on a massively dysfunctional extended adopted family, and not a stream-of-conscience insight into drug addiction. The book is also massively funny at times - I howled with laugher when reading at work during my lunch breaks - and has an addictive quality. I am very much looking forward to the next instalment in Augusten's fascinating life.(less)