This book is the most fully-realized and vividly written in this series so far...but also the most frustrating. Martin is victim to some writerly ticsThis book is the most fully-realized and vividly written in this series so far...but also the most frustrating. Martin is victim to some writerly tics that become incredibly distracting. The one that bothered me the most was his need to describe every single piece of food on every dish every character eats. I have no idea why Martin feels the need to do this. (This also applies to the clothes every character wears). He tends to use the same words and phrases too many times, and over 1000 pages it becomes a problem.
But the bigger concern is the same one that caused me to give up on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time years ago--the ominous sense that Martin is losing the series' narrative thread. First, the characters we've been following go nowhere, tending to stay in the same place or travel endlessly without reaching a destination. Then, Martin introduces a host of new characters who have had nothing to do with the narrative so far, such as Jon Connington, Young Aegon, and Quynton Martell, and who tend to be redundant. I mean, do we really need TWO disgraced Westerosi lords in Essos? Do we need TWO long-lost Targaryen heirs they are protecting? Do we need TWO Arya Starks? Do we need TWO Greyjoy brothers? Do we need TWO naive royal idiots? These new characters seem like acts of narrative desperation by a writer who has lost his way. They add very little to the story but make a lot of new things happen that distract from how bogged down the bigger storylines appear to be.
Considering the long delay on the latest volume, I am feeling a sinking feeling about a series I was initially very excited about....more
There was nothing bad about this book, I guess, but certainly nothing that explained why it's such a literary phenomenon. It's a decent, heartfelt butThere was nothing bad about this book, I guess, but certainly nothing that explained why it's such a literary phenomenon. It's a decent, heartfelt but rather bland memoir. Nothing about it really stood out to me. Knausgard is a competent writer, but seems to lack much of an idea of why he is writing. Is that the point of this? A rather weak one, if so. The Man Without Qualities mined existential boredom much more effectively in my opinion. I'll admit I have yet to read Proust, so have no basis to make the big comparison everyone makes.
Still: Knausgard never really questions the foundations of the life he is living. He just sort of catalogues it in this strange, muted fashion, like a bureaucrat calmly filing death certificates. And nothing in his life really stands out. It's like someone's LiveJournal got out of control. Not bad, but not good enough to read further volumes....more
Reagan's ability to confound critics, historians and opponents may just be the most remarkable thing about him. I saw an interview with Perlstein wherReagan's ability to confound critics, historians and opponents may just be the most remarkable thing about him. I saw an interview with Perlstein wherein he said, while writing this book, he was working towards the 1980 election and "ran out of space." I feel pretty strongly that he would have been well-served to pare this book down by about half and make it the first 400 pages of a book tracking Reagan from 1972 to 1980. As it is, this book, for all the superlative detail and analysis, feels heavily padded, badly unfocused and ultimately incomplete. Reagan vanishes for large sections of the second half, overtaken by Jimmy Carter. (Perlstein's critique of Carter is interesting, but seems way too exhaustive for someone who is merely a reference point, and might merit his own book). This is in contrast to Nixonland, where the indelibly toxic personality of Richard Nixon never stops powering the narrative. But Perlstein's analysis of Reagan finds nowhere near the same emotional force. Reagan comes off as such a flat, cartoonish charlatan, channeling none of the complex anxieties of post-60s America as Nixon did, that you wonder how people never saw through him. The final section of the book -- discussing the appearance-vs-reality of Reagan's speech at the 1976 convention -- finally gets into an apparently calculating nature bundled deeply beneath the "blithe optimism." But then the book is over.
Basically, The Invisible Bridge stops us halfway across the imaginary river. I wanted to get all the way across-- to learn more about Reagan than that he was a liar and a hypocrite, because that's what liberals have always said about him and frankly it seems dull and simplistic. Nixonland made me feel how Nixon felt....The Invisible Bridge gave me more examples of Reagan's strange conflation of fantasy and reality, but I still had no idea what was going on inside. Is Reagan really such a mystically impenetrable media leviathan? For Perlstein, apparently -- he whacks away like mad but never hits gold, and seems to get lost along the way. Maybe if Perlstein had powered through to the end -- his election in 1980, or maybe his leaving office in 1989, or maybe his RNC speech in 1992 -- he just may have caught a pattern that makes sense of all the chaos and made The Invisible Bridge a classic like Nixonland. As it is, an educational read but not quite definitive or essential....more
What an awful book. Smug, obnoxious, unfunny, and degrading to everyone portrayed--be it an ethnic group, an economic class, or a profession. It tookWhat an awful book. Smug, obnoxious, unfunny, and degrading to everyone portrayed--be it an ethnic group, an economic class, or a profession. It took me months to finish just because I could barely stand to read it. What bothers me the most is that while it fancies itself an iconoclastic satire, it misses the genre's most important directive: PUNCH UP, NOT DOWN. The idea of the wealthy, privileged, narcissistic son of a Russian oligarch falling in love with the daughter of a brutal Central Asian dictator (where unspeakable acts of brutality still take place under very similar leaders) IS NOT FUNNY. Portraying the collapse of a post-Soviet state and its regression into ethnic violence as Pynchonian slapstick IS NOT FUNNY. The lack of compassion or care for what is happening by both the main character and the writer is REVOLTING. Not since The Tin Drum have I found a reading experience so unpleasant, and the parallels between that book and this one are manifold, most particularly a protagonist who is self-absorbed, amoral, and nearly oblivious to the suffering of others, but also including the trivialization of history to a writer's own banal self-regard. A book that is terrible in a way far too many books these days are terrible....more
One of those books I can't believe I never read until now. Lots of fun, very creative, Definitely beats Interstellar. I will admit I am a little suspiOne of those books I can't believe I never read until now. Lots of fun, very creative, Definitely beats Interstellar. I will admit I am a little suspicious of its politics, as it seems to have a tinge of radical Cold War anti-Communist hysteria...but it can also be read as anti-Fascist and broadly anti-authoritarian so until the series get any more didactic I am on board. ...more
**spoiler alert** I love Octavia Butler, but this series didn't work for me at all. In fact, I found everything that I love about her Parable series a**spoiler alert** I love Octavia Butler, but this series didn't work for me at all. In fact, I found everything that I love about her Parable series and her amazing slavery novel Kindred --ie., well-rounded and developed characters, a compelling narrative thrust, clearly but simply established themes, a focus on empathy as a critical tool in human evolution --to be completely absent here.
Across the board, the characters in this series are murky, flat and almost universally unappealing. Butler uses these characters as biomass through which to expound upon her high-concept themes. But here's the thing -- those themes are equally murky and undeveloped. She seems to constantly talk around what she's actually getting at with her Patternist mythos, and the Clayark virus -- well, let's just not talk about that. It's painfully inept and just plain silly.
These novels are almost entirely plotless -- the characters meander along for thousands of years, talking in this high-falutin' mumbo-jumbo that is meaningless upon close examination. There was not even a single moment where what happened next ever seemed to matter -- because, most of the time, the characters said as much in the first place.
What is most shocking in this series to me is the total lack of humanity or empathy. There is no respect for individuality or free will -- in fact, there seems to be a snarky disdain for them if anything. The fate of the human characters is fatalistically pre-ordained -- never is there even a glimmer of hope that any of these people can achieve agency. Moreover, in this universe, might makes right; those with the power and depravity to dominate are the ones that win. Period. Always. No argument.
Supposedly, throughout each of these books, we are working towards something important. But then comes Patternmaster, the supposed climax...and despite it being by far the best of the bunch, still nothing much happens. Apparently, all we were working towards was a leadership battle between two characters. Dull. Pedestrian.
(Note: Butler wrote this one first, and worked her way back to Wild Seed. I think a solid argument can be made for reading them in the order they were published).
In short, this entire series is a complete failure in my eyes. Were it almost any other author, I would never have even finished it. ...more
I enjoyed this book, but feel like Bai is a bit too enamored with his subject. The idea that Gary Hart was going to be some sort of transformative figI enjoyed this book, but feel like Bai is a bit too enamored with his subject. The idea that Gary Hart was going to be some sort of transformative figure in American life if the press had not been so venal is just not very convincing. Hart was a New Democrat, sharing many of the same views as Clinton. While Bai does try to distinguish Hart from Clinton, the attempt is weak and glib. There was nothing in this book that convinced me Hart would have been any more capable than Clinton of navigating the increasingly toxic and partisan world of 1990s Washington and avoid the same concessions and compromises. What does set them apart seems to be the arrogance and sanctimoniousness with which Hart looked down on the reporting on his transgressions, whereas Clinton was willing to flagellate himself when he had to in order to stay in the game. Hart comes off as a man behind the times, unaware of what the media-political-industrial complex had become, while Clinton saw it for what it was and even learned to relish it. Bai's assertion that a Hart Administration would have been qualitatively different from a Clinton Administration and therefore the world would be different is what I don't buy. Just as Bai points out that even a journalism titan like Ben Bradlee was powerless to stop the progression of what his field was becoming, there's nothing to suggest the same is not true for Hart. ...more