The contents of "Proust Was a Neuroscientist" would make for a very compelling lecture series. Although Lehrer writes with a passion and immediacy tha...moreThe contents of "Proust Was a Neuroscientist" would make for a very compelling lecture series. Although Lehrer writes with a passion and immediacy that keeps his tone from becoming too dry, there was a general lack of fun. I read for entertainment purposes, and challenging fiction often provides me with a sense of conspiratorial problem-solving. Non-fiction can be equally entertaining, but more in a more transparent, group effort. (I'm a nerd; learning for the sake of learning IS fun.) But there was certain je ne sais quoi that kept the ignition to fun from turning.
Each chapter was so packed with cross-referencing physiological facts that I retained about as much new information as I would from a magazine article. Which is to say, I feel/ fear that a lot of the finer points went over my head.
A friend chose this as our Book Club selection and I'm really looking forward to our discussion, in the hopes that a dialogue will flesh out the concepts Lehrer touches upon.(less)
Bonnie Jo Campbell uses beautiful words to paint ugly pictures, sometimes to her own detriment. In some instances, she contradicts the tone of a story...moreBonnie Jo Campbell uses beautiful words to paint ugly pictures, sometimes to her own detriment. In some instances, she contradicts the tone of a story by using florid language to describe something/someone grimy and dark. Each story is less a "short story" and more a snapshot of life in central Michigan. The collection has an overall static feel: the characters don't go anywhere or do anything; and neither do the stories they appear in. Every character is either unlikable or untrustworthy - not that that's a bad thing; most of my favorite literary characters are unlikable and untrustworthy. But none of the characters in "American Salvage" grow or learn or to make choices; or grow to learn by making choices. They're all victims of circumstance, resigned to the hopeless lives they were born in to. (less)
Non-linear narrative is not new, but there seems to be an influx of novels with narratives that are guided by interpersonal relationships and meta-con...moreNon-linear narrative is not new, but there seems to be an influx of novels with narratives that are guided by interpersonal relationships and meta-connectedness (White Teeth by Zadie Smith, Ghostwritten by David Mitchell, The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman). In fact, I'd read all of the aforementioned novels over the past few months - not intending to inundate myself with the format. As such, once I realized the gimmick was being employed in "AVFTGS", I initially felt indifference. Ultimately, though, I really started to enjoy "AVFTGS". As with any novel told from multiple points of view, some chapters are stronger than others, and some voices are stronger than others. The chapters I enjoyed the most are the chapters where she really stretches her voice and storytelling techniques. The big risks pay off big. If there had been more riskier gimmicks, I would have rated it higher. As it is, it just happens to be a well-written, top-rated non-narrative novel - in a sea of moderately-well-written, mediocre-rated non narrative novels.(less)
This book is an excellent example of how NOT to write a book. It is riddled with spelling errors, punctuation errors, grammatical errors and non sequi...moreThis book is an excellent example of how NOT to write a book. It is riddled with spelling errors, punctuation errors, grammatical errors and non sequiturs; not to mention racism, sexism, and unapologetic arrogance. The overuse of unnecessary quotation marks was distracting, as was the repeated self-references. (For example, using words like "personally" and "in my opinion" when it is clearly written under the guise of a memoir. Who else's opinion would be expressed?) The author tells everything, and shows nothing. There is no sense of fear or insecurity, no character development, and no redemption for his self-centered and arrogant attitude. (Not the least of which is represented by his not sharing his two bed hotel room with the "common souls" displaced throughout the hotel.)
This would be simply a poorly written self-published exercise in narcissism were it not for an off-handed footnote on pg. 72:
".... I completely understand the grammatical folly there, as well as others - technically speaking - contained herein. However, I'm nothing if not a serial 'license taker.' I also like License-Taker Cereal. Delicious."
In other words, he's aware of his assault on proper grammar - and the English language in general - yet he opted not to take the time to correct these issues. He presents himself as a successful Chicago lawyer; the least he could do was spend the time and expense to have it read by someone with an understanding of common rules of language.
Would not recommend to my worst enemy. Not even Al-Qaeda. (less)