The Orphan Master’s Son is a remarkable book. I’ve been a fan of Adam Johnson’s work since his story c...moreClick the image below to watch the video review
The Orphan Master’s Son is a remarkable book. I’ve been a fan of Adam Johnson’s work since his story collection Emporium (which I credit as being a primary impetus to my own fiction writing), and though both books are stellar, they are so in such different ways. It’s hard to believe that the man who wrote Emporium is the same guy who wrote The Orphan Master’s Son. Perhaps the two personalities are a Jun Do/Commander Ga thing (reference to the book).
In this video review you’ll suffer through my overt praise as well as my amazing Photoshop skills. Who knew Adam Johnson could so easily become Kim Jong Il?(less)
I’m going to try something different with this review. I often find that an author’s own words, perhaps selectively chosen, are a better summation of a text than any review. However, I do understand that the point of a review isn’t merely in summary, but is meant to judge a book as well. Here, I will give a bit of both modes, though with a heavier weight on quotes taken from the text. Here is my first “Mostly Quotes Review.” Let me know what you think.
Wolf Parts is vicious fairy tale excursions:
Pg. 7: “…she laid across the stones and, with the knife her mother had given her, gutted herself, quickly, left to right. She cried out in wonder at the bright worlds she found hidden within herself…”
Wolf Parts gives metaphor to the ambiguity of adolescence, turning the cautionary tale of “Little Red Riding Hood” into a predatory one:
Pg 14: “The wolf’s breath smelled of chalk, and his paws were covered in flour. It wasn’t enough to trick the girl, but she allowed herself to pretend to be fooled. She opened her cloak and invited him in, so that he might do what he came to do.”
Wolf Parts turns the morality lessons of our established fairy tale and turns it inside out, sometimes literally:
Pg 15: “From inside the wolf’s stomach the grandmother could only hear every third or fourth word her granddaughter spoke…She bit down hard, first on lung and heart, then indiscriminately, casting about in a great gnashing, devouring all she could until the wolf she was inside was also inside her…”(less)
This is how great Twitter can be: when I was just 20 pages into Tokyo Vice, I posted this update: Jake Adelstein's TOKYO VICE makes me want to be yakuz...moreThis is how great Twitter can be: when I was just 20 pages into Tokyo Vice, I posted this update: Jake Adelstein's TOKYO VICE makes me want to be yakuza
He responded the next day with: @calebjross It's supposed to have the opposite effect. :)
Considering that this exchange was completely unanticipated, I was quite surprised by the direct line of contact with the author. I assumed that the exchange would end there. But, then I finished the book, and I realized how insulting my first comment could have appeared. Tokyo Vice is such an amazing story, one that, though filed under “true crime” touches on memoir. Adelstein’s position as a reporter with the unique opportunity to out certain immoral (to say the least) yakuza behavior, bleeds into his personal life in deeply affecting ways. As soon as I finished the book, I posted again on Twitter: @jakeadelstein I must apologize for my earlier statement of wanting to be yakuza. I just finished TOKYO VICE. Incredible story, sir.
And he came back with: @calebjross Apology accepted. :)
Such a gentleman. Tokyo Vice goes highly recommended. (less)
During every Jose Saramago novel, I am thinking that I should not be enjoying myself. The run-on sentence structure, the chapter-length paragraphs, th...moreDuring every Jose Saramago novel, I am thinking that I should not be enjoying myself. The run-on sentence structure, the chapter-length paragraphs, the lack of dialog attribution and punctuation all contribute to what should be a difficult and unpleasant read. But goddamn, I’m mesmerized every time. The Double is no different.
As a writer, I ask myself constantly, “how the fuck does Saramago do it?” He takes a simple concept, one that would take lesser writers only a few pages to wear out, and extrapolates on the idea for 300+ pages. In the case of The Double, a man notices a striking resemblance between himself and an extra in a movie. He becomes obsessed with identifying this man, ultimately contacting him on the ruse of simple curiosity. Simple, right. But Saramago manages so much more than this reader would think to be possible. (less)
The best Evenson work since The Wavering Knife. LAST DAYS is perhaps more accessible than his other work, which makes it all the more reason for those...moreThe best Evenson work since The Wavering Knife. LAST DAYS is perhaps more accessible than his other work, which makes it all the more reason for those unacquainted to jump on board now.(less)
It is always the simplest premises that make for the most engaging fiction. With CITY OF THIEVES, the story could not get simpler: in war torn Russia,...moreIt is always the simplest premises that make for the most engaging fiction. With CITY OF THIEVES, the story could not get simpler: in war torn Russia, two boys set out to find a dozen eggs at the demand of a Russian colonel. And Benioff, as if his eloquent command of language and pacing wasn’t enough, even manages to leverage one of the boy’s inability to shit as a point of tension. Quite possibly a perfect novel.
Anyone familiar with Benioff’s collection, WHEN THE NINES ROLL OVER, will recognize CITY OF THIEVES as a possible extension of the collection’s standout story, “The Devil Comes to Orekhovo,” which still stands as one of the best short stories of recent years.(less)
THE ART INSTINCT applies the ideas of evolutionary psychology to the arts. This is required reading for anyone who considers himself an artist. And fo...moreTHE ART INSTINCT applies the ideas of evolutionary psychology to the arts. This is required reading for anyone who considers himself an artist. And for the fiction writers out there, look forward to an entire chapter called THE USES OF FICTION, which contains some profound ideas regarding the human need for narrative.(less)
Suffed with images, both grotesque and tender, that will stay with me for life. And threaded by a smoothness of language rarely read, perhaps even mor...moreSuffed with images, both grotesque and tender, that will stay with me for life. And threaded by a smoothness of language rarely read, perhaps even more so than his 10-years-post follow up novel THE BRIEF WONDEROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO.(less)