The single quality that I treasure the most when a writer is able to generate it within me is wonder. Most of my favorite books have that one transcenThe single quality that I treasure the most when a writer is able to generate it within me is wonder. Most of my favorite books have that one transcendent aspect as the thing that separated it from the rest of the pack, that separated it even, from other books I love. From Stuart Little to Dune to One Hundred Years of Solitude to The Last Temptation of Christ if a writer can fill me with a sense of awe, can open my mind up with undefinable possibility, then I feel indebted as a person on this planet to that artist. Charles Mann has done that with 1493. Astounding. Page after page after page of things that made me go "Wow!" Forgotten stories of history, heroes and heroines where we didn't know there were heroes and heroines, literally facilitating my looking at the world around me in an entirely new way, this book gave from page one and just kept on giving. Earthworms, malaria, potatoes, birdshit, Mann presents these (and other things, many other things) as some of the most influential phenomena of the last five hundred years -- and then tells you why! It's great! How much fun can a history book be? I don't even know that I think Mann is a brilliant writer, sometimes I feel too much of his personality, sometimes I'm not sure I agree with the conclusions he's made, or his prose is not as polished as I would like, but his research, his interests, his palpable passion, his generosity of spirit made the whole thing absolutely soar for me. His ability and willingness to tie economics to ecology to genetics and politics and disease and to really place the human race within the context of the world we see ourselves in control of but are also beholden to are all aspects of this book that make it not just good but great. I recommend this book to everyone, not as an ending, but as a beginning. Magnificent. ...more
"His story is horror upon unending horror--proof, not that I needed it, that the thought of a God is even more frightening than a world without one."
""His story is horror upon unending horror--proof, not that I needed it, that the thought of a God is even more frightening than a world without one."
"I have made the best and happiest ending that I can in this world, made it out of the flax and the netting and leftover trim of someone else's life, I know, but made it to keep the innocent safe and the guilty punished, and I have made it as the world should be and not as I have found it."
Yeah, I didn't like all the stories in this, my first Amy Bloom book, but make no mistake, the woman can write. After a while, all of the cancer and handicaps made it almost seem like a schtick, like cheating for instant impact, beneath her mastery of elegant, effortless prose. But I look forward to exploring more of the world through Amy Bloom's intellect. ...more
This strange, awkward little mystery starts off well enough. It's a compelling puzzle, and for a long portion I'm completely invested in finding out wThis strange, awkward little mystery starts off well enough. It's a compelling puzzle, and for a long portion I'm completely invested in finding out what's going to happen and am intrigued by the unusual behavior of several of the characters. But it goes on too long without any answers and after a while I'm wondering if the writer has dug herself too big of a hole that she's not going to be able to get out of elegantly.
Sure enough, when the the question we've been waiting to have answered is finally answered, it's not just a letdown, it's a betrayal that undermines just about everything that has gone before. (view spoiler)[ The mystery is the wife's disappearance. She disappears and suspicion naturally falls on a)her husband, (who is bizarrely uncooperative with trying to find his missing wife) and b) the convicted sexual offender down the street. Sure. Great. All of that's good. Now, granted, all my knowledge of police work comes from books, TV and movies, so that is what it is, but it seems to me that the cops jumped to conclusions faster than I thought cops were routinely supposed to do. They decided she was missing before she'd been gone that long and they decided she'd been murdered before they even have a body. She is an adult after all. She could have just run away on her own. Which is what she did! But by the time that she decides to come back, her abusive father has re-entered the picture and killed the only sympathetic character in the book -- the child molester! And if she really was missing and the husband really had no knowledge of her whereabouts why wasn't he more helpful with the police??? What about the whole "black-ops" angle that was brought up? Was that just nothing? And why, why, why did she leave her daughter alone -- at night -- when this asshole's been around and leave her husband completely without explanation? So that they then have to go through the hell of a police investigation and media circus -- not to mention the worry about whether or not their wife/mother has been kidnapped or worse, the husband gets his ass kicked twice, and then she comes back and everything's supposed to be okay? I mean shit, is it just me? (hide spoiler)] That's asinine, right?
And the "hero", D.D. Warren, well, let's just say she's no Sherlock Holmes or Mike and Lenny. She's good at being a bitch to all the usual suspects but she's lousy at finding out if there's even been a crime committed. Silliness. By the end of the book, when I realized the only characters I liked were the four year old and the child molester, I knew there was a problem. Two stars, because in spite of myself, I was caught up for the first half of the book and did want to find out what happened. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
We take The Shining for granted. Because it was a huge hit. Because it cemented Stephen King's reputation as the (then) new dean of horror. Because itWe take The Shining for granted. Because it was a huge hit. Because it cemented Stephen King's reputation as the (then) new dean of horror. Because it's been famous for forty years. Because of the immensely popular movie. And because of these assumptions we don't remember just how good it actually is. We forget how tightly it is constructed, how it inexorably ratchets the tension up, up, up, how human, how flawed, how utterly recognizable are the characters who people this book and thus how poignant, powerful and harrowing are their trials.
We take Stephen King for granted. Because he's been famous for forty years. Because he's one of the few genuine American cultural icons of the twentieth century, like Elvis and Martin Scorsese and Michael Jordan. Because he writes what seems like an impossible amount of books and dozens of those have then been turned into movies.
But, remember. Go back and read The Shining again and remember. It's not just a horror book (though it certainly is that). It's not just a book about a man struggling with the demons of alcoholism (though it certainly is that as well). It's not just a record of a young family falling apart. And it's not just a book about a haunted house(but make no mistake, it is that too). It's all of those things and more. It is that rare thing, a genuine classic. And I hope I'm not insulting King when I say that it is literature. Because aside from everything else, he is a marvelous writer, one of the great storytellers of all time. Compare the density of King's prose to say Dean Koontz or (ugh) Dan Brown, never mind about Stephanie Meyer. Experience the depths that he strives for, the quiet, rude, gross, touching, lovely moments of humanity that he captures, the delightful turn of phrase or unexpected image that only great writers have at hand.
And man, when Danny makes the mistake of actually going into room 217, remember that nobody knows how to scare the pants off of you quite like Stephen King.
I decided to go back and read The Shining again because I was about to read Doctor Sleep. And I was reminded that Stephen King is a great writer. And a great writer of horror at that. ...more
What Todd Shimoda has done with Oh! A Mystery of Mono No Aware is create a modern parable of our time. It's difficult imagining this book being writteWhat Todd Shimoda has done with Oh! A Mystery of Mono No Aware is create a modern parable of our time. It's difficult imagining this book being written before the advent of the 21st century and interesting to see what the future will hold in its wake. A young Japanese-American, a technical writer, is searching for a "deep, sustained emotional experience". His lack of such experiences in his life suggests to him that he might not in fact, even be capable having one.
His quest takes him to Japan where he is introduced to the concept of "mono no aware", which roughly translated is the "stuff/things of sadness". Naturally enough, the words don't fully encapsulate the full, fluid meaning of this complex concept and Zack, the protagonist, has trouble finding a concrete definition and even more difficulty feeling it. But not for lack of trying. His unique and unsettling journey takes him through myriad situations which include scrapes with the police, performance art, sex, poetry, academia and suicide clubs.
"Oh!" is not quite like anything else. The book itself is beautiful, illustrated and designed by Todd's wife, L.J.C. Shimoda and the complete experience is a wonderful coming together of lovely, textured artwork, effortless, incisive prose, complex ideas and gathering mystery. The narrator, Zack, is a constant surprise, never quite saying or doing what you expect. He's one of my favorite characters in literature I've read in the past few years. In the end, Oh! A Mystery of Mono No Aware is an experiential collage of information, narrative, poetry and art. ...more