I've read and loved a lot of weird books, and THE VEGETARIAN is maybe the weirdest? Everyone who's talking about this book mentions the woman who hasI've read and loved a lot of weird books, and THE VEGETARIAN is maybe the weirdest? Everyone who's talking about this book mentions the woman who has a dream and stops eating meat, but I think it's ALSO key to note the character who dreams about painting magic sex flowers on people's bodies and then wanders around trying to convince actual people to let him paint and videotape them (?!).
This book has some really smart (and horrifying) commentary about toxic masculinity, impotent patriarchy, and female rage. There's also a fair quantity of visions, dreams, and obsessions, and the maniacal lengths to which we'll go in pursuit of those phantoms.
The book is divided into three sections, and I thought the first two were the strongest. I understand the purpose that the third section is meant to serve, but it didn't wow me in the same way — it's a little more boring than the rest of the book (on purpose).
This would be a great, quick read for anyone who's entertained by weird little dark stories (or magic sex flower dreams). The audio version was done with dual narrators and was great. ...more
Delicious Foods opens with a young man driving a car with his hands chopped off, and just gets better from there.
After his father is murdered by racisDelicious Foods opens with a young man driving a car with his hands chopped off, and just gets better from there.
After his father is murdered by racist bigots, Eddie's mother Darlene spirals into depression and a crack cocaine addiction. One night she's tricked into signing a contract to work on a Louisiana farm where she's held captive as essentially a modern-day slave. Eddie, her eleven year old son, abandoned in Texas, is left to fend for himself and to try to find out what happened to her.
This book is weird, wacky, wonderful, heartbreaking, sad, and an all-around pleasure (except when it's devastating). It's told from the perspective of multiple narrators, one of whom is crack cocaine. It's experimental, but also somehow completely accessible, funny, and warm.
I'm so glad a reading buddy put Delicious Foods on my radar, because I had heard literally nothing about it, and it ended up being my favorite book published in 2015. 5 MILLION STARS!!!...more
The central idea behind The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is that you should discard everything in your home that doesn't give you a thrill of pleThe central idea behind The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is that you should discard everything in your home that doesn't give you a thrill of pleasure when you touch it. I heard a lot of eye-rolling criticism about this before I picked up the book, and trust me, I get it. Kondo came across as pretty kooky as I read the first sections... but as I got closer to the end, I warmed up to her, appreciated her eccentricities, and felt I better understood what she was trying to say.
Kondo has helped hundreds of clients put their homes in order, and it has opened her eyes to the fact that many of us take our material possessions for granted and treat our homes as giant warehouses. She urges us to be really honest about what we need — we often hang onto stuff because either 1) we feel guilty about the past, or 2) we feel anxious about the future. Maybe we wasted money on an outfit that didn't really suit us, or we feel obligated to keep a gift that we don't really like. Maybe we're convinced that someday we'll review the handout from a conference we once attended, or we're worried that we'll need that stockpile of makeup samples that's been gathering dust in the back of the medicine cabinet. These beliefs make us too ashamed or fearful to throw things out.
In her experience working with clients, Kondo has a more realistic sense of what we really need in our day-to-day lives and gently helps her clients to see the same. I love her idea of saying "thank-you" to objects that you don't enjoy anymore, and to understand that their true purpose was in the pleasure you got from trying it on at the store or in the appreciation you felt when you received it as a gift. These items have fulfilled their purpose and she helps her clients see that there's no reason to keep them any longer if you don't still enjoy them. It's staggering how many thousands of bags of stuff she says her clients have thrown away or donated, and I think this speaks to how much stuff we acquire that we had no business consuming in the first place.
She does suggest talking to your objects and treating them as though they have real feelings, and I've heard a lot of snorting about that in particular. (There's the infamous sock section where she scolds anyone who abuses their socks by bunching them up when socks are much happier being folded.) I think this makes sense, though, within the context of Kondo's spiritual background. She mentions that she was a Shinto shrine maiden for 5 years, a Japanese religious tradition that endows all entities with a spirit / energy, even inanimate objects. We Westerners might find this idea way too weird and silly, but I like that it encourages us to truly appreciate our material possessions instead of indiscriminately consuming things that we don't truly enjoy.
Kondo writes about her childhood as a neglected middle child, obsessively reading lifestyle magazines and tidying her family's home. In school, she was the student who volunteered to organize when classroom assignments were being handed out. Some have speculated that these things point to mental illness, and it's true that our culture pathologizes people who are very organized or particular — we see them as uptight control freaks and we definitely attach a negative stigma to this set of behaviors. But I find it refreshing that Kondo embraces her nature as an organized person and has found a way to turn this into a strength and even a highly successful career. She jokes that she wasn't a popular "class-rep type," but she is very content and happy to be the person that she truly is to the fullest.
By the end of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I was totally charmed by Kondo and see her as someone who really knows her shit about putting homes in order. I think the heart of her message is to help us hone our abilities to be completely honest about why we think we keep things, and to cut through all the emotional baggage so we can be surrounded only by the things that really make us happy. And I think it's a beautiful message....more
My mixed feelings about this book come down to the fact that I like to read for character more than for language. I've heard a lot of praise for GroffMy mixed feelings about this book come down to the fact that I like to read for character more than for language. I've heard a lot of praise for Groff's prose — and I get it — but, for me, it felt overdone and cloying. These days, I admire writing where the words know how to get the job done efficiently without getting in the way of the story.
This is a book with a Big Twist where you really have to believe that the characters are motivated to do the outlandish, surprising things that they do. And I just didn't believe them. The reader is told about great loves, great ambitions, great rivalries, and great revenge, but I felt like I was missing the proof. I needed more intimate moments to convince me that the Shocking Revelations made sense, but this is a book that seemed more interested in offering showy words. As a result, the writing felt uneven to me and the twists felt unearned.
I did enjoy Groff's irreverent moments (Mathilde throws down some excellent insults about eating bags of dicks) but I struggled with the weirdly objectifying sex stuff and the overdone tropes. There are several poor urchins who, after going through degrading sexual experiences, are driven to suicide. Several! I can handle this in writing when I fully believe in the characters, but it rubbed me the wrong way here.
I did like a lot of things about Fates and Furies, and one of my favorite things was Mathilde herself, who contains multitudes and embodies wrath. She's larger than life and complicated as hell, which we don't see enough of in literary fiction. I loved her rage and I loved that she wields it without apology.
But my favorite part in all of Fates and Furies was at the artists' colony in winter, toward the end of Lotto's section. This is where we see some of the characters at their most tender and vulnerable, and that is what I live for in stories. I wanted more of THAT. Groff did it so well, which made me wish that the whole book was that way.
But enough people loved the other stuff — the super-stylized purple prose — that I guess it just comes down to a matter of taste. This is one of those that, while it wasn't quite my jam, I will definitely recommend to other readers....more
A Tale for the Time Being patted me on the head and then tore my heart out through my throat. It’s got Hello Kitty lunchboxes and Zen Buddhist nuns. AA Tale for the Time Being patted me on the head and then tore my heart out through my throat. It’s got Hello Kitty lunchboxes and Zen Buddhist nuns. A chatty Japanese teenager in a Tokyo fetish cafe. A struggling novelist on a remote Pacific island. Magic and superpowers. Naoko Yasutani is 16 years old when she decides to write about her great grandmother’s life in a Buddhist temple. But when her diary floats across the ocean in a plastic bag and washes up on the British Columbia coastline, it’s discovered by a writer named Ruth who becomes obsessed with the mystery of Naoko’s life. What begins as a wacky and charming story soon dives off the cliff of the dark and difficult, with Big. Existential. Questions. about war, disaster, and suffering. I’m just a little bit mad that it kept me up with existential angst at night, but it’s still one of the best books I’ve read, ever....more
Cult film director John Waters promises his agent to hitchhike across America, and imagines the best- and worst- case scenarios before revealing whatCult film director John Waters promises his agent to hitchhike across America, and imagines the best- and worst- case scenarios before revealing what actually happens on the real trip. In one fantasy scenario he’s abducted by aliens who have sex with him and give him a magical singing asshole. In another he’s captured by infamous murderess Gertrude Baniszewski who tattoos “I am an asshole” on his chest. I’ll let you guess which is from the best-case scenario and which is from the worst! This memoir was somehow equal parts filth, camp, and charm, and I adored listening to John Waters read this to me on audio during lazy summer afternoons this June....more
When my friends at The Larryville Chronicles tweeted “There’s a line about ‘basic bitches’ in #LongDivision,” I knew I had to check it out. A little dWhen my friends at The Larryville Chronicles tweeted “There’s a line about ‘basic bitches’ in #LongDivision,” I knew I had to check it out. A little digging revealed that this debut novel by Kiese Laymon was actually a finalist in the 2014 Tournament of the Books. After 14-year-old City Coldson becomes an overnight YouTube sensation for shouting at some racist judges during a nationally televised quiz contest in Jackson, Mississippi, he picks up a mysterious novel called Long Division and discovers a way to travel into the future. Here are more reasons to love Long Division, in no particular order: Hip hop lyrics. Time travel. Love. Revenge. Badass women. Talking cats. Grammar jokes. Post-Katrina racial politics. Time traveling Klansmen doing 80s dance moves in front of a laptop camera. Weird and wonderful teenagers creating the lives they want to live. An open-ended conclusion that made me cry like a baby. Kiese Laymon is completely rewriting and reinventing literary fiction, and it gives me shivers— I think I like it....more
This book is bananas beautiful. The sort where you go “Oooh, I didn’t know books could do that!” After his wife suddenly stops speaking, a character nThis book is bananas beautiful. The sort where you go “Oooh, I didn’t know books could do that!” After his wife suddenly stops speaking, a character named Jesse Ball becomes immersed in the story of Oda Sotatsu, a young Japanese man on death row who takes a vow of silence after signing a confession to a crime he didn’t commit. But who is Sotatsu protecting, and why won’t he speak up to save his own life? The story fits together like an Escher painting, playing with writing forms from the exactingly journalistic to the heartstabbingly lyrical, and the whole thing is a big gorgeous mindf*ck by the end. Just when I think I’ve read it all, a book like this comes along and shows me I don’t know a thing....more
This story collection gives me the shivers, and I WANT MORE. Anchored in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, a tiny border town with Tennessee, I Want To ShowThis story collection gives me the shivers, and I WANT MORE. Anchored in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, a tiny border town with Tennessee, I Want To Show You More's 15 stories unpeel like a hallucinogenic onion. Jamie Quatro obsessively explores questions of adultery, death, disfigurement, and phone sex, all within a bizarre framework of Christianity. My favorite of the stories, "Demolition," watches a congregation tear apart their historic Southern building and then head to a cave in the woods to start a holy sex cult (!). I like to imagine Quatro's real-life congregation innocently picking up this book at a church potluck and then getting its collective mind blown. It's a sexy, spiritual, and frightening collection from a writer who seemed to sneak up out of nowhere. I am not going to be patient for her next collection of stories, not at all....more
You may know Allie Brosh as the creator of the "Alot" monster or the "Clean all the things!" meme, or, more recently, from her candid writing about deYou may know Allie Brosh as the creator of the "Alot" monster or the "Clean all the things!" meme, or, more recently, from her candid writing about depression and anxiety. I love her crudely hewn webcomics, and am so psyched that they're finally here in book form. Lately I've been getting some help for my own anxiety, and Hyperbole and a Half was there for me at just the right time, like a hilarious mirror I could hold up to myself and laugh until tears streamed down my face, never fully knowing whether it was because it was funny or because it was true. The first chapter alone has swearing at a two year old, time travel, dogs, crayons, and gratuitous nudity. It's not only hysterical as hell, but also angsty and honest and dark, and I dare you to flip through a copy in the checkout line at the bookstore without taking it home with you....more
Sam Pink first caught my attention when his publisher launched an unusual promotion for his book Rontel this Valentine’s Day: "Order Sam Pink’s new eBSam Pink first caught my attention when his publisher launched an unusual promotion for his book Rontel this Valentine’s Day: "Order Sam Pink’s new eBook and he’ll sext you on February 14!" I’m not saying whether Sam Pink sexted me or not, but I will say that I totally loved this book. Its meandering narrative follows a 28-year-old protagonist as he wanders the streets of Chicago desperately trying to hate everything, only to be thwarted by cute things like cats and dancing babies. It’s a tiny little novel that yearns to uncover what it means to be a "real man" in 2013, and I imagine it's what Charles Bukowski and Albert Camus would've written had they teamed up and been like, "Hey, let’s write a comedy together!" Sam Pink also has an incredible eye and ear for the streets of Chicago, and he knows how to turn out a damned funny product review, too: "We all know paper towels are a whiz in the kitchen. But did you ever think they’d be so great to dry yourself off? I say — beep beep — go ahead."...more