I should make a disclaimer on this review that I am a graduate student engaged in a research project which determines how literary discussions of subu...moreI should make a disclaimer on this review that I am a graduate student engaged in a research project which determines how literary discussions of suburbia engage with postmodern theory on space. So I was reading this book with a pretty specific lens in mind.
And I freaking loved it.
I think this book would appeal to people who couldn't care less about any of the things I mentioned as well, so don't get me wrong. I recommend it. But if you like things like many distinct characters, clarity of plot, sequentiality, or paragraph breaks...go read a different book. Go read The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, because it's really good in a really similar way, but it has all those things.
I thought the structure of this book was lush for the subject. I feel like any attempt to explain why would ruin the experience of reading the book, though I do suggest taking the one or two hours necessary to read the book in a single sitting. I did that, and I can't imagine have attempting to read it in multiple sittings. So much would be lost.
If you're very interested in Nabokov or a student of his work, then this biography is amazing. However, I am both of those things, and don't know if I...moreIf you're very interested in Nabokov or a student of his work, then this biography is amazing. However, I am both of those things, and don't know if I have the time needed to complete the second 600 page book that accompanies this. It's incredibly detailed, practically day by day, but literally might not be worth it until you've read majority of Nabokov's ouevre first.(less)
I read this book for my class on Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School. We slogged through it 10-15 aphorisms at a time for about 12 weeks, and in t...moreI read this book for my class on Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School. We slogged through it 10-15 aphorisms at a time for about 12 weeks, and in the end I have to say it was really rewarding. I think it would be a formidable text if we hadn't broken it down. For each section, pairs from the class presented on an aphorism or two and related it back to other sections from earlier in the book or to other Frankfurt School readings from the course. From an academic standpoint, it was a really rich text in that it encompassed so many of Adorno's ideas into clever little bits. One joke I liked to make is that Adorno speaks in a way that lends itself to the facebook status.
But I fell a few weeks behind and so had to read a big chunk of the book in a more traditional format and it was still rewarding that way as well. Adorno isn't concerned with offering solutions: only pointing out how the world is broken. "There is no right life in a wrong world." And so he is concerned with pointing out how the world is wrong, how life is damaged. It sounds depressing and this book can be pessimistic even at its best moments, but there is something hopeful in the care he takes in examining the world so closely. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone recommended in Frankfurt School theory or social theory in general.(less)
I really liked this novel. Quite a lot. In fact, I would have given it 5 of 5 stars if a. I wasn't trying to be more discerning with my rating system,...moreI really liked this novel. Quite a lot. In fact, I would have given it 5 of 5 stars if a. I wasn't trying to be more discerning with my rating system, reserving 5's for only those novels I consider all-time favorites b. if the third and final portion of the book hadn't dragged on a bit too long. That is my only real criticism of the book, that that third part of the book is a bit too long because the rest if pure gold.
Some people seem dissuaded by this book because it is highly regarded as the ultimate postmodern novel. And it is, really, if you have any experience with postmodern theory then there are about 10-20 different paper topics one could make from this book alone. Believe me, I did one of them in a single frenzied Sunday afternoon sitting at an IHOP during finals. And I got an A, because as I said, this is rich postmodern reading.
But even if you could not give less of a crap about postmodernism (and I'm sure there are plenty of you out there), this is still a great novel. Because at the crux of this novel are two themes we can all identify with: the meaning of and dissipation of the nuclear family and the fear of death. And it's put together in this witty (if sometimes hard to access) package that it genuinely a pleasure to read.
This is my third DeLillo novel, and I can see why it is regarded as his very best, even if personally I liked Libra just a bit more. DeLillo is a writer whose sense of irony and well-placed word play makes his writing seem alive and vibrant, pulsating and electric, even where the plot seemingly lags. His characters are composites of people who are so distinctly absurd that you know they probably do exist somewhere, absurdity aside. I would readily recommend this book to anyone interested in contemporary literature, and especially to students of literary theory.
That's the mark of this book's quality: you can read it for theory or you can read it for pleasure, and either reading would be equally enriching.(less)
I read this book very quickly over a couple days. I picked it up on impulse, having always wanted to read another book by Nabokov and having been intr...moreI read this book very quickly over a couple days. I picked it up on impulse, having always wanted to read another book by Nabokov and having been intrigued by the synopsis.
Oddly enough, one of the most interesting parts of this book was the introduction by John Banville, which chronicled the novels place within Nabokov's career and it's possible relation to Nabokov's later works, including Lolita. More specifically, it highlights the way that the parasitic relationship in this novel may have been a precursor to the relationship investigated in Lolita, only in this novel, Margot is a cunning (if not very smart) and vile active participant in Albert Albinus' demise.
Unrelated sidenote: Albert Albinus? Humbert Humbert? Axel Rex? I'll gladly take any comments related to the meaning behind Nabokov's obsession with mirroring names.
I didn't like this novel as much as Lolita, but only because it DID read to me a bit like just that: a precursor to a greater idea. In this novel, Nabokov seems to be toying with the idea of female power and of male justification for reprehensible behavior, themes that will be investigated to much greater effect later and which might not have been so deeply developed were it not for novels like this one.
Albert Albinus is at least slightly sympathetic. One can see the wheels turning within him and warning him that the decisions he's making are destructive and loathsome. One can see his moment's hesitation in considering a proper route of action. His conscience is visible. The drama and tragedy comes in his continued failure to obey these impulses, particularly in the face of Margot's calculating seducation and continued moral decline. Her and Axel Rex make for some truly perilous villains, and it is obvious from the start that a man like Albinus will not be able to stand up to the terror they will impose upon him.
The strength in this book comes from the quality of Nabokov's prose, which anyone who has had the pleasure of reading a Nabokov novel is familiar with. I look forward to reading other Nabokov novels, as this one has really whetted my appetite for more. It might be a good place to start if one is interested in reading beyond Lolita.(less)
All of these "A Very Short Introduction..." books are amazing. This one really helped me get a handle on Postmodernism as a refresher before starting...moreAll of these "A Very Short Introduction..." books are amazing. This one really helped me get a handle on Postmodernism as a refresher before starting my Comparative Literature degree.(less)
It's been a few months now since I've finished this book, and I simply hadn't had the chance until now to sit down and give it a proper review. I supp...moreIt's been a few months now since I've finished this book, and I simply hadn't had the chance until now to sit down and give it a proper review. I suppose this is a benefit to the book because, upon reflecting on it, I now see more clearly what I enjoyed about it.
I think what I enjoyed most was Joe Kavalier. I had read Chabon before, and I was frustrated with his ability to create an interesting character and make me bored of hearing about them. I never got bored of Joe. If anything, I always felt like the narration was hiding something about Joe, some key to understanding his motivations that went well beyond the basics of missing his family and loving art. It's never revealed, but the depth of his emotions is implied, leaving the reader an opportunity to analyze his motivations through the prism of any combination of Joe's personal history, revealed throughout the arc of the narrative.
I'm glad I gave Chabon a second chance. Reading "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" first left a bitter taste in my mouth that Chabon doesn't deserve...I couldn't have been convinced before that he was capable of a book like this, and now I'm a convert, intent on reading another of his works soon. I really enjoyed how this book deigned to span the expanses of time, place, and historicity that make other favorite books of mine (Middlesex, Everything Is Illuminated) so engaging. Chabon has a gift for diction and syntax that makes his work beautiful to read.
My criticisms of the book are mainly the following two points. One: I'm still not convinced of Chabon's ability to write an effective female character. I didn't always believe in Rosa's motivations or emotions, she seemed limited by the male viewpoint. I realize that it might be hard for someone so adept at creating intriguing men to understand the differences necessary for female thought, but Chabon should be able to shoulder that burden with the same tact and attention to detail that he gives to creating a historical landscape for his works. Your women have to be real, not comic book caricatures of what you think a female ought to be like.
The second was the comic book referencing. Chabon's intention may have been to color the story with a deep well of knowledge that contributes to realism. He very likely did a tremendous amount of research for this book and this is commendable. But you know what? I don't want to see that research, at least not directly. His obsession with showing off his comic book knowledge and excessive use of comic book reference seems a lot like hammering in superfluous garbage for the sake of looking cool. You like comic books, you know a lot about them, we get it. We don't need you to tell us again because all that is doing is distracting from the charming and beautiful story you already have in front of you.
I can't think of many people who wouldn't enjoy this book, and I would be inclined to recommend it to anyone. My only advice is to stick it out after it slows down 100 pages in. It'll be worth it.(less)