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)