What to do with this book? The most beloved book by my favorite author, and I just can't bear it. It's not what you're probably thinking. It's the narWhat to do with this book? The most beloved book by my favorite author, and I just can't bear it. It's not what you're probably thinking. It's the narrator. I cannot bear to spend page after page in the company of that pretentious prick Humbert Humbert. I realize he's supposed to be that way. That doesn't make it any better.
I have only so many hours on this planet, and tried the book twice, but decided I just don't have enough hours to waste with him. At least not yet....more
This is perhaps the place I admit I never finished this book. I liked a lot about it, but so many characters, I had much trouble keeping them straightThis is perhaps the place I admit I never finished this book. I liked a lot about it, but so many characters, I had much trouble keeping them straight.
And in one of the great bone-headed moves of my life, I attempted to read Moby Dick and War and Peace at the same time. Doh! I never finished either. At some point, I need to return to both of them. There was a lot to love, but I had just finished college and was a little overwhelmed....more
I wrote the book, so I'll forego rating it, just thought it should show up my list so you would find me. (But I'm new to goodreads, so tell me if I'mI wrote the book, so I'll forego rating it, just thought it should show up my list so you would find me. (But I'm new to goodreads, so tell me if I'm going about it all wrong.) Thanks....more
I didn't finish this book, so I can't rate it. I pushed through about 100 pages and felt nothing compelling about it--writing, characters and story alI didn't finish this book, so I can't rate it. I pushed through about 100 pages and felt nothing compelling about it--writing, characters and story all seemed fairly mundane.
I've loved other Philip Roth, so I'm setting this one aside and will try American Pastoral soon....more
I just finished, and what an awful taste in my mouth. I am perplexed by his conclusions about both his protagonists, though that perhaps explains theI just finished, and what an awful taste in my mouth. I am perplexed by his conclusions about both his protagonists, though that perhaps explains the curious choice of asking us to spend 350 pages with them. (Perhaps he saw something he failed to communicate.)
Actually, with Martha, I'm convinced there WAS something extraordinary to communicate. Quite close to the start, we see two great writers sitting on either side of her at (I believe) her farewell party. They were close friends. I wrote in the margin there that that's no coincidence. People like Carl Sandburg are likely to be attracted to others with something going on. One might be a fluke, but two, unlikely. This woman obviously had something. I couldn't wait to discover what.
For 300 more pages, we see her accumulate a dizzying number of men successful in all sorts of fields, but particularly artists, who were quite taken by her. And it wasn't her looks. She must have been extraordinary in some way. It totally seems to have eluded Larson. I kept waiting for her personality to come through--for some redeeming qualities. She just seemed like a clueless simpleton. Lame, annoying character at the center of the book, and presumably a discredit to her as well.
So what happened? I have no idea. Larson seemed to fall for her, but then forgot convey why.
That's one of the many problems with this book. The periodic bursts of "dark and stormy" prose were also annoying, though they came and went.
I just don't get the appeal.
Here were some of my early thoughts, a few days ago:
I'm halfway through, and conflicted, starting to sour.
The short intro got me very interested, and I mostly loved Devil In The White City, so I dove in. But it never really grabbed me. (Certainly not the way Devil did--I was enraptured in both its stories immediately.) The two main characters here are exceptionally bland, and their story uncompelling. (Not much story to their story.)
What it DOES do, brilliantly, is its main intent: to provide a POV into what it was like for two outsiders to venture in and see the Nazi world as it took hold.
That was fascinating, and wonderful for awhile, though I was restless and yearning for a more interesting story and characters to take me in. And the longer it wore on, the more redundant it felt.
Then, this morning, I dove into history of the period elsewhere, and discovered how the story begins rather late, after Hitler had effectively taken control.
The prose is solid and Larsen is a natural storyteller most of the time, though he skitters into 'Dark and stormy night' territory too often.
Now . . . I'm wondering whether I should invest the time to finish.
I will adjust my rating as I go.
(I'm finished now. It has me irritated enough to want to slap one star on there, but that's unfair. There is lots of good storytelling in here, too. I'm just so exasperated by it.)...more
As I read, my love/hate relationship evolved: more loving by the middle, but then really despising the last 100 pages.
All I really found interesting wAs I read, my love/hate relationship evolved: more loving by the middle, but then really despising the last 100 pages.
All I really found interesting were some of the ideas discussed, but even more so, vivid fragmentary pictures of the various states of the Renaissance and watching how some of the ideas simmered, boiled, etc. Kind of a nice refresher course on the period, as everything I learned in college and grad school fuzzies up.
But the central conceit, he admits near the end of the preface is not really true: that there were many forces, not a single one. In fact, in the "Birth and Rebirth" chapter, he seems to make a more compelling case, that the more important moments came a generation earlier, with Petrarch. (Why didn't he start there?)
What became truly maddening, though, was Greeenblatt's utter lack of storytelling skill: even to CONCEIVE of a story. He seems to have elevated this poem to preposterous status for the single purpose of providing a story to weave all this around--and then he does no such thing! He never found much of a story here at all! He has little to go on with the actual discovery, or what the hell Poggio did with it, and biggest shock: barely even attempts to demonstrate how the poem really had an impact, or how that evolved.
It's more like snippets of this author using hit here, that author apparently influenced by it there. And we have to slog through pointless chapters like one dedicated to all the uneventful, unrelated happenings of the rest of Poggio's life.
Probably the choice of a false narrative--and one without much known story--left this book with no story (plot), and few interesting characters. Nothing to really dig in and care about as story.
(The most stunning example of his weakness is in some ways the most lively chapter, #7 "A Pit to Catch Foxes.": This doesn't really have a whole lot to do with the book--like much of the book--but seems to be in there primarily just because it's one hell of a good yarn. I fully support that: that's exactly what the book is starving for. So....
He spends 17 pages on it and neglects to provide the basics: 1) The setup (and most interesting question of all): WHY are there 3 popes! 2) The characters: we get a bit on the pope in Rome, but his two adversaries are barely mentioned in passing, 3) What the hell happened? (He merely tells us things started going badly for the Roman pope, so he fled? Most of that's only hinted at. What the hell is the story? In 17 pages, he can't even provide more than glimpse in what was going on to make the story climax?
It's such an insane non story. We get half-page paragraphs detailing long lists of attendees, who was in their entourage and what they were all wearing and how their horses were adorned in splendorous detail. And only scraps here and there of what the hell actually happened at the conference and how/why it unfolded that way.
It was like watching the event on television with the sound turned off. All visuals, no substance.
Halfway through the book, I was still willing to forgive all that in exchange for, 1) great glimpses of the period, 2) vivid prose depicting it all, 3) great insights into much of the thinking, why it mattered, and how it fit together.
On the paragraph level,brilliant writer, and thinker. His ability to pull it together into an actual story to maintain interest, instead of being 250 pages of meandering, rudderless factoids floating about: dismal....more