WTF?!?!?!?! I thought this would be like gay Joan Didion, twisting together a sordid coming out tale and the shadowy political intrigue of Argentina'sWTF?!?!?!?! I thought this would be like gay Joan Didion, twisting together a sordid coming out tale and the shadowy political intrigue of Argentina's desaparecidos-era dictatorship. Granted, it IS that for the first 20pp., but unless you're Henry Kissinger you wont understand a thing that's going on because it's totally oblique and confusing. (Only good thing about this novel is it was so iffy on the political part it forced me to go down a Google hole learning about Operation Condor; what a shameful and overlooked period of American history.) But not to worry, the horrors of human rights atrocities quickly give away to a sort of Shopaholic/Sex and the City/Architectural Digest fantasy of how fun it is to be a rich gay yuppie. Then all THAT goes away, too, as the whole miserable apparatus crashes and burns like a badly-written gay after-school special that even LOGO has too much integrity to broadcast. I know people wet themselves over Colm Tóibín but this was absolute crap; was this ghostwritten by Candace Bushnell or something? I'm pretty sure I'll never read one of his books again, and I'll just wait for Tom Ford to make a movie of The Master....more
I strongly recommend (as does The New Yorker) that you read this utterly absorbing, insightful, and pretty charming book in conjunction with Union AtlI strongly recommend (as does The New Yorker) that you read this utterly absorbing, insightful, and pretty charming book in conjunction with Union Atlantic. You will come away understanding more about The American Dream(TM) than even P. Diddy and Britney Spears, and you will be utterly disturbed by that knowledge. ...more
Published posthumously, this novel was deemed too controversial for its time because it "dared" to treat gay men as normal people whose love was worthPublished posthumously, this novel was deemed too controversial for its time because it "dared" to treat gay men as normal people whose love was worth writing about (and writing about frankly). That may seem like charming, antiquated Edwardian dandy morality in our modern era of oversharing Twitter feeds and Dennis Cooper queersploitation....And yet Maurice still shocked me. It shocked me because it is the first book I've ever read that has really articulated -- and really dared confront head-on -- the inherent loneliness of being gay. In a post-Stonewall, post-Angels in America, post-Queer Eye world we all know now that it's not just cosmos and Craigslist hookups and Oscar Wilde quips. But I have yet to find many writers that are brave/foolish enough to speak out and really truly claim that being gay is actually kind of difficult -- and far fewer who have written so frankly about what a sad, solitary slog it really is. Maurice does all that and more quite terrifyingly, diving -- with that trademark Forster mordant beauty -- just below the surface of a decent, workaday, even kind of boring Virgo gay (like myself) to unearth that deep, dark pool of sadness and solitude that lies within, and lies there forever....more
Oh for the love of god NO. How can a book about drunken sissy pirates and cold-hearted Victorian children be so eye-gougingly boring? The only thing rOh for the love of god NO. How can a book about drunken sissy pirates and cold-hearted Victorian children be so eye-gougingly boring? The only thing remotely worthwhile about this book is the Henry Darger painting on the cover. ...more
Leave it to a pompous Frenchman to make a harrowing, near-fatal journey through war-ravaged Afghanistan so boring, tedious, and cold-hearted. The storLeave it to a pompous Frenchman to make a harrowing, near-fatal journey through war-ravaged Afghanistan so boring, tedious, and cold-hearted. The story was boring, the drawings were boring, the characters were boring, and what little impact there was in the boring photos of rocks and trees was totally diminished by their eeny-weeny-teeny-tiny thumbnail size. If you're looking for an actually worthwhile comic book with insight into an oppressive foreign regime written by a Frenchman, check out Guy Delisle....more
Wonderful! Ambitious and sprawling while still being subtle and accessible. Haslett's goal here is nothing less than the diagnosis of the contemporaryWonderful! Ambitious and sprawling while still being subtle and accessible. Haslett's goal here is nothing less than the diagnosis of the contemporary (post-9/11, post-Lehman, post-yuppie, post-everything) American psyche, and I think he nails it. Sure, we may be hopelessly naive and greedy to our core, but we're also compassionate, principled, and relentlessly optimistic.
I read this right after Victor LaValle's Big Machine, a totally out-there allegory about how institutions fail individuals. This book is also preoccupied with the impact of institutions, and I would say it argues the opposite: with its cast of characters all living hopelessly (even fatally) in an imagined past (or in Nate's case, imagined future), here in the real world it seems it's actually the individuals who fail, and then dream up the institutions to sustain them. ...more
"Jay McInerney meets Carrie Bradshaw for the Mad Men era" would surely be the publicist's pitch if Dawn Powell's weighty novel about the Greenwich Vil"Jay McInerney meets Carrie Bradshaw for the Mad Men era" would surely be the publicist's pitch if Dawn Powell's weighty novel about the Greenwich Village literary whirl of the 40s were first published today. The description is not inaccurate: Powell prefigures SATC's breathless, enthusiastic chronicling of the cocktail-swilling tribes of Manhattan, and her writing is drenched in a face-disfiguringly acid wit so brutal even McInerney would blush.
But this satire offers something more profound -- and thus, I would argue, more difficult to enjoy -- than the literary bubble gum of those two pop philosophers. Powell's understanding of human behavior is so thorough, so flawless, and so beautifully surgical it's unmatched in almost anything I've ever read. Seriously, it's intimidating how insightful and also rapier-funny she can be. But I still only gave this 3 stars because that's all she wrote (literally); there's no character or plot worth latching on to here to sustain you through the endless parade of deep, dark insights into the mind(lessness) of the modern man. To explain it in quantities the Locust characters would understand: these 27 chapters are like drinking 27 bone-dry martinis in a row -- sounds great and delicious for the first few, but it just gets exhausting and tedious and leaves you with a splitting headache after a while. Thankfully, as others have said, the ending is very satisfying, and breathes some necessary air into the stultifying world of the novel, and of your thoughts. ...more
Look ma, no hands! Look ma, no talent! This terrible (and terribly overhyped) book is as dull, obvious, and subtle as a lead pipe to the head. A monkeLook ma, no hands! Look ma, no talent! This terrible (and terribly overhyped) book is as dull, obvious, and subtle as a lead pipe to the head. A monkey typing out the screenplay of "Crash" would end up with a better story. A monkey watching "Jersey Shore" would come away with a more nuanced reading of New York than you will reading this book. Heck, a monkey watching John Mayer sing "Chocolatte Rain" on YouTube would have more to say about race than this piously classist waste of paper does. I'm not even sure what that last thing means now that I read over it but I can promise you it's more exciting than anything in this book. Listen, America, Brooklyn hipsterati white boys will never write a great, or even good, New York novel, no matter what they or their publicists tell you. Stop letting honkies pinch off these sh!tfests and call them genius. RISE UP AND WRITE BACK!...more
This book was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs! This nice review pretty much sums it up. Very funny, very intense, very surreal....Like Murakami, but also the oThis book was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs! This nice review pretty much sums it up. Very funny, very intense, very surreal....Like Murakami, but also the opposite, and also like a fast-paced thriller....Basically uncategorizable, but in the most fun and best way possible. Unfortunately the last 100 pages or so didn't really make any sense/go anywhere, and the ending was incredibly unsatisfying, so it drops from 4 to 3 stars. ...more
Translated from the Japanese original "How to Extoll the Virtues of Fingerbanging in the Most Un-Fun Way Possible." Yes, this really IS a book about aTranslated from the Japanese original "How to Extoll the Virtues of Fingerbanging in the Most Un-Fun Way Possible." Yes, this really IS a book about a woman whose toe becomes a penis, leading her to join a traveling Geek Love-style freaky sex show. But those expecting Katherine Dunn's (or even Haruki Murakami's) patentedly queasy mix of titillation, repulsion, and emotion should look elsewhere. Though each sentence just thrums with deviancy and sex shenanigans, this is NOT erotica, and at times reads almost like it's opposite: a Very Serious Treatise on Intimacy and the Hegemony of the Penis. Matsuura's ultimate argument -- that sex should never cause anxiety, but be celebrated endlessly and in all its forms -- is actually presented sophisticatedly and insightfully, with each chapter just begging for a spirited book club dissection (or undergrad gender studies seminar). It's unfortunate that the austere, clinical style (lost in translation perhaps?) makes this tough slog of a read so difficult to recommend....more
Though Alison Bechdel's stunning Fun Home is the clear kissing cousin to this book (both are tragic gay coming-of-age comics rooted in their sense ofThough Alison Bechdel's stunning Fun Home is the clear kissing cousin to this book (both are tragic gay coming-of-age comics rooted in their sense of history), I actually kept thinking about this book in relation to Asterios Polyp. Both Baby and Polyp are comics about self-involved, unlikable characters wandering aimlessly through life while recalling their troubled pasts. But where Asterios Polyp was flashy, brainy, mannered, and detached (all good things, mind you), Stuck Rubber Baby is all heart -- thrumming, hormonal, animal, indignant heart. It's not particularly well drawn or artful (weirdly, all the male and female characters look like humptastic Tom of Finland drawings), but the story is just heartbreaking, particularly the devastating ending scenes. More than most anything I've read or seen before, this book really brought into relief just how far we have come (and have yet to go) regarding race and sexuality in America. ...more
I wanted this book to be so much more. As a handy (if shallow) recap of downtown NYC fashion of the 80s and 90s -- the period when "cool" and "below 1I wanted this book to be so much more. As a handy (if shallow) recap of downtown NYC fashion of the 80s and 90s -- the period when "cool" and "below 14th St." were synonymous in the fashion world -- this book is indispensable. It's a decent visual feast as well (Thierry Mugler dressing drag queens! Cindy Crawford in Willi Smith!). As a chronicle of the overall downtown scene or the actual magazine PAPER, however, this falls WAY short. Look, in the 20 years covered by this book, downtown was the center of the universe (not just in fashion but in music, art, drugs, literature, etc.) -- and it was PAPER that was telling the world about it, forever changing the publishing and 'zine landscape in the process. You don't get that sense here at all, and what is here is neither juicy nor very well articulated. Spy: The Funny Years or Purple Anthology are both models of this genre, vividly conveying both their respective publications' rises and falls and their respective fast-living NYC zeitgeists. I hope I don't have to wait another 20 years to get a comparable book about PAPER. ...more
This ethically questionable take on the history of "The Simpsons" gets high marks ONLY because it's about "The Simpsons," and ONLY because it's a quicThis ethically questionable take on the history of "The Simpsons" gets high marks ONLY because it's about "The Simpsons," and ONLY because it's a quick read. John Ortved really deserves a public shaming by Oprah, because this book, although dishy and fun, is about as unbiased and full of integrity as the KKK. If you can wade through the unintelligible writing and drown out the sound of the giant axe being ground, what you'll find is basically one elaborate (though rollicking) extended blog post about how the show sucks now and Matt Groening sucks even more, wrapped in a flimsy gauze of "authenticity" because Ortved has cherry-picked a bunch of previously published quotes that support his pretty juvenile vendetta. You see, no one of importance would speak to Ortved for this book, and he is here to spend 290pp. ineffectually slapping his d*ck in their faces to show how angry he is.
OK, enough. With plenty of backstabbing, juicy gossip, ego clashes, and behind-the-scenes intrigue to pique the interest of even the most casual or lapsed Simpsons fan, I would recommend this, but only if you are prepared to enjoy it seasoned with a GIGANTIC grain of salt. ...more
Titling your novel "The Beautiful Room is Empty" is really asking for it, and this book unfortunately lives up to the insult of its title. The luminouTitling your novel "The Beautiful Room is Empty" is really asking for it, and this book unfortunately lives up to the insult of its title. The luminous, mordantly insightful writing style White is known for is in full flower here, but it all unspools across the page with no purpose, no heart. The deeply moving emotional bedrock you usually feel grounding you so powerfully while wandering through White's patented haze of romantic, vaguely connected set pieces seemed totally lacking here. The ending was abrupt and unbelievable, the characters (particularly our narrator/autobiographical stand-in) all flat, lost, and insipid. Reading about them was like cruising the tearooms of Cranbrook and U Mich because one can think of nothing better or more meaningful to do with one's life -- only a marginally pleasant experience, offering me a few choice one-liners but absolutely nothing long-lasting, leaving me in the end feeling just overindulgent, sad, and a little bit sick....more
A bleak, beautiful, but very uneven collection: 3 or 4 of the 12 stories were brilliant, but the rest ranged from well-written, half-formed drafts toA bleak, beautiful, but very uneven collection: 3 or 4 of the 12 stories were brilliant, but the rest ranged from well-written, half-formed drafts to nearly incomprehensible (though still well-written) rambling. Despite Pancake's pretensions to down-home kuntry authenticity, all of it is written in that halting/desolate/profound "grad school" style that so divides readers and critics. This review says it best: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/......more
Hip noir. About werewolves. Told in free verse (that means poetry folks!). Random and unreadable or just kookily on-trend enough to be a bestseller? THip noir. About werewolves. Told in free verse (that means poetry folks!). Random and unreadable or just kookily on-trend enough to be a bestseller? Thankfully the latter. This was a thriller in the best sense of the word -- fast-paced, blood-curdling, Adamantine-sharp (get it?), and sure to have its (duh) sharp linguistic and emotional teeth dulled in the inevitable movie version featuring a pounding soundtrack by TV on the Radio....more