Well! Clearly we've come pretty far in 100 years. Hard to believe this disjointed and oblique parody of Oscar Wilde's style and lifestyle played any p...moreWell! Clearly we've come pretty far in 100 years. Hard to believe this disjointed and oblique parody of Oscar Wilde's style and lifestyle played any part in Wilde's getting sentenced to 2 years' hard labor and effectively being expelled from his homeland for the rest of his life. The only harm I could imagine this book causing anybody nowadays is it causing them to fall dead asleep. The wink-wink cloaked references to homosexuality are SO cloaked as to be nonlegible -- I mean, Middlemarch reads gayer than this, and unlike this book, Middlemarch doesn't save its most damning criticism for a cruel takedown of, of all things, CHOIRBOYS. There's no plot, no momentum, no society intrigue, and little to no humor (I LOL'ed once; compare this to an onstage version of "The Importance of Being Earnest" I saw earlier this week, where I was basically LOL'ing nonstop). Worst of all, the baroque epigrammaticness of it all is so totally over the top and inserted so unnecessarily it gets to the point of seeming completely random.
The extra star is for the only redeeming part of the book -- the Mrs. Valtesi character, whose sole purpose seems to be to act like some sort of Wildean color commentator for the reader, keeping a running sarcastic commentary on all the sarcastic comments being made by the other characters.(less)
If I wanted to read a prudish, ponderous, overwrought Victorian novel, I would read....an actual Victorian novel. Here I was expecting some sort of so...moreIf I wanted to read a prudish, ponderous, overwrought Victorian novel, I would read....an actual Victorian novel. Here I was expecting some sort of sophisticated take on the idea of reading and writing the American dream, an epic battle between the staid East and the brash West to define a country. Instead, I got nearly 600pp. of really awful people making the same mistakes over and over again, until they die. Susan Ward was an insufferable, passive-aggressive boor, and her husband was a spineless twit. Their marriage was epically bad and exhaustively boring, but I kept turning the page praying that Stegner would finally rise to the occasion and actually have something interesting to say. He does bring some game to the last section of the book, but nothing to really mitigate the pain of suffering through the previous 500pp.
I don't think it's often that modern readers wish there were more postmodern tics and cleverness in their books, but this is one book that would really benefit from some Jonathan Safran Foerization -- a little more cleverness to get across the fact that we are even supposed to be drawing connections or feigning interest in the connection between Susan Ward's 1890s and Lyman Ward's 1970s.
If you really want to be challenged to think about what Victorian/Regency-era mores have to tell modern audiences, seek out Tom Stoppard's brilliant play Arcadia, which pits greedy, urban, modern mores against staid, countrified, Victorian mores, drawing endlessly fascinating conclusions and questions out of both. (less)
It's the end of the so-called dreadful decade of hypocrisy, apathy, and lies as we know it -- and we'll all feel fine if erstwhile Ex Machina star Mit...moreIt's the end of the so-called dreadful decade of hypocrisy, apathy, and lies as we know it -- and we'll all feel fine if erstwhile Ex Machina star Mitchell Hundred has anything to do with it. The (ongoing) story of the studliest queer superhero since Anderson Cooper and his quest to make the world a better place one NYC city block at a time, this is unquestionably the gayest comic book series of the decade -- and I do of course mean "gayest" in the modern sense of the word, i.e., most stylish, most articulate, most controversial, and most FUN. Reading Vaughan and Harris's enthralling mix of breathless, end-of-days action and adventure; wonkish sociopolitical outrage; and head-spinningly baroque interdimensional plots and counterplots did nothing less than revive my Cheney-trampled, teabagger-decimated faith in New York City, America, our government, its people, and humanity at large. Go!!! Hundred in 2012!!!(less)