On finishing this book, I spent a good 5min. trying to figure out what the point of it was (title aside). I then spent another 5min. thinking about thOn finishing this book, I spent a good 5min. trying to figure out what the point of it was (title aside). I then spent another 5min. thinking about that thin comedic line between stereotyping a group in a charming, catty way and flat-out demeaning or bashing them, and whether or not Doonan ever crossed that line, or just minced dangerously close to it for 254pp.
Then I realized I'd actually just spent 10min. trying to deconstruct a frosted cupcake of a self-help book by Simon Doonan that comes wrapped in a velvet-touch pink dust jacket.
The thing is, Doonan at times has quite sophisticated things to say about gender, equality, and relationships; his voice is a sweet trifle but his ideas are never trifling. As excitingly, the book is a doctoral-level class in gay and sartorial (and gay sartorial) history, culture, references, and language. E.g., upon reading the Gay Cannon book/movie list and the chapter on Palari (dying 60s homo-slang), I wanted to thrust the book into the hands of every clueless anti-history glass-eyed circuit fag strolling through the back door of a Daniel Nardicio underwear party, their jockstrapped buns-by-David-Barton a-twitching to a Rihanna mash-up.
But while that's all wonderful, it's almost irrelevant -- because in the end, the main point of the book is that Simon Doonan is really fucking amusing! (And also much, much dirtier than you'd expect a nelly fashion queen like him to be -- fisting and drug use figure prominently, as does the prostitution story of when (view spoiler)[Doonan was literally a three-dollar whore for a night (hide spoiler)].) Of course, anyone who knows anything about this "toxic little dwarf" (as his husband calls him) knows he's a laugh riot: the man is a ubiquitous TV presence, and as generous with his soundbites as Diana Vreeland. But you know, I always get a sense when he speaks publicly that he's holding something back. If only Simon and I were besties, I think, he would spill everything to me! This book is the closest thing we mere mortals will ever get to that state of being bosom buddies with Doonan, and it's utterly delightful. So if you're feeling low (or at least not gay enough), pick this book up to lift your spirits, as you imagine you're whiling away a delightful Sunday afternoon with Simon on the patio at Morandi, chugging mimosas (kukicha tea for him) and dishing endlessly about all that is naff in the world today.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
At times Leche was quite funny and clearly ambitious, but it didn't really hold together at all. Ideas, characters, plots, revelations, etc. were pickAt times Leche was quite funny and clearly ambitious, but it didn't really hold together at all. Ideas, characters, plots, revelations, etc. were picked up momentarily, then discarded forever a few pages later. Every character -- regardless of age, sex, gender, class, etc. -- spoke in the arch, allusive voice of a drag queen cliché. The tone toggled jerkily and inexplicably between high camp and didactic historian, with extended bouts of treacly sentimentality, but not in a way that seemed clever or bathetic -- more like the author had bitten off more than he could chew and didn't know how to fit it all together. Indeed, the whole enterprise felt distracted and manic, and I was rarely engaged for more than a few pages at a time. I understand this frantic, piebald style could be an attempt to echo the hellish chaos of modern-day Manila (which comes across as a truly awful place to visit), but as even a cursory glance at Midnight's Children (or, to a lesser extent, One Hundred Years of Solitude) reveals, a novel can embody the cacophonous, babbling multitudes of the "turd world" while still being readable, sophisticated, and engrossing.
PS. 3 stars instead of 2 only because of all the random and quite funny marginalia/trivia about modern Filipino culture....more
I wanted so desperately to hate this book. I mean, what's not to not love? The ridiculous hype? The obnoxious pedigree (Harvard, UVa, n+1, Brooklyn)?I wanted so desperately to hate this book. I mean, what's not to not love? The ridiculous hype? The obnoxious pedigree (Harvard, UVa, n+1, Brooklyn)? The incessant comparisons to Franzen and Wallace (whose editor oversaw this book)? The smug "yes I'm another privileged honky with a receding hairline" author photo? The pretentious book about the making of this book? The execrable quality of the novels by Harbach's fellow n+1 co-founders? The fact that it's a 512pp. novel -- ABOUT BASEBALL?! The list is endless.
But I just couldn't do it. It's just so damn good. Yes, some of the plotting and motivations seem unbelievable. Yes, some of the characters speak somewhat untrue to life. But O what characters! The whole gang felt vividly alive and deliciously complicated, and I was in thrall to their goings-on from start to finish, from first warm-up pitch to the bottom of the ninth. While finishing the book wedged into an impossibly hip tapas bar smack-dab in the middle of Manhattan, I teared up repeatedly -- turning on the waterworks in full view of several confused but still jaded New Yorkers. But I didn't give a damn, because it was that fucking great. Please enjoy!...more
A spectacularly dull Eat Pray Love for the McSweeney's crowd. Are you an adult and enjoying your life too much? Pick up this book and be reminded of hA spectacularly dull Eat Pray Love for the McSweeney's crowd. Are you an adult and enjoying your life too much? Pick up this book and be reminded of how mind-numbing life can be for some, namely a flighty, dim, selfish WASP princess; a mean-hearted, cruel manic depressive; and a fumbling, pathetic nerd with an inflated sense of his importance in the world all going through the cliche post-graduate paces of trying to desperately "find themselves" in the 3 months between graduation and the real world.
Eugenides works hard to make the experience as stultifyingly unpleasant as possible, fully ignoring his previously proven writerly strengths -- vivid characterization, unique perspectives and voices, and beautiful but accessible writing -- and instead devoting a majority of the book to...describing in excruciating detail how miserable it is to live with someone who is depressed. Really? Wow, what a waste. The rest of this absolutely disappointing effort is devoted to snore-inducing paragraph after snore-inducing paragraph about a stupid suburban white boy who gets so pissed that he can't get laid that he travels through India to find religion and Mother Theresa instead. Am I being punk'd?
The only thing that kept me from (1) giving this one star (2) throwing this across the room was 40-50pp. in the early pre-college section where the three characters' own academic pursuits suddenly throw into stark relief things about their own personal and romantic pursuits (if you have ever spent time in a college English department after 1975, this part will thrill you). Sure, an Ivy-draped brainy coming of age tale may be as trite and cliched a premise as anything Elizabeth Gilbert could dream up on her worldly sex vacations, but it was the only time in the entire novel I felt Eugenides' great gifts as a writer were actually utilized. I skimmed the next 350pp. waiting for that spark of talent to ignite the page again, but it never happened. Biggest disappointment of the year in a year already filled with literary lows. ...more
Here's a review in keeping with the half-baked animal theme supposedly running through this "novel": this book is horseshit. As both a homosexual andHere's a review in keeping with the half-baked animal theme supposedly running through this "novel": this book is horseshit. As both a homosexual and a publishing professional, I am ashamed that this is what is considered laudable queer literature these days. This is an intermittently interesting but preciously overwrought series of writing exercises in that unpleasant, twee, self-fellating "MFA style" we know and hate, haphazardly strung together so it eventually gags on its own crap like in The Human Centipede. At the end there is of course a convoluted, manhandled, and cliched moment of sexual awakening (of a never-before alluded to sexuality) that was so pointless and inept it made me want to go back in the closet.
I'm not ashamed I bought this glorified bit of firewood [trivia: "faggot" is an olde English term for a bundle of kindling] because I am always happy to give $18 to the wonderful Spoonbill & Sugartown Books, but I'm telling you now, you're an idiot if you drop the cost of a round of beers for 3 friends on this. If I see you out in the world even eyeing this book, I will first take $5 from your pocket as a moron tax and then make you spend the balance on the new Dennis Cooper novel.
PS. I know two does not a trend make, but with this book by Justin Torres and Tango by Justin Vivian Bond both battling it out for the crown of Queen of the Overhyped Gay Short Story Masquerading As an Actual Novel, it's clear one should give a wide berth to anything by queers named Justin. ...more
I love Dennis Cooper more than his characters love underage rough trade psycopath nymphet boytoys with daddy issues. But one thing Dennis Cooper is noI love Dennis Cooper more than his characters love underage rough trade psycopath nymphet boytoys with daddy issues. But one thing Dennis Cooper is not is subtle. Sophisticated, yes; layered with meaning, absolutely -- but understated, no way. In fact, I would argue that his greatest talent is his ability to be the opposite of subtle: it's his unrelenting repulsiveness that so powerfully drives his work to ever crueler, ever more captivating heights.
Which is to say that I hated this book. I mean, really? The ferocious and brilliant author of the violently enjoyable The Sluts decides to pen a subtle, understated, meandering novel about a subtle, understated, meandering way of speaking, all of it a subtle, understated, meandering pastiche of the limp mid-century nouveau roman style? Yo, Dennis, Imma let you finish, but Paul Auster is the best Robbe-Grillet rip-off artist of all time. Of all time! And guess what, man: EVERYONE HATES PAUL AUSTER.
Listen, I know Cooper's whole shtick is that he fucks with the reader's every last conception, but he fucked this one up in completely the wrong way. About 1/3 of the way through this mercifully brief novel the reader learns that if he feels confusion while reading, that is the intended response. For me, the issue with this clever conceit is that, while I didn't understand one lick of what was going on, more importantly, I also didn't give a flying fuck. It was just one empty and lifeless red herring-filled set piece after another, peopled with ciphers who made me yawn with boredom as they were disemboweled through their anuses or devoured bite by bite down to their toenails. I really hope this is just a one-off for Cooper and not a new pathway for his work, knocked out of a side wall like a secret passage in a crumbling chateau. I want the old sick and twisted Dennis back, and fast....more
If Hemingway is the Rolling Stones of literature -- posturing, cruel, oozing tight-lipped machismo -- this book is his Exile in Guyville. As we all knIf Hemingway is the Rolling Stones of literature -- posturing, cruel, oozing tight-lipped machismo -- this book is his Exile in Guyville. As we all know, Liz Phair's echt-feminist album of charming but brutally cutting songs was a lo-fi, track-for-track female rebuttal to the high-sheen dick-measuring contest that is Exile on Main Street, roaring to life to castrate Jagger & Co a generation after the fact. Similarly, the ditzy but savvy The Dud Avocado takes on the Parisian expatriate social whirl of The Sun Also Rises several decades after that book's setting, its characters literally tracing the footsteps of their Lost Generation forebears (from Paris to the countryside to a bullfight to dry martinis at a hotel bar). The difference this time around is that we learn exactly what was going on inside the alluringly opaque Lady Brett Ashley's head -- and the result is (like a tough night out in the 6ème) insightful, surprising, vaguely dull, but never boring.
First up is the manic drunken travelogue through the streets of Paris. In Hemingway's callous(ed) hands, this part is deliberately dispiriting and soulless, reflecting the inner emptiness of bright lights dimmed and snuffed out by the horrors of a worldwide war. In contrast, Dundy shines most dazzlingly when in her cups. Her narratrix hiccups gaily through the first 150pp. with the air of a jaded gamine looking for nothing more than her next one-night stand; yet behind the scenes we learn this is just so much tremendously self-aware scaffolding behind which a bright young thing is struggling mightily to construct herself. Sally Jay is a witty, beguiling guide through the seedy underworld that is both expatriate life and unfettered youth in their 20s. Any young-at-heart person trying to make their way through the minefield of urban romance (like myself) will be simultaneously dispirited and relieved to learn that a straight woman from 60 years ago went through the exact same thing a continent away, and came to much more thoughtful and inspiring conclusions about it than you ever will.
Unfortunately, this chatty, engrossing romp doesn't last, and that's when the book flatlines. As in The Sun Also Rises, the characters tire of finding themselves in the bottoms of their glasses of Pernod, fleeing for mental and physical refuge in the countryside (Biarritz instead of Spain) and then bullfighting (a movie shoot instead of an actual fight). For Papa Hemingway, Mama Nature is what inspires these lost souls and and corrals their wayward spirits into some semblance of humanity. In contrast, Dundy's escape from the high life brimming with promise reveals the lie behind it all, that wide-eyed youthful thinking flayed open as just so much bubbling frothy nothing. The final scene in both books shows their respective narrators clinking dry martinis with a paramour to toast their newfound adulthood. Hemingway's moment is devastating for his character, but uplifting for us -- a young man finally flowering into adulthood, casting aside youthful indiscretion, but still his own man and resignedly happy to finally be such a thing. In contrast, Dundy's moment is uplifting for her character, but devastating for us -- a young woman incorrectly realizing her youthful hopes and dreams are folly and will never be realized, and that all she really wanted was to settle down like all the girls back home.
Wow. Well I was planning to give this book just 3 stars (I hated The Sun Also Rises for being so curt and inaccessible, and gave it just 1). But now I realize how much the later book made me appreciate the earlier, so I'm bumping up both ratings by 1. To quote Hemingway, "Isn't it nice to think so?"
"I woke up alarmed I didn't know where I was at first Just that I woke up in your arms And almost immediately I felt --" ~Liz Phair, 'Fuck & Run' (Exile in Guyville)...more
So one thing to know is that I don't do historical fiction, especially something literally "bodice-ripping." (FYI, getting dressed in the 18th centurySo one thing to know is that I don't do historical fiction, especially something literally "bodice-ripping." (FYI, getting dressed in the 18th century really sucked.) And yet, I loved this book. One obvious reason is Emma Donoghue is clearly one of our most capable and inventive storytellers, regardless of the era she's chronicling. Another reason is that the setting -- in the seedy London underbelly of prostitutes and thieves -- is bawdily, pruriently engrossing. But the main reason is that, despite taking place in Georgian England (that's before the US existed, folks! 250 years ago) -- the preoccupations of this book are thoroughly, thrillingly modern. A young person of grand ambition with a bloodthirst for fine clothes and high living hopes to make it big in the big city, and will sacrifice anything and everything to do so, including her dignity and her humanity....Hmm....If only Manolo Blahnik were around in the 1760s, or if Patrick Bateman were hiring an assistant! And let's not forget the constant denigrating of religious fanaticism, the obsession with the death penalty, and the latter half of the book's scathing condemnation of the sort of grand country house living that Jane Austen would fetishize in the years almost contemporary to the novel. But hey, maybe this is what all historical fiction is actually like; you don't have to take my word for it. [ba-dum-PUM]...more
Is this a fucking joke? Worst book I have read in recent memory, and this is from someone who suffered through Orlando a few years back. I think Mx BoIs this a fucking joke? Worst book I have read in recent memory, and this is from someone who suffered through Orlando a few years back. I think Mx Bond is so many amazing things -- a fascinating human being; a consummate performer; a top-shelf queer; a brave, brilliant mind; an inspiration and a goddess -- but clearly V is not a writer or even functionally literate. This is a rough draft of a LiveJournal entry that the dickheads at CUNY Feminist Press are trying to pass off as an actual memoir and fool you into paying $17 for! This makes me long desperately for the death of print publishing, and I work in print publishing. Trite, pointless, and irrelevant....more
A big, sprawling, ambitious 4-star novel that in the end thought it was much more clever than it actually was. I quite enjoyed its scope and its interA big, sprawling, ambitious 4-star novel that in the end thought it was much more clever than it actually was. I quite enjoyed its scope and its interwoven back stories starting out, but I finished by docking 2 stars because I basically hated everyone in it. Couldn't care less whether they lived, died, married, got irradiated by an atomic bomb, or burned their entire compound to the ground.
Putting aside the fact this is a book about an abhorrent and illegal extremist Christian sect that gets chuckled and gushed over like they are just anxiety-prone, misunderstood middle-class Jonathan Franzen characters, the real reason I disliked this is the fact that, from the top down, these are all petty, mean, incompetent people who are pretty much abject failures at basic life skills. The two "main" characters -- Golden and Rusty (we are important! we have symbolically opposite names!) -- are a misogynistic wimp and a wretchedly depressed child, yet we're supposed to reverse our standard emotions and somehow sympathize with the former and laugh at the latter. (Dear Brady, read Portnoy's Complaint or really any Philip Roth to learn how sympathetic asshole is actually done.)
Indeed, tone is an issue throughout -- Udall can't seem to decide how to write about this universe he created, being arch and satirical one moment, fumbling at attempts at profundity and empathy the next, and struggling so mightily throughout to be caring and paint these freaks as normal that he ends up just whitewashing them and boring the hell out of the reader. I skimmed the last 200pp. or so and wished I had just watched an episode of "Big Love" and called it a night instead....more
Full disclosure: (1) I greatly prefer Didion's inscrutable fiction to her cruel non-fiction; (2) I hated The Year of Magical Thinking (the "prequel" oFull disclosure: (1) I greatly prefer Didion's inscrutable fiction to her cruel non-fiction; (2) I hated The Year of Magical Thinking (the "prequel" of sorts to this book, about her husband's and daughter's deaths within months of each other).
I know this makes me a horrible human being, but hear me out. For me, the power of Didion's writing is its exquisite balance of a hermetically sealed-off style with a wide openness to interpretation. Her high-gloss shine -- the surgically precise delivery; the bone-chillingly cold tone; the icy, haughty anti-heroines; the mantra-like repetitions; the way that everything (even plot) is implied between the lines or happens offstage -- turns every one of Didion's books into a beautiful mirrored surface: you can see anything and everything you want in it, but only the anything and everything that you yourself put in.
Needless to say, I was skeptical about a Joan Didion memoir. Did I really want someone who's spent 43 years perfecting heartless ice-queen hauteur to finally open up her heart? For me, Magical Thinking replied with a resounding NO. Didion's ruthless, impenetrable style was anathema to the idea of mourning. I refrained from judgement (until now!) because I think Joan Didion is an amazing person, who dared to publicly bare the rawest of emotions at a time when she was clearly completely devastated. I could hardly fault her for seeking solace in the familiar when faced with something unfathomable, even if the familiar felt (to me) wholly inappropriate.
All this is a lead-up to say that Blue Nights already had a few strikes against it when I picked it up. Thankfully, there's a passage mid-way through the book where she addresses my concerns (well, not me directly obviously), saying after Dunne and Quintana's death she felt she could no longer write in her old style, but was struggling to find what tone to strike. I enjoyed going along with her while she worked that out. (Wrong; "enjoying" a death memoir is crass -- I appreciated it.) This was a better book than the previous one, but it was still a wholly unpleasant reading experience. Didion seems to have swung the pendulum blade all the way to the other side -- replacing inscrutable and cruel with incessantly questioning and vulnerable -- but in doing so has really just turned her cutting gaze away from others and focused it brutally on herself. This is a book filled with self-hatred, beratement, and vitriol, a true flaying of the person (literally: at one point Didion wakes up alone and on the floor, bleeding from cuts on her head and legs). I realized for the first time that this woman who has made a career of being distant and remote is actually incredibly self-aware, as she very frankly addresses many things people have held against her over the years -- her life of privilege, her physical frailty, her inaccessibility, etc. While it is exhilarating to see such a formidable intellect as Joan Didion finally open up, it's not easy. To recommend this book to another person would be impossible, a Didionesque act of cruelty; but to read it and not be enriched personally and emotionally is also an impossibility....more
HAPPY MEH-LLOWEEN! Overall a meh. I had high high hopes for this book, and although it didn't fully disappoint, it didn't come anywhere near the heighHAPPY MEH-LLOWEEN! Overall a meh. I had high high hopes for this book, and although it didn't fully disappoint, it didn't come anywhere near the heights that I know Whitehead is capable of scaling.
My appreciation of this book crept up on me very, very slowly and reluctantly, like a ragtag team of zombies dragging their pustulating limbs at a glacial pace down Broadway. Don't get me wrong: Colson Whitehead is one of my faves, and Zone One was one of the most eagerly anticipated books of this year for me. Whitehead should clearly be grouped with his fellow top-tier, McSweeney's-beloved, Brooklyn-based Great American Literary Novelists (like the Jonathans Franzen, Foer, Lethem, et al.), but I feel like he never is, which upsets me. Whitehead is a far fresher, more dazzling writer and a much keener observer of life than that self-important, bloviating lot, and he deserves recognition for that (not that his Pulitzer Prize nomination and MacArthur Genius Grant are anything to sniff at). I mean, this dude spun brilliant literary gold out of such trifling straw as elevator repairmen and Band-Aids, show some fucking respect!
Well, bracketing the big fat obvious elephant in the room of the race issue, I think that that very literary bent of focusing on the small stuff unfortunately might be the very reason he gets cast aside: the breadth of Whitehead's novels are a bane not a boon, being grand in scope but not in ambition. Whitehead's genius lies in his ability to pick apart the minutiae of daily urban life, expanding the tiniest moment or most minor detail into a brilliant meditation on the human condition. The plots and overarching premises of his books are at best minor, and at worst irrelevant. Which poses a huge problem when he decides to write a post-apocalyptic zombie thriller, which is basically nothing BUT plot and premise. Whitehead is not really up to the task of a great sweeping survival story or end-of-days humanitarian epic; he fumbles the big reveals and carefully meted out flashbacks because he's too busy rhapsodizing about human foibles. But O what rhapsody! I started off immensely disappointed, but once I fell in thrall to his fantastic writing and killer fucking insights, I let that go and snuggled in for the long, wry haul. And as another review pointed out, something happens in the last 75-100pp.; the writing or the pacing doesn't change, but the enormity and horror of what is happening somehow sets in, and you flip anxiously and painfully through the final gasps of the story (and the city), rapt and horrified. Perhaps Colson is up to the task of a "big idea" novel after all; it's unfortunate this just isn't that novel.......more
I don't understand Palahniuk fans (and frankly, given the stories about them, I never hope to): half of them complain "his recent books aren't as goodI don't understand Palahniuk fans (and frankly, given the stories about them, I never hope to): half of them complain "his recent books aren't as good as his old ones," and the other half bemoan the fact that "he just writes the same book over and over again." How can both those things be true?
Anyway, my feelings about this book are pretty much exactly my feelings about Tell-All, his last book that was roundly denounced by his acolytes: a fantastic premise that gets ground into meaningless dust over time thanks to Palahniuk's incessantly repetitive, stalled gimmicky style. Why does he keep writing in circles on the same lovely to read but ultimately shallow premise? Who is this man's editor/boyfriend and why are they not pushing him to bigger and better things?
Those excited by the whole "a retelling of 'The Breakfast Club' set in Hell" idea will be disappointed, as that is less a guiding force than an incidental fact mentioned only briefly in passing. Those who enjoy being grossed-out by Palahniuk's revolting mis en scenes will also be disappointed -- Hell is a pretty (literally) shitty place in this book, but the multiple gruesome scenes (nail file mountains, semen lakes, abortion swamps, etc.) take a back seat to what is effectively a budding allegory about history, life, and salvation. But I think that could end up being the saving grace for this dude who appears to be trapped in the 9th circle of a writerly hell of his own making. This more abstract, larger-scale idea about how we should live our life on a cosmic scale -- versus the standard "dissection of minutiae of modern culture" premise that is Palahniuk's droning stock in trade -- could be just the thing to pull Palahniuk and his clearly formidable talents out of his rut. This is reportedly Part I of a planned trilogy (all reviews mention this, and the ending and lots of loose ends make that abundantly clear); I'm excited to read the next one and find a new Chuck dazzling me anew....more
The breathless "don't tell the secret" marketing is pretentious and distracting. None of the secrets are earth-shattering or shocking, just gruesome,The breathless "don't tell the secret" marketing is pretentious and distracting. None of the secrets are earth-shattering or shocking, just gruesome, and they all happen fairly early in the book. The whole final chapter was not a twist; it was unnecessary to the thrust of the story and the argument, and could have been lopped off like an errant middle finger.
What I actually enjoyed most about this book was the humor. The witty, comic asides from Little Bee are actually the most insightful parts of a story that otherwise reads like the token "real-world story nestled between beauty secrets in Cosmopolitan" that gets ridiculed so much in the book. There's a lot of funny stuff in here, which is surprising given that it's a book about about rape, war, and immigration -- but I suppose gallows humor comes almost as second nature to most British creative types.
Speaking of, the reader's guide at the back of my edition stresses how this is a really universal book with a universal story. That's not really true at all. This was distinctly, teeth-clenchingly British, and had a very closed-off, English outlook on the idea of otherness and assimilation. An American take on this same story (say with an Iraqi or Haitian refugee) would be entirely different, as the American narrative of refugees and immigrants is entirely different. In fact pretty much any country outside of colonial Europe would have a completely different take on these characters, which may explain my overall "meh" feeling about a book the European press couldn't get enough of....more
Full disclosure: I read this book on the recommendation of a former paramour who, at the peak of our good times together, disappeared to the tropics iFull disclosure: I read this book on the recommendation of a former paramour who, at the peak of our good times together, disappeared to the tropics inexplicably and suddenly, never to return to me -- all exactly like one of the central characters does in the book. So perhaps what I found lacking in this book was really just my trying to read a little too hard between the lines. Onward:
Though it's not a direct translation of the original Hungarian title, Embers seems perfectly named: here's a story with great, burning promise that sputters out to pretty much nothing. For the first half of the book, Márai takes that most maudlin and banal of plots -- infidelity -- and spins it into something gripping and suspenseful. The threat of impassioned, cathartic violence is everywhere bubbling beneath the stiff-upper-lipped surface of the deep, fraught investigation into how friendship between men can blossom, grow, flourish, and then just as quickly wither on the vine. When said men finally meet, however, the General's long-winded, wandering, obvious rant snuffs that fire right out. Most confusingly, he delivers an excessively wordy, excessively detailed monologue whose point seems to be that words and details mean absolutely nothing. Eh??? What exactly is the point of the last 100pp.?
The mood and pacing of the book are great -- dark, brooding, mordant, en agonistes -- but although it will surely be a great inspiration for an indie rock music video or an Amanda Palmer album someday, I'm not sure the ideas in the book are worth thinking about any more, nor did it ignite in me a desire to pick up any of Márai's other works. ...more
This book has the same problem all the other overly self-consciously "clever" 33-1/3 series books do: they suck all the fun out of listening to an albThis book has the same problem all the other overly self-consciously "clever" 33-1/3 series books do: they suck all the fun out of listening to an album or watching a movie, and convince you of little more than the fact that all critics are unaware, needy, self-involved douches. Seriously, about 40% of this book was John Ross Bowie's insipid recollections of high school in 80s Manhattan, coupled with page after page of agonizing about whether he should show "Heathers" to his toddler children. I don't give a fuck, dude! Why are you pulling my dick? Oh and PS, your criticism is ham-fisted (really? a 20pp. chapter on the use of color in "Heathers"?), and your "insidery" tidbits can all be found by reading the "Heathers" Wikipedia page. So what exactly is your brain tumor breakfast of a book's reason for existing? That said, any book that strains to simultaneously insult Roger Ebert for being a misogynist and place "Heathers" in the same pantheon as Hamlet is worth a 10min. flip-through....more
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 pWell! 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....more
"All this wanting and not wanting. It's worn me out. For once, I'm going to try the present on for size."
Ahh, the myth of New York: a glittering wonde"All this wanting and not wanting. It's worn me out. For once, I'm going to try the present on for size."
Ahh, the myth of New York: a glittering wonderland where anything is possible. Ahh, the reality of New York: a glittering wonderland where the striving for everything possible destroys you slowly, surely, and exquisitely.
Ever since Gatsby, this idea has become a familiar yet irresistible cornerstone of so much great American fiction. But until this book -- set post-Daisy Buchanan, pre-Dons (both Powell and Draper), and contemporary with the debs in The Group -- I don't think I've ever read a book that has so giddily run off with the idea. Embracing all of the city's gin-soaked high highs and flophouse-filthy low lows, Rules of Civility launches headily and head-first into chronicling what exactly is at stake (and what some are willing to sacrifice) to make it, and make it big, in the big city.
I'll admit, at times the goings-on are a little too giddy. The characters are refreshingly, almost depressingly real (I'm positive I've met Katey and her UES cohort stumbling down Barrow St. cobblestones before), but their one-liners sometimes end up feeling a little overbaked. And the many symbolic moments and objects littered throughout the novel (I guarantee you'll never look at olives, subway rides, doormen, diamond jewelry, or the photos in people's homes the same way again) occasionally cross over from being perfectly nuanced moments of reflection to being precious and over-strained.
But those quibbles are minor; I implore you to read this book. It is literate, exquisitely crafted, exhilarating, shocking, and great, great fun.
"Suddenly, all the people of valor were gone. One by one, they had glittered and disappeared, leaving behind only those who couldn't free themselves from their wants: like...me."...more
The Mezzanine is a book I think about on a weekly basis; it's frightening how much my brain works in exactly the same way as the brain of Nicholson BaThe Mezzanine is a book I think about on a weekly basis; it's frightening how much my brain works in exactly the same way as the brain of Nicholson Baker -- meandering, silly, slightly dorky. So I cracked open Vox excited to watch that same frisky intellect dissect everyone's favorite topics of sex, love, intimacy, etc. But to quote "Glitter and Be Gay" from Candide -- "Oh, twas not to be." There were exactly two pages where this was interesting -- a paragraph on how love is like a radio station, and another page on flying over America in a plane watching lights go on as women masturbated. The other 163pp. were basically just really bad Penthouse Forum letters recited by two indescribably boring people. ...more