Whatever you do, read Hound of the Baskervilles. Holy cow, that's now one of my favorite books. The short stories are fun, but some are better than ot...moreWhatever you do, read Hound of the Baskervilles. Holy cow, that's now one of my favorite books. The short stories are fun, but some are better than others.
It feels like Holmes and Watson are really fleshed out as dynamic characters in Baskervilles. Is it the longer length? Is it because it was written so much later than the short stories?(less)
"Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off,...more"Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it."
"For people could close their eyes to greatness, to horrors, to beauty, and their ears to melodies or deceiving words. But they could not escape scent. For scent was a brother of breath. Together with breath it entered human beings, who could not defend themselves against it, not if they wanted to live. And scent entered into their very core, went directly to their hearts, and decided for good and all between affection and contempt, disgust and lust, love and hate. He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men."
3/4 of the way through Perfume, I was going to tell you all in my review that if you're a fan of Dexter or maybe even True Blood, you might enjoy this book. Then I realized at the end that I was being too simplistic. It's for lovers of words, language, history, descriptions and loving to hate a character.
It's a strange thing writing a whole book about smell. Smell is one of our few senses that doesn't translate to images, words, or descriptions. I always find perfume ads amusing, because they have to evoke an emotion they are hoping consumers will feel when they do finally smell the scent. Young mother hanging the laundry! Sexy woman in a bustier in the basement of a Speakeasy! Man on a horse holding jewels!
Yet scent, at its heard, instantly takes us to our memories. I think I've finally figured out that the distinctive smell that infused my grandparents' house in South Dakota was a mix of talc, pine scented cleaner and fresh baked cookies. I might be wrong, but every once in a while I whiff something close to this and am immediately back in their 50's era kitchen with the big round drawer pulls.
I think Süskind succeeded in drawing the reader a scented picture of mid-eighteenth century France. He then layers that with the development of a poor, weird creature who only has his hyper-olfactory nerves as an asset. The story ends up being bizarre, fascinating, and altogether horrifying, with layers upon layers of scent.
Definitely not a book for everyone.
Oh, and by the way, the lead character's name, Grenouille, means frog in French. Do frogs have a smell?(less)
I wanted to comment purely on the storytelling in The Handmaid's Tale, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There are plenty of other excellent comments and di...moreI wanted to comment purely on the storytelling in The Handmaid's Tale, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There are plenty of other excellent comments and discussions here about the context of The Handmaid's Tale with regards to historical events, feminism, post-modern writing, etc.
I simply loved the way Offred the Handmaid's story unfolded. It was slow and deliberate, despite the horrific events. You are mostly being told the rather mundane yet utterly foreign day-to-day life of Offred in her own narration. Yet, she starts to drop clues from the beginning that getting to that slow, controlled life was a complicated story. Offred offers more and more clues to her background as she becomes bolder in her life.
In some ways, it was a bit like watching Mad Men in that it takes patience from the viewer/reader to get to the payoff. But when it does, events start to spin faster, feeding on themselves - both with Offred's present story and how much she tells the reader about the history of the religious revolution, how she lost her husband and son, and her experiences in the Red Center. The background disclosures seem to go hand-in-hand with her undoing.
About halfway through the book I was so eager and anxious to know more about the background stories that I realized that I was feeling a bit like the poor Handmaids. Just as they were desperate to find friends and pass around information in secreted tidbits, I was desperate for Offred to tell me more about the Canada crossing or how the country could become so religious and militarized so quickly. Will she ever find Moira? Will she become too bold and get caught by the Eyes? Will she get pregnant and secure her future? Will there be a revolution, or will she die?
The reveals end up being so delicious because the reader has been collecting these crumbs of the stories, waiting patiently for the big reveals. At the end I realized I was so immersed in the world that Atwood created that I couldn't decide how I wanted the book to end.
I can see how lots of people are disappointed that some parts of the society aren't fleshed out enough, and you're left without some explanations. However, this is Offred's story, as a representative of the plight of the Handmaids, and she tells you as much as she can when she feels ready. As a narrative, a character study, I found it completely fulfilling.(less)
I read this last night in an insomniac fit. It was cold and dark and rainy, and I was alone. I can't think of a more fitting setting for reading this,...moreI read this last night in an insomniac fit. It was cold and dark and rainy, and I was alone. I can't think of a more fitting setting for reading this, unless you were in an old farmhouse with drafty windows, sitting by a stove in your rocking chair. Throw in a batty old lady, and you could be in Starkfield itself!
I love creepy stories - ones that slowly start to overwhelm you with that sense that something just ain't right. "Oh dear, this isn't going to go well." The build-up of foreshadowing, imagery and the character's emotional state leads to a bit of fear and a bit of panic.
At first I thought Ethan Frome felt like a modern gothic - it reminds me a lot of Shirley Jackson's short stories, or the desperation of Daphne du Maurier. But then folks smarter than me pointed out that Wharton is considered to be part of the U.S. Literary Naturalism movement. Ethan Frome is certainly dripping with pessimism. Supposedly Wharton wrote ghost stories as well, so maybe she was a genre straddler? At any rate, if you like modern gothic, make sure you read Ethan Frome.
I loved Wharton's use of color throughout the book. In such a bleak place as the isolated farm in winter, the little village of Starkfield, and the struggling characters that inhabit the story, everything feels so drab. Then Wharton throws in the bursts of color: the red streak in Mattie's hair, the red pickle dish, a red flushed face and the red sun at the end of a winter day. Blue appeared as the sky, the shadows on the snow and a blue haze. Wharton seemed to know how to put just the right amount of vivid imagery and objects to set the scene.
"The sled started with a bound, and they flew on through the dusk, gathering smoothness and speed as they went, with the hollow night opening out below them and the air singing by like an organ. Mattie sat perfectly still, but as they reached the bend at the foot of the hill, where the big elm thrust out a deadly elbow, he fancied that she shrank a little closer."
Finally a note about Wharton herself. She had an unhappy marriage. So much so, that her doctor recommended she spend more time writing stories as an outlet for her stress and anxieties. She ended up having a love affair the same time as she was getting a divorce. This is a woman who understood the temptation and passion of illicit love, as well as the misery of being bound by life's choices.
Also, look at Edith's doggies. Just look at em!
(Not one of them looks very happy, do they?)(less)
This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemi...moreO Father Ambrosio, stop Monking around!
This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemism-filled scenes. But there are also two romantic subplots that filled with action, swashbuckling heroes, damsels in distress and deceit. All three stories end up intertwining in unexpected ways.
Did more people in olden times have prosopagnosia, or what? Why was it so damn easy to disguise yourself?
I had all sorts of naughty fun reading even more filthiness between the lines of the book. I can see why it got Lewis renounced as MP. Naughty, naughty man. But thanks for giving us such a fun book!
--------- I just wanted to update my review with a list of the cool words I found in The Monk:
* probity: integrity and uprightness; honesty. * opprobrium: the disgrace or the reproach incurred by conduct considered outrageously shameful; infamy. * Mountebank: a person who sells quack medicines, as from a platform in public places, attracting and influencing an audience by tricks, storytelling, etc. * perfidy: deliberate breach of faith or trust; faithlessness; treachery: perfidy that goes unpunished. * iniquity: gross injustice or wickedness. * prolix: extended to great, unnecessary, or tedious length; long and wordy.(less)
Please, please tell me that Joellyn will get more stories in the future!
Holy cow, is this some amazing, clever writing. It's a little book with a who...morePlease, please tell me that Joellyn will get more stories in the future!
Holy cow, is this some amazing, clever writing. It's a little book with a whole lot of character going on. There's a novella and a short-story. They revolve around different characters, but have similar themes. Sadly, I can't exactly tell you about the themes without giving away some secrets.
I wish there was some way to call it "chick lit" without being derogatory. It's smart lit that happens to be about complex, modern women.
Quick, someone give Lepucki a book deal to write a full-length novel about the protagonist in the novella. She's witty, self-assured, but doesn't quite yet get her place in the world. She also tries to be snobbish and picky, but doesn't quite make it. I definitely snorted out loud at times at the humor, but I also was kind of sad at the situation.
I guess that's about all I can say. Give it a try. (less)
I freaked out last weekend when I found out that David Mitchell is doing a reading in town tonight for The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Which is...moreI freaked out last weekend when I found out that David Mitchell is doing a reading in town tonight for The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Which is kind of funny on paper, because Cloud Atlas was the single work of his I'd read, and only gave it 4-stars. I liked it, but didn't fall in love with it, so why all the David Mitchell fan-fare? Ah, you see I heard a most excellent interview & discussion with Mitchell on the BBC World Service when they picked Cloud Atlas for their Book of the Month Club. (Link is here, thanks to Ken-Ichi for pointing it out!) Holy Crud, I have an author crush. He was funny, insightful, self-deprecating and engaging.
It just didn't feel right to rush off to Hollywood for the reading with only one Mitchell book under my belt. So I started searching around for another title to read. He must really be popular here in Pasadena, because ALL of his books at every branch of the library are checked out, most with waiting lists. Luckily I have an 'in' at a university library, but this was the only non-Cloud Atlas title they carried.
Hoo boy, am I glad this is the book that landed in my lap! Black Swan Green is funny, touching, sad, and just plain entertaining. Yes, yes, it's a coming-of-age story of a 13 year old boy living in a Worcestershire village in Thatcherite Britain. But it's also a series of short-stories, each a vignette of an important event happening in what's the most important, pivotal year in the life of young, stammering Jason Taylor.
What's also fun for the reader is the shout-outs Mitchell gives to his previous books & characters. He mentions the song, "#9 Dream" by John Lennon, also the title of his second novel. What's funnier is that an elderly Eva van Crommelynck (last seen in Cloud Atlas as a young woman) makes a significant appearance, as well as Robert Frobisher's Cloud Atlas composition. In the BBC interview, Mitchell explains that he likes to do cross-over characters partly to show readers that the character lives on.
I'll say up-front that I'm quite biased. Not to mention my newly budding Mitchell fandom, many of the stories in the book parallel my husband's life.
At any rate, I'll leave you with a few quotes:
"She'd probably love to have my stammer if she could have her leg back, and I wondered if being happy's about other people's misery."
"Eavesdropping's sort of thrilling 'cause you learn what people really think, but eavesdropping makes you miserable for exactly the same reason."
"Gravestones mostly flake away after a couple of centuries. Even death sort of dies. The saddest sentence I ever found was in a graveyard on Bredon Hill. 'Her abundant virtues would have adorned a longer life.'"(less)
Wherein I attempt to write a review using all the new words I learned whilst reading the book. My made-up-on-the-spot rule is one per sentence, to mak...moreWherein I attempt to write a review using all the new words I learned whilst reading the book. My made-up-on-the-spot rule is one per sentence, to make it a challenge. (Glossary at end of review.)
I hope you won’t look upon my review as mere folderol, but the most interesting things to be said about Gone With the Wind have been said over and over: it’s breathtaking, sweeping, American, but also racist and exacerbating. Everyone needs to read the story of one of literature’s best tragic heroines: Scarlett O’Hara, a Southern hoyden who Mitchell has managed to make complex, despite Scarlett's shallow ways. Scarlett normally has pinchbeck pretensions, even towards people she loves. She could inveigle even the most reluctant of men, just to get her way, particularly in marriage. When the reader watches her associate with carpetbaggers and parvenus, forsaking her friends, it’s hard not to cheer when she gets her just rewards. She’s frequently a hypocrite; she criticizes old County farmers who never manumitted a single slave, yet she complains later about the freed slaves in Atlanta.
And then we have Rhett, that dashing scalawag, and the only person who can call Scarlett’s bluffs. He’s a man who has approbation for others with strong morals without pretension. He coolly presents verbal zingers, even against his lover, foe, and termagant. Even though Rhett can be rapacious, he has a strong inner code that endears him to the reader. His sibling-like relationship with Melly, a sometimes pusillanimous character, is especially touching.
Finally, there is the South: Tara and Atlanta, belles and gentlemen, slaves and cotton, portieres and hoop-skirts. Scarlett, as representation of the South, is a product of her parents: her Irish immigrant, stentor father Gerald, and kindhearted but stoic stalwart mother, Ellen. And as the South rapidly changes and leaves behind it’s old ways, so too is Scarlett able to adapt to her new positions – and this is what helps the reader somewhat forgive some of her rankling, vituperative ways.
It was hard not to become lachrymose at the end of Gone With the Wind – I am mourning the loss of these characters in my life.
Word List: * approbation: approval; commendation. * carpetbagger: U.S. History . a Northerner who went to the South after the civil war and became active in Republican politics, especially so as to profiteer from the unsettled social and political conditions of the area during Reconstruction. * folderol: mere nonsense; foolish talk or ideas. Also, falderal * hoyden: a boisterous, bold, and carefree girl; a tomboy * inveigle: to entice, lure, or ensnare by flattery or artful talk or inducements (usually followed by into) * lachrymose: given to shedding tears readily; tearful. * manumitted: to release from slavery or servitude. * portieres: a curtain hung in a doorway, either to replace the door or for decoration. * pinchbeck: sham, spurious, or counterfeit * parvenu: a person who has recently or suddenly acquired wealth, importance, position, or the like, but has not yet developed the conventionally appropriate manners, dress, surroundings, etc. * pusillanimous: lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted; timid. * rapacious: inordinately greedy; predatory; extortionate * scalawag: 1. a scamp; rascal. 2. U.S. History . a native white Southerner who collaborated with the occupying forces during Reconstruction, often for personal gain. * stentor: a person having a very loud or powerful voice. * termagant: a violent, turbulent, or brawling woman. * vituperative: characterized by the nature of verbal abuse or castigation (less)
I should mention up-front that I drank copious quantities of wine in celebration of finishing this door-stopper/tome/opus/pain-in-m...more C.v. Note 123 supra
I should mention up-front that I drank copious quantities of wine in celebration of finishing this door-stopper/tome/opus/pain-in-my-arse. Then I wrote this review. Wine -> Review, in that order. I don't think anything is spoiler-y, but it doesn't help that Infinite Jest isn't exactly set-up in a traditional fashion. IJ is not so much about the story or plot, but more about the reader's journey.
I've read 24.6 other books while whittling away on Infinite Jest for the past 4 months (technically 98 days). Does this mean that it wasn't awesome? Nope. It just means it was too much information for my little brain to take all in one go. I needed mental breaks. I found that I could only read 50 pages a day. And that's like a maximum. Occasionally I'd get a case of the howling fantods and have to abandon my effort for some period of time. But I wasn't going to let DFW and IJ get the best of me. Like the winning move in the fictional game of Eschalon, I statistically was going to have the upper hand.
So what's the book about? Basically three stories, all taking place more or less around Boston, MA at some point in our near future:
1) Hal Incandenza et. familia: a teenage tennis phenom on the upswing. He's addicted to marijuana, attends his family's tennis academy, and has a bit of a breakdown even though he's emotionally stunted.
2) Don Gately and the Ennet House: felon with a staff position at a drug recovery center down the hill from the Tennis academy referred to in #1. More than you'd ever want to know about AA, NA and recovery programs.
3) The AFR: the Wheelchair Assasins. A Québécois separatist group, desperately trying to get their hands on the master copy of James Incandenza's mind-blowing masterpiece, Infinite Jest.
The three stories are interconnected in unusual ways. DFW throws you in and out of each thread, frequently taking side-trips to give you background stories of both major and minor characters and other oddities around Boston.
My favorite parts in the book are all the near-future speculative fiction aspects, details and side-stories:
*The US, Canada and Mexico have formed a North American equivalent to the EU: the ONAN.
*In an effort to raise money, each calendar year has a corporate sponsor, based on a best selling product. So you end up with 'subsidized time' such as the Year of the Adult Depend Undergarment. The Statue of Liberty's torch is replaced with the product of the year. Yes, Lady Liberty lofts a giant adult diaper for a year.
*There is no more traditional broadcast TV. Instead, TV-based entertainment is on-demand. There are also entertainment cartridges that can be viewed.
*Lovely take down of videophony: why video-based telephone will never work.
*The Concavity. Not sure if I fully understand this bit, but part of New England and Canada becomes a giant toxic dump that the US 'gives' to Quebec? I just don't know.
It's quite hard to sum up my thoughts about the book and the last 4 months. Am I happy I read the book? Absolutely! Did I struggle and moan along the way? Yup. Did I fully understand IJ? I don't think so. Do I wish DFW had a more aggresive editor? Oh hell yeah. What will happen if anyone wants to talk about tennis? If it's in the next 6 months, I'll probably develop a case of the howling fantods.(less)
I love all the anatomical drawings and scientific explanations. Lots of humor, too!
I also want to add that Goodreads has just let me know that people...moreI love all the anatomical drawings and scientific explanations. Lots of humor, too!
I also want to add that Goodreads has just let me know that people who've read The Gas We Pass have also read: Einstein: His Life and Universe and Middlesex. Clearly this book is most popular among kids of smart people! Therefore, flatulence implies intelligence.(less)
Oh man, did I ever tear through this. Yes, I mean both versions: tare and teer (spelling differentiation hat tip to Charlie Gordon). Quick, fascinatin...moreOh man, did I ever tear through this. Yes, I mean both versions: tare and teer (spelling differentiation hat tip to Charlie Gordon). Quick, fascinating, painful.
I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and The Speed of Dark last year. Like those two, Flowers for Algernon is from the point of view of a single mentally different individual. I guess we'd say mentally handicapped, but it's hard to use the term handicapped or retarded or deficient when those characters brought such insight, humor and joy into my reading world. Even if they allow you just for a moment to glean some truth about humanity, is it fair to call them anything but a human character with a different way of interacting with the world?
And that's clearly the point of these three books. Flowers for Algernon, although slightly dated, is the best of the three. Now I need to go find Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer's Journey, and the movie Charly, and go buy a bunch of flowers and maybe a few dinner rolls. (less)
My 8 y.o. niece could NOT stop laughing at the poems in this book. Her favorite part (so far) is the end pages that have the drawings and list of Runn...moreMy 8 y.o. niece could NOT stop laughing at the poems in this book. Her favorite part (so far) is the end pages that have the drawings and list of Runny Babbit's friends, like Toe Jurtle, Goctor Doose, and Polly Dorkupine. Over the next few days, she was re-reading the poems then trying to speak Runny Babbit talk. I loved seeing her think about and play with language!(less)
Stir contents vigorously. Serve with eggs on hard tack with maggoty butter.
Sounds implausible, doesn't it?
The narrator, Adam Hazzard, tells the story of the rise of Julian Comstock, nephew and unwanted heir to the current President Deklan Comstock in 2172.
The world has survived an almost-apocalypse with the End of Oil and the Plague of Infertility. By the start of the story, new mega-countries have been formed, the population is growing again, and America is at war with Mitteleuropa over Labrador and has effectively replaced the Supreme Court with the Dominion of Jesus Christ on Earth. (I should mention that America has 60 states and covers most all of North America. The Presidency is effectively a hereditary emperorship prone to coups.) It's all a bit Republic of Gilead, don't you think?
This new world isn't all bad - as a matter of fact, it's very much like America in the 19th century. Horse, carriage and trains are the main modes of transport, women generally wear long skirts, and people are expected to maintain their lot in life. Wars are fought mostly with rifles and calvary in trench warfare, but "new" weapons are starting to tip the scales. Movies are very rare and still don't have sound.
Adam Hazzard gives the story an "aw, shucks" naive tone. Many of Adam and Julians' hi-jinks will have you amused and laughing like you did at Tom Sawyer. Adam and Julian are boyhood friends from Athabasaka (northern Alberta) who love to shoot and fish together. Despite Adam's lower caste (lease-holder, one step above indentured servant), Julian (a high-born Aristocrat) tries to share with Adam the knowledge of the Secular Ancients that he's gleaned from non-Dominion approved antique books. This knowledge is in effect heresy, because it claims that space travel existed and evolution was accepted science.
Once Adam and Julian get conscripted into the Laurentian Army to fight in Labrador, the stories of training and warfare take over. Normally this is where my eyes would gloss over; I'm definitely not a fan of war stories or strategies on the battlefield. However, Wilson seems to move deftly from battlefield to human stories, and kept me interested throughout.
I can't really tell you too much beyond this without spoiling the story. Adam develops a love of writing and telling stories from his childhood and his path to becoming a writer is an amusing subplot. Even more amusing are his attempts at romance with the "fairer sex." It's rare that I laugh out loud while I read, but I was chuckling over and over again at Adam's naïveté, or supposed innocent observations. However, all the characters Adam describes end up being deliciously flawed and curiously interesting.
Likewise, the near-dystopic society Wilson creates is fascinating: it's in the future, but it's backwards! Certainly it will have you contemplating society's future after Peak Oil, although hopefully in a fictional way.
I read this in 1992 when I was a very bored, unchallenged high school student. I got lost in the epic, sweeping tale and the history of the region. Th...moreI read this in 1992 when I was a very bored, unchallenged high school student. I got lost in the epic, sweeping tale and the history of the region. This book, above all other influences, is what propelled me to become an exchange student. Thanks to The Next Best Book Club in the thread, What books do you miss, for reminding me how much I wish I could recapture that complete absorption that happens when you read the right book at the right time.(less)