Aww, Glaciers. I totally have a girl crush on you. You were the perfect vacation companion. You're short and elegant and sweet, and you say such awkwa...moreAww, Glaciers. I totally have a girl crush on you. You were the perfect vacation companion. You're short and elegant and sweet, and you say such awkwardly touching things. You make me want to go vintage clothes shopping and make up stories about people in old photographs. And kiss Alaskan glaciers and live in Portland. Let's be neighbors and confidants, ok?
I bought this book several years ago from a pair of cute Tin House employees at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, but it would have been really nice to receive it as a gift. I think I will give my copy away (though I reserve the right to replace it). Let's all buy a bunch of copies of Glaciers and gift them to the nerdy girls in our lives. And maybe the sensitive guys, too. (less)
I suppose a book called Palimpsest will inevitably be more dense than deft, disjointed than seamless. If you average out this novel's plot, which star...moreI suppose a book called Palimpsest will inevitably be more dense than deft, disjointed than seamless. If you average out this novel's plot, which starts off at a nice clip, grinds to an expository-lush halt, and finally sputters to life with a jolt from a deus ex machina–shaped prod, you have some of the finest fantasy world-building around. Valente's inventions are gorgeous and strange: children who must be licked into adulthood, mute war veterans with animal limbs, moody and lustful trains, eerie burial practices—the list goes on.
Backtracking to the plot: four strangers in different corners of the world find themselves overcome with lust for persons sporting strange tattoos. Their mornings after are—I guarantee you—far more colorful than yours or mine: after surreal dreams, each member of our quartet wakes up to find himself or herself visibly marked. It is quickly revealed that these "tattoos" are pieces of a map, the map of the city Palimpsest. To extend your range of movement in this dream city-state, you must have congress with someone tattooed with the corresponding sector of the city. You see, our four are only the most recent inductees into a worldwide phenomenon. (Other reviewers have aptly likened the process to an STD.) Cue steamy scenes, breathtaking revelations of Palimpsest's topography, and the cheap thrills of a secret (sex) society.
Three things I loved about this book. One, the idea that sex marks you. Doesn't this go back to the feeling that we all had when we looked into the mirror after that first time and wondered, do I look different? Two, the idea of sex as access, not only to experience but also to a physical space, one that is mappable. Three, sex is not endgame. This is not sex for sex's sake; you become addicted to Palimpsest-as-place, and sex just gets you there (and can be quite tedious). It's not as though Palimpsest itself is any more sexualized than here. None of this is to say that the novel is mere allegory: I'm simply personally moved by these three ideas.
I know I seem stingy with my stars, but this is the type of book I'd want to write (not the type I'm equipped to write or the type I like best to read). I'm not sure I even know exactly what that means, but I know it's true and I know it's a compliment. Valente is awesomely creative, and I look forward to reading her others.(less)
If you want to quit smoking, Allen's your man. I'm one month in and I feel lighter and freer than I ever have (yes, I've quit a time or two before--on...moreIf you want to quit smoking, Allen's your man. I'm one month in and I feel lighter and freer than I ever have (yes, I've quit a time or two before--once for 2.5 freaking years). It's all about being armed with the right mental framework. The bottom line is this: you are not depriving yourself by not smoking. It is not an enjoyable habit; it is a physical addiction. Through merciless repetition and devilish manipulation, Carr hammers this into your thick skull. He is confident that even the most hardcore smokers can quit with relative ease, and I'm inclined to believe him. I was an off-and-on (mostly on) 15/day smoker for 16 years--not the most hardcore smoker but not some bum-one-at-a-party smoker either. My fiancé also read the book and was a 22-year, pack/day smoker who'd never even tried to quit before (he now admits that he was too scared). He's three weeks clean and feeling great! The prose is tedious and exasperating, but Carr isn't out for literary acclaim. If you're a smoker and over it (admit it, you are), then for god's sake, read this annoying book and free yourself. (less)
Polar expeditions and police shootouts and Rosicrucian secrets and anarchist rallies and unrequited love and sadistic millionaires and suicidal magici...morePolar expeditions and police shootouts and Rosicrucian secrets and anarchist rallies and unrequited love and sadistic millionaires and suicidal magicians and spurned wives and stubborn courtships and racist firemen and abandoned, out-of-wedlock babies—surely we’re detailing the plot of some decade-long period soap opera? Not so! This merely scratches the surface of E.L. Doctorow’s relatively slight (336 pages), impressionistic tale of pre–World War America, with all of its disparity and innovation. You’d think that a smorgasbord of barely-drawn characters, a broad-strokes historical backdrop, semi-gratuitous celebrity cameos, and an ADD plot would grow terribly wearisome, but you’d be wrong: this heady masterpiece is crafted and engrossing, and you have to admire Doctorow's utter fearlessness. Unlike some self-consciously clever novels, it isn’t emotionally one-note, either: there are truly touching moments, usually involving points of contacts between dramatically different walks of life. This novel has been around since the 1970s and must have influenced other writers; I’m trying to think of another bird of its feather—perhaps Let the Great World Spin, which doesn't achieve quite so much. (less)
Don't get me wrong: there's some fun, ooh-là-là stuff in here, and Mary Roach is totally VIP at my ideal cocktail party. But this one felt a bit...sca...moreDon't get me wrong: there's some fun, ooh-là-là stuff in here, and Mary Roach is totally VIP at my ideal cocktail party. But this one felt a bit...scattered. I didn't really want to spend a month on it, but it was difficult to read in large chunks. I remember liking Stiff better, but that's probably me: death is a lot grosser and more fun to read about than sex. Read about, I emphasize.(less)