Was hoping for a bit of a 'in conclusion' that would wrap up everything and show the effects of him throughout the centuries, but it ended flatly. AllWas hoping for a bit of a 'in conclusion' that would wrap up everything and show the effects of him throughout the centuries, but it ended flatly. All of that stuff was evident in the earlier chapters but still could have used some sort of feeling of resolution. Interesting that it bookended with his wife as a nonagenarian....more
These show Camus' extraordinary range and his ability to defamiliarize. One gets the sense that he is the cook from Growing Stone, now laughing at theThese show Camus' extraordinary range and his ability to defamiliarize. One gets the sense that he is the cook from Growing Stone, now laughing at the Westerner for feeling out of his element. What especially caught me was even in English translation you could sense he wrote the French in the way of a Brazilian trying to speak French, using their syntax. Woah.
Each story impressed me more and more, and at times I felt a foreshadowing of Bolano. They were all so different, written so differently as well, and yet that shows the universality of his themes all the more....more
Things I learned from Washington : it's sad to arrive at the end of his life in the book, where things seem to just get worse and worse -- outliving mThings I learned from Washington : it's sad to arrive at the end of his life in the book, where things seem to just get worse and worse -- outliving more of his beloved adopted children, reviled and impugned more and more during his 2nd term. Betrayed horribly by his own cabinet, and his best accomplishments turned over by fanatical people who had worked next to him. People mesmerized working under him during the Revolutionary War and then calling him, like Paine, a secret agent for the British.
What a life, nonetheless, though it's sad to think he deserved so much better. None of this makes sense but it is comfort to know that the craziness of our politics today is mirrored in the writing and the different fears and paranoias we've known.
Lessons learned: Washington's demeanor is the biggest thing. Giving time to things always seemed to end in better results. The way he was able to sidestep controversies that didn't have any clear advantage for his involvement. Reading his life story, I felt longing for the amount of letter-writing that he did, and how that seems like such a great thing to my modern ears as someone who is very pro-letter. It'd be nice to look back and see Washington's dream of a nonpartisan world having come true, but simultaneously you can see the Civil War was an event waiting to happen. Thomas Jefferson emerges in this text as a nefarious, duplicitious man. It'll be interesting when I get to him after John Adams (and Benjamin Franklin), who are next on my timeline. The new Jon Meacham one seems good.
"...mememormee..." and then a few seconds trying to figure out what that says, then the tears came.
I didn't think it'd hit me so hard the last 10 page "...mememormee..." and then a few seconds trying to figure out what that says, then the tears came.
I didn't think it'd hit me so hard the last 10 pages. Up until that point, I was going to give it a solid 4, but then I was in tears. A lovely book, extremely g.d. weird, but in the most refreshing of ways. This is the book that saved Joyce's reputation in my eyes, since it's so far better in every way than his short stories and The Portrait. NOW I get it. I feel like I've read Joyce starting with the bad, then the mediocre, then the awesome. So each new book of his I read, his estimation goes up greatly. Until FW, I couldn't figure out why people revere the man so much. I'm much more of a Samuel Beckett -type. But this book was tough, but lots of moments of loveliness and exceedingly good wordplay. The last one is the most cherished one, Ulysses, so I feel glad to have saved the best for last, supposedly.
This is the way I approached it:
Read it straight through the first time, just myself and my brain. I read the intro to the Penguin edition and I think that only set me up with false preconceptions that seemed to have little resemblance to the actual work (darned intros ruining things again!). So about halfway through I stopped trying to find a/the story.
I'll read it again in a year or two, more thoroughly, and buy a copy, and read it with the annotations and things. My thoughts, though, are that the annotations won't help. A lot of these sentences, even if I know what they are talking about, still wouldn't make sense (as contrasted with Proust where there is one likely interpretation, elusive though it is). Or, you'd get the meaning of one sentence but still not be able to figure out anything around it. So I think my inclination to read it through at a moderate pace, not getting bogged down too much was the way to go.
But part of the genius of the book is the fact that each person is required to come up with their own approach as they delve into it.
I wrote this a few days ago on a G.R. friends' wall:
I've read to page 570 of the Penguin edition. My feeling was, if a lot of it is more about how it interacts with your particular brain, then getting a corrected copy wouldn't make a whole lot of difference. Near the end, and my belief seems to be holding up. It's lovely, but my approach is more "get through it, read about it, sometime in the future go through it again." But the best thing I've done is mark the pages that I liked throughout the whole thing, then I'm going to scan them to keep in a PDF, which I'd enjoy looking at from time to time. The greatest hits, the parts that touched me the most. Just, stick it out! Don't stop for even a day
then I wrote this back to him:
OK! I made it. My copy was a library copy, so hearing you say that your edition is beautiful, I'll have to buy it and then be able to experience it more fully. My thinking with my brief flirtation with annotations is that, even if I know what's being referenced, it might not add a whole lot since, even if I understand one sentence "fully", what about the others? A lot of these sentences don't seem to add up into genuine paragraphs, is what I mean. My feeling continues to be to just to keep track of your Greatest Hits, the parts that you liked the best, and in the end to me that's what the value of reading it is. Sometimes that's a whole page, sometimes it's a handful of words buried in crap. The funny thing is that the beginning I would interact with the world and I'd reevaluate all the language around me. So its like the power of the book transferred to the external world and made everything come alive. It was a similar experience of studying Chinese, when I'd close my eyes at night only to see the characters still, like as if they were burned into my eyelids. But even weirder is that the feeling went away as fast as it did.
Last thought : to me, The Wake goes a long way to show how our language is far removed from the Platonic Ideal of the English Language that you find in nearly all other books. So he's less Socrates, pointing up to the sky, and more an Aristotle, pointing to the ground. There's one example of that which is so haunting, I nearly skipped over it--or rather, saw it without recognizing it--but it was the most heartbreaking thing I've ever read. It was on the last page, the last lines, so I scrutinized it with greater urgency, and it paid off....more
Very lovely, lots of interesting, funny, profound pieces scattered on each page. Listened to the audio version and it was a lovely start and finish toVery lovely, lots of interesting, funny, profound pieces scattered on each page. Listened to the audio version and it was a lovely start and finish to each work day during my commute....more
**spoiler alert** Since others have talked this book to death, I'll focus on the expert parallelism in the book. It's there, it's real, it's flawless**spoiler alert** Since others have talked this book to death, I'll focus on the expert parallelism in the book. It's there, it's real, it's flawless and doesn't feel forced. **Be warned, I have spoilers for the Corrections throughout this review, too**
Near the end, you see Franzen deliver this scenario : Walter needs Patty to get Jessica back, Patty needs Walter to get Joey back. This is never stated except individually, but you can infer that their reunion at the end is not some Utopian desire for the past or that their love resurfaces brighter than ever. Instead these 'selfish' motives contribute to the reconciliation alongside the possible romantic ones. This is something that took the entire book to set up, and is able to show a more realistic and keen demonstration of how relationships are muddled with different needs (or to say it less flatteringly, the 'what you got to offer me?''s). But what a breathtaking scene at the end when she's out on his porch!
Similarly, you have this strange scenario of two people hooking up with each other, but that love Walter more than each other. And with the resulting terrible injustice of him feeling the least loved of all. They are their own parallels and as each ends up killing the thing they love, with Walter forsaking both of them.
This one is leaner and meaner than the Corrections. Maybe less judgmental as well, though its pretty clear he's unapologetic (rightly so?) about his thoughts. It's amazing the latitude he gets from using Walter as his puppet to air his views, while simultaneously deflating himself and those views. It's the same as with Chip in the Corrections (who I likewise viewed as a stand-in for Franzen) , it's like half self-mockery and half earnestness. Normally, when authors write themselves largely into their books, you don't get this same self-debasement that you get with Franzen. He's able to leaven things like ''cancer on the earth!'' with showing the end result of such a person finding himself a recluse in a neighborhood where everyone talks about his increasing oddness. I feel like that's partly such writing is his attempt to write about himself, before then stepping outside of himself and try to see how other people would react to such an individual(both he and DFW repeatedly mention in other places the difficulty of knowing what other people think of you, and even of knowing the qualities of your own looks and actions... despite the apparent easiness with with you would be able in five minutes to come to a halfway coherent definition about someone before you. So maybe his writing is an attempt to do that using a slightly heightened version of himself as a guinea pig).
Surprising in this book also was his ability to makes sincere efforts to portray the Bush years and its enthusiasms sympathetically while nonetheless fully exposing the resulting efforts as fundamentally misguided and terribly costly. People say Joey is the least sympathetic character in the novel; I'd say no, he felt very real to me and understandable. You may even say that he has the greatest moral arc in the book, being burned and taking on responsibility for his life and of Connie -- I didn't expect that, though when I saw him in bed with Jenna I figured Franzen would not fall back on the old storytelling tropes but pull out something fresh and real (oh, maybe that's not a good choice of words considering what Joey actually does in those few pages where he's in the room with Jenna- haha!). Another big similarity with this and with the Corrections is that it's inherenly optimistic, despite its endless tirades and personality conflicts. Both books end with families coming together again and reconciling, however briefly. Its not a very exuberant optimism, in the same way INFINITE JEST was barely optimistic (''rehab works, despite it being maddeningly illogical'').
In a lot of ways, this novel reminds me more of Roth than the CORRECTIONS did-- each Roth novel is a finely honed complaint, middling when he's not passionate about it, but awesome when they're powered by righteous anger. This one by Franzen, then, taps into that and has that flavor along with a hefty dose of sympathy and frustration, and like ROth he's just as adept to present this boiling moral inferno in a way that's expertly handled so as not to be neither cloying nor unbearably forthright. I can't think of a more concise and thorough distillation of the past 10 years. That he was writing this whole time, maybe adds to the fact that in the 2004 section, you're able to place yourself thoroughly in that time without the taint of the writer's future knowledge needlessly pushing you towards ironic situations or results. The CORRECTIONS seemed more diffuse in its anger and hurt, and so felt more meandering and habberdash-ish.
Franzen used to be considered part of the hyper-literate, hysterical realism crowd. There's still pieces of that, but this work is less overt and flashy. This one seems to have pieces of Conrad, Tolstoy and Dickens. You get the feeling that he spent ten years with an enormous amount of material that he probably loved and wanted to keep, but with his improved self-restraint he boiled it down to this singular novel-- though I wouldn't be surprised if the other material resurfaces in later works.
I find it difficult with this one to see why people would be turned off. With the Corrections, you literally have to get to the last third before you start to identify in any way with the characters. Here, it's both classic storytelling and also relevant, and also has its postmodern-meta-textual-renderings -bits of its story.
I can even see this as a retelling of War and Peace -- family dynasties, Quixotic missions, the redemption of love, generational conflict, going to war foolhardily and getting burned by that, the consolation of domestic life after being wounded by a more turbulent love. Also, there is very much the main question of WAR AND PEACE, and that is : how much can any one person really affect history? If you can, what do you do? And if you can't, then what's left to do?
So it's no surprise that this book mentions that several times in different areas of it, and so glowingly : the best novel Patty'd ever read, maybe. I like the line, ''he was jealous of her being able to devote herself totally to it''. In that instance I thought of my Peace Corps friend Pete that read W&P in a fever of a week! Having read it just as absorbed over the span of a month in 2009, I'm now rereading W&P very slowy, ten pages a day, and now I'll have the world of FREEDOM in my mind to compare the themes and situations in it, and maybe get more out of each one.
**Don't forget there are a lot of JF interviews on Charlie Rose's site, including one with him and DFW mercilessly picking apart the contradictions of the third interviewee....more
I gave this book as a gift having reading all the essays but the literary ones. I gave the book on the strength of the others--and in an attempt to brI gave this book as a gift having reading all the essays but the literary ones. I gave the book on the strength of the others--and in an attempt to bring a new fan into the DFW fold before being overly alienated by his fiction and thusly lost before acquiring the taste-- but I just read them and were blown away by the Usage and the Dostoevsky one. Now I'd give the book out with the intention of sharing just those.
Dave is a good example of the too-great fixation on the novel as the measure of a writer. He did two great ones, and one great unfinished one that took ten years and was one of the primary reasons he took the fatal mistep of getting off his depression medication. He thought he needed his senses sharpened more before he'd have the prescience of mind to surpass the success of IJ*. He acknowledged that he would have been happier to continue with this nonfiction thing, since it flowed effortlessly for him. And I'd sure have liked another dozen volumes like this one.
One thing that was strange is how little he traveled. In my life as one of the globalized generation, I've seen travel as a prerequisite before any kind of intellectual fomenting can be given much consideration. But in a video from the 2000s, you seem him stunned at finding himself for the first time (and in his 40s) in a country where English is not the primary language. The breadth of experience and degree of observation is such that you feel as if the guy had lived several lives and had remembered and processed several times the minutes of each.
*In a lot of ways The pale king did that, in the same way that FREEDOM surpasses The Corrections, with both authors' styles becoming leaner and more pinpoint. Or, maybe not call it leaner, but instead more focused. At the same time, IJ for me remains the more beloved of the two because he waxes more freely. ...more
First thought: it was a happy thing to know nothing about both of these people when i began the book. Not knowing why they were esteemed/accomplished,First thought: it was a happy thing to know nothing about both of these people when i began the book. Not knowing why they were esteemed/accomplished, in a sense it mirrored Patti and Robert as they arrived to New York, both of them likewise unsure of how it'd turn out and more importantly unsure of who they were, of who they were going to become. And both of their lives end up going in very different places, as unexpected to them as it was to me. Only once I'd arrived in the final third did I google their names in order to be able to follow some of the allusions.
Strange to think the avant guard scene in NY at the time seemed so small and connected, everyone knowing everyone else. Very much a time and a place, which Johnny Depp does a good job of encapsulating when he says Smith gives us a rare privileged look at ''a treasure chest never before breached''. In a way, I enjoy that both were able to stay above the fray when it came to the political upheavels. That during those times they were able to focus on their selves, to me was endearing. When considering how short their time together was, too, makes me glad they didn't fritter it away like so many others fighting the man with little to show for it. That Patti seemingly remained completely sober til '74 also seems to bring those figures and decades into a more sharp focus... that seems like a blessing as well.
I like this book a whole lot, the last pages had me weeping for half an hour. As a nascent musician, this was the exact right thing to read at this point in my life.
I think by describing Murakami as a magical realist, you do a disservice to him by raising the expecations of the supernatural, when half of his workdI think by describing Murakami as a magical realist, you do a disservice to him by raising the expecations of the supernatural, when half of his workds don't have a trace of that. This, then, is on the extreme end of the spectrum, and like Roth when working with AMERICAN PASTORAL, Haruki here seems to bring this book to life, with his passion--and pathos--at its most pure, clear-eyed. This feels like the most easy writing he's done because it's at its most clear in the direction it is headed. Loved this one.
So far, the most autobiographic work and least ''spectacular'' of his: person has a mid life crisis, opens a bar, has another mid life crsisis and goes through another change (for Haruki, it was to start writing). Possibly even more than that, but I dont know enough to say. It's got all of the usual's, and every time mixed in a new way to make a new brew and altogether new treat. One of the repetitive motifs that I missed until now was the frequency of small isolated cottages in the woods-- so many characters of his escape the urban life to go to a rural area. You got them here, in KAFKA, Sheep chase, Norwegian Wood (the asylu,) and I believe WindUp.
This is one of the more simple, direct, and engaging. I love them all, each has its own unique blueprint even if its the same pieces of limber. I'd nonetheless put this in the upper tier.
A lot of the drama comes in his inability to do teh right action at the right moment, even if he finally does, the decision becomes less clear and more destructive in general. But for me, possibly the most interesting part was, the diea that, yes, we could have had a relationship earlier, but it might not have worked. So, almost a sense of fatalism that, if we didnt do it before, its because the time wasnt ready. Nonetheless, with each step forward, you're reducing your possibilities dramatically--in itself, another view of fate, one I'd call 'the painting yourself into a corner' version of fate, one I hold myself.
There's not a lot of fireworks in this book, but it's intoxicating. As little melodrama as possible, but when the drama comes, its deftly treated-- the snow melted to allow the pill to be swallowed, yes, but even before that, with the ashes and the woman holding her finger to her tongue-- when she blows him later, that prior scene is powerful enough to have stayed with me when he mentions her tongue. So, what would be a straightforward emotional impact--they finally do it--is given several emotional skewings: the infidelity of it, the memory of the baby's ashes on the mother's tongue, the specter of death.
Well, I've fallen in love with this writer. And this Charlie Rose interview, he echoes me exactly: I'm smitten with you. Just in the video, you can tell she's grown stronger and more comfortable in her skin. Two major successes, three books in 5 years and she's rolling with it.
I loved the DFwallace echoes about irony.
OK, this is the third I've read this month about an old academic that rediscovers desire. I love to read books in 3's that touch the same issues, handling them in different ways, and these were a pretty potent, if accidental, combination.
The three were Saul Bellow's HERZOG, Philip Roth's THE HUMAN STAIN and Smith's ON BEAUTY. In each case, the return of desire is not desirable, and it is highly disruptive to their lives. Each man here arrives at different solutions. One nearly becomes mad, for another the problems are insurmountable and he dies, two of them decide to never return to academia, and the third remains with his reputation in tatters, though he
Smith's book gives a broader sense of life at the university scene, with more time spent on campus, more characters presented, both as students and other faculty. Smith and Roth both demonstrate the discrepant lifestyles between the cleaning crew and the academic staff, close together physically (ahem) but otherwise worlds apart. It doesnt show much good that each of the three were written in different decades, but the same issues are apparent in all of them.
This one. Damn. It's like, everything you loved in WHITE TEETH is there, but done more effortlessly, cohesively, feelingly. Great observations, she knows how to tease us as well: everything with the boy when he is living with the Kipps is made to lead us to the usual conclusions, then when we open those doors its not what we expected. We consider ourselves smart readers, so when she mentions in one paragraph that he had sex with Vee, then she mentions at the start of the next section ''nine months later...'' and I think, well, clearly, she's about to reveal that there was a love child. But there's not. And why did she set it nine months later? Well, it toys with us some, in a good way. That happens several times.
The characters are quick to jump to conclusions about their mates . Jeremy when he watches Vee and Carl, and Kiki when she watches Claire and Howard. But it's plausible.
Gosh, I really started to despise Howard the more I learned about him. But I'm able to remain sympathetic to him, but like my friend says : the PhD doesn't get the stupid out. This is material that Roth covers a lot. When do you decide to leave? If your wife becomes 2x heavier than when you marry her, and you can get college sophomore booty, what do you decide to do? Roth faces these questions much more strongly, full-on, but her way was done well, too.
This one is so long, I should write my review as I progress. So, it arrived, I've read 50 pages -- five percent.
Initial impressions -- the cover is notThis one is so long, I should write my review as I progress. So, it arrived, I've read 50 pages -- five percent.
Initial impressions -- the cover is not the interesting modern art that I hoped when I ordered it from Amazon, but instead the older Penguin Modern Classics edition with the closeup of the face, ugly and repulsive but fascinating in its seeming religious ecstasy.
This very picture seems to set the scene for the first 50-100 pages.
Man, I wouldn't necessarily call this irony, but you can easily smell the postmodernism. I'm reading this simultaneously with THE BROTHERS K, and while the content is very similar so far, even the style--though I'd say Gaddis is much more keen in his word choice and his ability to turn a memorable phrase or offer an illuminating picture--the major difference is that you can feel Gaddis giving his religious characters enough rope to hang themselves. The more words they say, the more the reader is alienated, the less compassion we feel for them. Even the one that seems most interesting and subtle in his religious faith goes off the deep-end pretty quickly.
This is another one, like INFINITE JEST, that if it was printed in the modern mass paperback style, it'd be twice as many pages.
The strange thing so far is, if the critics originally labeled this unreadable, that stuff must be still ahead. For all I know, it could be just around the corner. But so far, Gaddis seems to be taking great pains to BE readable, to be understood, even if I have to use the dictionary once or twice a page in order to follow him, that's more his high standards seeking the ''mot juste'' than it being unintelligble.
Another potential thing to consider is the introduction, in my edition its by William Huss. And while just very briefly skimming it-- being vigilant to skip anything that might give away too much, like intro's too often do (i say, why don't we exchange these in general for detailed, spoiler-filled Outros in place of Intros?)-- the man makes you feel it's Us, the Englightened ones about to read this book, vs. Them, those critics that trashed it without giving it a far chance, the very people ridiculed by the book itself.
Character wise, I see great potential. This one maybe seems to be an inverse of DFW, since A LOT of plot has happened thus far, rather than Infinite Jest which ... it's a couple of weeks tops from the starting point to the end.
That said -- I've never understood the great respect and appreciation for James Joyce. That said, I have yet to get to the more avant garde stuff he did -- but people still froth over his short stories and almost none of them got any emotional response from me. Gaddis, so far, I can already see a master at work. We'll see how it goes after another 300 or 400 pages.
------ 110 pages in. I feel it's still very enjoyable... only one brief part that evoked FINNEGAN's WAKE strongly.
So, the idea of Gaddis as the creator of the wave of American black humor writing in the 50's adnd 60's. Yes, I can see that--barely. It's much too earnest to consider it like that, though I can identify this as the progenitor for the coming cascade of dark, sarcastic comedy. Though, these are jokes like my friend Serena said, how her favorite teacher ever one time made a joke about boobs and she didn't realize it until a week later. This is one where I read a page, then have to glance at it again, and I'm OK with that. I'd rather milk this for all I can than to skim through, get done with it and not remember a damn thing. Well, not much new has happened -- the part where he first alludes to life in the Bronx is very satisfying.
It seems like he's purposefully using the word recognition in every possible variation, teasing out all of the meanings that such a word might evoke. Likewise with the theme of forgery, and finding something real. It's fascinating, only now do I see the comparison of Gaddis and DFW as valid: its less the substance and the style, and more their deep reserves of sympathy with a wide range of characters, their unfailing seriousness when it comes to the impact and potential found in every line. Not a single sentence is lazy in either of these guys epic works. Maybe J R is much more cacophonous, from what I've seen on Amazon's site. Well, not a lot of books are big, and thick, and I'm in no hurry at all, and I get excited every time I pick it up. SO, even if I eat it 10 pages a day, it's a highlight of that day. Any more, and I'd be reading it too fast! The stuff is so thought-provoking, I have to keep it slow, small bite sized pieces. It's not like Harry Potter, where I'm on book 3 and am rushing to get to the last page of Book 7 as quick as I can. ...more
Love this one so far: to this point, its flawless, my favorite Roth book. The charm of PLOT AGAINST with the heaviness o**spoiler alert** 180 pages in
Love this one so far: to this point, its flawless, my favorite Roth book. The charm of PLOT AGAINST with the heaviness of American Pastoral. Lots of echoes of INVISIBLE MAN, from what I understand about that book (havent read it yet). He has such an ability to make you love then hate his characters so fully.
It's very courageous -- he's walking a thin rope that might veer off in the same way it happens for the main character. In some ways, it's a synthesis of THE DYING ANIMAL and American Pastoral. Many shared themes and overlap. The need to do everything right, and how unsatisfying that can be, this time set in the world of academia (but really only for some pages). As Zadie Smith says, you can't go wrong with a male-friendship-bonding story.
This book touched enough chords about the nature and difficulty of biracilal life that it inspired me to revisit the Obama bio RENEGADE and carry through to the finish of that.
I didnt notice it until he mentioned several names and places in the same paragraph: Athena, he lives secluded on a a mountain like a Greek god, and we know early on that the two people die (or is it the cows? the 'they' he uses when he mentions that is unclear). Because of that foreshadowing, I'm starting to see the character as one of Socrates drinking the hemlock. Don't know, we'll see. Another 200 pages left.
---- This one just got better andbetter.My favorite from him so far for sure.. The last 50 pages I loved how everyone had their secrets. Thats what the book is, for sure. Even Zuckerman. Now, Ive seen him in interviews and apparently hes not like Zuckerman at all but you forget that when reading....more