i really don't know how to review this one. i suspect it is one that is going to sit with me for a long while and that my rating will likely in...moreoh boy.
i really don't know how to review this one. i suspect it is one that is going to sit with me for a long while and that my rating will likely increase over time, as i get further beyond the read. i liked it but, right now, i can't say i loved it. i felt too much was left dangling and that for the work of the read, i am left a bit unfulfilled.
the story is heartbreaking and unsettling. the style is interesting and effective. to a point. i think where i am feeling a bit lost with it all has to do with the fact that the perspective is very narrow. the title of the book is 'agaat' and we get her story, but it comes through the filter of another character, milla. towards they end of the book, we get a bit more from agaat's side of things. for me, that just wasn't quite enough.
(i also suspect that if journals had not been used as a narrative device, i might be feeling differently abut the perspectives. we get single perspectives in fiction all of the time, but in this read, it really stood out for me as too narrow given the subject, agaat, was evolved mostly through diary entries not of her own hand.)
the narration is unreliable - and i don' t mind that in fiction. in fact, i tend to like it a lot. but this book almost verges on meta-unreliable narrator - is that a thing?? i might have just made that up. heh.
agaat is a complicated and dense novel but i do feel as though it is an important book that more people should read. and when you do...you can come and tell me what i am missing. what is it that should be giving it a 4- or 5-star rating over my 'it was fine' 3-stars. okay? thanks! :)
Jo Nesbø is excellent in this genre. The novel was great escapist reading and was not predictable until very late in the story. Nesbø knows how to kee...moreJo Nesbø is excellent in this genre. The novel was great escapist reading and was not predictable until very late in the story. Nesbø knows how to keep readers guessing with intricate storytelling and interesting characters.(less)
While brief, this book is evocative and rich. The story has fantastical moments that seem wholly grounded and real as Tyler introduces the reader to E...moreWhile brief, this book is evocative and rich. The story has fantastical moments that seem wholly grounded and real as Tyler introduces the reader to Evie - a lonely 17-year-old - looking for a place to belong in the world. As Evie progresses through the story, her determination becomes more and more evident. This is a novella, I suppose - too long for a short story, too short for a novel. In any case, Tyler is a storytelling genius and has been so from her earliest writing days. This book was originally published in 1970, only Tyler's 3rd published work. Tyler's rhythm and dialogue are pitch-perfect and while a contemporary work at its release (maybe even a book pushing the limits of what would be morally acceptable in society) it still manages to hold onto some of its relevance today.(less)
Well, Slash, holy fuck man! I sort of want to take you under my wing and give you a hug dude. But first, I want you to have a shower because you are d...moreWell, Slash, holy fuck man! I sort of want to take you under my wing and give you a hug dude. But first, I want you to have a shower because you are dirty. And I don't mean that in a "dirty-sexy" way. I mean it in a "remember Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown, how filthy he was?" way. I would like to introduce you to soap and laundry detergent and, what the hell, underwear. I get that living on the road, touring, has its challenges. And I get that junkies are, well, junkies. But seriously. You grossed me out a little bit, and that is really, really hard to do. I am fairly certain we did not need to know about your treatment-resistant penis-warts. But, gosh, I am sure glad you had them cleared up before reuniting with Sally. Phew! That was a close one, eh?
You definitely seem to be a wise old soul so, for the love of humanity, man, stop sticking needles in your veins. That is not cool and you are way smarter than that, dumb-ass. I am glad things are calmer in your life and that, by the end of the story you are clean and sober (this book is from 2007). It seems you and your wife, Perla, have had more ups and downs in the past year but your two little boys are super-cute so I hope you are making life easy for them and not stressing them out with your bad-boy antics and Perla's party-mama ways; though reading about it all was very cool. I have to ask you a favour though, Slash. Stop using the word "literally". Please? Now!
One niggling annoyance: your co-author sort of sucks. A lot. And your editor sucks too. If you ever do another memoir, a part two to this book, choose someone else to co-write with. Apply the same logic and gut instinct you use in feeling the groove with other musicians to seeking out writers and editors. It wouldn't take much to turn your okay story into a totally kick-ass book!
So, from your book I came away still thinking you are underrated as an axe-man. Your vibe (as a human being) is totally excellent and I am sure a lot of people could learn from your ways. And I don't mean your not-so-smart-junkie ways. I mean your sit back, take it all in, accept people as they are for who they are ways. I am pulling for you to have a happy and calm life filled with a lot of music-making.
I felt the need for a visual, here. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!!
Oh, Keef, you are wise and funny and your brain is rather impressive. Your body is a whole other matter and I really would encoura...moreDear Keith Richards;
Oh, Keef, you are wise and funny and your brain is rather impressive. Your body is a whole other matter and I really would encourage you to donate it to medical science for research because, clearly, something is going on in you that defies the laws of nature. Curing hepatitis C "on [your] own...without treatment", say what?? Staying up for nine days straight, sustained by heroin, coke and booze?? Not human. Although your means of hydration was, apparently, enough.
Admittedly, your nine lives ran out years and years ago and yet, here you are, still breathing, walking, talking and writing. I am glad you explained the reason is because you were a smart junkie. That really cleared up a lot for me. If I ever go down the junkie road, I will remember your advice to not push it by taking a little more, to get a little higher. I will remember I can't get a little more high. I will invest in precision scales and I will only trust the pharmaceutical grade smack. I will avoid the Mexican Shoe Scrapings no matter how twitchy I get. I will trade in the Jack Daniels for vodka and feel better about my drinking.
Oh, yeah; I will invest in a big knife and a gun and have one or the other on me at all times and sleep with the gun under my pillow. That will be really helpful on the occasions when people try to wake me up and I am not having it.
Despite all of these quirks - is it okay to say that?? - you are a right charming bloke! Well read, interesting and...a romantic. It made me really happy to know that not all rock stars are the same and that you wouldn't go in for "just a fuck" if it didn't mean anything. I guess I hadn't given much thought to this part of your character as, I admit it, I figured every rock 'n roll bad boy is slutastic like a porn star. Thank you for sharing your cuddling nature. I like picturing you spooning groupies. Also, I am so, SO glad you didn't go in for the plaster cast of your dick the way the guys from Led Zeppelin did. You really do have standards. That has become evident. And it's not in a snobby way either. It is just sensible. Keith Richards, sensible. Who'd a thought it?
Well, I should quit this rambling, I suppose. I really loved your book and reading about your "Life". Through reading your story, my perceptions were challenged and new thoughts were formed. You are an alright cat!
Wow, JCO! I just hardly know what to say here. The honesty and openness with your emotions and feelings is raw. Painful. Dark. And repetitive. I ached...moreWow, JCO! I just hardly know what to say here. The honesty and openness with your emotions and feelings is raw. Painful. Dark. And repetitive. I ached for you, I really did but the method you used for telling this story grated. This third person "the widow" device was bizarre and, for me, detracted from the flow and feeling. Also, I was mostly creeped out that you still refer to your (deceased) father as "Daddy". Maybe this wasn't a good time for me to read this memoir of your, as I seem to be nit-picky about the book, questioning. I am glad you got through this time and very happy you seem to be surrounded by wonderful friends. Friends can make all the difference.(less)
If there is one thing Matterhorn faithfully cap...moreReview From the Globe and Mail, as it captures my thoughts and feelings from reading the novel so well.
If there is one thing Matterhorn faithfully captures, it is the circular and illogical nature of the Vietnam War. Through its pages, we follow a company of U.S. Marines as they dig in on a remote jungle hilltop outpost, abandon it to traipse through the jungle in an unsuccessful search for an invisible enemy, then return to the same hill, now occupied by the North Vietnamese Army.
This occupation of terrain the Marines were ordered to abandon being intolerable to their commanders, the company is ordered to retake the hill and suffers staggering losses at the hands of the NVA entrenched in the bunkers they had constructed days earlier.
Karl Marlantes, a veteran of the Vietnam War, finished writing this book in 1977, originally producing a more than 1,600 page manuscript. Kudos must be given to Marlantes for his command of the English language, in general, and of dialogue, in particular. The book is well written from a technical point of view.
But what about the story Matterhorn relates? If your knowledge of the Vietnam War is extensive, then you will understand critical nuances that are key to the plot. For instance, a single line reveals that a commander has forced his exhausted men to dig extensive shelters for fear of an air raid. The commander is venal and incompetent: the enemy – the NVA – did not have an air force. But this fact is not mentioned, which might lead many to believe the commander is merely strict, or perhaps even well meaning. There are several other instances like this, where readers with less knowledge of military history may not get it.
That same knowledge of war, especially of the Vietnam War, will make the performance of the American protagonists, who pull off feats of superhuman endurance, pushing the limits of credibility. Nearly 100 pages are given over to an agonizing 10-day patrol through hideous terrain. Although no contact with the enemy occurs, the jungle itself is brilliantly revealed as the fearsome foe it is. Various mishaps occur, including a graphic encounter with a tiger that proves fatal. The suffering of the troops is monumental, yet the patrol carries on for the entire 10 days...without food. I had to wonder if this would really happen?
At the other end of the spectrum, the reader who is without background knowledge of the Vietnam War or of jungle warfare will be treated to a faithful description of the misery of that particular combat environment. Here, the author’s descriptive skills come to the fore, and anyone reading these passages may well feel physically uncomfortable. Provoking that intense an effect is a notable achievement for a writer. Marlantes’ descriptions of the emotions experienced during combat, from the almost-paralyzing fear, to the confusion and horror of battle, to the sheer exultation of victory, are likewise delivered in a strong and believable style.
The book’s main goal, however, is not to describe the jungle, nor even the war that took place in that green maze. Matterhorn, like most war novels, focuses instead on the soldiers and their relationships with each other. And there the book is, for me, unsatisfying.
Over the course of only a few weeks, strangers become brothers. I found the characters engaging and wanted to know more about them. I am left wondering what was in those nearly 1,000 pages that were cut? I suspect there was more character development, and that the interpersonal relationships were allowed to mature at a more natural pace. If so, it is unfortunate those passages were excised.
Bottom line: If you want to read endlessly (and who wouldn’t?) about mud, leeches, jungle rot, immersion foot and cerebral malaria, with some realistic combat scenes thrown in (which are almost cathartic for the reader, given what precedes them), then Matterhorn is not a bad investment. To really be one for the ages, however, more realism would be needed, both in the actions and the reactions of the men we meet in its pages.
Last year, I read Robinson's novel Gilead and was disappointed to not like it more than I did. I wanted to love the novel. Robinson is a writer of who...moreLast year, I read Robinson's novel Gilead and was disappointed to not like it more than I did. I wanted to love the novel. Robinson is a writer of whom I had read a lot about but had never gotten to in my reading. Gilead was my attempt to right a wrong but sadly it fell flat.
Many have indicated Housekeeping to be a stronger novel so I set my sights on Robinson appreciation through Housekeeping. Again I am disappointed. I know I am in the minority here. I think my hopes or expectations were higher than could be delivered. There were definitely moments of brilliant writing in Housekeeping. In particular, I loved the passages when Ruth and Lucille stay at the lake all night and when the neighbourhood women come to visit Sylvie.
While I was reading Housekeeping two other authors kept popping to mind: John Banville and Per Petterson. I think, when including Robinson, all three authors have similar sparse yet poetic styles and also rely heavily on landscape and climate playing a character in their stories. For me, though, Banville and Petersson are more successful in their creations than Robinson.(less)
**spoiler alert** For a book that could have been the Holy Grail for wordies everywhere, Emily Arsenault’s The Broken Teaglass was a let down. The set...more**spoiler alert** For a book that could have been the Holy Grail for wordies everywhere, Emily Arsenault’s The Broken Teaglass was a let down. The setting for a brilliant mystery novel is there: an intriguing job, a saucy love interest, an unsolved murder, creepy neighbors – books greater than you and me have been built on a foundation of far less. Yet somehow with Teaglass, the whole was not greater than the sum of its parts.
The tidbits divulging the behind-the-scenes secrets of dictionaries are priceless. For word-lovers and budding linguists, the questions of “who gets to decide which words are real?” is finally answered, complete with counter-theories and the philosophy behind the process all tied up with a neat little bow: in a thoughtful piece of dialogue, characters debate whether to search for new words only in text, or to include conversation as well. Arsenault uses her characters wisely to explain some very murky ideologies.
But the rest of it, the side stories and the intrigues surrounding such a rich setting, are poorly executed. The novel, it seems, exists in two disjointed acts. Act One focuses on our protagonist Billy’s neighbors who offer him conversation and a beer at the end of the day and offer the reader an unsettling feeling that maybe Billy should lock his door at night. This sentence on page 14 sets it up:
“Maybe it was a sort of omen that my first encounter with Tom was on the very first day of work… He was bald but for a few long clumps of hair growing out of the sides and back of his head, all pulled into a then ponytail at the back. His body matched his hair – stringy, skinny, and formless in his lawn chair.”
Ominous, right? Well, not for long. By the half-way point in the book, we never really hear from Tom or the rest of the neighbors again. They have dropped off the pages. The “omen” of the first meeting is never revealed.
Instead we are introduced to Billy’s unfortunate struggle with cancer during his senior year of high school. Now five years later, he spends the second half of the book in the throes of an existential crisis as he begins to accept his remission with copious amounts of booze and a lackadaisical approach to dictionary editing. Arsenault makes sure the murder mystery is solved by the end of The Broken Teaglass but for this one tidy knot, there are several loose threads left dangling.(less)
In the summer of 1944, a red-headed, curly-haired toddler mysteriously appeared on the courthouse steps in Way Down Deep, WV. No trace of how she got...moreIn the summer of 1944, a red-headed, curly-haired toddler mysteriously appeared on the courthouse steps in Way Down Deep, WV. No trace of how she got there or to whom she belonged was ever found.
For 10 years Ruby June has lived a happy, comfortable life, well loved and cared for by Miss Arbutus Ward, owner of the local boardinghouse. The arrival of a new family in town sets in motion the unraveling of Ruby's past and the mystery of her appearance. In the process, readers are introduced to a colorful cast of characters who not only add to the rich Appalachian tone of the novel, but also lace it together with sweet humor, timeless truths, and expert foreshadowing.
At first thought to be the senile ramblings of Mr. Bird Reeder, a former resident of Yonder Mountain, VA, bits of information lead Ruby to discover that she might be the child thought to have been carried off by a panther years earlier. She learns of her parents' death when she was a baby, that she has family living on top of the mountain, and of her mystical connections to Miss Ward.
Captivating and thoughtful on many levels, White's novel offers humor, mystery, and a feel-good ending that a multitude of readers will find satisfying "way down deep."(less)
Set in a remote Newfoundland village in the 1950s, this beautiful first novel balances raunchy folk humour, riveting suspense and family tragedy with...moreSet in a remote Newfoundland village in the 1950s, this beautiful first novel balances raunchy folk humour, riveting suspense and family tragedy with a young girl's profound first love. Fourteen-year-old Kit Pitman lives in a weather-beaten coastal cottage with her mentally disabled mother, Josie, and her fiercely protective grandmother, Nan (Lizzie)--a "shadow big enough to blot out all of Haire's Hollow." Both childlike and sexually promiscuous, Josie scandalizes the villagers, but Nan holds the family together until her abrupt death. When a group of locals tries to place Kit into foster care, she fights to keep her beloved gully-side home; with few friends, she cherishes quiet and isolation. Household help comes from her ailing aunt, Drucie, and from the reverend's son, Sid, with whom Kit falls deeply in love as the plot accelerates to a thriller's pace. Kit and Sid's ultimately doomed affair is unraveled first by a violent act of self-defense and then by impossible family secrets. With a poet's attention to sound, Morrissey combines wonderful, rich characters and compelling family intrigue with a powerful, almost meditative sense of place. Startling, vivid, and expertly crafted, this novel introduces an exciting writer whose career needs to be followed closely.(less)
Booker Prize-winning author John Banville presents a sensitive and remarkably complete character study of Max Morden, an art critic/writer from Irelan...moreBooker Prize-winning author John Banville presents a sensitive and remarkably complete character study of Max Morden, an art critic/writer from Ireland whose wife has died of a cancer. Seeking solace, Max has checked into the Cedars, a now-dilapidated guest house in the seaside village of Ballyless, where he and his family spent their summers when he was a child. There he spent hours in the company of Chloe and Myles Grace, his constant companions. Images of foreboding suggest that some tragedy occurred while he was there, though the reader discovers only gradually what it might have been. While at the Cedars, he contemplates the nature of life, love, and death, and our imperfect memories of these moments.
As Max probes his recollections, he reveals his most intimate feelings, constantly questioning the accuracy of his memory, and juxtaposing his childhood memories with his recent memories of his wife Anna's "inappropriate" illness and her futile treatments. Through flashbacks, he also introduces us to his earlier life with Anna and his fervent hopes that through her he could become someone more interesting. "I was always a distinct no-one, whose fiercest wish was to be an indistinct someone," he says, confessing that he saw her as "the fairground mirror in which all my distortions would be made straight."
More a meditation than a novel with a strong plot, The Sea brings Max to life (as limited as his life is during this time), recreating his seemingly simple, yet often profound, thoughts in language which will startle the reader into recognition of their universality. To some extent an everyman, Max speaks to the reader in uniquely intimate ways. In breathtaking language, filled with emotional connotations, he captures nature in perfect images, often revealing life as a series of paintings--"a Tiepolo sky," a hair-washing scene reminiscent of Duccio and Picasso. He objectifies his thoughts about memory through Pierre Bonnard's many portraits of "Nude in the Bath," paintings of Bonnard's wife in which she remains a young girl, even when she is seventy years old. Images of the bath and the sea pervade the novel--cleansing, combined with the ebb and flow of life.
Lovers of plot-based novels with snappy dialogue may find that the lack of external action and the novel's focus on the interior battles of an ordinary man of about sixty fail to engage their interest. Other readers, who may have faced the deaths of family or friends and recognized the limitations of memory, however, may see in Max a kindred spirit to whom they respond with empathy.
I have rarely read such a short book so slowly--or reread with pleasure so many passages of extraordinary beauty and import. This is a stunning novel that requires a lot from the reader but the reward is more than worthy.(less)
George Eliot published Adam Bede, her first novel, in 1859 to great acclaim. This richly detailed novel tells the story of Adam, a carpenter, and his...moreGeorge Eliot published Adam Bede, her first novel, in 1859 to great acclaim. This richly detailed novel tells the story of Adam, a carpenter, and his love for Hetty Sorrel, a vain young woman who falls in love with the local gentleman, Captain Arthur Donnithorne. Using this love triangle as her foundation, Eliot painstakingly illustrates the intricacies of rural life at the turn of the eighteenth century.
The characters in George Eliot’s Adam Bede exist along a continuum of human weakness. From Hetty and Arthur, who give in too easily to their illicit passion, to Adam’s mother Lisbeth, whose temperament warps an otherwise honest character, all the way to Dinah, a pinnacle of correct behavior and Christian compassion.
Adam is situated toward the upper end of that continuum. He is a stoic and honest man, with good intentions and sincere passions. He is a hard worker and trustworthy, respected among his peers and even admired by the small town’s gentry. But Eliot does not give her reader an unflawed hero. Adam is proud and severe in his judgment of others. He is also blind to the failings of the woman he loves. This ultimate but innocent fault will nearly cost him his happiness when the truth of all that has occurred between Hetty and Arthur finally comes to light.
Despite its pastoral setting and overall bucolic tone, there is a serious scandal at the heart of the novel. Eliot’s frank, forthright treatment of Arthur and Hetty’s love affair, and its ensuing complications, turn this seemingly quiet novel into a careful investigation of morality and human limitations.
Eliot’s real skill lies in portraying the rural setting as well as each of her characters with as much detail as possible. This makes for a layered novel, filled with a number of multifaceted moral dilemmas: Will Dinah consent to marry Adam’s brother Seth, even though she feels called to continue her ministry? Will Adam eventually understand Hetty’s true character? How will Adam negotiate his long-standing friendship with Arthur after the scandal is revealed?
Adam Bede is read less often than Eliot’s purported masterpiece Middlemarch and for good reason. Although a highly accomplished first novel and a rewarding and entertaining read, Adam Bede does contain a certain number of conspicuous flaws. The structure for instance, lacks a certain shape and economy. Eliot takes some time to get her plot moving and there are even a few chapters which appear to be superfluous. These small failings, however, only indicate how accomplished Eliot already was at the time she published Adam Bede and provide a wonderful discussion base for her later novels.
George Eliot’s Adam Bede is a deeply psychological work which delves into the darker corners of human weakness using the complex realities of love, friendship, sorrow and forgiveness to paint its splendid portrait.(less)
Push is the verbally graphic story of an abused child named Precious Jones. Precious bears her father's babies first at age 12 and again at age 16. Su...morePush is the verbally graphic story of an abused child named Precious Jones. Precious bears her father's babies first at age 12 and again at age 16. Suffering physical, verbal and sexual abuse by both parents and serving as a virtual slave to her apartment-bound, welfare-dependent mother, Precious lives in hopeless isolation in Harlem. At 16, Precious is struggling through public school until expelled for being pregnant, although her principal does set her up to enter an alternative school. At Each One, Teach One, Precious meets other troubled girls and they are buoyed by a devoted teacher - Miss Blue Rain - who teaches them to read and write.
Written in the fractured vernacular of this sub-literate teenager, Push — the poet Sapphire's debut novel — is an effective novel. Precious' phonetic dialect and stunted vocabulary add authenticity to her saga and help this hard-luck story grab the reader with its poetic beauty. Push resonates with ugly truths. "I'm alive inside", she writes after attending a meeting of incest survivors, whose confessions are a balm to her shame. "A bird is my heart. Mama and Daddy is not win. I'm winning."
It is stirring to see Precious test the wings of her newfound verbal powers, funny to decode her botched locutions (like "insect" survivors), and sad to watch her revert to frustrated illiteracy when, after progressing by leaps and bounds, she's thrown a tragic, unexpected curveball. Ultimately, however, Precious gains control of her life through writing ("the boat [that:] carry you to the other side") and finds her heroes (Langston Hughes and Alice Walker among them) through books.
Push is an affecting combination of childlike tenderness and adult rage and leaves little doubt that Sapphire's talents as a poet translate artfully into her fiction.