this is a great collection of essays from david foster wallace. there are 7 essays in all, here, a brief snapshot (from wikipedia, along with where ththis is a great collection of essays from david foster wallace. there are 7 essays in all, here, a brief snapshot (from wikipedia, along with where the essays originally appeared, in case you are keen):
* "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" (Harper's, December 1991, under the title "Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes") - An autobiographical essay about Wallace's youth in the Midwest, his involvement in competitive tennis, and his interest in mathematics.
* "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction" (The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 1993)
* "Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All" (Harper's, 1994, under the title "Ticket to the Fair") - Wallace's experiences and opinions on the 1993 Illinois State Fair, ranging from a reports on competitive baton twirling to speculation on how the Illinois State Fair is representative of Midwestern culture and its subsets.
* "Greatly Exaggerated" (Harvard Book Review, 1992) - A review of Morte d'Author: An Autopsy by H. L. Hix, including Wallace's personal opinions on the role of the author in literary critical theory.
* "David Lynch Keeps His Head" (Premiere, 1996) - Wallace's experiences and opinions from visiting the set for Lost Highway and his thoughts about Lynch's oeuvre.
* "Tennis Player Michael Joyce's Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness" (Esquire, 1996, under the title "The String Theory") - Wallace's reporting of the qualifying rounds for the 1995 Canadian Open and the Open itself, with the author's thoughts on the nature of tennis and professional athletics.
* "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" (Harper's, 1996, under the title "Shipping Out") - Wallace's experiences and opinions on a seven night luxury Caribbean cruise.
each essay has its own strength (and each is fairly brilliant), but overwhelmingly evident, when taken as a whole, is DFW's ability to assess and read people and analyze a situation or instance in the context of a bigger picture. it's uncanny, really.
my favourite essay is the last one in the book, chronicling his time aboard a luxury cruise. mostly because this particular essay made me laugh out loud several times. but also because we get a little bit more of a peek into DFW - his brain and his life. sure, smatterings and points are offered along the way, in each of the essays, but in this last essay he was more human. more real. taken along with the d.t. max biography i read a few months ago, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, i just feel as though i am getting a good sense of the kind of guy DFW was. which makes me sad all over again because, for all his faults and demons (we all have them), he was, it seems to me, a right-on guy. and i am once again (still?) sad he is no longer with us. his brain is a marvel and we lost a lot when he took his own life.
A beautiful, introspective, quiet novel. I was so impressed with this book and am blown away by John Banville. He's now been added to my list of literA beautiful, introspective, quiet novel. I was so impressed with this book and am blown away by John Banville. He's now been added to my list of literary crushes.
McKay knocks this, her 2nd novel, out of the park! Her prose is tight and haunting - giving us setting(based on Canadian edition, read September 2011)
McKay knocks this, her 2nd novel, out of the park! Her prose is tight and haunting - giving us settings and characters one can see, hear and nearly touch. I feel this story sheds a light on a time and era in NYC's history of which little is known. (4-stars in 2011)
Re-reading U.S. uncorrected proof, for work.
5-stars in 2012. This story holds up after a re-read and I fell in love with Moth even more. Which I didn't think was possible. The supporting characters are well done and i felt just as strongly that McKay's writing evokes the senses and puts the reader squarely in the time of the story....more
This is a wonderful novel that I would highly recommend to anyone. I feel it crosses age and gender boundaries and will be appreciated and loved by soThis is a wonderful novel that I would highly recommend to anyone. I feel it crosses age and gender boundaries and will be appreciated and loved by so many. It would be a great read-aloud book for families with younger children, is perfect for kids aged 10 and older to read independently, and is a novel adults will enjoy too. It's a great book of historical fiction with a believable and interesting main character....more
this was my third time reading a complicated kindness and i think it gets better each time. the way toews captures the voice oLOVE THIS NOVEL SO HARD!
this was my third time reading a complicated kindness and i think it gets better each time. the way toews captures the voice of 16-year-old nomi is incredible. sure she's wise and precocious but she's also still a kid and toews gets her voice so right. i don't want to say too much here as one of my groups is about to do this read together.
it's a great novel to read over canada day long weekend....more
I re-read this book for the book group I belong to. I read this novel when it first came out, in 2005, and the last words of this haunting story stillI re-read this book for the book group I belong to. I read this novel when it first came out, in 2005, and the last words of this haunting story still resonate so wonderfully: “He fell in love. It was his life.” This is an amazing work of fiction and I enjoyed it very much. I am very pleased it held up so strongly on second reading, and feel it is a novel I will return to again.
To begin reading Galore by Michael Crummey is to be invited into an epic novel of historical fiction that will compel you forward as you are overtaken by beautiful storytelling and fantastical events. For those who love to escape into their reading, this book will serve you well as it offers a true, unputdownable distraction from the reality of our more regular and everyday lives.
Galore was written over four years and is the third novel Crummey has set in Newfoundland. Born, raised and still living in the Canadian province that inspires his fiction, Crummey tackles some big themes in Galore. When asked about his newest novel, he responds by saying that "So much of Newfoundland's story seems tied up in…the unlikely resurrection after all hope has been lost. Loss and heartbreak and grief. Yes. And otherworldly resilience in the face of it. Rebirth. Wonder."
Sprawling wondrously over two hundred years, coming to an end during World War I, Galore tells the story of two connected families, the Sellers and the Devines, and two connected fishing communities in remote Newfoundland, Paradise Deep and The Gut (both fictional). Many events are addressed over the length of the story - love and loss, family, religion; folklore; times of feast and famine; births; deaths; traditions; the development of the fishing industry; unionization; a ghost; curses; a witch; medicine and the Great War. Phew! Given all this subject matter, Crummey successfully achieves the almost unfathomable in packaging this sweeping story of Newfoundland within just 350 pages.
Galore opens with two births in the outport village of Paradise Deep - one a grown man who has been cut from the belly of a beached whale and the other a new baby to a village family. Over the course of a few days, both appear to be closer to exiting the world than staying in it. The man, pale, bleached ("almost-albino") and stinking of rotted fish, is mute, naked and initially thought to be dead. However, showing weak signs of life, he is tended by the town's "witch", the Widow Devine, matriarch of the Devine family and grandmother of the new baby, as well as a gifted healer and midwife. The baby is also weak and struggling to live - coffins are built for both man and infant. The stranger, unconscious and uncommunicative, gives the town's people much to consider: Who is he? How did he get in the belly of the whale? The name debate, very early on in the book, is an example of the humor to be found in Galore:
"He come right out of the whale's belly", James Woundy announced, as if he had been the only one person present to see it. "As God is my witness so he did. Just like that one Judas in the Bible."
"Not Judas, you arse."
James turned to look at Jabez Trim. "Well, who was it then, Mr. Trim?"
"Jonah, it was. Jonah was swallowed by the whale."
"You sure it weren't Judas, Mr. Trim?"
"Judas was the disciple who betrayed Our Lord for thirty pieces of silver."
"And he was thrown overboard," James said. "That's how I minds it. Thrown into the ocean for betraying the Lord. With a millstone about his neck. And God had him eat up by a whale. To teach him a hard lesson."
"Jonah was fleeing the Lord God Almighty," Jabez insisted. "God chose him to be a prophet and Jonah had rather be a sailor and he ran from God aboard of a ship. And he was thrown into the sea by his mates to save themselves from a savage storm the Lord set upon them. And God sent a whale to swallow Jonah."
That's a fine story, Mr. Trim," James said. "But it don't sound quite right to my memory."
"Goddamn it, James Woundy. Do I have to bring out the Book and show you?"
"Now, sir, as I cannot read, I don't see how that would go far to clearing the matter up."
"Well you'll just have to take my word for it then," Jabez said.
Judah is the name reached in compromise. The infant is named Michael. And so the stranger and child are baptised, Paradise Deep-style, passed among the branches of Kerrivan's Tree (a scraggly apple tree that produces sour fruit) in an effort to save their lives in a manner more in keeping with the folkloric traditions of the community than the ritualistic manner of organized religion. The tree, carried as a sapling to the village from Ireland many years before, is thought to offer strength and protection to those woven through its branches. Judah and Michael, both improve after this ceremony and are born-again into the community.
Crummey has long thought of "the outports [of Newfoundland] as Old Testament landscapes, places where it's easier to believe in a vengeful and jealous deity than in the gentle Lamb of God. So the Old Testament is a big character in the novel." Indeed, along with the punishing landscape and unforgiving weather, many of the characters' names, Mary Tryphena, Lazarus, Absalom, Eli, Abel, Esther and Levi (to name a few), are pulled directly from the Bible; each one of them eccentric, layered and fully developed. Many are uneducated, rough and carrying generation-long grudges. These people can be almost as harsh and imposing as the setting in which they live.
While "galore" denotes plenty, abundance and wealth, this novel traces not only the good times, but the more frequent hard times as well. Newfoundland, perhaps more so than any other province in Canada, is unique. Cast out in the Atlantic ocean, this isolated island was born through the strength and resolve of settlers from Ireland and Britain and the native "bushborns". Existences were carved out on the "Rock" (a nickname for Newfoundland) through fishing, trapping, whaling and sealing - some years more plentiful than others. The winter seasons were long and bleak; people starving to death during the seemingly endless frozen months. Yet, amongst all of these challenges to survival are times of plenty and times of hope. The characters in Galore pull together, individuals and families working as one to ensure not only the survival of each other, but the continuity of their community for the generations who will follow.
04 April 11
Second reading of this novel and it was as strong and beautiful as the first time I read it in late 2009. I am working on a review of this book for BookBrowse so, unfortunately, can't go into great detail here just yet.
I will say this novel is epic, magical, perfect.
12 December 09
Following below, is, I think, the best review of this novel I have read. I posted it upon completing my first read of Crummey's story, sixteen months ago.
Galore opens with a group of people in the fictional Newfoundland outport of Paradise Deep, slaughtering a whale that has inexplicably beached itself. Young Mary Tryphena watches as the body of a man, pale and stinking, is cut from the whale's belly. Her grandmother, an old crone named Devine's Widow, defies the town oligarch, King-me Sellers, and has the man carried up the hill to prepare him for a proper burial.
The man, it turns out, is in fact alive, though he cannot speak a word. In the spirit of compromise and illiteracy, he is given the name of Judah. He never does utter a word, and he never loses his stench, but his presence ignites a spark in Paradise Deep that sustains the story for multiple generations.
Crummey's prose is flawless. He has a way with the colloquial that escapes many writers, an ability to make the idiosyncrasies of local speech an asset in creating an image in the reader's mind.
“They'd scaled the whale's back to drive a stake with a maul, hoping to strike some vital organ, and managed to set it bleeding steadily. They saw nothing for it then but to wait for God to do His work and they sat with their splitting knives and fish prongs, with their dip nets and axes and saws and barrels. The wind was razor sharp and Mary Tryphena lost all feeling in her hands and feet and her little arse went dunch on the sand while the whale expired in imperceptible increments. Jabez Trim waded out at intervals to prod at the fat saucer of an eye and report back on God's progress.”
I have, for example, never heard the word “dunch” in my life. But still I know what it means, and have even from time to time felt it in my own rear side. There are writers who can send you scowling for a dictionary, and writers who throw you laughing into language. I went to the dictionary only because of this review, and “dunch” wasn't there. It doesn't need to be.
I believe that books, or at least good books, have a voice. I'm not talking about narrators or characters or that sort of thing; what I mean is that the book itself feels alive and it has a personality and sound all of its own, independent of whatever other stylistic devices are at play within its pages. In this respect, Galore succeeds brilliantly. It's a book that will live in the minds of readers long after they've turned the final page.
Where Crummey's first two novels took one or more characters and placed them in a historical context that allowed readers to see both the characters and Newfoundland, which is how most historical novels work, Galore achieves a far more difficult effect. The characters, plot and setting have been fused, in that this book isn't so much about the people and the events and places that affect them as it is the folkloric sum of Newfoundland, and the characters, as individual and real and compelling as they are, are, for all their strangeness, archetypes, an odd and wonderful mash of biblical and pagan touchstones. It's an incredibly difficult task to make characters such as these work as human beings as well as elements of folklore, and Crummey does it with as much skill and grace as Gabriel Garcia Márquez does in One Hundred Years of Solitude , a novel very much the forebear of this book.
We eventually follow the descendents of young Mary Tryphena through the years, watch as Paradise Deep flourishes and flounders, see the ripples of events that happened years before, see history repeat and morph and repeat again. In Galore , the ghosts are real and the real people live as ghosts. Things that shouldn't happen do. You could, I suppose, call the book a sort of magic realism, though I'm not sure if that doesn't confine it in a way I'm not willing to do. There's something about the term “magic realism” that suggests that magic isn't real, and besides that, the magic that takes place in Paradise Deep isn't really magic, it's simply a part of the known world, like gravity or rainfall.
We have, in Canada, a handful of writers who are able, in the minds of readers, to define a place. While I've never lived in, or in some cases been to, the Miramichi, Comox Valley, Cape Breton or Montreal, I've read David Adams Richards, Jack Hodgins, Alistair MacLeod and Mordecai Richler. As a result, those places live as vividly in my imagination as many places in which I've spent more time and about which I know more factually. Perhaps even more vividly.
Michael Crummey is without a doubt one of Canada's finest writers. I won't thrust the mantle of the voice of Newfoundland on him, as he may well in the future write about other parts of the world, and I will be happy, as a reader, to follow him there. Throw a rock on the Rock, burning or not, and you'll hit a good writer (please don't actually throw rocks at writers, or anyone). But the Newfoundland that exists in my imagination – the one that may not be real and if it ever was real likely doesn't exist today – smells and tastes and sounds like Galore .
Steven Galloway is the author of "The Cellist of Sarajevo"....more
I have read this essay three times today already and know I will return to this book again and again. Each time a new passage captures my attention anI have read this essay three times today already and know I will return to this book again and again. Each time a new passage captures my attention and sets my mind to thinking. My heart ached in thinking about David Foster Wallace - who would be dead 3 years after this address was given to the graduating class of Kenyon College - wondering about how he was feeling/doing/functioning?
Well, this book is absolutely beautiful. I am still thinking about what I want to say about Homer & Langley, while simultaneously composing a lettWell, this book is absolutely beautiful. I am still thinking about what I want to say about Homer & Langley, while simultaneously composing a letter to E.L. Doctorow in my head. I felt this novel deeply and I am marveling at Doctorow's ability with words and language which activate the senses while creating images that linger.
More of a review to come.
Okay, so after pondering for a couple of days, here is what I have come up with:
This novel was released in 2009, but just this past fall, the trade paperback edition became available. I am aware that Homer & Langley received very mixed reviews, with readers feeling either middling about it or loving it. Like any good historical novelist pushing the limits of his craft, Doctorow takes chances. The author’s treatment of the history was a negative for some critics, while others felt the narrator was less than engaging and the imagined historical details were unconvincing, while others still, including the New York Times, opined that Doctorow "never succeeds in making the brothers’ transition from mild eccentricity to out-and-out madness understandable to the reader." Yet even the detractors gave a nod to the author’s stylistic prose.
My reaction to this novel was very strong and I felt it deeply – with my senses and my emotions. Repeatedly I found myself imagining Homer’s ability to take in so much about the world after he lost his sight. The intuition he possessed coupled with other senses being heightened made for a very evolved character with insights that helped filled in the holes of his life. Langley made for an equally interesting, though not as fully fleshed character. Because we are receiving the story from Homer, and though their relationship was unusually strong, we are never fully privy to the action inside Langley’s brain. I do wonder, however, if Langley would be self-aware enough as to categorize his behaviours as well as he categorized his newspaper articles? To me, it is a beautifully imagined brotherhood Doctorow has created; a story inspired by how Homer and Langley lived, rather than sensationalizing how they died. Certainly, many liberties were taken by Doctorow in creating this story and it seems to be this aspect of the book that has the largest share of naysayers debating the label of historical fiction being applied to Doctorow’s book. The book spans nearly 70 years, from just before WWI to the years after the Vietnam War. In this regard, many eras are referenced through the brothers lives. But, it is not so much a recounting of the unusual story of the Collyer brothers as a journey inside that story. Call it a meditation, and a metaphor.
Doctorow’s novel is absolutely beautiful, to me, and I am amazed that he could accomplish so much in such a short (the edition I have is only 208 pages) book. "I’m Homer, the blind brother." is the very first line of Homer & Langley. We know immediately, then, this story will offer a very unique perspective, while signalling, also, that the pages within contain not just a usual story. I feel the eras covered – WWI, the Great Depression, prohibition, the Korean War, The assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King Jr., the hippie movement and the Vietnam War – allowed the book to read, almost like a road trip novel with Homer and Langley benefiting from social interactions, without leaving their home. That Doctorow moved the setting of his novel from the actual home in Harlem, to an imagined Manhattan brownstone on Fifth Avenue, directly across from Central Park, likely allowed for more artistic license with the outside world coming into the brothers’ home so they could have first-hand experiences while being nearly complete shut-ins.
There is no doubt many found, and continue to find the real story of the Collyer brothers sad. If you look at photos taken from inside their home, you wonder how it is even possible they lived among all of the detritus. What Doctorow has done so well, then, is ask us to look at the tale through a different lens and dig within ourselves and extend compassion to two brothers who were likely never really understood and continue, in this world of media-provoked hoarders interest, to be viewed as bizarre and reprehensible. In Doctorow’s view, Homer & Langley are sensitive, highly-intelligent, lonely men, trying to find their purpose in the world. I think this is something we can all relate to and appreciate. ...more
3rd read: beginning 03 september 13, for GR group read @ CBC Books - 5* rating (YAY!!)
man, this is a great book and i am so thrilled it held up during3rd read: beginning 03 september 13, for GR group read @ CBC Books - 5* rating (YAY!!)
man, this is a great book and i am so thrilled it held up during this third read for me. gibb is a fantastic storyteller and through her prose i could truly see, hear, smell and touch the places she created in this book - lilly's life in harare, her life in london were both so vivid.
this subject - ethiopia in the 70s, the government and it's abuses and deaths caused, the truth behind the famines - is something not truly well understood. through this novel. gibb brings us into a world we may not otherwise have been able to know or experience.
2nd read: for in-person book group, 2007 - 5* rating
1st read: @ time of publication, 2005 - 5* rating...more