I've read Infinite Jest three times now, and the last time I read it I used this guide (to call it a "study" is generous). After each section I would...moreI've read Infinite Jest three times now, and the last time I read it I used this guide (to call it a "study" is generous). After each section I would read the corresponding section in Elegant Complexity. It definitely assisted me in picking up on some small things, connecting themes, repeated metaphors, and more.
I would suggest it to anyone reading Infinite Jest for a 2nd or 3rd time, but not for the first-time reader. It's best to just read and enjoy it as-is.(less)
I'd give this 3.5 stars if I could, because I'm kind of torn about it. So yeah, Martin made the potentially questionable decision to split the one hug...moreI'd give this 3.5 stars if I could, because I'm kind of torn about it. So yeah, Martin made the potentially questionable decision to split the one huge book he was writing into two, carve out half the cast (including a lot of fan favorites) to reserve them for book 5, and stick us with POV chapters from characters like Sansa Stark, Cersei Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, and Samwell Tarly. Not exactly a murderer's row. But we do get to see through the eyes of Arya and Jaime, so it can't be that bad, right?
Ultimately I found the book a bit unbalanced, but pretty damn interesting in the end. The last third or so really intrigued me, as GRRM sets up dramatic events like few other author's really seem to be able, and the last chapters of A Feast for Crows is full of them. After plowing through Book 3, I found Book 4 to be quite an uninteresting slog at first, and stopped about 60% of the way through. Not much was happening, the characters weren't that interesting, and Cersei was slightly maddening. But I guess that's the point of Cersei...
Book 4 is, much like book 2, a story that moves pieces into place while providing us with insight into what's happening in various locations. Through the eyes of the characters, we see the depressing state of post-war Westeros, the appointment of a new King of the Iron Islands, the slow downfall of Cersei, plans being set up in Dorne, and hints at Littlefinger's larger plan.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan you WILL read this book, but you won't necessarily love all of it. I found myself rooting for and commiserating with Jaime, feeling the dedication and hopelessness of Brienne, enjoying the self-destruction of the oblivious Cersei, and constantly irritated by Sam and his dumb girlfriend. I'm ready to dive into Book 5, and looking forward to seeing what Jon, Bran, Tyrion, Davos, Daenerys, and others are up to.(less)
Berry blends his autobiography with more-or-less-related stories he has gathered from fantasy players around the country (and world) in this fun, face...moreBerry blends his autobiography with more-or-less-related stories he has gathered from fantasy players around the country (and world) in this fun, faced-paced, conversationally-written "love letter to fantasy." A great read for anyone interested in fantasy sports.(less)
A great, cheap, quick read about the development of many of the elements of football strategy over the past decades. Most of these sections seem to be...moreA great, cheap, quick read about the development of many of the elements of football strategy over the past decades. Most of these sections seem to be long-form blog posts/articles, so they read quickly while still being informative. A must-read for football fans, in my opinion.(less)
Due to the average individual's preference to use things such as Amazon star ratings and reviews as an accurate benchmark of a book's quality, it's so...moreDue to the average individual's preference to use things such as Amazon star ratings and reviews as an accurate benchmark of a book's quality, it's somewhat easy to think of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections as a polarizing work that has been received with both praise and scorn. However, this is where you'd be wrong, as it's won numerous high-profile literary awards, been included on basically every list of best English-language novels, was well-received and praised by fellow writers and most every literary critic, and has held up over time, being placed on oodles of "best books of the decade" lists. Why, then, does the popular reception of The Corrections seem so unenthusiastic, polarized, and harsh? My opinion: it's too damn real.
In The Corrections, Franzen has created what is certainly the most unfortunately realistic group of characters I have ever read in fiction. The parents are an aging, generally unhappy, couple with a lifetime of built up emotional baggage. Their adult children are each unhappy and mentally unhealthy in their own unique ways. The book is structured to provide a view into each character's psyche and history, and this allows the reader understand how they got to be where they are during the primary arch of the story. These back stories are woven in with the backbone of the novel, which is a contemporary story about (among other things) human relationships and old age.
The fundamental issue with The Corrections is that Franzen examines family relationships and the human experience through a brutally clear lens. Each character's story is profoundly negative and discouraging, every relationship is flawed, every conversation reveals a dysfunction -- it gets pretty overwhelming at times. It's so perfectly real that it drags you into it's deeply negative world, and you begin analyzing your own relationships through that same brutal lens: "Do *I* talk to my mom like that?" "Is this what *my* relationships are like?" You have to remind yourself that Franzen's world an incomplete, skewed picture, one that does not fully represent the intriciate nature of human relationships.
So why is The Corrections so good? It does everything fiction is supposed to do. It is frequently amusing, brutally honest, deeply insightful, and ultimately discouraging. It is expertly and cleverly written. It's captivating and emotionally moving. It's, objectively, a Great Work.
I think, honestly, that the "emotionally moving" thing is what makes some people hate it. It's moving, sure, but not positively. It makes you feel BAD. It makes you feel that all your relationships, and that you yourself, are deeply flawed. If you can't handle this -- if you want characters you want to be friends with -- look elsewhere. However, if you read a book to have your thoughts provoked, your views challenged, to have some emotional baggage removed from the storeroom, read this book. If you want to read some incredible use of the English language, read this book. If you want to be driven to laughter, frustration, and maybe even depression, read this book. But remember that it just might be a little too real for some to enjoy. (less)
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain some minor spoilers. Nothing directly revealing anything that happens, but I want to refer to enough that might le...moreDISCLAIMER: This review may contain some minor spoilers. Nothing directly revealing anything that happens, but I want to refer to enough that might let you know the general themes and such. Probably not so much. Just so you know.
After the enjoyable, intense, and gripping Hunger Games, I really found Catching Fire to be a disappointment. While the first book in the series exhibited some flaws, Catching Fire revealed even more of Collins' weaknesses, which made for a less engrossing and more frustrating read.
The fast pace and tense plot kept things interesting, sure, but pacing issues were still all over the place. Collins has an extremely irritating penchant for both focusing on minutiae and condensing a weeks worth of time into two sentences. Every meal Katniss eats, every piece of clothing she puts on, and every hairstyle and makeover she gets is described in excruciating detail. Food is just about the only thing she gives any depth to, as 90% of the characters still shallow and used as pawns in the story.
One thing that really irritates me about Katniss, the strong young female protagonist, is that she simply doesn't seem to have to learn anything or grow up in any real way besides learning how to navigate her way through two relationships with two very different boys (sound familiar?). After all she has gone through, I would expect her to indicate some level of growth, maturity, and personality change, but Collins writes her as such a strong-willed, gone-through-the-school-of-hard-knocks, sure-of-herself girl that she hasn't seemed to have been affected at all, at least in the way her character interacts with the world around her. Additionally, Collins frequently uses the ridiculously stereotypical and offensive cliche where, even though Katniss is strong, resourceful, and independent, all she REALLY needs to be complete and calm is to spoon with a boy.
Without revealing too much, I think it's safe to say that the re-use of a major plot element in book one for book two just reeks of laziness and/or a lack of creativity on Collins' part. I literally rolled my eyes and said "COME ON" when a big reveal took place because I knew what was in store for me in the last half of the book, and when Collins didn't make it a red herring I was quite disappointed in her. And, even though I understand this is supposed to be YA fiction, the foreshadowing was so hamfisted an 8-year old could have noticed it. And the foreshadowing almost always relies on Katniss not being able to notice what the reader sees as fairly obvious, which doesn't mesh with her being an intelligent young woman.
This one-line paragraph also is here for me to say how much I hate deus ex machina, which is used to such an extent that it becomes semi-comical.
OK, so I've said a bunch of stuff about why Collins' writing style annoys me, problems I have with the plot and the characters, etc etc. So why 3 stars? Because these books are like an interesting adventure/action movie. You can forgive the issues when you are caught up in the fast-paced adventure, the danger, and always wanting to know what happens next. That alone is worth the day or two it takes to read it.(less)
This was a real page-turner... or in my case, a button-clicker. For what I assumed was "YA lit", this was a surprisingly mature read, with themes such...moreThis was a real page-turner... or in my case, a button-clicker. For what I assumed was "YA lit", this was a surprisingly mature read, with themes such as the struggle to survive in poverty, violence, death, politics, and the complexities of emotions and love.
The plot was thoroughly captivating and fast-paced, sometimes too much so. There were certainly times when I wondered if Collins had simply not wanted to figure out a more complex way to have an event take place. Or, maybe she was trying to simply demonstrate the unpredictability of catastrophic events. Either way, I imagine most readers will find themselves both glued to the story and somewhat turned off by some pacing issues.
Collins gift, at least in the first book of this trilogy, certainly isn't in creating substantial characters. Even though the book is written in the first person, the heroine Katniss still feels somewhat undeveloped by the end of the novel, and the rest of the book is mostly fleshed out with 2-dimensional plot pieces. There were a number of instances where a conversation could have certainly took place to develop relationships and strengthen the characters, but were instead short and terse transitions.
In some way, this felt kind of like a really good dramatic TV show or action movie. Shallow character development, uneven pacing of events, with some explosions (seriously) and dramatic death sequences. Totally addicting but ultimately makes you realize why you read stuff for big kids most of the time.(less)