Christine wakes up every day with twenty or thirty years of her life missing. It sucks. Her husband looks like a stranger. She looks like a stranger.Christine wakes up every day with twenty or thirty years of her life missing. It sucks. Her husband looks like a stranger. She looks like a stranger. Then she gets a call from another stranger, who tells her to look in a journal she's been keeping to remind herself of who she is. She opens the journal, and... well, most of the book is the journal.
Christine has to learn who she is almost every day. The events you and I would use to outline a life--marriage, children, occupation--are a mystery to her, as is how she lost her memory in the first place. Her search to uncover the truth about who she is and what really happened to her is stuttering and fragile; she must start from the beginning each day and the link from one day to the next is incredibly thin.
I had almost written this book off at about the 3/4 point: she sits in the house, journals, and navel-gazes day after day, vacillating between her desire to be happy with the life that she has and her desire to uncover the truth, however uncomfortable it might be. The gradual revealing of her past, however, kept me hooked. And the end--well, it's worth it.
This book only gently probes the big questions it raises--what defines us? are we merely the sum total of our memories?--and should instead be looked at as a simply good yarn with a fascinating premise. It will make you oddly grateful for your own sense of self....more
1Q84 is billed as Murakami's magnum opus. The nearly-1000-page book certainly feels like an achievement in your hands. Murakami has made a name for hi1Q84 is billed as Murakami's magnum opus. The nearly-1000-page book certainly feels like an achievement in your hands. Murakami has made a name for himself at the intersection of magical realism, modern-day Japanese culture, and literary art, and this book was supposed to represent the pinnacle of his craft.
The summary of the story can be read on the back of the book: Murakami uses his trademark alternating storylines to entangle two protagonists in a supremely weird alternate reality that is almost but not exactly like 1984. Along the way, we meet a professor, a blind goat, more moons than there should be, and a cast of one-, two-, and three-dimensional characters.
First, the good: Murakami is a world-class storyteller. In part because of his ability to maintain credibility while creating extremely bizarre circumstances, he's able to work up your curiousity like none other. The world of 1Q84 is beautifully dreamlike. Murakami's characters and subplots seem almost random at times but yet manage to flow together, not unlike the way in which his beloved jazz composers are able to create music from chaos.
Despite its length, this book is a page-turner. And Murakami is much more than a pulp-fiction author: though one of the protagonists feels initially like a cliche lifted from a the thriller genre, she is a much deeper character.
And the bad: This does not really feel like Murakami's best work as much as it does his longest. The complex, offbeat side-stories and synaesthetic metaphors that were a staple of the text in books like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore are largely absent. The development of the plot is glacial at times; a single event is sometimes described from the perspective of up to three characters, while we're also treated to long explanations about what said characters made for dinner and what they are wearing. It does not feel like a work truly deserving of its length.
This book also has a lot of sex. In the words of another reviewer, there's physical sex, weird sex, metaphorical sex, and asexual sex. Murakami has never shied away from the bedroom, but this is really over the top.
I'm giving this 3 stars, though perhaps it deserves 4. If you want to try Murakami, don't start here. Read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It is much better. ...more
Demetri Martin is like cilantro: you like his style of humor, or you don't. This book has the same brand of humor as his stand-up comedy, so if you liDemetri Martin is like cilantro: you like his style of humor, or you don't. This book has the same brand of humor as his stand-up comedy, so if you like that, you'll like this.
He's funniest when he sticks to his strengths--quick little bursts of wit and observational humor. I didn't find his longer-form stories as amusing as the rest of the book, at which I erupted into frequent LOLs. ...more
Before I read this book, I made the mistake of reading *about* this book. Rarely have I seen so many metaphors applied to a work of fiction. "This booBefore I read this book, I made the mistake of reading *about* this book. Rarely have I seen so many metaphors applied to a work of fiction. "This book will chew you up and spit out out," claimed one reviewer. "It's a beast," claimed another. "Reading this book is a long, grueling, but ultimately life-changing journey," opined a third.
It's really hard to review this book because--for all the hyperbole surrounding it--at least one thing is hard to argue: it defies comparison. Weighing in at well over a thousand pages (depending on your edition, of course) and practically bursting with nonlinear plotlines, pyrotechnic vocabulary and literary devices, obsessive and/or schizophrenic detail, chemistry, drugs, tennis, more drugs, wheelchair-bound assassins, drug, filmmaking, late-night radio, acronyms, AA, politics, satire, drugs, and ... well, lots more stuff, there's no other book even remotely like it. It flies wildly along the border between satire and outright absurdity.
Is it hard to read? Well: the run-on sentences the author favors are almost scintillating little fractal versions of the book itself, spinning breathlessly into clauses and parentheticals and, frequently, footnotes. You do have to pay a little more attention. But despite the fact that there's not a whole lot of directional plot movement I found it completely immersive. Once you fall into the rhythm of the prose you're completely submerged, your mind (if it has as few cylinders as my own) buzzing to keep up with the constant barrage of ideas and images. The flow is dense and constant.
It's not easy to get into; do get past the first hundred pages or so. Though there are many pieces of the story, almost all are connected in some way, and the breakneck pace at which new characters are introduced slows dramatically. You will get to meet those people again, and you'll get flashbacks to earlier or later in their lives, and they will become extremely lifelike in a very Technicolor, three-dimensional way.
What is it about? Well, "lacks focus" is a rude thing to say about such a colossal work, so I won't say it. The overarching themes are around what it means to have a choice, especially as it involves addiction, and in part as it involves entertainment (the nature of which is also brought into question), and achievement as a means to happiness.
Finally, this book is not for the easily disturbed--it is full of descriptions, sometimes very graphic ones, of some of the most overwhelming depravity I've ever seen committed to the written page. There are occasional sunbursts but on the whole the tone is isolated and dark.
Overall this book lands among the top 10 I've ever read, absolutely pegging the meters on creativity, depth, technical excellence, and gestalt. When I turned the last page and found there wasn't any more, I felt almost numb. Go read it. ...more
A superb introduction to the world of Jeeves and Wooster: in fact, contrary to what you might think by scanning the titles of the Jeeves books, it isA superb introduction to the world of Jeeves and Wooster: in fact, contrary to what you might think by scanning the titles of the Jeeves books, it is this work that contains the hallowed moment when Jeeves and Wooster first join forces. Recommended not only as a generally good work of fiction but also as one's first Jeeves and Wooster book.
The stories feel a bit formulaic after a while: Wooster makes style decision against Jeeves' taste, Wooster or his friend gets into a bind, Jeeves comes up with a clever way to bail them out of it, Wooster recants his poor style decision. But, as is often the case with Mr. Wodehouse's writing, it's just so infectiously fun to read that you don't really care about the formula. It's sort of like that television program you watch regularly: at this point, you've probably figured out how the story arc is going to go, but the execution is so arresting that you continue to find it enjoyable. ...more
A wonderful romp through some of the old Wodehouse stomping grounds. Wodehouse's books are usually full-length novels or collectiosn of stories that aA wonderful romp through some of the old Wodehouse stomping grounds. Wodehouse's books are usually full-length novels or collectiosn of stories that all involve the same set of characters (cf. the Jeeves and Wooster books, The Heart of a Goof [golf stories told by the Oldest Member], Mulliner Nights [tales of unflappable relatives told by Mr. Mulliner]). This book is unique: contains stories from several of Wodehouse's favorite microcosms. It would serve as an excellent introduction to Wodehouse if you're looking for a sample platter of sorts. ...more
These stories appear to have been selected for their diversity rather than their overall merit. It's a good book to read if you want to be sure that yThese stories appear to have been selected for their diversity rather than their overall merit. It's a good book to read if you want to be sure that you never read two stories in a row that are remotely like each other. (There's one exception--there are in fact two stories in a row written from the first-person perspective of homosexual men.)...more
This book is not especially memorable, but it is extremely hilarious. It is Tina Fey doing what she does best--witty, random, and often self-deprecatiThis book is not especially memorable, but it is extremely hilarious. It is Tina Fey doing what she does best--witty, random, and often self-deprecating humor. The only difference is that this book is written about her own life instead of about fictional characters. (Hint: Tina Fey doesn't just play Liz Lemon, her character on the television show 30 Rock. In many ways, she is Liz Lemon.) In terms of raw numbers of laugh-out-loud moments per page, it beats any book I have read in the last five years.
The chapters don't really fit a theme, and she doesn't even try to connect them. Some are stories from her past. Others are about someone she knows. In my favorite chapter, she answers comments from people on the Internet.
This book is remarkably similar to the television show 30 Rock, on which she is both a writer and a star. It does not try to teach you anything. It is served well with popcorn. But sometimes it's insightful when you least expect it....more
If Citrus County were a movie, it would be one of those indie flicks that makes runner-up at a film festivCitrus County is a book set in a small town.
If Citrus County were a movie, it would be one of those indie flicks that makes runner-up at a film festival: long, introspective shots of people standing and thinking, processing; a soulful soundtrack by a guy with a sorrowful and gravelly voice; a cast of fundamentally flawed characters who experience tragedies and grow somehow, or don't.
This book is full of interesting people, but they're all almost the same under the covers. Every one of them is trying to answer the same question: whether life happens to you or whether you happen to life. People do some strange things just to prove that they are in charge of their lives, that they are the ones making things happen and are not being carried along by fate or apathy. They do other strange things to prove that they *are* something, that they have some characteristic. It's fiction, but it's what we do every day.
The story somehow manages to be a page-turner, but not for the right reasons. Some awful things happen, and then the author almost seems to have forgotten that they did, and you have to remind him that there's a terrible subplot going on and would he please get back to it because you need to know if things are going to be okay.
If nothing else, this story is truly unique: I have never read anything quite like it. The prose is fresh and confident and full of insight. I liked it....more
Let me start by being perfectly honest. I'm a Christian, and I also like books about the brain and physics. This can be challenging, because from a scLet me start by being perfectly honest. I'm a Christian, and I also like books about the brain and physics. This can be challenging, because from a scientific standpoint it sort of looks like there is nothing that suggests that our consciousness is anything besides an accidental side-effect of evolution, a sort of humming generated by the chemical impulses swirling around our forebrains. I was hoping to find out (yes: I can hear it now, the whole chorus of you, frowning upon me for seeking out evidence for an already arrived-upon conclusion) that scientific evidence itself suggests that there is something more to what makes us us than mere brain activity.
Alva's arguments, however, have nothing to do with metaphysics and everything to do with the definition of consciousness itself. This was why, while the book was fascinating, I also found it ultimately unfulfilling. He succeeds in demonstrating that a solid definition of consciousness (as he puts it: that the world shows up for us) must not limit itself to brain activity. But he does so with arguments that sometimes don't seem to follow logically until you read them two or three times, and even then seem questionable. One is left with the feeling that he has redefined what is meant by consciousness to encompass a larger picture of our experience in the world, and then triumphantly shown that according to this definition consciousness requires a world and our interaction with it.
It's a good book if you're interested in the definition of consciousness, and also a good book if you like to read interesting studies of sensory substitution and other such tricks that try to tease out its essence. But I can't wholeheartedly recommend it on the merit of its premise....more