I resisted this book. Everyone raved about it, it was on everyone's best books of 2011 lists, the book is about a place where my family is from, where...moreI resisted this book. Everyone raved about it, it was on everyone's best books of 2011 lists, the book is about a place where my family is from, where I've wandered. How could it live up to the hype?
But then it did. If anything it exceeded my expectations. in a lyrical long-song of the dreams and visions of a small town on the Oregon coast over a single summer. I've heard the complaint that this book is about nothing, but this is a book that thinks so deeply about the meaning of time and how people heal or don't heal, about how some people are pulled to safety and some aren't, about being present and listening so hard, you see everything. This book is so deeply rooted in place, so wrapped up in the forests of the left coast of Oregon, it all but names every species of tree and what it used for, names the paths and thoughts of every creature like the book of Genesis, like Noah's ark trying to hold it all and protect it from the storm. And yet the descriptions of the ocean were so true, it made my knees weak.
The narrator who flies over everything is a talking crow who first full sentence was "pain mud mother", spoken to the nun who rescues him when he falls out of his nest as a chick, a nun who's soul when she dies is caught on the broken ceiling fan she always meant to get fixed. But then everyone gets a chance to tell their story, even the river. And if this is the right kind of book for you, that is a sentence that would have set a hook so deep that it will never release until you go out and buy the book and read it.
This has been my favorite book of the year so far. (less)
Excellent story. I found it a great combination of character study of what would have happened after Dickens' Christmas Story ended, how would the cha...moreExcellent story. I found it a great combination of character study of what would have happened after Dickens' Christmas Story ended, how would the characters have continued to relate to each other and mature, how they would continue to interact with ghosts, the subtext about who is the narrator of our stories, all mixed in with a great Victorian murder mystery, young girls in terrible danger, a reluctant hero.
I found it a great fun read that pulled you along.(less)
I love well-crafted novels where the author has taken the flat walls of individual stories and made a house out of them, where the walls connect and s...moreI love well-crafted novels where the author has taken the flat walls of individual stories and made a house out of them, where the walls connect and support each other. This novel surprised and delighted me, I never knew where it was headed and yet it was a great journey.
I can see why this book is listed as an inspiration and influence of writers like Hemingway: the truth of how people think and feel, the emphasis on t...moreI can see why this book is listed as an inspiration and influence of writers like Hemingway: the truth of how people think and feel, the emphasis on the small details and moments, the poetry of how we live our lives. There are moments in the stories which all circle each other, that make you catch your breath.
But is the writing enjoyable? No. Are you desperately looking at the page count to figure out how close you are to the end? Yes.
This book is the springboard that influenced the course of more famous writers. A historical note of where writing changed, but by itself not all that compelling.(less)
When I started this book, I was amazed and astounded. I flatter myself that I write this way, or maybe it's better to say that I aspire to write this...more
When I started this book, I was amazed and astounded. I flatter myself that I write this way, or maybe it's better to say that I aspire to write this way -- the poetic attention to detail, the way she notices the little things that say everything about the big things. Her reporting of the Spanish Civil War and World War II are so incredibly spot on. I was a huge fan.
And then we get to the portion about Vietnam. And she adopts this tone that she was the only American who had problems with the Vietnam War (which is wrong) and that no American soldiers were in an danger (which is wrong) and makes a great point of not knowing or caring who Robert McNamara was. Her reports flirted around the bigger picture of all the millions of, billions of dollars that are spent on refugees without making the refugee lives any better, so where does the money go? *That* is a compelling thread for late twentieth century wars, but because she doesn't see beyond the details, she misses it. Her later writings are almost a cautionary tale of how we try to keep using the same filters on different situations, how we age ungracefully by not being flexible enough.(less)
This book made me feel really old. I have no evidence that anyone enjoys their adolescence, that everyone feels like disconnected loser outsiders. Th...more
This book made me feel really old. I have no evidence that anyone enjoys their adolescence, that everyone feels like disconnected loser outsiders. That we're all just stumbling through it doing everything wrong. But I survived it and you survived it and we all went on to figure out who we were. So I read the book but I just didn't care, which probably means that I'm 152 years old and don't remember what's its like to be young and bursting with hormones. But seriously someone go and tell the boy that it's all gonna work out and none of this goes on your permanent record.
I picked up this book rather by accident. I need epub digital book files to test some software with and so grabbed a few books randomly from gutenberg...moreI picked up this book rather by accident. I need epub digital book files to test some software with and so grabbed a few books randomly from gutenberg.org and this was one of them. My version of the book says that it was written in 1849, not the 2007 that goodreads lists. But it sucked me in. To read the travel accounts of someone trying to travel through Egypt, the Middle East, and Greece with the idea of looking through monasteries for old overlooked, uncared-for manuscripts and rescuing them was fascinating. To say that the travel industry was as yet uncreated, is an under-statement. He dines with heads of states and soldiers, gets caught in a deadly panic in a church in Jerusalem where people are crushed to death, sweet-talks his way around bandits.
There's a line from an old movie that when a man is young, he mourns the loss of a single woman, when he's old, he mourns the loss of all women, he mo...moreThere's a line from an old movie that when a man is young, he mourns the loss of a single woman, when he's old, he mourns the loss of all women, he mourns the loss of the concept of love in his life. This book is set far enough past the apocalypse that we're (for the most part) past the upheaval and violence. When the small groups of survivors have knuckled into their niches and spider traps and have their rituals and routines all set in place to defend themselves without thinking too much about what they have to do to survive. But it is an incredibly sad story. It's the story of what it takes to get out of bed every morning after the end of the world and justify your life in the face of grief and guilt and despair of the people you loved and all the people you didn't and, oh, you have to kill people rather methodically to suffer along.
Well-written, ends on a moment of peace which it hints is about to be rather disturbed in the sequel.(less)
*(%$&&@# Brillant. An entertaining, funny, intelligent riff on great literature, boy's adventure tales, post-apocalyptic, and just the shit we...more*(%$&&@# Brillant. An entertaining, funny, intelligent riff on great literature, boy's adventure tales, post-apocalyptic, and just the shit we make up and call it history or religion or creation myths. Easily ties for the best book I've read this year and easily the best China Miéville book I've read. A very, very enjoyable read.(less)
So, here's a woman, a jazz age baby, with the bob and dark eyes, who flees Kansas at 15 to study dance with Martha Graham, dances in the Follies, work...moreSo, here's a woman, a jazz age baby, with the bob and dark eyes, who flees Kansas at 15 to study dance with Martha Graham, dances in the Follies, works in silent movies and hangs out with Hearst at San Simeon and Bogart and Chaplin and John Wayne and everyone who was anyone, steals part from Greta Garbo. Surrounded by men who paid her rent and took her dancing and bought her expensive clothes, she ends up throwing it all away when she's 30-ish because, man, she wasn't going to be a slave to the system and it interfered with her drinking and dancing all night, followed by fifty years of very hard luck because, well, it's no longer the jazz age and the men who keep women are looking for younger girls.
All though the essays in the book, she keeps telling me how independent she was, how smart and well-read she was, but how independent and smart can you consider yourself if you're kept by millionaires and never give a thought to the future and living the bulk of your life after the brief party was done, alone in poverty? I know it was a different age and she was a product of that age, but I struggled with the idea of her as a proto-celebrity, self destructive and self absorbed, having successfully convinced herself that she was where she was because she was special, that the celebrity and good times were deserved, rather than just being manufactured by chance and other people.
It is refreshing that she has no excuses for her downfall, that she just found it inconvenient and boring to do the things that could have kept her in the good graces of Hollywood a bit longer. The rest of us make a few compromises to get through the years.(less)
It was a fine book, a light-hearted read with some beautiful language and interesting images. It's just that, even if you're writing dream-like fantas...moreIt was a fine book, a light-hearted read with some beautiful language and interesting images. It's just that, even if you're writing dream-like fantasy, I believe consistency is important. About halfway through the book, the hero suddenly announces that he's in trouble, that he's done something wrong and doesn't dare look at the front page of the newspaper or he'll find himself. And even though I scanned backward, I couldn't figure out what he was talking about. He'd twisted the knickers of his employer and his employer's enemy, but that wasn't anything that would get him denounced in the press. He had done any obvious crime, but this "being on the lam" drove the second half of the book when I couldn't figure out what he was on the lam for.
So, even though I enjoyed the book, it felt like the cylinders and pistons weren't lined up, if you know what I mean.(less)
When I heard the description of this book, I immediately bought it thinking it was something along the lines of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Seda...more
When I heard the description of this book, I immediately bought it thinking it was something along the lines of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris, modern fables full of poetry and dreams. But it wasn't. These are fragments of myths, summaries of dreams, outlines of post apocalyptic fables. Most of these fragments felt like in-class writing assignments, nothing felt like it took more than a couple hours to write. All the elements felt unfinished.