Growing up my mom was always reading several books at once, usually biographies / autobiographies or other things that I deemed "serious" reading alon...moreGrowing up my mom was always reading several books at once, usually biographies / autobiographies or other things that I deemed "serious" reading along with those cheap grocery-store checkout-aisle romance novels with the red covers. She called those her "candy novels"- little substance, quick and enjoyable reads, but they don't quite fill you up intellectually. No offense intended, but Mercedes Lackey provides my "candy novels". The writing, plot line, character development and other literary elements are far superior in my opinion to any romance novel I've ever remotely considered reading... but they do not compare with the literary canon. That is simply because of their genre and intended / target audience. In any case, the fact that these books stand up to my enjoyment after numerous re-readings over the course of more than 10 years. Well, that speaks for itself. These books are enjoyable. Quick, entertaining, exciting reads for adults or adolescents.(less)
What is "slam"? Well, in skateboarding it describes a crash or accident that leaves the skater messed up, battered, wounded. So, in this novel it is quite a "slam" for the protagonist when he and his girlfriend wind up accidentally pregnant.
One amazing thing about Nick Hornby is his ability as an author to create a distinctive narrative voice. With this novel the reader can hear the narrator as though he were talking directly to the reader. There is a very oral sense to the narrative. Although I could not picture the protagonist, I realized at the end of the book I probably never tried to picture him. He describes his girlfriend, and the reader can picture her, but the narrator is not a self-conscious one. He does not think of himself really in terms of his surroundings (people, etc.), and in that way Hornby really got the teenage voice down. Sam, the protagonist describes his moment-to-moment feelings and urges, often awkward, irreverent and illogical.
For a story about teenage pregnancy apparently aimed at a teenage audience (I checked the book out from the library from the young adult section), this novel walks a fine line between preachy cautionary tale to joking, not so-serious anecdote. Another amazing thing about Nick Hornby is his ability to show the humorous side of any situation. Several times during the reading of this novel I found myself laughing outloud at what would seem the most inappropriate times. For this reason, it might seem that Hornby is making light of a serious situation. However, obviously the novel is meant to entertain, not admonish, and if adults are really going to commuicate with teens/young adults, haven't they got to use a language that will be understood? There again Hornby succeeds with this novel.
My personal favorite line in the whole book that made me laugh outloud occurs when the protagonist, Sam, dreads having a conversation with his girlfriend. They have met in a Starbucks and Sam is waiting in line, postponing the inevitable. He hopes that the people in line ahead of him have the most complicated drink orders ever, so that they take longer. Hornby writes, "I wanted someone to order a cappuccino with all the bubbles taken out by hand, one by one" (80).
This novel-in-stories opens with a haunting short story of acceptance of an inexplicable supernatural situation or pattern of occurrences. If you think you might like to read this book, read the first story and see if the writing doesn’t pull you right in. The narrator’s straight-forward voice and simple phrasing tell so much more than his mere words alone. With this story, the scene is well and truly set.
Each story is like another bizzarely shaped piece of a jigsaw puzzle, the final outcome of which is unknown, but all together the stories form the shape of the Northwoods region and its inhabitants. This collection provides a distinctive look/take on the Pacific Northwest as in the style of Magical-Realism, demonstrated in its best tradition by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The paranormal / inexplicable mixes with the everyday to create the extraordinary lives and stories of this collection.
Laurie Notaro serves up bite-size bits of hilarity and mortification from her own life, and the lives of her friends, family, and acquaintances. Noone...moreLaurie Notaro serves up bite-size bits of hilarity and mortification from her own life, and the lives of her friends, family, and acquaintances. Noone is safe! Most people will be able to see themselves or people they know somewhere in these anecdotal accounts of a life uncrontrollably lived. Much heading shaking and suppressed mirth accompany the reading, and it is well worth the effort. The brevity of each newspaper-column-sized chapter makes for easy reading, you don't have to commit to too much in one sitting, but you may well find yourself impatiently anticipating the next escapade. Keep 'em coming Laurie!(less)
A couple of years ago, I forget when, I read David Sedaris' book Me Talk Pretty One Day. Although now I remember very little about this, I can recall distinctly liking his authorial voice. So, finally I have some free time and went to the library to pick up this collection of personal essays.
As I read through these autobiographical essays, I found myself laughing outloud, shaking my head in disbelief and bemusement, and nodding my head with a subtle smile of understanding and commiseration. Sedaris is brutally honest about himself in a very humorous way that does not alienate me as a reader. Even reading about Hugh lancing the putrid boil on David's tailbone roused more respect from me than disugst.
All I can really say is that I laughed outloud, and I feel like I've been given insight into "the human condition". Sedaris has opened a window into his life, and through elements of his stories we can see ourselves and through all of it we can see those around us; we can even imagine the parts of them they may like to pretend don't exist.
Having read When You Are Engulfed in Flames prior to beginning David Sedaris’ earlier collection Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, I found these essays a lighter, quicker read. Perhaps because the essays collected herein are shorter and more bite-sized, I found them easier to swallow, but strangely less satisfying. At times I feel like Sedaris as a narrator is very detached from his story; his almost out-of-body commentary on himself and the situations in which he finds himself come across in some places as hollow or played out. I felt this way in the essay “Blood Work”; I had no emotional reaction really, perhaps as a reader intuitively reflecting what I felt from the narrator. In reflection, I think I should have felt something, horror, disgust, glee that it wasn’t me. Instead, I ended this story with a bemused, slightly confused shrug.
That said, some of the other pieces included in this collection struck a really powerful chord in me. Perhaps it was from the multi-layered awareness of Sedaris as a commentator on his own life, on others' lives being lived around him, and on the invisible and often incomprehensibly powerful interconnectedness of all of us, particularly family. Or it could have been from his often hauntingly insightful observations of human nature communicated in bitingly witty and brief interior-voice asides.
So I checked this book out of the library at the same as Niffenegger's other illustrated novel The Three Incestuous Sisters. I read The Adventuress second, and I found myself flipping through it much faster than I had with the other visual novel. As Niffenegger explains in what amounts to The Afterword, she created this book in two years while she was studying art in Chicago. In comparison, it is clear that The Three Incestuous Sisters was a labor of love over the course of many, many years. The aquatints in this book are simpler, more straightforward, but even more full of energy, movement and action than the latter work.
The plot moves pretty quickly in this book. Actually, it is a bit jumpy, but that could have to do more with the story and the nature of the protagonist. The Adventuress is no ordinary protagonist. She was a magical creation, and so her life is something far beyond ordinary. In this book more than the other, the aquatints use facial expressions and other subtleties of line in place of color contrast to portray the nuances of the protagonist.
Sure, at first you might be thinking a book with pictures is for kids, but this visual novel is so much more than something childish, not to mention the content is very mature. For a book of few words, Niffenegger has created an enthralling stories and characters with depth. Timeless themes of love, loss, jealousy and violence, among others, find careful treatment via the few, well-chosen words that are paired with the often intricate, at times disturbing aquatints.
As I read this book, I spent only a couple of seconds reading the words paired with each image, but I then spent several minutes investigating the depth of each individually, lovingly created aquatint illustration. In each aquatint, Niffenegger has paired simplistic elements, like figures that are essentially line drawings, with more complex contexts and situations that carry the weight of telling the story. Altogether, the story and the accompanying aquatints, or rather the story told through the aquatints and accompanied by a spare scattering of words, creates a disturbing sense of some dark reality. The best part is that amidts the darkness, the reader finds pieces of real beautiful and uplifting moments.
Some reviews have considered the brevity of this illustrated novel as something of a downfall. People don't always take "a picture book" seriously, but this book needs to be seen and "read" as a work of art. Some reviewers have said they read this book in ten minutes. Sure, that's possible, but do you spend only ten minutes looking at a good painting? Take the time to really see the art of these aquatints, and you will appreciate the depth of this book.
Hoffman’s second book about the magical girl Green is even better than the first. This time around the story is a bit more linear, a bit more action oriented and forward-moving. It has a quest feel to it. Green goes in search of “the Enchanted”, a group of women who are called witches for the powers that they possess. Green does not seem to realize or believe that she is one of these witches, as the title of the story suggests.
Much of the same imagery as in Green Angel recurs here, although somehow Hoffman has recast the images by rewriting the symbolism. Whereas Green Angel seems very reflective and oriented towards the past and its repercussions, Green Witch is very future focused and looking towards possiblities. The best part is that Green no longer seems to be waiting. She has grown into a proactive protagonist who goes after what she is searching for, what she wants, her heart’s desire.
As a work of young adult fiction, I would have to say that the Green in this book is a much better role model for teen girls. She does not etch her pain into her skin, but instead reflects how like a garden she has grown up through the destruction that was her life before the tragedy at the beginning of the first book. Perhaps I also like this Green better because she is more realistic in some ways, while she has simultaneously acquired more magical capabilities. I guess that combination makes her more complex and interesting. At heart the Green of this book and the story feels more human because it is very hope based, because hope is one of the two best reasons for living, along with love.
This book is both subtle and blatant, mundane and surprising. Not that I know from personal experience, but from what I saw of my own parents' relationship, Erdrich does a superb job of capturing and manifesting the miseries, sufferings, indignities, and surprising, crystalline beautiful moments of joy in love, in marriage, in an enduring relationship and in parenthood.
Irene and Gil have been together more than ten years, perhaps closer to twenty years, but Erdrich tracks an ever-increasing distance between them, a gap that is widened by distrust, disgust, and the ebbing of affection. There is talk of a decisive moment, of a singular, distinctive turning point... there is disagreement as to whether this moment does or does not exist. In the novel, it does not seem to exist, but rather the plot hinges on an ebbing and flowing of emotion, like the ocean's tides on a beach. This wave-like quality of the narrative and plot tug the reader along, back and forth, so that it's hard to imagine what will or will not happen. I can't say that I was satisfied with the novel or with it's ending, but I was impressed with it's verisimilitude, with the simulacra of life, art, love, marriage, family, and Native loss/retention of identity that Erdrich has therein crafted.
What an incredibly heavy emotional novel. This story is really well-crafted, and I spent about half of the book on the verge of tears; it is that powerful. The structure is imaginative and suspenseful at the same time, with retrospective reflections on the past alternating between the protagonist Alice's childhood and adulthood. The family is given greater depth through vignette-like glimpses into Alice's mother Ann's life and into Alice's father's mother Elspeth's life.
O'Farrell deftly treats timeless and universal themes like family, love, loneliness, grief, secrets, and, throughout, she subtly investigates the purpose of life or the meaning of living or what motivates any of us to get up in the morning and keep going day after day. I am impressed by the strength of the protagonist's character; her centrality to the story is inarguable despite her relative inactivity in portions of the book.