This is trying way too hard to be deep. Like most texts that strain so hard for profundity, it becomes overwrought and sometimes a bit silly. And theThis is trying way too hard to be deep. Like most texts that strain so hard for profundity, it becomes overwrought and sometimes a bit silly. And the sculpture for which he is willing to give up his life is terrible, something that would not have been obvious in a non-graphic narrative where the reader could imagine brilliance in the work the character cares so much about....more
I never really understand why people get all sentimental and nostalgic about the postwar period in the United States. It has always seemed to me a horI never really understand why people get all sentimental and nostalgic about the postwar period in the United States. It has always seemed to me a horrible time--narrow and stifling and life-denying.
This probably won't go down as Roth's greatest novel, but it pulled me through in less than a day....more
A lot of people who dislike this book base their reaction on their dislike of its titular hero. Now, I can't say that I really warm to this guy, but tA lot of people who dislike this book base their reaction on their dislike of its titular hero. Now, I can't say that I really warm to this guy, but then I don't care if I like a character; I just care if a character is interesting and believable and worth paying some book-length attention to, and he is. I know guys like this. I have, I am sorry to say, had dates with guys like this, as just about every straight urban-dwelling woman who has dated any men has--a fact that helps explain why I am so glad to be happily married and freed from the need to date anybody ever again--dating sucks, and this book helps explain why....more
I can understand why this book was so popular and why so many people reacted to it so strongly. Genova addresses a real issue, one that has affected oI can understand why this book was so popular and why so many people reacted to it so strongly. Genova addresses a real issue, one that has affected or will affect many readers' lives, in a readable way. At time the book feels a bit schematic, like she began with the medical trajectory and constructed characters to illustrate it, or like a public service document dressed up as fiction. On the other hand, the quiet, detached, understated tone means that she successfully resists the temptation to wander into tearjerker territory; I never felt like I was being instructed to cry or manipulated into feeling some predetermined emotion, and that lack of sentimentality and sensationalism is one of the book's great strengths. She lets the reality of the growing mental deficits speak for itself, and that quiet restraint made the emotional effect much stronger than if she had pumped things up for maximum tearjerking....more
Theatre, performance in general, is a funny thing to write history about. Unlike other arts--visual arts like painting and sculpture, textual arts likTheatre, performance in general, is a funny thing to write history about. Unlike other arts--visual arts like painting and sculpture, textual arts like stories or poetry, even musical composition--performance is utterly ephemeral; it leaves no record of itself, only (at best) of people's description of or reactions to it. And so people who were powerful or important performers are hard to write about unless their performance was captured somehow (on film, etc). We have only traces of what made Fanny Brice so important and so successful-- a few audio recordings of her singing or in skits, a few film appearances, photographs, and descriptions by people who saw her perform. I wish we had more. She was an interesting, tough-minded, intelligent woman whose career spanned major changes in entertainment and celebrity. Goldman does a good job of narrating her life and her work; I wished for more analysis--of her relationship with Jewish entertainment circuits and traditions and with shifting attitudes to Jewishness during this difficult and remarkable time, of how her career illuminates changing attitudes to gender and aging and standards of beauty, of larger patterns of change in theatrical and entertainment and celebrity culture, and so on. So much there to explore. Goldman delivers a solid narrative biography, readable and well-researched, and he did respond to one of my questions, concerning the relationship of the real Brice to Streisand's Brice (though there's lots more to be said about that, too)....more
It's hard to imagine a better book on Dryden. Unless a major cache of personal letters or documents comes to light, this is the best and most importanIt's hard to imagine a better book on Dryden. Unless a major cache of personal letters or documents comes to light, this is the best and most important book on this very major literary figure likely to be available for a very long time. Dryden dominated his age from the Restoration to the end of the seventeenth century (he died in 1700), as a playwright, as a poet, and as a critic. Winn does a superb job of placing the man and his work within the complex politics of the day. It can be hard for a modern reader without knowledge of the turbulent politics and social and political worlds of seventeenth-century England to read Dryden because writers then were in such active and constant conversation with each other and with their audience and their times that every text of the period now needs reams of footnotes to explain all the insults and inside jokes and contemporary references in order to be intelligible. But to read Dryden is to come into contact with such an active and interesting intelligence that it's well worth the effort. This is a terrific biography, readable and full of insights into the texts and the times on every page. I need to go read or reread some Dryden now....more