I love Lorrie Moore. And I liked this book. But I was talking to a writer-friend of mine, someone who has published & edited more books than mostI love Lorrie Moore. And I liked this book. But I was talking to a writer-friend of mine, someone who has published & edited more books than most people have read, and I told him that when I got to page 200 or so of this book it "jumped the shark." He asked, "What does that mean?" and I said "I have no idea." Luckily John was in the next room and explained, "It refers to a Happy Days episode where Fonzie water skis over a shark." There. It's true. There are several sections of dialogue in the center that are quite like the Fonz on water skis.
And the scene of Reynaldo in his barren apartment reminds me of scenes from two other books: Nick Flynn's Suck City and Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Oh, and also the end of the movie St. Elmo's Fire with Demi Moore and Rob Lowe snuggling on the mattress. But here it has, oh, I don't know, a jihad flair. I wasn't convinced.
I also said to my writer-friend that the reason I liked this book in particular and Moore in general is because she keeps writing sentences I wish I had written. Like many times per page. And it's true here. But sometimes the dialogue sang the same high note so often it seemed the singer might have no lower register. I enjoyed the complex plot, the smart narrator, and of course my favorite moment, perhaps representative of why I love LM, when the 20 year old narrator imagines: "What if Sylvia Plath had married Langston Hughes." I've read reviews saying 20 year olds don't think that way. But I did at 20, and I still do at 40, and I believed this narrator most of the way around. ...more
Right. The reviews are all true--it's fearless, it's difficult, it's unsettling to read. But Nutting has found a way of accessing authenticity and claRight. The reviews are all true--it's fearless, it's difficult, it's unsettling to read. But Nutting has found a way of accessing authenticity and clarity of POV that is not easy to do. I don't normally read two books at a time, but I finished Tampa while also finishing Lorrie Moore's Birds of America, and I was interested in some of the overlap I encountered between the two authors. Some of the things I love about Moore are present in Nutting: especially that confident tone that elevates complaint to social commentary. Here are some examples.
"Like most pronounced physical flaws, it did not live in isolation."
"There were never any men among the group, though occasionally some of the mothers did see fit to bring their young children along to practice the valuable life skill of standing on the side of the road with indignation."
"There he was, immaculately dressed and persuasive on my behalf, simply in return for an exchange of money!" ...more
Two of my favorite people in the world read this book in September and told me how much they liked it. So I wanted to read it right away. Perhaps dueTwo of my favorite people in the world read this book in September and told me how much they liked it. So I wanted to read it right away. Perhaps due to the high expectations they both set up for me. I'm so glad I did. I did really enjoy all of the story lines and all of the characters, and I appreciated the book's focus on choice--how the choices we make are the best ones we can make in a given moment. ...more
You can't convince me that I don't love Bolano. In fact I'll admit I'm a little addicted. Can I be honest and say he reminds me of a Chilean DFW? JustYou can't convince me that I don't love Bolano. In fact I'll admit I'm a little addicted. Can I be honest and say he reminds me of a Chilean DFW? Just the right amount of detail, social commentary, and snark. One of my favorite lines of this novella occurred on page 85: "Tatiana came from an illustrious military family, and was, in her own slightly mad way, an independent woman, who always did as she pleased, went out with whom she fancied, and held outrageous opinions, which were, in many cases, highly original if often contradictory."...more
Was strange shelving this under "fiction" since it is the story of his father, but he does say in a podcast interview with Brad Listi that this starteWas strange shelving this under "fiction" since it is the story of his father, but he does say in a podcast interview with Brad Listi that this started as memoir and he realized he needed to add some fictional elements to it.
So, I know I related to this book for several reasons. First, I'm a poet so the sparse language and small blocks of text and use of anaphora appealed to me. I thought of Barthes Mourning Diary, or Susan Steinberg's Spectacle.
But also, I am writing a memoir about the death of both of my parents, and about my brother who weighs 600 pounds. I started writing my book in 2008 and it's nearly finished. There are lines in Kimball's book that are identical to lines in my book. And that's because grief is a universal language. ...more
Once again I first feel the need to explain to you what I was doing in the early 90's instead of reading this book and others like it.
When this novelOnce again I first feel the need to explain to you what I was doing in the early 90's instead of reading this book and others like it.
When this novel was published I was getting my MFA in poetry, so I was up to my arse in the Modernists. Now I'm taking the opportunity to revisit authors who were publishing during a time when I was not reading fiction, but I was living a life that was eerily similar to those I now find on the pages I read.
So, you know I love Moore. And some reasons for that are the witty comments, the one-liners, and the word play. But I'm going to admit that I skipped paragraphs of this book just to seek out the thrill of the jokes. Does that say more about me than her?
I think about an exercise I give to my writing students: I ask them to mark each paragraph in their story or essay as narration, description, summary, reflection. If those techniques are visible in chunks, then Houston, we have a problem. "Sprinkle," I tell them. "Salt and pepper."
So I was frustrated here by chunks of summary or reflection interrupting forward action. Let's get straight to the pratfalls, shall we!
I also felt like if I were editing the book, I would have asked Moore to spend 25 more hours fleshing out the Paris thread. I want to know much more, like how Daniel's workout went at the gym.
I'm glad I read this book, and here are some reasons why. The bit about Daniel calling Arrondissements Aggrandizements. Moore you are slaying me!
Some of my other favorite lines, though not ha! moments, more like I could totally relate:
"She was crazy, people said. But they didn't have to say."
"My father could not even recognize me in a group."
"Why did we live like that, with all that mean, incessant tallying?"...more
What a tender artifact this book is: so carefully researched, so carefully crafted. I always feel grateful after reading Melissa’s books. They offer sWhat a tender artifact this book is: so carefully researched, so carefully crafted. I always feel grateful after reading Melissa’s books. They offer such genius and varied gifts. Here we get not only indelibly rich details of setting, but also characters so vivid they follow me throughout the rest of my day even after I put the book down. And language that makes me wish I could channel a quarter of her patience and precision.
Some of my favorite moments:
I speak from the perspective of the dead, though I am as yet unburied. There are twelve types of horizon I have discovered and given name to. . . .
A second bowl of dark blue ceramic is heaped with orchard plums, and the seam of one overripe plum has burst. Snared in its fibrous golden meat, a wasp struggles, perishing by degrees, of sweetness.
That liminal pause between anticipation and occurrence, the pleasurable margin, a wide, open column she can mentally or actually pen over with longings, passions, poetry, and song.
If it rains, I am granted the false heaven of a canvas roof.
I had to tuck and roll on this one at the end--there were about 100 superfluous pages that dragged on. It's sad, since I enjoyed the first part of theI had to tuck and roll on this one at the end--there were about 100 superfluous pages that dragged on. It's sad, since I enjoyed the first part of the book: the social commentary on class in Lima, the interesting shift in POV, the sprightly young narrator. ...more
I picked up this book because Jennifer is a fellow ASU Alum and my Facebook Friend. (Is there an acronym for that yet? FBF? Is that too much like, andI picked up this book because Jennifer is a fellow ASU Alum and my Facebook Friend. (Is there an acronym for that yet? FBF? Is that too much like, and so totally different from, BFF?)
I might even have met Jennifer in person a few times, but don't hold me to that because I have taught at ASU for 20 years and can't remember all 20-25K people I have encountered. But I love her sense of humor online and I wanted to support her by buying the book and I'm glad I did.
I have to say first that this is a love story, and I don't normally read love stories. In fact if you study my recent reviews, you'll see I'm fresh off a Roberto Bolano jag. And then there was that stint with the 9 Dara Weir poetry collections.
But I'll admit that every so often, when I'm home sick, I spend an afternoon speed-watching old episodes of Millionaire Matchmaker. So I guess that pegs me as kind of a romantic.
While the love story was a big part of what kept me turning pages in Love Slave, I was also interested in the narrator's descriptions of 90's New York, and I especially enjoyed reading her column "Abscess." I enjoyed much of the witty banter in the book, which reminded me a bit of a Judd Apatow flick but with AP vocab.
This early 30's narrator was a little bit like me in my early 20's. I did wonder about the age-appropriateness of her behavior. In "Pretty in Pink," Andie could hardly choose between Duckie and Blane. But that was high school. Maybe it's because I'm from Ohio--I don't have a lot experience with 30-something singles who temp for a living. So to me the narrator read young for her age. Probably part of the point.
One of my favorite features of the book is the sprinkling of Americana-style details: Overhearing a discussion about a TGI Fridays in Tulsa, The Price is Right on the TV, and eating McDonald's on road trips. The setting of the novel is nailed.
Nice work Jennifer. Good read. Well crafted. I enjoyed it. ...more
Today I took a brief foray into fiction and it was so well worth it. How did Harding manage to make me care so deeply about so many various charactersToday I took a brief foray into fiction and it was so well worth it. How did Harding manage to make me care so deeply about so many various characters in such a short space? It's insidious. With sentences so beautiful I had to stop and read them over. Savor them.
What persists beyond this cataclysm of making and unmaking?
He had assumed their silence was one of kindness offered and accepted.
He seemed to me as old as light and just as diffuse....more
I'm using the stars literally. "It was ok." I agree with the previous review that the section that describes leaving the attic is so muddled I could nI'm using the stars literally. "It was ok." I agree with the previous review that the section that describes leaving the attic is so muddled I could not begin to picture the physics of it. The biggest downfall of the book for me was that since I knew the beginning and I knew the ending (every character was a train wreck waiting to happen), I kept wondering what was the point of reading the middle? It felt tedious to marinate in the details of each bad decision....more
I need to admit that I have a hard time assigning books the rating of "it was amazing" versus "really liked it" or "liked it," because I tend to reserI need to admit that I have a hard time assigning books the rating of "it was amazing" versus "really liked it" or "liked it," because I tend to reserve "amazing" for things like sunsets and puppies and bread fresh out of the oven. If I were just to think about a 1-5 scale I would like to give this book a 5 because so many of its sentences simply delighted me.
I added the book to my reading queue because I'm writing a memoir and in my memoir there are some hoarders. So I wanted to see how Doctorow treated that. Not only was reading the book very helpful to me, I also loved the pith and wit and social commentary. ...more
I have to admit that within the first 5 pages I sighed and thought, "This is why I hate reading fiction." The feeling passed, but then came back, thenI have to admit that within the first 5 pages I sighed and thought, "This is why I hate reading fiction." The feeling passed, but then came back, then went away, then came back again.
Honestly, this felt like genre fiction to me. Partially due to the intricate and impossible-to-follow web of characters with names that seemed to have been shaken out of a character-name shaker. But also because the tone sounded pretentious and verbose. I had to tuck and roll through the middle. I did get several gems out of the prose, though:
"Problems only arose when someone else came over and I would see, reflected on the look on my guest's face, that from the outside my conditions appeared pathetic."
"But by morning, despite the receding sense that I had been dragged through something epic, I only remembered a fragment [of the dream]"
only later did I come to understand that to be a mother is to be an illusion."...more