Update: I never did manage to finish -- at least not yet. Perhaps one day...?
Hey bookfriends. I'm having a problem and I'm hoping you all could maybeUpdate: I never did manage to finish -- at least not yet. Perhaps one day...?
Hey bookfriends. I'm having a problem and I'm hoping you all could maybe help me out.
This is the thing. One of the biggest holes in my literary knowledge is the Russians. Like all of them. I've read Master & Margarita, but that's it. No War and Peace, no Crime and Punishment, no Dead Souls. Nada. And what I realized upon starting this book -- in an attempt to begin to rectify this glaring lapse -- is that I have somehow also managed to not know anything about the Russians either. Not their plots, not their themes, not who among them is intellectually rigorous or has the most beautiful language or who blathers on and on about nothing for 1.6 million pages.
Because here I am about 1/3 through Anna Karenina and I haaaaaate it. There is nothing about this book that makes it feel to me like a classic, like a paragon of high art, like the literary behemoth that I have assumed it is. It's like a society novel! And it's so boring! Day after day, wading through endless descriptions of Russian social circles and who belongs to which one, agonizing depictions of who wore what to which ball, and treatises and endless descriptions on the life of a farmer.
Um so listen. Given that this book is 1.6 million pages long, and that by reading it I am essentially murdering probably five other books that I might have ever read in my life, can you guys tell me if I need to keep trudging? Does it get better? What is rewarding and important about this book? Why has it endured as a classic for all this time? Why do you love it? Etc....?...more
You guys oh no I accidentally abandoned this book.
I mean, it wasn't actually an accident; I just came to the unignorable conclusion after 90ish pagesYou guys oh no I accidentally abandoned this book.
I mean, it wasn't actually an accident; I just came to the unignorable conclusion after 90ish pages that opening this book had become like being in one of those dreams where every part of your body is SO HEAVY that you can't even wiggle a single toe. Every time I thought about picking this up, suddenly I was rearranging the condiments in my fridge or mindlessly scrolling through Instagrams I'd already looked at like four times.
And I can't even really explain why! Okay well actually yes, I can: the writing. Because the plot is really interesting (I think?), but he has this quicksandy style where each sentence has like 400 subclauses and is approximately three pages long, and it's not like lush descriptions that you melt into, it's these endless imagined conversations each character has with herself, sort of narrating a scene that occurred offscreen, or tootling through a remembered moment, or methodically projecting some made-up anecdote that happened to someone else. I don't even know how to explain it or my distaste for it, especially because I am no slouch when it comes to long sentences and unusual writing styles. But this one just made me go nope nope nope and stare off into space on the subway when I should have been reading.
Life is too short, you guys. Right?
Although I would like to remind anyone keeping track that I don't even have a shelf for abandoned books because it happens so rarely that I don't persevere; I only have "didn't finish—yet," which is where this sucker is going until some hopeful later date when I will come back to it and be thrilled instead of so bored I already fell asleep just thinking about reading one more paragraph.
I keep hearing wonderful things about this one, put out by the marvelous small press Archipelago, and here's one more, from the Word Bookstore newsletI keep hearing wonderful things about this one, put out by the marvelous small press Archipelago, and here's one more, from the Word Bookstore newsletter:
Teens hiding beers in the snow; weird high school parties; cover bands at the mall; coffee in filthy homes; and, wait, what, is that dad’s face on the news in the ocean? The first volume of Knausgaard’s autobiography-as-novel, My Struggle, is overflowing: with meditations on art, writing, family and, finally, death. And though an “autobiography” of sorts, one does not require any familiarity with the author or his other works. Rather, all you need in an interest in any of the aforementioned, you know, the big, the small, the stupid, the beautiful, the unthinkable, and all the rest of it. Stunning.
Yes, yes, yes.
Update: I have been trudging through this book for about a week. It's not exactly bad, it's just fairly mundane. I mean, This is part one of dude's eight-volume autobiographical novel, so you can probably imagine that things move a little slow.
But so tonight I'm leaving on another vacation (I know! This is not normally what my life is like!), and I'm taking a red-eye, and the honest truth is it crossed my mind that maybe this would be the perfect book to bring because it would help me fall asleep on the plane.
And then I realized I really didn't want to be reading this anymore.
So I'm sorry, Karl Ove, and I'm sorry Archipelago Books. But this guy is going back on the shelf, at least for now....more
What happened was that I read Hannah's review—which you all need to read right now, it's as invigoratingly strange and lovely a piece of writing as anWhat happened was that I read Hannah's review—which you all need to read right now, it's as invigoratingly strange and lovely a piece of writing as any I've seen on this site, so go ahead and click, I'll wait.
So I was all intensified, all ready to get either het UP or obSESSed or some other brilliant Hannah-ism!
But then I just... didn't. I mean, I made it a third of the way through the book, so I'd say I get it, I see what Julie's trying to do. And she's clever, but only sometimes. The voice is droll but also incredibly self-obsessed. Also: she's super shitty about trans people, and fat people, and even sometimes about gay people, whom she professes to adore above all, playing all those groups for cheap laughs ("like a fat kid asking for a Snickers with frosting on it" is the kind of analogy she makes, or "show me ___ and I'll show you a convincing tranny," which: oh god, that's awful).
And it's meant to be super scandalous for her to talk about loving blowjobs and horrfying her fellow tweens with phone-sex lines and sleeping with men who want to taste their own jizz, right? But that doesn't scandalize me at all, I'm way too jaded.
Another thing Hannah said in her brilliant review is that you have to already be in love with Julie Klausner to care about this book, so maybe that's the problem. I'd never heard of her at all, actually, so reading this just makes me think she's a fairly clever comedienne who is far too interested in hearing herself talk.
Maybe I'm just grumpy, or maybe it's just the wrong time for me to be reading this, and maybe I'll go back to it in a few months or whatever, but for now: nope. Done....more
I loooooved Tea of Ulaanbataar (this much), so despite how I tend to hate short stories, I was super psyched when Christopher himself offered to sendI loooooved Tea of Ulaanbataar (this much), so despite how I tend to hate short stories, I was super psyched when Christopher himself offered to send me this one. I really should have started it right away (he sent it a month or so ago), because these stories are incredibly evocative and intense—but also bleak and stark and somewhat hopeless, and it's April and finally becoming spring after the longest damn winter, and the city is so so bright and beautiful now and I just don't have it in me to dive down into this kind of dark despair.
I will definitely go back to these though, soon....more
Unlike The Dud Avocado, this one I am certain was recommended to me via the great Emily Gould, who picked it for her March book club selection. HereUnlike The Dud Avocado, this one I am certain was recommended to me via the great Emily Gould, who picked it for her March book club selection. Here's what she says:
Renata Adler's singular approach to the novel created an unforgettable impressionistic portait of life in 1970s New York. Narrator Jen Fain describes scenes from her life in all their peculiarity and splendor, granting encounters with lovers, street vermin, celebrities and taxi drivers equal significance. The result is a book that's funny and disturbing, wholly unlike any other. The world through Adler's eyes is never quite a comfortable place, but for the duration of Speedboat, readers will be enthralled by access to her brilliant, cutting perspective.
Except, not quite.
This is so whirlingly not what I expected! It reminds me a bit of The Book of Disquiet; it's equally disjointed, meandering, a million short bursts of observation, tiny moments, brief exchanges, lithe descriptions.
I do understand that they will slowly add up to a whole, like one of those pictures made up of a thousand tiny postage stamps or whatever, but the reading experience here is like looking at one of those pictures when you are yourself the size of the stamp, as opposed to being able to step back and view the whole. Does that make any sense?
Maybe what I mean is that a book like this has no urgency, no driving force, and is therefore difficult to charge through, and maybe right now I'm in a mood to charge. So off I go, charging toward something else....more
Felt like it was time for some nonfiction, something I could sink my teeth into a little. Plus I am such a sucker for old-timey NYC. Oh and what a perFelt like it was time for some nonfiction, something I could sink my teeth into a little. Plus I am such a sucker for old-timey NYC. Oh and what a perfect Valentine's Day read, right?
Well... I don't know, this is lively and full of detail and very personable, but I just couldn't get into it. I'm sure I'll pick it up again one of these days, but moving on for now....more
Well, I wanted something more substantial than the abysmal Penelope, and this is certainly that. I may be creeping through this for many weeks, ratherWell, I wanted something more substantial than the abysmal Penelope, and this is certainly that. I may be creeping through this for many weeks, rather than reading it straight through with nothing else in between. It's really fascinating, but a leetle bit dry....more
I made it through 80 pages—80 pages of aimless meandering, of uninteresting descriptions, of the worst, most stGet this book the fuck out of my life.
I made it through 80 pages—80 pages of aimless meandering, of uninteresting descriptions, of the worst, most stilted dialogue (she doesn't use any goddamn contractions in her dialogue!), 80 pages of wondering if the main character is autistic or just completely unrealistically obtuse, of waiting for something—ANYTHING—to happen.
And then I got to this:
"Isn't that kind of like Marathon Man or something?" She started laughing her silent laugh. Penelope waited until she finished. Then she said, "But I just do not like literary magazines."
Why is that so bad? Because they are talking on the phone.
Therefore: How did Penelope know that she was silently laughing? How did she know when the silent laugh was finished??
She didn't. She couldn't.
This is beyond sloppy writing, this is just not giving a flying fuck about how sloppy your writing is. Did this book even have an editor, or a copyeditor, or a proofreader? Did Ms. Harrington not even have a close-reading friend or even her goddamn mother to run this by before publication??
I'm embarrassed for Vintage. I'm embarrassed for Rebecca Harrington. I'm embarrassed that I wasted 80 pages of my reading life on this shitty fucking book....more
Yet another book I scored for free curbside. Will it be devastatingly, harrowingly lovely, like Winter's Bone? Or will it be boring and disappointingYet another book I scored for free curbside. Will it be devastatingly, harrowingly lovely, like Winter's Bone? Or will it be boring and disappointing like On Beauty? My vote is on the latter, but then, I'm known to be a cynic and an elitist. ...more
pre-read: 80s punk grrl, previously published in Vice, and rec'd by Dave Eggers? Done.
mid-read: This book really should have been amazing but it is tapre-read: 80s punk grrl, previously published in Vice, and rec'd by Dave Eggers? Done.
mid-read: This book really should have been amazing but it is taking a supreme force of will to finish it. It's really overwritten and super angsty and self-pitying and druggy and thwarted-desire-filled. I know these are usually things I love, but it's just not coming together for me here.
I had lunch with some ladies from Alloy yesterday and they gave me a copy of 666 Park Avenue; and so now the prospect of finishing the last 30 pages of Zipper Mouth with that practically candy-coated beauty beckoning from the corner of my desk is like having to cram a bunch of eggplant and okra stew down my throat before I get any ice cream.
practically post-read: I have to admit that I am just not going to finish this book now, or maybe even ever. It's been sitting on my desk with a dozen pages left for so many months that I have absolutely no idea what's even going on. This is really so unlike me, but I'm throwing in the towel. I'll leave it on the "didn't finish -- yet" shelf, because life is long and maybe one day I'll try again, but right now I've just got to put it back on my irl bookshelf and move on....more
I have been wanting to read this book for a loooong time -- so long that I don't quite remember why. This gauzy wasteland that I call a memory is tryiI have been wanting to read this book for a loooong time -- so long that I don't quite remember why. This gauzy wasteland that I call a memory is trying to tell me that Ben Loory has written for McSweeney's and also that his mom is Barbara Ehrenrich, who wrote Nickel & Dimed? But I find all that to be highly suspect, and I think I probably am confusing him with one or more someone elses. Anyone want to confirm or deny these suspicions? [Edit: I've been corrected in the comments -- what a dummy I am. But I now have zero clue what made me so eager to read this.]
Annnnyway. These stories. Idk man, they're really just too much, which may seem like a strange thing to say about tiny little 3- to 4-page flitters, as these are. But after the first couple weird little dreamy fables, the shine wears right off and it all just feels so empty. Oh there's an octopus and he lives in a city! Oh there's a duck who falls in love with a rock! Oh a man finds an invisible crown in a dishwasher and becomes a king! Oh a lady has a martian as a maid but he is so boring!
What what what?
I don't care, is the thing. I don't care whether the drowned couple is still in love, or why this man is afraid of that hat, or whether the octopus will go back to living in the ocean because he has agoraphobia or something. It's all too twee, too quaint, too precious, too absurd. I feel curmudgeonly and lacking in imagination or something to say that, but bah. I'm (probably) never going to finish this, and I honestly feel pretty okay about that....more
I've been reading this on & off for a few days because I'm not really reading anything, which is dangerous. I have to say I don't really love it.I've been reading this on & off for a few days because I'm not really reading anything, which is dangerous. I have to say I don't really love it. It's just sooo over the top, it kind of drives me crazy. I guess I'll finish it though? ...more
September 2013 Keith: there's a book that, like, i really fucking insist you read me: ok what is it? Keith:http://www.drawnandquarterly.com/shop... me: wSeptember 2013 Keith: there's a book that, like, i really fucking insist you read me: ok what is it? Keith:http://www.drawnandquarterly.com/shop... me: whoa, that looks great i will put it on my to-read-eventually list Keith: ugh you and your lists me: well what else can i do? Keith: READ THE GOOD ONES FIRST me: haha ok ok
December 2013 me: so i'm like 75 pages into big questions and i kind of hate it is it going to be like this the whole way or does it change? Keith: why do you hate it? me: i dunno man, partly because it's hard to figure out what's happening most of the time, partly because it's so bleak and sad also because it seems so, like, lateral? idk if that makes sense but it doesn't seem like it's gathering itself to move anywhere, plotwise like it's just going to meander for 70,000 pages Keith: yeah, this would be like if you were in the first 5 mins of bambi and the mom and dad were both dead and you were like "shit i can't watch this whole movie" you're 70 pages into a book with no words! youve been reading it for 20 minutes and you're expecting it to do something cute to you youve been ruined by your own taste
January 2014 Keith: dude me: oh hai are you mad I didn't finish big questions? Keith: wait you didnt finish it?!?!??! i was writing to bitch about something else me: okay, tell me about that Keith: no go finish the fucking book...more
mid-read: So hmm. This very well illustrates one of the big issues with the blog-to-book phenomenon. David Thorne is a hilarious dick, and he's knownmid-read: So hmm. This very well illustrates one of the big issues with the blog-to-book phenomenon. David Thorne is a hilarious dick, and he's known mostly for these ridiculous email exchanges he (supposedly) has with actual hapless morons, like the Blockbuster clerk, the volunteer chaplain at his son's school, his new neighbor, his building manager, etc. And as short quick standalone pieces, these really are awesome (provided you don't think too hard about his poor naïve prey).
But the publisher I'm sure could sense that having them all chockablock like that would dilute the humor, plus of course you have to have some new stuff for the book that's not on the blog—otherwise why would anyone buy the cow when you can get the milk for free on teh internets? So they've interspersed the seemingly effortlessly funny emails about piecharts and missing cats with a lot of little listicles and essays and things, most of which feel forced and therefore not very funny.
Plus anyway, even with the added variety, it all begins to feel a bit samey, all these short pieces illustrating that David is very funny and fairly cruel and not at all someone you'd want to spend much time with. He's a troll, is what, which is funny for a little while but not that long.
So I dunno. Probably I will finish it? But I think I'll take some time off and read something a little more substantial first.
before reading: I want this now. Have you heard of this guy? He does this hilariously cruel website, www.27bslash6.com, where he has email correspondences with awful, demanding, idiotic people. I have no idea if they're real or imagined or some combination thereof, but oh god they are delicious. Did I say I want this book now? Now, dammit!!
In case you are not convinced that this crazy man is a comedic genius, here is a random few sentences where he talks about why he does not miss living in Australia:
The four seasons in Australia consist of "Fuck it's hot", "Can you believe how fucking hot it is?", "I won't be in today because it is too fucking hot", and "Yes, the dinner-plate-size spiders come inside to escape from the heat. That is a fucking whopper though." I hate spiders. If I am reincarnated as a spider, I will bite myself and not seek medical assistance. I have actually only seen one in the entire time I have been in the US and it was the size of a well sucked on m&m. I flicked it into the sink. In Australia, the presence of a spider involves combat gear and improvised weapons....more
abandoned abandoned abandoned. I do this so rarely that I don't even have an "abandoned" shelf, but I just can't do it anymore. I don't care one bit aabandoned abandoned abandoned. I do this so rarely that I don't even have an "abandoned" shelf, but I just can't do it anymore. I don't care one bit about any of these characters, or about the weird confusing world they're walking around in. There's too much crypticism, too much bizarreness. I just. don't. care.
guuuuuuys, I hate this book. and I'm only 50 pgs in! can someone give me permission to stop reading please? or tell me it's going to get better...?
aaah! Put out by Small Beer Press, written by a Brooklyn lady, and name-droppily compared to Atwood and Murakami? Jeesh, want....more
You guys, the back cover is about a lady teacher whose dogs talk to her and a troubled high school kid, but 25 pgs in it's all about navy bombers andYou guys, the back cover is about a lady teacher whose dogs talk to her and a troubled high school kid, but 25 pgs in it's all about navy bombers and financial trading. I hate books about banks and war. Does this get better? Should I keep reading? ...more
I am taking a massive leap of faith here. I am taking only this book—which I haven't even started yet—on a weekend out of town. No vetting, no backupsI am taking a massive leap of faith here. I am taking only this book—which I haven't even started yet—on a weekend out of town. No vetting, no backups (okay, I have a big-ass Chuck Klosterman essay collection if I get really desperate), basically no prep to make sure this is the book I want for my only companion on a four-hour bus ride. All because of David's review.
David, you better be right this time. I don't want to be stranded in the middle of the night with another horror like that Jewish Messiah....more
I've been listening to Gil Scott-Heron's music a lot lately (did you know he wrote the incredible Esther Phillips song "Home Is Where the Hatred Is"?I've been listening to Gil Scott-Heron's music a lot lately (did you know he wrote the incredible Esther Phillips song "Home Is Where the Hatred Is"? Hearing either of their versions gives me chills). So if his prose is on par with his lyrics and poetry, I can't wait to read this. But I'm really nervous about reading it in public places, like the subway or my stoop. Is it cowardly or smart to cover the cover with duct tape?...more
long-ago Strand purchase. Why has no one else read or even heard of this book? And what's going on with that weird-ass cover photo? Do I srsly have tolong-ago Strand purchase. Why has no one else read or even heard of this book? And what's going on with that weird-ass cover photo? Do I srsly have to take a picture of my own book and upload it?
Um, anyway. I don't have an "abandoned" shelf, because life is long and you never know what you'll go back to. But I doubt I'll go back to this book; I've false-started it a half-dozen times and I finally gave up and brought it to a book swap, exchanging it for the absurdly titled I Love Yous Are for White People. I always make good choices, obvs....more
I don't know that the problem is here. I swear I try to read this book, oh, every three months or so. I never get more than ten pages (or one cigarettI don't know that the problem is here. I swear I try to read this book, oh, every three months or so. I never get more than ten pages (or one cigarette's worth) in, and then I am so bored I have to stop and find something riveting-er. And yet this book and the author are praised so highly by so many smart people. What gives? ...more