Ahhhh. On a re-read, thankfully this is every bit as clear and gorgeous and headlong breathless as the first time.
It's the kind of book that doesn'tAhhhh. On a re-read, thankfully this is every bit as clear and gorgeous and headlong breathless as the first time.
It's the kind of book that doesn't just trump Facebooking, it trumps social interaction of every kind. The kind of book you pull out in the elevator, just to read a single paragraph to freshen your mind and brighten you up for the next few hours.
I love you Philip Pullman. I love you Lyra, and Iorek, and Ma Costa, and all the rest. What a glorious wonder this series is....more
So listen. Look. I am a READER, right? I mean, I read all the time, everywhere, every day, a book a week. But most of the time the book I'm reading isSo listen. Look. I am a READER, right? I mean, I read all the time, everywhere, every day, a book a week. But most of the time the book I'm reading is a dull throb beneath my fingers, a soft hum behind my eyes, a lovely way to spend a bit of time in between things as I meander through my life. You know? It's something I adore, but softly, passively, and often forgetfully—very nice while it's happening, but flitting away quickly after I'm on to the next.
And then sometimes there is a book that is more like a red hot fucking coal, a thrum nearly audible whenever I'm close to it, a magnetic pull that stops me doing anything else and zings me back so strongly that I just want to bury myself in its tinnitus at all times—five minutes in line a the bank, two minutes in the elevator, thirty seconds while my coffee date checks her email—gorging myself with sentences and paragraphs until the whole world recedes and shrivels into flat black-and-white nothing.
This, this, this is one of those books. It's a book that bracingly reaffirms my faith in literature, making me endlessly astonished by its power and poise and brilliance. I know I am constantly chided for hyperbole, but this is truly one of the greatest books I've ever read.
Probably it's a result of the endless march of mediocre books that plague the publishing industry these days—self-pub and traditional; I'm holding the major presses hella accountable too—but a book like this, so full and deep and flawlessly constructed, is just such a shock, such a pure clear joy. Every element is fucking perfect. Every element, truly! The plot, the characters, the pacing, the tone, all the little details, so so many tiny details, all perfectly, astonishingly slotted into place; the patois and the slang and the dialogue and the descriptions, oh my god the descriptions, from a smile to a chandelier to a mood; even the goddamn chapter epigraphs, which, who even reads those? But they're perfect, she's perfect, this book is just a knock-down, drag-out wonder.
And it covers so much ground, with no shortcuts: from the Upper West Side moneyed elite to gambling addicts in the suburbs of Vegas, from a Lower East Side drug den for decadents gone to seed to the charming Christmastime streets of Amsterdam. Nothing is two-dimensional: if a characters restores furniture, you will learn so goddamn much about wood and veneers and myriad adherents; if another is a sailor, you will feel the wind in your hair and the goddamn spray of surf on your cheeks.
Philosophy, art history, baccarat, heroin. Proust, childhood bullies, Russian drug-dealers. The cut of a jewel, the play of light through a crooked blind. The way a small dog remembers someone it hasn't seen in ten years. The way the very rich handle mental illness in the family. The way a teenage boy feels after taking acid for the first time. The bonds between people that last a lifetime, many lifetimes. The power of art to change a life, to change a million lives; the immortality of a work of art and the line of beauty that connects generation after generation of appreciators. How it feels to be always and ever in love with the wrong person—and how perfect and perfectly flawed she is, or he is, all the same. The way people age. The way people cling to each other at the wrongest of times, in the unlikeliest ways. The way people talk, my god, there is a Russian character (probably the best character in the book) who learned to speak English in Australia and you can really hear that fucking incomprehensible accent, the hitch of verbs mis-conjugated in just the right ways, the tossing out of slang words in four different languages, so casual and so perfectly apt. The way a life is made of recurrences, circlings back and back, openings out and out and out.
What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted—? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all that blandly held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster? If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to run away? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Or is it better to throw yourself headfirst and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?
Five stars, five hundred stars, five million. ALL THE GODDAMN STARS FOR DONNA TARTT FOREVER. ...more
This is one of the most intense books I have ever read. But it's almost like it isn't trying to be intense; it's written in these short little snips—aThis is one of the most intense books I have ever read. But it's almost like it isn't trying to be intense; it's written in these short little snips—a quote here, a paragraph there, a page and a half next—flowing from subject to subject, at a constant remove, an increasing-then-releasing philosophical distance, twisting in and around on itself (what a perfect cover design, BTW), yanking you into and out of its intensity so many times that it leaves you breathless.
This is Nick Flynn's memoir of co-producing a movie based on his previous memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. So it's a memoir of a memoir of a memoir. Which, I don't really think that's ever been done before, has it?
And the original memoir—to give the briefest, most reductive summary—is about Nick's time, after his mother's suicide, of becoming an alcoholic and drug addict, of living alone on a boat, of working in a homeless shelter for years until the day that his father, whom he hasn't seen in like a decade, wanders in in search of a room. It then proceeds to catalogue several years in the lives of Nick and his father (delusions of grandeur, a frightening mess, often psychotic and abusive and always unstable). Dad getting kicked out of the shelter (again) for being psychotic and abusive and unstable, Nick finding Dad sleeping on the street in the snow, Nick finding Dad a apartment, Dad crumbling and crazying further, Nick stumbling through his own erratic love life and consuming addictions, on and on and on.
Here is the question that this book asks, that the writing of this book and the living of its story forced the writer through: What would it be like to watch a movie being made of your life?
For most of us: disassociating and megalomaniac probably, in turns.
But what would it be like to watch a movie being made, say, of your mother's suicide and your dubious self-distancing from your father's dissolution? What if you had to not just watch Julianne Moore read your mother's suicide note and then shoot herself in the chest, but then give her notes on the tone of her voice, the quaver in the hand with which she holds the pen, the gun? What if you had to listen to the cruelest, most damning things your father ever screamed at you spew forth from the mouth of Robert De Niro, after bringing him to visit the shelter you once were complicit in kicking your father out of? What if you had to tell the props mistress what the pipe you used to smoke crack out of looked like, to hold its replica in your hand, after years of being clean and sober? How could you live through reliving the rawest, most harrowing moments of your life, your deepest sorrows actualized before you, take after take after take?
Does that give you some small idea about the intensity of this book?
And that's not all, not by a long long way. The book is also a thematic triptych, with the two other prongs being 1) an endlessly unspooling meditation on psychological and physical trauma and the recovery from same, with quotes and asides from literature, from history, from philosophy, and 2) the history of a glass-blowing family whose life's work was to make, out of glass, all the flowers in the (then-)known world—many of which are still on display in a museum in Boston where Nick's mom used to bring him as a child.
Around and around and around.
I only just closed the book minutes ago, so forgive me if I'm still reeling, still catching my breath, still parsing my overflowed emotions. I haven't yet gone back to reread all the gorgeous sentences I underlined, all the brain-twisting paragraphs I circled for return and reflection, all the heart-rending pages I dog-eared to quote from while trying to explain what a fiercely horrifying and spectacularly affecting book this is. I don't think I can go back in just yet. I will soon, I suppose, once the shimmer has worn off—but for now I'm going to go ride my bike around in the dark and try to process....more
Also: this is my second review for CCLaP, and my first in a year-long series reviewing graphic novels. W00t!
This is thbook #9 for Jugs & Capes!
Also: this is my second review for CCLaP, and my first in a year-long series reviewing graphic novels. W00t!
This is the first in an essay series I'll be doing for CCLaP called "Jugs & Capes," where I look at graphic novels from a girl's point of view. I'm not going to say a "feminist" point of view, because I think that's a complicated word, one which any thinking woman has a complicated relationship with. And as I haven't got any kind of background in gender studies or feminist theory, I don't feel comfortable talking about what feminists think of this book or that one. I do, however, feel quite comfortable talking about what I think about something, so in this series I will happily do just that.
Asterios Polyp is a lush, fascinating, complex book. But it's that brilliant kind of complex which can be enjoyed on many levels, like Lolita, say, or The Metamorphosis, where, if you'd like, you can derive great enjoyment from the story on the surface, without doing a whole lot of delving. Or, if you're so inclined, you can peel back layers and study the symbolism and wordplay and big ideas, thus gaining a fuller, more multifaceted understanding of this deeply layered text.
We meet Asterios Polyp in the middle of a lightning storm. He is rumpled and exhausted, lying in bed in his luxurious but extremely messy apartment, watching what we assume to be pornography (we hear what is being said, but do not see the picture). Then a blinding flash of lightning illuminates the entire page, and we see that Asterios's building has caught fire. He makes a desperate search of his rooms, grabbing a few small items--a lighter, a pocketknife, and a watch--and dashes out into the storm. Over two lurid pages, we watch his apartment burn.
After this dramatic introduction, we begin to get to know Asterios. He is an architecture professor, but a "paper architect," meaning that none of his designs have ever been built. He has always been something of an aloof genius. He had a twin brother who died in the womb, and who will be our narrator throughout the book. He was married to a sculptor and fellow professor named Hana.
Asterios stands in the rain for a little while, watching his apartment burn, and then he goes to the Greyhound station and buys a ticket that costs everything he has in his walled. He rides until he gets to a small town, where he takes a job as a mechanic, and rents a room from his boss, a big man who lives with his voluptuous wife and their pudgy son. Asterios settles into small-town life, building a treehouse with his boss, discussing spirituality with his boss's wife, going to see a local band in a local bar. Everything he does is tinged with melancholy, with regret. Asterios is clearly running away from his past, but also trying to make some sense of it. The story opens out and out, in short vignettes, the present interspersed with flashbacks, dreams, and meandering philosophical asides.
Everything about Asterios Polyp is dense, and slow, and meticulously planned and executed. It is easily the most beautiful graphic novel I've ever seen. Each vignette has a specific palate, most using only two or three colors at a time--in fact, it isn't until the book's very last chapter that Mazzucchelli uses full four-color spreads--and there is no black in the book at all. Each character's speech is written in a unique font, one which is clearly representative of that person's personality. The story itself is full and rich, the characters multifaceted and real, and everything is augmented and reified by frequent digressions, both visual and described, on perception, human behavior, physics, philosophy, mythology, spirituality, metaphysics, and on and on.
The whole story is, of course, unraveling the mystery of Hana.
Early on, during an aside, Mazzucchelli presents a random group of people, each drawn in a different style and color, as a visual representation of how unique every person is. In the group (we find out later) is Hana, rendered in swirling, shadowy pink, and Asterios, in stark, angular blue. This turns out to be a running motif, and later, during Asterios and Hana's first meeting, his blue outlines begin to fill with pink haze, and her pink shadows become outlined in blue, until they both have nearly the same appearance. Much later, when they begin to argue, their realistic forms melt back into these elementals, he once again empty and blue, she returning to unbounded pink, demonstrating that, no matter how close two people can become, they are always, at heart, fundamentally strange to one another. This is of course terribly difficult to describe, and is a superb argument for the supremacy of the graphic novel form in this book.
On that subject, I will briefly describe another small section, one of the novel's most famous. It is an eight-page spread, with almost no words. The traditional panel structure is abandoned, in favor of three somewhat parallel rows of small boxes. The rows in the middle tell a consistent, simple story, wherein Hana has lost the puff of a Q-tip inside her ear, and has a mild panic until Asterios removes it with a tweezer. Above and below this throughline are a constellation of tiny instances of Hana's corporeal life: brushing her teeth, clipping her nails, shaving, vomiting, eating, dressing, undressing, masturbating, snoring, drinking, crying, laughing, leaving, smiling. It is one of the most stunning, affecting ways to render the memory of life's unnoticed moments, Asterios recalling Hana in all of her physical glory, beautiful and rumpled, joyful and sick, hungry and dirty. It is so humanizing, so plaintive, so shockingly mundane that it elevates Hana to something of a mythical plane. It's something that could never be done in prose, and to me it is the beating heart of the novel--echoed and augmented later by a pitch-perfect, harrowing, devastating, wordless dream sequence, which is rendered as an intricate dance opera.
I've read criticism of this book that takes the opposite view of the Hana montage, accusing Mazzucchelli as reducing her to a plot device, used merely to represent Asterios's development and emotional journey. But I think that's an unfair claim. Hana is a fully developed character--as is the book's whole supporting cast, most of whom are generally more sympathetically than Asterios himself. Certainly Hana is slightly romanticized, but this is a story told through a man who is desperately longing for the life--and the woman--he once had. I don't believe romanticization is inherently reductive, and I don't believe that Hana's character was secondary or subservient to Asterios's.
There is so much more to say about this dense, gorgeous, intricate book, but I've run out of space and steam. I couldn't recommend it more highly, though; this and Fun Home are the most astonishing graphic novels--and among the most astonishing books of any kind--I've ever come across. ...more
Book #7 for Jugs & Capes! read a cleaner version of this review on CCLaP!
pre-read: I ordered this online and it arrived today -- not in a padded eBook #7 for Jugs & Capes! read a cleaner version of this review on CCLaP!
pre-read: I ordered this online and it arrived today -- not in a padded envelope, as is customary, but in a big-ass box. I should have understood then, but not until I sliced the box open did I realize just how massive this thing is. Good grief! I read on the subway, for heaven's sake; I need my reading to be portable! So obviously I took a steak knife and some old Vice magazine covers and DIY'd it into three somewhat more manageable volumes. I haven't had to do that since Infinite Jest!
post-read: Here is something that I have never thought about before: what is the onomatopoeic rendering of a sword pulled fast out of its...what is it, scabbard? Give up? It's SHING! I mean, of course it is, right? But who knew?
That was my first roundaboutly clever way of saying omg omg omg Jeff Smith is a fucking genius.
Here is my second, and it involves a visual aid: Just prior to the below panel, Bone has been told (by several people) that "winter comes on fast in these parts." Then what happens? This:
Yeah. Jeff Smith, man. Fucking genius.
Now I will talk about the book itself. As with a handful of amazing books I've read lately (The Instructions, for one; also Raising Demons), if you'd given me a plot synopsis before I'd started, I probably would not have been particularly inclined to pick this up. A trio of strange smooth androgynous bone creatures accidentally become part of an ancient war between the Dragons, the people of the Valley, and the God of the Locusts, and go on a quest to find the Crown of Horns, dodging Rat Creatures and Ghost Circles, aiding and abetted by by a sexy young farmhand and her ornery grandmother? Um, no thanks. I hate it when regular words get elevated via random capitalization.
But this, man, holy fuck. This is unquestionably and irrepressibly riveting, engaging, fascinating. There's an awesomely compelling plot, solid mythology and history, terrific characters, an amazingly vast scope, fantastic art, a pitch-perfect balance at all times between like pathos vs humor, action vs explication, dialogue vs art, cute animals vs bloody swordfights... Man. Wow.
A couple other things? Okay. In college I took a course on Lord of the Rings, and one of the things we discussed was how the language of the trilogy subtly reinforces the path of the books from sort of light middle-grade fantasy in the beginning to a high-art, mature epic by the end. I would say a similar thing happens in Bone, where it starts out all kind of silly fun and games, but the book and the plot and the characters all elevate and expand as things go on, opening and blooming into this vast, mature epic scope.
Also, not only does this book pass the Bechtel test (with flying colors), it's basically all women. The hero is a woman. Her great teacher is a woman. [Small by cryptic spoiler here:] Even the villain is a woman! In addition -- this I didn't come up with myself; thanks Jugs & Capes girls! -- there is basically no romantic subplot. How often does that happen in fantasy? I'd say close to never. But here, Thorn is way too busy being brilliant and strong and savvy and kicking ass and saving the fucking world to bother with something so trivial as whom to kiss. Yeah!
Okay okay, enough. But jeesh, what a brilliant, spectacular book. Who cares that it's too big to carry anywhere? Who cares that it's written for kids? Who cares that it's epic fantasy? It's fucking stunning. ...more
I just read this again for IDK like the 10th time. It is my favorite book of all time ever and I'd like to tell you about it.
I think what I'm actuallI just read this again for IDK like the 10th time. It is my favorite book of all time ever and I'd like to tell you about it.
I think what I'm actually going to do is like a CliffNotes sort of thing, where I tell you first a few reasons why this book is nearly impossible to read the first time, then give you the cast of characters and a few things they do, so that if you do try to read it, you'll have some hope of figuring out what's going on before you're 3/4 of the way through.
I suppose that means this'll be kind of spoilery? I mean it's really not that kind of book, but if you want to go into it blind, you should probably just not read this review at all.
Okay here we go. The first thing that's important to know is that Cortázar does this thing with time where it does not go the way it's supposed to, like in a way everything in the book happens all at once, in a clearly impossible way. So it opens on Juan alone on Christmas Eve at a subpar restaurant having just bought a book and in the process of getting diligently drunk, and someone else in the restaurant says something that reminds him of a series of things that he reminisces about -- except that it'll be clear later that those things haven't really happened yet, and not in the order he remembers them anyway. It's like this wild Möbius strip where everything is an eternal present and is also all in the past. So there's that at first.
Second, this is really just a book about a bunch of super-smart, super-silly, super-cosmopolitan friends; they all travel all the time for work and for play, and most of the book takes place in their various hotel rooms or bars or cafés in Paris or Oslo or Barcelona. But then also laid over all of this as a semi-comprehensible patina is the City, like the ur-city maybe, where everyone sometimes slips into on their respective journeys, and everyone seems to have a moment or a mission there that they are constantly reliving or trying to complete, and sometimes they run into each other and other times they are endlessly fruitlessly searching and never finding what or whom they're meant to.
Third, several of the characters are never really explained, like for ex. Osvaldo you find out many pages in is actually a pet snail, and I think Feuille Morte is a bird although I'm not certain. Then there's a character called "my paredros," which, like the City, is not exactly one person but a composite person, or maybe it's each of them at different times. So they'll say things like "my paredros said," but when Juan says it he might mean Polanco, and when Nicole says it she might mean Calac, or maybe they all have an imaginary friend in common that everyone believes in together.
Finally fourth, he does this thing which by the third read I adored but at first I just found so jarring, which is that he switches from third person to first person all the time, often in the middle of a sentence. And especially at the start when you don't know who these people are or what they're like, it's just about impossible to know who's narrating when.
Okay those are the disclaimers. Are you still with me? Because here are the characters.
Juan He's the Cortázar stand-in, surely. He's ruggedly handsome (actually I don't know if he's ever physically described, but in my head he's devastatingly gorgeous because Juan is exactly the boy I always and forever will unreachably fall in love with). He's from Buenos Aires and works as a U.N. interpreter and so is always in new cities being exhausted by an endless barrage of words. For most of the course of this book he's in Vienna with Tell, his "crazy Danish girl." He's in desperate, aching, unrequited love with Hélène.
Tell She is this fabulous redheaded Danish marvel, very independent and fun and demanding. She knows Juan isn't in love with her and she's perfectly happy to be his vixen for a little while when the whim takes her. Together they have a lot of sex and drink a lot of wine and have an adventure with a vampire (maybe). Tell is fiercely protective of her friends, especially Nicole. At one point she sends a doll to Hélène that has something mysterious and dirty in it, which has severe ramifications.
Nicole She's French. Her boyfriend Marrast calls her "the Malcontent." She's quiet and mournful and an artist; through most of the book she's illustrating a children's book about gnomes. She's in desperate, aching, unrequited love with Juan. Things with Marrast are bad, and eventually she will do something about it, which I won't tell you because that does feel spoilery. When she's in the City there are red houses and high sidewalks and everything is despair.
Marrast Also French, and darkly hilarious, and an overly smart sculptor. He does three things mostly in the book: 1. Make a gigantic commissioned sculpture for the town of Arcuile that's a deconstruction of what a sculpture should be in that it has its pedestal on top and the sculpture itself on the bottom, 2. Talks and talks and talks and drinks and talks and mourns the dissolution of his relationship with Nicole without being able to do anything about it, and 3. Crafts this elaborate sort-of prank involving a random painting in an art gallery, a host of Anonymous Neurotics, and an unidentified plant sprig.
Calac & Polanco Argentinian BFFs. These two could easily be dismissed as comic relief, which is often the role they fill -- Polanco, for ex, works at a nursery school with a lake and has inherited a canoe and unattached motor; the first time we meet him he's in a hotel room with an electric razor submerged in porridge because he thinks if he can keep it running, that will bode well for his soon-to-be-motorized canoe not tipping him out into the lake. He and Calac often speak in their own made-up language that is unparsable but still you get the idea. They're not just comic relief, but their levity always comes in at just the right moments when things have got too heavy.
Celia She's a fairly daffy young English girl who runs away from home and is very angstily sad. I can't go into what happens between her and Hélene, sorry. Eventually she winds up with Austin.
Austin He begins as an Anonymous Neurotic, then becomes Marrast's French pupil, and winds up almost inadvertently as a major agent of the plot. Prior to that there's a hilarious episode where he describes sleeping with French girls who have huge elaborate hairdos and will only fuck in positions that will not get their heads anywhere near a pillow.
Hélène The most mysterious figure in the group; she's an anesthesiologist and has a catastrophic hospital encounter with a young boy who reminds her of Juan. She might be evil actually, I can't say for sure. Her recurrence in the City has her always walking and walking, holding a package tied with a yellow cord that gets heavier and heavier, but she can't put it down until she gets where she's going, which of course she never does.
I don't know, I thought laying that all out would prove that this is one of the most difficult but also the most beautiful and strange book that exists, but I'm not sure that's what happened.
All I have left to say is this: This book is magic, magic, magic; on every page, in every line, shot through every twistedly long and nearly un-parse-able sentence. One day I will meet someone who loves it as much as I do, and we will read it back and forth, bit by bit, over and over every day for the rest our lives. ...more
One of my all time most beloved books. Showing that, though there may be nothing new under the sun, there are still some unbearably brilliant writersOne of my all time most beloved books. Showing that, though there may be nothing new under the sun, there are still some unbearably brilliant writers that can make something seem shockingly original.
There are two narratives in this book, one which is in 2nd person, so that You, the Reader, become the protagonist. So You are reading the newest book by Italo Calvino, when You suddenly turn the page to find that another book's text has been mistakenly inserted in the middle of the story. You go back to the bookstore to exchange the book, and are given another copy, only to find an entirely different story, and also meet the Other Reader. The books proceeds like this, alternating between the story of You and the Other Reader, and the stalled openings of several different novels.
This is one of the latest offerings from McSweeney's Rectangulars. It's gotten a lot of press from unexpected corners, even including Oprah's magazineThis is one of the latest offerings from McSweeney's Rectangulars. It's gotten a lot of press from unexpected corners, even including Oprah's magazine. And it is all deserved--this book is sensational. The plot is dazzlingly original, the characters are compelling, and the voice is just fantastic. This is one of the best books I've read in a long time.
(update:) I've just finished reading and crying both. What a stunning book. It is devastating without being angsty, lofty and epic-ish without being overblown... High, high art, and serious beauty. When was the last time I cried while reading? I really can't remember. Please read this book. It's almost unbearably great. ...more
Oh David. I miss you with a plangency that belies the fact that I never met you, never would have. You were and are and will always be such a seriousOh David. I miss you with a plangency that belies the fact that I never met you, never would have. You were and are and will always be such a serious force in my life.
I've read this two or three times, and a few weeks after DFW died I picked it up again, almost on a whim. I'd been having trouble finding something to sink my teeth into—I rejected Anna Kavan, William Vollmann, and Fellipe Alfau in short order—and I kind of pulled this book without thinking about the timing, refusing to consider myself one of the jumpers-on, someone needing desperately to reread an author right after his sudden, shocking death. I mean, I've read all his books before, right? So I should be able to revisit them whenever I want, without feeling like a scenester wannabe.
I didn't remember much about this one, except a weird snippet about playing tennis in a tornado. So try to picture my shock, in the early pages of the very first essay, when I came upon this:
On board the Nadir — especially at night, when all the ship's structured fun and reassurances and gaiety-noise ceased — I felt despair. The word's overused and banalified now, despair, but it's a serious word, and I'm using it seriously. For me it denotes a simple admixture — a weird yearning for death combined with a crushing sense of my own smallness and futility that presents as a fear of death. It's maybe close to what people call dread or angst. But it's not these things, quite. It's more like wanting to die in order to escape the unbearable feeling of becoming aware that I'm small and weak and selfish and going without any doubt at all to die. It's wanting to jump overboard.
Cut to me, hair blowing crazy in the wind outside my apartment, with a cigarette in my hand and tears streaming down my face.
So, you know, I don't know what to say. It really was very hard for me to get through this reading without feeling like a stupid bandwagon-jumper. It really was very hard not to notice all the despair slyly threaded throughout these essays, intermixed with the jokes, the seriousness, the brilliance. But even while doing all that noticing, I kept second-guessing and scolding myself for overemphasizing something that only now seems true, in retrospect. I mean, if he'd come out of the closet recently instead, everyone would be piecing together "clues" from his oeuvre about his homosexual tendencies, you know?
I'm having trouble explaining this, but I guess I have a serious problem with how the soul-baring-ness of the autobiographical writer leads to this tacit agreement that readers can poke their noses "between the lines" to figure out more than the writer is telling. But then WTF, these things are actually there! Right? I just kept looping myself around and around, not feeling comfortable with anything I thought about anything.
So whatever. This book is ungodly fantastic, the fact that he is gone is so goddamn devastating, the whole thing is beautiful-awful but mostly just fucking awful.
If anyone is still reading or cares, here are some thoughts on the individual essays.
The title essay and "Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All" are spectacular. Hilarious too, which is something we sometimes forget about DFW, given how super serious & intellectual he is.
In "Greatly Exaggerated" he is so fucking smart that I couldn't even read the essay, because I am not, and never will be, his intellectual equal.
"E Unibus Pluram," on the other hand, was incredibly smart but also (for the most part) accessible to us mere mortals, and was incredibly interesting, if sadly a bit dated.
"David Lynch Keeps His Head" was a nice middle ground: incredibly obsessive-nerd-y, but it made me desperately want to watch Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks again.
I only read about half of the Michael Joyce essay because my attention span for tennis (especially its accompanying statistics and arcana) is pretty short.
"Derivative Sports in Tornado Alley" was plaintive and sad and the most 'personal' (maybe?!?!?!) of the essays, and though it was the one that stuck with me the most on my first read of this book, this time I think the images of the bovine herds of fat sweaty Mid-Easterners stuffing their faces with funnel cake and hot dogs at the State Fair will remain in my head for a long while.
This book is fantastic because David Foster Wallace wrote it before he decided that he was the smartest writer since Joyce. It's clever, funny, unpreThis book is fantastic because David Foster Wallace wrote it before he decided that he was the smartest writer since Joyce. It's clever, funny, unpretentious (well, mostly), and a great, fun read.
Ok ok ok but actually? The ending is pretty fucking horrible....more
Reading Kelly Link makes me wonder why anyone else ever tries to write anything. Honestly.
I mean, I'm sorry to have to say this to all the people whoReading Kelly Link makes me wonder why anyone else ever tries to write anything. Honestly.
I mean, I'm sorry to have to say this to all the people who write short stories and everything, but "Stone Animals" is the absolute very best short story that has ever been written. Oh, wait, except for "Lull"; that is actually the very best short story that has ever been written ever. I can't decide, but anyway, the rest of the writing world should just give it up, nothing can top this book.
Honestly I can't even do a real review of Magic for Beginners, or any Kelly Link. I love it and her too much, and there's nothing I can say that doesn't sound shoddy and trite and silly. So bah, I won't try.
But if you haven't read this book, there is a huge sad gaping hole in your life that you don't even know about. ...more
All's I am saying is, if you do not love Aimee Bender yet, get this book, read Skinless, Fell This Girl, The Healer, and The Ring. If you still don'tAll's I am saying is, if you do not love Aimee Bender yet, get this book, read Skinless, Fell This Girl, The Healer, and The Ring. If you still don't love her after that, I'm not really sure we can be friends anymore....more
Oh god this book is so incredibly good. One of the endorsements on the back says something like, Finally someone whose life is worthy of a memoir happOh god this book is so incredibly good. One of the endorsements on the back says something like, Finally someone whose life is worthy of a memoir happens to be talented enough to write a good one. Yes, yes! I wish I had come up with that line!
Just finished reading this book again. After the disappointing mess of The Frog King, I had to read something I knew was phenomenal, to reaffirm my faith in literature. And oh, thank you, Nick Flynn, I love you so. This book is simply stunning, devastating, perfectly done. ...more
As for the story itself, it was entitled "The Dancing Fool." Like so many Trout stories, it was about a tragic failure tWhy Kurt Vonnegut is a genius:
As for the story itself, it was entitled "The Dancing Fool." Like so many Trout stories, it was about a tragic failure to communicate.
Here was the plot: A flying saucer creature named Zog arrived on Earth to explain how wars could be prevented and how cancer could be cured. He brought the information from Margo, a planet where the natives conversed by means of farts and tap dancing.
Zog landed at night in Connecticut. He had no sooner touched down than he saw a house on fire. He rushed into the house, farting and tap dancing, warning the people about the terrible danger they were in. The head of the house brained Zog with a golfclub....more
So when you think of Pynchon you think of serious work, right? And trudgery and difficulty and obfuscation and pedanticism, and like this dizzying thiSo when you think of Pynchon you think of serious work, right? And trudgery and difficulty and obfuscation and pedanticism, and like this dizzying thing that just makes you feel unintellectual and slow for never being able to catch up, right?
Well if that is the case, you have never read Vineland. Because oh. my. god. This book is so fucking good.
I'm not going to try to summarize or anything, because this book is too sprawling and reeling, and anyway that would be an afront to its amazingness. But look, it's got all the same basic building blocks as any Pynchon book—a million characters exhaustively historied, unfollowable plot twists, crazy ranting paranoia, incredibly phraseology, bizarre songs, sixties culture, sex and violence (in fact, large swaths are oddly comparable to Kill Bill, if you ask me)—but it's done at a much...easier level somehow. It's much more accessible, it's hilarious and warm, and you don't feel like you're in quicksand the whole time, just desperately trying to understand and keep breathing.
See, people never talk about the really unimaginable joy that soars through Pynchon's work. And beauty! I mean look, this book is tough, for sure, and I won't try to claim that I understood everything, but honestly it just doesn't matter. It's just so much fun to read. It's not work at all.
And the ending! Once I had like thirty pages left I started getting that dark foreboding feeling, you know, like there's no way he can end this satisfactorily, there just isn't enough space. I was so sure he was going to do something horrible, leaving everything messy and unfulfilling, end things like right in the middle of a sentence or something, but no! The ending was beautiful, just like the rest of the book, totally satisfying and wonderful. Jeez I loved this book. Wow....more