my sister, who never reads, is reading this book on her travels in South America. I am flabbergasted and ecstatic that she's taking the time to read amy sister, who never reads, is reading this book on her travels in South America. I am flabbergasted and ecstatic that she's taking the time to read at all, and I must have this book finished by the time she gets back.
update: Welp, I'm really sad to have to take a break from Against the Day, but it must be done. This book looks like a quick read, tho, so hopefully I won't forget too much of Pynchon while I'm sidetracked.
update the second Ok, so I admit that I wasn't exactly expecting to love this book. Sis aside, I am generally an unapologetic book snob, and my interests were not piqued by this one. And I wasn't wrong, really, Society of Others definitely wasn't that good. See, I mean, it starts real shitty, with this very overdone illustration of a totally disaffected, misanthropic, angry twenty-something guy. A lot of 'My parents want me to be happy, but isn't that a lot to ask? I mean, they don't actually want me to be happy, they want my happiness to make them feel like they're validated in how they raised me...' That sort of thing. Dude just hanging out alone in his bedroom, being pissed off that his dad gave him a bunch of money to go on a post-college vacation. Oh poor baby.
So that's the beginning. Then the middle actually picked up and was rather good. Dude begrudgingly goes on said vacation, but by hitchhiking, and not asking the trucker who picks him up where they're going. So then it switches to a different thing. After driving for days, they're about to cross a serious border, and the trucker asks dude to just hide an envelope in his pocket when they cross, and then of course they come to a roadblock manned by guys with guns, dude has to jump out of the car and run into the forest, while the baddies kill the trucker and set fire to his truck. So now dude is alone & scared in a foreign country, he doesn't know where he is & doesn't speak the language. It's a super-restrictive totalitarian society & everyone's scared & repressed, and he goes along, being picked up by various resistance organizations and the like. There's a lot of philosophy, a lot of nice scenes, good intrigue, great characters, and I actually thought I was going to wind up being pleasantly surprised by how good of a book it was.
Because that's the middle. The end, which you sense is approaching with some trepidation, that dread-in-the-stomach feeling that shit is going to be bad, was awful. Total, seriously disappointing cop-out. Suddenly this book, which has been about tangible, interesting things, becomes this dreadful metaphorical nonsense. Total 'twist' ending, but horribly unjustified. Leaving a real bad taste in your mouth. A real bad why-did-I-bother-with-this-crap taste.
This book is really intense and fascinating. All about the ancient hermeticists and occultists and kabbalists that came up with all the ideas in thatThis book is really intense and fascinating. All about the ancient hermeticists and occultists and kabbalists that came up with all the ideas in that stupid book The Secret that everyone recently lost their minds over....more
I really should have written a review for this... it's a fantastic book. Really really sad, though. Not make-you-cry sad, but the kind of sad where yoI really should have written a review for this... it's a fantastic book. Really really sad, though. Not make-you-cry sad, but the kind of sad where you hit a certain point and you know that shit is just going to get worse and worse and worse, in an inexorable pull, with absolutely no chance of any kind of happy ending. But still, great, great book. ...more
Oh man. This book caused in me all sorts of crises. Pretty much I hated it, but not exactly for all the right reasons. I mean, some were the right reaOh man. This book caused in me all sorts of crises. Pretty much I hated it, but not exactly for all the right reasons. I mean, some were the right reasons, like how the characters, while kind of well-developed, were still completely unbelievable in how they related to one another, and how the plot was pretty formulaic & flat. Also, it paints this terrible picture of New Yorkers, especially vis á vis the homeless (except for the "redemption" at the end, which was so corny and again unbelievable that it made my head hurt).
But really I hated it because he does a lot of the same things in his writing that I try to do in mine, and he does them in such a shitty way. I mean, here's this bildungsroman of a young, struggling writer in New York, trying to find "home" and happiness and success and love. Which should be great, right? But no no no. He is alternately wildly compassioinate and then eerily cold to his "love"; he is mystified when, after two straight years of coming in three hours late and not doing any work, he is fired instead of promoted; his New York seems to have about ten people in it, all of whom cross paths in the most "coincidental" ways; his "friends" are all caricatures; and his "change of heart" is so overly extreme as to be totally (again!) unbelievable.
But! The final but! The story actually moves! It skips along, and you kind of find yourself giving a shit what happens next. There are some very creative scenes, and pretty good dialogue, and nice little ideas that come through the murk. Plus he throws in tons of awesome words, in a nice logophilic subplot thingy. Which just made me madder because I couldn't hate it totally, even though I really, really wanted to.
At least he doesn't get the girl at the end. If he had I would have freaked out....more
Amazing and heartbreaking. This book details all of the insane and horrific monstrosities being perpetrated internationally upon women, from child proAmazing and heartbreaking. This book details all of the insane and horrific monstrosities being perpetrated internationally upon women, from child prostitution to genital mutilation to poverty and starvation. The most amazing thing, though, is that the book is peppered throughout with profiles of these incredible women's groups that are coming together, in the worst conditions in the worst countries, to try to make their lives, and the lives of others, better. It's devastating and intensely hopeful....more
This is one of those books that actually changes the cadence of your thoughts as you read it.... The author's voiWhat a surprising and terrific book!
This is one of those books that actually changes the cadence of your thoughts as you read it.... The author's voice is so intensely urgent, so fervent and sure. Vim is the boy I would have been (and was!) in love with in high school....more
This is another book that makes me want to go back through and knock down all my five-star ratings, so it can be in a class all its own. Honestly andThis is another book that makes me want to go back through and knock down all my five-star ratings, so it can be in a class all its own. Honestly and truly one of the most astonishingly beautiful things I've ever read.
Autonauts of the Cosmoroute is a memoir of sorts. Cortázar (the most devastatingly brilliant author of modern times, if you didn't know) and his wife Carol decide to spend thirty-odd days living on the highway connecting Paris to Marseille (for a local reference, it seems rather like the New Jersey Turnpike), in their red Volkswagen van named Fafner, going to two rest areas each day. They set up camp (as it were) at each one, finding the best picnic table at which to write, eat, talk, and lounge in the sun, taking time to explore the wilds of each locale. It's written as a travelog, with a list of how many shops, bathrooms, trees, waste bins, etc., etc., etc. can be found in each, and they include things like the temperature, which direction Fafner faces, and what they eat each day.
If this sounds a little childish and silly, that's exactly the point. Cortázar is a literary icon, an undeniable genius, but here we see him only as a man, a boyish man at that, impish and gleeful and silly, and his wonderful wife the same. It is just these two people, relishing the strangeness of the world in which they've decided to live, and the sheer joy of one another's company. It is absolutely stunning to witness the immense sense of wonder that they bring to even the most mundane endeavors, how much joy and love suffuses each of their days. This book encompases so much more than insipid handles like memoir or essay; it is a love story to each other, to friends, to every day, to the amazement that is the world. I realize I may have hazed into corniness here, but this book is like nothing else. It's like spending a month in a van with two of the most fascinating, happy, brilliant people you'll never be lucky enough to meet.
If I could, I would send a copy of this book to everyone I have ever loved, and everyone who needs to be reminded of how thrilling the world can be.
Let me start by saying that I did like this book. I did. Ms. Pessl is probably too smart for her own good, but that's never stopped me before.
That saLet me start by saying that I did like this book. I did. Ms. Pessl is probably too smart for her own good, but that's never stopped me before.
That said, as with most over-intelectualized writings, I had trouble getting close to her, to her work. There's such a lot of time spent obfuscating, demonstrating how clever she is, developing stacked metaphors and allusions, that the story is difficult to get lost in. You are constantly reminded that you are reading a novel by a very smart young lady. And while some of the characters are extensively developed (Hannah, Jade, Blue's father), most of the others, including our "heroine," Blue, remain very flat. She, most of all, has so little emotion that it's difficult to believe her on the few occasions when she freaks out; when she cries or yells, you wonder, "Where did that come from?"
Also, some of my friends have complained (rightly) that the last fifty-ish pages seem to belong to a completely different book, that everything changes drastically right at the end, without ample warning. Which: true, true. Although I guess that didn't bother me so much, because of course once it switches you can go, "Oh so that's why that happened, and that, and that." But still I guess it was a little hard to swallow.
In any case, the book is definitely compelling, interesting, imaginative, original, etc., etc., etc. And really, it's only her first book, so she's got lots of time to improve. I'll read her next one, for sure....more
I love this book so much that I copied out some of the best lines in thick sharpie onto a shirt that I wore so often it's now terribly stained and fadI love this book so much that I copied out some of the best lines in thick sharpie onto a shirt that I wore so often it's now terribly stained and faded and rather hard to read. An interesting cyclical thing, sort of, given the flimsiness of what remains of Sappho's works.
Also, I once had a writing teacher who said we should follow the "Sappho rule": every word of your writing should be so good that if there was a great flood or conflagration and only snippets of lines survived, there would still be great beauty and intensity in what was left. Kind of a tall order, but given the state of publishing today, I'd say it's needed now more than ever. ...more
Jasper Fforde is just so much fun. His books are sorta like beach reads for book nerds. They're playful, punny, funny, silly, and smart. Also I saw h Jasper Fforde is just so much fun. His books are sorta like beach reads for book nerds. They're playful, punny, funny, silly, and smart. Also I saw him read in a small bookstore in SoHo a couple of years ago and he is hilarious. He talked about how he and his kids play games in supermarkets where they put really incongruous and semi-embarrasing things in other people's shopping carts (I think he called them 'trolleys' because of course he British or maybe Austrailian?), like adult diapers for young pretty girls or whatever.
Anyway, the Thursday Next books are in my opinion much better than this series, but that won't stop me from reading everything he writes. Jasper, please be my friend?...more
I talk about this all the time, so here, definitively, is my explanation of the four categories of memoir.
1) People who have had seriously interestinI talk about this all the time, so here, definitively, is my explanation of the four categories of memoir.
1) People who have had seriously interesting / crazy lives, and who also happen to be terrific writers, able to render their stories in a compelling, original way (like David Small's brilliant Stitches, or what I consider the gold-standard memoir, Nick Flynn's breathtaking Another Bullshit Night in Suck City).
2) People whose lives are interesting / crazy enough that it really doesn't matter how well they write, because theirs will necessarily be a compelling, original book just based on subject matter (like I Am Not Myself These Days, about the accountant-by-day, drag-queen-by-night, who wears fishbowls for boobs and lives with a crack-addicted boyfriend; or, yes, Running With Scissors).
3) Really brilliant writers who can turn a "normal" life into a fascinating read (like Sloane Crosley or Alison Bechdel or Lynn Barber or -- fuck off, haters -- Dave Eggers).
4) Idiot people who don't write particularly well and who have more or less "regular" lives, but whose inflated sense of self leads them to write memoirs anyway.
Right? Any memoir you read goes into one of those categories.
Anyway, about this book: I totally liked it, but I feel kind of lied to, having seen the movie first. In the movie, everything was just reelingly insane, but so over-the-top that it was funny, and also it was light, somehow, and sort of fun. In the book, though, it's all so much darker, and it made me feel kind of awful for finding the movie so clever and cool. ...more
This book was perplexingly good. The best adjective I can come up with for these stories is sharp. Not sharp like "clever" or whatever, but sharp likeThis book was perplexingly good. The best adjective I can come up with for these stories is sharp. Not sharp like "clever" or whatever, but sharp like sharp, like a knife or thorns or something that actually cuts you. The stories all hurt, really, which is why I say perplexingly good. I mean, it's hard to say you like something that leaves you feeling like you just got a hole punched in you. Everyone is just so lonely, so unloved, so despairing.
Anyway though, I did like it. A lot. "Something That Needs Nothing" is easily the best story in the book, and it nearly made me howl. "How to Read Stories to Children" is fantastic as well.
Very nice, Miranda. I don't think I could handle being your friend, but I'll def read anything you write....more
The only reason this isn't a 5-star is that I hate short stories. Sorry, but I do. It just doesn't make sense to me -- either they're little bits of fThe only reason this isn't a 5-star is that I hate short stories. Sorry, but I do. It just doesn't make sense to me -- either they're little bits of fluff that are quickly forgotten, or they're involved and interesting, and there is no reason for them to end.
The stories in this book are an example of the latter case. These stories are terrific! Karen Russel has an incredible command of language (she uses the word 'limn' in almost every story), and a fascinating imagination. The stories are haunting, weird, beautiful, and endlessly creative. But each one could have made a fantastic novel! Why do they end? Why do all the work of conceptualizing a spookygreat world, filling it with multi-fasceted characters, making some crazy shit happen to them, all to just put it away after like 20 pages? Karen, I want more!!...more
This is the kind of book that makes me want to go back and take all my 5-star ratings down to 4, so that giving this one 5 will mean more.
This is theThis is the kind of book that makes me want to go back and take all my 5-star ratings down to 4, so that giving this one 5 will mean more.
This is the kind of book where, all while I was reading it, I was thinking about how I would read it again, more slowly, more thoughtfully, with more intense concentration.
And so I did; I read it twice through, one after the other, and good fucking grief, it is so achingly good. The second time maybe a tiny little bit less so because I already knew so many of the good parts, but still, oh my god please read this book.
He does this stunning thing where all of the chapters / stories sort of have the same metaphors and themes, but they are very vague. Like in almost each story there's a someone dirty and sad, carrying their shoes, who will fall in love or be fallen in love with. And there's magpies and volcanoes and the Snow Queen and taxis and other amazing sort-of recurrences, or maybe more like fragmented repetitions, because each time it's a little different.
Anyway, although it's a novel, the chapters live on their own, and if I can't convince you to read the whole book, please please please will you just hurry up and read "Particularly," "Soundly," "Not Particularly," and "Often," because I think if you don't I will cry....more
Update the second, March 08 Well, well, well [she says, much subdued, pensive; not at all her normal, boistrous, effusive self].
Here we are, March 1, 2Update the second, March 08 Well, well, well [she says, much subdued, pensive; not at all her normal, boistrous, effusive self].
Here we are, March 1, 2008, and I have just closed the cover of Against the Day.
I suppose it's hard to even talk about a tome like this, a thing of this range and scope and breadth. I'd really like to use all the superlatives I can, and then invent new words to describe Pynchon and what he does, because he really is like nothing else ever. In fact, I've been saying that to all my friends over the months I've been ensconsed in this book, that what Pynchon writes are not novels, in any traditional sense, I think. They just flagrantly ignore the rules of structure, and sense, and momentum.
If you'll indulge me, I've come up with a sort-of analogy for this. It's like, instead of reading a book, you're like reading a chunk of a river. (Bear with me here.) Whereas normally a book will progress, go beginning-middle-end, this one is like a million rivulets, each slipping overunderthrough one another, that you follow for a second, or a couple pages, until they go back under and get lost in the general cacophony. Lots of the characters even have names like that -- Stray, Reef, Lake, Heartsease, Ljubica (which means 'love'), Ryder -- that just slip through your fingers as you say them, as the characters go somewhere else and you lose track. There are no beginnings or ends to a river (see? I'm bringing it back), you just watch as different bits of it flit by.
I mean, how can I read something else now? This book kind of disassembles your concept of reading, of how to read, of how to go through a book. In a way I feel like I should just keep reading this, over and over, for the rest of my reading life.
Also, because of all this, 1,085 pages is really nowhere near enough. There is so much more to the lives of these characters! I mean because the book really encompases the whole world, right? So everyone is still living somewhere, in the world between the pages (because, oddly, I don't know that anyone of note actually dies in this book), and I want to know what they do with the rest of their lives, who they go on to love, how they fight, what cities they stumble through, how they find their circuitous destinies. (This is insanely presumptuous, but I think Pynchon might be fond of that thought, since so much is made in this book of people doubling, and living many lives, in and out of the world, or the 'Counter-Earth', or within photographs, or after having Zombini do some kind of spell, or that thing with the Iceland spar, which I don't know if I really get.)
I guess I'm babbling. But I think that's fitting too, for this book. I've gotten a lot of different kinds of shit from different friends for my rapturous devotion to Mr. Pynchon. I don't care. I also don't care that this is probably a sort of frustrating review, which doesn't say much at all about the book. I also don't care that there is obvs so much in this book that I didn't get, and would never get, even if I did spend the rest of my reading life on it. I don't care. I am fiercely in love with Against the Day. I am fanatically devoted to Thomas Pynchon. I am so, so thrilled that I read this book.
Update, Jan 08 In case anyone's keeping track, I am just a smidge over halfway through this fucker. And as a diversion, I present you with a few random samples of Pynchonery:
"Abruptly, sweeping into the scene like an opera singer with an aria to unload, here came 'Mr. Ace,' as he called himself. Glossy black eyes, presented like weapons in a duel. When he smiled, or attempted to, it was not reassuring."
"It was all he could do not to reach for her, gather her into some kind of perimiter. But the moisture in her eyes was shining like steel, not dew, and nothing about her trembled."
"You could hear faint strands of music, crazy stuff, banjos and bugling, trombone glissandi, pianos under the hands of whorehouse professors sounding like they came with keys between the keys."
"Dally's voice was hard to pin down to any one American place, more of a trail voice with turns and drops to it, reminders of towns you thought you'd forgotten or should never've rode into, or even promises of ones you might've heard about and were fixing to get to someday."
First entry, Nov 07 wooooo hoooooooooo!!!!!
(that's me going down the rabbit hole, as it were, into the depths of Pynchonalia)
Also, it's so convenient that the folios of this book are such that there are five blank pages at the back. Now I can (with no shame whatsoever) keep a list of all the characters! How the hell else am I going to make it through a 1,085-page monstrosity? ...more
My unsubstantiated theory on Banana is that she needs a better translator. Not that she's not great -- she often is -- but I feel like there's a sortMy unsubstantiated theory on Banana is that she needs a better translator. Not that she's not great -- she often is -- but I feel like there's a sort of choppiness in her prose sometimes, and sporadic awkward turns of phrase. That's less true in this book than in some of her others, maybe, but it's still there.
I do think she's basically in the same class as Murakami, using a similar voice to skate through many of the same themes, like the "this side / the other side" dichotomy, with things and people moving silently and softly between the two, and music and its power, and time and its betrayals, and the loss of self through occultish means, and fog and darkness and loss and aching loneliness....
I feel like Banana should be as ragingly popular as Haruki is, but the fact is that he reads like being submerged in something, mercury maybe, where everything is all liquid and flow; and even though she's great, Banana just doesn't quite have the same consistent immersiveness.
About Hardboiled and Hard Luck. It's two novellas, a little tiny bit of book that you can read in a few hours. "Hardboiled" is stunning, a soft slow story about being in love with a dead girl. "Hard Luck," however, sort of lost me a little; it's about a girl whose sister is slowly dying, and it is so, so sad. I had to keep mentally distancing myself to keep from breaking down in devastation....more
I just saw this movie (which was terrible) so of course I had to re-read the book. Other than the fact that I adore this book, and every time I read iI just saw this movie (which was terrible) so of course I had to re-read the book. Other than the fact that I adore this book, and every time I read it I am re-struck by how great it is, the coolest thing is that I've read the same copy maybe five time over like six years. So as I read it, I also get a tiny re-reading of myself reading, because there are overlays of six years of margin-scrawl that I get to discover, laughing at my 16-yr-old self writing things like 'aaah!' and 'oh, wow', and little stars and exclamation points in three different colors. The cover is falling off, too, and almost every page is dog-eared....more