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 magazine...moreThis 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. (less)
This is a great, solid book. It's not as gorey and shocking as some of his recent books ( Haunted), but it is super-interesting, and has a lot of grea...moreThis is a great, solid book. It's not as gorey and shocking as some of his recent books ( Haunted), but it is super-interesting, and has a lot of great, random facts thrown in. You will learn all about rabies and car crashes, for one thing. This book is told as an oral history, with lots of new, interesting characters offering new perspectives. And about half-way through the book, you suddenly find out that all along the story was much stranger, more surreal, and far more twisted than you had at first assumed. (less)
I have been told to read this book for months and months. Finally got around to it, and I am so glad I did. Garbage Land is a completely accessible, e...moreI have been told to read this book for months and months. Finally got around to it, and I am so glad I did. Garbage Land is a completely accessible, extremely well written contemporary history of the garbage industry, with chapters on landfills, composting, glass recycling, plastics (called 'the devil's resin'), etc. I learned so much from reading this book. It includes great ideas for future sustainability, like making manufacturers responsible for disposing of the materials their goods come in (like plastic bottles or toxic computer parts), and building gardens on the roofs of city apartment buildings to cool the buildings and provide a home for 'putrescibles', i.e. compost. Who knew garbage could be so enthralling?
Here is a great sum-up quote from this book: Our trash cans, I believe, ought to make us think: not about holes in the ground and barrels of oil saved by recycling, but about the enormous amount of material and energy that goes into the stuff we use for an instant and then discard. Garbage should worry us. It should prod us. We don't need better ways to get rid of things. We need to not get rid of things, either by keeping them cycling through the system or not designing and desiring them in the first place.(less)
This is the kind of book I pick up so I can back up my convictions with some sort of sense. It's no longer adequate to have a conversation like this:
M...moreThis is the kind of book I pick up so I can back up my convictions with some sort of sense. It's no longer adequate to have a conversation like this:
Me: Wal*Mart is bad! Antagonist: What on earth do you mean? They are just extremely successful at the game called capitalism. Me: B-b-b-but... they're evil! Antagonist: You can't call them evil just because they're big and make a lot of money. Me: B-b-b-but... don't they treat their workers badly? And buy everything from blind old women working in Chinese factories for pennies a day? Aren't we evil by extension if we shop there? Antagonist (patting me on the head): Ha ha ha, silly girl. You have no idea what you're talking about.
But thanks to books like this one, suddenly I do have an idea. And boy, oh boy, was I right. The thesis set forth in this book is that not only is Wal*Mart evil, they are single-handedly changing the face of retailing in the 21st century. It goes way beyond mistreating employees, being virulently anti-union, essentially financing all of China, and setting new lows for devastating conditions in factory labor. They are consumate masters of spin, duplicity, aborted initiatives, lying, intimidation, and horror horror horror. Please for goodness sake read this book. Please stop shopping at Wal*Mart. They have got to be stopped.(less)
This book is actually kind of slow-going, mostly consisting of strange linguistic digressions and discussions of authors I've never read, or even hear...moreThis book is actually kind of slow-going, mostly consisting of strange linguistic digressions and discussions of authors I've never read, or even heard of. It's nerdery at its best, but only makes sense to read if you're really into any of the authors whose books he's done.
But the discussions on Cortazar made it all worth it, for me. For those of you who've read Hopscotch and 62: A Model Kit, I'll tell you this, which will blow your mind: Rabassa translated them without having read them first. He just made it up as he went along. Right? He also discusses translating Magda and Juan's Gliglish (Gliglicio in Spanish), as well as some of the cooler / crazier sections in both books. Furthermore, while translating Julio's works, Gregory consider's himself Julio's paredros, and, as the two were actually lifelong friends, Julio calls Gregory cronopio, a title Gregory says he bears 'with the pride of a knight'. (less)
In case you don't know about this book yet (though, honestly, how could you not know about this book yet?), it is an absolutely amazing memoir by an I...moreIn case you don't know about this book yet (though, honestly, how could you not know about this book yet?), it is an absolutely amazing memoir by an Iranian woman who was a professor of English & Persian Literature at teh University of Tehran before, during, and after the revolution and war with Iraq. Once wearing the veil became mandatory and she refused to wear one, she was forced to quit teaching, and one way she came up with to fill her time was to gather several of her most dedicated students for a once-weekly literature class. In it, they discussed books like The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Lolita (duh), etc, etc.
This book is triple-layered. The first layer is Azar Nafisi's memoir of the tumultuous times she lived in in Tehran, which she watched go from one of the most progressive, intellectual cities in the world to one of the most restrictive and repressive. You can see many of her friends and relatives, and the different ways people dealt with everything -- from withdrawing completely from society to picking sides and becoming more vocal and fervant about religion, politics, nationalism, etc.
The second layer is Nafisi's memoirs of being a professor of literature in such times, including one astonishing episode where her class actually puts The Great Gatsby on trial to determine whether it is decadent, Western poison... or a work of high art. Not to mention the memories of the women in her literature class, how they coped with the readings, one another, and ther lives in Iran.
The third layer, which for me catapults this book into a work of absolute genius, is Nafisi's theories on and explications of the books themselves, including how they relate to the struggles and culture of both of the above layers.
Nafisi has brilliant theories about literature, and such a clear, inviting writing voice, in addition to giving us a much-needed internal perspective a country and culture that we (Americans) are essentially taught to loathe, makes this one of the most incredible books I've ever read. Three times.(less)
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't...moreAll'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.(less)
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 happ...moreOh 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. (less)
You know, I had to read this for a job interview, and I really expected it to be sloggy drudgery. But these blockbuster thriller writers are huge for...moreYou know, I had to read this for a job interview, and I really expected it to be sloggy drudgery. But these blockbuster thriller writers are huge for a reason, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The dialogue in here was snappy and completely believable, and the characters were realistic and likable. The plot had some holes, but when you're cranking out like a book a year, I guess that's forgivable. (less)
So when you think of Pynchon you think of serious work, right? And trudgery and difficulty and obfuscation and pedanticism, and like this dizzying thi...moreSo 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.(less)
This is the worst book I have ever read. Seriously. Don't ever read it. If I could give it negative stars, I would. Just thinking about it makes me ma...moreThis is the worst book I have ever read. Seriously. Don't ever read it. If I could give it negative stars, I would. Just thinking about it makes me mad.(less)
It pretty much breaks my heart to knock this book down from five stars to four, but that's the chance you take when you re-read something that you lov...moreIt pretty much breaks my heart to knock this book down from five stars to four, but that's the chance you take when you re-read something that you loved many years ago. The book is still great, of course, with an outstandingly original premise (a library for books people write one copy of, that will never ever get published, let alone read by anyone else), and the characters are super... But it just wasn't as knock-out fantastic this time as it was when I was nineteen.(less)
About halfway through this book, I was talking to my roommate, and I said, Gosh it's not nearly as fun reading this book the second time around, becau...moreAbout halfway through this book, I was talking to my roommate, and I said, Gosh it's not nearly as fun reading this book the second time around, because I remember all the twists and everything, so it's way less exciting getting to them.
Omigod I was wrong.
Sure, I remembered who shot Shannon, which is maybe the biggest twist, and sure, I remembered who Brandy was, but really, that's revealed almost immediately and barely counts as a twist.
Because actually? This book is all freaking twists. There is even a point when our heroine(?) says, "Give me anything in this whole fucking world that is exactly what it looks like!"
And that's the thing... whatever you think about Palahniuk, the man can construct a freaking story. Sharp, clever, funny, perfectly planned, brilliantly executed, and stuffed full of weird facts that you so didn't want to learn about. I am utterly impressed all over again.
(Update, 2014) This is one of those times when my opinion of a book changed drastically over time. If you ask me today, I'd tell you this book kind of...more(Update, 2014) This is one of those times when my opinion of a book changed drastically over time. If you ask me today, I'd tell you this book kind of blew, I guess because it got so wickedly popular and also because his subsequent book (The Unnamed) was such a steaming pile of bullshit. But thanks to the magic of Goodreads, I have to face the fact that when I finished it, I thought it was pretty great. (Also kudos to my past self for already knowing how to properly use whom.)
(Original review, 2007) I approached this book the sort of jealousy skepticism that I reserve for young writers near my age who publish their first book to great fanfare and acclaim. But I have to admit that Then We Came to the End is really quite good.
It's the story of a bunch of people working in a corporate advertising firm that is beset with layoffs. The characters are engaging, more or less believable, and have great, often funny, fitting dialogue. The big gimmick is that it's mostly written in the first person plural, which actually comes off as a very clever device, because it includes the reader wholly in the story.
It helps, of course, that I just went through this very thing at Random House (the book was actually recommended to me by my former boss, who was laid off at the same time I was), but really, this is a strong, interesting book that would probably appeal to even those who haven't been through this sort of thing. It's an easy read, but it moves gracefully from being wholly focused on the petty minutia of office life (Who gets the good chair when that guy down the hall is laid off? Who is sleeping with whom? How many times a day can you check your email? Why is everyone else so irritating and what am I doing spending my life in this soulless place?) into much more serious topics, like cancer and depression and, really, life.
Oh this book is just terrific. The prose is so light and airy and flows so beautifully... which all belies the pretty serious things that go on.
Writt...moreOh this book is just terrific. The prose is so light and airy and flows so beautifully... which all belies the pretty serious things that go on.
Written in the late '60s, re-released a few years ago by Thunder's Mouth, this is the story of Bettina Balser, an upper-middle-class housewife who is freaking out about the stifling life she finds herself in the thick of. The characters (her husband, his "classy" friends, the housekeeper, their children and neighbors) are perfectly drawn, and the dialogue is impeccable. This story is wholly believable, and fantastically put together. Highly, highly recommended.
Update. You know, this book has really stuck in my head since I recently finished it. And I'm actually pretty unhappy (in retrospect) about the ending. I don't want to ruin it, though this isn't really that kind of book, but basically, everything just gets tied up in a far too terrific way. Bettina and her husband have been in a silent, seething fight for months, the kind of fight that encompases their entire lives, really, where neither would even consider backing down, because it would be anathema to even think that they might be at fault. And but then there's this crazy climax scene where finally everything comes out, kind of, and hubby just breaks down. Not only does he back down, but he completely puts the whole thing on himself, takes responsibility for all the awfulness that they've both been going through. Not that I think he was wrong to do so (obvs, the book is from Bettina's POV, so we're likely going to side with her), but it's almost too wonderful to have him go through such a change of heart like that. It's like a fantasy ending, the kind of resolution that people who happen to be in sometimes-contentious relationships (no one I know, of course) only dream of. Which just made me sadder and sadder the more I've been thinking about it, that Sue Kaufman either just took the happily-ever-after, easy way out, or was so depressed by her own situation (sorry, I read most everything as if it's autobiographically based) that she had to dream up an if-only and put it together, maybe as something to hold up as a beacon of hope.
I still like the book immensely, but I sorta want to retract my earlier rapturous proclamation of its believability and all that. (less)
It pains me a little to give a mediocre rating to an author I love, but I just couldn't get close enough to this book. There were very lovely passages...moreIt pains me a little to give a mediocre rating to an author I love, but I just couldn't get close enough to this book. There were very lovely passages, but also ones of extreme violence and horror (reminded me a bit of those terrifying bits in Wind-Up Bird Chronicles), and in the end, it just didn't do it for me. I'm about to reread City, however, one of my all-time favorites, so hopefully that will make me adore Baricco all over again.(less)
Oh oh oh it almost hurts me how much I love this book. Baricco can make anything, anything into gorgeousness.
City is a brilliant amalgam of stories,...moreOh oh oh it almost hurts me how much I love this book. Baricco can make anything, anything into gorgeousness.
City is a brilliant amalgam of stories, including a comic book, a boxing match, lectures by myriad professors on things like curves in nature or Monet's Waterlillies or intellectual dishonesty, and of course the main story, which is about a boy-genius, his two imaginary friends (a giant and a bald mute), his absent military father and his institutionalized mother, and his kooky fantastic governess who is writing a Western. Yes yes, a Western, which in itself is maybe one of the most beautiful, clever stories I have ever read.
I. Love. This. Book.
Good grief go out and get a copy and read it already.(less)
This book is put out by an anarchist collective, www.CrimethInc.com, that eschews the use of such trivialities as bar codes and ISBNs. It's a little c...moreThis book is put out by an anarchist collective, www.CrimethInc.com, that eschews the use of such trivialities as bar codes and ISBNs. It's a little cliche, I know, but this is the first-ever book recommendation I've received from my sis, a notorious non-reader, so I had to see what it was all about.
The book was originally a zine, put together by two girls who were hitchhiking & squatting their way across Europe. They position themselves sometimes as witches, sometimes mermaids, sometimes dirty, tired, lonely girls. But always they are seeking, and dreaming, and trying to find something inspiring or just lovely in everything around them. They include episodes of despair and disappointment, along with tales of kindness and imagination. One chapter finds them playing house in an abandoned building that's still full of its previous owner's old photos, letters, and clothes; in another they're sleeping in a cave on a nude beach; they're picked up by all manner of crazies, including a ecstacy-addled French guy and an organic farmer from Germany. They work on a community garden, find a mysogynist train squat, move through France, Spain, Germany, Prague, Belgium, etc, etc, etc.
I have to admit that my jaded/cynical side found this all a little overly sentimental at times, but on the whole, the partially smothered naive dreamer that still sometimes peeks out through my bangs thought Off the Map was really really beautiful. (less)
So W. Glasgow Philips published the book Tuscaloosa when he was 24, and it was quite well received. (I've read Tuscaloosa, and it's pretty good. No...moreSo W. Glasgow Philips published the book Tuscaloosa when he was 24, and it was quite well received. (I've read Tuscaloosa, and it's pretty good. Not astonishing, but good.) He then got a huge grant from Stanford to keep writing, and everyone was praising him all over the place and he had it made.
Well, The Royal Nonesuch really is 200 pages or so of why he really, really didn't. It's kind of a sad memoir, one of the main undertones of which is that Philips never again achieved the level of success he'd had when Tuscaloosa first came out. He did do a lot of really cool stuff, though. He is friends with Trey Parker & Matt Stone (in fact his roommate for many years was the guy who played Choda Boy in Orgazmo, who remains convinced to this day that the entire project was conceived with the sole aim of getting him in front of a camera with a dick on his head), and really involved in underground film circles, even creating (with friends) anti-festivals called LapDance and Cannes You Dig It? He also started a corporate naming company, and was involved with a whole bunch of internet start-ups in the 90s that all... almost... were about to strike it big.
Interspersed with all that is a rotating cast of quirky, tragic, fascinating characters that I really can't describe in sound bytes.
So yes yes, I definitely enjoyed this book. It was kind of disappointing, though, and inconclusive, as a memoir I guess is likely to be. But a good book to read on a plane, and there are lots of images and scenes that will stay with me. (less)
One problem with reading advanced reader's editions is that they lay out the marketing plans for you right on the...moreHmm. Well. It certainly wasn't bad.
One problem with reading advanced reader's editions is that they lay out the marketing plans for you right on the inside cover, so I knew before I even started that this book has a 150,000 initial print run, that the movie rights have already been auctioned, that a website and a viral marketing campaign (puke) are in the works, etc. Soooo, hype hype hype, which always makes me worried.
All the same, like everyone says, cross House of Leaves with Memento and you start to get the idea of The Raw Shark Texts. In the big picture, it's definitely got an original and creative plot, but as far as the details—the writing, the characters, and the development—kind of meh.
This is a backhanded compliment, I know, but the best I can say is that it'll make a really good movie. (less)