This was an extraodinary first collection of stories from Claire Vaye Watkins. I ran across some embodiment of "The Past Perfect, The Past Continuous,This was an extraodinary first collection of stories from Claire Vaye Watkins. I ran across some embodiment of "The Past Perfect, The Past Continuous, The Simple Past" in The Paris Review a year or two ago and was curious to see how she'd fill out a collection. "The Diggings" felt a little out-of-place at first, particularly the historically contrived language, but I also don't generally like historical fiction (for that reason, among others). But even with that piece (which I warmed up to), this was a really strong collection. Strong senses of place and time, and the endings were just what I find satisfying in short fiction. Can't wait for her next collection....more
This was unbelievable. Glück's darkest and boldest work, and my favorite out of them all. There was not one poem in here that I did not like, and seveThis was unbelievable. Glück's darkest and boldest work, and my favorite out of them all. There was not one poem in here that I did not like, and several ("Stars", "From a Journal", "The Destination", "The Empty Glass", "Summer Night") that were outstanding....more
This was my first real experience with Jhumpa Lahiri's writing, so I can't say much to those who think her chronicles of Indian-American lives are begThis was my first real experience with Jhumpa Lahiri's writing, so I can't say much to those who think her chronicles of Indian-American lives are beginning to play like broken records. My only observation is that if she was a Caucasian writer that only wrote about white people, no one would probably ever tell her she needs to mix it up and be a black guy sometimes. I think it would be an enormous shame if one of the strongest voices in the English-speaking Indian community were to suddenly not write about the real lives of Indian people anymore.
I did have a difficult time ignoring the issue of class. There was great variation in the characters, situations, and environments, with the massive glaring exception that these people all seem to have an inexhaustible supply of financial resources, and all seem to attend Ivy League schools. And I guess I don't know what my constructive criticism is here; the idea of a privileged author trying to write convincingly about low-income people and our trashy blue-collar lives makes me roll my eyes in anticipation. It just got to the point that the constant reminders of these characters' wealth -- all of them, in every story -- were distracting and almost aggravating.
Having said all that, I was blown away by Lahiri's writing in general. It's not showy or ostentatious, but she always uses exactly the right word. She is also completely unencumbered by cliches, and finds an original, but familiar and accessible, way to tell you what she means absolutely every time. She also has an incredible gift for making a reader feel involved with the characters and story from only a few pages in. Every time I started one of these stories, I was immediately drawn in and a part of what was going on. I usually don't read out of a need to feel attached to the characters; I like good writing for its own sake, and several of my favorite books have relatively un-endearing characters. But it's sure a nice change of pace to get drawn into sometimes. I sobbed at the end of the last story, just because it broke my heart. That's rare, and it's beautiful....more
**spoiler alert** The first 100 pages of this book were beautiful. It was one of the only instances in which I'd read the first 20 pages of a 400-plus**spoiler alert** The first 100 pages of this book were beautiful. It was one of the only instances in which I'd read the first 20 pages of a 400-plus-page book and felt the urge to stay up all night and finish the whole thing. I don't really go for "thrillers", but there's more to this one than that. And the little glimpses we get into the connection between Eric and Clio is the most believable love story I've read in ages. I fell in love with Clio a little. It was impossible not to.
I don't know what the fuck was going on after those first 100 pages. I was with him until he left the house, and I stayed on while he was at the hotel. When he left to meet Mr. Nobody, I dealt with it. But pretty much the second that "Scout" character showed up, he lost me. It was like I switched out this fascinating, edgy novel for something amateurish and stale. I was so frustrated; everything was suddenly silly and laughably awkward.
I do understand the purpose of a character in Scout's place. I understand that Eric does not remember Clio, and Clio is gone, and there is no reason he shouldn't develop a connection with someone. I get it. I also understand that Eric falls for Scout so fast because she "is" Clio in some sense. I get it. But SOMETHING in there just wasn't working right.
Scout is just unbearably flat. She's supposed to be quirky and cute; kind of that "manic pixie dreamgirl" archetype I'm endlessly tired of. I just found her annoying.
The book did recover somewhat. Around page 300, I started coming back on board. Once we met Dr. What's-his-ass and Scout started giving Eric the silent treatment, I was pretty much back in. I liked the last 100-some pages, and the ending was fine. I was even almost touched during Eric and Scout's final moments near the end.
Worth reading, if only for those first chapters and the very end....more
I feel like I'm too close to this book to review it objectively. It's like trying to gauge whether your own kid is cute. You'll never really know. YouI feel like I'm too close to this book to review it objectively. It's like trying to gauge whether your own kid is cute. You'll never really know. You're too close.
I was a screwy eighteen-year-old and picked this up for six dollars at now-defunct Borders. There's something in Fitch's writing that I really identify with; it's a certain way she projects the world. I always understand. This book was romantic but ugly, self-indulgent, and I needed it desperately. I read it probably three or four times in college. It slept in the passenger side of my bed for many, many nights. I loved it so dearly, and can still pull it from the shelf and flip immediately to the parts I liked, the really special passages. Some I know from memory.
Maybe I'm not a reliable source for whether this is a good book, but I'm startled by the number of reviewers here and elsewhere who dislike it almost passionately. I wonder what they feel so betrayed by....more