I wrote a review of a great annotated edition, but since people might not think to grab/search for it, thought I'd copy it over here. Couldn't recommeI wrote a review of a great annotated edition, but since people might not think to grab/search for it, thought I'd copy it over here. Couldn't recommend it more highly. See here....more
Reading Valley of the Dolls is akin to eating a pint of your favorite ice cream, in that it's wonderful and delicious down to the last bit, but it canReading Valley of the Dolls is akin to eating a pint of your favorite ice cream, in that it's wonderful and delicious down to the last bit, but it can come with a bit of a hangover if you start to think about what you just did.
This is the story of Anne, Neely, and Jennifer, and their struggles to survive as women - women who want love, careers, a comfortable standard of living, etc., mostly in New York, but also in LA, and primarily in the stage and film businesses. It's gossipy, brutal, and funny all at once, and an absolute perfect beach-read page-turner.
Where the hangover comes in is when you start to analyze the message, the themes. When you start to think of how cruel the world can be to women, how men use women, how women use each other. Your feelings about it might also depend on where you stand and how you feel about the idea of "having it all." Valley of the Dolls seems to argue that you very much can't - you can't have a great marriage, a great job, and be a great mother - at times you might be lucky to have even one of those things. And the relationship with feminism is weird, too - is it making the argument that the freedom of sexual liberation and workplace opportunities has back-fired on women? It feels like it might be, but I couldn't tell you, and I honestly don't want to dwell on it too much.
So no, I wouldn't recommend analyzing Valley of the Dolls in any way, honestly. It's just not that kind of read. This is what you pick up when you're in the mood for something deliciously campy, a page-turning drama, and I mean that in the best of ways. The world needs those books too, or at least I know I do....more
I read The Importance of Being Earnest twice in school -- once in high school, once in college -- and I've seen not only the 1952 film, and the newerI read The Importance of Being Earnest twice in school -- once in high school, once in college -- and I've seen not only the 1952 film, and the newer film, but also several stage adaptations. This isn't to say I consider myself some kind of expert, just that when my book club voted this in for June's book, I considered not reading it again. What else could I possibly gain from it that those iterations hadn't imparted?
Well, as it turns out, the answer is quite a bit, thanks to the Dartmouth library possessing this great annotated version.
Thanks to the notes in here, I discovered that much of the deeply funny material was actually added in later, when Wilde was starving in Paris and revised this and An Ideal Husband in an attempt to make more money. He refused to write anything new, but made significant revisions to Earnest, which had already been a hit when it was performed a few years earlier. The footnotes mark which parts were added or revised, and it's a considerable amount.
The notes also include references to Wilde's personal life, which mention that Lady Bracknell was likely inspired by Wilde's mother, who was also a headstrong woman, and that the whole concept of bunburrying was no doubt inspired by Wilde's double-life as a gay man who has a wife and family. Additionally, Worthing, John's last name, is the seaside resort where Wilde vacationed with his family so he could write Earnest - and while there, he not only had multiple visits from his lover, Alfred Douglas, but also managed to carry out an affair with another young man. I mean, my heavens, the man was busy in more ways than one if you catch my drift.
And I'm not sure this needs a spoiler tag, but just in case you, dear reader, happen to be one of the few that haven't experienced this, I'll put it behind one -- (view spoiler)[
Lastly, another thing that stood out was the note that, in the original version of the play, when Algernon (as "Earnest") and Cecily meet, after sorting through their whole engagement business (such a good scene), they apparently run off and have sex! I don't know if the adaptations I read cut that out to make it more school appropriate, or the teachers I had simply didn't go there, or what. But it makes this scene even funnier in that while John arrives with "Earnest's" Ashes in tow -- not only is "Earnest" not dead, he's very much alive and banging John's ward. (hide spoiler)]
Some of this seems obvious in hindsight, and it's possible that we did get into some of it in school and I just wasn't paying attention, but I felt like we mostly focused on the hilarious, hilarious text. Which is quite understandable.
So, you see, not only was I wrong that I couldn't learn more about this, I was heartily wrong, and I thoroughly enjoyed my wrongness at that.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Back when I first heard about The Screwtape Letters, it was the concept that drew me - a devil writing to his nephew instructing him how to lead a souBack when I first heard about The Screwtape Letters, it was the concept that drew me - a devil writing to his nephew instructing him how to lead a soul astray. I've always been interested in notions of "good" and "bad" and the many ways that these concepts can become muddled in certain perspectives and contexts.
As I read The Screwtape Letters I became a bit more conflicted -- as someone who grew up in a decidedly not religious family or background, and as someone who essentially considers themselves Agnostic, it seemed like I was maybe only getting half the picture here that someone who was raised with similar kinds of beliefs might. Religion is kind of a murky area for me, but discussing it with my book club - this was our July read - helped me work through some of my thoughts and impressions around this.
Due to my dubious feelings about the existence of devils, demons, angels, God and such, it was hard for me to imagine a dialogue between something that I can't categorize - it's easier for me to deal with something more firm in reality or completely fictional. Thinking about whether or not these are things you believe in ultimately distracts from the story - so in that sense, if you have a firm conviction on your beliefs, this would probably make for an easier read. My feelings around spirits and souls and all this is firm only in that I'm sure it's something I haven't been able to define.
At times I would read The Screwtape Letters and think, holy hell, if there is a heaven, there's no way I'm getting in. Through discussing the book, I realized that's not necessarily the only way to see it - but so many of the "sins" or problems here are things that I'm certain almost everyone is "guilty" of in one way or another. Ultimately my friends felt that that was probably the point - this idea that it feels like "God" is expecting humans to be perfect, but he loves them and wants them to succeed in reaching heaven, etc.
Seriously, it's hard for me to write about this. I can't look at it as just a book because it feels like there's so much wrapped up here in terms of belief and how seriously people hold their convictions and beliefs. When I first thought of drafting my review for it, I came to read others, and whereas at other times, reading other impressions would leave me with some kind of clairity of thought, the other reviews on here just muddled my brain even more -- most people here aren't writing about this book as a book, they're writing about it as so much more - as a guide to being a good christian, mostly. So it's hard for me to think of it as just a book, even as an agnostic, because I know there are all these people out there attaching so much of it, and I want to respect that, while also keeping in mind that ultimately my beliefs are just mine. Don't get me wrong -- the fact that I found this to be so hard to pin down is one of the things I liked about it, and that challenged me about it.
Lewis, in so many ways I think, would hate what religion has become today - particularly in America, where it's used as a means to achieve political office, or as a reason to hate someone's lifestyle that's different than yours. Lewis criticizes using religion as a means for advancement in political power, dislikes churches and church groups, and would probably see very little godliness in, say, the WBC. (I hope.) I was afraid that this would delve into some sort of preachiness, but there were points where I was more interested in listening than I might've anticipated.
I'm not about to run off to church after reading it, but CS Lewis wouldn't have liked that, anyway....more
Like 80-90% of those who've read this, by now, I picked it up because I was completely enamored of Nic Pizzolatto's True Detective and found myself drLike 80-90% of those who've read this, by now, I picked it up because I was completely enamored of Nic Pizzolatto's True Detective and found myself drawn to the myriad works that inspired it, and that crawled out of Pizzolatto's head.
Galveston was written long before the success of True D, but you can see the genesis of his characters, of what goes on in that brain of his, full of fucked up men who do fucked up things to other men and to women. A lot of people take issue with Pizzolatto's treatment of women in the show, and I actually don't - so many of Pizzolatto's female characters seem strangely revered, good women who find themselves in fucked up situations only because the men in their lives fucked up somewhere a long the line. Galveston follows suit here, but that's not to say it's connected to the show beyond the notion that it's on par with so many of the kinds of themes and characters that Pizzolatto is drawn to.
Roy is a gangster and a drunk, diagnosed by a doctor with a terminal illness one morning, only to be sent by his boss on a job that seems to be a set-up later that night. He absconds with Rocky, a prostitute who gets caught up in the scene, and she convinces Roy to let her (and her sister) run away with him.
It's a relatively simple story, and you see Pizzolatto seemingly duel with the two parts of himself that made True Detective so compelling, also - the romantic sentimentality and the pessimistic nihilism and brutality. How do you accommodate both of those things in this world, how do they coexist, does one win out, or do the two forces just struggle through all eternity? It's not quite as straight-forward as the battle of good and evil, but a slight modification, one that's a bit more flexible and allows that both can be and are contained within a single person.
Galveston is a more than worthy work on its own, but you can see why Pizzolatto is drawn to the visual realm as much as the text-based one, because this book is stunningly vivid, and just begs to be committed to film. (Which it sounds like it will be, thankfully).
As cheesy as it sounds, regardless of what medium he chooses, I'm just glad Pizzolatto is out there sharing his creations with us. Though considering this was his first novel, I can only imagine how good any others might be....more
I can't believe I haven't written this up, but at the same time, I can - how do you review a book like this? I loved it and hated it all at the same tI can't believe I haven't written this up, but at the same time, I can - how do you review a book like this? I loved it and hated it all at the same time. As a woman I dare you to not be harrowed and chilled by this book and its scary prescience in some ways; I don't think it's possible. And yet, while America lingers dangerously close, at times, to fulfilling aspects of The Handmaid's Tale, you have to think that for other parts of the world, Gilead would actually be an improvement on how they treat women to this day, and that's even much more heartbreaking.
Offred is a handmaid in Gilead, which more or less means that she lives in the house of and is taken care of by a couple that can no longer procreate and need her fertility, her womb to further the human race, long jeopardized by human pollution. She has mandated sex with the man of the house, which naturally complicates every relationship by proxy - her relationship with him, his wife, the other women servants in the house. As with any burdened society a revolution is brewing, but it's hard to tell who can be trusted. And of course, Offred has flashbacks to her past life, with a husband and child, her old name. (It took me an embarrassingly long time to realized that Offred meant - Of Fred.)
I couldn't put it down, but I had to put it down, but I couldn't put it down, etc etc. I'd sit, horrified, mouth open, in tears, and need to catch my breath, and then I'd rush back to read more.
The kind of book you'd want your daughter to read - when she's of a certain age - and something I wished we'd read in school in replacement of at least one of the tomes by a dead man. I mean, really....more
If you look at the things I list as interests on my GR profile, this book has basically all of them: "Magical Realism, Narrative Non-Fiction, MysteryIf you look at the things I list as interests on my GR profile, this book has basically all of them: "Magical Realism, Narrative Non-Fiction, Mystery and Crime, Travel, Geography-specific genres (i.e. Southern Gothic, the American West/Westerns), and pretty much anything that has soul or makes me cry." So this should be up my alley, right? It ends up holding true to the old saying about too much of a good thing, in that it felt like Hendricks was trying to do way too much here.
The story is and should be inherently fascinating. Hendricks' father was found at the Tri-State Crematorium, famous for a case a few years ago where it was discovered that the proprietor, Brent Marsh, was leaving bodies lying around the property in mass graves and metal lockers instead of actually cremating them (well, he cremated some bodies, but not all). Hendricks' father was one of the bodies left laying around. Hendricks weaves a tale about his father's death and the sort of limbo he's left in by not having been cremated (oh, and having been dug up from his initial burial by Hendricks' mother, who didn't want to be buried with her husband in their joint plot because the idea of being eaten by worms freaked her out - which, fair).
On top of the story about Tri-State Crematorium and his father's death and on-going deadness, he weaves in bits about history, religion, the experience of living in the south, etc., and it just begins to feel unwieldy, the connections he draws are thin and reaching at times, and it just distracts from the real meat of the story. I eventually began to skim the parts that weren't directly related to his story. I couldn't emotionally connect with Hendricks, and the various deviations felt like his own way of putting his own emotions at bay - and I think I'd rather he'd just bared his soul and done the deeper dive. He doesn't even really get that deep into his relationship with his father beyond to give a few examples of their relationship as it evolved through sports activities. It kind of stops there. If he wanted to digress without getting too entrenched in his own emotional trauma, then maybe just stick to the incident and instead do more research on the Tri-State matter, interviews with other families or something... I don't know. It felt like he didn't have enough for a book about Tri-State so he just threw in some other random bits to try to flesh it out, and I wonder if maybe that's the case, if maybe this should've been a novella or a long newspaper feature instead of a full book.
On top of the insanity of the story, the writing is beautiful, which is why it was a bit disappointing to not have found it more powerful, but I just wanted more....more
I never had to read Catcher in the Rye for school - which, based on the reactions of my many friends who did, seems like it might've been a good thingI never had to read Catcher in the Rye for school - which, based on the reactions of my many friends who did, seems like it might've been a good thing. However, because I never had to read Catcher in school, I wound up having never read Salinger until now, basically. I remember house-sitting for a professor the summer after college, and she had a copy of Franny and Zooey that I tried to pick up then, but just couldn't get into it. Since I'm now living across the river from where Salinger lived, it seemed high time for me to get around to reading something of his, and I did end up buying Catcher in the Rye at a thrift store last year - but then someone in book club nominated this before I got to Catcher.
Since so many people I know adore Salinger, and this book in particular, I feel like I might've gone into this with some fairly intense expectations, though I desperately tried not to take any with me, since he seems like a love him or hate him kind of guy. Still, deep down I hoped that I would fall in love with Salinger the way that so many people I know have, and I just... didn't, sadly.
I had much the same issues with Franny and Zooey (and, to be fair, mostly the “Zooey” section – I thought the “Franny” part was fantastic) that I did with The Corrections, which is to say that all the family quibbling, the "boo-hoo my family fucked me up" stuff just doesn't touch a nerve with me in either a sympathetic or empathetic way. My reaction tends to be along the lines of "whoop-dee-doo, everyone's got family drama and yours isn't so special, get the hell over it." It's not totally fair, I know, and I would never say that to a friend or family member who needed to confide in me regarding their own family strife, and I wouldn't have that reaction regarding someone's true life story. But that's the thing - once your family drama goes to the place that mine has, you lose patience for the the fictional stuff and it becomes way less palatable as an artistic subject and pursuit - or at least that's how it's gone for me. The things I've been through, the things some of my friends and family members have been through... so many of us have walked through the fire to turn out fine. Not without battle scars, but fine none-the-less, and those are the stories that move me, that touch me, that affect me. Most fictions just can't hold a candle to any of that, and I don't find solace or comfort in the attempt, though I know there are those who do. A couple folks in book club mentioned that this reminded them of Wes Anderson and The Royal Tenenbaums and I get that, too – and I have problems with Anderson’s oeuvre for the exact same reason. The man makes the same "woe is me, I’ve got mommy and daddy issues" movie every time, basically.
Additionally, I feel compelled to mention that this also touched a nerve with most of the people in book club, who have more of a standard or typical family - two (living) parents, siblings, etc. My immediate family is just me and my mother, so some of those dynamics of a larger family are lost on me.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t any family-based narratives that I like, because there are - Middlesex, Midnight’s Children for example, or more recently, Winter’s Bone - but so many of those books use the family as a way to view larger issues, they break outside the bubble. It’s these family stories that live in their own little fishbowls that I often find exhausting and, frankly, kind of boring!
Much like The Corrections I also had a hard time with suspension of disbelief at points – which, I know, is hilarious coming from someone who just eats up A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones - but in the guise of a premise that wants to convey a type of reality, having your characters deliver their thoughts almost exclusively in long rambling monologues just doesn’t feel like a thing that actually happens except in books and plays.
Again, to be fair, most of the issues I took with Franny and Zooey related mostly to the second (and larger) half of the story, based around Zooey. The first segment, told from Franny’s eyes, was the most interesting and, for me, the most relatable. Franny struggles with things that I’ve definitely struggled with, and in some ways, continue to – the notion of being tired of everyone wanting celebrity, recognition, pursuits that seem so shallow compared to some of life’s harsher experiences. Personally, fame and wealth have never been motivating factors or interests for me, and when people are gushing over their issues of Us Weekly or the latest updates on TMZ I always feel out of place because I just don’t see the appeal.
I do appreciate the message of Zooey’s counterpoint to Franny, which more or less seemed to be that people should devote themselves to the things they love to do, the things they’re good at, or to put it more in the language of the book, the gifts and talents that God gave them, and that doing so doesn’t mean they’re driven by ego or selfishness as Franny fears. (The religious aspect is another thing that I just don’t connect with as someone who grew up with a pretty small dose of religion – I went to a Unity church for a couple years with infrequent regularity while growing up and today I’m your friendly neighborhood agnostic, hello, nice to meet you.) But, while I appreciated the overall message of Zooey’s chapter, the delivery just didn’t work enough for me to feel the full weight of the message.
Franny and Zooey does strike me as something that I probably need to read again, and might appreciate and connect with more a second time around. Until then, I’m the jerk that gave this three stars....more
I didn't mean to get so far away from this before writing my review, but spring - spring is hard, life anew, everyone coming out of their hibernationI didn't mean to get so far away from this before writing my review, but spring - spring is hard, life anew, everyone coming out of their hibernation and whatnot.
There's a thing about the sea that's difficult to explain to people who don't already get it. While, granted, I didn't grow up "on" the sea in the sense of working on or in it at any capacity, I did grow up next to the sea, in that you can see it from the window of the house where I grew up. I spent summers in the sea, staring at boats, chasing birds and fish, wading in to salt water, going on friends' boats, watching the waves crash over each other time and time again. The sea has always had a calming effect, it always makes me think of going home, and no matter how tumultuous the weather, or how many treacherous tales it produces, it just does something to me, something a bit unspeakable and that I can never quite capture in words, though that obviously doesn't stop me from trying. I have non-costal friends who find the sea inherently scary, and maybe that's the right attitude to have, but even at times when it's made me nervous, I've still been drawn to it, still loved it, still felt it as part of the life force all the same. So a book like this, it's going to speak to me on some level for that alone.
In the Heart of the Sea is the kind of book I would recommend to people I come across who can't get into non-fiction - which I cast no judgement at, I thought that was me for a very long time. There's a story arc upfront, you know what you're getting into, and there aren't a ton of surprises along the way. Whale attacks whaling ship, leaving the sailors stranded, starving, and thirsty as they figure out how the hell to get back to land, etc.
Where Philbrick really shines is how well researched this is, and the level of detail he explores to show how even just the smallest bit of information, or a slight change in the fates might've altered their story. My favorite example of this is that the crew decides to steer east, for South America, instead of west, for various island chains, because they're afraid of cannibalism. Turns out, they must've missed a story in the Nantucket paper just a few weeks before they departed about how missionaries were now visiting with those same islands. It's really quite astounding how many mishaps had to align for them to end up in the unfortunate situation that they found themselves in.
In addition to going into details in his research, he reflects the same quality in the nature of his writing. I found it incredibly hard to read this without a glass of water or some sort of snack nearby because it was so damn effective at making me feel like I too was near to dying of thirst or hunger.
For the most part, Philbrick does a great job of keeping himself out of the story and letting primary sources do the talking, though there are a few bits when he details the aftermath that felt a little speculative and judgmental - and because he's so good at avoiding doing that in the rest of the story, it made those moments stand out all the more, in a not so great way.
Overall, a reasonably quick and fascinating read, certainly worth your while if the original Moby Dick sounds like something of remote interest. There's a movie coming out this winter, but I'm realllllly nervous that it's going to cheese it up and flub a bunch of the facts, so if you want to read this, it might be a good idea to do it before then....more
I got a little bit nervous before reading The Lathe of Heaven for a couple of reasons. Firstly, so many friends and associates have recommended UrsulaI got a little bit nervous before reading The Lathe of Heaven for a couple of reasons. Firstly, so many friends and associates have recommended Ursula K. LeGuin so I truly hoped to like this book. Secondly, it was my submission for book club (which we choose democratically via a vote), and it's just such a bummer to think about getting something voted into book club then having it not be good. Thankfully, I devoured Lathe of Heaven, just ate it right up. So much so I have a hard time thinking of why anyone wouldn't enjoy this book because it feels so intensely personal, so completely adaptable to the experience of the reader.
Lathe of Heaven is about George Orr, a man who gets caught maxing out his prescription for sleeping pills, because he's trying to avoid dreaming. Why on earth would he want to do that? Well, because every time he dreams at a certain intensity level, he alters reality. As in, he wakes up and his dream has somehow manifested itself into reality, and not just that, but it's accepted as the new reality by all of society, without question. If he dreams of a plague, he'll wake up to find out that humanity was wiped out by a plague several years ago - a revised history, if you will. Having abused sleeping pills, he's given mandatory therapy with Dr. Haber, who discovers George's talents, and uses them to exert his will on mankind and the planet.
This isn't a book where the devil is in the details - Lathe of Heaven isn't where you'll find everything in its perfect place, centered just so with the right contrasting colors like a book version of a Wes Anderson film or something. It's not a book that you pick apart and analyze in that way, and marvel at every little word - Lathe of Heaven is what you pick up when you're ready for something a bit heady, when you're struggling with questions of humanity and our purpose. Which, perhaps, is why it hit especially close with me in this moment - at 30 years old, I'm going through a bit of a "what do I do with my life" period, and Lathe of Heaven truly took me out of myself and into the birds' eye view that sometimes I find myself crawling into late at night, when I can't sleep (go figure). Questions of good and evil and the very nature and purpose of existence. It's not exactly a light read, per se, but I wouldn't call it a struggle, either. I found myself roaring through pages, racing to the end of a chapter - in a fit of anxiety, even, stressed out by it - there were times when I would make myself put it down and take a deep breath and remind myself that it was just a book. But I could never put it down for very long. There's an urgency to it, to know if they'll "fix" humanity, or at the very least, if they'll "fix" George Orr.
Ultimately, I'm not sure I have higher praise for a book than that. I could tell you more about LeGuin's talents: about the masterful way she uses the subconscious - how Dr. Haber's dream suggestions never play out as perfectly as he expects them to, about how something "good" almost always has a "bad" side-effect, and vice-versa, how much I loved Lelache - the strong-willed woman lawyer who George pulls in to this mess, how LeGuin made me feel strangely optimistic about humanity in the face of a story of people who feel quite the opposite, how much I identified with George and his struggle with his centeredness and his "simple" life. But, really, more than even all of that - which are all perfectly wonderful reasons to like Lathe of Heaven - the thing I'll always remember is how it made me feel. The only reason there's not a fifth star up there is because it seems like the kind of book I may need to read more than once - and, based on how I felt about it the first time around, I'm damn certain there will be another.
Edit, April 6th: Had to bump this up, particularly after our book club discussion about it, which I think was one of the more interesting and revealing discussions we've had. I think this book will stay with me awhile....more
It feels a hair pointless to review these one-by-one because no one's going to just pick up Feast for Crows to try and give this a go. (Or at least, nIt feels a hair pointless to review these one-by-one because no one's going to just pick up Feast for Crows to try and give this a go. (Or at least, no one should do that, though perhaps with the show 'n' all, some folks might think of skipping over some books in the series and then jump in somewhere thinking they'll follow along perfectly, and to that I can only say, don't you dare, go back and read the damn books. I like the show and think they've done a great job, but there's a lot more going on in the books, needless to say.)
Storm of Swords was always going to be hard to follow, and with that and Feast for Crows, we see the embodiment of the notion that it's so much more fun (and easier!) to tear something down than it is to put it all back together again. What happens after your world collapses? (Which it well and truly did for both the Starks and the Lannisters, the major players in Westeros thus far.) More collapse, as it turns out. People meandering without a purpose, or simply a very vague notion of one. Feast has a bit of a reputation for being a slog, and it is indeed a bit of one, but it reminds me of Clash of Kings in that vein - it's clearly going somewhere, it just takes awhile to build momentum. While, plot-wise, it's not as inherently interesting or engrossing, if you're drawn to the character development and complexity of these novels, there's still good stuff here, particularly at the end, when it became un-put-down-able, at least for me.
What I loved most about Feast for Crows was how much it revolved around the women in the story, who seem to be doing a lot of picking up of the pieces after the men are dead or otherwise incapacitated.(view spoiler)[ You've got the Sand Snakes trying to get revenge for Oberyn, plotting to rise Myrcella to the Iron throne over Tommen, there's Cersei on the Iron Throne, who's carefully watching over Margery, there's Brienne on her quest to find Sansa... even the men seem focused on the women - Sam trying to protect Gilly, Jaime being pretty much ruled by his in-flux emotions over Cersei, Littlefinger trying to raise Sansa up (as well as himself, obviously). (hide spoiler)] Cersei finally gets the Jaime treatment, i.e. they try and humanize her a bit, which I appreciated, though she's still pretty goddamn awful - one area I think the show improves on the book, actually, is that her awfulness is strangefully lovable in the show. I felt for her more in this book than any of the others, though I wouldn't exactly say she won me over, per se. I feel like Lena Headey is going to completely knock this chapter of Cersei's life out of the park, though. At least I hope so.
I wouldn't call it the finest book of the series, but what are you going to do? Not read it? Stop reading altogether? Oh, please.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A book about Elvis inciting a fight in Mexico as a premise sounds pretty damn incredible, am I right? What's not to love about that? Basically, that aA book about Elvis inciting a fight in Mexico as a premise sounds pretty damn incredible, am I right? What's not to love about that? Basically, that alone was more than enough to sell me, and I already anticipate that I'll need to revisit this one, as life circumstances at the time meant I had to break it up into small chunks instead of breezing through it all at once, like I had wanted to.
Essentially, Elvis is filming a movie in Mexico and wants his accent to be legit - South American Spanish as opposed to Spain Spanish - so he hires Ruibérriz de Torres (who apparently appears in other Marías books) to help him with his pronunciation, but de Torres basically ends up serving as a translator for most of the trip. A fight breaks out during one of the cast and crew's nights out at a bar and things escalate from there.
More than anything, Bad Nature ultimately ends up being about the power of words and language, the intricacies and unintended consequences. To get into it more than that is to over-express the whole thing, and honestly it's so short as to be worth reading..
Part of the reason why I wish I'd read it in one clip is because the first few pages take a bit to get into - Marías writes with a particular rhythm that takes time to adapt to, but ends up being the perfect treatment for the story and the subject.
I'd love to do a deeper dive on this, but it's been awhile now since I've read it, and ultimately, I think it's probably worth your time if you remotely have any interest - it's 57 pages, just go for it.
This is my first and only Marías thus far, and while I don't feel as though I can make any greater conclusions about his work, it was enough that I would consider something else of his, though I've heard decidedly mixed things about The Infatuations. If you've read something of his you've liked, I'd like to hear about it....more
It hurts my heart a little to have an empty box in my review for Winter's Bone because I loved it so much - but the thing is, I loved it so much thatIt hurts my heart a little to have an empty box in my review for Winter's Bone because I loved it so much - but the thing is, I loved it so much that the thought of putting together a comprehensive review seems not only daunting but not totally possible.
I have to cop to finding out about Woodrell's masterful book thanks to the movie, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes in two truly incredible performances. I loved the film version of Winter's Bone so much when I saw it that I put off reading the book for fear that it'd completely ruin the movie for me. While, as is almost always the case, the book easily wins in a duel, the film remains one of the best adaptations of a book I've ever seen. There are some details they changed, as they often do, but the spirit and heart of Ree Dolly's story remains in tact.
Ree Dolly's father, Jessup, puts their family's house up against his bond, so when he goes missing before an upcoming court date, Ree is on a mission to find him, whether dead or alive. She has two siblings to care for, and a catatonic mother who's been left mentally ravaged by assorted tragedy and unable to do anything other than laze around the house and break into emotional fits or listless inaction. More than anything, Ree wants to join the Army, but she can't do that if her family is homeless and has no means of survival.
The problem, you see, is that everyone in the Rathlin Valley, where they live, is mixed up in various illegal activity - mostly cooking, of the drug variety - and hesitant to divulge information and answer questions.
It's a simple and straight-forward story in the best of ways, cutting through your heart like a pickax through the ice. Woodrell hits it all perfectly - a community where as much is meant by what isn't said as what is, the blistering beauty of winter, the devastating nature of young-adulthood. Ree is a woman forced to grow up far too soon, as many of her friends and family are, and you mourn, not only for everything that's resting upon her shoulders, but for the carefree childhood she'll never have (and is trying to give to her brothers).
On a personal level, I have to mention that this is one of those books where, if you're a member of the "absent parent club," this is going to speak to you. The thing about having a parent who's not around when you're growing up - whether by abandonment, death, or otherwise - is that you sort of develop an instant kinship with others who are in the same boat, and I have no doubts that's part of why Winter's Bone speaks so strongly to me.
Truly, I don't know that I can do this justice, and considering that it took me about two or three days to read, I give it my highest recommendation, to just about anyone. I'll definitely be rereading it, without question....more
The best part of Crash was the "Introduction to the French Edition" that's included at the start and isn't in all of the copies. In it, Ballard makesThe best part of Crash was the "Introduction to the French Edition" that's included at the start and isn't in all of the copies. In it, Ballard makes a compelling case for the importance of science-fiction and writing about the future, and a solid argument for why he thought to combine sex and car crashes. Unfortunately, that's the only time in 200-ish pages that he had me convinced.
Ballard's tale of people who get aroused by car crashes and mutilated bodies has aged poorly. In the '70s, it was still predicting the future, and the subject matter was probably still shocking. But in a time when we've seen technology and sex combine in myriad ways, and books like 50 Shades of Grey are being read by middle-aged women on the beach (not that I find that shocking, either, but I'm sure they would've in the '70s), it doesn't feel stunning, or for that matter, correct.
Ballard was right about the isolating effect technology has had on sex, and computers, like the cars in Crash, do serve as a vessel. But the computer itself isn't the fantasy. The computer simply connects the fantasies. One could make the argument that the early days of computer technology did play a more direct role in sexual fantasies in that before things like webcams, you were typing, and the act of typing and describing sex was the turn-on (well, and the rubbing one out part). Now computers have webcams, and you can find free porn in a wealth of places, and the computer doesn't have the same role, per se, in the sex, beyond being a device for communicating or the means of delivery.
Frankly, though, I expected the connection between the crashes and the sex to be stronger. He's trying to convince the reader that the car crashes are what turns these people on, but when you look at it closely, it's the injuries and just having sex in cars that seems to do it for them. They look at photos of surgical and medical textbooks and it seems to give them a similar thrill. The attempts to blend the two was tenuous at best. I kept expecting them to fuck each other with parts of the car, or to start beating each other bloody during sex, or to drive while having sex, or to get in car crashes and then bang in the wreckage, and none of that ever happened. Granted, maybe that's the point - that faced with all of this, the mind just conjures up ways that it could be more explicit.
It seems like he was reaching for that kind of point, but it didn't fully come through. Ballard writes in this dry, repetitive, clinical style that makes the book boring. Trying to make the sensational and horrific boring could very well be the point, except that works against the other point that he's trying to make, which is that technology will become a significant part of our sex lives - I mean, wouldn't you want your readers to be turned on? That, to me, would've been more horrifying - to experience the same sexual drive and thrill as the characters do from all this carnage. Instead, the language isolates the reader and deadens them to the whole experience. The boring-ification of sex and car crashes doesn't say much about the merging of sex and technology so much as it says something about the way media and news are produced and presented right now.
I don't regret reading it, but I can't say I enjoyed the experience or would want to subject myself to it again. ...more
This is the review I accidentally closed-out, half finished, but it's okay. I didn't have a great start to it, and in all truth, I still don't. Much lThis is the review I accidentally closed-out, half finished, but it's okay. I didn't have a great start to it, and in all truth, I still don't. Much like the book itself, my feelings about Cloud Atlas are all over the place.
Like a quilt, David Mitchell weaves together interlocking stories -- of Adam Ewing, a notary on a distressing sea voyage -- of Robert Frobisher, an ambitious young composer studying under his hero -- of Luisa Rey, a journalist with a dangerous scoop -- of Timothy Cavendish, a finicky publisher who suddenly hits bank -- of Sonmi~451, a genetically engineered fabricant (clone), who works in an exploitative fast food chain -- and of Zachry, a goat herder whose community is constantly raided by a neighboring violent tribe.
Each story takes place in a different time period, is written in a different style, and generally uses a different kind of language or conversational voice. As far as the more technical aspects of writing go - tone, structure, vocabulary - Mitchell truly puts on a clinic. Not only would Cloud Atlas fail in lesser hands, I don't think someone without a certain level of confidence would even imagine to attempt such a thing. It's all a bit overwhelming to even think about, let alone talk about, which is what makes it so difficult to write a review for.
The stories are connected in a multitude of ways - through the plot (one character finds a book about the previous one, or some letters, or a movie, or a manuscript, or a video), as well as the themes. Whether from a broad or narrow view, most of the stories are about the whys and hows of humans exploiting and manipulating one another - for power, for money, for fame. It's sad but not unrealistic that Mitchell sees this cycle continuing well into the future. (Additionally, some of the main characters share a birthmark, which I found a bit heavy-handed.)
All in all, it's deeply impressive, down to every last detail, from the way that language is shortened in the future to more product-name slang ("disneys" for films, "sonys" for portable computers), to the way that the novel follows the pattern of Frobisher's "Cloud Atlas Sextet," or how Cavendish talks about his seemingly sly literary references that he thinks might go over others' heads (which seems to be a nod to some of Mitchell's literary references, as well).
However [dum dum dum], while much of Cloud Atlas was dizzying, outstanding, impressive, etc., there was something missing for me that would've taken it into that highest level of book enjoyment, and that's heart, soul. It's honestly a bit sad to me that something that hinges so much upon the perseverance of spirit, the strength of the human soul, didn't, for me, seem to have much.
In this case, what makes the novel is also what slightly breaks it - hovering above each story by expending a lot of effort and thought on style and format, the reader doesn't touch down long enough with each character to develop a strong connection to all of them. To some extent this may be the point - we hear all sorts of stories, meet all sorts of people in our lives, and not all of them speak to us or reach us. In this case, though, what's strong is so strong that it makes the rest of what's there look more pale in its shadow. I could've spent a whole book with Frobisher, but Zachry's segment was the very definition of grueling. I was interested in each story, but that's not exactly the same as caring. Parts I read because I was curious to see what happened, but only in a few cases did I form an emotional attachment to any of the characters. I don't need to like them, per se, but I do want to feel some sort of reaction to them. (view spoiler)[I was sad when Frobisher killed himself, in part because it didn't feel entirely consistent with his character - he has so much pride, not only in himself, but in his work, and I'd think he'd want to live on if only for that - but also because he was the character I felt most for. I liked Adam Ewing and Sonmi~451, but mostly out of sympathy - Ewing for not realizing sooner what was going on, and Sonmi~451 because there was just no way for her to get a decent lot in life. (hide spoiler)]
It could be, in part, because I had heard so many people rave about this that I went into it with expectations that were a little too high. Or, it might've been because I knew so much about the stories already from the (not great) movie. I just ended up wanting a little bit more than it could deliver. That said, with so much going on here, I do think Cloud Atlas lends itself to multiple readings, and this may be one that I end up coming back to in a few years.
It's definitely a fresh and innovative work, and was a good choice to start off the New Year with. I think readers who are drawn to writers who play with concept and form, or who want to read something that tackles life at a higher level, will particularly like this one. I appreciate and enjoy all of those things - I just also want to be rendered into a speechless pile of mush (whether from sadness or from joy) at the same time.
Also have to note that I read this in conjunction with my cousin Kelly, who some of you might know from her fantastic reviews on here. Looking forward to reading her thoughts about it, as well.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more