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
A collection of stories connected by items in a suitcase - things our narrator brought with him upon emigrating from the USSR. Who the "he" is, exactlA collection of stories connected by items in a suitcase - things our narrator brought with him upon emigrating from the USSR. Who the "he" is, exactly, is a bit curious. While billed as a novel, our narrator seems to be Dovlatov himself, though when contrasted with what is known of his life, it doesn't hold up as firm autobiography, nor as complete fiction -- hovering in that all-too familiar place of half-truth.
It becomes clear each item in the suitcase has outgrown its usefulness, the suitcase having been long buried in a closet and rediscovered only when a child pulls it out. The things are shuffled through and kept, not because they're needed - and it forces one to consider what items truly are, for that matter - but because of the memories they trigger, or the great personal cost it took to acquire them.
The stories shift from being darkly comic to simply dark as time goes on, and while the narrative isn't strictly chronological, it does move vaguely from youth to jobs, marriage, children, emigration. If you're looking for political commentary, it only holds so much - Dovlatov, or at least the Dovlatov of the book, openly admits that he's not the type to make a fuss and tends to accept things in a matter-of-fact way. He's happy to point out flaws in the system, and even to maneuver around them, but isn't the slashing tires, starting fires sort of guy.
The only fault was simply that I wanted more, but from what I've seen, Dovlatov seems to be a devotee of shorter works, which our 200-page-limit book club that I read this for has truly given me an appreciation for. Considering how many of the big Russians of literature are long-winded, I can appreciate someone who goes down as easy as vodka*.
*for the characters in The Suitcase, that is. For me, it'd be whiskey. I left my taste for vodka back in college. Though I admit this made me briefly reconsider....more
I tend to be hesitant to read buzzworthy authors in the midst of their ascendancy, only because I have a rebellious streak in me and I often go in toI tend to be hesitant to read buzzworthy authors in the midst of their ascendancy, only because I have a rebellious streak in me and I often go in to those kinds of books wanting to tear them apart. But I know this about myself, which is why I try to wait a bit in an attempt to give each book its best shot at dazzling me. I feel like I've heard about Ferrante all year - more-so for her most recent book/series, The Neopolitan Novels, but also for this (and for the mystery surrounding her identity).
I have to say, if The Days of Abandonment is representative of the rest of her works, then I completely get why Elena Ferrante's name is gracing so many lips lately.
A whirlwind tale of Olga, whose husband, Mario, leaves her - and their two children, and dog - to fend for their family in the wake of his abandonment. I haven't been married, nor do I have children, but if you've been through any particularly devastating separation or break-up you'll recognize at least some of the emotions that are here: feeling like the world is crashing down without you being able to support its full weight, your mind drifting down paths it shouldn't - explicit imagery of sexual betrayal, self-loathing, the destructive hunger to make yourself feel better even for a moment, without regard to consequences.
Ferrante introduces us to these characters slowly - for example, we learn their names incidentally, naturally, as opposed to deliberately - as though we have happened upon their story by chance. Her prose has a natural grace, not too simple nor to flowery, and reads with both ease and with depth - a line about something that initially feels innocuous will unexpectedly send you reeling.
What makes Olga so wonderful is that she feels so true to life - she's neither a desperate lump of a woman who can't function without a man, nor is she some sort of superwoman who sheds men like skin - she's parts of both, at different times and in different ways. She both gets openly frustrated with her children and knows how to soothe them. She wants to lash out at Mario and at times she does - but at other times, restrains herself. She represents not only the fragments of life that remain when someone has removed themselves, but the way we put ourselves back together.
This is probably readable in a cozy afternoon, but honestly, it was a bit too intense for me to handle in one sitting. (view spoiler)[Especially the part where Otto dies - as a dog co-owner, that just gutted me. (hide spoiler)] I would devour it in huge chunks, then have to walk away for a bit, because it was a little too upsetting at times - which is a compliment to Ferrante, don't get me wrong.
Another one that may end up getting that fifth star in a month or two, and certainly more than enough for me to seek out Ferrante again.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'd like to start by saying that is the first of the classic hard-boiled detective novels I've read, so I don't have much of a touchstone for if thisI'd like to start by saying that is the first of the classic hard-boiled detective novels I've read, so I don't have much of a touchstone for if this is a good example, or a good starting place, or what. The genre appeals to me, but without anything to compare, it's hard for me to know how this measures up to other books of a similar nature.
Red Harvest is the tale of Personville, known to the locals as Poisonville, and "The Continental Op" - as he's known in the Hammett world, he never gives a name in the story - a hired gun who tries to clean the town up. The Op comes to Personville to meet with a newspaper publisher, only for the publisher to be murdered at about the time they were supposed to meet. The publisher's father, who at one point was the great power behind the town, hires the Op to roust some thugs who have taken control of the town into their own hands through various ways - plants in the police dept, bootlegging, armies of thugs, bank robberies, murders, other means of intimidation.
Torn on the rating for this, because while I started out enjoying it, as the ending approached, I was a bit underwhelmed. A lot of my favorite films and books with this kind of thuggery are making a bigger point, which is why I like them - Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire, "The Sopranos," "The Wire" - they all use wars, deception, large scale power plays as a front for a larger commentary on power and violence, and that makes them purposeful. I'm not opposed to action for action's sake, and generally don't have a problem with a story that's simply that - a story, and not a vehicle for a deeper meaning. So I can't quite fix why I wasn't totally satisfied with the way this story wrapped up.
It's not that I minded all the shooting and double-crossing - I enjoyed all of that, it's just that it feels... hollow. And maybe that's the point here, that this town has been reduced to an endless circle of crime - crime as payback for crime, with no deeper justice or purpose. The most powerful moment in all of Red Harvest is when the Op tells Dinah Brand - the only woman with a major role in the book, and naturally she "gets around" and is a bit greedy - that he feels like Personville is turning him into someone who enjoys murder and killing, and that that isn't him. To which I'm skeptical - you're a special operative, isn't that part of your job? But then that could also be the point - that Personville is simply reflecting a not-so-hidden desire.
I also wonder if modern storytelling, as obsessed with twists, shocks, and surprise as it is, has ruined something like this for me. I was expecting a certain amount of surprise, and instead it felt straight-forward and obvious. Which, again, isn't inherently bad, just not what I had expected. (view spoiler)[I was kind of hoping, in a way, that he had killed Dinah, because that really would've been a commentary on the state of his soul - but, alas. Even thought it felt like he wanted the reader to think it was a possibility, I never truly suspected the Op of doing it. (hide spoiler)]
The writing is probably the best part - cutting, direct, snappy and full of alliteration and hilarious quips. However, there are a handful of times where practicality/normality are forfeited in the name of style. I can absolutely buy into a world where everyone is clever all of the time without question, but mess with speech patterns too much and you'll take me out of the story - for example, when the Op and the dead man's wife are talking about suspects, she says, "It was he, it was he" and that's just not natural speech flow - it made me do a double-take. However, on the whole, there aren't many moments like this, and they're cancelled out by the moments that are quite hysterical - you should see a few below in the "quotes" - but this one from early on was one of my favorites:
"Who shot him?" I asked. The grey man scratched the back of his neck and said: "Somebody with a gun."
The writing is also particularly vivid, and you can understand easily why these kinds of novels make such great films.
The major thing that stands out in comparing this with Denis Johnson's Nobody Move, which I read earlier this year and loved, is that there just doesn't seem to be a place for women in this world, and I don't know that that's necessarily Hammett's short-coming as it is a sign of the times. Dinah - who drinks incessantly, fraternizes with criminals, and as I mention above is fairly money-driven - is actually a strong character, both internally in that she can stand to Personville's baddest criminals, and externally in that she even manhandles the guy who is more or less functioning as her bodyguard. The Op's initial treatment of her is harsh - he criticizes her crooked lipstick and the runs in her stockings, and makes fun that a woman who's a bit unkempt could be the town's criminal heartthrob. She eventually wins him over, but still - it's not a happy story for her (not that it is a particularly happy story for anyone), or for any of the other women who make brief appearances - the wife of the dead journalist, and the hysterical/crazy sister of one of the mobsters, who can't even so much as speak.
Despite its flaws, this was a fun read, and good enough that I'll be moved to pick up Hammett again in the future.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Oh, Bunny, Bunny, Bunny. Who knew such a silly, childish name could provoke such sorrow? But for The Secret History readers that name brings a certainOh, Bunny, Bunny, Bunny. Who knew such a silly, childish name could provoke such sorrow? But for The Secret History readers that name brings a certain twinge of sadness, because The Secret History is the story of Bunny's death, not so much the how as the why, and the resulting tailspin for his band of Greek/Classics-loving companions at Hampden College, a stand-in for Tartt's alma mater, Bennington. (And, as every reviewer is obligated to mention - Bunny's death is not a spoiler - in a delicious bit of trickery, it happens on the very first page, which, for the record, I made my boyfriend read the minute I had finished it because it is such a tasty, tasty hook.)
This book has left quite the wake in its aftermath, left me sort of grasping at straws and not totally sure how to go about putting my thoughts and feelings into words. What I do in those situations is come to trusty ol' GR and read some reviews by my friends and by random users, and sometimes that helps me collect myself enough to write a review (and sometimes not, ha!)
The feedback on The Secret History reminds me quite a bit of the feedback on Night Film - and I get why. There are some very similar themes here: obsession, cliques/cults, murder/mystery/intrigue, haughty intellectuals. In both cases, I like the books quite a lot, but I do understand why others don't - unlikable characters, questions of plausibility, dealing with extreme behaviors. All fair criticisms. I also cop to being pretty much the intended audience for this kind of story. At the same time, I'm often wont to believe that these kinds of books, books that produce such wildly divergent, intense reactions - whether good or bad - are bound to be, if not good, at least inherently interesting. (I would say that at least Secret History detractors have to admit that, but there were a few people who said they found this slow, which I can't quite fathom.)
In a bit of a Great Gatsby-ish device, our narrator, Richard Papen, is probably the least interesting character of the bunch, and he doesn't feel central to the story so much as peripheral - watching things unfold, but not completely in the thick of them. This feels quite deliberate, however, because Richard is also probably the least obnoxious and perplexing of the students whose lives we spy on. Bunny, well, dies, and that after-death narration is a bit hokey and played-out. Henry is too calculating, too cold, and likely far more charming as a mysterious sociopath than as a rationalized one. Charles is too drunk to be reliable. His twin, Camilla, is the only woman, who for some reason constantly hangs out with these guys, and god help me girl, don't you have any female friends? And that leaves Francis, who's probably the closest to being "normal" other than Richard, but who, like the others, comes from a rich family. You see, in another bit of Gatsbyness, Richard is poor, and constantly lies about his family in an attempt to fit in.
The Secret History plays hard on that notion of otherness, and if you've never experienced it, this book might not click as hard for you. As someone who's dealt with and felt an otherness through most of my life, I was hit right in the chest by the truth in it. My high school definitely had a "smart kid" clique (10 Things I Hate About You, anyone? Like that, but a touch less yuppie), and I definitely wasn't smart enough to be part of it. I also wasn't outgoing, or rich, or pretty enough to be part of the popular kid clique, and fell into this sort of band of "weird" kids who I never felt like I totally fit in with, either. I fared better in college, where I fell in with the "indie/alternative" kids, but I had touchstones in a lot of groups - friends on the radio station and the newspaper, friends in sororities, friends in athletics. My friends have always been differing sorts of people, and I've often felt like I've never totally "fit in" anywhere. Much like Richard, in my younger days I was definitely prone to lying or being someone other than my truest self in attempts to try to make friends who seemed somehow better than me - smarter, prettier, more popular, etc. Not my proudest moments, and a habit I'm long over, thank god.
What this means for Richard is that he's constantly feeling out of his league, and prone to put his friends on pedestals, even as their faults are revealed and flaunted before his very eyes. Bunny, Henry, Charles, Camilla, and Francis all get whiffs of Richard's lies, and he eventually gets whiffs of theirs. It builds an inherent distrust in the relationships, on all sides - one that blossoms after Bunny's death - because once you uncover a lie or a secret, you begin to wonder about all the other lies and secrets, and that's why even just one can have quite a bit of power - keep pulling the loose thread, and eventually the whole thing unravels. (One thing I love about the title is that it works in both ways - it's both the secrets of the friends' shared history, and the history of their shared secrets.)
The setting is something of a character of its own, and as someone who both lives in Vermont and works at a small liberal arts college in the neighboring state of New Hampshire, let me tell you, she gets it dead-on accurate. As much as I enjoy where I live (for now, probably not forever), it is nothing if not slightly claustrophobic, and certainly would be boring-as-all-get-out if I hadn't already spent every year of my life until I moved here within an hour of a major city. For kids of a young age, it's got to be boring as fuck, and just far away enough that trips to the nearest cities (Boston, Portland, Montreal - I just can't count Burlington, it's tiny) are exhausting to make in a single night, and best saved for weekends. The result is a lot of pent up energy with nowhere to put it, unless you're the hiking and skiing sort, which usually translates to alcoholism, drug abuse, and other such vices and sundries. For that reason, I don't have quite the same issues of disbelief with some of the events in The Secret History that those who haven't lived here might. I've seen and heard the kind of trouble that kids in rural areas get up to.
Part of what makes The Secret History so chilling is how easy it is to forget that Richard, Bunny, Henry, Camilla, Charles, and Francis are young, because they try so hard to act like adults, and succeed in many ways. Their tea-drinking, large lunch bills, and dinner parties are frequently juxtaposed with the activities of Richard's hallmates, who are often partying in a manner more typical of college students. At each of these moments, it's a little bit of a jolt because they seem to be operating in a whole different world, not just the room next door. But as their little intellectual utopia unravels, we see all the ways that they are young adults, who've been masquerading as being older and more wise than they really are. A few GR folks have pointed out that there are errors with regards to the Greek and Latin in the book, and I honestly think that's why - they're posturing as being a lot smarter than they actually are. Part of this adult worship surely stems from their relationship with Julian, their professor - he plays God by controlling their school work (and thus their thought, in a lot of ways) and their schedules, and they willingly put him up there, without ever trying to tear him down. (view spoiler)[ Which is why it's such a gut punch - though completely delicious, satisfying, and not surprising - when he just up and ditches them. "If there's a God, then he's an asshole" etc. (hide spoiler)]
As an adult, Julian was the only character I struggled with, and the only plausibility that I tripped on - the whole "Isrami" storyline felt like an unnecessary distraction, though it does bring up interesting questions about what landed him at Hampden in the first place. If he's so famous, so well-connected, what's he doing at a tiny college in the middle of nowhere?
When I was 80 pages from the end last night, my only true criticism of The Secret History was that I didn't feel emotionally moved by it, buuuuuut as I got through those last 80 pages, holy cow, did I ever break down and cry. Not quite sobbing like a baby style crying, but "good lord this is sad and tragic and fucked up" crying.
Part of the final verdict of a book for me, is always how I feel about it later on down the line - weeks later, months later, years later. There have been a few instances of books that I've loved rapturously the moment I closed them, but my true favorites tend to be the ones that burn a little slower, that linger in unexpected ways. I've got a good feeling about your longevity in my brain, Secret History, but time will tell...["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Forgive me, for I have sinned - I saw the movie of this before reading the book. I know, I know. Thing is, when I first heard of Ender's Game, it wasForgive me, for I have sinned - I saw the movie of this before reading the book. I know, I know. Thing is, when I first heard of Ender's Game, it was before I had read much sci-fi, and I wasn't completely convinced that sci-fi was for me. Which is silly, obviously, and ever since I started copy-editing it (which I sadly had to stop doing this year after taking on my full-time gig), my mind was considerably more open. A good friend of mine had been recommending the book to me for years, so I finally picked it up.
In the future of Ender's Game, children are born and raised on government order, and trained to be fighters - largely in search of the next great military mind and leader to fight against an impending alien invasion by "the buggers." Ender Wiggins is the third child in his family, and because the government controls breeding, three children is very rare. But his brother, Peter, was too ruthless, his sister Valentine was too compassionate - and so they hoped Ender would be the perfect blend. Ender is extremely gifted and quickly progresses through the various schools and trainings that will eventually lead him to be a commander of an army to fight the buggers.
Ender is manipulated throughout the entirety of his training - isolated from others either physically or psychologically. He's propped up as a hero from the moment he begins, then behind the scenes is forced to endure any number of tortures, from being unprotected in fights in hopes that he won't rely on others to save him, to being hated by others simply because he's so good and consistently outperforming them. They continually break rules of training in order to bring the pain to Ender - to wear him down physically and mentally, to keep him on his toes and always guessing, because combat has no rules, and combat never gives you a chance to rest.
Ender is so smart because he operates in a way that's reactionary, as well as based on innovation and research. He would bring new strategies and techniques to the BattleRoom - a large, gravity-free space where groups of students fight each other as their training - then when the others teams begin adopting them, he'd introduce something new, or revert to the old ways. He's not afraid to try dumb or obvious things in the name of winning, and finds success, even when rules are broken to try to stop him. His talent eventually attracts a legion of followers, but as respect, not as friends. He's alone and lonely, and in a constant state of moral dilemma over using his talents to kill.
Some criticisms of the book are that Ender doesn't feel like a fully developed character, and I think that's both the point and the problem - in this system, Ender is developed only as a war machine. It's the only way he knows to exist or function, because it's the only way he's allowed to. We don't learn about his hobbies or opinions about politics or favorite foods because he's not allowed to develop or experience these things. He's simply a tool of war, and that's part of the problem of raising and training people for such an explicit purpose: you don't allow them to grow our flourish, you give them one thing they're good at, and they can't do anything else. (See also: our current military system. I'm far from an expert in this area, but I think the movie The Hurt Locker shows an interesting perspective on this - war is hell, but for some people, it's all they know, and they become so used to it that they're uncomfortable and helpless in any other scenario).
My biggest nitpick is that I don't think the book made enough attempts at rationalizing the use of children. I get the idea that if you start training kids to be fighters at 6 that they'll become ruthless machines, but I didn't get the sense that the society at large struggled with the idea of sending their children off to war. No one seemed moved or effected by it, and I have a hard time believing that humanity would be so callous as to not have any sense of wrong-doing or guilt, no matter how scared we were. The specific commanders are occasionally wary of being "too hard" on Ender because he's so young, but that's about as far as it goes. If I'm comparing this with The Hunger Games, for example, at least in Panem there's this overtone of, "It's horrible that all these children have to die" - even if that sentiment has the modifier of "...but it's what we have to do to keep you in line." And maybe that's just Card's sad vision for the future - that we'll be so scared about an alien invasion as to send kids off to become soldiers and have no remorse about it, but I still think it'd be a stronger book, emotionally, if there was a bit more humanity in all of it. I'm also not entirely convinced by the idea that the children are inherently smarter than the adults, even if they are baby geniuses that have had military training since 6 - there's just a sort of intelligence that comes with age, and while I've never fought in a war nor do I have plans to, I also had a bit of a hard time believing that the adults willingly adopt an attitude of "We're too dumb to fight, bring in the kiddies!" My other nitpick is that the Locke-Demosthenes storyline felt a bit tacked on as an attempt to give us a bit of a break from Ender, and not as fleshed-out as it could've or should've been.
Overall, though, there's plenty of good here, even though I saw the end coming (which I did, even when watching the movie - so called that shit), and I'm not sure that Card intended it to be a total surprise, since it feels pretty heavily hinted at throughout.
The bigger picture idea of "Who are we fighting and why" as well as the fallout and mental damage on military personnel feels worth dwelling on in these times, of course, and that's probably the sad thing about why Ender's Game will have such perpetuity - war is eternal, or at least it probably will be for as long as we pesky humans are around.
This is apparently just the first in a whole series, and I'm not sure I'll get through all of them - however, everyone says Speaker for the Dead, the follow-up, is fantastic, so I'll probably at least get that far.
Edit, November 5, 2014: I watched the movie again now that I've read the book, and it's... not great. I'm not surprised, though, because the book presents a lot of challenges to adaptation in a visual format - it takes place over the course of several years, and it is so focused on Ender's mind, and aside from voice-over, which is largely terrible, presenting Ender's internal struggle into film is going to be inherently difficult. The movie actually humanized all of the characters more than their book versions, and made Ender seem considerably more friendly with the others than he's portrayed as being in the book. I do think that maybe the book puts too much burden on jealousy as a bar to friendship, but then, the commanders of the various schools are deliberately isolating Ender in so many ways. Isolation makes for a terrible movie, and even though all of the battles are interesting in the books, converting years and years of play battles into a movie isn't going to work. It might make for a good TV show, but there's just too much here to fit into a film....more
The scariest movie to me will probably always be The Shining* (no, I haven't read the book), because it subverts the two things that are scariest: 1.The scariest movie to me will probably always be The Shining* (no, I haven't read the book), because it subverts the two things that are scariest: 1. One's own mind turning in on itself, 2. Not being able to trust someone you used to trust implicitly (which is basically an off-shoot of #1, since one would hope to be able to trust oneself). When I watched You're Next with my boyfriend last night, it wasn't so much the movie itself that scared me, as the thought of the ways that my mind might twist it and make it worse in nightmares - which is why I always make us watch something funny before bed.
Even though the set-up sounds fairly standard - a Dr. invites two women to live in a haunted house and study it, and a man who's to inherit the house comes along - The Haunting of Hill House is definitely a touchstone in the great tradition of haunted house tales, and while I haven't read The Shining, it's fairly obvious that King was influenced by Jackson and this book.
I struggle a bit in thinking about how to review this - I worry about giving too much away, though I'm not sure that standard plot spoilers would truly damage anyone's reaction. As with so many good scary things, the fear is so personal, so internalized, that telling you what happens may not render the reading experience any less potent.
Still, I loathe to ruin something so great for anyone, but there are a few things I can still tell you.
Firstly, Jackson's writing style - I just ate it all up. Equal turns blunt and meandering, Jackson's rhythm for The Haunting of Hill House worked perfectly - smooth in places and ragged in others, keen observations passed as slight remarks, only to have you notice their importance later on.
I admit to having a love for being deceived, and for decent chunks of what was happening, I cop to being none-the-wiser until the very end. Jackson doesn't spell anything out all the way, and I have a feeling that were I to read this all over again, I'd be doing a lot of "ohhhh." That's probably what I loved most of all about this book - it's not scary in a blood-guts-and-gore kind of way, but a slowly sinking realization, the kind that might make you feel a bit "eh" at first, but gets scarier and scarier the more you wrap your mind around it.
There was a moment where I wondered if Jackson was inspired by a true-life Vermont scary story - Eleanor, who basically takes on the role of main character in Haunting of Hill House, was invited by the Dr. because as a child, rocks kept continuously falling on her house, with no explanation why. This made me think of the Waterman house in Windsor, VT, which is just down the street from my boyfriend's parents. Legend has it the Watermans experienced a phenomena where their house continually kept filling up with water, with no logical reason. It even rained inside the house. This continued for a few days, then stopped at random. This happened a few years before Hill House came out, and Jackson was, unsurprisingly, fascinated by this kind of stuff, so I wonder if it might've inspired her.
Honestly, I'm not doing this justice, and I'm not sure that I can, but I'm interested to see how the discussion in book club plays out. A good one to read if you like your scares with a dose of smarts.
Edit, Nov. 6, 2014: We had the discussion for this in book club last night, and I think this is officially the first book we all liked. (see my "black books" shelf if you're interested in others we've read.)
Also, I forgot to mention: we watched the movie version, The Haunting - the 1963 one, not the newer one, which I'm told is atrocious (and I will probably watch it anyway). One interesting thing about the film is that it significantly played up a romance - or at least some kind of tension - between Eleanor and the Dr., which I found to be an intriguing concept. The book is more clearly pushing her towards Luke, but I could see her going for the Doctor, as well - someone protective and grounded. Despite some significant plot changes (that romantic implication, the total removal of the wife's companion), it was a great film and worth watching for those who enjoyed this....more
I first have to thank Goodreads for putting Turning of the Screw in my path -- in my hunt for scary reads for this month, I consulted a few "best scarI first have to thank Goodreads for putting Turning of the Screw in my path -- in my hunt for scary reads for this month, I consulted a few "best scary books," "best gothic books" GR lists and found this one on quite a lot of them, so thank you, Goodreads.
The set-up for Turn of the Screw is rather charming - a gentleman surrounded by a group of friends, sharing this passed-down story from his old caretaker/governess - quite literally passed down in that he has to refer to her hand-written pages. We never get her name, or any sort of background about her, other than that she was a governess for our initial narrator, as well as in the larger story. He goes on to read from her pages, about a time when a handsome stranger approached her in the guise of looking for care for his niece and nephew, who he inherited through a string of family accidents, but can't be bothered to care for in any way other than material - he's got them set up in a house with servants, in an out of sight, out of mind type of deal. His only request is that she doesn't bother him about their care. NOT WEIRD AT ALL.
Though delighted with the children who by and large act like angels - which I admit is highly suspicious in and of itself, even good kids have their not-so-good moments, especially with authority figures - she slowly becomes convinced that the ghosts of their former caretakers are coming after them, and that the children are even engaged and delighted by the thought of being reunited with these ghastly spirits.
An interesting point of comparison for this with Haunting of Hill House is that in both stories the actual drama (regardless of whether or not it can be vouched for as "true") is quite low, plot-wise. The real hook-line-and-sinker is what's going on in the heads of our narrators, whose questionable mental states elevate the smallest bit of oddity or tension into an all-out crisis. It makes for a reading experience that's like a vise - pressure builds and builds until you feel like it's going to burst, and in both cases, closing the book brings a strange sort of relief. Even though I read it in only a few days, it felt like it took so much longer because of the intensity that comes along with the experience - it felt like carrying a weight of sorts. I couldn't put it down and probably would've blasted through it in a single day had it not been for the hectic schedule that is my life right now.
James manages to build a lot more tension with a lot less action, but his narrator is also considerably more hysterical and over-wrought. Admittedly it's a bit much at times, which is why I struggled considerably more with the question of the narrator's sanity in this, even though we're given no reasons to be wary based on her past experiences (as compared with Hill House's Eleanor). The build up in Hill House is gradual, which means Eleanor had more success in putting me in her corner. That said, it raises the point of intent for the reader in each case - how much are we supposed to be questioning the narrators, and is there a specific point where we're supposed to begin our questioning, or a point where our doubt is supposed to be greatest? I appreciated both responses and approaches.
I stumbled over the wording in Turning of the Screw at points, and I can't honestly say if that's just a time period thing for me since I tend to read more modern works, or if that's a style and structure in this particular instance kind of thing, but it's the one aspect of the book that made it less of a smooth ride.
I was glad to have it as a touchstone for collecting my thoughts about Haunting of Hill House - having not read much in the realm of scary works, it was hard for me to totally develop my feelings on it (as evidenced by my scattered review), and reading these two back-to-back made for a fun experience, both on a superficial level of pure enjoyment, as well as a deeper, more analytic level. As I mentioned in my review for Hill House, psychological horror is far and away my favorite kind, so if anyone has any similar reads to recommend, do let me know. (Rosemary's Baby is definitely on the list!)...more
The funny thing about my readership of Murakami thus far is that I've somehow wound up reading what others tell me are his more "normal," straight-forThe funny thing about my readership of Murakami thus far is that I've somehow wound up reading what others tell me are his more "normal," straight-forward works, compared to his major works that are apparently darker and more surreal - which totally sounds like my kind of thing, but for whatever reason, I haven't read any of those yet, not remotely by design. Clearly, this needs to change.
However, the things of his I have read, no matter how simple they may be in comparison to his other works, are more than enough to keep me coming back to his pages for more.
After Dark isn't so much the story of people, or an event, but moreso the story of time and place. Murakami describes Tokyo as a giant creature with many organisms, arteries, and cells. If you've ever flown above a big city, you've surely had this thought (or similar) - same for if you've ever lived in one. Walk through Times Square during rush hour, ride a packed subway through a series of channels, and you'll feel like just one of many worker bees in a hive, one ant in the colony, so on and so forth. In that kind of setting, shoved into small spaces with thousands, millions around you, you naturally start to wonder about the people around you, especially the ones you don't know - the Meatloaf look-alike bartender at your corner bar, the old woman who sits on her stoop and says the same phrase in a foreign-language at you every time you walk by, the old drunk who's sitting, hungover, in front of the liquor store every morning. Some of these strangers you may get to know, others you'll see repeatedly and never exchange a word. After Dark explores the way these inner-city worlds may (or may not) be connected, like "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," but with people in Tokyo.
Through the eyes of an assortment of characters - mostly focused around two sisters, Mari and Eri Asai - Murakami takes us through Tokyo over the course of a night, while much of its inhabitants are asleep, save those who don't often get their stories told - the staff and inhabitants of Love Hotels, night-shift workers, diner-dwellers, basement artists, criminals, etc.
The narrative is cinematic, constantly shifting. At points, Murakami describes scenes as though seen through a lens - at others we touch down into the minds of the people we follow. To add to the seedy, illicit feeling that seems to inherently accompany stories that take place in the dark, it often feels as though we are watching things unfold through security cameras, able to look into a scene when there are no people around to witness. It feels set-up to be made in a film, almost.
After Dark certainly dips into dark and surreal places, both through the narrative, the events that unfold, and the style and structure, though it doesn't stay in them for long. Murakami writes in a way that some may find uneven - at times using words like precious things, not a superfluous one in place, and then at other times, using entire paragraphs to describe a person or a room, detail-oriented down to what specific song is playing. He creates mood and tone like a master, setting up After Dark to be filled with tension and unsettling in ways you can't quite put your finger on.
While this may not be quite as "out there" as some of his other works, I still think it's going to challenge readers in its own ways. People who cling to character studies, story arcs, neat and tidy ends with no loose strings, or who need some sort of over-arching moral or reason behind what they read are likely going to think this falls flat, because you'll find very little of proper, traditional technique here. There's no deus-ex-machina that's going to tie it all together, and not much of anything gets "solved" or "explained," and things like that tend to tick people off, let's be real.
Personally, I'll always be drawn to those kinds of writers because fuck our traditional notions of how things play out. I don't need the couple to get together in the end, I don't need the hero to defeat the bad guy. Fuck those boring endings served up on a platter designed to please. So more often in life, we're left without closure, without answers, with stories that just trickle off into nothingness - it may not be as satisfying for people to read, but what reflects life is always going to be more real, more lasting to me....more
Years back, I had a discussion with a friend where I argued that writing a good short story is not necessarily less difficult than writing a novel jusYears back, I had a discussion with a friend where I argued that writing a good short story is not necessarily less difficult than writing a novel just because it's shorter (granted, I've never written a novel, so I admit that I'm full of shit in some extent here). You need to create a powerful story and characters in just a few pages, whereas more pages mean more time to do set-up, more time to build the readers' connection with your story and your characters.
Part of the reason I made this argument is because I do think a good short story can be just as memorable as a book - however, I've read fewer short stories and short story collections that have truly stuck with me. My favorites are John Cheever, Flannery O'Connor, Raymond Carver... I have a few others sitting on my shelf, but to be honest, it takes more motivation for me to pick them up - short story collections can be disjointed, uneven, and a lot of the times just fight to hold my interest more than a novel (which isn't to say that novels can't be disjointed or uneven, either!)
Having said that, the great ones are like having read a plethora of books in much less time, and just as satisfying. I've been lucky enough to have read two collections that truly bowled me over this year - Junot Diaz's This is How You Lose Her, and this one, Megan Mayhew Bergman's Birds of a Lesser Paradise.
Much like This is How You Lose Her, there are distinct themes running through Birds of a Lesser Paradise - family (the balance of support and care with fighting and nit-picking as children and parents are wont to do), struggling relationships, the human world and animal/natural world reflecting but also contrasting each other, wanting something that is just barely out of reach, whether to give up something to gain something else.
I appreciated reading so many engrossing women narrators - all strong and charming in their own ways, but flawed in their own ways, too. Each character feels like a stone's throw from each other - which isn't to say that they are too similar in personality or nature, simply that Bergman has a way of touching upon struggles not only that many women go through, but that I'd imagine many men do, as well. It hits on an emotional level in two ways - on a surface level due to the plot of the stories themselves, and on a deeper level, in that these stories are likely to trigger emotions based in the reader's own life, as well. I connected with it strongly in both ways.
Bergman's writing is graceful, and hits that sweet spot of being not overly flowery, nor starkly plain. She's not showing off in every sentence (which is very much a compliment in my world), but she pulls out the punches when she needs to, and they pack quite the wallop. Each story feels natural, contained, complete - though granted, you'll want more because they're so good.
I saw Bergman read at Dartmouth about a year ago now, and was hypnotized by her voice (both on the page and off), so I was immensely irritated that the book was checked out from the library - it wasn't available again until a few weeks ago, and I get why it kept flying off the shelf and was so hard to get my hands on. I clearly should've just bought a copy - which I will now - because I definitely want this in my library....more