This was hit-and-miss but China Mieville is still the only writer I want to read right now. I like my Mieville grim, instead of all madcap and- he act...moreThis was hit-and-miss but China Mieville is still the only writer I want to read right now. I like my Mieville grim, instead of all madcap and- he actually used this word- "rompy." Well, he said "romp."
I'm sorry I stopped using you, goodreads! I think I've forgotten how to use you.(less)
And with that, I learned once again that I was an asshole. I read 'Cat's Cradle' when I was in high school and taking a lot of ecstasy, so I hated eve...moreAnd with that, I learned once again that I was an asshole. I read 'Cat's Cradle' when I was in high school and taking a lot of ecstasy, so I hated everything except the Chemical Brothers. Since I hated Cat's Cradle then, I've assumed that I didn't like Mr Vonnegut for the last, what, dozen years? I only picked this one up 'cause I never see old editions of it and Josh said it's his favorite.
That all sucks. I mean, I don't think he's perfect- I'd remembered his kind of smug, eccentric uncle persona being at the fore kind of like Tom Robbins tends to do. (Which, by the way, is a big part of why I find Tom Robbins so unreadable- I get it, you're smart, you're charming, you're just like every other straight boy who thinks he's hot shit. Next.) But it wasn't so out front! In fact, this was just a bizarre story about genius twins that Aimee Bender would've told differently, but which she could have told.
I also feel like- I don't want to give away anything, but there are some bizarre structural things that happen. Mostly it's nice. Sometimes the way he'll gloss over a few decades is jarring for me. The bit where the main story ends and the postscript starts is such a funny, fuck-you plot decision. Love it.
So... yeah. So now I'm gonna read more of this guy. Kerry, you were right about this guy the whole time. (less)
A joke: What do you get when you cross bleak with brutal? Torpor, by Chris Kraus!
Oh my god. This is the story of an ex-punk video artist and her olde...moreA joke: What do you get when you cross bleak with brutal? Torpor, by Chris Kraus!
Oh my god. This is the story of an ex-punk video artist and her older lover, a college professor in his fifties who's got hell of connections to a bunch of French theorists, and that's what he's famous for. It is BLEAK. Did I mention bleak? BLEAK. They don't like each other, they never really liked each other, they don't get along, she's gotten pregnant and had abortions with him a bunch of times, so what do they do? Why, take a trip to Romania to adopt a Romanian baby.
If the depictions of Romania in the late eighties and early nineties (and then late nineties) are accurate, then that's a pretty perfect setting for their unromantic nonadventures, because it is BLEAK. Everybody is totally fucked, basically. Y'know? They have a dog, and the dog is kind of their kid, but the dog is also old.
And the writing is some of the least showy writing ever, so it's not even like 'haha! art world! haha! hatred!' although every once in a while something is the hilarious kind of brutal, instead of the depressing kind.
Um... at the center of the structure is the ill-fated trip to Romania, but then their backstory and futurestory kind of swirl around that central narrative, so it ends up being a very fleshed-out story. So you get sucked in. TO THE BLEAKNESS.
I liked it! I am excited to read more of Chris Kraus's fiction; I guess she's basically in charge of Semiotext(e), or something?(less)
Here is one weird thing about this book: It's about six hundred pages long, but about a third of that is pictures.
Here's another thing about this boo...moreHere is one weird thing about this book: It's about six hundred pages long, but about a third of that is pictures.
Here's another thing about this book: during intense passages about things like rape, there will be pictures of porny-ass ol' Jenna with a gallon of lipstick on showing up her butt, or something. Which could totally work in two ways: either as total, 'you are reading this for the porniness' exploitive cash-in, or in a meta, 'here is the reality, looks how different it is from the way it's portrayed' kind of commentary way. But instead I honestly couldn't figure out which it was supposed to be, and ultimately, I kinda feel like it was just to make Jenna's autobiography an Event Tome instead of, y'know, a porn star memoir. Which works- it is huge and cinderblocky.
Another weird thing is how ghost-written it feels. Alex said that Jenna Jameson is hella smart and articulate and all the things we say when we mean 'the assumption that comes with her background is that she's stupid, but the reality is that she's not,' and I totally believe her. But that doesn't always translate to writing, right? I know absolute conversational intelligent geniuses whose e-mails and letters are strings of cliches and stiff phrases. So I've got nothing against Neil Strauss as her, uh, co-author. It's just weird how, like, the prose slightly has character and slightly doesn't. Not to resort to one of the hackneyedest metaphors about writing in the world, but it's like potato soup where the only spice is a little bit of salt. I wish that her voice had come through more, because the sentences themselves read like they could have been written by literally anybody in the world, if they were co-writing a book with a professional paragraph-churner.
I guess the only other weird thing I want to mention is how, like, if you take out the specifics- the fame, the porn, that kinda stuff- her life is just pretty much everybody else's life. Like, a few fucked up relationships, a little overboard on the substances, the amount of money she has is none and then a lot and then not much and then ultimately enough. Which I'm sure, also, is the point- it's just weird to get to the end of six hundred pages and read that somebody in their, what, late twenties? Is at the same point emotionally that I am in my late twenties. What am I supposed to do with that, if I already knew that sex workers were real people with real lives? I just felt like I didn't take much away from it.
Um, so whatever. It was fine. It's probably not worth thirty bucks though. Is it in paperback? I'd wait for the paperback, if it's not. (less)
I cannot believe I didn't know who Penny Arcade was. Oriana! Do you know who this person is? She's kind of like a downtown art star like Reverend Jen,...moreI cannot believe I didn't know who Penny Arcade was. Oriana! Do you know who this person is? She's kind of like a downtown art star like Reverend Jen, but less charmingly weird and more aggressively wounded. I don't know shit about performance art, but if other performance art is anything like these pieces, I feel pissed that I wasn't learning about it when I lived in New York.
This thing happened where a magazine- Art XX- invited me to do reviews for them, like in their print magazine, so the first thing I did the next day was to e-mail Semiotext(e), Soft Skull, Alyson and Cleis like 'I'm a professional now! Please send me awesome books I don't have to pay for!" And they did, so now I just get to read stuff like this and talk about it. I don't know if I get paid but I don't think so. Anyway, ha! I got to read this before everyone else.
So I don't know whether to just reprint what I'm going to write in the magazine, or talk a bunch of shit here now, or what. I think I'll probably just post magazine reviews here for you to read, right? Unless one of the magazine people gets pissed about it. There's a blog, too, I think.
Anyway, um, I wish that Penny Arcade had been my mentor when I lived in New York. She would have been like, 'No, that's a stupid thing to think.' And 'Yes, I dare you.' Then I would have grown up way cooler than I am now, y'know?
I'll append the real review to this review when it's written. (less)
When I was younger and edgier, it was heroin memoirs- I gobbled 'em up like chips, I couldn't get enough. Now that I'm older and... um, further away f...moreWhen I was younger and edgier, it was heroin memoirs- I gobbled 'em up like chips, I couldn't get enough. Now that I'm older and... um, further away from inadvisable teenage experimentation, I guess? Anyway, now that I'm old i'm so all about how-to-dress-yourself books. They come into the store, I look at them for a week, think about buying them, decide that it doesn't matter 'cause I'm gonna keep wearing the exact same jeans and t-shirts I've been wearing since I was face down on my friend's floor while his parents were out of town. Watching Spice World. But then I can't help it! One day I flip out and buy it; the same thing happened with the Meaning of Sunglasses.
I don't really have any positive or negative critical things to report. It's nice to be reminded that one grey shirt that you wear every day- whose neckline gets more obscene with every wearing- and a pair of jeans you wear until they're so ripped up they're not really jeans any more- isn't the only way to live. Four stars!(less)
I have complicated feelings about this book. I mean, look, I am not going to say anything bad about Grisélidis Réal: obviously, she is this awesome ac...moreI have complicated feelings about this book. I mean, look, I am not going to say anything bad about Grisélidis Réal: obviously, she is this awesome activist, sex worker, genius and hero, right? I know that looks like I'm saying it ironically, but I'm being serious. She is awesome; I'd never heard of her til Semiotext(e) sent me this to review, so if you haven't either: she started doing sex work I think in the fifties, and started doing activism around it- and coalitioning with other causes, mostly socialist, I think- in like the seventies? Maybe sooner.
So while it's not like she invented doing activism around sex work the way it's done nowadays (not to generalize or anything), she was just ahead of the curve.
I mean, here is the thing: I want to read her life story, and have her work put into a larger context, and learn about what exactly she did. Instead, this is a few interviews from like 1979 and 1981 (with the titular little black book of tricks' sexual preferences appended to the end). As far as I can tell- prove me wrong, children, prove me wrong!- this is all we've got about her in English. Which means, y'know, I'm left wanting a lot more.
Um, especially given how much of the interviews is basically her generalizing about clients' races/ethnic backgrounds, and how much is her fetishizing black men. Like I said- obviously, Ms. Réal is awesome, and it was a different time thirty years ago, and further, the French are notorious for a certain kind of... I guess they'd call it frankness? But I'm not certain whether I can characterize it that way, when, in 2009, to me, it reads as racism. Y'know? I'm sorry, I hate to say it, but I'd hate not to say it, too.
So four stars for giving us a book about Grisélidis Réal, Semiotext(e), but I wish it were... I don't know, more. (less)
I seriously am not reading at all since we got internet access at my house! Man, it took me like two months to read this book, which is like a hundred...moreI seriously am not reading at all since we got internet access at my house! Man, it took me like two months to read this book, which is like a hundred and sixty pages. And I was super into it! I just can't focus on anything, I'm in the middle of The Intuitionist, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, totally stoked to start Baba Yaga Laid An Egg, I got a copy of some upcoming Chelsea Handler thing I'm not gonna lie, I'm curious about... I dunno, man, my point is just that I kept finding this in my bag and being like 'what the fuck, this book! Yes!'
So, the New Narrative. We have talked about this. I love it. Kevin Killian's writing is informal, direct, explicitly (and queerly) sexual, funny, and sometimes so straightfaced it's hard to know whether a line is a joke. There's tons of brutal, bloody sex. He plays with the idea that he is, in any way, famous, which is hilarious.
In fact, it's a little bit awkward for this to be my first exposure to his work- there's this very clear acknowledgment and fucking-with of the idea that he's this notorious author that's familiar to me, even though I've barely published anything- I still like to talk about how famous I am and stuff. Killian takes it one step further by co-authoring a story about how he's a psychotic writing guru, with a literal monkey at a typewriter writing his stuff for him, and then including in the same collection a more or less memoir-seeming story also about the character Kevin Killian, based around an affair with a German art guy (a classy turn of phrase if ever there was one).
So... um. There you go. Yes to Kevin Killian.(less)
Ray gave me this. I liked it but I wanted most of the stories to be longer, except for the stories I didn't care about, which I wanted to be shorter....moreRay gave me this. I liked it but I wanted most of the stories to be longer, except for the stories I didn't care about, which I wanted to be shorter. But mostly I liked them. Ellie saves the world!
Does it really say "What I learned from this book" at the top of the goodreads 'enter your review here' field? Has it always? How second grade!(less)
I liked this! It's kind of a strange book for Stephen King, and it's also kind of an outlier. Although that's the thing about his books, isn't it? The...moreI liked this! It's kind of a strange book for Stephen King, and it's also kind of an outlier. Although that's the thing about his books, isn't it? They're all Stephen King Books and they're also all kind of different. So what a vague introduction.
The first hundred or so pages, I was like, oh man! This is the Stephen King book where he abandons all his genre-isms- the italics, the motif phrases, the cliffhanger subchapters, the generous capitalization of important phrases. Like there's an early chapter from the perspective of a gopher, and the gopher's internal monologue isn't as hokey as we expect from ol' Uncle Steve. But no, as it goes on and the bad guys become Badguyier and the good guys differentiate themselves, he's back to writing like Stephen King, they guy who he himself says has a "tin ear for dialogue" in one of the Dark Tower books. Which is fine! That is what we read Stephen King for. This would be a far less fun book if the narrator's voice (which, actually, is Mr. King's constant free indirect discourse, moving from interior monologue to interior monologue and then, occasionally, backing away to be omniscient for a second) were, say, Michel Houellebecq's.
And dude. Okay. I wanted it to be a Dark Tower book. Can I just be explicit aout that? I wanted there to be thinnies and Billybumblers and all that sweet stuff, and there wasn't. (This is t he part where I start to spoil it for you, just so you know.) In fact, the monsters, when we finally get them, are some of the least exciting monsters he's ever written. I mean, in the final confrontation, which lasts two or three pages, it's pretty interesting, but for the most part I was like "oh really? Are you sure? Okay..."
And that works; this is totally a "people are the real monsters" story. Which is great, and it works very well as a people are the real monsters story, but that just isn't my favorite thing. I like monster monsters. But it's not fair for me to be disappointed about that, because duh this is not that book.
The politics are also interesting; the bad guy is a rich, greedy conservative Christian, and his minions are mostly just kind of idiots. The good guy is an ex-army guy who did some fucked up shit in Iraq, who doesn't seem to have a political affiliation- and his good guy buddies are all mostly centrist kinds of people, too. Like, there's a presbyterian minister who doesn't believe in god, and a Republican newspaperwoman who everybody keeps being like "you don't act like a Republican." (Normally I wouldn't have paid much attention to the political environment in a Stephen King book but have you been following the conversations on amazon around Sarah Palin's upcoming Going Rogue? OMFG. OMFG OMFG.)
So... yeah. I guess I don't actually have a lot to say about this one. I wanted to like it as much as I liked the Stand, but I read the Stand when I was eleven. I don't like anything now as much as I did then. Except tacos. It is kind of fun to play Spot the Parallel between this one and the Stand though; the wingnut bad guy's associate who blows shit up, the hero's tough girlfriend who refuses to be relegated to a background position, stuff like that. I don't know.
This is totally the best book on transwoman stuf I've ever read, but a lot of it still didn't resonate with me- specifically her experience with hormo...moreThis is totally the best book on transwoman stuf I've ever read, but a lot of it still didn't resonate with me- specifically her experience with hormones and their effects, how easy she found it to be appropriately gendered by other folks, and her experiences with the queer/trans community. Still though, totally badass and right on, for the most part, and I would totally recommend it to anybody who's ever wondered about the reality of being a transwoman.(less)
After all the identity blurring and timeline overlapping in her work, nobody was surprised when Jeanette Winterson turned into Angela Carter.
I don't...moreAfter all the identity blurring and timeline overlapping in her work, nobody was surprised when Jeanette Winterson turned into Angela Carter.
I don't know whether this will replace the Passion or Lighthousekeeping as one of my top favorites of hers. I mean, it's way better than the Powerbook or Gut Symmetries, in my way less than humble opinion, but I honestly can't predict whether it'll stick like my favorites of hers. It's beautifully constructed, though, it's a great idea, it's science fictiony, and all the stuff I read her for is there- the love, the what-the-fuck-IS-love?, the what is humanity, the prose that's somehow ornate and direct at the same time, the fact that you have to figure out how to read all over again just to get it, like Kathy Acker or the late Ms Carter.
I also like how fixated she got on Laika the dog after Weight.
I wish I had more to say about it, because it really is a good book, but ultimately I can't think of anything I haven't already said about her. I like that the themes are "leaving doesn't work" and "we are kind of alone and kind of not." Nice!(less)
This was nice! I mostly bought it because I am in England and I wanted to get something whose cover was different from its American cover, and this on...moreThis was nice! I mostly bought it because I am in England and I wanted to get something whose cover was different from its American cover, and this one's UK cover was way better. And it was in the grown-up fiction! Which makes sense.
Um, it straddles lines like that! Sort of. Not really. It struts the line between Contemporary Adult Literature and Young Adult Fiction, mostly. Here are the reference points: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in the little glints of magical realism (a term that's been beaten into the ground and which I'm ruluctant to use, except what other term is there for magical realism?); Jonathan Safran Foer, in the wide-eyed... somebody called it hysterical realism; and every author who's written about Finding Hope In Nazi Germany.
Most of those things are not my things really! I was excited about Marquez when I was younger, and excited about Foer when I was older than that but still younger (and I would totally read another Foer book, if the fucker would write one), but ultimately, I don't know. This book doesn't really fit into the gay, brutal, bleak and weird category of books I usually like best, so the fact that I liked it as much as I did is a testament to what a good job Mr Zusak did. And I mean, I am a slow reader, and I read all 550 pages in a day, so.
So while the prose is a little bit more ebullient and its prosiness than I usually like, I still think that this was a nice book. Nice!(less)
Man, remember when comic books and, by extension, graphic novels had a reputation for being dorky? And then the New York Times or whatever started pub...moreMan, remember when comic books and, by extension, graphic novels had a reputation for being dorky? And then the New York Times or whatever started publishing Daniel Clowes, and every periodical ever started printing a couple thousand words every year or two about how graphic novels aren't just for kids any more, and now they aren't really dorky any more?
Well, friend, Logicomix is doing everything it can to make comics dorky again. It's the story of half mathematician, half-philosopher Bertrand Russell and his struggles to pierce through the heart of all the bullshit, man, and get to the truth in math. Via philosophy. He hangs out and kicks it with Wittgenstein and Poincaré and Gödel, talking for three hundred pages about logical phallacies in the assumptions upon with mathematics as we know it is built. Interestingly, this is the most gripping stuff: as a hella meta exercise in contextualization, the frame story about the people making the comic is a lot less interesting, and the thread about the Orestes feels kind of boring. Who'd have thought!
There are also way too many commas in this way that's not technically wrong but which annoys me. So... yeah the meat of this is basically a five star book, but the frame and mechanics of the prose are distracting enough that I'd give it four. If I had to. (less)