This book would be good as a book of short stories. I suppose that wouldn't change much about it (probably just the marketing) but still seems truer tThis book would be good as a book of short stories. I suppose that wouldn't change much about it (probably just the marketing) but still seems truer to what it is: overlapping, disjointed fragments, large chunks of alternatingly dark and dull, unpolished stories. Some of the stories are truly excellent DFW writing -- breezy wit, emotional depth, strange creativity: the boy contortionist, DFW's fake chapters about his own time in the Service, Sylvanshine's power to know obscure things, and the novel within the novel on Chris Fogle's origins. Those were some of my favorites. At other points, DFW's writing drags (the fact that a few stories read as text book tracts on tax policy doesn't help). His wit seems obnoxious, tiring -- parenthetical inside parenthetical inside parenthetical; tangential commentary inside tangential commentary inside tangential commentary. It doesn't make the reader feel closer to the author (like we're both in on a joke), but just comes across as manic, distracted, petty. One of the best stories in the book, Meredith Rand's Madame Psychosis-type beauty ends abruptly. As DFW's Editor, Michael Pietsch writes in the intro, DFW uses the word "titty-pinching" a couple dozen times in the first half of the book. In short, it's what you'd probably expect from a DFW "unfinished novel". Some great stories, but some weaker points too. ...more
Felt like a poor man's The Road to me. Really enjoyed the Arthur Leander plot line. Much less enjoyed the dystopic future. Kept me reading, but didn'tFelt like a poor man's The Road to me. Really enjoyed the Arthur Leander plot line. Much less enjoyed the dystopic future. Kept me reading, but didn't strike me as anything uniquely creative or deep....more
–A wha this? I had it upside down because who need to flip around a cover to read the Democracy Is for US! title. The American look at me holding the–A wha this? I had it upside down because who need to flip around a cover to read the Democracy Is for US! title. The American look at me holding the book wrong and I know exactly what he was thinking. Look Luis, compadre, I know you know what you’re talking about but you sure we’ve got the right guy? –It’s a breakdown, that’s what it is. Luis, does he know what...I mean...look. May I have it for a second? Thanks. Let’s see, let’s see, let’s see...Ah! Pages six and seven. See on page six. This is the world in a democracy. See? People in the park. Children running down the ice cream truck, maybe somebody over there is grabbing a Twinkie. Look, see that guy reading a newspaper? And watch that chick, hot, right? Wearing that miniskirt. Who knows what those kids are learning, but they go to school. And every adult in this pic? They can vote. They decide who should leave, I mean lead, the country. Oh yeah, look at the tall buildings. That’s because of progress, markets, freedom. That the free market, son. And if anybody in this picture doesn’t like what’s going on they can say so. –You want me to colour this picture boss? (412)...more
Alternatingly sappy fairy tale and gory ghost story. This book may not be perfect, but I really enjoyed it. Indonesia's history is intertwined perfectAlternatingly sappy fairy tale and gory ghost story. This book may not be perfect, but I really enjoyed it. Indonesia's history is intertwined perfectly with a nesting doll of love stories and myths. Comparisons to other magical realist titans are apts; Kurniawan and Tucker (translator) have done a great job. ...more
Sci-fi expands my mind more easily, more abstractly than other fiction. At the same time, it feels like a less personal experience. More entertainingSci-fi expands my mind more easily, more abstractly than other fiction. At the same time, it feels like a less personal experience. More entertaining than emotionally weighty.
I've heard that the Takeshi Kovacs books are deep on philosophy, existentialism, big questions, etc. You get some hints at it with Quellism, which I've heard Morgan expands on in later books. But this to me was just a fun action film of a book; a sci-fi noir. A good read, but one that I'll file down with Neal Stephenson's first book in the Baroque Trilogy -- one that I enjoyed, but won't rush to the next book in the trilogy.
Two ideas and one quote I liked -- "meths", the eternally-living upper crust Methuselahs; resleeving (and the ancient Catholic aversion to it), essentially sci-fi reincarnation:
"The sunglasses were jammed on a nose you could have opened cans on." (16)...more
Review: Nabokov was a pretentious jackass who lived in a golden bubble of aristocracy; or so the memoirs of his early yeaCaveat: this is not a review.
Review: Nabokov was a pretentious jackass who lived in a golden bubble of aristocracy; or so the memoirs of his early years would make you think so. Speak, Memory intertwines Nabokov's musings on the early signs of his own brilliance, indecipherable commentary on the intricacies of pre-Revolution Russian aristocracy, and a ranking of which writers are worthy of his approval (Tolstoy is, Dostoevsky and Pasternak are not -- what an asshole). The guy doesn't even like sleep because it is too freeing: a minute away from his own subconsciousness is horror to Nabokov, for me, it's a respite....more
Sotomayor's life is not only worthy of a listen, but her writing is so good she should be dis-barred. Smart woman, very good writer, biography worthySotomayor's life is not only worthy of a listen, but her writing is so good she should be dis-barred. Smart woman, very good writer, biography worthy of reflection.
"It was in effect to see that mastery of the law's cold abstractions, which had taken such effort, was actually incomplete without an understanding of how they affected individual lives" (271)....more
Prior to writing novels, Lerner published a few books of poetry, one of which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Reading 10:04 this is no surPrior to writing novels, Lerner published a few books of poetry, one of which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Reading 10:04 this is no surprise. His writing is thoughtful and often very pretty. In 10:04 he plays with themes and stories in clever, beautiful ways. Retelling the same stories in different ways, with details changed, interspersing Marfa, Texas, The Clock, and Back to the Future in his poetic swirl. Ultimately though, I couldn't get past him/his protagonist. He's casually self-righteous in his political beliefs (zuccotti park zuccoti park, corporations bad, park slope food co-ops good), he is a big wet towel (too cerebral and honest in his insecurity), and spews an oblivious pretentiousness. ...more
A good survey of US foreign policy post-WW2. Still, a survey. A lot of information without going to deep into the people and forces shaping the time.A good survey of US foreign policy post-WW2. Still, a survey. A lot of information without going to deep into the people and forces shaping the time. Also, the latter half of the book becomes a bit partisan. Ambrose loses the austere tone of the omnipotent historian and cheesy language and stale drama takes over his writing. Still, a good book for what it is--a survey. ...more
In the foreword of this book, the author’s friend and mentor, John Casey describes Pascal Khoo Thwe: “It is I think quite wonderful that one can evenIn the foreword of this book, the author’s friend and mentor, John Casey describes Pascal Khoo Thwe: “It is I think quite wonderful that one can even imagine that someone from a tiny hill tribe in Burma, who could be rotting in a jungle for the past few years, might go on to become an English writer of quality. But he could.”
Indeed, it is a pretty amazing journey. But it is this stuffy, condescending colonialist’s tone that drowns out Pascal’s otherwise compelling memoir. This is all the more disappointing because the author himself is not an old white British professor, like John Casey, but a young political refugee and ethnic minority in Myanmar. To be sure, Pascal Khoo Thwe has a deep respect for his culture (Paduang) and his nation (Myanmar), while also being both joking and critical of the two. However, in reading From the Land of Green Ghosts, I couldn’t escape the awkward disconnect between Pascal’s life and his writing style.
Perhaps much of this complaint is stylistic. Take this sentence describing Paduang courtship: “The young men had to compose ditties to discover the intentions of their lovers” (40). It’s dusty sayings and odd word choices like this that I had trouble reading past. Even keeping in mind that English is neither Pascal’s first language (Paduang) nor second language (Burmese), the back cover praise of the book’s “uncommon elegance” struck me as awkward and forced.
What’s worse, at times, Pascal's stilted colonial writing style bleeds into his perspective. Returning home from the Catholic seminary where he’d been studying, Pascal writes “I seemed to shed my seminary self, and to revert to being a wild tribesman, as though I had never left, never been subject to disciplines and austere ideals, never been a civilsed man or a potential saint” (109). What condescension! Pascal’s home is full of uncivilized, wild tribesmen, while the outside world is the world of civilization, a source of salvation. It is this simplistic dichotomy, civilized v. uncivilized, savior v. savage that betrays Pascal’s fascinating and tumultuous life.
Still, the above complaints aside, this book is worth reading for anyone interested in Myanmar. Part One is bit slow, but I felt I had a much better (and more personal) understanding of Myanmar after reading this book. I just wish that Pascal had written less like an old Cambridge professor, and more like a young Burmese activist....more