The People Inside chronicles the lives of many characters through the years, focusing on several themes, most important of which are togetherness and...moreThe People Inside chronicles the lives of many characters through the years, focusing on several themes, most important of which are togetherness and loneliness. I don't want to say love, though there are many shapes of love inside each story, because being with someone or without anyone, being in a relationship or alone, being together in living or living together apart are all part of the book. In that sense, love, lust, sex, hatred, trust, luck, dependence, addiction, anger, violence all play a big part in the book, but all stories told involve a togetherness or loneliness of some sort.
In fact, the characters move from togetherness or loneliness (or vice versa) as their stories progress. The basic structure of the two-by-six-panel page is broken and glued back together as people move in and out of each others' lives. All sorts of people live inside all sorts of houses, or homes, if you will, and perhaps, that's one reason the book is called The People Inside. The words are floating thoughts that may or may not be spoken out loud for others to hear, and though sometimes they are just streams of consciousness, they all somehow make eerie sense. The panels are truly windows into the minds and lives of the people inside. As such, Fawkes creates an arresting portrait of us, complete with our hopes and dreams and our search for something. Heartbreak and loss emerge as strong themes throughout the book, as their inevitability grips even those who happily grow old together.
Recommended for those who like short stories, cupcakes, and christmas ornaments.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free digital copy of The People Inside.(less)
Ness has done it again. It should not surprise me, but it is still something that brings awe. The writing is brilliant, the characters are bloody good...moreNess has done it again. It should not surprise me, but it is still something that brings awe. The writing is brilliant, the characters are bloody good, and the plot... Well, if you are going to have issues with the book, you'll most likely have them with the plot.
The story is bleak. It's never happy-go-lucky. The plot is twisted back and forth and back again. Some things become clear as the adventure unravels; some, never do. In the end, it is the journey that counts, for the characters, and perhaps, for the reader. I do warn those who have to have to have to have everything neatly explained by the end of a book, though; you won't get that here. What you'll get is a great adventure, a page-turner, a great coming-of-age story, and three very likable characters, all in their own way.
Recommended for those who like Polish accents, foxes, and Knight Rider (I dunno, the descriptions of the technology somehow made me think of this old TV show!) (less)
**spoiler alert** I suppose I didn't get the feeling that Carol was that aloof or cold. Nor did I think the book was about sexual obsession.
To me, it...more**spoiler alert** I suppose I didn't get the feeling that Carol was that aloof or cold. Nor did I think the book was about sexual obsession.
To me, it seemed like a very well told story of a young, inexperienced, insecure girl (Therese) falling in love with an older woman (Carol), who is more experienced, and has a lot to lose. So, yes, often Therese worries or thinks that Carol is being cold, or aloof, but this is just her insecurity. Carol has many worries, which we slowly find out about as the story progresses, and to me, it seemed like Therese was the needy, insecure, and cold in many ways. She is very much a colossal id that needs feeding, and when it is not fed, decides others are not paying attention to it and sulks. Carol has moods, but they are very much due to real problems she is having in her life, like the divorce and custody case. Carol also hesitates more than Therese in letting herself being carried away by her feelings, as expected; she has been there before, and again, she has a lot to lose, unlike Therese who has no family, no obligations, and not even a job. So I disagree that Carol is cold and mean to Therese. I also disagree that the book is about sexual obsession, unless sexual obsession means wanting to have sex with someone you have a crush on.
The only thing that bothered me about it all was Carol's apparent heartbreak over losing custody of her daughter. This seems a bit out of character. Carol seems to be the type of person who would say, well, I am what I am, and perhaps it's best for me not to have a child and live the way I want (considering back then having a child and being in a same-sex relationship was very difficult and rare). She does not seem to be the type of woman who would be crushed not to have custody of her little girl. But then again, I think I am seeing Carol the way I want to, instead of believing the thing Highsmith has shown throughout the novel. I want Carol to say, sod off you lot! Take the child, I don't care! But clearly, she is not the carefree woman I want her to be, and due to either societal pressure, or the idea of herself as a mother, or actual genuine love for this child, she tries and fails to gain custody. Perhaps that is in character; after all, she does put up a good fight, considering the evidence proving her "deviance."
I do agree that Highsmith has a certain distance from her characters, and she seems to exact revenge on them at times with her cruel observations. At times, it seems that Highsmith is a misanthrope, and one with not very high opinion of men.
In the end, Price of Salt is a great novel, regardless the sexual orientation of the characters. It is not a great queer novel, it is simply a great novel that happens to have queer characters in it. It could very well have been about a heterosexual love affair, and Highsmith would have written a great novel anyway.(less)
Hawthorn & Child follows two London police detectives as they investigate a bunch of cases. They are sitting on a guy who is involved with organiz...moreHawthorn & Child follows two London police detectives as they investigate a bunch of cases. They are sitting on a guy who is involved with organized crime. They investigate a drive-by shooting. There is a guy who is receiving threatening emails. There is a nutter who breaks into a house. They talk to witnesses, visit crime scenes, discuss business with their boss. Throughout the novel we see a lot of Hawthorn's life, probably because he has the more interesting one, as he is gay and single. Sometimes, it takes a while to figure out just who is telling what for what reason. Eventually the who and what becomes clearer, not too soon, and not too clear, but the reason is not always revealed. In this regard, the book is certainly brilliant; the reader feels as lost as anyone would walking on to a crime scene and being thrown bits and pieces of random information about what might have happened and who might have been involved. It is also refreshing that the formula does not work here; this is not Law and Order, where the crime is solved within the allocated 45 minutes of airtime. In fact, hardly anything is solved.
Ridgway spends more time in Hawthorn's mind, and so Hawthorn appears to be the main character of the book. He is troubled, maybe depressed, but not complicated, in that complicated way. He dates, he fucks, and he goes around London with Child. Child, here, is the more experienced, and perhaps better detective. There is a lot that is not described precisely, and a lot of ambiguity. In the end, Hawthorn is a bit of a blur, and Child seems crystal clear despite the fact that the author did not sit the reader down and describe Child's life and personality while leaving Hawthorn in the shadows. Ridgway achieves this effect, partly, in the way he narrates each character, and the little things he chooses to show or leave out about them. Overall, it is very effective, and in a way, the reader sees Hawthorn the way he sees himself, unsure of his future, unsure of what to do, other than this one thing he is doing, policing, and the other, guys.
Recommended for those who need a refreshing, unconventional crime novel.(less)
Fairyland is a great time capsule that took me back to the ever changing San Francisco literary, social, and queer (Don't say that word!) communities...moreFairyland is a great time capsule that took me back to the ever changing San Francisco literary, social, and queer (Don't say that word!) communities in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. From losing her mother at an early age to being raised by a free-spirited, openly gay father, from learning to get herself invited to other families' dinners to rebelling against her only parent, from beginning to very sad end, Abbott makes "the Abbott" shine in her memoir. Needless to say, the many journals that her father, Steve Abbott, filled with his daily accounts of their lives, and his constant doubts about his career, his love life, his ability to parent a growing teenager, seem central to Abbott's narrative.
Although the narrative sometimes gets a bit too self-conscious and defensive/self-accusing, Abbott tries and mostly succeeds in presenting things as they are. She is certainly very harsh on her younger self, a young woman who would rather build a life in Paris or NYC than care for her ailing, dying father in a one bedroom apartment back in SF.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the book is the changing neighborhoods, the stores that were, and the stores that replaced them, the people who occupied the corners in the 70s, and then the 80s, and then the 90s, the RADs and the DAMNs, the earthquake, and then the quake that shook and devastated the gay community.
Recommended for those interested in SF history, poetry movements, queer history and politics, and the American near past.(less)
"Going mad is the beginning of a process. It is not supposed to be the end result."
Winterson's bold memoir, an attempt to set the record straight with...more"Going mad is the beginning of a process. It is not supposed to be the end result."
Winterson's bold memoir, an attempt to set the record straight with regards to the half-imagined/half-truthful Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, and a genuine effort to question origins of love and being loved, reads just like a memoir version of Winterson's fiction. There is a lot to think about here, a lot of laughs and some very interesting ideas imbued in sadness, anger, and despair. Madness, indeed, is a process, and one wonders how JW has managed not to give into the process entirely. One also wonders how much she must drive everyone around her up the wall. A self-proclaimed "difficult person," JW (as she often refers to herself) is as brilliant and brave as she is aggressive and enraged. The book would read like a list of confessions and defenses, but it escapes this fate with the help of Winterson's beautiful language and the story of her three births (birth, adoption, and reconnection with her biological mother).
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is the perfect read following or followed by Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother? Just wear your psychoanalysis hat! (less)
Paige is a teenager. And she has a story to tell about her teenage years, growing up in Hell, NY.
Summer does too good a job with Paige, because she i...morePaige is a teenager. And she has a story to tell about her teenage years, growing up in Hell, NY.
Summer does too good a job with Paige, because she is exactly, I imagine, the perfectly-constructed American high school teenage girl. Not having been to high school in the USA, yet having had ample opportunity to listen to many stories of miserable high school life as well as watching god-awful American films made about this era of the life of the American creature, I think Paige is perfect. She is intelligent, but not smart. She cares too much about what others think, and this leads her to either rebel or succumb to peer pressure. She is overly critical of everything and overconfident in her own invincibility, but the American insecurities show in matters of sexual expression. The need to always have an example, set rules somehow don't bother Paige in anything, except for her sexual feelings. Like all small towns in America, there is not a lot of religion, but still sex, sexual orientation, gender identity are difficult concepts.
Paige has an additional problem, though. The object of her obsession and stalking is a married woman 20 years older than Paige, who is emotionally bruised. But Paige perseveres, and life goes on. Perhaps that last bit, about life going on, is most essential in the book. High school happens, you fall in love, you stalk someone, you wonder if they like you, you lose your virginity, high school ends, and life goes on and on.
For me, it is impossible to like most American high school kids. Paige is not an exception. She's annoying, most of the time. Hence the 4 stars.(less)
We the Animals is a captivating, fast-paced read, written in a beautiful style that evokes some lasting images in the reader's mind. I found myself wo...moreWe the Animals is a captivating, fast-paced read, written in a beautiful style that evokes some lasting images in the reader's mind. I found myself wondering why the author chose not to write a good 600 pages instead of this short, stunted work (a novella, really.) There are many story elements that are just left hanging that I would have loved to read more about (one example is what happens, if anything, between mom and her shift manager, whose appearance in the book is brief but certainly interesting.) The relationship between the three brothers when they are young is very well developed. Then something seems to end, abruptly, and we're left wondering whatever happened. What we find in the end is well described, but how we got there could be developed to a much more impressive narrative. In the end, I am glad I read We the Animals, but I hope Torres is writing a fully developed novel next time.(less)
Selim Ileri's main character, writer Cemil Sevket Bey, is not exactly based on Nahid Sirri Orik, but more on the impressions and information Selim Ile...moreSelim Ileri's main character, writer Cemil Sevket Bey, is not exactly based on Nahid Sirri Orik, but more on the impressions and information Selim Ileri was able to find from Orik's works. Orik was, indeed, alive and writing during the time the Ottoman Empire fell, the new Turks rose to power, defeating the invading forces, and Cumhuriyet, the Republic, was formed. Orik also traveled around Anatolia and left for Europe to return after the republic formed. And Orik, like Cemil Sevket, was gay and effeminate.
The narrator is a writer who first meets Cemil Sevket in his childhood. Sevket is already an aging, forgotten writer; an old gay man who joins the ladies of the neighborhood in their tea time get-togethers. The interesting thing about the narration is most of it has to be done, since the narrator is often summarizing Cemil Sevket's works and life, in the "story" tense in Turkish. The way Ileri does this is pretty interesting, makes for a rough read in the beginning, but eventually one gets used to it. In general, the language Ileri uses is complex and textured.
Cemil Sevket is at first an unlikable character, towards the middle, as we learn more about his personal life, he becomes a more likable person, and at the end, which corresponds to the very end of Cemil Sevket's life, he becomes a character that demands our pity. All in all, Ileri's character is extremely well-developed among the blurry shadows of Ottoman and early Turkish Republic history. (less)
I will give it 3 stars and actually explain why. Certainly the combination of transvestites and drag queens (working girls, really) with Istanbul plac...moreI will give it 3 stars and actually explain why. Certainly the combination of transvestites and drag queens (working girls, really) with Istanbul places this book on a shelf of its own. It deserves some attention due to the unusual characters and settings, though the descriptions of some seem highly unlikely, having grown up in Istanbul. The "girls" certainly seem to enjoy a freedom and lack of abuse that I find incredulous. As open-minded as Istanbul dwellers may be... uhm, not really. And of course, the men... the copious amount of men running after, pining after the main character seems rather unlikely, no matter how stunningly Audrey Hepburn she may be. Don't get me wrong, we are talking about an Istanbul where the transvestites were on so much demand (from the married, straight manly men, of course) that the other prostitutes were ratting them out to eh police to take back the market! So I am not saying that it is unlikely that macho Turkish men would be pining after our heroine, here, but rather that they would be so readily accepting it in public when, say, someone mentions it, or they would just simply blush when their desire is found out... We're talking about a highly homophobic society here, and these men, no matter how much they like the "girls" would be enraged if such things were insinuated about them. So let's leave all that behind, and say that the book is meant to be a romp, in this respect. It's meant to be tongue-in-cheek, with a hint of wishful thinking. The main character and many of the other characters, especially the girls, are all very stereotypical. Again, let's say this is due to the fact that all of this is a bit like a drag queen show; you go for the over-the-top effect. Some characters, though again a bit too stereotypical, are done well. The nosy neighbor of Sabiha Hanim, for example, is spot on. The main character is well developed and after a while one can start to see the world through his/her eyes. The plot did not bother me as much as it seems to have bothers others. I thought it was plausible (though what happens in the end at the mosque is highly unlikely) and there were enough twists and back stabbings to last for another book. So why not, say, four stars? Several other people mentioned this and I will try to address it more thoroughly: The writing. I am waiting to get another one of Somer's books to see if the problem might have been the translation. I will read the next one in Turkish and see if the choppy feel that dominates throughout the book is due to translation. Some things in the translation were done well, though. For example, the sen/siz (the familiar you and the formal You) issue is hard to explain, but I thought the translation did a good job with it. But other times, too many times, the narration fails to flow and sometimes even gets confusing due to awkward language. I don't think translation is the only thing to be blamed here, though. I think the main problem with the narration was that it was told in first person. First person narration is very hard to do well and in many cases it is tiring and flat out annoying to read after a while. The writer could have easily focused on the main character, kept the reader and the main character in the dark just the same, with third person narration, which I think would have helped the flow. I understand that a noir detective story is usually told in first-person, but the limitations of this narrow point of view and the lack of a personal voice (due to the narrator and the main character being the same voice) cause the story to suffer. Basically, it it were written better, either a better translation and/or better narration, it would have been a four.(less)
**spoiler alert** The one thing I like about this book is that it does not shy away from sexual scenes. Not that it is full of them, but certainly the...more**spoiler alert** The one thing I like about this book is that it does not shy away from sexual scenes. Not that it is full of them, but certainly they are where they should be, and perhaps more. With that said, after about half way, everything that seems entertaining and engaging turns a bit annoying. Perhaps we are meant to be annoyed with the 15-year-old studious girl who has too many female lovers, an older married man chasing her a la Humbert Humbert, a best friend who is infatuated with her, no wait, infatuated with one of her three female lovers... And it goes on and on. There are things the narrative does very well, like fitting everything in with the Indian caste system and its workings, with the desire of chasing an education dream abroad, with the usual stuff that happens in high schools everywhere in the world. But sometimes the events, the love affairs, the Casanova behavior seem way too incredulous. I thought of it as "OK, it's more like a fantasy a high school boy/girl would have..." but by the time the married man (who happens to be her best friend's father) started hitting on her, I was a bit tired. And the ending? Well, there is no ending. There is a big build-up to this party where all involved love interests and every other problematic person in Anamika's life will meet, aaaand... they do... aaaand it just ends. Which makes me think perhaps there is a sequel. But I am not sure if I will have the patience or energy to read it (I imagine it will be the adventures of Anamika in Amereeeeka, a liberal arts college, of course, what else? May I suggest Smith?) (less)
I cannot find my copy!!! I cannot find the zines, either! I am so sad :( I have read most of Urban Hermitt's zines and the bound book, The Flow Chroni...moreI cannot find my copy!!! I cannot find the zines, either! I am so sad :( I have read most of Urban Hermitt's zines and the bound book, The Flow Chronicles, when I was in grad school. The Hermitt is not really a hermit, as her queer+vegan adventures take her many places (from Oregon to Australia) as she meets many different people (crazy dumpster-divers to road-kill-eating environmentalists to skinheads to you-name-it). Sometimes the types of "alternative" politics and lives she describes, whether it be her own or those of the people she meets, were almost unbelievable to me, though I have met similar people with similar lives or have at least met people who would discuss such options (like never buying anything from a store and instead dumpster-diving for food and clothes as a non-consumerist choice). When I read the zines I always thought the language and the style of writing was unlike most zines; the storytelling was impeccable and well-edited, her language crisp, clean, and funny, and her attitude well-balanced with just the right amount of criticism and understanding towards her life choices as well as others'. I remember at some point when I went back to order the next zine (I read them well after she wrote them) I saw the bound book, which was no surprise, considering the quality of her writing and how interesting her stories were. I highly recommend all of Urban Hermitt's writings to those who are curious about radically-yet-not-so-radically different lives that one can lead in the capitalist, consumerist western world, those who like travel narratives, good story-telling, queer politics, and, uhm, interesting culinary alternatives. (Some of the zines as well as The Flow Chronicles are available from Microcosm Publishing, microcosmpublishing.com)(less)
**spoiler alert** Uc Aynali Kirk Oda is a collection of three novellas by Murathan Mungan. If you are familiar with any of his works, you'll know and...more**spoiler alert** Uc Aynali Kirk Oda is a collection of three novellas by Murathan Mungan. If you are familiar with any of his works, you'll know and be warned that he is a wordy writer. His language usually flows well, but some sentences can reach paragraph lengths. After many attempts to read Yuksek Topuklar, I decided to try Uc Aynali Kirk Oda instead. And it was a good decision. The first novella is about Alice, a modern-day, pop superstar. We learn where Alice comes from, how she made it, and what happens one day during a giant concert she is giving. This event will alter Alice's life drastically, one way or another. The second novella is about Aliye, a middle class cashier in a bakery. And one day, she will meet a man who will offer her a new life. And the last novella is about Ali. Unlike the previous two novellas, Ali's story as a child in Mardin, Turkey is told in great detail, and the dysfunction of his Arab family with a "foreign" (i.e. Turkish) bride, of his sexual behavior in childhood and adolescence, and of his growing hatred of his penis as well as a future that requires on his manliness. Ali's story is by far the most engulfing and interesting of the three. It is also the least repetitive one. I felt like Ali was more real than Alice and Aliye. And yes, if you have noticed a pattern in the names of the characters, you are right. The novellas highlight characters who are bored or trapped in their current lives, until... something extraordinary, something supernatural, something unbelievable happens to take them away from everything and releases them from these traps. But of course, the traps are as a part of them as they are a part of the traps, and soon, they are locked in, in another way, another time, another life.(less)