The second in the Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy (the follow-up to the surprisingly beautiful All the Pretty Horses), The Crossing was absolutely dThe second in the Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy (the follow-up to the surprisingly beautiful All the Pretty Horses), The Crossing was absolutely devastating. What started out as a sweet sort of fairy tale of a boy, Billy Parham, trying to set things right becomes a systematic tearing away of everything he believes in. I would say keep Kleenex handy, but the tragedy in this book went somehow beyond tears to that empty-pit feeling that McCarthy does so expertly.
None of this, of course, changes the fact that The Crossing is amazing. The lyric style of McCarthy's prose takes you on as many soaring highs as earth-shattering lows. The settings couldn't be more real if you were walking (or riding) through them.
The only knock I have on The Crossing is that it gets a little Waking Life-y in the second half, when Billy Parham encounters a string of rural Mexican philosophers who share their treatises on death and life. The plot of the rest of the novel is so gripping, and Billy's quest is already so spiritual in nature, that these long interludes seem fairly over-the-top and unnecessary.
If I were writing an AP English Lit essay about "dark comedy," this short novel would make a meaty body paragraph. It's a little romantic comedy set iIf I were writing an AP English Lit essay about "dark comedy," this short novel would make a meaty body paragraph. It's a little romantic comedy set in Hollywood; a love triangle between a mama's boy mortician, a captivating corpse beautician, and a young English poet with writer's block who's seeking a muse. Oh, and he works in a pet mortuary.
The Loved One was a welcome treat, especially since I felt so lukewarm about the last Waugh I read (Decline and Fall). Biting satire and stuff you feel just terrible laughing about. Just terrible. All in all, this was everything I wanted from a quick Waugh book.
Waugh writes a warning preceding the title leaf concluding with: "The squeamish should return their copies to the library or the bookstore unopened." I say, don't read it if the cast of characters I mentioned doesn't sound like a recipe for hilarity to you.
The premise and presentation of this novel could not have been more interesting: a brilliantly gifted twelve-year-old cartographer maps every aspect oThe premise and presentation of this novel could not have been more interesting: a brilliantly gifted twelve-year-old cartographer maps every aspect of life in the margins of his notebook. The book itself is slightly oversized (the former bookseller in me shudders) to accomodate the truly gorgeous and fascinating illustrations.
But the plot, unfortunately, lets the concept down. It alternates between the mundane and the bizarre as if the story were some sort of hideous chimera spliced together from a dozen established plotlines. Ultimately, if it weren't for the incredible diagrams, this would probably be just a bad book.
As it is, though, it's an intriguing first effort by a novelist who I hope will continue to produce. I predict Reif Larsen's third book might be brilliant. ...more
I have a low level of anxiety while reading books loaned to me by friends. Since I've begun making public my opinions on what I've read, I was even moI have a low level of anxiety while reading books loaned to me by friends. Since I've begun making public my opinions on what I've read, I was even more nervous when my friend loaned me Eating the Dinosaur, Klosterman's most recent book of essays. This was my first experience with old Klosty, but I have numerous friends who think he's amazing. My expectations were high, which sometimes makes matters even worse. I was very pleased and relieved, therefore, to find myself really enjoying this book.
A lot of what I liked about Eating the Dinosaur seems to be what people generally like about Klosterman: he's incredibly witty, he makes creative and unexpected connections between disparate ideas, and he takes pop culture seriously. I loved the way in which he wove his own ideas and experiences into his arguments, recognizing his place as an individual and as a popular figure in the cultural phenomena he writes about. Whether his brain is a steel trap of almanac facts or he's simply marvelous at research, I loved the way he supports his unconventional theses with simply oodles of facts.
One KlosterFan I know suggested that Eating the Dinosaur was not the best of Klosty's books, and I've read other reviews that seem to agree. For me, I wholeheartedly enjoyed all but the last essay in the book. The final essay concerns the validity of anti-technology arguments presented in the Unabomber's manifesto, and I was unable to hop on board his thesis. To me, the argument is pretty circular, and relies overly on Klosterman's own thoughts, agreement with which seems assumed. Ultimately, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth, even though, as I said, I loved pretty much every other essay.
4/5 books that should've had more dinos in them...more
After Essex County & Sweet Tooth both blew me completely away, I picked up Lemire's The Nobody, his Vertigo graphic novel. It's a modern, small-toAfter Essex County & Sweet Tooth both blew me completely away, I picked up Lemire's The Nobody, his Vertigo graphic novel. It's a modern, small-town America take on H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man, and it really interacts with the original novel in an interesting way. The Nobody is told through the eyes of a 16-year-old girl who befriends a bandage-wrapped stranger (spoiler alert: he's invisible) who wanders into her small village. Thematic threads that are woven into Lemire's other works are prominent here, too: isolation, fear of the unknown, guilt and regrets passed from generation to generation. The science-fiction parts of the story are basically a canvas upon which to explore these themes.
The art is, of course, amazing. Sparse without being bare, subtle without losing motion. And the two-color printing really worked for me, too. In fact, my favorite panels are easily the ones without dialogue… his graphic storytelling is that good. That said, I would rate The Nobody as "good, not great," while fully acknowledging that I am judging it based on how over-the-top incredible Essex County was. That The Nobody was an interesting concept, well-executed, and beautifully drawn is not enough when it's from Jeff Lemire.
It was worth the read, but it didn't blow me away. 3/5 look-ma-no-hands....more