I remembered the basic plot of this novel (2 young Jewish men create a comic book hero in New York) but h...morePreviously read Jan 2003 - audiobook May 2012
I remembered the basic plot of this novel (2 young Jewish men create a comic book hero in New York) but had forgotten how much of their lives we follow, including the tumultuous events touched off by January 6, 1941. The "magical realism" I referenced in my original review isn't really there - the Golem of Prague doesn't play out the way I hoped it would. I'd also forgotten the awful pun Chabon makes based on one of the character's surnames... :^)
A compelling novel with engaging characters (and a few real-life cameos thrown in) and a plot that meanders a bit, but in a good way. The audiobook, performed by David Colacci, is nicely done; I especially liked Kavalier's accent!
------ Previous review: Quite enjoyable - a touch of (for lack of a better term) magical realism and intertwining historical & fictional characters.(less)
I tried to take my time with this book & pretty much failed. I found it to be a fascinating look at the turn of the 20th century as viewed by 3 fa...moreI tried to take my time with this book & pretty much failed. I found it to be a fascinating look at the turn of the 20th century as viewed by 3 families living in the greater New York City area and how their lives intertwine with each other, as well as famous figures such as Harry Houdini, J.P. Morgan, Emma Goldman & Evelyn Nesbit. I thought it was a little odd (and distracting) that the main family had no names, instead going by Father, Mother and Mother's Younger Brother, despite making the narrator fairly obvious. A lot of research & creativity went into this book, and I enjoyed the occasional "author's voice" interruption. Recommended to anyone interested in a slice of life story from this time & place.
Notes and Quotes
"Across America, sex and death were barely indistinguishable." (during a discussion on immigrants) "People stitched themselves to the flag." "A man like Roosevelt ... now sent a fleet of white battleships around the world, battleships as white as his teeth." "Children suffered no discriminatory treatment. They were valued everywhere they were employed. They did not complain as adults tended to do. Employers liked to think of them as happy elves." "Roosevelt accused Wilson of finding war abhorrent. He thought Wilson had the prim renunciatory mouth of someone who had eaten fish with bones in it. ... When the Great War came, he [Wilson] would wage it with the fury of the affronted."
JP Morgan makes references to prisca theologica, Roscruscians & Hermes Trismegistus -- discussed in Not in Kansas Anymore
Perhaps one of my favorite time travel novels, I picked up my copy of Time and Again for a re-read earlier this week.
Si Morley, an advertising illustr...morePerhaps one of my favorite time travel novels, I picked up my copy of Time and Again for a re-read earlier this week.
Si Morley, an advertising illustrator who is living in New York & feeling somewhat unfulfilled in life, is approached by a mysterious man who asks him to commit to a secret project. Not having much else to look forward to (even his relationship is somewhat desultory), he agrees. The project, under the aegis of the US government, is time travel by means of self-hypnotism & surrounding one's self with the artifacts of that time. A mystery in the life of his girlfriend's adoptive parents gives him the impetus to travel to the New York of 1882.
The puzzle pieces that Finney puts together in this novel are amazing, with actual historical events fitting in almost seamlessly to the narrative, including sketches and photographs from the time. The unraveling of the mystery and the thrilling climax were as compelling on a re-read as the first time. As before, I found myself wondering just how much of the story was true. Finney does admit to changing some of the facts - the Dakota hotel (where Si does his "traveling") wasn't complete until 1885, for example. But other elements appear to be faithfully researched.
I'd recommend this novel to fans of time travel who also have an interest in the world of the turn of the 19th century.
This novel follows an emigre from London and the characters he meets thru mid 19th century New York City. I wish I'd read Gangs of New York more recen...moreThis novel follows an emigre from London and the characters he meets thru mid 19th century New York City. I wish I'd read Gangs of New York more recently, as I think I'd have gotten more out of the novel with the historical background more fresh in my mind. There's a couple of semi-anachronistic sensibilities (or maybe it's just me) and a sprinkling of encounters/references to famous folks of the time. Most of the loose ends are wrapped up & in general, I was OK with the way it ended. Recommend as a library/borrowed read to to anyone looking for historical fiction about the mid 1800's in New York City & the migration West. (less)
Into chapter 3, where the family takes the Grand Tour of Europe in 1869. I'm really enjoying the story of this...moreBorrowed audiobook from CrankyAsAnOldMan
Into chapter 3, where the family takes the Grand Tour of Europe in 1869. I'm really enjoying the story of this remarkable family & am impressed by the amount of history McCullough brings in to the narrative. Wonderfully narrated by Edward Herrmann (with some sort of interstitial/pinch hitting by a woman)- I'd like to find more of his work as well! ... I really feel as if I've gotten to know this family, as well as quite a bit about the time period. I found the descriptions of Teddy's Badlands experience fascinating, as I had family in the area a few decades later.
A biography of Theodore Roosevelt, picking up at the point where he becomes President of the United States due to McKinley's assassination in 1901. In...moreA biography of Theodore Roosevelt, picking up at the point where he becomes President of the United States due to McKinley's assassination in 1901. Interesting, but slow-going. I'm up to the coal strike being resolved, sometime in 1902, I think. I'll probably renew it for another month & hopefully can finish it up in that time. [I didn't]
I listened to Mornings on Horseback earlier this year, which was a biography of TR's parents & early years, but I seem to be missing about a 10-year period between the two. Hrmph. (less)
"I saw that we must lie to ourselves now and then, tell ourselves that we're capable and strong, that life is good and hard work will be rewarded, and...more"I saw that we must lie to ourselves now and then, tell ourselves that we're capable and strong, that life is good and hard work will be rewarded, and then we must try to make our dreams come true."
This revelation comes rather late in the story to J.R; a boy growing up on Long Island with a long-suffering, tough-as-nails mom & dysfunctional grandparents, he attempts finds solace by listening to the radio in hopes of hearing The Voice, his father, who worked as an itinerant D.J in the greater NYC area.
In an effort to make ends meet, he and his mom move out to Arizona for awhile & she sends him "back home" over the summer for a few years - Uncle Charlie takes him under his week and the boys of the bar become a role model.
J.R. gets into Yale by the skin of his teeth, falls in love with an impossible woman and works as a copyboy at the New York Times all the while practically living at Publicans - drinking in both the essence of stereotypical manliness and (once he's legal), plenty of booze. J.R. comes to realize that he can't stay a copyboy forever, pining after his lost love. A death in the "family" finally provides him with the impetus to get up off the barstool and on with his life.
I really enjoyed this memoir, with parts of it reminding me rather strongly of Spider Robinson's Callahans (minus the fantastic occurrences). It does gloss over the co-dependency issues of the barflies; which is understandable, as they were his father figures. I also felt as if the bar were a time machine back to the 1950's, based on the way the men behaved, as compared to the actual timeline of the late 70's & 80's.
J.R. cites several times how F. Scott Fitzgerald used Manhasset (his home town) as the model for East Egg and makes other comparisons between The Great Gatsby and episodes in his life; the glamorization of alcohol is fairly obvious in this memoir as well.
Recommended: Entertainment Weekly 26 Aug 2005 & QPB Catalog Summer 2006(less)
VERY DETAILED look at the underworld of NYC from the 1850's to the 1920's, with a focus mainly on the Five Points & Bowery area. The political cor...moreVERY DETAILED look at the underworld of NYC from the 1850's to the 1920's, with a focus mainly on the Five Points & Bowery area. The political corruption of the Tammany Hall era contributed greatly to the growth & power of the gangs, leaving the police mostly powerless to bring justice to these downtrodden slums. The Civil War Draft Riots (the focus of the recent movie of the same name, I believe) are discussed on a day-by-day basis; small sketches of many of the colorful individuals of this 70-year period are presented as well.
This book was published in 1923; so a good amount of the material occurred within the memories of those still living. The writing is a little more formal than what I'm generally used to; and the massive amount of material was overwhelming at times. Definitely a scholarly work vs. something written for the masses, at least for the current popular culture. Still worth the work in reading, though. (less)
I wish I'd read this before/instead of The Gangs of New York as it's both a more accessible and broader work dealing with the history of the underworl...moreI wish I'd read this before/instead of The Gangs of New York as it's both a more accessible and broader work dealing with the history of the underworld of New York City from the 1830's to the 1900's.
Anbinder looks at the sociological reasons that the slums developed, as well as a mini-history lesson on the Irish Famine, as that calamity drove the development of the Five Points area, with immigrants from two parishes (Kerry and Sligo) providing the bulk of the immigrants to the area. Despite the squalor of the 5 Points slum (and the common saying "three times the Irish wage for six times the Irish work"), many felt lucky to have arrived in America.
Anbinder provides some slice-of-life stories of "normal" people; as opposed to the sensational stories of the gang leaders that Gangs was filled with. He also includes photographs, particularly those of Jacob Riis, possibly one of the first photojournalists, who started his career documenting Mulberry Bend in the 5 Points area.
Anbinder speculates that the term "slumming" may have originated with such famous people as Davy Crockett and Charles Dickens visiting 5 Points and then writing about their impressions. He also disputes that any gang actually went by the name Dead Rabbits; it apparently was a fictitious name assigned to the opponents of the Bowery Boys.
The maps at the beginning of the book were useful, as I found myself referring back to them while reading the text. Anbinder also provides over 50 pages of endnotes, as well as an index.
Recommended to anyone interested in the story of immigration in general and of a specific NYC neighborhood in particular.
A good collection of Dorothy Parker's short stories; however, I was reminded of her focus on love gone wrong. She does it well, mind you... but it can...moreA good collection of Dorothy Parker's short stories; however, I was reminded of her focus on love gone wrong. She does it well, mind you... but it can get a little tedious after a while. I think I like her "monologues" the best - "The Waltz" still makes me giggle a bit. (less)
I read a review of this novel in Entertainment Weekly a month or two ago & was sufficiently intrigued to put it on hold at the library.
This novel...moreI read a review of this novel in Entertainment Weekly a month or two ago & was sufficiently intrigued to put it on hold at the library.
This novel is basically an alternate history autobiography, with Charles Lindbergh being elected president instead of FDR serving his third term. Lindbergh's isolationist policies, friendship with Hitler and anti-Semitic attitude concerns the Jewish community in general and the Roth family specifically. Young Philip is the narrator; living in Newark, he sees his cousin Alvin go to Canada to fight with the RAF, his brother Sandy sent to a tobacco farm in Kentucky one summer as part of the "Just Folks" program, and his father and mother struggle with their principles while keeping his family provided for and together.
Roth certainly appears to have done his homework - he includes a section with short biographies of the historical figures that appear in the novel, as well as one of Lindbergh's speeches. I'd be interested to see how much of the actual family's history was included - was Sandy really a talented artist? Did Alvin actually join the RAF? This mix of reality and fiction was very compelling, although rather dark at times.
Recommended to anyone interested in a portrayal of pre-WWII history as it might have been.
Despite never having been to New York City, I find myself drawn to both fiction and non-fiction about it, especially the period from the 1870's to the...moreDespite never having been to New York City, I find myself drawn to both fiction and non-fiction about it, especially the period from the 1870's to the 1910's. This work provided some additional background (as well as a pleasant excursion) into that world.
Jonnes provides a great amount of detail in both the construction aspects and the political wheelings and dealings of the herculean task of bringing the railroad to Manhattan. I'm not sure which was the greater foe: Tammany or the Hudson River! In any case, I was astounded on both fronts that this magnificent structure was even able to be completed. I was also very sad to read in the Coda section of its demise.
Perhaps Jonnes tried a bit too hard to replicate the style of Erik Larson; the connection to the Evelyn Nesbit scandal was obvious, but seemed a sidebar to the main focus of the book. Then again, considering Larson's success with The Devil in the White City, who can blame her for adding a bit of scandal to the story?
While the Smithsonian is known as "The Nation's Attic" - one can make a case that many museums could be described thusly. Especially a collection that...moreWhile the Smithsonian is known as "The Nation's Attic" - one can make a case that many museums could be described thusly. Especially a collection that started in 1869 when the science of "natural history" was still being defined, and the hunger for knowledge (and mastery) of the natural world was very strong.
The first section is an exploration into how some of the artifacts in the American Museum of Natural History got there, detailing several "expeditions", mostly for dinosaur fossils. I wonder what these adventurer types would be doing if they lived in the present day?
The second section of the book delves into some of the different collections at the Museum, but once again, focusing equally on the stories behind the artifacts as well as the artifacts themselves. Those with weak stomachs may want to skip the part that describes how the animal skeletons are procured and cleaned... (tho readers of Stiff will see familiar territory).
While perhaps not a cohesive book, I found this to be a quirky exploration of a venerable institution and very enjoyable!
Another collection of Sedaris' memoir essays; about half of the book is dedicated to his expedition to Japan in order to quit smoking. Along the way h...moreAnother collection of Sedaris' memoir essays; about half of the book is dedicated to his expedition to Japan in order to quit smoking. Along the way he attempts to learn Japanese (with even less success than his pretty-talking French), and deals with yet another world-class city. He delves into his past, with stories from childhood, France, and NYC; certain turns of phrase brought his voice (heard so often on NPR) directly to mind. I still think Sedaris should look more like David Spade circa 1994, for some reason.
We meet some eccentric characters, laugh snarkily at the foibles of others and discover some poignant moments, even if they do feel a bit manufactured. Admittedly, the stories are more about David Sedaris, the Writer/Essayist (who can afford to spend $20k on a 3-month visit to Japan) and less about David Sedaris, the quirky North Carolinian neat freak from a dysfunctional family who went to the Big City.
Fans of his work know pretty much what to expect - I don't think I had quite as many laugh-out-loud moments this time around, but it was definitely worth checking out of the library & I'll probably end up looking for it at the used bookstore. (less)
SDMB recommendation: delphica -"I did like how the author painted a vivid and believable picture of the social world in which they lived. " Lori gave...moreSDMB recommendation: delphica -"I did like how the author painted a vivid and believable picture of the social world in which they lived. " Lori gave 3 stars & Suzanne gave 4(less)
"From time to time Mark Spitz happened on these places in Zone One, where he strolled down a movie set, earning scale as an extra in a period piece ab...more"From time to time Mark Spitz happened on these places in Zone One, where he strolled down a movie set, earning scale as an extra in a period piece about the dead world."
Not only am I a fan of the post-apocalypse genre, but I've also read & enjoyed a couple of Colson Whitehead's previous novels, so when I heard (via his interview on NPR's Fresh Air - 19 Oct 2011) that his latest novel dealt with a zombie outbreak, my interest was definitely piqued.
This is probably the most literary zombie novel I've ever read; its slow pace, almost lethargic at times, is very different from a lot of what I've read, but it fits the atmosphere of the novel so very, very well.
Whitehead leads his readers gently into the story, starting with the main character's recollections of visiting his uncle in New York City. From there, the timeline jumps between the current day -- where Mark Spitz (an odd nickname, but explained at one point) works on a secondary clean-up team in the titular area of NYC -- and flashbacks to his survival experiences after Last Night - the day of the zombie outbreak. I found the idea of the "American Phoenix" all too possible in the post 9/11 world, and the stories of the survivors Mark meets along the way tragically true.
Also unsettling were the stragglers - the zombified dead that were tied to one place, doomed to eternally repeat/relive a single moment in their lives. But then again, we don't know if they felt doomed, do we?
I'm glad I read Zone One in Kindle format, as I was able to easily highlight the many quotes that caught my eye & then extract them into a largish text file. I'll try to just share my very favorites below - grouped semi-thematically:
Over the years, Mark Spitz reconciled himself to his condition. It took the pressure off. A force from above held him down, and a counterforce from below bore him aloft. He hovered on unexceptionality.(pg 56)
In his mind, the business of existence was about minimizing consequences. (pg 85)
It was important to maintain a reserve tank of feeling topped off in case of emergency. (pg 41)
He stopped hooking up with other people once he realized the first thing he did was calculate whether or not he could outrun them. (p 115)
A part of him thrived on the end of the world. How else to explain it: He had a knack for apocalypse. (p 197)
Before the rise of the camps, out in the land, you had to watch out for other people. The dead were predictable. People were not.
What must it have been like, to see the choppers after all that time, after they’d emptied the larder of hope and had only mealy, unleavened stubbornness to chew on? p 208
Suddenly this settlement had become a community ... and the survivors had something to hold in their hands besides the make-shift weapons they had nicknamed and pathetically conversed with in the small hours. (p 88)
Now, the people were no longer mere survivors, half-mad refugees, a pathetic, shit-flecked, traumatized herd, but the “American Phoenix.” The more popular diminutive "pheenie" had taken off in the settlements. (pg 79) (less)
I delved into this novel via the local e-library. I've seen parts of the movie & it's finally piqued my curiosity enough to give it a try.
It's odd...moreI delved into this novel via the local e-library. I've seen parts of the movie & it's finally piqued my curiosity enough to give it a try.
It's oddly compelling, if incredibly dated in its cultural references (intentionally so, I think). Bateman is already depicted as being off his rocker, but I don't think he's murdered anyone yet - at least not that's been explicitly described. I doubt I'll say I enjoyed this novel once I'm done - but then again, I don't think you're supposed to enjoy it.
I've now read thru a couple of the killings - including one that progressed from a very explicit FFM sex scene. I'm not a slasher movie fan in general, and I refuse to watch anything considered "torture porn", but this seems different, somehow. I'd agree with another reviewer's comment of the sex/death scenes being "long, detailed, and presented with an absolute lack of empathy" - but, you know, there's not a shred of empathy in this novel, not as portrayed BY any characters, nor FOR any of the characters.
It's a brutal book - but it's got my attention. It's out of my comfort zone to read a novel where there's no one I can identify with, no one to root for. While I certainly can't fault anyone who refuses to read or finish it; I do plan on making it thru to the end. I think I'm going to view this novel like I have a couple of Chuck Palahniuk novels and the movie Natural Born Killers - worth having experienced, but never going to re-visit.
I don't think I need to read anything else by Bret Easton Ellis. He does give Bateman a little backstory/explanation there in the last couple chapters, but then the story just... ends. This novel was an interesting experience and I'll leave it at that. Tho I did enjoy the history/review of 80's pop music figures like Phil Collins & Huey Lewis and the News. (less)
Thru library hold serendipity, I ended up reading this novel Life After Life and by Kate Atkinson at the same time - they both deal with some form of...moreThru library hold serendipity, I ended up reading this novel Life After Life and by Kate Atkinson at the same time - they both deal with some form of time travel by women protagonists. Both novels must have required quite a bit of plotting and diagramming ahead of time to make things turn out just right and it's been interesting to compare and contrast the two novels.
Here, the main character goes thru electro-convulsive therapy in 1985 and finds herself living alternate versions of her life in 1918 and 1941 - swapping between the three on a semi-regular schedule. She slowly discovers the common elements of her existence going in different directions in each timeline; of course, she (all 3 of her) can't help but meddle a bit, and must ultimately decide which version of herself she wants to be.
I found the parallels of Influenza (1918) War (1918 & 1941) & AIDS (1985) and their influences on NYC society to be an intriguing theme carried through each storyline. I also really enjoyed the character development and the little details* of each timeframe setting. While the ending felt a little pat, it was satisfying and I would consider re-reading this novel at some point, tho I don't feel the need to purchase my own copy.
Quotes "It is almost impossible to capture true sadness; it is a deep sea creature that can never be brought into view."
"I had never considered children. No, that's not true. I had considered children as people consider moving to a foreign country; they know it will change them forever, but it is a change they never see."
-------- * Speaking of details, the Disney lover in me wants to think that the young man dressed as a Genie and named Howard at the Halloween party was a tribute to Howard Ashman(less)
Collins recounts the story behind the murder trial of Levi Weeks - accused of killing fellow boarder Elma Sands (with whom he was rumoured to be romantically involved) and dumping her body in a local well. This trial, held in early 1800 in New York City was the first to be fully documented in the press in America, and featured two of the Founding Fathers as defense lawyers - Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Even amateur students of history (like myself) might find it surprising that these two men would have worked together on anything together after the Revolution, but Collins explains the connection.
There's plenty of research, and plenty of detail - resulting in 45-ish pages in the Notes section! Collins does a good job of weaving it all together into an engaging story, focussing on Sands and Elma, while still providing details on the famous figures as well. Collins delves a bit into New York City history as well - wrapping up the book with not only the story of the Burr/Hamilton duel - but the fallout of the duel as well.
It was an interesting read about a time in history I wasn't very familiar with - recommended as at least a library read. (less)
Am working my way slowly through this weighty tome borrowed from the library. McCullough does an excellent job of bri...moreFan of author; SDMB SiamSam recco
Am working my way slowly through this weighty tome borrowed from the library. McCullough does an excellent job of bringing in just enough historical background to round out the story of this incredibly ambitious feat of construction and architecture - I've not (yet) seen it in person, but I think having read this book will give me a greater appreciation of The Bridge.
Mind you, the book can be slow going, but not at all tedious, IMHO - reading the descriptions of working in the cassions (and finally getting a clear description of what they are and how they work!) and the danger of "blowouts" made me understand just how so many lives could be & were lost during the construction of a project as massive as this.
ETA: I did skim thru a few sections, but overall found the book a fascinating look at an amazing feat of engineering, as well as the people in charge. I will definitely continue to work my way thru McCullough's body of work; tho I'm personally a bit more interested in this kind of history than straight biographies. (less)