When I see the word "evocative" included in a review blurb on the back of a book, I usually put the book down and move on to something else. It's theWhen I see the word "evocative" included in a review blurb on the back of a book, I usually put the book down and move on to something else. It's the most overused word in book reviewing, and to me it means that the writing is "IMPORTANT", but to me comes across as just being pretentious.
So I should have known better, since I did find it a bit pretentious. Yes, yes, yes, it is well written, a very well written book, filled with detailed descriptions of the past, feelings, emotions, blah, blah, blah. But the writing is so mannered, and the descriptions of every little thing go on and on and on. I just found it hard to believe that someone who is supposed to be an elderly man writing a story that is supposed to be based on a memory of an incident that happened when he was a child can remember the sound of the birds chirping in the trees, and the wind blowing through the fields, and how haunting and melancholy everything is. Yes, it is possible to remember very detailed things, that's not impossible, but every single possible item ? Every single sentence seems to have gone through an agonizing process of cramming in as much "evocative" memory as possible. It's as though the book was sent through a writing class and all the students were asked to add in the standard phrases and terms that are needed to get a few reviews that include that key word that I guess gets people to buy the book. We need more "evocative" memories in these sentences here! What can we add in ?
Don't get me wrong, it is a good book. It's well written, the characters are fully realized, all the elements that are supposed to be here are there. This 'New Yorker' style of writing may just not be to my taste I guess. Though there is one thing that really bothered me about the story. The main character is supposed to be recalling a friendship from childhood. With so much evocative recalling of the birds and trees and cars and parents and school, and everything else, there's actually isn't much about the kid that is the subject of this friendship. I don't think we get a sense of much of a connection between these two kids. There's not a special bond there, no specific incident that says to me that those two kids were great friends. A secret shared between the two, a special thing in common, shared interests, or anything like that. No, he just seemed to me to be just like any other kid. Is that supposed to be the point? Maybe, I don't know, but by the end I just didn't care if they found each other when they were adults or not. ...more
A novel that is better than it should be. Not much happens, there's not much to it and you could probably read it in a couple of days. The strength ofA novel that is better than it should be. Not much happens, there's not much to it and you could probably read it in a couple of days. The strength of the book is the characterization of Utz. The actual story is something of a 'shaggy dog' type of tale, a story that might take twenty or so pages to tell as a short story in The New Yorker. However, Chatwin has created a character here that by the end is so clearly defined I felt as though I actually knew him myself, as though I could recall distant memories of meeting Utz at some point. Maybe in a museum, as I wandered around the exhibits, maybe he was someone who struck up a conversation about some art history detail that he wanted to share. Or maybe he gave me directions to a restaurant and then suggested that he join our party since he knew the owner anyway. I'm sure I've met people like this, and it's people like this who I think help to keep the world sane. ...more
Me: 'Do you want to read this book when I'm done with it ?" My wife: 'It's about a dog ?' Me: 'Yes, and it's from the dog's point of view.' W: 'You knowMe: 'Do you want to read this book when I'm done with it ?" My wife: 'It's about a dog ?' Me: 'Yes, and it's from the dog's point of view.' W: 'You know what's going to happen at the end though, it happens with every book about a dog' Me: 'Yes, I know that, and I'm sure I'll cry anyway.'
Should I say there's a spoiler here? Or does everyone already know that when you read a book about a dog more often than not something happens to that dog at the end of the book? Why is that?
Anyway, I knew what was going to happen. I just knew it. It had to happen. About half way through the book I even happened to see the last page and knew for a fact that it was going to happen. But then, by the time I actually got to that last page and had finished the only book I've read that's told from a dog's point of view that is so well written, and I've read three so far and the other ones were awful, but this one is so well written that even though I knew what was going to happen, from the first page you have to realize it was coming, all signs pointed to just one conclusion, by the time I got to the end that I knew was going to happen, I cried and cried and cried and cried some more.
How is it possible that someone would know so little about starting a bee hive that she would neglect to let the queen bee out of the little box thatHow is it possible that someone would know so little about starting a bee hive that she would neglect to let the queen bee out of the little box that it was shipped in ? If you are about to receive all the necessary parts to start a bee hive, wouldn't you at least read something about what to do once the package arrives? What a moron.
It's like an episode of Portlandia, where the hipsters go out to the woods to live off the land, only this book isn't supposed to be funny. This book is awful, look for a copy of 'We Took To The Woods' instead....more
Non-fiction writing should be more than just paragraphs filled with facts. A good non-fiction writer can get readers involvA good story, poorly told.
Non-fiction writing should be more than just paragraphs filled with facts. A good non-fiction writer can get readers involved in their subject, no matter what it is. This book just lurches along from one less than compelling fact after another. I have worked in publishing for many years, and I've been interested in all aspects of publishing since I was a kid, from editorial to art direction and production. So this book would seem to be a good fit for me. However, the focus here is on some of the most uninteresting aspects of book publishing, such as paper procurement, and legal issues. Little bit of information on production management goes a long way, and there's a lot of that here. Chapters and chapters of it.
Then, once we get through all the information on paper, we get to wade through the regurgitation of letter after letter of how important these wartime books were for the soldiers. After awhile, they all sounded the same. Yes, the soldiers loved these books, I get it. But wait, here's yet another letter that says just about the same thing that the last one said. For some reason, the author does not identify most of the soldiers who wrote these letters. They are mostly identified as "A soldier wrote a letter that said ...", or "A sailor wrote a letter that said...". A bit more research could have been used to put some names to these soldiers, maybe interview some of the family members who might remember how much their grandfather liked the books, or maybe a veteran who might still have some copies of the books. But no, there's none of that, seems as though the author just spent some time in an archive, found some letters, read some newspaper accounts from the time, and then put together this series of facts and called it a book.
So I think that is one of the things that good non-fiction writers do, they go beyond what the reader might expect. They find remaining veterans who remember these books, find the book collectors and used book sellers who have these books, I'm sure collectors have some good stories to tell. Maybe interview people in the publishing industry who know this story and could have provided another perspective, maybe travel to the battlefields and ask around at the local villages to see if anyone remembers anything about them, maybe there are a few left in local libraries in France or Germany? The author could have tracked down some of the administrators who worked on the program, maybe some of the younger assistants might still be alive ? Or maybe their family members or descendants might have been of help? You would think that an editor would have asked the author to do that. But no, there is none of that, just facts, facts, facts. All of which could be found by reading a Wikipedia article, or a high school level History term paper.