This is a deeply problematic book. I didn't think it was nearly as unreadable as some people say, and in fact was fairly entertained by it before I ha...moreThis is a deeply problematic book. I didn't think it was nearly as unreadable as some people say, and in fact was fairly entertained by it before I had to return it to the library (which is the real reason I didn't finish it, I swear).
Early on there's a footnote along the lines of "you guys I was really crappy at math in high school and didn't really like it except for this one teacher so I'm basically just going to be regurgitating what he said, okay?" This was an early warning sign, and the nagging feeling only grows stronger as the book goes on -- DFW doesn't really know what he's talking about. (The reviews I've read by mathematicians seem to confirm this.)
The book is poorly organized, or rather not organized, which certainly conveys DFW's rollicking enthusiasm for the subject, but it's still very frustrating when you want to refer back to something. There's all these "optional" footnotes and digressions, but I found it impossible to grasp what he was saying without these "optional" bits, so I read them all. There's this big looming question of who the book is for... as pop science it's too dense and complicated for a layperson with no background on the subject, yet it cuts too many corners to satisfy anyone who actually knows the subject.
For pseudo-intellectuals and weekend philosophers this book is probably perfect -- there's lots of entertaining anecdotes about historical figures in mathematics, and a few "this will blow your MIND" moments you can regale people with at parties. Also, since the book is harder to read than it needs to be, people will be impressed that you read it. Voila!(less)
City of Glass was great! I don't know why it took me so long to read Auster. This book pushed a lot of the right buttons for me, dealin...more(Previously...)
City of Glass was great! I don't know why it took me so long to read Auster. This book pushed a lot of the right buttons for me, dealing with the fantastical in a rigorous and inventive way (Calvino and Borges also do this right).
Ghosts and The Locked Room - also great! I really liked the mounting parallelisms that pile up between the three stories. The Locked Room is my favorite of the three; Ghosts is a little predictable and City of Glass is kinda meandering in retrospect. The final confrontations in each story are all great too; they're suitably climactic yet resolve nothing.(less)
Pretty good. The semi-post-apocalyptic future is a more and more common trope these days (not to mention more and more plausible), but this book handl...morePretty good. The semi-post-apocalyptic future is a more and more common trope these days (not to mention more and more plausible), but this book handles it well. And for a book narrated by a teenage girl who makes up a religion, it is surprisingly not (very) preachy and there is a minimum of convenient coincidences. You know she's going to have to leave her neighborhood at some point, but about half the book takes place in the neighborhood, which I think was a good move. A lesser writer would probably put her on the road sooner, but that would have made the journey mean less. On the other hand, the book ends without much being resolved. It feels more like a prelude than a complete book, but it's at least intrigued me enough to read the next one in the series at some point.
I also didn't get the character of Bankole -- the way he acted and the way other characters reacted to him didn't make much sense to me, in a book that was generally careful to provide complex, realistic motivations for people's actions. But maybe he was supposed to be a cipher?(less)
The first few stories in this book are actually the weakest in my opinion -- or maybe Rosenbaum's internal logic just made more sense to me as I read...moreThe first few stories in this book are actually the weakest in my opinion -- or maybe Rosenbaum's internal logic just made more sense to me as I read on. Many of these tales combine seemingly unrelated ideas in unexpected ways, like the incredible "Sense and Sensibility," a gloss on Jane Austen that takes place in a cosmology where planets are actually human bodies (themselves living on ever larger human bodies), and incorporates occasional metafictional asides that directly verbally abuse the reader. When Rosenbaum is on, somehow this all works seamlessly. When he's not (as in the title story), his stories can be meandering and unaffecting, like a flat description of someone else's dreams.
Others are more straightfaced science fiction, but with inspired worldbuilding (like "Embracing-the-New," which was unexpectedly moving). Metafiction and self-referentiality crop up fairly often (as in "The Book of Jashar" and "Biographical Notes to 'A Discourse on the Nature of Causal- ity, with Air-Planes,' by Benjamin Rosenbaum"). There's even a respectable tribute to Italo Calvino ("Other Cities"). It's all pretty great.(less)