I know there are plenty of people who will ready anything with zombies. They will read books because they have zombies. I am not one of them. ZombiesI know there are plenty of people who will ready anything with zombies. They will read books because they have zombies. I am not one of them. Zombies are a reason to set a book aside as far as I'm concerned. That said, they're not a deal-killer. A good book with zombies remains a good book.
This is a good book. Character-driven, beautifully written, and completely absorbing. I thought the science behind the zombies was pretty interesting as well. It loses a star, and falls short of absolute greatness, because I found the set-up in the first third to be the most interesting part of the book. Maybe some readers will enjoy the more action-oriented sequences, but I thought they detracted from what made this book shine so brilliantly. That said, it's still fantastic. ...more
A few years ago I received an email from a bookseller with whom I’d traded a few friendly messages. This time she wrote because she was bursting withA few years ago I received an email from a bookseller with whom I’d traded a few friendly messages. This time she wrote because she was bursting with excitement over a novel she’d read and she felt sure it was the sort of thing I’d like. The novel was The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper, and it was, at the time, the best book I’d read in a good long while. I’ve been a huge Tropper fan ever since, and I have to say that his new book, This is Where I Leave You, is easily among the best of what is already a distinguished body of work. Also, his books are screamingly hilarious, touching, very human, written with a kind of skill that appears effortless but we all know isn’t. This is one of those books that will keep you up way past your bedtime, not with plot twists and surprise developments, but because the writing is so incredibly absorbing and enjoyable. Did I mention his books are screamingly hilarious?
Like many of his novels, This is Where I Leave You, places vivid and funny characters in fragile and emotionally fraught situations. In this case it’s Judd Foxman who is still recovering from a humiliating break-up with his wife (he catches her cheating on him with his boss, a brazenly Howard Stern–esque morning DJ) when his father dies and he must return home from the funeral. Judd had a distant and strained relationship with his father, and relations with his mother, a famous child psychologist, are not much better. His two brothers are both, though very differently, difficult people, and while he gets along well with his sister, she has marriage problems of her own.
It all sounds overbearing and depressing, but it never even gets close. Tropper pulls this off with humorous wind-ups, deliciously awkward situations, emotional confrontation, funny set-pieces, and a healthy smattering of restoration comedy material. It is part of Tropper’s genius that he manages to find the perfect balance between funny and poignant, and never does the humor threaten to devolve to farce. Sentence by sentence and page by page, this book is an absolute delight to read, and it left me wishing that there were more books like this in the world....more
William Elliott Hazelgrove’s Rocket Man is a first rate voice-driven black comedy. It is very funny and very engaging, one of those books I was happyWilliam Elliott Hazelgrove’s Rocket Man is a first rate voice-driven black comedy. It is very funny and very engaging, one of those books I was happy to plough through in a couple of sittings, but Rocket Man has a lot more going on than its excellent entertainment value. It’s protagonist, Dale Hammer is a failing (or possibly failed) novelist who has abandoned his beloved Chicago neighborhood for a generic suburb in order to live out the most banal iteration of the American dream – the big house and the big car. That there is a link between Dale’s inability to write and his environment is more implied than stated, but I think that at the heart of this novel is the assertion that the real American dream – that of being self-made and maintaining individuality under the pressure of conformity – is what gets crushed by the pursuit of the empty and material products we are programmed to desire.
Dale is unambiguously his own worst enemy, placing himself in situations that are self-destructively calculated to unbalance his already precarious situation. He cannot afford his house, he antagonizes his neighbors, he doesn’t maintain a run-down rental property, and he refuses to fulfill the most basic responsibilities he has taken on in heading up his son’s Cub Scout rocket day. As things do in this sort of novel, one mistake piles upon another. On top of that, Dale is surrounded by a number of outrageous characters. In a Curb Your Enthusiasm sort of way, Dale may behave badly, but everyone else behaves worse. The secondary characters – Dale’s father, his wife, his neighbors, his son’s teachers, his clients as a mortgage broker – often threaten to veer off into the absurd, but when the novel takes a detour from verisimilitude, it more than compensates in humor and entertainment. Anyhow, verisimilitude, in my opinion, is overrated. Anyone can say, “people don’t really talk that way,” but hardly anyone can write a book this good. I’ll definitely be checking out Hazelgrove’s back list. ...more