Well written, the novel is another retelling of The Odyssey this one set in the American wild west. Two brutal men set off from Oregon to California tWell written, the novel is another retelling of The Odyssey this one set in the American wild west. Two brutal men set off from Oregon to California to find and kill a man. They work for a shadowy figure, and are simple gun for hires. Narrated by the youngest brother, the story leads them from one encounter to another, all strange (yet strangely familiar). I'm about 3/4 of the way through the book. The writing is excellent--deWitt manages to bring intelligence and depth to these wild men, and the yearnings of the younger brother's heart make you forget he isn't quite human. The anger, killing, and brutality are written with the same even hand as the exploration into affection, love, and fear, which makes the novel both a writing triumph, and chillingly sociopathic. ...more
The novel is a high concept story, the premise of which might be stated: What happens when technology makes it possible for a man to conduct soft scieThe novel is a high concept story, the premise of which might be stated: What happens when technology makes it possible for a man to conduct soft science experiments that could perfect the scientific method (observation)? And what if that man is insane? (Although insane is not a medical term--it fits here.)
Or, it might read: Sci-fi meets sociology.
The novel revolves around the therapeutic relationship between Y________, and his female therapist, Victoria.
The therapist is a thinly drawn character who, more often than not, thinks and speaks almost exactly like Y_______. Her husband also thinks and speaks almost exactly like Y________.
There's a problem here.
Most of the novel is Y_____'s stream of consciousness banter about thinking, how to think, or thoughts about thinking. Like all high concept novels this one is up to the second, mentioning every sort of social distraction available by name and passing judgement on each one and the people who spend their time there.
Klosterman has a great deal of judgement to pass around, and if you read this novel you must be ready to accept your fair share of his intellectual distaste.
Much of the story is engrossing because Klosterman knows how to hide story elements, and how to divert the readers attention so the main question of "What's really going on here?" remains in the fore.
By the end, however, we discover all of Y_____'s arguments are circular, and Victoria has been reduced to a silly, emotionally-focused cut out character of a therapist. I have the feeling Klosterman tried therapy once, so deep is his contempt for it, and the people who seek out it's efforts.
One has the feeling reading this, that the author was very worried the reader wouldn't be able to understand what was happening, and required the same information again and again. Another assumption was one of the imagination. It's not difficult for most readers to suspend disbelief and allow for the fact that, in this story, a man has a personal cloaking device. I'm no sic-fi aficionado, and I had no trouble accepting this fact, and it quickly became matter of fact--not nearly as frightening as the author might have hoped.
I couldn't find a single character I liked, but even so, the content kept me reading, hoping for a shining finish.
No such luck. The plot took a predictable turn, ending up exactly where I guessed it would end when I started reading.
The gist of the story is that the scientific method is fundamentally flawed because the observer cannot, even in the simplest way, be objective about what he or she is observing.
It seems like a long road to take to get to such a simple and well debated conclusion.
The novel is highly readable, and except for the sections where Klosterman repeats himself (which is remarkably infrequent given the nature of the prose), the stories have a sort of campfire/ghost story quality that keeps you thinking that the story is really about something else, that the evil in the story is not one easily identified, but something more universal. It just didn't deliver in the end.
The writing is good--strong movement, even in long passages when Y_______ takes control and lectures at length. There are, however, several passages where I stopped reading and thought, "That's the author. That's what he thinks, not what Y_______ thinks. The author interjects into the narrative too often.
Sometimes the book comes off as preachy, and I'm not certain this is unintentional. Almost a dare: can you figure out how much of this is just blowing smoke, and how much is really important?
I can't say I loved the book, but I did see the value of it. It gets you thinking, and some of the stories are weirdly interesting.
There are passages with gratuitous language.
If you're looking for something truly different, you might want to try this one.
I read Ru in three short sittings over two days. It reads quickly. The book is a compilation of short (often less than a page) vignettes, glimpses intI read Ru in three short sittings over two days. It reads quickly. The book is a compilation of short (often less than a page) vignettes, glimpses into a life incomprehensible even to the woman who lived it. The sparse style of the novel is a testimony to the unknowableness of life, even one's own life. A life of here and there, of vanishing, and not knowing what is worth holding on to and what should be let go of. A bracelet concealing diamonds, a home, a nation, a language, a man, family. Which of these lasts? The unknowing makes all of life seem, not just temporary, but transient. More than fleeting, robbing. Everything and everyone becomes replaceable. Thuy writes with a beauty that sometimes obscures meaning--in the midst of terrible clarity (a cesspit of human waste that swallows a woman whole, a child locked in autism's embrace, men who flick one hundred dollar bills at young, naked Asian women), Thur interjects a wide poetic licence of vastness, blue, open, potential. She weaves in and out of time, as she should, she must, in order to be able to tell even a portion of the story, one that unfolds over too much history to be recounted in anything but the smallest bites. Those bites are bitter, terrifying, stark, and oddly hopeful. It made me angry in a way that I should be angry more often. Angry at the way women and children are always the first crushed under the heels of human greed. I recommend this novel....more
This YA (I'm assuming it's YA) novel has a terrifically original premise and includes photographs of the peculiar children. Highly imaginative which iThis YA (I'm assuming it's YA) novel has a terrifically original premise and includes photographs of the peculiar children. Highly imaginative which is something to love. The writing doesn't keep pace to the promise of the novel, with several scenes playing out so dully that the reader wonders why they are in the book. Some of the scene include gratuitous "ick" seemingly there to ramp up the gross factor. The characters aren't ever fully drawn out, especially that of Miss Peregrine, the grandfather, and even the main character. There is great promise in a writer who can conjure such an imaginative story of time travel, children, and memories, and I will look for future works by Riggs. ...more
Ondaatje is one of the most skilled and thoughtful writers of our time. This coming of age story that takes place inside the confines of a ship as itOndaatje is one of the most skilled and thoughtful writers of our time. This coming of age story that takes place inside the confines of a ship as it makes it way from Sri Lanka to England makes the most of the juxtaposition of confined spaces (childhood) and wide open spaces (England, and adulthood). On the ship, Michael's troublemaking is made understood by the mystery and magic of looking at the world through the eyes of a young boy who doesn't know the broad scope of consequences, and doesn't see into the dark purposes of the adults beside him. The stories of life at sea are near mythical.
What the novel doesn't answer (for me) is how this precocious boy grows into the shadow of a man who seems incapable of living at all. The stories of the grown up Michael are almost anti-story. The tale of how he didn't call or try to look up old friends, of missing the meeting, backing into marriage and then walking away at the first (minor) hint of trouble. Even his grieving comes only when someone else is there to help him do it. He becomes the hapless man whose only knowledge is second hand. Why did this curious, sometimes stupidly brave boy grow up to be such a non-entity?
The book is to be read slowly, the language and the imagery require a kind of savoring. It is a novel that (as Ondaatje loves to do) questions traditional structure, blurs lines between fiction and memoir and, at times, poetry. This kind of forward thinking is in itself a gift.
For writers, something to take note of is Ondaatje's use of time in storytelling. How he bends time around plot, not telling the story in any linear way, but instead allowing themes and plot to dictate narrative time travel. There is logic and structure to how he does this, but the effect is dazzling.
The message was positive, and the story of the Paris children was heartbreaking. Drawing the connection between the killing of millions of innocent peThe message was positive, and the story of the Paris children was heartbreaking. Drawing the connection between the killing of millions of innocent people in WWII, and abortion is, of course, sobering.
It's a book worth reading for those elements alone.
The writing didn't do it for me. She has a habit of repeating words and phrases for emphasis, but I found it distracting enough to take me out of the story. de Rosnay chose a passive voice and tone which also watered down the storytelling for me. By describing Sarah's reactions to the horror around her in general terms, the story was stripped if immediacy and even tension.
The back and forth between the historical story and the modern story worked fine, except that the modern story was often a repeat of information the reader had just learned in the historical story. And the storyline of a pregnant woman who must choose between the life of her unborn child and her marriage to a louse didn't hold my attention.
Two stars, but if the subject matter interests, you may very well enjoy this story. And it does tug hard at the heartstrings....more
Five years in the writing, and when I cracked this book I could feel the weight of history in the first pages. Thick like reading Hebrew etched in a tFive years in the writing, and when I cracked this book I could feel the weight of history in the first pages. Thick like reading Hebrew etched in a temple stone.
The writing is largely "telling", but this approach suits the story.
The Dovekeepers are four women who tend the dovecotes in Mesada. Each brought there by different routes, from different places, but all carrying the burden of the darkness inside themselves. They suffer devastating losses long before they reach Mesada, and find rough solace in the friendships formed in the dovecotes. None of them is who they present themselves as, or who they thought they were.
Hoffman is a gifted and practiced author with a command of understated emotion (a must in a novel like this one), and an introspection that adds depth to what could have been a story about a series of abuses.
There is a strong emphasis on mystical Judaism, mixing Hebraic Law with magic in a way that sheds light on ancient life. The emphasis adds to the story, and is important. However, by the end of the novel I found that this leaning was straining (this is the author of Practical Magic, and obviously is fascinated with the practice), and would have liked the women to have looked more to each other than to rites and rituals. But this is small criticism given the accomplishment of this novel.
It is simply stunning, and a major feat. I was left reeling.
We need more novels like this--and more writers who are willing to stick with an important story for five years (or however long it takes) in order to bring such richness for us to savor, reflect, and learn from.
There is a point nearly half way through this novel when I thought, Ann, what are you up to? The protagonist, Marina, had made her way to South AmericThere is a point nearly half way through this novel when I thought, Ann, what are you up to? The protagonist, Marina, had made her way to South America only to become stranded in an unfamiliar city. I nearly put the book down for good as the pages dragged on, except I've read Ann Patchett before and I've learned to trust her. That trust was well founded. By the time I finished the novel, I knew I had been on a remarkable journey, one that required my patience, trust, and faith. Patchett builds her plot with care, and while some 'surprises' aren't surprises at all, there are enough within the complex soup of two worlds colliding to keep a reader turning the pages. One of the strongest components of this novel is Patchett's characters, particularly Marina, the protagonist who gains strength and self-assurance in fits and bursts, while at the same time exhibiting utterly believable confusion. Dr. Swenson could have been an over the top cliche, but in Patchett's hands she emerges fully into herself in complex ways.
Part Heart of Darkness, part Deliverance, Part Life of Pi, State of Wonder is, in a word, wonderful. ...more
I read this slowly and over a long period (more than 30 days) because of its meditative nature and because of the passages I found life changing. It'sI read this slowly and over a long period (more than 30 days) because of its meditative nature and because of the passages I found life changing. It's been a few years since I read the book and I refer back to the book often. There are a few brief but powerful sections that I have adapted into my own life both as spiritual practice and simply being human. This is a book to sit at your bedside like a friend in the darkness....more
It's been a long time since I've read such a book of nonsense. I'm about half-way in, and so far he has said absolutely nothing. I feel like I'm readiIt's been a long time since I've read such a book of nonsense. I'm about half-way in, and so far he has said absolutely nothing. I feel like I'm reading a George Lucas script - all sound-bites and no content. I'll save you the time and expense of buying this book. The message is this: Give your life over to a specific aspect of life, become the go-to person for that niche, be innovative in your use of the internet to spread the word about your masterfulness. I cannot for the life of be believe this book became the hot commodity that it is -- except for the fact that too many people are looking for an easy way to become well known. The book is drivel. ...more
I read this book quickly, and while I found some of the dialogue (particularly toward the end of the book) stilted and unrealistic, I very much enjoyeI read this book quickly, and while I found some of the dialogue (particularly toward the end of the book) stilted and unrealistic, I very much enjoyed the fly ont he wall feeling, and the ah-ha moments I felt as I read. I recommend Rosenblatt’s book for reasons I can’t articulate. Not because it will teach you about writing a novel, but it presses the writer's consciousness into your grey matter and you come away with a heightened ability to express what, as a writer, you’ve always known....more
I was lucky enough to receive and advanced copy of the book. Like all of Plotnik's books, it's thoughtful, ingenious, and useful to the point of necesI was lucky enough to receive and advanced copy of the book. Like all of Plotnik's books, it's thoughtful, ingenious, and useful to the point of necessary. I've used it a number of times as a quick-I-need-a-great-word help, and I've enjoyed reading Plotnik's spunky thoughts introducing each section. I've been a fan of Plotnik's since I picked up his Spunk & Bite (I highly recommend this one, too). He has a love of language that is contagious and empowering. Full disclosure: I'm quoted in BETTER THAN GREAT (pg. 47-48). I didn't know he was quoting me, and I'm honored....more
I'm re-reading this 1996 offering. Barnes has a way of zeroing in on the big questions without melodrama. I found this book profoundly helpful years aI'm re-reading this 1996 offering. Barnes has a way of zeroing in on the big questions without melodrama. I found this book profoundly helpful years ago when I was suffering through terrible hardships. The book is a study in what it looks like to abandon our lives and follow an unpredictable God. I recommend this book heartily. ...more
Twilight? What twilight? How about something so clever, so well-written, so charming it makes you believe in faeries. Big. Powerful. Dangerous faeriesTwilight? What twilight? How about something so clever, so well-written, so charming it makes you believe in faeries. Big. Powerful. Dangerous faeries. This is fantasy at is original best. Unique.
Robinson can encapsulate galaxies inside a few paragraphs. While this novel is often called a retelling of the prodigal son, I think the comparison isRobinson can encapsulate galaxies inside a few paragraphs. While this novel is often called a retelling of the prodigal son, I think the comparison is only skin deep. Jack comes home, yes, but the father he encounters is not the Father in scripture, and the sibling isn't either. More to the point, the novel is the examination of moving, breathing theology. Calvin comes through the story as a bright as a burning bush that is not consumed, but many of the dogmas and doctrines that have been added to him over the years are burned as dross.
The story is more than an intellectual exercise, it's a rich inner life exploration of Glory, Jack's sister, whose failed and cloistered life is an uncomfortable mirror to the world around her. It is a map of forgiveness, complete with rabbit trails, and dark pits out of which there is no escape.
The writing is controlled, poetic, and, in the end imperfect. Robinson leans too heavily on a handful of expressions of discomfort--especially when describing Jack's formidable caginess, which feels repetitive rather than revelatory--but those imperfections only serve the novel by bringing it fully to life.
Don't miss this glorious novel. I highly recommend Home, and Robinson's two other novels Gilead, and the brilliant, Housekeeping....more
The low rating isn't because of the writing (which is excellent) or even the story line (which is well told and wistful). The low rating is due to theThe low rating isn't because of the writing (which is excellent) or even the story line (which is well told and wistful). The low rating is due to the fact that author tries to excuse the accusations of abuse on children by the hands of Catholic priests as something that, while regrettable, isn't a big deal. A few bad apples.
I was appalled.
A 15 year study and report released in Canada on the history of residential schools run by the Catholic church up until 1996 reveled the level of abuse committed by priests and nuns on the children in the schools as systemic and continual. This isn't a few bad apples, and the abuse of these children isn't something we should attempt to excuse. There are a number of organizations designed to reach out to victims of residential schools in Canada. For example: http://www.irsss.ca/
It is rare for me to disregard a novel because of something that only mentioned, and not even the focus of the novel. But in this case, the issue is far to large for me to overlook these casual references. I have no doubt these references weren't intended to harm, but intention isn't enough.
I highly recommend other novels by Lisa Samson. She is an excellent writer, and is, I am sure a sensitive and loving person. ...more
When you read a prayer from a mother, thanking God for sending the rich white men to their daughter so the family can have Christmas (nothing like whaWhen you read a prayer from a mother, thanking God for sending the rich white men to their daughter so the family can have Christmas (nothing like what North Americans imagine Christmas to be), you know you're reading a work so raw and real that you cannot look away. An important work highlighting the fate of children in the midst of strife, war, poverty, and rampant AIDS. ...more