Finally reading what everyone is talking and raving about is what made me a fan of Harry Potter. So I finally jumped on the Ferrante bandwagon, and IFinally reading what everyone is talking and raving about is what made me a fan of Harry Potter. So I finally jumped on the Ferrante bandwagon, and I have to say, while I'm not certain what's made people rave, I found the book compelling enough that I'm more than a hundred pages into the second, and enthusiastically so.
It's not only the setting, the fact that it's translated literature, which I love, the details of low-class village life outside of Naples, and the time (this book begins in the 1950s), but also the perspective. Ferrante choosing to make this series a first-person narrative is ultimately what's won me over. The protagonist, Elena, portrays herself in a way that can only be brutally honest, since she in no way presents herself in a positive light. She's obsessive and does very little of her own initiative, wishing only to keep up with her friend Lila. Everything everyone does seems to have some sort of ulterior motive, not only for survival and personal gain but also, in Elena's case, so as not to be left behind in any way.
It's this obsessive, complex relationship with Lila and the protagonist's recounting of this friendship that has me curious and reading; I remember how my own friendships were growing up: fraught with competition and jealousy and also intense love.
This first book begins in the present with Lila's son calling Elena to say his mother has disappeared. As a result, Elena begins to tell her and Lila's story, and that of the village they grew up in, as a sort of rebellious act: her friend wants to disappear completely, but Elena thwarts that by writing everything. It's a fascinating, detailed, often violent exploration of life there and at that time, but also an immersive, rather universal portrayal of what it means to want to escape one's circumstances but also belong, and how one can be greatly affected by the people around them. ...more
I'll say it right off, in case you don't feel like reading this whole post: Calvin is the best YA book I've read in eons. A 17-year old kid has a schiI'll say it right off, in case you don't feel like reading this whole post: Calvin is the best YA book I've read in eons. A 17-year old kid has a schizophrenic episode and thinks he's Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. He hears Hobbes with him. There are just too many coincidences for him to think he's not. He was born on the day the comic strip ended. His parents named him Calvin. His uncle gave him a stuffed tiger named Hobbes. He's just like Calvin. He has blond hair and had a red wagon. His dad wears glasses. And his first grade teacher's name is Miss Wood. "How close can you get to Miss Wormwood. Huh? Huh?" And of course, there's real-life Susie, his ex-friend, or frenemy, with whom he's grown up and who happens to carry the same name of the indomitable Susie in the strip.
Calvin becomes convinced that if he goes to see the author of Calvin & Hobbes, Bill Watterson, Bill will write a comic with him but without Hobbes, to "properly" end the series and thus cure him of his mental illness. So he sets off across frozen Lake Erie to Cleveland, Susie along for the adventure. (Or is she?)
How to describe the book I read in only a few hours, an epistolary novel (Calvin's writing the story to Bill)? It's beautiful! The workings of this kid's gorgeous, tragically ill mind! (The workings of Martine Leavitt's beautiful, creative mind!) I loved how because he's unreliable you have no idea whether anything is really happening, whether anything but him is real. And whether he's even on the adventure. And there are even Spaceman Spiff and Stupendous Man episodes!!
A few of my favourite lines:
They say a person my age knows maybe thirty thousand words, so picking the first word out of thirty thousand is the hardest part. After you pick the first word, it weirdly picks the next one, and that one picks the one after that, and next thin you know you're not in control at all — the pen is as big as a telephone pole and you're just hanging on for dear life... [Just like writing a story, yes?]
Doesn't it make you feel kind of awesome that the world is beautiful for no other apparent reason than that it is? Like beauty has its own secret reason. It doesn't need human eyes to notice. It just wants to be glorious and unbelievable.
Do you ever wonder what life is all about, Calvin? Yeah, I know you do. You're one of the few guys I personally know who stops to wonder about that. For me — I've decided maybe that's the cool thing about it. Life lets you decide for yourself. I mean, it would be awful if it wasn't up to us, wouldn't it? If life said, this is what I'm about and don't go getting any ideas of your own?
Augh, this book. Read it. It's such a lovely, imaginative story, and if you've been an undying fan of Calvin & Hobbes since you were young, like me, it's that much more special. The world is a magical place.
*Thank you so very much to Cindy Ma, from Anansi Press, for knowing me and loving like crazy sharing any book she adores. You're always right, Cindy. Always....more
Full of surprises, well-crafted and superbly written, compelling, and good enough that I bought two of her others immediately. A couple of times I becFull of surprises, well-crafted and superbly written, compelling, and good enough that I bought two of her others immediately. A couple of times I became too conscious of the writing but it didn't detract from my desire to keep eating it alive. ...more
SPOILERS! This is actually my side of a discussion I had with someone about the book after reading it.
Just finished The Lake. Atmospheric, engrossing,SPOILERS! This is actually my side of a discussion I had with someone about the book after reading it.
Just finished The Lake. Atmospheric, engrossing, mature, beautifully translated, very sensual and visual. I loved it.
I was disappointed that the murderer was given us immediately and everything was "over" in the very haunting first half; I'd been lead to believe this was a "mystery" (never read the endorsements!!). But the thread between the two very different halves of the book, I think, is Alexis and the rose varieties and his quest in making the right scent. I suppose the last sentence ties it all together best. I found myself okay with it after considering the stuff in between and his relationship with Mina, who was witness to the murders. The more I think about it, actually, the more it all comes together for me. I think the spare style makes us read faster than we ought to, and the trick to reconciling the two halves is to think about it afterward rather than while reading. I had more trouble with what I've been taught is good writing and what Leblanc presents (lots of summary), which can leave one feeling a bit empty. At the same time, it was very vivid for me, and details like people's minty breath in the bus thrilled me.
I think there is more, and better, to come from Leblanc, and I really look forward to it. She is indeed, as they say, someone to watch. I'm already in awe of her...savoire-faire, as someone else put it, considering her age.
This was already better than Kolia. I concede that it's inconsistent and the disappointment is that the inconsistency is not subtle. The second half is less interesting. Is that because it's a love story? Was her point to show how people move on from such tragedy toward hope and love? Was her point to juxtapose violence with love? I see these things, so I think yes, but also think the transition could have been smoother. Still, I say I loved the book because of the imagery and her word choice (and/or Lederhendler's sensitive translation) and the atmosphere. She is a master at setting and her writing is poetic. I did get lost in the protest part, but again think there is something purposeful there—something about finding peace in turmoil. ...more
I enjoyed this immensely. It's imaginative, compelling, and so magical, and it left me wanting more. I could totally relate to Theo and I'm enjoying hI enjoyed this immensely. It's imaginative, compelling, and so magical, and it left me wanting more. I could totally relate to Theo and I'm enjoying her character development as she navigates not only a new relationship but also a completely foreign world with its people and dangers. Bit of wish fulfillment reading this! And something about it reminds me of CS Lewis's Cosmic Trilogy. Can't wait for the next two! :)...more
These star ratings are stupid, for several reasons, but the reason today is that I find it impossible to rate a book that so equally compelled and repThese star ratings are stupid, for several reasons, but the reason today is that I find it impossible to rate a book that so equally compelled and repelled me. I was torn between staying up too late and tossing it out the car window as we drove (I stayed up late).
Cauchemar is a thriller movie begging to be made. I would TOTALLY watch it. But I don't get that feeling from it sounding like it was written with that intent; no, I get it from everything being so vivid and visceral and REAL, from the horrifically growing cracks in the walls to the legions of insects to the decrepit men to the unborn baby to the snakes and heat and crashing crows that I had to take a shower afterward. The veil between this world and the next is far too thin in this book for you to rest comfortably with tea.
It's a freaking nightmare, it's love story, it's a powerful conjuring of the dark magic that buoys the Deep Southern swamps; and Grigorescu is a literary witch. Who has possibly totally hung out with the Louisiana witches, because she evoked them something strong. ...more
I wanted to do a thorough, good post about this book, but it seems that I can't find the time to blog. Still, though it's been a few months now sinceI wanted to do a thorough, good post about this book, but it seems that I can't find the time to blog. Still, though it's been a few months now since I finished Where Did You Sleep Last Night, by Lynn Crosbie, I haven't forgotten it and I'm at least going to write a few words here because it's stuck with me, as Lynn's books (and photos) do.
First: Read the synopsis if you want to know what the book is about.
Second, you should know that Crosbie is a huge fan of Cobain, which makes this all the more fun. One might comment on the balls she has to write about him (there is not a trace of disrespect in this book), but I know no one better qualified: when Lynn fangirls, she fangirls hard (Michael Jackson featured in Life Is About Losing Everything so realistically that when I was working on something about the book, I had to ask if everything between her and him in the book actually happened. Malcolm McDowell, prepare yourself!). Research was done, credits are listed. But it's also a tribute, this book, and Lynn includes an afterword that is both beautiful and heartbreaking. And utterly serious.
What I also love about Crosbie is that she's an artist writer, by which I mean there's an element of some other type of creativity at work here; it doesn't seem as if she just sits at her computer and types out her books. I imagine the process more like when in Harry Potter they put their wands to their heads and glimmering, ephemeral bits of memories floated out. Except that for Lynn, it's characters and scenes and imagination. And after that, she has to corral these things to form a cohesive story.
Both Life Is About Losing Everything and WDYSLN are like...mixed media. They're fiction and nonfiction and fan fiction, but also dreams and fumes and sculpture and scars...with the format of a collage in a way, but with enough structure to tell a proper, whole story. You just may not be able to piece it altogether instantly.
It's all hard to explain because I wasn't totally sure as I read WDYSLN what was real and what wasn't, especially in the beginning. Funnily, and I mean that literally, the novel has a page at the beginning that says, "This is a true story." Sometimes I wondered if I had to be high to read it and get what was happening. But I know Lynn is skilled. Somehow, this book completely works. Aside from the brilliant originality of it and the wordsmithing, and even though you kind of get the impression that she might have just let it all out, however it came out, there is no way that's true. I feel like it must have taken her ten gazillion hours to craft this book, to get it right, to make it work as a novel though it strains at the boundaries of such a construct.
The Vancouver Sun said, "Crosbie uses language like she invented it." But I say it's not as if she invented the language; it's as though she's inventing it as she goes along (the way Magneto formed steps as he walked across space in that X-Men movie). The playfulness with words and syntax and meaning is art. She writes love and grit with equal beauty. She writes as though she's found the way to capture and translate dreams. And like dreams, Lynn wondrously breaks all the rules but leaves us with something nevertheless vivid.
I get the feeling, from having read her stuff and following her on Instagram, that Lynn has lived every second of her life. There's so much proof of astuteness, observation, experience, thought, wringing out of events for meaning and emotion and joy. There's not a lazy bone in her stories—every word, sentence, scene is made to work HARD, and consequently we are made to work hard. Her books are no cakewalk—they blur lines and talk about hard things and truth, even while the content sometimes reads as though you're delirious. But if we agree to follow that to the end, if we agree that sometimes working hard to stay with someone's creation is totally worth it, we will be wildly—and I mean this literally for this novel—and richly rewarded....more