Every story in this collection is an utter delight of one form or another -- lonely, funny, touching, bottom-dropping-out, familiar. I nearly decided...moreEvery story in this collection is an utter delight of one form or another -- lonely, funny, touching, bottom-dropping-out, familiar. I nearly decided to stop highlighting sentences and passages that I loved because there were so many, but I couldn't stop. Moore has such a great way of dropping in a moment of hilarity at just the right moment, or of slipping in such a giant truth it makes you gasp. Her characters are honest and I was so surprised by how often they had a subversive kind of humor. I really love this book and am glad I finally read Lorrie Moore; I'd resisted for too long for the stupidest reason imaginable (she spells her name differently than I do....see?). Finally I quit being stupid, and I'm so glad I did. READ THESE STORIES!!
Some of my favorite bits:
Abby began to think that all the beauty and ugliness and turbulence one found scattered through nature, one could also find in people themselves, all collected there, all together in a single place. No matter what terror or loveliness the earth could produce—winds, seas—a person could produce the seam, lived with the same, lived with all that mixed-up nature swirling inside, every bit. There was nothing as complex in the world—no flower or stone—as a single hello from a human being.
Her mother was always searching for country music, songs with the words devil woman. She loved those.
In an attempt at extroversion, she had worn a tunic with large slices of watermelon depicted on the front. What had she been thinking of?
Through college she had been a feminist—basically: she shaved her legs, but just not often enough, she liked to say. He had never acquired the look of maturity anchored in sorrow that burnished so many men’s faces. His own sadness in life—a childhood of beatings, a dying mother—was like quicksand, and he had to stay away from it entirely. He permitted no unhappy memories spoken aloud. He stuck with the same mild cheerfulness he’d honed successfully as a boy.
Mack has moved so much in his life that every phone number he comes across seems to him to be one he’s had before. “I swear this used to be my number,” he says, putting the car into park and pointing at the guidebook: 923-7368. The built-in cadence of a phone number always hits him the same personal way: like something familiar but lost, something momentous yet insignificant.
“I would be a genius now,” Quilty has said three times already, “if only I’d memorized Shakespeare instead of Lulu.” “If only,” says Mack. Mack himself would be a genius now if only he had been born a completely different person. But what could you do? He’d read in a magazine once that geniuses were born only to women over thirty; his own mother had been twenty-nine. Damn! So fucking close!
Quilty grimaces. “I don’t like what comes after ‘dicker.’” “What is that?” Quilty sighs. “Dickest. I mean, really: it’s not a contest!”
In general, people were not road maps. People were not hieroglyphs or books. They were not stories.
A person was a collection of accidents. A person was an infinite pile of rocks with things growing underneath.
At all the funerals for love, love had its neat trick of making you mourn it so much, it reappeared. Popped right up from the casket.
Marriage, she felt, was a fine arrangement generally, except that one never got it generally. One got it very, very specifically.
The quarry was a spot that Terence had recommended as “a beautiful seclusion, a rodent Eden, a hillside of oaks above a running brook.” Such poetry: probably he’d gotten laid there once. Talk about your rodent Eden! In actuality, the place was a depressing little gravel gully, with a trickle of brown water running through it, a tiny crew of scrub oaks manning the nearby incline. It was the kind of place where the squirrel mafia would have dumped their offed squirrels. (less)
I loved this book and am grabbing everyone by the arm and begging them to read it too. Digital dystopia, who hasn't wondered about it, speculated abou...moreI loved this book and am grabbing everyone by the arm and begging them to read it too. Digital dystopia, who hasn't wondered about it, speculated about it, as Google and Facebook dominate our lives and know nearly everything about us? Eggers places his naive, ambitious main character Mae on the campus of the dominant internet company (in the world, I suppose, not just the US) and unfolds just what happens as she drinks the Kool-Aid and fully embraces the increasing transparency that the digital world forces on us, whether we like it or not. Eggers takes it to a natural conclusion, and it's terrifying. I wish I could bleach the internet of everything about me (too late!) and I want to stop adding to it, shut down my blogs and Facebook account, disengage from Google. Everything worked in the book, as far as I'm concerned: thrilling plot, believable characters, realistic dialogue, exciting crisis, and chilling resolution. (less)
Such a beautiful, beautiful book of such horror and agony in WWII. Marie-Laure, a blind girl living in Paris and then Saint Malo, and Werner, an orpha...moreSuch a beautiful, beautiful book of such horror and agony in WWII. Marie-Laure, a blind girl living in Paris and then Saint Malo, and Werner, an orphaned German boy with a specific keen intelligence, cross paths through the air across their young lives. Their characters, and those of the other characters -- Etienne, Madame, the Giant, von Rumpel -- were so fully realized I felt I knew them. When I first began reading I did not at all like the very short chapters, alternating between Marie-Laure and Werner, but as I got farther into the book that became something I liked a lot about it It kept the immediacy and tension of the stories and kept me seeing their lives as intertwined. When von Rumpel came into the mix and became part of the alternating, that felt right too.
One thing I really loved about it was the knife's edge that Doerr balanced on in portraying the horrors of the Nazi regime, both in large scale ways and in the immediate horrors, including the youth training school, against the life background of Werner and the Giant. Werner's future included a brief life and near-certain death in the coal mine, as an orphan. He was very smart, curious, scientific, with a specific intelligence for engineering/radio, and wanted to have a chance to explore that. When the chance came, he took it even though his sister Jutta saw what it was going to mean. If I were a very smart and curious orphan boy facing a short life in the coal mines, would I have said no to an opportunity such as he faced? I don't know. Knowing how it turned out makes the decision easy, but of course Werner only knew what he knew then. Doerr presents the story of the frog in slowly boiling water to make (a little too pointedly) the point -- once you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound and trapped. Once you've made these choices, the next set is easier, or perhaps made for you.
And when Werner is trapped for so long in the basement of the hotel and believing that his death is deserved, a kind of judgment, I liked that he was understanding that. It also helped balance him as a character, because he had been responsible for some truly horrific crimes.
Doerr also made the places come so alive I could smell the smoke, smell the musty dustiness of the rooms in Etienne's house. It's just a beautiful book in every way; exquisite storytelling, beautiful sentences, moving story, strong ending that did not leave me disappointed in any way.
My only real problem is that I can never remember the title of this book. Thank heavens I can remember the author's name.(less)
This densely fascinating book captured my attention with its title -- Weapons of Mass SURVIVAL? What an intriguing idea, and what exquisite timing giv...moreThis densely fascinating book captured my attention with its title -- Weapons of Mass SURVIVAL? What an intriguing idea, and what exquisite timing given the dangerous world in which we find ourselves, a world increasingly fractured and failing. If Sam Harris, Ralph Nader, and Paul Revere put their heads together, the conversation would result in this book, which is in turns sober and unnerving, when it describes in detail who and where we are, and hopeful and promising, when it describes in interesting detail where we can go if we just get our acts together. But it's not a vague, handwaving kind of hope; Lebell brings his deep experience in consulting and entrepreneurship and systems management to the conversation and presents one after another original and straightforward solution. More than anything, though, it's less about the specifics he proposes and more about a clear way to think about the problems we are facing and how to find solutions that will allow us to thrive.
There is a lot to despair about if you pay attention to the news, and this book does a great job of describing the landscape, showing how we got to this place where we're destroying our environment and climate, where we live in various degrees of terror, where we put our money and resources into all the wrong things. Lebell has a brilliant 20,000-foot perspective, able to draw together vast histories and revolutions in a way that swept it all into a coherent story. I learned a lot, and while some of the reading was dense in the first part of the book, it was worth the effort. Where he really hits his stride is in the looking ahead; he sees much to be hopeful about because we have what we need. We already have what we need, we just need to think about it differently, we need to understand the situation clearly and systematically, and he gives the reader the necessary tools to do that.
The framework he uses of the extraterrestrial reporting back to his home planet wasn't my favorite aspect of the book, but it was a clever device to allow him to question what he sees, and forced him to articulate the mess as clearly as he could for his extraterrestrial colleague. Readers who are concerned for the future of our cities, our country, our hemisphere, our world, will find a great deal of value in the pages of this book. It's well worth the time and attention, and you'll walk away eager to press the book into your friends' hands. (less)
This stunning book will make you shake your head in wonder. Each page is filled with such exquisite detail, and the story that plays out across the pa...moreThis stunning book will make you shake your head in wonder. Each page is filled with such exquisite detail, and the story that plays out across the pages is one of the oldest stories -- a journey to story, the importance of creation. I can't wait for the next volume to come out!(less)
If you ask me which book you should read, I'm going to say this one. If you ask me what's the best book I've read so far this year, I'm going to say t...moreIf you ask me which book you should read, I'm going to say this one. If you ask me what's the best book I've read so far this year, I'm going to say this one. If you ask me what's the most moving book I've read lately, I'm going to say this one.
Such wonderful characters -- Theo and Boris, their parents (of all stripes, including the truly wonderful Hobie [played by Stephen Frye please]), their friends and enemies. The tragedies and losses, the terrors, the human connection, the power of art and transformation, it will all haunt me.
The last chapter of the book lifted itself up out of the story, out of the plot, into The Bigger Picture. For the most part I loved it. In fact, I probably highlighted 90% of that last chapter and frequently put the book down while I was reading it, just to sit with the ideas and the eloquent passages. Now and then it kind of annoyed me, as if Theo/Tartt were offering a position statement or something, but the prose was so beautiful and I found the ideas so compelling, I just went back to highlighting and thinking.
Really outstanding. One of those books that leaves you a little desperate for the next book because it also needs to be great, and you know it probably won't be as good.(less)
This book made me cry, it made me ache, it made me want to turn my eyes away, it made me long for someone like Papa, it made me think, and it has left...moreThis book made me cry, it made me ache, it made me want to turn my eyes away, it made me long for someone like Papa, it made me think, and it has left me haunted -- as the last words in the book say that Death is haunted by humans. We are haunting in our cruelty, in our need, in our humanity, in our hidden hearts, in our beauty, in our hideousness, in our longings.
Death narrates and sees the world and the sky in its own way -- the sky, in psychedelic colors, when someone dies -- but it's not his story. It's about Liesl and her Papa and Mama, and hidden-away Max, and lemon-haired Rudy, and an ugly, ugly world, and the power of not-leaving.
I'm still crying, half an hour after finishing the book, so this review is simply about the power and emotion of the story, the writing. Please read this book, it's nothing less than amazing.(less)
Late to the Lethem game, I now count myself a huge fan after reading this lovely book. Less about the detective story than you'd think, this book real...moreLate to the Lethem game, I now count myself a huge fan after reading this lovely book. Less about the detective story than you'd think, this book really is about the ways we make our own families when we don't have one, the bonds we make that are surprisingly strong and the ways they hold even in the face of trouble that threatens to destroy them. And then there's the great fun of the ticcing Lionel, the only protagonist I recall who has Tourette's. I couldn't put the book down and will definitely read it again.(less)
Late last fall I went to Sri Lanka for a couple of weeks -- southern Sri Lanka, Columbo, Galle, Tangalle, the southern coast. Of course I knew about t...moreLate last fall I went to Sri Lanka for a couple of weeks -- southern Sri Lanka, Columbo, Galle, Tangalle, the southern coast. Of course I knew about the tsunami, and when I was there, people referenced it when we spoke to them. But you know, it was so many years ago it didn't have any immediacy for me. I've been through hurricanes and tornadoes, but never a tsunami. I've been through stunning loss and grief, but never every single person in my family.
This book is not just an amazing presentation of the moments before and during the tsunami -- but it is that. The little signs that are just puzzling, the ocean a little closer, the increasing panic, the mind-stopped BEING in the midst of it. But more, of course, it's a beautiful presentation of the terrible, terrible aftermath. Deraniyagala uses such physical and visceral phrases to describe the intrusion of her memories. Thinking of one son tears her skin off. I didn't register them at first, they felt so true and real, but one must have caught my eye and I started paying attention to the craft -- which was hard, because the story was so well-told.
I'm so glad I read this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed every word of it. I was left, at the end, with a feeling of a bleached life ongoing. She lives, and lives her life, goes places, does things, comes to some kind of peace with it, but there is less of her to do those things. Really beautiful, and highly recommended.(less)
Do you like Anne Lamott's writing? I do, I've read every single thing she's ever written. She is probably the greatest influence on what and how I wri...moreDo you like Anne Lamott's writing? I do, I've read every single thing she's ever written. She is probably the greatest influence on what and how I write; she gives voice to her petty struggling self and I try to do that too, because I secretly know that even you are petty, though no one would ever know that about you, so you are stuck all alone knowing that unless other people 'fess up. I love that about her. When I've been unable to read, at various times in my life, I've always found my way back to reading, and to life, through her books. I've read everything she's ever written, and if you like her too, friend her on facebook for a near-daily dose of her generous spirit and liberal-hearted view of the world.
Last night I read her new book, Help Thanks Wow. I'd pre-ordered it months ago for my kindle, and poof! There it was, late last night, just in time. I was lying awake, struggling in the dark, and decided that her words could probably help. I read the whole thing in an hour or so, it's a short (4 chapter) book. It's a pointedly spiritual book (all hers are, of course, but this one is especially so) focusing on the three prayers she says. Those are my prayers too; you could of course argue that all prayers come down to those three topics, and you'd be right, but those are exactly the prayers I say. In this regard, I am a wordy minimalist. Help. Thanks. WOW. Occasionally my help prayers take the pleading form: pleasepleasepleaseplease.
Helphelphelp (my dear daughter in her grief, my suffering husband in his pain, me in my grief and pain and suffering). Thankyouthankyouthankyou (for strength and courage and love and friendship and all that surrounds me right now, and always). Wow. Just, wow. Pain and love, all at once. Wow. Amen.
It's a lovely book, even though it's short and I wish there were more of it. It's a great addition to my Anne Lamott shelf, and a book I'm sure I'll read again and again. Thanks Anne, again.(less)
I have read everything Nick Flynn has written, and loved Another Bullshit Night in Suck Cityso much. I felt that somehow he had written my memoir, tr...moreI have read everything Nick Flynn has written, and loved Another Bullshit Night in Suck Cityso much. I felt that somehow he had written my memoir, trumped me, even though the family roles were mixed up. I enjoyed the movie but loved the book so much more, so when I saw this book, a memoir of the making of the movie, it was a no-brainer. I started and finished it in one day.
It's beautiful. As one of his blurbers said, only poets should write memoir (though I might quibble with that "only"). But she's right that the poet gets at the inarticulable stuff in between. This book is pure Nick Flynn, as he circles around and goes into other things, bringing them into the orbit in a way that illuminates EVERYTHING. He talks about glass flowers. He talks about consciousness research and theory. He talks about Ramachandran's phantom limb work with mirrors to relieve the pain. And those things deeply expand the story of making the movie, of his mother's suicide.
When I read anything he writes, my book ends up with about 1/3 of the sentences highlighted, maybe more. I read this book on a long flight and had to keep putting it down, collecting myself, gathering myself, wiping away tears, clutching my chest. If I hadn't had a window seat, I'd have been up and walking around, trying to absorb and hold the insights. Some were so personal to me (my father shot himself when I was the same age as Nick) that the highlighted passages might not mean as much to others, but I'll be posting some of my favorite quotes later. For now I just want to sit with the book, sit with the deep hurt, sit with the loss, sit with his (and my) heartbroken effort to repair the wound, his intelligence and depth. This was a wonderful book, one I'll read again and again.(less)