Jay Oliver and Lou Donovan are friends. They like making money, getting drunk and cheating on their wives. Lou married above his station. He loathes anJay Oliver and Lou Donovan are friends. They like making money, getting drunk and cheating on their wives. Lou married above his station. He loathes and wants to impress his wife's family with his ambition and acquired wealth. They aren't impressed by that sort of thing or his sort of people.
We follow these two, along with spouses, friends and lovers as they partake in cheap thrills, instant gratification and live lives of mutual envy. We go along for the ride on their sordid benders, loveless and/or manipulative relationships, carnal and financial conquests. Social life in the 1940s seems like a sad affair, with cynical, functional alcoholics content to drunkenly bump into each other and cause major life upheavals before sweeping it all under the rug the next day.
If the point here is to satirize the aspirational classes or to expose the harsh realities of an illusory world, there's not much glamour there to begin with to be disillusioned from. Powell sets realistic scenes and the dialogue is witty and believable but something either is missing to keep the characters from becoming flesh and blood or they were never all than interesting to begin with. There is a lot of resignation to one's fate and surrender to one's passions but that singular persistent drive to self-destruction keeps the characters at the level of one-note caricatures, despite their doubts, awareness or motivations being occasionally spelled out to the reader. Maybe that is the point of satire- to exaggerate the behavior- but i found the sum of its parts to be more a tepid bore than a wry comedy of manners. ...more
This is an enjoyable read full of snark but it's a book set firmly in the Liberal Hand-Wringing genre and therefore unlikely to convince anyone on theThis is an enjoyable read full of snark but it's a book set firmly in the Liberal Hand-Wringing genre and therefore unlikely to convince anyone on the Right of anything. I've read enough of these that after a while the thrill starts to wear off. How many times can one pat oneself on the back with smug satisfaction for being smarter than a gaggle of noisy obese halfwits in teabag adorned tri-cornered hats before starting to feel as if one is booing at The Special Olympics?
When Thomas Frank wrote "What's the matter with Kansas?" back in 2004, I was in the front pew with my eyes closed and arms raised skyward, swaying gently to the sweet music along with the rest of the choir. Now I'm in the back row checking my watch. There's nothing new here. According to Frank, the New Right leadership has pulled a switch-a-roo on the American people by appropriating the rhetoric and propaganda methods of the 1930s labor movement to aim their rancor at the one entity which,despite its faults,still has to listen and cater to them because it needs their votes. The ringleaders of this new virulent conservative movement have convinced people to gather en masse at corporate-sponsored rallies, waive their McFillet grease-stained pocket Constitutions and demand a Darwinian winner-takes-all form of pure Capitalism which will finally crush them for good. Egged on by the super-wealthy and fairly wealthy small business owners, the populist fervor in the Tea Party is fueled by the belief that the evil government and its rules are all that stand in the way of the average Joe and his 250K/year plumbing operation.
The fact that hordes of self-styled 'freedom loving patriots' and 'entrepreneurs' spend their weekends demanding raises for their bosses attests to the absolute failure of the Left to provide any context, explanation or philosophical alternative to the reasons behind the economic crisis. Frank is quite lucid when he states that we got Clinton The Sequel, when Obama should have been The Return of FDR: He's Back And This Time He's Pissed!! As a result, our President and his gang of technocrats failed miserably to connect with those most hurt by the recession, who in their bewilderment ran off into the embrace of the likes of Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck/Roger Ailes and are now nestling in the warmth of their puffy man tits for comfort and validation. ...more
The Russian soul could use a heaping teaspoon of lithium.
Warning: Sisyphean task ahead, guaranteed to induce fifty exasperated sighs per page. I begaThe Russian soul could use a heaping teaspoon of lithium.
Warning: Sisyphean task ahead, guaranteed to induce fifty exasperated sighs per page. I began the journey with enthusiasm, expecting to spend a few weeks in the company of - by reputation alone- one of the most brilliant Russian minds of all time. By page 100, it was more like being held captive by a schizophrenic who enjoys arguing with himself(-ves). Buckle up because there’s no reprieve for the next 900 pages...
This is a heavy-handed philosophical/political/religious treatise, hung on the flimsiest coat hangers of plot and character development. Set in a Russian Jerry Springer show. Which would still be ok if the style of writing didn't keep sticking its thumb in my eye.
Do Russians actually converse like this? Do they circle like flies, irritating you with incessant buzzing before finally landing on The Point? Each character takes his/her turn on the soapbox for ten pages of penitential convulsions and hysteria about redemption before dissolving into a puddle of weepy and cloying sentimental blubbering. And even THAT is preceded by ten paragraphs of needless throat-clearing and chest-thumping. But wait. Even THAT is sometimes preceded by crap like this:
"He had often suffered anguish before, and it would have been surprising had it not arrived at such a moment, where the very next day, making a sudden break with all that had drawn him here, he was going once more to take a sharp turn to one side and enter upon a new, completely unfamiliar path, again all on his own, as before, with many hopes, through he knew not what, expecting much, far too much, of life, but unable himself to determine anything, either of his expectations or his desires" (345)
I realize our sensibilities for narrative fiction are far more developed and our entertainment choices more numerous than in the late 19th century. It is unquestioningly brilliant in its criticism of organized religion and social inequality. It's a believable record of the anxiety caused at the time by fear of impending modernism. But giving a bullhorn to the mentally unstable does not a pleasurable reading experience make.
Just when you think it's over, Doestoyevsky will repeatedly kick you in the nuts for the last 100 pages with the flatulent grandstanding of the public prosecutor. ...more
Of all the Books of Revelation that have been written since the time of Christ (and apparently, there were many, some discovered in Egypt in the 40s),Of all the Books of Revelation that have been written since the time of Christ (and apparently, there were many, some discovered in Egypt in the 40s), Elaine Pagels suggests that the version which endured did so likely because it was the one most easily exploited for political gain and centralization of power. Instead of other revelations with more mystical bents or those perhaps more pantheistic in their vision, this version was canonized precisely because of its take-no-prisoners and us.vs. them war cry. Despite whatever John of Patmos' original intentions were, it was under Constantine's blessings that Athanasius was able to successfully use its visions into necessitating an ecclesiastically-ordained clergy to moderate communion with god for all christians.
Also, originally, it turns out that the prophet John was more than a little miffed at fellow jews who were allowing unclean gentiles into the club of christ-followers without the prerequisites of dietary/sexual restrictions. According to this book, when he railed against heretics, he meant all those new converts who were 'stealing' the mantle of God's Chosen People from actual jews and not those who had yet to accept Christ as their savior. As someone who admittedly knows little about Christianity, I don't know if this is a new idea but it sounds like quite a radical interpretation. Or at least an interesting point.
If it's a plausible one, then it's a little ironic that today's ardent evangelicals who now stand firmly in their beliefs of its vision- those who fill Tim Laheye's coffers or pay for the incredibly silly apocalyptic billboards I had to read when driving across the country- are exactly the kind of christians that John was raising a big fat elitist middle finger to in his Who's Who of the coming thousand year reign.
Calling it a mash-up of thinly-disguised plagiarism of imagery found in earlier jewish prophetic traditions seasoned with thinly-disguised anti-Roman propaganda, Pagels asserts that John wrote an impassioned creed just vague enough for every generation of persecuted christians since to read into it their own era's specific social, political and religious disasters. ...more
A memoir set in glittering and crime-infested 1970s New York, where an opinion-maker/trend-spotter takes a bow for having roamed the outer orbit of thA memoir set in glittering and crime-infested 1970s New York, where an opinion-maker/trend-spotter takes a bow for having roamed the outer orbit of the circle-jerking Literati. Between forays into the punk, porn and ballet scenes, the author drops a phone book's worth of names and performs the all-important God's work of holding strong opinions on matters of relative insignificance....more
i enjoy books which give me a sense of time and place. this gives a beautiful description of life on The Blasket Islands in Ireland, a way of life whii enjoy books which give me a sense of time and place. this gives a beautiful description of life on The Blasket Islands in Ireland, a way of life which has disappeared. ...more