I know people who say that they can't enjoy books if the protagonist isn't a sympathetic character. I don't think I'll be recommending Tampa to any o I know people who say that they can't enjoy books if the protagonist isn't a sympathetic character. I don't think I'll be recommending Tampa to any of those people anytime soon. The lead character of Tampa may be the most amoral character I've come across.
I admired Tampa for its brazenness. Celeste Price, a middle school teacher who, not to put too fine a point on it, is a sexual predator, preying on 14 year old boys, never flinches from its subject matter. Celeste is unapologetic, manipulative and relentless in her appetite for Jack Patrick, the chosen student in her class. I found my jaw dropping in disbelief with each cartoonishly calculated act Celeste made in order to A) continue her trysts and B) not get caught. It's also unbelievably explicit in its portrayal of Celeste's sexuality.
I don't think Tampa is well-written enough to succeed as a satire of America, as some reviewers have claimed. It's no Lolita. It reminds me of nothing so much as South Park, specifically episodes like Scott Tenorman Must Die and Woodland Critter Christmas, where I could not believe just how far the writers could dare to take their premise. ...more
Michael Hainey's father died suddenly when Michael was 6 and his father was only 35. He died in an unfamiliar part of Chicago, where they lived and hiMichael Hainey's father died suddenly when Michael was 6 and his father was only 35. He died in an unfamiliar part of Chicago, where they lived and his mother spoke infrequently about his father from the day of his onward. The obituary said his father died, "after visiting friends", but no one ever explained to Michael or his brother who the friends were. Now an adult, Michael sets out to discover the truth. Part detective story and part family memoir, After Visiting Friends is fascinating and engaging. Michael is only a few years older than I, so I identified with both him and his relationship to his parents and grandparents. There are a few points in the book where the narrative flags as Michael tries to recreate in his mind what his father's last moments were like, but the rest of the book is fast-paced and exceptionally well done....more
The Bully Pulpit is a fine history of the early 20th Century, with a but. It is too long by half and it's really two books in one: the story of the reThe Bully Pulpit is a fine history of the early 20th Century, with a but. It is too long by half and it's really two books in one: the story of the relationship of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and the story of the beginning of investigative journalism. Although there is a great deal of overlap in the two stories, I didn't find them equally interesting. The Taft/Roosevelt story is fascinating. Imagine if Ronald Reagan had been able to come out of retirement and run for President as a third party candidate again Bush in 1992; that is the Taft/Roosevelt story. Unfortunately, The Bully Pulpit derails this story every so often to introduce a cast of journalists, each no doubt important to their time and playing a part in the story of Taft/Roosevelt, but ultimately a distraction to the book's narrative. The journalists, The Muckrakers as they were know collectively, deserve their own book and by trying to tell two narratives Goodwin ultimately detracts from each....more
Sonali Deraniyagala suffered an unimaginable tragedy; she lost her husband, sons and parents in the 2004 tsunami that hit Southeast Asia. UnfortunatelSonali Deraniyagala suffered an unimaginable tragedy; she lost her husband, sons and parents in the 2004 tsunami that hit Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, she is not a sympathetic character. Wave is the story of her grieving. She grieves for years, which is completely understandable, but my problem with her and Wave is that she never acknowledges her privilege. She is able to spend months, years even, not working, living in Sri Lanka while still maintaining a home in London. She has friends and family who drop everything to stay with her throughout the early months of the tsunami's aftermath. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the tsunami and I imagine most of the grieving survivors were left in far more dire circumstances than she. I'm not trying to diminish her grief; I just wanted at least once for her to relative ease with which she was able to grieve....more
What do you think of when someone mentions the 60s? Probably hippies, The Age of AquariIus, peace, love, protests? Rick Perstein's Nixonland throws coWhat do you think of when someone mentions the 60s? Probably hippies, The Age of AquariIus, peace, love, protests? Rick Perstein's Nixonland throws cold water on this popular interpretation of the era. The reality was that those who protested the status quo, were marginalized, oppressed and often met with violence and that most Americans applauded these efforts. Richard Nixon, more than any other politician, exploited the fears of those in the mainstream, the Silent Majority he finally settled on calling them, better than anyone at the time. It's only in hindsight, after Watergate, that the majority of Americans retroactively view Nixon negatively. Nixonland is a brilliant book, but at the same time, a disheartening one. The fissure in American society that Nixon exploited continues to this day. It's the Red State/Blue State dichotomy that Republicans have relied on ever since. The screaming Tea Partiers holding signs depicting Obama as a witch doctor with a bone in his nose are direct descendants of those who beat up Vietnam protestors and stood outside Southern schools screaming when black children enrolled. So it goes....more
I picked up this book because I thought it would be interesting to read the memoir of someone who seemed perfectly average but just didn't date. I'veI picked up this book because I thought it would be interesting to read the memoir of someone who seemed perfectly average but just didn't date. I've known people like this and I thought the memoir might be about someone with social anxiety or perhaps someone who was shy or simply a loner. Well, none of those reasons is why Katie Heaney is alone. She is just emotionally stunted and not very sympathetic. It's telling that she spends the first part of the book cataloging all of her crushes as far back as kindergarten. I'm not sure she's advanced much past that age mentally. It's no wonder she doesn't date....more