3.62 stars to be more exact (I rated each of the 37 stories 1-5 and then averaged). There are 30 selected previously published stories and 7 new stori...more3.62 stars to be more exact (I rated each of the 37 stories 1-5 and then averaged). There are 30 selected previously published stories and 7 new stories. The selected stories are arranged chronologically, and for my money, his later stories (of the selected ones) were better than his earlier ones. He always knew how to tell a good story, but he didn't know how to end them until later.
I wasn't as impressed with the 7 new stories in here (relative to the later selected ones), but the very last of the new stories, Errand, about Franz Kafka's death, was a gem, probably my favorite in the whole book.
My other favorites (all previously published) were: ---------------------------------------------------- Distance The third thing that killed my father off So much water so close to home Vitamins Chef's house Feathers
This was excellent. It's told in a series of interview answers from maybe 30 or 40 or 50 people who were close to Farley during his life, including hi...moreThis was excellent. It's told in a series of interview answers from maybe 30 or 40 or 50 people who were close to Farley during his life, including his three brothers and his childhood friends, old high school teachers and coaches, and show biz friends including many of the SNL players from 1975-1995. You might think that format would be disjointed and lack flow (that's what I thought would be the case when I first picked it up), but in fact all of these passages from different people are woven together brilliantly by the editors into a very tight and compelling page-turner. (less)
This is, overall, a very fine essay, I thought. And enjoyable to read, too. It's an us-versus-them-style polemic in support of melancholics and agains...moreThis is, overall, a very fine essay, I thought. And enjoyable to read, too. It's an us-versus-them-style polemic in support of melancholics and against "happy types." The central premise here (that sadness and depression and grief make us more acutely aware of and appreciative of beauty, and more contemplative and broader minded in general) is probably not that profound, but the author weaves lots of other interesting arguments in along the way, too, and lots of well- presented case studies of famous melancholics in history, like Beethoven and Keats and Mark Rothko, for example.
When he writes about "happy types," which he sees as a cause and a symptom and a scourge of modern-day American life, it's mostly with vitriol and disgust. These parts will offend some readers, I guess (especially you happy types, perhaps!). When he writes about melancholics and melancholia, it's with the utmost kindness and sympathy and respect. Empathy, also, I guess, inasmuch as the author declares himself to be a lifelong melancholic and sometime depressive.
This is mostly a very cogent and interesting and convincing essay. I strongly recommend it to melancholics and anyone else who cares to think about the human condition in modern-day America and think they might find this spin on it interesting. For my money, this is as well argued and presented, and as relevant to its times, as any Ralph Waldo Emerson essay was in its times.
Here's a couple of paragraphs that I especially appreciated. He's talking here about what he calls "romantic irony," a side effect of being sad or having a gloomy outlook on life:
"Though it often organizes literary expression, Romantic irony is basically an attitude, a disposition, a way of being. It is a method for making sense of the world without being dogmatic, for remaining open-minded in the face of inevitable indeterminacy, for being able to remain in an interpretive limbo, aware of the fact that no one perspective on the world is ever finally true. The person who is ironic in this way ultimately takes life seriously and not seriously at the same time. He knows that his experience of the world is dynamic, vital, fascinating. But he also realizes that this same experience is utterly inadequate, incomplete, banal. He has his world and leaves it, too.
"Romantic irony and melancholia are inseparable. To be melancholy is to live in perpetual doubt, persistent confusion. Such vague bewilderment, properly seen, is not a failure of knowledge. It is rather an honest willingness to accept the fact that we can never know anything once and for all, that we are inevitably ignorant of the whole truth. Accepting this, we must often endure a gloomy limbo. But we are also open to the brisk interplay between life's oppositions and the possibility of understanding, however briefly, the nature of the interplay. Such openness is necessarily ironic, for it never grasps wholeheartedly at one interpretation or another, at one antinomy or another. This open stance is indeed playful, bordering on innocence, fully attuned to possibility, the irreducible ambiguity of experience, the uncertain and bumbling murmurings of time."(less)
I stubbornly persisted through about half of this, and then I decided it wasn't going to get better, and was probably going to get worse. I did skim t...moreI stubbornly persisted through about half of this, and then I decided it wasn't going to get better, and was probably going to get worse. I did skim the second half and then went through the index to see if there might have been anything interesting in his later-life experiences, but I struck out there, too. I liked his description of New York City when he arrived there after a trip overseas in 1904 or so. That's about it. I'm putting Alex on probation for making me read this.(less)
This was fascinating and fun to read ... thrilling to read in many parts. The most interesting parts of this for me were the accounts of past episodes...moreThis was fascinating and fun to read ... thrilling to read in many parts. The most interesting parts of this for me were the accounts of past episodes of sudden warmings and coolings and mass extinctions, etc., that have been discovered by paleoclimatoligists. This book is as much about the past as it is about the future. (less)