Jay Gatsby, you poor doomed bastard. You were ahead of your time. If you would have pulled your scam after the invention of reality TV, you would have...moreJay Gatsby, you poor doomed bastard. You were ahead of your time. If you would have pulled your scam after the invention of reality TV, you would have been a huge star on a show like The Bachelor and a dozen shameless Daisy-types would have thrown themselves at you.
Mass media and modern fame would have embraced the way you tried to push your way into a social circle you didn’t belong to in an effort to fulfill a fool’s dream as your entire existence became a lie and you desperately sought to rewrite history to an ending you wanted. You had a talent for it, Jay, but a modern PR expert would have made you bigger than Kate Gosselin. Your knack for self-promotion and over the top displays of wealth to try and buy respectability would have fit right in these days. I can just about see you on a red carpet with Paris Hilton.
And the ending would have been different. No aftermath for rich folks these days. Lawyers and pay-off money would have quietly settled the matter. No harm, no foul. But then you’d have realized how worthless Daisy really was at some point. I’m sure you couldn’t have dealt with that. So maybe it is better that your story happened in the Jazz Age where you could keep your illusions intact to the bitter end.
The greatest American novel? I don’t know if there is such an animal. But I think you'd have to include this one in the conversation.(less)
I needed a quick read because I stupidly forgot that the library would be closed yesterday for Veteran's Day. I'd exhausted my current supply, and I n...moreI needed a quick read because I stupidly forgot that the library would be closed yesterday for Veteran's Day. I'd exhausted my current supply, and I needed a short term fix to hold me until I could get some new product today. So I grabbed Of Mice and Men off the bookshelf last night.
And I'm glad I did because I'd somehow remembered that this was a depressing book. How wrong I was! Oh, sure there were some tense moments like when you think Lennie will accidently hurt Curley's wife in the barn. What a relief when George and Candy come in at the last minute and stop anything bad from happening! And isn't it nice that the scare changes both Curley and his wife so that they have a much better marriage and new appreciation for each other.
Plus, it leads to the great moment when Curley is so grateful that he fronts George, Lennie and Candy the money to finally buy the ranch of their dreams. Oh, and that last scene with George and Candy on the porch of their new home while Lennie tends the rabbits brought a tear to my eye.
What's that you say? I got the ending wrong? No, I'm quite certain this is what happened. No! Be quiet! I can't hear you! LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA
I’m a fan of Michael Chabon even though he carries a man purse.
Joe Kavalier is a young artist who had also trained to be a magician and escape artist...moreI’m a fan of Michael Chabon even though he carries a man purse.
Joe Kavalier is a young artist who had also trained to be a magician and escape artist in Prague. When the Nazis invade in 1939, Joe is able to escape to America with the plan that he’ll find a way to get the rest of his family out. In New York, he meets his cousin Sam Clay. Sam is an artist of limited talent who has been doing drawings for the ads of a novelty toy company, but the recent boom of superhero comics thanks to the newly created Superman has inspired him to try and break into that budding industry.
When Sam sees Joe’s artistic talent, they form a partnership and Sam talks the owner of the novelty company into launching a comic line featuring masked men. Joe and Sam create a group of comic characters including The Escapist, a magician and escape artist who is also endowed with super strength by an ancient secret society to help free the oppressed. Sam’s story telling instincts and Joe’s art quickly make The Escapist one of the most popular comics on the market.
However, Joe’s inability to get his family out of Europe due to anti-Semitic German bureaucracy and US government red tape continually leaves him frustrated and angry. Falling in love only makes him feel guiltier for his happiness and success. Meanwhile, Sam buries himself in work to avoid admitting that he’s a homosexual until a relationship with a radio actor forces him to confront his nature.
Chabon’s a comic geek, and he really understands the medium at a DNA level. This is obviously his ode to the Golden Age of comics when the industry was born. My favorite part of the book is where Joe and Sam are trying to come up with a new hero, and their conversation about what will work and what won’t is a great deconstruction of what makes for a good superhero. The following weekend they spend with a group of artists cooking up several heroes to fill out an entire comic book made me feel the energy and creativity that seemed to be present in air of the New York comic scene in those days.
The book also highlights the flaws of funny books of the time, too. Chabon makes it clear that a lot of the stuff that came out was schlock thrown together cheaply and quickly, and the stories about creators getting ripped off by publishers are legion.
We also get into how comics were thought of back then. Despite their large sales, they were shunned and mocked by the general public and seen as lurid trash for children. Joe and Sam are proud of their creations, but they’re also embarrassed to be writing about men in tights. Joe often feels that he’s wasting his time with war looming and his family trapped in Europe, but it’s giving him the money he needs to try and get them out so he takes out his frustration by having The Escapist beating the Nazis in the pages of the comic book.
The first half of the book is the portion that I really love. There’s a point where Sam & Joe attend the premiere of Citizen Kane, and its clever story structure and inventive camera angles inspire them to push their own work into a more adult direction. (It’s also a nice nod to the way that comics eventually started breaking the old nine panel per page format and became more cinematic.) To me, that’s the high water mark of the book because for one brief shining moment, the two men see what a comic book could become and temporarily manage to push their own self-imposed limitations aside to create something new. Unfortunately, like any Golden Age, it doesn’t last
Joe can’t let go of his desire for the kind of justice that a character like The Escapist deals out regularly because he‘s looking for the wrong kind of satisfaction. Sam wants so badly to be ‘normal’ and respected that he ends up living a lie and trying to be anything but what he is: a gay writer of pulp fiction.
Chabon has crafted a great look at a bygone era and meshed it with a pretty good story about a couple of likeable characters so embroiled in their own private triumphs and tragedies that they don’t realize that they’re among the pioneers of a new art form even as they create it.
”The only really important thing that I came in to tell you was that life is very monotonous. Things happen the same way over and over again. I think...more”The only really important thing that I came in to tell you was that life is very monotonous. Things happen the same way over and over again. I think it’s more monotonous in this part of the country than it is other places, but I don’t really know that – it may be monotonous everywhere. I’m sick of it myself. Everything gets old if you do it often enough.”
Set during the early 1950s in the small Texas town of Thalia, the story revolves around Sonny, an independent high school senior who plays football, hangs out at the pool hall and goes to the movies at the town’s only theater. Sonny’s best friend Duane is dating Jacy, the local rich girl, and Sonny harbors his own secret and guilty crush on her. As their last year of school plays out, Sonny is often disinterested and bored with the predictable routines of the people he’s known his whole life, but he begins to learn that many of them have depths he never suspected.
McMurtry does an excellent job of immersing the reader in the kind of ennui that can come with living in a small town where it seems that nothing ever happens, and the occasional shocking event is smoothed over by the soothing blanket of the mundane. Even the smarter characters like Jacy’s mother Lois and Sam, the owner of the pool hall, seem to have piled up the weight of their regrets to the point where they are unable to break free of the lack of inertia that keeps them all rooted in Thalia.
This is a terrific short novel and one of my favorite McMurtry’s. However, this reread has presented me with a dilemma. I’ve read the sequel Texasville before, but it’s been a while and I think I generally liked it. I didn’t realize that there are three more books after that. I’m tempted to read them all, but McMurtry has burned me before with the sub-par sequels and prequels to the excellent Lonesome Dove. I'm on the fence as to whether I should give them a chance or not.(less)
Well written, and engrossing at times, but ultimately, I just didn't 'get' the story. I'm not sure if it's a cultural difference, or if I'm just that...moreWell written, and engrossing at times, but ultimately, I just didn't 'get' the story. I'm not sure if it's a cultural difference, or if I'm just that stupid. By the end, I was just tired of reading it and frustrated.(less)
**spoiler alert** As someone who grew up in a small town, I thought the first half of the book was a hilarious spot-on depiction of rural life in the...more**spoiler alert** As someone who grew up in a small town, I thought the first half of the book was a hilarious spot-on depiction of rural life in the midwest. However, the book takes on a darker tone in the second half and ends on a very depressing note. It's a odd switch in tone that you don't really see coming. Good book, but that switch makes it a weird read.(less)