There are many different ways to interpret this book. One is to see a Twilight-Zone-type twist: is Dora the hysterical young girl, or is Freud?
I wondeThere are many different ways to interpret this book. One is to see a Twilight-Zone-type twist: is Dora the hysterical young girl, or is Freud?
I wonder if this is a more shocking read now than it was when it was written, and I sincerely have no idea. I don't love it the way I love Civilization and its Discontents, but it is fun. Thinking of teaching it this semester though I do feel a bit intimidated by the prospect......more
I feel like I have read a bunch of Ross Macdonald and never like his books but for some stupid reason I keep forcing myself to try. I bought this bookI feel like I have read a bunch of Ross Macdonald and never like his books but for some stupid reason I keep forcing myself to try. I bought this book because it had a hip, silly, massively appealing cover, but I find the characters extremely boring and the writing style kind of terrible and I'm just going to quit on it right now and that's that.
Yeah I know tons of people think Ross MacDonald is the greatest thing since hard boiled eggs. It seems like I might be one of them, but I tried and I'm not, which I'll do my best to remember the next time I come across one of his books....more
Years ago, I went out on a few dates with a French guy. He was rich and good looking (though, of course, way too short), and he seemed pretty smart buYears ago, I went out on a few dates with a French guy. He was rich and good looking (though, of course, way too short), and he seemed pretty smart but I never could bring myself to kiss him. He had this typically Gallic extreme snottiness that I found amusing, even endearing, but even as I enjoyed this I suspected that his disdain for everything non-French might indicate something a bit too dark for me. At a certain point I decided that he wasn't a regular charming misanthrope: I discerned that he hated Muslims, black people, and homosexuals even more than he hated everyone else, and so I didn't go out with him again.
That French guy was a big fan of Michel Houllebecq.
At the time, I wondered for a moment why I find generalized misanthropy acceptable -- even kind of charming -- but felt more specifically targeted hatreds were completely repellant. I mean of course I understand why I think that, but how rational is it? Why is hating fewer people not okay, while hating everyone is fine?
Again, of course I understand why that's the case, but it is a little funny... Anyway, this train of thought doesn't have much to do with this book, except that maybe it does relate to the French and the way that they think about people. But I don't know much about them as a culture, and therefore won't generalize here.
I was so into the first half of The Elementary Particles that it made me feel terrible in that amazing hedonistic I-hate-myself-for-loving-you way that top-shelf Martin Amis brings on. This book has a lot in common with St. Aubyn's The Patrick Melrose Novels (which I never got around to reviewing properly) both in that it's about the extraordinarily fucked-up children of wealthy Europeans, and that it degenerates somewhat into overly expository and transparently philosophical fake monologues later on in the book. In other words, I was obsessively entranced by the first half, and the second half was just okay.
My favorite thing about The Elementary Particles was the way that it would constantly pull back from the story of its characters to tie their experiences to generalized historical and biological trends. This is what fiction is, and how it works, and I love seeing it spelled out like that. This book is about two half brothers with a terrible mom, and tries to describe and comment on massive transformations in human life and experience. For the most part, I think it did do a pretty good job, though I'm not sure I agree with its arguments and conclusions.
Again, I really loved the first half of this book, though I didn't think the second half was as good. I'd be embarrassed to recommend it to most people, based on its graphic sexual content and bleak view of human relations, though if I were honest I'd admit I think he's got a lot right.
I think, based on this book, that Houllebecq wrestles with a lot of the questions most significant to the time we're upon. He does this wrestling in a way that might not be palatable to all, and while I find this compelling I haven't yet decided if I'll go out with him again....more
I'm giving this book extra credit for having the exact opposite qualities of Life of Pi, which I hated. Where Life of Pi felt precious, pretentious, cI'm giving this book extra credit for having the exact opposite qualities of Life of Pi, which I hated. Where Life of Pi felt precious, pretentious, contrived, belabored, forced, overly long, badly written, uninteresting, unoriginal, and pointless, Max and the Cats was a quick, fresh little story that kept me engaged and consistently surprised me all the way through.
I never would've picked up this very slim, out-of-print book if I hadn't been assigned it for class, and nothing in a description of it would've sounded especially appealing to me: it's about the son of a Berlin furrier who sails to Brazil in the thirties, who en route gets stuck in a lifeboat with a jaguar. And obviously yeah I've read books about people fleeing Nazi Germany before, but this story wasn't like anything else I've read. It all felt so necessary and new, which is what I want from fiction....more
I'd strongly recommend Fun Home to pretty much everyone, but I wouldn't recommend Are You My Mother? to almost anyone, including my own mother, who II'd strongly recommend Fun Home to pretty much everyone, but I wouldn't recommend Are You My Mother? to almost anyone, including my own mother, who I see on here tried to read this after loving Fun Home (which I gave her) but then apparently gave up in disgust. And I can totally guess why, as there's a lot in here that it's perfectly reasonable not to like.
That said, I fiercely loved this book and it made me cry and cry. Alison Bechdel is such a genius that I kind of just can't even deal with it, and this book is incredible in so many ways. I'm not sure I would've felt this way if I hadn't read Fun Home first, though; there's an analogy to be made between initially unappealing sex acts and a plotless, ultra-meta comic memoir about object relations theory that is an extremely detailed and specific examination of a woman's relationship with her mother. If this had been my first date with Alison Bechdel I might've jumped up, grabbed my clothes, and run out of her room. As it was, though, we'd had such an amazing time together and I was already sort of in love with her, so I was willing to follow this book to places I otherwise wouldn't have been ready to go.
I'm not particularly interested in psychoanalytic theory, though I'm conversant with its basic ideas as I was forced to study them in social work school. Somehow this book actually made me want to go into analysis, though I think I might be better matched with a frightening Kleinian over a warm fuzzy Winnicott-type. Are You My Mother? represented therapy and Winnicott's ideas in a way that I can see not being interesting to all readers, but that I found compelling. In theory, there are few things I'd rather read than a therapy memoir, but somehow Alison Bechdel is so smart and great and I love her drawings and the way she processes and presents information so much that I got super into this and felt completely swept away by it at several points. It helps that I'm personally interested in some of the material about using her family as comic book fodder, having known at least one tell-all lesbian comic book memoirist myself in my day.
In sum, I loved this book but don't come crying to me if you don't like it. On the other hand, if you read Fun Home and don't like it and can somehow prove to me that you're not a complete fucking idiot and that's the reason why, I will refund any money you paid to buy it....more
Especially considering that this is an academic study and that Ko-Lin Chin's presumably a social scientist, this is a very engagingly written and inteEspecially considering that this is an academic study and that Ko-Lin Chin's presumably a social scientist, this is a very engagingly written and interesting book. I'm pretty ignorant about both gangs and Chinese culture, but Chin did a great job of giving the context I needed and he maintained a human and highly readable tone throughout (with especially fun footnotes, which I always enjoy). The book was published in 1997, so it's a little old, and is the result of research in New York City's Chinese neighborhoods, specifically focused on extortion of Chinese merchants by Chinatown gangs. Chin and I guess his merry band of Rutgers grad students went around extensively interviewing merchants and gang members, and I have to say, usually when I read about research projects I think both the design and results sound pretty stupid, but this was fascinating and -- maybe I'm not supposed to say this, but -- very entertaining to read. The interview subjects come across as real people in a way that's rare in this kind of book. And I feel much more up to speed on my Chinatown gangs now, at least through the mid-nineties... This guy's more recent work sounds interesting, too.
I have lost my ability to star-rate books and also my interest in reviewing them.
I really enjoyed this but I'm not an objective reader, in this instanI have lost my ability to star-rate books and also my interest in reviewing them.
I really enjoyed this but I'm not an objective reader, in this instance because I know and adore the author, but also much more generally. I mean, I can't believe I used to write book reviews all the time on here. That now seems pretty much impossible and insane.
Reading reviews of this book reminded me about how everyone's crazy. I always forget this and am repeatedly shocked when I see other reviews on here of books I've read. It makes you wonder why writers bother writing anything, I mean, best case scenario some lunatic shambles by and picks up your book and has some completely bizarre response to it.
Anyway. I'm keeping my own deranged opinions about the books I read to myself for awhile.
Sad, but I suppose it makes time to do other things....more
Patrick Melrose's gothic New Age Mrs. Jellyby of a mother has finally died and in At Last we attend her funeral, presumably (and for this reader, hopePatrick Melrose's gothic New Age Mrs. Jellyby of a mother has finally died and in At Last we attend her funeral, presumably (and for this reader, hopefully) ending the cycle.
I have to say that while the first three Melrose novels are unquestionably among the best books I've read in years, I wasn't so crazy about the last two. The repetitive analytic musings just get to be a bit much, and the wise little moppets dispensing adorable yogi-like aphorisms just go way too far in sugaring up the acrid sourness I'd loved so much in the beginning.
Still, I wolfed this volume down with an enthusiasm I haven't felt for reading in awhile, because Edward St. Aubyn is a fabulous fucking writer. While I don't think this book or the one preceding it measured up to the ones that came before, they're still a million times better than most other books out there. And so St. Aubyn can commit whatever the authorial equivalent is to wrecking our marriage with his nihilistic substance abuse and cynical affairs, and I will continue to stand faithfully by him! If his next novel is a saccharine children's book about a precocious little boy philosophizing cutely about the nature of evil and man, I'll complain a bit but I'll still suck it up with the famished and unquenchable greed of an addict....more
So far, reads like Alan Hollinghurst's excruciatingly fucked up and much richer second cousin, in the best possible way. Seems to explore the unstatedSo far, reads like Alan Hollinghurst's excruciatingly fucked up and much richer second cousin, in the best possible way. Seems to explore the unstated hypothesis that having to earn a living is what distracts most people from destroying their children, themselves, and everyone around them. Also definitively answers the question of whether the most lurid and cliched subjects can be not just salvaged but made new, relevant, and moving through brilliant English prose. (Spoiler: yes.)...more
So last night my baby grabbed this book off my nightstand where it's been moldering for a month and ran around the room with it, shrieking, until theSo last night my baby grabbed this book off my nightstand where it's been moldering for a month and ran around the room with it, shrieking, until the cover was crumpled and the bookmark had fallen out and got stomped on the floor.
I didn't stop her and reclaim the book until I was sure that she'd lost my place.
I wanted to join the worldly, intelligent ranks of Mary McCarthy and everyone else who's ever picked up The Siege of Krishnapur but now that the bookmark's been removed I'm throwing in the towel. I'd reached this terrible point of stasis with the book where it was well-written and interesting enough that I couldn't in good conscious give up and move on to reading something else, but I just wasn't enjoying it and never actually wanted to pick it up so because I couldn't start anything else I really just haven't been reading.
My problem was that while the prose was great and its world was fascinating and vividly described, I just didn't give a shit if any of the characters lived or died, mostly because I felt the author looked down on them and didn't care much what happened to them either. Also, this book did nothing to make colonialism make any more sense to me. It actually made it make even less sense, as from the first pages I was practically shaking the book, dying to understand why any of these lunatics ever did this -- travel so very far from home to oppress, enslave, and dominate other people while in grave personal discomfort and, it turns out, physical danger? -- which was maybe the point but it's not like I had some cherished belief in the wisdom and value of colonialism that needed to be shaken to its core, so.
This book was good and I liked a lot of things about it, but I ultimately just couldn't get into it and I'm bailing about halfway though. It should surprise no one to learn conclusively that I am a dolt and a philistine. I was trying to pretend that I was not, but my mischievous infant has unmasked me and the little charade is up. If you need me, look behind the cover of a 1940s crime novel; I'll leave The Siege of Krishnapur to more refined minds than my own....more
First thing I've read by Cormac McCarthy and it was pretty great. This book takes place in the same space as Grimms' fairy tales: a timeless and permaFirst thing I've read by Cormac McCarthy and it was pretty great. This book takes place in the same space as Grimms' fairy tales: a timeless and permanent dark landscape where the devil lurks casually, that in this age we all strain to forget exists. It's about being human in a way that predated the Internet and television by centuries, that might outlast all this shit and keep going on.
Hopefully though, McCarthy's works will survive whatever happens along with a sturdy Oxford English Dictionary. Otherwise whoever's left will not be able to read him, which is maybe fine; he's kind of a downer....more