Don't let the beach read cover fool you --- this is literary fiction of the highest order. Walters has written a really superb book that manages to beDon't let the beach read cover fool you --- this is literary fiction of the highest order. Walters has written a really superb book that manages to be romantic without being all schmaltzy sentimental, and satirical without being ridiculously over-the-top. Ultimately, the author has crafted an uplifting and meditative (but also really comical and tragic. this guy does it all here!)) work that primarily critiques our media saturated, fame-driven, narcissistic American culture and forces us to ponder questions of authenticity and identity formation, the nature of art and divisions between so-called high and low cultures, and whether perhaps, all of us with cameras in hand ready to finely craft our stories to any and all audiences, are just becoming increasingly hollow simulacra. ...more
An inconsistent collection of ultimately shallow essays. Gay is funny, personable, thoughtful, and obviously intellectual but her essays don't delve dAn inconsistent collection of ultimately shallow essays. Gay is funny, personable, thoughtful, and obviously intellectual but her essays don't delve deep enough into her subjects. Furthermore, I realize that essays can explore topics without coming to any definitive answers or conclusions, but I want more than an introduction to a problem. I want long and winding explorations with a surfeit of allusions, copious amounts of pattern-hunting from history, deeper thoughts on why something is the way Gay says it is. A 3 or 4 page essay on the "women's fiction" debacle? Impossible! Irresponsible! Gay's "Scrabble" essay seemed to pay homage to David Foster Wallace with the use of footnotes, but was without Wallace's raucous humor or almost archaeological excavation of a topic. The author explores contradictions within herself, feminism, and society without even *trying* to satisfactorily explain or unravel them. I hold James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, DFW, and Susan Sontag up as the ultimate essayists, so perhaps the problem is one of expectation? Gay basically just shines a flashlight at an issue and says "see that?" as opposed to dissecting things under the steady light of an operating room....more
The Goldfinch has been called Dickensian due to the sprawling cast of characters and the vivacity with which they come alive, but I'd also consider itThe Goldfinch has been called Dickensian due to the sprawling cast of characters and the vivacity with which they come alive, but I'd also consider it Dostoevskian (now THERE'S an adjective)as Theo Decker, the protagonist, begins to sound very much like Raskolnikov at times, with more than a few crises of conscience. Tartt asks the big, ponderous, sometimes existential questions a la' Dostoevsky and, among other things, considers fate and predestination, the nature and formation of the self and meaning, the effects of tragedy and violence on individuals, and the transcendence of art and antiques. The resplendent intellectuality of the novel combined with Tartt's ability to mine for the minutiae and details of everyday life among takeout containers, hotel rooms, urban apartments and suburban mchouses, make this a classic of life in the 21st century. She deftly moves between museums and masterpieces, drug dealers and ne'er do wells that The Goldfinch seems to present a complete rendering of all strata of society.
This is, first and foremost, storytelling at its best and most sumptuous. The larger, philosophical themes are seamlessly integrated and organically arise from the struggles and conflicts of the chracters so that this isn't a mere statement piece or postmodern simulacrum-of-a-novel that one simply sludges through. I stayed up into the night, willing myself to work through my grogginess just because I knew I'd never sleep if I didn't know Theo's fate. I just can't recommend this work highly enough....more
Pessl's sophomore effort, at times faintly remniscent of the John Fowles classic "The Magus," (and several David Lynch films,)is not as scintillatingPessl's sophomore effort, at times faintly remniscent of the John Fowles classic "The Magus," (and several David Lynch films,)is not as scintillating as her first work, "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" but this mystery will certainly leave readers clinging to every word and plot twist, and wondering, like the narrator, about the fragile line between fantasy and reality.