I think this book should be considered a Classic. I enjoyed it, I laughed and learned a lot from it, and I think reading it made me a better, more tol...moreI think this book should be considered a Classic. I enjoyed it, I laughed and learned a lot from it, and I think reading it made me a better, more tolerant person. In telling his life story, Ebenezer Le Page chronicles a good chunk of the history of his little island of Guernsey (both World Wars, the German Occupation, and the rise of tourism good and bad). For most of the book I was frustrated that Ebenezer was never able to find a life partner to settle down with, or a relative he deemed worthy of inheriting his worldly possessions, but in the end I rather tearfully realized he did gain those and more.
Through much of the book I have to admit I was distracted and unnecessarily preoccupied with Ebenezer's sexual proclivities, until finally I realized I don't know what his "inner devils" or "secret life" were, and it really doesn't matter. I think it's lovely that he had the relationships he had with who he had them with, and I'm just glad that today everybody can enjoy friendships unlimited by gender.
I love the repeating of history, and also the distribution of bonmots throughout: When you got nobody to love and nothing to live for, you can always make money; The verb for a man is to do, the verb for a woman is to have; (TV) gives people the idea they have seen and know everything, when really they have seen and know nothing. Ebenezer's depths of despair and misery are so hauntingly descriptive, and likewise reading of his heights of joy was transporting. I fell in love with crotchety old Ebenezer, and can only hope to age near as gracefully as he does. (less)
I tore thru the first part of this book, when Jean the American writer and Mark her British husband were a nice solid, likable couple enjoying their n...moreI tore thru the first part of this book, when Jean the American writer and Mark her British husband were a nice solid, likable couple enjoying their new home on a tropical island, telecommuting to her magazine job and his ad agency in London.
But then as everything gets complicated (illicit affairs, medical conditions, family issues resulting from her parents' long-ago divorce) instead of getting more interesting, it got harder for me to keep reading. Initially there were little holes in the plot that bothered me -- like when Jean finds a love letter intended for her husband and starts emailing the woman herself, well that hardly seems plausible. Then when he keeps traveling for business and ostensibly seeing the email girlfriend, somehow the subject of their torrid daily email correspondence never comes up? Then too it seemed weird that Mark and Jean had abandoned their daughter back home, all the while going on and on about how protective they are and how sheltered she is? And then all of a sudden there was just so much stuff going on that it got so I just couldn't be bothered. Like what, Jean had a brother who died when he was 15? But his name was Bill the same as her father's, who's in the hospital now with an aneurism, feh whatever. Two-thirds of the way through Jean's life is such a confusing shambles, I couldn't even see what she was thinking anymore. The ending was left ambiguous, which normally disappoints me but in this case I was just relieved that I was finally done with the book. (less)
Though I appreciated the author's alliterative genius, and witty turns of phrase... I'm just not a fan of slapstick-y yuk-yuk-yuk kind of humor, and t...moreThough I appreciated the author's alliterative genius, and witty turns of phrase... I'm just not a fan of slapstick-y yuk-yuk-yuk kind of humor, and this was just over the top that way. (less)
Have I all of a sudden become 85 years old and intolerant of all popular culture?? Last night I gasped and tssked through the film adaptation of The D...moreHave I all of a sudden become 85 years old and intolerant of all popular culture?? Last night I gasped and tssked through the film adaptation of The Descendants, sputtering that if viewers see that George Clooney's own children don't respect him then they're going to be all like oh well I guess it's okay if my kids don't respect me either. And now here I am reading Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead and being similarly outraged! This book, in a word, is MISOGYNISTIC. The whole premise is INAPPROPRIATE. I get that it's poking fun at a guy who wants only to achieve acceptance of his peers, and values WASPy aspirations over any paternal or marital happinesses, but jeez why does this book have to trivialize everything feminine? Why do the sisters have to hate each other so palpably? Why can't anyone show anybody any mercy, or courtesy, or chivalry? Why is the message here that sex is meaningless, and girls suck, and rich people are turds and blue collar laborers are also? And that it's funny to tell the elderly grandmother of your daughter's future husband that she is dying soon??! What??!! The whole time I read this, I was just like, why do we no longer need to have morals or ethics, what is wrong with America? I think I just need to read classics from previous centuries because first novels today totally sicken me. (less)
Quirky, quick read about an adopted son named Roastbeef who decides to honor his beloved father's dying request that his ashes be strewn throughout th...moreQuirky, quick read about an adopted son named Roastbeef who decides to honor his beloved father's dying request that his ashes be strewn throughout the contiguous United States. At the time this promise is made Alzheimers has the dad believing he's FDR, but nevertheless Roastbeef is a 21 year old of his word, and doesn't have any apparent other commitments so off he goes on a crazy adventure. There were a couple egregious editing errors in the beginning, for example on page 16 "we road the number one subway train"; also I don't normally go in for slapstick-y wackiness, and there were a few over-the-top instances that I found utterly sickening rather than humourous: when busking in Louisiana, an elderly woman challenges him to a juggle off and her grand finale ends in an epic fail with the grandmother shattering her dental prosthetic all over the street... when line dancing in Myrtle Beach Roastbeef twirls another unfortunate elderly woman, this one ends up on the floor with a broken hip, "with one leg in front of her and the other pointed off at an angle no leg should ever point in."
I do have to admit there were plenty of bits that did have me laughing out loud, like when the dad's obituary described him as a "retarded nutpacker" instead of a retired walnut factory owner. The story is basically an opportunity for a former Jay Leno joke writer to poke fun at Americans literally all over the country, it's no literary work of art and I'm not interested in reading the sequel: Roastbeef Sprinkles. (less)
I started out really liking this story about identical twin sisters Violet and Daisy in St Louis who share everything, even psychic ability. As they g...moreI started out really liking this story about identical twin sisters Violet and Daisy in St Louis who share everything, even psychic ability. As they grow up and individuate, they come to relate very differently to their "sensing" abilities: for off-the-beaten-path Vi it affords her a career and way of life, but for uptight conservative Kate (who changes her first name when she goes away to college) it's another something she tries desperately to escape.
When I got tired of trying to keep track of serial monogamist Kate's long line of boyfriends, couldn't follow how her husband Jeremy went from sweetheart to chump as Kate just as suddenly/maddeningly veered from traditional to wreckless, and didn't like/buy the reappearance of teenage bully Marisa Mazarelli, I took away a star. Then when a throwaway comment made to Kate the home health aide worker in her 20s by her addled 96 year old client Mrs. Abbott, "Rita dear, be sure to take $60 from my pocketbook" came to give meaning (or possibly not give meaning, *shrug*) to Kate and Vi's mother's depression 200 pages later, another star went away. Also, since page 231 when Kate and Jeremy were sitting on the hood of his car, "eating our concretes," I have been wondering, what the what is a concrete??! (less)
The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling is a great book though the ending wasn't as fabulous as the first 90% of it... kind of like No Country...moreThe Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling is a great book though the ending wasn't as fabulous as the first 90% of it... kind of like No Country For Old Men. But it was super original and absorbing, about a lady bookbinder in Victorian England who gets involved in a pornography ring, heh. Sadly it was the author's first and only book. (less)
There was a lot going on in this book, a lot of good ideas, but it was like reading 5 overlapping short stories at once - exhausting and confusing and...moreThere was a lot going on in this book, a lot of good ideas, but it was like reading 5 overlapping short stories at once - exhausting and confusing and not satisfying. I felt like the author kept saying, "Ritchie wants above all else to give the impression that he is generous", without letting me the reader know why that was, or providing much illustration of Ritchie actually doing that. It was like reading a Blockbuster Summer Action Film. For some reason the author really liked using instances where a character's eyes widened, and after reading it like 5 times that got annoying to me. James Meek the author is witty, a lot of the characters had good dialog, and I liked the premises, but there were just too many to keep track of. Also, I wanted to know why the title is what it is, and when it got explained it was actually a punchline, but not a funny one so that was a let down.
After reading I was left with so many questions about why characters acted certain ways, ways normal people wouldn't act: why would this Media Titan Val guy go to such lengths to get revenge on Bec the Scientist who jilted him? Why did nobody shut down the Moral Foundation that was ruining lives and how does a persecuted, medicated patient have the wherewithal to orchestrate such a thing? Why did the Scientist Couple Bec and Alex never think to invite the Religious Cousin Family over to the contentious mansion they inherited from the Rich Dead Uncle? How did the patriarch of the Religious Cousin Family get involved with the Moral Foundation, why was that not explained? How do scientists obsessed with getting pregnant simply not go to medical professionals to figure out what is keeping them from getting pregnant? It was a bridge too far to accept that Ritchie would be jealous of the Scientist Couple creating a salon society the same way that the Rich Dead Uncle had a generation ago, that came across as a scene being recycled rather than a motif or artistic irony or foreshadowing. (less)
I probably would've rated this book a little higher if (it'd been written then and) I'd read it when I was going through that same hyper-consciousness...moreI probably would've rated this book a little higher if (it'd been written then and) I'd read it when I was going through that same hyper-consciousness of my own multi-culturalism, back when I too was a self-centered navel gazer. But I've read many many other stories that offered more to the reader to relate to, and this was just way too much/long about Shepard's own story, or that of her grandmother's actually and without a rewarding explanation or disclosure at the end to make it worthwhile for me. I really was rooting for her to succeed, to fall in love, to figure things out, to make a decision; and unfortunately I didn't get the sense from reading this that she accomplished any of those. (less)
I enjoyed reading this, devoured it in a matter of hours in fact, but it made me feel gross. It was like eavesdropping on the most crude, profane and...moreI enjoyed reading this, devoured it in a matter of hours in fact, but it made me feel gross. It was like eavesdropping on the most crude, profane and boundary-less family ever. Even though I share a negative trait or two with some of the characters, for most of the book I was entertained but not all that invested.
The book is about Judd, whose dying father is in a coma and whose non-practicing Jewish family has very purposefully been avoiding each other for years. Judd's life is upended when he walks in on his beautiful wife having sex with his boss. Then the father dies, and the mother enforces a seven day shiva on Judd and his three siblings.
The Great-Big-Huge-Surprise-At-The-End wasn't hidden all that well, so I don't know if it was meant to be incredible or if it was only half-way presented that way but I guess I just didn't really care one way or the other. Also there were times where the highjinks went too far, past funny. And then the non-ending is a cop-out, as if written to facilitate a sequel. And then I come to find out the author is currently adapting it as a feature film for Warner Brothers. But of course. (less)