Very enlightening. I was reading this thinking, "That makes great sense, but I never consciously thought of it," which I guess is largely the point. T...moreVery enlightening. I was reading this thinking, "That makes great sense, but I never consciously thought of it," which I guess is largely the point. The research used to back up the assertions goes a long way toward making this a very convincing and useful read. I'd recommend it to anyone, but I would also guess few I'd recommend it to would actually read it. Too bad. (less)
My goodness. I'm never one to think such thoughts, but if I could go back to before I bought this book and maybe poke out my own eyes to keep me from...moreMy goodness. I'm never one to think such thoughts, but if I could go back to before I bought this book and maybe poke out my own eyes to keep me from reading it, I would. The damage is done now, though, and I can't unread it. The Pulitzer committee and I, we must just not see eye-to-eye on literature. The book is in 3 parts. The first part annoyingly establishes the fictional author's absolute creepy infatuation with a high school athlete. Yes, a high school athlete. Not someone who went further, or went on to greatness, but just some guy that did well in high school sports. So we start with this author, and he's in his 60s and reminiscing about the Swede, this "legendary" athlete. He implies his own idol worship was universal with all others around him, as though the Swede was a god to 100s...or even 1000s. C'mon. And we learn that all this character knows of the Swede are the brief encounters he had with him while in school. Think back to when you were in middle school--what did you know of the high schoolers? Nothing. So then, at the 50th-or-so reunion of this author, he finds out the Swede died, and he gets a tidbit more information from the Swede's younger brother, who the author went to school with. Neat. From then on, due to the author's undying worship of this former high school athlete, we're forced to endure parts 2 and 3, which are apparently the author's attempt to fill in all the blanks of the Swede's life between the two bookends he knows: he started as a high school star athlete, and in the end he died of cancer, and somewhere in there he had a daughter that killed people with bombs to protest the Vietnam War. So it's a story of a guy guessing at the life of what should have been maybe just a boyhood idol but instead has been his object of worship throughout life. Geez. Even summarizing this is boring. Many people have said it: you could cut this book down to 50 pages or less, and it would still suck. It's like the guy tried to do deep research on things no one cares about (old Newark, glove-making, Miss America, cattle-rearing) and cram it all into one book to bore the pants off everyone, but some jackass thought it was great and now the book has prestige. Books like this are the ones that turn kids away from reading. The rare supposedly poignant observations on life are not giving anything new. "Well, I guess maybe that was well-said, but c'mon: we all know that." There are a couple of interesting characters, but they're only thrown in to help you realize how much the book sucks otherwise. The book rehashes things over and over. I'm not saying there's no merit. I'm saying it's hard to find. Or, maybe it's not worth finding. There's merit to digging through a large pile of shit to find a quarter, but I'm not likely to take on that task. I know nothing of Philip Roth and perhaps this was a bad place to start on his books, because some people love him and I'm not sure I could get myself to even consider reading anything else he has written. I hope to expunge this book from my memory soon. I'm drinking a beer now to try to help. Man, this was just terrible. I skimmed the last 50 pages just to finish the damn book. Terrible. (less)
This isn't the easiest book to decipher, but it was very easy for me to read. The length is the first thing to contend with, followed closely by the u...moreThis isn't the easiest book to decipher, but it was very easy for me to read. The length is the first thing to contend with, followed closely by the unconventional style. Length doesn't matter to me so much if I'm into the story, and I was into this one from the start. The book reads like nothing I've read before, and I ate that up. The mid-sentence, italicized thoughts
and portraying different languages all in English by using a different font style were things I enjoyed, but may well drive others crazy.
Then there's the story itself: it's not exactly straight-forward. It's a story set in a modern-day town near the Chunnel, and by-and-large it's about an older, driven, very principled man who won a Pyrric victory to save a local landmark from the Chunnel developers named Beede and his opposite-personality, prescription-medicine-dealing son, Kane. Other major characters include Beede's chiropodist (podiatrist), Elen; her husband, Dory, who seems to be somewhat schizophrenic but is identified in the book as suffereing from narcolepsy; their apparently gifted yet also eerily-attached-to-something-supernatural son, Fleet; a Kurdish worker named Gaffar; and Kelly, a scrappy young girl from a local family long-known throughout generations for their seedy exploits.
Those are the basics, so then where to go from there? History, I guess. The characters find themselves all becoming entangled as the story goes on by what seems to be the antics of a past jester of Edward IV, John Scogin. The jester can willfully take possession of the characters to perform whatever mischief he has in mind (and not all harmless mischief, mind you), and his possessions seem to manifest in the different characters in different ways. We begin seeing the past layered upon the present, not just in story but in language.
It's a hard book to summarize briefly, and one I'd hate to give away much on. Yes, it's long. No, it's probably not for everyone. Barker's unconventional writing and use of language is something I found very entertaining; for me, reading this book was a complete delight. Good flow, stylistically remarkable, dotted with interesting anecdotes and philosophies, it's a book I may, someday, even venture to read again. (less)
I'd maybe give it 3.5 stars, but didn't want to round it up to 4. It's a decent story, although for some reason it didn't grab me quite like I'd hoped...moreI'd maybe give it 3.5 stars, but didn't want to round it up to 4. It's a decent story, although for some reason it didn't grab me quite like I'd hoped. Eh. I'm not much of a reviewer.(less)
A good story. Well-done narrative and well-developed characters. It wasn't the greatest or most enthralling book I've ever read, but I did enjoy it, u...moreA good story. Well-done narrative and well-developed characters. It wasn't the greatest or most enthralling book I've ever read, but I did enjoy it, ultimately. There was never a point where I wanted to put it down, but I never fell in love with it, either. (less)