Curse of the Strawberry Moon is above all a LOCAL book, written by an author who knows the finger lakes region of New York inside out. Mary Pat HylandCurse of the Strawberry Moon is above all a LOCAL book, written by an author who knows the finger lakes region of New York inside out. Mary Pat Hyland knows plenty about the complexity of small town living and the way that lives and events intertwine. The book feels real in all its details: wine-making, book selling, massage therapy, clubbing, drug trafficking, police procedure, the lifestyle of aging rock stars, the hardscrabble edges where people move from job to job, the natural beauty of the lake country. The Caviston sisters seem like real sisters. It is a full portrait of a place and the people who live there. The incredibly complicated events that led to the murder are consistent with the complexity of life in this place, but solving the murder was the least important part of the book for me.
The pleasures of the table are also featured. The precise, sophisticated descriptions of good wine and good meals are by themselves almost worth the purchase price.
This easy-going, well-written novel is a discovery in the way that finding a great local restaurant, seeing a brilliant production by a regional theater company, or hearing an outstanding concert by local musicians are discoveries. I am looking forward to reading the next Caviston sisters mystery. ...more
Well, Jackson is not for everyone. She wrote in the 1940s until her death in 1965, and she was a real original. Horror was one of her specialties; soWell, Jackson is not for everyone. She wrote in the 1940s until her death in 1965, and she was a real original. Horror was one of her specialties; so was humor. She also wrote what is called "women's fiction" and when she wrote that, she was very much a writer of her time.
Her books read slowly, with the leisured grace of an 18th century novel. Steven King called THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE the greatest haunted house story ever written, but if you come to it expecting Steven King, you will be disappointed.
She is a master of psychology, she has an amazing feeling for shapes and architecture (she was the granddaughter of one of the men who rebuild San Francisco after the devastating earthquake). Her story "The Lottery" says it all about the human capacity for evil.
She was a true original. Her stories have stayed with me for a long time....more
Geraci is honest, thorough, and careful in his examination of the thousand-mile-high ideas in Apocalyptic AI.
The central idea is "the hope that we migGeraci is honest, thorough, and careful in his examination of the thousand-mile-high ideas in Apocalyptic AI.
The central idea is "the hope that we might one day upload our minds into machines or cyberspace and live forever." Geraci does not present this as something that WILL happen, but rather as something that some people WANT to happen. They turn their eyes to the Internet the way some people turn their eyes to heaven. No death! No limits!
It is difficult to separate the ideas in this book from Geraci's examination of them. (I am not sure whether he thinks they are a good idea.) But the book is fascinating.
Personally, I think this is the stuff of science fiction rather than potential reality. If someday we can upload our minds into machines or cyberspace and live forever, would this be heaven? Only if Murphy’s Law does not operate in cyberspace.
I understand the power of bonds formed in cyberspace. In the sense that they are formed by mind-to-mind contact, they are transcendent. What they aren’t is new.
People have been bonding that way forever. Words and images have been conveying messages as long as there have been words and images. I feel bonded with writers I have never met and never will. When I lived in Washington, DC, I took the subway down to the Smithsonian just so I could look at Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance again. I remember staying a long time. ...more
Ten years after he published Mrs. Bridge, Evan S. Connell published the companion novel: Mr. Bridge. Perhaps because Connell found the character of WaTen years after he published Mrs. Bridge, Evan S. Connell published the companion novel: Mr. Bridge. Perhaps because Connell found the character of Walter Bridge more interesting than that of India Bridge, this novel is longer by about a third than its predecessor.
Mr. Bridge is rigidly conservative, highly intelligent, ambitious, and hard working. He has a passionate nature but represses his emotions. He's a complex and inconsistent racist, a simpler sexist. Christianity bores him. Walter G. Bridge is is not a warm and fuzzy guy.
Mr Bridge is great -- a masterpiece of mid-20th century realism. It has no plot and dropped story lines. Those characteristics would destroy a lesser novel. They do not destroy this one.
It is easy to find good writing in Mr. Bridge. Just open it at random and start reading. For example, here is how Connell describes the minister at the Congregationalist church that the Bridges attend:
"He resembled a stout, pompous little druggist, the sixty-year-old face as vacant as a melon—a trifle sleek and epicene, almost shiny. Time was not darkening or blemishing the surface of the man, nor had years disturbed the liquid flow of his faith. Imperturbably he stood in his pulpit and perpetuated a vision for children. He stood so securely and lectured with such powerless conviction because he knew nothing else. He was a truly virtuous man, if not truly good. It was time once again to sing." ...more
Evan S. Connell wrote Mrs. Bridge in 1959. It is a smallish (246 pages) novel divided into 117 chapters.
The novel traces the passage of time (the 192Evan S. Connell wrote Mrs. Bridge in 1959. It is a smallish (246 pages) novel divided into 117 chapters.
The novel traces the passage of time (the 1920s through the 1940s) in the life of Mrs. Bridge, an upper-middle-class mother of three in Kansas City, Missouri. She is a kind, conventional woman, subservient to her husband. More than one chapter is devoted to the conundrum of having long days with nothing to do. Her brief rebellions do not succeed.
It hasn't, strictly speaking, got a plot. Or a grabber of a first chapter. Or a big boffo Hollywood finish. It doesn't follow through on some surprising things, such as the birth of Mrs. Bridge's first grandchild. India Bridge is not in the least a heroine. She wants life to go on much the same as it has always gone on. Most of the time she gets her wish.
It's interesting to me how both Mrs. Bridge and its sequel, Mr. Bridge, fail utterly on the basis of what a novel should do. Novels usually proceed in one direction: forward. With the Bridge novels, you can begin anywhere and proceed in any direction.
Why do they work? Because Connell treads very accurately through a subject people can relate to: the Bridges' own awareness of their lives, how that awareness is different from how other people perceive them, and the level of despair in there sometimes.
Every character has two lives: Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, their children, their maid and their laundress, their friends and their acquaintances. Connell is adept at this kind of double-tracking.
He has a painter's sensibility. Each chapter resembles a still life, or a piece of the puzzle that is human character honestly considered. ...more
You can read Anne Gertrude Sneller's 1964 memoir A Vanished World at Google Books, but I don't recommend it. This book goes best on a porch with a colYou can read Anne Gertrude Sneller's 1964 memoir A Vanished World at Google Books, but I don't recommend it. This book goes best on a porch with a cold drink and slow time. If you open the book hopped up on the click click click, Anne Sneller will calm you down. "Look," she says. "This is how it was."
A Vanished World is about growing up on a farm in Cicero, New York, around the turn of the last century. The picture that emerges is of a well-loved, extraordinarily observant girl who grew into a well-loved, extraordinarily observant woman. Born in 1883, Sneller wrote her one and only book "in the fullness of time"—a phrase that implies a time completely right.
I found a newspaper account of people lining up around the block in the pouring rain to wait for her autograph at a Syracuse department store. Although the book was in print as late at 1994 (Syracuse University Press), its fame stayed local. I know about it only because I have roots in the world she writes about.
Nostalgic writers say the past was better, but Anne Sneller was not a nostalgic writer, nor was she a sentimental one. I think the phrase "good old days" would have annoyed her for its slovenly imprecision.
"You must always have faith in life," she wrote. She had enough faith to tell what she saw plainly. She wrote about the everyday stuff: relatives, school, sickness and health, holidays, recreation, and pleasure. Death, cruelty, overwork, and despair were woven through the fabric of everyday life, too, and she wrote about those with the same full heart, the same clear gaze.
This is the opening sentence:
"My grandfather was so old when I first remember him that I hardly realized we were in the same world."
This is from a chapter called “Father and Mother and the Farms”:
Mother loved everything about her new home, where the first seven years of her married life were spent. It was truly a storybook place. It was on a crossroad not far from the homes of the relatives, all living within a square mile. If you turned at the corner by the schoolhouse where both father and mother had taught and followed a bending dirt road with orchards on one side and stump fences on the other, you came to a little hill. A spring that never went dry flowed at the foot of the hill and along it peppermint grew in abundance and made a green line to mark the water course.
Most people don't wait until they are eighty to publish their first book, but even then Anne Sneller was not through reinventing herself. A few years later she married for the first time. She and her new husband both lived well into their nineties....more
I admire a writer who keeps me turning the pages even as a part of my mind is saying "Wait a minute, would that really happen?" and "Why aren't thereI admire a writer who keeps me turning the pages even as a part of my mind is saying "Wait a minute, would that really happen?" and "Why aren't there any likable characters except Robin?" and "How many times are we going to have to hear that Strike's leg hurts?" (The answer to that last question seems like hundreds.) It is cold in London in winter. That, too, is not left in doubt.
Robert Galbraith, aka J. K. Rowling, turns a jaundiced eye on the publication business this time. With a few exceptions, everyone is awful. The murder victim is as repulsive as the suspects. The ending was set up nicely (much better than the big reveal in the Cuckoo's Calling), but I didn't buy into the psychology of it.
This book is compulsively readable though. No question. ...more
I read this book as a teenager. Not long ago, I had reason to read it again and noticed something that didn't entirely register the first time: BradbuI read this book as a teenager. Not long ago, I had reason to read it again and noticed something that didn't entirely register the first time: Bradbury can really write.
This book's descriptions come at you at high speed. Bradbury doesn't choose among his figures of speech. He chooses all.
He can lay back, as in the opening sentence: "The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm." He can lay back, but he usually doesn't. For example:
At dawn, a juggernaut of thunder wheeled over the stony heavens in a spark-throwing tumult. Rain fell softly on town cupolas, chucked from rainspouts, and spoke in strange subterranean tongues beneath the windows where Jim and Will knew fitful dreams, slipping out of one, trying another for size, but finding all cut from the same dark, mouldered cloth.
Bradbury's over-the-top descriptions work because they are over the top. If Bradbury had held back, Something Wicked would have lost the passionate intensity that makes it stay with me. It might read more easily, but it would be a shadow of itself. There would be no reason to look back as an adult and say, "I remember."...more
I liked this one somewhat better than WOLF HALL. The action was more highly colored, and it was always possible to tell who "he" was in the many passaI liked this one somewhat better than WOLF HALL. The action was more highly colored, and it was always possible to tell who "he" was in the many passages of quotation mark-free dialog. What can I say about Hilary Mantel? She is absolutely brilliant -- an original and imaginative writer -- but she takes some getting used to. She doesn't give you an easy ride, nor could she, given how deep she goes into everyone's character and motivations. Cromwell is center stage. Around him revolve everyone else, including Henry VIII and Anne Boylyn. Bring Up the Bodies is fiction but doesn't feel like it or read like it. ...more
This story had me hooked by the first page. I downloaded it this morning, intending to read it this evening, but once I started I didn't want to stop.This story had me hooked by the first page. I downloaded it this morning, intending to read it this evening, but once I started I didn't want to stop. By squeezing it into nooks and crannies of time, I finished it by five.
The main character, Zeph, is a mindjacker, someone who can lock and unlock the minds of mindreaders, which is almost everyone in this imagined future world. Zeph is a recognizable teenager, in spite of his extraordinary gift and the distorted life he must live because of it. I wanted him to win.
Susan Kaye Quinn's descriptions of how mindjacking got my attention. Here are two examples:
"[R]eaching deep into any mind is a creepy sensation, like shoving your hand into a bowl full of raw ground beef. It gives, but there’s serious interference between the two mind fields. I have no idea why that translates into the sensation of cold meatloaf gushing between my fingers, but it does. The mind is a strange thing."
"Changing the map alters her mind field’s capabilities. I don’t know what each peak or valley is for; I’m just operating by feel. It’s like I’m a safecracker, only I’m turning the tumblers in her brain until each clicks into place and locks her mind down."
"The Locksmith" is thoughtful and absorbing in ways that made me slow down, even on this busy day when many things competed for my attention....more
When Deborah Meyler focuses on her primary subject: a small independent New York bookstore, the people who work there, and its customers, the book isWhen Deborah Meyler focuses on her primary subject: a small independent New York bookstore, the people who work there, and its customers, the book is both charming and juicy. It feels real.
But someone (an editor?) decided the primary subject wasn't good enough. So a plot device was dropped into the novel as if from a helicopter. The main character, a lovely, accomplished, and confident young woman, falls in love with -- wait for it -- a rich, handsome rotter who treats her like dirt. Readers are subjected to the spectacle of her coming back to him over and over, while his bad behavior escalates....more
This encyclopedic book -- you don't read it, you read around in it -- was one I purchased for deep background information on the novel I am currentlyThis encyclopedic book -- you don't read it, you read around in it -- was one I purchased for deep background information on the novel I am currently writing. What a treasure trove it is. Evans-Wentz spent 2 or 3 years traveling about Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, and Brittany from about 1908-1910 and collecting lore about fairy folk. The stories he transcribed, often with aid of a translator, might have been lost otherwise. They are in the words of the tellers. There is material, too, on the roots of the Arthurian legend, the influence of Christianity, witchcraft, and theories about the fairy faith.
This is a smartly observed, juicy, and irresistable detective novel up until the last chapter, where I thought it broke down. Resolution was implausibThis is a smartly observed, juicy, and irresistable detective novel up until the last chapter, where I thought it broke down. Resolution was implausible, overly complex, and required an entire chapter written in Village Explainer mode. Physical descriptions of some of the characters are cruel. But I will certainly read the next one in the series -- am looking forward to it....more