Readers who already enjoy westerns will recognize this as the height of the form, and readers usually dismissive of genre fiction will have to rethinkReaders who already enjoy westerns will recognize this as the height of the form, and readers usually dismissive of genre fiction will have to rethink their prejudices. This is one of those novels that "transcend the genre", in that it takes every stereotype associated with genre fiction (i.e., one-dimensional characters, depth sacrificed in the name of moving the plot along, implausible situations, contrivances, asinine dialogue, cartoonish events) and obliterates them. What you have here is a work of substance, regardless of whatever category it happens to be put in.
The story excels in every aspect: indelible tableau and symbolism, richly developed characters, rich digressions that serve almost as mini-novels in themselves, a sense of spontaneity, unpredictability, and the inevitability that results from the natural progression of conflict-ridden situations and irreconcilable characters. It's that rarest of stories, equally deep and pleasurable.
I'm not going into any specifics, because no synopsis can come close to giving a sense of this novel's uniqueness. Suffice to say, it's soulful, it's exciting, you can't stop reading it, and you can't forget about it afterwards. If you associate genre fiction with shallow thrills, cardboard characters, and a tone patronizing to a reader with an even average i.q., read this and be blown away. ...more
A wildly uneven read, vacillating between mildly interesting and mundane, with the occasional, but rare, bit of fascinating detail. Tosches did a monuA wildly uneven read, vacillating between mildly interesting and mundane, with the occasional, but rare, bit of fascinating detail. Tosches did a monumental amount of research (the bibliography alone is around 40 pages) and seemed to feel the need to remind the reader constantly about all the meticulous research he did. For instance, there are entire paragraphs listing the recording history of a song Martin recorded, which has no bearing on anything except incidentally, and the momentum of the narrative is constantly bogged down with minutiae that doesn't add any insight to the man. And there's another problem - a crucial part of the biography is how Dean Martin was an almost completely inscrutable man, so you have a lot of acquaintances quoted, who mostly comment on how inscrutable Martin was - after a few hundred pages of this, we get it, already. The most interesting part of the read is in trying to comprehend just how much utter garbage Martin contributed to American entertainment, and how massively he was rewarded for it. ...more
I suppose this is some sort of continuation of Amis' fascination with Russia under Stalin that started with 'Koba the Dread', and further proof that aI suppose this is some sort of continuation of Amis' fascination with Russia under Stalin that started with 'Koba the Dread', and further proof that a reader would be better served by seeking out the source material that Amis perused, rather than either of the books mentioned here. 'Koba' is an entertaining introduction to Stalin's lunacy for the uninformed but adds little to the volumes of existing literature, and 'House of Meetings' serves best as a mild diversion for anyone, like me, who needs something to read on the subway and finds a copy on a three-dollar rack. The command of language, as usual for Amis, is a pleasure, but this a minor novel, ultimately dull, and dulling, and, like 'Koba', is probably most useful in providing a step towards other, more substantial, works of literature on the subject....more
Norman Mailer could do just about anything with prose, and what he usually wanted to do with it was celebrate Norman Mailer. So, what we have here isNorman Mailer could do just about anything with prose, and what he usually wanted to do with it was celebrate Norman Mailer. So, what we have here is the story of two fights - Ali vs. Foreman, and Mailer vs. his digestive system, which was rendered ineffective from various elements in Africa, not the least of which being Mailer trying to interpret the mystical qualities inherent in the varieties of black people [sic]. The parts about Ali/Foreman are vivid, unpredictable, and great fun to read, and the parts about Mailer are unbearably narcissistic and should have been kept in his journals. Mailer never understood that Ali's vanity was channeled into entertainment, while his own never rose above masturbation. Half a great read, half pathetic self-aggrandizement....more
First of all, is the history all that secret? Maybe to Americans who are completely ignorant of European art movements of the twentieth century, but dFirst of all, is the history all that secret? Maybe to Americans who are completely ignorant of European art movements of the twentieth century, but dada, surrealism, and the Situationists aren't all that obscure to anyone with at least a passing interest in cultural history, and even if you have no idea what any of those words mean, this really isn't the book to educate yourself with. About 20% of the material here is fascinating, and the other 80% is Marcusbabble, the type of prose where you read a sentence, have no idea what you just read, reread it, and then say yourself, 'That doesn't mean anything.' The guy's built a career on crafting a type of obscure non-expressive prose that will be intimidating to weak minds who'll think it's a failing of their intellect that they can't fathom these incoherent musings, and he runs rampant with it here for over 400 pages, redeemed only by the individuals he writes about, all of whom say more in a sentence than Marcus does with the entirety of this book. I'd give some examples, but I've already given the book away, but if you want the gist, think of the most pretentious professor you ever had, remove the last remnants of substance from whatever he/she might have lectured about, and there you have it....more
For a general readership, this is the best introduction to Shakespeare I've come across. It's straightforward in its explanation of both what is knownFor a general readership, this is the best introduction to Shakespeare I've come across. It's straightforward in its explanation of both what is known about Shakespeare and why so little is known about Shakespeare, the historical and social contexts in which he worked, just why the work and the reputation are so monumental, and is often laugh-out-loud funny, never less than charming. And the final chapter, regarding the theories on who 'really' wrote the plays, is an hilarious cavalcade of lunacy, tempered by Bryson's utterly sane refutations. Not nearly enough here for students or scholarship, but a very pleasurable, and substantial, first step into Shakespeare....more
A terrific example of the best and worst that the New Journalism wrought. A delirious torrent, obnoxiously wordy at times, excessive, often stunning iA terrific example of the best and worst that the New Journalism wrought. A delirious torrent, obnoxiously wordy at times, excessive, often stunning in its language and descriptions, sometimes nothing more than a self-indulgent eyestrain. It's like Mailer read 'Adventures of Augie March' and decided to utilize the technique for political reportage - you wonder if he got paid by the comma. But there is a wild energy here and Mailer's ego, which taints so much of his work, is kept pretty much under control, and the incidents in Chicago, despite skirting over many of the personalities involved, are rendered in chilling detail....more
This is the first time I've read 'Post Office' since going through my "Bukowski Phase" in my early twenties, and I'm a little stunned, not only at howThis is the first time I've read 'Post Office' since going through my "Bukowski Phase" in my early twenties, and I'm a little stunned, not only at how well its held up, but at how funny it is. There's lots of great moments, and good, honest writing, so put aside the myth, and enjoy it for what it is....more