i'll give you a second to read the description of the book:
Holly is not herself.
She was once a pretty young woman, healthy and strong, completely devo...more
i'll give you a second to read the description of the book:
Holly is not herself.
She was once a pretty young woman, healthy and strong, completely devoted to her husband Richard. When she became pregnant, he was ecstatic. They would finally have a child to complete their love.
But then Holly began to change.
She began reading strange, old books and consorting with a mysterious midwife named Mrs. Crouch. Day by day, she becomes less like the woman Richard married, slowly degenerating into something evil and monstrous.
The child she carries is not his. In fact, it's not even human.
Holly is about to unleash hell into the world.
in another author's hands, this could have easily become a psychological suspense-y type book springing from that male discomfort with the feminine mystery of fertility and childbirth, and the fear of impending fatherhood and its responsibilities, where there might be an ambiguous disconnect between what he "sees" and what really "is." is he going mad, or has his wife in fact turned into a giant pig-creature with a terrifying number of nipples and a demon watchdog-creature glowering malevolently nearby??? do others see what he sees, or is this all simply delusion?
but not with tim curran.
tim curran writes about giant worms coming up out of the sewer to kill people through their genitals, after all.
he's not going to be coy.
this is not anything more than what it appears to be on the surface: a woman turned into an incubator for a dark and ancient power. a dark and ancient power that will not let anything prevent it from being born, least of all some puny human who has been rather foolishly attached to the body of his wife before it got taken over by the eeeevil. silly puny human. you, your friends, your furniture, your genitals….. none are safe from THE SOW!!
i know. i'm a soft touch. you make a book with photos of animals being cute or being gross or being sil...moreNOW WITH MORE (still dubious quality) PHOTOS!!!
i know. i'm a soft touch. you make a book with photos of animals being cute or being gross or being silly and i will buy it. it's not something i have any control over - it's just the way it is. and this book is so freaking amazing - maddie gets into and onto everything. HOW IS THIS DOG EVEN POSSIBLE???
here are a bunch of pictures i grabbed from her site:
and then there will be some pictures i got from the book itself. but you have no idea how freaking many more there are - both on the site and in the book. i didn't even make it halfway through all the internet pages before i was like - good gravy, i am going to be here all night!
so here is a selection. if you are like me, they will make you go out and buy the book. if you are a more rational person, you will just go to the site, or flip through the book standing in your local bookstore.
but i like my way better. someone's gotta keep maddie in dog treats!
and here are mine - i just realized how crummy my pictures are w/ the lighting and everything. they looked fine on my camera but not so much here. i will probably fix them soon, for the integrity of the "review." and if there are duplicates from the site - oops. i was in a maddie-frenzy!
this book has been compared to gone girl, but that is a somewhat flawed n' lazy comparison. however, if your response to that book was any of the foll...morethis book has been compared to gone girl, but that is a somewhat flawed n' lazy comparison. however, if your response to that book was any of the following:
Had a difficult time getting through this book-didn't really care for the characters
I hate the general misanthropy that infests most of modern fiction.
I prefer a book with at least one sympathetic character... and I couldn't stand any of these people.
unlikable people doing unlikable things
There wasn't a character you could even try to like!!
you probably won't like this book. the above responses are the kinds of responses that frustrate me when i read them. no one is asking for you to become friends with these characters - they aren't there for you to like. me and catherine earnshaw would probably not get along over drinks, but the strength of that character as written is undeniable. characters exist as participants in a story. you are free to judge them, like or dislike them, but to dismiss the antihero in literature is to deprive yourself of about half of the world's published texts.
the comparisons between these books pretty much begin and end with the observation that this is a novel told in alternating narratives of a couple who have been together a long time, who together have a perfectly psychologically symbiotic but ultimately toxic relationship, but individually are…not the best people.
but nothing else is really sticking, comparison-wise. the writing in this one is far more detached. there is a dreamlike quality to it, and while the amy of g.g. is relentless and driven, here we have a woman in stubborn denial, and a man who is more acted-upon than acting. (okay, that last part might be similar)
this is a story about the complicity of complacency, as pat and faux-etic as that sounds. we have a childless couple who met, fittingly, when they were involved in a car crash together, and have been in a common-law marriage for twenty years. he is a serial philanderer, she is a practiced conflict-avoider and turn a blind eye-er. and they have co-existed this way for twenty years: he gets to sleep around and still come home to a spotless house and a gourmet meal, she gets to lead a life with all the fine things she covets and gets to feel useful in taking care of a man who needs to be taken care of.
which is frustrating no matter who the woman is, but in this case, we have a woman with multiple degrees who is a practicing therapist. heal thyself ?? no?
she does spend a lot of time in her head - they both do, and although they seem to have a certain degree of self-awareness, they also both have a lot of self-delusion and tunnel vision.
This is not her fault. None of this is her fault. She did her best to make it work with Todd. She was tolerant, understanding, and forgiving. She was not grasping or possessive. Unlike the women you see on the Dr. Phil show, who fall to pieces when the randy fellow happens to stray. Boo hoo. Women the world over have been putting up with far worse for centuries. Soul mates is a nice idea but rarely borne out in practice. Marriage coaches like Dr. Phil raise the bar too high, teach women to expect too much, and end up breeding discontent. We live alone in our cluttered psyches, possessed by our entrenched beliefs, our fatuous desires, our endless contradictions - and like it or not we have to put up with this in one another. Do you want your man to be a man or do you want to turn him into a pussy? Don't think you can have it both ways. She did not make that mistake with Todd. She gave him plenty of space. He had nothing to complain about. This is not her fault.
"this" is the price she is paying for her twenty-year indulgence of todd's behavior. because with the twenty-year inch he has been given, he has taken a county: his new girlfriend (half his age and the daughter of his oldest friend) has become pregnant and is demanding marriage. and todd is letting himself get talked into it, in his panting sex-blindedness and his desire not for a child, but for an heir; a desire stubbornly refused by jodi all these years.
but this new relationship is unfulfilling. natasha is much younger, much more demanding, messy, judgmental, dismissive, critical, bossy - everything that jodi is not. and todd's fatal mistake is not in impregnating another woman, or even leaving jodi, both of which she has accepted, overcome, and developed "solutions" for, and not for his attempts to have it all - to continue his sexual relationship with jodi despite his pregnant fiancée at home. his mistake is in rocking the boat - threatening the comfort of the domestic charade jodi has so carefully constructed when he tries to have her evicted from their condo. you do not mess with a domestic goddess' place of business.
their unspoken marital arrangement has always hinged on the rule that "you do not bring that life into this life," and the first time he does, there are repercussions and she unsheathes her claws, but this bigger transgression is going to leave deeper scratches.
because illinois has no common-law recognition, jodi has no rights, despite her years of service, and her religiously-maintained two-patients-a-day practice is not nearly enough to support the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed, and jodi is absolutely devoted to routine.
At forty-five, Jodi still sees herself as a young woman. She does not have her eye on the future but lives very much in the moment, keeping her focus on the everyday. She assumes, without having thought about it, that things will go on indefinitely in their imperfect yet entirely acceptable way.
and our girl is gonna protect that routine with all she's got.
todd is a bizarre study. he is pure self-indulgence:
The indwelling presence was strong in him in his younger years - in his childhood as he learned to distinguish himself from his parents, when he broke free and discovered the world at large, the exhilaration of it, and then as he found his feet in business and felt his power and his blamelessness, and when he first encountered Jodi, and through her the substance of communion. He's a lover in love with the world, and when he's in form the world gives back. It's how he wants to live every minute of every day. He wants it all unwrapped. He wants to look the barefaced mystery in the eye, be a participant, immersed - not an observer, a packager, a regretter.
This is not the way some people see it. Jodi, for one. But you can't live your life by other people's rules.
he does not understand why jodi is caught off-balance by his canceling of her credit cards, or by his attempts to evict her, and while he is very self-involved, his self-awareness has its limits.
Seated on his stool after such a long absence he succumbs to a tender devotion, a reverence for this welcoming sanctuary with its quaint accoutrements and rituals, its shakers and strainers, goblets, flutes, and snifters, pickled onions and lemon twists, distinctive paper coasters, a different one for every drink, its buzzing congregation, and the secular priest behind the bar performing the time-honored rites. It makes him think of the church he used to attend with his mother, who raised him Roman Catholic, or tried to. He never could get his head around the old man in the sky, but he was smitten from the start with the glamour and mystique of it; the solemn processions, colorful robes, smoking censer, chanting and singing….He connected with the mystery and the rapture, and now he inhibits the bar at the Drake in much the same way.
he has enough awareness to make the connection between the tokens of spirituality to the ritual of the bar, but he doesn't take it that one step further: the things he appreciates and needs in his relationships are the very same domestic rituals, and natasha cannot provide them for him. he needs the drink waiting for him at home, the folded newspaper, the elaborate meal. he needs the walking of the dog and the view from his castle. and without that, he falters. his faltering comes in the shape of stasis, of being bullied by natasha into things he doesn't really want to do, into falling into old habits when he feels cornered, into letting his life live him and not taking a stand and waiting until the day he moves out to tell jodi he is leaving, and being baffled by her reaction. he becomes hesitant and malleable.
and the prey that hesitates is the prey that gets eaten.
the gg-comparison is a little misleading, the synopsis is a little misleading, but all in all i found this book fascinating and frustrating and thought-provoking. which is all a book should ever be expected to do. (less)
the photos in this book are an easy five stars. watch a jack-o-lantern transform from whimsical holiday porch decoration into flattened, mold covered...more the photos in this book are an easy five stars. watch a jack-o-lantern transform from whimsical holiday porch decoration into flattened, mold covered slime disk in 32 easy pages! it kind of makes me wonder why we don't carve the jack-o-lanterns weeks in advance, because they are way cooler and spookier after all the insects and mold have had their way with them. and i suppose it would discourage mini-hooligans from stealing and smashing them, because kids don't wanna touch this - it is too disturbing.
no one wants to eat funsize snickers with gooey mold-fingers.
the words are less fun. the book seems unable to decide whether it wants to be scientific or fun-for-kids. the first pages, in the voice of the jack-o-lantern are like a sort-of-poem, but it is very clunky: Here I stand, bright with light, proud and round. Tonight is my glory night. Call me Jack. My flame is spent. No more do I glow. Back to the garden I go.
and then later, Of all the strange things growing on this pumpkin, I am the strangest. I am a slime mold. I started as a single cell, tumbling through the soil. Every once in a while I divided in half so there were two of "me." Soon there were lots and lots of us. Then we did the oddest thing: we joined to become one living creature that spread out in squiggly yellow arms connected like a net. The net, called a "plasmodium," began to move.
which is much less cutesy.
so it's a little uneven.
i like the idea that all the worms and mice and fungi are given a voice as they turn this one pumpkin into mulch - it is a great idea for a book, and it is fascinating to watch this pumpkin decay more and more on every page. nature is super-gross.
the winner for "best photo" is this one:
and "best voice" is the voice of the fly:
My keen fly nose smells what I am looking for - dead fish, rotten meat, dog doo - the stinkier, the better! A rotting pumpkin is perfect. I taste it with my feet. You're gonna love hearing how I eat. I vomit on the pumpkin flesh. My vomit dissolves pumpkin nutrients so I can lap them up. A delicious, nutritious morning smoothie!
if you are looking for a straight-ahead narrative where the events are laid out in a clear, linear fashion, and you always know what is right around t...more if you are looking for a straight-ahead narrative where the events are laid out in a clear, linear fashion, and you always know what is right around the bend, this is not your book. from the outset, we are told that this is a book for people who hate reading.
and that is because of our reluctant, unreliable narrator, who is writing this "story" at the behest of his psychiatrist, who intends it to be a cathartic, cleansing exercise to help him overcome a trauma. but our narrator, charlie, intends it to be sold so he can make enough money to get out of where he is, and go make a new life for himself, far away from his reputation.
and you should give him your money, because although it can be a bit unwieldy at times, i thought it was really enjoyable.
charlie is the titular gamal, short for the irish gamalóg, which basically means "fool." but still waters run deep. he tells us from the outset he has been diagnosed with ODD; oppositional defiance disorder, which basically means that he is hardwired to be incapable of doing what people want him to do. including writing this account of his experiences. he will frequently interrupt his own narrative with images, blank lines for the reader to write in the lyrics to specific, meaningful songs so he won't have to pay for the rights, and gibberish, just to get to his psychiatrist's preordained word-count. but charlie is no fool. he has been underestimated his whole life, and has found that the less people expect of you, intellectually, the more they will consider you to be like a pet, and say things and let down their guard in a way that might someday become useful. and charlie capitalizes on this treatment, with his admirable aural recall and his quiet machinations.
charlie manages to manipulate everyone around him, including the reader.
the trauma he is being treated for involves the only two people who ever saw charlie as he actually is, or who came the closest: his only friends, james and sinéad. and although it is pretty clear what will be their fate from the outset, i am going to gloss it for those who are spoiler-wary and don't know how to read book-jackets.
james and sinéad met very young, and became instantly inseparable. theirs was a bond of music and "otherness." sinéad comes from an abusive household, but has a room-stilling singing voice, while james is a newcomer to the village, a protestant among catholics. their bond is cemented young, irreversible, and changes as they grow older from closest friends to romantic partners. charlie is more than their mascot and their chaperone; they see him for what he really is, as like will recognize like. the three of them can get lost in music and in daydreaming of a better life, and while charlie is largely a silent participant in their teenage hangouts, he is very much an important part of the circle.
the resentment of james-and-sinéad comes from the small-minded residents of the village: jealous of their youth, beauty, talent, opportunities, james' wealth and athletic prowess, and the intensity of their bond. charlie is largely overlooked, and in this role, he is able to learn a great deal about the way people view his friends, and the way petty people deal with jealousy. he watches, he listens, he judges.
again, the "what" of the trauma is not the big secret, nor the "why." this is more of a character study than a true mystery. but it is a hell of a character.
the way the story unfolds is its true attraction; the way charlie will toy with the reader and bring them close to a point of revelation only to backtrack and fill the remaining word-allotment with digressions, anecdotes, images, or blather.
but do not sell him short, like so many of his neighbors do, there is so much meaning in the madness.
and although we-as-reader are being toyed with, we still see the holes in the presentation; holes charlie is quick to plug, but the seeds of doubt are planted, and the savvy reader knows what to do with the ambiguity of the ending.
it is a remarkable debut novel, and although it is a little on the long side, and the digital version is missing some of the artwork, it is definitely worth reading, if you like the work of mcgrath or mccabe or william trevor. it is more playful and less self-consciously bleak as those writers tend to be, but collins' narrater is definitely in their realm.