I hate this book. I reached the 50% point and gave up. Bill Bryson sounds incredibly annoyed and whiny in this book. It's obvious that he is an Europh...moreI hate this book. I reached the 50% point and gave up. Bill Bryson sounds incredibly annoyed and whiny in this book. It's obvious that he is an Europhile, and yet, he doesn't seem to have anything positive to say about Europe in this book. Everything is either boring, ugly, or seedy. He is the embodiment of the worst of the American (ignorant and clueless) and British (arrogant and contemptuous) stereotypes. (less)
**spoiler alert** Nick Hornby has finally returned to form! High Fidelity and About a Boy are still the epitomes of his brilliance, but I am very plea...more**spoiler alert** Nick Hornby has finally returned to form! High Fidelity and About a Boy are still the epitomes of his brilliance, but I am very pleased to have read and enjoyed Juliet, Naked, esp. after being thoroughly unimpressed by his more mediocre efforts, namely, How to Be Good and A Long Way Down.
This book can be regarded as the third installment of the trilogy I would glibly call “Chronicles of A Man Child” (the first two being High Fidelity and About a Boy), even though they feature different males in these three books, and Juliet has not one, but three protagonists, one of them a woman.
The ending is realistic, tentatively optimistic without being sappy, with a tinge of sadness. Do people really change? Will they make the effort to change? The reality is that sometimes they don’t. Most of us just carry on, in the only trajectory we know how. Once in a while, some of us take a brave step for a different track, and that is something to be celebrated.
Juliet, Naked is Hornby’s musing on life, love, relationship, parenting, art, and fans on the Internet, but mostly, about change, regret, and the predicament of ordinary people’s lives. Hornby’s the trademark bleak humor, smart metaphors, and incisive characterization are all there. The book is just as quotable as the other. Hornby’s established his own genre: engaging stories that humorously examine relationships and the human (mostly, men’s) psyche. He is perceptive, but compassionate. His characters are (sometimes deeply) flawed, but always real and likeable.
P.S. I highly recommend the audio version of this book! Unlike the monotonous “verbaling” that plagues many audiobooks, Juliet‘s audiobook is “acted” by three people. Their reading is animated, infectious, and true to the characters (great British accent and dead on with character mannerism and personality). I feel as if I were listening to a play.
P.P.S. If this is to be made into a movie, I think Simon Pegg will be great as Duncan, while Catherine Tate will make an excellent Annie. I can’t, however, immediately identify an actor for Tucker. Hmmm…(less)
I never understand the massive appeal of 30 Rock, or Tina Fey for that matter. It's not that I don't enjoy comedy -- I love Seinfeld, Frasier, and 40...moreI never understand the massive appeal of 30 Rock, or Tina Fey for that matter. It's not that I don't enjoy comedy -- I love Seinfeld, Frasier, and 40 Year Old Virgin (pretty eclectic list, if I may say so). It's just that the show is a bit too zany for my taste, and people in it scream too much. Anyway, not being a fan doesn't mean I didn't like Fey's book. Sporting her trademark acerbic humor, this book is very funny, a quick read, and quite inspirational for women (esp. young women). (less)
This is a delightful book. I listened to the audio version narrated by the author himself. The book is engaging and informative, even though Bryson di...moreThis is a delightful book. I listened to the audio version narrated by the author himself. The book is engaging and informative, even though Bryson did sometimes come off as a "grumpy old man", but not in an offensive way. I got into the story right away and finished it within two days. Recommended to anyone that likes hiking or a good hiking tale. (less)
Some of the information is common sense, but I actually did learn something new from this book (e.g., you look at the audience on your left a lot more...moreSome of the information is common sense, but I actually did learn something new from this book (e.g., you look at the audience on your left a lot more than those on your right -- I do that all the time at presentations!). Information is presented in a humorous way with good illustrations. (less)
Three stars for readability: unlike the out-of-context WSJ article/excerpt (which is nothing but a clever marketing ploy to get people's attention), t...moreThree stars for readability: unlike the out-of-context WSJ article/excerpt (which is nothing but a clever marketing ploy to get people's attention), this book is, surprisingly, a funny compulsive read. While I disagree with the majority of her parenting philosophy and find her self-congratulatory tone annoying, I couldn't stop listening (to the audio book)! Highly entertaining and thought-provoking. (less)
**spoiler alert** Super Sad True Love Story is shockingly brilliant. I was torn between reading faster to see what happens next and slowing down to sa...more**spoiler alert** Super Sad True Love Story is shockingly brilliant. I was torn between reading faster to see what happens next and slowing down to savor the words. It is profoundly sad, just as the title suggests. However, it’s not all gloom and doom. In fact, it’s hysterically funny (thank God I was reading this at home). It’s a perfect blend of satire, dark comedy, romance (without being a feel-good chick-lit), and social/political/cultural criticism.
The story is actually quite simple. It takes place in a dystopian America (outrageously imaginative but chillingly real), a fascist state ruled by the Defense Secretary, ARA (an “unbridled authority”), and a so-called Bipartisan Party, controlled by conglomerates (e.g., ColgatePalmoliveYum!BrandsViacomCredit), and steeped in rampant consumerism. Books have become “bound, printed, nonstreaming Media artifact” that “smell like wet socks”, and reading is frowned upon. Human communication is reduced to “verballing” each other in “textspeak” (short abbreviations to replace complete sentences) and “streaming” data through the “apparat” (a futuristic Smartphone) that “knows every stinking detail about the world.” The “apparati” are perpetually set to the “social” mode, where you rank each other with every imaginable criteria from hotness or sustainability (that is, $$), share your feelings and thoughts 24/7, and trace each other’s whereabouts globally. Without an apparat, you don’t even exist — you are a “non-person.” There is no privacy, because everything is readily available to the rest of world (your birthplace, family members, cholesterol level, purchasing behavior, credit score, personal preferences…). People only care about two things: spending and “sharing” (the extreme version of overexposure: one of the characters “spends about seven hours a day streaming about her weight” on her apparat, and the highest compliment is “You are so Media!”). It’s a “creative economy” — “credit for boys, retail for girls.” If you haven’t been living under the rock, the “future” described in this book will resonate strongly with you, cracking you up with its disturbing familiarity.
The narrator Lenny, like the wall of books in his apartment, is an anachronism in this age (“the last reader on earth”). He longed for the good old days when people “read to each other.” He doesn’t get the youthful textspeak and has a morbid fear of death (he is 39 in a youth-obsessed culture). He works for Post-Human Services, a conglomerate division that claims to extend lives indefinitely, for those that can afford it. In this organization people are obsessed with staying young and reversing aging (wine is just a source of “resveratrol” and one takes 231 daily “nutritionals”). Anyway, he falls in love with Eunice Park, a beautiful young woman who is completely out of his league. This is a “misery needs company” match from the beginning, because Eunice is an emotionally traumatized, directionless, lost young woman (and from a different generation — 15 years younger), the type that attracts Lenny, who wants to rescue her by loving her unconditionally. The majority of the book examines the relationship from his perspective (documented in his diary) and hers (via her emails to her family and friends), from meeting, to loving, to disintegrating.
The love story itself is really not that “sad.” We know they are not meant to be from the beginning. Any relationship with so many incompatibilities (they are totally different) and such a glaring imbalance (he WORSHIPS her while she pities him) just won’t last. It’s the backdrop of this story that is truly depressing: the degradation of society and the fall of an empire. The writer has a talent with words — even the most mundane things come alive in his narration. He is both irreverent and humane — you can sense his compassion underneath the cynical observations.
Highly recommended (but now I need some lighter reading). (less)
I read this before the original. Loved them both. The movie based on this book is total crap, but the book is worth your time - the best antidepressan...moreI read this before the original. Loved them both. The movie based on this book is total crap, but the book is worth your time - the best antidepressant!(less)