I'm not going to rate this because it really isn't the sort of novel(la) I tend to read and enjoy, so I'm not confident in assessing it. Smith lives jI'm not going to rate this because it really isn't the sort of novel(la) I tend to read and enjoy, so I'm not confident in assessing it. Smith lives just a stone's throw over the river from me in the hip St. John's neighborhood of Portland, and her just-published new novel is getting a lot of press around here (I still plan to give Marrow Island a shot). But the sentences of Glaciers are simple and its subjects are twee, and I had trouble concentrating on its 100 pages without my eyes sliding off the page. Yet I can only imagine how many Portland Millennials would run each other off their bicycles just to have their Powell's boss ask to read their MFA manuscript and then have it published by Tin House! So: good for her....more
I read Hornby's 2003-2008 installments in the first three bound collections and in The Believer, back in the days before I joined Goodreads. (I use GRI read Hornby's 2003-2008 installments in the first three bound collections and in The Believer, back in the days before I joined Goodreads. (I use GR as a diary of my reading since Jan 2011.) I'd intended to simply pick up with Hornby's May 2010 installments (published in More Baths, Less Talking + a couple bonus months here), but Jess Walter's admiring and amusing introduction inspired me to begin again from the top. I'm skimming over the football yammerings this time....more
Some interesting theories here, but I'm about the least tribal person I know (next to my den-mate, but even he played team sports and has five sistersSome interesting theories here, but I'm about the least tribal person I know (next to my den-mate, but even he played team sports and has five sisters) and I worry about the dark places where group allegiances can lead. But I can't disagree with Junger that the vitriole and disparagement that we as a society inflict on one another is shameful, and that sometimes heroic behavior arises out of disaster and war, and that how American veterans are received and treated is unhealthy and destructive for all of us.
Junger discusses PTSD as a psychological condition, and I was reading this in light of last week's NYT Magazine feature that suggests an alternative explanation ("What If PTSD Is More Physical Than Psychological?"), so I kept wondering about that, but I know he's using the operating definition. Lastly, I like that he cited anthropologist Sharon Abramowitz a couple of times (I've indexed two books of hers and once spent a couple of hours speaking on the phone with her). ...more
I am not a foodie, but I listened to the audiobook because I'm working on my French pronunciation and because I like Eric Ripert's voice. UnfortunatelI am not a foodie, but I listened to the audiobook because I'm working on my French pronunciation and because I like Eric Ripert's voice. Unfortunately (for me), Ripert doesn't read this himself. And though the way Peter Ganim says mise en place is quite pleasing and the Andorran and Parisian settings were lovely to imagine, I wasn't all that compelled by the brutal dramas of culinary school and high-end restaurants....more
Every time I thought I knew what sort of novel this was, my expectations were defied. - e.g. Monsieur de Potter is a character I thought I'd pegged, yEvery time I thought I knew what sort of novel this was, my expectations were defied. - e.g. Monsieur de Potter is a character I thought I'd pegged, yet he is revealed as much more complicated then he appears. In fact both husband and wife become more complicated the more I read (as it should be, right?) "He was an expert at giving the impression that he was never disappointed and had grown so used to affecting an impenetrable superficiality that he'd forgotten there was more to him." But he also suffers from a sort of imposter syndrome.
Delightful descriptions of Europe/Africa/Levant through the eyes of Europeans on their grand tour.
The photographs throughout: did Scott write this inspired by photographs (like Richard Powers and the August Sanders photograph that inspired Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance)?
I had this impression that Joanna Scott wrote intricate, baroque prose, and perhaps she does in other novels, but not here. The directness fits the voices of the narrators....more
I didn't compose responses to the first three Neapolitan novels and postponed doing so until I read this fourth book. (Note: I know Ferrante envisionsI didn't compose responses to the first three Neapolitan novels and postponed doing so until I read this fourth book. (Note: I know Ferrante envisions these as a single novel, but I will call them Books 1-4.) I finished this a few weeks ago and I'm still struggling with what to say and still deciding what I think about it all. So just some observations about my reading experience:
I liked My Brilliant Friend well enough, but didn't love it the way others did and I wasn't particularly impressed by the writing or the story. I actually got a little bored with it. What was wrong with me? Because the critical reception was so positive, I assumed I wasn't approaching it from the right stance.
So, I decided to switch to the audio versions for Books 2-4. This was a mistake in the end. For the next two books I did indeed become more caught up in the story. In Book 2 I enjoyed the university setting and the romances and the beach house intrigue, and by the middle of Book 3 I felt involved in a grand multigenerational story. But neither of those reading experiences altered my impression that I was observing a melodrama, a soap opera. I wasn't interested in the neighborhood gossip and I cared very little about the rivalries and long-held grievances. There were a lot of histrionics and backstabbing and many, many tiresome arguments. I couldn't find a way to enter it intellectually, but the overblown emotionality clobbered me hard enough to keep me inside the narrative. I still couldn't ascertain whether I was impressed by the writing.
I keep using "feeling" words and not expressing what I thought - and I believe that's because I found little room for reflection within the audio. I began to despair early in Book 4 that I was missing important nuances, that the undercurrents were invisible to me, because Hilary Huber's dominant interpretation was obscuring these aspects. In Huber's tone and voice the narrator is never subtle, never changes pace, and almost always sounds angry, or envious, petulant, irritated, selfish, vengeful, or all these combined. Early in The Story of the Lost Child she (Huber) began to grate on me in a terrible way; or Elena Greco did - I really don't know. Huber was so dominant that I don't believe I could listen for the things I needed to attend to.
Also probably influenced by the audio was this impression that the pacing never seemed to vary: every dramatic moment seemed to have the same level of intensity. But I know this cannot be true. When I read prose myself I can modulate the tone and the pacing, and give emphasis where I deem it is intended. And because it was all so straightforwardly told from Elena's/Huber's point of view the narrative always sounded like a linear diaristic chronicling of the author's experiences. And since I cannot know the author's life, I couldn't convince myself it wasn't all about her. (It's not that fiction shouldn't be inspired by personal experiences - of course it is, but I seemed to be hearing an invariable "this happened, then this happened, then I went there, then I did this or that ..." )
Last night, though, I read this by Dayna Tortorici in n+1 and am a bit chagrined:
Ferrante has caused a minor crisis in literary criticism. Her novels demand treatment commensurate to the work, but her anonymity has made it hard. The challenge reveals our habits. We’ve grown accustomed to finding the true meaning of books in the histories of their authors, in where they were born and how they grew up, in their credentials or refreshing lack thereof. Forget the intentional fallacy; ours is the age of the biographical fallacy. All six of Ferrante’s novels published in English to date are narrated in the first person, which invites this kind of reading. Surely work of such intimacy and length must be — as if all novels weren’t — true.
So now I suspect that this toying with the semblance of authorship, and then refusing to reveal herself as author, may be one of Ferrante's intentions. (Recalling too the story that Lina composes and that Elena later uses, borrows, absorbs, incorporates.)
So in the end I still don't know what I think, which is to say I don't know what makes the work great. And that either means that I will never love the Neapolitan novels, or I don't understand why nearly everyone else loves them. Or it just means I didn't read them well enough this time. So maybe I will re-read the Neapolitan novels in a few years. But no promises. I could try to focus on the twinning of Elena and Lina, and the symbolism, and the sentences, and the specific details of Neapolitan life and Italian politics, and the overarching themes of feminism and female friendship - by which I mean everything other than the melodrama. If that is even possible....more
Lindy West wasn't "on my radar" before a friend praised this new book on GR and FB, but I've probably read a few of her pieces in "The Stranger" withoLindy West wasn't "on my radar" before a friend praised this new book on GR and FB, but I've probably read a few of her pieces in "The Stranger" without noticing the byline. (My reading of Seattle's alternative weekly newspaper was sporadic and always conducted back-to-front, beginning with Dan Savage's Modern Love column, followed by book reviews by Paul Constant or that week's guest editor, and then the occasional Eli Sanders article on local politics.) After listening to this audiobook over two short days I can say I like West fine, but the book didn't shake me up or greatly entertain. I thought her observations and conclusions were often too pat - e.g., in one essay near the end she chronicles an entire relationship and it's dissolution, her father's death, the rekindling of said relationship, and wedding preparations with emphatic reassurances that it's okay to be a fat bride .... and each event elicited life-altering realizations which were then replaced by/contradicted by the next realization. Some of the book's repeated thoughts began to bore me, like the internet trolls, or sound more and more implausible, such as this actual sentence that occurs once but is an oft-repeated theme: "I grew up assuming I would never get married, because marriage is for thin women." Although that idea is clearly ridiculous I can accept hearing it once or twice as the neurotic thought of a girl wracked with self-doubt and debilitating self-consciousness, but if I hear it again and again I start to wonder if it's just something she's told herself so many times she now thinks she believed it, it's now her personal narrative. This may be the result of my listening to the book too quickly, making its themes seem redundant, or perhaps the way she read her own words, which is probably not easy. But anyone's life - this is indeed a memoir, and not always funny - is surely complex and varied enough to withstand being read in one or two sittings. That said, I support West's concerns, especially about misogyny and the wrongness of rape jokes and I'll look for her writing in Jezebel and look for her byline on other sites in the future....more
A very good introduction to contemporary Russia. Garrels is a Russian speaker and has made Russia her special field of interest and reporting. She useA very good introduction to contemporary Russia. Garrels is a Russian speaker and has made Russia her special field of interest and reporting. She uses one city/region - Chelyabinsk - as a focal point. (She claims she blindly pointed at a map for a representative city to move to and devote her attention to. I'm not sure if I believe her, but I like the idea). She's a journalist of course, not a scholar, but Garrels uses her deepening understanding of this region and her personal relationships with its people to examine Russian culture, politics (troubling and corrupt), the economy (disastrous), corruption (endemic), environmental degradation (Chernobyl isn't the worst), and social attitudes. Her years of personal interactions and friendships offer an intimate lens to view the country - that added a lot to my understanding. One of the most interesting (and depressing) areas she explores has to do with young people, teachers, and education: Russian youth are extremely cynical, cheating is rampant, and intellectuals and educators are discouraged by the apathy.
I'm merely a dilettante, but I've been reading Masha Gessen's books over the last year or two. Since Gessen expects more basic knowledge on the part of the reader those books required more effort for me to get up to speed, and the Garrels might have served as a gentler introduction. But Gessen's books are so good: Word Will Break Cement about Pussy Riot and the Putin regime's crackdowns; The Man Without a Face, her exposé about Putin and the regime; and The Brothers, ostensibly about the Tsarnaev brothers but also a deep study of the wars and people of the Caucasus region (Dagestan, Georgia, Chechnya, etc). Then there is another book I've been meaning to read - Peter Pomerantzev's Nothing is True and Everything Is Possible, which I've heard good things about and might explore areas Garrels does not cover, such as television and the media, and Russia's "rich" class....more
Today's announcement of a second discovery of gravitational waves reminded me how much I enjoyed and learned from this book. As in How the Universe GoToday's announcement of a second discovery of gravitational waves reminded me how much I enjoyed and learned from this book. As in How the Universe Got Its Spots Levin intersperses her personal story with clearly-explained physics, but in a much lighter way here - this is in no way a memoir. She's an educated observer and an acquaintance if not admirer of many of physicists involved. She's writing a full account-to-October 2015 of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) project(s). Here's part of a passage I highlighted that shows how she guides the reader.
The decades of labor hidden by this unassuming single-story building will culminate in an accomplishment that I am going to try to impress upon you deserves new adjectives, new descriptors. I'm crossing the modest threshold of a trailer into the R&D phase of an experiment that will measure waves in the shape of space less than a billionth of a trillionth of the length of the machine. [italics mine]
I recall thinking while reading that this is sort of a nuts and bolts "process" book, i.e., about the process of big science; sort of like the documentary "Particle Fever" on Netflix about CERN and the Higgs Boson (which I've watched about six times!). There aren't that many difficult equations or graphs and images, or brain-melting theoretical problems to tackle. Instead Levin conveys the frustrations and obsessions of the eccentric researchers, as well as the excitement of having their hard work vindicated....more