Susan Orlean is one of my favorite essayists, I'm always excited when I open an issue of the New Yorker and find one of her articles inside. SaturdaySusan Orlean is one of my favorite essayists, I'm always excited when I open an issue of the New Yorker and find one of her articles inside. Saturday Night is the perfect opportunity to get my fill, and then some, of her voice. The book is an interesting premise - she examines why Saturday night is important to American society, and takes a look at some of the quintessential (and not-so-quintessential) ways to spend Saturday night across the United States, from babysitting, to waitressing in America's busiest restaurant, to cruising down Main Street, to celebrating a quincenera. Orlean is a master of shrewd observation and painting such a vivid picture of a situation that you feel like you're there. She's witty and touching, and seems to really enjoy learning about her subjects.
I will say that the book could have been 3-4 chapters shorter, I did end up skimming one of the chapters because I was eager to finish the book. And since it was written nearly 25 years ago, it seemed dated in many ways (there's a chapter on Saturday-night television programming that was apparently written just as VCRs came into vogue, but well before TiVo and digital movies were invented) . But Orlean herself ackowledges this in an author's note in the Kindle edition I was reading - she talks about how things have changed since she wrote the book and, in what was one of my favorite parts of the entire book, revisits most of her subjects, updating the reader on where various people and places she wrote about, are today.
It's a great idea for a book, and I really enjoyed reading it. It's one of those books you can pick up and set down over time, since it's really just a series of essays....more
I picked up this book thinking it was going to be funny and dark. Dark it is, but maybe because I have a daughter who is a similar age to the little gI picked up this book thinking it was going to be funny and dark. Dark it is, but maybe because I have a daughter who is a similar age to the little girl in the book, I found it extremely depressing. I did love the distinctive tone of this book - Dermansky has a style that is very simple, almost childish, but it is fun to read and made Marie seem even more crazy. It was a fast, engaging read, but ultimately I just felt sort of sad and unsatisfied afterwards, since all the characters in the book were so unlikeable....more
The author is dead-on with the voice of 14-year-old June, who's coping with the loss of her beloved uncle, who died of AIDS. It's crazy how this terriThe author is dead-on with the voice of 14-year-old June, who's coping with the loss of her beloved uncle, who died of AIDS. It's crazy how this terrifying epidemic was only 30 years ago (and there's still not a cure) but seems to have really faded from our national consciousness. I loved June's personality, her budding friendship with her uncle's longtime partner, and her memories of her uncle. The only things that seemed contrived were her sister's motivations for how she treated June, and (spoiler alert!) June's idea of being "in love with" her uncle - I didn't really feel like feeling possessive of him and basking in his attention meant anything inappropriate, especially when you're only 14 and getting your first glimpses into the sophisticated world of grown-ups. I was sad to finish this book, it was such a bittersweet pleasure to immerse myself in June's world....more
Creepy and compelling - this novel chronicles the dark underbelly of a cheerleading squad in a nameless American suburb or small town, and what happenCreepy and compelling - this novel chronicles the dark underbelly of a cheerleading squad in a nameless American suburb or small town, and what happens when a new coach upsets the squad's natural hierarchy. I loved the sinister tone of this book, it made it hard to put down as I always wanted to find out what was going to happen next! It was a fun, thriller-type read, and an interesting glimpse into the world of cheer (although I hope that the author was exaggerating the girls' unhealthy obsession with staying skinny, and the drastic measures by which they maintained their weight)....more
Normally I love the (albeit over-explored) premise of student/teacher affair... it's probably why I picked up this book in the first place. But only aNormally I love the (albeit over-explored) premise of student/teacher affair... it's probably why I picked up this book in the first place. But only a few chapters into the book I was praying it would get better (It didn't, really), and I had to force myself to finish it. Choi's writing is overwrought, in love with the sound of itself, exaggerated and pretentious (I got so sick of references to various obscure writers and philosophers, and Brodeurs' stupid baby carseat, which was always referred to as "the Swedish carseat"). The characters weren't very likeable, and I felt like many of them were misrepresented, right from the start. For instance, Regina had heard of the rakish, womanizing, sexual-harassing reputation of Nicholas Brodeur, and for some reason instead of running the other way, she signed up for a class with him to get a little closer. First of all, WHO DOES THIS?! Second, this premise was pretty much abandoned, and when the reader meets Brodeur, there is absolutely no evidence of the sort of sexual magnetism that is hinted about at the beginning of the book. The love scenes were gross and embarrassing (and I'm not typically bothered by an explicit love scene, as long as it's well written), and (spoiler alert) Regina's self-flagellating behavior when she gets dumped made me want to slap her.
The second half of the book, which takes place 14 years after the first, doesn't really seem to make sense, as to how the characters ended where they did. And although I found the ending compelling, there was very little portent of it when I thought back to earlier in the book, which made it seem unlikely.
I rarely regret having read a book, but I'm a bit sorry I wasted my time and money on this one. ...more
This book was a fascinating look into the turn of the 19th century and what life was like in a world where slaves were the norm. So many terrible thinThis book was a fascinating look into the turn of the 19th century and what life was like in a world where slaves were the norm. So many terrible things happened to the people in this book that I had to keep reminding myself it was fiction, but sadly, I've read so many similar accounts of slavery that I am beginning to realize that the atrocities might not be exaggerated. The Kitchen House was gripping right from the start, and I found myself completely falling in love with Lavinia and rooting for her amid all the misfortunes, misunderstandings and other pitfalls that befell her. I can't wait to discuss this book with my book club!...more