I started reading this, then stopped, and now I finished it for a book club. I have to say, I was right when I put it down the first time. So many peo...moreI started reading this, then stopped, and now I finished it for a book club. I have to say, I was right when I put it down the first time. So many people love this book, but it's just not my style. The use of Death as the narrator gets in the way of the story, I think. It seems overwrought. I don't mind some skipping around in the story, but in this book it's confusing. Plus, Death has literally told you how it's going to end by the time you're 100 pages away from the end. By the time you get to the end, there's no new information. The book is full of strange metaphors and using adjectives oddly (like saying someone's breathing was fluffy) which I usuallty like, but here he uses them too much and it seems forced.
Plus, (view spoiler)[ a book where everyone but the main character dies at the end? I know that is a reality of WW2, but in a book it just seems emotionally manipulative. Like the author painted himself into a corner and go out of it with a bomb. I know that is the point of the story, to humanize the German people caught up in Hitler's regime, but I'm sorry, I just don't see it. Plus, I would have liked to know more of what became of her, and of Max. (hide spoiler)]
Anyway, it's a good book, but it's not really my thing. I am okay with books that are sad, but this one lacked some believeability for me.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
It took me forever to read this book, but it's probably because I was reading it while I was moving back to the States and going through reverse cultu...moreIt took me forever to read this book, but it's probably because I was reading it while I was moving back to the States and going through reverse culture shock. I really enjoyed it. The only thing I didn't enjoy was the romance. She's always describing in detail where he puts his hands and where she kisses him. That makes it sound really dirty, but it's not. It's just stuff like "his fingers brushed the skin at my waist" or "I kissed his eyebrows." Overall, though, an engaging read. I can't wait for the next one.(less)
Drags a little. Connects to the Dark Tower tangentally. Most importantly a great insight to Vietnam-era mindset. Helped me understand that time in his...moreDrags a little. Connects to the Dark Tower tangentally. Most importantly a great insight to Vietnam-era mindset. Helped me understand that time in history a little better.(less)
I read this a while ago, so I don't have my ideas as fully-developed as I might have just after finishing it.
I remember feeling like the book was a li...moreI read this a while ago, so I don't have my ideas as fully-developed as I might have just after finishing it.
I remember feeling like the book was a little shallow and dragged on a bit long at the end. I liked Jules but found it hard to relate to an immortal character in a society so different from ours. Now the Bitchun society is not the oddest society I've ever read about, which makes me think that the story needs a better introduction.
The best part of the story is the retro, Golden Age of Sci-Fi feel it has about it, intended or unintended. in the 1950's they wrote with reckless abandon about any storyline they could dream up because they really believed all that was right around the corner. Well, now we're way beyond that corner and a little jaded because we don't have our flying car. However, Down and Out, to me at least, shines with that kind of Golden Age optimism; the idea that a moneyless society of immortals could really be just a day away.(less)
**spoiler alert** I'm not gonna lie. I came across this book by reading a webcomic. The comic was a parody of the book, but it flew right over my head...more**spoiler alert** I'm not gonna lie. I came across this book by reading a webcomic. The comic was a parody of the book, but it flew right over my head because I'd never read it. Well, there was a link to the Amazon page, and what really caught my eye was that the reviews seemed to be pretty polarized: people either loved it or hated it. What was more intriguing (and off-putting) was that those who loved it couldn't really say why, but those that hated it gave reasons that added up to something like "pretentious hipster nonsense." I was torn. Be taken in, or be in? I couldn't let it go by.
It's puzzling, and it's meant to be puzzling, but once I began to think of it as three different stories, it became clear to me what my opinions were. The three stories are Johnny, the commentary, and the actual recounting of the movie. Some might say Zampano should make a fourth timeline, but he speaks for himself occasionally in the commentary, and the details of his death and manuscript are really a subplot of the Johnny Truant timeline.
The story of Karen and Will and the house is not an original story. Aside from the originality of having a house larger on the inside than the outside, we don't see anything new in terms of characterization or plot. The adventurous man, the reluctant woman, the adorable daughter, rebellious son, comedy relief uncle, knowledgeable friend (Reston) obnoxiously bold explorer, we've seen them all before. The storyline is predictable from the moment the hallway appears in the living room. That isn't to say I didn't enjoy this storyline; actually I enjoyed it quite a bit. Though I years for our culture to turn up something new and different, I can still enjoy a stock story. The tale is very visually told, almost as if it were a screenplay--who knows? The author's father is a filmmaker. It's just the kind of scare I like: no shrieking or bleeding, just the creeps, and suspense. If this story were the sum total of it, I'd give it five stars and read it again.
Unfortunately, that's not all.
There's Zampano's commentary. (Yes, I am taking these out of the order I listed them in the introduction, this is my homage to the book. So there.) I got several impressions from the commentary. I don't know which ones were intended by the author. Literary critics seem to believe in right or wrong answers, whatever they say, but I say if I see something lying there then it's real, intended or not. Who hasn't doodled absentmindedly on the corner of a page?
First, the commentary reads as insecurity. I felt like the commentary was there because the author didn't have confidence in his ability to write into the story all the subtleties of the characters' relationships: for example, karen and will, will and tom, will and holloway. (This also makes me think this thing could have been born as a screenplay; all those subtexts could have been added in by skilled actors and staging.) I find this insecurity especially pathetic because he hasn't crafted any really original relationship conflicts. Childhood trauma? Sibling rivalry? Plain ol' jealousy? Not really that hard to slip into a narrative. Oh well.
Next I felt like the commentary was a dare to the reader. How much nonsense can I get you to read? Yes, all of Zampano's digressions and rabbit trails and crazy lists of names are meant to illustrate that Z was a little off, but really it's a dare. We're conditioned to believe that by sifting through things that don't appear to make sense, that we'll find treasures: a string of pearls leading us to a greater theme or meaning. Thank you, literary commentary. So, will you do it? How far can Zampano digress before you throw your hands up in frustration? And when you do, will you give up on the whole thing, or will you keep reading, just in case? In fact, Truant even tells us we can skip. He does it towards the beginning, and in a bass-akwards way: If the preceding two paragraphs don't apply to you, skip down to here. If we weren't thinking about skipping ahead before, we are now, and our instincts have just been validated. But skipping means we believe that what we're skipping is essentially useless. But how will we know? It's like all those non-existent appendices we keep getting referred to. It makes the rest of the book into a battle over whether the commentary has value, and trying to decide if and when to skip.
I also felt like the commentary was attempting to create more suspense by interrupting the action of a story. It seems an inept way to extend the suspense; again, as if the author self-consciously realizes he can't write actual suspense into the actual story, so he has to let Zampano and Truant occasionally break in and yammer.
I also felt like the commentary was itself supposed to be a commentary on the art of commentary. The book is a film commentary, but since we're actually talking about a book here, I see it as a commentary on how literary commentary can sometimes digress and over-analyze to the point of sounding inane. Now that may be me reading my own agenda in to it, but you at least have to see that some of Zampano's long digressions about the Minotaur and accoustics, and how others have written volumes on Karen's smile, surely I'm not the only one who sees a little tongue-in-cheek there.
Then there's Johnny, the least explicable of all. (It's obvious from the appendix that Johnny was not born with the surname "Truant." It must be a name he's chosen, but since he was litterally a truant as a child it all seems too on-the-nose for me and I refuse to acknowledge the whole thing any further. I don't want to know what it means, because I am convinced it means something absurd.) At first I thought the Johnny timeline was frivolous, but I do get it. If we read a book about a guy who found a trunk full of notes, then the jig's up. Of course it's not true, we're reading a novel about it. But if it's footnoted by a guy, then that leaves the door open just a sliver for us to choose to doubt, if we want. We can believe, or pretend to believe, it's real. After all, Johnny says the film and all the works cited don't exist, and if we look for them they don't! It's a hokey little trap door to slip though, but I like it nonetheless. And it's topical: House of Leaves was published in 2000, when everyone was still loving or hating Blair Witch, which also leaves you a crack through which you can pretend it's real, if you want. Read today it seems like a rehash of Paranormal Activity, though of course it's the other way around. Fake reality was much bigger in 2000 than it is today.
So Johnny lets us believe it's real. He even gives us the chance to participate: will we, now that we are reading the book, start going bananas too? Is this the book version of The Ring? We can pretend it is, if we like.
Johnny also represents the reader's voice, I think. He breaks into Zampano's crazy moments and says "What the hell?" But he also represents our uncertainty about what is valuable. Though he thinks certain passages are frivolous, he doesn't leave them out. In fact, it appears he leaves nothing out (he never says he has), and even resurrects parts that Zampano himself edited out as frivolous. He puts them in because he doesn't really understand their value in relation to the whole story, which is the same problem we the readers are having. Even Truant can't tell us what to skip.
Two things were The Worst for me about this book. #2 was Navidson reading House of Leaves during exploration #5. I thought that was noting more that a frivolous attempt to be meta. It doesn't go anywhere, it doesn't mean anything, it's just self-gratification. (For me it also drew my attention to the fact that I had no idea what the title of the book meant. I'm still not sure, unless it means that the book and the house only really exist as leaves of paper. I don't know.)
However, #1 The Worst was Johnny and all his women. It's not the promiscuity that bothers me the most, it's the improbability of it all. Wherever he goes, gorgeous women throw themselves at him. Why? What does it mean? If it means something, I haven't figured it out. My best guess is that the author wanted to write about sex with improbably beautiful women. Most women aren't hourglass goddesses, and those that are don't wander through LA throwing themselves at untalented tattoo artists they meet at video stores and tea parties, or who just have a question about some volunteer work they once did. It is supposed to make the Truant timeline seem less realistic? More childish? Or is it just something for the voyeurs? I'm not objecting to it in the basis of prudishness, but because it doesn't make sense in the story.
A last thing to say is that a lot of things happen twice in this book. Things happen in one timeline and echo in another. The most obvious is Jeb and the Pekingese (which was SO sad, BTW, and that woman was the scariest thing in the whole book) but there are plenty of others as well. By the way, the death of Jeb or Jed or whatever his name was is one of the things that I mean when I say unoriginal. If you didn't know when Will opened that door that Holloway was about to shoot Jeb, then you either are very dense or watch very few Hollywood films.
Anyway, I honestly don't know if I will reread this one or not. I may eventually want to revisit the core story, but if I do I am almost sure to ignore Zampano and Truant. Despite this long review, I didn't get much from them. The ending, where we don't find out what became of the house and if the Navidsons continued to live in it, is I guess a boost to the realism. However, since the core story so closely followed a typical movie storyline, I missed getting that kind of wrap-up we usually get. Also, maybe I missed it, but I have no idea what became of Truant. Nor do I care.(less)
A collection from various anecdotes and speeches. It flows a little oddly, but overall a gratifying read. He's got a sort of whimsical, wacky nature t...moreA collection from various anecdotes and speeches. It flows a little oddly, but overall a gratifying read. He's got a sort of whimsical, wacky nature that is the opposite of the stereotypical stuffy scientist. His account of working on the Manhattan Project was the best part of the book. particularly terrifying was hearing about how secrecy over the project almost killed loads of people. (less)
I got this book in a bundle with some others. I'd never heard of it before, and maybe I have a dirty mind, but I thought the title sounded kind of per...moreI got this book in a bundle with some others. I'd never heard of it before, and maybe I have a dirty mind, but I thought the title sounded kind of perverted. A euphemism for...? Anyway, I got the flu and decided to read it to demystify the title.
Honestly, reading it didn't really demystify the title. The title seems to be only vaguely connected with the story. Except for the title, I really enjoyed the book. It's hard to write a child character without making her sound stylized or cartoonish, but Flavia comes off very well. She reminded me of a tougher version of Violet from A Series of Unfortunate Events. Lots of quaint insurgents into British country life in post WWII England. I hope he keeps writing her, I want to hear more.(less)
I feel a bit schizophrenic about this book. Part of the story is about the relationships between men who have been friends since childhood. This branc...moreI feel a bit schizophrenic about this book. Part of the story is about the relationships between men who have been friends since childhood. This branch of the story also has a mystical element about the characters' psychic abilities. This is the stuff that King writes that I like the best. His mysticism is never sugar-coated, and is written so well it's believable.
The other part of this story is a gory invasion parasite story, combined with an oh-the-evil-government element. I really dislike that element in stories; I think inventing things to make ourselves angry is a waste of time. As for the parasites, I don't expect a Stephen King book to be bloodless, but this was so grody it almost seemed gratuitous to me. I really wish I could un-read the part about the bacon. I was also kind of confused about what had actually happened to Henry at the end. Not sure I would reread this one.(less)
I read the first four books in this series in a row. My feelings about them were mixed. They were good enough to keep me reading, but not spectacular,...moreI read the first four books in this series in a row. My feelings about them were mixed. They were good enough to keep me reading, but not spectacular, and not consistent. I felt the first one was pretty mediocre right up until the end. I felt like the ending was written well. I had trouble relating to the character at first, but in the end I liked him, although at first I found myself thinking "Isn't this the sixth sense with a twenty-year-old?" I did not like the girlfriend, I found her annoying and improbable. However, at the end I was interested enough to want to find out what happened to him in the next book.
In my opinion, the second book is the best of the three. The villain is designed to demonstrate the danger of believing that you understand something when you really don't. The third book is bizarre. The fourth book is good, but not as good as the second. The first four books can basically stand alone. You could read them out of order, or only read one. What I did like is that if you read one book it doesn't spoil the book before it. He mentions events from previous books, but only in passing, and not enough to ruin them. As the four books go on, though, the main character becomes more and more sarcastic, which didn't seem natural to me. I stopped reading after book four because the books after four are written by another person, and I've never found that I like that sort of thing. Also, while the fourth book begins as a stand-alone book, he introduces some characters and plot lines that continue into the next book, which I didn't like. It felt a little gimmicky. Also, his new sidekick in book four rubbed me the wrong way.
The first story was the best one, in my opinion. Kept me thinking about it afterwards. I didn't get the fourth story at all. She uses such great image...moreThe first story was the best one, in my opinion. Kept me thinking about it afterwards. I didn't get the fourth story at all. She uses such great imagery. (less)