Stamp it on my forehead, folks. I'm here, I'm a blubbering fool, get used to it.
I didn't have high expectations going into this novel, I'd heard it wa...moreStamp it on my forehead, folks. I'm here, I'm a blubbering fool, get used to it.
I didn't have high expectations going into this novel, I'd heard it wasn't as good as 'The Book Thief'(pfft...whole box of kleenix on that one). But, I finished it in 7 hours and what can I say?
Okay, I can see the flaws, I mean..I'm not a stupid sap. I could see the formula... I knew what was coming. But, the writing makes up for it.
Plus, a 19-year-old-suffering-from-low-self-esteem-who-has-a-severe-case-of-unrequited-love-that-is-moved-enough-by-circumstances-presented-to-him-that-he-does-whatever-he-can-to-improve-their-situations?? HELLO??? Um...my 19 year old self would have been utterly smitten. With lines like this: "The yawn of a girl can be so beautiful it makes you cringe". swoon. It didn't change my life---but it gave me a nice reprieve.
Okay, my groupie side is showing. Maybe this is a 'chick' book, maybe I've never matured past the age of 15, maybe I'm one of those dreamy doe=eyed girls that you snarky bastards make fun of.
I've got a pint of Chunky Monkey, When Harry met Sally cued, and Peter Gabriel's 'Your Eyes' on infinite repeat.
There are books that affect me and then there are books that kill me. This falls in the latter. I cried on the couch, I cried on the bus, I cried at s...moreThere are books that affect me and then there are books that kill me. This falls in the latter. I cried on the couch, I cried on the bus, I cried at stoplights, I cried at work.. I cried more over this book than I did on the actual September 11th. Then I became upset that this piece of fiction could invoke such melancholia. Can I use the excuse of being in shock during the actual event? That it seemed like a movie?
I have no excuse.
Flash back: The second half of 1994, my then boyfriend and I living in the East Village, 23 years old and clueless. We were broke most of the time, not much into clubbing, so about 4 out of 7 nights we would walk. Never north.. only through the Village or SoHo and eventually our meandering would lead us to the Towers. No matter what path we’d take, it was our destination. I remember many nights sitting on this ratty red paint peeled bench staring across the river at Jersey, specifically the Colgate sign, and just talking about everything. Hours sped by and we’d drag our sorry asses back to the train and to our tiny apartment. I remember nights where I’d hug the side of Tower One, pressing against it and lift my head as far back as I could and stare up until the glass met the sky and I’d get so dizzy I’d stumble back. I remember the night that we decided to marry, I remember exchanging our vows leaning against the railing staring up, always up.
I haven’t been to New York in 13 years, I can’t even imagine a New York without those buildings.
There are 43 ‘Incrediblys’ and 63 ‘Extremelys’ within this book. Does anyone really ever use those adverbs anymore? Is anything ever extreme or incredible enough for us? My daughter has taken to using ‘perfectly’ in almost every sentence and it brings a smile to my face each time.
The journey that the boy, Oskar, takes in this book is beautiful. The need to feel close to his father who died in the attacks, to spend just a bit more time with him. While Oskar is a bit unbelievable as a character, I felt that that was soon overshadowed by the images presented. I know I do this a lot in reviews, but I can’t help it: Lines like “Being with him made my brain quiet. I didn’t have to invent a thing.” or “ My insides don’t match up with my outsides.” and “It takes a life to learn how to live.”
I’m a sucker for a good line.
When Oskar is anxious he describes it as ‘wearing heavy boots’ and when his Grandmother likes something or in a good mood she uses the term ‘that was One Hundred Dollars’ and then there’s a whole mention of a ‘Birdseed shirt’ that I’m still unclear about but enjoy the imagery of.
But, this isn’t just Oskar’s journey.. this is also about Oskar’s grandparents and that piece is as strong as his story, sometimes stronger. I won’t go into that anymore, I’ll let you read about it.
Some have called this ‘gimmicky’ or ‘precious’ but I was truly moved by this story and combined with the images presented, it will stay with me for a very long time to come. As will 1994. (less)
So, I have this Dunkin Donuts receipt that I was using for a place-mark for this book. It’s from March 14th and it’s for 3 iced coffees… and now it’s...moreSo, I have this Dunkin Donuts receipt that I was using for a place-mark for this book. It’s from March 14th and it’s for 3 iced coffees… and now it’s torn and there’s a gaping hole right over the total, it looks like it got wet at some point. There are numbers written all over it, some circled, some underlined, some with exclamation points. There’s something sticky on the edge. I was number 750.
I sort of feel like that right now. It did a really good job holding my spot (twss) and it didn’t complain or get lost or anything. I ran out of space to write on it so I had to switch to a cleaner note pad piece of paper and yet it stuck with me because it knew that I would need it someday.
Let’s start at the first number… 25:
“I reread Stop-Time because Frank Conroy is so eloquent and moving about books and their power at the end of Stone Reader. I don’t reread books very often; I’m too conscious of both my ignorance and my mortality. …But when I tried to recall anything about it other than its excellence, I failed. Maybe there was something about a peculiar stepfather? Or was that This Boy’s Life? And I realized that, as this is true of just about every book I consumed between the ages of say fifteen and forty, I haven’t even read the books I think I’ve read. I can’t tell you how depressing this is. What’s the fucking point?”
Well said, Nick. This is why we are soul mates. You may not know that right now. You may sit in your flat in London listening to music and reading emails and such, drinking tea and watching your children play. Maybe you should close your drapes in case someone is watching? You are oblivious that I am the one for you. I am the Annie Wilkes to your Paul Sheldon. (You dirty dirty bird.)
Nick used to write a column for something called The Believer. It sounds like a magazine or something, I don’t care. He writes about books that he’s purchased and books that he’s read each month. Hmmm… sounds somewhat familiar. (except, like, he gets paid for it) How many reviews have I read over my 3 ½ years here on GR? What did I do before GR? Scan the NYTBR? Not really. Okay, sometimes… but, this--- this beautiful community has expanded my vistas… I have 409 books on my to-read shelf. How awesome is that? I know that GR gets a lot of flack, mainly from within… too many vote whores, too many silly reviews that have nothing to do with the book, too many pictures, too many cliques, yadda yadda yadda… As Steppenwolf once sang “Nothing is like it used to be.” So what? It is what it is (Lifehouse) and I like it. I am guilty of many of the aforementioned grumblings and I don’t care. And I really like that Nick Hornby likes to do it (heh) too. (Oh forgive me Paul for prattling away and making everything all oogy )
I recently wrote a review for Julie Orringer’s How to Breathe Underwater--a collection of short stories. I stammered and driveled throughout it. Nick read it too and this little summary: "Orringer writes about things that everyone writes about--youth, friendship, death, grief, etc.---but her narrative settings are fresh and wonderfully knotty. So, while her themes are as solid and recognizable as oak trees, the stuff growing on the bark you’ve never seen before.” BAM! (God, I love you.)
This, by the way, is the only book he reviews that I’ve read. I’m such a lacking stalker.
Next number: 58 “One of the reasons I wanted to write this column, I think, is that because I assumed that the cultural highlight of my month would arrive in book form, and that’s true, for probably eleven months of the year. Books are, let’s face it, better than everything else. If we played Cultural Fantasy Boxing League, and made books go fifteen rounds in the ring against the best that any other art form had to offer, then book would win pretty much every time. Go on, try it. “The Magic Flute” v. Middlemarch? Middlemarch in six. “ The Last Supper” v. Crime and Punishment? Fyodor on points. See? I mean, I don’t know how scientific this is, but it feels like the novels are walking it.”
(MISERY IS ALIVE!! MISERY IS ALIVE!!! Oh, this whole house is going to be full of romance! Oooooh! I’M GOING TO GO PUT ON MY LIBERACE RECORDS!)
Don’t fight it, Nick. It’s like the fates have spoken, my love.
“I am, I think, a relatively passive reader, when it comes to fiction. If a novelist tells me that something happened, then I tend to believe him, as a rule. In his memoir Experience, Martin Amis recalls his father, Kingley, saying that he found Virginia Woolf’s fictional world “wholly contrived: when reading her he found that he kept interpolating hostile negatives, murmuring ‘Oh no she didn’t’ or Oh no he hadn’t’ or ‘Oh no it wasn’t’ after each and every authorial proposition”; I only do that when I’m reading something laughably bad.”
Ok, there’s a difference between passive and passion. I only passionately throw books against walls and yell at characters who do stupid things. It’s because I CARE. This is why I love this site, because people write with enthusiasm and it’s not all textbooky and crap. This is what I love about this collection. The ranting about football and why finishing David Copperfield left you feeling bereft. There’s always MORE to the story because we are self centered narcissists. And that’s okay.
125 “I don’t have the wall space or the money for all the art I would want, and my house is a shabby mess, ruined by children…But with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not. Maybe that’s not worth the thirty-odd quid I blew on those collections of letters, admittedly, but it’s got to be worth something, right?”
I don’t feel so guilty that I have a whole bookcase of un-read books or that I haven’t read Dickens yet or that I still go to the library every week and I still look forward to sharing my thoughts with this wacky ass community on GR. Wow, this was as rewarding as a shrink session. The weight has been lifted, Nick! Grumblers grumble on. I’ve been vindicated, time to get another iced coffee. (less)
In my kid's library there is one of those posters that pretty much says something to the effect of books are an escape. Begging the newly pubescent to...moreIn my kid's library there is one of those posters that pretty much says something to the effect of books are an escape. Begging the newly pubescent to take up the challenge, forget the traumas of youth.
The Book Thief delivers.
But, probably not how you'd like. Unless bleak historical fiction is your idea of beach blanket bingo parties.
I'm not going to retell the tale. You can read the synopsis or browse the back when you're at the library or bookstore. I will tell you that it left an ache--dead center.
I tend to consume books nocturnally. The kids are asleep, no interuptions. Bliss.
No such luck here, from prologue to last page, I've been pulled apart by words, images, colors....
I think my favorite part has to be a short story within the story. Written by a jew in hiding in Germany, 1940, to an orphaned german girl. He paints over pages of Mein Kampf and it begins "All my life I've been scared of men standing over me".
Okay, we're back with Sophie and Robin. I admit that I had to re-read What My Mother Doesn't Know and I don't regret it for a single moment. This book...moreOkay, we're back with Sophie and Robin. I admit that I had to re-read What My Mother Doesn't Know and I don't regret it for a single moment. This book is from Robin's point of view and written in the same short poem style and with as much poignancy, maybe even more since you see how tortured it was to be Robin and how cruel high school can be. I think that almost everyone in high school had their own 'Murphy' to remember. I asked my husband and it took him less than a minute to remember his. I won't lie, there were times that I had to put this book down and cry. Sonya Sones, in my opinion, captures this alienation perfectly and my heart surged when he found people that were bright and mature enough to look at Robin as an equal. Bravo. (less)
Nick Hornby rocks. This, being his latest book, tickled me to no end. It's catagorized as a young adult book but it doesn't have to be. It's main char...moreNick Hornby rocks. This, being his latest book, tickled me to no end. It's catagorized as a young adult book but it doesn't have to be. It's main character, Sam, is most likely someone that I knew at one point in my life and the way that Nick draws out this character... well, it would have been helpful to read when I was sixteen and had to deal with skateboard addicts and boys in general. There is a great line near the end of the book: 'I hate time. It never does what you want it to.' Bingo. (less)
I put off reading this for the first few months that I knew it was out there. I always get nervous that the sequel won't live up to the original. But,...moreI put off reading this for the first few months that I knew it was out there. I always get nervous that the sequel won't live up to the original. But, alas, I was wrong. This book is just, if not, as endearing as Stargirl. Here, you get to see Stargirl inside out. Instead of just being a prairie skirted, ukelele playing object of Leo's eye, you see her point of view and the year that she spends after Leo. The characters are amazingly original and I grew to love Stargirl even more. A definite read. (less)
I found Sonya Sones in our library on one bored snowy day and I won't lie.. the titles of the books caught my eye. And now I'm lost....more*another rewrite*
I found Sonya Sones in our library on one bored snowy day and I won't lie.. the titles of the books caught my eye. And now I'm lost. I love her writing and her style and her voice and at the same time envy all of that too. I just re-read this book because the sequel came out and I wasn't surprised that I loved it even more the second time around. It's a quick read, no longer than an hour if you're not interrupted. The main character, Sophie is a 14 year old, high school freshman whose intelligence and insightfulness isn‘t tragic or leaves you thinking ‘yeah, this character is formulaic or too good to be true thus IS fictional. Sones method of chronicling ’love’ from a 14 yr old girl’s perspective isn’t trite or precocious. She doesn’t talk down to the reader, she gives them some credit, no matter what their age. She communicates to us the typical teenage infatuation : ’I wake up thinking about him. All day long I’m dreaming about him. I fall asleep thinking about him.’ and ‘I wish I could drink a magic potion and shrink way down until I was small enough to fit into his shirt pocket and live there tucked near to his heart listening to it beating in rhythm with mine every minute of every day.' Reeks of Stalker? Hell yeah, but who HASN’T felt that? Don’t lie. Wait, it’s not just me, is it? Oy.
Some other reasons that I love this book:
* It’s a novel in verse. I’m always searching for fiction that pushes the formula boundaries. That doesn’t play up the ’It was a dark and stormy night’ or ’And they lived happily ever after’ angle. By writing this in poems, it brings this colors the story with this sweet sentimentality.
* It’s set in Boston. And since this is ’all about me’ each scene brings its own poignancy. From the Ritz Carlton to Filene’s Basement to the Museum of Fine Arts…. Been there, done that… wish I’d written this book (read: story of my life.)
*MFA (Museum of Fine Arts)--When I was in college we were able to get into the MFA for free and since the very mention of ’college’ indicates just how broke I was… I spent a great deal of time here. I used to roam the rooms pretending that I was talking to my imaginary boyfriend who happened to love John Singer Sargent and was an expert in all things impressionistic. I used to get these endorphin highs of inspiration that had me scribbling madly on napkins/notebooks/receipts/anything in my jean pockets. I went back there this summer for the first time in oh… at least 15 years and the feeling was still there. Oh, and there's one of those flipbooks of Renoir's Dance at Bougival... which is ultra cool (in my world)
I'm not sure what had me pick up this book, but it warms my heart whenever I read it. I know it's told from the point of view of the male character, b...moreI'm not sure what had me pick up this book, but it warms my heart whenever I read it. I know it's told from the point of view of the male character, but as a wife of a, let's be nice here, music fiend... I completely get this. It might have actually given me some insight as to why he is as he is. Nick Hornby is, in my opinion, one of the great modern writers and I hope that he continues to treat us.(less)
I was introduced to Weetzie in college during my children's writing class and it was the best return on investment of those college loans. Never think...moreI was introduced to Weetzie in college during my children's writing class and it was the best return on investment of those college loans. Never thinking that I would be a fan of L.A., and never really caring... I completely fell for Francesca's version of it. Not just in these books, but also in her others... I think using Houdini's mansion is wonderful. This changed how I approached my own writing. I know that they label it as young adult, but I feel that anyone with this mindset could fall in love with these books. (less)