Bel Canto is a book that you don't want to overthink. While you're reading it you get caught up in the drama of the story and the transformation of thBel Canto is a book that you don't want to overthink. While you're reading it you get caught up in the drama of the story and the transformation of the characters that you ignore the fact that it's preposterous. And that's a good thing. This is coming from someone who thoroughly enjoyed Patchett's exploration of hostages stuck in a botched kidnapping. It's beautifully and thoughtfully written.
While reading, I couldn't help but think of Emma Donoghue's novel Room told from the perspective of a boy born in captivity (that's underplaying his situation a bit) and while I was extremely hesitant to read it at first, I highly recommend it, though it is not easy. Bel Canto is more glamorous and less focussed. The characters are much less believable, but perhaps the biggest difference is the depiction of the captors. Whereas with Room there is no ambiguity about the evil of the situation, in Bel Canto this is more ambiguous.
Both books leave much to be discussed, but one thing I know for certain, the beauty of this book wouldn't translate well into a movie (though it pains me that this was one of my first reactions--thinking of how it would do as a movie that is). ...more
This book is essentially A Moveable Feast told from the perspective of a female narrator in the 1950s, or at least that's what I wanted it to be. I loThis book is essentially A Moveable Feast told from the perspective of a female narrator in the 1950s, or at least that's what I wanted it to be. I love the look of the NYRB reprints (how could you not) but as a colleague of mine put it, you can't help thinking that they're out of print for a reason. The novel has some endearing moments, and it does have a scent of Hemingway, but for the most part it reads like a Frenchified, somewhat high class, rom-com. Perhaps I missed the deeper elements. That isn't to say I didn't enjoy reading it, I did, immensely.
In the afterword she says that Hemingway himself once said to her "I liked your book. I liked the way your characters all speak differently. My characters all sound the same because I never listen."
Still, if I ever have a band (I will never have a band) I'm calling it "The Dud Avocado." ...more
Read this for book-club. Found the introduction relevant (if not repetitive) and spot on when it came to the idea that American universities (then itRead this for book-club. Found the introduction relevant (if not repetitive) and spot on when it came to the idea that American universities (then it seems, but I would argue now) value the idea of being "open," as in open to all possibilities or ideas, more than they value actual knowledge, and as a result ignorance ensues. Unfortunately he doesn't make this argument compellingly (or really at all) in the rest of the work [to be fair, we only read part 1]. It seemed to me that he argued that knowledge leads to change, but wasn't really open to change--though perhaps the "change" aspect was just me projecting. ...more
I wanted to wait and digest this book before writing the review, but then realized that there wasn't much to digest.
By now it's not a spoiler (and peI wanted to wait and digest this book before writing the review, but then realized that there wasn't much to digest.
By now it's not a spoiler (and perhaps it never was) to think of The Emperor's Children as a novel defined by it's purposeful place in time, namely the months leading up to September 11th and the immediate aftermath. This knowledge is what kept me reading. That, combined with the fact that it was one of the "late-coming-of-age-novels" for which I possess and inexplicable weakness. Inspired by the hoopla surrounding the fact that it's been 10 years, I've been reading some of the novels that have been hailed as "9/11 novels." But like my critique of The Submission, just the idea of September 11th isn't enough to carry storyl.
I appreciate the literary effort put forth here creating the divide between what people cared about leading up to September 11th and how, presumably, they reacted after the fact, how their lives were changed. If these characters were meant as parodies, I might be more forgiving of, though would still not recommend, this book. Each is a grotesque extreme and seems to work hard at being unrelatable and deplorable. What is perhaps a subtler commentary, though one I don't think Messud intends, is that these characters continue to be just as deplorable following the events, but their lives get a bit more complicated with this brief hiccup. Like everything I read in 11th grade English, it is, perhaps, about the failure of the American Dream.
SPOILER OF SORTS: What I found most intriguing is that (aside from a very minor character whose fate is ambiguous) the only character who dies, fakes his own death to create a new future. This character, who seems to have some extreme mental health issues that are never addressed, uses September 11th as a rebirth. While perhaps poetic, it sidesteps the devastation and gravitas of the events.
There is room to say that no one needs to be told of the relevance of what happened, that much is evident. I appreciate that perspective, but finishing Messud's novel I couldn't help but feel a bit sick and even more disgusted. Then again, perhaps I missed the point.
Mirrors can be the unlikeliest of deceivers. They suggest a clean retelling of just the facts, an accurate reflection of what’s placed before them, wiMirrors can be the unlikeliest of deceivers. They suggest a clean retelling of just the facts, an accurate reflection of what’s placed before them, without judgment or commentary. But of course what we see in a mirror isn’t always the truth, at least not exactly. It’s the surface of things, and even that is often distorted. We know this, yet we can’t stop looking at them for confirmation. We crave the reflection, choosing to trust its accuracy against our better judgment.
Helen Oyeyemi’s latest novel, Boy, Snow, Bird, begins with just this conundrum. “Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy,” says Boy, the first of the book’s three titular protagonists. That doesn’t stop her from obsessing over mirrors, to the point of kissing the glass with her fists against it, her mouth meeting her “mouth.” And she’s not the only one: Snow, her stepdaughter, and Bird, her daughter, have similarly troublesome and obsessive relationships with the reflective material—in their case, they occasionally don’t see any reflection at all.
A magical mirror? You know that old story. On its surface, the plot of Boy, Snow, Bird is the Snow White tale told from the perspective of the stepmother—the sort of turnabout tactic made standard thanks to books like Wicked. But the talented Oyeyemi takes a familiar story, sets it for the most part in 1950s New England, and removes almost all the familiar imagery, making it her own. There are no dwarves, no poisonous apple, and no awakening kiss. In its place are simply women. Women of all ages, races, economic backgrounds, and motives. Women who deal with, and sometimes inflict, all the horrible injustices—racism, abortions, questions of sexual identity—that aren’t on display in a Disneyfied version. Women who, with no Prince Charming on the way, must instead find ways to solve their own problems.
A novel in stories, or a collection of vignettes about a fictional Israeli town, this isn't Oz's strongest work, but has its powerful moments. I heardA novel in stories, or a collection of vignettes about a fictional Israeli town, this isn't Oz's strongest work, but has its powerful moments. I heard him read (in both Hebrew and English) and then speak about the book with Ruth Franklin. ...more
I was incredibly disappointed (though I expected to feel this way). It was over-hyped and felt like a Serbian version of Swamplandia! It has the sameI was incredibly disappointed (though I expected to feel this way). It was over-hyped and felt like a Serbian version of Swamplandia! It has the same female heroine trying to patch together her family history after a major character in her life passed away. It had the same pseudo-mystical side story that was only sometimes compelling (though I did prefer the deathless man in The Tiger's Wife over the creepiness in Swamplandia!). It also had this very odd relationship with animals.
At first, I thought the book would be more in line with Everything is Illuminated with the mystical alternating (and building) on the plot, but I found it to be utterly confusing and, to be honest, boring, and found myself trudging through it.
I'm never a fan of sequels, especially of books that I've thoroughly enjoyed. The Magicians was a surprise to me as I didn't expect to feel such a conI'm never a fan of sequels, especially of books that I've thoroughly enjoyed. The Magicians was a surprise to me as I didn't expect to feel such a connection to a book about magic, but Grossman really captured a certain angst I was feeling post college and created such compelling characters and I was hooked. The Magician King isn't nearly as good, and at certain points feels like a rehashing of an almost identical plot, but it was a mighty enjoyable read. ...more
I think I'm officially too old for these books. That's what I get for reading YA. Occasional moments of "oh this is a good book" immediately shot downI think I'm officially too old for these books. That's what I get for reading YA. Occasional moments of "oh this is a good book" immediately shot down by groaning when I remember it's one of those trite Shakespeare-based (not even disguised, one of the characters is named Prospero and there are overt references to Hamlet) other-world love stories. It also struck me as almost exactly the same thing as The Hunger Games. ...more