Not quite meta-fiction at its worse, but certainly not at its best. Some parts are incredibly well-written, the story, as always, is very intriguing,...moreNot quite meta-fiction at its worse, but certainly not at its best. Some parts are incredibly well-written, the story, as always, is very intriguing, but overall, I'm just not a fan of how Eugenides so easily spells things out throughout the novel.(less)
May I just ask, what did you think you were going to be reading? I imagine most people read the book well-inform...moreTo all that complain of accessibility,
May I just ask, what did you think you were going to be reading? I imagine most people read the book well-informed that it was Self's homage to modernism. Or, at least, you might have noticed the Joycean epigraph and realized, hmm, perhaps that might hold some significance. One last question, do you think you, as a person, are as easily read as an open book (yes, that is a pun since you so enjoy having things spelled out for you)?
Life isn't nearly as accessible as most novels. We don't know the inner workings of others' minds, let alone our own. Umbrella, like its Modernist predecessors, tries to capture and distill the utter chaos that continually occurs in our own consciousness. And, for the most part, Self does a good, but perhaps not great, job. I especially enjoyed and respect his examinations of war through Stanley:
"Stanley Death feels his way towards a future he already occupies, a future in which annihilation will be assembled piece by piece - a bayonet thrust here, a trench mortar going off there, a shell arcing way over there where the Eindeckers strafe the trenches, but all of it under the same roof and part of the same process: the bantams and the big 'uns, the puling varsity boys and hobbledehoys fed in from the railheads, each one sheathed in buff, then fed on into the reserve trenches, then hand-cranked to the front line, then methodically taken apart."
That said, occasionally Self dips his pen into Woolf's ink a little too transparently and embarrassingly brushes against Pound's declaration to "make it new." But these transgressions are few. Umbrella I enjoyed the most of all the Self I have read. It is definitely a more sophisticated read than most novels, but well worth the extra time and effort needed to fully appreciate the author's intentions. (less)
I read White Teeth and On Beauty in college, loving both. I always heard The Autograph Man received poor reviews - Smith's sophomore slump for the all...moreI read White Teeth and On Beauty in college, loving both. I always heard The Autograph Man received poor reviews - Smith's sophomore slump for the alliterative. While her second novel doesn't quite meet expectations given her first and third, I still enjoyed reading it, even if it ran a little too long. I like to judge books by great quotations I can pull from them. I have two from this work:
"But he was tortured by the idea that she would grow old! He understood that in all likelihood this sort of thinking would lead him to die lonely, without anyone. He told himself the story that this was the great tragedy of his heart. The great tragedy of his heart was that it always needed to be told a story."
"They stopped at the traffic lights. The larger part of Alex had always stood resistant to any story in which he was not the victim, but now the stone rolled away from the mouth of the cave and he looked in. an indigo parade of memories went by with the cross traffic, snapshots of a passionate, difficult friendship, performed almost entirely in gesture over the years (as two boys in a red bathroom, bent over a sink of developing photographs; as teenagers, pressing up against the purple velvet rope outside a cinema, clutching the brass posts, waiting for a star; as men, turning simultaneously the pages of two green leather-bound albums, exchanging this for that and back again). In all these reminiscences Joseph seemed in the edge of the frame, with his hands open, waiting for something to come to him. All that had happened these last few years was that these gestures grew further apart, less frequent and, consequently, more violent. Photographs to end the film."(less)
At first, I was wary of Mitchell writing a historical novel. Cloud Atlas might just be my favorite novel of all time, but I was not a big fan of the A...moreAt first, I was wary of Mitchell writing a historical novel. Cloud Atlas might just be my favorite novel of all time, but I was not a big fan of the Adam Ewing diary (although, to be fair, I was mesmerized by Frobisher's letters.) But Mitchell assuaged fears and Thousand Autumns proved to be an incredibly captivating read, despite the boring connotation I sometimes associated with historical novels (although, to be fair again, Mitchell can't quite break from his sci-fi side with the ki-stealing, baby-feasting Enomoto).
Full of characters driven by vainglorious designs, Jacob remains stalwart in his convictions - to himself, to his God, to his country. As expected, his stubbornness is almost his undoing but in the end, Jacob lives. He is a hero in his own right, but so are many others who find their way into De Zoet's life. I guess I could write more literary analysis of the book, but I'd rather just say that it was quite an enjoyable read, and a very interesting periodic piece about a culture I was not well studied. Go read it. (less)
I was afraid to continue reading Success after I finished the first two chapters. I was afraid of when I would eventually see myself in Gregory, and m...moreI was afraid to continue reading Success after I finished the first two chapters. I was afraid of when I would eventually see myself in Gregory, and much, much more frightened of when I would see a piece of Mike Hart stretching out in Terry’s pasty monochromatic skin. Not only were my fears realized, they came out at the most inopportune time. I found myself in Greg as his slide hit the slipperiest slope and began its downhill tumble at an alarming pace: “I used to love the man I would become. I don’t any longer. Look at him, look at him.” Still, that is seemingly standard quarter life angst. When Terry found a way to capsulate my life, it was much more personalized:
“And I can see, too, that I’m going to have to change the way I am. My calculations about how to stay alive and sane on this particular planet have clearly been at fault. Lots of people are plenty uglier and poorer than me without seeming to mind, without the self-hate and self-pity – the sentimentality, in a word – that makes me such a quivering condom of neurosis and ineptitude. I have never been nice, but from now on, boy, am I going to be nasty. I’ll show you.”
In a dark, dank, down-and-out place, I wanted to hurt people. Indelibly. And for Amis to understand that, and render it so clearly, it is upsettingly poignant. Many a critic has said that there is no one quite like Martin Amis. And for that I am thankful. If every novelist could peer into my soul like this man, reading books would be a much more harrowing experience. (less)