This is the first book I've read by Pym and on that basis alone, I will say she is in the tradition of Jane Austen (the main character's Emma Woodhous...moreThis is the first book I've read by Pym and on that basis alone, I will say she is in the tradition of Jane Austen (the main character's Emma Woodhouse comment acknowledges this), Trollope (whom the character Jane is a reader of) and even Gaskell's Cranford. While reading, I also couldn't help but compare Pym to her contemporary, Muriel Spark. But what a contrast that is -- while Spark mercilessly spears us with her stiletto (yeah, too much alliteration), Pym very gently skewers us.
I loved the character of Jane, what she says and also what she thinks but, by the hardest, stops herself from saying. And while I'm nothing like Prudence, I recognized myself in her choice of reading materials: "... a novel of the kind that Prudence enjoyed, well written and tortuous, with a good dash of culture and the inevitable unhappy or indefinite ending, which was so like life." !
As fans of Pym know, she wasn't published between 1963 and 1977 because she fell "out of fashion." I find it interesting that her writing style -- the omniscient narration, the use of adverbs to describe dialogue -- at least in regards to literary fiction, also fell out of fashion somewhere along the way.(less)
Though I'm a Richard Ford fan (I've mostly read his later works), I wasn't planning on reading this early novel of his, but then I recognized some sim...moreThough I'm a Richard Ford fan (I've mostly read his later works), I wasn't planning on reading this early novel of his, but then I recognized some similarities in the description of this to that of his latest, "Canada," so I decided to read this first.
While I enjoyed reading it, and there's nothing wrong it, it's not nearly as complex as his later works, so it suffered in comparison for me. But perhaps only in comparison, as there's a lot to like in this story of an insecure husband and wife, as seen through the eyes of their teenaged son.
I enjoyed this, though not as much as some of my GR friends did. It's written in an entertaining, amusing (even sometimes breezy) style...more3 and 1/2 stars
I enjoyed this, though not as much as some of my GR friends did. It's written in an entertaining, amusing (even sometimes breezy) style, but also with insight as to what it might've been like to be a Raj orphan -- that was the most interesting aspect of the book to me, as I've read lots of novels set in the Raj and post-Raj time periods but none that focus on that issue.
The book lost me, for some reason, along the way, around the time Queen Mary is introduced, and I think the sections with Loss might've benefited from being just a tad less breezy. Despite that, I'd definitely read Gardam again.(less)
This book would probably be more interesting to those who know nothing, or not much, of Nordic mythology. Since I, as Byatt, read stories from this my...moreThis book would probably be more interesting to those who know nothing, or not much, of Nordic mythology. Since I, as Byatt, read stories from this mythology as a child, I found myself looking for more, perhaps a retelling or an allegory (or more of the story of the 'thin child,' which is Byatt herself), which is exactly what Byatt says in her "Thoughts on Myths" (at the end) she didn't want to write.
More than anything else, this novella is Byatt's love-letter to Asgard and the Gods, and shows how reading and rereading it informed her vision of the world. And by the very end, I decided it was an allegory -- of all the abundance (justifying her sometimes seemingly endless lists of flora, fauna, etc that populate these pages) that was once in the world and is no longer, due to the hubris of both gods and men.(less)
The submission guidelines of many journals state that the editors don't want a work that's more backstory than story. They want a story with a traditi...moreThe submission guidelines of many journals state that the editors don't want a work that's more backstory than story. They want a story with a traditional beginning, middle and end. Sometimes I find that discouraging, because those are the stories I like to read and write. The editors of those journals wouldn't want this novella, but, thankfully, one editor did, because with this well-written, honest, subtle, heartbreaking, aching work, the backstory (understory, a botanical term, fits well) is the story.(less)
If you've seen the (Academy Award winning) short film of this, you already know how gorgeous the illustrations are, and that the charming story is a l...moreIf you've seen the (Academy Award winning) short film of this, you already know how gorgeous the illustrations are, and that the charming story is a love letter to both books and their readers.
Perhaps the silent film is even better than the book, but that doesn't take anything away from it. It's a lovely keepsake, and mine is autographed!(less)
I love the title of this book. First, because it evokes (thematically) a book of the same name that I loved as a kid. (We had the English-Spanish vers...moreI love the title of this book. First, because it evokes (thematically) a book of the same name that I loved as a kid. (We had the English-Spanish version, which made it even more fun.) Second, because it fits this book in more than one way, as the question can be asked with different intonations.
And while that children's book isn't mentioned in the text, A.A. Milne's The World of Pooh and Dr. Seuss's The Sleep Book are, and to great revelatory effect, esp with Bechdel's illustrations at these junctures.
This book is more complex than her earlier Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Dream interpretation (a dream leads off each chapter and while reading about people's dreams can be boring, here it isn't -- perhaps that's due to the illustrations), psychoanalysis, Virginia Woolf, Adrienne Rich, Donald Winnicott are all important to it. And while it's not needlessly complicated, it can be exhausting.
At first the psychoanalyst talk and theories seemed self-perpetuating, almost incestuous in a way, but by the end, I'd changed my mind, all credit to the way this story is told, and drawn.
Also important is Alice Miller's The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self. When the author buys a copy, the bookseller tells her to kiss life as she knows it good-bye. A powerful thing to say, but I understood the comment in a measure after putting Bechdel's book down for the night about halfway through and then having a powerful, complex dream myself early the following morning. The power of suggestion, or the power of this story?(less)
When I was a kid, I read the occasional super-hero comic book -- I have 4 brothers, so those kinds of comics were around -- but I've never considered...moreWhen I was a kid, I read the occasional super-hero comic book -- I have 4 brothers, so those kinds of comics were around -- but I've never considered myself a fan of the genre. Even so, I enjoyed the super-hero connection and twist to this installment as we are taken back to Depression-era Brooklyn.
The auction, the journals and the return of the Tommy Taylor websites were fun too. The plot thickens!
I'm not sure why I didn't like this installment as much as earlier ones. Perhaps one reason is I found its beginning chapters much more interesting (a...moreI'm not sure why I didn't like this installment as much as earlier ones. Perhaps one reason is I found its beginning chapters much more interesting (and funny) than the rest.
I enjoyed the Moby-Dick references (a book I've read and think is great) but I'm not as familiar with the stories of Baron Munchhausen (I'm not generally interested in tall tales) and I had to look up who the Irishman might be -- I'm thinking he's the one in this ballad.)
I especially liked the climax of this volume, when the meaning of "Leviathan" (think Hobbes) is revealed. Not only does it advance the story, it's creative, as has been the case with elements of the previous three volumes.(less)
This book is amazing, though you'll have to wait to the end to see how truly amazing it is. As is the case with so many books I end up loving, the end...moreThis book is amazing, though you'll have to wait to the end to see how truly amazing it is. As is the case with so many books I end up loving, the ending made it for me.
It took up residence inside my head, even when I wasn't reading it (and it's still there) in much the same way as The Good Soldier and The Sense of an Ending, all first-person narratives told by a man, did. (I've been trying to think of a first-person female narrator that has engaged me in the same way, but so far I haven't come up with one.)
At first, I wondered why long dialogue passages by two other characters sounded exactly like the narrator, but as I neared the end (which is brilliantly written, as two men's narratives collide) I realized, duh, of course, this whole story is being filtered through the narrator, every last bit of it.
Whenever I encounter thought patterns and ideas that I've had but have not come across in fiction before, I wonder if that means it's obvious that many people think of things this way, or if it's the case that I've located an author I am simpatico with -- either way, it's a great find.
If I were still in school, I'd choose to write a paper on this novel, tracking every element (Richard III, Henry IV, Falstaff, the unnamed Stanwyck-MacMurray film -- and that's just for starters) from its beginning to the end -- my brain's been doing that on its own since I finished the book last night anyway: I guess I am as obsessive as the narrator.(less)
This is a gorgeous book, from cover to cover and all the illustrations (and calligraphy) in between. I wasn't sure in the beginning that I would like...moreThis is a gorgeous book, from cover to cover and all the illustrations (and calligraphy) in between. I wasn't sure in the beginning that I would like it, but I quickly found I did, and then the pages turned quickly as well.
In the beginning, because of the age of one of the main characters at the start, I (naively?) thought the story was set in the past, but not too far into it, I realized the time is now. And because of that, the story is relevant, as regards the treatment of females, of those who are enslaved, and of the Earth itself -- in the latter case, especially, this is a cautionary tale for anyone, anywhere, that should be heeded now, as it's likely a future not too distant.
The religious aspect is prominent in this work, sort of becoming a primer on the Qur'an (at least for me), while also noting some similarities and differences as to what the "People of the Book" believe, and revealing the power of stories to one's survival.
The relationship at the center of the story is unique, and psychologically acute.(less)
I don't know if it's something in me or something in the book that makes me think of its title as "In a Dark Room," which is not like me at all, as I'...moreI don't know if it's something in me or something in the book that makes me think of its title as "In a Dark Room," which is not like me at all, as I'm a stickler for exact titles. There is much darkness here, but the work is focused on the 'strange' (not familiar) 'rooms' (not literal) the writer/character finds himself in as he travels excessively and obsessively, it sometimes seems.
This is a hybrid sort of book. It's listed as fiction, but the author names his character Damon and uses both 'I' and 'he' to describe himself, depending on whether he is referring to himself as he looks at himself from a distance or is writing about the moment, in the moment, as best he remembers. Sometimes it reads as a type of travel-memoir, but then again only at rare times does the actual place seem to be important. Generally, the place is not the point, though the moving on is, especially in the first two sections.
What is more the point, I think, is how he views himself, through three different individuals he travels with, and how he is changed by these extended encounters. As a young man, these encounters are accidental, and painful at times. They seem to change him, but perhaps he is at that stage of life where anyone he meets could change him. As a middle-aged man, the travel experience with a friend is purposeful, perhaps naive, and even more painful. I found it hard to read about, but at the same time I did not want to stop, as Galgut's prose, seemingly simple, had me in its spell.(less)
I read Carey's "Oscar and Lucinda" with an online group many years ago and I'm wishing I could've done the same with this, my second of...more3 and 1/2 stars
I read Carey's "Oscar and Lucinda" with an online group many years ago and I'm wishing I could've done the same with this, my second of his novels. Though I recognize his many merits, I'm just not sure Carey is for me.
I was reminded of Oscar as I read about Henry. Both are men who find themselves on a strange journey in a strange place due to an obsession, obsessions that border on madness and have to do with the building of a folly at the intersection of Art and Science. Henry is not the only one with an obsession, however. The past and present are full of obsessors.
I alternated between liking and not liking the voices Carey used for his main characters. I didn't like Catherine's and then I did. I liked Henry's and then I didn't, but that may have been because Sumper's voice (through Henry) basically takes over Henry's at many points, and I found Sumper, for the most part, boring -- but isn't that the case with obsessors we are forced to listen to -- even Henry tells us he is bored with Sumper. I admired the flawless construction when Carey mixed Catherine's voice with Henry's.
I think I would've benefited from reading this book with a group, being able to bat around ideas, of which there are many -- especially when it came to the ending, which I thought was brilliantly written and yet I'm still not sure what it all means.
And even though Carey may not be for me, I still intend to read his "Jack Maggs."(less)
I came to this sequel thinking it could not possibly stand up to the first installment. So, I was prepared to like this book, but not love it as much...moreI came to this sequel thinking it could not possibly stand up to the first installment. So, I was prepared to like this book, but not love it as much as I did Wolf Hall. But I was wrong: it does, and I did.
It's one of those works that I lingered over the last pages of, not wanting it to end: the prose is that good. And it installed itself into my psyche. After putting it down at night and as I fell asleep, words, phrases, sentences rolled through my head. (This has happened to me before, but this time it felt different.) And though when I awoke, I couldn't remember any of what I'd dreamed (if dreaming is what it was), I knew the procession of words was due to this book. I also figured this is how the brain of Mantel's Cromwell must work, never stopping, except he does remember all. And when you see the culmination of his remembering all, it is chilling.
Much of what I wrote in my review of Wolf Hall may be inserted here. Like the title of Wolf Hall, this title has a different meaning than you might think (unless you are exceptionally in-the-know). And as I also said about Wolf Hall, this is not your average, run-of-the-mill historical fiction: it is elevated.
As I neared the end, I was starting to become resigned to the fact that I wouldn't be as excited by any particular passage as I had been with the one I quoted in my review of Wolf Hall (and that perhaps I was spoiled by what was so fresh in "Wolf Hall") but then I arrived at the final page ...(less)
While reading this, I was reminded more than once of Barb Johnson's More of This World or Maybe Another. I can only think that's because it too is a collection of linked stories with recurring characters, set in one place, and with a very strong sense of place, so much so that the place maybe is a stronger character than any of the people, though they are achingly real as well. And like Pollock, Barb Johnson was a blue-collar worker before earning her MFA.
And, yet, I feel there is a big difference between the two collections. Though there is poverty and violence and hardship in both, I felt closer to Johnson's work, not because it's set in an neighborhood I used to live in, but because her people and stories seem to have more heart.
I'm not saying Pollock's world isn't real; I know it is all too real, but even in his own acknowledgments, Pollock says, "... my family and neighbors were good people who never hesitated to help someone in a time of need." I was surprised by that admission, because if only I'd seen a glimpse of that in the stories, I don't think I would've become inured to all the non-stop grittiness -- and that I did, despite my recognition of the excellence of the writing.(less)
Though this anthology is marketed for teens, I enjoyed it as well, from the stories that reminded me of my recent trip to Japan to the ones that showe...moreThough this anthology is marketed for teens, I enjoyed it as well, from the stories that reminded me of my recent trip to Japan to the ones that showed me something new. The stories are varied and well-written. There are even some translations to stories originally written in Japanese.
I recognized the names of a few authors (Katrina Toshiko Grigg-Saito, for one, who also has a piece in The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays) or at least the names of their more famous works (in the case of quite a few of the Japanese authors) that were mentioned in their bios.
The design of the book is very attractive. Proceeds from the volume are benefiting young people affected by the 2011 East Japan earthquake and tsunami.(less)
Though these stories are classified as fiction, they are all based in some aspect of Maxwell's childhood in Lincoln, Illinois, specific...more4 and 1/2 stars
Though these stories are classified as fiction, they are all based in some aspect of Maxwell's childhood in Lincoln, Illinois, specifically on incidents that seem to have haunted him since childhood. As I wrote about his So Long, See You Tomorrow, these stories are an example of why some writers write: "a memory has lingered through the years and in the need to work out why, they put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be."
Except for the first story and parts of the penultimate one, this collection could be classified as creative nonfiction. But the genre doesn't matter. His writing is quietly flawless, each story leading us to a small, though devastating, epiphany.
These are fun, clever, sly poems, reimagining fairy tales, Bible stories (one of my favorites was "Queen Herod"), myths, legends and even true stories...moreThese are fun, clever, sly poems, reimagining fairy tales, Bible stories (one of my favorites was "Queen Herod"), myths, legends and even true stories, but all from a female point of view and in contemporary language.
Though I used the word 'fun,' a few really aren't. Some are too sad ("Mrs Quasimodo") or too touching ("Anne Hathaway") or too scathing ("Mrs Beast," the penultimate poem, states in no uncertain terms the reason for this collection) to be considered mere fun. And even the ones that are a lot of fun, end with a devastating line that begs for the poem to be reread, and so I would.(less)
I've said before that the ending of a work can make the work for me, and such is the case here. Not that the beginning wasn't wonderful, it was; in fa...moreI've said before that the ending of a work can make the work for me, and such is the case here. Not that the beginning wasn't wonderful, it was; in fact, the end reflects back to the beginning, another of my favorite things. And as I approached the end, I lingered over the sentences, rereading them: slight though they may seem, they are so worth it.
This slim novel is a perfect example of why a writer writes, how an incident can linger and fester until he works it out of his thoughts and memories, and still it is there, on the page, yes, but not worked out: it has merely become a different entity.(less)