Didn't actually finish this one--which is rare for me. Too much product placement and too little narrative drive. The notion of alternate realities anDidn't actually finish this one--which is rare for me. Too much product placement and too little narrative drive. The notion of alternate realities and alternate historical timelines isn't a new one, and King's take on it isn't particularly interesting compared to others I've seen. I mean, the notion that in alternate realities Hillary Clinton actually became President in 2008...or Mitt Romney...or John McCain? That's the best I get here? Where's the legendary King imagination? Glenn Beck's alternate reality (or what he thought of as actual reality) was 10 times more bizarre than any of these "flights of imagination."
If the product placement had been less, if the alternate-realities trope had been used with more creativity, or if by its midpoint there had been any element of dread and suspense hanging over the book, I would have kept reading, but the combination of all these downsides made the book not worth continuing, to my mind. Reading others' reviews, I learned that there's a tie-in to Hearts in Atlantis, which didn't do much for me, and the overall mythology of the Dark Tower--the first book of which is the only other King story I've ever stopped reading partway through. The whole "epic battle between good and evil in which the existence of the very universe is at stake" doesn't do much for me, I confess. Good and evil are human constructs, with wildly different interpretations between cultures. That these little human constructs are somehow tied into The Fate of the Entire Universe is a step in suspension of disbelief I'm just not able to take.
I have great respect for King's work in horror and the religio-fantastical (The Green Mile, The Stand, etc.), and for when he plays it straight, as in "The Body" or "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption"--but when he enters the territory of fantasy or sci-fi the results somehow leave me cold. I've heard very good things about his 11/22/63 book (another alternate-reality excursion), and I plan on reading it at some point, but UR went back to the library today and I won't be revisiting it. And for all the obvious effort at salesmanship on King's part, it also didn't convince me to buy a Kindle, even if they start offering them in pink....more
There's a lot to like and a lot to dislike about this book, but in the balance, its status as a great accomplishment in nonfiction is well earned. TheThere's a lot to like and a lot to dislike about this book, but in the balance, its status as a great accomplishment in nonfiction is well earned. The "lot to dislike" all hovers around Mailer himself, who appears in the book as a novelized character, spoken of in the 3rd person, and as its protagonist, during the four days surrounding the March on the Pentagon in 1967. Mailer as character is in many ways unlikeable, but to his credit, he makes little attempt to hide his unlikeability--egomaniac that he is, he dwells on his own thoughts, and is fair enough to honestly reveal the ugly and unbecoming thoughts (of which there are a lot) as readily as his decent or even noble ones.
The first part of the book, the bulk of the book, is what Mailer calls "history as novel," the above-mentioned 3rd-person account of actual events from his own perspective. Mailer might have dwelt more upon the the people around him--he was surrounded by the likes of poet Robert Lowell or Noam Chomsky--but chooses instead to dwell mainly upon himself and his own thoughts. I think it's fair to give him the benefit of the doubt and presume his intent was to show the content of his own subjective experience in the form of his thoughts, which, for better or for worse, revolved mostly around himself. He can be given credit, I think, for the honesty this entails, and in fact he is, if not likeable or even sympathetic, a compelling character. His prose is in places overblown, but in places as powerful as that of any other writer I could name.
Ironically, but probably intentionally, the book's most powerful section is the final one, where Mailer switches from "history as novel" to "novel as history," and takes the narrative away from himself to a summary of events as they unfolded at the Pentagon after he'd been arrested and hauled off. If you choose to read this book, and I do recommend it, you won't have a fair perspective on it if you give up on it before reading the finale. There's always a danger, in novels, of the many strands not all coming together in the end to bring a satisfactory ending; in a sense, Mailer avoids this problem by a dramatic shift from fictionalized non-fiction to what more closely approaches conventional non-fiction (I use these words guardedly, because this book pulls the curtain back on the very idea that any book is "nonfiction"). This final section really shines, and its musings on government power, the idea of America, and the relationship between patriotism and conscience have great relevance to today's Occupy movements and the war-without-end we've now embarked upon....more
Started slow, and the narrator's who-gives-a-shit attitude led me to wonder if The Stranger was just going to be a mundane, humdrum slice of life, sigStarted slow, and the narrator's who-gives-a-shit attitude led me to wonder if The Stranger was just going to be a mundane, humdrum slice of life, signifying nothing. But it took a twist, surprising and fairly believable, and spun toward an unexpectedly strong conclusion. And, improbably, I ended up feeling pretty invested in the narrator, Meursault. The Stranger is a tour de force in examining the clash between social (and legal) conventions and individual honesty, but I think what surprised me most is that toward the end I found the book, and particularly Meursault's conversation with the priest literally laugh-out-loud funny--don't know if it was even intended as such, so that may say as much about me as about Camus's writing. But anyway, I'm with the side that makes a fuss about this book--a slim tome that packs a punch beyond its weight class....more
Hard to review this book without giving too much away. I haven't seen the movie, but I had heard there was some controversy about the ending and how eHard to review this book without giving too much away. I haven't seen the movie, but I had heard there was some controversy about the ending and how effective it was, and now that I've read the book, I see what everyone meant. Enjoyed this for most of the duration, and to be fair, I think Lehane handled the ending he chose as well as it could have been handled--just not sure I'm sold on the choice of that ending, the direction the plot takes. This is the only Lehane I've read, and based on the movie of Mystic River I had pretty high expectations, but Shutter Island didn't quite measure up to them. Based on this book, I wouldn't place Lehane in the same league as some of the other top crime writers working today, like James Lee Burke or especially George Pelecanos, but any such judgment based on just one book is probably unfair. Bottom line--I did enjoy it, but it headed in a direction I wasn't entirely on board for....more