I reread this book earlier this summer and was blown away all over again by the gorgeous language and effortless humanity that Schutt manages to build...moreI reread this book earlier this summer and was blown away all over again by the gorgeous language and effortless humanity that Schutt manages to build up in postage-stamp episodes. Episodic writing is usually so typical of student fiction, but here it's masterful and purposeful, and it makes the book all the more compulsively readable.
It won't be for everyone... Those seeking a linear plot and a lot of exposition will be frustrated. Fans of Mary Gaitskill, people who voluntarily read poetry, those seeking something off the beaten track of contemporary fiction, though, will love it.(less)
I'm going to refrain from assigning any stars to a collection I was fortunate enough to be a part of; and although there were so many amazing stories...moreI'm going to refrain from assigning any stars to a collection I was fortunate enough to be a part of; and although there were so many amazing stories by writers I'd never encountered before (and some old favorites), it would probably be impolitic to list those without commenting on every single other story in the collection... So I won't do any of that. What I WOULD like to do is take an informal survey.
For those of you who've read Maggie Shipstead's amazing story "The Cowboy Tango": If someone came up and handed you that story out of context and told you it was by Annie Proulx, would you have believed it? (This isn't to suggest for a second that Shipstead is being derivative -- she's not, and if anything it would be like Proulx branching out in a different direction. I'm raising the question because of the setting, the bleakness, and the quality of the writing.) For me, the biggest giveaway actually would've been the title: Proulx has written so many cowboy stories, including a marvelous one called "Them Old Cowboy Songs," that she'd hardly go around calling more stories "cowboy." So if anyone's game... Would you have fallen for it? If not, why not? If so, why? (less)
I probably shouldn't give stars when I'm only halfway through a book, but I can't imagine I'll change my mind by the end of this one. I picked up the...moreI probably shouldn't give stars when I'm only halfway through a book, but I can't imagine I'll change my mind by the end of this one. I picked up the audio book for the car (really just as background research for my second novel), and I'm so hooked I'm making excuses to run errands just to listen to it. I do love the voice of the reader -- she sounds like an older, sophisticated woman, leaning close to fill you in on gossip she just learned -- and I'm reminded again of how much a reader can make or break an audio book (something sadly outside of most writers' control).
I don't imagine anyone will mistake this book for either serious literary criticism or intense, analytical biography. It excels at being exactly what it intends: a deliciously gossipy and truly funny overview of the Algonquin Round Table and some of the more sociable writers of the 1920s.
I'll be ordering this author's other books, and I already queued up "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" on Netflix.
And if anyone in the Chicago area desperately needs help with an errand that requires an hour or more of driving, I volunteer.
Updated: Finished the book. Yep, loved every minute of it, and she did a great job of wrapping up the story with the decade, even though the lives in question were, in some cases, just getting started. (It had a bit of an Animal House ending in that regard, but the sudden infusion of lively background music on the CD made it all quite festive.) Recommend most highly.(less)