One of the best new novels I've read in a long time. Of course this is due to my interests, one of which is art that blends, or is about the blendingOne of the best new novels I've read in a long time. Of course this is due to my interests, one of which is art that blends, or is about the blending of, truth and fiction. This is a novel about a writer who writes a fake memoir as a desperate attempt to have his writing get at something truly real. The book alternates chapters between the fake memoir and the "real" story of how the writer gets from being a shy sheltered kid in rural Florida to appearing on an Oprah Winfrey-like TV show with his best-selling "fraudulent" book. On the way, Bennett explores and expounds on many important themes, like the nature of modern warfare, the fraudulent and media-driven Iraq War in particular, the pretensions and hubris of creative writing MFA programs, the pain heartbreak and obsessive, unrequited love... the list goes on. In a way I think this book is our era's version of Heller's Catch-22. Satirical, funny, dark, smart and complicated but full of compelling story lines that pull you along.
I wonder what David Shields, author of "Reality Hunger," would think of this book? At first I thought it was the perfect realization of some of his ideas. But then I realized maybe not as much so, because it is in the end fiction, perhaps even wholly fiction (although I do wonder how much of John Townley is Eric Bennett). Shields would probably love it if someone really DID do what is depicted in "A Big Enough Lie," wrote and sold a memoir that's really novel. Like "A Million Little Pieces" if James Frey had intentionally written it as memoir (a lot of people don't know it was his publisher that had the idea of marketing it as non-fiction).
In the end though, a great and perfectly apt novel for our age....more
For a lot of this book, I would reluctantly have to categorize Stahl's writing as basically "trying too hard." Occasionally he has a moment of real clFor a lot of this book, I would reluctantly have to categorize Stahl's writing as basically "trying too hard." Occasionally he has a moment of real cleverness, or of real profundity. But too often he edges past those points and over the cliff of ham-fisted awkwardness. I think if I wasn't myself a parent, and for that matter a quasi-OG Dad myself, I would only give this book 3, or even 2, stars. But there's enough stuff that resonates and is a smart take on things I've been living too, for it to be worth wading past the dumb bits. I think maybe Stahl's been in the Hollywood TV writing world for too long, or something. His writing here often feels like Groucho Marx trying to be Charles Bukowski - or maybe vice versa. I have felt for years like I would like to someday read his celebrated memoir "Permanent Midnight", but if it's the same level of craft as this, I might not get around to that.
Still, there are some great gems. He adequately conveys some of the experience of being a creative, "edgy", but aging, guy who finds himself, amazingly, a new father. If you don't care about the aging part, I think Neal Pollack's "Alternadad" is a better read. But Jerry Stahl has clearly been through the shit and come out the other side. ...more
Excellent. Lots of stuff about parenthood, marriage, class, gentrification, and more. Some of it is wise, some bitingly satirical. Makes me definitelyExcellent. Lots of stuff about parenthood, marriage, class, gentrification, and more. Some of it is wise, some bitingly satirical. Makes me definitely want to read more of Greenfeld's work....more
Just what I needed. It was surprising how much of the book is about not just "alternative" parenting but about gentrification. The story is the story oJust what I needed. It was surprising how much of the book is about not just "alternative" parenting but about gentrification. The story is the story of a dude growing up and starting to value a way of life (domestic, family-based, child-centered) different than he used to, and trying to reconcile that with his values about class and urbanity and growth and re-development, etc....more
Full disclosure: Mykle's a friend. Despite that, believe me when I say this is a great book. His best yet. Mykle Hansen's work almost always containsFull disclosure: Mykle's a friend. Despite that, believe me when I say this is a great book. His best yet. Mykle Hansen's work almost always contains elements of the "silly" and over-the-top wackiness. But don't let that fool you. There's downright fine writing in there. Really. And this book's a page-turner too. I made myself late to things because I didn't want to stop reading this book.
The story is many things: a nuclear armageddon sci-fi space opera, a parody of space operas, a satire on the porn industry, a meditation on artificial intelligence, a feminist allegory, and more. The commentary is spot-on, the humor kills, and language is artful, the messages profound. ...more
Excellent. Essentially a marxist analysis of the housing and construction industries, but a modern one. Includes an erudite chapter on Soviet Russia aExcellent. Essentially a marxist analysis of the housing and construction industries, but a modern one. Includes an erudite chapter on Soviet Russia and why it wasn't really communism but was in fact just another form of state capitalism.
In addition to the smart writing, the graphics are brilliant. Some of them I feel like blowing up into poster size and wheatpasting around town....more
Carver was definitely a master, and well worth reading. However - and here's where my review becomes more about personal and momentary taste - I'm notCarver was definitely a master, and well worth reading. However - and here's where my review becomes more about personal and momentary taste - I'm not sure if he will stand the test of time, or even is doing that now. To me his characters are hard to identify with, although I can sympathize with them. It's just that often, they seem stuck in a time that's thankfully past - the sort of 40s through 60s time of couples who don't really talk, men (and in some cases women) who drink too much, get in fights, play their gender roles to the hilt, and leave their families at the drop of a hat, etc etc. Generally lots of not very conscious, unhappy, low-grade jerks, sadly bumbling through their sordid lives. Perhaps there's still a lot of people like these out there, but to me this feels dated. Carver's a a step up from Hemingway in that at least he recognizes the sadness of these people and isn't just celebrating macho stoic males. Still, I'm preferring, these days at least, fiction that resonates more and is addressing what it's like to be alive now. Perhaps I'll be accused of subscribing to the dreaded "relatability" fad, but I find more spiritual sustenance in protagonists that are more modern - folks that are vulnerable, smart, dorky, and nice, but still get into trouble and have a hard time. Following the mishaps of dudes whose flaws have mostly been addressed by my generation and demographic is interesting, but not necessarily the most useful to me in my quest to become a wiser and better person. That said, Carver was an expert at his craft, and in the context of his background and time, is worth reading - just like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, etc. It's just not what's floating my boat these days....more
Took me awhile this time, but the issue does not disappoint. Highlights are the piece by David Graeber about play, the Susan Faludi article on feminisTook me awhile this time, but the issue does not disappoint. Highlights are the piece by David Graeber about play, the Susan Faludi article on feminism, and the excellent take-down of Vice magazine....more
Krakauer is always a good muckraker. In this slim volume he turns his skills to bear on someone who he once trusted, Greg Mortenson, whose charity orgKrakauer is always a good muckraker. In this slim volume he turns his skills to bear on someone who he once trusted, Greg Mortenson, whose charity organization Krakauer had donated lots of money too, only to start doubting Mortenson's work and honesty. My cynical, pessimist side wishes there were a book like this for every feel-good heartwarming pop-memoir of miraculous altruism and supposed world-changing vision, because I'm sure way more of this goes on all the time than we ever see or suspect. This book just methodically rips to shreds all the smoke and mirrors that Mortenson employed over years of pretending to do good. It's pretty satisfying, though saddening too....more
This is not great literature, but it is great inspirational storytelling for kids who might be geeks or are leaning toward becoming geeks, interestedThis is not great literature, but it is great inspirational storytelling for kids who might be geeks or are leaning toward becoming geeks, interested in computers, hacking, cryptography, and civil liberties. Basically the book is a piece of not-so-subtle propaganda - a word I use simply as description, not as value judgement. Doctorow is trying to spread and instill a way of thinking about politics, the "War on Terror," the Security State, and related issues. He does so with writing that is pretty basic, though it is competent storytelling that kept me turning the pages and wondering what would happen. There was a lot of (to me) over-obvious, breaking-the-fourth-wall explanation, mostly of stuff I already knew, on topics ranging from ciphers to DNS to San Francisco Mission District burritos. Some of that was fun to recognize and skim over, while other instances of that made me wonder if young readers would get bored or angry with such bald instructional passages and just set the book down. The potential problem is that when you cross over the line from political literature into expository how-to manual thinly disguised as fiction, you run a risk, and you also waste an opportunity to make truly great art. I could argue that David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest" occupies the other end of the spectrum, in that it covers a lot of the same ground, politically, that "Little Brother" does, but it does so while also being an amazing work of avant-garde literature that is at many times formally brilliant and challenging, something that "Little Brother" definitely never is. But of course I would be clueless and stupid to think that the average 14-year-old computer nerd might get the same kind of call-to-arms buzz from DFW's mammoth opus as from Doctorow's book, or even finish it. I just think that some middle ground might be the better way to go, because any kid smart and dorky enough to care about jamming arphids or installing linux on Xboxes will most likely also be smart enough to smell literary hamfistedness and benefit from the pleasure of reading a piece of writing that is not just good, but great. Doctorow's book is good-not-great writing, but it is admittedly very good popular education....more
Yet another case of a journalist not really able to make the jump to quality long-form writing. This book is interesting content, but it just never reYet another case of a journalist not really able to make the jump to quality long-form writing. This book is interesting content, but it just never really clicked. The author tried to go for the deep personal angle, but never really arrived at a tone that made me give much of a damn about her or her neighbors or friends. ...more