Another one of these tiresomely unboring travelogue things. The author like totally overuses the words "hip" and "hep" and stuff, and like totalSigh.
Another one of these tiresomely unboring travelogue things. The author like totally overuses the words "hip" and "hep" and stuff, and like totally forgets about "hop" and "hup." Not enough laborious research on the history, language, culture and other junk like that. I expected them--did I tell you he has this totally cool wife who's into photography of all things? (groan, how predictable!)--to get kidnapped by revolutionary thugs, eaten by a chupacabra or die of the plague or something, but noooo... All they do is have humorous adventures, get in odd situations with natives and ride around having fun and learning to adapt to a different culture and stuff. And he has to go and clean up the typos in the manniscript until there's like maybe half a one left--so now I have nothing to crittasize. Way to deprive me of my biggest pleasure in life, man!
I don't know if Cherry and this Jason person are ever going to learn to put together a conventional travel journal. I think they've got a lot of nerve publishing something that is actually entertaining! ...more
Autographed review copy provided by author and Goodreads friend Christopher Conlon.
This is a collection of "uncollected" works which did not make it iAutographed review copy provided by author and Goodreads friend Christopher Conlon.
This is a collection of "uncollected" works which did not make it into other books or anthologies. In the rare cases where they did, they have been somewhat neglected.
The individual pieces cross forms and boundaries. One can find a short story, flash fiction, a short play, poetry and literary criticism.
The title story, "Wild Tracks," a tragic and brutal coming of age tale, contains themes which I have noticed in Conlon's more recent work and got under my skin immediately. Some of the flash fiction has been reworked for his anthology "Herding Ravens."
One piece, "Proust in Africa," tells the story of Conlon's first encounter with the longest novel ever written, and how it affected his life during a tour of duty with the Peace Corps in Botswana. After reading this online in 2012, I took the plunge and read Proust myself in 2013. So now, on rereading this essay, I have a better understanding of what Conlon is talking about when he describes the aspects and episodes that made a deep and lasting impression on him. (And I love how he reworks one of these episodes in his poem "Soweto," one of several poems on his life in Africa.)
In Conlon's novels (and even in this collection), his characters often suffer severely because of the trauma they endured as children at the hands of dysfunctional parents or care-givers. In a series of gritty and gut-wrenching poems, he explores the history of his own family and acknowledges the factors which formed and deformed them.
Also remarkable is a series of poems treating the story of Anne Frank. These poems are not the kind of tributes one would expect a poet to give to the famous victim of the Holocaust. Instead most of them, by adopting an unusual point of view, give a damning indictment of those who perpetrated the crime which, despite its murderous effects, could not hush up the young girl's message.
With self-deprecating humor, Chris described this book to me as "a banquet of scraps." Even if a few of the morsels may be a bit challenging to chew on, in the end they make a memorable meal. ...more
Autographed limited edition gift copy kindly sent by author and Goodreads friend Christopher Conlon.
This is the haunting story of a successful yet troAutographed limited edition gift copy kindly sent by author and Goodreads friend Christopher Conlon.
This is the haunting story of a successful yet troubled woman who delves into a past she thought she had left behind. The characters are vividly portrayed. One might expect a character with the name of Lucy Sparrow to be shy and retiring, a twentieth-century version of Louisa May Alcott's Beth March, in need of constant sheltering and protection. But in fact Lucy is drawn larger than life and twice as sassy, with an unapologetic brashness not unlike that of Scout Finch or even Huckleberry Finn. It is in fact the protagonist Frances (or as she is playfully called, Franny-Fran) who needs the protection of the feistier, worldly-wise Lucy. And yet it is Frances, the diffident and adoring sidekick who comes to play a surprising role and has a harder and darker path to follow than perhaps even Lucy's. However, there are some surprisingly positive and redemptive moments amidst all this darkness.
The careful reader can see a family resemblance between this novel and Conlon's latest offering, Savaging the Dark which I read quite recently. There are many themes and motifs which are common to both novels: a female narrative voice, dysfunctional families, troubling dreams, adolescence, trauma and violence. There is in both works a knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of human nature.
And yet the books are quite different. One interesting feature of this volume is that Conlon explains in an Author's Note how the novel started out as a short story, which insisted on being reworked; he also gives us the original story so that we can compare the two. Although some aspects are handled differently, the essential elements of the long version are recognizably there. It is safe to say, though, that Conlon was wise to follow the inner promptings of his creative instinct which compelled him to expand the story to the longer and more complex but richer form in which it now exists....more
Autographed limited edition gift copy sent by author and Goodreads friend Christopher Conlon.
Reed is trying to distance himself from past trauma and fAutographed limited edition gift copy sent by author and Goodreads friend Christopher Conlon.
Reed is trying to distance himself from past trauma and find his way in life. Except that the past will not let him be. It literally arrives on his doorstep one night in the form of a hardened yet vulnerable teenage runaway named Mauri, who does what she has to in order to survive on the street. Will Bliss, a young black man trying to get into college and learn about classical music, has trouble fitting into his family and neighborhood; he strikes up an unlikely friendship, first with Reed, then with Mauri. The way their relationship plays out is what provides the interest of this book.
This is now the third novel of Conlon's that I've read which contains accounts of young people, violent crimes and disturbed characters. And yet, it is not a mere rehashing of the other two books. While fully showing us the revolting details of various crimes and without whitewashing their actions, Conlon shows us why his people do what they do, so that we have some understanding for them. Even though none of the main characters comes through unscathed, things end on an optimistic note. I wondered whether the ending was a bit too happy, given the rest of the story, however, it's a relief to think that the three friends can find at least some measure of healing.
Conlon makes the reader ponder why acts of violence happen. Are they accidents? What exactly is the root cause? And could things have been different had one of the early links in the chain of events been altered? Who ultimately bears the responsibility.
He also tells the story expertly, draws his characters vividly, and makes you care about them, so that once you start the novel, it's hard to put down. ...more
Who'd a thunk it? I won this as a result of entering a Goodreads giveaway. I am a lucky First Reads winner!
Sept. 25/14: And the book has finally arrivWho'd a thunk it? I won this as a result of entering a Goodreads giveaway. I am a lucky First Reads winner!
Sept. 25/14: And the book has finally arrived! (Although I'm not sure how long it has been waiting in the mailbox...)
This is the story of an Irish American girl from New York named Eileen Tumulty, who, because of her less-than-ideal family situation, is forced to care for her parents and grow up too fast. She falls for an odd but endearing scientist named Ed Leary, and they are soon married with a child named Connell. Eileen sets out to make a good life for herself in spite of the fact that her husband does not always react to life's challenges the way she expects or hopes. When she discovers the reason for this, things take a very unexpected turn.
This is an ambitious and admirable novel. Its characters are vividly presented and fully fleshed out. It has some similarities to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn but is set in more modern times and takes on some different issues. Eileen, Ed and Connell are all people who think that they have everything under control, and they think that they have their futures all planned out, but they must eventually face the bleak truth that this is not the case. The novel examines how the characters' choices, sometimes wise and sometimes not, affect them and the other members of the family. How they deal with their insecurities and how they struggle to see the meaning in all of it is what gives this book its depth and its resonance....more
Did you ever read a book and get a bit frustrated? Not necessarily at the book itself, but at how it could have developed had someone else (let's sayDid you ever read a book and get a bit frustrated? Not necessarily at the book itself, but at how it could have developed had someone else (let's say you) been in charge of the writing of it? Usually--unless you are someone like John Updike or Marilynne Robinson--you keep such thoughts to yourself, because after all, who are you to question a classic? But David Atkinson was not cursed with such inhibitions. He expressed himself freely one day about a book he had been reading to another GR friend of mine, Joseph Michael Owens (known to his family and friends as Joe). And Joseph (or Joe) said, "You know what, David? You've got a good idea there. Why don't you run with it?" (Or words to that effect.) And so David got to work, and pretty soon he had produced a variation on the recipe of Donald Antrim. And not long after that, he cooked up this serving of satire, sizzling with wit and swimming in light frothy humor.
The plot is simple, at least on the surface. Three young people are sitting around in a pancake house. They argue about stuff (especially menu items), they build things out of cream containers and sugar packets, they play games, they sleep, they sneak off to the restrooms, and they indulge in snarky comments at other patrons' expense. And in the meantime, they discuss life, the universe and everything (well, almost everything). And wouldn't you do the same, gentle reader, if you were stuck in a place like that for such a long time? "How long?" you inquire intently. Hmmm... that's a good question. Because time seems to work differently in the Village Inn. No, not quite the same as in the Narnia Chronicles--but you're on the right track.
What's interesting here is the cleverness. There are literary allusions piled high, mythological resonances a la mode, philosophical musings on the side, stacks of social commentary, and fizzy refills of pop culture. Oh, and let's not forget a rather complicated human drama whipped up around three friends who can't seem to do without each other (to say nothing of the dog (view spoiler)[ It's Daedalus, Herc! Daedalus! (hide spoiler)]) no matter how hard they try.
A brilliant feature is the story-telling done by the narrator, ominously named Cassandra. When she does not know the history of someone or something, she just fills in the details as she goes along. She makes up startling backstories for everyone and everything, from Alphonse the dishwasher to a batch of mysterious batter named Leonard. In some people this would be creepy (or is that crepey?), but Cassandra has such a vivid imagination that the reader soon starts to enjoy these tangents for their own sake.
So sit yourself down, grab a fork and dig in. Bon appetit!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Advance review copy kindly provided by author and GR friend Kaye Park Hinckley.
Many people--including some fledgling writers--think that beginning auAdvance review copy kindly provided by author and GR friend Kaye Park Hinckley.
Many people--including some fledgling writers--think that beginning authors strengthen their literary wings on short stories before soaring off into serious authorship with the production of novels. First of all, this is based on the false assumption that short stories are easier to write than novels. There are very good arguments to show that this is not the case. But all one needs to do is to make a survey of literature to see that there are plenty of authors out there who (despite the fact that they have written some novels) are nonetheless known for short stories.
In recent times, one such author has appeared in the American South. No, I'm not talking about Flannery O'Connor, much as I enjoy her work. I'm talking today about Kaye Park Hinckley, whose debut novel, A Hunger in the Heart, came out in 2013. She has now given us a collection of short stories.
From the title and cover image one might think this book is about birdwatching or natural history. Birds do figure in most of the stories, but they serve not so much to move the action as to point to some truth about the human characters.
As with her novel, Kaye touches on important themes. She explores the human soul with all its potential for beauty and hideousness, strength and weakness: we see terrible sins of lust, greed, ambition and hatred. But we also see examples of wisdom and fidelity, love and loyalty, repentance and redemption. Life in all its stages is examined: birth, youth, marriage, parenthood, old age, and death.
What is interesting here is that there is a variety of voices, perspectives and stories. Some of the stories have elements of horror and tragedy like those we see in Flannery O'Connor. But it is not all high serious drama; there are comic touches here and there. In fact, one of my favorite pieces in this collection, "Jimmy's Cat," treats serious themes in such a droll manner (also reminiscent of Flannery) that you are sure to have a good laugh.
This has many good stories in it. although some are better than others.
Some of the science fiction tales are still enjoyable while others haven't helThis has many good stories in it. although some are better than others.
Some of the science fiction tales are still enjoyable while others haven't held up as well over time. For instance the stories set on Mars convey a feeling of desolation and insidious, insanity-inducing weirdness which still works for me, in spite of details which may have been proven wrong by subsequent scientific discovery. The Venus stories, on the other hand, are a little too out to left field: this planet is presented as a giant hyperactive Amazonian rainforest.
But many of the stories which take place down here on the home planet are just as interesting. There are a few recurring themes and it's interesting to see what Bradbury does with them. There is a preoccupation with machines which in later science fiction would be called androids, and these are used to explore what it is exactly that makes us human. There are people who get stuck in eternal youth, which, it seems, is not all it's cracked up to be. There is some exploration of deep-seated human depravity: children and even babies can be ruthless killers, teenagers harbour festering resentments and adults try to perpetrate the perfect crime. There are zombies, vampires and other monsters lurking on the fringes of society. It is possible to travel backwards and forwards through time, and even across dimensions--but let the traveler beware, for the results may be bizarre.
Not all is doom and gloom, however. There are some light and funny stories, such as the one about the hen who lays oracular eggs, or the the one about the young man obsessed with chocolate.
Ray Bradbury was a man of great vision who looked not only up, down and all around, but also within. His writings attest to a certain nostalgia for the past and intense speculations about the possibilities of the future....more
This collection of stories is very diverse and fascinating. It ranges between genres, settings, eras and cultures. Most stories have references to IslThis collection of stories is very diverse and fascinating. It ranges between genres, settings, eras and cultures. Most stories have references to Islamic mysticism and folklore. Quite a few, dealing with supernatural creatures such as ghuls [sic] and jinn, have a dark aura to them. There are heroic or anti-heroic exploits, highly moral as well as highly amoral characters, martial arts, super-villains, and more. Ahmed is a master of character, plot and narrative voice. The prose is polished and practically flawless. I found these stories hugely enjoyable....more
A tribute to Charles Dickens, written by American author Bret Harte after he had received news of the death of "the master." This memorial poem is lesA tribute to Charles Dickens, written by American author Bret Harte after he had received news of the death of "the master." This memorial poem is less impressive than the preface which accompanies and explains it. However it is a sincere, emotional offering from the heart (pun intended)....more
Copy kindly provided by author and Goodreads friend Steven Luna.
This novel is completely different from everything else I've read from Steven Luna. HeCopy kindly provided by author and Goodreads friend Steven Luna.
This novel is completely different from everything else I've read from Steven Luna. He is very well known for a series of humorous works narrating the comic misadventures of that maverick undeadnik, Joe Vampire. The protagonist of this book is also a maverick, but that is probably where the similarity ends.
Tyler Mills is a seventeen-year-old misfit. His family has been broken and he is stuck with his father, which is not ideal, since the two of them generally don't see eye-to-eye. All he knows is that he loves his girlfriend, his band and his music. And even these things don't always make him happy. He wants more, and gets much more than he bargained for when he discovers his mother's art and a set of her journals. These propel him on a quest that may change his life.
This makes the book sound like a YA fantasy where the misunderstood hero runs away from home to develop the magical powers within him that he was always fated to wield, win the heart of the shallow princess who currently finds him distasteful and conquer a fearsome and/or monstrous foe.
Well, maybe a little bit, kinda-sorta. But not really. Yes, this is a Bildungsroman, but it's set in the real world, not Hogwarts.
In actual fact, there's a literary aspect to this book which jumped out at me. Tyler Mills reminds me very much of J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield. Both of these adolescent rebels are self-absorbed, cynical and reckless. Somehow, though, while reading I felt more sympathy for Tyler than for Holden, because he also has a very vulnerable side. He seems also to be more understanding of other people in spite of his cynicism. He's appreciative of some things and is not uniformly narcissistic.
I am not a rock star--not even a rock star wannabe. (Unlike Tyler, I am deeply devoted to classical music.) And yet, this novel touched me in many ways, perhaps because I can identify with some of the feelings and experiences described here. ...more