Human dissection! Mesmerism! Evil fraternal organizations! Trap doors! Devil-Bug's apocalyptic dreams! Many, many poisonous libations! Astrologers! Fo...moreHuman dissection! Mesmerism! Evil fraternal organizations! Trap doors! Devil-Bug's apocalyptic dreams! Many, many poisonous libations! Astrologers! Forgery! "Veins of ruination" popping out of young women's necks to make it obvious that they have just been ruined!
Suffice it to say that the plot is labyrinthine. But if you like sensationalistic, if you live for over-the-top, this is the book for you. Top-selling book of the 19th century before Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Published in 1844-5. (less)
I'd saved my birthday as a work-free day, and it turned out to be a snowy grey mess. Imagine my delight when I opened my bday package from E & C t...moreI'd saved my birthday as a work-free day, and it turned out to be a snowy grey mess. Imagine my delight when I opened my bday package from E & C to find this. E called it "comforting," which seemed surprising to me. It's about restaurant-reviewing. Comforting? But yes, there was something comforting about the book. (Obviously. I devoured the whole thing in an afternoon.)
This book recounts Reichl's job as the NYT restaurant critic, describing her efforts to disguise herself in order to receive average treatment. Also includes the text of several reviews and relevant recipes. Mmmmmm.
Reichl's initial resistance to the job had me thinking, "Ah, get over yourself." And occasionally the reconstructed conversations seemed rather wooden. But once Reichl became immersed in the story of what happened once she was on the job, it was great. Made me think about the links between identity and taste (in its literal and metaphorical senses). Also did a good job of highlighting the ethically questionable side of a glamorous profession. In one of her initial encounters with the eds--Reichl noted, "you shouldn't be writing reviews for the people who dine in fancy restaurants, but for all the ones who wish they could." (less)
Years ago, I bought a copy of this book at a thrift store--but never read it. Then I heard an interview with AML's daughter, commenting on the book's...moreYears ago, I bought a copy of this book at a thrift store--but never read it. Then I heard an interview with AML's daughter, commenting on the book's anniversary. She mentioned that she hadn't read the book until she was well into young adulthood, but that every time she'd read it since, once every five or six years, she'd taken something new from it. I read the book at the beach. It is a quiet book. It is a book that could not have sustained my attention even five years ago, I suspect. I don't really want to write too much about it right now. But here are a few favorite quotes.
"It is a difficult lesson to learn today--to leave one's friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week. For me the break is the most difficult....It is like an amputation...And yet, once it is done, I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before. It is as if in parting one did actually lose an arm. And then, like the star-fish, one grows it anew; one is whole again, complete and round--more whole, even, than before, when the other people had pieces of one."
"One learns to accept the fact that no permanent return is possibe to an old form of relationship; and, more deeply still, that there is no holding of a relationship to a single form."
"Many people never climb above the plateau of forty to fifty. The signs that presage growth, so similar, it seems to me, to those in early adolescence: discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, longing, are interpreted falsely as signs of decay."
"For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well. We can have a surfeit of treasures--an excess of shells, where one or two would be significant." (less)
While finding a good anthology is relatively simple, it's tough to commit to a single creative writing textbook. I...moreI'd give this 4.5 stars if I could.
While finding a good anthology is relatively simple, it's tough to commit to a single creative writing textbook. I've never been able to do it, always torturing my students with a succession of photocopied poems and stories and assignments. But a month or two ago, I stumbled over this book by Bishop which is--for my own way of teaching and thinking about poetry--one of the best I've ever seen. Bishop has made some terrific selections, introduced them ably, and come up with inventive and relevant assignments. Her belief in the process model of creative writing is evident in her use of students' drafts and her own to demystify the evolution of a "good" poem.
This book would probably also work well for solo practitioners or teacherless writing groups. (less)
Yes, it won all those major awards. Yes, it deserved them.
Read it to savor the narrator's voice, which speaks in many tongues ably. For the story and...moreYes, it won all those major awards. Yes, it deserved them.
Read it to savor the narrator's voice, which speaks in many tongues ably. For the story and the stories. Read it for the history. And for the deft representation of in-betweenness-imbalance-instability as an unavoidable (justifiable, even) mode of being in the world.
Solid. Yes, I remember there being a few slower bits, but I think that's part of what makes this book work. The not-knowing. The impatience. Waiting i...moreSolid. Yes, I remember there being a few slower bits, but I think that's part of what makes this book work. The not-knowing. The impatience. Waiting it out. (A feeling that YA readers, if their experience mirrors my own, know all too well.) And yet, at the same time, it's a quick read. (less)
Enlightenment philosophy, race, medicine, history of the American revolution...MTA pulls it all into this strange and engaging (strengaging?)YA novel...moreEnlightenment philosophy, race, medicine, history of the American revolution...MTA pulls it all into this strange and engaging (strengaging?)YA novel crammed with darkness, lightness, an unforgettable narrator. I wouldn't call the plot "realistic," although MTA draws upon documented historical events, characters, places. But what the book does portray quite vividly is the scent of the real, of the past moment in its present-tense form (one of the most compelling aspects of archival work, in my opinion).
As Anderson points out in his afterword, "Readers should keep in mind that the opinions expressed are reflections of what was *believed* to be true by one group of people or another--not absolute fact." This book is more interested in the exploration of 18th-century American perception/thought than it is in portraying "what really happened" with the accuracy/nuances/contingencies of a historical study. And that's fine with me. It *is* a novel. (less)
This collection of short fiction begins with a story that is by turns creepy and beautifully done: "These Hands." Here's the thing about this story, t...moreThis collection of short fiction begins with a story that is by turns creepy and beautifully done: "These Hands." Here's the thing about this story, though...KB has his narrator name-check Nabokov to prove that, yes, reader, yes, KB knows he's working in the vein of Lolita, and his character knows it too--but this knowledge didn't really help me to appreciate the story more. Actually, I thought KB's choice to have the child-character be an infant had already proven to me that KB was up to something a bit different than VN...But enough of that.
The collection offers a mix of straightforward realism (my favorite of these was probably "Apples"), fairytailishness, and "concept" stories (what if a windowwasher fell in love with a woman he saw through a window he was washing? what if a man lived his entire life on an airplane?).
"The Ceiling" and "The House at the End of the World" were examples of "concept" stories that worked well, but I felt that too many stories here seemed like exercises that began with a bizarre premise and never went further with it (see "The Passenger" and "The Light in the Window"). Am I becoming impatient, as a reader? Am I losing the ability to appreciate a story that's a little wacky, that creates its own world? Nah. I just need something to happen in that world. I need for that world to matter.(less)
It has been a long time since I have read such a compelling novel. I delighted in its length, hoping to stretch out the reading experience. But I was...moreIt has been a long time since I have read such a compelling novel. I delighted in its length, hoping to stretch out the reading experience. But I was immoderate. "You're using it up," I warned myself. And then ignored my own warnings, increasingly aware that it was just the sort of book I would be eager to read again.
You will probably enjoy this book if you have ever tried to create a back story for a dog you picked up at the humane society... if you have experienced wordless (not merely silent, but unnarratable) communication with any animal.. if you are intrigued by the silent dynamics between teacher/student, human/pet, parent/child... if you are curious about the tug between nature and nurture (and do not wish to see that competition resolved)...
The end seemed "a bit much." Somehow out of sync.
And yet, I am almost never completely happy with a novel... certain that it was perfect just as it was. As time goes by, I suspect that this tendency to be more about me than it is about the qualities of whatever I am reading. Am I one who reads merely to prove to myself that I can imagine how this or that could have been done differently? That something else is still possible? Would I feel devastated if I did not have this suspicion, this suspicion of an alternative destiny, of something even better, even more complete?
I've seen this book around for years. But I was never tempted to read it....until I read a NYT story about architect Eric Clough's 5th Avenue apartmen...moreI've seen this book around for years. But I was never tempted to read it....until I read a NYT story about architect Eric Clough's 5th Avenue apartment creation: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/12/gar...#
Clough had been disappointed that Foer hadn't wanted to collaborate with him on this intriguing project. I wondered, why Foer? EL&IC answered this question.
I suspect I would've given it 5 stars if JSF hadn't been trying to pass off the narrator's voice as that of a such a young kid. (It should've been either toned down a bit or given to a narrator in the 13-15 yr old range.) I've known many hyperarticulate children and am quite willing to accept premature wisdom from my narrators, but... no. (less)
I think this is a book I will love when I read it the second time.
Which is not to say that I did not enjoy and appreciate what Robinson has accomplis...moreI think this is a book I will love when I read it the second time.
Which is not to say that I did not enjoy and appreciate what Robinson has accomplished here...just that I don't think it's the right moment in my life for the book. It is quiet, so subtly studded with insight that it must have been taking shape in Robinson's head and notebooks for decades.
Recently my husband met a man whose mother, a decade and a half before dying, wrote long, personal letters to each of her children and their spouses, then stored them away in a safety deposit box. Last year, upon the woman's death, these letters (while not reflecting anything that had happened since 1993) finally arrived in the hands of their recipients....each sentence a treasure.
Robinson understands the beauty of such a gift...the joy for the recipient but (perhaps moreso) the sense of release and purpose made steady in the heart of the writer.
"I'm trying to make the best of our situation. That is, I'm trying to tell you things I might never have thought to tell you if I had brought you up myself, father and son, in the usual companionable way. When things are taking their ordinary course, it is hard to remember what matters. There are so many things you would never think to tell anyone. And I believe they may be the things that mean most to you, and that even your own child would have to know in order to know you well at all." --p. 102 (less)