Penelope Lively drifted on and off my to-read list for awhile. So glad I picked this up. Great voice, great protagonist. The action is hardly dramatic...morePenelope Lively drifted on and off my to-read list for awhile. So glad I picked this up. Great voice, great protagonist. The action is hardly dramatic but it has a serious dead-pan pull. The war of the sexes was brought off wonderfully. Much appreciated. (less)
This is what you'd call a 'gift book,' there being no good reason for it to exist except as a marketing opportunity in a museum bookshop, in this case...moreThis is what you'd call a 'gift book,' there being no good reason for it to exist except as a marketing opportunity in a museum bookshop, in this case The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Indeed I got it as a gift, third-hand, from a family member liquidating a section of his library. The book combines some works found in the Met museum with 'love poems' - I put the 'love' in quotes because there's a section on friendship, and one on familial love. It's not all cupids and hotness and late-night phone sex. There were some great poems in here, but if you really wanted an anthology of love poems then surely there are better ones. There are some fine works of art in here, but if you were really in it for the works of art you would be better directed to the non-poetry section of the bookstore. These were mostly very well-known poems with a few I hadn't read before. The selections were good and that's laudable. The works of art appearing next to the poems sometimes seemed random, but anything can be an object of 'love,' I guess. There were two absolutely great Yehuda Amichai poems and if I really were interested in your poetic well-being I'd say save the however many dollars the Met wants for this and buy his The Selected Poetry instead. (less)
Beautifully written and thoughtful book about a character with many selves who survives centuries, switching genders in between. There is a manor hous...moreBeautifully written and thoughtful book about a character with many selves who survives centuries, switching genders in between. There is a manor house to anchor him/her, a lot of reflection, and thoughts extrapolating and fondling themselves into a pitch. It can be transporting if occasionally tedious.
“Then she called hesitatingly, as if the person she wanted might not be there, ‘Orlando?' For if there are (at a venture) seventy-six different times all ticking in the mind at once, how many different people are there not - Heaven help us - all having lodgment at one time another in the human spirit? Some say two thousand and fifty-two. So that it is the most usual thing in the world for a person to call, directly they are alone Orlando? (if that is one’s name) meaning by that, Come, come! I'm sick to death of this particular self. I want another. Hence the astonishing changes we see in our friends. But it is not altogether plain sailing, either, for though one may say, as Orlando said (being out of the country and needing another self presumably) Orlando? still the Orlando one needs may not come; these selves of which we are built up, one on top of another, as plates are piled on a waiter’s hand, have attachments elsewhere, sympathies, little constitutions and rights of their own, call them what you will (and for many of these things there is no name) so that one may come if it is raining, another in a room with green curtains, another when Mrs. Jones is not there, another if you can promise it a glass of wine - and so on; for everyone can multiply from his own experience the difficult terms which his different selves have made with him - and some are too wildly ridiculous to be mentioned in print at all.”(less)
A little thing has kept me from reading much about WWI and it is called WWII. But with the First World War a hundred years behind us now, I thought it...moreA little thing has kept me from reading much about WWI and it is called WWII. But with the First World War a hundred years behind us now, I thought it was about time that I read "All Quiet on the Western Front." The title itself is familiar to most everyone, and it is a great title (also in the original German - "Im Westen Nichts Neues").
I thought this was well written though not stunning - it attempts to bring across the horror of war and it does so without being too graphic, or too poetic, or too revelatory. It is poignant and clear and it’s easy to see how it became a classic of war literature.
The narration describes what keeps soldiers going - camaraderie mostly - or doesn’t, and how they keep going, and how they know sometime they’re going to have to face what they’ve witnessed and experienced, if they’re lucky.
Remarque’s book was burned by the Nazis for being “disrespectful” to soldiers. But of course it honors them. I gave it three stars, but that doesn't mean I don't think everyone should read it. They should.(less)
Above all, Alan Hollinghurst can put together a splendid sentence, and that is my weak spot. Plot, setting, character, voice - those matter less to me...moreAbove all, Alan Hollinghurst can put together a splendid sentence, and that is my weak spot. Plot, setting, character, voice - those matter less to me than the writer's ability to turn a gorgeous phrase.
"Morornic sideburns." "Urine-colored light." "Paramilitary butler." "Dowdy magnificence." "I attended to my trout with a kind of surgical distaste."
The story is about a 25-year old, financially independent, flamingly gay Londoner named Will and his friendships and active sex life, which revolve around a men’s club called the Corinthian: “a gloomy and functional underworld full of life, purpose and sexuality.” He is romantically involved mostly with himself, but sexually with other men -always a step down socially or otherwise.
Being aimless, well-off and self-involved, Will does not work and has little to occupy him besides sex and gazing at himself in the mirror. One day he manages to save the life of an older man, himself a rich, gay old Lord named Charles Nantwich.
Charles attempts to engage the torporific Will in writing his memoirs, and the plot - which is not particularly strong - becomes a slow unfolding about how homosexuals are vulnerable to persecution and hate and violence of the body and soul. The book is crowded with male anatomy, and there is not one woman in the book, except for the very occasional mention of Will’s sister, who never appears.
I picked this up because I enjoyed The Line of Beauty. Although a priapic feast teeming with gay men old and underage is not my usual fare, the prose is wonderful and the plot is sufficiently interesting. It’s worth the little voyeuristic trip.(less)