I bought this on a whim, having never read Hillman. This is the fourth of a series Hillman has published using the elements - air, fire, earth and watI bought this on a whim, having never read Hillman. This is the fourth of a series Hillman has published using the elements - air, fire, earth and water.
When I started reading I was put off because I don’t usually like political poetry (and I hadn’t expected political poetry) and the poems didn’t seem to “hold together,” to cohere. They are highly stylized and turn suddenly and unexpectedly, seemingly on tangents. But after some pages I got into the wild energy of them, the freedoms they took, the vocabulary of activism and corporate and work “culture.” In fact the sixth poem ("Gemini Showers & Health Care Reform") threw in some pharmaceutical drug names and it was almost funny, and that was all I needed to open my heart. Many of these are inspired by the Occupy movement, and the passionate defense of nature, and the malleability of language. I liked the daring turns and fragments thrown into the poems, the strange line breaks and forms.
I can’t replicate the indentations and such here, but this is the beginning of -
Equinox Ritual With Ravens & Pines
--so we said to the somewhat: Be born-- & the shadow kept arriving in segments, cold currents pushed minerals up from the sea floor, up through coral & labels of Diet Coke blame shame bottles down there-- it is so much work to appear!
I admired the poems even if I can’t claim they are my favorite style or subject matter. It wasn’t easy poetry, but I would be interested in reading another book in this series. I think Hillman’s writing is “brave,” not in a “I-told-my-childhood-secrets” way, but in a devil-may-care way or writing what feels right and letting the poem take its own course.
These essays covered a number of book-related topics that I'm interested in - how to care for a book, arranging books on a shelf, vocabulary, plagiariThese essays covered a number of book-related topics that I'm interested in - how to care for a book, arranging books on a shelf, vocabulary, plagiarism, etc. My favorite essay was "My Odd Shelf," about readers' collections of books on their pet topics, whether it be Arctic exploration, pornography or the Han Dynasty. For me the weakness of the book was the author's light touch, her upbeat, pleased-with-herself voice. She asks you to feel fondly about her literary family, frequently referring to them and herself in the third person plural as The Fadimans, or Fadiman U. (as in university). My admiration of modesty means I have an aversion to making presumptions, no matter how deserved. Thus the opening passage of the essay "You are There" and others like it put me off for their love-me cockiness and their down-homey language (the peas): "On November 12, 1838. Thomas Babington Macaulay set out by horse-drawn coach from Florence to Rome. 'My journey lay over the field of Thrasymenus,' he wrote in his journal, 'and as soon as the sun rose, I read Livy's description of the scene.' The moment I read that sentence, I knew that Macaulay and I were peas in a pod."...more
Perhaps it would have been better if I'd been a Bechdel fan when I set out, or at least knew the slightest thing about her or her best-selling book "FPerhaps it would have been better if I'd been a Bechdel fan when I set out, or at least knew the slightest thing about her or her best-selling book "Fun Home," because I found it difficult to care very much about this exploration of her relationship with her mother. There's a lot about Bechdel's various therapists, her girlfriends, and excerpts from the psychology and psychoanalytic books she's read. The very "me" focus sapped the story's appeal (to me). There were some interesting insights and I enjoyed her drawing style, and I'm even interested in reading "Fun Home," but this isn't a book I'd recommend widely. ...more
My daughter invited me to do a reading a challenge with her this year. Who says no to their teenager’s request to do a book challenge together? It hasMy daughter invited me to do a reading a challenge with her this year. Who says no to their teenager’s request to do a book challenge together? It has a list of specifications like ‘read a book published the year you were born,’ ‘read a trilogy,’ and many other things. One requirement is to read a graphic novel, so I went to the library and read this. Since my daughter and I agreed one book could fulfill up to three requirements, this also covered me on reading a book set in high school, which I was sweating the most.
I thought this was very funny and easy to relate to, even decades down the line. I can (still) count the graphic novels I’ve read on two hands, so this was fresh and hilarious to me. It’s a collection of comic stories about the awkwardness and misery of 8th grade and high school, with all the horrors of having the cool kids at your house, French kissing, getting a pus-oozy piercing, and wearing the wrong outfit. The drawing at the end of the story ‘Freak’ was especially great.
I'm only sorry I put my daughter on a plane yesterday, because she would have liked this too (and knocked two items off the challenge list). ...more
Just when you thought you were tired of post-apocalyptic novels, this splendid read comes along. I really enjoyed the story and the characters. I woulJust when you thought you were tired of post-apocalyptic novels, this splendid read comes along. I really enjoyed the story and the characters. I would have liked to see a couple of them developed more - for example, Tyler. The focus was all on the good guys and affirmation. I love the good guys and affirmation, but a baser instinct would have been worth seeing here and there, along with a closer look at a shadier character. Nevertheless, I slurped it down. ...more
“All the evenness of life, the ‘light’ part of it, really stunned me,” Edison says. “It shocked me to see people walking around, living normally. It s“All the evenness of life, the ‘light’ part of it, really stunned me,” Edison says. “It shocked me to see people walking around, living normally. It shocked me because I would say ‘Hey, where I come from isn’t like that. I come from a place where we were fighting desperately to live.’ I came out and found this shit called peace. It threw me off.
That’s my favorite passage of the book. Of course, Edison Pena is the miner who falls apart most severely in the aftermath of rescue.
The story was well told, and sometimes moving, but overall it lacked oomph. As admirable as it is to try to tell the story of all the miners collectively, it’s inevitable that some emerge as stronger or more remarkable or insightful personalities, while the wallflowers fade into the dark stone of the mine. That made some of the mentions seem gratuitous, like the author had to get everyone’s name in somehow. I understand, yet it’s transparent.
Underground, there were squabbles and low spirits and fear, but there was no epic struggle. It was awful to be trapped, but it was also boring: long days of darkness and monotonous anxiety. At times I felt the writer was padding the book with whatever he could unearth – going through his notes for the best quotes and anecdotes, but some of them were short-lived conflicts or emotions that went out with a whimper rather than a bang, and then it was on to the next thing.
Of course, that’s how it was, so what was I expecting? I guess when you slap the dubious word “miracle” in the title you’re setting some readers up to be underwhelmed. ...more
I’ve read three Penelope Lively books in the last five months and this is my favorite. That’s despite the fact that at page 140 or so I thought it hadI’ve read three Penelope Lively books in the last five months and this is my favorite. That’s despite the fact that at page 140 or so I thought it had turned into a yawner, and I was having trouble buying the main character’s attraction to a woman with whom he had nothing in common.
The plot centers on Mark Lamming, a biographer researching a book on the author Gilbert Strong. He’s a contentedly married, childless man in his early forties. His ebullient, efficient wife Diana works in an art gallery. As to Strong, Mark finds his essays and criticism best, though Strong also wrote a couple novels and a play he would have preferred to forget. Mark believes he’s got Strong pinned down when he goes off to do further research at Dean Close, Strong’s former home, now maintained by a foundation and Strong’s granddaughter Carrie, who runs a plant and nursery business on the premises with her gay partner Bill. Carrie is a kind of lost soul, diffident, detached, but attractive to Mark despite her having read only 4-5 books in her whole life.
There are three things Penelope Lively likes to explore: mother-daughter relationships, men as “other,” and tourism. The last one seems odd, I know, but in "Heat Wave," which I read first, the odious son-in-law figure is writing about tourist traps. In "Moon Tiger," there is also an important scene in a recreated historical village. In According to Mark, writers’ home are tourist spots - Thomas Hardy’s and Gilbert Strong’s - and there’s likewise a trip to a historical fortress, and then on to France and the Louvre.
Every reader knows the enjoyment of book has to do with the state of mind s/he’s in when s/he reads it. My satisfaction with According to Mark could have to do with having seen a movie a few days before with a sad ending that I had trouble accepting. Thus emotionally ripened, I said a glad grateful thank-you when Carrie finally threw off her passivity and found her way. And Mark’s discovery of a fresh, worthwhile source of information on Strong was also satisfying, and helped him discover and understand more about his subject and himself. The book wasn’t perfect - the character Diana especially didn’t quite convince - but it was an intelligent story in a literary setting that unfolded nicely. ...more
A clever, playful and very cohesive chapbook that dwells on circus characters, many in terms of relationships. It doesn't skimp on the puns, as you'llA clever, playful and very cohesive chapbook that dwells on circus characters, many in terms of relationships. It doesn't skimp on the puns, as you'll see from some of the poem titles: The Ringmaster Answers the Phone The Strongman Goes Weak in the Knees The Fire-Eater Gets All Hot & Bothered The Tightrope Walker Gets High...more
Inspiring, open and cathartic. You can't help but root for Strayed on her journey, with her battered feet, her stink, and the hole in her heart. As aInspiring, open and cathartic. You can't help but root for Strayed on her journey, with her battered feet, her stink, and the hole in her heart. As a reader I felt rather like she did on her hike, happy with the progress I was making but not really wanting the book to end.
I found her experience as a woman interesting, since you expect her to be more threatened by burly men. But late in the book, reflecting with the 'Three Young Bucks' - a group of friendly guys she meets on the trail - Strayed realizes how kind and helpful most people have been to her. The moments of human contact and making friends are some of the more touching in the book. The 'young bucks' claim to have seized on much less sympathy. Of course Strayed is the occasional target of creepy men, and I was so glad she emerged unmolested.
The (imaginary) scenery was wonderful: Crater Lake, the Range of Light, the Bridge of the Gods. I only wanted pictures! ...more
This is a dramatic story about Dina, who at the age of 5 inadvertently causes a vat of hot lye to engulf her mother, causing her excruciating death. DThis is a dramatic story about Dina, who at the age of 5 inadvertently causes a vat of hot lye to engulf her mother, causing her excruciating death. Dina is then neglected by her father, a sheriff, who doesn’t know what to do with her, and spends her life haunted by her mother’s screams and ghostly presence. While Dina’s in her early teens, her father finds a tutor for her who’s a bit of a godsend, teaching her arithmetic and music. He also learns about the tragedy, and tells the girl her mother is better off, having gone to a better place, which in a way makes Dina feel it’s ok to mete out her own biblical justice for years to come. She’s able to do so by the power she acquires through marrying a rich merchant at age 15, whom she soon sends to his death.
There is an appeal in the strong female character - undaunted, unconventional, feminist, brave. She’s also not very easy to like. I had to ask myself several times if I was being unfair and if I’d give a man more leeway, but no: if anything, I’d probably hold all that ‘lording it around’ more against a man than a woman. And Dina has a good point in a lot of cases, but she is selfish and often unsympathetic.
The good points about this story are the characters, the plot and the Norwegian landscape. It’s a sensuous book full of hot meals, birch branches, rowan berries, snow, fires, the smell of stables, blood, sex, and the sea. It has some satisfying moments.
On the downside I wasn’t crazy about the style. A bit of short internal monologue is frequently interjected that invariably starts “I am Dina,” followed by what Dina could do or her experiences. It’s a little over the top, as if Dina were a goddess declaring herself. And the sex scenes were awkward, as sex scenes often are, sometimes dressed up in metaphors about “spears” and “fish” such. I was soon judging guys by the size of their penises.
This was a good wintertime read and engaging, but I didn’t think it was a great work of literature. If you are interested in potent female characters, Norway or the shipping trade, it’s worth a read. ...more