I confess I'd never heard of this book until this year, at the age of 53, when my daughter brought it over. And yet the Guardian blurb on the cover caI confess I'd never heard of this book until this year, at the age of 53, when my daughter brought it over. And yet the Guardian blurb on the cover calls it "The most important book about men and women written in the last century." I started out quite cool on it the "story," thinking uh oh I'm not going to like this what a shame. But after about 40-50 pages I was all in. The book is a sort-of memoir (the afterward calls it "theoretical fiction") about Chris Kraus and how she falls in love with an academic acquaintance named Dick, partly by writing tons of letters to him, accompanied by her husband. She eventually leaves her husband and shacks up with Dick, who offers her no encouragement. She uses the relationship to explore female-male relationships and dynamics. I really appreciated the book. For all its self-debasement it has a satisfying f*ck-you feeling about it, like I'm going here with everything I think and feel. I didn't think it was mean. I thought it was true. You don't have to love Dick. You don't have to like anyone in this book. ...more
700-plus pages about a severely damaged man —emotionally and physically— who’d like nothing more than to die and the circle of male friends who want t700-plus pages about a severely damaged man —emotionally and physically— who’d like nothing more than to die and the circle of male friends who want to prove his worth to him and keep him alive. I found it tedious with a capital T.
At his bedside after one of the jillions of times this poor, tortured individual has come close to checking out of life’s hotel, his bestie whispers into his semi-conscious ear:
“You’re Jude St. Francis. You are my oldest, dearest friend. You’re the son of Harold Stein and Julia Altman. You’re the friend of Malcolm Irvine, of Jean-Baptiste Marion, of Richard Goldfarb, of Andy Contractor, of Lucien Voigt, of Citizen von Straaten, of Rhodes Arrowsmith, of Elijah Kozma, of Phaedra de los Santos, of the Henry Youngs. You’re a New Yorker. You live in Soho. You volunteer for an arts organization; you volunteer for a food kitchen. You’re a swimmer. You’re a baker. You’re a cook. You’re a reader. You have a beautiful voice, though you never sing anymore. You’re an excellent pianist. You’re an art collector. You write me lovely messages when I’m away. You’re patient. You’re generous. You’re the best listener I know. You’re the smartest person I know, in every way. You’re the bravest person I know, in every way. You’re a lawyer. You’re the chair of the litigation department at Rosen Pritchard and Klein. You love your job; you work hard at it. You’re a mathematician. You’re a logician. You’ve tried to teach me, again and again. You were treated horribly. You came out the other end. You were always you. ( etc etc etc…) And I will never let you go.”
If that speech doesn’t sound like a voice-over in some motivational/inspirational personal coaching program, I don’t know what does. When he says “You’re a New Yorker,” I had to throw up in my mouth a little bit.
I almost gave it one star, but it’s saved by not having absolutely miserable prose. I wouldn’t say it’s great (note the treacle of "The porch light washed the night with honey”) but it’s not terrible. This one's for the "Bel Canto" crowd....more
This is like compassion porn. I sat around practically drooling, waiting for the next act of goodness to happen. The good folks are are out there makiThis is like compassion porn. I sat around practically drooling, waiting for the next act of goodness to happen. The good folks are are out there making the world a better place literally and you want them to be rewarded. If I've a complaint it's that the "bad" people are thoroughly bad - Hoyt and Donna have zero redeeming qualities. Mary Wells is a tiny bit of a mix but she starts out on the side of the good and it's clear she's simply hit a rough patch. Much enjoyed - it makes quick reading. Who knew kindness could be so compelling. ...more
I read only half of these stories, though if they'd been more compelling I might have charged ahead. I enjoyed "A Season of Regret," but otherwise thiI read only half of these stories, though if they'd been more compelling I might have charged ahead. I enjoyed "A Season of Regret," but otherwise this was not my genre or milieu. Poker, prostitutes, petty criminals, blackmailers. The first story I read was about a call girl. The last one, which was the end of the road for me, was about "fucking for money" as part of an insurance scam. There was a seven-page story I didn't understand four pages of. Alas, this seems to be one of the last outposts of gritty, unadulterated masculinity. So long. ...more
It’s a long prose poem cut into chapters, or ‘tangos,’ that tells the story of a failed marriage. Or is it? I see aI had a big disconnect with this.
It’s a long prose poem cut into chapters, or ‘tangos,’ that tells the story of a failed marriage. Or is it? I see a review that calls it a fictional essay on Keats’ idea that “beauty is truth.” Hmmm, it’s an essay? Another calls it a scrapbook. Yet I see the “tangos” published here and there as “poems.”
I wasn’t able to engage with the speaker(s) on the story side in a way that made me care about this relationship. On the other hand the writing (poetry) didn’t strike me as particularly beautiful or insightful or entertaining or moving or any of those things that I look for in poetry. It was innovative, sure. And it had a couple of nice imagist moments, but I’ve forgotten them.
I’d put this on my Christmas list but within hours crossed it off in favour of other books. But I was too late. My mother had already gotten it and thI’d put this on my Christmas list but within hours crossed it off in favour of other books. But I was too late. My mother had already gotten it and there it was under the tree. I didn’t think I’d go for it but, considering I ripped through it in two days, I’m going to file it under “gripping.”
I was surprised about how well written it was. I was surprised how much I warmed up to the voice. I even learned some things about Somalia and Islam. I hoped so much this ordeal would end well.
This is a memoir by Amanda Lindhout, written with a co-writer Sara Corbett, about her ill-fated reporting trip to Somalia, which everyone in their right mind knows is a place to stay the hell away from. I’ve seen a number of comments here and elsewhere by people who blame Lindhout for being stupid enough to go there and get herself into some pretty severe difficulty. Well, she should have thought it over a little better, but I’m not going to jump in on the victim blaming. She didn’t commit the crimes. I felt nothing but sympathy and hope for her and her friend, Nigel, who was also kidnapped.
More than 400 days in captivity is a long time and you’d think the story of it would get monotonous and dull but the group dynamic and Lindhout’s inner life and biography keep this moving at a good pace. I’m very glad to have read it. I will soon be pushing it on friends and relatives. ...more
This collection chronicles the poet’s divorce from her husband of 30 years. It’s safe in this case NOT to make the distinction between the poet and spThis collection chronicles the poet’s divorce from her husband of 30 years. It’s safe in this case NOT to make the distinction between the poet and speaker - the book is intimate confessional poetry, not some remote maybe yes/maybe no characters. Olds speaks openly about her experience - the shock of not being loved, not being wanted, being surprised and almost ashamed, and trying to adjust and understand.
* While he told me, I looked from small thing to small thing, in our room, the face of the bedside clock, the sepia postcard of a woman bending down to a lily. *
I have read a good chunk of Olds’ poetry and I greatly admire her - she’s so talented and her images are robust and powerful. The glance she offers you is often raw, sometimes you just want to shut your eyes! Indeed, I usually can’t take her in large doses.
I felt differently with this, though. Despite the subject it seemed less of a gut-punch, more like a wounded person limping and (not asking but) needing sympathy. The poems were very well done and moving and occasionally suspenseful. One thing I wished was that she’d get angry, but then again, why be angry when mostly you’re hurt.
* Now I come to look at love in a new way, now that I am not standing in its light. I want to ask my almost-no-longer husband what it’s like to not love, but he does not want to talk about it, he wants a stillness at the end of it. And sometimes I feel as if, already, I am not here — *
Telling the children, telling one’s mother. The marriage appears to break up because the husband is unhappy with someone who is so expressive - who writes about her life, who moans during sex, who likes to talk in general. I’d certainly recommend it. I didn’t think every poem was stellar, but they were all admirably honest and well turned. It's good, but probably not her best book.
If you’d described the two novellas in this book to me before I read it I probably wouldn’t have read it so thanks for not doing that! I loved this boIf you’d described the two novellas in this book to me before I read it I probably wouldn’t have read it so thanks for not doing that! I loved this book. It was top of the charts wonderful. I think it is my favorite read of 2016. ...more
War and Turpentine is superlative. The final section with its discoveries and emotion is powerful and even stupendous. The middle forms the heart of tWar and Turpentine is superlative. The final section with its discoveries and emotion is powerful and even stupendous. The middle forms the heart of the story, and the whole thing —minding a few awkward moments— is wonderfully written and imagined and imparted.
To write the book the author, a Flemish poet, relied on journals entrusted to him by his grandfather, an amateur painter whose life was upended by war and the illnesses that took his father and his betrothed. I was interested in War and Turpentine because of its approach — a fictional or reimagined first-person memoir of the grandfather, sandwiched by a recounting of his childhood relationships and later life. The first and last parts include the author’s own memories and recollections, and the sections inform and color each other.
There were two or three passages in which the author refers to himself or his own life in a way I found awkward and unfortunate. For example there’s a part where he writes of himself in the third person as if from the grandfather’s perspective. I don’t mean the author should have stood outside the book — he’s as essential as the story of the pocket watch.
Also on the downside, I found, was the nonexistent attempt to understand his grandmother. The book focuses completely on the grandfather. It’s his journals and life that constitute it, and that’s all well and good, but the grandmother comes across as a cardboard prude. Who knows, maybe she hadn’t wanted to marry at all. He’s not totally unkind to her, but then again, he isn’t kind either. But my complaints are minor. It’s a completely worthwhile and beautiful book. I even adore the coloring of my hardcover copy. ...more