I suppose in this "reality" obsessed culture we now live in anybody can get their diary published and have it lauded as an important piece of modern l...moreI suppose in this "reality" obsessed culture we now live in anybody can get their diary published and have it lauded as an important piece of modern literature or a work of brilliance or any of the myriad cliched accolades critics vomit up.
Well I don't get it. Miss American Pie is a dull, dull, dull read. The forward is promising and I thought Sartor's teenage musings would be profound or intriguing or at the least interesting but it's not. Sartor is a spoiled rich kid whose father is a doctor and mother is an artist. She has several horses, equally well off friends and an obviously successful future ahead of her.
Her diary entries, if you can call them that, average two to three sentences at the most. Entries range from "May 20: I feel really bad," to "February 6: BAD headache today," to "April 1: Stella is unhappy at her job". She mopes around because she thinks she's ugly or because her best friend likes a guy she likes or because her hair is frizzy. There isn't anything of substance to make this a worthwhile read or shed some new light on adolescence. I understand it's a diary of a teenage girl but it's still boring.
If a diary is to be published, it should be dynamic, intriguing, shedding new light on the protagonist or a particular situation or a period of time. Miss American Pie fails on all counts. It doesn't help that no one has a clue who Margaret Sartor is either.
Miss American Pie could have been more effective if it was written as an actual memoir instead of the dull, dull, ramblings of a teenage girl's diary. (less)
Pessl's Special Topics... bears a remarkable resemblance to Donna Tarrt's amazing debut novel The Secret History. It even has a parallel plot: group o...morePessl's Special Topics... bears a remarkable resemblance to Donna Tarrt's amazing debut novel The Secret History. It even has a parallel plot: group of priveleged, snarky academics? Check! An instructor they idol worship? Check! An outsider who is reluctantly brought into their innner circe? Check! A murder or two? Check! The fall out that later ensues? Check! Special Topics... is a promising novel from a promising writer but not even half as entertaining as Secret History because of Pessl's overwrought pretension.
I have no doubt Pessl is an intelligent person and on every page of Special Topics... she makes sure that you know it. Hammering the point home with obscure oh-so-clever reference after obscure oh-so-clever reference. It's very distracting and I found myself rolling my eyes every time she starts to show off. When she occasionally hits a stride of staight forward narrative her uncluttered prose shines through showing off her great writing skills and clever wit. And don't get me started on the visual aids! They do nothing to further the plot along and is a contrived look-at-me device to show off Pessl's somewhat mediorce artistic skills (yes, she does all the drawings herself). The visual aids could have been more affective if they were either drawn by someone else or if they were actual staged photographs like it was done in Tama Janowitz's A Cannibal In Manhattan.
Overall, once you are accustomed to Pessl's writing style it is a pleasant and entertaining read. However, the payoff is NOT worth the effort of trudging through 500+ pages. It's a pretty lackluster denouement. Pessl has potential to be a great writer once she gets a better editor, shrugs off her pretension and focuses on a tight narrative. (less)
I was underwhelmed. Interesting and episodic but ultimately not satisfying. I was expecting so much more. The only thing I enjoyed about the novel is...moreI was underwhelmed. Interesting and episodic but ultimately not satisfying. I was expecting so much more. The only thing I enjoyed about the novel is the fact she calls her brother Chapter Eleven. That's the only really cute and clever thing about this book.(less)
This is an awesome novel with an interesting concept: what if your husband is unstuck in time and you have known him since you were 7 years old? Howev...moreThis is an awesome novel with an interesting concept: what if your husband is unstuck in time and you have known him since you were 7 years old? However, this reality doesn't exsist for him until after he meets you 20 years later.
Know this before beginning the novel: it's a love story through and through. I was expecting some kind of espionage thriller or some sort of Dead Zone-ish type of deal but no, it's a love story and a damn good and highly original one at that.(less)
This is a very graphic and gritty novel but not for the squeamish, faint of heart or those who want a happy ending because a happy ending you're not g...moreThis is a very graphic and gritty novel but not for the squeamish, faint of heart or those who want a happy ending because a happy ending you're not going to get. I must say it was probably one of the most nailbiting page turning protrayals of inner city 1930s black urban life. I seriously could not put it down as much as I wanted to at some points.
The story is about Otis Tilson, otherwise known as Sally or Tilly by his cross dressing pals or Sweet Pea by the arachnoid mother of the title.
The Tilsons, a cotton picking family living on a plantation in the South, come into a windfall from a family member "up North" and pack up their bags and move to a 1930s Chicago ghetto where racism, drugs, prostitution, violence and police brutality run rampant and unchecked.
Told from the perspective of Otis at the age of ten we watch as the once happy and moderately successful family slowly unravel and fall into ruin because of Mama's obsession with money. As a result, Papa becomes a broken shell of a man, sister Carol falls in love with the wrong suitor with tragic results, sister Bessie turns to prostitution with a bleak outcome, brother Junior turns to a life of crime and murder and even Otis, grappling with his homosexuality,comes to his own unfortunate end.
Definitely on the order of Hubert Selby Jr's novels, Mama Black Widow tells a story of down and out people living in a private hell with no where to go but down. Like Selby's Requiem for A Dream, Mama Black Widow would make a compelling, gritty and heart wrenching movie.