The back-cover description pasted here on Goodreads was clearly written by the author himself and is, unfortu...moreMeh.
Actually, that might be a bit strong.
The back-cover description pasted here on Goodreads was clearly written by the author himself and is, unfortunately, the most interesting bit of prose contained in the book. Seems fairly common amongst books of this chic new genre called "critifiction," which translates into English, roughly, as "masturbatory tripe." Read some Benjamin, and pronounce it BEYN-yah-meen, and then tell me how avant garde and under-appreciated you are, you hipster fucks.
The "plot" (and I'm using the word out of kindness) is Sontag's On Photography smeared over Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Also, I have not enjoyed a second-person narrator since the Choose Your Own Adventure books in j-high. When they aren't busy being fawning and intrusive, second-person narrators smack of the Everyman. Add the observation that the "you" narrator is loosely based on Olsen himself, and I am grossly insulted by his attempts at pawning off his interior musings as my own, as though he were saying something (a) original, or (b) so astoundingly important I must share in his subject-position.
The cover blurb claims that the book's "prevailing metaphor and structural device, the photograph, examines the way images, in their magical ability to mimic memory, ultimately mock and eradicate it." Which means only that the author read Camera Lucida in grad school. "The individual past, seemingly stable and fixed, turns out to be as protean and unknowable as the future." Noooo, you're shitting me. You mean, like, Schopenhauer circa eighteen fifty fucking one? Can you even say "turns out to be" after a century and a half? Turns out there is a literary trope in which love is fully consummated only in death. Turns out we'll call it Love-Death, or liebestod. Turns out "Hills Like White Elephants" is about an abortion. An abortion, people! Gawd! "The body becomes strangely dispensable, perpetually adrift in a cybernetic world of hyperlinks and interfaces." This last bit is utter trendy bullshit, not addressed at all in the novel but damn, doesn't it sound cool? Interfaces...mmmmm. The closest we come is the "you" narrator's fleeting fascination with a performance artist who looks strangely like Orlan, as if the aura of her brilliance might rub off onto this red-shirted bitch of an author.
Basically, this waste of 328 pages is a stoner's super-deep epiphanies after regurgitating a surface-level recap of actually intelligent people who have come before. There is no story-telling involved in this book. There is only a bibliography strung out and uncited for twelve chapters.(less)
This book won a Pulitzer back in that day, and that pisses me off. Although, really, I should know better by now. I'm always burned by the Pulitzers.
B...moreThis book won a Pulitzer back in that day, and that pisses me off. Although, really, I should know better by now. I'm always burned by the Pulitzers.
Based on the rough plot of King Lear, yes, which is objectively the worst of Shakespeare's plays and that should say something. This book is an excellent example of why everyone should leave psychological novels to the Russians and Henry James. Nothing strictly happens, of course, just like in Lear (except there, at least, everyone dies in interesting ways, sort of a British pre-figuring of Rambo -- import ass from Taiwan as cannon fodder and just dream of all the ways you could fuck that chit up). And so Smiley is left with charting the changes of an interior landscape for a first-person narrator (ugh). Three-quarters of the way through, even Smiley realized she'd written 150 pages of some spineless bitch masturbating to her own misery, and had to introduce a "repressed memory" to make it interesting. By then, I'd stopped caring.
Also, the dialogue is hideous. I mean, flat-out direct from all the daydreams an author has about what she'd like to say to her daddy. Trope trope trope.
Is this the definition of a hack? Steal shit from another author and butcher it even more?
Still, three stars. Because toward the end I was struck by how the narrator was utterly trapped in her own existence with no viable means for becoming anything other than the sad bitch she was. And somehow, it still moved me, despite the fact that I knew it was coming. Lydia Davis says a good ending must be both surprising and entirely predictable in retrospect. So I guess the book ended well for me.(less)
Why does British humor rely so much on the use of indifference? Just something I've noticed.
So the Earth is destroyed. In an indifferent manner, which...moreWhy does British humor rely so much on the use of indifference? Just something I've noticed.
So the Earth is destroyed. In an indifferent manner, which makes it hi-larious. A bloke is saved and, unmoored in the Universe, is dragged through a series of droll hijinx. One formulaic hijinx after another, which are really just vehicles for terribly self-satisfied one-liners. And then the novel stops at a seemingly arbitrary point -- though I suspect it's actually the point of diminishing returns. At around the third novel (this is a collection of five plus a short story, remember; I expect my medal to arrive any day now), Adams begins to lick himself uncontrollably and lifts entire chapters from his earlier books. I find this utterly distasteful.
This book has everything you need to make a historical novel suck. And not just moderate, forgivable sucking, but full-on golf ball through a garden h...moreThis book has everything you need to make a historical novel suck. And not just moderate, forgivable sucking, but full-on golf ball through a garden hose suckage. Painstaking, ubiquitous research that adds nothing; language so stilted it topples off the page; unbelievable characters doing ludicrous things, but doing them -- importantly -- in period costume; overwrought British-accent narrative musings stretching to find some justifying meaning in the assinine shit-chimp plot.
Also, a glowing cover blurb from Annie Proulx. What the fuck? My mind rejects it as true non-sense.(less)
So, basically, the meaningless drivel of the very first circuit boi? Seriously? Maybe I would have liked it better if I weren't already sick to death...moreSo, basically, the meaningless drivel of the very first circuit boi? Seriously? Maybe I would have liked it better if I weren't already sick to death of all the hallucinatory narratives this book spawned. This is a structure that needed to be created only once to get the bastard over with and properly buried.
Drug narratives are always only autobiographies obsessed with the author's secret obscene wishes and (inevitably) Neanderthal politics. They are the literary equivalent of a frotteur on the subway recounting an especially long and boring dream.
As a dear friend once told me, "Shut the fuck up, you stupid stoner."(less)
What a colossal waste of my life. Nothing happens. Literally. That's what's wrong with this book. It's a freshman-level fiction workshop gone horribly...moreWhat a colossal waste of my life. Nothing happens. Literally. That's what's wrong with this book. It's a freshman-level fiction workshop gone horribly awry. And it won what?(less)
I gave this book to my father for his birthday and stole it back after reading the first chapter. Smith's character development is endearing, her dial...moreI gave this book to my father for his birthday and stole it back after reading the first chapter. Smith's character development is endearing, her dialogue charming, and her grasp of plot is everything Rushdie promised but never delivered. I sort of hate her for writing a debut like this.(less)