Billy Collins became our poet laureate in 2001 and 2003 by copying out the least boring sections of his journal and adding line breaks between every gBilly Collins became our poet laureate in 2001 and 2003 by copying out the least boring sections of his journal and adding line breaks between every grammatical clause, proving definitively that the American public has no ear for pleasing sounds and no eye for moderately evocative images....more
The back-cover description pasted here on Goodreads was clearly written by the author himself and is, unfortuMeh.
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....more
JCO is everything I hate about Jane Austen made sublime. Not one of her characters is believable, but they all act in the way we wish we could act undJCO is everything I hate about Jane Austen made sublime. Not one of her characters is believable, but they all act in the way we wish we could act under similar circumstances. They all utter the stunning, pithy lines we imagine speaking two days later. Oates smiles on the mundane shit of our lives, and honors the interior significance we fabricate in order to slog through each day.
"But that night as he falls slowly asleep he hears himself explaining to Annemarie in a calm measured voice that she will be risking something few men can risk, she should know herself exalted, privileged, in a way invulnerable to hurt even if she is very badly hurt, she'll be risking something he himself cannot risk again in his life. And maybe he never risked it at all. You'll be going to a place I can't reach, he says. He would touch her, in wonder, in dread, he would caress her, but his body is heavy with sleep, growing distant from him. He says softly, I'm not sure I'll be here when you come back. But by now Annemarie's breathing is so deep and rhythmic she must be asleep. In any case she gives no sign of having heard."
High Lonesome is a collection of out-of-print stories with eleven new stories that, honestly, aren't necessary to sell me on the old ones. Her touch sort of faded after the 80s, which isn't to say that her later stories are crap but, rather, that her earliest stories are goddamn golden. Two pieces in this collection of 36 are padding. Find me another author who can say that after forty fucking years.
I counted three places where her voice took over -- moments that had no justification other than the pleasure she took in writing them. They were stunning. I found myself eagerly reading to find more of them. Each story on its own is perfect as cut glass; the collection itself was brilliantly organized. I couldn't stop, and for 664 pages, that's something considering how most authors' conceits and voices bore me after the first 150.
I would also like to note that this book was gifted to me by a beautiful young woman who tenaciously tracked down JCO to sign the bugger for me. That's right, bitches. Suck it....more
Some bloke named Jeffrey gave this monument of shite four friggin stars. Look for us to oil wrestle soon on cable.
Why can'We hates it. We haaaates it.
Some bloke named Jeffrey gave this monument of shite four friggin stars. Look for us to oil wrestle soon on cable.
Why can't I give this book negative stars? I want to take away the stars anyone else gave this book. That's right, Jeffrey, I'm vetoing your stars. Like I'm China.
Show of hands -- who here actually begins writing anything by first clustering? Eh? Who counts the sentences in their paragraphs to make sure there are between five and twelve sentences? You? Who stops after drafting a paragraph to notate each sentence as "more specific" or "more general" and then rearrange them into a more "logical" order?
The answer is that no one does. Actually, two people do, but no one likes them very much, and they're both stuck trying to find new superlatives for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit special.
The fact of the matter is that concepts like "coherence through inductive order" and "parallelism in number and person" only make sense in retrospect, after you have firm working experience with those tools. Spanking a 100-level composition student with this crap is like expecting someone to understand Sartre before they've had their own existential crisis. And let's be honest here -- this is the same bullshit students were fed for four years throughout high school. If it didn't take then, what on earth makes you think what they really need is a rehash of the same? Brilliant. Clearly, when these students didn't sponge up their sophomore lesson that a "topic sentence is a topic plus a controlling idea," the only reason for that failure is because they were too preoccupied with prom/puberty/the Olson Twins, those lazy bastards. Let's beat them with the same switch again.
I'd like to suggest a (not really) radical idea -- that these students are stuck in a 100-level "remedial" composition course precisely because of the disgusting, patronizing pedagogy exhibited in Fawcett's Evergreen. I'd like to suggest, moreover, that students learn to write, not by placing their boots carefully in the footprints of people who have gone before and just now noticed their own path, but rather by writing, and they learn to write better by reading.
Noooo, no no. That's absurd. Instead, let's follow the little gems of uber-writing wisdom from Ms. Fawcett: "Consider adding a good quotation to emphasize one of your key points. You can begin by looking through...an online version of Bartlett's Quotations." Please, do. Also, why don't you draw jazzhands in the margin? Just to spice things up. I'm sure it will perfectly offset Mark Twain's insights into birth control and HIV in subcontinental India. "Suggested topics for persuasive paragraphs: (1) Occasional arguments are good for friendships. (2) ________ (writer, singer, or actor) has a message that more people need to hear. (3) People should laugh more because laughter heals." Fantastic. Thank you for that insightful bit of writing, Gidget. I'll be sure to keep that in mind when I have testicular cancer.
Perhaps, when you feed students purile, infantilizing bullshit, they give you only purile, infantile bullshit in return. Perhaps, instead of secretly believing that all 100-level students are utter morons who are "slow" in developing their language skills and who just need more of the same crap that didn't work the first time around -- perhaps, instead, if you believe they're secretly brilliant and already fluent in a multitude of discourses, they'll grow into that picture of themselves that you present them with.
The day I am granted tenure? That is the day I shred this book for the green manure that it really is....more
Done. Done and done. I now recommend that no one ever think of wasting their money on the first volume in the hopes that it will improve. This is juveDone. Done and done. I now recommend that no one ever think of wasting their money on the first volume in the hopes that it will improve. This is juvenile bullshit at its finest. I can't believe I've just wasted four sentences on it....more
Whee!!! This was just fun shit. No pretention, no patronizing, but also no lowest-common-denominator tripe. I love Morrison when he does serial comicsWhee!!! This was just fun shit. No pretention, no patronizing, but also no lowest-common-denominator tripe. I love Morrison when he does serial comics, because he knows a year in advance exactly where the story is going to go, and that lets him slow down and actually do decent story-telling with real characters. There's a reason everyone brings him in to revive characters that have been beaten into two dimensions by other shitty writers.
Also, I take back what I said about Quitely in my review on The Authority, in which I suggested that he can draw no other face but Richard Nixon's. I still half believe that, but he toned it down some for X-Men and was honestly the best artist shown in this collection. There are a few issues in here pencilled by Igor Kordey, and they offended my sensibilities greatly. I found myself begging for more Quitely.
I originally read this because I was putting together a syllabus on graphic novels as literature, and wanted something recent to contrast the old Dark Phoenix Saga. Pssht. Morrison suckered me in by the third page, and I was all dweeb from there on. The only reason I don't give this hotness five stars is that someone let Kordey pencil three issues with his left hand. Volume 2, here I come....more
For the tens of people out there who actually have to teach reading and writing, I've decided to start reviewing the heap of atrocious textbooks I'veFor the tens of people out there who actually have to teach reading and writing, I've decided to start reviewing the heap of atrocious textbooks I've had to slog through while building my syllabi.
This book is brilliant. I feel like a better writer for having read it. I wish it had been required when I was taking first-year comp. It fucks the old-school conservativism of Strunk-n-White right in the ear. Williams sidesteps the paralyzing imperatives for pre- and mid-writing processes and skips right to rewriting, walking through the revision process on a sentence level. And not once does he say "you must" or "you must never" (two phrases that freeze freshman brains quicker than "pop quiz"). Instead, he basically says readers are monkeys who need help understanding. And here's how you lead those monkeys by the hand. Subtle change in focus, huge change in distribution of power.
Less one star for the omnipresent linguistic terms that even I didn't remember. I'm not quite sure it was absolutely necessary to refer so often to nominalizations and resumptive modifiers. Probably not so good for an ESL class. Or maybe even better. I'd never have known what the crunk a resumptive modifier was if I hadn't taken a foreign language....more
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.
BThis 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....more
It was a decently told story, with small shining moments. I don't feel it was worth all the hype, though, and I wonder if it would have been such a suIt was a decently told story, with small shining moments. I don't feel it was worth all the hype, though, and I wonder if it would have been such a success if this weren't the perfect time to tap into liberal, anti-war, pro-vaguely-Middle-Eastern sympathies throughout the West.
In the end, I think the marketing was better than the story-telling....more
Per my review of the Volume 1 trade paperback, this volume had to make up for a couple glaring sins. As in, I wanted real characters with moderately nPer my review of the Volume 1 trade paperback, this volume had to make up for a couple glaring sins. As in, I wanted real characters with moderately nuanced plotlines. Volume 2 delivers. Not in spades, and not even graciously, but delivers nonetheless. Mostly because Warren Ellis didn't write the second storyline collected here. That didactic bastard was replaced with another didactic bastard who delights in writing commentary on Marvel Comics characters. Which feels like the autoerotic navel-gazing of literary theorists discussing other literary theorists, but it works for a time.
Unfortunately, the second storyline also replaces the original penciler with Frank Quitely, who can draw no other face but Richard Nixon's.
Since the stories in the first volume destroyed all sense of scale (what can you do next when you've already saved China from being turned into an alien rape camp?), Ellis was left with no choice in his next story but to kill God. And not even in an interesting Nietzschean way. He just needed a sentient geometrical shape to blow the shit out of. I cannot fully express my disdain for Warren Ellis. He never grew out of D&D. (No way, man! My chicken-headed demon has the Seven Rings of Ventuzla! The only way you could top that is to summon a Krambonian army of lava-god lizard-spitters. Which you can't do. Bitch.)
I hope he chokes on his own faux profundity.
With Millar writing "The Nativity," the prospects look a bit brighter. There are a few moments of heartbreaking tenderness here which, though they enter clumsily and exit like a colon blow, are quite lovely for the three panels they last. And Millar at least has a sense of what's actually evocative to readers older than thirteen. I'm sorry, the potential alien rape of an entire country's worth of cartoon characters doesn't make me turn pages like a drooling maniac. (I also never owned Magick: The Gathering cards.) But the rape of Apollo, my homo hero, by a Captain Amerika look-alike? And three tender panels of his lover's reaction? Thank you for the real writing.
It's worth the purchase for "The Nativity." I apologize beforehand that you'll have to slog through Ellis' vomitus. ...more
Pulp is a guilty pleasure I so rarely indulge. Neuromancer is good, if formulaic, pulp with a healthy dose of hackers and malleable bodies. The sort oPulp is a guilty pleasure I so rarely indulge. Neuromancer is good, if formulaic, pulp with a healthy dose of hackers and malleable bodies. The sort of prescient shit you'd expect from Jules Verne. This is where your cutesy "Information Age" landed you....more
The most interesting part of this book was the introduction. Sad, but true.
Four stars for presentation. The prose is nearly invisible, which I supposeThe most interesting part of this book was the introduction. Sad, but true.
Four stars for presentation. The prose is nearly invisible, which I suppose in this genre is preferable to the alternative. And the content is mildly interesting, in a "Huh. Wouldja look at that" sort of way, as though you saw a duck waddling through your back yard with jam on its head.
But insofar as it's meant to be the vehicle for a larger framework for viewing the world, this book is old news. You mean shit's connected in weird, roundabout ways? Get out. Conventional wisdom is often wrong? Superficial analyses are lazy and innacurate? My head...is spinning.
I'm willing to forgive quite a bit in a first trade paperback, just because of the necessary set-up drudgery and the way most writers seem to need anI'm willing to forgive quite a bit in a first trade paperback, just because of the necessary set-up drudgery and the way most writers seem to need an issue or eight before they feel comfortable with their characters. The Authority has the added advantages of a manic colorist (I think this title would be sweeet on acid) and two queer characters who aren't (gasp) villians beaten to bloody pulps and pissed on every third issue by a hairy-chested blonde wearing an Amerikan flag. And I'll admit -- seeing a queer relationship treated (when it's treated at all) as a resounding non-issue is enough for me to put Volume 2 on my wish list. But there are a couple major problems I'll expect to see addressed before I bother with Volume 3.
First, and most importantly, I want someone to follow through on Grant Morrison's promise in the foreword that "The Authority has endowed the tired superhero archetypes with vigorous new meaning." Cuz it seems like the same tired shit to me, only minus the patriotic oo-rah. An evil man tries to take over the world, with no motive beyond the absolute joy he takes in being evil. He has a sight-n-sound spectacular. It is countered by an even greater sight-n-sound spectacular, akin to the 300-mile thick wall of solid Green Lantern will-power. (Dude, no shit? Maaan.) An occasional graphically violent panel is evidently meant to convince the reader that this is "adult" and thus not, as she may have previously been thinking, utterly sophomoric. And it isn't until the second storyline, in which an evil alien wants to perpetuate his bloodline (slightly more plausible motive) by turning China into a "rape camp" (*sigh*...so close), that we finally start to get something resembling characters, let alone brand spankin new meaning. So step it up, boys.
Also, soliloquies in the midst of dodging an un-dodgeable city block thrown directly at your head -- that pisses me off. Just so we're clear. Maybe if the writer would spend less time trying to explain how, exactly, an army of 200 cloned super-thingies appeared in the middle of L.A. (or even wrote a story without an army of 200 cloned super-thingies), he'd have more room in the issue for the characters to deliver their soliloquies while sitting on a couch. Why does "action" always have to involve big walls of solid will-power that save China from being a rape camp? Doesn't anyone read Henry James anymore?
China is always already a rape camp in his novels....more