I finished this book a few days ago and have been putting off writing my review because I have no idea how to even begin to reign in the countless difI finished this book a few days ago and have been putting off writing my review because I have no idea how to even begin to reign in the countless different and often contradictory thoughts and feelings I have after reading this. The one thing that I know for sure is that David Foster Wallace is simply brilliant. Actually not simply brilliant, he’s brilliant in an amazingly complex way. Who else can use words like pseudometabelletristic, oneirically, nystagmic, aquilinity, and dithyrambicizes? Words that even my spell-check doesn’t know. Wallace’s style is difficult to read, with sentences that go on for pages, footnotes that go on and on, sometimes with footnotes to the footnotes, but the difficulty and struggle of reading it is what makes it so wonderful. It’s a struggle and a journey and I emerged feeling stronger and like a better person. Don’t get me wrong, though. There were several times I wanted to throw this book across the room and never pick it back up again. Sometimes I felt like Wallace was just using big words and making different stylistic choices for the sole purpose of being different. If I had to read another footnote of the self-aware ramblings of the short comings of an overly analytical character, I may have thrown in the towel. But I didn’t; there was something about the stories and Wallace’s style that made me want to keep going. Or maybe I’m just stubborn. But either way, I’m glad I struggled through this book. After reading these stories, I often felt both heavy and exhausted. Heavy from the weight of the sadness and painfully analytical nature of the characters, and exhausted from the struggle of trying to understand the writing, but this heaviness and exhaustion was exhilarating and empowering in a way I can’t really explain.
Oddly enough, I think my favorite story, “Octet” was one of the ones that was the most frustrating to read. It was a story of a few short stories that eventually evolved into the author discussing his writing process, describing what we was trying to portray and how he knew it was going to come out sounding another way, but even if he changed it, again he would still sound pretentious and deliberately post-modern. He even states in one of the footnotes, “Yes: you are going to sound pious and melodramatic. Suck it up.” He’s aware of the way he may come across, but this story made me realize the process and struggles of writing and trying to express big ideas in a way that is both creative yet accessible to readers. It made me less annoyed with Wallace and appreciate him a lot more.
A few reviews that express my feelings more eloquently and concisely than I was able to do:
“You feel challenged and entertained and somewhat intellectually violated, but you know you like it, you know Wallace is brilliant, and you ask yourself days later what other writer makes you so frustrated in such a wonderfully weird way.” (From the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)
“You know the old story about how if you set a billion monkeys to work on a billion typewriters, one of them would eventually compose the complete works of Shakespeare? David Foster Wallace often writes the way I imagine that billionth monkey would: in mad cadenzas of simian gibberish that break suddenly into glorious soliloquies, then plunge again into nonsense.” (New York Times)
And a quote from Wallace himself about his writing: “Serious art, which is not primarily about getting money out of you, is more apt to make you uncomfortable, or to force you to work hard to access its pleasures, the same way that in real like true pleasure is usually a by-product of hard work and discomfort.”
I’m giving this book five stars, because of the beauty that came through the struggle. I’m hesitant to suggest it because it was so frustrating and so many of the stories were slightly unsettling. But at the same time I’d still recommend it, because it’s unique, it made me think and feel more deeply than anything I’ve read in a while in a way I still can’t put into words. I feel like other things I read, while may be (significantly) more enjoyable, will feel somewhat empty or maybe too easy after reading Wallace.
Although I still could go on, I will stop here because I’m sure that’s more than anyone wanted to read about this book. ...more
I couldn't decide at all how many stars to give this book, so I settled on the middle-ish of the road 3 star rating. After the first few chapters it wI couldn't decide at all how many stars to give this book, so I settled on the middle-ish of the road 3 star rating. After the first few chapters it would have been a four, or maybe even five star book. This book has such an interesting premise. It is about a poem, that when read to a person can kill him or her and the quest of the main characters to destroy this poem. I loved the part of the book where the main character imagined what would happen if this poem was released: people would be afraid to read/learn anything new. There would be a constant fear of silence, lest you accidentally hear the poem - all very interesting. So it was a good premise, but I just felt like the book got stranger and stranger as it went on, sometimes in a good way, sometimes just in a strange way. However, everything did fall back into place in the end, and I did enjoy it quite a bit. Although I do wish I had read it with someone else because I feel like there was a lot of deeper meaning in this book that I didn't quite grasp, but would have gotten had I had someone to talk to about the book as I was reading it....more
I enjoyed most of this book. When I read the first ten pages or so, I was blown away by the writing style and how poetic it was. This book is the famiI enjoyed most of this book. When I read the first ten pages or so, I was blown away by the writing style and how poetic it was. This book is the family saga of a southern family told from the point of view of the middle aged Tom Wingo as he is talking to his sister's psychologist, Dr. Lowenstein. I really liked the family story, but really disliked the parts about middle aged Tom and the psychologist. Tom's character didn't seem to make much sense. He would fly into a rage at Lowenstein and then all of the sudden everything would be okay. I just didn't understand his character. Some of the relationships were just weird in this book, but maybe it's just supposed to reflect life. Sometimes people are cruel for reasons you don't understand, you forgive them sometimes, hate them sometimes, but under all of that there's still the love of a family that just isn't logical, but it's real. People are contradictory and illogical, but it's because they're human. Maybe that's what this book was trying to say....or maybe it was just poor character development. But even with the problems I had with some of the characterization, this was still an excellent book: a great story with beautiful writing....more
I really enjoyed this book. The writing style was interesting and beautiful. I love books that tell stories through generations and involve other cultI really enjoyed this book. The writing style was interesting and beautiful. I love books that tell stories through generations and involve other cultures, like the Greek culture in this book. It was also a fascinating look into gender and society. I'd highly recommend it....more
I picked up this book solely because I liked the cover, which makes sense because it was written by an artist (unfortunately goodreads doesn't have thI picked up this book solely because I liked the cover, which makes sense because it was written by an artist (unfortunately goodreads doesn't have the cover of this book that I read).
I can't decide at all what I thought of it. It was the story of an art major's first year at college. Some parts I loved and some parts I hated. I really liked the projects that the graphic design professor had the students do and seeing what they all came up with. Quite clever. However, I agree with other reviews of this book, the last 50 pages or so were just crazy and didn't fit at all with the rest of the book. I felt like I was just starting to get to know the characters and become involved in the story when all of the sudden everything went completely crazy. I felt like it was a dream or something. I was also weirded out that this was supposed to take place in the 50s. Nothing about it seemed like the 50s to me at all.
Christina - I really think you should read this book. It made me think of you a lot. I think you would get a lot more of it than I did, being an art major and all and I think you would appreciate the graphic design class...until everything goes crazy and falls apart at the end, of course. And it's a quick read, I read it in two days, so you can probably read it in an hour. :)...more
This book tells the story of Jozef Pronek, a man originally from Bosnia. It was told from the perspective of various narrators describing their interaThis book tells the story of Jozef Pronek, a man originally from Bosnia. It was told from the perspective of various narrators describing their interactions with Jozef. However, each time the perspective shifted, I just got confused and was trying to figure out who was talking and how (if it all) they related to the previous narrator. I just ended up getting very confused. I felt like I never got to know any of the characters and everything felt disjointed. It started off okay and then just went downhill and I have absolutely no idea what the last chapter was about. It seemed like it was accidentally included from another, completely unrelated book. This book has gotten good reviews, so maybe I'm just not smart enough to understand it, but I really did not enjoy it at all. ...more
This book tells the story of the relationship between a boy and his father. The father is from Tunisia and married a Swedish woman and his son was borThis book tells the story of the relationship between a boy and his father. The father is from Tunisia and married a Swedish woman and his son was born and raised in Sweden. The book is written mostly as a series of letters between the son, Jonas, and his father's best friend in Tunisia, Kadir. There's so much I want to say about this book and so much I loved about it. I loved the characters and especially the voice of the characters. This book was originally in Swedish and Kadir's character writes to Jonas with a somewhat broken, at times hilarious grasp of the language. It amazes me how this tone was captured when the book was translated to English. Especially since a major theme of the book was language and how your language shapes your identity. I've spent a long time (unfortunately without much luck) looking for interviews with the author or translator of this book, because I just want to know more about the process of translating it and how much of the story had to be changed to have it make sense in English. This book also seemed semi-autobiographical and I want to read more about the author to see how much is true.
The plot was also intriguing. I always love stories about the immigrant experience and reading about immigrants in Sweden was a new and quite depressing experience.
I would highly recommend this book to everyone. It would also make a great book club book, as there is so much about it that would make for great discussion. ...more