I really liked the Onetti short (it had something to do with Hell in its title) and enjoyed the opportunity to revisit Julio Cortazar's Blow-Up (whichI really liked the Onetti short (it had something to do with Hell in its title) and enjoyed the opportunity to revisit Julio Cortazar's Blow-Up (which I completely misunderstood as a stripling of 17 -- who knew it was so much more predatory an encounter than first conceived?), but found many of the other translations wooden/clunky/insert critical word of choice here. A shame....more
This book sounds so perfect. And it arrives garlanded in hype from every conceivable corner of the publishing industry. But after the first chapter IThis book sounds so perfect. And it arrives garlanded in hype from every conceivable corner of the publishing industry. But after the first chapter I couldn't bear to go further. The writing reads like it was authored by a twelve year old who has never read even a smidgen of good poetry attempting to pen the Odyssey of our day. And the faux-lyricism is not helped by the solemn, self-serious tone. I don't care how many Invisible Cities references get waved about, I can't go on.
And if I sound slightly irate it's because it sounded so great: dueling magicians! A mysterious circus! Revels and magnificent feats! FLYING ACROBAT KITTENS. (I WANT TO WRITE THIS NOVEL)
"[The Night Circus is]...quite reasonably good, but falling under the same rubric as what William Empson diagnoses as "the badness of much nineteenth-century poetry," explained by him as being "written by critically sensitive people [who] admired the poetry of previous generations, very rightly, for the taste it left in the head, and, failing to realise that the process of putting such a taste into a reader's head involves a great deal of work which does not feel like a taste in the head while it is being done, attempting, therefore, to conceive a taste in the head and put it straight on to their paper, they produced tastes in the head which were in fact blurred, complacent, and unpleasing. ... and in fact this is, curiously, what Morgenstern's novel is about/thematizes, as her circus is even more clearly than her novel trying to 'put the taste into a reader's head' without grounding it effectively in technique." (William Empson via Davidson's blog) <--I agree with this comment.
A relevant review from someone who actually got through the whole thing, and whose opinion I trust:
Liked the beginning, but was expecting more psychological complexity than the first half of the book delivers. Curiously, this book doesn't have the "Liked the beginning, but was expecting more psychological complexity than the first half of the book delivers. Curiously, this book doesn't have the "literary" grain that I was expecting -- the characters are deftly, even vividly, sketched, but halfway into the book I'm still not feeling like I know their flaws, their motives, their innermost desires. People promised a lyrical writing style, but I find Ryan's narration to be pretty workmanlike/ordinary. And while there are great, spot-on pronouncements on what it means to Live In The World Today --
"We think about mortality so little, these days, except to flail hysterically at it with trendy forms of exercise and high-fiber cereals and nicotine patches. I thought of the stern Victorian determination to keep death in mind, the uncompromising tombstones: Remember, pilgrim, as you pass by, As you are now so once was I; As I am now so will you be.…Now death is un-cool, old-fashioned. To my mind the defining characteristic of our era is spin, everything tailored to vanishing point by market research, brands and bands manufactured to precise specifications; we are so used to things transmuting into whatever we would like them to be that it comes as a profound outrage to encounter death, stubbornly unspinnable, only and immutably itself."
-- I still don't think that French is able to get it all across (it being the "life effect", or some equivalent). It all feels too artificially colored; many of the characters come off as type-cast. Richard Price's Lush Life is the relevant comparison here, I think -- Price really gets at the grittiness of the Lower East Side, the failures that stifle his characters, the systematic injustice of the capitalist system, the grief of survivors. I feel like David Simon's Homicide does it better too. It being the nebulous "convincingly portrays the psychological aspects of criminal investigations" thingymajig....more
Mary Stewart comes highly recommended by Nancy Pearl and Jenny Davidson, which is why I gave this book a chance. Well. That's a misrepresentation. I aMary Stewart comes highly recommended by Nancy Pearl and Jenny Davidson, which is why I gave this book a chance. Well. That's a misrepresentation. I also wanted to read this "classic of romantic suspense" because I am trying to write romantic boddiceripper longfic and it is going terribly/badly/like a six car collision on an arterial highway in traffic-packed downtown Los Angeles, with, like flames gouting out of gutted semis and scorched rubber tires rolling jauntily past the windows of horrified motorists. However I gave up on Nine Coaches Waiting about forty pages in, not because the prose is clunky and uninspired (which it is), not because the innocent-young-governess in a mysterious-haunted-estate is such an overdone scenario (and it is), but because at that point in the book the reader is introduced to the INCREDIBLY GOOD LOOKING STUD WHOSE FORCE OF PERSONALITY IS A TEMPEST BLOWING THE DOORS OFF THE HINGES OF HER FEMININE RESTRAINT AND PROPRIETY, and who is also, by the way, a cripple confined to a wheelchair.
No. MASSIVE FUCKING LOLS, but also, just no.
Also sadly lacking in the readerly "aha!" department, cf. Alan Bennett:
"The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours."
A good book pings me with moments like these on every page. Stewart's writing style doesn't manage one in the first twenty....more
This is the second time I've gotten halfway through Midnight's Children and then had to turn it back to the library because I'd already renewed it thrThis is the second time I've gotten halfway through Midnight's Children and then had to turn it back to the library because I'd already renewed it three times over and then left it lying around the house for eons unread. Which is too bad because it looks like it's the second half that's immensely exciting and about psychosis and telepathy and grand plots of intrigue and wonder and greed. ...more
What the fuck? I made it through 150 pages and didn't get much out of it besides fetishistic descriptions of laboratory gadgetry. Plus, random bouts oWhat the fuck? I made it through 150 pages and didn't get much out of it besides fetishistic descriptions of laboratory gadgetry. Plus, random bouts of violence, most of it inflicted on insects, some of it on the characters. This book was emotionally sterile. Antiseptic is another word that comes to mind.
Okay I just stumbled across the perfect way to describe this book, via James Wood: his line about hysterial realism "know[ing] a thousand things but ... not a single human being". ...more