Having seen the industry splash that this book has made, I could not ignore the chance to read the book (from the library) to have an opinion on whethHaving seen the industry splash that this book has made, I could not ignore the chance to read the book (from the library) to have an opinion on whether it should have been published in the first place.
Backstory: Newsweek editor/journalist journeyman is let go from traditional publication (is also mocking writer of Fake Steve Jobs), having covered tech for years thinks he can hack it in a tech startup, is hired and then finds himself a bad "culture fit" as a 50+ gray hair white man from old school publishing, hangs in the job for a paycheck until he is pushed out, and bitterly writes a memoir of his time there, then that startup engages in something illegal enough for the FBI to investigate an attempt to steal the book manuscript ahead of publication, basically writing the ending where the people on the other side of the bad culture fit prove themselves to be the assholes they were made out to be the whole book and the author goes to write full time for Silicon Valley, full circle completed.
Ok, that's the background and foreground (and basically ground) of the story actually. I was drawn in because I know the company at the center of this scandal and this book had real impact: executives were let go and a FBI investigation was launched and most in the industry have had to respond to it. Books are so dangerous again that people are trying to steal peeks at them before they're made public. They are the cause of federal involvement!
So while I love that a book can spark this discussion, it's kinda sad that this is what it takes. Here's a self admitted spiteful bitter cynical writer made to miss his now-dead industry and stay in a job he's never been happy with, blowing up so big that it has to take down so many reputations - author included.
The people in the company are on the whole good people that believe in what they're doing. The fault for the unstable IPO/profit viability comes back to the economy, JOBS Act, and how everything is built and rewarded these days. People respond to incentives as the Freaknomics guys will tel you and the startup industry is no different.
For anyone in the startup world this will hit close to home in either a good or bad way and while it's hard to empathize with an old guy yelling Get Off My Lawn, the writing is self aware enough to be funny and entertaining and the material is ripe for humor. I read quickly and laughed but still thought the book was a dick thing to do for money. ...more
The packaging and endorsements brought me to this book promising more than could ever possibly be delivered, a mix of: Hunter S Thompson + John JeremiThe packaging and endorsements brought me to this book promising more than could ever possibly be delivered, a mix of: Hunter S Thompson + John Jeremiah Sullivan + David F Wallace
And while there are certainly elements of immersive creative nonfiction reporting intermixed with autobiographical self narrative, this collection of personal introspection, essays, and feature writing is uneven: entertainingly funny, sad, honest at one end and dull, unoriginal, uninteresting on the other. Certain stories had me laughing out loud, while others had me flipping ahead to see how much was left before the next one (and could've used the same editorial touch as the better ones).
That said, I'm a new fan of Kent Russell and will follow his writing career earnestly. He has a strong voice, curious family history, and a story to tell - but he needs to find why he's telling it first....more
Cliff|Eden|Miles. Young people in the big city. 1958. NYC: The Village, Midtown, Harlem, Brooklyn. Post-war, entering the sixties, evolving ideas on artCliff|Eden|Miles. Young people in the big city. 1958. NYC: The Village, Midtown, Harlem, Brooklyn. Post-war, entering the sixties, evolving ideas on art/success/career/gender/sex/race/homosexuality.
With the publishing industry as it's central connecting backdrop, the comparison to Mad Men (with its advertising industry) is both incredibly accurate and limiting, as much of the action and drama extends far beyond the office and lunch hour.
So this 500 page book is very readable and compelling - I finished it in less than 3 days, in just a few sittings where I always wanted to keep reading. I can see this being a fantastic beach/vacation read, despite its size, for that reason.
The characters are well developed and flawed, with undeniable empathetic qualities and ambitions, who you can't help but root for even when they're hurting themselves or others. Each is struggling to discover themselves, establish an identity, find their purpose, get money/love/attention/sex/apartments/recognition/friends, and all of those things that make a terrific coming-of-age in the big city story. Make it a period piece (ta-da!) and add the connective backdrop of publishing (a book about books and the people that love them), then this 'cocktail' of a novel had me hooked.
It makes you nostalgic for a time and place that you never knew (old publishing, old NYC), and yet shocked by the difficult-stakes at that time: antisemitism, racism, homophobia, red-fear, sexism, class-ism. Each character has a complicated family dynamic with secrets that spill over into their current live, making this more than about struggling to make it in NYC or publishing, but more about exploring how to live.
The writing is crisp, generally light, and simple but beautiful. The characters are strong and bring you into the story with them. And there's plenty of drama, mystery, love triangles, and more - played up further in how each alternating chapter section is from a different point of view from each character, making it particularly ripe with dramatic irony for an omniscient reader aware of what's going on with each character.
What can I say? This book seemed written with me in mind. If you are of a similar mind, you'll enjoy it as much as I did - I hope.
(*It seems like I'm reading a lot about groups of friends in NYC lately!)...more
I knew going in that this would be a long intense but intimately beneficial read, but it was more of all those things and more. While I believe I wasI knew going in that this would be a long intense but intimately beneficial read, but it was more of all those things and more. While I believe I was certainly more sensitive to things because my wife and I are expecting this fall, I think parents should read this BEFORE they get pregnant.
This is a book about parents, children, and identity as researched and experienced by the author through his own personal history and by integrating himself writhing very specific communities that identity as different, many that today's culture label disabilities: deaf, dwarf, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia; and difficulties: children born of rapes, children that become criminals, transgender, and musical prodigies (that last one just to lighten the really dark mood, showing it's not always ideal on the flip side either).
And when I say deep dives into research and first hand interviews with case studies, I mean deep - it would take me a whole day to get through the introduction about horizontal/vertical identities and the language of disability. So I lived a few weeks in different difficult intense families dealing with the unwanted and unexpected hurdles life have thrown them in a child as well as how it's shaped all their lives.
There's much debate about acceptance/cure, disability/community, intervention/education, and whether you test for the warning signs during a pregnancy and abort or stay the course and prepare. These are heavy subjects that the author approaches very carefully and with empathy, often trying to illuminate both sides with insight and understanding.
You will be a better person for reading this book. I will never so casually overlook another's experience and I will be more sensitive to how I think of and interact with those affected by the 'non typical' parenting experience. In the end, everyone want to love and everyone deserves that love - no one is perfect, we just all have to help each other try. But prepare your soul for a sad but strong read here, as I will not easily forget this book. ...more
I added this to my library queue when David Sedaris so adamantly campaigned for it, as it was on my radar and aligned with my interests: social justicI added this to my library queue when David Sedaris so adamantly campaigned for it, as it was on my radar and aligned with my interests: social justice, true crime, homicide procedural, creative non fiction.
While it delivers on those genres, the resulting mix is at the expense of a cohesive flowing narrative. I appreciated the sociological background on the black-on-black history of homicide, the media spin (or lack thereof), LA gentrification, and the police/government response that has led to today's volatile climate of race relations, prejudice, profiling, and policing. But that contextual lecture is drawn out throughout the book, with snippets of violence and police investigation injected regularly.
That may be one way to get someone to eat their vegetables while they're enjoying the steak, it gives a start/stop feel to the general narrative. I would just be getting into the detective story aspect when it would shift gears into the Broken Windows theory of police objectives and then I'd struggle to remember who each character name was when the homicide narrative came back.
All of that structural criticism aside, this is a well researched and written book that reads like a combination of David Simon's nonfiction opus Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and Richard Wright's fiction thriller Lush Life, which is to say it's LA's version of The Wire. You get your who-dun-it investigative thriller with your social-justice outrage and come away from the read with a lot more understanding and empathy of the "Ghetto" and those who have dedicated their lives to policing it. ...more
I was so enamored (not the right word, but not the wrong one either) with Yanagihara's A Little Life that I read earlier this year, that it was naturaI was so enamored (not the right word, but not the wrong one either) with Yanagihara's A Little Life that I read earlier this year, that it was natural to seek out her previous novel - if just to understand where she came from and if it were as good. While she says she wrote A Little Life over 18 straight months, it took about 18 years for this novel to fully form.
The People in the Trees is a very unique read. It's introduced by a scientist's assistant, who gives a little background and then turns it over to the scientist himself - a thorough account of his life, as a memoir written behind prison bars. That context (does he deserve to be in prison or not?) is compelling, but quickly lost as the writing takes over - less of an autobiographical tone as it is an anthropological study into his own personal history.
The bulk of his story carries that scientific distance, as he is pulled into an unusual scientific expedition and investigation into an unknown island and culture. What he finds is mysterious and strange and documented, then altered, and he's changed as much as the original culture. This story is fascinating, not just in the careful tone of how it's written and presented, but because you have no idea what's coming next - it's like Congo/Jurassic Park/Andromeda Strain but in very capable literary hands.
There are indeed shocking themes that seem to be a mark (crutch?) of Yanagihara as author, that are also carried over into A Little Life. If that personal darkness, abuse of power, a life's story, and self preservation hooks you, there's much to enjoy in both books. But if you're just going to read one, the right one is getting all of the attention: read A Little Life....more
Tim gets it. He has very straightforward actionable advice, without fluff, that touches on the mindset and strategy you need to push a book into a verTim gets it. He has very straightforward actionable advice, without fluff, that touches on the mindset and strategy you need to push a book into a very crowded soft market. Obviously this isn't for everyone (not everyone is promoting a book), but I'm sure you would find it helpful if it were for you....more
A truly fantastic and representative overview of DFW and his lasting legacy for newcomers and long-time fans. The real gem is the previously unpublishA truly fantastic and representative overview of DFW and his lasting legacy for newcomers and long-time fans. The real gem is the previously unpublished short story on depression (written in college; The Planet Trillaphon), which gets top billing and lead placement in the collection. Simply put: it's perhaps the best writing on depression and what it is to be depressed as I've read anywhere (and I'm not exactly a depressive myself).
Then there's selections from all of his published books and some essays, often accompanied by after-thoughts by Wallace scholars/writers/enthusiasts - which add so much to the reading experience and should draw veteran fans to the collection alone.
Finally, his syllabus + classroom materials made me deeply regret having never taken one of his classes (and made me miss college level english courses in general) and had me adding lots to my to-read list on his recommendation/assignment. If I were to teach, anything, I would consult his approach and take as much inspiration from it as possible....more
This book was on my radar for a long time now (lots of lists and awards and familiar author) but I wasn't prepared for such an strong intense pregnancThis book was on my radar for a long time now (lots of lists and awards and familiar author) but I wasn't prepared for such an strong intense pregnancy/gender/family poetic prose memoir like this was - not an essay collection or traditional in any way, it's meandering and conversational and academic then intimately personal and wide ranging in discussions of gender fluidity, trans, art, poetry, love, parents, babies, writing, work, culture, and more.
It's challenging in a good way. You never start out on the same page and the book brings you into her world where she struggles with specific things made to feel Universal like: mothers, getting pregnant, what gender is my partner, sickness, poverty, the female body in transition, civil rights, art culture, etc. You get it. It's all over and awesome.
It contained passages I'd read aloud to my pregnant wife, wondering how she would feel about what pregnancy does to her body and then feel inadequate in how little I could do to help. I would laugh at her attacks against Heteronormative reality and straight marriage and what it is to produce a child today, because they were true no matter how close I am to it.
I laughed, choked up, and wanted to hang out with her, or really wished my daughter would be able to. It's a book of art as words and approached that way, you'll enjoy it like I did....more
I really enjoyed this short book, essentially a collection of stories told expertly and simply by a very calm and wise psychoanalyst of his experienceI really enjoyed this short book, essentially a collection of stories told expertly and simply by a very calm and wise psychoanalyst of his experiences with a dozen or so patients he has sat with and talked to over his decades in the profession.
His conclusions, based on the reported behavior and breakthroughs of his patients are clear and profound and unlike any psychology reporting I've read. They read like poetic short fables, almost. They allow you to see your thoughts and actions in the lives and words of others, then take the author's objective professional insight and option to heart.
I kind of loved it, a very different type of advice book. Little things, like "there is no closure in grief" or "the bigger the front, the bigger the back" as applied to splitting the feelings in ourselves into those we're ignorant of because we're unable to tolerate them, are told through these anecdotal stories and characters. And that's how anyone is more easily able to identify and understand these emotional personal issues in others that we all deal with as humans, messy in our own heads, eager for someone else to clean up and make sense of for us. ...more
This book felt like a wholly original idea to me; a former addict turned pastor shipping off to a new planet to preach to its natives. The story is liThis book felt like a wholly original idea to me; a former addict turned pastor shipping off to a new planet to preach to its natives. The story is lived through his experience, adjusting to the new environment and reading email like communications with his wife left on Earth. Despite the sci-fi strangeness, it's familiar in feeling and seems really on point with the religious evangelism, strain of a marriage stressed, and discovering a new world adventure.
But I never really got to care for the characters or feel invested in his mission, and while there were entertaining surprises throughout I felt kept at a distance. Faber is a really strong writer with a fantastic imagination, who I'd like to read more of... Yet this novel didn't compel me along the way....more
A well written memoir of growing up in the 1940s in Park Slope Brooklyn, as the son of immigrant parents working and drinking during WWII, falling inA well written memoir of growing up in the 1940s in Park Slope Brooklyn, as the son of immigrant parents working and drinking during WWII, falling in love with comics, girls, fitting in, fighting, drinking, learning, art, sex, drinking, traveling, writing, working, and finding himself.
Hamill does an excellent job setting the scenes, bringing us into his world, but keeping us at an objective distance to see what he cannot when he's in too deep in his relationships, career, art, family, gangs, and drink. While booze is a connective thread throughout his life, traced back to his father's social traditions, it's never the overwhelming driving focus of the book - but more the Gonzo style of falling into a writer's profession obsessed with art and himself.
I really enjoyed his free wheeling getting lucky with hard work and soft women coming of age story, as well has his eventual self awareness and ability to move on from his drinking life in a way he can look back at it all now: a snapshot of an old New York and new world postmodern American Dream story....more
If you know HST and wonder what was missing from the dozen or so biographies and published stories and accounts, once you read this firsthand memoir fIf you know HST and wonder what was missing from the dozen or so biographies and published stories and accounts, once you read this firsthand memoir from his son you'll realize his was the voice that was missing from the picture.
If you don't know HST but you know difficult narcissistic abusive alcoholic chemically dependent artist parents, famous or otherwise, then this is a beautiful story of trying to live under the shadow of one. Juan tries to balance the private distanced troubled father he had against the famous game changing highly praised writer the world thought he had. And he does so spectacularly, laying out their ever changing relationship with its up and downs and scares and successes.
This is a story of fathers and sons (and grandsons) as much as it is deep background on a well known personality and enjoyable on every level. As a HST fan I loved it just as a man with a father I loved it.
Glad Juan can write well and share his experience with so many of us fans that didn't know we were missing it. ...more
You know how someone might say "this is a really sad book" and you think ok so maybe it's 20% sad that would be a really sad book. So it's hard to knoYou know how someone might say "this is a really sad book" and you think ok so maybe it's 20% sad that would be a really sad book. So it's hard to know what to say when this book is 80% sad like heartbreakingly bitterly super sad. People aren't joking when they talk about crying in public reading this. That's real.
That said, I've never felt like I knew fictional characters as well as I got to know these here. They are so fully developed and real and have private and public sides and think of how they're being perceived and seen and what others are thinking about them and damnit they are more real than real people that I know not nearly as well as these characters.
At the core ALL is about friendship - the one relationship you opt into in life without it being based on money or relation or sex or power. This is true friendship, sharing yourself completely when you're poor or rich or sad or happy.
The characters are all of those things and as they start to share themselves first with the reader, you bond with Jude over the dramatic irony known to you but unknown to his friends in the book affected by his secrets and behavior. It hurts because you know and you know you can do nothing but read on to see if anyone else can intervene and help.
I don't know, this book is so painful and real and at times both completely representative of a New York City that I know and then one that I'll never know, that I have a hard time recommending it, wishing it on another person. But it's a valuable reading experience should you chose to undertake it - I've never felt such intimate storytelling firsthand. Cringe, cry, and appreciate your friends.
- Do I recommend this book? Wholeheartedly. Do I recommend you read it? No.
This was on my radar for being on of the top ten NYT picks of 2015. I had known of the Norway terrorist (I'll call AB) and that he murdered 78 defenseThis was on my radar for being on of the top ten NYT picks of 2015. I had known of the Norway terrorist (I'll call AB) and that he murdered 78 defenseless children, but not why or how. This well researched book tries to answer those questions, but the overly detailed character history of AB and the long dissections into his manifesto, mindset, and socio/cultural/political context of anti-Muslim/pro-nationalistic ideology as it drove AB to dedicate his life to his terrorist plot was too much for me.
The book is never better than when it takes you through the step by step death by death calm rampage of that fateful summer day in Norway. You feel the tension, the pain, the helplessness, and anguish of all affected. It's compelling. The government systems failed it's people. The terrorist was successful. The resulting courtroom drama is interesting.
But the slow dull background build up never feels worth it and still doesn't clarify his motives enough for me. Maybe it just treats AB too fairly for me to be comfortable with, but it didn't deliver a complete book experience for me. ...more