Wow, what a wonderful book! I can't believe I waited so long to read it! In fact, I am annoyed that I did not read this years ago!
More than ten years...moreWow, what a wonderful book! I can't believe I waited so long to read it! In fact, I am annoyed that I did not read this years ago!
More than ten years ago when I first met my best friend, I remember being somewhat surprised when she told me her favorite author was Larry McMurtry and her favorite book, Lonesome Dove. I don't think I questioned her on it exactly, but I remember thinking, "Really? Isn't that a Western?" But I trusted her so I kept it in mind, but was further thrown when I discovered quite how long it is (975 pages!) Nevertheless I picked it up a few years ago at a used bookstore. And I was further surprised and intrigued to see that it won the Pulitzer Prize.
In the 1870s, Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call are former Texas Rangers who live in Lonesome Dove, Texas and run a livery stable. When Jake McCall, a former fellow ranger who is on the run after having accidentally shot and killed the mayor of Fort Smith, Arkansas, turns up in town waxing rhapsodic about Montana, Call decides they're going to start the first ranch in Montana, despite the fact that neither of them are cowboys or ranchers. Gus and Call and the rest of their crew, Deets, Pea Eye, and Newt rustle several thousand cattle from Mexico, Call hires a bunch of local hands and cowboys including Dish, the lead hand, and they set out for Montana. Jake declines to go but ends up kind of tagging along, with the town whore Lorena, until bad things happen. Meanwhile the Fort Smith sheriff is looking for him, the deputy is looking for the sheriff, the sheriff's new wife is looking for her former lover, and eventually everyone converges.
I don't want to tell any more for fear of giving away spoilers, but the book is just fantastic! It's not so much the plot - although that is wonderful with me getting quite worried about a few of them and being rather upset at a few deaths (and not at all upset about a few others.) But the way McMurtry tells the story is so masterful, so evocative, and so melodic. Normally I hate the descriptions lyrical and epic as to me they indicate a lack of plot and a love of too many words. Yet I would say both apply here in a positive way, and McMurtry obviously does have a great love of language which he uses to great effect (especially in the character of the verbose Gus.)
Other authors should not emulate him - no one else could write a nearly 1000 page epic of cowboying without it devolving into a caricature of Western novels, no one could treat Lorena and Clara (Gus's long lost true love) with such care, no one could make me care so much about a bunch of whoring, poor, uneducated cowboys traveling across the country. Some of his techniques, such as his omniscient narration from most all of the characters' point of view, switching frequently and unevenly, are handled so stunningly that after reading this novel, I think no other author should even attempt that as they will always come in a dingy second place, at best, and be proven inept at worst. I was thrilled the book was so long as I never wanted it to end. I loved spending so much time with Gus and Call and the boys.
That said, I have looked into the 3 other books in the series (Lonesome Dove was written first but chronologically is the third) and I think I'm going to pass. The above mentioned friend who recommended Dove is sure she's read them but remembers nothing. Another friend said they're okay - but next to a masterpiece, okay just doesn't cut it. And I want to remember Gus and Call and the boys as they were, with nothing to tarnish my memory. Everyone should read this book. I have no doubt why it won the Pulitzer, and it's the best book I've read in a very long time. (less)
wow, this is a dark book, but great! Labrynthine, a deep character study, with a perfect (but surprising) ending that kept me completely captivated. I...morewow, this is a dark book, but great! Labrynthine, a deep character study, with a perfect (but surprising) ending that kept me completely captivated. It is an academic novel, but that should not imply it's a coming of age story or put it in a humorous category with Straight Man. It's more along the lines of The Basic Eight, or the movie Heathers. Ms. Tartt's narrator, Richard, being an outsider was a brilliant move, and while some of the characters come to life more quickly than others, they all do become fully-rounded individuals that felt like living breathing humans. Having attended a small liberal arts college like Hampdon College(although not quite that tiny, and not as "progressive"), the setting rang true. I see why people say The Secret History should be a modern classic. In the hours since I finished, I cannot stop thinking about it and keep thinking of new levels.(less)
When this book first came out in hardcover, it was recommended to me very strongly by someone whose opinion I trusted. I read the first 20 pages, and...moreWhen this book first came out in hardcover, it was recommended to me very strongly by someone whose opinion I trusted. I read the first 20 pages, and got so depressed I wanted to kill myself! I put it down and swore never to read it. Even when my best friend forced a copy of it on me 10 years ago. But several years ago, I listened to Teacher Man on audio, and it was great. So I thought that might be the solution for me with Angela's Ashes. Teacher Man was so funny - and I could tell that a large part of that was the way Frank McCourt read the book. He has a terrific voice for these, really expressive and emphatic.
I am so glad I finally listened to this! I just downloaded the audio of 'Tis, so finish off the trilogy. Frank's story is very sad, but with the audio version, I could see the humor in his tale. The pathos of growing up terribly, terribly poor mostly in Ireland, would be too much to take without the humor. Frank starts off his story by saying that his parents should have stayed in New York, and not gone back to Ireland, however I think they would have been just as bad off in New York, if not worse because there they wouldn't have had even the meager amount of familial assistance that they got, mostly from Angela's family. I must say I was actually pretty impressed with Frank's father, aside from the drinking. Now, if you take away the drinking here's very little left, but in those times he was great. He was never abusive, always supportive and caring. But in the end, he was the reason for the family's downfall.
But what makes the book is Mr. McCourt's writing. There are thousands of memoirs, but this is the pinnacle of the genre, and it's not because anything particularly unique or interesting happens. It's because Mr. McCourt is a fantastic writer. He really conveys the feeling of living in these hovels in Limerick, but without bogging down the story with a lot of details. At the same time, he has remembered a huge amount of details from when he was a very young child. The story is at times tragic, mostly horrible, and occasionally interspersed with moments of light and hope. I loved it, and listened to it every chance I got. I am really looking forward to 'Tis, even knowing how things work out since I read the last book first! I am so glad I didn't give up on this book, and instead found a way to read it that worked for me. (less)
very slow-going, over-written, under-edited. I guessed the "surprise" ending when I was 2/3 done and decided I just didn't care enough to go on. The m...morevery slow-going, over-written, under-edited. I guessed the "surprise" ending when I was 2/3 done and decided I just didn't care enough to go on. The movie did a good job, but then again, it was much more strongly edited.(less)
I first read this book in 1993 when the movie came out. I absolutely loved it and ran out and bought the book immediately, reading it in a day or two....moreI first read this book in 1993 when the movie came out. I absolutely loved it and ran out and bought the book immediately, reading it in a day or two. I was thrilled when a few months later, the book appeared on the syllabus for my 20th Century American Lit class. I loved it, and read Ms. Tan's next several books (although with decreasing enthusiasm, and haven't read the last couple.) As usual, I was worried about rereading, but I thought it was worthwhile. I'd seen the movie several times since then, including last week, but I remembered the book had nearly twice as many stories as the movie, and I no longer remembered those and wanted to give it another go.
Luckily, it was fantastic. And I strongly recommend a reread with this book. When I first read it, I was 19. With this reread, I am 36. The daughters in the book are also 36. I still identify with them more so than with the mothers (perhaps because I remain not a mother myself) but now I understood them differently. At 19, I aspired to be them. At 36, I AM them. However, I dealt with my own mother-daughter issues a while back, in my late 20s. In that regard, they seemed a little juvenile, even though most of them were married with kids, a divorce, and maybe more. On the other hand, since I know it is a completely different culture, I think it probably makes sense that they've had a bit more trouble cutting the apron strings. Not to mention, all of them staying in their hometown and living near their parents exacerbated the mother-daughter issues.
The different voices (7 in all, 8 if you count Suyuan) were distinct and the stories were illuminating. You really did see, as An-Mei said, the stair steps of the mothers and daughters going up and down, and them learning to use their own voices and tell their stories is the central theme. But it's a resonant story today. I have a friend who needs to learn what she's worth, and to ask for it, who I'm thinking of giving a copy of this book. An odd fact: This book was originally published in 1987. Which means that the daughters aren't really my age, they're just 4 years younger than my mother. Which makes it all the more interesting for me to identify with the daughters, who are baby boomers, and who grew up in a drastically different America than I did, regardless of their culture. It's interesting how siblings almost never came into the story, except for Jing-Mei's found half-sisters, and they mostly are just a story.
I'm thrilled I reread this, and I finished it in just 2 days. It was powerful, evocative, heart-breaking, and in the end hope-giving. (less)
this book broke my heart, and make me furiously angry. A non-fiction account of the beginnings of the AIDS crisis in the U.S. It's horrible to realize...morethis book broke my heart, and make me furiously angry. A non-fiction account of the beginnings of the AIDS crisis in the U.S. It's horrible to realize how easily it could have been stopped if just a couple of events had gone slightly differently, and it's frustrating to see how competition instead of cooperation kept effective drugs (AZT) off the market for several years, causing countless deaths. Infuriating to see Pres. Reagan ignoring reality - he wouldn't even say the word "AIDS" until he was nearly at the end of his presidency. Still powerful more than 10 years after its publication, and even after the crisis has settled to a simmer. Frightening to see how it could all happen again with no warning, and no lessons learned.(less)
A terrificly in-depth look at this sad, small Texas town that lives and dies by high school football. the author really gets the trust of the townfolk...moreA terrificly in-depth look at this sad, small Texas town that lives and dies by high school football. the author really gets the trust of the townfolks, and the team has a great range of characters that really are a microcosm of society. (less)
I really didn't want to read this book as it looked rather woo-woo and Oprah-y, but again my book club pervailed, to my eternal thanks. The middle sec...moreI really didn't want to read this book as it looked rather woo-woo and Oprah-y, but again my book club pervailed, to my eternal thanks. The middle section, India, is a bit hard-going. I think I only got through it due to a) being stuck on a plane without alternate reading material readily handy and b) that Buddhism class I took in college. If you get to that part and get stuck, skip it and go on to Indonesia. India is pretty intense, dry, and doesn't have any action. But overall, this book really gave me a few insights into past relationships, and into a seriously scarring depression that I've seen others go through but haven't myself (knock wood). While I'm not a religious or even "spiritual" personal myself, that's by no means necessary for enjoying this book. Thankfully the author has a great sense of humor, or else I think it would in fact have been too woo-woo as I initially feared. But just when you feel like rolling your eyes because she's gotten all earnest, she makes a sarcastic remark and all is forgiven.(less)
Having lived on $6/hr myself, in low income housing, I don't think Ms. Ehrenreich went far enough in her experiment - she had a decent car and a compu...moreHaving lived on $6/hr myself, in low income housing, I don't think Ms. Ehrenreich went far enough in her experiment - she had a decent car and a computer and health insurance, which most people in this income bracket (including myself at the time) don't, and therefor I felt it was close, but no cigar.(less)
I read this shortly after a good friend's baby died, and it was so moving, touching, and yet she doesn't feel sorry for herself or want anyone's pity,...moreI read this shortly after a good friend's baby died, and it was so moving, touching, and yet she doesn't feel sorry for herself or want anyone's pity, and it helped me to understand a bit more about what my friend was going through. Perhaps a bit raw for someone who's just gone through a terrible loss themselves, but a powerful and heartbreaking story.(less)