N.B.: I did not read this edition. Amos Barton is the first of three tales collected under the title Scenes from Clerical Life. The picture on the cov...moreN.B.: I did not read this edition. Amos Barton is the first of three tales collected under the title Scenes from Clerical Life. The picture on the cover of the Hesperus edition perfectly sums up the atmosphere of this short tale of one man's terrible luck. Any spiritual solace eluded to by the church steeple is swallowed up by the cold, grey sky. Eliot seems to be treading on Hardy's territory: Life is short, it is bleak, and you die. (less)
A really great collection of poetry and essay, crowned with 'The Glass Essay': a meditation on lost love, mortal...more"Some people watch, is all I can say."
A really great collection of poetry and essay, crowned with 'The Glass Essay': a meditation on lost love, mortality, and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, with Charlotte Bronte as guide. I came to this book mostly interested in Carson's poem "The Fall of Rome", but this is a Jamesian excercise in place: more a meditation of the internal feeling of foreign-ness than a meditation on landscape, which I was looking for. (It is not less of a work, though, because it was not what I was looking for. Here, Carson describes so accurately that awkward feeling of encroaching, unwillingly, on the politeness of someone else who has no desire to see you:
"A stranger is someone who stands in the doorway, drenched in confusion,
and permits the dog to escape.
Anna Xenia chases the dog down five flights. She comes back
to find me still in the doorway. It is a difficult moment." ("The Fall of Rome")
A highly recommended collection. All poetry should make you feel this good. (less)
Really didn't live up to the City of the Dead. I can't tell if the writing was too overblown and sentimental, trying too hard, or if the writing is a...moreReally didn't live up to the City of the Dead. I can't tell if the writing was too overblown and sentimental, trying too hard, or if the writing is a mirror of Claire DeWitt, trying too hard to pretend like she's keeping it all together between coke binges and I was just sick of CLaire DeWitt's coke binges.
Full disclosure: I listened to City of the Dead in audiobook form, but e-booked Bohemian Highway and the difference of format may have affected my experience of the two novels. I will probably read the next one in the series. (less)
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.
This is classic Eve Ensler, funny, sad, overbea...moreFull disclosure: I received a free copy of this from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.
This is classic Eve Ensler, funny, sad, overbearing, heartbreaking. Recommended with caveats if you're looking for a good cancer memoir. Here are the caveats: in today's world, where health status is equivocated with moral status, a writer walks a fine line when she goes looking for cause that is moral or spiritual and not biological. Here, I think that Ensler means best, but we live in a society where cancer is still highly stigmatized, where a cancer diagnosis can lead to probing questions, if not outright interrogation by non-medical personnel on your eating habits, whether or not you smoked, were you promiscuous, were you using organic cleaning products, oh it must have been the bug spray. If you'd only eaten kombucha and stayed out of the sun. It must have been the MMR you got when you were two. Ensler does too much speculatin on cause wiht out addressing the fact that biology is so complex, one single cause can rarely be called THE one. And yet people try try try to find in the inflicted's behavior something to blame. It's a protective mechanism, I know, so that they can tell themselves they excecise regularly and don't eat red meat and have never smoked they will not get cancer. I'll get off of my milk crate now. (less)
Patricio Pron writes an excavation of his father's past and in doing so, investigates the difficulty in really knowing one's parents and pays homage t...morePatricio Pron writes an excavation of his father's past and in doing so, investigates the difficulty in really knowing one's parents and pays homage to past generations. A very subtle and engaging work. Highly recommended.(less)
Full disclosure: I received an ARC through the Amazon Vine program. Before that I had marked this one as 'to-read' but the chances of that happening w...moreFull disclosure: I received an ARC through the Amazon Vine program. Before that I had marked this one as 'to-read' but the chances of that happening were minimal, had I not received a free copy.
I thought I was done with memoirs; they had all been following the same dusty and worn path through the same family dysfunctions, the same foreign vistas, the same unhappy marriages. The same redemption through therapy or backpacking or child-rearing or organic farming. It must be difficult writing one's memoirs, I thought. Sorting through all of those memories, digging up all of that pain, only to have some old lady like me, who devours three books a week finish yours feeling bored and listless, because, frankly, lady or dude, you have no problems that aren't mirrored in one of my family members, let alone fifteen other memoirs currently in print and sitting on the front table in Barnes and Noble right now, paperback cover curled up from the bottom, flapping in the breeze as latte-customers exit through the doors. You have taken no drastic steps towards fulfillment that can't be read about somewhere else, that can't be dug up over Manhattans with a co-worker or grandmother or old friend. Not much is new under the sun.
This isn't to say I'd given up hope on memoir in general - I just didn't know how a person could possibly write one of interest, unless they were already well known and/or respected for some other accomplishment. Curing cancer. Being an artist. Writing books that aren't about themselves.
Two books of late have reopened the possibility of memoirs as a genre to me: Sonali Deraniyagala's Wave and She Left Me the Gun. Wave, I've reviewed elsewhere and will only mention here that it turned the disaster survival and grief memoir subgenres on their heads, for the clarity and honesty of the prose and the grace with which it is written in the face of such a terrible life story.
She Left Me the Gun is not so remarkable for it's story, which is given up in the book's blurb. It stands out because it was written like a novel. A young woman's mother dies, leaving her with a crust of a family story and a few addresses and like that young woman is off in search of adventure and her history in a new land, knowing from the crust of what she knows that what she'll find isn't pretty. There isn't the 'ooh - look at me!' flash and bang that other memoirs succumb to when the writing runs out. There is no obnoxious autopsychoanalysis to stretch this book from 125 pages to 300. There is good prose, a solid story peopled with lively characters, and like all good stories about people, some small reflection of your own self in them. Despite what the graphic artist who did the cover and Nora Ephron, who apparently developed the title, would have you know, the gun plays only a small role in the narrative. This is more of a tribute to an indomitable woman, Paula Brocke, by her daughter who wanted to finish that one last conversation with her mum. (less)
Full Disclosure: I received a free galley from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.
I want to mention the positive things about Scatter, A...moreFull Disclosure: I received a free galley from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.
I want to mention the positive things about Scatter, Adapt, and Remember before I get to the problems with it. Here they are:
1. This is an awesome subject, that of future human evolution and radical approaches to sustaining human life on this planet and beyond. I was nominally interested in this type of futurism before reading SAR, but now I'm ready to attack the Canon.
2. Newitz is a great writer: lively and informative.
3. Newitz is also has a very fascinating thesis: humanity survived past catastrophes and will survive future catastrophes by 1) Scattering to distant and more hospitable locales or possibly planets, 2) Adapting to their new environments and 3) Preserving their symbolic culture for future generations.
4. DINOSAURS! PRE=HISTORIC HUMANS! They are covered here
5. For bibliophiles who all of a sudden found themselves VERY interested in mass extinctions and futurism, the notes are a treasure trove of references to books and articles. My to-read list just kept growing and growing.
6. Fascinating discussion of how science fiction might teach us how to survive the apocalypse.
That's done, now here's the bad part. The two-star part:
This book is too damn short.
It's a common complaint I read in reviews on goodreads and amazon: this book could have used a better editor. This book might have been better with out one. You can practically see the red ink on the page here. So much is missing, the culprit completely obvious from the perfectly palatable-to-hoi-polloi 300 pages here. The chapters so formulaic, like a sixth grader's book report. Say what you're going to say. Say it. Say what you said. Book profiles come with lots of statistics: page length, date of publication, weight, dimensions. There should be an additional: Optimal page length. This is an 800 page book squeezed into 300 pages. Entire arguments are gutted to fit each chapter section into a neat three paragraphs, leading the reader to have to make the logical leaps necessary to complete them. A subject as complex as the evolutionary advantage of diaspora is given a single example from human history. The chapter on adaptations covers one that is still in R&D - more of a potential future adaptation. On the whole, the subject matter hinted at in the title gets three sections out of six: You had no idea you were reading a book about space elevators, did you?!
I would gladly have read five hundred more pages of this in exchange for more examples and completed arguments. This really could have been a three book trilogy: 1) How mass exticntions have gone down in the past: 2) Ways organisms have survived them 3) space elevators will solve everything. I anticipate with glee wasting hours on io9.com, based on the strength of Newitz's writing. I will read her next book. I just hope that someone will lay off of the red pen next time. (less)