Woo-hoo! It only took me about three years to get around to finishing it! There are a lot of smart things that can and should be said about Ulysses thWoo-hoo! It only took me about three years to get around to finishing it! There are a lot of smart things that can and should be said about Ulysses that I'm just too beat to think about now. But what the disgruntled readers on this site should bear in mind is that the rewards of reading are many and various. An easy read that enables you to relate to characters and effortlessly access information may not be, nor should it always be, either the writer's intention or a commendable desire on the reader's part. Novels have no obligation to do any one thing to satisfy reader expectation; one of the brilliant things about Ulysses is that it does so many things to satisfy readers and to baffle readers, sometimes at the same time. I do not like everything in Ulysses, but liking is only one reaction, and a rather limited one at that. A sensible reader who bothers to spend a largish portion of his or her reading time in attempting this novel owes it to him or herself to put in at least a fraction of the effort that Joyce expended in writing it....more
I'm moving this off the "currently reading" shelf, because, while I've read big chunks of it and will consult it in the future, reading 600 pages of r
I'm moving this off the "currently reading" shelf, because, while I've read big chunks of it and will consult it in the future, reading 600 pages of recipes is tough going. Hartley wrote wonderful stuff about the agriculture, husbandry, cooking, homemaking, and eating of England from the Neolithic Age onwards, concentrating mostly on medieval and early modern food practices that continued and/or were adapted, mostly in country foodways, through the 19th and 20th centuries.
The book suggests a much more varied, rich, and bizarre English cuisine than the stereotype allows, listing native plants and garden plants that were once widely consumed but now are forgotten (e.g., few people make sea holly toffee anymore, or gather cowslips or English laver or maidenhair ferns and know how they were combined with dozens of other herbs and flavorings); describing fuels, hearths/ovens, and other kitchen technologies, not to mention food sources, that were altered or lost in the Industrial Revolution and in times of war (how much of English cooking survived WWII and rationing?); and, most of all, stressing a regional view of English food: peat fires v. coal, different pasture for different breeds of cow, cultivated fruits v. wild, and the type and quality of flour grown in a region all change the cuisine ("We expect the last dish of sucking pig will be served in Gloucestershire"). So if you're into Slow Food, food history, or just English plain cookery, you'll find a lot of great stuff here and might get some questions answered. (Since I was 10 and read Jane Eyre, I've been trying to picture the "sago" Grace Poole ate for supper in the attic. What the hell was it? Now I have 3 recipes.) One complaint: the lack of footnotes and sources.
Hartley's tone is generally calm and didactic; she waxes enthusiastic over certain flavors, and is strict about good and bad food preparation. But once in a while she really lets go; under the heading "Hedgehog," she gets so emotional she has to put a sentence in all-italics: "[H:]edgehogs are completely harmless, and do an enormous amount of good in the fields and gardens by devouring snails and slugs. They become very tame, especially in dry weather, when they are glad of water. They are very fond of bread and milk, which trait has caused them to be accused of stealing it from cows--a complete fallacy. They also eat fallen fruit in the orchard, and are credited with rolling in it in order to carry it off on their backs. Thousands of these harmless little Furze-pigs are run over by motorists on the roadways at night; they do not bolt when frightened, but roll up, lie still, and are crushed to death. No one should harm a hedgehog."
AN UNHARTLEYLIKE RANT ON BEHALF OF PLUM PUDDING AND FRUITCAKE: On a not entirely related note, I'd just like to say that I love plum pudding and fruitcake, and I'm tired of people's complaints about them. First, everybody hates plum pudding and fruitcake, so what kind of cachet do you think you earn for hating them? Oh, so you wear shoes and know who the president of the U.S. is too? Bully for you. Second, PP and FC fit into the category of foods that sophisticated eating adults should test out and reassess from time to time, like oysters, blue cheese, and foie gras: decadent, intense, and grown up (in PP's case, slightly bitter, alcoholic, and fatty). Third, so you had a bad fruitcake experience once: get over it; most of you have eaten crap hamburgers at least once in your lives, and that doesn't mean you've given up on beef and stopped driving up my heating bill with your industrial-food-complex-petroleum-dependency. Fourth, most of you out there eat crap, and you don't know good sushi from bad, or fresh corn from two days old, or the difference between a saute and a stir-fry, so who cares what you think, anyway?
***Mild spoiler here, but folks, the plot revelations are not the point.****
Read it in June 2007 but just reread it to get ready for the movie. This t***Mild spoiler here, but folks, the plot revelations are not the point.****
Read it in June 2007 but just reread it to get ready for the movie. This time around I have to upgrade it from four to five stars. It's important to get past the suspense thing (and the predictable Ishiguro tics: the uncomfortable laugh, the refusal to say any of the things that one might expect a normal person to say in order to keep the plot advancing in the direction he wants, the flashbacks upon flashbacks) and think instead about all the questions he raises about opportunity, illusion, self-delusion, individuality, visibility, belonging, and choice, and how the presence or lack of all those things shapes a life. It's sinister and sad and a work of brilliance. If you're not devastated by it, it's probably because you've completed your fourth donation....more
I read this about a year ago and didn't really care for it; its similarities to "How to Cook a Wolf" were obvious. But in Berkeley I picked up a copy,I read this about a year ago and didn't really care for it; its similarities to "How to Cook a Wolf" were obvious. But in Berkeley I picked up a copy, reread it, and really enjoyed it; I think that my hiatus from all things Fisher enabled me to reread it for its own merits. Many of the sections were similar to "Wolf," but with new recipes, and written with the experience and tastes developed in the 15-odd years intervening between the two books. So while I wouldn't read the two back-to-back, I would now be happy to pick this up for dinnertime reading the way I do "Wolf."...more
Karl's teaching it this fall, so I thought I'd reread it. It's a hard sell: meandering, slow to develop plot, unquestioning of class boundaries, and fKarl's teaching it this fall, so I thought I'd reread it. It's a hard sell: meandering, slow to develop plot, unquestioning of class boundaries, and featuring the Austen heroine who's most resistant to sympathy. But these are all reasons to like it. It's a mature, intelligent, sly book that subverts reader expectations of how to construe success and happiness. I think I had to age somewhat, and finally read all of Austen's other novels, to appreciate this one fully....more
I've reread this every two years since I was 12 (I still have the copy my parents put in my Easter basket that year), and I still consider it an unquaI've reread this every two years since I was 12 (I still have the copy my parents put in my Easter basket that year), and I still consider it an unqualified masterpiece....more
I didn't know a damn thing about Carol Bly before reading this, but now I'm going to have to go and read everything else she's written. These are storI didn't know a damn thing about Carol Bly before reading this, but now I'm going to have to go and read everything else she's written. These are stories the way I want to write them....more
Very dense, demanding, erudite stories or essay poems here by a writer who is, so far as I know, virtually unknown outside MFA programs and suchlike.Very dense, demanding, erudite stories or essay poems here by a writer who is, so far as I know, virtually unknown outside MFA programs and suchlike. One story is a tour-guide musing upon the World Grown Old topos; others feature and combine folks like Gertrude Stein and Robert Walser, and some Greeks and Romans and Victor Hugo for good measure. I thought that it would be my cup of tea, especially when I got to the 2 or 3 paragraphs written in bee language, which were wonderfully inventive and funny. I chortled over it a few times, and appreciated it, and felt very smart for reading it, but ultimately I don't have as much energy right now as the writing deserves; in fact, I never do--there's only so far as I'm willing to challenge myself in my reading. Poets and other people who are willing to work very hard over single sentences will probably enjoy it more; it's definitely a book for writers....more
This was my first time reading Phillips, and I was amazed that nobody had recommended him to me before; I'll be reading the rest of his books in shortThis was my first time reading Phillips, and I was amazed that nobody had recommended him to me before; I'll be reading the rest of his books in short order. Phillips is careful to particularize the experiences of different people/s (both the individual and, more to the point, the group), yet his use of collage reveals surprising affinities between the stories. "Affinities" is the best word I can think of to describe that effect, and these affinities are the reason you should read the book. There is no true link or likeness between the stories of Othello and of Eva, the concentration camp survivor whose story also bears an affinity to the life of Anne Frank, but there are unexpected affinities that result from juxtaposition, word choice, and the other intervening stories. It's a subtle, artful effect. I'd recommend him for fans of Michael Ondaatje and Andrea Barrett....more
Woo-hoo, Brooke owes me a beer (which I'll feed to Karl)!
I don't know if it was because I was tired (I only read it in bed before going to sleep at niWoo-hoo, Brooke owes me a beer (which I'll feed to Karl)!
I don't know if it was because I was tired (I only read it in bed before going to sleep at night), but after 6 months I'd gotten through only the first 100-odd pages. But then it (or I) started flying. The first thing that got me was the cat joke (im in yr cavalcade saturizing yr litrary deloojuns), then the rapidly escalating violence, and by the time Sancho got tossed in a blanket, I was laughing out loud every few pages.
Nothing amuses me more than cat jokes and blanket jokes, but a close second was the self-consciousness in Part 2. It's probably because I rarely read earlier than the 19th century (and me, married to a medievalist! Shame), and seldom read works translated from other languages, but I saw happening a lot of things I'd associated only with 20thC experimental and postmodern fiction: Don Quixote and Sancho discovering that they're characters not only in DQ Part I, but also in a spurious sequel that they diss; meeting rabid fans of the first book who, in order to enjoy the spectacle, design a series of new adventures for Don Quixote--the duke and duchess actually invent the majority of Part 2, and in their excesses become almost as "mad" as Don Quixote; and meeting a character fom the bad, non-Cervantes sequel who declares his shock at meeting OUR Don Quixote and Sancho and discovering that they're far superior to the other ones he knew. Finally, I loved the conclusion, where the fictional author Cide Hamete Benengeli declares that "For me alone was Don Quixote born, and I for him; he knew how to act, and I to write; the two of us alone are one." Now I have a context for Borges' joke about Pierre Menard.
I did find some bits tedious and repetitive. But the pleasures were pretty extreme....more
I'm glad I got past the promotional blurbs, which to me undersell this book. "Funny" and "moving" and "human"? Maynard would have something to say aboI'm glad I got past the promotional blurbs, which to me undersell this book. "Funny" and "moving" and "human"? Maynard would have something to say about that last one (what else could it be? Feline? Avian? Prawn?), and all three are suspect from a critical perspective (moving = "I felt something!" Do reviewers really have no idea how therapied this makes them sound?), not to mention practically equivalent in our debased critical vocabulary (ever since the Holocaust, I suppose, what with the supposed unfunniness and unemotionalness and inhumanity of Nazis and all). "Witty" and "page-turning" don't cut it either, the first a buzzword for the vapid gossip of the Talk of the Town pieces Delson parodies, the other dim praise indeed: good suspense is a wonderful thing, but to praise a book by saying that it actually. Makes. You. Want. To. Read? Well.
With all that said, I did find Maynard and Jennica funny, and moving, and witty, and I turned the pages rather fast, and that is partially because the book permits, and glories in, the kind of suspicion that I indulged myself in above. But what's more important to me is that the book is rich, challenging, and artful. I found myself in the presence of a provocative, curious, passionate, and expansive mind, and THAT is a rare thing. So those of you who are looking to be moved will probably be moved, but those of you who want more out of a book will find that too....more
I'd never heard of Mavis Gallant until the New Yorker reviewed her collected stories, which then turned up on one of the New School's MFA syllabuses.I'd never heard of Mavis Gallant until the New Yorker reviewed her collected stories, which then turned up on one of the New School's MFA syllabuses. But now I'm eager to buy that volume and read everything else she ever wrote. Fans of John Cheever (I am) will love these stories; the similarities are evident on only a brief reading. People who are not Cheever fans may also love them; Gallant wrote wonderful sentences that were striking no less for their syntax than for their wit, malice, and perspicacity. The stories also are drawn from a wider range of characters than Cheever's and conform less to type. In fact, I may decide not to finish Cheever's collected until I've finished all these; I think that Gallant's been cheated of the wide renown that he won....more
The guy at Barnes & Nobles, where I was trading in a complete Shakespeare, which I already had, for this, which I didn't, told me that this was aThe guy at Barnes & Nobles, where I was trading in a complete Shakespeare, which I already had, for this, which I didn't, told me that this was a great book because it shifted some blame for the problems of the poor onto the poor, thus holding them accountable and providing room for personal responsibility. I had already fought with the guy once, which was why I held my tongue this time and didn't mention that he was hardly making a compelling case to me. So for a long time, I didn't actually read it. But now I have, and what the B&N guy said was a gross oversimplification. Rather, what Shipler does is to link the formation and transmission of emotional and psychological problems in individuals to systemic problems, showing how they interplay to form patterns of poverty, i.e., growing up poor puts you at risk to develop problems that will interfere with your ability to be educated, have relationships, deal with authority, and find, much less hold down, a job, which in turn leads to poverty, while being white, coming from an intact family, having good physical health, speaking English, and having role models are all things that can lessen your risk, though even then it's precarious. So it's not about personal responsibility; it's about how the personal and the political intertwine. I already thought these things, so I didn't really have any eureka moment; what makes the book so compelling for me, and better than Nickel & Dimed, for example, is the quality of the writing and the many stories that came out of Shipler's interviews. It's such a good book that I wonder how some asshole like that B&N manager could come away from it with entirely the wrong conclusions....more
Incredibly enjoyable, and upsetting, and worth the two days you'll spend blowing through it, unable to put it down. Mavis Gallant's book is a high 4,Incredibly enjoyable, and upsetting, and worth the two days you'll spend blowing through it, unable to put it down. Mavis Gallant's book is a high 4, and this is a low 4, but this is definitely too good for a three. This is not Barnes' best book, but it's so much better than most other people's books. I applaud him for striking out into this difficult territory with such tremendous insight and goodwill (that sounds like faint praise, doesn't it? But I mean it as the very highest compliment). And Barnes cannot help but write intelligent, entertaining prose; there's something about his books that makes me say, What a good idea! Of course there had to be a book about that! But of course only Barnes writes that book....more