I added this book to my 'read before goodreads but awesome' shelf and then David Foster Wallace died 3 days later. I bought Infinite Jest in 1996 becaI added this book to my 'read before goodreads but awesome' shelf and then David Foster Wallace died 3 days later. I bought Infinite Jest in 1996 because I liked the cover and it was one of the longest books I had ever seen. I loved it and understood approximately 12.5% of it. The writing I did for my concentration in the Paracollege contained way too many footnotes, in homage to DFW. I checked the "W" section at the bookstore every time I went in, on the off chance that he had published something new that I hadn't heard about yet.
I highly prefer Wallace's essay collections (this title and "Consider the Lobster") to his fiction. Maybe they're easier for me to understand in that they seem a little more tethered to reality than his fiction does. I may not be smart enough to digest that type of post-modern, self-conscious meta-fiction. Those 3 terms might all be synonyms, and I might not be smart enough to realize it. But that's part of the fun of Wallace's works. They get better, more and less understandable upon each reading.
I probably reread the title essay from this collection (and then reread the whole book) at least once per year. At some point, it got lost/lent to someone mysterious and I had to replace it immediately...I think I even ponied up for 2-day shipping on Amazon, and I am all about their free shipping. It's that good. Wallace has a way of skewering, delighting in and sympathizing with whatever he's experiencing, be it cruise ships, the Illinois State Fair, John McCain, 9/11 or the Adult Video Awards.
I'm really mad at David Foster Wallace. Part of the enjoyment of reading his works was that it felt like having a conversation with someone much more informed and well-read than you, but someone who was completely willing to explain it and let you in on the joke. His prose was current, contemporary, ahead-of-the-curve and very alive. I was always acutely aware while reading Wallace that he was somewhere out there, maybe working on the next thing that I would love. Reading him after his death is going to be a very different experience, and a very sad one. But I will read him again...probably starting with this volume and working my way back up to Infinite Jest....more
Look, most of you on my Goodreads friends list are not going to like this collection. I do not recommend it for you. You will probably leave it unfiniLook, most of you on my Goodreads friends list are not going to like this collection. I do not recommend it for you. You will probably leave it unfinished, annoyed that you spent the money on it, and slightly cynical about any of my future book recommendations. Do not read this book. Unless...
Unless you're ok with sifting through this odd collection of freakshow characters, mundane settings and surreal plots to discover prose that cuts right through you and stories that leave you aching (usually) for the protagonist and wary of the world around you. I know what you're thinking. I, too, have a pretentious dislike of the overuse of the word "surreal," but I looked it up and it means "having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream." There may not be a more fitting description for Aimee Bender. Her stories are grounded in middle, modern America: suburban, prosaic places peopled with small-minded, self-centered individuals. And then something happens: like a boyfriend devolves into an amoeba, or a girl with a hand of fire and a girl with a hand of ice become friends, or a mermaid and an imp see through each other's high school student disguises, or a pregnant woman gives birth to her (previously deceased) mother. Something that makes the surreal seem commonplace-- and more importantly, vice-versa.
This is a collection of stories about community, about relationships, about the intrigue of being both an outsider and an insider and about deciding whether or not to face and accept the truth-- however weird it may be. Bender is sweet, irreverent, uplifting and completely depressing-- often within the same story. And seriously, you're probably not going to like it. ...more
Well, it's Jenny McCarthy. She's not winning the Booker prize or the Pen/Faulkner, but I wasn't really expecting that from this book. Also, those areWell, it's Jenny McCarthy. She's not winning the Booker prize or the Pen/Faulkner, but I wasn't really expecting that from this book. Also, those are fiction awards (I had to google), and this is a memoir of sorts. Yes, she's somewhat funny, but I haven't really enjoyed anything I've read in the vein of "let's just talk about how awful this pregnancy stuff can be." And I'm not really interested in reclaiming my right to be crazy nuts just because I'm pregnant. I have really enjoyed this experience, and I checked with CJ, who agrees that I haven't been crazy nuts. It's worth reading just to imagine what it must've been like to live with her, though, and the book only takes about an hour to read. I'm totally willing to read something mediocre if it doesn't take much time....more
I really didn't like this book. I'm able to remember it with a little more appreciation after we talked about it at book club. (Well, other people talI really didn't like this book. I'm able to remember it with a little more appreciation after we talked about it at book club. (Well, other people talked...I mostly ranted about the main character being British and hating tea...sorry, everyone.) I did not enjoy reading this book...but it did elicit a reaction from me, so maybe it's not all bad. I was infuriated with Alice, the main character, throughout the entire novel. She's self-indulgent, self-serving, self-centered and just plain selfish. If she were well-drawn and all of these things, I could handle it, but all of the characters in Midnight Cactus seem just barely sketched and not at all colored in. And not the kind of 'not colored in' where I felt it was up to me to infer and fill in the details...more like they chopped some backstory or some important narration that would have explained the ridiculous things these people do and say.
The relationship which develops between Alice and another main character (I don't want to spoil it if you haven't read it) was very heavy-handed. Some of their dialogue reminded me of the trailers I keep seeing on tv for Richard Gere's new movie, "Nights in Rodanthe" where he says things like, "Who keeps you safe?" and "I came here to close a chapter in my life." WHO SAYS STUFF LIKE THIS??? Well, Alice and mystery man do, that's who. "With all the reasons in the world to run, you stayed." and "I used to watch for my father out that window. Now, perhaps, I will watch for you." Sigh. Maybe I'm callous and hard-hearted, but that just does not do it for me.
On the other hand, like we said at the book club meeting, it was interesting to read about the experience of crossing and re-crossing the border, and what it's like to live in a border town. That alone wouldn't be reason enough for me to read this book, though. ...more
I liked this book, but I wasn't expecting to have to work as hard as I did. When I pick up James Joyce or Thomas Pynchon (which I don't...I'm just givI liked this book, but I wasn't expecting to have to work as hard as I did. When I pick up James Joyce or Thomas Pynchon (which I don't...I'm just giving examples of non-linear, postmodern, absurd, abstract prose) I expect to have a little trouble understanding the themes, the characters or even the plot. I did not think that picking up a collection of short stories by someone I've never heard of would have me so flummoxed. Maybe I didn't read carefully enough? That's very possible. Or maybe they're obtuse and esoteric. Also possible. But if that's the case, I think Link (which I can't write or read without thinking of Zelda) was obtuse with a purpose. Which at least I considered, so maybe I understand them better than I thought. Or maybe I'm wrong.
That's the thing about these stories. They're very entertaining with crazy characters and completely weird, fantastic plots replete with ghosts, Greek gods, the underworld (lots of reference to the underworld), the Donner Party (parts of them...no pun intended) and a prosthetic nose collection. They were engaging and kept me guessing-- with regard to the plot as well as what exactly Link was *getting at*. What's with all the fairy tale references? Why the very, very permeable membrane between life and afterlife, landscape and dreamscape, in all the stories? And why is everyone so weird, in general?
I've seen Link classified as a horror writer and a fantasy writer. I don't think these stories fit either of those genres. They're not scary, bloody, gruesome or violent. And they're not fantasy if dwarves and halflings are prerequisites for the fantasy genre. With that said, "The Specialist's Hat" is one of the most frightening stories I've ever read, and "Travels with the Snow Queen" is definitely fantastical. But overall, Link seems to float between genres, occasionally settling in magic realism, which makes the stories all the more compelling. I will definitely read more of Link's collections. They're interesting and I'm determined to figure out what's going on in her world. ...more
This is a fascinating story on its own, complete with a lot of unanswered questions about what it means to be an American, a world citizen, a mixed-raThis is a fascinating story on its own, complete with a lot of unanswered questions about what it means to be an American, a world citizen, a mixed-race individual and a Black American growing up in the civil rights and post-civil rights era. (The idea that we might actually live in a post-civil rights era is laughable to me, too, but here I mean the post-1960's Parks/King/MalcolmX/ era.) _Dreams_ works on a lot of levels, not the least of which probes at the idea: what does it mean to be someone's child? Someone's parent? What does one inherit from parents who were none-too-present during one's childhood? This idea of a person's identity being an amalgam of his parents', paired with Obama's search for his racial identity as a biracial child of a white mother and an (absent) black father...well, it's complicated. I don't even know how else to end that sentence. It's complicated and current and important. I learned more about poverty, race, hope and history from this book than I have in any other in a long time.
And lest you forget, this is OUR PRESIDENT who wrote this book. A PRESIDENT who can WRITE a WHOLE BOOK. Without even resorting to capitals for emphasis. Remember the last guy? The first 8 years of the 21st century? Remember cringing every time he said the word "nuclear" or relied on a mantra-ish sound byte to explain and defend a military engagement? Exactly. Now go read this book and THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS that its author is in the Oval Office, thinking about our country, its people and its concerns deeply and with empathy and intelligence....more
Eh. This was $6.48 at Half-Price Books. It cost about as much as two lattes and was about as memorable. Also, why is there a butterfly on the cover ofEh. This was $6.48 at Half-Price Books. It cost about as much as two lattes and was about as memorable. Also, why is there a butterfly on the cover of this book? If it's some crappy metaphor about metamorphosis I'm going to downgrade it by a star. ...more
Mark Leyner thinks he's smart and hilarious, deconstructing the modern novel and messing with the concept of linear narrative. About 73% of the time,Mark Leyner thinks he's smart and hilarious, deconstructing the modern novel and messing with the concept of linear narrative. About 73% of the time, he's right. The other 27% he's unbearably pretentious and post-modern for post-modern's sake. But you should read him anyway....more
In theory, without a baby to test Dr. Karp's "5S's" on, this seems like a very helpful and practical guide to calming a fussy baby. It's really not muIn theory, without a baby to test Dr. Karp's "5S's" on, this seems like a very helpful and practical guide to calming a fussy baby. It's really not much more than that, and is probably a little longer than it needs to be, with a few too many imagined scenes of 'how it went when cave people tried to calm babies' on the author's part. But, I'm looking forward to using some of the things I learned in this book, and I think the concept of the 4th trimester is a helpful angle to look at infant behavior from-- i.e., how is this world different from the one they have been occupying, and what can we do to ease that transition for them? Perhaps I'll re-review in a couple of months when I can really use the techniques and advice I found in this book.
**8/24/08 This is a very important book. I don't know if I got lucky and my baby just naturally was not very fussy, or if my baby was not very fussy because we did all these things with her from Day One. Either way, at 4 months she sleeps from 8pm to 7am and wakes up once to eat and goes back down again immediately. Although it seems like she'll need to be swaddled forever. I'm sure I won't send her off to kindergarten with a swaddling blanket, but there are days where it seems possible. But, I'm going to stick with what works and let her tell me when she's ready for the next step. For example, I tried putting her down for a nap without a swaddle, which lasted exactly 10 minutes and now she's crying. So I have to go. :)...more
This book should really be called, "How to Not Get Divorced," although that title's not very catchy. Basically, relationship satisfaction rates plummeThis book should really be called, "How to Not Get Divorced," although that title's not very catchy. Basically, relationship satisfaction rates plummet after couples have babies. The Gottmans endeavored to find out why, and more importantly, to find out exactly what the successful couples were doing that had them stay married and satisfied with their relationships. What I liked about this book is the same as what several people said when recommending it to me. The authors don't have some vague idea or gimmick that will make everything better. They've researched successful and failing couples extensively and taken what successful couples do inside their communication and organized it for the reader. i.e. "These people are happy and not divorced. If you do what they do, it's likely your outcome will be the same." I like how the book is organized, moving from the reality of a new baby into the bigger, deeper questions such as "what kind of legacy do you want to create?". I also like the fact that there are lots of checklists and question sets for spouses to look at together. It makes me feel involved as a reader and moves the text out of the theoretical realm and into the practical. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because I like to save my 5 star ratings for literature. Because I'm a snob. But I highly recommend this book whether or not you're concerned about your relationship. It's just a good way to remind yourself to (and how to) take care of each other while taking on the new, all-encompassing task of taking care of a baby. Creating a marriage as a covenant (whether you're religious or not) is something I've always believed in, and the Gottmans have given me several tools to add to my toolbox in order to keep it that way....more
Obviously this book has a fairly limited audience: people who are about to buy a whole bunch of baby stuff. So I'm not really recommending it widely,Obviously this book has a fairly limited audience: people who are about to buy a whole bunch of baby stuff. So I'm not really recommending it widely, but for its intended audience, it's excellent. I love rating systems and reading user reviews since I'm a fairly picky shopper (read: cheap). This is a whole book of ratings and reviews, but it's more than that, too. As someone who really didn't know anything about baby gear-- what's necessary, what's extra-- this book was a great introduction to what everything is, how it works, and whether it's necessary, just nice to have, or useless. I also like the fact that this book updates itself with new editions every year, so the products rated are actually the products available in stores right now. There's a great sidebar in every chapter about websites detailing both gear and information on everything from breastfeeding to diaper bags. I fully expect to use this book repeatedly as we make our baby registry, buy furniture and put together a layette. (And now I know what a layette is. Kind of.)...more