This novel came out a year ago in the U.K., and will be out in the U.S. in September from Bantam. It's highly unusual in its structure and style, sort...moreThis novel came out a year ago in the U.K., and will be out in the U.S. in September from Bantam. It's highly unusual in its structure and style, sort of like a magical realist novel set in the North. But that doesn't describe it well at all. It's quite delicious (if a bit slow-going at first)...the mayor of a town named Dot (Ampersand, Dash, etc. are other place names) is in love with his secretary, who is married...the novel explores unrequited love, romance, lust...and ends not quite happily but perhaps hopefully...It's rich in layers: about life, love, possibility, opportunities missed and others taken...It's beautifully written and very romantic, in the very best sense of that term.(less)
When I was a kid, losing myself in stories and in novels, I sometimes wondered why we never read about characters going to the bathroom. Or the outhou...moreWhen I was a kid, losing myself in stories and in novels, I sometimes wondered why we never read about characters going to the bathroom. Or the outhouse: Why didn't we ever see Laura do that in 'Little House on the Prairie?' Fiction seemed unrealistic to me, as a result, and I thought that when I wrote books myself, I would do it differently.
Charlotte Roche appears to be single-handedly making up for this lack in her novel 'Wetlands.' Problem is: I have to keep reminding myself it is fiction and not autobiography. While initially I applauded the boldness with which she writes about the female body, all orifices and secretions, the complete lack of self-consciousness she has toward her body, the way she embraces each and every aspect, nook and cranny so to speak, and all manner of secretions, it finally seemed she has no more to tell us than this: I like my vagina. I like my arsehole. I like to eat, lick, suck. I am not afraid.
It does not a story make. A sensation it does, even perhaps a needed one, but...a longish personal essay would have done nicely.
Without the repetition and the subsequent numbing effect.(less)
I don't know if I can convey how much I was looking forward to this novel. I came across Galgut last summer for the first time; I read 'Quarry' first,...moreI don't know if I can convey how much I was looking forward to this novel. I came across Galgut last summer for the first time; I read 'Quarry' first, and then 'The Good Doctor.' Both are excellent. 'Quarry' is a prose poem of a novel, a stark and haunting one. 'The Good Doctor' is more fleshed out but still conveys a harsh (and beautiful) changing landscape with questions of morality, authenticity, at its center. I would call both of these novels unconventional, innovative in their structure and style. So, read between the lines: I fell in love with Galgut. He even toppled Coetzee from his eternal position as my top favorite So African novelist, to become one of my top favorite contemporary novelists, period.
'The Impostor' reads like a mainstream novel, a watered down version of Galgut's concerns. The prose seems more pedestrian than inspired and the structure of the novel offers nothing new. But it's perhaps the characters which are most problematic; at its center is Adam, solipsistic, passive, trying to be a poet...a very boring unsympathetic person. Hard to have such a bland person at the center of your novel.
The introduction of the characters of Canning and Baby help a great deal, being charismatic, more complex in their layers of personality, past lives, their actions versus their intentions. They are attractive and repellent both.
But Adam never ceases to be tiresome and somewhat predictable in his bumbling ways, so the novels doesn't intensify in the way that the other work of Galgut does. Instead it reads like watered-down Galgut. Is this what happens? The writer writes from his core, writes out his burning self, and then can only access the surface from thereon out? Depressing thought.(less)
Did you ever start reading a book and just a few sentences in feel like you have to stop, look away, take a breath because it's so damn good? That's w...moreDid you ever start reading a book and just a few sentences in feel like you have to stop, look away, take a breath because it's so damn good? That's what reading Jackie Kay is like. I'd known of her as a poet but not as a fiction writer. God she's good. Whether she's writing about a couple on the verge of splitting after years together, with the one who's leaving constantly, annoyingly, quoting Martin Amis, or a woman who's given birth to a daughter that's a fox (but how she loves her), or a divorced man who's lost his kids and wants to end his life, but must make it look like an accident...her dialogue is spot on and her characters achingly real. Love lost, grief, ache and loneliness, love and sensuality, suffuse these stories. Want to read her novel now.(less)
I was sooo looking forward to reading this book: for the Mexico connection and because of the high praise and award it received. But yes, as you can t...moreI was sooo looking forward to reading this book: for the Mexico connection and because of the high praise and award it received. But yes, as you can tell from this start, I've been disappointed. It feels so chatty, so conversational... I was expecting something more distilled. Who can fault him when he lost his beloved wife after only fours years together, only two of those as husband and wife? But do we need to know everything about their time together, every bit about her, do we need to fall in love with her ourselves? Goldman needs us to and much of the memoir--it seems to me--is more for him than us. To be fair, parts of it are beautiful, poignant, memorable. In places there is poetry, research (about waves, fascinating). I know that Goldman had established a literary award in his late wife's name, and I happened to be in Oaxaca last October during the Feria del Libro when he was on hand to award the 2do Premio Aura Estrada to a young and very talented Mexican woman writer. It seems a wonderful lasting tribute.(less)
Kurlansky's on his game with this one. "Cod" led him to the Basques, it was an obvious segue as the Basques had a jump on everyone else in this area (...moreKurlansky's on his game with this one. "Cod" led him to the Basques, it was an obvious segue as the Basques had a jump on everyone else in this area (fished off Newfoundland Banks long before Columbus, etc.) Anyway, I enjoyed the book thoroughly, but I recall very little of it now, 8 years later. The Basque were/are a fascinating people, with their own language, culture, food, separate from Spain & France, but...well, wish I could remember more...(less)
Elena Garro is a fine novelist and story writer: elegant, slightly surreal, wonderful in her depiction of desire and obligation; societal expectations...moreElena Garro is a fine novelist and story writer: elegant, slightly surreal, wonderful in her depiction of desire and obligation; societal expectations versus the heart's deep desire, the need to rebel. She should be better known but was forever overshadowed by her husband, Octavio Paz, while their marriage lasted and long after it ended.
Here are the beginning sentences of these novellas (trans. David Unger):
"There are always men in train aisles," thought Barbara, as a man offered to help her cross from one car to the next. (First Love)
The young women ran down the street, indifferent to the rain's and night's emptiness.In her rush to escape, she forgot to shut the gates of her house. Her feet pounded on the pavement as if knocking on the rainy night." (Look for My Obituary)
How can you not want to keep on reading? Go on, get the book. Or another by Garro.(less)
I read this book because I'm interested in the literature of "Passing" and was curious about Nella Larsen's short novel with that title. "Passing" is...moreI read this book because I'm interested in the literature of "Passing" and was curious about Nella Larsen's short novel with that title. "Passing" is very good (though the ending seems implausible) but her novel Quicksand is even better. Why hadn't I known of this important African American woman writer before? I'd have taught her in Women's Literature courses and will do so in the future... very modern in her outlook on women's lives, particularly in her writing about an intelligent modern woman of color.(less)
Good but not as engrossing as the other romans durs of Simenon I've read. A father (Loursat) sequesters himself in his large home after his wife leave...moreGood but not as engrossing as the other romans durs of Simenon I've read. A father (Loursat) sequesters himself in his large home after his wife leaves, barely communicating with his servants and daughter (who's two at the time). He drinks and broods and seeks no one's company for years. A murder in his house changes the balance of things in the household and Loursat, a lawyer, even decides to take on the defense of his daughter's unjustly accused young lover.
There is much here about the petite and haute bourgeousie, small town life, the deadening of doing what's expected. And there's the beauty of Loursat springing back to life: "He had the impression of plunging back into life. He did things he had long since forgotten--or that he still did, only without realizing he was doing them--like turning up his overcoat collar, thrusting his hands deep in the pockets, and savoring the cold and the rain, the strange reflections of the sparkling streets."
Very much unlike the other novels of his I've read. Not as gripping nor as suspenseful (much of the novel is the trial itself) but worth reading.(less)
This is an excellent biography. I would read any by this author. And what a complicated woman Nin was...full of art, artifice & deception. Did you...moreThis is an excellent biography. I would read any by this author. And what a complicated woman Nin was...full of art, artifice & deception. Did you know she had 2 husbands, one on each coast? One knew about the other, but the other did not...fascinating. I once wrote a long response to this book, which also covered my relat. to Nin (I devoured her as a high schooler); unfortunately it was handwritten in a favorite notebook which I lost on a Mexico City subway...(less)