Very well written transposition of Howard's End into multicultural, mid-2000s Boston academia. Tracking the various characters and relationships of FoVery well written transposition of Howard's End into multicultural, mid-2000s Boston academia. Tracking the various characters and relationships of Forster's novel as they manifest in Smith's is only the first of this novel's many pleasures, which further include the wry, omniscient narratorial "we," a great deal of humor, and numerous spot-on observations about race and class....more
This not only makes a good companion to The Grapes of Wrath, it also has much to say about our country's current mania for building walls and excludinThis not only makes a good companion to The Grapes of Wrath, it also has much to say about our country's current mania for building walls and excluding refugees and immigrants. In this architectonic novel, Boyle keeps two parallel plots going, allowing them to briefly touch only a couple of times during the narrative, finally bringing them together at the end, once the tragedy is complete.
Set during the 1990s, when California was reacting badly to the influx of undocumented workers from Mexico (Trump administration take note: a wall is absolutely the wrong way to go), Boyle tracks the well-off Mossbacher family and their life in the soon-to-be-walled development of Arroyo Blanco, and a Mexican couple, hard-working Candido and pregnant America Rincon, whose struggles are a horrible combination of Job and Sisyphus.
People in the novel assume the worst about those who are different, with the usual awful results, and which, combined with two classically Southern California disasters, results in (view spoiler)[the death of Socorro, America and Candido's newborn infant. (hide spoiler)]...more
The prose, Pynchon's incandescent, radioactive prose:
If patterns of ones and zeros were "like" patterns of human lives and deaths, if everything aboutThe prose, Pynchon's incandescent, radioactive prose:
If patterns of ones and zeros were "like" patterns of human lives and deaths, if everything about an individual could be represented in a computer record by a long string of ones and zeros, then what kind of creature would be represented by a long string of lives and deaths? It would have to be up one level at least--an angel, a minor god, something in a UFO. It would take eight human lives and deaths just to form one character in this being's name--its complete dossier might take up a considerable piece of the history of the world. We are digits in God's computer, she not so much thought as hummed to herself to a sort of standard gospel tune, And the only thing we're good for, to be dead or to be living, is the only thing He sees. What we cry, what we contend for, in our world of toil and blood, it all lies beneath the notice of the hacker we call God. (90-91) ...more
The first masterpiece of realist literature, according to translator Lydia Davis, and I don't disagree. From the introduction, I learned that the scruThe first masterpiece of realist literature, according to translator Lydia Davis, and I don't disagree. From the introduction, I learned that the scrupulously objective (with a few slight deviations) style Flaubert uses for Emma Bovary's story is not his natural style, that in fact he customarily went for a metaphor-rich, lyrical register, which makes his achievement here even more impressive.
And for all that, there are still beautiful passages; however, Flaubert never allows these passages to escape the omnipresent irony he uses--all such passages are undercut or at least counterpointed with some sobering bit of mundanity or glimpse of human mendacity and in this way he exerts control over the narrative, in spite of his refusal to moralize, which is the thing that landed him and his book in court on a charge of offense against public morality and religion. I love it when the artist has the last laugh....more
The title comes from Balzac's 1830 short story, "Une Passion dans le desert": "Dans le desert, voyez-vous, il y a tout, et il n'y a rien...c'est dieuThe title comes from Balzac's 1830 short story, "Une Passion dans le desert": "Dans le desert, voyez-vous, il y a tout, et il n'y a rien...c'est dieu sans les hommes," which, translated, is "In the desert, you see, there is everything and nothing...It is God without men."
Kunzru accomplishes the feat of weaving southwestern Native American mythology into a story that also includes autism, UFO fever as experienced from the 1940s through the 1970s, stock-market-prediction models, and the making of methamphetamine. He does an especially good job capturing the double-nature of the trickster god, Coyote, who throughout most of the novel gleefully sows his brand of chaos and change into the world. Here he is usually malicious, even while displaying threads of--good is too simple and inaccurate a word, so let's say his schemes seem to nudge a fractured, sick world toward healing, whether intentionally or not. And the section on human nature, especially the sort that loves Internet anonymity, is merciless as it reveals that culture's semi-literate hatefulness. ...more
Pope puts the reader directly in his fictional world and, with only the occasional bit of explanatory dialogue, allows us to figure things out. And itPope puts the reader directly in his fictional world and, with only the occasional bit of explanatory dialogue, allows us to figure things out. And it is an odd world: a city, Arcopolis, bearing some resemblance to cities on Earth, with the notable exception of the monsters that have besieged it, appearing at night from subterranean lairs.
But wait, the city has a protector: Haggard West, with his jet pack and ray gun and aviator's helmet and secret lab within his mansion. Pope gives us just enough of West in action against the Ghoul Gang, a leading and highly organized faction within the general anarchy of the monsters (who, we eventually learn, have their own bars and underground analogs to everyday life, albeit no less devoted to the overthrow and destruction of the people topside for all these quotidian necessities), just enough so that we like West and are pulling for him, only to watch him obliterated by the ghouls. Boom, no more protector.
Switch to a strange realm floating in the deeps of space, where the young son of a legendary monster-slayer is on the precipice of his Turning Day, the day when he goes "a-rambling" in order to find out who he is and who he will become. With his marvelous cloak and kit (read, suitcase) of nifty, ultra-powerful, totemic T-shirts, our unnamed protagonist--his parents refer to him as "the boy"--arrives in Arcopolis, where a particularly large and nasty monster is snacking on cars and trucks in one of the main plazas.
A chaotic battle ensues, which Battling Boy wins, with long-range help from his dad--something he won't immediately admit to the grateful mayor and mayor's entourage but which eventually he'll have to. The tone shifts as the mayor and military try to figure out who BB is and where he came from and how best to present him to the populace--after "focused market research" they rename him Arco-Lad, to his chagrin, and hold a parade as his debut.
The ghouls attack the parade, wanting to end this new threat before he has a chance to grow. The orphaned daughter of Haggard West shows up, accoutered in his gear and armed with his weapons, and together they put the ghouls to flight. The book ends ominously, though, as Sadisto, the ghoul's leader, walks ever deeper underground for a debrief with what seems to be the leader of the monsters, an enthroned, shadowy demon who, scanning Sadisto's thoughts, see the image of BB and recognizes him, with surprise, as a "god boy."
I enjoyed the structure, three story lines that merge in a pleasing way toward the end. The first involves Monkey King, a god from out of Chinese mythI enjoyed the structure, three story lines that merge in a pleasing way toward the end. The first involves Monkey King, a god from out of Chinese mythology and star of the late-16th century fictional narrative, Journey to the West; the second concerns ABC teenager Jin Wang's efforts to find his place in American society and his fragile friendship with the FOB and new at school kid, Wei-Chen Sun; and the third, American teenager Danny and his cousin, an assemblage of outrageous stereotypes named Chin-Kee. No joke--this section is titled "Everyone Ruvs Chin-Kee."
Yang expertly catches the humor of Monkey King's original transgression--crashing a dinner party in heaven--which is how MK comes to serve the monk, Wong Lai-Tao on his journey to the west. Story lines two and three merge late in the book when we're shown that Danny is Jin's idealized version of himself, with Chin-Kee as the incarnation of every racist idea about the Chinese that he has internalized from his years growing up in the U.S.
Later still, very near the end of the book, Lines three and one merge, with Chin-Kee revealed as Monkey King--ever a trickster--and Wei-Chen Sun one of his own sons, having teamed up to help Jin learn how to embrace everything, Chinese and American, that makes him unique.
Yang's art is wonderful; I especially like the clouds he uses to portray one of Monkey King's amazing powers, the Cloud-as-Steed, and the lightning effect Yang uses to illustrate moments when a character has an idea or an epiphany or has made a decision and is acting upon it....more
I thought I would enjoy this more than I did, having found Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay amazing in every way. However, Chabon'sI thought I would enjoy this more than I did, having found Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay amazing in every way. However, Chabon's only involvement here is the introduction, after which a number of artists and writers present stories of the Escapist, the hero written and drawn by Chabon's eponymous duo. The trouble seems to be that the stories here are all so brief, none has the time to develop anything more than the most obvious plot. The parts I enjoyed most were the essays written--including one by novelist Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil-- about the character and the history of the fictional publishing company that presented the Escapist stories; these essays are written as if the company, Empire Comics, and the Escapist comic book had actually existed, a conceit that's pulled off well in each case....more