Page 489 / “The Seaside Houses” “Are we truly this close to one another? Must we impose our burdens on strangers? And is our sense of the universalityPage 489 / “The Seaside Houses” “Are we truly this close to one another? Must we impose our burdens on strangers? And is our sense of the universality of suffering so inescapable?”
That’s pretty much the Cheever struggle in a nutshell. Take it or leave it. (03.23.16)
2016 is the year I reread books I loved in my twenties. (Two decades ago for those who are counting.) I'm trying to go through them in the order I read each one to the best of my recollection. Cheever's stories were one of the first things I read when I landed in the Bay Area circa late 1992.
Halfway through I'm even more moved and impressed by Cheever's work here. I'd argue the “Mad Men”’s melancholy existentialism is wholly ripped off from these stories. But the stories are much more humane than that show ever was, whether Cheever is occupying the voice of a lowly Park Avenue elevator operator or the archetypal suburban man in a flannel suit. While some of the stories' settings feel a bit dated and old fashioned, the issues the characters grapple with around class, love and life's purpose feel as timely as ever.
And Cheever's eye for detail is masterful. His descriptions make the mundane sublime. The old white WASP author and his stories of privileged Northeasterners and their flocks may be very out of vogue these days, but the muted emotional struggles rendered so delicately and acutely in these stories are anything but....more
I've begun to think that when one reads Faulkner, he is not supposed to fully understand or comprehend what is happening. And it's that confusion thatI've begun to think that when one reads Faulkner, he is not supposed to fully understand or comprehend what is happening. And it's that confusion that makes for a powerful reading experience. The reader is always jumping around through varied points of view that makes for a fractured narrative (at least with this book and "The Sound and the Fury" anyway) that feels more internal, more real. Not that I can necessarily relate to the everyday lives of these characters who litter the fringes of the American South circa pre World War II, but their various pathos speak volumes, however misguided or downright demented. It's a testament to Faulkner's writing that these characters feel so real and yet so unique. ...more
A difficult, thrilling book that if doesn't quite live up to its "best American novel of all time" designation (what could?), begs to be read more thaA difficult, thrilling book that if doesn't quite live up to its "best American novel of all time" designation (what could?), begs to be read more than once to absorb all the nuances and knowledge Melville packs into this 600+ page tome. The last 75 pages are unforgettable, and make all the previous asides and tangents around the nuts and bolts of whaling worth trudging through. What was also pleasantly unexpected about "Moby Dick" is that (especially in the book's first third) it's often quite funny. I laughed out loud reading the early chapters of Queequeg and Ishmael sharing a bed at an overbooked inn, not to mention Captain Ahab's "conversation" with a dead whale his crew on the Pequod has killed. It takes time to acclimate to Meville's language and writing cadence, but sticking with him is worth the time in the end....more
As sprawling as "Augie" and as neurotic as "Herzog," "Humbolt's Gift" may be the most ambitious novel of Bellow's I've read in the way it tries to weaAs sprawling as "Augie" and as neurotic as "Herzog," "Humbolt's Gift" may be the most ambitious novel of Bellow's I've read in the way it tries to weave its ideas about culture, the artist, and aging sexuality into a funny quasi-satire that tells the ordeals of smug Pulitzer-winner Charlie Citrine. It doesn't come off perfect all the time, and it may be a bit overlong, but when you compare it to the diffuse irony that characterizes so much contemporary fiction today, you have to give it credit for going out on such intellectual and emotional limbs. Just short of a classic, I'd say....more