The spellbinding logic of a dream, but not a dream. The narrator has a real life, but when that life falls apart he fabricates a second life to restorThe spellbinding logic of a dream, but not a dream. The narrator has a real life, but when that life falls apart he fabricates a second life to restore the first. He lives this fantasy life in the real world, but his language, the syntax and diction, is that of Dr. Watson. With this language he creates a world for himself that will ultimately bring him to an understanding of how his first live disintegrated. Whether he lives out his fantasy in a walk-up flat, asylum or gutter, is not important. The real world is always threatening to break through and the narrator occasionally senses that something is off--events are frequently hazy; he can't quite remember. ...more
The murder of a transvestite sets in motion this solid police procedural novel. Captain Josie Corsino of the Hollywood Division is a savvy veteran ofThe murder of a transvestite sets in motion this solid police procedural novel. Captain Josie Corsino of the Hollywood Division is a savvy veteran of the streets and little troubled by the varied forms of sexual orientation and practice that take place in low and high places, but this case threatens to go outside the already expansive box. Author Connie Dial, a former law enforcement officer, paints a detailed and realistic picture of a Hollywood that the tourists don’t see or if they do interpret it all wrong. A representative passage: “The tourists coming out of the restaurants and theaters gathered around the man [a transvestite] thinking he was obviously there for their entertainment. Ramona smiled and posed for cell phone pictures with retired old men from towns like Phoenix and Miami while their wives cringed but took the photos. It was no different from standing in front of the world’s biggest ball of string to prove to the neighbors they’d gone somewhere and found something they’d never allow to exist in their own backyard.” Woven into the investigation are Corsino’s always interesting personal dilemmas, including an impending divorce, her son’s cohabitation with a woman older than Josie, and the reemergence of an ex-lover, who gets assigned to the case....more
If you’re looking for redeeming qualities in a main character, actually any character, stay away from Ken Wohlrob's No Tears for Old Scratch. LovelessIf you’re looking for redeeming qualities in a main character, actually any character, stay away from Ken Wohlrob's No Tears for Old Scratch. Loveless, cynical, pitiless, immoral and amoral, abrasive, devious, Machiavellian, our hero Biff, whose last name is [*-----------], perhaps unpronounceable, perhaps unsaid for other reasons, is on holiday (a stolen bus ticket) to the decidedly unfriendly, uncharming and unpicturesque city of Knob's End, aka The Holiest Town in America (don't ask). On the bus, Biff's fondness for children, second only to W.C. Fields, will embroil him with little Truman, a talented seat-kicker, which drives the plot. In Knob's End, Biff will encounter the down-and-out, those tossed out of the down-and-out, murderers, height-challenged maniacs, fools, sadistic cops, zealots, libertines and librarians,in a word: America or [----}. A biting satire, a meditation on good and evil, a foot up your ass, take your pick. Oh, yes, Biff has one redeeming quality: he can take a shot, many shots. A funny, wise and compelling read.
Laura Rae Amos's debut novel follows several friends as they try to resolve relationships within and without the group. The main characters, Jodie, AmLaura Rae Amos's debut novel follows several friends as they try to resolve relationships within and without the group. The main characters, Jodie, Amelia and Drew, are well-drawn and sympathetic (these are people whose intentions are always good), but fall short of being consistently intriguing. Powerful scenes (many told in flashback) are interspersed among leisurely stretches of self-introspection and casual conversations about impending weddings (many weddings). At the heart of the novel is a variation on the eternal triangle: X loves Y, but Y loves N, who loves Y, but with reservations. The novel succeeds in examining the dilemma from every possible angle. Many readers will relate to the sublime psychological tortures Jodie inflicts upon herself trying to figure it all out. There are many interesting setups. Jodie is a doctor (an obstetrician, I believe), and I liked very much her observations on the job, in fact I wish there were more of them. Jodie’s relationship with another doctor, Berges, provides several tender and humorous moments. The novel is well-written, the prose consistent. The plot is low-key and its best elements kick in a little late, but it is meticulously worked out. ...more
It's World War II and Russian is making its stand against the German army, which is trying to smash through Russia's western front. The story is toldIt's World War II and Russian is making its stand against the German army, which is trying to smash through Russia's western front. The story is told mainly through Russian officers who are fighting both the German military machine and their own political system in the form of dogmatic,implacable commissars. The book brilliantly captures the interplay between the beset officers and Stalin's idealogues. ...more
Two mismatched girls in an Appalachian town bond. Melissa is chubby, shy and domesticated; Sweetie is a child of the forest, mysterious, ever-resourceTwo mismatched girls in an Appalachian town bond. Melissa is chubby, shy and domesticated; Sweetie is a child of the forest, mysterious, ever-resourceful, uninhibited. The story is told from Melissa's point of view, so that the reader is drawn alongside Melissa into Sweetie's world. We too get mesmerized by Sweetie's dry blunt observations and a knowledge of the world that hints at darker experience. The dialogue is finely honed--Sweetie has pretty much got her own language. Magendie's naturalistic descriptions: tramping through the woods, cleaning fish, nursing wounds, perfect. Ultimately, Sweetie is a story of growing up, or at least it is for Melissa. Like Peter Pan, Sweetie will remain unchanged on her island, the forest of the imagination.
Writing a first-person novel whose narrator and main character is an alienated, profoundly cynical, post-adolescent faces numerous obstacles, not theWriting a first-person novel whose narrator and main character is an alienated, profoundly cynical, post-adolescent faces numerous obstacles, not the least of which is Mount Catcher in the Rye, at whose base lie several generations of yellowing manuscripts, most derivative of Salinger’s novel to a greater or lesser degree.
Daniel Clausen’s The Sage and the Scarecrow tracks a few days in the life of Pierce Williams, an undergrad at an unnamed Florida university. The time is unspecified, but people still communicate with letters, and no one mentions the Internet or Facebook or texting.The narrator says that his father’s favorite song was Warren Zevon’s "Werewolves of London," “I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s...” The song came out in 1978. It’s not much of a surprise to see on the copyright page that the novel was published in 2003. Early new millennium.
We meet Pierce Williams, the narrator and main character, six months after his father died of cancer, and not many years after his mother’s early death. Caring for his father during his battle with the disease, Pierce experienced first hand the difficulties of obtaining adequate medicine and hospital care. Out of this struggle, Pierce develops a desire for a better society. The loss of his father has also left Pierce depressed and feeling without purpose or direction, for his father had become the center of his universe. Adding to this melancholy state are Pierce’s memories of Jennifer, his high school crush. Pierce carries around and constantly consults a copy of the Tao Te Ching, loaned to him by Jennifer, with a personal note from her on the inside cover. As the story unfolds, Pierce will focus on Jennifer as the one person who might rescue him from his bleak existence.
On the face of the above, we have a sympathetic character here, but not so fast. Pierce is one of the most self-centered, neurotic, manipulative (think The Prince), pedantic and just plain weird characters in contemporary fiction.
For example, not many pages into the book, Pierce is having a conversation with Professor Foster, “one of the few teachers I could stand.” Foster makes a suggestion that Pierce include a critique of Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon in the paper he’s writing for the class. “I told him that I thought I might add Fitzergerald’s text into my paper, but it was a complete lie, one of those things you say to make people think they’ve achieved a small victory. I really had no interest in The Tycoon. Really, I’d only read half of it.” A short while later, Pierce will tell his friend Brian (a well-wrought male pig), who casually leafs through the Tao Te Ching, an act that Pierce views as desecration, and feigns keeping it, that Jennifer died of cancer. Pierce’s outrageous but passionate lie is harrowing. Later, Pierce will intellectually bully a well-meaning older woman. Pierce is a deep well of deceit and insincerity. He is in fact a hipster: when you think he’s kidding, he tells you he’s serious and when you think he’s serious, he’ll tell you he’s kidding.
Nearby, Holden Caulfield may be murmuring phony, but Pierce Williams in the intensity of his attitudes and interactions is an original, and always interesting to follow. Even as a pedant, regularly dropping Hegel, Nietzsche and Lao Tzu into conversations, Pierce doesn’t bore. He’s passionate about his abstracts, so passionate that when an attractive woman tries to seduce him, his mind turns to Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals. It also doesn’t hurt if you’re a reader who values philosophy and lit crit. I like this stuff, so even when it gets ponderous, I’m never less than amused and frequently provoked.
The other characters in the Sage and the Scarecrow are also very well drawn. Pierce's encounters with Angie, Brian and Phil are captivating, and provide many witty and funny lines.
If you’re looking for action and romance, The Sage and the Scarecrow isn’t your book. Essentially, it’s the story of a guy who doesn't do much but think. Pierce is too reflective, but that's the problem at the heart of the novel. When he finally does something, nothing much comes of it. That's the payoff.
In an arena where many have tried and most have failed, Clausen succeeds. ...more
Each reader will read the same book differently. Sometimes the differences are insignificant, sometimes profound (Are you sure we're talking about theEach reader will read the same book differently. Sometimes the differences are insignificant, sometimes profound (Are you sure we're talking about the same book?) I was struck by the shock of one Goodreads reviewer to Chapter 2 of Invisible. I thought the scenes were done brilliantly, seducing the reader into accepting the violation of one of society's oldest taboos. ...more
This novel about fashion/nothing works for twenty pages. For all the wit and exotic words, the style is suffocating. Satire needs room to breathe. WheThis novel about fashion/nothing works for twenty pages. For all the wit and exotic words, the style is suffocating. Satire needs room to breathe. When every sentence draws attention to itself by using the same technique, the story splinters into ten-thousand sentences. The writing is just too pleased with itself. ...more