**spoiler alert** I was taken with this book, prison pun fully intended.
The narrative arc is arrow straight: man becomes incarcerated, man escapes. Wh**spoiler alert** I was taken with this book, prison pun fully intended.
The narrative arc is arrow straight: man becomes incarcerated, man escapes. What happens between is a kind of novel in voices. Characters sit down and tell each other pages-long stories. Cheever defies the dialogue rule that you don't let characters go on and on and on. But it's fully earned. They're in prison, after all. Still, there were times when this stretched the limits for me, particularly at the end, in a climactic talk between Farragut, the main character, and his brother Eben.
For such a short book, I wished that some events registered more. Farragut's construction of the radio, for one. Farragut's letter didn't give me any extra perspective. And I did want one more beat on Jody's escape.
The escape is as spellbinding as it is darkly funny. Cheever is a master....more
This one grew on me. There was something frustrating about the first 100 pages. I had that feeling of being stuck in a sweaty carriage, listening to aThis one grew on me. There was something frustrating about the first 100 pages. I had that feeling of being stuck in a sweaty carriage, listening to a Brit drone on and on about whatever. The beginning never wanted to land on one character or even story. I read more for the great dialogue than a curiosity of what would happen next.
Then something changed. Maybe it was Adam and Nina. Adam's trek out to the Colonel's house to ask for Nina's hand in marriage, or to borrow money. The character constellation that seemed scattered started to brighten. I wanted to hear more from Miss Runcible. I started enjoying the musical chairs as Adam then Miles took over as the gossip writers.
The ending was stirring and dramatic as well. I should now go back and reread those first 100 pages. Because my sense now is maybe I wasn't giving it a fair shot. Wasn't tuned into Waugh's mad key. ...more
Beautiful, funny and uneven. Like reading a mumblecore movie (that pushes in a decidely non-mumblecoreish direction). Glaser knows the art school worlBeautiful, funny and uneven. Like reading a mumblecore movie (that pushes in a decidely non-mumblecoreish direction). Glaser knows the art school world well, the "dance-hump mating rituals" as Adam Wilson expertly blurbs. On graphic designers: "They just made signs. They just made money." On a good dance party: "Everyone was inside the same big mood." Beyond that, this is a writer who knows the human heart. "Her orgasm was like a shooting star one pretends to have seen after a friend ecstatically points it out."
The book goes sideways when Paulina and Fran graduate. I am all for changes in mood, tone, time and setting, but not when it leads to slack generalizations. I don't want to give any spoilers away, but Glaser has much more fun with the art school world rather than the corporate, branding world Paulina thrusts herself into. Or the sweeping scenes that begin some of the later chapters, where a coffee shop is described as "crumb-covered." And the married woman one character has an affair with is rendered, "She was smarter than him, she was sensible, but her husband limited every aspect of their time together." Okaaaay. That said, Glaser makes some wise, bold moves throughout...I just wish they stayed in school....more
A riveting exploration of six troubled, talented writers. Olivia Laing presents alcohol as both creative fuel and the lit match that eventually consumA riveting exploration of six troubled, talented writers. Olivia Laing presents alcohol as both creative fuel and the lit match that eventually consumes everything. Many of Laing’s readings are striking, in particular her gloss on Cheever’s journals and reading of Berryman’s unfinished novel, Recovery. Her presentation of these dark, dark hours is, at times, incredibly painful. The Berryman sections in particular made me slink down into my chair, knuckles white.
The narrative is presented as a road trip, a la Sarah Vowell. The first person didn’t bother me as it did other reviewers. In fact, I wanted more. More of Laing’s personal experience. More about her family’s trip to the metaphorical Echo Spring. Though Laing’s nature descriptions were often gorgeous, I found them repetitive, and the book itself falls into a kind of formula (scene setting / author’s life / personal insight). Little bits of overheard dialogue from the journey proved distracting. “Sluice” is used about eight too many times, a British thing?
That said, the writing is lively throughout. “Modern life,” Hemingway once wrote, “is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.” It’s even more pertinent now, with our digital waters another kind of addictive substance. ...more
Couldn't finish, which is troubling bc it's so short. It started strong-ish. "Suppose I were to begin with saying I had fallen in love with a color."
OCouldn't finish, which is troubling bc it's so short. It started strong-ish. "Suppose I were to begin with saying I had fallen in love with a color."
Okay. Tell me more.
"Suppose I shredded my napkin as we spoke."
Love this! Great little detail.
The more we proceed, the more confusing things get. I want books that render life in crisp, startling detail. Not ones that make the world fuzzier. The world is uncertain enough.
Let's take line 53, for example. "'We mainly suppose the experiential quality to be an intrinsic quality of the physical object'--this is the so called systematic illusion of color. Perhaps it is also that of love. But I am not willing to go there--not just yet. I believed in you."
Bluets reminded me of being stuck at a bar listening to an intellect wail about his/her sad life. The person drops just enough interesting, human insight but ultimately the story does little to change you. I love a good confessional. This is not that. ...more