**spoiler alert** Upon reading this, I felt that it was quite obvious that the author wrote this book with intimate knowledge of failed relationships...more**spoiler alert** Upon reading this, I felt that it was quite obvious that the author wrote this book with intimate knowledge of failed relationships and break-ups. The small details really do make this story. The disagreements of how to make tea, for example which leads both the characters feeling like they want to kill each other. The wife's badgering, the narrator's air of weariness, the disconnectedness of it all ... like they're only JUST missing the target, that if they tried that little bit harder, maybe they could get back on track. It really does hit a sore spot for anyone who has been in this position before.
I enjoyed following his train of thought, how he convinced himself that he will pack and leave, done! And then a few pages on, he contemplates waking his wife to talk. He wants her to say I love you, please stay! But also feels (knows?) that he doesn't want to try. He is indecisive, completely real and human. I feel like I am inside somebody's head and being dragged along on the emotional journey.
To throw a couple of children into the mix was just agonising and as a parent - I was sucked right into the confusion and pain. I think the only thing I struggled with was the lack of sorrow he had at leaving his children. Of course, he was bothered, it was one of the main themes of the book - but his world didn't seem rocked by it. I would have been a neurotic mess, rocking myself backwards and forwards in a dark corner somewhere! And then I probably wouldn't have left in the end. I certainly wouldn't have been deliberating on which objects to take with me when I left, which suits and shoes would suit my new life, which books should I leave for my sons to enjoy (although the nonchalance could have definitely been a coping mechanism).
I've read a few people's opinions on the book, on various websites and find that a lot of people hate the book, because of the narrator. But that is why I love it, he's a shitty person, he doesn't know what he wants, he's putting himself first, abandoning his family, chasing after some elusive ideal of love. It's not pretty. It's gritty, he's imperfect and I like being able to see a glimpse into his life and then be able to put the book down and appreciate my own.
I think the thing is, relationships do fail. And this really is a prime example of how it can happen ... lazily, cowardly and bleakly. (less)
I really loved this. I came to it wanting to know more about Anne Sexton, but ended up finding myself enamoured with Linda herself (Anne'a daughter an...moreI really loved this. I came to it wanting to know more about Anne Sexton, but ended up finding myself enamoured with Linda herself (Anne'a daughter and the author of this book).
I did indeed find out more about Anne Sexton - and when I finished the book, I feel like I now understand her life, and her more fully (having read Middlebrook's biography also). Linda Gray Sexton is a fabulous writer, I didn't put the book down. I started it, unsure of how I'd feel, and what'd I'd think about Linda - wondering whether she was using her mother's name just to get some attention. I finished the book not feeling this way at all. Linda comes across as being an extremely well-grounded, intelligent person, something I find to be extraordinary considering her childhood. Sure, she's struggled with depression and grief, but she is in no way a trainwreck. She is really likable, consider me smitten.
She writes of her childhood, of her seperations when she was sent to various relatives houses. She writes of her parent's relationship from her perspective (the horrifying domestic abuse and violent fights that she was witness to), she also talks of the incest that occurred which was quite troubling to read (so beware if you feel you may be triggered by this) but also she writes of better aspects of her childhood and her relationship with her mother - Christmastime, her bond with Anne over poetry in her teen years. Later, she writes of her growing distance between her and her mother, shortly before Anne's suicide. And she also writes of the years following, sorting out her mother's writing, her deepening bond with her father, having her own two sons and her own battles with depression, which she writes about admirably - not only because of her determination to be a good mother, but because of her honesty, and her beautiful way with words.
Here, two excerpts of her writing of depression and it's affect on her life, and Anne's.
"Previously depression had meant a gloom to me - a gloom, nearly visual, that descended before my eyes and made it difficult to think or see clearly. I became a gray person. But this felt different: this time my depression had developed into a physical pain. I found myself stooping as it gnawed at my stomach. Like a tumor, it went with me wherever I went, for whatever I was doing. It spread ts tentacles wide, and took deep root."
"My mother died of depression. Untreatable, increasing depression. Why, when we refer to depression, do we think of it in the main as a state characterized by numbness and low spirits rather than intense suffering. Why, in fact, is the word pain rarely used when describing depression. The dictionary uses synonyms such as melancholy, depsondency, and sadness."
The only thing I did dislike was her apparent a disgust with lesbianism that comes up several times, subtly, throughout the book - which bemused me, until I realised that it may be a somewhat unconscious reaction to the molestation by her mother. This is a woman whose life was shaped so massively by her mother, her childhood, her teen years, her early twenties - her mother was dependant on her and so intrusive on Linda's life.
Even after her suicide, she continues to be a part of Linda's life as LInda is in charge of Anne's literary work. And she's just as much of a damaging force after death, as she was in life. Linda had to plough through letters, read about her mother's extramarital affairs, read transcriptions of her therapy sessions. And then, she has to deal with the tapes of Anne's sessions with Dr Orne, which she decides to release to Middlebrook for her biography. Something I'm grateful of, as I too believe that Anne would have wanted the world to know every little gritty detail about herself.
Here, she writes of how her mother was/is still a major part of her life, even after death, when a fan of Anne's calls Linda at her home.
"She wanted nothing but to chat. The episode jolted me from the present back into the nightmare slide of childhood when everything felt so out of control: who knew when or how the eerily skewed balance of mental illness would intrude into my world, break open my privacy, cause me anxiety - even it if was delivered from the voice of a near stranger over the telephone."
Can you even begin to imagine what this woman's life has been like?
It was interesting too, to read - that Linda had wanted a biographer to focus on Anne's work, rather than one that had a sensational bent. When I read Middlebrook's biography, I found it to be heavily focused on Anne's work and in my review of it, mention that, as well as that I felt that Middlebrook somewhat disapproved of Anne's lifestyle, and that she held a certain disdain towards her - something which Linda does indeed prove to be true in this memoir (she mentions a coversation that they both have in which these things are touched on).
Linda provides such a deeply personal view into both Anne's and her own life, writing with emotion that often touched me, here's a paragraph that gives a good example of, well, everything; Linda's beautiful writing style, her complex relationship with her mother, an insight into her as a person and Anne herself:
"She took that audience into her heart with frankness, humour and spontaneity. I watched the adulation and realized that the audience had become her family now - they were the ones who loved her without reservation. My friends, fellow students, teachers - all had expressions of awe on their faces. Rapture. And I was jealous, unspeakably jealous. In that moment I hated her and her power absolutely. In that moment I loved her and her power absolutely. She stood before us, her voice pure thunder."
Considering how horrid Anne could be a lot of the time, I was surprised by the amount of compassion that Linda has for her. But don't get me wrong, she doesn't condone her behaviour, but is instead, frank and honest - and forgiving. I hope that Linda found writing this book to be as cathartic as she had hoped. It was an incredible read.(less)
I could easily read nobody other than Lorrie Moore for the rest of my life, she is just that good. I enjoyed every single bit of this 600+page book an...moreI could easily read nobody other than Lorrie Moore for the rest of my life, she is just that good. I enjoyed every single bit of this 600+page book and would have happily continued reading her forever if it had happened to be some kind of magical novel that never ended.
Moore's writing is superb. That is an understatement. As usual, what do you write about books that you love without sounding trite? Her stories are brilliant, the characters are fully fleshed out, fascinating and usually endearingly eccentric without being over-the-top. Her descriptions are subtly brilliant and she's often hilarious. So many stories, so many charactes and each one so unique and clever.
The best I can do is leave you with some examples, pieces that I underlined with hopes of sharing her brilliance with you.
And unless you see the head crowning, never look at a woman's stomach and ask if she's pregnant. = Soon, he was sure, there would be a study that showed that the mentally ill were actually better looking than other people. Dating proved it. = When Abby was a child, her mother had always repelled her a bit - the oily smell of her hair, her belly button like a worm curled in a pit, the sanitary napkins in the bathroom wastebasket, horrid as a war, then later strewn along the curb by raccoons who would tear them from the trash cans at night. Once at a restaurant, when she was little, Abby had burst into an unlatched ladies' room stall, only to find her mother sitting there in a dazed and unseemly way, peering out from her toilet seat like a cuckoo in a clock. = The trick to flying safe, Zoe always said, was never to buy a discount ticket and to tell yourself you had nothing to live for anyway, so that when the plane crashed it was no big deal. Then. when it didn't crash, when you had succeeded in keeping it aloft with your own worthlessness, all you had to do was stagger off, locate your luggage and, by the time a cab arrived, come up with a persuasive reason to go on living. = Along the damp path through the cave there were lights, which allowed you to see walls marbled a golden rose, like a port cheddar; nippled projections, blind galleries, arteries all through the place, chalky and damp; stalagmites and stalactites in walrusy verticals, bursting up from the floor in yearing or hanging wicklessly in drips from the ceeiling, making their way, through time, to the floor. The whole cave was in a weep, everything wet and slippery; still, ocher pools of water bordered the walk, which spiraled gradually down. = His lips were smooth and thick and hung open like a change purse. = This is why I was pleased. The lump was not simply a focal point for my self-pity; it was also a battery propelling me, strengthening me- my very own appointment with death. It anchored and deepened me like a secret. I started to feel it when I walked, just out from under my armpit - hard, achy evidence that I was truly a knotted saint, a bleeding angel. At last it had been confirmed: my life was really as difficult as I had always suspected. = It entailed what Eleanor called, "The Great White Whine"; whiney white people getting together over white wine and whining. = "Why are we supposed to be with men anyway? I feel like I used to know"
"We need them for their Phillips-head screwdrivers," I said
Eleanor raised her eyebrows, "That's right," she said, "I keep forgetting you only go out with circumsized men."
There was one story about a mother and father whose child had cancer and their hospital experience while the child was in treatment. I don't know whether it's because I have children of my own, or whether it's my PTSD because of a traumatic hospital experience I had, or whether it's because Moore's writing is just insanely brilliant - but the story hit me hard, right in the gut and because I had read it in the morning, I spent the entire day an emotional wreck.
I wouldn't hesitate in recommending Moore. If you're a fan of short stories, this will be an orgasmic delight. If you're not a fan of short stories, Moore will win you over.
Sheeeeeeeeittt, this book was dynaMITE. I've given quite a few books five star ratings but this one simply blows most of them away. First off though,...moreSheeeeeeeeittt, this book was dynaMITE. I've given quite a few books five star ratings but this one simply blows most of them away. First off though, I have to confess that I have unhealthy obsession with heroin addiction. Not as in *i* have a heroin addiction problem, thank fuck, but I'm drawn to it like a brain dead moth is to a tv screen. I also adore devastation, misery, doom and death so this book was right up my alley.
I've resisted reading it for years, often picking it up from my shelves, flicking through it before jamming it back in. I saw the move when I was a naive and delicate 17 year old with nothing much on my mind than starving myself and smoking weed. The movie was rated R and I made my way into the city by train to see it. I stuttered at the cinema clerk, mumbling that I'd left my license in my car then I turned firey red. She told me that if I was double checked for ID in the cinema to say that I couldn't remember who had sold me the ticket. Done deal, I scattered into the cinema - an ancient, musty one that has since been mowed down to make way for some boring fucking highrise. Where was I, oh yes, the movie - it fucked my little head up. I still remember how I felt walking out of that cinema; like I was floating. I was in a daze for a straight two hours, I've never felt anything like it since.
A small part of why the film tripped me out so much was because my favourite movie had been 'The Labyrinth" growing up; I was a rabid Jareth fan, that skintight lycra clinging to that spectacular .. (I've tripped up on what word to use here, penis, willy, cock? I don't know. I'm flushing already, worlds collide! My childhood! A grown man's todger! I was a late bloomer and it wasn't really until my mid teens that I realised how suggestive his tight tights scenes really were. But I was so in love with him. I still am. Goblin King Goblin King let me gobble you with my gob ...... okay, where was I. Oh, how I was once an innocent and naive young girl, hard to believe I know, OH I think my point was that Jennifer Connelly was in that movie. I was mostly jealous of her for being seduced by Jareth in that poisoned peach scene but generally just pretended I WAS her in order to cope with the overwhelming envy.
Fuck, okay, sorry sorry, so I meant to say something about it being confronting that Jennifer Conne;ly kind of represented my childhood in one film and then represented a turning point in my innocence with playing smacked out, cock gobbling Marion in Requiem for a Dream. My teenage years soon took quite a debauched and drug-saturated turn, so I don't know, fuck, FEELINGS. MEMORIES. YOU ARE PRIVY TO THEM.
Also, I usually like the book better than the movie but I couldn't imagine that the book could live up to how Darren Aronofsky's film adaption made me feel. I've watched it quite a few times since; sparingly because every time I watch it I feel like I want to cry afterwards; which is an uncomfortable and foreign feeling for me - I DON'T FUCKING LIKE IT. But I still go back for more. Like a smack head to a baggy of heroin. And the book, it made me feel fucked up as well. I didn't want to cry because I'm a hardened callous bitch and get off on other people's misery; I'm like a shitty emotions vampire. But the book hit me hard in the gut. I couldn't put the fucker down, and not because I wanted to finish it so's I could read the next book on my gigantic to-read pile - it was just that good a book. I rarely get that.
I'm addicted to Tiny Tower on my phone at the moment - this book was good enough that I forgot about levelling up every time I picked the book up. That's saying a lot - it takes every fibre of my being to not play Tiny Tower in the fucking shower. I'VE CHECKED IT THREE TIMES WHILST WRITING THIS REVIEW. Fuck you Tiny Tower, the smack of apps.
What else did I want to say, oh yes, that's right. It was interesting, too, that when I was younger I identified with Marion and Harry and now I'm more drawn to Sara's story instead. The loneliness, the desperation to lose weight, feeling time slip away, shoving cream cheese bagels into my face at every opportunity, being this close to begging dexies from a quack doctor because I hate exercising so fucking much but would love to lose half my body weight. Also because it is my birthday tomorrow and I am SO FUCKING OLD NOW just like Sara Goldfarb. Old and withered and soon to be dead and fucking geriatric in a nursing home, frothing at the mouth and pooping myself; my children having abandoned me to be junkies and hookers. Oh god.
This is an excellent book, you should read it. Or don't read it. I prefer it if you don't because I don't like being responsible for when people don't like shit I recommend. So don't read it and just KNOW that it is really good and you are missing out on something terrific and awesome and dynaMITE.(less)
Give me books like this to read for the rest of my life. Something that I constantly do is wonder if I have something wrong with my attention span. Bo...moreGive me books like this to read for the rest of my life. Something that I constantly do is wonder if I have something wrong with my attention span. Book after book, I battle to get through to the end. I dread picking them up, I hold my eyelids open, I bribe myself ... "just one more page, make it five more pages, god I hope it ends soon." I thrash, I groan. But then I come across gems like this that I chew through. The world falls silent around me and I become one with every single word, sentence, paragraph. Books like these make me feel like they're speaking to my very being. That we're breathing in the same rhythm. I read this one 'til late, it was the first thing I picked up in the morning (when a book beats Instagram, I know it's good), I took it to the park, I read it while the kids watched Addams family and then I was sad I was finished, which is another rarity. Usually, even when I've enjoyed a book, I'm glad it's done. But this one made me wanna google Ida and see how she's doin'. I wanted a juicy letter from (view spoiler)[the boys' aunt (hide spoiler)], filling me in with their progress. Do they still wipe snot on the furniture, do they still have a penchant for Coke. Has the manager at Karr's found a reliable bakery manager yet? Books like this one remind me to continue seeking out the gold and to not blame myself for struggling to pay attention - it's not my fault that everyone bar Zuluaga and Jeanette Winterson (okay, and a handful of others) are below average writers. Not my fault at all.
And yet a couple of people have stumped me by asking, "what's that one about?". It was a simple, if not startling answer with a recent read; a mum at the school cornered me and asked what it was about (The Shining Girls) and unable to come up with something that sounded remotely intelligent, I blurted, "a time travelling serial killer!". I mean, it was. But why on earth don't I get asked what I'm reading when I'm reading smart shit. Oh this old thing, just a bit of Russian lit to start my day off. as I sip on black coffee and flick a speck of sand off my polished, stylish boot. Yknow, rather than time travelling serial killers, a warm bottle of diet coke clenched between fat knees, and bare feet 'cos lord knows where I left my shoes at last. It was a guilty pleasure book and I always get busted on the guilty pleasure ones (don't even ask how I fared when queried on "Tampa").
Anyway. with this book I did no better with trying to explain what it was about. Oh, it's about nothing really. My partner rolled his eyes when he asked what I was reading and I said, "a book". My mother in law insisted I elaborate, Well, a girl who goes to a town and she lives in this house with a flapping tarp, there's a dead boy in a canal and some parentless children but the story isn't about that. Doesn't mean you won't hold your breath wondering if something's about to happen though. Not it's not frustrating, it's delicious. It's a held in orgasm.There's bakery food and a treehouse and a mysterious dude on a bike. It's bleak but it's fucking stunning. It's about ... passing through and belonging and ... personal growth. But not in a Coelho way. It's about parents that are terrible but not bad enough. It's about neglect. It's about Florida heat and swampy canals. It's about coping and making do. It's about connections and about how sometimes people fall together into a family. it's about the donuts you get to take home when you work in a bakery. It's about nothing and everything, depending on what your rhythm is, how fast you breathe in and out, how slow your heart thuds. The story is in between the beats, it's in the air that you're pulling into and pushing out of your lungs. If you feel this book, then I think you feel me.
Gonna add Zuluaga to the little flock of favourites that I have. The ones who in my fantasies I convince into living with me in abandoned lighthouses in sleepy seaside towns. I provide food and praise and shoulder massages and they simply write me books for the rest of my life. It's a pretty good deal, I give good massages and make a mean tofu scramble. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I've read a few of Bukowski's books over the years and always hesitated on rating them because I was always so conflicted as to how I felt. I thought,...moreI've read a few of Bukowski's books over the years and always hesitated on rating them because I was always so conflicted as to how I felt. I thought, if I give this bastard 5 stars, is that condoning the fact that he's a misogynistic prick? I've finally decided that no, by enjoying his work, it doesn't mean that I too am a Bukowski in the making. I mean, I've read plenty of books about the holocaust and it doesn't mean I champion genocide.
I also have no excuse for finding bad boys attractive. It's a vile trait of mine. I don't go, oh wow, he only sees me as a piece of arse THEREFORE I AM HOT FOR HIM. But I certainly find dishevelled, messed up men fascinating. Like Hank Moody from Californication, somewhat a parallel of Bukowski - except infinitely more attractive.
Reading Bukowksi's poems are like reading his thoughts scratched down onto a beer-stained napkin, or like reading his diary. Alcoholic snippets where women are commodities (or likened to mares) and his rather mundane life is jotted down in a drawling tone. You can feel Bukowski in every single line. You feel like you know him inside-out, he's a simple man.
His poetry is different to most poetry that I've read. Observations rather than shit that you have to pull apart to understand. As he says himself in "our deep sleep"
Our current moderns leave me quite unsatisfied there is neither lean nor fat in their efforts, no pace, no gamble, no joy. It's work reading them, hard work. there is much pretense and even some clever con behind their production. (our deep sleep)
His writing is never pretty, it's rough around the edges and bitter as whiskey in the centre. There's never any soft light filtering through the curtains, or sensuous curves of a woman's body, just;
"I wake up with a stiff neck instead of a stiff dick and you." (the hog in the hedge)
But also, there is so much that I identify with;
"I walked miles through the city and recognized nothing as a giant claw ate my stomach while the inside of my head felt airy as if I was about to go mad." (fingernails, nostrils, shoelaces)
people ask, "why do you jump when the telephone rings?"
if they don't know you can't tell them (sadness in the air)
Bukowski is like icecream except minus the sweetness. He's like icecream because you know he's bad for you. You read him guiltily when nobody else is looking so you don't have to defend your actions. He's just so good that you don't want to read him all at once, so you start with taking a bite here and there, but you end up devouring the whole fucking thing. Except with icecream I get diarrhea and vomit a lot because I can't eat dairy. Though I'm presuming a good morning for Bukowski would have involved similar, so there's parallels all over the place.
Sure, he mistreated women, he saw them as commodities and pieces of arse rather than an equal. Anyone who's read Bukowski is well aware of how he views women but he also seemed happy to admit his shortcomings. Not in a prideful way but almost, as if he didn't understand the way that he was, but he just was. I don't think he hated women so much as women confused the shit out of him, intimidated him and so he kept his distance by being a sexist prick. I still struggle to justify my love of him, as I identify as a feminist so therefore, as a feminist, should I be shirking Bukowski, when all his women are one-dimensional tits n arse cardboard cutouts, needless to mention his callous language towards women and their anatomy. But then he seemed to hate a lot of people; men and women alike. A misanthrope with a womanizing streak? I don't know. I read him, I disagree with him a lot, but I still like to read him. Whether that's something I should be keeping to myself because it makes me a Bad Feminist, I've still yet to decide.
In a poem titled, 'yours' he writes;
"I was a terrible and jealous lover who mistreated and failed to understand them and it's best that they are with others now for that will be better for them and that will be better for me so when they phone or write or leave messages I will foward them all to their new fine fellows.
I don't deserve what they have and I want to keep it that way."
He was a loser and he knew it. A loser who wrote really poignant shit. He's fucking fascinating, as most broken, messed up people are. I'll finish up with my favourite poem of his from this collection.
the old woman
she lived in the last old house on the block you know the kind; vine-covered, dark, quiet her neighbors were gone nothing but high-rise apartments everywhere you'd see her two or three times a week pushing her little shopping cart on its two wheels; then she'd come back with stuff in bags, go into the house, and that was it, she never spoke to anybody
it was last week about 3.30pm that her house began sliding off its foundation. it was a very slow slide and you got the idea that the house was just stepping forward to take a walk down the street- except some of the lumber began to snap- it sounded like rifle shots, and the house moaned just a little - a dark green moan.
somebody called the fire dept. and men were running around shutting off the gas and shouting at each other and telling the crowd to keep back and along came one of those television trucks and they filmed the house sagging toward the street.
then the front door opened and the little old lady came out they put the camera on her and a woman ran up with a mike.
"how long have you bee living in your house?"
"do you have insurance"
"what will you do now?"
"go back to Ireland"
then she walked away and left them all just standing there.(less)