All my favourite writers are favourites for different reasons. Tartt for her ability to weave a story sometimes about nothing, Winterson for her headyAll my favourite writers are favourites for different reasons. Tartt for her ability to weave a story sometimes about nothing, Winterson for her heady prose and now Woodrell (along with Donald Ray Pollock) for his ability to punch you in the stomach, only to walk away and leave you wanting more. Give me grit, give me all of the gnarly, mucky gritty shit.
As much as I get a kick out of listening to say, Stephen Fry speak; his clever vocabulary, the pompous roll of his words - I have started appreciating the beauty of simple language too. Perhaps "simple" isn't the best word, as it can be complex and stunning and an entire plump little world of its own. Some of you may be rolling your eyes and thinking, well duh. But I grew up with an incredible amount of cultural cringe and now I wish I had embraced the sun drenched land and all it encompasses, that I'm fortunate to live on, earlier in life. This land full of sunburned, sweating people, their accents heavy with ocker twang. Houses on stilts, burned dusty lawns and oceans as warm as a tepid cup of tea. I've gone from wanting to only read books that transport me to other places; London, New York, places with snow or big cities to wanting to smother myself in red dirt and humidity. America's South is different to Australia but there's similarities too.
"Full summer heat was in play that day. Folks moved slower. Dogs crawled under porches and would not fetch. People got cranky about other people blocking the fan wind. Tar patches on the road bubbled up like black pancakes almost ready to flip. Anything around that did not smell too good normally smelled awful."
He could be writing about where I live, right here on this very road. This is the kind of writing that pushes my buttons, Do you ever get that feeling where you're really hungry and you can't quite decide what you reel like eating? This book hit that slim spot, it filled all the blanks that I felt was missing in The Goldfinch (which I've just come from)l the heady detail, the gritty setting.
"The woods squeezed close at the very edge of the yard on three sides and stood there glum like a crowd that had patience and more patience but was not so sure they ever would be entertained"
Now that is fucking clever writing. So subtle yet brilliant. The kicked up dust, rickety fences, dilapidated houses and rusted out porches, rattling cars and broken people. It's a smorgasbord of grungy description. There's food that smacks you around the nostrils too, black beans with ham, chicken noodle soups sitting heavy in pots on the stove top.
Woodrell wrote in a piece on why he writes, (found tacked onto the back of this noveL), "When the timber barons came to the Ozarks they cut the great forests down to stump and mud and the mud thinned - more with every rainfall. They took all the timber, They left us the stumps. This is the Ozarks I needed to know, and know to the bloody root, in order to write as I do."
I enjoy it thoroughly when writers such as Woodrell grab their hometown by the balls and spread it about on paper. Yet it's not just a soulless book full of gutsy characters and description, it has a quietly fluid plot making you question things like the age-old nature vs nurture debate. Was Shugs inherently bad-natured or was he moulded into perversity, wickedness by the adults who had parts to play in raising him? I think a lot about parenting and how much of what care-givers do, ultimately affects the child as they grow. It's always interesting to see what others' takes are. As much as it seems that Shugs had no choice, another child may have run away from home, refused to participate, fought back.
This isn't the kind of book I recommend to just anybody but it's a quick read and if you've got a thing for gritty shit then this book is a nice, compact little ride through some questionable characters and their actions. You might even walk away with an appreciation and fascination for the Ozarks, on which I'm already scouring Wikipedia....more
I have a million books to read (exaggerated but probably not far off) and yet the other day, I couldn't pick one of them - nothing was jumping out. II have a million books to read (exaggerated but probably not far off) and yet the other day, I couldn't pick one of them - nothing was jumping out. I wanted to read about the ocean but it had to be magical. It needed to be witchy but not precious or twee. There was nothing that I owned remotely like this and just after I had given up, I stumbled upon a book recommendation for Sea Hearts (as The Brides of Rollrock Island is called here in Australia).
Too good to be true, surely. It sounded like everything I wanted. And blissfully, it was.
I went up through the town. Everything was so much as I remembered, and yet so much littler, that I was charmed and horrified both. Kitty would certainly hate it here, how cramped it was, how quiet, how empty of bustle. And she would see as odd, rather than as pleasing in their familiarity, the sea-wives’ touches on the houses. Stones and shells and tiny dried-weed baskets, useless for anything but decoration, lay arranged on many windowsills. The curtains the wives favoured were swept aside one way; a Cordliner would laugh at those, how the houses seemed to be looking slyly sideways. Cats stalked about everywhere, or lay curled on steps or fence-tops or in windows, patched strange colours from their interbreeding. And little gardens grew in pots and sheltered corners, crammed with the plants that the seal-women liked, which were not airy and flowery like mainland potted plants, but brought to mind coral, or oyster-clumps, or other kinds of sea growth.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it. An Australian author. A lady author. A mindblowing author that delivered on all fronts. A pungent, heady little novel full of sea smells and wistful selkies. I loved every second.
(Here's a video with Margo talking about the book - link)...more
A generous four stars. It was probably more like 3.5. I went into it expecting a book about books and although it was, in a way, it was more about tecA generous four stars. It was probably more like 3.5. I went into it expecting a book about books and although it was, in a way, it was more about technology. I'm supposing that because it's super modern and talks a lot of the technology we're using today that it's going to all sound a bit naff, sometime soon. But besides that, I think the themes will carry true forever. Kind of reminded me of a young adult adventure novel. I liked it, it was fun. I'd recommend it if you were up for a fun, quick read. Characters were interesting (and likeable, for those who need likeable characters in their novels) and the writing was, although not brilliant, easy to read and cheerful.
It didn't annoy me, which is why the generous rating....more
A more apt title would have been Similes for Little Criminals, it would have better prepared me for the onslaught of cutesy prose which, amazingly, diA more apt title would have been Similes for Little Criminals, it would have better prepared me for the onslaught of cutesy prose which, amazingly, did not bother me in the slightest even though sometimes I felt like I was being bashed over the head by cotton candy stuffed condoms. Like jelly filled gloves, slapping me gently but steadily across the face like the hand of a moody yet camp pimp. Guys, I am fucking THIRTY years old now. I can not get away with writing scathing, whiny reviews because I am no longer cute and young like a uncoordinated yearling. I am now officially old and anything negative I have to say will be deemed bitter. Like old coffee grounds. No longer will you consider me edgy, I will be classified as neurotic. Perhaps eccentric, god forbid, geriatric. My reviews will be passed over, oh there is that cranky old bitch, who cares what she has to say, she's thirty and jaded. She was fine last year when she was fresh faced and bushy-tailed, now she's just all wiry grey haired bush and her face isn't fresh, it's OLD. Like an abandoned boot. I've pledged to stop wasting my time hate-reviewing books and spending the rest of my short time on earth reading great ones. I don't have time to dilly dally anymore. Tick tock motherfock, I got 3,000 books on my to-read list.
This one, by this Heather O'Neill person was really long and there were several times where I got a bit worried I might see proper old age before I finished it. It just went on and on and on and I was about 75% of the way through (see, I know the percentages 'cos I'm one of those arse stains that use an ereader 'cos I'm blind as bat shit (okay, now that I've typed that I realised it's blind as a BAT (or bat-shit crazy). it's a nice amalgamation of both and I can see about as well as a bat turd so it's apt). Wait, where was I, I got lost in multiple sets of parentheses there. Oh right, the book. It was long and at one point towards the end I was like, I have been reading someone's well constructed brain-fart and haven't even questioned its unique and harrowing scent yet but then it picked up pace and finished itself off quickly and tidily like any good man should. i mean, book. Other reviewers will tell you things about Baby and Jules and use words like depressing and bleak and narrative and feelings. I want to just say this, I ate a whole packet of family sized salt and vinegar chips for dinner because that's just what you can do when you're an adult. You can make choices like that.
Sometimes people like Baby can revel in heroin usage and homelessness at age 13 but what the fuck ever, she don't know how the hard bitches roll.
It is totally 3.35am and I am sitting here hunched over my keyboard mashing at keys making things that look like words on this here screen because I can't sleep because my knees are aching and I have heartburn. Like a fucking old person. Seriously. I looked at my goodreads proflle before and was so taken aback seeing, "details Age 30 , Female , Australia" in my details that it's tainted my entire review. It doesn't hit you 'til it creeps up on you like that, written all matter-of-fact, balls-out, public profile THIRTY. I was going to write an entire review constructed solely of similes and look how fast it deteriorated. It fell apart like a newspaper sitting on wet grass in the humid rain of somewhere like Manila. Goodreads hasn't got "TOP FUCKIN' ONE PERCENT OF REVIEWERS" written there though has it. I'll take the liberty of informing you of that myself. They emailed me and told me this week, just like when your employer pulls you aside and tells you you're the best employee they've got, keep up the good work mate. Who even wants that quiet praise bullshit, sing it from the rooftops, give me a badge and a cocktail named after me. Put my name on a billboard, decorate a cake with a picture of my haggard old face on it. Way to make me sing my own praises and make me look like a douchebag, I've already made a tumblr post about it only to get ignored. Now I have to try and glean admiration this way as well. Fuck you goodreads, you still won't trick me into buying shit from amazon. QUIET PRAISES DO NOT WORK WITH ME.
So anyway, how about that hey, top 1% and I rarely mention plot line or, hell, the book at all when I'm reviewing. With 20 million users that means i'm one of the top 20,000 on here. Amongst all the YA reading gif-fucking-using, picture slutting jerks, here I am. GIF free and thirty. I typed that as thirsty, which is true. I need rehydrating after all that chip eating.
This book was pretty good, you should read it....more
holyshitholyshitholyshitholyshitholyshit: THAT is what was going through my mind for half of the book, I was so in love with Russell's language that aholyshitholyshitholyshitholyshitholyshit: THAT is what was going through my mind for half of the book, I was so in love with Russell's language that all the minor inconsistencies didn't even matter. But then I started to realise that not only was Ava lost in the swamp, I was too. My attention waned, I was no longer sneaking minutes here and there to gorge on it - I was having to force feed it to try and get it finished. I hate it when that happens. Like that disappointing realisation when you've been crushing on someone for ages and then they do or say something and you realise they're a giant douchebag. But you still mourn for the love that was. Russell, I loved you. So much. I was reading you on my ereader and I went to three different book stores to try and find a real copy because I loved it that much. I wanted to paw at it and underline things and give myself up completely to it. Her sentences are just so pretty.
And seriously, the whole (view spoiler)[you know, getting raped by Bird Man thing soured the experience for me even further. I can deal with reading about difficult subjects but not when I'm in the middle of a book that I'm thinking I could pass onto my kids in a few years and I get slammed with a out-of-the-blue rape. It was so unnecessary and as Oriana states in her review - introduced too late in the book and not dealt with properly. You can't have some 13 year old get RAPED when the reader isn't really expecting it! (hide spoiler)] I was exceedingly pissed off about this. I had to ignore how angry I felt in order to get the book finished. And she didn't even redeem herself. I don't know whether it was because the book was already soured for me or because the book just went downhill, but it totally lost its shit. It turned into a rambling nightmare with a supremely disappointing ending.
Then because I was pissed off, I got mad about all the things that wouldn't have bothered me if she hadn't royally fucked up. Blah. Still, Russell can really write and her imagination is extraordinary - I'm really lucky that I actually haven't read her short story collection and it appears that it is infinitely better. I'm still so bummed that this book bombed like it did. Still, three stars because man, that prose.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Like Grimm's on a hit of acid. Or Lemony Snicket if he wasn't so flaccid. Just kidding, I love Snicket, i just wanted to make a rhyme. Maybe a bit likLike Grimm's on a hit of acid. Or Lemony Snicket if he wasn't so flaccid. Just kidding, I love Snicket, i just wanted to make a rhyme. Maybe a bit like Miranda July's night terrors would be like after a night on magic mushrooms? Murakami inside Raoul Duke's body visiting a Hayao Miyazaki movie (say, Spirited Away)? Or really, I shouldn't bother with comparisons because Kelly Link is like nothing else I've ever read.
One day I will no longer be surprised that I like books that everyone hates and hate books that everyone likes. Though in this instance, I loved this book (like the majority of its readers) but my favourite story, Catskin, doesn't seem to be the universal favourite. I read it and was like, ho boy, I can't wait to get on goodreads and connect with all the other people who surely thought it was the best out of the collection. We can give each other high fives and eat sherbet whilst reminiscing over how fantastic our reading experience was. Not, so. Oh well. I thought Catskin was magnificent. But then I am partial to tales about witches and I do have a hairless cat companion and am now convinced there's some other type of creature inside. He is literally a cat shaped skin bag with a monkey's character. Escaped straight from Link's twisted mind.
I mean, how could you read this and not curl your toes up in glee?
The dollhouse chimney had broken off and fallen on the ground. One of the cats picked it up and carried it away, like a souvenir. The cat carried the chimney into the woods and ate it, a mouthful at a time, and passed out of this story and into another one. It’s no concern of ours.
The Stone Animals was also great, made you feel funny in your toes and in your stomach. Or like you had toes in your stomach. I'm mentioning toes a lot but toes are weird and fitting for a review on a book such as this. I loved the opening story, The Hortlak.. Zombies living in a chasm, weirdo pyjamas, a convenience store, a girl with a car full of dog ghosts. Going by the keywords, you wouldn't think it'd be half as riveting or unsettling as it was. Trying to briefly explain any of these stories to someone who hasn't read this book is impossible. Go on, try to, I dare you. Better yet, just tell them to check out the story in full on her website here.
The only ones that left me a little flat were The Great Divorce and Lull however I suspect that that has a lot to do with the fact that a book that I have been itching to read arrived in the mail before I finished Magic and I just couldn't focus. So I'ma come back and read those ones again (properly) another time. This book is probably actually more a four star for me but I loved Catskin so much that it's going to have to be a five.
I imagine Link to be the Helena Bonham Carter of the lit world. All mismatched socks and curled toe witch boots, birds nest hair and a magic air. In my usual fashion, I'd typically say that I want to seduce and marry her, whisk her away to an island made of marshmallow and scattered with bunnies but she weirds me out a little too much. Maybe we could live in two separate houses, joined by a bridge (sort of how Bonham-Carter and Burton live). Or she can just stay right where she is and continue weaving her magic into her nightmarish fairytales.
The only thing I'm sure of is that I wouldn't want to be her child at story time before bed....more