A lot of humor and a lotta heart. 326 pages of pure entertainment.
Like a lot of reviews I've read, Semple didn't quite stick the landing for me -- I...moreA lot of humor and a lotta heart. 326 pages of pure entertainment.
Like a lot of reviews I've read, Semple didn't quite stick the landing for me -- I didn't enjoy the longer first person narratives quite as much as the documents. To be fair though, I *loved* the docs, so that's not much of a complaint. Part of me feels Semple tied everything together too tidily, and part of me wonders what's wrong with tidy? I got the ending I wanted, afterall (though I do wonder what's to become of Soo-Lin...) and I was happy quickly flipping pages until I got there.
Something I'd gladly read again and already plan to share the crap out of.(less)
Creepy and amusing. The story has a childish, nursery rhyme quality, due to both Mary Katherine's repetitiveness and superstitious behavior, and at on...moreCreepy and amusing. The story has a childish, nursery rhyme quality, due to both Mary Katherine's repetitiveness and superstitious behavior, and at once fees classic and haunting.
Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea? Oh no, said Merricat, you'll poison me. Merricat, said Connie, would you like to go to sleep? Down in the boneyard ten feet deep!
Reminds me of standing in front of the bathroom mirror reciting "Bloody Mary" with my sisters. Creeped out, but really just having fun.
So well done, but so sad. Toward the end, I got to a point where I was actually apprehensive about picking it back up because I knew it would upset me...moreSo well done, but so sad. Toward the end, I got to a point where I was actually apprehensive about picking it back up because I knew it would upset me. And there I was at the beginning, thinking it would just be the happy ramblings of a ten year old boy the whole way through, enjoying it but wondering what the point was. THEN HE BROKE MY DAMNED HEART!
I struggled to get through this one. Partly because I was so enthusiastic about it's release that I unintentionally gave myself an assignment to read...moreI struggled to get through this one. Partly because I was so enthusiastic about it's release that I unintentionally gave myself an assignment to read it as quickly as possible. (And who here likes reading assignments?) And partly because it felt dense. The language and imagery is so. damn. good. Like sentence after sentence after sentence. Your brain hardly ever gets a moment to stop being wowed and go "damn, how'd she come up with that?" because it is constantly in the process of being wowed. That sounds impressive, I know, but a brain can only take so much of that before it all becomes muddled. I have to assume Karen Russell's editors just had too hard a time taking stuff out. They just couldn't stand the thought of someone not reading all those artful sentences. But you know what they say about too much of a good thing and this had it.
I've read Russell's short stories, so I expected the writing to be well crafted, and I expected the ideas to be unique, gritty, and fairy tale-like. And she delivered on all counts. What I did not expect, especially after all of the reviews I read about how the book "goes nowhere", was for the themes of the novel to be handled so remarkably. This is a very impressive comment on the nature and genre of fairy tale. Certainly you could talk at length about the themes of family and culture in America, about simulation and hyperreality, about Native American identity, and the list goes further. In short, Russell gives us a lot to think on. But her handling of the fairy tale genre is what I, personally, found most thought provoking and unique.
To that end... The entire time I'm reading about the Bird Man, as any sane person would, I am thinking "do not go with this creepy guy, Ava. WTF are you thinking?" But then Russell has placed us in Swamplandia!, where even the family's heritage is made up, where they are utterly removed from the Real World, and I think "oh, but this is a fantasy. Guys like this don't have to behave like real people in a fantasy. Maybe he can be trusted." And I'm not sure where I am. Is this real life? Is this magic realism? Are they really steering this boat to Hell? I'm not sure what I'm supposed to believe, exactly. And then the exact thing you, in all your real world, street smart, wisdom expected to happen, knew should happen happens and yet you are shocked and disgusted by it. Why did he have to be so real? Why couldn't this have been a fairy tale? Why are men like this? Ava knew better, didn't she? Or no?
We can't live in a fantasy, unfortunately. Not easily, anyway. Not in the old fashioned, fairy tale, live off the land sort of way. (Real Native Americans couldn't do it, what makes our naive "chief" here think a fake one can?) Nobody tries harder than the Bigtree family to do it. But the real world -- it's money, it's people, it's institutions, and illnesses -- make it too difficult. We've built a world we can't afford to dream in. Which is why we pinch our pennies for those theme park family vacations. Good bye innocence, but at least nobody died. Right?(less)
I really did enjoy this. There were parts of it that completely creeped me out and, I'm sure, must have caused me to look a bit crazed while reading a...moreI really did enjoy this. There were parts of it that completely creeped me out and, I'm sure, must have caused me to look a bit crazed while reading aboard the CTA. There were parts that lagged a bit too, though, and I started waiting for something to happen. And the "exploding" grandma stigma didn't seem as worth lingering on to me as it apparently did to the entirety of Bad Munstreifel. Maybe that's because I heard Pia's side of things. Certainly children can be cruel, but I found I was a little tired of hearing about it after awhile. It didn't make me feel any extreme on either end -- I didn't find it hilariously absurd and I didn't feel a terrible amount of sympathy after a while either. Dunno. I liked Pia just fine, and of course, the creepy German folktales are the heart of this. It really did keep me wondering whether something supernatural was going to happen. I won't give that away though.
Straddles the line between YA and adult fiction, which is a place I like to be!(less)
What a funny recommendation, Deb. Probably the most depressing "children's book" I've ever read. Or is it young adult? I don't know, but only give thi...moreWhat a funny recommendation, Deb. Probably the most depressing "children's book" I've ever read. Or is it young adult? I don't know, but only give this to middle readers you attend to scare the begeezus out of. It's definitely interesting to discuss as a fairy tale (combines elements of Tom Thumb, Hansel & Gretel, and probably others), but I found it terrifying in the sort of way that "A Child Called It" scares me, rather than scary/fascinating in the way that Hansel and Gretel made me feel as a kid. Even when I was convinced that the witch was going to seriously kill and eat Hansel, I was excited, not sickened. I think it's details like how badly the children smell that sent me over the edge. Or maybe I just can't read something like this the way a child can, like how it's too easy it to read abduction and rape into a story like Little Red Riding Hood as an adult. Dunno. Maybe it's something to do with the lack of pictures as well. Anyway, quick and worth reading but *I* wouldn't give it to a kid (and that's saying something). Also, feel like something was lost in the translation. Some of the sentences are just very flat! Yet they end with exclaimation marks! Like so!
"The Doutrealeau case? I have to concede that I had given up on it. When a child disappears and is not found within forty-eight hours, it doesn't look promising. The more time passes, the less chance of success. Days go by, weeks, and you end up forgetting or almost forgetting until, one day, a mushroom picker finds a corpse in the woods." pg 177
I intended to read this before seeing the movie, but things didn't work out that way and, as I feared, I was completely unable to separate the book fr...moreI intended to read this before seeing the movie, but things didn't work out that way and, as I feared, I was completely unable to separate the book from the images of the film. I'm not sure how much of a difference it would have made now, though; while some of the chronology is flipped around, the book is for the most part simply a transcription of the movie. Which is better though? I don't know... they kind of work together. Where the book lacks, the movie makes up with beautiful imagery. Where the movie falls short, Eggers gives us some answers.
On the negative, Eggers writing here was frequently a disappointment (which I was not expecting; AHBWOSG and YSKOV! are two of my favorite books). Apparently when writing for "all ages" he thinks "less intelligent", and therefore wrote a whole lotta short, flat sentences. And threw in a few exclamation marks! The writing felt awkward and frequently boring. That's not how you write to a younger audience. They aren't braindead. As a result, reading passages that were directly taken from the film, moments that work best visually, felt drawn out and rough. Eggers, I find, is best at dialogue. He's hilarious and poignant, but description just isn't his thing. Not here, anyway. The snow fort scene, for example, was a great moment in the film, but none of that adrenaline or hurt was translated into the book. Moments like that, when the movie surpassed the book, it was really hard not to compare.
On the positive, I know one thing people were really looking for in the book was background information, or more motive. I feel like Eggers tried to provide some of that. The boyfriend was fleshed out, and we could see how he would have been an additional stress in Max's life, and we understood that his dad had left (and that he was intending to sail to HIM... good addition. Makes Max seem like less of a bipolar ass when he hops in a boat when the reader has this in mind), but the rest of the dad stuff didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Men at the door? Spending the night with women? What was the point of that information? At first I'm thinking Max's dad is gay, and that's why he left. Then he's having noisy one-night stands with women. Not that the dude can't swing both ways, I just didn't know what Eggers was trying to do with that. What I felt Eggers did MUCH more successfully here, and which I think may have tipped the scale in favor of the book for me, is that he drew comparisons between the wild things and Max's own life. That was really missing from the movie, and it made me feel kind of confused... like why do I wanna watch some kid having a really difficult time interacting with these largely stressful and cruel beasts, if I'm not really going to be able to at least take a METAPHOR away from it? I don't just wanna read about stressful situations for no reason. I felt like the movie MEANT to tell us that "families are difficult... but they're worth it". In the end, it merely stated that they're difficult. And showed that fact over and over again to the point of depression. The book, I felt, added some of the worthwhile factors.
One of my favorite parts, from page 266:
Max stared at the wound for a moment, then knelt down next to Alexander. "Does it hurt?" Max asked, hoping the answer was no. "A little, yeah," Alexander said, wincing. Max took the tail of his wolf suit in his hand and licked it, using it to clean the wound. Alexander smiled. "That's better. Thanks." "I have to leave an go somewhere else now." "Where?" Alexander asked. "Anywhere. I ruin every place I go. I ruined this place too. I... I didn't want Douglas's arm to... to get..." Max couldn't say it. "You didn't rip it off," Alexander said. "Carol did." "But I wanted a fort. And I told Carol the sun would die. And I wanted secret doors..." Alexander looked at Max like he was mad. "You really think you wrecked this island? You think you're that powerful? That you're the reason that everyone is happy or sad?" Max wanted to say No, but this is exactly what he was thinking. "But I hit you. I hit you a hundred times." "Well, you did do that. No doubt about it."(less)