So I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a four-starer, that is until a few weeks later (while engaging in a Halloween tradition with the MissSo I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a four-starer, that is until a few weeks later (while engaging in a Halloween tradition with the Misses - watching silly horror/suspense movies (not the Saw/Hostel gore fest either which is bizarre to me that people seek out - really just visit an abattoir)) I happened upon Skeleton Key - an all-too-forgettable affair starring Kate Hudson and that Sarsgaard feller (who seems like an okay actor until you look at his filmography (Flightplan, Orphan(!)). All this as a way of saying Skeleton Key is NOT something you lift material from. Oh did I mention Mitchell uses the SAME EXACT PREMISE (with oh-so-subtle changes) (and not to spoil an ending - but he also uses the same supernatural methodology) as this movie.
Now, to be fair, it could be that Skeleton Key is a rip off of a third source that Mitchell is also taking from (in the same way the Gospels all took from the same Q Source), but the whole experience took what was a good book and made it an okay book (as all the cool details seemed to have come from this movie).
Plagiarism is a tricky beast, and I usually let it slide, but it made me doubt this novella, and all the positive associations have now met their metaphorical antimatter of negativity - annihilating each other - conserving their energy in this pithy little review.
I really don't like coming online and slamming a book that some other human being has spent countless hours of their life creating, and here I am tellI really don't like coming online and slamming a book that some other human being has spent countless hours of their life creating, and here I am telling other people DONT READ THIS BOOK!!! but really this must be an exception, only one other book has made me feel anything close to this one (miranda july's "no one belongs here"). but this book is exponentially worse than the few stories I read of that title. I'm not gonna get into WHY the book is so bad, as all bad books are bad in the same ways (ala Tolstoy's happy families). so really I am just here to say DON"T READ THIS BOOK!!!!! this is literally the worst book I have ever read. this is not hyperbole. bizarrely, I finished the book because it was the worst and we as humans are fascinated by outliers. also I listened to it on book on cd, and the narration wasn't very good either. thus, worst book ever, plus bad narration, equals - SAVE YOUR TIME AND MONEY, please.
p.s. I am sure some people loved this book and that's okay, to give you an idea of my feeling toward the writing, it is like someone ripping of marisha pessl (who has ripped off other, way better writers and whose novelistic arc looks like a water slide). but I just want to say its okay for me to loathe a book and others to love it, that does not make either of us idiots, dumb, stupid, etc. so if you do love this book, I'm glad you got something out of it as I only got the experience of the worst book I have ever read. alas, just trying to forestall and angry comments by those who love the book....more
this is a great sci-fi book with solid scientific ideas behind all of the cocamame (I've never seen this word written) schemes mark watney cooks up. Ithis is a great sci-fi book with solid scientific ideas behind all of the cocamame (I've never seen this word written) schemes mark watney cooks up. I also listened to this book on audio which provided another layer to the experience as much of the novel takes place as audio logs made by the protagonist. the plot is rather simple: man gets left on mars through no fault of anyones and must use his determination and ingenuity (sprinkled with a little humor) to try and survive for damn near three years so he will be alive when nasa can get a rescue crew back to mars.
but that is all secondary to the consistently surprising mcguyver-like efforts watney engages in to solve problems. one example: he doesn't have enough water and must use chemistry to CREATE water. this may be something elementary to more scientifically inclined individuals, but I found this fascinating (I won't give away the method as I recommend you go read the book now and find out for yourself). so there are many more life-threatening problems he must solve, and each contains thought-provoking ideas about problem solving and the delicate balance we as humans require to stay alive (we just happen to live on a planet that maintains this balance for us)
as for theme, it is rather secondary and I gave this book five stars on the believability of these solutions alone (not that they all would actually work - or even be tried, but they all had some solid physics ideas behind them). so for those interested in science, mars, problem solving, and a dash of devil-may-care humor and charm: here you go. enjoy!...more
an interesting title in general, but i got the sinking feeling that this whole thing was a personal marketing ploy ala don draper and that the authoran interesting title in general, but i got the sinking feeling that this whole thing was a personal marketing ploy ala don draper and that the author could care less about consumers and just found a great niche to sell books. ugh....more
a solid memoir with some heavy and powerful themes, of loss, redemption, and finding a path in life through which you can happily walk. i will say i wa solid memoir with some heavy and powerful themes, of loss, redemption, and finding a path in life through which you can happily walk. i will say i was happy as a reader not to have the typical one-upsmanship of rock memoirs; however, the gastrointestinal garrulousness was unnerving to this reader. My only major complaint (and the reason for 3 stars, although 3.5 is closer to how i feel about this book) is the tone. i struggled to find a unique authorial tone, rather it felt as if written in a universal tone of objectively writing about your subjective experience. there is a line in the book about trying to find a vocal style and how, the singer tried to blend hundreds of others vocal styles to create his own. and his self-perceived vocal weakness is the main issue with the book. that said, it takes a lot of time energy, reading, writing and re-writing just to sound professional. yet the technical proficiency shows a lack of authorial style (i.e. nabokov, borges, dfw, etc). and while it's kinda unfair to compare with the greatest 20th cent. writers, i feel like the emotional perspicacity, and humanity, and willingness to dive in the murky pool of the past and wrestle with embarrassing, needy, and foreign versions of yourself, is the correct foundation upon which can be built, the house of style. and when this author arrives there, we may have a literary mansion: the cement's been poured....more
So after coming up with a cute little mnemonic to remember who was the brother and who the sister (Franny=female), I began to unravel the emotional baSo after coming up with a cute little mnemonic to remember who was the brother and who the sister (Franny=female), I began to unravel the emotional ball of yarn that is the aptly named Glass family. Before we begin a point of order, “Franny and Zooey” is greatly bolstered by having already read “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, the first story in the collection “Nine Stories” (about as creatively titled as Elliott Smith's no name song titles). This earlier story creates the starting point from which Franny and Zooey ventures forth; creates the Other against which both siblings repel or approach. Seymour and his decisions about how to handle their upbringing inform and illuminate the paths that Franny and Zooey both take. So I would recommend reading “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” first. But if you don’t, “Franny and Zooey” is a nice little (assymetrical) book all on its own.
“Franny and Zooey” is a rare treasure that has been degraded by decades of other authors attempting to recreate the taut tensions that guide the behaviors of the Glass family: Authors as diverse as Richard Yates and Katherine Dunn have used disturbed family dynamics and sibling precocity as vehicles that drive home the theme of human competition and confusion. But Salinger mined this literary vein first. And the result is literary brilliance. Yet as bright as the literary aspects of the novel shine, the aspects of plot are dull and must be looked past as Salinger creates memorable characters who seem to not do much but talk, much like the Faubourg Saint-Germain in Proust’s novel series. And “Franny and Zooey” has all of the tightly controlled, minutae-filled pace, of Parisian high-society parties that Proust so magically (and at times, let’s be honest, soporifically) materializes. But, instead of bantering over the petty details of class and genealogy, Franny and Zooey discuss ego, and The Jesus Prayer. And besides these overly-intelligent children we have Bessie Glass who, being the matriarch that she is, makes a captious and matronly appearance as about the most annoying mother put to paper (although Mrs.Portnoy could give her a run for her money). Yet she fills a structural purpose as well, nagging Zooey to speak with Franny about her decision to retreat home and embrace Hesychasm. And it is through this that Franny and Zooey finally merge and engage in a stichomythic dialogue about ego and how no action is egoless (even the action of trying to be egoless). And like all great fiction, the work takes what could easily be a 200 page philosophy thesis and distills it into a consumable 50 pages of entertaining sibling dialogue.
Sidebar: the novella titled “Zooey” is narrated by Buddy Glass the second oldest brother. This neat authorial trick sets up all sorts of interesting narrative queries; such as when Zooey soaks in a bath, reading a four-year old letter written by Buddy to Zooey. So Zooey must have related to Buddy his experience of reading a letter from Buddy to himself, and this experience is then narrated by Buddy to the reader; also, Buddy imparts fully formed dialogue to the reader from a conversation he never heard (Franny and Zooey’s long conversation at the end of “Zooey”). These little narrative thoughts help give texture to what feels like a straight forward third person narration. (sidebar over)
The book begins with the short story “Franny”, which finds Franny Glass at that tender moment in post adolescence when harsh and sometimes harmful epiphanies come hard and fast: a)parents are fallible and may have done things that hurt you; b) at best, god most likely is an extreme oversimplification and, at worst, non-existent; c)work sucks and bills have to be paid, usually by doing something you don’t particularly enjoy, and may even loathe; and d) maybe worst of all: you are NOT original, every seeming transcendent thought you have is a sad rehash of some great thinker who has already died (his genius not keeping him from the one thing you are finally starting to get brief and haunting glimpses of: death.) And for Franny all of this anguish comes to a breaking point while having lunch with her boyfriend Lane Coutell. Her surface complaints seem familiar to any reader of Salinger, a lack of genuineness in her peers, fake poets, and pedants who pretend to be artists while really being conformists just trying to impress. But Franny arrives at a solution, drastic as it seems, to follow the example of a Russian peasant in “The Way of a Pilgrim”, and repeatedly state the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”) with the goal of seeing/knowing God. This idea is a perfect example of youthful naiveté as the only way Franny can achieve this constant recital is if someone financially supports her – and we all know where young adults turn when they need free money: mom and dad. So Franny retreats home, infantilizing herself in the process. And this is where we leave Franny and take up Zooey.
The beginning of “Zooey” is a virtuoso performance of character, restraint, and pacing. But for the reader this type of complete control and pacing can feel like authorial indulgence which is a euphemistic way of saying it can be boring. But on post-read contemplation the strong points really stand out: the levels of narrations, the genetic and familial differences and similarities: i.e. Zooey’s neurosis is a distorted reflection of his mother’s (just the banter over the bathtub and cleanliness could spawn some impressive Freudian term papers). Salinger also has some unique moments such as Zooey flirting with letting Buddy’s 4 year-old letter become soaked in water; subtly balancing the letter on his knees and seeing how close it can get to the water, until he bobbles the letter and nearly loses it to its watery fate. Again a fascinating example of calamity and control: we court disaster as long as we feel we are in control, and as soon as chance nearly creates this disaster for us we decide disaster is not so alluring after all (e.g. the gloriously moral and intentional convolution of a man about to commit suicide who is then threatened to be killed by a third party, and how this suicidal man reacts to said threat; this being a plot point of a few police procedurals). Now a soaked letter is not nearly as severe as death or bodily harm, but it shows us Zooey’s head space, his proclivity toward controlled disaster born from congenital neurosis and environmental stresses.
Of course this raises a larger question of why Zooey is reading a four-year old letter; as fictional exposition and narrative (Buddy’s) concern it makes complete sense. But from the aspect of Zooey’s intentions it seems a bit strange. Is he procrastinating reading a play he’s supposed to perform in because he thinks the quality of the play is beneath him? Or is he reading Buddy’s letter to try and find clues or advice on how to handle his sister’s breakdown? And again this is where Seymour Glass comes in, as in the letter Buddy discusses some of the events surrounding Seymour and his option for dealing with these genes and these parents and the consciousness’s they’ve crafted. And this humble reader thinks that Zooey is most likely locating sibling advice and experience, as all the siblings flee from their common problem, some in more extreme ways than others. And Zooey wants to find a way to lessen the severity of Franny’s solution to her authenticity crisis. He searches Buddy’s letter of 4 years ago (when Zooey was around 21, much nearer to Franny’s 20), to activate memories of Zooey’s own crises and the ways he resolved them (although his problems are clearly still lingering). But then his mother barges in, a literal embodiment of obstacle, and one of the largest ones for young adults: your mother.
It’s not that mothers purposely stand in the way, or that children purposely repel their mother’s love and advice, it’s that the biological goals of mother and child are set opposite to each other. The mother is desperate to maintain the love and matriarchal control (read protection, if you are a mother), and the child is yearning for independence and personal identity apart from being a progeny. And Bessie Glass is desirous of a past when her children were “sweet and loving”, not realizing that her persistent push to continue parenting into her children’s young adulthood is causing the rapidity with which her children are attempting to flee (mentally, physically and otherwise). But to any mothers out there, I can hardly blame you for this predicament: the will to parent is a biological imperative sui generis. Mothering is the strongest force in the animal kingdom, so expecting a mother to relinquish her unconditional drive for protecting and guiding her offspring is rather foolish. Yet these Glass children don’t seem to have hit upon this introspection: there epiphanies run personal, not interpersonal. And so they treat their mother as an annoyance to be tolerated, and it’s only when Zooey finally leaves the bathtub (probably the longest bath scene in literature; Zooey’s time in the bath could rival Jean-Paul Marat), and begins his extended dialogue with Franny that true communication begins to take place. And their conversation is a masterful display of sibling interaction: anger, relatability, shared experience, condescension and love all taking turns dominating the tone of the conversation. And Zooey being an older sibling cares not a whit for his younger sister’s feelings, and refuses to compromise concision for empathy. He tells the truth, but doesn’t tell it slant. He berates and belittles his little sister in a way only an older sibling can. And Franny seems to get nothing from this interchange. It is only later when Zooey pretends to be Buddy and talks with Franny on the telephone (a common and important symbol in Salinger’s fiction, again see “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”) that true wisdom is gleaned, or rather mutually achieved. Franny realizes Zooey’s telephone trick and rather than hang up and take it as further proof of her brother’s callousness to her own plight, she stays on the line. And it is here that Salinger’s true gifts as an author emerge. All of the phoniness, and adolescent snarl are parted and we the reader get a glimpse of some of the larger truths that inform not only Salinger’s life, but our own.
I am reluctant to speak on the specifics as the writing itself is wonderful and the words and metaphors Salinger uses should really be consumed without foreknowledge. But I will discuss the larger purpose of the story, which both Franny and Zooey arrive at in relation to their own lives. And that is: do things well even if they are small and unseen. This larger mantra forces a hurting mind away from the cliff edge of “what does it matter anyway” that seems to be the path most wandered by post-adolescent minds. And this theme has a curious biographical connection as Salinger stopped publishing but, according to a few sources, still wrote. Thus, a pithier encapsulation of Salinger’s larger theme is: do things well for the sake of themselves. And to my heathen ears, this is better than any Jesus Prayer, and is the exact anodyne for Franny’s fragile state, the very reason for her peace, and Salinger’s own. ...more
this is a book i did not like very much, i thought it was poorly structured, with bizarre (read incongruent, not interesting) characters and a neat bothis is a book i did not like very much, i thought it was poorly structured, with bizarre (read incongruent, not interesting) characters and a neat bow-tie ending. but worst of all was the meandering quality of the novel: where are we going and what's the point. i think geek love is a superior treatment of similar themes, and ideas, and the writing was vastly superior. i think russell could really work on her prose as the whole novel felt like a writing school project and not a fleshed out purposeful novel. alas, it got some big attention and i'm not wholly sure why. anyone?...more