Eh, you know what? It's not a great book but a fun book. I'm on record as not liking books about writers and writing because they're wanky, and yet I...moreEh, you know what? It's not a great book but a fun book. I'm on record as not liking books about writers and writing because they're wanky, and yet I like this one. I usually wouldn't read the book of a film I've seen multiple times, but I found this one a lovely jaunt through familiar territory.
So despite Wonder Boys being a bit blokey, there are a lot of pages that are stuffed with good stuff. Take:
"All male friendships are essentially quixotic: they last only so long as each man is willing to polish the shaving-bowl helmet, climb on his donkey, and ride off after the other in pursuit of illusive glory and questionable adventure."
There are paragraphs that are so clear sighted, and similes that are so jarring and brilliant, that it's hard not to enjoy. And it rattles along at a fair pace too for the most part.(less)
The source material is fantastic, McGinniss is a pretty good stylist with a nice sense for humour, and he evidently enjoyed extraordinary access to th...moreThe source material is fantastic, McGinniss is a pretty good stylist with a nice sense for humour, and he evidently enjoyed extraordinary access to the main personalities in the writing of the book. These add up to a great story, albeit one that seems to me to be targeted at an american audience, for whom the football and the passions involved are presented as an exoticism in themselves.
That's what makes this a pleasing Brysonesque journey with a team's season (which is extraordinary, incorporating every type of scandal and shocking event under the sun) but not a totally convincing book about football. McGinniss just doesn't describe the game all that well or naturally - the word 'kick' is used a bizarre number of times, obviously this is the basic action but it's so weird to see it in print, when did your friend last tell you about a goal and deem it necessary to tell you it resulted from a 'kick'?
So maybe, this just isn't quite aimed at me. It's easy enough to read, it has some great characters and I laughed often, but there's something a bit grating about the actual football being described so haltingly and often without conviction. This in turn makes you wonder about other judgements in the book - so maybe it's a shame the author wasn't just that bit more acquainted with the game, or for that bit longer, in order to really bring it to life.
**spoiler alert** Oh no, am I meant to empathise with this Treslove guy? Straight away this looks like a chunk of soppish maleness of the last century...more**spoiler alert** Oh no, am I meant to empathise with this Treslove guy? Straight away this looks like a chunk of soppish maleness of the last century, he's this dual manchild/pillock and probable misogynist, there're all these conquests he and his friends have made and I find it unbelievably tedious. And of course we're meant to cotton on to the fact Treslove is a tosser, but then, count the number of non-sexualised women in the book.
Treslove is the worst person ever, then these horrendously contrived things happen to make him come round to jewishness, the whole book is led by horribly tangled internal logic. He comes to appropriate judaism as part of his identity, which could in itself be considered an anti-semitic attack.
Really, this is just garbage. The only bit that's actually worrying to me is the Israel angle Jacobson uses - the insincerity of the anti-Zionist group, the gauche anti-semitism expressed by non-jewish characters, the pervasive sense of jews under attack, the idea that the anti-zionists are mostly obsessed with tasteless micro-causes.
I don't know about any of this, I'm not jewish so I leave Jacobson to express his own identity and feelings, and I shouldn't expect it to translate to me. I can see there is still a sense of being under attack there, and understanding that better is valuable maybe. I think his depiction of Israel and anti-semitic feeling in the world is framed in a disagreeable way but as for the rest of the book, whatever there is, the humour didn't click with me and the characters didn't interest me.(less)
On first reading, this has been a book that fell between swoops of genius and swathes of disjointedness. I read that for a number of people it really...moreOn first reading, this has been a book that fell between swoops of genius and swathes of disjointedness. I read that for a number of people it really fits together nicely on the second or third time. I can see what the fuss is about, and yet I'm a little underwhelmed - this is usually my kind of book, after all. A lot of the descriptions towards the end I found difficult, and I also wonder whether my enjoyment suffers from having already seen many of the concepts second hand, it can be like that with influential books. But I'll be back for a second time sometime soon.(less)
**spoiler alert** I found this one really preachy and arbitrary as hell. For whatever reason Ender has developed the ability to make weird guess-asser...more**spoiler alert** I found this one really preachy and arbitrary as hell. For whatever reason Ender has developed the ability to make weird guess-assertions and empathise to the point of pretty much telepathy, really all the story needed was for him to turn up and make assertions about what's going on here, and then things are fixed. Heh, remember when he waltzed into the lady's family and instantly connected with all her kids and then just sat around grinning at her? I felt there might be at least a counterpoint to this astonishing domineering heroism, but no.
There's a bunch of sermonizing and the whole thing is based off this repulsive "speaker for the dead" idea, where someone no longer exists so you look over the facts of their life and tell their story definitively in front of the people that knew them - this seems to work best if you're a total stranger.
There's this weird implication here that the truth is that easily accessible and a neutral, definitive, sympathetic yet critical version of what happened is so easily obtained - untainted by, say, prejudice, politics, cultural understanding... in other words that someone with expertise just divines how it all was and this is a neutral thing. It's like some kind of moral post-mortem Poirot. I can see how this would appeal to someone like Card whose politics are messed up to begin with. I don't recall any particularly critical note being sounded about this.
Then there's the continued categorization of alien life into thinking, non-thinking, killable, non-killable. This is creepy as fuck too. Remember, Ender never had to take responsibility for any of the BS he got up to in the past.
Basically, this is all kinds of tendency, both silly and nasty, being left unfettered.(less)
There's a lot of wish-fulfilment, whitewashing and blanket assertion in this one. Ender is just this super smart kid who never does anything wrong and...moreThere's a lot of wish-fulfilment, whitewashing and blanket assertion in this one. Ender is just this super smart kid who never does anything wrong and eventually he wins but everything is hunky-dory, morally speaking, because of the last few pages. I found a number of the driving points a bit creepy, and not in the way intended.
I find this easy to read, I find Harry Potter easy to read, and sometimes I mistake that for enjoyment, but when I spend a while looking at the sentences I'm reading, and I match the narrative's assertions to the information I'm taking in, it doesn't fit. So.(less)
This was a book I found to be hard work but look back on much more fondly than when I was reading it. The styles the chapters are written in are somet...moreThis was a book I found to be hard work but look back on much more fondly than when I was reading it. The styles the chapters are written in are sometimes impenetrable and sometimes tiresome, and possibly most frustratingly once that perspective is gone you don't get to revisit with more information. However, the book offers something more than a historical mystery we hope to get an answer to and the atmosphere it sought to create has grown on me over the months since I read it. There are all kinds of interesting snippets of mistrust and deceit, conspiracy and complicity.
I've gotten round to feeling it was worth the slog and I'm even wondering about the rewards available a second time through.(less)