Pretty good book about a tenured MIT assistant professor in the Humanities Dept. Academic politics, extremely witty. Takes place during Watergate. PacPretty good book about a tenured MIT assistant professor in the Humanities Dept. Academic politics, extremely witty. Takes place during Watergate. Packed with literary references and name-dropping. Affairs are had but mostly not discussed in the text, except one ridiculous bit where the professor has an affair with an young Asian women which was completely unbelieveable to me. The rest of the book was very believable. I felt like Gurney's publisher told him it needs more sex or something, so he went back and put some in. A fun read especially if you were in Boston at that time.
Note added: My wife read it and thought the crazy sex bit was all just a fantasy he made up for why he never got the writing done that the department was pressuring him to publish. Read in that way it is hilarious and believeable.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. There was this weird anti-semitism which was hilarious. It read like a guy complaining about Jews being better than him at everything and he resented it. Being a Jew-phile myself, I thought it was basically true and funny, but it certainly did rely on certain stereotypical ideas about Jews. Basically that Jews are intellectual and possibly taking over, at least in the Humanities at MIT.
The ending was a surprise, I'll give him that, but it seemed like a cheap shot. Sort of a one-liner after a lot of build up. I won't give it away.
I would say it's a must-read for anyone who went to MIT in the 70s.
Hilarious. Picture the Bennet sisters all trained to be bad-assed zombie-killers in the way Uma Thurman is trained in Kill Bill. Then their mother stiHilarious. Picture the Bennet sisters all trained to be bad-assed zombie-killers in the way Uma Thurman is trained in Kill Bill. Then their mother still schemes to marry them off while zombies have overrun Brittain and Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy must fight side by side. Shaolin vs. Kyoto style martial arts come into play a lot....more
I think this was an awful book, but I enjoyed it. The story of the changeling seemed really contrived and cobbled together so weakly. It was full of hI think this was an awful book, but I enjoyed it. The story of the changeling seemed really contrived and cobbled together so weakly. It was full of holes. How could the changeling have no soul and yet so obviously care about the girl? At one point the author even said he had a soul after making the premise that all children born on a certain day had empty soul, ripe for possession by demons. Also it wasn't the kind of changeling I usually associate the word with. I think of that as goblins replacing an infant with one of their own. Demon possession is an entirely other subject. So basically I quibble with the pseudo-science, pseudo-occult aspects of it.
Once you ignore that and decide you're going to read it just to see what happens, it plays out like a whodunit. There's a detective from Scotland Yard and a girl who loves the changeling's better self. And a really cool pub which I think he should have done more with. Why were the pictures of the changeling's mother hanging in the pub?
So a weak effort, but enjoyable trash. Sequel to The Moonchild and followed by The Offspring, neither of which I'm in any hurry to read....more
This book, written right after WWII, is about an 8-year-old boy, Barney. He's relatively well-off it seems, but he hasn't yet learned the prejudices oThis book, written right after WWII, is about an 8-year-old boy, Barney. He's relatively well-off it seems, but he hasn't yet learned the prejudices of his family or grasped the idea of class. He talks to the black garbage man and plays with the colored children, to use the laguage of the book, and invites the Italian gardener to his birthday party. At first it seems like it's going to be a good moral tale about how he brings round his stuffy grandmother and gets her to let him play with the black kids he likes instead of the stuffy rich kids from his school, but it doesn't turn out that way. It kind of tries to walk a middle line showing things for what they were at the time, but not judging. The black family he befriends initially bring him home when he's lost and then they willingly accept charity from his rich grandfather to help their sick daughter. The tension between the races and classes are occasionally alluded to delicately, but most of it is just assumed to be understood by readers.
It's a nice story, where goodwill between everyone prevails, and even though the issues underlying it all are felt by the reader, they aren't directly addressed by the author. Perhaps at the time it wouldn't have been published had it been any more explicit.
The second half of the book is taken up by his father's escape from France when his 'spitfire' plane is shot down. It is the sort of lucky escape adventure with the help of the French underground that I have often heard before. The Germans and Japs are the bad guys, the French, English and Americans are the good guys and no one is conflicted about any of that. I wonder if it felt that simple at the time?
For a book about WWII it was remarkable that there were no Jews in it and the Jews were never even mentioned although they did throw darts at a picture of der fuehrer at Barney's birthday party. Overall an interesting little time-capsule of the of the zeitgeist of the era. Set in Pittsburgh....more
Cute cat story. Little Peter gets hit by a car and wakes up having turned into a cat. He meets Jennie who shows him how to be a cat on the London streCute cat story. Little Peter gets hit by a car and wakes up having turned into a cat. He meets Jennie who shows him how to be a cat on the London streets (when in doubt, wash). They go to Glasgow on a ship together. Eventually it turns out that like The Wizard of Oz, it was all a dream while he was unconscious. It was a great story....more
Quite good. Witty, literary, sharp. Expects you to keep up, but accessible. Occult, like Mantel's 'Beyond Black.' Interesting to see her earlier takeQuite good. Witty, literary, sharp. Expects you to keep up, but accessible. Occult, like Mantel's 'Beyond Black.' Interesting to see her earlier take on the subject. Set in the seventies and featuring a philandering husband, dull jobs, misbehaving children, a social worker and her woeful clients. A lot of misery crammed into a small book and somehow dealt with humorously while not irreverently. Mantel is really a genius. I can't figure out why I didn't love it except that it deals with some pretty heavy subjects. Child abuse, I guess. One of the best horrible dinner party scenes ever written. Full of brilliant lines: "Frank whirled about, Sylvia's coat in his arm like a comatose dancing partner"....more