2013. Brilliant book. In an America-gone-wrong in 2023 there's exists an apartheid state. Right here in New England, people of color are living in an...more2013. Brilliant book. In an America-gone-wrong in 2023 there's exists an apartheid state. Right here in New England, people of color are living in an inland forced-work-camp area, making the products the rest of us consume. Back on the other side of the wall advertising, now called Pop Show, is everywhere, and Sterling is a secret saboteur, working sometimes for years, just to take down a few jumbo-tron like screens of advertising for a few hours. When Sterling (white female) meets Lore (black female) non-violent revolutionary from inside the apartheid area, sexual sparks fly as they argue about what to do to change their worlds. It's poignantly tragic how little they really can do in this world of horrifying limitations. Must read. Reminds me a little of The Handmaid's Tale except it's a racially split world rather than religious.(less)
1965. This book is one of those changed-my-life-books that come along once in a while. I can't be expected to review it impartially therefore. I suspe...more1965. This book is one of those changed-my-life-books that come along once in a while. I can't be expected to review it impartially therefore. I suspect it may have some flaws, but for me it came along perfect at the perfect time and swept all other possible concerns away. I suspect it is a bit didactic, possibly dry, dated, not radical enough. Who cares? It was as Bob Dylan says in Tangled Up In Blue: And every one of them words rang true And glowed like burning coal Pouring off of every page Like it was written in my soul from me to you (less)
2003. This book started out amazing. It breathes New York City. It has a main character, a writer, named Sidney Orr, age 34, whom I really like. It te...more2003. This book started out amazing. It breathes New York City. It has a main character, a writer, named Sidney Orr, age 34, whom I really like. It tells Sidney's story over a few days in 1982, when his life is particularly crazy. It also tells several stories he's writing, one of which I found extremely compelling and wanted to get back to, but he never finishes that part. The story reaches a dead end. Some of the other stories were told such a way that it was like a writer was telling you about what he was writing instead of actually writing it. This was cool, in small doses, but was carried too far, and lost my interest. The original story about Sidney is also quite compelling, but I was disappointed in how it ended. The book as a whole seemed to be saying something profound about life in general using writing as a metaphor for life. Life is random. Life altering things happen when you least expect them, you can't control them and they don't mean anything, they just happen. And they don't tie up neatly like a Hollywood Movie, or even most novels. So it doesn't tie up neatly either, and it was unsettling, and ultimately unsatisfying too. I don't want to read a long rambling book about randomness and lack of cohesion in the world, even if it's very well written. So while it definitely has some brilliant moments and good prose, I didn't love it.(less)
1967. This book rocks out. It is occasionally about trout fishing in America, but mostly not. It reminds me of Donald Barthelme a little. Perhaps a li...more1967. This book rocks out. It is occasionally about trout fishing in America, but mostly not. It reminds me of Donald Barthelme a little. Perhaps a little drug-inspired. It hasn't got a plot; it's more like a string of episodes in the mind of someone who has done too much LSD. If you could bring that unhinged LSD feeling of knowing and understanding everything, but kind of not being able to quite put your finger on it, or explain it, it's kind of like that. It's a nirvana-inducing book. It unhinges you from reality for a second and let's you see the universe. Yeah, it was that good, but it was uneven to me. Some chapters were over-the-top, unimaginably good (my personal favorite is "The Cleveland Wrecking Yard"), while some missed a little or at least they didn't do it for me. Go read it. Now.(less)
Pretty good book about a tenured MIT assistant professor in the Humanities Dept. Academic politics, extremely witty. Takes place during Watergate. Pac...morePretty 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.
1902. Great book. Very plot-driven and gut-wrenching. A black family with a simple life in the South is shattered when the father is framed for a crim...more1902. Great book. Very plot-driven and gut-wrenching. A black family with a simple life in the South is shattered when the father is framed for a crime. Not even really framed, just blamed and convicted on absolutely no evidence. His family finds themselves unable to get work and move to New York City where they fare no better. The odds were stacked against them at every turn. A well-written book about the ugly truths of racism at the turn of the century. (less)
1922. Really liked it. Sinclair Lewis writes so beautifully that he can make even a relatively conservative businessman's life lyrical. The novel deal...more1922. Really liked it. Sinclair Lewis writes so beautifully that he can make even a relatively conservative businessman's life lyrical. The novel deals with traditional conservative ideals like pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and unquestioning patriotism and loyalty. Babbitt briefly entertains a liberal thought. He sympathizes with the labor movement for about thirty seconds, cheats on his wife and drinks too much for a few months, and loses all his friends and most of his social standing.
Then his wife gets appendicitis and he rushes to her side to be the perfect husband once again, and he conforms to the standards he was living by before, with just a bit of niggling doubt left in his mind. He places his hope of ever breaking out of society's mold in his son and hopes he does a better job of it.
For someone who basically upholds views I disagree with for most of the book, Babbitt is wonderfully human and loveable. He struggles with real life questions which I think nearly every one can relate to. His life gets too routine and he experiments, but returns to the safe, straight and narrow path before long. And the dialogue is tip-top!(less)
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of 1938 was pretty dry. It is mostly epistolary. A faked-up memoir of Apley, a Boston Blueblood. He's got old money...moreThis Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of 1938 was pretty dry. It is mostly epistolary. A faked-up memoir of Apley, a Boston Blueblood. He's got old money and family connections and that's all that matters to him. Mostly takes place on the water side of Beacon Street, in Milton and at Harvard. And at his men's clubs. Apley was born in 1866 and died in 1933. His life was singularly dull in between except when he briefly fell in love with a girl beneath his station and when he came into political conflict with the Irish mob. Still I love anything about Boston and it must be read to understand the 'proper Bostonians'.(less)
The story of David, a seven year-old Jewish boy in Brownsville and the Lower East Side. His abusive father causes him to live in constant fear. He see...moreThe story of David, a seven year-old Jewish boy in Brownsville and the Lower East Side. His abusive father causes him to live in constant fear. He seeks for anything that will give him security. He gets a rosary from a Catholic friend as a talisman. In the end he intentionally shocks himself on the rail of the streetcar while seeking to come in contact with the light of God, and hence safety. A remarkably well-written book. Lyrical. Excellent character development, psychology. Set about 1913, written in 1934. Much awesome colorful Yiddish and the mangled English of immigrants from different countries.(less)