It took me ages to finish this book. This was partly my own lazy fault and partly Mr. Miller's wandering style which while absolutely beautifully and...moreIt took me ages to finish this book. This was partly my own lazy fault and partly Mr. Miller's wandering style which while absolutely beautifully and shockingly singular is also hard to keep a bead on.
I also found myself frequently beset by the thought that women have a long way to go to write a book as selfishly self centredly female as his is male. Yeah yeah, all the critics pan him as misogynist and all the fans praise him saying that's not the point, he's a misanthrope but a lover of life, and so on. But the adorable follies of the deliberately poor white artist man have been documented, dare I say it, ad nauseum, and I'm not quite nauseated but a bit bored - with the content of the Tropic of Cancer, but NOT with the writing or his purpose. Not for a second.
If I could forget that all women in his world are whores, then I could gladly rejoice in his joy of language and living. I don't think I've read many writers who have his gift of the written word, and his bitter yet appreciative apprehension of the world around. But that's the thing. I can't forget. So this might be my first and last Henry Miller book. And I have to say, too bad for me. (less)
I’ve wanted to read Mr. Chandler for ages now, and his own life story (conveniently included at the beginning of this edition) shows up a fascinating...moreI’ve wanted to read Mr. Chandler for ages now, and his own life story (conveniently included at the beginning of this edition) shows up a fascinating and plucky gentleman. As the virtual inventor of the modern detective novel, his achievement and influence is undeniable. When reading TBS, I could see private dick Philip Marlowe in every 40s film noir ever made, gravelly voice, smoked up sexiness, tipped hat, aggressive banter and slang, hard assed yet sensitive, too cool for school.
Mr. Chandler’s writing is razor sharp and vivid when he is recreating the seedy underbelly of LA. I loved his language. The dialogue was so very quick and witty and full of fabulous 30’s and 40’s slang, and his descriptions border on poetry at times, gunshot grim and gorgeous.
My one complaint: I found TBS a bit of a ‘boy’ book: too much mafia and manly men, women all beautiful and wasted, and a plot so convoluted that I couldn’t keep up. This last I found to be the most distracting of all. Marlowe was always a step ahead of the game, in the right place at the right time, knew what to say and when not to say it, page after damned page. Halfway through, I gave up trying to understand what was going on and just read for the mayhem and fun of it (and this wasn’t difficult at all). (less)
I listened to "A Room with a View" by E.M. Forster on audiobook. Written in 1908, it tells the age old story of a girl who has to choose between the s...moreI listened to "A Room with a View" by E.M. Forster on audiobook. Written in 1908, it tells the age old story of a girl who has to choose between the socially acceptable and her heart/mind.
"It is a great opportunity, the possession of leisure."
The story starts in Florence, where the naive young Lucy Honeychurch meets the brutally honest George Emerson, and has a brief moment (and I do mean moment, as lovely as it is) of passion with him.
"The garden of Eden which we say is in the past is yet to come. We shall be equal when we stop despising our bodies."
It then continues to the English countryside, where Lucy decides to marry the stodgy Cecil Vyse (him of good snobby stock) but has all her plans upended by George's arrival and ardent engagements.
"Choose a place where you don't do very much harm and stand there for all you're worth facing the sunshine."
The landscape is beautifully laid out, and the language is precise and hilarious, in that way only the English can describe.
"She gave up trying to understand herself and joined the vast armies of the benighted who followed neither the heart nor the brain and march to their destinies by catchwords."
E.M. Forster skewers society and its stuffy hierarchies and mincing debates, and not a bit of is dated, despite the Edwardian era. If you like this sort of thing - clever funny period pieces that resonate in the modern world, I highly recommend this book.(less)
Thank you, John Banville, for your most exquisite and exquisitely slow book, "The Sea" (which I just found out won the Booker in 2005, and is his 18th...moreThank you, John Banville, for your most exquisite and exquisitely slow book, "The Sea" (which I just found out won the Booker in 2005, and is his 18th novel (!)). Because of an over zealous traveling and social schedule, it took me more than 2 months to finish TS, but I'm glad because it meant I got to live with some of the most beautiful language I've ever read (I'm taking the liberty of inserting it liberally (in quotes) in this review). The first line alone felled me: "They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide."
"The Sea" recounts the wry, sharp, lush memories of Max, a middle aged Irishman, recently widowed, who returns to his childhood holiday home to escape and grieve. "The past beats inside me like a second heart."
In the vivid "salt sharpened light" and "the air like scratched glass" that imbues the book, Max remembers his summer loves, the cruel and clever Chloe and her spacy sexpot mother, Mrs. Grace, and his last love, the beautiful Anna. In between, a host of other characters are described with Dickensian/Nabakovian genius. A phrase as small as "a silky, sulky gracefulness" is as perfect as one of his longer descriptions:
"She wore a sack-coloured tweed dress tightly belted in the middle, which made her look as if she had been pumped up to bursting at bosom and hips, and her short stout cork-coloured legs were stuck out in front of her like two gigantic bungs protruding from her nether regions. A tiny sweet face, delicate of feature and pinkly aglow, is set in the big pale pudding of her head, the fossil remains, marvellously preserved, of the girl that she she once was, long ago."
Does it matter that Bun (her of the tweed dress) is a side character who appears only once and with no lingering pre or foreshadowing? Not when the description itself is this marvellous.
I am also in awe of Mr. Banville's vocabulary. Some of it is archaic usage, but most is not. I cannot believe how many words I had to look up (thank you, iPod Touch, for your amazing touch-the-word-for-its-definition feature). Here are a few: revenant, leporine, strangury, losel, louring, proscenium, flocculent, womby, minatory, gleet, bosky, scurf, ziggurat, cicatrice, ichor, maenad, rufous, craquelured, canthus, groynes, cinereal, horrent, anaglypta, glair, cretonne, hugger-mugger, costive, boreens, catafalque, jeroboam, bombazine, cruets, scumbling, jack tar, soughing, knobkerrie, assegais, blench, anabasis, and vulgate. Now would that I remember even a fraction of those that I looked up.
Mr. Banville's precise and lyrical descriptions extend well beyond his characterisations. After all, "what are living beings, compared to the enduring intensity of mere things?" This wondering adjoins his description of a train just arrived:
"And the steam engine, of course, that had come to a clanking stop over in the station, and stood now seething and gasping and squirting jets of scalding water from its fascinatingly intricate underparts as it waited impatiently to be off again."
And this dazzler: "A chintz-covered sofa sprawls as if aghast, its two arms flung wide and cushions sagging."
Sometimes, he cannot even let his protagonist keep churning out these gems without comment: "In the porch, a pot of geraniums flourished aloft their last burning blossoms of the season. Honestly, this world."
Honestly indeed. There's everything else and nothing else to the story. It's about the human condition, and also about how none of it matters. If you like your fiction loosely narrative and densely poetic, this is your book. Meanwhile, I'll have to download more Banville rightquick. Luckily there's at least 17 more.(less)
I didn't like Ms. Krauss's other book that much (Man Walks Into The Room), and I found myself half not enjoying History of Love either - despite its r...moreI didn't like Ms. Krauss's other book that much (Man Walks Into The Room), and I found myself half not enjoying History of Love either - despite its readability, nice writing, intricate plot, and deeply thought through characters.
Part of it was a trivial hatred for a phrase the main character keeps using ("And yet.") which seemed to mean, "Hey look, I just said/thought something meaningful and deep and beautiful." Part of it was the overly precocious children characters who were mostly children, but sometimes unbelievably overly adult. Part of it was the book within a book conceit, which seemed just to say pretty things in pretty ways.
But in the end, I was tremendously moved (I cried through the end and for ten minutes afterwards), and am still thinking about how it all came together, in that way life often does - unhappily, unresolved, and with just enough of that human essential: acknowledgement. Thank you, Ms. Krauss. I'll look forward to more.(less)
Apart from the fact that he hounds the agnostics, and elevates religion and zoos, and inserts these awkward self-absorby jerk-out-of-the-book italics...moreApart from the fact that he hounds the agnostics, and elevates religion and zoos, and inserts these awkward self-absorby jerk-out-of-the-book italics bits where he pretends to interview the main character, Life of Pi was a great read. I loved the science and biology and sailing and zoology and marine bits. And the plot is fascinating. Not Booker-worthy though, in my opinion. (less)
such a fabulous book. despite the accolades that accompany this book, i was afraid to pick it up b/c of its size (i have a natural bias against books...moresuch a fabulous book. despite the accolades that accompany this book, i was afraid to pick it up b/c of its size (i have a natural bias against books over 300 pages). i finally got around to it and couldn't stop reading. i don't know how mr. mehta manages to enter the lives and worlds of bombay so artfully, artlessly, intimately, unintimidated, and compellingly. totally burgeoning and brilliant with the detail and sweep of mastery. no two ways about it. (less)
I've been meaning to read Haroun and the Sea of Stories for years now and finally picked it up. It was imaginative and clever, and the language rhythm...moreI've been meaning to read Haroun and the Sea of Stories for years now and finally picked it up. It was imaginative and clever, and the language rhythmic and funny and fun. I especially liked the South Asian naming conventions and the fact that the book starts with Haroun's mother running away with another man, an interesting and progressive element of the story line. Throughout the book, I kept wondering why someone hadn't made a movie of it yet (my brain is Pixared), and what a wonderful film it would be.
My only major critique was I found the plot rather chockablock with names and details and places and happenings, and I felt it confused the narrative at times and it was a bit hard to keep track of everything all the time. A slightly simpler story would have sufficed, IMHO. That said, lovely book. I still think Mr. Rushdie's political and social essays are my favourite works of his, but this is a close second. (less)
I have two criticisms of "What is the What" - the fact that it's billed as a novel and that it doesn't have Valentino Achak Deng's name on the front c...moreI have two criticisms of "What is the What" - the fact that it's billed as a novel and that it doesn't have Valentino Achak Deng's name on the front cover. I understand having to fictionalise conversations from 20 years ago, but what 20 year old conversations aren't fictionalised? However, the larger flaw is not including Mr. Deng's name on the cover despite the fact that this is the soulful and historically accurate story of his life (his words).
This aside, Mr. Deng's autobiography, written by Dave Eggers, is great (despite a certain stilted language). I knew embarrassingly little about the Lost Boys of Sudan or how they came to be lost, and in addition to filling in those gaps, "What is the What" is in turns beautiful, heartbreaking, taut, and clear eyed. It is also self aware and completely un-self-pitying, despite a life's worth of sorrow (and hope) packed into 27 odd years.
"World Without End" is the first book I've read, maybe since my teens, that I stayed up all night to finish. It took me 3 days to get through the firs...more"World Without End" is the first book I've read, maybe since my teens, that I stayed up all night to finish. It took me 3 days to get through the first 500 pages and by then I was obsessed with Mr. Follett's depiction of 14th century England, his incisive characterisation, the heartbreaking twists and turns of plot, the intimate interplays of church and guild and family and love and industry. I finished the last 500 pages in one thrilling night long rush, mostly because I had fallen in love with the people (which is perhaps the most important thing in a book). How deeply and compassionately Mr. Follett knows the human condition. (less)