I don't care much for FOX, but you have to admit this trailer for Locke & Key looks pretty fucking awesome.
Unfortunately, apparently it's not actu...moreI don't care much for FOX, but you have to admit this trailer for Locke & Key looks pretty fucking awesome.
Unfortunately, apparently it's not actually going to come out.
Eff you, world. Eff. You.
As I read this first volume, I was thinking how cool it would be as a television show. The writing of Joe Hill and the illustrations of Gabriel Rodriguez bring the story almost to life for me as it is, and the only logical step would be to put it on the screen. Hopefully someone will get their head out of their behind and make it happen. Because, really. That shit looked great.
It's hard for me to talk about graphic novels in any great detail - the story is interesting enough to hold my attention and the illustrations move the story along. The characters are charming and the reader wants to know them and hug them and take care of them. I'll be checking out the next volumes as well, and probably shaking my fist at the world more each time because I imagine it's only going to get cooler as the story moves along.
Note: The mansion used in the beginning of the trailer is the mansion at Hartwood Acres. I hadn't considered that while reading the story, but holy shit, obviously someone was a genius. Perfect.
And apparently the pilot was shot throughout Pittsburgh. Was I in a coma during the shooting? How did I miss that??(less)
I go long periods of time without reading any graphic novels, and then when I do I wonder why I take so long between them.
In my house, literature and...moreI go long periods of time without reading any graphic novels, and then when I do I wonder why I take so long between them.
In my house, literature and art are the two prevalent features. When we travel, we search for bookstores and art museums. We spend more time in art museums in other countries than we do in their shops, and we wouldn't want it any other way. Some people travel to shop; we travel to experience.
This graphic novel brings those two worlds together with the additional bonus of history as well. The illustrations are rough around the edges which I rather enjoyed - visually this is an impressive book as the reader has to look closely to see the images within the images. Both the story and the artwork played well off each other. While I appreciated the historical aspect (Hitler's rise to power), I was more drawn to the present-day character of Louise and wanted even more of her. But that's just how I am - never quite happy with what is there, always gotta want something more.
I've read some complaints of this being pretentious, but it didn't bug me. Art, history, politics - all important aspects of our world, and calling it pretentious doesn't make it go away. Deal with it. Take a stand.
So thanks to David Lester (yes, the same guitarist for Mecca Normal) for bringing me back to the world of graphic novels without disappointing me.(less)
No, really. What more do I need? Because this was missing something.
Parts of this book were incredibly awesome...moreDystopia! Feminism! What more do I need!
No, really. What more do I need? Because this was missing something.
Parts of this book were incredibly awesome. The fact that it's an alternative universe version of the life of a sister Weldon never had is appealing to me, so appealing. Let's take that life that never was and make a story out of it. Let's set it in a time that's pretty much now, today, and recognizable in different ways, yet so different that we can't recognize it yet... but we can recognize that it's close to happening.
I think there's a glimmer of genius here.
This is the first book by Weldon that I've read which is sort of surprising in its own right because she is considered (like Margaret Atwood or Joyce Carol Oates) to be a "feminist writer". You think I'd have read all 29 of her books and had serious thoughts about all of them. But this is the first. I picked it because of the dystopian premise and also (yes) because of the beautiful blue, Europa Editions cover. I don't often go by the cover, but those Europa Editions (like the NYRB covers) turn me on in ways most books do not.
I'm fascinated by the storyline but in the end felt cold. Not in a dystopian-world-lends-itself-to-a-cold-feeling way, like one would hope. But in a I'm-not-sure-the-author-was-convinced-in-what-she-was-saying way. Which is a huge bummer. (Note: Here comes to really unfair part of my review...) When I read Atwood, there is an aloof feeling I get, like I can't quite reach the characters but yet I can relate to some of them in really surprising ways. I feel like Weldon was going for the same approach here - an antiseptic, cold bathroom floor tile, hard look at these characters. It just didn't quite reach the same level as Atwood's writings. See? Unfair. I know.
I'm not so disappointed that I refuse to read more by Weldon. I think she has something that I want or need when I read, but this particular book might just not have been the one, despite all signs pointing otherwise.(less)
I try to always keep a Michael Connelly book on my shelf for times when I'm sick or extra grumpy-pants, just so there's always something to fall back...moreI try to always keep a Michael Connelly book on my shelf for times when I'm sick or extra grumpy-pants, just so there's always something to fall back on.
These aren't great novels, and I don't even particularly like the featured detective, Harry Bosch (other than his name, short for Heironymous Bosch), but they always seem to be just what the doctor ordered at certain times.
I see according to GR that the Harry Bosch novels are numbered, but for once I haven't stressed too much about reading them in "order". I picked up one book one summer while visiting my grandparents in Wisconsin and it was such a quick and enjoyable read that I found myself searching out other Connelly novels for plane trips or sicknesses.
This one (#17 according to GR) is a bit more gruesome than some of the others I've read. Or maybe it's just that I've gone a while without reading any and now I'm all old and sensitive. (Um.) I actually wrinkled my nose a couple times while reading this - mostly subject matter stuff, some of it was pretty icky.
But then I start getting all philosophical about it (a sure sign I'm still not feeling well), like look how this detective cares and maybe there truly are detectives out there who want to make the system really work, and maybe the system isn't all bad, and maybe all those stories in the news of the bad guys getting away aren't entirely accurate. Or maybe it's just that Harry Bosch is the "ideal", which is a bit unfortunate in its own right because he's a bit cold and unwieldy to be an ideal anything. But it seems even that's changing, and maybe if I was reading these in their numbered order I would see that progression - in this particular story there's more of a relationship between Bosch and his 13-year-old daughter that was actually sort of touching. I can see that going somewhere, though it didn't really make too much headway in this particular story.
Still, for what I needed right now, this fit the bill. I always appreciate a quick read to be able to wolf down in one day without feeling like I've just been tricked out of my time.(less)
When I first moved to Pittsburgh, my brother and I lived on the North Side, walking distance to the Carnegie Science Museum and Omnimax theater. On mo...moreWhen I first moved to Pittsburgh, my brother and I lived on the North Side, walking distance to the Carnegie Science Museum and Omnimax theater. On more than one occasion I walked to the theater to see Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees, a film about the creatures that Goodall has spent years living with and understanding. My love for Goodall goes back further than I can remember exactly, and sitting there in the Omnimax theater watching Goodall on such a large scale, surrounded by her beloved animals, touched me in a way I can't really describe.
I was reminded of those viewings while I read this book.
There are two storylines in this book, and neither of them have to do with Jane Goodall or chimpanzees. One story takes place in 1899, following Jeremy, an engineer overseeing the building of a railroad across a portion of Africa. The other story takes place in 2000, following the life of Max, an ethnobotanist with Asperger's who is chosen to visit Rwanda in order to find a vine that could be used in pharmaceuticals. More Dian Fossey than Jane Goodall, Max is able to communicate with the gorillas in ways that no other humans can.
I actually was distracted by the alternating storylines because I'm a little fuzzy in the head right now and was mostly fascinated with Max's story, wanting to hear more about her. In my head she was the sort of woman that I am naturally fascinated by, a Dian Fossey/Jane Goodall/Temple Grandin combination, and I think a full story could have revolved around her. The alternate 1899 story wasn't bad, it built up to important points, but it wasn't what I wanted out of the story.
An interesting book, all told. I wish I had been able to enjoy it more than I did, but blame the head fuzziness and not Schulman's writing. I fully anticipate to read more by her.(less)
Another great recommendation from The Professor. He recommended this specific edition which holds the first four books in the Melrose series (the fift...moreAnother great recommendation from The Professor. He recommended this specific edition which holds the first four books in the Melrose series (the fifth book, At Last, was published in 2011). He said that he had trouble putting the stories down once he started, and I have to agree with that.
Never Mind - This story broke my heart quite a bit. Patrick Melrose is a five-year-old boy, living in the cold shadow of his disgustingly rich parents who barely know the first thing about parenting. He endures abuse, physical and emotional, and because of this there are absolutely no redeemable characteristics of either of his parents. I wanted them both to die.
Not an easy story to read, but so well-written that it was hard to put down.
Bad News - Patrick Melrose is in his early 20s now, still struggling with the abuse forced upon him as a child, but also dealing with his own physical abuse - this time in the form of drugs. This is like one of those books from the 80s, when the drug culture was in the forefront of literature and movies, like Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City or Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero, though I believe Bad News took place a bit later than those other stories.
St. Aubyn wrote about drug abuse in more detail than I've seen for a while. We're all a little jaded because we've spent the last so many years reading Hubert Selby or Charles Bukowski or William Burroughs (or seen movies based on their books), so we know what drug abuse in literature is like, and it's hard to be shocked. I'm not going to say I was shocked. But I was certainly impressed. This guy made shooting up read like a fucking ballet. It was actually beautiful at times.
Some Hope - Probably the funniest of the bunch, though one of those dark, smirky kinds of humor. Like it's funny 'cause it's true kinda humor. St. Aubyn portrays the rich and wealthy with satirical honesty and all the pretention and pomposity that comes with the title of being Rich.
Patrick is older yet, he's in a different place and mindset than he was when we last met him in Bad News. The reader can't help but cheer him on. But. He now has a five-year-old son. Is he going to repeat the abuse that was inflicted upon him when he was five? Or is he stronger than that? Is he still clean?
I think this title, Some Hope, is the strongest of all the titles because there is a feeling of hopefulness throughout the text.
Not as strong a story as the first two, but worth the read for the mirror the author holds up to the characters.
Mother's Milk - I found this to be the weakest of the stories, strangely enough considering this one was shortlisted for the Booker prize or something and it's on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list. We find Patrick even a little older, with another child in the mix. Now his concerns are his elderly and ailing mother and also the hot ex-girlfriend who has been visiting.
I think what St. Aubyn did with the POV in the beginning of the story was interesting, but I think he failed ultimately in how he portrayed children. These are some precocious children, to say the least. Smartest damn kids I've ever read. I think sometimes that serves a good purpose, but I'm not sure if I understood that purpose here. They're smart kids, but this went beyond that. And it felt unconvincing.
Overall, I adored these stories. I think the first two stories are the best and most convincing of the bunch, though the third and fourth serve some sort of purpose, even if I didn't care for them so much. I haven't read the latest Melrose book, At Last, but am looking forward to it if for no other reason than to see what Patrick is up to now.
These stories are hard to put down. I'd compare them to other similar stories that are like trainwrecks, like Tales of the City or Valley of the Dolls (though certainly less histrionic than the latter). Certainly more literary than Maupin or Susann, but a fun read nonetheless, despite occasional very difficult scenes.(less)
I really should have enjoyed this book more than I did. I find the 1940s an interesting period in time, particularly in London, and I have mostly enjoyed most of Sarah Waters' other books, but... this one barely came together for me.
There was a handful of characters, so it's not like it was difficult to keep everyone straight, yet I found myself struggling with the lead women. This is unusual for me with this author, but they really felt barely fleshed out - or, better yet, they were inconsistently fleshed out. Just as I was getting into the characters, the scene would shift and I found myself having to get back into the mood of caring about these guys again. I almost feel Waters had too many threads that she wanted to bring together, and that the story would likely have benefited if she had just focused on one or two characters.
Waters is fairly well known for her literary twists and plot devices, and I'll say straight up that there isn't that same sort of trickery in this book. This in itself doesn't make it bad, though I kept waiting for something twist-y to happen. The most gimmick-y thing going for this book was that it starts in 1947. The second part takes place in 1944. The third, 1941. Okay, not bad. I almost was okay with that. Until it became obvious early on that the reader already knew how things turned out, which means that the more tragic things that happen in the second and third parts lose some of their excitement. We already know so-and-so doesn't die, for example. Well. I'm not a fan of spoilers, and it's even less fun when the story is sort of spoiled by execution.
And, oh, I don't know. Some other stuff. I just wasn't feeling this one which is a shame because this really should have been a story I'd really be into. I'll continue to read this author when she publishes because I think there's some talent there. Personally I don't think this is the best representation of said talent, but then I also didn't care that much for Affinity either, and that's another one I should have been all over.
I will say that Waters did an extraordinary amount of research for this book, as evidenced by the extensive list of nonfiction she listed in her Acknowledgements. If nothing else, I did find quite a few books listed there that I am now interested in checking out.(less)
Before I get all fan-girl about this book, I'll start out by saying that I didn't expect to enjoy it much at all. It's a story about a prostitute in V...moreBefore I get all fan-girl about this book, I'll start out by saying that I didn't expect to enjoy it much at all. It's a story about a prostitute in Victorian London? Meh, okay. How much can be done with that which hasn't already been covered? And for maybe the first chapter or two I continued to feel that way.
But at some point during reading this (I cannot pinpoint where exactly) I realized that someone would get cut if they tried to pry this book out of my hands. I found myself caring about our red-headed heroine, the prostitute Sugar. She is in the business for reasons beyond her own wishes which makes one sympathize with her. We see she's relatively educated, strangely considering the time and the profession, and she has desires that don't involve merely money, particularly not money gained by spreading her legs. There's William Rackham, the gentleman who visits her at the brothel and falls in love with her (in actuality he falls in lust, but so few people can honestly tell the difference) and wishes to provide her a better life.
Except he's already married to Agnes, a sickly woman, ill in the head and the body - oh, who am I kidding? Agnes is crazy. Bat shit crazy. And she is by far my favorite character in the entire book. Maybe because we only got brief glimpses into her mind and her life, but she's the madwoman in the attic, if you will. I've long argued it's the characters we don't see much of (the ones hiding in the shadows, the ones overlooked for whatever reason) that have the most interesting stories. Her story comes out piece by piece, primarily through journal entries, but I wanted more. There could be a full story around Agnes alone, and I wish Faber would write it.
Only a few minor annoyances throughout the story - Faber would often include distracting asides like "As you might already know" or "To clarify for you" (those things have a name, right? What is it?) which detracted from the story. I'm sure it was purposeful in some way but I prefer to be involved in a story from beginning to end - I don't like to be reminded that I'm reading a book. I was invested, so each time Faber included statements like that I was pulled back into the real world which is, honestly, the last place I want to be when I'm reading a particularly good book.
I understand there's a BBC miniseries of this book which I now look forward to checking out. Though as far as I'm concerned, it can't possibly be as good as the book - the images in my mind are satisfying and I have no real interest in seeing how someone else imagined the characters or the setting. But at the same time, I am curious. This wasn't a short book and there are more than a handful of characters - I'm eager to see if everyone is included.
And now I am back in the real world - it's warmer and safer than London in 1870s in Silver Street or even in William Rackham's house - but I already miss this story. I can't even say I love the ending, but I'm not disappointed. I'm only disappointed in that there's not a sequel.
I borrowed this book from my brother an embarrassingly long time ago, and I'm not even sure now why I've waited so long to read this. It was one of th...moreI borrowed this book from my brother an embarrassingly long time ago, and I'm not even sure now why I've waited so long to read this. It was one of those "Oh, I'll be able to breeze through this and return it to you so you can read it" kinds of things. Considering that was years ago, clearly I didn't do breeze through it or return it. Hey, it's part of my charm.
This wasn't an easy book to get into. I started it during a particularly busy time - moving to a new place, working longer hours at work, etc. It wasn't especially easy to pick this up and read it in spurts, so for a while there I didn't think I was going to care much for this. It requires some attention, in the same way something like Infinite Jest requires some attention. (But, okay, let's be fair - nothing needs quite that much attention.) There are some similarities here to David Foster Wallace's popular tome - is it post-post-modernism or something? Sure, let's call it that.
Wonky story-line, interesting choice of writing style, sentences that sort of end, don't go anywhere, thoughts that collide into one another. Did I require this book requires some attention? It does. It requires some work.
It's the story of Sibylla and her young genius son, Ludo. The backdrop to their lives is the film Seven Samurai which Sibylla plays over and over and over again. Genius Ludo reads all the great Classics (the Odyssey, the Iliad, etc. in the original language) at an age when most kids are eating the boogers they pull out of their noses. A particularly favorite scene occurs when Sibylla tries to enroll Ludo in public school.
Look, I don't normally like precocious children in literature. Sometimes it's so obnoxious I can't even handle it. Ludo is obnoxious. But he's also incredibly sweet and squeezable and I just want to sit down and talk with him. Correction: I just want to sit down and be corrected by him. Here I'd be talking about my favorite brand of burritos and he'd be rattling off something in Greek to me.
This is also a coming-of-age novel of a sort. Ludo grows up a bit and just as he's starting to learn Japanese, he sets off to find his real father, or at least his ideal father.
This is a clever story, sometimes too clever for its own good. DeWitt is a highly intelligent writer - she has an extensive education in language and a gaggle of other things, and she uses this book to show some of that off. It's tedious at times. But it's mostly fun. It just requires one to sit down and read large parts in one sitting in order to not ruin the flow.
I've often asked why women don't tend to write books that are as popular as DFW or Pynchon or those other heavy-hitters in the "big pretentious, post-modern book world". Maybe I just wasn't looking. This isn't as big (page count-wise), but she could be in the same ranks as some of those other guys. (I'm saying that having not even read Pynchon's larger, more pretentious post-modern books. That's how I roll.)
I can now return this to my brother. I'm looking forward to his thoughts on it.(less)
There have been plenty of classic bitches in literature throughout history. Some examples (in no particular order):
-Lady MacBeth from Macbeth. She was...moreThere have been plenty of classic bitches in literature throughout history. Some examples (in no particular order):
-Lady MacBeth from Macbeth. She was pretty wicked. -That Medea chick was certainly no picnic either. -Any female character in any Ayn Rand novel, specifically Dagney Taggart from Atlas Shrugged. -Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca was a bad time too. -(A personal favorite) Xenia from The Robber Bride - cuckoo!
Obviously there are others, and feel free to include them down in the comments. I'm just making a point here. Bitches in literature is cuh-razy.
And now we can include Serena Pemberton. She's a bitch.
Depression-era, North Carolina. Times are rough, everyone knows it. Serena and her new bitch husband are about to revolutionize the timber business, primarily thanks to Serena's business sense. Don't tell her she's just a girl and can't do something - she'll kick your fucking ass. She can do anything the menfolk can do, and better. A bit cliched, but there it is.
Also cliched is the concept of a scorned woman. She's not so much scorned here as she is just really fucking crabby about some stuff that happened once upon a time, and now it's time for her to fix it. Her means of fixing, however, are questionable. She's a brilliant, strong, beautiful, dangerous sociopath. Those that get in her way regret it eventually. Do not slight this woman.
I was warned from the beginning that there are some animal deaths in this story, and I was worried about that. NOT TEH ANIMALS! But context, folks. It's the time, the place, the nature. And it's all reflective of the people - nature is brutal, but so is humanity. You have some human vs. animal, some animal vs. animal, some human vs. human, and at the end of the day the point is there's no real difference. Not in this world. And also I've read worse. I'm not sure where right off the top of my head, but this wasn't the worst, and I can be pretty sensitive when it comes to the fluffy-cutenesses of the world. I will save them all with my bare hands! But this just really didn't affect me the way I thought it would.
The author does a fantastic job at bringing alive Appalachia. I read in an author interview that he grew up in the environment and basically knows it as well as the back of his own hand. That's evident in every page of this book. I never felt lost in the land he created, even if occasionally I wasn't able to feel close to the characters (which I suspect was intentional, but maybe I wasn't reading it well).
I was a bit disappointed in the sense that here's another eveeeil woman portrayed in literature, especially in this day and age. It's as if to say that if Serena wasn't a bitch, she'd be a saint, and that's such old-school thinking that it was frustrating for me to read at times. But, again, historical context, yada yada yada. Take it all in stride. It just bothers me that strong women in literature generally wind up being heartless, which sort of belittles their strength because what strong woman wants to also be heartless? It's just complicated and I wish it could be different, but whatevs.
Serena really is pretty fascinating regardless. I'm glad to not know her. And, better yet, I'm glad to not be her.(less)
It must have been a year of slim-pickin's when this book won the National Book Award.
The subject matter is incredibly interesting to me. There were bl...moreIt must have been a year of slim-pickin's when this book won the National Book Award.
The subject matter is incredibly interesting to me. There were black and white photographs interspersed throughout the book - wonderful edition.
But the writing. The writing! Overblown, flowery, melodramatic. UGH. It was exhausting to read at times.
Also, despite the interesting subject matter, it's probably hard to write one book of a certain length without repeating some facts, changing up the wordage, whatever. So I understand the need to toss in some other anecdotes to try to fill the gaps, plump up the pages, add historical context. But the additions fell short. They didn't lend much to the subject matter at all, outside of pointing out that some other stuff was going on during this period as well, though who in their right mind wouldn't have assumed that? Anecdotes about Black Jack Ketchum, a bad guy eventually arrested and executed... where did that come from? What did he have to do with the Dust Bowl? Oh, he was around for some of the early dusters. But he was dead (not really a spoiler and I don't care anyway) before Black Sunday, so...
And let's not forget the subtitle here, shall we? "The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl". Black Jack didn't survive. He didn't die at the hands of the Dust Bowl, but he also didn't survive. Nor did the elderly woman whose name I can't remember, or her great-grandbaby who died like the same day or something. They died because of the Dust Bowl, which is tragic. But... well, they're not quite survivors, are they?
I realize I'm just splitting hairs here. Maybe all of this wouldn't bother me if the rest of the book was written well. Repetitious sequences like alternating "Coughed and cried, coughed and cried" and "Cried and coughed, cried and coughed" - was enough to drive me absolutely batty. When it wasn't overwritten, the text was bland.
I feel bad saying this book was merely "okay", but that's exactly how I felt about it. The Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, the migrations (See The Grapes of Wrath) are all very important issues in American history. They are all very serious, sobering, dramatic subjects. Guess what? Writing about them doesn't have to be melodramatic to prove that point. In fact, doing so almost detracts from the subject entirely.
That's a shame.
My rating is based entirely on the writing, not the subject matter, so don't go and get your panties all in the twist and accuse me of being heartless and Grinch-y. Egan made a fascinating story sound boring. That takes skills.
My brother and I moved to Pittsburgh in 2003, sharing an apartment over a store front used primarily for storage on the North Side. We had one flight...moreMy brother and I moved to Pittsburgh in 2003, sharing an apartment over a store front used primarily for storage on the North Side. We had one flight of stairs to get to our apartment door and then another flight of stairs into the actual apartment. My bedroom was the loft space at the top of the building, giving me an extra flight of stairs to climb each day. This room was blazing hot in the summer and terribly cold in the winter, but this was a great apartment. Even though the washer and dryer were in the basement, yet another flight of stairs. We could see downtown from our living room window, I could sit on the fire escape outside my bedroom and watch the fireworks from the stadium where the Pirates were playing. I read a lot of books. We had mice - not as pets, mind you. They made their way in, likely either from the basement or the fire escape outside my window, or both. We. Had. Mice.
We lived above a young paralegal who threw parties until late at night, and there was someone on the ground floor that I met maybe once. We didn't really know these neighbors which was fine by me. I was new in town, didn't know anyone, but that was okay. I made friends eventually and did stuff and it was done my own way. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, and some of it was terribly boring. But it was the exciting sort of boring that comes with doing "boring" in a new place. There was lots of drinking.
It was all the same sorts of things that everyone does every single day. My story is no different than many others, aside from the fact that we moved to Pittsburgh specifically because we didn't know anything about it and we knew we wanted to go somewhere, and we got jobs once we got here. We took a risk and it worked out. We did it our way, no one can take that away from us.
That's Pittsburgh to me.
Pittsburgh is a pretty special place, which is difficult to explain to people who have never been here. There's no reason, really, there's no magic in the air. (There used to be a lot of pollution in the air, but that's much better now, it's not as deadly anymore.) The people aren't that spectacular, but they are different. Not necessarily in a bad way, of course. But spend some time here and you'll notice they're not like people you've met in other cities. I'm talking about the "yinzers", the ones who've lived here their entire lives, or for so long now that they don't know how to talk any other way.
That's what this collection of writing is about. The New Yinzer is a local literary magazine focusing on Pittsburgh writing and this particular collection is filled with writing from local authors (and some big local author names like Stewart O'Nan and Lee Gutkind, the godfather of creative nonfiction). They talk about their love of Pittsburgh, their experiences here, what makes this city what it is. If you want to know what it's like to live in Pittsburgh, if you want to read some local flavor, this collection is a good place to start.
I realize now that few of the evenings I remember as important to my life in Pittsburgh were spent on balconies and fire escapes. So many of these places were patios and porches and decks. Forgive my liberal definitions of these, but agree that Pittsburgh is a city that is consumed visually, and that you're never really living there unless you are out in it, watching its hills crash into each other from every angle possible. In the theater of Pittsburgh's quiet hum and bustle, its balconies are the best spot from which to watch. It helps to be a little off the ground. Ask anyone who visits the city and gets a look at its rivers and hills from Mount Washington - the grandest balconies around - and that suprirsed sparkle in their eyes will show you what all of this means. -from Not-Forgotten Evenings on Certain Faraway Balconies, David C. Madden
I put off reading this book for a few different reasons, some of which only make sense to me, but this is how my thought processes progressed:
* Ah, young adult. No thanks. [It's not. I'm not even sure where I got that idea. Someone who reads a lot of young adult must have read this and I jumped to conclusions. Suck it.] * Vampires. Really? Again? [I still feel this way after having read it now, but not to the same degree.] * Oh, Hollywood made a version of this, and now everyone wants to read it. Screw everyone. [I still feel this way too. Except now I want to see the original Swedish version. And then eventually the Hollywood version because I love to be able to compare/contrast/bitch.] * My brother read this, so therefore it can't be all bad. He even gave it four stars. Okay, might just check it out. [He rarely steers me wrong.] * The title is based on a Morrissey song. This intrigues me. Like... a lot. [Oh, Morrissey.] * $1.00 in clearance? Yes, please! [Most of my reading choices come from finding books I might not normally read in the clearance section at Half Price Books.] * I need a book to read this weekend. [Didn't want anything heavy, wanted something fun, wanted a relatively quick read - voila.] * This isn't half bad. [I didn't want to stop reading while we drove, so that's always a good sign.] * I wish people would shut the fuck up and/or go to bed so I can read. [That's family for ya.] * Is this over yet? [Eventually it got to be a bit much and I was ready to move on to a different book.] * Remember to put the movies on my Netflix queue. ['Nuff said.]
This is most certainly not a young adult read. There are vampires which, yeah, I know, so often that falls into young adult territory these days. This isn't one of those. It's not Dracula either, nor is it The Historian. It's violent and dramatic and there are more characters than I had expected there to be. There are some young adult characters, and they go through young adult experiences, but this is absolutely not a young adult read. (I'm stressing this lest there is someone else out there as ridiculous as myself that might be avoiding reading this book for that reason alone. There might be reasons to avoid reading it - aversion to violence in literature for one - but a YA classification is not the right reason.)
The Morrissey connection might be the biggest reason (in addition to the fact it was a buck in clearance) I finally chose to read this. How does that work exactly? How does a Morrissey song relate to vampires? It's not so much that it relates to vampires, but it relates to something deeper and more personal than that. The relationship between two of the main characters (yes, that's remaining as superficial as that to avoid spoilers) is actually pretty touching, in a weird, dirty sort of way, almost Edward-Bella-esque, but not. This is something more... real? For lack of a better word. And to me that's sort of what Morrissey is about.
Okay, now that I've lost everyone entirely...
Honestly by the end of the read I'm going back and forth between 3 and 4 stars. I think a part of me still expected something else and wanted it to be something else and omg so over the vampires and all. But considering it wasn't the other stuff I thought it was and there were some interesting surprises, I think I'm landing on 4 stars. Maybe I'm just feeling cuddly tonight.
But then, listening to Morrissey will do that to me.(less)
When I saw Stephen King's author photo on the back of this book, I felt a hole somewhere inside of me fill up with love and joy (or something close to...moreWhen I saw Stephen King's author photo on the back of this book, I felt a hole somewhere inside of me fill up with love and joy (or something close to it). This man loves his baseball. Look at that photo and tell me you don't grin ear-to-ear. He's like a kid on Christmas morning, a kid in the candy store, a kid who just caught a home run hit by his favorite baseball player of all time. King is goofy-happy about his baseball. And while I might not care that much about the sport, I can appreciate his adoration of it because LOOK AT THAT GRIN OF HIS. C'mon!
The two short stories/novellas here aren't as great as that photo. Again, I can appreciate what he's going for. Blockade Billy was fine, with a sort of Citizen Kane narration... well, Citizen Kane as only King could write - bizarre, freakish, off-kilter. There's no Rosebud here. There's Billy, and he's no Kane. Kane was a peach in comparison.
The second "bonus" story, Morality, was also fine. Nothing new for anyone who has read a few Richard Matheson stories (in particular Button, Button which was inexplicably turned into the 2009 Cameron Diaz movie The Box). But for those of us who grew up reading King and will continue to read King and will read King until the day we die (because does anyone doubt that King will outlive us all?), it's hard to actually be bored by one of his books. (Actually I know at least one person who finds him boring but she's a FREAK and is not allowed in this review, haha!) That being said, as far as the entertainment value goes, this isn't as high as a lot of his other writing. They're short, and maybe that's my issue - I find more connected with King's heftier novels. Although that's not quite true because I loved The Body and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. It's not the sports issue that is a turn-off because I actually sort of enjoyed the King/O'Nan non-fiction, Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season.
Okay, so these stories just aren't that great in my opinion. Doesn't make King a horrible writer, or me a bad reader. It is what it is, and I'll continue to snarf up his books as I come across them. The nice thing is it will never be difficult to get one's hands on a Stephen King novel.(less)
Some of us have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that's their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you're that pissed that so many others had it good.
Coming into this review, I understand that I will likely come across as especially heartless and insensitive. There are probably good reasons for that, but not worth getting into here.
I know this book has touched a lot of readers. I know a few people outside of GR who would relate to this book on levels I cannot, but I have no interest in recommending this book to any of them because, well, they've already lived it. They already know the story, just as told by a different narrator (themselves, in their own head, day after day).
I don't hate this book. I found it engrossing, certainly. It was hard to turn away, but in the same way that it's hard to turn away after witnessing a bad car accident. We look not because we're nosy but because we have so many questions: How did this happen? Who's at fault? How do I prevent this from happening to myself or the people I love? Could it have been prevented? How can anyone survive something like this?
Jeannette Walls answers these questions, more or less, but in a surprisingly disconnected way. I'm not sure any of the outside folks I know who have led particularly nasty childhoods are this disconnected from those past lives - at least not after they've been to therapy and have acknowledged that they had a really shit time of growing up. They understand it, and yes, enough time has passed and they know they're safe. But the scars are usually always there, right? Walls doesn't seem to have any emotional scars, or if she does, she's not showing them to the reader. This was hard for me, as a reader. I felt she wasn't being completely open and honest with me. I didn't want her to be one of those annoying hysterical authors that seem to be all the rage in memoir writing these days; but her voice was so removed from the stories she was telling that it made it hard for me to become as involved in her life as I probably should have.
Annnnnd this is where the particularly heartless-seeming part begins. Feel free to walk away now.
The quote at the beginning of this review is from the 1997 movie, As Good as It Gets. It was on my mind through the entire reading of this book, even though I respect what Walls wrote and the fact that she wasn't over-the-top about telling her story. I often have difficulty reading memoirs like this because everyone has a story to tell. Most of the people I know have had really shitty childhoods or really shitty adulthoods or really shitty middle school experiences. I have a story or two to tell. I'm sure you do as well. What makes this story different? Who is Jeannette Walls, and why is her story so important to tell? And why do we feel so drawn to reading it?
Maybe I'm not qualified to answer those questions. I'm certainly not in the right frame of mind to answer those questions.
The parents in this memoir are downright deplorable. They considered themselves bohemian and wanted to raise their children to have the same set of values that they had. Except here's the thing a lot of people don't get: There's a difference between being bohemian and being flat-out abusive. Jeannette's parents were abusive. There's so much emotional and physical abuse (yes, kids, that's right - starving your children is considered physical abuse) that my stomach turned on more than one occasion. Sure, yes, having "adventures" as children is fun and exciting but OH MY GOD those children still have to eat. Starving is no longer an adventure, not even for an adult. One can still be "bohemian" and make sure they are still meeting the physical and emotional needs of their children. I don't understand how the Walls children did not have scurvy.
Okay, so all of that aside... I get that the book is supposed to be more about how all of these really incredibly horrible things happened, and how they could still forgive their parents (uh, not me, thanks), and how they grew up to be mature, stable, talented, intelligent adults. I get that. But the same things could be said of most of my friends who have gotten out of their shitty lives and moved on to something bigger and better. They're all success stories, and reading this book at any point in their lives wouldn't likely have helped them believe they would ultimately be okay. These are things that are generally in each of us, this whole pulling-up-by-the-bootstraps thing. Or it's either there or it isn't, and maybe there's someone in the world who was saved because they read this memoir - that's great. But again. We all have stories, and some are good (noodle salad!) and some are not.
As far as I'm concerned it's what you do with it, either way. I'm not saying you grow up and "get over it". No one gets over it. I haven't gotten over a lot of my own shit, and my childhood wasn't nearly as bad as this. But you wake up, you move on, you grow. I understand this was Jeannette's way of growing, it's a part of her process. But then so can journalling.
This is going nowhere.
Bottom line: It's a fine read, it's powerful, but I didn't feel like I was connecting with the author because a) the style was terribly disconnected and b) she wanted me to be okay with her adoration of her incredibly abusive parents and c) it gives bohemianism a bad name. No bueno.
On a lighter note, someone in the past who read this copy was so offended by the vulgarity of the language that s/he crossed out every curse word, like "'Those braces are a goddamn feat of engineering genius'" and "'You goddamned flint-faced hag!'" But then the words "bastard" and "bitch" were apparently okay. Don't even get me started on my thoughts on that.(less)
In my attempt to better appreciate Joyce Carol Oates I'm trying to read more of her nonfiction as I've been told by a reliable source that it may bug...moreIn my attempt to better appreciate Joyce Carol Oates I'm trying to read more of her nonfiction as I've been told by a reliable source that it may bug me less than a lot of her fiction has. (I lovedA Garden of Earthly Delights, but so much of her other fiction tends to be repetitive.)
No real complaints here with this book. Oates is knowledgeable about the books she reviewed here, she's clearly done her homework in terms of the authors' past and/or inspirations, and (most importantly) she doesn't bore me.
The biggest problem for me is that I haven't read so many of the books or authors she's discussed here, so on one hand I was in fear that each page would bring me a spoiler that I would be unable to forget, thus ruining the book should I ever get around to reading it. Luckily I have shit for a memories so I imagine by tomorrow morning most of what I have read here will be left behind on my pillow; by the time I get around to reading what Oates has reviewed, it'll be brand-spanking new and I'll be all, "Joyce Carol Oates? Who dat?"
So that's my review. The rest of this is for my own benefit, and for the benefit of my stalkers bookish peeps who give a crap about this sort of thing. I plan on holding onto this book for a while; at least until I can read all the books Oates mentions here. I read a lot but I was almost discouraged to find that I haven't read even the majority of those she mentions here. How does that happen? Do I not read until my eyes bleed? MUST READ MORE. Stop eating! Food slow down reading-time. Who has time to chew? Mastication-shmastication!
On that note - here are the titles she reviews - and the ones I've read/haven't read so I can always come back and strike things off the list. Darwin knows I love striking things off lists. It brings order to my world of chaos.
All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren (I had to read this in high school but it was while I was dying of a mutant form of mono so I have no recollection of it other than I cheated on the test. Don't tell anyone.)
All the Stories of Muriel Spark, Muriel Spark (Okay, Oates read The Complete Short Stories, but that's not an option here that I can see, and really, isn't it pretty much the same thing? Yeah, I thought so too.)
Okay, so this is really discouraging. Out of all those titles I've only read one of those by Oates herself, Wuthering Heights (snooze), and Connelly's crime genre (which is fun, by the way, don't get me wrong, BUT...).
Clearly I have work to do. Any suggestions where to start? Speak up, yo.(less)
I only have a vague recollection of reading Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, but considering I don't remember even one thing from that collection mak...moreI only have a vague recollection of reading Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, but considering I don't remember even one thing from that collection makes me think that it really wasn't that great. I know people liked it, but clearly it did very little for me.
This collection of stories, though, was awesome.
I found each of the stories to be a touching look at how cultures interact with one another and what it means to be westernized. They're hard to read at times; at least for me as they deal a lot with family and how family changes, and so often that's something that makes me shut down and want to stop reading. I don't need those sorts of reminders while I read as well.
My only issue (and the reason this is 4 stars instead of 5) is Part Two: Hema and Kaushik. It threw off the entire book for me. It's not that those few stories weren't good, but they felt different than the stories in Part One. Additionally I felt the Hema and Kaushik stories might have been better in their own collection so they had their own space to grow and breathe.
I'm impressed with this collection though, enough so that now I finally want to read The Namesake which I hear is good, though the people who usually tell me that are the same people who liked her first story collection. But I'll check it out on my own and see what I think - after all, it did win her a Pulitzer.(less)
I'm not great at reading contemporary novels for some reason. I think in a lot of ways I expect too much out of them, especially when I compare them t...moreI'm not great at reading contemporary novels for some reason. I think in a lot of ways I expect too much out of them, especially when I compare them to so many of their predecessors (totally unfair of me, I know, but that's how I roll). I usually see so much room for improvement, or "had this been tweaked just a bit..."'s, that I wind up wondering what everyone makes such a fuss about.
I don't wonder as much with this book. It's charming. It's heartbreaking in parts. It actually punched me in the heart a few times. You know how certain paragraphs in books can hit you somewhere inside you didn't even know existed? Yeah, that's what happened with this book.
There are four main characters - the starving artist, Camille; Philibert the aristocrat who lives in Camille's building; Philibert's roommate, Franck; and Paulette, Franck's grandmother. While the story shouldn't be told without any one of them, the only one I particularly cared about was Camille. Maybe it's because we're both of the womenfolk genre, and I could connect with her on that sort of level; but honestly I think it has more to do with how Gavalda wrote her. Camille is wonderful. I love the way she sees the world, and the way her art is an extension of her character. Everyone else in the story paled in comparison. I just wanted Camille.
Now this is where I get obnoxious: I see that 10 Goodreads members have shelved this book as "chick lit". I'm not attacking them for that, but it just doesn't fit the bill in my opinion. This might be because my own definition of "chick lit" is less forgiving than I think it is according to most of the readers of the world. "Chick lit" to me is fluffy - that's what I imagine when I think of a baby chick. Fuzz. This was deeper than that. This wasn't a fuzzy story. There are the occasional fuzzy elements, but Camille is not a chick. She's not fluffy. She's bones and grit and paint. She's not out to find herself a man, or even the right pair of high heels. I'm not sure she would know how to walk in high heels. (Something else she and I have in common.) Most characters in what I define as "chick lit" do not appreciate the beauty in an ugly knitted scarf. Camille could.
So I'm interested with that shelving, but I'm trying to ignore it. I just hate that someone might be led astray by that. I almost couldn't bring myself to read this because of that. But one of my close GR friends rated it so highly and I trust her judgment that I couldn't turn it down; and I'm so happy I pushed myself.
For the record, I do believe many readers are confused by "chick lit" and "women's literature" or "fiction by women writers". It doesn't help that so many are marketed so freaking insanely in order to garner readers.
What I'm saying is that this is a book that I think even male readers could appreciate. And I worry that the label "chick lit" could be a real turn-off for most.
I can't give this a full 5 stars because it really consists of more dialogue than I prefer. I often find that an easy way out; Gavalda, however, manages to throw in an occasional paragraph or few pages that are not as superficial as straight conversation, and for that alone I hung on.
Now, really. Can Gavalda write a book just about Camille? For me? Please and thank you.
All the valves opened and she blew her nose against his shirt, cried some more, letting go of twenty-seven years of solitude, of sorrow, of nasty blows to the head, crying for the cuddles she never had, her mother's madness, the paramedics on their knees on the wall-to-wall carpet, her father's absent gazes, the shit she went through, all those years without any respite, ever, the cold, the pleasure of hunger, the wrong paths taken, the self-imposed betrayals, and always that vertigo, the vertigo at the edge of the abyss and of the bottle. And the doubt, her body always in hiding, and the taste of ether and the fear of never being good enough.
That, right there. That's one of those sections that hit me somewhere I didn't know existed. You don't have to understand. That one is just for me.(less)
When I read Name of the Wind I commented on how I hadn't read a whole lot of fantasy books recently, so I was probably not a good person to review a f...moreWhen I read Name of the Wind I commented on how I hadn't read a whole lot of fantasy books recently, so I was probably not a good person to review a fantasy novel. I also mentioned I hadn't read any of George R.R. Martin's books, so really the only intense fantasy books I had read were Tolkien's, and those are pretty big shoes to fill.
So that was May 2011.
Now, July 2012, I feel differently. I've read some more fantasy and I feel a little more qualified (by my standards) to say what's on my mind, and who cares if I'm not anyway? I've read a few of the Martins, and while they don't blow my socks off, they serve a purpose and I'm invested and I will totally ruin the rest of my life reading them because Martin will OUTLIVE US ALL. And I like a good epic. Especially a good fantasy epic.
That being said, I'm not certain I'm confident in Rothfuss's skills at writing an epic.
Don't get all crazy upset, now. He has a lot of potential. I could see that in the first book. Now with the second book I feel there was a lot of repetition of the first book which only pads the second book, and makes me wonder what the third book will be like. (Yes, I will totally read the third book. Why? Because I HAVE TO.) Kvothe is exceptionally annoying in this installment because the portion of the story the older Kvothe is telling is about him in the old days when he was 16. Do you know any 16-year-old boy who isn't stupid and annoying?
Along those same lines, so *spoiler* or something....
16-year-old Kvothe discovers sex in this book. He gets jiggy with it a bunch, and it's amazing, and elder Kvothe likes to reminisce about it a bunch. Clearly. Just like most men I know - they do like to talk about their first loves and their first sexual experiences a lot. So I'm not surprised that older Kvothe talks about it in his storytelling, but whoa there, Tiger. We get it. Sex. It's good.
So there's all this talk about sticking it in one or another woman, but then the parts that are alluded to that sound totally awesome? Kvothe breezes over those as something not interesting or plot-propelling or whatever. What? Let's talk about those things!
(view spoiler)[Chapter 52: A Brief Journey. No joke it's a "brief journey". It's barely a full page long. And at the end of that brief chapter, this is what Kvothe has to say about it:
However, as these events have little to do with the heart of the story, I must pass them over in favor of more important things. Simply said, it took me sixteen days to reach Severen. A bit longer than I had planned, but at no point during my journey was I ever bored.
Um, hello! I want to hear about what happened on that journey. That sounds interesting! You're saying that the "more important things" to discuss were the sex and your red hair? 'Cause you talked a lot about sex and your red hair.
Also, it smelled sort of like an easy way out for Mr. Rothfuss. "Hey, this thing happened but if I write about it the book will be even longer and I might have to cut one of the scenes with Felurian, so let's just gloss over what really happened so we can talk more about sex." (hide spoiler)]
Really, I'm not a prude; it's just evident that there could have been more of a story here than just the sex and repeats from the first book. I get that we're trying to build a trilogy here, and we're working on establishing an environment and back-story and stuff, but c'mon. Move it along.
But don't move it along so much that there's so much story packed into one book. I had this complaint with the first book as well; there's a lot that happens, and by the end of it my head was spinning a bit. Martin has this problem as well, for the record, where this world is the MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER and by god, we will all drown in it if it's the last thing the author does.
This doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book. Please don't get me wrong. I did. It did keep my attention. But there were some annoyances. And it was too long to have those sorts of annoyances. One thing I wasn't annoyed with (and a big Something that Rothfuss does better than Martin) is that there aren't a batrillion different characters to keep straight, and all the chapters are clear and told from Kvothe's perspective. I like that. It's less... messy that way.
Now hurry up and put out Book Three so I can stop wondering when the heck we're going to get to the real meat of the matter.(less)
Once I realized that what this series is is actually just a soap opera, it occurred to me that it really isn't so bad after all.
That, or it just took...moreOnce I realized that what this series is is actually just a soap opera, it occurred to me that it really isn't so bad after all.
That, or it just took three books for it to really get interesting.
I found myself actually caring a bit about some of the characters finally, although there are still some that I'm a bit fuzzy on and wonder wth they're cracking on about (Samwell? Might as well be Samwise Gamgee, can't keep them separated). But other characters really started to, erm, blossom here, and I finally could get a real image of them in my head.
And, oh, the melodrama! Hence the soap opera. Don't tell me it's not - it totally is. Oh, hey, let's "kill" off this character and then bring them back after the reader has been traumatized and finally gotten over it; yeah, let's fuck with some emotions! Good job, Martin. You fucked with my emotions.
I didn't cry or anything. Just sayin.
Also, where is my effing direwolf? What good are you people anyway? You call yourselves my friend.
Note: Every time there was mention of Marillion I thought of THIS. And you're welcome. You've very, very welcome.
Between that and always thinking of Brandon Walsh when I read about Bran, it's a miracle I can even finish these books.(less)
I prefer my vampires in literature (and movies, for that matter) to be a tad more Dracula than the alternative. Vampires don't fucking sparkle, I don't care what anyone tells me.
So while this isn't exactly high literature, it is certainly higher literature than the alternative. This was more on par with 'Salem's Lot, another fine addition to vampire fiction. Also, I like Guillermo del Toro's movies - he's a bad-ass, and I hoped that his writing would be cinematic. (I have no idea who that Chuck Hogan guy is - sorry, Chuck.) I got what I hoped for - it's an easy read, pretty cinematic in the sense that I can imagine this being made into a movie, it's not at all complicated and everything within can be done on the big screen.
I don't consider vampires particularly scary, but biological threats are, and that's the focus of this story. A little bit of zombies, a little bit of vampires. It was all interesting, but not incredible. Still, it's effing hot outside and this was a great choice to pretend like the outdoors doesn't exist right now.
Thanks, boys, for a rollicking good vampire story. (And for not letting them sparkle.)(less)
Some plays just are better when seen performed on the stage. Sometimes just reading a play loses something in the... well, translation. I have a feeli...moreSome plays just are better when seen performed on the stage. Sometimes just reading a play loses something in the... well, translation. I have a feeling The History Boys is one of those. I'll bet on stage it's pretty interesting. I hear there's a movie from a few years ago that probably is worth watching. (This is all not to be confused with The Emperor's Club, the 2002 movie with Kevin Kline. I can't explain why but I seriously thought it might be based on this play. It was not. Silly rabbit! Whatever, these boarding school/prep school titles all run together after a while.)
This play is about a handful of smart British boys in a boarding school who do what boys do - talk about sex and stuff. Then there are three teachers, all of whom have completely different teaching styles, but it really comes down to who has the "better" teaching style, Hector or Irwin. I don't even know what the purpose was of Lintott at all, other than she was the token female in the entire play.
Don't get me wrong, I think education is pretty spanking important, I encourage everyone to give it a try. That being said, I'm a mediocre student myself because, whatever, man, I want to learn what I want to learn, and tests and exams don't make me a smarter person, and I am a horrible test-taker anyway. What do grades really show you anyway? Not much, not in the long run, yet so much depends on those grades. The things I've learned on my own through my own reading outside of school has surpassed most of what I've learned while I was in school. And, well, that's pretty much the debate here in this play.
There's certainly more to it than just that (other stuff that we've all experienced by reading/watching other stories about boarding schools/prep schools), but it felt like there wasn't much to it. Again, I think that has more to do with the sitting-and-reading aspect, and I'd likely feel differently if I watched an actual performance. But then, I'm a visual person anyway.
I gave this an extra star just for including a part from this.(less)
Babies are creepy enough to begin with, and Stefan Brijs has made them even creepier. But it's not the kids' fault, not in this story. These aren't yo...moreBabies are creepy enough to begin with, and Stefan Brijs has made them even creepier. But it's not the kids' fault, not in this story. These aren't your run-of-the-mill jam-handed sorts of kids, the ones with Kool-Aid around their mouths. Oh, no. No, no. Give me one of those any day. Just keep these kids from this book away from me.
And, yes, that's absolutely, totally unfair of me to say. It's not their fault, as I already mentioned. They're just as innocent as I am here, but they really creeped my shit out.
That being said, the book is really only so-so. The story combines religion and science and some Asperger's, all of which should really come together to produce something pretty neat-o, but I felt it lacked in places.
I'm also not going to lie - I caught a mistake in the early pages that stuck with me the entire time. It had to have been an mistake by the author, and it wasn't caught by an editor, and dude... that's just sloppy all the way around. I'll put it behind a spoiler link so you can skip it if you don't want to know: (view spoiler)[On page 26: "Dr. Hoppe's voice: 'This is Raphael. He has the green bracelet. That is Gabriel, with the yellow bracelet. And the one with the blue bracelet is Michael.'"
Okay, you with me so far? I paid attention because I'm a loser who thinks that any mention of color in a story must obviously be symbolic in some way, so it made an impression, a note was made for future reference, and I started thinking about what the different colors might mean in regards to the boys.
On page 30 (a whooooole four pages later): "'That's Raphael,' said the doctor, pointing at the blue bracelet.'"
What? HELLO. Just on page 26 we were told that Michael had the blue bracelet, and that Raphael had the green. What's up with that? That can't seriously be a mistake, right? The bracelets the boys wear in the story are pretty important, and later there's even a bit of a (another spoiler here) switch-a-roo with the bracelets, so it's evident that the bracelets are not meant to be ignored. So how is it the author mixed up the colors? I mean, dude, if I could write down each boys' name with the corresponding color, then shouldn't the author have had a similar note next to his computer?
So all that aside... the story was fine, but just wasn't as thrilling as I had hoped. The back cover compares this to Frankenstein or The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales of Terror, and believe me, the comparison isn't lost on me. They're all stories that mix science and religion, though some are more subtle than others. (Hint: The Angel Maker is not subtle.) I think, really, what it comes down to is that Brijs wanted his story to be like those others. And he might have tried too hard. I believe Brijs is a highly intelligent fellow, and clearly did a lot of research for this book... but at times it felt too forced, less of a story. He had a point and he was bound and determined to drill it into my head.
I won't write off this Brijs got entirely. I've been to his homeland of Belgium, and I want to read more Dutch literature. If he has other books I'll check them out, but won't rush to do so. He had a good idea with The Angel Maker, but it could have been even better.
And, again, I'll just say it again. Babies are effing creepy. Even if they don't say much. Or maybe that just makes them creepier. Ack.(less)
Before anyone starts cooking up the tar and feathers, let me just begin by saying I was probably doomed from the beginning knowing I was stepping into...moreBefore anyone starts cooking up the tar and feathers, let me just begin by saying I was probably doomed from the beginning knowing I was stepping into McSweeney-land here. I'm not going to spend time in my review defending my stance on that, other than I have preconceived notions about a lot of things that have relations with McSweeney-land - most apt to this review would be the word "clever". I would say since the early aughts there has been this whole "I'm-cleverer-than-you" movement in literature and it got old fast, in my opinion.
The Instructions feels that way to me. It's too... gimmicky.
That being said, it's a clever (this time I mean it in the "good way") story idea and it's not a horrible story in itself. Troubled, ten-year-old Gurion Maccabee from Chicago might be the messiah. He doesn't know for sure if he is, but as a natural-born leader, he certainly takes advantage of the possibility that it could very well be true.
While I'm never afraid of a big book, there are times when I don't feel a big book needs to be as big as it is. I understand the purpose here behind the length (it's meant to be scripture), but felt it was too purposeful that it actually lost some of its meaning. It could still have been a big book! It just needed to be trimmed down... a bit.
I've seen some reviews from people who fell in love with all the characters, but I had trouble doing that myself. Gurion is certainly fascinating, but through his perspective I never really achieved complete understanding or visualization of his peers. There would be episodic glimpses into their character, but then they'd be yanked away again, to the extent that I wouldn't be able to point them out in a line-up if I had to.
But this is a first novel! Holy shit, right? Over a thousand pages of a first novel, and that's nothing to sneeze at. And good for him for finding a home for it at McSweeney-land, though it would be hard to imagine that it couldn't have found a place there - this book is right up the McSweeney-alley.
I finished this book last night, and to be fair I've been going back and forth between 3 and 4 stars in my head ever since. I think had Levin not tried to be as clever as he did here, it would have achieved a higher rating from me. But I feel he did try too hard to have it fit the McSweeney bill, that it dripped from almost every page. That's a turn off for me. But again, I already have issues with that sort of thing. Some are really into it, and good for them - then this book will be the best choice EVER for them to read. For me, however, I'm sticking with the 3 star rating because it's a big book that just wanted to be bigger than it needed to be.(less)
It was recommended to me by someone I trust to skip this book. I told him I don't care that much about baseball, and I care even less about the Red So...moreIt was recommended to me by someone I trust to skip this book. I told him I don't care that much about baseball, and I care even less about the Red Sox, so the only reason I would read it is because of my undying adoration of both Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King. I read a couple reviews by people here, all of whom seem to agree that if you don't care about the Sox or baseball it would be silly to read this book.
I'm not going to say I agree or disagree with them. I will say that I actually sorta kinda enjoyed this. I didn't expect to, but it happened. It totally snuck up on me.
O'Nan and King are both incredible fans of the Red Sox, and this is their documentation of the 2004 season in which they made it to (and ultimately won) the World Series for the first time in a really long time. These two fans exchanged e-mails throughout the season, kept diaries, went to games together, talked some smack, and never gave up hope.
I don't think it was as badly written as some of the reviews complain. I think what those people focus on is the subject itself. Considering I don't follow baseball and don't give a hoot about RBIs and other stats, I was able to just focus on what I think is the bigger issue at hand: The undying love and affection two writers have for one baseball team. I can appreciate when anyone is so faithful to whatever; in my case I have an undying love and affection for books. Faithful was dedicated to the authors' "baseball widows", Trudy and Tabitha, which made me think if I ever wrote a book about books I would have to dedicate it to my family as well - the ones who can (and have) spent hours with me in bookstores (more than one in a day), or specifically my oldest brother who went with me to Pearl S. Buck's house that one time only to find out I was supposed to have worked that day but (WHOOPS!) I didn't realize and I got in trouble later.
Baseball isn't my obsession of choice, but I can respect it. Well, now I can. My ex was an avid Mets fan and I hated hearing about it, but that's a different story. I grew up with some baseball in my history. Our parents took us to some games, strangely, and all three of us played T-ball. (Some of us played worse than others. It took me a while to understand the concept was to hit the ball and not the T.) Some time ago when my dad's job moved to another state, he had to go ahead to try to find a place to live and my mom had to stay behind to try to sell our house. My brothers and I were adults at that point and pretty much lived on our own, but would all try to get together on the weekends when Dad would come back. I thought it'd be cool to ride down to Memphis with him one weekend and then ride back to Missouri with him the following weekend. During the week in Memphis I did my own thing while Dad worked, but one evening he brought home tickets to a AAA game. We laughed about it because it really wasn't us, that's not our schtick. But we went anyway. I can't tell you now who played or who won or even what the score was. But I can tell you that it was a fun time, that it was great to be able to spend that one-on-one time with my dad. It's not something we had really done before and it's not something we'll likely do again. So I appreciated it.
And that seems to be what baseball is for me. It's something that's just sort of there, I can take it or leave it, but the memories I have of it are pretty fun. I like ballparks, oddly. The smell and the sounds mostly. But I don't follow the teams, and maybe that's because we moved so much that it was hard to give our loyalty to any specific team.
Or maybe (most likely) it's because overall we're a pretty nerdy family, and even though we all tried sports at one time or another, it just wasn't for us.
Yes, my eyes started to glaze over a time or two during reading this book - there are lots of names and stats that I don't care about. But the other part of the book is the connection between O'Nan and King, the way their friendship developed over this season, the anecdotes about their families and their own writing... those are things I held on for, gimme more gimme more.
So, okay, as a sports book I can't say whether or not it's any good. I have a feeling they weren't able to capture the moment the Red Sox won the World Series, and in fact that bit seemed a bit breezy. But as a work of non-fiction about being faithful to a sports team and what it means to be faithful? That was pretty good.
And, really. I truly adore O'Nan and King. I'm glad they're friends. I think they're good for each other. And, hell, if they'd have me, I would totally go to a Red Sox game with them.(less)
Prior to reading: This Slate article references someone's blurb: "If Willa Cather and Gabriel García Márquez had collaborated on a book, The Snow Child...morePrior to reading: This Slate article references someone's blurb: "If Willa Cather and Gabriel García Márquez had collaborated on a book, The Snow Child would be it."
I don't need to read any more of that Slate article. This sounds like a book after my very own heart.
After reading: Jack and Mabel are an older, childless couple; before moving to Alaska they lived in Pennsylvania where they had conceived but sadly miscarried. Now they live in a remote place, living off their land, and trying to hold onto what threads still remain of their marriage.
One evening in the snow they get a little frisky and playful and build themselves a child out of snow. In the morning the snow-child is gone, but they meet a strange, young girl amongst the trees. Her name is Faina and she wanders the woods with a fox. "Charming" barely scratches the surface of this novel. Faina changes the lives of all she encounters and enchants the reader.
It's a beautiful story, inspired by the Russian fairy tale Snegurochka, or, more commonly known to folks like us, The Snow Maiden. It's also a heartbreaking story, but I'm not telling you why or how. This is a quick read, but I purposefully drew it out, not quite wanting it to end, but needing to know Faina's full story.
It's official - apparently I am a sucker for these modern retellings of fairy tales, so long as their well done. I was reminded of Keith Donohue's The Stolen Child - another fantastical story that made me pee my pants in glee. Ivey doesn't put on any fronts here, she's not at all pretentious in her writing, and I loved that about her debut novel. I look forward to seeing what else she writes. She's taken me back to Alaska with this novel, and she's taken me back into my childhood by creating a new version of a classic fairy tale. It made me want to frolic in the woods and find a fox to befriend.
Also evidence that this book is magic: It finally snowed a bit in Pittsburgh which I attribute to reading this novel. That and the snow dance I performed. It wasn't much, but enough to enhance this reading.(less)
I'm going to say something here now that I wasn't sure about until I finished the book and read the author interview...moreThis is one messed up little book.
I'm going to say something here now that I wasn't sure about until I finished the book and read the author interview at the end, but that I think could have helped me enjoy the book more if I had realized it sooner: This book was inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird. I thought it was obvious throughout, but then I started thinking that maybe Clay was going to try to pass it off like it's nothing like Lee's novel, and that concept turned me off. I couldn't get over the connections; the characters' names, their relationships, and certain situations were all so apparent. Had I known from the beginning that Clay was inspired by and admitted to these comparisons, I wouldn't have felt like I was being cheated and maybe would have had a better appreciation straight off the bat.
If To Kill a Mockingbird took place in modern England today, and Atticus's name was Archie, Scout's name was Skunk, Jem's name was Jed, Calpurnia's name was Cerys, Dill's name was Dillon, the Ewell family was actually the Oswald family, and Boo Radley's name was Broken; and if Atticus and Calpurnia got it on together; and if... oh, you get the point. There are a lot of similarities.
This doesn't make this a bad book. It's like To Kill a Mockingbird written in British slang where the story of TKaM that everyone knows and loves goes completely supernova on your face. I mean, there's a lot of melodrama in this little book. A lot. I remember being a younger reader and reading John Irving's The World According to Garp and thinking at that time "Holy crap, that's a lot of drama!" Looking back I do believe that Broken takes the cake when it comes to cramming in as much melodramatic tension in such a small space.
Broken (of the title) is actually a young man whose real name at one time used to be Rick Bradley. A few years before the story starts, the reader learns that one of the Oswald daughters told her father that Rick raped her and Rick got his ass beat by her dad. Bob Oswald beat Rick Bradley so badly, something inside Rick broke. He was never the same again. He was, for all intents and purposes, a bit insane. He became Broken.
But that all took place before the story even started! It was referred to in flashbacks and memories, it's just the back-story. The story itself has no end of additional violence, drama, drugs, alcohol, sex, lies, violence, some more violence, then a bit more violence. I purposely didn't look up anything abou tthis book before I started to read because I wanted to be surprised. It was recommended to me by one of my GR friends, and that's all I needed to know. By the end of the book, I was blown away. Quite a bit disgusted and upset. But blown away too.
This is a powerful book, and one that will stick with me for a while. Don't be distracted by the TKaM similarities, because it will distract you from the book itself. Just read it and enjoy it. There's a powerful message in there if you take the time.(less)
Christmas Eve exchange book from my brother. I've read only the Introduction (by Kathleen George) so far, but...moreFirst impressions before I start reading:
Christmas Eve exchange book from my brother. I've read only the Introduction (by Kathleen George) so far, but it's a nice love-letter to the city of Pittsburgh and our sports teams - because apparently one can't really write about Pittsburgh without talking about the Pens, the Pirates, or the Steelers.
Also excited that there is a map in the front of the different neighborhoods that (I assume) will be covered in the various stories. They're marked with white chalk outlined bodies which cracks me up.
Note: Really? Wilkinsburg? I can't wait to read that one. I'd like to hear about a murder that takes place in W-Town that doesn't involve drugs.
I'm not from Pittsburgh originally. I've been from sort of all over, and I've only lived in Pittsburgh for about eight years. My brother and I shared an apartment on the North Side for a bit when we first got here before I moved in with a dude in Wilkinsburg, and then we moved together to Edgewood on the other side of the Busway because I didn't want to fear for my life anymore. And now we live just down the street (literally) in Regent Square. My brother ultimately wound up in Polish Hill where he has stayed and loved since he got there.
Here's the thing about Pittsburgh: It's filled with neighborhoods. There are at least 90 different neighborhoods that make up Pittsburgh. People here have grown up in their neighborhoods and they don't often like to leave. They go where they need to go if they need to, but if they can find what they need in their own neighborhood they will maintain an undying loyalty to those places. People generally know each other in their own neighborhoods. People look out for each other in their neighborhoods. There's a slightly different culture in any neighborhood you go into, even though together they all make up the same city. There's a camaraderie in this town which is strengthened if you express interest in the Steelers or at least can hate on the Ravens. I've learned that even though I don't care about sports, I should at least know some of the basics about the Steelers. It's sort of a requirement if you want to have a conversation with anyone. The Dahntahn Song is more true than you can even imagine. And yes, people talk like that here. Which brings me to...
They have a language of their own here in the 'Burgh, and if you're going to live here for an extended amount of time it would behoove you to learn what things mean or learn to talk the talk yourself: "Yinz goin to the Iggle n'at?" "No, Ah'm goin Dahntahn." "Careful, it's slippy out." "Lift me some salad." "Go Stillers!" "Yinz are jagoffs." "Double yoi!"
And they do things differently here, like put french fries in their salads and cole slaw on their burgers, and then they think you're the strange one if you don't do it that way. You're the odd one out if you call a rubber band anything other than a "gumband". In fact if you ask for a rubber band you might just get ignored.
That being said, I love it here.
Get on with it, talk about the book already:
Each story in the book takes place in a different neighborhood. A local will recognize them all by name and probably knows someone from each area, or at least knows someone who knows someone else who lives there. I won't say that someone outside of Pittsburgh wouldn't appreciate these stories, because the topics are universal and hardly confined just to Pittsburgh. But if you are from the area and you know what Isaly's means, you'll have an enriched appreciation.
Like any collection of stories some are better than others. One of my favorite authors, Stewart O'Nan, wrote a story taking place in Bloomfield; turns out it's not the best thing I've read by him, but it made me happy anyway. Because he's my imaginary boyfriend. But the stories surprised me, like Kathryn Miller Haines' story about Wilkinsburg - it wasn't about drugs or gangs at all as I first expected; it was a sad story about a man coming back from war, back in the days when Wilkinsburg was not what it is today (ie, an empty, shot-up shell with the highest property tax in town and one of the areas with the most run-down, boarded-up, empty homes).
These were fun reads that captured the heart of the city, that despite how weird the locals talk or what they eat, they're just reg'lar folk like you and me. They just bleed a little Black n Gold.(less)
I was excited to see my friend Petra referred to this book as being similar to The Turn of the Screw and Rebecca. While I don't have warm-fuzzies for...moreI was excited to see my friend Petra referred to this book as being similar to The Turn of the Screw and Rebecca. While I don't have warm-fuzzies for Henry James, there's a special place in my heart for Turn of the Screw. And, well. Rebecca rocks my socks. As I've enjoyed other things written by Sarah Waters, I was especially looking forward to reading this one.
It did not disappoint.
Spooky and creepy, with a good measure of skin-crawling. I started this yesterday and had barely made a dent by this morning. I finished the rest of it today, deciding I didn't want to put it down at all. I wanted to know this book's secrets.
And while perhaps I didn't find the answers I was looking for, the ambiguity lends itself to the story quite nicely. For once I'm not frustrated or wishing there was more, or thinking Waters is a stupid prat for making me care too much and then not delivering. Well done, Waters. Well done. Keep 'em coming.
On a complete side note I just wanted to say that during the reading of this book I thought more than once of Elaine Showalter's The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980, particularly in the section where she discusses "shell-shock". She didn't include Showalter in her Acknowledgements, but I have to wonder if she had read The Female Malady before she wrote The Little Stranger.(less)