This book has 4 medium-longish Frank Bascombe stories, but only the final story Deaths of Others gave me the kind of thrill that I've often experienceThis book has 4 medium-longish Frank Bascombe stories, but only the final story Deaths of Others gave me the kind of thrill that I've often experienced during the Bascombe novels. Part of it might be that the final story simply moved me more than the others, but I also think the Frank "voice" was just more virtuosic in the final story.
Overall, it suffered for me because of the attention paid to race as seen through the lens of Obama's ascendency and presidency. This focus is a common theme (along with death and retirement/purpose) that runs throughout all 4 stories. Now I know Ford loves to have Frank discuss US presidents and let those discussions attempt to demonstrate something meaningful about the state of America, but here I was never sure if I was supposed to have the negative reaction I had to Frank's seemingly endless (and clueless) invoking of Obama to somehow show he's not a racist like everyone else in New Jersey. If it was meant as a shot at every white liberal who pats him or herself on the back as racially enlightened bc of their Obama vote while still clinging to retrograde race opinions, it was brilliant. If it reflects Ford's inner life, it's gross. Basically there's a whole lot of "my black friend" going on when the black people in the stories are at best merely acquaintances, or at worst, the President....more
This is the fourth Saul Bellow novel I have completed and I enjoyed it. I think I will always enjoy reading/listening to Bellow (not the posthumous RaThis is the fourth Saul Bellow novel I have completed and I enjoyed it. I think I will always enjoy reading/listening to Bellow (not the posthumous Ravelstein, that thing is a mess) without actually loving Bellow. We just don't share enough of the same values for me to identify to the point that I fall in love.
That said, I bet I read a Bellow every few years until I shuffle off my coil. I respect what he does. I liked this and Herzog (I liked Herzog a bit better I think) very much, didn't think Augie March is as good as either of those and, as I said, Ravelstein was a tragic money grab.
Note on the audiobook production I listened to (I got it from audible). It is not good. Obviously not unlistenable, but there are too many lengthy pauses where there have been obvious cuts and restarts along with an annoying, though occasional, echo or background conversations that are very quiet but still make it feel like (at least through headphones) that there are additional voices in your head when you only want Charlie Citrine in there.
I really enjoyed this novel, but wonder if it would have been as captivating if I hadn't just read Gary Webb's Dark Alliance the month before. The bacI really enjoyed this novel, but wonder if it would have been as captivating if I hadn't just read Gary Webb's Dark Alliance the month before. The background (CIA involvement with crack in America) there makes a deeper read of this novel impossible to avoid....more
I wanted to hate this 'novel'. The knowledge that Stegner built it on a real woman's real letters yet felt he must insert himself via the Lyman Ward iI wanted to hate this 'novel'. The knowledge that Stegner built it on a real woman's real letters yet felt he must insert himself via the Lyman Ward interludes in order to literize ("literary & prize" stuffed together) the womanly melodrama the letters contain is risible. And the above problem is a real issue. Anyone turned off by such a construction wouldn't be wrong to reject wasting time with such a creation.
That said, I enjoyed it. Especially given how much bias/skepticism I entered with (and, frankly, maintained throughout). I went sniffing for 'reactionary' and found instead 'conservative'. I came to believe the novel worked through issues of men and women as fairly as the author is capable. If he, as many males do (females too), has scars that cause a distrust/misunderstanding of the opposite gender that makes him like most members of the human race and, as far as I could tell, those 'hang-ups' never prevent him from trying to write in good faith about the thoughts, feelings, and aspirations of those he seems to know he doesn't fully understand.
Perhaps I'm only seeing a difference in the two because I am reading Houllebecq's Atomised simultaneously and that novel wallows sickeningly in lubricious reaction. Regardless, I'm going to give it 4 stars because I was so against it throughout and ended won over almost completely (still think the way it was created and then 'made' literary with a trick is gross) but I'd guess 3 and half stars would be a fairer rating....more
Probably as enjoyable & solid as a book from reporting can be. Lifted a notch above enjoyable & solid by the final pages. These pages provideProbably as enjoyable & solid as a book from reporting can be. Lifted a notch above enjoyable & solid by the final pages. These pages provide the reader a brief glimpse into how the media (both within Webb's paper and at larger media outlets) responded to the CIA/Contra/Crack connection his reporting revealed....more