This was an interesting one to re-read, because I first read it when I was in the process of moving from San Francisco to New York five years ago. I rThis was an interesting one to re-read, because I first read it when I was in the process of moving from San Francisco to New York five years ago. I remember reading it during down time on my waning days in that fair city, while waiting for the washing machine to finish at my final trip to the local laundromat (6th ave and Cabrillo), during the flight east, at my parent's place where I crashed for a week before moving into my new apartment. In the long run, even though I still miss my beloved SF and its beautiful Richmond district, I think I made the right choice, but that move was hard and depressing (hehe, "hard"). There are some less than happy memories attached to the reading of this book, but it was also read by a fresh-faced twenty-four year (I'll be thirty next month! Ahhhhhh!) ready for adventure in a new town. Also significantly, it was the first book I rated on Goodreads when I created my account out of boredom during the stay at my parents. And now I've made lots of ratings! Lots of reviews too! Do I have readers? I have some friends on here, so I think at least some of them read these. Sometimes they even "like" my reviews (I love it when they do that!)! Lauren usually reads it too (hi, Lauren! Are you feeling better now after your recent health crisis?).
I also use my move to NY as a cut-off point for when I stop trusting my taste in literature. Any opinions I had before the move are suspect, because they were formed by a kid whose taste wasn't very refined yet. I liked some bad stuff back then, and disliked some good stuff. Even the good stuff I did like, I probably liked for the wrong reasons. This one is right on the cusp, so it could go either way. Let's see what I thought!
Better than I remembered. Back then I liked it ok, but I think I thought it was a little too caught up in its own cleverness. Nowadays I'm willing to forgive that self-satisfied cleverness if it's backed by actual substance (which most "clever" writers don't do). If on a winter's night... backs it. Calvino makes his views on literature pretty clear here, and he's the type of writer that dislikes readers who try to read messages and social commentary into novels (he skewers that type at one point in the book) but values readers who read carefully and try to see what the novel says about itself. In fact, he seems to value all readers who read for the simple pleasure of reading. The novel is a love letter to reading and it's a charming one. I think I had originally interpreted the various interrupted novels as parodies of certain types of books, but now I see that they're clearly loving homages. Not all of them hit the mark for me, but his batting average is pretty good and one of them (Leaning from the steep slope) so perfectly captured one of my favorite types of novels (Russian) that I was really sad when it was cut off. The framing sequences are also very charming, and the final twist is satisfying and perfectly in line with everything leading up to it....more
I'd give Molloy 5 stars, Malone Dies 4 and the Unnamable 3, which comes out to an even 4. Beckett's minimalism was what made Molloy (and to a slightlyI'd give Molloy 5 stars, Malone Dies 4 and the Unnamable 3, which comes out to an even 4. Beckett's minimalism was what made Molloy (and to a slightly lesser extent Malone Dies) such a disturbing and unsettling read, but with the Unnamable it was so minimalist that I felt like i had nothing in it to hold onto and it slipped through my my mind like grains of sand through my fingers. It was still a work I could admire and appreciate, but not necessarily one I found particularly readable....more
I liked this book a lot, but I think I wanted to love it. There was probably just too great a weight of expectation on it. I loved the prose (and partI liked this book a lot, but I think I wanted to love it. There was probably just too great a weight of expectation on it. I loved the prose (and particularly the tone) and the richness of the themes and symbols which were complex and didn't necessarily lend themselves to simple interpretations (which I hate). But it dragged in parts and way too much time was spent going into great detail on far too many things. It could have easily been 200 pages shorter without losing anything. That aside, I did really enjoy it....more
I totally fail to see what makes Don DeLillo such a great writer and why people are all over this novel. It's that obnoxious Pynchon/Wallace type of pI totally fail to see what makes Don DeLillo such a great writer and why people are all over this novel. It's that obnoxious Pynchon/Wallace type of post-modern fiction where all the emphasis is placed on novelty and not enough on the fundamentals of good writing. The prose is mediocre, the dialogue is wooden and the characterization is TERRIBLE. 800 effing pages and I still have no clue who any of these characters are, none of them have even the slightest sense of realness. But the plots intertwine and it's really long and I guess that's what passes for a good novel in people's minds....more
Even better the second time through. The first time you read it you're aware the entire time that the Consul will die, but the mystery is how. The secEven better the second time through. The first time you read it you're aware the entire time that the Consul will die, but the mystery is how. The second time you read it, you know how the consul is going to die and you sit there and wonder at how you missed all that foreshadowing and wince at all of the signs of the inevitability of what will happen.
The irony of the book, though, is that the fate of the consul and Yvonne is not inevitable. Everything could have been so easily avoided if they would have simply said what they were thinking (or if the Consul were willing to stop Hamleting it up, even when facing his own death. Cowardice and inaction is another theme). Lowry is wonderful in his ability to paint their inner thoughts so vividly, and it's particularly painful to be aware of these thoughts and see that our heroes are so unwilling to express them. I would argue that this is the main theme of the novel.
Lowry is also particularly talented at creating mood and ambiance. And while he is very good at general descriptions, his principle shortcoming is his inability to describe specific things. I still have no idea what he was trying to portray at the end of chapter 11, the thing that Yvonne has to climb up. Nor was I able to make any sense of what Laruelle's house was supposed to look like. It all seems very clear in his mind, but he can't quite seem to make the image appear in the reader's mind. However, Lowry makes up for this with the life he imbues on his world. It is not simply a backdrop for the characters to walk across but a living, breathing entity. Everything inter-relates. Look at the way that the horse the Consul spooks in chapter 12 impacts Yvonne in chapter 11. Notice that when Laruelle watches a group of mourners walk down the hill at the beginning of chapter 1 and how he later passes one of them as she finally makes her way home when they both enter the town later on. It's this attention to detail that I think is the heart of great art. And whatever its flaws, this is truly a great novel that warrants multiple readings.
And it still has the greatest last sentence in all of literature (don't skip ahead to it though, you need to read the whole thing to get its full impact)....more
It's the sequel to one of my all time favorite novels (Cannery Row). The characters are as vibrant and fun as ever and he does a great job of conjurinIt's the sequel to one of my all time favorite novels (Cannery Row). The characters are as vibrant and fun as ever and he does a great job of conjuring up the beauty of northern California (which I miss so much) and it's a light, entertaining read. But unlike the first one, it feels kind of unnatural. Like he just decided Doc needed a girl, wrote her in and told us they were in love without giving us any reason to believe it. The whole things felt a little forced. It's still a solid read though, and worth picking up if you were a fan of Cannery Row....more
This wasn't published until after Fante died, but I think it was written before Wait Until Spring, Bandini, which is constructed of a lot of the sameThis wasn't published until after Fante died, but I think it was written before Wait Until Spring, Bandini, which is constructed of a lot of the same raw materials. 1933 is a little more elemental than that and perhaps not quite as satisfying, but it still has all the qualities I love about Fante. His style is simple and straight-forward, but he can do so much with so little. He writes from the gut and that's where his work hits you. It's funny and painful because it's so human and universal, no matter how specific his subject matter is. It's probably not his best, but it's still very good and a must-read for Fante fans....more
Not like any of the other Woolf books I've read, but it really worked for me. The prose is gorgeous but what kept it moving and what people never seemNot like any of the other Woolf books I've read, but it really worked for me. The prose is gorgeous but what kept it moving and what people never seem to mention is that it's really FUNNY....more
Just an incredibly enjoyable book to read. Writing-wise, I think this might be Nabokov's best. It just rolls off the mental tongue and is very pleasinJust an incredibly enjoyable book to read. Writing-wise, I think this might be Nabokov's best. It just rolls off the mental tongue and is very pleasing to the mind's ear. The picture it paints of pre-revolutionary Russia is very vivid and the feeling of loss associated with this is very affecting. Nabokov is still kind of a pompous jackass, but this makes him a much more sympathetic pompous jackass....more
First off, it may claim to be non-fiction but I'm going to call bullshit on the non-fictionality of some of these stories. I did a little research, anFirst off, it may claim to be non-fiction but I'm going to call bullshit on the non-fictionality of some of these stories. I did a little research, and the "true crime" story Handcarved Coffins that forms the centerpiece of the book is not even slightly true. But just the same, it's riveting and probably the highlight (though the entire time I was reading it I kept thinking "no way is this story true"). The rest is sketches, some work, some don't. The title story does nothing for me, the preface is painfully self-aggrandizing, but Capote's interview with a Manson family member (Then It Came Down) is very unsettling, and his story of escaping the law (Derring-do) is just good fun. It's no In Cold Blood (the prose is nowhere near as strong), but worth reading if you're a fan....more
John Fante really has only three types of books: 1) Young Fante substitute growing up in Colorado, loving baseball and dealing with his asshole dad anJohn Fante really has only three types of books: 1) Young Fante substitute growing up in Colorado, loving baseball and dealing with his asshole dad and pious mom, 2) 20-something Fante substitute starving and trying to be a writer, and 3) Older Fante substitute dealing with adult life and trying to reconcile with his asshole dad. This is number 3. And despite the repetitiveness of his work, I never get tired of reading him. Possibly because all his books are so short. Or the sheer finesse and natural ease of his writing. Either way, this is another Fante that I enjoyed immensely from start to finish....more
I crawled through this book. Bely crawls through it too. He spends so much time doing so little, to the point where I had trouble even paying attentioI crawled through this book. Bely crawls through it too. He spends so much time doing so little, to the point where I had trouble even paying attention to what was going on. And while his prose is quite beautiful in places, it's also kind of soulless and empty and doesn't justify the time it spends just calling attention to its prettiness and doing nothing else. Bear in mind I LOVE Petersburg, and compared to that, the Silver Dove is a huge disappointment. It's clearly the work of a genius, but the work of one who hasn't totally got his shit together yet....more