Borges is clearly a gifted writer, which is part of what kept my attention even while I was feeling unengaged on a deeper level. Many of the stories a...moreBorges is clearly a gifted writer, which is part of what kept my attention even while I was feeling unengaged on a deeper level. Many of the stories about books feel like they wanted to be literary criticism but he couldn't bear to be so pedestrian, so he created style reminicent of medieval allegories so he could expound on what he thought about literature without having to consort with hoi pollio literary critics. There's nothing wrong with a desire to be creative with criticism, but for the most part, the stories never engaged me on the level of really caring, at all, about what he was writing about. It was entertaining and clever, but not gripping or moving. The literary criticism by Glenn Arbery, on the other hand, is entirely gripping, so I don't believe that a work of analysis or interpretation is by definition "dry." He clearly had much creative thought and particularly thoughts about literature, but it's too bad he didn't have someone to guide his immense talent even deeper, to a place where it would really touch bottom. (less)
Jim Crace's books make me sorry that there isn't a rating "hated it." I've only started two of his novels, this one and Quarantine, both of which I ha...moreJim Crace's books make me sorry that there isn't a rating "hated it." I've only started two of his novels, this one and Quarantine, both of which I had to stop reading fairly soon into them. He revels in gore but in a kind of sterile, scientific way that is so creepy I feel like there must be clinical definition for it. In this novel, it's the constant return to the murdered entomologist couple on the beach and detailed descriptions about the succession of bugs and decay their bodies go through that gave me nightmares. In Quarantine, it was the obsessively detailed description of the beheading of a donkey that was too disgusting and repulsive. How or why anyone endures reading such things is beyond me.(less)
A blurb on the cover says, "Original and very clever." Very clever? I can't imagine calling this beautiful, courageous, insightful book "clever." Gros...moreA blurb on the cover says, "Original and very clever." Very clever? I can't imagine calling this beautiful, courageous, insightful book "clever." Grossman's capacity to see into the human heart in all its complexity and moreover see how this manifests in the world of men, matter, and events is far more than a show of cleverness.
Grossman sticks to the text. He doesn't want to veer off into fantasy. At the same time, he questions everything from every angle, never letting an issue rest until he has probed as many interpretations, even mutually contradictory interpretations, as possible. He doesn't cower in front of the fact that we can ask this multitude of questions, all of which can find supporting answers in the text. He delves into how Samson is a mystery even unto himself and his perplexing, (sometimes) playful, and poetic clues constantly ask those around him to see into the heart of the matter, his heart. He is lion, a riddle without an answer, 300 foxes tied in pairs and set on fire, a gate.
Grossman strikes a remarkable balance in exploring several dimensions of Samson's story. He examines Samson's role in Jewish thought and nationalism, as a symbol of Jewish experience in a gentile world, and in its human universality, of the drive every person feels to be asked the right question and loved because of, or inspite of, the answer. By addressing all these elements and not letting one ever streak too far ahead of or become totally detached from the others, he offers us an exquisite rumination on this story's richness.
This book is what exegesis at its best could be. (less)
Five stars for its genre: historical fiction. It's basically the history of the real town Meggido (often translated as Armageddon) but transfered onto...moreFive stars for its genre: historical fiction. It's basically the history of the real town Meggido (often translated as Armageddon) but transfered onto a fictional village nearby. It gives an astounding history of Israel told through the trials and tribulations and technology surrounding the well, a literal source of water. If you like this kind of fiction and are interested in Israel, I can't recommend this enough.(less)
I don't remember much about this book, except that I loved every excruciating word. Somehow it was one of the slowest reads ever, even while the chara...moreI don't remember much about this book, except that I loved every excruciating word. Somehow it was one of the slowest reads ever, even while the characters are going through horrific events, and yet I cared about them so much I couldn't not read every word. (less)
Some wonderful short stories in this collection, but the best by far, and great in the general short story genre, is "Divine Madness." Breath-taking r...moreSome wonderful short stories in this collection, but the best by far, and great in the general short story genre, is "Divine Madness." Breath-taking redemption in ten pages.(less)
If you can stomach graphic murders, this is a compelling read. I've gone back and started the Wallander series as close as possible to the beginning a...moreIf you can stomach graphic murders, this is a compelling read. I've gone back and started the Wallander series as close as possible to the beginning as he is an extremely sympathetic policeman who you come to care about even if you've jumped in in the middle of the series, as I did here. But I devoured this book. (less)
Parts of this book are utterly delightful. The chapters on combining libraries (first that of her husband and her own after ten years of marriage, lat...moreParts of this book are utterly delightful. The chapters on combining libraries (first that of her husband and her own after ten years of marriage, later on with her father's) get to how visceral and symbolic a love a books can be. There is also the chapter on how the first thing she used to do with books (her parents') was build castles. All refreshing. But then there were moments where I thought she was Joyce Chafen (the ghastly, oblivous mother in White Teeth) particularly with Fadiman U. But the quality I found the most impossible to digest ultimately is her desire to out-visceral anyone else's love of books. The early chapter where she divides book lovers in the platonic courtly type or the carnal type distills this desire. According to this chapter, you only really really really love books if you treat them like the Fadimans do, including ripping off and trashing the half of the paperback you've already read before you get on the plane so it doesn't weigh you down. She also assumed that if you don't do that, then you're always trying to keep your book looking just like new. Has she never heard of us middle of the road folk who believe in, say, marginalia but don't go around ripping our books in half? I'm not sure yet why I found this lack of a middle ground so totally offensive but I did. If and when I figure out why, I'll let you know. And I'm sure y'all'll be waiting on the edge of your seats. (less)
This must be the best book on reading ever. The reader basks in Pennac's love of reading on every page. Nothing pretentious like Fadiman, Pennac is al...moreThis must be the best book on reading ever. The reader basks in Pennac's love of reading on every page. Nothing pretentious like Fadiman, Pennac is all about how to transmit a true love of reading and it is a joy from beginning to end. And the edition with Quentin Blake's illustrations only makes the perfect perfecter. (less)
**spoiler alert** WARNING: Two versions of this book exist. The original 1984 version and then this latest "director's cut" version. And as with almos...more**spoiler alert** WARNING: Two versions of this book exist. The original 1984 version and then this latest "director's cut" version. And as with almost all director's cuts (except those made by Ridley Scott) it isn't nearly as good as the original release. A reader can still get the sense of all the ways that love has disintegrated in these families, and many characters' attempts to heal things in their own ways. Fortunately, Erdrich kept many of the instances that cross into the invisible realm and usually offer a sliver of redemption, all the while keeping the level on which this happens mysterious. I was relieved that this was still there. However, one of the many things that made the original version of this novel so compelling was Erdrich's vivid awareness of the level of mystery that was so generous and deep, one felt her novel wasn't just about Native Americans and the staggeringly raw deal they have always been dealt (although that was part of it), but it was so vivid and true it was also about the deep craziness of being human, the darkness in families, and the extreme lengths one must go to to redeem twisted patterns into genuine love.
In this director's cut, she has capitulated to political correctness and bitterness, lessening the richness and the magnificent way the original telling came to an increasingly honed point of redemption in Lipsha. Erdrich mostly added, I think, but almost all of it detracts and by the end, becomes crippling. In the first novel, there is no strained effort to turn Lulu and Marie into friends, to say nothing of Lyman's boring, pointless exploits with the tomahawk factory. The story became increasing streamlined and focused onto Lipsha, his failed love medicine for Marie and Nector, but then ultimately the love medicine he receives in such a beautifully understated way from his father, manifested in his feeling his own, incarnated, irregular heart beat. This then allows him to "bring June home" in a way that no one else could do. This was the point. Now all the other concerns, like about Native Americans capitulating to white business practice (e.g. Lyman) etc., dillute Lipsha's story to near innocuousness.
About the only good addition is the family tree at the beginning, but I have mixed feelings even about that. Again, what was so beautiful in the original was how Lipsha slowly emerges from the shadows as the link between all the families. The family tree almost beats one over the head with it. Still, it's not entirely bad as the family relations are indeed complicated.
Erdrich has always been an uneven writer, but I'm sorry she felt she had to mess with one of her greatest works. It's still worth reading, but if possible, get ahold of an original release. (less)