since i think it's required in the vast majority of American classrooms, i read this right along with everyone else somewhen in high school, and uttersince i think it's required in the vast majority of American classrooms, i read this right along with everyone else somewhen in high school, and utterly hated it.
wow, what a difference 2 decades makes.
the prose is just lovely, and Fitzgerald had a marvelous talent at metaphor (descriptive and lush, without being too damn clever for its own good). it's a relatively simple story of love and yearning for things you can't have (or never could), and i guess my teenager brain wasn't emotionally mature enough for subtle glances across the room and quiet desperation....more
though i can't think of any other time this would be true, it certainly is here: if you've seen the movie, you've read this book. i rented the movie athough i can't think of any other time this would be true, it certainly is here: if you've seen the movie, you've read this book. i rented the movie a few months ago, and liked but didn't love it, and assumed that (as is usually the case) the book would be more in-depth, richer, more revealing...just better. nope, same thing entirely.
if you've read the back of the book, or seen the movie trailer, you know the whole plot: low-born guy is obsessed with scents, and kills women in his quest to make the world's ultimate perfume. the translation from the original german into english is very good; there is a wonderful flow and rhythm to the words. within a few pages, i got the idea that this book was most definitely meant to be read out loud, like reading a rather twisted bedtime fairytale to someone. all of a sudden, the heavy narration throughout the duration of the movie made sense: same words, and someone *was* reading the tale to us.
like many of the other reviews here, i'll say that the story dragged a bit too much in a center "finding my true self alone in the wilderness" portion, but was otherwise pretty good. bonus points for originality and lovely language, but so-so on pacing and plot....more
it took me a month to get through this book. amazing, considering my usual speed with the written word, but quite true. this behemoth refused to be deit took me a month to get through this book. amazing, considering my usual speed with the written word, but quite true. this behemoth refused to be devoured in my usual hours-at-a-time fashion, nope. more like very high quality cheesecake, in that it's so rich you can only take a few bites before you need to assimilate.
part of the story is about a WWII GI, who happens to be so gung-ho and talented at both completing difficult missions successfully and staying alive at their completion that he gets the dubious honor of being assigned to a squad so top-secret he has no idea what he's doing there. part of the story is about a brilliant but oblivious mathematician (clearly an asperger's syndrome kind of guy) who becomes a codebreaker during the same war. and part of the story is about the computer-programmer grandson of the latter and his infatuation with the tough-as-nails granddaughter of the former. part of it is about codes (both for war messages and for computer programs) and part of it is about war (both physical and digital). all of which makes it sound very dry when it's anything but.
Stephenson's typical doses of randomly-applied hilarity are out in full force here. he does an incredible job of painting the world through the individual voices of his characters...and quite often, those guys are thinking very odd things about very odd situations. the hefty book could have been trimmed by, say, 30% if it left out these random observations, sometimes comical, other times simply beautiful examples of what letters can do in the hands of a gifted wordsmith, but then we'd miss out on things like:
"a red dragonfly hovers above the backwater of the stream, its wings moving so fast that the eye sees not wings in movement but a probability distribution of where the wings might be, like electron orbitals: a quantum-mechanical effect that maybe explains why the insect can apparently teleport from one place to another, disappearing from one point and reappearing a couple of meters away, without seeming to pass through the space in between. there sure is a lot of bright stuff in the jungle. randy figures that, in the natural world, anything that is colored so brightly must be some kind of serious evolutionary badass."
no, i'm not recommending it to everybody. it's long and meandering and insanely technical in many places. but yes, i am gushing about it. it's lovely....more
'never let me go' is slow and soft and quiet and utterly heartbreaking. in anyone else's hands, this would have been a tale of extraordinary people ra'never let me go' is slow and soft and quiet and utterly heartbreaking. in anyone else's hands, this would have been a tale of extraordinary people railing against their fates, fighting to change the world to a more just place. in other words, it'd be more like a michael bay movie, with plenty of explosions. it's not. instead, we have very ordinary people living what to them is an ordinary life, not even so much as noticing it as a situation in desperate need of change, and that is the tragedy of the tale. what's actually going on unfolds slowly, and when it does, absolutely nothing changes. while the reader might be horrified, it's just an ordinary day to the narrator.
a much quicker read than you usually expect from "high literature" type stuff. highly recommended for a melancholy rainy afternoon. ...more
if the plot had been half as interesting as the characters were, or the world they inhabit is, this book would have been fantastic. as it is, only so-if the plot had been half as interesting as the characters were, or the world they inhabit is, this book would have been fantastic. as it is, only so-so.
basic concept summary: china has come out on top of the political/ideological dogpile, so the world is a (mostly) socialist sino-centric place. the good schools, the quality jobs, the big money, and all the envy & prestige are gazing toward china. enter zhang, who's chinese/hispanic - his parents had him gene spliced as a kiddo to look purely asian, and it serves him rather well - a sort of dead-end-job slacker feeling some post-adolescent blahs. the plot is very basic & straightforward, and pretty much serves only to push our quasi-hero through interactions with others. the people are all marvelously realized, and somehow you genuinely care about the characters, all the while being completely unsurprised (perhaps even unimpressed) by the plot itself.
not really standard sci-fi fare (there's a real minimum of space travel, no green-skinned martians, etc), more of the modernist dystopian future sort of speculative fiction. it's an intriguing world with captivating people in it, just wish the story was as engaging to match....more
initially somewhat confusing as the book shifts from narrator to narrator, it all works marvelously when you give up trying to figure out identities oinitially somewhat confusing as the book shifts from narrator to narrator, it all works marvelously when you give up trying to figure out identities of who's speaking and just bathe in the stream-of-consciousness. once you just let it wash over you, all of a sudden, the shifts are perfectly reasonable, and each narrator has their own "voice" anyway. it should scare the hell out of me that doctorow has won a faulkner award being as how i absolutely despised the faulkner i was bashed over the head with in grade school. apparently, this stuff is better when done well.
but what is it about? well, life, NYC, and everything, pretty much. the blurb on the cover tells you it's all about a cross stolen off the top of a run-down church that somehow ends up on a newly-started synagogue, but that's really just a small starting point for a tale that rolls back into the past (and will on into the future past the events described). possibly my favorite holocaust book ever, though it's not really about the holocaust; also possibly one of my favorite discussions on loosing one's religion, though it's not completely about religion or loosing it.
not a perfect book in the least - you don't get to jump around with perception and tone and narrator so swiftly and not come off just a little gimmicky, and it doesn't help if one of those speakers is overly dull - but a lyrically beautiful one, and well worth the time....more
a beautifully written book that absolutely lives up to the praise heaped upon it.
it starts off simple and innocent enough ("we trekked into the junglea beautifully written book that absolutely lives up to the praise heaped upon it.
it starts off simple and innocent enough ("we trekked into the jungle carrying betty crocker cake mixes") and then slowly and steadily snowballs into 'heart of darkness' hell. fascinating to explore how much of hell is your own making, and how much is that which is made of the world all around you....more