My goodness is this writing pretty, even if you know nothing (as I do) of chess moves.
I think Dan Beachy-Quick's take on it is spot on: "There's inti...moreMy goodness is this writing pretty, even if you know nothing (as I do) of chess moves.
I think Dan Beachy-Quick's take on it is spot on: "There's intimacy in opposition." "So a book sits between a poet and reader. So a bed looms between lovers. A space of contention, of agony in the antique sense, is likewise a space of creation, of genius." "[Maxwell demonstrates] that poetry, like chess, is an art of thinking, and an art of risk ..."(less)
Holy moly is this book quirky, but I have to say that Cohn and Levithan make perfect YA collaborators. As was the case with Nick & Norah's Infinit...moreHoly moly is this book quirky, but I have to say that Cohn and Levithan make perfect YA collaborators. As was the case with Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, Cohn takes on the girl chapters (Lily--like Lillian Hellman) and Levithan takes on the boy chapters (Dash--like Dashiell Hammett). Nick and Nora are the names of the character's in Hammett's The Thin Man. I am such a little detective. If you, like me, find the mythic quirky girl to be a tad tiresome, you may opt to skip this one (or only read the Dash chapters). I liked Levithan's take on the hipster teen, and especially Great Aunt Ida.
I love this--I love Didion's detachment, the way Quintana's fragmented baby speech disrupts the text again and again and contributes to the discomfort...moreI love this--I love Didion's detachment, the way Quintana's fragmented baby speech disrupts the text again and again and contributes to the discomfort and sadness of the narrative. This is a totally haunted book--it upended me in the best way. Typically Didion really frustrates me with her name-dropping, etc, but here she speaks to the futility of all that. The final chapter is especially A++ IMHO.(less)
This book is written entirely in mid-coital dialogue between a brother-sister pair who are finally succumbing to pent-up desires in a speeding taxi. T...moreThis book is written entirely in mid-coital dialogue between a brother-sister pair who are finally succumbing to pent-up desires in a speeding taxi. There are some very beautiful lines here, but I felt distracted by the lack of description/action (e.g., how do they have 88 pages worth of dialogue-only stamina? what is the cab driver doing? what sex act are they engaging in while they discuss mortality?). I think Violette LeDuc is a genius, but I worry I blew my load on La Bâtarde and will always be using it as a measuring stick in reading her other works. (less)
A very bleak YA novel from 1976 in which the justice system fails a survivor of rape for a plethora of messed-up reasons. For some reason this is pack...moreA very bleak YA novel from 1976 in which the justice system fails a survivor of rape for a plethora of messed-up reasons. For some reason this is packaged as an R.L.Stine-caliber thriller, but be forewarned that it is not that at all!
Two vapid BFFs—we’ll call them the pretty one and the smart one—find themselves in a G-rated polyamorous vee, the hinge of which is a hunk named Quent...moreTwo vapid BFFs—we’ll call them the pretty one and the smart one—find themselves in a G-rated polyamorous vee, the hinge of which is a hunk named Quent Younger. The main conflict is that the smart one can’t deal when Quent realizes he prefers to take the pretty one as his primary; instead of compersion, the smart one feels cattiness and jealous rage. Who can blame her? As is often the case in real life, it turns out that the smart one is also the bitter one. She says of herself, “Oh great, I’m about as mysterious as Donald Duck!” I guess I’m a fogey, but I cannot fathom the adult world being so blase about teenybopper nonmonogamy. All the dads are relieved! I can only presume it is because they suppose that with two girls, the courtship will take twice as long and thus delay the inevitable rupturing of hymens.
Everything reminds Vicki of the accident. At breakfast, her family only eats blood-like foods, from tomato juice to clots of raspberry jam. At dinner...moreEverything reminds Vicki of the accident. At breakfast, her family only eats blood-like foods, from tomato juice to clots of raspberry jam. At dinner they eat rare roast beef. You’d think they’d show a little more sensitivity! Vicki has night terrors; she hears laughter nearby without a source; someone left “hundreds of roaches” in her high-tops and “stumps of feet in [her] red shoes.” WHAT IF THE ACCIDENT WASN’T AN ACCIDENT?(less)
This book is a caution to any mercurial young person who--jilted and pining for a stormy ex--spooks herself into wedding a "Checkers-playing, Cheerios...moreThis book is a caution to any mercurial young person who--jilted and pining for a stormy ex--spooks herself into wedding a "Checkers-playing, Cheerios-eating, God-fearing, glass-half-full kinda guy." Ellen, who admits on page 7 that her "favorite movie of all time is probably When Harry Met Sally," runs into her stormy ex on the street (a drifter from Queens with a jetty brow) and decides to test out in secret whether or not ex-lovers can ever be "just friends." With the pressures to move into a mansion in Atlanta and spawn on the visible horizon, Ellen is craving Leo, who's so "exotic" and spicy it's no wonder his name is an anagram for olé.
This book was fun at times, though sometimes it blows to have critical faculties, because the fun gets a bit tainted by talk of "sad, unmarried women over 30" and proclamations like "all women know the difference between the man you marry and the one who got away." This book succeeds in making marriage seem like an unglamorous sacrifice, one that requires extinguishing any desire you ever had in your unstable single youth. Lots of unlikeable characters here, lots of massive character transplants. I talk a good talk about these kinds of things being inconsequential in terms of my ability to reach the pleasure zone while reading, but in this case it really did get in the way.
This book falls into a genre described as "romance novels for independent women with brains," or something like that. I kind of want to read a whole truckload of these yuppie romances so I can analyze why they're so popular. I feel an Excel spreadsheet coming on!
An aside: We're all familiar with a TV steaming-mug scene. Some divorcee in her thirties wears pageant make-up in a flannel, holding a steaming mug beneath her nostrils while watching a young, ripped buck chop wood through the window and sighing in pleasure. A brace of mommies sit on a porch swing recalling a bygone summer in Paris and "that waiter!": Jean Luc! Something like that. This book has not one but THREE steaming-mug scenes. One of the three stands above the rest. Here goes: "I wrapped my hands around the hot, heavy mug. I raised it to my lips, took a long sip, and thought of our year-long engagement--a year of parties and showers and whirlwind wedding plans. Talk of tulle and tuxedos, of waltzes and white chocolate cake. All leading up to that wonderful night. I thought of our misty-eyed vows. Our first dance to What A Wonderful World." Steaming-mug time machine! Celebrate the moments of your life!(less)
A beach read recommended by Mom and read on an airplane. This book is like a rom com drawn out into 6 to 8 hours of reading. It is not just any rom co...moreA beach read recommended by Mom and read on an airplane. This book is like a rom com drawn out into 6 to 8 hours of reading. It is not just any rom com, but one focused on girls who want to drink the bleach when they are not married in a cul-de-sac at 29. In terms of my personal enjoyment, it was not as bad as Just Like Heaven and not as good as Working Girl. It is fun, if sort of problematic, but we knew we were slathering ourselves in a bath full of marshmallow fluff and not nutrient-rich earthen mud. Get over it!
Thought 1: Gal pals, if you secretly hate me as much as the "BFFs" in this book hate each other, then by all means, put me out to pasture and give me the Old Yeller treatment.
Thought 2: It is refreshing to see "the other woman" end up (SPOILER ALERT) on top, even if it necessitates making the non-other woman marginally more despicable than the other woman in order to keep readers from hurling the book into the fireplace.
Thought 3: In the world of YA lit and rom coms, there is an overabundance of girls who actually look like "J Crew models" (real quote!) who don't realize they possess an otherworldly beauty fit for the boat-strewn pages of a summer catalog. The result: a dream babe who is both preternatural and unsullied by self-confidence. Go team?
King Dork is a near-perfect YA book. The narrator is engaging, acerbic, hilarious, and totally relatable for anyone who ever was a punky freak at the...moreKing Dork is a near-perfect YA book. The narrator is engaging, acerbic, hilarious, and totally relatable for anyone who ever was a punky freak at the high-school level. Thank God this book is in the first person. There are two mysteries here that require sleuthing, both around identity: one is a mystery of marginalia in Tom’s deceased father’s teen book collection, one is around a disguised mod girl he made out with at a party. Tom is preoccupied not only with individual identities but generational identity, and part of what made this book personally interesting is that it is preoccupied with the relationship between baby-boomers and late-era gen X folks. If my math is correct, King Dork takes place in the late 90s or early 2000’s. This was a brilliant way for Portman to avoid having to incorporate text messages and social media, neither of which were missed by me. The clueless baby-boomer characters were my favorite part, in particular, the snaggy step-dad “Little Big Tom" and the brutish gym teacher.
I LOVE that this book avoids the typical YA trap of being a slave to the character arc. A quote:
“In movies and books there’s always this thing called a character arc, where the main guy is supposed to change and grow and become a better person and learn something about himself. Essentially, there’s supposed to be this part right at the end where he says: ‘And as for me, well, I learned the most valuable lesson of all.’ Now if I were the main guy in a movie, I’d have the most retarded character arc anyone ever heard of. I didn’t learn anything. What’s the opposite of learning something? I mean, I knew stuff at the beginning that I don’t know anymore. Bits of my life simply disappeared. I’m more confused than I ever was before, and that’s really saying something.”
The sex and drugs, which seem to piss off a majority of GR reviewers, seemed spot on and frankly a little on the tame side. The other area of controversy is that Tom tends to (shock!) sexualize any fair maiden in his life who is not a blood relative. Foremost, I don’t think it’s prudent to judge a YA novel on what messages it holds for the reader—or worse what it can “teach” the reader. This is my main peeve in people’s attitudes around YA. By the time most of us are old enough to hold a chapter book, we’ve already been inundated with all shades of societal BS. If King Dork is the most screwed up thing you’ve ever encountered as a young adult, then there’s a harsh road ahead; you deserve to have your life view throttled by exposure to a worse den of iniquity than that of the suburban King Dork world. I can see why someone might be weirded out that Deanna Schumacher or Fiona/Celeste would invite Tom over for a little hanky-panky in the off hours, and sure, Deanna Schumacher contributes to the old “f-ed in the head, wild in bed” mythos. That said, I think each of these girls has the clear upper hand in their respective situations. I am pretty disturbed that so many reviewers are using the word "slut" to describe these characters in the same breath as the word "feminism." So any teen who likes giving blow jobs is a slut with no self esteem? Ugh and puh-lease. So Tom doesn't "really care" about these girls. Do these girls care about him? Face it, teens are into boning (63% of them by senior year, supposedly). Better this glamorous model than the one most of my high school friends suffered through.
The thing that freaked me out was the bullying, which was pretty intense if you ask me. I know this is a hot topic in education (I don’t live under a rock!) but I don’t really know if the bullying here is plausible. That said, plausibility schmausibility. I don’t really think it matters.