Violette LeDuc is needy and she knows it. She stages suicides. She delights when her big nose halts elevator eyes. She’s prone to romantic friendships...moreViolette LeDuc is needy and she knows it. She stages suicides. She delights when her big nose halts elevator eyes. She’s prone to romantic friendships and poor boundaries; as a result she’s always unhinged. I particularly love her in obsessive-romantic mode; she records her hard falls for brutes, sycophants and gay-identified father figures in painstaking detail. I imagine she was an undertow in real life, but in print she’s glamour and genius.
LeDuc's prose is consistently amazing. Observe:
“Judge me. I could have taken him to some disused barn. I could have said to him, here is our home, we will cut our steaks from the rumps of their herds, my darling, a shepherd will lend us his cloak and there are hedges to plunder while the great wind blusters around us.”
When I was a girl, I had an infected spider bite on the back of my left calf. My mother took me to the dim-lit recovery room where she worked and drew...moreWhen I was a girl, I had an infected spider bite on the back of my left calf. My mother took me to the dim-lit recovery room where she worked and drew a curtain around my gurney. An anesthesiologist administered a local anesthetic, advising me “don’t look.” They were going to lance, drain and stitch up my bite. Laying on my stomach, I attempted to read a children’s novel about an orphan girl who meets a family of talking porcelain dolls. I couldn't help but watch the scalpel instead. Talking porcelain dolls continue to scare the daylights out of me. And scalpels.
Tom Whalen’s prose poems are disquieting, but they did not often disturb me as I thought they would. Nevertheless, they are good poems; they remind me of the aforementioned children’s book because they imagine if dolls could talk. I envision these dolls as old-timey—the sort of dolls ("dollies") with fringed eyelids that retract when you tilt their body forward or back. Whalen fixates on interesting ideas: dolls outlive their owners; dolls are passed down, tortured, tossed in a closet or ditch; dolls are sexualized; dolls have almost-girl bodies (dimples, wrinkles and crude vaginas). (less)
This is the book to read if you need convincing that humans are hideous and animals are less so. The humans are cruel in ways that ring true and, as a...moreThis is the book to read if you need convincing that humans are hideous and animals are less so. The humans are cruel in ways that ring true and, as a result, these stories bring on the shame. Here sex meets misery and/or dissociation. There’s incest, grotesque animal injuries, all varieties of mutilation. A prominent theme is the mental/physical/emotional gulf that necessarily exists between any two beings (human/human, animal/human, animal/animal) regardless of how intimate the beings seem to be. Unsettling done well!(less)
Max Baron is a 27-year-old widower from the nouveau riche side of the tracks. Nora Cromwell is a 41-year-old fast-food waitress from Dogtown. He has b...moreMax Baron is a 27-year-old widower from the nouveau riche side of the tracks. Nora Cromwell is a 41-year-old fast-food waitress from Dogtown. He has bourgie tastes; she is a philistine. She’s an alcoholic firecracker slob; he’s a tightly wound neat freak. Before long the two are coupling on the lawn.
I read this book after having seen the movie. In the film, Susan Sarandon plays Nora. Nora is supposed to be blowsy, frowsy, unrefined. Put Susan Sarandon in all the bad make-up and mustard-colored denim you want, she’ll always turn up elegant. What’s compelling about Nora’s character is that she’s unattractive with allure, and that doesn’t come across in the film. Susan Sarandon’s Nora is like Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle; all it’d take is a costume change to make an easy starlet of her.
Max has the baggage you’d suspect. He describes Nora’s “soft belly” and hamburger cologne with desire and repulsion. He is ashamed of Nora because he fears her reception among his family and peers. Nora is equally unnerved that they’re unevenly yoked. They find each other's class and gender to be suspect. Together they are a pair of undertows.
The movie is definitely a romdram; Sarandon and Spader had chemistry and that made the romance fun. I found the book to be more brainy and less swoony. Max and Nora are conflicted. Their desire is off the charts and yet they both feel weirded out. Questions raised: What distinguishes desire from love? What draws two people together (e.g., fate, practicality, synchronicity, etc)?
This book grew on me. A lot. Points to the reviewer who said Cyd Charisse (the narrator) sounds just like (blech) Juno. At first the quirky factor was...moreThis book grew on me. A lot. Points to the reviewer who said Cyd Charisse (the narrator) sounds just like (blech) Juno. At first the quirky factor was really getting to me. Oh and the snarky factor. But look, now I’m saying things like quirky factor and snarky factor. Next thing you know I’ll be saying “Burr-ito” when it’s chilly out.
Why the teen me would like Cyd Charisse: she doesn’t want to go to college; she is frank about her sexuality; she has issues; she’s whip-smart; she is disturbingly codependent (go team!); she drinks 35 mochas per day; she likes to role play that she's helen keller; she self-identifies as a freak.
The adult me is annoyed with her back-talking and total disregard for her privilege (e.g., Listen you little fool: if you have a trust fund, GO TO COLLEGE . . . even if you spend all four years doing bong rips! Do not put 50 dollars down the garbage disposal even if your bio-Dad is buying your affections!).
I appreciated that while Cyd Charisse has issues about having an abortion, they aren’t of the “this is my punishment for being sexual” variety. I also appreciated her early-oughties spooky kid fashion.
This is a fun read. The writing has a lot of style. On to the sequels! (less)
This is a poem of audience, ego and poems. It is hilarious. I love every line beginning “this is.” It is too bad I hate the words snarky and zingers b...moreThis is a poem of audience, ego and poems. It is hilarious. I love every line beginning “this is.” It is too bad I hate the words snarky and zingers because both words apply.
One BIG DEAL here is white space galore. No more of Minnis’ signature trails of ellipses. I love the trails of ellipses, but this is good too. And don’t get me wrong, there are ellipses; the dots appear in "respectable" sets of two or three.
The uniformity of this poem is intriguing. I am particularly interested in the black pages with barcodes inserted every 7 or 10 pages. There are barcodes on the front, back and spine of the book, which is covered in a photograph of pink fur. The barcodes remind me of tramp stamps. I imagine the barcodes mean something obvious, like “poems are commodities.” A brilliant friend suggests that these are many poems; the barcodes stand-in for titles, “because poems are the commodification of thought.” Minnis likely has the barcodes in mind when she says “With this book I have made a very expensive joke…” or “This is a good thing to write…/Because it is a poem for money…”
This last paragraph makes me feel pretty ditzy, “but it is sad to be your own misogynist.”
The language is amazing—girl body meets moth body meets moth as specimen meets stages of sleep. And then there are made-up words, unraveling/incomplet...moreThe language is amazing—girl body meets moth body meets moth as specimen meets stages of sleep. And then there are made-up words, unraveling/incomplete words, latin words, and words that mimic the sound of wings (“a hoosh a ha” throughout). The forms are also amazing; a favorite of mine: a little cluster of words surrounded by scattershot letters alone and in pairs. I want to hear this whole thing read aloud please.
Another thing: poetry books are getting so pretty. This one is the size and shape of a postcard. The first page is gauzy (sleep and wings) and the following pages are blue ink on cream paper with illustrations of moths/cocoons/larva. (less)
All of the lines in this poem end with one of the following end words: please, advise, stop (and sometimes “please advise”). Stop appears with the mos...moreAll of the lines in this poem end with one of the following end words: please, advise, stop (and sometimes “please advise”). Stop appears with the most frequency—about 2/3rds of the time. After the first several pages, I stopped reading the end words, but I knew they were there—ghosted in my field of vision (like an anchor, or an apparition, or a lump in the throat you try to ignore). In his blurb on the back of the book, Peter Gizzi suggests that Morrison “launches line after line toward a potentially infinite horizon of meaning.” To me, the end words serve to stop or slow the motion of these lines, creating a distinct series of movements in the poem. For instance, the word STOP acts an anchor rooting the line in the present. The word PLEASE is more like an apparition,causing the line to slow and hang in the air. This seems appropriate for a poem exploring the death of the speaker’s father: the focus is on how the lines—potentially infinite—pass. (less)
This is a decent book. I pretty much devoured it despite a big qualm. Perhaps it's sour grapes but why perpetuate the age-old idea that hot teen girls...moreThis is a decent book. I pretty much devoured it despite a big qualm. Perhaps it's sour grapes but why perpetuate the age-old idea that hot teen girls who are emotionally tore up = glittery/alluring? What about girls with tore-up physiques AND tore-up emotions? Oh, silly me. They’re repugnant. (less)
Here Joan Didion chronicles the year following her husband's sudden death, during which their only daughter is hospitalized and in and out of comas/th...moreHere Joan Didion chronicles the year following her husband's sudden death, during which their only daughter is hospitalized and in and out of comas/the ICU.
She turns to literature. She researches. She fixates on the moment of death. She cycles back. She replays the scene.
As others note, Didion has led a charmed life and ,yes, her nonchalance comes off as smarmy. But she is not exempt from loss. She is honest here; the result is sometimes haunting.
I particularly like how she captures the triggers associated with grief (e.g., a crossword puzzle answer can be a landmine).(less)
Joan Didion is an incredible writer. It is a shame the story is a bit played out (or maybe just dated):
A starlet divorcee suffers the feminine mystiqu...moreJoan Didion is an incredible writer. It is a shame the story is a bit played out (or maybe just dated):
A starlet divorcee suffers the feminine mystique post-break-up. She has a back-alley abortion and issues with aging and Daddy. There's not much to like about her personality, but It's Okay because she's a)hopped up on pills, b) pretty enough to lay and c)losing her marbles. She detaches further and further and further.
We watch it happen. Whoo, ennui.
And yet this book has it's haunting moments. And prose, the lovely prose.
p.s. I love despicable characters, believe you me. Maria just was not my personal brand of heroin. There's something simpering about her, and I get the distinct notion that She Is Absolved because the world is so cruel to sexy starlet divorcees. They are not exempt, anyway.(less)
In God Jr, tore-up stoner Jim survives a car wreck, feigns paraplegia and builds a misshapen monument based on his dead son's sketch. Throw in a hot teacher, a psychic, a Nintendo glitch and a failing marriage. In the last section, Jim communes with a character in the video game his son was obsessed with when he died.
CONFESSION: After a while, I read around the parts in the video-game world. I just couldn't deal. The rest of it I will totally get behind. (less)
Disorganized thoughts re: Class Trip (I did not read the second novel in this volume):
This is a book about imagined trauma: other folks’ trauma we abs...moreDisorganized thoughts re: Class Trip (I did not read the second novel in this volume):
This is a book about imagined trauma: other folks’ trauma we absorb, trauma we anticipate without experiencing it.
Nicolas is perceptive, macabre and wimpy—the sort of child who whimpers aloud, feigns illness and hasn’t a shred of dignity. He has a grim imagination. He is spooky and spooked.
I admire how well Carrere ("the Stephen King of France") writes in the voice of a young child. He captures the tension Nicolas feels with adults: he wants protection, but he spots lies and sugar coating from a distance. Thus: skepticism. Trust issues.
The second guided meditation scene is so chilling/squirm-inducing!
Without giving anything away, I am intrigued by the ending. Trauma is implicit. The reader becomes Nicolas: the imaginer/anticipator. O psychology!
Who doesn't want to read about erotic just-pubescent ski trips?! (less)