This was another fun airport read because it is all about the perils of oversharing with strangers on public transportation. This is like literary B.O...moreThis was another fun airport read because it is all about the perils of oversharing with strangers on public transportation. This is like literary B.O. for travelers, I'm sure. If only I had a Team Bruno shirt to don (and sully with literary b.o. pit stains!) in the air.
This book explores a nightmarish scenario: you wind up sitting next to a creep who'll ply you with scotch, force you into the confession zone and try to seduce you into a murder pact (e.g., you bump off my father and I'll make worm food of your pesky wife) and then he misreads your reticence as consent. Whoopsie! Next he'll threaten you with blackmail when you spurn him and insist on repeat that you're The One. Voila! Strangers on a Train!
Despite falling into the familiar "I'm a gay killer who is a misogynist because no lady can ever compare to my mother" cliche, Bruno is ultra-compelling. At the very least, read the titillating carnival scenes in Chapter 12--they get a ten on on a scale of one to ten in which one is not creepy and ten is exceedingly creepy.
There's some very brainy stuff around guilt and atonement here if you, as I am, are into that sort of thing.(less)
This is the perfect airport book--enthralling but familiar and not terribly deep.
In at least 4 instances in Carrie, an authority figure slaps someone...moreThis is the perfect airport book--enthralling but familiar and not terribly deep.
In at least 4 instances in Carrie, an authority figure slaps someone in hysterics and behold! The nut-in-question reconnects with sanity! Every time it happens, it is presented as logical, sane and humanitarian. This is something I've only ever seen in old movies (example: just yesterday I watched as John Wayne slapped an unhinged child in Red River), but I imagine in real life you have to be pretty bold to try this tactic. Maybe I should attempt it the next time a friend or stranger is coming unglued. The trouble will be finding a person who I have authority over. Perhaps I can shake my cat and urge her to get a hold of herself.
I double-dog dare you to find a time where King likens Carrie or Margaret White to something OTHER than the broad body of some automobile or (more frequently) a pathetic creature from the animal kingdom. It is unsubtle, but kind of fun!(less)
**spoiler alert** This book tells the story of Melany, a college student who was caught in a snooze until “punk came along and woke [her] out of [her]...more**spoiler alert** This book tells the story of Melany, a college student who was caught in a snooze until “punk came along and woke [her] out of [her] gender-induced coma.” Once this happens, she blossoms into a “punk who’d taken a wrong turn at the womyns music exit and careened off the lesbian-consciousness freeway.” In SSP, we get a peek into her frazzled, unhinged emotional landscape (imagine a blue-haired Woody Allen on a motorcycle who says things like “I was a mini-lesbian, and it seemed normal to be scared.”) and her constant, hawk-like observance of everyone’s punk rock accessories with their 90s political flair. I myself donned a “punk dyke” pin long ago. And freedom rings! I find it suspect that the only men in this book are of the angry, misogynist variety, but whatever.
I have read this book at least three times in the last twelve years. I think of it as chicken soup for my soul. Sisterhood is powerful and cringing is cathartic!
This quote is stupid and inspired: “Still hoping to get me into the spirit of lesbian music, she told me about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. She said it was on women’s land. No men around, and many of the women walked around the whole time naked. I thought, Jesus, where do they put their safety pins?”
Meeting your girlfriend when she, moshing, is thrown into the table you’re pogoing on. Sharing a warm, flat Budweiser. Swooning when she tells you “if I ever need a safety pin, I know where to come.” Watching her band play. Knowing the same parts of the same songs. Dating her sister and then dating her. Crashing in a sleeping bag with your head in the closet. Being "bicoastal not bisexual." Wondering if “for the rest of [your life, you’d] associate ‘Anarchy in the UK’ with the first time [you] did it with a girl.” Her spray painting the kitchen every time she needed to think. Having friends named Velcro, Crush, Vivid Homosex, Zipper and Roger Anxiety. Taking a dyke posse to your high school reunion. Getting astonished stares from the jocks who can’t believe YOU married Prince William. Her bondage bracelets clinking against the rivets in her stiff black jeans. Her “punk-pale hair” in a spiky halo. Her knowing the most sensual act of all is sliding her hands under your Clash t-shirt. You being besotted on repeat. Feeling “very charismatic, like Saint Patrick driving out all the snakes to make the world safe for lesbians or something.” A good sleazy one week stand. Searching the obituaries for your ex’s name. Slam-dancing at the disco bar because punk broke and you don’t want to boogie with poseurs and sellouts. Pogoing in a square dyke bar to stick it to the “monolithic” aesthetic. Punk rock love is writing her cosmic number all over yourself with a sharpie. Scrawling in lipstick on your TV screen. Winning her back with your Milton essay, “Eve: Lesbian-Feminist Extraordinaire.” Her daring to ask the unanswerable questions like “what’s a real lesbian? What’s a real anything?” Her cooking you blue quesadillas, blue milkshakes, blue popcorn. Her sprinkling rat food on the ice plant’s granola. Living on “women’s land with bugs as big as rats.” Writing PUNK and DYKE on your hands with a black bic fine-point pen. Making fists to see how good you’d look if you ever needed to defend yourself. Looking hot to trot in a lavender Lesbians are Lovely shirt. Self-identifying as a fesbian lemenist. Knowing that Silence = Death and the best comeback of all time is “Sisterhood is Powerful, bitches!” Punk rock love is not wanting a parking lot for a heart. Getting together in black leather. Her deciding one day to up and “withdraw [her] energy from the heteropatriarchy.” Her checking her hairline for triple sixes and finding three sixes and a nine … I always wanted a girlfriend to sing The Pretenders with me! (less)
"Will I love and be loved in return? White people are so tricky. I want that special love. I want that eager mouth, all wet and spooky with ice cream....more"Will I love and be loved in return? White people are so tricky. I want that special love. I want that eager mouth, all wet and spooky with ice cream. I want that day in which, unbound, sticky, and bruised, as if from plastic surgery, I am half a woman and half something else."
O idyllic poverty of the bohemian past! I was not as wowed by this title as I was by Comyns' incredible The Vet's Daughter, but it was still very good...moreO idyllic poverty of the bohemian past! I was not as wowed by this title as I was by Comyns' incredible The Vet's Daughter, but it was still very good. I like her writing best when it's set in some desolate pastoral landscape, and the second half of this book is all isolation: farmland, domesticated foxes and sensible frocks. (less)
This book tells the story of Brett, an eleven-year-old girl with a feisty unwed-and-single-by-choice mother who's brought her up on all varieties of g...moreThis book tells the story of Brett, an eleven-year-old girl with a feisty unwed-and-single-by-choice mother who's brought her up on all varieties of granola liberal hogwash. The Wolf Man is her mother's new beau. He has a wolfhound, a pock-marked face and a great red beard. A pleasurable aspect of this book was that I kept imagining characters from the Mary Tyler Moore show while reading, probably because it was written in 1972 and takes place in various shag-rugged apartments. I imagined Brett's mother as a raunchier Rhoda, the misguided mantrap of a neighbor as Phyllis, Brett as Bess, etc. I even imagined the Grandfather as a smarter Ted Baxter!
This book is a fine exploration of marriage in the seventies and it's all the more interesting from a preteen's vantage point. Klein is able to really get into the preteen spirit; Brett's thoughts and observations of the "grown-up world" seem absolutely spot on. I will say (SPOILER ALERT) that it bummed me out when the mother sold out and married the Wolf Man in the end. I would've preferred a non-connubial set-up with lots of macrame and sacred crystals instead.
Norma Klein is every bit as PG-13 as Judy Blume, but a lot more forgotten. I loved her novels Sunshine and Breaking Up as a tween and I want to read more of her whenever I next feel the urge for a feel-good scandal of yesteryear. (less)
This is a very talky book, mostly set in drawing rooms and hospital wards. It follows a high-society geriatric set and their servants and lovers past...moreThis is a very talky book, mostly set in drawing rooms and hospital wards. It follows a high-society geriatric set and their servants and lovers past and present. The high-society old folks have been prone to intrigues; most are long past and poorly buried (the intrigues, not the old folks). These folks are haunted, paranoid and fearing exposure. The servants and lovers wield power to blackmail and worm their way into some high-society wills. In my opinion, the stage show is most thrilling when we’re with the granny posse of the Maud Long Ward where astrology and deathwatches win through! I am also quite fond of Alec, a social scientist whose main research is to shock the members of his cohort and then chart their respective heart rates.
As the tale progresses, more and more characters receive unsettling telephone calls. A disembodied voice reminds the listener: remember, you must die; this is the message word-for-word, but each listener describes a distinct voice (e.g., young and civilized vs elderly and sinister and so on). Reactions vary greatly as well, from abject fear to absolute calm. With or without the calls, the listeners are preoccupied with their own mortality (and everyone else’s too). Everyone reads the obituaries; everyone speculates who will predecease whom; everyone rewrites their will on a whim. The book jacket copy frames these phone call phenomena as the crux of the plot. If you’re in search of a good mystery, search elsewhere. With its aged cast, it could have been a strange and captivating mystery (think of the twists and problems posed by senility, infirmity, crotchety attitudes, abrupt natural deaths, etc!). One character, for instance, believes he can't say if he's the culprit behind the calls; he just might be senile with a Mr. Hyde side. This is barely developed and it's a shame. At the foreground of the tale is the interpersonal drama, at the background: the phone calls.
This is my third Muriel Spark book and it certainly bears her refreshing/cynical mark. Her mark is a tooth mark, I think. I was hoping for something spookier, but this has more to do with my expectations upon reading the book jacket and less to do with the quality of this book. (less)
This book pumps a person with longing—both abstract and specific. I long for the heath,for tendrils on my rose-pink countenance. I long for mildew in...moreThis book pumps a person with longing—both abstract and specific. I long for the heath,for tendrils on my rose-pink countenance. I long for mildew in attic rooms. I long to float towards a ceiling. I long to be drawn across a frozen pond by some starry man-hunk (a sort of late-Victorian Ice Castles where the protagonist is blind on the inside. “We forgot about the flowers,” is right!). The details here are superb and the writing style, so much so I should probably give up the ghost. I love how withdrawn and matter-of-fact the protagonist is. Tragedy assaults her and quietly she accepts it; we watch it again and again. BEAUTIFUL. A new fave, even if the ending (SPOILER ALERT) is a cop out. (less)
So the deal with this book, were I to sum it up in a sentence, is it is an essay with white space in lieu of a BODY (hence the title) and many elabora...moreSo the deal with this book, were I to sum it up in a sentence, is it is an essay with white space in lieu of a BODY (hence the title) and many elaborate footnotes. Sometimes the footnotes have footnotes. Being a Libra and thus drawn to beauty and sentimentality, the personal and pretty passages in the book were most resonant. There’s plenty of pleasure to go around (assuming that you, as I do, enjoy spangled language, tortured lovers’ correspondence and literary drama). There are many acts of despair and desperation in these pages: woe, angst, a galaxy of shame. I was particularly fascinated by the great poet who slaps our protagonist for being in love with her. I agree with Boully: writing is the act of a wounded obsessor.
Some of the academic footnotes were more of a stretch for me, in part because I glaze over when I see words like “signifyingness” and Descartes.
Sue me, I am undisciplined and lack that enviable button to reset my brain.
I also found that those difficult passages made me most aware of the missing body and I had a hard time envisioning what imaginary text the footnotes might annotate. Honestly, I liked it best when I could suppress the body’s absence. I would skim over these academic footnotes, which is what I tend to do with most footnotes when they accompany bodied essays. Maybe my problem is that I don't like footnotes.
The footnotes did make me think about the strong urge to clarify what can never be crystal, no matter how many amendments one makes. (less)
**spoiler alert** In this tome, cousins Sylvia (poor meek city mouse) and Bonnie (rich haughty country mouse) reunite and band together against wolves...more**spoiler alert** In this tome, cousins Sylvia (poor meek city mouse) and Bonnie (rich haughty country mouse) reunite and band together against wolves and vile spinster governesses (or as one servant says: HARRIDANS!)while their guardians are on sea voyage.
This is a decent book, but my overwhelming feeling (and this is a rare one!) is that it ought to have been at least 100 pages longer. There are several ends that Aiken leaves untied. The most criminal loose end is the "wolf pack without" with all of their supernatural potential; they fade out midway through without so much as a shape-shift or a green eye aglow. Why is the manor hounded by perilous wolves? Beats me! Similarly, I was so on board when the girls arrive at the corrupt orphanage. There they relinquish their names for numerals (98 and 99 respectively) and exchange the trimmings/finery of Victorian girlhood (petticoats! plaits! pelisses!) for cropped haircuts and coveralls. I only wish they'd lingered there longer; I like to roll about and laze in my depravity, thank you!
One very interesting aspect, as this is a book for children, is the meditation on class/gender. The girls come from distinct class backgrounds, each with their own codes for what it means to be a noble little lady-to-be. The servants are dutiful on the whole, timidly risking their jobs to help the girls as they can. Perhaps the most intriguing character is Simon, a foundling goose-boy who once suffered at the hand of a cruel master. He steals away to live off the land, raising fowl and dining on chestnuts to get by. His quarters are described favorably as "snug" and "clean." When the girls escape the orphanage, it is through Simon's wile; under his wing they grow robust and hearty. When Bonnie's parents return from sea, her mother comments that she suffered "shocks and privations" under the care of the "savages" who rescued her, but that to her surprise her health improved. When Bonnie has the opportunity to trade her suit for a gown, she remarks that she's "grown accustomed to boy's clothes." Each character comes away less moored to convention.
This reminded me a lot of Angela Carter's The Magic Toyshop, a decidedly darker, more racy contemporary take on Victorian girlhood and what it means to be an orphan.
Virgins ("The Outrageous Bestseller About Well-Bred Ladies On The Brink of Going All The Way") was fun while it lasted (171 pages!), but still I've ab...moreVirgins ("The Outrageous Bestseller About Well-Bred Ladies On The Brink of Going All The Way") was fun while it lasted (171 pages!), but still I've abandoned the ghost.
I purchased this book as a Savers goof, drawn in by the cover art (three identical bottle-tanned leg sets in matching anklets and loafers, hands clasped, knees shut tight) and promotional blurbs (see above and also "Across the Country, Critics LOVE 'Virgins'!"). I didn't know what to expect. When I began reading, I found myself in the squeaky clean zone: a 1950s Catholic high school. High jinks ensue . . . CATHOLIC high jinks. Example: A Catholic Crusader for Modesty (Rivers' phrasing, not mine) exorcises a frock deemed "unmarylike." He casts it right on the teen miss linoleum. Raised Catholic myself, I found the churchy bits captivating. In the end, I grew bored with the book's structure--a sequence of gags (with a few sentimental scenes tossed in). This girl can only take so much pining for simpler times (and so many cast-iron maidenheads!).
Summed up in a sentence: Virgins is a chaster Porky's for "girls."(less)
The Pink Institution is a family saga in which trauma/brutality is at a distance. We view pain through a fogged window. The writing is spare, chilling...moreThe Pink Institution is a family saga in which trauma/brutality is at a distance. We view pain through a fogged window. The writing is spare, chilling and heartbreaking. (less)
I am putting this one on hold. Now that I’m a graduate, the university has retracted my library privileges (woe!) and this book must return to the sta...moreI am putting this one on hold. Now that I’m a graduate, the university has retracted my library privileges (woe!) and this book must return to the stacks. I very much admire Chevillard’s writing style, the finesse with which he describes Palafox, an unclassifiable beast who shares distinct, previously unparagoned characteristics with many other beasts. Palafox is an escape artist, a shape shifter, a cuddle monster with a cold streak. He wends through sewers and households like a pro under the eye ("noses" also apply!) of scientists, nursemaids and others who aim to capture him. Hopefully I will seek this out again in the future . . .(less)
I am giving up the ghost for now: page 164. This is sad material to give up on. Much of this writing is beau-ti-ful, spellbinding, etc--but I'll be da...moreI am giving up the ghost for now: page 164. This is sad material to give up on. Much of this writing is beau-ti-ful, spellbinding, etc--but I'll be damned if I am not experiencing the drift in a significant way. I'm not sure I can adequately justify why: I just lose focus in those long asylum corridors. I would read another book by Jesse Ball in a heartbeat.(less)
Conceptually this book is very intriguing. Written in verse, it is an investigation of/inquiry into the murder of the author’s aunt. Like Maggie Nelso...moreConceptually this book is very intriguing. Written in verse, it is an investigation of/inquiry into the murder of the author’s aunt. Like Maggie Nelson, I have a murder in my family’s past that has always fascinated me. I never knew her. Like Jane, she died in the full bloom of youth. Nelson quotes Poe who says: “the death […:] of a beautiful woman is, unquestioningly, the most poetical topic in the world.” This skeeves me out to a degree, but it certainly holds true.
I am interested in the research, the documentation of that research, the candidness about process. Nelson invites the reader to connect the dots beside her. I like the inclusion of snippets from Jane’s real life journals. They appear out of sequence and alongside writing in the present day; I frequently re-situated myself in time while reading. I admire the chilling moments: descriptions of photographs, the precise arrangement of slain bodies and artifacts, the scandal surrounding these murders as retaliation for menstrual blood. A death in which the only witness is the murderer is quite a chilling thing.
I am torn about the lineation. It does impose a more rhythmic reading—a wraith-like holiness on otherwise prose-like lines. The writing style does not hold much verve for me.
I wonder: is this what the kids are calling a new confessionalism? (less)