I've had so many weird dreams since starting this book. Reading it before bedtime puts your head in a strange space. (Kinda cool -- you should try it.I've had so many weird dreams since starting this book. Reading it before bedtime puts your head in a strange space. (Kinda cool -- you should try it.)
The story itself is pretty straightforward: a small group of specialists goes into a odd landscape called Area X. They explore and encounter all kinds of weird, dangerous things. And then things go wonky. Of course. It's a storyline we've heard before.
However, VanderMeer's narrative is almost stream-of-conscience and lovely like a dream itself. Yet, you know, just know you're being manipulated. Things are left out. Questions aren't answered. But somehow, by the end, you think it might just be in your best interest not to know. Do you know how hard that is to pull off in fiction?
I'm already grabbing the sequels...but I'm nervous that if this Area X gets explained too much it'll ruin it.
I saw an interview with Maya Angelou. One of the questions (and I'm paraphrasing all of this) was something along the lines of: What do you want to acI saw an interview with Maya Angelou. One of the questions (and I'm paraphrasing all of this) was something along the lines of: What do you want to accomplish with your writing?
Angelou answered that she wanted to tell the truth. She wanted readers, no matter where they live or who they were to read her stories and say, "Yes, that's what it's like to live as a little Black girl in Stamps, Arkansas in the 1930s." It's the truth.
The only thing I can really say about this book is that it feels like the truth. It's beautiful, it's sad, and I believe every word. ...more
Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram are no Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy.
For me, it was really hard to get behind a relationship that basically boils dWell.
Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram are no Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy.
For me, it was really hard to get behind a relationship that basically boils down to a weird father/daughter dynamic. Repeatedly it's stated that Edmund had so much to do with 'forming Fanny's opinions.' I can run with that. Times were different, after all.
But! the fact that most of those 'opinions' revolve around passing judgment on others' lack of judgment or moral turpitude makes for a preachy read -- especially with Edmund becoming, basically, a preacher. Unfortunately, all of the charm and wit in this Austen novel go to the 'bad guys.' I found myself cheering more heavily for Miss Mary Crawford and her wayward brother than for the two main characters.
I don't really have much to say other than that...and it's probably damning enough to say that a novel which revolves around a relationship doesn't present a fascinating relationship. So I won't say anymore.
It gets a star for being written by Austen (therefore it has never been out of print) and a star for the lovely description of English countryside customs and manners (and manor houses) even though everyone who lived in this particular English countryside was a judgmental punk. Other than that, I have to say I did not love this one. ...more
So this is classic Jane Austen genius. While the novel doesn't have the wittiness of Pride and Prejudice or the quirkiness of Emma I super-enjoyed thiSo this is classic Jane Austen genius. While the novel doesn't have the wittiness of Pride and Prejudice or the quirkiness of Emma I super-enjoyed this.
Anne Elliott is probably a too-long ignored heroine in Jane Austen's body of work. Quite frankly, she's the only one, aside from Elizabeth Bennett, who ends up speaking her mind and defending her position in a direct way -- and one of the only heroines who doesn't receive a 'lesson' from her leading man.
One particular section involves Anne discussing the question of enduring love: Who is more likely to love longer/deeper -- men or women?
At one point the gentleman with whom Anne is discussing this pressing topic says, "Songs and proverbs all talk of women's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men."
To which Anne answers, "Perhaps I shall. -- Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been their in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."
It's waaaaay too easy to suppose that Austen herself is speaking through her main character, but I totally buy that POV. The whole of Persuasion presents the motivations of one woman -- and her actions are not selfish, fickle, or illogical when viewed within the context of a woman's life. (In Jane Austen's time.) I think this novel presents an important argument, and Austen presents that argument clearly, with very few frills or embellishments. ...more
This one requires some digestion. Boswell's points are brilliant, and his examples are necessary to illustrate the arguments he makes, but I'd be lyinThis one requires some digestion. Boswell's points are brilliant, and his examples are necessary to illustrate the arguments he makes, but I'd be lying if I said that there weren't some tedious sections.
However, I've taken quite few notes and highlighted passages and decided to read a few new things...so there's a lot worth pursuing in this one little book. It packs some really useful insights into a small space....more
"If there's a better book than this, I haven't written it." ~Stephen Colbert, quoted on the back of American Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never"If there's a better book than this, I haven't written it." ~Stephen Colbert, quoted on the back of American Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't
I think the first book review of the year should set the tone for the rest of the year. And what better way to start the year 2013 than reading and reviewing the book that has everything? In fact, it has so much of everything that I used every single one of my shelves to label it. I'm pretty sure that I'm still short a couple subjects.
Sure, I could've been reading Anna Karenina and learning about Imperial Russia with the rest of my book group instead of learning about the present American stuff I already know. But since my reading goal this year is 100 books - which is like reading everything - I should start my odyssey with the book that has everything. Everything American, that is. Anna Karenina just has affairs and trains and Keira Knightly and other stuff.
Tolstoy's book doesn't have anything that Colbert's book doesn't have.
Anna Karenina has extramarital affairs: America Again has illicit relations between politicians and food.
Anna Karenina has people who hate their jobs: America Again has resume how-tos.
Anna Karenina has 2-D: America Again has 3-D.
Anna Karenina has Siberia: America Again has North Dakota.
Anna Karenina was translated into English: America Again was written in American.
It's probably this last one where Tolstoy has managed to one-up Colbert. America Again has no, count them: none, award winning translators. We're just expected to understand paragraphs like: "But the Real Question is: are America's best days behind us? Of course they are, and always have been. We have the greatest history in the history of History. But never forget, our best days are also ahead of us, and always will be. Because America also has the Greatest Future in the history of the Future. It's our Present that's the problem...and always is be."
I mean, Colbert began two sentences in that paragraph with But. And fragments. You just don't do that. A good translator would've saved him some face-saving. ...more
Tana French won my heart with this book. It's the first I've read of her work and it won't be the last.
I was well aware when I picked this novel up thTana French won my heart with this book. It's the first I've read of her work and it won't be the last.
I was well aware when I picked this novel up that it was Book #4 in the Dublin Murder Squad series. But from the description I figured it didn't matter. Luckily, I was right. If you're worried about spoilers, I am here to reassure you: don't worry about it.
The Breakdown: A family of four - Dad, Mom, Daughter, and Son - are attacked in their safe suburban home. Three of them have died, leaving Mom unconcious and struggling for her life. This kind of thing, unfortunately, could be found on the set of a Dr. Phil show or any newspaper around the world. The scenario's believability was what drew me to the story in the first place.
Enter Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy. He's a by-the-book detective with a decent solve rate. Let me tell you, he initially comes across as a total douchebag know-it-all and I had a hard time getting behind him. The good news is: his heart is in the right place. Eventually, you learn the hows and whys of him, and that's a good thing.
He's surrounded by some helpful folks that are genuinely easy to like - which gives Mick a certain likeability-by-contact. His partner, Richie, is all set to be a sharp-eyed detective. The crime scene techs and medical folks present technical material in a fun way. There's a lot of 'in' banter that makes you feel like you really are eavesdropping on crime scene discussions.
And, like all mysteries, these guys have to solve the crime. Hijinks ensue.
The Style: French's voice is undeniably artful. There are a lot of literary flourishes that make it pleasent to read, without ever turning 'purple.' Like this little sample from early on in the book, when Mick and his partner arrive at the crime scene:
"One of the uniforms was squatting awkwardly by his car, patting at someone in the back seat who was pretty clearly the source of the screaming. The other one was pacing in front of the gate, too fast, with his hands clasped behind his back. The air smelled fresh, sweet and salty: sea and fields. It was colder out there than it had been in Dublin. Wind whistled halfheartedly through scaffolding and exposed beams."
You get everything quickly, efficiently, and beautifully. You get the cops on the scene. You get a witness being handled. Plus you get the cold, and the wind, and the exposed bones of houses. It's like a graveyard. And French puts that thought in your head without having to do too many extras.
The Characters and Their Lines French also does a beautiful job of drawing her characters. Very early on she establishes line that these guys just won't cross. Not just one character. Every single character has a line that you don't think they're willing to crosse. It's the damndest, awesomest thing: every last one of them crosses the line that they set for themselves.
Don't think you could kill someone? If you're one of French's characters, you're going to. Don't think you could lie, cheat, or steal? French will find a way to make you do it. Don't think you could ever curse a family member or a friend? As one of French's creations, you'll be damning souls while shrieking down the street.
While it's not fun to watch people break down in real life, this book is almost a cathartic experience as you watch people struggle with social standing, money, family secrets, and that most catastrophic of events: death. Really, I don't know if it gets much better.
It took me a while to get to this book - it's been on my to-read shelf for years and years. And when I opened up to the first scene, I almost had to pIt took me a while to get to this book - it's been on my to-read shelf for years and years. And when I opened up to the first scene, I almost had to put it back down. Not because it was badly written...oh no...this is a fabulously realized story with a powerful voice...but because the opening scene was almost unbearably painful.
This made me read the rest of the book with a good degree of trepidation. Anything good or loving that came into these characters' lives I was terrified would be ripped away. Any moment I expected a child to die, a house to burn to the ground, or any number of other horrific events. While some readers or critics may call this suspense, somehow it translated to 'stress' for me. Perhaps upon rereading it I'll be able to enjoy the story's subtleties more than I do at present. Because I just know I missed stuff.
One of the subtleties that isn't actually very subtle but serves a subtle purpose (I hope that makes sense!) was the way in which Celie and Nettie's stories are told: via letter. For the first half of the book it was frustrating for me. I couldn't see why we had to be 'Dear God'-ing everything. Why couldn't Celie just theoretically be telling the story? Call me slow (I know I am) but by the time I got to the end I realized that it had to be told that way.
The letters - while they tell the reader the whole story - are never actually exchanged between the sisters. The only ones holding all the pieces are Celie and the reader. Nettie, who has been working with all her heart and soul in Africa sends her letters hoping to heaven that they reach Celie. Eventually, the letters get to where they're going...but if you pull back from the overall book, you realize how much silence, how much information is in the space. All because of the epistolary format.
(Ha! It occurs to me that even epistolary - from 'epistle' - is a Biblical style. So there's a lot of emphasis on the crises of faith that the characters suffer.)
In some ways, this book requires a reader very much like Adam, Celie's son: "He [Adam] is a very sensitive soul who hears what isn't said as clearly as what is."
What I really, really liked about Walker's characters is that they are far from perfect, but they generally figure out how to move through this world with grace and dignity. Even the low-down dirtiest characters somehow manage to accomplish something graceful by the end of the story. That doesn't forgive what they did in the past, of course, but it just goes to show that pure evil is a rarer thing than we give it credit for. ...more
This is one of the books that I always "meant to read" but never got around to, despite its tiny page count and ginormous reputation. Having read it,This is one of the books that I always "meant to read" but never got around to, despite its tiny page count and ginormous reputation. Having read it, I feel like I've checked off a big ol' checkmark - so that's pretty satisfying.
WARNING: Lots of spoilers ahead, but I'm not marking it off because I'm assuming a lot of people know the story, even if they haven't read the words....
A lot of you guys probably know that this book set off a couple trends - both rather disheartening:
1. (less serious, but distressingly calls to mind the fashion of today's Emo kids): men wearing yellow pants with blue overcoats - just FYI: this was not a good look then and it is not a good look now.
After the book was published, it was subsequently banned in many places in an effort to curtail young men from imitating the climatic suicide of Werther.
When I picked up the book and started reading I was vastly irritated with Werther as a character. Whiny, angsty, woe-is-me. My impression of Werther was that he was the needy kid in class who always gets up in your personal space and spouts pop-philosophy at you, trying to make you feel inferior so they fell better. Yet somehow you always feel sorry for him. Kind of. When he's not irritating the crap out of you.(You people know this kid.)
Enter Charlotte the Adored. Somehow I found myself rooting for Werther in his attempts to win her heart (mainly because it seemed like he was winning it - in spite of his stalkerish Edward-from-Twilight approach). But Werther's angst is further angstified by the fact that Charlotte's already engaged to another guy (Team Albert!).
Really, I'm kind of ashamed of myself because I thought that anyone who would imitate this guy and kill themselves was...um...stupid.
But what follows this opening sequence of seeming emotional ranting and woe is a troubling look at the psychology that precedes a suicide. It's almost textbook. And Werther made some convincing arguments for suicide - including knocking folks like me, who haven't been there - and therefore can't know:
"It is in vain that a man of sound mind and cool temper understands the condition of such a wretched being, in vain he counsels him. He can no more communicate his own wisdom to him than a healthy man can instil his strength into the invalid by whose bedside he is seated." (p 41)
In other words: you can't tell someone who is depressed to "get over it."
And Goethe's descriptions of Werther's actions match almost point for point the clinical symptoms of depression:
In the evening I say I will enjoy the next morning's sunrise, and yet I remain in bed; in the day I promise to ramble by moonlight, and I nevertheless remain at home. I know not why I rise, nor why I got to sleep.
But the piece that got me - and probably quite a few men in pre-Revolution France - was the argument between Werther and his rival Albert. They discuss suicide openly, and Albert claims it is the coward's way out: "It is much easier to die than to bear a life of misery with fortitude." Werhter's reaction is to compare suicide to a "nation which has long groaned under the intolerable yoke of a tyrant rises at last and throws of its chains - do you call that weakness?" His argument is basically that suicide is action, and therefore a braver thing than just taking what life throws at you.
(Which I disagree with, but his argument could be convincing to the right listener - as history has proved.)
As far as the writing itself goes, well, there's miles of flowers. (Sometimes literally.) The reverence of the 'sublime' (the sensation of being small when compared to nature) was on the rise when Goethe wrote, so there's lots of nature involved.
It's an epistolary novel, so it's all letters and journal entries. This can get tedious and there's an awkward transition after Werther pulls the trigger.
It's well worth reading, but make sure you're in a happy place before you jump in. And I hope your happy place doesn't involve yellow pants. ...more