I'm really dumbfounded what happened here. A cursory glance at this and I'd expect this to rank high on an all time list: it's a huge sweeping multige...moreI'm really dumbfounded what happened here. A cursory glance at this and I'd expect this to rank high on an all time list: it's a huge sweeping multigenerational epic, covering huge swaths of American history; it's a postmodern tale of the American West replete with blood lust, scalp-hungry marauding Indians, vigilante ranchers, and oil barons. It's socially and politically subversive, in that it both challenges how frontiersmen confronted race and privilege as well as exposing America's less than honorable methods of procuring land and fulfilling Manifest Destiny. So much potential. While the bones of the story kept me reading, the writing felt hackneyed, lacking elegance, lacking rhythm, and lacking a distinct voice. The whole of the novel 'told' the reader the story rather than 'showing'. In my experience, novelists that tackle the American West should have the requisite rhythm to mirror the subject. And perhaps that is expecting a bit much, but the lack thereof made reading this almost a chore. And while it was clear Meyer did his research, not all of said research was completely seamlessly integrated. I say that because I noticed he did his research, rather than it simply buoying the story. (less)
Ron Rash is a first class storyteller. These stories are equally effortless and elegant, very few falter (the first I believe is the weakest in the co...moreRon Rash is a first class storyteller. These stories are equally effortless and elegant, very few falter (the first I believe is the weakest in the collection). It would be reductive to label Rash as a southern writer. He owes as much to Raymond Carver as Faulkner. Though I don't believe he resorts to KMart Realism tropes to deliver powerful character driven narrative; his style is measured and execution impeccably timed. I respond strongest to pathos, stories of loss (be it loss of youth or another person), heartbreak, and the personal, but Rash proves he can use a much broader palette for connecting with the reader. Excellent stuff here. (less)
These stories are a great example of midcentury realism a la Richard Yates: man's search for purpose in the Age of Anxiety, conformity, the emptiness...moreThese stories are a great example of midcentury realism a la Richard Yates: man's search for purpose in the Age of Anxiety, conformity, the emptiness of domesticity, struggling against the aching solitude of a ho-hum existence. Except this was published in 1997, which I didn't discover until midway through the second story. The first story is great...when you are reading it. However, unlike great captivating fiction, the stories do not linger. They leave no aftertaste, unpleasant or otherwise. They do not call out from the bedside table. Ten pages with a cup of coffee in the morning and I'm sated for the day. And for that, I only completed the first story. Instead seek Richard Yates.(less)
Perhaps it is my folly that I privately lambasted the New York Times when they boldly stated in JANUARY that Tenth of December will be THE favorite bo...morePerhaps it is my folly that I privately lambasted the New York Times when they boldly stated in JANUARY that Tenth of December will be THE favorite book I read all year. Sure, there's hyperbole at play but maybe, much to my discredit, I thought a media outlet of the Times repute would wait, oh I don't know, til after the first month of the year to make such bold prognostications.
Short of David Foster Wallace rising from the grave and spitting out pages and pages of feverish obtuse prose, maybe it will be the Times favorite book of the year. Personally, I find Saunders bests DFW in avoiding metatextual referents from spiraling infinitely inward into a metafictional black hole of self indulgence. Saunders certainly writes within that New Yorker postmodern, meta-out the wazoo framework, and I think for the most part he excels at it. There are very few stories that sacrifice emotion and humanity for needless literary and semantic acrobatics. The Semplica Girl Diaries unfurls slowly to tell a tragic story, though the purposefully clunky language seemed superfluous or at least incongruent with the rest of the stories. I think the volume balanced pathos and ethos effectively. I hope that young writers can learn from Saunders that while they dazzle us with their intellect and their multidisciplinary understanding of human nature, to not altogether abandon emotional connectivity with the reader.
Well this was a fun book. That seems to come across disparagingly. Like watching a Michael Bay movie instead of going to see that smart, low budget in...moreWell this was a fun book. That seems to come across disparagingly. Like watching a Michael Bay movie instead of going to see that smart, low budget indie. Maybe you wanna eat Cheezey Bacon-Ranch Zingers instead of the grilled salmon, I don't know... I digress, but I assure you this book is much much better than eating deep fried bacon ranch cheese balls while watching Transformers. The story is that of time traveling narrator who meets up with himself every year on his birthday. To celebrate his birthday, with himself. His future and past selves. He gets to see his young, immature drunk selves and his stodgy, wrinkled, future selves. All at the same party. And that premise was enough to hook me. Who hasn't quietly wished they could go back in time to smack the shit out of their past selves, or whisper a secret, or set them along the 'right' path? But soon there is a murder and the man in the suit must try and solve the murder to avoid alternate, unseemly timelines and such. (view spoiler)[ And this is where the author faltered a bit. He bails himself out by describing an untethering, that a future self and a past self's timeline can be broken if an event is interfered with. That's fine, I really didn't want to have to create graphs and timelines to read this book and I can suspend my disbelief. But there is also an entire middle portion that seems 'untethered' from the plot. Superfluous characters are introduced. New York City is in disrepair and crumbling but we're never told why. I found the central tenets of this 'fun' book fascinating and full of heart. Narrative fiction about ones choices, about dissatisfaction with one's lot in life, an eagerness and/or inability to affect change are themes I'm drawn to and this had all that. And I promise, this book is better than watching Battleship while eating Hotdog Pizza Bombs. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I'll be short and sweet: If Cormac McCarthy were a genre writer and didn't keep a 19th century thesaurus at his side, he might pen something similar t...moreI'll be short and sweet: If Cormac McCarthy were a genre writer and didn't keep a 19th century thesaurus at his side, he might pen something similar to this.(less)
Much to my disappointment, I found this mostly a tepid underwhelming experience, especially after being captured and swept away by Underworld. To me,...moreMuch to my disappointment, I found this mostly a tepid underwhelming experience, especially after being captured and swept away by Underworld. To me, this seems to be a treatise on the importance of author and the novel. But the aggrandized protagonist came across as no more than a writer specializing in run-on sentences whom infused his work with an inflated sense of importance.
Of course I wouldn't have finished it if there was nothing redeeming. I love Delillo's understated yet powerful prose; he's adept at creating passages that stay with the reader without coming across as hyperbolic. (True, he treats the mundane with an elevated sense of drama but it's mostly effective and lacks gimmickry.) Delillo is that special type of writer that reveals the readers' own inner secrets, but the heavy handed approach in Mao II fell flat for me.
Underworld is nothing short of a masterpiece. I could traipse on about the existential fear of the Cold War captured and dissected and then molded int...moreUnderworld is nothing short of a masterpiece. I could traipse on about the existential fear of the Cold War captured and dissected and then molded into something astonishing. Or how the plot is like an intricate choreographed dance with different movements and variations on themes; or like a river bending and weaving, picking up plotpieces like detritus. There are hundreds of reviews much more erudite, much more lavish, the justice and deft the book deserves.
What I will say is this: When I read this I made a bookmark so I could write down impactful lines, stirring passages, ideas and themes to consider and return to. My bookmark became two and three. And now the book is over I am compelled to stow away my bookmark in a closeted shoebox shrine filled with other waste pieces from my youth..a yellowed love letter, a lighter whose meaning faded with its color, a postcard with a smudged powdery lipstick stain...or perhaps in a glass case to put on the mantle, no doubt a strange bric-a-brack'ed curioso for visitors...this is a book I want to carry with me for a long long while. (less)
Chad Harbach remarked of Infinite Jest that it 'looks like the central American novel of the past thirty years, a dense star for lesser works to orbit...moreChad Harbach remarked of Infinite Jest that it 'looks like the central American novel of the past thirty years, a dense star for lesser works to orbit'. It would seem this quote mirrors how Max chose to frame his biography: prior to Jest, Wallace struggled. Struggled with substance abuse and mental illness and struggled to make an indelible imprint on fiction. Max contextualizes as though Jest is the apex, that everything that happened prior to its publication was simply a step toward the pinnacle of Wallace's career. After Jest Wallace struggled to replicate this success, his works orbiting his colossal (colossal in so, so many ways) achievement...
The fact that Max glosses over aspects of Wallace's life that other publications magnify goes to show why 'A Life' is aptly chosen. Friendships with well known writers and artists are casually mentioned once and not returned to despite evidence some of these friendships held a meaningful and important place in Wallace's life, both personally and professionally. The end reads like Max was running out of room, cutting a driving, forceful narrative to a clipped ending. And I'm sure I won't be the only one to mention some serious editing issues, some parts are kind of a mess and simple grammar, subject/verb tense problems abound. Despite Max's (and the editor's) misgivings this bio doesn't shrift on heart, not that the subject would allow such treatment. There's plenty for the reader to chew on, to mull, to be seduced by. Wallace's 'Prometheusizing' of himself, the personal sacrifice and torment Wallace endured to create his oeuvre. Anyone personally familiar with severe depression or know someone who is, can relate to the terror and hopelessness such a condition can wring on a seemingly strong and resilient person. Some of this narrative does well to hold a mirror to many a reader with a passion for artful prose that also struggle to turn off the cacophony of the modern world. A recurring theme in Wallace's best work addresses this constant barrage of stimuli in which the brain is ill equipped to manage, let alone turn off. Some of my favorite passages deal with Wallace shunting away from the irony that peppers his earlier works. He wanted to not only connect with his readers, but to offer a way out or directive on issues merely depicted in other works. He sought truth over posturing, earnestness over knowing smiles. Where his older works were snide with a self-knowing, he sought honesty and substance in Jest. Wallace offered that the 'next literary rebels..will have the childish gall actually to endorse single-entendre principles. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction...who might risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, of young ironists...the 'how banal'. This just happens to jive with my own views of meaningful art and fiction, thus the impact. This really is a fascinating read about a fascinating artist and thinker. No doubt other biographies will soon surface, but for now Max does Wallace the justice he deserves. (less)
I'd love to wax academic and get all verbose with this review like so many enjoy doing on goodreads but frankly i dont have the inclination. I'm gonna...moreI'd love to wax academic and get all verbose with this review like so many enjoy doing on goodreads but frankly i dont have the inclination. I'm gonna opt for terse. This was boring. Too slow. I'm sure it was a slow build for the long burn but frankly i wouldnt know because it didnt hold my interest. Not poorly written, the language is stylized and fluid. The tempo is poor, barely any to speak of.(less)