This has to be one of the books I waited the longest to read. Got it on my Kindle when it first came out, was a bit put off by theAh, The Goldfinch...
This has to be one of the books I waited the longest to read. Got it on my Kindle when it first came out, was a bit put off by the hype, started plowing into the initial section, found myself very bored, found the writing pretentious. Stopped reading, dismayed.
And then I went back recently, picked it up again and found, to my surprise... that once Theo moved in with his school chum Andy and the Barbour family, the writing perked up, the book gripped me, and I swept through the rest of it as fast as I could. I was particularly taken by the Las Vegas section where Theo is taken off to live by his scoundrel of a father, who gambles for a living, and takes up with a young Ukrainian/Australian guy, Boris, who is even more rootless and unparented than Theo himself. Theo and Boris take lots of drugs, steal for kicks, they experiment sexually... Donna Tartt's writing here is superb, showing the boy's world opening up rather than shutting down.
But back in claustrophobic New York, torn away from Boris by his father' timely, or untimely, death, depending on how you look at it, Theo hits a bit of a slump that seems like it will last the rest of the novel.
Unlike many of the reviewers on Amazon, who loved the first, "arty" section of the book, and hated the philosophical, open-ended ending and the scenes in Amsterdam, I found that Tartt exploded her own pretensions by driving a bus through her own literary novel. Theo's world "explodes" again at the end, and we're led to believe that at least he is taking his life in his hands...somewhat. (Mostly by not killing himself, ironically.) But what would have really pleased me would have been a recontinuation of the relationship with Boris. These are two characters who seem to want to be together, no matter how much their author wants to dub them as straight, on different tracks, etc.
To sum up, I'm very glad I read the Goldfinch! It's a nineteenth-century novel at heart; it luxuriates in its own length. Theo's "bad" friend Boris ends up giving him closure on the biggest wound of his life outside of his mother's death, his ownership of the famous painting, which has become a terrible burden. Once he realizes that he hasn't even had the painting in his possession for years—a delicious twist that Tartt pulls off well—Theo's life begins to change. And for a book that says over and over again that people can't change, Tartt does offer a little smidgen of hope for Theo. But it IS a dark and sad book, no doubt. Those who have suffered loss and who have PTSD (and Tartt does not shy away from labeling Theo this way) will understand the bleakness. Without the tragicomic character of Boris, this book would have been a terrible slog. Luckily, Tartt allows that relationship to become central, and to my mind it saves the book....more
Eye-opening. Read as the story of a long and slowly cooling friendship, it's touching and ultimately melancholy. I can't imagine that it would ever beEye-opening. Read as the story of a long and slowly cooling friendship, it's touching and ultimately melancholy. I can't imagine that it would ever be embraced by women's studies departments because it is obvious that Eleanor Roosevelt is skilfully "fending off" Lorena Hickok for so much of their long friendship. Except at the beginning, when she was "full on" and probably sent very mixed signals about what she wanted from Lorena. All the same, there was a loyalty between these two women that lasted, and Eleanor did lots to try to "help" Lorena in her later years. I feel, though, that because Lorena never got what she wanted from Eleanor—a full-on relationship—there was a tragic imbalance of power between the women. Still, I found myself admiring Eleanor for venturing out as far as she did on a limb, going on a private holiday with Lorena, for example, early on in their friendship and when she was already first lady!
Unlike many other reviewers, I didn't mind the footnotes. And the fact that Lorena had been raped by her father, revealed in the footnotes but not the letters, brought a whole new psychological twist to this tale. No wonder Lorena seemed so needy. Eleanor Roosevelt became her powerful protector for life, and she must have both loved and resented that. Congrats to Streitmatter for bringing the rest of this story out....more
New author Diego Valenzuela has written an unusual, original sci-fi novel here that will be absorbing and engaging even for people like myself who donNew author Diego Valenzuela has written an unusual, original sci-fi novel here that will be absorbing and engaging even for people like myself who don't usually read the genre.
We are plunged immediately into Ezra's Blanchard's anxious world, as the 18-year-old waits to see whether he will be chosen for military service. Ezra is a peaceful boy from a wealthy and intellectual family who doesn't see himself as fitting into the military at all. But not only is he chosen, he is assigned to become part of an elite squad of young people who are separated from their families and undergo rigorous training to pilot the Creux (pronounced Cray-ux), mysterious machines that have otherworldly powers.
I loved the language, the names that Valenzuela chose for his cities (Roue, Zenith), and the believable relationships between Ezra and his peers. This novel is darkly suspenseful and ends on a note of nailbiting tension that will have you waiting for Book 2.
Received a copy from the author in return for an honest review....more
A brilliant biography. I don't really get the less-than-stellar reviews. Maybe for people in their first flush of Lennon idolization, it's too hard toA brilliant biography. I don't really get the less-than-stellar reviews. Maybe for people in their first flush of Lennon idolization, it's too hard to read.
This bio explores Lennon's life and his complicated sexuality, but what I appreciated most about it was that it brought the reader up to date on some issues that had never been properly explored. For example, I had no idea that Freddie Lennon came back into his son's life, various twists and turns occurred, and that at the very end of his father's life, Lennon reconciled with him. Norman beautifully describes their complicated relationship, with far more sympathy for Freddie than other biographers have had.
Norman's analysis of Aunt Mimi and the role she played in his life is an eye-opener as well. Far from being just a strict schoolmarm, Mimi was a dominant and somewhat dangerous woman, swiping John from her sister Julia over Julia's objections, disliking all of John's women (and calling Yoko a "poisonous dwarf," apparently...which is priceless). But John's scathing cruelty may actually have come more from Mimi than from either of his rather lightweight and pleasure-seeking parents, who were not into heavy mind games.
I liked Norman's description of John's twisting relationship with Paul. Yoko's dry admission that John thought about having an affair with Paul around the mid-sixties may surprise some people. In fact, Yoko's honesty and ruefulness hangs over this book...we get to hear the less romantic version of how the two got together; we get to see how difficult the relationship was for Yoko. We even get to hear about Yoko's wartime traumas (though probably not the full, painful story, I suspect).
An absolutely invaluable book. Recommended for readers who want the truth about Lennon and the Beatles with no whitewashing. The only area that Norman stepped evasively around was Brian Epstein, and I wish there had been more written about him and his relationship to John because I don't believe the full story is out yet....more
A risky choice for Bailey for his third (I think) literary biography. He makes this forgotten man stand out in all his very human addictions, quest foA risky choice for Bailey for his third (I think) literary biography. He makes this forgotten man stand out in all his very human addictions, quest for fame, contradictions and deceptions. It's an important book because it reveals that there's always more to the official story... sometimes a lot more. Once again we see writing and the need to write through Bailey's eyes as a lifelong exercise in masochism. Bound up as it is with money and the desire for fame, the literary career is bound to end in disaster, I suppose. There were times when I was reading when I thought that Jackson was more drug addict than writer, a practiced con artist. Here is someone whose addiction to alcohol and pills both enabled and destroyed his art. It's a very sad story.
The flaws for me were that I never could quite tell how sexually experienced Jackson was with men. There seems to have been a section cut out about Jackson's relationship with an older lover called Thor, because Bailey suddenly refers to Thor's marriage, says "more on this anon," and then never goes back to it. So his relationships with men seem extremely tenuous right up to the end of his life, when clearly he was having gay sex and even had a sort-of lover. I'm sure it was hard to track down the details of his liaisons, but I feel there might have been more to glean. As it is, so much exhaustive focus is put on his long-suffering wife, Rhoda, and his daughters, who were in a way a lifelong cover for him...although he clearly adored his daughters, at least.
I suppose I shouldn't say this, but I am really curious as to how the Philip Roth bio is going to go, given that all of Bailey's subjects up to now have been complicated, deceptive men with addictions....more
A brilliant biography. Even better than the Cheever bio, which I didn't think was possible.
Yates, the author of Revolutionary Road, was a damaged manA brilliant biography. Even better than the Cheever bio, which I didn't think was possible.
Yates, the author of Revolutionary Road, was a damaged man who produced beautiful, bleak books while he indulged his addictions and was in and out of mental hospitals due to his frequent mental breakdowns. As described by Bailey, he may have had one of the worst lives of any of the great writers. Despite influential friendships, supportive publishers, and winning grants and awards, he lived in horrible, squalid apartments all his life. Every writer will feel a surge of recognition at his artistic dilemmas and his struggle to balance art and making a living. He gave up on the relationship front pretty early, though he fathered three daughters and was a better father than he was a husband.
Bailey's sense of tragic irony is note-perfect throughout. I laughed often and made copious notes. My sympathy stayed with Yates throughout, which is a marvel, given his lifelong homophobia and sexism. But Bailey is that good at capturing the essential sweetness of the man while never ignoring his flaws.
Since I haven't read any Yates at all, I have a treat in front of me....more