It took me a while to read this one, as I kept focusing on history and period stuff, but it is a really good novel. If it was written by someone else...moreIt took me a while to read this one, as I kept focusing on history and period stuff, but it is a really good novel. If it was written by someone else I may have given it five stars, but it suffers by comparison to Winter's Tale and A Soldier of the Great War. To paraphrase Jeff Vandermeer's comments on Gene Wolfe having written Fifth Head of Cerberus and The Book of the New Sun (to which I would add Soldier of the Mist), relatively early in his career, it must be galling to have later works that are very good constantly compared with such early masterworks. Even though those books are better, that speaks well of them, not ill of this one. (less)
I was excited to read this book because of comparisons made to Mark Twain, Charles Portis, Cormac McCarthy and the...moreSomewhere between 3 1/2 and 4 stars.
I was excited to read this book because of comparisons made to Mark Twain, Charles Portis, Cormac McCarthy and the Coen Brothers, all artists I like very well. I think my expectations had everything to do with why I initially didn't like the book, but I stuck with it and am glad I did. On its own terms it is a very good book.
I think the Coen Brother comparison is the most apt (by which I mean it is the only one of the listed ones that is apt). In of the Coens' movies there is a shadowy, creepy fat cat type behind a desk with a cigar who is in some way controlling things (think Paul Newman in The Hudsucker Proxy, Michael Lerner in Barton Fink, Albert Finney in Millers Crossing, etc), and as Eli confronts the Commodore in the end, I thought of this type. The anachronistic dialog in the mouths of folk who should be more simple also recalls them.
The elevated dialog is most likely why the book has drawn comparisons to Portis, since Marshal Cogburn and crew spoke similarly anachronistically in True Grit. However, that was due to the narrator being an elderly Presbyterian woman, filtering the story through her politics, religion and disappointment. This lends True Grit much of its humor and pathos. Here, the dialog is more of a true anachronism, much like O Brother Where Art Thou or Raising Arizona.
The McCarthy comparison is tempting because it is a western and is remarkably violent in places. Also McCarthy's humor is somewhat underrated. However, the violence here seems to be a true nihilism, whereas in McCarthy violence is a part of the landscape, a part of the way things are, a part of the meaning of life. The fading of the West and the incorporation of the landscape into modernity make McCarthy's work almost an elegy for a pre-industrial world. The world that replaced the old has made many things easier, but only masks the savagery of humans toward each other. There is much more to be said about McCarthy's vision, but suffice to say that vision is not DeWitt's.
This is more a comedy in the vein of a Coen or Tarantino movie. The exaggerated characters, the dialog, the violence all create a vivid image and it is very entertaining one. Its nihilism is much like the Coens' or (in a comparison I doubt has been made yet) Seinfeld's.
All in all, I'm glad I pressed through and got over my initial expectations, since I ended up enjoying the book very much. Still read McCarthy and Portis first...(less)
I think this would have liked this a little less, except that there were a few passages that allowed it to transcend its genre (the Literary Novel tha...moreI think this would have liked this a little less, except that there were a few passages that allowed it to transcend its genre (the Literary Novel that is prettily written in which not a lot happens) particularly his descriptions of the experience of epilepsy, and one description of faith that was reminiscent of Frederick Buechner (I mean that as high praise). I may have liked it more if I hadn't just read All the Pretty Horses (which may have been a case of reading the right book at the right time, but was, I thought, a genuinely great novel). Like McCarthy, Harding doesn't care too much for punctuation, but the shift in tone was jarring.
The comparison to Marilynne Robinson is tempting, since she was his teacher and Gilead is similar in pace, but while Gilead is filtered through a muted Christianity, Tinkers, especially in the descriptions of nature, come closer (to my mine at least) to Annie Dillard's pantheistic tendencies. Harding's prose is a little more ornate than Robinson's, and I probably enjoy hers a little more.
That being said, Harding's prose is excellent, and on that level it was a really good book. I will probably read it again when I'm in a different mood, and I'll revisit my opinion then. But its definitely worth reading.(less)
This has long been one of my favorites among the Shakespeare plays that I've read (I do intend to read them all at some point). The Kenneth Branaugh m...moreThis has long been one of my favorites among the Shakespeare plays that I've read (I do intend to read them all at some point). The Kenneth Branaugh movie version was to my thinking the best movie version of Shakespeare that I have seen. I had been thinking about rereading it since I heard that while filming the Avengers, Joss Whedon had somehow found time to film his own version, and I wanted to reread the play before it was released. So, when I got my new Kindle, I thought that it would be a perfect way to break it in. And it was...
This is the first book toward my latest reading goal: to read a biography of each President chronologically. This is mainly to get an overview of Amer...moreThis is the first book toward my latest reading goal: to read a biography of each President chronologically. This is mainly to get an overview of American history that is not written by a single author. I'm not setting a time limit on this goal, particularly since I'm trying to get back into school, but I think it will be worth the time spent. I'm going to read the McCullough John Adams book. Anybody have a suggestion about a Jefferson biography?
The Washington biography was excellent. It seems fair, it didn't gloss over his status as a slaveholder, his chronic money problems or the criticisms leveled against him by the Jeffersonians. I did not want to read a hagiography. However, the book did illustrate why he has such a prominent place in history. This is a very well researched, well written biography, and I would recommend it.(less)
This was my least favorite Walker Percy novel on my first read through of his works. I think it was mostly annoyance at the second person narrative, w...moreThis was my least favorite Walker Percy novel on my first read through of his works. I think it was mostly annoyance at the second person narrative, which I generally don't like. Perhaps I can get past that this time through. I enjoyed both The Last Gentleman and Love in the Ruins more the second time, though I liked them both more initially than Lancelot. We'll see. 11/3/12.
Still probably my least favorite of his novels, but I did enjoy it much more this time around. 11/5/12(less)