First Impression: The whole notion that people write in the margins of books in order to communicate with other readers really makes me happy. I love t...moreFirst Impression: The whole notion that people write in the margins of books in order to communicate with other readers really makes me happy. I love to write and draw in the margins of books, and (not so secretly) I hope others will come along someday and read them. Books are meant to be read, obsessed over, re-read, and obsessed over again. This seems so rare today. Abrams and Dorst (who?!) have created something very special here in giving us a glimpse into the reading lives of others. Lives which are too often insular and obscure. It seems to me these inner lives were meant to be shared, talked about, revisited, and even documented. Books live and breathe; Abrams and Dorst (who!?) show us how communal a book's life can (and should) be.
Second Impressions: So, I'm still generally enjoying the experience of traveling through this text with S., Jen, and Eric, but I have to say I'm getting a little weary of the paucity of revelation. At page 149 I still have no idea at all what is going on. And the artifacts are making less and less sense, and are often not even mentioned in the text, whereas documents that are mentioned are not included. And I still (despite intense efforts) have NO IDEA AT ALL how to utilize the "Eötvös Wheel" or have any clue as to what text to apply its arcane decoding capabilities. I hate to admit it, but I'm getting that nagging sensation at the back of my brain to move on to other books I have waiting to be perused: I've got Eugenides' 'The Marriage Plot', Kean's 'The Violinist's Thumb', Stephenson's 'Reamde', and my once every three years or so re-reading of 'The Silmarillion' and 'The Lord of the Rings' is calling mightily to me. I've committed to finishing the book, but it always bums me out when I lose the passion for a story midway through. I just need a few answers. Hopefully they begin coming soon.
A beautiful exploration into the role this substance has played in the human grand narrative. The first two thirds were very informative and interesti...moreA beautiful exploration into the role this substance has played in the human grand narrative. The first two thirds were very informative and interesting, but it wasn't until I got to the section about India that I was totally enthralled. The story of how Ghandi used the British imposed salt laws, and his disobedience of them, to gain freedom for his country was truly riveting. I can't help but draw parallels between this story and other moments in history. It's long been a fact that civic rebellion follows punitive costs associated with the fundamental materials of life. The tea tax in the American colonies, poll taxes, whiskey taxes. I'm sure an economics historian or a political scientist could find many more relevant examples than I can. Now we find ourselves entering into a similar scenario with the crippling price of gasoline. The present rise in the cost of gas isn't because of taxes entirely, although they do play a significant role in certain states such as California. Our current predicament with fuel prices can't be laid at the feet of government because the government is not in control, big business is. Which represents a whole different problem. What really rises to the surface in book like this is the same old ancient story: yet another example of those in power screw those who aren't to the wall. (less)
I don't know. I was really irritated by Franzen's prose style initially. That first sequence where you're introduced to Alfred and Enid was almost hys...moreI don't know. I was really irritated by Franzen's prose style initially. That first sequence where you're introduced to Alfred and Enid was almost hysterical in its need to express literary credibility. I'M ERUDITE! I'M A PROSE STYLIST OF SIGNIFICANT TALENT! LOOK AT MEEEEEEEE! I can't stand that. But as I've moved further Franzen seems to have relaxed considerably. I can't help but think this stylistic gradient was purposeful after reading about Chip's theory of establishing a "hump" for the audience to get over. There may be something to all this. I can't ignore the symbolic brilliance behind Alfred's stating "I don't understand this furniture" when he's in Chip's apartment and cannot successfully sit down.
At this point it seems very clear to me that Franzen is grappling with the same set of ideas that generated books like 'A Visit from the Goon Squad' and 'Let the Great World Spin', but while those books fail miserably I genuinely feel Franzen is nailing it. My general sense of whether a book is successful or not resides mainly in its authenticity, or more literally, my perceptions of its authenticity. Nothing that I've encountered so far in the story has rung false to me. The characters, the action, the familial dynamics, all not only feel genuine, they also are adeptly arranged and organized to exact a pure result: an exposure of the crazed and infinitely clever ways that we screw over ourselves, each other, and our society. It's one of the few times I feel very much in agreement with the praise a book has received. So far, I'm convinced this is a genuinely important work, and one that has crucial things to say about the present moment and all its attendant complications.
A brutally sincere and authentic novel. I'm amazed at the epic level of virtuosity and exposure here. Franzen has written the great American 21st century novel. (less)
For its genre, a detective story, I can't imagine it being any better. It was a bit brutal, but still very very enjoyable. I very much liked the compl...moreFor its genre, a detective story, I can't imagine it being any better. It was a bit brutal, but still very very enjoyable. I very much liked the complexity of the plot, the well defined characters, and the density of tone and atmosphere Larsson was able to maintain. As far as how I might think about it critically, I think this text asks a lot of crucial questions about modernity, mainly concerning our current understanding of fidelity, ethics, and loyalty. It examines the cross pollination that occurs in how society carries on business relationships and family relationships in particularly intriguing ways. Both relational arenas seem to be rife with endemic problematic corrupting elements. From the perspective of this story I'm not sure where the corruption originates, in the business world which then migrates its way into the family, or vice versa. The figure of Blomkvist is central in this regard. He has this fully developed formal sense of journalistic ethics, which he feels are corrupted throughout the course of the main action, and at the same time he ironically seems to have no sense of ethics on a personal level at all. His marriage falls apart, as does his relationship with his child, because of ongoing infidelity with Berger. He also has no problem at all sleeping with whomever happens along and appears willing, whether they're married (Cecelia) or half his age and in his employ (Lisbeth). Then you have the figure of Lisbeth who's sort of the opposite. She has no ethical restraints at all about how she gathers her information or accomplishes her assigned tasks, yet she has rigidly defined boundaries for social interactions. Is there a genuinely positive, unfettered relationship, either business or personal, in this book? If not, what seems to be the problem? Is there a problem? Are all personal relationships ultimately enmeshed in business? Are all business relationships ultimately personal? Obviously I have to invoke the phrase "It's nothing personal, it's just business." It this statement ever really true? I don't know, I really feel this book poking at the edges of these issues and never really establishing a clear image of what it all comes down to. Which isn't a surprise really, the examination of formal and informal interactions among human beings wasn't really the focus of this book. Or was it?
It's a very interesting anthropological study, one that strikes me as uniquely European, in addition to being a gripping mystery story. I'll definitely read the next one. (less)
What a disturbing book. This is the second Roth book I've read (the other one was 'The Human Stain'), and I have to say I'm not at all impressed. I've...moreWhat a disturbing book. This is the second Roth book I've read (the other one was 'The Human Stain'), and I have to say I'm not at all impressed. I've read repeatedly this is an important book regarding Jewish culture and community, but if I were Jewish i'd have a real problem with this assertion. Why was it necessary to conflate the Jewish expererience with excessive sexual deviancy? Maybe I'm missing something. There were several points where Roth nearly lost me completely. The first point occurred when Roth elaborates on Alex's masturbatory activities. Ok, I understand this is a normal activity, but seriously, do I need to read about Alex releasing into his own mouth? What the hell is that? It just seemed like Roth was dead set on exploring all manner of foul behaviors, both physical and emotional, and I found the task to be largely pointless. A good example of this can be found in the sequence where Alex discusses the skid marks in his underwear. I don't know, maybe I'm a prude, or too squeamish or something. For me, in the end, Alex as a character, and the entirety of this novel, is one long symbolic skid mark, a remnant of a disgusting job that wasn't accomplished well, and we wish we didn't have to deal with. I don't think I'll be reading any more of Roth's books. (less)
For pages 147-150 alone, this is a 5 star book. David Mitchell has now entered the exclusive pantheon of the greatest writers that have ever walked the...moreFor pages 147-150 alone, this is a 5 star book. David Mitchell has now entered the exclusive pantheon of the greatest writers that have ever walked the earth. His ability floors me. Calling this book a 'bildungsroman', or more appropriately a 'kunstlerroman', is perfectly fitting. (less)
Sorry. Stephen King just isn't for me anymore. This book could have been edited down by about 400 pages with no loss to the narrative. It wasn't bad,...moreSorry. Stephen King just isn't for me anymore. This book could have been edited down by about 400 pages with no loss to the narrative. It wasn't bad, but I feel like I could spend my time engaging in more productive pursuits than reading any more of King's books. (less)