This book should be (SHOULD BE) a suspense thriller with action sets and intrigue. What it is, though, is a strikingly modern look at terrorism, Afgha...moreThis book should be (SHOULD BE) a suspense thriller with action sets and intrigue. What it is, though, is a strikingly modern look at terrorism, Afghanistan, Islam, and the American intelligence machine. There are some truly powerful and insightful sections. It's well worth the read. (less)
I like Sedaris a lot, but I've had trouble reading his stories in print. This time around, I listened to the audiobook, and was instantly rewarded. I...moreI like Sedaris a lot, but I've had trouble reading his stories in print. This time around, I listened to the audiobook, and was instantly rewarded. I feel like this is confirmation that Sedaris' works are best read aloud, because of their conversational and oral nature. With the stellar cast that was reading the stories in the audiobook, the biting satire (some of the best I've read in a while) is that much more devastating. A lot of fun!(less)
I love baseball books. Almost more, even, than I love baseball movies. So you can imagine how excited I was to get my hands on the original baseball n...moreI love baseball books. Almost more, even, than I love baseball movies. So you can imagine how excited I was to get my hands on the original baseball novel, which also happens to have been made into my favorite baseball movie: The Natural. I could wax poetic about baseball and the mythos surrounding it for hours. There’s something about the sport that lends itself to legend and heroes and the fantastic. The movie version of The Natural plays to this, clearly, but I think it’s so interesting how much the novel addresses it.
In many ways, Malamud’s The Natural is a fairy tale, a morality play, about a man that takes place with a baseball backdrop. I think it’s an interesting choice for the first novel about baseball, but it works, and it sets the stage for many baseball stories to come. Throughout, there are elements of the fantastic and amazing. The narrative is filled with imagery that feeds off of plot lines and emotions and provides an allegorical foil to much of the action in the plot.
Of course, there’s also Roy Hobb’s, the flawed hero of the novel. He’s the greatest player to ever play the game. But there’s an irony to this, in that while he is innately talented, his pride seems to get in the way. He feels an entitlement to everything: women, his career, the love of the fans, everything. Anything that stymies this is an outrage to him, and it seems like this is where all of his problems come from.
*SPOILERS* What I found most interesting is that he’s offered chances at redemption many times throughout the novel. And while in the movie, redemption is ultimately achieved and Roy is our hero, in the novel, Roy attempts to do the right thing too late and becomes a self-loathing villain. It’s such an interesting change from the story I initially knew, and while both endings work well, they each offer unique insight into the character. It’s really interesting. (less)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was one of those novels I knew I should read but was tentatively circling and avoiding for fear of the stress I kn...moreExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close was one of those novels I knew I should read but was tentatively circling and avoiding for fear of the stress I knew that would come with it. Finally, with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 looming, I thought it was as good a time as any to pick it up. I was not disappointed.
The novel's a 9/11 novel in that the horrific event hovers over our central character and many of those around him (and certainly the 5 boroughs of NYC). But at the same time, it's not a 9/11 novel. It's a novel of survivors. It's a showcase of how so many of us are survivors of different events and circumstances. Prisoners of the past, of our own minds, of our relationships.
I would wager it is impossible for the reader to not identify with at least one of the characters we encounter and how they react to their own troubles. It's illuminating, and it's difficult to observe. This is a novel that requires a degree of honesty with one's self, and that's a rare thing.
But for all this sorrow and difficulty, there is certainly a promise of hope and forgiveness and self-fulfillment. It's a fitting ending to an arduous journey. A worthwhile read!(less)
I made it through roughly three quarters of this book and had to stop. There was no momentum or rationale behind it. Characters were brought together...moreI made it through roughly three quarters of this book and had to stop. There was no momentum or rationale behind it. Characters were brought together at random. Major events, like Skrimmer's bought with the yips, occur for absolutely no reason. Skrimmer himself is a pretty ineffectual protagonist, to the point where it's up for debate that he is actually the protagonist. The relationship between Owen and President Affenlight seems to come from nowhere. There's a history built for how the relationship began, but there's no explanation for how a seemingly straight widower with a grown woman of a daughter would begin to enter into a homosexual relationship with someone more than 30 years his junior. I just found myself questioning most moves the novel made, and that's never a good position to find oneself in as a reader. I hope it ended well....(less)
There’s a problem here; a problem with Zone One. Namely, I am its key demographic. Its target audience. The reader most ideally situated to eat this u...moreThere’s a problem here; a problem with Zone One. Namely, I am its key demographic. Its target audience. The reader most ideally situated to eat this up. I love zombies stories. I lived in New York for a time and should, therefore, be able to easily identify with the novel’s landscape. I have an MA in English Literature, and relish picking narratives apart for their thematic content, character development, allegories and allusions, symbols and metaphors, blah blah blah. And a host of other reasons that culminate in a situation that practically begs for my name to be printed on the dedication page. And in spite all of this….I really didn’t care for the novel.
In fact, I had to slog through it.
And I think the reason for all this is that it was preachy. And heavy-handedly so.
Now, there’s the argument that the zombie trope is a terrific foil for social and cultural commentary and criticism. “Night of the Living Dead” laid bare race relations and hypocrisy. “Dawn of the Dead” cast a scant eye at consumer culture. World War Z examined the construction of an oral history across global cultures, couched in a historical framework. Hell, even the campiest of camp fests, “Return of the Living Dead III” can be examined through the lens of female empowerment through sexuality. Like I said, it’s a good foil.
So one would expect Whitehead to embrace this same narrative thread, and he does. To the Nth degree. The constant parallel that he draws throughout the novel is that there is so much in society to which we are all zombies of one kind or another. Material culture? You’re a zombie. Watch TV? You’re a zombie. Work in an office? You’re a zombie. Whitehead takes the time to go through a litany of experiences that our plain, C-average, everyman Mark Spitz (not his real name) has gone through in his pre-apocalyptic life, and in all of these depictions, there is snide, snarky evidence of people going through the motions; people stuck in repetitive action; people preying on other people.
There’s nothing wrong with this if it’s targeted to a specific concept. There’s nothing wrong with this type of analysis in a focused light. But here, in Zone One, nearly everything holds this sheen of zombification. And after a while (and not a long while), it gets tiresome, wreaking of bitterness and anger rather than truth and insight.
In the end, I had to fight my way through the novel out of pure stubbornness, and frankly, that’s the last way I should have to describe reading a zombie novel of any type. (less)
Short stories can be a tricky proposition. If they're too similar, they all jumble together and become meaningless. If they're too disparate, any sort...moreShort stories can be a tricky proposition. If they're too similar, they all jumble together and become meaningless. If they're too disparate, any sort of common thread through the compilation is lost or non-existent. And if there are too many, they simply grow dull after a while.
Proulx does a fine job of connecting a manageable number of stories together that, while not directly related to one another, they each touch on related themes, painting an image, both past and present, of the regions and people of Wyoming. (There are two or three quirky stories about the Devil that seem out of place in the rest of the compilation, but they do not take away from the whole of the collection that much.)
Proulx is noted for not being a welcome or revered figure in Wyoming and after reading these stories, it's not difficult to see why. Still, her stories never seem forced or outlandish. If anything, they ring of harsh truth that is not sugar-coated in any way. You would do well to give these stories a try.(less)
Let's call it 3.5 stars to be honest with ourselves, but I'll gladly round the review up to 4 stars on the fact of enjoyability of the novel. I've bee...moreLet's call it 3.5 stars to be honest with ourselves, but I'll gladly round the review up to 4 stars on the fact of enjoyability of the novel. I've been telling colleagues (the novel was given to me by one as a recommendation) that Dog of the South is a version of On the Road I didn't hate.
It follows Ray Midge, who has been abandoned by his wife, who stole his car and credit cards and flew south with her ex-husband. He gives chase, deluding himself that he just wants his car back (oh that fated Torino!), and tracks them down to British Honduras.
Of course, along the way, he meets a cast of remarkably bizarre characters. Such as the ever-scheming Dr. Symms and his mother, who converse in a delightfully roundabout way, never actually determining anything.
The story is the kind of anti-coming of age tale. Typical journey motifs send our protagonist through chaotic and difficult circumstances in order to transform them into something else. And while that appears possible at times throughout this novel, everything ends up more or less back at square one in the end. There's a prevailing message throughout that 1) we're all a little bit crazy/eccentric and 2) there's no use trying to be anything other than ourselves; we are who we are and live our lives accordingly.
Dog of the South is a quick read and an entertaining one. It's worth picking up.(less)
2.5 stars, really. Interesting to read, given that it's the first cowboy novel, but it's awfully slow. There are some interesting stories, and you can...more2.5 stars, really. Interesting to read, given that it's the first cowboy novel, but it's awfully slow. There are some interesting stories, and you can't help but like the effortless skill and unbreakable loyalty present in the Virginian's style.
Still, the pacing's dismally slow, and it literally takes half the novel to get to the matter at hand--a plot point you could see coming from the very beginning but had to (more than) patiently wait for to arrive pages and pages later.(less)
I can't even begin to say enough about this novel. Epic! Stunning! Endearing! Heart-breaking! Simply incredible!
It tells such a marvelous story of the...moreI can't even begin to say enough about this novel. Epic! Stunning! Endearing! Heart-breaking! Simply incredible!
It tells such a marvelous story of the demise of the South and the old ways. It's a terrible examination of the tearing down of an old civilization and new one that must come from its ashes.
It's a love story unlike any other. Two ill-fated lovers meant to come together and all the obstacles in between.
At it's core, the novel is a Bildungsroman of Scarlet O'Hara. Throughout the novel, she is an ignorant child of a woman, and it is only at the end that life slaps her full in the face and forces her to see things for how they really are.
It is also a scathing criticism of the South and then Southern mentality going into and coming out of the Civil War--and given by a Southern author, no less, who had grown up surrounded by tales and anecdotes about the War. It was a world built on protocol and formality, gentility and courtly airs, refinement and polish. It was at the same time a world of foolish pride, stubborn ignorance, and bullheaded tempers. Margaret Mitchell does such a wonderful job of show these conflicts openly yet subtly.
One of the things I had such a difficult time with (and still think about frequently) is the complicated nature of racism in the novel. When I told one co-worker that I was reading this novel, the response was immediate revulsion followed by the statement, "But isn't that horribly racist?" Well, yes, frankly, it's a book full of racism, but it's far more complicated than that.
There are intricate social patterns at play within the slavery system. House slaves, who are all but treated like family, are superior to field hands. And slaves from wealthy plantations openly voice their disgust of poor white families and their slaves, designating their superior station to that group. Further, after the War, many (now free) house slaves, such as Mammy and Pork, refuse to abandon their former owning families precisely because they are practically family members themselves. And again, these newly freed slaves who remain with their families are openly and vehemently disdainful of freed slaves who are now on their own, pointing to them as lazy, drunken, and disgraceful. Furthermore, Northern soldiers and civilians are shown as being more racist than anyone, wanting nothing to do with any African Americans, and not caring how they fare in the world. It's a terrifically fascinating dichotomy, and one that will keep me asking questions for a while.
I really cannot recommend this book enough. Sure it's long. Sure it's incredibly like the movie (which is also superb). But it's rich and lovely and caring and brutal and has such a great deal of insight to give to a valuable part of American History.(less)
An extremely satisfying sequel to the tremendous Lonesome Dove. Streets of Laredo follows Woodrow Call and Pea Eye many years after the events of the...moreAn extremely satisfying sequel to the tremendous Lonesome Dove. Streets of Laredo follows Woodrow Call and Pea Eye many years after the events of the first novel. Still on display, though, are the extreme difficulties of life in the West. And whereas Lonesome Dove accounted for the harshness of the environment and the difficulties of surviving in that area and time, Streets of Laredo explores what it means to be the type of individual who could survive and even thrive in such an environment. And McMurtry's fluid and easy prose is still ever-present, making the pages fly by. (less)
Brutal. That's really the only word to describe this work. It's unrelenting and tragic and terrifying and disgusting and disheartening. And it's bruta...moreBrutal. That's really the only word to describe this work. It's unrelenting and tragic and terrifying and disgusting and disheartening. And it's brutal.
The novel follows our protagonist, The Kid, through a series of historical events and places in the old west. Most scenes are intensely violent and unforgiving. There is no remorse and relent. Playing throughout the text is the concept of the things by which a man is judged.
The dust flap calls Blood Meridian a novel of redemption. Presumably the redeemed is The Kid, but redemption in this sense is a loose term to say the least. Redemption seems to go to he who is the lesser of two evils.
As with many of McCarthy's works, the view of the world and man's place in it is a grim and disparaging one. There is no hope here. It's questionable as to whether there is a God here or if He cares. And Man is little more than a mindless, violent, savage, sociopathically bent of tearing down everything before him.
Through all of this, though, McCarthy paints the world with remarkable prose. The sentences are short and many of the words are arcane in their usage, but it combines to describe a world that is both familiar and foreign, beautiful and ugly.
McCarthy dares us to look at humanity at its worst. I'm never quite certain what he hopes we'll see. Perhaps it's simply a personal revelation that can only be interpreted by each reader.(less)
I picked this book up hesitantly. I'd never read a western or a McMurtry, but I like westerns and I'd heard Lonesome Dove was really good. The final r...moreI picked this book up hesitantly. I'd never read a western or a McMurtry, but I like westerns and I'd heard Lonesome Dove was really good. The final result was one of the best books I've read in years. Truly superb!
It's told simply and straightforward, but it's elegant and beautiful at times. And more importantly, you end up truly caring about the characters you encounter. Some are comedic, some are idiots, but some are just really wonderful personae.
I wasn't certain that a story about a cattle drive from Texas to Montana would be much worth reading, but it was in spades, and I have now added both Streets of Laredo and Comanche Moon to my lists.(less)