Short little essays, mostly comic, sometimes sweet and moving covering a span of the seven years of Keret's life between when his son was born and wheShort little essays, mostly comic, sometimes sweet and moving covering a span of the seven years of Keret's life between when his son was born and when his father died. A quick read and pretty delightful, overall. ...more
Frequently lovely descriptions of these beautiful, desolate Scottish isles, with accountings of their geology and biology, and quite a few good tidbitFrequently lovely descriptions of these beautiful, desolate Scottish isles, with accountings of their geology and biology, and quite a few good tidbits about the lives of people who inhabited the islands centuries back. I kept getting thrown off by it's somewhat haphazard structure, though. Sometimes his personal anecdotes framed an introduction to one of these stories, sometimes they seemed unrelated and he was just kind of rambling a bit. I feel like ordering the book chronologically or by subject just would have given it a stronger arc. He also just sprinkled in casual sexism here and there that would pull me out of the writing, usually juuust when I was getting into it. On the whole, though, it was enjoyable; a very thorough portrait of a storied, unique part of the world....more
This was funny and at times emotionally resonant, but on the whole was mostly a slightly zany, comic satire that didn't really hit home for me. The stThis was funny and at times emotionally resonant, but on the whole was mostly a slightly zany, comic satire that didn't really hit home for me. The strongest moments felt eclipsed by the wacky names and broad caricatures, a bit....more
The good: the pace was engaging, and I was legitimately hooked for the middle third, or so. Proper page-turner status.
The bad: I was never convincedThe good: the pace was engaging, and I was legitimately hooked for the middle third, or so. Proper page-turner status.
The bad: I was never convinced of the plausibility of... almost everything. The Time.com slideshows and other mixed-media elements in the book felt off-the author was using the same voice for Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone and Time and it just didn't sit right. The secondary characters were all pretty flat in spite of their *quirks*. Especially egregious was the Kimmy-Schmidt-lite who seemed to exist to wear zany clothes and fall in love with the protagonist in order to demonstrate his worthiness as a person. The worst, though, is Cordova, the mysterious director himself. He is written to be spooky and deep, and comes across like an extremely pretentious first year film student with too much money who has suddenly discovered that capitalism is, like, toxic, man. Cordova is some kind of amalgam of Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Dario Argento, maybe a little John Carpenter? But I cannot imagine any of them saying anything as insipid as this "I learned that the human mind is a blackened overgrown place. Society tries to mow the lawn and trim back the plants, but every one of us is just days away from a wild jungle. And it's the jungle that interests me.”
Another character is describing his relationship to the director's daughter thusly: “She told me her father taught her to live life way beyond the cusp of it, way out in the outer reaches where most people never had the guts to go, where you got hurt. Where there was unimaginable beauty and pain. She was always demanding of herself, Do I dare? Do I dare disturb the universe? From Prufrock. Her dad revered the poem, I guess, and the entire family lived in answer to it. They were always reminding themselves to stop measuring life in coffee spoons, mornings and afternoons, to keep swimming way, way down to the bottom of the ocean to find where the mermaids sang, each to each. Where there was danger and beauty and light. Only the now. Ashley said it was the only way to live.”
I really hoped this would be punctured, in some way. That this extremely wealthy family with unlimited resources thinks they are peeling back the layers of society's onion (there's a metaphor for ya, Pessl. You can use that) but really they are making horror films that a bunch of internet nerds and (frankly terrible-sounding) film professors read too much into. That they are performing spooky-seeming occult rituals that are really just a group of sad old dudes naked in the woods, hitting themselves with sticks. Because none of the films Pessl describes, and none of the actions of the family she describes, ever come near approaching living life in this extreme, intense, poetic way. They were all reclusive weirdos with delusions of grandeur, and it would have been interesting to see the curtain pulled down, the wizard exposed. But that never happened, we were just meant to find Pessl's descriptions totally captivating rather than hokey and pretentious, and that was pretty disappointing. And man, Cordova's films do not sound that terrifying. At one point there's something like "The ending of such-and-such film (in which the audience never learns whether the hero lives or dies) was deemed so brutal by one Times reviewer that the reviewer said Cordova must have had a TERRIBLE childhood", which (a) doesn't sound like that groundbreaking a film ending and (b) definitely doesn't sound like something a film reviewer would write.
And about that film professor, this is a guy who is screening Se7en for a class by PAUSING IT five minutes before the ending and rambling about how Fincher so effectively ratchets up the tension, with no sense of irony whatsoever. And then leaves class to ramble at his buddy (our hero) about the "themes" common to Cordova films, which are actually just goofy, implausible Easter Eggs like "Every time this brand of cigarette turns up in one of his films, the first person in the next shot in the film will die, or face death" and "this con man burglar character turns up and it means yadda yadda" - so many of these are so specific that you would be really put off by a director who really used every one of these tropes in films that supposedly span decades. It's more Tarantino or Stephen King than Kubrick, in a really bad way. The worst part of this, though, is that our hero is convinced he is IN a Cordova film, like Fincher's The Game, kind of? I guess? so is analyzing these signs with the professor to find out what happens next. The professor says: “'I need to give you one last bit of advice in the off chance this rather extraordinary and enviable situation in which you find yourself is actually true- that somehow you've fallen deep down into a Cordova story.' I stared back at him. 'Be the good guy,' he said. 'How do I know I'm the good guy?' He pointed at me, nodding. 'A very wise question. You don't. Most bad guys think they're good. But there are a few signifiers. You'll be miserable. You'll be hated. You'll fumble around in the dark, alone and confused. You'll have little insight as to the true nature of things, not until the very last minute, and only if you have the stamina and the madness to go to the very, very end. But most importantly- and critically- you will act without regard for yourself. You'll be motivated by something that has nothing to do with the ego. You'll do it for justice. For grace. For love. Those large rather heroic qualities only the good have the strength to carry on their shoulders. And you'll listen.'”
This seems like good and fine advice, probably? Except our hero doesn't really follow through- he goes to "the very very end", I guess, but he definitely isn't acting out of a sense of justice or grace or love. It's goofy and ambiguous (in a bad way) and I just don't buy it. Oh yeah and during that whole speech above, the professor is still standing outside his classroom yammering on while his students are impatiently waiting to find out "WHAT'S IN THE BOX?!" and it will definitely be affecting his score on RateMyProfessor.
Back to the good: Cordova has been living on this secret compound upstate NY for decades and has shot all of his latest films there, which means there are these huge warehouses that seem to have the film sets all intact, preserved for posterity. At one point the hero is disoriented and lost and wandering through all of these sets, describing them, and it's quite good! Even if it's a VERY impractical way to make films....more