I love Michael Chabon's works. I read Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay back in college and since then have followed his work. There are two asp...moreI love Michael Chabon's works. I read Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay back in college and since then have followed his work. There are two aspects of his writing that I really enjoy: one is his prose style. He can craft a metaphor out of nearly anything and make it work. The other is his way of twisting genre around to make it fit. The Yiddish Policeman's Union is a hard-boiled Chandleresque noir detective story plopped down into an alternate history where a temporary Jewish state was established in Alaska after the state of Israel failed three months after its birth.(less)
Even though I consistently enjoy him, I'm quite convinced that Gaiman is one of the most consistently overrated authors writing now. I somehow think t...moreEven though I consistently enjoy him, I'm quite convinced that Gaiman is one of the most consistently overrated authors writing now. I somehow think that he may actually be a better essayist than storyteller, because he has very interesting ideas about the role of stories and myth, but, though he has hit a few narrative home runs (I think of The Game of You and Coraline in particular), most of his other works fall short for me storywise.
Maybe part of my problem with this book was reading it so close to Strange and Norell, a book that inserts magic into our world and taps into archetypes that keep it grounded the whole way through. The weakest aspect of is the way it lapses into sloppy deus ex machina over and over.
Though, this flaw may also be reflective of just how high Gaiman was aiming with the book. It suggests that he is attempting in Anansi Boys to retell the trickster tale, to update it for today, and to endow it with significance for today. The thoughts that he expresses on the significance of these tales are why I make my original claim that he should be an essayist, because these thoughts are very provocative and intriguing. The only problem is that he fails to compensate for the shortcomings of the genre (unlike, for example, Chabon's retelling of the superhero story in Kavalier and Clay.)
As as story, the book does have some highlights. Some reviews compare the book to Douglas Adams' work, and I have to admit that some of the silliness and snideness is absolutely effective. There is also an amazing look at the beginning of time that would have made an excellent short story in and of itself. The book is a pretty easy, light read, and enjoyable as far as it goes, even if Gaiman did not quite hit the mark he was shooting for.(less)
Cormac McCarthy is probably my favorite author these days, and this book is one of the best I've read of his. The plot is very simple, America is dead...moreCormac McCarthy is probably my favorite author these days, and this book is one of the best I've read of his. The plot is very simple, America is dead and barren, and a father and his son are trying to make their way to the coast in search of warmer weather and perhaps a remnant of civilization. The book is told in McCarthy's trademark style, highly descriptive and without affectation, which in itself is a pleasure, but there were two things that set this one apart for me.
One is the hope it contains. Most of McCarthy's other work is very existential and often borders on nihilism, when it doesn't crash right through the gate and play in the its yard. This book is much more affirming of the human possibility for good. Good can exist in the world, no matter how bad the world is, seems to be the book's conclusion. This is hinted at in his other work, but never has he proclaimed it so loudly.
The other element that made this book a favorite is the father/son relationship. In everything I've read, the only other book containing such a relationship in this level of detail and focus is Gilead. The relationship is very tender and loving, though never begins to be sentimental. It's a beautiful thing to read.(less)
Took a backpacking trip this weekend and I needed something light and short to entertain me on the ride back. I picked up Stardust simply because it w...moreTook a backpacking trip this weekend and I needed something light and short to entertain me on the ride back. I picked up Stardust simply because it was the smallest book in my collection of "to reads" but I bought it in the first place because I'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman. I've really enjoyed his work since I picked up one of his Sandman books years ago, and Stardust did not disappoint. I think that what I loved most about Stardust is just how archetypal it is, and yet it will frequently turn those archetypes on their heads. Gaiman wears his influences on his sleeve, and all through the book are echoes of C.S. Lewis' Narnia books, as well as Grimm fairy tales.
Reading it stirred up a similar feeling inside me that reading Tigana did. It really invoked a deep longing for wonderful things that are lost.(less)
This book was a wonderful read from beginning to end. It's huge, over 800 pages, but the action and wonder just holds you into it and it never feels l...moreThis book was a wonderful read from beginning to end. It's huge, over 800 pages, but the action and wonder just holds you into it and it never feels like it's dragging or that it needs to wrap up. I think one of my favorite aspects of the book was its language. Several reviews compare Clarke's language to Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, and I would say that the Austen comparison is particularly sound. Clarke writes with the same sort of understated humor and eye for social comedy that Austen is known for. She might not quite have the same perfectly deft touch that Austen did, but she's close.
One other book that this one continually reminded me of is the Harry Potter series. I think that they have two elements in common that really connect them. One is a real wonder at magic and it's possibilities. They both have a great deal of fun with what magic looks like or feels like and they make you wish in a way that it was real. The other element in common is how true they ring to the real world. If magic existed, then this is how the people using it would be. Every step of the way, the characters just make sense and you can sympathize with their decisions. Anyway, a highly recommended read.(less)
The movie is so so ingrained in me, and is lifted almost line by line from the book, that all that happened as I read it was that it played the movie...moreThe movie is so so ingrained in me, and is lifted almost line by line from the book, that all that happened as I read it was that it played the movie in my mind. I did think the psuedo-research on Floren was pretty clever though, as was the last chapter, but clever only goes so far. It's not at all that this is a bad book. It's an excellent book. But it is overshadowed, to me, by the movie.(less)
This was my favorite of the Wrinkle series, though also the most difficult for me to read way back when. I'd like to give it another shot now that I'm...moreThis was my favorite of the Wrinkle series, though also the most difficult for me to read way back when. I'd like to give it another shot now that I'm older.(less)
There are some days when I actually think that the humble Hobbit is superior to it's bohemoth brother, The Lord of the Rings. It's a much tighter sto...moreThere are some days when I actually think that the humble Hobbit is superior to it's bohemoth brother, The Lord of the Rings. It's a much tighter story, and Bilbo is a much more appeal character than is Frodo. I also just love this poem, from The Hobbit
Far over the misty mountains cold To dungeons deep and caverns old We must away ere break of day To seek the pale enchanted gold.
The dwarves of yore made mighty spells, While hammers fell like ringing bells In places deep, where dark things sleep, In hollow halls beneath the fells.
For ancient king and elvish lord There many a gleaming golden hoard They shaped and wrought, and light they caught To hide in gems on hilt of sword.
On silver necklaces they strung The flowering stars, on crowns they hung The dragon-fire, in twisted wire They meshed the light of moon and sun.
Far over the misty mountains cold To dungeons deep and caverns old We must away, ere break of day, To claim our long-forgotten gold.
Goblets they carved there for themselves And harps of gold; where no man delves There lay they long, and many a song Was sung unheard by men or elves.
The pines were roaring on the height, The winds were moaning in the night. The fire was red, it flaming spread; The trees like torches blazed with light.
The bells were ringing in the dale And men looked up with faces pale; The dragon's ire more fierce that fire Laid low their towers and houses frail.
The mountain smoked beneath the moon; The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom. They fled their hall to dying fall Beaneath his feet, beneath the moon.
Far over the misty mountains grim To dungeons deep and caverns dim We must away, ere break of day, To win our harps and gold from him