1. I've seen Scott M. read a few times in Philly, and every time he kills it 2. Just about every writer person I know raves about this book and his wri1. I've seen Scott M. read a few times in Philly, and every time he kills it 2. Just about every writer person I know raves about this book and his writing in general 3. I still for some reason had never read one of his books 4. I read this one 5. It's really good, man. 6. There is such deceptively simple language, often telling farcical stories that are tinged with a sadness that doesn't feel maudlin; it just feels ingrained in the people in this book, in the author's worldview, in the words themselves 7. "This is a lie I was told as a child, but it's still true. The New River is one of the only two rivers that flows directly north. The other one is a river called the Nile. Those rivers are inside of me. I have a river inside my heart. You have a river inside your heart. There are diamonds inside both of us. We are all flowing north." 8. The excerpt above is good, and it is in this book....more
Though this is a long novel, I read though it in only a few days, because the prose style is really pleasurable to read, and because Ifemelu is an intThough this is a long novel, I read though it in only a few days, because the prose style is really pleasurable to read, and because Ifemelu is an interesting character - I very much enjoyed the contrast between her bold assertiveness in mixed company and her timid self-centeredness among people she loved. A lot of little details about the differences in culture added life and depth to the book -- not the didactic conversations about race so much, but the bits about how American college students are taught to participate no matter what, the customs of behavior at restaurants, etc.
The book sagged for me sometimes when it was in Obinze's POV, because I found his voice much less engaging and his life not as fully envisioned.
And I had a hard time getting through some of the more detailed discussions of her life as a fabulously successful blogger. I realize this was briefly a life that existed for a lucky handful of people, and I realize it's not fair to apply a 2017 lens to a book that was published a half-decade ago... but people at dinner parties all talking to Ifemelu like her blog was this big huge thing that people all over the world talked about? Getting a fellowship at Princeton based on her blogging? I don't know, man. Maybe that's actually the sort of thing people used to talk about. Maybe part of the problem is that in narration her internal life was way more complex and interesting than the voice of hers we actually saw in the blog posts, which were just fine.
I don't want to dwell on that too long, though her life as a wildly successful blogger is a major catalyst for the book. Overall, I admired and enjoyed a lot about this book, even the didactic conversations about race at parties, and I just found that one (somewhat major) aspect dissatisfying....more
I didn't know much about this book coming in, besides a rave review from the person who gave it to me. This is one of those books people would probablI didn't know much about this book coming in, besides a rave review from the person who gave it to me. This is one of those books people would probably disparagingly describe as "quiet," and while there are some pretty significant plot events, it is a pretty contemplative book. Based on the description alone, I could see how someone might roll their eyes and think it's just some male wilderness fantasy about self-sufficiency and casting off the evils of the world, a Walden reboot for the modern day, but it's so much better than that uncharitable hypothetical reader might think.
Moses Sweetland is a weird, well-meaning but surly guy who is watching his world disappear around him, one piece at a time, and this book does such a great job of capturing the specific melancholy of that type of person. I fell pretty quickly into the rhythms of this book, and this sleepy island town, and the slightly odd syntax of the narrator. There are long stretches that focus just on detailing the physical task of staying alive, in the face of no specific danger besides mortality, and those scenes are hypnotic and beautiful and sometimes funny and often sad.
I liked this book a lot, is the thing I'm saying here. It was a good reminder for me that a book doesn't need a wildly surprising plot to be really damn good. ...more
I should open with the caveat that I know Dan and he has proven to be one of the nicest people in the tiny little lit world, HOWEVER the reason I knowI should open with the caveat that I know Dan and he has proven to be one of the nicest people in the tiny little lit world, HOWEVER the reason I know Dan in the first place is that I stumbled across one of his stories in the Cincinnati Review and really loved it (so much so that I've used it in my past 3 fiction courses), and so our internet friendship is based FIRST on my respecting him on a writing, and the fact that he once gave me baked goods at AWP is secondary to all of this.
Anyway: I liked this book a lot. At first, I was a little wary because I wasn't sure how much I'd love the metafictional aspects of it, but this novel places story first and never allows the metafictional aspects to overshadow the fact that this is a story about people in the world. I like the risks Hoyt takes in having such a confrontational, generally unlikable narrator, and then challenging the reader to see the humanity in a guy who is otherwise a pretty unpleasant guy. It's a squalid world in this book, sort of noirish, but driven by a fuckup with a good heart. The story itself chugs along at a good clip, and the prose is loaded with smart, funny observations. I plowed through this in 2 days, and was glad I did. ...more
There were some killer lines and scenes in this book that I loved a lot. The voice is engaging and unique from page 1. But the accumulation of detailThere were some killer lines and scenes in this book that I loved a lot. The voice is engaging and unique from page 1. But the accumulation of detail doesn't really work for me; some scenes were dramatically less interesting than others, and in some scenes the narrator lacked a self-awareness that is essential to such an overtly autobiographical work. The structure made the book more redundant than I would have liked as well.