**spoiler alert** While I liked the pace of this book, the period and photography details, and the idea of a fictionalized romance between Man Ray and**spoiler alert** While I liked the pace of this book, the period and photography details, and the idea of a fictionalized romance between Man Ray and Lee Miller, there were a few problems:
1. The style of the writing seems to fluctuate quite a bit, so as to range from literary to more commercial/romance. I found it offputting to read several pages of fairly literary prose and articulate prose—only to see the “f-word” thrown in, as well as overly graphic sexual details. It felt gratuitous, as if the writer were thinking: “oh, I need to sell books so I’ll be commercial now.”
2. The book is structured by alternate chapters, with the decade after Lee’s breakup with Man showing glimpses of her WW2 photo assignment. These chapters, as short as 2 pages, are too minimal to be effective, and could have just been approached as backstory within the ongoing narrative. Also, the descriptions of war seem rather generic and lazy, as if the author had read them online and picked up a few gory details.
3. The idea that Lee had been abused as a child didn’t correlate well enough with her adult behavior—except in superficial ways. At least, not enough for the author to make her case. At first, Lee can’t be “blindfolded,” during “encounters,” and she has some negative self-talk at random points, but it doesn’t add up to abuse for me. Yes, she lets lose with drinking and promiscuity a few times, but that behavior could be ascribed to any woman.
Overall, it’s a shame the author didn’t make full use of her creative skills to make this a more literary work, that didn’t give the impression of plot devices “gone overboard.” I used to develop photos by hand in the darkroom, so I related best to those passages, and felt they were the strongest part of the book. ...more
**spoiler alert** My first “experience” with this author. Despite moments of mildly freaking out over such graphic descriptions (and hoping the author**spoiler alert** My first “experience” with this author. Despite moments of mildly freaking out over such graphic descriptions (and hoping the author wasn’t being deliberately grotesque for commercial reasons), I did find myself rooting for the main character as depraved as she was—you need to for the book to work. I think the protagonist represents her generation in many ways—and that’s part of the point of the book. How many of us can’t identify in some way with the troubled relationships with the parents—and the needy best friend who really is needy more then “friend.” Of course, the protagonist is extreme, but I really think she represents the trappings of modern (New York City )life and how sad and isolating it can be. The fact that the protagonists’s sleep experiment is captured on video for a gallery exhibit is the ultimate comment on modern life, and a prequel to the coming age of social media about to descend post 9/11. Another interesting layer to the story: Do we need to have an audience to justify our daily existence? Does “voyeurism” save us from ourselves, and should it?
The 9/11 backdrop just brings that home as well. Given the protagonists’s fascination and dedication to her “sleeping for a year” project, we have the added irony that the high heeled women who jumped from The World Trade Center were at least “awake” enough to try for their own self-preservation.
This book was amazing in many ways, from the painstaking detail the author provides on everything from kitchen cabinets, to physiological functions, to the sad and often cruel ways people can treat each other—to larger more full descriptions of landscapes, neighborhoods, and the beautiful superficiality of the protagonists’s upper East Side New York.
The hardest things in the book for me to grasp were: 1. that the protagonist could have taken that many drugs according to the numerous binges described—and survived. 2. That Reva her best friend had her own share of dysfunction and drug taking/bullemia, so that perhaps the two women were overly similar.
This book in a one sentence description might be: “‘Bright Lights Big City’ on steroids in a pre 9/11 New York City, with a woman in the lead.”...more