Here's an excerpt from my review of the first chapter in Vanity Fair:
The first thing that leapt out was the lyric poetry of Lee's language. Tin roofs,Here's an excerpt from my review of the first chapter in Vanity Fair:
The first thing that leapt out was the lyric poetry of Lee's language. Tin roofs, whitewashed tires, and the inevitable verbena bring the red clay earth and Jean Louise's past alive in the ambling second sentence, and then: “She grinned when she saw her first TV antenna atop an unpainted Negro house; as they multiplied, her joy rose.”
Mine, too. Relief washed over me. Three sentences, first mission accomplished: this young Harper Lee can write!
Based on what I learned shortly afterward, once the full book was available and reviewed, I lost interest. I doubt I'll bother to read the whole book. Far too many more promising books out there. ...more
Brilliant. This is a new classic of the narrative nonfiction genre.
The prose is vivid and intoxicating, and he weaves together 2+ threads, seamlessly-Brilliant. This is a new classic of the narrative nonfiction genre.
The prose is vivid and intoxicating, and he weaves together 2+ threads, seamlessly--with the Fawcett thread dominant, as it should be, yet given fresh life with the mingling of the contemporary thread.
I was drawn in from the start, but oddly enough, I REALLY got fascinated when he got to the developing field of cultural anthropology, and the fights over whether the people in the Amazon were "noble savages" or just "savages," or stupid subhumans, or . . . and what the apparent tiny population really meant. Throughout the book, there was an adventure story going on, but a much wider, deeper consideration of how the discoveries there fundamentally altered our conceptions of how and why we all are the way we are. And it crept into those ideas artfully, interestingly and never pedantically. It never bogged down into a university course: felt more like an exciting speaker spurring our curiosity and helping us run with it.
So well done. I'll use this as one of my models for all my future books.
(And as a writer, I can't resist saying: Great verbs! I mean, stupendously great, every page, every paragraph. Never too much, consistently just right.)...more
I love this play, and this edition. It's captivating and insightful, and I'm reading right after finishing "The Plantagenets," which I also recommend,I love this play, and this edition. It's captivating and insightful, and I'm reading right after finishing "The Plantagenets," which I also recommend, and which teed it up nicely. (That book ends with Henry IV deposing Richard II, leading directly to the situation this play depicts.)
One problem with reading the history of the English kings is their stories tend to blur together after while. I've always been able to keep Henry II straight, because I watched "The Lion in Winter" 20 years ago, and still picture Peter O'Toole as Henry, Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, etc. I think I have this set of Henry's etched in my brain for another 20, too.
I tried two other editions of Henry IV, before settling on this one (Arden):
- The Applause edition: I loved the thorough explanations and insights into how actors have played scenes over time FOR OTHER PLAYS (several of the well-known tragedies), so I was expecting the same. Nope. Nothing but lots of footnotes indicating technical decisions on which folio/quarto was used on a particular line.
- Oxford School Series. The explanatory notes were very helpful, and I would have been very happy with this edition. But I compared this with Arden (reviewed here) line by and Arden had far more historical information and insightful notes on the wordplay (eg, biblical sources he was playing off). Also, the Oxford actually overdid it explaining some phrases I found obvious.
I went to B&N and worked through more than a dozen versions of this play, and found this most superior, by far. (Also, get historical info on all the major characters.) This appears to be the best out there. It costs a bit more: about $8 more than the others, but I'll be spending 40-60 hours with it, so that's less than 20 cents per hour of my time for something much more effective. A bargain.
(If money is really tight, I highly recommend the "Oxford School Series," (and note that's different than just "Oxford," which is also out there.
UPDATE: I started act 5 today, and still loving it. Racing through it, on my scale. I could do without Falstaff, but loving Hal and Hotspur and the other rebels and even the king sometimes.
UPDATE 2: Wrapped up in a frenzy. Sooooo good. ...more
I'm 100 pages in and mesmerized. This answers so many questions I've had for decades about who the English actually were, what tribes they were composI'm 100 pages in and mesmerized. This answers so many questions I've had for decades about who the English actually were, what tribes they were composed of, and how both the "royalty" and "nobility" came to be, and who they were. Amazing.
(I put those words in quotes because I think they're imaginary, foul concepts. Obviously, I recognize that such classes were created and had a monumental impact, and I'm fascinated by them, but I sure don't recognize them as "noble," much less royal.)
Obviously, this is a provisional review/rating. I hope to return to to fill in more as I progress. I actually like how these sites allow a person to communicate not just how they felt about the book after they were all finished, but a bit about how the experience unfolded.
Well, I finished, and it had some problems. I'll try to return to lay it out.
2 years later (January 2017), I'm 300-plus pages into Robert Tombs' "The English and Their History," and highly recommend it. I think Tombs' approach is much better, even though it's the entire history in 1,000 pages, so a bit less room for this period.)...more
My foundation as a writer was shaped by these stories. I first read most of them in 1984, when I went to grad school in writing at U of Colorado in BoMy foundation as a writer was shaped by these stories. I first read most of them in 1984, when I went to grad school in writing at U of Colorado in Boulder. Lucia was one of several wonderful profs I had there, but it was her stories alone that I read, with awe, and said, "THAT is what I want to do!"
Quiet awe, by the way. That's the beauty of these stories. No kings or dukes or ladies in waiting losing their heads or fighting for the crown. No grand sweeping anything, no boisterous narrator, showing off. But no boring MFA stories full of pretty sentences about nothing, either. Just raw, gripping tales about switchboard operators, cleaning ladies and shy little Protestant girls trying to fit in in Catholic school.
They are immediately engaging, with that voice, that draws you in with its candor as well as its insight. Lucia had an extraordinary ability to gaze right inside of people, sort of an emotional x-ray vision, with the people in her lives and her characters. (Of course those are the same--or the latter came from the former. She had that uncanny ability in life, and spilled it seemingly effortlessly onto the page.)
Fifteen years later, when I published Columbine, you can witness my attempt to emulate Lucia on every page. I hope I was worthy. I keep reading her, trying to get closer to the Lucia ideal, though I never will. My favorite story is "My Jockey," and I've read it probably 100 times. If I can do what she did there, once, ever, that will be enough.
(I was lucky enough to read this book in galleys. It's coming out Aug. 18.) ...more
Oh nooooo! I got ahead of the author on a trilogy. Ravenous for another installment.
I loved Wolf Hall, but decided to pace myself: read several otherOh nooooo! I got ahead of the author on a trilogy. Ravenous for another installment.
I loved Wolf Hall, but decided to pace myself: read several other books before tasting Hilary Mantel's style again. Couldn't do it. Read one book and then plunged back in. Loved this as much as the first, and was grateful she picked up the pace this time. (That was my lone complaint on Wolf Hall: 600 pages was excessive for the story she had to tell. I got restless with it. Better pacing here....more