It would be pretty hard to find real fault with a book this gorgeous and unflinching. In her afterward, Ann Patchett recommends reading it a second tiIt would be pretty hard to find real fault with a book this gorgeous and unflinching. In her afterward, Ann Patchett recommends reading it a second time "just for the sentences." And this is perhaps what ultimately lifts it above other memoirs on similar subjects. It's not just a horror story, or a story about determination and the human spirit. It is a book that turns the unthinkable into lucid startling prose.
Physical pain can be a hard subject to write about, but Grealy re-defines it again and again in ways I would never have imagined. At times, it simply is what it is. Unrelenting pain. Other times, the pain is a kind of comfort, something that distracts her from the larger implications of her illness. At other times, she becomes so used to feeling bad in a hospital, she finds herself crying when it's time to leave. It becomes part of her in countless ways. A badge. A basic hindrance. A reminder that she's alive.
Yet, on top of the raw sensory explorations of her condition, there are succinct meditations on physical beauty and how much we often rely on our image to determine our sense of self. At one point, near the end, Grealy tries to give up on mirrors, and she slowly is able to separate her image from her self. Yet, it still finds her in the reflection of a glass table.
At times, the experience here is so harrowing, it's hard to remember that this is an aesthetically beautiful book. Each time an operation is botched it becomes harder to read on. Yet reading on must match the feeling (on some tiny tiny level) of what it must have been like to "go on" under these circumstances. To constantly re-access what it means to think of yourself as scarred or ugly. To always be waiting for the next best hope. And ultimately, to find enough distance to turn it into meaningful art. ...more
The upside to discovering a writer later than you should is being able to dig hungrily through their backlist. Such is the case with Jennifer Egan. IThe upside to discovering a writer later than you should is being able to dig hungrily through their backlist. Such is the case with Jennifer Egan. I wish I'd come across her sooner, but since I didn't, I have a mountain of spoils awaiting me (hopefully).
Look At Me was my first step down the path of "Other Books By..." and it did not disappoint. More than any book I've read recently, this one works naturally at uniting seemingly disparate characters around a theme, and eventually, a shared narrative.
Exploration of visual culture and the way it has come to function as a religion in America is the focus here, and it's approached from a variety of angles. There is a satiric exploration of reality programming and self-promoting. A sardonic and just plain sad look at modeling. The dawning realization of a lonesome teenage girl. The claim of visual conspiracy from a terrorist. And the punishing philosophy of an unhinged history professor, who believes that the world is "what we see." There were times when all of these contrasting viewpoints seemed more essayistic than dramatic, but largely I was impressed by the way Egan managed to make each story compelling and relevant to the larger questions she was asking. For the most part, I cared about these characters, lost myself in their stories, but was also able to step back occasionally to think about what their lives were saying about the visual.
The book was also tonally very ambitious. It was laugh-out-loud funny at times, morbidly depressing at others, and quite haunting as answers to mysteries were revealed.
In the end, I didn't enjoy it quite as much as A Visit From The Goon Squad, mostly because there were some characters that didn't quite do it for me, and they happened to be characters who got a large amount of page time toward the end. But this is ultimately subjective, and the pleasures of reading this far outweighed the small moments of dissatisfaction.
Nothing like sitting in the sun, your toes in the sand, the sound of the waves lapping at the shore, while in the realm of your book-readinBeach read!
Nothing like sitting in the sun, your toes in the sand, the sound of the waves lapping at the shore, while in the realm of your book-reading mind, a beautiful man prostitutes himself for rent money and a single hot dog to share with Patti Smith.
While I probably did not read this book in the most appropriate of places, it's a testament to its power that I often blocked out the seascape in front of me in order to more deeply visualize the squalor of the Chelsea Hotel in the early 70s. And I wished I was there!
More than all the name-dropping and idol-worship, it was the incredibly earnest, passionate desire to be an artist that pulled me in. I loved the inclusiveness of she and Mapplethorpe's artistic vision. They're showing drawings, writing poems, taking photographs, acting in plays, writing songs. They're saying yes to art at every turn. And then they go to Max's and hang out with Sam Shepard and a coterie of drag queens.
There is, of course, a palpable beauty in the friendship depicted here, but it's their dual commitment to art at the expense of literally everything else that makes this book both shocking and inspiring. ...more