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2018 TOB Shortlist Books > Lincoln In The Bardo

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message 1: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments so let's talk about it....


message 2: by Terri (new)

Terri (zoomcity) YAY!!


message 3: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments It's so experimental....the TOB judges have to love it based on that alone. I listened to the audio and was ever so glad I did. I only wish I had listened to the last track first and made a list of the wonderful narrators and the parts they played.


message 4: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 83 comments Janet wrote: "It's so experimental....the TOB judges have to love it based on that alone. I listened to the audio and was ever so glad I did. I only wish I had listened to the last track first and made a list of..."

I read it in print but if I have time after reading the rest of the short list I'd like to circle back to the audio version of Bardo. From everything I've read it's a really unique production.


message 5: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments Matthew wrote: "Janet wrote: "It's so experimental....the TOB judges have to love it based on that alone. I listened to the audio and was ever so glad I did. I only wish I had listened to the last track first and ..."

Well worth the time, incredible.


message 6: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 425 comments Matthew wrote: "I read it in print but if I have time after reading the rest of the short list I'd like to circle back to the audio version of Bardo. From everything I've read it's a really unique production."

Definitely worth checking out, Matthew. I listened to it on a car trip and intend to read it in print later.


message 7: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments I started the audio and just couldn't... now I'm hearing I just needed to get over the hump. At this moment in time the audio & physical availabilities at my library (and that of extended family) are running in the 9 week range. whew!


message 8: by Ruthiella (last edited Jan 03, 2018 09:30PM) (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments OK, I am sure I am not alone but I wasn't that taken with Lincoln in the Bardo. I had only previously read Tenth of December by Saunders and I think I am just not a fan of his style.

Also, I probably was suffering from bandwagon fatigue and my expectations were massively high when I came to finally read the book which no doubt played into how I felt after finishing it.

I was extremely moved by the sections with Lincoln grieving over the death of his son. And the message of Lincoln using this grief to fuel his resolve to see out the war despite the toll he knew it would take on other parents who would certainly lose their sons makes me tear up even now thinking about it.

But the ghosts were nothing special to me AND it really irked me that the three main spirits had rather interesting reasons for remaining stuck but the spirits that had been slaves were stuck because of tropey slavery storylines. They had no inner lives, nothing more complex to hold them in the Bardo? I don't know, maybe Saunders was making a point there but I think he was just being tropey.

Additionally, I don't appreciate scatological humor which was a large part of the Bardo repartee. That isn't to say I haven't uttered a "that's what she said" before, I have. But I typically don't find fart jokes, dick jokes, or similar funny.

Lastly, and then I will shut up - promise - I don't think this was a novel but rather two short stories cobbled together with some historical and pseudo-historical bits.


message 9: by Julie (new)

Julie (julnol) | 113 comments Ruthiella said : I don't think this was a novel but rather two short stories cobbled together with some historical and pseudo-historical bits

My Goodread's review starts out with : Too much of a good thing?
Or not enough of anything??

And I'm more in the came of the latter!

Like Ruthiella, I anticipated a much-trumpeted about "first novel" from the master short story teller, but it was novel in the other sense of the word, and short storiesh in presentation.

Given the Tibetian meaning of "bardo" being : an intemediate state, I felt that not only did Lincoln linger there but so did the narrative.

Also from my review : Innovation in writing can be thrilling, a scintillating experience for the reader. This was ultimately frustrating. What I was enjoying at the beginning became tedious at the end.

There was a lot to like about it. The storyline is unexpected (the "Lincoln" in the title is Willy Lincoln). The oddball characters and their oddball behaviours are engaging. The melange of historical fact is informative and interesting. But in the long run it became a chore, having to make do with finger food when you were expecting a main meal.


message 10: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Bardo is the first Saunders I've read, so I had no real expectations. I loved the Lincoln grieving part -- that was done so gorgeously. I was frustrated with the format through most of the book. Luckily, it's a short read, and I was just resigned to it. I think I liked it better after I was done, rather than during reading it.


message 11: by Rosie (new)

Rosie Morley (rosiemorley) | 40 comments This is my new favourite book of all time. I absolutely loved it.

After I read it, a friend said to me of George Saunders: “Reading his writing will make you a kinder person.” Now, after also reading some of his other works, I totally agree and I’m a massive fan. I love how he gets into his characters’ heads.

I also love stories that make me think, “How on earth did the writer come up with this?” And that’s how his writing always makes me feel.


message 12: by Terri (new)

Terri (zoomcity) I’d never read anything by Saunders before, and had never wanted to, but at some point before it was released, I got really excited to read this. It’s one of 3 books I’ve started over as soon as I finished it. I have this on audio (which is how I read it both times), and I have 2 hardcovers. I bought the first copy bc I loved the cover and the copy I picked up had 2 dust jackets. That is weirdness I can’t resist. I bought the second copy bc it was signed, so why not?

And then I saw some interviews he did, and I wished we were friends.

My boss abandoned the book bc he couldn’t take the constant repeats of “op. cit.,” which I tuned out. Other people have told me they didn’t bother finishing it, either, primarily due to its format. These people are now dead to me (I kid, I kid).

I was drawn in by the performances, the atmosphere, the polarized opinions of Lincoln’s every move, every decision. It was like reading Breitbart and then the Washington Post all the time.

I hope this goes all the way, but The Sisters Brothers won that one year, so if it doesn’t, I’ll just chalk it up to another case of collective insanity. 😉 (Disclaimer: The Sisters Brothers was okay, but not great, not fantastic. At all)


message 13: by Rosie (new)

Rosie Morley (rosiemorley) | 40 comments Terri wrote: "And then I saw some interviews he did, and I wished we were friends ...

These people are now dead to me (I kid, I kid) ..."


Haha. Couldn't agree more.

I was thinking this morning that I'm slightly worried about Lincoln in the Bardo being in the ToB, just because every time someone says they didn't love it, or says something even slightly negative, I feel personally wounded. Bit ridiculous, and I'm probably going to have to develop thicker skin, but I'm that in love with it.

I watched an interview he did while he was here in Australia and he was just so thoughtful and clever. I also wanted to be friends with him. What an amazing person.


message 14: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments I got to meet him....which is not the same thing at all as being a friend ....but he does seem to be an amazing person. I've met a good number of authors and what strikes me is the best ones always seem to be the most humble, the most down to earth....they are more worried about making their fans feel comfortable in their presence than they are about their own comfort.


message 15: by Lljones (new)

Lljones | 175 comments Did anyone else notice Obama's Best Books of 2017 list list? I'm so surprised Bardo isn't included. Do you suppose he read it and didn't like it?

(Two ToB shortlist books did make his top ten, though - Exit West and Sing, Unburied, Sing.


message 16: by Lljones (new)

Lljones | 175 comments Terri wrote: "And then I saw some interviews he did, and I wished we were friends ...

I love to watch him on the Stephen Colbert show.


message 17: by Kristina (new)

Kristina (kristina3880) | 35 comments I had a terrible time getting into the rhythm of the book, so I chose to try it on audio. I am so glad I did. I think that this was one of my top 5 favorite audio books of all time.


message 18: by Katie (new)

Katie (katalia) | 8 comments I want to hear the audiobook now. It took me a little while to warm up to the book / format, but I’m glad I stuck it out. I found the book bizarre, endearing, thought provoking, and overall a good read. I don’t think it was my favorite book of the year, but it’s stuck with me and I am excited to see how it fares in the tournament.

I also sympathize with those above who loved it so much they are kind of dreading its tournament fate ... I’ve been there and it’s not always a fun place.


message 19: by Margot (last edited Jan 06, 2018 10:26AM) (new)

Margot (goodreadscommerelybookish) | 11 comments I will be so disappointed if this book wins the Rooster. (Although, I am anticipating disappointment.) I just thought it was too showy, and that amid all the bells and whistles, the substance was lost.


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Ruthiella wrote: "OK, I am sure I am not alone but I wasn't that taken with Lincoln in the Bardo. I had only previously read Tenth of December by Saunders and I think I am just not a fan of his style.

...Additionally, I don't appreciate scatological humor which was a large part of the Bardo repartee."


You are not alone here, Ruthiella. I agree with you on both points. I was moved by the grief scenes, but disgusted and annoyed by the crudeness of some of the ghosts. Why put that garbage into an otherwise sensitive and lovely story?


message 21: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments The main reason I stopped listening was the description of the naked elderly ghost with the eternal boner because he died planning on getting it on with his child bride that night.... I just thought, ugh, why?
I actually liked all the op. cit. portions. (I’m a sucker for original source material).


message 22: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 241 comments Tina wrote: "Why put that garbage into an otherwise sensitive and lovely story? "

Because it's *so real* and *death and life are crude* and such? I don't know - that would have been my eye-rolling answer if the author was just some dude, but that gave me a little dissonance, too.


message 23: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 241 comments I first read Saunders when Tenth of December came out, and was immediately into him, his work, his mind - totally Team Saunders.

And then, this, I mean, it was fine?

I'm like Rosie in needing to develop a thicker skin about it, but somehow that thicker skin has to be an interior one, because the book (I listened, yeah, it was a great production, whatever) didn't work for me. I was bored. And I'm offending my Team Saunders soul by saying so.

This article made me consider going back and giving it another try. If I finish the shortlist soon enough, I might. https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...


message 24: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 241 comments Amy wrote: "The main reason I stopped listening was the description of the naked elderly ghost with the eternal boner because he died planning on getting it on with his child bride that night."

If the afterlife is full of yet more men comparing their dicks, count me out


message 25: by Trudie (new)

Trudie (trudieb) | 27 comments Rosie wrote: "I was thinking this morning that I'm slightly worried about Lincoln in the Bardo being in the ToB, just because every time someone says they didn't love it, or says something even slightly negative, I feel personally wounded.."

Haha yep I know exactly how you feel ! As I just looved this book and have been raving about it all during 2017. I do understand it is not a book for everyone but I read it as laugh out loud funny and deeply sad all at once which I think is a feat of writing mastery to pull off.
It also helps I was charmed by the author when he was in Auckland for the writers festival, so smart, so humble and generous with his time.
I personally would have no problems with this one winning ToB although I agree it has had so many accolades it might be time for a new victor to emerge.


message 26: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 186 comments Yes, a devisive book I would say. Personally, it worked for me in print, particularly the first section focused on Lincoln’s grief. Very affecting. The cast of characters in the Bardo, particularly in the second half caused the book’s power to diminish, in my opinion. I’m glad to see it in the tournament, but I don’t want it to win (and don’t think it should’ve won the Booker either—I would’ve chosen 4321, Underground Railroad, or Reservoir 13 for that honor).


message 27: by Bob (new)

Bob Lopez | 391 comments I have a few friends at a local indie, and they let me have the ARC of this in the summer of 2016. I read it in a week...I was blown away, I cried, I still think about it. What a great book.


message 28: by Katie (new)

Katie | 127 comments I always know there will be books I just can't hang with because I'm not a literary English major who gets books. I really loved 10th of December but as much as I wanted to get this book I just didn't. I'm absolutely sure this is a me deficit not a book deficit. I'm sure there will be amazing TOB discussions about this book that will make me feel a little sad I'm not astute enough to get it all but I tried.


message 29: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments Although I loved the book, I like his short stories better. Tenth of December was full of unnerving moments that test the characters' humanity (the TV series Black Mirror has the same feel). The storytelling style of LITB, the choppiness of it, was so off-putting that I put the book down unfinished for almost a year before I picked it up again (as I knew I would, eventually). My book club picked it for December and I was glad to get back to it.

I guess my view of it as a novel is that it's more of a novella. It would have been a great centerpiece in a long book of short stories.

As much as I love it, the TOB is a contest of novels, isn't it? And form-wise, others are going to scream "novel" more than this does. I haven't read all the selections yet, and I may still swing back to LITB as my choice. But we'll see.


message 30: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments Sunita wrote: "reminiscent of Our Town "

Good call!


message 31: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 186 comments Eric, I agree with your point that this felt more like a novella. It explores an interesting concept (the Bardo), but there isn’t enough here for a full novel. I loved 10th of December.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 97 comments I just finished this -- it made me cry. I think I loved it; I do have a little bit of a sense underneath all of the emotions that it was rather more facile than I was expecting.

I did think there was enough going on here to be a novel, but I don't really enjoy short work, so it might be my own priorities as a reader.


message 33: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 123 comments I've tried 3 times now to get into this book. I make it about 1/3 of the way and I just set it down. It's so gimmicky and non-engaging. I really don't see what the buzz is about.


message 34: by Gail (new)

Gail (gailparis) | 20 comments you are not alone! Love his short stories, could not finish this one. Thought it was because of the ghosts but I loved Sing Unburied Sing - ghosts didn't bother me there....


message 35: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments For those that can't get through it, highly recommend the audiobook....also listen to the last track first because it tells each character and the corresponding narrator.


message 36: by Kim (new)

Kim Harvey Butler | 20 comments I just finished listening to this on audio and I loved everything about it. This is my first Saunders and I can't wait to read more of him. I'm including a link to a chapter-by-chapter character key that I enjoyed following as I listened to the audio version.

http://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.co...


message 37: by Gail (new)

Gail | 21 comments Kim wrote: "I just finished listening to this on audio and I loved everything about it. This is my first Saunders and I can't wait to read more of him. I'm including a link to a chapter-by-chapter character ke..."

wow...thanks, Kim. I wish that I would have had this when I listened to the audio book. I listened to it once and was confused, then I read it in print and then listened to it again and enjoyed the tale as well as the original format.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 97 comments I finally wrote my review for it -- definitely 4 stars, but I just could not give the 5th, it was so phatic in the end. I loved so much about it, though, and I thought the Bardo was envisioned perfectly, including all the crudity -- I am no Freudian but I think one can argue that the ghosts are reduced to their id and that is what makes them able to stay; as soon as they start adding more layers to themselves (as two of the three do) it becomes harder and harder to remain.


message 39: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisgitt) | 88 comments Margot wrote: "I will be so disappointed if this book wins the Rooster. (Although, I am anticipating disappointment.) I just thought it was too showy, and that amid all the bells and whistles, the substance was l..."

This is the best review that I have read. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I have struggled with this book. I tried the audio book then the book and then went back to the audio book. I'm about halfway through thanks to a road trip, and I am trying to get through the rest.


message 40: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisgitt) | 88 comments Melanie wrote: "I first read Saunders when Tenth of December came out, and was immediately into him, his work, his mind - totally Team Saunders.

And then, this, I mean, it was fine? "


Yes, this! I loved Tenth of December, but this is painful. I've given it my favorite insult: I would have loved this when I was in college.


message 41: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments I’ve almost given up on the audio for the second time. I keep expecting lovely passages about grief and humanity but the ghost clowns are taking up 75% of the time. The first 15% of the tale at least had all the original source quotations which I dug but even those are getting dropped in favor of these absurd apparitions. I’m at 27% - am I missing something? is greatness yet to come? Or should I have just approached this as a subversive comedy on a serious backdrop of history? The blurbs just seem all wrong.

Note: I would actually read a black comedy of ghost clowns.


message 42: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Fields | 77 comments If you hang in there you will get what you are looking/waiting for. But, you will probably be annoyed with how much time you spend on the other things. And I would look up my bookmarks on audible, but I feel like all the sideshows and minor characters are essential for setting and contrast and thematic development.


message 43: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 241 comments I'm so surprised that this is emerging as one of the most divisive books of the list!


message 44: by Kelly (new)

Kelly | 28 comments This wasn't the book for me, and I don't think George Saunders is the author for me ... don't think I have much to add to the other criticisms here, but it just didn't add up. I rarely love the Booker winner, so I guess I'm not surprised. It always seems to be a book that's trying too hard.

Melanie, your comment on the afterlife had me cracking up. So true!


message 45: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments I have to admit, the Booker isn’t an endorsement for me either - for every one I like ( Bring Up the Bodies) there is another I thought highly overrated. The Blind Assassin? Really?


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 600 comments Amy wrote: "I have to admit, the Booker isn’t an endorsement for me either - for every one I like ( Bring Up the Bodies) there is another I thought highly overrated. [book:The Blind Assassin|78..."

You make me feel a little better for DNF'ing Blind Assassin - much as I love Atwood.


message 47: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments This excerpt from an Audible newsletter made me think about how this book might affect someone who has lost a child.....

We cried for a favorite comedian …
Earlier this month, our hearts were shattered by the news that comedian Rob Delaney’s son, Henry, had died of brain cancer at just 2 years old. The Catastrophe star shared his grief in a Facebook post that was both devastatingly sad and, in typical Delaney fashion, life-affirming in its raw candor and commitment to hope. Despite his heartbreak, Delaney remains the king of Twitter; last week, in between jokes about the Olympics and thanks to those who had donated to children’s charities in Henry’s name, he recommended some favorite books about grief and loss. Of Lincoln in the Bardo, Delaney tweeted that though George Saunders isn’t a bereaved parent himself, the book “is like having a vital prayer beaten into you with a hammer if you *are* a bereaved parent.” It just isn’t fair that Delaney is going through this, but as his deeply moving memoir about addiction, recovery and resilience taught us, his unique voice and transcendent humor is a balm for anyone who desperately needs to hear it.


message 48: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 241 comments Oh, I hadn't heard about Delaney's son. How terribly sad.


message 49: by Tristan (new)

Tristan | 105 comments Lisa wrote: "I've given it my favorite insult: I would have loved this when I was in college."

This is the perfect description of this book. I think some people "like" it because they are afraid if they don't they will appear dumb for not "getting it."

It had so much hype and just failed to deliver. Saunders' work runs the entire gambit from brilliant (Tenth of December) to experimental garbage (Reign of Phil). This was just middle of the road meh.

If you have to listen to an audio book in order for it to be great then it isn't a great book. It's a great radio piece. Not knocking radio stories, but they aren't novels. The audio book is great because of all the great voice actors who perform on it, not because it has a great story. A novel should be judged on the quality of the story, not the performance of those reading it. This was a mediocre story (that was difficult to read), that was well performed by the amazing cast of characters chosen for the audio book.


message 50: by Topher (new)

Topher | 105 comments Tristan wrote: "I think some people "like" it because they are afraid if they don't they will appear dumb for not "getting it."

or, you know, maybe they just liked it?


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