Call me old-fashioned, but I’m not the kind of guy who enjoys reading teenage love stories on my beach vacation, which will be here in a few weeks.
So it’s wonderful timing that I’m wrapping up The Death of the Heart today—just in time to leave it at home when I go on vacation. Won’t The Lord of the Rings be the perfect read for the beach?
I took way too long to finish this book. At first, I thought the novel would be a slog—the opening didn’t exactly give me warm and fuzzies about enjoying The Death of the Heart. But it improved. The novel gets better. Elizabeth Bowen is obviously in her element writing this book. Everything about the story feels natural and unforced. Read more
Red Harvest is a great book.
It’s the type of novel you can sit down and read in a few hours and enjoy every minute. The story is fast-paced and strong and Dashiell Hammett’s writing is on point.
If you haven’t read any of my previous posts about Red Harvest (see them all here), here’s a quick story summary:
The Continental Op is a private detective hired by a millionaire in small-town Montana. This millionaire, Elihu Willsson, wants the Continental Op to come in and clean up a lot of the organized crime activity, including a dirty police force, that has been brutalizing the town for months.
Once the Op gets in town, guess what? You guessed it…all hell breaks loose. Read more
Let me tell you about Possession.
In fact, I’ll give you a quick outline of the novel in case you were considering reading it. No real spoilers, but here’s the breakdown: Read more
Here is my one word, highly academic, response to Their Eyes Were Watching God:
Five years from now, if you ask me about some of the books I’ve read from the Time list, I’m sure there will be many that I’ve forgotten about. That’s what the blog is for—to help me remember.
But this is one of those novels that I won’t forget. Everything about Their Eyes Were Watching God is memorable—the story, the characters, the settings, the writing—oh, the writing.
Zora Neale Hurston’s writing is so ridiculously good, and the story itself is so strong, I wonder how this woman hasn’t been given more praise than she has. How did she not get “rediscovered” until the 1970s? What’s wrong with us?
Money is one of the wildest novels I’ve ever read. Pardon the literary cliché, but it’s a roller coaster ride from start to finish.
The novel is such a romp that I don’t even know where to start reviewing it.
Let’s just say that Money is told from the point of view of the classic unreliable narrator. John Self is a raging alcoholic. In fact, it wouldn’t be out of line to say that he is drunk through probably 90% of the novel.
He battles other addictions, like sex and cigarettes. At one point, Self even says, “Unless I specifically inform you otherwise, assume I am always smoking another cigarette.”
The man is a narcissistic basket case. He’s a jerk, a man of terrible morals, but Martin Amis almost, almost, almost makes you like him because of his sense of humor and self-awareness.
I’m tired of reading books about depressed, alcoholic, hopeless twenty-somethings.
I’m just tired of it, man.
I get it. I really do. Your 20s is probably the most volatile, unpredictable decade of your life. It’s a time period that’s easy to write about because it connects with so many people.
We’ve all been there trying to figure out what to do with our lives, trying to figure out what that girl we like is thinking, trying to figure out if we really hate our job enough to quit and pursue something new. For some people, trying not to be drunk all the time.
So I understand why authors like Nathanael West feel led to write about this time period. And I understand why Hemingway wrote about it in The Sun Also Rises or Malcolm Lowry in Under The Volcano or Jack Kerouac in On The Road. But when you put all these books on a list and read them relatively close to each other, the reading gets cumbersome.
Call It Sleep is a tale of two novels.
The first 75% of the novel is fabulous. It’s emotionally draining and depressing–but fabulous nonetheless.
Henry Roth tells the story of an immigrant Jewish family who moves to New York in the early 20th century. The family, which consists of eight-year-old David, his overly protective mother, and his verbally and physically abusive father, lives in some Jewish slums.
But back to the percentages.
The novel really drew me in until the last 100 pages, then I felt like it got cumbersome. David and his friends speak in Yiddish, which is almost as difficult to follow as nadsat from A Clockwork Orange. And there’s a lot of Yiddish late in the novel. Once I got to the last 50 pages, I was just ready for the story to end. And that was disappointing because I really enjoyed the book to that point.
So what makes Call It Sleep such an emotional novel?
You’ve gone and done it, Philip K. Dick.
You’ve gone and made me write a review in which I can’t ramble about how much I dislike science fiction.
You see, I hated Neuromancer. Snow Crash had its moments but left me feeling like I was reading a the script for a cheesy 1980s Schwarzanegger movie.
But Ubik? Not that bad.
I enjoyed Ubik because of two reasons.
That was one of the strangest books I’ve ever read.
The Sot-Weed Factor is simultaneously entertaining and exhausting. It’s incredibly funny while also being incredibly frustrating.
The book seems to have countless obstacles to work through just to enjoy it.
Terry Southern once called Henry Green, author of Loving, a “writer’s writer’s writer.”
I’m not really sure what that means. But, basically, Southern—like many of his peers—thought Green was pretty awesome. Among authors, he’s almost universally loved, though he’s not always that familiar to readers like me.
So the moment you pick up Loving, you can expect to read some beautiful writing and engaging dialogue. He’s very poetic.
But as I’ve said before, I’m a story guy. I like a good plot. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy, detailed plot, but there has to be some meat there.
That’s why I hated A Dance To The Music Of Time. It was 3,000 pages of nothing.
And as much as I like Henry Green and his writing, Loving left me underwhelmed. A little romance, a little drama between the “downstairs” British servants and “upstairs” Irish residents of a sprawling Irish country house, but there’s not much else there.