I want to say awesome things about Housekeeping.
I want to tell you how much I loved the novel, how much the characters moved me, and how engaged I was by Marilynne Robinson’s story.
But I can’t.
If I had to describe Housekeeping in one word, it’s this: Dull.
Sorry to those of you who love this novel, but I could simply never engage with this story. I’m not saying Housekeeping didn’t have its high points, many of which I’ve shared with you in other blog posts.
For example, I still love this passage. Read more
Finally, it’s done.
I don’t recall taking this long to read a novel in quite some time. I previewed A House for Mr. Biswas on December 9 and I’m reviewing it today. That’s nearly two months.
This is a dense novel. It’s a very good, well-written novel, but it’s a dense novel. I’d compare it to drinking a stout. You don’t sit down and chug a stout, or you’re going to have serious problems, like bloating–and maybe vomiting. You have to drink it in small doses. Read more
Confession: I never got into Lucky Jim like I expected to.
This was a novel I looked forward to since I first learned its premise. Lucky Jim is a short satirical novel. But despite its brevity, I took over a month to read it.
I just couldn’t ever “get into” Lucky Jim. I’d sit down to read and lose interest after about 10 pages. For a 250 page novel, that’s a lot of short reading spurts, which makes it difficult to stay in tune to a novel and its story.
But, finally, I finished the novel, and I report back to you today. Lucky Jim was mildly entertaining, somewhat dry, and somewhat reminiscent of Anthony Powell’s writing style (you might remember him from the dreadful A Dance To The Music of Time).
I’ll give it a C. Read more
As you probably know by now, The Confessions of Nat Turner is loosely based on a true story. And I use “loosely” in the true sense of the word. Very few facts were known about Nat Turner’s life, so William Styron took a lot of liberty in filling in those gaps.
The story is about a massive slave revolt that took place in 1831 in Virginia. Nat Turner was an extremely smart, self-educated, seemingly mild-mannered, polite slave who, after years of abuse, felt led by God to eventually murder as many white people as possible. He recruited a few dozen other slaves and eventually killed 55 white people over the course of two days.
The story is riveting, and Styron is creative in how he approaches telling it. He jumps back and forth between Nat’s confession to his lawyer and the events Nat is describing—his childhood, the different slaveowners he worked under, his “vision” from God, and ultimately the details of recruiting other slaves and the rebellion itself. Read more
“If you want to read a book by a man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvelously well, read Appointment in Samarra.” -Ernest Hemingway
That’s pretty high praise from Papa.
And having completed Appointment in Samarra, I must agree. This is a fabulous novel.
I’ve heard Appointment in Samarra called a “Poor Man’s Gatsby,” and I believe that’s a perfect description. Read more
I’ve been looking forward to reading The Sportswriter since the first time I saw its inclusion on the Time list.
At one point in my life, I thought I might want to be a sportswriter some day, until I realized I’d probably be writing about high school lacrosse and women’s softball the first few years of my career, so I decided against it.
But I do read a lot of sports writing. With newspapers, and even magazines to some degree, dying off, I spend a lot of time reading online blogs and sites like Deadspin, SB Nation, and Outkick the Coverage.
But The Sportswriter is set in the 1980s, during a time when newspapers were the predominant way most of us received our information. The story features Frank Bascombe, a failed-novelist-turned-sportswriter in his late 30s—coming off a recent divorce and still dealing with the death of his son.
If you thought Richard Ford simply wrote a novel about sports, you’re dead wrong.
Bascombe is a likeable, brutally honest guy, and he’s one of the most philosophical, introspective narrators I’ve read in a long time, like this passage in which he’s trying to figure out women. Read more
Wow. It “only” took me about two months, but I’ve finally completed the epic known as The Lord of the Rings.
As I’ve said before, I had only read about half the novel before inexplicably putting it down many years ago without finishing. What was I thinking?
The Lord of the Rings is, quite possibly, the best novel ever written.
I don’t say that ironically, and I’m not saying that to troll. I really mean it. But, of course, as is everything on this blog, that’s just my opinion—which is reflected in my rankings.
You know the story, right? Read more