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review 2016-02-15 00:00
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. - Adelle Waldman Well that sure was the least romantic book about love that I've ever read.

This pretty much was a Woody Allen movie in book form. I suppose the author intended to make her protagonist loathsome and the women characters who were supposed to be mold-breaking not so mold-breaking. There were some scenes and interactions that I could genuinely identify with and the writing is decent. But intellectualizing about things like racialism (?), class and gentrification made it seem like everyone related to writing and publishing are entitled self-absorbed pricks who live in a bubble.
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review 2015-12-29 17:09
The Last Reviews of 2015
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir - Felicia Day
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Ellen Forney,Sherman Alexie
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. - Adelle Waldman
Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke
Snark: A Polemic in Seven Fits (It's Mean, It's Personal, and It's Ruining Our Conversation) - David Denby

In the build up to the holidays and winding down of the year, I’ve basically stopped reviewing—too many books, not enough time. Instead of trying to cram them in, or ignore them altogether, I’ve decided to do a little summary post for the most notable books I read in November and December so I can feel a little better about the year, and start off fresh in 2016.

 

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day (5 stars)

           

Felicia Day is delightful. I’ve been a fan since the early days of The Guild when it debuted on the Xbox video service, and have followed her on social media and various geeky roles on TV (Buffy and Supernatural especially). She is smart, enthusiastic, a little awkward, and very real, as this book proves. While some might call it a memoir, I don’t think it paints the kind of complete picture that label implies, but is more of a highlight reel of the various events and experiences that formed her interests and led her to become, as she calls it, “situationally famous,” or as I would say, Queen of the Geeks. All hail the Queen!

 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (5 stars)

           

This is a book that performs that rare brand of narrative magic that allows you to laugh while your heart is breaking. It regularly tops the Most Challenged Books list again and again, and now I know why: it is too honest for people who only want kids exposed to sugar-coated reality. Arnold Spirit, Jr. may be one of the most fantastic first person narrators I’ve ever encountered.

 

The Love Affairs of Nathanial P. by Ayelet Waldman (4 stars)

           

Waldman has created a plotless, meandering character study of a selfish douchebag—and I found it absolutely fascinating. Her psychological observations and almost anthropological take on human behavior makes the book a strong study of an unlikable but believably real person. It is also a damning black comedy that takes aim at a particular sub-set of inert, pseudo-intellectual urbanites with first world problems and makes them all look suitably ridiculous.

 

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke (4 stars)

           

I tackled this in an effort to read more classic sci-fi, since the trailer for the mini-series adaptation intrigued me. This is, perhaps, a lesser-known Clarke work, and was written very early in his career, which I think is a little obvious in his style. It is a strange book—not in its plot, which served to give us many of the tropes that have now become overused—but in its presentation and structure. The story is delivered almost exclusively through exposition, there are few characters to latch on to, and some of the ideas are a bit pat, even for the 1950s. But, maybe surprisingly, I really enjoyed it. It is a testament to Clarke’s powers of imagination that he made it interesting with such a dry presentation, and his use of a couple of “shocking” reveals didn’t feel too gimmicky. Clarke was ahead of his time in many ways, predicting accurately the rise of certain technologies and scientific breakthroughs, but sociologically a bit backward. His ideas about the end of racism in the future were interesting but terribly naïve, and he gives women almost no thought at all except as convenient plot devices with very little agency.

 

Snark: A Polemic in Seven Fits by David Denby (3 stars)

           

Snark is a short book—or a long essay—on (surprise) snark and its influence on our cultural conversation, from a very particular middle class, critical perspective. Not to be confused with satire, irony, or sarcasm, snark as defined by Denby, is a particularly virulent and lazy sort of “inside” joke that relies on tired stereotypes and veiled forms of racism, sexism, ableism, etc. The anonymity of the Internet breeds an increasingly nasty form of it that I agree is infecting the way we communicate. While this book comes off as soapboxy from time to time, it did make me take a look at the way we talk about things, and how snark has become a catch-all word for wit, when it is in fact something less sophisticated and much less pleasant. In many ways, it has wormed its way into our conversation, and bred a particular kind of asshole that I really wish would go away. I am not as big a fan of Denby as I was when I was in college, but I still found things to consider in his analysis; I especially appreciate his ability to tie in the nonsense of Lewis Carroll's famous poem "The Hunting of the Snark" with the concept of snark as a form of communication with tenuous identity.

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text 2014-07-12 18:58
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. - Adelle Waldman

Before I read this book, I gathered that the main character would be a sharp satire of a certain kind of intellectual, privilege-blinded guy. He is that, but I wasn't expecting to see so much of myself in him, or to sympathize. But I think everyone in this book is carefully drawn so that the reader can see what makes him or her tick--even if Nathaniel P can't. (And he actually can, much of the time; the greater part of his poor treatment of other characters is executed in spite of, not in ignorance of, their feelings about it.) Brooklyn and its literati are keenly observed, and though there is a certain enviable glamour in their blase parties, writing achievements, and trendy restaurants, it's also clear how much they all coast on a certain willful ignorance about labor, success, and what matters. Nathaniel P may be a terrible boyfriend, but his shortcomings are of a piece with those of his community. 

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text 2014-04-15 23:24
#ReadWomen2014 Seriously. Do it.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove -
Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays - Zadie Smith
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. - Adelle Waldman
The People of Forever Are Not Afraid - Shani Boianjiu
The White Album: Essays (FSG Classics) - Joan Didion

I heard in a recent interview with one of the writers of the movie Noah explained that they cast all white males because they wanted it to be about the "everyman". It is a ridiculous justification for what probably amounts to a giant oversight. I bring this up because we all have our blind spots and when we are called out on them we could turn out awkward, self-serving justifications or we can take the opportunity to reflect and grow. Read Women 2014 gives us all an opportunity to make inroads on one of these "oversights".

 

I nearly wrote off this movement when it first came to my attention. I thought it was nice, something I might share on my wall, but I am a pretty modern reader. I followed female authors like Zadie Smith and Karen Russel, I am a pretty even-handed reader, I thought. Then I took a minute to actually look at my to-read shelf, aka, the Grand Order of Old White Guys. 

 

I could try to justify it, I do understand that so much of the Western Canon was developed during a period when white males decided they were the only ones that could do that sort of thing, and since they had all the powerful positions everywhere, it remains the vast majority of what was handed down to us. This is not to say that the works that we have inherited are bad, there is a reason my shelf is full of them, but that perspective is necessarily limited. Reading them is fine, but it becomes damaging when we hold on to that mode as the default; when they start seeing white male as the obvious iteration of the "everyman".

 

Read Women 2014 is a great moment to try to change that mode of thinking. It's a chance to throw off old stigmas, when I was a teen Jane Austen seemed to girly, a stance that was deservedly shed along with my Nickelback albums and baggy jeans. I am, as most of you surely are as well, far beyond that, but I still never got back around to reading any Jane Austen. I intend to fix that this year. 

 

It is a way to break the inertia. I have no compelling reason to have read Brian Jay Jones's biography of Jim Henson over Karen Russell's Vampires in the Lemon Grove. They are both good books, but, in fact, the latter is much more interesting. I picked up Jim Henson because I like the muppets, but I could have easily picked something else, and that is where we can make a difference. If I take a moment, in every bookstore and library, and try to find something from a female author, then maybe something will sink in; maybe my future shelves won't look quite so much like Norwegian national hockey team. 

 

I know we're pretty far into 2014, but I am hoping to catch some new eyes, and keep the momentum going into the summer. Since we can make the biggest change going forward, I have tried to get living female authors. I will link some here.

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text 2013-12-11 08:54
The 10 Best Debut Novels of 2013
Necessary Errors - Caleb Crain
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. - Adelle Waldman
You Are One of Them - Elliott Holt
In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods - Matt Bell
The Facades - Eric Lundgren
The Panopticon - Jenni Fagan
Tampa - Alissa Nutting
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie - Ayana Mathis
Mira Corpora - Jeff Jackson
Elect H. Mouse State Judge: A Novel - Nelly Reifler

What are yours best books of 2013?

Source: flavorwire.com/428730/the-10-best-debut-novels-of-2013/10
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