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review 2017-11-23 19:37
Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
Love Medicine - Louise Erdrich

This isn’t a terrible book, but I can’t claim to have enjoyed it. Love Medicine is a somewhat awkward merger between novel and short story collection, made up of 17 pieces about two families living on the Ojibwe/Chippewa reservation over the span of about 50 years, from the 1930s to the 1980s. I call it an awkward merger because the stories all feature the same group of characters, but there’s neither the overarching plot you want from a novel nor the neatly encapsulated plots you expect from short stories. Life happens, but it isn’t organized by much plot structure at all.

Still, my dissatisfaction stemmed less from plotting issues and more from the fact that I simply never became invested in these characters. The first chapter was promising enough, but the older generation’s love triangle provided little interest, and something about the characters’ motivations and viewpoints felt off. It certainly doesn’t help that 13 of the 17 stories are told in first person, by 6 different narrators, of both genders, various ages, and from three different generations, and they all sound alike. Which tends to destroy the illusion that we’re hearing from different people, and for that matter, that these are characters at all rather than multiple figments of the same author’s imagination. It’s always baffled me that first-time authors – those least equipped to write multiple narrators successfully – are the most likely to attempt this feat, but I think I’ve hit on the explanation, which is that almost no one, no matter how experienced, can do this well and debut authors are also the least equipped to recognize their limitations.

That said, awhile back I tried to read Erdrich’s most recent novel, LaRose, and bounced off of it, finding the plot diffuse and the characters uninteresting. So it seems most likely that I simply don’t connect with this author’s writing. Fortunately for me, after finishing this I started Anything Is Possible, which provides everything I wanted here – a constellation of linked short stories about beauty and pain in everyday life, with characters and situations that caught and held my attention – albeit featuring white Midwesterners rather than Native Americans.

An endnote about the endnote: removing “The Tomahawk Factory” from the main text because “it interrupted the flow” and then tacking it on to the end just seems to muddle the book’s ending. I read it second-to-last, which happily turns out to be its chronological placement, once I realized it was meant to be part of this book and not a preview for another one.

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text 2017-11-21 14:57
Reading progress update: I've read 129 out of 237 pages.
Family Matters - Anthony Rolls

the book's best quality seems to be a slow determinedness to go deliberately insane. the chemistry/toxicology aspect of the book cannot be accurate, but that doesn't matter, because the absurdity cooked up is so much fun: two poisoners trying to bump off the same dude are unknowingly putting a mixture into his body that is making him fit as a fiddle. if a third poisoner gets into the act, I suppose the guy will be accidentally transformed into Superman. a frothy, delicious Satire, so far! nasty, too.

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text 2017-11-20 22:55
Reading progress update: I've read 75 out of 237 pages.
Family Matters - Anthony Rolls

hmm, a lot of sharks in my entertainment today--just a fluke, I guess (was that a pun? sometimes I don't know...). I watched a Man from UNCLE episode today, and there was nasty, evil Carroll O'Conner with a lagoon full of sharks ready to eat any heroes asking to be tossed in (didn't go that way, haha bad guy, you lose/you lunch!), and then I put on Thunderball, and we have Largo bragging about catching sharks and selling them to eager customers. that's what you do if you're high up in SPECTRE...secondary income is something weird and exotic. 

 

finally, here I am immersed in Family Matters, which you would think would take me a million miles away from sharks...but Robert Kewdingham, now that he's decided not to loaf about and disappoint his wife and relations any more, is actually thinking to go to work as an engineer for a shark farm. proposed shark farm. anyway, I don't think Robert has decided to amount to something in time to avoid the various deaths by poison multiple family(!) members are planning for him.

 

so, sharks as a great selling-product--when people aren't being thrown to them--has been shoved in my face all day, and it's been fun. by the way, this book is perfect so far.

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review 2017-11-20 18:45
The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror by Eric C. Higgs
The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror - Eric C. Higgs

THE HAPPY MAN: A TALE OF HORROR is one bizarre piece of work from the 80's, brought back by Valancourt Books. I finished this book on Saturday and I still am not sure what to make of it!

 

A couple moves in to a new housing development in a suburb of San Diego. Charles Ripley and his wife are mostly on an even keel, despite a tragedy that occurred shortly after the move. Then, the Marsh's move in next door and even though they don't know it, the lives of the Ripley's are soon about to change.

 

First-the good. It is very difficult to put this book down. The chapters are short, (heck, the BOOK is short), and fast paced. Once things start happening, they don't stop happening until the very end.

 

Second-the baffling. I'm not sure what the point of THE HAPPY MAN is supposed to be? I'm pretty sure there's some commentary going on here about housing developments, suburbia, immigration, sex, monogamy, corporate America, family dynamics, drug use, the decline of morals in society and so on, but was that the point? I don't know!

 

Perhaps it's this simple: A man thought he was happy and then was shown that he wasn't? Or that it didn't take all that much to turn a happy, regular guy into something else altogether? Maybe everything is just as much a facade as was Charles Ripley's demeanor? Charles wasn't that good of a guy in the first place and it only took a small nudge to send him down the road of....well, you'll have to read this to find out.

 

I'm going with a 4/5 star rating because I'm still thinking about this short novel days later and also because it was VERY difficult to put down once started. I'm also going with RECOMMENDED, if only so that you and I could talk about it and I could see what you think, when you're done!

 

You can get a copy here: The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror

 

*I received an e-book free from Valancourt Books in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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text 2017-11-20 16:00
Reading progress update: I've read 4 out of 237 pages.
Family Matters - Anthony Rolls

I whizzed through Martin Edwards' Intro, and I'm also aware that he selected this novel as a terrific example of the type of book he discusses in the chapter called "The Ironists", in his reading guide The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. there was no way I was going to put off for long any book filed under "The Ironists"; in fact, it's weird that I waited this long. The Ironists! love the sound of that!...hope the book is amazing! is it irony, if it's not...? maybe Alanis Morissette irony.

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