logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Literary
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-07-17 18:35
Reservation Blues, by Sherman Alexie
Reservation Blues - Sherman Alexie

This is my first Alexie and not my last. I'm struggling with what to say about it and how because somehow this not-huge novel feels like it's packed in everything about Indian (as they refer to themselves) culture with its focus on a particular reservation and a rock band's steep rise and fall. It does so with deadpan humor and a mix of the fantastic and real that calls to mind magical realism but is distinctive. It's necessarily sad yet not depressing--there's the humor, and there's wonder and hope. There's not an insignificant or uncharismatic character in the book. I feel like I've taken a long, strange trip with them and wish them well.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-07-15 20:20
Every Man Dies Alone Publisher: Melville House; Reprint edition - Hans Fallada

An extraordinary novel I am embarrassed to say I was not aware of until Melville Books (bless them) sent me a notice about it. Where the hell have I been?

 

Primo Levi called EVERY MAN DIES ALONE "The greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis."

 

The Montreal Gazette said, "It is no wonder the work's reception in the English-speaking world has been the journalistic equivalent of a collective dropped jaw."

 

It is not only politically important (dare I say, especially in these times?), but it extraordinarily readable. Riveting, in fact. Every character crackles with vibrancy, every decision is perfectly credible. There isn't a speck of cliche. It is heartbreaking, sometimes very funny, thrilling, exhausting, beautiful and ironically life-affirming. The small man/woman, going about life. Being brave beyond measure, even in the face of . . . well, you know.

 

You may be thinking you've read quite enough books about WWI. May I humbly suggest that unless you've read EVERY MAN DIES ALONE you need to read just one more.

I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-07-13 18:18
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Penguin Essentials) - Patrick Süskind ,John E. Woods

How I loved this book! The writing is magical and so inspiring, and the story's pretty damn good as well. When I first read it, years ago, I remember thinking I had never read anything quite like it. What a tour de forces. I suggest my students read it to understand what can be done when writing deeply from the senses. 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-07-12 15:02
The Book of Dahlia, by Elisa Albert
The Book of Dahlia - Elisa Albert

Dahlia Finger is kind of an asshole. She's 29 and spends her days sprawled out on her couch, smoking weed and watching movies, funded by her well-off father. One night she has a seizure and learns that she has a brain tumor. Though no one will actually say it, she doesn't have long to live.

 

This is not one of those novels of illness where there's redemption ahead or that's supposed to make you hopeful and grateful for life (beyond not having a brain tumor). For that reason, I appreciated and responded to it. Unlike all the books on cancer Dahlia and her parents buy in bulk that say "you can beat this thing" if only you have the right attitude, in effect making you responsible (and to blame) for your own illness, The Book of Dahlia illustrates how we as a culture fail to deal with mortality. Though it's not addressed specifically in the novel, I personally wonder how much that American idea of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is at play, which easily translates into victim-blaming when one can't.

 

One of the platitudes often given regarding illness and healing is that a sufferer must let go of old resentments and anger, that these can make or keep one sick. As Dahlia considers and recounts her past, it's clear she has almost nothing but resentments, from a mother who essentially abandoned her family to the older brother, once close, who took out his own pain on her in the cruelest ways. Throughout her life she's plainly asked for help and been ignored. Maybe it says something about me that I couldn't blame her for her stubbornness in forgiving and forgetting. It feels like the only way she's able to have any agency during her illness.

 

If this sounds grim, it's not, or not only! Dahlia's voice is often funny, enough to make me laugh out loud while reading. Her humor may be bitter, but that suits me fine. At the end of the book there was a reading group guide that asked more than one question about whether one is able to sympathize with her; I absolutely could. I often like female characters in popular culture that others find abrasive, though I often wonder how much it's about gender.

 

The toughest and most affecting aspect of this book was the relationship between Dahlia and her older brother. As a younger sister myself, I'm always interested in and more sensitive to depictions of that dynamic. It broke my heart to read about the turn their relationship takes, how long Dahlia holds out and has faith in him, even insulting herself to get ahead of his insulting her. I both wanted and did not want Dahlia to forgive him. It made me want to call my own brother and thank him for not being a dick!

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-07-10 22:12
Sarah Phillips by Andrea Lee
Sarah Phillips - Andrea Lee

This is a very well-written book, clear and evocative, and I particularly liked the early chapters, which evoke suburban childhood summers and follow the young protagonist through her first encounters with race. Sadly, the later part of the book didn’t jive as well for me, though the writing is equally good. The chapters are episodic to the point that it resembles a short story collection more than a novel (some of them appear to have been published independently), which I wasn’t expecting. It was also odd, given that this is presented as a semi-autobiographical work and people who meet the narrator identify her as black, to see a picture of the author – she looks vaguely southern European, perhaps Hispanic, and I struggled to reconcile that with a book about coming of age as an upper-middle-class African-American woman. (I realize that a portion of the author's heritage is African-American and she identifies as such, but that seems to me a vastly different experience from actually looking black.) At any rate, though it didn’t all quite come together for me in the way I expected, this is an elegantly-written and complex work with realistic, nuanced characters, certainly worth the relatively short time it takes to read.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?