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review 2015-10-02 20:39
List of the Lost by Morrissey
Tender Buttons - Gertrude Stein
I Know What You Did Last Summer - Lois Duncan
Maxine Wore Black - Nora Olsen
The Young Visiters - Daisy Ashford
List of the Lost - Morrissey

[This is a review of Morrissey's novel List of the Lost.
However I am unable to "connect" my post to the book as it is only available in the UK.

I also tried to "connect" this post to my own book because I mention it briefly, and I learned that booklikes has misspelled my name. Thanks so much, booklikes.]

 

 

I loved this novel. It was so strange and idiosyncratic, so different from anything else I’ve ever read. Morrissey writes like Daisy Ashford all grown up. Ostensibly set in Boston in the 1970s, the story actually took place in a surreal landscape that was not meant to have the verisimilitude of any particular time and place. I enjoyed the lyricism of the writing, and in particular I don’t think I have ever read any finer descriptions of death or awkward sex.

 

Usually in a book, you get a lot of warning when a character is going to die, but I was taken by surprise again and again and again here. And that’s what it’s actually like in real life. The random cruelty of death is put across very effectively in this story, and this is the realism created by the seeming unreality of the plot.

 

List of the Lost reminded me a lot of Gertrude Stein’s book of poetry Tender Buttons, which is also extremely unusual and non-conformist. Both of those books are so far from the mainstream that I struggle to explain/defend why I like them so much, because they’re indescribably lacking in point of reference. I think the key is that with these two books, I had to engage and grapple with them and so the experience is about me plus the book, rather than the usual experience where a book conforms to my expectations and plays a movie in my mind so I don’t really have to do any work.

 

I’m a writer, and in the publishing industry as a whole there’s incredible pressure to conform, conform, conform and please the gatekeepers and grab the reader by the throat in the opening paragraph. I really appreciate how Morrissey totally short circuited all that. It’s incredibly refreshing to see someone follow their own star and write whatever the hell they want and then get published by Penguin.

 

I was delighted or deeply moved from the first page to the last. One of the most affecting and true-to-life parts was the death of one of the character’s mothers. And something that just tickled me tremendously was an extended description of the TV show Bonanza. List of the Lost also surprisingly turned out to be something of a page turner. I started off reading it very slowly, wanting to savor it all and make sure I comprehended it, but by the end I was just racing through, wondering what would happen next.

 

As a big Morrissey fan, I enjoyed reading his time-honored themes (such as the perfidy of: the royal family, the police, the meat/murder industry, Margaret Thatcher, and child murderers) but this time through the medium of fiction. It was so his voice that I felt as though I was hearing him read aloud.

 

One of the most striking things was Morrissey’s iconoclastic disregard for what anyone thinks. It’s not just the evil people in power he’s unafraid to offend, it’s everyone. Does it seem backward and unhelpful to have the villain who’s a child molester and murderer also be a gay man who frequents drag clubs? Sure. Does Morrissey shrink from having one of his characters opine that some child victims are asking for it? No, he goes right ahead and includes this abhorrent idea. Although I’m usually so easily offended, none of this bothered me because I was just so taken with the irrepressible spirit of the story. (But trigger warning for these things!)

 

I can’t help but notice that a lot of people really don’t seem to like this book. I’m kind of baffled. Yes, it’s weird but it’s good. I do feel a special kinship with Morrissey’s unique sensibility, but so do a LOT of other people, and Morrissey fans are ten a penny. So...? I was wondering when I was reading it if part of the reason I loved it was just that I love Morrissey. But context can’t be escaped from, it’s always there, and if I like him wearing one hat why wouldn’t I like him wearing another hat, especially when he brings the same originality, passion, and elegiac quality to fiction as to songwriting. But I don’t think you need to bring some special knowledge to this novel in order to like it or “understand” it. In the opening, List of the Lost seemed plotless and it brought Balanchine’s plotless ballets to my mind. And I started thinking about what Balanchine said about watching ballet; you don’t have to know anything, you just open your eyes and look at it and think, Is this beautiful? Does this mean something to me? Do I like this? That was kind of what I was asking myself as I read this unusual book and the answer was always yes, yes, yes. But I am going to lend List of the Lost to my friend Rebecca who is one of the smartest people I know (and yet she does not listen to Morrissey and she teaches college English) to see what she makes of it. Obviously, as with any book, it’s a matter of taste, but where are the other folks who think this tastes delicious? Part of me wants to be this book’s champion because it isn’t being appreciated, but the rest of me realizes that this book can stand on its own two feet and does not need me of all people to be its champion. (Also, if Morrissey were unable to withstand bad reviews and mockery, then he could not be still alive today.)

 

Morrissey’s novel also made me think a lot about my own so-called writing. As it happens, my most recently published book was also a gothic romance. My number one concern was the portrayal and representation of marginalized people, but beyond that literally my only aims were to make the book as accessible and entertaining as I could. And now I feel like, why? Okay, I write YA instead of literary fiction, but what is so great about trying to please people? (Which by the way does not work.) Isn’t there more to writing than trying to churn out a potboiler that adheres to certain conventions of how a story is supposed to be told? What do I really have to say? If I cast aside everything I think I know about my narrative identity, who or what am I as a writer? Or am I even a writer? I believe I have a lot to learn from the unabashed individuality of List of the Lost.

 

Now I am going to get specific about some things that happen in the story, so if you don’t want to know what happens, it’s time for you to stop reading. Spoiler alert, okay?...

 

List of the Lost is about a college men’s relay team on the cusp of incredible success in their sport. The four runners are physically at the peak of perfection and they have an easy and loving friendship. Then they are at some sort of runners’ retreat, and in the woods they unexpectedly encounter a repulsive old vagrant who however has a sympathetic backstory which he relates in a long soliloquy. At that point I had to stop reading, so my mind was spinning about what would happen next. In the hands of a hack (i.e. like myself), the old man would lay a curse on them and then one by one some terrible supernatural thing would befall each runner and they would certainly not win their big race and perhaps some or all of them would die. Well, in a way that’s not too far off, but my version would be very Lois Duncan/Final Destination. What Morrissey actually chose to do, though, is for the old man to try to sexually assault Ezra, one of the runners. Ezra hits him and the man falls down stone dead. (Let me say again, people die very abruptly in this novel!) The friends hide the body and run off. Then not long after, Harri’s mother dies and while Harri is at the very bottom of despair, a drug dealer who may be some sort of ghost or may be just an ordinary drug dealer, sells Harri everything he needs to end his pain and die by suicide. The remaining three are wracked with sadness and start to question the point of everything. Then a ghost appears to Ezra asking him to uncover the body of her child who was murdered decades ago. Actually, I’m going to leave it at that. List of the Lost turned out to be far from plotless; there were a lot of exciting things that happened and there was a very clear trajectory to the action. But the plot was not the main thing. And I can’t deliver the “main thing” to you in a book review. You’re going to have to find out for yourself.

 

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review 2014-01-02 05:20
Best of 2013 and 1913, Part Two: 2013 YA
Homeland - Cory Doctorow
Rapture Practice - Aaron Hartzler
Proxy - Alex London
This Song Will Save Your Life - Leila Sales
Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
Darius & Twig - Walter Dean Myers
More Than This - Patrick Ness
Stealing Second: Sam's Story - Barbara L. Clanton
Another 365 Days - K.E. Payne
The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau

Have I mentioned how handsome my cat is?

Top Ten:

 

Homeland by Cory Doctorow

Sequel to Little Brother. Whistleblowing, kidnapping by government agents, peaceful protests aided by technology, nerdy activism, the “War on Terror,” and Burning Man. This book is perfect. Very brief review here.

 

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

You don’t see a lot of YA memoir. This one is really terrific. About a boy growing up in a strict fundamentalist Christian family. Turns out, he’s gay. That sounds a bit ho-hum, but Hartzler tells his story in a really nuanced, compassionate, and funny way.

 

Proxy by Alex London

In my review, I said, “Think M.T. Anderson's Feed meets Lloyd Alexander's The Black Cauldron, with some queer content thrown in.” In a world just like ours (only more so), a few are super-rich and everyone else is in debt they can never pay off. When the rich break the rules, their proxies are punished for them. What happens when a Patron and Proxy meet? I realize that this summary makes it seem kind of porn-y, but it’s not.

 

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales (Author’s original title: “Last of the Famous International Party Girls,” then “My Suicide Playlist.”)

Elise has been bullied at school forever and is getting quietly desperate. Then she stumbles upon a secret nighttime warehouse dance party and meets dreamy Char (short for “DJ This Charming Man”), who teaches her to be a DJ. Elise’s life is completely transformed by music and meeting people who. . . it’s not that they don’t care about being cool, they just have a wildly different sense of what being cool means.   

 

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I kept reading reviews of this book, and the synopsis always made me say, “Feh.” But after encountering so many rave reviews, I decided to try it, and I loved it. Let’s see if this synopsis makes you say “Feh.”

It’s 1986, in Omaha, and the story is told in alternating viewpoints. Eleanor’s life is awful because her abusive stepfather won’t allow her to have things like toiletries and new clothes. Because of the above and the fact that she’s fat and has a kooky sense of style, everyone at school thinks she’s a freak. Park, who sits next to her on the bus, thinks so too, but over time he lets her read his comics over his shoulder. Then he notices she has Smiths song titles written on her notebook, but it turns out that she’s never actually heard the Smiths because of course she has no cassettes. This is the most depressing thing Park has ever heard, so he makes her a tape. True love blossoms.

This book kind of has everything because it’s nerdy, it’s sexy, it’s sad and it’s uplifting. Also mostly it seems like stark realism but there’s one pivotal thing that the abusive stepfather does that in the context of the novel is creepy, but when you compare it to real life, it’s like, wow, if only real abusive adults would leave it at that and not do the actual stuff they do. So it’s kind of a mix of realism and wish fulfillment. The writing is so strong that it actually made me question one of the core elements of my being: the fact that I hate the Joy Division song “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Eleanor and Park describe this song so lovingly and make it sound so awesome that I thought, “Hmm, I must be wrong.” But no, I still don’t like it.

Also, there’s a the lack of diversity in YA and it’s very rare to have an Asian/biracial protagonist (Park is Korean and white) especially in a love story, so that was cool.

 

Darius & Twig by Walter Dean Myers

Two friends, a writer and a runner, have big ambitions, but it’s hard to get by in Harlem where they live. Walter Dean Myers is a national treasure—no, he’s a treasure for the whole planet.

 

More Than This by Patrick Ness

This is no ordinary book. The really cool cover that has a tiny door in it led me to hope that might be the case, and then my dreams came true. As the book opens, the main character Seth drowns. Then he wakes up, in what seems to be his childhood home in England, but the whole neighborhood is deserted. Or is it? You can’t take anything at face value in this book. If you look back at my review (in Best of 2013: Fiction) of The Arrivals by Melissa Marr that has a somewhat similar plot, you’ll see that I questioned whether whether true conceptual originality is even possible. Well, this novel shows that it is, perversely because it plays with the tropes that we’re all so accustomed to. Is any of the stuff that happens to Seth even really happening? If that sounds annoying, well, it is. When I finished the book, I felt frustrated, because even though the story was delivering the true nature of reality (as follows: you have no idea what’s real), I expect a book to have a certain novelistic sense of closure and explanation because it’s not real life, it’s a book. But then I kept on thinking about this book for a long time so I decided that it was a very profound reading experience where a little bit of frustration was okay. Similar to the experience I had with The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann except that this book is quick and fun and easy to read and has a lot of action and also queer content.

 

Stealing Second: Sam’s Story by Barbara Clanton

Full disclosure: Barbara Clanton is a writer friend. I have read almost all of her books and enjoyed them all. This book is in a series about lesbian high school baseball players, and this is my new favorite in the series. Each book in the series is told from a different POV. This one is about Sam, a poor little rich girl who doesn’t have much of a relationship with her parents, but luckily she has a close friendship with her childhood nanny, who has stayed on as a sort of family retainer. Sam has a girlfriend Lisa who she’s very happy with but Sam doesn’t feel ready to come out yet. There is a big plot twist that took me by surprise. Brief review here.

 

Another 365 Days by KE Payne

Sequel to 365 Days. Basically a lesbian Diary of Adrian Mole. Fluffy and fun. I love the main character Clemmie’s daft ways and the fun British slang like “fit as the butcher’s dog.”

 

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

It’s not the plot that makes this book great. This is standard dystopian fare—teens living under evil regime must compete in a contest where only some will come out alive, &c. It’s just really tight and well-written and fun. A total page turner.

 

What else?

 

Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell

A girl’s first year in college seems doomed because all she wants to do is write slash fanfiction and her identical twin sister wants to individuate herself from her, but then there’s a dreamy boy.

 

Unthinkable by Nancy Werlin

Companion novel/sequel to Impossible. A girl who has been trapped in a fairy realm is told she can leave, if she destroys her family.

 

The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

Victorian orphan and child FBI agent must foil evil time travel plot.

 

Thorn Abbey by Nancy Ohlin

A retelling of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca, set in a boarding school (just like in New Girl, one of the 2012 retellings.) Has a cool supernatural element and twisty ending. 

 

The Culling by Steven Dos Santos

It’s that rarest of creatures, a gay dystopian YA novel! Teens living under evil regime must compete in a contest where only some will come out alive, plus queer content.

 

Shadows by Robin McKinley

Maggie lives in a world where magic is possible but forbidden. She doesn’t like her new stepfather because he has strange shadows that follow him around.

 

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

I admire this book because it is the first YA novel that has two boys kissing on the cover. I think it was clever of Levithan to base the book on the true story of two guys breaking the world record for longest kiss. I esteem Levithan for promoting diversity in YA even further by having one of his seven gay male teen main characters in the book be Korean-American and another be transgender. And in theory I appreciate the idea of having the book narrated by a Greek chorus of gay men who have died of AIDS. Everything about this book gave me the warm fuzzies, except for the reading it part. To be completely candid, I was incredibly bored every single second I was reading this book and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. It’s fair to say that I encountered this book at the absolute lowest point in my life (so far), and that may have something to do with my inability to jump on the love train for Two Boys Kissing.

 

In The After by Demitria Lunetta

Zombielike creatures have taken over the world but Amy has managed to survive for several years with a toddler in her fortress-like apartment. A chain of events leads her to a compound that’s safe from the creatures, but will this protected colony turn out to be a dystopia?

 

The Loop by Shandy Lawson

Ben and Maggie are forced to repeat the same two days that end in their deaths, over and over.

 

Moxie and the Art of Rule-Breaking by Erin Dionne

A girl gets involved in an art heist and treasure hunt in Boston. This book is actually Middle Grade (for pre-adolescents), not YA.

 

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

Along with four other kids, Justine is the subject of a series of documentaries (like the 7 Up series.) That was all very well and good when she was little, but now it’s ruining her life.

 

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

A girl must travel back in time to kill someone. You won’t be surprised by anything that happens, but hey, time travel is always fun.

 

Tides by Betsy Cornwell

It’s about selkies! Also featuring eating disorders, transracial adoption, and queer content. Why do paranormal stories always involve a romance with a really creepy age gap?

 

The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The final (?) book in this series about what happens when the moon is knocked out of orbit, unleashing cosmic destruction on the earth.

 

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry

Thriller about a girl who wakes up with amnesia and someone is trying to kill her.

 

Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

Girl discovers sinister happenings at prestigious New York City ballet school. Full review here.

 

Next up: 2013 Non-fiction/Memoir

This is taking longer than I thought, so it might be a few days.

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review 2013-10-04 13:07
Marian Keyes - Märchenprinz
Märchenprinz: Roman - Marian Keyes

Klappentext:
Vier Frauen. Ein Mann. Ein dunkles Geheimnis.
Lola scheint sich den Traummann gesichert zu haben: Paddy de Courcy ist charmant, mächtig und unglaublich gut aussehend. Und er gibt seine Verlobung bekannt! Nur leider mit einer anderen…
Lola ist am Boden zerstört. Sie zieht sich an die wilde irische Westküste zurück und trauert ausgiebig. Dann wird sie unvermutet von der Journalistin Grace aufgestöbert. Auch ihr wurde von Paddy übel mitgespielt. Sie braucht dringend Lolas Hilfe. Und konfrontiert sie mit einer schrecklichen Wahrheit.

 

Inhalt:
Paddy de Courcy,  ein irischer Politiker gibt seine Verlobung bekannt, aber seine zukünftige Frau ist nicht Lola, wie sie es sich erhofft hatte, sondern Alicia, eine für sie völlig unbekannte Person. Neben Lola sind noch zwei weitere Frauen schwer betroffen, denn Grace Gildee und Marny, ihre Schwester stehen in einem besonderen Verhältnis zu ihm.
Lola, die so geschockt darüber ist, dass Paddy heiratet, vermasselt einen Auftrag als Stylistin nach dem anderen, und zieht sich erst einmal in ein kleines Haus an der irischen Westküste zurück. Die ständigen Anrufe der Journalistin Grace Gildee ignoriert sie, da sie einfach nicht darüber reden will und alles erst einmal vergessen will. Aber Grace hat auch ihre Probleme,  denn auch sie hatte Kontakt zu Paddy und war als seine Ghostwriterin beschäftigt, aber nicht nur dies bereitet ihr Sorgen. Denn da ist noch ihre Schwester Marny, die zwar auf der einen Seite glücklich verheiratet ist und zwei Töchter hat, aber auf der anderen Seite über ihre Jugendliebe Paddy de Courcy immer noch nicht hinweg ist und immer weiter dem Alkohol verfällt.

 

Meinung:
“Märchenprinz” ist mein nun mittlerweile dritter Roman von Marian Keyes und selten habe ich einem Buch so ambivalent gegenüber gestanden. Auf der einen Seite ist es das grundlegende Thema “Gewalt in der Beziehung”, dass mit gut umgesetzt ist und all seine Facetten zeigt, auf der anderen Seite steht aber auch der teilweise furchtbare Schreibstil. Zugegeben Marian Keyes moralisiert nicht, aber wer ein typisches Chick-Lit-Buch mit Spaß und Liebe erwartet, der ist mit einem anderen Buch sicher besser bedient.
Die Idee mit den vier Frauen, die all ihre Geschichte mit Paddy und ihr derzeitiges Leben erzählen ist sicherlich auch gut gemacht und es wird auch deutlich abgegrenzt anhand den Kapitelüberschriften, aber teilweise war dennoch einfach zu viel. Vor allem die Parts von Lola waren für mich sehr schwer zu lesen, da ihre Sätze, die sie ins Tagebuch schreibt, sehr abgehackt sind, fand ich extrem nervend und furchtbar. Gelinde gesagt wären die Teile von Grace und Marny nicht im Erzählstil geschrieben, hätte ich das Buch schon nach wenigen Seiten zugeklappt worden.
Insgesamt gesehen fand ich die Story auch etwas langatmig. Die Lebensgeschichten der vier Frauen und wie sie zusammenhängen, waren sehr interessant geschrieben worden, aber irgendwie hatte ich immer wieder das Gefühl, dass Marian Keyes gar nicht weiß wie sie das Buch beenden soll. Soll es nun eine Lebensgeschichte der vier Frauen werden oder will sie doch noch Paddy de Courcys Verhalten aufdecken. Erst im letzten Drittel des Buches kommt dann so etwas wie Klarheit in die Sache und nun habe ich mich nur noch gefragt, wie lässt sie die Geschichte zu Ende gehen. Und ja der “Märchenprinz” hat ein Ende, aber erwartet man dies auch nach all den Seiten in dieser Form? Ich weiß es nicht, aber dennoch bin ich mit dem Ende zufrieden. Auch wenn dieses mich das Buch nicht in einem besseren Licht erscheinen lässt.
Fazit: Ein Buch mit einem brisantem Thema, aber das mich sprachlich und auch inhaltlich nicht restlos überzeugt hat.

 

Buchinfo:
Marian Keyes – Märchenprinz (This charming Man)
Taschenbuch 864 Seiten
Heyne 2010
ISBN-13: 978-3453406377
Preis: 9,99 €

Source: woerterkatze.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/marian-keyes-marchenprinz
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review 2012-03-17 00:00
Saint Morrissey: A Portrait of This Char... Saint Morrissey: A Portrait of This Charming Man by an Alarming Fan - Mark Simpson For the history of pop music and culture alone, this book is worth reading. The scathing wit and critical analysis of Morrissey in regards to his times and influences as seen in his lyrics is impressive. I still think this book reads more like a gender studies thesis than a fandom biography, but perhaps as one outside of the charged rhetoric I'm missing a point. Needless, Simpson's use of quotes from various media sources provides an intriguing glimpse into the enigma that is Morrissey. Before the end of this book, which I dragged out reading as long as I could to prolong the experience, I had trawled iTunes for music and searched for another Simpson book. What can I say, his style is persuasive.
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review 2010-06-28 00:00
This Charming Man - Marian Keyes I don't know if it was over my doltish, American sensibilities or what (I'm leaning towards the former), but I just couldn't get into this novel's groove and gave up at chapter four.
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