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text 2018-04-15 18:05
DNF: Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
Night Film - Marisha Pessl

I've recently made a new rule for myself to avoid purchasing or attempting to read a book by a new (to me) author if I've already purchased but not read another work by the same author. Pessl has a new book coming out this year, but I own both Special Topics in Calamity Physics and Night Film and had not read either. I decided to read Night Film first, as I remembered being intrigued by its synopsis and the first several pages I read.

 

I understood it to be literary fiction, but 50 pages in, it felt more like typical genre fiction--not that I never read genre fiction--specifically, noir, which I typically dislike. The protagonist felt like a cross between Sam Spade and Mikael Blomqvist: a disgraced journalist who gets caught up in a mystery involving a reclusive film director. I think I need to stop being seduced by books about filmmakers; this is the second I DNF.

 

The prose got on my nerves fast, especially the overuse of italics. I wondered if perhaps this book intended to do what Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island does, which is exaggerate genre tropes and style for the purpose of representing a character's point of view. After skimming some reviews, it didn't seem so, and i wasn't willing to continue reading to find out.

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review 2017-05-29 21:15
Upside Down
Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling - John Hornor Jacobs,Maurice Broaddus,Rati Mehrotra,Nisi Shawl,Valya Dudycz Lupescu,Elsa Sjunneson-Henry,Michelle Muenzler,Michael R. Underwood,Jaym Gates,Monica Valentinelli

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

3.5/4 stars; I liked quite a few of these short stories, none of them made me roll my eyes, and to be fair, the essays at the end of the book were also quite interesting.

My favourites:

* “Single, Singularity”: While it doesn’t really invert the trope it’s based on, I’m a sucker for AI stories, and this one was both thrilling, and chilling in its ending.

* “Seeking Truth”: The ‘blind psychic’ trope, subverted in that here, the blind person is extremely skilled at reading other people, no need for special powers for that.

* “Can You Tell Me How to Get to Paprika Place?”: A mix of Sesame Stree-like TV shows and jaded ex-super soldiers trying to go home. Very nostalgic, perhaps a wee bit long, but a good read nonetheless.

* “Chosen”: A comic twist on ‘the Chosen’, with jabs at tropes like the gun-toting weapons maniac, the Buffy-like teenager fighting demons, and pedantic occultist scholar. This one was really fun.

* “The White Dragon”: A different take on the ‘yellow peril’, in a 1920s San Francisco (also, I liked revisiting that city in such a light, now that I’ve finally been able to actually travel there).

* “Her Curse, How Gently It Comes Undone”: The Witch and the Damsel In Distress, poised against each other, each with their wiles and strengths, and with the story playing on the trope of men rescuing the Damsel... only they’re not the right people to do the job.

* “Burning Bright”: I really liked the main character here, just the right mix of slightly hinged and yet fairly grounded at the same time.

* “Santa CIS (Episode 1: No Saint)”: This story plays well on both the Santa Claus/Christmas and ‘old soldier goes back to war’ tropes.

* “The First Blood of Poppy Dupree”: At first I thought this would be about werewolves, and it turned out it was something else, which I liked.

* “Until There is Only Hunger”: A strong story, with a definite end-of-the-world feeling, dwindling hope mixed with growing despair, and characters trying to find whatever comfort they can, although this rings more and more hollow. Bonus point for characters not being typical cis/hetero/white.

* “Drafty as a Chain Mail Bikini”: I suspected where this one was going, but I liked it, and it made me laugh.

* “The Tangled Web”: Love at first sight and romance woes... but not among humans, which lent a different dimension to this story.

The essays: definitely read those. They deal with the Hero’s Journey, its limitations, the Heroine’s Journey, its limitations as well, and push further, when it comes to trans and gay/lesbian heroes, which is really needed. Because let’s be honest: it’s already difficult to find a good story where a woman is not reduced to accomplishment = family/motherhood/taking care of others, but it’s even worse when you’re non-binary.

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review 2016-08-25 17:24
Salman Rushdie, The Moor's Last Sigh
The Moor's Last Sigh - Salman Rushdie

Somehow, sometime, I became allergic to the term "family saga" and avoided books labeled as such. I don't know why. The term brings to mind farmhouses and domesticity, kids and family secrets, struggles that are often first world problems I couldn't care less about. But, like stories about Manhattanites and the French Revolution, it's simply a strange prejudice I've come to embrace because SO MANY BOOKS. A girl has to find a way to not feel the need to read All the Things, right? Especially a slow reader like this girl. Yet inevitably such black-balling will make me miss out on some great stuff.

 

The Moor's Last Sigh is explicitly described in its synopsis as a family saga, and boy does it earn the saga aspect. Instead of summarizing the plot myself (a daunting task), here's an excerpt from the back of the book itself:

 

Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie combines a ferociously witty family saga with a surreally imagined and sometimes blasphemous chronicle of modern India and flavors the mixture with peppery soliloquies on art, ethnicity, religious fanaticism, and the terrifying power of love. Moraes "Moor" Zogoiby, the last surviving scion of a dynasty of Cochinese spice merchants and crime lords, is also a compulsive storyteller and an exile. As he travels a route that takes him from India to Spain, he leaves behind a tale of mad passions and volcanic family hatreds, of titanic matriarchs and their mesmerized offspring, of premature deaths and curses that strike beyond the grave.

 

The "titanic matriarchs" were my favorite part of the story: Moor's mother, Aurora, her mother, Belle, and her mother, Epifania are all forces to be reckoned with. In addition to these often outsize examples, there are musings on motherhood itself in the context of India, its prominence in popular culture and national pride. There are many musings in this book on everything you might think of: family, class, race, religion, art, storytelling, history, and more. This sounds like it could be boring, but Rushdie avoids that handily via the entertaining voice of Moor, the narrator, and the sheer power and acrobatics of his prose.

 

When I first began reading the book, I was reminded of Lawrence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, an early novel where the narrator begins with his forebears...and never even reaches his birth. Both books are also suffused with comedy, though Shandy is more of a farce. Moor begins narrating his story in the present, in exile, and shifts to his great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, and his own early life, occasionally returning to the present to remind us of his circumstances before we get there near the end of the story. There are moments when Moor doubts what he's been told of his family, but he never closes the book on an interpretation. Through Moor's telling of his family story and origins, a story of India also emerges. As an American, most of it was new to me.

 

All the characters in the book are fascinating and distinct, and the storytelling and language engages as well. And that's without the magical realism that makes the story feel even more epic and a bit whimsical. It's another element of the narrative that brings to attention the act of storytelling. Though you can feel the magical realism throughout, when it's revealed that Moor ages physically twice as fast as a normal person, it kicks into high gear. It leads to all sorts of complications for Moor, some uncomfortable to read, but most of all, along with a withered hand, makes him desperate for love. It doesn't take long for that desperation to lead to his (almost) ruin.

 

The Moor's Last Sigh is an amazing journey and my first Rushdie. I'll happily read more.

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review 2016-06-14 16:06
A love letter to the literary giants of science fiction
Arkwright - Allen Steele

I had high hopes for Arkwright by Allen Steele because the premise sounded so promising. A sci-fi book about a sci-fi author (touted as being a contemporary of Isaac Asimov) that bankrolled a gargantuan scientific project that could only be cooked up by a sci-fi enthusiast? Yes, please! The basic outline of this book is that through multiple generations of one family, the Arkwright clan, an interstellar space craft would be created and launched into the vast reaches of space in the hopes of colonizing a distant planet for future human inhabitation. Each section of the book focused on a different descendant of the original creator, Nathan Arkwright. The major problem for me was that I didn't especially like any of these characters. It isn't a necessity to like the characters you read about of course but it helps if you feel invested in them because otherwise their actions make no difference to you one way or the other...which is what happened to me. Halfway through, I almost gave this book up as a lost cause but I decided to soldier through in the hopes that the ending would knock my socks off. It did and it didn't. You can probably guess what the last chapter of a book about interstellar travel will contain but if you're looking for a huge crescendo then you're going to be disappointed. When I was contemplating giving this one up I looked up other reviews and someone mentioned how it would have been better if the ending had been expanded further. I agree. By focusing on the management of the company, the fiscal pitfalls, the construction of the ship, and the foibles of each of the family members Steele missed an opportunity to really knock it out of the park. If you're a huge sci-fi nerd (as I am) then you most likely won't fall in love with this book but if you're new to the genre or a fan of the generation ship trope then maybe this one will be a win for you. 4/10 for a great concept that didn't really deliver.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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url 2016-06-04 23:33
In Defence of Cliches - Writer Unboxed

Photo by Flickr user Tom Newby

 

 

Fifteen minutes of perusing the worldwide internet will give you a melting pot of advice about clichés, all of which boils down to one simple statement: Clichés are bad...

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