This was my first Murakami, and I've since read Kafka on the Shore. I enjoyed both, but this is the one that's lingered more in my imagination. I enjoyed listening to it, but it's been the 'aftertaste,' the lingering effect of its mystery, that I've especially enjoyed. I don't know whether I'll literally re-read it, but I've certainly done so already in my daydreams.
The back and forth is striking. It's a feature I wasn't used to in an audiobook. I don't know how well others would pull it off, but they complement each other very well.
This book turned out to be exactly what I expected: a well-written, deeply imagined Napoleonic world that explores the what-if of dragons serving as an air force in the time of Nelson's navy.
That said, this book was not quite what I hoped for: something that would offer surprises beyond its clever premise. Novik writes with impressive economy, but it too often felt to me as if, knowing she had a winner of an idea, she stretched it out too thin. In other words, the plot moves remarkably slowly -- not in itself a bad thing -- as if it's trying to beguile you into sitting down for the second, third, fourth, and who knows how many subsequent volumes of the series. I enjoyed it, but I'm not hooked enough to sign up for another ride.
I thought I knew where this was going at the start: in what seemed an interesting but conventional experiment, Fowles used the form of the Victorian novel to encompass the unspeakable passions of an early Modern one; that is, it felt like Jane Austen meeting D.H. Lawrence.I liked that part of the novel well enough, and the narration -- crisp and formal in an upper-class English fashion -- complemented it. I'd just finished reading Austen's Persuasion, so it felt all of a piece.
Then, and I do not want to spoil the wonder with too much detail, the novel turns into something altogether different. It leaps stylistically from 1840 to 1915 to 1970 in massive strides, and it rips you from one aesthetic/moral frame to another. It's disconcerting in what it asks of you, but the effect is brilliant: you're asked as a reader to experience the disorientation of its point-of-view character as he too confronts a radically transforming Victorian world view. And Paul Shelley somehow (and subtly) captures that transformation. I think the speed of his narration picks up, but I can't be certain even there. All I know is that his voice ceases to be as comforting and, at the same time as the bottom of the novel drops out, something in the overall sound becomes more insistent, harder to turn off.
As brilliant as all that is, the novel grows even more complex in its multiple attempts to answer the central mystery confronting that character. The book is both provocatively feminist and misogynistic at the same time; it feels as if it's anticipating your responses and then subverting them, too.
I knew the reputation of the book as one of the major accomplishments of the later 20th century, but couldn't know until finishing it that it lives up to it. I could have stopped half way through and admired it. I had to get to the end to realize how extraordinary an achievement it is.
Mattie's voice is magnificent, and Donna Tartt -- who's got a fine reading voice of her own even though she isn't a professional -- is perfect in bringing it to life. Mattie has a peculiar stiffness, but it's part of what makes her story seem plausible even though it finally isn't. Tartt has the accent and the pacing to make it all come together. You may well know the story -- two renowned movies will do that -- but don't let that stop you from listening to it. The story is fresh and suspenseful, and it opens up a world that seems both far away and still within reach.
This is a great story, and I remembered it pretty well from a high school reading more than 30 years ago. After I couldn't get my son to read it -- he balked after 30 pages -- I thought I'd give it a listen to see if I'd misremembered my appreciation of it.In a nutshell, it's at least as good as I remembered. From the opening scenes with the swineherd and the jester who give the wrong directions to the too-proud Norman knights to the big battle scenes of the climax, the pace and the romance are almost perfect. It's fun as a story, and it's fun to sit back and realize this is the guy who invented the historical romance.I've recently read some Dumas -- similar reputation from a similar era -- and none of it comes close to this. I'll be getting to Rob Roy and the Talisman in the next year or so, and I'm hoping Audible will figure out a way to produce Waverley and some of the others before too long.
This is also a terrific performance. It's understated next to some -- he's reading, not acting as some very good readers do -- but it's always in the service of the story. He builds tension very effectively but it's never rushed nor too slow.
I'd heard a lot of very good things about this one, and it mostly held up to them. It's the latest in a line of recent "fantasy for grown-ups" books, and it falls between Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore -- to pick a couple at the extremes of quality. This has all the ambition of the books of its sort -- a clever setting with the addition of some thoughts on the nature of immigrant life almost a century ago -- and it's solidly written. Parts go on a bit long, and it doesn't resolve itself with quite the satisfaction of the best in the genre, but it's still fun. It falls short of The Midnight Circus, say, but so do most books. I'd like to have seen it move more quickly once it established its characters (and there's an overly neat coming together of seemingly separate threads) but I do recommend it.
This is a hard book to listen to because it depends so much on her particular, bleak sense of modern American life. I very much admire some of her short stories, and they're a skeleton key for me in beginning to understand this. She calls it a "comic novel," and there are clearly parts that could be funny. In the context of this God-forsaken world, though -- and "Godforsaken" has a particular if difficult sometimes to parse meaning in O'Connor's works -- nothing is really funny. It's a lot of suffering brought on by incomplete understanding of the possibility for salvation. As a Jew, I admire the intensity of the work, but I can't say it speaks to me entirely.
The reader was fabulous, giving real character to different voices.
Of course, he's a master. But I believe his real mastery came just after this with Mao II and then Underworld.
I'm glad I read this, and it can be compelling, but I have three complaints in the face of its general excellence:
1) To appreciate this in full, you have to know a lot of the individuals purported to be involved in the assassination controversy. Wikipedia helped, I'm sad to say, and I enjoyed the book more when I realized that some of the minor figures were historical as well.
2) James Ellroy ultimately does the deep cynicism here better than does DeLillo. His American trilogy covers a lot of the same ground with an even more devastating flamethrower.
3) DeLillo really finds his voice, for me, with Mao II. You see some of the same insights here in nascent form -- the sense that the terrorist shapes our public consciousness more fully than the artist -- but he doesn't sharpen them until his follow-up.
I loved the premise here: a Hardboiled detective world layered into magic. I'm not sure Correia quite masters the hardboiled tone, though -- there's too much of a good guy/bad guy vibe really to explore the nuance of real noir. Instead, this morphs slowly into something closer to sci-fi; by the end, it felt very much to me like something out of the X-Men with characters of various abilities fighting over whether they should conquer ordinary humans or aid in their rise. It is fun, and I did finish it, but things get sloppy at the end and the climax seems contrived.
No, but I am certainly open to listening to Babbit, Main Street, Arrowsmith, or It Can't Happen Here.
He is simply superb. His range of voices, his different dynamics and accents, make this as close to drama for the ear as I can imagine.
As long as it was, I mostly did -- but that's because I had a long cart trip.
You get a sense with this of Lewis's real skill as a novelist and of his provocativeness. (He strikes me as the 1920s Jonathan Franzen, which I intend as a compliment.) That said, I think this ultimately falls short of the great work of the same era -- Faulkner's certainly, and even the more comparable Dreiser's. This is great social criticism, though, and, in its best moments when it takes seriously the crises of faith that lead people to embrace a non-ironic catechism, it's still relevant. If you've ever wondered about the socio-political roots of the Moral Majority or the Tea Party, you can find them here. The portraits are caricatured, but many of them -- especially Elmer's own -- are inspired.
I can't say I would "change" anything, but this is an odd book. I haven't read any Eco before -- though I've intended to read The Name of the Rose for several years -- and I suspect it's the wrong one to start with.
In some ways you have to start with the end of it: what would motivate someone to write the hateful Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the forgery that would provide the twisted spark for the impulse that would culminate in Hitler's "Final Solution." Given that, we know what will become of our central character(s), and we know to look for the seeds of his hatred in his earliest experiences. That is, it's a story without any particular tension.
I might have given up on it early except for the way the project itself made me curious. I almost never felt caught up in the story, but I did often feel as if I were looking over the shoulder of Umberto Eco, author, as he tried to solve the writerly problem of how to turn this story into a compelling novel.
To sum it up, it felt like a failed novel, but it interested me as a "meta-reader," as a reader thinking about the nature of story-telling. (And I suspect that's a part of what Eco wants to do with this book.)
Guidall is arguably the gold standard of readers, of course, but I've enjoyed him elsewhere more. This book is a deeply challenging one to read, however, since it carries so many different narratorial voices; since one character often performs another -- and since a self-identified narrator goes into and out of other characters' voice -- it's a philosophical problem in deciding when to read in which way. Guidall helped hold my interest, but not even he could give the performance full coherence.
From all I understand, Eco is a good guy, someone calling us to think about the human condition through philosophy and story and generally standing on the side of the powerless and the decent. And I think his motives in writing this are good ones, that part of what he is doing is to inquire into the nature of a hatred he does not share.
That said, there are stretches here of anti-Semitic diatribe that are so lush, so emotional, that they become disturbing. One of the characters explains that such a strain of Antisemitism is necessary to create the ultimate work of its sort, but it can get uncomfortable. That is, the line between parody and imitation gets murky, and -- as a Jew myself -- it got under my skin. Sometimes you see the same thing with people parodying pornography; you think their hearts are in the right place, but you can't tell the result from the source material as easily as you'd like.
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