Tucson, AZ, United States | Member Since 2005
This is my first Wharton novel, and it is not an easy one to critique. It is a well-crafted novel; one can enjoy the prose and lose sight of the fact that the story is rather formulaic, and the crises happen mostly off-stage, and the book continues too long beyond the emotional denoument.
Wharton, like Wilde, writes brilliant sentences but doesn't quite manage to assemble them into a brilliant novel. I may read more of her, but it will be to enjoy her gem-quality prose, not for her storytelling.
The production is substandard. Fault for this lies equally with the narrator and the producer. The narrator tends to hurry her reading too much, and the producer has allowed too many re-reads and awkwards pauses to remain in the final recording.
The Goldfinch is a wonderful novel, an unique and creative novel with entertaining characters and an engrossing, plot. Highly recommended reading for the Holiday Season. But it is not an immortal novel. It is not a novel for the ages. It will not be required reading in university curricula decades hence. And so, in the end, it rates four stars rather than five.
The novel is so well written, so imaginative and complex, so far above the standard of most contemporary fiction, that one is tempted to search for deep meanings and universal truths within the story. I am not sure that they are there.
I have read reviews claiming that the novel seeks to define the essence of art, or the relationship between man and art, etc. If so, the author’s message remains obscure for me, much as the painting itself remains hidden from sight for most of the novel.
There is, instead, a thread in the novel that seeks to discern “quality”: quality in a person’s character, “quality” in a person’s work, “quality” in intentions well conceived. In this, it contains echoes of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. But “The Goldfinch” is less introspective, less self-aware, less didactical. Its lessons about quality unfold as a subtext to the plot.
A quote from “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”:
“You look at where you're going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you've been and a pattern seems to emerge.”
The Goldfinch is an appropriate response to this koan.
David Pittu’s narration is brilliant.
I assume, if you are reading this review, that you are familiar with the Harry Hole detective series.
If not, go back and get started with "The Bat". There is no noir like Nordic noir, and Jo Nesbo writes great Nordic noir. In my opinion, he is the best of the surprisingly large and productive group of modern, Scandinavian mystery writers,
But if you are familiar with the Harry Hole series, proceed at you own risk. From an aesthetic perspective, the series should end with "The Phantom". By the end of that novel, Nesbo has wrought a Grecian tragedy and brought it to a perfect denouement. Unfortunately Nesbo, like Harry Hole, cannot stop, even when he knows he should; the result is a bit of a hangover.
As an historian, Robert Caro is comprehensive to a fault. From this exhaustive biography of Robert Moses to his multi-volume encyclopedia of the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson, Caro has shown an aptitude for assembling historical detail. And even for writing it down in relatively accessible, popular prose.
But in my opinion, the real achievement of a great biographer is to sift through the welter of detail that make up the subject’s life, cull out the inconsequential minutiae, and distill the crucial material into an epiphany that illuminates the person’s life and explains the impact that it has had on ours.
Robert Caro is capable of such biographical alchemy when he wants to be. In the introduction to this book, he does a good job of summarizing who Moses was, why he was important, and what was, or is, the essential fraudulence that mars his otherwise monumental life’s work. But once you start into the body of the book, Caro’s compulsion for detail, his inability to exscind trivia, wear heavily upon the reader’s patience.
In the end, I believe that half the book could have been twice as compelling; If Caro had been willing to do the job of discriminating between fact and substance, and select the quintessence of Moses’ life from the quotidian episodes that make up every human life.
The "Travelogue of J Alfred Prufrock" eventually detours into "Walk, Forest, Walk".
In the first few chapters of this book, Rachel Joyce does a creditable job of evoking, with convincing verisimilitude, of a feckless, tepid, colorless, retiree who has occasion to examine and regret his uneventful life and frigid marriage. Reasonable prose, but this has been done with so much greater compressions and intensity by T.S. Elliot that I was inspired not so much to continue the novel (it took me months to complete), but rather to go back and revisit the poem.
This being a novel rather than a poem, however, Harold Fry must shake off his melancholy and shamble toward some sort of redemption. And redemption is to be found in unconditional love. Forest Gump taught us that.
Anyway, there is a redemption of sorts, and a message for those of us who, at a later stage of life when we have inevitably accumulated a heavy cargo of regrets, haven't given up on finding a reason to carry on. There is even a formulaic crisis or two which make for reliable drama and cathartic denoument.
Jim Broadbent's narration is well done.
If, as the cone-headed shaman "Today is Tomorrow" believes, humor is what separates us from the animals, then Tom Robbins is a great humanist. His novel is a superior farce that delivers outrageous absurdity and whimsical wit. It follows the central character, Switter, through a non-sequitur succession of non-sensical events and surreal aquaintances that are artifically constructed for their comic potential.
But the burlesque is too absurd, the characers too whacko and the plot too preposterous for the book to provide great insight into the "human condition". Read if for Robbins' whimsical humor. Don't try to read great profundity into it.
This is one of the books that establishes the "mystic" tradition in Latino culture - along with Castaneda's Don Juan books. I've always thought that this aspect of Mexican/Mexican American culture is overemphasized. However, this book wraps the mysticism around an entertaining plot that builds slowly to a dramatic denoument. The ending binds up all of the book's spiritual themes into an epiphany of sorts. Certainly an essential part of any anthology onthe American Southwest.
This is a first person narrative from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell, and he assumes you are familiar with life and politics in Tudor England of Henry VIII. Now, there are people who fill this requirement because they are fascinated by this period and have read every work of historical fiction about it. My mom is one such. But if you aren't, I recommend you read the wikepedia entries on Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, and Thomas More.
I think even the most passionate opponent of Operation Desert Freedom hoped that the Bush administration knew more than we did, or had thought things out deeper than we had, or had a plan we were not privy to. History has proven that none of that was true, and this book documents just how little preparation and thought preceded the military decision to invade.
This book is a case history in the folly of trying to impose cultural values at the point of a gun. Of course the U.S. government should have known this was folly - the British empire had demonstrated it in the same region 80 years before. But perhaps nobody in the administration had read David Fromkin's "A Peace to End All Peace".
Hopefully, both Fromkin's book and this one by Rajiv Chandrashekaran will be required reading for all future administrations.
OK, I don't know whether Frank Sheeran's versions of the Kennedy assassination and the Hoffa disappearance are factual. But they are both more plausible and more titilating than most of the alternative theories I have heard. And they are told with such conviction, and so much detail, that I have decided to believe them. Now I don't have to sit through Oliver Stone's tedious speculations. Sheeran has told us what happened, and that's "the way it is".
Brandt co-writes Sheeran's inside story his life in the Mob, and provides historical backdrop to explain the history of the Mob and Teamsters within the context of national politics inthe mid-20th century. Much more than just a personal journal of a gangster.
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