Monday, January 10, 2022

Crossorads by Jonathan Franzen

 

Mixed feelings. Definitely too long. First half sailed past me promisingly, but in second half I got bogged down. Another cast of increasingly unsympathetic characters. The faith stuff was good for awhile, but hard to believe that the parents, and son Clem and daughter Becky, would all think (and speak) so profoundly about their faith strengths and disappointments.

Monday, December 27, 2021

The Bushwhacked Piano by Thomas McGuanebath

There was nobody here to make him see the world as a mud bath in which it is right tough to keep showing a profit. He invented a joke to the effect that blood was always in the red and death was always in the black; and thought: What a great joke! (35-36)

In the past, he had run up and down America unable to find that apocryphal country in any of its details. His adrenalin cortex spumed so much waste energy that a lot of amazing things happened. And he deliberately changed his highway persona day by day; so that, across the country, he was variously remembered for his natty dress, for his opposite of that, for his persistent collection of “data,” for his arbitrary and cyclonic speechmaking, for his avowed devotion to his mother and father, for his regular bowel movements, for his handsome rather loosely organized mock-Magyar face, for his tiny library and transistorized machines locked away in ammunition tins, for his purported collection of the breakfast foods of yesteryear, and for his habitual parabolic coursing through the U.S.A. with attendant big trouble, pursuits and small treasured harbors of calm or strange affections along traveling salesman lines, facing enemies with billboard-size declarations of a dire personal animus, cluttering hundreds of small midland streets with regrettable verbs and nouns, sharp ones, heavy ones and ones which made barricades and tanktraps in peaceful summer villages where no one was asking for trouble.

In most ways it had been an awful strain, one he’d been glad to finish. Now, being on the verge of it again, he felt an uproarious tension in his mind. (40-41)

Beautiful Worl, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

 

I have similar complaints about this novel to the ones I had about her NORMAL PEOPLE of several years ago.  But that one I ended up liking. This one is too much. The dialogue is simply not credible -- not to mention the tediously long, trumped-up email/letter exchanges. No one speaks like that. And her cast of characters are some loathsome, self-obsessed, privileged folk.

Nothing happens in this book except for dialogue, and some sex. Way too much dialogue and not enough sex. Although some of the dialogue is about sex, which I suppose should count fractionally to her credit.

The three childhood friends, two women and a slightly older man, and one other man, circle each other warily in a fog of hurt feelings, disappointments, and subtle reprovals. The character Felix, who seems to work in an Amazon-like distribution warehouse, is the closest thing to a real-life blue-collar class struggler we get. And his biggest injury is a paper cut. The famous novelist Alice apparently had a serious nervous breakdown and continuing psychiatric problems mostly because of her success and the way she has legions of fans who think they know her and think they love her or hate her. Boo hoo.

That said, she has a crystalline prose style.

To those who would say she is the millennial generation's Henry James - well, ok, no one said that, and I'm just saying that for straw man fun - I would say, There is something to her inquisitive rational dissection of human feeling and emotion that recalls the master.

How much of this is sour grapes, my envy at Rooney's success? 33 to 37%. How much of this is being spiteful for fun? 8%. I should write more, if I truly dislike it that much, or should not have written at all.  It's a draw.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Key West Writers and Their Houses by Lynn Mitsuko Kaufelt

 

So far I've only read the Thomas McGuane entry (natch) where I discovered his personal favorite among his novels is PANAMA, which is also the least well-known, and also, coincidentally, my favorite. 1986 publication that might well have changed from McGuane, but not for me! Black and white photos. Xmas gift from my dear friend Steve Hayes.

Arcadia by Lauren Groff

 

Hippie commune novel. Acclaimed. Withholding judgement. Elegant writing so far, but slow going.

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

 

Disliked first story, liked second story. Stay tuned.

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

 

Hesitate to call it science fiction, as it's a very realistic social commentary on what we would do if an invisible man was in our midst. Particularly like the IM's Beckettian slave Mr. Marvel, whom he enslaves to carry around all the money's he's stolen, as the IM can't carry stuff. And so on.

Artemis by Andy Weird

 

Underwhelming. Least favorite of his three novels. His "female narrator" voice not convincing.

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