Thursday, April 24, 2008

Oh. My. God.

Children's book explaining plastic surgery.

Really???

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Plus a guy named Luscious Skin.

I'm about 100 pages into Roberto Bolano's Savage Detectives right now. It's very... weird. At first I got a Murakami-ish feel to the narrator, now a little bit Henry Miller in its bohemian aimlessness and lust for word and sex. There's a lot of weird sex going on and stuff that's strange and over my head. Poets, man. I could never be one.

Well it's like 600+ pages, so I guess I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pen World Voices.

Some names I recognize (Rushdie, Eco, Eugenides, Ondaatje), many I don't.

Pen World Voices Festival. Anyone want to go?


I can't believe I'm leaving this literary city for the west coast for three years!

But I'll be back...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Political intrigue, etc.

I finished The Other Boleyn Girl on Saturday, and then went to see the movie several hours later, so this will be a two in one.

So, after about 100 pages, I got over Gregory's bad writing, settled into the plot and began to enjoy myself. You know, I have to remind myself not everything is grand literature. And I'm okay with that. It doesn't need to be.

Anyway, so I normally don't have an inherent interest in British history. But this book actually made me interested. The political intrigue is so fascinating, this idea that one man's obsession with a woman can create such upheaval and even change the face of the country forever. Despite its length, I ended up finding the book an easy read. Gregory clearly did her homework here which is impressive. I mean, from a craft point of view, there's nothing really all that impressive, except for the plot. The plot inherently is intriguing, and even though we all know how it ends, it's just interesting to see how things turn out, what happens to whom, why, etc.

So yeah. I liked it. I'm not embarrassed to admit it. And it actually makes me want to read up more about the Tudors (and maybe watch the show? Hahaha), which I think is one form of success. To get people interested in something they otherwise wouldn't have been.


The movie on the other hand. I thought that was just bad. But maybe because I felt everything too rushed and too condensed. I was also just so much more disturbed by the movie than I was by the book. The whole thing made me slightly upset and sick. And, the parts I liked best about the story, the political upheaval and policy changing -- all of that was lost. I think that's ultimately what makes the story interesting. How the seduction of a woman behind the shadows can change policy. But. I guess it was made for girls and thus heavily focused on the relationship drama (really disturbing). They also twisted all the stuff in the book around. It was a completely different reading of events than what was in the book. Disappointing, to say the least.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Short story collection straight to #1?

I still have yet to get through Jhumpa Lahiri's first short story collection, which is why I haven't even bothered with her second yet. But for reasons of my own, I'm glad to see her doing so well. A short story collection jumping directly to #1 on the bestseller list? Amazing.

I like this snippet that Paper Cuts has. I wouldn't want to read reviews either, though I fear I wouldn't be able to resist.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I am psychic, or just have good taste in books =D

Moonie is really on target today, seeing as my trolling of pub news has been slacking lately. I also just came back from an hour and a half of allergy testing hell. But anyway, she alerted me to this very important breaking news:

Junot Diaz and Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer!

I so totally called that from the very beginning. I'm very very happy. This is two years in a row that my faves have won the Pulitzer (if you remember, last year, it was The Road, which still remains my top favorite book).

Congrats to Junot.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bad writing = bestseller?

By the way, I started The Other Boleyn Girl shortly after. Within the first 20 pages, my first impression was, god this writing is cringe-worthy. (Esp after Chabon) Her use of adverbs gives JK Rowling a run for her money, and I often feel misplaced in her scenes. Plus, her monitoring of the first person usage is not very close at all. I would have ripped this apart in workshop for the number of times Mary says things that she oughtn't know or say in that way. But whatever. I suspect people love this book for the plot, not for it's incredible writing. Now about 100 pages in, I'm getting used to the writing and beginning to ignore it most of the time (though sometimes it's just unavoidable). I just hope the plot is worth 600+ pages of this god-awful writing.

An amazing adventure indeed.

Finished Kavalier and Clay a couple of days ago. Ate my way through the last 100 pages. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, even though I never got the sense that I LOVED it. I think the reason is that, for all the depth that Chabon gives us in terms of story and character, the POV felt removed enough for me that the book never felt close to me. And for me, often, I am won over by the closeness of the heartbreak I feel when I read a book.

Nonetheless.

A few thoughts -


I felt the book picked up momentum in a way that hadn't been present during the last section of the book (where Tommy appears). Because there, you finally realize that this story is about getting Joe home, and having him finally embrace where he is.

A section I LOVED is when Joe is standing on the top of the building, ready to jump, and he remembers this story his teacher tells him about Houdini and how he couldn't escape from this one set of locks, how ultimately it was his wife that help set him free. "Only love could pick a nested pair of steel Bramah locks." I loved that. There was something so remarkable about this story - perfect for this book, yet brilliant in illustrating a poignant point. I was so impressed by the placement of that.

Sam and his lost love really broke my heart :(

There were seriously so many heartbreaking moments in this book, when you least expect it, because before then, you're rolling along, all happy, learning so much, and maybe even laughing, and then out of nowhere, Chabon hits you with a zinger. The change in the emotions surrounding the prose takes a sudden turn and suddenly you find yourself wading in sadness... and then you turn the page and its like it never happened. To illustrate, the part when Joe comes out to meet German in the ice, its a fight and then suddenly, he ends with:

Nothing that had ever happened to him, not the shooting of Oyster, or the piteous muttering expiration of John Wesley Shannenhouse, or the death of his father, or internment of his mother and grandfather, not even the drowning of his beloved brother, had ever broken his heart quite as terribly as the realization, when he was halfway to the rimed zinc hatch of the German station, that he was hauling a corpse behind him.
--[pg. 465, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay]


It's so heartbreaking, and you're just not sure how you got there.

Another really heartbreaking moment was the section where Joe starts bawling because he wants to be able to buy Empire Comics for Sam but he can't. The dialogue in that section is pitch perfect.


This book is not a happy story. It's fun and funny, but Joe never achieves that thing which he most ardently desires. It is, however, an American immigrant story, about somebody who stops escaping and learns to embrace the present. I thought it really was a very very good book, and full of so many interesting tibits and great language. And, for someone who was never really into comics, it actually makes me look at comic books with a different light.

Chabon impresses me greatly. How he put together this grand story and yet managed to keep it all interesting is a skill I think. I'm impressed. Now I'm just sad it's over.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Reading Alert: Junot Diaz and Edward Hirsch

I owe a post on Kavalier & Clay but I've been waiting for some time where I can adequately reflect, etc. But I guess I should do it soon.

Anyway, because I like to stalk certain authors...

Junot Diaz (with Edward Hirsch) is reading tonight from Oscar Wao. Edward Hirsch is reading from Special Orders (I apologize, Hirsch. I don't know anything about you and thus have nothing to say.) If you've never been to one of his readings, you're missing out. He's loads of fun. And it's only $5. Hosted by the Writers Studio.

Village Community School
272 W. 10th St., New York, NY 10014
nr. Greenwich St.
7 PM

Hmm. I actually think this is where I used to take my writing class.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Oh boy.

There's an interesting debate going on at Paper Cuts around the merits of an MFA right now. To tell you the truth, I held off applying to MFAs for a very long time because I always figured writing was something you could get done WITHOUT a degree. I didn't know if I wanted to put myself into all that debt. I worried about getting my voice pounded out of me, "normalized" if you will.

I can't really tell you what made me change my mind. But maybe it's the fact that the question was always there. Always hanging. And I wanted to buy myself time to write. I never wanted to get too old and wonder if I should have gone back to school. And I'm a good student. I'd get something out of it.

Well, this debate makes me nervous. I wonder if I'm doing the right thing - putting myself into tens of thousands (hundreds maybe even) of dollars into debt.

I don't know. But I'm taking this leap.

http://papercuts.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/01/cinderella-schools-for-writers/

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mine is Mitch Albom.

Also, I love this entry on Paper Cuts about "Literary Dealbreakers".

I wonder a lot if I can seriously see myself with someone who doesn't read with similar ferocity as I do, or at least be willing to read some of what I do, because I love to discuss books with people. Younger, I didn't date guys who did read. And back then, it wasn't that important because I hadn't figured out yet how amazing it was to be around people who did read. Now that I'm older and this is basically what I want to do with my life, it seems to matter quite a bit.

But what's worse? A guy who doesn't read, or a guy who reads something you find abhorrent?

I try to keep an open mind about what people read. And so I don't mind if the guy doesn't necessarily read "literary". Like his favorites are thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi? Okay, that's cool. I like those too sometimes. But I think a dealbreaker for me is 1) unwillingness to even give my favorite books a go and 2) if his favorite book is by Mitch Albom.

I hate Mitch Albom. I hate him because he uses a gimmick and it WORKS. How do I know he works? Look on my shelf with all the A authors. Yeah. He's there. A couple of his books. I know what I'm getting into when I buy those books and yet I still did. After the third one, I was like, NEVER AGAIN! And I just think to have him as a favorite author is just.. well, I'm not saying the books aren't mildly entertaining (mildly), but a FAVORITE? Really? I feel like Mitch Albom is packaged inspiration with agenda for people who don't actually read.

I actually find it suspect when people say their favorite book is The Alchemist too. Not because it wasn't a good book, it was - it just wasn't AMAZING like everyone raves. I can't help but think that it appeals and resonates strongly with certain types of people - and in my experience, not necessarily people I'm highly compatible with. Also, after reading a few other Coehlo, I have a sneaking suspicion he's turning into an author who writes "deep" books for people who don't read also.

Oh. And people who immediately write off Nabakov and Lolita. The kind of people that won't read it at all but cringe and make judgments when I tell them it's one of my favorite books. That infuriates me.

What about you?

Nope, still hated it.

In the past year, there's only been one book that I've read that I gave a huge resounding NO to. And you guys know me, I tend to find something redeemable about every book. I love books. I like some better than others, but I usually try very hard to make my way through a book and then at least find one thing that I liked about it.

D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love was a huge exception.

Looks like someone agreed with me, even though Paper Cuts guy didn't.

I shake my fist at you, Michael Chabon!

I've been slowly making my way through Kavalier and Clay. Quietly, which is why I haven't posted much.

Something I meant to write about was the chapter with Carl Ebling, how it starts out comic book-esque, and you think you're reading another synopsis of one of the books, and then halfway through you realize it's the deranged thoughts of a crazy terrorist. Thought that was awesome, and don't know I'd ever have gotten away with it. Brilliant.

But what I really wanted to say [SPOILER!] is that I was filled with anger and hatred towards Michael Chabon when he killed off Thomas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! UGH! I mean in every sort of nicest way possible of course. It was necessary and I see that, as a writer, I think it was absolutely the best thing he could have done for his novel, but as a reader, I was filled with anger, the way you shake your fist at God. Sigh.

I like the book a lot -- a lot of poignant, heartbreaking moments when you don't expect them. His writing isn't nostalgic, and yet it gets you at the right moments. Which amazes me. I don't know how he does it. I don't lovelovelove it, but it's a really good read so far.

About 3/4 of the way through. Will be done soon.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Reading Alert: Jhumpa Lahiri

Haven't done these in awhile, but Jhumpa Lahiri is going to be at the Union Square Barnes at 7 o'clock to read from her new collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth.

I might go. I don't really feel like buying a hardback of a short story collection though.