I was on a uproarious, esctatic high. I came crashing down; a ball of flames. Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn has a wonderful concept. Lionel’s Tourette’s was a meta-character within this satire of a detective novel. It was obvious Lethem was satirizing the noir genre, but his attempt wasn’t convincing enough to be a full-blown satire or a geniune real detective story. I didn’t find Minna’s Men to be engaging or entertaining enough to be worth investing myself in. Maybe if I reread the story with a much looser and free attitude then it would be a hoot. Unfortunately, I didn’t. In the end I was glad to put this book in my rearview and move on.
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
Captivating protagonists. Plots that break the mold yet remain in the realm of reality. A mastery of language that transports the reader into the midst of the action on the pages. These are only some of the prerequisites for an enjoyable reading experience. I’ve been on a reading high and I’m hoping to continue that run with an older book by Lethem. I’m staying with New York literature, as the city offers so much in terms of adventure. From the inside flap:
“St. Vincent’s Home for Boys, Brooklyn, early 1970’s. For Lionel Essrog a.k.a. The Human Freakshow, a victim of Tourette’s syndrome (an uncontrollable urge to shout out nonsense, touch every surface in reach, rearrange objects), Frank Mirra is a savior. A local tough guy and fixer, Minna shows up to take Lionel and three of his fellow orphans on mysterious errands: They empty a store of stereos as the owner watches; destroy a small amusement park,; visit old Italian men. The four grow up to be the Minna Men, a fly-by-night detective agency-cum-limo service, and their days and nights revolve around Frank, the prince of Brooklyn, who glides through life on street smarts, attitude, and secret knowledge. Then one dreadful night, Frank is knifed and thrown into a Dumpster, and Lionel must become a real detective.
As Lionel struggles to find Frank’s killer - without letting his Tourettes’ get in the way - he’s forced to delve into the complex, shadowy web of relationship, threats, and favors that make up the Brooklyn world he thought he knew so well. No one - not Frank, not Frank’s bitter wife, Julia, not the other Minna Men - is who they seem. Not even The Human Freakshow.”
The Next Garde: Nicole Krauss on her creative process
In celebration of the 65th Anniversary of Penguin Classics, a series of limited edition skateboard decks featuring some of our finest Penguin Classics covers were created. We know our fans love great books, but we know that your interests don’t stop there! We want to see your favorite Penguin Classic posing with a skateboard. Submit a photo that features both a Penguin Classic and a skateboard to be entered to win. A public vote will determine the winners, so be sure to spread the word that you’ve entered. The grand prize winner will receive one Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Graphic Classic skateboard deck (ARV $78.00). The first runner up will receive one Dharma Bums Graphic Classic skateboard deck (ARV $78.00), and the second runner up will receive one We Have Always Lived in the Castle (ARV $78.00) skateboard deck.
The Death of Isaac Babel
“Only after they charged him with the crime of silence did Babel discover how many kinds of silences existed. When he heard music he no longer listened to the notes, but the silences in between. When he read a book he gave himself over entirely to the commas and semicolons, to the space after the period and before the capital letter of the next sentence. He discovered in a room where silence gathered; the folds of curtain drapes, the deep bowls of the family silver. When people spoke to him, he heard less and less of what they were saying, and more and more of what they were not. He learned to decipher the meaning of certain silences, which is like solving a tough case without any clues, with only intuition. And no one could accuse him of not being prolific in his chosen metier. Daily, he turned out whole epics of silence. In the beginning it had been difficult. Imagine the burden of keeping silent when you child asks you whether God exists, or the woman you love asks if you love her back. At first Babel longed for the use of just two words: Yes and No. But he knew that just to utter a single word would be to destroy the delicate fluency of silence.
Even after the arrested him and burned all of his manuscripts, which were all blank pages, he refused to speak. Not even a groan when they gave him a blow to the head, a boot tip in the groin. Only at the last possible moment, as he faced the firing squad, did the writer Babel suddenly sense the possibility of his error. As the rifles were pointed at his chest he wondered if what he had taken for the richness of silence was really the poverty of never being heard. He had thought the possibilities of human silence were endless. But as the bullets tore from the rifles, his body was riddled with the truth. And a small part of him laughed bitterly, anyway, how could he have forgotten what he had always know: There’s no match for the silence of God.”
-Nicole Krauss, The History of Love
— Nicole Krauss, The History of Love
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
So this doesn’t fit into my normal selection of books: Girly - check, Pretentious - check (its got to be if the author is married to Jonathan Safren Foer). I’m willing to delve into the estrogen filled world of this novel in order to witness something wonderful. From the inside cover:
“Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive, drawing attention to himself at the milk counter of Starkbucks. But life wasn’t always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And although he doesn’t know it, that book also survived: it crossed oceans and generations, and changed lives.
Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that book. She has her hands full keeping track of her little brother Bird (who thinks he might be the Messiah) ad taking copious notes in her book, How to Survive in the Wild Volume Three. But when a mysterious letter arrives in the mail she undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.”
Black Hole by Charles Burns
I left Middlesex in my girlfriends apartment yesterday and was dying to read something so I picked up Burns’ graphic novel and read it straight through in one sitting. I don’t don’t read graphic novels often, not through any predetermined animosity but simply because I don’t know enough about them to feel like an adequate consumer. I found Black Hole to be accessible, beautifully illustrated and scary (not gross-out scary, but scary in that the fiction is so in-tune with reality). From the inside cover:
“The setting: suburban Seattle, the mid-1970’s. We learn from the outset that a strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) - but once you’ve got it, that’s it. There’s no turning back.
As we inhabit the heads of several key characters - some kids who have it, some who don’t, some who are about to get it - what unfolds isn’t the expected battle to fight the plague, or bring heightened awareness to it, or even to treat it. What we become witness to instead is a fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high-school alienation itself- the savagery, the cruelty, the relentless anxiety and ennui, the longing for escape.
And then the murders start.
As hypnotically beautiful as it is horrifying, Black Hole transcends its genre by deftly exploring a specific American cultural moment in flux and the kids who are caught in it - back when it wasn’t exactly cool to be a hippie anymore, but Bowie was still just a little too weird.
To say nothing of sprouting horns and molting your skin.”
“Because it’s long and wide and full of stuff, ”Middlesex” will be associated by some readers with books by David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen, brilliant members of Eugenides’s cohort. Those writers, however, have more satirical, even self-lacerating inclinations; there can be an air of penance to their work (as there is to ”The Virgin Suicides”). Here, at least, Eugenides is sunnier; the book’s length feels like its author’s arms stretching farther and farther to encompass more people, more life. His narrator is a soul who inhabits a liminal realm, a creature able to bridge the divisions that plague humanity, endowed with ”the ability to communicate between the genders, to see not with the monovision of one sex but in the stereoscope of both.” That utopian reach makes ”Middlesex” deliriously American; the novel’s patron saint is Walt Whitman, and it has some of the shagginess of that poet’s verse to go along with the exuberance. But mostly it is a colossal act of curiosity, of imagination and of love.”
— Jeffery Eugenides, MIddlesex
— Jeffery Eugenides, Middlesex
Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides
I’ve been eagerly anticipating reading this Pulitzer Prize winning novel and can’t wait to explore the lauded characters and story. I was going to save it for my vacation in Charleston next week but I couldn’t help myself and I’ve already begun (and its fun already). From the back cover:
“Middlesex tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family, who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of 1967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret, and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American Epic.”