Posted by Lizzie on 03/08/07
If I ever inaugurate an unintentionally dirty-sounding e-review series called “Straight to the author’s inbox,” the first one will be to James Collins, and it will read, “Hey James, how’s it going? LOVED THE FIRST HALF OF YOUR NOVEL! xo talk soon L.” (Note to all the publications who’ve cut their book reviews of late: I will provide these under your institutional umbrella for a reasonable fee.) Because while Beginner’s Greek contains some of the most devastating, vivid characterizations (and character assassinations) I’ve read in the past few years, its lovely prose is marred by the fact that the central characters, Holly and Peter–who meet on a flight, lose contact, and spend the next few years (and remainder of the novel) seeking the lost soulmate–are, compared to the surrounding cast, relatively anodyne constructions. While a bullying husband speculates about his ex-wife, visualizing the clotted hairbrush left out for guests that sums up her pitiable circumstances, Peter chases a veritable ghost, a lovely cipher with whom everyone is immediately enchanted, although all we know about Holly is that when Peter met her, she was reading The Magic Mountain. (“She’s a dead ringer for Garbo. She always beats me at chess. She’s first on every punchline. Her drink is Absolut.”) One of the things I love about Larry McMurtry is that he’s one of the few male writers who can portray difficult, irritating women whom men still manage to like. Collins crushes the women in his novel admirably, but his satire can’t hold up against someone who only gives other people crushes. James: EVERYONE is worthy of crushing. Leave the bewitching, blank siren for Roth. He’s probably trademarked her by now, anyway.
Eat, Pray, Love
A sad truth for those of you out there seeking greater ones: Nothing is more boring than your epiphanies. (Even worse, sojourners–the more particular they are to you, the more they sound exactly like everyone else’s.) Such is the problem with Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey through the particulars of her digestive, spiritual and moral humors–located, for your corporeal information, in the regions of Italy, India and Indonesia, respectively. It’s a bit of a punt to say the book is self-aggrandizing–how could a book focused on one’s spiritual well-being not be?–but it’s the grand the Richard Bachian strokes that provoke the reader beyond speech: “Simply put, I got pulled through the wormhole of the Absolute, and in that rush I suddenly understood the workings of the universe completely.” (Simply put.) However, we’re a girl! Fish-in-barrel elements aside, of course we loved that someone would eat pasta, meditate and tool around Indonesia for a year to get over a broken heart. There’s a lot to be said for pasta in general. P.S. we leave the 16th.
Never Let Me Go
If all butlers from England sound robotic and all English clones sound like butlers, does Kazuo Ishiguro need to stop giving characters affects flatter than a freshly ironed newspaper? These and other points of information plagued me upon my “completion” — you’ll get it — of the author’s sixth novel, wherein a prep-school love triangle worthy of a great piece of teen chick-lit is inexplicably ruined by the fact that the characters all have to give up their organs afterwards. Much has been made of this great “secret” — and, oops, spoiler alert and all — but it’s no more a secret than the fact that, if a girl tells you her boyfriend thinks you’re a slut, it’s a sure bet he has a huge crush on you. HUGE, Kathy, HUGE. Even a butler could see it.
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Old Hag is the work of Lizzie Skurnick, critic, blogger, writer, teacher. Don't talk about Jersey. more...
Right On The Money: A ‘Capital’ Book For Our Times (All Things Considered, 6/8/2012)
England has always reveled in its drawing-room dramas, from Jane Austen’s social minefields to E.M. Forster’s Howards End to Upstairs, Downstairs — and yes, the blockbuster Downton Abbey. John Lanchester’s brilliant Capital, set on a once-ordinary London block whose housing prices have skyrocketed, has the distinction of being the first brick-and-mortar novel set squarely in our current times.
That Should Be a Word (The New York Times Magazine)
Click for entire list and links of “That Should Be a Word”s. And call them Sniglets if you must, but you’re dating yourself!
The Complete Compendium of Real Housewives Posts (The Los Angeles Times, 2011-2012)
The Real Housewife Series Deconstructed, Dissected, Clarified, Illuminated, Concordized, Taxa’d and, nominally, Recapped.