Loser. Oops, loner.

Teddy Wayne, you sure do know how to master creepy. Is Loner a gothic, this novel about a lonely Harvard boy from New Jersey who becomes obsessed with an immeasurably more sophisticated fellow student? Which descends into a tale of stalking with a surprise ending?

It’s not really a gothic. Although there is madness and he “..uses diction to build suspense and a sense of unease in the reader.” (Goodreads.com), it doesn’t stand up there with Dracula and Frankenstein. Let’s say it’s a modern gothic, although I don’t remember heavy use of the setting to build suspense. Two out of three ain’t bad.

I can’t say that I liked this book, though I had to finish it because I wanted to know how it ended. The strategic relationship between the main character and the stalkee’s roommate disgusted me, though it did illustrate the degree of his alienation.

Teddy Wayne writes “Daily Shouts” for The New Yorker. If you read those and his book, you’ll wonder how the same person wrote them.

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Jonathan Evison

Jonathan Evison’s wonderful novels are all set in Washington State. I’ve previously read The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (see his Amazon author page for the story behind the story; it’s terribly sad.)

I’m now reading This is Your Life, Harriet Chance, a character study. He treats his characters with such affection and, though a tragic event happens in “The Revised Fundamentals..” there is also so much humor in his writing.

“Harriet Chance” is built around a big reveal maybe halfway in, but there is nothing dull about the first half. He has such a good sense of family relationships, and his eye for detail is spot-on.

I usually don’t write about books before I’m done reading them but haven’t posted here in awhile. Busy with kids (middle school acceptance letters, karate and other activities ad infinitum), volunteer nonprofit work and a search for paid work. And that is all for now.

Note a day later: I finished “Harriet Chance” and, though I liked “Fundamentals of Caregiving” more, I’m very happy I found out about this author. Looking forward to reading All About Lulu next.

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Booksale

The take from a recentIMG_8949 book sale at the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Maybe I’ve read the Jhumpa Lahiri or parts of it already. Been known to happen. After having a love-hate relationship with Augusten Burroughs’ books (“This is not something a normal person would do. But I am not normal.”) I’ve gone over to appreciating his mix of brutality and hilarity again. It’d be hard to miss the universality in his understanding of being human. The hyper-self-consciousness of Augusten-world; the magnetic pull towards certain people and then the sheer oddity of being close to another person.

Haruki Murakami: I loved, loved “Norwegian Wood”. This book looks like it might be a mystery about libraries? Not sure, but it’s intriguing-looking. I read at least the foreword (by Abraham Verghese) of Paul Kalanithi’s memoir and that alone was stunning.

Then there’s Ariel Levy’s memoir, “The Rules Do Not Apply.” That set me back six bucks brand new. Something like a total of $24 for these six books. I’ll be set for awhile.

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Middlestein-ing

I say “Middlestein-ing” because my husband’s family has certain highly neurotic behaviors that the younger generation have made into a verb, as in “They were …..-ing out so bad!” Try this with any family name. It works because every family is its own universe and has its own specific patterns, made up of certain undeniable behaviors.

Anyhow, there’s a short piece in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review about novelist Jami Attenberg devout wish that people not conflate her writing and her life.

She wrote the beloved (at least by me)  The Middlesteins, an “expansive” (quotes because a main character is obese) novel about self-destruction, family ties, divorce and being a child of divorce; and family wounds and the differences between how siblings react. It was really much more lovable to read than I’m making it sound.

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The Animators

This is a pretty ambitious book (also the author’s first novel). Maybe that’s why it took me so long to finish it–around three weeks or so; slow for me. It’s about friendship, it’s about art and the sufferings/decisions/sacrifices that come with making good art, it’s about being thrown out into the world kicking and screaming (maybe my cynical way of saying “coming of age”).

The two main characters are female animators who meet in art school. Animation is the art form that saves both of them from complicated pasts growing up in desolate Southern families. They can run but they can’t hide from their pasts; they simply take them and mine them for material–painful, of course.

Mel (short for “Melody”) and Sharon’s first successful animated film is about Mel’s mother, who comes to an inglorious end after being shanked in jail. Mel deals with her past by drinking, drugs and casual sex, and seems to find solace in her work, while Sharon uses her work to buffer herself from family and a hugely traumatic event involving her best friend from childhood’s father. It takes awhile for this beast of an event to show up in the book (thanks to the skill of the author) and to finally rear it’s ugly head.

I wondered why it took me so long to finish this book, and I think it’s because it was about so many big ticket life items, as above.

I’d recommend it, but only if you’re ready for a big, meaty book that might require some patience. The Animators is worth reading if you want to have characters who are probably not exactly like you enter your life while you’re reading it, and afterwards.

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Tyranny. Resisting it.

Am really looking forward to reading 41kBo7v4xaL._SX353_BO1,204,203,200_
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century” by Timothy Snyder.

A friend recommended this pocket-sized book, which I’m hoping will save my life. The American civilian part of my life, which is in danger of going as numb as a limb that hasn’t moved in an hour.

The book is all streamlined style: Smart formatting and type sizing, short chapters, nice paper. As any good writer or editor would know, it must’ve taken him ages to distill down to what he wanted to say.

 Thank goodness for Amazon Prime, and check back for more on this. I’m thinking it might be a grim read.

 

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Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys

This memoir by Viv Albertine was like a bag of potato chips. Eat some, they’re pretty tasty,51xH61SnhIL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
right? Then go back for more, skip ahead to those crunchy ones you really like while you pass by the not-so-crunchy ones.

Not that she doesn’t have a lot of crunchy parts in this memoir. She’s played with The Slits, a British proto-punk band, had a career as a television and film director, and hung around with Sid Vicious and Joe Strummer in their early days.

Her band breaks up, she has a baby after innumerable painful fertility treatments, learns she has cancer while Baby (that’s how she refers to her daughter in the book) is only three months old. Vincent Gallo is obsessed with and pursues her. The band gets back together.

The more I slowed down and read individual pages of this memoir, the more I liked it. It’s not going to read like a novel, after all. I liked Kim Gordon’s memoir much better (“Girl in a Band”); it happens to be shorter as her voice is very to-the-point. But it’s great to hear the voices of female musicians.

Like a bag of potato chips, take one, go back to it, and maybe you’ll finish the whole bag.

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