‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Posts Tagged ‘american literature

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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This is my first introduction to Cormac McCarthy who is best known for his Border Trilogy which comprises of one book that I think many have at least heard of it not read, All the Pretty Horses. It is hard for me to talk about his style as this book is different from many of his previous which seem to predominantly focus on an aging western landscape. The Road is an amazing book that will be hard to put down. The writing is fragmented and sparse which reflects the narrative, a tale of a boy and his father as they traverse a barren landscape. Some kind of natural or man-made disaster has decimated the entire population and its landscape. In this world everyone is homeless and all men are thieves to some capacity.

roadSome walk on the road struggling to live. Some eat others. Some capture others. Some wish only to be left alone. To own something is to be burdened and these are some of the issues that this father and son confront as they walk this landscape, struggling to make sense of their lives. Life consists of a rather dull routine for these two: wake up, find food, walk, find more food, eat, hide, sleep; repeat.

The subject of the story is depressing and rather serious, so this is not a light read, but rest assured it is also short, only 287 pages. The pacing as I said is quick and the writing is broken up which makes the reading flow much smoother. Just as these two characters, who are simply referred to as Man and Boy, break up their day into small segments, so too is the writing.

If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll pass it along to you. Also, as a side note: the book has already been adapted into a film starring Viggo Mortensen, Charlise Theron, Robert Duvall, and Guy Pierce. From what I’ve seen of the trailer, it looks to be fairly faithful to the original story.


Written by thebeliever07

June 15, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Reading Reflections

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Just started The Road by Cormac McCarthy and my first thoughts; I’m truly blown away by the style of writing (sparse and fragmented) and how McCarthy is able to place the reader alongside the two traveler protagonists. Glad I settled on this after Sag Harbor, needed something dark to get away from the happy go light summer read that was Whitehead.

Written by thebeliever07

June 13, 2009 at 11:51 am

A Half-Finished Marilynne Robinson is a Terrible Thing to Waste

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A few years ago I took a Valuing Modern Fiction course. Now while the course work and lectures were of a quality and standard that I did not appreciate, the one thing the course did provide me with was an exposure to some wonderful contemporary authors. The selection of the books reflected the various awards that had been given out that year in the industry: [ Pullitzer, Man Booker Prize for Fiction, Giller, CBC Canada Reads, Hugo Award, National Book Award, etc ]. The following books were selected:

  • A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toewes
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy
  • Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  • Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

A nice selection of books, some I enjoyed more than others,  but the reason I am writing this post is that I’m now kicking myself in the ass for not having read one book in particular. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. She has made quite a name for herself, notably with her most recent publication: Home. Home is a sequel to Gilead which was just awarded the Orange Prize for fiction. It has also been featured as a book that President Obama recently read which has drawn some attention to the work as well.

Gileas is a story about a small, dusty prairie town in 1956, written in the form of a letter from a 75-year-old preacher to his six-year-old son.

I remember enjoying the writing and the premise but I did not finish the book in the time that we were given, what with other English course loads, and life distractions. The sequel Home takes place concurrently in the same locale, this time in the household of Reverend Robert Boughton, Ames’s closest friend. Apparently the books are independent and can be read as stand-alones on their own, but I hate knowing that there is another book that preceded this one as I feel I would be missing out on certain insights and conclusions drawn from the prior book by jumping into this one. Do I go back and re-read half of a book that was enjoyable so that I can read this book which is drawing so much buzz?

Lesson of the Day: Finish your assigned readings, so you don’t get annoyed the way I am with this issue.

Written by thebeliever07

June 8, 2009 at 8:45 am

Paul Auster: Book Preview/Interview

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Written by thebeliever07

May 19, 2009 at 7:54 am

The Day of the Locust

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“Scattered among these masquerades were people of a different type. Their clothing was somber and badly cut, bought from mail-order houses. While the others moved rapidly, darting into stores and cocktail bars, they loitered on the corners or stood with their backs to the show windows and stared at everyone who passed. When their stare was returned, their eyes filled with hatred. At this time Tod knew very little about them except that they had come to California to die.” – The Day of the Locust – Nathanael West –

n1800251 The story centers around a group of misfit individuals who work on the outside of the Hollywood Film Industry. The real sadness is that these individuals seem to be unaware, if not unaware, then at least willfully blind of their condition.  The artist, the fading vaudevillian, the starlet, the everyman, the gangster, the cowboy, the child star/prima donna, and the doting mother.

Set in the late 1930’s, just before WWII. What this book presents is the exact opposite of what Hollywood is touted to be for so much of the time. B-Movie stars stuck in a land that only privileges the A.

Despite these sad figures that dominate the landscape of the novel, there is something beautiful, beautiful and vulgar about the way that these characters insist on living their life, in fighting for their dream. I am not sure if that is a hopeful image or a tragic one.

It’s a quick read and well worth your time. There was a definite Hemingway The Sun Also Rises feel to this novel. Some of that same bleak sit around and wander, not really sure where to go. The pacing of the novel was a bit slow but I found it allowed for a more in depth exploration of the characters. The ending of the novel is quite disturbing and presents an image that will not go away anytime soon. Check it out at the library or bookstore. Worth it and as I said, a fairly quick read. I finished this in one day. Penguin: 183 pp.

Richard Price

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I just picked up Richard Price’s Lush Life, and I’m not sure what to classify this book as. Fiction, Literature, Thriller, Mystery? If his name sounds familiar it is because he helped co-write The Wire as well as having written several other novels and their subsequent film screenplay adaptations (Clockers & Freedomland). I was in the bookstore this afternoon with Kari and Erin and they were buying books so I felt obligated to pick up something as well, but I also wanted to read something different. Lately I’ve been reading far too much Literature (Capital L – – academia), sometimes that can get to be a bit rough. I am still not sure what this falls under, is it an airport read? Who knows? Will review shortly, cheers.

Written by thebeliever07

March 24, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Let us not have a Poe monster on our hands!

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Happy Birthday Poe!

200 Years is a long time to be around, may your literature continue to cause terror to children everywhere for years to come.


Written by thebeliever07

January 19, 2009 at 9:14 am

Book Review: And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

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kerouac-burroughsA long abandoned novel collaborated between two of the Beat Generation’s most eminent writers: William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, the novel tells the tale of a group of misfits and their debauched drunken mis-adventures.  Glass-eating drunken brawls, public nudity, sex, drugs, violence, excess, homosexuality, queer bars, this book has it all.

The novel was based upon the killing of David Kammerer who was obsessed with Lucien Carr. Carr stabbed Kammerer to death in a drunken fight, in self defense by some accounts, then dumped Kammerer’s body into the Hudson River. Carr later confessed the crime, first to Burroughs, then to Kerouac, neither of whom reported it to the police. After Carr turned himself in to the police, Burroughs and Kerouac were arrested as accessories after the fact. Kerouac served some jail time because his father refused to bail him out but Burroughs was bailed out by his family. (Kerouac married Edie Parker while in jail, and she then paid his bail.) The title itself comes from a news broadcast heard by Burroughs, covering a fire at the St. Louis Zoo, and in which the announcer broke into hysterics on reading the line (although James Grauerholz, in his afterword to the 2008 publication, indicated that the origin of the title is unconfirmed and may have been related to a zoo incident in Egypt, or possibly even a fire that occurred at a circus.)

Told in alternating chapters from different points of view through fictionalized versions of themselves, Burroughs and Kerouac recount the story of this murder and along the way provide, in my opinion, one of the most important historical narratives of what BEAT truly is. I can see why this particular book was overturned for publication during its time, as there is a fair bit of vulgarity and depravity, well, depending on your point of view.

If you’ve ever enjoyed works such as “On the Road”, “Naked Lunch”, HOWL, then I urge you to go out and find a copy of this text.  Written many, many, years before Burroughs and Kerouac became symbols of BEAT, you can see this text as a practice swing so to speak, all of the staples of their more famous works hover around the edges of this posthumous text.

Written by thebeliever07

November 23, 2008 at 10:12 am

What’s your favourite obscure book?

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Over at the Guardian, Billy Mills writes in his blog about the joys of recommending your favorite obscure book. My favorite obscure read is a travel narrative written by an American-Indian named, William Least Heat-Moon. The book is entitled Blue Highways and I while you’re unlikely to find this book in stock at your big-box bookstore, you’re more likely to find it at the library or your local used bookstore.

As William states around page 3:

“A man who couldn”t make things go right could at least go. He could quit trying to get out of the way of life. Chuck routine. Live the real jeopardy of circumstance. It was a question of dignity.”

I picked this book up in a used book store in Kingston some years ago upon the recommendation of one of my friends. William wants to discover America and a bit of himself in the process. Along the way he chats with small town folk in local diners, mining cities, farmhouses, etc. Worth checking out.

Written by thebeliever07

October 25, 2008 at 8:49 am

R.I.P. – David Foster Wallace

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David Foster Wallace is an American writer, artist, culture critic/junkie. If you’re wanting comparisons, let’s put him alongside of J.D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon. He has only written two novels and a few short story collections. He received the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant at the age of 35, a brilliant essayist, accomplished tennis player, and professor at Pomona College, in Claremont Califnornia. His book Infinite Jest was a Times Magazine 100 Best English Speaking Novel.

On September 12, 2008 D.F.W. was found dead at the age of 46 as a result of a suicide hanging.

I’m quite torn and depressed by this news. To lose such brilliance in such a way, is something that will never cease to shock and disturb me. I will never know what causes an individual to give up on themselves and those around them, and I hope to never know this.

In honor of Mr. Wallace, I’ve posted a few links to some of the essays and writings he has scattered around the net. I urge you to take the time and enjoy a few of his works in his remembrance.

Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage

Reprint of Consider the Lobster, 2004 essay on lobsters for Gourmet magazine

New York Times “Play Magazine” article on Roger Federer, “Federer as Religious Experience”

Commencement speech at Kenyon College, May 21, 2005 (excerpt)

This American Life Episode 160 broadcast May 19, 2000 “Character Assassination” Act 2 ‘Sonny Takes a Fall,’ 19 minute radio where David Foster Wallace “reports on a turning point in 2000‘s Presidential primaries: the moment when John McCain failed to respond well to an attack by George Bush“. Description of broadcast from thislife.org

Charlie Rose Show: An interview with Wallace following the publication of Infinite Jest and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

Charlie Rose Show: A roundtable discussion on fiction with Wallace, Jonathan Franzen and Mark Leyner

The Writer’s Almanac highlights Wallace on the February 21, 2007 broadcast.

And make no mistake: irony tyrannizes us. The reason why our pervasive cultural irony is at once so powerful and so unsatisfying is that an ironist is impossible to pin down. All U.S. irony is based on an implicit “I don’t really mean what I’m saying.” So what does irony as a cultural norm mean to say? That it’s impossible to mean what you say? That maybe it’s too bad it’s impossible, but wake up and smell the coffee already? Most likely, I think, today’s irony ends up saying: “How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean.”

  • E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction
  • Written by thebeliever07

    September 14, 2008 at 1:27 pm