The novel follows three men (Keith, Sam and Mark) as they try and achieve their dreams of becoming literary giants. The three protagonists are well-rounded, well-educated, and well-read young men approaching the landmark age of 30. They're unhappy with the political climate, unhappy with their Google ranking, and generally indecisive about love.
Three men, three stories- yet I would have preferred more disparity between these anti-heroes (I had to keep back tracking to remind myself who was who). Gessen has moments of brilliance and the characters are very believable but the historical references that Gessen is so fond of just didn't connect with me. One critic suggested that Sad Young Literary Men is essentially "sex in the city for men", I can see the similarities (three lads looking for love in New York) yet something darker, more pensive and intellectual lurks within these three characters.
I loved the dark and speculative tone of this collection. Sexton keenly questions the meaning of God's existence (and ours), while introspectively coming to grips with her own failures and regrets. The fact that she (allegedly) planned her suicide, and the posthumous publication of this book, adds intrigue and validity.
In the poem, "Is It True," Sexton ruminates-"Occasionally the devil has crawled in and out of me through my cigarettes I suppose." While "Rowing," the collection's opening poem, mesmerizes and sets the pace. I found the majority of these poems to be compellingly and powerful; yet, a few had the tendency to keep rambling long after the point... sort of like a great pop song that is six minutes, when it should be three minutes. Nevertheless, The Awful Rowing Towards God really resonated with me. I can't believe I found this treasure for only $2 at the used book store.
Here's an excerpt from the poem "Rowing"
Then there was life
with its cruel houses
and people who seldom touched-
though touch is all-
but I grew,
like a pig in a trenchcoat I grew,
and then there were many strange apparitions,
the nagging rain, the sun turning into poison
and all of that, saws working through my heart,
but I grew, I grew,
and God was there like an island I had not rowed to,
still ignorant of Him, my arms, and my legs worked,
and I grew, I grew,
I wore rubies and bought tomatoes
and now, in my middle age,
about nineteen in the head I'd say,
I am rowing, I am rowing
though the oarlocks stick and are rusty
and the sea blinks and rolls
like a worried eyeball,
but I am rowing, I am rowing,
though the wind pushes me back
and I know that that island will not be perfect,
it will have the flaws of life,
the absurdities of the dinner table,
but there will be a door
and I will open it
and I will get rid of the rat inside me,
the gnawing pestilential rat.
God will take it with his two hands
and embrace it.
When this book came out a few years ago I thought I heard something about Frey doing his book tour dates with a full band...? At the time that seemed cool but awfully presumptuous, especially after the Oprah scandal and such. But it turns out that a grandiose book tour is quite appropriate for what happened to be a very ambitious book.
Bright Shiny Morning is a little bit of a mess and could stand to be shorter, however there's few dull moments and plenty to sink your teeth into. The novel evoked plenty of emotions because much of it is about broken dreams in a city where only the ruthless, rich and lucky survive. Being a dreamer myself this was very disheartening.
Back in 2008 USA Today critic Deirdre Donahue wrote that Morning reads like something "Oliver Stone wrote and Quentin Tarantino directed". The novel is full of parallel story lines that mainly follow these central characters: a homeless man, an Oscar winning actor, a young Hispanic woman with unusually large thighs and a young couple from Ohio. But there's more, more characters, fun facts, not so fun facts, descriptions, lists, etc... If this was musical album it would be a box set.
In his first official novel Frey shows up and throws up. Once you weed through some of the filler you're left with one hell of a novel/fictional history lesson of Los Angeles.
It took me a little while to get into this one, but eventually it hooked me. I've never seen the Carrie film and television adaptations; however, now I'm curious to see how they match-up with the book.
I listened to Choke during a road trip to Nebraska and it stuck with me for days afterwards. Our protagonist, Victor Mancini, is a sex addicted med-school dropout turned con-artist with a heart of gold. This is one of those stories where it's hard not to root for the bad guy. Choke is a profoundly dark comedy with a slightly odd/slightly humorous twist. It begs the question, "what would Jesus not do?"
Klosterman is the king of pop (culture). He's the Jerry Seinfield of authors; funny, witty, and knows a lot about nothing. Yet, he makes any room smarter as soon as he walks through the door. Klosterman is the only writer I know who can write intriguingly about the drools of pop culture- i.e. trashy reality television, 80's hair bands, women falling from the sky, etc... and still make it sound vitally important.
This story holds a lot of meaning; however, it's a tough read despite a few flashes of brilliance. Tolstoy has a way of drawing me into the darkness (which I like), but this one was a very slow starter.
This is my first foray into Philip Roth's writing and I sense that this novel wasn't an ideal introduction for a Philip Roth newbie. Yet the subject matter of lust and longing was right up my alley.
There are no words to describe the magnetic pull of a sexual creature like Consuela and Roth does a good job of (purposely) objectifying her and exposing the idiosyncrasies of his main character, David Kepesh.
I would've liked to have known more about the Carolyn character, but as in real life, certain people come into our lives and disappear without closure. The ending is a little uneven but overall this was a decent read and I wouldn't be opposed to reading more Roth in he future.
"Eye of Water" is an award winning collection of poems about coming of age, coming alive and allowing life to pass through us like water; ultimately molding us into who we become. The more these poems marinate in my mind the more impressed I am by their depth, reflection and maturity.
I liked "Eye of Water" from the start, but I also felt like something was missing... That was until I read a poem titled "In My Hand" about 1/3 of the way through the book. It jumped off the page and demanded I read it again and again. The author's observation and meditation of seemingly small details felt almost spiritual as they resonated within my imagination.
My favorite poems in this collection include: "Tree House", "Marlboros at Dusk" and "Magdalene Speaks".
The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography is interesting and unconventional. It is an exploration of life, love and craft that I found a bit slow in the beginning, but eventually it pulled me in and left me wanting more. Initially, I was afraid that The Facts wouldn't be very revealing. Roth strikes me as someone who keeps his cards close to the chest; however, as the episodes of the book unfolded his life became more and more tantalizing. Just when I thought, "okay, so these are the facts according to Philip Roth," his alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman (and Zuckerman's wife) chimed in and provided another point of view- Hmmm...very clever.
Fat Girl by Jessie Carty is memorable, authentic, and in a manner of speaking, naked. I love the imagery and reality these poems evoke. Much like the Woman of Willendorf, Fat Girl is a work of art that lets it all hang out. My favorites here include:
Woman of Willendoff: The Artifact
Fat Girl at the OB/GYN
I'm Trying Weight Watchers
Matthew Prior quit his job as a business reporter and decided to intertwine his passions for finance and poetry by creating a dotcom that offers financial news, updates & advice in verse. It was called Poetfolio.com; an original idea, clever name and to no ones surprise a total dud.
Unemployed, crippled by debt and on the verge of losing his family (he suspects his wife is having an online affair) and home, a late night trip to 7-Eleven changes everything.
The Financial Lives of the Poets is a humorous and sometimes sad story of a desperate man taking desperate measures. I enjoyed this novel but it never hooked me (emotionally) like I hoped it would. Bottom Line: I was hoping for edgier and darker content but Poets is more like network television and less like cable. Yet it's still worth reading if you're looking for something fun with heavier undertones and a sitcom-like feel.
Fly Away Home was surprisingly sad but entertaining. It is the story of three women (a mother and her two daughters) at three different crossroads; Sylvie- the politician's wife, Diana - the overachieving (super freaky) older daughter, and Lizzie- a recovering addict with good intention.
I got a little bored with Sylvie about half way through; however, Diana and Lizzie more than made up for that. On the surface, this will remind you of several scandalized politicians, their fractured home lives, and their public humiliation. But underneath you will find an emotional story of longing, lust and self-discovery
Before her 2009 divorce memoir, Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story, became a New York Times bestseller, Isabel Gillies was a semi-famous film and television actress best known for her role on televisions Law and Order. Now, she is the author of three books (two memoirs, one novel) and on her way to becoming best known as a semi-famous bestselling author.
Despite her fame, fortune and beauty, Gillies was not immune to cold-hearted rejection. When her husband unequivocally announced he wanted out of their marriage, Gillies life became less law and order and more woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. However, all her self-pity, insecurity and stalker-like instincts read like fiction... It made for an honest and captivating memoir.