Monday, July 25, 2011
I loved this little graphic novel. There are some really funny moments in it and the drawings are beautiful. It reminded me of another tiny favorite of mine: Tales of Woodsman Pete, by Lilli Carré. Enjoy!
Not as good as Cloud Atlas, but good. It took me a little while to warm up to the story, mainly because you don't get a solid sense of where it is going until the end of the first book, but after that I was hooked. I think the James Wood review in the New Yorker complained that there doesn't seem to be a real "reason" for this book, other than just to write a masterpiece of historical fiction. That seems like an okay enough reason to me, but I can see the point Wood was making: why write a work of historical fiction if not to prove some point about what we can learn from some era or way of thinking that persisted in the past? Mitchell does pay a little homage to the idea that slavery is wrong, which is pretty much what all historical fiction is about, since that is the only thing we have ever learned from the past—but he doesn't get bogged down in it and manages to turn out a pretty compelling story. Good work!
Monday, July 4, 2011
This book takes place at a small liberal arts college in Vermont. The protagonist/narrator is a self-hating suburban Californian who falls in with an exclusive and privileged group of ancient Greek scholars. The story (made clear in the two-page prologue) is about how five of the scholars (narrator included) come to murder the sixth.
It's definitely a page-turner, there's a lot of sordid stuff to suck you in, but it peaked around the midpoint and then the ending sort of petered out (the action of the ending, I felt, being sort of a cop-out). In many ways it's a fascinating study of how one powerful person can stealthily control a bunch of weaker people, but it never quite overcomes the inherent coldness of a study -- even though I suppose I did care about some of the characters. (Can a story ever be truly satisfying when the characters you care about most will always be fundamentally powerless?)
It's a good depiction of a middle-class outsider's relationship to old-money privilege, and it's very New England. I especially enjoyed the fantasy-fodder of weekends spent at one of the character's Gothic ancestral mansion. Worth reading, since it's a quickie.