Page 254 of 254 FirstFirst ... 154204244252253254
Results 5,061 to 5,075 of 5075

Thread: Recently finished books?

  1. #5061
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    94

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    Quote Originally Posted by hoodoo View Post
    Recently finished,


    Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad. Winner of the National Book Award, good book with some strong writing, but a bit overrated considering all of the hype... 3/5

    Here I Am, Jonathan Safran Foer. First book by him that I read, loved it, 4.5/5.

    Officially gave up on Larose, by Louise Erdrich... Finished about 3/4 of it...

    Next on my list, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.. so far its a 4 out of 5.
    I absolutely ripped The Underground Railroad in a review on Goodreads. It was a 2/5 to me. It was absurdly overrated and not even well written. Numerous sources claimed that Whitehead's other novels contained stronger writing and that this seemed dumbed down by comparison. It amazes me that someone with a MccArthur genius grant and a degree from Harvard could write this poorly. The prose was what I'd consider high school level.

    I honestly think it only got good reviews because it's about slavery and was written by a black person. Like they weren't evaluating the actual writing, just the subject matter. There's great slave narratives and novels, this isn't one of them.

    It also just as a whole seemed like a dumbed down Toni Morrison rip off. The book was written to appeal more as a thriller or a "page-turner" than an actual literary work. Like he was writing it for a movie adaption.

    For a novel called "The Underground Railroad" the entire thing is basically gimmick that doesn't work. Because the entire premise of the novel is that there's an actual, physical Underground Railroad. But this Underground Railroad appears on maybe 5 pages put of 300+.

    Nearly every male character was completely interchangeable.

  2. #5062

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    Link to the review?

  3. #5063
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    94

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    I'd rather not link my account because it has my actual name and some personal info on it. Here's a copy and past of my review (most/all of my reviews are just rants):

    Overhyped, overrated, and unimpressive. The fact that this book will very likely win the National Book Award later today just furthers the notion and criticisms levied recently that that prize's time as a serious, literary prize which bestowed itself upon significant and groundbreaking works has long passed. I really cannot comprehend the hype or even just plain old positive reviews. Nothing about this book is special.

    To start with, the entire novel from its plot, to its characters, to its events just reek of being a blatant Toni Morrison rip-off. It would be one thing if Whitehead wrote with an ounce of Morrison's ability (though this ability is not even remotely displayed in her more recent works), but he doesn't. Given that, it's not even a good Toni Morrison rip-off. It's a very mediocre one.

    Whitehead's prose is brief, nondescriptive, and entirely unimaginative. The novel is 300 pages long and I managed to read it in one sitting in a couple of hours. It's written at a very low reading level.

    Whitehead aims to write a book that deals with the reality of slavery and the US' racist history by detailing his character's struggles with slavery and the ills that accompany it. Whitehead fails in this effort by shying away from nearly any description of torture or violence involved with slavery. No, he doesn't need to write page-long rape scenes like Morrison does or lengthy descriptions of people being beaten to death, but his killing off of major characters he's written about for hundred's of pages amount to brief sentences like: "a rattlesnake bit her and she died;" "three bullets hit him in the back and he fell;" "they beat him to death." It's hard to take Whitehead's portrayal of slavery seriously when his main character gets beaten over the head, whipped until scarring occurs, and then fully recovers all in a matter of maybe 1.5 pages.

    There's a fairly large cast of characters, all from various backgrounds and geographic locations in 19th century America, and Whitehead writes every single one of them the exact same. They all speak with the same dialect, vocabulary, and nuance. That doesn't mean he has to get down to the nitty gritty and write straight up "slave talk" like Morrison does in many of her novels, but the man has uneducated slaves who ask for definitions of words in the Bible speaking in the exact same way as supposedly educated, cultured, elites from the North. Regardless of dialects being ignored, his dialogue in general is just dull. Most sentences don't last longer than a single line. At no point does a single character say anything remotely profound.

    Whitehead's characters are nearly all nameless, faceless, and interchangeable. For many of them he gives no descriptions of physical appearance or if he does it'll be some singular, meaningless detail like "he has a big nose." He very rarely describes what characters are wearing aside from his two main characters.

    And on the subject of them, the supposed main male protagonist is barely given defining details, a personality, or even rudimentary characterization. And this falls in line with Whiteheads writing style. Every character whether secondary or major just serves to assist his main female protagonist and are thus given absolutely no personalities or defining traits. Many of his Northern characters have absurd names like "Valentine' or "Lavender" that are somehow supposed to exhibit their apparent refinement as freemen of the North. Again, they're entirely interchangeable. None of the characters are memorable and I didn't care about any of them.

    For an author who has a MacArthur fellowship, has graduated from Harvard, and has taught at the university level at many of the United State's most prestigious institutions, he writes with all of the ability of a high school student. That is, his prose displays no significant display of profound literary ability or even attempts to rise above mediocrity.

    Ignoring prose, the plot itself is also unimpressive. His protagonist moves from locale to locale so frequently that with the exception of one 50 page-long section in North Carolina not a single locale ever becomes meaningful or memorable. Nearly the entire plot is like "Cora moved to here and did some work, Cora moved here and did some work and hid, Cora hid from some slave hunters." Many of the characters are given short 5 page chapters that explain their fates and they're written to their deaths so nonchalantly that it seems like even Whitehead doesn't care about them.

    Finally, for a novel called The Underground Railroad, based entirely around the idea that The Underground Railroad is an actual, physical underground railroad, barely any time is given to discussing or explaining this underground railroad. Out of 300 pages total maybe 3 pages of text actually discussing this railroad exist. He uses the supposed need for secrecy as a way to write off his main characters knowing nearly anything about it or its operation. The operators of it are wholly unwilling to divulge nearly any historical info on its creation or how its run. It just seems like a cheap attention ploy made to garner interest in the book when the book itself barely even discusses this phenomenon. Like "oh I have this great idea of an alternate history but lemme base my book of it and then write 300 pages and almost never discuss it."

    Given the author's background, the book's subject matter, the book's selection for the Oprah Book Club, and its shortlisting for multiple literary prizes, the book was bound to get attention, and for many the easy peasy prose and blatant lack of nearly any characterization will make this seem like a "great read" that they really "got a lot out of" because it's about slavery. This undoubtedly will lead to high sales and bloated reviews (like the laughable 4.0+ score it has on Goodreads). But nothing about this book is worthwhile and it's undeserving of any significant praise.

  4. #5064
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Northern Minnesota: "icebox of America"
    Posts
    905

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    Isahoinp,

    Did Colson Whitehead borrow money from you and not pay you back?

  5. #5065
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Bangalore
    Posts
    1,656

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    Few recent ones

    Uwe Johnson - Speculations About Jakob : I will be getting back at this again. This calls for a second read. Outstanding.

    Ivan Vladislavic - Double Negative : 3 part novel.First part had a lot of promise, but the second and third part was meh.

    Karl Ove Knausgaard - Boyhood Island (My struggle 3) : Of the 3 , the weakest.

    Alejo Carpentier - The Lost Steps : I have read 'The Kingdom of this World' earlier. This one probably, more personal and spiritual (if I may use that word). But, wasn't as great as the other.
    Jayan



  6. #5066
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Guadalajara
    Posts
    5,128

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    Quote Originally Posted by kpjayan View Post
    Few recent ones
    Karl Ove Knausgaard - Boyhood Island (My struggle 3) : Of the 3 , the weakest.
    Agree. Fourth gets better but without reaching the heights of the first two.

  7. #5067
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    94

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel del Real View Post
    Agree. Fourth gets better but without reaching the heights of the first two.
    Eh, I disagree on the 4th being better than the 3rd. The fourth was easily the weakest to me. It had the weakest prose, the least going on in terms of character development, and in nearly every scene Karl Ove just rants and raves like a child who isn't getting way. He's insufferable and acts like such a brat throughout the novel that it actively made me want to stop reading the series (I didn't). The fourth mostly eschews the humorous bits he'd been including up until that point. The third novel had very strong deceptions of childhood and the prose was such stronger than the prose in the fourth novel.

    The fourth volume also builds up to the whole pseudo-pedophilia, student-teacher, relationship Karl Ove supposedly had that inspired his first novel. It seems like the entire novel is building up to this event/relationship and in the end it's given a very brief write up and really doesn't factor much into Karl Ove's progression (as a person or a writer) at all.

    I'd rank them:

    1. Volume 2
    2. Volume 5
    3. Volume 3
    4. Volume 1
    5. Volume 4

  8. #5068
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    NYC, USA
    Posts
    4,335

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    Quote Originally Posted by Isahoinp View Post
    The third novel had very strong deceptions of childhood
    Freudian slip, methinks...

  9. #5069
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Guadalajara
    Posts
    5,128

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    Quote Originally Posted by Isahoinp View Post
    Eh, I disagree on the 4th being better than the 3rd. The fourth was easily the weakest to me. It had the weakest prose, the least going on in terms of character development, and in nearly every scene Karl Ove just rants and raves like a child who isn't getting way. He's insufferable and acts like such a brat throughout the novel that it actively made me want to stop reading the series (I didn't). The fourth mostly eschews the humorous bits he'd been including up until that point. The third novel had very strong deceptions of childhood and the prose was such stronger than the prose in the fourth novel.

    The fourth volume also builds up to the whole pseudo-pedophilia, student-teacher, relationship Karl Ove supposedly had that inspired his first novel. It seems like the entire novel is building up to this event/relationship and in the end it's given a very brief write up and really doesn't factor much into Karl Ove's progression (as a person or a writer) at all.

    I'd rank them:

    1. Volume 2
    2. Volume 5
    3. Volume 3
    4. Volume 1
    5. Volume 4
    And you also put third ahead of the first? No good for your to read while you drive you know.

  10. #5070
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    94

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel del Real View Post
    And you also put third ahead of the first? No good for your to read while you drive you know.
    The third was far more focused than the first and I thought it contained stronger prose writing. The first jumps all over the place in terms of time and subject matter and really the only moving parts to me were when he and the brother clean up the house at the end. The bit with his band playing at the mall was also humorous, but aside from that most of the parts in the first and fourth novels covering Karl Ove as a teenager don't do much for me. He usually just comes off as a brat and it also seems like the quality of prose writing always drops when he's writing about this time period. It's just a lot of repetitive stories about drinking at parties, what records and bands he liked, and lots of playing soccer. It's fine as biographic writing but as "literature" in the snooty capital L variety I didn't find many "profound" or "serious" ideas being discussed in the 1st and 4th volumes.

    Most of the childhood events covered in the third volume (the swimming lessons, finding garbage in the woods, his abusive father) seemed more focused and I generally remember the prose being stronger throughout this volume.

  11. #5071
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Guadalajara
    Posts
    5,128

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    4th it's supposed to be like that. Teenagers are insufferable brats thinking they are grown people with the best ideas. That is what he depicts in his persona and people surrounding him. However 3rd and 4th volumes are more descriptive about childhood, puberty and teenage years and he does not delves so much in what current Karl Ove thinks of these events in present time. That is why the first two volumes are more important, because they paint a massive fresco, set the tone, the themes and goes way deeper, being more profound about what is his life. First volume is so powerful and raw, describing the downward spiral of his father concluding in his death. He and his brother go to the funeral in a very Mersault-esque mood, schizoids a the moment for a father that was nothing but an obstacle to overcome while growing up, a man that was already dead for both. Nothing later can match that obscure passage even when in 3 and 4 Knausgard describes some of these traumatic events.
    Haven't read the 5th but so far, I'd rank them 1,2,4,3.

  12. #5072
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Northern Minnesota: "icebox of America"
    Posts
    905

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman +

    I'm a bit surprised this book has been such a commercial success. Though I admit it has its laugh out loud moments, three quarters of the novel consists of negative grumbles from Ove. This wore on me after a while. The ending was also fairly predictable. The message that one needs to look beyond the crusty exteriors of some people, however, is a good one.

  13. #5073
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    94

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    Snow Country - Yasunari Kawabata

    Kawabata's most popular/famous novel describes a Tokyo businessman's relationship with a Geisha at a hot springs resort in Japan's Snow Country, the region of Japan near Niigata that receives massive snowfalls as a result of being on the coast of the Sea of Japan. Kawabata's prose is concise and rather straight-forward. As a whole, more satisfying than one of his other popular novels, The Old Capital.

    Fatelessness - Imre Kertesz

    Loosely based on Kertesz' own personal experiences as persecuted Jew during the Holocaust, as a whole, Fatelessness is a camp novel not too dissimilar from various others. Critically, Fatelessness is pointed out as being unique due to the tone Kertesz' uses when describing his time in various concentration camps and these camps themselves. He speaks more "realistically" by describing his actual experience and how he perceived things rather than speaking of everything on a dispassionate, pessimistic tone. As a whole though, I really don't think this makes the novel stand out that much more than other camp novels.

    Kertesz' main character feels that he is a Jew merely by birth, and that in actuality he doesn't have much in common with other Jews he meets in the camps. He doesn't speak Yiddish and many of the cultural behaviors he sees others exhibiting are alien to him. Fatelessness is at its best when Kertesz emphasizes these differences and ponders philosophically what makes his character unique. Where the novel actually loses a lot, is the plot as a whole. The main character spends most of his time in the camps in various hospitals and infirmaries. At one point he becomes privileged and receives extra food and supplies by a camp doctor/guard who seems to give him preference based on his nationality (Hungarian). And to me this is part of why Kertesz writes about the Holocaust in such a disconnected way, because his character's personal experience with it mostly consists of downtime with little hard labor.

    When the main character does see things that would most accurately be described as "the horrors of the Holocaust" he more or less glosses over them, not really giving them much detail or impact. And that's fine, that's how he experienced these events, but as literature it makes the novel read a bit disconnected. Another strong portion of the novel occurs when the main character gets out of the camps and discusses his journey home. Here he interacts with a newspaper journalist who questions his experiences and the ethics of them.

    As a whole, Kertesz is a skilled writer of prose but his novel's disconnected tone leaves me wanting more (either more plot in the camps or more of the philosophical questioning of his experiences).

    Soul Mountain - Gao Xingjian

    After being misdiagnosed with terminal lung cancer and subsequently finding out he was fine, Chinese playwright and literary critic Gao Xingjian avoided political punishment by undertaking a walking tour of numerous mountainous Chinese provinces. Collected in fictional novelized form, Soul Mountain is his first full-length novel. Written loosely like other road novels, Soul Mountain combines a conventional plot with poetry, songs, and investigations into local folklore, Chinese minority groups like the Hmong, and cultural history. While clearly the work of a talented author, at times the tangents he goes on become too disconnected from the plot as a whole and it causes the novel to drag.

    Gao Xingjian's prose and writing style set him apart from not only other Chinese writers, but other post-modern writers. He heavily relies on the use of pronouns. There aren't really main characters and nobody in the novel is really given a name. Instead there is "I", "You", "He", and "She." The male pronouns typically refer to the man character from various points of view. Whereas the "she" can at all points refer to either one of the various females he meets on his journey or a completely imagined "she" that the protagonist has invented to keep himself company on his journey.

    The White Castle - Orhan Pamuk

    One of Pamuk's earlier novels, this fell flat in numerous ways for me. The plot is entirely too rushed and Pamuk breezes through decades of time in a very short number of pages. While the novel mostly seems to be psychological , numerous aspects of the plot still fell flat and affected my overall opinion of the book. None of the characters are given very "full" characterizations. Nearly nothing descriptive about the character's physical descriptions or backgrounds is given.

    At one point the main character is willing to die for his religion (presumably Christianity) yet his religious views and convictions are never explored or even discussed. As a major plot point, it's a bit off-putting that a man who's willing to die for his religion seemingly never mentions his own religious views before or after this event. Maybe a few sentences total out of 160 pages. His background and longing for home that he frequently mentions matter very little apparently, because we the reader are never given any decent explanation of his past; just some rudimentary details about his time before being captured as a slave.

    The majority of the plot is focused on the main character's relationship with his slave master, a man he believes he looks identical to. Nearly no reasoning is ever given for why he believes they look alike or what physical similarities could connect them. And while basically it's a "does he exist/is he me" doppleganger/split personality situation with an unreliable narrator, this idea is still never explored enough for me to find it meaningful.

    The novel's title comes from a real life siege that is described in the novel. This siege matters very little to the whole plot and scant details are given about it. A large portion of the plot describes two men's quest to build a new type of weapon. The weapon is never fully explained and when it's finally revealed it just end up sounding like some kind of nonsensical man-powered tank that uses catapults to attack. The main character also seemingly bullshits his way through having medial expertise, explosives knowledge, and numerous other disciplines that it seems unlikely he'd be fully acquainted with.

    It basically seems like Pamuk wanted to his explore his psychological analysis with this novel, and that because of this he just crudely constructed a shell of a plot to provide a means to start this analysis. While the emphasis by no means needs to be the plot, there's enough missing from it that the novel as a whole suffers.
    Last edited by Isahoinp; 22-Mar-2017 at 06:17.

  14. #5074

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders. 4.5/5

    Having read (and loved!) George Saunders short story collections, I had been looking forward to reading his first novel (released in february) with great anticipation. Although he calls it a novel, it is a bit disorienting at first. It seems almost like a play.. well not quite a play, but I could see the book being adapted for a stage performance. Anyway, once you get the hang of it, its very good. Moving, heartbreaking (I cried a couple of times).. Not at all disappointed

  15. #5075
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Chicago, IL, USA
    Posts
    42

    Default Re: Recently finished books?

    David Albahari, Götz and Meyer +

    A middle-aged Jewish teacher has been trying to put together his family tree after World War II in Yugoslavia. Because of the overwhelming number of immediate family members who died at the hands of the Nazis, the book imagines the lives of Götz and Meyer, two SS guards responsible for transporting over 5000 Jews from a Belgrade camp to their deaths. Then men not only loaded the truck but also drove it and maintained it, other Jews being responsible for unloading it at the end of the journey. The people inside were murdered when Gotz or Meyer stopped the truck long enough to connect its exhaust pipe to the truck’s sealed interior.

    The book is an extended imagining of the inner lives of Götz and Meyer. The narrator routinely refers to "Götz, or was it Meyer," a phrase which—although it serves to point up their interchangeability—becomes extremely wearisome as the book progresses. The narrator wonders about their childhoods, their dreams, whether they had nicknames, or even whether their wives had pet names for them. Likewise, the narrator spends a substantial amount of time imagining the prosaic details of their daily responsibilities: reports on the load distribution of the bodies in the truck, how that might have contributed to a broken rear axle, the subjects of their chats with the local concentration camp commander, the comforting effects of a light bulb in the truck, and worries about all the red tape in coordinating the details.

    This extended conjecture of the lives of the two Germans occupies three-fourths or more of the book. It is written as a single paragraph and the style is both monotone and monotonous. Though I suppose an argument could be made for the purposeful use of such a deadening style (no pun intended), it makes the book a real effort to read. The culmination of the book is a class field trip where the narrator asks his students to imagine themselves as one of his relatives. As the students become more and more successful at doing so, the narrator is likewise movingly affected by both his interaction with them and his own interior monologue. For me, the book’s conclusion lost much of its force by virtue of its style (which I found quite tedious) and while I can believe that it might be an enormously powerful for some, I honestly couldn’t wait to put it down and move on to something else.

Similar Threads

  1. Recently Begun Books
    By Igu Soni in forum General Discussion
    Replies: 761
    Last Post: Yesterday, 03:50

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •