Sunday, June 11, 2017

ANTHONY DOERR

Many accomplished contemporary writers can suck us into their worlds through the first page, efficiently introduce their characters already in full gallop then wow us with their style, vocabulary, observations and deep thoughts. But they rarely leave us time to look around the space they’ve created, to examine what and with whom we’re dealing before the story hustles us along. So much is thrown at us so fast that we feel a bit bludgeoned, somewhat overwhelmed by action, sometimes smothered in solipsism and often overtaken by claustrophobia. 


ANTHONY DOERR doesn’t do that. The Pulitzer-prize winning author is one of those rare people who seems to have maintained a child-like curiosity and wonder despite his education and adulthood and he creates wide, spacious worlds full of light and air and his characters, seen from afar at first, are slowly brought into focus, as is the story. He uses short sentences and simple but unexpected words. He believes the right details in the right places will convince his readers of what he’s trying to convey. And does he ever use details. Not lists of them à la Joyce Carol Oates or screeds of empty adjectives but pulsating nouns and verbs that create images writhing with color and textures like a Goghian painting. Cypresses seethe, roots prowl, helicopters ratchet, fountains roar and stars burn. A myriad details are tossed on to the page like confetti that outlines in negative space what he wants us to know. We assemble the details into the mosaic he's indicated. We read like Seurat paints, our senses aquiver with dots of sights, sounds, smells, textures and flavors as the story moves us along at the speed of an eyeball. 

Doerr is one of the few writers who can shock you into stopping and going back to re-read a passage to make sure you read it correctly.

In FOUR SEASONS IN ROME he writes about Romans’ acceptance of death:  “I agree to live now, live as sweetly as I can, to fill my clothes with wind and my eyes with lights...” 

And he does lovely slow endings too, gliding us down to a soft landing as if he doesn’t want to stop writing, just as we don’t want to stop reading. It’s the reluctant parting of lovers.

These quotes are mostly from FOUR SEASONS IN ROME which I started reading immediately after finishing ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE because I didn’t want to leave his worlds or words.

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Books, writers, authors,

Thursday, December 29, 2016

BLOG REVIEW & BOOKS READ IN 2016

I usually do a “best blogs” post around this time but 2016 was such a bad year for almost everything, including blogging, that I’m combining BLOG POSTS and BOOKS READ this year.

2016 BLOG POSTS:

1. DANDELION WINE by Ray Bradbury is a sparkling delight from start to finish. Written with such tender fervor and such affection for his younger self that you can’t help feeling a similar affection for the author.

2. REDESIGNING EVERYTHING Apple has gloriously proved how much customers appreciate good design and are willing pay for it. And by good design I mean ease of use as well as physical beauty.

3. ANIMATION FOR ADULTS VS ADULT ANIMATION Exciting to see the animation medium finally expanding into new (for the US) genres, even if it is prurient, teenage CGI animation like SAUSAGE PARTY. It’s the medium of animation growing upand this is a good thing.

4. STILL ANIMATED Because of several extreme life events, ANIMATED had to be put aside for quite a while, but this week I opened the dusty file, rediscovered the squabbling characters and now my days are once again filled with brain-bruising-thought, much cursing and frantic use of the delete key.

5. ANIMATED NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON When I recently learned that another novel set in the animation field was being published before I could finish and publish mine, I freaked out…The only way to get ANIMATED in front of readers first was to publish it on Kindle. So, if you click on the cover image at the top of this page you'll be able to instantly read ANIMATED.

And that’s it for the 2016 blog posts.
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BOOKS READ IN 2016

 
These subjective impressions (↑↑↑ Mmm to
Ugh) should not be taken for proper reviews.

1. DANDELION WINE - Ray Bradbury ↑↑↑
This sensuous book is dappled with breathless excitement, summery smells and rituals and a grassy softness that you’ll carry with you long after you finish it and you may even get a paperback version like I did so you can highlight and savor it on the physical page.

2. H IS FOR HAWK - Helen Macdonald ↑↑
We instantly fall in love with the bird and the getting to know each other and the hawking paraphernalia but then it gets bogged down in depression and sort of fizzles out.

3. THE RISE & FALL OF GREAT POWERS -Tom Rachman
I loved Tom Rachman’s first novel, The Imperfectionists, roiling with lovely Italian appetites. But this one, despite being set in multiple exotic places around the world and suspense that didn’t quite explode, just didn’t work for me. I didn’t like the mushy female protagonist who meekly followed a super-cool dude around the world and even the title is awkward.

4. FINE JUST THE WAY IT IS - Annie Proulx ↑↑↑
I’ve Always Liked This Place is one of the most devastating short stories you’ll ever read. Other stories have the glint of hard lives lived with fierce dignity.

5. SLOUCHING TOWARD BETHLEHEM – Joan Didion
I’d heard so much about this book and found the writing brilliant but outdated and too controlled. I couldn’t finish it.

6. BARKSKINS – Annie Proulx ↑↑↑↑↑↑
↑↑↑↑↑↑
This gigantic book is Annie Proulx’s masterwork, an epic poem to Canada and the rape of the indigenous people and forests. Every time you check the progress bar on your Kindle you’re delighted to see it’s hardy moved. Many generations of characters, including several eccentrically strong female characters come into focus and attach themselves to you before being left in the dust as the implacable tale gallops on. It’s like riding bareback through Canadian history. You feel pleasantly exhausted by the end.

7. HEROES OF THE FRONTIER – Dave Eggers ↑↑↑
I love Dave Eggers. He writes deceptively simply and in this book, shows something wonderful without ever saying it. Interesting views of Alaskan life.

8. THE SYMPATHIZER - Viet Than Nguyen ↑↑↑
A rip-snorting story of the US/Viet Nam war era, full of allegories, hilarious similes and terrible violence told in a voice you’ve probably never heard before.

9. THE PIGEON TUNNEL – John Le Carré ↑↑↑
Memories and revelations of who inspired which of his characters, of celebrities who crossed his path, of his colorful father and enigmatic mother (what kind of angry hurt must be caused by a mother who abandons a very young son?) Does this book of fragments mean no more novels from the master?

10. MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON - Elizabeth Strout ↑↑
Reading this book was like reading a doily or a spider web. Thin threads weaving the delicate story of endurance, quiet strength and firm decisions.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Elizabeth Strout is a strong writer, but I could have used a bit more sweat and action.

11. BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY - Jay McInerney ↑↑↑
When I saw the second person narrative I thought, uh oh, smart-alecky writing, but the style quickly melted into the story and I loved his insights and turns of phrase. Most fast-paced, smart-alecky writing is cynical with a nasty edge but McInerney’s has an underlying sweetness and gentleness.

12. ORDINARY GRACE - William Kent Krueger
Started off with a bang, good characters, atmosphere, surroundings. Then it went down hill just after the middle & lost me  with the religious stuff. I did finish it though. It seemed to have been written by two different people.

13. BRIGHTNESS FALLS - Jay McInerney ↑↑
Same gentleness and charming turns of phrase as BRIGHT LIGHTS but without the driving energy: “They filled ashtrays and emptied glasses.”  
“..a field rhythmic with oil wells–a flock of prehistoric birds pecking the earth blindly.” 
                                                 
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