CBR12Bingo – Gateway (Author)
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever: 4/5 Stars
This is one of those books that I spent multiple years trying to get myself through. I read one of the stories “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” awhile ago and really liked it. It’s almost like a play on a kind of Twlight Zone type stories with a big twist, but it’s longer and more nuanced and more realized than one of those stories. Instead, it feels like a heavy influence on someone like Lois McMaster Bujold, especially her novel Falling Free.
When I get to the other stories, my interest falls off quite a bit after that. They range from Earthbound to Spacebound stories and some are as short as 3, 5, or 9 pages, and some are closer to 100. There’s a lot of variety here, and there’s a lot of depth going in all of them. Some of them are almost information overloads and others spend a lot of time in full immersion. What’s amazing about them all is that as you walk into any of them, the world is fully realized, even if it’s not fully revealed. So the effect of most of the stories is like a sampling of 50-70 pages of a novel. There’s a lot of couched in information, but not always information that is necessary for the story to happen. But all that said, these can be extraordinarily exhausting stories because of the levels of depth.
Seven Gothic Tales: No Rating
I am not rating this one because I found these stories to be so opaque and syrupy and drenched in texture that I felt them maddening to read. I am a little off with my reading right now as it is, in terms of physical reading, so this book just set me up to fail in getting through them. I might have enjoyed them more as audiobooks or I might have met the same end. So the stories are more so novellas than anything, and most of them take place in early to mid 1800s in various parts of Europe and take on the tone, stylings, and context of a lot of 19th century gothic stories. These most remind me of the stories of Heinrich von Kleist, but with less of the fun and action and weirdness of his stories.
CBR12Bingo – Orange
Orange World: 2/5 Stars
So I have to admit that in looking for “Orange” books I could choose between this one and rereading A Clockwork Orange, which I will probably do at some point. But Karen Russell is a former “it” writer, and well, here we go. I ALSO have to admit that I hated Swamplandia! and well, here we are again.
This is a collection of short stories that take a wide range of ideas and topics and sprinkle a level of genre fiction or supernatural elements, or something like that. The writing is pretty strong throughout and there’s a lot of little moments throughout where Russell’s talent shines through. My issue then is that I really disliked pretty much every story in the collection, and didn’t like the ways in which she brought in those other elements. I am reminded of an essay by Ursula Le Guin where she’s reading Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea where she really seems to take issue with “mimetic” fiction writers playing in genre forms where, according to her, they haven’t put the work in. I think this is a fair criticism in general, though I don’t agree with her applying it to Lee’s novel, because I think that one one is quite strong. Here I think the same issue is occurring. I don’t know what is motivating these stories to play around in genre, myth, supernatural, because that’s what it feels like to me here. Playing. And I don’t think it works here.
The Fall: 4/5 Stars
I haven’t read a lot of Camus, and I am trying to rectify this. I like The Stranger but it has that feeling of a technically perfect (in the broadest sense) novel that’s not very much fun to read anymore. I think others in that realm include The Great Gatsby. For the record, other perfect novels that are fun to read are things like Their Eyes Were Watching God, As I Lay Dying, and The Metamorphosis. So anyway, this novel is about the same length as The Stranger and except that there are some little connections in place and time, this is an incredibly different novel. Written as a long monologue to another character that at times seems like maybe a police officer, or a jury, or even a date, this novel tells the story of a kind of post-war disgraced French lawyer who is in possession of some kind of state secret (ala war profiteering). If I had to sub-title this book, I might call it “The Death of the Liberal” or “The Death of the Liberal Class”. What seems lost in this post-war world is the “innocence” of not paying attention to the world around one. So the high society, social niceties, love, and other trappings of modern society stripped completely bare and destroyed by the ravaging of Europe has shaken this class out of whatever kind of world that they once inhabited.
This is a world that most Americans are still firmly trapped in as actual hardship, worldliness, and consequence hasn’t touched any of our lives for a long time. This novel is from the 1956, so Americans will get a taste of that kind of fall with Vietnam, but even that, looking at our current context, is not a lesson that stayed with us very long, obviously.
So anyway, one of the obvious victims of this fall is common decency and common morality. So while this man used to love to give away money, his ability to function as not only a contributing member of society, but as a decent member of society is forever lost.
CBR12Bingo – Happy
Ballet Shoes: 4/5 Stars
So this is a series of novels you might be familiar with, but I wasn’t until I found it listed as a “1000 Books” kind of list. This first entry was published in 1936, and involves a group of wayward girls (this is a novel written for adolescents or younger) adopted into a family by a “Great Uncle Michael” or “GUM” who subsequently leaves for another anthropological adventure. They are offered schooling by some rich professors, but instead, when latent talents are discovered, are sent to a conservatory for dance, acting, and singing. The novel is not as whimsical as it quite sounds and is not zany or anything like that. It is funny though and sweet as the girls discover individual levels of talent, find their opportunities, and various other skills. What’s nice about this novel is that it moves things out of earlier times when inheritance or marriage are the only ways to make in the world for women. So here we have a group of young girls learning a way to be in the world, to live out their talents, and as we’re told throughout, if they decide they don’t want to do these things, they can always choose something different. A moderate lesson, but still a refreshing one for 1936.
Something that’s really funny is that these girls are about the same age as now Queen Elizabeth, who at this time is a princess that they namedrop in the story. I wonder what they would think now knowing that she’s queen and still queen.