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Posts Tagged ‘New England’

24. “A World Apart: Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars,” Cristina Rathbone

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Page count: 280
Page total: 5,942

10. “The End of Alice,” A.M. Homes

January 25, 2010 3 comments

I picked this book up totally randomly when I was walking through the BPL. I think I might have been thinking of EM Forster when I saw the name. I’m actually glad I grabbed it, even though it’s one of those books that makes you really uncomfortable on the T and that you hope no one will ask about.

Because then you’ll have to tell them, “oh I’m reading a (fictional!) first-person narrative of a pedophile who is imprisoned and exchanging salacious letters with a nineteen-year-old woman who is grooming a child she wishes to molest. Eventually it becomes clear that he’s not interested in her, but he is instead attempting to use her to rape the boy by proxy. Like, there’s one scene where he gets really mad when she rapes him too easily, that it’s too much like consensual sex and not enough like stabbing a child dozens of times, and after she’s dead raping her vaginally, orally, and anally then cutting off her head and stuffing it in her crotch because her menarche reminded you of the sexual abuse your mom inflicted on you.”

“Spoiler alert!,” you’ll add.

Anyway, it was really well written, disturbingly vivid in parts. I’d say that I enjoyed it, but I rather like not being a registered sex offender and don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea. So I’ll say that I also took out another of Homes’ books and am looking forward to reading that one.

Page count: 272
Page total: 2,347

58. “Shutter Island,” Dennis Lehane

August 31, 2009 Leave a comment

This was a pretty quick read. I liked it a lop better than the previous book I read by Lehane, “Mystic River.”

The story is set in the mid 1950s and is about two US Marshals, Teddy and Chuck, who are dispatched to an island that is home for the “criminally insane,” a bullshit phrase that implies that being crazy is criminal. Most patients are schizophrenic or have other serious mental illnesses and when one escapes, the Marshals are called to help to locate the patient. Along the way the discover some fucked up Nuremberg shit and have to try to figure out a way to get off the heavily-patrolled island. In the middle of a hurricane. It’s being made into a movie and looks pretty good. I secretly love Leonardo DiCaprio.

Lehane was, by the way, my undergrad commencement speaker. He was very good– both funny and poinant.

Page count: 400
Page total: 23,429

37. “An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England,” Brock Clarke

May 25, 2009 Leave a comment

The title is excellent, but the book didn’t do much for me. No one is that big a bumbler. It was both depressing and unrealistic (but sometimes too realistic). I think mainly that it was the reading metaphor that didn’t do much for me. How self-referential can one book get?

In all the bumbling and the “but we’ll get back to that”s, Clarke’s writing did remind me a bit of Vonnegut, though.

First line:

I, Sam Pulsifer, am the man who accidentally burned down the Emily Dickenson House in Amherst, Massachusetts, and who in the process killed two people, for which I spent ten years in prision and, as letters from scholars of American literature tell me, for which I will continue to pay a high price long into the not-so-sweet hereafter. (p.1)

There is something underwhelming about scholarly hatemail– the sad literary allusions, the refusal to use contractions. (p. 8)

Page count: 303
Page total: 17,514

“The Cider House Rules”, John Irving

January 7, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m working on “The Cider House Rules” right now. I read it once before, more than three years ago. I don’t remember liking it as much then as I do now. I only read “The World According to Garp” last year, but it was one of those books that has the effect of a sucker punch. Since reading it, I have read a number of John Irving books; he is one of my favourite contemporary American authors.

“The Cider House Rules”, as the other Irving books I have read, is very sensitively written. Irving often takes detours into his character’s lives or thoughts. I would not say that he meanders, as his asides are substantial and well-plotted. They create wonderfully round characters that a person cannot help but feel for. His heros are generally quite flawed, often New England orphans, and incredibly likable, even as they do bad things.

In “The Cider House Rules”, one of the main characters is Dr. Wilbur Larch, an obstetrician and abortionist who runs an orphanage in a small, depressing, damned Maine town. Here’s an excellent description of him, from The L-rd’s Work:

Later, when [Dr. Larch] would have occasion to doubt himself, he would force himself to remember: he had slept with someone’s mother and dressed himself in the light of her daughter’s cigar. He could quite comfortably abstain from from having sex for the rest of his life, but how could he ever condemn another person for having sex? He would remember, too, what he hadn’t done for Mrs. Eames’s daughter, and what that had cost.
He would deliver babies. He would deliver mothers, too.

2. “Mystic River”, Dennis Lehane

November 11, 2008 Leave a comment

Sometimes I enjoy reading quick, trashy, useless best-selling novels. And then I am really disappointed when they are totally disposable. This is one of those times.

Page count: 448