Book Review, Creative Non-Fiction, Edmund White, Fictional Memoir, Gay Lit

Review: A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White

A refreshingly realistic tale of a gay boy’s “coming of age.” White makes a point of expressing his distaste for fanciful boy’s tales in which all boarding schools are brothels of young sex and violence, then proceeds to tell a painfully true story (autobiographic) about a youth growing up confused – his mother’s companion, his father’s shame, his sister’s punching bag, physically and emotionally. The boy struggles with self-image, with friendships and sexual experiences, with religion and philosophy, with truth and farce. While the story itself did sometimes get dwarfed by the over-arching themes which it meant to present, the novel still ends powerfully in that its stays true to its purpose. The narrator accomplishes what he meant to, but is left without any deus-ex-machina type epiphany. While I find the comparisons to Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye a bit stretched, I can see a mixture of Knowles’s A Separate Peace (A Boy’s Own Story being more explicit of events, whereas Knowles left much to implication) and Forster’s Maurice. Interestingly enough, early American gay literature tended to be more subdued than its British counterparts; however, white seems to invoke a bit of the beat generation’s bravado in A Boy’s Own Story. Still, the language is often loftier than story would seem to necessitate and the narrator’s pretense of genius (the narrator himself and all characters around him, including his mother, seemed to consider him something extraordinary, though no characteristics were developed to explain this) gets a bit nauseating. All in all, I quite liked the blunt realism, in spite of many instances of pretentious prose.

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Armistead Maupin, Creative Non-Fiction, Fiction, Gay Lit

Review: The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin

This is the creative non-fiction masterpiece of a generation; the one I would have written, had I had the courage or artistry of Armistead Maupin. I thank him for writing it, in spite of himself and the terrifying, painful monstrosity of emotions which must have been bombarding him from start to finish. It is a work of heartbreaking brilliance and almost a relief (and, let’s be honest, almost an affront) not to have to write it myself. It simultaneously brings closure, questions, and a new necessity for me to tell my own story.

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Book Review, Charles Bukowski, Creative Non-Fiction

Review: Hot Water Music by Charles Bukowski

Some people have no idea what they’re talking about when they review this book. Beware of those who say the book was bigoted or that all the stories seemed the same. This tells you something about the reader – not the book. Every raw inch of Hot Water Music is intentional and calculated. Bukowski was a genius and it shows through his use of raw, stripped-down, brutal language which mimics the bare, purposeless world which Bukowski is attempting to describe. Many of the stories have similar themes: booze, sex, the track; however, each story has a unique “real life” story to tell, many of which were probably based on Bukowski’s own personal history (but for more of this, you might want to check out his early works, such as Ham on Rye). Bukowski is obviously a cynic and evokes all that is wrong, dirty, and typically unspoken. Neither his prose nor his subjects are flowery because life is not flowery for the majority of people – we see these things happen every day, and there is a bizarre beauty and achievement in what Bukowski does and says, simply by shoving the real right in front of our faces.

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Book Review, Creative Non-Fiction, Criticism, Historical, Jacqueline Susan, Metaphysical, Milan Kundera, Theory, Thomas Pynchon, Tim O'Brien

More Earlier Reads & Light Reviews

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

The Crying of Lot 49 is an apocalyptic narrative which deals with the thermodynamic concept of entropy. Pynchon prophecies the technological age and the lack of genuine communication/conversation between humans will result in the slowing down and eventually destruction of civilization.

Very interesting read, probably one of Pynchon’s more “accessible” novels, though I had to pop on the web a few times to get a better grasp of the thermodynamic concepts.

The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism by Vincent Leitch (Editor)

This is the graduate student in literature’s bible. No joke. The pages are even as thin, or thinner, than those in my Bible. It’s heavy, too. Literally and metaphorically. Essential. Also, probably the reason I now have hunched shoulders.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Incredible work of creative memoir and meta-fiction. Worth the read to anyone, especially those interested in war fiction (“non-fiction”). However, in response to reviews which state that this novel “takes no sides,” I am befuddled. The Things They Carried is every bit the anti-war novel. O’Brien implies and states pointedly that he was entirely against the war. On page 61 he even states that he was a coward for going to the war, because it meant choosing what was forced upon him rather than what he knew to be right.

In any case, great read. Eerily playful and profound.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Very interesting but not very entertaining. This is more a philosophical work than a piece of literature, but it is excellent for what it is. Those who read the back and become interested in the “love story” it touts might walk away a bit confused, if they finish the book at all. However, the very last section, “Karenin’s Smile,” is absolutely breath-taking.

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Excellent read. Entertaining, sad, sexy. Great summertime, beach book.

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Book Review, Creative Non-Fiction, Drama, Jerome Lawrence

>Review: Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence

>Fast-paced, powerful, and engaging story about one of the trials of the century. Based on a true story, Inherit the Wind tells the tale of two “superstar” lawyers, battling over a schoolteacher’s imprisonment for including Evolution and Darwin’s text in his classroom. The trial takes place in rural Tennessee – the Bible Belt’s buckle. Though the play is brief, the drama and tension build, becoming almost alive -inhaling and exhaling as the pages turn. The characters are well-developed and demonstrative of their situations, without being grotesques. I truly believe this is an essential text for any aspiring educator and particularly beneficial for those practicing in less tolerant or progressive areas. A new favorite.

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Creative Non-Fiction, David Sedaris, Gertrude Stein, Laura Esquival, Magical Realism, Orson Scott Card, Philosophy, Postmodernism, Robert Coover, Science-Fiction, Voltaire, William Faulkner

Reviews: The Earlies, Part 10

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Very beautiful… very difficult.

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Unbelievably good sci-book. Probably the best ever.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

One of the funniest books ever. I actually ‘laughed out loud.’

Paris France by Gertrude Stein

Wonderfully playful with words and style.

Candide by Voltaire

Hilarious.

Briar Rose by Robert Coover

Stunningly creative and playfully postmodern. An examination of itself.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquival

Very pretty. Great use of magical realism.

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Book Review, Classics, Creative Non-Fiction, Dave Pelzer, Fantasy, John Steinbeck, Literature, Lois Lowry, Madeleine L'Engle, T.C. Boyle, Thomas Hardy

Reviews: The Earlies Part 3

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Really fun. And interesting. One of the best young-adult fantasy novels, I think.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Not my favorite of Steinbecks work, but considering Steinbeck is an incredible Americcan author, that’s not saying much to the negative. It is a great story and very well written. Certainly interesting commentary on early prejudices toward the mentally handicapped.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Nearly flawless.  Beautiful “young adult” about the dangers of oppressive conformity and thought control. Be yourself!

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

This is one of the first truly literary giants I completed, and one which helped me to define myself as a literature student. Getting through this novel and, more importantly, enjoying it ..well, yay for Hardy. Thanks for turning me into a literature student.

The Lost Boy by Dave Pelzer

Wow. Tragic and heartbreaking. Beautiful, honest prose. Disturbing and haunting true story.

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

Very moving story but Boyle seems wrapped up in his own style. That is to say, he comes across as quite pretentious. It distracts the reader from what should be a powerful and painfully truthful story.

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