I tried Pynchon and didn’t love it.
While Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 consists of offbeat and intriguing characters, immersed in an interesting enough plot, Pynchon’s style is unnecessarily distracting and dense. Almost as though he wants it to be a struggle to wade through his writing; like a post-modern convoluted Faulkner.
The strength of Pynchon’s writing is enough to keep you on the hook until the end of The Crying of Lot 49; but he is certainly an author for a specific audience, but may not be for those looking for a gentle climb rather than an uphill battle.
Rating: 3 Stamps
Lewis Carroll, a controversial and colorful character himself, creates a vivid and trippy world in his upside-down fairy tale travels with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Down the rabbit hole we go, bumping into unforgettable creatures along the way; staples of many a childhood. A journey through the unknown, promoting individuality and exploration of imagination.
At the center though, is a brat.
While in full support of Carroll cranking up the imagery and spirit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he could have cranked down the precociousness of his leading lady. Alice has the common “too smart for her own good” air popular among children’s lit; but it goes from charming to obnoxious faster than you can say, “Drink me.”
Alice is pretty much the original millennial (or at least the media idea of what millennials are…which they generally aren’t, but we will leave that for another day and a different blog); and while the idea of continuing on adventures with Lewis Carroll is appealing, I’d prefer Alice stay home for the rest.
Rating: 3.5 Mad Tea Parties
Morrie Schwartz was a beautiful human. One of those rare lights we should all be so lucky to come bath in over the course of our lifetime. A light which brings universal wisdom, patience, and compassion for all. His interviews with Ted Koppel moved and inspired me, I can’t recommend watching them enough. Unfortunately, my job here isn’t to review Morrie Schwartz as a person, it’s to review the writing that immortalized him. Sadly, that writing doesn’t do Mr. Schwartz the justice he deserved.
Mitch Albom is not a good writer. His writing is amateurish, saccharin, and self-indulgent. I first expressed my thoughts on the matter when I didn’t recommend The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I had higher hopes for Tuesdays with Morrie due to the subject matter; but Albom disappoints again.
The fact is, Tuesdays with Morrie is more about Mitch than our titular hero; this is a fact that would be bothersome even if the memoir was written by a talented word smith. While, yes, we are getting to know Morrie through the eyes of a former student, it is Morrie who brings the goods and touches our souls; it is Morrie who would probably be the first to tell Mr. Albom to put his own ego aside.
It is clear why Tuesdays with Morrie is so widely read: Morrie Schwartz is one in a million; but, the messenger who brought him to international light does not deserve the amount of credit he has received.
Is Tuesdays with Morrie worth reading? For sure, there is something to be gained from Morrie’s heart by all. Should one then go on to read anything else Mitch Albom wrote? No.
Rating: 3 Motivational Tuesdays
While Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast is a fascinating first-hand look at life as an artist in Paris in the 1920s – a time that is an obsession for most current writers and artists – Hemingway loses his way in this non-fiction book.
Perhaps it is because A Moveable Feast is not only a work of non-fiction, but a personal one that Hemingway’s signature style is missing.
Hemingway skillfully relays his experiences, relationships, and struggles, but his prose is more flowery and less concise than in his works of fiction. Therefore if the poetic terseness of his novels and short stories is what you are seeking – A Moveable Feast is not for you. If learning about the time period, or gaining an insight to the mind of a beloved author piques your interest, you will enjoy the experience.
Rating: 3.5 Classy Name Drops
Arja Kajermo creates an off-beat coming of age story, with a hint of the fairy-tale, in her debut novella, The Iron Age.
Told through the eyes of an unnamed 6 year old, The Iron Age combines folklore and history to explore the struggles of a Post-WWII Scandinavian family. There is bleakness to Kajermo’s writing which sets a strong, and appropriate tone for the world into which we are invited. The mixture of this bleakness and a child’s perception makes for an interesting take on such a turbulent time.
Kajermo doesn’t follow-through on the mystical elements she creates, which leaves the reader hungering for The Iron Age to transition from a novella to a novel (a rarity coming from this girl, I know). Therefore, Kajermo certainly has room to grow as a novelist, but there is no denying there is a touch of magic in her writing.
Rating: 3 Witches Next Door
At the request of a dear friend, Pearl Cleage’s What Crazy Looks Like on an Ordinary Day was another last minute swap in for my 2017 list. To be perfectly blunt, I was hesitant about taking it on – from the synopsis, it appears to be one of those novels where everything bad a person could possibly think of manages to happen: overloading the reader with all things depressing.
But, I was too quick to judge; What Crazy Looks Like… as well as the main character, Ava, were a true delight.
While, yes, What Crazy Looks Like has a bit of a formulaic feel and it’s easy to predict where certain plot lines will lead, the ride is enjoyable. Cleage doesn’t skimp on delivering fully developed characters with relatable relationships and behaviors. As “crazy” as things get for Ava and her sister, Joyce, the stretch stops short of being unrealistic.
What Crazy Looks Like on an Ordinary Day, is packed full of the drama, joy, romance, and laughter that makes for a quality vacation or rainy Sunday read.
Rating: 3 Sneaky Church Ladies