Archives for posts with tag: literature

Olive Kitteridge is one of those books that has been on my radar since it was published in 2008 (and subsequently won the Pulitzer in 2009) but I never read it. I’m glad I waited.

The book is fucking delightful.


Olive Kitteridge sits as my central character and the small town of Crosby, Maine bustles around her. Olive is essentially unlikeable, yet compelling enough for it to be a joy when she returns to the page. Others might disagree but that’s why I feel grateful that I’ve waited so long to read this book. I like talking about books. Hell I’ll read any pulp novel on the shelf if there is the possibility I’ll get to discuss it with someone I like. On the other hand, sometimes, it’s nice to have a book (and a character) all to myself. That is Olive Kitteridge.


I finished this some time ago:


Beautiful work. Somehow the mountains of Oregon are more foreign to me than I would have expected. When I want to picture rolling plains throws a mountain in front of my view. Is that world claustrophobic? Coplin doesn’t describe it as such but I can’t help but think of it that way. Her descriptive ability is reason enough to pick up the book. Then the story steps in and keeps you interested. Some death. Some hardship. A little kidnapping. A little murder plot. A baby. Good stuff all around. At least for the first 350 pages. Maybe it was my own cabin fever as the winter wore on but those last eighty pages got to me.
Still I would recommend it.

My apologies for the delayed and brief review.

I am reading The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin.


The book has received a fair amount of critical and popular praise. Thus far, I like it. Some history, some love, some violence, some beauty, some isolation. All good things made better by combination. I’ll let you know the final verdict when I’m done reading.

I’m struggling now with trying to read without the MFA voice chattering in my year. Maybe you know that voice. The one that says, “That comma doesn’t belong. I don’t trust that narrator. That character is pretty flat.” Yeah she’s annoying, I know. Mostly I can ignore her, but not always.

Early in The Orchardist two new characters are introduced– Jane and Della. An introduction of new characters often throws that omniscient narrator’s voice into question. Here, let me show you a paragraph:

Sentence #1
“Jane disapproved of the communication between Della and the man, though she said nothing to Della about her behavior.”

Ok, I’ve found my footing. The narrator is close, in the character’s head. Even though Jane didn’t say anything we know of her disapproval. Cool, got it.

Sentence #2:
“ Perhaps Jane didn’t know about it, but that seemed unlikely, since she knew everything.”

WTF?! What do you mean she might not have known. You just said she disapproved. Not she might have disapproved if she’d known. Not that Della expected her to disapprove. What is going on here?! How am I supposed to understand the world if dear narrator doesn’t. Oh the horror!

Yeah, I told you, she’s annoying.

I’m still reading though. That seems like a good sign for the book and a better sign for overcoming the MFA. Excessive analysis cannot ruin my love for reading. Maybe it did for a bit but that voice won’t win every time.

I avoided this book for quite a while:


Looking back, I’m not sure why. Despite the slow start, I found myself sucked in. A little historical fiction and a little sci-fi. A little drama and love and mystery and not as much cheesy “interconnected-ness” as I expected. The structure is beautifully daring (half-spoiler alert: it’s a pyramid!). Even during the sections that I cared less about I kept turning the page, wanting to know how we would get to the next section or back to the one we just left. That seemed like a good sign.

If you’ve been avoiding it I would recommend just giving it a try. Don’t mind that page count. Big books can be a gift.

The question is now, should I see the movie?

A friend has been telling me to read this for months.


I trusted his recommendations until he told me to watch this:


Unless you’re 14, don’t bother.

But I thought I’d give him a chance to redeem himself. After all, The Sisters Brothers did seem up my alley. A little murder. A little history. A chance for redemption. Sure, sign me up.

Dewitt creates a fantastic world for the brothers to wander about in as our dear narrator, Eli Sisters, questions his purpose in life. More importantly he questions his profession as a roving bounty hunter-murderer. The characters are interesting. The setting is beautiful. The chapters are short. It was shortlisted for the Booker. What more can one ask? If you’ve got the time, and the space on your to do list, give it a read.

(When you get to section two, come back and talk to me, I’ve got some things to say about that but I don’t want to give anything away.)

Welp, I couldn’t wait. We watched the movie (streamed from Amazon) last night.


Like I said yesterday, read the book first. The book let me fill in all the details the movie missed. And the movie certainly missed some details but Matt Damon sure is a wonderfully creepy Tom Ripley. He owned the movie. His performance made the missing pieces feel acceptable.

Watching the movie so soon after finishing the book made for an interesting comparison, particularly with the gay undertones of both the book and movie. In the book, Highsmith lets us draw our own conclusions. She throws the word queer around like you just don’t see these days. Maybe Tom is gay. Maybe Dickie is too. Maybe everyone’s gay! Then again, maybe the reader is just a bigot. The movie it’s a little more obvious. Tom is certainly gay. Dickie is certainly not.

Why the clear line? Stick with me on here for a moment.

My theory is that tone has to do with the time each was produced. In the 50s, when the novel came out, being gay was not always something one readily admitted. It served more a source of gossip than as an identity. Where in the 90s – as in the movie itself – things were a little more clear cut. A fellow wasn’t going to marry a girl just to keep up appearances. Ok it’s not a fully formed theory but it was fun compare.

I’ll stick with my original advice: always read the book first.

I waited for this novel to come out in paperback because I’m stubborn but I wasn’t disappointed. Not by the book and not by the new cover art.

Some books without much in the way of plot of end up being wonderful reads and some simply suck. The Marriage Plot fell into the first category. While Eugenides’ other books (The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex) delivered complex plotlines with tragedy and joy and death and love, The Marriage Plot ran a more level course. Yet I loved them all.

Though I didn’t particularly care for two of the three main characters, my only significant sticking point throughout the novel was its setting in the 1980s. I don’t feel like this was justified or sufficiently researched. (Did people really say hipster in the 80s?) Eugenides seems to have taken the easy narrative road by avoiding the age of cellphones and the internet. Then again, maybe that’s the hidden reason I loved this book. Times were a bit simpler but love was not.

Yeah, I’d read about any book with that tag line.

By far the most beautiful book with a murder on the first page:

I’m a sucker for books set in the Midwest. Rural Midwest in the 20s gets even more points. Add a murder and the sweetest little boy memories and I’m done for. This was what I was hoping for when I read the thin Julian Barns novel – beauty and plot. Good sentences will get you far. A good plot can hold up even some questionable writing, but putting them both together is hard to find. In So Long, See You Tomorrow William Maxwell delivers both. It’s a page turner but I didn’t want to turn the page too quickly for fear of missing a beautiful buried sentence.

God, I love a good sentence. If you haven’t read it yet, you won’t regret unearthing this old book.

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