Fiction: Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill

Our challenge book for August.

I liked it more than Dad did (he reports having to flog himself through it) but overall, as time has passed, it didn’t leave that much of an impression. It felt like there was an awful lot of that male midlife meandering (the way Philip Roth and David Hodges novels are getting to be)… The modern stuff was a lot sharper, the drooling down memory lane stuff (moonings over mama and cricket) bored us both. Dude’s wife was a totally infuriating character; that relationship was nearly inexplicable. We both liked Chuck but his role is weirdly peripheral and pivotal at the same time.

It was a decent enough book but we have no idea why it got the hype it did. I guess the 9/11 references were probably what brought it to people’s attention. Eh.

This is what I’ve learned on the subject of women: never delay. The more quickly you act, the greater the chance of success.

As one does.

“It’s funny,” said Daniel. “A few weeks ago, I’d never have expected to be wrapping a werewolf in a quilt and giving her a hot water bottle. Now it’s almost second nature.”

I am reading Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar and it is fantastic.

Fiction: This Is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper

Have looked at it in the bookstore a few times so picked it up when I saw it at the library the other day.

Three brothers, sister, insane mother all in different stages of romantic mess-ups sit shiva for their dad for a week and contretemps ensue.

Occasionally a bit crass but entertaining. Both funny and sad in parts, I liked the main character and I really loved Penny.

At some point you lose sight of your actual parents; you just see a basketful of history and unresolved issues. …

Penny’s honesty has always been like nudity in an action movie: gratuitous but no less welcome for it. …

You can’t let your dog crap on the sidewalk, but it’s perfectly acceptable to blow carcinogens down other people’s throats. Somewhere along the way, smokers exempted themselves from the social contract.

Repeating myself.

Found myself flipping through a book before popping it in the mail to someone (it’s on its way, AFM!) and was about to post this quote until I did a search and realized I already posted it two years ago, whoops. [From a book I ultimately didn’t love but does have some nice writing.] Doesn’t seem like it was two years ago I read this but there you go.

Instead, here’s another:
Falling in love isn’t something that you decide to do, anymore than you decide on the weather. It descends on you, like a hurricane.
–from “The Post-Birthday World” by Lionel Shriver.

What that reminds me of is the Oracle talking to Neo in The Matrix: …being the one is just like being in love. Nobody can tell you you’re in love, you just know it, through and through. Balls to bones.

Meera on Metamorphosis.

I am not like the ferns. I have spent my thirty years on changes and modifications, constantly refashioning my own shapes, mechanisms, and systems in the hope that there is, after all, a better answer. I have been shy as often as I have been bold; I have worn the crown of ambition as often as the mask of nonchalance; I have copied friends and enemies, believing their shapes an improvement over my own. I have been myself a dozen different ways, and still never found the right one. I am trying out a new incarnation right now, in fact—fingers crossed that this time I know what I’m doing—if only you could see me shift.
-from On the Persistence of Ferns. [emphasis added by moi. WOW.]
This girl, she can write.

I know the feelin’.

“It’s funny,” she said, narrowing her eyes. “There are things you’re just positive will happen to you. Then there’s that second when you realize, Jesus Christ. Maybe they won’t.”

-from “Passing the Hat” by Jennifer Egan (short story published in “Emerald City” collection).

Compromise vs Development

“Compromise, eh? Isn’t it sad, growing up? You start off like my Charlie. You start off thinking you can kill all the baddies and save the world. Then you get a little bit older, maybe Little Bee’s age, and you realize that some of the world’s badness is inside you, that maybe you’re a part of it. And then you get a little bit older still, and a bit more comfortable, and you start wondering whether that badness you’ve seen in yourself is really all that bad at all. You start talking about ten percent.”
“Maybe that’s just developing as a person, Sarah.”
I sighed and looked out at Little Bee.
“Well,” I said. “Maybe this is a developing world.”

-from “Little Bee” by Chris Cleave