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Banana Rose Hardcover – February 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 373 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; First Edition edition (February 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553095277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553095272
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,092,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

That the art of writing has many facets, some slippery, is demonstrated by this first novel from writing guru Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones), which turns out to be a rambling, rather indulgent memoir of marriage and friendship in an age of post-hippie adjustment. "I thought the hippie years would last forever," reflects Nell Schwartz from Brooklyn, aka "Banana Rose," who's living in a Taos commune, painting the awesome New Mexico landscape, when a sexy red-haired musician known as "Gauguin" blows into Taos with his brass saxophone. Soon ardent lovers, Nell and Gauguin depart for life in cities (including New York and its Jewish deli delights). But passion cools with marriage, ridiculous in-laws and the prospect of daily reality in "Minneapolis, for good." Gauguin turns unconvincingly bossy and square, annoyed by Nell's cafe art show, her carefree "women's libber" ways and her Jewishness, which she fiercely protects amid the alien Midwestern corn. For solace, Nell turns to Anna Gates, whose mountaintop funeral opens and closes the novel as a frame and comment on the Gauguin/Nell relationship. In life, Anna was willowy and fair, a writer of guileless little sketches and "a six-foot-one-inch lesbian" whom Nell had tenderly loved but slept with only once. Finally, Nell's painful losses spur her to redemptive literary activity. Sentence by sentence, Goldberg's writing is, not surprisingly, sensitive and quick, but her plot meanders like a sleepy bee, settling down now and then for a scene as sweet as nectar but too often simply buzzing around in the air. Major ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this tedious coming-of-age story, 29-year-old Nell, transplanted from New York to a Taos commune, takes the name Banana Rose, fancies herself a painter, and falls for an itinerant musician named Gauguin. She leaves her beloved Southwest to marry him in Minnesota. Things predictably fall apart, and Nell returns full circle to Taos. The central character's self-absorption does not make for a correspondingly absorbing narrative. Even with the pivotal Nell, no apparent focus forms from day-to-day occurrences that are itemized in monotonous detail. Too much of the novel reads like a dull adolescent's diary. If the characters were as interesting as their names, the reader might care what happens to them. Although this is Goldberg's first novel, she has-amazingly, given the quality of Banana Rose-written two nonfiction guides to writing (e.g., Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, LJ 10/1/90). Not recommended.
Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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More About the Author

Natalie Goldberg lived in Brooklyn until she was six, when her family moved out to Farmingdale, Long Island, where her father owned the bar the Aero Tavern. From a young age, Goldberg was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Carson McCullers's The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, which she read in ninth grade. She thinks that single book led her eventually to put pen to paper when she was twenty-four years old. She received a BA in English literature from George Washington University and an MA in humanities from St. John's University.

Goldberg has painted for as long as she has written, and her paintings can be seen in Living Color: A Writer Paints Her World and Top of My Lungs: Poems and Paintings. They can also be viewed at the Ernesto Mayans Gallery on Canyon Road in Sante Fe.

A dedicated teacher, Goldberg has taught writing and literature for the last thirty-five years. She also leads national workshops and retreats, and her schedule can be accessed via her website: nataliegoldberg.com

In 2006, she completed with the filmmaker Mary Feidt a one-hour documentary, Tangled Up in Bob, about Bob Dylan's childhood on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota. The film can be obtained on Amazon or the website tangledupinbob.com.

Goldberg has been a serious Zen practitioner since 1974 and studied with Katagiri Roshi from 1978 to 1984.

Customer Reviews

The characters were so strange that I couldn't really like them or care what happened to them.
Dallas Reader
Taos is a very special, magical place, and I believe that having experienced Taos firsthand adds to the magic of the book.
C. Pompeo
In the last couple of chapters I finally stopped wanting to shake some manners and sense into her.
LovingMyLife

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Nanci on August 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
I think Natalie is wonderful, so I'll try not to be too harsh. I just never warmed up to the characters. Perhaps if the sixties was more like this experience for you, you would enjoy it more. But by the end, I just didn't care what happened to Banana Rose. I thought she was nuts for not rushing into her female lover's arms and staying there. And she does whine, on & on, while refusing to face facts. Like all of us, I suppose. I'd rather enjoy Natalie on writing, and her wonderful voice.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dallas Reader on March 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Unless you particularly enjoy reading about life in a commune, drugs, free love and what everyone is eating, you probably won't like this book. The characters were so strange that I couldn't really like them or care what happened to them. I thought about not finishing the book several times, but I decided to stick it out. There was no great revelation here for me.
I can see, however, that people living this lifestyle or who are artists may enjoy the book more. There is a lot of banter about whether Banana Rose is motivated to paint or not..whether Gauguin can write songs or not..whether Anna can write stories or not...and so on.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
Banana Rose is one of those books that make me glad to know that writers like Natalie Goldberg are in the world. I first took this book out of the library, and immediately fell in love with it. I took it out of the library a few more times, and then finally got my own copy. Anytime I want to remember Taos, or the dreams of what could have been in a believable character's life - or in my own, for that matter - I read Banana Rose. The book just makes me feel better; no small feat in this world. Goldberg also does a good job of making all of the other characters - besides Banana Rose, Gauguin and Anna - very much alive. Blue is one of my favourites. I can "see" all these people. The book rambles a bit here and there, but it's worth hanging in through those parts, for the magic of the whole.
I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
I loved Natalie Goldberg's books about writing, which is why I found the novel so disappointing. The style is odd; it feels both too intentional, and also too much like a stream-of-consciousness exercise. Either way, it is not a well-crafted novel. Some passages were beautiful, and I love any book that can take me back to New Mexico. But Goldberg had a wonderful subject and setting, and didn't do either justice.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Clyde on October 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
I started this book before ever hearing Ms. Goldberg read from one of her books. I wanted to prepare for her visit to Spirit Rock Meditation Center and started Banana Rose. I had a hard time getting into it. I found that Banana was a bit of a whiner and the story seemed to go nowhere interesting. But when Ms. Goldberg gave a talk and read from her book, "The Great Failure," suddenly her voice leaped out at me. Her phrasing and emphasis helped me see that where I earlier took Banana as a "whiner," she was actually funny. She's a bit neurotic but if you can see what she says as more ironic and dry then it becomes funny. I enjoyed the remainder of the book once I could see the characters with Ms. Goldberg's voice.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
I wish I could say that my life was entirely linear...focused and directed, easily understood and appreciated by all I come into contact with...but it isn't always that way. This is a good book and a good story...not always moving in a straight line like some of the books I've read...but moving somewhere and noticing along the way some of the things we might have missed while we demanded a story that felt familiar. Whether this book is as good as her books on writing is kind of irrelevant...it stands on its own and deserves a place in my world, at least. Thankyou, Natalie. More, please. Long Quiet Highway is a great book, too...check it out.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By LovingMyLife on May 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Having started out as a hippie-type and then turning into a 30-something Libertarian, I was fascinated that a book would follow the growth of someone from hippie (i.e. young, carefree, slightly irresponsible) into adulthood (i.e. older, wiser, more responsible). The books characterizations were very concise and I could picture each person. However, that didn't make them any more dear to me. I was continually annoyed at Banana Rose/Nell for her selfishness, immaturity and melodramatic personality. I felt sorry for the other characters and was relieved when she and Gaugin parted ways - he could go on to find a woman who wouldn't throw little hissy fits when she didn't get her way. I made myself finish the book to see if perhaps Nell grew and learned a little on the way about how to interact with people in a more give and take manner. In the last couple of chapters I finally stopped wanting to shake some manners and sense into her. I just got the impression that everyone in her life got used by her in her search for herself... (and came out injured in one way or another...). I was disappointed that I was never rewarded with a decent plot or the feeling that Nell grew up! Just my humble opinion but this book left me feeling irritated. Moving on to something less "spiritual"... If you want a great read about deep insight try "Mutant Message from Down Under". THAT is great writing!
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