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Heaven: A Novel
Heaven: A Novel
by Robert Clark
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars quietly amazing, May 16, 2013
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This review is from: Heaven: A Novel (Paperback)
I have been a fan of Mr. Clark's work since finishing Mr. White's Confession many years ago. Now, once again, he has captured the emotional desolation of a character in the ironically titled Heaven. Mr. Clark's ability to expose Bud's profound sadness by use of the unreliable narrator is heartbreaking and through Bud's willful denial the author has underscored the alienation of an entire generation. Unfortunately, apparently because this book was self-published, the novel is marred by distracting typographical errors including reversed quotation marks at the end of some quotes and dropped (or added) prepositions. Toward the end, when Bud is in California for a convention, he says (at page 263) "After I finished my second day of meetings.." he contacted Dean. But (on page 269) he says, during his dinner with Dean, "I was tired from traveling all day." I am curious why an author with Mr. Clark's ability would resort to self-publishing. Could he not, after all his other books he had published, find a publisher? Is this the crises of "mid list" writers in today's economy? The book does feel a little loose, perhaps the absence of an editor working with the author not only to erase the many typo's but to tighten the prose in places because as presented the product feels self published, not completely polished. While those problems were annoying, and if I did not already know the author would have given me greater pause, the book remains quietly amazing.


The Angry Buddhist
The Angry Buddhist
by Seth Greenland
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.16
87 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tossed off, February 15, 2013
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This review is from: The Angry Buddhist (Paperback)
I agree with "Bob" regarding the typo's and other errors, including one scene that begins with Randall planning his first campaign visit to a golf club, then three pages later, the event is described as a visit to a senior center. I liked "The Bones" enough to purchase this and put "Shining City" in my cart, but now I'm not sure. This felt half done, slapped out without a lot of thought. The plot is nonsensical, which may be the point, but with weakly drawn characters, and little tension I never became engaged in the book and finished it with the same sense of disengaement I imagined the author felt writing this.


We're with Nobody: Two Insiders Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics
We're with Nobody: Two Insiders Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics
by Alan Huffman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.47
155 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring and repititious, September 18, 2012
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Much of the time I felt I was reading a sales brochure. Very repetitive and though nicely written, boring. I skimmed most of it. Particularly after numerous stories about checking local records. Maybe because I skimmed I missed the part where they: "Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics". I learned about the book from an interview on the Daily Show. Shame on you Jon Stewart for making this sound much more informative than it is.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 21, 2013 6:51 PM PDT


The Yellow Birds: A Novel
The Yellow Birds: A Novel
by Kevin Powers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.99
260 used & new from $0.01

119 of 146 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sadly disappointed, September 15, 2012
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I bought Yellow Birds because it was mentioned favorably in "Time" magazine. The reviewer gave me the impression the book was essentially a traditional war novel which generally combines coming of age within the horror of war. Nick Arvin did a remarkable job depicting the life of a soldier in World War Two in "Articles of War". "Matterhorn" is a novel in that mode and was engrossing, displaying both grim detail and dark humor to create a very believable experience of the Vietnam conflict. I served in Vietnam, flew helicopters there, and the book captured the experience grippingly. Thus I came to this book with the expectation of the same type of exposure to another one of our mistaken wars. Vietnam was fought by a different generation by soldiers drafted into an unpopular war. The current conflicts are now fought exclusively by volunteers. Perhaps that difference explains a subtle yet significant difference in the portrayal of the conflicts. Perhaps choosing mitigates the horror to which you've been exposed, and blunts the outrage. Who knows?
Unfortunately what I read seemed a dreamy exercise in self indulgence. The author both served in Iraq and earned a MFA (apparently with an emphasis in poetry) from the University of Texas. No doubt the man can write. His description of the experience of combat as being akin to the moment in an auto accident between understanding what has happened and the impact was brilliant.
But, sadly, I never became engaged with any of the characters and thus did not really care what happened to private Bartle or his friend Murphy. Their friendship seemed false from the beginning and never developed into anything deeper. Plot points were also not convincing. SPOILER ALERT For example the mutilation of a body (and the concern a parent would open the coffin) becomes the reason for the climactic events in the war zone. Maybe things have changed, but in Vietnam certain coffins were sent home sealed with the warning not to view the remains. And most concerning the abrupt murder of an innocent Iraqi is provided as a shock, but then not followed with any apparent effect on the moral issues of the book.
The writing itself lacked precision. Rather than dig into the characters Mr. Powers chose instead to tell us what to feel and often in vague sentences such as: "Clouds spread out over the Atlantic like soiled linens on an unmade bed." This had the effect of distancing me from the events and lead to confusion. I'm not sure, for example, whether the final scene in Iraq took place at night, or morning, or both. The scene starts out in a "...city, past curfew,..." and at least two references to lit streetlights. Yet, a few pages later action occurred "....in the heat of late morning." I missed any transition indicating the squad (or company?)had stayed out overnight.
If you enjoy sentences like this one describing the appearance of an alley: "In the dark, a swallow illustrated the turns with its call's echo." You may enjoy this book. But frankly I thought the false tone of the story belied its impact. It may be that I missed some illusive point; I looked for it. Instead the book left me empty and a bit annoyed, particularly in light of my expectations. I wish Mr. Powers all the luck on his literary career, but for me, a good story, well told, is the reason I read, and this book did not provide that at all.
Comment Comments (13) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 17, 2013 1:03 PM PDT


Wichita
Wichita
by Thad Ziolkowski
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.50
78 used & new from $0.01

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shallow and pointless, August 23, 2012
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This review is from: Wichita (Paperback)
Just finished Wichita, well not really, I skimmed the last seventy-five pages and read the ending. I was drawn to the book by the New York Times review, often a good source of interesting fiction. However I suspect sometimes personal politics can elevate a book and garner a review not justified. I also note Sam Lipsyte (The Ask)who is quoted on the cover claiming the book is "...rich, subtle, and funny..." is, like the author, a beneficiary of the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. It pays to be connected, right. The book features two brothers. Lewis just abandoned by his girlfriend and lacking the drive to enter academia has returned to visit his mother in Wichita where he is surprised by his younger bipolar brother. They interact. There are other "odd ball" characters, but nothing of interest occurs and the book quickly becomes repetitious. Frankly nothing allowed me to suspend my disbelief enough to accept any of the relationships or situations which seemed designed to simply fill up the pages. There are also a lot of typo's including the misspelling of Shirley Maclaine's name on page 142. Not sure what that means, but it was distracting and further damaged the suspension of disbelief.


Beautiful Ruins: A Novel
Beautiful Ruins: A Novel
by Jess Walter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.05
126 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loving, Thoughtful and Kind, August 17, 2012
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I want to add my gratitude to Mr. Walter for his accomplishment. The book is funny, bright, and alive with warmth. I only hope word of mouth will push this book onto the bestseller lists--it deserves the attention. Richard Russo gave it high praise and if you are a fan of Mr. Russo's (as I am) you will enjoy this book.


Bob Dylan in America
Bob Dylan in America
by Sean Wilentz
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.21
77 used & new from $0.87

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars self indulgent and dull, July 24, 2012
This review is from: Bob Dylan in America (Paperback)
Got this as a gift. I've been a fan since 1963. I read, then skim read, this book looking for insight and additional information. Instead I was bored. The tone is dry and lifeless and filled with unsubstantiated claims. For example Mr. Wilentz claims: "Dylan would have preferred to play old folk songs with nothing but acoustic instruments... but the programmers decided that traditional music without drums and at least some electric guitar backing would turn off the youthful MTV audience."(page 254) Really? How does he know? And if true why not contrast the Dylan who capitulated to MTV with the Dylan who flipped off the media when he was young. Now that might have been involving. Oh, well. At least Mr. Wilentz reminded me of how well Geoff Muldaur plays the blues.


The Coldest Night
The Coldest Night
by Robert Olmstead
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.27
182 used & new from $0.01

12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I guess I don't get it, July 7, 2012
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This review is from: The Coldest Night (Hardcover)
He read the book. The book had been praised by many, and awards bestowed. The unanimity moved opinion, sheltered disillusion though the disillusion came with the weather when it stormed. At times the man wondered at the awesome power of description, the essence of despair captured by the prose and rendered there as words. To be read. At other times the dialogue stilted and shared no meaning on the condition or the purpose. There is a plot, but that plot is basic and almost beside the movement that is not stillness. The man suffers, the purpose for which is never shared. But that he suffers cannot be doubted. For what reason can never be clear from the reading. And the ending, when it comes, as it will, disappoints and leaves the reader unclear why he made the journey in the first place. The quiddity lost, and never found.
Okay bad parody, but still with lines like; "It filled his throat and caught there." or, "There was no clock, no calendar that moored them in the stream of nights that begot days and days that drifted into darkness." I think it's fair game. There is power in the book, but I finished with no sense of who Henry was and why he enlisted in the first place. I thought the story was cliche and the characters never developed and therefore I never sunk into the experience. I welcome any comments from those who loved this book explaining what I missed.


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