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Jessica Hammer's Profile

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Jessica Hammer RSS Feed (New York City)

Page: 1
by Austin Grossman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.99
87 used & new from $2.30

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated and Moving, April 22, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: You (Hardcover)
I've read plenty of novels about young men and women discovering that they have an writerly calling. (Though I didn't know until recently that it's called a kuntzlerroman!) As a passionate reader, these novels are always a bit strange for me. Although I'm glad people feel the calling to write, I don't dream of being a writer. I want other people to write wonderful things for me to read! So when I read about people becoming fully themselves by becoming writers, I feel both curious and alienated at the same time.

You, though, is my kuntzlerroman. A young man learns to understand himself through games. He learns to make sense of the world through design. He learns to build relationships through play. If the main character were a woman, you could be talking about me.

What's most impressive about the novel is that it makes the romance of games come to life, without falling into the trap of romanticizing gamerliness. Yes, Grossman writes about the game industry with an insider's insight, but he uses it to scathe rather than soothe. (For example, I cackled wildly over Pro Skater Endoria.) Our hero, Russell, is not a "gamer," nor does he become one over the course of the novel. Rather, he uses games in the way that other kuntzlerroman protagonists use books, or art, or music. Games become a tool for confrontation with the self and reconciliation with the world.

This is not a novel that will pander to you. It's a smart and sophisticated book, and Grossman doesn't hold your hand. The story jumps between past and present, between hard-edged realism and lyrical fantasy; it explores some of the great game design debates of the past thirty years; the protagonist works through his own history alongside the history of games in a psychologically astute way. That said, I think the book is accessible to anyone who comes to it with an open mind and an open heart. You can enjoy it on many levels, from "Will Black Arts Games survive?" to "How do games reframe our sense of our lives as interactive experiences?"

As you can probably tell, I highly recommend this book. If you've ever been moved or changed by an experience you've had in a game, this is a must-read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 28, 2013 1:49 PM PDT

Poke the Box
Poke the Box
Price: $5.99

62 of 75 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Attempts Inspiring, Manages Insulting, March 4, 2011
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This review is from: Poke the Box (Kindle Edition)
I really wanted to like this book. I hoped to be inspired, provoked, called to action. Instead, I found a mish-mash of half-baked pap thrown together repetitively, without much concern for argument or structure. I might have enjoyed some of these sections as blog posts, but it doesn't work at book length - especially, I might add, as a flagship title for his publishing venture.

So what about Godin's message? It boils down to, "Just do it," with a few useful embellishments like "Finish what you start." There are a few good stories, but you'll be doing 95% of the work of applying Godin's advice yourself. Spend the money you'd have put toward this book on taking an inspiring friend out for coffee, and getting them to listen to your ideas for ways you can take initiative in your own life.

Finally, I found it vaguely insulting to be advised by someone who did such a slipshod job of taking his own advice, at least in this case.

In short: not recommended.

The Magicians: A Novel
The Magicians: A Novel
by Lev Grossman
Edition: Hardcover
154 used & new from $0.01

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Little Self-Awareness, Please, September 2, 2009
This review is from: The Magicians: A Novel (Hardcover)
As others have pointed out, this novel is an attempt at a "literary" take on the Harry Potter magic-school genre. Sadly, Grossman manages to completely miss the potential in his own work for making this novel more than a pastiche.

The genuinely interesting part of Grossman's premise is to look realistically at the human reaction to a hidden magical universe. Unfortunately, his characters are painfully flawed as human beings - and not in narratively interesting ways. It's certainly possible to write a wonderful book about despicable people (such as Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children (Vintage)), but not when the author seems completely unaware of how despicable his characters are. It's often enjoyable for a character to lack self-awareness. It's much less enjoyable when the author unintentionally portrays the heroes of the story as entitled, self-absorbed, smug, and not much else.

It doesn't help that many of the characters are two-dimensional, especially the women. [...] The most compelling characters are often relegated to minor roles. Me, I'm waiting for the novels about Julia and Penny. I'm not sure Grossman has what it takes to write a novel in which characters actually develop by the end of the novel, but those are two stories in which one might find out.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 26, 2009 5:38 PM PST

Hello, I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity
Hello, I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity
by Hal Niedzviecki
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.60
116 used & new from $0.01

10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK, May 22, 2006
Nothing is good enough for Niedzviecki. Like pop culture? You're a mindless drone. Invent your own culture (like filming your own backyard wrestling league)? You're a wanna-be who's just trying to be special when you aren't. Participate in a community by choice? You must be trying to surround yourself with people who value you so that you can soothe your need to be, you guessed it, special. According to him, the only way to be a decent person is to go live without electricity on an island in the middle of nowhere. Frankly, I wish Niedzviceki would practice what he preaches. Let him go live on an island somewhere - and stop publishing rude, insulting, condescending books that don't even make a coherent argument about what he expects a meaningful community to look like.

by Charles Palliser
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.50
263 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mystery within a mystery ...., October 29, 2002
This review is from: Quincunx (Paperback)
This book may seem intimidating, clocking in at over 750 pages, but the story is sufficiently gripping to keep your nose firmly in place until the very end.
While the story is a terrific set-piece, riffing on nearly every element of the Victorian novel (thieves! poverty! disguise! secret identities! lost wills!), the real brilliance of it comes with a second reading. Nearly every character in the book is lying or at the very least concealing parts of the truth, and the narrator no less than anyone else. The story works on several levels of interpretation, each more shocking and intriguing than the last.
Highly recommended!

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