- File Size: 1037 KB
- Print Length: 257 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Asymmetrical Press (August 31, 2017)
- Publication Date: August 31, 2017
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0759KP96R
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
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Shapes the Sunlight Takes Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
Where to begin?! I'm really bad at writing reviews, but there is so much to say about this book i must try. I'm going to put down my thoughts in simple sentences because I would just end up rambling if I didn't break it down.
1. This book made me think about what It would be like if I was in love with someone but I needed them to be with (and have a child with!) someone else in order to save the world! That would be awful. That concept was something I would have never thought about, but I enjoyed diving into. I really like the main characters struggle with her own feelings and her knowing she needs to try to save the world. It showed the struggle between doing the right thing but wanting so badly to be selfish and NOT do the right thing. I think it's something everyone has had to deal with at some point in their lives.
2. I so enjoyed the high school descriptions, It so much like my high school experience. The description of all the different groups of kids there are in high school was fantastic. I felt like I was walking the halls of my high school again.
3. The character Donald Victoria Estringi was my favorite. He made me laugh out loud many different times. He was truly hilarious and added some great comic relief.
4. There were a lot of the ideas, words and descriptions I had to take a minute and slow down to comprehend and figure out, which is one of the reasons I love Josh's books, they make me think and even learn something new!
The bottom line is, I loved this book! It gave me things to ponder which I otherwise would not have pondered, and it made me laugh out loud at the same time! Definitely buy this book and enjoy every minute of it! It's quite the adventure!
Shapes the Sunlight Takes is a highly imaginative, beautifully written, and deeply strange book. It is a work littered with eccentric characters, dazzling descriptions and is as equally comfortable exploring epistemological questions such as the nature of time and self as it is in reveling in absurdities like the metaphysics of Rock-Paper-Scissors. What makes this book challenging to review is Wagner’s unique aesthetic that seems to elude categorization and blends genres. In broad terms, Shapes can be described as a magical realist coming-of-age story, one that is told from the perspective of Lexie, a freshmen high schooler, who is struggling to reconcile her feelings for a senior, Mirielle, with her belief that Mirielle is not only supposed to have a child with her despised ex, Derwin, but that this very child is destined to save the planet, quite possibly from a giant Tongue that will destructively roll through the world and seduce all that it does not destroy.
If this plot seems absurd to you, you’re not alone. It is a storyline that feels like a cross between a bizarre high-school superhero movie and a bad romcom, where, if only two people, against all odds, got together, then their love would literally change the world. Yet the beauty of this book consists in Wagner’s ability to utilize this absurd plotline as a way to create an imaginative playground that showcases his unique sensibility and gifted writing that can seamlessly go from teenage drama to post-apocalyptic visions to playful satire.
Wagner accomplishes this primarily through his use of a first person, occasionally omniscient, narrator placed in a magical realist setting. By having Lexie’s consciousness be able to imperfectly transcend time and space and then having her struggle over the authenticity of these visions, Wagner is able to strike a balance between layering and moving the story forward but also creating a sense of conflict that keeps the book interesting. Furthermore, by making Lexie’s quest so grandiose, all the main events in the novel are imbued with a sense of determinacy and part of the pleasure of reading this book is seeing how Wagner takes his diverse cast of characters and their side plots and weaves them all together into an indispensable part of the larger narrative as whole.
What fundamentally makes Shapes work is the way that Wagner is able to articulate his ambitious vision with an imaginative and insightful style. His poetic command of language permeates the entire text and can be seen in everything from poignantly describing small moments such as a character’s look of desperation “All her rage precipitates into sorrow, brokenness. Her face may as well be spattered in rain, teardrops smearing to speed up their decay” (198) to creating memorable grand lines that leap off the page: “Eternity can be overwhelming, but we don’t have to do it all at once” (313). Throughout the book Wagner is able to describe both the mundane and the phantasmagorical with a certain metaphorical flair, oftentimes moving from a scientific microscopic level to a wider philosophical panoramic view and then returning to a more visceral immediacy, sometimes all within the same sentence. Take for example when Lexie sums up the main conflict of the novel for herself in a statement that is emblematic of Wagner’s unique style.
I experienced some sort of electrical s***storm in my central nervous system that caused me to feel like I was seeing through the veil of the universe into another place or time – a place or time directly connected with the genetic potential between you and your ex in a story involving epic global catastrophe, inevitable unless I do something to make sure this genetic potential becomes sweaty, musky, heart-breaking, life-ruining genetic reality – and out of all of this me feeling like it’s totally my responsibility to shut down any feelings I have for her (97).
Central to Wagner’s aesthetic seems to be a childlike playfulness coupled with an erudite curiosity. There is a sense of exuberance and mischievousness to his prose, as he will take a naturalistic setting or an idea and playfully toy with it, transforming it into something strange and intriguing. This quality of Wagner’s writing naturally makes for a compelling magical realist setting filled with colorful creations such as a shape-shifting prophetic senior or, my personal favorite, a three-year-old proficient in Buddhist philosophy that utters profundities at the most inopportune times, but it also lends itself well to satire, which often follows a reductio ad absurdum line of reasoning that takes an idea to its own extreme conclusions. Shapes turns out to be a surprisingly funny book that comes off as both serious and satirical at the same time. While there is a commitment to the aesthetic integrity of its absurd creations, there is also a certain edge to them. And when Wagner creates plotlines such as a reality TV show that somehow “determines the sort of fabulous and challenging existence your deepest subconscious would rather be living” (21) or creates a group of eco-terrorists unironically called “Grow Some Balls” led by the what seems to be the embodiment of teenage white privilege, Wagner walks a fine line between creating a whimsical escapist fiction to a more acerbic sociological critique of American culture.
If there is one area in which Shapes stumbles, it is in that in its emphasis on plot and ideas, character development sometimes falls to the wayside. One unfortunate consequence of having the novel told through Lexi’s perspective is that a large swath of the book relies too heavily on her exposition and it takes nearly half the story before the central characters outside of her personality become fully fleshed out. Early on in the novel, side characters often seem secondary to plot and come off more as props set up to express an interesting idea or to deliver a quirky performance rather than being complete individuals. When the secondary characters are given room to breathe through extended conversation; however, the novel really comes to life. There is a particularly moving scene where Lexi talks to the ex-girlfriend of a student who killed himself and they discuss the pain and difficulty in accepting that someone close to you chose to die. Their conversation and the subsequent confrontation/breakdown from the sister of the dead student leads to one of the book’s rawer and more interesting moments. It is at such times that Wagner gives glimpses of his potential to delve a little deeper into his character’s psychology and one wishes there were more instances like these in the novel.
Shapes the Sunlight Takes is definitely not a book for everyone. To quote a character from the book, Wagner has a “real talent for weird s***” and this book is indeed weird. While it can be difficult to get hooked into the main plotline of Lexie trying to save the planet, the novel is remarkable in its ability to disclose a strange and interesting world through cleverly constructed side plots and a unique poetic sensibility. And yet, what perhaps makes this book worth reading is not necessarily the way Wagner is able to creatively craft fantastical elements, but rather, the way in which he is able to take what is familiar and commonplace and articulate it in strange and novel ways. Whether it be as simple as a moment of empathy towards a stranger or as complicated as trying to construct a coherent sense of self within our conceptions of time and the fallacies of memory, Wager offers a unique perspective on life and how to view the world through this entertaining and intriguing coming of age story.
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