Monthly Archives: April 2012

“The Romantics” by Galt Niederhoffer

Back of Book Blurb: Laura and Lila were college roomates – one brooding and Jewish, the other the epitome of golden WASP-dom – at the center of a close-knit group of witty, warm, quirky friends. Now it’s ten years later, a day before Lila’s wedding to Laura’s former boyfriend, and as the guests arrive, Laura finds herself the only one not coupled up. Struggling with the traditionally thankless role of maid of honour, Laura realizes for the first time why she can’t stop thinking about her long, tangled relationship with the groom. And it appears that he is not entirely ready for the altar himself.

Okay, well, hmmm…The Big Chill starring former Yale students anyone?

Apparently my recent reads have some thematic similarities. Well, that’s not entirely true, nor is it absolutely true that the original cover of this book came in any florescent colours ala Jodi Picoult or Emily Giffin. It would be a safe assumption due to the title and the description of the book, however, Galt Niederhoffer’s story, while it focuses on the relationship between Laura and Lila, is much more than a tale of female companionship and competition. Yes, that is what is at it’s heart, but what drew me to The Romantics- in addition toThe Big Chillness of the whole thing of course – was, once again, the story of close friends and their complicated, ever-changing (and everlasting) relationship(s).

I also have watched the film written and directed by Niederhoffer – a long time film producer – and as is usually case, the book, with its built-in leeway, exceeds its visual representation. I find I will only watch film adaptations of books when I enjoy the book enough to want to see how the characters and the story will be portrayed. Seeing as Niederhoffer had a major hand in the creation of both I had to give it another 90 minutes of my time.

If you like The Big Chill and you like stories about decade spanning friendships and weddings and last chances and all that stuff, check it out. At the very least, watch the movie. It’s missing some things, but it’ll give you the jist. What I find with stories (and pretty much everything) though is the jist just isn’t enough.

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Struggling Against Silence

“Writing is a struggle against silence.” – Carlos Fuentes


“The House Of Sleep” by Jonathan Coe

Back Of Book Blurb: Like a surreal and highly caffeinated version of The Big Chill, Jonathan Coe’s new novel follows four students who knew each other in college in the eighties. Sarah is a narcoleptic who has dreams so vivid she mistakes them for real events. Robert has his life changed forever by the misunderstandings that arise from her condition. Terry spends his wakeful nights fueling his obsession with movies. And an increasingly unstable doctor, Gregory, sees sleep as a life-shortening disease which he must eradicate.

But after ten years of fretful slumber and dreams gone bad, the four reunite in their college town to confront their disorders. In a Gothic cliffside manor being used as a clinic for sleep disorders, they discover that neither love, nor lunacy, nor obsession ever rests.

 

SO…

I picked up this book because it mentioned, The Big Chill. I love that movie and I love stories akin to it. The House of Sleep  is one of those stories with its own twists and turns, saving it’s most major and “oh” moment until the end. Should I have seen it coming? No, because while things are eluded to on the back of the book and throughout the story, its something that I just didn’t see. Of course, I had already made up my mind about what was going to happen, so my judgment, as per usual with respect to endings of stories, was clouded. Damn it. I really thought I’d figured it all out as well.

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“The Brief History of the Dead” By Kevin Brockmeier

Novel: The Brief History of the Dead, by Kevin Brockmeier

Back of BookBlurb: “The City is inhabited by those who have departed Earth but are still remembered by the living. They will reside in this afterlife until they are completely forgotten. But the City is shrinking, and the residents clearing out. Some of the holdouts, like Luka Sims, who produces the City’s only newspaper, are wondering what exactly is going on. Others, like Coleman Kinzler, believe it is the beginning of the end. Meanwhile, Laura Byrd is trapped in an Antarctic research station, her supplies are running low, her radio finds only static, and the power is failing. With little choice, Laura sets out across the ice to look for help, but time is running out.”

Clear Protagonist(s): Yes. Brockmeier develops Laura immediately but also throughout the novel, so I felt that although I knew her near the beginning I also found out more about her through the other characters. I liked this technique. He showed us rather than told us. I can’t stress enough that showing rather than telling is the key not only to great character development, but also great story telling. Leave as little to dialogue as you can, unless your characters are funny and/or interesting.

Clear Antagonist(s): Yes and no. The antagonist in this novel is not clearly defined as a person(s), because, well, it wasn’t person(s). The Antagonist was a virus and the “elements”. This works for this novel and novels in general because you have the time for character development. Also, with the stakes being so high (life or death – the highest) weather/non-human antagonists work. Brockmeier did it well.

Plot: With respect to pacing, I would sayThe Brief History of the Dead moves a rate of just a little bit faster than a Sunday stroll. I never felt it lag, however, because Brockmeier weaves the novel with enough questions (that he doesn’t leave hanging at the end) so that you want to keep reading. You want to find out what’s happening and why. While it wasn’t entirely predictable, the great “twist”, if you could call it that, is given up about half way through the book. It’s okay. It works.

Why I read it: The title for one. It drew me in. I also liked the premise that there could be ties between the living and the dead just based on memory. If you think about it, a lot of our lives live in our memories. A lot of what we are, of “us”, lives in our memories. It’s weirdly romantic that while peoples’ bodies may give out or be too banged up to continue on, that our memories mean something more than just being moving pictures that morph based on our perspectives.

Read it or not?: Read it in the winter. It’s a winter book.


“…guilty until proven innocent…”

“Every word is guilty until proven innocent.” – Kira Peikoff

Grabbed this one from Kira’s article in the April 2012 issue of The Writer.

I think it’s great with respect to editing.


Hello again.

The title says it all. I’m back. Deal with it. Love it. Hate it. Do with what you must. Here. We. Go.


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