The week in review

So we had a houseguest this week, and at one point he observed, “You sure have a lot of pictures of Oscar Isaac in your house.” And I don’t know about you, but what I hear there is, “You need more pictures of Oscar Isaac in your house.”

oscar
I’m on it.

Lake Success is one of those books that I absolutely loved, but I don’t know how many people I’d recommend it to. Or maybe I’d recommend it, but I won’t expect people to like it for the same reasons I did. The biggest thing is that I assume most readers will hate the main character, and you’re probably supposed to hate the main character, but I did have quite a bit of sympathy for him. I just can’t automatically hate rich Wall Street types as a rule, for one thing. I also really appreciated the unflinching depiction of parents raising a child on the lower functioning end of the spectrum. This was very warts and all on that front, and I think you usually see a more sanitized version. I was totally absorbed in everything going on in this book; even the most minor interactions felt so steeped in subtext. I really loved everything about this, so I guess I can still recommend it after all. I think.

Many many years ago, I had this delightful little book called Celebritest. Oh man I wish I still had this! A bunch of celebrities were given a line drawing test that was then analyzed by a psychiatrist, and it was fascinating! The psychiatrist analyzed them not knowing who they were, and I remember he thought Johnny Rotten seemed like a real jerk. Sadly, if I remember right, Alexander Godunov was also featured and the doctor thought he was very depressed. Anyway, the whole point of this tangent is that one of the celebrities in that book who also seemed a little down according to the doc was Justine Bateman, which is why I was excited to read her ‘this is not a memoir’ book, Fame. This is another one that’s pretty specific to my interests, but it’s also lightning fast and entertaining. You could probably read it in one sitting. She won me over right away with her rant about not liking memoirs, and this truly isn’t a memoir, rather a scattershot collection of thoughts on fame, from someone who’s been with it and without it. I really liked this, and it made me a little more sympathetic to famous people in general. One thing I thought was interesting was when she described the effort it took to contact a celebrity back when she was on Family Ties, versus the effort it takes now; you really had to care a lot to send hate mail back in the day. I could see how this may come across as whiny and privileged, although she does repeatedly point out that she knows mean comments from randos aren’t the biggest issues facing the world today. Honestly I thought she made that point more than she needed to. It was also cute whenever she referred to her pal “Mike Fox” and the story of how she became the thumbnail for the “1980s in Western fashion” wiki page was hilarious. Makes the whole thing worth it right there.

justine
I mean…

Well my streak of liking things came to a screeching halt with Ohio. Settle in, I have a lot to say about this. First, I am genuinely baffled by the glowing reviews of this one; like, baffled that there is even one positive review of this anywhere. A crazy thing about this book is that it feels overwritten and incredibly lazy at the same time. You can go to just about any page to find an example of the overwriting so I won’t bother with that, but the structure of this book is so badly done. The story here is how a bunch of people who went to high school together cross paths on a fateful night about ten years later, which, fine, that’s a fine premise. But it’s divided up into what’s essentially four novellas, the first one depicting that night from one character’s point of view, the second from another one’s, etc. So it’s all the same night, and there are both parallels and intersections throughout, but each section starts over, and each section covers the events of the same evening, and each section contains a lot of reminiscences about the high school years, and there is no reason this couldn’t all have been told as one story with alternating chapters. It definitely feels like he lacked the discipline it would have taken to streamline this a bit. But the structure is really the least of this book’s problems. This book kind of bills itself as a “how did we get here?” Rust Belt social critique, written by a guy who grew up in a small town in Ohio and now lives in LA, and if that sounds to you like it might be a tad bit condescending, then you would be right. I was interested in the characters and the storyline, but nothing in this felt the slightest bit authentic. But guess what? The condescension still isn’t the biggest problem! The biggest problem with this hella problematic book is the utterly inept way the author uses rape as both character development and plot device. I mean, I don’t want to say that men should just never write about women’s sexual assaults at all, but I will say that a lot of men are really terrible at it. The only male author I can think of offhand who did it well is Nabokov, but can you even count that when so many people misinterpret Lolita? (Answer: yes you can, readers’ willful misinterpretations are on them.) I’m kind of kicking myself for making it through this, but on the other hand I’m glad I read every word because now I can fully say this is unequivocally trash. Not to put too fine a point on it.

There is only one way to go from there. Seriously. I started The Caregiver today, and I know it’s going to be good. It’s good so far, at least. I’m thinking this is going to be an emotional one for me, or really for any reader. The author recently died of cancer, and a character dying of cancer is introduced in the opening pages, so yeah, I think this will be a sad one. Get the hankies!

 

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