|This book follows the fortunes of six teenagers who meet at a summer camp and come together as a group. The timeline covers around thirty years and we see how each character actions effects the others and those outside the group. I could not put this down and my only complaint is that the main character, Julie aka Jules was hard for me to like. All through the years, she seems to want what others have and is never happy with her own circumstances. Maybe that's the point and we are all like that.his book follows the fortunes of six teenagers who meet at a summer camp and come together as a group. The timeline covers around thirty years and we see how each character actions effects the others and those outside the group. I could not put this down and my only complaint is that the main character, Julie aka Jules was hard for me to like. All through the years, she seems to want what others have and is never happy with her own circumstances. Maybe that's the point and we are all like that to some extent.(less)
Margaret Atwood's work is always provocative and this book is no exception. Narrated by a character named Snowman who may be the last human on earth, we read his story. Set in a future where giant corporations genetic research has led to species splicing and miracle cures seem to the order of the day, Snowman who used to be Jimmy, lives in an enclosed corporate compound which mirrors a small city. In Jimmie's world, Global companies all maintain these compound cities for their employee's. Those not fortunate enough to work for a corporation live in the abandoned old cities. This is of course, a dystopic novel. Kids like Jimmy, growing up in the compounds are virtually guaranteed a successful future. At first glance it would seem that mankind has managed to solve most of the riddles of biology, creating cures for diseases and artificially producing body organs for transplant. As we get to know Jimmy and Crake, Jimmie's friend who takes his nickname from a role playing game, darkness starts seeping in around the edges. Atwood is telling two stories side by. One story is what Snowman's life consists of and two, why. For me, both stories were totally engrossing and more than a little disturbing.
Elizabeth Hand is one of my top ten authors so I was eager to read this short story collection. In Errantry, her prose is lyrical and her settings as fey as ever but somehow most of these stories felt unfinished to me. What impressed me here were singular scenes instead of the stories. The title story Errantry demonstrates this best with its gripping, heartfelt tale of magical renewal in the middle of everyday chaos.
‘It's been a long time coming. It's going to be a long time gone’. This lyric sums up my experience with Palimpsist. I can’t remember the last time a read a book that actually seemed to fight for its ambiguity. I have been reading fantasy and such for many, many years and this book takes license with time and space in ways that to me are almost incomprehensible.
First, the writer is clearly a poet and applies this to the prose structure. Her world building skills are such that I found myself dreaming of the city of Palimpsest and its’ denizens, human and otherwise. So why was it so hard to get into this story? For me, in the beginning, I could not call up much sympathy for the four would be immigrants. They all seemed bent on some self-destructive path not unlike addiction and I think this point has already been brought up. Palimpsest itself seemed to alternate between wicked, charming, cruel and sympathetic. While it is surely true that cities in the real world exhibit all these characteristics and more, it is also true, for me at least that I had a hard time imagining the seductive power that the city held over the protagonists. For at least half of the book I staggered a long trying to piece things together and then suddenly everything fell into place and I was caught in a race for salvation, for both the four who seek entry and the city itself.
Now that I am finished, images and possibilities crowd my consciousness and I know I will be rereading this book soon to see if there are mysteries I missed that first time around.
Last comments, much has been made of the sexual nature of this book. From the first page I had my own take on that. Like the mystics say, great debasement brings great enlightenment. Also, the story of November and her place in the wars of Palimpsest, her reationship with Casimira and the final place as queen of the bees was a truly great invention. Four stars.
Can a book have a personality? If so, this book is Bi-Polar. There are sections so well executed that I felt like I was reading for the first time, experiencing another’s thoughts as my own. His descriptions of the Midwest, and the culture of the early 70’s are terrific. There are sections of this book that are mind numbing. Boring does not begin to describe the quagmire of nothingness that doesn’t connect, doesn’t inform and instead allows you to experience DFW’s descriptive state where you cannot focus or move ahead because you are stuck.
I have read that David Foster Wallace suffered from severe depression most of his life and I have read that ‘The Pale King’ is about boredom so I wonder, what was boredom to DFW? I experience boredom as temporary disconnect where nothing interests me. I wonder though, if I were extremely talented, obviously constantly at odds with my surroundings, if I were also suffering from depression so severe that I was treated with Electric Shock Therapy more than once and on psycho tropic drugs, what would boredom be to me and I think the answer is this. Boredom would be a state of hopeless inertia and a state that I would fear like a claustrophobic fears a closet. This said, I wonder if writing this book was DFW’s way of dealing with his depression and he decided to give us a taste of how it feels to feel so good one day and dead the next day . I read he never wrote about his depression, maybe he was trying to work it out in this book with its multiple plot lines and large cast of characters.
Since the book is not finished, everyone draws different conclusions as to its meaning, purpose and structure. I have a few thoughts on this.
1) The Forward appears well into the book and both negates and supports the book as actually, more or less a memoir of DFW’s experiences but not necessarily as they happened. I think ‘The Pale King” is both fiction and memoir with a lot weird pseudo fantastical stuff thrown in to keep everyone guessing.
2) The footnotes. I have no opinion here because I quit reading them early on. They appeared to contain information that I didn’t need and sometimes were not associated with the passage I was reading. I think DFW put them there for his own amusement, kind of like background music.
3) The structure as envisioned by the editor. This book is so episodic that you could probably read any chapter in any order and still come away with enough thought bullets to keep you occupied for quite some time.
As far as the story told, the best passages are unsurpassed by anything I have ever read and I have been reading for a long, long time. If it was DFW’s intent to pull me out of myself and send me on a difficult but rewarding journey, he succeeded. I am glad I read this book.