Wednesday, January 4, 2012

REVIEW: The Glass Minstrel (Hayden Thorne)

The Glass MinstrelThe Glass Minstrel by Hayden Thorne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was cold a lot during this book. And that’s a good thing.

A moving story about the aftermath of “an event” that managed to push me in several different directions. Early on (about a third of the way in), I worried that the author had tipped her hand too early; I felt (and continue to feel) the emotional impact of “the event” could have been so much deeper had it been played out to us gradually (i.e., the final fates of Heinrich and Stefan revealed only in the last chapters of the book). But I freely admit that to be a minor and very personal quibble since, as I state in my opening, this is not so much a story about an event, but rather the aftermath.

The setting was wonderfully realized—in addition to being cold I was often (in?)explicably hungry for warm sweetbreads. Technically the book was remarkably sound. It seems so much of the fiction I’ve read of late has surrendered mechanics for drama. I’d rather read a well-written book than an exciting one—which is another personal quibble undoubtedly marking me as wholly divorced from the popular tastes of my fellow man. Thorne knows how to write.

The interwoven story of young Jakob held probably the least interest to me, and seemed a recurring and unwanted distraction (in large part because, having been in his shoes, I expected it to end absolutely humiliatingly—which it actually didn’t, so that was some compensation). In the end it was all Schiffer for me, whom I presume I was supposed to dislike from the start (and I did); his emotional journey was the one that brought the warm tears to the close of this winter tale.

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REVIEW: The Great Derangement (Matt Taibbi)

The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American EmpireThe Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire by Matt Taibbi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, so now I have a small crush on Matt Taibbi.

This book was hilarious. I suppose I had heard of Taibbi before--I'm a bit of a political junkie--but this is his first book I've read. He conveyed a great voice, with sarcasm (and scorn) but also sympathy (and pathos) for those who might at first blush seem the least deserving of either.

The book is a bit too anecdotal, it might have been nice to have a more chronological account of his adventures (I wouldn't have minded spending more time listening to his stories); I wondered at his globetrotting in a few places and how he managed his various subterfuges (he hints at problems arising from his various facades but doesn't elaborate much). This was definitely the highlights.

Recommended, especially for those to whom little (or nothing) is sacred. I mean that in a good way.

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