Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Namesake

[I read this several weeks ago, and I feel even less inclined to recommend it after the mulling period.]

"Meh" is really all I have to say. I really WANTED to like this book; and, for that matter, did - to some extent. The strongest thing about it is the way Lahiri describes some of the emotions of an Indian born and raised in America. If I weren't an ABCD, myself, though, I don't know that even that would really be very meaningful to me.

Overall, the story was mildly interesting, but not thrilling or particularly deep. In fact, she tried far too much to be deep, sounding trite with some frequency. Some parts were downright cheesy (Near the end, so a slight spoiler: "Without people in the world to call him Gogol, no matter how long he himself lives, Gogol Ganguli will, once and for all, vanish from the lips of loved ones, and so, cease to exist. Yet the thought of this eventual demise provides no sense of victory, no solace. It provides no solace at all."

The writing wasn't anything about which to rave - in fact, it was overdone or underdone most of the time (there was a weird dichotomy between wanting to sound colloquial and thus using dangling participles, etc., but then using overly elaborate verbiage in other parts). The charaters weren't particularly loveable or identifiable. They also did not stay true to themselves, or to what they were written to be. The story...the story was interesting, but frustrating. It didn't seem to have a point. I was rather annoyed in a lot of places. There was a lot of unnecessary sexual escapades that while weren't graphic, seemed to just be thrown in as attention-grabbing devices.

And the whole name thing...oh, the name thing. Was. just. ridiculous. It didn't make any sense to me and seemed to be blown way out of proportion. It just seemed to be some random common strain around which to develop a book that really had no other purpose. The second half of the book strayed completely, anyway. Oh, and the second half - it was worse than the first. It meandered all over the place and was so ridiculously predictable. I was totally bored by it.

All that said, it was interesting. I kept reading. I wanted to find out what happened despite the fact that I already knew. I guess that counts for something.

Overall, a marginally-better-than-average book.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

On Books and Brooklyn

In response to Julie's question on a previous post and as Goodreads clearly does not leave ample gushing room, here's my take on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. In a word, phenomenal. Fabulous. Spectacularly achingly beautiful. This was one of those books that I see myself reading over and over through the years, and giving to my daughters and cherishing and smiling every time I see its spine on my bookshelf.

I try to be restrained in giving out 5 stars on Goodreads; this often leads to comments in the reviews that go something along the lines of, "Well, if there were half points, this would really be a 3.5. Or maybe a 3.72, but that might be pushing it, because I know that those 2/100ths of a point will definitely tip your decision in favor of reading the book instead of going to eat French fries. Or at least make you do both at the same time." It's a good book, is all I'm saying.

But this one, this one, is a must-read. Not just if you're a girl or have been to Brooklyn or even if you've ever imagined your life better. This is just so lovely that I can't imagine that anyone who reads it wouldn't be touched in some way. So many books (including, sadly, the one I'm currently reading) cross the line between poignancy and triteness; they go a little too far. [Clearly I am an authority on this, and my ability to blather on and on until my effusion floods your view is a testament to this fact.] ATGiB, though, says just enough. The writing, like a main character, is pragmatic, matter-of-fact, with spurts of abiding emotion. The outbursts are all the more moving for their infrequency, but after it all, they move on, as we do. Every word is carefully crafted to be meaningful but not too much so that it is taken out of context. The themes are oh so very real and moving.

The story is engaging, despite the fact that there's no real "climax," no frenzy to find out what happens, no denoument. For all that, I could not put this book down. And now I'm just being a lush, but, dare I say, this book is a new favorite.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I liked my Monday off, but Tuesdays are better.

Namely, because of this email (in response to a note I sent that mentioned how I'm working on a spare desktop):

"I'm glad that the spare computer is working. What does that do to your workflow though? Are you off in a room by yourself? That thought somehow makes me miss you even more because I'm not quite sure how to envision you at work.



7:00 am - I awake and peek out the window. Seeing a bit of snow (but not enough to keep me tied to my home), I lament the fact that I didn't bring my work computer home over the weekend.

7:40 am - I leave and walk out into the frosty morning. Dan, who has thoughtfully accompanied me, joins me in de-snow/icing our car.

7:53 am - I pull out of our parking lot onto the slippery but manageable roads.

8:25 am - I make it to the art museum (approximately a 4-mile drive).

8:45 am - Still driving.

9:00 am - Still driving. I'm halfway there.

9:10 am - I get to one uncleared road and pull over because I'm skidding that snowy skid all over the place. I make an executive decision not to risk the one-way tunnel I typically use. I call my manager as I pause at a Starbucks to see how conditions progress.

9:55 am - I finish my peppermint Signature hot chocolate as well as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I rejoice in its beauty but feel my shoulders droop a I realize it has finished.

10:20 am - I make it to the office, having taken a different route.

10:23 am - I turn on my computer.

10:30 am - My computer continues to try to turn on.

10:33 am - Blue screen of death.

10:35 am - I call the help desk.

10:36 am - I hear a recorded message telling me that the help desk is currently down.

10:37 am - I ask Sarah, the office guru, about what to do. She knows nothing about the BSoD, but hands me a spare laptop.

10:38 am - I return to my desk (still bearing the stamp of the BSoD) and plug in the spare. It refuses to turn on.

10:39 am - I return to Sarah. She walks back to my desk with me, telling me that she was having trouble with getting it to turn on last week. Hi BSoD!

10:40 am - The computer turns on! I log in.

10:41 am - The computer dies.

10:42 am - I call my manager laughing. It takes 2.5 hours to get to work, my computer dies, the help desk is down, and the spare computer dies.

10:55 am - I give up and go to the gym with Dan. We swim in the gloriously empty pool. I head to the library and then home to cuddle up with my new book.