quarta-feira, 29 de fevereiro de 2012

6. Guest Lecture by Andrew Goldstone

sábado, 25 de fevereiro de 2012

The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni

The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni

Penguin, March 2010

     Cross the visionary philosophies of Buckminster Fuller with the raw energy of punk rock music, and the result is Iowa Writer's workshop graduate Peter Bognanni's debut novel, The House of Tomorrow.

     Sebastian Prendergast is a 16-year-old boy who, since the loss of his parents at 11 years ago, has been raised and home-schooled by his grandmother on the outskirts of a small town in Eastern Iowa. Their home, a geodesic dome, and every other facet of Sebastian's upbringing is informed by the teachings of early 20th century futurist, Buckminster Fuller, of whom Nana is a devout disciple. She has a grand plan for   Sebastian and insulates him from a world of people and ideas that would cause any deviation from that plan. Each morning, Sebastian is required to read the four guiding principles that Nana has tacked directly above his bed:
  1. Every day I will give myself wholly to futurist thinking. Not to useless past thinking, which will steer me very far off course.
  2. I will learn all the organizing processes of the universe, so I may use them to accomplish startling feats of triumph.
  3. I will use my mind, not just my regular brain lobes.
  4. I will forge my journey alone to keep accepted and totally boneheaded notions from blinding me to truth.
     Jared Whitcomb's experience couldn't be more different. His parents' separation has fractured the family, and a recent heart transplant means that his very life is in question daily. Life at home has spun wildly out of the control, and while Jared's mother desperately tries to piece the family together, the sullen black-clad teenager takes his solace in the rebelliousness of punk rock.
     Bognanni reels his readers in with Sebastian's unusual circumstances and idiosyncratic narration, and the author's intertwining of seemingly dissimilar philosophies is well done. The House of Tomorrow is an affecting coming of age story as well as an exploration of our human desire for control and the utter lack of it in our lives.
     Sebastian, at one point, envisions a giant hand grasping and shaking the "snow globe" in which he and his grandmother dwell. Indeed, while the ordered principles that shape Sebastian's home and life contrast starkly with Jared's punk rock energy and discordant household, they are ultimately unable to shelter him and Nana from certain chaotic realities. It's life, and everyone's snow globe gets shaken now and again.


The Ask by Sam Lipsyte

The Ask by Sam Lipsyte

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 2010

   Milo Burke is typical of Sam Lipsyte's (Home Land) anti-heroes. He's not fit, tan, or well-coifed. In fact, he's the opposite of these things - a disheveled, semi-bitter failed artist, married and raising a son in Astoria, Queens. He's also, admittedly, a mediocre employee in the development office of a mediocre New York university, where his job is to "grovel for money." It's not something he excels at.
   "I'd become one of those mistakes you sometimes find in an office, a not unpleasant but mostly unproductive presence bobbing along on the energy tides of others, a walking reminder of somebody's error in judgement."

   Milo loses his mediocre job when he verbally eviscerates an "arrogant, talentless, daddy-damaged-waif" whose father bought the university's observatory, but he quickly recovers it when the opportunity arises to land a major "give" from Purdy Stuart, a millionaire tech entrepreneur who happens to be an old college buddy. It's a surprising reunion for Milo, one that reconnects him with his past and calls into question his assumptions about the future.
   Lipsyte's writing is sharp and funny, each sentence a pleasure to read, and not much escapes the critical attention and ascerbic wit of his sad sack protagonist - work, death, sex, fatherhood, even his very merit as a protagonist:
   "No, I mean, if I were the protagonist of a book or a movie, it would be hard to like me, to identify with me, right?"
    "I would never read a book like that, Milo. I can't think of anyone who would. There's no reason for it."
   The Ask is lewd and often hilarious; its characters, both likable and not, are believable and captivating figures; and though it seemed merely to unravel towards its close rather than actually ending, its satirical story of middle class mediocrity is unpredictably captivating.


House Rules by Jodi Picoult

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Atria Books, 2010

     House Rules may be the most painful, yet rewarding and educational novel you will read this year. Jodi Picoult places us squarely in the life of a boy with Asperger's Syndrome so that we can see the painful effects this condition has on him, his family, and those around them. Asperger's is a form of high-functioning autism. The new DSM-V (
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, 2013) proposes to recategorize the various forms of autism into a single diagnosis, thereby eliminating the specific diagnosis of Asperger's. One of every one hundred children is diagnosed on the autism continuum today.
     Jacob Hunt, one of the narrators of House Rules, is affected by this condition. He is extraordinarily bright, with a fixation on forensic science - think CSI. He can analyze crime scenes as well as a professional, and, most ominously, he can create fake crime scenes. His world is literal with no nuances; metaphors mean nothing. Ask him what is up and he is most likely to say the ceiling if he is inside a building, or the sky if outside. He is incapable of telling a lie. Jacob has limited social skills, makes no eye contact, cannot bear to be touched, and has a flat affect. He is undone by the color orange. Life is a series of routines to the extent that each day is devoted to foods of a certain color.
     "House Rules" is the set of rules by which the household is governed. Everything revolves around Jacob. His mother Emma states at one point, "I used to have friends" before Jacob. Now her life is controlled by his needs. The same is true of his younger brother Theo who feels that his needs are ignored in order to keep Jacob's life orderly.
     Jess, a college student who is Jacob's social tutor, is murdered and the drama ensues. All the evidence, a string of unrelated events and facts, seems to point clearly to Jacob - or to his brother Theo who has a habit of breaking into houses. The chief of police, who is forming a relationship with Jacob's mother, believes he did it and arrests him, but does make allowances for his "quirks."
     Picoult, as she always does, creates a very realistic world for her characters. The exposition draws the reader into their lives, making them by various degrees sympathetic or not. She imbues them with life and gets the reader invested in the outcome. Layer by layer Picoult builds the tension, and the answer to who committed the crime hangs in the balance. The resolution is satisfying.
     Picoult talked with young people with Asperger's and their families so that she could accurately represent family dynamics. She intersperses her fiction with brief case histories and she had a young woman with Asperger's read the manuscript to ensure that Jacob's voice was right. However, since she built such a realistic, convincing world, I am bothered by one curious omission. Why didn't someone simply ask Jacob, "Did you kill Jess?" Yes, I know that such a question would eliminate much of the dramatic tension that Picoult so skillfully builds. I understand that Jacob's mother was scared to ask so direct a question, but that aspect could have been more prominent without losing the uncertainty that drives the novel to its conclusion.


The Great Gatsby Quotes

The Great Gatsby Quotes
The Great Gatsby (1925) is one of the greatest American classics. The novel was written in Paris by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and it has come to be seen as a representation of the Jazz Age. The Great Gatsby relates the story of Jay Gatsby--as told by Nick Carraway. Here are a few quotes from Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby.

  • "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one...just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1
  • "what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1
  • "seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1
  • "In two weeks it'll be the longest day in the year... Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1
  • "Civilization's going to pieces. I've gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things... The idea is if we don't look out the white race will be--will be utterly submerged... It's up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1
  • "I hope she'll be a fool--that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool... You see, I think everything's terrible anyhow... And I know. I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1
  • "All right... I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool--that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1
  • "a single green light, minute and faraway, that might have been the end of a dock."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1
  • "This is a valley of ashes--a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 2
  • "He thinks she goes to see her sister in New York. He's so dumb he doesn't know he's alive."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 2
  • "I married him because I thought he was a gentleman...I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn't fit to lick my shoe."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 2
  • "He borrowed somebody's best suit to get married in, and never told me about it, and the man came after it one day when he was out... I gave it to him and then I lay down and cried... all afternoon."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 2
  • "I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets... I saw him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 2
  • "I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby's house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited--they went there."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3
  • "I've been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3
  • "It's a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop, too--didn't cut the pages. But what do you want? What do you expect?'"
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3
  • "He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3
  • "I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others--young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3
  • "It takes two to make an accident."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3
  • "Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3
Here are more quotes from The Great Gatsby:
  • "Filled with faces dead and gone. Filled with friends gone now forever. I can't forget so long as I live the night they shot Rosy Rosenthal there... they shot him three times in the belly and drove away."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 4
  • "I belong to another generation... As for me, I am fifty years old, and I won't impose myself on you any longer."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 4
  • "A phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: 'There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.'"
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 4
  • "Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 5
  • "Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 5
  • "It makes me sad because I've never seen such - such beautiful shirts before."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 5
  • "If it wasn't for the mist we could see your home across the bay... You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 5
  • "One thing's sure and nothing's surer/ The rich get richer and the poor get - children./ In the meantime,/ In between time--"
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 5
  • "There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams--not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 5
  • "they looked back at me, remotely, possessed by intense life."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 5
  • "His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people--his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God... and he must be about His Father's business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 6
  • "It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 6
  • "She was appalled by West Egg... by its raw vigor that chafed... and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short-cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 6
  • "He wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 6
  • "Can't repeat the past?... Why of course you can!"
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 6
  • "He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 6
  • "Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 7
  • "It occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well. Wilson was so sick that he looked guilty."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 7
  • "There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind, and as we drove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic. His wife and his mistress, until an hour ago secure and inviolate, were slipping precipitately from his control."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 7
  • "I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone's away. There's something very sensuous about it - overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 7
  • "I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that's the idea you can count me out."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 7
  • "With every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up, and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 7
Here are more quotes from The Great Gatsby:
  • "the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning briefcase of enthusiasm, thinning hair. But there was Jordan beside me, who, unlike Daisy, was too wise ever to carry well-forgotten dreams from age to age..."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 7
  • "So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 7
  • "Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table... They weren't happy... yet they weren't unhappy either. There was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture, and anybody would have said that they were conspiring together."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 7
  • "It excited him, too, that many men had already loved Daisy--it increased her value in his eyes."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 8
  • "God knows what you've been doing, everything you've been doing. You may fool me, but you can't fool God!"
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 8
  • "He must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about...like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 8
  • "He had reached an age where death no longer has the quality of ghastly surprise, and when he looked around him now for the first time and saw the height and splendor of the hall... his grief began to be mixed with an awed pride."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 9
  • "When a man gets killed I never like to get mixed up in it in any way. I keep out. When I was a young man it was different... I stuck with them to the end... Let us learn to show friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 9
  • "After Gatsby's death the East was haunted for me like that, distorted beyond my eyes' power of correction. So when the blue smoke of brittle leaves was in the air and the wind blew the wet laundry stiff on the line I decided to come back home."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 9
  • "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 9
  • "Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes-a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 9
  • "And as I sat there, brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out Daisy's light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 9
  • "Filled with faces dead and gone. Filled with friends gone now forever. I can't forget so long as I live the night they shot Rosy Rosenthal there....they shot him three times in the belly and drove away."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 9
  • "I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all--Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 9
  • "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning-- So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

F.S. Fitzgerald (Francis Scott Fitzgerald) By Esther Lombardi

F.S. Fitzgerald (Francis Scott Fitzgerald)

By Esther Lombardi
F. Scott Fitzgerald

(1896-1940) American writer. F. Scott Fitzgerald is known for "The Great Gatsby" and other novels of the Jazz Age. His wife, Zelda, was also a writer; and he based "Tender is the Night" on her boughts with insanity. Fitzgerald was also a chronic alcoholic.

The Great Gatsby Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald Birth & Education:

     F. Scott Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota, of Southern and Irish descent. His father was Edward Fitzgerald, and his mother was Mary (Mollie) McQuillan, the daughter of an Irish immigrant. His father was a manufacturer and salesman.
     Fitzgerald attended St. Paul Academy, Newman School (1911-1913), and Princeton. His earliest fiction was a detective story published in the school newspaper when he was at St. Paul Academy.

F. Scott Fitzgerald Death:

     F. Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart in the apartment of a movie columnist, Sheilah Graham, on December 21, 1940. His health had been spiraling downward with his severe alcoholism.

F. Scott Fitzgerald Marriage:

     F. Scott Fitzgerald fell in love with Zelda Sayre in June 1918, when he was assigned to Camp Sheridan, in Alabama. Zelda was the youngest daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge, and they married in New York a week after the successful publication of his novel, This Side of Paradise (1920). They had one child, Frances Scott (Scottie) Fitzgerald, who was born in October 1921.

Critical Reception:

     Raymond Chandler once wrote about F. Scott Fitzgerald: "He had one of the rarest qualities in all literature, and it's a great shame that the word for it has been thoroughly debased by the cosmetic racketeers, so that one is almost ashamed to use it to describe a real distinction. Nevertheless, the word is charm--charm as Keats would have used it. Who has it today? It's not a matter of pretty writing or clear style. It's a kind of subdued magic, controlled and exquisite, the sort of thing you get from good string quartets."
     Fitzgerald seemed to have a strange affect on the people around him. His contemporaries realized that Fitzgerald had that rare quality that would last beyond his own time, whether they saw it as magic, genius, or pure luck. Of course, Fitzgerald once wrote to his daughter that "All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath."


The Great Gatsby' - Review of 'The Great Gatsby'

The Great Gatsby' - Review of 'The Great Gatsby'
From  James Topham
F. Scott Fitzgerald

     The Great Gatsby is probably F. Scott Fitzgerald's greatest novel--a book that offers damning and insightful views of the American nouveau riche in the 1920s. The Great Gatsby is an American classic and a wonderfully evocative work.
Like much of Fitzgerald's prose, it is neat and well--crafted. Fitzgerald seems to have had a brilliant understanding of lives that are corrupted by greed and incredibly sad and unfulfilled. The novel is a product of its generation--with one of American literature's most powerful characters in the figure of Jay Gatsby, who is urbane and world-weary. Gatsby is really nothing more than a man desperate for love.

Overview: The Great Gatsby
     The novel's events are filtered through the consciousness of its narrator, Nick Carraway, a young Yale graduate, who is both a part of and separate from the world he describes. Upon moving to New York, he rents a house next door to the mansion of an eccentric millionaire (Jay Gatsby). Every Saturday, Gatsby throws a party at his mansion and all the great and the good of the young fashionable world come to marvel at his extravagance (as well as swap gossipy stories about their host who--it is suggested--has a murky past).
     Despite his high-living, Gatsby is dissatisfied; and Nick finds out why. Long ago, Gatsby fell in love with a young girl, Daisy. Although she has always loved Gatsby, she is currently married to Tom Buchanan. Gatsby asks Nick to help him meet Daisy once more, and Nick finally agrees--arranging tea for Daisy at his house.
The two ex-lovers meet and soon rekindle their affair. Soon, Tom begins to suspect and challenges the two of them--also revealing something that the reader had already begun to suspect: that Gatsby's fortune was made through illegal gambling and bootlegging. Gatsby and Daisy drive back to New York. In the wake of the emotional confrontation, Daisy hits and kills a woman. Gatsby feels that his life would be nothing without Daisy, so he determines to take the blame.
     George Wilson--who discovers that the car that killed his wife belongs to Gatsby--comes to Gatsby's house and shoots him. Nick arranges a funeral for his friend, and then decides to leave New York--saddened by the fatal events and disgusted by the easy way lived their lives.

Wealth as an Exploration of the Deeper Qualities of Life: The Great Gatsby
     The power of Gatsby as a character is inextricably linked with his wealth. From the very beginning of The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald sets up his eponymous hero as an enigma: the playboy millionaire with the shady past who can enjoy the frivolity and ephemera that he creates around him. However, the reality of the situation is that Gatsby is a man in love. Nothing more. He concentrated all of his life on winning Daisy back.
     It is the way that he attempts to do this, however, that is central to Fitzgerald's world-view. Gatsby creates himself--both his mystique and his personality--around rotten values. They are the values of the American dream--that money, wealth and popularity are all there is to achieve in this world. He gives everything he has--emotionally and physically--to win, and it is this unrestrained desire that contributes to his eventual downfall.

Beyond Enjoyment? - The Great Gatsby
     In the closing pages of The Great Gatsby, Nick considers Gatsby in a wider context. Nick links Gatsby with the class of people with whom he has become so inextricably associated. They are the society persons so prominent during the 1920's and 1930's. Like his novel The Beautiful and the Damned, Fitzgerald attacks the shallow social climbing and emotional manipulation--which only causes pain. With a decadent cynicism, the party-goers in The Great Gatsby cannot see anything beyond their own enjoyment. Gatsby's love is frustrated by the social situation and his death symbolizes the dangers of his chosen path.
     F. Scott Fitzgerald paints a picture of a lifestyle and a decade that is both fascinating and horrific. In so doing, he captures a society and a set of young people; and he wrote them into myth. Fitzgerald was a part of that high-living lifestyle, but he was also a victim of it. He was one of the beautiful but he was also forever damned. In all its excitement--pulsating with life and tragedy--The Great Gatsby captures brilliantly the American dream in a time when it had descended into decadence.


quinta-feira, 23 de fevereiro de 2012

My Revolutions by Hari Kunzru

My Revolutions by Hari Kunzru
A book review by Traci J. Macnamara
Dutton, January 2008

     Hari Kunzru's My Revolutions is a thrilling novel with a plot that readers will find more than relevant in today's political climate. Idealism, anger, and social ambition fuel the fictional Michael Frame's involvement with a group of radical activists who protest the Vietnam War in 1960s London. The main character's turn to terrorism runs a recognizable course and offers striking insight into the modern tensions between individual and family, nation and state.

     Hari Kunzru has been named one of Granta's "Twenty Best Fiction Writers Under Forty," and he is the author of two other acclaimed novels, The Impressionist and Transmission. Kunzru's novels differ greatly in subject matter, but the thought-provoking quality of his previous work is also evident here.
     From the outset of the story, readers will find themselves scrambling to solve an identity crisis that is as political as it is personal. On page one, we meet Michael Frame. And then we promptly realize that Michael Frame is really a man named Chris Carver. This book's main character is living a lie, or at least a truth that is "partial, incomplete," in order to cover up the crimes that he committed as a radical youth.
     Michael Frame, however, seems like an innocuous enough character. He's nearing his fiftieth birthday and has lived for the past sixteen years in a country cottage with a woman named Miranda and her daughter Sam. Miranda is the ambitious owner of Bountessence Natural Beautycare, a company that Frame sees as the highest expression of his common-law wife's romance with nature. Frame tries to hide his revulsion with the little recyclable product containers he finds in their home, but he can no longer hide from the ghosts in his past.
     His revolutionary background is decades behind him, and his placid lifestyle would seem to belie its existence. But as the young Chris Carver, he was a member of various activist groups, one that focused its efforts on stealing food from grocery stories and then giving it away for free, and others that blew up buildings and conspired with foreign terrorist organizations.
     The justification for Chris Carver to participate in such activity was always simple. In the case of the food stealing and redistribution ploy, he reasoned: "Principle number one: if we wanted to call ourselves revolutionaries, we had to be prepared to break the law." And: "Principle number two: it was our food already." Stealing was justifiable to Chris Carver because society's power structure had been perverted, and his was a mission to set things right.
     Readers will ultimately wonder - as does this book's main character - whether or not Chris Carver's actions are justified in the end. He is beaten by cops during protests and thrown into prison. He spends time recovering in a Buddhist monastery, only to resurface in England with a new name taken from a tombstone. And even then, he can't keep his secrets from catching up with him.
     When Miranda and Michael take a well-needed vacation to France, Frame thinks he sees Anna Addison, one of his former lovers who had supposedly died in a bombing decades earlier. Shortly after sighting this woman, another man from Frame's past shows up and attempts to blackmail him. Michael Frame is finally confronted with the decision to continue running or to turn around and face his past.
     By telling his hero's story through a series of flashbacks, Hari Kunzru delights his readers and keeps the plot fresh until its resolution is revealed on the book's final page. The author's personal research, real-life models, and vivid imagination keep this book alive at every turn. Ultimately, readers will find My Revolutions' greatest success to be the way in which its plot echoes Michael Frame's revolutionary mindset and fundamental belief that "Nothing is permanent. Everything is subject to change."


Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

Hold Tight by Harlan Coben
A review by Jules Brenner

Dutton, April 2008

     If there was ever a novel that called for a sociological flow chart, Hold Tight, a community murder mystery, is it. Author Coben has constructed a yarn with multiple points of view - a patchwork of tragically affected people connected to an incident of callousness and bad taste that festers into murder and suicide. And no one participant has any way of knowing how it all connects. In the small suburban town of Glen Rock, NJ, near New York City, one seed of inhumanity germinates social deconstruction and homicidal madness like a viral disease.
     If you have to pick a central character, you'd likely pick Mike Baye (pronounced "buy" like what you might do when you get this book) because he's so persistent in pursuing that which appears so inexplicable. As the sympathetic backbone of the piece, Baye and wife Tia enter the tragedy through their concern about 16-year old son Adam's sudden distance from them, coupled with the lad's disregard of prior passions. It's as though one day he got up and forgot all about hockey, and the deep influence of Dad's accomplishments on the college team. By contrast, a civil conversation with Adam now is as rare as four goals in one game.
     Mike and Tia's suspicions that something serious is going on in Adam's life are bad enough, but when Adam's best pal Spencer Hill commits suicide on the high school roof, alarm bells peal. Their difficult decision to install E-SpyRight spy software on Adam's computer is nothing less than what a parent should do to protect a child, though it causes them considerable soul searching.
     And, when they check Adam's email and find a cryptic message in conspiratorial terms by a mysterious "CJ," (or actually CeeJay8115 to HockeyAdam1117) and when they learn from Spencer's mother Betsy Hill that Adam may have been with Spencer the night of his death, Mike starts asking questions around the neighborhood like a sleuth on uppers.
     No less involved, but from a different perspective, is their 11-year old daughter Jill who suffers for best friend Yasmin after their teacher, Mr. Lewiston, makes a comment that would make Keith Olberman's "Worse, Worser, Worst" list. As for Lewiston, his presumably off-hand but very public remark about Yasmin having facial hair was never intended to become so inflamatory as to threaten his job. The community reaction astonishes him, and he wastes no time to apologize. Not only has the harm been done, however, but his next decision compounds the problem - not unlike pouring gasoline on a prairie fire to put it out.
     Classmates won't stop riding Yasmin about their teacher's branding of her, and she's forced to quit dance class. Mortified and outraged, Yasmin's parents won't let go of the issue and want their pound of flesh for the insult upon their daughter. They're after Lewiston and they're not about to let go because of a lousy apology.
     But the conflagration of parental outrage over a heartless remark pales at the act that started off the drama - when a killer kidnaps Marianne, a woman he meets in a bar. We quickly learn that it's no random pick-up. This guy is after a videotape that he believes Marianne has and, when his initial body blows fail to produce the item's whereabouts, he methodically destroys her face in order to stymie police identification of what he's going to leave behind: her body. The extremes of this killer's brutality isn't just a desire or need to get what he wants; it's a maniacal, inhuman opportunity to inflict pain and damage to the victim at hand.
     Stepping into the skein of events are Chief Investigator Loren Muse and detective Frank Tremont, her laziest and most misogynistic man on the job. Unfortunately for Loren, this gender bigot has picked up the case, but that doesn't prevent her from checking out the crime scene for herself, and interpreting it far differently than he does. As sharp as she is, though, there's no way anyone could, at this point, suspect how this murder will connect to the malevolence rippling through the community, nor to its motivation and point of origin.
     Suspects and relatives of suspects obscure the landscape like locusts on a 12-year rampage when you have nothing more at hand than a garden spray. More corpses feed the futility and the suspense. As the air clears and it becomes an experience of discovery of motivations and consequences, the power the author has at his command to envelop us in a complex mystery reveals itself.
     With no single central figure to guide and anchor us on a trip through a maze of relationships and connections, it's more than normally critical to keep careful track of the names and characters as they're introduced. There's no P.I., cop or anti-hero whom we fasten to as we deal directly with the grisly, unmerciful murders, the suicide and the apparently random mayhem. A victim disappears and obscurity is the watchword as we follow the emotions of communally connected parties who can never see more than their own part of the puzzle. Meanwhile, Coben spreads the limelight almost equally among his cast of characters.
     I'm not sure I want him to put me through another "interlacing community drama" anytime soon, but the truth is that I'm only too glad to read anything Coben's crafty and original mind can create.


The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
Reviewed by Mike Sullivan

The Bottom Line

Michael Chabon may be the best author today at making vivid his most wild, and personal, imaginings. Who else could take readers to a post-World War II where Jews have migrated to Alaska and created a society that is darkly fantastic and devastatingly real – and then make it a fine detective novel with a Jewish Bogart with his own Maltese Falcon in the form of the dead body of a drug-addicted chess player who may just be the Messiah? This description is not even the genesis of how bizarrely fantastic this novel is.


  • Fully-realized culture and place
  • Multiple hard-boiled characters
  • Dark, striking humor
  • Empathetic love story
  • Oh, the names and places you will try to pronounce in your head...


  • ...if you don’t know Yiddish, at least familiarize yourself with some basic terms and colloquialisms


  • Detective Landsman is an alcoholic detective living in a beat down hotel.
  • Quickly closed case - The murder of a drug-addicted chess player who everyone seems to know, but no one wants to talk about.
  • Despite the warnings of his partner and his boss (who happens to also be his ex-wife), Landsman doesn’t let the case go.
  • The reader follows the detective through the Jewish Alaskan underground.


Guide Review - The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

- Book Review

     The Yiddish Policemen’s Union marks the return of Pulitzer prize-winning author Michael Chabon’s to adult fiction. The fact that his return is Pulitzer-worthy and that he brings the reader to a place completely unique should solidify him as a 21st century favorite.
     The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a Jewish detective yarn set in Sitka, Alaska; this frustratingly intoxicating tale is not only chock full of the Chabon’s masterful witticisms and descriptions, but is a mind-rattling fiction of noir and prophecy mixed with a healthy dose of black humor.
     Chabon strings together this web of intersecting storylines and characters with the metaphor of chess and how people move the pieces of life and death to fulfill desires and prophecies as if theirs were the hand that could make it all work. But Chabon knows the limits of humanity and the more the pieces are moved by the players (detectives, rabbis, government officials, friends, enemies, etc.), the more sad revelations and tragedies pile up.  
     The tale isn’t as sharp at the end as it is in the beginning, but that’s only because Chabon tackles so many questions and there are only so many answers. He doesn’t presume to know how to really come to terms with the big thoughts – like the promise the Messiah and Zion – and, like Detective Landsman, I’m not sure it’s his heart’s desire to know (at least for now). Chabon’s more interested in the home of the individual rather than the home of a people and the salvation of one soul rather than many.
     With his humanistic compassion snugly in place, one can only begin to wonder where this author’s imagination will take his characters – and his readers – next.


The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
By Mark Flanagan, About.com Guide
Thomas Dunne Books, 2007

     Some years ago, Alan Weisman (Gaviotas : A Village To Reinvent The World) wrote an article for Harpers in which he marvelled at nature’s rapid reclamation of the Chernobyl Nuclear site following the 1986 disaster and subsequent flight of any human residents from the area. The Harpers article prompted a call from an editor at Discover, who asked that he write a piece exploring the notion further by posing the question what if human beings all of a sudden disappeared from the Earth entirely? It is this question that Weisman revisits in greater depth in The World Without Us.
     It is a fascinating conceit, really – what if, by plague or divine rapture, the entire human race disappeared from the planet? What would that look like? There are perhaps some who would prefer not to consider such a possibility, while others of us find the notion somehow irresistible. Weisman taps directly into this latter reaction in the opening chapters of The World Without Us by first illustrating what, in our absence, would become of the homes we live in.
     Five hundred years, he tells us, give or take a few decades climate-dependent, before our suburbs are replaced utterly by forest. His detailing of the process is delivered matter-of-factly. He describes the effects of small leaks, mold spores, insects, and the small mammalian squatters who eventually take up residence after gaining entry through shattered windows.
     Urban centers are Weisman's next target. The author focuses his scientific gaze on how organic processes will consume the concrete jungle that is New York City. As with the suburbs, the primary agent of natural restoration will be the stuff of life itself – water. New York City’s water table, which in pre-colonial days was absorbed by soil and grass and the roots of oaks and beech trees, currently has nowhere to go and must be pumped daily from beneath the city streets in order to keep it from flooding the subway tunnels. With people out of the picture, this water will eventually fill what lies below until, Weisman tells us, streets degrade and cave in, and Lexington Avenue itself becomes a river. While buildings erode from water below, they will be similarly attacked from the sky, as rain gains access via roof and skylight leaks, rusting metal and devouring everything else in its path except stone, so that when the flora and fauna – coyotes, wolves, bears, bobcats – retake the city, the only buildings remaining will be those like Grand Central Station, with its everlasting marble construction.
     From New York, Weisman criss-crosses the globe, visiting the laboratories, fields of research, and points of import to his query, probing the nature of our impact on the planet thus far. How else, the author asks, can we discover the face of the world without us than by inquiring into what effect our presence has had?
     This of course is the genius of The World Without Us, and, I suspect, Weisman’s goal all along. By nurturing such a compelling notion as the potential absence of the human race, he has created an environmental call to action that, unlike myriad clichéd doomsday books, is compelling in its narrative approach to describing what we humans have wrought in our short time here on Earth.
     The author calls our attention to a number of travesties in which we may be unwittingly complicit: Our exfoliant body scrubs, for instance, contain micro-fine polyethylene granules that when washed down the drain are eventually consumed by tiny sea creatures. As Weisman is told by a British marine biologist, if humans disappeared today, those small sea organisms would have this problem to deal with for thousands of years to come.
     Plastic in general will be a problem for the planet and its inhabitants long after we're gone. Though we've only been producing the substance for fifty years, all of it still remains somewhere in the environment. We have already dumped so much plastic in the oceans that one billion tons of it are caught perpetually swirling in huge oceanic vortexes like the North Pacific Gyre, where a huge plastic soup slowly disintegrates into smaller polymers that choke marine life and further pollute the world's oceans.
     The breadth of Weisman's inquiry into our cumulative effect on the planet is enormous. He consults experts from around the world and all of the sciences, calling our attention to numerous ways in which, for every other life form on Earth, we are the problem.
     Did you know that one billion birds are killed each year by crashing into the plate glass windows of our houses, storefronts, and skyscrapers? Or that 60-80 million are annually killed by cars? Add into the equation the carnage visited upon the avian population by radio towers, cell towers, power lines, acid rain, insecticides... it's too much to comprehend.
     The impact that humans have had upon all other species has been so overwhelmingly negative that mentioning specific damage to an individual species - for instance the 100 million sharks each year who have their dorsal and pectoral fins sliced off in the name of Chinese cuisine (shark fin soup) before being thrown back into the ocean to sink to the bottom and drown - is to diminish the traumatic effect that our presence has had on all other animal life - those still present and those we've already driven to extinction.
     It's no surprise that Weisman concludes The World Without Us by calling his readers' attention to groups like the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement ("May we live long and die out") and the
Rewilding Institute, and possible solutions such as reversing human population growth by restricting reproduction to one child per each human female. Drastic times call for drastic measures and The World Without Us is the author's considerable contribution towards awakening mankind to the cataclysmically selfish nature of our existence, so that perhaps we don't all have to disappear in order to save the world.