Llew's Reviews

Archive for June, 2002

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys by Chris Furhm…

Sunday, June 23rd, 2002 by Miss Laura

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

by Chris Furhman

A touching and surprising coming-of-age story, originally published in 1994. It’s too bad it was published after the author’s death; who knows what we’ve lost?”–Linda Cohen, Little Professor Book Co., Temecula, CA

My answer: A John Irving Hack

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys is basically a shorter version of A Prayer For Owen Meany with character development as stunted as the title character in Irving’s novel. In short, a Sunday afternoon wasted.

If my Library of America edition of Tennessee William’s collected works doesn’t get in soon, I shall be driven to even more desperate measures!

The Member of the Wedding Clock Without Hands b…

Sunday, June 9th, 2002 by Miss Laura

The Member of the Wedding

Clock Without Hands

by Carson McCullers

“The writing was great, but if I wanted to hear a thirteen year old complain about life, I would read my old diary from middle school.”

In keeping with my theme of quoting my friends about the books I’ve just read the above is the only comment I had heard about “The Member of The Wedding” before I read it. This was stated by Miss Abigail on a mailing list earlier this year.

Abby always lets me stay at her house when I’m up that way on roadtrips. She even offers me a homecooked meal as well (“It might be Campbells soup but it’ll be heated up in a home.”) I can’t think of any of her other quotes at the moment since the only one that comes to her mind is her quoting me with, “So many cargo pants, so little cargo.”

But I digress.

I read “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” back when I was in college and I had put off reading the rest of McCullers works because I knew I would love them so and it gave me something to look forward to. However, now that I’ve completed all of her novels I definitely feel a bit empty, though I do plan to relive the love by rereading Lonely Hunter again. The novels were written in this order:

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter – 1940

Reflections In A Golden Eye – 1941

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe – 1943

The Member of The Wedding – 1946

Clock Without Hands – 1960

If you didn’t want to read the entire McCullers catalogue systematically, then I would recommend “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” as a *must read* and then “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe” with the emphasis that your life will be emptier if you weren’t to throw in a little “Reflections in a Golden Eye” too. The first two I absolutely loved (though The Ballad could be detrimental if left to the hands of anyone emo. I shudder to think of the repercussions of such an act. Hide all your copies now!) Of course, as soon as I typed that I started thinking of all the things I loved about “Reflections in a Golden Eye” and “The Member of the Wedding”. In fact, the only story which I have luke warm feelings about was her last effort and I still liked it.

In the back of the Library of America edition of her collected novels, there is a short chronology of her life and major events. I like these timelines so much more than actual biographies.

Eerie Notings:

Both Carson McCullers and Dorothy Parker married men who they split up with and then remarried later. Both of these men were in the Army, heavy drinkers, and ended up committing suicide before either of their wives died.

Both Carson McCullers and Dorothy Parker died in the same year – 1967

I found note where Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams (the next author whose works I wish to devour) were close and did a lecture series together. I also found notes of McCullers meeting with several other writers but no where have I read of McCullers and Parker coming into contact with each other. They were both popular writers of their time though I suppose McCullers was 24 years younger than Parker. It’s a shame both died ten years before I was even bore.

Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal "It w…

Sunday, June 9th, 2002 by Miss Laura

Closely Watched Trains

by Bohumil Hrabal

“It was torrid, turgid and melodramatic.”

Ok, ok so Brian said this about the Jessica Lange movie, “A Thousand Acres” but can I help if none of my friends have read this book? It would certainly be helpful if one had because then I could have someone to ask exactly what there is in this book that I’m missing – besides a plot.

There are two reasons I read this book. Well, rather there’s one reason why I bought it and another why I actually read it. I first heard about it here because there was an allusion to it in a Belle and Sebastian song which I’ve never heard entitled Hurley’s having dreams with the lyric “Hurley dreams of the time when he was a horse in Czechoslovakia” which according to the site “pertains well to the storyline” of this book.

Hmm. Well, he sits down on a dead horse at one point. Of course, then again there’s a lady who repeatedly has her bum “stamped” by another fellow who works at the train station with the main character. I think you could come up with much better lyrics from that scenario. It mentions this repeatedly and each time I thought, “What do they mean he was ‘stamping’ her behind. I don’t get it.” I still don’t. I realize it is a rubber stamp to her bare bum but the why, wherefore and how come elude me. Rubber stamps are really big in scrapbooking which a lot of my LDS friends are into. Maybe I’ll ask them about this scene.

The reason I wanted to actually read the book is based on a review or summary of it somewhere which I can’t find now. I did find something similar that read,

“…. Hrabal constructed his most orthodox narrative, drawing from a number of earlier works based on wartime experiences, two of them dealing with the subject of suicide. While his new emphasis lay on the hero’s quest for sexual initiation, he retained much of the originals’ taste for morbid imagery.”

“Readers loved Hrabal most of all for his inimitable prose – at times richly orally descriptive, other times sensually lyrical – which so completely captured life: from everyday dialogue – taken directly, it seems, from pubs and workplaces – via lyrical descriptions of nature, to philosophical expositions on the innermost meaning of life. Often, Hrabal fills his texts with odd characters, individuals from the fringes of society – anti-heroes of a sort – who possess a never-ending joy in their existence, a joy manifested foremost verbally.”

When will I ever learn not to trust reviews? Even when they look as if they’re the result of long hours with a thesaurus in hand, they tend to get my hopes up of something being good.

So yeah his prose was something you might here at a bar:

“There’s a smashing bummie!’ and he spat.

… Mr. Hubicka divided women into two categories. Those who carried their most striking attributes below the waist he called by the name he’d just applied to the Countess: bummies. And those who had beautiful and notable bosomes he called: busters. Just as one might use the terms curlie, smiler, blondie, and so on.”

This was one of the more amusing parts of the book too. I’m just not seeing it as “a joy manifested foremost verbally.”

Would someone please help me discover what I’m missing? It’s an 85 page book. I’ll lend you my copy for a clue.

This book just came into the store. You most li…

Monday, June 3rd, 2002 by Miss Laura

This book just came into the store. You most likely won’t be able to see it but it was written by “Yvonne De La Paix.” I believe if I had to be called that all of the time I would also make my life’s work a quest for the perfect name.

Recent Reads Reflections In A Golden Eye The B…

Sunday, June 2nd, 2002 by Miss Laura

Recent Reads

Reflections In A Golden Eye

The Ballad of The Sad Cafe

by Carson McCullers

Should I say that Carson McCullers is the Diane Arbus of literature or should I say that Diane Arbus is the Carson McCullers of photography? Mutes, hunchbacks, a lady sans nipples – oh my!

Now I’m debating on whether to start McCullers “Clock Without Hands” that has the opening sentence of, “Death is always the same, but each mands dies in his own way” or Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons.”

Recent Read Nalda Said by Stuart David "Its…

Saturday, June 1st, 2002 by Miss Laura

Recent Read

Nalda Said

by Stuart David

“Its as if it was written by a 17 year old boy. If I were his English teacher and he handed this into me, he would have gotten a C,” was the only comment I heard about this book before picking it up. It’s a shame that when I do quote my friend from above that is what I use, as she is especially funny. Of course, I say that and at the moment the only other words of hers I can think of is the time we were talking about bikini waxing and she commented on her crazy friend who has a Brazilian done every month. Ouch.

Me: There’s no way I would ever go through that much pain unless a lot of people were going to be regularly seeing that area.

Friend: Like dress down day at the office?


Oh yeah, the book. So a sugary scottish lad gave it to me after spending a self acclaimed eternity trying to find a book I hadn’t read yet. As I have been wanting a copy of it for a while, I was quite happy. (I would have told you the exact time period I’ve been wanting to read it as it’s been since it was published but for some reason the title page has none of the normal information one would find on the back of it, including copyright information. Odd.)

If you’ve ever heard any of Stuart David’s spoken word musical pieces (Impossible Things #2 or Space Boy Dream) then you’re already familiar with the style the story is written in. Almost all the sentence are the same structure and they ramble on for a bit. Then he’ll throw in a short sentence afterwards which is basically a repeat of what he’s just rambled on just to clarify things. Because it was in such a similar style I could almost hear him reading it. It was surprising that I didn’t have to go back and reread paragraphs as I didn’t understand his accent the first time around, heh. I can’t say that I agree with my clever friend as I quite liked the story. Not to say that it was *good* because I really don’t know if it was. It was rather nice to curl up with though.

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