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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Thursday, August 07, 2003 - 11:42 pm:   

Reviewer: A reader from Not New Hampshire

This is a wonderful book, the discussion of which, up to this point, has been quite enjoyable. However, if you're the English teacher at a preppy New England boarding school, in the future please refrain from having your ENTIRE CLASS of trust-fund dolts post their endless, pointless, insipid, identical reviews on this site, okay? While I'm certain they are VERY special and represent some of our nation's finest families, no one comes to here to be subjected to 25... book reports. Thanks.

Guess the book? It's nobody from on here.
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Andreas Black
Posted on Friday, August 08, 2003 - 06:08 am:   

Um, anything by Lemony Snicket? No, wait -- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
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Mike
Posted on Friday, August 08, 2003 - 07:14 am:   

Sound like a pack of dolts to me... a grouping of goofballs...
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GabrielM
Posted on Friday, August 08, 2003 - 08:54 am:   

The new Traci Lords autobiography?
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Jon Hansen
Posted on Friday, August 08, 2003 - 09:48 am:   

I know, but I cheated. The reviews are pretty funny, tho'.

Wonder why they all posted them?
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Friday, August 08, 2003 - 10:00 am:   

it seems like a lot of teachers have gotten the bright idea to have their students put up amazon.reviews. Back in 1999 there was a run of hilarious reviews of The Hobbit; one complained that the writing was all wrong because none of the paragraphs had a "main sentence" and that there was too much dishwashing in the book.

And the above review if Confederacy Of Dunces. The best of the prep school reviews complained about says "I think that if someone is going to write a book they need to have a reason or a plot to base it on. I feel as if Toole just wrote this book for the hell of it instead of writing to prove a theory or a point or to teach a lesson. Why would anyone want to read a book that has no point?"

Uh oh.

Jaaaaason, I'm gonna need my manuscript back for a few days while I add a POINT!

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Brendan
Posted on Saturday, August 09, 2003 - 06:50 am:   

I thought only Russians wrote books with a point?
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Alan DeNiro
Posted on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 07:53 am:   

This is my favorite Amazon review of all time, of Demonology. By someone named "jdtx.":


_________
Of the novels I've read in my life, I must say that this latest collection of stories by Mr. Moody is perhaps the best. Notice the package of Smarties-brand candy on the cover of the book; a quirky touch, eh? The whole book is like that. Delicious and quirky, with a nostalgia for the things we gobbled greedily as children. Pick up the book in your local bookstore, the small corner bookshop like the one in "You've Got Mail," the movie that starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (but, of course, buy the book at Amazon, because they offer significant savings, up to 30% off). Feel the book's soft, delicious heft. Feel the way, when you flip through the pages, you get the sense that the pages have little pillows of air between them, lending the book a luxurious feel. Mr. Moody's words are that way: luxuriant. They defy genre. Mr. Moody, an Ivy-educated writer, is not a genre writer. Genre writers tend not to be as well-educated, if I'm not mistaken.

One thing you notice about these stories is that Rick Moody has chosen each word carefully. Each word means something. That's not really the case in less sophisticated, genre writing like John Grisham's (that's just my opinion; I don't mean to offend fans of genre writing). This is serious stuff: literary fiction. Rick Moody has put a lot of work into this book, that much is obvious. Each page has been carefully considered, with only the best pages making the final cut. I suspect Rick Moody declined a number of social invitations, from friends who admire him and are pleased that he considers them friends, in order to massage these pages into just the right form. You might say, after reading this book, that Rick Moody "has the write stuff."

If you're turned off by "difficult" writing, this isn't the book for you. This volume is for ambitious readers, people who have already read a number of books. As a sign of how difficult this book is, Rick Moody, in the NYT the other day, is quoted quoting Jacques Lacan, a French psychoanalyst notorious for his forbidding seminars. French writers tend to think difficult things; and they phrase them in ways that are difficult for most Americans to understand. But there is heady stuff in "Demonology," and really only one reference that would do if Rick Moody was to really capture the experience of writing this book, and that was a citation of Jacques Lacan.

I noticed, on the thick, luxuriant dust-jacket of this book, that Mr. Moody had switched from the author's photo in which he is depicted with longish curly hair and funky glasses, to a more casual photo, in which he looks wealthier and more carefree than he did in his last author's photo. To be sure, he still looks competitive, like he'd be up for a game of touch football on a big, grassy lawn; but he looks less driven, less vision-impaired than the avant-garde writer he once was, back when he was writing other books that were just as edgy but less assured. This new photo projects greater comfort with his status--he's sure of himself now--and he can be cruel when necessary. In other words, Mr. Moody looks Kennedyesque in this latest photo. I bet there's a story behind that; I can imagine Mr. Moody saying to his agent, "I am tired of just being a pretty, funky face, looking like an East Village poet-slash-action painter. I want to look rich, tousled, as if I am on a yacht. Let's just get down to brass tacks: I want to look like Bobby Kennedy!" I admire both Bobby Kennedy and Rick Moody; there are a lot of similarities between them. Both, for instance, spent/spend a lot of time on the East Coast, and attended the best schools. Both have a certain edge about them, but are still very admirable. Yet they remain complex, enigmatic.

There is a recent review in the NYT of this book, in which a fellow named Walter Kirn, who writes similarly "edgy" books, points out that short stories have traditionally been the "R&D department" of fiction -- that is, research and development, where white coats are worn, new ideas are tried out, brains storm, and prototypes are rendered. That was a brilliant image, a pretty cool insight that got me thinking. Walter Kirn proves, with that review, that he is as blithe and assured as Rick Moody. I bet Rick Moody has never met Walter Kirn, and I bet he will never thank Walter Kirn, in person or over the phone, for that review.

I guess I want to close this review by saying that I think Rick Moody has given us a gift with this new book: he has shown us that fiction writers need not be shallow, simple, unsophisticated people. They can be complex, too, with different moods and different aspects, each of which is worth celebrating. They can grow. And sometimes, in addition to writing a book that reflects, quite elegantly, those changes, a new author's photo is required as well, on the dustjacket.

Highly recommended.
___
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Luís
Posted on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 08:13 am:   

LOL! This is hilarious, keep them coming!

Cheers,
Luís
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Mastadge
Posted on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 08:29 am:   

"Each page has been carefully considered, with only the best pages making the final cut."
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Night Shade Books
Posted on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 08:46 am:   

Nick,

You're welcome to add a point to MUG, but if you do that them I'm going to put a dragon on the cover. In metallic foil.

Your call.

Jason
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 11:02 am:   

There's a long history of hilarious reviews of Bil Keane's Family Circus books. Here are some good ones from Daddy's Cap Is On Backwards:

Bil Keane's brilliant spiritual memoir -- disguised as a deconstructionist parable of post-feminist suburbia -- perfectly depicts not only his own moral impasse, but also that of the American middle class during the mid-1990s. 'Daddy' -- desperately trying to cling to the archaic values of a bygone era, and totally unprepared for the unbridled optimism of the coming dot-com boom -- finds himself at odds not only with his family, but also with his society, and even himself. His steadfast refusal to conform to the social order, by wearing his cap back 'backwards', is a not-to-thinly-veiled representation of his increasing love for Evangelical Christianity in terms of marital infidelity. With his family and neighborhood embroiled in fear and chaos by the serial killing spree of the allegorical "Not Me" and "Ida Know", he discovers that that the only other person he can ultimately turn to for solace is his daughter. Dolly, the typical Keane heroine, is overeducated for her destiny, torn between motherhood and marriage on the one hand and, on the other, a longing to engage in the realm of ideas and the larger social order. By the end of fourth grade, following her mother's attempted suicide, Dolly chooses to convert to Orthodox Judaism. This initially devastates Daddy, but he eventually comes to realize that her religious nonconformity is of the same spiritual fabric as his social iconoclasm. It is not without accident that, in the end, all but one of the book's secular questions are answered: Keane is intentionally ambiguous as to whether or not Daddy chooses to starting wearing the cap 'forward'. Clearly, Keane's -- and American society's -- spiritual journey is far from over.

and...

In his modern classic "Daddy's Cap is on Backwards", Keane finally answers the question that has plagued his cartoon family for decades. At last we see his vision of what shall become of the post 50s nuclear family when at last it is proven that God has forsaken man to a cold and lonely eternity. And what a horrifying and terrible vision it truly is.

Now a few years past his heart-crushing Nietzscheian trip into the void of his soul, Billy returns to discover his family radically changed. Like broken marionettes, his parents walk about in a grey-faced fog, searching for meaning in their empty lives. In a poignant scene, Billy finds little PJ gazing into a 2am television screen, his eyes filled with tears, crying "please, please come back and talk to me, I'm no one when you're not here!"

But the vacuous ghosts of his progenitors and younger sibling are dwarfed by the rage of Billy's elder sister, Dolly. Filled with hate and loathing for a modern world without meaning and beyond her control, she has embraced a rabid, radical form of socio-religious fascism. With a terrifying cold fury and savage ruthlessness, Dolly's National Fourth Grade Christian Front rises to dominate the nameless suburban wasteland that Keane's cartoon family inhabit. As literature, teachers, neighbors and even Barky the dog are all cast into the bonfires in nightly Gestapo raids, their deaths blamed on the mythical villains "Not Me" and "Ida Know".

In a painful moment that lays bare her Electra complex in a scene of macabre and bitter truth, Dolly commands her father, now reduced to a hollow man, to throw her very mother into the arms of a rampaging angry mob. Over the sound of her dying screams, Dolly reassures her father that the murder of her mother shall free him from his destiny as a captive consumer and wage slave in a prison of his own making. Her lies convince neither of them, but they underline the reversal of their parent/child roles and make father Bill's tears all the more stark as the last remnant of his soul dies with his wife in the madness of the crowd.

Ultimately, alone in a world inhabited only by fear, shame, terror and the vacant-eyed armies of his sister, Billy is forced to choose between embracing Dolly's genocidal Armageddon-like vision and flinging himself into the flames of an all-too-common neighborhood bonfire. And as the flames and banners rise higher and higher, there are few that can disagree with his choice.

Yes Mr. Keane, Daddy's Cap is indeed on Backwards.

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Alan
Posted on Saturday, February 14, 2004 - 08:34 pm:   

Best. Reviews. Ever. For perhaps the creepiest book ever.
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Mervius
Posted on Monday, February 16, 2004 - 05:47 pm:   

Nick said... "Jaaaaason, I'm gonna need my manuscript back for a few days while I add a POINT!"

Interesting... very interesting...

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