Tag Archives: Dori Myer

Dori & Jess’ Book Club Reviews California

California: A NovelCalifornia: A Novel by Edan Lepucki

This novel is trying to be a hyper-realistic version of future, dystopian America. The rich can afford to live relatively normally but most everything is too expensive for the 99%. In addition, climate change created super storms that killed a lot of people and left the landscape barren in many places. The main characters, Cal and Frida, have moved from Los Angeles out to the middle of nowhere to try to live. They eventually find a community called The Land where the people can offer security but also perhaps dangers of their own. While decently written from a diction and grammar point-of-view, both Dori and I feel just “meh” about this book. It was not very well plotted. The story never really progressed. For awhile I was intrigued by the mystery and danger surrounding The Land but the secrets and “climax” of the story were a letdown.  Also, the book really didn’t have an ending. It just stopped. Dori summed it up nicely saying that Ms. Lepucki’s debut novel “suffers from too many ideas and not enough clarity of purpose.” Overall, “California” is a melodramatic, run-of-the-mill, post-apocalyptic story which became increasingly frustrating through its many mini-build ups that resulted in no consequences or plot progression.

Dori & Jess’ Book Club Reviews The Death Class

This month’s installment of Dori & Jess’ Book Club…

cvr9781451642858_9781451642858_hr.JPGThe Death Class: A True Story About Life by Erica Hayasaki

Review: Erica Hayasaki, a journalist for the “Los Angeles Times,” shadowed Dr. Norma Bowe for four years as Dr. Bowe taught her “Death in Perspective” class at Kean University. Dr. Bowe’s class includes discussions on what occurs biologically when a person is dying of natural causes, trips to a cemetery, prison and end-of-life hospital, and assignments like writing a goodbye letter to someone you know who has died and writing your own bucket list. The interspersed assignments and real responses from the class were interesting and thought-provoking.  The book also included the life stories of a few of Dr. Bowe’s student which helped make the book more about living than dying and illustrating different ways people deal with death but Dori & I both agree that it would have been better with shorter stories about more students rather than singling out just a few. However, there is no question that both of us were impressed by the remarkable woman that is Dr. Norma Bowe and we were glad to have the opportunity to read about her.

Guest Review – Attempting Normal

Another guest book review from the lovely & talented, Dori Myer!

aa64af909bc9e359651c4a5e60f9a4c1Attempting Normal by Marc Maron

Review: The brain droppings of a neurotic success story, Attempting Normal is a real treat for anyone who is filled with self doubt/loathing and enjoys watching other neurotics humorously suffer. Marc Maron is a mess. He’s got family, brain, addiction, you-name-it issues. But he has figured out a way to harness all that woe and anxiety into some really great storytelling.

On many levels I could relate to the constant self-questioning he attacks himself with, so I have to laugh in recognition. Other times, his experiences are so bizarre and foreign to me that it’s amusing just seeing how a neurotic would deal with whatever strange situation approaches.

Maron has had 20 years in the stand-up comedy business, not finding mainstream success until recently (and even then, he’s not a household name). He comes from the 1980s-90s generation of comics like Louis CK, David Cross, Jon Stewart, and other dudes now in their 40s and 50s. Most of these guys just had bad attitudes in their 20s and that translated into negative or offensive humor (funny nonetheless). With time, stand-up has become much more introspective, which is a terrific gain, I think. These dudes have acquired a lot of insight about their profession and it’s quite wonderful to read a well-crafted collection of stories born of honing the difficult skill of comedy-making. Maron is professionally mature while managing to remain an incredibly immature man and I often found myself laughing out loud at his freakish stories. I wasn’t really familiar with his work before this, but the cover of his book is a portrait of him with his cat, so I figured it had to be worth something. I’m glad I grabbed it and found a new comic to follow. It’s fun, quick, and could even inspire you to start writing down all the crazy crap that happens to you on the daily. There’s magic in the details.

written by: Dori Myer

Find more of her musings at: http://findingdori.wordpress.com/mr-blog/

Guest Book Review – This Side of Paradise

I was reading my friend, Dori’s book reviews on Goodreads and was completely enthralled. So I asked her if I could share her wisdom with all of you and thankfully she agreed. Please welcome Dori Myer to Novel Escapism!

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Review: Considering Fitzgerald wrote this book when he was 22, it’s quite impressive. I could see the budding Gatsby themes in this novel and appreciated seeing an author in his infancy. It’s usually interesting to me to read early and late novels by the same author (Vonnegut is a great example of massive changes over his career). For Fitzgerald, his collection doesn’t include many books, but there was plenty of growth within just a few years.

This Side of Paradise is like proto-Gatsby. Fitzgerald explores themes of excess, entitlement, upper crust, friendship, religion, lust, and all the other good things in America. It follows the life of Amory Blaine, a rich kid from Minnesota who is a big fish in his midwestern town, but learns that he’s only one of many bright and lucky young guys once he attends Princeton. He begins as sort of a turdy kid, who is unkind to his peers and feels super special because his disengaged mother tells him he’s amazing and treats him like a little adult. When he attends boarding school and then college on the east coast, we get a great juxtaposition of how landed society in the east coast interacts with wealth from the west. Fitzgerald doesn’t tell us much that we probably don’t already know about the snootiness of the east when turning down their noses at anyone from west of Pennsylvania. What I found most interesting about the book was how little has apparently changed in American society. He goes on diatribes about how rich capitalists are ruining the country and how damaging elitism is to the fabric of society. Considering he published this book in 1920, it’s fairly disturbing how endless and universal these concepts are.

I wouldn’t say we grow to love the protagonist as we see him grow into a more aware and empathetic character, but I don’t think we are meant to. He certain becomes more analytical and generous, though this leads to him becoming a starving and lazy artist. His notions of community and a classless society end up ruining his “potential” and all the efforts to groom him into American greatness (aka being rich). Women leave him because he doesn’t make money and can’t support them, families reject him once they realize he’s more clever than he is successful, and friends abandon him when they notice his good looks and wit aren’t enough to provide a good network for them. Here, “potential” equals attractiveness + money + important friends (or, “gonnections” for those of you Gatsby enthusiasts). Sometimes intelligence helps, but more importantly is a willingness to betray and flatter in equal measure. Nobody said Fitzgerald was a happy go lucky guy.

For those of you looking for more versions of Gatsby, this isn’t quite there. Gatsby is a much cleaner book thematically and in its pacing. There are endless references to authors of the time in This Side of Paradise, which can make some of his Princeton days difficult to follow and sort of boring if you aren’t into Wikipedia-ing early 1900s poetry and novels. According to the preface, contemporaries reading the book would have had a much easier time understanding these bits and their relevance. However, knowing that Fitzgerald was 22 when he wrote This Side of Paradise, and that much of it was based on his life, there is great depth and maturity to the novel and it’s mostly a pleasure to read. Try it!

written by: Dori Myer

Find more of her musings at: http://findingdori.wordpress.com/mr-blog/