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Original Essays | September 30, 2014

Brian Doyle: IMG The Rude Burl of Our Masks



One day when I was 12 years old and setting off on my newspaper route after school my mom said will you stop at the doctor's and pick up something... Continue »
  1. $13.27 Sale Trade Paper add to wish list

    Children and Other Wild Animals

    Brian Doyle 9780870717543

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Customer Comments

rrludman has commented on (8) products.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
Will Grayson, Will Grayson

rrludman, February 17, 2012

"Will Grayson, Will Grayson" is the perfect Young Adult novel. It's interesting, funny, moving, tragic and compelling. I couldn't put it down and I read it in one night. The premise itself is interesting. Both authors decided on a name and each would write alternating chapters about different characters with the same name and at some point they meet. I feared this could be just a gimmick but from the first chapters I was persuaded that this was a real story of two people connected by more than their names. The stories are different in style and tone. Both characters have a specific voice as do the secondary characters that are pulled in and held in the orbit of the two parallel stars. I would recommend this for teens and adults alike. The story is harks of the depression and anxiety that so many teens have in their youth and at times though heartbreaking rewards the reader with an affirmation of resilience and strength. After reading this novel, you quickly realize that though the details maybe slightly different this is everyone's story. We are all named Will Grayson.
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Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
Lover's Dictionary

rrludman, April 12, 2011

"The Lover's Dictionary" probably isn't for everyone, but I fell in love with this novel immediately. Presented as a series of words that are defined by the prose of the novel itself, the story is immediately mysterious yet riveting. Nouns, verbs, adjectives each move the plot along in a non-chronological way. The characters are unnamed and pronouns are rarely used. One is unsure whether the narrator is male or female and the same with the narrator's lover. The book reads quickly. Some definitions consist of a word or sentence. Others continue for paragraphs. Accordingly, there is a lot of "white space" which makes this novel easy to read. In some ways the chronology is confusing, but not enough where one won't be able to follow along. This novel didn't feel like a typical romance novel. The prose is more fluid and blurs the line between a straightforward novel and epic poetry. A times the story feels shallow. One doesn't have the luxury of long descriptions, the slow building of suspense, the grounding of a setting, or the camaraderie of characters. Yet, these definitions are intense, emotional and universal. The characters are shells that envelope the role of reader and lover. The characters could be anyone. The strength of this novel is to convey emotion in such an interesting way it's difficult not to devour it in one sitting. The writing itself is beautiful. The sentences and dialogue are precise, neat and layered with depth of emotion. The word choice is perfect. There are so many romance stories available. This is a simple story in an unconventional way that will flood it's readers with emotion.
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At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream: Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life by Wade Rouse
At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream: Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life

rrludman, July 20, 2010

The author chronicles the first months after having moved with his partner from St. Louis to a cottage in rural Michigan just outside the gay-friendly resort town of Saugatuck. The pages are filled with witty prose in short segments that extoll how a gay couple uproot their lives and transition from an urbane life to a more rural, and hopefully, improved existence. I sought this book based on a recommendation from a friend. It appealed to me because of the humor in hearing of a gay couple moving to the middle of nowhere. In addition, being from Michigan myself, I wanted to hear another person's perspective on the Great Lake State.

The memoir is both touching and humorous. The author recounts many humorous experiences with local neighbors, wildlife and the wide-ranging weather of Michigan. The reader really cheers for the author who is trying to find his “Walden” and improve himself, his relationship and his world around him. He is a sympathetic character who you really want to morph into a new being and yet he is his own enemy. The author spends endless pages explaining his former life of designer labels, non-fat lattés, tanning and teeth-whitening. He appears to be another stereotypical, vapid homosexual who is so self-absorbed it's surprising that he doesn't walk around with a hand mirror all day à la Vanity Smurf. The author describes this vain lifestyle so much, that one believes he may using this hyperbole simply to contrast with the rural, agrarian Michigan to get more laughs. Despite the excessive descriptions of what shoes he is wearing at every possible moment, the author has filled with book with heart and emotional depth which is the real pearl inside this oyster of a memoir. By the end of the book, the reader is closely connected to what the author has experienced and feels the changes he has gone through.

My biggest problem with the book is that I have a hard time believing that the author who grew up in the Ozarks and moved from St. Louis would have such a difficult time in rural Michigan. I would expect such culture shock from one who grew up in New York City and had lived their his or her entire life. However, I don't think of St. Louis as the culture capital of mid-America and I have a hard time believing the transition was so great. For that reason, I feel the descriptions the author gives and the reactions to be exaggerated. Perhaps, none is exaggerated and there is a larger cultural gap between urban and rural living than I expected. I laughed openly several times throughout this book. Many of the scenes and incidents are very funny. In my opinion the book really shined at the more serious parts even making my eyes water. The growth of the author and the interaction with his partner are touching and a welcome contrast to the comedic interaction with the outside world. By the end of the book, I found the memoir inspirational and heartwarming and the desire to seek out my own Walden.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)



Dead Until Dark: Sookie Stackhouse Novel #1 (Southern Vampire Series) by Charlaine Harris
Dead Until Dark: Sookie Stackhouse Novel #1 (Southern Vampire Series)

rrludman, July 17, 2010

“Dead Until Dark” is the first in a series of books by Charlaine Harris that are currently all the rage thanks to the success of the TV Series based on the novels, “True Blood”. I have seen the first season of “True Blood” on HBO and I thought it was excellent. I decided to read the first book to see if I would like the entire series of novels. The main premise of the series is that synthetic blood has been created and since it's advent vampires around the globe have come “out of the closet” so to speak. The main character is Sookie Stackhouse who falls in love with one such vampire. The first season of “True Blood” closely followed the novel. A string of murders have occurred in Bon Temps, Louisiana and the intrigue surrounding who may have committed these murders propels much of the plot. Unlike the television series, the novel does not have as rich a cast of characters and the book does not follow the lives of the other supporting characters as closely. The plot in the novel is very linear where the series is rich with stories and action surrounding the lives of different characters such as Jason Stackhouse, Tara (absent completely from the novel) and Lafayette. If you've seen the first season of “True Blood” you know how the book will end. You could practically skip this book and go right to the next without missing anything. I thought the book was difficult to read. The writing is too colloquial and too fractured to be a smooth read. However, the book is only about 300 pages long and the story is easy to follow because it is so linear. I didn't find the novel very suspenseful but I attribute part of that to knowing the ending. I also did not enjoy the more graphic parts describing sex acts. They distract from the flow of the story and in my opinion belong only in romance novels. But in reality these passages are the only parts that keep this book from being just another “tween” vampire novel. By the end of the book though, I found this to be just another vampire romance novel. If you find the love between a woman and a vampire alluring then this may be the book for you. If you're looking for more of a thriller, or a horror story, or a fantasy series or all three, I suggest you go elsewhere. Otherwise “Dead Until Dark” is sure to disappoint.
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (The Millennium Trilogy #1) by Stieg Larsson
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (The Millennium Trilogy #1)

rrludman, July 17, 2010

After hearing about the huge European sales of the book, the blockbuster movie, recommendations from friends and the untimely death of the author, I decided to dive into “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. In summary, the plot concerns a journalist with nothing to lose who is hired by a rich old guy to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his niece 40 years earlier. Fortunately, I was told that the first one hundred pages are slow but then the plot really picks up. I can safely say that based on the plot summary I wrote above you can start reading half way through the book and still understand what's going on. In fact, my paperback book had 644 pages and the main protagonist didn't even meet the title character until page 322, exactly halfway through. I don't think it was until almost page 400 that the sleuths find the first clue regarding the niece. Seriously, the first half of the book is really boring and has a lot of uninteresting information. The pace quickens around the half-way point but the main intrigue stops about 100 pages short of the end. The reason is that the author has to tie up all the boring stuff he talked about in the beginning. For me this could have been written in 250 pages and I would already be done with the sequel. Another disappointing aspect of the book is that the characters are somewhat interesting, but not sympathetic. I walked away not liking any of the characters. Even though I have many problems with the book, I thought it was well written and I read the book fairly quickly. I didn't mind the Swedish names as much as I thought. I thought the suspenseful part of the plot was interesting and highly compelling. I am interested in seeing the movie, just to see how well this translates to film. However, I'm not in a hurry to jump into the sequel and the threequel to this thriller. I am leery of spending so much time again on a book where only one third was suspenseful.
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(6 of 34 readers found this comment helpful)



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