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About gregbrown

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    Thumb Tourist
  • Birthday 06/07/1986

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    Lawrence, KS
  1. To further complicate things, much of the emotional minimalism people associate with Carver was actually a result of Lish's ruthless editing.
  2. The Idle Book Club 18: Runaway

    Hard to characterize my reaction to Munro because it's more of a non-reaction than anything. Yes, her stories are carefully crafted. Yes, they're amongst the best exemplars of the coiled, latent violence in how men often regard and handle and control women. Yes, I can see how the Nobel Prize committee would dig her. But at the same time, I don't really get anything out of them. The plotting is pretty insubstantial and just there to set up character moments. She'll sometimes play around with an epistolary mode, but variations in style are only ever like 5% at most. She gets a lot of praise because the characters are richly developed, even compared to novels, but there's a certain joy in the best novels of seeing something develop over time, or see a character end up in a radically different position than they started without any discrete fulcrum point. The very form of short stories, even in Munro's hands, collapses those possibilities down to where she can only really hint at those developments in backstory. [some of this probably reads as problems I have with the very existence of short stories, which is partially true! The form is a fucking weird place where there's almost no commercial success but, due to their shortness, they're perfect for studying and cooing over in academic or workshop contexts, their production artificially boosted by MFA programs nationwide. But more specifically, my favorite short stories are all, well, shorter. These fifty-page efforts aren't short enough to feel compressed or pointed, but not long enough to have those sort of novel-y parts I crave. Munro's just this awkward middle-ground of—I'll say again—extremely well-crafted short stories. They're incredibly controlled, giving every impression of being doted over with the vigilance and standards of someone who's been doing this for an entire career. But they're all just sameishness. The sample-size is small enough that I'm hesitant to use these stories to come to any conclusion about Munro's larger project, but I can't say that I'm a fan of this collection.
  3. Ghostbusters (2016)

    Unless he really brought heavy amounts of tranquilizer to a date (which is its own kind of creepy), he totally did.
  4. The Idle Book Club 17: The Sympathizer

    There was a pretty recent NY Times piece on it after he won the Pulitzer:
  5. The Idle Book Club 17: The Sympathizer

    Not sure why this won the Pulitzer, outside of an enjoyable narrator's voice and being about an Important Subject. The plotting is a mess, the commentary pretty one-note, and the book as a whole seems to run on auto-pilot for the whole midsection. That said, the voice IS striking until it wears thin, and the end section was a refreshing change once it finally arrived. Nguyen allows himself to get more daringly-subjective with the prose, and despite the risks, I think he pulls it off nicely. And the book as a whole feels sort of like a novelization of Said's writing on Orientalism, but way more enjoyable! The whole book is a quick enough read, but squandered opportunities throughout. I feel kinda like a broken record, but this really does have many of the same debut-novel problems as the other stuff we've been reading recently. The steady hand of Munro will be a lovely change of pace.
  6. Whoa we're doing a Harry Potter podcast?

    I binge-read the first five books because my younger brothers were reading them, and the sixth was about to come out (and I think I wanted to watch the third film too). It was the same time as I was listening to a lot of Hail to the Thief, so the two are super-linked in that proustian sort of way in my head. After slamming through the sixth on a car trip, I never got around to reading the seventh, lol. Also, seconding the praise for Wizard People Dear Reader, which has totally superseded the first book/film in my mind.
  7. The Idle Book Club 16: Mr. Fox

    I started out really hating this book but by the end it had subsided to more the throb of a dull headache. The most frustrating part is that the interesting bits— —are both lodged at the very end and quickly abandoned. I found the bulk of the book to be thinly-connected, often onanistic storytelling for storytelling's sake. (Including such bizarre and unnecessary pretenses as having the interbellum author write a story set in the modern day? The fuck?) Everything else is unrevelatory, especially the dropped theme of violence against women. There's something great to be examined in violence against women as not just a structural urge, but also a deeply personal and almost intimate one. That the reasons for killing women are often not reasons but just a pretext, targets of opportunity. But this book says next to nothing about that, just trying the theme on for size before ultimately discarding it. It's a bad book clothed in all the thematic and stylistic finery that get people to take it seriously. me mad
  8. Man, this book is pretty great. For a novel where the premise is a grand bit of world-building, most of the story is shockingly interior. I know the plot threads fizzling out is often ascribed to Dick's haphazard I Ching-driven narrative, but it also serves to underline the inescapable, maybe even inexorable existence of this alternate world. The characters here don't even imagine trying to return the world to its "rightful" place, even with their glimpses of how it might be different. Instead, each take it as a personal challenge to survive and even persevere to act ethically within—despite the novel's total lack of any of the ethical quandaries we expect from dystopian literature. Juliana's thread seemed too erratic and just-so to me, and I didn't really find the ending worthwhile at all. Would have preferred to just end on Tagomi. I already had some vibes going from the esoteric nature of the I Ching's use, but Mr. Tagomi's trip towards the end of the book underlined the really enjoyable similarities to Alan Moore's FROM HELL. Wanna read more PKD soon, but I might have to double-back and re-read that one to get my cryptic vision fix.
  9. Books, books, books...

    Oh man, I want to read Empire of Cotton soon along with The Half Has Never Been Told and River of Dark Dreams. Tons of great history lately on the economic infrastructure of slavery.
  10. Woof.

    We're fostering a pregnant Corgi from the shelter, and she gave birth on Thursday night to NINE PUPPIES (+ one who didn't make it). They're babies! All nine of them squirming around: One of them in my hand showing the size:
  11. Excited to read this since I've only ever read a few shorter stories by him! If you're looking for an edition that includes some of PKd's other writing for a wider taste, Library of America has a rad edition that collects this, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and Ubik.
  12. What did you all think of the ending? I'm kinda confused as to why Ng felt the need to keep throwing in twists until the very last few pages.
  13. I also had really mixed feelings about the novel—or perhaps more accurately, I really enjoyed the middle portion but felt nothing for the beginning and end. Before that, the characters all felt like tropes, and afterwards they quickly regressed to the same. It didn't help that the prose was thoroughly middle-of-the-road: that same delicate writing that's endemic in MFA programs and quick-as-hell to read, but utterly neutral and unhelpful to any story aims. A vaguely-similar work that I mostly loved is Top of the Lake, a BBC series about a young mixed-race girl who tries to drown herself in the lake. The similarities are mostly cosmetic, but the TV series was much more interesting in examining sexism/misogyny, small-town insularity, etc. by being unabashedly weird about it at points. Eventually it capitulates to the needs of plot and wrap-up and answers, but the most captivating parts are in the aimless sideways jags—something this book could have used more of, or at least anything that would set it apart as different from the dozens of other praised literary fiction books that come out in this vein each year. Kind of an arbitrary grievance, but one I felt strongly while reading. Also some Goodreads users are so bad at reading lol
  14. What happened to Sean on Idle Thumbs?

    The philosophical school of thought known as "Sean Panaman."
  15. Revoke Kansas Statehood

    IMHO the grossest thing that's been happening lately is the monthly story about how, "Surprise! Tax revenues fell short of expectations this month again after we gutted business taxes." Dynamic scoring of tax cuts is always pretty sleazy, but what really makes it outright evil is that the governor has UNILATERAL power to cut spending if tax revenue doesn't meet expectations, so he's cutting millions from child services and universities without even any legislative approval. It's appalling. Not that the legislature is much better, packed with conservative Republicans and currently locked in battle with the Supreme Court over whether we should adequately fund schools. But here in Lawrence, everyone openly hates Brownback enough that it even comes up in random conversations apropos of nothing.