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SkinnyDippingIntoBooks

Skinny Dipping Into Books

I like the rain. I want to have a spring bookworming rain party full out with wellies—but not those Hunter Boots; absolutely not—, with yummy airy things like puffed pastries, meringues, mini fluffy cheese cakes, mousse dessert, macaroon, biscuits, crepe, and Earl Grey tea, definitely Earl Grey tea.  and Tillandsia. We'd have lots of "air plants". Lots! And We'd read, but not anything structured. We'd bring books, trade books, read out-loud, pass books around between sentences and paragraphs. We'd leave with books we hadn't discovered.

 

I like books like I like my Jazz; euphoric, dangerous, occasionally a bit manic, sorrowful, bleak, raging, mood-incongruent, mournful, unforgivingly ragged, symbolic in a quiet way, warm apple pie for the soul. Give me a Plath style. Yōko Ogawa, M. Roach,


Criteria: Not rated on likability of characters. Not objective. I like Moxie Soda; chances are you don't.


time spent in that before bed reading slot:

5-until blurry eye 4-Later than I intended, but I still kept to my extended, extended reading time 3-I really should have been to bed an hour ago  2-customary 30 minutes. 1-book. side table. eyes closed.


How are common themes handled?

5-With an aesthetic that repurposes everyday themes into something fresh. Think of Hole Celebrity Skin covered by Cat Power  4-there is a comfortable air of familiarly.
3-Deja Vu 2. No deviation from its mates  1. Devastatingly trite, redundant, and stale.

Where would you keep it post-reading?

5-Next to my bed.  4-it's the center piece of my favorite bookshelf 3. On my other favorite bookshelf, but it's a bit dusty over their 2-Great cheap bookends 1-It never made it out of the box marked 'moving'.


Emotional response-

5- Where is my teddy bear? Emotional-hangover 4- If I wasn't so emotionally stunted I'd cry.
3. Did James Cameron co-wrote this? Artfully contrived. 
2- calculative emotional manipulation. This was literally written by James Cameron.1- I…feel…..nothing.

Mechanics (plot structure, voice, presentation, word choice, sentence structure, characters, writing style, pacing, and consistency):

5-Chanel 4-Prada 3-J-Crew 2-Gap 1-Old Navy

Currently reading

The Complete Stories
Flannery O'Connor
I am No One You Know
Joyce Carol Oates
Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls
Alissa Nutting, Alissa Nutting

An amazing adventure of psychological intensity

Perfect: A Novel - Rachel Joyce

I received a draft copy of this book from NetGalley

 

This book is simple in scope, but is wondrous in its meaning making and has great potential to be one of the best books of 2014.

 

The book centers around two seconds. Two seconds, just two seconds, added to time, and two boys caught in the middle of it. It also involved their families and a variety of other characters—some well developed, some two-dimensional. A subtle darkness descends, carefully around lengthy, but concise language and style, and then gradually increased in intensity. This is a dark, very dark book. It teases you and deceives you, mainly because everyone is used to a Gillian Flynn psychological-thriller style, but don't misjudge this book, because it's an abrasive, fierce piece of literature. 

 

Characters were broken, fragmented things. Not one character was left unscathed by the environment—cultural and social expectations—or their own life experiences. It was reminiscent of "We Were Liars", with its shades of human error, devastation, and sadness. It was sleeker, having an edge of refinement that differed from "We Were Liars".

 

Can we talk about Byron's father for a minute? I have read some novels in the past that attempted to explore emotional distance, especially between father and son, but they often fail to really capture the subtle elements that establish and sustain the recursive cycle of disengagement, rejection, shame, and sadness—think Silver Lining Play Book as a reference of one book that failed at this. The father was distant, emotionally disjointed, and clearly hurting from the inside. From the viewpoint of Bryon, however, he witnessed some instances of dropping the veil of inner turmoil. The language portraying this character sided on the use of heavy notes, and could have relied more on carefully constructed components, rather than the heavy handedness that often obscured character development. It was, however, at the end a well-portrayed character. I wished, though that the author would have let us a bit more into the brain of Byron's father. After all, we only met him on the weekends. I give a nod to the way the author wrapped up his story given the limited resources.

 

The mother was oppressed by societal views, or at the very least the heavy expectations of motherhood and womanhood of this era. Her social circle doesn't provide her much relief from the pressures pushed on her by her old-fashioned, oppressive husband. She had a very unique edge to her, and on occasion was outspoken. She is so easily manipulated by those around her, and is completely and utterly naive, which was probably her saddest attribute.

 

The author is incredibly deft at describing and interpreting the chaotic mind of children plagued by guilt and broken innocence, the novel rivals The Room. I would argue that this novel surpasses Room in the depth and astonishing detail used to explore childhood trauma, and the ways it manifests in adults. Fractured moments of childhood are stitched together with adult perceptions, only leading to further duress.

 

Byron, oh dearest Byron, was ravaged by the addition of two seconds, swaying towards obsession. Two seconds added to time through the view of childhood is catastrophic, to say the least. A kaleidoscope of dangers lurk at every corner; some occurring within the days, months, years of Byron's life, and some caught in the obsessive and preoccupied cobweb of his innocent, distorted mind.

 

 

Adult Byron and James try to look through the fog of childhood in search of the events of their past—events distorted by the over-reliance of concrete, strict, practical orientation of middle-childhood cognition—, only to struggle to understand these from an adult's perspective. It takes time to unravel these moments, and Joyce does a splendid job getting through the muck and bringing forth the core meaning of these events. Oh how spectacular the results. As adults they find the terror and sorrow of their childhood bulky and there are moments the reader may wince. Presented with the challenge of digesting the past, Byron and James set out on a course of self-acceptance and resolution that they failed to fully accomplish their childhood.

 

Oh lordy, James, the most ridged and emotionally disturbing character I have encountered in books centered on childhood. The build up of mental exhaustion was captured with honesty and perfection. I WANTED MORE! Joyce!! The perfect unity of Byron and James, and the splintering of both when away from one another was a centerpiece of the novel. Bryon is central to this novel, clearly, but without James the story would have never developed.  Without them, I could imagine your average childhood to adult scenario. After 'the event' and James' reaction, it would have served character development and the plot to just have a bit more insight into James. 

 

The book alternates between past and present. It does this in a way that is confusing and annoying at first. However, about 25% of the way through the novel gained momentum and righted itself. Previously I felt uneasy, confused and irritated. This was clearly intentional—or at least I believe this was Joyce's intent. It immersed me into the raw emotional package of James and Bryon's life. As the book started its upward mobility towards critical events, the meaning of this style became clearer and it became even more jarring. In some way I was forced to mend the events Bryon and James' past, and was taken alongside on their journey of self-discovery and acceptance—I donno, it's hard to explain. I regard the manner in which Joyce interlaced Jim, James, and Byron's stories with a large amount of respect. Everyone knows my love for Night Circus, and, though the writing, content, and plot was different, Perfect and Night Circles both reflect a mastery of combining past and present.

 

So…. what did i take issue with?

 

Yes, the pacing was off at times, the beginning slow as glue, and the midsection of the ending a bit rough on the edges, but I hesitate to give these complaints much to stand on. The writing was utterly lush, however this richness may have been one of the chief contributors to the aforementioned issues. The beginning was written a bit heavy-handedly and seemed a bit cumbersome, but once Joyce got her clutches further on the plot and deeper into the characters this softened. However, my acceptance of these issues may be directly associated with having read the book twice—and in places/chapters three/four times—, which I highly recommend.

 

James' swift fall into mental anguish was painted with too delicate of a pen, keyboard, or whatever. I was fairly conflicted with his decomposition post-Diana's death. Did Joyce build it up to a sufficient level? Or did sparse development of secondary characters have limitations? It's totally up to the reader to decide, but I found this underwhelming. However, I did like the final steps in his collapse, the moment describing him struggling up the hill, being pushed into the back seat of the car, and Byron running after him. This was a fairly magical point in its subtleness and had a gentle, but striking impact. This was the moment that truly defined the friends’ separation and its future consequences, and it was portrayed with a fineness that only adventurous and successful writers can deliver.

 

Spoiler on Jim….

 

 

I found the rush of Jim's friendships, budding love life—or whatever you can call those seemingly destructive but lovely moments between the two individuals—a bit rushed, and I would have really liked a few more moments to understand their connection and admiration for one another. It moved too fast, and this contrasted greatly with the slow pace and intensely detailed writing style. Perhaps the change in writing style signified the significance of resolving past trauma. I like thinking about it this way, that Joyce intentionally pushed the gas a bit harder to say 'hey, it may be a struggle for these two, but together they will endure, once they confront their shit'.

 

 

 

HUGE SPOILER REGARDING ‘the event’

 

 

HUGE SPOILER

 

Was it just me or was the mother’s death a bit awkward and anticlimactic.

 

 

 

 

A wonderful, stirring, and jarring adventure that sets precedent for other books of its kind, and may set in motion the dismantling of shock-porn—god help us—that has bruised psychological-adventures. Boring and redundant has been replaced with substance and awe.  Joyce has clearly set the standard here for childhood trauma related literature, and its long lasting effects on adulthood. I think we can all identify—maybe not to such an extreme—how childhood events have shaped us, and in this way this book is fairly relatable. Enjoy it.