Initially I had grand designs to review each of these books, but the fact is that none of them really inspired a post longer than about 150 words. So instead, I figured I’d do an omnibus and give a quick summary of each. Here’s what I read over the past two months:
How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
Oh Jesus what pretentious hipster drivel. If you want to read a book written by a Toronto native that sounds like it’s being dictated by an English Additional Language student about her life in a boring, small-scale art community, Sheila Heti has you covered. If that sounds about as interesting as watching the paint on an insufferable art student’s canvas dry, avoid this like the plague.
This is essentially the same as HBO’s Girls, in that it’s about a group of self-obsessed 20-somethings in a major metropolitan area who think that their indulgent hipster lifestyle is something noble or important, except unlike Girls it doesn’t have any of the meta humor that makes this kind of navel-gazing bearable.
I hated this book. It’s about nothing and the protagonist’s life is uninteresting. Her quest to “find herself” causes her to meander around Toronto and New York without any sense of purpose, interacting with people in a totally artificial way.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I would’ve loved this book as a teenager, so it’s a shame I didn’t discover it then. As it stands, Perks is a sweet, complex story about a shy, damaged teen who falls in with a band of older misfits his first year of high school. Battling guilt, post-traumatic stress disorder and his own natural introversion, Charlie is perhaps one of the best and most accurately-written teenagers I’ve seen in a long while. Absent is the phony sassiness or arrogance of most fictional youths. Instead, Chbosky gives his readers all of the very real, dark and oppressive emotions that come with adolescence.
Some have complained about the narrative style (each chapter is figured as a letter to an anonymous friend), but like with most diary entry-style books, the writing just reads like regular prose after a while, making the diary or letter format superfluous. It didn’t need it, but it didn’t hurt it, either.
No, I haven’t seen the movie. I’m debating whether or not I want to.
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
I picked this one up at random while scaling a used book store a few weeks back. Ferris’s take on office life will remind you of Office Space, but there’s plenty of Catch-22 in there as well. The narrative voice is presented as a collective, with the author assuming the point of view of the office as a whole. While this style is meant to represent an entire group, the voice still comes off as both male and white, since female office workers and/or any workers of “color” are made to stand apart from the “We” and “Us” used to discuss the attitudes and feelings of the employees at a fading Chicago marketing firm. In other words, there’s a lot to examine about what Ferris may be saying about our assumptions about workplace dynamics and demographics
This is a gem of a book — funny, touching, interesting and strange. It’s also a fairly quick read.
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
The big reason for not doing a full review of Twilight is that there’s hardly going to be something I can say about this book that hasn’t been said a million times over by now. It has literally taken me two years to polish off this awful tome, and I feel a small (if shameful) sense of success at finally having done it.
What really surprises me about both Twilight and 50 Shades is not that they’re poorly written or silly or corny or just plain awful, but rather how painfully boring they both are. Nothing happens. How can you have a narrative about vampires and werewolves and make it so Goddamn uninteresting?
Anyway, Twilight: I did it.