Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro

Dear Life: Stories is, as one reviewer posited, a bad place to start reading such an acclaimed author. This may very well be true. Either way, I have no intention of continuing to read any of Munro’s work after reading what amounts to an extremely over sold and boring set of stories.

I honestly have no idea where Munro earned her reputation from, earning the Nobel prize and all. Then again, Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow earned the Pulitzer and I’m stuck a third of the way through that. So, yes, I can see the award winning, I just can’t understand it.

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Clans of the Alphane Moon by Phillip K. Dick

A fast-paced novel, Clans of the Alphane Moon has a little of everything: a meditation on the civil rights of the mentally ill and the freedom of free will and free agency; the trials of marriage and divorce; the insanity of a paranoid security apparatus.

Far from being the failure or claptrap Barry Malzberg calls it (sci-fe being a lesser genre in his not-so-humble opinion) in at least one edition (Bluejay Special Edition) of the book.

Worth the read.

On Goodreads

Samaritan by Richard Price

Samaritan, the first Richard Price book I’ve read, reminded me why reading can be so enjoyable. Plotting, pace, dialogue, characters, it’s all brilliant here. Easy to look over are the beautiful turns of phrase.

I will admit, at the end, the morality starts beginning to feel less like a revelation after the fifth or sixth time and more like hammer banging on an already flush nail.

Leading up to that morality, and the play itself, was not something I realized until I finished the book, was not something I was cognizant of. Brilliant.

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The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The sequel (in a planned series) to The Long Earth is a disjointed, unbelievable and internal-morality questionable series of vignettes, too many characters and, worst of all, no actual plot.
Please, don’t get me wrong. I love Terry Pratchett’s books, to a fault, and I feel sacrilegious writing this review after his early death.
The Long War is, however, an un-plotted bore that breaks the suspension of disbelief and has an uneven moral grounding.

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This Must Be the Place by Anna Winger

This Must Be the Place is a well-written exercise in nothing-happens fiction.
Some may argue for the virtues of nothing-happens fiction (Ulysses) or point to other great novels by literary greats where nothing actually happens.

Kudos to those people because they are ignoring the flip-side of do-nothing fiction: the multitude of books published that are, at their core and outer edges and everywhere in between, boring. Boring, boring, boring.

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House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

House of Echoes is plagued with problems, from a clichéd plot ripped from X-Files episodes, to an entire lack of action/plot development to a complete and total non-suspension of disbelief. Couple all of these problems with some rich whiney city people who move to a not-rural Eastern town? (C’mon New York; move to Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, etc., the middle of these states, and then you can start complaining about rural life). It’s a recipe for a boring waste of time.
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The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

M.J. Rose’s new novel, The Witch of Painted Sorrows, feels more like a very long draft of a novel rather than a fleshed-and-thought out story.

Along those lines, Sorrows does not pick up until the last 100 pages or so. Up to that point, it’s a horrible slog, not just a slog like the last 100 pages.

Furthermore, the plot elements introduced at the beginning to propel the main character to Paris, where the book takes place, feels haphazard at best and the very first draft at worst. Her husband is described as “dangerous.” He is a killer! Except he’s not. The main character’s treatment of her husband, meant to be a plot point, appears more like she’s actually crazy because of the level of hysterical thoughts and feelings attributed to him.

“But I would not live with a brute who had my father’s blood on his hands.”
Hysterical.

Also, there’s a sleep rape scene perpetrated by the female main character against her male lover, which is portrayed as totally OK. Switch the genders and it would not be OK.

Sleep rape is not OK.

All in all, not worth reading.

This book (an advanced uncorrected proof) was received, free of charge, from the Goodreads First Reads program.

Update on Jan. 26, 2015
The author, Ms. Rose, took to Facebook on Jan. 18 to complain about my review and defend the offending scene in the book, which I believe I have correctly described as sleep rape perpetrated by a female on a male. This can also be called made to penetrate.

I don’t have a problem with portraying rape in fiction. I have a problem with portraying rape as anything other than rape, and therefore, acceptable.

The offending lines in my original review (above) (besides being negative in general) are as follows:

“Also, there’s a sleep rape scene which is portrayed as totally OK. Switch the genders and it would not be OK.
Sleep rape is not OK.”

As I wrote in the original post, my problem is the portrayal of sleep rape as acceptable, as the norm, or as Ms. Rose would have one believe, not possibly because the victim is a man and the perpetrator a woman.

Ms. Rose proceeded to defend the scene to her nearly 80,000 followers.

Many of those commenters wrote that I must be puritanical, prudish, that I confuse sleep rape for lovemaking or that I live in the 19th century.

As evidenced by Ms. Rose’s post on Facebook, she intended the scene to be seen positively.

“An early reviewer has blasted the book claiming I have a sleep rape scene. Ahem. In said scene Sandrine – a FEMALE – arouses her MALE lover while he is sleeping and they proceed to make love while he is half-asleep.”

Please observe what is wrong with Ms. Rose’s defense of the sleep rape scene: “a FEMALE – arouses her MALE lover while he is sleeping.”

Ms. Rose uses the argument that because a woman is doing the perpetrating, it’s obviously not rape.

Unfortunately, this is a wrong-headed and entirely false conceit. Neither rape nor consent know gender or gender roles.

She also uses the argument that what her main character does to her lover is acceptable because of their romantic relationship.

This would not be an acceptable argument if the gender roles were reversed. After all, marital rape has been illegal in all 50 states since 1993.

Below are three very good articles on the issue from three different publications:

Slate — When Men are Raped by Hanna Rosin
http://www.slate.com/articles/double_…
Choice quote: “By portraying sexual violence against men as aberrant, we prevent justice and compound the shame.”

Vocativ — The Hard Truth About Girl-on-Guy Rape by Elizabeth Kulze
http://www.vocativ.com/underworld/cri…
Choice quote: “Of course, for even the gentlest male sleep-rapist, ‘I assumed she’d be into it’ doesn’t exactly fly in court. Consent reigns supreme, and to pursue a female without it is to invite culpability. In
‘made to penetrate’ cases, the line is often far more ambiguous. Still, there are plenty of female aggressors who don’t leave much to interpretation.”

Pacific Standard — When Women Sexually Assault Men by Livia Gershon
http://www.psmag.com/politics-and-law…
Choice quote: “THE NOTION THAT SEXUAL assault of a man by a woman is impossible, and even laughable, rests on the same gendered assumptions that are also used to downplay assaults on women by men”

The Reverie by Jason Shprintz

The Reverie is written well enough and it uses an interesting narrative tool.

Neither of those qualities is near enough to save it from a boring, long-winded plot and pointless scenes. Really, it could have been a novella and not lost anything.

This book was received, free of charge, from the Goodreads First Reads program.