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moving under skies

NYRB Classics collector. Reads anything, so long as it's good. Sometimes historian. Frequently grumpy:  you've been warned. Also at aliceunderskies.tumblr.com. 

The Effect of Living Backwards

The Effect of Living Backwards - Heidi Julavits

This one started out entertaining--I liked the narrator's hostility and sharpness, and was intrigued by the introduction--but I very quickly became disenchanted. Maybe I'm just not ready to read a farcical, satirical romp about terrorism. It's possible. More likely, the author simply failed to convince me on every level: plot, characters, tone--everything. I ended with a sense that Julavits didn't really know what sort of a book she was writing--political commentary? family drama? inquiry into the nature of identity? examination of the nature of humanity based on how quickly it dissipates in extreme situations? Julavits tried to do all and failed at capturing any, in large part because of this fracturing overambition, but also because of her over-attachment to being clever, detached, and postmodern. Two stars not because "it was ok"--it was not--but because I have read far worse books and would like to save the dread one star for them. And Julavits' lauded (by the blurbs, at least) "savage humor" did indeed amuse me a couple of times on a sentence level, and I was mildly interested in the sibling dynamics for maybe a quarter of the book. Overall, though, the book failed to create any emotional or intellectual resonance at all.