Category Archives: books

Pygmy, a novel by Chuck Palahniuk

by James Gilmore

Although all of Chuck Palahniuk’s novels satire American culture, Pygmy is perhaps the most pungent of the author’s bibliography. 

Book cover for Chuck Palahniuk's novel Pygmy on Minimalist Reviews.

Technically sound, fascinating and shocking.  And while many readers may take issue with the nature of certain violent events which occur in the story, these events are in fact appropriate to the story, even if they are presented in a fashion to maximize shock factor.

The audio book recording of the book is an excellent alternative for Palahniuk fans who wish to avoid the grammar headaches of reading the novel’s own form of pidgin English, which can be extremely laborious.

Pygmy is an absolute must-read for fans of Chuck Palahniuk.  However, strangers to his work may find the book distasteful if not virtually impossible to read.  On the other hand, adventurous readers should absolutely give the book a perusal.

Rating:  4 / 5

Other Voices, Other Rooms, a literary novel by Truman Capote

by James Gilmore

Other Voice, Other Rooms refers to shadows, memories—places people have been, voices that have sounded, ephemeral ghosts which burn brightly and then disappear, as if from a distant place and time. Once innocence is shed, you can never return to the past.

Book cover of Other Voices Other Rooms, a literary novel by Truman Capote, on Minimalist Reviews.

Rich, luxurious prose which reproduces in intimate the detail the cultural mores, mindset and isolation of the gothic rural American South. The main drive of the plot is the unraveling of the mystery of protagonist’s father’s identity, which ultimately leads to the loss of innocence and the realization that reality/life is a cruel and twisted master, of whom we only catch a sliver’s glimpse. Perhaps the most powerful strand of the story is the sub-theme regarding love and how it far more complex, and thus far more painful, than the youthful ideal of meet-love-marriage, as embodied by the character of Randolph.

Other Voices, Other Rooms should be considered a companion piece to To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Both are colorful, insightful penetrations into the gothic American South in which both Harper Lee and Truman Capote are depicted as childhood friends and protagonists.

Rating: 5 / 5

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, a novel by Gregory Maguire

by James Gilmore

Book cover for Wicked The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, a novel by Gregory Maguire, on Minimalist Reviews.

Wicked: TLaTotWWotW is a masterwork of storytelling on all fronts. It is an epic in the classic sense; a true Greek Tragedy.

Maguire’s re-imagining of Oz entails a complex plot cast against an even more complicated background, with multifarious–but utterly human–relationships which do not gloss over the less glamorous aspects of weakness, regret, and mistakes made. Furthermore, the author demonstrates an intimate understanding of culture, the succession of religions, humanity and the human condition (as is the subject of all great literature), and the oxymoronic fickleness of perspective and public opinion.

Woven throughout with a powerful spell of thematic material, which elucidates a living discussion concerning the nature of evil, the author presents us with an array of possible answers to its (non-)existence instead of a narrow, single-minded conclusion. The core of Wicked is best summed by a secondary character named Boq: “People who claim that they’re evil are usually no worse than the rest of us,” and, “It’s people who claim that they’re good, or anything better than the rest of us, that you have to be wary of.”

Rating: 5 / 5

Strange As This Weather Has Been, a literary novel by Ann Pancake

by James Gilmore

Book cover for Strange As This Weather Has Been, a literary novel by Ann Pancake, on Minimalist Reviews.

Aside from being slammed in the face with a sledgehammer labeled “Mountaintop removal mining is BAD” every paragraph, Strange As This Weather Has Been delivers strikingly eloquent characters and prose with unparalleled craftsmanship.

Many elements illustrate or elaborate the themes in the novel quite well while far too many seem to serve no other purpose than redundant milieu. For those who relish character work and language this is the book for you, but general readership will find it a work of willpower as they struggle to overcome breathtaking boredom due to a near-complete lack of forward story progress.

Although an enviously gifted writer, Pancake should consider serious outlining before writing her next novel or stick to her specialty: literary short stories about Appalachia.

Rating: 2 / 5

The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Book cover for The Great Gatsby, a classic literary novel by F Scott Fitzgerald, on Minimalist Reviews.by James Gilmore

Calm, flowing prose on a near subconscious level floats the reader to a violent two-punch ending. Fitzgerald illustrates how careless wealthy people destroy those around them, even men destined for greatness such (as Gatsby), leaving everyone else to pick up the painful pieces. From another angle, Gatsby delivers a scathing opinion of capitalism by depicting it as superficial, debauched and criminal, as embodied by Gatsby himself, a man who came from nothing but gained everything through enterprising opportunism and less-than-legal means. It should have been a short story, but Fitzgerald dragged it out into a novel three times its necessary length, and somehow created one of the most recognized titles of 20th century literature.

Rating: 3 / 5

Ham on Rye, a novel by Charles Bukowski

Book cover for Ham on Rye, a novel by Charles Bukowski, on Minimalist Reviews.

by James Gilmore

People want beautiful lies, not the ugly truth. So here’s the ugly truth. Quintessential Bukowski (and thus also redundant Bukowski), he reduces tumultuous stages of growing up into grit and fact through simple, beautiful, stabbing prose in a human juxtaposition of outer toughness and painful inner sensitivity. One might consider this a 1982 “rewrite” of Catcher in the Rye. A must for any Bukowski fan or seekers of raw truth. An offensive piece of trash for sensitive readers and those who prefer safe masks and beautiful lies.

Rating: 4 / 5