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Emotionally Weird: A Novel [Paperback]

Kate Atkinson
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Offbeat, Funny and, yes, Weird Sept. 19 2002
Format:Audio Cassette
I had never read anything by Kate Atkinson before this and was quite pleasantly surprised. What I hastily concluded from the jacket description was that this was going to be a play-like dialogue between a mother and daughter. This is, instead, a multilayered, multigenre piece of experimental fiction that is fun to read, thought-provoking and original. As much as anything else, Emotionally Weird is about writing and the creative process. Effie, the young woman who is the narrator, tells stories which may or may not be true to Nora, an older woman who may or may not be her mother. The two live on a secluded island off Scotland. The stories Effie tells are mainly whimsical character studies of bohemian college life in the 1970s. By contrast, the scenes that take place on the island beteen Effie and Nora are told in a somberly poetic, almost gothic (and very Celtic) style. To further complicate things, Effie is also herself writing a detective novel about yet another set of characters. If this sounds confusing, at times it is. Yet, you don't have to completely understand what's going on to enjoy this novel. After all, there is very little plot to worry about following. There are, appropriately enough, several references to Alice in Wonderland, though, compared to Emotionally Weird, Lewis Carroll's tale is almost conventional and straightforward. James Joyce is also mentioned, but despite her radical style, Atkinson is much, much easier to read. There is a very deliberate pointlessness to the book. When Effie is at college, for example, there are scenes that are little more than parades of absurd characters. Professors are portrayed as gibberish-speaking buffoons; some of my favorite scenes took place in the classroom, where the professors uttter meaningless jargon to apathetic students. Read more ›
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2.0 out of 5 stars Even Being an English Major Doesn't Help... Jan. 17 2002
By A Customer
Like many others, I, too, found the first part of this book tough going. In fact, I almost gave up on it completely. Fortunately, after about page 40, things start to pick up. But... I still don't understand exactly where Atkinson is going with this book. Like many others who have majored in English, I have had professors who attempted to force their interpretation of the "meaning" behind authors' words down helpless students' throats (fortunately, I finished school long ago and don't have to put up with that any longer). However, as I replied to one rather stubborn Lit. prof., who firmly stated that my differing interpretation of a book was "not what the author meant": "unless the author told you personally, you don't know for sure either." That goes for me as well.
Therefore, I can offer only my own opinion on the one and only "hidden meaning" (if, indeed, there was one at all) I found within Atkinson's words: Effie consistently describes food as rancid, etc. All very negative, even repulsive, descriptions. Food can easily be associated with life... something for which these students seem to have a healthy disregard (see the complete lack of interest in Proteus' well-being as another example of this, as well as their own overindulgence and slovenly lifestyles). So, we have a group of selfish, self-indulgent, careless people. And so many of them!!!! While I did not have a problem keeping one character straight from another, I agree with those who felt there were completely too many "non-essential" characters in this novel.
Admittedly, many of the word plays are well spun, but others only grew pointless. For example, why is Watson Grant alternately Grant Watson? (note: I am not completely finished with this book, so I apologize if this becomes clearer in the end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wacky and adorable May 25 2001
By A Customer
I have to say, this is one of my all-time favorites. I've read Atkinson's "Human Croquet" and "Behind the Scenes at the Museum," and they are every bit as good as everyone says they are.
But I adore the way she takes off here -- the hilarious academic parody, the deft weaving of two or three different texts into a whole and the compelling emotional story at the core. I giggle my way through this book every time I read it, but its far better than just straight comedy. I don't even think you necessarily need to be aware of the various literary styles and methods of criticism she skewers to find the humor in the book -- her slacker undergrads are funny enough to entertain all by themselves. (Bob, the brainless Trekkie who spouts bits of philosophy in his sleep, is my favorite.)
Please read it. I really think you'll like it, especially if are or ever were an English major.
And don't be put off by the title...far as I can tell, it was picked out of a hat. Just ignore it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars a cough syrup haze Feb. 8 2001
atkinson's third novel is unconventional, witty, and wry with loads of wordplay and mixing up of plots and characters. you've got to be in a special mood to read her novels and i waited several months after getting the book to be in just the right mood to dive in.
atkinson's novels read like life in a cough syrup haze -- the characters and events as hazy as the fog that envelopes the scottish setting of this story. her descriptions and vocabulary and meandering plots are something entirely new. i looked up the meaning of words on just about every page, as i do with will self's works.
if you liked her first two novels, then go ahead and read 'emotionally weird.' i think you'll agree that it's a fun and engaging and witty book. you just have to forget about all those conventional novels you've read and suspend your disbelief for the duration. if you've never read atkinson, then start with the first two novels to gain a better appreciation for the third.
she's also a spendid short story writer -- check out the ian st. james award collection titled 'snapshots' for her award-winning story 'karmic mothers - fact or fiction.' it's a wee story at 8 pages long, but it has a big impact and is a good introduction to her writing.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I just love everything this author writes. She can do no wrong!
Published 1 day ago by Deborah Frankland
3.0 out of 5 stars ... there are many scenarios in this book that are funny, witty and...
I think Kate Atkinson is an incredible writer and there are many scenarios in this book that are funny, witty and absurd. Read more
Published 1 month ago by susan merkeley
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
KW is one of my favourites largely because she is never predictable . This offering will not disappoint the inquisitive reader and will be a joy to anyone who likes a different... Read more
Published 7 months ago by John Fraser
3.0 out of 5 stars not nearly as good as her first two
kate atkinson is a funny, witty, woman. i saw her speak recently, and read from one of the chapters of this book, and it was highly enjoyable. Read more
Published on April 28 2001 by lady detective
2.0 out of 5 stars Just plain weird
While witty and charming, this book still manages to be a disappointment. In her last two books, eventually, all the twisting plots came together and made sense. Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2001 by "gill-leigh-anne"
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific!
If I could write a book, I'd want it to be this one. Atkinson's cast of characters provided me with more belly laughs than anything I've read for ages. Read more
Published on Sept. 19 2000 by S. Wheeler
2.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally disappointing
I thought that I would find a funny, entertaining and extremely neurotic story in this one. The first few chapters of Emotionally Weird were done very well. Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2000 by CoffeeGurl
1.0 out of 5 stars A meandering accumulation of characters and incidents
Based on a very positive short review in The New Yorker, I sought this book out at the book store. I read the first ten or so pages right there in the store and was delighted. Read more
Published on July 30 2000 by T. Sherman
5.0 out of 5 stars Best and Funniest Book of the Year
Besides the fact that I laughed out loud too often to explain while reading this book (e.g. protagonist Effie's boyfriend Bob, with his silly slumbering Star Trek mumblings and... Read more
Published on July 17 2000 by "ami1204"
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