on March 10, 2004
What do you do with yourself when something so terrifically frightening engages you & then walks away as if nothing happened? Would you go a bit kooky? Ellis does.
But, perhaps Vendela Vida lets Ellis get a bit too whacked out. A man points a gun at Ellis in the park, she talks him out of hurting her, & then every nutball in her universe, past, present & future begins clammoring the walls around her.
Her roommate writes poems about taking out the garbage, Ellis has sex with some questionable guys, she goes home to visit her strange (kind of unbelievable) family, she travels to the Phillipine's, her doorman is a drunk, she hides in cabinets, she cuts her hair into a mullet... it goes on & on & on- it's as if the author was afraid that if she didn't use all of her good ideas in this slim volume, they might fade away forever.
Although at times I was slightly aghast at the world Ellis inhabits, I had to admire the quirky prose & the author's ability to have fun with the page.
Be prepared to suspend your disbelief & enjoy!
on November 21, 2003
"And Now You Can Go" is a novel that seemed to have been written in the same style that so many other first novelists select. The usage of first person narrative guiding us through an assortment of experienced events informed by a place or life changing experience. It's a story of a woman's life after being attacked by a stranger and how the effects of this event color all of her thoughts and interactions thereafter.
I found Vida to be a skilled wordsmith, with beautiful phrasing, and a quirky way of expressing Ellis' feelings and reflections. However, I felt that the reliance on her ability with words left a bit to be desired. I was left deeply in want of more story, and since I felt that most of the characters were topical, I was also left wanting to care more about these people.
Some of Bret Easton Ellis' writing comes to mind when thinking of this book, as does Michael Chabon's "Mysteries of Pittsburgh" - I was reminded of the moodiness of these works and the novel moves in a similar way but unlike these other works, she didn't seem to be aiming at depicting the emptiness of youth or the memory of it - she rather seemed to want to give us insight into her protagonist. However, Vida's novel needed a more cohesive story to do so.
I certainly didn't hate it, and think this woman shows much promise. She certainly has the words behind her, but I'll look forward to when she gets more comfortable in her skin, and fleshes out a story more. I was left wondering if this was a novel borne of a short story - as many first novels seem to, it seemed to exist in that middle place - ultimately, I wanted Vida to be braver in the writing choices that she made, there seemed a bit of hesitance in her writing.
on September 29, 2003
This book opens with the story of how El, a female graduate student in New York City, has a gun put to her head while she is taking her usual walk through the park. Her assailant does not ask for money; instead, he tells her that he does not wish to die alone. El does the only thing she can think of, which is to quote the poems that her mother made her memorize as a child. Her distraction tactic succeeds, and her assailant tells her "Look, you can run now. You can go and do whatever you want."
By Page 10, it's all over, and the 170 or so pages which follow detail El's response to this event. Her behavior is somewhat erractic: she avoids her boyfriend, wanders the city, ands heads to the Phillipines with her mother, all the while her life is defined by an incident which lasted only a matter of minutes. At times, El is unlikeable, seeming self-centered and driftless, but at other times, you can't help but to put yourself in her shoes and wonder if you'd react any differently. The end of the book brings some resolution to El's story; we're led to believe that she's going to be okay, and again, you can't help but to root for her.
on September 17, 2003
Ellis is a self-absorbed graduate student when she is accosted by the man with the gun; the man doesn't want money, he just wants to die and he wants someone to die with him. Somehow she keeps them both alive by talking, talking, talking, quoting poetry, and trying to get him into a bookstore. Then, suddenly he runs away.
The remainder of the book follows Ellis as she tries to deal with this experience, with her friends, with the police, with her room-mate, with a series of half-hearted affairs, and with a mediocre therapist. Along the way she reconnects with her family and follows her mother on a mission trip to the Phillipines. It's all a little loose, sometimes goofy, always unpredictable right up to the surprising ending.
I was hooked on this book from page one, but then, alas, in the aftermath to the incident, it began to drag. There were too many shallow characters, too many frivolous encounters, too little trauma. It was hard to connect with all these characters; hard to connect the events into a meaningful story. Still, author Vendela Vida has a good way with language, and the story is generally entertaining. If you're looking for a light-hearted read with an unusual angle, I can recommend this one. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
on January 17, 2004
I did not expect to like this book because of all the media hype around its author, who is married to wunderkind Dave Eggers and edits the ridiculously trendy journal The Believer. I took it off the shelf on a whim and was immediately absorbed. The narrative has such fluidity and the author writes with such unaffected verve that the story seems to happen in real-time. Vida has captured something uncannily true about what is at risk in a society and its people when belief is no longer necessary to being. Her particular talent is in the seeming artlessness of her style, which is so plain it approaches lyricism. The observations are without guile; the interactions hopeless, ambivalent, and honest. Very little happens in this story, but the resonance of the narrator's emotional paralysis is powerful and stays with you long after the story ends. I have great admiration for Ms. Vida and this fine novel.
on February 18, 2004
With this debut novel, Vendela Vida has claimed a place on my very short list of the authors I must read with a pencil in hand (for underlining the good parts and marking the margins with stars of gratitude and exclamation points of delight.) When I finished And Now You Can Go, I tried to move on to another (acclaimed, prizewinning) novel but I couldn't stop thinking about that little book, that Ellis with her increased moral depth perception and bad haircut. So I read it again.
The story of Ellis's journey into "the world of people dealt unexpected blows" is full of gracefully rendered questions about guilt and innocence, strength and vulnerabilty, hurting and healing, and giving and receiving. For a new author and (I think) a young-ish person, Vendela Vida is preternaturally insightful about relationships. Actually, she's a little scary, but in a really good way!
on January 23, 2004
Vida's first novel reads like a drawn-out workshop exercise. One can almost imagine a professor telling her, "Have one of your characters held up at gun point and see where it goes."
Unfortunately it doesn't go anywhere, other than for an aimless stroll through the extremely shallow, bland psyche of our dimwitted narrator. There is no depth here--the characters are flat, the potential emotional complexity engendered by this sort of traumatic event is basically ignored, and the first-person, present tense narration gives the book all the heft of an overwrought teenager's diary.
On the plus side, the book is so threadbare, provokes so little introspection or contemplation, that one can read it and cast it aside in a couple of hours--though it did pain me to place it back on the shelf between Updike and Voltaire.
Spend your time and money elsewhere.
on February 14, 2004
This is the worst novel I have ever read. It is laughingly bad, which almost makes it good. Nothing happens in it, save for a holdup. An not even a good holdup. Jsut a run-of-the-mill holdup.
Obviously, if you sleep with you-know-who, not only do you get a book published, but you get a literary magazine which helps intimidate the usual, useful idiots into giving good reviews. But the critics' lies can only go so far against Reality.
And so far, all the pomo indsiders have failed at creating characters bigger than themselves. Instead they have created caricatures of themselves.
Eternity is on truth's side, as thus as time goes by, the hypesters shall suffer in proportion to all they hype. This book will be forgotten. Don't waste your money on Knopf's vanity projects.
on September 1, 2003
I don't usually read books like this, but the premise seemed so interesting, I felt compelled to give this genre a try. What I like most about the book was it's authenticity. I was totally charmed by the writing and the attention to detail. There's a part where Ellis talks about learning to shoot a .55. Well, that's exactly the type of mistake that a person unfamiliar with firearms would make. At first, I thought it was a mistake and then I realized that it was probably intentional. Sort of a "Monkesque" move. Clever! But what I got most out of this book was a glimpse of female perspective. Ellis was a great window and I genuinely felt like I had access to the inner workings of her mind. Edifying and funny, Ms. Vida's prose is sheer pleasure to read.
on August 31, 2003
This is a debut novel by an author who's destined to go places. Being Dave Egger's wife won't hurt, but I don't think she needs him as a ladder.
Ellis, a 21yo woman in NY, is sort of mugged in a park - but nothing really happens except that she scares him off by quoting poetry. Afterward, however, she carries on with her life acting like she's got PTS with the surreal, crazy-making behavior of someone who's been victimized, including quite a string of inappropriate men. She ricochets to the Philippines to - get this! - help doctors with eye surgery for poor people.
Only 200 pages long, Vida packs her book with lean, mean, and wonderful prose. At the end, you may find yourself wishing, as I did, that she'd gone on for another 200 pages.