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J. M. Tohline

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Værker af J. M. Tohline

The Great Lenore (2011) 51 eksemplarer
La ragazza che fermò il tempo (2013) 3 eksemplarer

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The Great Lenore by J.M. Tohline, published by Maryland-based Atticus Books, is loosely based upon F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (no, you don’t have to read Fitzgerald to enjoy Tohline’s novel), but it’s also part Edgar Allan Poe(m)-inspired.

Richard Parkland takes up his friend’s offer of using his summer home on Nantucket during the winter to write his next novel, and he soon comes in contact with the Montanas, who live in an ornate home much like that of Gatsby in Fitzgerald’s novel. Richard parallels the narrator of Gatsby, Nick Carraway, while Lenore is the female lead here and is not as insipid or self-absorbed. Many of the elements are similar in that the Montana’s are a rich family and that their members are embroiled in drama, particularly the brothers Maxwell and Chas. There are great loves and there are mistresses, but there is much more in these pages than a replication of Fitzgerald or any other writer.

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… (mere)
sagustocox | 3 andre anmeldelser | Jul 17, 2012 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

This slim debut novel by J.M. Tohline has an interesting conceit at its core; cleverly combining details from Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby but neither of their actual plots, it tells the story of a young novelist invited to housesit a mansion in Nantucket one winter, eventually becoming emotionally adopted by the upper-class family of misfits next door. The catch? It turns out that not only both brothers of that family but a close family friend have all had passionate love affairs at one point or another with the titular manic pixie dream girl, each of whom know only some of the truth about all of the others; so when said Lenore magically shows up at our everyman narrator's place four days after she apparently died in an accident, the family next door already starting to break down into Peyton-Place histrionics over their loss, needless to say that it throws a real wrench into the entire proceedings, especially after Lenore requests that our hero keep her existence a secret so that she can take advantage of the rare opportunity to see how all these various lovers of hers exactly react to her death. The problem, though, is that once Tohline puts this admittedly fascinating milieu together, he can't seem to figure out anything interesting to do with it; for while the entire thing is definitely well-written, and contains all kinds of knowing asides for the pleasure of heavy literary readers, the last two-thirds of this short book seem to consist of not much more than a bunch of people all endlessly screaming to each other, "I loved her more!" "No, I loved her more!" before building to a contrived climax that feels as if Tohline simply ran out of energy to continue. Fantastic as a short story idea but lacking as a novel, as belies the author's actual career experiences so far, this certainly is a sign of a writer who still has a lot of great work ahead of him, although with this particular book receiving only a tepid recommendation today.

Out of 10: 8.1
… (mere)
jasonpettus | 3 andre anmeldelser | Apr 30, 2012 |
I kept seeing this book mentioned. It was on Twitter and then another blog mentioned it and then I ran across it on Atticus Books' website. The reviews were mostly positive and the premise interested me so I got myself a copy and read it in a single day.

Now, I'm a parent of three small children. I have a two-and-a-half year old son and 22 month-old-twins (boy and girl). My life is hectic and usually my only reading time is right before going to sleep or early on weekend mornings. But somehow I managed to squeeze Lenore into a single Saturday. I stole away from my family for brief moments to grab five pages here and there until finally, after everyone had gone to bed, I finished it.

The story takes the form of a memoir, narrated by Richard, a newly famous novelist. Preparing to begin his second novel, Richard's friend Sandy offers him the chance to spend the winter in Sandy's family home on Nantucket. Once he arrives he quickly becomes integrated into the neighboring Montana family and becomes tangled in the complicated relationships of one Lenore Montana, deceased.

This is the Montana clan: Momma Montana, who reminds me of a fake Paula Dean, Mr. Montana, the money-obsessed patriarch, the genius slacker-stoner Maxwell, the not-quite-good-enough-and-kind-of-an-asshole Chas, beautiful sister Cecilia and finally Jez, the impeccable young business associate of Mr. Montana. And let's not forget Chas' wife, Lenore.

Lenore, according to everyone that knows her is the perfect woman.

"He talked about how, when you were with Lenore, you always felt like you were the only thing that mattered to her, like you were the single most important person in the world.

Lenore cared about people, he said, in a way you hardly ever see -- she cared about each person as an absolute individual. Lenore could be around someone for a week, or less, and understand them in ways no one else ever had before.

Lenore touched something inside you, Chas told me. Everything about her, it was all so intangible, so indefinable. But when you met her, you understood. You knew you would never meet another person quite like her, no matter how long you lived."

Everyone loves Lenore and they can't stop talking about her because she just recently died in a plane crash. Or, at least, everyone thinks she died in the crash. Days before her funeral, Lenore shows up at Richard's door and asks him to hide her while she watches how the Montana family reacts to her death. In the meantime, Richard learns about Lenore's very complicated relationship with the Montana's and despite his best efforts, gets dragged into the drama.

I grew up on the south shore of Massachusetts and I went to Nantucket three times in my youth. It's not a big island - almost 49 square miles. Common folks like myself could only access the island via ferry and it takes about two hours to travel from Hyannis on the southern coast of Cape Cod to Nantucket. It's a small, exclusive place and it's just out there in the ocean, isolated. In the winter months, the island population drops dramatically and I'm sure it gets pretty lonely out there.

JM Tohline does a great job capturing that sense of isolation. There's never anyone else on the beaches and Richard doesn't really see anybody except the Montana family. Even with all of the commotion going on next door, the sense of loneliness is deep and it feels like it's in everything, everywhere. Richard drinks Hemingway quantities of whiskey and falls asleep at the computer but never writes a word. It made me think a bit of Jack Torrance in The Shining - banging out words that never amount to anything. Richard spends more type re-typing Poe's "Lenore" than producing any actual work of his own.

I can't finish this without mentioning The Great Gatsby. The book's title is a reference to Gatsby and there are a number of references throughout the text. The easy reference is that Richard is Gatsby's Nick Carraway, Jez is kind of a stand-in for Jay Gatsby and Lenore is, of course, Daisy. There's also a car accident and someone actually does die. But The Great Lenore stands on it's own, even without the Gatsby references. As the author remarked in an interview:

"As things stand, I believe the creation of Lenore owes as much to the likes of Hemingway, Joyce, and Steinbeck – and modern writers such as McEwan and Tartt – as it owes to old Fitzy himself."

The writing has an nice, easy flow and Tohline easily wrapped me up in his story of missed opportunities and lost love. Tohline builds anticipation for the finale throughout the book, but it does start to feel a little heavy-handed near the end. Yes, yes, I get it. Big Event coming up. Right, I get it. But that's my biggest gripe with this story and it doesn't really diminish the quality of the work.

The Great Lenore reads like a page-turner, but the writing is so smooth and almost poetic at times without ever feeling like a chore. It's a book that draws you in and holds you close.

I'll leave you with this quote:

"I think of the finished product - how we hold it and feel its texture while we dive within its pages. How we sometimes read a book in a single, exhilarating sitting.

For those of us whose lives are too busy to allow for single-sitting reads I think of how a book accompanies us on the subway, or how we keep it in our car. How we sit in bed at night and burn through the pages until we're ready to fall asleep. I think of that fortunate fraternity who is lucky enough to have found someone to love - how that someone lies beside you with their body curled and their eyes closed, saying, 'Darling, please, turn out that light. Please, I'm ready to fall asleep.' And how you say to them, 'Just one more section, sweetheart. Just one more chapter.' And your love signs, and you rest your hand on their back, and you continue to turn the pages until you can't keep your eyes open one more minute."
… (mere)
brooks | 3 andre anmeldelser | Apr 3, 2012 |
The Great Lenore is a book I very much enjoyed. It had the feel of The Great Gatsby: a narrator finds himself tangled up in the affairs of a world of which he never intended to be a part. There are secrets, there is love and a legendary woman. Some dreams are grasped while others slip away. Yet The Great Lenore is also very much its own book, never more than subtly evoking a whiff of Fitzgerald’s classic. More often than Gatsby, Lenore took my breath away, sneaked up behind me and coolly turned what I thought I knew about the story on its head.

My full review is posted on my blog, Erin Reads.
… (mere)
erelsi183 | 3 andre anmeldelser | Oct 15, 2011 |




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