Read The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink Online


"Who is Nell Zink? She claims to be an expatriate living in northeast Germany. Maybe she is; maybe she isn't. I don’t know. I do know that this first novel arrives with a voice that is fully formed: mature, hilarious, terrifyingly intelligent, and wicked. The novel is about a bird-loving American couple that moves to Europe and becomes, basically, eco-terrorists. This is s"Who is Nell Zink? She claims to be an expatriate living in northeast Germany. Maybe she is; maybe she isn't. I don’t know. I do know that this first novel arrives with a voice that is fully formed: mature, hilarious, terrifyingly intelligent, and wicked. The novel is about a bird-loving American couple that moves to Europe and becomes, basically, eco-terrorists. This is strange, and interesting, but in between is some writing about marriage, love, fidelity, Europe, and saving the earth that is as funny and as grown-up as anything I've read in years. And there are some jokes in here that a young Don DeLillo would kill to have written. I hope he doesn’t kill Nell Zink." Keith Gessen"Nell Zink's heady and rambunctious debut novel . . . moves at breakneck speed ... Wake up, this book says: in its plot lines, in its humor, in its philosophical underpinnings and political agenda. I'll pay it the highest compliment it knows — this book is a wild thing." New York Times...

Title : The Wallcreeper
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780989760713
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 193 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Wallcreeper Reviews

  • J.A. Carter-Winward
    2019-01-15 21:43

    Reviews: the reason people read reviews is to decide for themselves whether or not they should invest the time, money and energy into reading a novel. This is only my opinion, and reflects not on the author personally, but on this particular work of fiction.I read the New York Times book review of The Wallcreeper AFTER finishing the book. What came to my mind was, The Emperor's New Clothes. But the author, the Times, the famous "blurber," all want us to see gilded gold and refined cloth. But I'm not among the NYC literati, so all I saw was a saggy, naked ass.Nell Zink’s writing attempts to hoodwink us with patchwork prose, dry-but-flat humor, and pretentious, bleak levity, into thinking she has created something fresh and new with a challenging, post-modern voice that defies definition. But I can define this type of book easily enough, and it starts with “hype,” and “who you know.”When I say, "fresh and new," (a cliché within its own right), I'm doing what the book fails to do: using a cliché as a device to point out irony. But Zink’s rampant use of clichés throughout the book are not used with any irony; they are used as literal metaphors. Some examples: "You can't judge a book by its cover," and "I refuse to go on fiddling while Rome burns!" Along with, "Garbage in, garbage out"--although she redeems this one a little, with a tiny, new spin. If you’re going to use clichés, the whole point of their employment is to poke fun at them, or double-back and rework them. Not the case here. On page one, we get an over-the-top explanation that, given the lack of clarity throughout the whole book, now seems rather quaint: “I opened the door and put my feet outside, threw up, and lay down, not in the vomit but near it.” I'm not sure why we need that spelled out for us? This kind of clunky prose riddles the entire book. Before Tiffany, the protag, throws up, her husband hits a rock in the road, it jostles her enough that she has a miscarriage. What he actually hits is a bird, a wallcreeper. He leaves his wife there, bleeding, to go rescue the bird. They keep the wallcreeper in their kitchen until the thing starts to molt and basically needs to be set free into the wild. This is the main motif of the book that gets dropped less than 20% into the book, after they let him into the wild. Once there, the wallcreeper is eaten by a hawk, miraculously on the very day the couple goes to watch him in his habitat. To say it was supremely deus ex machina is an understatement. I can’t remember how they were able to keep track of it, but somehow, they do, and it gets eaten. Foreshadowing? I wish I could say “yes.” But no, it was, and is, as meaningless as it sounds, which reflects the rest of the book’s trajectory, I’m afraid. Here's what Tiffany, the protag, says after the rock-bird-vomit-bleeding-car incident: "I wasn't pregnant, I noticed." This seemed totally absurd to me. As I said, the first lines of the book chronicle this event and her husband, acting like no husband or human being would act, EVER, cared more about rescuing the wallcreeper than his bleeding wife. I realize the author might have been attempting to use this blasé, ironic device to set some sort of post-modern, bleak tone, but to me, it felt completely off-key.Within the first few pages, metaphors abound which, not for a lack of trying, I couldn't fathom. I think Zink was hoping readers would skim over them and not think too much on them. Kind of like certain poetry that is so obscure, the poet hopes the reader believes it’s simply too deep or intellectual for them to grasp, so the reader assumes it’s good and just over their heads, when in fact, it’s simply verbal onanism on a page. Here's the first one that caught my eye: "I clenched my hands into claws and cried like a drift log in heavy surf." I’ve never personally heard a drift log in heavy surf. I’ve seen it. Was she thrashing about? Then her husband does something to her that once again, no human being would do, ever: "Stephen put his hands on my ears. Much later he told me he thought if I couldn't hear myself I might stop. He said it reminded him of feedback mounting in an amplifier." From the clashing metaphors to her husband acting in completely unrealistic, ridiculous ways, I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief. There are many places where it felt like Zink was trying much too hard: "I wanted to hear my own whispers in the next room and know that I was thinking of me." Then this noggin' scratcher: "I was raised on art and literature, the opiates of the intellectually underprivileged." So…people who aren’t blessed with intellect…use art and literature to numb the pain of…being stupid? It almost feels like she’s slighting us, her readers, implying that if we enjoy art and literature (and since this book has been hyped up as a work of literary fiction), why then…hm. You connect the dots. IF you’re not “intellectually underprivileged,” that is. According to this line, I suppose reading Ms. Zink’s novel is proof-positive that we’re all idiots, reading her novel to escape our dearth of intellect. I really can’t see any other way to interpret this. From page one I went from incredulity, to irritation, to boredom, to incredulity again, to laughter because I was still incredulous, to relief that I was finished with the book. From what I had read, I wasn't surprised that the ending left me indifferent. The boredom came with the didactic, eternally long passages where Stephen, the protag's husband, starts preaching (Zink's authorial intrusion) to Tiffany (us, the reader), about his thoughts (obviously Zink's obsession) on the environment and the European government's policies w/r/t the environment. It was very clear that the author has an information fetish about environmentalism and wild birds. I find it ironic that I've heard Jonathan Franzen rail against over-didacticism and info-fetishes, yet he was the person not only instrumental in getting Zink to write this book, get it published, but he blurbed it as well. I loved The Corrections and Freedom, so his blurb carried weight for me, which is why I bought the book. The NYT book reviewer stated that the protag, like the wallcreeper, wanted to be wild and free. This isn't the impression I had. Tiffany is an apathetic, flat character, with no discernible arc throughout the book until the last 5% of the story, where she suddenly, out of the blue, does a complete 180 that I personally didn't see coming in any of the preceding events or internal processes (of which there were little) of her character. It was as sudden a shift as a right angle, and utterly unbelievable. Tiffany begins, and remains throughout the book, a leech, entirely dependent financially on men because she doesn't want to work. She literally has no motivation to do anything. Not even sex. Nothing. Finally, in one paragraph, less than 5% away from the end of the book, she exclaims, "I refuse to go on fiddling while Rome burns!" Oh, okay, Tiff. Glad you joined the party.Yet, even with this “sudden change,” in the form of her telling us she’s changing, she doesn’t. She tells a male character in the book, "I just need you to save me." Now, I realize the author was probably trying to be ironic and humorous, but it can't be ironic if it's the actual truth. The man to whom Tiffany is speaking says to her, “…you can live in Dessau rent-free if you redecorate. I’ll pay for the materials. Isn't that what women want?” Oh yeah, that’s what all women want: free rent, and carte blanche to redecorate. So ultimately, her earth-shattering epiphany that she suddenly wants to do something with her life does not preclude her continued financial dependence on men. This isn't a woman craving freedom, I'm sorry. Even with the male character's feeble attempt to make it "okay" by telling her she'd be doing him a favor by living rent-free in his house is presented, it feels like the author is "protesting too much." (She knows the speech about Tiffany “doing him the favor” is bogus, but needs it to seem like Tiffany is contributing…something, ANYTHING, to the world, even though it demands ZERO effort, action, or motivation on her part, and the requirement includes her apathetic agreement to squat for free in some guy’s house, while continuing to breathe in and out, every day. Wow, makes me tired just thinking about it!) Bottom line? At the end, Tiffany is still as helpless and dependent as ever. Meanwhile the NYT reviewer courted the feminists by writing, "…we not only plunder our resources in an effort to 'breed and feed' but allow ourselves (especially if we are female) to be similarly plundered: physically, emotionally, spiritually, creatively." Oh, do “we”? Speak for yourself. The key words here are "allow ourselves." What woman with any self-respect allows this? I certainly don’t. But too many women, according to the NYT writer. How is this book anything but a reflection of the victim-mentality that many people, not just women, live by to avoid taking responsibility for themselves? If someone allows themselves to be “plundered,” the onus rests on the shoulders of the individual, and no one else. And Nell Zink writes a character all-too willing to be plundered, who continues to be plundered, and then expects us to root for her when she takes an initiative that most people in today's world take when they reach the age of eighteen. The final nail in this book's coffin for me was when, after over 85% (give or take) of the book goes without mentioning the wallcreeper, Tiffany is called (by the man who is rescuing her for the third time) a "butterfly among the birds…" (although I am grateful we finally got a metaphor that's coherent--butterfly=change--I am never sold on the fact that her entire personality, hopes, goals and dreams etc. change on a dime), Tiffany retorts: "Do you mean I remind you of the wallcreeper?" Oh, oh. PLEASE. No. This felt so forced it was almost embarrassing to read it. After reading over 90% (again, give or take) of the book, the wallcreeper forgotten after 15% of it, and then the man to whom she speaks, (not even knowing about the event with the wallcreeper or in fact about wild birds at all, mind you,) drops this bomb? It felt like a desperate, wild attempt to bring the motif back to the forefront in the most contrived way. In conclusion, to me, a novel is not a platform to proclaim your beliefs and causes to the world. It isn't about pretension and self-indulgence. It's about the reader, your audience. As an author, you have a sacred duty to them. They give you time, money, and their energy. Authors are supposed to give the reader, us, food for thought, the soul, heart, let the clichés roll in. But this book felt like birdseed, tossed down to a starving crowd by a handful of misanthropic, literati aristocrats. But because people like Franzen and the NYT book reviewer endorse the book, readers who don't know will buy it and read it, and because of the mindset of people like Zink, believing we are too “intellectually underprivileged” to get it, many will, and have, proclaimed it a “literary marvel.” They will pretend they see the Emperor's fine, new clothes. What the reviewer and Franzen have done with endorsing this book is lose all credibility for me as arbiters of taste. I am a hungry reader, always searching for an author who writes with heart and an earnest desire to weave a compelling tale. But it doesn't feel like Nell Zink wrote this story for me or for anyone else. She wrote it utterly for herself, and it left me, and others who are hungry for a rich, fulfilling story, unfed.

  • Warwick
    2019-01-10 22:53

    Strangely enough, this is the second female-authored 2015 bestselling US novel about an adulterous expatriate American housewife living in Switzerland that I've read this year. However, putting down Jill Alexander Essbaum's Hausfrau and turning to Nell Zink's The Wallcreeper, as I did while preparing this review, feels like leaping out of a coma singing the opening bars of Sha-La-La by Al Green. Rarely do you get such a chance to see how themes that were trite and plodding with one writer can become fresh and funny when described by someone else with wit and verve and vim and brio and zest and all the other things that Zink's writing has in spades.It's clear from other reviews that there's already some backlash against the Zink hype, which is understandable. For me, though, this was just 170 pages of pure enjoyment. And not in a fluffy way: her prose style is so smart and witty and allusive that some of the laughs came from sheer admiration. Her writing flits in and out of different tones and registers in a way that is technically much harder than it looks, and almost every double-page will throw at you literary call-backs, strange sex, binomial names, vertiginous changes of subject – random exclamations! – wading birds and excellent jokes.When I think back now to the opening line of Hausfrau – ‘Anna was a good wife, mostly’ – it seems to sum up everything that annoyed me about that novel's satisfaction in the character's coy self-deceptions; by comparison, a similar line in The Wallcreeper – ‘I was pretty bad as wives go’ – seems refreshingly, breezily direct. The Wallcreeper's own opening line, incidentally, is already quite famous for its near-parodic, creative-writing-course compression of incident:I was looking at the map when Stephen swerved, hit the rock, and occasioned the miscarriage.Yep, sign me up – I was on board for this voice right away. And other comparisons are instructive too. In Hausfrau Essbaum uses German language lessons to try and reflect her character's emotional state, which involves many laboured metaphors on grammatical terms like ‘passive’ or ‘perfect’. It's a grind. Zink tries something similar but gets away with it, partly because she avoids the obvious and partly just because her ironic tone means you already grant her an assumption of self-awareness.At Elvis's suggestion I took a course in Berndeutsch. I learned ten verbs for work: work hard (drylige, bugle, chrampfe, schaffe, wärche), get stuck with jobs no one else wants to do (chrüpple), work slowly (chnorze), work carelessly (fuuschte), work absent-mindedly (lauere). Stay at home and putter around doing little harmless chores (chlütterle). I learned fast and the teacher said maybe it was an advantage my not knowing any German. Then the ten weeks of the course were over and I didn't know anything anymore, except that I would never look for a job.Elvis is the guy she's having extramarital sex with; he tells her he's a Montenegrin, although her husband doesn't believe it (‘He's Syrian if he's a day! “Elvis”! It's like a Filipino telemarketer calling himself Aragorn!’). All the frantic sleeping around makes the book read a little like a farce at times, except that the tone is used more as a way of dealing with difficult experiences than of avoiding them altogether. A painful and barely-consensual bout of anal sex with her husband, for instance, gets described like this:Now, all my life I had fantasized about being used sexually in every way I could think of on the spur of the respective moment. How naïve I was, I said to myself. In actuality this was like using a bedpan on the kitchen counter. I knew with certainty that “pain” is a euphemism even more namby-pamby than “defilement.” Look at Stephen! He thinks he’s having sex! Smell his hand! It’s touching my hair! I thought, Tiff my friend, we shall modify a curling iron and burn this out of your brain. But I didn’t say anything. I acted like in those teen feminist poems where it’s date rape if he doesn’t read you the Antioch College rules chapter and verse while you’re glumly failing to see rainbows. I was still struggling to dissociate myself into an out-of-body experience when Stephen came, crying out like a dinosaur.I gasped for air, dreading the moment when he would pull out, and thought, Girls are lame.This is so much more complex and interesting than all the moralistically-loaded bad sex that happens in Hausfrau – just look at how often Zink shifts gears through that paragraph. Stephen is no villain and the protagonist is certainly no victim; rather her irony shatters all good/bad experiences into a kaleidoscope of annoyance, amusement, self-reflection and philosophising. The way irony interacts with sex is actually one of the most interesting parts of the book, and also one of its subjects – Zink writes revealingly at one point that it's a character's ‘incapacity for irony’ that stops her ‘from coming across […] as anything but horny’.Certainly the plot – which concerns birdwatching and ecoterrorism – is a bit of a mishmash, and I can understand why some readers find the prose style too flyaway to settle into. I thought it was a delight, and after a few pages of submitting to its spell you realise that every single sentence is about to make you burst out laughing – although examining them in isolation, it's not always clear why. Apparently she wrote this in three weeks. I hate her, but I want more, more, more.

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-01-20 02:26

    They are all gaga for this novel. All of them. For all these reviewers The Wallcreeper is like a heart transplant, they’re bounding around, they’re happy again.I don’t know, it was okay but -It wasn’t like the day of the Rapture for American fiction. I’ve read stuff that isn’t a million miles away from Nell Zink.Absolutely – all these people saying how weird and far out she is have never come across Alissa Nutting or Matt Bell - Miranda July - Or even the venerable and ancient firm of George Saunders and Saint Donald Barthelme -(Sings) Oh oh oh wallcreeperHow come you taste so good?Oh oh oh wallcreeperJust like a young bird shouldAnyway, I suppose we should give this damned review a try. Well, I guess. That’s what we’re here for. So…. It was…..Okay! (Sighs.)It was like a deadpan reads-pretty-autobiographical-but-who-knows account of an expat American woman married to this American guy and living in Europe and getting interested in ecology and birds and all of that and kind of wibbling around aimlessly, quite a bit of shagging going on but some idiot said the sex was on a gross Nicholson Baker level of detail which is proof they didn’t read all of this very short novel because The Wallcreeper is not The Fermata.The Fermata stands alone.On a plinth of awe.Which is in the form of an erect…Anyway. (Sings) Wallcreepers couldn't drag me away Wall, wallcreepers we'll eat them some dayActually, there were bits which I couldn’t quite understand. Does anyone know what this means?Easterners hear “coffee culture” and think of Vienna, not longshoremen idling their pickups at a drive-through. They don’t know the uniform polo shirts at Starbucks are the alternative business model for when you want women customers to let their guard down.No… I mean it sounds smart, it has a smart shape, but I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean. Here’s another one :She may have been twelve. Coming from a subculture in which a pose of stubby-pawed, forthright naïveté is held to embody youthfulness right up to death from old age, I couldn’t tell.Yeah – that sounds smart and funny but I have no idea whether it’s either. (Sings) Wallcreeper, wallcreeper, won’t you dance with me?But you know, it was pretty readable. It ambled along. It did give me the idea that being an ecological activist would drive you crazy because there are a thousand contradictory ideas about exactly how we should leave nature alone.Hmmm… and I do like the idea of this writer, that she was disovered and almost instructed to write this novel by the famous Jonathan Franzen, and now she’s like famous at the age of 51. Yay, go Zink.She’s the poster girl for late starters. (Sings) Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?Wallcreeper! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!)Wallcreeper! We will not let you go. (Let him go!)Wallcreeper! We will not let you go. (Let me go!)How many stars then?Two!Three!Two!2.5 it is. Okay, good - can we go now?(Sings) We will not let you go!

  • Daniel
    2019-01-06 00:32

    This book could have a great pulp-erotica cover and a tagline like SHE WOULD DO ANYTHING. . . FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, but instead it’s tastefully covered up by an intriguing and surrealistic front (it’s actually a great design.) I can only imagine the bewilderment of some people who were expecting a much more serious, literary book. Take for example, our current most popular review of this book, a one-star rating by a reviewer who is disappointed that this book wasn’t written with “heart,” and frankly seems outraged that these characters aren’t likable or very realistic, and going so far as to say that the New York Times unfairly “courted feminists” to read this book. Poor soul. I suppose it’s easy to be blinded by its serious environmental concerns, but to take it too seriously is to miss out on some great fun. Our main character is Tiffany, a somewhat lazy environmentalist who marries the first man who proposes to her and eventually falls into some destructive habits like not going to work and eco-terrorism. Her defining characteristic, as told to us by many characters, is that she has a “one-track mind.” Yes. And prove it she does, many times. Now, I’m not suggesting that this book lacks actual serious concerns or that its literary value is thrown out the window because of sex, but this should act as a major clue about the attitude this book is presenting. This book is somewhat a parody of those erotic novels that lazily attempt some late-game feminism after 200 pages of sexual exploitation, but that’s not to say that this books fails at executing character development or that it’s not both fun and a serious attempt at understanding one’s approach to living, dying, and how to love.That being said, the most common words I see reading reviews for this book are words like “wild,” and “bewildering,” and it reads at times like a dream, its behavior almost as surrealistic as its cover, major events coming fast at you with none of the usual sentimental preamble. It’s easy to make the mistake of trying to rationalize it--its as messy and volatile as life actually is. Its characters are hard to deal with, aggressively unlikable in an everyday sense yet intensely pleasurable in their humor, and many reviewers make the mistake of trying to legitimize Tiffany’s dubious behavior as somehow feminist. Any attempt at transforming Tiffany into a role-model of any kind is an act of absurdity so large that it would not feel out of place gracing the pages of this very book. Best to let these characters be themselves, here.This book is definitely not going to be for everyone, and that one star reviewer has some concerns I may agree with (though I disagree with most). The NYT reviewer mentions that Zink got her start writing “impromptus” for her friends, and in a way this reads like a continuation of that: amusingly dirty, and filled with what must be satire of German environmental groups that only Zink and her pals would only really get. Maybe that’s some of the magic here--it’s wild, fun, personal, and doesn’t really give a damn if you get it. It’s complex enough that I feel this review didn’t quite do it justice in capturing its spirit, and it may require rereading for me to understand what it’s exactly trying to say, if it’s trying to say anything at all.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-01-02 02:42

    This is going to be one book from the Dorothy Project that I will not be finishing. It's described all over as a funny book and I'm sorry but it starts with a woman having a miscarriage and almost dying because her husband is a trying to find a bird? I just don't see the humor. This is not the book for me. I even kept going after that, but that was a mistake.

  • Jenna Evans
    2019-01-10 03:24

    Wow, this is one weird, fucked-up, compelling, funny, angry, sexy, twisted, intellectual little book. I don't know how she managed to get it published in today's world -- it's so offbeat and unclassifiable -- but I'm excited that she did. I couldn't really put it down. Really interested to see what Zink does next, too.

  • Lee
    2019-01-22 00:44

    I liked its flighty sexy fun for the most part but also found myself against its caprice as idea/art. But then once I finished -- thanks to the end -- I started thinking about it as a contemporary feminist companion piece to Kenzaburo Oe's A Personal Matter (oh, it's a moral tale about taking responsibility for yourself!) and knocked the rating up a bit. Franzen blurbed it for the birding and Berlin, and those bits -- the insider info on Germany/thereabouts and similes involving angry robins, trash birds etc -- make it singular but the tone is familiar, sort of like Grace Paley at her rangiest but shot through with way more sexy stuff. Insight, wisdom, and unpredictable turns of phrase and modulations throughout made it easy and enjoyable reading, but like a bird in flight it too often felt weightless, thanks mostly to incessantly ironic over-reliance on exaggerated analogy and the like. The eco-terrorist action seemed like a little engine to ease the burden of gliding along on language alone. A recommended beach read for readers who'd never read a conventional beach-read book.

  • Natalie
    2019-01-19 02:34

    I don't know if I'm too prudish for this book, or not artistic enough, or if this really is just a terrible book. The characters are all unlikable (I think intentionally), there's a whole theme of birds and bird watching that does nothing for the main narrative, and, most importantly, the narrative is a build up to nothing. It ended and I was just happy it was over, I didn't care what happened to any of the characters. At least it was short.

  • Michael
    2019-01-01 23:25

    This book is about a twenty-something woman growing up late. Tiffany draws us in to her odd life on the power of her fresh and quirky way of looking at the world. It’s a fun, but confusing ride. In the end it’s only her writing of it that is admirable. At the start we have she and her husband living in Berne, Switzerland, where he has transferred from the States to work in marketing for a pharmaceutical company. A collision of their car with a bird called a wallcreeper helps facilitate a growing interest of the couple in birding and nature. Aside from this common interest, there seems to be little holding their marriage together. They openly have affairs with other people. Still, she appreciates that he doesn’t demand that she work, and he continues to hope that she will bear them a couple of children. He cajoles her:“I feed, you breed. Come on!” She deflects him by speaking of the earth’s overpopulation and obfuscates the conversation by asking: Admit it would help him get promoted“What about global warming?”“If it weren’t for global warming, we’d be under an ice sheet right now”. He gestured toward the mountains. “But look at us. Earth as far as the eye can see. I love global warming! And I love you!” Something about the implied comparison made me nervous. I was pretty bad as wives go. Where Stephen was concerned possible epoch-rending, world-destroying bad. But without me he’d be under an ice sheet, so maybe I was doing him a favor.Thus, we slip slide along with outwardly despicable people who charm us somehow with their honesty and verve. Tiffany’s boldness in seeking out vigorous sex partners has a bohemian flare. The way she looks at the world is jaundiced and wise in a zany way. For example, here is her deft summary of the city she is growing attached to: Berne lived turned inward on itself. But it wasn’t self-sufficient; it was more like a tumor with blood vessels to supply everything it needed: capital, expats, immigrant, stone, cement, paper, ink, clay, paint. Despite their open marriage, Tiffany periodically loves Stephen and isn’t about to give him up for another woman. She has such a comic way of turning a cold shoulder to the wife of one of his coworkers who wants her to help her get him:“I can’t feel this trapped and survive. You don’t love Stephen, and I do.” Her hands were pressed against her heart and she was taking the feeling of emptiness there very, very seriously—a hole in her heart only Stephen’s dick could fill.Soon their birding adventures lead them into the world of environmental activism. And more interesting sex partners for both of them. Stephen is led by his lust for a charismatic, ambitious woman to focus on large scale environmental efforts to rehabilitate the Rhine River, with a far-fetched goal of removal of all its hydroelectic dams . He takes up media work for with an outfit called the Global Rivers Alliance, attends endless conferences, and moves them to Berlin. Tiffany goes along for the ride, but at one more rural conference setting between Berlin and Leipzig she gets tuned into the fate of the Elbe River. An older Lutheran minister gets her interested in a more achievable goal of removal of the stone levees of the river, thereby allowing periodic flooding that will raise the water table and save an old forest. Just when her interest in activism begins to grow, Stephen is beginning to feel ineffectual among the big league environmental players at his conferences and disillusioned with the whole scene:They hate me. The only thing they think laymen are good for is to supply emotional arguments that might make somebody put up with nature. But they know it won’t work. Because if you have a plant you don’t like the looks of, or a bug that looks weird, you’re going to kill it, unless you’re a total sap. …Because nobody knows how the ecosphere works. It just wants to be left alone. Life is what happens when you leave it alone. It’s circular! But nobody wants to leave it alone. They want to love it. Love of nature is a contradiction in terms. It’s the thing everybody says nobody has enough of, and it’s this totally nonexistent personality trait. The myth of biophilia.At this point I began to get disillusioned over the trajectory of the story. But by holding out a little longer, the plot careens into a significant resolution, and we get into a better position to forgive the two main characters for being such aimless idiots. I got a kick out of this fast kaleidoscopic read and its truly funny satire on the downside of sexual adventurism and on the environmental movement. After writing the above, I went looking for information about the author and discovered an entertaining account of how this book came to be written in three weeks by the 50 year old author and sold for three hundred dollar. The article, Outside-In (New Yorker, 5/18/15, by Kathryn Schulz), also captures well her style of humor: We think of being deadpan as playing it straight during comic episodes, but Zink stays deadpan through everything—through outlandishness, anger, injustice, grief.

  • Fiona
    2019-01-16 01:29

    Far be it from me to read what Jonathan Franzen tells me to read, but this was given to me by an in-law with notably good taste in books. He has not let me down.This book is a much better book than I give it credit for. But I feel things deeply, and I like feeling things deeply, and this book does neither. It skips and hovers over things and never really pokes them too hard. It's worth reading, for sure but it and I were never meant to love each other.

  • Natalie Draper
    2019-01-08 05:51

    Narcissistic Tiffany's total apathy and the improbable Stephen delivered a bunch of snappy zingers at each other, screwed around on each other, did things that made no sense in any dimension, and then I didn't really care anymore, plus bird watching. There were some damn good sentences in this book though. Nell Zink could be a master of twitter. I went back and forth between liking it and total alienation from the story and characters.

  • Ben Loory
    2019-01-22 04:28

    a lot of sparkling writing draped over yet another miserable story about a married couple having affairs

  • Rebecca Foster
    2019-01-06 03:49

    I’d been desperately eager to try Zink’s work but – now that I finally found a copy of one of her books at my new library – can’t think why. I liked the madcap birdwatching and ecoterrorism material, and there are some genuinely hilarious lines, but most of the characters seem to be here just to say some goofy stuff and then disappear once they’ve served their purpose. I could relate to Tiff’s sense of dislocation and purposelessness, but not at all to most of her decisions. Plus the sexual amorality really bothered me (“The world is not a better or worse place because you do or don’t screw around”). The plot is uneven throughout, but the wheels completely come off in the last 15 pages. Flouting the rules for how to conclude a novel is all well and good, but sometimes the rules are there for a good reason – to make something readable and believable.Some great use of nature imagery:“He then proceeded to dance as if he had never seen me, or any other human being, before in his life. Cranes came to mind.”“The ospreys would have to take a back seat, because he and I were that most common of endangered species: adulterers.”“At the funeral, I finally met [name redacted]’s mother. She looked at me with a hatred I’d only ever seen before on a caracal in the zoo.”Another example of the wacky humor:“Your mom told you to smoke weed?”“No! She told me drummers smoke weed to keep from getting carpal tunnel syndrome.”“I thought they did it because drumming is boring and monotonous.”“It’s not monotonous if you smoke weed.”

  • Phil
    2019-01-09 05:42

    Too "clever" for its own good (could use a healthy dose of "kill your darlings").Almost became a case study on self delusion and futility. This was ruined by a too tidy and moralistic ending.Hype is the enemy. I should know by now to not be seduced.

  • Jim Elkins
    2018-12-29 04:42

    Frantic ClevernessZink clamors for the reader's attention in every line, unremittingly, for an exhausting 150 pages. At times this works well. The opening pages are bound to be surprising, because there is not yet enough text to judge what she's up to. It works, as several of the hundreds of reviewers on Goodreads have noted, in the passage on anal sex, because it's unusual to see that subject treated to so many changes of viewpoint (pp. 7-8). But it does not work for the majority of the book. Like any author, Zink has a limited repertoire of strategies for producing unexpected turns of voice, mood, and image. Her commonest strategy is to write a few sentences with a more or less consistent viewpoint, and then draw a conclusion that is unexpectedly skewed. For example this passage, which follows on the death of the narrator's pet bird Rudi:"When Rudi died, Stephen stopped raising his eyes above the horizontal. He stopped going out at night or to the marsh [for bird watching]. He read every word of the newspaper, offering lengthy, cogent commentary on the financial news as if he had been asked to join the president's council of economic advisers. He enlightened me on the relations between oil-producing and -consuming states as if he were grooming me for a position on his staff. His personal interests were subrogated to those of the mass media, and he began to seem like a nearly normal person." [p. 45]Note that the third and fourth sentences are structurally similar to one another. In Zink's prose, whenever two or more sentences reinforce one another, it's a setup. The end of the last sentence I've quoted here is the kind of reversal that would serve as a satisfying end to a chapter in a novel by, say, Henry James (especially given the Jamesian nuance "nearly"). But Zink's sense of surprise demands successive reversals. The next sentences (there is no paragraph break) are:"He stopped shaking. He never got excited. When he went to bed his face turned into a slack, unhappy mask and he never looked at me before he closed his eyes."So the narrator's newly politicized and oddly bureaucratically minded husband turns out to be unhappy, listless, and unaffectionate. At this point the reader is being asked to hope the narrator can cure her husband of his strange mourning over the dead bird: perhaps, it's implied, she can revive his interest in her. Then Zink provides another turn:"Stephen's grief humanized him. I began to fall in love."This kind of double or triple surprise could function well if it were used once or twice in a novel, but it is one of Zink's principal strategies for keeping the reader's attention. Viewpoints and conclusions shift with a regularity that sometimes makes them into tics, turning a reader's thoughts to the author instead of the narrator. An even simpler strategy for holding the apparently easily bored reader's attention is changing subjects, images, and viewpoints as rapidly as possible. In this passage the narrator is looking out at Berne, Switzerland:"Berne lived turned in on itself. But it wasn't self-sufficient; it was more like a tumor with blood vessels to supply everything it needed: capital, expats, immigrants, stone, cement, paper, ink, clay, paint. No, not a tumor. A flower with roots stretching to the horizon, sucking in nutrients, but not just a single flower: a bed of mixed perennials. A flower meadow where butterflies could lay eggs and die in peace, knowing their caterpillars would not be ground to pulp by the flowers. Continuity of an aesthetic that had become an aesthetic of continuity. That was Berne. I leaned against the city wall and Elvis kissed me..." [pp. 17-18]First Berne is compared to a tumor, but the simile overspills itself, ending as a list of things that aren't related to the image. But that doesn't matter because the narrator cancels the metaphor, and tries the image of a flower; but in the next sentence that metaphor metastasizes into a meadow. Then comes the lovely but empty abstraction about aesthetics (how is it related to the flower metaphor?), and a blank assertion of the image's veracity ("That was Berne.").It's always possible to argue that kaleidoscopic writing like this expresses the narrator's state of mind, but that is inevitably the case. The question is whether or not the author is in possession of other kinds of writing she can use to express other feelings, other situations.I wouldn't argue that every novel needs to have a variety of paces (Bernhard and Beckett would be ready counterexamples), or that it is never a good idea to try to keep the reader's attention at every moment, line by line and image by image. Examples of books that do just that include, for me, the Joyce of Finnegans Wake; most of Mark Leyner; and much of Georges Perec. But Joyce also orchestrates changes in tone, voice, mood, and affect in different sections of the book; Leyner's anxiety about losing his reader's attention is his theme, fully acknowledged and made both ironic and pathetic; and Perec's strangeness is the result of self-imposed constraints, which themselves become objects of interest.Here there is only the relentless drive to produce entertaining turns of phrase, striking images, clever tropes, and surprising reversals at all times, on every page and in every paragraph, with as little filler as possible, for the entire duration of the novel. The result, for me, is exhausting and, I hope, forgettable.

  • Dov Zeller
    2019-01-08 05:51

    This book does interesting things with prose and movement. As Warwick says in his gr review, Zink shifts gears a lot in one paragraph. That's exactly it. She shifts gears which creates a fascinating kind of movement and slippage (a wake or a vacuum), and there are brilliant, shining moments. What Zink does with emotional geography is disconcerting and refreshing. She defamiliarizes the mundane and mundanes the outrageous and does so quite matter-of-factly. The book itself as a whole I did not care about very much, but I am glad I stuck with it because of its sly idiot savance. Its emotional intelligence is a true human vacuousness exquisitely, excruciatingly rendered. Below are some quotes from the text: The opening sequence: I was looking at the map when Stephen swerved, hit the rock, and occasioned the miscarriage. Immediately obvious was my sticky forehead. Maybe I was unconscious for a couple of seconds, I don't know. Eventually I saw Stephen poking around the front of the car and said, "Jesus, what was that."He leaned in at the window and said, "Hey, you're bleeding. Hold on a second." He crossed behind the car, looked both ways, and retrieved the bird from the opposite ditch.I opened the door and put my feet outside, threw up, and lay down, not in the vomit but near it. The fir tops next to me had their roots at the bottom of a cliff."Can I use this bread bag?" Stephen asked. "Tiff? Tiff?" He kneeled next to me. "That was stupid of me. I shouldn't touch you after handling this bird. Can you hear me? Tiff?"He helped me into the back seat and I lay down on the bread. He said head wounds always bleed like that. I said he should have kept quiet. I lost the ability to see and began to hyperventilate a bit. The car pulled back on to the road. From the passenger seat the wallcreeper said, "Twee."...Like birds nesting on the ground. How was I to know they’re so dumb they would build a nest on the ground under a tree, instead of up in the tree? So that when the foxes come, the baby birds are doomed. It gave the concept of the Easter egg hunt a sinister new meaning. Hungry little kids out wandering around after a long winter indoors, scanning the ground. (74)Again, I cannot explain why being clasped in his arms and swum across the powerful river did not turn me on, except that it was George. He was not unknowable. No mysteries. Not even a lie. He was bubbly. He shopped for superficial new experiences and shared them. He lacked an event horizon. (85)After the cranes had landed, the geese passed overhead in so many Vs that they merged into Xs and covered the entire sky like a fishnet stocking. My eyes turned damp. The harmless man smiled tenderly. (91)I was desperately unhappy. I remembered the cranes and even the fog on the levee as though remembering the land of lost content. The Housman heaven: I see it shining plain, the happy one-way highways. And the Bialik heaven (as per T. Carmi): the distant islands, the lofty worlds we saw in dreams that evict us to dwell under the open sky (as absolute vagrants, seeking always those sunny days with a light fresh wind) and make our lives a hell. (100)My misery was firm and unshakable. The old city of Berne was my natural habitat. It was where I felt at home, where I wanted to be. I didn't want to leave. Berne was where I could become most completely myself - possessive, shrewish, lonely. There was nothing to retard my self-actualization. (101-102)My German was getting better, and I met people. I learned that I wasn't a feminist. Even men in their seventies, talking to me after meetings about an impending block party or the proper sorting of garbage, would raise their eyebrows when I said I had followed my husband from Philadelphia to Berne and then Berlin. I couldn't come up with a step I'd taken in life for my own sake. On my own behalf, to make myself happy, I'd done all kinds of things, all of them with the aim of staying close to a man. It hadn't occurred to me to be ashamed of myself. I'd thought love was a socially acceptable motivation. But to right-thinking Germans, I was a mindless whore, and historically I had never felt more normal than in the company of other mindless whores (e.g., Elvis).I met someone who was the right kind of wife. Her husband played trumpet in a ska outfit whose contrabass player sometimes improvised to Stephen's minimal drive-by or whatever it was called that week. When I met her she had a kid on her shoulders and a baby on the ground at her feet, and she was talking gaily about India with a vendor of Indian junk at the flea market. The vendor was impressed, and I, too, was impressed. She was young the way an actual young person is young. Not like weary, defeated Stephen and me. She confirmed my suppositions about her sterling qualities as a wife by inviting me for coffee and serving a cake she had baked herself using yeast. I never did understand yeast.Like me, she had moved to Berlin to be with her husband. The key difference was the kids. I envied her with a pang. An educated woman with little kids (I didn't imagine her having acquired them by any other means than hot sex) is a model of feminist, as well as feminine, virtue. Even her struggle to get strangers to take the kids off her hands is a feminist cause. Her work, bringing up the model citizens of tomorrow, is something society feels it ought to value and is constantly proposing as potentially eligible for pension benefits, unlike my work, which neither involved actual labor nor was anything but an end in itself, on good days, and otherwise not even that.The next time we had coffee, she said she had been a Slavic languages major at an international program in Krakow and abandoned her studies when the first baby came. That was about nine months after Hermann's band played Krakow. She had barely remembered him, but she looked him up online. She hadn't planned to drop out, but it was absolutely impossible to be an adequate mother and have a life, she said. She didn't resent her children. She said they were every bit as interesting as verbs. (113-114)His presentation was designed to promote tourism to the European Stork Village of Ruhstadt. The Ruhstadt storks nest on every available roof. When they return from Africa in March, they eat worms. Then they eat the town's plentiful frogs. They have kind eyes and patient smiles. Not just any town can become a European Stork Village (ESV). There is a strict evaluation process, and if the interests of, say, industrialized agriculture are put above those of storks, the town will be bounced right out of the program and its storks deployed elsewhere. But Ruhstadt valued its storks, which are fun for the whole family. The town was like a safari park, with storks climbing all over everything, catching mice, thrashing the life out of lizards, following cows around. It was like vacationing in the baboon enclosure at the zoo, except they had no thumbs and couldn't grab anything out of your hands and tear it apart. They were after other quarry. Human beings to storks were just a way of mowing the lawn, and nothing pleases them more than a whiff of decaying socialism. If you plot Germany's stork nests on a map, you can see where East Germany used to be, because it's where the storks are now. The ESV Ruhstadt, Olaf concluded, offers the ultimate in stork experience. The audience was free to infer its superiority to state government-approved SVs and the various other self-styled/consensus SVs that haunt self-published municipal media. Immediately after the talk, Olaf approached me and asked if I would like to go out somewhere for a drink. He didn't even take time to ditch the local chairman. He just herded me toward the coat rack. I said yes. (117)To my surprise, Gernot looked at the ruined riverbank and was well pleased. Apparently it had never crossed his mind that sabotage doesn't look criminal if you get a young, middle-class housewife to do it. I looked like Jane Birkin in Slogan, if Slogan had been set in a scout camp in Poland. I worked the way Patty Hearst would have robbed banks if she'd never met the SLA. The militant wing of Global Rivers Alliance radiated innocent industry. If I have one talent in the world, that's probably it. Looking innocent enough to make whatever it is I'm doing appear legal. (137-138)He brought up children again. While slurping a rum and Coke in bed, he said dreamily, "I wish I had fathered a child by accident so now I could find out about it. Like, some cute fourteen-year-old would show up demanding to be told the meaning of life, and she'd be our daughter I didn't know about. You have so many secrets, and my brain is like Swiss cheese, so why not?""It could happen," I said. "Perhaps not with me, seeing as how I would have noticed if I had a kid when I was sixteen. It's one of the advantages of being female. But maybe you have like six kids waiting to meet you in Philadelphia and three more in Tidewater, all lining up to collect child support. Maybe that's why you were in such a hurry to leave the country." (167-168)I didn't know much about donkeys. My boarding school had a "coon-jumping mule," a term on whose origins I refuse to speculate, and I had ridden it plenty of times when we were giving the thoroughbreds a rest for whatever reason. It could jump over a four-foot fence from a standstill, like a jack-in-the-box. It had nothing in common with this diminutive stoic. With or without Stephen on its back, its pose was the same. Its general demeanor suggested that the burden of Stephen was no heavier than the burden of existence. On steep paths Stephen would dismount and hold fast to its mane, like a climber being short-roped by a Sherpa. It seemed strong as Godzilla. I named it Brighty. Once I got used to the visuals, there seemed nothing odd to me about a rider whose sneakers almost dragged the ground. Stephen didn't use a saddle, just a folded blanket to keep donkey hair from working its way through his pants. I held the rope and carried our stuff in a backpack, and we fit right in. Albania is the West Virginia of Europe. Single mothers there dress and live as men.I identified with Brighty. Her humble patience, her long-lashed eyes, the graceful way she picked out a route to nowhere with her tiny feet. We were one. Stephen told me where to go, and I led Brighty, on whom Stephen sat. A trinity. Three beings with a single will. I had never envisioned myself wearing a backpack larger than my torso and leading my husband through ancient live oaks on a donkey, wowing each village in turn like Christ's entry into Jerusalem, but then again, I never did have much imagination.(173-174)"When I tell my congregation there's more to life than food and sex, I'm just singing my song. From over their heads, like a bird in the pulpit, and people respond. No information changes hands, but it doesn't matter. Preaching really is like birdsong. If you find the melody, the fiction soars upward and joins the invisible truth. People respond to the truth in the lie. The way a bird responds when it hears its song. The males back off, and the females crouch down."I frowned and said, "The females crouch down?"He continued, "Tiffany, you must try to understand that it takes conditions of artificial scarcity to make satisfying basic needs seem beautiful. Our society works hard to make food and sex as scarce as beauty and love."(187)

  • Julianne (Outlandish Lit)
    2019-01-01 03:32

    The characters in this book are some weird, confusing assholes. The Wallcreeper is a strange tale about some pretentious weirdos who are married. Well, Tiffany married Stephen really quickly and then they kind of also explore extra-marital affairs, which is sometimes not a big deal but is other times a very big deal. They're kind of both lazily interested in a future together and furthering potential careers, but not to the extent that they aren't just floating around talking about birds one minute then quantum physics in relation to babies the next.The structure is dreamy and weird. Tiffany and Stephen eventually turn into eco-terrorists. Their relationships get more complicated. But throughout it stays smart, witty, and really well written. Everything Zink writes is so on point. Her descriptions of sex, life, and death are all strange but super accurate. She's definitely talented and this book is definitely crazy. Zink captures how messy and volatile life and relationships can be, but it makes you grateful that you're probably less involved in eco-terrorism than they are.Read more: 5 Quirky Books to Make You Feel Normal

  • Joanna
    2018-12-30 02:32

    I'm not ashamed to admit I didn't get or like this book. A couple marries, is into birds, sleeps with everyone around them, is sort of into river ecology...I guess I'm not sure anything happened in this book. Worst part? The writing read like it was written for the approval of a creative writing teacher. Best part? It's really short.

  • Anna
    2019-01-17 22:27

    The cover quotes on ‘The Wallcreeper’ really talk it up, and rightly so for once. Nell Zink’s prose has an incredible clipped, ironic sincerity that is much harder to describe than it is to appreciate. Historically, I have been bored and irritated by novels about marriage, adultery, and couples deciding whether to have children, particularly if they were written in the last twenty years. Although ostensibly ‘The Wallcreeper’ ticks all these boxes, and features a main female character seemingly unable to exist without being married to a man, I loved it. Honestly, I’m not sure what happened. The writing reminded me a little of Miranda July’s The First Bad Man (which I also adored), although it is powerfully distinctive. Every page contains a quotable aphorism or remark. Samples:"Once I moved out of my parents’ house, I calmed down a lot. I just didn’t like having people breathing down my neck."That made sense. It would be a reason to marry someone too shy to ask personal questions. It was also a way of saying: I wasn’t doing drugs when we met and I’m not doing drugs now, but if you breathe down my neck, I’ll do drugs.[...]Our next stop was called Mancuso’s Loft. It was running drum 'n' bass. The proprietor waved us in. Here I saw Stephen through new eyes. Then I ran to the ladies’ room and stuffed my ears with toilet paper. Stephen led me to the floor and yelled, “I’m going to dance a little bit!” He then proceeded to dance as if he had never seen me, or any other human being, before in his life.[...]She stumbled along, obviously unused to explaining her actions or motivations to anyone and therefore making them as transparent as frog spawn. She wasn’t up to prevaricating with every word, the skill she so admired in Stephen. It takes a lifetime of practice. She had found her master, her teacher, too late. She simply knew she was about to lose something valuable, and like anybody else, she wanted to take the next logical step to make it her own: She wanted to fuck it.I greatly appreciated the satirical angle on environmentalism. I never thought I’d come across the Water Framework Directive in literary fiction.The poster campaign hadn’t cost Stephen any real heartache. But once the money ran out, Global Rivers Alliance’s self-promotion migrated online, and to his sorrow, every single person who toyed with the idea of wiring two dollars to George first felt compelled to debate the merits of Wasserkraft Nein Danke with him. Most were themselves running tiny organisations that had arisen by spontaneous generation or mitosis. No one had supporters. Stephen spent hours writing closely argued defenses of himself and his aims. Each one is unique, because you can’t copy anything anymore without being caught. Rushed, because anyone who didn’t get an answer within fourteen hours would write again with more questions.I also enjoyed the incredibly arbitrary and mocking literary references. Three favourites:He was silent for three minutes, as long as the minutes of silence that pepper the conversations in Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence.[...]“A life laid waste before it begins,” I said, quoting Stephen’s frequent references to the profoundly discouraging climax of the classic Icelandic novel Independent People by Halldor Laxness.“I wouldn’t go that far.”[...]The sordidness of my reflections was dragging my mood through the cocoa powder, as the Germans say, and I recalled that the author of Philosophy in the Boudoir did not come to a good end, so I joined in the conversation. “I like birds,” I said.I'm not sure what to think of the final paragraph. Is it too meta? I think Zink pulls it off.Apparently she wrote ‘a large section’ of this novel in four days. Incredible.EDITED TO ADD: I posted this and then realised that I hadn't clearly stated that 'The Wallcreeper' is absolutely fucking hilarious. Surely I heavily implied as much? In any case, it really is.

  • mark
    2019-01-12 22:31

    The wallcreeper is a rare bird that resides in central Europe. It’s similar to the American nuthatch, the Brown Creeper, with a similar voice “Twee v. “See,” and habits – they both search for food on vertical mass from bottom to top - moving upward. The bird, ‘Rudi,’ dies a quarter of the way through the story, eaten by a sparrowhawk after being rescued, nurtured, and then freed, by the heroine and her husband, Tiffany and Stephen, young nerdy, needy, Americans living and working in Central Europe. There is some political and ecological commentary; but mostly it’s a metaphor – for the author’s young female protagonist – a “mindless whore” who dwells and wallows in the mud and muck of human debauchery. Like the bird she’s only concerned with “breeding and feeding,” (yet self-aware) under the guise of love and work, having been “ordered and not picked up.” (As in take-out food.) “Somebody’s slam piece.” There’s not much feeding going on here – it’s mostly about the breeding part. Our girl wonders if she has enough orifices to satisfy a man. This is a sad, sad story about a young woman with extreme lack of self-esteem (there’s no backstory); but written in a very hip, amusing, and subterranean clichéd (part of the hip-ness?) way.I liked it. Not loved it, but liked it. It was different. A short (193 pages) novella about a lost young woman trying to find herself. It’s harsh & crude & cute –“Looking innocent enough to make whatever it is I’m doing appear legal.” Another metaphor. A wheel within a wheel – which phrase she uses, by the way. This is a genre, I think, that includes fiction and memoir summed up by Carolyn Seigneur’s 2000 novella, “The woman Who (Lost and) Found Her Wings.”Fall 2014

  • Siv30
    2019-01-18 03:53

    טיפאני נישאת לסטיבן חובב ציפורים מושבע וכל מה שהיא רוצה בחייה הוא לא לעבוד. היא מלווה את סטיבן במסעות הצפרות שלו בסופי שבוע ועוברת איתו מארה"ב לאירופה שם קיבל עבודה.אבל הקשר בינהם שמתחיל במשיכה מינית אינו מתרומם ושניהם נסחפים לכיוונים שונים כשסטיבן הולך והופך לאקטביסט אקולוגי מושבע וטיפאני שנגררת אחריו מוצאת את עצמה לבד וחייבת להסיק מסקנות לגבי חייה ומערכות יחסיה.טיפאני שנגררת בכל אירופה בעוני מרוד ונסמכת על טוב ליבם של גברים איתם יש לה מין מזדמן צופה מהצד באובדן המיקוד והדרך של סטיבן שמתמכר לסמים, למין מזדמן עם נשים שונות ומאמץ לעצמו מטרות שונות."הכותלי" מתחיל מצויין בתאונה שבה סטיבן וטיפאני מוצאים את הכותלי האומלל וטיפאני מפילה. הוא מתדרדר לתיאורי משגלים וזיונים עלובים ומתרומם לאקטביזם אקולוגי והעצמה נשית.כל אלה בקצב מסחרר ולהגנות של הגיבורה שהשאירו אותי פעורת פה. לא תמיד הבנתי את הקשרים בעלילה אבל ממילא זה לא חשוב אפשר לקרוא גם בלי להבין.אי אפשר לאמר שאהבתי את הספר. ממש לא. היו בו רעיונות מעניינים אבל הקופצנות והלהגנות הטביעו כליל את המסרים של המחברת ואת הביקורת החריפה שיש לה על הממסד, על הגופים האקולוגים ועל נשים.

  • hearusfalling
    2019-01-18 01:45

    I won’t bore you with a detailed summary of this book, you can google, it’s a simple enough story, basically the narrator Tiff is married, has a miscarriage, has numerous affairs, gets involved with her husband’s environmentalist excursions, has some more affairs, moves to Europe with said husband and tries to “find herself” or something … maybe it’s an indictment against the feminist project, whatever the fuck that is, regardless the narrator gets nowhere and is dependent on men throughout, even at the end she surrenders to a man, a denial of character arc that would be quite interesting and postmodern if this was 1974, but this is 2015 and this novel is largely shit. It’s good for an MFA grad in her early twenties but comparisons to DeLillo? come on now, settle down, the jokes are forced and the stuff about nature and the hypocrisy of environmental groups is trite, it moves fast, sure, and has a certain emotional glare, but purposelessness and existential ennui have been done better, and linked to nature, and by women too, see Anna Kavan.The snappy and sharp style feels like someone trying to be snappy and sharp, it hasn’t got the natural poise or elegance to really convince me, there are so many moments where the joke is overcooked, unnecessary or forced.Consequently Steven was physically revolted by her. As if her failure to notice what was going wrong with the planet was linked to a black, spongy degeneration of her brain that might be contagious.The narrator’s fear of “self-actualisation” has the candid and confessional air of a blog post but I don’t think that’s a good thing, there are a lot of frank sentences about how lonely she is that feel straight out of the DFW school of feelings. (If you like reading blogs dressed as novels then you might like this however.)There’s something kind of Lars Von Trier about the overall perspective of it, the love-hate relationship with nature, the meditation on the self’s engagement with the nature of nature, the pessimism with the idea of the body, her “breeding and feeding”, all that stuff about disgust being a perquisite for love.“Birds are quantum,” he would say blandly.Stuff like this makes it feel at times like the book is satirising itself, it’s littered with all these clumsy phrases that are trying to posture themselves as something profound, but end up feeling bland, kind of annoying and as needy and desperate as the narrator, “Tiff”.Reading up about this novel afterwards, I realized who essentially got this book to where it is today in terms of praise and hype and the irony of this fact became clear, like the narrator of her novel, Tiffany, Zink was dependent on a man to give her what she needed, i.e. Jonathan Franzen. A man who hyped the book onto many 2014 best book lists, a man who gave up on Gaddis but Zink is the next DeLillo? Franzen’s cover blurb sums up my feelings exactly “Zink’s work insistently raises the possibility that the world is larger and stranger than the world you think you know.” Indeed Jonathan, indeed …

  • Charles Dee Mitchell
    2019-01-14 00:33

    I read this book in two sittings, and I feel almost like I read two different books. The first was a not particularly engaging book about not very interesting youngish people who were making what promised to be a bad marriage. There was bird watching and a wounded wild bird, the titular wallcreeper, that lived in their Swiss apartment.When I sat down with the book the next morning either it got very funny or I realized for the first time how funny it was. But I didn’t care one way or the other about it. I read it because it is showing up on several “best of” lists and the praise level for the author and the prose is high. Maybe I just didn’t get it, but I have enthused over enough books on this site that others seemed to dismiss that I feel like it my turn to be a naysayer.

  • Marina Sofia
    2019-01-03 22:45

    Not sure if I liked this more or less than Hausfrau - also a book about a bored expat wife living in Switzerland who takes up adultery as a hobby. What is it about this country which drives women to such extreme cries for attention? Although in this case it's more of a young person's voice, utter lack of concern for consequences and a strange disconnect with other people's feelings - completely self-absorbed.Yet, in spite of this overall coldness and lack of empathy which I felt that most of the characters displayed, it was witty, funny, readable in the way you enjoy hearing an acerbic tongue being exercised on other people, although you wouldn't necessarily want it in your own life.

  • Spencer
    2019-01-05 22:39

    A directionless American woman named Tiffany is interrupted in the middle of attempted corporate sabotage/whistleblowing by a man asking her out on a date; she abandons her plans, they get married, move to Europe and eventually begin exploring the finer points of deep green resistance and sex with strangers with similar enthusiasm.It's an odd, meandering story, originally executed--I was reminded of writers as diverse as Lorrie Moore, Don Delillo, Doris Lessing, only funnier than all of them. I laughed out loud a lot. This is definitely one I'll read again someday.Would love to see someone like PT Anderson do a film adaptation.

  • Jim
    2019-01-11 05:44

    I don't care about birds or riparian ecosystems or the sex lives of birdwatching ex-pats, but I loved reading Zink's sentences. A real savage, smirking wit lurks in these pages that is both delightful and erotic. That's two five star reads in two days set (partially) in Switzerland. I'm off to write my erotic thriller set at James Joyce's grave...

  • Amanda
    2019-01-21 21:42

    Probably more like 3.5 stars. This is a quirky little book that is hard to describe. It's one of those books where there is a lot going on but nothing really happens. I really liked the first half but I didn't really like the last part and found the ending to be really abrupt.

  • John Madera
    2019-01-18 23:52

    Comic, digressive, sharply observed, Nell Zink's THE WALLCREEPER is a singular novel by a singular stylist, the narrative peopled with engagingly odd and delightfully "unrelatable" characters engaging in odd conversations and falling into thoroughly engrossing odd events.

  • Ken-ichi
    2019-01-01 21:38

    This is kind of like a fake book. Like someone smart and funny and educated wrote a parody of the kind of book that garners praise like "Nell Zink is a writer of extraordinary talent and range" from Jonathan Franzen even though it's the author's first novel, and a monotonic one at that. I'm not saying that tone is bad. It's really good! It's hilarious and acridly bitter and occasionally profound, but not terribly varied, and that profundity is all in asides, all in pot shots. Without that you're left with Tiffany, who earns some sympathy for being cruelly used early in the novel, but eventually proves that being used is pretty much all she ever does. She basically just takes her cues from one man or another and then the book is over. If that "defiantly resists classification as a modern commodity," maybe I'm actually really into the commodities modernity has to offer. The burning question I'm left with at the end is how a narrator so deft and articulate could have achieved so little.In regards to form, I'm all for it. When they don't know what to feed an injured bird, Stephen says, "Scramble it some eggs. [...] Whatever's in eggs must be in birds" (p. 13). On the reception former rebels get from today's youth, Stephen gets "nothing by the side-long looks post-punks are always getting from Young People 2.0 that means, 'You are so unprofessional'" (p. 84). On choosing a mode of transit abroad, Tiff says, "We compromised on a donkey. No ecotourist was heartless enough to ride as donkey, so the price was still relatively Albanian" (p. 73). Ok, those are mostly the hilarious bits. But well-written, too!And on the topic of nature and environmentalism, things got interesting, but only in brief moments. On loving nature as a way of escaping its grip on you personally, Tiff says, "Stephen and I loved nature more than ever after we'd decided to ignore its effects in our own lives. We chose to love it instead of bending under its weight. If you're out in a swamp every weekend morning, you're not breeding and feeding. You're in control. You need to stay out of nature's way while you're still young enough for it to ruin your life." (p. 48)Stephen's rant about what he sees as the fallacy of conservation and a land ethic also seemed pointed:They hate me. They only thing they think laymen are good for is to supply emotional arguments that might make somebody put up with nature. But they know it won't work. Because if you have a plant you don't like the looks of on your lawn, or a bug that looks weird, you're going to kill it, unless you're a total sap. So all the nature lovers get this training and these jobs and make out like they're master technicians of the ecosphere, but they're just saps. Because nobody knows how the ecosphere works. It just wants to be left alone. Life is what happens when you leave it alone. It's circular! But nobody wants to leave it alone. They want to love it. Love of nature is a contradiction in terms. It's the thing everybody says nobody has enough of, and it's this totally nonexistent personality trait. The myth of biophilia. Loving things at your own expense, being happy that they're out there somewhere, living their lives, where you never see them. Give me a break. What a fucking joke. pp. 105-106 I'm not sure if these are Zink's own views or at least partially due to Stephen's derangement. He's certainly not someone filled with love so much as he's filled with compulsion, which certainly sounds familiar, and I agree we (the saps) probably have over-romanticized our own interest in nature, and have overinflated expectations about infecting other people with that interest, but I don't think naturalism or environmentalism are about loving things at your own expense. Love has a price, but it's not the dear when it comes to nature.All that being said, mostly what I was thinking of while reading this was that Marvin Minsky quote about general fiction being about how people get into trouble and screw up their lives and science fiction is about everything else. This is definitely more the former than the latter.Also, these words:orgiast (n): one who celebrates orgies (duh).bathos (n): I think here it's supposed to mean triteness or sentimentality, but apparently it can also mean a suddenly injected absurdity in an otherwise serious passage.subrogate (v): to substitute

  • Alisa
    2019-01-16 05:32

    Ah, what a breath of fresh air… or actually, breath of something more bracing that makes you exclaim and laugh in surprise and shock. I read the first half of this novel in a state of amazement, laughing so loud I feared I would wake my daughter sleeping down the hall. This was definitely the kind of laughter that come partly from shock, the sex scene on pages 13-15 being the first more-than-a-hint that the reader should be prepared for anything: "Look at Stephen! He thinks he's having sex! Smell his hand! It's touching my hair!" thinks Tiff during an uncomfortable yet hilarious moment. Want another quote of this author's punchy, no-holds-barred language? Here's Tiff's thoughts during a conversation with a woman who's been having an affair with her husband: "Her hands were pressed against her heart and she was taking the feeling of emptiness there very, very seriously- a hole in her heart only Stephen's dick could fill." The second half of the book I didn't whirlwind-read quite so exuberantly. I felt more challenged than entertained, although there was still some laughter. The author deploys some tricky metaphors and subtle allusions. I recall one sentence that I was stumped on: "The moa would stand up in the bush where it had been hiding and walk away, reviewing its cell phone video, assault rifle hanging low like a bass guitar." Not until the next day did I 'get it.' (If you read this book, and wonder what deeper meaning you may be missing: don't worry, you got it, sometimes I'm just not so quick.) The moa is a reference to the "quantum moa" early in the book and the rifle-toting Albanian voyeur refers forward a few pages. I know many readers who don't enjoy this kind of literary gymnastics, but for me it has its rewards. While I do have mixed feelings about this book, it overall was refreshing, funny, and thought-provoking.