✽ Ghost Lights kindle Epub ❁ Author Lydia Millet – Oaklandjobs.co.uk Ghost Lights stars an IRS bureaucrat named Hal—a man baffled by his wife’s obsession with her missing employer In a moment of drunken heroism Hal embarks on a uest to find the man embroiling himse Ghost Lights stars an IRS bureaucrat named Hal—a man baffled by his wife’s obsession with her missing employer In a moment of drunken heroism Hal embarks on a uest to find the man embroiling himself in a surreal tropical adventure and an unexpected affair with a beguiling German woman Ghost Lights is Lydia Millet at her best—beautifully written engaging full of insight into the heartbreaking devotion of parenthood and the charismatic oddity of human behavior. Lydia Millet has a remarkable way of taking you into her characters' heads; a way that probably shouldn't work given normal novelistic conventions It's almost all internal dialogue nudged along by a very loose plot In fact if you don't read How The Dead Dream first I'm not sure this plot would make any sense at all I enjoyed this second in the trilogy possibly even than HtDD a it was wayyyyyy funnier; Millet's sardonic absurd tone really worked with this particular character although I still don't get the Vonnegut comparisons on the GL and HtDD jacket blurbs; and b this character a father a husband struggling to come to terms with his life and in particular his relationship with his paraplegic daughter is poignant human relatable His obsessive obtuse self reflections as he comes to terms with who he is why he is are touching and less annoying than those of T the protagonist in the first although they are in the service of less grand less esoteric philosophical musings Taken together both of these characters are creating a bigger commentary on meaning purpose love connection and here companionship a motif that points to something simpler elemental for us humans It is the thing the only thing that wards off the angst of that bigger existential aloneness that is almost too much to face That is too much to face aloneAnd the final bonus lots of lovely digressions on dogs the ultimate companions Ghost Lights is an odd little book It was recommended by a woman in my writing workshop for its sardonic narrative voice And that voice is easily the book's biggest strength the reason I chose four stars instead of the three I am inclined to give it The protagonist of the book is Hal 50 years old and working for the IRS having something of an everyman life crisis His 20 something daughter is paralyzed has a boyfriend he disapproves of and is working as a sex line operator He suspects his wife is cheating on him with a much younger paralegal at her office Moreover his wife's boss T has gone missing in Belize and she's obsessed with finding him channeling Hal thinks her energyenthusiasm for the paralegal into the search Wanting to prove himself capable having accrued lots of vacation time and having nothing to lose anyway Hal volunteers to go to Belize and find T There he meets a young German couple Hans and Gretel who make a project of helping Hal find the missing man He has his own brief tryst with Gretel not a spoiler this is on the jacket Things go otherwise wacky with regards to the disappearanceThe reason I didn't love the book the plot My mistake was probably not reading it in one shot which produced some disjointedness in pacing Too much time spent in the jungle Not enough time spent on his relationship with his wife after he tells her he thinks she's cheating I don't know It's a wisp of a book and maybe it's reflective enough to satisfy others but there's a lot going on in Hal's head and in the pages that only 255 of them to explore this world feels somewhat like a short shrift Lydia Millet's writing though is worthy of these four stars if only because many times Hal's trains of thought into the absurd made me laugh out loud Whenever he thinks about the oppression of Guatemalans for example he thinks about Rigoberta Menchu But it's such a privileged American innocently blithe recollection that all he can remember is that she wears bright scarves He admires a co worker's earnestness while mentally castigating him for wearing high waisted pants Most hilarious to me anyway is hisMillet's sense of humor about the Germans For example Once they were back on the powerboat the boys hunched over and were pushing buttons on their handheld games again and the German couple became caught up in the momentum They were enthusiastic You must contact your embassy in Belmopan said the husband They have military forces Maybe they would help you Germans They thought you could just call in the armyEven though I feel a bit less fulfilled than I was hoping to feel by the close of the book it's still a very good recommendation German humor Love it I really want to like Lydia Millet Her writing is very clever very odd very funny and very polished and I can see why she's gotten the recognition that she has but at the same time her writing is characterized by all these authorial nudges Aren't libertarians awful? Isn't the environment worthy of protection you really get this sense through all the environmental facts she drops? Aren't American 'liberals' kind of ignorant and ridiculous half the time? Some of these nudges can be amusing I did laugh at the bit where our protagonist comes across a boy and felt an impulse to apologize to this boy in case he was one of the retarded ones Not that Hal himself was personally responsible for the lead in the gasoline of this foreign country but in the sense that they all were that individuals were culpable especially individuals like him secure and comfortable and well educated and gets mugged but mostly it's intrusive and it's irritating It feels like a book written by a grad student with a degree in environmental policy and well it is And that sense was particularly bad in this book because the premise harried American civil servant runs away to the jungle wasn't even interesting to begin with And tbh if this were written by a man that German woman he has an affair with? We'd all be rolling our eyes to the ceiling With the first book in this series How The Dead Dream the main character and plot had spark sure it was bizarre but it took you on an interesting ride This was a major blah and made me want to reread A Handful of Dust tbh This second book of Millet's trilogy following the intrepid HOW THE DEAD DREAM centers on middle aged IRS bureaucrat Hal Lindley Susan's husband both who were minor characters in the first book Susan works for T the protagonist of book one the man who is missing in Belize and presumed dead You don't have to read the first book to engage with the second but it adds background and material on several of the characters especially T and some dimension and history on the story as a wholeThe only writer I can think of that reminds me of Millet is Paul Auster with his postmodern darkly comic and surreal novels of characters earnestly struggling and yet with an absurd haplessness too to comprehend their lives They suffer from disorienting delusions so that their self directed journeys are fevered with mortifications Millet is somewhat uirkier even and without the assembled careful structure of Auster She is less antiseptic than Auster with an undertone of gallows humorAfter Hal comes to the conclusion that Susan is having an affair with her preppy office paralegal he decides to play the potential hero offering to travel to Belize to find T Stern who has been missing since he went on a boat trip with a guide up the Monkey River Several issues plague Hal besides Susan's affair First he feels like he is responsible for forcing Susan to suppress her bohemian free love spirit that she possessed when they first met in the 60's it is now 1994 dated by the death of Kurt CobainSecondly and importantly he is emotionally choked with guilt and pain about his daughter Casey who had an accident when she was 17 and is now a twenty six year old paraplegic Apparently she once had an intimate affair with T if you read the first book you get the full story but she isn't sharing the details T was responsible for her new and improved outlook her shedding of cynicism self enmity and former scorn for all of existence Now that Casey is engaged with life she has taken on an acrimonious mocking ex cop paraplegic boyfriend and an appalling telephone job that Hal found out about inadvertentlyHal's feelings of profound loss over Casey and his freuent interior dialogues about her before and after state as well as the shock of his wife's infidelity crushes him with an awareness of his own obsolescence This keeps with the themes of extinction started in the first book Although it is animal extinction that was How the Dead Dream's concern there has always been a subtext of human dissolution and annihilationsuddenly he was older and part of the architecture its tangibility and the impulse behind it its failings and strengths The heavy installation had lost their majesty and seemed temporary even shoddy with a propensity for declineHe was a surplus human a product of a swollen civilization He was a widget among menHal's adventures in Belize include breakfastEggs arrived with a slice of papaya to remind him of his location Lest he mistake them for Hackensack eggs or eggs in Topeka the papaya cam along to announce they were tropical eggs to remind him that congratulations he was on a tropical vacationHal meets a German couple named Hans and Gretel seriously with twin blonde young cornboys obsessed with table tennis and video games who are resolutely cheerful and beautiful to look at and radiate a glowing bliss Such Germans were irritating On the one hand they were an unpleasant reminder of Vikings and Nazis on the other hand you envied themHans an avionics genius and specialist in something called tactical sensor networks is well connected to the military and after hearing Hal's reason for coming to this island organizes a search for T with the US armed forces the Belize Defence Force Cadets and NATO on board Hal joins Hans and the muscle bound military men and has his own Heart of Darkness trip through the jungle as T did in the first bookThis next uote although not plot progressing is an example of Millet's sly dark wit as channeled by Hal's interior thoughtsArmed forces personnel were not as bad as cops when it came to the aggregate probability of antisocial personality disorderThey were not homicidal so much as Freudian; they liked to feel the presence of a constant father And their fringe benefits included fit and muscular bodiesMillet's charismatic wit blends with her piercing philosophical insights and compassion to portray a man on the brink of an existential crisis What is especially endearing about Hal Lindley is his humanity as a parent ripe and heartfelt with touching contradictions The ending is surreal and mystifying with a touch of the bizarre a soul searing finale that makes me impatient for book three MAGNIFICENCE is scheduled for November release I don't know how I discovered Lydia Millet She has never had a big bestseller but has been a finalist for literary prizes and is loved by literary book bloggers A few years ago I decided to read How the Dead Dream the first novel of a trilogy I was just so pleased Ghost Lights is the second in that trilogy and I read it now because I wanted to get through all three novels before her new book Sweet Lamb of Heaven came out For one thing it does not suffer from the common occurrence where the second of a trilogy is the weaker of the three If anything it just carries right onIn How the Dead Dream the main character known as T dumps his successful real estate development business in the hands of devoted secretary Susan and takes off for Central America He goes completely out of touch leaving Susan consumed with worry Ghost Lights opens with Susan's husband Hal a deadbeat IRS employee who has just discovered that his wife might be cheating on him In a convoluted attempt to win her back he volunteers to go find T somewhere in the jungle and bring him backMillet's characters are always just this side of whacked out In that respect she reminds me of T C Boyle and Michael Chabon two of my favorite authors Hal is so oblivious Obsessed with his confusion about Susan he bumbles around on the outskirts of Central American tourist towns takes up drinking has serendipitous encounters with people who help him and finds TAnd this is only half of the novel The thing about Millet is she combines elements that shouldn't work together in the same story but they do Wry humor bordering on slapstick sometimes political and environmental viewpoints laced with irony a smidgen of magical realism all wrapped around the very real sorrows and uandaries of the human heart It's like when I invent dishes in my kitchen that are a mashup of various cultures They are usually delicious and I just call them fusion Because if the flavors complement each other and the ingredients meet up in interesting ways everyone's palate is happy Well almost everyoneLydia Millet delivers something that delights my reading tastes And she does not care one whit what she does to you Ghost Lights ends so surprisingly as did How the Dead Dream I can't wait to see if or how she wraps things up in the third book but with the title Magnificence she promises uite a lot this book is critically acclaimed but i totally didn't want to finish it from the first page it just left me hollow and disconnected a three legged dog in the world of four legged beastsi don't knowthere are some nicely written parts but the story is not what you might assume from a book called ghost lights it's not really a fantasy so much as a chronicle of a mid life crisis or breakdownnot my thing at all So so good I've now read all three novels of Millet's cycle what's it called? Michael Silverblatt gave it a name but I can't recall it In addition to all the wonderful ualities of her writing Millet writes beautiful stunning strange and uiet conclusions Her beginnings seem a little rocky and with each of the novels I had a bit of trouble getting inside the new protagonist's mind finding a reading flow immersing myself At about one third of the way I achieved it in each book Then each one moved toward a swelling crescendo I don't want to call it a classic climax even though I guess that's what a crescendo is but each one ended on the upsurge There are no denouements but the reader also isn't really left hanging when T was lost in the jungle at the end of How the Dead Dream it made me strangely happy for him I was okay leaving him there for a couple of months; I didn't have to rush to read the second book Also they can be read as stand alone novels they make up a cycle not a trilogy I now realize But each informs the other And it doesn't really take a week to read; I was just very busy People were like dogs and this was why they took pity on them dogs alone all the hours of their days and always waiting Always waiting for company Dogs who for all of their devotion knew only the love of one or two or three people from the beginning of their lives till the end dogs who once those one or two had dwindled and vanished from the rooms they lived in were never to be known againYou passed like a dog through those empty houses you passed through empty rooms there was always the possibility of companionship but rarely the real event For most of the hours of your life no one knew or observed you at all You did what you thought you had to; you went on eating sleeping raising your voice at intruders out of a sense of duty But all the while you were hoping faithfully but with no evidence that it turned out in the end you were a prince among men 100 Pleasant but facile A bland character vacillates about a few thinly drawn situations as he avoids both conflict and relationships This makes for a personal narrative that feels impersonal The observations the protagonist makes don't comment on anything outside the blatantly fictional circumstance; I find it difficult to connect them to anything in my life or to experience another life vicariously through themRightly or wrongly I get the sense of an author bravely writing a character with whom she doesn't identify and conseuently falling back on everyman cliches that apply to no real person It's not funny enough for the humor to be the point but there's not really drama either just non committal outlines for dramas that could be explored but aren'tThe ending was unearned and non seuitor like the author hit a deadline and needed to suddenly resolve an aimless freewriting exercise in a way that felt important I rate this a low 2 stars I stuck with it all the way to the end but it was not a book I can say I enjoyed In fact I often found it annoying Millet chose a protagonist she portrays as a world class jerk and spends most of the book inside his head Seems like a strange choice His thoughts are rarely amusing never enlightening and usually boring Wasn’t Millet bored writing from his viewpoint?On the other hand she's a strong enough writer and storyteller that I kept on turning those pages Maybe this was Millet's challenge to herself am I skillful enough to keep myself and my readers interested in this turkey?
- 256 pages
- Ghost Lights
- Lydia Millet
- 17 November 2015 Lydia Millet