Binary Star: Or, in Which Cynthia is a Judgmental Killjoy and Judges Things

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Reading Binary Star, I’m struck by the fact that I should like Binary Star. It has, after all, what basically amounts to a trifecta of Cynthia draws: mental health issues, road trips through weird America, and the type of prose that critics will undoubtedly describe as “raw,” “spare and beautiful,” “luminous,” etc. I should like Binary Star; I wanted to like Binary Star, had it on my to-read list for years since I first saw it and its little recommendation plaque at 57th Street Books.

Reader, I didn’t.

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A Tale for the Time Being is ….An Interesting Time

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On paper, A Tale for the Time Being is the kind of book I should be all over: it’s got screwed-up families, immigrant angst, deuteragonists whose stories eventually collude, AND footnotes (I’m always a sucker for footnotes). Ruth Ozeki herself is kickass cool, being a filmmaker and a fucking Zen Buddhist priest in addition to an acclaimed novelist, which is like, seriously, c’mon. Not fucking fair.

Practice, of course, is a more complicated matter. I enjoyed A Tale for the Time Being, yes, but it’s the kind of pleasure that comes with qualifications, little notes of except and if only. I can pinpoint all of this ambivalence to one central problem: this book wants to tell two stories at once and frankly, one of those stories just happens to be far more interesting than the other.

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