Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner

Heather, the Totality

The Breakstone family arrange themselves around their daughter Heather, and the world seems to follow: beautiful, compassionate, entrancing, she is the greatest blessing in their lives of Manhattan luxury. But as Heather grows-and her empathy sharpens to a point, and her radiance attracts more and more dark interest-their perfect existence starts to fracture. Meanwhile a v...

Title:Heather, the Totality
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Heather, the Totality Reviews

  • Faith

    This novella length work is not a book at all. It's the treatment you would write for a movie or the outline and biographies that you would write before you wrote the actual book. There is no dialogue, just a recitation of people doing or thinking things. Rather than being suspenseful, the whole thing just felt sort of sleazy and leering. There is no way that this would have been published if the author had not been the creator of Mad Men. It was hugely disappointing. I received a free copy of t

    This novella length work is not a book at all. It's the treatment you would write for a movie or the outline and biographies that you would write before you wrote the actual book. There is no dialogue, just a recitation of people doing or thinking things. Rather than being suspenseful, the whole thing just felt sort of sleazy and leering. There is no way that this would have been published if the author had not been the creator of Mad Men. It was hugely disappointing. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  • Zuky the BookBum

    I can understand the negatives reviews for this book because it was underwhelming.

    People are complaining about the writing style but it didn’t bother me that much. I guess this just felt like a slightly bulked out storyboard for a TV show, which would make sense as the author wrote Mad Men.

    Some people think there is no character development in this novella, but I can’t say I agree. Mark and Karen are well described throughout the book and though you don’t get much history into each char

    I can understand the negatives reviews for this book because it was underwhelming.

    People are complaining about the writing style but it didn’t bother me that much. I guess this just felt like a slightly bulked out storyboard for a TV show, which would make sense as the author wrote Mad Men.

    Some people think there is no character development in this novella, but I can’t say I agree. Mark and Karen are well described throughout the book and though you don’t get much history into each character, you learn enough about them as they grow older together and have a child. Same goes for Bobby. Heather, on the other hand, is more difficult to get to know. We didn’t really get the chance to learn much about her.

    I honestly feel like this book was a little above my level of understanding and maybe I didn’t get the bigger picture, but to me this just felt like a slow story of overbearing, selfish parents, their confused golden child, and the obsession of a disturbed man. I know I’m probably getting this all wrong but hey, what can you do.

    I enjoyed Bobby’s monologue, even though it was filled with sick and depraved rape imaginings. I guess because he was the only character that had any character, it made his part of the story worth reading. Other than that, it was pretty boring.

    I agree with reviewers who said this felt cut off all of a sudden, because it does just seem to end out of nowhere, and in a pretty dull manner.

    This novel reminded me of Hubert Selby Jr’s work. Depressing, bleak, dark and slow. (But with worse characters and a less captivating plot).

  • Jennifer

    This is a colossally dumb book. Boring, paint-by-numbers writing, a predictable plot, and forgettable characters. There's not even a hint of anything captivating or fresh to mitigate this tired trip down cliché lane. It was only 130 pages long, and sometimes I laughed at how dumb it all was and at how there was NO reason for this book to exist, but that's all I can muster as an endorsement.

  • Jessica Woodbury

    I never expected to write another 1-star review. (This is only my second in 10 years.) These days, if something is bad I just quit reading much of the time. What happened here was a combination of curiosity and ultimately having to see it through to make sure it would end as badly as I expected. (Spoiler alert: it did.)

    I was thinking maybe I wouldn't write a review at all. I don't like writing bad reviews. I take no joy in them. But readers have my loyalty more than writers and publishers, and i

    I never expected to write another 1-star review. (This is only my second in 10 years.) These days, if something is bad I just quit reading much of the time. What happened here was a combination of curiosity and ultimately having to see it through to make sure it would end as badly as I expected. (Spoiler alert: it did.)

    I was thinking maybe I wouldn't write a review at all. I don't like writing bad reviews. I take no joy in them. But readers have my loyalty more than writers and publishers, and in this case I suspect many people will want to read this book and I really want them to know that they should not. Not even a page. Put the book down. Back away slowly.

    When a big name writes a book, it is not unusual for me to wonder if they got honest feedback from friends, editors, etc. Because if someone I cared about very deeply gave me this book and asked me what I thought I would tell them to put it in a drawer and maybe move on to the next thing. That would be the kind thing to do. And I am a Matthew Weiner fan. I am in the middle of a Mad Men rewatch that is only reaffirming my deep love for that series. But now, after this book, I find myself wondering if I can ever take Weiner seriously again. How could he get it this wrong? How could no one tell him?

    So. The book. This is a double narrative with a detached third-person style. The prose is straightforward, realist style. There is little dialogue. And there isn't much by way of character development. The broad strokes do little to recommend it, the style is consistent but not particularly enjoyable. The story is, honestly, bizarre and will leave most readers confused and unsatisfied when they finish it. It is unclear what the point of it all is when it's all over. What did you just read? Why does it exist?

    The double stories are those of the Breakstone family--well off New Yorkers of the type you have seen many times before in modern fiction--and a man named Bobby--born into poverty with a drug-addicted mother--whose lives have nothing to do with each other until they intersect at the very end of the book. But this is not one of those entangled lives stories, the intersection is relatively brief and the book ends immediately after it is over. There is no suspense or narrative pacing building to the moment they finally meet. Honestly, the narratives are both quite dull, though one of them is trying (and failing) to be shocking.

    If you do actually go to the trouble of reading this book, try a little mind experiment. Imagine what your opinion of the Breakstone narrative would be if you took Bobby's narrative out.

    In the early pages of this book I considered putting it down. I read the sentence, "Mark liked Karen because she had no idea how beautiful she was," and I was ready to be right out. This, like many other things in the book, has an undercurrent of misogyny that had me on my guard. It's also a cliche written so often that any writer should second-guess themselves for even thinking about putting it on paper. I wondered if maybe Weiner was doing something, trying to write about the kind of guy who would say something like that. But then I realized, No, this was just the kind of book where a woman must be beautiful and we must refer to her beauty and her breasts regularly to remind us that she is beautiful and that is why she is worthy of existing.

    I do not want to give this book any more of my attention (it has already taken too much) but I want you to know that I highly recommend avoiding this book completely. Erase it from your memory. Remove it from your wish list. It is for the best.

  • Bam

    Interesting novella--sort of a fleshed out storyboard, no dialogue. Mark and Karen marry, have a beautiful daughter they name Heather and live a comfortable, if not totally happy, life in NYC. A young man with a very different kind of background is part of a construction team working on their condo building. Mark starts to worry when he sees the guy eyeing his daughter. Strange ending with a bit of a twist.

    Thanks to NetGalley, the author and publisher for the opportunity to read an arc of this s

    Interesting novella--sort of a fleshed out storyboard, no dialogue. Mark and Karen marry, have a beautiful daughter they name Heather and live a comfortable, if not totally happy, life in NYC. A young man with a very different kind of background is part of a construction team working on their condo building. Mark starts to worry when he sees the guy eyeing his daughter. Strange ending with a bit of a twist.

    Thanks to NetGalley, the author and publisher for the opportunity to read an arc of this story.

  • Andrew Smith

    Manhattan financier Mark Breakstone is successful enough at his job, but he seems destined never to reach the top echelon. Nevertheless, when he's introduced by friends to Karen she sees sufficient potential to throw in her lot and soon they are married and living in a nice apartment close to Park Avenue. Not too much later a beautiful and seemingly gifted daughter, Heather, is born. So adorable is their offspring that it isn't long before her parents are actively competing for her affections.

    I

    Manhattan financier Mark Breakstone is successful enough at his job, but he seems destined never to reach the top echelon. Nevertheless, when he's introduced by friends to Karen she sees sufficient potential to throw in her lot and soon they are married and living in a nice apartment close to Park Avenue. Not too much later a beautiful and seemingly gifted daughter, Heather, is born. So adorable is their offspring that it isn't long before her parents are actively competing for her affections.

    In a parallel storyline we’re introduced to Bobby Klasky. His life is not so blessed. Brought up in Newark by a heroin addict mother, Bobby finds trouble easily. A series of escalating crimes follows, rounded off by a stretch of prison time. He’s going to be trouble, is Klasky.

    It's clear that the paths of Klasky and the Breakstones will cross. It's equally certain that it’ll end badly. But how will they cross and just how badly will it end? You don't have to wait long to find out as this is very short novel - designed, I think, to be read in one sitting. As the tension is wound up I found myself inventing any number of endings, though not the one that eventually transpired.

    I was attracted to the book by the fact that it's written by the creator of the brilliant television series Mad Men. Well this is nothing like the series… or is it? As some others have observed, there is a sense of moral ambiguity regarding the actions taken by the characters, which leads to a somewhat conflicted view as to who is the good guy and who’s the baddie here. For anyone who has watched episodes of Mad Men and witnessed the activities of Don Draper and Roger Sterling, you'll recognise this. The tension is well ramped up through the tale and I liked the flow of it, with its relative lack of dialogue. Worth catching.

    My thanks to Canongate Books and NetGalley for supplying a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

  • Roman Clodia

    Wow, this is bad! How a writer of the iconic Mad Men and The Sopranos can pen this is a mystery - was he 12 at the time?

    With no dialogue (really, NO dialogue), a story that flits through 18 years in a nanosecond, random capitalisations (the Woman, the Trainee, the Father, the Worker), and a completely bonkers 'plot'

    Wow, this is bad! How a writer of the iconic Mad Men and The Sopranos can pen this is a mystery - was he 12 at the time?

    With no dialogue (really, NO dialogue), a story that flits through 18 years in a nanosecond, random capitalisations (the Woman, the Trainee, the Father, the Worker), and a completely bonkers 'plot'

    this feels like a joke read {scratches head in puzzlement}...

  • Sara Mazzoni

    Premessa da chiarire ai potenziali lettori/lettrici di questo libro:

    : è una novella, un racconto lungo. L’edizione ebook ha 65 pagine di testo (poi sapete che la pagina ebook contiene in media più battute di quella cartacea). Se pensate di acquistarlo tenetene conto, visto che l’ebook costa 9 euro e il cartaceo costa addirittura 17 euro.

    Ciò detto, l’altra premessa è che probabilmente saprete già tutti chi sia Matthew Weiner, ovvero il creatore di

    ,

    Premessa da chiarire ai potenziali lettori/lettrici di questo libro:

    : è una novella, un racconto lungo. L’edizione ebook ha 65 pagine di testo (poi sapete che la pagina ebook contiene in media più battute di quella cartacea). Se pensate di acquistarlo tenetene conto, visto che l’ebook costa 9 euro e il cartaceo costa addirittura 17 euro.

    Ciò detto, l’altra premessa è che probabilmente saprete già tutti chi sia Matthew Weiner, ovvero il creatore di

    , la serie televisiva meglio scritta degli ultimi 15 anni. Quindi Weiner è sì un comprovato ottimo scrittore, ma non uno scrittore di letteratura, almeno fino a ora.

    Com’è questo racconto, allora? Ben scritto, la prosa è piacevole, non particolarmente originale: si mantiene su toni cinico-blasé nel raccontare la storia di una famiglia altoborghese (ovviamente residente a Manhattan) in rotta di collisione con un personaggio proveniente da un mondo diverso dal loro. L’arco che riguarda la figlia Heather e la madre Karen assomiglia in quasi tutti i dettagli alla dinamica che Weiner aveva già delineato in

    tra Betty Draper e la figlia Sally.

    La struttura del racconto è interessante, progettata per ingabbiare il lettore e farsi leggere fino in fondo con un meccanismo thriller: il narratore onnisciente sposta la focalizzazione di personaggio in personaggio ogni 2-3 pagine, svelando altarini e introducendo il villain della situazione senza che questo personaggio sia collegato in alcun modo ai protagonisti. Così facendo, Weiner genera un senso di anticipazione che fa presupporre uno sviluppo sinistro dell’azione.

    Cosa non va? I personaggi sono tutti stereotipati secondo tipizzazioni ormai stantie. Non solo tutto si è già visto e letto altrove, in ogni salsa possibile e con maggiori gradi di profondità; quando si arriva alla fine del brevissimo testo, aleggia lo scomodo punto di domanda di quell’

    che ogni scrittore e scrittrice vorrebbe evitare.

    SPOILER ALERT

    Come hanno fatto notare altre persone, c’è qualcosa di disturbante e peloso nel modo in cui Weiner ha deciso di impostare le focalizzazioni dei punti di vista. Il problema converge sul personaggio del cattivo, Bobby: è un potenziale serial killer da manuale, violento, pieno di idee malate, una storia di formazione terribile e già autore di un duplice omicidio. Weiner usa il suo punto di vista per farci sapere le cose terribili che fa, in modo da tenere alta la tensione per tutto il racconto, facendo percepire chiaramente al lettore che Bobby prima o poi incontrerà Heather. Il problema è che la storia di conclude con l’assassinio di Bobby, che all’atto pratico non ha fatto nulla a parte guardare la ragazza con insistenza. Il padre di Heather è sicuro che Bobby sia un mostro, lo sa istintivamente. Lo uccide buttandolo da una finestra. L’episodio viene archiviato come incidente sul lavoro. Fine.

    La cosa disturbante è che se togliamo il punto di vista di Bobby dalla vicenda, abbiamo una storia completamente diversa, in cui il mostro è il padre di Heather, paranoico, pazzo, possessivo, che butta un operaio dalla finestra perché ha guardato sua figlia. Il POV di Bobby ha quindi una doppia funzione: è l’artificio che aggancia il lettore al testo creando suspense, ma è anche la giustificazione per l’azione terrificante del padre di Heather. Il lettore ha delle informazioni che quel personaggio non ha, ma la storia è raccontata in modo da sovrapporre il lettore informato al personaggio che non lo è, in modo smaccatamente manipolatorio. Le informazioni che ci ha dato il narratore spiegano l’azione omicida del padre di Heather, la situazione ovviamente no.

    Potrebbe essere quello lo spunto interessante, quasi un punto di partenza per un romanzo (oppure no,

    è già stato letto, rivisitato e metabolizzato abbondantemente), invece il racconto finisce lì, senza sviscerare la questione pruriginosa, facendo anzi finta che una questione non esista neanche.

    FINE SPOILER

    Una buona lettura per un viaggio in treno (breve, mi raccomando), ma niente più di questo. E se potete, evitate di pagarlo, perché è davvero sovrapprezzato.

  • Bruno

    NOT EVEN KEN COSGROVE WOULD HAVE WRITTEN SUCH A RIDICULOUS BOOK.

  • Steffi

    Das war eine sehr positiv überraschende, kurzweilige Lektüre, auch deshalb weil Weiner (bekannt als Schöpfer von Serien wie „Mad Men“) sich kurzfasst. Gerade mal 130 Seiten umfasst diese Geschichte.

    Und an Erzählweisen von Filmen und Serien fühlte ich mich beim Lesen dieser spannenden Geschichte in der Tat erinnert. Der Wechsel zwischen den Perspektiven des vermeintlichen Täters und den vermeintlichen Opfern treibt die Handlung voran. Da ist der brutale Kerl aus einem schlechten Viertel New Jerse

    Das war eine sehr positiv überraschende, kurzweilige Lektüre, auch deshalb weil Weiner (bekannt als Schöpfer von Serien wie „Mad Men“) sich kurzfasst. Gerade mal 130 Seiten umfasst diese Geschichte.

    Und an Erzählweisen von Filmen und Serien fühlte ich mich beim Lesen dieser spannenden Geschichte in der Tat erinnert. Der Wechsel zwischen den Perspektiven des vermeintlichen Täters und den vermeintlichen Opfern treibt die Handlung voran. Da ist der brutale Kerl aus einem schlechten Viertel New Jerseys mit noch schlechterem familiärem Backgrund; und auf der anderen Seite eine sehr wohlhabende, aber (zumindest in ihren Augen) nicht wirklich reiche Kleinfamilie mit ihren (lächerlichen) Reichen-Problemen.

    Das Ganze läuft von Beginn an auf eine Tragödie zu, man zittert mit den Figuren, insbesondere der Tochter des Paares, Heather. Dass neben der Thriller-Handlung den Figuren zugestanden wird, dass sie sich entwickeln, Haltungen ändern und, obwohl sie typisch für ihr Milieu erscheinen, nicht zu reinen Klischees verkommen, macht die Qualität des Erzählens aus.

    Das Ende hat mich zudem überrascht, was will man mehr.

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