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Wasteland by Francesca Lia Block

Wasteland (2003)

by Francesca Lia Block

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First sentence: "We keep burning in the brown smog pit."

Wasteland is a beautiful tragedy. It tells the story of a teenage girl, Marina, and her brother, Lex. They share an incredibly deep bond and a love that is always teetering on the edge of incestuous. They both feel this, but don't know how to handle their emotions, which are so strong even other people are quick to pick up on it. West is their friend, and quietly devoted to Marina, always there for her, even more so in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Told out of chronological order and using multiple viewpoints and writing styles, Block's lyrical prose is full of imagery and allusion - especially, this time, referencing T. S. Eliot. It can be confusing until you get into the rhythm of Block's writing and lends itself well to multiple re-readings.

Block's beautiful writing is like poetry:

"You were just a boy on a bed in a room, like a kaleidoscope is a tube full of bits of broken glass. But the way I saw you was pieces refracting the light, shifting into an infinite universe of flowers and rainbows and insects and planets, magically dividing cells, pictures no one else knew." (p.4)

"You called me the hyacinth girl. You read some lines and I didn't understand any of it. You sounded like the homeless man who wanders on Ventura Boulevard eating out of trash cans and mumbling to himself. But it was kind of beautiful, beautiful and strange. Like the homeless man with hyacinth-blue eyes that shine out of his char-dark face. You said I was the hyacinth girl." (p.61-62)

Wasteland is about grief, dealing with grief and the bizarre transformation that love and grief can bring. The overwhelming strangeness and confusion of adolescence. The passage where Marina describes how she tried and tried to find other boys at school and celebrities attractive is heartbreaking. This is a must-read for Francesca Lia Block's fans. ( )
  catfantastic | Aug 21, 2013 |
Block keeps knocking me out, showing rather than telling. She captures the adolescent voice, to my mind, perfectly. This small book is pure, inevitable tragedy, and I came out of it blinking at the light. Strong subtext of incest, so not for the squeamish. Block's writing is hypnotic, otherworldly, and translucent like an isinglass window in an old stove. There is so much going on offstage that she captures in a few seemingly throw-away lines that it's hardly noticeable until the end, when everything comes together and the fully fleshed out characters are in one's head, whole. Breathtaking. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
Exquisite writing, such lyrical prose without seeming try-hard or overwrought. I liked the POV changes, and it was only far into the book when I realized the italicized ones were Lex and flipped back to the beginning to reread parts. And then at the end, when I realized Lex's POV and Marina's later on, after the revelation of Rose-in-May, were in writing. At least I think they were written. I think this is what happened and it's my personal interpretation, though Francesca Lia Block only hints, slowly unravelling her tale but never quite showing you the full thing.

I feel like the ending was such a cop-out. The interesting part about writing about taboos is that they are taboos, and to suddenly reveal that one of them was secretly adopted at the end just feels like cheating. Still, Marina says that it wouldn't have made a difference, because they started out as brother & sister and would always be, that doesn't change, but if that's what the author wanted to say in her book then why didn't she keep them as actual blood-siblings? She could have at least played more on the 'what could have been' and the turmoil of that, but she didn't! And the ending is somewhat of a happy end for Marina but I can't help feeling like she ended up with the wrong guy. I don't know, for a book like this, I feel like I want a depressing ending, I don't want her to be with West-- it's horrible but I want her to be alone and West to be crushed because he never had a chance to start with. I just feel like it suits the book better that way. ( )
1 vote serrulatae | Mar 31, 2013 |
Told nonlinearly in three alternating perspectives — with only clues in the text to indicate which character is narrating — Wasteland is an ethereal story of Marina — who shares a strangely close relationship with her brother — and of the two boys who love her, brother included. With a 1970s L.A. as a backdrop, WASTELAND explores a topic that is usually left untouched and considered taboo without losing focus on her characters or being overtly shocking. Her language, as always, is selectively chosen word by word and while at times the nonlinear narrative is difficult to follow, the reader is easily enough wrapped up in Marina’s world. This is a book that resonates with you, that refuses to be put down without making an impact. The possibilty for self-destruction, teetering on the edge of discovering oneself in spite of tragedy, is so real and disorienting that the story commands you to listen. ( )
1 vote EKAnderson | Mar 12, 2010 |
A haunting novel. Both uplifting and sad. One of the best I've read from FLB. ( )
  heatherheartsbooks | Jan 11, 2010 |
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Thank you Joanna Cotler, Lydia Willis, Tracey Porter, and Suza Scalora
First words
We keep burning in the brown smog pit.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0064408396, Paperback)

When you were a baby I sat very still to hold you. I could see the veins through your skin like a map to inside you. I stopped breathing so you wouldn''t ... You were just a boy on a bed in a room, like a kaleidoscope is a tube full of bits of broken glass. But the way I saw you was pieces refracting the light, shifting into an infinite universe of flowers and rainbows and insects and planets, magical dividing cells, pictures no one else knew ... Your whole life you can be told something is wrong and so you believe it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:05 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A brother and sister must deal with terrible consequences when their love for each other stretches past acceptable boundaries.

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