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3.2 out of 5 stars
Pull Yourself Together
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I found this book very difficult to get on with. It's not badly written. The opposite in fact. The characterisation of the narrator is very sharply defined and we see the world through his eyes and from his point of view. The trouble was, I couldn't bear him. He is an unattractive, facetious, posturing, idle waste of space whose charm was not sufficient to keep me interested.

I know that some people have found this book hugely amusing, so it really does depend on whether or not you can cope with Charlie. I suggest you look inside and have a taster. You will be able to decide very quickly which side of the fence you are standing on as he comes at you full blast from the word go.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 8 December 2013
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was attracted to this by the description of being a coming-of-age story with a likeness to The Royal Tenebaums - two things I like a lot - but I was mildly disappointed. It's not much like them at all. The story follows a boy growing up and is largely focused on his lustful feelings towards girls, parts of his family life weaved in and bits of various jobs and activities, but generally the plot seems to add and remove events without much explanation or understandable relevance. It's hard to remain engaged as mid way through it just seems to go nowhere, the plot does not thicken as they say - and unfortunately this just results in skim reading from boredom. The idea of it being written in second person is also very annoying - creative and interesting at the start but after realising it lasts through the whole book, it loses it's charm and it just feels like you're being told what to think.

There are a few sentences of great writing here and there, and it starts off great, but overall it wasn't really worth reading. It just lacks so much depth, the main character is weak and unrelateable, and this might be down to my own personal stupidity but it was hard to understand the purpose of any of the storyline.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 June 2014
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There is perhaps a market for this sort of book but I didnt enjoy it as much as I had hoped to, the pace is fine and the narrative engaging enough that even if the content or subject matter proves to be less interesting that anticipated it is good enough that readers are likely to see it to the finish.

Comparisons with Confederacy of Dunces I think are a little exaggerated, that is a pretty unique book and also a product of a particular time and place in a way which makes it a classic (that's before you get into the tragic context of the author and its publication). On the other hand it has that sort of disgruntled/outraged "whinge" quality about it, if that is your sort of thing.

A lot of readers I will wager think the self-help genre or lifestyle culture deserves to be attacked in the ways the author aims to, so I bet there will be a sympathetic readership out there, its done with wit and humour, a sort of cynical humour maybe, but while there are truly terrible and pathetic examples of that genre and that culture's influence upon people for me the tone was a little sweepingly critical at times. However, while I did not like it and couldnt recommend it as a result, this may be what interests you.
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on 3 June 2015
I really enjoyed this book. I got it as a free read via my Prime account, but I will purchase it next time I want to read it so I have it always.

I loved the style of this book. It reminded me of other coming-of-age stuff such as Keith Waterhouse's "Billy Liar" character or Francoise Sagan's "Cecile".

I actually liked the character, despite his faults, and who of us have no faults or foibles? We first meet him as a 16-year-old boy, obsessed with obtaining sexual experience, who is rather neglected by his alcoholic mother. It's not much wonder he lives in his head so much. However, he does love his great-great-aunt Ernestine, who he reveals provided much of his upbringing. He is closest to her, out of all his assorted slightly-mad relatives. In fact, he cares so much for her that he not infrequently gets up in the middle of the night and drives or takes a cab to her house, when he has fears that something bad has happened to her and she may need him (she is very elderly and lives alone). He is really cut up about her death and doesn't just forget her and move on.

He has, in my opinion, other redeeming features. He loves his cat, Mimi, having endless patience for her and not punishing her for cat-like activities such as knocking vases over and toileting accidents. Throughout the book, he never actually does anyone a bad turn. In fact, he puts up with quite a lot of nonsense himself from assorted relatives, friends and girlfriends.

Even his faults could be construed as simply insecurity and lack of guidance, in no small part, I'm sure, due to his upbringing. He seems to have become rather over-reliant on self-help literature. However, he takes every experience he has as an opportunity to learn something about himself and the world and he makes "notes to self" to add to his ever-growing collection of self-knowledge.

Eventually, he starts to settle into a lifestyle groove, slowly realising that his fantasies of power and ability to impress others will remain just fantasies. Instead, he settles down into his job as a cabby and earns his living, so he is no longer depending on relatives. He realises his proposed degree in Art History, which he only began out of sheer apathy in the first place, will get him nowhere he wanted to go anyway. Ironically, it's when he gives up trying to be or do something amazing, that something quite exciting (albeit not earth-shattering) does in fact happen to him through a combination of happenstance and pushing from his latest girlfriend.

There is a strong thread of cynicism and black humour running through the novel which stops it being maudlin or self-pitying.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I haven't read any of Glavnic's work before, but would be keen to try more after this.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a coming-of-age book about an idle, overweight Austrian called Charlie, who lives with his alcoholic mother and appears to be the only person of his generation in an extended family that consists of various weird aunts and uncles who despise each other. Not surprisingly, Charlie lives in a dream world, humming and talking to himself, and obsessively seeking girls to bed, where despite his oddness and off-putting physical characteristics he is remarkably successful. Charlie describes himself as `87% wimp' and tries to appear more sophisticated by rather pathetically wearing a black cloak and being seen with the works of Nietzsche and Kant. He also tries to improve his lot by reading endless self-help books. These, and his numerous disappointments with life, are the source of the many `notes to self' that are scattered throughout the book; some are humorous, others almost profound. The book has been compared to `A Confederacy of Dunces' and there are certainly some parallels. The main character in both books are obese idlers, who live in fantasy worlds and survive by sponging off others. But Charlie's life is darker (for example, his `adventures' lead directly to two deaths) and unlike the hero of `Confederacy', Charlie does seems to eventually reconcile himself to what he is and accepts a dull, but money-making job as a taxi driver. I enjoyed the book, but I can see why others did not. Charlie is not a likeable character, but you don't have to like him to appreciate his situation, and his evolution is beautifully told by the author and his translator.
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VINE VOICEon 29 November 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book pretty much takes you inside lead character Charlie's head, as he meanders through his life as an overweight, newly-bespectacled, music-humming Austrian student-cum-taxi-driver, who is 87% wimp.

The humour is here. Charlie reminded me of Adrian Mole in parts with some of his wry observations about life as he muses about things. However Charlie's thoughts are more adult as he spends a lot of his time fantasising about the (normally unattainable) women around him (you can see him on the cover chasing a woman). That is until he starts inadvertently killing people which does make his thoughts change to other, more important things.

The narrative is split up a bit with little "note to self" reminders that Charlie puts there if he thinks he has discovered an important tip picked up from his latest deed or thought process or lifestyle magazine. These don't get in the way of the story though. Rather they are there to add another bit of humour.

Then at the very end he has a bit of good fortune to end the book.

Overall then, if you want a book providing an amusing, introverted look at life from a young man's point-of-view then get this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 13 November 2013
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Loved this book. It's a bit of a strange one, this, but that's just how I like it. It's a bit 'stream of consciousness' style, but the main character is talking to himself about himself, it's all 'you decide.... you go to...'. This is a book about a strange young man, with an even stranger family, trying to figure out life. It's awkward, it's funny, it's crazy. I really did enjoy this and will look for the author's other book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Thomas Glavinic is a young Austrian writer who has won various awards and scholarships in his home country. Pull Yourself Together is the third of his books to be translated into English. Its a sort of coming-of-age novel about Austrian teenager Charlie Colustrum, an over-weight boy with bad skin who lives with his alcoholic mother.

The book opens on the night Challenger space shuttle broke up in mid-flight in 1986, and finds Charlie about to lose his virginity with his first girl-friend. We then follow the course of Charlie's youth and young-adulthood through to the night in 2003 when the space-shuttle Columbia broke up on re-entry. I suppose that as far as marking the path of a life goes these markers are as good as any!

Although Charlie's mother is an alcoholic he has a number of close relatives including the "aunticles" (a pair of stern and demanding sisters), and a very old great aunt who acts as a fount of wisdom and a refuge for Charlie when he needs top-ups of unconditional love or much-needed schillings (this is pre-euro days of course).

Each chapter records various events in Charlie's life as he moves through seventeen years of his life. Despite his weight (a constant worry to him), he manages to get through several girl-friends during his progress through college and on to a variety of jobs. The story is told in the first person and Charlie has a self-deprecating, ironic voice which allows the readers to hear his inner commentary on the things which happen to him.

Charlie likes to think of himself as a philosopher and attempts to cover up his sense of inadequacy by wearing a black cloak and carrying around volumes by Nietzsche and Kant. In reality he is consumed with superstitious fears and has an unhealthy dependence on self-help guides. At the end of each chapter he tried to draw a life-lesson from episodes in his life in the form of a "note to self", such a,

- Human sexual relationships are an ill-developed system showing grave deficiencies

- Sometimes when you've made a fool of yourself you've really opened the door to something new

- When you're sitting there consumed with hatred, remember that youth and dependence will someday come to an end.

There are hardly profound insights into life, but they are amusing in the context of the Charlie's mishaps.

This is a humorous book and Thomas Glavinic sets up Charlie with scenes which provide endless scope for appropriate social disasters such as a summer spent going door to door in Germany trying to sign people up as Red Cross donors, or a few weeks spent training to be a taxi-driver. Although I was not over-impressed with the book to start with, I soon got really into the character and found myself racing through the book to find out what happened next. It really is very funny at times.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I mostly enjoyed this book. A coming of age book initially, there is a dark, black humour running through it. More death than you might expect, for a start.
The translation is great, to the point that you get a jolt when German newspapers etc are mentioned. And some of this book is hilarious.
Charlie is a slacker who lives in his head, mostly talking to himself in the style of self help books which he consumes avidly. His patent inability to turn any of the advice ( however bizarre and bad) into reality is part of the humour, as are the farcical jobs he reluctantly takes and situations that ensue.
It does drag in parts, and for me the central character of Charlie irritates too much for me to really enjoy it. But if you enjoyed A Confederacy of Dunces, you probably will enjoy this too. It shares the grotesque characters and dark humour, this book perhaps providing an even sharper commentary on modern living. The self help book industry might squirm a bit...
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Dark comedy as Austrian Karl Kolostrum (Charlie) describes growing up amidst bizarre older relatives - not to mention dog Nero, so intent on raping the cat next door. He longs to impress (unread Nietzsche, Kant and Sartre at hand for all to see), but size is a problem (at one point he hailed as "The Michelin Man").

As the years pass, misadventures multiply - he inadvertently causing deaths en route. Here undoubtedly is a sad case - his instinctive singing and humming unappreciated, an unceasing quest for women with "no rooted objection to corpulence", constant NOTES TO SELF when lessons are learned, escapes into daydreams where at least he can succeed.

Enjoyment of the novel depends on how much the reader warms to Charlie, which I did not particularly - nor to the relatives, friends and acquaintances who quickly grew tiresome. Many, though, may find much to relish. There is certainly an outcome few (if any) will anticipate.
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