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Wuthering Heights

by

3.8 rating

Comment 1: When my book club picked Wuthering Heights, I had the vaguest of notions of what it was about. A romance in the moors, I thought. I recalled a movie trailer from the past, people standing in the rain, staring at each other with smoldering eyes; people standing in the fog, staring at each other with smoldering eyes; people staring at each other, staring, staring, staring. Also a snippet of dialogue popped into my head, overwrought and purple, the twist of phrase that sends teenage lit nerds into paroxysms: “My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”My book club is composed of six guys. We started the book club because we were tired of our wives having all the fun and drinking all the wine at their own gatherings. After our second time cycling through the club, with each member picking a book, Adam’s wife pointed out that we’d yet to read a female author. Adam decided to remedy this by picking Wuthering Heights, which had struck some kind of chord with him in high school. Based on my recollections, as noted above, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. I believed in romance once, a long time and two kids ago, but it’s hard for me to get excited about notions of love resembling the eternal rocks. Lucky for me, this isn’t anything like a typical love story. Wuthering Heights is set in the bleak, chilly, forlorn Yorkshire moors. The story begins in needlessly-complicated fashion with the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, a man named Lockwood – who narrates in the first person – going to meet his landlord Heathcliff, who lives at Wuthering Heights. Lockwood is taken aback at the odd characters he meets at the Heights: the rude, taciturn Heathcliff; a young woman; and a strange young man who appears to be a servant. There is a snowstorm and Lockwood is forced to spend an uncomfortable, nightmare-ridden night at Wuthering Heights. When Lockwood returns to Thrushcross Grange, he asks his housekeeper, Nelly Dean, about the strange goings-on at the Heights. At this point, Nelly takes over the first-person narration to tell the bulk of the story. (In other words, this is a Conrad-esque nested narrative, where there are stories within stories within stories. Frankly, I find this literary technique irritating and confusing. Just use the third-person! It’s much more believable!) Nelly’s sprawling tale begins as a love affair between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. It was Catherine’s father who came upon the homeless Heathcliff while on a trip to Liverpool. He brought Heathcliff back to Wuthering Heights to live with him, Catherine, and Catherine’s brother Hindley. Heathcliff and Hindley don’t like each other, but Catherine and Heathcliff do. A neighbor named Edgar Linton joins this crowd, wooing Catherine. At some point, Heathcliff runs off, Edgar marries Catherine, Heathcliff returns, and the melodrama begins! At this point, I’m going to stop with the plot points. For one, I’m not SparkNotes, or CliffsNotes, if you’re of a certain age (and no, I won’t help you write your term paper). For another, I can’t keep the convolutions straight myself. This is a tangled book, filled with characters who are similarly named (Heathcliff and Hareton, Lindley and Linton, Catherine and Cathy). Suffice to say, there are EMOTIONS involved. Very strong emotions. As in character-in-a-Russian-novel strong. Wuthering Heights is one of those Romantic novels in which spiritual or emotional illness will manifest into a physical illness that can literally kill you. My initial emotion, since we’re on the topic, was one of dislike. I didn't like Wuthering Heights. I did not like the long, tedious introductory chapters narrated by Lockwood. I did not like the characters who all – with the exception of the saintly Nelly Dean – came across as either cruel, stupid, or both. I hated the character of Joseph, an old coot with a religious bent who speaks in an indecipherable colloquial dialect. (At first, I used the annotations at the back of my Penguin edition to translate Joseph’s mutterings. Eventually, up against a book club deadline, I started skipping everything he said). I did not care for the hyper-passionate dialogue, or the occasionally murky prose. The more I thought about it, though, the more I came to respect Wuthering Heights. It is exceptionally sinister, with long sections of the story an epic mind-f—k coordinated by a vengeful Heathcliff. It is psychologically dark, if not especially deep. It is a work of fiction that demands discussion, and explodes with dozens of meanings depending on who is doing the reading. No one will ever know what Emily Bronte intended when she wrote Wuthering Heights. She died shortly after publication, and due to her gender, and her famous sisters, it was sometimes hard to convince people she even wrote it. Regardless, it is a work of imaginative genius. I’ve always loved reading but I’ve always hated being told what to read. It’s my only real authority issues. Even in book club I sometimes get sulky and resentful when certain titles are chosen. I trace this issue back to all my English classes, and all the turgid “classics” I’ve been assigned throughout the years. When I finally finished my last class in a pedagogical era that lasted twenty years, the first thought I had was I can read whatever I want! (True story: after I finished the bar exam, most of my classmates gathered for an epic drunk. I stayed home and fulfilled my dream of reading a book while eating Pizza Hut pizza). Every once in awhile, I’d try to throw a classic into my reading list, mainly for that sense of intellectual superiority that comes with being highbrow, if only for a fleeting moment. The younger, mid-twenties version of myself still felt a residual resentment. I’d read something like Moby Dick and almost be angry at it. Angry at its difficulty; angry that people thought it was so good, and kept saying so, when it was self-evidently so ponderous and syntactically tortured. Now I’m coming to realize the value in wrestling with a book. For the most part, I still value a certain level of clarity when I read, because reading is fundamentally about communication. But the older version of myself can appreciate that extracting the meaning of something is worthwhile in itself. So I fought with Wuthering Heights, and the battle ended as a draw. And unlike Moby Dick, Wuthering Heights did not end up in the fireplace.

Memoirs of a Geisha

by

4.05 rating

Comment 1: Memoirs of a Geisha is an American novel, and as such the attempt at West does East, especially on the complex and delicate subject of the geisha, is compelling, interesting, but also heavy-handed and ultimately ineffective (even more so in the case of the film). It is a wonderful introduction to geisha, Japanese culture, and the East for the uninitiated Western reader, and I can see why the book is popular, but I found it disappointing. For the reader already familiar with the culture, western influences are all too clear and the book comes off as a bit clunky and imperfect. I also had some problems with the general perception of the characters by readers versus the way the characters were actually portrayed in the book--Memoirs is far from the good-willed fairy tale that people assume it is. By all means, read it, but leave it open for critique and remember that a more authentic representation of eastern culture, especially in the details, will come from the east itself.A lot of my critique stems from the fact that this movie has attained such wide-spread fame and been made into a movie, to be sure. I feel like it is being perpetuated as something it is not. Even the introduction to the book (a faux translator's note) perpetuates the myth that Memoirs is an accurate, beautiful, in-depth reflection of the life of a geisha, when in truth it is no more that historical fiction and is written by an outsider. Golden has done his research and is well-educated on his subjects, and I have no problem with people reading from, taking interest in, and even learning from this book; I do, however, think it is important that readers don't conflate the American novel with Japanese reality. They aren't the same thing, no matter how much research Golden did, and if we take the book as an accurate representation we're actually underestimating and undervaluing geisha, Japan, and Japanese culture.Because Golden attempts to write from within the geisha culture, as a Japanese woman, he must do more than report the "facts" of that life--he must also pretend to be a part of it. Pretend he does, acting out a role as if he has studied inflection, script, and motivation. He certainly knows what makes writing "Japanese" but his attempt to mimic it is not entirely successful. The emphasis on elements, the independent sentences, the visual details are too prevalent and too obvious, as if Golden is trying to call our attention to them and thus to the Japanese style of the text. He does manage to draw attention, but to me, at least, what I came away with was the sense that Golden was an American trying really hard to sound Japanese--that is, the effect betrayed the attempt and the obvious attempt ruined the sincerity of the novel, for me. I felt like I was being smacked over the head with beauty! wood! water! kimono! haiku! and I felt insulted and disappointed.The problems that I saw in the text were certainly secondary to the purpose of the text: to entertain, to introduce Western readers to Japanese culture, and to sell books (and eventually a film). They may not be obvious to all readers and they aren't so sever that the book isn't worth reading. I just think readers need to keep in mind that what Golden writes is fiction. Historical fiction, yes, but still fiction, therefore we should look for a true representation of Japanese culture within Japanese culture itself and take Memoirs with a grain of salt.I also had problems with the rushed end of the book, the belief that Sayuri is a honest, good, modest, generous person when she really acts for herself and at harm to others throughout much of the book, the perpetuation of Hatsumomo as unjustified and cruel when she has all the reason in the world, and in general the public belief that Memoirs is some sort of fairy tale when in fact it is heavy-handed, biased, and takes a biased or unrelatistic view toward situations, characters, and love. However, all of those complains are secondary, in my view, to the major complain above, and should be come obvious to the reader.Memoirs goes quickly, is compelling, and makes a good read, and I don't want to sound too unreasonably harsh on it. However, I believe the book has a lot of faults that aren't widely acknowledged and I think we as readers need to keep them in mind. This is an imperfect Western book, and while it may be a fun or good book it is not Japanese, authentic, or entirely well done.

Les Misérables

by

4.11 rating

Comment 1: إنها من تلك اللحظات التي تغلق فيها آخر صفحة من الكتابوتبقى ذاهلا مشدوها مما فيه ..!في البداية كنت أقضي خمس ساعات متفرقة في القراءةفقط لكي أنتهي، ثم أصبحت أقضي الساعات نفسها وزيادةرغبة في الاستمتاع وملاحقة سير الأحداث..قالت لي إحداهن: أنصحك بألا تضيعي وقتك في قراءة مثل هذا الهراءهذه الرواية لا تعدو أن تكون سوى مسلسل تركي تافهبمجرد تصفحها لبضع صفحات قالت رأيها هذا ..وبين همتي الضعيفة لقراءة رواية بهذا الحجم، وبين هذا الرأيكنت أقرأ تحت الإكراه والجبرية نزولا عند رغبة صديقتي أحلامالتي منحتني هذين المجلدين من باب التبادل..الآن ناقمة أشد النقمة على تلك المتفلسفة الرعناء <_<"..لقد رافقتني هذه الرواية في كل مكان تقريباكانت كطفلٍ صغير أضعه على حجري وألقي على  مسامعه تهويداتهي عبارة عن انفعالاتي بين الأحداث.."ثورة البؤساء".. هذا ما أُفضّل إطلاقه على هذه الملحمة الرائعةرواية شوهتها تلك الأفلام والنسخ المختصرة التي تركزت على إظهار جانبوإخفاء جوانب أخرى لا تتجزأ..كل تلك السنين التي قضاها ڤيكتور لإنتاج رائعته لم تذهب سدىفصداها لا يزال يتردد حتى هذه اللحظة..رواية تاريخية اجتماعية اقتصادية مأساوية ..كل بيت وكل شارع وكل بالوعة وكل حجر في فرنسا له تاريخه الذي ساهم بشكل أو بآخر في صياغة هذه الرواية فما بالكم بالشخوص الذين كانوا هم المحرك الأساسي لها..!..جان ڤالجان، كوزيت ، ماريوس، غافروش، وبالطبع المفتش جاڤييرهذه أكثر الشخصيات تأثيرا وأكثر الشخصيات التي غاص فيكتور في مكنوناتها..لحظات اليأس والألم والعوز والحاجة والنشوة والغيرةنزاعات الخير والشر، النور والظلام، الفضيلة والرذيلة، الأنانية وحب الآخرينالقوة والضعف، الرغبة والحاجة، الفقر والغنى الإيمان والإلحاد وغير هذا الكثييير..الثورة الفرنسية، الجمهورية الفرنسية، الشعب ، الوطن، المتشرد والجندالبؤساء والثورة...نعم.. جميعنا وضع ديستوفيسكي محامي الإنسانية وهو وحده من أجاد وصف الإنسان ووصف خلجات الإنسانلكن فيكتور في هذه الملحمة اعتلى قمة المجد واحتل عرشها بل وتربع أيضا....كل ما كان يزعجني في المجلد الأول بت أرائه حسنة من الحسنات وأحد أهم دعائم الروايةتماهيت مع الشخصيات ..أحببت جان اخلاصه يقينه تفانيه بذله للخير وتكفيره للخطاياصراعه مع أفكاره وضميره..وأعجبت بجافيير رغم سلطته ومع هذا كانت للشفقة نصيبها الأكبر في سبيل نهاية جافيير الغريبة..كان ييير اعصابي ويرهقني في كل مرة يخرج فيها أمام جان كعفريت العبلة حتى أن الحماسة تأخذنيوأصرخ غاضبة : ( ولك حِلّ عن هالزلمة بقى ) ^^"أما ماريوس.. فكم نقمت عليه لكن من الجيد أن الحالة لم تأخذ في الاستفحال فهو سرعان ماتدارك خطأه..غافروش.. وموت استشهاده الغنائي كان مؤلما بحق .. أقتبس منها هذا المقطع((بيد أن رصاصة أشد غدراً مصوبة على نحو أفضل من سابقاتها بلغت الطفل الشبيه بالشهاب الغازي. لقد رأوا غافروش يترنح, ثم يقع, وأطلق المتراس كله صيحة, ولكن كان ثمة آنتييوس في هذا القزم, لأن مس المتشرد الرصيف أشبه شيء بمس العملاق الأرض. لم يقع غافروش إلا لينهض من جديد, وظل قاعداً على مؤخرته وقد جرى على وجهه خط من الدم طويل, ورفع ذراعيه في الهواء ونظر إلى الناحية التي أقبلت منها الرصاصة, وبدأ يغني :لقد سقطت على الأرضهذه خطيئة فولتيروأنفي في الساقيةهذه خطيئة ….ولم يكمل. لقد حالت بينه وبين ذلك قذيفة ثانية من القناص نفسه. وهذه المرة خر على الرصيف مكباً على وجهه, ولم يتحرك بعدُ قط. كانت تكل الروح العظيمة قد فاضت.))كوزيت.. كانت خليقة بكل تلك السذاجة والطيبة التي لفت حياتها فما عانته لم يكن قليلا أبدا..ماذا أقول أيضا ؟ وعن ماذا أتحدث؟ بودي أن أسرد التفاصيل وأحللها وأسكب فيها كل ماجال في ذهني وقتهالكن أخشى أن أفسدها بهرائي هذا ..المهم أن هذا التقرير لا يعني في النهاية سوى أن هذه الروايةلم تكن غارقة في الرومانسية بل احترمت خصوصية العاشقين بتلك الوصوف الراقية المذهلة التعبيروصف فيكتور لعلاقة الحب القدسية التي لفت كوزيت ماريوس كأنهما روحان هبطا من الجنةلن أجد مثلها أبدا في كل الكتب .. هذا الاحترام وتلك الحشمة في انتقاء الكلمات تجعلني أتسائلسبب تدني وصوف الكُتّاب إلى حد البذائة والحقارة والتعري الفاضح !!!هذا الريفيو لا يعني سوى أن هذه الرواية أعمق بكثير من كل النسخ المختصرة الأخرىومن كل الأفلام ومن كل الكلام الذي قيل وسيقال عنها..هذه الرواية لا يعبر عنها سوى بقرائتها كاااااملة ....أحلام.. كلمة شكر أخرى أعمق وأكبر أن كنت محقة في رأيكوأنك أثبتي نظريتك في أني سأغير رأيي بهذه الرواية بمجرد قرائتي لهافشكرا لك أن منحتني هذه المتعة المؤلمة... ^^خمس نجو م أمنحها حبا وكرما ..أختم هذا الريفيو بهذه الكلمات التي اختتمت بها هذه الرواية:(( إنه يرقد، بالرغم من غرابة قدره.لقد عاش. لكنه مات عندما فقد ملاكه.الأمر يحدث ببساطة، من تلقاء نفسه،مثلما يأتي الليل عندما يولي النهار.))

The Time Traveler's Wife

by

3.93 rating

Comment 1: I am not a romance reader by nature. That's not to say that I don't enjoy them from time to time, but I just don't usually gravitate toward romance. And to be completely honest, I had absolutely zero intention of reading this book, ever. But then it was chosen as my October Bookclub book, so my intentions just became irrelevant. So, now that I've read it... Umm... Well. I think that this book did have an interesting premise, and in another author's hands, could have been fantastic. But most of the time while reading this, I just kept feeling, well, manipulated and skeptical. All I kept thinking as I read this was how implausible it all was. And I'm not just talking about the time-travel.Just to forewarn you, this long (really long) Ranty McRanter Review may contain spoilery stuff.This book's description says "[...]this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap[...]". Uh huh. "Impossibly romantic trap"? Well. A trap of some kind, anyway. My biggest issue here is that Clare's life has been entirely determined by Henry, with a little help from his unknown ally, the Catholic Church. Henry's told her what her life is and will be: She will be his wife. And because of her Catholic upbringing, the concept of predestination is not at all foreign to her (remember, God has a plan for us all), and so she accepts it as a matter of course. She sees him as her closest friend, the person who knows the most about her in the world, the person who loves her the most in the world, and as a young girl who is just starting to form ideas about romantic love, I'd imagine that to her he's like a God. An all-knowing (he knows her future) but mysterious (because he won't tell her about it, or anything about himself), unconditionally loving (I don't think I need to explain this one), metaphysical or supernatural being (time traveler, remember?), and who is just waiting for her to accept him (well, actually, just to get old enough to do so). I don't think it's much of a stretch, honestly. So, leaving aside the paradox of their relationship technically being impossible (they only meet in the present because of Henry telling her where they will while visiting Clare in the past), it strikes me as incredibly unfair to Clare that from 6 years old, when she meets a naked man claiming to be a time traveler in the meadow near her house, her life becomes tethered to Henry. Now, I can see a 6 year old accepting a story of a time traveler. A 6 year old's imagination is a wild thing, and children can accept and cope with concepts that would drive adults to drink. But as Clare gets older, and learns more about her life with Henry - that they are married, specifically - it becomes less and less plausible to me that someone would be able to accept that.How does she know that he's not lying to her, or manipulating her into the life he claims she will live with him? She doesn't know anything at all about him other than the fact that he shows up naked in her yard repeatedly and claims to be her husband in the future. To me, the time travel itself isn't enough evidence. He could be a time traveler AND a liar. It just seems to me like a waste. A waste of a life that Clare could have had that would have been fulfilling and satisfying without Henry in it. Considering the fleeting nature of their relationship, and the massive extent of time she spent waiting for him, I just don't think it was worth it, and to me, Henry is incredibly selfish for pursuing that life for her.The waiting is just endless... And here's where it gets confusing, because Henry believes that the past can't be changed to affect the future, right? So, 42 year old Henry meeting 6 year old Clare in the past leads to 28 year old Henry meeting 20 year old Clare in the present. It's destined because 42 year old Henry's past contains that meeting at 28. Right? But, Henry's theory is kind of crap because the whole thing is a paradox. He went to a past from a future that couldn't have existed UNLESS he changed the past in order to affect the future. And this is another reason why this book felt manipulate-y. I feel like we're not supposed to examine it in this way, and just read it for the love story and the heartbreaking sadness that this time-travel thing causes in the time traveler's wife's life. We're supposed to see this as an epic romance. We're supposed to see the relationship as the central focus, we're supposed to accept this at face value (as everyone accepts Henry's time travel and 20 years worth of him gallivanting around naked in the Newberry Library without losing his job, which is completely plausible, of course) and not give it too much thought, because if we look too closely, we can see there's not much there. Henry is described as something of a player by everyone but Clare. A cheater, a heartbreaker, emotionally unavailable... yet we never see this. Not one time. Ingrid (who we don't see with Henry in a Clareless present) is the bitter, devastated ex, and whatshername Celia? is the one trying to catch Ingrid on the rebound, so of course she's going to play up the Henry-the-Dog thing. But I don't buy it. Pics or it didn't happen, as they say. If you're going to claim someone's a player, you need to back it up - in real life and in fictional time travel stories. Show him time travel back and interrupt his younger self mid-affair. Then I'd believe it. Whoops!Instead, all we see is Henry the Totally Devoted To Clare. He loves her more than love ever loved love and therefore they are DESTINED, and so it shall be. Henry knows what's going to happen, and therefore he doesn't even try. He just sits back and let's the future come to him. Kendrick's going to be his doctor because he is. It happens because it has already happened. So no need to get all rowdy and make an effort or anything. *Yawn*In fact that's another thing. There's absolutely ZERO conflict in this book. None. Henry gets arrested for indecent exposure on a freeway in 1963? Conveniently he disappears before he's booked. Want something? Take it. Something's weird? Accepted. Family troubles? Just introduce your new wife, then all tension is gone. If there's a snag, it's always a momentary one, and it always works out in the end. UGH. Jeez! Anyway! Where was I? Oh yes, characters. Clare. She is... Well. This is going to be unpopular, but Clare is just an older, slightly (very slightly) less annoying version of Bella Swan. She has no life other than Henry. Her friends become his friends (because it's not like he has any of his own. Oh, wait, his old Korean babysitter counts, I guess). Her life is completely engrossed by his and there's no part of it that is Henryless. She's completely devoted to this guy who had to ship in an extra to appear at his own wedding because he's too unreliable to actually be there in present time. Just the kind of life every girl dreams of on their big day! :DOops, close, but not quite!Supposedly Clare's an artist or something...? Yeah. Something like that. I guess. I live with an artist. And the art TAKES OVER EVERYTHING. There's art and art supplies and potential art supplies and scribbles and drawings and markers and paint and art... just... EVERYWHERE. It's not a hobby, it's a part of the Boy's LIFE. This creative need. So when Clare is described as making stuff like 3 times in the book, complete with step by step directions and an accompanying Create-It-Yourself! shopping list for the reader... it rings false with me. I don't see her as being an artist. I see her as being a toy that Henry picks up and plays with when he's around, and who sits on the shelf and waits for him to come back and play with her again when he's not around. And when it's convenient (aka: will reinforce the romance, like when she sketches Henry), Niffenegger sticks her in a studio with some art supplies and calls her an artist. That's not character development, that's just lazy. Oh but wait, you say, what about the bird sculptures? Oh right, those, how could I forget, because they were so massively important to the story that they were mentioned like one time. Henry's job is mentioned a bazillion times, and Clare's work mentions I could count on one hand. Lazy. For real. The book is called The Time Traveler's WIFE, why is there not more about Clare? Why is there not more TO Clare? And, speaking of shopping lists, seriously, I don't need an entire recipe recitation for each and every meal they eat. And the kinds of meals they eat are ridiculous. I don't believe that a 20 year old and her 2 punk-rock rebel anarchist roommates are drinking merlot and eating wild mushroom risotto. I can't even roll my eyes enough at that shit. But that's not even the best. I mean, Niffenegger's descriptions are insanely long anyway (the quality of the light glinting off of this or that, dew on the thinger I don't care about at all, the texture of the whatchamajig, blah blah blah) but at one point Henry is unpacking groceries and EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM. is listed before getting to the point of the list: a shocker item. THERE WERE 32 ITEMS. THIRTY-EFFING-TWO!! I counted. Unlike Clare, I am not fascinated by celery stalks and cans of creamed corn. So I gave approximately 0% of one shit about 31 of the items that were listed before the SHOCKER ITEM. Gah. Thirty-two. Seriously. Another thing that really bugged me were the miscarriages. There were times that they were written in such a way that I wasn't sure if it was a nightmare of Clare's or reality - I'm still not sure, but I think it was supposed to be reality. I admit to skimming quite a bit, so maybe I missed something. Blood-soaked sheets and bed, and a little tiny fetus breathing its last in her hand? What? Maybe Niffenegger isn't familiar with the stages of fetal development, but lungs are pretty much the last things to develop, so that's just... weird. But then finally, FINALLY Clare gets preggers, with her husband who is time travelling from the past. She cheated on her hubby with her hubby while in bed with her hubby, who is sleeping. But hey, that's OK. They are used to being in bed with each other, eh, 15 year old Henry and 15 year & 6 months old Henry? *elbow nudge*Anyway... Toward the end of the book there are quite a few events that feel manipulative in order to cause a certain event. Henry's feet are important to him. This is drilled into the reader time and again. He runs because he needs to run when he time travels and lands somewhere buck-naked, raising all kinds of suspicions. So of course, something happens to his feet. Not just one, which would have had the same effect, likely, but BOTH. For the shock value. And to me, it was just not necessary at all. Because THE EVENT would probably have happened anyway - it happened in an eyeblink. And the repercussions from that event are... well. We're supposed to be crushed. I think this book is doing it wrong. I won't lie and say that I wasn't affected, though... but it wasn't because of the characters themselves. It was because I imagine myself in the position of losing someone I love, and know how heartbroken I'd have been. But then I get angry, because in the goodbye letter he leaves for her, the one in which he tells her to live her life and be happy, he mentions - just as an aside, you know!- that he visits her in the far flung future. And that leaves her waiting for him again... for 50+ years. How horribly selfish do you have to be to do that to someone? Is that a comfort? I don't think so. I think it's exactly the opposite. It's torture to make someone wait in uncertainty for over half their life for one brief momentary visit. Such a waste, and the more I think about this book, the more I find to dislike in it. It's not romantic, it's depraved. Yeah... so. I could go on, like about how the different perspectives were written and how even with the abrupt shift in POV I could never tell who was narrating unless I either checked or got lucky and one was talking directly to the other, because there was no difference in character voice at all, but the longer I do, the more annoyed I get, and I have better books I could be reading.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

by

4.31 rating

Comment 1: Like diamonds and roses hidden under bomb rubble, this is a story of intense beauty and strength buried under the surface of the cruel and capricious life imposed upon two Afghani women. She remembered Nana saying once that each snowflake was a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how people like us suffer, she'd said. How quietly we endure all that falls upon us. Staggeringly beautiful and deep and rich and sad and frightening and infuriating. There’s a lot I want to say about this book and so I cry your pardon if this review is a bit of a rambler. You should definitely read this book. I’ll probably repeat this again, but I want to make sure I don’t forget to say it. Buy the book and read it.I love good historical fiction, especially when set in places and/or periods of which I am not very familiar. Afghanistan certainly fit that description, which makes me feel a significant amount of personal shame given how intertwined the country has been with the history of the U.S. over the last 30 years. That same time frame is also the primary focus of the novel so I feel like I got a real taste of the history of this mysterious time. That said, the historical events described in the novel are merely spice for the narrative and are clearly not the entrée at this literary feast. However, I would likely recommend this book for the historical component alone even if I didn’t like the rest of the novel…oh, but I did so much like the rest of the novel. The story revolves around two women, Mariam and Laila, born 20 years apart, but whose lives are intertwined through the events of the novel. Mariam (born in 1959) is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy merchant named Jalil who has 3 wives and 9 “legitimate” children. Mariam’s mother, Nana, was a servant in Jalil’s house whose affair with Jalil resulted in Mariam. As you might expect, the 3 wives were less than enthused and Nana and Mariam were forced to live on the outskirts of town, making Nana a bitter often cruel person to Mariam. The other main character is Laila (born in 1978) who lives in the same area as Mariam. Laila’s story begins with her close friendship with a boy named Tariq who loses a leg to a Soviet land mine when he’s 5 years old. Years later, with Kabul under constant rocket attacks, Laila’s family decides to leave the city. During an emotional farewell, Laila and Tariq make love. Later, as her family is preparing to depart Kabul, a rocket kills her parents and severely injures Laila. I don’t want to spoil the plot by giving away too many details, so let me just say that through a series of mostly tragic circumstances, Mariam and Laila both end up married to a serious scumbag named Rasheed. I want to clarify that last remark because I think it goes to the most chilling aspect of the novel for me. One of the novel’s primary strengths is the bright light the author shines on the nasty way women are treated in countries like Afghanistan. Now not being knowledgeable enough about the culture to make a well-informed analysis, I strongly suspect that the character of Rasheed, while made somewhat worse for dramatic effect, is close enough to what was “the norm” as to be positively sickening. Thus, when I say scumbag (which I whole-heartedly mean), part of the emotional impact of Rasheed’s actions came from my not seeing them as cartoonish, but as part of an “institutional evil” that was all too common. Bottom-line, Rasheed is an ignorant, mean-spirited, petty little pile of assbarf who will make even the most serene and passive reader feel like loading the .45 with hollow points and performing a gunpowder enema on his sorry, wretched chair cushion. Anyway, once Mariam and Laila find themselves together, the story deepens as these two women slowly learn first to live with each other and later to depend upon each other as they face almost daily challenges, mostly from their abusive husband. She lived in fear of his shifting moods, his volatile temperament, his insistence on steering even mundane exchanges down a confrontational path that, on occasion, he would resolve with punches, slaps, kicks, and sometimes try to make amends for with polluted apologies, and sometimes not. The lives of these women is an epic journey in every sense of the word and I felt like I was on a journey of my own as I road along with them. While there is much of darkness and pain throughout the book, Hosseini never allows the emotional tone of the story to descend in melodrama. There is little self-pity or wallowing in grief. There is pain, there is loss but there is no surrender. Instead, these women absorb tremendous blows (both figuratively and literally) and continue to live. There is a great passage near the end of the book that I am going to hide with a spoiler because it reveals the final fate of one of the characters, but it is simply a perfect summation of the strength and dignity that is the heart of this story. (view spoiler)[ Mariam wished for so much in those final moments. Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, a guardian. A mother. A person of consequence at last. No. It was not so bad, Mariam thought, that she should die this way. Not so bad. This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate belongings. (hide spoiler)]

The Lovely Bones

by

3.74 rating

Comment 1: This book has single handedly shown me that I spend too much time skimming and not enough time really reading and thinking about the books I have been reading. I have two kids and so I'm busy and I often find myself reading when I am stealing time or tired. But that is not even an excuse for this book. When i read the book I thought it was pretty good. Not great, but not bad. I liked the concept and the fact that the girl was the narrator. I like a murder mystery, so I liked the suspense of waiting to see if the guy would get caught, etc. So when all was said and done and I finished the book, I thought - yeah, okay. Not bad, but not great. Then I went online here and read the other reviews, particularly one by TheDane (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/16...) and I went - HEY!! That's right! I mean, the writing alone is something I should have picked up one had I really been paying attention. Pupils pulsing like olives?? Buttering toast with tears?? Umm... I really must have been distracted or skimming like crazy because that is ridiculous. And the real meaning of the final scene went WAY over my head, which I am somewhat ashamed to admit. When I read it, I really was like, yeah yeah, oh that's sweet she got one night with her boyfriend which she had been cheated of and all. But when you slow down and really think of this, the enormity of that is overwhelming. A young girl who dies after being RAPED. A girl who's first sexual experience was RAPE by an older man. A girl who actually barely knew this boy in her life. This girl can only let go of life after having sex. With that boy. That she really didn't know that well. That alone is enough to send of some big alarms. But then you add that she was allowed to go back to earth - to have sex??? Not see her family, not comfort her father and brother and sister? Not point out the killer?? Nope, heaven lets her go back, then of all times, not earlier when she wanted it more, or could have done more both for justice and her family? So the admission to heaven is teen sex? Really? The way to overcome deep grief and gain acceptance and peace is.. again, teen sex? Wow. I missed out as a teen because that was NOT my experience. Okay, now louder warning bells should have been going off. But the final issue - she takes over the body of a "friend". Without the girl's knowledge or permission. The "friend" who is a lesbian. And uses her body to have sex with a boy. Just taking over her body is a violation. Taking over her body and using that time to have sex is another violation. And to have sex with a boy, knowing that is the antithesis of everything this "friend" would have wanted or agreed to is yet another violation. What the hell??? And none of that gets brought up or mentioned. No, it is a feel good ending. yeah! I mean, I have some pretty close friends - some I have known for at least triple the time these two girls have "known" each other - and if I somehow managed to just steal their bodies and have sex with a woman?? Well, it would be good for me that I was already dead. That is a betrayal in the worst sense on so many levels it is shocking. And what of the possible consequences? Pregnancy? STDs? Never mind the "lesser" consequences of emotional damage, damage to their friendship, the trust issues, etc etc etc????? After thinking about it more and more, I was truly embarrassed to have not seen these dark and disturbing connotations, made all the worse for the fact that the author serves this up as the feel good ending - not noticing the irony at all of having the main character who was raped and violated in turn rape and violate a friend, while denouncing the first act as a heinous crime and lauding the second act as happy ending? So in short, I have learned my lesson and I am now making more of an effort to truly read and then think about what I am reading!!!

Fahrenheit 451

by

3.95 rating

Comment 1: The writing wasn’t great; it was sometimes very boring and hard to go through even with the small amount of pages in the book, although the dialogues were fairly better. The setting was rather weird and badly explained, I thought it would have been better for the readers to have some kind of backstory about this dystopian society. Being so short, I felt the book didn’t really focused a lot in certain themes that should have been explored. They were there, of course, but some more development wou Comment 2: Un libro que con sus personajes y mensajes nos recuerda la importancia de los libros y más aún, de lo que contienen. Tan maravillosos como peligrosos es esta distopia que me encanto. Toca tantos temas y los aborda de una manera tan adecuada que me atrapó sin darme cuenta. Un mundo donde son los bomberos quienes provocan incendios y destruyen libros, pues estos interfieren con la felicidad de las personas y eso al gobierno no le conviene. Montag lleva una existencia monótona, predecible, feliz y Comment 3: Some books are about great ideas, and some are about great characters, with a powerful, well-crafted plot. Some books manage to do both. Farenheit 451, the temperature at which paper will burn, is one of the former kinds of books, I think. Science fiction, it’s a kind of allegory of democratic ideas, a warning to mankind in the shadow of WWII and the Holocaust and Hiroshima, written in 1953, less than a decade after that horrific war ended, and in the midst of the McCarthy hearings, which had a

A Game of Thrones

by

4.43 rating

Comment 1: عندما تلعب صراع العروش..فأنت إما تكسب، وإما تموتهذا أساس اﻷغنية ،أغنية الجليد والنار، و أنشودتها اﻷولي 'لعبة العروش' الملحميةحيث يلعب السادة والحكام حول عرش الملك بالمكائد والخيانة والمؤامرات ..ودائما الأبرياء والشرفاء فقط هم أكثر من يعانيوبأنشغال الحكام بلعبتهم تزحف اﻷخطار مهددة عالمهم ، خطر الغرباء القادمون من أرض الجليد بالشمال , وخطر عودة التنانين ونيرانهم من الشرق..ولتبدأ أغنية الجليد والنارهو عالم كامل بناه المؤلف العبقري جورج آر آر مارتن ,وأبتكر له تاريخه ومعتقداته, جغرافيته وأساطيره..سادته وملوكه, والعرش الحديديسلسلة روايات عن الظلم البشري والعدل.. عن الصراعات علي الحكم والسلطة..الأستخدام الخاطئ للقوة والحكم والدينعن عائلات من الشرفاء وأخري من مشتهي النفوذ والقوة..عن نبلاء حقيقين وأخرين مزيفين..عن الفتيات الرومانسيات الحالمات وعن الفتيات الشجاعاتعن معوق وقزم وابن غير شرعي ..لكنهم أفضل وأشرف من أبناء ملوك والأغنياءكل فصل يروي من وجهة نظر لشخصيات مختلفة تماما, لهم عيوبهم ولكن لهم عمقهمشخصيات مثيرة لها أكثر من بعد شاءت الأقدار أن يفرق بينهم ويجمعهم لعبة العروشقد تكون خيالية تماما ولكن بعض أحداثها تتشابه مع العصور القديمة أو العصور الوسطي وسياستها، ربما تجد فيها من السياسات الحالية، ربما تراها في صراعات العائلات الكبري وحتي العاديةأعترف المؤلف نفسه بأستلهامه بعض الأحداث من وقائع تاريخية .. وملحمات أسطورية أخري سابقة كبناء عالم ضخم كما فعل تولكين .. ولهذا جائت النتيجة النهائية ملحمة متميزة .. مثيرة ولها أبعاد وعمق وفكرة قوية فريدةستشعر أنها كأدب الرحلات , تتجول في خريطتها بين الشمال والجنوب والشرق والغرب..مع ثقافات وعادات وأماكن مختلفة حتي تحفظ خريطتها"ربما أجلت دائما قراءتها لترددي من فكرة دخول عالم ضخم له خرائطه كهذا ولكن صدقني الأمر يستحق , وستجد بنهاية الكتاب الأول أنك حفظت خريطة ذلك العالم كظهر يدك"لغة ليست صعبة , لكن تقلق إذا ما واجهتك صعوبات في البداية ,بعد ذلك ستجد إنك أعتدت مصطلحاتهاأبتكر أيضا لها المؤلف مصطلحات مختلفة لتجعلك تشعر أنك تركت عالمك تماما وصرت في عالم أخر..عالم أغنية الجليد والنار-------------------------ولكنها في نفس الوقت رواية مرهقة ، تروي من خلال وجهة نظر 8 شخصيات مختلفة تماما وكل فصل خاص بشخصية له طرازه وأسلوبه الخاص حتي أحيانا تشعر أنها ليست تروي من نفس المؤلف، حروب مرهقة وصراعات غير شريفة.. غموض وألغاز ...قصص حب حالمة...وروابط أسرية ترهقها الحروب والمؤامراتقد تكون هذه الشخصيات كلها مثيرة وعميقة دراميا..ولكن مازال هناك شخصيات مثيرة أخري ولكن ليس لها فصول خاصة..وستعشقها بالرغم من قسوتها وقبل أن نبدأ بتقييم الأحداث مع الشخصيات الثمانية الرئيسية سويا -لتقليل مساحة الريفيو - أليكم مقال كيف تستمتع بقراءة الروايةسأكتفي بذكر نبذة بسيطة "!!!" عن خيوط وأحداث القصة فقط لمن لم يتابعها من قبل لتكون أساس الريفيوهات التاليةويشرفني الرد علي أي استفسار او توضيح علي قد مااقدر عن اي شخصية او اي حدث في المسلسل في اي وقتفرواية كتلك من الضخامة التي من الصعب ذكر نبذة عن كل خيوطها في ريفيو واحد بحق** الأحـــــداث و الشخصــيات **~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~تستقبل عائلة ستارك من مدينة وينترفال بشمال الممالك السبع ,الملك روبرت والذي جاء وأسرته لزيارة لورد إيدارد ستارك لورد وينترفال كي يعينه كمساعد "يد" الملك بدلا من المساعد الذي توفي مؤخرايتردد إيدارد ستارك في قبول التكليف, خاصا وأنه لا يود ترك أرض الشمال ,فأسرته العريقة من أهم سادة الشمال..ويتطيرون من الإنتقال للجنوبولكن زوجته كاتلين ستارك يصلها رسالة من أختها تشك في أن زوجها , مساعد الملك السابق قد تم إغتياله ولكن من قام بقتله؟ لذلك يقبل أن يذهب...ليفك غموض قاتل صديقه القديم وزوج أخته ,المساعد السابق, وأيضا ليحمي صديقه الأخر الملك روبرت لأن معني إغتيال مساعده أن هناك مؤامرة تحدث في أراضي الملك ضد الملك روبرت تهدف أكيد لإنتزاع العرش منه إيدارد 'نيد' ستارك ------------------هو كما وصفه المؤلف مؤخرا الشخصية اﻷهم ليس بالجزء اﻷول فحسب وإنما السلسلة تقريبا كلها، بالرغم حتي من عدم تواجده في اﻷجزاء اللاحقة..ولكنه هو وزوجاته وأبناءه وحتي ذئابهم من أهم شخصيات الروايةفي 'لعبة العروش' الجزء المروي عن ند ستارك هو الجزء 'البوليسي' بالرواية "اﻷغنية" حيث سيضطر نيد ستارك ترك الشمال و مدينته وينترفيل بناء علي نصيحة زوجته ليقبل منصب يد الملك ليعرف سر مقتل جون آرين ، زوج أختها و يد الملك السابق له...ويبدأ تحقيقاته في بلاط الملك من خلال مجموعة من الشخصيات التي في مجلس الحكم ، شخصيات معقدة ومثيرة وغامضة في نفس الوقت ، فلا يعرف نيد ستارك من معه ومن ضده في ففي بلاط الملك تنسج المؤامرات والتحالفات السرية والخيانة ولكن في طريقه للسر سيجد نفسه مشاركا رغما عنه في لعبة العروش...وكما قال له لورد الهمسات, العنكبوت, فاريس أحد مستشاري الملك “الكاهن اﻷعلي قال لي ذات مرة أنه كما نخطئ ، نعاني. إذا كان هذا حقيقي ، لورد إيدارد، قل لي ..لماذا دائما اﻷبرياء هم أكثر من يعاني عندما تلعبوا أنتم إيها السادة الكبار لعبة العروش خاصتكم؟The High Septon once told me that as we sin, so do we suffer. If that’s true, Lord Eddard, tell me…why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones?"فعلا اﻷبرياء هم من يعاني...ففي لعبة العروش، لعبة السياسة النجسة، للأسف من يلعب بشرف لا يمهله الخبثاءفهل سيكتشف ستارك السر ؟ أم سيعاني هو وأسرته؟----------براندون "بران" ستاركولكن أبن إدارد ستارك الصغير بران عرف السر وراء إغتيال مساعد الملك السابق ..بالصدفة رأي سيرسي الملكة في وضع مخل مع أخيها,حارس الملك مع أنه ذابح الملك السابق المجنون جيمي لانستر والإثنان من عائلة لانستر ,أغني مدينة بالسبع ممالك وللأسف يدفع بران ستارك الثمن قاسيا بشهادته لتلك الواقعة قبل أن يتمكن من الإبلاغ عنها...فلم يعرف أبيه لورد ستارك خطورة ماهو مقدم عليهفكيف ستكون حياة بران ابن إيدارد ستارك ذو السبع سنوات بعد ذلك الحادث الذي سيغير حياته، ربما يكون الجزء المقدم من وجهة نظره ليس طويلا ولكن من خلاله سنتعرف بعض من تاريخ الممالك السبع بالأخص الشمال وأساطيره.. هذا غير ما سيحدث في وينترفيل من بعد رحيل أبيه لمهمته ، وأمه من بعده لتبحث عن سر من حاول إغتياله ----------كاتلين ستارككاتلين ستارك زوجة نيد تضطر لترك وينترفيل لتبلغ زوجها الذي ذهب لبلاط الملك جنوبا عن محاولة إغتيال بران ، وهناك يستقبلها أحد مستشاري الملك 'لورد باليش' 'ليتيلفينجر' والذي كان بينهما ماض حيث تربيا سويا وشغف هو بها حبا، ويخبرها لورد باليش أن المسئول عن محاولة الإغتيال هو تايرون لانيستر او 'القزم' ، أخو الملكة سيرسي، فتحذر كاتلين زوجها قبل أن تتركه لتعود إلي وينترفيل...ولكنها في طريق تقابل تايرون بالصدفة لتنقلب اﻷحداث رأسا علي عقبجزء كاتلين جزء صعب دراميا وأيضا ثري بالأحداث المثيرة لترحالها لأكثر من مكان وفي ظل صراعات كبري فهي الزوجة التي بالرغم من أختلاف أصلها عن زوجها إلا أنها صارت مثله ، قوية وصلبة، وهي اﻷم التي تحاول الثأر لأبنها الصغير، وتقف بجوار أبنها اﻷكبر وتسانده وفي نفس الوقت يتقطع قلبها لبعدها عن بنتيهاوكما نجح المؤلف في وصف كل مشاعر كاتلين المتعددة ، فتجده أيضا يميل للأسهاب في وصف كل الطرق وقلاع وحتي الملابس -وهذا ليس في جزئها فحسب بل في كل الرواية- ولهذا كان جزئها جزء شاق بحق، لوصف رحلتها الصعبة في طرق مختلفة تربط بين شمال المملكة وجنوبها وشرقها وغربها -بلا مبالغة -يكفي أن أبلغك أن هناك10 صفحات وصف طريق صاعد لقلعة فوق جبل حتي تدرك كم هذا الجزء شاق ولكنها لم تكن وحدها في هذا الطريق... بل كان معها المتهم في محاولة أغتيال أبنها، تايرون----------تايرون لانسترتايرون لانيستر هو الشخصية الثرية نسبا ودراميا في تلك الرواية...شخصية حكيمة وهذا يظهر منذ البداية , بالرغم من أنه "قزم" او كما يسخر منه البعض, العفريتصار شخصيتي المفضلة وربما أغلب من يقرأ الرواية سيتيقن أنه شخصية المؤلف المفضلة أيضارحلته أيضا ربطت بين شمال وجنوب وشرق وغرب السبع ممالك، من رحلة لحائط الشمال للحرس اﻷسود كزائر، لقلعة اﻵيري كأسير...ثم كمحارب في...دعنا لانحرق اﻷحداث هناهو القزم ، الذي لم يكن وسيما كأخيه ذابح الملك 'جيمي لانيستر' ولا يحظي بحب أخته الملكة سيرسي ولا أبيه تايون لانسترولكن علي اﻷقل كان أسره سببا كافيا لقلب اﻷحداث في المملكة كلهاقد يكون قزما ولكنه من أذكي شخصيات الرواية وأكثرهم حكمة، وأكثرهم حنكة ودهاء وربما أيضا يشترك مع آل ستارك في الشرف بعكس آل لانسترعاشق للكتب والقراءة ، وربما يبدو في المسلسل كشهواني ولكنه في الكتاب علي اﻷقل أكثر أحتراما واﻷهم، أخلاصا برغم خداع اﻷخرين لهتتميز رحلته مثل كاتلين بالتنوع، اﻷرهاق..بل والحرب بالرغم من عدم خبرته أطلاقا بالمعارك..فهل سينجو من ويلات لعبة العروش؟---------------ونعود ﻵل ستارك سانسا ستاركسانسا ستارك أبنة ستارك الحالمة ذات اﻷثني عشر عاما، تعشق اﻷغاني الحالمة عن شجاعة الفرسان وقصص الحب...تتمني أن تكون حياتها كهذه اﻷغاني، عندما يجري الأتفاق بين الملك روبرت وأبيها ستارك علي قدوم اﻷخير لأراضي الملك وهي برفقته وأختها اﻷصغر ، يجري الاتفاق ايضا علي زواجها من ابنه اﻷكبر جوفري باراثيون عندما تبلغ سن الزواجومن وقتها تزداد أحلامها بالزواج من اﻷمير جوفري الوسيم -الذي يشبه عائلة أمه آل لانستر أكثر من أبيه- ويزداد شغفها بتحقيق أغنيتها الحالمة...ولكن هل تعتقد أن أحلام اﻷبرياء دائما تسير مسارها وقت لعبة العروش؟أعجبني جدا أسلوب المؤلف في الجزء من وجهة نظر سانسا... تشعر كأن المؤلف تغير وتحول لمؤلفة روايات مراهقة فالوصف هنا حالم يليق بفتاة مراهقة تتعلم لكي تكون 'ليدي' وأميرة مستقبلاولكنها سرعان ما تتعلم أن الحياة ليست كاﻷغنيات ... خاصا عندما يبدأ السادة في صراع عروشهم----------------آريا ستاركالجزء اﻷلطف والأجمل ، هي أبنة ستارك الصغري ،عكس اختها الكبري سانسا تماما, فهي ليست ليدي رقيقة تهتم بتعلم الأتيكيت والخياطة , وأنما تهتم جدا بألعاب السيوف والمبارزات واللعب بالسهام بالرغم من معارضة أمها دائما لأسلوبهالكنها تنتقل مع أبيها إلي الجنوب مع أختها سانسا ,حيث يوافق وقتها أبيها علي تعلمها المبارزة بالسيف الذي أهداها أياه أخيها الغير شرعي "جون سنو" قبل أن يذهب لحائط الشمال ولكن ماذا قد يفيد فتاة لم تتجاوز السابعة حتي وإن كانت ماهرة في المبارزة بسيفها "الأبرة" في صراع العروش بسيوفه العملاقة ؟خاصة بتحديها لجوفري براثيون , وكشفها لحقيقته كجبان ومستبد أمام أختها سانساهل سيجعل هذا آريا في خطر وسط لعبة العروش؟--------------جــون سنــوفي الشمال يوجد جدار ضخم...حائط الشمال هكذا يطلقون عليه, بطول أراضي الشمال كلها ويحمي الممالك السبع مما وراء الجدار, من أرض الجليد حيث يعيش قبائل غير متحضرة "بربرية" تحت رعاية ما يسمي ب"ملك ماوراء الجدار" وهم قبائل همجية من وقت لأخر تهجم علي بعض قري الشمال إذا ما تسللوا من خلف الجدار ولكن هناك الكثير من الغرائب وراء الجدار في تلك الأرض الجليدية..نوع من الموتي الأحياء..يظن البعض أنها مجرد أسطورة ولكن في بداية هذا الجزء الأول من أنشودة الجليد والنار يبدو أن الموتي الأحياء أمرا حقيقيا..وخطر يهدد الممالك السبعوهنا يأتي دور الحرس الليلي والذين يحموا الممالك من الهمج ..أو من أي خطر من خلف الجداروفي بداية الأحداث ينضم جون سنو الأبن الغير شرعي الوحيد لأيدارد ستارك للحرس الليلي "الغربان السود" ولينضم مع عمه بينجامين ستارك والذي من فرقة الجوالين بالحرس الليلييشعر جون سنو أنه سيفتقد وينترفيل ,مدينة أسرته في الشمال, ولكن بقرار ذهاب والده ستارك للجنوب سيشعر أنه ليس مرحبا به خاصا مع عدم قبول زوجته "كاتلين" لأبن زوجها غير الشرعي وأيضا هو دائما يشعر أنه ليس ستارك كاملا..فهل سيشعر بذلك عندما يقسم قسم الأخوية مع الحرس الليلي؟المعضلة هنا أنه عندما يذهب عمه للبحث وراء الجدار حول حقيقة الموتي الأحياء "الأخرون" وهروب بعض الهمج من الأراضي خلف الجدار وغزوهم للمدن الشمالية فأنه لايعود بعد فترة..مما يزيد من القلق عما قد يأتي من خلف الجدار..وأرض الجليد جزء جون سنو من الأجزاء التي بها دراما جيدة جدا أيضا لصراعه النفسي كأبن غير شرعي لأحد كبار "لوردات" الشمال ومكانه في الأسرة بين أخوته و أبتعاده عنهم لينضم لحرس الشمالهو من عثر علي ذئاب الشمال الوليدة وجعل لورد ستارك يحتفظ بها لكل أبن من أبناءه الشرعيون ذئبا وأحتفظ هو أيضا بذئب مختلف عن أخوته وكأنه يميزه كأبن غير شرعيالذئاب تلك أيضا لها دور قوي بالأحداث لكل أبناء ستارك وحتي جون سنوهذا غير ما سيواجهه من غرائب في الجدار في ظل الخطر الذي يواجهه الشمال من أرض الجليدجزء ثري أيضا بالمشاعر عن الأخوة والصداقة-----------كل هذه الشخصيات تشترك أحيانا في فصل أو أثنان عدا الشخصية الأخيرةوإلي الشخصية الأخيرة البعيدة عن تلك الشخصيات المتشابكة .. وإن كان لها تأثير نوعا ما في سير الأحداث بالنسبة لنيد ستارك----------دانيريس "داني" تارجيريانفي الشرق ,الدول الشرقية , تتابع د دانيريس تارجاريان وأخيها فيساري رحلتهم البطيئة في محاولة جمع جيشا للعودة والجلوس علي عرش الممالك السبعفقد تم نفيهم منذ صغرهم للقارة الشرقية والمدن السبع الحرة بعد مقتل الملك المجنون , فهم أخر ورثة أسرة تارجاريان, ورثة العرش الحديدي الأصلي ,ملوك السبع ممالك منذ قرون .. وأخر أسرة أصحاب التنانينويصل الأمر بأخيها أن يبيعها كزوجة لزعيم قبيلة الدوراثكي ,قبيلة من ممتطي الجياد ,همجية فقط كي يمنحه جيشا ليعود وجلس علي عرش الملكبينما داني تشعر أن أخيها الأناني القاسي لا يصلح لإعتلاء العرش..ولكنهم أخر خلفاء الملك الغازي..والعرش حقهم الشرعيونتابع رحلتهم بين مدن الشرق بينما حلمهما للعودة لبلادهم ووطنهم لأستعادة كرسي العرش الذي أغتصبه منهم روبرت بارثيونولكن مالا يعرفانه هو أن روبرت بارثيون له جاسوس وسطهم...قد لايتردد في أي لحظة لقتلهما بناء علي أوامره, فكل الغدر متاح عندما يلعب الملوك صراع عروشهممن فتاة لم تبلغ الخامسة عشر ,خاضعة لأخيها العصبي المجنون, الفخور بدماء التنانين التي تجري بدمائهم إلي زوجة زعيم قبيلة همجية كبري..تتطور شخصية دانيريس تارجاريان تطورات مكتوبة بطريقة وجو مختلف تماما عن جو باقي الشخصياترحلة لمدن وحكايات غريبة مختلفة عن الفصول السابقة وعالم وثقافة ومعتقدات جديدةألم أقل لك أن الرواية تشبه أدب الرحلاتوهذا الجزء الثري يكفي أن أخبرك أن المؤلف قام بأستخراجه من الرواية وجعله كرواية قصيرة منفصلة بعنوان "دماء التنين" وحازت علي جائزة أفضل رواية قصيرة عام 1997 قد يعيب هذا الجزء , وأيضا بعض الأجزاء السابقة بعض الأجزاء الجنسية الصريحة ولكنها أقل بمراحل عما في المسلسلتطور شخصية دانيريس في الرواية يوضح أكثر كيف سيكون دورها لاحقا في الأحداثوبالرغم من أنها فتاة صغيرة ولكنها تتعلم الكثير عن الحياة...ولعبة العروش قالت داني " مهما يكن, مازالت عامة الشعب ينتظرونه. الماجيستر إيليروس يقول أنهم يحيكون رايات التنين ويصلّون لفيساري أن يعود من البحر الضيق ليحررهم""عامة الشعب يصلّون للمطر, أطفال أصحاء, وصيف لاينتهي," قال لها سير جوراه . "بالنسبة لهم لا يهتمون عندما يلعب السادة الكبار صراع عروشهم, طالما يتركونهم في سلام , هم لايهتمون أبدا" tDany rode close beside him. “Still,” she said, “the common people are waiting for him. Magister Illyrio says they are sewing dragon banners and praying for Viserys to return from across the narrow sea to free them.”t“The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends,” Ser Jorah told her. “It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.” He gave a shrug. “They never are.”إليس هذا حقيقيا؟كما قلت هي رواية سياسية, درامية, أجتماعية ورومانسيةهي أدب رحلات..أدب سياسي..تاريخي وجغرافي وإن كانت جغرافيا وتاريخ من عالم أخر, موازي..ولكن ستجد المشاعر نفسها في عالمنا, والأحداث السياسية أيضا نفسهاإليس هذا هو جوهر أي رواية ؟ولكن كما قلت هذه ليست رواية..بل أغنية..أغنية الجليد والناروهذا كان أول نشيد بها, صراع العروش "عندما تلعب لعبة العروش, أنت إما تكسب وإما تموت. لايوجد حل وسط"Cersei insisted. “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”وإلي النشيد الثانيمحمد العربيمن 7 مارس 2015إلي 24 مارس 2015"قد يكون وقت قراءة طويل, اللغة صعبة في البداية لكن بمجرد أنتهاءك من نصف الرواية ستجد الأمر أسهل بكثيرولا تنس مقال كيف تستمتع بقراءة الرواية

Lolita

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3.87 rating

Comment 1: Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece.Opening a book is a unique conversation with another, the chance to enter and occupy the headspace of a writer, a character, a voice screaming out into the void. We see life—our own world or fantastic realities that function as elaborate metaphors for our own—through another’s eyes, walk a mile in another’s skin as Atticus Finch would say, and learn that despite the differences between individuals, we are all part of the same chorus of humanity. There has been much research into showing that reading assists the building of empathy in children, and many fine publications such as articles inThe Guardian or a similar one in Scientific American. Reading is a fresh perspective that helps us to shape our own. Lolita, a masterpiece by Vladimir Nabokov, takes us into the mind, heart and soul of a man none of us wish to become, yet Humbert Humbert’s voice is as important to the human comedy as is anyone else’s voice. Nabokov is a master of literary games and jokes, and Lolita is a work of art that often evokes knee-jerk reactions even just by mention of the title, which is precisely what Nabokov loves Nabokov has a fascination with literary games, detail and jokes, and Lolita is a gorgeously complex work that touches on taboo subjects to force our reaction and is loaded with allusions and important details and clues that invite us to play his game and learn. Vanity Fair called Lolita ‘The only convincing love story of our century,’ yet is it the relationship between Hubert and Dolores that is the love story (and tomes could be written debating the topic), or the love of literature? Lolita is a love story to language that soars through the stratosphere with some of the finest attention to detail in prose and plotting to seduce the reader into Humbert’s literary vision of events as justification of the horrors that transpire.I’ve no ideas to exploit, I just like composing riddles with elegant solutions - Nabokov*Nabokov is a supreme maestro of language. Few authors since Joyce have such acute attention to the supreme specifications of each word choice to build the maximum potential of a sentence. ‘I only have words to play with’ insists Humbert, and Nabokov uses words like playthings with the very best of them. Each noun, verb and adjective are precisely picked to elevate the tone of a scene through connotative commentary as well as attention to poetic flow, puns and general atmosphere. Even the names are exquisitely invented, from Lolita chosen for ‘the necessary note of archness and caress’ and the last name Haze being a pun on the German word hase, meaning rabbit, which is suggestive of her as prey. There is also the music of the name Humbert Humbert: the double rumble is, I think, very nasty and suggestive. It is a hateful name for a hateful person. It is also a kingly name, and I needed a royal vibration for Humbert the Fierce and Humbert the Humble. The double rumble also exists with couples like John and Jean or Leslie and Louise to denote a cohesion of two individuals into a cumulative force of The Couple. Nabokov often rejects any interpretation of his work, insisting that it is just sheer creative force with nothing undermining the themes and symbols, a mere game of words being projected onto the page. While this may be a shirking of any Freudian (which he so detested) or deconstructionist interpretation, it is comforting to know that an author would pay such attention to words to build the perfect game board for the reader to immerse themselves in. America comes alive in his words and descriptions as Humbert and his charge travel the nation seeking any excuse for a sightseeing adventure. Even in the author's afterword Nabokov rejects the notion that Lolita is a commentary on America, or an examination of ‘young America debauching Old Europe or vice versa. As intention is often overshadowed by interpretation, the reader may find much to discuss in the matter, but what is most important is to see Nabokov constructing a linguistic America through the observations and experiences of Humbert as he travels. ‘It had taken me some forty years to invent Russia and Western Europe, said Nabokov in an interview discussing the creation of the novel, ‘and now I was faced with a similar task, with a lesser amount of time at my disposal.’ Nabokov set about inventing America in prose in Lolita, drawing on his travels and hotel stays with his wife on a butterfly hunting quest through the states to color the world of Humbert and create a true-to-life game board for his literary puzzles.You can always count on a murder for a fancy prose style.While the scintillating cacophony of words are the invention of Nabokov’s, they are also of and through the character of Humbert Humbert. The aforementioned affection towards naming is part of Humbert’s method of pseudonyms that both protect the ‘real’ in-novel people but also nudge towards Humbert’s own literary bent This is a character that quotes and alludes to an erudite array of fiction in order to seek an authorial immortality of his own by putting his deeds to paper in eloquent fashion, both his immortality and that of his relationship with Dolores: ‘and this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.’ One is left to question the validity of truth—truth of the assertion of the novel as a realistic portrayal of the Novel’s reality—as expressed by its narrator. Humbert is unquestionably an unreliable narrator, much like many of Poe’s narrators such as in The Cask of Amontillado through which every undergrad writes their first essay on unreliable narration.In a kingdom by the sea. The allusions to Poe’s work is highly critical to the understanding of Lolita. As Humbert would wish it to be understood, Humbert’s nymphomania stems from a romance pruned by death with Annabel Leigh during his youthful years. The two star-crossed pre-teens shared a summer fling before her untimely death, leaving Humbert’s sexual attraction stunted to those of similar budding maturity. The name and the constant references to a kingdom by the sea allude to the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe, an author who married his 13 year old cousin. In fact, Humbert repeatedly reminds readers that romance with young girls is rampant in literature, such as Dante and his nine-year-old Beatrice or Lewis Carroll’s (another author frequently alluded to in the text) fixation with young girls, and that many cultures historically saw no qualms with union between man and pre-teen girls. Humbert is attempting to justify his actions by seeking sanctuary in history. However, his history of amourous occasions with Annabel Leigh should be called into question for validity as the aptly named Annabel may only exist in Humbert’s literary vision of how things ‘should be’. Funny how Ms Leigh is only captured in a photograph where she is blurred and indistinguishable, a photograph that Humbert is unable to produce. Perhaps she is merely a justification, a romanticised fantasy befitting of her name.She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.It must be questioned then as to what we can believe from Humbert. Lolita is a name given to Dolores by Humbert alone, her mother preferring the diminutive ‘Lo’ (ponderously parallel to ‘Hum’). We understand Dolores only through the filter of Humbert and rarely do we even see her dialogue other than summarized by him. He insists that she was the one to seduce and sexualize him, but we are not present for the scene. Perhaps the seductive Lolita only exists in the mind of Humbert to accommodate his rationality and distract us, and himself, from the grisly truth of his statutory rape¹. It would be interesting on a re-read to note every time Humbert refers to his step-daughter as Dolores, Lo, Dolly, or Lolita, as she seems to be Lolita only in the sexual moments. While Humbert insists upon his love for Lolita, often to win the heart of the reader by asserting genuine love, his love lands solely upon physical elements. She is repeatedly eyed over for her physical and sexual traits, but never for her personality or intellectual qualities (the latter of which he tends to condescend). The Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘lolita’ as a precociously seductive girl, though a more accurate definition would be a precociously sexual girl as affected by rape. Nabokov teases the knee-jerk reaction in the reader, and while many refuse to read the novel due to it’s taboo sexuality, it is equally disquieting how many thrive on it.²If, as Nabokov insists, the novel is not about the intermingling of Europe and America, perhaps the generational gap is the true investigation. While Humbert and his Lolita may have a relationship, there is an emotional gap of maturation that is evident even to Humbert. He sees in her stories an assertion of maturity that seems comical to adults, and her experimentation with sexuality reeks of juvenility to him, yet he pounces upon it like a lion lurking in the tall weeds. Humbert is highly vain and egotistical, constantly reminding the reader of his good looks. He even tells the reader that he looks similar to a music icon of whom which Dolores has a crush, a Dolores that falls victim to believing every magazine and commercial advertisement that falls her way. While Humbert is much older, he reflects the youth culture of intellectual and physical attraction and uses this to his advantage.[W]e are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader’s mind.If Lolita is a joke, then the reader is the butt of it. As Dolores is seduced by Humbert, so is the reader by his charismatic ways. We are drawn into his world. into his justifications, enamored by his prose and then held in sick bondage to his will. We know that his story is a manifestation, yet we cannot escape it, practically don’t want to escape it as a sort of perverted Stockholm Syndrome. We are even made implicit in his crimes. ‘I need you, the reader, to imagine us, for we don't really exist if you don't,’ he tells us, bringing us into his first sexual experience with Lolita to make us a part of it. If we condemn him, then we must condemn ourselves since we complicit with the act. We are bonded to him and unable to escape by the time we realize he has wooed us with his words as he has wooed Dolores with his looks and intellect. We, the reader, are his judge and jury as he sits in prison with a fatal heart condition (he slips so far into his literary reenactment of his crimes that he writes himself to be literally dying of a broken heart), and he seduces us to both pardon him of his crimes and immortalize both himself and his love-lust for Lolita through our eternal reading and remembrance of him. Everything we read has been tweaked to literary perfection to accommodate his fantasy in our minds. Even Dolly's socks become a metaphor through his retelling. When she is his pure nymphet, her socks are pulled up and pure white. Yet as she fades in his eyes, her socks are always described as rumpled and soiled. Socks are a permeating motif of the novel that is both a indication of Humbert's literary assertions and a thermometer of his passion and opinion of his step-daughter.Nabokov was obsessed with detail. In teaching he insisted upon maps of Dublin or Samsa’s apartment to understand Joyce and Kafka respectively. He made students visualize a train car to understand Anna Karenina. This is the sort of book to rub in the faces of anyone who insists that a blue chair can be a simple blue chair and not a symbol. Those sort of writers, if they are published, are not remembered because we have writers like Nabokov where every blessed word is another beautiful piece to the puzzle. Nabokov invented his literary America to give a map for his character’s to race across, and filled their travels with allusions, names made of anagrams, puns, jokes, and moral investigations. We cannot help but be seduced by Humbert become a further victim in his fantasy of Lolita drawn from the sensuality stolen between the legs of Dolores. While Humbert is a clear villain in a comedy of moral errors³ we realize that his illness is just one facet of him. We must remember when we condemn someone that there are many other facets of their personality and lives that aren’t that unlike our own. This is Nabokov’s joke on us all. ‘The rest is rust and stardust.’100/100I loved you. I was a pentapod monster, but I loved you. I was despicable and brutal, and turpid, and everything, mais je t’aimais, je t’aimais! And there were times when I knew how you felt, and it was hell to know it, my little one. Lolita girl, brave Dolly Schiller.*All quotes from the author, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the interviews and essays of Nabokov collected in Strong Opinions. Furthermore, biographical information on Nabokov is lifted from Speak, Memory.¹ Later in the novel Humbert drops his guard and recalls the sexual relationship between Hum and Lo as her left with hollow, sad eyes. I recall certain moments, let us call them icebergs in paradise, when after having had my fill of her –after fabulous, insane exertions that left me limp and azure-barred–I would gather her in my arms with, at last, a mute moan of human tenderness (her skin glistening in the neon light coming from the paved court through the slits in the blind, her soot-black lashes matted, her grave gray eyes more vacant than ever–for all the world a little patient still in the confusion of a drug after a major operation)–and the tenderness would deepen to shame and despair, and I would lull and rock my lone light Lolita in my marble arms, and moan in her warm hair, and caress her at random and mutely ask her blessing, and at the peak of this human agonized selfless tendernessThere is a sense of remorse for his actions that sprout through his narrative in the later portion of the novel and ask us to rethink our earlier perceptions. This account of intercourse reveals one that is not as one of willful harmony but aggressive assertion of dominance over a passive partner. ² Perhaps more people thrive on the Humbert justification than we’d like to admit, or at least have learned how to capitalize on it. The New Republic once ran a fascinating article highly worth reading that addresses the ‘lolita culture’ in today’s world of pop icons like Brittany Spears posing with a teddy bear in the nude (we acknowledge that she is not underaged but invokes the image of a young girl) or Katy Perry singing about copulation in a living room blanket fort like a child. Also of interest in the article is the town of Lolita, Texas where officials considered changing the town name to distance themselves from the novel.³ This novel is essentially a comedy, and is quite funny when you let your guard down. However, it is also a tragedy. Martin Amis provides a wonderful introduction that points out that the tragedy is not Humbert’s fate, which he deserves, or his murder of Quilty. Nobody seems to pass judgement on his murder, enacted in a sick yet hilariously slapstick scene. The true tragedy is Dolores in her role as Lolita. ‘He broke my heart. You merely broke my life.’

The Pillars of the Earth

by

4.27 rating

Comment 1: I did not hate this book (hate would be too strong a word, and I can't hate it because I applaud the fact that Ken Follett attempted to write an epic novel). But I did not like it. I didn't like it from the start; his writing style hit me like a brick, but Jim thoroughly enjoyed the book that I kept trying to convince myself that I ought to give it a chance, hoping it would get better. When I was about 500 pages in, he saw how miserable I was and asked why I didn't just stop reading it, but at that point, I was invested in it; I had spent all that time getting that far, that I needed to finish it, and I couldn't wait to come to the end. I kept counting down: "Only 450 pages left; only 300 to go; last 200 pages...yay, I have 50 pages left!" Those fifty pages were the toughest to get through. By the time I was at the end, I thought it was a wasted effort - both on his part and mine. It's so much easier to explicate on what I did not like because there were so many things: - I loathed the writing style (he vacillated between pages and pages of highly complex architectural discourses to third-grade level simple sentences grouped into short paragraphs). Sometimes it was bearable. Other times, I wanted to pull my hair out. There were times when I felt the only time he came alive as an author was when he was discussing architecture, but these parts were so didactic in nature that it couldn't hold my interest for long periods of time.- I did not like the author's narrative style. He had to tie everything together (causality was so prevalent throughout the text that I wondered how he didn't work in how the killing of a fly affected events 60 years later). Every single storyline was wrapped up - too neatly for my liking, in some cases. Everyone was tied to someone else (it was like playing Six Degrees); every single character had to have a denouement; every little plot twist had to be explained; closure had to be achieved, no matter how preposterous the circumstances, over time and space.- The characterization was poor. In fact, it was appalling how two-dimensional these characters were. Good people were good. Bad people were loathsome. As time went on, the good were always suffering one thing or another; they were put upon; they were harrassed; they were constantly challenged and put to the test like Job (something Follett actually used as a sermon!). The badfolk became more oppressive over time; they were not only detestable, but they had absolutely no redeeming qualities. And to go with a typical medieval stereotype, the good were always excessively beautiful, honorable, intelligent (geniuses or savants, even!) - and if they weren't rich, they would be at the end (I half expected Havelok the Dane and his refrigerator mouth to pop up somewhere, proving once and for all that in the medieval period, to be good was to have the purest light shining out of your mouth each time you opened it). Nevertheless, the bad became uglier, became more despotic, scheming throughout life to get the better of their enemies (the goodfolk). But in the end, good always triumphed over evil; those who could, repented and were forgiven. Those who couldn't, were killed off somehow, because apparently, death is the only way an evil person gets his (or her) dues. And then everyone had a happy ending. I hate happy endings when they're so obviously contrived. And this work was so elaborately, exhaustively, thoroughly contrived. (Maybe it's not too late for me to change my mind and say I hated it. *grin*)- Historically speaking, there was so much left to be desired. Granted, this novel was written two decades ago, and there have been new discoveries about the medieval period since Follett started his research. But he got it all wrong anyhow. His idea of medieval life was so...off, that it hurt my head to continue reading sometimes. I had to pause periodically and rant to Jim about what I currently found off-putting (for example, there weren't many literate people at the time; at the time this novel was set, there was still a distinct divide between England and Wales; reading and writing were two separate skill sets, and people who knew how to read did not necessarily know how to write and vice versa; orality was a prevalent part of storytelling back then and books not so much and yet somehow, he conflated much of both; manuscript writing was either orally dictated or copied tediously by the monks - his concept of a scriptorium was incomplete, defective - and there has been so much written about this that it saddened me; he used modern translations of medieval poetical/verse works and couldn't explain even alliterative verse form effectively - I even wonder if he knew what it was; his understanding of the languages of the period - Old English, Middle English, Latin, Norman French, Old French, Middle French, etc. - and what was spoken by the aristocrats vs. the peasants vs. the growing middle classes disgusts me; he showed a lack of understanding of medieval law, medieval rights, the social classes, gender roles, even the tales and legends of the period, in both England and France; priests were quite low on the totem pole, in terms of the religious hierarchy, and were quite disparaged yet somehow, that didn't quite come across in this novel...I could go on and on, but I won't). And the historical part of the novel I just found lacking. There are enough histories and chronicles, contemporaneously written, of the time, that he did not have to deviate much from history. There is so much written about the period between the death of Henry I through the civil wars between the Empress Matilda and King Stephen, to the time that Henry II ascended the throne (including the martyrdom of Thomas a Beckett), that I don't quite understand how he couldn't have mined the chronicles for better material. I understand that this is why it's called historical fiction, and that there will always be some element of fiction interspersed with historical fact. But the fictional aspects usually have to do with surrounding characters and situations that bolster the history. The fiction is not necessarily to the history itself. Many times, when writing historical fiction, the author has to beware the pitfalls of creating a revisionist retelling, interspersing his or her own ideals or beliefs of what should have been to what was. If this novel had been marketed as a revisionary narrative, it would have been okay. But it wasn't. I'm just glad that the historical aspect of the novel just served as the background and not the real story. Because then, I probably would've stopped reading.The premise was a good one and held a lot of promise. It could've been a great historical epic had it been handled by a more assured writer. By someone who was more of a visionary, someone who had the patience to do exhaustive research or who knew how to craft richly developed characters. It needed an author who understood the epic genre, who knew how to mold the epic, who knew how to keep the narrative going, seemlessly binding time with narration and the human condition, without resorting to stereotypes and grating drama. And most importantly, it needed someone who understood when the story had been told; that while there will always be other stories to tell, that each book has its own natural end, and that these stories may not belong in this book.Ken Follett may be a bestselling author of suspense novels (and even historical fiction such as Pillars of the Earth and World without End), but he is no writer of epics. Compared to writers of historical fiction such as Edward Rutherford, James Michener, Bernard Cornwell or Margaret George, Ken Follett has a long way to go.

Frankenstein

by

3.72 rating

Comment 1: Spoilers!Frankenstein is the first book written by Mary Shelley (daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, friend of Lord Byron), and her most famous. First published in 1818, she later revised it for its second printing in 1823, adding a preface that cleared up conjecture as to what she was writing about, changing the relationship of Elizabeth to the family (in the original, she is Victor Frankenstein's cousin, in the second she has no blood relation but was adopted by the family) to remove any suggestion of incest, and she also removed any hint that Frankenstein created the creature out of vice.If you're not familiar with the story as Shelley wrote it, Frankenstein is about a young Swiss man, Dr Victor Frankenstein, who is a student of the natural sciences. He becomes absorbed by the idea of creating a living being and spends two years collecting body parts from the deceased and feverishly working in his laboratory. But when he instils it with life and it wakes and looks upon its creator, Victor is horrified and flees from his creation.He spends months in illness, nursed by his best friend Henry Clavel, before returning to his father's home in Geneva, Switzerland, where his two brothers, Earnest and William, and his adopted sister Elizabeth live (his mother has already passed away). Before leaving Ingolstadt in Germany, where he was living and studying at the university, he receives a letter from his father telling him that his little brother William has been murdered. On his arrival to his home town, he sees his creature in the dark wilderness, and becomes convinced it murdered William. A servant girl, Justine, is accused and hanged for the crime, and Victor goes traipsing off into the wilderness with his depression. He encounters the creature, who begs him to listen to his story, and we learn what has passed with the monster since Victor created and abandoned it. It is a heart-breaking story, and goes some way to explaining the monster's mind.The monster's main purpose in telling Victor his story is to beg him to create a companion for him, a woman of his own species. Victor at first agrees, going to Britain with Henry and collecting new body parts. But he destroys the being before bringing it to life, and in retribution the monster kills Henry. Victor is accused, and spends some months in an Irish gaol before being released. Upon returning home to Geneva with his father, he marries Elizabeth, who the creature strangles to death on their wedding night. His father dies from the shock of all these tragedies, and Victor chases after the monster, determined to end it once and for all. The chase takes them to the northern Alps, and continues across the ice in sleds, before Victor is rescued from an accident and taken on board a ship that has been trapped in the ice. He tells the Captain his story, who writes it all down to send to his sister back home, before he weakens and dies. The monster returns and pledges his own suicide by fire, since there is no more reason for him to live.I did enjoy this, though it's not an easy read in the sense that the writing style is, for want of a better word, awkward, often clumsy. When I think about it, it's accurate enough for a story retold by one man (Captain Waldon), as told from memory by another (Victor), who in turn retells other people's stories (namely, the monster's). In such a case, details are bound to get lost in the retelling, though of course the dialogue is accurately remembered. But it does make it hard going at times: I kept getting pulled up short by glaring omissions, or confusing jumps. As someone in my bookclub put it, the story is good, the book not so great.Frankenstein could easily be described as timeless, since there's little that anchors it firmly in the period in which it is set (1700s), and you can read all sorts of relevant themes into it. Shelley apparently wrote it as a warning to scientists and against the Industrial Revolution in general, reminding them that they are not God and of the dangers of over-reaching themselves. I would take it a step further, and say it is a warning against not taking responsibility for your actions, especially those of science in delving into new and strange areas (like nuclear weapons, cloning etc.). Right up to the end, Victor thinks he is blameless:During these last days, I have been occupied in examining my past conduct; nor do I find it blamable. In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature, and was bound towards him, to assure, as far as was in my power, his happiness and well-being. This was my duty, but there was another paramount to that. My duties towards the beings of my own species had greater claims to my attention, because they included a greater proportion of happiness and misery. (p.235) So although he can acknowledge that he was responsible for the creature, he does not see any connection between his neglect of the monster and the way the monster turned out. In other words, if he had stayed by the creature's side, taught him ethics, morals etc., he would have preserved the lives of his own loved ones and the greater populace in general.The nameless creature was abandoned by Victor because it was ugly. That's it: he was f'ugly:I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room. (p.51-2) Talk about shallow. The creature, left to his own devices, with no language and no knowledge but that Victor is his creator, yearns to be loved and wanted. Stumbling through the countryside, he discovers fire, discovers berries and things to eat, but is persecuted and beaten by any humans he comes across. He tries so hard, and while he does not make the best decisions, he has the mind of a child in a giant's body, and with his unusual circumstances should hardly be judged along the same lines as anyone else. Victor creates a monster by seeing only a monster, without taking the time to learn its true nature, as does everyone else. They could not look beyond appearances. Even today, we would probably react in the same way: that doesn't make it any less our fault for creating a being with so many faults. In this case, it is the lack of nurture - i.e. it's environment - that created the ture monster, not nature. It's not that I seek to justify the murders the creature committed. But the creature wasn't born evil, he was turned evil by humans. Grrr. I just didn't like Victor and wish he had been more accountable for being so irresponsible. Yes, he was young, enthusiastic, and thought he could take God's place:A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. (p.47)This is the meaning behind the subtitle: the Modern Prometheus. Prometheus was a Titan whom Zeus punished eternally for creating men out of clay, and bringing fire from the heavens and gifting it to humans. Zeus chained him to a rock and every day a bird would peck out his liver, only to have it grow back so the next day a bird could do it again. Nice. So is the loss of Victor's family, his best friend, and his bright future his punishment?Another reason why I don't like Victor Frankenstein is that he is so selfish, arrogant, self-centred, self-indulgent, melodramatic and egotistical. Aside from wanting to bring dead body parts to life so that he could be worshipped like a God, the fate of Justine, for example, brings out his true character:Despair! Who dared talk of that? The poor victim [Justine:], who on the morrow was to pass the awful boundary between life and death, felt not as I did, such deep and bitter agony. (p.87)Yes, not even poor innocent Justine, sent to the gallows for a crime wholly Victor's fault, suffered as much as he. He could have stepped in and confessed, but did not want people to think him mad. Add "proud" to the list of his sins if you please. Later, he marries Elizabeth, despite the monster's threat that he will come to him on his marriage-day. It's always about him, he doesn't notice the pattern of the monster murdering his family and friends in order to make him feel this misery, and so realise it's his bride the monster will target: no, it's all about him, Victor. He marries Elizabeth, making her just as miserable as he is, and took her to a secluded place where he intended to go head-to-head with the monster, only to find Elizabeth strangled to death in the bedroom. He puts people in danger, then whines about how miserable and wretched he feels when they die, yet doesn't seem to regret anything.This is just my take on the book, and like true art, it can be read in a number of ways. It's definitely a good idea to read the book to know the story, though, because the movies that have been made about Frankenstein since the 1920s are way off the mark. Though I would imagine studying the popular culture side of the story would be just as fascinating as studying the book itself. A note about this edition: This is a handsome book, with nice thickish yellowish old-style paper and print, it looks exactly like how it was originally published. But there are no notes or appendices or introduction, so if you're studying this book you might want to get a different edition. It's also the revised edition, not the original 1818 one, though the revised one is more common now.

My Sister's Keeper

by

4.04 rating

Comment 1: If you haven't read the book it's about a girl (Kate) with leukemia whose parents had a second genetically matched child (Anna) to help with blood and bone marrow to save their first daughter. As the girls grow up, more and more is required of Anna until she's had enough of being nothing but an organ donor. There are a lot of interesting points in the book, like what do you do when you have to pick one child over another, how do you balance your time and love between children especially when one requires more from you, and at what age can you be responsible enough to make choices about your own body instead of letting your parents word go as law. Even at a young age, a child's sense of self and decision making should always be respected. Even a three-year-old should be asked, not even such catastrophic questions as do you want to donate blood, but would you like to give your teddy bear away. If a child even considers emancipation, then you have crossed the line. Use your persuasion skills with children, not force or games. When you read a second book by an author it's easier to pay attention to the writing style and not get so carried away with the story. Her techniques were a distraction from the story. Picoult is very good at doing research to get statistics on paper, but that's all her characters feel like it. None of these characters had a real breathing personality. They were just stereotypes of what she wanted to portray and therefore not very deep. Even the little memories of the girl's childhood felt like stock photographs set to these vague lives. Throw in a politically correct tendency to add variety to your characters with random stereotypes and I enjoyed the story more for the case study it could be then the story it was. The character I enjoyed the most in the book was Jesse, the older brother who had fallen off the deep end in an attempt to get his parent's attention and still went unnoticed. I liked the quiet things he set about doing to help his sisters. Although I did not find him very well developed, I liked the father, Brian, too. I think he truly did love both his daughters and wanted to set out to do good by both of them. Even though Sara kept saying she loved both her daughters, I failed to find the evidence. All I got was a brazen woman who bullied everyone, especially Anna, into saving the only daughter she did care about. I found her completely unsympathetic, even the chapters written in her perspective, especially then. When she told Anna she couldn't go to hockey camp because she had to be around in case Kate when into relapse, I was disgusted. Yes a sick child would take up more time and emotion, but not to the exclusion of other children. How hard is it to yank Anna out of camp if necessary? Picoult wanted to show a woman who loved both her daughters but had to make tough decisions in order to keep both of them alive, but it fell flat. She tried to credit her with too many contradictory emotions and never fully justified her behavior. I wasn't satisfied with the family dynamics. I found the emotional neglect completely at odds with the scenes of a loving huggy family Picoult threw in to convince us that it was a good family with good intentions. Sara and Anna constantly saying they loved each other just didn't jive with the way Sara treated Anna. I could not picture this child on the verge of growing up wrapped up in her mother's arms when she's being scolded and manipulated by that very woman. But if I found Sara a hard character to pin down, I found Anna even more elusive. Again, too many contradictory motives that just didn't make sense. I got why Anna and Kate loved each other, but I didn't get why the rest of the family did. I think the idea of the story was a good concept, but I think it was under developed. Spoiler:I found the twist at the end unnecessary. I keep asking myself it is the most tragically beautiful ending and I'm not sure it is. Even though I get the point of it, I think I would have rather had a resolution that required a decision, a choice. I liked what Kate said at the end that Anna took her place and how it showed how much of a shadow she was, but it felt a little like a cop out. I want to know what Anna would have done and how her parents would have reacted if she said no or how belittled she would have felt had she said yes.

The Kite Runner

by

4.22 rating

Comment 1: Finished this book about a month ago but it's taken me this long to write a review about it because I have such mixed feelings about it. It was a deeply affecting novel, but mostly not in a good way. I really wanted to like it, but the more I think about what I didn't like about the book, the more it bothers me. I even downgraded this review from two stars to one from the time I started writing it to the time I finished.Let's start off with the good, shall we? The writing itself was pretty good when it comes to description, in that I really felt the author's descriptions of scenes, and in terms of moving the story forward. That said, it's not particularly challenging writing to read.The very best part of the novel is its warm depiction of the mixed culture of Afghanistan, and how it conveys the picture of a real Afghanistan as a living place, before the coup, the Soviet invasion, and above all, the Taliban and the aftermath of September 11th created a fossilized image in the US of a failed state, petrified in "backwardness" and locked in the role of a villain from central casting. Now for the not so good.== Spoiler Alert ==... because I don't think I'm going to be able to complain about what I didn't like about the book without revealing major plot points. (Not to mention, some of what follows will only make sense to someone who has read the book.) So if you don't want to spoil it for yourself, read no further, here be spoilers:My overwhelming emotion throughout the book is feeling entirely manipulated. Of course, one major reason for this is that the author's attempts at metaphor, allegory, and forshadowing are utterly ham-fisted. When he wants to make a point, he hits you over the head with it, hard -- Amir's split lip / Hassan's cleft palate comes immediately, resoundingly to mind.But I feel manipulated beyond that. The members of the servant class in this story suffer tragic, unspeakable calamities, sometimes at the hands of our fine hero, and yet the novel seems to expect the reader to reserve her sympathies for the "wronged" privileged child, beating his breast over the emotional pain of living with the wounds he has selfishly inflicted upon others. How, why, am I supposed to feel worse for him as he feels bad about what he has done to others? Rather than feeling most sympathy and kinship for those who, through absolutely no fault of their own, must suffer, not just once or twice, but again and again? Of course this elevation of / identification with the "wounded"/flawed hero goes hand in hand with an absolutely detestable portrayal of the members of the servant class as being at their utmost happiest when they are being their most servile and utterly subjugating their own needs, wants, desires, pleasures -- their own selves, in fact -- to the needs of their masters. (Even when they are protecting their masters from their own arrogance, heartlessness, or downright stupidity.)I don't see how the main character, Amir, could possibly be likeable. Amir's battle with Assef, momentous as it is, is not so much him taking a stand because he feels driven to do so or feels that he must. Rather, he acts with very little self-agency at all -- he is more or less merely carried forward into events. (And, moreover, in the end it is Sohrab (Hassan again) who saves him.) I finished the novel resenting Amir, and even more intensely resenting the author for trying to make the reader think she's supposed to care about Amir, more than about anyone else in the story.A couple other points: I'm wondering if one theme of the novel is that there are no definitive happy endings, no single immutable moments of epiphany or redemption. Because Amir's moral "triumph", such as it is, over Assef, is so short-lived. He manages to crash horrifically only a week or two later, when he goes back on his word to Sohrab about his promise not to send him to an orphanage.And lastly, I don't understand why Baba's hypocrisy is not more of a theme. He makes such a point of drilling into his son's head that a lie is a theft of one's right to the truth. His own hipocrisy there is a profound thing, and it's a shame the author doesn't do more with it. Nevertheless, after all the bad things I had to say about it, I do have a couple quotes worth keeping:"Every woman needed a husband. Even if he did silence the song in her." (p.178)"'That's the real Afghanistan, Agha sahib. That's the Afghanistan I know. You? You've always been a tourist here, you just didn't know it.'" (p. 232)=== UPDATE ===I originally posted my review The Kite Runner in February 2008. Since then, my review has generated a very robust response from other Goodreads members. I have responded a couple of times in the comments section, but I realize that by now, the comments section has gotten long enough that some folks may not realize that I have added some clarifications to my review. So, although the extended reply that I posted in the comments section in October 2008 is still available in the comments section, I am re-posting it here, so people don't miss it.I also want to offer my continued thanks to those who have read, liked, and/or comment on my review of The Kite Runner. This kind of back-and-forth conversation on books is exactly why I signed on to Goodreads! I appreciate the feedback, and look forward to engaging in more such discussion. Finally, one more quick reply. One recent commenter asked how I could have given this book only a 1 star rating, if I was so affected by it. As I replied in the comments, the short answer is that I am guided by Goodread's prompts when I rate a book. Two stars is "It was OK;" 1 star is "I didn't like it." While I have praised a few things about the book, the bottom line is, overall, I didn't like it. -- Linda, 22 July 2011Posted 24 October 2008:There have been many comments to my review since I first wrote it, and I thought it might be about time for me to weigh in for a moment.Before I get into my response, I must start off with a great thank you for all those who have felt sufficiently moved (positively or negatively) by my review to comment and respond. I appreciate all the comments, whether I agree with them or not.First of all, I'd like to address the question of whether we're "supposed" to like Amir or not. Yes, I do realize that sometimes writers create and/or focus on a character that the reader is not meant to like. Here, though, the story is clearly meant to be about some kind of redemption -- but I found Amir so distasteful, that I simply wasn't interested in his redemption. The focus of the story was entirely on how Amir's life had been corrupted by the despicable things he'd done - when the things he'd done were entirely part and parcel of the position of power and privilege he occupied over Hassan.Which brings me to my second point, the insufferable current of paternalism that runs throughout the story. The members of the servant and poorer classes are consistently portrayed as saintly, absurdly self-sacrificing, one-dimensional characters. Regardless of what terrible things befall them, they are shown to have nothing but their masters' interests at heart. Granted, it may be unlikely that the powerless would be overtly talking back and setting their masters straight; however, the novel gives no indication that they even have any private wishes of recrimination, or much of a private life, for that matter. Given this portrayal, it is even more difficult for me to muster any interest in Amir's suffering. But to suggest that perhaps we're misinterpreting the servants' subservient attitudes because we approach the story from a different time, place, or culture, is simply to engage in a cultural relativism borne out of -- and perpetuating -- the very same paternalism.To clarify my point, let's look at some comparable examples from US culture. Consider any one of a huge number of films such as Driving Miss Daisy, Clara's Heart, Bagger Vance, or Ghost (all simply continuing a tradition that reaches back to Shirley Temple's days) in which noble servants or similar helpers have absolutely no concern in their lives other than making sure the wealthy people they are serving have happy, fulfilled lives -- while they themselves never seem to have any of their own personal hopes, desires, triumphs, tragedies, or even any hint of a home, family, personal, or romantic life at all. Their total happiness is bound up entirely with serving the lives of their rich counterparts. It is this quality, present throughout Hosseini's book, that bothers me most.In the end, however, a beautifully written story could have overcome these criticisms -- or at the very least, I would have been able to temper or counter my points above with lavish praise for the writing. However, here, again, the novel falls flat. It is not particularly well-written. As some other commenters have also pointed out, the storytelling is quite heavy-handed, and the narrative suffers from implausible plot twists and uncanny coincidences, and a writing style that relies far too heavily on cliches and obvious literary devices.I wish that I could say I liked the book more. To answer [another commenter's] question, I haven't read A Thousand Splendid Suns; I'm afraid I wasn't particularly motivated to do so after my reaction to this one. However, I do believe, as that commenter also suggests, that there is something to be gained from the debate and discussion that the book has inspired.

The Color Purple

by

4.14 rating

Comment 1: This is one of my new favorite books.The Color Purple tells the story of Celie, a black woman who finds herself in one abusive situation after another. Her stepfather molests her, her husband beats her, and she is worn down by bearing and caring for children. Over the course of the book, however, Celie learns to stand up for herself and, more importantly, learns to love. Celie's personal development is prompted by her relationship with Shug Avery, a singer and her husband's former lover, who comes to live with them for a while during an illness. Their relationship shifts dramatically, from competitors for Celie's husband to friends, then lovers, and finally family. As Shug says, "Us each other's peoples now" (189). Her personal development is helped along even further through her correspondence with her sister Nettie, who is working as a missionary in Africa with Celie's children that she was forced to give away. Through Shug, Celie learns about love, physical pleasure and desire, and the possibilities of creative outlets; through Nettie, Celie learns about the larger world and begins to see that her life is only one of many possibilities. She learns that her life could be different and through that gradual realization, she makes her life different.Some of this may sound corny, but it really, truly works in this novel. Walker is able to provide a vision of redeeming love that isn't simplistic or even easy for the characters involved. Celie's growth comes with pain, as does the growth of her formerly abusive husband into a real human being who is able to love both Celie and Shug and his children in a way that he could not before. What is most meaningful or moving for me in this book, though, is the vision of God and faith that Walker provides. At one point in the book, Celie announces that she no longer believes in God. She tells Shug, "the God I been praying and writing to is a man. And act just like all the other mens I know. Trifling, forgitful and lowdown" (199). Shug responds by telling her about her form of God. She says, "God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. . . . God ain't a he or a she, but a It" (202). Furthermore, she describes her experience of God by saying, "one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. . . . It sort of like you know what, she say, grinning and rubbing high up on my thigh" (203). For Shug, God is love, joy, pleasure, beauty. God wants admiration and wants us to enjoy the things it has created. "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it" (203). This kind of pantheistic version of God in nature and in our experiences is one that resonates with me and one that provides plenty of opportunities to use religion in positive, life-affirming ways (as opposed to the sometimes frightening ways in which traditional religion--with its white male God and its proscriptions against sex and other forms of pleasure--can be used). This version of God is not distant and judgmental; it is internal and pleasurable, creative. Shug illustrates one way in which this God can be useful: "Whenever you trying to pray, and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lost, say Shug. Conjure up flowers, wind, water, a big rock. But this hard work, let me tell you. He been there so long, he don't want to budge. He threaten lightening, floods and earthquakes. Us fight. I hardly pray at all. Every time I conjure up a rock, I throw it" (204). In this way, prayer and God become part of a larger struggle for self-determination and the ability for women like Celie to fight back and claim their own lives back from those who would abuse them or take advantage of them. Some people object to The Color Purple on the grounds of its pantheism or its lesbianism or its frank sexuality or its violence and abuse or its representation of men. Some people see Celie's attitude toward men (she is totally uninterested at best, with the exception of the friendship that finally develops between her and her husband--and that bonding occurs over how much they both love Shug) as a condemnation of men in general. But Walker's real concern here is love--love for oneself, love for others, and love received from others. As Celie's husband says while they sit and talk and sew together, "When it comes to what folks do together with they bodies . . . anybody's guess is as good as mine. But when you talk about love I don't have to guess. I have love and I have been love. And I thank God he let me gain understanding enough to know love can't be halted just cause some peoples moan and groan" (276-7).

The Road

by

3.94 rating

Comment 1: The Road is unsteady and repetitive—now aping Melville, now Hemingway—but it is less a seamless blend than a reanimated corpse: sewn together from dead parts into a lumbering, incongruous whole, then jolted to ignoble half-life by McCarthy’s grand reputation with Hollywood Filmmakers and incestuous award committees.In 1996, NYU Physics Professor Alan Sokal submitted a paper for publication to several scientific journals. He made sure it was so complex and full of the latest jargon terms that the average person wouldn't be able to make heads or tails of it. He also wrote its conclusion so it would deliberately flatter the preconceptions of the journals he submitted it to. As he predicted, it was accepted and published, despite the fact that it was all complete nonsense.The Sokal Affair showed the utter incompetence of the people trusted to judge work for publication. They were unable to recognize good (or bad) arguments and were mostly motivated by politics. The accolades showered upon works like The Road have convinced me that the judges of literature are just as incompetent (and I’m not the only one who thinks so). I don't imagine that McCarthy did this purposefully, like Sokal, but that he writes in the ostentatiously empty style which some judges of literature find safe and convenient to praise.Many have lauded McCarthy’s straightforward style, and though I am not the most devoted fan of Hemingway, I can admire the precision and economy of a deliberate, economical use of words. Yet that was not what I got from The Road: "He took out the plastic bottle of water and unscrewed the cap and held it out and the boy came and took it and stood drinking. He lowered the bottle and got his breath and he sat in the road and crossed his legs and drank again. Then he handed the bottle back and the man drank and screwed the cap back on and rummaged through the pack. The ate a can of white beans, passing it between them, and he threw the empty tin into the woods.Then they set out down the road again."Simple? Yes. But precise and purposeful? Certainly not. Most of The Road is as elegant as a laundry list (if not as well punctuated). Compiling a long and redundant series of unnecessary actions and descriptions does not make a work straightforward, it makes it needlessly complicated.I know we're supposed to find this simplicity profound--that old postmodern game of defamiliarization, trying to make the old seem new, to show the importance of everyday events--but none of it ever manages to seem important, because McCarthy isn't actually changing the context, he's just restating. There is no personality in it, no revealing of the characters, and no relationship to the plot. Perhaps it is meant to show the weariness of the characters: that they cannot even muster enough energy to participate in their own lives, but is the best way to demonstrate a character’s boredom really to write paragraphs that bore the reader? A good writer can make the mundane seem remarkable, but The Road is too bare to be beautiful, and too pointless to be poignant.Once we have been lulled by long redundancy, McCarthy abruptly switches gears, moving from the plainness of Hemingway to the florid, overwrought figurative language of Melville: "The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a traveling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves."There is no attempt to bridge the two styles, they are forced to cohabitate, without rhyme or reason to unite them. The metaphoric language is equally jarring, as in one sentence he describes 'dead ivy', 'dead grass' and 'dead trees' with unerring monotony, and then as if adding a punchline, declares them 'shrouded in a carbon fog'--which sounds like the title of a bland cyberpunk anthology.Then we have this example: "It's snowing, the boy said. A single gray flake sifting down. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire like the last host of christendom."Where McCarthy seems to be trying to reproduce the morbid religious symbolism of Melville when he plays the tattered prophet in Moby Dick. But while Melville's theology is terribly sublime and pervasive, McCarthy's is ostentatious and diminutive, like a carved molding in an otherwise unadorned room. Nowhere does he produce the staggeringly surreal otherworldliness Melville achieves in a line like "There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within".Many times, McCarthy's gilded metaphors are piled, one atop the other, in what must be an attempt to develop an original voice, but which usually sounds more like the contents of a ‘Team Edward’ notebook, left behind after poetry class: ". . . Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?Dark of the invisible moon. The nights now only slightly less black. By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp.People sitting on the sidewalk in the dawn half immolate and smoking in their clothes. Like failed sectarian suicides. . . ."I love how he prefaces that like an Asimov robot. Sardonic Observation: I'd almost believe he was one, since he has no understanding of beauty or human emotion. Biting Quip: However, he violates Asimov's first law of robotics, since his work allows harm to come to humans.Sometimes, right in the middle of a detailed description of how a character is scraping paint with a screwdriver, we suddenly get a complex jargon term which few readers would understand. These terms are neither part of the world, nor are they aspects of specialized character knowledge, so I cannot assign them any meaning in the text.One of the basic lessons for any beginning writer is 'don't just add big words because you can', it's self-indulgent and doesn't really help the story. It would be one thing if it were a part of some stylistic structure instead of bits of out-of-place jargon that conflict with the overall style of the book--more textual flotsam for us to wade through.The longer I read, the more mirthlessly dire it became, and the less I found I could take it seriously. Every little cluster of sentences left on its own as a standalone chapter, every little two-word incomplete sentence trying to demand importance because it actually had punctuation (a rare commodity in this book), every undifferentiated monosyllabic piece of non-dialogue like a hobo talking to himself--it all made the book overblown and nonsensical.It just stared me down, like a huge drunk guy in a bar daring me to laugh at his misspelled tattoo. And I did. I don't know if my coworkers or the people on the bus knew what 'The Road' was about (this was years before the movie), but they had to assume it was one hilarious road, possibly with a busfull of nuns, and one a convict in disguise on the run from a bumbling southern sheriff and his deputy; a donkey is involved.Though I won't mention specifics, I will say the notorious ending of the book is completely tacked on, in no way fits with or concludes any of the emotional build of the book, but instead wraps everything up, neat and tight. Though it does bear out McCarthy's admission on Oprah that he "had no idea where it was going" when he wrote it. We can tell, Cormac; well, some of us, anyway.As you may have noticed from the quotes I have used, another notorious issue is the way the book is punctuated, which is to say, it isn't. The most complex mark is the comma, and it is pretty rarely used. It's not like McCarthy is only using simple, straightforward sentences, he uses plenty of conjoined clauses and partial sentence fragments, he just doesn't bother to mark any of them.He also doesn't use any quotes in the books, and rarely attributes statements to characters, so we must first try to figure out if someone is talking, or if it's just another snatch of 'poetic license', and then we have to determine who is talking. Sure, Melville did away with quotes in one chapter in Moby Dick, but he did it in stylistic reference to Shakespeare, and he also seemed to be aware that it was a silly affectation best suited for a ridiculous scene.But it is not only the structure, grammar, figurative language, and basic descriptions which are so absurdly lacking: the characters are likewise flat, dull, and repetitive. Almost every conversation between the father and son is the same: Father: Do it now.Son: I'm scared.Father: Just do it.Son: Are we going to die?Father: No.Son: Are you sure?Father: Yes.Remember, you won't get little tags so you know who's speaking, it'll all just be strung out in a line without differentiation. Then they wander around for a bit or run from crazy people, and we finally get the cap to the conversation: Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?Father: (Stares off in silence)Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?Father: (More silence)And that’s it, the whole relationship; it never changes or grows. Nor does it seem to make much sense, based on the setting. The characters are always together, each the other's sole companion: father and son, and yet they are constantly distant and at odds, like a suburban parent and child who rarely see each other and have little in common. McCarthy never demonstrates how such a disconnect arose between two people who are constantly intimate and reliant on one another.But then, McCarthy confided to Oprah that the is book about his relationship with his own son, so it makes sense why the emotional content is completely at odds with the setting. Perhaps he just sat down one say and thought “I’m an award-winning author and screenwriter who has a somewhat distant relationship with my son. You know what that’s like? That’s like the unendurable physical suffering of people in the third world who are trying to find food and escape crazed, murderous mobs.” So then he wrote a book equating the two, which is about the most callous, egotistical act of privileged self-pity a writer can indulge in.At least now I know why the characters and their reactions don’t make much sense. The boy is constantly terrified, and his chief role involves pointing at things and screaming. His constant screams punctuate every conflict in the book, like a bad horror film. But things aren’t scary just because the author makes a character react histrionically over and over again--it just becomes silly.Cannibals and dead infants are an okay place to start when it comes to unsettling the reader, but just having the characters point and scream does not build tension, especially when the characters are too flat to be sympathetic. Another Creative Writing 101 lesson: if you have to resort to over-the-top character reactions to let the audience know how they are supposed to feel, then your 'emotional moment' isn't working. It's the literary equivalent of a laugh track.You know what’s more unsettling than a child screaming when he finds a dead infant? A child not screaming when he finds a dead infant. And really, that’s the more likely outcome. The young boy has never known another world--his world is death and horror. Anyone who has seen a picture of a Rwandan kid with an AK-47 realizes that children adapt to what’s around them. And you know what would make a great book? A father who remembers the old world trying to prevent his son from becoming a callous monster because of the new one.But no, we get a child who inexplicably reacts as if he’s used to the good life in suburbia and all this death and killing is completely new to him, even though we’ve watched him go through it half a dozen times already. The characters never grow numb to it, they never seem to suffer from post-traumatic stress, their reactions are more akin to angst.Every time there is a problem, the characters just fold in on themselves and give up. People really only do that when they have the luxury of sitting about and ruminating on what troubles them. When there is a sudden danger before us, we might run, or freeze up, but there’s hardly time to feel sorry for ourselves.There is no joy or hope in this book--not even the fleeting, false kind. Everything is constantly bleak. Yet human beings in stressful, dangerous situations always find ways to carry on: small victories, justifications, or even lies and delusions. The closest this book gets is ‘The Fire’, which is the father’s term for why they must carry on through all these difficulties. But replace ‘The Fire’ with ‘The Plot’ and you’ll see what effect is achieved: it’s not character psychology, but authorial convenience. Apparently, McCarthy cannot even think of a plausible reason why human beings would want to survive.There is nothing engaging about a world sterilized of all possibility. People always create a way out, even when there is none. What is tragic is not a lack of hope, but misplaced hope. I could perhaps appreciate a completely empty world as a writing exercise, but as McCarthy is constantly trying to provoke emotional reactions, he cannot have been going for utter bleakness. The Road is a canvas painted entirely black--it doesn't mater how many more black strokes he layers on top: they will not stand out because there is no difference, there is no depth, no breaking or building of tension, just a constant addition of featureless details to a featureless whole. Some people seem to think that an emotionally manipulative book that makes people cry is better than one that makes people horny--but at least people don’t get self-righteous about what turns them on.This is tragedy porn. Suburban malaise is equated with the most remote and terrible examples of human pain. So, dull housewives can read it and think ‘yes, my ennui is just like a child who stumbles across a corpse’, and perhaps she will cry, and feel justified in doing so. Or a man might read it and think ‘yes, my father was distant, and it makes me feel like I live alone in a hostile world I don’t care to understand’; he will not cry, but he will say that he did.And so the privileged can read about how their pain is the same as the pain of those starving children on mute during commercial breaks. In the perversity of modern, invisible colonialism--where a slave does not wash your clothes, but builds the machine that washes them--these self-absorbed people who have never starved or had their lives imperiled can think of themselves as worldly, as ‘one with humanity’, as good, caring people.They recycle. They turn the water off when they brush their teeth. They buy organic. They even thought about joining the Peace Corps. Their guilt is assuaged. They are free to bask in their own radiant anguish.And it all depresses me. Which makes me a shit, because I’m no more entitled to it than any other well-fed, educated winner of the genetic lottery. So when I read this book, I couldn’t sympathize with that angst and think it justified, just like I couldn’t with Holden’s. I know my little existential crisis isn’t comparable to someone who has really lost control of their life, who might actually lose life.But this kind of egotistical detachment has become typical of American thought, and of American authors, whose little, personal, insular explorations don't even pretend to look at the larger world. Indeed, there is a self-satisfied notion that trying to look at the world sullies the pure artist.And that 'emotionally pure, isolated author' is what we get from the Oprah interview. Sure, she's asking asinine questions, but McCarthy shows no capacity to discuss either craft or ideas, refusing to take open-ended questions and discuss writing, he instead laughs condescendingly and shrugs. Then again, he may honestly not have much to say on the topic.Looked at in this way, it's not surprising he won the Pulitzer. Awards committees run on politics, and choosing McCarthy is a political decision--an attempt to declare that insular, American arrogance is somehow still relevant. But the world seems content to move ahead without America and its literature, which is why no one expects McCarthy--or any American author--to win a Nobel any time soon.This book is a paean to the obliviousness of American self-importance in our increasingly global, undifferentiated world. One way or the other, it will stand as a testament to the last gasp of a dying philosophy: either we will collapse under our own in-fighting and short-sightedness, or we will be forced to evolve into something new and competitive--a bloated reputation will carry you only so far.But then, the Pulitzer committee is renowned for picking unadventurous winners--usually an unremarkable late entry by an author past their prime. As William Gass famously put it: "the prize is simply not given to work of the first rank, rarely even to the second; and if you believed yourself to be a writer of that eminence, you are now assured of being over the hill"Of course, to readers of genre works, this book will have a familiar and unpleasant taste: that of the big name writer slumming. They pop into fantasy or sci fi with their lit fic credentials to show us little folk how it's really done, but knowing nothing about the genre or its history, just end up reinventing the wheel, creating a book that would have looked tired and dated thirty years ago. Luckily for such writers, none of the lit fic critics that read the book know anything about other genres, either--meaning that any sort of rehash is going to look fresh to them, as long as you have the name-recognition to get them to look.So, McCarthy gets two stars for a passable (if cliche) script for a sci fi adventure movie, minus one star for unconscionable denigration of humanity. I couldn't say if McCarthy's other books are any good; I will probably try another, just to see if any of his reputation is deserved, but this one certainly didn't help. All I see is another author who got too big for his editors and, finding himself free to write whatever he wanted--only proved that he has nothing of value to say. "Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are merely lists . . . Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what's always distinguished bad writing--flat characters, a narrative world that's . . . not recognizably human, etc.--is also a description of today's world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world . . . most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is?"-David Foster Wallace

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

by

4.07 rating

Comment 1: Larsson takes what seemed at the outset to be a juicy 'locked-island-mystery plot' and turns it first into an insightful family saga and then into a scathing political and social commentary that forces us to think about such a wide variety of themes and aspects that we normally refuse to accept as part of society. It takes an author like Larsson to shove it in our faces in all its stinking ugliness for us to stop turning the blind eye at these atrocities.Do not mistake this for a mere fictional work with imagined crimes. It has firm foundations in reality. In my opinion, the whole plot is a thin wrap-sheet thrown around the brutal truths of real crimes. Larsson has extensive knowledge of the most heinous crimes and he has written extensively about them for his entire professional career. This expertise shows through in his description of such acts of unimaginable cruelty with an almost nonchalant objectivity, with a careless leaving out of the gory details and focus on the trivial aspects of the act that sends shivers down our spine.Larsson uses his investigative style of presentation and his two main characters and an extremely dysfunctional family to work in an amazing variety of potent themes into his first book. I cannot wait to see what he’ll do in the second one. Some of the themes explored in detail are:Online PrivacyThis is not part of the plot but Larsson seems to be sending out a warning about how deadly information can be in the wrong hands and how easily accessible any private info about you stored in digital form is. You are exposed and absolutely naked to a determined digital assault and there is nothing you can do about it. Of course in the novel it is never misused but the threat is always hanging in the air - if an uneducated girl and her friends can get the most private information about the most protected individuals in the country, what kind of a world are we heading into? And is it really bad? Food for thought...FeminismNo matter which way you look at it, this work will have to defined as one of the most wrathful outcries against society's attitude towards women. The entire story is about the enormous acts of cruelty committed against women and the absolute indifference to it by everyone who is supposed to care. It is also about the different responses that these women have in such an uncaring society. Which brings us to the most important theme of the book in my opinion:Morality and Allocation of BlameThe book is truly about three paths that a victim can take after an abused childhood.One of the characters suffers abuse and decides to become an abuser himself and embrace it as a fact of lifeThe second one suffers abuse and decides to run away from that life and live faraway and sheltered. No attempt is made to punish the abuser or to report it.The third character too suffers abuse but decides to confront it and return it with a vengeance. No violence or abuse is tolerated and any reaction is justified for this character.The fourth is the invisible character of what we expect a person to do in such a situation - report it, seek help from the authorities who are supposed to protect them. The society around and the grim reality that prompted the book gives the outcome to this course of action.Now the key point to me was that Larsson does not condemn any of them - he makes different characters speak in defense for each of these responses and lets us wonder about which course can ever be called right. in the end he manages to condemn both the society as a whole as well as us, the individuals who allow the society to be so. A caricature of morality.Law, Crime & BDSMLarsson's extensive knowledge about the worst forms of crime and the procedure of law allows him to give a gruesome reality to what we usually consider to be just sadistic fiction. He convinces the reader that it is real and all around us if we only cared enough to look.Nazi History, Military Training, Religious Extremism & Apologetics These are also touched upon at various points in the books and provides a background, especially of Swedish Nazism, from which the excuses for all the real crimes in the books could spring from.Journalistic (Professional) EthicsThis too is quite obviously one of the favorite topics for Larsson and it forms a strong undercurrent throughout the book and comes to a head with the firm conviction of the lead character that he is finally a corrupt journalist. He is reassured that he has done the right thing by choosing between being a professional and being a human being. But we as the readers, the character and the author, all know that this is not remotely convincing. Justice was meted out selectively and subjectively in the end and even though it feels right, that is only because of personal knowledge. Is that enough?Financial & Economic Commentary, Industrial Espionage and Hacker-loreLarge parts of the book goes into great detail about industrial politics and machinations and is sometimes quite boring to be frank, but it adds credence to the plot and has to be borne out. The elaborate hacker methodology too is a drag at times but remains mostly interesting and strangely disturbing.The financial interplay and the economic commentary sounds a bit forced but Larsson still manages to give out some forceful ideas such as:“We’re experiencing the largest single drop in the history of the Swedish stock exchange—and you think that’s nonsense?”“You have to distinguish between two things—the Swedish economy and the Swedish stock market. The Swedish economy is the sum of all the goods and services that are produced in this country every day. There are telephones from Ericsson, cars from Volvo, chickens from Scan, and shipments from Kiruna to Skövde.That’s the Swedish economy, and it’s just as strong or weak today as it was a week ago.” He paused for effect and took a sip of water.“The Stock Exchange is something very different. There is no economy and no production of goods and services. There are only fantasies in which people from one hour to the next decide that this or that company is worth so many billions, more or less. It doesn’t have a thing to do with reality or with the Swedish economy.”“So you’re saying that it doesn’t matter if the Stock Exchange drops like a rock?”“No, it doesn’t matter at all,” Blomkvist said in a voice so weary and resigned that he sounded like some sort of oracle.His words would be quoted many times over the following year.Family & IncestWhat it means to be a family and the inevitable nature of family relationships too seem to haunt Larsson and he gives free reign to his fears and troubles about family life, incest, indifference and corporate life affecting personal relations. He also asks the question of whether we can ever truly judge a person based on corporate success without knowing his relationships with his family and his personal life.There are probably other important ones that I have failed to mention but these were, in my opinion, the things that the book was meant to shine a torchlight on.On The CharactersI found this in an interview with Larsson and it captures the enigma of the two amazing main characters:“I considered Pippi Longstocking,” he said, referring to the most famous creation of the Swedish children’s author Astrid Lindgren, a girl so strong she could carry a horse. “What would she be like today? What would she be like as an adult? What would you call a person like that, a sociopath? Hyperactive? Wrong. She simply sees society in a different light. I’ll make her 25 years old and an outcast. She has no friends and is deficient in social skills. That was my original thought.” That thought evolved into Larsson’s formidable heroine, Lisbeth Salander.But he felt Salander needed a counterweight if his story was to be a success. Once again he turned to one of Lindgren’s characters, this time to Kalle Blomkvist, boy detective. “Only now he’s 45 years old and a journalist [called Mikael Blomkvist]. An altruistic know-it-all who publishes a magazine called Millennium. The story will revolve around the people who work there.” Personal ImpressionsWhile I loved the book wholeheartedly, I still had a few unfavorable impressions:Some of the side characters are a bit sketchy not fully realized. Especially some of the family members including Martin who did not get a gradual transition that a character like him deserved for maximum impact.The stylistically simple nature of the chapters and the book structure too takes away from the sophistication of the detail and plot. A bit more variety in the technique than a simple shift-of-perspective would have been better and less obvious. Also the tension eases off at all the wrong moments, primarily because Larsson has given a portent of things to come later too easily for a whodunnit. The pace too is not consistent and we spend a lot of time seeing scenery and almost every chapter opens with making coffee or with long uneventful walks.In the end, the reader does not get the pleasure of a proper whodunnit as there were no hidden clues spread across the book and in spite of homages throughout the book to masters of crime and mystery fiction, Larsson at some point decided to make his book not fit to the thrill of that genre and moved instead to far more sinister territories.The last section of the book felt much like a filler and had way too much detail and predictable action and could just as well have been left to the reader's imagination. The long winding down has put me off from any tension that would have made me run for the second book immediately. Now that everything is calm and quiet in the Millennium world, I too can take an idyllic break from it all...A good editor and more time to polish would have made this into a definite modern masterpiece, which I strongly suspect it to be already. But in spite of the flaws we still have an opus and some unforgettable characters that will stay with us for a long time to come. One Final Note:All the villains have a Windows PC and all the heroes have an Apple notebook. Splendid thing to use in a book about corporate morality among other things. I think this tipped the scales for the book to be a bestseller!

The Poisonwood Bible

by

3.99 rating

Comment 1: On one hand, there is nothing new here, and on this same old tirade, I disagree strongly with the author. Examples:* Relativism. I'm sorry, I believe infanticide to be wrong for all cultures, for all times.* Missionaries, particularly protestant missionaries to Africa were entirely the endeavor of egotistic, abusive, colonialists who were merely out to change Africa into either a western society or an exploitative factory for western society. Wrong again, read Tom Hiney's "On the Missionary Trail" for a non-fiction perspective that documents ways in which many missionaries were actually upsetting the colonial balance by preparing native peoples for independence, tutoring leaders on negotiation with world powers, recording native history and cultural practices and transcribing their languages, ; see also Philips Jenkins' "The Next Christendom".* Marriage is an oppressive institution that consumes women; they need to escape. Certainly SOME marriages are, but that doesn't mean we go the way of disregarding it as a foundational institution of society. * America is an evil power of which we should all be ashamed. False again. I cannot deny mistakes have been made in American foreign policy, and certainly events of the Congo, as presented in this book, would appear to be this way. But, there are also many things America has done that are good (such as preserving freedom for those who live here to write books ripping on America), and these shouldn't be ignored.* All cultural traditions should be preserved because they have merit in and of themselves. I do not agree with this at all. Female circumcision should not be, regardless of whether it is a cultural tradition. Not only does it serve no purpose to enhance the lives of either men or women, it is destructive to them. At the same time, the American high-fat, high-sugar diet, while traditional (burgers, fries and shakes) should be changed. American isolationalism that doesn't consider other cultures and peoples should also go too.* The work is hailed as an "examination of personal responsibility". Clearly all Belgians, American, colonialists, businessmen, husbands/fathers, missionaries, and mothers (to a lesser extent) are to be found culpable in the downfall of the Congo, as if this type of situation has never occurred in history before. But the truth is often far more complex, and the events in Congo, while horrible, cannot really be understood outside of their larger context. Was Congo the only African nation to suffer? Was there truly not a single benefit of colonialism? Were all businessmen/ westerners culpable or colluding? Were all involved in the downfall of the Congo Christians? Were not the African leader, Mbuto (funded by the US, yes) and his followers not equally guilty of selling out Africans for personal gain? Were there not some westerners (like the noble parents of the author mentioned in the prelude) trying to make life better for Africans? Is this not the same thing we see currently in Zimbabwe? If we are going to examine evil and exploitation, let's remember that no one person, country, or even time, has a lock on it. And lets not paint extreme pictures of those we chose to reject, while painting those we agree with in glowing terms. As with many fictional accounts, we don't like to admit the good and the bad falls on both sides.*Christianity is merely a tool people use to exploit others and promote their own agenda. I fundamentally disagree with this perspective. Christianity is a relationship with Christ that involves following after Him and becoming more like Him.The extreme situation the author creates in this fictional account allows her to proclaim her philosophies of life with vigor, particularly anti-Christianity and anti-Americanism. In the foreword, she makes effort to point out that her parents (who went to the Congo in the same time period) have NOTHING in common with the main subjects of the work, essentially preparing the reader for the assault upon the southern baptist missionary and his 4 children from Georgia who are the main characters.With such flaws, a work should be easily dismissed. However, there are some glowing strong points. The writing is exceptional, and there are many rich scenes that are not soon forgotten. The understanding of African life, customs, language and landscape as well as the ability to portray this amazingly beautiful land as a living organism were compellingly impressed upon my mind. The character development and interaction of perspectives (each chapter is the perspective of one character, the book being a series of their interwoven stories), is extraordinary; though it is noteworthy that the author doesn't include a single chapter from the perspective of the husband/father/missionary zealot of the family, but only permits him to be defined by the others. I really cared about the characters and wanted to know what would happen to them.The examination of cross-cultural interaction and communication is powerfully illustrated as we begin with a purely American perspective that slowly opens (through the eyes of some, not all, characters) to an African perspective.While it might be a helpful work to those longing to know Africa or understand cross-cultural disconnects, I cannot give it more than two stars because of the blatant agenda referenced above.ADDENDUM: For those really wanting to understand the history of the Congo, including the dark side of it's formation, I recommend "King Leopold's Ghost" by Adam Hochschild. Hochschild's work is well told, enjoyable even to non-historians, and will give an excellent picture of the dynamics (both the good and the evil) at work in the Congo. Looking back, compared to the exceptional "King Leopold's Ghost", Poisonwood Bible was an incredible waste of time - i'm lowering it to one star.Tom Hiney's "On the Missionary Trail" is also excellent in content, though not as well written, for those interested in the lives of ordinary (meaning not generally famous) missionaries around the world.UPDATE:Research quantifying the impact of protestant missionaries around the world. A summary:http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentar...Scholarly publication in American Political Science Review, here:https://www.academia.edu/2128659/The_...PS. I believe this to be the WORST review I have ever written on Goodreads, yet it is the most discussed! I was so annoyed by the material, I didn't want to spend the time to polish my thoughts - I just wanted to be done with it! Yes, now I regret it.

Fahrenheit 451

by

3.95 rating

Comment 1: It was a pleasure to burn.It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of historyThus begins Fahrenheit 451, through this act of destruction which guides the life of fireman Guy Montag, in a future where the firemen profession is not about containing fire anymore. Instead, they are responsible for retaining knowledge from being spread through society. We are shown a degenerate society on which the mere fact of owning a book might lead directly to jail, or to your grave. The drastic change may be understood once we accept the new society presented by Bradbury: an industrialized cacophony driven by technology obsession; everyday life has been simplified to such an astounding degree that the majority of the population has completely lost their ability to judge situations critically. In this new world, human beings are encouraged to act without thinking too much, to set aside any emotion or judgment which might prove to require too much emotion or rational effort; the new way of life encourages people to be happy, even if they have to be totally self-indulgent to achieve that. School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?Moreover, against all hopes, such corruption of a healthy way of thinking didn’t come from some law imposed by social and political authorities; it comes from natural technological progress, as explained further on the book. The only thing the Estate did was give a little push to the masses of population who were already losing their moral values, soaked in so much entertainment options and technological knick-knackery. At this point, of course, I was already finding myself wondering about the infinite possibilities that might lead to this situation actually happen to our contemporary society, given that we reached the point where smartphones are closer our heart than friends and family. Oh well, that might as well be my dreamy mind talking too loud, though. Anyway, as the society gets more and more crammed into the same pattern of behavior and personality, books start to be considered a dangerous form of entertainment/information, given that they make people think differently from the rest of the herd. We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. Fortunately, Montag finds one of the few who are different from the herd. His neighbor, a young and weird girl gets closer to him and starts, little by little, intriguing his mind by asking him questions he has never asked himself before. Consequently, he starts to wonder about the meaning of life and, eventually, he realizes how completely alienated he has been during all his life. Such revelation awakens dormant emotions, like fear and insecurity; at the same time, however, Montag lets reason triumph over his instincts, which gives him a sense of free intellectual reign over his own decisions as he has never possessed before.Over fifty years after the first edition, Fahrenheit 451 remains scarily relevant, presenting an intriguing question: is it necessary that we destroy ourselves to be able to change our path as a race? Do we possess the ability and intelligence necessary to atone for our mistakes? If not, do we have to perish so others can take control of our future? If on one hand the author allows a glimpse of hope in this dystopia, on the other, the price to pay for this fragile hypothesis has been quite high. Closer to the end the author compares human kind to the phoenix, being we able to reemerge after a downfall; according to Bradbury, we have an advantage over the phoenix, even: we can learn from our mistakes to not commit them again, so, hopefully, progress for the sake of progress won’t be further encouraged.In a few pages, with a fluid and simple prose, overdone, maybe, for the overuse of metaphors, the author has created a book which message will echo through generations, in an eternal and powerful warning about the dangers of being ignorant, thus encouraging the reader to roam the path of knowledge: - That's the wonderful thing about man; he never gets so discouraged or disgusted that he gives up doing it all over again, because he knows very well it is important and worth the doing. Needless to say, I loved this book, it kept me guessing, at the same time opening my mind to the possible future we may yet face. In addition, it made my theoretical driving lessons way more bearable. Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review: Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime. We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real? If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn. The Last Passage(view spoiler)[ Montag began walking and after a moment found that the others had fallen in behind him, going north. He was surprised, and moved aside to let Granger pass, but Granger looked at him and nodded him on. Montag went ahead. He looked at the river and the sky and the rusting track going back down to where the farms lay, where the barns stood full of hay, where a lot of people had walked by in the night on their way from the city. Later, in a month or six months, and certainly not more than a year, he would walk along here again, alone, and keep right on going until he caught up with the people.But now there was a long morning's walk until noon, and if the men were silent it was because there was everything to think about and much to remember. Perhaps later in the morning, when the sun was up and had warmed them, they would begin to talk, or just say the things they remembered, to be sure they were there, to be absolutely certain that things were safe in them.Montag felt the slow stir of words, the slow simmer. And when it came to his turn, what could he say, what could he offer on a day like this, to make the trip a little easier? To everything there is a season. Yes. A time to break down, and a time to build up. Yes. A time to keep silence and a time to speak. Yes, all that. But what else. What else? Something, something...And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.Yes, thought Montag, that's the one I'll save for noon. For noon... When we reach the city. (hide spoiler)]

The Notebook

by

4.05 rating

Comment 1: Someone mentioned to me that she likes that I also review/record books that I've read and don't like. Well, this book is right up there for me. Back when guyczuk was in 4th grade, his teacher came to me one day, saying I had to read this book she'd just read. It was the best book EVER and she stayed up all night to finish it, crying as she read. Being the sort of mother who likes to see what makes her son's 24 year old teacher (who spent more time on the internet planning her upcoming wedding than she did teaching) tick, I borrowed the book.I. Hated. It.Sappy, tugging at your heart-strings, sentimental, pap. Totally unrealistic situation for an Alzheimer's patient, too, and I know from Alzheimer's, trust me. Things just don't happen like that, and I could not be charitable enough to engage the willing suspension of disbelief mode. If the writing had been good, I could have given it credit. But let's not go there.My dislike for the book had 3 consequences:1. I decided to give Sparks one more try. Nope. My opinion didn't change. You've heard of do not call lists? He's on my "do not read" list. I only BookCross copies of his book I've been given. Won't even pick them up second hand.2. When the film of this movie was made here in Charleston, I had the chance to be an extra. As much as I would have liked that experience, I turned it down. And yes, I have NOT seen the movie.3. One day I was in Books-A-Million. There was a huge crowd of women fluttering around an author. He was a clean cut, preppie-ish kind of guy (I remember that his blue shirt had an unfortunate white collar.) When I found out it was Nicholas Sparks, doing a book-signing, I tried to skirt around the crowd. His handler stopped me."Don't you want to meet the author?""No thanks," I replied."But he's rather good. Have you read his books?""Umm. Yes, but I'd rather not meet him.""You've read his books and don't want to meet him? Why not???""I'd rather not say," I said, trying to break the iron grip she had on my arm."He'll sign one for you." "No thank you."At this point, my struggling to get free caught the author's attention. He rose from his signing table, the red sea of women clustering around him parted and he came over to me. He was quite polite, and attentive, and inquired why I was so adamant about not participating in the book signing. Again, I demurred. He insisted. Did I like his book? Well-- no, not exactly. He pushed for details. I'd had enough and let loose with what I thought.To give him credit, he didn't blanch though his handler did, and I actually heard a hiss from one of the ladies in the crowd. He thanked me for my opinion, and said he would rather have someone who vehemently disliked his book that someone who said it was so-so. At least he'd stirred a strong emotion in me. To this day, that is the only thing I like about Nicholas Sparks.

A Prayer for Owen Meany

by

4.22 rating

Comment 1: Come un disegno di EscherAvvertenze.Prima di iniziare questo romanzo, siete pregati di munirvi del seguente Book-kit:-Un vasto, quanto variegato campionario di espressioni facciali, da sfoggiare di pari passo con le molteplici emozioni di queste quasi 600 pagine. C'è di tutto, ma proprio tutto; dalla faccia angosciata a quella incredula, da quella divertita a quella intimamente commossa, da quella riflessiva a quella estasiata, e così via.- Google o Wikipedia a portata di mano.Il contesto politico e religioso di questa storia, se banalmente interpretato, produce una superficiale comprensione del testo, che può scaturire sì, in recensioni negative, ma avallate da tiepide argomentazioni legate all'anti-americanismo dell'autore, o all'effetto catechesi del libro. Viceversa, se letto con una sensibilità appena sufficiente,(che mi rendo conto non è cosa da tutti avere), fa l'effetto di voler andare oltre ciò che c'è scritto, e se si ha un computer vicino, fa venir voglia di documentarsi.-Ultima cosa, fondamentale, portatevi a casa un amico di vecchia data che al momento in cui chiudete il libro, vi prenda a schiaffi ripetutamente e vi dica con voce ferma e decisa: "RASSEGNATI!!-I-PERSONAGGI-DI-QUESTA-STORIA-NON-ESISTONO.-I-PERSONAGGI-DI-QUESTO-LIBRO-SONO-IRREALI.-I-PERSONAGGI-DI-QUESTO-ROMANZO-NON-SONO-VERI-E-NON-SONO-NEPPURE-I-TUOI-VICINI-DI-CASA.Per un effetto più convincente, badate a che il vostro amico sia dotato di abbondante dialettica, in modo da potervi consolare e allo stesso tempo riportarvi alla realtà della vostra banale e misera vita.Detto questo, dichiaro aperta la lettura.Nel mio caso, trattasi di una rilettura, fatta a distanza di nove anni dalla prima (implicito ringraziamento + applauso in onore della mia migliore amica, che oltre alla dedica stra-personalizzata ha pensato bene di scrivere bello in grande anche la data).All'epoca avevo trovato questo romanzo magnifico.Attualmente lo trovo oltre che splendido, corposo, struggente e profondo, e siccome non ho voglia di aprire il dizionario dei sinonimi e contrari, mi fermo qui, tanto avete capito. :)Il mio debito con Irving è lampante.E' come se nel 2002 mi fossi sfilata di dosso la mia sciarpa preferita, e gliel'avessi data in pegno. Ed è come se l'altro giorno ci fossimo incrociati per caso al bar e me l'avesse restituita. In un baleno riconosco la sciarpa, la trama larga e confortevole della lana, ricordo con precisione perché era la mia preferita. L'odore è sempre quello, il contatto della lana sulla pelle è il medesimo di allora, pungente quanto basta per ricordarmi che ce l'ho addosso.Se dovessi dare, in occasione di questa mia seconda rilettura, un altro pegno a Irving, gli darei un forte senso di arricchimento unito a una gloriosa soddisfazione, assolutamente certa che a una terza rilettura, le sensazioni mi verrebbero restituite intatte come adesso.Chi ha letto le mie recensioni nel tempo, saprà per esempio che ho una smodata passione per Haruki Murakami.Il tentativo di cercare di capire quale sia l'elemento comune che mi rende piacevole allo stesso modo il classicismo romanzesco di Irving, e la delicatezza orientaleggiante di Murakami, mi ha portato a fare una considerazione generale sugli scrittori.Esistono penne fortunate (veramente poche), che ti fanno innamorare.Ma è l'oggetto amato che fa la differenza.Murakami ad esempio , ti fa innamorare di sé.Ogni sua frase, è intrisa del suo modo di vedere le cose, della sua costanza e della sua logica fluida. Alla fine di ogni suo libro, vorresti sposarlo. Lui, non i suoi personaggi.Irving ti fa innamorare dei protagonisti dei suoi romanzi.A suo modo, è un piccolo Tolkien; manca solo che metta una cartina geografica all'inizio del libro e hai l'impressione che le storie che racconta, siano popolate da personaggi fisici, reali, che puoi andare a trovare seguendo, neanche tanto pedissequamente la cartina.In questo libro tutto torna.Per 590 pagine, si assiste al movimento perpetuo di miniature che sono causa ed effetto di altrettanti tasselli finemente cesellati.E' Irving stesso che svela a chi lo sa cogliere, il segreto della sua bravura:"Un buon libro è sempre in moto: dal generale al particolare, dalle parti al tutto e viceversa, avanti e indietro." (Pag. 316)Esattamente come con le scale di Escher. Un fluire continuo e circolare, ipnotizzante quanto basta per riuscire a crederci. Irving non lascia niente al caso.E se tutti, con un pizzico di fantasia, siamo bravi a inventare una trama complessa, ciò che eleva Irving e ne fa uno scrittore con gli attributi, è la sua capacità di contestualizzare la storia, proprio attraverso quelle farciture ecclesiastiche e politiche, che per i pressapochisti rallentano invece la lettura.Sono proprio i "paesaggi di sfondo" che impreziosiscono la storia.Sarebbe decisamente banale descrivere e raccontare Owen, un piccolo grande uomo che corre dietro il suo destino, "scontornato" dagli eventi del suo Paese. Sarebbe banale ma non lo è.Perché Irving gli ha donato l'arguzia e la sagacia di criticare la società in cui vive, con riflessioni che hanno la stessa profondità delle venature del granito a cui Owen è tanto legato.Senza pretendere di essere informati sui fatti passati o presenti, basterebbe ad esempio, saper cogliere la genialità dietro il paragone tra l'America e una diva come Marilyn Monroe."Lei era come il nostro Pese: non più tanto giovane, ma neanche vecchia; un po' avventata. Molto bella, forse un tantino stupida, forse più intelligente di quanto non sembrasse. Ed era in cerca di qualcosa, credo che volesse essere buona. Guarda gli uomini della sua vita: Joe Di Maggio, Arthur Miller, forse i Kennedy. Guarda quanto desiderabile era lei! Ecco cos'era: era desiderabile. Era spiritosa e sexy, ed era anche vulnerabile. Non era mai del tutto felice, era sempre un tantino sopra peso. Era proprio come il nostro Paese."Basterebbe saperne "vedere" la sempreverde attualità.Se io non vi dicessi che stiamo parlando di Marilyn e dell'America anni '60, poteste tranquillamente pensare che parlo dell'Italia, come di qualsiasi altro Paese sufficientemente in crisi tra storia e politica.Mentalmente ho persino provato ad applicare il parallelismo. Peccato che la prima faccia che mi sia venuta in mente pensando all'Italia, sia stata quella di Maurisa Laurito, sforzandomi quella della Ferilli.Ma ritornando a noi, lettori attenti, e a Irving, sarebbe stato ugualmente banale raccontare della fede assoluta di un ragazzino stravagantemente intelligente, se lo scrittore non ci avesse fatto capire altrettanto bene, attraverso le parole di Owen, che a prescindere dal nostro essere credenti, atei, agnostici, o semplicemente distratti, l'insegnamento universale( come se non fosse già abbastanza schiacciante l'evidenza che il credere o il non credere in qualcosa, è una scelta che facciamo tutti i giorni, a seconda della convenienza), è molto più semplice.Cioè che "se ci tieni a qualcosa lo devi proteggere. Se sei tanto fortunato da trovare un modo di vita che ami, devi anche trovare il coraggio di viverlo."E quindi, alla fine, quante stelline si possono dare a un libro del genere? Ovviamente, il massimo, qualunque esso sia; il massimo più una. Che idealmente con l'anima in ginocchio dedichiamo al piccolo grande Owen.Owen e il suo senso dell'amicizia.Owen e l'amore dietro le parole.Owen e la memoria dei sentimenti altrui.[Noce Moscata e l'overdose da Owen]Owen e i dubbi che lo rendono umano e più vicino a Dio.Owen e la sua fede.Owen dopo la fine di tutto.Owen dopo la fine del libro.Owen che manca come l'aria.[Noce Moscata e l'astinenza da Owen]Non posso che augurarvi Buon Owen a tutti.Non vi preoccupate se non sono rose e fiori.Probabilmente sarà granito, e quindi, fortunatamente, "ad imperitura memoria".

The Red Tent

by

4.14 rating

Comment 1: Are you ready to go into the Red Tent? JACOB’S DINASTY: THE REALITY SHOW We have been lost to each other for so long. My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust. This is not your fault, or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed to the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing.Disfunctional family falls short to describe Jacob’s household.Nowadays, it would be easily a high-rating TV reality show!Jacob, a weak man put into the stressing place of being a patriarch of his race, manipulated by his scheming mother and later by his insidious sons.Leah, mostly a good woman BUT willingly played her role in a mean scheme to marry her sister’s boyfriend.Zilpah and Bilhah, with a image of “not killing a fly” but they make surgical comments with the sharp edge of a knife, whenever they can.Simeon and Levi, a couple of homicidal psychos, which they don’t hesitate to kill every single man in a settlement when those men were even unable to defend themselves or even selling one of their own brothers to slave traders.Rebekah, a mother who doesn’t hesitate to favor a son of hers over the other or throwing out a granddaughter from her tribe.Good thing that God already did a flood to rid of all the bad people! Geez! THE FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME FOR DINAH If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully. Stories about food show a strong connection. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows about the details of her mother's life - without flinching or whining - the stronger the daughter.It’s odd that in many descriptions about the book, The Red Tent, it’s mentioned that one of the intentions is to denote a different scenario for the “rape” of Dinah, and while obviously I am not a Bible Scholar, one thing that I did was to read what my Bible says about the brief mention of Dinah on it. And as I understood, indeed Dinah was a fleeting line in the middle of the huge recollection of stories in the Bible, but it was clear (at least to me) that she wasn’t raped, and clearly her brothers were a bunch of psychos (with the exception of Joseph, of course).Besides, Dinah's brothers were clearly psychos but also men of short vision, since if they were so greedy, they could take the "rape" of Dinah into their own economical benefit, and therefore, instead of asking a massive circumcision, they could ask for better lands, with water's supply and a real potential to farm and to pasture, so they could gain something tangible out of their "ruined honor".What they gained killing every single man in that fortress? Nothing!Psychos and stupid! Very bad combination!Clearly, there are several versions of the Bible and all of them are subject to translations and interpretations. My bible is the MacArthur Study Bible, basically since I wanted to have a bible with footnotes and additional info to give a deeper understanding about what’s shown in the Bible.So, I don’t discard the scenario that my Bible’s version isn’t as many others. But taking is account that the Bible (any version) has been subjected to editions, censorships, exclusions, translations, etc... so who can say what really happened?It’s amazing the vision of Anita Diamant, the author, of choosing Dinah, an ephemera, easy-to-forget Biblical character and to develop such rich and complex story around her, to expand her original Bible’s fifteen minutes of fame to her deserved epic legend about her.Because it’s really unfair to see how the twelve male offspring of Jacob became nothing less than THE patriarchs of the Twelve Tribes of Israel......and Dinah? Oh, just the daughter who was raped, having barely a paragraph and disappears from Bible’s records.When you think about Dinah’s role in the middle of Jacob’s direct offspring, it’s clearly odd that the Bible didn’t give her a better position, since she was the only girl between several boys, it was obvious that if God would think in somebody as special in that generation, it has to be Dinah and not the boys.But again, it’s no shock that the Bible (or rather the people who manipulated it) gives importance (in the most cases) to men’s stories only and if a woman was ever mentioned, she must be guilty of something and/or playing a discreditable line of work.It’s amazing that nowadays there are still women in the Catholic’s faith (and to be clear, I am in this religion, but I am open minded and I like to question stuff) since it’s unfair that a woman who goes into the service of God, her highest chance to climb in Catholic Church’s chain of command is to be a Mother Superior, that it’s barely one upper step from being a Nun, BUT a man? Pftt! He can be potentially the Pope!Certainly one of the best things of Anita Diamant’s approach to Dinah’s story is that while she is clearly a likeable character, she isn’t perfect, with or without justifications, she has a dark side in her soul... but don’t we all? And the story isn’t a blind feminist propaganda or a men-hating pamphlet, since if you are objective in your reading experience, you will find in the book, as many sins made by women as by men, but also great women as great men... as in real life.And at last......Dinah won’t be a forgotten Biblical paragraph anymore!Now, not only women but also men will be able to get inside of the Red Tent, to learn Dinah’s story, to keep her legacy, to celebrate her life, and to share it with others.

The Secret Life of Bees

by

3.98 rating

Comment 1: This is a book that just about every woman (and quite a few men) has read. So it is my turn. As is often the case when I am coming late to a best seller, I really don’t know much about the book other than it is a must read. The first allusion is to bees swarming and death. We have the maternal black woman substituting for the dead white mother caring for the plain young girl with a much to be desired father. The young girl, Lily, has an imagination from the get go. I used to have daydreams in which she was white and married to T. Ray, and became my real mother. Other times I was a Negro orphan she found in a cornfield and adopted. Once in a while I had us living in a foreign country like New York, where she could adopt me and we could both stay our natural color. The Secret Life of Bees is not a complicated book. It just tells you straight out what you need to know to get the message. I hadn’t been out to the hives before, so to start off she gave me a lesson in what she called “bee yard etiquette.” She reminded me that the world was really one big bee yard, and the same rules worked fine in both places: Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and long pants. Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates, while whistling melts a bee’s temper. Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved. What is it that people say? This is not rocket science? I read so many books where the message is not clear to me. My reaction to this plain message is with some anxiety. Maybe it is not quite so simple? And, if it is so simple, what is the point of finding simple in a complex world? Must be a trick.The story is set in the South with the background of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. History was being made and some of it is recorded in The Secret Life of Bees . “I’ll write this all down for you, [Lily] said. “I’ll put it in a story.”I don’t know if that’s what he wanted to ask me, but it’s something everybody wants – for someone to see the hurt done to them and set it down like it matters. Black history and women’s history are woven into the story. The story is enlarged by the inclusion of that history and lore. Lily learns who the Black Madonna is almost immediately upon arriving in Tiburon, but this knowledge only involves her in greater mysteries. The figure of Mary that August Boatwright and her sisters call Our Lady of Chains was originally a masthead, washed up, according to their legend, from an unknown ship near a plantation on the South Carolina coast in the days of slavery. It communicated in secret with the slaves of the plantation, exhorting them to furtive acts of flight and resistance. Amazingly, under its own power it repeatedly escaped the chains the plantation owner used to lock it in the barn. Shrouded in myth, Our Lady of Chains comes to represent, over the course of the novel, the mysteries Kidd portrays as the most powerful of all: those of the human heart. Source: http://www.enotes.com/topics/secret-l... People who regularly read my reviews know that I am not keen on religion most of the time. I’d normally just as soon leave it out of a story unless it’s legitimately the bad guy. Well, this story has some folk religion and I don’t mind it too much. Probably because it is folk rather than anything high church. There is May’s Wailing Wall. There is the black Madonna. There is everything to do with Mary Day and the Daughters of Mary, the traditions of the women. Black folk religion is so down to earth that I just mostly let it slip on by. It is just a feeling and I am not perfect in my spiritual anathema. To tell you the truth, I am probably marking this book down a half star due to the relatively large quantity of folksy religion. The story would be missing something important if you took it out. But don’t expect me to sit in church with a prayer fan too long!There is a fast current just below the gentle surface of this book. I think that this is strangely a book more about the Malcolm X’s than about the Uncle Tom’s. He stared at the water. “Sometimes, Lily, I’m so angry I wanna kill something.” Sometimes I think that if I would have been black, I would not have lived through the 1960s. I would have been too angry and would have been a black revolutionary rather than a white pacifist. This book reminds me of that.My rule is that if a book makes me cry, it gets five stars. And these are tears. (Not running down my cheeks but definitely dampness.) But you remember I am going to take off a half star due to the overdone religion. So, now what? Well, this is definitely a rounding up type of book so the five wins out in the end. My daughter is eleven. I should probably keep this book around so she can read about fourteen year old Lily in a few years.

Middlesex

by

3.95 rating

Comment 1: This is a book about transition.Transition from child to adult to parent and grandparent.From native to immigrant.From brother and sister to husband and wife.From rural dweller to urbanite.From modest affluence to poverty and up again.From loving language to losing the power of speech.From geek to hippie.From war through peace to civil unrest.From belief to unbelief.From rescued to rescuer.From moral probity to corruption and crime.Oh, and one character transitions from female to male.The last of those is the book's USP, but don't let that fool you: it's no more limited to those with niche interests in intersex conditions than it's limited to those of Greek heritage. It is an unusual story, but with universal themes, told by a wonderfully engaging, lyrical, narrator.Few of us fit neatly into binary categories. We all go through many transitions in our lives; the final one is "only another kind of emigration". This book speaks to everyone, not just those like Cal's family who "have always had a knack for self-transformation".PlotThe family originally raised silkworms, so metamorphosis and long threads are at the heart of their lives as well as the story. No fear of spoilers: the key aspects are summarised in the opening paragraphs, starting with: "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl... and then again, as a teenage boy." The rest of the book brings two strands together: Cal's grandparents, Lefty and Desdemona, fleeing the Turks in 1922 as siblings, and arriving in the US as husband and wife, and how that meant Cal ended up with a recessive intersex condition, and is now telling his story. He sometimes addresses the reader directly (shout outs to deus ex machina, Checkov's gun etc).In many respects, it is a conventional sweeping family drama, of the ups and downs of the American Dream: building (and rebuilding) businesses against the backdrop of the Vietnam war and civil rights movement, but with an extra dose of teen angst about puberty (or lack thereof). However, the final few chapters strike an oddly different tone. Octopussy's Garden is partly to hammer home the parallels with Greek mythology (and echo a passage in the middle where Cal muses on the transformations of puberty, using sea creatures as an analogy), but the final intrigue and chase felt very off-key, compared with the rest of the book.There is also "an innate female circularity to the story", perhaps because Greeks believe "that to be happy you have to find variety in repetition; that to go forward you have to come back to where you began." This is compounded by some reversal (like Amis's execrable "Time's Arrow"): in old age, Lefty's mind and memories go into reverse, and in an early section, Cal describes his birth like a film on rewind.Destiny: The Known and UnknownCal is omniscient, not just when he remembers things he wouldn't be able to recall (including being a foetus), but also in terms of how much he knows about other people's inner thoughts and private actions. On a few occasions, it feels a little weird (the erotic significance of the grandmother's corset, for instance), but it's how he makes the more extraordinary aspects of the plot credible: he has already conjured believable characters the reader cares about. Nevertheless, the lack of knowledge often displayed is staggering - yet just about plausible. The most significant examples are that Desdemona and Lefty get away with their relationship, and that no one realises Calliope (as he originally is) is not a girl. There are others, though, such as teenage fumblings and more, at which point Cal "clearly understood that I wasn't a girl but something in between", though the boy involved did not.Some of the ignorance is cultivated. When Desdemona and Lefty fake a courtship on the boat, "Lefty never discouraged any speculation. He seized the opportunity of transatlantic travel to reinvent himself... Aware that whatever happened now would become the truth... Playing out this imaginary flirtation... they began to believe it... it wasn't other travellers they were trying to convince; it was themselves."Forgetting also matters: "Everything about Middlesex [the house] spoke of forgetting and everything about Desdemona made plain the inescapability of forgetting."There are echoes of Greek mythology throughout, which gives a certain weight and tone to how Cal tells it. For instance, "An infinite number of possible selves crowded the threshold" as Cal's parents prepare to conceive him, and it's no coincidence that his childhood church was the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, and that they later move to Middlesex Boulevard. It also creates an additional layer of foreshadowing. Cal's father is conceived after his parents see a play about a hybrid monster, and at a significant medical appointment about Cal, Milton (Cal's father) wears traditional Tragedy and Comedy masks as cufflinks: which way will it go?SexSexual identity is key. Desdemona is obsessed with predicting the sex of unborn children, and Cal himself was only conceived because his parents really wanted a girl (they already had a son) and believed they had found a way to improve the odds of that. He was born at the women's hospital and "It was all around me from the beginning, the weight of female suffering, with its biblical justification and vanishing acts." Nothing unusual was noticed by the elderly doctor, so "Five minutes old, and already the themes of my life - chance and sex - announced themselves."There is relatively little about Cal's adaptation to living as a man (though there is a sweet sideline in learning how to date women, the perils of what to tell them when etc). Most of the story leads up to that realization: the agonies of not developing when her friends do, then growing oddly tall and awkward, struggling with infatuation with girls etc. However, there are glimpses of the adult issues: "I'm not androgynous... when Calliope surfaces, she does so like a childhood speech impediment... It's a little like being possessed. Callie rises up inside me, wearing my skin like a loose robe... But then, just as suddenly, she is leaving, shrinking and melting away inside me". Cal is currently in Berlin and "This once-divided city reminds me of myself." A childhood trip to Cyprus was cancelled by annexation "Cyprus was being cut in half... like all the other places in the world that were no longer one thing or the other."It is incest that causes Cal's condition, but there is no rancour in the telling of the story, perhaps because it's not just Desdemona and Lefty. Other cousins married each other (Cal's parents are cousins, conceived on the same day, who grew up together), and even some couples who are not related by blood have a rather incestuous aspect: a much older husband who treats his wife - in some ways - like a daughter; an engaged couple who split, only for the spurned man to marry the sister of her new boyfriend; one sibling suggesting another experiment with masturbation; a first sexual encounter with a best friend's brother, followed by intimacy with the friend. But none of it's salacious. A quiet irony is that the English test at Ellis Island is about eunuchs. DesdeomonaCal's grandmother is central to the book. In many ways they have very contrasting lives, but there are surprising parallels too. After an initial coldness, there is a special bond between them: Desdemona disapproved of Milton and Tessie marrying, of trying to choose their sex of the baby, and was then upset when her prediction of a boy was wrong. However, she was quickly won over, at which point, Cal "gave Desdemona back her original sin".She had been an innocent village girl, surprised by developments of her own body as well as her heart (and that of her brother). Her "body was a constant embarrassment to her. It was always announcing itself in ways she didn't want to sanction...[her] body was still a stranger to its owner", which applies just as much to Cal. Similarly, just as Desdemona had to reinvent herself as wife instead of sister, and forge an identity in a new country, Callie becomes Cal, "Like a stroke victim [as Lefty was], I was having to learn all the most simple skills" and "I was like an immigrant" to the world of men. Diagnosis and Treatment: What Determines Gender?"From my birth when they went undetected, to my baptism where they upstaged the priest, to my troubled adolescence when they didn't do much of anything and then did everything at once, my genitals have been the most significant thing that ever happened to me."Gender is not always clearcut, "determined by a variety of influences: chromosomal sex; gonadal sex; hormones; internal genital structures; external genitals; and, most important, the sex of rearing." The last is the belief of the doctor, who saw it as "like a native tongue... imprinted in the brain during childhood." Cal, raised as a girl, proves otherwise.Cal's father looks to medicine to "fix" her problem, and both parents react differently: "Milton heard the words that were there. He heard 'treatment' and 'effective'. Tessie, on the other hand, heard the words that weren't there. The doctor hadn't said my name... He hadn't said 'daughter' either. He didn't use any pronouns." Cal is left "poised between the print of genetics and the White Out of surgery." But "we're all made up of many parts."Controversy: Appropriateness and SensitivitySome question Eugenides' right to write a book like this. He is Greek-American, but does not have any intersex condition and is not a trans person. Furthermore, Cal (and his doctors) uses the term "hermaphrodite", which many find offensive when applied to people.As a straight cis woman, with no medical background, I guess I am not really in a position to defend against such criticisms. Nevertheless, I think those who actually read it would find it hard to take offence at the sensitive and insightful way this aspect is portrayed. As for the H word, I expect it's what doctors in the 1960s would have used and there are still places where 5-Alpha-Reductase Deficiency is described in such terms. Eugenides has said: "The story of Hermaphroditus, the beautiful son of Hermes and Aphrodite, is one I retell, in modern guise, in two different sections of the book." and "I'm referring not to a person or a group of people but to a literary character." (From http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/M...)For me, one of the bigger issues is the focus of mid-teen Cal's desires, "The Obscure Object". Calling a girl or woman an object can't be good, can it? Yet it doesn't come across as objectifying in the usual sense. It's more a way of preserving anonymity and distance, reflecting her special, idolised, position in Cal's life. More troubling is the the issue of consent. Minor spoiler follows:If one parter is apparently asleep but enjoying things, and the pattern is repeated over many nights, is that OK? As a plain question, I'd say not, but the way it's described, I'm inclined to sit firmly on the fence. Another tricky aspect is the exploitation (or not) of sex workers; even if it's dressed up as empowerment, I'm not convinced it is. Chapter ElevenCal's brother is only ever referred to as Chapter Eleven (a US statute relating to business bankruptcy); we never learn his real name. This is different from some other characters who are referred to by a nickname, but whose real names are stated.Quotes* "His shortness had a charitable aspect to it."* "A sick person imprisoned in a healthy body."* "She'd spend a decade in bed trying with vitality to die."* "You used to be able to tell a person's nationality by their face. Immigration ended that. next... footwear. Globalization ended that."* "Sparks fly across the city, inseminating every place they land with a germ of fire."* "Motorcars parked like giant beetles... smokestacks rose everywhere, cannons bombarding the atmosphere... stacks in regimental rows or all alone puffing meditatively away."* The Ford factory, "that controlled Vesuvius of chutes, tubes, ladders, catwalks, fire, and smoke known, like a plague or a monarch, only by a color: 'The Rouge'."* African-American area of Detroit in the 50s, "The gloom of front porches and apartments without electricity seeped out into the streets and the thundercloud of poverty... directed attention... toward... forlorn, shadowless objects."* Joining the Nation of Islam, "Women exchange the maids' uniforms of subservience for the white chadors of emancipation."* "A group of boys whose main bond was their unpopularity."* "There is no evidence against genetic determinism more persuasive than the children of the rich."* "In the cedar swamp, verticality wasn't an essential property of trees... everywhere the grey skeletons of trees."* Tranquillizers provide "a kind of viewing platform from which she could observe her anxiety."* "San Francisco, that cold, identity-cleansing mist."Apparently German is bad for conversation because the verb is at the end of the sentence, which means you can't interrupt (wouldn't that make it good?)!.............................................Review from 2008Pulitzer prize winning story of a Greek-American hermaphrodite! Evokes sympathy for the most unlikely things (incest) and plausibly documents Callie/Cal's coming to terms with growing up and then discovering her/his true nature. When telling the family history, Cal sometimes uses the first person, and sometimes her/his name at the time, paralleling her/his feelings of empathy or detachment. Although close to her/his family in some ways, s/he more often refers to them by name (Milton, Tessie) than relationship (father, mother). Takes a slightly unexpected turn towards the end.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by

3.83 rating

Comment 1: OverviewFirst person tale of Christopher, a fifteen-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome or high-functioning autism, and a talent for maths, who writes a book (this one - sort of - very post modern) about his investigations of the murder of a neighbour's dog. He loves Sherlock Holmes and is amazingly observant of tiny details, but his lack of insight into other people's emotional lives hampers his investigation. Nevertheless, he has to overcome some of his deepest habits and fears, and he also uncovers some unexpected secrets. It is primarily a YA book, but there is more than enough to it to make it a worthwhile adult read as well. Prime Chapters and Structural QuirksThe structure of the book (chapter numbers are all primes; inclusion of maths puzzles and diagrams) and narrative style (attention to detail, excessive logic, avoidance of metaphor) reflect Christopher's mindset and way of viewing life. It is peppered with snippets of maths and explanations of his condition: how it affects him, and what coping strategies he adopts. The effect is plausibly stilted and occasionally breathless, which is reminiscent of people I know who are on the autistic spectrum and tallies with my limited reading about the condition. (Note that neither autism nor Asperger's is mentioned by name in the book, although in my first edition, neurologist Oliver Sacks does mention it in a quote on the front cover.)Honest but Unreliable Narrator?Christopher's condition makes him very literal - something he is aware of. He can analyse a joke, but still not "get" it. Truth is paramount, so he hates situations where he can't tell the truth (e.g. for politeness) and indeed the fact that "everything you tell is a white lie" because you can never give a fully comprehensive answer to anything. He also hates metaphors (even "the word metaphor is a metaphor", meaning "carrying something from one place to another"), but he doesn't mind similes because they are not untrue. Christopher's feelings about metaphors are highly pertinent to a very different book, China Mieville's wonderful "Embassytown" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), which is about how minds shape language and how language shapes minds, and focuses on the relationship between similes, truth and lies.Many novels are about uncovering what is true, but Christopher's quest takes the idea to a deeper level, and even though we know this narrator is almost pathologically truthful, his condition means his observations sometimes miss the real truth of a situation.There is plenty of humour, and it usually arises from Christopher's naive misunderstandings of situations and the conflict between his lack of embarrassment and desire to be unnoticed by unfamiliar people.Logic and TruthChristopher loves maths because it is safe, straightforward and has a definite answer, unlike life. He's also good at explaining some aspects, ending an explanation of calculating primes with "Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away". His apparent deviations from logic are justified with ingenious logic. For example, having favourite and hated colours reduces choice and thus stress, counteracting the effect of his inability to filter or prioritise: he notices (and remembers) every detail of everything, and can rewind it at will, whereas other people's brains are filled with imaginary stuff. He is a little like his hero Sherlock Holmes, who is quoted saying "The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance observes". Similarly, defining a good or bad day on the basis of how many red or yellow cars is no more illogical than an office-bound person's mood being dictated by the weather.All of this means animals are a better bet than humans: "I like dogs. You always know what a dog is thinking - it has four moods. Happy, sad, cross and concentrating. Also, dogs are faithful and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk". People are more of a mystery: when having a conversation, people look at him to understand what he's thinking, but Christopher can't do likewise. For him "it's like being in a room with a one-way mirror in a spy film". Love is even more unfathomable: "Loving someone is helping them when they get into trouble, and looking after them, and telling them the truth, and Father [does lots of things for me]... which means that he loves me".ComparisonsI reread this during a rather stressful journey, including the passages when Christopher is making a stressful journey. It helped me empathise with him - to the extent that it exacerbated my own stress!It's worth comparing this with Iris Murdoch's The Word Child (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), whose main character has tacit Asperger's tendencies, and The Housekeeper and the Professor (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), which is also about finding number patterns in everyday life, and involves a protagonist whose brain does not work like other people's.

Flowers for Algernon

by

4.01 rating

Comment 1: "She said for a person who God gave so little to you did more than a lot of people with brains they never even used. I said that all my friends are smart people and their good. They like me and they never did anything that wasnt nice. Then she got something in her eye and she had to run out to the ladys room."Ah! Right in the feels! (Don't worry about the typos, they are supposed to be there!).I read Flowers for Algernon decades ago in its original short story form, this is one of those stories that will always stay with you. If you are a science fiction fan and this story has somehow been overlooked you don’t even need to read the rest of this review, just grab a copy and read one of the all-time greats.The short story version is so memorable that I never really felt the necessity of reading this longer novel length version. Until now that is, I was looking at NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books list and it occurred to me that one of the three top 40 books that I have yet to read is the novel length version of Flowers for Algernon. There are numerous other “Best sci-fi books ever” lists online and practically all of them include “Algernon”.Flowers for Algernon is the story of Charlie Gordon a mentally handicapped young man with an IQ of 70. He volunteered for an experiment to boost his intellect with the result that his IQ is more than tripled. The story is narrated in the first person by Charlie in epistolary format, in the form of Progress Reports for the brain boosting project. Prior to the experimental operation Charlie was living almost blissfully as a "retard" (this very blunt word is frequently used throughout the novel, so I won't employ a euphemism here) he had a simple job he could do and friends. However, he is understandably frustrated that he can not understand most of what is going on in the world. What people are talking about, the jokes he laughs along with, the news etc. After his operation his intellect develops fairly rapidly and he begins to understand that people are not as smart or as nice as he had hitherto believed them to be.The first salient theme of this book that I noticed is that possessing an intellect is a mixed blessing. Ignorance is indeed bliss. As Charlie’s IQ begins to jump by leaps and bounds he finds that his EQ is lagging far behind. Being intelligent does not equip him to deal with people. What happen later on in the book is tragic but definitely ventures into spoilers territory so I won’t go into it.The book is beautifully but unpretentiously written, making for a fast, emotional reading experience. The characters are all believable, Charlie himself, Alice, his former teacher at a school for “special children” and the love of his life, and the various professors. Special mention must be made for the eponymous Algernon, the mouse that has his intelligence boosted before Charlie and become a sort of mini-Charlie, or a trail blazer for Charlie to follow. Daniel Keyes has made the mouse a very vivid character even without speaking parts. His eventual fate is one of the saddest parts if the book.I find that the original short story is a more intense reading experience and has a stronger emotional impact. This is due to the conciseness of the story. The novel, however, fleshes out the story with much more background details about Charlie’s family members, his childhood, his changed attitude toward the scientists and even his sex life. The additional details are interesting enough not to be superfluous but they do not make a great story greater.While the science of the intelligence boosting project is not explained in details this is not actually a “soft sci-fi” novel, there is enough discussion of “competitive inhibition of enzymes”, “cortical control”, “blocking the metabolic pathway" etc. to lend the book some verisimilitude (and to keep hard sci-fi fans happy).There are several notable profound passages in this book, I particularly like these two: “But I've learned that intelligence alone doesn't mean a damned thing. Here in your university, intelligence, education, knowledge, have all become great idols. But I know now there's one thing you've all overlooked: intelligence and education that hasn't been tempered by human affection isn't worth a damn.”Also this existential question: “Who's to say that my light is better than your darkness? Who's to say death is better than your darkness? Who am I to say?”Read it and weep my friends.__________________________________________EDIT June 18, 2014: I have just heard that Daniel Keyes died on June 15. It is sad to lose yet another great author, but I also envy him to have achieved immortality of sorts through his works. Flowers for Algernon especially. R.I.P Mr. Keyes, thank you for this beautiful story which I will always cherish.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

by

3.88 rating

Comment 1: Joelle Huertasttttttttt 904ttttttttW.A.t Book Review On The Five People You Meet In HeavenThe Five People You Meet In HeavenBy Mitch Albom208pp Passaic, New JerseyISBN-13: 9781401308582Hyperion $10.80 This book was so amazing that it remained on the New York Best Seller List for 95 weeks. If the book wasn’t that marvelous why would it have remained there? Mitch Albom’s book The Five People You Meet In Heaven is an extraordinary book. You might think it’s a religious book because the title itself, but it isn’t. It is a captivating book that deals with fait, death, and how everything you do affects someone else. I found myself comparing little choices or decisions I made to the ones Eddie, the main character made. I’m not into books about heaven or death but I found myself loving every minute of it. I found myself gasping, crying, and laughing with the characters because of the way Mitch Albom portrays Eddie is so moving. If you want a good fiction book, this is a MUST read!tEddie is a character who is alone in life, no family, no friends, just his job at the amusement park as janitor. It breaks your heart how alone he is. It’s so poignant the way it is written that it makes you want to befriend the aged lonely man.t The way the book starts is like the saying the end is only a new beginning. The beginning is the tragic, horrifying death of Eddie, and the death, or end, is only the beginning to his afterlife and the entry to heaven. The book puts such new perspectives on life to you and gives you knowledge of how to live life to the fullest.tSo many quotes can apply to your life, or help you out. For example Ruby, one of the five people Eddie meets in heaven, says to Eddie “Holding anger is a poison...It eats you from inside...We think that by hating someone we hurt them...But hatred is a curved blade...and the harm we do to others...we also do to ourselves...” I personally love that quote because it help me let go of things because I was filled with anger. I learned to let go, appreciate what you have and to have faith. The book is like having a mentor or role model who teaches you how to deal.tWhile reading the book you find yourself astound on how every little thing one does can alter someone’s life. Take Eddie for example. He is playing ball in the street, when the blue man is in a car. Eddie drops the ball, and chases it into the street where the blue man suddenly has a heart attack due to the scare he is facing of hitting this little boy in the street.tEddie goes through so much in the book. With deaths of every one he loves, to his own death in the very first chapter. He has to learn to accept death, fait, letting go, there are no random acts in life, and that love always wins! The way he learns is so amazing because he is so realistic, he’s a kind, old, and he would sacrifice himself for others. The way Albom shows this it makes you feel like you know him, to me I felt as if he was my grandfather. tEssentially this book is a must read whether you believe in heaven or not. I guarantee you will be moved by this book. There is even a movie too! One thing you will wonder after you finish reading this book is who will be your five people you meet in heaven?

1984

by

4.11 rating

Comment 1: درحقیقت من این کتابو نفهمیدم. با خوندن ریویوهای دوستان هم بیشتر فهمیدم نفهمیدم. درباره تنها چیزی که میتونم بنویسم، داستانه. اونقد برام سختخوان بود که کلی طول کشید تمومش کنم و وقتی کتابی بیشتر از سه چار روز دستم میمونه، حس میکنم دارم از فضاش فاصله میگیرم و باهاش کلنجار میرم. ولی واقعاً 1984 چیزی بود که شکنجهم میکرد. هر بیست صفحهش قدر صد صفحه ازم انرژی میگرفت. من درباره خیلی چیزا نمیدونم که این داستان سیلی محکمی بهخاطرشون بهم زد. هرچند که صد صفحه آخرو یه روزه خوندم و دیگه متوجه خیلی چیزاش شده بودم Comment 2: فضای آخرالزمانی رمان ۱۹۸۴ از همان ابتدا خواننده را مجبور میکند که تحتتأثیر قرار بگیرد، دلش مچاله شود، رنج ببرد از زمانهای که انگار دیر یا زود فرا میرسد و او را هم مثل وینستون اسمیت مجبور میکند که به ناظر کبیر مهر بورزد! تمام کتابهایی که در سبک سایبرپانک نوشته میشوند قرار است خوانندگانشان را به فکر فرو ببرند و وادارشان کنند به تأمل درباره اینکه چقدر تا ظهور این مدینه فاسده زمان مانده؟ با این همه نمیتوانم بگویم که ۱۹۸۴ کاملاً من را مبهوت کرد.

Fight Club

by

4.19 rating

Comment 1: Well, now I reckon y'all have seen the movie, so there's probably not a whole lot that you need to know about this book.You know Tyler Durden.He's the Id, the unchained spirit that wants what he wants and he wants it now. He's the voice in your head that tells you that everything is worthless, that chaos, death and the end of civilization would be better than anything our so-called "society" could ever create. He's the one standing over your left shoulder, whispering "Burn it all down. It'll be fun." He acts in secret, he has an army of minions, and he has a plan.Oh yes, you know Tyler Durden.The narrator of this dark and strange cautionary tale knows Tyler all too well, and tells us of how he and Tyler tried to change the world. It all started very simply - with basement fight clubs where men could let out their rage and frustration on each other. There were very few rules to fight club, but that was okay. Rules were, in fact, the problem. The regimented society in which we live imposes constant rules on us - social rules, cultural rules, corporate rules - that tell us who to be and what to think. The rules of our society have sapped us of our strength and purpose, making us soft. Pliable. Weak.But Tyler's plan doesn't end there - the fight clubs morph into Project Mayhem, a well-oiled anarchist movement, determined to bring down the very fundamentals of our society. With an army at his beck and call, Tyler is sure that his plan will succeed.It's a book with a couple of very powerful messages, one overt and incorrect, the other subtle and accurate. The overt message is Tyler's message - we are a generation with no cause, no purpose. Our lives are governed by what we buy and what we wear, and none of us will die having done anything with our lives. In order to be Real Men, we need to strip away the veneer of civilization - our Ikea furniture, our make-work jobs and our cornflower blue neckties - and rediscover the inner core of ourselves. The brutal, unafraid, unapologetic beast that is Man.This, to no one's surprise, appealed to a lot of people when the film came out because it's a very believable world view. Those of Gen X and beyond are reminded over and over again that the generations before us were the ones who actually did things. The Baby Boomers got herded into the slaughterhouse that was Vietnam, toppled a President, faced down the chaos of the Sixties and fought to change the world. Their parents, of course, were the Greatest Generation - a label that I have come to despise - who fought Hitler and freed Europe. Their parents struggled through the Depression, and their parents fought in the trenches of World War One.What have we done? Until the beginning of the 21st Century, how had we suffered? What had we sacrificed? Not a whole lot, and I think a lot of us secretly believe that we're not only not pulling our weight in the world, but that since we have not suffered, we're not really adult. Our miseries have not been those born of chaos, war and destruction. Ours have been tiny, personal tragedies that are, in their way, insignificant.I can see where Tyler Durden is coming from on this point - I do sometimes look around me and ask, "Where are our great challenges, our Normandy or our moon landing?" And I fear that without these milestones, my generation will never really be taken seriously. Unfortunately, this is about where most folks stopped thinking and decided, "Shit, man, he's right! I wanna start a fight club!" And short-lived fight clubs sprang up all over the country, lasting about as long as it took for people to realize that while Brad Pitt on the movie screen can get beaten within an inch of his life and still look cool, a normal human cannot. They missed the subtle message because it wasn't one that they really wanted to hear.The book is not about the triumph of nihilism over a consumer-driven culture. It's not about being a Real Man. It's not about being a unique snowflake or a space monkey. It's about overcoming both the desire to destroy society and the desire to be completely subsumed by it. It's about the need for purpose, and the need for connection with other people, and what can happen when one is deprived of those things. Tyler doesn't show up because the narrator is rootless or bored - Tyler shows up because the narrator has forsaken people for things. He has replaced personal achievement with material gain, and that's not a very fulfilling way to live.It is a cautionary tale for our generation - you are not your tragedies. You are not the club you belong to. You are not your scars. You are neither worthless nor undeserving.You are what you make yourself to be, no matter what Tyler Durden wants.

A Walk to Remember

by

4.14 rating

Comment 1: What can I say? I can't even begin to explain how wonderful this book was. Once again, Nicholas Sparks outdone himself. When I first started reading this, I didn't expect much, seeing as how it was a tragedy and I don't really care for tragedies, after the disaster with Romeo and Juliet LOL. However, there was something more to this book than other sad books I've read in my life. For one, this book touched my heart-REALLY touched my heart- and made me ask myself all these questions about love and miracles. This is like, the only book in my life that gave me that heartwarming I-want-to-be-a-better-person feeling. I love how at the beginnning Landon was just an ordinary high school student who took the smallest details of life for granted, but after meeting Jamie, he saw life and love in a new perspective. THIS is the kind of book that could be the new Twilight. I feel like people need more of these heartwarming, inspiring stories and I'm very grateful to Mr. Sparks for teaching me a lesson that I'm sure others need to learn.First off, I would like to praise the book cover. Fits the theme and book title perfectly. It reminds me of autumm, memories,walking, and lives changing. To me, the book cover shows how 57-years-old Landon flashbacks to his senior year when he was a 17-year-old. Even just looking at the cover makes my insides turn all gooey and reminds me of all Jamie and Landon had to gone through. :'(Next, I'd like to say I love the whole romance thing. How a twist of fate could change a boy's life and make him see what life has to offer him. When Landon asked Jamie to go to the school dance, little did he know it would only be the beginning of a long-time memory that would last with him forever. It's so neat how Jamie and Landon would later fall in love with each other, even though they never expected the unexpected to happen. The tiny moments they had with each other (rehersing the play, helping out at orphanages, talking on her front porch, etc.) were beautiful, and makes me fall in love with the book even more. The whole process of falling for each other ,even though they didn't expect to, was heartlifting and makes the book all the better. That is what I expect in YA novels. I love how time after time they realize they're in love, instead of those stupid I-love-you-so-much-even-after-knowing-you-for-a-week romance.I also enjoy getting to know the two main leads. Jamie is probably the most inspiring, most unselfish main character that I've ever known. She makes me want to be a better person, and she makes Landon feel that way, too. Two weeks ago, I didn't give a rat's ass about poor people or orphans. Now, however, after reading this book, I start thinking of miracles and small differences to make the world a better place. And the most inspiring, most saddest thing about Jamie was how she knew she was dying for, like, a year but during that year she still wanted to help others in need. Besides inspiring and unselfish, Jamie is also one of the bravest characters I know. She still stay optimistic, even when nature took its course. If I were in her place, I don't think I could be as brave as her. =')I also love Landon! Like I said earlier, I think it's amazing how he never notice life's smallest details until he met Jamie. Before, he didn't give much thinking into making a difference, but then after getting to know Jamie, he fell in love and wanted to make his girl proud of him by making small but genuine gestures. I believe that that is what made him a strong, amazing man at the end of the book. For example, at the end of the book, when Landon said he finally believed in miracles, I think he means that Jamie was his miracle, and that he was Jamie's miracle. I believe that is what shaped him up. He's one of the best growing characters that I'd read about. And the scene when he married to Jamie was like the most beautiful, lovely, heartbreaking, powerful thing I've ever read in my life!!!!!!!!!! :)))Now that my point is carried across, it's time to wrap things up. This was a very good book, and was the first and only book that made me cry in a long time. I could read this a thousand times, and I would still choke up a bit. It was a beautiful, heartwarming, powerful tearjerker. I had just watch the movie for the first time just today, which caused me to write this review. In my opinion, the movie was better than the novel, because the movie went deeper than what the book did. Plus, it made me cry even more than the book. Now everytime I see the book's cover, or listen to Mandy Moore's songs "Cry" and "Only Hope", or even think about the lovers behind the most amazing love story ever, I would break down in tears. Yes, AWTR was THAT amazing. It's saying something when a book/movie makes me extremely depressed for three days. :,(

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

by

3.98 rating

Comment 1: "...people could close their eyes to greatness, to horrors, to beauty, and their ears to melodies or deceiving words. But they could not escape scent. For scent was a brother of breath. Together with breath it entered human beings, who could not defend themselves against it, not if they wanted to live. And scent entered into their very core, went directly into their hearts, and decided for good and all between affection and contempt, disgust and lust, love and hate. He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men." ~p. 155There are two scents that I can remember rather sharply as long as I close my eyes and focus on them. The first one is the cigarette smell of my father's breath every time he kisses me as a child. It was probably the very reason I started smoking in the first place when I was only twelve years old because it was a scent that I associated with love and affection at that time. Even though he quit the habit when I was fourteen, I will always think of cigarette smoke as my father's signature scent, and breathing it in also comes with the fond recollection of my carefree innocence and the safety of a strong, paternal figure who will always protect me. That particular scent has etched on me so distinctly and completely that I instinctively have those warm feelings to this day whenever I'm at a social gathering with friends whose second-hand smoke is essentially a kind of nostalgia that intoxicates me. The second smell is my high school best friend's shampoo whose brand I never found out by name but it's something I can spot with my nose even from a distance. As soon as I encounter that shampoo scent, there's a lightness to my step when I approach it, knowing it's her, the love of my life then who fills up my breathing space with something extraordinary every day.In 2009, an upperclassman in college recommended the film adaptation of this book back when I didn't even know about this German novel. The movie starring Ben Whishaw as the lead role was something quite unforgettable in concept even if the delivery of the story itself felt lacking. Nevertheless, it was truly a bizarre story, one that confounds and disturbs--a spooky examination of the powerful extent that our olfactory sense has on us, like how certain smells can trigger memories and emotions in an inexplicable manner. I didn't like the movie as much but the plot and character did stay with me until I found out a copy of this book three years ago for the Manila International Book Fair."There are scents that linger for decades. A cupboard rubbed with musk, a piece of leather drenched with cinnamon oil, a glob of ambergris, a cedar chest--they all possess virtually eternal olfactory life. While other things evaporate within a few hours if they are exposed to the air in a pure, unbound form. The perfumer would bind scents that are too volatile, by putting them in chains, so to speak, taming their urge for freedom--though his art consists of leaving enough slack in the chains for the odor seemingly to preserve its freedom even when it is tied so deftly that it cannot flee." ~p.193 Patrick Süskind's 1985 novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer closely follows the dark tale of the orphan and aspiring perfumer Jean-Baptiste Grenouille who was born with an acute sense of smell. Puzzlingly enough, he has no smell of his own. This is a symbolic characteristic that I find poignant.The book was set in mid-century France, specifically in the grimy and filthy streets of Paris whose awful and wondrous variety of scents has drawn someone of Grenouille's special ability in the first place. In part, Perfume reads as a straightforward biography of the protagonist mostly told in the perspectives of the different men and women who have encountered him. It was by the last hundred pages of the novel that the narrative is transformed into a serial-killer suspenseful tale which was well worth the wait, given the amount of time that the author has spent earlier in the book, crafting a rather slow-burning pace that led to Grenouille's growing awareness concerning his prowess and the ultimate goal he must reach. I thought Süskind's style was a great exercise of literary discipline where he not only have to vividly capture olfactory descriptions throughout the novel, but also possess a greater understanding of what a creature like Grenouille must live like, as well as how he responds to his environment and humanity in general. With his gift, he never quite developed inherent qualities like empathy since he is only able to know people in the most visceral yet hollow of ways by associating everything a human being is through smell alone."Beneath his mask, there was no face but only his total ordorless." ~p. 241Grenouille's repulsion towards humans become more apparent once he fully embraced his narcissism and uniqueness, arguing that he must be above humankind because of his acute olfactory functions. He can create and concoct scents that can deceive people and he takes much pride in this feat. His feelings of superiority and alienation heavily stems from the fact that he never had any kind of meaningful connection or relationship with another person. He might as well be a new breed of human altogether and he knows this only too punishingly well. Suskind described Grenuoille as unremarkable in appearance, very inconspicuous and frail that he would hardly ever make an impression. In spite of Grenouille's bloated sense of worth, he remains very much human because he still possesses that natural inclination of ours to desire and wish for love. Grenouille does want to be accepted and loved even if it's in the most twisted way imaginable; and the grave road he paved to acquire just that is absolutely frightening. Deeply motivated to "rob a living being its aromatic soul" in substitute of his own, Grenouille mistakes this for happiness.Grenouille begins to seek the ultimate olfactory concoction found in the odors of adolescent girls whom he began to hunt down in order to acquire their essence and store it in a perfume bottle. This is the most engaging part of the entire novel; his desire to create a perfume that makes him irresistible to humans. It is sad when you think about it. What Grenouille simply wants to accomplish is to reaffirm his existence through defining his relevance in the only manner he is capable of. Under the threat of population and emphasis on the significant role of the majority versus the individual, Grenouille feels invisible, taking comfort in the lie that this does not bother him when it in fact imprisons him in a state of mind where no one can reach him. "Jean-Baptiste Grenouille [is] a compelling character designed to exploit a deeply embedded cultural fascination with the criminal genius...Grenouille's appeal derives from the similarity of this homicidal predator of eigtheenth-century France with present-day serial killers, real and fictional, who continue to attract both artistic and public interest. As a serial killer, Grenouille conforms to a profile established by current clinical research linking the narcissistic borderline personality with homicidal psychopaths. Severe emotional traumas in early life have blocked the healthy internalizations needed to build a stable core self. Lacking coherent self-structure as the basis for internalizing authority, he has no superego. Guilt is not an aspect of his consciousness; he murders merely to acquire the materials necessary for his art."~The Poetics of Melancholia and MourningWith such a painstakingly layered and symbolic themes that populate this book, there have been a handful of analyses and interpretations about Perfume out there which are also available online. The most striking article I've read about it (as quoted above) asserts that 'the novel is a cautionary fable revealing how the Enlightenment ideal of individual autonomy is all-too-easily subverted by instrumental reason to produce the ego pathology that increasingly infects modern society.' Granted, this analysis mostly focuses on the subversions and criticism on Romanticism, as well as issues on the subject of melancholia and mourning in a literary perspective, but it's a rather interesting read to so I advise you check it out if you ever decide to read this book."He, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born with no odor of his own on the most stinking spot in this world amid garbage, dung and putrefaction, raised without love, with no warmth of a human soul, surviving solely on impudence and the power of loathing--he had managed to make the world love him. And in that moment he experienced the greatest triumph of his life. And he was terrified. He was terrified because he could not enjoy one second of it." ~pp. 239-240Anyone loves a great serial-killer story and this may be no Darkly Dreaming Dexter because it's not a hard-boiled thriller dealing with moral ambiguities as slick and sexy as the aforementioned series does, but Perfume nonetheless excels in the genre in its own sublime way. With a character like Jean-Baptiste Grenouille who is more or less a blunt-force trauma-to-the-head, this book delivers a dark fable that's more often than not rather crude and petrifying in scope, yet its prose also becomes delicate to the touch, even when it's uncomfortably bizarre to see the events unfold before you. The gruelling climax and ending will simply astound and leave you cold for hours. This is a guaranteed contemporary classic that will deftly play with your imagination. "But Grenouille perceives that this is not enough because he cannot love himself. He knows that, even though he can appear as the most wonderful of individuals to everyone in the world with this scent, he cannot smell himself and, therefore, he cannot know who he truly is. With this lack of self-knowledge, the world and himself have no meaning."~[x]RECOMMENDED: 8/10DO READ MY REVIEWS AT:

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by

3.84 rating

Comment 1: One of my all-time favorite novels. Most of all, I fell in love with the language in this book.There's not really any way to spoil this novel, as so much is revealed in the first chapter. And, this book is driven by its characters and its language, rather than plot.Their Eyes Were Watching God demonstrates the dual potential of language. Language may be used as an instrument of truth to express love, self-fulfillment, and honest emotions. Conversely, language may also be used as an instrument of deceit. In its negative sense, language may be used as a means to limit the freedom of others or, through gossip, to pry into others’ lives. Clearly, Janie Crawford, the novel’s protagonist, is affected by both aspects of language; though language often hampers Janie’s freedom, as she grows in confidence and maturity, she is able to overcome the negative language of others and to control her own use of language. Hurston introduces the negative use of language early in the first chapter. When Janie returns to Eatonville after having left with a younger man, the townspeople assume and hope she is returning in defeat. Rather than wishing Janie well, the porch sitters wait eagerly to get the “dirt,” so that they may dissect Janie’s life and feel better about their own. Hurston provides an articulate description of the porch sitters’ motivation and use of language: These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were one, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment. (2)Gossiping gives the porch-sitters power. Janie, however, has learned a great deal during her life’s journey; rather than trying to hide her life and give the townspeople any opportunity to speculate on her life, Janie tells the simple truth. Significantly, Janie tells her entire story to her closest friend, whom she knows will be honest. Janie even encourages Phoeby Watson to repeat her story to the entire town. By revealing her life completely, Janie usurps the porch-sitters’ power. Janie is willing to give the narrative of her life to Pheoby because her trust in her friend is absolute: “You can tell 'em what Ah say if you wants to. Dat's just de same as me 'cause mah tongue is in mah friend's mouf” (4). Janie recognizes Pheoby’s language will be just as true as her own.As Janie recounts her life, the oppression language has caused her immediately becomes evident. As a young girl of 16, a flowering pear tree “speaks” to Janie of love and fulfillment. When her grandmother (Nanny) sees her kissing a boy beneath the tree, she immediately calls to Janie and, in her speech, ultimately uses language to limit Janie’s world and freedom. Ironically, Nanny starts her speech by explaining how she always wanted to have a “voice”: “You know, honey, us colored folks is branches without roots and that makes things come round in queer ways. You in particular. Ah was born back due in slavery so it wasn't for me to fulfill my dreams of whut a woman oughta be and to do … Ah wanted to preach a great sermon about colored women sittin' on high, but they wasn't no pulpit for me” (15). Despite Nanny’s own desire for language and power, her solution for Janie’s life takes away Janie’s voice and nearly destroys her. To ensure that Janie will have security, Nanny pressures her into marrying Logan Killicks, a man far older than Janie whom she does not love.[While I don't think discussing the plot lessens your enjoyment of this book, there may be spoilers ahead.:]Janie cannot communicate with Logan on any level, verbally or sexually. By the time Janie meets Joe Starks, his smooth-talking charm captivates Janie immediately. His language seduces her. Yet, Janie does not succumb completely; she realizes Joe Starks also falls short of the kind of love she envisioned at 16 when she was dreaming under the pear tree. Hurston depicts Janie’s hesitancy accordingly: “Janie pulls back a long time because he did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees, but he speaks for far horizon. He speaks for change and chance.” Janie sense of uncertainty, her intuition that something is lacking in Joe Starks, for all his sweet language, quickly becomes evident after she leaves with him and travels to Eatonville.For Starks, language is power; language does not have to be truthful as long as it gets him what he wants. With incredible speed, Joe meets with the Eatonville townspeople and tells them what they need. Before Joe puts their needs into words, the townspeople had been relatively content. Joe’s words inspire awe but also make the townspeople feel small and ignorant. Janie soon realizes that Starks never stops talking and that his talk has only one purpose: to increase his power and self-worth. In many ways Starks’ treatment of the townspeople mimics the power tactics and condescension white people have often used to disempower African-Americans. Not surprisingly, Starks’ overpowers Janie the same way he overpowered the townspeople; Janie is forced to tie back her beautiful hair and remain silent while she works in the store. When the townspeople encourage Janie to speak, Joe makes Janie’s position clear: “Thank yuh fuh yo' compliments, but mah wife don't know nothin' 'bout no speech- makin'. Ah never married her for nothin' lak dat. She's uh woman and her place is in de home.” Despite Janie’s seeming submission, she is less a woman beaten than a woman in hibernation; Janie is simmering. After years of Starks’ overbearing abuse, Janie chooses to talk again when Joe berates her for not cutting his tobacco properly, and—in front of all the people in the store—tells her she has become old and unattractive. Infuriated, Janie retaliates and tell Joe, “When you pull down yo' britches, you look lak de change uh life” (75). The remark stuns both Joe and all the men in the store. Not only has Janie fought back but also, in one powerful sentence, she crushes Joe’s manhood. After nearly 18 years of silence, Janie’s short speech defeats Joe entirely. Shortly before Joe dies, Janie speaks again and tells Joe of his cruelties and inadequacies. Unlike Joe, who liked the sound of his own voice, throughout their marriage Janie spoke when it was necessary and then spoke only the truth.In contrast, Janie begins to speak a lot more after Joe’s death. Her re-birth is particularly evident when a stranger, a young man named Tea Cake, comes to town. Unlike Logan Killicks or Joe Starks, Tea Cake treats Janie with equality and delights in her conversation. Their romance stirs up the town gossips who immediately begin speculating that Janie is acting like a fool, that Tea Cake, a man 15 years younger than Janie, must be after her money, and that Janie should still be in mourning. Janie discounts the judgments of the porch-sitters, recognizing that their supposed concern masks their jealousy and self-righteousness. When Janie leaves town to meet Tea Cake in Jacksonville, her re-birth is complete. Though their marriage is occasionally volatile, they speak the language of love. With Tea Cake, Janie has found the promise suggested so many years ago under the pear tree. Even working in the Everglades “muck,” Janie feels alive and is able to find joy and happiness despite her limited circumstances. Mrs. Turner, a smug “mulatto” proud of her light coloring and disdainful of the other people living in the “muck,” provides one of the few overt references to race. Mrs. Turner, impressed by Janie’s light coloring and “class,” tries to befriend her. Both Janie and Tea Cake recognize that Mrs. Turner hates her own race and speaks the language of hate, a philosophy Hurston depicts as follows: "Anyone who looked more white folkish than herself [Mrs. Turner:] was better than she was in her criteria, therefore it was right that they should be cruel to her at times, just as she was cruel to those more negroid than herself in direct ratio to their negroness.” Following the aftermath of Tea Cake’s death, the trial, and her eventual acquittal, Janie realizes that she needs to go home. Her life has come full circle, and the love she has experienced with Tea Cake will remain with her as long as she remembers him. In part, she will keep his memory alive through language, just as she does when she tells Pheoby every thing that has happened. Throughout her journey, Janie has learned both the oppressive and the liberating power of language. Ironically, Hurston also felt the negative power of language. Although Hurston later received negative reviews for her use of language in Their Eyes Were Watching God, like her protagonist, Janie Crawford, Hurston preferred to tell it as it is. Deliberately, Hurston uses the nuances, rhythms and dialect of the African-Americans she portrays to preserve the richness of their language. Like Janie, perhaps, Hurston defied the mores of her culture and chose the language of truth and love over conformity.adapted from a prior publication

The Good Earth

by

3.95 rating

Comment 1: There is a gush of red, marvelous, and mysterious blood running through my veins. I am part Chinese. A race that has given me these small eyes and this yellowish complexion. A race that I have associated with frugality, hard work, mass production, internet restrictions, and Jackie Chan. China, I've only been there once as a tourist when I was a bit younger. And as much as I'd like to think that I am familiar with the Chinese culture, I have to admit that my knowledge about that is limited and my views about them a bit stereotypical. My Grandma, the real Chinese in the family, still brings Moon Cakes during the Chinese New Year and we do maintain fireworks when celebrating. We also drink herbal tea at home and have this uncanny favoritism for Chinese restaurants during family get-togethers. Aside from that, you could say that I'm really much more familiar with Filipino and Western cultures. So when I picked up this book, I didn't know what to expect. My only assurances were that it won the Pulitzer Prize and the author is a Nobel Prize winner. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck is a beautiful and sweeping story of farmer Wang Lu and his wife O-lan. The Land, the man, and their bond. This beautiful tale left me thirsty and craving for knowledge about this race that resides within me yet has not fully manifested itself. This may sound fancy but I have to say what I feel. This book made me fall in love with China, the Chinese culture, my Chinese roots.“And roots, if they are to bear fruits, must be kept well in the soil of the land.” The beauty of this sweeping tale can be understood by hearing its voice, its message. It whispers an earnest plea of the oldest kind, it whispers "Remember the land." The land which has provided for your father, your father's father, and countless generations before him. In this age of technology, internet, GMOs and fast foods, we forget the land. We ignore the Good Earth that has sustained the lives of everyone before us, and lives of this generation. "If you sell the land it is the end. And his two sons held him, one on either side, each holding his arm, and he held in his hand the warm loose earth. And they soothed him and they said over and over, the elder son and the second son,Rest assured, our father, rest assured. The land is not to be sold.But over the old man's head they looked at each other and smiled." This book, written in the year 1931, exposes a problem that has continually been growing worse as each generation progresses. Each son telling his father "the land will not be sold" but inwardly smiling at this statement he knows to be untrue. Each son, each daughter, each generation, saying we will save this good earth. But for every tree he plants, he cuts down two more. For every bottle she recycles, she throws out two more. For every plot turned into a garden, there are two plots turned into garbage dumps. Each man, woman, son, daughter thinking about their self, their success apart from the land. They forget that their success lies with the land. They forget the Earth that has been good to them. “Wang Lung sat smoking, thinking of the silver as it had lain upon the table. It had come out of the earth, this silver, out of the earth that he ploughed and turned and spent himself upon. He took his life from the earth; drop by drop by his sweat he wrung food from it and from the food, silver."This book touches a lot of other social issues like Feminism, Slavery, Concubinage, Civil Wars, etc. I will not discuss much of these issues and will only say in passing that a different culture enabled them to see nothing wrong with things we in modern times would consider abhorrent and terrifying. Things like selling daughters, feet-binding, polygamy aren't limited to China as these practices can also be found in other Asian countries. But I marvel at how Mrs. Buck was able to make it feel natural despite all these cultural differences. She effected a normalcy on these weird practices that I didn't once think that I was unfamiliar with them. This speaks of her grace and her skill as a writer. She writes with a natural grace and an earnest plea. I am engrossed by her writing, her message, her book. The Good Earth is a timeless, moving story that depicts the sweeping changes that have occurred not only in the lives of the Chinese people during the last century, but also of everyone who has walked a part of this good earth. She traces the whole cycle of life: its terrors, its passions, its ambitions, its rewards. Her beloved and brilliant novel is a universal tale of the destiny of mankind. "Out of the Land we came and into it we must go."

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

by

3.73 rating

Comment 1: HEADLINE: A bad guy who is fabulously talented in bed and a good guy who fumbles sex can complicate life for a girl.I ought to have my head examined for undertaking a review of Tess of the d'Ubervilles, the next to the last of Thomas Hardy's novels. My purpose in considering the idea was that I might perhaps persuade one other person to read this novel who might not otherwise. I am all about service to my fellow man. However, there are strange aspects of this novel that when discussed in remove from the novel itself can make it sound off-putting. I will mention a few of those without emphasizing them. They involve weird twists in the plot handed us through the vehicle of some strange scenes. On the other hand I do not wish simply to offer diamond-like passages from this novel, although that is tempting. But let us take a shot here.Tess is the eldest daughter in a poor family in 19th century England. The novel follows events in her life from the time she is sixteen until she is approximately 21, let us say. There are a multitude of detailed plot outlines of this novel to be found elsewhere on line. The only valuable supplement to those that I can offer is to say bluntly what those plot outlines say in such a roundabout way that it loses impact or can be missed entirely. Tess is one hot looking sixteen-year-old female human being. It is out of the fact that Tess is one hot looking sixteen-year-old that all the action of this novel arises. At the time of her first seduction, or rape, she is described as one who has a "coarse pattern" laid over her "beautiful feminine tissue." So in picturing her, we must picture her as something much more than simply a pretty young girl, although she is certainly that. She is a pretty young girl with that look about her that drives men wild—that look about her being something rarely encountered in a girl so young.Some part of that look about her derives from her unity with nature—or should we say “Nature” with a capital “N” since we are after all talking about a Thomas Hardy novel? I would rather put it this way. She is earthy. When Hardy writes about her when she is in relatively unspoiled natural surroundings, it is apparent that she herself is very much at home in and a natural part of those surroundings.Hardy places our hot looking sixteen-year-old girl in an environment with some problems. It is an environment wherein the Victorian morals of society are so completely at odds with the nature of men and women generally, and particularly in the realm of sex.Second, she inhabits a rural area of England where the quality of life is slowly deteriorating. Hardy does not impose upon us with some heavy-handed social commentary at all. Rather, this social commentary is portrayed seamlessly along with the characters and the action. As an example, there is a great contrast between the portrayal of Tess's life as a milkmaid early in the novel, which is idyllic and almost lyrically described, and her life later in hard labor on a farm, the slave of a threshing machine. You must notice stuff like this if you are going to do big time literature.But let me get back to the sex because I know that is what probably piqued your interest. For women heterosexual sex requires men, as much as women may at times regret this. Hardy supplies the men here in the form of two male knotheads named Alec and Angel. She is raped by the wealthy Alec who drugged her with a delicious strawberry, and has his child, which immediately dies. She falls in love with the decent Angel who lacks wits but is under the mistaken impression that he has them in spades. She marries Angel, only to be abandoned by him when he finds out about her past. She becomes Alec's mistress--Alec now, ala Roman Polanski, regrets the strawberry drugging and the rape--partly for economic reasons. A girl's gotta eat. The other part of her reasons are addressed below. A repentant Angel flies back to her, a tad late to the dance as usual, only after she has just murdered Alec. The two of them end up at Stonehenge of all places, where she is apprehended after the police let her complete a nap. There are a lot of puzzling sleep episodes in this novel. Again, you must notice stuff like that if you are going to do big time literature. I think that we can safely conclude that Alec, the "bad guy," is sexually skillful in the sack. He knows what he is doing with a woman and likes to do it a lot. The "good guy," Angel, fumbles in this area. I mean, the "good guy," Angel, chooses to sleep on the couch during his wedding night rather than have sex with one of the hottest young women in the country. Why? Because he finds out that she has had sex before. Whew! This is the kind of thing that can complicate life for a girl, I understand. And now, thanks to this novel, I do understand. I wanted to kick both of those guys' asses at one point or another, but of course I was feeling a little paternal about this poor hot looking sixteen-year-old girl. I refer to them as knotheads, but both do evolve and develop during the course of the novel in what we could simplistically call a favorable direction. The problem—and it is this problem that gives us our story—is that neither of them evolves and develops quickly enough to remedy the horrendous impact their earlier conduct has had on poor Tess and save her. Angel finally comes to the realization that it does not make any difference if she has previously had sex with both the football team and the marching band. She is nonetheless a quality human being whom that nitwit should feel undeservedly blessed to have as a wife.I say “poor Tess,” but. . . . Tess is not passive. She is a girl of action and decision. She makes choices. She acts on those choices. We readers like Tess immensely. It is just that we as readers are continually frustrated with the choices she makes. She is not very old. So this is natural. However, part of the great entertainment afforded by this novel for the reader is contemplating what her alternative choices were and whether those might have resulted in any better an outcome for her. After great thought, insofar as I do great thought, I have concluded that none of those other choices would have. My personal view is that she was doomed from the outset by the mere fact that she was one hot looking sixteen-year-old female human being in a society where that made for nothing but trouble. The tragedy is that in 21st Century America, this could have made her queen of the hop. I might be wrong. You will have fun coming to your own conclusions.I had given a spoiler alert at the beginning, but the facts of the plot that I set out above are not really spoilers. It is not at all that unusual a 19th Century plot, other than the conclusion is more grim than usual and the sex is more prominently on display in that Alec and Tess actually do have a lot of sex, as in intercourse and all the accompanying accoutrements presumably. At least Alec was no Bill Clinton. The great pleasure in reading this story is Hardy's manner of telling it even if you know what is going to happen. Anyone who knows anything about Hardy will know that Tess is not going to come to a good end anyway.There you go. That is the best I can do. I urge you not to miss out on this novel. And please do not respond by telling me that you saw the PBS production. Give me a break. This is a great novel, to be enjoyed as a novel.

The Joy Luck Club

by

3.88 rating

Comment 1: An exceptional talent, Amy Tan presents a delightful debut that breaks down Chinese culture and racial stereotypes Americans have long criticized. Tan has an innate ability to weave Chinese ancestry and fiction into a novel so beautifully written, she becomes a defining voice for families of Asian-American descent. Vignettes are purposeful to the novel because it highlights faith, family and food {mottos I live by in my life} as being an integral part of their culture and how immigrating to America forces one to struggle with identity crises and issues. Though the vignettes, readers are cascaded into a variety of emotions–––pain, anguish, optimism, pleasure and peace. I find it incredible that a book that's been around for nearly 30 years still shows relevance in today's society. I judge a book not by it's cover (no pun intended) but by the following, with each star rating representing each one: Content, Language/Vernacular, Ability to Set a Theme, Plot or Setting, Association to the Real World, and Characters. Now that I've given you the spiel on my opinion of the book, let me describe the synopsis to you. It is 1949 and four Chinese women, An-Mei Hsu, Suyuan Woo, Ying-Ying St. Clair and Lindo Jong, recently immigrate to San Francisco after what is presumably World War II in which they start playing mah jong, indulge in dim sun and to engage in stories of their personal plights they encountered during their differentiating childhoods and adulthoods. They name this ritual, The Joy Luck Club.Content: 1/1- Amy Tan's execution of The Joy Luck Club was astounding and astonishing! Both because she subconciously broke racial barriers against Chinese stereotypes we {Americans} have thought for so long and registered emotions within me I thought dead. You can't help but feel sympathy for the stories of the women telling them and to feel empowered by their strength. The novel included proverbs, scriptures and anecdotes that made me think two things after the completion of reading it: a) "Chinese women are wise," and b) "To give up on a dream is to sacrifice a soul once free now burdened with hostility, hardship and irrevocable sadness. (My quote and take away from the book). Although this was the astounding part, the astonishing part was how much of a autobiographical memoir of Amy Tan's this felt like. It was clear to me she was the character of Jing-Mei Woo, Suyuan Woo's daughter, as was evident by the references to her profession, relationships, and the like. In reality ,all of the characters took parts of Tan's life and bore resemblance to her, which I valued and appreciated because it showed how much she dedicated herself to the genealogy of her family tree and to preserve the past and their legacy.Language/Vernacular: 1/1- The use of combining both Chinese and English vocabulary was a brilliant idea because like the characters in the book, it associated itself with trying to adjust to American life and yet hold on to Chinese ties. The words weren't just words but to me they held and still hold sentimental value. Like the meaning of "tyandi" (heaven and earth) or "chi" (the spirit that caused so much pain), I not only expanded my vocabulary but opened my mind to learning a new language and culture. And speaking of said language, I was proud of Tan's ability to help her predominantly American readers distinguish the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin. Ability to Set a Theme, Plot or Setting: 0/1- Let's face the fact that although her execution of the culture, customs and the values within the culture was delivered effortlessly, her execution of the so-called plot which was supposed to be four women gathering to play mah jong, failed miserably because the mention of mah jong was so vague, it was almost unnoticeable. Had she improved on making the connection of the women's lives to why mah jong was of importance, the story would have perpetual sustainability.Association to the Real World: 1/1- I don't think I should have to go into details as I've mentioned it several times already. But the story holds true to how people criticize people of another culture and discriminate against them based on a number of things: gender (the women in the book were raised with antiquated ways and deemed to be nothing more than housewives which they were successful at), race (noticeable differences between someone from Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Ghangzhou), and social status (Ying-Ying St. Clair was the only one of the four to grow up with wealth). The identity crises was a big focal point in the book and it captured that but the question that remained and still remains in my mid was and is: "How does this relate to the sole purpose of The Joy Luck Club––to play mah jong).Characters: 0.5/1-The novel was told from seven different perspectives which made it difficult to distinguish the mothers from their daughters. I found myself going back and forth between the page with the list of mothers and daughters constantly. To add to this imprudence, most of the characters seemed one-dimensional. The only characters I found interesting in the book (and perhaps it's because I'm impartial to them) is clearly An-Mei Su and Ying-Ying St. Clair. They're chapters is the reason I continued to read it even after dozing off a dozen times because of it. Page 145 in my edition began with Part Three of the novel titled, "American Traditions" and my favorite chapter was An-Mei's called "Magpies" (pgs. 215-41).Overall, the book is a strong effort and I strongly recommend it to anyone who is a historical fiction and memoir guru who enjoy writers with complex writing styles. Final star rating: 3.5!

Madame Bovary

by

3.63 rating

Comment 1: Oh, Emma. Emma, Emma, Emma. Darling, why must you make it so easy ? No, dear, (for once) I don’t mean for the men. I mean for everyone else in the world who goes into this book just looking for an excuse to make fun of you. I would say that most people don’t know that much about France, but they do know a few things: that they like their baguettes, their socialism, Sartre, dirrrty dirrty sexy lurrrve and they despise this thing called the bourgeoisie. This book doesn’t really do a thing to disprove any of this (though I can’t say baguettes had a prominent place in the plot), and I expect that it had a great deal to do with starting the last two stereotypes. Emma, my dear, Desperate Housewives isn’t your fault, but you can see why some people might blame you, don’t you? Your constant, throbbing whining about how your (plentiful) food isn’t served on crystal platters, how your dresses(of which you have more than a typical country doctor’s wife) aren’t made of yards of spider-spun silk, and most of all how your husband dresses wrong, talks wrong, thinks wrong, WEARS THE WRONG HAT (!!), and is so offensively happy with you that he enjoys coming straight home to tell you about his day and relax in front of his fireplace every night instead of going out drinking- well, there’s a saying about the smallest violin, isn’t there?It makes it easy for people to plausibly dismiss this story with things like this:(If it makes you feel better, dear, you are hardly the only one.. Your other compatriots in 19th century repressed female misery receive similar treatment: )It is easy to despise you, Emma. You and your seemingly shallow priorities, the unthinking selfish harm you did to your husband AND your baby girl, the endless excuses you had for your, frankly, off the charts stupid behavior, the fact that you didn’t even try and communicate how unhappy you were to the guy who loved you who might’ve done something about it (since all the evidence shows that he is willing to COMPLETELY CHANGE HIS LIFE whenever you ask him to) and, finally (what can seem to be) the incredibly coward move you made in finding a way to not face the consequences your childish sense of the world couldn’t believe would eventually come up. What goes around comes around ,as the wise chanteur sayeth. (Perhaps the alternate cover above should substitute ‘Justin Timberlake’ for Sassy Gay Friend.)That’s pretty much how I felt about you for about 150 pages after you made your entrance, Emma. While you started your endlessly copied, endlessly bastardized fall from Angel in the Home Grace, and while you tried to make a saint out of yourself for not having sex with a young clerk who couldn’t have supported you anyway. You were simply the grandmother of Lady Chatterley, an extended protest letter to a dead king I couldn’t care less about.But in the end, you won, Emma. I couldn’t escape you. Seriously, y’all, this book would not leave my head alone, for days, and I thought… many different and contradictory things about it. In the end, though, I kept coming back to one thought: the most terrifying thing I can think of is getting caught in Emma Bovary’s eyes. Did everyone read that profile about Dan Savage this weekend about infidelity and marriage? I did. Emma is the literary incarnation of Savage’s argument. Her eyes are on the cover of this book, and the more I looked at them, the more disturbed I got. Those eyes are the reason that marriage is so frightening, why ‘commitment issues’ exist. This is a novel about how reality can look just the same to you from one day to the next, but to your partner, it can have turned into a hell or a heaven, even if it is the same Tuesday routine as the last one. Emma’s gaze, how each time she fixes her eyes on some scheme of happiness and how those eyes transform everything they see. She shows how unstable marriage is, how thin the foundations are- resting on nothing but the words- “I love you.” Words that just need one more word to dissolve the entire thing. That’s it, you guys. One word and someone’s will to speak it is all that stands between a solid marriage and one that is over- no matter how much paperwork you sign, how many kids you have, houses you fill with furniture. You never really know what the person across from you is thinking. How do you really know what motivates someone? Are they with you because they have made a resolution to be? Are they there with you because the stars shine in your eyes? Are they perfect to you because they are about to leave? Marriage, for better or worse, no matter what people say, adds so many complications. It is the commitment that people twist and bend over and around in so many different contortions to try to make it work- because it is a marriage, because it means something. How difficult is it to trust that people are simply what they say they are? Charles is simple and straightforward and rather sweet- and Emma hates him for it. She smiles and smiles and smiles… and then cheats on him, bankrupts him, tries to prostitute herself and kills herself rather than spend another day with him. This is the most anxiety inducing book I have ever read about marriage. It’s the 19th century where you have to make a vow for life that you can't get out of, not really, in order to test the idea that you might want to be with someone. If you're wrong, that's it. You've failed. It’s all-or-nothing. Emma is the incarnation of the expectations of the institution at the time- all-or-nothing. Madame Bovary is destroyed because she tries to put her all into Charles, then Rodolphe and then Leon, and none of them can withstand it. Each of them are good for different things, and only for a little while, and she can't accept it. That is not the ideal. She won't accept less than the ideal. You guys, she's nothing more than exactly what she is told is available to her- granted, she's after the best of what she's told is available: the ideal. But why do we hold that against her? As long as we live in a society where we’re told to strive after the ideal, to never give up, you will have people who destroy themselves and everyone around them to get it. Savage’s discussion of what the “ideal” means in real life is enlightening and pertinent here, I think. He talks about how you have to be willing to change a lot and make a huge effort to keep the deal of monogamy alive. Of course everyone has their limits, and in many marriages, the trade offs of one person’s limits for the others (I won’t do this, and you won’t do that- I won’t do that, but I will do this) end up making the deal of monogamy work. But you have to be honest about it, you have to be able to say things that you’ve never said out loud before. You have to admit that you won’t be happy unless you live a life where you have crystal knickknacks on your fireplace, and you get off from pies being thrown in your face. But it’s not that easy- Emma was on her deathbed, writhing in agony from eating arsenic, and she still couldn’t tell Charles what she wanted from him.I can’t blame Emma, ultimately. It actually made me think, of all things, a bit about Planet of Slums. That book talks about the millions of people who have been born outside the system, in illegal settlements to parents who are illegal themselves, and who are not, in fact, ignored by the system. They never get into the system in the first place- a system that is not built to cope with the mind-blowing poverty that arises from its excrement. The system can’t acknowledge it and justify itself. At the risk of sounding like I think relatively-well-off white lady problems bear any resemblance to the horror of someone living on the outskirts of Kinshasa in a lean-to, Emma is just trying to get in to a society that can't acknowledge her and go on. She’s trying with all her might to buy into the fairy tales she’s been told (just like the revived, and growing belief in magic in some slums), and does whatever she has to do to get her hands on it, even if only for a little while. She saw that fairy tales are real (or so she thinks) at that ball that one time- she SAW it, mommy- and can’t handle the fact that they exist on this earth and she can’t be a part of it. And in case anyone finds her head-in-the-sand refusal to face the world overly childish or impossible to relate to: The endless line of irresponsible credit she takes out from the scam artist down the street in order to feed her fantasies about the way she believes her life should look has obvious immediate relevance to America in the pre-2008 financial crisis era. In some ways, the existential crisis Flaubert is trying to outline here: between a solidly practical, profit-and-advancement outlook on life and a sensibility that at least tries to aspire to something higher, even if it is unaffordable or impossible, is the distilled essence of the push and pull of American partisan politics. Monsieur Homais would have done very well on Wall Street. Emma can be read as being more American than French, really. Emma is a true believer. She doesn’t just want attention from men, or shiny things. I didn’t really believe that until the part where she tries to renounce the whole world for fervent religious devotion. Failing making it into her fairy tale, she wants to escape where she is- to somewhere else, anywhere else. By the end, I felt like I was suffocating right along with her. Virginia Woolf said that the “present participle is the devil” . Emma adds the present place, the present time, the present person you are with. She really is willing to try anything to escape. On her deathbed, as she pleaded to die, my heart was racing along with hers and the whole finale read like a blockbuster last action scene with explosives and severed limbs flying. I didn’t enjoy the journey I had with her, but I had made it and lived in tiny spaces with her, spaces that got ever smaller as the book wound down. Every chapter there was less and less light until she was curled up in a ball in solitary confinement with no hope of escape. In the Count of Monte Cristo, we root for the hero to get thrown over the side of a cliff in a body bag because it is his only hope of escape. How could we do less for poor Emma? She deserves her chance to make it to the place she always hoped for- even if priests and businessmen argue whether she got there over her corpse. If she can’t be buried in ‘blessed’ ground, well, at that point the priest’s God is just another man telling her she has to stay in the woods with the witch and her oven rather than try to find the path home, like she was always taught to do. Flaubert handles his prose deftly, precisely, and with a deceptively commonplace hand. He doesn’t try for smart metaphors and delicate similes, but rather has characters say what the mean in an effectively believable way that makes Emma a character who can impact the lives of real women. Parts of this novel are spine-tinglingly sordid, others wrench out your gut, most of it can be drearily, boringly, mind-numbingly quotidian, and every so often, a gem shines through that makes you turn around and look at someone you had thought you were done being interested in. In other words, it’s like last Wednesday. And the Tuesday before that. And today. And probably next Monday. The morning when you woke up vowing that today it was all going to be different, that afternoon when you just wanted to die, the evening when you forgot it all making dinner and laughing about that thing you saw on the internet.Flaubert can’t get it all, or say it all right, but he knows that. In fact, he’s willing to tell his readers that. But he does it in such a way that you just want to punch him in the face like you do that size 0 model who complains that she’s too fat:“Whereas the truth is that fullness of soul can sometimes overflow in utter vapidity of language, for none of us can ever express the exact measure of his needs or his thoughts or his sorrows; and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”Aw, come on, Gustave. Why do you want to make those of us with irrevocably not-size-0 rears, who can’t get from Q to R, cry? Yet, even your complaining makes me want to hug you.I guess what I am saying is why are you so awesome, Monsieur Flaubert?

The Clan of the Cave Bear

by

3.99 rating

Comment 1: My #7 Favorite read of 2013 A Unique and Entrancing 5 Stars When I am rating a book, I am internally comparing that book to other similar books in the genre and asking myself if it is on par with the best I have read. For me, when it comes to rating what I deem to be Historical Fiction, 5 stars are a rarity. It is my favorite genre and there is always a masterpiece to which it can be compared. That said, The Clan of the Cave Bear has no peers. For me, this story explores a time that I have never explored or read and I have basis for comparison. In general, as historical fiction, it meets all my requirements. There is a sense of realism, the sense the author has researched the time period, a sense that the characters belong in the time period and ability of the author to help of live history instead of reciting it.As far as historical fiction in concerned, The Clan of the Cave Bear is likely far more Fiction than historical. The setting is prehistoric times and what we know or claim to know of these early days is no more than our best guesses. Regardless, Jean Auel clearly researched the available material and provide and interesting look into prehistoric life. Plot summary After an earthquake kills the family of Ayla, a "Cro-Magnon" girl, she is adopted into the clan of Neanderthals. The child is different from her adoptive clan. She does not have the shared memories and the instinctual ways of the life as the Neanderthals. She is an inquisitive, logical tall and blond while her new family is survival oriented, ingrained, short and squat. She struggles to be considered part of a clan in which she should not be accepted. The story watches this outsider come of age and explores how her logical and creative mind allows her to integrate herself with a different people The Good The book contains a minimal amount of dialogue. The Clan vocalized little more than names and communication is a series of the complicated hand signals. While this may seems like a recipe for disaster, the author integrates it seamlessly. The minimal dialogue feels natural and comfortable. The story does an amazing job of integrating theories of early man. The ideas of the shared and instinctual memory was fascinating as it gave the Neanderthals both a human and animalistic feel. While both race of people considered themselves human it was interesting to see people separated by something other than race, color or language but separated by fundamental difference in biological construction. The Bad I have very little to say that is negative. From time to time the conversation felt too modern. Given that the author was using words to express non verbal communication, I can't hold it against her. Generally, I am not at a loss when it comes to finding fault. The majority of the issues that I may have had with the book were petty and not worth mentioning. Content Advisories It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested. I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.Scale 1 - Lowest 5 - Highest Sex - 2.5 There is discussion of the sexual intercourse. Family lived in caves without wall or rooms and sex was not hidden and was a daily and open reality. This is discussed on several occasions. Over the course of one chapter there is discussion of a series of rapes. The descriptions are not graphic but some readers will be disturbed by the portrayal. Language - 1 There was not use of adult language. Violence - 3 There is violence as noted under "sex". Some readers may find the depictions of woman to be disturbing and several character engaging in physical assaults on women. There is one serious assault and several instance of single punches or hits. Again, the depictions are not graphic. There is some minor gore in hunting scene and one results in the death or a clan member. There is an instance of cannibalism that some readers will find disturbing.

The World According to Garp

by

4.05 rating

Comment 1: I have been meaning to revisit John Irving lately. I’ve been re-reading War and Peace over this Easter break, but I wanted to take a break between each book within the novel and read something else. So I took a look at what the library had to offer for Irving, and I thought this would be a good time to re-re-read The World According to Garp. This is the first Irving novel I ever encountered. A somewhat imposing mass-market paperback of it lives somewhere in my dad’s house. It was one of that corpus of books that lives in your parents’ house before you’re even born, precedes you into the world and (with any luck) will survive your passage out of it. Such books tend to float around the house, surfacing at the oddest moments and in the weirdest places. And I know it’s my dad’s favourite Irving work.I’ve read The World According to Garp twice before, once when I was young and once when I was younger than I am now. The complexity of the relationships and issues that Irving tackles in his books means that reading them at such different ages naturally leads to very different impressions. Reading it now for the third time, I reflected to my dad that it seemed much more absurd to me. Indeed, the situations and events that plague Garp throughout his life range from the simple and believable to incredible or even ludicrous. Some have compared this book to a soap opera, and I suppose there’s some truth to that. It’s more comedy than opera though.Considering the depth of tragedy that happens in this book—car accidents, rape, assassination—calling it a comedy might seem … insensitive, at the very least. Yet it’s accurate, for comedy is the genre that, through the absurd, reveals very important truths that we might otherwise overlook in everyday life. The comic characters of this novel—Fat Stew Percy (all the various nicknamed Percys, in fact), the incorrigably likable Dean Bodger, the reluctant Jillsy Sloper, et al—balance out the brutal nature of the events that happen to Garp and his family. Both the comic and the tragic elements of the book are larger than life, as fiction tends to be. And the tragedy is not so much a punishment for the actions of Garp or others as it is a consequence of the inevitability of bad things happening to people (good and bad).There are a lot of different routes this book might take to get into a reader’s heart. Parents might identify with Garp’s somewhat overbearing sense of worry, his desire to make the world safe. I can’t really remember what grabbed me the most about this book when I read it before (this is one reason I enjoy writing reviews these days), but I’m certain it wasn’t the feminism that stuck with me this time around.The World According to Garp begins by recounting Garp’s conception and birth. It explains how Jenny Fields, a nurse and member of the rich New England Fields family, struggles to maintain her independence in the midst of a society and time that is suspicious of single, independent women. Jenny conceives Garp in an unorthodox manner and proceeds to raise him, defiantly, on her own. Later in life, when Garp is virtually an adult and verging upon independence himself, Jenny composes a memoir—A Sexual Suspect that transforms her into a feminist icon. Though Jenny opens her doors to women throughout her life, she herself remains reluctant to engage with that label or the discourse surrounding feminism. Though she has no quarrel with prostitution and liberal views on sexuality, Jenny consistently marvels at the phenomenon of lust and expresses bewilderment at how it operates (particularly in men).Garp lives his life in the shadow of his mother’s fame and struggles with this in relation to his budding reputation as a writer. He isn’t just “T.S. Garp, the novelist” but “T.S. Garp, the son of noted feminist Jenny Fields”. Inevitably, his books get reviewed in this light. So when, in the prime of his life, an accident befalls his entire family and influences him to write a bizarre, semi-absurd soap opera treatment about rape and infidelity, it isn’t surprising that this polarizes critics. As is usually the case with such controversial works, there are feminist reactions on either side—just showing that there is seldom a universal reaction to anything as complex as literature. Some critics praise the novel as a deep and moving look at how rape affects a woman’s life, while others condemn it as paternalistic and insensitive.Garp’s complicated relationship—familial and literary—with feminism is what lingers after I finished this book. Garp attends his mother’s memorial in drag, for it is more a rally for the women’s movement in memory of the icon they made out of Jenny Fields than it is a tribute to his mother, the person Jenny Fields—and at such an event, it is implied, the presence of a man would not be countenanced, and particularly not someone as despicable as T.S. Garp. Here, and at other points in the novel (such as the love life of Roberta Muldoon), Irving gently probes the edges of the idea that there are certain spaces reserved for particular expressions of gender, and those spaces—often in an attempt to make sure they remain safe—can be hostile to other genders.This navigation of such spaces interests me. A friend on Facebook recently posted, “Can a man be a feminist and chivalrous, since chivalry is inherently sexist?” One woman replied, “Can a man be a feminist?” I would hope that most feminists, and some men, would answer in the affirmative—I identify as a man, and I also identify as a feminist! Yet the question articulates a very real issue within feminism. And it’s certainly true that those of us who perform gender as straight men have a different relationship with, and a different role in, feminism than would someone who performs gender differently.So I look at the somewhat hostile and close-minded performances of feminism by some of the characters in this book (the Ellen Jamesians are, naturally, the major example) and reflect that similar issues persist in feminism today. It seems strange that in thirty years we haven’t made much progress in that respect. All this divisiveness and polarization seems so counterproductive; polemics and invectives against other feminists are a waste of time that could be better spent advancing gender equality. (And I’m not referring only to the inclusiveness of genders within feminism; there are also plenty of conflicts within the widely heterogeneous movement that is “feminism” with regards to its relationship to anti-colonialism, anti-racism, etc.)The World According to Garp highlights how that essential aloneness that plagues us as individuals can conflict with our need to build institutions and -isms. The Ellen Jamesians think they are somehow paying tribute to Ellen James through their actions, even though she is mortified by them. Jenny’s various followers or admirers view her as a icon even though she doesn’t embrace the label “feminist” so much as allow others to label her. We have a need to interact with others, but we have to do it through something as clumsy and unwieldy as words. And sometimes, it’s just so hard to know what to say.This theme reverberates through the writers and writing exhibited in this book. Garp is a writer, but his writing doesn’t seem to really go anywhere throughout his life. His first published short story, “The Pension Grillparzer” seems to be one of his best works, rivalled only perhaps by his unfinished novel. Writing constantly occupies him, even if the act of writing seems to elude him most of the time. And it seems to me that Garp is struggling—perhaps in vain—to finally figure out how to say what he wants to say (and perhaps this is all any writer is ever doing). “The Pension Grillparzer” is a way of communicating his experience of Vienna; it is also a deed done to prove his worthiness as a writer to the exacting Helen Holm. (I’d love to go on to analyze Helen and Garp’s marriage, but I’m not sure I’m up to the task. I suspect that anything I could say on the matter would ring unbelievably naive, considering my own lack of experience with such matters.) The World According to Bensenhaver is a reaction to a tragedy that inevitably revokes any feelings of safety he might have in the world.Garp isn’t the only writer. Jenny publishes a memoir long before Garp publishes any work. Michael Milton, the only student to catch Helen’s eye, is also a writer. According to Garp, neither of these two have much ability as writers. Both, however, offer contrasts in terms of attitude towards their writing. Jenny is “done” with writing after she completes A Sexual Suspect. She undertakes the project because she feels like she has something to say, and she is equanimous about its controversial yet fervent reception after its publication. Milton is prolific but perhaps lacking in much raw talent. This confidence, in contrast to Garp’s wavering sense of purpose in his writing, is attractive to Helen at that time in their marriage; perhaps it reminds her of the confident Garp who sent her “The Pension Grillparzer” as a prelude to proposing.Irving’s treatment of feminism and feminist politics stand out this time around, but I was also drawn to how he discusses writing. All in all, The World According to Garp has interesting portrayals of communication and the ways in which people succeed or fail to communicate with each other. We spend a great deal of our time attempting to make connections, to be together. We form families and friendships; we engage in intimacy and sex with people we know (or don’t know); we write and read and speak. At the end, though, we are still always individuals, always alone, always terminal. And when we do go, we leave behind us a great body of words, for others to read and examine and theorize about from now until the end of time. We can never control—and seldom can we predict—how people will interpret what we write. But when we do go, that’s a major part of what we leave behind.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

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3.49 rating

Comment 1: I love my physical edition of this novel...while the reading experience wasn't as good as always thought that it would be.A thing that I got amazed when I started to "label" this book, in the process of my review, in my virtual shelves of Goodreads was how many different genres the novel touches... Politics, Religion, Romance, Humor, Fantasy, Magic, Mystery and even Espionage.And I was very tempted to select Military too but I opted not.And certainly the mood and themes of the story embraces all those genres and maybe more.I knew about this book series some years ago while I was researching about the topic of Oz in general and since then I thought that it could be good to read it.Some months ago (2013), by chance, I found this edition in a shelf of a local bookstore. I recognized the title of the book and I took it by impulse. The cover was gorgeous with the poster of the musical version BUT what stunned me was the detail that this particular edition has the edges of the pages colored in green...GREEN!!!Ah?! Honestly I can't think in something cooler to make irresistible this edition.Those marvelous green edges on the pages of the book sold me the novel right away and I couldn't took back the book on the shelf. Thanks goodness the wicked magic of the credit card allowed me to go out of the bookstore with the novel.Certainly when I started to read the book, I knew that I wasn't in Kansas anymore! Geez! The Cowardly Lion and the Tin Woodman kiss their mothers with those filthy mouths?! The introduction of the book is like a slap to the readers to make them understand quick and hard that this is indeed an adult book.You know? I am not a prude, not in the least, but I think that Maguire made a hard effort to make sure that this will be an adult novel since I think that many of the issues touched here could work just the same without the need of some big words and sex scenes, while the drugs had to stay, hehehe, since indeed here the drugs played an important purpose on key moments.It was like well "since we have sex, drugs and rock n' roll (well no, no rock n' roll, really, not even on the musical version :P) this is a story for only we, the adults, sorry kids, you will have to keep busy with the Baum's cute books meanwhile you grow up some years."Well, C.S. Lewis said that any children's tale that it can't be enjoyed by adults just the same, it's a poor children's tale.So, facts of life... first, kids aren't dumb, they can understand heavy topics, even more the new generations that grow up with internet as nanny, and second, adults don't need sex, drugs and r... (you got it) to enjoy an intelligent story.Since this is a really smart tale, but maybe I had some expectations that affect my final rating of the book.First, there are really big "jumps" between the chapters and while there some unexpected turns and twists (that one can think that it's something good) but some of those twists were... ah? With him? Really? Geez! And romance left the building! Later, I really expected an explanation of how a person can turn to be evil or be seen as evil, but Elphaba turned out to be wicked not as evil but as crazy and for reasons really odd. Also, since the beginning there is something that I don't understand. Elphaba born with green skin, okay, HERE, in our beloved Kansas and the rest of the Earth around, it could be a real trouble but hey, they aren't in Kansas anymore, that's Oz, a land where animals can talk and people can do magic! How odd really can be a person with green skin over there? Honestly I could be more freak out for a talking goat or lion than watching a person with green skin. Also, the green skin resulted an odd issue again at some point, you see, Elphaba is in hiding, but hey, she is walking around the city... how good can be in hiding for "several" years if she is supposed to be the only woman with green skin in all Oz?! What? The Gale Force recluted colorblind people?! Geez! Also, I have my theories about the physical problem of Nessarose (Elphaba's sister) but since it wasn't approached beyond of being just a birth defect, I don't see the point of her problem. Even I think that the story was evolving quite fine until Maguire tried to put together his own story with the original story when Dorothy arrives to Oz. Besides all my complaints, the book is still a smart vessel to touch sensitive topics of politics, religion and social interaction without worrying to be subjected to harsh critique since he smartly uses characters and themes in Oz and you have to deduce those allegories on your own and at the end, they will be your own ideas and not necessarily what the author wanted to say.However, the book lacks of some action, all stuff happened in a very appeased tempo. Nevertheless, I want to try in the future, other books by Maguire, on this Wicked series and his other stand-alone novels based on retellings of classic children's books.

The Other Boleyn Girl

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4.03 rating

Comment 1: "You just keep on being sweetly stupid, Mary. You do it beautifully." Mary Boleyn is one of Queen Katherine's many ladies-in-waiting. But things change when she catches King Henry VIII's eye. Her family, led by Uncle Thomas Howard, quickly push her into becoming the King's mistress, but Anne, Mary's sister, is never satisfied. Set amidst the turmoil of King Henry's early rule, we follow Mary through her affair with the King, the strife between King Henry and Queen Katherine, and the marriage of King Henry to Queen Anne.The best way I can describe this book is "guilty pleasure". There is so much to dislike about the book, and yet I was entertained for the entire part. Not to mention, this book made me research Tudor England and the whole drama with King Henry VIII and his many wives, and any book that makes me interested in looking up history or researching the backstory gets a bit of a boost in my book.First off, I am no historian, nor am I particularly well-versed in this era. Therefore, I am not going to get into much detail about whether or not this book is historically accurate. There are other reviews that go into FAR better detail about whether this is accurate to history; I will defer to them. But I do caution: if you are expecting 100% accuracy, I would encourage you to pass this book up. Just the itsy bitsy bit of research I have done doesn't seem to quite match up to what PG presents here.With that out of the way, let's get on to the good stuff!First off, I really didn't like our "protagonist", Mary Boleyn. In Gregory's story, Mary Boleyn, the sometimes "other Boleyn girl" (though the term was applied occasionally to Anne), is the younger sister of Anne (this is one of those areas where historians will tell you that most likely, Mary was the eldest--and in this book, I really felt that Mary acted more like the eldest than the youngest). She is married to William Carrey and quickly attracts the eye of the King. Her family then tells her to seduce him and bed him, which she does. But after the birth of her second child, Anne whisks the King's attention, and Mary is left in the background.I'll admit, I like it when characters aren't perfect, aren't the best or smartest in a field, aren't able to make the right decision each and every time, have actual flaws. But Mary really tries the patience. According to history, Mary was the beauty but not so bright (it was Anne who was the brains), but Mary in TOBG seems unable to put the simplest conclusions together.For instance, when William Stafford leaves to secure a farm for a "court lady" he's been interested in, Mary IMMEDIATELY assumes he has been seeing someone BESIDES her and snubs him. OF COURSE, we know that William, who knows Mary's desire to be a simple farmer's wife, was actually purchasing the farm for HER. (In Gregory's defense, this Misunderstanding did not last very long.)Another count against Mary is her passivity. I know women in this period do not have the freedoms that modern women do, but Mary was a complete doormat. She rarely even tried to defy her family. Most of her actions are either A) forced upon her or B) reactions to other people's actions. She doesn't initially WANT to seduce the King, but her family forces her. She balks at helping Anne, but her family tells her to. She wants to see her kids, but her family won't let her; therefore, she doesn't see her kids.What is almost worse is when Mary complains about how she can't do anything, how if she had her own free will, she wouldn't have done X. She could have put up a little more defense, tried a little harder, pushed a little more. Or she could have just been kicked out of her family. But personally, I like Queen Katherine's response to Mary's BS best:"If you had not been tempted, you would not have fallen. If it was not in your interest to betray me, then you would have been loyal. Go away, Lady Carrey. You are no better than your sister, who pursues her own ends like a weasel and never glances to one side or the other."And that leads to my other complaint. Mary likes to think she is way better than her sister, Anne...but most of what Anne does, Mary has done before. Or she gloats (and I mean GLOATS) about what she didn't do. Such as:+ When Anne was sent to Hever, Mary writes Anne every week and gushes about her pregnancy and how the King lurves her so much.+ Enjoying how Anne has to wait on her, then being p!ssy when the tables are turned.+ Being upset when Anne gets married to the King, but legitimizes her affair with the King (in fact, I never felt that Mary was at all guilty for sleeping with the married King or committing adultery against her own husband).+ Being upset when Anne is pregnant with the King's baby, but when she was pregnant, she rubbed her sister's nose in it.And then we have how she has an affair and can't BELIEVE how her husband William Carey is upset at her (uh, duh?) or her claim to be loyal to the Queen even though she is sleeping with the King. For the latter, she even names the child she bore through Henry after Queen Katherine! (How tacky!)But it seems that Mary is supposed to be the perfect, sweet sister. She is loyal to the Queen, even turning against her sister. At one point, Mary becomes a confidant of sorts to the Queen, and the two giggle about how awful Anne is--sure, that's believable! We also know Mary is "good" because she wants to abandon court life for country life after a mere 3 month stay at Hever! And then, when she becomes a farmer's wife, she ADORES making cheese and cooking and has NO PROBLEMS with all the work she suddenly has to do. And while Anne meets a terrible end, Mary gets a happily ever after--her children, a loving husband, a little farm, and all the things she ever wanted.Instead of being the perfect, sweet, innocent, beleaguered sister, Mary came across as a dense, two-faced, passive hypocrite, unable to do anything for herself, who somehow got everything she wanted but didn't deserve.But as much as I despised Mary, I adored Anne and Queen Katherine. Sure, Anne is personified as a bawdy devil, a woman desperate for power and the Queen's throne instead of an intelligent, highly religious woman who really did love the King, but I felt that a lot of what she did was understandable. She was smart and cunning; when her family didn't support her (and for a good portion of the book, it seemed they did EVERYTHING to make her life miserable), she made her own way using her own wits and skill. Mary needed guiding throughout her entire time of her affair; Anne was more than capable of handling herself. Her struggles to give birth to a son were heart-rending; her desperation understandable (not that I really believe she slept with her brother or was a witch). As for Queen Katherine, she was a respectable woman, a good wife. I felt bad for how King Henry put her away in favor of Anne.As for the rest of the characters, they are pretty one-dimensional. King Henry is ALMOST ALWAYS called a "boy" by Mary, which was irritating and disturbing. King Henry, I always got the impression, was a pretty strong, charismatic guy. I'm sure he had some childlike aspects, but I felt nearly every other time Mary saw him, she was comparing him to a child. If Mary found him so childlike, how could she have a years-long affair? Ew! Jane Parker is so snoopy and awful; Jane Seymour is so virtuous and sickeningly pure; Uncle Thomas was pure evil; George honestly felt campy gay (I'm surprised more people didn't find out about his orientation); William Stafford is so "wonderful" and "manly", I wanted to be sick. None of them really stood out; none of them felt like people whom I could interact with and meet on a daily basis.A key component of this story, the whole reason I believe it was written, was to show the competition between the two sisters, to compare and contrast. But while The Cranes Dance did an EXCELLENT job of showing two sisters who love each other but feel threatened by each other as well, this book flopped. I felt like both girls hated each other viscerally, until one of them would do something unexpectedly nice to the other or say how fond they were of their sister (and mean it).Another thing that I felt really hurt the story was one key historical component. I know I said I wouldn't nitpick history, but I felt this component REALLY affected the story. There is NO WAY Mary's son would have ever been considered an heir apparent to the King, even if he were to marry her after the fact. The King already had an illegitimate son through Bessie Blount; he would have been the first in line if illegitimate children were in line for the throne. So all of the family's crazy talk and effort to get Mary married to King Henry and how their illegitimate son would be heir is silly and ultimately pointless. Sure, if the King married Mary, she MIGHT have another son, but that is the only way for an heir to come.After Mary's affair with the King, the story really stops being about her and is instead about Anne. I guess it makes sense, but when the story tries to return to being about Mary, it is boring and so drowned in sugary, sweet sappiness, I thought I was going to go into a coma. Mary and William are a boring couple. They meet, they fall in love, life goes perfectly for them (with a few mild speedbumps that are IN NO WAY Mary's fault). William is not at all frustrated with Mary for being unable to do simple household tasks; Mary loves being a housewife and getting her hands rough and dirty. William is A-OK with Mary's earlier affair; Mary has no problem giving up court life to live in the country. Oh, and they have AMAZING MIND-BLOWING SEX. The relationship COULD have been interesting; these two characters come from wildly different worlds. But because Mary has to have everything turn out perfect for her, there was no drama.I must commend PG (or her editors, future books will tell which of those is true) on the brisk pace. Very rarely does the book just sit around and do nothing; for the most part, the story moves and is pretty engaging. I might not have liked some of the characters, but I WAS interested in seeing how they would turn out. And I listened to this book to the very end with little regret for the time I put into it (and I've regretted many a book I've sat listening to through to the end).One more thing: Susan Lyons, you are an amazing narrator! Pat yourself on the back!I do not recommend this book for history buffs or hard-core Tudor enthusiasts, but for those that don't mind some mindless, deliciously catty entertainment, this is a decent read. At the very least, it will make you head to the library or the ebook store or to Wiki to do some research of the time; at the best, you will have spent a few hours (depending on whether you are reading or listening, of course) immersed in a time left behind long ago. I certainly don't regret the time I spent listening to it or the new knowledge I have of the Tudors.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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3.97 rating

Comment 1: Extremely Loud and Incredbily Close: Jonathan Foer's novel of love, loss, and memoryThere are events that leave an indelible stamp on us for a great portion of our lives. This happens from generation to generation.Ask those living at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor where they were and what they were doing, they will be able to tell you the answer. Similarly, ask me where I was when I heard John F. Kennedy was shot, I can tell you.Ask what I was doing when the attacks of 9/11 occurred, I can tell you. I had arrived at work at the District Attorney's Office. My chief side kick with whom I was working prep for a trial, ran into the grand jury room and said turn on the television. I did. What I saw was something I could not accept. Jonathan Foer goes far past the point of remembrance. Foer drops you into the shoes of 8 year old Oskar Schell. For him, 9/11 is not simply an event which he will remember for its historical significance. It is an event he lives daily because he lost his father that day. And the event is brought home to him, for he has a cell phone with his father's messages sent from the twin towers that day. This is a secret he keeps from his mother, for he wants to protect her from the pain of those messages. It is an incredible burden for a child to bear. Oskar is left with a gamut of guilt and fears, resulting in a state of vicarious traumatic response to his father's death. His grief is all the more palpable because he is extremely gifted and incredibly cursed with an intelligence far more gifted than children his age.Oskar shared a bond with his father, who fostered that intelligence, by devoting great attention on his son, gently lulling him to sleep at nights by reading him the New York Times and circling the errors they found in red ink. His father challenged Oskar's intelligence by setting up questions for Oskar to solve, leaving clues amounting to a trail of breadcrumbs leading him to a solution of the problems he designed for him.Or did he? Did his father actually do this? Or is this something which Oskar has perceived in his mind alone?The action of this novel occurs a year after the fall of the Towers. Oskar is still dealing with the traumatization of his father's loss. In an effort to keep the memory of his father close, Oskar frequently hides in his father's closet where the scent of his father's shaving still lingers in his mind, if only in his mind.A bundle of memories and his fears cripple Oskar in his dealings with others, especially his schoolmates, whom are not affected by the fall of the Towers as Oskar is. Nor does Oskar perceive his mother to be as deeply affected by the loss of his father. She has a new friend, Ron, who becomes a frequent visitor to the apartment. Oskar hears their laughter in the living room, as he hides in his father's closet. At one point, typical of a child, he tells his mother he wishes it had been her who died that day. It is something a child would say, intentionally hurting the remaining parent, then immediately struck with the hurt he inflicted on his mother whom he loved without question.There are strong clues that while Oskar is undoubtedly a prodigy of intelligence far beyond his years, that Oskar just might suffer from more than childhood fears. Is it that Oskar is afflicted by Asperger's Syndrome? A look into the Diagnostic Services Manual--I believe we're in the fifth edition of that psychological cookbook, now, reveals that this is a distinct possibility.Oskar is enveloped in a net of pattern and design, a characteristic shared by children with this diagnosis. He is awkward in his social interactions. Nor does he seem to grasp the results of his actions in social settings. Play on words which Oskar finds hilarious are lost and misunderstood by those around him. Oskar's behavior in filling daybooks with events that have happened to him, including other tragic events occurring before and after 9/11 take on a ritualistic quality, echoing some of the characteristics shared by those diagnosed with Asperger's, which is considered a sub diagnosis of autism. It is a matter of degree, not an exclusion from that diagnosis.That Oskar is unaware of the consequences of his behavior on his teacher and his fellow students is clear. In graphic detail, he explains the results of the bombing of Hiroshima, sharing a video interview with a survivor of the first use of an atomic bomb against a civilian population.That Osckar's last name is Schell is a clever device used to great benefit by Foer. For Oskar is a veritable Chambered Nautilus consisting of impenetrable chambers of secrets revealed only by gently bisecting the shell of a nautilus.Oskar's mother carries her son to be counseled by Doctor Fein, who is anything but fine in his ability to reach Oskar and release him from all the fears held within him, brought about from his father's death.It is only through Oskar's discovery of one last mystery he believes was left him by his father to solve, that Oskar begins to live outside himself and become engaged with people outside his immediate family that just might allow him to move forward from the prison of the loss of his father.Quite by accident, Oskar spies a blue vase on the top shelf of his father's closet. Stacking his works of Shakespeare in his father's closet, Oskar stretches to reach the vase, only to tip it off the shelf, shattering it on the floor of the closet. It contains a key, with an envelope. Written on the envelope is the word "Black" written in red ink.Oskar determines that the answer to his father's last mystery is the key and someone named Black. Although the number of locks in New York City is mind shattering, Oskar, a child of the internet, decides to track down all the Blacks in New York City in an effort to find the secret of what the key opens.It is this journey, if anything, that will allow Oskar to move beyond the death of his father and live his own life.Foer, in a display of brilliance, introduces us to Oskar's grandmother and the grandfather, Oskar never knew. Thomas Schell, for whom Oskar's father was named, also is trapped within the memories of another terrible incident in Human history, the firebombing of Dresden. The elder Thomas, although once capable of speech, can no longer speak a word, but communicates by writing in blank day books. He disappeared before the birth of Oskar's father. We learn of the elder Thomas's history through his letters to his unborn child and through his life with Oskar's grandmother, who lives in an apartment building across the street from Oskar. Oskar and his grandmother communicate by walkie talkies at all times of the day and night.It is through the writings of the elder Thomas Schell that we experience first hand the horror of living through one of the great acts of inhumanity against man--the fire bombing of Dresden during World War II by the Royal Airforce and the United States 8th Airforce from February 13-15th, 1945. Those events leave Thomas Schell a man forever changed.The beauty of Foer's novel is the answer he provides in the resolution of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. We recover from the tragedies of our lives through the bonds we share with others. This is the ultimate beauty of life.While some critics, and some readers, find Foer's novel, manipulative and cloyingly sweet, I find it an affirmation of life. To paraphrase Faulkner's Nobel Acceptance Speech, it is through reaching out to others that not only are we able to endure, it is the way we prevail.This is a solid 6 Stars literary masterpiece. If it makes you cry, take joy for the fact Foer reminds us we are human, not only capable of acts of inhumanity, but also capable of acts of great love and forgiveness.

She's Come Undone

by

3.81 rating

Comment 1: Update: I found an old review I wrote about this book for an online book club I used to be in. I clearly hated it. Here it is, more or less in its entirety.To be blunt, I didn't like it. It's hard to know where to begin when explaining my dislike for 'She's Come Undone.' Wally Lamb, to be sure, wrote very...believably. I felt like it was a girl writing. However, the fact of the matter is that I'm a man, and I have no idea how a woman thinks. Therefore, I'm clearly not the best judge of this.My first problem was the paper-thin development of male characters in the story. Perhaps I'm being picky, but I thought all the male characters. In the best cases they had no depth. In the worst cases their actions didn't even make sense.Let's first explore the "Daddy" character. He is a stock deadbeat dad. Not all that attentive or a good parent when he was around, and then he disappears. And when he does so, we are left to fill in the blanks with vague details of his life. He is remarried. He is divorced again. He is remarried again. He doesn't write. He makes empty promises. Blah blah blah. We can understand why Dolores is so angry with him, but we are given only a cursory glimpse to his emotions, what drives him. Towards the end of the novel his wife writes Dolores and tells her that he was "a good man." And it leaves Dolores to wonder, 'was he a good man?' This was a good device, because we are left to wonder as Dolores did. However, the fact remains that we were given very little of the character. He was a tool, a means to make Dolores what she grew into (quite literally). But "Daddy" is probably one of the better male characters. (A side note, and to answer Megan's question, I think it was a blatant device used by Lamb in having Dolores refer to her deadbeat father as "daddy" constantly. He was clearly, in my mind anyway, attempting to connect Dolores's father's leaving as the end of Dolores's innocence, the end of her childhood, as shortly after she was violated by Jack. And maybe that is truly how such a thing would happen. But, as useful a device as that may have been, I find it trite, because I cannot bring myself to believe that a young woman with so much hate towards her father that she would cuss him out at her mother's funeral and cut off all contact with him for her entire life would continue to refer to him as "daddy" throughout the course of her tormented life. But that's just my opinion.)Thayer. A stock nice guy meant to contrast Jack and Dante. Beyond that, he really serves no purpose aside from offering Dolores a type of redemption.Jack and Dante. Now, I feel that they were basically the same character. Which was appropriate, because they both did complete 180's in their personality. Someone in an earlier post mentioned that there were "clues" as to their true nature. With Jack, I disagree. It was complete bullshit.First of all, all we were given of Jack was how wonderful he was. In fact, at the end the chapter in which we are introduced to Jack and his generically cute wife Dolores says the whole family fell in love with a couple. Which is true in a sense, in that Jack won the family over. But what of his wife? No one seemed to like her. Dolores's mother was fucking Jack, so clearly she didn't love his wife. And Dolores complains that his wife isn't good enough for Jack, that she is not pretty enough or some such nonsense. No, no, it was Jack they fell in love with. And initially you can see why. He is handsome and fun, very likable. But then he is completely different, and we are given no good reason why. He starts out like an all-American neighbor who suddenly devolves into a degenerate because, why, because he is giving Dolores rides home after school? Because his wife wanted to get pregnant? It didn't make sense. There were no hints at all until he started giving Dolores rides home after school and swearing and acting like a generally rude asshole. And to me that felt contrived, as if Lamb was saying, "see, it shouldn't be surprising that he is raping her. He swore and yelled at her in the car a few times! He's not the guy we all thought he was!"But that's just it! Lamb sets Jack up as this great guy and then artificially tears him down. Jack didn't even feel like the caricature he was purported to be. It was like two different people, and the only common thread was that Dolores had a crush on him and he was called Jack. Let us just take a moment to review Dante. We are clearly meant to draw parallels from Jack to Dante. Both were introduced to us as good men. Then they were arbitrarily turned into child molesters when the situation fit (i.e. when it would ruin Dolores's life). To be honest, the only thing that even hinted at what Dante would become when he was religious and vulnerable is the letter where he says he does not want to become a womanizer. But, in brief, he is a religious, vulnerable virgin as a young man and a verbally (and on one occasion, physically) abusive, arrogant, sex-obsessed adult.And he decides that Dolores is the one from the get-go. Why? Mr. Wing (the landlord) mentions that he is quite the womanizer. The teacher at the dance alludes to the exotic women he used to date. He clearly gets off on young girls (as we see at the dance and his relationship with Sheila). But Dolores steps into his life, he beds her immediately and then, just as quickly gives up on all other women. Moves in with Dolores and eventually marries her. I realise that there are arguments for why this could happen (she's easy to live with as she just considers herself lucky to have him; but I find that bullshit because he clearly isn't intellectually stimulated by her, and I doubt he is intellectually stimulated by hot high school girls), in short, I'm not really buying them. They are not logical in life or the story. So, essentially, Dante is simply there to be the adult Jack--physically and emotionally raping Dolores until she is able to defend herself and leave. But he is not believable.And finally, Dolores. I have so many questions. She gets fat and depressed for good reasons. Fine, all very well. I sympathize. College breaks her and she goes nuts, has a brief lesbian encounter (but, come on, what young girl doesn't experiment with that sort of thing in college? Am I right ladies?) and freaks out about it and, generally, her life. So she runs away, swims with a beached whale, goes crazy and ends up in a mental institute. And boy, does she go crazy. Biting her tongue til it bleeds? Mutalating herself in various ways? Why? I read that sort of thing and I was fucking shocked. I mean, she was depressed, sure, but why did she start mutalating herself? Because she was in a mental hospital? I don't buy it at all. I feel like it was simply stereotypical bullshit thrown out by Lamb for shock value, as if to say to the reader, "look....look what her life has done to her!" Ridiculous. In fact, I found the entire mental hospital to be a load of bullshit, from the "therapy" she alternately accepts and rejects (which she should have just outright rejected, because, maverick or no maverick, Dr. Shaw belonged in that hospital as a patient, not a doctor. That scene where he is talking to Dolores in the "womb" (pool) was just creepy. It made me uncomfortable.) to the way she leaves. Completely contrived. Why did she leave? Everything was going well, so she started "etch-a-sketching" (a clear connection to her mother and her painting, specifically the flying leg painting. Both are left of what you would expect, even in creative outlets) and then decided to abruptly abandon the therapy before completion due to some psychic. That was completely out of character, at least out of the character Lamb had fleshed out for us in the mental hospital. She was just starting to come around and be a functioning human being again, and she suddenly throws it all away because of some psychic? It didn't make sense, felt contrived, a plot device to keep the story moving and avoid it getting bogged down in the mental hospital.So I feel like this is getting a little long, so I will skip ahead to what I consider the third part of Dolores's life, when she leaves Dante and moves back into her Grandmother's house. And I will skip most of that, because it was dull and uneventful (she puts her life back together, grand) and go to the part that stuck out for me the most. That was the contrived fight she has with Rita, where Rita falls down the stairs and ends up in the hospital. What the fuck was that all about? I mean, seriously, where did that come from? Everything is going great. Rita tells Dolores she should buy a car with her money, Dolores is leaning towards a satellite and big television. So she gets it. Fair enough? Apparently not. Apparently Lamb is angry that not enough people read these days (rightfully so, I would say, but that is beside the point) and continued his quest to make television out to be one of the main villains in Dolores life, by having the television lead her into another depression (which he lazily tries to attribute to sudden recurrent sad feelings about Dante, but it doesn't fly. We are basically left to assume that the TV just plain makes her lazy. Period.). And so Rita comes over and, apparently, yells that Dolores should have bought a car instead of a big TV, which leads Dolores to freak out and scream at her and Rita falls, and Dolores gets more depressed and starts walking around in 3-D glasses all the time. I mean, are you serious? Did I miss something? Just bullshit. Plain and simple. It's as if Lamb felt there wasn't enough heartache, that things were going too well and he didn't want to end the story just yet. (Which also explains the return of Mr. Pucci, because, after all, what story set in the mid 80's is complete without a personal reference to the AIDS epidemic?).In summation, I felt the book was trite and contrived.

Girl With a Pearl Earring

by

3.82 rating

Comment 1: Gorgeous painting, deeper appreciation of art; mediocre, annoying bookThis is a book that fictionalizes what might have been behind the famous Vermeer painting, "Girl with a Pearl Earring". Griet's family is destitute, and now she must work as a maid in the Vermeer household, cleaning up the famous painter's workstation. Slowly, she grows more interested in her master, and her master in her.I am not what you would call an artsy person. I make an effort to decorate my home nicely, I can pick out nice yarns for knitting and crocheting (according to a pattern), and I am fairly decent at picking clothes that don't clash, but that is as far as my "artistic abilities" go. You wouldn't find me in an art museum for fun, unless my sister, the artsy one in the family, drug me there. So when I say that this book made me look up Vermeer, analyze his work, and actually grow more appreciative of it, I think it's a somewhat big deal.And, though I really hate to say this, that is the biggest reason I am giving this book two stars. Because a book that makes me look up a historical figure, investigate his work, and actually start to like it deserves to have SOME kudos. If you take that aspect of the book away, you are left with a medicore book, populated with annoying/cliched characters with virtually no plot to speak of.Griet is our protagonist, and there were several times I was hoping she would drown in her washing or set herself on fire or accidentally fall between the butcher and his blade. I understand she's young, but I didn't realize she was A) a 10 year old child (she acts way younger, more sheltered, and more immature than her 17 years would indicate), B) a spoiled, wealthy child suddenly thrown into poverty (though her father lost his trade, I never got the impression they were wealthy before this book), or C) hideously emo (she tends to wangst about not seeing her parents, about the "secrets" she has to hide, and she faints after piercing her ear). Her first day working for the Vermeers, she whines that the first time she smiled all day is when she saw a familiar butcher's face. Booohooo. She is stupid, keeping an expensive comb anywhere within a 12 mile radius of a bratty child who wants to wreak havoc on Griet's life. She is dense as a brick, selfish, ungrateful, and unemotional (she is never shown loving or caring at all for Pieter, which makes the ending seem weird). And yet somehow, this girl garners the attention of THREE men and the hatred of SEVERAL women. She's better at cleaning, cooking, caring for Vermeer's studio, making paint, buying meat, AND arranging items in Vermeer's paintings (yes, it is SHE that comes up with the earring idea for the titular painting and rearranges the cloth for another painting). Griet, come on down, you've won the Mary Sue of the Month award!The other characters are two dimensional at best. Catharina is a b!tch, mean to Griet just because. I am really sick and tired of this cliche: of having the female of the house hate the "poor girl" just because, well, that's what the female of the house is supposed to do, I guess. I ended up feeling SORRY for Catharina, because I felt she was desperately trying to win her husband's attention by having so many children. Cornelia is a demon; her actions venture way beyond "Terrible Child" into "Spawn of the Devil". One character dies just to include some more angst and a thin relation to the Plague. Vermeer is a complete enigma. I can understand retaining some mystery around him, but when you finish the book with as many questions as you began, something is wrong. I have no idea what he saw in Griet, how he felt towards her, and who he was. Van Ruijven is a stereotypical CAD; Tenneke is stupid (she can't tell when Griet is sucking up to her?? Yeah, right!). Pieter started out a nice guy, but when he feels up Griet against her will, I just felt cold. Their entire relationship is awkward: he seems really keen on her, very nice, yet she wants nothing to do with him. But then, after Vermeer sees her hair loose, she is okay with having sex with Pieter??? Huh???The story is so bland and stereotypical, it's absurd. How many times have we seen the "X must take a job because X's father/provider can't work" or something along these lines? It wouldn't be bad if there was SOMETHING to make it different, but Griet never gives an indication of what she is missing out on nor does her story make this plot line interesting. Instead, all she does is whine about how rough her hands are, how much her back hurts, how much work she has to do, how bloody the butcher is, how all the women hate her, etc.And what makes Griet so special that Vermeer pays her any mind? I got a glimpse when Griet arranges vegetables, and I actually liked a scene where Griet and Vermeer discussed colors in white, but other than that, there is nothing between them. Well, there IS Griet's feelings for Vermeer, but because I saw so little of Vermeer, I always got the impression she had a major crush on Vermeer and he was just smitten with her in an artistic sense.As for all the secrets...come on, people, what gives? Why is it such a big deal that Griet helping Vermeer create paint? Why do they go to such efforts to keep it a secret? Why the big deal about the painting Vermeer does of Griet? Is it because of the possibility of an affair? If so, why did Catharina have no problem with Vermeer painting the butcher's daughter or van Ruijven's family? Vermeer is painting her to get paid; you would think Catharina would have enough sense to be okay with that, but apparently, no! (In fact, if she were a REALLY interesting character, she might see Griet's painting potential and FORCE her to sit so they could make more money!) If people actually TALKED to each other, instead of hiding stupid things like this, there wouldn't BE a story.The ending actually isn't bad. I liked how she moved on and wasn't still harping (too much) on Vermeer. Though there were still a few things that bugged me (SPOILER FRIENDLY: her marriage, what she did with Vermeer's final gift to her).I suppose if you are really curious about Vermeer and his background and don't mind a fluffy, almost Young Adult approach to it, this is your book. But if Mary Sues, flat characters, and an almost non-existent story hold you back, you may want to skip. I will give this book credit: it was a fast listen (I "read" on audiobook) and made me more interested in the artist.UPDATE 9/12/11: I recently watched the movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth and was pleased at how well it was adapted to movie format. This isn't something I often say, but I definitely preferred the movie over the book.

The God of Small Things

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3.89 rating

Comment 1: There is a cost of loving. “The God of Small Things” tells of small people with large hearts who pay the price for breaking the Love Rules. “Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they became the bleached bones of a story."THE BONES OF A STORY Rahel and Estha Kochamma are twins, female and male, who are born into a prominent family in the state of Kerala, India. The twins live in a dysfunctional family with their mother, Ammu, and an eccentric and colorful clan of grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Their grandfather—was the Imperial Entomologist (a student of insects—the smallest of things) who discovered a new species of moth but was cheated of recognition. Throughout the story moths flutter around Rahel, through whom the narrator seems to exercise a limited point of view. The story alternates between 1969 (when Rahel is a seven-year-old girl) and the present when Rahel returns home 23 years after the tragic events that separated her from her beloved twin brother, Estha. Sister and brother are so close that the narrator describes them as one person, despite having been separated for most of their lives. The year 1969 is a tragic year for the members of the Kochamma family and for Velutha, an “untouchable” who works for the family at their factory called Paradise, Pickles, and Preserves. In the first chapter, we learn that the twin’s 9-year old cousin dies; that their mother dies at 31; that Estha ceases to talk and has visions of Velutha with “dark blood spilling from his skull like a secret.” Before his long silence, Estha writes in his journal "Anything can happen to anyone." Upon this boy are placed terrible responsibilities that will haunt him forever. After his Cistercian-like silence begins, Estha walks and cleans incessantly. HOW A FIERCE LYRICIST SEDUCESArundhati Roy jumps from the 1969 to the present (1992). Although we learn of the tragedgies in the first chapter, we do not know the graphic details. Instead Roy tells her story in a circular fashion—reminiscent of the Hindu cyclical concept of time. In each chapter, she reveals new details about the events sketched in Chapter 1. Perhaps Roy reveals her structure in her description of the Kathakali theatre technique: The secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you’ve heard and want to hear again. The one you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don't deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover's skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don't. In the way that you know one day you will die, you live as though you won't. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn't. And yet you want to know again. (218) GOST is one of the greatest modern stories I have read even though Roy revealed major events in the first chapter. There were no tricks or gimmicks. In Kathakali fashion, I knew there would be death. The story felt like home because I am intimately acquainted with this violent house—the House of History. But the familiar “sicksweet” smell of blood from this house was made endurable by Arundhati Roy's erotic force that smelled familiar--like a lover’s skin. Roy’s fierce lyricism seduced me through the first two disorienting chapters where many characters with names unfamiliar to me were introduced. The story seemed exotic and full of color and light-- with darkness lurking around every corner. Beneath Roy’s lyricism lie torrents of rage directed at the misogyny, the caste system, cultural colonization, duplicity, double standards--and what she perceives as the surrender of authentic Indian identity. Yet, her greatest lyrical outrage builds toward the mysterious cataclysm at the History House. “It’s true. Things can change in a day.” The chapter entitled “Cost of Living” left me shaken, and I had to put the book down for a while to grieve for “a Hole in the Universe through which darkness poured like liquid tar.” I was again rescued when my hectic work schedule interfered with my ability to write this review for two weeks. Upon reflection, I needed the time to meditate and decompress after such a wrenching experience that wounded my seduced spirit.BIG GOD; SMALL GODBig God. Small God. Who do you worship? The Big God presides over the macrocosm, The History House -- the large and violent happenings of the world. “The Big God howled like a hot wind and demanded obeisance.” The Small God looks over the microcosm and laughs and skips cheerfully while smiling upon individual lives. In contrast, the Small God is "cozy and contained, private and limited." It looks over “the wild, overgrown garden full of the whisper of and scurry of small lives.” In this garden are earthworms, dragonflies, baby spiders, lizards, squirrels, and children. But the God of Big Things demands a sacrifice. “Just a quiet handing-over ceremony. A boat spilling its cargo. A river accepting the offering. One small life. A brief sunbeam. ” When the Big God howls, we look for the Small God, but seeing no footprints, we ask ourselves if Small God was really there at all? Did we stand alone? Or was Small God so limited and light we just could not detect her skipping stride?As the novel hurtles toward cataclysm, the cultural forces of the Big God exert their power over the individuals. But even as Big God destroys one forbidden love, so too will a new forbidden love seek to defy Big God’s Love Laws. Many readers will give this love their blessing. THE LOVE LAWSThe Big God decrees the Love Laws or "The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much." According to the Big God, breaking the Love Laws is the worst offense, and those who break the Love Laws are swiftly and brutally punished. The last chapters reveal why the narrator states that the story "really began in the days when the Love Laws were made."Love is wild and dangerous like a river. Love is such a powerful and uncontrollable force that it cannot be contained by any conventional social code. Thus, it is a threat to the herd—the special children of the Big God. The herd treats some people as polluted and unworthy of love. To love one outside the herd is an act of defilement for which there must be a ritual purification in an ancient river. (Read the chapters “The River in the Boat” and “The Crossing.”)Small God has only two Love Rules: “Promise me you’ll always love each other”(Ammu) and “We be of one blood, Thou and I.” (Rahel).In GOST we see how The History House demanded that its small characters forsake the Small God’s love rules and the small world. “You never know what might change in a day.” There are big dreams and little dreams. "Stick to Small Things," says Arundhati Roy because the Big Things will always lurk nearby seeking to kill and destroy small love. In the final chapters, we learn of how small characters defy Big God’s Love Laws and risk the cost. There are small lovers who are smashed and small lovers who are reconstituted and imbued with new meaning---the bleached bones of a story that will always have a small place in my heart, which is willing to pay the cost of love.

I Know This Much Is True

by

4.15 rating

Comment 1: “I know it sounds crazy. I know this much is true.” Dominick Birdsey surveys the ruins of his life and must decide whether he can rebuild from the wreckage. Grievance and self-pity suffuse this veteran of many betrayals (of which he has been both victim and victimizer)."I never claimed I was lovable. Never said I wasn't a son of a bitch." Dominick’s identical twin, Thomas Birdsey, is a paranoid schizophrenic who chopped off his own hand at the public library as a sacrificial offering to lead the modern world to Jesus. Dominick exhibits a roiling mixture of conflicting emotions toward his brother: rage; superiority; guilt; love; grief, and pity. Dominick prided himself as the dominant and strong brother. "When you're the sane brother of a schizophrenic identical twin, the tricky thing about saving yourself is the blood it leaves on your hands--the little inconvenience of the look-alike corpse at your feet....Take it from the uncrazy twin--the guy who beat the biochemical wrap." Yet, in addition to guilt, envy of Thomas nags Dominick like pebbles inside his shoe. Why?Dominick, now 41, confronts the suppressed truths of his 1950's childhood and the fateful summer of 1969. To aid him in unlocking the past, he visits his psychiatrist, Dr. Patel, who counsels that forgiveness is loam, and she lends him Joseph Campbell’s famous book, “Hero With a Thousand Faces,” about archetypes common to all mythology. As summarized by Dr. Patel: In ancient myths… in stories from cultures as far-flung as the Eskimos and the ancient Greeks—orphaned sons leave home in search of their fathers. In search of the self-truths that will allow them to return restored, completed. In these stories, knowledge eludes the lost child and fate throws trial and tribulation onto his path—hurls at him conundrums he must solve, hardships he must conquer. But if the orphan endures, then finally, at long last, he stumbles from the wilderness into the light, holding the precious elixir of truth. And we rejoice. At last, he has earned his parentage. And for his troubles he has gained understanding and peace. He has earned his father’s kingdom. The universe is his. (886) Dominick must decide whether he is capable of returning home with the courage and wisdom to help others. But while reading mythology, Dominick also reads his Sicilian grandfather’s journal, which describes his namesake’s life as an industrious but angry immigrant to the USA at the beginning of the twentieth century. Lamb gradually unfolds the grandfather’s journal throughout the novel as a parallel story, which suggests that the sins of the parents are visited upon the children for many generations. Can Dominick “bear witness” and break Omertà—the Sicilian code of silence? Can Dominick learn to make a gift out of a parable of failure?Dominick, like Telemachus, searches for his father because he refuses to accept Ray, his brutish stepfather. He must also navigate many challenges: the secretive memory of his dead mother; the befuddlement toward his kleptomaniac and kinky girlfriend; the grief for his baby who died of SIDs; and the pining for his ex-wife whom he still loves. “Dead brothers. Dead babies. Dead marriages. What sense did any of this make?” Confronted with so many different problems, Dominick is not sure whether his life is a challenge or a practical joke, and he is forced to re-examine his reflexive posture of always “playing defense” and his instinct to look out for himself first. "That's the trouble with survival of the fittest, isn't it? The corpse at your feet.” Dominick, “a meticulous steward” of the pain and injustices that people have visited upon him must discover whether betrayals (including those he perpetrated) can be forgiven. Lamb describes his own novel as “a big, shaggy beast,” but, while reading 900 pages in 7 days, I adopted this loveable mongrel of an epic novel, which reads as smooth as a stone that the brothers, as boys, skimmed across wide and deep lakes. Lamb weaves many threads into a crazy, lopsided patchwork quilt that barely covers its broken characters and their fragmented relationships, but it faithfully depicts the human spirit in all its ugliness and splendor. In this novel, we see the entire panoply of human depravity displayed in a small Connecticut town, and there are many relationships that will make readers squirm. The story contains many (for my taste too many) acts of abuse: domestic; physical; verbal; and sexual. Readers sensitive to these triggers should beware; however, I believe that Lamb's purpose is to show that we are all victims of suffering that have deformed us; therefore, emotionally astute sufferers might consider the past of their persecutors when judging whether or not forgiveness is appropriate. Moreover, he writes with much humor and light as a balance to the oppressive atmosphere of sexual abuse. Fortunately, Lamb deftly mines the emotional impact of these abuses through indirect narrative and without graphic detail. Regardless of the details, everybody suffers and carries the scars on the psyche—a type of original sin and a rite of passage for all humans. Our traumas can either anneal or soften; sensitize or desensitize. Too often we get bad advice from metaphoric "stepfathers" who damage us (while attempting to do us a "favor") by bullying us into submission in a misguided attempt to toughen us by purging our sensitivity, which they see as weakness.Lamb’s novel gives good advice to the walking wounded, and he writes with a traditional preference for plot and for conclusions with an optimistic moral that challenges our entrenched and fashionable cynicism. Not all readers will appreciate his attitude and style, but Lamb celebrates ”the roundness of things:” death and life; wounds and healings; sins and forgiveness; hatred and love; thefts and sacrifices; fear and courage; oppressors and the oppressed; the past and the future. I believe, with Lamb, that fear often creates and perpetuates our cruelty and anger. And though our wounds and our betrayals nearly slay us, they also summon us to a hero’s journey. “I know it sounds crazy. I know this much is true.” With destruction comes the opportunity to renovate, reinvent, and reinvest ourselves. With destruction comes the opportunity to forgive and unlearn fear. If you emerge from the destruction, perhaps you will recognize your face among the throng of heroes who find the rich loam of home, and discover that our journey’s end is where we started, and we will recognize our home for the first time. July 8, 2014.

White Oleander

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3.9 rating

Comment 1: This book was an escape from my usual paranormal smut and urban fantasy adventures, and it is so worth the change in scenery. I had to read the book for my Vulnerable Children class, where I am learning about the child welfare system. It was a poignant tale of one girl’s tumultuous journey through the foster care system and will no doubt leave your jaw hanging on many occasion. As a human being, you will be horrified at the life that Astrid must endure after her mother is sent to prison for murder. And Astrid’s mother, Ingrid, is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever read. You will want to reach through the pages to ring her neck all the while experiencing sadness over her situation.I was sickened by how Astrid was treated by these foster parents. They destroyed her innocence. Astrid reached out for love and was constantly slapped in the face, except for a few encounters that introduced this young lady to love and evil, themes that are very interconnected in this story. I was also sickened at the role of the social workers in this book! They treated Astrid like shit and I am horrified at the thought of a real social worker acting this way. Janet Fitch’s writing is downright magical, poetic and intoxicating. I felt every hunger pang, every yearning for some semblance of normalcy, every embarrassing, depressing and desperate moment, every let down, every heart break, every smile, every relationship that was real and the many that were not. The book is raw and leaves your breathless.Most of you have probably heard of this movie, which I watched recently, and thoroughly enjoyed. However, with any book, your imagination is always better, and in the case of this book, your heart breaks even more intensely. The ultimate reality of this book is that Astrid’s myriad of foster home experiences is an unfortunate common theme amongst foster children. This book is one story out of thousands that we have not heard. However, If you are up for a change of scenery, and a story that will steadily tug at your heartstrings, all the while filling you with hope that resiliency is real and can save someone, then take a dive into this book, head first. Notable Quotes"I wondered why it had to be so poisonous. Oleanders could live through anything, they could stand heat, drought, neglect, and put out thousands of waxy blooms. So what did they need poison for? Couldn't they just be bitter? They weren't like rattlesnakes, they didn't even eat what they killed. The way she boiled it down, distilled it, like her hatred. Maybe it was a poison in the soil, something about L.A., the hatred, the callousness, something we didn't want to think about, that the plant concentrated in its tissues. Maybe it wasn't a source of poison, but just another victim.""And I tried not to make it worse by asking for things, pulling her down with my thoughts. I had seen girls clamor for new clothes and complain about what their mothers made for dinner. I was always mortified. Didn’t they know they were tying their mothers to the ground? Weren’t chains ashamed of their prisoners?""I know what you are learning to endure. There is nothing to be done. Make sure nothing is wasted. Take notes. Remember it all, every insult, every tear. Tattoo it on the inside of your mind. In life, knowledge of poisons is essential. I've told you, nobody becomes an artist unless they have to.""That was the thing about words, they were clear and specific-chair, eye, stone- but when you talked about feelings, words were too stiff, they were this and not that, they couldn't include all the meanings. In defining, they always left something out.""And I realized as I walked through the neighborhood how each house could contain a completely different reality. In a single block, there could be fifty separate worlds. Nobody ever really knew what was going on just next door.""I felt like an undeveloped photograph that he was printing, my image rising to the surface under his gaze."

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by

4.1 rating

Comment 1: I was completely transported by this book. It was partly on it’s own merits, but also because it forcibly reminded me of another book which is very dear to my heart, Dear Enemy by Jean Webster. It has been a long time that I kept putting off finishing a book because I didn’t want it to end. I researched Charles Lamb, the Guernsey Islands, Its occupation by the Germans, read about the upcoming movie, went back and read the first several letters at the beginning of the book, looked at 3 episodes o Comment 2: A sweet, charming and beautiful story about friendship, humanity, heart-full-ness and courage. And I have such a special place in my heart for letters-between-friends; and have made some good friends through letter-writing, so the premise of the story is just too-too perfect! The historical aspect was also very interesting; the island of Guernsey was the only place on British soil occupied by the Germans during WWII. Mercifully (to me, anyway) only a few of the letters dealt with some of the mor Comment 3: Written in the form of letters, this delightful novel introduces us to the residents of Guernsey in 1946. Juliet is an author who receives a letter from a Guernsey resident called Dawsey who tells her he has a book that once belonged to her by Charles Lamb. He writes asking if she knows of any other books by this author and from this their correspondence begins. He tells her about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and as the members start to write to Juliet, telling her of life d

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

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4.18 rating

Comment 1: I didn't like the second volume of the trilogy as much as the first, so I was initially wary about this book. But after the first few chapters, I was reassured. Despite some obviously implausible elements (even in Sweden, would you really keep two people who had tried to kill each other on the same corridor at a hospital?) it is extremely gripping and well-written.Having now finished the book, I can confirm that, although it's not quite as good as the first one, it is indeed a fine end to the series. It's a little difficult to give detailed comments without creating spoilers, since the plot has numerous excellent surprises which it would be a shame to reveal. So keeping to generalities, here are some of the things I particularly liked. First, his psychology is interesting and plausible. All the main characters come across as real people, and the emotions they feel for each other develop in a plausible way. Second, he is very good at describing everyday conflict in the early 21st century Western world, where it mostly depends on being able to navigate the bureaucratic jungle and the Web. Yes, there is hand-to-hand fighting, and this is OK too, but it's much more fun to see how someone takes care of a complicated legal problem, or a colleague at work that they don't get on with, or a series of offensive emails. Last and not least, he is really and truly not afraid of strong women. Lisbeth, Erika, Monica and Annika are all credible, tough chicks, who are in many ways stronger than the men, but without thereby becoming caricatures. If you like books about alpha females (Jordan, are you reading this? :) then get started on Stieg Larsson!_____________________________________I was having an offline conversation with Moira about Lisbeth Salander. She complained that no one loved Lisbeth, and I replied that I loved her even more after hearing all those dismissive comments - that was the point, wasn't it?Then, a few minutes ago, I was struck by one of those thoughts that really make you wonder why you haven't had them months earlier. Of course, Lisbeth is a Christ figure! That's why it's completely natural that hearing people revile her only strengthens my love and admiration. It couldn't be more obvious, in retrospect. She even rises from the dead.But why have so few other people made this connection? A quick search on Google turned up nothing. Was every one else fooled, just as I was, by superficialities like her being an autistic-spectrum bisexual female hacker who's seriously into violence and covered in tattoos and piercings? I can accept that I'm that shallow, but surely other people aren't? I'd like to think so, anyway. Probably I'm just sleepy, and my internet search skills have temporarily deserted me. I'm sure Lisbeth would already have found several dozen hits._____________________________________I was struck by the following passage from Flaubert's La Tentation de Saint Antoine, which I'm currently reading. Anthony is being tempted by the mysterious Ennoia:Innocent comme le Christ, qui est mort pour les hommes, elle s'est dévouée pour les femmes. Car l'impuissance de Jéhovah se démontre par la transgression d'Adam, et il faut secouer la vielle loi, antipathique à l'ordre des chose.(Innocent as Christ, who died for all men, she cares for women. Now the impotence of Jehovah has been revealed by Adam's sin, and we must shake the old law, hateful to the order of things).It does sum up my argument rather well. _____________________________________We've now watched the DVD. As with the first and second instalments, the atmosphere is perfect, and Noomi Rapace is fantastic as Lisbeth, but they have taken huge liberties with the story. Whole subplots have simply been removed. Mikael doesn't get involved with Monica, and Erika never moves to the other newspaper. In general, I was sad to see that Erika's role was so much reduced - she is one of my favourite characters in the books. I guess there just wasn't enough time to include everything. We'll never know what would have happened if they'd turned it into six films instead of three. Maybe it would have been too slow, and in fact they made the right decision...CORRECTION!My kind and wonderful friend Vivi alerted me to the existence of the long version (see comment #11). It finally arrived, and we watched the first half of Män Som Hatar Kvinnor last night. Well, I am already a total convert. Yes, a bit slow, but it's supposed to be slow - the theatrical version felt horribly rushed. Erika turns out to in be there after all. There is a really nice sexy scene with her and Mikael which perfectly reproduces the feel of the book. I'm afraid to say though that it's not yet clear you can get it with English subtitles. The DVD we watched only has them in Scandinavian languages. But I imagine it's just a matter of time before an English-subtitled edition is released._____________________________________Last night, we watched Lars von Trier's 2003 movie Dogville. I don't want to drop spoilers, but there are some interesting resonances with the Millennium trilogy; in particular, it's also possible to view Nicole Kidman's character as an unusual kind of female Christ figure, who, at least IMHO, has a certain amount in common with Salander. If you liked Millennium and haven't seen it, you may want to consider checking it out.

The Thirteenth Tale

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3.93 rating

Comment 1: 2 1/2What to say? This is one of those books which is hard for me to rate.In a way it reminded me of The Monsters of Templeton in that I generally enjoyed the writing - the style and the atmosphere of it - but I never connected with the characters in a way which would make it all that much more enjoyable, or engaging, or tragic, or whatever.In another way it reminded me of The Historian in that that book was a vampire book which was more about library research, and this was a purported "ghost story" which was more about psychological drama.Overall, I think the narration within a narration was unnecessary. I was far more engaged in the story of Isabelle and Charlie, and then of Emmeline and Adelaine, than I ever was about Margaret. I would've liked to have seen more of those characters, seen them explored more as characters. While their story was interesting, in its own way, I would've liked to have known more about their psychologies, their motivations, their inner thoughts. We get more of the thoughts of the Missus than we ever do about the 'main characters' of the drama. Or perhaps it's just because I found them unbelievable - I found Charlie's grief just too much to believe in, for instance.The only reason I would say that the narration within the narration even has to exist is because otherwise we wouldn't get the story of Aurelius - though if the book was told in third person instead of first person, then that could've been woven in. Otherwise, I can't really even see a point for Margaret, other than someone through whom our disgust and sympathy can be filtered.Perhaps it's just because she did nothing for me as a character. The whole thing with the twin reflection was overwrought and overdone. Once or twice, then fine. But every single time she sees her reflection?But, then, I didn't really like the whole twin thing, either - the notion that non-twins are amputees, that twins share a soul and whatnot. Perhaps it's because for every pair of twin I've heard of that was inseperable, I've heard others where they can't stand to lose their identity to the twinness. Maybe if we saw some dichotomy in the sets of twins it would be different, I don't know.Also, the fact that in the beginning she attributes her alienation from other people to the 'lost part of her' sort of annoyed me on a personal level. Aside from the fact that her upbringing could more than adequately explain it, I'm someone who has often suffered from my own feelings of outsideness, and I need no magical connection with my dead twin to explain it. It always irks me in stories like this where it has to be some melodramatic thing, as opposed to something as straightforward as the fact that people have different personalities from each other, and oftentime those things don't mesh.As for Miss Winter, while I found her sordid family story interesting in a distant kind of way, I only rarely sympathized with her, and that was towards the end. I took all the rape and incest in stride. Maybe it's because it was only implied and not graphic, or maybe it's because of the way the story was told - as a fact as opposed to a juicy bit of gossip - but, either way, I wasn't as horrified by it as some readers were. If she was going for shock, them I'm disappointed, because, as I said, I would've rather have seen the mechanations of the characters that brought them to their love affairs more than any titillation that was meant to be derived from it, if that was the case, which I don't think it was, per se.Anyway - lost my track of thought. One thing that someone else mentioned, and that I agree with, is that there's too much emphasis put on Vida Winter's being an eminent and respected author, who the world just goes gaga for - especially when the excerpts of her story leaves me with nothing which would suggest this is, indeed, the case. Also, I found that the Margaret's voice and Miss Winter's voice, while telling the story, are entirely too similiar.Oh, and the whole implied possible romance between Dr. Clifton and Margaret at the end was absurd. It just came out of nowhere.Lastly, I kept wondering about the whole "book for book lovers" thing. Granted, there are a few passages that speak lovingly of books and the relationship of author and reader, and how books can linger in the minds and keep people alive well after they're nothing but bones, or less. And there were several references to classics like Jane Eyre and the like. Perhaps if I'd ever read any of those stories I would appreciate those a little more. (I did see Jane Eyre, though, just never read it.)In one way there's the simple personality issue - Miss Winter and Margaret have a bond which comes from their love of not just stories, but many of the same stories. And if Margaret did not love her books and their authors, she wouldn't have written the biography which captured Vida's attention. But that seems to be it.Yes, Vida has the thing about how everyone has a story. I recently read almost the same lines in The Name of the Wind where everyone knows at least one story - their own. But aside from them both being book lovers themselves, I'm not really sure how the love of books contributes to the narrative within the narrative.Perhaps it doesn't have to, it's enough that it contributes to the first narrative. Perhaps it's simply because I was far more interested in the second narrative, and could've done almost entirely without the first, that I fail to see the importance of the connection.But, really, it just seemed like some random, albeit beautifully written, passages about the love of books which are thrown in less because they matter to the story, and more because Diane Setterfield, herself, loves books.Personally, I love good stories. The two loves are not always quite the same thing.Anyway, if it were not so well written, I'd probably give it less stars since I feel like I was kept at a distance from the story. On the other hand, if it was a little less overwrought and repetitive, and if the story of the family was more the focus, then perhaps I would've enjoyed it more.

Misery

by

4.05 rating

Comment 1: “As always, the blessed relief of starting, a feeling that was like falling into a hole filled with bright light. As always, the glum knowledge that he would not write as well as he wanted to write. As always the terror of not being able to finish, of accelerating into a brick wall. As always, the marvelous joyful nervy feeling of journey begun.” “But characters in stories DO NOT just slip away! God takes us when He thinks it’s time and a writer is God to the people in a story. He made them up just like God made us up and no one can get hold of God to make him explain, all right, okay, but as far as Misery goes, I’ll tell you one thing, you dirty bird, I’ll tell you that God just happens to have a couple of broken legs and God just happens to be in MY house eating MY food."Misery is my tenth book by Stephen King, and he's written approximately ten bajillion books and novellas and short stories. In a way I'm sort of glad I never read Stephen King when I was younger, because now I have a whole mess of Stephen King books to experience for the first time and enjoy. And I enjoyed Misery very much. Just from growing up in the '90s, I was familiar with the general story, but I always assumed it was only a scary story about a writer being held captive by his number one fan, who was crazy and evil or something. And that is what it's about, but it's also so much more complex than that.Paul Sheldon is a successful novelist, the bestselling author of the Misery Chastain novels, a series of historical romantic melodramas that are ridiculously popular, much to their creator's dismay. The Misery novels have made Paul famous, but they make him feel creatively bankrupt, like a sellout. A hack. He wants to write something else for a change. He knows he will never be taken as seriously as some authors, but not feeling beholden to Misery would be a nice change . . . so he kills her. With pleasure. With laughter. Fast forward to the publication of that last Misery book, Misery's Child. Paul has been tucked away in a Denver hotel working on a new novel, Fast Cars. He's just finished, considers it maybe his best book yet, and has celebrated with a bottle of champagne and a drive on the freeway. Only a storm comes on, and the next thing he knows he's waking up in a fog of pain in a strange bed with a strange woman breathing foul, life-saving air into his lungs, and two shattered legs. The woman turns out to be Annie Wilkes, who describes herself as his number one fan.Within a short period of time, Paul quickly ascertains that Annie is not sane. She is smart, certainly, but is also manic-depressive, controlling, and above all, psychotic. A former nurse, Annie traps Paul in every way possibly: physically, emotionally, pharmaceutically. They soon develop a toxic relationship, Paul learning how to gauge Annie's moods, trying to make the best out of a horrible situation. A situation which is made worse, by the way, when Annie reads the new Misery book and FLIPS HER SHIT when she learns Paul has killed her beloved Misery. Paul then becomes a sort of modern day Sheherazade, telling a story to save his life. And not just to placate Annie, either. The new Misery book, in which he must resurrect his own murdered creation (fittingly called Misery's Return) becomes an escape for him as well, a way to bear his captivity and pain as he and Annie rocket towards a final inevitable confrontation.Annie is a brilliant creation. She's scary, smart, driven, terrifyingly specific, and ultimately even in her psychosis and acts of criminal insanity, relatable. You pity her even as you fear her, and the toxic relationship she and Paul build, at first built on him trying to butter her up, eventually evolves to a place of mutual understanding that is equal parts horrifying and satisfying.Along with this escalating and extremely dysfunctional fan/author, nurse/patient, captor/victim dynamic between Paul and Annie, the book has a running undercurrent concerning stories and creativity and what it's like to be a writer. These parts were absolutely fascinating for me, and were made more so when Wikipedia informed me after the fact that this book was partly inspired by King's own frustration at his readers' seeming rejection of The Eyes of the Dragon, his first non-horror book, and one of which he was extremely proud. (P.S. I love that book.) He felt pigeonholed as a horror writer, and he was also struggling with his own drug and alcohol addiction at the time, of which both Annie and Paul's addiction to Novrol are evidence. Neither of these facts are necessary to enjoy the book, but they deepened my appreciation for it.All in all, this is a great novel, probably made better by Lindsay Crouse's narration for the audiobook. I will be seeking out a print copy ASAP, because I know this cockadoodie book is one I'll want to return to over and over.

The Prince of Tides

by

4.2 rating

Comment 1: A few days ago I came to my best friend's flat and while he was giving me joint which I passed, and while he was sorting his decks in Hearthstone, he told me that I was addicted to emotions and that this is the reason why I need turmoil books. I took that roughly and straight to the heart. I lay on his bed, depressed and exhausted as he was saying things that I already know and that he constantly drills into my sober brain; that I have had really bad three years and that I need time to recuperate because this is how grief works – it needs remedy of patience and self-will to accept that just because I want peace, it won’t come hugging me. I mean he hadn’t said that, he said, ''Why aren’t you reading Tolle, instead you are wrenching yourself further with emo stuff.'' Well, fuck off, was my usual response. ''You walk around your fantasy game world dressed as little yoda lookalike gnome with neck piercings, healing other losers online, collecting spinach and hiding behind the big freakcreatures who are into conquering some fortress up in the air on some server in woods where The Black Dahlia Murder band is playing nursery rhymes. Like you have a clue about Pat Conroy.''Of course I took his second remark in a light way. That is just me nowadays. He looked at me at that point and without a blink added, ''It is good that you don’t smoke. Weed would be just wasted on you. Go back and feed your darkness and watch me being happy while you suffocate in your jealousy.'' And I self-combusted and pouted and started cooing like a wounded dove trying to find mental potions and lotions, ointments and salves. When I quit tossing on the bed, irritated that he was gently neglecting me, I tried to find that place inside of me where I don’t lament. It is there, just after so much time spent howling and mourning it is difficult not to see yourself as a very sobbing person. But I have that striking sinew of sheer joy and beautiful proudness of my own life inside of me, just it is currently still very small, little forgotten, mostly afraid that all is lost. Once you retreat into yourself, your body will nudge you to polish some other moonstones of your personality. Those wicked ones, hidden too. Like self pity. And those essential, like self preservation and the accent will be put on life support small things that you really trust. Small things, one crumb, one ray of light, one peck, bone breaking hug. My friend is an excellently built ex basketball player who has spectacular shoulders and immense patience to comfort, in the same time being the crudest person when I overly wallow. So he pointed finger to his window after he looked at me comatosed on his bed. ''Have you seen the sun today inside yourself made cave?'' And I was on the verge to say something cruel again and the sun didn’t manage to resurrect me, but Pat Conroy always does that and for that, I am always so grateful to him. To both of these guys. I read one of his books between a few years of silence period and I always end up with the one which mirrors my life and I burn like a paper kite. Glorious and fatal. Not at all ravishingly memorable as soon as grey ashes start falling on my nose and continue going downward to dry grass.I don’t mind dramatics that Conroy evokes in me since I have them installed and integrated already. So, how do you explain Pat Conroy to somebody who has never read any of his books? I always have the same troublesome awe and always the same acid heartache. Conroy nourishingly pulls me into his waters. I know him very well by now, and I know he is not a seducer and that he truly means all the best for me. But he pulls me under the surface and says, breathe, breathe. Now there. Breathe baby, breathe. And I do. And my needy tentacles find his sorrowful and mournful words and I stick my oxygen to them and through a straw I find a way to cope with myself better. It is an alluring story of Tom Wingo, English literature teacher and rugby coach as he deals with his twin sister who is the most famous feminist poet. But Savannah is suicidal. She lives in New York and Tom comes to her psychiatrist Susan Lowenstein to whom he starts unwrapping their memories which his sister has forgotten. He talks about growing up in South Carolina with Savannah and their older brother Luke. About parents and grandparents, his marital problems in Charleston and how he copes with monstrous currents of his childhood. Through the southern fire scars and through his geographical wounds I end up being hopeful and gratified. Conroy’s books always mitigate and balm, no matter how one life’s winds are blowing or breezing. American South has been described numerous times signed by different authors and their tragic people have all been inhumanely flawed but not all Southern books have the psyche. There was this part where siblings went to Miami and they’ve realised that Florida’s Atlantic was crystal clear and turquoise while they trusted their murky part of ocean only up to a point of touching their chest. Wingos are attuned to havoc and disfunctionality with the constant mellifluous voice of water all around them. And you submerge into Conroy’s incantation. Pat Conroy has never really had a rival in literature. You are knackered down with humility when you discover how reading 600 pages long poem feels like. He defined dolour, if you can understand it under all the foreshadowing. And it is miserable. Because you know it’s there. Not creeping in like a fog, not being two faced, not being sombre but being relentlessly severe and stone faced. It is there, you will put your whole faith into not falling into it, but the doom is there. And in the aftermath have faith again that the tragedy will find the angular ends which will not allow characters in this book to slit their wrists anymore. That the reader will eventually stop feeling intimately connected with the Wingos.What I take from this book is not similar family history or their mental diagnosis, so I’m not projecting myself. It is ambiguity. I can’t love this book more than I do. It gave me insight of the things I needed and it gave me reasons to think that life could be easier. Not in a parallel that there are less fortunate than me but in the realisation that forgiving yourself doesn’t have to be the hardest thing in the world.You are what you are because of your thoughts. And if you allow yourself, when the right moment comes you will survive the wounds of them.Simply mesmerising and healing book.

Franny and Zooey

by

3.98 rating

Comment 1: I'm sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.The blinking cursor that preceded this review, the place-holder of possibility before the big bang of creation, speaks volumes when taken in relation to J.D. Salinger’s exquisite Franny and Zooey. In a novel about identity, about forging who we are from a blank slate in the void of society and humanity, we are constantly called to the floor and reminded how often we impose our ego, or wishes, our desires, and become a caricature of ourselves hoping that by creating a façade-self, our true self will eventually follow the leader and fill the mold we’ve forged for the world to see. We constantly try to pigeonhole the world on our own terms, wrongly imposing our own perspective and missing out in the beauty that flowers when we embrace anything as itself without the confines of our implied impressions. This creates a highly tuned, self-conscious atmosphere that makes it difficult to begin writing about without feeling like I, myself, am imposing my undeserved and unqualified ego by casting these words into the world. That damned blinking cursor amidst a field of white on my screen, returning again and again after each quickly deleted early attempts, made me feel very much like Franny herself, sick of realizing that every action is an attempt at being noticed. I’m just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everybody else’s. I’m sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting. It’s disgusting. Can I write without being a disgusting egomaniac, without imposing myself on everyone? My own fears and excuses for writers block aside, Salinger perfectly focuses upon the inner crises of anyone that has truly looked themselves in the mirror and assessed both the world around them and their place in it. Through a simplistic, character driven account of a family thwarted by their own crippling self-awareness, Salinger crafts a flawless tale of identity and family that takes up right where he left off with Holden Caulfield—where we learn not to judge those around us, but to understand and accept one another on their own terms in order to live and love.I just never felt so fantastically rocky in my entire life.This novel was graciously bequeathed to me at the exact moment it was needed most. With a ravenous Midwest winter providing the bleak setting to funerals and my own divorce, the existential crisis and subsequent breakdown of Franny Glass was the pure emotional catharsis that kept me positive and afloat across life’s tumultuous sea¹. Franny and Zooey is virtually Zen in novel format, and for reasons far surpassing the religious allusions that decorate the novel (as well as entice readers into other spiritually gratifying books such as The Upanishads). There is something eminently soothing about this Salinger tale of family, something that really struck me in the deep regions of my heart and soul, and prodded certain defining aspects of my childhood that I tend to keep from conversation. Salinger’s prose come across so natural and heartfelt as if he truly were Buddy himself writing the second half, and reads like a naturally talented author writing at the pinnacle of his craft. The use of italics, for example, a technique exercised right up to the borderlines of overuse, is one of the many tactics Salinger applies² to his literary canvas to conceive life out of a nearly plot-less, introspective narrative and issuing within it a warm glow to resonate deep within the reader, lifting their spirits and calming their minds. It feels like the point of conception for Wes Anderson’s entire career (and meant as the highest of compliments to both Anderson and Salinger), and much of the style and feel of the book touched many of the same literary emotions that stored DFW’s Infinite Jest forever in my heart.Presented as two separate, yet eternally bound stories, Salinger toys with the way we craft our identity in our formative years. The first story, concerning a dinner between Franny and her egotistical and stuffy collegiate cliché of a boyfriend, Lane Coutell, presents Franny functioning as an independent individual in the world, a singular facet of humanity defined as Franny. There is no mention of her family or her past, only details pertaining directly to her as the individual at hand. However, the second story is not one of independent identity, but instead has each character represented as an individual in relation to each other—as a product of a family. Franny’s obsession with the book, The Way of a Pilgrim and the Pilgrim Continues His Way, which is initially presented—direct from the mouth of Franny in an attempt to portray herself as an independent identity discovering things on her own and forging beliefs untarnished by the influence of others—as a book she took from her college library, is revealed in the latter story to be a book held in high regard by the eldest Glass children and borrowed by Franny from their stagnant bedroom. We cannot escape our past, our family, our choices, or ourselves, and any identity we attempt to form can only become a crumbling façade without this depth of acceptance and awareness. We are only who we are in relation to those around us, and without accepting both ourselves, and the world around us, can we become fully actualized identities.The Catcher in the Rye a book as essential to any high school literary education as vegetables to any balanced diet, gave us Holden Caulfield who put a microscope to society and exposed the bacteria of ‘phoniness’ that is inherent in everyone around him. Franny prescribes to this disenchanting reality as well, abandoning her laundry list of pleasures upon seeing them as merely a method of stoking her own ego. She views her every possible move as just another solution towards conformity and every action as attention seeking. I'm not afraid to compete. It's just the opposite. Don't you see that? I'm afraid I will compete — that's what scares me. That's why I quit the Theatre Department. Just because I'm so horribly conditioned to accept everybody else's values, and just because I like applause and people to rave about me, doesn't make it right. I'm ashamed of it. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody. I'm sick of myself and everybody else that wants to make some kind of a splash.Compare this expression existential angst to the depictions of her boyfriend. Lane's true nature is best examined in his juxtaposition to Franny, revealed through Salinger’s ominous narration to be one constantly seeking an expression or posture to best capture the exact image of himself that he would ideally envision the world to read from him. Lane sat up a bit in his chair and adjusted his expression from that of all-round apprehension and discontent to that of a man whose date has merely gone to the john, leaving him, as dates do, with nothing to do in the meantime but smoke and look bored, perfectly attractively bored.To Lane, Franny is just an extension of his costume of attractive social veneer, a girl attractive and intelligent enough to be seen with in order for him to be viewed in high regard by his contemporaries. It is the Lanes and all the ‘section men’, as Franny terms them, who are more concerned with the appearance of being a genius than actually being a genius. I'm sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect.Where Caulfield left us in a feeling of superiority, yet devastating darkness, for recognizing the fakers and phonies around us, Zooey Glass, full of unremitting charm, tosses a spiritual life raft and allows us to recognize the beauty in the world around us. ‘In the first place,’ he lovingly scolds his sister, Franny, ‘you’re way off when you start railing atthings and people instead of at yourself.’ We are all a part of this world, nobody is truly special and above worldly mistakes and foibles, and we are all eternally caught in a struggle of identity whether we know it or not. Like the best of David Foster Wallace, this is a story about those with the mental and emotional acuity to recognize or fear that their actions and beliefs conform to the phoniness of the world regardless of how hard they try to shake it; the Glass family is a family of practically card-carrying MENSA members with an intellect that is not only a transcendental gift but also a hellishly weighty burden. Life is a game we all must unwillingly participate in, at least to the extent that we remain alive and in the game, and we should not chastise the world and hold ourselves in too high of regard unless we really take a look at our own motives. He exposes Franny’s decision to follow the Pilgrim’s method of finding transcendence through relentless prayer to be just another expression of the ego she finds so distasteful in others, enacting a self-righteous holier-than-thou attitudes without actually understanding the mask she has chosen to wear. Drawing upon the lessons learned from his elder brothers, Buddy and Seymour, Zooey challenges Franny to look beyond what she considers the ego—’half the nastiness in the world is stirred up by people who aren’t using their true egos…the thing you think is his ego, isn’t his ego at all but some other, much dirtier, much less basic faculty’—and to recognize the true beauty of everyone around her. Inspired by the advice of his eldest brother, Seymour (whose tragic suicide is chronicled in a short story I’d proclaim as perfect, A Perfect Day for Bananafish from Salinger’s Nine Stories), that even though the audience can’t see them, to shine his shoes ‘for the Fat Lady’, Zooey proclaims, like a hip, 1950’s New York bodhisattva Are you listening to me?There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Syemour’s Fat Lady…It’s Christ Himself.’ Somehow, as if by pure magic, Salinger manages to highlight spirituality without the reader feeling like he is preaching or backhanding them with Christianity (in fact, through the frequent references to many of the world’s religion that wonderfully adorn the novel, the message feels entirely universal despite any religious, or even non-religious, beliefs the reader brings to the table), but simply professes a triumphant message of universal love that is sure to infiltrate each and every heart. To fully exist, one must accept the world for what it is, love both the blessings and blemishes, and accept objects, ideas and people on those being's own terms, as a thing-in-itself, instead of an imposed belief in what we think they should be. We cannot infringe our ego upon the things beyond our grasp, but merely fully love them for them. We are, all four of us, blood relatives, and we speak a kind of esoteric, family language, a sort of semantic geometry in which the shortest distance between any two points is a fullish circle.Essentially, this is a novel about arguments. How else can we properly form an identity without our own internal arguments between our disparate ideas and ideals? Religious, societal, whatever, this is a book of great minds coming together to hash out their beliefs in an effort to dig up some sort of truth that you can pocket and carry with you into the harsh weathers of reality. The center piece of the book, the ever-logical and too-witty-for-his-own-good Zooey engaged in a shouting match with his mother, a woman with such wholesome and good-natured worldly wisdom that appears as simplicity to an untrained eye, is wholly unforgettable and made of the stuff that reminds you why you so love reading books. And what better way to craft a novel full of arguments that to focus it upon a family, the perfect stage for arguments that allow oneself to shed any social armor and nakedly swing their sword of beliefs and opinions? Upon entering into the second story of the novel, Franny and Zooey is more of less contained within the confines of the family circle, further highlighting Franny’s breakdown³ as the collapse of a socially reinforced personality mask to reduce her to her basic and pure elements as a the youngest member of the Glass family. Though Zooey has plans to meet with his television world contacts, he doesn’t leave the house until he can set things right; the family must be set right before the outside world can be accounted for. There seems to be a belief that the family is a functioning being that outweighs that of the individual, and reinforces the family vs. the outside world ideal that was idolized in the 1950’s television programs like Leave it to Beaver or even Ozzie and Harriet. Family values must hold strong against a world that will rio them apart with its frightening winds. Salinger, who was fully fascinated with his Glass family creation, having a file cabinet full of notes about the family and diving deep within their mechanics for much of his fiction, creates his ideal family values that must cope with worldly problems, such as Seymour’s war experience and fatal struggle with PTSD, Buddy and Zooey’s ongoing struggle with a entertainment world more entrenched in simple pleasures and ratings than actual intellectual merit, or even Franny’s crisis with the ‘white-shoe college boys’ inflicting their stylized genius on those around them. The Glass house is a house ‘full of ghosts’ and the family must accept themselves as a product of this gene pool, as a product of the teachings bestowed upon them by their own blood, as a functioning member in not only the family but the world at large, taking all this into a catalyst for their own identity. Interestingly enough, it would seem that Franny and Zooey is more a book about Buddy and Seymour and their legacy than the title characters themselves. It is through the youngest two Glass members that we understand the eldest two. This technique of creating a penumbra effect of understanding to actualize Buddy and Seymour in the minds and hearts of the reader is fully in keeping with the idea that we can only form our identity in relation to all those around us. Just as we must accept the world around us on its own terms, we must accept ourselves on our own and not based on how others will view us.An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's.I am reminded of a favorite quote of mine that comes from the cathartically cantankerous with of Charles Bukowski: We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.We cannot spend our time criticizing others, overanalyzing ever flaw and absurdity that presents itself in each face we encounter. Because what is gained from this that has any merit to our finite existence? We are all bumbling about trying to find our way in a world whose meaning must inherently escape us (and what point would it serve anyhow if we understood life and could just simply follow the dotted line towards a perfect life?). This is a novel of staggering importance and cathartic power that far surpasses even the frequently touted The Catcher in the Rye. Drawing a Zen-like potency from the positive messages found in many of the world’s religion and spiritually influential members, Salinger teaches us a valuable lesson about acceptance and identity while simultaneously preforming the luminous task of taking a near static story and plunging the reader so deep into the souls of its characters to light the literary sky with pure vitality and emotional well-being that they feel as if it were they that suffered both the existential collapse and recovery upon the Glass’ living room couch. Allow Franny to have your breakdown for you, and for Zooey to resurrect you from the calamity. Allow Salinger to charm you with his perfectly crafted sentences and sage-like wisdom. Read Franny and Zooey and love the life you live and the world around you.5/5¹ This is not, however, the ideal book to read when quitting smoking. Rest assured, I persevered. But really, practically one cigarette or cigar is lit per page. ‘The cigars are ballast, sweetheart. Sheer ballast. If he didn’t have a cigar to hold on to, his feet would leave the ground.’ ² Another subtle, yet incredible narrative flourish is Zooey's constant use of 'buddy' as a term of endearment to his sister. This was a nod to Jay Gatsby frequently calling others 'old sport' in The Great Gatsby.³ In the margins of my book, I tussled with the idea that Franny’s behavior would be clinically explained as a manic episode, but embraced by a literary bent as an existential conundrum. This further led to an idea that Lane, who viewed Franny’s collapse from a cold, callus position of one more concerned about having to miss the football game and having to excuse his girlfriends erratic behavior, as choosing to see the world from a scientific perspective that he thought should be devoid of emotional rationalization to avoid looking foolish, whereas Franny fully embraces emotion as a window into the soul and chooses a spiritual outlook to organize the hustle and bustle of the world in her mind.The cards are stacked (quite properly, I imagine) against all professional aesthetes, and no doubt we all deserve the dark, wordy, academic deaths we all sooner or later die.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

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4.23 rating

Comment 1: Aprite una nuova finestra, connettetevi su 'Google maps' e digitate 'Birmingham, Alabama', cliccate 'indicazioni stradali' e, nella stringa bianca, inserite 'Whistle Stop, Alabama'. Scoprirete così che, a quattro ore di viaggio e una manciata di minuti, si trovano la più grande città dell'Alabama, Birmingham, e una città (o forse paese?) che non ha nemmeno ottenuto indicazioni su Wikipedia.Adesso che siete orientati sulla cartina geografica, immaginate di tornare indietro negli anni '30 e di sedere in un classico caffè americano, di quelli sperduti, il cui unico punto di riferimento è la vita del paese, un paese in cui tutti si conoscono, e la cui unica fonte di novità arriva dai treni, dallo snodo ferroviario e dalla grande città.Ora che siete al caffè, state sicuramente consultando il menù, allora, senza esitazione, ordinate il seguente piatto 'pomodori verdi fritti'.Avete così ottenuto di essere divenuti personaggi a pieno titolo di 'Pomodori verdi fritti al caffè di Whistle stop', sedotti dalla capacità di narrazione scarna, ironica, profonda e scevra di fronzoli dell'autrice e attrice, Fannie Flagg (classe 1944).La storia si sviluppa su due piani temporali, gli avvenimenti tra il 1930 e il 1950 e il loro racconto ad opera di Virginia Threadgoode, ottantaseienne, testimone fedele, che narra tutto il narrabile a Evelyne Couch, donna grassa, depressa, convinta di essere ormai vecchia.L'espediente del flashback è sapientemente gestito da Fannie (posso chiamarla per nome? ormai è come un'amica!) che intreccia passato e presente senza che il lettore si perda mai in date e luoghi che spesso si alternano.Virginia, dalla casa di riposo nella quale ormai risiede, racconta gli avvenimenti di casa Trheadgoode, quelli del caffè di Whistle stop, delle due gestrici dello stesso, Idgie e Ruth e di tutti i personaggi a loro connessi. Protagonista è la nostalgia per il passato, per la semplicità di un centro abitato dove tutti si conoscono, dove la festa di uno è la festa di tutti, dove regna l'abitudine di una vita sempre uguale, ma sempre viva. Il romanzo è intriso di un messaggio di fondo teso a comunicare al lettore l'ingiustizia del razzismo, il razzismo che discrimina in base al colore della pelle, che discrimina in base alla forma fisica, all'amore che si prova. Fannie è impareggiabile nella capacità di parlare dell'amore omosessuale senza mai dover ricorrere a termini di diversità: l'amore omosessuale non è diverso, è anch'esso basato sulla stima, sulla reciproca ammirazione e sul bisogno di aversi a vicenda perché vivere in due questa vita, è sempre meglio che viverla in uno.Forti tematiche ed una trama avvincente si stagliano sull'America razzista e in guerra del 1930, ma anche sull'America del 1986 che ci viene testimoniata dai dialoghi tra la vecchietta e Evelyne, quasi cinquantenne, che riscopre la vita grazie alla sua amica di tarda età.Un romanzo pieno di vita, di nostalgia, di ironia e serietà, che consiglio a chiunque abbia voglia di deliziarsi con la capacità di una scrittrice di narrare senza annoiare, capace sempre di sorprendere. Dinamico e forte, 'Pomodori verdi fritti al caffè di Whistle Stop' è un libro per chi ama la vita, per chi ha bisogno di amarla di nuovo e per chi vuole apprezzare il passato in funzione di un presente migliore.

Bridget Jones's Diary

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3.72 rating

Comment 1: I didn't enjoy this book in an ironic way, or in a it's-good-even-though-, or I-can't-believe-I-do-but-I-perversely-can't-help-it or any other angled, roundabout, halfway indirect from behind kind of way.... No. I sat on my couch and wolfed this thing down in one sitting while laughing my ass off.I read it last spring when I decided I was curious about what "chick-lit" was, so that I could form an opinion and generally improve my likelihood of passing as a somewhat informed member of civilization. This was not the only "chick-lit" book I attempted. I tried *Bergdorf Blondes*, the first few pages of which made me want to stab my eyes out with a rusty fork; well, maybe it made me more want to stab someone else's eyes out (Plum Sykes springs to mind), but my point is that it wasn't just bad but actually highly disturbing. Disturbing as in, does not so much shake as demolish one's faith in humanity and makes one tremble in horror at the times we're evidently living in..... I also tried *Good in Bed*, which wasn't upsetting, but did seem pretty bad, or at least definitely not for me. I even flipped open a *Shopaholic* book, which wasn't as awfully written as *Bergdorf Blondes* but did similarly make yearn for a grim Stalinist dystopia where this kind of trash just isn't permitted.Then there was Bridget Jones.Now, my enjoyment of this book was not uncomplicated by this terrifying "I-am-Cathy" feeling that I'm now enough of a grownup to identify with a lovably neurotic character from fluffy popular women's fiction. Because, dear bookster, identify I did. Yes. I had the 100% straightforward chick-lit experience, which I guess must be exactly this sense of recognizing your own ridiculously stereotypical feminine traits in a light novel's plucky heroine. And seriously? That's exactly what happened to me.(Can I just explain that I'm supposed to be packing right now, which is why this is getting so long and involved? I'm not really crazy, I'm just procrastinating.) (Also, though, I do want to tell you guys about Bridget Jones and how weirdly good it was.)There were a few things I didn't realize about BJ before I read this book. One is, she drinks too much. The other is, she smokes. I know it sounds dumb, but I think I would've felt differently knowing that, instead of just that she struggles with food. I'd sort of heard that a lot of it was about efforts to control her weight or whatever, and this typical, you know, on-again-off-again dieting, blah blah blah, and I really couldn't imagine anything less appealing, partly because that isn't a problem I identify with, and partly because does the world really need another book about a self-hating lady trying to lose weight? And why would anyone want to read something like that anyway?Well, I would. And I did! Because it's not really about her trying to lose weight (although I guess it kind of is), it's more about the constant, compulsive agony self-inflicted by a woman cursed not only with zero impulse control and a ravenous id, but also obsessively high standards for herself and a ridiculous amount of guilt and self-scrutiny about virtually everything she does.So yeah basically, this book is about me and a lot (not all) of my close female friends. And it really, really -- I want you to hear this from me -- truly gets at some stuff about certain ways that a lot of women tend to act and think, which, I'm sorry, all my fancy feminisms and gender theory aside, let's be honest, a lot (not all) of us are very crazy in some classically female ways, and Fielding just NAILS a lot of those. Plus she's very funny.Is this the greatest book ever written? No. But it was fun to read.Obviously, not all men act one way, and not all women act like Bridget Jones. However, I certainly do, and that must be the reason I got such a kick out of this book.

Things Fall Apart

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3.57 rating

Comment 1: أفريقيا الساحرة القارة السمراء ، المهضوم حقها فنياً وأدبياً يخرج منها عمل أدبى من أجمل ماقرأت لعل أجمل ما ميّز نجيب محفوظ ، وجعله على قمة الكُتّاب المصريين والعرب أجمعين، وجعله واحد من أعلام الكتابة فى العالم ، هو قدرته الساحرة على رسم صورة المجتمع المصرى والحارة المصرية بكل تفاصيلها وهذا مافعله الكاتب هنا الكاتب نجح ببراعة فى استغلال موهبته الأدبية لرسم صورة كاملة للحياة فى أفريقيا وبالتحديد فى نيجيريا .فيتخذ من قرية " أوموفيا " نموذجاً يوضح من خلاله الإطار العام للحياة فى ظلال هذا المجتمع تماماً كما فعل محفوظ مع الحارة المصرية حينما اتخدها نموذجاً لتوضيح معالم المجتمع المصرى وماجعل الصورة كاملة بحق ، هو انه تعرض لأدق التفاصيل فى حياة أهل القرية من أسلوب حياتهم ومسكنهم ، إلى مراسم دفنهم لموتاهم وعقائدهم الدينيه ، وأكلهم وشربهم ، عملهم وتجارتهم حياة كاملة تنبض بين الصفحات فى هذه الرواية تحكى الرواية قصة مأساة " أوكونكو" أحد أقطاب قبيلة " أوبى " فى قرية " أوموفيا " فيسرد الكاتب بأسلوبه الممتع سيرة أوكونكو منذ نشأته الأولى ، وجهاده ، وعمله المتصل ليصل إلى مركز مرموق فى القبيلة وتتوالى الأحداث متعرضة لحياة أوكنوكو مع أبنائه وزوجاته الثلاث ، موضحاً الكاتب من خلالها الأبعاد الكاملة لشخصية أوكونكو .فهو المصارع البطل ، والزوج العادل ، والأب العطوف.. بالرغم مما يبديه دائماً من الشدة والقسوة لأبنائه وزوجاته وتمر الأيام ،ويتورط أوكونكو فى جريمة تقضى عليه بالنفى لمدة سبع سنوات خارج القبيلة ثم تمر فترة العقوبة التى حدث فيها الكثير من الأحداث لاداعى لحرقها ، ويعود لقبيلته فيكتشف أن الدين المسيحىّ يتوغل فى قبيلته، وينصدم بانقلاب الحال فى القبيلة التى انقسمت مابين مؤيد ومعارض للدين المنافى لتقاليد الآلهة القديمة وتتوالى الأحداث تباعاً فى صراع مابين التقاليد والدين الجديد ومابين كهنة الآلهة القديمة ودعاة الدين المسيحى .. حتى تأتى النهاية تقول المترجمة فى مقدمة الرواية ، واتفق معها بشدة فى هذا الكلام أن من أسرار جمال الرواية ، الحيادية التامة من الكاتب تجاه الأحداثستتسائل كثيراً وأنت تقرأ ، مالموقف الذى يتخذه الكاتب من كل هذه الأحداث ؟وهذا يعنى بالطبع أن الصورة وحدها هى التى تتحدث إلى القارئ ، بما فى هذه الحياة من قسوة وقيم خاطئة ، ومن بساطة وجمال وشاعريةذكرت سابقاً أن أجمل مالمسته فى الرواية ، التفاصيل .واذا تحدثت عن بعض هذه التفاصيل فأقول أن الكاتب تعرض لكل شئ يمكن تخيله فى الحياة الاجتماعية تقريباًطقوس الزواج ، وطقوس الزراعة الأطعمة المتمثلة فى ثمار معدودة كثمار" اليام "التى هى أهم الأطعمة وثمار "الكولا " التى تقدم فى مراسم الترحيب بالضيوف ومراسم الترحيب بالضيوف لها قصة وحدها وخمر النخيل ، وحساء الفوفو ،وحساء الورقة المرة ثم يتعرض للعقيدة والدين والآلهة المتعددة التى يؤمنون بها ، فهناك اله للأرض والزراعة ، وهنالك اله للمطر ، وهناك اله للتلال والجبال ، وفوق كل هذا ، لكل شخص الهه الخاص به المسؤول عن حظه فى الحياة نترك أمور الدين ونتكلم فى القضاء فالقبيلة تلجأ فى حكمها إلى جماعة يزعمون أنهم اشخاص تلبستهم أرواح الأسلاف الحكيمة ويدعونهم " جماعة الأوجوجو " وهى تتكون من تسعة اشخاص تخرج بزى مهيب فى ساحات القضاء للفصل بين الناس ويتميزون عن باقى الناس بزيهم الذى يبعث رهبة فى نفوس كل من يراهم والرسوم على الوجه ، والريش على الرأس ، والعصا التى تدق الأرض بحساب ثم يتحدث عن العادات الغريبة التى يناقشها بحيادية تامة مثل ولادة التوائم، وأن التوائم لعنة فى نظر الكهنة ،فكلما تلد امرأة توأم يتركونهم فى غابة موحشة لإرضاء الآلهة . وأن من يقتل أحداً بالخطأ يُنفى من القبيلة لسنوات إلى آخره من من التفاصيل والتفاصيل التى ترسم المجتمع بصورة كاملة تجعلك تشعر أنك تعيش فى الرواية أثناء القراءة أنا عن نفسى شعرت أنى فى أفريقيا بكامل إدراكى وانا أقرأ الرواية . وهذا دليل على سحر الرواية وتمكن الكاتب حتى الجمال والحب الأفريقى .. رسمه الكاتب بطريقة من اجمل مايكون الرجال ربما يتزوجون تسع زوجات فى وقت واحد ومع ذلك تُكِنّ له كل منهن حباً ووفاءً لا مثيل له كل زوجة تحب ضُرّتها ، وتحب أبناء زوجها من زوجاته الأخريات والزوج يبادلهن هذا الحب ، فتجده يحرص على أن تطهى له كل زوجة منهن وجبة كاملة فى كل موعد للطعام ، ولايردّ طعام أى منهن ، بل يأكل من كل الأطباق ومن أيدى كل الزوجات باعثاً فى أنفسهن الرضا والسرور ومقدراً لحب كل واحدة ، مطبقاً العدل والمساواة بينهن ترجمة الرواية من أجمل مايكون ، رغم أن المترجمة ذكرت فى المقدمة أن السبب فى قلة اهتمام العالم بالأدب الأفريقى هو أن معظم مايكتبه الأفريقيون يكتبوه باللغات المحلية ، وهى لغات كثيرة جداً ومختلفة عن بعضها ومعقدة للغاية .وأن مانجح فى الانتشار من الأدب الافريقى لايتعدى الأعمال التى تُكتب باللغة الانجليزية لأفارقة مهاجرين أو غيرها من اللغات الأجنبيه المعروفة ، ومهما كان .. فهم قليلون مقارنةً بالكتاب الأفارقة المتأصّلين فى افريقيا ذاتها ختاماً هذه الرواية ساحرة ، مفعمة بالتفاصيل والحكايات الممتعة تكشف عن عالم ربما لم تقرأ عنه من قبل ،وربما لن تقرأ عنه فيما بعد كثيراًرواية نجحت فى الوصول لشمس الشهرة إلى حد ما ، وسط آلاف الأعمال الأفريقية الأخرى التى تعثرت فى الوصول للعالمية ولكنها مع ذلك كانت كفيلة لـ لفت انتباه العالم إلى أن افريقيا موجودة على خريطة الأدب وأن افريقيا تستحق اهتماماً من القُرّاء وعالم الأدب بشكل عام أكثر من ذلك بكثير تمت

Bel Canto

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3.91 rating

Comment 1: Sinopsis pada sampul belakang buku hijau berjudul asli Bel Canto ini begitu mengundang saya mengambilnya dari bak buku obralan di TM Bookstore Detos pada akhir tahun lalu. Sinopsis itu, bagian pertamanya saya ceritakan kembali seperti ini:Pada suatu pesta makan malam para diplomat dan usahawan di sebuah negara miskin di Amerika Selatan, sekelompok tentara gerilya menyerbu. Mereka menyandera lebih dari 200 tamu karena tidak menemukan presiden negara itu - sasaran utama untuk diculik - di antara hadirin. Yang konyol, sang presiden absen karena ingin menonton telenovela di rumah.Sampai di sini, sudah sangat komedik sekaligus satiris sekali cerita ini akan dibawa. Satu, pesta makan malam itu diadakan sebagai hadiah ulang tahun bagi seorang asing, industrialis Jepang terkemuka agar mau berinvestasi di negeri itu. Dua, bisa dong dibayangkan negara miskin Amerika Latin itu susah payah merogoh kas mereka demi mengadakan pesta kalangan tinggi dengan ratusan tamu. Tiga, aduuuh... betapa memalukannya rakyat dunia ketiga yang begitu kekurangan hiburan! Sampai2 presidennya sendiri tidak rela ketinggalan menonton episode telenovela yang tayang striping Senin sampai Jumat malam, di mana malam itu tokoh jagoannya Maria berhasil membebaskan diri dari sekapan musuhnya. Dahsyat! Mungkin kalau AC Nielsen membuat survei, rating telenovela itu bisa mencapai 8.5.Yang berikutnya terjadi, para gerilya penyerbu memilih menahan para sandera di tempat hingga tuntutan mereka dipenuhi pemerintah. Sambil menunggu, kita lihat sinopsis bagian dua: Para sandera perempuan kemudian dibebaskan, kecuali soprano ternama Roxane Coss dari Amerika Serikat.Roxane malam itu mendapat tawaran honor tinggi untuk menyanyi di pesta ulang tahun Katsumi Hosokawa. Berkat status selebritanya, Roxane kemudian menjadi pengikat kehidupan di rumah dinas wakil presiden Ruben Iglesias itu. Untunglah pengarang cerita ini baik hati, menciptakan komunitas sandera itu kelompok kelas atas, para diplomat dan usahawan kakap dunia yang tidak asing pada karya Puccini, Verdi, Chopin, atau Bellini. Semua orang di sana begitu memuja cewek Chicago itu. Bayangkan kalau yang manggung malam itu Rihanna atau KD. Siapa coba, bapak2 Jepang atau Rusia atau Jerman atau Spanyol atau Yunani atau Prancis separo baya yang bisa rela berhari2 mendengarkan "Ela... ela... ela... oo...ooo.." atau "Pernah ku mencintaimu... tapi tak begini..."?(hmm. Tunggu. Kayaknya ada salah sontrek lagi ya? Maap deh... Sengaja, hehe...)Demikianlah. Lanjutan sinopsisnya sebagai berikut: Kelompok tentara terus menuntut penyerahan presiden dan pelepasan kawan-kawan mereka yang ditahan pemerintah, namun tak kunjung dipenuhi. Walhasil, dalam masa sandera lima setengah bulan, semua sandera dan penyanderanya mengembangkan perasaan saling tergantung.Kondisi ini tanpa disadari terbangun atas sibuknya Gen Watanabe - aslinya adalah penerjemah Hosokawa - mondar-mandir menerjemahkan di berbagai sudut rumah itu: antara sesama sandera, antara sandera dan penyandera, serta antara penyandera dengan negosiator yang dikirim pemerintah, si orang Swiss Joachim Messner. Dari bagian ini, kita akan membaca dunia yang tersembunyi di balik partitur musik di atas piano Steinway di rumah sekapan para sandera itu. Hosokawa boleh dibilang pengagum Roxane, bahkan Roxane juga yang menjadi alasan satu-satunya hadir di perjamuan malam itu. Yang tak disangka, wakil presiden perusahaan Hosokawa sendiri, Tetsuya Kato, langsung menyingkap rahasianya sebagai pianis handal demi mengiringi Roxane. Bagaimana Fyodorov, menteri canggung dari Rusia tak bisa mengelak dari keindahan pesona lagu-lagu klasik itu membuat kita menyaksikan pernyataan cintanya yang tanpa syarat, karena tak minta dibalas. Demikian pula wapres Ruben Iglesias, yang selama ini cuma ban serep di negaranya, bisa menemukan perhatian dan cintanya pada hal2 kecil di sekitarnya, yang ternyata lebih penting dan bermakna daripada jabatan wakil presiden.Ternyata musik yang dinyanyikan diva itu tidak hanya menyentuh para pria kaya yang sering mendatangi gedung opera. Rasanya begitu bergetar saat membaca Roxane dan nyanyiannya memenuhi hati Pastor Arguedas, pria yang telah berikrar mengabdi pada Tuhan itu untuk berbuat baik. Salah satu anggota belia pasukan penyandera, Carmen, sampai rela tiap malam tidur berjaga di lantai depan pintu kamar Roxane, dan koleganya Cesar begitu penuh perasaan menyanyikan kembali lagu2 sang soprano tanpa paham artinya. Dan betapa para "jenderal" pasukan gerilya itu bisa begitu pengertian, memaklumi semua kebutuhan sang penyanyi il bel canto itu.Ah, ya... masa penyanderaan yang diisi dengan latihan menyanyi Roxane dan Cesar, tanding catur Hosokawa dan Jenderal Alfredo, kursus privat membaca dan menulis untuk Carmen oleh Gen, serta masak makan malam bareng itu akhirnya sukses menciptakan Sindrom Stockholm. Itu lho, sebutan bagi kondisi di mana korban penculikan atau penyekapan malah menjadi simpati pada penyekapnya. Baik para sandera maupun penyanderanya, sebagian tidak ingin kemesraan itu cepat berlalu. Mengutip lagu jadulnya Search, "Kita yang terlena, sehingga musim berubah..." dari sini cerita ini berjalan makin datar, hingga tak terasa lembar buku yang kita tahan di tangan sebelah kanan mulai menipis... menipis... dan berakhirlah kidung yang indah ini.Berakhir dengan cara yang mungkin sudah terlintas dalam benak. Berakhir sebagai jalan yang paling mungkin terjadi, kalau kita sering membaca berita penyanderaan.Tapi tetap saja...Sulit sekali buat saya menerima kenyataan bahwa kidung indah ini sudah tidak mengalun lagi. Sulit juga bagi saya untuk tidak beberapa jenak memikirkan betapa banyak anak2 di belahan dunia ini telah meyandang senjata bahkan membunuh. Sebagian besar karena terpaksa, demi kepentingan yang tidak mereka pahami tujuannya. Di Myanmar. Irlandia. Israel. Gaza, Somalia. Angola. El Salvador. Di mana2. Saya tak bisa menghindar dari memikirkan kenyataan bahwa setiap ada revolusi, rakyat kecil selalu menjadi korban terbesar, bukan seorang presiden gila telenovela. Sialannya, kok saya tidak bisa tidak menuding Amerika Serikat sebagai biang kerok, nih???Satu hal lagi terus melekat: jangan pernah menunda untuk berbuat kebaikan. Seperti saya tidak menunda membuka Embi dan mengetik review ini begitu Bel Canto ini selesai saya baca.Catatan tambahan: 1. saya memilih tidak menuliskan pasukan penyandera sebagai "teroris", istilah yang dipakai pengarang buku ini, karena ingat bagian dari novel Contact-nya Carl Sagan: "Jika kamu suka pada mereka, maka mereka adalah pejuang kemerdekaan; jika kamu tidak suka, mereka adalah teroris; dan jika kamu tidak bisa memutuskan menyukai mereka atau tidak, sebut saja mereka pasukan gerilya." Posisi saya adalah pembaca, bukan sandera, jadi mereka adalah gerilya.2. saya jadi ingin mendengarkan Verdi lagi. Ada yang bersedia kirim albumnya? *ga modal*15/01.2010

Never Let Me Go

by

3.79 rating

Comment 1: Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro's Examination of Science and MoralityIt was a warm spring afternoon, late in the semester. The windows of Ten Hoor Hall were open. The swarms of honey bees could be heard, hard at work in white blooms bursting from the hedge of abelia that ran across the front of a concrete and brick neo-classical building that housed the history, philosophy, and speech departments on the Campus of the University of Alabama.That was the day I determined not to pursue my intended career as a teacher of history, the cause of more than one day of regret through many years. Dr. Robert Johnston was rushing to the close of the second semester session of Western Civilization. The day's lecture concerned the end of World War II. Behind me the sonorous snore of a campus athlete vibrated through my skull. At the base of the lecture hall, Dr. Johnston was emphatically explaining the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. It was at that moment I decided to pursue another field of endeavor where those I sought to serve did not sleep through the performance of my service. My ego has shrunk by several sizes since that day. There are definitely those times when I wished my clientele would nap while I accomplished my job.But, even as I had decided to steer a different academic course, something happened to make me lean forward, watching Dr. Johnston's reaction to another student's question, who had dared interrupt his lecture. One simply didn't do that. Dr. Johnston was the flood of knowledge. Our job was simply to sit there as sponges and absorb the wisdom he imparted."Dr. Johnston?" A timid voice tremulously floated through the hall."And...What's that?" Johnston's prominent adam's apple bobbled above his regimental striped bow tie. It was blue, gold, with distinctly white diagonal lines dividing the broader bands of color. Dr. Johnston was retired United States Navy. His specialty was United States Naval History. Actually, he was a legend in the academic field."It's me, Dr. Johnston!""I see that. What is your question, young woman?" His dark eyes seemed to penetrate the petite speaker."I was just wondering?""Yes. Get on with it. Get on with it. Speak up, young woman. So the rest of this class that is awake can hear the discussion that grows from this interruption.""Sir, do you think it was morally right that President Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?"I watched Dr. Johnston's chest expand as he swallowed a mouthful of air. His lips pursed. His hands dropped from the lectern to his sides. His shoulders slumped. He appeared to grow smaller as his usual ramrod straight posture seemed to collapse upon itself. He appeared to be looking at his notes, but he wasn't. The answer wasn't in his notes.He raised one hand, fingers touching shirt front, tie, and eyeglass frame, as he formed his response."Morality. Was it moral? Was it right, in other words?" His words trailed off. His stare was at the exit doors to the hall. He was somewhere else. He was perfectly still until I noticed the slightest sway of movement. For Dr. Johnston was no longer in 1971, he had returned to September, 1945. Dr. Johnston had assumed his sea legs stance on the unsteady deck of a naval ship. "I was on a troopship, a transport, carrying hundreds...hundreds of American boys, some of them younger than any of you in this room. We were bound for Honshu. We were headed for the home islands of Japan when we heard the war was over. Over at last. I would never carry another mother's son to die on some God forsaken piece of dirt that had no strategic or tactical value. God, the Marines. The Marines. Peleliu, Tarawa, Iwo, Okinawa. Moral? Ask the dead. If you can find them, ask the living that were on those troop transports. I can't answer your question. Each of us has to answer it. This class is dismissed."Dr. Johnston's response is one I've heard from many sources on many issues regarding the morality of a particular decision of historical import. It is the ethical principle of utilitarianism. We can thank the likes of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill for the principle of the greatest happiness theory. It's been ages since Philosophy 101, but those names ring a distinct bell. Yet, I also think of another professor, this one of Law. Jay Murphy was my favorite professor, though he only taught me one course--Labor Law. Professor Murphy was a Buddhist. One day he had traffic blocked on University Boulevard, bent over, hands palm out, as he looked intently down at some small object on the asphalt. It was a caterpillar. The Buddhist professor was adamant that the caterpillar would get safely where it intended to go. Even the life of a bug was precious to him. After all, given time, that caterpillar turns into a butterfly. There are two sides to every question.So, that brings us to Kazuo Ishiguro and his acclaimed novel Never Let Me Go short listed for the Booker Prize in 2005. Turn the last page, and if you're not too stunned by the power of Ishiguro's words, you'll find that the author was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954. Although it's impossible to know the origin of an author's work, unless he has directly addressed the subject, I had to wonder if this magnificent book was Ishiguro's response to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If not that, Ishiguro does directly raise the issue of the potential of science to cross over the boundaries of morality. Or, on its most simple level, Ishiguro simply decided to turn the genre of science fiction on its ear, showing what might be accomplished in an over laden field of books, many of which should never have seen the light of day.Ishiguro definitely surpasses that simple level. At the minimum, this is a novel that questions the morality of advancements in science and technology. At the optimum, it addresses the very issue of the use of weapons of mass destruction that in fact exist, though sometimes just can't seem to be found anywhere. Further commentary on the second war against Iraq ceases here.It is especially difficult to review a work of this magnitude without resorting to spoilers. Where necessary, the appropriate alerts will be posted.Ishiguro's plotting is deceptively simple, using the perspective of Kath H., a student at an exclusive boarding school, Hailsham. In three sections, spanning early student days to young adulthood, Kath tells of life at school, after graduation, and her career choice. Kath focuses on her continuing relationship with two fellow students, Tommy and Ruth.Hailsham is an environment especially suited to enhancing creativity in their students. Whether it be painting, music, drawing, poetry, or prose, students were encouraged to create works of art. Periodically a woman known to the children only as Madame, comes to Hailsham to select works of art which leads the children to believe their work is placed in a special gallery. To have one's work selected by Madame is a coveted honor. Additionally, the children participate in exchanges of one another's art, vying for what they consider to be the best.Kath's attention is called to Tommy because of his frequent outburst of temper. Tommy is targeted by other students for his lack of creativity and the fact they know every button to push to launch him into a fit of rage. Tommy confides in Kath, much to her discomfort, for being seen as his friend could affect her own relationship with her fellow students. But when Tommy's behavior gradually begins to change until he exhibits no further rages, he is no longer the target of bullies. There's no challenge anymore. Tommy provides no reaction other than to shrug and walk away from his would be tormentors. Ishiguro's portrayal of bullying is masterful. Ruth is the central figure around whom Kath and Tommy revolve. Ruth is a would be leader, a believer that each of them is special and that a special future awaits each of them because of their status as Hailsham students. Ruth is self-centered, selfish, manipulative, and a master at the art of triangulation.As Kath, Tommy and Ruth move into later adolescence, it is Ruth who will become Tommy's sexual partner, for reasons unrelated to love for Tommy. Kath's normal sexual urges are twisted by Ruth to be evidence of abnormality, and that Tommy, whom she uncouples from, would never view Kath as a partner because of what amounted to sleeping around. Tommy will only consider her a friend, not a mate.Ishiguro takes his title from an imaginary song, "Never Let Me Go," sung by an imaginary cabaret singer which is on a cassette tape Kath buys at one of the periodic sales held at the school, when the children are allowed to buy things with tokens earned from their creative work. In one instance that becomes central to the question of the nature of Hailsham, Kath dances to the song while holding a pillow against her, as if she were holding her own baby. She turns to find Madame standing in the doorway watching her. Tears stream from Madame's eyes. Madame rapidly turns and departs without explanation, a continuing mystery woman whose comings and goings at the school have no apparent reason to the children.The growing horror of the fate that awaits the children of Hailsham is created by the simple straightforward delivery of Ishiguro's chosen narrator, Kath. It grows readily apparent that something waits for each student in the future. Why do no parents ever visit at Hailsham? Why are the teachers called Guardians as opposed to teachers? Why is Hailsham located in a remote area of England with no visible traffic zipping back and forth?At Hailsham, the children are told their fate, but not in a manner which is understood. The management of Hailsham is a network of deceit, lies and manipulation. The children have no baseline of behavior outside the walls of the school to know otherwise. The language in which the Guardians address the children is reminiscent of Orwell's "double-speak" in 1984."Never Let Me Go" is the most appropriate title for the song Kath loves but does not understand. It is Ishiguro's perfect title for this compelling novel. For the forces that drive Hailsham have no intention of any of its students gain freedom. Ever.(view spoiler)[The secret of Hailsham is one of ultimate selfishness of which any society should be ashamed. No parents come to the school because each of the children is a clone. They are walking, living organ banks, raised to be donors for others. The identity of the recipient is unknown, although Kath and Tommy learn that it is a practice that is accepted by the populous of the UK. An entire nation has accepted the price of the lives of others on the premise that clones, in fact, are mere shadows of real people. The children of Hailsham were meant to be raised in the shadows. It's a fact that anonymity covers a multitude of sins. Isn't it easier to drop a bomb from an incredible height and never see the destruction on the ground, compared to hand to hand combat? It always has been. It always will. Now, a human sits at a controller, as if simply playing a video game, navigating an unmanned rocket bomb to its intended target. At quitting time, mission over, the gamer goes home to whatever life they live outside the office. Hailsham was actually an experiment to show that clones are as human as any child created from the collision of sperm and egg. That's what society doesn't want to know. (hide spoiler)]

A Time to Kill

by

3.98 rating

Comment 1: Considered Grisham's best novel by many readers far more perspicacious than moi, this well-written, emotionally-charged thriller certainly delivers. While it doesn't rank as my eye's own personal apple, I can certainly see why it is esteemed by fans of both the legal-thriller and Grisham. Despite being fast-paced and a true page-turner (what I would call a popcorn-read), there's a gravity and social conscience that pervades the story and adds a weight to the narrative. There is depth here, more than I expected. Setting aside for the moment my gripes over some of the language used in the book (one vulgarity in particular), Grisham does a nice job of capturing the setting and providing an authentic feel and voice to his characters. Overall, a satisfying read that held my attention throughout. PLOT SUMMARY:Despite its brisky pace, Grisham’s Mississippi-based legal thriller deals with some tough, serious issues (e.g., race-relations, vigilantism and “justice versus lawful”). The plot centers on the trial of a poor black father who murders the two white shit stains who raped, tortured and brutalized his 10 year-old daughter. The crime and the subsequent trial triggers a firestorm of racial tension as factions on both sides become vocal and volatile. From the opening pages that describe the brutal rape (which was gut-wrenching in the extreme to experience, especially as a dad) through the final reading of the verdict, Grisham drives the narrative effortlessly and keeps the reader hooked and engaged. His story-telling is excellent. THOUGHTS:However......now that I have both seen the movie version and read the book, my final verdict is that the film is both more enjoyable and the higher quality product of the two. I say this despite the fact that the movie is arguably the “sweatiest” most lathery film in American history and my wife and I crack up about that every time we see it. Those pictures don’t do credit to the muggy, perspiration-overload of the real thing, but if you haven’t seen it, trust me…the movie dripped sudor from every pore like a hooker in church. Words like sheen and glistening are too understated. It was more like the actors showered, got dressed without drying off, walked through a “mister” and then wiped down with a moist towelette before every...single...scene.Now, not everyone was complaining about the drenchiness since it was Matthew McConaughey, Sam “it’s the one that says Bad MF” Jackson, Ashley Judd and Sandra Bullock doing the sweating, but still...hilarious and a bit distracting. BOOK GRIPES:Keep in mind that I liked the book, so my gripes below really point towards why I didn't rate the book higher than 3 stars.1. Too much fluff: When you can take a 528 page book and condense it into a 2+ hour movie that captures perfectly the essence of the story and manages to be even more emotionally powerful, it indicates that the novel was a little thin in the story department. This is the case here. While the expanded story and segues are interesting, the central plot contained too much unnecessariness that could’ve been easily discarded without touching the heart of the story...as the filmmakers did. 2. Excessive use of "N" word: Given that the novel is set in 1984, I had a real problem with the significant use of the “N” word* in the story. *(No, South Park fans, I am not referring to “nagger.”). Had this been set in the 50’s or 60’s, I would have seen it as a product of the times and swallowed my uncomfortableness. However, it just seems odd that as late as 1984, the word (and the frame of mind that goes with it) would be used so casually and regularly. Given that Grisham is from the South and went to school in Mississippi, he may be spot on with his characterization, and he probably is. If true, this is just very, very sad. Still, its constant use grated on me and I thought the movie did a much better job with the dialogue. This is coming from someone who does not normally favor filtering words through the PC processor. 3. The Main Character: Jake Brigance is not nearly as likeable in the book as he in the movie and I found it hard to engage with him. Now I think we can all agree that Matt McConaughey is not exactly a high level thespian. However, he did bring the right tone to this role and I found myself comparing the novel’s version unfavorably. 4. The Ending: Again, I liked the movie version so, so, so much better. While the main outcome is the same, I really liked the way the movie handled the climactic closing argument and was disappointed in the novels path to the verdict. I also really enjoyed the last scene in the movie where Jake and his family go to a barbeque at Carl Lee’s house where their two daughters can play. I thought it was perfect. Okay, so enough griping. I thought the book was good. I thought the movie was very good. If you've seen the movie, I don't think you are missing much by skipping the book. However, if you haven't seen the film, I would recommend reading the book first and then watching the adaptation. I think you will enjoy both.3.0 stars. Recommended.

Dark Lover

by

4.22 rating

Comment 1: I remember a few years ago, being huddled around a table in the canteen, and talking about books with some of my friends. They were nigh on obsessed with this vampire hunting series, having bought all the books and swapping them between each other. I never got to borrow any copies (but then again I was kind of burnt out on vampires anyway), but the name did stick in my mind.Some months later, I asked one of these friends about the title of the books she loved, and she said they were part of a series called the Black Dagger Brotherhood. The title sounds kind of cool, doesn't it? Eventually I downloaded the e-book, and started reading it.I was howling four percent in. Reading this book was like watching a really bad crime thriller that wallows in its own grittiness and has stereotypical characters, like the grumpy detective, the shallow heroine who can't help but get herself in trouble, the devoted vampire bride whose husband just won't reciprocate her affections, and various other oddball vampires who just so happen to be purebred or highly-trained and thus, are more awesome than civilian vampires.Oh, the characters… Sigh… Oy vey, in fact.The aforementioned shallow heroine is named Beth. She works for a newspaper, and is described as being stunningly gorgeous. No, seriously, I mean it. J.R. Ward goes at length to make sure you know this. Beth has long black hair and perfect facial shape and lips made for kissing a man (seriously, J.R. Ward wrote this!) and a perfect figure: a short waist, long legs, and ample breasts. She finishes work at the beginning of the novel, and is almost raped by this utter berk. However, she's saved and she gets back to the apartment, and seems to freaking forget about almost being raped. She jitters for a moment or two, then has a shower, eats a ready meal, and plays with her cat. Yeah. In the morning, this guy called Butch (who she lovingly nicknames Detective Hard-Ass) rather objectionably demands to know how she got some of her superficial injuries from being assaulted. Beth eventually tells him, which leads us on to my other point about bad characters in this book.Being the daughter of a retired police officer, I can tell you that in most developed nations, the police generally don't beat the living tar out of suspects before making an arrest, which is exactly what Butch does to the guy who nearly raped Beth, even though the only evidence he has is a description of his appearance. Do you know why that is? Partly human rights, partly not living in a part of the world where police brutality doesn't really exist, and partly compensation culture! Yes, call it political correctness if you will, but I highly doubt Butch's policing skills. Beth even says early on in the novel that Butch's interrogation methods leave people in hospital. In hospital. Well, kudos to you, J.R. Ward, for perpetuating the stereotype that most cops are violent idiots who were probably bullied at school and now take out all their rage on criminals, because a badge and ID card now legally allows them to. And while this Billy Riddle kid who almost raped Beth confesses his crime the moment this hilariously over-the-top depiction of a hard-nosed police officer threatens to whack him in the privates so hard that he'll be 'pissing sitting down for a week', what would have happened if it was a case of mistaken identity? Butch would have egg on his face in the form of having his badge and gun taken away, and he'd probably be forced to pay out massively in compensation. When Butch finds Billy in the morgue later that afternoon, he threatens him and really physically abuses him. Grabbing him by the lapels, slamming him against the wall, slapping him around the head, and breaking his nose. Now, I'm not saying that Billy doesn't deserve this kind of punishment for his horrible crime, I'm just shocked that anyone would think any police investigation revolves around mercilessly beating up a suspect and apparently putting some of them in hospital! You know that tense interrogation scene in The Dark Knight where Batman interviews The Joker and slams his head into the table and throws him around the room and shakes him and slams him against the wall? That's a cool scene, but it's complete and utter fantasy! Butch took that type of good cop bad cop routine and amplified it, and it's fucking ridiculous.Did I mention all that happened barely 10% into the book? Boy, we are in for a ride.Now, let's look away from our human characters for a moment, and onto the vampires.First things first. The vampires all have absolutely ridiculous names. I mean it. Wrath is one of our main characters, and besides being described as what appears in my mind as the horrifying cross between Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z and Neo from The Matrix, he's at least… okay as a character. He's boring, but hey, we've got ridiculous names to talk about!1. Tohrment2. Rhage3. Phury4. Zsadist5. VishousThese all sound like names a really crappy DJ or band or artist would give themselves. (Speaking of that, there's mention of a band called 'Tomato Eater'. *facepalm*) Also, let's look at Zsadist's background, shall we? So, he's a tortured soul who enjoys pain. He's got tattoos and piercings all over the place, and he's heavily scarred because of his addiction to pain. So surely his name should be Mhasokhist?Of course, Beth isn't just there to look pretty. No, she has connections to the vampires, in that her father (Darius) has just been killed off via a car bomb, and lo and behold, he's a vampire! Her body is transitioning now she's come of age, I guess, and so the Black Dagger Brotherhood puts her under their protection. She begins noticing something's off, and then… there was the mother of all awful vampire sex scenes. I mean it. I'm no prude, but the writing was just hysterically awful, not erotic in the least. J.R. Ward seems obsessed with the shape of her characters' faces, with undulation and curvaceousness. Now, in this sex scene, Beth is rocked by a wave of lust when Wrath, a creepy looking guy dressed all in black leather, stalks into her apartment. Normal people would tell him to get out, call the cops, you know, be a bit freaked out. Not Beth! No, she quite happily lets the weirdo chomp on his cigarillo (which is not a sexy image in the least – it makes me think of some corrupt old oil baron), then close the distance between them, and yes, it all ends up in the bedroom. And if you thought the sex scenes in the Sookie Stackhouse books were bad... then look away now. Beth's breasts descriptively strain against her top, Wrath's John Thomas throbs like it has its own heartbeat, Beth's body undulates in a sexy wave... urgh, dear gods. If there was ever a time I wanted brain bleach, it was now.I mean, for gods' sake, when Beth decides halfway through foreplay that she doesn't really want to have sex after almost being raped the night before, like Khal Drogo from A Game of Thrones, he grumpily says 'no' to her refusal and continues anyway because he lusts after her so much. And Beth just lets him! OH-MY-GOD. -_-Also, the terminology and the metaphors and similes used in this book are utterly bizarre! Barely 20% into the book, we have a prostitute 'shaking her ass like it was a can of paint'. Dead sexy. Then there's a description of Wrath's abdominal muscles looking like someone had inserted paint-rollers underneath his skin. Because home improvement is, need I remind you, dead sexy. Another bizarre choice was the security at a mechanic's workshop being 'tighter than a tick'. Uh... tighter than a tick? I understand that ticks do clamp down something awful on skin (resulting in Mr. Tweezers meeting Mr. Tick), but that is a godawful comparison. The terminology is also a really big problem in this book. The reader occasionally gets vampire-specific lingo, such as shellan and doggan. If you're curious as to what they mean, well, basically a shellan is the permanent partner of a vampire, and bonded to them for eternity. A doggan is a servant of a higher-ranking vampire. And since the vampires in this book all seem to be rich, princely bad boys, they happily ignore their wives and make sure Fritz the butler knows his place every once in a while. However, the most major problem that The Black Dagger Brotherhood has in this regard is that those terms are not defined in the slightest. I had to go 'well I guess since shellans are kind of like wives then...' only much later in the novel do we get any kind of explanation about this vampire-specific language.Admittedly, TBDB has an interesting take on the vampire mythos. Rather than the Black Dagger Brotherhood feeding from humans to sate their appetites, they actually feed off each other. Human blood is their equivalent of junk food, in fact. It fills you up, but not for long. Being exposed to sunlight results in second and third degree burns before turning into ashes, and the vampires even have their own religion, where the Scribe Virgin is the embodiment of good, and the Omega is the embodiment of evil who creates soulless 'Lessers'. Interesting, but there are still some incredibly flawed things about this book.I also remember sitting back whilst reading this book and realising just how much of a sausage fest it was. I mean it. There are more than 10 men featured as protagonists, antagonists, or deuteragonists, and barely 5 female characters. Now, this isn't too much of a problem. I don't demand that the books I read have an equal balance of the sexes, it's just that the female characters are awfully written here, like some of them were just an afterthought. Beth is attractive and has no common sense whatsoever. I don't care that she and Wrath are fated to be together, but you do not let some creep come into your apartment and have his way with you because you're rocked by feelings of lust. The other female characters are underdeveloped wives, or prostitutes who wind up murdered. There's a smidgen of back-story to one of them, whose name is Mary, but otherwise, they're just cheap trollops who are there to dress provocatively and get killed for it. I barely got to know Wellsie or Marissa, two of the 'wives' of our main vampire characters, because there's little to no background information about them. Wellsie is pregnant and deeply in love with her mate. That's it. Marissa is mated to Wrath but breaks up with him when he gets serious with Beth and then her brother Havers is all like: “Hey, you ruined everything” and so she's upset and finds solace in Detective Hard-Ass, which comes completely out of nowhere, if only to break some vampire taboo.The pacing in this novel is also a major problem. Things seem to happen much too fast. Stuff like character relations, discovering vital plot information, getting over the shock of something... they all happen much too fast. And then we get distracted away from the main plot to focus on inane shit like Beth and Wrath having sex, Marissa and Butch having sex, and over the course of twenty or so bloody pages near the end, we have Wrath and Beth getting married. You know. Let's forget about this serial killer and his lackey, Billy Riddle. Let's get married in an impromptu ceremony, even though we didn't know each other from Adam two weeks ago!The ending is also as clumsy as Bambi trying to walk across that frozen pond. Far too much happens in the course of those pages, and there are several fake-outs which really got on my nerves. One of the Brotherhood is supposed to have betrayed them all, then oh no he didn't actually. One of the villains is killed, but the other one escapes after shooting one of our heroes and setting his dogs (pit-bull terriers, since of course that ugly stereotype will never go away) on another. Then there's a long and convoluted scene in the hospital, and a rather desperate grab for a sequel in the form of a certain character being resurrected from the dead. Eurgh.So, awful pacing plus badly-written sex plus terribly-written female characters in the middle of a complete sausage fest of vampires and humans who are ridiculous archetypes served to make this book a really bad experience for me. I'm told that this is just the first book in a fairly good series, and the fans even agree that this book is hardly liquid gold, but I do not care enough to get the sequels, based on this. I may give TV shows a three episode litmus test before dropping them (in case they do turn out to be amazing), but I am much less forgiving with book series. Sorry. 1/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/...)

The Art of Racing in the Rain

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4.18 rating

Comment 1: Enzo is ready; ready to roam heaven’s plains before he comes back to Earth as a man in his next life. He knows this is true because a NGO program told him so. Hours before the TV loving Terrier-mix dog’s soul sets on this magical journey, he tells his story of his life with his “man,” using the lessons he has learned watching Race Car footage with Denny. Balance, anticipation, and patience are important to life as well as to the art of racing in the rain. Just as Enzo knows these truths, he know Comment 2: El interés principal de este libro se basa en una perspectiva muy original desarrollada de manera deliciosa. No estamos en la cabeza de un perro cualquiera. Enzo es un mago de las palabras, un filósofo y un estudioso de la condición humana. A través de sus ojos vemos el mundo de otra forma: un complejo compendio de emociones que se desgranan fácilmente en su mente, pero de las que no puede participar de forma directa. Nos describe su situación como la de un espectador dentro de una caja de vidri Comment 3: Based on its title, this book may appear to be custom-built for auto racing fans. Not that the title is misleading – there is, in fact, some discussion of racing peppered throughout – but Garth Stein gives us so much more than a one-dimensional story! Like a wonderful, magical gift, where unwrapping one colorful layer leads to a layer of a different color, which leads to a layer with an intriguing design, and so on, The Art of Racing in the Rain takes us through tears, laughter, introspection, a

Dear John

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3.99 rating

Comment 1: I can read this book a million times and i am sure that i'll cry each time. Why does love has to be so difficult,why does Nicholas Sparks always has to make me cry? Why does he has to write such books which are so amazing and wonderful and frustratingly good?.I mean this is so unfair,everytime i pick Nicholas spark's book I know at the end I am gonna cry and amazingly I am gonna love the book immensely.I cried a little reading The Notebook and A walk to remember which were good but Dear John is just awesome so hope everyone would understand how much I have cried reading it. I really don't have any idea how am i suppose to write a review on a book like this,I don't think i am smart with words,I dunno how I am gonna write all the emotions I have felt while reading it.When I completed this book I felt as if my heart has broken into a million pieces for John. I have loved the character of John sooooooo much. I know to get someone like John you really have to be god's favourite. The book started with angry rebel John getting tired of his life and joining army,I must say his character was really strong and intense,incomprehensible in the beginning but lovable. He meets a girl named Savannah during his holidays and falls in love with her right away. Savannah changes John's life in the ways one can change a human. But unfortunately John has to leave at the end of his break, their keep correspondence through letters and phone calls but Savannah grows tired of waiting for him and falls in love with someone else,but John loves Savannah from the depth of his soul,he loved her to the limit where a human can love another human. I hate Savannah for being so vain and forgetting him,how could she have forgotten all those days,i seriously can't understand. The end part was the most difficult for me to read when John visits Savannah after she is married. With each line i felt like crying,by the end i was frustrated and angry at Nicholas Sparks, why did he had to end the book by breaking John's heart.This book is so unfair but then I guess love was never fair to anyone. This book shows the actual meaning of love. This book would be hated by people who think falling in love is being together all the time,going on dates,spending rest of the life happily ever after,even I thought the same before reading this book but I was utterly and shamelessly wrong. Love is not about being together physically,its being together in each other's heart and memories.Love is'nt only about spending rest of the life together it's about spending your life for the person you love,sacrificing everything you have for that one person even if you don't get to be with that person.Love is not only about being in one's heart,it's about being in one's soul,in one's memories like John and Savannah did.That is what Dear John has taught me.This book is a fresh change for me. I just love this book immensely and irrevocably. I am gonna treasure the memory of John in my heart for as long as I shall live.

My Ántonia

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3.74 rating

Comment 1: Like many kids, the first “real” books I loved were Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. Their great and continuing popularity makes perfect sense. Kids crave security and a sense of protection; Little House on the Prairie hammered on that theme repeatedly, while only giving the reader a frisson of the actual dangers and hardships of frontier life. There was never any explicit threat in any of the books, with the exception of the near fatal cold in The Long Winter (the one book in the series that slightly traumatized me). Sure, little Laura and Mary might hear the sounds of a panther in the trees, or an Indian’s drum in the distance, but that is always kept off-page and beyond the thick walls of the Ingalls’ snug little cabin. What action exists in Little House on the Prairie consists of meeting one’s basic human needs: the construction of shelter; the stitching of clothes; and the cooking of meals. To say that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s remembrance of her past is tinged with nostalgia is putting it mildly. The whole series has been submerged in a vat of sepia. In her telling, the family’s dwelling (even if it’s a cave) is always warm and snug, tidy and cozy; every meal is delicious (especially the snow-and-molasses candy!); and every obstacle can be overcome with a little elbow grease. Little House on the Prairie is undeniably fantastic. Not only is it great storytelling (I mean, you’re always interested, even though nothing happens!), but it provides an invaluable link to the past. I bet you could construct a door without nails, simply by following Laura’s painstaking instructions. Still, the reality of pioneer life must have been a little rougher than she remembered. I’m sure the Ingalls dugout got a little dirty, despite Ma’s best efforts, because it was, in fact, made of dirt. However cozy things might have been, it must also have been stinky, what with the unwashed bodies, lack of toilet paper, and absence of any Old Spice products. And there’s never any mention of the inevitable lack of privacy, and all that entails (Pa? Ma? Mr. Edwards? What are you doing!?)I mention this only because I thought about Little House on the Prairie while reading Willa Cather’s My Ántonia (the same thoughts snuck into my head during O Pioneers!, but to a lesser extent). It is, in many ways, an adult version of the perennial children’s favorite. It shares that same connection to the land, the same telling details of prairie life, and it does so through the voice of an adult looking back at his own childhood. There is that same tendency to see the past as halcyon days; indeed, Cather’s novel quotes Virgil’s Georgics as its epigraph: “The best days are the first to flee.” The difference between Ingalls Wilder and Cather, between the children’s classic and the adult classic, is that Cather also adds a degree of violence and repressed sexuality to the mix. The result is bound to please anyone who ever finished Little House on the Prairie and said to him or herself: “Perfect! Except it needed a little more sex and violence.” My Ántonia begins with an unnamed, first-person narrator telling about a train ride across Iowa with her friend, a successful lawyer named Jim Burden. Both Jim and the unnamed narrator are obsessed with a Bohemian girl named Ántonia, whom they both knew from their childhood in Black Hawk, Nebraska. (In this context, Bohemia refers to a part of Europe now occupied by the Czech Republic; it does not refer to a commune-dwelling hippy artist who only eats grass and drinks rainwater). Both the unnamed narrator and Jim decide to write down their memories of Ántonia. By the end of this short introduction, the narrator admits to never writing anything. Jim, however, turns in a “manuscript” that comprises the rest of the novel. From then on, Jim Burden becomes the first-person narrator. Thankfully for the reader, Jim’s voice is identical to that of Willa Cather. (This nested narrative is a light conceit. I don’t think Cather intended us to take it too seriously. If we did, we’d have to conclude Jim Burden is the ultimate unreliable narrator, since he tells us things – the thoughts and feeling of other people, for instance – that he couldn’t know). Jim’s story is divided into five parts. The first, longest, and best part (and the section that really had me thinking Little House on the Prairie) details the newly-orphaned Jim’s arrival at the Nebraska farm of his grandparents. Jim’s grandparents are prosperous, and have two loyal hired hands, named Jake and Otto.Also new to the neighborhood is the Shimerda family, which includes young Ántonia. The Shimerdas are the proverbial fish out of water (or more accurately, the Bohemians in Nebraska). They are inept farmers and are constantly being cheated. While the appropriately-named Burdens give them what assistance they can, Jim and Ántonia become friends. Among their adventures together is a scene in which Ántonia and Jim are alone on the prairie, and Jim kills a big old rattlesnake. Just in case you missed the Biblical allusion to Adam and Eve and the serpent and the Garden of Eden – well, I just told you. The great joy in the early going is the incredibly beautiful evocation of the land, and its effect on ten year-old Jim. I sat down in the middle of the garden, where the snakes could scarcely approach unseen, and leaned m back against a warm yellow pumpkin. There were some ground-cherry bushes growing along the furrows, full of fruit. I turned back the papery triangular sheaths that protected the berries and ate a few. All about me giant grasshoppers, twice as big as any I had ever seen, were doing acrobatic feats among the dried vines. The gophers scurried up and down the ploughed ground. There in the sheltered draw-bottom the wind did not blow very hard, but I could hear it singing its humming tune up on the level, and I could see the tall grasses wave. The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers…I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes naturally as sleep.As the novel progresses, the Burdens leave their farm and move into Black Hawk. Jim grows up, begins attending town dances, and eventually goes away to school, first to Lincoln, Nebraska, and later to Harvard. Throughout, there is a delicate, dramatic tension in the relationship between Ántonia and Jim. It is clear that Jim loves her. Indeed, from the moment we meet him, he can’t stop talking about her, and how she was the most amazing person he’d ever met. For her part, Ántonia seems to love Jim just as much. But something always keeps them apart. At this point, I suppose, it is necessary to segue into a mention of Cather herself, and her tendency to meld autobiography into her fiction. Cather was, by all accounts, a lesbian, though it seems she never consummated any homosexual relationships. If that was true, you can begin to understand the pathology underlying Jim’s discomfort with and peculiar stance towards sexuality. He seems to know what he wants, but he is maddeningly ambivalent about attaining it. (And I do mean maddening. There is a point in the novel where Ántonia desperately needs Jim; and though he has made her into the sun and stars, he turns and walks away, without a tinge of remorse). Similarly to O Pioneers!, My Ántonia pivots around a strong, iconoclastic female character. Yet there is something frustratingly vague about Ántonia. Everyone who comes into contact with her is changed, and haunted, by the experience. But we never get an inkling why. Partially this is due to Cather’s interesting choice to tell the story of a woman through the eyes of a man. We never get any insight into Ántonia’s inner life, her hopes and dreams, her likes and dislikes. We don’t know what makes her tick (for that matter, Jim doesn’t give us much insight into himself, either). Ántonia becomes less a person than a lodestar, a constant against which Jim can measure his life. (In the introduction, Jim admits as much, saying: “It’s through myself that I knew and felt her”). Any understanding of Ántonia must come from her physical description. While Cather is stingy with psychological motivations, she is generous in listing Ántonia’s corporeal attributes: the beauty of her eyes (“like the sun shining on brown pools in the wood”); the way she looks leading a work-team or tending the fields; and the way she dances (hint: erotically). Interestingly, Ántonia’s physical qualities are portrayed – favorably – as manlike. She is tireless, hardworking, and sun-burnt. Even the diminutive of her name, Tony, which Jim often uses, tends towards a certain androgyny. A smarter or dumber person than I might be tempted to read Cather’s own sexuality into this depiction, but I’ll just leave it be. As a Minnesotan living in Nebraska (I’ll be damned if I’ll ever claim to be Nebraskan), I was pleasantly surprised at Cather’s depiction of her onetime home. O Pioneers! painted a less than flattering picture of the Nebraska prairie, so I was prepared for the worst. In My Ántonia, though, the land’s beauty is constantly underscored. This is in fitting with the novel’s romantic, elegiac tone. Though there are moments of macabre violence, including a darkly-comic murder-suicide, there are very few rough edges to My Ántonia, at least on the surface (you can find all sorts of stuff if you look beneath the surface). This is, after all, a chronicle of a child’s memories, and like all our memories, especially those from childhood, events are magnified and emotions compounded. There is no beauty that compares to the beauty of the things we saw as children; there is no love like first love. Once upon a time, I was something of a romantic. I was eager to have my heartstrings manipulated. That was a long time ago. I am already starting to teeter on the edge of Ed Asner-levels of curmudgeon-ness. And when I get there, it’s going to take more than a Boy Scout and a bunch of balloons to pull me back. This was the road over which Ántonia and I came on that night when we got off the train at Black Hawk and were bedded down in the straw, wondering children, being taken we knew not whither. I had only to close my eyes to hear the rumbling of the wagons in the dark, and to be again overcome by that obliterating strangeness. The feelings of that night were so near that I could reach out and touch them with my hand. I had the sense of coming home to myself, and of having found out what a little circle man’s experience is…It’s a testament to Cather’s literary skills that My Ántonia managed to pierce my student loan-burdened, work-battered, Nebraska-residing little heart.

Beowulf

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3.4 rating

Comment 1: Beowulf is one of the oldest, complete surviving epic poems in existent. There are a few others from the same era that have survived in fragments, so the significance of Beowulf remains in regards to English literature. Written in Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) the manuscript of Beowulf is believed to date back to the 10th century (1,000AD). This is an example of a heroic poem, which can be defined as a text that deals with heroic actions in battle. Beowulf focuses on three great battles, with Grendel, Grendel’s Mother, and a Dragon.While this is an English poem it is interesting to note that it is not set in England but southern Scandinavia, half in Denmark and the other in Geatland (or Götaland) which is one of three lands of Sweden. Beowulf does incorporate a large amount of Norse and Germanic history and legends, however I don’t have the knowledge to pick up on this within the text, just information I learnt after the reading. I suspect that this information was added into the poem to help pass on the information to Anglo-Saxon people, like a history lesson or as the poet calls it “the treasured repertory” (line 871). It is believed that Beowulf was composed in a time of stability, in a time of some democracy; an early medieval Christian civilisation. One might say this was an age where art and literature were flourishing and often used as methods of education.Beowulf was no exception. What I got out of this poem was a reflection of the cultural and, to a lesser extent, political views of the time; a civilisation that values courtesy and formality. Chivalry, generosity and thoughtfulness are valued but still have a strong sense of precariousness, ready of imminent attack and war. Strength is still considered important; Beowulf is a warrior willing to fight against enemies both human and demonic. He even travelled to another country to fight a demonic menace. However you have to look to the other warriors as well, who appear as strong and capable as Beowulf but without their faith are rendered useless.The role of the poet (or bard) is actually depicted in the poem itself several times. The poet is “…a fellow of the king’s” (line 868) which suggests that he is of a high rank. One who knows old and traditional stories, “Whose head was a storehouse of the storied verse, whose tongue gave gold to the language” (line 870). This allows the poem to have a unique perspective on the events that unfolds within Beowulf, a tactic that doesn’t always get explained within modern literature.It is said that you can interpret this poem as having both Christian and pagan themes; however for me this had a very strong religious message. A battle of good and evil but I suspect this wasn’t a conflict of morality but an inevitable clash between the two. In a Christian context, Beowulf could be compared to Jesus, coming to save our souls from evil. You can even compare it to the story of Cain and Abel which is referenced within the text of Beowulf.Given that Beowulf is meant to be experienced a spoken word I found myself struggling to read this as a written text. I had a look for the Michael Alexander translation (which was assigned to me for my university course) but was unsuccessful. However I did try to think about the text as if it was a story been spoken and I found it difficult. For me the narrative felt too slow, it lacked suspense and felt a little awkward (possibly the translation). The obscure historical allusions may not have been an issue back in the 800AD but it was for a modern reading.I was nervous about reading Odyssey by but ended up loving it; I was hoping I would have a similar experience here. I suspected that Beowulf will remain a difficult text. There is some historical context that would be helpful before going into the poem that I just didn’t get. Reading the epic poem as part of a university course did help but for me it wasn’t enough. Medieval literature will remain difficult for me and would rather enjoy something a little more recent, like the 19th century. If you have read Beowulf and have some interesting insights that might help get my head around it, please let me know.This review appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/...

Like Water for Chocolate

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3.92 rating

Comment 1: كالماء للشكولاتة لذيذة بقدر ما فيها من وصفات وتحضيرات مطبخية وروائح الطعام ، استندت على الخيال والعاطفة المتطرفة التي لا تعرف قيودا كقيود العائلة أو الدين أو التقاليد .. فكسرت كل الأعراف التي تقف في وجه حب عاصف .. عندما تقرأ هذا النص تعرف إنك تقف أمام روائية قادرة على شد انتباهك بطريقتها الغرائبية الشيقة التي ربطت ما بين المطبخ والطعام وبين الحب والخيال ، الضوء والدفء والعاطفة .. هذه الفنتازيا السحرية لقصة امرأة لم تكن تملك سوى مهارتها في المطبخ لتناضل بها ولتعالج بها ولتحب بها إنها وصفة غريبة ولكنها متدفقة وعالية المستوى !الماء .. القوة ، النقاء ، الشفافية ، يختلط بالشوكولاتة ، الشكولاتة اللون الرائحة الطعم لذة الحياة ولذة الحب ، العاطفة التي حرمت منها تيتا بسبب سيطرة أمها التي تبدو كزوجة أب شريرة . تبدأ الرواية بتلك الأشغال الشاقة التي كانت تيتا تقوم بها دون كلل أو ملل من قبل أم لمتسلطة تشبه زوجة أب سندريلا ، تتمسك بالتقليد الذي يقضي بأن تكون الإبنة الأخيرة في رعاية أمها حتى وفاتها ، يبدو الأمر سيئا بما يكفي إلا إن الأمور تزداد سوءا عندما تلتقي تيتا بحبها الحقيقي ، تيتا الممنوعة من الحب والمنذورة لخدمة الأمالقصة مناسبة جدا لأجواء الواقعية السحرية المحيطة بها وظفت فيها الأساطير والأعراف وحكايات الجدات فابتدعت لاورا قصصها الخاصة فلاتملك إلا أن تبتسم لتلك التي ماتت بنفس الطريقة التي ماتت بها أول مرة ، الموت مرتين يا له من عذاب تلقته أوسادورا لتموت عقابا لها على خيانة شقيقتها ، إن الخيانة عند لاورا أمر غير مستساغ وغير مقبول في محيط العائلة لذلك ما فتأت إيلينا حتى بعد موتها تلعن تيتا التي ردت على الخيانة بخيانة ، وبالرغم من إن الروائية أكدت على قدسية العائلة في مشاهد مطبخية كثيرة لكنها أيضا ثارت على التقاليد التي تكبل المرأة لتختار شريك حياتها إن الرواية تدور حول فكرة التنفيس عن الرغبات والإنتصار لها بالدرجة الأولى لذلك ينتصر الحب في النهاية..في أدب الواقعية السحرية الموت أمر لا مناص منه إنه أمر يقارب السحر بغموضه وماهيته الغير معروفة ، في الموت هناك الكثير مما يمكن الخيال من الجنوح إليه ، كما هو المطبخ فللموت أسرار كما للمطبخ أسرار ، وهؤلاء اللاتي لا يدخلن المطبخ يفتقدن معرفة هذه الإسرار الصغيرة التي تجعل من المطبخ مكانا حميميا ممتلىء بالروائح والنكهات والكثير من المشاعر والعواطف والتقلبات كما يظهر هنا في هذه الرواية البديعة فالوصفات مرتبطة إرتباطا كليا بمشاعر وتقلبات عواطف تيتا ، فتيتا حين تحزن يحزن كل المدعوين وحين تفرح تسكب كل مشاعرها السعيدة في كعكة من الفرح فيبتهج الآخرين ...يبدو العمل في مشاهد كثيرة أمرا مستفزا ، ليست وصفات الطهي من بينها بلا شك وهي جزء كبير من القصة ، ولكن إذا رأينا هذا العمل من منظار ساخر فإن الفكرة تصبح أكثر قبولا ، كالشخصيات الجامحة ذات الإيقاع المجنون خيردوتس مثال على الرغبة في كل أشكالها الحرية ، بلا قيد ولا شرط ، الشقيقة التي ضربت عرض الحائط بكل القيم والأعراف لأجل رغباتها ، تيتا وعلاقتها ببنت أختها ، والرضاعة التي حدثت من ثدي لم يعرف الأمومة ليحضر ذلك الرابط الذي ربطها ببيدرو والذي ظل قائما مليئا بالحب ومترعا بالحليب بينما كان صدر أختها جافا ، الحمل الكاذب الذي توهمته تيتا من بيدرو والذي لعله كان يشير إلى علاقة الحب الغير مشروعة التي حدثت بينهما هناك رمزيات كثيرة في النص أجملها كان مشهد الاحتراق البديع في نهاية الرواية الغريب إنني لم انتبه أن هناك راويا قريبا من شخصيات الرواية في النص إلا في نهايته !الترجمة بارعة للغاية للدرجة التي تود أن تأكلها أكلا

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

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4.03 rating

Comment 1: There's definitely something to be said for reading a book all the way through in one sitting (I read this for Dewey's 24-hour Readathon). You get more absorbed, your mind more focused, like a movie-watching experience (especially one in the cinema): a highly cohesive, tight story-telling experience with no channel-surfing. Like when you're a kid, sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of your teacher as they read aloud from a picture book, pointing out the details in the illustration while you gaze, mouth open, riveted.Or like watching a train crash. It's that same "can't look away" feeling. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is definitely not a train wreck, in terms of writing or accomplishment, but it did have an element of threat and suspense that is symbolic of one.Taking place in rural 19th century China (by our calendar, that is), Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is about Lily, now a remarkably old lady in her eighties, writing her private memoir from her days as a girl growing up poor and her friendship with Snow Flower. Taught the secret women's written language of nu shu by her aunt, when she is six the matchmaker arranges for her to have a laotong - like an official best friend - and agrees that with her feet, her mother should not bind them until she is seven, but that she will have the smallest "golden lilies" and will be able to get a rich and important husband in the nearby village of Tongkou - a very high aspiration indeed.It is her friendship with Snow Flower, the daughter of a wealthy and important family in Tongkou, that is the driving force of this story, the focal point, the ugly truth that Lily now wants to tell us. We are silent witnesses to an old lady unburdening herself. Rich in cultural detail, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is powerful not just in its story - a story about women in a land where the women wholeheartedly believe they are worth nothing - but in its historical accounting. I remember when I was small, going with my mother to the museum with its Chinese exhibit, and seeing these tiny shoes, brightly embroidered little slippers that looked like they might just fit a baby. No, my mother told me, these shoes were worn by women. She told me about their tiny feet, and how they bound them. It was something my child's mind couldn't really grasp but was still fascinated by. Years later, while in a doctor's waiting room, I read an article on the last living women - rural women, from a small village somewhere in China - who had had their feet bound (in, I want to say Cosmo). The account of the procedure was somewhat different from what is described in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - more horrific, if that's possible. Like with female genital mutilation (FGM, or female circumcision), it's yet another torture inflicted on women in the name of either fashion or purity or whatever nonsense the men can concoct. Because, of course, on these tiny feet, the women could barely walk (and with FGM, they can't take any pleasure in sex). What an effective way to control them! And even better, like with FGM, they do it to themselves - willingly!! What idiots we women can be! (Let's not forget the corset, or even the things we do to ourselves today.) I loved reading about footbinding in this book. I was riveted. It wasn't just the process, which was educational in its detail, but also the mentality behind it. Some of these girls died from this. But because girls are considered worthless (sons are the greatest treasure and the only reason to have women around), the mothers don't hesitate to do what is necessary in order to marry them off - and get them off their hands. They're just mouths to feed otherwise.Lily is a product of her time, her culture: she doesn't judge this, not even when her sister dies from blood poisoning. She is proud of her Golden Lilies (the men had sexual fetishes for them); it's because of her tiny feet that she married so high and became Lady Lu. And anyway, it's not the point of the story.The novel celebrates women, and as we bear witness to Lily, the book itself gives witness to all the Chinese women who lived this life. It's not a pretty life. But amongst it there is beauty. The secret language of the women, nu shu, is remarkable: a phonetic alphabet created by women, used only by women, that men couldn't read - and, to be honest, had no interest in reading. It may be the only language like it, but the Japanese had something similar. In Japan, there are several alphabets in use: kanji, the adopted Chinese characters; hiragana and katakana, two Japanese alphabets; and romaji, our Roman/Latin alphabet. Hiragana and Katakana are lovely, simple characters, easy to read and I wish they would dump the kanji and just use these! But I digress. Hiragana was used by women because the men considered it beneath them - Chinese kanji was the alphabet of scholars and leaders. (Katakana is a shorthand version of kanji, like writing quickly, that is now used for foreign words.) I learnt this interesting tidbit from some of my students when I lived in Japan. Because the men considered it an inferior alphabet, they couldn't read it, thus the women had their own secret language. Just not so secret!But I haven't mentioned Snow Flower yet. The characterisation in this novel is excellent, and I especially liked the development of Snow Flower. She isn't an easy character to like (neither is Lily at times - mostly because the mentality of these women is so different from the western one), but she is perfectly understandable and this makes her sympathetic. Even more so as the novel goes on and the lives of these laotong diverge so greatly - Lily goes from poor to rich while Snow Flower goes from rich to poor and abused. There is tragedy in this story, but it's balanced by the strength, resilience and fortitude displayed by these women. What's interesting, with Lily, is what she doesn't tell us. There're many details and people she skims over. She doesn't talk about her husband - he's there, he talks, but it's like a business arrangement or a room in a house: it's there, you accept it, but you don't love it or hate it. It's just part of your life. Like a mole on your face. There's the wife of Elder Brother, whom we never see even when she must be in the room, and Lily's children - the sole purpose of her existence, apparently - she doesn't reflect much upon. I guess, from the premise of her writing from an old age and writing the story she wants to tell, some characters just aren't important at all, and others just aren't that necessary. She can be almost heartless at times, and very generous and loving at others. Really, she's a more complicated character than Snow Flower is.Calling a novel "powerful" is a terribly boring cliché but it is a true one. This novel is powerful. I felt like I lived it. Even if I hadn't been taking part in a readathon, I doubt I would have been able to put it down easily.

The Shipping News

by

3.79 rating

Comment 1: This is my first Proulx, so I didn't know if the unusual writing style is typical, or specially chosen for this particular story. I hope it's the latter, as it works very well. Update: I've now read Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and Other stories (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), which use similar language, but somewhat toned down.It covers a couple of years (plus some backstory) in the life of thirty-something Quoyle: a big, lonely, awkward and unattractive man, always having or doing the wrong thing. He is a not very successful journalist in New York, who ends up moving, with his young daughters (Bunny and Sunshine) and aunt, to a small, somewhat inbred, community in Newfoundland where the aunt and his late father grew up. Somehow Proulx keeps the reader on the fence: he isn't especially lovable, and yet he elicits more sympathy than mockery in this reader.I think one weakness is that the mother of the girls is too horrible, and the manner of her departure from their lives stretched my credulity somewhat. LANGUAGEThe narrative style is the first thing to hit. It is very distinctive, continues throughout the book, and could be infuriating, though I didn't find it so. It is telegraphic and observational, reflecting Quoyle's job. There are staccato sentence fragments, and some overworked analogies, some of which are wonderfully vivid, and a few of which are laughably awful. Grammar sticklers may struggle to enjoy this book, but it's their loss - context is all, and in this context, I think it works. If I were as clever and witty as some of my GR friends (you know who you are), I would have written this review in the style of the book.Anyway, some typical examples:This is the entire opening paragraph of a chapter:"The aunt in her woolen coat when Quoyle came into the motel room. Tin profile with a glass eye. A bundle on the floor under the window. Wrapped in a bed sheet, tied with net twine."Another whole paragraph:"Near the window a man listened to a radio. His buttery hair swept behind ears. Eyes pinched close, a mustache. A packet of imported dates on his desk. He stood up to shake Quoyle's hand. Gangled. Plaid bow tie and ratty pullover. The British accent strained through his splayed nose."Analogies:* "eyes the color of plastic"* "the sullen bay rubbed with thumbs of fog"* "On the horizon icebergs like white prisons. The immense blue fabric of the sea, rumpled and creased."* "parenthesis around her mouth set like clamps. Impossible to know if she was listening to Nutbeem or flying over the Himalayas"* "In a way he could not explain she seized his attention; because she seemed sprung from wet stones, the stench of fish and tide."* "eyes like a thorn bush, stabbing everything at once"* The ghost of his wife, "Petal's essence riding under his skin like an injected vaccine against the plague of love"* "Fingernails like the bowls of souvenir spoons." (That's the whole sentence.)THE TOWN AND COMMUNITYAspects of the town and its characters remind me of David Lynch's 1980s TV series "Twin Peaks": strange characters, often with impairments of mind, body or emotions, slightly strange names, odd superstitions, and dark secrets (murder, incest, rape, insurance fraud).The town of Killick Claw isn't prosperous, and the environment is still harsh, but it's better than when the aunt grew up there: "The forces of fate weakened by unemployment insurance, a flaring hope in offshore oil money."The Gammy Bird is the local paper, and it's like no other: lots of adverts (many of them fake), deliberate typos and Malapropisms, libelous gossip (including a regular catalogue of sex abuse cases!), shipping news and "we run a front-page photo of a car wreck every week, whether we have a wreck or not". Poor Quoyle is bemused and has the uneasy and familiar feeling "of standing on a playground watching others play games whose rules he didn't know". THEMESKnots are the most obvious one. Each chapter opens with a quotation pertinent to what it contains, and many are from Ashley Book of Knots, which Proulx found second-hand, and gave her the inspiration and structure she sought. Knots feature in the plot metaphorically (in terms of being bound or adrift), in a more literal and superstitious sense. We also learn that Quoyle's name means "coil of rope", and I suppose he is pretty tightly coiled for the first half of the book.Shipping is obvious, too, not just from the title, but because Quoyle ends up writing the eponymous shipping news in the local paper, in a community where everyone needs a boat. Most of the introductory quotes that are not from Ashley Book of Knots are from a Mariner's Dictionary. I confess there were times when the quantity and level of detail slightly exceeded my interest, but I'm glad I stuck with it.The book is riddled with pain, rejection, estrangement and mentions of abusive relationships (never graphic); many are haunted by ghosts of past events and relationships gone wrong. But although it is sometimes bleak, it is rarely depressing, and sometimes it's funny. Even close and fond relationships often have an element of awkwardness and distance; for instance, Quoyle always refers to "the aunt", rather than "my aunt". Even after living with her for a while, "It came to him he knew nearly nothing of the aunt's life. And hadn't missed the knowledge."Ultimately, it's at least as much about (re)birth and healing as death and doom. One character slowly realises it may be possible to recover from a broken relationship: "was love then like a bag of assorted sweets passed around from which one might choose more than once?"OTHER MISCELLANEOUS QUOTATIONS* "a failure of normal appearance" - if you can't even achieve that, what hope is there?* "believed in silent suffering, didn't see that it goaded"* In a shop, "the man's fingers dropped cold dimes"* "fog shuddered against their faces"* "the house was garlanded with wind"* In such a harsh environment, "The wood, hardened by time and corroding weather, clenched the nails fast"* "a few torn pieces of early morning cloud the shape and color of salmon fillets" (I think I'd prefer that one without the fish)* "the woman in the perpetual freeze of sorrow, afloat on the rise and fall of tattered billows"* a babysitter "doing overtime in a trance of electronic color and simulated life, smoking cigarettes and not wondering. The floor around her strewn with hairless dolls."From The Ashley Book of Knots:"To prevent slipping, a knot depends on friction, and to provide friction there must be pressure of some sort."

Nineteen Minutes

by

4.08 rating

Comment 1: Believe it or not, I have never actually read one of Jodi Piccoult's books before. I'm not really sure why, but I haven't. This particular book has really stayed with me as I finished it, and I think Piccoult makes a few very important points/observations.1. Sometimes the perpetrator of a heinous crime is the biggest victim of them all. Reading the things that Peter went through sometimes brought me to tears. I have never understood how people can treat others so badly, and the behavior of the bullies in this story was beyond the pale. It was easy to see how he could have been driven to do what he did, even though it was absolutely horrific.2. High school is hard. I think most of us can look back on our high school days and remember struggling to fit in, remember the cruelty of some kids, and remember thinking that being "popular" meant you'd made it in life. Now, with my adult perspective, I can see how silly much of it was, but I remember that it was very real to me. I wasn't popular, but I did find my niche. I went through my share of teasing, and in the end I think it made me a stronger person, however I never endured anything like what Peter had to endure and I wonder how I would have gotten through something like that.3. Nobody can judge a situation perfectly equitably. Not even a superior court judge. The storyline of Alex and her daughter showed that quite well, but so did the stories of most of the characters. You can't judge only on face value, or even on actions only. Piccoult did an excellent job of playing Devil's advocate for every single character...so much so, that it is difficult to make up your mind one way or the other.4. Schools may have a zero tolerance policy for bullying, but in reality, they turn a blind eye to much of it. I have experienced this a bit with Bria's schools. I think it is impossible for the teachers and administration to really see what is going on all the time, but I do think that they need to be more aware of who is the bully and who is the victim. It was very sad and even gut wrenching to see how the teachers either didn't want to deal with Peter's situation, half heartedly dealt with it, encouraged it, or punished him right along with the bully. I don't really know what the answer is, but it seems to me there's got to be something better.5. Peter's crime shouldn't be blamed on his parents, but they aren't guilt free, either. We can see that Peter's parents did what they thought was best, and they loved him. However, from the time he was born, they constantly compared him to his older brother, who was seemingly perfect. It got to a point that Peter couldn't confide in them about the hurt he was experiencing, because they always asked why he couldn't just be like Joey. And then to have Joey killed tragically a year before Peter's shooting spree didn't help. Both parents eventually admitted to themselves that they would have rather had Peter been killed in the car accident instead of Joey. Wow. I am pretty sure that kind of an attitude is evident to children, no matter how hard you try to hide it. Other mistakes these parents made were writing off Peter's anti social behaviors for normal teenage boy actions, and not really trying to have a relationship with him. Allowing him his privacy, instead of finding out what he was up to and what was going on in his life in a way that showed they truly were interested about him and truly cared. They seemed to be the poster children for loving, but lazy, parenting. (Which really isn't loving, actually).Likewise, Alex had issues being a mother, and it took a tragic event to help her to reevaluate her priorities and her actions as Josie's mother. I was happy she recognized her mistakes and worked to be better, but still, much of the damage had already been done. At least it wasn't as bad of a situation as Peter's parents were in, where the damage had all been done and there was no repairing any of it.6. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what the mitigating circumstances are. The law is still the law. Alex dealt with this early in her career as a judge...not agreeing with some laws but still having to uphold them legally (gun control). And of course, Peter and Josie needed to pay for their actions. That is the law. I don't think it could be any different, and of course, I don't excuse Peter for what he did. As the trial showed, there were other kids who were bullied just as much who didn't decide to shoot up the school. There are so many other things I could say about this book. Piccoult is obviously very good at bringing up hot button societal issues and presenting them in a way that makes you really think. I am excited to read more of her novels.A few silly annoyances (because I always have them):1. One of the first times we meet Judge Alex Cormier is when she is pregnant with Josie and she fills out a form with her name: Alexandra Cormier. Later in the book it talks about how her name isn't short for Alexandra like people assume. Well then, why would she fill out paperwork like that? 2. People are constantly "pinching the bridge of their noses" in exasperation. I swear I read that phrase more than 5 times. 3. I didn't feel the twist at the end was sufficiently explained. Maybe the abusive relationship she sort of showed between Matt and Josie explains it. She foreshadowed a bit that something big was up, but I didn't feel that what Josie ultimately did made a ton of sense in the situation. Perhaps a bit more backstory on the relationship, or at the very least, on Josie's feelings about the relationship, would have made more sense to me. As it was, I felt it was a bit out of place. Definitely twisty, though. So if that's what Piccoult was going for, then great.

Room

by

3.97 rating

Comment 1: شیوه روایت کتاب بی نظیره و شما با تک تک شخصیت ها همزاد پنداری میکنید ، انگار که در تمام صحنه های داستان حضور دارید و در حال نگاه کردن به وقایع هستید .روند پیشروی کتاب کاملا روان هست و تکرار یه سری اتفاقات در بخش اول کتاب اصلا خسته کننده نیست. .اِما ریزه کاری های روانشناسی و دید کودکانه ش رو به خوبی در داستان حفظ کرده و من خیلی جاها متعجب شدم از دید جالبی و شیرینی که از سمت یه کودک به وقایع داره . Comment 2: خیلی جالب بود برام میشد واقعا شرایط رو یه جوری با شرایط آدمایی که توی یک جامعه زندگی میکنن و حاکمان براشون اونجا رو بهشت جلوه میدن معادل سازی کرد. وقتی آدم شرایط بهتر رو ندیده باشه به نظرش همون جا بهترین جاست و بهشته ولی وقتی جای بهتر رو میبینه تازه میفهمه جایی که بهشت تصور می کرده در وافع جهنم بوده.

The Virgin Suicides

by

3.81 rating

Comment 1: E le stelle stanno a guardareBreve diaristica dell’autore in pantofole Ed ecco che un bel giorno Eugenides, mentre fa colazione con la marmellata di fichi e le fette biscottate, si illumina d’immenso e dice alla moglie: “Oggi cara, voglio compiere una buona azione. Renderò la vita facile ai recensionisti di tutto il mondo. A quelle coraggiose pennucce che leggono il libro prima degli altri, e dopo passano le pene dell’inferno perché devono sempre stare attenti a quello che dicono, a come lo dicono, e quando capita che muoiano dalla voglia di sviscerare la storia come una patella, per spiegare, per smania di condividere, non hanno altra scelta (poverini) che autocensurarsi per non rovinare la festa a quelli che verranno, oppure dannarsi l’anima per rendere visibile anche ai ciechi la scritta “spoiler” a caratteri cubitali, prima delle loro dichiarazioni. Orsù, recensionisti, rianimatevi! Per questa volta sarò io a spoilerare il libro. A partire dal titolo: Le vergini suicide. Ta daaaan, secco! Due parolette e via, la fine della storia è ben che servita. Anzi ,metti caso non fosse abbastanza chiaro..no perché io li conosco i lettori di oggi, sempre attenti a coglierti in fallo, a sproloquiare sull’esegesi delle virgole, dei puntini di sospensione, dio che rogna quando fanno così, ecco, metti caso non fosse abbastanza chiaro, lo ripeto loro ogni tre pagine che le sorelle Lisbon passano a miglior vita senza passare dal Via. “Al che la moglie, apprensiva come tutte le mogli che vedono il proprio marito gettarsi a volo d’angelo nelle braccia del fallimento, ratta contesta: “Ma Jeffrey, mio caro, sei proprio sicuro che sia la decisione giusta? (le mogli partono sempre molto alla lontana). Non v’è certo bisogno che sia io a ricordarti, che se inizi un romanzo svelando già la fine, è rischioso e magari un cincinìn presuntuoso (le mogli sono molto esperte nell’infiocchettare graziosamente epiteti che in altro contesto, e con altro tono, risveglierebbero subito l’amor proprio ferito dei loro consorti), ecco dicevo, non trovi sia un tantino azzardato pensare di riuscire a tener desta l’attenzione del pubblico, dal momento che sanno già come va a finire? Non ne convieni anche tu, caro? “Ma Eugenides è già uccel di bosco, e quando la moglie si gira per saggiare la reazione dello sposo avventato, altro non scorge che un angolo della vestaglia da camera di Jeffrey che esce dalla porta. Nell’aria solo il profumo di una decisione già presa.Le conseguenze di quella fausta mattinaAd oggi sappiamo tutti come andò a finire, sia la trama del romanzo, sia la fortuna del libro. Karen aveva torto marcio. Aveva nettamente sottovalutato il talento di Jeffrey, e da quel momento in poi, decise di non interferire più nelle brillanti illuminazioni del marito.Eugenides, inoltre, come capita spesso nelle menti degli artisti, sapeva che in realtà spoilerando il libro non avrebbe rivelato l’autentica verità della storia, ma al momento in cui prese quella famosa decisione mentre sgranocchiava la sua colazione, non avrebbe saputo spiegare alla moglie perché era così sicuro di avere un asso nella manica. Quella brutta faccenda dei suicidi delle ragazze, sbattuti in faccia già dal titolo, ripresi nell’incipit, e ricordati ciclicamente lungo il corso della storia, è inserito in un meccanismo basculante di cui ho capito il funzionamento solo alla fine. Bisogna far finta di guardare il mare dall’alto. Da questa prospettiva è chiaro che non sono i singoli pesci a far da protagonisti, ma casomai interi banchi. Tutto è corale dentro questo libro, persino noi lettori. Ecco dunque cosa si profila all’orizzonte guardando questa distesa d’acqua buia.I giovani vicini di casa delle Lisbon. Ragazzini come tanti in un’età critica, che incapaci di afferrare l’attimo propizio per infrangere la gabbia invisibile in cui vivono le sorelle, seguono con una maniacalità da feticisti, le vicende delle Lisbon. Sono loro la voce narrante che spiega cosa avvenne, e di come non riuscirono a cogliere i sintomi di una tragedia preannunciata. Il sudario di salvatori mancati con cui Eugenides li avvolge affettuosamente, ha l’effetto di renderci solidali con la loro missione. Gli adulti. Che non possono mancare, perché alla fine sono i veri tasselli fondamentali della vicenda. I borghesi vicini di casa, che perennemente intenti a tessere la trama perfetta della loro felicità domestica da middle class, trovano comunque il tempo di osservare, attraverso le maglie patinate della loro impeccabile condotta, cosa succede sul prato del vicino; smaliziati dall’età, bigotti fino al parossismo, esperti sussurratori di verità scottanti, preferiscono sottolineare le defaillance di casa Lisbon, rendersi complici del mistero, piuttosto che denunciarne l’orrore.I genitori Lisbon. Microscopico specchio riflesso del vicinato, sembrano i reali artefici del disastro. La micidiale combo tra un lui apatico e una lei oppressiva, aumenta esponenzialmente la velocità dell’impatto catastrofico, ma è solo l’esasperazione di una realtà più ampia, condivisa (inconsciamente?) dai vicini di casa benpensanti.La scuola. Propaggine istituzionale della beghineria circostante, quieta la sua coscienza promuovendo encomiabili iniziative sociali, mentre col piedino ficca il marciume sotto il tappeto.Le sorelle Lisbon. Unite nello sforzo di reggere titanicamente l’inquinato mondo ipocrita che le circonda, ma troppo giovani per lanciare la torbida palla altrove, lontano dai loro piedi e dalle loro giovani vite, verranno sopraffatte, e questa è l’unica cosa che sappiamo dal principio.Cioè dal punto in cui entriamo in gioco pure noi, passivi spettatori della storia, ma avidi di sapere cosa le ha portate a quel punto. Sic rebus stantibus, non siamo molto diversi dai banchi di pesci citati. Il voyeurismo con cui seguiamo il conto alla rovescia che ci separa dalla catastrofe, è lo stesso dei vicini di casa delle Lisbon. Neanche i ragazzini sono esenti da colpe, innocenti nelle intenzioni ma portatori della stessa eredità dei genitori, invero è probabile che non fosse solo l’età che ha impedito loro di intervenire.Ecco perché Eugenides sapeva che iniziare dalla fine non sarebbe stato un errore. Alla moglie quel giorno non lo seppe dire, ma contava su noi lettori. Non per fiducia istintiva accordata all’autore, ma per un fisiologico bisogno di spiare e di sapere. Come quello che ci fa mettere le mani davanti agli occhi davanti a un film horror, ma nella scena più brutale spiamo da dietro le dita. Perché siamo tutti infimi complici e giudici dalla moralità esemplare, finché si tratta di guardare la vita degli altri. Persino le stelle.P.S. Volevo aggiungere due cose, non sia mai che la recensione vi sia sembrata troppo corta (già vi vedo: “Ma come? Solo queste 4 righe?). Ecco, senza che mi smadonniate alle spalle, due cosucce brevi, lo giuro.Primo: la Coppola con questa storia è riuscita a fare un ottimo lavoro. Uno di quei rari casi in cui il film è esattamente all’altezza del libro.Secondo: fare paragoni con Middlesex è impossibile. Temi diversi per corpo e per gestione. Unica costante: il talento di Eugenides.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

by

3.76 rating

Comment 1: Capitoli 1-4Sono appena appena agli inizi, solo circa 40 pagine lette, ma ho incominciato a inquadrare ambienti e personaggi.La personalità di Vivi è sicuramente molto molto forte e predominante sulla figlia (devo riconoscere che sembra quasi il mio caso... ma chi non cerca l'approvazione di chi ama?), mentre Sidda, quarantenne in carriera, brava nel suo lavoro, si trova un pochino in difficoltà nei rapporti interpersonali. Bè, il suo scontro con la madre non è proprio tutto farina del suo sacco: una giornalista ci ha messo molto del suo; il resto lo ha fatto l'orgoglio di Vivi.Capitoli 5-9Ci vengono presentate, finalmente, le Ya-Ya.Un po' attraverso "I sublimi segreti", un po' attraverso i ricordi di Sidda (per quanto riguarda la loro vita adulta) e in parte attraverso lo scritto di Vivi (per la loro infanzia e adolescenza).Sono estremamente vivi-de e mi stanno anche particolarmente simpatiche: sono tipe in gambe che crescono insieme e condividono scuola, esperienze, educazione, famiglie.Da notare che il marito di Vivi ha un primo piccolissimo spazio per la prima volta nel capitolo 6. Le Ya-Ya complottano contro gli uomini: Le guardavamo trattare i rispettivi mariti come capi, come idioti e qualche volta come innamorati, ma non le vedemmo mai trattare gli uomini come amici.. Devo riconoscere che così faccio anch'io. Particolarmente posso trattare mio marito come idiota, ma lo posso fare solo io, ovviamente.Bellissimo il capitolo "estivo" dove le 4 Ya-Ya passano la giornata al ruscello con i 16 figli. Mi ha fatto morire dal ridere il fatto che facessero i turni per controllare che non affogasse nessuno e che avessero un fischietto e lo usassero ogni mezz'ora per fare l'appello.Vorrei annotare questo:[...] la mamma e le sue amiche [...] mi sembravano i pilastri che sostenevano il cielo.E questo:Vivo in un oceano di odore, e l'oceano è mia madre.Capitoli 10-16L'ambientazione si sposta in maniera continua e alternata tra la vita in solitaria nel nordovest di Sidda e le avventure delle Ya-Ya adolescenti-adulte in Alabama.Il ritmo narrativo è molto vario e il punto di vista cambia in continuazione.Molto divertente il capitolo 10 in cui una Vivi tredicenne fa il resoconto dell'avventura ad Atlanta in occasione del ballo e della prima di "Via col vento" (che conosco per via della fama internazionale di film e romanzo che non ho mai visto nè letto: devo provvedere?).Credo che Sidda, più che indagare per la realizzazione teatrale che dirigerà, stia indagando a fondo sulla vita della madre e delle Ya-Ya per capire meglio il suo rapporto con la madre e che scopo dare alla sua vita. A un certo punto si dice che il suo desiderio è avere una vita piena di persone, figli e amici. Vorrebbe fermarsi e iniziare una famiglia. Ma è spaventata dalla sua età, dall'età che avrebbe nelle diverse fasi della vita di eventuali figli e allora si dice che la sua scelta va bene comunque, con Connor, con il teatro e i collaboratori/amici. Si dice che probabilmente i suoi dubbi sono dati dalla biologia.Credo che il tema sia molto attuale. Per lo meno, io lo sento molto vicino, un po' per i pensieri che spesso mi sono fatta sulla famiglia contro la professione (i tempi e le esigenze dell'una rispetto ai tempi e le esigenze dell'altra). E spesso se ne parla con le amiche. Capitoli 17-21.Non bisogna scegliere tra carriera e famiglia, gli uomini non lo fanno, noi, spesso e volentieri, ci troviamo a un bivio.Come mamma, cerco di ritagliare ogni momento della mia giornata per mia figlia. Al tempo stesso, delle volte vorrei potermi fermare di più al lavoro per un progetto su cui sto lavorando, per esempio. Eternamente in bilico... il tempo per leggere lo trovo la notte, quando tutti dormono.Fino a questo punto ho trovato le esperienza delle Ya-Ya sempre un po' eccessivamente positive, divertenti, quasi facili. Da quando Vivi è andata dalle suore o, meglio, da quando c'è stato il ballo per il suo sedicesimo compleanno, c'è stato un capovolgimento deciso della situazione. E, sto aspettando che, da un momento all'altro, anche Jack ci lasci...Ma come può una madre odiare così una figlia e farne valvola di sfogo per tutte le sue insicurezze, paure, instabilità? Non riesco a capacitarne. Capisco il periodo, il contesto, il marito padre padrone, il matrimonio sbagliato (ma già quello, sposarsi per ripicca alla sorella... lo sbaglio di Buggy parte già da lì...), ma tutto questo rancore per una ragazzina che dalla sua ha l'entusiamo, la freschezza dell'adolescenza, ha amici e persone che le vogliono bene, ha diversi interessi? Da dove lo tira fuori?Anch'io voglio una veranda! E voglio dormirci la notte in estate. Anch'io voglio l'atmosfera raccolta e complice delle Ya-Ya, simile, in qualche modo, a quella di Scout, Jem e Dill ne "Il buio oltre la siepe" (non era amicizia esclusivamente femminile come in questo caso, ma di amici e fratelli si trattava comunque). Capitoli 22-25Ci viene raccontato come effettivamente Jack ha lasciato Vivi... non tanto quello, che era scontato che un giovane partito per la guerra e che una delle protagoniste non sposa fosse stato fatto fuori in combattimento. Ci viene raccontato come Vivi vive la notizia e la separazione da lui. Ci viene raccontato come condivide il dolore con la sua amica Teensy e con la sua seconda madre Genevieve. La disperazione nel cercarlo e nel crederlo vivo. Queste pagine mi hanno profondamente toccata.La riabilitazione di Buggy si ha in questa circostanza: fa sì che la figlia affronti la realtà, a suo modo, certo, accendendo una candela e recitamdo una poesia, ma aiuta Vivi (anche se lei ammette che per questo è sempre rimasta in bilico tra l'odio e l'amore profondo per la madre).Non c'è scampo alle madri. Io non intendo neanche più cercarlo.Bellissima la chiacchierata di Vivi, quasi settantenne, con Teensy: si ha un diretto confronto tra le adolescenti e le donne mature. Il rapporto è il medesimo, anzi, si è consolidato.E poi. E poi tutta la drammaticità di Vivi che fa la mamma di 4 bambini, di 4, 3, 2 anni e uno di pochi mesi, da sola, con un marito assente, con l'aiuto della tata che viene a mancare. Vivi vive questa esperienza negli anni '50, ma quest'esperienza non può essere più attuale di così. Il conflitto interiore di una madre che anela a uno spazio per sè e che per questo si sente in colpa in quanto toglierebbe spazio ai suoi figli. L'esasperazione di non riuscire a comunicare a nessuno questo stato d'animo se non a un prete sconosciuto (e in qualche modo, eh! Che è peccato anche pensare di raccontarla tutta fino in fondo al prete).La fuga. La fuga verso i luoghi in cui ha trascorso momenti felici da nubile. Alla fine è una donna forte. In un certo senso, ricarica le pile e torna a casa.Ecco, sono arrivata qua. Vivi vuole riscattare il suo anello di diamanti e dare una svolta alla sua vita di donna e di madre. Capitolo 26-fineIl finale è stato fin tropo "facile": tutto è bene ciò che finisce bene. Un po' scontato, forse, ma devo ammettere che a me il lieto fine piace sempre e quando non c'è mi lascia un po' d'amaro in bocca.Ho confermato le 5 stelline: solo per il fatto che questo libro mi ha fatto piangere, mi ha fatto ridere, mi ha coinvolto e mi ha chiamato in causa, a volte più a volte meno, per me è promosso. Probabilmente non è la maggior opera letteraria degli ultimi tempi, ma di pancia merita il massimo dei voti.Io non so se le Ya-Ya da qualche parte esistano. So per certo che vivo un rapporto madre figlia scostante, entrambe siamo due personalità forti (all'apparenza) che ci mettono un attimo a smontarsi. Siamo orgogliose e ci piace avere un'opinione strettamente personale, ma spesso soccombiamo quando, a vicenda, ci critichiamo...Per quanto riguarda le amicizie, quelle che mi sono sembrate o sono state per un po' amicizie alla Ya-Ya, sono finite per cause di forza maggiore. A quel punto, mi dico che probabilmente mi sembravano vere amicizie proprio perchè sono durate poco nel tempo. Se avessero avuto una chance maggiore, magari mi avrebbero regalato delusioni (questo per dire che le amicizie, nate bene e continuate nel tempo, di volta in volta mi deludono. Tutte le volte rimango male, ma, siccome voglio bene alle mie amiche, ci passo sopra: sono del partito "raccogli quel che semini" e allora mi faccio degli esamini di coscienza).Insomma: ma 'ndo stanno le Ya-Ya? Non ho ancora trovato la mia fata madrina :-(

Me Before You

by

4.29 rating

Comment 1: Ο Γουίλ θα μπορούσε υπό άλλες συνθήκες να πρωταγωνιστεί στις 50 αποχρώσεις του γκρι! Γιατί τέτοια ήταν η ζωή του (είναι και πιο ρεαλιστικός κ. Γκρέι από τον πραγματικό), ενώ αντίστοιχη με της Αναστάσια ήταν η ζωή της Λου (όχι, δεν ήταν ένα μουρόχαυλο κοριτσάκι που δεν ήξερε που πάνε τα τέσσερα, ήταν απλά ένα κορίτσι της επαρχίας, με μπρίο, τσαχπινιά και πολλές δυνατότητες που αγνοούσε πως κατέχει). Comment 2: Love, Love, Love this story, the characters, the writing. This is a love story about a paraplegic man and a woman who is hired to care for him. Louisa comes from a small world; Will, a large one. She is hired to save him; instead, he saves her. What a heartbreaking romance that has my heart twisted with grief and joy. I can't believe how long this has sat on my bookshelf. I regret not having read it sooner but now wish I had waited longer as a sequel is due out in the fall. If you haven't had th

Northanger Abbey

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3.77 rating

Comment 1: Northanger Abbey is the shortest of Jane Austen's six major novels, and has a special place in many readers' hearts. In many ways it is not the tightly constructed witty sort of story we expect from this author, yet its spontaneity and rough edges prove to be part of its charm. Started when she was very young, it should perhaps more properly be classed as part of her juvenilia. What lifts it above the other earlier works, however, is the skill she demonstrates for writing a parody of all the gothic romantic novels which were so popular at the time. And this aspect is twinned with another of Jane Austen's concerns, a satirical observation of human nature within a narrow band of society; a comedy of manners. There are many literary allusions, which focus on the gothic genre. At the time Jane Austen was writing, novels - especially gothic novels of this type - were looked down upon by many people, particularly those of the upper classes. It is likely that a young writer would therefore feel that she needed a strong position from which to defend her craft against any critics who might in future disparage her work. The characters in Northanger Abbey itself constantly refer both to "Mrs Radcliffe", and her novels, such as "The Mysteries of Udolpho" and "The Italian" by name. At one point, where Catherine, the heroine, is chatting to her friend, she asks Isabella for suggestions. Her friend replies,"I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. "Castle of Wolfenbach", "Clermont", "Mysterious Warnings", "Necromancer of the Black Forest", "Midnight Bell", "Orphan of the Rhine", and "Horrid Mysteries". Those will last us some time."And Catherine insists,"Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?"As an interesting aside, although for many years these were assumed to be merely invented titles by Jane Austen, it has since come to light that they are actual gothic novels, by different authors. They have subsequently been republished as "The Northanger Horrid Novels Collection". This particular sort of comedy is lacking in Jane Austen's subsequent novels, which perhaps are a little more cautious in their wit and irony, being intended for a wider audience. Northanger Abbey was meant mainly as family entertainment, which is why Austen mischievously includes so many literary references, which she expected her relatives to pick up and recognise. Jane Austen also addresses the reader directly throughout the novel, and sometimes voices her own opinions quite forcefully, forgetting the story for a moment. But perhaps she had an eye to the future, considering that attack is the best form of defence, and writing this way quite deliberately in anticipation of any critical assessment. As these passages burst upon us, we are provided with a little insight into Austen's opinions at the time. Famously, very little remains extant, to show us her opinions, due to her instructions to her sister Cassandra to burn all her letters after her death.Originally Northanger Abbey was entitled "Susan" and written around 1798-99. It was the first of her novels to be submitted for publication, in 1803. However, it was not in fact published until 1817-18, after further revision by the author, including changing the main character's name from "Susan" to "Catherine". Jane Austen died in July 1817. The two novels Northanger Abbey and "Persuasion" (her final novel) were thus both published posthumously, comprising the first two volumes of a four-volume set. Interestingly, neither title was her own invention, but probably that of her brother, Henry, who had been instrumental in their publication.As well as being a Gothic parody, and a comedy of manners, Northanger Abbey is a coming of age novel, another favourite theme from Jane Austen. The first sentence,"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine"sets the very droll, tongue in cheek tone for the writing. We are chattily introduced to the young and naïve Catherine, the novel's unlikely heroine. Catherine is not particularly pretty or feminine, and one of ten children of a country clergyman. However, by the age of 17, we are told that she is "in training for a heroine", having all the attributes considered desirable in a young girl at the time. The reader enjoys Catherine's youthful enthusiasm and also how impressionable she is. She has crazes, such as being excessively fond of reading Gothic novels - the more "horrid" she claims with glee, the better. She takes everything at face value, at the start of the novel being unable to see any deviousness, or any baser motives. Catherine is not very perceptive, not ever able to interpret what may lie behind certain actions if it is negative. She is innocent - a naïve - and in this, has a lot of charm and attraction for the reader. We follow Catherine's progress, as she is invited by some wealthier neighbours in Fullerton, the Allens, to accompany them to visit the fashionable town of Bath. There she is introduced to society over the winter season, through attending balls and the theatre. So although it is constantly referred to, there is in fact little gothic feel in the whole first half of the novel. It is much more similar to Jane Austen's later novels, both in its setting, and its preoccupations. It is concerned with young people and their feelings; how they mature, and how their marriage prospects improve as a consequence. In this aspect, all Jane Austen's novels are very similar, and all of them have reassuringly happy endings. Jane Austen is always keen to entertain her readers! Catherine's amiability and good character is further demonstrated through her making friends, in Bath, with a confident older girl, Isabella Thorpe, the daughter of Mrs Allen's old school-friend. The reader can see straightaway that Isabella is far more savvy and ambitious than Catherine, and possibly manipulating her new friend. Isabella has a brother, John whom Catherine is delighted to find is also a friend of her older brother, James. Both young men are fellow students at Oxford University. However she (and the reader) takes an instant dislike to John, finding him pompous, brash, boastful and overbearing. In the meantime she has met a witty and clever young gentleman, Henry Tilney, and enjoyed his company and conversation. The reader can deduce that, at 17, she is well on the way to falling in love with this intelligent and polite, slightly older and more experienced gentleman. The novel has several social situations which, although very much of their time, reveal essential aspects of human nature which are timeless. The difficulties facing Catherine are difficulties and situations common to all teenagers. There is embarrassment, a feeling of gaucheness and several occasions where the peer pressure is very strong, such as when James, Isabella and John try to persuade her to join them when she had made a former promise for another engagement. Catherine also has to learn how to stay polite and resolute when she is bullied by John Thorpe. And when she eventually returns home to her parents, uncomprehending of why she has been treated in such a shameful way, the reader is treated to the common enough spectacle of a moody, sulky teenager. For the second half of the novel the setting has switched to Northanger Abbey itself, as Catherine has received an invitation to stay there. The tone becomes slightly darker, and the viewpoint switches to be almost entirely from Catherine's perspective, using free indirect narration. Everything is presented from Catherine's point of view, which leads to some hilarious moments, due to her romantic notions of what an ancient abbey should be like. The reader has been well prepared for this, through conversations between Catherine and Henry Tilney. Here she is very excited about the prospect of a visit to the abbey, "You have formed a very favourable idea of the abbey.""To be sure, I have. Is not it a fine old place, just like what one reads about?"Henry Tilney continues to tease her, although Catherine revels in the descriptions, not realising that this is what he is doing,"And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as "what one reads about" may produce? Have you a stout heart? Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry? ... "Will not your mind misgive you when you find yourself in this gloomy chamber - too lofty and extensive for you, with only the feeble rays of a single lamp to take in its size - its walls hung with tapestry exhibiting figures as large as life, and the bed, of dark green stuff or purple velvet, presenting even a funereal appearance? Will not your heart sink within you?"Catherine waits impatiently for her visit, whereas the reader has been privy to broad hints that the abbey may not be at all as she expects. Sure enough, our innocent heroine's expectations increase on the journey,"As they drew near the end of their journey, her impatience for a sight of the abbey ... returned in full force, and every bend in the road was expected with solemn awe to afford a glimpse of its massy walls of grey stone, rising amidst a grove of ancient oaks, with the last beams of the sun playing in beautiful splendour on its high Gothic windows."But as the reader expects, the exterior of the building comes as a bit of a let-down, "She knew not that she had any right to be surprised, but there was a something in this mode of approach which she certainly had not expected. To pass between lodges of a modern appearance, to find herself with such ease in the very precincts of the abbey, and driven so rapidly along a smooth, level road of fine gravel, without obstacle, alarm, or solemnity of any kind, struck her as odd and inconsistent ... The windows, to which she looked with peculiar dependence, from having heard the general talk of his preserving them in their Gothic form with reverential care, were yet less what her fancy had portrayed. To be sure, the pointed arch was preserved - the form of them was Gothic - they might be even casements - but every pane was so large, so clear, so light! To an imagination which had hoped for the smallest divisions, and the heaviest stone-work, for painted glass, dirt, and cobwebs, the difference was very distressing." All the descriptions of Bath society, both in Northanger Abbey and Austen's other novels, are drawn from her own experience. One of the interesting aspects of Northanger Abbey, however, is that passages such as these seem to indicate she incorporates her reading experience as well as her real-life experience; it is just as much a product of the Gothic novels that she herself read. One of the highlights of the novel is where Henry Tilney teases Catherine about the "horrid" contents of such novels. Typically there would be a crumbling old building, possibly an abbey, once used to house nuns or monks. The abbey would then become abandoned and derelict, and later bought by an evil lord or baron. Dastardly deeds would occur in the ancient edifice, once the lord or baron took possession, and the once holy nature of the abbey would become an ironic feature in these Gothic novels.Northanger Abbey is a dreadful disappointment for Catherine, who had imagined herself as the heroine of a Gothic novel. Living out her imaginative fantasies, she was hoping to be thrilled by mystery, horror, and sinister and macabre deeds from an earlier time. She had found Bath to be a pleasant tourist town, interesting for her to visit, but in Catherine's mind, the Abbey would inevitably be a place of new heightened experiences. At every point where the Abbey turns out to be conventional and normal, Catherine remembers the abbeys from her favourite gothic novels, deliberately frightening herself to complete her thrilling anticipations, "The night was stormy; the wind had been rising at intervals the whole afternoon; and by the time the party broke up, it blew and rained violently. Catherine, as she crossed the hall, listened to the tempest with sensations of awe; and, when she heard it rage round a corner of the ancient building and close with sudden fury a distant door, felt for the first time that she was really in an abbey."Catherine still longs for the abbey to conform to her imagined ideal, and one of the funniest scenes in the book is (view spoiler)[when she discovers a cabinet, with a mysterious paper inside. Her imagination runs riot at what this could be, but it eventually turns out to be simply a laundry list. (hide spoiler)]

Everything Is Illuminated

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3.89 rating

Comment 1: Sometimes reading makes me so angryDammit.I’m a freaking mess. I realize this and I accept it.Ugh.Why, Jonathan Safran Foer? Why? Why do you do this to me? And why the hell are you so young? I know that some call you gimmicky and think that you are just a phosphoresce in the pannikin (yes, I, too, have access to Thesaurus.com) but I just…just…spleen them. They can read their Anderson and their Coetzee and leave us dreamers alone. I am ‘Team Foer’; others be damned. (I still wish you weren’t so freaking young, though)The story is fragmented, told through letters and hodgepodges of writings that might or might not be parts of a novel. There is the story about the people of Trachimbrod, which might be Trochenbrod, a city in western Ukraine that was decimated during WWII by a Nazi Invasion. There is the story of Alex and Jonathan and their journey to find out Who is Augustine? And to thank her for saving Jonathan’s lineage. There is the story of Grandfather and Herschel (copious amounts of tears during that one). And then there are the stories within the stories. The story of Brod, Jonathan’s great great great great great grandmother and her struggle with loving the idea of love and her 613 sadnesses ( “Mirror Sadness”, “Sadness of not knowing if your body is normal”, “Beauty Sadness”, “Sadness of Hands”, “Sadness of knowing that your body is normal”, “Kissing Sadness”, “Sadness of wanting sadness”, “Sadness of feeling the need to create beautiful things”, What if? Sadness”, “Sadness”, “Secret Sadness.”) The story of the would-be ‘Augustine’ and her house with its many labeled boxes ( ‘Silver/Perfume/Pinwheels’, ‘Watches/Winter’, ‘Darkness’, ‘Pillowcases’, ‘Poetry/Nails/Pisces’, ‘Dust’, 'Menorahs/Inks/Keys', 'Death of a Firstborn', 'In Case')I loved them all. I love the awakenings and the not-truths. I love the humor and the tragedies and the friendships. I am giddy and heavy hearted. I am in love with the idea. What I loved most, what I clung to after I finished the book, was this:Jews have Six SensesTouch, taste, sight, smell, hearing….memory. While Gentiles experience and process the world through the traditional senses, and see memory only as a second-order means of interpreting events, for Jews memory is no less primary than the prick of a pin, or its silver glimmer, or the taste of the blood it pulls from the finger. The Jew is pricked by a pin and remembers other pins. It is only by tracing the pinprick back to other pinpricks—when his mother tried to fix his sleeve while his arm was still in it, when his grandfather’s fingers fell from stroking his great-grandfather’s damp forehead, when Abraham tested the knife point to be sure Isaac would feel no pain---that the Jew is able to know why it hurts. When a Jew encounters a pin, he asks “What does it remember like?”The idea of memory as a sense. Okay, I’ve admitted it before and will again and again. I’m a shiksa—a French-Canadian/German/NH bred—Shiksa. I can’t fathom the horrors of having the Holocaust in my past, I won’t even begin to pretend to imagine the ramifications. But I can appreciate this idea: “What does it remember like?” Aren’t we all tied to the past? Aren’t all of our future actions predetermined by a memory? “Everything is the way it is because everything was the way it was.”So much for Free Will. At one point, Alex begs Jonathan when writing their story: “I beseech you to forgive us, and to make us better than we are. Make us good.”We have that power in writing. To take away the bad and to recreate. We usually choose not to. It has to be gritty…fairytales are for the young…we need to set the story straight… we need to exorcise our demons….and so on. Make us good. God, that just about killed me.And this is why I will always defend Foer. His ability to bring me to this awareness and to break my heart in 300 pages or less.

Carrie

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3.88 rating

Comment 1: The only hell that exists is the one we create for ourselves and others. Carrie White has been abused all her life. Not even allowed to sleep with a pillow, denied all comfort by her fundamentalist mother, taunted and beaten by her relentless classmates, loved by no one: Carrie keeps her head down and slogs through life with deep despair.Until one day things change. She gets her first period in the communal gym showers. She is 17. Being raised by a fundamentalist Christian fanatic, she hasn't the slightest clue what's going on. The other girls react with rabid and merciless bullying, throwing pads and tampons at her naked body.This is when Carrie rediscovers the telekinetic powers she has not used seriously since she was three. She starts to practice in secret. And this secret gives her something she's never had before: confidence. She slowly, subtly starts standing up to her abusive mother. She accepts a date to prom. She defies the rules she's lived by all her life. She wants to be seen. She wants to be heard. She wants to be accepted.Unfortunately for her, certain bullies will not tolerate defiance.So she kills everyone and then herself.I distinctly remember reading this before and after Columbine. After Columbine I think everyone (in the USA, at least) read this book differently.It's important to remember that abusing people has consequences. Bullies seem to think that the people they pick on are weak. They will always be submissive. Then they are surprised when the dog they routinely kick bites them.When the new Carrie movie came out, I remember that the Spanish-language trailer always started with an ominous voice saying: CARRIE TIENE UN DON. Which means, Carrie has a gift. Yes, Carrie certainly does have a "gift", if you want to put it that way. King masterfully creates a three-dimensional view on power: its way of helping you and its way of destroying you.I think it's important to note that in the book, Carrie is not physically attractive. She is fat, covered with pimples, downtrodden, and sweaty. I know why Hollywood insists on cleaning her up and casting Sissy Spacek or Chloe Moretz, but they are really pushing it, especially with Chloe, who looks like a cheerleader. Sissy was not as pretty - but still thin and good-looking. No pimples or fat rolls in sight. King's book makes it much easier to see what was really going on and what a bullied target might really look like. They also make the mother very thin (Piper Laurie and the beautiful Julianne Moore) whereas in the book she is supposed to be ugly and "very large." This is why I prefer book versions to movie versions 99% of the time.King chooses to intersperse news clippings, magazine articles, science journals, trial records and book excerpts throughout his novel. This adds to the realism. He creates a world in which this has happened. An "event" that will live in people's minds for a lifetime (again, in real life we would see this with Columbine). I mean, the numbers are atrocious. Carrie kills hundreds of people and does it with a smile on her face.Carrie is not a hero. She might be the protagonist, but this isn't a magical YA novel where a girl is "special" and "chosen" and then becomes a brave leader and becomes accepted when she finds people who are "just like her" and meets some hot boy who is also gifted. No. This is King imposing his dark mind on reality. This is what might really happen if a bullied, isolated kid is "blessed" with this power. King pulls out all the stops. It's gruesome, it's real, it's gritty, and it's brutal. King does not pretty-up this novel at all.The best part is, you understand everybody. From Carrie, to the bully, even her crazy fundamentalist mother. King allows you to glimpse into the inner thoughts of all the players, holding nothing back from you. He wants you to understand that these people, ALL these people, are human. He carefully crafts intricate, well-rounded characters that are so lifelike you can almost see them breathing.King often makes females his main character. I'm often asked if he writes women realistically. I would have to say no...but he does his damnedest. I would also like to point out that he doesn't write men perfectly either. Instead, King creates his own kind of people. King-people, if you will. It's like the Simpsons. Watching the Simpsons, you know these characters are supposed to be humans. They do human stuff, they look almost like humans...but they are not. They are a little "off" - their hair is weird, their skin is weird, they don't exactly follow the laws of physics... That is how I see King's creations. He writes wonderful, three-dimensional characters. He shows us some of the worst parts of humanity. But none of his characters seem like people I have known or met in my life. That is because they are uniquely "King." (For example, all King characters swear like sailors all the time, no matter who they are. Also, ALL of them have some sort of sexual hang-up - men AND women. Those are just two examples.)Some people may not enjoy King's books because he is such a dark writer. However, I want to stress that King DOES put good, truth, love, and courage into his books. He does not create a bleak landscape without hope (at least not in CARRIE). Instead, he lets us know that while evil may be powerful and frightening, good exists too.The images from this book are burned into my brain, and possibly in the consciousness of the American people - from the book and the many movie versions that have been made.This is the third time I have read this book.This is not King's best book, or even his second best.I like when Carrie is walking around town with a knife buried to the hilt in her shoulder as if she is a Necromonger.In closing, reading this Stephen King book has made me want to lower the star ratings on 90% of my other books. Other authors pale in comparison to Stephen King's master wordcraft. What else can I say? :)

Nine Stories

by

4.19 rating

Comment 1: I have this quite new boxed set of the Salinger books. All my Salingers were the worse for wear and I “needed” a new set, I decided. I pulled out this one because I am reading short stories and decided that it is possible to read several books of short stories at the same time. I have read Nine Stories a long time ago, maybe before I was in college in the 1960s. For some reason I idealized J.S. Salinger in those days, probably because he was such an evasive recluse. I didn’t know at the time that I would one day have unfulfilled yearnings to be a recluse. Or maybe it was just to be J.D. Salinger. When I was in college I went to the undergraduate library (I think it was called the UGLI – like ugly) and copied some of his early stories out of original copies of the Saturday Evening Post with Norman Rockwell illustrations on the cover. I lovingly typed these stories out on my Hermes portable and attached them to rather insipid essays about Salinger that did not impress my teachers more than a C+. One kind professor noted that the stories did not add much to my papers. I was so “over the moon” about Salinger that I could have cared less. I kept these papers packed away in some box in the closet for years. (No, they are not still in my parent’s attic.)It has been such a long time since I have read Salinger that I had one of those remembering-as-you-read experiences. You know, where you remember the story as you read it but not before. And these nine stories are really short and go zip, zip, zip, done. It almost seemed like there had never been a time when I had not read the stories already. It is fun just to read the titles of the stories without even reading the stories. But do go back and read the stories in order preferably. Unless you have a favorite order you prefer. I firmly believe that stories are placed in a certain order for a reason and that we should give that reason a fair opportunity. I think Salinger has a good deal of whimsy and is not really all that deep – if you allow him not to be. Others, however, think him quite deep, befitting his fame. I think a lot of people like to try to put him together after they have read ALL of his work – to assess him as a whole. On the other hand, some are satisfied to read ALL the books about him – and there are many – and consider what friends, relatives, lovers, researchers (there are some of each) thought of him. Frankly, if someone has nothing better to do than hang out at the small town post office hoping to get a good picture of Salinger, how could he have anything significant to say about the man? The guy was a special case, that is for sure. And he did mention galoshes more than once. Once was in the story For Esme – with Love and Squalor: A dozen or so adults were among the pews, several of them bearing pairs of small-size rubbers, soles up, in their laps. I passed along and sat down in the front row. On the rostrum, seated in three compact rows of auditorium chairs, were about twenty children, mostly girls, ranging in age from about seven to thirteen. At the moment, their choir coach, an enormous woman in tweeds, was advising them to open their mouths wider when they sang. Had anyone, she asked, ever heard of a little dickybird that dared to sing his charming song without opening his little beak wide, wide, wide? Apparently nobody ever had. She was given a steady, opaque look. She went on to say that she wanted all her children to absorb the meaning of the words they sang, not just mouth them, like silly-billy parrots. She then blew a note on her pitch pipe, and the children, like so many underage weight-lifters, raised their hymn-books. Yes, whimsy. But deep only in the larger context of his complete work if you are determined to delve into the Glass family. To belabor the whimsy aspect of Salinger I offer the following from De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period: All three students assigned to me were English-language students. The first was a twenty-three-year-old Toronto housewife, who said her professional name was Bambi Kramer, and advised the school to address her mail accordingly. All new students at Les Amis Vieux Maitres were requested to fill out questionnaire forms and to enclose photographs of themselves. Miss Kramer had enclosed a glossy eight by ten print of herself wearing an anklet, a strapless bathing suit, and a white-duck sailor’s cap. On her questionnaire form she stated that her favorite artists were Rembrandt and Walt Disney. She said she only hoped that she could some day emulate them. Her sample drawings were clipped, rather subordinately, to her photograph. All of them were arresting. One of them was unforgettable. The unforgettable one was done in florid wash colors with a caption that read: “Forgive Them Their Trespasses.” It showed three small boys fishing in an odd-looking body of water, one of their jackets draped over a “No Fishing!” sign. The tallest boy, in the foreground of the picture, appeared to have rickets in one leg and elephantiasis in the other – an effect, it was clear, that Miss Kramer had deliberately used to show that the boy was standing with his feet slightly apart. This is surely Salinger at his whimsyest! I have been surprised at how enjoyable it has been to read Salinger after all these years. I am looking forward to reading the other books of the Big Four. My recollection is that I thought that they were somewhat obscure when I read them years ago – not enticing – but that I have continued to be enticed by his manufactured mystery over the years. He has been more of an icon than an award winner.Years ago I gave Nine Stories three stars. After this read I have no problem awarding four stars and would probably have gone for five stars if I was more impressed with its literary stature. While I loved reading it, I was not overly impressed with its depth. This book gets a good solid 4.19 average of GR ratings. I suspect it gets a lot a reflected glory from The Catcher in the Rye.I look forward to dipping back into Salinger – his writing and his mystery/history – in the coming months. I wonder if I will be able to overcome the aura that he brings with him from the past. He definitely has a place in my emotions more than in my rational self!When people want to talk about the depth of Salinger, I guess they always want to talk about the “Vendantic theory of reincarnation.” Me, I just liked the whimsy. You can go to http://www.shmoop.com/teddy-book/mort... if you want depth.

The Bean Trees

by

3.92 rating

Comment 1: "But nothing on this earth is guaranteed, when you get right down to it, you know? I've been thinking about that. About how your kids aren't really YOURS, they're just these people that you try to keep an eye on, and hope you'll all grow up someday to like eachother and still be in one piece. What I mean is, everything you get is really just on loan. Does that make sense?""Sure,"I said. "Like library books. Sooner or later they've all got to go back into the nightdrop."I'm trying to get better about listening to more audiobooks in the car and less Top 40s best hits of today and your school days. Allow me to be perfectly clear: there is entertainment value in your child knowing all the words to Soulja Boy's romantic serenade "Kiss Me Through the Phone," but it's also rewarding for him to say that Barbara Kingsolver is a good storyteller, discuss immigrants, refugees, and murderous South American regimes on the way home from the bus stop, and groan when the narrator announces the last disc. "There's a sequel! We'll read it! Don't worry," I offered. I picked The Bean Trees to rehabituate myself to the life of an audiobook commuter because I remembered reading another Barbara Kingsolver book in college, and I remembered her writing to be funny and engaging, I remembered she leans toward female protagonists that don't suck, and she wrote that book everyone loves, Animal Vegetable Miracle. I keep meaning to read AVM, but it's got such a long wait at the library. The Bean Trees had no waiting at all, and Sue Monk Kidd said it was one of her all-time favorites it in the Goodreads September newsletter. That's enough good reasons.So I "read" the audiobook of The Bean Trees, and I enjoyed it. The pace of the story is occasionally more of a stroll than a walk, the characters fluctuate in ways that are more convenient for the plot than authentically human, and the dialogue trails off occasionally, leaving the reader hanging. All these things can be annoying, or charming, and I think they work well enough here. So, yes, it reads a little bit like a first novel, which it is. I was quite surprised to realize this was written in 1988 - a number of the sentiments and political views seem timely and contemporary, like Native parental rights & US immigration/refugee policies. This book has feminist characters and stories, it's structured around unconventional families, and includes an emphasis on community support in a way that's not contrived, hokey, or idealistic. Special bonus for the most amazing business name ever: Jesus is Lord Used Tires. The most important things I hope I remember about this book:1. The new year started on July 12, my birthday.2. They spend a lot of time in Oklahoma, which I have done. 3. The ladies in this book are smart, independent, and they talk to each other about real life. 4. I just love a good, epic road trip with life-altering consequences.5. There's a lady whose "power color" is red, and she wears it all the time. I love people with power colors.6. The theme of unintentional single motherhood & parenting in a fairly unconventional way.

I Capture the Castle

by

3.99 rating

Comment 1: 3.5 starsCassandra is mostly wisely honest with herself as well as being generous spirited and loving, and the combination makes for pleasant reading. There is a feast of interesting details, though the castle makes me feel cold, and some nicely sketched characters - the vicar got some good lines, and Thomas the younger brother delighted me at every appearance, reminding me of my own lil bro. I wish Leda Fox-Cotton weren't so mistreated. It's necessary to see right through Cassandra's prejudice, which is hard because she's very sympathetic. I found it funny that she loves animals so much and wishes owls were vegetarian, but eats meat herself without a shadow of a critical thought.I liked her casual explanation of England being special to her:'oh not the flag and Kipling and outposts of Empire and so on, but the country[side] and London'Quite.There is a neatly written section in which the vicar and Miss Marcy both casually encourage the stricken Cassandra to whom they are offering succour and comfort that is like water in a desert to her, to take up their own interests: religion! you might like it. helping others! you might like it. Cassandra is tempted, but then she decides that these characters are taking refuge from pain and thus from life itself in these absorbing pursuits. Cassandra even reflects that they are like children because they haven't really lived. The conclusion - that she should not throw herself into religion or good works - feels refreshing, and appropriate to the form of a novel (a medium that draws or produces the subjectivity of the subject) but... really? The only real life is one devoted to pursuing the most fully felt personal joy and suffering? Is this the only way we can imagine self actualisation? I can't accept that autonomy requires the rejection of the mortar of community. When Cassandra receives help and then pities her helpers for helping, it seems to me she affirms her class privilege even more thoroughly than her materialistic sister does when she counts her expensive new possessions.I also started my journal when I was 17. Here's a random chunk from 2005!April 15thThere is a kind of light rain which, when falling just at the very beginning of twilight, can make any landscape resemble paradise.I was reading the focus bulletin and there was a page about pomegranate juice “the pomegranate originated in Persia” and there was a verse from Shakespeare:Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near dayIt was the nightingale, not the larkThat pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear;Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate tree -Believe me, love, it was the nightingaleRomeo and Juliet III 5Made me feel wretched for not reading enough, when such riches are so easily come by that a miserable marketing department posts them out to us, their hired zombiesApril 17thToday I saw a mermaid, her hair was in braids, fat murky green at the roots, thin and blue, clear Caribbean blue at the ends. Some had come loose and hung in heavy ringlets like trailing weeds. She had a ring in her nose and an American twang, and her eyes were black and fierce as a storm in the Atlantic.April 19thThis morning we saw the film “Crumb” Robert Crumb's room full of old blues records had a heavy American desk, chair, strip of dark, patterned carpet and great dusty lampshade breathing dusty yellow light. The America of David Lynch. The American interior of the intellectual mind. Ginsberg wrote in a room like that. Dreary, grand, American room, stuffy with spoiled dreams.The problem with the past is that we do not understand it. It seems worthless to us now, because the Gods of the present & the believers in the next world have pointed out to us that we only have today and Jesus will forgive us. Largely, the stories that make up history have lost their significance. A few stand out clear and speak down to us from the depths. But the better part is like a story told by a great grandparent – the facts are useless, foreign objects you can turn over like washed up shells, their contents long ago emptied out, because the story teller saw everything differently then.May 3rdWhen the first time traveller (I hope it is some dignified person, I am nostalgic for the gentleman amateur) goes into the future, everyone there will be waiting for them, whatever kind of world it is. You'll step out of the capsule and see everyone, banners and cheering or ragged scientists or children with stones, waiting. Today there was a waterfall from the sky. Shoes soaked. Cellar flooded.May 15thYesterday the mermaid came back. Her blue hair was tied up, grown out sun-bleached brown, her eyes had turned pale from being so long ashore.Today a fairy princess came in with a goblin. Her body trembled with the effort of being. I think she was kidnapped.Unspeaking,The suited ones walk to their officesTheir faces are shutfor the daytime, purged of hopesSweet yellow sun caresses steel & glass,throws long human shadows like walking deadThe air, heavy and pure with the night's silencereceives the sound of their shod feet on stonesPoliticians wake in a cold sweat.June 10thYou should be aloneeverything resonatesthe night is lovely and in the cold of situations...Reflected in the city light the beauty of your own soulHow can I write with your NOISE?July 18thI looked out through the skylight with corrected vision.Blue and dark, black red cloud like a landmass on a map, meeting the cloudy sea A PAINTING OF HEAVEN & the stars like hope, faint and unreachable, an immense vista, a desert. Must go up with glasses on. I miss my seven sisters. I have unburied my books. In so doing I unbury myself. The dampish old cardboard, almost become precious, byassociation, sits out in the recycle bin.The house is full of booksIt is a joyful meetingSylvia, Heller, Marx. I missed you! I even missed Plato.I can play Queen Adreena. Hands tremble.The self should not be held so dear, it is dangerous. My history, fine sheets, written inverse on linen, like scriptureAugust 9thHoras non numero nisi serenas-motto on a sundial near Venice(I count only the serene hours)

The Hours

by

3.89 rating

Comment 1: ”We throw our parties; we struggle to write books that do not change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep--it’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we’ve very fortunate, by time itself.”It’s about the hours right? Those few precious hours over a lifetime when we feel we have a chance to do something special, to prove that we can do something that will forever immortalize us as someone exceptional. It was Charlotte who pressed this book upon me. We were at a party conducted by a Mrs. Clarissa Galloway. “I hear you are on a reading binge.” She’d leaned in close, as she had a tendency to do with me. Her lips mere millimeters away from my ear. It made me shiver somewhere in the core of me.When I was between assignments, which was all too frequent, I would read book after book; usually I would be in the middle of at least three at any one time. I was getting about four hours of sleep a night which right now was making me a cheap drunk. One martini was going to be more than enough. “The Hours by Michael Cunningham, didn’t they make a film out of it with Kidman?”She nodded. She leaned in close again. I often wondered if she knew what she did to me. “The book won a Pulitzer Prize. Catherine told me you just finished reading Mrs. Dalloway. This is a terrific follow-up.“ The sisters. You couldn’t really be involved with one without being involved with the other. Catherine, my girlfriend, was writing a novel. It was brilliant in fact, but now was somewhat weighed down with its own brilliance. She was happy with the beginning and the ending, but the middle was not living up to the standards of the rest. Charlotte designed book covers for publishing companies. She had a gift for it, but frequently had to endure someone further up the chain asking for modifications, her masterpieces often becoming something more commercially appealing and soulless. When I was doing research on Virginia Woolf, before reading Mrs. Dalloway, I couldn’t help thinking of Catherine as Virginia and Charlotte as Vanessa. ”Vanessa laughs. Vanessa is firm of face, her skin a brilliant, scalded pink. Although she is three years older, she looks younger than Virginia, and both of them know it. If Virginia has the austere, parched beauty of a Giotto fresco, Vanessa is more like a figure sculpted in rosy marble by a skilled but minor artist of the late Baroque. She is distinctly earthly and even decorative figure, all billows and scrolls….”As usual, I wasn’t really sure why I was at this party. I thought with remorse of the lost pages of reading the party had already cost me. I could see the books strategically scattered around the room of the flat. A book by each of my favorite reading places. This party was bad for me, and if it was not good for me, it had to be an absolute torture for Catherine. I looked past Charlotte’s large, attentive eyes and could see that Catherine was pale. Her complexion was always pale, but there were various shades of pale that would tell me exactly what was going on with her. She closed her eyes and took too long to open them. I could tell it was time to go. I leaned in and kissed Charlotte’s ear, raising the stakes, and then muttered in the sea shell of her ear that I was going to take Catherine home. Charlotte always smelled so good, but I was never able to quite identify the scent, something old, something new. Somehow it would be breaking the rules of the game to ask her. I walked over to Catherine and put my arm around her and kissed her on the side of her mouth. She looked at me with surprise. I could see the slender flutes of her nose flutter as she took me in. Could it be that she could sense her sister’s scent even among the mingling fragrances of flowers that filled Mrs. Galloway’s party? She put her slender, fluted fingers on my shoulder. “I can feel one coming on.” “I’m here to take you home.””She can feel the headache creeping up the back of her neck. She stiffens. No, it’s the memory of the headache, it’s her fear of the headache, both of them so vivid as to be at least briefly indistinguishable from the onset of the headache itself.”I went to see Robert the next day. I’d read most of The Hours last night. Charlotte had been right. It was the perfect followup to Mrs. Dalloway. Robert had been my friend almost my entire life or at least for the segment of my life that I still wished to claim. He’d had a good career on the stage, had mother issues of course, and had always been unapologetically gay. The young nurse from Hospice was taking a vial of blood from him when I arrived. There was something so intimate about blood letting. I averted my eyes as if I’d just caught her furtively giving him a hand job. “I’m so weak. This is it, my friend.” His voice, the voice that had boomed out to theaters full of people, had been reduced to a whisper. I patted his hand. He weakly grasped it. I left my fingers there surrounded by the parchment of his hand. “You’ve rallied before.” I’d meant to put exuberance into that sentence, but somehow it all went wrong. My voice cracked and tears sprang to my eyes. “Oh, come on now. Tears now? You should have wept with joy when I looked like a young Marlon Brando. Not now, not over this decrepit body. If you were a true friend, you’d pick me up and hurl me out that window.” I thought of Septimus from Mrs. Dalloway and Richard from The Hours. It was almost too much. “Don’t say that.” My voice was still shaking. I freed my hand from his grasp to wipe my eyes. When I put my hand back on the bed, his hand was gone. “Do you think six floors would be enough to kill me? God, what a tragedy if it only breaks my bones, and leaves me somehow alive with fresh sources of pain. I was thinking about it the other day. I wouldn’t want to fall on the concrete. I want to land on a car. I want to explode through the top like they show in the movies. You own a car, don’t you? Couldn’t you park it beneath my window?”“You are hurting me, Robert.”He sighed. Closing those magnificent blue eyes that had mesmerized women and men in equal numbers, “That is the last thing that I want to do to you, my friend.” When I got back to the flat, they must not have heard me. Catherine was leaning over Charlotte. ”Virginia leaned forward and kisses Vanessa on the mouth. It is an innocent kiss, innocent enough, but just now,...it feels like the most delicious and forbidden of pleasures. Vanessa returns the kiss.” I wanted to wrap my arms around both of them and nudge them across the room to the bed. I wondered if Leonard Woolf had ever had such desires? They might have willingly went, but then what? By trying to hold them closer, I’d only lose them both. I cleared my throat and hung up my jacket. When I turned around, they were both looking at me with clear, intelligent eyes. Two sisters, so different, but so much alike as to be indistinguishable when standing in the same space. It was hard not to think about the big stone. ”She selects one roughly the size and shape of a pig’s skull. The one that took her down to the depths of the river. The one that would not let her escape the embrace of the water even if her natural desire for self-preservation had kicked in. The stone was too real to be denied. Catherine had read Mrs. Dalloway and was now reading The Hours. She had needed a break from her own writing anyway. Reading sometimes gave her a fresh source of inspiration. I wasn’t sure about her reading either book, but both together could enhance her already acute suicidal tendencies. I’d seen her more than once raking a butter knife across her wrists as if testing how it would feel. I’d had the gas oven taken out and replaced it with an electric one. I read her diary. She wasn’t particularly careful with it. She left it out all the time, rarely tucking it back under the mattress on our bed. I don’t know if she trusted me not to read it or she, being a writer, always wanted an audience for her writing. ”Everything she sees feels as if it’s pinned to the day the way etherized butterflies are pinned to the board.” She was obviously feeling trapped. Like Leonard Woolf decided to do with Virginia, I arranged to take Catherine to the country for a month. She was being overstimulated in the city. Robert threw himself out the window. He asked the nurse to open the window to give him some air. The stubborn bastard crawled across the floor, pulled himself up the wall, and threw himself out the window. Though he would have preferred a Rolls Royce, he landed on a Mercedes.Six floors, as it turned out, was enough. Two days after we reached the country Catherine disappeared. As I walked the river, along with every other able body in the county, I kept thinking about a stone the size of a pig’s skull. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

Sarah's Key

by

4.12 rating

Comment 1: "Ключът на Сара" е заседнала буца в гърлото. Държи те и не пуска дълго време. Тъжна, много тъжна книга. Трагична. И няма как да е иначе, след като се занимава с Холокоста. На фона на една неслучила се лична история, се споменават за действително случили се събития във Франция през 1942 г. А именно масовите арести на евреи, затварянето им във "Велодром д'Ив", краткото им пребиваване в лагери във Франция, а след това депортирането им в Аушвиц. Само за две-три нощи са арестувани 13 000 души, 4100 о Comment 2: A moving story told with plain rather dull prose. The author uses what has become the standard template for so many WW2 novels – a dual narrative of then and now. I have to say I enjoyed the present day narrative more. The war sections consisted almost exclusively of research with very little imaginative flair, the characters very generic. The modern section about an investigative journalist was brought better to life probably because the author was writing about many of her own experiences rese

Interpreter of Maladies

by

4.1 rating

Comment 1: ~~SPLENDID BOOK~~Big Bright & Shiny Five Stars to this excellent work by Jhumpa LahiriBooks of Jhumpa Lahiri have been lying since very long in my TBR, but ocean size thanks to Ashu for this personalized gem and making me read this.The first story Temporary Matter is about a couple who has lost their child and because of the reason they lost their way of living, loving and understanding each other. How they tried to come closer to each other as earlier by changes in their routine, confessing the unknown truths to each other is really heart-breaking. Second story When MR. Pirzada Came To Dine is a complex story of a Bangladeshi living in a foreign country. Author has done a wonderful job in narrating how a little girl got attached with Mr. Pirzada in spite of minimum conversations between them, how she prays for his well-being is wonderfully narrated by author. Interpreter of Maladies is the third story of an aged man who is a driver & interpreter. He falls for a NRI woman. I sometimes felt odd while reading this story. Emotional condition of a NRI woman and her feelings are wonderfully portrayed by the author along with the small and precise details.Fifth one A Real Durwan is a story of an elderly woman who works as a cleaner cum durwan of an apartment building. She keeps telling everyone about her royal past, people knowing that it is all lies and just kept ignoring her. But when a mishap occurs and she was questioned, nobody believed her truth too. This story wonderfully tells us about how to live happily with inner satisfaction with all that you have without desiring more than what is affordable. If the people living in the building would not have gotten into the race of adding up unnecessary luxuries to their lives, they would not have been robbed, this could be the message of this story.Sexy is the sixth story, this may catch the attention of a reader by its title. Author has done a wonderful job in narrating this story and that too from a kid’s point of view. How a kid interprets this word and the feelings of a lonely woman having a relationship with a married man finally ends up is a roller coaster read, full of emotions and tragic events.Mrs. Sen's is a narration of life of a lonely woman living with her cold husband. She misses her family and friends in the foreign country. The pleasures she felt only by receiving a call from her siblings and how she gets delighted will actually give pain to the reader. The depressing moments and emotional states of a woman's heart are splendidly narrated by the author.This Blessed House is a story of an Indian couple who moved into a new house which was earlier owned by a Christian family. The wife Twinkle was the character I really liked the most. She is full of life and cheerful. Hunting and searching the old house fascinates her. She is sometimes childish and sometimes mature in persuading and convincing her husband to do the things he didn’t like at all. A simple and enjoyable read this was.The Treatment Of Bibi Haldar is a story of a woman suffering from an unknown disease. This is a tale of emotions of a lady who wanted to get married but being rejected due to her disease. This story is told from the perspective of a neighbour. This story is painful with a twist at the end, I feel it incomplete and really wanted that author should have told more about the last incident to Bibi Haldar.The Third & Final Continent is the story that I liked the most in this book as it reminds me of my long stay in Japan when I missed the loved ones. This story is about the struggle of an Indian man in America. How he started his stay in America in a small room in a bungalow of an older woman. Her strange behaviour irritates him, he keep on going with that. Then he gets married to an Indian woman at Calcutta and finally settles in a new home. Little events and state of mind of an Indian residing abroad and a lady from traditional Indian house married and moved to a foreign country are precisely narrated by author. This was the story which hooked me and the last page I finished in the elevator while reaching home.This is a collection of true to life short stories mostly about the Indian people. Life like stories are always my favourite and this was no exception. I observed that all the stories in this book are somewhat related to loneliness and emotional pains that humans suffer especially when they have to live in a foreign country far from their families and loved ones.Finally, Now, along with Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri is in the list of my all-time favourite authors. Her writing prose has amazed me. I would recommend each and every avid reader to go for her works.Looking forward to read her all the books in coming days.

Peace Like a River

by

3.96 rating

Comment 1: 5 stars - Utterly amazing. Every now and then you come across a novel that you know, even before you have finished it, that the characters will not soon leave you and you are already looking forward to future re-reads. I found that wonderful feeling in the pages of this book.This novel reminds me vaguely of To Kill a Mockingbird, though the plots are completely different. What is similar is that you are seeing the story through the eyes of a child, an 11 year old boy, Reuben, finding that his love and loyalty for his family is essentially on the other side of the law, and being true to either (law or family) will contradict some of his closely held values.Other characters include his younger sister, a precocious, strong-headed 9 year old that loves to write Western poetry about gun-slinging banditos. You can't help but fall in love with her, and her poetry, which is of the only type that I honestly appreciate - simple, rhythmic and rhyming. Then you have Reuben's father, who walks so close to God that he seems able to perform miracles. Finally there is Reuben's older brother, Davy, who is 10 feet tall and afraid of nothing, at least in Reuben's young eyes. The novel has a strong focus on faith, though I would hesitate to call it Christian literature. For one, it doesn't read like anything else I have ever read shelved as such. Two, while the characters are Christian, the novel's theme of faith centers more on the belief of a higher power in general and of life after death, which can be applied to numerous religions. I would whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone that finds the synopsis interesting but doesn't normally like Christian fiction (and obviously would also recommend if you do like CF), but I would NOT recommend this to readers that detest any form of spirituality appearing in their fiction.The plot does slow down around the middle of the book, and that is my only real complaint. I found the author's writing to be refreshingly simplistic, yet incredibly beautiful and moving. With very elementary words, he is able to stir up emotion, make you laugh, and forge a very memorable story that will stick with you long after you have finished the novel. --------------------------------------Favorite Quote: It is one thing to say you're at war with this whole world and stick your chest out believing it, but when the world shows up with it's crushing numbers and its predatory knowledge, it is another thing completely.First Sentence: From my first breath in this world, all I wanted was a good set of lungs and the air to fill them with - given circumstances, you might presume, for an American baby of the twentieth century.

P.S. I Love You

by

3.99 rating

Comment 1: Ho iniziato questo libro con delle aspettative molto alte che non sono state per niente deluse! -- Mi ha emozionato tantissimo, ho pianto a più riprese, ho riso e sono rimasta completamente rapita da questa magnifica storia.Holly e Gerry sono anime gemelle, praticamente inseparabili. Holly non può vivere senza di lui, finché non è costretta a farlo. Gerry, infatti, muore a causa di un cancro terminale al cervello ed Holly, vedova a soli 29 anni, non sa cosa fare per rimettere insieme i pezzi.Questo libro è qualcosa di meraviglioso. Ecco cosa mi è piaciuto, in poche parole:- Lo stile di scrittura della Ahern è meraviglioso. Ricco, scorrevole e mai pesante. Penso che abbia inquadrato perfettamente i personaggi, la storia e gli stati d'animo e che abbia offerto a noi lettori un ritratto molto realistico del dolore, della perdita e del conseguente, ma estremamente difficile, recupero.- I personaggi sono molto relazionabili, nonostante alcuni siano un po' stereotipati. Mi è piaciuta molto l'attenzione che ha dato ad ognuno di loro e al ruolo che hanno nella vicenda e, specialmente nella vita di Holly. -- Holly e Gerry, in particolare, sono i miei preferiti. Di lei ammiro la tenacia con cui affronta le cose e il suo adorabile senso dell'umorismo. Di lui, invece, l'immenso coraggio e la maturità. - La storia d'amore tra i nostri protagonisti è qualcosa a cui tutti potremmo aspirare. Si completano le frasi l'uno con l'altra, si comprendono, si divertono insieme più che con qualsiasi altra persona al mondo. La Ahern ha ritratto l'amore dolce e giocoso che c'è tra due vere e proprie anime gemelle e, nonostante il lettore lo viva attraverso i ricordi di Holly e dei suoi amici e qualche piccola scena qua e là, è davvero intenso. -- Ho apprezzato ogni scena che li ritraeva insieme, ogni ricordo e piccolo accenno. Mi hanno commosso davvero molto.- Ho apprezzato in particolar modo l'importanza che l'autrice da alla famiglia e agli amici della protagonista. Il loro appoggio è fondamentale per Holly per superare questo momento difficile che sta vivendo, più di ogni altra cosa. Mi è piaciuto vedere le dinamiche con i suoi fratelli, i suoi genitori e i suoi migliori amici. -- Uno degli aspetti che ho amato di più è stata l'evoluzione del suo rapporto con il fratello Richard, inizialmente ostile, ma che poi sboccia in qualcosa di stupendo e che, ancora una volta, ha avuto la capacità di commuovermi ed emozionarmi.- Ho amato l'umorismo di questo libro. Cecelia Ahern mi ha regalato dei momenti veramente esilaranti che sono stati uno stacco piacevole dal dolore e dalla tristezza che provavo per altri.- (view spoiler)[ Una delle cose che ho apprezzato di più è stata la mancanza di un altro amore per Holly. Mi aspettavo che il libro si sarebbe concluso con lei e Daniel che finivano insieme; Sarebbe stata la scelta più facile, ma la Ahern ha deciso di non cadere nella banalità e cercare di scrivere un romanzo il più realistico possibile. Holly, secondo me, non era ancora pronta ad iniziare una nuova relazione, specialmente con un uomo che conosce da poco meno di un anno. Mi è piaciuto molto il valore che l'autrice ha dato alla sua protagonista, che può definirsi e, soprattutto, sopravvivere da sola anche senza un uomo. La perdita di Gerry è stata straziante e lei ha tutto il diritto di soffrire e di sentire la sua mancanza, non deve per forza trovare qualcun altro da amare per ritrovare la felicità. La felicità piò costruirsela anche da sola! (hide spoiler)]

The Host

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3.84 rating

Comment 1: 15/5 - Wow!! What an author Stephanie Meyer is, she starts with the already over used plot of vampires vs. werewolves and gives it a major modern twist and now she’s tackled aliens – again with a major twist. Alien invasions on Earth have been written about many times over but this story is different. Different type of aliens – less malevolent than previous stories, written from a different point of view – sympathetic to the alien’s situation. For most of the book I couldn’t see how there could Comment 2: I liked this book way more then I thought I would, even though at the half way point I was seriously considering stopping and chalking it up as a DNF. At some point during the story I actually got invested in the characters and the storyline became exciting and thrilling. The Host follows Wanderer, a ‘soul’ that is part of the invading race that is taking over the bodies of humans and not only integrating into our society, but shaping it to model their own ideals. Unlike the other races Wanderer Comment 3: Re-read 8/16/17: I had been meaning to re-read this book since I originally read it way back in 2008 and I FINALLY got around to it for this month's Throwback Thursday! I originally gave this 5/5 stars bc I was a hardcore #twihard, but I definitely went in a little more critically this time around and I have to say, I still really enjoyed this! I had a few issues with consent in this and guys kissing girls whenever they feel like it, but for the most part this was still a really solid read and I

Cutting for Stone

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4.27 rating

A sweeping, emotionally riveting first novel — an enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home. Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father's disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics — their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him — nearly destroying him — Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him. An unforgettable journey into one man's remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

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3.62 rating

Comment 1: Wasn’t it just last night that I said I did not give out five stars easily? I have to do it for this book; yes, run out and read it as fast as you can, for this novel will give you whole new insights into the mysteries of life and love and grief. Most of the books I waste my time reading are plot-filled page-turners, in which the author has a tremendous story that pours out through the pages, and you get just a little comprehension of what makes the characters tick as they progress through the action, but in the end how well do we really know Mary Denunzio or Stephanie Plum or even Jack Ryan? Read this novel, however, and you really, really get to know Dr. David Henry McAllister; his wife, Nora; his son, Paul; his nurse, Caroline Gill – you come to know them because the book is told in the third person from their respective points of view, with the linear plot unfolding as you see the action sequentially through their biased eyes. There is very little real action in this novel, however, although it springs from a single impossible act. Taking his pregnant wife to the hospital to give birth, David finds that he cannot get to the hospital because of the raging snowstorm, so he takes her to his own little clinic where he and his nurse, who is secretly in love with him, deliver the baby, a perfectly healthy boy, and then find that there is a twin sister, who has unmistakable symptoms of Down’s Syndrome. Thinking to protect his beloved wife from the problems of having to live with this, he tells his nurse to take the baby girl to an institution, which was actually quite the common thing in those days, and he tells his wife that their baby daughter died at childbirth. From that point on, we simply see these people living their lives, irretrievably bound together by a secret that only a few of them know. Caroline instead takes the baby to another city and raises her as her own child, while Norah and Paul’s lives become poisoned by thinking about the daughter and sister they thought was lost, and David wanders into a hell of his own making as the members of his family become alienated, while at the same time we learn more about his past and come to an understanding of what drove him to do this.Kim Edwards is a marvelous story-teller. Time after time, as I read her biting description of what it is like to love and to lose that love, I said: “That’s my life she is writing.” She understands fully how we all get caught up in our own imaginings so that we cannot be open to the people we love, even when we see that very condition driving them away. One of her messages, surely, is that change is always with us, and we have to live with that change and understand it, even through our human nature forces us to try to contain it and to keep things the way they used to be. Nora gives David a camera as a gift, and he gradually becomes a famous photographer, but the results of his overwhelming concentration on his new hobby only further forces his family apart, while they all keep looking back to the early feelings and memories of their relationships and try to comprehend what has happened to make them drift apart. We see the same patterns repeating over and over, not only in David and Norah’s lives but also with Caroline and her husband, then with Paul and his lover.One of the things that Kim Edwards is astonishingly good at is compressing the story. There is sex in these peoples’ lives, but it all takes place off stage, between chapters or between paragraphs, because it is not important in this story -- in vivid contrast to the novel I wrote about last night, for which sex was the very basis of the book. Similarly, one of the main characters dies offstage, between chapters, as if the passing is merely a minor incident, only faintly related to the plot.I cried three times reading this book, so filled with emotion that at one point I had to put it down and go read something else. Today, however, I had to take my granddaughter to the dentist and then to her swimming class, and the book conveniently was rediscovered under a pile of papers while I was cleaning up my office last night, so it was ready to hand when I had time to spend on it … with the inevitable result that I again got all caught up in the story and came home from a social event this evening and had to sit down and finish it. Definitely five stars; definitely a book to go back and read again some time.

The History of Love

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3.9 rating

Comment 1: Original Comments (Pre-Review):I would like to review this novel more formally in the near future, but to do so I'll have to flick through it and refresh my memory.My reaction at the time was that it was one of the best novels I had ever read.Nicole Krauss understands people and love and feelings and she writes about them in a word perfect way.As a reader, I am prepared to go wherever she wants to take me. I will trust her judgement.I have recently watched a few of her videos and interviews on Youtube and she's also someone who I enjoy listening to when she speaks about her craft and her choice of subject matter.This probably sounds very gushy and naive, but I promise to write something more considered.Review (September 26, 2011):Warning about SpoilersI have tried to minimise and identify plot spoilers.However, this is an emotional response to the novel, and might reveal significance that you might want to enjoy by way of your own detection.I hope that my review doesn't spoil anything for you, or if it does, that you quickly forget it.Lives Lived and Measured by the Deli CounterNicole Krauss’ “The History of Love” is one of my favourite novels of all time.I read it once pre-Good Reads, and have just re-read it, so that I could review it. And I will read it again. Often.That doesn’t count the numerous times I have fingered through the book seeking out passages and expressions and meanings and significances that stimulated or appealed to me.It’s an exquisitely crafted tale of love, loss, longing, hope, defiance, resilience and, it has to be said, delusion.I love its Jewish wisdom and concern with the family, I love its Yiddish rhythms and expressions and humour and playfulness, I love the window it offers into the millennia of Jewish culture and enrichment of the world.When I open the pages of this book, I feel like I am walking into the best delicatessen or pastry shop in the world.Everything is there on display, everything is on offer (we can eat in or take away!).It’s all been made with consummate skill and affection, it’s designed to satiate our appetite, to enrich our lives.I look at it all, knowing it will feed us, it will sustain us, it will revive our energy. It’s food for thought, it’s food for life.I'm sure it will help us live our own lives and tell our own tales, it will equip each of us to tell our own History of Love.I am wearing my Second Avenue Deli t-shirt as I think and type this.Legend“The History of Love” is written from four different perspectives, each of which is represented by a different symbol at the beginning of the chapter:Leo Gursky = a heartAlma Singer = a compassOmniscient Narrator = an open bookBird (Alma’s brother) = an arkOnce Upon a TimeOnce upon a time, there was a Polish boy named Leo Gursky who loved a girl across the field named Alma Mereminski.“Her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering”.He asked her to marry him when they were both still only ten.“He promised her he would never love another girl as long as he lived. "What if I die? She asked. Even then, he said.”He carved “A+L” in the bark of a tree and had someone take a photo of the two of them in front of that tree. He writes three books for her, all in their native Yiddish, the last being “The History of Love”.Book 1: this one was about Slonim (Alma says, “she liked it better when I made things up”)Book 2: he made up everything for this one (Alma says, “maybe I shouldn’t make up everything, because that made it hard to believe anything”)Book 3: “The History of Love” (Leo says,"I didn’t write about real things and I didn’t write about imaginary things. I wrote about the only things I knew.”)In July, 1941, that boy, who was now a man of 21, avoided murder by the German Einsatzgruppen, because he was lying on his back in the woods thinking about the girl.“You could say it was his love for her that saved his life.”Alma’s father had already saved her by sending her to America.Unbeknown to either of them, Alma was pregnant with their son, Isaac, when she left.Oblivious to the birth of his son, Leo lives in hiding surrounded by Nazi atrocities.Letters back and forth fail to reach their destination.He even writes his own obituary, when he is in the depths of illness and despair.By the time Leo finally escapes to New York himself, five years later, he has become an invisible man in the face of death.He traces Alma, only to learn that she has had their child and that, believing he was dead, she has married another man.He is ecstatic that “our sum had come to equal a child” ("A+L=I").He asks her once to “come with me”, she can’t and he does the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life: he picked up his hat and walked away.He has little involvement with Alma or Isaac after that, except as an occasional remote observer.And yet. He continues to love Alma, though he now has another quest: to determine whether Isaac, who becomes a famous writer in his own right, ever knew about his father and that he wrote “The History of Love”.Once Upon Another TimelineOnce upon another time (it is the year 2000 when Leo is 80 and believes he is approaching death), a precocious 15 year old girl goes by the name Alma Singer.Her mother, Charlotte, a literary translator who specialises in Spanish literature, named her after every girl in a book Alma’s father David gave her mother called “The History of Love”.It is written in Spanish, and the "author" is Zvi Litvinoff, a friend of Leo’s who, after Leo left Poland, escaped to Chile, carrying with him the original Yiddish manuscript of “The History of Love” for safekeeping.Alma’s father died when she was seven.Like Leo, Charlotte has continued to love him (“my mother never fell out of love with my father”) and has never felt the need or desire to love another man.When Charlotte disposes of some of his possessions, Alma rescues an old sweater and decides to wear it for the rest of her life.She manages to wear it for 42 days straight.Alma is on her own quest: to know her own father better, to help her younger brother Bird to know him too, to find a lover for her mother and to learn more about her namesake in “The History of Love”.In the midst of this assortment of delicacies, Charlotte receives a letter asking her to translate “The History of Love” from Spanish to English.Family PlotI have included the above plot details, despite my normal reluctance to summarise plots in reviews.Please don’t construe any of the details as spoilers. Most of them are revealed in the first forty pages, only not necessarily in that order.And I have left out a lot of the back story, so that I could set up this context, that family is fundamental to the plot, to “The History of Love”, not to mention history itself.The Paleontological DetectiveEvery crime needs its own detective and every detective needs their own methodology, even a child detective.Nicole Krauss twice mentions the task of paleontologists.“Bird asked what a paleontologist was and Mom said that if he took a complete, illustrated guide to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, shred it into a hundred pieces, cast them into the wind from the museum’s steps, let a few weeks pass, went back and scoured Fifth Avenue and Central Park for as many surviving scraps as he could find, then tried to reconstruct the history of painting, including schools, styles, genres, and names of painters from his scraps, that would be like a paleontologist. “The only difference is that paleontologists study fossils in order to figure out the origin and evolution of life. “Every fourteen-year-old should know something about where she comes from, my mother said. It wouldn’t do to go around without the faintest clue of how it all began.”Here, the historical quest, the puzzle depends on your perspective. And there are two, the young and the old, the present and the past joining together to construct the future.For Alma, the young, the puzzle is what happened before “The History of Love” found its way into her family?For Leo, the old, it is what happened after he wrote “The History of Love”?Both have to sit down, sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently, and work their own methodical way towards a solution of their own puzzle.In a way, their problem is the same: the problem of family.Leo loses a (prospective) wife and a son, Charlotte loses a husband, Alma loses a father.They have all lost the story of their family, of their love.Here, the novel is symbolic of the fate of the Jewish Family in the face of the Holocaust and the Jewish Diaspora.The Jewish Family has been dispersed all over the world, family members have been separated, the spine of their love and connections and cultures and books and stories has been severed.Their book has been shred into a hundred pieces and cast into the wind.Somebody has to scour the world, to find the surviving “scraps”, piece it all together again and reconstruct their history and their culture.And it will take a paleontologist. Or two.You Can Only Lose What You Once HadLeo once had Alma. He had a lover whom he loved and who loved him.He lost her, but he kept his love alive, just as he hoped that the object of his love was still alive (she actually lived until 1995).The novel is almost mythical or mythological in the way it tells this tale.Charlotte tells young Alma: “The first woman may have been Eve, but the first girl will always be Alma.”So Leo and Alma are almost posited against Adam and Eve as the first boy and girl, the first to have mortal parents, the first children who ever fell in love with each other, the first to create a new family.Without the object of his love, he wrote about it.He kept his love alive, his love kept him alive.As he wrote in his own obituary, “He was a great writer. He fell in love. It was his life.”And yet. His life stalled when he lost the object of his love.He ceased to live for any purpose other than the preservation of his love.His love became a fabrication that substituted for and subsumed his life.He appears to be in two minds about this:On the one hand, what more to life is there but love?“I thought we were fighting for something more than her love, he said….What is more than her love? I asked.”On the other hand, he recognised that he needed his invention in order to survive, that reality would have killed him.“What do I want to tell you? The truth? What is the truth? That I mistook your mother for my life? No. Isaac, I said. The truth is the thing I invented so I could live.”And again, his confrontation of the truth:“The truth is that she told me that she couldn’t love me. When she said goodbye, she was saying goodbye forever. And yet. I made myself forget. I don’t know why. I keep asking myself. But I did.”And:“And now at the end of my life, I can barely tell the difference between what is real and what I believe.”Perhaps, the truth is whatever works for you.“My Friend Bruno”Leo constantly refers to his friend Bruno.I have only one head, but I am in two minds as to whether he is real or make believe.He might be a self-generated survival tool.He is modelled on Bruno Schulz, the Polish author of "The Street of Crocodiles", which is referred to a number of times in the novel.He died in 1942, and Leo even mentions that he died in 1941 in the novel.He attempts suicide in the novel, unsuccessfully, so there might be a sense in which he is a darker twin of Leo, who nevertheless manages to prolong his life (in the same way Zvi Litvinoff manages to prolong his life by confiscating and caring for Leo's obituary when he seemed like he was about to die).His role diminishes as Leo embraces reality over the course of the novel.“And Yet”And yet. “And yet.”These two words are so important to the novel.They express Leo’s defiance, his determination not to accept the hand dealt to him, his determination to avoid and evade the evil and the crime and the misfortune around him.It is his imagination, his ability to believe in something else that allows him to achieve this:“I remember the time I first realised I could make myself see something that wasn’t there…And then I turned the corner and saw it. A huge elephant, standing alone in the square. I knew I was imagining it. And yet. I wanted to believe…So I tried…And I found I could.”He has to imagine a better world than the one he has inherited or the one that his world has become.It was his love that enabled him to stop thinking and worrying about death, to stop worrying about the inevitability of his fate.To this extent, love is what keeps us alive, it is our heartbeat, it is the reason our heart beats (even if occasionally it causes our heart to skip a beat).Love is the defiance of death.It’s not just something we do while waiting to die, it’s something that keeps us alive.It keeps individuals alive, it keeps families alive, it keeps cultures alive and it keeps communities alive.Putting Your Legacy into WordsThe great tragedy within Leo’s life after Alma is that he believes his greatest creation, “The History of Love”, has been lost.In fact, it has been misappropriated, albeit without ill will.Again, I don’t mean this to be a spoiler. We, the readers, already know that it must exist in some form, if Alma’s family can read it and Charlotte can be asked to translate it from Spanish to English.Obviously, part of the resolution of the puzzle for Leo must be the recovery of his legacy.It is one of the things that will bond him with the family he had (but wasn’t really able to have).The other thing we find out at the beginning of the novel is that Leo has had a heart attack that has killed one quarter of his heart.This reinvigorates his fear of death and the concern that he might die an invisible man, survived only by “an apartment full of shit”.And yet, it also reinvigorates his creativity (which had stalled as well).Within months, he starts to write again, 57 years after he had previously stopped (possibly when he had finished "The History of Love" and had become an invisible man during the War?).What he writes ends up being 301 pages long, “it’s not nothing”.It’s his memoir, starting off “once upon a time”, in the manner of a fable or a fairy tale, which he almost calls “Laughing and Crying and Writing and Waiting”, but ends up naming “Words for Everything”.It’s a polite, but defiant, retort to Alma’s childhood challenge, “When will you learn that there isn’t a word for everything?”Maybe there isn’t a word for everything, but as “The History of Love” itself illustrates, in the hands of the right person, it is possible to say everything in words.Leo sends the novel off to the address he finds for Isaac, in the hope that he will read it, only to read soon after that his only child has died. (view spoiler)[And yet...what Leo accomplishes over the course of the novel is the knowledge that his son had learned the truth of their family by reading “Words for Everything” and that the true authorship of “The History of Love” had finally become known.His legacy has become concrete, and he can die content. (hide spoiler)]

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

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4.09 rating

Comment 1: Previously Unpublished Manuscript #1Who am I? Who is I? Who is the I?Unlike my friends and colleagues, Professors Calvino and Galligani, I intend to tell you my name and perhaps to reveal something of my modus operandi (soon, too).This one sentence might already have supplied enough information or implication to let you work out or infer who I am?Have you guessed yet? No? Well, my name is Professor Uzzi-Tuzii, though my friends call me Julian. Not only is that my name, but that is who I am. Yes. It's true. I am Professor Uzzi-Tuzii.See how much I have revealed about myself, see how much I have revealed about who I am, about who “I” is!I is me. I am me. I could not be anyone else, could I? I am not and never was Italo Calvino. I am not the Reader, although it's also true I am a reader. Nor then could I be you (as if that is not self-evident to any strict grammarian), so put an end to that speculation. It will not help you to realise anything. It will only frustrate you, which in a way was an objective of the novel "If on a winter's night a traveller".I wish you could see the real me, sitting comfortably here on my swivel chair, on my polished timber floor, looking at my computer screen, surrounded by the music of time.You might learn a little more about me, just by being able to see me.To know the real me, to see the real me, might make me a sight for sore eyes. I am no eyesore (though I appeal less with age). However, I am the remedy you need for your eyesight, I promise, if you will let me, that I will heal your vision, so that you might see.There are none so blind as those who will not see. So I will try to make you see. If you will.What am I going on about? Perhaps, you do not believe me? Perhaps, now, as I promised, I need to explain my modus operandi?Will the detail of my modus operandi overcome your skepticism? Will you only believe me, believe that I am I and I am me, if you know what I do? Do you honestly believe that I cannot be what I am unless I reveal what I do? Or what I did?Oh, what unbelievers we have become.Are you ready?Believe me, I would tell you, I will tell you everything, if you would only believe me.I only say this, I only make this diversion, because some do not believe me. Some believe I am unreliable. Some believe, without seeing me or knowing me, that I am an unreliable narrator.How unfair! How hurtful! Do I deny you? No, of course, I don’t. How could I deny you? I don’t even know you. You must remain innocent, unless and until proven guilty. So I must believe in you, if I am to find you guilty.In order to tell you what I did, there is one other thing I must tell you about who I am, or more precisely who I am not.I am not William Weaver, I am not the translator of "If on a winter's night a traveller", the book you might be reading or would be reading if you were not reading my addendum.That probably goes without saying, though I think it needs to be said.I am not Ermes Marana, the translator of the fictitious book "If on a winter's night a traveller", the book within the novel "If on a winter's night a traveller".Would it help if I explained, there is no such translator?You might already think that he was a fiction, that he wasn’t real, that he was a figment of Italo Calvino’s imagination.I have no doubt that, when my friend Italo learned of his apparent existence, he passed him off as a figment of his imagination. But he is, in reality (if that makes sense), a figment of my imagination, well, a figment of the imagination of those around me.At this stage of my story, the book must be making less sense now than when I started? I apologise, yet I have to argue in my defence that this often happens during the telling of a story.You, the reader, perhaps the Reader, have to let me get on with my story. I have to tell it at my pace, which at my age lacks apparent haste, but you have to cooperate. You have to do your bit. So, can we resume?Perhaps, before we do so, now might be a good time to refill your glass of red or to make a cup of tea...[Editor’s Note: The manuscript breaks off here. It is not known whether this is a piece of fiction.]Previously Unpublished Manuscript #2So how do I start to tell you my story?Italo Calvino never had any such doubt. You should have seen him laugh when I told him about the line from Doctor Who, “First things first, but not necessarily in that order.” He enjoyed starting a story at the beginning so much, he couldn’t help doing it over and over.So I will start at the beginning, in his footsteps.When my story, indeed your story, began, I was in my thirties and at the height of my career as an academic, author and public intellectual as they used to say in those days.Before I met your mother, I thought I could have any woman I wanted, and I almost did.To my great regret, I persisted in this belief after I married Maria, though it was my great good fortune that I never acted on any of my impulses.This story partly concerns just how close I did come.Being an author of fiction, I looked on writing as an act of love, an act of seduction. I caressed meaning out of words as I would caress a woman.I stopped when I met your mother, well, I mean, for a while she became the exclusive focus of my thoughts and caresses. Then, six months after our wedding, at the end of the academic year, I agreed to teach a Creative Writing Course for Masters of Fine Arts students during the three month break.For the first time in many years, there were no male students, there were only ten female students, all of them young, intelligent, attractive, and available, or so I thought at the time.They absorbed information and guidance quickly. Each of them gazed into my eyes, as if they wanted to know the full contents of the dark pool that lay behind.At night, while I caressed your mother skillfully, if not lovingly enough, I could only think of these other temptations.They progressed so well in their studies that we soon came to their practical exercise. Each of them was to write the first chapter of a novel that they would finish after the course.I selfishly came up with the idea of the subject matter, and every one of them agreed compliantly. They would write in the first person, and that first person would be me. They would appear in the chapter under their first name. And each chapter would feature an object that would have significance in the story.Madame Marne: suitcaseBrigd: trunkZwida: pencil boxIrina: instrument caseBernadette: plastic bagMarjorie: phoneLorna: mirrorMakiko: white maple caneAmaranta: fireplaceFranziska: sheet of paperI was hoping that this artifice would disclose some secret feelings towards me, within the limits of what they could say, knowing that their writings would be scrutinized by their (jealous) classmates.Instead of me seducing them with my words, I wanted them to seduce me with theirs. I could hardly contain my excitement. Your mother started to suspect something was happening and cooled to my touch.Then one day, the deadline arrived and all of the students handed in their work.I had insisted that the project be surrounded by secrecy, so much so that I even banned carbon copies (this was before personal computers and laptops). I didn’t even think to photocopy each manuscript at the office. I took them straight home that night and began to read them, one after the other.I know now that, soon after I went to bed, Maria woke and entered my study to read whatever it was that had so fascinated me late into the night.She only had to read a few pages to know what I was up to. She packed her bags and every single one of those manuscripts and disappeared.When I awoke with the sun, I thought your mother had gone to work early and someone else had stolen the manuscripts.I couldn’t think of a motive, unless one of my colleagues had guessed my plan and was determined to frustrate it. Probably that damned Italo Calvino.It was only late in the day, when Maria phoned me to say that she was staying at Italo’s for a few weeks, that I guessed what must have happened.I quickly forgot all of my carnal designs. I was more concerned about what Calvino was doing to my wife, your mother. My colleague, my friend was sleeping with my wife. What better way to best your rival than to sleep with his wife?For all my education though, it was an agitated guess. Jealousy made me err. Italo had no intention of sleeping with your mother.I found out afterwards that he counseled Maria to return to me as soon as possible, especially only days later, when she learned that she was pregnant...to me, of course, with you.It must hurt you to know that, at the time, your mother’s first thought was to have an abortion. Why perpetuate this bond with the fiend that I had become?Italo managed to convince her what a mistake this would have been, and you know what joy you brought to your mother’s life.Still, Italo did do something that I held against him for a long time. He read the manuscripts from beginning to end, even before I had finished them.When, much later, I found out, I felt cheated, as if I had bought a first edition, only to have a friend whisk it away and read it before I had opened it.Sometimes, only you should be the one to smell the scent of those first-opened pages. Not only did Calvino deprive me of this pleasure, he decided to put these manuscripts to much better use than I had intended.He had been planning a novel, the progress of which had stalled at outline stage. These manuscripts provided exactly what he needed.He needed the first chapters of ten stories, told in different voices. What could be better than ten stories told by ten separate students?All he needed to do was insert metafictional interstices. He was planning to write just the interstitials.Of course, he contacted each of my students privately and obtained their signed consent, on the basis that, when they finished their work, he would help promote their literary careers.He did what he had bargained to do. Of the ten, six now have successful writing careers, which I attribute more to Italo’s assistance than my guidance.Despite my pleas, Maria stayed with Calvino for more than four months, by which time it had become quite apparent to everyone that she was pregnant.Her return coincided with the launch of Calvino’s book. Maria returned home to me, resplendent in pregnancy, the morning of his launch party.We attended as an ostensibly happy couple, although I did appear quite sheepish and it took me many years before I actually read his book.My failure to do so is also the reason it took me so long to put all of the pieces of this puzzle together.My students had promised Calvino confidentiality, if only to keep his involvement secret from me.Most importantly, Calvino had wanted your mother and I to repair our relationship, free of any external publicity or pressure.I don’t know what would have happened if I had read his book straight away. I probably would have thought of him as a consummate manipulator.You see, his book wasn’t just a quintessential exercise in metafiction. He was trying to teach me a lesson. He was trying to teach me to love your mother more, not to love her obsessively, but to love her as she deserved.He saw love as the driving force of life itself. Love is the light that keeps darkness at bay. Stars shine and create light, but there is much interstitial darkness. It is the role of love to fill the gaps.When your mother died many years later, I learned that Italo had given her a signed first edition copy of the book for each of you and her.It was their plan to give the two of you your copy when you turned 30, when you had already learned something of life yourselves.When she died, I committed to perform this task on her behalf.You know how upset I was when your mother died. I always felt that I had never loved her enough. You cannot overcompensate in love. An excessive act of love cannot make up for an omission to love. All you can do is love as someone deserves to be loved.I felt so guilty about that time before you were born, that I planned never to write fiction again, at least until the two of you had reached the age of eighteen. I had realised that fiction is too selfish to be compatible with parenthood, after all you two were your parents’ greatest act of creation. By the time you reached eighteen, I had got out of the habit. Only now, in my old age, is the desire to write fiction returning to me.The inscription in your first editions varies in only one word, your first name. Indeed, Italo had two special editions of the book printed with your names reversed in the body of the text where they both appear.In one edition, it reads “Ludmilla”, in the other it reads “Lotaria”.So my beautiful twins, our beautiful twins, I present to you the gift of Italo Calvino and your parents.Italo inscribed your first edition with these words: “The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death. Your life is a story that must be told and only you can do the telling.” Your father learned this lesson the hard way, but I am eternally grateful to your mother and my good friend, Italo Calvino, that you will have the opportunity to tell your stories.Literary Executor’s Note:The above manuscripts were found with Professor Julian Uzzi-Tuzii’s last Will and Testament and two signed first editions of Italo Calvino’s book, "If on a winter's night a traveller".Professor Uzzi-Tuzii died on 8 May, 2012. He was survived by his twin daughters, Ludmilla and Lotaria Uzzi-Tuzii, who turned 30 five days later on Mother’s Day, 13 May, 2012. The Executor of Professor Uzzi-Tuzii’s Estate made the gift to Ludmilla and Lotaria on behalf of both parents.

House of Sand and Fog

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3.79 rating

Comment 1: “And that's what I wanted: obliteration. Decimation. Just an instant smear of me right out of all this rising and falling and nothing changing that feels like living.” In the beginning there was Kathy Nicolo. She is an addict who has been through a drug rehabilitation program. She has been flying straight for a while. She cleans houses for a modest living. She spends most of her free time watching movies, one after the other. All is going okay until she has a dispute with the county over the house her father left her and her brother. They claim she owes back taxes. She goes down to the county offices and gets it “sorted out”, but she continues to get letters from the county office which she promptly throws away without opening. Anybody who has ever dealt with any level of bureaucracy knows that issues are not always “sorted out” the first time. The problem is that Kathy doesn’t have much experience dealing with anything. She avoids, evades, and hits the escape hatch any time anything gets too real. The next thing she knows the cops are on her doorstep explaining to her that she has an order to vacate. Her property has been seized. She meets Deputy Sheriff Lester Burdon as he is escorting her off her property. She can tell by the way he is looking at her that he is attracted to her. She is pretty, waifish, and vulnerable. He has a wife and two kids, but every time he makes love with his wife it feels like he is making out with his sister. They are best friends, comfortable with each other, and like a lot of people he interprets that to mean the spark is gone from the marriage. Kathy, as he soon finds out, is much more than a spark. She is more like a full on raging forest fire. The county sells her property quickly. This is where Colonel Massoud Behrani enters the plot. He and his family were lucky to escape Iran when the Shah is ousted. He was high enough up in the government to see his name appear on the blacklists. His wife has never really forgiven him for the circumstances that have made them immigrants in America. They did escape with some money, but much of that has been eaten up by keeping up appearances with the community of Persians in California. Behrani works two crappy jobs, one picking up trash along the highways and the other as a late night convenience clerk. Both jobs that are difficult to hire Americans to do at any price. “For our excess we lost everything.”It is no wonder to me that immigrants excel in the United States. They take chances. They work hard. They don’t expect anything for nothing. Behrani is no exception and when Kathy’s house comes up for auction he takes the last of their savings and buys the house. As it turns out he is also lucky that only two other bidders show up and he buys the house for a fraction of the value. Now I say lucky, but I always feel we make our own luck. Luck never just happens, you have to give luck a chance to reward you. In his mind he can already see the real estate empire that this first house will help finance. Kathy and Lester hit it off. ”I felt a little better as I pulled the T-shirt over my head and caught the faint scent of vomit and gun oil. Me and Lester.” They are screwing like bunnies and when they are together everything is fine, but when they are apart it becomes readily apparent that their relationship is built out of sand. He starts thinking about how easily she fell into bed with him. She starts thinking he is going to go back to his wife and kids. Kathy really hates the idea of Colonel Behrani and his family in HER house. The county admits it made a mistake, but the sales transaction with Behrani is legal. He would have to agree to sell the house back to the county for what he paid for it. His visions of a hefty profit float up into the fog. Kathy isn’t adhering to the program. ”And I knew to any of my counselors back East my life wouldn’t look very manageable; I was drinking again, and smoking; I was sleeping with a man who’d just left his family, all while I was supposed to be getting back the house I’d somehow lost. I knew they would call the drinking a slip, the smoking a crutch, the love making ‘sex as medication,’ and the house fiasco a disaster my lack of recovery had invited upon itself, and on me.” Embracing those addictions is making her unstable world spin faster while her mind spins slower. It is an unusual situation with all parties being victims of an unresolvable issue with the county. Given what we know about Behrani he isn’t who Kathy thinks he is. Kathy isn’t really who he thinks she is either. As the plot advances we also find out that Lester isn’t who anyone thinks he is either. Of course, Kathy is like nitroglycerin in his head. It always amazes me how one little mistake can lead to such complete chaos. Andre Dubus III keeps adding snakes to the plot until it is all so twisted together that only the sword of Alexander the Great will untie it. Dubus reveals all the characters, even the second tier characters, with such depth that I felt like I know these people. My mind even now is still weighing all the ramifications from everyone’s decisions as if this is an ongoing crisis that is still yet to be resolved. Andre Dubus has done his homework on this very American novel.I enjoyed the real estate aspects of the plot. I also liked the way that Dubus has us ride along with each character giving us free access to their inner thoughts, their hopes, and desires. He also shows how many chances people get to turn their life around. The many hands that are outstretched to keep them from falling too far. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter how much help someone receives they continue to make the same bad decisions until tragedy overtakes them sometimes with equally tragic results for others. They made a movie out of this book in 2003. I’ve not seen the film. I, as usual, skipped the film until I had a chance to read the book. From what I’ve read about the movie they significantly changed the ending, leaving some very important and pivotal scenes in the book out of the plot of the movie. I’m not discouraged because I know that films are a different entity from the book that inspired them. I will report back after watching the movie.

A Dog's Purpose

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4.32 rating

Comment 1: Et, ką jau čia, tebūnie penkios žvaigždutės. Vien už unikalumą - pasakojimą apie šuns gyvenimą šuns akimis, jau galima vertinti šią knygą. Bent man neteko skaityti nieko panašaus. O dar prisideda idėja apie šuns tikslą, ilga istorija su įdomiais vingiais (gaila, pažiūrėjus filmo treilerį kai kurie nebenustebino, nors, laimei, buvo ir kitų, kurie nustebino), humoras, šuniškas požiūris į kates, žmonių gyvenimus, elgesį. Ir vieną kitą ašarą beskaitydama nubraukiau. Verta perskaityti. Ir, manau, ver Comment 2: Acabo de terminarlo, y a pesar de que me parecía un libro entretenido, no estaba cumpliendo mis expectativas hasta las últimas 70 u 80 páginas. Más allá de que no es demasiado inesperado, debo confesar que como se cierra el libro me pudo y me llegó muy profundo a nivel personal. Quizás fue mí experiencia personal y el hecho de haber perdido a Ramón (mí perro) mucho antes de que estuviera preparado para hacerlo y esa esperanza de haberle podido brindar una vida plena y feliz, lo que hizo que me i Comment 3: This was a very sweet book. Written from a dog's point of view, the story seemed more emotional. The gentleness and trust that I imagine all dogs have, is presented very well here. As such, the reader quickly falls in love with the dog, making the reader cry. Sometimes there were tears of joy, because something was just so darned right and sweet and happy. Sometimes there were tears of sadness. At all times, the story was compelling and well-written. Excellent quick read; particularly when you w

Invisible Monsters Remix

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4 rating

Comment 1: REVIEW ALSO ON: http://bibliomantics.com/2012/06/01/a......We’ve all seen extended edition and director’s cuts of movies, but this is the first time I have ever come across an author’s cut of a book. With this hardcover release of Chuck Palahniuk’s third published novel (but his first in terms of writing), he took the opportunity to change the linear format that was originally published in 1999 and release it the way he initially envisioned it. The intention was to give the reader the feel of literally getting lost inside the book, as one would be with a Vogue magazine. Which you have to admit is kind of perfect for a novel centered around beauty, perceptions, and transformation. Sadly no Madonna songs though.So how exactly is this achieved? The narrative flips the reader around from chapter to chapter (41, 1, 40, 2, 39, 4, 38, 5, 37, 6, etc.) with the instructions at the end of each chapter to, “Now, Please Jump to Chapter …” So polite. This makes things intriguing, because unlike in a typical book where a dwindling number of pages signal the end is coming, you don’t know exactly when Invisible Monsters Remixwill reach its climax. And as with the original Invisible Monsters, the narrative itself skips around in time, so you will be well and truly lost in the events while you read. It’s a non-linear format inside a non-linear format, a mirror image. It couldn’t be produced as intended initially, but now at least it can be read and enjoyed by Chuck’s legion of fans.One downside to this format, is that you might inadvertently see key bits of information as you flip through from chapter to chapter. This will lead you to wonder exactly how the narrative could lead there, so at least it’s not a total spoiler. Think of it as a darker version of “How I Met Your Mother”, but more akin to, “How I Lost My Face”. Page numbers would probably be easier for a reader to navigate from place to place, but I imagine it would be a logistics nightmare in terms of publishing every time the book gets re-released or the format is changed. This way at least is manageable for everyone except the dyslexics, but let’s be honest, page numbers would be even more difficult to follow.While the original novel was published in a straightforward manner to please readers and make it more marketable, this version is Palahniuk’s original vision. Due to this, in addition to jumping around from chapter to chapter, there are also additional chapters outside this “straightforward” narrative. Twelve to be exact, split up into three sections which instruct the reader to loop between chapters over and over again. For example chapter 3 to chapter 16 to chapter 30 to chapter 3. Lather, rinse, repeat. Even after you’re done with the main story there’s even more to discover. We’re back to the Vogue magazine idea here.Most of these side stories deal with the process of revision and re-imagining famous movies, as Chuck did with this novel, while others detail where our narrator is now (after her story). These sections are all new additions to the original novel, and some chapters are even written backwards, forcing you to read the words in a mirror. It’s a pain, but there is a purpose about reflections and mirrors and being forced to look at yourself while you read. You’re reading while watching yourself read while you read… You get the picture. It’s the idea of multiple reflections which function the same as the chapters that repeat on a loop. Where does it all begin and end? So many moebius strips, so little time.The third and most interesting of these narrative diversions contains biographical stories about Chuck’s own life. There are three separate stories in this loop, one which deals with a road trip that inspired this novel, one about when he was writing his first manuscript, and a third about being on set for the film of his novel turned movie, Choke. Since the fictional story deals so much with impossible sounding coincidences (even though our world is a small one), Chuck shares some of his own coincidences in these stories, from a shared memory between him and a friend he hadn’t met yet, to the death of the mother he wrote about correlating to his own mother’s death, and all the coincidences in between. They’re poignant, beautiful, and most importantly true.As with most of Chuck P. novels, there is a repetitive element throughout the narrative. Where in Fight Club it was “I am Jack’s” insert organ of the body here (my personal favorite is “raging bile duct”), this story also has a similar narrative trick. In this novel, weaved throughout is the flash of a camera taking photos with a wide variety of emotions being yelled out as if by a fashion photographer. The most memorable line being, “Give me lust, baby. Flash. Give me malice. Flash. Give me detached existentialist ennui. Flash.” There are also paragraphs starting with the phrase, “Jump to…” to tell the reader that the story is once again jumping in time and location. Spoiler alert: this happens more than in a “Doctor Who” episode.There are plenty of reasons why this new structure works so well in this choose your own adventure type chapter hopping format, but I appreciate it even more for what it says about life. The end of a book generally doesn’t signal the end of a character’s life, unless you’re reading a historical fiction novel, and Palahniuk knows that. So rather than bring the end of the narrator’s story to the end of the novel, he wisely ends it somewhere in the middle, where stories generally leave their protagonists on their journey through life. Bravo on that Chuck.

Prodigal Summer

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3.96 rating

Comment 1: Very descriptive and calming. Three stories tied into one, and cleaned up neatly at the end. A good summertime read.I read this book again, so I can write a better review, since this book definitely deserves a second thought.This is a book to be savored, meaning, it is not a light easy read, and it isn't fluff. It isn't loaded with heavy issues (Barbara Kingsolver's "Poisonwood Bible" is definitely a heavier chunk o' reading compared to this) but I feel to truly appreciate "Prodigal Summer", one must be in the right mindset.This book takes three stories and alternates chapters with three different points of view. If you can pay attention to detail, you won't have trouble picking up on very subtle things the author leaves along the way, like bread crumbs on the trail that weaves through the three tales. However, Kingsolver is not an in-your-face author. She won't nudge you and say "Didja catch that? Didja?" It's up to you to find the "clues", so to speak.Each story/chapter has it's own title. "Predators" is essentially a love story, an older "mountain woman" and a much younger hunter meet by chance on a mountain trail. Their story isn't so much love as it is obsession. In terms of nature, their story is very detailed. I love how Kingsolver can describe a tree, a rainstorm, a snake, a bug, a cabin in the woods and each time it's different and beautiful. She doesn't feel like she flipped through a thesaurus and learned new words as she went along. Her language is very easy and flows nicely with the setting of the story. Since Deanna Wolfe is a woman who has lived on the mountain for two years observing the flora and fauna, this type of dialect would come easily to her. The second story/chapter is "Moth Love". Lusa Widener married a farmer, Cole, the only brother of five sisters. Lusa is Polish/Arabian and finds herself the owner of a tobacco farm at the foot of the mountains. She is not a farmer herself, but a botanist and a "bug lady" and struggles with relating to anyone in her new family. Her ideas about farming get her ridiculed. The third story/chapter is "Old Chestnuts". Garnett Walker is a man in his eighties, a retired vo-ag teacher who is grafting a new chestnut tree to withstand the blight that took out all the American chestnuts in the region. He is an extremely focused, uptight, aged man who just wants to be left alone on his farm and in his own routine, except for one thorn in his flesh, his neighbor Nannie Rawley, whose apple orchard, beehives, and gardening techniques cause him agitation and stress.I enjoyed this book even more the second time I read it. The dialect flows easily, the setting is very real, and the stories all tie up nicely by the end. I love the subtlety of this book, and still the complexity of instinct, life, death, rebirth, and finding our purpose here, among nature, to co-exist in some kind of harmony.

Jitterbug Perfume

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4.23 rating

Comment 1: Talk about not understanding what all the fuss is about. If I'm not mistaken, Tom Robbins is kind of a literary legend in some circles, and at the very least has sold millions of books. And while there's certainly an intelligent, probing mind behind this sexual-philosophical hodgepodge of a book, the sum of the parts of my first foray into Robbins' world was not much fun to read.I recently read an interview with Tom Robbins in which the author admits to being able to write about two pages a day. This makes sense to me because I was able to read about two pages of Jitterbug Perfume a day. I read this book out loud to my girlfriend, over many months, usually in bed before going to sleep. We thought it would be a fun book to read together, and at first it very much was, but by the end it was a struggle to get through even a few paragraphs without nodding off. Robbins sets a colorful cast of characters in motion right from the get-go: There's Priscilla, a sexually frustrated "genius waitress" trying to invent perfume in her Seattle apartment. There's Madame Devalier and her assistant V'lu, who also make perfume in New Orleans, and there's yet a third perfume-making team out in Paris, whose names I can't remember so pointless were they to the story. (And yet, they are talked about as if they are important, a penchant Robbins seems to have for... nearly everything. Every sentence of Jitterbug Perfume rings with an air of unfathomable significance, as if Robbins has solved the mysteries of the universe and has taken it upon himself to explain it to us. It's all VERY self-important.)Anywho! Not one of the aforementioned characters is very interesting, but it's intriguing to imagine how they all might connect. Also, Robbins kept us hooked (initially) with the tale of yet another set of characters, Alobar and Kudra, a couple who meets something like 900 years ago, then proceeds to learn ancient eastern self-preservation techniques and live healthily and happily until the present day. At first, it's fascinating to simply follow these strange, exotic characters around a bygone Eastern world, but Robbins can't sustain the momentum. When they actually start living forever, moving through time and geographical location, it feels like we are living forever right along with them. They have long, tedious conversations expounding on love and relationships and spirituality and immortality and other stuff I can't remember and they meet the god Pan, who makes everyone he encounters extremely turned on despite the fact he smells horrible.I dunno... I'm getting tired even thinking about this book, let alone trying to describe hundreds of pages of arbitrary plot detritus that I've already spent months slogging through. Simply put, Robbins' pinballing wackiness and juxtaposition of the mythical and the real felt contrived to me, and his relentless stream of off-kilter metaphors and humorous asides felt a.) dated as hell comedy-wise (like the literary version of 1980s stand-up comics), and b.) extremely self-satisfied, as if he was constantly winking and nudging us and saying "can you believe I'm describing something this way? can you believe it? eh, sonny? pull my finger!"This funny/dirty old man vibe achieves downright unpleasant proportions in the second half of the book, when the Priscilla character falls for a much older man/social theorist named Wiggs Dannyboy, who she bangs relentlessly in scene after scene of squirm-inducing sexual depiction (positions? thrust patterns? fluids? You name it, you got it.) These scenes feel all too much like some kind of fantasy the middle-aged Robbins (At the time of Jitterbug's inception, that is) is enacting on the page—and they're gross.It would all be ok (gross sex, Robbins' arrogance, meandering plot threads) if it all went somewhere, but it doesn't. It really doesn't. The disparate characters do come together, but not in any meaningful fashion, and last-minute additions like Wiggs Dannyboy, Bingo Pajama and a strangely sentient swarm of bees feel tacked on, and boring in their arbitrariness. There are some nice ideas in Jitterbug Perfume—some pointed stuff about deep breathing, healthy eating, and general soulful living predates the alternative lifestyle movement by at least a decade or more—but lord you have to dig to find it. And dig, and dig, and dig...

Message in a Bottle

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3.92 rating

Comment 1: For those of you (like me) who have seen the movie of the same name starring Kevin Costner, the end of this novel will come as no surprise. I knew what I was getting in for when I started this book and kept the tissues well-stocked. In fact, I had to stop reading it on the bus for fear of crying in public.Instead of going into a detailed review, I'd like to share with you an excerpt of an interview Nicholas Sparks did with the NY Times after writing this novel. He shares his inspiration but I have to warn you, it is gut wrenching..."Message in a Bottle was inspired by my father after the death of my mother. In 1989, six weeks after I was married, my mother and father went horseback riding. They were avid riders and very comfortable on horses, and were simply walking the horses along a scenic trail. For a reason that no one can explain -- we assume it was the horse, a rather skittish Arabian -- my mom fell out of the saddle, off the horse, hit her head on a rock, had a cerebral hemorrhage and died. My mother and father had married at the age of twenty-one and my father was absolutely crushed by her death. They'd been married twenty-seven years and my father didn't have the slightest idea of what it meant to be a grown-up without my mom. A lot of people wear black to a funeral. My father wore black every day for four years. He pretty much became a recluse. He pulled away from his family and friends, he stopped going out, he stopped doing pretty much everything. All he did was go to work and back home again. It was heart-breaking to watch. After four long years of worrying about him, my father finally started taking baby steps out in the world again. He started reconnecting with family and friends, eventually he started to date again -- think more years passing -- eventually he met someone in particular, eventually he fell in love again. And then one day, about seven years after my mom had died, I got a call from my father. "I'm engaged," he said. Now, I was happy about that, not because I didn't care about my mom -- I adored her -- but because I'd been so worried about my father. Kids worry about their parents the same way parents worry about their kids, and I was glad that he'd finally found someone. Two days after that phone call, my father was driving home late one night, fell asleep at the wheel of his car, crashed, and died . . ."Is it better to have loved and lost then never loved at all? Nicholas Sparks says yes and after reading Message in a Bottle, I'm inclined to agree. PS It's 100% just as good as the movie. Promise.

The Shell Seekers

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4.1 rating

Comment 1: a novel set in England during WWII and into the supposed present. This is one of Lynnette’s favorite books so I wanted to read it to try to understand what she likes. It is written with a definite woman’s point of view in terms of language and emphasis. I did like the book; Pilcher is a very good writer with depth in her characterizations and descriptions of places and people. The story is about an older woman, Penelope, who reflects back on her life. She has three older children, two who are self centered and selfish, the other a caring and compassionate person. The story helps one to understand how much better it is to be in the compassionate group. Here are a few quotes from the book:“Of course, age brought its other horrors. Loneliness and sickness. People were always talking about the loneliness of old age, but Penelope relished her solitude. She had never lived alone before, and at first had found it strange, but gradually had learned to accept it as a blessing and to indulge herself in all sorts of reprehensible ways, like getting up when she felt like it, scratching herself if she itched, sitting up until two in the morning to listen to a concert. And food was another thing. All her life she had cooked for her family and friends and she was an excellent cook, but she discovered, as time went by, an underlying penchant for the most disgusting snacks. Baked beans eaten cold, with a teaspoon, out of the tin. Bottled salad cream spread over lettuce, and a certain sort of pickle which she would have been ashamed to set on her table in the old days of Oakly Street.” p. 119“Self-reliance. That was the keyword, the one thing that could pull you through any crisis fate chose to hurl at you To be yourself. Independent. Not witless. Still able to make my own decisions and plot the course of what remains of my life. I do not need my children. Knowing their faults, recognizing their short comings. I love them all, but I do not need them. P. 286“Nothing good is ever lost. It stays part of a person, becomes part of one’s character.” P.286“She found herself filled with gratitude. Not simply to them for all the hard work they had accomplished during the course of the morning, but for them as well. They had, without saying a word, restored her tranquility of mind, her sense of values, and she sent up a swift and heartfelt thank-you to the twist of fate (or was it the hand of God—she wished she could be certain) that had introduced them, like a second chance, into her life.” P. 287“Luxury, I think, is the total fulfillment of all five senses at once. Luxury is now. I feel warm; and, if I wish, I can reach out and touch your hand. I smell the sea and as well, somebody inside the hotel is frying onions. Delicious. I am tasting cold beer, and I can hear gulls, and water lapping, and fishing boat’s engine going chug-chug-chug in the most satisfactory sort of way.” P. 416“She mustn’t forget any of the things that Mumma really liked; not just lovely music, and having people stay, and growing flowers, and ringing up for ling chats just when you most hoped she would. But other things—like laughter, and fortitude and tolerance, and love. Olivia knew she must not let these qualities go from her life, just because Mumma had gone. Because, if she did, then the nicer side of her complex personality would shrivel and die, and she would be left with nothing but her inborn intelligence, and her relentless, driving ambition. She had never contemplated the security of marriage, but she needed men—if not as lovers, then as friends. To receive love, she must remain a woman prepared to give it, otherwise she would end up as a bitter and lonely old lady, with a cutting tongue and probably not a friend in the world.” P. 546

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

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3.72 rating

Comment 1: I'm no fan of mystery, crime or detective books - the bore me, generally, though I loved Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher books in high school and Agatha Christie's Ten Little Niggers gave me chills (since renamed And Then There Were None, for obvious reasons - but I've got an old edition).The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency is a real gem, however. I absolutely loved it. Wise, funny, intelligent, insightful and blushing with vigour and a heartfelt love of Africa, I'm not in the least surprised this series - of which this is the first book - has done so well.Set in Botswana, it features thirty-five year old Mma Ramotswe, a cunning, content and large (in the "traditional" way) woman who, after her father dies leaving her many head of cattle, sells up and opens a detective agency. Hired to track missing husbands, cheating husbands and thieving husbands, as well as daughters, sons and witch doctors, Precious Ramostwe has her hands full. Woven amongst the cases are beautiful descriptions of the land, insights into African culture in all its myriad forms, the life of her father, a miner in South Africa, and her own disastrous marriage which ended many years ago, and a sweet offer of love from one of her best friends, a successful mechanic.What is especially intriguing about this book, for me, is its seemingly chaotic structure. It follows no neat format, employs chapters within chapters, retells the past without incorporating it into the plot, shifts perspective between characters (though Mma Ramotswe has the focal perspective) whenever desired, and could sometimes be mistaken for short stories. And it all works, superbly so. It's new and refreshing and extremely well written, every word and sentence and paragraph there for a reason, the small plotlines and overarching plot spun out with perfect timing and deft handling. It is serious and wise and thoughtful when it needs to be, and light and ironic at other times. I kept thinking "this'd make a great tv show!" only to find that the BBC have already jumped on that bandwagon - shame it hasn't made it to Canada.Mma Ramotswe is a fantastic protagonist, a woman who stands up for herself and loves Africa despite its problems. I'm always interested in reading books set in Africa - the continent fascinates and intrigues me, its beauty draws me, and its the closest place to Australia, in terms of landscape and climate, that there is, which makes me feel like it's a kindred spirit. There are many places there that I would love to visit.I could go on for ages highlighting all the great things in this book - I have absolutely nothing negative to say or complain about, and it was wonderful to read a book with proper English spelling intact (except, at one point, the word "humour", which was very odd). The proof-readers should be careful about looking for wrong dialogue punctuation though - end quotation marks before a paragraph break within someone's speech. I'm seeing it occur in almost all the books I've been reading lately, it's very shoddy.

Angle of Repose

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4.27 rating

Comment 1: I finished the book almost three weeks ago, but then I got caught in the day job with overtimes and in the year end parties, I hope I will get back here and give it the consideration and attention it deserves.For now, let me just say that it is worthy of using caps, as in Great American Novel.----------------[update]Lyman Ward is a retired professor of history, immobilized in a wheelchair by a bone disease that has left his body twisted, his vertebrae fused so that his neck is unable to turn, so he can only look in one direction. Lyman decides that the best use of his last years of life is to cast this fixed look back into the past, throwing himself with dogged determination into the study of the papers, mostly letters, left behind by his grandmother: Susan Burling Ward.In writing down the history of his grandmother, Lyman offers us a comprehensive look at how “the West was won”, as Susan Wards leaves behind a comfortable and socially rewarding artistic career in New York in the 1890’s to follow her husband, engineer Oliver Ward, into the untamed, rough territories of California, Colorado, Mexico and Idaho. A small part of the decision to write down he history of the Ward family comes from Lyman’s grumpy complaints at how Hollywood and the younger generation (represented by his son Rodman) are misrepresenting the subject: Rodman, like most sociologists and most of his generation, was born without a sense of history. . He would much better like that his father wrote about: Lola Montez, say, that wild girl from an Irish peat bog who became the mistress of half the celebrities of Europe, including Franz Liszt and Dumas, pere or fils or both, before taking up with King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her Countess of Landsfeld. And from there, in 1856, to San Francisco, where she danced the spider dance for miners and fortune hunters, and from there to Grass Valley to live for two years with a tame bear who couldn’t have been much of an improvement on Ludwig.That’s Rodman’s idea of history. Every fourth-rate antiquarian in the West has panned Lola’s poor little gravel. My grandparents are a deep vein that has never been dug. They were ‘people’. Another quote addresses the same revisionist and distorted writing of history that Lyman feels the need to correct. In his choice of the main character, Susan Burling Ward, Lyman repeatedly stresses her upper class upbringing, her Quaker background and her Victorian morals. Reading through the preface, it is also important to note that Stengler had been inspired by a real 19 century lady whose letters he quotes word for word in parts of the text: There are several dubious assumptions about the early West. One is that it was the home of intractable self-reliance amounting to anarchy, whereas in fact large parts of it were owned by Eastern and foreign capital and run by iron-fisted bosses. Another is that it was rough, ready, and unkempt, and ribald about anything not as unkempt as itself, whereas in fact there was never a time or place where gentility, especially female gentility, was more respected. The motivation of Lyman though, and through him that of Stengler himself, is not the objective study of history, but the subjective investigation of his own life. For Lyman, the past must hold the answers to why his own marriage has failed, why he feels enstanged from his children, why he cannot find rest in his own mind. According to an interview cited in the preface, Stengler’s declared goal is “to discover a usable continuity between the past and present “, a theme that is reinforced and reiterated throughout the novel. apparently this theme is present in other novels from the author, and the study of family history directly addresses his own childhood and the tensions between his adventurous father and his nest building mother: Before I can say I am, I was. Heraclitus and I, prophets of flux, know that the flux is composed of parts that imitate and repeat each other. Am or was, I am cumulative, too. I am everything I ever was, whatever you or Leah may think. I am much of what my parents and especially my grandparents were – inherited stature, coloring, brains, bones (that part unfortunate), plus transmitted prejudices, culture, scruples, likings, moralities, and moral errors that I defend as if they were personal and not familial. The title of the novel itself is a superb metaphor of this search for identity and for companionship, a term borrowed from technical manuals (I was actually teaching some class last month about the importance of this value when digging trenches) that likens the marriage of two completely different personalities to a play of tensions and continuous struggles, until, maybe, they can find a stable position that allows them to live together peacefully. Lyman addresses his grandmother directly in this: You were too alert to the figurative possibilities of words not to see the phrase as descriptive of human as well as detrital rest. As you said, it was too good for mere dirt; you tried to apply it to your own wandering and uneasy life. It is the angle I am aiming for myself, and I don’t mean the rigid angle at which I rest in this chair. I wonder if you ever reached it. There was a time up there in Idaho when everything was wrong; your husband’s career, your marriage, your sense of yourself, your confidence, all came unglued together. Did you come down out of that into some restful 30 degrees angle and live happily ever after? If the meaning was not clear enough already, Lyman returns to it in another chapter: What interests me in all these papers is not Susan Burling Ward the novelist and illustrator, and not Oliver Ward the engineer, and not the West they spend their lives in. What really interests me is how two such unlike particles clung together, and under what strains, rolling downhill into their future until they reached the angle of repose where I knew them. That’s where the interest is. That’s what the meaning will be if I find any. [...]What held him and Grandmother together for more than sixty years? Passion? Integrity? Culture? Convention? Inviolability of contract? Notions of possession? By some standards they weren’t even married, they just had a paper signed by some witnesses. The first dozen years they knew each other, they were more apart than together. These days, that marriage wouldn’t have lasted any longer than one of these hippie weddings with homemade rituals. What made that union of opposites hold them?The novel itself alternates between the 1890’s and the 1970’s, between the life of Oliver and Susan Ward, and the present struggles of Lyman, who finds much to complain about the “now” generation, about the hippie movement and its casual atitudes to sex and marriage, about the young people’s “antihistoricism, intolerance and hypocrisies”. Stengler uses the character of Shelly, a young lady who assists Lyman in his research, as a literary device to introduce the debate of modern versus traditional values: Somewhere, sometime, somebody taught her to question everything – though it might have been a good thing if he’d also taught her to question the act of questioning. Carried far enough, as far as Shelly’s crowd carries it, that can dissolve the ground you stand on. I suppose wisdom could be defined as knowing what you have to accept, and I suppose by that definition she’s a long way from wise. Shelly is a college dropout and a former member of a hippie commune, occassional drug consumer and self declared free spirit. In his crankiness and anti-modern rants, Lyman reminds me of another subjective historian, Ebenezer le Page, but I like most of all how each of them is a reflection of the places where they grew up, Ebenezer on Guernsey and Lyman in the West, and yet they come pretty close in atitudes: If I were a modern writing about a modern young woman I would have to do her wedding night in grisly detail. The custom of the country and the times would demand a description, preferably ‘comic’, of foreplay, lubrication, penetration, and climax, and in deference to the accepted opinions about Victorian love, I would have to abort the climax and end the wedding night in tears and desolate comfortings. But I don’t know. I have a good deal of confidence in both Susan Burling and the man she married. I imagine they worked it out without the need of any scientific lubricity and with even less need to make their privacies public. The novel is a long one, and the pace is often crawling like a snail though minute details of everyday life events and concerns, but I was fascinated by the glimpse into the early days of mercury mining at Almaden and silver at Leadville or in Mexico, about the struggle to bring water to the quasy desert lands of Idaho. Most of all I was intrigued and enchanted by Susan Ward, by her intelligent and daring eye cast upon the majestic landscapes and colourful people of the frontier, by her determination to maintain the proprieties and the gentility she was accustomed to on the East Coast, even when living in precarious, even dangerous conditions. I will leave out most of the informations about her difficult relationship with Oliver, because this is the true key of the novel, and best learned at the pace the author sets, but I have a couple of quotes I think illustrate her personality: Exposure followed by sanctuary was somehow part of Grandmother’s emotional need, and it turned out to be the pattern of her life. --- She had the terrier temperament, and she was interested in everything that moved. Through the black silk face mask that Emelita had given her as protection against the muy fuerte Mexican sun, her eyes were very busy. Her pencil was always out. --- Have you ever built a house with your own hands, out of the materials that Nature left lying around? Everyone should have that experience once. It is the most satisfying experience I know. We have been as fascinated as children who build forts or snowhouses, and it has made us the tightest little society in all the West. --- Salt is added to dried rose petals with the perfume and spices, when we store them away in covered jars, the summers of our past. If Susan is the artist and the homesteader in the story, the one who seeks intellectual and social satisfactions and safety, comfort and peace in her house, Oliver is the embodiment of the pioneer spirit, of the restlessness, idealism and inventivity that tamed the wilderness and brought prosperity to the country, sacrifing personal life for the good of the community. If Susan is represented by her graphic illustrations and the novels she wrote, Oliver heritage is in the spurs, bowie knife and revolver that are hanged on the wall of the house he built with his own hands, a reminder that the West was also a harsh and unforgiving place.Stengler is a calculated and analytical writer, but in writing about the country he grew up in he turns lyrical and passionate. My favorite passages are the descriptions of the mountains and deserts I have seen so often in Western movies, the high country where ““the air was that high blue mountain kind that fizzes in the lungs”. Humour is used sparely, and often with a bitter aftertaste, especially in the contemporary passages, but I have saved a gem from Oliver, referring to the Colorado mining camp in Leadville: The only way you could avoid a view up there is to go undergound The final chapters are painfully intimate and sad, the historian giving way in all instances to the lonely man captive inside a twisted body, to literary references ranging from Thoreau’s escapism to Thomas Wolfe homecoming, to meditations that transcend the individual fate of Susan and Oliver Ward and the geographical constraints of one country. I believe the final quotes speak for themselves: It is not quite true that you can’t go home again. I have done it, coming back here. But it gets less likely. We have had too many divorces, we have consumed too much transportation, we have lived too shallowly in too many places. Is it love or sympathy that makes me think myself capable of reconstructing these lives, or am I, Nemesis in a wheelchair, bent on proving something – perhaps that not even gentility and integrity are proof against the corrosions of human weakness, human treachery, human disappointment, human inability to forget? Civilizations grow by agreements and accommodations and accretions, not by repudiations. The rebels and the revolutionaries are only eddies, they keep the stream from getting stagnant but they get swept down and absorbed, they’re a side issue. Quiet deperation is another name for the human condition. If revolutionaries would learn that they can’t remodel a society by day after tomorrow – haven’t the wisdom to and shouldn’t be permitted to – I’d have more respect for them. Revolutionaries and sociologists. God, those sociologists! They’re always trying to reclaim a tropical jungle with a sprinkling can full of weed killer. Civilizations grow and change and decline – they aren’t remade. They were vertical people, they lived by pride, and it is only by the ocular illusion of perspective that they can be said to have met. But he had been dead two months when she lay down and died too, and that may indicate that at the absolute vanishing point they did intersect. They had intersected for years, for more than he especially would ever admit.There must be some other possibility than death or lifelong penance, said the Ellen Ward of my dream, the woman I hate and fear. I am sure she meant some meeting, some intersection of lines; and some cowardly, hopeful geometer in my brain tells me it is the angle at which two lines prop each other up, the leaning-together from the vertical which produces the false arch. For lack of a keystone, the false arch may be as much as one can expect in this life. Only the very lucky discover the keystone. Angle of Repose is a book I intend to re-read and recommend in the future to all my friends, as one of the best examples of modern writing and one of the most powerful histories of family drama and redemption.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

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3.58 rating

Comment 1: If you know anyone that is impulsive, spendy, and irresponsible, do not let him/her read this book. Seriously.Because for any normal woman (or man--I must avoid gender stereotyping) with above average impulsive shopping tendencies, this book will make him/her feel better about his/herself. Take me, for example. When I am confronted by a cute pair of shoes or some colorful household item, I get kind of...well...impulsive, spendy, and irresponsible. Sometimes, my willpower can overrule that temptation, though passing through the Times Square and the Fifth Ave area multiple times during the week for work really weakens my resolve. But the girl in this book? Imagine the above scenario on crack plus the mentality of a hyped up mallrat who's won a $100,000 dollars. Enough money for it to become a sizable investment, but little enough that it could probably be spent in a half a day if all that person did was shop couture. Are you kind of disgusted yet? Or are you secretly hoping that person will indulge?THIS IS THE DILEMMA THAT I FACED THIS ENTIRE BOOK. Becky, the protagonist, literally just keeps spending and spending and spending and spending, despite the bills that are piling up in her desk drawer. In order to escape her debts, Becky dreams up the most ridiculous "spend less, make more" schemes, all which crash and burn before they even begin. After each failure, we watch her spend more money on things she doesn't need that leads her down a dark spiral of debt and self loathing.In a weird, twisted way, it's kind of entertaining and a little harrowing. Who hasn't felt that guilt before, buying something on a whim that is inessential to survival? It's a very touchy issue, but the author explores the mentality of a woman trapped by the glitter and glam of a highly materialistic society very well. It's a bit exaggerated, but I bet the core issues resound in the minds of millions of people. What I really disliked about this book, though, was that Becky's rehabilitation was just too darn easy. I'm willing to forgive a lot in this book, but not the assumption that the only criteria of getting one's life back together after repeated financial purging of one's bank account and credit score is to be a good person. You get the guy, the job, the money...only after bothering to care about someone else for once? Puh-leeze. I'd been hoping that life would smack some more sense into this silly airhead, not reinforce her bad habits. She's still a silly airhead after the book... Perhaps just a little more bearable.Overall, I'm hovering between 2.5 stars to 3 stars. The writing wasn't fantastic but it wasn't terrible either, and there is a certain addicting quality about this book that doesn't let you go. Recommended for some people with a lot of patience, and definitely not recommended for people who hate shopping or hate to take their girlfriends/boyfriends/wives/husbands/kids shopping.

L'élégance Du Hérisson

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3.71 rating

A Paris, dans un immeuble rue de Grenelle, la vie est animée par de petits différends de copropriété ou de voisinage. Deux narratrices prennent alternativement la parole pour relater la vie de l'immeuble. La première est la concierge, Renée, douée d'une intelligence très acérée, la seconde, Paloma, est une gamine de 12 ans, surdouée et affligée d'une famille qui ne la mérite pas.

The Corrections

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3.76 rating

Comment 1: An Opportunity to Make A Few CorrectionsI read “The Corrections” pre-Good Reads and originally rated it four stars.I wanted to re-read (and review) it, before starting “Freedom”.I originally dropped it a star because I thought there was something unsatisfying about the whole Lithuanian adventure.Perhaps, when I re-read it, I wouldn’t object to it as much and I could improve my rating.Having just finished it, I could probably add a half-star, but I’m not ready to give it five.Second time around, the Vilnius section didn’t grate as much, partly because it was far shorter and more innocuous than I recalled.However, the second reading helped me to work out what stopped it being a five star effort for me.The First DraftFranzen’s writing is easy to read.He’s a skilful writer, he knows his chops.His style is both fluent and fluid. You can dip in for a short session and suddenly find that you’ve read 50 to 70 pages pretty effortlessly.He accumulates detail, but he points you confidently in a direction, even if you don’t know what your destination will be.He seems to have put his prattishness behind him now, so it’s possible to appreciate his writing without peering darkly through the lens of the Oprah spectacle.Because he writes in a realist manner, I think that whether or not you will enjoy his novel depends on whether you relate to his subject matter and his characters.“The Corrections” is primarily concerned with the dynamics of a family.I have never been a fan of family sagas, so I was initially apprehensive.Also, when I first read it, I was over-exposed to film about dysfunctional families and the social problems they generate.However, I don’t see the Lamberts as dysfunctional so much as typical of the thermodynamics that can be present in three relatively ambitious and driven generations in the 21st century.I’d venture to say that they’re more normal than abnormal.They don't commit any grievous social crimes, although they do a lot of emotional damage internally.Punch LinesStylistically, the novel is written in the third person.This allowed Franzen to drop the reader, like a fly on a wall, into a number of different homes and rooms in homes.From this vantage point, we’re able to observe numerous family members, not only externally but internally as well.The only negative thing I want to say about this is that, what Franzen dedicated 566 pages to, I think someone like Raymond Carver could have done in 166 pages.When Carver writes, we ascertain his meaning and intent by inference from the skeletal facts and action on the page.Franzen leaves little to inference. Everything is spelt out. Meticulously and elegantly, to give him due credit.He doesn’t pull any punches, but equally he signals all of his punches along the way.This is the one reservation I have about his style.There is a sense in which he is a perceptive commentator and essayist, at the expense of being a truly great technical novelist.Time and time again, I found that he layered detail and content on the page by telling us about it rather than creating the illusion that it was happening in front of our eyes and ears.There is a lot of back story, and not enough front story.Interior DesignThere isn’t a lot of action, at least externally.The action is largely interior and individual.Little is revealed through the interaction of the characters.Most of it is revealed by way of contemplation or recollection.The personal tensions that are the focus of the plot end up being in your head, rather than in your face.While I found it all interesting, I didn’t find it exciting.I can therefore understand why a large proportion of general readers would find it either too intimidating to start or too boring to finish.To this extent, you can understand why Franzen was concerned that, because of Oprah’s endorsement, many people would buy the book, without reading or enjoying it.They weren’t really the readers that Franzen had in mind when he wrote it.Perhaps, he would have written a different book if he wanted them to read it.Instead, he wrote for an audience of readers a lot more like himself in temperament.This isn’t meant to suggest that he was arrogant, only that he didn’t want to disappoint an audience he wasn’t trying to satisfy in the first place.The Blue ChairThe patriarch of the Lambert family is Alfred, a retired railway engineer and part-time bio-tech inventor.His wife, Enid, calls him Al. To his three children, he’s obviously “Dad”. Yet, Franzen constantly refers to him as Alfred, even though he doesn’t come across as pretentious or affected in any way.You get the impression that Alfred’s old-fashioned rigidity starts with his name and works down.Whereas, in the hands of Carver, I’m pretty confident that he would have been an abbreviated Al or Fred or a contracted “Lambo” or a work-derived nickname.We soon learn that Alfred has a great blue chair that takes pride of place.It’s described as overstuffed and “vaguely gubernatorial”, but most importantly it “was the only major purchase Alfred had ever made without Enid’s approval”.It has great metaphorical potential, although uncharacteristically it doesn’t really get a mention after page nine, even though it features on the cover of some editions of the novel.Still, it hints that, within the Lambert family, we have both a patriarch and a matriarch and occasionally the two don’t see eye to eye.Their differences might be great or small, but they are embodied in the Blue Chair.A Metaphor ExploredOne of the reasons I rate “The Corrections” so highly is that it is an extended exploration of the “correction” metaphor.Yet, at the same time, the ultimate reason I have dropped it a half- to a full-star is that it never strays very far from a disciplined, even mechanical, revelation of its significance.I feel hypocritical about this, because one role of a reviewer or critic is to detect these metaphors and elaborate on them.In the case of Franzen, the role is much easier to perform, because he leaves verbal sign posts or easter eggs the whole way through the text.Without using Powerpoint, he tells you what he is going to say, he says it, and he reminds you that he has said it.Normally, we would treat this as consummate communication.In the case of a novel, it leaves nothing to the imagination, it leaves no mystery, it leaves little to be detected by the reader on their own.It would be like a crime novel where you knew everything about the crime from the beginning (who, how, when, why), except where the criminal was hiding (where).The CorrectionsSo, what do “the corrections” mean?A correction implies that something is “wrong” or “broken” or isn't “working”, and therefore needs to be fixed or remedied or “corrected”.Throughout the novel, there are references to physical objects that have been kept, even though they don’t work anymore or need to be fixed.They have been retained, when someone else, some other family, might have “thrown them away” or got a replacement the moment it was determined to be useless or obsolete.Alfred would once have had the "will to fix" them, but now he is tired and things go unfixed or uncorrected.This might suggest that there has been a recent breakdown in Alfred's authority, but I don't get the impression that he has had much authority within the family for a long time.In the last chapter, there is also a reference to the need for a correction of a “bubble” in an overheated economy.Investors have blindly expected conditions and values to improve perpetually, but every now and again there must be a correction, a reality check where once there was a dividend cheque.However, when the economic correction arrives, it is "not an overnight bursting of a bubble but a much more gentle letdown, a year-long leakage of value from key financial markets, a contraction too gradual to generate headlines and too predictable to seriously hurt anybody but fools and the working poor."Ultimately, the metaphor most overtly concerns the state of the characters' relationships.Indeed, the novel as a whole is Franzen's State of Relations Address.In their own way, there have been life-long leakages of value in the family's internal relationships that need to be addressed.Without being overtly dysfunctional, we can perpetuate relationships even though they are flawed or defective or unsatisfying.It’s much easier to abandon a relationship (to sell down a non-performing or troublesome stock) when it doesn’t involve a family member.It’s harder, if not impossible, to abandon or negate a parent/child or sibling to sibling relationship.In a sexual relationship, you can get the thorn out of your foot.In a family relationship, sometimes, you can’t get rid of the thorn without losing your foot.Spousal relationships hover in between the two, depending on whether there are children involved.Either way, within a family, you can't usually just walk away.You have to "correct" the relationship or learn to live with the thorn in your foot.A Chip Separated from the Old BlockWhen we’re first introduced to the term “correction”, we meet the middle child, Chip, the "alternative sibling" who has dropped out of the world of "conventional expectations", a would-be post-modernist academic, script writer and left-wing libertine.He might be the “intelligent son”, the "intellectual son", but Chip is still a "comic fool", the protagonist in a farce of his own creation.Chip forensically analyses his parents’ relationship and decides that his life will “correct” all of their personal failings.Where they are passive, conservative and straight-laced, he will be active, radical and open-minded.Franzen doesn’t suggest that this choice is intrinsically wrong, only that Chip makes a bit of a mess of it.To this extent, the novel sees Chip correct himself and his relationship with his parents and siblings, he becomes "a steady son, a trustworthy brother".The Straight OptionThe oldest child, Gary, is a fund manager, experienced in the ways of business and investment.He appears to be the successful child, but the visage conceals an unhappiness and dissatisfaction with a more conventional life, so much so that he probably suffers from depression.Gary is the least resolved of the siblings in the novel.At the end, he remains unreconciled with his parents and siblings, even if he has achieved a compromise of sorts in the conflict with his wife and children.The Bent OptionThe youngest child and only daughter, Denise, is in many ways the most interesting character.Some have reacted adversely to her as a shrill harpy.In Enid’s eyes, she has failed, because she hasn’t settled down, married the love of her life and had children.Instead, she is a talented chef, uncertain about what she wants personally and sexually.Denise remains open to different options, only she still hasn’t found what she’s looking for, largely because she doesn’t know what she’s looking for.Nevertheless, within the family, she is a major factor in the resolution and correction of the problems.Families FirstFranzen most identifies with the children (who are of a similar age), yet there is a sense in which he has the greatest sympathy for Alfred and Enid.Both parents are children of an earlier generation that was given little choice in how it lived life and raised families.The children, in contrast, have suffered from an excess of choice and the lack of a moral compass as they made their own choices.Unfortunately, Alfred has the least opportunity to correct his own behavior, because he is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.On the other hand, Enid, despite the failure of her dream to have one last perfect Christmas together, liberates herself and is able to correct (and resurrect) her own life at last, albeit alone.She is reconciled with, at least, Chip and Denise, and there is a sense in which she will also make things happen with Gary and his family.Families LastThe plot and its resolution don’t ultimately suggest that there is any perfect family.Families consist of individuals who all have their own needs and expectations and who all push and pull in their own directions.The thing is that different people have different expectations, and expectations create responsibilities and obligations and burdens.If everybody performs their designated role, does their bit, pulls their weight, plays their part, then compliance, reliability and success in turn give rise to a family culture of reliance, confidence and trust.If things don't "work out", there is a risk of disappointment, a risk of opting out, non-compliance, problems, mistakes, failure and "wrongness" that lead to coercion, anxiety, ostracisation, resentment, blame, guilt and the need to "endure" each other.There is no such thing as a perfect family.There can only be good families.A good family is not one that can avoid mistakes and failure, but one that can embrace apologies and forgiveness as a timely response to disappointed expectations.This is the heart of “The Corrections”.There are no car chases, nobody gets shot, nobody goes to prison (or a correctional facility), nobody gets bankrupted, nobody O.D.’s, nobody gets pregnant, nobody even gets divorced.Yet, somehow, Franzen manages to nail 21st century families and by doing so he nails 21st century society, because, since the beginning of time, families have been at the heart of society.You cannot have a healthy society without healthy families.It might be obvious, but it needs to be stated, even if at times Franzen states it too obviously.

Shutter Island

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4.04 rating

Comment 1: Dan Brown, The DaVinci Code (Dubleday, 2003)Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island (Morrow, 2003)William M. Valtos, The Authenticator (Hampton Roads, 2000)Rarely, when I read, do three books come together so very well for one review. But such is the case here with The DaVinci Code, The Authenticator, and Shutter Island.Imagine, if you will, a kind of number line of style, with the very best writers at the rightmost extreme and the very worst at the left. On the right are those authors who pay great attention to detail, and while they may miss a continuity trick or two, they always have it together. Their prose is readable, though it may be difficult, but it is always impeccable from a grammatical standpoint. (We'll allow a number of spelling errors for editorial mishaps.) Their characters are always well-drawn, the plot when it exists is interesting, the theme never takes over the storyline and slaps you in the face. William Faulkner and Wendy Walker reside on the right end of the line. So does Kathe Koja. Margaret Laurence roved around, but fell close to it all the time, and hit it with The Diviners. Charles Reznikoff OWNED the right side of the line.On the left you have sloppy writing, loose ends, lectures in the middles of books, rampant grammatical errors and conscious misspellings (and, usually, a vehement defense of them), plots that disappear and reappear, glacial pacing, and all the rest of the things that make books unreadable mounds of tripe. So as not to step on any toes I'll let you fill in your own list here; I'm sure any reader has happened upon enough of these writers to fill at least a branch library.Now imagine it has a moving axis. Above the line are those authors who, simply, do their research. Below it are those who either don't research at all or do just enough research to give truth to the phrase "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Every author can be plotted on the resulting two-dimensional graph.Dennis Lehane sits somewhere in the right center. There's nothing necessarily factual about anything he writes in Shutter Island, save a seamless fifties-era feel and the geographic locations of certain islands off the coast of Massachusetts. Everything else springs fully-formed from the man's demented mind. And it is a true tribute to any author, I think, to be able to say 'this book was predictable, but I kept reading anyway." Yea, I had the plot twist figured out in the first hundred pages. But Dennis Lehane is such a wonderfully readable author that I couldn't have cared less whether I knew what was happening or not. (Warning, any fan of horror will probably get the ending as soon as, or sooner than, I did.) Lehane flirted with his plot twist, in fact it's rather odd that a person who normally writes mystery novels was so blatant with the clues to what was happening; the characters might as well have come out and said it a few times. Which leads me, of course, to the belief that it was all a conscious act. He was letting the reader in on the big joke, too. It's a beautiful thought.U. S. Marshals Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule are on their way to the mental facility at Shutter Island in order to solve the classic locked-room mystery. A patient, Rachel Solando, has gone missing through a locked door and four manned checkpoints without a trace. Confounding the problem is Teddy's constant idea that folks aren't being completely forthcoming when he questions them.This is, quite simply, great noir. And in the tradition of great noir, you know there's going to be a denouement; no one, as it were, gets out of here alive. (No, that's not a spoiler, it's a figure of speech.) And if you've read any horror novels influenced by noir writers like Chandler and Thompson, you know just where this is going. Perhaps it's that safety that allows the reader to keep going, just as romance readers expect the guy to get the girl in the end. The main part of it, though, is Dennis Lehane's wonderful writing style, pure and simple. The man could keep the pages of the phone book turning....(continued in the review of The Authenticator)

One Day

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3.75 rating

Comment 1: I'm not really sure whether to give this book 2.5 stars or 3 but to be honest I expected a lot more. At first, the plot was really interesting about the two characters falling in love but throughout the middle, for almost half the book, it just kind of dragged on. The concept of having a chapter for each day over 20 years was a really good idea to see how the characters developed but many of those years, nothing happened between the characters that was significant and I didn't find it too intere Comment 2: I absolutely adored this book. I laughed my head off and cried my eyes out. The book is centred around two people who spend the night together after graduation, from here on every chapter is one year to the day later and gives you a snippet of what both characters are doing that day. I literally wanted this book to last forever but alas like all the books I love I guzzled this up in two sittings. The book lasts for twenty years of their lives, interwined and connected, arguing and removing eacho Comment 3: This book is on every endcap and receiving accolades by many magazines-An instant classic"- and websites.I found it to be a disappointment. the premise - Every year on July 15, the reader follows the friendship of a guy and girl over a 20 year period. What potential so I thought. First,my angst, if this book had been written by a woman, it would have been belittled as chick-lit and belittled by the critics. But a man writes it and it is just lit . Sorry, back to the book. The beginning is intere