Archive for January, 2011

Book 839 Laszlo Krasznahorkai – The Melancholy of Resistance

January 29, 2011

The Melancholy of Resistance is, at least for me, an example how the execution of a plot can ruin a lot of things. On the surface this story’s main idea is dazzling. An allegorical tale about a circus that sets up in a tiny Hungarian village. At first the villagers (all are screw ups in their own way) panic and think that there’s some evil plan behind this circus and later on this is actually correct. By the end the villagers wage a war.

However in reality the reader is treated to extremely long sentences and numerous digressions. When I finished the book I felt exhausted and annoyed at myself for not liking the book and the writing style.

Ah well.

Advertisements

Book 840 Kazuo Ishiguro – The Remains of the Day

January 28, 2011

 

After the terrific Never let me go and the horrible The Unconsoled , I was very eager to see what reaction I would get from reading my third Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day. I have been wanting to read this book for years ( I’ve  also had the film for years as well but never watched it as I like to read the book first.)

It is fantastic

Mr. Stevens is the butler of  a mansion once owned by a Lord but now taken over by an American – ie new money.  While his new owner is partake on a vacation he gives Stevens some time off, to which Stevens spends his vacation doing to things. 1 ) driving around in the country and 2) visiting an old friend/maid and trying to persuade her to come back and work with him.

Stevens is a very ‘old school’ person. Very reserved , exceedingly loyal, a bit snobbish and polite. Throughout the novel we are treated with memories of his time at Darlington house when Lord Darlington was his master.

Despite it’s brevity the book is a slow builder and the reader gets bits and pieces of Stevens past life. Thus we start out with the notion of dignity , then we see the introduction of  Miss Kenton and slowly slowly we see how Stevens’ dignity his tested, from serious matters such as  his master’s naive political worldview to his dealings with Miss Kenton. Sometimes Stevens great British reserve is what makes him make certain life changing decisions.

However it is the final meeting with Miss. Kenton in which Stevens discovers one secret which could have altered everything and it’s this section where the book just shines and takes a highly emotional turn.

Social class , politics, dignity and time – this is just a spattering of what Ishiguro focuses on in this wonderful little book. Not to mention the sumptuous writing. It was a joy reading this book from start to finish.

Book 841 Martin Amis – London Fields

January 22, 2011

Martin Amis is definitely one of my top authors. I love his wit, prose, plots everything. In fact reading early Amis ( I lost track of him after Yellow Dog) is like immersing yourself into some pleasure zone .

Weirdly enough when I read London Fields back in 2000 ( which was an apt year to read this novel) I hated it. I just found it pretentious and lacking in that Amis touch (although I liked the bikini segment)

How wrong I was!!

Until my second attempt I always held Money as Amis’ best novel but now I feel that London Fields surpasses it. I felt that it’s a more powerful book – and to a certain extent funnier as well.

The book is narrated by failing author Samson Young, who has luckily found the perfect plot for a novel. The astoundingly beautiful Nicola Six plans to kill herself on her 35th birthday. Through deception she enlists the help of Low life Keith Talent and middle class Guy Clinch to participate in this murder. It is also 1999 and the British army will be launching missiles to the Middle East and the Prime Minister’s wife is undergoing a serious operation. Not to mention that London is a hotspot for pollution and everything wrong with the world.

Eventually Nicola does get her wish but not how she plans it. Let’s say that Sam is an unreliable narrator and skewers the details a little bit.

Leaving the murder mystery aside, Amis’ writing just explodes. His remarks on social class, morals and the upcoming apocalypse are both terrifying and yet darkly funny. London Fields is a satire of the first degree but it’s also a very entertaining one as well.  A classic.

Book 842 Paul Auster – Moon Palace

January 13, 2011

 

I have been staring at this screen for the past ten minutes with a million thoughts whooshing through my head. I honestly having a lot of trouble trying to express the complexity of this novel.

I could give a very superficial explanation but honestly I would feel like I’m cheating Paul Auster, myself and the people who read this blog (even though I think that amounts to a grand total of ten people). Funnily enough when I tried describing the plot I felt like I was saying something banal, even way too simplistic. In cases like this I would rather mention the themes that are present in Moon Palace.

Identity

Fatherhood

Chance & coincidence

Relationships

Reality and fantasy

Also if I were to expand on these themes I would give away the twists and turns this novel contains. Moon Palace is a sort of journey, especially one of discovery and consequences. Is this a mirror of life? I’m not sure. Although our lives contain events described here,  there is some exaggeration.

I’ll just say this

Read it.

Devour it.

Learn some lessons.

Reflect.

 

Book 843 Jeanette Winterson – Sexing the Cherry

January 6, 2011

 

I must admit that when I found out that I had to read another Jeanette Winterson my heart did sink a bit. After all the two novels I read by her weren’t exactly my favourite books of all time. I tend to find her self-indulgent and over emotional at times.

Sexing the Cherry was different. It’s a more light-hearted affair which combines fantasy with feminism, mixed in with concepts of time and space. It does contain Winterson’s usual themes but there’s a more flighty aspect. At times I was reminded of Angela Carter’s fairy tales.

Jordan is adopted by his giant dog keeping woman (in the 17th century) and by the time he comes of age he sets off to travel both the physical and metaphysical world. During his travels he encounters the twelve dancing princess – who all have a story to tell him and help him realise the role of the male in society.

We jump forward in time 20th century and Jordan is cast again as a navy cadet and his mother is an environmentalist. This time Jordan tries to connect his present day self with the 17th century one but gives the impression that the previous life is made up.

I can’t say I loved this novel as at times I felt that there could have been more added but I was satisfied and glad that there is at least one Jeanette Winterson that I can definitely recommend.

Reflections on 1999 – 1990

January 4, 2011

So I’ve finally finished the 90’s section of the list.

Basically it’s the same situation as the 00’s. There were some great books and not so great ones.  This time round there were quite a few translated works which I enjoyed reading. A good number were out of print and Gillian Rose’s Love’s Work got lost in the mail and I had to re-order i. Unfortunately I had to abandon a book (infinite Jest) I’m hoping this will never happen again.

Fave books :

The ones which stand out are Jorge Volpi’s – In Search of Klingsor , Michael Cunningham’s The Hours and Ardal O’Hanlon’s The Talk of the Town following it. I also liked :

Paul  Auster The Music of Chance

Jim Dodge – Stone Junction

Petros Markaris – The Late Night News

Miyuki Miyabe – Cross Fire

Don Delillo – Underworld and Mao II

Cormac McCarthy – All the Pretty Horses

Alice Walker – Possessing the Secret of Joy

Books I disliked

David Foster-Wallace  – Infinite Jest

Jachym Topol – City Sister Silver

Willaim Kotzwinkle – The Midnight Examiner

Most pleasant surprise :

Uwe Timm – The Invention of Curried Sausage

Let’s see what the 80’s will have in store for me!

Book 844 Lorrie Moore – Like Life

January 4, 2011

 

The short story collection is a weird thing.  With the exception of Roald Dahl and Guy de Maupassant, collections can be very patchy. There’s always some amazing short stories but you’ll have a couple of stinkers in the mix.

Thankfully in the eight stories here, there was only one which I didn’t like so I guess that’s a good sign.

Moore doesn’t really write out a fleshed out story, rather the pieces here set a scene, make you smile and absorb the poetic quality of her writing. Moore’s characters are mostly losers who try to escape their normal life and they always nearly manage to.  Whether it’s a frustrated playwright, a guy who loves self-help books when his personal life is falling to pieces or a woman dating a rather uncultured Jew (and this is standout) ,  Like Life has a way of weirdly identifying with her characters.

I can’t really expand as I’ll give a lot away so it’s better to just let you explore the collection.

Book 845 Hanif Kureishi – The Buddha of Suburbia

January 3, 2011

 

When I first read The Buddha of Suburbia back in 1999, I was the same age as the main protagonist, Karim and like him I felt that the world was changing around me. It was also a time when some interesting music was coming out (namely The Beta Band , Blur also released the mighty epic and weird 13 , The Flaming Lips swept up the world with majestic pomp and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy recorded one of the greatest alt country albums ever). I was going into adulthood yet with a bit of teenager left in me.

Kerim is an Anglo-Indian and as he is reaching adulthood, his world is changing too. Punk is stomping away progressive rock, his father takes up Buddhism (he is the Buddha of the book’s title) and moves in with his mistress. His closest friend Jamila is forced to marry a man against her wishes and he decides to drop out of university in order to become an actor. Not to mention the sub themes of racism and cultural differences.

I felt that the book is about Kerim trying to establish an identity. Yet his surroundings are both being accepted and rejected by him. There are many times when he wonders about whether he is Indian or English and he does try to gain identity by experimenting with drugs, inter-racial relationships and even his budding acting career.

Although Kerim’s world never disintegrates , it is constantly evolving and he feels that in order to keep up he must fully immerse himself into this malestorm of warped relationships.

Did I like the novel a second time round? Well to be honest, no.  I found that there were way too many pop culture references and (like Zadie Smith) Kureishi’s writing can be very clunky and stodgy. A lot of people have called this book funny but I couldn’t see any humour – just these deft brushes of irony. There are some great moments but there are dull ones as well. However though it’s themes and characters are so strong that you have to just keep on reading in order to see how Kerim copes with his life.

Not bad, not wow – any other opinions out there?