Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Review: The Breaking of Eggs

The Breaking of Eggs, Jim Powell
This book barely squeaks by the dialogue test, of being being able to differentiate between who's talking without looking at their names. After fifty pages, all I could think was that the book had an overlay filter of pretension and snobbery, almost elitism, that radiated from the main character--who's (almost?) ironically communist/leftist. I keep going back and forth between wether the tone is intentional or if the author lacks control.

I can't quite determine if the book is obnoxious because the main character is intentionally narrow-minded and pretentious, and the author loses control over the tone, or if the author himself isn't aware of how redundant his themes are. Either way, I committed to finishing it, but I didn't like it that much. The book needed to change fairly drastically in order for me to like it, and unfortunately that just really didn't happen.

Basically, the book could have been summarized with one or two quick statements.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review: Footnotes in Gaza

Footnotes in Gaza, Joe Sacco

Wherein I reveal my somewhat unpopular, but strongly held, political values concerning Palestine.

I'l admit, I was curious--almost skeptical--about the format of this book. Is graphic cartoon style reallyt ht most appropriate medium for a book about a very violence and controversial piece of the Middle East's history? It really only took me 80 pages to be completely convinced that the answer is a resounding YES. Yes it is the appropriate medium.

I've been blown away by how raw the art is, and by the structure of the visual components. It's written incredibly informatively, and I think the way he creates the profile of the people talking is way easier to follow than memorizing only a name.

This book is really good. It's also really hard to read--but it should be.

After finishing Gravity's Rainbow, I needed to immerse myself into something immediately afterward, but this book ended differently for me. This time, anything else would feel inferior.

The entire book was incredibly raw. I have a lot of respect for how Sacco handled being upfront about the types of information he had, his decision-making process for including interviews, and his portrayal of his own personal experience. It was handled very well.

This book--this topic--is one that makes me want to rage and scream at the injustice of it all, and I feel the shame of my privileged position. it makes me want to get my hands dirty or something. Something.

I really loved this book. I also really liked how he wove his current-day experiences and politics into the story--it really brough home the "why" for the book.

"Because in 50 years, you'll want someone to tell your story"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Book Review: Gravity's Rainbow

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
5.7.11 -- 8.2.11

It's been a long time since I've spent three months reading one thing (that wasn't a textbook). I recorded my notes by parts, because by the end of the book I knew I'd be completely incapable of summarizing the first (or second. or third.) part.

Part 1
So many characters! It's impressive if he manages to keep them all straight, but also super irritating.

" is the poet singing back the silence" --173
"You go from dream to dream inside me. You have a passage to my last shabby corner, and there, among the debris, you've found life. I'm no longer sure which of all the words, images, dreams or ghost are "yours" and which are "mine". It's past sorting out" --177

Part 2
So much easier to read. It helped that the majority of it was from only one perspective. It's nice to see a plot finally forming. I have a hunch that part three will be impossible...

Part 3
I was correct. Reading this part made sense only in fits and spurts; it was like those hellish dreams where you can only open half of one eye at a time. My method alternates between overthinking and underthinking (dare I admit to skimming at times?), but I suspect I have as solid a grasp as I'll ever get on this damn book. I gave up following along with Wikipedia in Part 2, but just that much helped quite a bit. Should probably have kept up with it, but it was really exhausting.

"The minute he put on the head.... he knew himself. He was the wolf" --390

Part 4
I feel like maybe there were some characters who had two names or something, but it feels like I missed a twist. An important one.

Most books, upon finishing, requiring no other books or distractions after, to help me clear my head. Not this one--jumping immediately into another was the only way my brain settled enough to even write a recap of part four.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: In Our Strange Gardens

In Our Strange Gardens, Michel Quint

My sister is one of the few individuals whom I trust to give me a reading recommendation. She had a piece of paper tucked into this novella with a bit of background information about the man on trial, as well as some very thought-provoking questions about the characters' motives So instead of a review, here are the notes I jotted down in response to her questions. **Possible spoilers ahead*

Why did Andre become a clown?
-I feel like the book used enough references to penance to make that a possible answer, but still I wonder. Why the poor charade? I sit penance, or is it a statement? Or a thoughtful reminder? It it even possibly just a happy reminder, like giving praise?

How would you describe Bernd?
-Someone caught up "on the side of evil" as he said. The question makes me recall an early quote in the story (the dedication, in fact) "to my father... who opened me wide to the memory of horror, yet made sure I learned German, because they knew how foolish it is to see history in terms of black and white". It's tempting to assume he was helpful because he regretted the side he was on, but the whole point of this story seems to highlight the possibility that maybe Bern was just compassionate, while still believing in the side he fought on.

Do you agree it's "inhuman to choose a sacrificial victim"?
-I feel like the answer is less active and more passive--it shows you've been placed in an inhuman position. Do I think it's inhuman to allow someone to chose to be a sacrifice? No.... To be the one choosing? If it's not yourself, then yes. He means it as a statement of compliance, though, which I think is a super complicated topic. Although it makes me (as nonreligious as I am) point out that God chose a sacrificial victim, and in almost eery definition he is pretty inhuman--though not in the way implied by the quote.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Sleznick
I've had this book for years, but due to countless excuses I've never gotten further than 60 pages or so. After seeing the movie trailer at the HP7.2 release, though, I knew it was time

I enjoyed it for the artwork, but if I'm being really honest, it's a very simple, basic kid's tale. The medium is fabulous, but the storyline itself feels pretty generic. I could also definitely do without the Professor A___ component. It felt forced.

Despite those critiques, it really was a great storyline and a really fun dread. It takes forty minutes, tops, to read, but the artwork is something you can spend countless hours appreciating. A worthwhile little nugget in my collection, I think.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review: A Visit From The Goon Squad

A Visit From The Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
7.7.11 - 7.11.11

"He looks so tired--like someone walked on his skin and left footprints" --57

After reading nothing last month, finishing this book so fast was much more reassuring than it probably should've been. Also, though, this book was amazing and intense. Throughout the entirety of Part 1 I was swept away, and at the end of every chapter I had to pause to catch my breath.

K & I talked about character types a while ago, specifically regarding Hunger games. She talked about how well-designed the characters were--perfectly written/created, in a way that (without it being negative criticism) made them unrealistic. "Because who wants to read about real people? They were perfect and super and more interesting than normal people" was how K logicked it.

That's how these characters were written--so perfectly complex and interesting. But not even a little bit contrived. So for every ounce of raw intensity that Part 1 was, Part 2 was the painful, necessary and sometimes unpleasant healing process that stitched together all the elements introduced previously.

God it was just so good. My first Jennifer Egan book was The Invisible Circus, which always felt like my gateway into "interesting" books. The non-conventional ones that you don't always hear about (at least, for me, at that point, for my twelve-year-old self). This one surpassed it brilliantly.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Short(ish) Break

So it turns out when you're studying for the GRE, you just plumb run out of time for extended reading. I finished Dead Souls a few days ago, but since I take the GRE this Saturday (gasp!), the typed review of it will have to wait. And I'm about 4/5 of the way through Gravity's Rainbow. Which has very consistently alternated between a mindfuck headache and enjoyable. Which reminds me of Dhalgren. But I'm pretty pretty sure Gravity's Rainbow came first.

Anyway, I'll be back soon. AFTER SATURDAY!