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!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Book Review: Dead Souls

Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol
6.10.11 - 7.3.11

"But we have begun talking rather loudly, forgetting that our hero, asleep all the while his story was being told, is now awake and can easily hear his last name being repeated so often. He is a touchy man and does not like it when he is spoken of disrespectfully. The reader can hardly care whether Chichikov gets angry with him or not, but as for the author, he must in no case quarrel with his hero; they still have many a road to travel together hand in hand; two big parts lie ahead--no trifling matter." pg 251

"Rus, where are you racing to? Give answer! She gives no answer. Wondrously, the harness bell dissolves in ringing,; the air rumbles, shattered to pieces, and turns to wind; everything on earth flies by, and, looking askance, other nations and states step aside to make way."

I wish I had known before I started that chunks of the second part of the manuscript were missing. Finishing the book while a character is literally mid-sentence is an incredibly frustrating experience.

That said, I completely loved this book. I thought it was funny, sassy and interesting. I was so blown away by how Gogol seamlessly dove in and out of the fourth wall in such a manner that didn't feel remotely contrived or forced.

The biggest letdown of the book was really just that there wasn't more of it to read.

When Chichikov was pleased and started to praise himself using loving pet names, only to stop when he remembered he was in public, I literally laughed out loud. This book doesn't betray it's age in the least--the whole novel is so quirky and light.