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Showing posts from March, 2009
Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

I think my brain is still fizzling from this very intense metaphysical drama/ murder mystery/ theological puzzle/ etc. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and was entrapped in the medieval period for a five days straight, but the fact that Eco wrote it as a novel putting flesh on a rumination of cosmological theories and ideals (which is not how I affirm fiction to act) soured his literary triumph (for me).

The body of the novel is posited as a translation of a manuscript written by a Benedictine monk in the fourteenth century, Adso of Melk. In the manuscript, Adso finally sets to rest what happened in his years as a novice, being the disciple of the famed English logician and monk, Brother William of Baskerville, who was called upon to investigate sinister happenings at a wealthy Italian Benedictine abbey. Brother William, having been an Inquisitor of the Roman Catholic Church (before the Spanish Inquisition, but nevertheless dealing very largely with heresy), come…
Keep the Aspidistra Flying - George Orwell

I have not sympathized with a protagonist quite so much in a good while.

Gordon Comstock is turning thirty, has no money, works in a bookshop, is a failing poet, and refuses to take a "good" job because of his socialist ideals and his war against the money-god, and it's chief symbol: the aspidistra that sits in the window of every British middle-class home. Kind of like a less talk-the-talk Frank Wheeler.

The hideous grimness of Gordon's soul-destroying poverty, the way he sinks into inevitable decay, the doing without, the saving face - is vaguely familiar. His yet-to-be mistress, Rosemary, is far more understanding and generous than Gordon and his pretensions deserve but all comes to a good end.

This may become one of my favorites; I have sat with Gordon in the drafty, dusty bookshop (only ours is neither, ha ha); have been in his frigid bare room, eating pathetically, going without tobacco (substitute coffee) - Gordon is w…
Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark

My weakness for reading books by certain breed of British female author is growing: Iris Murdoch, A.S.Byatt, and now Muriel Spark. In Spark's tidy novella, the drama takes place in a school in Edinburgh in the thirties, during the "prime" of an unorthodox educator. A lover of the Fascisti, the exotic, Pavlova, and Sybil Thorndike, Miss Brodie promises the girls who prove their commitment to their education and their loyalty to her that they will become the "creme de la creme." The elect become known as the "Brodie set."

The aroma of sex prevails. How can it not when the central characters are making their way from age ten to age sixteen? One of them, it is assured at the outset of the novel, will be "famous for sex" amongst their male peers. Spark allows each member of the set to have a "thing" - sex, mathematics, stupidity - and includes the reader as an unseen member of the set with the gno…

Books Read - Continued

2666 - Roberto Bolano
My very first Bolano:
Upon hearing that this was possibly the literary event of our time, I thought I'd better read it asap. It's not the sort of book I usually read, but I'm glad I did.

Contrary to my expectations, 2666 was not a meaningless and exhausting sequence of events. True, there is no chartable narrative arc, but one is able to pay attention. It was as if I were a fly on the wall, or looking at a rapid succession of interesting photographs. One maintains a detached but constant interest, not much involved, but curious.

Bookended by a story about a reclusive German writer named Archimboldi and three literary critics looking for him, 2666 by and large centers on the mass killings of women in the Mexican desert city of Santa Teresa, near the US border. The book is divided into five parts: Part about the critics (European critics looking for Archimboldi in Mexico)/ Part about Amalfitano (a man who appears in Part One)/ Part about Fate (an African…

Stealing from Goodreads

The problem with Goodreads, and I knew this would happen when I signed up, is that I no longer post on here anymore. Then I become lazy, intimidated, and never post. This must and will change! So, I'm going to start by posting some old reviews from Goodreads and slowly wean myself off.

Nothing to Be Frightened Of - Julian Barnes
I haven't read any of Mr. Barnes's fiction, but this work of prose (an "elegant memoir") has been a joy to read. Barnes muses on death by integrating ideas of mortality, memory, family history, questions about religion and the after-life, literature and philosophy (mostly French philosophers). "Nothing to be Frightened of" is not nearly as earthy as Thomas Lynch's "The Undertaking." Lynch is fully aware that mortality rate of humans is always 100% and he seems unfrightened to confront that final strugge. Barnes is (understandably) nervous about the concept of no longer existing, especially as he realises that as a w…