**spoiler alert** This review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered...more**spoiler alert** This review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it was written in. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets indicate some additional information for the sake of readability). It is one of my lost reviews.
I am glad for the opportunity A Fine Balance gave me to spend time with such wonderful characters: Dina Dalal, the matriarch who opens her home; Ishvar & Omprakash, who defy caste and pay a terrible price; Maneck, whose gifts destroy him with guilt; the supporting cast of Beggarmaster, Shankar, Monkey-man, Rajaram and the proofreader, all were characters (and, had they lived, people) I am happy to have known.
I love the fact that A Fine Balance ends with the death of Maneck. The one with hope for the future throws it all in front of a train, while those without hope just move on. Om, Ishvar, and Dina keep living, keep doing what they must, yet we know they are not happy. Had they escaped their pride and helped Maneck escape his guilt, all of them would have been saved. Instead, no one could overcome the hurt, and in the end, everyone lost.(less)
This book is a scab that's still attached in the middle but all flaky on the periphery, where the new pink skin is smooth underneath, tempting us to p...moreThis book is a scab that's still attached in the middle but all flaky on the periphery, where the new pink skin is smooth underneath, tempting us to pick it until the entire scab pops free and a little spot of new blood wells up in the center.
This book is the silence that fools engage in to protect themselves from actual engagement with the egos and personalities and beings surrounding them.
This book is the pause that goes on so long that action cannot be taken, when one stands there searching for the right thing to say or the right thing to do so that the only thing one can do is react to what someone else has done, and that reaction is muted and aquiescent.
This book is an examination and condemnation of the way we tacitly agree to the stations we've been born into, no matter the station, and the way we live that station and the way we die that station. It is inaction.
This book is emotional pain. This book is suffering. This book is stultification. This book is a mire of self-loathing.
This book led to a movie that reminded me that Anthony Hopkins was great, that solidified Emma Thompson's greatness, that raised Christopher Reeves in my estimation, that suggested depths to Hugh Grant that he's rarely ever aspired to again, that made me see how hollow my first marriage really was, that made me realize the primacy of communication, that made me love the magic of the cinema again.
This book is a masterpiece, yet it's not a book I can love.
This books is an intermindable dream that keeps us on the edge of sleep for hours, longing to awaken or slip deeper, but holding us on the edge like a drippity-droppity water torture.
I marvel that this was ever read by more than a thousand people. It is too poetic for the mainstream, too fragmented for easy consumption, and too sen...moreI marvel that this was ever read by more than a thousand people. It is too poetic for the mainstream, too fragmented for easy consumption, and too sensual for those who consider plot the most important part of a novel. This remains one of my three favourite novels because of its poeticism, fragmentation and sensuality.
This time through I decided to read it out loud, and a whole new sensuality exploded into the experience for me. Actually rolling those words and worlds around on my tongue, wheezing my way through the English Patient's tale, letting Kip's Lahore English spill over my teeth, adopting Carravagio's voice as my own, and trying my best to capture Hana for myself (I have the benefit of being mostly Canadian and not having to adjust my accent for the latter two) broadened the sensuality of the book, and not just because the sounds were resounding in my head. I could feel the words filling my lungs, or burning my throat, or passing through my airways in different manners, so that saying the words on the page, those already sensual words, made the sensuality tangible for me.
To feel a book in other ways as I read it and hear it is as near as I come to a holy experience. Words are my church. Michael Ondaatje is my priest. The English Patient is one of my scriptures.
Don't even talk to me about the travesty that is the film. (less)
That's not to say she's a poor author, nor is it to suggest I didn't like The Black Prince. She is a fine author, and I liked The Black Prince well enough. But my experience with this book and what that means to my future engagement with Murdoch's novels is a bit like my experience with swimming laps in the local pool without a loftier purpose: neither is worth the effort.
I love swimming. I really do. And I like how I feel after I've gotten back into the routine of swimming. But I have to make time, get ready, get to the pool, put in the effort to swim those laps, stress out my lungs, feel the ache in my muscles the next day, and work on staying motivated despite my enjoyment. Yet I get just as much enjoyment out of sitting on my sofa watching a rerun of Match Game, which takes no effort at all, and much more enjoyment out of swimming, biking and running with a sprint triathlon as the end goal -- more effort, but it's effort well spent.
If Match Game is the literary equivalent of a fun Terry Pratchett novel and triathlon training is the equivalent of Ulysses, I'll always avoid the middle ground that The Black Prince fills. It's good, but the effort really isn't worth the payoff.
If I am wrong, however, and Murdoch's other books are worth the effort, I would love to hear a convincing argument and some recommendations because, if nothing else, this book shows that she is a good author.(less)
I am sad today. Having just finished reading JM Coetzee's "Disgrace" how could I be anything else? But the sadness is definitely worth the experience....moreI am sad today. Having just finished reading JM Coetzee's "Disgrace" how could I be anything else? But the sadness is definitely worth the experience. "Disgrace" is not for everyone, perhaps it is only for very few, but for those few who connect with the protagonist, David Lurie, or any other character in its pages, there is something sadly magical that happens: a visceral connection with the real. That is what makes "Disgrace" such a potent work of fiction -- the reality of its characters. Nothing in the book is satisfying because life itself is not satisfying. Coetzee could have made choices that would have made "Disgrace" a happy, and easily life affirming work, but he made "Disgrace" true -- thereby insuring that only a few could appreciate his words, and that even fewer would make their hard way through to "Disgrace's" painful message. "Disgrace" is a beautiful, brutal, melancholy work that will never leave my system.(less)
I know I am supposed to love Oscar and Lucinda and The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, both of which are on my shelf and both of which I have tried and failed to get through, but I find them excruciating. The ideas seem compelling enough, but there is something about Carey's prose that keeps me at a distance. His writing refuses to excite me.
This is not to say that Carey's winner is a bad read. It's fine. It's a cute, Hollywood-style, Australian-Robin Hood fairy tale. There's some violence, some vengeance, some fighting for freedom, and a rebel that we're manipulated into loving. Thus it made a perfect, low budget, Heath Ledger movie. So no...it's not terrible.
It was good but banal. It was comfortable, likable, diverting and ultimately forgettable. It made me want to try Carey's other books again...and I did, but I put them back on the shelf...again...and there they remain.
**spoiler alert** Atonement found itself in, perhaps, the strongest Booker Prize year of them all, so it's no surprise that Ian McEwan failed to pick...more**spoiler alert** Atonement found itself in, perhaps, the strongest Booker Prize year of them all, so it's no surprise that Ian McEwan failed to pick up his second prize.
The multiple perspectives, the lies, the fancy, the truth, the life, the sensuality, the suffering, the echoes of Brideshead Revisted, the metafiction, they all combine to make an experience that won't let me go.
It took three tries to get past Briony's production of her play, but once I made it past her spoiled petulance, I couldn't stop reading Atonement until I was through. And Briony's final, fading declaration of truth actually made me cry.
What stands out for me about Atonement is that nothing really stands out. It was a novel of immersion, like Cecilia diving for the broken shard of vase, or Robbie cocooned by darkness, rotting internally from a gut shot, or Cecilia drowning in a bombed out subway station, or the French soldier buried in his impending death, mistaking Briony for his lover. It is all there. All at once. And nothing overpowers the others. It is all powerful.
This review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it wa...moreThis review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it was written in. I have transcribed it verbatim (although square brackets indicate some additional information for readability) from all those years ago. It is one of my lost reviews.
When I tell others about this novel I talk about Roddy Doyle's voice and how he captures the thought patterns of children so well; I mention certain tales Patrick tells, like the burning of Sinbad's mouth, or the Grand National, but I never mention the connection the novel has with my own life.
Brian [my Dad] never left Chris [my Mom], but my experiences of abuse and my own violent childhood and my need for isolation are all captured in the voice of Paddy. I understand his futile fight with Charlo and his alienating defeat of Kevin. The violence and inner pain have been mine and still make teh occassional appearance. However, the most powerful part of the book his Paddy's confusion concerning his Da. He loves the man, wants to be the man, and fears the man, eventually hating him. I've been there myself. Doyle expresses my experience best. (less)
This review was written in the late nineties (for my eyes only), and it was buried in amongst my things until recently when I uncovered the journal in...moreThis review was written in the late nineties (for my eyes only), and it was buried in amongst my things until recently when I uncovered the journal in which it was written. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets may indicate some additional information for the sake of readability or some sort of commentary from now). This is one of my lost reviews.
Rarely is a book's theme so fittingly captured in a title than it is with Pat Barker's Regeneration. As Dr. William Rivers heals war victims like Burns, Anderson and Billy Prior, its meaning is obvious, but it is also duplicitous -- connecting also to the manipulation of Seigfriend Sassoon and Rivers' own regeneration of spirit.
Barker fills Regeneration with some haunting, unforgettable images: Burns falling face first into the German [soldier]'s exploded stomach; Anderson's collapse at the sight of a nicked cheek (this from having once been a [WWI] surgeon); Prior's eyeball and the question, "what do I do with this gobstopper?"; and the most terrible of all, Dr. Yealland's torutre of Callan -- a cure by negative -- Nazi-like -- reinforcement.
By setting WWI on the home front, the gravity of its horror is more fully driven into my mind than any film I've ever seen has done. It's a time I'm quite happy to have missed -- at least with this life of mine. (less)