Opressives regimes,opressive fathers and Africa - my favourite literary subjects all in one book! This had to be good. And it was. Ms Adichie is someonOpressives regimes,opressive fathers and Africa - my favourite literary subjects all in one book! This had to be good. And it was. Ms Adichie is someone I am definitely going to follow. Even if the characters seemed a little too black or white and predictable at times it was still a strong debut especially considering how young the author was. The style of the narrative represented very well the narrator's timid nature and I think Adichie did a really good job on that. ...more
Just when some thought it was impossible to please me...along comes this book. This deserves 5 stars without any doubt. It baffles me why the world h Just when some thought it was impossible to please me...along comes this book. This deserves 5 stars without any doubt. It baffles me why the world hypes barely mediocre books like 'The Kite Runner' or 'Lovely Bones' when gems like this one go almost unnoticed. There is not a single thing that is wrong with this book. In fact, it is a textbook example of how one should write a novel. Reviving the true art of storytelling, it manages to be gripping, enthralling, and captivating. The novel reveals itself slowly as if we were peeling an onion, uncovering one thin layer after another. It is amazing how real all the characters are. They are never black or white, but are perfectly three-dimensional with all the gradations of grey. Each has their share of good and bad in them. They all make mistakes and hurt each other deeply but I couldn't bring myself to wholeheartedly hate any of them because in the end they were oh so very human. It might be a depressing potrait of the institution of family but there is no exaggeration in it. There is no excess drama that 'happens in books and soap operas only'. It is a wonderful piece of prose. It is lush without being overwritten, rich but still delicate and light. Call me old-school but I still believe writers should truly master the language, have a vast vocabulary, use synonyms, create metaphors that would strike you with their originality and appropriacy, and just take you on a journey. And Preeta Samarasan does just that which is why I am going to be a fan forever and ever....more
The five stars go equally to Ron Suskind the author and Cedric Jennings, the hero of the book. As any other review will tell you it is a story about aThe five stars go equally to Ron Suskind the author and Cedric Jennings, the hero of the book. As any other review will tell you it is a story about a boy from the ghetto who somehow managed to learn something in his gang-infested high school (think Gangsta's Paradise) and made it to one of the Ivy League universities.
If you think this is some sort of Chicken Soup for the White Liberal Soul then you couldn't be more wrong. Basically the conclusion is: shit is bad, real bad. The challenges that Cedric had to face were many and of various kinds. Things that affluented white Americans take for granted, Cedric had to learn from scratch. The boy struggled not only academically but socially and culturally. And my heart went out to him and mind you, I am not the kind of person that even admits to having a heart at all. Don't tell my boyfriend but I think I developed a crush on Cedric.
Ron Suskind is not bad either. The social observation and psychological analysis are of greatest quality. There is nothing in the book that sounds patronising and judgemental. Suskind had a great idea of removing himself entirely from the narrative and making Cedric the focus of it, so we see the world through his eyes, rather than Suskind's. I know quite a few authors that are way too egocentric to even consider doing that because they just love starting their sentences with 'I'.
There were a few moments where I just had to smile, usually when Suskind tried to explain something about hip hop or r'n'b to his readers. It gave me that feeling you used to get when you were a teenager and your parents tried to be cool and engage in a conversation with you about some 'cool stuff'. And you felt slightly embarrassed but also warm inside because you knew they were trying.
Enough. Go read it. It is good. It had me on the edge of my seat when I was waiting with Cedric for each exam results. I even got excited when he was going through some calculus problems (stuff that normally sends me to sleep in no time)....more
Years ago I made vows I would disregard Nobel Prize in literature and its winners until it was awarded to Mario Vargas Llosa. I just couldn't bear it,Years ago I made vows I would disregard Nobel Prize in literature and its winners until it was awarded to Mario Vargas Llosa. I just couldn't bear it, that that Fidel-loving, loco-going, commie - Gabriel Garcia Marquez had it and my beloved Llosa didn't. I was very adamant in my indignation, so finally the Swedish Academy gave in and awarded Llosa the Nobel price last year (that is in 2010, in case you are reading it in distant future). Therefore I could now allow myself to read Doris Lessing.
'Five Short Novels' is one of her lesser known works and reads more like a prelude to something bigger that you can glimpse between the pages. There is just so much potential there and Lessing seems to be teasing you by rationing her talent.
'Five Short Novels' were realeased in a new edition in Poland after Lessing won the Nobel Prize in 2007 and that's what I read. My only complaints about the book have nothing to do with Lessing and all to do with the translation. Unfortunately, the new edition was based on the old translation and while it wasn't straight out bad, it was definitely odd. One thing that irked me in particular was the translation of the characters' names into their Polish equivalents. A very annoying habit that was abandonded by translators a long ago. The translator of 'Five Short Novels' seems to have abandonded it partially as some of the names were translated, some were left in their original form and some were left as in the original but spelled according to Polish spelling rules. I could not make any sense of this.
Another bizarre ocurrence was the translator's insistence on using diminutives in the story 'The Other Woman'. I have no clue where she got that idea from, as diminutives as such don't exist in English. I even asked my goodreads friend Alan who has an original version of the book at home to send me some scans, so I can try to figure it out. But there was nothing there to justify the diminutives that were used both in the dialogues and the narrative. As a result we had two grown up people discussing the parents of one of them using the words 'Mummy' and 'Daddy'.
Enough about the translator, back to Lessing. I think the biggest strength of the book is Lessing's amazing emotional intelligence. She focuses on emotional nuances and describes them with such precision that you can do nothing but admire. It doesn't matter whether it is a teenage Native from the Reserve in South Africa going on his big adventure in the city or a young English woman trying to find love in London during the wartime blitz - the emotional portraits are profund and strikingly authentic. Lessing moves around themes like colonisation, racism, feminism with dexterity but her focus is with people, not with ideas. You don't get the nagging feeling while reading that the author has an agenda and is trying to shove something down your throat. Anyway, Lessing usually brushes off all the claims that she is a feminist writer. And she would most likely laugh at my use of the term 'emotional intelligence' because I suspect such buzz words don't sit well with her. All in all, I will be adding more of Doris to my never ending to-read list while hoping some serious advancements in medicine are made so I can live up 300 at least and read all those books....more
Has there ever been a more perversely English book?
From the paragraphs meandering around and telling the reader what in the narrator’s humble opinionHas there ever been a more perversely English book?
From the paragraphs meandering around and telling the reader what in the narrator’s humble opinion makes a great butler to the descriptions of the unobtrusive beauty of the English countryside it somehow manages to be the saddest love story ever told. Also as my friend Lewis says: “it’s the best example of dramatic irony in contemporary literature.”
The narrator, Mr Stevens, is the ultimate tragic hero. He is so repressed that he doesn’t even know how to be honest with himself. His only identity is that of a butler and he had been wearing for so long that whatever personality he might have had is long gone. And morphing into his profession is what he twistedly defines as ‘dignity’ - the quality he admires most of all. And all we get are his monologues, monologues that frustrate us and depress us. This book should be unreadable, and yet it is a page turner. Not much happens, which is symptomatic to Mr Stevens’ life and yet this meticulous character study is so emotionally involving that even though I’m reviewing it a long time after finishing it, it is still very fresh in my mind and proves to me that those five stars I gave it were fully deserved.
All in all, it’s a cautionary tale – what if you wake up one day towards the end of your life and realise that you have wasted it, that all you believed to be good and true turned out to be a sham? Would you just plain deny it or would you just try to make the best of the remains of the day? ...more
The older I get the harder it is for any book to get on my special-place-in-my-heart shelf. The last time I found myself raving about a book as if itThe older I get the harder it is for any book to get on my special-place-in-my-heart shelf. The last time I found myself raving about a book as if it was the Second Coming of Christ was when I read Evening is the Whole Day in December 2009. Either I have been reading lots of so-so books lately or I have become jaded.
Luckily, here comes this book to prove to me I am not as indifferent as I would like to believe myself to be.
Another thing this book proves is that you can have a best selling collection of short stories, as long as you pretend they are a novel. Short stories seem to be perfectly suited to our current busy lifestyles and short attention spans. It's baffling they are pushed off the literary mainstream, and judging by this book's success, it seems to be some unexplainable prejudice. After all, this book is just a collection of loosely connected episodes that could (and have been) easily published as stand alone stories.
The appeal of "A Visit from the Goon Squad" lies in its treatment of passing time and growing old, of how people go from being the protagonists to barely mentioned secondary characters. These are all things we know about but we don't like to think about. The delicate way in which Egan presents the inevitability of all of them makes it a very sad, melancholic, and bitter-sweet read. This book is also about rock'n'roll because music is one of those things that were always better when we were young.
No matter how accomplished and powerful the character, he or she will eventually get pushed aside and left to reminisce. This is the most powerful and important message that this book delivers. However, it doesn't leave you completely hopeless. It uses a beautiful metaphor of pauses in rock'n'roll songs. Just when you think it's all over, the song comes back on after a couple seconds for its one last hurrah.
I have read a few negative reviews (most notably Sarah Aswell's one) and while I see where they are coming from, I must say this book did it for me. It was so true that all I could do was sigh for two reasons. One, because we're all gonna die, two, because there is no way I could ever write anything this powerful.
"The Corner is rooted in human desire - crude and certain and immediate. And the hard truth is that all the law enforcement in the world can't mess wi"The Corner is rooted in human desire - crude and certain and immediate. And the hard truth is that all the law enforcement in the world can't mess with desire."
I have this flaw in my character that I am extremely judgmental. I try to fight it. I try to tell myself I don't know the circumstances. I can't see the whole picture. But no matter how hard I try, there is always that voice in my head that keeps saying "why can't people just get their shit together". You know, go get a job, stop selling drugs, leave that abusive relationship, don't join a gang, don't do drugs. Just say 'no', right?
I will tell you this - no one has managed to do more for my personal improvement than David Simon and Ed Burns with this book of theirs. I can almost feel I am a better person now. 'The Corner' is a documentary of one year of the Corner of West Fayette and Monroe in West Baltimore. People getting high, people selling drugs, people getting in trouble, people shooting each other, kids having kids - you know the statistics. Now, Simon and Burns show you the people behind the statistics. They don't patronize or infantilize their subjects. They humanize them. They tell you like it is, they don't try to justify them, or blame everything on the system.
This is not an easy read because the portraits of Fran, DeAndre, Gary, Blue or Fat Curt hit a little close to home. Well, of course I like to think that if I were born in the ghetto I wouldn't let that happen to me, I would just work hard, and try hard, and I wouldn't get in trouble.
Because I am so strong-willed, right? I can't fucking manage two days without chocolate but I would make it out the ghetto.
As the authors say: "Yes, if we were down there, if we were the damned of the American cities, we would not fail. We would rise above the corner. And when we tell ourselves such things, we unthinkly assume that we would be consigned to places like Fayette Street fully equipped, with all the graces and disciplines, talents and training that we now possess."
If this book doesn't bring you close to tears, I don't want to know you, you must be a bad person.
Now, on the other hand, this book also made me want to become a dope fiend. Just a little bit, you know. Imagine I could swap all these conflicting desires and needs I have for just one need and desire - to get that blast. Just that. No other emotional and material needs. No need to find love or a more fulfilling job or start family or make more money, just get a blast. A simple goal, achievable on a daily basis. Yeah, fucks you up good in the end, but it doesn't matter because what matters is to get a blast. This is a very simple code: get a blast and never say never because you never know how far you will go to get a blast.
Oh God, this book was great. Can David Simon go and live somewhere else for a year and write me another one like that? That's all I want for Christmas, thank you. The language was beautiful and literary, and full of slang at the same time and somehow it didn't sound like your dad trying to be hip. You might listen to a hundred rap songs, and you won't have a clue. You can watch all the 'urban movies' you can download in the whole wide internet and you still won't understand. Read this book and you might just begin to have an idea.
"My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I haWhat a cute little book!! Just listen to this:
"My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead."
There is a special place in my heart for all the wacky, unreliable narrators that might or might not have murderous tendencies. I read their words and I get them. Their logic makes sense to me. You are probably wondering: "But Kinga, doesn't it worry you? Doesn't it worry you that you find it so easy to relate to all the nutcases of the world?". And I will say: "Yes, it worries me a little bit, maybe. But hey, as Seal sings 'we're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazayy-y-y'. (Btw. did you hear the Seal and Heidi are no more? This is the saddest news ever. They were my favourite celebrity couple ever!)
Anyway, the book. Merricat and Constance are sisters and they live in a big house all alone, not counting their handicapped uncle. They have a garden where they grow things and Constance cooks all year long which makes Merricat observe:
"We eat the year away. We eat the spring and the summer and the fall. We wait for something to grow and then we eat it."
And it all sounds like total bliss to me. I want to live in a big house like that with my sister, and have my little harmless rituals, and new books from library every week.
Hey, don't you think Merricat should totally marry Frank from the Wasp Factory? They are meant for each other! Of course, they both hate strangers to they might initially try to kill each other, but every relationship has its obstacles to overcome. I believe eventually they will realise they are soulmates and get married and have lots and lots of completely twisted children. That might be just a tad difficult given the fact that Frank does not have a penis, but I believe that love conquers all!