Fascinating stuff. Interesting how a lot of modern Christian theology (and Buddhist teachings, and modern psychology) is starting to sound a whole lotFascinating stuff. Interesting how a lot of modern Christian theology (and Buddhist teachings, and modern psychology) is starting to sound a whole lot like early Christian gnosticism. Definitely worth reading, even for an infidel like me....more
I originally bought this book because Brad Pitt looks so darn handsome on the cover, but it turns out the novellas within are actually pretty good. ThI originally bought this book because Brad Pitt looks so darn handsome on the cover, but it turns out the novellas within are actually pretty good. That and "Revenge," the first book in the collection, has been recommended to me by many, many people, and I've finally got around to reading it, and will now tell everyone how great it is as though I'm the first person to discover it.
Harrison manages to pack a novel's worth of book into about 100 pages for each story, which is probably one of the least original things to say about this book, but remains true nonetheless. "Revenge" and "Legends" are both masterpieces, of economy of language and storytelling alike - the pace for each book is fast, almost relentless, but it never feels like a treatment of a larger work. There's definitely a Hemingwayish odor to a lot of it, but the tough-guy-in-the-wilderness stories were just what I was looking for right now. Harrison has been hanging on the edge of my radar for a long time, and I'm glad I finally took the plunge. ...more
This book was harder to get into than I expected it to be - I'm an unabashed fan of Augie March, but Tommy Wilhelm's story is something different. ItThis book was harder to get into than I expected it to be - I'm an unabashed fan of Augie March, but Tommy Wilhelm's story is something different. It wasn't until the end, in the last few pages and even paragraphs, that I finally understood how this book was working, and began to rethink the earlier parts of the novella. Bellow can afford to hang his whole book on the last few pages simply because the thing is so very short - and the book is, in a way, more of a very long short story than a novel. In fact, it follows the James Joyce model of epiphany in a way very similar to "The Dead," though its subject matter has more to do with O'Hara's Appointment in Samarra. It's not often you find a book that's so honest about money - I guess most writers don't really understand the stuff - which is a refreshing thing, though not especially uplifting.
Still, I wonder if this couldn't have worked better as a short story - if condensing the thing to 50 or 60 pages wouldn't make it more powerful - but I suppose we'll never know.
A lot of Bolano's (sorry, I don't know how to fix the "n" with the tilde) other, longer books take place outside of Chile - "The Savage Detectives" isA lot of Bolano's (sorry, I don't know how to fix the "n" with the tilde) other, longer books take place outside of Chile - "The Savage Detectives" is in Mexico, and "2666" roams throughout Europe (and Mexico, too) - so it was an interesting change of pace to see him write about his homeland directly (like he did in "Distant Star"). A short, extended monologue without paragraph breaks or a real pause for breath, "By Night In Chile" is essentially the story of a priest with literary ambitions who finally, at the end of his life, confronts his own complicity with the horrific Pinochet regime.
The book moves from the surreal - as the priest travels through Europe studying the various falconry techniques of pastors in Italy, Spain, and Germany at the behest of Opus Dei - to the outright funny - he teaches Pinochet and the junta's lead generals a week-long seminar on Marxism - and manages to address its political themes without resorting to polemic or anything similarly easy. Like any good Bolano book, there are plenty of digressions, stories being told within stories that seem profound in a very unspecific way, as well as the obligatory lists of Latin American literary figures who may or may not be made up (I'm showing some cultural bias here, perhaps, or at least ignorance). Ultimately, the novel is an account of the latter half of the 20th century in Chile that is both abstract and personalized, and well worth reading....more
Now here's a book. It was especially interesting to read immediately after Anthem, since they're both political-ish allegories, though the similaritieNow here's a book. It was especially interesting to read immediately after Anthem, since they're both political-ish allegories, though the similarities are primarily categorical. One major difference would be that Waiting for the Barbarians is so very good, and the other one not so much. It's a thoughtful book, not just espousing some political credo but examining an entire situation - the struggle of an Empire to live with the people it fights against, as well as to live with itself - and giving an honest account of one character's experience living in it.
That's where this novel succeeds, really. It is certainly a novel of ideas, using a kind of generic "Empire" setting - one can draw parallels to a dozen contemporary and yet-to-occur situations (was this book really written in 1980?), but all are applicable - to explore the power relationships that go on between the oppressor and oppressed, and it does this quite well. But the real success is the way the novel works with characters - the Magistrate, our narrator, feels completely real, and his all-too-human reactions to the situations that confront him are what really kept me invested in the book.
Unlike Anthem, Waiting for the Barbarians is a novel, not a polemic. It has ideas, but instead of answering questions it raises them, and explores how one man might hazard a guess. Great stuff....more
This is a good book - almost great, but definitely good. In a cynical mood, I might say it feels as though Atwood was just trying to get a Booker in hThis is a good book - almost great, but definitely good. In a cynical mood, I might say it feels as though Atwood was just trying to get a Booker in her back pocket, and wrote something "serious" that would appeal to the judges. While her direct style and sense of humor are both still here, there is a great deal of meditation and focus on simple, banal everydayness that feels somewhat out of character considering "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Oryx and Crake" are both in her wheelhouse. Much of the novel seems more appropriate for fellow Ontarian Alice Munro (i.e., it's emotionally complex, multilayered, and slightly dull), but with some of Atwood's spin put on it.
The structure, on the other hand, is impressive and terrific. While I could see it coming from early on, the way she united the present, past, and fantasy plotlines at the end is extremely elegant and well done - for that alone, this book is a major success.
But there's still something that kept me at bay - in many ways, this book presents itself as a "big" novel, the kind of fragmented, (post-)modernist work that attempts to capture the world, but in reality the story is fairly small. The bigness is really a kind of richness in detail that can actually weigh the middle portions down - to be honest, the book probably doesn't need to be as long as it is. But the end pays off, and pays quite well, so any sagging is easily forgiven....more