I’ll begin by saying that I did enjoy my time spent reading Post Office. It’s undeniably humorous in its, dry, snide, arrogant way. But once you look...moreI’ll begin by saying that I did enjoy my time spent reading Post Office. It’s undeniably humorous in its, dry, snide, arrogant way. But once you look beyond the humor, there isn’t much to see. Yes, there are some off handed remarks that I’m certain ring true for many people, myself included. But for a man who notoriously saved “the best of himself for paper” this book is surprisingly soul-less. Or perhaps his soul was just black.
Henry Chinaski is a man filled with want and laziness. He is forever seeking something more than his lot, but lacks initiative; therefore his search is and ever will be, fruitless. Henry obviously possesses an awareness of himself and others and yet for all of his insight, he doesn’t appear to understand much of the world or the people in it, although he would claim otherwise. Henry respects no one, not even himself and I get the impression that he doesn’t place much stock in the human race as a whole. He squanders through his existence by drinking, gambling and screwing and somehow deludes himself into thinking that he is above it all because he doesn’t con himself into believing that there is more to existence than meaningless misery. I say don’t be so passé with your self reverential cleverness. Here we have a man that shouts about women only being good for a piece of ass, people being duped for valuing hard work, as they must surely be unoriginal to subscribe to such a virtue, and believes himself to be the intellectual superior of others because he lives a life filled with absence. I can’t help but feel that while he surrounds himself with the philosophy that most people suck hard, he secretly hopes that someone will make a believer out of him. What’s truly ironic is there isn’t much that separates Henry from those that he snubs, just drive and enthusiasm.
Many have said that you will either love Burkowski, or you’ll hate him. For me, it’s neither. I respect him for his self divulged honesty as seen here: “I was drawn to all the wrong things: I liked to drink, I was lazy, I didn't have a god, politics, ideas, ideals. I was settled into nothingness; a kind of non-being, and I accepted it. I didn't make for an interesting person. I didn't want to be interesting, it was too hard. What I really wanted was only a soft, hazy space to live in, and to be left alone.".
And I admire him for his ability to eloquently pen unexplored thoughts such as these: "I felt like crying but nothing came out. it was just a sort of sad sickness, sick sad, when you can't feel any worse. I think you know it. I think everybody knows it now and then. but I think I have known it pretty often, too often."
I won’t deny that Burkowski was an undeniably gifted writer, whose musing I can relate too, as we all can. But ultimately, I feel sympathy for anyone who wasn’t inspired to live outside of their own head. (less)
One of the things I love most about Maugham is how well he portrays the human condition. Even the shallowest of characters are richly rounded. In my m...moreOne of the things I love most about Maugham is how well he portrays the human condition. Even the shallowest of characters are richly rounded. In my mind’s eye, The Painted Veil captures the human capacity to love what is not good for them, scoff at what is, and allows us readers to see first hand how incapable many of us are at coping with the realities of life. How wonderful life would be for us all if it were fiction.
The Painted Veil tells the story of Kitty Fane, a simple minded, vein, and frivolous woman; and Walter, the man who loves her. Though Kitty does not return Walter’s love, she agrees to marry him as it seems her time in society has quite run out. Walter whisks her away to exciting Hong Kong, where he is stationed in a government funded lab. It is here that Kitty meets Charlie Townsend, the lawyer dejour. The two begin an illicit affair. However, as it always is with such things, the two are found out when Walter makes an unannounced visit home to deliver Kitty a gift. What follows is one of my top ten favorite bits of dialogue in literature to date.
"I had no illusions about you,' he said. 'I knew you were silly and frivolous and empty-headed. But I loved you. I knew that your aims and ideals were vulgar and commonplace. But I loved you. I knew that you were second-rate. But I loved you. It's comic when I think how hard I tried to be amused by the things that amused you and how anxious I was to hide from you that I wasn't ignorant and vulgar and scandal-mongering and stupid. I knew how frightened you were of intelligence and I did everything I could to make you think me as big a fool as the rest of the men you knew. I knew that you'd only married me for convenience. I loved you so much, I didn't care. Most people, as far as I can see, when they're in love with someone and the love isn't returned feel that they have a grievance. They grow angry and bitter. I wasn't like that. I never expected you to love me, I didn't see any reason that you should. I never thought myself very lovable. I was thankful to be allowed to love you and I was enraptured when now and then I thought you were pleased with me or when I noticed in your eyes a gleam of good-humored affection. I tried not to bore you with my love; I knew I couldn't afford to do that and I was always on the lookout for the first sign that you were impatient with my affection. What most husbands expect as a right I was prepared to receive as a favor."
It amazes me that anyone can wound so deeply simply by admitting their own defeat. Needless to say, this is where Kitty’s life of luxury comes to an end. Rather than cause a scandal, Walter affords Kitty a choice. She can convince Charlie to leave his wife and marry her, in which case, Walter would agree to divorce her quietly, or she can accompany him to cholera stricken Mei-Tan-Fu where he has just volunteered to work. Kitty, in all her naïveté beseeches Charlie, believing that he meant all the loving things he said to her over the course of their affair. Naturally, Charlie lives up to his cowardly nature and refuses Kitty, leaving her with no other course of action than to leave with Walter. It is here that the true gloriousness that is this story occurs.
With the blinders of Charlie’s true nature finally off, Kitty continues to love him. I suppose this is where many readers become fed up with Kitty, but I rather admired her for allowing herself to continue her feelings for a man that will inevitably disappoint. It is tragically human of her and is the one trait that binds her to Walter, for truly, isn’t he guilty of the same crime? Though Walter never again looks upon Kitty with affection, I can’t help but feel that he loved her until the end. Or perhaps he felt towards Kitty the same pity she felt towards him. His last words implied as much. (In case you are wondering, his last words were “The dog it was died” and just in case you don’t know what that means, here is the poem he was referencing)… An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog
Good people all, of every sort, Give ear unto my song; And if you find it wondrous short, It cannot hold you long.
In Islington there was a man, Of whom the world might say That still a godly race he ran, Whene'er he went to pray.
A kind and gentle heart he had, To comfort friends and foes; The naked every day he clad, When he put on his clothes.
And in that town a dog was found, As many dogs there be, Both mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound, And curs of low degree.
This dog and man at first were friends; But when a pique began, The dog, to gain some private ends, Went mad and bit the man.
Around from all the neighbouring streets The wondering neighbours ran, And swore the dog had lost his wits, To bite so good a man.
The wound it seemed both sore and sad To every Christian eye; And while they swore the dog was mad, They swore the man would die.
But soon a wonder came to light, That showed the rogues they lied: The man recovered of the bite, The dog it was that died.
Just as we can never be sure if Walter’s last words were his way of expressing forgiveness or his way of casting his final stone, we will never be certain of Kitty's transformation. It’s my opinion that the shallow Kitty died with Walter and the book ends at the start of her awakening. Nonetheless, this is a powerful and lovely story that will certainly get the emotional and mental wheels turning. (less)
If anyone had asked me two months ago if I had heard of Nick Cave, I would have said no. After listening to several of his musical offerings I can say...moreIf anyone had asked me two months ago if I had heard of Nick Cave, I would have said no. After listening to several of his musical offerings I can say that while I appreciate what he has to offer, he doesn’t appeal to my particular taste. The same can be applied to his first foray into the literary realm as well.
And the Ass Saw the Angel often reminded me of Cave's songs, as it seems to extend the themes that are expressed within them. Cave consistantly creates a dark world, containing a mighty, sometimes wrathful God, who is just as likely to trip you up as dust you off.
And the Ass Saw the Angel is the story of Euchrid, a hillbilly outcast who has been denied personal rights, respect, love, and a voice. In spite of his muteness, readers are treated to Euchrid’s inner voice as he narrates his story through his own personal language of southern style dialect, meets bible speak with a bit of gutter slang thrown in for good measure. We watch as Euchrid sinks further and further into the trappings of his own mind, slipping into madness, rivaling that of the town with which he lives.
Euchrid exists in a hard, malicious world containing heinous religious zealots that commit unspeakable acts of cruelty in the name of righteousness. Born to a raging, alcoholic mother and what can only be described as a psychopathic father; it is no wonder that Euchrid has become unhinged. But ultimately, I feel as though it is Euchrid’s inability to communicate that eventually drives him to despair. I can’t imagine leading such a traumatic existence and not have the ability to communicate my thoughts, fears, or pleadings. Perhaps as a means of coping, Euchrid has created a mythological world complete with angelic revelations. As the story progresses, and Euchrid sinks deeper into insanity, the more violent the revelations become, resulting in vengeance.
This story is bleak, depicting a world where humans only display the worst of themselves. There is nothing lovely here. The ugliness doesn’t shine, it festers. I felt as though I should have been handed an anti-depressant before being given this book. Cave has obvious talent, that I’m certain will appeal to his fans, but this is simply not my cup of tea. (less)
Winter’s Bone is a lyrical, gutter-trash wonder. When I wasn’t aghast by the realization that there are people who actually accept living in such wre...moreWinter’s Bone is a lyrical, gutter-trash wonder. When I wasn’t aghast by the realization that there are people who actually accept living in such wretched circumstances, I was busy blotting my eyes with tissues. I went through half a box by the time I completed this 200 paged tale that is appallingly gorgeous in its scope.
Winter’s Bone depicts a bleak Ozark realm containing deeply rooted codes of honor in which these characters of murdering, drug selling, over dosing feigns live and die. Ree Dolly is the daughter of such a feigned, known amongst those in the sticks as the best crack cooker far and wide. When her father skips bail, Ree is tasked with finding him or else she, along with her family, will be cast out of their home which her father used as collateral to post his bond. Over wrought with her current burden as caregiver to a mad mother, and two entirely dependant younger brothers, Ree must heap yet another load upon her shoulders to ensure the survival of her family. As a result, Ree will have to shake up the established status quo, and may even forfeit her life as a consequence of doing so.
Ree is as far removed from a wide eyed innocent as one can get, and yet she posses such a naive since of hope and want that your heart can’t help but break for her. She disarms you with her ferocious tenacity, over whelming and often maternal sense of love for her brothers, and her loyalty to the lot of losers to which she has been born. Winter’s Bone will grab hold of you, chill you to your core, and leave you with a feeling of weariness by tales end. (less)
I decided I was long overdue to read something I wouldn't have to hide from the serious looking adults at book people and Sharp Objects has street cre...moreI decided I was long overdue to read something I wouldn't have to hide from the serious looking adults at book people and Sharp Objects has street cred. Flynn has received great press with her latest release Gone Girl, but those who are "in the know" claim that Sharp Objects is where its at, hence my reading of this as opposed to the aforementioned best seller. Plus, it has a razor blade on the cover. No one can claim that I only read sappiness now, right?...But seriously, I've heard nothing but how wonderfully creepy, well developed, deplorable, etc, this book is, so street cred aside, I wanted to read anything that received such great hype.
For me, Sharp Objets was about on par with a disappointing episode of Criminal Minds. Er go, I didn't fear walking my dog at bed time and was only mildly challenged by the who-dun-it crime of the night plot. Perhaps I've watched too much Criminal Minds, thus over developing my ability to identify pervy perps while simultaneously desensitizing myself to the vicious acts of sick freaks, but the who-dun-it theme was very underwhelming in Flynn's debut, as was the creep factor. Don't get me wrong, the crimes committed in this book are disturbing, but lots of things in life are, including any and all acts of violence. With all the fuss being spread about Sharp Objects I think I was just expecting a bit more if that makes any sense. I mean, even Vampire Diaries has a ripper! The characterization falls right in line with Sharp Objects mediocre plot. It takes a little more than mental instability, addiction, etc. for me to consider a character well rounded, and once you get past the shock factor of these characters individual mental/emotional issues, there's not much to see. In fact, they are a bit annoying.
Above comments aside, Sharp Objects is paced well, so perceived faults aside, its nearly impossible not to finish reading this short novel, but that time could have also been spent watching a really good episode of Criminal Minds, or two.(less)