I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Sorry, but this book tried too hard to be dramatic and important, but ended up being just boring and predicta...moreI won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Sorry, but this book tried too hard to be dramatic and important, but ended up being just boring and predictable. And there wasn't enough of a plot here to sustain a novel (might have been a great short story).(less)
**spoiler alert** “Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves.” ― Emily Brontë
Buddenbrooks traces the decline and ultimate decimation of a proud f...more**spoiler alert** “Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves.” ― Emily Brontë
Buddenbrooks traces the decline and ultimate decimation of a proud family of merchants in Northern Germany. The story opens with precocious little Tony Buddenbrooks, learning the catechism on her grandfather's knee, and closes some 40 years later with Tony contemplating her life and concluding that life shatters faith. Over the course of 730 pages, we follow the Buddenbrooks as they rise and fall and rise again. But it is the painful, exhausting death throes of the matriarch of the family that foreshadows the painful, exhausting death throes of the family itself, culminating in the emotional musical swan song of Hanno, the final remaining male heir. The novel follows the ebb and flow of fortune and disaster over the course of generations, pressing the point that one cannot be certain of one's place in the universe. Nor is it wise to try to hold onto a legacy too tightly. Pride and love of family are virtues, yes, but they also can become destructive obsessions.
This is a well thought out novel, with wonderful prose. Mann knew what he was doing when he associated the color yellow with the Buddenbrooks, for yellow is not only the happy color of sunshine and prosperity, it is also the color of jaundice, fever, and sickness. Similarly striking is his careful use of the color blue, particularly in his descriptions of the bluish shadows around the eyes of Gerda, the mysterious pale beauty who marries the head of the family and lurks on the periphery of family gatherings like an angel of death.
This is also a story of the loss of faith--not just religious faith, but also the faith in oneself--and the self-fulfilling prophecies of doom that can arise from that loss. When the Buddenbrooks don't have faith anymore, then all that's left is pride. In fact, one of Tony's defining features is her haughtiness, even in the face of one social disaster after another. One of the most striking scenes is the death of Thomas, and Mann staged it magnificently. We've followed Thomas's deepening depression and growing obsession with keeping up appearances. He had become meticulous to a fault about his dress and personal hygiene. And then this:
"He turned halfway around, and then, raising his arms, he fell forward onto the wet pavement. "Since the street slopped steeply downhill, his head lay a good deal lower than his feet. He had fallen face-down, and a puddle of blood immediately began to form around his head. His hat rolled off down the street a little way. His fur coat was splattered with muck and slush. His outstretched hands in their white kid gloves had come to rest in a puddle. "There he lay, and he went on lying there until some people happened by and turned him over on his back."
That's stunning imagery, and it brought me back to an ancient proverb that applies to Thomas and Tony:
"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." - Proverbs 16:18
Romeo, oh Romeo, what a spineless, over-emotional wimp thou art. Saddled with an overly developed flair for the melodramatic, you cannot control your...moreRomeo, oh Romeo, what a spineless, over-emotional wimp thou art. Saddled with an overly developed flair for the melodramatic, you cannot control your emotions. At all. You just jump from one emotional crisis to the next and panic. Wow, what a guy. Even the Friar has to tell him to man up and grow a pair. What does Juliet see in him? Well, she's young, impressionistic, and probably digs the thrill of crossing the line into forbidden love territory. You can hardly blame her, since she has grown up around an insufferable bunch of hotheads who live and die by the motto: "Have sword, not afraid to use it." No wonder so many of them end up dead.
The point, it seems to me, is to caution us against the perils of impulsive action. And EVERYONE seems to be acting on impulse - Romeo, who transfers his affections from Rosalin to Juliet in the blink of an eye, marries a girl he met the day before, decides without forethought to avenge Mercutio's death instead of letting justice take its course (which probably would have led to the death of Tybalt anyway, by order of the Prince), kill Paris and himself in his moment of grief; Tybalt the tyrant and Mercutio the mercurial who can't seem to keep their tongues and swords sheathed; the jittery Nurse who first facilitates the romance with Romeo and then repudiates it; Juliet's parents who throw a hissy fit when Juliet says she doesn't want to marry Paris; and even the Friar, in coming up on the spur of the moment of crisis with the scheme of giving Juliet a sleeping potion to simulate death and having her wait, corpse-like, in a tomb for revival and reunion with Romeo. Yeah, **that's** a good, well thought out plan.
I am a big Shakespeare fan and I had high expectations but this one just didn't do it for me. I will admit, the poetry and wit were at times sublime. Some of the descriptions of love were stunning. But I couldn't decide whether this was intended to be romance, tragedy, farce, or what. I finally decided on tragicomedy, because some of Romeo's words and actions were just so over the top as to be ridiculous. And yet the young lovers both die in a tragic case of misunderstanding.
But wait - there is a winner here, folks. And it's the lovely Rosalin, who was smart enough to give Romeo the heave-ho early on and stay clear of this whole bloody mess. Bravo, Rosalin. (less)
Ok, so now we know: J.K. Rowling hates muggles. Because there isn't a single character that isn't either despicable or miserable. This is a very negat...moreOk, so now we know: J.K. Rowling hates muggles. Because there isn't a single character that isn't either despicable or miserable. This is a very negative book whose only allegedly redeeming feature purports to be a social message that we ought to take care of the disenfranchised. But even that comes across as heavy handed and oppressive. (less)
Korin, a Hungarian archivist, unseals a long hidden and forgotten antique manuscript that recounts the tale of four riders accompanied by the shadowy,...moreKorin, a Hungarian archivist, unseals a long hidden and forgotten antique manuscript that recounts the tale of four riders accompanied by the shadowy, lurking figure of Mastemann as they travel through history bearing witness to one disaster after another (war, conquest, death and there's probably famine in there as well). Korin, obsessed with sharing this masterpiece with the world, travels to New York City to upload the work onto the internet. But his unleashing of the four horsemen puts him on a collision course with his own apocalypse.
This is a challenging book. Each chapter is one, long--sometimes incredibly long--sentence. And a single sentence may shift directions, intertwine, loop back on itself, and end up somewhere completely unexpected. It is a gush of words and thoughts, but not a rush of them. It is a slow, relentless flow that creates an atmosphere that is at once bleak and beautiful and has an other-worldly quality to it. It's a moving, sad book, but not without its moments of humor. And the story ends elsewhere - you have to go beyond the physical boundaries of the book for the final catastrophe.
You can't devour this book like a bag of Doritos. You have to slowly savor each morsel, like a box of Lindt chocolates. But don't expect creamy milk chocolate and sticky sweet caramel bonbons - it's all bittersweet.
Charming, in a lace, wisteria, and china tea cups sort of way. It's so very pleasant when everything is all sunshine, sweetness, and light. And everyt...moreCharming, in a lace, wisteria, and china tea cups sort of way. It's so very pleasant when everything is all sunshine, sweetness, and light. And everything ends up nice and tidy, just like it's supposed to. It sounds a bit saccharine but actually this book is like a breath of fresh, freesia scented air. (less)
Reading Diaz is like listening to merenrap: the language moves fast, gets to the point, and has a color and rhythm all its own. This book of short sto...moreReading Diaz is like listening to merenrap: the language moves fast, gets to the point, and has a color and rhythm all its own. This book of short stories explores various episodes in the life of Diaz's alter ego, a man who embraces his demons and then wonders why they won't stop messing with him. The stories are mostly about lost or absence loves - of a country, a father, a brother, a son, and whole lotta women. It's vulgar, irreverent, and pretty darn entertaining, and for that it gets 4 stars in my book.
Once a jerk, always a jerk. Our hero, Tony Webster, has the dubious honor of having his past and present character flaws thrown in his face. Not a bad...moreOnce a jerk, always a jerk. Our hero, Tony Webster, has the dubious honor of having his past and present character flaws thrown in his face. Not a bad premise for a book, which is written in a rather enjoyable, breezy style, notwithstanding the gratuitous ending.
This dystopian novel is set in a fictional totalitarian state the author happens to call "North Korea." While the author's depiction of life in North...moreThis dystopian novel is set in a fictional totalitarian state the author happens to call "North Korea." While the author's depiction of life in North Korea may be based in part on actual accounts or even some first-hand knowledge, as I understand it, he takes a lot of artistic liberties. Even worse, the characters don't feel authentic or even particularly foreign. Could the author do no better than to clothe American characters in North Korean garb?
The book is a decent page-turner, albeit one with a predictable outcome. But in the end, there's not much meat on the bones. It would have been a far more interesting story to have one or more of the North Korean characters defect to the US only to encounter not only the joys of freedom but also some of its darker consequences. What would have happened to Sun Moon in the US? I doubt she would have been installed in a Beverly Hills mansion with movie scripts handed to her on a silver platter, living happily ever after. How much (or how little) of what she was led to believe about the US would have rung true to her? And how would she have dealt with the consequences of her defection? Now that would have been an interesting book. Instead, we're left with a dark fairy tale of a book that is supposed to make us feel grateful that we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, and not in North Korea. Ok, so we are, but still, it's an odd sort of message to get from a book that spills a lot of ink satirizing propangandistic tactics based on fictionalized revisions of actual events. Unless that was the intended joke all along, in which case the idea for this book is better than I had originally thought. (less)