Well, when I started reading the Hitchhiker's Guide series, an acquaintance who had recently finished it said it had wholly underwhelmed her. Sure, thWell, when I started reading the Hitchhiker's Guide series, an acquaintance who had recently finished it said it had wholly underwhelmed her. Sure, the majority of the series is an exercise in pure whimsy, but I had enjoyed the first three books and thought her a bit off-base.
But in the fourth and fifth book of the series, I found my interest lagging and the end of Mostly Harmless caught me somewhat off guard. I sat there with the finished book in my hands, feeling rather put out.
I like and laughed numerous sections of the Hitchiker series—from cows convincing you to eat them, to the idea of a Perfectly Normal Beast sandwich and "the King" singing in an intergalactic bar with a gaudy pink spaceship.And I don't think I'll look at dolphins in quite the same way. Adams is a clever and witty writer who certainly knows how to turn a phrase.
But at the end of Mostly Harmless, I felt as if I hadn't really gotten much more than that. I think if I had read this when I was around 13-15, I would've loved this series a bit more than I did.
As is, I found the Mostly Harmless to be the weakest of the series and the first two books to be the strongest. Overall, it's an alright series with a few good laughs and an interesting take on life millions of lightyears from Earth.
Slow to start, Margaret Atwood's "The Blind Assassin" eventually builds up to a satisfying pay-off for those willing to power through the first half oSlow to start, Margaret Atwood's "The Blind Assassin" eventually builds up to a satisfying pay-off for those willing to power through the first half of the book. "The Blind Assassin" is a complex tale of two sisters, written in a nested story format that alternates between a pulp science fiction novel written by one of the characters and a memoir, peppered with relevant newspaper clippings.
As with most non-linear story structures, it takes quite a bit of exposition before the story-threads can come together; but when they do, it makes for an enjoyable second and third act. As a result, the second half of the book reads at a much faster, enjoyable pace. Atwood is a superb writer, and really gives a unique voice to Iris Chase; when reading, you really get the sense this old woman is sitting next to you and telling you the story of her complicated life. My one complaint was that Atwood really seems to love specificity in her vocabulary, and long descriptive paragraphs. For instance, I had no idea what a dulcimer was (or any of the types of upper class furniture Atwood names)so I ended up having to look them up on Wikipedia--which totally took me out of the setting.
As for the "twist": It's not the most mind blowing twist there ever was, but it is well-executed. The observant reader will undoubtedly be able to pick up clues throughout the narrative. So while it may not come as a surprise, the story molds together quite well at the end. In that sense, "The Blind Assassin" is reminiscent of Nabokov's "Pale Fire", though since this is written primarily in a memoir format as opposed to an academic poetic analysis, I felt there was more storytelling, less squinting and deciphering.
Overall, "The Blind Assassin" is an enjoyable read, though I can't really fault those who give up halfway. At 544 pages, its a longer-than-average read, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I'll put it this way: Those who hated the ending to LOST, would probably hate the ending to "The Blind Assassin" too. ...more
Some books have great word of mouth. This is not one of them. Among my book-nerd friends, Gravity's Rainbow was described with words such as "difficulSome books have great word of mouth. This is not one of them. Among my book-nerd friends, Gravity's Rainbow was described with words such as "difficult" and "dense," or met with scrunched up noses of disdain. One friend saw me carrying the book and threw her hands up with a cry of "Oh god, Pynchon !?!?!"
After 3 months, I can understand why Pynchon and Gravity's Rainbow can elicit such a reaction from even die-hard book lovers. It's by no means an easy read; it is dense, jam-packed and at 776 pages, a bit of a mental marathon. If you're not familiar with World War II's general timeline of events, the setting and the plot can seem like a giant maze filled with twists and turns of unrelated references, digressions and pages upon pages of pointless distractions. It is definitely hard to keep up with the astronomical number of characters--some who only appear for one "chapter"--who appear and reappear seemingly at random.
However, I can recognize that there is indeed a spark of genius within the madness. Whether or not that genius is something that speaks to you, however, very much depends on your personal preferences for literature. If you want a fast page-turner, this will not be your cup of tea. Pynchon is certainly skilled with his wordplay and there's quite a bit to chew on intellectually--but the information deluge can be understandably overwhelming.
Perhaps foolishly, I tackled Gravity's Rainbow without reading Crying Lot of 49 or V. Some say that reading either before Gravity's Rainbow makes it easier to read and appreciate. In my personal opinion, I don't know how much merit that holds and depends on the individual. I think even the most seasoned reader will have to double back over certain passages. This is definitely a book that's meant to be read multiple times to get the full force of what Pynchon is trying to say.
Was the possibility of understanding that meaning worth the monumental effort? I'm not sure I got the "message" and most certainly didn't understand everything that was going on. I enjoyed a lot of passages, but powered through a lot of them as well. Will I pick up this book for a re-read? Maybe, but not anytime soon. But I'm not about to run away and cry in despair should I see another Pynchon book in the future.