I decided to begin my year-long project with a novel by Orhan Pamuk not simply because he is perhaps my all-time favorite Turkish author, but also bec I decided to begin my year-long project with a novel by Orhan Pamuk not simply because he is perhaps my all-time favorite Turkish author, but also because he’s an author that I always find myself returning to time and time again. During the second semester of my freshman year in college, I first read his 2002 novel Snow and wrote a short book report on its meaning and significance… and although I wouldn’t consider it one of my favorite pieces of literature, there was just something about the book itself that always remained in the back of my mind. This past summer, I picked up a copy of his latest novel, The Museum of Innocence, and read all five hundred and ninety two pages in a matter of hours.
My Name is Red was a title that I kept hearing over and over again in my research of Pamuk, and it is often listed as a major contribution to his award of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. From the onset, I suppose I was expecting the novel’s content to be quite similar to the previous two novels I had read: a love story on the surface, yet intertwined with a mysterious and overpowering melancholy that one finds more comforting than disheartening. In particular, I was eager to learn more about Pamuk’s Turkey… a quiet, snow-covered country haunted by its cultural and historical past.
However, My Name is Red proved to be quite different from Pamuk’s other novels. Although it addressed the enduring issue of “East versus West”, a controversial topic ever-present in Turkey’s past and future, this novel had a completely different feel. It is set in an entirely different time period, hundreds of years ago, and I was unable to detect Pamuk’s usual underlying commentary about modern Turkey and secularism. No, this novel was, on the surface, about an entirely different topic altogether: painting. And the love story contained within the book was entirely overshadowed by the ongoing detective story (who murdered Elegant Effendi and Enishte Effendi?) and the particular descriptions of sixteenth century Ottoman miniaturist paintings (of which I appreciated Pamuk’s dedication to detailing and depicting its beauty, but also that which could have been excluded from many of the long and drawn-out chapters).
With that being said, there were also a lot of things that I admired about the novel, such as the passages that attempted to describe the miniaturists’ attitudes about art and tradition, or the creativity employed by Pamuk in the chapters narrated by inanimate objects (e.g., a corpse, a painting of a dog, a coin, a horse). Unlike many murder mystery novels, I was continuously left guessing and hypothesizing who the true killer could be, and upon completion of the novel, I was thoroughly satisfied with the way in which all loose ends were tied.
Saying I liked it or didn’t like it doesn’t really capture the complexity of my experience with this book. Pamuk’s works are always worth reading, and although the length of the novel could have easily been cut in half by excluding much of the superfluous descriptions, the majority of these passages are so beautifully well-written that I don’t feel that my time was entirely wasted. ...more
I had initially heard of George Sand’s first independent novel upon listening to a Meg & Dia track entitled (what else?) “Indiana,” over five yearI had initially heard of George Sand’s first independent novel upon listening to a Meg & Dia track entitled (what else?) “Indiana,” over five years ago. This song in particular seemed to stand out from the rest of their album; its lyrics weren’t necessarily about love or despair or the slew of other human emotions that songs are typically about, but rather, it appeared to tell a story of which I was unfamiliar. The story depicted a girl named “Indiana,” a “strong and obedient wife” who had begun “to die,” due to the fault of some man entitled “Colonel” who likely neglected her. After discovering that the inspiration for the song came from Sand’s work, I decided to use the rest of an Amazon.com gift card in order to purchase a used copy of the novel.
The novel sat on my shelf for years before I finally decided to pick it up earlier this week… and I can’t believe I never had the motivation to read it sooner, because I absolutely loved it. The language flowed smoothly, which made it quite the easy read, and it wasn’t predictable in the way that I had expected it to be. After the sudden and tragic death that occurs in the first eighty or so pages, the plot shifts, and Indiana instantly becomes a back-and-forth story of manipulation and lust (and sometimes love, though it’s rare and mostly exerted by the female characters). There were times when I felt completely sympathetic toward the poor, nineteen-year-old Creole girl who often becomes the victim of Raymon’s seductive games… but there were other instances in which I found her to be foolish, over-dramatic and downright unpleasant. In the end, however, I was satisfied with the way that the novel ended (though I did not necessarily anticipate it), and I shut the book feeling the same way that all great books make me feel: invigorated, reflective and thoroughly appreciative of the experience.
In particular, this novel strongly reminded me of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, which is often a required text for many high school literature classes. If you enjoyed reading about scandalous, 19th- and 20th-century love affairs and you’re an advocate of feminism, then perhaps Sand is right for you....more
"The Virgin Suicides" was simply a book that stumbled into my lap a few weeks ago, just as I was beginning to pursue this year-long reading project. M"The Virgin Suicides" was simply a book that stumbled into my lap a few weeks ago, just as I was beginning to pursue this year-long reading project. My former roommate and I stopped by her place to pick up some money before heading out to dinner, and I spotted the book lying on her already-cluttered desk. After commenting that I had always heard wonderful reviews about the novel and asking her whether or not she enjoyed it, she replied, “Oh, I haven’t even read it yet… but I have another copy so you can go ahead and take that one if you’d like.”
And she was right. She indeed did have another copy; she had previously grabbed a handful of them on her way to class, as the novel had been assigned for my university’s annual freshman reading project. Without hesitation, I slipped the spare copy into my Longchamp tote, making a mental note to read the novel at some point during the semester.
I finished reading the novel this morning, harboring somewhat mixed feelings about nearly every aspect of it. I suppose that with a topic as controversial as “suicide,” I had expected for the story’s plot to be extremely captivating and to continually surprise me, page after page. On the contrary, I actually found the novel’s contents to be extremely predictable… almost to the point where I questioned whether or not I had previously seen bits and pieces of the film before (and I’ve concluded that I have not). The sisters’ actions are routinely typical, and I often found myself wanting to skip entire paragraphs in the hopes of eventually encountering a passage that would catch me off-guard.
I do, however, have to commend Eugenides on his mastery of language, for it was this aspect of the novel that I found to be extremely brilliant and comforting. It comes as no surprise that he has only written two novels; you can almost feel the passion that he has for writing seeping through the pages, entirely intoxicating and at the same time, unnerving. Despite the fact that the novel is written from the perspective of a neighborhood boy, he himself completely infatuated with the Lisbon girls, there were times when I felt as though I was one of the blond-haired, pale-skinned sisters… and that is only a testament to how ardently and skillfully Eugenides is able to write.
I’ll likely try and find the time to watch Sofia Coppola’s film adaptation, but I don’t know if I’ll pick up this novel again anytime in the near future. To put it simply, I didn’t particularly like the way that it made me feel. Read it up at your own expense....more
This book has sat on my bookshelf for a total of two years, and its purchase was, for the most part, an initial disappointment. It was supposed to beThis book has sat on my bookshelf for a total of two years, and its purchase was, for the most part, an initial disappointment. It was supposed to be one of the required readings for a European Trans-nationalism class that I was destined to take, but with only two days until the commencement of classes, the professor packed his things and jetted off to Sweden for an entire year. I never really got around to returning any of the novels, and thus they've been sitting there despairingly, collecting dust and begging to be read.
I grudgingly began Carlo Levi's novel with the daunting suspicion that perhaps this would be more of an academic read than a leisurely one... but within the first dozen pages or so, I found myself to be proven wrong. Although the book itself is set in 1935, at the start of Italy's war with Ethiopia, I found the historical elements to be absolutely dwarfed by the soulful and poetic language of the novel's narrator, Carlo Levi himself. Everything contained within the book's pages are straight from the personal experiences of the author: from his being banished to the confines of Luciana region in southern Italy to his daily encounters with the townspeople to his own personal beliefs about the Italian government, undoubtedly shaped by his time spent there in "Gagliano" (actually Aliano, Italy).
If anything, this novel made me feel more at home within these tiny, impoverished villages than I do in my own hometown flourishing with technology and civilization. As Levi travels from Gagliano to Grassano and back, I could almost hear myself screaming, "No! Don't depart yet! I was just beginning to grow to love this town and its villagers and its landscape which you describe so beautifully... can we just stay for a bit longer?" And don't even get me started on the affection and admiration that I felt toward the individuals themselves. The end of the novel nearly brought me to tears as the thought of never encountering them again became a reality.
As someone who has already traveled to Italy before, I can truly say that this novel is both a historical eye-opener and a genuinely profound piece of literature. For anyone planning to visit the country in the future (or even for those of you, like myself, who have already had the privilege of witnessing its beauty), I urge you to read this novel. You will never think of "Italy" as a single country again....more
I don’t know if I’d consider myself a Salinger fan outright… I mean, I’ve read The Catcher in the Rye (who hasn’t?), but that’s the extent of my experI don’t know if I’d consider myself a Salinger fan outright… I mean, I’ve read The Catcher in the Rye (who hasn’t?), but that’s the extent of my experience with the man. Some people love him, and some people hate him. All I know is that after reading Franny and Zooey, I can definitely identify with his thinking and feel something resembling admiration and appreciation for him as an author.
Franny and Zooey is essentially a collection of two short stories that Salinger published in The New Yorker in the mid-1950’s. The first story, entitled “Franny,” chronicles the evening of the youngest Glass sibling during dinner with her college boyfriend; the second story, “Zooey,” is a reaction to that same dinner, in which Franny suffers an emotional and existential breakdown, and upon returning home, her older brother Zooey (himself not the most stable of the Glass clan) is determined to be her guide.
Putting aside the fact that this book was dangerously clever and tremendously passionate, I must admit that I related to both characters in so many ways, and I wouldn’t doubt that if I should ever endure my own breakdown of sorts that Franny and Zooey would be the first piece of literature I’d pick up. However, with that being said… despite liking this novel so much, I probably would be somewhat hesitant to recommend it to another individual. This isn’t to say that I didn’t absolutely love it, but rather that it depends on someone’s character whether or not they’d enjoy it. The combination of Salinger’s stream-of-conscious dialogue and the always controversial theme of religion makes this book difficult for most people to stomach.
Either way, the last three pages are astoundingly beautiful… if you start reading this book, it’s certainly in your best interest to finish....more
I usually never read a book if I've already seen the film adaptation. It just ruins the entire experience for me, and I end up giving the novel a veryI usually never read a book if I've already seen the film adaptation. It just ruins the entire experience for me, and I end up giving the novel a very low rating. This was the case with Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted.
Ultimately, I feel like the book fell short on so many levels - character development, further detail and explanation about the hospital, about Susanna's diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately "recovery." This text was so impersonal that once I finished reading it, I had to go back and watch Winona Ryder's portrayal of young Susanna so that I could remember why I even liked this story in the first place.
As a book lover, believe me when I say I am cringing as I type this: the 1999 film Girl, Interrupted outshines its literary predecessor on more than one level. The book is brief, dry, and dull. The end....more
For International Society for Women's final meeting, we decided it would be relevant and enjoyable to begin an international book club of sorts and toFor International Society for Women's final meeting, we decided it would be relevant and enjoyable to begin an international book club of sorts and to read a novel written by a foreign female author. Given the turmoil faced in Egypt throughout the course of the semester, we quickly settled on a piece by Egyptian writer Nawal El Saadawi who, upon numerous Google searches, seemed to us the perfect fit for our campus organization.
And let me tell you: this 100-something page book certainly packs a punch. It is essentially a memoir of sorts as death-row prisonmate Firdaus recalls her life's story to a visiting doctor. From domestic abuse to forced marriages to prostitution, Firdaus leads a rather dismal life with little to no options on how to manage affairs herself. Eventually, however, her anger and her hatred toward the men of the world transforms itself into a powerful new outlook on society: her true value in this world is money, and her profits made as a prostitute also ultimately make her a totally free woman. Ironic, eh?
El Saadawi's language in this tiny novel is what was perhaps most impressive to me. With no superfluous or excessive vocabulary and with simple and commanding sentences, she is able to effectively convey the intensity of the world felt by Firdaus, the harshness of her reality and the strength she manages to gather from all of her experiences. And while some individuals might label this book as 'one continuous rant against men,' I do think it is important for young women in the world - from the United States to Egypt and everywhere in between - to read a sympathetic account of how one individual's involvement with human trafficking and prostitution ultimately altered her entire spirit and determined the course of her life.
Amateurish diction, but remarkable substance....more
After finishing this novel, I sat for awhile and debated with myself on whether or not I'd consider this a four- or five-star book... and in the end,After finishing this novel, I sat for awhile and debated with myself on whether or not I'd consider this a four- or five-star book... and in the end, I came to the conclusion that this book deserved the higher rating because there was absolutely nothing that I could find wrong with it.
First of all, there's the language that Hurston uses throughout each and every chapter... and oh my goodness, the bold dialect is what makes this book outshine all of the others. For the first couple of pages, it took me awhile to adjust to the authentic African-American dialogue which was initially difficult to read, but the more and more you become engrossed in the story, the easier the words seem to flow. You almost feel as though you've been transported to the South, and as a born and raised New Orleanian, that's definitely something I can appreciate.
And the characters... hands-down, the characters (and the language) are what truly make this book a classic. Janie, a fair-skinned black woman growing up in Florida in the early twentieth century, faces trials and tribulations through each of her three marriages and with each of their three unique husbands. Although this novel is embedded with so many feminist and racial themes, I found that I was more apt to ignore the innate desire to analyze each literary device and instead to focus on the protagonist, and while she may sometimes perfectly embody the Southern plantation mistress living in a patriarchal society, you can't help but love her spirit.
Ultimately, this book sends a very powerful message, and once you read the first chapter, it is hard to put down. I mean, props to Hurston... she knew what she was doing when, within the first few pages, she informed the reader that all of Janie's marriages start off well but end on sour notes. Zora Neale, you can't honestly expect for me to abandon the novel after a juicy attention-grabber like that. ...more
I will start off by saying that I expected for this little novella to be funnier. I mean, come on... it's Steve Martin we're talking about here. HowevI will start off by saying that I expected for this little novella to be funnier. I mean, come on... it's Steve Martin we're talking about here. However, after being told that each of the characters is actually a bit more comical in the film adaption of the book, I can forgive Martin of this slight paperback disappointment and move on.
Overall, I rather enjoyed this one-hundred-something page little beauty. Martin surely can write prose better than I anticipated, and for less than $4, this novel left me satisfied. You've got Mirabelle, who I must admit is a very upsetting excuse for a leading female character, and you've got Ray Porter, the middle-aged millionaire who sweeps her off her feet and manages to slowly tear her heart into a billion tiny and unidentifiable pieces. The plot is predictable, certainly, and there were a few moments where the story became quite gloomy and miserable and all I wanted to do was shut the book and throw it across the room... but ultimately, I'm glad I finished it. Martin managed to weave a story of love and lost and finally renewal, and when packaged all together, the characters and the plot and the diction are all quite lovely. It's genuine.
Actually, I think this short read is either one that you'll love or you'll hate. I also get the feeling that some of the philosophies written throughout the pages are some of Steve Martin's own, but that's just me hoping that I've somehow gotten an in-depth look at one of my favorite comedian's psyches. ...more
I had picked up this novel on a whim, and after reading the synopsis on the back cover, I was convinced that I would immediately fall in love with thiI had picked up this novel on a whim, and after reading the synopsis on the back cover, I was convinced that I would immediately fall in love with this story: as an international relations major, I love any tale that takes place abroad and that involves a culture that is entirely different from my own. The Pickup sat on my bookshelf for a few months until I finally grabbed it on my way to the park one day, and from that point forward, I struggled with what was soon to become my biggest love-hate relationship with a piece of literature.
I mean, I loved the plot. Loved it. Man picks up woman (or does Woman pick up Man?), and they begin a ferociously fast-paced relationship which eventually leads to a swift marriage and a reluctant deportation back to Man's native (north African? Middle Eastern?) country. The protagonist, Julie, was likable in many regards... but ultimately, I don't think I was able to overcome my frustration with her naïveté. There were times when I wanted to hold the book up to my face and scream directly into its pages: "He doesn't love you, Julie! God, woman, can't you see that he's only using you and your race/wealth in order to immigrate to another country?" But I refrained from such foolish behavior, because in the end, I fell in love with Julie Summers and with her independent nature.
One thing that I struggled with in the beginning was the way in which Gordimer narrates her story. It was extremely difficult at times to decipher exactly which character the author had intended to be speaking, and I got the feeling that Gordimer probably secretly gets some sort of sick pleasure in having her readers glance over the same passage two or three times in order to figure out what she is saying. It was, without a doubt, one of the longest short books I've ever read. ...more