I'm probably the only one at my book club who didn't think that this book was depressing. To me, there was a prevalent optimistic flow, connected to hI'm probably the only one at my book club who didn't think that this book was depressing. To me, there was a prevalent optimistic flow, connected to helping humanity and seeing the bright side, which took the teeth of the fact the his mental abilities will regress. I loved it, loved it!...more
PLOT: Eric has managed to clean up his life and cut off his ties with the local Mob. UntGENRE: Literary, crime, psychological
PUBLISHER: Harper Collins
Eric has managed to clean up his life and cut off his ties with the local Mob. Until the official head of the criminal returns to his life with a confession: he believes that the mythical List of those rumored to be eliminated exists and his name is on it. If Eric wants his wife to live, he has to track down the list and remove the kingpin’s name from it. So Eric must coerce his old associates and try this seemingly impossible task. As the story advances, the reader discovers that nothing is what it seems and that the line between good and evil is most often blurred.
COMMENTS:I bought this book accidentally, but I don’t regret it. Despite being advertized as a thriller, AMBERVILLE is an allegory about the essence of evil. It delves into the intricacies of the social organization, in which the unscrupulous politicians and clerics rule the world as near gods.
This is slow(ish) moving and reflective novel, that spends a good part of the story analyzing the philosophical aspects of good and evil in general and corruption in particular. It isn’t an easy read, but I enjoyed its ideas quite a bit.
I believe where the story really shines is at fleshing out realistic characters. The gangs, the Mob, the wife, the brother, everyone is extremely distinct and realistic.
TECHNIQUES: Maybe I should have opened with this: all characters are stuffed animals. By doing so the author eliminates any racial bias and stereotypes: evil is evil, regardless of the skin color.
This is another one of those stories with ten or more points-of-view. I think in this case it worked well because the characters are so different. Presenting the same event from several POV’s becomes a fascinating discovery process. The reader keep wondering who is right, who is crazy, and what is real.
I kept pondering over and over how to write this review. What can you write about a book, when the author clearly states in the end that it has no morI kept pondering over and over how to write this review. What can you write about a book, when the author clearly states in the end that it has no moral? That "it does not say they were wrong [...]; it just tells what the consequences were." What can you write about a book that ends with the list of the 15 persons who inspired it, all dead, with permanent brain damage, permanent psychosis, or at the very best (if there is a "best" when talking about such aftermaths) permanent pancreatic damage (the author himself, who in an interview tells that he has "never ever" even taken hard drugs)? And A Scanner Darkly is autobiographical, there is not doubt about that.
I was in a position to see what hard drugs did to people, what drugs did to my friends. (Interviewer: There is terrible damage done.) Just incredible. I just couldn't believe it. I saw things that if I hadn't seen them with my own eyes I simply wouldn't have believed them. I know you've read A Scanner Darkly. Everything in A Scanner Darkly I actually saw. I mean I saw even worse things than I put in A Scanner Darkly.
Hence my dilemma: how can I summarize in half-a-page the essence of a blight that Philip K. Dick himself tries to summarize in 220 pages? It would be moot. Because this is what A Scanner Darkly really is: a survey into the world of Slow Death, a cognomen for all drugs since, as he points out, all drug users are slowly dying in spirit, turning into burned-out husks capable only of parroting and aping... They simply don't comprehend their own galloping extinction since they gradually lose the ability to understand anything at all.
To end, I just want to point out that A Scanner Darkly is autobiographical not only concerning the drug culture (which is quite obvious), but also regarding Bob Arctor's entire life: the broken marriage, the lost children (a daughter, in real life), the empty house subsequently filled with drug addicts, the unrequited love, the rehab program... everything is inspired by the author's life (more toward the end of this interview). Therefore, this novel becomes a testimony not only of one of the last century's plagues, but also a surreptitious look into the life of one of the biggest science-fiction authors. ...more
Quick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts (A Nobel Prize winner not for the faint of heart.)
This was not a quick read, in spite of theQuick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts (A Nobel Prize winner not for the faint of heart.)
✐ This was not a quick read, in spite of the nearly conversational language and only 266 pages. A textbook parable, this novel is so loaded with symbols, allegories, metaphors, etc, that in average I read 40 pages a day... after which I had to put it aside and ponder about what I just read.
✐ It is because of the heavy symbolism that I don't think it's right to pen a lengthy review about all the ideas and meanings I found in it. After all, I believe that's the whole point of the novel: to make each reader unravel the "mystery" of the blindness and think for himself/herself of it's cause and consequences on the human nature. Nor do I think that I can write an objective review, since Blindness is the kind of book that would leave a very subjective impression on each reader.
✐ The whole story revolves around a population stricken by blindness and how people (don't) cope with the situation. It seems straightforward to say that the blindness is a metaphor for lack of understanding/penetration/apprehension, but as I interpreted it, the meaning runs deeper: "I went blind when I was looking at my blind eye." And just because Mr. Saramago wants to make sure that the reader pays attention to the above statement, he underlines it: "It sounds like an allegory." It is because of this statement and that from the last page ("I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.") that I believe the blindness is not a metaphor for lack of comprehension, but one for the awareness of this inability to understand.
✐ As about the unexplained cause of blindness, I don't think that it as arcane as some readers seem to believe. In fact as always Mr. Saramago spells it out for us (thought one has to read carefully to find his cues - hence the 40 pages a day). "Fear struck us blind, fear will keep us blind." It's not humanity that makes the doctor's wife keep her sight - it's her courage. In a world in which mothers abandon their kids in order to try to save themselves (see the young boy who keeps asking for his mother who never is to come), the doctor's wife is the only one utterly unafraid. And in the end, when broken down by the burden of responsibility and the horrors she witnessed, she loses her courage, she turns blind as well: "It is my turn, she thought. Fear made her quickly lower her eyes."
✐ So it all comes down to this axiom: it is the fear that keeps us from understanding ourselves and the world around us and, as long as we don't conquer our fear, we won't be able to "see."
✐ I could go on about why the language is so objective and why the characters have no names, and why for 4-5 pages in a row there is no new paragraph, but that would defeat the purpose of this novel: no one can see in your place. Seeing is a profoundly personal act....more
I'm 41% through, but I simply cannot finish this book. I have not read anything so depressing for the last 20 years, since the mandatory reading listsI'm 41% through, but I simply cannot finish this book. I have not read anything so depressing for the last 20 years, since the mandatory reading lists in high school. I honestly believe A Visit from the Goon Squad should have been titled "Defeated by Life."
This book has one theme and one theme only: aging. A collection of short stories, whose main characters are all interconnected and somehow related to the music industry, this novel bears no hope, no light, no happiness. Even when we are told the story of an 11-year-old kid, story which inherently should be more or less joyful, the narrator has to tell us that, 15 years later, that teenager will blow up his brains. And if it's not suicide (or death by natural, though equally dreary causes), it is paralysis, ruined lives because of drugs, bad choices, divorces, impotency, and complete, haunting loneliness.
No one, absolutely no one in this book ages happily. There are in fact some characters who had a partially happy life (Lou) but in the end the author remembers none of that happiness - in the end is all dread, pain, regrets, and sorrow. And I simply can't accept that as a reality!
All of us are beaten by life, but it's up to us to stand back up and fight, while keeping close to our minds and souls the good that had been and maybe will still come. In my opinion, and I say it with no disrespect to the author or anyone who likes this book, A Visit from the Goon Squad advocates the belief that no matter what we do, life is going to bring us down for good. So I must disagree: good/strong people age happily.
I have to give this novel thumbs up for the writing: although not overly lavish, Jennifer Egan's writing style is wonderful and rich enough to satisfy even the most demanding readers. Moreover, the emotion is authentic and palpable (which unfortunately makes the stories even more depressing). I do understand the reason so many people like it and I really wanted to like it too.
Finally, for the reasons I mentioned above, I would NOT recommend this novel to any teenager or young reader....more