I was very close to giving this novel 5/5 stars actually and I guess William Weaver's translation into English truly does the Italian words justice. T...moreI was very close to giving this novel 5/5 stars actually and I guess William Weaver's translation into English truly does the Italian words justice. There were so many things about this book that were both preposterous and hilarious about the male protagonist and his vices of smoking, drinking, womanizing, and let's not forget his attempt to talk an army platoon out of barricading his passage because he still needs to drink his morning coffee at home waiting for him.
This novel was set around the early 1900s and finishes at the time of WWI. The whimsical yet tortured soul of Zeno is both as understandable and yet as neurotic as one might be without incarceration of some sort. He is always convincing himself of something and is his own greatest enemy. In Zeno, Svevo created a complex portrait of a man who is a deep feeling intellectual, a horrible businessman, and perhaps a competent chemist if he could only remember which compounds would truly kill a person and which ones weren't as fatal.
I decided to read this novel after I read that Svevo hadn't had a great deal of success with his works after publishing thee himself and was going to give up writing when James Joyce convinced him not to and also showed him some of his (at that time) unpublished Dubliners. I don't know what else you really need to know besides that but if you're still skeptical, here's some memorable quotes I liked:
p.105 "I felt unhappier than ever, and in that morbid state of self-pity, obviously I was vulnerable to injury. Tullio had resumed talking about his illness, which was also his chief hobby. He had studied the anatomy of the leg and the foot. Laughing, he told me that when one walks at a rapid pace, the time in which a step is taken does not exceed fewer that fifty-four second and that in that half-second no fewer than fifty-four muscles are engaged. I reacted with a start, and my thoughts immediately rushed to my legs, to seek this monstrous machinery. I believe I found it. Naturally I didn't identify the fifty-four moving pats, but rather an enormous complication went to pieces the moment I intruded attention upon it. I limped, leave that cafe, and I went on limping for several days. For me, walking had become hard labor, also slightly painful..."
pg. 128 "An idea came to me. I told how, for those dizzy spells that had caused me such suffering in the past, I had discovered a remedy. When I saw a gymnast performing his feats at too great a height, or when I witnessed the descent from a tram of a person too elderly or too awkward, I freed myself from all anxiety by wishing them harm. I actually came out and said in o many words that I wished they would fall and be shattered. This had an enormously calming effect on me and enabled me to observe the threat of an accident with total detachment. If my wish then didn't come true, I could consider myself even more satisfied."
pg. 194: "A word in the night is like a shaft of sunshine. I illuminates a stretch of reality and, confronted by it, the constructions of the imaginations fade."
pg. 384 " That sort of rain doesn't just wet you. It lashes you"
pg 404 "Obviously our life would have an entirely different aspect if it were told in our dialect."
"Thus, after pursuing those images, I overtook them. Now I know that I invented them. But inventing is a creation, not a lie. Mine were inventions like those of a fever, which walk around the room so that you can see them from every side, ad then they touch you. The had the solidity, the color, and the insolence of living things."
pg. 422 "Thank heaven I was not yet cured! I had given up the therapy in time!"
Ok, I sort of didn't realize that this was technically a children's books. I also didn't actually realize Rushdie even wrote books for children. That...moreOk, I sort of didn't realize that this was technically a children's books. I also didn't actually realize Rushdie even wrote books for children. That said, the main difference between this and Rushdie's other novels for adults is that there are no scenes of erotic intimacy, less death and destruction, and more of a fantastical sense to it.
I really did enjoy this book quite a bit but the one place Rushdie lost me completely in his constant comparison with his young adventurer protagonist to a video game scenario. As Luka enters a parallel world created from his dying father's subconscious and has to use his bravery and intellect to get the the end in order to save his father, Rushdie keeps referring to Luka's lives and levels as if it really were just a video game. It was a tiny bit cute in the beginning but wore on me and even annoyed me towards the end. It just served as a barrier for me to get truly wrapped up in the story and the characters and that seemed like the whole idea behind writing the novel in the first place. It even detracted from the much greater mystical sense to this work Still, Rushdie is a great author and if you are looking for a book to read to an adolescent male that doesn't suffer from lack of imagination and the art of telling a story vividly, don't hesitate to turn your attentions to this one.
A couple of memorable quotes:
pg. 37 "Things had changed in Kahani and sadness was no longer the city's principal export...People wanted to feel good even when there wasn't that much to feel good about, and so the sadness factories had been shut down and turned into Obliviums, giant malls where everyone went to dance, shop, pretend, and forget."
pg. 112 "In the City of Dreams, Khwab, the night is the time when all its inhabitants' dreams come to life and are acted out in the streets-love affairs, quarrels, monsters, horrors, joys all throng those darkened lanes, and sometimes your dream may, at night's end, hop into someone else's head, and theirs end up confusingly, surprisingly, in yours."
I pretty much love all of David B's graphic novels. Both the words and the drawings are exquisite in their sense of detail and imagination. David B. i...moreI pretty much love all of David B's graphic novels. Both the words and the drawings are exquisite in their sense of detail and imagination. David B. is quite brilliant and I have treasured every graphic novel that has been translated that I have been able to get ahold of. My favorite part about this one is the idea of avoiding death by escaping in a novel. It's just such an interesting concept and, like so many of David B's works, I am guessing I will be returning to this again and again throughout my lifetime. A treasure!(less)
If you ever wondered more about Murakami such as what his daily life is like, his routine, or even his endurance, this is the book for you. As someone...moreIf you ever wondered more about Murakami such as what his daily life is like, his routine, or even his endurance, this is the book for you. As someone who is a compulsive exerciser (though I am a bicyclist, swimmer, and use the elliptical at the gym. Running hurts my knees far too much!), I could relate to so much of what he writes about here. I was also incredibly impressed with how many marathons he has run in several countries and how he pushes himself physically. This was far easier to read than his other nonfiction work, Underground, which explored an underground and dangerous cult and gave us a personal glimpse into the life of the author of so many novels that I've come to treasure. It's also quite insightful to know and understand how many different walks of life he's lived through and the risks he's taken.
p. 65 "The sound of the shutter grates on my nerves..but snapping the shutter is the photographer's job just as chewing grass is the sheep's, so I don't have any right to complain."
pg. 66 "Nothing in the real world is as beautiful as the illusions of a person about to lose consciousness."
pg. 111 "Break one of my rules once, and I'm bound to break many more. And if I'd done that, it would have been next to impossible to finish this race."
pg. 115 "The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance. It's the same with our lives. Just because there's an end doesn't mean existence has meaning. An end point is simply set up as a temporary marker, or perhaps an indirect metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence. It's very philosophical..."
pg. 121 "Just as I have my own role to play, so does time. And time does its job much more faithfully, much more accurately, than I ever do. Ever since time began (when was that, I wonder?), it's been moving ever forward without a moment's rest. And one of the privileges given to those who've avoided dying young is the blessed right to grow old. The honor of physical decline is waiting, and you have to get used to that reality.
Competing against time isn't important. What's going to be much more meaningful to me now is how much I can enjoy myself, whether I can finish twenty-six miles with a feeling of contentment. I;ll enjoy and value things that can't be expressed in numbers, and I'll grope for a feeling of pride that comes from a slightly different place."
I found this book to be remarkably depressing but probably quite realistic and informative in the sense of traditional Chinese society where arranged...moreI found this book to be remarkably depressing but probably quite realistic and informative in the sense of traditional Chinese society where arranged marriages and societal laws and norms might prevent our very male protagonist from being in a marriage with the woman he actually falls in love with. In the meantime, there is so much lost in the relationship that could have been. There is also a great deal of cruelty not only in the sense of this valuable time lost but in the way the female protagonist is treated and the way those of a higher rank in society seem to get away with persecutions that are incredibly immoral. There's also a cruelty in the way those who live in this complex with the Dr. and nurse who fall in love speak about them negatively with gossip. Even the sometimes vivid imagery cannot take away the impact the reader feels of this very cruelty. Ha Jin also explores the sense of new ideas about capitalism and other Western thoughts seeping into the Chinese way of life towards the end of the book, which is interesting. I'm also in the middle of reading an epic graphic novel called My Chinese Life, by Li Kchun-wu, which believe it or not is even more depressing. Still, I find it really important to read about other cultures as well as other cultural histories and when I love learning. If you are interested in this yourself, you probably will also enjoy Waiting.
That said, I greatly prefer to escape from reality and the almost mystical sense and deeper appreciation of life that I see in many Japanese novels instead, though that's just my own personal preference.
A couple of quotes:
pg. 273 "Probably people are afraid, afraid of disappearing from this world-traceless and completely forgotten, so they have children to leave reminders of themselves."
pg. 288 "Question after question rose to her mind, but she couldn't answer any of them. Her thoughts were in disorder.
Outside, the moon was pale, wavering beyond the dark treetops. The wind was howling and reminded her of the wolves she had often heard at night when she was a child in the orphanage."
I'm a big fan of Paul Auster. Even when his novels aren't completely flawless, there is so much to take from them that they make for wholly worthwhile...moreI'm a big fan of Paul Auster. Even when his novels aren't completely flawless, there is so much to take from them that they make for wholly worthwhile reading. Mr. Vertigo is no exception to this and Auster takes us on quite an adventure of a ragamuffin boy being taken in and tested so that he might fly for the world and cause wonder amongst all who behold him. There's a sense of magic here and with that, of course, is always suspension of disbelief, but there is also a sense of a lifetime portrayed and Auster manages to show the grief and pain of hatred and racism, the feeling of loss of love and life, and losing those you care about all in the mix with such lively memorable characters that one finds immensely likable It's kind of amazing that he could do this all so well and keep the novel just shy of 300 pages but that's exactly what he does. It's a contained sort of epic but nonetheless quite intriguing and heartfelt throughout. Here are some of my favorite quotes:
pg. 87 "Kansas is an illusion," He said one morning as he scraped away at his invisible beard, "a stopping place on the road to reality."
pg. 128 "You get drunk on the world, boy." Drunk on the mystery of the world."
pg. 293 "You must learn to stop being yourself. That's where it begins, and everything else follows from that. You must let yourself evaporate...The Emptiness inside your body grows lighter than the air around you. Little by little, you weigh less than nothing. You shut your eyes; you spread your arms; you let yourself evaporate. And then, little by little, you lift yourself off the ground" (less)
Rarely do I give a novel 5/5 stars. It has to impact me deeply with such a full sense to my entire being that I feel like I've been changed by it. Tha...moreRarely do I give a novel 5/5 stars. It has to impact me deeply with such a full sense to my entire being that I feel like I've been changed by it. That said, this is definitely the case for Jesse Ball's The Curfew. It had such an effect that months later I am still thinking about it and reliving first moments I felt when I read some of the pages. It has to do quite a bit with living in a climate where independent thought and artists are being suppressed...there is darkness and fear but also quite a sense of creativity as well. Jesse Ball is a phenomenal author and I hope someday to hear him speak in person as I believe he resides in Chicago.
I don't want to spoil any part of the book further but I do want to encourage others to read this so here are some of my favorite quotes:
pg. 34 "Do you see what I mean? It's crucial. It's everyone's place. Everyone is in a position to act at some point."
pg. 105 "You will come up with the name of the villain. All the other names come out of the villain's name. The villain's nature, even that comes out of the villain's name.
pg. 138 "There was a creaking high up in the branches of the trees, and it would continue through the long night. It meant nothing, just that the wind was blowing. The action of a thing is the same as the naming of it-is, in fact, the real name. The trees creak and they are saying The trees creak through the long night. The long night-what is it? Trees creaking. There wasn't anything that tied life's moments together except life. And when it was gone?
pg. 164 "There are certain days that shape a person's life because they change a person's understanding about what is possible in a day."
This is a great effort with gorgeous language (it took me forever just to type out all of my favorite quotes this time) and a real strong sense of eac...more This is a great effort with gorgeous language (it took me forever just to type out all of my favorite quotes this time) and a real strong sense of each character. What is not quite clear is how much Krauss intended for each character to be connected. One thing is clear and that is each character is united around a mystical desk that seems to inspire a writer's words to all come together to make sense when without it, everything seems to fall apart. The desk is supposedly one that belonged to the poet Lorca and is passes amongst each character in an interesting way. And, in many ways, the similarity between the characters is that they are all dealing with a loss of some sort. The older novelist, Nadia, deals with a loss of her writing abilities and her beauty with the aging process. The older poet, Lotte, deals with a loss of her memory and with her first born son she gave up for adoption. Lotte's husband deals with the loss of her and the loss of potential for a relationship that could have been all the more honest and intimate if Lotte had divulged and given more. Many characters deal with the loss of a human being, whether it be due to political upheaval and Pinochet or an accident or a death at the end of life...death is never simple and it is hard to move on. There is a thickness in these words when dealing with the aging process as well. There is also a rich sense of family and Jewish culture. Where the book fails is that it doesn't entirely make it clear if perhaps these characters are even more connected. Can Leah Weisz be Daniel's Varsky's daughter and how so if her father is still alive and is someone different? Can Daniel Varsky be Lotte's son when the son she gave up for adoption passed away in seemingly some other accident? It is also unclear how some of the characters obtain such a glorious desk. It may be a fault in myself as a reader that I want to make sure I understand each connection clearly in how far and deep the ties reach...however, the hint of these kinds of things without closure does tend to drive me a little mad and I understand the reviews that criticize the novel for its somewhat disjointed quality. Still, I found it very worth reading and fascinating. Each character is completely memorable and believable and their journeys are worth exploring for many to help gain perspective on one's own life. I anticipate gaining more insight into each of their experiences as I age.
pg. 33 "A hidden weight seemed to attach itself to simple objects, a teacup, a doorknob, a glass, hardly noticeable at first, beyond the sense that every move required a slightly greater exertion of energy, and by the time I negotiated among these things and arrived at my desk, some reserve in me was already worn down or washed away. The pauses between words became longer, when for an instant the momentum of pressing thought into language faltered and a dark spot of indifference bloomed. I suppose its what I've battled most often in my life as a writer, a sort of entropy of care or languishing of will, so consistently, in fact, that I barely paid it any attention-a pull to give in to an undertow of speechlessness. But now often I became suspended in these moments, they grew longer and wider, and sometimes it became impossible to see the other shore. And when I finally got there, when a word came along like a lifeboat, and then another and another, I greeted them with a faint distrust, a suspicion that took root and did not confine itself to my work."
pg. 35 "You make good use of death."
pg. 36 "I made a point of answering the question I received with some frequency from journalists, Do you think books can change people's lives? (which actually meant, Do you actually think what you write could mean anything to anyone?), with a little airtight thought experiment in which I asked the interviewer to imagine the sort of person he might be if all of the literature he'd read in his life was somehow excised from his mind, his mind and soul, and as the journalist contemplated this nuclear winter, I sat back with a self satisfied smile, saved again from facing the truth."
pg. 38 "When you're awake, you're like someone with her eyes closed, watching a movie on the inside of your eyelids."
pg.44 "One has to make a sacrifice. I chose the freedom of long unscheduled afternoons in which nothing happens but the slightest shift in mood as captured in a semicolon."
pg.47 "You told me a convoluted story about four, six, maybe eight people all lying in rooms joined by a system of electrodes and wires to a great white shark. All night the shark floats suspended in an illuminated tank dreaming the dreams of these people. No, no the dreams, the nightmares, the things too difficult to bear..."
pg 49 "Dad, he said, his voice unraveling like a ribbon dropped from a roof."
pg. 55 I've reached the age where bruises are formed from failures within rather than accidents without."
pg. 65 "You wanted to write about a shark that takes the brunt of human emotions."
pg. 68 "From a young age, you tirelessly searched for and collected suffering."
pg. 95 "...just as our bodies are an illusion, pretending to be one thing when really they are millions and millions of atoms coming and going, some arriving while others are leaving us forever, as if each of us were only a great train station, only not even that since at least in a train station the stones and the tracks and the glass roof stay still while everything else rushes through it, no , it was worse than that, more like a giant empty field where every day a circus erected and dismantled itself, the whole thing from top to bottom, but never the same circus, so what hope did we really have of ever making sense of ourselves, let alone one another?"
pg. 98 "A certain look came over Lotte's face, a look I'd seen many times before, and which I can only describe as a kind of stillness, as if everything that normally existed near the surface had retreated into the depths. A moment passed. I felt something one from time to time experiences with those one is intimate with, when the distance that all the while folded up like a Chinese paper toy suddenly springs open between you."
pg. 106 "Pages seemed to drift out of their own accord and migrate across the floor, like a paper autumn staged by a bored child."
pg. 107 "But no matter how hard I tried, all I could think about was that beautiful animal (a moose) that strode with silent footfalls through the forest, an animal that didn't speak but knew all and looked with great sadness and pain on the ravages of human life, against its own kind and every other. At one point I even wondered whether fatigue was making me hallucinate, but then I thought to myself, No, this is what happens when you get old, time abandons you and all your memories become involuntary."
pg. 108 "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing, as Archilochus said, but what was it?"
pg. 139 "I began to think of their talent, if one can call it that, as something borrowed from ghosts."
pg. 154 "..the boy's feral hideaway reeked of isolation and loneliness."
pg. 172 "My words, to you, are atmospheric at most: They come through vaguely, like the twitter of birds and the creak of the old trees, and, as far as I can tell, like these things they require no response from you. "
pg. 173 "I'm rapidly approaching my end. I will not come back in the form of migrating birds, or pollen dust, or some ugly, debased creature befitting my sins. All that I am, all that I was, will harden over into ancient geology. And you will be left alone in it...While I'm buried in a hole voice of all feeling, you will live on in an afterlife of pain."
pg.175 I still possess powers of interrogation and can still fathom oblivion."
pg. 178 "In life we sit at the table and refuse to eat, and in death we are eternally hungry."
pg. 182 "I even felt, God knows how, a strange compassion for that great, suffering shark...I would be left in the dark, not knowing what would happen next. Only that shark was getting sicker and sicker. Knowing what Beringer knew, but which he kept from the dreamers in their windowless rooms: that the shark wouldn't live forever.:
pg. 195 "We move like two hands of a clock: sometimes we overlap for a moment, then come apart again, carrying on alone."
pg. 196 "Overnight, a tiny spot of darkness had lodged in the vision of my right eye. It was just a speck but this little void drove me crazy, everything I looked at was marred by it. I started to panic. What if another spot appeared, and then another? Like being buried alive one shovel of dirt at a time, until there was only a prick of light left, and then nothing."
pg, 202 "I dragged a chair across the floor (I still remember the sound it made, a long scrape that gouged the silence)..."
pg, 237 "I wanted to be judged on what I did with my life, but now I will be judged how I described it...Only before God do we stand without stories."
pg. 257 "I smiled back, the importance of manners, my mother always said, is inversely related to how inclined one is to use them, or, in other words, sometimes politeness is all that stands between oneself and madness."
pg. 272 "I put down my book, carefully marking the page with a bookmark. Lotte had always put her books down open-faced and when we first met I used to tell her that I could hear the little high pitched cry as its spine was broken. "
pg. 281 "I sat there for many long hours into the night. The fire died down. The price we paid for the volumes of ourselves that we suffocated in the dark."
pg. 289 "One day a child will be born. A child whose provenance is the union of a woman and a riddle."