It took me damn near forever to get through it (just to arrive at an unsatisfying ending) but I enjoyed the bulk of Rand's writing in Atlas Shrugged....moreIt took me damn near forever to get through it (just to arrive at an unsatisfying ending) but I enjoyed the bulk of Rand's writing in Atlas Shrugged. This was Ayn Rand's magnum opus designed to demonstrate her philosophy "objectivism." Long story short this book is about mid-20th-century American industrialists in a world dying of moral decay. Her heros are the honest and ambitious businessfolk, industralists, artists, creators; her villains are those that leech from them, stealing ideas, time, property, money, usually via the notion that able men should be forced to sacrifice themselves for the unable, unwilling, and/or undeserving. The book is a good piece of romantic fiction by itself except for its unnecessary length, and sometimes two dimensional characters. In essence a reaction against communism, her philosophy holds that [the following quoted from Rand:] Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; reason is man's only means of perceiving reality which exists as an objective absolute.
I gather a lot of wisdom and strength from this in terms of indivduality, freedom and endurance in the face of peer/societal pressure, however I have my differences with it (in addition to the cynicism, elitism, and general contempt it tends to elicit from its ardent followers):
-I don't believe in abolishing all taxes -I do believe in abstract art -I don't believe the world is overrun by moral cannibals and even if it were the solution isn't to 'run away to a secret village in the mountains' -I think she could have had a few characters with more realistic life situations, i.e. heros with children or a close group of friends who could demonstrate that one's self-interest extends to those which s/he loves.
But I am all about rational, non-victimizing self-interest, and capitalism, baby. A lot of people like to bash her work as the bible of selfish assholes and I'm sure many people do misinterpret it as such, but when taken with a grain of salt, her works are inspiring to anyone who creates, values intellectual property, and aspires to greatness of utmost integrity. If you're interested in Rand's philosophy I recommend starting with The Fountainhead. That book changed my life. Atlas was my 30,000 mile checkup. (less)
I came to When We Were Orphans after having enjoyed Remains of the Day and was sorely disappointed when this novel reused much in character developmen...moreI came to When We Were Orphans after having enjoyed Remains of the Day and was sorely disappointed when this novel reused much in character development, plot devices, and form with half the fluidity of Remains. Both novels take shape as a diary of an accomplished professional British man reflecting on his life in servitude (literally, and) to his own passion (in this case, detective work and his life-long project of trying to find out what happened to the parents who disappeared in his childhood). He inventories his failings in his personal life as in his profession but with an odd air of wordy british condescention that is intended (?) to be patriotic to british social and household life but unavoidably (and at one point explicitly) bratty with a holier-than-thou aftertaste.
It's hard to tell if it's intentional on Ishiguro's part, because of the similarity between the two books, but it seems that he didn't put nearly the same amount of care into compelling his reader through the first half of the book. At some point every paragraph ends with "...which reminds me of this!" to an entirely new paragraph-long episode. Sometimes he'll throw in "...no, she couldn't have said it to him, she said it this other guy" [this other guy is introduced] which is fine for like, real diaries. The suspense could have started much sooner, the first 2/3 of the book is occasionally (rarely) poetic in its observations on early 20th century british high society (which is half the point of Remains of the Day) but doesn't pay off in the end of Orphans like it does for Remains. In each everything is settled neatly, scrupulously, every crumb accounted for, followed by "I think I'll go retire somewhere pretty and English." Read Remains of the Day instead. If you have, I wouldn't bother with this one.(less)
A book that covers the passage of time as if it were a wheel that would spin on into infinity were it not for the wear of the axle, One Hundred Years...moreA book that covers the passage of time as if it were a wheel that would spin on into infinity were it not for the wear of the axle, One Hundred Years of Solitude is the story of the rise and fall of the Buendia family and their village Macondo. It tells the tender truths and lies of a family from the life of each member by blood and marriage, the passage of time told by the relationships of members who scarcely realize the depth to which their daily actions resonate back to generations before. Habits and quirks are passed on between family, noted only by the eldest family members, their every action and observation poetic. The fantastic elements never once distract from characters as flawed and real human beings, a boy followed by yellow butterflies, a girl so beautiful she transcends to heaven, the cryptic documents left by a gypsy older than the town itself who appears as a ghost to the Buendia family. Marquez depicts the realities of a family that is constantly reborn in the form of a solitary air, clairvoyant eyes, the craft of small toy animals, or a passion for making things to unmake them in such a way that is flowing, cyclical, and yet always unique. Admittedly there are boring generations/family members and that can make chunks of the book a little static but the ending is perfect. For minutes afterwards I felt like I died with the family.(less)
Easily the best graphic novel I've read, if you are into Chris Ware's stuff (and I would even recommend this book as a starter) I highly highly recomm...moreEasily the best graphic novel I've read, if you are into Chris Ware's stuff (and I would even recommend this book as a starter) I highly highly recommend getting the hardcover version with the dust-cover. The cover folds out to form a gigantic two sided poster that is practically its own novel, Ware excells at minutia and the dust-cover is no exception, I think I spent at least an hour reading it.
The book itself absolutely demolishes convential form on many levels, from the way you hold the book, to mind-tricks with frames, photo realistic colors, colors as leitmotifs, I don't want to call this the ulysses of graphic novels but it is a must-read for fans of the genre. A heartbreaking semi-auto-biographical story of a boy through the eyes of his own childhood fantasies painfully stained by the reality of growing up with one parent, the crumbling of idols, extensive, marquez-esque family history, but above all incredible truth. The only thing you don't get out of the hardcover edition with the sweet dustcover is an added 7 page coda found at the end of the softcover edition, I recommend reading that in the bookstore after having finished the hardcover. Or buying the soft and reading the dust cover in the store (however there is a sticker/seal you would have to loosen.) (less)