How have I been a bookseller for ten years and failed to understand the beauty of this book? Failed to have heard nothing of its literary quality and...moreHow have I been a bookseller for ten years and failed to understand the beauty of this book? Failed to have heard nothing of its literary quality and linguistic grace and gothic allure? Failed to glimmer anything but the superficial knowledge that it is considered to be a "good book?"
The Shadow of the Wind is haunting and clever, tinged with tragedy past and scarred with tragedy present, threatening with the promise of tragedy future; emboldened by language striking the balance between poetic and rhapsodic yet forthright and clear, it navigates a mystery and a love story and the mystery of a love story, weaving the historical Barcelona amidst the specter and ravages of war - the physical war of guns and assasination and revolt, and the verbal war of politics and commercialism and societal class. It is a delight of characters and a study of human interaction; so many of these people came to be formed in my mind as if painted by the hand of one of the Great Masters, evocative and weighted beyond the words compiling them on the page. When nearing the end, the palpable sense of discovery was overwhelming and absolutely heart wrenching. This novel belongs to the pantheon of texts that engage the soul.
A blurb within the author description declares it to be the best selling Spanish novel since Don Quixote, revealing that this novel encompasses one of those moments in culture to be savored: where the whims of the masses converge to celebrate and support a truly deserving subject. I will take it as my duty as a bookseller to place The Shadow of the Wind into as many customer's hands as I maunder and ambulate about my own Cemetery of Forgotten Books.(less)
Striving to understand the frequent usage of "Kafkaesque" to describe a proliferation of things literary, I found a nice bargain copy of this translat...moreStriving to understand the frequent usage of "Kafkaesque" to describe a proliferation of things literary, I found a nice bargain copy of this translation of Kafka many moons past. I'm unsure if I accomplished my goal, being left wondering if I need to read The Trial to solidify that understanding, yet having no desire to engage anymore with his works. This collection of stories left me repulsed ("The Metamorphosis"), disgusted ("In the Penal Colony"), irritated ("The Stoker"), or bored (all inclusive). I used the experience as a stylistic exercise, but even that failed to render the stories any more approachable for me. Taking a month to finally finish, the slow progress was a source of frustration, and the more frustrating thought is that Kafka would have probably found that entirely too funny.(less)
One just has to appreciate the ghastly commercialization inherent in slapping an admittedly nice cover on a fifty page short story and selling it for...moreOne just has to appreciate the ghastly commercialization inherent in slapping an admittedly nice cover on a fifty page short story and selling it for more than a mass market paperback, when, for a few dollars more, you can get a broad smattering of Fitzgerald's stories in one volume. Just think how many more copies of this edition they could have sold had they plastered Mr. Pitt's beauteous facade across the front, perhaps even in a Warholesque four squares showing him at different ages (it worked for "Brokeback Mountain" movie tie-in editions). I cannot help but compare the story to the movie since the theatrical adaptation is what compelled me to seek this out. Fitzgerald's idea is fantastic, and yet I don't feel he did it justice with the story. There was quite a bit more that I feel he could have explicated, more he could have mined for satiric effect. I seem to be the exception regarding the movie, which I thought was an inspired interpretation of a very brief text that brought a level of humanity to Benjamin Button through his relationships, even though the movie utterly lost the social commentary that marks Fitzgerald's work and makes it more dynamic a text.(less)
Every so often while reading the burgeoning urban fantasy genre, I long for a more literary text. Though I thoroughly enjoy my escapist and predictabl...moreEvery so often while reading the burgeoning urban fantasy genre, I long for a more literary text. Though I thoroughly enjoy my escapist and predictable werewolf yarns, the yearning for something with more weight often assails me at the novel's completion. Attesting to Pelevin's reputation as one of Russia's leading contemporary novelists, The Sacred Book of the Werewolf provides that density of subject and verbage. Knowing this is a translation, I am amazed at the translator's adept handling of Pelevin's wry humor and complex ideas voiced through his characters. This novel claims less kinship with urban fantasy than with some personal philosophical engagements. The voice putting pen to story is A Hu-Li, a multi-milennia-old werefox and pursuant of the mysteries of life. She relates her current time in Russia, oftentimes commenting directly on the state of the country, but Pelevin often slips in a more subtle commentary through her interactions. As we are being told her story directly as she writes a memoir-like document, A Hu-Li is prone to comedic engagement with her intended audience, revealing the inner workings of her multi-layered and antediluvian mind. Rather than being burdened with the centuries she has witnessed, her perception is an engaging and almost innocent one. She reveals that werefoxes mostly forget what they know so as to avoid this very detrimental lassitude of long spans of time, remembering past events only with sincere effort. This innocence translates into a comical love affair with a werewolf, the initial subject and eventual object of A Hu-Li's philosophical explanations. For someone who has seen several milennial turns and who makes a living as a sex worker, A Hu-Li's dearth of sexual knowledge and wide-eyed and tail-puffed, yet remarkably logical love are all the funnier, especially their sex scenes which seem to be a snarky commentary on genre urban fantasy and its proliferation of sex and the more outre expressions thereof. If A Hu-Li tends to come off as sounding a bit superior, she at least tries to be humble about her superiority amidst an explanation of Taoist philosophies of nothing and merging with the infinite, wrapped of course in paradox and ouroboric logic. Pelevin manages to capably interweave these moments of philosophical musing without derailing the story, humorously pairing them with A Hu-Li then mundanely checking her email. If the story ends on what should be a predictable resolution, it is more impressive that I did not anticipate it. And it speaks more to the depth of A Hu-Li as a character that she is even more surprised than I was, and she has had several thousand years to reach that understanding. Sometimes the most cunning fox fools the most gullible target: herself.(less)
My inner stickler is sobbing. Buffetted by Proulx's use of incomplete sentences - stand alone prepositional phrases, descriptions in brief, lists with...moreMy inner stickler is sobbing. Buffetted by Proulx's use of incomplete sentences - stand alone prepositional phrases, descriptions in brief, lists with no action - that little niggling voice of grammatical precision railed and ranted...and I deliriously enjoyed every minute of it. Like the weather that thunders and soaks through the novel, Proulx's syntax acts like a force of nature. With a decisive listing of adjectives, she could gather a picture of a character, their emotional state, their demeanor, with very few words, something for which my verbose self has great respect. Proulx's characters are remarkable. Quirks, nuances, pithy utterances - all contribute to populating the tiny Newfoundland town and surrounding areas. The main character Quoyle is perhaps best known by his synecdoche: his chin. His jutting, highly visible chin, marker of shame for him, resting point for his massive hands in a vain effort to hide its protuberant nature, can best illustrate Quoyle's flummoxed and pusillanimous self. Perhaps my favorite part of this novel (besides the thrill of being beset by incomplete sentences!) is to see the gentle Quoyle adapt to the harsh Newfoundland life, discover the joy of clearing a path through thickening brush to his quiet cove, hop aboard his wreck of a boat and assemble the bones of his new vessel, sloppily gut a fish and then do so as a matter of course, court a mirror of himself and see in her his ability to experience joy. With skill does Proulx unfold this progression of character, in bits and chunks, slowly, as Quoyle with his bulk is wont to do things, but with an incrementally increasing confidence amid confusion that makes him a truly interesting character. My inner stickler is still sobbing, the baby. Hearty book of cold places, yakking people, rain snow wind, creaking timbers, fishing industry diatribes, glorious sunlight, cod fried and breaded and pied, ocean swells, multiplicity of knots.(less)
Decay pervades this novel. I thought it was merely that I had purchased a fairly old yet never used book and that was where the sense of decrepitude e...moreDecay pervades this novel. I thought it was merely that I had purchased a fairly old yet never used book and that was where the sense of decrepitude emanates, but then I realized it is the odorous imagery Burroughs' invokes of Mexico City and sundry South American locales. From the bars to the characters, the feeling that some elegance has been shatteringly lost, some refinement irrevocably misplaced leaks from the text. This thrilling (if noxious) interplay of word and action lends itself well to the withdrawals the main character Lee feels from heroin and also to his unquenchable lust for younger men. I found myself fascinated by the locales visited by Lee, oddly not irritated by his cantankerous and often somewhat crude and racist commentary about people and place, but rather seeing them react only to what Lee himself was generating. It was an exercise in frustration however to watch him pine for the focused subject of his lust, his diffident conquest and later travel companion Allerton, almost as if Allerton acts as a receptacle for the withdrawal symptoms Lee experiences. In many senses of the word, "queer" accurately describes this novel. Recalling the historical time period that Burroughs would have used this word - before the reclamation of Queer as an identifier signifying positive difference - Lee brings blatant many of the perjorative uses for it, and also the usage as a marker of something strange or out of sorts. However, taking into account the modern use of queer as a way to positively affirm an identity outside the norm, Queer presents an unglamorous but accepting depiction of a homosexual man, never really emblazoning said queerness in neon pink letters with sparkly lights, but rather showing a sympathetic (if frequently rambling) recovering junky. The queerness of the text comes more to light in Lee's eccentricities than merely in his sexual proclivities.(less)
I had forgotten how delightful it can be to experience the doings of messed up and less than perfect people in very ordinary situations. The supernatu...moreI had forgotten how delightful it can be to experience the doings of messed up and less than perfect people in very ordinary situations. The supernatural elements that exist on the haze of these stories is just that: a subtle, even if driving force, that though it may take on the form of an angel in dead cat house slippers, still manages to accentuate the character over the surreal. The imagery of the World Trade Center used in several of the stories functions much like the supernatural elements; moments where I thought I would be derailed by the weight of these remembrances did not deviate from their usage as vehicles to explore the characters, instead providing a perspective both on the events themselves and on the story itself.(less)
What holes of knowledge are we missing in the lore of our religions? In ourselves? In our relations with others? These thoughts circulate through Xeno...moreWhat holes of knowledge are we missing in the lore of our religions? In ourselves? In our relations with others? These thoughts circulate through Xeno Atlas' quest to find the Caravan Bestiary, a bestiary detailing all the lost creatures not on Noah's ark. With panther-like fluidity, Nicholas Christopher drafts this exploration of the mythical manifestations that guide our subconscious and provide an "other" to help us define the pieces of ourselves that we cannot see.(less)
Otsuka's style is terse, yet rich; her characters' perspectives are blunt, yet dynamic. Offering a glimpse of a moment in history (one I failed to rea...moreOtsuka's style is terse, yet rich; her characters' perspectives are blunt, yet dynamic. Offering a glimpse of a moment in history (one I failed to realize lasted for a much longer time than a mere moment) which is often elided in the history books, this book left me wondering if the blatant mistrust and discrimination has found new outlet in our country.(less)
An intriguing jump into an exploration of quantum physics. As the dual characters continue their battle of minds, I kept getting drawn further in. The...moreAn intriguing jump into an exploration of quantum physics. As the dual characters continue their battle of minds, I kept getting drawn further in. The completion of the novel was masterfully done as we are left tracing what has happened through correspondences, the final letter being something of a meta-analytical take on the whole event. Mind bending, though from what little taste I've received of quantum physics, the barest scratch of what is to be explored.(less)