In this book, Cocteau has put together small essays on various topics. Some of these essays are very personal and honest in nature (like On Childhood)...moreIn this book, Cocteau has put together small essays on various topics. Some of these essays are very personal and honest in nature (like On Childhood). These are lovely to read, specially because the writer seems to be speaking from the heart. These are short, and ideas don't appear to be grandstanded. But in the later essays, the voice begins to get impersonal, and the ideas insincere. For example the ideas on lines, beauty, etc. are a bit preachy and also dense. It is at this point that my interest began to wane off. In both kinds of essays however, Cocteau shows an uncanny capacity to observe the world around him and within him. He finds patterns, and commits them to paper in a concise manner. I have read some beautiful quotes in this book to which I will have to return.(less)
I don't know whether to mark this book as read. And this is a dilemma I repeatedly suffer with short story collections. I have already read from it th...moreI don't know whether to mark this book as read. And this is a dilemma I repeatedly suffer with short story collections. I have already read from it the stories I wanted to. I doubt if I will pick it again, but at the same time, I would like to remember those few stories. The powerful impact of Death in midsummer or the poetic nature of the suicide in Patriotism. I wonder if writing so beautifully about suicide is what drew Mishima to the romanticism of killing oneself.
My favourite was Death in midsummer - it kept drawing me back to one of Resnais' films : Hiroshima mon amour, where a woman is afraid to fall in love and be happy because it would mean forgetting the tragedy of Hiroshima - it's not the actual feeling of tragedy, but an imposed guilt of tragedy that keeps her at it. This is the case too in Mishima's story where a mother is afraid to forget the tragedy of a triple death, and puzzled about why such a magnanimous tragedy did not lead to a madness, to suicide? She imposes it on herself to keep the memory and the guilt alive, and that's what makes her life a restrained expression of guilt.(less)
This work is not a structured collection, but reads more like notes written to self. These notes are creative, personal and uninhibited, and therefore...moreThis work is not a structured collection, but reads more like notes written to self. These notes are creative, personal and uninhibited, and therefore make a very strong impression on the reader.
I was completely immersed in part I - the prose, but almost completely jumped through the second part - poems (except for the short ones in the end: Limits, I thought was brilliant). That is a reflection only of my own limitations in enjoying poetry - I feel that form is an unnecessary constraint on expression of ideas, and does not come close to the power of prose.
Augustus is a phenomenal work. Through letters, journal entries and records, it tells the story of an emperor's life who is beckoned to greatness by d...moreAugustus is a phenomenal work. Through letters, journal entries and records, it tells the story of an emperor's life who is beckoned to greatness by destiny, and how he responds to this call. The work is remarkable more so for the writing style - a view point of at least a dozen different people, sometimes supportive of the emperor, but more often critical of either part or whole of his actions. There are many subplots in the work, for its a period which gave so many characters to history: Virgil, Cleopatra, Horace, Marcus Antonius. And each subplot is absorbing, particularly the story of Augustus' daughter Julia who spends her youth. caught between her free spirit and her ambition which forced her to follow tradition. If only history was taught like this, making all those boring names come alive as thinking, breathing, conflicting characters, I would have paid more attention to it in school.(less)
Not a read which was enjoyable. Mostly because it was too far-fetched, mired in tragedy which escapes even Victorian dramas, and the central character...moreNot a read which was enjoyable. Mostly because it was too far-fetched, mired in tragedy which escapes even Victorian dramas, and the central character was a person I could neither relate to, nor understand, nor empathise with. Overall, a very dissatisfying read which I find hard to recommend. It has it's elements of course - the anxiety of a modern father, the discomfort of being an un gratifying husband, all put out too well. But overall, it is done to the extremities such that any possibility of relating to the anxiety goes off in smoke.(less)
This collection is worth picking up just for the first story: To kill a child. It's such a small piece, and impactful because of its brevity. It gives...moreThis collection is worth picking up just for the first story: To kill a child. It's such a small piece, and impactful because of its brevity. It gives a sense of futility, and more than a mild regret for a life which is lost because of so many small aberrations stacked up against it. (less)
Bone People - as all the reviews would tell you is a difficult book to read. I read most of it while I was traveling in New Zealand, and though only o...moreBone People - as all the reviews would tell you is a difficult book to read. I read most of it while I was traveling in New Zealand, and though only one section of it is really about the land and its relationship to people, I felt like I could relate to the book because of where I was. I progressed through the first couple of hundred pages with ease, feeling engrossed in who Simon was, how his presence was changing Kerewin. The book alternates between narratives, so that you can experience each of the individuals in a way, and see how they are interpreting things. How they can clearly see other people's lack of sensitivity, and in their own foggy moments completely forget to be cautious of the same thoughtlessness. By having a mute boy and two uncommunicative, reclusive people at the centre of the story, the writer has found a very engaging way of articulating people's solitary viewpoints. And in that sense, it is a very modern book. The characters are always aware of things they are failing at, and most of their angst comes from this failing. The book is also interesting for the way its fulcrum lies on 3 or 4 minor events which become significant. An effective showcasing of how things go out of hand through small infractions. But the book is also a perfect example of how your ideas can fall flat if you don't know how to take them to culmination. The last 100 pages of the book, perhaps a few more, are senseless and difficult to relate with. They completely bring the beautiful book down. The writer has completely gone on her own stream of consciousness, except that this stream is neither very conscious nor very consistent. There is suddenly some magic realism, some leaps and faiths of co-incidence, an illness and its magical healing. It is a book which definitely needed a different ending, or at least a different writing of the ending.(less)