Saturday, January 31, 2009

2008 Reading List, 10-13

10 Corelli's Mandolin- Louis De Bernieres
When the film version of this came out (with Nicolas Cage in the lead), it was summarily panned by critics. Another example of a rich, complex, much-loved novel being ruined by Hollywood. I was never all that keen on reading the book, but I eventually saw so many copies of it in used book stores and it came so highly recommended that I didn't feel I had much choice.
It turned out to be just my cup of tea. History, love, totalitarianism, the brutality and futility of war-- great themes, and complex, well-drawn characters. The story revolves around actual historical events, the Italian occupation of the Greek island of Cephallonia and subsequent massacre of Italian forces by the German.

11 Until I Find You- John Irving

I've read quite a few Irving novels over the years, starting with The Hotel New Hampshire back in high school. Upon review, I see that this is the fifth (or possibly sixth) I've read in the past 25 years. There are many recurring themes in Irving's work, notably wrestling, prostitution, deadly accidents, Vienna, bears, New England, etc. All of these, with the exception of bears, appear in this novel. Another common element of Irving's fiction is fairly heavy sexual content and variation. I found this aspect of UIFY to be quite disturbing. The main character is sexualized at a frightfully young age, and as a child he becomes the victim of abuse at the hands of women and older girls.
But discomfort aside, Irving knows his craft. The book is divided into two parts, childhood and adulthood. In the childhood section, the main character, Jack, is raised by his tattoo artist mother. He never meets his father, though his mother drags him around Europe for several months (ostensibly) in pursuit of the man. As an adult, Jack slowly discovers that much of what he learned about his absent father as a child was false. At 848 pages, it's too long. I don't think I'd recommend this book.

12 A Long Way Down- Nick Hornby
Like numbers eleven and thirteen, I found this book at my guest house in Chiang Mai. I've read most of Hornby's books, and recall the buzz (radio/print) surrounding the 2005 release of this novel. (I should note, as I did with the 2007 List, that Hornby's Polysyllabic Spree was the inspiration behind my decision to keep track of the books I read.)
I liked this book. It's about a disparate group of people that fate brings together on a rooftop on New Year's Eve. Each intends to commit suicide, but after running into all the other would-be suiciders, none are able to go through with it. They share their stories, and even afterward continue to meet. One thing I liked about the book was that a set-up like this could easily lead to a story about overcoming adversity and personal growth wherein, when faced with the problems of others, each of the characters is somehow inspired and learns to value the positive aspects of their own lives. At the end of the book the characters are, for the most part, somewhat better off than they were at the start. But there's no major transformation, and it's not at all inspirational.

13 Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance- Robert M. Persig
A surprisingly dull re-read. The last time I delved into this book, I was still in my teens. At that time, I found the ideas it explored to be genuinely interesting. Twenty years later, I found the philosophy less stimulating and the narrator to be a bore.
I do recall an embarrassing anecdote connected with my first reading of this book. I was about half-way through it when I was hanging out with my pal EVR and the guys from Bomb. The bass player (I think) was talking about riding a motor cycle, and I said that while I hadn't spent much time on a bike, I liked the idea of experiencing the passing world without the windshield or framing of the windows of a car. To which he said, you mean like he says in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? I was so busted.


Blogger evr said...

I'm glad someone recalls that evening. I remember going to see them and hanging out. I don't remember the band being very good though. I do remember going to that Cynics show with you. That was a great show!

9:02 AM  
Blogger Sheila said...

I was thinking Bomb and Das Damen, but that was another time I guess. I DO remember the Cynics :D
We saw a lot of shows when I was in BUF!

11:08 PM  
Blogger evr said...

my band opened for Das Damen so they were different shows (there's a flyer posted on the Pink Dragon FB group!). That Replacements show at the Skyroom was pretty memorable!

11:57 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home