rebness: (Courage)

 You know, after a few months of incredibly annoying and difficult reads (I'm looking at you, Cloud Atlas), I was feeling a little jaded. This was when I asked a colleague for any recommendations and she loaned me Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut.

Vonnegut has always been one of those authors I knew I'd like based on reputation and brief articles I had read by him alone, but somehow I had just never got around to reading him and now I’m kicking myself for only paying his work attention after his death. Anyway, Slaughterhouse Five is ostensibly about the bombing of Dresden during the Second World War, a massacre I knew very little about.

The entire novel read like a post-traumatic attempt to gather the threads of what happened back together, like a stunned non-reaction to killing on a grand scale. I don't know. I expected pages and pages about the bombing of Dresden, tales of mothers clutching their babies and dying and fear and fire, but instead it all just happened so quickly and the survivors stand there agape gazing at "the moon's surface". There was no need for emotive language, because what, as Vonnegut himself wrote, could be said about such a thing? It was just so well done, so effective. 

It’s hard to sum up any real plot or to review such a disjointed novel, but I loved that it was as mild as it was cynical, Vonnegut’s gentle humour lending more weight to the dark things he covered than it would have if he had simply ranted.

Case in point: On one page, a character is asked to describe what the war was like. His reply is a drawing of a headstone with a little cherub that reads Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. I read that as I was going home on the metro and it was so simple, so silly with the little smiley face on the cherub, but it brought heat to my eyes and to my alarm, I realised I wanted to cry. Vonnegut said that it would make a great epitaph for himself – I wonder if that will be on his grave.

Just a really good, really interesting read. I’m definitely going to read it again.

Reading

Aug. 10th, 2007 01:02 pm
rebness: (Office boredom)

So, if nothing else, Spanish TV and its absolute bleakness means that I have managed to put a halt to neglecting my reading habits. For posterity, here’s a brief catch-up of reading this year:

 

 

The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger ***

 

This book had a really interesting concept: a man who is (unwillingly) dragged back and forward through his own life and the effects it has upon him but mainly the woman he loves. It had some evocative scenes and the ending in particular stays with me, but underneath it all it was basically a love story rather than sci-fi and…er… I didn’t much care for that. The good parts, though, made it worth the read.

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling ****

 

Yaay

 

The Accidental – Ali Smith ***

 

I have a lot of goodwill towards Smith. Hotel World absolutely captivated me and this book gripped me right until the end. It’s one of those mysterious-stranger-shows-up-and-changes-everyone’s-lives kind of thing, but one full of literary jokes and an air of menace. I don’t know what happened towards the end, though. It was three-quarters a really, really good read, original, funny, dark and then just… not. 

ETA: Although the scathing account of Love Actually and its inherent dishonesty was for me one of the lulziest moments of any novel I've ever read.

 

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon ****

 

Re-read. I love this book and loved it more upon the second reading. The end.

 

For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway (unfinished)

 

I thought it was high time I read this book, so bought it on the flight back from America in April. It’s about something that deeply interests me – the Spanish Civil War – but I keep putting it down because something about the writing irritates me, possibly the fact that every time he refers to the protagonist, he uses his full name. It’s a small irritation, but one that drags me out of the narrative each and every time. 

Labyrinth – Kate Mosse (unfinished) 

I keep putting this one down and leaving it for weeks at a time. I don't know why; it's good and draws me in whenever I read it, but it's also easy to forget. Huh.

 

The Alchemist – Paulo Coehlo ***

 

I read Veronika Decides to Die a few years ago an came away thinking that Coehlo was a pretentious git. The Alchemist, though really evocative and thoughtful in some parts, did little to disabuse me of this notion. I know everyone loves this book and I suppose I can see why, but I still dunt like him. 


Birdsong
– Sebastian Faulks ****

 

Yet another novel about the First World War, but so very well-written that it stands out as one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s about the life of young English soldier and his experiences at the time, but there are so many other strands to the story – his clandestine love affair with a married woman, his granddaughter’s quest to find out more about him, the fate of the people he fought with and so on. The war scenes were unrelentingly graphic; at times, it was hard to continue reading because Faulks doesn’t flinch from describing a man’s brains slopping out of the ruins of his skull when a paragraph earlier he had been joking with another character, so that I was relieved whenever the action cut to his granddaughter’s perspective years later. I managed to get so much from this book and I think it deserves the praise lauded on it by the press and public alike.

 

Manon Lescaut – Abbe Prevost

 

Still reading. Enjoying immensely.

rebness: (Weeaboo)
I can't help but fear that I shall never reach the giddy heights of reading eighty books a year as in my university days, so therefore I'm having to be more selective with my reading, Point Horror re-reads notwithstanding. Anyway, I've managed an awesome three books thus far this year. I guess reads are just that inspiring:

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
I decided to read this just on the strength of Pierre's charismatic documentary on the occult in Mexico, which may or may not have been a mistake. I didn't really expect satire, but that's what I got. Personally, I think Pierre would be better at angst (he just looks so blase!) but whatever. Fun, silly but pointed read. Also, Vernon's favourite word of choice is 'ass', so whenever I think 'Vernon God Little' I immediately think 'ass'. 4/5

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.
I keep picking this book up and putting it down again for days at a time. I read through a depressing beating, then a depressing party where people got high and felt lonely, then more depressing stuff, then put it down again. It's well-written and good social commentary and all that, but it's winter and grey and cold and I can't be dealing with Worthy Reads right now. Unfinished.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
At times rather plodding, but evocative story. I really liked Gatsby and his idealistic visions of love, though I had to re-read certain parts over and over again, either because events were unclear or because I have the concentration span of a.. ooh, shiny. 3/5

The Book Thief by Some Guy
I'm twelve pages in and I hate it already. Please, someone tell me it's worth sticking with this book. At the moment, all I envision is a non-funny Death from Terry Pratchett's books. Urgh. Unfinished.

I keep thinking back to The Shadow of the Wind. I think I'm going to re-read that. It kept me intrigued and thrilled, and nothing I've read since then has caught my imagination so fiercely. It sucks. >:(

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