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#46. Blog about each book read or re-read

February 12, 2008
Gaining Knowledge/Intellectual Pursuits

46. Blog about each book read or re-read (5/50)

  1. The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel

    • Genre: New Age-sci-fi-magical realism
    • Comments: In two words, sappy and strange. I do give props though for its unique use of words with music and images. I think what Esquivel was trying to do here was help with the mood of the story. Innovative ? Yes. Effective ? I’m not quite sure. My confusion over many parts of the book led me to wonder whether something was lost in the translation but I can hardly imagine this crazy story making sense in ANY language. Often while reading I had the feeling that Esquivel wrote herself into a corner, then created a goofy new invention or outrageous plot twist in order to extricate herself. Piled on top of a wildly spinning plot is a new-age philosophy concerning the law of love — something about radiating peace, a pyramid, and crystals. Perhaps this book’s secret is not to take anything it says seriously, but rather to sit back and enjoy the wild ride.
  2. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

    • Genre: Fiction
    • Comments: A story beautifully written and sadly tragic. If you read this book expecting answers, explanations, or any kind of analysis on how five teenage sisters ended up commiting suicide, one after the other .. you’ll be disappointed. After you reach the last of the 250 very well written pages, you’ll realise that Jeffrey Eugenides hasn’t revealed anything more than you knew from page one: the only thing the reader knows is that the five blond, almost indistinguishable Lisbon sisters commit suicide one by one.
      A black, glittering novel that won’t be to everyone’s taste but must be tried by readers looking for something different

  3. Foundation by Isaac Asimov

    • Genre: Science fiction
    • Comments: I must say this book has definitely rekindled my passion for sci-fi novels ! Yes, I know science fiction novels are often stereotyped as wishy washy novels for boys who only want to read about space ships exploding into one another but Foundation is not a book that’s “great” simply because critics tell you it is. It really is a tremendously written and entertaining piece of sociopolitical sci-fi combined with good old space opera, and its best attributes might seem quaint to today’s readers until you realize just how beautifully they’re executed. Asimov’s blessedly clear prose, for example. When you consider over the decades how much sci-fi has become overburdened by either vain style or cumbersome plotting masquerading as epic legendry, Asimov’s concise words are a true breath of fresh air. Asimov knew perhaps better than anyone in this genre that writing was about communicating. Asimov wrote clearly, but not laconically. There is more than enough wit to go around. Most impressively, Asimov’s plots were as intricate as any of today’s best novelists’. Yet he still managed to keep his readers’ heads free from confusion and frustration.
  4. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

    • Genre: Fiction
    • Comments: Apparently I’m supposed to appreciate this book as one of the modern classics and honestly, I really tried. I really tried not to give up and be intimidated by its length [600 pages roughly], its violence, its crude language and all those derogatory sex scenes but I just CANNOT stand this book. Can’t call me close minded for trying. Don’t get me wrong. The novelist’s function was to keep a running tag on the progress of the culture: and he’s done it brilliantly with all the mentions of money, restaurants, designer labels, smart clothes, things, but others are doing it too. And anyway no one is suggesting that Bret Easton Ellis should be killed, eaten alive, for writing it. Or not yet. Seriously it’s an uphill struggle. And boy was I pissed when I didn’t get the punchline at the end of 600 pages.
      So the novel straddling boring social description and disturbing illustrations of violence — but what else is there? I read this book (all the way through) and was left with the feeling quite angry that after feeling bored-to-tears and being violently sick at one point there was absolutely no point to the novel. The way some other reviewers describe it as the ONLY 1980’s consumer culture critique is scandalously wrong – it’s just the most graphic and infamous.
      In essence the cultural importance of this book lessens if you read it – a study guide on it would probably be more useful (and less damaging to your health) than the actual book. The other reviewers talk about Ellis’s success in satirising the 1980’s consumer culture but no one says this is an enjoyable or a particularly interesting read. It’s not – it’s dire. An important landmark on the landscape of literature, maybe, but there are plenty of these so read something else instead. I suggest something by Iris Murdoch or Joseph Heller.
  5. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

    • Genre: Pulp
    • Comments: Awesome, awesome book. Not only is it WAY more interesting than Lord of the Flies, its characters were, to me, so much more 3D. Perhaps it was the intricate way Takami described them and their interpersonal relationships and motivations. Plus it was a page-turner. And I suppose you could call it ‘violent’ though, for someone who’s just finished reading American Psycho it wasn’t much of a problem. I think the only problems for me in reading this was keeping track of all the 42+ characters as I’m not familiar with Japanese names, and I had to keep turning back to the first few pages to see who was who, as well as the map ! Also there were at times where I really didn’t enjoy reading Takami’s dialogue. Particularly what Noriko said near the end to Shogo about his girlfriend. That was EXTREMELY awkward [to read] and over the top cheesy. It’s a shame I don’t know much about the Japanese language as I was wondering whether it was in the translation or bad writing that I found fault in this book.
      Anyway, I’m laughing right now reading the reviews on Battle Royale. Most of it was good, we did get a few one star ratings though. Ah well. A minority of snobs that keep saying “don’t waste your time” X-DD. You’d think if they’d hold on to some self-dignity and say something more original about it after comparing the two books [Lord of the Flies & BR] to say they were completely different.
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