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2014 50 Book Challenge - Page 88

post #1306 of 2226
Clockwise counting 91/50: Juan Gabriel Vasquez - The Sound of Things Falling (2011)

Vasquez is the big star of new Colombian fiction. This is far from magic realism but still with a dreamlike quality to the story. Our protagonist is the law professor Antonio who accidentally gets shot and seriously injured in the assassination of his friend Ricardo. Antonio becomes obsessed with the "why" and goes to great lengths to find out Ricardo's background. The downfall of Ricardo, going back a couple of decades, turns out to have set in motion a chain of events which affected many people disastrously.

The backdrop of the novel is the terror of Pablo Escobar's Medellin-based drug empire in the 1980s, the war on drugs and the rural poverty of Colombia. Reading the first half of this novel, I thought it quite mediocre albeit well written; after the second half and the astonishing revelations towards the end, I realise why it is has received such good reviews. It leaves a lasting impression on the reader and I would recommend it.
post #1307 of 2226

CW - are there any novels written by him that are awesome from the get go?

post #1308 of 2226
Quote:
Originally Posted by LonerMatt View Post

CW - are there any novels written by him that are awesome from the get go?

This is the first Vasquez I read. I think it's only his 3rd novel. And this is supposedly his best.
I am sure many will think The Sound of Things Falling awesome from page 1. The reason I found the first half mediocre was probably that my expectations were very high. Somewhere in the middle, and particularly towards the end, did I understand how good it is.
post #1309 of 2226
116. The Californios 1974 Louis L'Amour

The ER Burroughs and L'Amour books were my Dad's. He loved these books- so I figured what the heck. I think I've read 50 List books this year and only enjoyed 10-15.

A family is trying to save their ranch from foreclosure near Malibu in 1844. A mystical old man takes the family into the wilderness and they find enough gold to comprise half the money. The other half magically appears at the ranch.

There were metaphysics, riding, and shooting. What's not to like?

4
post #1310 of 2226
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post

The Sound of Things Falling


This sounds amazing...though the title almost reads like a parody of very important books.
post #1311 of 2226
holy.jpg


#1 The Holy Terrors (1929), by Jean Cocteau


A son's forgiveness. A mother's doubt. A soldier returning home. None of these have anything at all to do with The Holy Terrors, Jean Cocteau's 1929-ish novel concerning (according to Amazon) a brother and sister, orphaned in adolescence, who build themselves a private world out of one shared room and their own unbridled fantasies. While technically accurate, it turns out the room, as well as its fantasies, arrive intact at the novel's beginning, and though endlessly referenced, are barely explored. And neither are the huge, huge, HUGE Freudian currents swirling constantly about. The brother longs for men, the sister longs for her brother, everyone longs for the sister, it looks like we're all headed to Cinemax town -- then nothing. People bicker. New characters arrive. They bicker, too. A protracted middle, followed by a speedy, and quite beautiful, end. This was enjoyable reading, and I'd hardly caution anyone against it, but ultimately, I probably expected a bit more from the book, as well as from Cocteau, a reportedly pretty notable dude.

I still look forward to reading his novel Thomas the Imposter later this year.
.

Edited by noob - 11/13/13 at 5:40pm
post #1312 of 2226
Quote:
Originally Posted by noob View Post

This sounds amazing...though the title almost reads like a parody of very important books.

There are things falling in this story. Big things and people.
I actually don't know if it is amazing. Compared with Spanish author Javier Marias who I read just before Vasquez, it seems lightweight, less important. But I will almost certainly read also Vasquez' two earlier novels, both are supposed to be really good.
post #1313 of 2226
List (Click to show)
1. The Undivided pt 1

2. The Undivided pt 2

3. No Country for Old Men

4. The Difference Engine

5. Wake in Fright

6. The River of Doubt

7. The Pearl

8. Crytonomicon

9. Shot in the Dark

10. Malcolm X - Biography

11. Final Empire

12. The Quiet American.

13. Habibi

14. The Invisible Man

15. Tender is the Night

16. Guardians of the West

17. King of the Murgos

18. Demon lord of Khandar

19. Sorcress of Darshiva

20. Seeress of Kell

21. Once We Were Warriors

22. Winter of our Discontent

23. Othello

24. A Scanner Darkly

25. The Well of Ascension

26. Hero of Ages

27. Alloy of Law

28. Marrow

29. The Prince

30. Leviathan Wakes

31. The Meaning of Sarkozy

32. The Death of Ivan Illych

33. The Devil

34. Lucifer's Hammer

35. The Yiddish Policeman's Union

36. Rainbows End

37. Palimpsest

38. Red Shirts

39. Caliban's War

40. The Ocean at the End of the Lane

41. The Communist Hypothesis

42. While Mortals Sleep

43. Spin

44. Werewolves in their Youth

45. Heart of Darkness

46. A Model World

47. Throne of the Crescent Moon

48. Darkness at Noon

49. Abaddon's Gate

50.  Into the WIld

51. Ready Player One

52. 1Q84

53. Red Pony

54. Bright lights, big city

55. All the pretty horses

56. A Short walk in the Hindu Kush

57. The Brief, Wonderous life of Oscar Wao

58. Ubik

59. Return of a King

60. In trouble again

61. Dance, Dance, Dance

62. This is how you lose her

63. Drown

64. Smoke and Mirros
65. Kafka on the Shore

 

65. Kafka on the Shore

 

Kafka is a 5 year old who runs away from his father, who has put a curse on Kafka. He eventually ends up befriending a librarian and settling down briefly working at a library. While this is happening, Nakata (an old, mentally disabled man) is manipulated into murdering "Johnny Walker" (who later turns out to be Kafka's father) and then moves south (mirroring Kafka's move). With the police mobilised looking for Kafka (due to his father's death) he lies low, eventually falling in love with a much older librarian. Some incredibly fantastical elements of this story complicate the plot somewhat, but defy my skills of summary.

 

I'm honestly not quite sure what to make of this book. I very much enjoyed a great deal of it - esepcially the earlier parts and, as always, Murakami's characterisation is fantastic. However, the more surreal/fantastical elements didn't click for me, and there was a great deal that seemed unnecessary or incongrous. Perhaps after thinking through the novel again I'll come to some conclusions about why certain parts were included, but in the mean time I'm a little puzzled.

post #1314 of 2226
Clockwise counting 92/50: Edgar Rice Burroughs - Tarzan of the Apes (1912)

Lord Greystoke with pregnant wife are stranded in an uninhibited area of the African west coast. Wife dies of illness after giving birth to a baby, the lord is killed by raging apes. A female ape raises the baby who develops into a perfect specimen of primeval man. He gets the name Tarzan in the language of his ape tribe. Tarzan amazingly learns to read in English and he goes through a process of civilisation until he becomes a combination of a gentleman and a vicious killing machine. 

Enjoyable anthropological adventure with added spice of erotic tension as Jane Porter from Baltimore falls in love with the man who appeals to her primeval desires. Black African natives appear lower than the apes on Burroughs civilisation / morality scale. On the list of 1001.
post #1315 of 2226
I guess even at its pulp fiction levels, Tarzan is such an influential story that it has to be on the list.
post #1316 of 2226
21. The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov.

Satan visits Moscow, chaos ensures. Magic realism dealing with the purges of Stalinist Russia in allegorical form amongst other things. California Dreamer already reviewed this more extensively.

22. Berlin in Lights, Harry Kessler's diaries 1918-1937 - Harry Kessler, translated by Charles Kessler (no relation).

Second half of Count Kessler's diaries. Starts in the last days of the first world war, Kessler is in Berlin to witness the chaos that follows the Kaiser's abdication and flight on November 9, followed by the armistice and the early days of the Weimar republic. Luckily for us he didn't hesitate to walk through the streets on the days there were no newspapers to try and discern where and who was shooting. Shortly after the war he is made ambassador in Warsaw. He also has parts to play in negotiations with the entente and Soviets in Italy and quasi-official discussions with his political contacts in London in later years.

We meet various historical figures: Einstein, Josephine Baker, Maillol and Richard Strauss (both of whom also appear in his earlier diaries), to name a few. A few days after Hitler gains the Chancellorship Kessler leaves Germany for Paris never to return to his homeland. After the military rebellion in Spain, he is also unable to travel to Mallorca where he had established a retreat (this is where the first half of his diaries 1880-1918 were eventually discovered fifty years after his death).

An amazing historical document, covering not only political events but also with a large emphasis on the artistic world.
post #1317 of 2226
I think if it's on The List it's fair game. Length goes from 50 to 3200.

117. The Shadow Riders Louis L'Amour 1982

A pair of brothers return from the Civil War- one Confed and one Union. They find an emptied and ravaged ranch which was once their home..

Their sister has been kidnapped along with several other women. A renegade ex-Confederate colonel plans to sell them as slaves and use the money to make the South rise again.

Westerns are getting boring.

3
post #1318 of 2226
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

Westerns are getting boring.

Try The Luminaries for something a bit different. It's pretty much a Western, but set in colonial New Zealand. It's 832pp of skullduggery and plot. Reminds me of Deadwood without the profanity.
post #1319 of 2226
List (Click to show)
1. The Undivided pt 1

2. The Undivided pt 2

3. No Country for Old Men

4. The Difference Engine

5. Wake in Fright

6. The River of Doubt

7. The Pearl

8. Crytonomicon

9. Shot in the Dark

10. Malcolm X - Biography

11. Final Empire

12. The Quiet American.

13. Habibi

14. The Invisible Man

15. Tender is the Night

16. Guardians of the West

17. King of the Murgos

18. Demon lord of Khandar

19. Sorcress of Darshiva

20. Seeress of Kell

21. Once We Were Warriors

22. Winter of our Discontent

23. Othello

24. A Scanner Darkly

25. The Well of Ascension

26. Hero of Ages

27. Alloy of Law

28. Marrow

29. The Prince

30. Leviathan Wakes

31. The Meaning of Sarkozy

32. The Death of Ivan Illych

33. The Devil

34. Lucifer's Hammer

35. The Yiddish Policeman's Union

36. Rainbows End

37. Palimpsest

38. Red Shirts

39. Caliban's War

40. The Ocean at the End of the Lane

41. The Communist Hypothesis

42. While Mortals Sleep

43. Spin

44. Werewolves in their Youth

45. Heart of Darkness

46. A Model World

47. Throne of the Crescent Moon

48. Darkness at Noon

49. Abaddon's Gate

50.  Into the WIld

51. Ready Player One

52. 1Q84

53. Red Pony

54. Bright lights, big city

55. All the pretty horses

56. A Short walk in the Hindu Kush

57. The Brief, Wonderous life of Oscar Wao

58. Ubik

59. Return of a King

60. In trouble again

61. Dance, Dance, Dance

62. This is how you lose her

63. Drown

64. Smoke and Mirros
65. Kafka on the Shore
66. Wyrmweald

 

66. Wyrmweald

 

This book is co-written by two of my childhood favourite: Chris Riddel and Paul Stewart. It's a coming of age story about a young boy - Micah - who abandons his feudal-peasant life to gain fortune in the weald - a dragon infested plateau at the top of the world. A very different reality awaits, and poaches, slavers, hunters, thieves and lies abound in this world. Luckily for our progtagonist, he falls in with a gruff but helpful guide, who eventually teaches him not to die, and helps him uncover something more meaningful than his materialistic and shallow visions of wealth and glory.

 

In many ways this storyline is not unique, but these two are absolutely visionary in their creativity - each series of theirs creates a new world of almost painful beauty and balance - these books are aimed at young adults, but reading one takes me back to long hot summers spent reading at the beach (where I first read their series) where I would get all 3 books of their from a triology and re-read them. Not the sort of stuff that develops apprecition, but certainly something so strongly nostalgic it reminds me of why I read at all.

 

If any of you have children 10-14, especially boys, highly recommended (though strong and powerful female characters abound).

 

Plus, with art like this how can one complain, even if it's for kids?

 

post #1320 of 2226




clockwise noob counting #2/50: Mary (1926), by Vladimir Nabokov



Mary concerns Lev Ganin, a clever and handsome, but mopey and dissolute young man passing the time with fellow emigres in a run-down Berlin apartment house. Unable to find meaning in work or relationships, Ganin longs for the excitement of his previous life, both as an officer for Russia and a boyfriend to Mary, his first love. While there is no plot to speak of, the action is split between Ganin's lackluster present and the gilded memories of his past. Saying more might be considered spoilers. Suffice it to say that this book is better than any first novel has a right to be; even from Nabokov, it was still a pleasant surprise. Ganin is a remarkable character -- shady, immoral, completely reckless with those around him -- yet he remains likeable, and always interesting. In this way he reminds me of Knut Hamsun's better creations, particularly the men from Hunger and Mysteries. I'll definitely return to this one at some point.
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