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2014 50 Book Challenge - Page 89

post #1321 of 2114
Clockwise counting 93/50: Cesare Pavese - The Moon and the Bonfires (1949)

Aguilla ("the eel") grew up in poverty in rural Italy, went to America to change his life and then returns to the old country after the second world war. He finds that most of the people he had known are dead or disappeared. The story is a mix of nostalgic reminiscences and brutal discoveries, a neo-realistic portrait of Italian people and landscapes. Quite slow moving for such a short novel. Beautifully written but depressing. 

This seems to be considered Pavese's masterpiece and it is on the 1001 list, thus mandatory for obsessive list completionists.
post #1322 of 2114





#s 3 and 4: The Eye (1930) and Glory (1932), by Vladimir Nabokov


The Two That Were Meh:

I'm grouping these early works together, as they represent the worst -- or at least, the most meh and forgettable -- of Nabokov. Those who disagree, please fill me in, but I rush to complete this as the events vanish from memory. The Eye, with its superior title and intriguing plot summary, seemed poised to become a new favorite, but alas, this short novel, about yet another Russian emigre in Berlin, failed to impress. Smurov, the emigre, is a manny, one who beds -- someone -- a friend of his...host family? Suffering humiliation when his deeds are exposed, he promptly kills himself, then wanders Berlin as a ghost, interacting with other young emigres as if nothing had happened. Then nothing does happen. The End.

Glory was a bit more confounding, if only because Nicholson Baker and (I think) John Updike were both fans. Again, I wonder what I'm missing. Another emigre, another episodic novel -- one that appears to be nothing more than a collection of the author's memories hoping to congeal into a plot. Martin, the protagonist, is a somewhat duller version of the narrator from King, Queen, Knave. He takes a boat ride, falls in love, and has sex. He attends school in England, falls in love, but does not have sex. Throughout, he remains a bit of a cypher, but not in any intriguing sort of way. At the end, things finally gather speed as Martin prepares for an 'exploit', a senseless and dangerous journey back into the heart of Mother Russia. Then the novel just sort of stops.

I suspect with these two I might have just stumbled onto the dullest of VN all at once. Either that or I was asleep.

* On the plus side, this listing and planning out of at least 50 novels in the next twelve months has given me the impetus I need to read through my backlog. biggrin.gif *
.

Edited by noob - 11/19/13 at 12:33am
post #1323 of 2114
Quote:
Originally Posted by noob View Post






#s 3 and 4: The Eye (1930) and Glory (1932), by Vladimir Nabokov


The Two That Were Meh:

I'm grouping these early works together, as they represent the worst -- or at least, the most meh and forgettable -- of Nabokov. Those who disagree, please fill me in, but I rush to complete this as the events vanish from memory. The Eye, with its superior title and intriguing plot summary, seemed poised to become a new favorite, but alas, this short novel, about yet another Russian emigre in Berlin, failed to impress. Smurov, the emigre, is a manny, one who beds -- someone -- a friend of his...host family? Suffering humiliation when his deeds are exposed, he promptly kills himself, then wanders Berlin as a ghost, interacting with other young emigres as if nothing had happened. Then nothing does happen. The End.

Glory was a bit more confounding, if only because Nicholson Baker and (I think) John Updike were both fans. Again, I wonder what I'm missing. Another emigre, another episodic novel -- one that appears to be nothing more than a collection of the author's memories hoping to congeal into a plot. Martin, the protagonist, is a somewhat duller version of the narrator from King, Queen, Knave. He takes a boat ride, falls in love, and has sex. He attends school in England, falls in love, but does not have sex. Throughout, he remains a bit of a cypher, but not in any intriguing sort of way. At the end, things finally gather speed as Martin prepares for an 'exploit', a senseless and dangerous journey back into the heart of Mother Russia. Then the novel just sort of stops.

I suspect with these two I might have just stumbled onto the dullest of VN all at once. Either that or I was asleep.

* On the plus side, this listing and planning out of at least 50 novels in the next twelve months has given me the impetus I need to read through my backlog. biggrin.gif *
.

Nice reviews, noob! I have only read Lolita, which I liked. I know that I should read more of Nabokov.

You only have around 41 days to read the remaining 46 books in 2013. That is indeed a challenge! If too much for you, I really look forward to your 2014 participation.

This thread has helped me to keep reading at the priority level it always should be - just above music, art museums and movies; a tiny notch below sex and alcohol.
post #1324 of 2114
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
67. Bloodhoney

 

67. Bloodhoney

 

A continuation of the Returner's Wealth, this book sees the three central characters hunker down for winter and hibernate, but during this process one becomes significantly depressed. Unfortunately, slavery is a large part of the world the characters live in and, after freeing some slaves in the previous book, they are hunted down and almost killed. This splits their group up. Lost and confused, two characters stumble into a haven of sorts - a quasi-cult filled with uncanny happenings. It turns out that this is a place that manufactures 'bloodhoney' a drug that uses blood from humans as a powerful, but mind rotting stimulant.

 

Great story telling - no big battles of good/evil here, just a few lot souls trying to make their way in a wicked, twisted dog-eat-dog world.

post #1325 of 2114
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post


This thread has helped me to keep reading at the priority level it always should be - just above music, art museums and movies; a tiny notch below sex and alcohol.

laugh.gif

I hope it'll do the same for me, as well as maybe teach me a thing or two about writing reviews. Concision is a beast. You guys seem to have nailed it, though.

In my experience, people usually read Nabokov like this: Lolita, then Pale Fire, then Pnin and Ada, if they liked the first two. I've just read Bend Sinister, which IMHO is as good as his more famous works (maybe better in some respects). Mary and The Gift are also excellent, and though I haven't read them, I hear Despair, The Defense, and Laughter in the Dark are nothing to sneeze at, either.
post #1326 of 2114
57. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton (2013)

The LuminariesThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Eleanor Catton's Booker Prize-winning novel is essentially a Western set in New Zealand during the gold rush days. It's a complicated tale of plot and skullduggery centred on four contemporaneous events: the death of a hermit, the discovery of a sizeable and unexplained stash of gold, the disappearance of a wealthy miner and the arrest of a whore passed out on the road-side.

The novel starts with Walter Moody arriving in the gold mining town of Hokitika. He stumbles onto a covert meeting of 12 men, who are gathered to discuss these events. in a Rashomon-like fashion, Catton moves between narrators at this meeting to recount the mysterious events going on. It takes her about 350 pages to introduce her characters and set the scene, but there is so much going on here that it does not seem to drag at all.

The rest of the book delves into the background of the key characters and fleshes out the plot, gradually filling in the blanks and dramatically shifting our understanding of some of the characters in the process. This is artfully done so that while she adds a lot of detail, she does not give away too much too early.

Surprisingly for an 830 page book, the novel feels a bit rushed. After a gradual and expansive reveal of the plot, the last 100 pages is delivered in a staccato fashion that feels as if the author had changed gears and was rushing towards a deadline to get the remaining chapters done. Catton has also employed some kind of astrological symbolism in her chapter headings (hence the title) but it really did not seem worth bothering to decipher her meaning. Presumably there is a puzzle there, but I found it too distracting.

The book reminded me of nothing so much as the TV series Deadwood without the profanity, and perhaps this is its weakness. It seems to me to be just another vast Western genre novel; a rattling good story that people will really enjoy, but I don't think it has the literary merit you'd expect of a Booker Prize winner.



View all my reviews
post #1327 of 2114
13-Louis-Di-Valentin--cover-for-Bend-Sinister-by-Nabokov-%28Time-Reading-Program--1964%29_900.jpg


# 5



Esteemed philosophy professor and first department chair Adam Krug is having a bad day. His wife is dying (Let me go, Adam....!), his colleagues hate him (Just sign the papers, Krug!), and his son asks too many questions. (Daddy, when is Mommy coming home?). And to make matters worse, his entire country is overthrown by the very nerd he used to bully. (Long time, Adam.) (Not long enough...Toad.). Now, his school is closing (They took it all. They took everything!), his friends are disappearing (He was just a man. An old man!), and no one can be trusted, not even himself. (I'm gettin' too old for this sh --- BOOM!). Now he must plan a daring escape, across the borders of time and country (Adam -- watch out!), past the interstice of history and fiction (Nooooo!!!!!), into the wilds of mind (Anyone can create the future, Adam. Only a wise man can create the past.), the wilds of himself. From the writer of Pnin and Lolita and the producer of 1984 comes a new tale of tyranny and oppression, horror and regret. It's all getting a little sinister. Bend Sinister.


# 5

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post #1328 of 2114
118. The Third Gate Lincoln Child 2012

Another thriller bequeathed me by my brother.

An enigmalogist (sort of a paranormalist) is called to help with an Egyptian curse in a large archaeological dig. A woman is possessed and does the curse's dirty work.

Makes for a nice page turner on a long flight.

2
post #1329 of 2114
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

118. The Third Gate

Makes for a nice page turner on a long flight.

2

Now there's an expression in danger of obsolescence. "Screen-swiper", maybe?
post #1330 of 2114
Quote:
Originally Posted by noob View Post


In my experience, people usually read Nabokov like this: Lolita, then Pale Fire, then Pnin and Ada, if they liked the first two. I've just read Bend Sinister, which IMHO is as good as his more famous works (maybe better in some respects). Mary and The Gift are also excellent, and though I haven't read them, I hear Despair, The Defense, and Laughter in the Dark are nothing to sneeze at, either.

I haven't read Bend Sinister - I shall have to search out a copy of it, as it sounds interesting.

Pale Fire was one of the books that I loved most whilst at university and I re-read it quite a few times. It was also great to dip into from time to time, to read a few pages here, a few pages there, savour the richness of the language, the multi-layered story, to ponder who was who and who was real and who was not.

Nabokov was a very decent poet as well as prose writer - I like the evocative opening lines of the poem that forms the first part of "Pale Fire": "I was the shadow of the waxwing slain/by the false azure of the windowpane."
post #1331 of 2114
Clockwise counting 94/50: Elizabeth Bowen - The Heat of the Day (1948)

Another one from the list of 1001. Do you ever really know people's true identity? This is a spy / counterspy love story set in war time London. Not a thriller despite its subject matter. It's all about human relations and whether we stand by our country or our loved ones. I liked this one a lot. 
post #1332 of 2114
Quote:
Originally Posted by California Dreamer View Post

Now there's an expression in danger of obsolescence. "Screen-swiper", maybe?

Not for me. I prefer the paper...I'm crotchety that way.
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post

Clockwise counting 94/50: Elizabeth Bowen - The Heat of the Day (1948)

Another one from the list of 1001. Do you ever really know people's true identity? This is a spy / counterspy love story set in war time London. Not a thriller despite its subject matter. It's all about human relations and whether we stand by our country or our loved ones. I liked this one a lot. 

Looks like you will get your 100! Impending congrats!

119. The Cement Garden 1978 Ian McEwan

LIST

Both parents die in a relatively short period of time. The children choose to parent themselves so they aren't parceled out to various different foster homes.

What ensues is odd, poignant. And to be expected.

I really don't want to go further and give the rest of away.

I liked it. Give it a B+.

Tie

Think I'll do a Mars to break it.
post #1333 of 2114
Quote:
Originally Posted by Journeyman View Post

I haven't read Bend Sinister - I shall have to search out a copy of it, as it sounds interesting.

DO IT! It's pretty great -- each chapter is like its own little universe with a different focus, emphasizing different techniques (a bit of metafiction, changing POV, stripped down poetry that reads kind of like old Cormac McCarthy) while moving the plot along. From what I read, it was an early review by some dumbass that torpedoed interest in the book, and it never recovered.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Journeyman View Post

Pale Fire was one of the books that I loved most whilst at university and I re-read it quite a few times. It was also great to dip into from time to time, to read a few pages here, a few pages there, savour the richness of the language, the multi-layered story, to ponder who was who and who was real and who was not.

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post #1334 of 2114



I've heard it might be more enjoyable to start with the little Bolanos before moving on to his monster works, so that's what I've done. Monsieur Pain is fast, fun, and French. Well, it's set in France anyway. A brief novel by a younger Bolano that hints, I'm sure, at things to come. Based on real people, but not really. A detective novel, but not really. Paris in the 1930's. The central character -- an aging war veteran with burned-out lungs turned mesmerist who I sort of envision as a sadder and more corporeal version of Dr. Strange -- is a lot of fun. The book itself was fast and okay. Promising seems to be the consensus. My favorite part was a the epilogue, or series of epithets ending the book in a Six Feet Under manner, all packed with a strangeness and unlikely humanity that should have permeated the whole book.

The Third Reich, another early work, posthumously published, was longer, calmer, more eery, and much more fleshed out. It's about a German board game champion whose stay at Barcelonan resort goes on much longer than anticipated. Kind of a mix of Death in Venice and The Vanishing told in the narcotizing prose of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Recommended!




Murphy. Watt. Seriously. What the fuck, man.

I'm sorry, but early Beckett is bad, bad, bad -- bordering on terrible. I had high hopes going in, given the effusive reviews on sites like amazon and good reads. But....no. Clearly a pale imitation of the writers that enthralled him (Joyce, Proust, the proto-surrealists) but lacking the charm, the know-how, or even the insight into what made those works great. The academics reviewing these books are wrong. And clearly -- clearly -- viewing them from the lens of later Beckett -- that handsome silvery haired man that just looks so TORTURED and DEEP right there in his turtleneck -- and not meeting them on their own terms. It's a shame more people seem to read these than the novels of Flann O'Brien, equally in thrall to Joyce, but skilled, capable, and funny -- actually funny. Academics. I want to tear their eyes out.







The Voice Imitator, by Thomas Bernhard. A re-read. A short book of about a hundred-ish little short stories, a lot of them inspired by newspaper clippings, this one has a lot in common with Felix Feneon's Novels in Three Lines, as well as Russell Edson, and probably more modern small press short short writing Americans than you can shake a stick at. Also might be the only Bernhard book with paragraphs.


#6-10
post #1335 of 2114
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

Not for me. I prefer the paper...I'm crotchety that way.
Looks like you will get your 100! Impending congrats!

119. The Cement Garden 1978 Ian McEwan

LIST

Both parents die in a relatively short period of time. The children choose to parent themselves so they aren't parceled out to various different foster homes.

What ensues is odd, poignant. And to be expected.

I really don't want to go further and give the rest of away.

I liked it. Give it a B+.

Tie

Think I'll do a Mars to break it.

I remember your year 1, when you did War and Peace to get to 50. You should do a heavy-weight to get to 120. Just saying. Are you on for 50 in 2014? And what will your percentage of List books be?

I really liked Cement Garden and would be inclined to go A-. If you haven't yet, please try equally slim The Comfort of Strangers. It is very good.
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