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2014 50 Book Challenge - Page 92

post #1366 of 2053
I absolutely loved Norrell and Strange, and raced through it when it first came out. I thought that it was a really fantastic re-imagining of Victorian England and the Napoleonic Wars and that Clarke wove in some alternative history (the Raven King, the separate kingdom of the north etc etc) very well indeed. Beautifully written and realised.

With regard to Harry Potter, I think that although the plots and the storylines were definitely, undeniably derivative, JK Rowling's strength is in her portrayal of the conversations and interactions with characters.

I've read many books that have great, creative plots but where the author has really fallen down on creating believable characters - they are wooden, their conversations aren't fluid nor believable and so on. Whilst Rowling's literary talent isn't nearly as great as some would have you believe, I think that she does create good characters.
post #1367 of 2053
69. Existensialism is a Humanism

A transcription of a lecture Satre gave, complete with questions and answers afterwards, and the inclusion of some of Satre's own analysis of his speech. Clarifying, interesting, at times difficult, but generally thought provoking and meaningful. A must for anyone interested in that era of philosophy.
post #1368 of 2053
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post

Clockwise counting 97/50: Juan Gabriel Vasquez - The Secret History of Costaguana (2007) 

Colombian novelist Vasquez has written a fictional 19th century historical account of the Colombian province Panama and the plans for building the canal. At the centre of the story is Jose Altamirano, whose search for his father leads him to the centre of Panama's revolutionary history and from there to the centre of literary history as his experiences influence Joseph Conrad in the writing of Nostromo.

This is great stuff, albeit heavier going compared to Vasquez' widely acclaimed and recent 3rd novel The Sound of Things Falling and possibly a tiny bit less amazing. Vasquez is here depicting another phase of tragic Colombian history and it seems his debut novel, The Informers, which I have yet to read, is likewise taking its base in Colombian history.

There is no doubt that Vasquez is one of Latin America's most important contemporary  novelists. I will eagerly follow his writing from here on.

Your turn to read a Meisterwerke for 100. smile.gif
post #1369 of 2053
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

Your turn to read a Meisterwerke for 100. smile.gif

Will be with family in Thailand for the next month. My family is much too noisy to allow for focused reading. I aim to complete the 100 with lighter beach reading, no meisterwerke on the horizon.
post #1370 of 2053
Planning to read Captain Jack Carter for my 99th. It should count as a Meisterwerke in some circles. It will happen on the long haul flight I am about to board, Helsinki to Bangkok. Demonstrate or counter-demonstrate? Yellow or red? Someone with a politically nimble mind can hopefully provide sound advice.
post #1371 of 2053

Still so pumped to hit 70 books :)

post #1372 of 2053
Well done Matt. I won't get there. I might struggle to hit my 65 target.
post #1373 of 2053
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#11-12

Well, after a strong start in November, I'm falling way behind as I discover just how much my reading list skews toward the 'experimental'. Reading (or trying to read, starting, then abandoning...) several anti-novels back to back has helped clarify just how shaky this whole premise of the experimental is in the first place. Or maybe, more accurately, the idea of the traditional novel. There is no traditional novel! To believe otherwise is madness, I'm convinced...

Anyway, I'm going to stop with 2/3 of the BS Johnson omnibus, a book that includes the novels Trawl, Albert Angelo, and House Mother Normal. Trawl, the one I'm abandoning, is pure Beckett -- or really, pure The Unnameable -- typographically, syntactically the same. Probably philosophically the same. If it were a photograph, it would be Separated at Birth? If it were a poem, it would be one of those ...after Samuel Beckett -type affairs. You know what I'm talking about. So...that's a pass.

Albert Angelo is a little better. It's about a young architect who works as a substitute teacher to get by, told -- because it is an experimental novel, of course -- in the first, second and third person, and sometimes in a script or play format. There is no plot to speak of, and the characterization, where it does exist, feels very thin, and probably lifted too whole-cloth from real life to be truly interesting. If it's got anything going for it, it's the kind of pure youthful joie de vivre that seemed to suffuse the air in the 1960s. It's all skates by on the force of its own exuberance and can be pretty fun, at least for awhile. Then you begin to pine for something meatier, more substantial. All told, it's pretty light for all the author's heavy claims against Art. If nothing else, it shows great promise....which in the end adds a degree of sadness, considering Johnson's suicide at age 40.

Surprisingly, I liked House Mother Normal the best. I say surprising, because at first glance, this novel is the most 'experimental', the most cold. Told in a series of alternating (and synchronized) first person narratives, it's the story of a group of geriatric patients, each one beginning with a list of their ailments, medications, and also, their degrees of senility. There is a host of typographical weirdness at play, all resembling the absolute worst of experimental poetry, but flowing like a river underneath it all is a genuine current of warmth and humanity conspicuously absent from the rest of the collection. When coupled with a bunch of truly non-traditional protagonists -- the elderly -- it all adds up to something more than the sum of its parts. It also cements the feeling that what is alive and magic in fiction has less to do with simple point of view, typography, and the like, and more to do with the idea that these are merely tools, and it is how an author wields these tools, and to what end, that really matters, an aspect Johnson seemed to be mastering novel by novel.

Now if someone could just recommend a good pallet cleanser, something keenly traditional, however illusory that might be.
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Edited by noob - 12/18/13 at 8:49pm
post #1374 of 2053
Quote:
Originally Posted by LonerMatt View Post

Still so pumped to hit 70 books smile.gif

70 IS awesome, Matt. Congratulations!

122. Play Dead 2010 Harlan Coben

Another chewy candy from younger brother.

An NBA star and a supermodel wed, and during their honeymoon the complications start. Sound familiar?

But these are mysterious and outlandish, not the other kind. Much of the book strains credulity, but I still enjoyed it.
post #1375 of 2053
Quote:
Originally Posted by LonerMatt View Post

Still so pumped to hit 70 books smile.gif

Wait a moment, aren't you still on 69? You may hit an intellectual dip these last few days of the year and fail to read more than the cartoon page in your local newspaper. I will hold back my praises until I see it happen.
post #1376 of 2053
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post

Wait a moment, aren't you still on 69? You may hit an intellectual dip these last few days of the year and fail to read more than the cartoon page in your local newspaper. I will hold back my praises until I see it happen.

Well #69 was a lecture on existentialism and #68 was 1,000 pp long, so I'm prepared to bet Matt finishes #70.
post #1377 of 2053
Quote:
Originally Posted by California Dreamer View Post

Well #69 was a lecture on existentialism and #68 was 1,000 pp long, so I'm prepared to bet Matt finishes #70.

Not betting against you. He may be loading Ulysses for his 70th.
post #1378 of 2053
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post

Not betting against you. He may be loading Ulysses for his 70th.

I suspect my #65 will have to be something like Asterix and the Picts to get me over the line. smile.gif
post #1379 of 2053
DP
post #1380 of 2053
60. Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala

Wave: Life and Memories After the TsunamiWave: Life and Memories After the Tsunami by Sonali Deraniyagala

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Wave is not for the faint-hearted.

Sonali Deraniyagala was holidaying in Sri Lanka with her family on Boxing Day 2004, when the tsunami hit. While trying to flee they were swept away in the raging torrent. Sonali managed to survive, but the rest of her family were all victims of the disaster. Her entire family - mother, father, husband and two little sons - were ripped away from her in a flash.

Wave is about Sonali's attempts to deal with this crushing loss. It is an extremely harrowing and direct account. The author doesn't spare us or herself; she is brutally frank about her own some times appalling behaviour in her grief-stricken aftermath. She recounts how every small thing, every familiar place, rekindles her great distress at the loss of the people she shared those experiences with, for years after.

This is the best book on grief I have ever read. Deraniyagala shares the pain of losing her entire family in an unstinting fashion that allows the reader to feel a small part of an unimaginable loss. A terrific read.
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