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2014 50 Book Challenge - Page 28

post #406 of 1927
Clockwise counting 18/50: J.M. Coetzee - Dusklands (1974)

The short and terrible story with which Nobel Prize winner Coetzee made his debut. The book joins together two novellas in a way similar to how Francis Coppola joined together the Vietnam war and the "taming of darkness". 

The first part is about the insanity of a RAND corp propaganda expert. It is hard to understand this novella except as some sort of political allegory and condemnation of the Vietnam war. 

The second part is the chronicle of a Dutch colonizer of South Africa, who in year 1760 travels further north into the African wilderness than any other white man has done. In search of elephants, he meets with suspicious Hottentots, falls ill, experiences threats and humiliation and returns a year later to inflict punishment on the same Hottentots. 

Dusklands is a short but not undemanding read, it leaves you with questions and conflicting thoughts. I liked it a lot despite the sometimes sickening descriptions of violence and terror, 
post #407 of 1927
Quote:
Originally Posted by ConcreteFiction View Post

I thought Unbearable Likeness was great, but I absolutely loved Immortality. I should probably read some more Kundera.

McEwan is someone I've never read, though I've always thought I should probably give a try. Same goes with Ishiguro.

I have read all Kundera's novels as well as the short story collection Laughable Loves. His more recent stuff is sometimes overly philosophical (in my view) but I have enjoyed all the books. I think the early novels The Joke and The Farewell Waltz are excellent starting points for reading Kundera.

As for McEwan, I would recommend the strange creepy novella The Comfort of Strangers or his short and similarly macabre debut novel The Cement Garden.

I just recently started to read Ishiguro but intend to read more.
post #408 of 1927
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post

I have read all Kundera's novels as well as the short story collection Laughable Loves. His more recent stuff is sometimes overly philosophical (in my view) but I have enjoyed all the books. I think the early novels The Joke and The Farewell Waltz are excellent starting points for reading Kundera.
As for McEwan, I would recommend the strange creepy novella The Comfort of Strangers or his short and similarly macabre debut novel The Cement Garden.
I just recently started to read Ishiguro but intend to read more.

Thanks for the suggestions, I wanted a good starting point for McEwan. I think I'll read The Joke as my next Kundera.
post #409 of 1927
About halfway through Wind Up Bird Chronicles. Excellent. Just excellent.
post #410 of 1927
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post

Clockwise counting 18/50: J.M. Coetzee - Dusklands (1974)
The short and terrible story with which Nobel Prize winner Coetzee made his debut. The book joins together two novellas in a way similar to how Francis Coppola joined together the Vietnam war and the "taming of darkness". 
The first part is about the insanity of a RAND corp propaganda expert. It is hard to understand this novella except as some sort of political allegory and condemnation of the Vietnam war. 
The second part is the chronicle of a Dutch colonizer of South Africa, who in year 1760 travels further north into the African wilderness than any other white man has done. In search of elephants, he meets with suspicious Hottentots, falls ill, experiences threats and humiliation and returns a year later to inflict punishment on the same Hottentots. 
Dusklands is a short but not undemanding read, it leaves you with questions and conflicting thoughts. I liked it a lot despite the sometimes sickening descriptions of violence and terror, 

Will definitely have to try this one. I enjoyed Barbarians immensely.
post #411 of 1927
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

About halfway through Wind Up Bird Chronicles. Excellent. Just excellent.

I loved this book. Enjoy.
post #412 of 1927
Clockwise counting 19/50: Guy de Maupassant - Pierre and Jean (1888)

I loved Bel-Ami so decided to take onboard another de Maupassant novel. This one is both shorter and smaller in scope. I also think the translation may be less perfect but it is nevertheless a very nice reading experience. 

Pierre and Jean are two brothers whose lives are changed dramatically when an old family friend dies and leaves a substantial inheritance to one of the brothers. Envy, suspicion and an old and dirty family secret surface. The brothers and their parents are all tragically affected by the inheritance. There is a 3rd de Maupassant novel, A Woman's Life, on the 1001 list and if I can get my hands on a copy I will soon add that one as well.
post #413 of 1927
33. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles 1997 Haruki Murakami
This one's hard to describe. It's fairly long and there's a lot going on. It's the story of a 30 yr. old recently unemployed paralegal who experiences all kinds of physical and metaphysical experiences. What pops into my head is Van Gogh's The Olive Trees. Lots of stuff whirling around. Some connected, some not. Some are dreams, some are not. And everything changes. And it's definitely not resolved at the end. I highly recommend it.
post #414 of 1927

So far this year I've read Steig Larsson's Millenium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), the Hunger Games trilogy, Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi, and I'm a third of the way through A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin, among others I can't really remember at the moment. I'm also reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in my spare time at work.

post #415 of 1927
34. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams 1979, My book contained all 5 books, so maybe I should be at 39 now...smile.gif
Some real belly laughs. A spoof of science fiction writing/writers. Too long. Not funny enough. Don't read it.
post #416 of 1927
Clockwise counting 20/50: Shusaku Endo - Silence (1966)

Two Portuguese priests go to hostile Japan to conduct underground missionary work in the 17th century. Christians are persecuted relentlessly by the government and this is the story of the sufferings and the doubts of one of the priests.

The title refers to God's silence in the midst of the horrible trials of the Christians. This is an engaging read also for non-Catholics and I can understand why Endo sometimes was referred to as "Japan's Graham Greene".

Extra bonus: the book is on the must-read list (in its newer editions) and has been or will be made into a movie by Martin Scorsese for release 2013. 
post #417 of 1927
Clockwise counting 21/50: Haruki Murakami - 1Q84 (2010)

I read somewhere that this was Murakami's "magnum opus" and I am sure that there will be new fans appreciating this lighter version of Murakami's kafkaesque world but as a piece of art, this is what American TV is to a Kurosawa movie. It's entertaining on some level but it is definitely not great art.

These are the stories of Aomame, a young, lonely, independant, stubborn woman with special skills (she kills people) and a young, lonely, confused fiction writer and maths teacher, Tengo, about their interwoven destinies and their search for each other through 900+ pages. It is all rather entertaining with a creepy religious cult, a parallel world, violence, sex etc, but Murakami's story-telling has become repetitive to the extreme with cliched language and flat characterizations. I rate many (most) of Murakami's books 8s or 9s on a scale of world literature 1-10 but 1Q84 is merely a 5 or 6. Disappointing.
post #418 of 1927
Clockwise counting 22/50: W. Somerset Maugham - Ashenden (1928)

An early example of espionage fiction, loosely based on Maugham's own experience as a British wartime spy from 1914. This is more a collection of stories than a novel and while entertaining in a rather dated way, I don't think it can be rated up there with Maugham's best work. The 300+ pages were however a quick read and since this book is considered a classic and a precursor of the entire spy genre, it was a mandatory exercise. 
post #419 of 1927
35. A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens 1859
In his later years Dickens wrote much about class warfare, as he does in this book. It centers around a small group of friends who live in both England and France during the years leading up to, and including, the French Revolution. I haven't read any Dickens in quite some time but I will read more. This book was riveting.
post #420 of 1927
Clockwise counting 23/50: W Somerset Maugham - Cakes and Ale (1930)

This short novel has a well deserved place on the original 1001 list (2006 ed) and is in my view superior to Maugham's most famous (and overly long) novel Of Human Bondage. This is the story of famous English author Edward Driffield (supposedly a thinly veiled Thomas Hardy) and especially his sexually liberated and unashamed first wife Rosie. 

The narrator is called William Ashenden but doesn't seem to have too much in common with the main character of the story collection / loosely put together novel Ashenden. There is also a remarkable difference in quality and substance between these two novels, with Cakes and Ale superior in every respect. This is a classic which should be read before you die.
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