Discussion in 'Entertainment, Culture, and Sports' started by edinatlanta, Dec 23, 2010.
Not quite - a drier 600 pager - hopefully will be done on the weekend.
Having just entered puberty, Bride had been forced to marry with Groom, whom returned to his hometown after doing many years of jail time and more than fifty years older than her. At first she was afraid, she cries, even resists, having equipped with patchy and second hand sayings, she did not know what is going to happen to her. Sitting in the nuptial chamber with horror, she will start to face with realities after grandfather-aged broom steps into the room.
^That is a summary of the film Lal Gece, or "Night of Silence", and not Calamity and Other Stories by Daphne Kalotay, because to approach Calamity and Other Stories by Daphne Kalotay with any integrity at this hour would be tiring, more tiring than I could bear. The book just opens up too many questions: questions about marketing, about publishing, about collections and gender roles, and the place where all of these things intersect. Selfish questions that might even have no place in this review. But suffice it to say that I needed a break, and I took one. This book is light, but satisfying, a palette-cleanser of sorts. Featuring the kind of prose reviewers like to call "spare" and "simple", I imagine it as kind of portrait of what appeals to most readers at this cultural moment: brief personal tales as splintered as our attentions, but unified by character and place, limning a larger narrative that never quite has to be spelled out; stories that can be entertaining and at least appear to be scraping the soul's barrel for real human verities, while remaining indelibly white and middle class.
The stories are all built upon the well-mined territory of relationships between women and men. Interestingly, a blurber notes the absence of epiphanies, and this is both a strength and a weakness here. On the one hand, it is nice that Kalotay will allow a story to simply drift off or peter out without trying to impose some grand capital-'M' Meaning. But on the other, she really finds nothing to offer up in its place, which can lend the stories an odd cut-out feel, as if the epiphany has simply been snipped off, and we are left staring through one story and into the next. In this sense, each denouement unfolds more like a caesura than an ending -- an aspect somewhat cushioned by the idea of the 'themed collection' or 'novel in stories', but a bit unsatisfying, overall.
Despite these minor flaws, the book succeeds on the strength of its characters and what others might call her keen insights into human behavior. I like to think of authors more as imagination-ists than psychologists, so I will praise, am praising, the book on those merits instead.
To the bedtime!
26. The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius - Graham Farmelo.
Biography of Paul Dirac, an early pioneer of quantum mechanics. He came up with the equation which describes the relativistic electron, now known as the Dirac equation, which also predicted the antielectron. This particle was subsequently discovered a few years later in cosmic ray observations. A brilliant mathematical physicist, his name is not widely known outside the physics community. The biography is thorough and detailed, as suits its subject, as well as unavoidably a little dry in places but overall rather engaging.
The title comes from a quote of Niels Bohr, who remembered Dirac as "the strangest man" to visit the science institute in Copenhagen.
61. Harvest, by Jim Crace (2013) Harvest by Jim Crace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jim Crace's Harvest is set in an isolated English village where narrator Walt lives with a community of peasant farmers working for a well-loved Master. The book commences with the completion of the year's barley harvest, and the attendant celebrations.
During the celebrations, an act of arson occurs that burns down the Master's dovecote. While the villagers know who the guilty parties are, they allow the blame to be shifted to three itinerants camped on the outskirts of the village. This action gives rise to the second harvest in Crace's novel; a bitter harvest for the villagers of the consequences stemming from this flagrant injustice.
Crace is clever in that he never locates his story temporally. We could be reading about a remote modern community or a community in the Middle Ages. In doing so he plays up the universality of some of his themes: the relentless march of progress, fear and resentment of outsiders and, above all, the love for the land itself and the deeper meaning of occupying a place beyond purely economic gain.
Crace writes beautifully and conveys Walt's somewhat mixed feelings for his adopted village very well. Some of the descriptions of the land and the village lifestlye seen through Walt's eyes are truly lyrical. This is much more the sort of writing that I would expect to be winning prizes rather than the genre novels favoured more recently.
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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
9. Shot in the Dark
10. Malcolm X - Biography
11. Final Empire
12. The Quiet American.
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
24. A Scanner Darkly
25. The Well of Ascension
26. Hero of Ages
27. Alloy of Law
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
38. Red Shirts
39. Caliban's War
40. The Ocean at the End of the Lane
41. The Communist Hypothesis
42. While Mortals Sleep
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
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
59. Return of a King
60. In trouble again
61. Dance, Dance, Dance
62. This is how you lose her
64. Smoke and Mirros
65. Kafka on the Shore
68. Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell
69. Existentialism is a humanism
Kim Stanley Robinson's novel recently won a slew of awards, but failed to deserve them. A languid novel set almost agonisingly slowly follows Swan as she gets drawn into several plots after the death of her grandmother. Swan is a dull narrator, thoughless, uninspired, uninsightful and her insipid life and immature thinking wrecks much of the plot. The other characters are wqually one-dimensional and disinteresting, truly a disappointing effort. In fact, only one character offers any purchase of readers - an Earthling named Kiran, but he is so marginalised in the writing that his potential is unrealised.
Technology, politics and space-travel are all constant in the novel, but are neither interesting, nor exciting. Perhaps on the the few redeeming features is the incredibly well-thought-out, but a minor detail of the novel.
Easily one of the worst reads of 2012.
NM Matt, you got the milestone! Well done. Is 75 on the cards?
Not with 10 days left, and a move to complete, it's not.
Next year, though, I will try to make it. I think I'm going to use my extra few days left to take a chunk out of 'The Idiot' - start 2014 strong,
Congrats, Matt! That's a lot of books...a pretty varied list, as well.
Looking at the weather in Northenr Victoria lately, that move is shaping up to be a pretty smart one. Good luck with it.
62. Blackwater, by Kersten Ekman (1996) Blackwater by Kerstin Ekman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Blackwater is not your typical Nordic noir work. Usually, Scandinavian crime novels focus around a flawed protagonist becoming entangled with a gruesome crime that plays on the investigator's neuroses and weaknesses.
Blackwater has no such character; really there is no real "investigator" character at all. There is a crime, but it is presented in such a way that we don't really get to know the victims, or care all that much about them. Blackwater is not about who killed them.
Instead, what this book is about is the effect that the murder has on the witnesses and the people who live nearby. The story is developed through four principal characters: Annie and her daughter Mia, who happen upon the murder scene, a bullied boy Johan, who was running through the woods nearby at the time and Birger, the local doctor.
Ekman recounts how an increasingly distraught Annie arrives in the remote Swedish town of Blackwater on Midsummer's Eve to find nobody there to pick her up. As she and Mia try to find their own way to their destination, Annie stumbles on two bodies in a tent, stabbed to death.
From there, Ekman describes the immediate aftermath of suspicion and mistrust between Annie and the people in the commune she lives in, as well as what happens to the fleeing Johan. The book lays out what happens to the main characters in the intervening years, up to the day when Annie recognises a face that she saw near the tent that night. Annie panics and calls Birger, bringing long-buried events to a head.
The book is fine and Ekman manages to work in a few surprises along the way, but it just doesn't feel suspenseful the way you expect of a murder mystery. The book feels hollow, because the largely anonymous victims are not made empathetic enough, and there is nobody really interested in looking into their deaths. I think Blackwater is fine as far as it goes but would have been better if one of the main characters, Birger being probably the best candidate, had been cast as somebody championing justice for the victims.
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63. Woes of the True Policeman, by Roberto Bolano (2012) Woes of the True Policeman by Roberto Bolaño
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Reading a great author's last, unfinished work can risk significant disappointment if the work is incoherent or sub-standard. Roberto Bolano's Woes of the True Policeman does not suffer from this fate; it hangs together well enough as whole, while tantalising us with the impression of a far bigger and more complex work that we will never see.
The book works as a prequel to 2666, focusing on the Santa Teresa professor, Oscar Amalfitano and his daughter Rosa. The opening recounts Amalfitano's romance with the hedonistic Padillo. Word of the professor's homosexuality gets back to his employers in the University of Barcelona, and he is banished from his position. After a desperate search, the only sinecure Amalfitano can find is in Santa Teresa, where he moves with Rosa.
From his exile, Amalfitano continues to correspond with Padillo, and thereby becomes interested in a little-known author called Arcimboldi; the book includes his reviews of some of Arcimboldi's works. Meanwhile, the local police are starting to uncover a series of murders of young girls.
Readers of 2666 will start to see some familiar plot strands developing, and it is intriguing to wonder where the author might have taken them.
Woes of the True Policeman is not of itself a great read, although it has Bolano's usual love of playful coincidence and retelling scenes through different lenses. There are moments of great writing, such as a single sentence spanning six pages; an internal cry of outrage from Amalfitano over his treatment by the University. These small moments, and the opportunity to glimpse what Bolano may have been doing with his 2666 prequel, make the book well worth the read.
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Back on track for 65, I think.
Merry Christmas to you all, and I hope Santa brings you the book you want.
I'm glad to hear this one held together -- though slightly alarmed that his two I recently purchased were also billed as his last unfinished work. 65!
64. Travelling Light, by Tove Jansson (2010) Travelling Light by Tove Jansson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Tove Janssons' fiction for adults is a rare site in Australian bookshops, but English translations are starting to trickle through.
Travelling Light is a collection around a theme of characters moving to another place in search of peace and refuge, only to find that their new environment discomforting as well. Jansson finds dry and gentle humour in the most everyday of situations: three old ladies enjoying a tea party, a young city boy holidaying with a rural foster-family, two old men sharing a hothouse bench.
The stories are disarmingly simple and gentle, and often conclude with a return to the banal, for example "she put it to soak in the bathtub". This neat device has the effect of signalling a return to life's realities after confronting the fact the travelling light does not mean being free of life's awkward challenges.
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Interesting - that name sounds familiar. Is she the author of the "Moomin" stories for children?
Separate names with a comma.