Friday, 29 April 2011

Not Even: Federico García Lorca: A Life



Usually I have two classifications for books, Finished (in which case I write a review) or Abandoned (in which case I explain why I didn’t finish the book). Today I have come across a new type of classification that I shall name

Not Even - meaning that I didn’t even try to read the book.

It’s unfortunate that the first book of the year to make me feel this way is about my obsession; Federico Garcá Lorca. I’ve been obsessed with him since I watched Little Ashes and then started devouring his poetry. So I wanted to read about his life, or more accurately, his relationship with Salvador Dalí.

The movie’s depiction of it broke my heart.

Anywhos, the library only had the Swedish translation of the book Federico García Lorca: Ett Liv by Ian Gibson (the English version being called Federico García Lorca: A Life). I don’t know what I was expecting, since I don’t really read biographies, because I generally tend to differentiate the art from the artist. But one of the reasons why I did fall in love obsession with Lorca was because of his love, and the way he translated that into poetry.

See, to me, a poet is a different entity to an author, because I think it demands a lot more of oneself to write poetry than fiction. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s just how I feel about it.

So anyways, the book is extremely detailed and just full of everything Lorca. I barely managed to finish the first paragraph, and since that pretty much sets the scene for the book; I couldn’t even finish the first page. I skimmed through to when he went to university and then when he met Dalí, which is pretty much all I wanted to know anyways, about 100 or so pages.

What little I read, I enjoyed.

It was nice to read the explanations to some of Dalí’s paintings as well as Lorca’s poetry, and of course about their relationship. I think the main problem for me is that this book is in Swedish and I have problems reading poetry in Swedish – it all just felt, sounded, looked and tasted wrong to me.

There’s a very big probability that I’ll buy this in English and then read it in instalments, even though I’m not sure I really want to know that much about Lorca. I’m just so ridiculously intrigued by his fear/anxiety about death, and I want to know more about how that (and his homosexuality) affected his work.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

BTT: Coming Soon to a Theater Near You


If you could see one book turned into the perfect movie–one that would capture everything you love, the characters, the look, the feel, the story–what book would you choose?
If there was a guarantee that I wouldn't be disappointed, I would choose Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman, of course. I'm some kind of obsessed with this book, but even though I would love the idea of seeing it, I doubt that it would work, since the perfection of it all, and the reason I fell in love with it, is Aciman's words.

And you can't really translate that into moving pictures.

Regardless, the tagline would undoubtedly be: "You'll kill me if you stop." My favourite quote from the book.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Society of Others by William Nicholson (4.5/5)


The back says: He has nowhere to go... so he goes there.

An alienated young man can see no meaning in life. He doesn't even see the point in getting out of bed in the morning. To escape from his family he decides to set off on a hitchhiking adventure across Europe, and is picked up by a friendly lorry driver with an unusual interest in philosophy.

The journey takes him through a violent and Kafkaesque nightmare to a destination that changes his life.

I say: It's been a couple of weeks since I finished this, but it's still gnawing at the back of my head. I don't really know what I was expecting when I ordered this book, just a regular coming of age novel with some sort of a twist.

What I got was something I still can't really explain.

It starts off innocently enough; disillusioned youth hates everything, decides to hitchhike across Europe. But it's when he crosses the border to some European country (we're never told which) that things get messy. I can't even really start explaining anything because I'll just jumble it all up,

there's just so much.

I read this in one sitting because I simply couldn't put it down. Nothing about the storyline was expected, and it was that uncertainty and tension that made me want to just finish it to find a conclusion, an explanation, something tangible. The best part about this book is that even if I gave away the ending it wouldn't really matter because my interpretation of it is probably just that,

my interpretation.

And that's why I loved it so much.

Nicholson writes with such perfection, I can't even know what to say. It's funny at times, surreal at others, completely unexpected and exciting, but most of all it's haunting. The author keeps giving all these little clues that I wasn't really sure were meant to mean anything until so far down the road when I had almost forgotten I had them. There was only one instance where I actually sussed out something before it was spelled out, and as a former avid Murder, She Wrote fan, that's saying a lot.

(Not really!)

The only reason why I didn't give this the full 5/5 is because the end was a slightly disappointing. Thus not saying that there was anything wrong with it, actually, the more I think about the more I think that it may have been perfection. I don't really know what I'm on about. I'll have to re-read this a few months/years down the line see what my take on it is then.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Quote of the Week

"There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love."

Christopher Morley

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Venus Conspiracy by Michael Cordy (3/5)


The back says: How can a drug that makes people fall madly in love be a bad thing?

So thinks Professor Carlos Bacci when he inadvertently unlocks the biochemical key to falling in love, and develops a drug capable of creating emotions indistinguishable from the real thing.

Determined that the world should benefit from his discovery, he seeks funding and business advice from a private Swiss bank, owned by the secretive Kappel family. Unknown to Bacci, however, Helmut Kappel sees love as a sickness to be exploited, and has his own plan for abusing the drug's power - a cynical nightmare of breathtaking arrogance far removed from Bacci's naive dream of spreading love around the world.


I say:
I don't usually read science fiction or thrillers, so it's always hard for me to be objective about these genres that I don't particularly enjoy. However, I started reading this with an open mind because I liked the premise, and I think I'm glad I did.

Cordy writes in a very simple and straightforward manner, and the plot was very fast paced. The one thing that I thought was a tad annoying was all the medical terms, and explanations of how the drug worked. Of course I understand why it had to be in there, but sometimes it was a tad redundant, like how every time someone was scanning their hands on the security scanner, he remarked that it read the x amount of genes (?) that it required to identify the person.

Or whatever it was.

I don't really remember (or care anymore).

The story itself was quite predictable from the start. I mean, Max Krappel doesn't believe in love (or showing any emotions) and then sees a picture of Isabella Bacci and notices her eyes.

Hmmm, I wonder what could become of that?

Also, when they were explaining the previous versions of the drug and the ones that Carlos Bacci had rejected and why, only to then let us know that he had kept all the samples in his fridge.

Foreshadowing.

I have to say that all the characters were very predictable and one-dimensional, which was boring since I could figure out their next move before they made them. There was no suspense.

At all.

All in all I supposed it was an entertaining enough read that didn't require that much thought, which was exactly what I needed at the time.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Holiday Break

I've been on holiday in Ireland and thus not read much (thanks to screaming kids on buses and planes and the obvious partying), but I'll see if I can find the time tonight to write reviews of the two books I finished before leaving.

In other book related news, I'm loving Dead Souls by Nicolai Gogol and Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy is getting better. Don't be mistaken, I'm still no fan of Hardy, but Tess is getting less and less annoying - or maybe I'm just getting used to her.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Abandoned


The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz.

I got 29 pages in about a month ago and have been glancing at it with contempt ever since. It was the language, and I just can't be arsed trying to read it now. Not when I have so many other great books waiting for me.

Maybe in another life.

The Surrender by Toni Bentley (2.5/5)


The back says: From The Story of O to The Sexual Life of Catherine M., readers have been enthralled with sexually subversive memoirs by women. But even those erotic classics didn't navigate the psychosexual terrain that Bentley does when she meets a lover who introduces her to a radical and unexpected pleasure.

Few women do it and even fewer will admit to it. But in Toni Bentley's daring and intimate memoir, she pulls the sheets back on an erotic experience that's been forbidden since the Bible, to celebrate 'the joy that lies on the other side of convention, where risk is real and rapture resides'.

I say: Someone recommended this book to me, and I thought I'd give it a try, but I think that most of it went over my head.

Bentley talks about her search for faith and/in the lovers she's had in her life, in particular 'A-Man' who introduced her to anal sex. She talks a lot about anal sex.

A lot.

The book was fast paced, had the occasional crude language and had a few witticisms, and that's pretty much all I have to say about it. Like I said, maybe it all went over my head, but the only thing it left me was a feeling of meh.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time


This is an impossible question for someone as fickle as I am. My favourite play is Macbeth by William Shakespeare, always has been and will probably most likely always be.

But my favourite book.

Of all time.

Impossible.

My favourite book at the moment is Call My By Your Name by André Aciman.

That will have to be my answer.

If I was asked right now to choose only one book I could read for the rest of my life, it'd be that one.

(or maybe Norton's Anthology of English Literature, but that's a bit like cheating)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked


I honestly have no idea, so I'm going to make it easy on myself and say Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (which I've already named before, but whatever).

I will have to reiterate my previous sentiments which is that the reason I like this book is because it's quite possibly the most ridiculous book I've ever read in my entire life.

Really.

It has to be.

I'm not even going to comment on SMeyer's writing, because that's just too easy and redundant. The thing about me when it comes to movies is that the worse they are, the more I like them. I can't explain it, but there's a certain point some movies reach when they are just so riddled with stupid you really just have to bless and love everyone involved. This has never happened when it comes to literature, where I just shun stupidity and bad writing like nothing else.

Until Breaking Dawn came along, of course.

But then again, I've never read anything this stupid, so who knows.

Stella Descending by Linn Ullman (3/5)


The back says: On a summer night, Martin draws Stella into one of the risky games that have defined their ten years together: a balancing act on the edge of their rooftop, seven storeys up. Amid the shouts of horrified onlookers, Stella stumbles, falling for a moment into Martin's arms before plummeting to her death. Did he try to save her?

This is the question that begins Linn Ullman's transfixing tale of Stella: a jealous wife, compliant mistress, treasured friend, angelic nurse, unloved daughter, devoted mother, and - finally - a woman possessed of a secret now forever lost to the living.

I say: Having read that description I was really excited about this thin little novel, but having just finished it I'm severely underwhelmed.

Unfortunately.

The novel is set up in 5 different parts, where each part consists of a short narrative from the people that were affected by Stella's fall; the onlookers, the detective, Martin, her daughter Amanda, Axel as well as Stella herself. The only person missing is Stella's youngest daughter Bee, who, we later find out, doesn't like to talk. There's also a video recording that Stella and Martin shot the night before she died.

Although Ullman has taken great care to weave the narratives into each other, so that by the time someone says something later on in the novel we can connect it to what was said before, it all feels a bit forced. I can understand why Ullman wanted to write the novel in this manner, but to me, it just gave a shattered picture of who Stella was. It was as if we were given all these fragments of her life that didn't really add up to much.

Or maybe I completely missed the point.

We don't even get to hear Stella's voice until page 149, at which point I had almost given up and was reading just for the sake of it. Which was sad because I liked being inside Stella's head. Yes, she did tie up a lot of loose ends, but more than anything she made me wish that Ullman had focused more on her instead of the others. Not just because I wanted to know what Stella thought, but because that's where Ullman's writing really shone.

When we get back to the other characters, after a mere 50 pages, I have to admit I was a bit annoyed. It was interesting finding out what Amanda thought, but most of it felt irrelevant, to be honest. Axel was also given a huge part in the story and I didn't understand why I should be interested in him. I felt the same way about the detective who was interviewing Martin - there was so much random information there. Although I do understand why she chose not to let us inside Martin's head (apart from what he told the detective), I wonder if it wasn't more because she wrote him in such a way that if we were inside his head, we'd dislike him more than we did seeing him through everyone else's eyes.

In the end I don't even care if he pushed Stella or if she jumped.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Day 28 – Favorite title


The Fall by Albert Camus. I wanted to read this book even before I knew what it was about because of that title; it just holds so many emotions, so many possibilities. Maybe it's the poet in me, maybe it's my love for tragedy, who knows, but there's such beauty in a fall.

Luckily, this didn't disappoint.

As if Camus ever could.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending


The Republic of Trees by Sam Taylor.

I don't know if it's the most surprising, but it was the first that came to mind. Although the plot is hardly original, Taylor’s words are oddly riveting. It is extremely unnerving, and the end was a real surprise to me.

Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something


Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor which centers around the death of an alcoholic man and the company he kept, most of them some form of substance abusers. It was a real eye opener for me, the way that McGregor portraits the life of addicts.

It made me more compassionate.

One of the things that really struck me was when one of the addicts said that trying to get a fix is like a full-time job. Then he described all the different things he would do to get enough money for that one fix. Just the one. And then have to do it all again the next day, and the next.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most


Right now, I'll have to go with Sal Paradise from On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

I'm just sitting here waiting for my Dean Moriarty.