Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

“Correcting” our Miserable Lives

I just finished The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. I found my attention wandering the duration of the novel but somehow I kept on reading it until the end and rather enjoyed seeing what miserable thing was happening next to the characters.  I was interested in what happened to them but felt there was something missing in my connection to them.  I may have just disliked them.  I don’t know.  I did like them as well.  I did like the book but it just isn’t really my favorite style of literature.  Perhaps I should have taken a pencil to this book to alleviate some confusion but I just didn’t feel all that interested in digging very deep.

The ending was somewhat promising except for poor Alfred who at the end of his life just wanted death to take him.  I felt kind of bad that Enid, at 75 was just beginning her life of freedom and I would like to know if she was able to find happiness in her life.

Franzen’s imagination for situations his characters must endure is to be applauded.  As we traveled through each character’s life something new and unanticipated always happened.  Most of the time I was bewildered at what I was reading.  Not sure if I am totally in agreement with modern literati hailing this as one of the best novels of recent years.  But then again I am just not totally into modern literature nor am I qualified to review it.  Like in one of my recent posts I have decided to focus more on recent literature.

I can obviously tell the difference between The Corrections and the next book I started, The Lottery Winner by Mary Higgins Clark… The plot of the mystery stories are so laughable and simple.  I kind of like trying to figure out a  good whodunnit novel once in a while.  But more along the lines of Denis Lehane than M.H.C.   I only chose this one because I wanted an easy no-brainer after Franzen’s novel but all I had in the box of books I was unpacking were this one and a bunch of  hefty 18th and 19th century British novels that I knew I could never focus on at the moment.

So I guess the point of Franzen’s novel was that our lives are spent in the pursuit of happiness.  Wow…  I have never read a book with a theme like that before.  There never was a more American theme in modern literature than that one.  Well this was one of the better ones I suppose and told with 5 truly unique perspectives from a modern American family.  I wonder if he was trying to write T.G.A.N (The Great American Novel).  Will people ever stop pursuing this?  Doubt it.



Great Authors to Read Before They Die

May 9, 2011 5 comments

Here are some of the great living American authors I would like to read more of before they die.

Don DeLillo (b. 1936)- Haven’t read yet but would like to read: White Noise (1985)

Cormac McCarthy (b. 1933)- Have read The Road (2006); would like to read No Country for Old Men (2005) and Blood Meridian (1985)

Toni Morrison (b. 1931)- Have read Jazz (1992); would like to read Beloved (1987) and Song of Solomon (1977)

Thomas Pynchon (b. 1937)- Have read The Crying of Lot 49 (1966); Would like to read Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

Philip Roth (b. 1933)- Have read The Ghost Writer (1979); would like to read American Pastoral (1997)

Life as we DON’T know it: Dystopian and Post-Apocolyptic novels to read

March 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Through some internet browsing I came up with a pretty good list of books in the Dystopian or Post-Apocalyptic genres that I have not read yet.  These were suggested on various sites by columnists and bloggers.  If I read one I will update this list with the date read.  

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1960)

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess  (1962)

A Gift Upon the Shore by M. K. Wren (1990)

Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin (1985)

Anthem (1937) by Ann Rand

Armageddon’s Children by Terry Brooks (2006)

Blindness by Jose Saramago (1995)

Cats Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (1963)

Crash by JG Ballard (1973)

Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson (2005)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (1968)

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart (1949)

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (1954)

Idoru by William Gibson (1996)

In The Country of Last Things by Paul Auster (1987)

Iron Heel by Jack London (1908)

Logan’s Run by F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (1967)

Lucifer’s Hammer by Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven (1978)

Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler  (1993)

Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle (1963)

That Hideous Strength by CS Lewis (1945)

The Book of The New Sun by Gene Wolfe (1980-1983)

The Children of Men by PD James (1992)

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (1955)

The Dark Tower by Stephen King  (1982-2004)

The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson (1995)

The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard (1962)

The Faber Book of Utopias edited by John Carey (2000)

The Folk of the Fringe by Orson Scott Card (1989)

The Postman by David Brin (1985)

The Running Man Richard Bachman (1982)

The Sword of Spirits trilogy by John Christopher (1971)

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (1895)

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (1980’s-1990’s)

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921)

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (2006)

The Reader

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink is a finely crafted story.  I love the way it is told.  I love the moral dilemma the reader is faced with.  I love the setting of the story.  I am fascinated by this character Hanna and want to hear her voice and her story.  Of course, we can only hear Micheal’s story because he is the first person narrator.  He is sharing this story with us as a part of his healing process and his growth as a person.  The presence of Hanna stays with him his entire life and he will never be without her.  She, unknowingly, formed him and his sense of self.

The film version is also beautiful, moving, powerful.  Kate Winslet is wonderful as Hanna and the young actor who plays the young Michael is equally brilliant.  There is just something about the simple telling of this story that I love.  The presence of books and literature moves me.  The fact that he records himself reading to her moves me.  Reading is beautiful.  Literature is beautiful.  Words, emotions, feelings, stories, people.  All of it is wound into this novel.

I would really love to learn and read more about people living in post-WWII Germany and how the young people from Micheal Berg’s generation dealt with what happened in their parent’s generation.  I remember the movie pointing this out particularly well when Michael is in seminar and their is another young man who is very angry at his elders for allowing such terrible things to happen.

Books Can Speak to You

December 20, 2010 1 comment

Saturday I reread an old favorite of mine from junior high and high school that had opened up my world a tiny bit to the experiences other people have.  The way Melinda thinks in the novel felt so real that it seemed like I was absorbed into a journal.  It shows the simple, undeveloped thought of a 14 year old but still manages to go to new levels as we follow her through her year from Hell.

Title: Speak

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Year: 1999

Genre: Young Adult/Teens

Themes: Life Struggle, Rape, Depression, Social Status, Fear, Loneliness, Teachers, High School.

I really appreciate the genre of young adult fiction that actually means something profound to the people who read it.  It is books like these that change the way people view the world.  These books speak to the humanity inside all of us.  I commend the author for creating this work and helping to connect young people with their confused feelings.  So many have dealt with difficult things and do not know how to proceed with their lives.  Melinda was extraordinarily strong even though she became withdrawn and depressed.  She clung to what she could in her life.  It only takes that one special person to keep someone from going over the edge.  Her teacher, through very subtle ways, was that place of stability for her.  He gave her an outlet for her fear and anger and without being overbearing he helped her.  It is truly a sad story but you have a feeling Melinda will get through it and she will be okay in the end.

Eroticism of the Past

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles is a novel unlike any other I had read before.  The way he tells the story of 1867 with the hindsight of 1967 knowledge creates a lens with which to critically look at the social customs of the time.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles (1969)

One of the aspects of this novel that stands out and begs for attention are the contrasting female figures of Ernestina and Sarah.  Ernestina is the suitable woman for Charles to be betrothed to but Sarah, the one who defies conventions is more sexually attractive to Charles.  She has something deeper within her than he can see in Ernestina and he cannot control it and he longs to.  This entire novel is about Charles’s efforts to achieve sexually and emotional gratification.  Ernestina does not appear to have any motive towards sexual gratifcation and Sarah’s gratification only comes from knowing she has conquered Charles by seducing him.

I would just like to pull out a few quotes I found interesting.

“…Ernestina was very prettily dressed; a vision, perhaps more a tactile impression, of a tender little white body entered Charles’s mind.  Her head turned against his shoulder, she nestled against him; and as he patted and stroked and murmured a few foolish words, he found himself most suddenly  embarrassed.  There was a distinct stir in his loins. There had always been Ernestina’s humor, her odd little piques and whims of emotion, a promise of certain buried wildness…a willingness to learn perversity, one day to bite timidly but deliciously on forbidden fruit. What Charles unconsciously felt was perhaps no more than the ageless attraction of shallow-minded women: that one may make of them what one wants. What he felt consciously was a sense of pollution: to feel carnal desire now, when he had touched another woman’s lips that morning!” (264).

The part I am most interested in is what I have put in bold. Here Charles is realizing his own selfishness and shallowness.  He is sexually aroused by Ernestina because he wants to have control over her sexuality and the idea of that power turns him on.  Depth of mind was not a value often looked for when men were choosing women to be good wives to them.  They weren’t a good investment.  A wife a man can mold to suit his needs was valued.  However, there is still that carnal desire that is not appropriate for a man to release onto his pure wife.  He must find a “woman” to fulfill these desires.  Thus, a prostitute or an already scandalized woman like Sarah.

This novel is brilliant and is chock full of commentary on how our society has developed in relation to social class, the passage of time, the changes in tradition, stereotypes, sexuality, gender, and money.  I thought it was amazing how Fowles incorporates theories of the great social theoreticians and rhetoricians into his work and at the beginning of each chapter.