Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book 23-The Sound and the Fury

I did not like this book, it was horribly difficult to read, and in the end left me understanding what I read (to a degree) but not what it meant.

Thank God for Daniel S. Burt's brief description of the book in The Novel 100 because after reading it I realized that I understood more of what was happening than I thought I did, but I still didn't end the book feeling like I learned anything. I wanted to like it after having such a huge epiphany after reading Absalom, Absalom, but try as I might I just can't say that I loved it. Interestingly enough this is one of 6 books on the list of 100 that does not appear on the list of 1001.

I didn't like any of the character's in this novel, and normally that is okay (when they are parts of myself that I can identify and want to work on) but in this case I just didn't like any of the characters they were all crazy and not in a good way!!!

Benjy-who is the special needs adult whose brain you are plummeted into at the beginning of the novel frustrated me (but also gave me compassion for those for whom the world is a confusing place)

Quentin- One of the narrators who appeared in Absalom, absalom is apathetic and unable to face real life

Jason jr- Huge jerk that I hope to never be like in my life. Man, he made me mad, but I was glad he came to at the end of the novel

Caddy- although she was kind to Benjy and took care of him she was also selfish and her choices ended up being the downfall of her family

I suppose Dilsey- the black servant was a fine character who ran the family out of love and compassion. I felt so bad for her as she ran around trying to keep everyone in line. The scene in church where Benjy is silent listening to the preachers story of redemption was beautiful, but still not enough to redeem the novel. Daniel S. Burt talks about this as the alternate option that could have happened for the family, but it wasn't paraticularly clear for me as the reader. I finished the book, and thought to myself... now what was the point of all of that?!

I guess one thing that I did get out of the novel is that you will torture yourself i you live in the past. The quotes that stood out most for me had to do with time and its passage.

"I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire" ~speaking of the pocket watch Quentin was left by his grandfather

"I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it."

"clocks slay time"

There is an interesting occurence that happens when they change the "man child's" name from Maury to Benjy. I loved the quote "Folks don't have no luck changing names" because I actually think that people do! I have always been a believer in the Biblical process of changing names when your character changes. I hope to name my children for character if I am ever blessed to have them.

Finally here are a few random quotes about various characters that amused me or made me think.

"Women are never virgins. Purity is a negative state and therefore contrary to nature" ~Faulkner seems to have a thing with virginity...

"You're not a gentleman,' Spoade said. 'No I'm Canadian,' Shreve said. Lol!!!! As a Canadian that made me laugh!

A quote about Caddy shall end off this review and than I can finally leave this book to rest. Thank god! "It was to isolate her out of the loud world".

Onwards to Book 24 which is Vanity Fair. Kind of excited to read this one!

Book 22-Crime and Punishment

ahh Book 22, one of the very first classics I ever read was Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I instantly developed a love of Dostoyevsky and picked up everything I could by him. I read Crime and Punishment in 2002 while I was still in university. I enjoyed the darkness of his books, which to me equated realness...because the earth isn't always a pretty place and we humans aren't always the beautiful people we can be. This story is a horrible nightmare about the tortures of our conscience and how internally we do know right from wrong (and yet, still chose to do the bad anyways).The story is also about finding redempetion and realizing we all suffer from the human condition with all its beauty, glory and agony.

I eventually put down that type of reading when I started working in the Social Services field because the harsh realities of Dostoyevsky, the horrid family histories of canadian author David Adams Richards and the softer, but still brutal approach of John Steinbeck, smacked too much of real life. My clients lives were dark enough as it was I didn't need to see it in fiction. I had a few dark years were I stepped away from truth giving fiction and started reading extremely fluffy novels (the wonderous genre called Cosy mysteries which has very little to do with real life). I came back to reading classics shortly before I picked up The Novel 100 list because I realized I had let one of my favorite parts of myself die. I love truth, beauty, literature and beautiful words and when I realized I missed out on the things that the classics spoke to me; I knew I had to pick them up again.

Here are a few quotes that spoke the most to me back in 2002. God bless the things I recorded in my quote book!

"What if man is not really a scoundrel, man in general, I mean, the whole race of mankind-then all the rest is prejudice, simply artifical terrors and there are no barriers and it's all as it should be."

"I have come because I am bad. There are men who wouldn't have come, but I am a coward..."

"I regard you as one of those men who would stand and smile at their torturer while he cuts their entrails out , if only they have found faith or God. Find it and you will live"

"Life had stepped into place of theory and something quite differnet would work itself out in his mind"

Russian novels speak to me about faith and God. Not the north american version of faith with its lulling platitudes and self serving cliches, but real faith founded on both the beauty and horror of humanity. It speaks to me on such a deep level and reminds were I want to be even though I am so far away. I am the person I am because of some of the Russian novels I read during my formative years. I hope I can find my way back to the person I was when I first picked up Crime and Punishment and subsequently devoured everything Dostoyevsky had, because I am so far from there at the moment I don't even know how to begin.....

Friday, November 18, 2011

London Fields-(36th book of 1001)

The book London Fields by Martin Amis is AMAZING. Not something I would traditionally give 5 stars to but I was completely engaged in it and read it quickly dying to know how it would all turn out. The story is a mystery, written by the narrator who is narrating "real life". A murder is going to happen and he is faithfully taking down the details of it as it occurs. The odd thing about this book is the "author" is dying, as is the world, and the "murderee". The book is filled with a looming presence of a ticking clock...the world is a bomb that is about to explode!

This book is cheeky, oh so cheeky. It makes you giggle as you pick up on the completely inane subtleties that this book throws at you. For instance, the "author" of the novel is doing an apartment swap with a highly success author, Mark Asprey. The delighful narrator has never made it big and as he is laying dying in Mark Asprey's apartment he making a last ditch effort at a novel. He reads a novel of Mark Asprey's left lying about for him to pick is under a pseudonym with first and last name staring with M and A. The author of this book? Marin Amis (me thinks the author is implying he is the successful author who published this novel on behalf of his dead friend!) Most of the characters have names that are very thinly veiled puns including Guy Clinch (who is the fall guy and the "clincher" that makes the murder happen), Dink Heckler who is a preppy tennis player that hangs around Guy Clinch's house likely having a affair and making a mockery of Guy, the president's wife is called Faith and her life is tied in somehow with the fate of the earth, Chick Purchase is the loathed enemy of Keith Talent (the dart afficionado)who is the "murderer". Why is he the enemy? Because they both have a penchant for violence towards women and one of them outdid the other.

The book also has several really silly pages full of alliteration including:

"In the pimpboot of his pimpcar are more pimpclothes, swathed in pimppolythene"

"Burglars were being burgled, by fellow burglars" (Did I mention the world burgle makes me giggle uncontrollable?)

On horror day:
"he thought of horrordog and horrorcat as after, a sickening drop he shuddered his way tormentedly upwards, wedged in the pungent horrorlift" (I suppose this one isn't really alliteration so much as a repetition of the horror phrase)

Despite its silliness you finish the book feeling like you learned something and were not just entertained. The book is a book about story, and the things we tell ourselves about what we deserve, what will happen to us and what life is all about. The author was the narrator of this story putting a certain spin on the actions he was seeing before him, he observes,

" The lady has an unreliable narrator. Many people in the streets have unreliable narrators"

There were several questions and comments posed to God as well:

"God exposes us, take away our padding, and our room"

"who stitched us up with all these design flaws?"

The book is set in London, and having been there this summer that alone endears the book to my heart. The novel centers around Portobello Road where I made the trek one crazy, Saturday, market day. I got to use my travel guide map as I followed the characters walking up and down streets.

Here are some cute London references:

"If London's a pub and you want the whole story, then where do you go? YOu go to a London pub"

In the Black Cross pub "time was a tube train with the driver slumped heavy over the lever, flashing through station after station"

Anyways, that's all I'll say about the book. I can't quite figure out what it is that I got from the book, or what the author was trying to say, but there's a lot there and I don't feel stupider for having read it. Although comically silly, and a murder mystery there is definitely a point behind this novel.I would recommend it to anyone as there is bound to be something of interest in it for all.

The Poisonwood Bible (35th book of 1000)

I have been wanting to read The Poisonwood Bible since the first year I graduated from university. I lived all the way in Ontario while working at a women's home and my roomate, a summer student working there was reading the book. She loved every minute of it and said I could read it when she was done. That was the plan, unfortunately the home shut down before she ever finished the book....and I moved back to BC. Everytime I would see it in the store I would think, "oh I should really get around to reading that", but of course I never did. Enter the list, and a whole new motivation to plow through books and tick them. I found this book at the local used bookstore complete with a resident cat who flopped on my foot making it difficult to move.

Of the stack I bought this was the first one that I chose to read. It was good. I loved the format which was a story told from 5 different perspectives. I was hooked and only focused on reading it and my book from the list of 100 novels I am reading instead of the usual 4 or 5 at a time. I just wanted to know how things would turn out.

I think my favorite character was Leah because she is probably the one who is most like me. She was embarrassed by her family and tried to fit in with the african world that she found herself in. Her life was struggle but she was happy because she was with the man she loved. She looked for her fathers attention but eventually realized that her father was very imperfect mentor to be following.

I was always saddest reading the mom's story because had so much pain and loss to share. She had it hardest out of everyone in the book because she wanted to leave Africa so bad, but couldn't get over the fear of her abusive husband until the unthinkable happened. Because of her experiences both in the US and in Africa she cam eto realize that life is lived in teh every day moments and not the highpoints like death or marriage. "Let men write those stories. I can't. I only know the middle ground where we live our lives"

As much as I liked Leah the best as a character the most profound words were spoken by Ada the twin who had a limp and a confused brain. As Ada processed her life in Africa and also her eventual overcoming of the limp she thought about what happens when people try to forget their past and their scars.

"What you have to lose is your own story, your own slant...either way you have no words for the story of where you came from.

"We are our injuries as much as we are our successes".

Here are a few more great quotes that I loved, but can't remember which narrator said them.

"to live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of story."

"believe this: the mistakes are part of the story"

I have always loved the idea of life as story ever since a Human services class in universitywhere we read several articles about the idea that people think of their lives and live their lives with the idea of story always present. Everything we do makes sense given the context of the story that we tell ourselves.

Although the story is about missionaries it is hard to tell what the author thought about faith.People on either side of the fence have argued harshly about the pros or cons of the way the story was told, but personally loved every minute of it. Faith, life, love is messy and that is what the book represents so well. Each of the characters were changed for ever by a ver sisgnifcant happening in their lives and they each made sense of it in very different ways. That is life. I think there is still a very real place for faith in and amongst all the pain, and confusion of the Price Family's trauma. Regardless of what the author thought about faith the book reinspired me, not to be a Christian like Nathaniel Price but to be an honest and real Christian who wrestles with my own faith and lives authentically before others (not imposing my beliefs upon them or discounting their perspective).

Friday, November 4, 2011

Book 21-To the Lighthouse

I came close to disliking this book, but in reality just didn't really get much out of it. I was saddened by this though because I watched the Hours which is based on Virgina Woolf's life and she seemed interesting. I thought for sure I would like her writing but I can't say that I did. :(

The book, To the Lighthouse is a book about Virginia Woolf's parents and also a book about memories and the ones that stick with us no matter how small they seem. The book focuses on two days one set 10 years in the past, and a foiled trip to the Lighthouse and another 10 years in the future after the death of Virginia Woolf's mother (Mrs. Ramsey in the novel) when the trip to the Lighthouse happens. The book is filled with insignificant happenings but I think the point is that those small moments make life great. Despite a not bad theme, the book just didn't really keep my attention, they way I had hoped. I slogged through the book, and was glad when I finally got to put it down.

There were a few interesting quotes I liked in the book though. Including:

Mr Ramsey always wanted his children to, "be aware from childhood that life is difficult, facts uncompromising, and the passage to the fabled land where our brightest hopes are extinguished"

"How then, she had asked herself, did one know one thing or another about people sealed as they were"

"Something, she meant, is immune from change" ~This quote gets to the heart of the book about the fact that memories bring permanence to the world.

"Mrs Ramsey saying, 'Life, stand still here'

Anyways, that about all I have to say about the book. I will likely try another Virgina Woolf novel at some point just to see if it is here style I don't like. The next book on the list is Crime and Punishment which I have read so I will move directly on to The Sound and the Fury.