Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Everything is Illuminated (59th Book)

I feel like I was tricked. Everything is Illuminated makes you laugh until you all of a sudden aren't anymore. I made it the majority of the way through the book, giggling and laughing and having a jolly good time of it, but then I got to the last third of the novel.....it wasn't funny any more. The author says it best when he says, "Humor is a way of shrinking from the wonderful and terrible world".

The first 100 pages of this book were a slog for me. However, despite all that I laughed my head off at Alex, the Ukrainian translator for the narrator's journey to find the lady who saved his grandpa. He was presented with a thesaurus by the narrator and some of his slip ups in word usage are extremely witty and clever. Unfortunately, it made it also made it slightly hard to read, and I kept setting the book aside after reading a few pages. Thanks to the book's odd post modernism and magical realism I decided that I couldn't read it before bed, because it would screw with my already extremely vivid dreams. This turned out to be a wise choice given the subject matter.

If you had asked me what I thought of the novel in the first 100 pages I would have been frustrated and annoyed because I was so sure that I would love the novel, but I wasn't yet. It took a quick turn for me when Alex's English started improving and the story started progressing.This is why I love reading from the lists, because it forces me to step outside of my literary comfort zone. It turned out to be quite a quick read. The post modern style of the book reminded me very much of James Joyce (who I have also decided I love), but it is much easier to follow. The book is littered with different literary styles including encyclopedia entries,  play dialogue, letters, songs, and poems. It is funny, but also not.

This book had so many of the themes that I love: the idea of love, whether there is a God or not, what the nature of good and evil is, free will and dreams. I snapped up all these references and thoroughly enjoyed the process of thinking through the questions. Here are a few of my favourite quotes around the themes:

"we are always drowning and our prayers are nothing less than pleas for rescue from deep spiritual waters"

"a bad person is someone who does not lament his bad actions"

"I loved him so much I madeloveimpossible"

"Every love is carved from loss...but we learn to live in that love"

One of the characters, Brod reminded me a great deal of my teenage self. She, like I, was in love with the idea of love. She wanted so badly to be in love, but it  was harder for her being a truthful person, and unwilling to lie to herself if she was not feeling it. Here are a few of the things that were said about her:

"she had to satisfy herself with the idea of love"

"love itself became the object of her love"

"she loved her new vocabulary of simply loving something more than she loved her love for that thing"

One of the most shocking themes in the book, was the idea of choice and how we have to learn to live with ourselves when we make absolutely horrible ones. I won't go into details for fear of wrecking the story for someone but I was blown away by the thoughts in the book. I think this is the ultimate question in life, and one that makes us human. How do we live with ourselves, when we makes choices that  are counter to our own sense of moral code? How do we live with ourselves, when we become someone we would no longer love?  This book does an absolutely amazing job at rectifying the choices each of the character's made that they struggled to live with.

"We all choose things, and we all choose against things. I want to be the kind of person who chooses for more than chooses against"

"You had to choose, and hope to choose the smaller evil"

"Try to live so that you can always tell the truth"

This book was a pleasant surprise to me. I was happy I stuck with it and thoroughly loved the process of discovery though the book. I liked it so much that I would like to read another or the authors books to see if it is equally as good.

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