Saturday, January 3, 2015

Book 60- The Counterfeiters (95th Book)

My last book of 2014 was The Counterfeiters by Andre Gide. I quite liked this book as I read it and I loved the themes! It was a book, within a book, within a book. What I mean is the book is about an author writing a book about writing a book. Huh?! Yeah, it is as confusing as it sounds. It reminds me a little bit of the movie Inception or The Matrix. The novel is really an investigation of what it takes to write a book and how novels are only the counterfeit to life.

The novel follows several characters some of whom become important some of whom do not. The one mainstay throughout the entire novel is Edouard the novelist who is writing a book called "The Counterfeiters" which is about an author writing a book called "The Counterfeiters". The actual novel that Andre Gide writes includes the journals of Edouard while he is writing his novel. In it he summarizes the actions that other characters take as he tries to find uses for his daily life in his novel. The version of the novel I read also included Gide's journals while he wrote his novel, as well as news articles that inspired parts of his story. It is great to see the writing process so clearly analyzed in the novel.

If you are of a philosophical bent then this is the novel for you. It has several themes in it including many characters who are coming of age and trying to find an identity in the face of real life. "I don't know enough about other people's live to write a novel; and I haven't yet had a life of my own." It also has a theme about the structures that bind us and sometimes shape our identity including religion, family and sexual orientation. "Family egoism, hardly less hideous than personal egoism". It also analyzes the theme of what fiction is and what it does for both the reader and the author. "The novelist does not as a rule rely sufficiently on the readers imagination" There is a lot of stuff jammed into one small novel!

This book is chock full of fantastic quotes about writing. I used to want to be a writer before I realized that I didn't have the internal motivation necessary to plug away at a project of my own accord. I also realized that journalism, which would provide me with deadlines, wasn't a match for my personality. Regardless of all of that, writing will always be a hobby for me and I created The Novel 100 project to give me structure and a purpose to keep writing. As such, the quotes about writing really stuck out for me.

"It sometimes seems to me that writing prevents one from living, and that one can express oneself better by acts than by words"

"...making a novel about ideas instead of about human beings?"

"Yes I know, it sounds stupid. Let's say, if you prefer it, it hasn't got one subject...'a slice of life'"

I don't know if I will ever write a novel, but as an avid reader I like when authors explore what writing does for people. I have had a lot of epiphanies from novelists accurately capturing life. It is much easier to see a situation or problem when you see it represented outside of yourself.

Although this book doesn't have a very high rating for me (I only gave it three stars) I did like it. I think the trouble with my  project is that I have refined my tastes to such a point that I can now rate a book on many things. I am learning to grade novels on a curve. Not all books are going to get a 4 or 5 star rating from me. As the list of novels I have read grows, I think there will be far less 5 star novels  and a whole lot of  "middle of the road" or 3 star books for me.

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