Archive for September, 2007

John Fowles: The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

A real post.modern classic, with its essays on Victorian life, and alternative endings. I eagerly read it through the first time, and the rereading — for the book group — was certainly not wasted. Well-written, living characters, events interesting and those essays, they just give more life to the story. At least to this reader.

Kelly Link: Magic for Beginners

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Nine longish short stories, starting with the amazing Hugo-winner ‘The Faery Handbag’, filled with sense of wonder, or a sense of everyday life, slightly different. At least at the start. And filled with great characters, in cat skin or not, stuff sometimes nightmares are made of, sometimes not. A clichéd review, perhaps, but that these stories are not, definitely not. It’s almost inhuman how good Kelly Link really is.

Alain-Fournier: Le Grand Meaules

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

A French classic, yes, but somehow it doesn’t seem to catch me, speak to me. Maybe because it’s been too long since I was a teenager. (This is supposed to be a growing up story.) Or maybe because the life these characters have doesn’t touch mine. Or I find their motivations too strange to me – the narrator Francois Seurel, or the Grand Meaules himself, who also narrates part of the story, or we read his diary, edited by Seurel – I seem to have no idea why they do what they do. But the novel’s time, the culture it’s situated in, the minor characters, they are well done, yes, and it is a pleasure to read the translation. I do wonder how the original language would affect me.

Enrique Vila-Matas: Bartleby & Co

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

I would prefer not to forget Bartleby, that very curious character brought to us by Herman Melville, but I won’t be forgetting this book either. Marcelo, a Catalan clerk, who has managed to publish a book, has become a Bartleby, not able to write anything He sets out to find other Bartlebys, and reasons why they prefer not to write. And it’s an intriguing, interesting great story, pleasure to read – although as a reader of mostly Anglo-American fiction getting used to the Latin (Catalan in this case) mindset takes a bit time, but is worth it.

Fannie Flagg: Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

To put it simply, Fannie Flagg entertains me, makes me laugh. Aloud, too. And some days, we all need to laugh, need to be entertained. Her main character, Elner Shimfissle dies, and gets to heaven, but is returned, from the looks of it, to make some things right. And affects the whole community, of normal everyday life and real people, people, who think going to Dollywood is a special treat, hey, you can even get married there! Smile and warm feelings. Thanks, Ms Flagg.

Robert J. Sawyer: Rollback

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

It is hard to entertain, and, at the same time, talk about things that matter. Like life .. and things like science, and have people in the text lead lives that sound possible, quite normal. Robert J. Sawyer manages to do that, to me at least. It’s refreshing to read a book, in which, in spite of science fictional setting, more than half the women suddenly don’t disappear from everyday life, and people have lives that sound like they are lived, say, now, like in this book. It’s possible, maybe, that aliens will contact us in a near future. It is also possible that some day, in some way, we manage to extend the life of humans considerably. What does it mean to us, if those two things happen? And what it would mean, if things don’t go quite as planned. Lots of cultural connections with people of my (and Sawyer’s) generation, lots of humour, lots of science, too. And a good read.

Alan Weisman: The World Without Us

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

What if – human beings just (POOF!) disappeared tomorrow? What would happen to earth, how would the disappearance affects its flora and fauna, how long would it take all traces of humankind to disappear, too? Are there any lasting mementoes, until the sun becomes a bit bigger than now, that is. It may be that traces of laughter in the Lucy Show are the only lasting souvenirs (even the Voyagers have their life-time and will grumble in space), but before that becoming reality, Weisman has written a truly interesting and thought-provoking book, which shows lots of background reading and interviews with specialists. The only thing that was missing from this pleasurable brain-activating read, were the footnotes.

Anne Tyler: Digging to America

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

At first I thought this was about the orphans, the two Korean girls arriving in the U.S.A., and thei life there. Yes, it’s that, partly. But it’s about belonning, it’s about the life experience, it’s about family. It’s about being human. And it’s among the best Tyler has ever written.

Philip Zimbardo: The Lucifer Effect – How Good People Turn Evil

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

A thick book on a very hard subject. Zimbardo led the infamous experiment in Stanford University, where students played guards and prisoners so thoroughly that the experiment had to be stopped – not by Lombardy himself, he’d become too involved in it, but an outsider, who saw from her outside point of view the damage done to all involved. The book has long study about the study, but also on other studies, and also on something not a study, but the cold reality: How supposedly good men in Abu Ghraib suddenly became something else. (The similarities with the Stanford experiment are chilling.) Before I read the book, I was sure I would resist becoming one of the bad apples. Not any more, I’m human, I have the potential.

Lewis Buzbee: The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Only another book lover will understand the feelings this book will evoke. A beautiful story of growing up as one, and of the bookshops feeding the love of books — and bookshops. It also makes the reader think about their own book addictions and its start. A bookaholic will almost drown in it, the rest it will, unfortunately leave untouched. Their loss.