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review 2016-03-18 15:55
Esquival's Like Water for Chocolate
Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel,Carol Christensen,Thomas Christensen

This is a magical realist novel.  Some people think that it is high literature, but it isn't.  IT is very derivative of Garcia Marquez but without the wonderful language. The book is divided into twelve chapters named after the months of the year.  That is done for no apparent reason that I could see and felt like a poorly executed gimmick.  There is also a recipe for every chapter which is included into the chapter and where the cooking creates an accidental magic spell.  The book is set during the Mexican Revolution but this is more a colourful backdrop than anything else.  

In general, the book is a pop version of Garcia Marquez.  It's not bad although the prose is very simplistic in a bad way.  Its light fluff posing as serious literature.  I have always preferred serious literature that poses as light fluff.  It's magical realism for the bored unintellectual housewife really.  It's not bad, it's just bland.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-02-14 00:00
Three Trapped Tigers (Latin American Literature Series)
Three Trapped Tigers (Latin American Literature Series) - Guillermo Cabrera Infante,Donald Gardner,Suzanne Jill Levine This is not the first Latin American novel to which I suspect I would give five stars, were I only smart enough to fully comprehend it. What is it with these guys? I loved the first 350-400 pages of this, and there was this 20-page chapter that truly blew my mind, but then the end was this seemingly endless night of baffling conversation, capped by a completely indecipherable page of stream-of-consciousness bizarrity.

In other words, I didn't get it, but for the most part, I loved it. If anyone reading this can tell me what the hell the last 100 pages were about, I would be most appreciative.
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review 2015-02-09 10:57
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

On a lazy, rainy Sunday in London, I decided to take the tube to St Pancras, buy a book and read it over a cup of coffee. I went into Hatchards planning to get Possession by A.S. Byatt, which was sold out. Instead I bought The Alchemist and Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. I read a few pages, switched to Leaves of Grass and, save for an attempt or two, did not feel any inclination to pick it up for four months.


It took me over four months to finish this 160 page legend. That about says enough I believe. I did not like the writing style, the overal tone of the book, the characterisation. I almost feel as if I have somehow missed the entire point of this book, why everyone thinks it is so wonderful. I cannot put my finger on what it was specifically. Almost wished I just got it from the library. Shame really, but that goes to show; reputation is not everything.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/256018769
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review 2014-12-12 02:27
[REVIEW] Cien Sonetos de Amor de Pablo Neruda
Cien sonetos de amor (Spanish Edition) - Pablo Neruda

Realmente Neruda y yo no somos compatibles.

Recuerdo con frustración que me asignaron su autobiografía "Confieso que he Vivido" en bachillerato y no pude terminarlo por lo aburrido que era.

Su poesía me desespera. Sus constantes aluciones al trigo, al pan, y el horno que levanta la levadura me hace pensar que tenía un sueño frustrado de panadero. Eso o Matilde, su bienamada, era un pan en otra vida.

Si acaso disfruté de dos o tres de los sonetos es mucho.

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review 2014-11-20 12:56
Diaz's The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz

The most important work of the post second world war literature is 100 Years of Solitude.  I would have preferred Lolita, 1984 or Last Exit to Brooklyn to be the most important work.  While I love 100 Years of Solitude, it has led to a lot of disappointing writing.  Oscar Wao is very much in that tradition, but Diaz is far superior a writer to similar contemporaries such as Eugenidies and Chabon.  

The book feels as if it is written on speed.  Unlike so many other contemporary writers, Diaz takes the shortest possible time to  get from A to B.  He also freely helps himself to any technique, such as writing in the second person when he feels like, putting in footnotes, switching into Spanish dialogue and filling the book with pop culture nerd references.  In the nerd references, he is very like Neil Stephenson or Bryan Lee O'Malley, but his use of them is more assured and purposeful.  It might interfere with the book lasting, because it is hard to get the book without a basic knowledge of Dominican history, the mechanics of Dungeons and Dragons and so on.  You can see a great deal of influences in the style.  As well as those already mentioned, he draws on Mario Vargas Llosa and there is a clear influence by Nabakov.  In its anarchic experimentalism, its close to Pale Fire in more than just the use of footnotes.

The whole thing is a delight.  I kind of feel that it is too good to have won the Pulitzer, which I find a suspect award even by the standard of literary awards.  I see that a lot of people have reacted negatively to it, but the sheer speed of the prose, throwing away of the rule book, along with an actual understanding of human beings is really refreshing.  It is also influenced by the post punk music that it references, you can see the influence of The Pixies, for instance.  Its anarchic speed and joy in suffering are pulled out of that music and inserted into a work of literature.  Its the only time I've seen that done in the forty years this music has existed.

The biggest problem that I see is that along with almost all contemporary writers of literature he has picked up from Garcia Marquez and other writers like Vonnegut an unfortunate tendency to patronize his characters.  In that the Scott Pilgrim comics, arguably the closest thing to this book are superior.  

Its a fantastic synthesis of so much writing of the last 40 years, and is written as if the author was on speed. It is bedeviled by the patronizing of the characters and in particular the ending, which finds beauty where it should find none is a problem.  If Diaz can learn to treat his characters as equals, he has the potential to become a great novelist.

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