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review 2017-06-01 23:31
The Godfather
The Godfather - Mario Puzo

Don Corleone put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Good,” he said, “you shall have your justice. Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do me a service in return.

A classic among the modern classics, which I had woefully ignored, I barely even remember watching the film. Clearly, the whole Godfather cult had passed me by.

 

That is, until the stars aligned and I had a new interest in all things Sicilian and Troy proposed The Godfather as a buddy read. It was an additional omen when I landed on a BL-Opoly square that fitted the book, too.

 

Well, the good thing about the book was that it was fast paced and made for utterly compelling reading - from beginning to end. There were a few parts that were less interesting to me such as the whole Johnny Fontane (i.e. Frank Sinatra) side story or the sudden shift from fast paced action tale into flashbacks of Don Vito Corleone's early days. These parts fleshed out the book and gave a little more complexity to the story, but they also slowed down the book for me. Without them, I am sure I would not have set the book down. I even once debated whether it was worth getting up from my "reading chair" to get a cup of coffee!

 

The more I got into the story, tho, the more problematic reading the book became.

 

All of the main characters, without exception, are despicable human beings, and I repeatedly wanted to punch them. Hard. I guess it was just lucky that part of the story was about how they would try to kill each other in some phony attempt at revenge for some or other character not being "respectful" enough. The whole idea of honour and respect was just warped to the extreme. Of course, as the whole community existed and worked outside of society, it was free to define terms like "honour" and "respect" along with other concepts and rules for itself, but this also worked to question those concepts and how they applied to any society. 

 

In that respect, Puzo's book is rather fascinating, too, and I have to say that this was probably the most surprising aspect of the read. I went into the book expecting horrible people doing horrible deeds, but I did not expect to marvel about Puzo creating this hook that would draw me into an alternate reality that may or may not exist (or have existed) for real. And the potential realism is as daunting as it is depressing.

The ruthlessness, the sheer disregard for any values, implied a man who considered himself completely his own law, even his own God.

The only aspect that was more depressing than the unsettling realism was the marginalisation of outsiders in the setup of this alternate society, whether they are non-Sicilians, or women, or any other group. For the most part even, these outsiders accepted their role as valueless disposables. Even characters that had a choice to leave somehow willingly submitted into this web of oppression, which resulted in one of the worst proposals of marriage:

You’ll be my wife but you won’t be my partner in life, as I think they say. Not an equal partner. That can’t be.

I really wanted to poke these characters in the eye. Repeatedly. But by the same token, I have to say that watching these lives unravel is part of what makes this book such a gripping read. It's just that I also had to think of the status of the story as one of the cult classics that has been adored for its imagery , much like Fleming's famous creation. And as with James Bond, there is only one thing that I am taking away from The Godfather: We need new icons.

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text 2017-05-30 11:49
Reading progress update: I've read 80%.
The Godfather - Mario Puzo

I enjoyed the beginning, I fought through the middle, and now I just need this to end.

 

This has definitely lost a lot of steam...

 

(Also, we're now firmly back in the kind of sick-bucket territory where even Fleming's Bond looks like an enlightened human being.)

 

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text 2017-05-29 10:57
Reading progress update: I've read 58%.
The Godfather - Mario Puzo

This story has slowed right down since the main plot turn. The last quarter of the book has been a lot of backstory and sideline explanation, which has made the story drag a lot.

 

I hope this picks up again soon. At the moment, it just feels like nothing is happening because no one is allowed to act in this web of intrigue...which is quite a good description of the whole setup but does not make for interesting reading.

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text 2017-05-24 23:32
Reading progress update: I've read 8%.
The Godfather - Mario Puzo

Dang, I have to get up in 6 hours, because of an early call with the other side of the world, but I don't want to put down this book. 

 
For all its overblown machismo, it is rather gripping.
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review 2017-04-26 02:34
Some Family
The Godfather - Peter Bart,Robert Thompson,Mario Puzo

Do I even need to explain what this one is about? Epic spanning a whole Mafia family sprawled across a decade. Onto review:

 

Like I said in the first comment, the thing that pulls you in immediately is the perfect setting up of the magnetism, the why clans work. The comfort of belonging, the empowerment of feeling backed up by your people. And of course, the unsubstantiated but very present sense of menace when you skirt it's edges.

I don't know that those are very clear to someone born to privilege. I think it's possible for many to read this book and get horrified "in a straight manner", by the violence and the getting away with it. Personally, much of my horror while reading was the realization that I was doubtful about how far was too far.

To explain: law, while a laudable thing that one ought to strive to follow, is not the same as justice. It's supposed to strive to be, but then, it is forged by people with the power to forge it. Humans, supposed to be working for the good of the many, but always with personal views of what that is. And that's with the best possible setting. Government, law enforcement, all the political and economical structure, also follow the same path. Made by people for the people. Which people?.

So when you are part of the demographic that is not the controlling one, or live in a country with a government you distrust, the rounding-of-the-carts  family first, then friends, then we'll see thing seems the safe way to go. I started to have all this thoughts about how far I'd be willing to go, how much I'd flaut the law for my borther, or my best fried, or my child... Let me tell you, it is scary to realize while reading a book that your moral center is not a fixed thing. That's where the mind-screw tag gets deserved.

As for particulars, I have to toast the verisimilitude. No Sicilian's in my tree, but enough Italian blood to recognize many traits that resonated. The appearance of self-deprecating nature that is really pride, the cheerfulness that barely conceals the deep-well of potential violence, the strange to me (since I'm a couple generations removed) highly passionate, forever contentious marital relations, where the man rules, sometimes violently, often unfaithfully, but the woman might stick a knife in his groin. And they'd remain happily married for a couple more decades... yeah, actually, that comedy was my grandparents life. We can laugh about it with mom now, some days.

As for the vengefulness, that's an epic I have nothing in my life to make a parallel, because damn.

By the way, I started to read a bit about Sicily and wiki-walked to the Sicilian Opening stub. I'm so sure the man that named it was being facetious. I mean, really, a very agresive response that does not directly menace an opponent's piece?

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