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review 2020-04-10 21:31
Charming and warm
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer,Annie Barrows

It is odd, but for all this book made me cry, I laughed too, and it left me happy. It very much IS a feel good book.

For all the bleak things that the anecdotes in these letters tell you about, there is warmth and humanity underpinning them. Through bombings, gun enforced curfews, children sent away for years, captives and capturers starving alongside, and concentration camps, there are books, and there is friendship, and dignity, and courage.

 

I don't know that it is a perfect book, or even that the plot is that tight (what plot), but there is a bunch of lovely and strange, and even ridiculous, characters being good friends and sharing the good and the bad, all because of books and one absent woman. And that's good. It feels cathartic, and lovely. It's... restorative.

 

I quite enjoyed the experience and I'm glad I took the recommendation.

 

And hey, I got a new favorite poem, because of this first stanza quoted (and I don't usually even enjoy poetry much, but this one resonates)

 

IS it so small a thing
To have enjoy'd the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanced true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

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review 2020-01-25 16:27
That's one hell of a ghost
Beloved - Toni Morrison

I don't really know what to say about this book, literature-wise. What I know is that it touched me. I left a comment over halfway through, about crying to the beat of the lifting bits, and negative spaces, and I don't know if I'm capable of doing it more justice.

 

There was a lot that kept crashing over and over, in the echoes of lines and themes through the ages, and stays with me: Freedom as owning yourself. Freedom being necessary to be able to love. What can't be borne, what breaks you, the sequels, the need sometimes to leave the past buried. This idea:

 

“You your best thing, Sethe. You are.”

 

And this idea:

 

For years Paul D believed schoolteacher broke into children what Garner had raised into men. And it was that that made them run off. Now, plagued by the contents of his tobacco tin, he wondered how much difference there really was between before schoolteacher and after. Garner called and announced them men—but only on Sweet Home, and by his leave. Was he naming what he saw or creating what he did not? That was the wonder of Sixo, and even Halle; it was always clear to Paul D that those two were men whether Garner said so or not.

 

But over all, this:

 

“Here,” she said, “in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver—love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”

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review 2019-09-28 05:46
“Poo-tee-weet?”
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

Took some pages for the book to grab me. If I'm honest, I'm pretty sure it was the chat with his war-buddy's wife, and as it happens, it is something of a key for the whole book. There was a promise there

 

If I ever do finish it, though, I give you my word of honor: there won’t be a part for Frank Sinatra or John Wayne.
“I tell you what,” I said, “I’ll call it ‘The Children’s Crusade.’”

 

It was kept, in sub-title and spirit.

 

There is nothing that could ever come close to glorifying war inside these pages. The theme is how absurd a beast it is, the little and big tragedies, how far in time the damages travel (and who was that said that wars die only with the last soldier that fought in it dies?). Hell, the whole way it's constructed is thoroughly trafalmadorian, which we would call hell of a PTSD outside any sci-fi bent mind.

 

It's also so bittersweet and human. There was also this other bit near the beginning that caught me

 

And Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human.

 

Because... well, I guess because it kind of encapsulates the thing, and how it feels. It's horrible, and terrible, and pretty disgusting, and so are almost every character in one aspect or another, but you are compelled to look. The dead demand to be witnessed and acknowledged and war sucks.

 

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review 2018-11-30 21:03
Fun romp
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy

Very easy and fast read. It would have been the type of book I would have adored as a kid in that liminal space where high reading skills put you beyond children's books but maturity does not really afford you adult reads. So yeah, classic adventures for the win.

 

The devise of telling the story from the third limited of a character other than the Scarlet Pimpernel allows for a show of his BAMF qualities that would have sounded boastful otherwise, so that's another good bit.

 

Most of my gripe comes from the ever moronic woman (I'll leave the political and racial alone this time). We are constantly told she's the cleverest woman in Europe, but either that's a huge fail of informed quality, or the author was taking the mickey on it by drawing a contrast of what the world says of a characters intelligence vs what happens behind curtains of a person's life. Still, the fact that she's absolutely useless and most times an obstacle, continued to bother me. I thought the story would redeem her when she decides to go to France, that we would be shown her being resourceful and clever and see her save the day right alongside the Pimpernel. Hell, for a bit there I was prepared to be blown out of my mind by a turn of the XX century female author writing a woman saving the hero. Alas, no dice.

 

The other bit that is a bit weak (beyond several un-reveals, duh), is the constant over explaining. Orczy does an excellent job of showing the pieces so that you can puzzle it out. It is a pity she wastes pages and belittle her readers intelligence by spelling it all out yet again in expository dialogues and what not.

 

Anyway, if you are not nit-picking like I've been, it is good entertainment.

 

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review 2018-10-27 18:25
Since I'm not reading for spirituality's sake
The Divine Comedy - Eugenio Montale,Sandro Botticelli,Peter Armour,Dante Alighieri,Allen Mandelbaum

Done! *cheers* (and an abrupt end it was)

 

I confess I started to loose my enthusiasm by Purgatory, and Paradiso veritably dragged for me.

 

Inferno is indeed the most interesting, likely because it concentrates more on describing the poetic (and in many cases gruesome) justice inflicted there.

 

Purgatory gets a bit wishy washy because we are even more deluged with contemporary examples, which was exhausting from a "pausing to research WTF" whenever I needed context to understand the grade, and felt like self indulgent page bloating when I didn't. And then we get to Eden, pretty cavalcade of symbolism lead by the still much discussed mystery that is Matilda, and meet Beatriz. Ahhhh, the lady herself, that symbolizes theology. Maybe it is no wonder I found her supercilious and overly jealous.

 

I have to praise Dante's balls: first he aligns himself equal among Homer, Ovid and Virgil in that Limbo chat, and here he places his lady love highly enthroned in the Empireum, representing the Dogma by which he knows God.

 

If I could leave Paradiso just taking away that love has been his salvation and his way to heaven, we'd be good. But no, he had to insist on hammering until rigid conformity to scripture was reached. Thorough what felt like endless proselytizing (hey, I know it is my fault, because what was I expecting, right?) and pointing fingers of doom everywhere (the amount of eggs thrown the church's way! And his political enemies... you bet this got him the exile prophesied to him here).

 

Also, even considering some pretty descriptions, the spheres felt lame and boring reward (and here I'm reminded of Huxley calling happiness undramatic and boring, and Le Guin criticizing those that think "Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting"). Where is the imaginative poetic justice of the first third? Methinks Dante got too tangled in the discussion of virtues and splitting hairs on their display levels. So yeah, I get the whole "watching god and feeling his light is rapture beyond comprehension", I'm still contending that the theological got in the way of the literary, and there goes one star. Sue me.

 

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