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Search tags: soul-pains
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review 2017-08-19 21:09
Great take on the Cycle
Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman

It was gloriously awesome. How much of the merit goes to Gaiman and how much always belonged to the myth compendium has little bearing in my enjoyment.

The stories are tall tales indeed: huge, fun, magical, gruesome. The characters are as great as flawed: Odin lies, cheats, seduces and steals; Thor is a block-head to which every problem is a nail (hah); and Loki is the charming psychopath. All this is more or less merit of the Edda.

The book is a fast read, very approachable, very engaging, and the order of presentation and building makes it easy to follow the names and elements. The text is cheeky, and has many little asides that had me in stitches, turning wistful and lyrical as we come to the bittersweet end. All this, plus some nuances to the dialogues that made them hilarious (or creepy, or bittersweet), was Gaiman I reckon.

It is a book I want to buy. I want to re-read it, whole and by pieces. Have it as a reference. Read from to my children. Also, as an object, it is a beauty. Full stars.

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review 2017-07-14 08:49
Treatise and character study
Anna Karenina - Larissa Volokhonsky,Richard Pevear,Leo Tolstoy

The foremost impression I'm left with, since I have the last part very present, is this literary symmetry: Anna takes about sixty pages to come in, by train, and leaves the book sixty pages from the end, also by train (yes, I know, some dark humor).

Next, also with the end very present, this sense that in the end, Levin and Ana essential difference is that when doubt harasses them, Levin goes back to what feels natural to him and trudges on, and Anna gives into despair.

For all that it's name comes from the woman, larger than life in the outside, and deeply uncertain on the inside, it was Levin the vehicle for most of the author treatise on... well, everything: agrarian reform, women's education, religion, politics, war, ideologies... At first I was interested. Passing the middle point, I just wanted the author to get on with it. I've gone over this many times: I have little patience for authors trying to educate or reform me through fiction.

While the Levin/Kitty side of the novel carries the most heart-warming bits, it's also choke-full of opinions, so whenever we got to it, instead of feeling like I was resting from Anna's turbulence, I started to feel dread at the amount of pages Tolstoy was about to bore me with his "insight". I totally get why the movies gloss so much over this side of the equation.

And it is some type of equation, or coin. I wonder if the author was trying to make Anna into a personification of reason, given the stab he takes at it in relation with faith in the end, with Levin as this second, him being unable to properly express himself, but finding peace with his own being at the end; Anna all poise, yet false, forever uncertain inside, speech coming out pleasant while thoughts looped and spun in place without answer. Also, passion vs. love. And romantic feeling against filial.

As for characters (beyond the two protagonist, because, you know, so mired into the theme), they were all so damned well fleshed out:

Vronsky with his honorable selfishness: I know it sounds like a contradiction, but the guy truly does not realize the damage he does, and in his own way, he follows a code of conduct strictly. It's horrifying.

Karenin... *sigh* Anna calls him a robot. At first, it looks like she's just over-reacting to her new feelings, ascribing the worst to her obstacle. It turns out she is over-reacting, but she's also somewhat right. The guy is a wonder of self-discipline, in his life and even where his feelings and though process is concerned. The way he twist and rearranges facts and ideas to suit himself is a thing to read. While writing this, I also wonder if his influence wasn't arresting much of Anna's internal disorder, if she didn't loose what little was keeping her peace when she left him, or if it was the other way around: a wild mare kept in tight reign, that suddenly tasted freedom and galloped non-stop into the abyss, with Vronsky spurring her.

Kitty with her innocence; Vronsky breaks her heart, but after some false steps, she comes on the other side just as sweet, and wiser.

Dolly and her big heart. Stiva forever on the rope by the miracle of his social nature. Sanctimonious Lidia. Betsy, so liberal but in the end unwilling to forsake society's constraints. Sergey and his empty rhetoric. Nikolay and his nihilism. Varenka.

I guess there was much more in all those many pages than proselytism. You can disregard this whole paragraph, I'm claiming that Levin ruined me, but really? Last night I went to sleep, and kept wondering: how much of these explorations impulse change? Much of what is discussed in dialogues here feels like sides talking to hear themselves, not to seek understanding, and I was left thinking about social change, and whether writing heralds it, or just meanders over what society has already started to accept or war upon. I noticed many of the topics expounded on came and passed, discarded by history, yet things that are barely touched upon, like womens rights and education became an issue not long after that endures. What I'm trying to say, and I'm treading on deeply personal and weird territory here, is that I started to doubt how much social commentary in literature looks forward, and how much it's just a belly-gazing soap box for the author.

So, *wheoo!*, that's a looong commentary on a loooong book, and I'm still unsure what I'll rate it. No, I do know. It's really good, and as a character study is great, but I don't think it perfect because, for me, if you are going to fill a novel with ideology, it has to age well, and it has to engage even on those bits. So 4 stars.

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review 2017-07-05 23:04
Five for one
Las Armas Secretas - Julio Cort√°zar

I understand now why this one is classified as European lit all the time. I haven't researched it, but I'm pretty sure this one was written after Cortázar left Argentina, because the five stories in this volume are all set in Paris.

I was not that dazzled by this too much at first but then, my bar with Cortázar is "Bestiario", and that's a hard one to upstage in the wow (weird, awesome, uncomfortable, puzzling) factor.

Cartas de Mamá, leaving aside the historical parallelism that some scholar or other wants to saddle on it, was an excellent exercise on revealing the past through the present. Many authors could learn a thing or two about how to do back-story. Of course, back-story is the whole issue here: sins and regrets that turn into silences, and that end that is half fantasy, half delayed acknowledgement. And the great opening line:

 

"Muy bien hubiera podido llamarse libertad condicional."

 

Los Buenos Servicios was a very scathing look at how moneyed people use "the help", many times frivolously, and often callously, and how hollow the "throw money at it" approach is, which is more jarring  (and ridiculous) from the poised view of Francinet. She had more class than any of the cast.

Las Babas del Diablo is a POV nightmare. As it tends to happen when I read magical-realism, I enter a weird state where I'm paying close attention, but at the same time relax my mind and just go with it. Like suspension of disbelief, but I just suspend logic and sometimes even grammar. I find it pays off with many complex or weird plots, or speculative fiction too. Triggers galore in this one, and one VERY uncomfortable suspicion.

"El Perseguidor", now here is the jewel of the book, and the point where I started to love this collection. It was absolutely engrossing. I understand why it has been known to be edited as "El Perseguidor y otras historias". This one got to me, emotionally-wise, and I'm not even quite sure why. I guess it's that desperate search.

"Las Armas Secretas" you know how it's going to go almost from go. Or maybe it's that I've read enough Cortázar to understand the clues he leaves. Or, maybe more, this sense of having read one of his before, about a big house in San Isidro, that has similar elements, but I can't remember to which collection it belonged to contrast.

You know, the more I write, the higher I want to star this. I realize it made my brain jog, and my thoughts come back to it whenever I wasn't reading.

Not his best, but for "El Perseguidor" alone, so worth owning it. I predict re-reads.

 

And there it goes my 4th of July extra. I devoured it, lol

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review 2017-05-23 20:46
The Better Story
Life of Pi - Yann Martel

Defiantly funny in the face of total devastation, but more than that, ever hopeful. I guess that last is the best part of strong faith. The important part. Inner piece and enduring hope.

 

Here's the deal: I'm an agnostic. We get roasted inside *grin*. I could go a long while about the difference between religion and spirituality, between faith in god and the faith in the future that makes you stubbornly plod forward. I wont. My mom says "there are no atheist in the trenches". I have no idea what an ordeal like this would do to me.

 

But here is the other side, the thing about being an agnostic: I can accept both stories. I can love and believe in the tiger, and I can forgive the killer boy. The tiger is the better story, but to me, disregarding the second feels like hiding from a horrible truth too hard to accept. Just as disregarding the tiger feels like the cruelty of denying absolution, or the company of hope.

 

Good book. The movie did it amazing justice, tight and beautiful and with lovely, memorable music, so I highly recommend it.

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review 2017-05-03 13:23
Measuring humanity
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick,Robert Zelazny

I don't know whether to be hopeful or depressed. I think I'm a good deal of both, plus amazed, and horror stricken. There is a lot of the Sisyphean in this, which I guess is on purpose, given all the Mercer stuff (which on the last pages got trippy as fuck, of the religious hallucination variety).

 

And it makes a good job of running through many questions regarding empathy, psychological manipulation, human's social animal condition, loneliness, plus whatever I didn't get, inside few pages on an action packed day for a bounty-hunter.


Really intense little book.

 

Rachel hates him because he recognized her even while she couldn't recognize herself? (I'm unsure on this, she must have known to sleep with other bounty-hunters) Or maybe she hates him because it's another failure to fool a human, and can't understand where the failing lies.

She goes for the goat. But in the end, maybe his wife was more important. She actually cares and.. well, it felt hopeful to me. No pet, but why should you feel bereft if you can care for another person... which is a bit messed up and might be the reason Deckard is so messed up: HE doesn't care for HER.

Cyborgs are really terrifying because it's clear by the end that they are absolutely psychopathic. The spider makes you understand what the fact that they truly can't empathize really means. All the fripperies that have you in doubt make it even scarier. Of course, you have Irmgand so who knows?

(spoiler show)
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