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review 2017-09-05 19:37
Victorian (?) Ghost Snooze
The Woman in Black - Susan Hill

I'll let the book itself tell it

 

my main sensation was one of tedium and a certain lethargy, combined with a desire to finish the job

 

As a love letter and homage to Victorian ghosts stories, it fell very short. Hill clearly is familiar with the elements, which is necessary, but then fumbles them. A little flare is essential in these type of tales, specially when it's a throw-back to the style case.

 

As it is, it managed to bore me and made me struggle to finish the short pages. Everything is telegraphed pages and pages in advance, so by the middle I was just rolling my eyes and waving a "get on with it". No surprises, and a foregone conclusion.

 

It is not dreadful. It might appeal to a kid during that starting-to-read horror-addiction phase. And the beginning was somewhat promising. The jump-in-time matrioshka thing could have been interesting if it had been panned out, but only the framing was kept, and all the head-ache of years-math was for nothing. Seriously, what was with that house-buying reminiscing? Useless fat. And the morning-at-the-office while catching the train... tell it straight if it has no purpose!.

 

Then there are the issues of character calling things Victorian. Given the three times we are working with (the maybe 50 years old man writing, the recount of buying his house when he was some 35, and main story when he was 22/23, where a car appears) it could be that the protagonist is applying more modern terms to his past thinking. But I feel like either the author tried to get a cute wink at the fourth wall and it fell dead, or she forgot to stay in time (since she seems to be aiming for an "authentic" Victorian ghost story).

 

This last might be me over-estimating how long it took people to call the Victorian era such, and identify things and styles with it.

 

Anyway, I'm done roasting. Not awful or offensive, but I'm not reading another of hers.

 

 

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review 2017-05-21 13:55
About lesson books
The Phantom Tollbooth - Jules Feiffer,Norton Juster

I ended up liking it. It took two tries, but I did. I actually enjoyed the cleverness of it the first time around too. I just got bored. I think It was because it is didactic.

As a child, I used to despise books that used stories only to carry a message or lesson (I hated morality fables with a passion), and even today I mistrust them. I'm not saying a story can't carry meaning, but I don't like it when it's crammed down my throat. The manifesto the author didn't dare to write straight, and hid inside his book, distracts me from the story I'm trying to read.

To compare:

In a Handmaid's Tale, the story shows the horror. It tells you nothing about what you ought to think, but boy, do you end up filled with thoughts.

What I found in this book is an adventure constructed around a message. It was, like I said before, cleverly done, and the winks and nudges where plentiful, mostly fun, take-that types, some a bit disturbing. The magic padding is pretty good, but the scaffolding structure is evident and makes it an uncomfortable read for me because it pulls me out of my suspension of disbelief to consider this bit of insight the author is eager to foster on me.

 

Closer compare: Two of Michael Ende's: "Momo", and "Neverending Story". Both are built around a message too, but they succeed (the second more than the first) because you can pretty much disregard all the deeper stuff if you just wish to gobble up the tale. Neverending is one of my all time favorites, and book I've re-read over half a dozen times through my life, always finding new things, and that my favorite chapter changed as I grew too.

 

So, maybe a kid would like this book, but not a kid as I was.

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review 2017-05-17 00:23
Incoming Rant
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

You know, I'd read in some posh literary review that Jake and Brett were two of Hemingway's most lovable characters, but I really can't see how that could be. I get he was painting an era, but I had the same difficulties I had with Fitzgerald's "Great Gatsby": I was bored by the characters misery (first world high class problems, people, that's what you have!); and I was enraged by the chaos and destruction they sowed all around themselves with their callow carelessness. Stupid egotistical brats.

And that's the other thing: they ARE reacting like brats. "Our parent's culture and ideology crumbled down and betrayed us! Let's rage and get drunk, and screw everyone around!" Except, you know, they are in their middle thirties. I don't say you have to have your shit together by that time or any other, God knows you never really do, and life has a marvelous way of sucker punch you when you think you have it balanced, but the over the top woe-is-me shit you are supposed to learn to manage after the hormones of puberty stabilize.

Every generation has challenges, and I reckon those that were born around the turn of the 20th century had a suck-fest of a raw deal, but what I saw inside this book was not just depression and insecurity over lost direction and of self, but a total lack of care for other people. I saw the phrase "moral bankruptcy" around, and I think that's and exact description, but it was treated as an excuse for how these particular characters act, because apparently it was a pervasive thing all around. News-flash: if everyone is a terrible person, and you act like everyone, you are still a terrible person.

 

So no, I have no love for these characters. Now, do I have any use for this book? *sigh* Thorny issue. If it was an accurate representation of the generation, I have to loose any surprise at seeing them fall right back into war; they all felt suicidal to me, and self-centered enough to blow up the world along with themselves.

 

So here's what I think: maybe it's useful, but I did not like it.

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review 2017-05-03 13:05
The Film Club: A True Story of a Father and Son
Unser allerbestes Jahr - David Gilmour,Adelheid Zöfel

Movie critiques and a father babbling about his teenage son suffering from his first heartache. Boring.

Nuff said.

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review 2017-04-30 18:24
Run! It's too late after you embark
Moby-Dick - Andrew Delbanco, Tom Quirk,Herman Melville

It's not often lately that I find a read that threatens to leave me clueless as to what I'm reading. I'm not talking content here (I'll get to that later), but sheer language. Between the heavy intertextuallity, the word usage and sentences structure, I found myself having no idea what the last paragraph or three meant, and have to backtrack, more than I liked. I though I was over that shit. Conceit corrected.

 

Next, the characters feel like ghosts. Even the narrator sometimes loses substance, becoming something airlike and almost omniscient. They are Ahab's crew. If you want to get all metaphysical, traits of humanity that are driven by one over-consuming. It goes just as well as you could expect.


Last, the story. The thing itself could be spun in a third of the length without loosing anything from the plot. But, and here is where the ambitious bastard trips you, most of the meaning, theme and depth is stored in the fat. All those hazed-eyes inducing chapters? They actually have a point. Damned all those lit analysis classes, much of an overarching understanding of the novel hinges on the Jonah's sermon and the whiteness chapters.

So, is it worth it? Hell if I know. I powered through the thing, even liked it to some extent, and I'm still unconvinced. There is a certain brilliance in what it attempts. To me, the whole idea (and what it feels like to read it) can be encompassed in one passage in ch16: Ishmael goes to Peleg to ask to go whaling for a "desire to see the world" and Peleg tells him to look across the bow of the docked ship. There is nothing but water, says Ishamel, and Peleg answers that's the world he'll see a whaling. You can read a summary of the book as you can see the sea from the shore.The wisdom of going whaling is seriously challenged after all.

 

But it's not the same.

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