Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Tin Drum (by Gunter Grass)

This is officially the first reading project book I've read all year (I think it's on the Time List and the MLA list). It's one of Ian's favorite books, but I didn't like it. I found it grotesque and unpleasant. That is such a princessy review, I know. But although it's extremely well written, it depicts a reality I did not enjoy experiencing. (And the attitude toward women is very creepy; though if that's coming from the narrator rather than the author, I guess it's appropriate.)

In addition to zoning out when reading descriptions of scenery, I also hate reading about bodily fluids or bad stuff happening to animals, and there was a lot of that in this book. Every time I was reading it while commuting with Ian I would crack it open and say "I'll let you know when I get to a disgusting bodily fluid!" and it was within a few pages. Like, I get the eel thing, but do we really need this gratuitous boil-squeezing?

I started off thinking it was fantastic, just because the writing is so amazing. I did enjoy certain passages very much (the Onion Club comes to mind as a late-in-the-game scene that I really loved.) You'd think unpleasant unreliable narrators would totally be my thing, but I guess for me, I like there to be an external reality that the reader can discover between the lines--as in two of my favorite books of all time, Pale Fire and The Remains of the Day. Even in the deposition at the end of the book, it ends up being more magical realism, whereas I was expecting to find out some crucial clue about the "reality" of Oskar's existence.

Actually, come to think of it, maybe I don't like magical realism! I also hated Midnight's Children. If I hate Garcia Marquez too, once I finally get around to reading him, then we'll know for sure.

I suspect that this novel is a whole lot of fun to unpack symbolically. I'm sure Oskar represents Germany There are way too many suggestive connections to be made there. I've just been sitting here for two minutes thinking about it and I'm like, "Of course! First he's like a child and he has blue eyes, and then after the war he grows, except he's distorted, and his two fathers are one Nazi and one cowardly Polish guy, and Oskar's cut off from his Grandmother in the East, and his grandfather is in America, and..." So that's interesting. But I am really ready to find something else to read.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Eleanor of Aquitaine (by Alison Weir)

I continue to prefer Antonia Fraser, and actually, this was the least compelled I have ever been by a historical biography. Isabella kept me interested the whole time, but Eleanor, not so much. Which is surprising since I'd just seen The Lion in Winter and she's such a fascinating person and her sons and husbands were all so fascinating. It could have and should have been so much better, and I think it was just down to the writing style that didn't grab me so much. Plus, like, one of her sons (Geoffrey) died and I didn't even remember when or how it had happened! Turns out he was killed off in the middle of a paragraph. How ignominious. And since there were two other Geoffreys, I didn't even notice!

Friday, August 03, 2007

First Among Sequels: A Thursday Next Novel (by Jasper Fforde)

Although Fforde's series about Jack Spratt is fun, it's always paled in comparison to the Thursday Next series for me, probably because it's about the world of nursery rhymes rather than the world of literature, and I (in case you hadn't noticed) enjoy literature. I really enjoyed this one (it's probably my favorite Thursday book, in fact). As I neared the end, I was wondering how all the plotlines could possibly be resolved; and, although many were, I see that Fforde is planning another Next book. Yay! Yay!

(Oh man, according to Wikipedia it's due in 2009. Oh well, something to look forward to now that the Potter is gone.) (Also according to Wikipedia, there will be three more after that. Thanks, Fforde! All is Fforgiven!)

There are so many subtle clues and in-jokes in these books; I have to go back and re-read The Well of Lost Plots. When I started the first one I thought they were a little too cutesy, but this one hits exactly the right note. I would tell you to go read it, but you'll be totally lost if you don't read the first three. Or will you? I don't know. Maybe you should give it a try. These books are a hell of a lot of fun, especially if you're into lit. (The series was recommended to me by an English prof at Pope Hilarius.)

I am now digging into the forums at Jasper Fforde's website and finding out just how much stuff I missed. It's... a lot. I missed a lot. Brainy, booky types: these are like candy for the brain. Check them out.