Monday, December 05, 2016

Review: Silas Marner

Silas Marner Silas Marner by George Eliot
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The language and psychology of this classic were extraordinary, felt like Joyce at its best; but at the same time it was pure treacle. Still, I am proud to say I've "read" George Eliot: maybe someday Middlemarch.

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Friday, September 02, 2016

Review: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Performed by Michele-Denise Woods, this classic work flows so smoothly read aloud, like it was meant to be. Strangely the last disk broke, so I had to read the last portion from the novel itself: a perfect mixture of how to take in this book like true nourishment. There is so much truth to Hurston's observations about men and women, primal like old testament source material and wielding metaphors new and timeless. Kind of amazing to think how many ships this books set to sail, as short and simple as it is.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Buddha, Vol. 8: Jetavana

Buddha, Vol. 8: Jetavana Buddha, Vol. 8: Jetavana by Osamu Tezuka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

...and I'm done! Buddha, too. The lesson (no spoiler, really...): it's about us, y'all; the divine is in each and everyone of us. So proud to have done this Tezuka Saga.

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Review: Buddha, Vol. 7: Prince Ajatasattu

Buddha, Vol. 7: Prince Ajatasattu Buddha, Vol. 7: Prince Ajatasattu by Osamu Tezuka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The trials of middle age and bureaucracy.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review: Ayako

Ayako Ayako by Osamu Tezuka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was reading one of the Buddha books when waiting at the DMV and a Japanese man younger than me, got really excited saying "TezuKAH, he is the greatest. Very great. You must read more." He described Ayako as one of the artist's best, a classic that deals frankly with great problems for Japan after the war. His enthusiasm and intensity was so sincere and well received by me. I went right out to Kinokuniya and bought it. After page 200 or so I could not keep myself form reading the rest of the book in one sitting. When Tezuka does his adult works, there are illustrations that are so exquisite. His pacing is extraordinary, and his storycraft completes with great literature. Concurrent with this I am listening to Gogol's Dead Souls. There are parallels in the change from agrarian to modernist society, the pitfalls and tragi-comic themes.

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Review: Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ware's whole approach is pretty intense: extraordinarily ordinary, told with an unforgettable storytelling strategy. While this feels like a classic, I have a hard time adoring this as I might like.

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Review: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just love reading Murakami, even if this wasn't my favorite so far. This book begins in the first person, for two characters; from which I never quite recovered. I enjoy better how he creates characters slowly, and at a near distance. On the other hand, the author puts it best when he writes,"I love Maugham. I’ve read The Razor’s Edge three times. Maybe it’s not a spectacular novel, but it’s very readable. Better that than the other way around."

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Review: But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past

But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maybe the most ambitious Klosterman book yet? But not sure if I liked it. I read it in pretty much one sitting, on the plane to Iceland. Early on I thought it sucked. A high point, a conversation about dreams with Richard Linklater Buddha-like: "...I sense he's sweeping the floor of a very large room as we chat - his sentences are periodically punctuated by the dulcet swoosh of a broom. 'Dreams used to have a much larger role in the popular culture..."

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Review: The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism

The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism by Ross King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a terrific representation of the story of the Salon of mid-to-late 19th c. Paris, starring Messonier, Manet, Baudelaire, Nadar, Napolean III, Pissaro, et al. King interweaves remarkable overarching observations about culture, society and aesthetics with fascinating factoids about the artists and other cultural innovations. It's a strong audiobook presentation, a smooth listen. To be honest, I did not know that one of Manet's great, technical innovations was the white ground for oil paintings, rather than the darker grounds used since the Renaissance. I also did not quite realize the central role Pissaro played as an organizer of collective exhibitions and more than Monet. Saxophone invented in 1840?!

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another great audiobook that I had a tough time getting through as a real book. Dion Graham hit it out of the park...and good on Eggers to have a gifted African American actor be him, I guess. The work is very self indulgent and self aware of that. Early parts of the novel cut a little too close to home being so near to my own mother at her terminal stages of the cancer, then it was sweet to hear him tooling around the Bay Area. For Eggers's writing, I am more a fan of other later works, and I am glad my commute facilitated getting through his strong, lengthy, freshman opus.

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Monday, May 02, 2016

Review: Siddhartha

Siddhartha Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just "read" this for the second time, now as an audiobook. It was so satisfying to explore life's rich pageant; and to see one's life made up of changeable moments: chapters, moving from void to void. And in the end one of your oldest and dearest friends can lean forward to kiss you on the head, and you are Nirvana when you least expect it.

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Friday, April 08, 2016

Review: Buddha, Vol. 1: Kapilavastu

Buddha, Vol. 1: Kapilavastu Buddha, Vol. 1: Kapilavastu by Osamu Tezuka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Enjoying my forays into Manga, especially with a master of the medium ;), and digging in alongside my son. Though this one, on completion, I kicked out to my dear, old friend in Wisconsin. My boy's still on the Dragon Ball Z, One Piece and lighter fare. Hoping maybe to get through the following volumes. In this one, From my ignorance, i am still not even sure whose gonna be Buddha ;)

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review: East of Eden

East of Eden East of Eden by John Steinbeck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like a second degree in literature, I have been doing a great number of classic works on audiobooks as part of my commute. East of Eden was just about as epically intimate as intended. It felt so satisfying to touch a classic work like this in auditory format, listening is different than reading. In fact, it can be trusted better, right?

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Review: Introducing Derrida

Introducing Derrida Introducing Derrida by Jeff Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This précis was a good read, and helped my thinking around Derrida who I have read a decent amount of, but outside of any academic context that might have framed his thinking more broadly for my benefit. This work did not really do that but I enjoyed a few of the anecdotes it draws out, like Derrida's interpretation of the story of Pharmakon and the development of park outside Paris with Peter Eisenman and Bernard Tschumi.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: Hunting Badger

Hunting Badger Hunting Badger by Tony Hillerman
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Fun to read/hear really good detective fiction on the ride. Makes me think of my mom <3

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Friday, February 05, 2016

Review: Out of Africa

Out of Africa Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully crafted story, but it's hard to read at the same time as The Song of Dewey Beard. Dinesen writes so evocatively about her colonial role in Africa as a benevolent force, but it's tough to stomach concurrent with stories from the perspective of a 90 year old Lakota. I do want to see the movie again now, and Julie Harris reading was clear and evocative.

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Review: The Virgin and the Gypsy

The Virgin and the Gypsy The Virgin and the Gypsy by D.H. Lawrence
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

This was an odd little tale peopled with rural characters grappling with their relationship to water management. Yup. With descriptions of gypsies straight out of The Wolfman and a generous use of the term "Jewess," again and again. Two thirds of the way in I still had a feeling that this was a silly work. But as has been the case for me in earlier readings of Lawrence's fiction, by this novellas completion, all of a sudden, I realized it was a worthwhile.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Review: Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Annette Bening read this to me, and it was such good company. Poor Septimus, whose post-traumatic stresses ring out for so many homeless: if only they had his creature comforts. And Sally Seton wow! Rambling middle-age, seeds of so much madness to come in late-colonialism. I enjoyed this much more than "To the Lighthouse." Terrific prose passages.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review: The Kreutzer Sonata

The Kreutzer Sonata The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If there’s one thing my TV brain needs, it’s audiobooks and a long commute to finally get me through “War and Peace,” to even think about approaching the Russians even. I read “Fathers and Sons” when I was younger, but I am not sure if Turgenev counts? So this is my first flirtation. It’s an odd, short book. The reader Jonathan Oliver was a somewhat shrill, whiny Brit in his performance: http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.a... I am not sure if that was on purpose or not. Is this book meant to portray a classic, moralizing tale of a cuckold? Or is it a foreshadowing of the psychological novel and a direct line to “Lolita”? If you took Tolstoy’s afterward/apologia, considered him crazy and placed it in the front of this novella, it is as much a precursor as Nabakov’s own “The Enchanter.” I will have to look all this up a bit more, for now: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing ;)

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Friday, January 08, 2016

Review: From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia

From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia by Pankaj Mishra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a terrific book that has had a strong impact on my worldview - in big ways and small. I'd never heard of the three showcased writer/thinkers: Tagore, Liang and al-Afghani. I want to know more about James Sanu. Did you know the first "concentration camps," were part of the Boer War? And did you know that it was in Libya where Italy where "an aeroplane dropped a bomb for the first time in history...."? And having read Kropotkin and studied the anarchists, how did I not know about Alexander Herzen?!...lots to be learned.

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Review: Lolita

Lolita Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first read this book, it felt more surreal; and maybe I was more Quilti-ed out myself, dissolute or unfocused and it all felt like a lustrous cloud of language: unforgettable, I thought. Now, to hear it again, and to hear Jeremy irons read it, the dramatic peaks were more clear, the voices, the characters, the tensions. Now I gotta see the Kubrick flick again....and maybe even the Jeremy Irons one.

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Friday, January 01, 2016

Review: The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master's Son The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book may never leave my mind, somewhere, forever. As with so much right now, I listened to it. I did not actually read it, but the three-actor performance was extraordinary. I still felt like I got a sound grasp of its literary landscape. Honestly, I am not sure if I would have had the patience to make it through in its written form, given my own shortcomings.

Still, in the audiobook format I was nearly overwhelmed at times by the author’s gift for alliteration and graphic, compelling metaphors, almost as a language of its own, some Nabakovian dialect of American English.

The comparison to other authors feels necessary. There are fluent Faulknerian temporal fumblings and shifting narrators. It would all be more Orwellian if not feeling more “true;” and the accuracy of language is as well starched as the best of Orwell’s essays. Burgess' Clockwork Orange formerly felt untouchable for its patented acceptance of ultraviolence; and once only Melville appeared as ambitious in his effective desire to create and own the global arc of the ultimate novel and its hero.

Despite the highfalutin literary correlations here, really, when the book is done you are not sure whether it was, in fact, just one good, long, long Esquire article. And that might be the author’s finest trick: keeping this work of extraordinary art contained within a thin and remarkably believable veil of perfect expository prose, so that you absolutely accept every word of this piece of exquisite fiction.

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