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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