Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Books 41-50.

Not that I'm going to be done with Anna Karenina anytime soon. But I thought it would be interesting to see what is next on the list.

41. Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley (1923)
42.The Apes of God by Wyndham Lewis (1930)
43.Arcanum 17 by Andre Breton (1945)
44.Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (1873)
45.Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe (1964)
46.The Artamonov Business by Maxim Gorky (1925)
47.An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (1986)
48.As if I Am Not Thereby Slavenka Drakulic (1999)
49.Asphodel by H.D. (1992)
50.At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O'Neill (2001)

I've never read any of these. I wonder if I will like the first few books of this grouping. Several of the books that were written around that era have not been my favorites, but I never know from book to book which I'm going to like and which I'm going to hate. I'm looking forward to the Achebe book and the Jules Verne book particularly.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Running amok.

Amok by Stefan Zweig is not really a book, it's more of a short story. The writing is incredible. I know it was originally German so the translator deserves credit as well as the author, but wow. Just amazing.

I never knew where the phrase "running amok" came from until I read this. It basically refers to a person who has gone crazy from the tropical heat, alcohol, etc and runs around doing crazy things until stricken down. So one of the characters here has run amok.

I just can't get over how fantastic the writing was! I'm also surprised I never heard of Zweig till reading this.

Next up for me is Anna Karenina which is super long. So it may be a while before I post again!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Where pigs rule the world. A fairy tale.

I'm glad I read the introduction to Animal Farm by George Orwell. I learned a lot about him and the background to this book that I wouldn't have otherwise known. I'm SURE I would have misunderstood the book if I were to just read it without having the background. I would have understood that it was a satire on Stalinism/Communism but I wouldn't have known or understood that Orwell was actually liberal and wasn't anti-socialism, but just critical of how it was implemented at that time in the Soviet Union.

I also found it interesting that Orwell referred to the story as a fairy tale. It can be read on the surface as a story of animals running a farm. I did that reading Lord of the Flies in high school. I just didn't get what the whole big deal was! I also liked how simple the language and story were. It was very straightforward describing events as they happened with not much character development. Not that you need much when the leading characters are pigs, I suppose.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A world of disappointment.

I just finished Another World by Pat Barker. When I started reading this book it sounded super interesting and I was all excited to see where the story led. Unfortunately the book kind of fizzled out for me at the end. The parts of the plot I was interested in just sort of...went away. I felt like the author really missed some interesting opportunities with this book.

Parts of this story made me sad, too. There's a bit of toddler violence in this book, and that was hard to read. It made me hug my little one very tightly.

That ends my vacation reads for this year! Big thanks to Marissa for checking out these from the library for me!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fun with words.

Words are the star of Lorrie Moore's Anagrams. This book has an interesting construction. The beginning part seems like a few short stories with the same characters, while the longer last section develops the characters more fully. The main character, Benna, is a college poetry professor and it is often in the classroom setting where the reader can see what is going on with her feelings and emotions through words that she uses with her class.

The book is sad. There is a lot of loneliness in Benna's life and the extent of it isn't really all revealed until the last few pages. This was a really good book though and I'm definitely glad I read it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

In which no one is actually named Absalom.

Yes it's true, I finally finished Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! I didn't love this one. The story and complex familial relations are great, but I find Faulkner's writing exhausting. In the edition of the book that I got from the library, there is a timeline and character synopsis for the major players, and I thought that was immensely helpful.

I found (and still find) the lack of an actual character named Absalom funny. That's like publishing a grilling cookbook and naming it Cupcakes, Cupcakes! I decided to look up what the name "Absalom" meant, hoping to clarify. The name means "father of peace" and refers to King Solomon's son, Absalom, who wanted to take over the throne. It's often associated with terrible grief, and that makes total sense because this novel is full of sadness and more sadness.

I think this is one for me to revisit in the future. The story is rich and I like the premise, but Faulkner is a tough one to read.


Thursday, July 8, 2010


Amsterdam by Ian McEwan is really short. I picked it up and thought, hmmm. Tiny, as my daughter would say. I wondered how much could really go on in such a small volume.

It turns out a whole lot can go on in 185ish pages. This book was so good! I couldn't believe how neatly the story fit together and how entertaining it was! The whole idea behind the book is so unique, too. I loved it! It took me some time to get the hang of who was who at the beginning but it was pretty well sorted out in my head a few pages in. Lots of moral questions presented in here too. I'm amazed the author got this all into such a short book.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


John McGahern's book Amongst Women is very melancholy. I am on vacation now, and I have to say it isn't a typical vacation read. The story follows a man who was abusive to his children and his last few years of life, how he interacts with his kids and how they relate to him and how their lives develop. It is sad, but beautifully beautifully written. It is one of those books where the portrait of the life and environment where the characters live is just amazing.

A weird vacation read, but very good.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

From the outside looking in.

I just finished Amerika by Franz Kafka. I was in a rush to finish this and get it back to the library before we go away on vacation, and I did get through it. Kafka did not finish the novel so there is a huge leap in the book - it's like about 8 or 9 middle chapters are missing, and the last chapter is not finished either. (And I'm pretty sure that the gaps are real, it wasn't just me skimming.)

I read in the introduction that Kafka never visited the United States, so the book is an interesting perspective on this country from someone who had not been here. The Statute of Liberty holding a sword is probably the best illustration of that.

This was a decent book, I didn't mind the characters and the plot seemed to move along okay (except for the big jump and the unfinished ending obviously). I don't really know how memorable it will be though when compared to some of the other ones I have been reading recently.

I didn't know what Kafkaesque meant until I started this book. I think I was supposed to have read The Metamorphosis at some point in my educational career, but I don't know if I ever actually did. I think this might be the first book I've ever read by Kafka.

Looking forward to seeing Marissa for a few days starting tomorrow!