Thursday, October 21, 2010

A look at the Holocaust through a man's memories.

The book jacket of Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald makes it sound like a mystery story - a man is trying to find out his real identity. Which it is, but it is a lot more based in history and European life than the book jacket makes it sound. It is a sad, melancholy, complex book. Quite a bit of time is spent on descriptions of various train stations and public spaces in Europe. Don't get me wrong, I totally understand why it is on the list and I am glad to have read it, but it wasn't really what I expected either. Maybe I'm not sure what I expected.

Also, I have been telling my daughter that there aren't usually pictures in Mama's books - so much that she says, "No pictures Mama's book" when she sees one. This book made a liar out of me.

Marissa, I think you'll be interested to read the descriptions of libraries in this book.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

An airhead exhibition.

One of the reasons that I have been enjoying this project is that I haven't really read a lot of great literature in my life and I think I can appreciate it now. However, sometimes some of these books just leave me shaking my head - I am clearly missing something. I usually get what is going on in most of these, but The Atrocity Exhibition exposes me as the airhead that I sometimes am.

J. G. Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition is a short story that is about 11 pages long. It focuses on (I think) a sort of World War III situation, a guy who might be insane, some other characters that are trying to take over his mind or have him do these weird things for him, and some mannequins. I'm glad it was short because I just don't get it and I felt dumb!

Read so far: 53/1001. It's been about a year and I'm about 5% through.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More than a historical novel.

I really liked Atonement by Ian McEwan and I can see why it was honored with so many prizes. It starts off and you think it is a really well written historical novel - and then as you keep reading you realize that the author is doing a couple of really cool things. You wind up questioning who the narrator is and how much he or she actually knows about the events described in the book. I don't want to say too much more because I don't want to spoil it. This is one that I think Mike would really enjoy and I hope he has a chance to read it soon.

Also, McEwan captured the 13-year old girl so well in the early part of the novel. I could definitely relate to her urge to write, create, put on a play, write a story and give it decorative covers, etc.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A book within a book within a...

At Swim Two Birds is a crazy, fun, sometimes confusing book. The main character is writing a book. In his book, the main character is writing a book. And the main character's characters do some writing of their own, too. It was very hard for me to keep the layers straight and remember who was who.

This book reminds me a little of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. That book didn't have the layers to it like this one but something about how it was set up called that book to mind. (Jonathan Strange is probably my favorite book I've read in the last few years before starting this project, by the way.) But weirdly, I can't decide if I liked this or not. It's definitely a cool concept and good writing and laugh-out-loud funny in places, but it was also pretty out there.

Great character name: The Pooka MacPhellimey

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Should we be reading this at all?

H.D. wanted Asphodel destroyed and it was never published during her life. This fact makes me wonder...should we read this? Do we have a right to read something the author doesn't want us to? There is definitely stuff I have written that it would be embarrassing to go reread now (Business Planning paper, I'm talking about you) and I can't imagine how that would be on a larger scale. Anyway.

This book is about a somewhat navel gazing young woman based on H.D. who goes to live in Europe during the World War I era. I thought it was pretty good. I couldn't figure out what any of the characters did for money but I'm guessing they were supported by upper class families. H.D.'s style can be difficult to read at times. It's almost like a stream of consciousness.