Thursday, March 15, 2012


So it has been 80 for the last 3 days. In DC. In mid March. I've had to put the A/C on at night and have shorts on. I'm as tired of winter as the next person, but 80 just feels like too much too soon. I like a few weeks of mild temperatures before we go straight into full on summer. Plus, if it's 80 in mid-March, I fear what August is going to be like.

Ismail Kadare's Broken April is a fantastic novel. So apparently in the mountain regions of Albania, there are these blood feuds. The Kanun, the local code, permits murder to avenge murder if certain conditions are followed. So what winds up happening is that families engaged in a blood feud take turns killing members of the other's family. The hero, Gjorg, kills a member of the rival family to avenge his own brother's murder. This takes place in mid-March. The Kanun provides for a 30 day truce before Gjorg is allowed to be murdered by the other family. The book is about this last month, where he travels around and basically gets ready for his death. I loved reading about the customs and traditions of the people, and the descriptions in this book were just so beautiful. You could feel the end of winter chill and the little warmth that was beginning spring. The book seemed unseasonable to me because usually spring is the time where new things start to grow, but Gjorg is getting ready to die. He's dreading mid April when the truce ends and the other family is allowed to ambush and kill him.

I just loved this book. I'm surprised that my local library didn't have it. I would recommend this to anyone.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Life's a beach.

When I was little, I always thought it would be pretty much the best thing ever to live in a beach town or a ski resort town. The vacation fun never stops when you live there year round, right? Right? While on the vacation, I used to imagine the house my family would live in and what our day to day existence would be like. Fortunately (though perhaps unfortunately for 11 year old me) my parents knew better and dutifully returned all of us to our non-beach, non-ski resort town at the end of every vacation.

The characters in Brighton Rock do live in a resort town. It is nothing like a daily vacation that I used to dream about when little, though. They are gang members in a mob of young thugs that is falling apart. They continually try to consolidate their power against the rival (and much better funded) Colleoni gang, only to be thwarted at every opportunity. Basically, they kill someone, then to cover their tracks, they keep having to kill other people, until there are like 2 gang members left. Plus the head of the gang figures he has to marry a local waitress who has a clue to the murder so that she cannot testify about what she saw. The book is dark and sad. I couldn't help feeling bad for Pinkie, the mob leader, and Rose, the young woman who he marries. They are just sad, sad people.

I liked this book though. I liked how it was set up with the gang members constantly trying to outwit Ida Arnold, who has seen something and is out to discover the truth about the original death.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Crazy, but fun.

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut was pretty cool. It started off kind of slow (but with a lot of amusing social commentary). As the book progressed, it got more and more frenetic. The author inserts himself into the action and actually becomes a participant in all the crazy nonsense that is going on. You know how usually the narrator is kind of invisible and describes the action? Here, the narrator pulls up beside one of his characters and explains that he created the character and is in control of him. The character is a little astonished by this. The narrator is on the outside, looking in, but also on the inside, looking out.

I liked this book- it was amusing and pretty cool. Sometimes books from this time period are a little too crazy for me. For example, the book with a hole in the middle of it. This one was nuts, but in an interesting, fun way.