Sunday, December 7, 2008

Book Review

There is more reason to read Charlie Huston's The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death than that it has a good title.

So long as you have a strong stomach, or at least like grossing yourself out, the book is thoroughly enjoyable. I, myself, fall in the former category, and so really liked reading this novel.

The great title is derived from the occupation the protagonist, Web, finds himself executing. Due to the slothful manner in which he deals with a tragic event, after some time of unemployment, Web has some debts to pay off which result in his agreeing to help clean up crime scenes. Along the way, the apathetic narrator and protagonist meets many colorful characters with whom he becomes involved in some form, including romantic interest and physical conflict.

With this novel, Huston has written something which is not found often enough: a great read. The novel reads quickly, but still makes the reader think. This book challenges the intellect without causing one's brain to hurt. There are moments when the reader may literally laugh out loud.

To be honest, I wasn't prepared to like this book. It is gritty, and the dialogue is fast-paced and witty in a way that many writers can't pull off. Yet I did enjoy this book. The human interaction in this book is very real. The protagonist is a very difficult character, and has reacted to the tragedy he endured in a manner which makes him, at times, (some would say most of the time,) unlikeable. He does, however, eventually confront what has happened, and the book ends with a feeling of hope without a cliche attached.

Reading Challenge

The Intro:

I've joined:(The picture is a link, so if you're interested, click it to read the original post & join.)

The RULES (for my own reference as much as for anyone else's edification):

1) "Romance" doesn't mean books-with-no-plot-and-no-reason-to-read-them-other-than-the-sex-scenes (although those count, too). Romance is a broad term, and in this instance, refers to any book in which two protagonists fall in love with each other.

2) This Challenge involves reading at least 5 books that fall into the category described in the first rule sometime during the year of 2009.

3) These books are to be read between January 1 & December 31, and then the reader who so spontaneously joined this challenge is to write a review & link it to the bookworm's original post.

4) The reading choices, which can be changed at any time, are to be linked with one of the graphics on the bookworm's original post (note the Jane Austen Book Club pic. above).

5) If interested, be sure to go to the bookworm's original post & leave a comment.

My Choices:

1) TwilightYeah, yeah, I know. I could barely stand reading it the first time. But I want to give it another shot. It does involve romance, and I like vampires, and maybe I gave the hype surrounding this book too much credence. I didn't see anything in the rules for this challenge that prohibited re-reading. So I'm going to re-read this book, and write a review, and see if I really dislike this book as much as I originally did, or if I think converting to Mormonism is a good idea.

2) The Jane Austen Book Club
I've heard mixed reviews of this book. I watched the movie version of it, and rather liked that, making me think I might like the book. Unfortunately, it's very hard to write books that deal with Austen matter well. But I'm willing to give this a shot.

3) The Notebook
I really didn't like this movie. I would probably like it even less, now, as my cynicism seems to increase as the years pass. But my mother loved the book, so I'm interested in reading the novel. I usually like the books better than the movies made from them.

4) 13 Little Blue Envelopes
To be honest, I'm not sure if this is a romance. If it's not, I'll modify my list after reading it. I recently read Let It Snow, of which Johnson is one of the authors. I liked her story best. And I love her blog. (If you haven't read it, you should - Ms. Johnson is a funny woman.) I got the impression it was a romance from reading the back cover in the bookstore. But reading the Amazon reviews is making me dubious. So this is my questionable fourth choice.

5) Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride
As I indicated previously, I am a huge Austen fan. That adjective is not meant to denote my girth, (which is, admittedly, larger than I desire,) but rather, my adoration for the works of Jane Austen. So every once in awhile, I try to read a book which is written by another avid Austen fan. I'm not (yet) a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America or anything quite so hardcore, involving monetary compensation other than that required to purchase books, but I do love a good novel. And I don't think anyone can honestly claim Ms. Austen didn't write good novels. Six of them, in fact. The reviews of this novel aren't as lukewarm as some others, so I will cross my fingers that this book will be fabulous.

The Conclusion:

Well, that's it for this post. With the exception of number four, I definitely picked four romance novels, and hopefully will have good reviews to write for them all. Even Twilight. We shall see.

Wish me luck, and if you like to read yourself, join me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Confusions Caused by Reading Nabokov

Well, my confusions from reading Nabokov.

I recently read that well known work Lolita. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting. It was good. It was well written and engaged my attention (and gag reflex). And it just read like something literary. Something that has to last, because it's just too good not to be read for the next 500 years.

But I'm not sure I understood it.

Maybe I'm being dumb - seriously, I'll admit, I can be a real ditz sometimes.

Yet I feel like I didn't get what I was supposed to get out of that novel. My aunt read some of his work and said he's a pedophile. Or pederast. I forget which, but both are perverted and involve younger people, though one is biased with regards to gender. So my aunt read Lolita (and some other things) and came away with the idea that Nabokov was a pervert. And the term "Lolita" is used for a young seductress.

So was I adding things to the work to make it more palatable? Or does some reading between the lines help a person come up with the version of Lolita it currently holds in my mind?

I got the idea that Lolita was a regular teenage girl. That she had, unfortunately, fallen onto the radar of a pervert who picked a stupid pseudonym for his confession. That she initially had a crush on this man, which isn't that surprising, as he seems to be genuinely handsome, and that she was taken advantage of.

Even if she made the first move, which seems to consist of some kisses and some flirting, as an adult, Humbert Humbert should have repelled her childish advances. Right?

And there are comments in his writing that make it seem, to me, like he's not to be trusted. He claims she made the first move, but when he describes the THREE TIMES he ravaged the girl, he uses something along the lines of a child cringing. And she later keeps talking about how he raped her. And she cries every night. It seemed to me like Humbert Humbert was coloring his account to make himself look better. Not okay, just better.

It seemed to me like Ms. Haze was competing with her mother for the attention of a handsome man, and didn't actually think that her flirtation would have the results that it did. Maybe she even wanted to have sex with him, but the manner in which she acted that night in the Enchanted Hunters hotel made me think otherwise. If so, it seems she regretted it during or immediately after the consummation of any such desires.

To me.

Am I wrong? Or are there just two ways of analyzing the material present in Nabokov's book?