Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Teaser Tuesday (December 8)

It's Teaser Tuesday! This is an event hosted by MizB at http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com/ :
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share 2 teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Be careful not to include spoileers
  • Make sure to include the title and author so others know what to put on their TBR list.
"She recounted the intimate details of her honey moon while sitting on the edge of Fraidy's bed, pleating the crocheted bedspread between her fingers. (Poor Fraidy was down with a summer cold.) Daisy told her dear old trusted school friends
everything - everything except the fact that she had sneezed just before Harold fell out the window, also that she had remained frozen on the bed for a minute or more afterward, her eyes staring at the ceiling, feeling herself already drifting toward the far end of this calamity."
-The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Mare MacDonald

I rather cheated and picked one of the books that I had chosen for the A to Z 2010 challenge and read it early- I'll amend the list later.

This is one of those epic books that recounts several tragic generations family who lives in semi-seclusion. I think this must be a branch of gothic literature.

The first half of the book is about the elopement of 18-year old James Piper with 12-going-on-13 year old Materia, their early marriage, and their daughters. A slow horror disguised as love develops through this half of the book with a foreshadowing that seems more like being beaten over the head rather than suggestion. After a heart-rending, terrifyingly, creepy scene in the middle of the book the horror calms and pretends to disappear for a bit. The second half of the book focuses on James' and Materia's three younger daughters, Mercedes, Frances, and Lilly, and their relationships.

It's tough to say anything about this book. What happens in the book is so horrible but the way that it is portrayed in a slow dreamy manner steeped in forgiveness makes it a tough pill to take. I like my tragedy to come with the anger that I feel it deserves. Anyways, this is a well-written book and worth reading, I just don't think that I'll be rereading it.

I also just finished reading We have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson and the two books are sort of sitting in my head. Together they remind me of The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel by Diane Setterfield. But once again I'm getting my orders confused, The Thirteenth Tale was written more recently than either book.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

All Souls by Javier Marias

This is a beautiful, difficult, short book. Despite its short length I found that it took quite a bit longer to read than I would have suspected. I attribute part of this to how Marias's paragraphs rival Proust's in length, making it difficult to either stop or start again without reading back a few pages.

The unnamed narrator is a visiting professor at Oxford university for two years. He describes Oxford as a place where people do nothing and "where simply being is much more important than doing or even acting". The first chapter describes an individual who embodies these characteristics, Will, the porter to the building in which the narrator works:
"But the person who most clearly gave the lie to all these feigned attempts at activity, and who truly embodied the stasis or stability of the place, was Will, the ancient porter of the building... Will literally did not know what day it was and spent each morning in a different year, traveling backwards and forwards in time according to his desires or, more likely, quite independently of any conscious desire on his part."
The rest of the novel is similarly aimless and episodic such that each chapter could stand as a complete piece. The narrator has an affair with a married coworker and walks through Oxford visiting used bookstores looking for books of obscure authors. In that respect this book reminded me a bit of The Savage Detectives (or rather, I think The Savage Detectives reminds me of this book- All Souls was written first) in which some of the narrators spent a lot of time dreamily recounting authors of another generation.

I think this will be a book that I eventually buy and reread. It is an enjoyable read as long as I'm in the mood for a meandering story that isn't plot-driven. The descriptions are lovely and there is a lost dream-like atmosphere that I think would be perfect for a hot summer afternoon. At the same time, this is a difficult read due to the almost non-existent plot.

I think I remember someone once saying that the sign of a good book is that it makes you want to read more. In that respect, this is a good book. Not only do I want to read more of Marias's books but I also want to read those of Arthur Machen, one of the obscure authors that the narrator mentions. An old man, wandering with a three-legged dog, tells our narrator,
"Machen's horrors are very subtle. They depend in large part on the association of ideas. On the conjunction of ideas. On the capacity for bringing them together. You might never see the horror implicit in each of those ideas, and thus never in your whole life recognize the horror they contain. But you could live immersed in that horror if you were unfortunate enough always to make the right associations."
Now, don't you want to read one of his books in order to find out what that horror is? I've requested a book of Machen's from the library and so will hopefully be able to find out soon.

As for the book that I'm going to read next. I think that is likely to be Falling Man by Don DeLillo. I also think that I'm going to brave the crowds at the stores later this evening and look for my single book purchase of the month!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A to Z Challenge 2010

Everyone seems to be joining many lovely looking challenges and I've been trying to keep an eye out for when they start in order to get in on the 2010 challenge action but without much luck so far. I did however find one that is starting up which fits in perfectly with my goal: the A to Z Challenge. I am choosing the 26 book author-based option. In short, you read a book per letter where the author's name starts with (in most cases) the letter. Naturally the books that I've picked have come from the 1001 list. Here is a working copy of my list:

The House of the Spirits Isabel Allende
The Sea John Banville
Breakfast at Tiffany’s Truman Capote
The Mandarins Simone de Beauvoir
Like Water for Chocolate Laura Esquivel
The Magus John Fowles
Cold Comfort Farm Stella Gibbons
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time Mark Haddon
A Pale View of Hills Kazuo Ishiguro
The Storm of Steel Ernst Junger
The Fan Man William Kotzwinkle
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold John Le Carré
Your Face Tomorrow Javier Marias
Suite Francaise Irene Nemirovsky
The English Patient Michael Ondaatje
Snow Orhan Pamuk
Exercises in Style Raymond Queneau
Jealousy Alain Robbe-Grillet
The Reader Bernhard Schlink
The Master Colm Tóibín
Rabbit, Run John Updike
Bartleby and Co. Enrique Vila-Matas
Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh
Half of Man is Woman Zhang Xianliang
Kitchen Banana Yoshimoto
Nana Émile Zola

Some of my letters are coming from articles rather than the names- de Beauvoir for example- but I'm hoping no one will be too picky about that. It's about the reading, right?

I'm hoping that there will be a chunkster challenge this year. I think a few of these books are fairly large (some of them are nice and short as well). There is nothing quite so exciting as a chunky book. Roller-coasters are overrated- I get my thrills from long reads.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesday (November 24)

It's Teaser Tuesday! I'm copying these rules from MizB at http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com/ who is hosting this event:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share 2 teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Make sure to include the title and author so others know what to put on their TBR list.
"I've also seen a photo of his death mask. When they made it, he had just renounced both age
and the passage of time but only the moment before he had been a man of fifty-eight."
-All Souls by Javier Marias

Monday, November 23, 2009

An Artist of the Floating World -Kazuo Ishiguro

I made a deal with myself during the summer, that every time I get a paycheck (once per month) I am allowed to buy one book as long as I read that book before I buy the next. This is how Ishiguro's An Artist of the Floating World landed on my bookshelf. I read Never Let me Go either late last year or early this year and have since read all of his books that I can get my hands on. I think that either The Remains of the Day or When we were Orphans is my favorite of his so far.

Aren't both of these covers beautiful? My copy is the same as the one on the right, but I like both quite a bit.

An Artist is a quick read, just a hair over 200 pages. While I was reading it I wanted to describe it as "superficially a japanese Remains of the Day" but then I realized that, in reality, superficially they don't actually resemble each other. Both take place during the post-war years, and involve men looking back over their lives and questioning the decisions that they made during the war years (I'm taking this to be the non-superficial resemblance). However the Remains takes place in Britain and the main character is an aging butler while An Artist takes place in Japan and the main character is a retired artist who's come to regret his patriotic stances during the war.

This is a really beautiful book and I don't want to describe too much of Ono's thoughts and remembrances of his career because I really can't do it justice. I definitely recommend this one.

I think it is odd that most of Ishiguro's books seem to take on the point of view of a character looking back over his or her life. Mr.Stevens, the butler from the Remains of the Day, Kathy is looking over her short life with Tommy and Ruth in Never Let Me Go, and I have a theory that The Unconsoled is also a narration of someone with dementia remembering their life. What I find odd though, is that Ishiguro is so young to be so familiar with this point of view. He is only 55 and would have been about 30 when he wrote An Artist. At any rate, I think he is one of my favorite authors.

I'm not sure what I will be reading next. I might just reach for the next book on my stack which appears to be All Souls by Javier Marias.

Happy reading!