Say something about yourself!
I love/hate Umberto Eco. "Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself..." There are very few authors as complex and knowledgeable; there are even fewer that can challenge and inspire as Umberto Eco. I have re-read, cross referenced, and researched, as much while reading his books as when writing my dissertation--but isn't that what great writers do for us? They expand us. And, while I always feel a bit obtuse reading Eco, I always come away enlightened. His mind is an encyclopedia, all-encompassing, his wit is delightful and at the same time biting and hilarious.
Prague Cemetery's plot is intricate to say the least--19th century European espionage, conspiracy theories, Freemasons, Jesuits, Illuminati, Hitler, Dumas, Hugo, "Froide", Satanists, the New World Order and the Elders of Zion. All the more fascinating because of Eco's background in Semiotics, and the VERY interesting "A Note From the Author" wherein Eco personally explains the characters actually existed! [*see Amazon.com site to read this letter to the 'Dear Amazon Readers']. The story is told by a vitriolic schizo character with "a soul so dark as to cast a shadow in hell'; he could easily be a monster straight out of Eco's On Ugliness. Within 30 min. the mystery narrator ("pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name, woo woo.") offends, criticizes, disgusts, and outrages every race, nationality, ethnicity, sex, and religion--his only complimentary words used to describe the gourmet dishes he savors. Perhaps my only complaint: with such powerful elements and such an engrossing storyline, I'd have appreciated less venom--but I hope Eco never conforms to my personal predilections! (And wouldn't a recipe companion be too fabulous!)
Undeniably a difficult read (for me at least), and not meant for people that tend to be easily personally insulted. It's meant to be disturbing, it's meant to agitate some brain cells. Kirkus review probably summed it up best with this one word: HUMDINGER. While The Name of the Rose remains my favorite Eco novel, I found Prague Cemetery absolutely fascinating and will enjoy the personal prerequisite second, possible third, listen. George Guidall does a lovely job of narrating the translation, as if you are reading beautiful Italian with your English brain.
Persevere; I think of my mother saying to me, "Sit down and practice that piano! One day you'll thank me!" Read Eco and you'll thank yourself.
The Chaperone simultaneously depicts the changing social culture during the 1920's, as well as the feminist self-awakening of small town Wichitan, Cora Carlisle. The author uses actual historical events, places, and people to shuffle us through this momentous era - almost Forest Gump style - with recognizable period icons gliding along in Cora's backdrop like pictures in a scrapbook of her life, (flapper girls, bathtub gin, the Jazz age, racism and the KKK, women's suffrage, birth control, etc.). These fascinating images embellish Cora's recollections; they are recognizable, relatable, and immediately draw in the listener. The most exciting vehicle in Cora's transforming journey is the famous silent film star Louise Brooks, who is used more as a catalyst for the stoic Cora's introspection, and a representative image (and result) of rebellion, than a co-star in the book.
This book is immediately enchanting and breezy with nicely shaped characters, that coincidentally represent different personal pathways in this changing time (almost allegorical); sometimes appearing a little too convenient, a little too token--but understandably necessary to carry this story in its evolution. The pacing was a little bothersome...initially, I enjoyed being able, while I listened, to compare where we are now with our social mores, how we are still struggling with some of the same issues and restrictions; later, the story seemed to jump ahead, speed up, step back, and skip over important details. Moriarty so skillfully lays out the images and feelings of the era, the vivid streets of New York, the tumultuous social clashes, and I would have liked for her to use that talent to tell us more about the war, the depression, the Dust Bowl (which would have made a book double the size - but would have been all right with me; call me selfish).
I can't end without mentioning one of the most important underlying issues; the sexual abuse of Louise. I haven't read Louise's own account of her childhood, or testimonies to the 15 yr. old's psychological maturity, but, I know that being routinely sexually abused from the age of 9 yrs. old would not create a 15 yr. old girl that is cool, savvy, and spunky--as Louise was portrayed. The author hints at the self-destruction, and the reader follows the logic that she was a self-driven, uncannily beautiful woman, at ease with her sexuality and ahead of her times, when in reality, a background of such extreme abuse would sadly play itself out throughout a victimized person's life--and that was what was so heartbreaking about, and destructive to, Louise.
A touching and entertaining read I highly recommend. Elizabeth McGovern does a beautiful job, giving each character the emotional depth and individuality needed to do justice to such a huge story. You can't go wrong picking this one; a classic in the making.
[Why not ignore that awesome stalker just waiting, finger poised over the *no* help button?]
After this enjoyable experience, I intend to look up other books by this author. Rutherfurd did an admirable job condensing 700 plus years of history, from several different class perspectives, in Paris: The Novel--although "condensing" may seem an odd word to use when referring to an almost 39 hour book. But the information is as significant and as impressive as the book's girth.The tangled machinations of politics, religion, social position, etc., was intriguing, given added color by the personalities entwined in the years of rich history. The timelines that crossed America's progression with where Paris was at a particular place in it's historic march fascinated me, reminding me that we are a young country in comparison. The embellished dialogue sometimes seemed staged to facilitate passages of information, as is often the case with this kind of historical fiction (an great-aunt takes her very young children on a Sunday afternoon stroll, giving quite a lengthy discourse on the history of the Louvre, or Notre Dame) but so much information is given that I enjoyed these episodes (that reminded me a little of following the knowledgeable group-guide with the flag). With such an abundance of information, I'm sure that even the most erudite Francophiles will be enlightened.
*Please allow me: To you who follow certain reviewers just for the sole purpose to vote no after reading their reviews, usually before even reading them at all...just stop reading them; follow someone else; write your own freaking reviews that enlightens us all as to what IS helpful; gut-up. There are reviewers that don't write anymore and now I understand why. Keep some dignity and class in this "community". "Mean people suck." ( I'd give that statement a *yes this was helpful.*)
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Brutally violent, Blood Meridian turns the 19th century American West into a kind of hellish but hauntingly beautiful dreamscape, through which a gang of mercenaries wanders, killing without aim or reason. There is no comfort to be found anywhere in this novel, which overturns all Old West Myths, leaving only a stark, maddening world in which man exists on the edge of nihilism, "civilization" an illusion. The characters are almost opaque, reduced to actions in minimal dialogue. Even the language seems intended to confound and discomfit the reader, mixing arcane, half-forgotten scientific and philosophical terms with passages that sound almost like something from the Bible.
Yet, McCarthy is the definition of a powerful writer. His prose is hypnotic, the book's scenes affecting the reader as much by their eerie beauty and lyricism as by the horror and violence contained within. Their images will stick around in your head for days. The Judge, a monstrous, demihuman prodigy at the center of novel, whose amused, philosophical queries about whether or not the scenes around him represent man in man's natural state, is one of the more memorable characters I've come across in fiction.
Make no mistake, Blood Meridian is filled with powerful questions, about morality, about evil, about humanity's need for violence and dominance, about the nature of God, and so forth. Sometimes these questions are expressed explicitly, usually by the Judge, but mostly, they swirl just beneath the surface of the nightmare, challenging the reader to peer into the abyss and examine them. Though we don't live in such lawless times anymore, the distance from our safe doorsteps to the modern equivalent of a gang of roving, murderous scalpers may be shorter than we think.
McCarthy will certainly never be an author to everyone's taste, and not with this work, but Blood Meridian has made a few critics' "Best of the 20th Century" lists for a good reason. This is a first-rate work of modern literature.