Mesa, AZ, United States
There's a whole swath of novels I purchased in my twenties but knowing the authors' genius never felt quite ready to read (ah, tomorrow). It took me years to crack open these 'Infinite Jests', 'Moby-Dicks', these 'Recognitions' and 'Brothers Karamazovs', etc. Well, after reading 11 previous (not in time only in MY reading are some of these actually previous) Nabokov novels, and never really tripped by any, I was finally in the right spot in my life to read 'Ada, or Ardor' and give that novel the more than titular attention Nabokov's novels all demand.
Please remember people, this novel is so much more than a book about a cousin/brother who loves his cousin/sister. There is also another 1/2 sister involved, oh and IT is a book about time, memory, love. It is a novel about the past and the present (no not the future, never the future). IT is a romance of Tolstoy, Proust AND Time. IT is festooned with all the fantastic elements of Nabokov: his language, his structural genius, his playful doubling, his love of place and people. The whole novel is a giant painting where Nabokov unscrews all his paints and surrounds the canvas. He isn't satisfied with painting one side. No. The Big N wants to unwind and unroll that big cotton canvas, stretch it, and paint front and back. He wants to over-paint. HE will garish the floor, the ceiling, the walls. Nabokov hides stories within stories.
Reading Nabokov's great novels is like finding yourself alone in a beautiful park on a perfect day and suddenly your senses overwhelmed by the smell, the light, the butterflies and memories of your past. It is like an emotional contrast flush. Nabokov has intravenusly warmed you instantly from head to foot - and ZAP! WHOOP! WHOOP! Reading almost never ever gets better than Nabokov when the Master is on fire (Lolita; Pale Fire; Speak, Memory; and Ada, or Ardor).
**Don't think sorry's easily said
Don't try turning tables instead
You've taken lots of chances before
But I ain't gonna give anymore, don't ask me
That's how it goes
Cause part of me knows what you're thinkin'**
Like most of PKD's novels, 'Eye in the Sky' has several things going on at once. It is a not-so-subtle Anti-McCarthyism tract (written in 1957, close to the end of peak Red Scare), showing the absurdity of prosecuting and persecuting people for what they think. After that is is a rather interesting, but still flawed and uneven Sci-Fi novel that shows what happens wen those thoughts are the very thing that controls the Universe. You let the mind of an old, religious dogmatist control the Universe and you end up with a tribal deity, reminiscent of the angry and arbitrary God of the Old Testament (in the novel it is Bábism) that is ALL bluster and thunder. You let the Universe be dictated by a frumpy mother, you end up with a genocide of unpleasant things: weeds, cats, bad smells, and reproductive parts ... poof ... all gone.
Although written in the late 1950s, this novel reminded me a lot of Morrow's Towing Jehovah (1994). Both take the absurd-level of religion or prejudice, or fear and blow them up and examine them. Anyway, 'Eye in the Sky' was fun and clever, but in the end it wasn't top-shelf Philip K Dick. Probably more influential than good. Still, I don't regret reading/listening to it.
**Don't leave false illusions behind
Don't cry, I ain't changing my mind
So find another fool like before
Cause I ain't gonna live anymore believing
Some of the lies while all of the signs are deceiving**
I ended up liking this one way more than I thought I might. I started reading thinking 'Zap Gun' was going to simply be one of PKD's early, pulpy sic-fi novels. Look. The guy wrote over 44 novels (and hundreds of short-stories). Not every book is going to be Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or Ubik, but I had a copy, so...
Yes. I read it because it was there. Was it pulpy? Hell yes, even pulpier than I could have imagined. I'm not sure everything was fully realized in this novel. I'm sure he padded this novel with some unnecessary words simply because he was being paid by the word. It may have been written fast and lose, but there is clean, mad logic to it all. The book feels like a strange combination of Orwell's 1984 mixed with Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle but finished with a bit of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. For me, thus far, it is the funniest of Dick's novels. And no, it wasn't as good as '1984' or 'Cat's Cradle'.
The book also seems to have early seeds of Dick's later religious explorations. It isn't as heavy as his Valis (or Gnosis) trilogy, but it is hard to escape the feeling that already in the early 60s Dick's mind is working over some of his God/gnosis/divinity ideas. Looking at a timeline for Dick, I notice this novel was written right after The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. This makes sense, because they seem very similar (not identical twins, but Irish twins at least). Anyway, if you are a PKD fan, this one should definitely be on your list.
I normally avoid (like a prose plague) ALL business, leadership, self-help, and strategy books, etc., because I find them universally to be poorly written and filled with an almost boundless and unbearable number of cliches, hyperbole, etc..
I was given this book by a co-worker and felt compelled to read it. I also felt a need to at least recognize my own deep cynicism and bias about the whole genre. Maybe, my fear/gag-reflex was misplaced. Perhaps, I had judged the whole genre by a couple really, really bad apples.
Nope. It was everything I feared. I knew it was bad when I was underlining the parts that made me laugh. I needed another pen for all the parts that made me squirm.
Here is an example from his chapter on scripts:
"Scripts can be equally useful to meet your nonword goals. For example, you may have a script like the following to use with one of your children when he or she is having a difficult day:
How about if you tell me what is going on, and I will promise to help. [Pause while listening to the problem.] I can understand why you are upset. Life is sometimes tough, isn't it? I know I have said it a thousand times, but I am going to say it again I love you. I think I can help. Let's see if we can come up with a couple of solutions to the problem -- anything that can make your situation a little bit better. I'll even go first: what do you think about [quick solution]? Your turn for the next one ..."
Seriously? My kids would eat me alive (devour me clothes and all) if I attempted to script them like that. I can't even imagine what my wife would do. The horror. The horror.
Anyway, I could go on and on, but I still gave it a two stars because there actually were a handful of useful strategies buried in there, but ye gads ... I had to wade through a tremendous amount of Orwellian-level mind slaughter to find those nuggets.
Paul Bowles masterpiece reminds me of some alternate, trippy, version of Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night, but instead we see the other side of the Mediterranean. Tangier and the deserts of North Africa take the place of the South of France. A different love triangle exposes different forms of loneliness, madness, love, and existential expats.
The thing I love about Bowles is he brings a composer's mind to writing. His novel isn't propelled forward by a strong plot (although it has plot) or attractive characters (none of the characters are very attractive), but the music of his language itself pushes and pulls, tugs and compels the reader page after page. It felt very much like I was floating limp and languid in Bowles prose as his hypnotic sentences washed over me and drifted me slowly toward the inevitable end.
Connelly captures the mood, the magic, the sadness and the tension of the book perfectly.
Most days, I don't feel a real need to read/listen to a book twice. But I might need to make an exception for 'The Sheltering Sky'.
There is a certain thrill to being the first person to reach the top of a mountain, the first to eat at a soon-to-be famous restaurant, the first to discover an author, a band, a new food or experience. Well friend, the thrill of a late discovery (even when you are 15 years late to the party) is still pretty damn sweet. I might have seen Bourdain's books as I wandered through a bookstore. I might have seen him on CNN, the Travel Channel or the Food Network while searching for another show on another station. I didn't hardly notice him. He was, like that girl you know in class, but have never given much real attention to (only later to discover she is witty, wicked, and everything you want in a lover and fear in a daughter.
Over Christmas, while visiting and bonding my foodie brother in Arkansas, he introduces me to Parts Unknown on CNN. I am hooked. I love Bourdain. I'm addicted to the show. It mixes things that mix well: my love for travel, my love for food, my love for a good damn story with interesting characters. So, I figure, I might need to actually read his book. Yeah this one. The one that put him on the map. The one that turned him from an executive chef with personality to THE chef with personality.
The book is a quick read. It dances. It seems to operate with a certain mechanical, hyper-caffeinated efficiency. Whatever money it made Bourdain, he probably deserved even more. Right now, I've muted my desire to put it on the bookshelf next to my other just reads. I want my wife to read it first. Oh, I've got a friend who would love it too. My initial reaction to finishing this book is the same I get when I discover a fantastic new restaurant (Republica Empanada in Mesa, AZ) -- I want to take friends and family to it. I become not just a disciple, but a crazy-eyed evangelist.
Not as good as Everitt's biography of Augustus, but better than his biography of Hadrian. Everitt is clearly passionate and good at classical narratives. His biographies are quick, easy, and summarize the subjects well. He doesn't add much new to the history. He isn't challenging or overthrowing assumptions about Cicero or the other major players, but he weaves a nice story and makes Classical history approachable.
Everitt does a fine job of balancing the different aspects of Cicero. His skill as an orator, his hits and misses as a politician, his defense of the Republic, his rationality all get their time and moment. Everitt also blends in Cicero's weaknesses: his vanity, his missteps/vacillation in politics, his zeal in persecuting Mark Anthony, and his cowardice.
The weakness of this biography is while Everitt might be aiming at a form of mild historical rehabilitation, I'm not sure Cicero was ever really in need of rehabilitation. While he was often unlucky during his life (unlike Julius Caesar the birds never seemed to be on Cicero's side) after his 'good death' Cicero seems to have flourished.
The volume and quality of Cicero's writings that survived the fall of Rome have made Cicero into one of the hero/gods of the Roman Republic. His genius survives. Cicero will always be known more now for what he wrote and thought than for what he did. Caesar may have been deified by decree of the Roman Senate on 1 January 42 BC, but Cicero's own writings have made him immortal. He lives on in Machiavelli, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill. As Emperor Augustus observed to one of his grandsons upon seeing him reading a book by Cicero: "An eloquent man, my child, an eloquent man, and a patriot." Not a bad epitaph from the Caesar who had you killed.
Horror is not my normal territory. It isn't my alternate either. As far as genre fiction goes I probably reach for a horror novel as often as I reach for a fantasy novel. But this is Dan Simmons we are talking about. After reading Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, I was intrigued. How poetic could Simmons make horror? How literate?
I liked the 'Song of Kali'. It was a good story. I'm just not sure I'd count it as great horror. It wasn't that scary. It was definitely more psychological and mental than most. It seemed like a strange mixture of H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, all with a big glob of Calcutta madness and poetic mysticism.
Anyway, I liked it. I'll keep reading Simmons when I want a vacation from the classics or an escape into literary genre fiction, but I don't think I will need to steel my nerves with any tonics or leave the lights on to go to sleep after I close the book at night. I might, however, rethink vacation plans to Kolkata and West Bengal. Screw THAT.
In someways reading/listening to Nabokov's stories is like swimming in a turbulent river of all his great themes (doppelgängers, the creative process, loss, nostalgia for Russia, the individual, obsession, dreams/reality, etc).
While there were some stories that were masterpieces, the strength of this book really is the ability it gives the Nabokov enthusiast to easily see the development of a great writer from the early 20s to the late 50s.
One only needs to read 'Terra Incognita' to see the seeds of his novel 'Ada: or Ardor'. This collection is a must for those who adore Nabokov, but also an interesting introduction to Nabokov for those whose only exposure may be "Lolita'.
Here are the stories as they appear in this collection:
"Russian Spoken Here"
"A Matter of Chance"
"Details of a Sunset"
"A Letter That Never Reached Russia"
"The Return of Chorb"
"A Guide to Berlin"
"A Nursery Tale"
"An Affair of Honor"
"The Christmas Story"
"The Potato Elf"
"A Dashing Fellow"
"A Bad Day"
"The Visit to the Museum"
"A Busy Man"
"Lips to Lips"
"The Admiralty Spire"
"In Memory of L. I. Shigaev"
"A Russian Beauty"
"Breaking the News"
"A Slice of Life"
"Spring in Fialta"
"Cloud, Castle, Lake"
"The Assistant Producer"
"That in Aleppo Once…"
"A Forgotten Poet"
"Time and Ebb"
"Conversation Piece, 1945"
"Signs and Symbols"
"Scenes from the Life of a Double Monster"
"The Vane Sisters"
An important piece on women and literature. But more than that. ARoO'sO is a piece on education and literature, money and literature, space and literature. Woolf explores how money and space are essential to a person being able to have the things needed for art.
It isn't a complicated book, but it is revolutionary in its way. I loved it. It was, like almost everything Woolf writes, a river filled with diamonds. It carries you and occasionally drops luxury into your lap.
Adam Mansbach first book, "Go the F--K To Sleep' was brilliant because it was shocking, funny, original, and the meter worked. This one has Bryan Cranston, but that is just about it. IT wasn't nearly as good and the novelty is gone. It just doesn't work. Unless you are a die-hard eater, or love the F--k out of Adam Mansbach, I wouldn't buy this. But since it is free, sure down load the F--ker.
Report Inappropriate Content