Cedar Rapids, IA, United States | Member Since 2011
I have something of a mixed relationship with Murakami. sometimes his magic sense of what is possible enthralls me, and on other outings I am instead absolutely baffled at what it takes to make it into the literary canon.
Fortunately it seems that even Murakami himself is somewhat baffled by the popularity of this book, once even saying he didn't want it to be what he was known for. So I can at least write this knowing that I'm not being completely unreasonable. It may be important to note that this is the first of his works to be translated into English, which, given how unique is type of story is, might go a ways towards understanding it's (initial) popularity.
The story itself is a selfish wondering tale about a man looking back at his life, I think, it happens in the beginning and then the framing device is quickly abandoned in the name of...what I'm not precisely sure. I would say young love, but that rings hollow. Sex might make it closer to the mark. Pair the sex with a large dose of wandering existential angst and you've pretty much got the book covered.
he starts his narrative as a teenager suffering at the hands of youthful tragedy. Then before we can see how his life changes he is off to college where he gnashes his teeth at faux-revolutionaries and dealing with the typically troublesome and humorous roommate troubles, then before that can take us anywhere truly worthwhile we are off to a commune to visit the ever present link to his path. Every scene, every secondary of tertiary character is introduced and then quickly abandoned and given strange and unnatural exits without much further contemplation.
It all seems somehow hollow,. We hear of his isolation, he tells us, but we do not feel it. We see his friends, but no one really sticks in the static void that is the narrative. The only thing that seems to pin this book together is sex, it seems to be the only moments we get anything even remotely human from the characters, but even then it's rather generic romance-novel level descriptions of this genitalia and the other.
The best parts of the book come when we are not simply shown things, but are given a chance to see them first hand. These, invariably come in spurts of slow often pastoral conversation in communes and restaurants are handled well enough and attempt to muddle out a sense of purpose for the main character and the book as a whole.
The translation itself is a little muddled, with strange, almost jarring cuts where it feels like pieces of the book have been mended together imperfectly. The little turns of phrases the perforate the Japanese language are often translated in ways that make it awkwardly clear that we have no verbal signifier of contemplation quite like the Japanese. As it was his first book published in the States i can only imagine this is somehow indicative of a Mr. Rubin's apprenticeship to the more fluid, if only slightly less awkward translations of Murakami's later works.
The narrator is unremarkable. Given the amount of female characters, one would think they would have found someone who could pull off a feminine voice with a bit more believability. Instead we a given these raspy, thinly veiled masculine tones to every character and, while I as able to eventually get used to it, there are infinity of narrator's better suited to this book.
I say all this not to deter you from trying it yourself. It's just as of this writing there is nothing here to inform as to what you are actually getting yourself into, so I figured I'd help out. If you don't mind a pointless bit of authorial indulgence, give it a shot. If you like the stories you've read before, ignore me. Read it, love it, I hope you do. If you haven't read him before start with Hard-Boiled Wonderland or Kakfa on the Shore and come here after you've gotten your feet wet. I don't regret reading the book, it is simply on I will likely never return to.
This book is a tough one to appreciate on its own. Without a concrete knowledge of what happened prior to 1914 one would almost feel sympathy for Nicolas Rubashov. He is a man betrayed by his party and finds every single ideal he worked for distorted and marooned from the Party's political views. It rings of Orwell, it rings true, I'm just not certain Koestler understood the end result of his line of thinking; Revolutions are a terrible idea. He seems to be content with the idea that THIS revolution turned out badly, that there was hope for something better and that violent revolutions can be effective (historically only the USA has managed to pull this off with any lasting effects). Koestler, with Orwell as company, seems to miss the fact that they revolutions are ineffective and beget only chaos and misery, all of which is captured rather candidly in the entirety of the Russian Revolution and the parts on display here.
The book is moving, it allows you to see the inside of a counter revolution, how the first one went south and shed the facade of 'for the people'. It's characters are largely shallow, but then they are mostly allegory. The language is well worth the listen, the lessons while not in line with my own understands are worth engaging. The book is considered one of the Top 10 most important books of the last century. Give it a listen, maybe you'll agree with me, maybe you won't, but Koestler lived what he wrote and it is impossible not to be occasionally crushed under the weight of the human tragedy that permeates the books pages.
Let it be known that I do not read a great deal of philosophy, my world is complicated enough by science let alone the myriad of shadows the human brain can decide to view the world.
Lucretius does his Epicurean philosophy thing, romping around with the good-natured 'knowledge' that he has more-or-less stolen whole-sale from the Greeks. What exists in-between these moments is a strange amalgamation of confidence and misogyny.One moment he is Epicurean and pontificating about anxiety, science, and then he just shifts and spends pages just gnashing his teeth about women, "IGNORE THE PAINTED SHE-BEAST AS YOUR SEED WILL BE YOUR SOUL!" So, he rambles, I guess is what I'm saying.
After getting through the book I was told in no uncertain times that that is just sort of something the Romans do. I am sure there is a value to this for a classicist, as a layman looking for power language and evocative images the entire thing just falls flat. I think I'll stick to the histories of the Greeks with regards to that.
While short, this tale is a wonderful story about fantasy, magic, and childhood. It is expertly narrated by B.J. Harrison and a prefect display of Well's talents as a fantasy/sci-fi writer. If you are looking for something small to ingest on the go, The Magic Shop would do you well.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if a person as selfless and beautiful as the Jesus portrayed in the bible? Someone so in tune with humanity so aware of its horrors and imperfections, yet so wholly consumed by his love of humanity that he would destroy himself just for the chance of allowing you to save yourself?
That was what Dostoevsky was attempting to do, and by the gods, he did it. The story may not be for everyone, but if you stick with it you will be amazed. This is far and away my favorite Dostoevsky novel, and I have read all of them.
Considering how difficult it is to find a decent reading of any of Dostoevsky's longer works Robert Whitfield is incredible. Every character has a voice that you can recollect instantly when it hits your ears. He engages the writing and manages to bring life to it even with this dated translation. You will find no better on Audible, and you would do you well to treat your soul to this difficult, but compelling novel.
The novel itself starts with figures of Christ, the Anti-Christ, and the False Prophet conversing together on a train, and from there things proceed until both Myshkin and Rogozhin stand at opposite ends as Nastassya Filippovna fights between salvation and damnation even as the sins of her humanity where down on her conscience and soul.
There are of course, more characters, more events. A Dostoevsky novel could never be otherwise, and by the end of the novel you will see yourself in one of the characters. You have to, the whole of humanity is on display here through the interactions his characters. They are all simultaneously real and unreal. Like Shakespeare, Dostoevsky creates characters that turn their humanity to 11 and engage your very soul with their complexity and utter irrationality.
Dostoevsky is attempting to show us the truth that Christ offered us: no one can save us, nor can He cannot save, He can only open the door. Only we ourselves can choose to enter that door through which salvation is attainable. It is hard, no, impossible, and Dostoevsky, like the his Christ knew this and the book conveys this understanding with an undeniable beauty. We are evil, we are kind, we are a paradox capable of the most horrendous acts of selfishness and kindness, often within quick succession. This is what it is to be human, and Dostoevsky relishes it and rejects any and all ideas that would take away our free will in deciding how to live our lives.
You will not feel clean after reading this novel, it will sting, it will pull and eat at you for days after the final words has crept through your headphones and left you in silence. But there is beauty in it. A poetic perfection that makes itself more and more manifest with every listen. Though written in the mid-19th century, we are no different than the world Dostoevsky knew and loved. Buy this or don't, it your choice. Just know that as of right now, you are 650 pages away from growing a soul.
I feel I should state that I love "The Time Machine" though I didn't listen to it as part of this purchase, instead I was interested in delving into his shorter works that accompanied it in this reading. That being said, I don't think the short story is necessarily Wells' best area. Or perhaps I am not able to see him as the first to diagnose and play with these ideas. If they are the first they are fine starting points,but looking back from the 21st century I have to color myself largely unimpressed, mostly by the utterly uninteresting people that inhabit each of the stories.
The Country of the Blind is an interesting premise, it seeks to disprove the adage, "n the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king". It accomplishes this, though to what I end I don't entirely see. The main character is concerned with power and is largely useless in making us connect with anyone around him. There are hints of things that could have been fleshed out into a novel, how do you convince those who have no perception of sight? But instead he abandons it and creates another tedious Culture vs Savage play.
The Diamond Maker is a wandering an largely unimpressive tale that is ponderously slow with no pay-off at the end. His concern with science rings similarly to The Invisible Man, but in a much less elongated form and with even less concern for character. Is that roving hobo secretly a scientific genius, or are the diamonds he carries fake? I don't find this idea particularly compelling, but Wells did.
The Man Who Worked Miracles is again, one of those tropes that we see so often, most recently in modern culture in the "Almighty" films. Give a man the power to control everything and ultimately discovers that it leads to more harm than good. No great revelation, no interesting twist, simply an "I don't want it!" and a retraction to the status quo. I've always been bored by these stories as they never seem entirely true to the nature of humanity in the way they abuse the power. While he ultimate goal would undoubtedly be similar I can't help but feel the journey is truncated and such a frame could be used to give a hauntingly full view of humanity's light and dark aspects.
Next we have Aepyornis Island which was my favorite story in the collection. A man finds so prehistoric eggs, gets shipwrecked, eats a few, saves one. It hatches and they form a relationship. While mildly tragic in it's ending it is wonderfully written and shows the disconnect of men in isolation and how no matter how much we try, the animals we try so hard to befriend are not and will never be 'human'.
Have you ever seen Little Pet-shop of Horrors? The Strange Orchid is like that, but worse. Just stick with the former. This lacks all of the charm and characterization of the movie and instead flounders under some half cooked premise. Again, if someone had never conceived of the idea before, good on him. Carnivorous Orchids, brilliant, but it's an image more than an idea and as a story it is horrendously bland.
"The Cone" is not a bad story, it is however a little slow. It follows the moments prior to this grand moment of revenge, which, I imagine for the time, was rather graphic. The imagery is excellent and it stands well enough on it's own, but I wouldn't recommend it to a budding Wells fan.
Do you remember the good ol' days when we could just wander into a forest and pick up random fauna and flora and put it in our mouths? Me neither, however, given the way The Purple Pileus reads there must have indeed been a point when this happened and I can only hope it was as hilarious as this. Following a broken husband as he attempts to survive his wife's scandalous activity (she plays music on Sundays!) we are basically given a story about how psychedelics can 'fix' a man's courage and thereby his marriage. While the ending is downright misogynistic in tone, it's still a delight to watch a man find himself by momentarily resorting to the mental faculties of a two year old.
In The Truth About Pyecraft Wells believes he is being clever. "Ah, weight and mass are so often confused by the layman" he then laughs to himself and chitters away on his typewriter and what we are left with is this. One character a single-dimensional, hateful human the other a single-dimensional happy, and rather fat, human being.
The Door in the Wall is a haunting portrayal that perfectly encapsulates that longing for childhood innocence, that completely immersive happiness we all have hidden somewhere in our childhood and long forever to capture again. In this story, that innocence is a tangible artifact that injects itself into the man's life, but is constantly overshadowed by the rushing about of day-to-day life. It's consideration for the human condition is true and it offers us a bittersweet realization that these moments must be seized, because you never know when it might be the last time.
For all of it's faults, you could do worse with the short stories on display here. If nothing else you will have a familiarity with the more of Wells' work, which is not a bad thing. The narrator is confident, if not as dexterous as the likes of B.J. Harrison, but an excellent job engaging the listener and forgoes any tediousness with excellent pacing.
Gogol, in his tragically uncompleted magnum opus, tells a wonderful episodic tale of a man on the prowl for souls. While the character of Chichikov is more than a little under-developed, he is not the man of interest to Gogol, the interest to him, and to use is the myriad of people that inhabit the worlds of Russia. While the may often come across as stereotyped somehow, they are no less vivid and no less delightful to watch as Chichikov attempts to gather his dead souls.
Morey does an admirable job bringing life to this admittedly dated translation. He breathes life into each of Chichikov's encounters. Sobakevich was a personal favorite, but one cannot go wrong with any of them.
The parts of the second book, while interesting, are missing so many large chunks, to my mind, unless you are looking to find the bits of inspiration that found Dostoevsky in his final, and arguably greatest work Brothers Karamazov, can be skipped without any real loss. There is a desperation to it. It was as if he realized that the first part had struck a chord and that expectation had made whatever he produced somehow perpetually unacceptable.
Gogol is a delight to read, I heartily recommend people start here for Gogol. It may be his longest world, but it wonderful and paints a wonderful, almost ethereal portrait of grand Mother Russia in the 19th century.
In the course of listening to both Master and Margarita and then A Dog's Heart, I have completely and utterly fallen in love with Bulkagov. A critic of Soviet society and a masterful story-teller, he is a joy to behold even as he conveys a society so utterly devoid of life and so bereft of misery. Do yourself a favor and give this a listen and The Master and Margarita, both available via Audible. They are a wondrous, ponderous, hilarious, and even heart-breaking things to behold.
The core of this piece is satire, marking a path of wanton destruction through Moscow as Satan and his delightfully hooligan entourage parade from one scene to another causing chaos and watching the aftermath in the name of...well, why the hell not? There is also a love story as well as retelling of the history of Pontius Pilate.
Marked with numerous interesting characters, Bulgakov creates a readable if somewhat uneven tale. The title characters are introduced about halfway through the novel and are an attempt to create some sort of deeply affecting love story, that I don't consider all that effective given that it is pretty much the sole aspect of their personality we see is them pining for one another. However, title characters or not they are not there often and rarely without Woland or his minions at their side in order to make things interesting. The satire is effectively humorist and blasts Soviet greed well, but then greed is a very easy thing to parody.
The most interesting aspect of the novel for me were the moments when we are given a metafiction/history written by The Master. The language is wonderful and the imagery is perfectly evocative and I truly wished I had the option of reading more.
The narrator, which is quickly becoming the make or break factor of every audiobook I purchase, is, to my mind, remarkable. While the accents are all variously British, they are unique and he endows every character with a certain uniqueness and charisma (or lack thereof if the book should call for it) and should be beloved by all. I can't honestly understand the negative marks throughout the rest of audible. If you want a boring consistent drone of a voice, I think you are better listening to an automation than a legitimate audiobook.
Additionally, the translation (Michael Karpelson, 2006) is my personal favorite and has the most personality (the others I have read are much more dry in their translation and it shows heavily in the dialogue). This book was left incompletely edited when the author died, not being all that well acquainted with the rest of his work, which would explain some of the issues, but issues or not this book is a delightful read with a solid narrator.
The entire work reads like a casual stroll through the park. There is no hurry, there is no edge of your seat suspense. There is instead only a casual, almost divine force that keeps the story effortlessly moving forward.
The characters will make you smile, the narration is superb. This is among the strongest of Gaiman's prose (Graveyard Book the other in the top tier). It fits snuggly in the American Gods mythos, but is apart enough that one could read it with no understanding of American Gods, or indeed the world at all, and still find untold amounts of enjoyment.
The narrator is perfect, I could not imagine a better version of this book existing. That's not entirely true, their are a few times where the narrator has something of an accent carried over from the character to talk last, but all that really shows is how much fun the narrator is having simply doing his job.
If you don't like this book, you are wrong. If you don't buy this book, you do yourself a great disservice. This is not a dense work, it does not require deep concentration, This is a literary vacation. A fun, casual journey, in which the author plays with his form and Gaiman's true talents are on full display.
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