October 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
Joshua Ferris, a National Book Award finalist, has written To Rise Again at a Decent Hour which is shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. So, now that we have that out of the way, I would like to say I loved this novel. Most of my friends who read it were either ambivalent or annoyed by the main character, Paul O’Rourke, who lives in his head. The book is told in a stream of consciousness style that cleverly relays conversations between himself and his devoutly Christian hygienist, Mrs. Connors, as he eggs her on about religion while at the same time seriously trying to understand how she can so clearly believe when he has such problems believing in anything, besides flossing. O’Rourke, a wealthy dentist, is clearly a depressed man looking to belong–his whole life has been about trying to belong to someone or something else rather than to his own sad and broken past.
I think this novel qualifies as serio-comic. It examines very serious questions and themes but with a lightheartedness most will enjoy. I found myself as Paul O’Rourke, able to understand and connect with this man, but very grateful I also wasn’t him. In the process of his own discoveries of happiness and life, he is dragged into this journey as someone begins to impersonate him online, posting text from a religious text few have ever heard of.
You can read the LA Times review online
April 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
James McBride won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2013 for The Good Lord Bird, set on the verge of the Civil War. Little Onion, a slave boy initially mistaken for a girl by the abolitionist John Brown, is our narrator. Onion is more or less freed against his will when his father is killed in a scuffle between John Brown and white pro-slavers. The book is written in a vernacular, from start to finish, which can be a bit distracting to read, but eventually I got used to the cadence, and, admittedly, Onion’s voice never left me; whereas had McBride only dabbled with the vernacular language, I imagine I would’ve begun reading in my own voice instead of hearing Onion’s.
The setting is well-drawn as we travel through Kansas, slave territories, and free states with Little Onion and John Brown’s misfit band. There is a great deal of history surrounding John Brown and his actions. The book tells the tale leading up to his capture of Harpers Ferry, VA and concludes with Brown’s death. Other historical characters such as Frederick Douglass make an appearance.
McBride has been criticized for the rather humorous approach to such a serious topic, yet, he discusses in several interviews that this is precisely why he chose to be more humorous about it. This isn’t slapstick comedy by any means, nor is it dark comedy, but John Brown is painted into a proselytizing nutter, mixing up Bible verses and making some of his own up, while at the same time murdering pro-slavers. Brown very much believed in action over talk when it came to ending slavery and men like Douglass stood opposed to his actions, condemning them as suicidal.
Multiple viewpoints are offered on the notion of slavery, allowing readers to dabble in various thought processes and perhaps come to understand why a great many slaves didn’t just revolt when they had greater numbers on their side. Oftentimes the saying is true, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
The book is well-written and enjoyable. If nothing else it has made me want to learn more about John Brown. I don’t believe he was as crazy as McBride portrayed, and clearly he was an intelligent and strategic man, or perhaps terribly lucky, to have taken Harper’s Ferry and outwitted the many people hunting him, from Federal agents to slave-owners with vendettas.
You find a copy of this at the NGL on the 3rd floor @ PS3613 .C28 G66 2013.
Watch this video segment of the Civil War on John Brown and Harpers Ferry.
March 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a dark thriller. Or it’s meant to be a thriller. Naturally, these are only my opinions and other people have highly rated and praised this title. In fact, it’s going to be made into a movie.
Flynn is definitely a talented writer. She kept me turning pages despite my recent iPad addiction to game
apps. I became invested in the main characters, husband and wife, and consumed each chapter. Because this is a thriller, and if you don’t like spoilers, then don’t flip through the chapters: the chapter headings and section titles tell you what’s going on and will give away the plot twists.
Nick and Amy are married, recently moved to Missouri from bustling Manhattan to take care of Nick’s dying mother, and are about to have their fifth wedding anniversary when Amy goes missing (hence the title). If you want to be kept in darkness, then you can read a teaser of the book at Gillian Flynn’s site. I would encourage you to give this book of hers a read but only if you can deal with frustrating characters, a few, and unnecessary, authorial intrusions, and flat out authorial cheats.
Ultimately, I have more negative things to say about this book than positive, but that is because of my frustration and anger with the characters…so, in a way, this might be a “good” book because I have so much to say about it (but won’t because of spoilers) and because I feel such strong emotions.
January 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
I only have a few words to describe this graphic novel: Amazing. Poignant and scary. Lovely work.
I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. It’s available in the library at PN6727 .M313 T46 2010 (3rd floor).
From the description of the book itself, comes this:
Do ideas of war and enemies hold a people together? Is a culture of conflict too seductive not to be irresistible? These are the questions Cathy Malkasian explores in her second graphic novel, Temperance.
Malkasian creates, as she did in the critically acclaimed Percy Gloom, a fully realized, multi-layered world, inhabited by vividly realized characters. After a brutal injury in battle, Lester has no memory of his prior life. For the next thirty years his wife does everything to keep him from remembering—and re-constructing—a society, Blessedbowl, that elevates him as a hero. Blessedbowl is a cultural convergence of lies, memories, stories, and beliefs. Its people thrive on ideas of persecution, exceptionality, and enemies, convinced that war lurks just outside their walls. They have come to depend on Lester, their greatest war hero, to lead the charge once the Final Battle begins.
What kind of enemy could topple such a people and its walls? Mere memory, it seems, as Lester gradually emerges from his amnesia. Temperance is an eyewitness’s account of recovery and awakening. The graphic novel works on two levels. It considers the concepts of violence, stories, and belief, and their place in holding a culture together, slyly echoing contemporary political issues in a nation at a stressful time currently at war with a ubiquitous enemy. Secondly, the fissures in Lester and Minerva’s marriage is echoed in the greater political upheaval around them.
December 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
This graphic novel is definitely graphic, at least in this humble reviewer’s opinion although it is a fantastic and worthwhile read. The story is of a soldier named Mallory who was at Abu Gharib and was one of the women who posed in the dehumanizing photos of the captives. She returns home to work at a bar and is tracked down by a translator from her unit who suffers from extreme PTSD. The translator is going around killing ex-unit members. Based off the graphic image on the cover, you can guess what he’s after. The story is good and realistic, it handles PTSD believably to a layperson, and it made me think about what people suffer from and how they deal or cope with their issues (or fail to, whether because of the lack of government funding or support or because it’s seen as weak to get help). The story will shock you, but personally, this was pretty gruesome to read, but I’m glad I did.
“When Private Mallory Grennan is dishonorably discharged from the US Army, she hopes to start a new life back home, far away from the things she’d seen and done in Abu Ghraib prison. Mal’s crimes, committed beneath a harsh Arabian sun, throw a shadow long enough to reach all the way to the United States. What started there, will end here – in blood.”
October 9, 2013 § Leave a comment
I readily admit that I have enjoyed Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series. I don’t care how unrealistic the books are–if they have literary or art , mystery (or conspiracy), or religious references thrown in then I’m often happy. And Robert Langdon is a well-written character. I know things are unbelievable, but I enjoy Dan Brown’s writing and am able to suspend my disbelief.
However, Inferno just wasn’t as good as Angels and Demons or even the Da Vinci Code. This book centers around clues that are found in Dante’s Inferno. I have only read the Inferno and not the entire Divine Comedy, so I was familiar with the information being divulged, and even if you’re not an Italian literature scholar, enough information is provided for you that you will be able to understand what’s being said.
Overall, I would say–give it a read if you’ve liked his past books, it’s not bad, but it’s not his best.
We don’t have a copy at the library, but you can request items through Interlibrary Loan: http://library.shsu.edu/services/ill.html
For those of you who would like to read up on Dante, we have multiple options at the library for you: a copy of Dante’s Inferno at PQ4315.2 .B36 2012 (3rd floor); Dante’s Divine Comedy adapted by Seymour Chwast in a graphic novel at PN6727 .C499 D36 2010 (3rd floor); and you can try a film on the topic through our Films on Demand Database, including this film Dante: Visions of the Inferno in which you will be guided through Hell.