Monday, November 12, 2012

Metamorphosis 13 - James Joyce's Ulysses


I'll tell you one thing right now, this is not an easy book to read. He shifts from straight narrative to fantasy to dry technical writing to stream of consciousness. And it's a thousand pages long, describing a day in the life of a man in Dublin in 1904. I have to admit, I passed over a lot of it because it was a library book and I only had it for so long, and some of it is just obscure, especially nearly a hundred years after it was written. Joyce enjoys making up words although they make perfect sense.

But there is true genius as well. Some of his turns of phrase are amazing, and hilarious. It was banned for obscenity in the US after it was first published as there are some explicit passages, although pretty tame by today's standards.

Read it if you enjoy a long novel, and I hope you enjoy getting to know Leopold and Molly as much as I did.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Metamorphosis 12 - The Tin Drum


Wow, i'm really getting behind! The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass was a pleasant surprise. Who knew that a novel beginning with a Polish peasant girl harvesting potatoes would turn out to be so engrossing...

In this partially autobiographical story, our protagonist Oskar is growing up during the war in a city which is on the border, geographically and politically, between Germany and Poland. He's not always a likable person, but in the end we are hope for the best.

The edition I read was from a new translation... apparently when it was originally translated from German back in the 50s, they took out some of the more naughty bits, although what's been put back in is really pretty tame by today's standards.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Metamorphosis 11

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson - kind of reminded me of some of the stories written by my cousin Merna Summers - a Canadian author you should definitely check out sometime. Two sisters growing up in a small town with eccentric relatives... it also reminded me of The Quiet American with its theme of loss, parting, giving up your old way of life. Both books left me with the sense that I wanted to see what happened to those people after the book ended... sadly, I don't think either has a sequel. Or maybe it's just better that way. :-)

Metamorphosis 10

The Quiet American by Graham Greene was a bit of an odd book, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. It takes place in Vietnam during the 1950s. The protagonist is a British journalist who is there to cover the war, which at that time is being fought by the French and the Communists. The Americans are still bystanders at that point, and the "quiet American" referred to in the title becomes the narrator's rival in many things and is an eerie foreshadowing of what we all know came later.

Wow, I need to catch up!

OK, I've read quite a few books and again got sidetracked from my 100 must-read quest by other fiction. But I've found a new author I quite like. Louise Penny is a Canadian writer who has penned several Inspector Gamache mysteries... think of Agatha Christie transferred to a village in Quebec in modern times. Check it out!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Metamorphosis 9

Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a whimsical little novel by Salman Rushdie. It reads rather like a children's book, but it also contains some clever satire that only older readers will get. There's a lot of commentary about censorship and propaganda, interesting in the light of his being condemned to death by Islam fanatics. I had never read anything else by him, and found it quite witty.



Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Land of Painted Caves

This is the long-awaited latest in the Earth's Children series by Jean Auel. She has stated this will be the last one; she has also stated that she feels the story of Ayla isn't finished, and I personally thought the end of the book leaves way too many loose ends. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see more in this saga, maybe focusing on her daughter Jonayla.

But what did I think of the book? Well, I did enjoy it although I found parts of it kind of repetitive. The Mother's Song is a beautiful piece of poetry but I didn't need to read it ten times. And I do find it a bit annoying that Ayla and Jondalar seem to the the only people who can figure out how to tame horses and wolves, use horses to haul things, every other new advancement in human history, etc. The dust jacket promises that Ayla discovers a new piece of knowledge that is life-changing. Which it is, but I find it a bit hard to believe that nobody would have figured it out before.

However, as usual the descriptions of the painted caves (the famous ones in France that can still be seen to this day) are breathtaking. I find Auel's characters a bit one-dimensional but she's very good at bringing a scene to life so that I can almost see it in front of me.

If you've read all the others, you gotta read this one too. Even if you've never read any of the others, this one can stand on its own as she does explain certain things that happened in the past. It helped me too although I did read all the others, but it's been so long!

I hope Auel hasn't hung up the quill yet. I think she still has a lot of stories to tell.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Metamorphosis 8

Got really sidetracked by some non-fiction books that weren't on the list, as well as Richard III: The Maligned King by an online acquaintance, Annette Carson. I haven't believed Richard was guilty of killing his nephews ever since reading Tey's Daughter of Time as a teenager. So this book didn't convince me of anything new, but I certainly learned some new things about Richard and his world courtesy of her thorough research.


Putting in some spaces now to go down to the next book, hope this looks half decent to everyone!






No, this is not a Chemistry textbook. The Periodic Table is an autobiographical narrative by noted chemist Primo Levi, who was also an Italian Jew who spent time in Auschwitz during the war. Each chapter, from his boyhood to middle age, takes the name of an element. Auschwitz is mentioned but his time there is apparently explored more deeply in some other book he wrote, which I may seek out at some point.

Far from being dry and humorless as you would expect, it's full of droll wit and observations about humanity. Apparently he won several awards for this book. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would from looking at the table of contents.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Skystone

This was a book borrowed from a friend - lucky it wasn't a purchase because once again I realized halfway through that I'd read it already at some point. But if you like historical fiction about Roman Britain (this book is actually the first of a series, and a precursor to the King Arthur story) you'll enjoy this one.

The only quibble I have? I find it a bit hard to believe that the Romans wouldn't have known what comets were (you'll see).