9 Following

Your Asthma

I have books everywhere - on the shelf, on the bed, on the floor, in the car, in the loo - and nothing gives me greater joy.

Currently reading

Alien Abductions: A Critical Reader
Jeff Carney
Nausea - Jean-Paul Sartre, Lloyd Alexander Nausea is basically about a historian who becomes increasingly nauseated by his existence but decides to muddle on. Reading the first half of Nausea feels like that. You just muddle on. The second half does get better and I do like the part about the chestnut tree, but I think Nausea is just one of those you-either-love-it-or-hate-it books and I just don’t love it very much, especially with a line that goes “To think there are idiots who get consolation from the fine arts”(!). I would still recommend the book for the insight it provides on metaphysical enlightenment, something which interests me but remains elusive. Nausea just doesn’t make it seem like a breeze.
Proposal - Anton Chekhov Whilst charming, it is a trifling read so I hesitate to give this one-act farce 4 stars. No harm reading it though :D
The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins Reinforces my atheism.
Hunger - Knut Hamsun, George Egerton Nearly became a bit of a method reader with this one. Not sure why but I fasted for a day and even contemplated sleeping on the cold hard floor - certainly allowed me to immerse a little deeper into the thoughts and feelings of the unnamed protagonist. The book reminded me a bit of Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. I like both books and luckily, no Nazi ideology here.

Le dernier homme

Le dernier homme - Maurice Blanchot I had picked this up looking for a quick read but it turned out to a pretty tough one. Really demands full attention. My first study of alterity and the more I read, the less I know.
The Little Prince & Letter to a Hostage - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Reminds us that all adults were once children. Also a humbling reminder of the falsity that adults always know better.
The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster - Bobby Henderson Amusing but in small doses.
Pulitzer: A Life - Denis Brian a bit long but well-researched.

The Last Question

The Last Question - A short sci fi piece written in 1956, which I suspect or predict will still feel new even as the universe ends.

Brave New World

Brave New World - Margaret Atwood, David Bradshaw, Aldous Huxley A fascinating study of what happens when everything goes right. The masses are happy and healthy, their needs are satisfied, there is no war or crime, there is no religion or Shakespeare (!). Yet,everything appears sterile, creepy... and boring. This 'brave new world' becomes especially frightening when you realise some of its so-called dystopic elements such as eugenics and free love exist in full validity today. Worse, they appear desirable - after all, don't we all want happiness? But Huxley tells us something that our parents or teachers don't always do, and that is that happiness, content or success means nothing if there is no effort, fear or sacrifice. He tells us that it is a also a human right to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The Bridge Of San Luis Rey - Thornton Wilder Puzzles me that whilst each sub-story ended almost perfectly for me, I was not quite satisfied with the ending of the book as a whole. I am not sure if it is because Thorton ended it too abruptly or because he dwelt too long and tried to explain too much, resulting in an anti-climatic denouement. This is where I find the ratings system most limited. I want to give this a rating of maybe 4.5 or even 4.25 but since the site does not allow it, 4 stars it is.

A Tale of Two Cities (Everyman's Library Series)

A Tale of Two Cities (Everyman's Library Classics, #143) - Charles Dickens, G.K. Chesterton, Phiz The most satisfying ending makes this one of my favourite books.

Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings

Labyrinths:  Selected Stories and Other Writings - Jorge Luis Borges, Donald A. Yates, James E. Irby Read this right after Ficciones, which I prefer but Labyrinths would be better value for money. Both are simply magical and highly recommended.

The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead - Leonard Peikoff, Ayn Rand Starts well but gets draggy and verbose... just cannot understand the characters' motivations or agree with Rand's objectivism philosophy. I do think however it is worth a read. At least it's provocative.

The Gambler

The Gambler - It is a pity that the origin of the Gambler threatens to overshadow the story itself and I would avoid the temptation to read it as an autobiography given Dostoevsky’s own real-life struggle with gambling addiction. One should only delineate fictional from biographical elements in a book intended to be read as an autobiography and I am fairly certain Dostoevsky has never meant the Gambler to be read as one. The Gambler is more a story about human obsession and the gambler’s psyche and from the qualities of the archetypal ‘Gambler’ embodied in various characters, gambling is ugly. Thankfully, Dostoevsky does not attempt to moralise the story and leaves it to the reader to decide whether gambling ought to be justified or condemned. The dark humour is to be appreciated I actually liked the Gambler a lot more than expected though it was a bit of a roller coaster read. The first few chapters did nothing for me. I did not dig Alexei as the protagonist and I found his obsession with Polina to be pathetic. I might be less critical if Alexei had truly been willing to throw his life away for her like the men in ‘Zuleika Dobson’, but the fact that he is all talk and no action becomes a great source of frustration for me. The characters also appeared bipolar at times and I wasn’t quite sure what Dostoevsky wanted us to see in them. The foreign characters were rendered caricatures or parodies of themselves – surely the “wee Frenchman” is more than that – and the writing was beginning to feel shallow and the frequent use of French and Russian (or English for me since I read the translated version) was annoying as I had to keep flipping to the back of the book to understand the text. But 60 odd pages on, the story becomes a lot more engaging, probably for the same reasons I found the book frustrating at first. The first person POV in a way reveals more about Alexei than about the rest of the characters and the choice to make Alexei unreliable forces me to become a more active reader and to go beyond the narrative. The onus is on me to decipher the true nature of the characters. I don’t normally make marginal notes but I used the pencil a lot with the Gambler. Was Polina a femme fatale or was she just an unrequited love? What was the true nature of Alexei’s relationship to Polina? That sort of ambivalence is less apparent with less controversial characters such as Grandmama. With the rest like Polina and the General, I am not so sure. For instance, Grandmama seems to like Polina and as I actually think Grandmama to be quite sane and wise despite her brief gambling addiction, surely Polina cannot be all that Alexei says she is. The fact that Alexei is the narrator throughout and there is no alternative neutral third party POV means everything is up for discussion. The dark humour is to be appreciated but I did find it miserable to see Alexei remain the inveterate gambler in the end, reminiscing fondly about winning at the roulette table despite being well aware that he has become a lost man. Btw, the Grandmama is a riot and is reason enough to read the book.

Franny and Zooey

Franny and Zooey - I was surprised at first to find Franny and Zooey to be a two-part novel but then it makes perfect sense. I was also surprised to find that Zooey was a 25 year old male (no thanks to Zooey Deschanel who I heard was named after the character). It’s hard to describe Franny and Zooey. The book, as mentioned by a reviewer, is neither plot driven nor is it particularly thrilling. I could describe it as a story about a brother and sister who are the freaks of a dysfunctional family and one of them has a mental breakdown. Yet, I think that telling you (spoiler alert?) that there will be a revelation that the Fat Lady is “Christ Himself” would do the book greater justice. Another book I read in one sitting - recommended.