Saturday, October 30, 2010

Book Review - "Medea and Her Children"

"Medea and Her Children" by Ludmila Ulitskaya
My grade: C

I really must begin by saying that the translation of this book is quite bad. Instead of reading it in the original Russian (which I could have done), I for some reason decided to read it in English. It was quite obvious though in many places that the author was translating directly from the Russian, and the wording of certain sentences was not very 'English'-sounding.

Additionally, the original work is quite lacking. I almost feel like the author ran out of things to say, and pulled this book together out of thin air. She tells the story of about 50 different characters, who are only slightly connected with each other. Their stories are neither unique nor interesting, and one is left with this question: what is the point/message of all this? In the end, I found none.

The characters are likewise entirely undeveloped, maybe only partially because there are so many of them. Medea herself, who I guess is supposed to be the protagonist, is undeveloped. Not a single one is believable or true to himself, and not a single emotion is evoked throughout the whole thing. Even when Masha herself (here's a bit of a spoiler...) commits suicide, one only asks: who cares? My overall judgment: not worth your, or anybody's, time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Are you a writer?

Don't know if any of you writers out there have (or had) this problem: I have a hard time calling myself a writer as I am yet unpublished. Since I work as a freelance writer, I do call myself that, but the implications are completely different for 'writer' and 'freelance writer'. It never fails to amaze me, however, how many people use the term (writer, that is) so freely. Every second person I meet is a 'writer'. And I always want to ask, "What does that mean exactly?" After all, if I play tennis once a month with a friend, does that make me a tennis player? Shouldn't we be more careful with the connotations and implications these titles give off? Or are titles too overrated in our drastically-politicized world?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Search - FICTION

Is this where we search for one another, in unpaid bills and abandoned rooms? Does one's absence say more than one's presence? Are we so quick with judgement to look for flaws and silence praise?

Vacancy - FICTION

We're sitting with each other, each of us alone. I wonder how it has come to this. It was so good before, it felt so right. And now I look through vacant eyes, once my shelter. They hold nothing for me now, no promise of a distant comfort, no hint of recognition. They are just... eyes.

Book Review - "De Profundis"

"De Profundis" by Oscar Wilde
My grade: A

As the title appropriately suggests, this piece is actually quite profound. Written in the form of a letter to his lover, Wilde wrote this while he served his jail sentence for sodomy. He describes, among other things, the tremendous sorrow he feels, and the nature of sorrow itself. He likewise discusses human nature as he sees it, in both its doom and glory. While I cannot agree with everything Wilde proclaims, he has certainly provided much to think about and offered an extremely erudite well-thought-out philosophy of sorts. One thing I may agree with him on: perhaps it really does take an experience similar to imprisonment to arrive at such conclusions.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Book Review - "Dreams from My Father"

"Dreams from My Father" by Barack Obama
My grade: A-

I suspect that the majority of you already know, or at least could guess, that Obama is a great writer and orator. It must be noted here. His style is neither poetic nor flowery, it is straightforward but full of emotion.

This autobiography covers Obama's, and his family's, history from before he was born up till his marriage to Michelle. I was pleasantly surprised by his candidness in discussing his life and upbringing. I have a feeling that were he writing this book today, as the U.S. president, at least half of the details would be omitted. I'm glad that such an artifact remains in print, however.

While I could virtually not relate to any part of Obama's story, I nonetheless found it extremely interesting and very telling of the person he is today. I am, likewise (if I am to be honest), shocked that a person with such a background could become a U.S. president. I am positive that his worldliness, among other things, greatly adds to his competencies. (I don't really want to start a political debate here. I'm speaking in very broad terms, and looking at an overall picture).

My only critique of the book is that Obama went quite in-depth about periods of his life, which I found to be quite boring. For example, a good chunk of the book is dedicated to his work as a city organizer in Chicago, where he worked on creating and implementing city programs to better the lives of African Americans living there. And while I obviously find his work to be important, I was still bored by the amount of detail he provided pertaining to the three years of his life that he spent there.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Life - Intro (FICTION)

I see you; can you see me? It's a game we play with one another, to see who can hurt the other more. Yesterday I won, but today a policeman stands at my door, uttering incoherent apologies, and I realize, as my world crumbles around me, he has the last laugh.

(to be continued...)

Slipping Away (FICTION)

He touches me nicely. Gently. And he has no idea what he is doing to me. He has no clue what a storm of emotions he is about to unleash.

I'm lonely. I'm very lonely. And I need him. But I don't want him to know. So I suppress the tears that are forcing their way out. What would he think if he saw me crying?

I want to curl up into a ball and crawl into his shirt pocket, to lie there quietly, listen to his heart beating. I want to feel small, and sense his overwhelming greatness cover me, protect me. He kisses me all over, and he is so kind, so gentle. So the tears roll down my face.

He sees them, how can I hide? But I still try. I give him a hug, as much to feel his warmth as to cover up my face, my shame. He pulls away, and immediately I see what's on his face, I understand. I have lost him.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book Review - "The Butterfly House"

"The Butterfly House" by Marcia Preston
My grade: B

I guess this novel fits into the mystery/family saga genre. And while it is a bit of a page-turner and overall captivating, it still somehow has an air of mediocrity and occasional cliches. The writing is generally good, but the story becomes predictable at one point in time, and let's not forget the happy ending. You can read it, but if you don't, that's also ok.