Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review - "The Tartar Steppe"

"The Tartar Steppe" by Dino Buzzati
My grade: C

This is the Seinfeld of books, except a lot less entertaining, and never funny. It is a book about nothing, where essentially nothing happens. On top of that, the nothing happens in a very very boring way! Alright, perhaps I'm being a bit unfair. The book is not exactly about nothing; it does have a message, but one we've all heard a billion times. The message is: don't live waiting for great events to happen in the future, but live in the moment, live today. There, I just summed up the whole book in less than 20 words. Why did the author need 265 pages?

Here's my general perspective, especially fitting to this novel: if you don't have anything unique to say but want to say it anyway, say it quickly. For example, write a short story (and by that, I mean really short). If you insist on writing a longer narrative, without a huge meaning in there somewhere, you're going to have to incorporate some literary maneuvers. For example, give us a plot. Or give us great characters. Or, at the very minimum, tell the story in a captivating manner. Just throwing words on paper, in a generally inoffensive manner, is simply not going to cut it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Not Living (FICTION)

He's neither living nor dying. He's just floating in a space that's not quite here, and not quite there yet either. What's the point of this, I imagine him asking himself somewhere deep in his subconscious, and I can't help but wonder the same thing myself. What is the point of life if you can't live? Why does he continue to hang on, what is he clinging to?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Review - "Open"

"Open: An Autobiography" by Andre Agassi
My grade: B+

For all you tennis fans (particularly Agassi fans) out there, this is definitely an interesting read, with a lot of insight into the professional tennis world, and more specifically, the Agassi world. Can't say very much more than that about it; this is probably not the kind of book that will change your life. Oddly, though, I have to say that I somehow like Agassi a little less after reading it; somewhere in the process of learning who he really is, I lost some respect. I especially didn't like him using the book to fire some cheap shots at his opponents - i.e., Pete Sampras, Brooke Shields - and portraying people from an obviously-subjective perspective without crediting the subjectivity. If you ask me, Agassi still has some more growing to do.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Human Worth (FICTION)

With my death, how many families will be shattered? Let me count. There will, of course, be my parents. That's one. My husband will too be a bit sad. He's young and good-looking, though, so there is every reason to believe that he will soon recover and remarry. God only knows what kind of a wife he's going to bring home to my children and what she will raise out of them. That's two, three and four. There is also my dog. Oh sure, in the beginning, someone or other will think tenderly of me and walk him for my sake or throw him a bone. But in the end, all sentiment will run out. That's five.

On the corner of my street, there is a small bakery. The shop is owned by a lovely elderly couple, Joe and Fran. Their children are horrible scum, who deserted their parents in old age. I help where I can, including watching the shop for them on the weekends, buying groceries and odd jobs around the house. That's six.

I work in an office, the same office I've worked in for fifteen years. My boss doesn't remember my name - I won't put him on the list. But I've got a co-worker, Becky, my friend. She's a mess of a person, going through her fourth divorce. She's got five kids, all from different men, three cats, a snake and a parakeet. I help keep her feet on the ground, knock some sense into her now and again. That's seven.

I've got an ex-boyfriend, Dan, hanging around. We dated back in high school, for three weeks. It was nothing special, but Dan fell in love, and can't seem to fall out. He knows that I'm married, but he comes by on birthdays and special events with a bouquet of flowers. My presence sustains him. That's eight.

Everyday, as I walk to work, I smile at people I pass by. Often, they smile back. I like to think I've made their day somehow better, their lives a bit happier. There are countless of people there, not to mention all of the potential to meet more in the future. Those are the people, the families, that will be shattered if I die. That is the price of one human life. Are you sure you want to have that on your hands?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Review - "A Thousand Splendid Suns"

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini
My grade: A

For those of you familiar with Hosseini's previous work, "The Kite Runner", I am happy to report that this novel complements the first. If the former is a view of Afghanistan through a man's eyes, the latter is a similar story in a similar time, told by two women, whose fates intertwine. It is not so much political as it is humanistic; not so much intelligent as it is real. It's incredibly sad and moving, so much more so because it describes an atrocious world - one that exists today. It brings to light particularly the struggles women in Afghanistan faced in recent history, up to the present day. It is a work of fiction, but I'm sure, sadly, that it tells the story of many women. Hosseini poignantly accomplishes his aims: to portray war, barbarity and (racial/gender-based) inequality so commonplace in his home country, and to evoke compassion and understanding for a culture/religion knee-deep in human atrocities.