Sunday, May 27, 2012

Book review - "The Wind-up Bird Chronicle"

"The Wind-up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami
My grade: B+

I must start with a disclaimer: it took me two months, or so, to read this book due to my having a baby in January and, very unfortunately, not having enough time to devote to great books as a result of that. No book should be spanned over such a long period of time, and most definitely, not this one. This fact definitely took away from my experience of this book. Having said that, though, I still see important setbacks.

Straying from the other works that I have read, Murakami adds a touch of romance to this novel that I find uncharacteristic, unnecessary and somewhat unbelievable. I struggle to understand the purpose of entangling the romantic story into the overall one. As with all Murakami's novels, this novel is relatively complex and has several different layers to it for the reader to untangle. At some point, however, I found myself asking whether Murakami controls the 'creative process', or if the story just writes itself. There is a thin line between abstract art and uncontrolled non-art, which is abstract just for the sake of being abstract. I get a feeling that Murakami loses control of the process at some point in time, and has no idea himself what the message is and what the novel is all about. And this is something that turns up relatively consistently (for me) in his works. I tend, therefore, to say that his works are underdeveloped and raw. But most definitely full of very interesting ideas! For me, still, very much worth the read.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book review - "Day After Night"

"Day After Night" by Anita Diamant
My grade: A

Tired of the overdone Holocaust theme, I found this book surprisingly on my 'to read' shelf, not sure of why and when I bought it. I began to read it, somewhat reluctantly, only to get sucked in practically from the first page. The setting is post-Holocaust Palestine, a refugee camp (aka prison) for illegal immigrants. The vast majority of them are European Jews, who survived the Holocaust and are now fighting the British to secure a homeland for themselves.

The story is nicely told, largely touching on the Holocaust itself, although indirectly. As Holocaust books go, this one is relatively void of the grotesque and sheds light on the people who are often forgotten, the survivors. Definitely recommendable.

Book review - "Short Stories"

"Short Stories" by Langston Hughes
My grade: B

This is a really great collection of short stories, and I believe, it is a complete collection of all the short stories Hughes ever wrote. The stories are very well written and largely indicative of the time and setting they were written in. They tend, however, to get somewhat boring and repetitive if you read one story after another, like a regular novel. Perhaps this collection is best read one story at a time, with pauses in between.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book review - "Demian"

"Demian: The Story of a Youth" by Hermann Hesse
My grade: A+

An excellent novel! I am a big fan of Hesse, so this comes as no surprise to me. A deeply philosophical work, this is the kind of novel that needs to be read several times in order to be fully understood. But the writing itself is superb, with a wonderful foreword by Thomas Mann. A highly recommended book!

Book review - "A Streetcar Named Desire"

"A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams
My grade: B+

It's amazing how much Williams accomplished in such little space! This play is very short, but nonetheless extremely loaded. Williams does an excellent job of portraying both time and place, as well as creating characters that are alive and recognizable. Definitely worth the short read!

Book review - "Anna Karenina"

"Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy
My grade: A-

It seemed immoral to me to give Tolstoy anything less than an A, but my expectations were not necessarily met. I have previously read this book in the original Russian, many years ago, but wanted to reread in English as I felt I had missed many of the nuances. Firstly, I must say that I was not impressed with Joel Carmichael's translation. On a few occasions, the writing itself seemed flat and, dare I say it, bad. Having gotten that out of the way, the work itself is blindingly outdated; a fact that's sad but true. It's difficult to relate to any aspect of it and to understand the lives or purposes of the characters involved.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of this novel is that I found Anna Karenina herself, the heroine, entirely unsympathetic. There wasn't a single moment in time when I felt sorry for her or her fate, which was by all means Tolstoy's objective. I found her deserving of her grief and pathetic not in the way the author intended.

Another aspect of Tolstoy's writing that simply drove me crazy (and something that has not previously affected me in such a way in his works) is his propensity to digress and focus on his personal philosophies. Many chapters of the book were exceptionally boring and bore no relevance to the main story, arousing questions of why here and now. It gives the impression of a rambling old man, who may have a lot to say, but can't organize his thoughts or ideas properly.