Monday, May 27, 2013

I keep reading, but can't find time to write about it (Part 1)

11.  Veronica Decides to Die - Paulo Coelho (210 Pages) - B- (March 14-18)
Obviously anyone that knows me knows I enjoy to read.  Since I only read on the subway on my way to work, my co-workers are always quick with a suggestion on things that I should read.  If a co-worker gives me a book, I make it a point to read it as quickly as possible.  Being someone that often loans out my books to others , I know what it's like when someone may want it back after loaning it out.  I feel if someone feels the need to give me a book and I accept it, it is my duty to read it, give it back and give that person an assessment of the book.  In this case, my co-worker Val gave me Paulo Coelho's book about living in a psychiatric ward and the story of of the fictitious Veronika.

Veronika tries to kill herself by taking too many pills.  She fails, but the pills have taken their toll on her heart and now the doctors expect her to die within 2 weeks.  How does she feel about life now knowing that there is a definite expiration date?    That is the story of this book.  Paulo Coelho's most famous book is The Alchemist which was a book club suggestion a few years ago.  I feel similar to this book as I did with that.  The ideas that are presented in the book are great (I can understand why someone may read this book and find it "deep"), however I find the writing to be formulaic and obvious.  This may have a great deal to do with the fact hat the book was originally written in Portuguese and some of the nuance may have been lost in translation, but it doesn't change my opinion.    However, anyone having a crisis of faith and feeling depressed, I could recommend this book.  As long as that person is not an English teacher.

12.  American Pastoral - Philip Roth (~432 Pages) - C - (March 19-April 3)
The latest book club pick by my friend Ed.  In trying to not spend my entire paycheck on books, someone gave me a PDF of this book and I was able to read it on my iPad.  The biggest problem is this PDF as a lot of typos, spacing issues and no chapter breaks.  This made reading quite a chore and definitely contributed greatly to my lack of enjoyment.

However, even with a clean copy, I'm not sure how much I would have enjoyed this book.  It is obvious that Philip Roth is able to write, but like many authors in their later years, he would benefit from a good editor.  There was a lot of repetition of ideas, plot points and scenes replayed again and again.  Also, the story was kind of all over the place.

It starts with an old man going back to his High School Reunion and remembering the coolest guy/best athlete in his home town before WWII.   The story eventually changes narrators to that athlete, named The Swede in the late 60s.  The book follows his life and after his daughter blows up the local general store in protest of the Vietnam War.   The Swede's life spirals out of control from this and it takes its toll on his family.

In comparison to Jonathan Frazen's Freedom, these stories are quite similar, but this shows how writing style, and editing can make a reader feel very different about very similar novels.

13.  Slowness - Milan Kundera (155 Pages) - C- - (April 4-5)
A forgettable novel, by a great author.   Kundera literally takes a chapter in the book to break narration and to write as himself about how it would be funny to write a novel where the entire book is 100% nonsense.  I think that was him telling the reader to just go along for the ride.    All of the narrations are quite sexual in nature (it is Kundera after all), and I did laugh out lout at two scenes in the book, but for the most part I barely remember reading this just two months later.

This was another short book that I saw in the library and decided to read because of this challenge I have given myself.  I'm glad I read it since it only took 2 days, but otherwise anyone reading this can skip this book and read Unbearable Lightness of Being instead.

14.  Coyote Blue - Christopher Moore (303 Pages) - C - (April 6-11)
I have read a number of Christopher Moore's books and the last one I read (Sacre Bleu) was quite good.  So when I was over my friend Bridget's upstate house and saw another of his books just sitting in her mostly-empty house, I just started to read it during a quiet weekend upstate.
There is nothing good or bad about this book.  It is just another of his style of quirky books this time mostly about Native American culture.  In this book a young man had left the reservation some time ago, and now a Native American spirit-god has come to find him to help him find happiness.
Christopher Moore is a fun writer who has a similar vibe to Tom Robbins.  His books are always fun, and this one does not disappoint in the fun department, it just wasn't his best and in the end was quite forgettable.

15.  Femme - Bill Pronzini (175 Pages) -D+ - (April 12-14)
Once again, my way of cheating with the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge.  I saw a short book in the library and rented it.  This book looked like a typical detective noir book, and it didn't disappoint, but it didn't add anything.
This is a straight up detective story whose twist isn't much of a twist.  It's written in the old Sam Spade - style of short sentences and even shorter plot.  The dame is evil.  Or is she?
Not much to write about here.  It was a quick, fun read, but the third forgettable novel in a row.

No comments: