review: oryx and crake

05 July 2014

book info:
on sale: now
book info:
on sale: now
copy from: library
pages: 374
review written: 7.5.14
originally published: 2004

title: Oryx and Crake
author: Margaret Atwood
As the story opens, the narrator, who calls himself Snowman, is sleeping in a tree, wearing a dirty old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beautiful and beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. In a world in which science-based corporations have recently taken mankind on an uncontrolled genetic-engineering ride, he now searches for supplies in a wasteland. Insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the Pleeblands, where oridinary people once lived, and the Compounds that sheltered the extraordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is Snowman left with nothing but his bizarre memories--alone except for the more-than-perfect, green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster? He explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes--into his own past and back to Crake's high-tech bubble dome. (summary from back of book, a part edited out because it contained spoilers)

My thoughts:
I came upon this book with no idea what it was going to be about--I only just gleaned the summary above and got bored with the unknown words (how ironic) like Pleeblands and pigoons. I put it down after a year because the first chapter didn't interest me at all. But I started it again recently and finished it today.

The story begins with the introduction of Snowman, an ordinary man living it what appears to be a wasteland. What follows is a chapter of a time when Snowman was not called Snowman, but Jimmy. Like this, the story is divided into sections where one describes the circumstances surrounding Snowman, and the other surrounding Jimmy. At first, this arrangement confused me but after I got a quarter way through, I became accustomed to it. This arrangement allows the reader to unfold the story like a delicate rose--my emotions ranged from perplexion, to vague understanding, to an ending that had my mouth drop. Unlike starting from the beginning and telling a story to the end, Oryx and Crake starts with the result of the plot (the creation of a wasteland) and slowly continues to its origins. It's a little unconventional, but I think it allowed the book to be as amazing as it is. I think Atwood is masterful in how she writes the development--for some reason, although I was reluctant, I felt the writing compelled me to keep reading. It was almost amazing how I felt like I knew nothing of what was going on, yet when I reached the ending, everything pieced together. The small details from the beginning of the book, like Crake and Jimmy playing computer games like "Blood and Roses" all made sense in the end. It's an amazing feeling, that moment of enlightenment.

There are only three characters to really care about--Jimmy (Snowman), Crake, and Oryx. Only Jimmy and Crake, I feel, had a significant impact on the story. Once again, the only female character of note took the backseat in the book and for some reason, she somehow makes this story a romance. I don't see it as a romance at all. The female characters in this book were disappointing--one goes crazy, one does nothing but obey the man, and the others are just numerous girlfriends.

The character of Jimmy was refreshing. Every other character in the book was scientific, a person of numbers, and Jimmy was the only one of words. He places an importance on words, on history, and their value. I think it's what makes his narrative different than if it had been narrated from another character's point of view. His voice is sarcastic, humorous, and intelligent. He represents the "normal" in his little world of eccentric people.

I think the story raises a bunch of questions about our world today--morality, progress with a price, the power of corporations and our role in how it all functions. Yet these themes, I think ,were somewhat secondary to entertainment. Very little actual action occurred, yet I think that's what most of the book was. These questions, of morality, power, hierarchy, were all subtly woven into the story in a way that modern dystopia (last 5 years) is just not written anymore. In the books I've read, our present is always the distant past. "100 years ago the Great War took place" or something like that, and the fact that it's happened if often very clear within a few chapters. With Oryx and Crake, I was so perplexed. The events of our present was still lingering, and the post-dystopia society hadn't had time to develop into anything more than primitiveness and I loved it.

review: the medici boy

04 May 2014

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: publisher
pages: 336
review written: 2.5.14
originally published: 2014
Barnes & Noble:
Washinton Post:

title: The Medici Boy
author: John L'Heureux
The worlds of art, politics and passion collide in John L’Heureux’s masterful new novel, The Medici Boy. With rich composition, L’Heureux ingeniously transports the reader to Donatello’s Renaissance Italy—directly into his bottega, (workshop), as witnessed through the eyes of Luca Mattei, a devoted assistant. While creating his famous bronze of David and Goliath, Donatello’s passion for his enormously beautiful model and part time rent boy, Agnolo, ignites a dangerous jealousy that ultimately leads to Agnolo’s brutal murder. Luca, the complex and conflicted assistant, will sacrifice all to save the life of Donatello, even if it means the life of the master sculptor’s friend and great patron of art, Cosimo de’ Medici. John L’Heureux’s long-awaited novel delivers both a monumental and intimate narrative of the creative genius, Donatello, at the height of his powers. With incisive detail, L’Heureux beautifully renders the master sculptor’s forbidden homosexual passions, and the artistry that enthralled the powerful and highly competitive Medici and Albizzi families. The finished work is a sumptuously detailed historical novel that entertains while it delves deeply into both the sacred and the profane within one of the Italian Renaissance’s most consequential cities, fifteenth century Florence

My thoughts:
The title and the cover imply some mysterious paranormal historical fiction. The name "Medici" invokes drama and political ties and betrayal. I believed that the book would delve into the intricate complexities of the Medici family, a family we still remember today. Yet it focuses on unexpected "side" characters in the Medici life. The narrator is a plain boy turned man that narrates from a sort of third person limited point of view while himself playing an active role. A prostitute, a merchant, an adopted family, some friars--all relatively average characters for the book to bestow the name "The Medici Boy" Cosimi de' Medici makes a few appearances, but they're limited. His influence plays a part but not in the way one might think.

The main character (or rather, the narrator) tells the story of his master Donatello as he's involved with "sodomy". When the main character, Luca, was young he was adopted by a family that didn't care of him very well. So when one day, his "brother" (from that family), Agnolo shows up, it can only mean trouble. The story is less about art than it is about homosexuality. It was something that I hadn't expected when I picked up the book only knowing it was about Donatello--he who created the first free-standing sculpture in Renaissance Italy. His was like the precursor to Michelangelo. Yet I think there's enough mention of the art to interest art lovers.

The sodomy aspect of the story was fascinating to me because the only knowledge I have of "sodomy" with that term instead of "gay" is with what people tell me of the Bible. When I studied Renaissance Italy in my European History class, the Church played a role in sponsoring public art for the sake of bringing people to religion. And most art at the time was Christian. I mean, Donatello's first free standing bronze sculpture was of David defeating Goliath. Yet I had never considered how homosexuality was perceived at the time. Frankly, I thought the misinterpretation of the Bible occurred afterwards with the Gutenburg Bible. So L'Heureax's exploration of homosexuality was enlightening. The story, I think, is about the union between art and homosexuality with a lean towards the latter. I think The Medici Boy is unique in it's subject matter in this aspect.

Plot-wise, I think the story lacked "story". When I was reading, I was comparing it to The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, which is a book detailing the life of Michelangelo from his early life to his later years. It was close to a thousand pages long and went into detail the art and the intricate relationships that develop throughout life. I feel that with just three hundred and thirty six pages with font that's larger than the minuscule lettering of The Agony and the Ecstasy, that L'Heureax wasn't able to create a similar environment. The story jumped many years in between chapters. One minute he's seventeen and the next he's in his thirties. Also, I find the plot line was weak. Luca's unextraordinary and even boring in the first pages, and that part doesn't change. He works for his first master Donato and then for Donatello but nothing interesting happens. Luca observes homosexuality and worries that the Church will condemn his master and then his "brother" and so on and so forth. I think being the onlooker to someone else's story was too limiting. I would have rather the story been told from Agnolo's POV or a third person omniscient. In the end, I found myself skipping a couple of pages here and there for something to happen.

The characters too lacked development. Donatello was just some old guy. At least one can notice his depth in the later part of the book. Agnolo is just a brat, though I'm sure if his story was explored a bit further he would've made a brilliant character. Luca is shallow and flat. All the other side characters were BEYOND side characters. Luca's wife, for instance, is just there. Nothing to it. I guess I expected women to play a lesser role in a book about male homosexuality--but I don't like having that expectation. The characterisation was not the best it could be.

  Overall, this book wasn't remarkable. Literature-wise, it wasn't well done. But history-wise, I found the subject matter fascinating. I'm going to give this book 2 out of 6 umbrellas!


review: maurice

12 April 2014

Arthur Sales & Liuk Bass by Saverio Cardia

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: library
pages: 256
review written: 12.4.14
edition read: W. W. Norton & Company (2005)
originally published: 1971

title: Maurice
author: E. M. Forster

Set in the elegant Edwardian world of Cambridge undergraduate life, this story by a master novelist introduces us to Maurice Hall when he is fourteen. We follow him through public school and Cambridge, and on into his father's firm, Hill and Hall, Stock Brokers. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every way, "stepping into the niche that England had prepared for him": except that his is homosexual.

Written during 1913 and 1914, after an interlude of writer's block following the publication of Howards End, and not published until 1971, Maurice was ahead of its time in its theme and in its affirmation that love between men can be happy. "Happiness," Forster wrote, "is its keynote….In Maurice I tried to create a character who was completely unlike myself or what I supposed myself to be: someone handsome, healthy, bodily attractive, mentally torpid, not a bad businessman and rather a snob. Into this mixture I dropped an ingredient that puzzles him, wakes him up, torments him and finally saves him." (goodreads)

My thoughts:
Something interesting I'd like to point out is that E.M. Forster finished writing this book in 1914, the start of World War II. He resisted publication because of the views of same-sex marriage at the time. Maurice was published after his death by his trustees in a time where social attitudes about homosexuality were changing. The cover reveals an interesting perspective--the pink title and the velvet-cake deep red lace seems to indicate a feminine touch to the book while having the silhouette of two men talking. The main character, Maurice, has an aversion to women but his lover doesn't hate them as much as Maurice does. The role of women is a key point in this book for women remain to be the obstacle in Maurice's quest for love. An interesting cover, but one that I think could have been better. My Language teacher told me that this book was sad, but had a happy ending.

The book begins with an almost-fifteen year old schoolboy graduating from his boarding school in England. As a graduate on the last day, he has a talk with one of the teachers. The teacher preached to him "To love a noble woman, to protect and serve her--this was the crown of life" (14-15) to which Maurice responded "I think I shall not marry".
Thus begins the story of Maurice's realisation of his sexuality. He's cold towards his family, unloving almost, and firm with his beliefs. I think it's fascinating that as he realises his sexuality, he also questions his relationship with religion. He meets a friend at Cambridge, where he now attends college, and this friend, Clive Durham, says he's not a Christian. Maurice, an atheist and homosexual, must hide himself from his upper class family. He becomes alienated, but he is in love with his friend, to whom he shows his loving and caring side; a side he rarely ever shows to anyone.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Despite being written in 1914, I find that I can relate very much to the characters, not in regards to sexuality, but with religion. Maurice and Clive were about my age and proclaimed themselves atheists, which at the time was incredibly controversial. It's surprising that not many YA books nowadays questions religion-mostly every character is presumed to be Christian by default, or agnostic. Many characters remain ambiguous religion-wise, a position I find a bit annoying. But Maurice does a fine job in drawing parallels between the struggles of sexuality with religion. Even if one isn't a homosexual, the question of religion is universal. They're two of the same--one's religious status can almost be like one's homosexuality, except that the former can be changed while the latter is more or less permanent. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the characterisation. Maurice's character isn't exactly likeable, but that's exactly why I like him. It's too easy to write a likeable protagonist, but to write an unsavoury one? That takes talent. It's like the protagonist of The Enchanter by Nabokov. Not only is Maurice an un-likeable character, but so is literally every character in this book save for one, and it wasn't even a good one. But the way these characters are characterised is masterful and subtle. In just a couple of sentences, one could understand a mountain load of a character's personality. Along with issues and characterisation, the overall plot line was well done. There was a definitive structure and path with several unexpected twists and turns that makes the story interesting and enjoyable.

I couldn't help but to notice similarities between Maurice and other books. If you've read A Separate Peace by John Knowles, you'll find Maurice to be similar. I never understood when people told me that A Separate Peace has a homosexual sub-context, but now I realise it actually might. It was published before Maurice was published, which is fascinating. If you've read Catcher in the Rye, Maurice reminds me of Holden in their uncaring characters. Maurice intentionally hurts his family, as does Holden, and skives off classes to the point where he gets expelled, just like Holden.

I recommend this to older readers or more mature readers (I read deep stuff when I was twelve and thirteen) because the language is a just a bit thick, like all the books that are published in that century. I enjoyed the book, but my dislike of the characters and my own personal satisfaction wasn't quenched (like when you ship two characters in a T.V. show and it never becomes canon), and thus my ratings are affected by my judgemental bias.

topic: foreign language books in american markets

12 February 2014

(source) this reminds me of my favourite cover of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre

Hello everyone!
   I promised more reviews and I think I've upheld that promise with three consecutive book reviews. But they're not very interactive, so how about a topic post?
   I've gone through about every classic that I consider interesting (excluding Pride and Prejudice, or any Victorian novel, really). Like I did with films, I decided to venture forth into the foreign market. My first thought was French contemporary novels. The French often lead in everything, like they did back in the Enlightenment producing great writers like Voltaire and Montesquieu, and in fashion and much more. I decided that my first step into modern European literature should be with the French, then with the Spanish, and then into the mystery and thriller of the Nordic countries. However, on my search for foreign books, I found very few. When I explored Goodreads Lists section, most titles were in French and weren't even translated to English titles. I searched through my local library's online catalogue and found maybe a  couple of French books translated to English. I myself have read the French modern classics, which I'm sure most of you have already read: The Stranger by Albert Camus, the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. But past the existential fiction boom, what other books do we know that are written by the French?

  I went online to do some research and found two contrasting articles. One from BBC titled "Why don't French Books Sell Abroad?" and a response article on titled "Why do French Books Sell Abroad?". Both made interesting points and cited fascinating facts. For instance, the Anglophone book market prefers English books. Americans don't need foreign books because they have their own contemporaries at home. Plus American publishers are turned off by the high costs of translations, so they are complacent with sticking with American-born novels.
French book covers are not made to look appealing (from BBC)

BBC: "As for US publishers, they're so convinced that with 350 million potential readers and a big stable of American writers, they've got everything covered - every genre, every style. So why bother?"
French Culture: "It is not that French books don’t export (in fact, they do quite well in other countries), but that the demand for translations in the UK and the US is not at its best."
BBC: The costs and difficulty of literary translation are clearly part of the problem. So too is the fact that the Anglophone book market is thriving - so the demand for foreign works is limited.
French Culture: "1% of novels published in the US are translations, whereas in France, they count for about 33% (American novelists, loved by French readers, hold the first rank)." <--i found="" interesting="" p="" this="">
French Culture offered a rebuttal to BBC's dire statements about the decline in foreign literature in Anglo-Saxon countries.

French Culture: "French literature does sell abroad, and it sells better than ever...The number of books translated from French to English has increased by about 30% in the last few years [1]. According to a list compiled by the Book Department of the French Embassy in New York, many more translations from French are published than the available statistics usually suggest: between 300 and 350 translations from French are being published in the US every year, among which at least 62 were contemporary French novels in 2012, and 77 in 2013."

With all of these is the simple fact that the American book market doesn't favour foreign literature. I can't even name one French contemporary, post-war novelist. I find it...regretful that the French read more foreign literature than Americans do. It's a problem that not only are foreign (translated) literature books aren't as popular, but they're not even made available. And if they are, they're not translated. If I can't even dip my toes into French contemporary literature, then how am I expected to explore the wide array of culturally enriching literature of Europe? I would like to offer a protest to publishers, but I know that they're already suffering from e-book sales and a general decline in book sales due to the still somewhat difficult economy.

On a slightly relevant tangent, I'd like to mention something else

  1. French cinema is literally non-existent outside of French countries. I'm pleased that Bollywood's appealing to Anglophone countries, but I'd like to see some other foreign films in the cinemas. My favourite director ever, Xavier Dolan: well, his new film  Tom à la ferme was released in 2013, but unfortunately it won't come to American viewers. His first film, which will forever be my most favourite film ever ("I Killed My Mother"), was one that I discovered by chance by going trailer hunting on youtube for foreign films. I connected so much to it, and I'm incredibly fortunate to have found it. I wish that films as amazing as his could be shown to American audiences, and viewers like me.

Anyway--what's your opinion of foreign literature and maybe even foreign films in American markets and media? Do you think something should be done, or should foreign gems be kept hidden for those willing to find them?

review: class matters

12 January 2014

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: library
review written: 6.1.14
edition read:
originally published: 2005

The acclaimed New York Times series on social class in America--and its implications for the way we live our lives
We Americans have long thought of ourselves as unburdened by class distinctions. We have no hereditary aristocracy or landed gentry, and even the poorest among us feel that they can become rich through education, hard work, or sheer gumption. And yet social class remains a powerful force in American life.
In Class Matters, a team of New York Times reporters explores the ways in which class--defined as a combination of income, education, wealth, and occupation--influences destiny in a society that likes to think of itself as a land of opportunity. We meet individuals in Kentucky and Chicago who have used education to lift themselves out of poverty and others in Virginia and Washington whose lack of education holds them back. We meet an upper-middle-class family in Georgia who moves to a different town every few years, and the newly rich in Nantucket whose mega-mansions have driven out the longstanding residents. And we see how class disparities manifest themselves at the doctor's office and at the marriage altar. (review from goodreads)

My thoughts:
This was a book assigned by my AP Language/American Literature class. I was given a similar book to read over the summer, The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and I couldn't help but draw the parallels between this book and that one. Class Matters is a compilation of articles from the New York Times describing the gap between the rich and the poor and how there is generally less mobility between classes. A wide variety of issues and causes are tackle. Each article explores a different portion of the whole pie about class.

What I found a little funny was that this book was published in 2005, so the "Bush administration" was used in the present tense. There was mention on how markers of wealth were becoming blurry and people of low income could now purchase their own house with mortgages from banks. Little did they know in 2005 that this practise would cause an economic recession in these past couple years. I found these small details amusing but they're small "mistakes" that are to be expected from news articles that are written to express actions of the current time. This being a class book, I took notes and I think the first chapter was the "thesis" chapter and provided an introduction as to what the articles would later explore.

Blurring the Landscape
Harder to read position in possessions- material goods are cheaper
Class alignments in politics=jumbled. Pros once Republican, now Democratic
Shift due to social issues
Religious affiliation no longer reliable class marker- rise of Evangelical Christians
Race and class affiliation weakened. African-Americans in middle + upper middle class
Diverse elite- more Catholics, Jew and Mormons in Senate
Globalisation killing factory jobs that were one stepping-stones to middle class= jump in income                      inequality
Class determines whether you get college degree
Class differences in health- upper-middle class lives longer than middle class that lives longer than                 bottom
Where and with whom affluent Americans live- increased isolation of affluent
Those at the top work more than those at the bottom

  Because this book was mainly informative rather than "entertaining" in the tradition sense, I can find little criticism except from one article, "Fifteen Years at the Bottom Rung" about Mexicans working at a Greek restaurant. It was confusing and tried to explore too many different streams of the topic. It was my least favourite, least enjoyable read of the whole compilation. 
  Unfortunately, this book didn't tell me anything new. I kind of new a lot of what was happening and I attribute this to my AP Human Geography class, in which I studied the relationship between human activity and geography. So I didn't find this book particularly enriching, but it did bring to mind the interesting question of whether or not the American Dream is really dead. I was aware of the lack of class mobility today, but then I remember the olden times where you could literally go from rags-to-riches. For example, John D. Rockefeller was raised in a "poor" household but later became co-founder of Standard Oil, a monopoly in the twentieth century. That was the American Dream, and now it's just an idea we believe to be true. It truly is a dream that we cling to, though it has long since passed. True, there are always exceptions, but in general, the Dream is dead. 

   If you're interesting in socio-economic dynamic in America, or are just interested in understanding the world we live in (here in America), then this is an enriching book that's just for you. It's always good to stay educated not just on the past but also the present. Despite being published in 2005, it's still relevant today. It wasn't too terrible, so I feel guilty for considering giving this two out of six umbrellas. So I'll give it three.

review: the enchanter

06 January 2014

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: libary
pages: 95-96
review written: 6.1.14
edition read: G.P. Putnam's Sons, NY
originally published: 1986

The Enchanter is the Ur-Lolita, the precursor to Nabokov's classic novel. At once hilarious and chilling, it tells the story of an outwardly respectable man and his fatal obsession with certain pubescent girls, whose coltish grace and subconscious coquetry reveal, to his mind, a special bud on the verge of bloom. (Summary from goodreads)

My thoughts:
The Enchanter is a short novel written by Vladimir Nabokov as is classified as Russian literature and as a classic. The title "The Enchanter" is a nickname that the protagonist gives himself in a certain scene with a pubescent girl. Nabokov wrote a pre-face describing this book as a precursor to Lolita. He called it "a beautiful piece of Russian prose, precise and lucid...". I have to agree with him on that part. Now, the book covers were all really...unfitting for as strange and simple a book as this--and this cover by Penguin was one that I thought fit the story best. With around one hundred pages, every tiny detail is important, and the toy horse is one of them. I enjoy this cover too, with the little girl in the background, and the faint flower behind the horse. But you know, the version I read was garishly old and the cover was not pleasing to the eyes.

It all started when my friend, Deniz and I went to the library to get some books. We naturally went to the classics, and Deniz found Lolita. She described to me what her friend had told her--the basic synopsis of the book. It was the story of a man who married a woman because he lusted after her young daughter (I imagined her as eight years old). The idea of getting inside a paedophile's head was immensely interesting to me, but Deniz had gotten the last copy of Lolita at the library, so naturally I was disappointed. Being the good friend that she is, she found this book, The Enchanter,  which was a precursor to Lolita and was basically the same thing. Ayn Rand did this with her books too, starting off with a short hundred-page Anthem and building up to a massive Atlas Shrugged. Similarly, The Enchanter is less than a hundred pages and Lolita  is over three hundred pages.

What I noticed first was the incredibly detailed and philosophical way Nabokov writes, which is to be expected because he's a Russian writer. He starts off with a statement from the main character, a forty-year old, "respectable" man "How can I come to terms with myself?". This gained sympathy from me. At least the paedophile knew that his thoughts were abnormal, and not in the good way. But despite his conflicted thoughts, the thoughts themselves made me lose sympathy. He said that he did not intend to ever rape the girl, that when she wanted to explore her sexuality, he would be there. But his actions do not reflect his intentions. He ends up touching her anyway. I felt little sympathy for the nameless protagonist, and yet I was shocked at myself for being fascinated in the same way he was. Of course, I felt myself vomit with the descriptions of a pre-adolescent girl written as if she were a sexually appealing woman. But the way it was written was oddly fascinating.

"The girl's arrival, her breathing, her legs, her hair, everything she did, whether it was scratching a shin and leaving white marks on it, or throwing a small black ball high in the air, or brushing against him with a bare elbow as she seated herself on the bench--all of it (while he appeared engrossed in pleasant conversation) evoked an intolerable sensation of sanguine, dermal, multivascular communion with her as if the monstrous bisector pumping all the juices from the depths of his being extended into her like a pulsating dotted line, as if this girl were growing out of him...." (53).
I felt disgusted with that. Yet, you must agree with me, that was an interesting description? Regardless, the entire book follows that way and it doesn't take very long to finish it. Apparently, Nabokov had a childhood love that died and he remembered her when he met a woman of twenty years and thus wrote of his childhood love. They kissed, but got no further. Nabokov had a more active romantic life than I did--when I was that age, all I thought about was getting candy.

Regardless of subject matter, the writing itself was rich and fascinating.

"Knowing, rationally, that the Euphrates apricot* is harmful only in canned form; that sin is inseparable from civic custom; that all hygienes have their hyenas; knowing, moreover, that this selfsame rationality is not averse to vulgarising that to which it is otherwise denied access....I now discard all that and ascend to a higher plan" (22)
* thought by some to have been the true identity of the Biblical apple
 This is something I've read over and over again and that I can't forgot nor can I comprehend. "the Euphrates apricot is harmful only in canned form"--what does this mean? The amount of religious reference in this bit is more than any references he's made in the whole story.The last bit about ascending to a higher plane indicates what religion basically is, and the Euphrates apricot is a direct Christian reference. The protagonist is speaking of his "vulgarity" as if it's something....oh I'll think on this. What do you all think of this quote?

The unnamed protagonist disgusted me, and to make a reader hate the main character is skilful on the writer's part. The other characters, the little girl, her mother, and an old woman that took care of the girl, were all women. It surprised me that the protagonist was the only male at the scene, and I would like to think that somehow this is a significant detail. Kind of like a reverse of an enchantress that ensnares men--an enchanter that ensnares women. The overall theme, I think, was the conflict between morality and desire. Yet not completely so because the protagonist at a certain point stops worrying about morality and changes his mindset to that of a predator. He had a prey, a goal, and he acted and waited patiently to achieve it. I guess the theme then is open for interpretation.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, but not entirely developed as it will be in Lolita. If you want to read something quickly, but you want your brain to be enriched with something controversial, try The Enchanter. I give this book 3 out of 6 umbrellas.

review: the devil in the white city

05 January 2014

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: public library
pages: 390
review written: 5.1.14
edition read: paperback Vintage Books, Random House
originally published: 2003

Bringing Chicago circa 1893 to vivid life, Erik Larsen's spell-binding bestseller intertwines the true tale of two men--the brilliant architect behind the legendary 1893 World's Fair, striving to secure America's place in the world; and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling. Erik Larsen has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.

My thoughts:
The Devil in the White City is written by Erik Larson--a non-fiction, historical novel spiced up with murder mystery. The title incoroporates the two halves of the book: the Devil and the White City. The Devil is infamous murderer H.H. Holmes and the White City is the Chicago Fair that America yearns for.

This was a book assigned by my AP United States History class to read over the winter break. Naturally, I forgot about it until two days ago, so I've been cram reading. But since it's a book for school and I'm going to be tested on it, I read it with great care and attention to detail.

The book is actually two stories into one. And I think this is the reason I was able to read the book so closely yet also finish in a record amount of time. Part of the story follows Burnham, a prominent architect, and other architects that come together to build a World's Fair to rival the one in Paris where Eiffel stunned the world with the Eiffel Tower. The other part follows the story of notorious serial killer H.H. Holmes. I enjoy reading architectural literature, like descriptions of buildings or the details and plans and emotions that go behind it. I enjoy the descriptions of the types of stone, the types of scaffolding, the types of windows or doors used: that's just something weird I realised when I read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. But in The Devil in the White City, the story is not about the architecture itself, but the process of building a fair with architecture. The doings of the companies, the architectural firms, and the workers were all described. For instance, Olmstead, a landscape architect, was feeling ill and had a disagreement with other architects and committees. Matters like this that I found interesting, but not enough to keep my reading. Had I been reading this for pleasure, I would have felt discouraged and put it down about half way through. Though I think it's not so unbearable that one would suffer from reading it. The reason I kept reading was not because of the architectural story, but the H. H. Holmes story. Like the Chicago World Fair, the story of H.H. Holmes starts from the beginning.

What I enjoyed about the story of the World Fair was the arc. It all started with an idea, and then the planning and then the execution and then the enjoyment and then the demise. I felt as if I were watching a fast-forward film footage of a baby growing into an adult and slowly declining into old age into death. When one follows a person from conception to death, one is left with a feeling of completeness and a feeling of nostalgia. I feel like I've known the World Fair. I know it's origins and I know its end. That sort of arc is fulfilling in a sense. Of course, H.H. Holmes' story barely covers his birth and early childhood. We start from when he's a young, handsome, popular man. But I feel that same sense of completion as I did with the World Fair.

The book is mainly fact, with little fiction. I believe whatever fiction was involved was there simply to make the facts flow with a literature-like rhythm.  For instance "The sun emerged late in the morning, though squalls continued to sweet Jackson Park through much of the day" (290). Details like the sun emerging late seem like fiction, but I don't know if Larson did detailed research. The citations at the back of the book surely describe extreme attention to detail and staying true to fact. Actual quotes from architects and characters are strewn within the writing with a natural flow and ease and it feels as if one is reading an account from a person that was there at the time of the Chicago Fair. I think in this sense, The Devil in the White City is a remarkable achievement. Many books that try to describe past events with this much detail tend to fail, but The Devil in the White City proved that misconception false.

If you enjoy history, especially one with lots of detail, and if you enjoy murder mystery then this book is a perfect mix of both. It has more architectural story than Holmes, so this part was a turn off. Overall, I think I enjoyed it. I give it three umbrellas out of six.

(What I don't understand is why Holmes was considered handsome and charming. He doesn't look attractive to me:
This is the man that convinced many pretty ladies to marry him. I don't see it. When I imagined Holmes as described by Larson, I imagined someone beautiful, not ordinary.

Happy New Year and Resolutions!

01 January 2014

source: unknown (if you know it, send me the citation)

Hello Readers!
   Time to be incredibly informal with you all. For some reason, whenever I blog, I'm just this bookish, nerdy, professional kind of girl that writes very properly and formally, double checking for grammar mistakes (which I often make without catching, so help me out). I comma splice often. Anyway.

   I have done shit in 2013. Literally, my whole life was a fail. I was just flopping through like a starved fish waiting for the year to be over. Of course, not only in my real life but also in my blogging life (yeah, 'cause blogging isn't real life, I don't even know). This has been a really unproductive year. I think it's because we all died in 2012 and 2013 was a wtf year.

   So I'm doing Parajunkee's New Years Meme thing where I make a new post every day for 2 weeks which I think will be record for most continuous blog posts. Let's be honest. I'm going to write like, five of them today and just schedule it. I'm kind of high right now on three different types of chocolate, like dark chocolate with almonds, milk chocolate, and wafer milk chocolate. I'm just being brutally honest.

 All right, let's do this.

  1. Review more books. I'm a Junior so I don't have time to read books, like I don't. But I hope that I can review more books.
  2. Comment more. I was scrolling through my dashboard looking at posts from all these blogs that I loved so much and all these bloggers that I haven't talked to in ages and I'm like "Gurl where have I been". So I want to be more active and involved with you guys.
  3. Be pro. Like, I decided that I was mainly going to post reviews a while back and I hope to carry that out through this year. It's all about books here. My personal blog is just my name, Kirthi Rao. But even that's pro. I guess my personal blog is my Tumblr but I'm to embarrassed to share it with you. 
 Many happy returns, my dear readers, and a happy new year!

pages All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger