Review

7. ROOM By Emma Donoghue

I’ve made the mistake of watching the film way before I’ve read the book. It was because I didn’t think I’d be able to find the book anywhere here, and didn’t want to wait for too long. As I was watching, I thought, wouldn’t it be great if the book was written in first person as Jack?

And it is.

Writing a child character, first person or not, is one of the most difficult tasks for an adult writer. It’s rarely compelling or convincing, because it’s not easy to remember what being a child was like. Writers often make the child either too smart and precious, or too naive. Emma Donoghue perfectly captured the voice of a child. The incongruity of intellect, the volatility, the way he made sense of everything even when it didn’t, and most importantly, the innocence. Viewing this world through his eyes, he’s just a child that wants to play and loves his Ma, he’s unaware of the damage that’s being done to him, he’s scared, and it will break your heart.

Every chapter of this book is heartbreaking but for different reasons. Even still, it’s so gripping the reader will want to look away but can’t. You’re angry then sad then mellow, and you don’t even know how it happened. Events flow effortlessly and change of pacing happens swiftly, the characters are just as real and convincing as the narrator, since Donoghue managed to convey the flawed nature of humans just as well as the alien, complex nature of a child.

One thing Room has opened my eyes to, something ‘Ma’ has pointed out to Jack and others (not giving much away,) is how little a child needs in order to be society’s idea of ‘normal.’ She managed to provide a healthy environment using only few supplies and all the love a mother can give. Besides the basic necessities of life, that’s all children need.

Room is beautiful and shocking, definitely risky for a writer to go down that path but Donoghue has proven more than capable.

5/5
Recommended.

Advertisements
Standard
Review

6. THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA By Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been mulling this over for what seems like ages. I thought about abandoning a review altogether and just writing a two sentence long entry, homage to Hemingway, but that would have been lazy.

Thing is, I found this book difficult to digest.

After Paulo Coelho, considering they both have different styles of expressing symbolism and life lessons, this is certainly refreshing. It’s a short book, there isn’t much going on, but comparing the two, The Old Man and the Sea has more to offer than The Devil and Miss Prym.

Here’s my take on the book: Going down a list of things that make a good book, this one is a winner. Coherent plot, perfectly-set pacing, diligent scene illustration, three dimensional character(s?), and most importantly symbolism that doesn’t come off as trying hard. It’s simple and to-the-point, but there’s more to it than let on. There’s more to extrapolate, and there’s room for the reader upon which they can reflect their own emotions. However, while reading this, from beginning to end, I was bereft of all sorts of feelings.

It’s about Santiago overcoming all the obstacles after almost believing he’s doomed to failure. He persists and perseveres, compromising what his own body needs and blindly fighting off whatever gets in his way. Even though in the end he hardly had anything to show for it, winning in the conventional sense was not his end goal. He wanted to feel alive and competent. Catching the fish was irrelevant. Looking at the bigger picture, this is about life as a whole.

Overall, I get what the book was getting at, and I saw the events and characters as if they were real, but emotionally I had no connection whatsoever. Quick pacing and short sentences, it felt automated.

The tip of the iceberg is a method that works for many readers, but not for me. Give me details. Give me a profound psychological analysis of every single one of those details. Mostly I avoid minimalist authors but I have a few exceptions. Sometimes minimalism is absolutely imperative, Kurt Vonnegut is a good example of this, but if I had to choose, I’d go for authors that dig deep.

Admittedly, The Old Man and the Sea is a book I would recommend and always talk about as an example for perfect writing, but wouldn’t want to read it again. I liked it, but didn’t love it. It’s an above average experience, and a nice little gateway to more Hemingway.
4/5

Standard
Review

5. THE DEVIL AND MISS PRYM By Paulo Coelho

This is the first and last experience for me with Paulo Coelho. I’ve heard so much about the guy so wanted to check out a book of his out of curiosity. Let me just say, the book is interesting. The characters are well written and events are well set, but my biggest problem was his prose.

I’ve seen a review saying he writes “in a universal language” and that’s fair enough because it means he’s easy to understand, no matter where you’re from, however, I found it to be boring, condescending, and a bit juvenile. There was nothing challenging about this book. I love a book that gives me a brain work-out, or gets me emotionally involved. This book did neither.

It’s full of life lessons and morals, but the premise is far too obvious to enjoy. Paulo Coelho is really good for quotes on sunset posters, but a whole book is a bit superfluous. I would have enjoyed this book more if it was my 14-year-old self reading it.

3/5
Recommended if you’re 14.

Standard
Review

4. I LOVED YOU MORE By Tom Spanbauer

I tried to look for that one article where I first read about I Loved You More. Couldn’t find it anywhere. I know it was either posted by or shared by LitReactor, and that’s yet another reason why I’m so glad I have LitReactor in my life. As soon as I saw that article, read the synopsis, I wanted to have the book.

Last time I fully enjoyed a book (and I mean fell in love with it to a point where I had to pause every few sentences because they’re so beautiful that they make you stop in your tracks,) was when I read The Picture of Dorian Gray. I’ve read many books after that, but none got close enough to have that place in my heart. Of course that was until I read I Loved You More. Tom Spanbauer, the Oscar Wilde of the twenty first century.

It’s a story of a man cast out of the world of men, falling into a complicated relationship that turned into an even more complicated love triangle, and cursed with a health crisis. The delicate and gritty reality of romance and grief, perfectly represented, poignant and palpable.

The book is impeccable, written in language so simple yet so rich and heavy. The vulnerability of it, how real it felt, the pain and joy and longing. You have to go where it hurts goes both ways for writer and reader. It’s not one of those books that go by without leaving its mark. It drew me in right from the beginning, and by the end I was crying.

5/5 easily.
I can’t recommend this enough. In fact, I’m going to look into getting the rest of his books. Seriously, no one writes like this guy.

Standard
Review, Uncategorized

3. BLACK GUM By J David Osborne

First of all, let me just say the cover of this book is absolutely fucking sexy. It doesn’t just look good, it also feels good. When I first got the book, I kept touching it because it’s so soft and the print is prominent.

Anyway, book molestation aside, this is a pretty solid one. J David Osborne nails it once again, with his gritty, desiccated style, telling a story so engaging I finished it in two sittings (and that’s saying a lot as it takes me months to get through a book usually.)

Not to give away too much, this is about a man having the worst possible kind of rebound. A good man doing bad things in an act of desperation, ending up meeting the most complex, most interesting, and scariest kinds of people. It’s weird, sad, funny, and different. Imagine Mike Patton, but a book.

What I admire about it is that it respects the readers’ intelligence. There’s no tedious character introduction or in-depth description of scenes and atmosphere, because everything is already clearly established in the author’s head –it’s all raw and real, you’re right there where everything’s going on without the author boring you with minor, easily deducible details.

The only reason I’m giving it a 4.5 and not five stars is because the ending kind of fell flat. I was expecting some kind of climax but it felt so lukewarm that if there was one, I clearly missed it. Rounding it up to 5 on Goodreads though because 1) Holy shit, Danny Ames! and 2) This bit made me genuinely chuckle:

“What’s these teardrops mean?”
“Means I’m super sad.” –p.27

4.5/5

Standard
Uncategorized

2. PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT By Philip Roth

A journey into the life of Alexander Portnoy, peeking inside his head as he goes through the hilarious and yet tragic events of his life. Despite how aberrant the events were, I found them all too relatable. I believe whoever lived in a strict household, or an uptight culture that brainwashes its young, would easily relate to this. The protagonist diligently –beautifully, even– showed that no matter how big he got, how smart, and how respected, he was still too small. He was and always will be the dirty little kid his mother warned him of being, so much that he foreboded instant punishment or retribution for the tiniest of pleasures he sought.

Philip Roth is, to put it simply, a brilliant writer. His prose reminds me so much of Nabokov, except the dark humour is more abundant –he’s absolutely hilarious. The book even ends was a punchline, making it seem like the protagonist’s life, all his pains and tribulations, his dreams of salvation trying to find home as far away from his own as possible, all of this is just one sick joke. And how apt is that, considering it’s exactly what he had been thinking anyway.

If I were to describe this book in brief, I would say, imagine Gregor Samsa if he never turned into a cockroach, instead he’s living his whole life believing he is one monstrous vermin who one day will be exposed to the entire world. Portnoy is riddled with stifling insecurities, and yet he believes the world owes him something. He’s a narcissistic, envious, sanctimonious pervert, but I couldn’t help loving him.

Great book, highly recommended.
5/5

Standard
Review

1. THE PRINCE By Niccolò Machiavelli

I went into this one expecting it to be difficult, because of its rich content and its being linguistically challenging (the translation I have is an archaic one) so I decided to use an audiobook to help me navigate through, and that was a big mistake. There was no audio version of my edition anywhere on LibriVox so I settled for a different one thinking it wouldn’t be a big deal. After spending the first half of this book in discord, not knowing whether to read or listen, I thought, fuck it, it can’t be that hard. I’ll grab my dictionary and read like an adult. Ironically though, I was happy the chapters were brief.

In this one, Machiavelli lays out instructions on how to be a successful (not necessarily a good) leader. Politics 101. A politician’s handbook.

Politics and history are two points which I consider to be my weakest -I’d chalk that up to where I come, and also my own laziness- and you can’t have one without the other. However, it wasn’t lost on me how much these rules and policies are still relevant now -although some of them may be as archaic as the book itself. It’s interesting and quite appalling that this has founded so much of our modern, and political philosophy, and even sociology.

The most important point that I have taken out of this is that being a ruler (or “principality” as he calls it) is a dirty game. And in order to win, you have to be dirty yourself. No matter how despicable the means and how devious your plans, it’s all a small price to pay. Pretty much Machiavellianism.

I didn’t think I would, but I actually enjoyed this book. It was kind of like a peek backstage, behind the curtains, seeing all the dirty work. Not going to comment on prose and construction because it’d be both superfluous and presumptuous; it’s a fucking classic.

4/5
Recommended

Standard