09 July 2014

The Blazing World ~ Siri Hustvedt


Didn't set me on fire!
Arty-farty (but more hot air farty)

I am an unrepentant, self-admitted non-fan of modern art and modern art was at the non-beating heart of this book.  For me it became an ordeal to read - I felt a sense of intellectual alienation with it esoteric referencing.   

The narrative was filled with irrelevant detail and wallowed in pretentiousness.   I didn't feel any empathy towards the two dimensional characters and the vagueness of the structure annoyed me.  The  story is told through a collection of texts but in this regard I felt it was a major fail without significant differentiation of voice from one entry to the next.

08 July 2014

By Night In Chile ~ Roberto Bolano


ugh... I know BolaƱo is supposed to be a literary genius. I know he's like the Latino James Joyce. But seriously, this novella is one long run-on sentence. I simply could not get anything out of it. And yes, it's the deathbed narrative of a halfway-lucid elderly priest, so the nonsensical style is for a reason... but that doesn't make it readable. 

Many will appreciate Bolano's lack of convention, his eschewing the paragraph and the sinuous, stream of consciousness quality to Urrutia's deathbed narrative. But I found the lack of transitions, atypical structure, and ubiquity of ceaseless sentences grating.  

I give the author kudos for his style of writing, but the content was simply awful

Meh. This book was just Not For Me. The writing style had the trifecta of things I hate: no plot, sentences that ran on for pages, and no paragraph breaks at all. Roberto Bolano is supposed to be the greatest Latin American writer since sliced bread. I'll take their word for it. I'm just glad the book wasn't any longer than it was, or I would not have finished it.  

I think the low rating is largely my fault. This book requires one to concentrate. The stream of consciousness style of writing makes it difficult to put down and pick up again - which I did, after reading another novel in between - and the writing is dense. That being said, i would like to go back and read it more carefully at some point.  

07 July 2014

California ~ Edan Lepucki

 ** OK **

Babes in the (red)woods
Another dystopian fairy tale

I quite enjoyed California. Not loved, but liked.

I was certainly happy to lose myself for a while in the redwoods …

Hansel and Gretel (aka Cal & Frida) are abandoned (by society) in the deep dark forest (the Californian Redwoods). They stumble around, helped by forest creatures (the Millers), before coming upon the enticing treats of the Gingerbread House (Micah’s village). But here, all that is good is not as it seems. The evil forces are about to do away with them but rescue is at hand and they are whisked to the safety of a Settlement (happily ever after-ish).

There were some annoying bits, eg, the rather symbolic turkey baster (when they didn’t seem to have packed any useful tools) but my biggest negative would be the predictable stereotyping of people (especially gender).

It was a diverting enough read – average, but diverting.  Too many lost opportunities.

Did I enjoy it? Yes.
Would I read the sequel that I feel it set up? Probably not.

03 July 2014

Annihilation ~ Jeff Vandermeer


Breathy, superficial, first-person narrative.
Full of vagaries - just fill in the blanks.

"Surreal" would be a better title as it has the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream ... and don't you just hate it when someone goes on and on about their weird adventures while asleep ... wake me up when it is over!!

The (nameless) characters are exploring (the almost nameless) Area X.  When exploring a "tower" (no, it is not a tunnel!) and follow a gibberish set of words they meet up with an amorphous, mucilaginous Thing.

In fact, it is not just the "thing" that is amorphous and mucilaginous.  The plot is without clear definition - can something be dry and viscous at the same time?  Characterisation is minimal, without substance or credibility.

If I remember correctly the term "annihilation" was the hypnotic trigger to commit suicide ... and this book did just that!