Thursday, September 21, 2017

Reading Macondo

It was with great pleasure that I studied five of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's works last summer.  Reading his books for pleasure was one thing, analyzing them was another.  Interpreting what the author meant was profoundly illuminating and deeply satisfying, it has changed the way that I read now, especially Garcia Marquez's works.
 Doing some research of the the periods indicated helped to develop a better understanding of what was meant (or at least what I think he meant) by the author.  The course Reading Macondo, hosted by Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Columbia provided lots of information, videos, and a timeline of Garcia Marquez's life.  This information was extremely useful in being able to understand the author's references. The books studied were as follows:
 Leaf Storm (where the term means more than just leaves blowing in the wind!

 No One Writes to the Colonel (where a fighting cock is significantly important but in more ways than one)

 Big Mama's Funeral, a collection of short stories that pack a powerful wallop (this is where Garcia Marquez reminds me strongly of Ray Bradbury).


You can only see the Spanish title above, but an English copy of the collection can be found in this book Collected Stories where you can find four collections of his works.



 In Evil Hour was another story told in the same town as the one that No One Writes to the Colonel is based, and is what I think to be a way for the author to express his feelings about The Violence (a dark time in Colombian history).

 and last but not least, One Hundred Years of Solitude 



Since listening to the book last year, I have read this two and a half times, making copious notes and finding things that were missed my first time through (which is in a way why I think I would like to listen to stories after I have read the book, or in some cases like  Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow do it simultaneously).  I really enjoyed the experience, laughed a great deal, and had a wonderful time finding connections to his previous works.  These references are scattered throughout (also one or two I have found from books that weren't in the Reading Macondo course which were stories he thought of after publishing this one).
All of these books were worth a second (or third) look.  Garcia Marquez really was a genius.
I had meant to continue on with another course directly after, also on Garcia Marquez, but after such an intensive study of the Macondo books I felt I needed a break.  Also, I have made some changes in my professional life... I have moved from an elementary school library to a high school library!  It means whole new genres I haven't given much attention to and a whole new realm of literary possibilities.  It's very exciting!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Lolita Revisited (spoilers)


Whilst reading the first portion of this book, I felt that it was important (because it was important to the author) to read Lolita again.  If any of you have read my initial response to this book  there is no doubt what my initial feelings where.  But after reading Nafisi's thoughts on the book, and also learning about unreliable narratives from my course How To Read A Novel, I saw that maybe my initial response was biased by my own personal experiences and feelings and that maybe I had missed something.  So I did it... again.
This time, to make it easier, I decided to listen to the audio book narrated by Jeremy Irons (who was also Humbert Humbert in the movie) and he was a perfect choice (for the narration...I'll never see the movie so I can't say how he was in that).  

It was just as disagreeable for me to listen to as to read, maybe more so because having the story read to you by someone you can picture in your mind, and someone who can act who adds emotion, depth and dimension to the role making the novel almost graphic.  Despite all that I tried to listen to it objectively, I wanted to try and see what Nafisi saw, and perhaps something more.   

So what I am going to do now is something I usually avoid... I am going to get into specific details, dig a little deeper than before to see beyond my original perceptions of this book.  
I have to admit, I didn't see too far beyond what I already saw the first time, but before I talk about that I want to say that this time around I was more aware of Humbert Humbert and his perfect understanding of how much of a monster he really was.     
In a nutshell Lolita is about desire, the unhealthy desire if an older man for a tween aged girl, and the lengths he went to, to get this girl.  He moved into her house as a border, married her mother so that he could stay there (and gain access to his Lolita).  The mother discovers, his predilection, but dies before she can do anything about it, so now Lolita is Humbert's for his own pleasure.

Here are some specifics.  I stated in my first blog that I thought that all of these characters (husband, mother and daughter) were awful, selfish and spiteful and I still believe that.  If the mother had not felt threatened by her own daughter's growing sexuality, if she hadn't tried to get rid of her so she could enjoy Humbert for herself, if she hadn't been so selfish, if she had thought more about her daughter's welfare rather than her own needs, things would have been very different.    
 Lolita was a very spiteful and selfish young girl and I still believe that to be the case especially after she initiated sex with her step-father.
While I do agree with Nafisi that Humbert raped her, and continued to use her for his own selfish needs, there was something very wrong with Lolita as well.  She seduced her mother's new husband!  How did she think life would be like after that?  Did she think she could go home from camp and play Happy Family with Mom and her new Daddy-O?  It's pretty clear in the book, she didn't know her mother was dead when she had sex with Humbert, so what was she thinking?  Obviously (hopefully), she wasn't, and Humbert, as the predator he is, just couldn't resist his obsession.
Sadly, for Lolita, it was what I would call some very severe consequences for that particular action and she paid for it for the next two years of her life (basically being kept as Humbert's little sex slave), though I think she remained complicit because of his manipulations and her own fears of having no where to go.  

So I have concluded, after doing this re-read, that my own personal perception of this novel hasn't changed a jot, but I do have a deeper understanding of the characters involved.  I think that when I also re-read the section in the book Reading Lolita in Tehran concerning Lolita, I will have a better understanding of Nafisi as well.  One last thought... this book was written from Humbert's honest, twisted, manipulative, and highly nauseating point of view, could you imagine what it would have been like from Lolitas?


Friday, August 4, 2017

Leaf Storm

I have this past week begun an online course called Reading Macondo.  Since I listened to One Hundred Years of Solitude last year I have been meaning to read the book (I went out the very week I finished the audio book and found myself a lovely used copy).  I have been hoarding it since then as I often do with literary treats.  The time has come to indulge and this course that I am taking (hosted by the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Columbia), is so much more than I could have expected.
There are five stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that we are studying starting with  Leaf Storm.  

I have pre-read all of the stories listed for the course (except for One Hundred Years of Solitude  which it has been suggested to read alongside the study of the other books), so I have a brief familiarity with the course material.  I did as suggested first time around and read for pleasure rather than study.  Pausing as I have this past week to analyse Leaf Storm has been an incredible pleasure for me as I have delved into the story in more depth.

As I am also half way through my other course How To Read a Novel, I have more tools at my disposal for the study of this first novella of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as we have covered plot and character so far, which has already been very useful to me.  Reading the stories casually I could sense the ability of the author, and be affected by the way he wove words to describe his universe.  Studying in depth just proved that he was a genius, the way he played with words to create a mood which even an interpretation into English didn't dilute.

...and just think!  There are five more weeks to go of this amazing course.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Broken Earth Trilogy

Okay...I caved.  I decided that I could read the second book in this trilogy this month and then read the third next month ( I thought that it would be a good idea to pace it out...) but it wasn't a good idea!  I want to read the next book NOW (imagine a grown woman throwing a major wobbly fit because she can't gratify her need to know immediately).
As I mentioned in my other post about N. K. Jemisin, I had read (listened to) The Fifth Season and then promptly bought the rest of her work.
This book is just amazing, different, engrossing.  There's that hint of a bygone terrestrial era (and I have always loved a book about an Earth that is no longer recognizable).  Though it is much more than that.  I really want to know how this world evolved to be what it is now and that is what holds my fascination (and always has!).  Added to that a strong female protagonist (who is a survivor), and a hard, painful backstory and you have The Fifth Season.   It gets exciting at the end however and then we get to The Obelisk Gate:
I loved this book!  It really is epic fantasy (and nominated for both The Nebula and Hugo Awards).  Sometimes the middling book of a trilogy is just filler, but not this one.  It's action packed from start to finish, keeping the story going along at a fast clip with some more backstory thrown in.  I hate to give spoilers, so I can't really say more about this book, except that I wish N.K. Jemisin good luck with the Hugos.  Now, to calculate how soon I can get the next book!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Going Going Gone

...is my interest in reading this book.  Not that it isn't a perfectly good book... I just can't help but loathe the content right now, and I am not able to carry on reading it until I have grown a thicker skin.  It has all the important components for a literary masterpiece, and some day I will come back to it (maybe).
This has happened before, it's not a big deal, I can still refer to it during my course later this month (perhaps the course itself will inspire me to give it another go).  For now, I don't have the tolerance to read any more about sexism, racism, and cruelty to animals...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Lesser Bohemians

Surprisingly, after the first few pages I didn't feel the need to try and parse this book.  The language is a medley of cliche and very short metaphor.  It was bewildering, but after a while the words just flowed (just needed to change my mind set, and when I did it was magic, like I had learned a new, lyrical language).   Of course, it doesn't hurt to have some Joyce and Beckett under your belt before you begin, and urbandictionary.com handy  to help with some of the vernacular.

“Daub my soul with a good few pints til my mouth swings wide with unutterable shite. Laughing lots too, like it’s true. Worldening maybe, I think. I hope.” 

The Lesser Bohemians is the first of it's kind that I have ever read, and I was enraptured with the brilliance of this novel, it's bare and vulnerable style of storytelling (that wielded a powerful wallop that just stays with you).    It wasn't for the faint at heart.

There was lots to wince at, loads of sex, minute details I could really have done without, but like with What Belongs To You, there is a purpose to it.  I really didn't want to like or care about these characters (who I will call the lovers), but I just couldn't help be pulled in to their story, raw and brutal as it was.  Two stories pulled together into a very rocky intimacy as the lovers find their way (kicking and screaming most of the time) towards something that unites them.  As Michael Chabon put it;

"Beautiful, harrowing, and ultimately rewarding the way only a brilliant work of literature can be."

This is a book that I would really like to listen to.  Actually I would be really keen to see it as a performance piece, get a young Irish woman (just like in the book) reading it aloud... now that would be absolutely enthralling!

Up Next:  The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan  (about horse racing UGH, not my favourite topic AT ALL).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

This Instead of That

If you are looking for an easy-going read, something perfect for a reading vacation, or just a really good book, Charlaine Harris is your writer.  Just recently I tried out a new cosy mystery series which I wrote about here  and sadly, it was not a fun experience (the television movies were way better).

 This is actually a very good example of the book being vastly superior to the movie (or television show).  I preferred Harris' Sookie Stackhouse Series to the television show True Blood (which was so popular, but I couldn't stand what they had done to my favourite characters).  Also, Hallmark's version of Harris' Aurora Teagarden is  a little too sweet for  my liking (and takes away from the sizzling and intense relationship between Aurora and Martin Bartell).  I do have big hopes for what might be done with her Midnight trilogy that will be screening this summer.
I digress (sorry).
It is because of  re-runs of the Aurora Teagarden shows that I re-visited the books ( I like to re-set my perceptions after watching because I want the right story to stick in my head).  Though I shouldn't be too judgmental about the television shows because it has got Harris writing new stories about Aurora which is really awesome (yeah you caught me... I still watch the shows even though I didn't like them too much because I just love Aurora Teagarden).

So, getting back on topic.  For me, Harris' books are always a good, relaxing read.  They don't ask too much from you and entertain in a way that is unique and exciting (every time!).  I have lost count of how many times I have re-read her books (and I have all of her series).  Harris has this special quality that makes her books extremely interesting, fully engaging and unique in their combination of genres.  Also, her series have never been boring, each book is as attractive as the one before and I have always been very satisfied with the conclusion of every series.    These are great books to come back to, because I just can't help caring so much for her leading characters, as they are so lovable (which is why I just couldn't connect with Fluke's Hannah Swenson... I just didn't like her).

So in between all the books I will be reading this summer for my two literature courses, I will be inserting some Charlaine Harris who it is always a pleasure to see again.