I buy books. And sometimes I read them. This blog is for the times when I do more than just store shelf candy.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Slept th, er, uhm, Flipped through the Pages of Anne Enright's The Gathering

My copy: mass market paperback
ISBN 9780099523826
Purchased March 2008
from National Bookstore
Read: March 24, 2010

I am Gege, and I'm addicted to books. So books are my drugs. And if I may stretch that metaphor a little bit more, there are books that are uppers, and there are those which are downers.

Anne Enright's The Gathering is most definitely a downer. It's the kind of book that a teacher would impose on attention-challenged students to get back at them for sleeping in class. It's the kind of book you read when there's just too much excitement in your life and you need to slow down, relax to a stupor. Yes, I mean it's some kind of boring.

Which is not to say that Enright is not a good writer. She is. And she seems to know it and show it.

Enright writes with a self-indulgent consciousness of being a good word weaver. I sense her saying, "Watch me write; I'm good at it." She writes in a dreamy, lyrical tone; her narration of events hazy, lazy. Her characterization written in broad strokes, as if fogged by faulty memory, interrupted occasionally with surprising minutiae. Stream of consciousness narration blurs the novel's facts and the character's reflections; I can't tell when she's being literal or metaphorical. When she says in Chapter 4 that she walks through the dimness of their childhood rooms, touching nothing, she is actually walking through their physical home, but you know she's also referring to deeper meanings.

She writes here as the character of Veronica, who gives you glimpses of all the other characters, mostly her family, from two generations past up to present. Veronica is the 8th child of 12 in an Irish family, born by a mother made invisible, nebulous, lost, and insignificant by the identity that defines her -- the bearer of children. Nothing else but.

Veronica is the one who loved Liam most. Liam is the brother who died. And Veronica walks through the events in their lives that might explain why he lived a troubled life and died a baffling, tragic death.

Once in a while, I remember the TV show Brothers and Sisters, and the cast stands in as my visual peg for the book's characters as they gather, hence the title, to send Liam off. The novel is a heavy dose of family dysfunctions, sex, alcohol, and melancholia. In spots, beautiful, shocking, troubling. In spots, slow, languorous, lulling me to sleep.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Flipped Through the Pages of Roald Dahl's (inhale) The Great Automatic Grammatizator and Other Stories (exhale)

My copy: trade paperback
ISBN 0141311509
Purchased: April 28, 2008
from: Fully Booked
Read: March 19, 2010

According to the book's flyleaf blurb, Roald Dahl began writing after a "monumental bash on the head" he sustained as an RAF pilot during WW2. I hope I wouldn't need the same kind of blunt force to compel myself to blog again.

So, I'm pushing myself to review letter D of my A to Z challenge series. D is for Dahl. Yes, I know, why is a 43 year old woman reading Dahl for the very first time? I don't have a good excuse.

I remember my sister had a couple of them on her shelf in the room we shared growing up. But for some strange reason, I've never been compelled enough to read any. I even have my own collection of his children's stories, and still, no Dahl. Well, better late than never, right?

I am happy I finally read him and even happier I chose this collection of short stories to give me my first taste of Dahl. He is a most imaginative and entertaining writer. That bash on the head must have knocked around some of his gray matter giving him a different view of life, because he can take ordinary themes and twist them around a little bit here and there, turning the prosaic into strange and unexpected tales. I liked the way he twisted around the theme of adultery in the collection's second story of Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat. Very cleverly written.

Dahl is a deft storyteller who can pack a lot into a short story. Less able writers would require a novel for each of his short story plots. In fact, his short stories do not end with that unfinished feel that most stories leave you with. He brings his tales to satisfying denouement in as few words as possible. I can imagine that takes a great deal of talent.

Another favorite in the collection is Parson's Pleasure, the story of a rare furniture collector slash conman who travels the countryside in search of fine furniture sold way below market value. And dresses up as a parson to do it. The jaw-dropping ending left me aghast even though the bad man got his comeuppance.

Story number 4, Man from the South, is the story of a man who makes bets with strangers, not for cash, but for body appendages. It seemed vaguely familiar, and then I remembered I have watched that on TV, which reminded me that back in the 80s, there was a series called Tales of the Unexpected. I googled it, and yes, my memory, in one of its rare moments of functionality, served me right. That series was actually hosted by Roald Dahl. The link leads you to a wikipedia post on the TV series.

Of course, the title story, was what got to me in the first place. The Great Automatic Grammatizer is about a splendid but scary invention -- a machine that can spew words and words to produce articles and novels. Hmm, because of my low level of desire to blog these days, I need a machine like that. A great automatic bloggerator.


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