Archive for the ‘Bookshelf’ Category

“The Catcher in the Rye”

May 7, 2011

Having first read the book in tenth grade, I decided to reread “The Catcher in the Rye.”  The first time through I don’t remember being that wowed by it.  Fourteen years later, I got it a little bit more.  Holden is unapologetic.  He’s searching for something.  He can’t stand phonies.  I can understand that, but at the same time he never seems to get anywhere.  It’s like the book keeps plodding along and then just ends more or less cold.  Maybe I was too naive in tenth grade to fully appreciate it and maybe I’m too old now to really connect with it.

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“The Things They Carried”

December 21, 2010

This book was not what I expected.  It’s about soldiers fighting in the war in Vietnam.  That’s a conflict I want to learn more about.  The very begining is literally about the things they carried, and how much they weighed.  I imagined humping through the jungle with pounds of gear weighing me down.  I was excited about where the book would lead.  Unfortuantely, the realism took a dip from there. 

About half way through, I turned to the back cover to see if there was a classification snuck on there.  There was: fiction.  Not history, fiction.  A little after that the author wrote about how some war stories are true, and others are entirely made up.  Reading that, the floor fell out on realism and reliability. 

The book was much more like Slaughterhouse-Five than Chickenhawk or The Long Gray Line.  Which is okay.  I liked Slaughterhouse-Vie.  I just didn’t want to read a book like it on the war in Vietnam.

“Stone’s Fall”

December 15, 2010

I read Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost and loved it.  It was four intertwining tales in England in 1663.  What one tale would reveal, the others would build on.  The story just kept getting deeper and more involved.  So it was with high hopes that I saw Pears had a new book out.

This time, there’s three main stories set in London of 1909, Paris of 1890, and Venice of 1867.  An industrialist falls from the window of his study, and his will reveals he had a son no one knew of.  The industrialist’s wife hires a reporter to search for the son.  The story goes from there.

Stone’s Fall is different from An Instance of the Fingerpost.  In Stone’s Fall, there didn’t seem to be a terrible amount of action.  Mostly, it’s the protagonist (who changes in each of the three stores) meeting with people and talking with them.  Or , that’s what the first hundred or so pages were because it did seem to get better.  Stone’s Fall wasn’t nearly as complex as an Instance of the Fingerpost, whose complexity I truly enjoyed.  But that’s okay, Stone’s Fall still told a good story of financial manipulation and gambling, and its impact on world events.  It wasn’t as much as I’d hoped, but still stood on its own and was fun to dig into.

“The Disappearance”

November 3, 2010

When one of the two main characters is a philosopher, and the reader is an engineer, this may result in challenges as the book progresses.  First published in the early 1950’s, Philip Wylie’s “The Disappearance” tells the story of half the world disappearing in an instant.  In alternating chapters, one version of the world carries on without men, and another carries on without women.

I thought this was a very interesting concept.  It was fascinating to read how the two world handled the event.  For example, the men’s world has nuclear was as a reaction, while the women are unable to extinguish fires due to a lack of firemen.  A lot of my interest in how the two worlds reacted would seem to be a function of when the book was written.  The men and women are very much in traditional gender roles.  In the women’s world, there’s a shortage of doctors and technicians to operate heavy industry; the wives of congressmen meet to form a sort of government, but descend into chaos attempting to decide what a proper uniform for themselves would be.

As the book progressed, it moved towards explaining why the event, the disappearance took place.  This is when the book drifted a bit for me.  I wanted action, to learn how the two worlds survived.  Not philosophical analysis of what had happened. 

All in all, it’s a fascinating scenario, even with a bit more philosophizing that I would prefer.