Friday, January 30, 2015

Shalom Auslander, "Hope: A Tragedy"

 – e-book

Read from January 17th to January 29th 2015

My rating:

The idea that hope is the hugest misfortune humanity was cursed with is not at all new. It is sadly revealed in the myth of Pandora’s box, it is thoroughly proved by the Buddhist equivalence between life and suffering, it is only apparently reversed by the Dantesque inscription on the hell gates “Lasciate ogni speranza…”

New in this disturbing book is the way the author chooses to interpret the theme. To prove, without doubt, that hope is a tragedy in a book that reads as a comedy is a masterstroke. The main tool, although not the only one, is the double entendre, that starts with the very title: is “tragedy” a synonym for hope, or simply a subtitle of the book (instead of the usual specification “a novel”) or is it a little of both?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mario Vargas Llosa, "The Feast of the Goat"

 – e-book

Read from January  31st to February18th 2014

My rating:

They had forgotten the abuses, the murders, the corruption, the spying, the isolation, the fear: horror had become myth. "Everybody had jobs and there wasn't so much crime."

I keep remembering those summer nights, many years ago, when the air was heavy with the tension of passionate discussions about Ceausescu and the political changes after his death and the communism specter that continued to haunt our country.  We were young and full of hope and mockingly called all those regretting the past “old” and “nostalgic” while secretly being afraid of them.

During one of these conversations a friend of mine forecast that in the long run Ceausescu would become legend, his evil forgotten, his few achievements overstated. That statement seemed to me so inconceivable that I started a fight even though I knew very well he shared my political views.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Lars-Gunnar Andersson and Peter Trydgill, "Bad Language"

 – Penguin Books 1992

Read from January 13th to 21st 2015

My rating :

I come, I seen and done

There are at least three allegations in Lars-Gunnar Andersson and Peter Trydgill’s Bad Language to make the delight of every pupil and bring to despair any teacher:
  1. English native speakers do not make grammatical mistakes in speaking;
  2. There is no such thing as bad language (except for swearing, maybe);
  3. What today is a mistake could be legit tomorrow.
 The first statement is so comforting I was seduced by it myself for a while. It is true, English is not my mother tongue, but I tried to verify it by remembering the mistakes my students often made in our own language and I soon realized that these mistakes didn’t necessarily come from a dialectal slip, but often from careless correlations between speaking and thinking and even more often from plain ignorance.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Doris Lessing, "The Old Age of El Magnifico"

 – Flamingo 2000

Read on January 22nd 2015

My rating :

Cat among Humans

My attitude toward cats has always been ambiguous. I mean, although I have never disliked them, nor have I loved them as I love dogs. Moreover, I always believed (subconsciously if I may use this lame excuse) in the cliché that a dog lover couldn’t be a cat lover.

However, lately, and probably because two of my close friends have got cats and often speak of them in a warm and delighted and intimate way, I began to look at them with a different eye, and I have to admit that there is something truly intriguing about them – an elegance, an aloofness and a dignity that seems to justify the fascination of so many artists with them.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Anișoara Odeanu, "Anotimpul pierdut"

– e-book

Perioada lecturii : 18 decembrie 2014 – 15 ianuarie 2015

Votul meu :

Mă întreb din ce motiv i-o fi schimbat Editura Eminescu Anișoarei Odeanu. la reeditarea în 1971, titlul romanului, din Călător din noaptea de Ajun (așa cum apare el în 1936), în Anotimpul pierdut. Să fi fost din motive strict comerciale sau poate din cauza unei vagi conotații religioase a primului titlu? Habar n-am, dar schimbarea nu mi se pare un cîștig, nici din punct de vedere stilistic, nici măcar publicitar. 

În altă ordine de idei, îmi propusesem de multă vreme să citesc acest roman, pe care-l amintește și Mihail Sebastian în Jurnalul său (e adevărat, doar ca să-l înțepe un pic pe Camil Petrescu, care ar fi sfătuit-o pe autoare să-l șteargă din dedicație pe Sebastian și să-l lase doar pe el), mai ales că știam că George Calinescu o numise „întîia ingenuă a literaturii române”. Acum constat că ar fi fost probabil  o idee mai bună să încep cu poezia ei, căci am pățit ca-n proverbul acela cu pomul și cu sacul. Vreau să spun că nu am găsit prea multe argumente (pe lîngă vocea feminină și cîteva găselnițe stilistice) ca să-l înscriu printre operele memorabile ale literaturii noastre. Dimpotrivă, dacă ar fi să-l caracterizez cu un singur cuvînt, acela ar fi – banal. Banal în sensul de cuminte, în contextul în care nu propune (și nici nu ascunde) nimic extraordinar, ca să folosesc un truism. Nici în structura epică, nici în construcția personajelor, nici în perspectiva narativă, cu toată prefața extrem de laudativă a lui Camil Petrescu. Să vedem.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Emily Bronte, "Wuthering Heights"

 – e-book

Read from: December 2nd 2013 to January 3rd 2014

My rating:

The Hero of All Anti-Heroes

Human soul is not necessarily beautiful even when it is hurting, love does not have to be unrequited or forbidden to be cursed, reason wide awake does not always keep monsters at bay, a strong will does not always mean a noble heart and weakness is not always to be pitied.

Or so Emily Bronte seems to tell us, in this strange story that keeps scattering old myths of star-crossed lovers that haunted the imagination of the mankind from Tristan and Isolde to Romeo and Juliet and beyond. What if, the author challenges us, love does not excuse everything? Moreover, what if it does not make us better, nobler, worthier, but rather reveals the darkness of our souls? What if the reasons of the heart are not reasons at all, but blind nature forces, wuthering winds that rise the soul to impossible heights only to let it fall more deeply into the abyss? And what if the soul not only accepts that but welcomes it?
“If I were in heaven, Nelly, I should be extremely miserable. (…) I dreamt once that I was there. (…) heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights…”

Monday, January 12, 2015

Italo Calvino, "Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno"

 – e-book

Letto dal 12 al 26 marzo 2014

Il mio voto:

Ragni e lucciole

Com’era generosa e affascinante quell'epoca frenetica della “littérature engagée” che investiva l’autore non solo con l’autorità di diventare la portavoce della Storia ma anche con la capacità di influenzare le masse! Com’era seducente e quanti scrittori l’hanno corteggiata, tra cui Llosa, Calvino e tanti altri. Anche se dal loro giovane entusiasmo non sono nate capolavori, ci hanno regalato comunque qualche opera rimarcabile, lontana dall’ideologismo assurdo che prolifererà sotto il nome di realismo socialista nei paesi communisti dopo la Seconda Guerra.

Certo, Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno non è espressionista nel senso sartriano della parola, ma neanche troppo neo-realista lo è, e ovviamente lontano del senso peggiorativo del termine. Nella prefazione, l’autore lo chiama, più adeguatamente, neo-espressionista, ma gli aggiunge una dimensione magica quando sceglie la perspettiva di un bambino, Pin, quello che dà alla narrazione quel “tono fiabesco” rimarcato da Cesare Pavese, spiegando nello stesso tempo l’inclusione dell’Isola del tesoro, di Stevenson, tra i modelli letterari che hanno influenzato il romanzo, accanto a Per chi suona la campagna, di Hemingway, L’armata a cavallo, di Babel e La disfatta, di Fadeev, libri che, soprattutto gli ultimi due, ad un primo sguardo sembrano più appropriati, siccome evocano sia la Guerra di Spagna sia la Guerra civile di Russia.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bret Easton Ellis, "American Psycho"

 - e-book

Read from January 6th to 29th 2014

My rating: 

I take my cock, purple with stiffness, and lowering Torri's head to my lap I push it into her bloodied mouth and start fucking it, until I come, exploding into it. Afterwards I'm so hard I can even walk around the blood-soaked room carrying the head, which feels warm and weightless, on my dick.
It is never easy to speak about books like this, which make the readers so involved with the subject that they easily become impervious to the why-s and the how-s.

Especially when the two almighty gods of nowadays, Sex and Violence, escape from porn and horror and break free into literature. The reactions are to be expected, from denial of any artistic value to visceral disgusted rejection. For the latter I have one word to say: hypocrisy. We are, every single day, stuffed with incredible violence, real violence showed by TV and paper news, and virtual violence spread by dubious movies, videogames, books. Violence we forever close our eyes at, but this does not mean it goes away, it only means we are happy to live comfortably in our politically correct lies that whisper soothingly to us that what we do not see is not really real.  From this point of view, you can say this is a wake-up-people book, like in wake up before you lose whatever humanity you have left and become violence.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

James Joyce, "Dubliners"

 – e-book

Read from June 6th to 18th 2013

My rating: 

The Winter of Our Oblivion

Joyce, you have to take him in small doses, carefully tasted and swallowed. Do not expect to like his universe, do not expect to lose yourself in some kind of epic bliss. You can never choose to be a first-level reader of his books (to use Umberto Eco‘s terminology), only a second-level one, that is, one who looks rather for how than for what it is told. If you don’t, the grey desperation of his characters can easily become your own, since their epiphanies are all about dullness and hopelessness, about bleakly understanding their lives and resigning to their fate.

The greatest epiphany concerns of course Dublin, the main character of Joyce’s books. Stephen Dedalus' and Leopold Bloom's Dublin, Dubliners' and Fineggan Wake’s Dublin is a dead, morose city where nothing happens, and nevertheless this “nothingness” gains Homeric proportions as every (apparently) insignificant hero fights for his right to be exactly this: insignificant. For there is a quiet dignity in these existences meant only for the background, in their determination to ascertain that background is also important. And maybe this is why the book begins with a death and finishes with “The Dead”, to emphasize that the lifeless life they lead, with their lack of ambitions, dreams, which seems to paralyze their actions and diminish their existence, is in fact life. Life of options you never considered, life of all that could have been but never was, second-hand life that suffocates you and cannot be redeemed. Not important, not novel-material, not exceptional – only life.