I'm trying to right my wrongs, but funny these same wrongs helped my write this blog

A review on book reviews | What do you read my Lord? Words, words, words

First up, a little about myself. I basically do not watch TV. Aside from the odd cooking show and a rerun of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, let’s assume that I think of my 42 inch TV as a big paperweight. I don’t know who Barney Stinson is, except that it looks like Doogie grew up and is pretending to be into chicks now. So what do I do in my spare time? I read. Voraciously. Actually I wouldn’t say that I read so much that I devour books. I usually have a few on the go – at the moment its Kafka’s The Trial, Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen, seminal Australian ode Cloudstreet and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (shut up). I’ve also recently joined a Classical Books Club, where our first selections are The Great Gatsby and Jude the Obscure.

I picked up Kafka because, well, it’s Kafka. I have heard much about his writing, and anyone whose name is given over to an adjectival form in common parlance must be good right? Well...... I’m not really feeling it. The key to any story is well-rounded characters – they don’t necessarily have to be likeable, but they do need to be believable.  And I honestly couldn’t be bothered with Josef K., the protagonist. As far as I’m concerned he could be locked away for a long time, even if the circumstances are unjust. I know I am Robinson Crusoe on this, as The Trial is quite often prefaced as a ‘must-read’ and Le Monde cited it as one of the Top 100 Books of the Century, but it just didn’t float my boat. To put it into perspective – I read War and Peace in 3 weeks, The Trial I bought in November and I’m only 2/3 of the way through.

Carl Hiaasen is a hilarious, inventive writer. Perhaps you are more familiar with his book Striptease, which was turned into a beacon of American cinema of the same name, starring 90’s hottie and Noughties cougar Demi Moore. Yeah that one. His characters are well-crafted, cartoonish (oh how I wish they would make a movie-version of Clinton “The Captain” Tyree, perhaps starring Ron Perlman). The pace is quick and the story doesn’t take itself too quickly. And like all good writers, the themes are very close to his heart –his books are set in Florida, and have an underlying environmental feel, most often corporate destruction and subsequent protection of the Everglades. The cast of characters include bumbling bandits, a sparky woman, a reluctant, problem-with-authority protagonist and a few wild cards. Sort of like the Big Mac meal of a book – nothing great for you, but hits the spot. And although he may not be as thought-provoking as Tolstoy or my other Russian heroes, damn his books are fun.

Cloudstreet. I picked this up because I felt like it would be un-patriotic not to. Like much of Tim Winton’s work, Cloudstreet has earned multiple accolades for its colloquial turn-of-phrase, the respectful and delicate handling of the human condition  and the undeniable Australianess. I must say that in the initial few chapters, I wasn’t into it. But then it crept up on me, and while I wouldn’t say it was one of those books that you can’t put down, I did find myself reaching for it often. Upon closing the book, I did feel a little melancholy. I was swept up by the lyrical meter of the text – it’s not straightforward writing, there seems to be a melody to it which is enchanting. Also, the characters are heartbreakingly real and fully-rounded; they are vindictive, fragile, loving and can be found in everyone you know. I love these sorts of ‘sleeper’ books – at first they don’t seem to make much of an impact, but slowly but surely, through quiet turns of phrase and the utter reality it draws you in, and once you finish the work you feel quite bereft, at least I did.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Some people slag it off, I think that may be because of pure jealousy or tall poppy syndrome (which I think is one of the most detestable facets of human character). Or maybe they don’t like the movies (personally I think they are okay – translation to the screen always means certain details are left out, which I think is understandable; cinema is a different beast to literature, and so it is fitting for some aspects to be modified, but some purists get their knickers in a twist about it; which I can understand as well). I think the series is a good read. Characters are fully-developed,  the storyline is engaging and gallops along, and the best thing of all, it  is continuous – there is a true thread between the books, (sometimes with a series, it is evident the author hadn’t really planned it all out beforehand, so is making stuff up on the spot – JK did it right and weaved a great tale that was simply split into 7 volumes). I’m re-reading the whole series so I can taste the full storyline. Another thing that you have to give JK credit for – she charts the characters lifeline from bright-eyed child to cynical, young teen believably, including the inner turmoil that adolescents go through in a remarkably grounded reality. This is no mean feat, from first love, unrequited love, the interpersonal dynamics between teenagers growing up at boarding school together, it is all pretty well laid out on the page. Also, the mythology of the series is kind of cool too – a single mother who would jot down a few paragraphs on cafe napkins and is rejected by twelve publishing houses and is now richer than the Queen and lives in a castle in Scotland? LIKE A BOSS!
I joined the book club because I wanted to get into the Classics writing, and have a group of like-minded book nerds to chat about it with. Our first two books I have read before – Gatsby in high school (meh) and Jude is a favourite, despite its glum overtones, but that seems to be Hardy’s calling card. (And, against my better judgement, I have a strange crush on Christopher Eccleston, who starred in the Winterbottom-directed movie version). So anyhoo, the whole point of this lengthy, clumsy blog is that I will be reviewing books as I read them. Some might be Classics, some contemporary, others might be just randomly picked up here and there. But I can guarantee it will be 100% my truth – sacred cows will be turned into hamburgers if needs be. For the record, my favourite books of all time are Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I am still undecided whether I will review these, as they are already well-known and have been discussed at length many times over by more accomplished and smarter people than myself. Also, I feel very personally attached to these tomes, so I’m a little reticent to put my thoughts down on paper. But other than that, I will be jotting down my thoughts every now and again. I hope this might be of interest to you, but if it isn’t, Two and a Half Men is on TV for you, so knock yourself out.