Wednesday, September 28, 2005


by Thomas Pynchon

Just started V and I got a kick out of this description:

There is no way to describe the way she walked except as a kind of brave sensual trudging: as if she were nose-deep in snowdrifts, and yet on route to meet a lover.

I'll return to this entry when I'm done.


(Oct 18, 2005)

I finally finished this mother of a novel and I rather liked it.

Having some sort of guide (like such) would have been immensely helpful... As the reviewer of the guide mentions, there are a lot of repeated themes, a lot of details from various worlds (Navy, various cities, different languages) and add on the fact that Pynchon does not give you any guidance in how to interpret the things in the novel.

But I really appreciated the latter attribute. It's very akin to moving to a new city and living there. You encounter day-to-day events, meet various people and see contradictory events & actions ... and slowly you develop a sense of the city, you begin to see the identity of the city as a whole. (Not surprisingly, this is one theme in the novel)

Pynchon gives *a lot* of details and has a slew of characters, but leaves enough on the ground that you could probably start to piece together the different themes and points with enough time and effort, which I generally appreciate. I'm quite sure I did not pick up everything in the novel, so if I were to pick up this book again, I would see and understand new things, not because of any new perspective I would bring into reading, but because there are that many things going on in the novel.

I noticed that Pynchon had a habit of describing an action and then only sometime later, would he reveal an explanation. Say something like the following (and this is my poor writing at work here):

Joe and Jim were talking about the redness of certain church steeples. Joe's dog, Pluto wanders in to the room and Joe hits Pluto upside the head with a newspaper, exclaiming, "Bad Dog!" Pluto leaves the room with tail between legs.

Joe and Jim continue to talk about church steeples, getting into whether burgundy or maroon is a more appropriate color for churches. Or maybe because red could be interpreted as a representative color of Satan that it should be discarded as an option altogether. They continued this discussion late into the night.

Earlier, Joe and Sara were eating dinner at the apartment. Barry Manilow had just finished playing on the radio and the DJ came on to talk about the weather about the same time Pluto jumped into the room to viciously set upon humping Sara's leg. Joe and Sara were less than pleased at this.

In the least, it's an interesting way of writing, but moreover, I think it contributes to the sense that you are organically learning about everything, as if you see something and later on, someone tells you the explanation.

Anyways, all in all, V was a solid novel and one that I wouldn't mind picking up again ... or at least reading that guide.

(A quote on a Murakami booked compared Murakami to Pynchon)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
By Carson McCullers

This novel is not meant to be read as a realistic description of people in a real town. The characters in this novel are abstract..."proof-points" that it is difficult if not impossible for humans to truly communicate with each other. And that the noble goals of racial and economic equality are difficult to achieve as a result of this failure to communicate among those with the vision and ignorance on the part of all others.

I generally do not like novels written for the sake of proving something about human society or human qualities (See my entry on Einstein's Dreams.) In the context of current day in the United States, I do not agree with the thesis of this novel. But given that this was published pre civil-rights movement and pre Cold War Commmunism paranoia scare, I respect this novel a great deal. And despite the fact that I do not agree with the thesis, it is quite deftly written and challenging in the topics it covers, making it more than a worthwhile read.

(Rec by Judy)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Book lists

If I ever run out of book recommendations from friends:

Wow, what a claim... the Top 40 most important works in the world

BBC Top 100 books

(Swiped from metafilter)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Empire Falls

Empire Falls
By Richard Russo

A page turner, but I'm not sure I liked it or not. The characters and their relationships are well written. But nothing really stuck out at me and in the end I'll probably forget about this book - kind of like watching a fairly decent, but somewhat forgettable film like Cider House Rules. Entertaining read, but nothing special.

Oh, one small complaint, it's set in Maine, but I just didn't feel any New England'ness to it. Mentioning the Red Sox not winning games just doesn't cut it for me.

(Rec by Judy)

Dandelion Wine

Dandelion Wine
By Ray Bradbury

A truly delightful book about a boy's summer and all the things he experiences. I hate when reviewers do this, but really, the book is like drinking wine. I really liked this book, but unlike other I enjoy and read page after page after page, this one, I had to put it down after a few chapters and reflect on what I had just read.

A particular favorite chapter of mine. A man in his forties visits an ice cream shop with a local neighborhood boy. They both order lime ice cream and upon ordering, an older woman invites them over to eat their ice cream with her, saying "ordering such an unusual ice cream flavour with such conviction must mean interesting company." And the man says to the older woman, "I used to be in love with you."

The older woman and the younger gentleman, begin to talk every day, the older woman sharing stories of her travel around the world alone. And by sharing the stories with him, it is as if they had traveled together - the woman no longer had traveled longing for a companion, and the man no longer had stayed in the same town, dreaming of traveling. It is the best days of their lives.

The woman is old, however, and can feel herself going. Before she passes away, she says to the younger man. "If there is the opportunity, try to die before your time. Catch pneumonia and pass away. That way in the next life, we will meet and we will be the same age."

I do the book disservice by so ineloquently summarizing a chapter, but I can't get over certain parts. A definite gem of a book.