Reading Roundup: February 2009

The Lost Steps by Alejo Carpentier

This book is a classic of mid-century Latin American modernism, and I found that I enjoyed it about as much as other similar books I have read. In other words: the vagueness and pretentiousness were slightly irritating, the writing was beautiful but stuffy, and the misogyny of the protagonist was blatant. It wasn't a bad read and it's an excellent book, but it's jut not my cup of tea.

Night by Elie Wiesel

I know I've read this book at some point in the past, but I apparently remembered little of it because it didn't seem familiar. It is in many ways a standard-setter in the world of Holocaust literature, and though short still a powerful and affecting book. I find it interesting after reading it that so much of the literature that came afterward manages to find some sort of redemption, and yet this book (one of the first) seems to offer none at its end.

The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald

Sebald is the latest in a series of what I like to refer to as "famous authors I've somehow never heard of". Now that I've learned about him and his work I seem to notice references to him everywhere I look. I'm still trying to decide how I feel about his books (I'm reading another one right now). He combines a post-modern eclecticism and questioning of history with a style so understated that his books seem to be about nothing and everything at the same time. They are easy to read and yet I feel like I'm missing something that lies further beneath the surface.

Oedipus the King by Sophocles

What better introduction to family trauma than the story of Oedipus? It's been a while since I have read or studied any Greek drama so I enjoyed the chance to take another look at this play. And we've been studying Freud all quarter so we had an interesting discussion about the connections between the play and Freud's use of it in his theories.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

I had a hard time getting this book started. I was intimidated by the massive amounts of praise being heaped on it from everywhere: this is the New Cool Book right now and I was skeptical. After a while it started to grow on me and I ended up liking it in the end. It's written in a style similar to stuff like Dave Eggers and Michael Chabon, and I'm not always a big fan of their work. But the story is strong and the weird experimental stuff works well for this book, so in the end I was satisfied. Two warnings if you are considering reading the book: the author intends for it to be difficult and perhaps even incomprehensible in parts; and there is a lot of profanity and talk about sex.


Monster's Ball

I was glad I had read a few things about this movie before seeing it, because I was prepared for the tragic things that happen in it. The story requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief since the plot involves a chain horrifying coincidences that bring two people together. The way it is filmed, though, keeps things understated enough that you don't feel completely traumatized by it. The only thing that shocked me was a long and explicit sex scene in the middle--it was also disturbing because it wasn't filmed in a way that was neccesarily meant to be arousing and so it was uncomfortable to watch. This is a great movie as far as acting and cinematography goes, but it's also a very rough movie in a lot of ways too.


Courtney said…
I totally agree with the Oscar Wao review. I'm always skeptical of books that are so praised. It took me a while to get into the style, but by the end, I really enjoyed it.
cool_guy said…
I watched Monsters Ball several weeks ago - it was tough to watch but I thought it was very good. I've enjoyed everything I've seen with Billy Bob involved, and this was very good as well - his presence and "just right" involvement in each scene is amazing to me. He is very much like Jack Nickleson in that regard...

Good movie - sad story - but I am a sucker for movies about human change and growth. It is usually painful but compelling and rewarding to watch..
Th. said…

I just read Díaz's new book and although I liked it, I think it stops me from ever needing to read Oscar Wao. Even expecting sex and language, that book had soooooo much sex. And not quite enough pathos to back it up.

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