November 10, 2014

Recent Reads

154. Bartleby, the Scrivener
From the book blurb: Bartleby, the Scrivener" (1856) is among Herman Melville's most important pieces, and has been considered a precursor to Existentialist and Absurdist literature.

I attempted to read Moby Dick years ago and got sidetracked by the word circumbambulate. What a word! And that was on the first page. Never got back to Moby, though I have been meaning to. Well, the Fiction of Relationship Coursera class has two stories by Melville on the syllabus, and this is one of them.

This old-timey story set in an office is rather absurd. Imagine hiring someone who after a time prefers not to do whatever is asked of him. What is one to do? It is a quick read and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Melville had a sense of humor. Who knew? Rating: 3 stars.

155. Benito Cereno
This short story/novella should have worked for me. Ships, scurvy, slaves, captains, and what I am coming to recognize as Melville's witty insights into human nature. But his writing is like going on a long blue water sail in bad weather, and unfortunately I get seasick. It could just be my mood at this moment when sailing season draws to a close in these parts. Might try again someday. Rating: 1 star.

156. Pride of Baghdad
Book blurb: In the spring of 2003, a pride of lions escaped from the Baghdad zoo during an American bombing raid. Lost and confused, hungry but finally free, the four lions roamed the decimated streets of Baghdad in a desperate struggle for their lives. 

So, just to get it out of the way, you need to know that The Lion King (movie and Broadway production) makes my top ten list of everything awesome. And this graphic novel starts with a very Lion King like feel. Sure these lions are captive and not free, and Zill and Ali are no Mustafa and Simba, but I was taken along for the ride. It reads like a fable, with wonderfully evocative art, and asks philosophical questions about war and freedom. And as we all know, war is hell for everyone involved, especially for those that are "collateral damage". Rating: 3 stars.

157. The Shining
I'm a King fan, who somehow never got around to reading this classic. Yes, I've seen the movie, but seriously, this is the perfect book to read in October in New England, as the air gets crisp and autumn leaves shower you on long walks as you listen to this audiobook wonderfully narrated by Campbell Scott. REDRUM.

This is a really good psychological horror of a read, with well developed characters, good pacing, and a wonderful sense of place. I especially loved the story as told from Danny's point of view. Who cannot relate to how powerless a 5 year old child feels in an adult world? And this child has "the shining". I'll admit to only reading this book during daylight hours. King can spin a yarn like few others. REDRUM.

If you have yet to read it, or want a great audio for your next road trip, try this one out. And if you are a brave soul, read it after the sun sets. I dare you. REDRUM. Rating: 4 stars.

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