Well, it’s the end of another year and lately I’ve been kind of busy, which is a good thing. Getting a lot of writing done. Have some new projects in the works for the coming year and all in all I have to say I feel inspired and ready to go.
There are also some interesting books I’ve read over the past couple of weeks. Here are some mini-reviews, or a little something about them. Check them out if you find any of these interesting:
The German Mujahid - Boualem Sansal
This is an incredible novel. Sansal is an Algerian author living in France who gives this harrowing account of the nature of Islamic fundamentalism and its parallels with Nazi Germany. The story takes the 1994 massacre of an Algerian village by Islamic fundamentalists as its starting point and then contrasts it with the spreading fundamentalism among the Muslim dominated housing projects of suburban Paris. The protagonist’s brother, which the story mainly revolves around, learns that their father, a German, had a dark Nazi past, being involved in the slaughter of Jews in the concentration camps. The brother eventually commits suicide after learning the full story of his father. His brother, the one telling the story, then begins to learn of this family history himself, while searching for the reasons as to why his brother committed suicide. What follows is very dark, disturbing story, and a frightening one when one really looks at the parallels between the two fundamentalist ideas. A fantastic read and highly recommended.
Rating: * * * * *
Will You Please Be Quiet? and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love - Raymond Carver
I’d never read Raymond Carver before. I decided to read him because his name kept popping up in my travels, more times than not, so I took it a sign that I should finally get around to reading him. Both these books are collections of his short stories. Most, if not all, revolve around the “have nots” in society. They are portraits of an America where the forgotten dwell. Carver, from what I understand, is considered a master of the modern American short story. Well, although I enjoyed some of these stories---some more than others---I have to say with all honesty that I don’t see the “genius” in his work. Not bad stories but to me they don’t rise to the level of genius. But that’s just me. I’m sure many will disagree with me about this (and some may have a coronary) but, hey, what can I say? Maybe it’s because I was expecting something else, I don’t know. All in all, not bad collections here, but I’d say it’s a stretch to call him a genius. Good short stories. Just not great.
Rating: * * *
Drown - Junot Díaz
This came out about a decade or so before his novel. What I find interesting about the stories in this collection is that you can see the progression from the earliest of these stories all the way through his eventual Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I really enjoyed this book and Díaz certainly has a distinctive voice. I’m sure many of you have read this already. Very engaging and highly enjoyable. I’m looking forward to more of his work.
Rating: * * * * *
Stranger Than Fiction - Chuck Palahniuk
Another highly enjoyable read. The writing collected in this book is Palahniuk’s non-fiction, mostly articles he had written for various publications over the years. You get a sense of where he comes up with his fiction ideas through these tales, everything from covering amateur wrestling to a Northwestern sex festival to his experimenting with steroids to being an escort for the terminally ill. Those who enjoy his fiction would definitely enjoy this. Only this is all true. Very entertaining read.
Rating * * * * 1/2
Slow Learner - Thomas Pynchon
This is the only collection of his short stories. Pynchon himself wrote the introduction, basically disowning the stories written here (mostly from the late 1950s to the early 1960s), a sort of justification for their supposed weakness. Well, in some instances, I can see his point but they weren’t as bad as he makes them out to be. It’s the story “Entropy” where you really see him shine and it’s the story I enjoyed most in this collection. It’s definitely a period piece in some ways, that sort of post-beat period just as the early 1960s began. But don’t even take his own word for it. It’s definitely worth the read.
Rating: * * * * 1/2
Numbers In The Dark - Italo Calvino
A collection of his short fiction from the 1940s through the 1980s, some great, others ok, but over all a very enjoyable read. Political allegories, fables, fantasies, it’s all there. Some of it reminds me a lot of Borges, which is probably what appealed to me so much. Always been a fan of his later works. This is a good introduction to his earlier work.
Rating: * * * *
That should about catch us up. Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year. May all good things come to you. Thanks for reading...