Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Analysis of an Analysis

Finished One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest today.

I am going to follow my friend and fellow blogger Maggie's advice and try to analyse the novels I read with a bit more depth. I realise that I have been a bit flippant in my comments...the initial purpose of this blog was to really get to the heart of each book I read and discuss why I liked or didn't like what I read as well.

SO....onto the analysis. (Funny strange that the first novel I'm "analysing" is a book about a mental asylum).

Really enjoyed this novel, if enjoyment can be applied to such a weighty subject matter. I felt that the themes of this novel (the struggle for power, the treatment of the mentally ill, respect, friendship) still resonate today.

This novel is set in the very early 1960s, but there was a feeling of timelessness to it as well...if it weren't for the cultural references, I feel the book could have been written today and still be relevant. I feel that THAT is key to my enjoyment of the novels I've been reading...if the themes presented in the book are still relevant to the world at large today, I will almost certainly be able to relate to it, and therefore enjoy it.

Kesey is a master of character description, and the reader can really see and hear the characters - I liked how McMurphy and Nurse Ratched were frequently described with "un-human" characteristics (both in very different ways...particularly her, with her mask-like features and stiff exterior). A good character for me is one that feels so real, I can feel emotion for (either good or bad) - and the "Big Nurse" was certainly one of those - I felt myself actually getting angry with her megalomaniacal, insidious lust for power against those whom she thought were powerless.

I very much want to see the film version...and see how true it is to the book. No mean feat.

Up next: Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

School Daze

Finished Tom Brown's Schooldays last night.

I found myself slightly bored by this novel and getting impatient for the ending as I was reading it - never a good sign.

I suppose it was the fact that Tom's pre-Victorian public (private) school experience - rambunctious, innocent, pious, full of moral rectitude - contrasted so starkly with the previous novel I read (A Kestrel For a Knave), which depicts an entirely different (and to me, much more realistic) view of English schoolboy life.

I suppose, for its time, Tom Brown's Schooldays was insightful and made good commentary on the state of English education, but for me, it felt fusty and outdated.

Oh well - I can't enjoy them all, can I?

Next up: A complete diversion again...One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

A Boy and His Bird

Have finished A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines.

Short but powerful. I really felt the cold, the hunger, the loneliness of the kind of boy that Billy was - a teenager growing up in a 1960s mining town in northern England. You felt the desperate need he had to love and be loved - and to throw everything he had into raising his kestrel, because really, it was the only thing he had.

This passage, describing how Billy looked after a fight with a fellow student, really moved me:

"For an instant, as he hurried into the showers, with one leg angled in running, with his dirty legs and huge rib cage moulding the skin of his white body, with his hollow cheek in profile, and the sabre of shadow emanating from the eye hole, just for a moment he resembled an old print of a child hurrying toward the final solution."
Beautiful and haunting and accurate.
Next up: Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Back To The Books

Ok...finished Watchmen. A pleasant diversion.

Next up from the list...A Kestral For a Knave by Barry Hines.

It's grim oop north.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Choose Your Own Ending

Have finished The French Lieutenant's Woman.

Interesting concept for a novel...a twentieth-century writer taking on the guise of a nineteenth-century narrator. The language of the novel is definitely reminiscent of the 19th century novels I've been reading.

The author/narrator, however, breaks the fourth wall and tells the reader directly that this is all just a figment of his imagination. Fowles was obviously making a comment or two about the conventions of the 19th century novel (as well as the conventions of 19th century society), but overall, I found the effect to be rather distracting and egoistic.

I enjoyed reading the intriguing story of Charles and Sarah, and could have done without the constant interruptions of the author/narrator.

Having said that, I did like the clever idea of the three separate endings.

Gonna have a little break from the novel-reading (until I get a chance to get to the library next Tuesday)...or at least the novels from the list. I ordered a copy of Alan Moore's Watchmen after seeing the film last week, and am very much looking forward to escaping into a dystopian past (if there is such a thing!)

More novels from the list soon.

Monday, 9 March 2009

You've Read The Book, Now See The Movie!

Have finished Empire of the Sun by JG Ballard.

I haven't read much war fiction, but this semi-autobiographical account of a young boy trapped in WWII-era China was a harrowing and relentless read. Having said that, there were moments of aching beauty and profundity.

The edition I read had an account by Ballard at the end of the novel in which he describes his actual war experience. He went through some very hard times, but managed to stay with his family, something Jim is not able to do in the novel. The hardships Jim and his fellow prisoners endure are almost impossible to read about, and Ballard really captures the utter hopelessness and madness of wartime.

I very much want to see the film of this novel now...Christian Bale as a young boy!

Up next: The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

A Ripping Yarn

Sped through The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle.

A Sherlock Holmes classic... Conan Doyle had killed off Holmes after over twenty-five adventures, but brought him back to life for this tale. It was fun to read - one of those I didn't want to put down!

Lots of parallels with this novel and my favourite book of all time, The Alienist by Caleb Carr (which, travesty of travesties, is not part of the 1000). Dr Kreizler is very much like Holmes, and the narrator, John Moore, is a doppelganger for Dr Watson - Kreizler being the enigmatic, intellectual, methodical sleuth; Moore being the fact-gatherer and public face of the case.

A joy all around. I look forward to reading the other two Conan Doyle books on the list.

Next up....Empire of the Sun by JG Ballard.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Thoughts on A Fairy Tale of New York

Have completed A Fairy Tale of New York by JP Donleavy.

I knew nothing about the author before reading this book. It was classed under the "comedy" genre in the Guardian list, but I found the book to be far more poignant and touching than funny.

Having loved and lived in New York, I could relate to Cornelius's sense of the city being so much bigger than any individual. New York is a city where so many people come to follow a dream, but end up struggling just to get by. The novel (as seen from Cornelius's persepective) captures the rawness, the dirt, the toughness, and the beauty and romanticism of New York.

The characters who Cornelius encounters are all tragic in one way or another, but touchingly so. You can feel their disappointments, their heartache, their hopes.

I could really feel New York whilst reading this book, and for all its warts and flaws, that's a good thing.

Next novel...another genre switch...The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes!!!!