Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday update: 5/23/10

So, I think instead of just posting whenever I start or finish a book, I'm going to try weekly updates instead, either every Sunday or Monday. We'll see how that goes.

Finished One Hundred Years of Solitude, at long last! I couldn't devote the time necessary to this story when I was directing two shows at once, so I had to turn it back in when I was a mere 262 pages into the saga of the family Buendia. This time, it only took a few days to play through the rest of it (about another 200 pages). See what a difference free time can make?

I didn't love this book as much as several of my friends did, though I did love, admire, respect, and live in awe of the writing, if that makes any sense. The whole thing is wonderfully put together, and I can see why it has been hailed as such a revolutionary work of fiction, not only for Spanish-language literature, but internationally as well. There were just several stretches of narrative where I would find myself bored with the story. The book follows a family through seven generations of bizarre happenings in a small town founded by one particular family. The narrative weaves together realism with history with mysticism with religion with downright weirdness in a way that makes it all seem perfectly natural. (According to the "About the Author" at the back--which, interestingly enough, was my favorite part of the book--this was a storytelling technique he picked up from his grandmother, who would tell cold hard factual events and fairy tale/myths with the exact same deadpan sense of gravity--"brick face," Marquez called it) From start to finish, it really is a marvel or language and storytelling.

Throughout the century of this fantastically miserable family, the town of Macando sees gypsy carnivals, plagues of insomnia, four-year rainstorms, avian mass-suicides, beauties of epic proportions, ghosts, ascensions to heaven, and conspiratorial cover-ups of mass killings. Among other things. In addition to these events, the Buendias family sees a retired war general obsessed with making golden fishes, a girl who eats wall plaster, a man who goes mad and suddenly speaks only in Latin (which he hadn't previously known), a woman who shrinks to the size of an infant before dying, and a deranged mother who believes her son is destined to become the new pope. Among other oddities.

Really, this book never stops serving up the strange without letting it all seem strange. Which, I think, was one of my disappointments. Nothing seemed related to anything else, and you could literally skip pages at a time and really not be any more lost when you rejoined the narrative ten pages later. (I tried this once as an experiment; don't worry, I went back to pick up what I missed) Again, this sensible madness is part of what makes the book great, as is the maddening fact that almost every male name in the book is some variation of Arcadio, Aureliano, or Jose. It's supposed to drive you crazy. I get that.

Still, at times, it just sorta drove me crazy ;-)

Anyway. I would agree that all serious writers and all serious readers ought to read this book. It really is a masterpiece, and a lot of parts of it are just really, really fun. Just be prepared for things to be weird, cyclical, and unsatisfying, and for them to stay that way for 450 pages, and you'll be fine.

Books read: 28
Pages: 458
Total pages: 9,146
Pages/book: 326.64

Blast. Only boosted my average by 5 pages.

Next up: In honor of the Stanley Cup Final, I'm reading some hockey books. The first is a book I've read before. Easy, easy reading. I will probably finish it tomorrow if I don't tonight. It's called Blood Feud and it's by the Denver Post's NHL beat writer, Adrian Dater. Blood Feud is a chronicle of the nasty years of the Colorado Avalanche/Detroit Red Wings rivalry of the mid-1990's through the early 2000's. It is well written, well-balanced, well-researched, and well worth your time for any marginal-to-maniacal hockey fan.

The next book is more of a classic, Hall-of-Fame goalie Ken Dryden's The Game. This is one of those books every serious hockey fan was supposed to read, so I got it on InterLibrary Loan. I need to pick it up after my early morning booking tomorrow. And those two ought to wrap up my next ten. Then, I'm back on to my original list for a little while. Good things are definitely coming!

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