Book Reviews Update


I started to read two books simultaneously: JR by William Gaddis and “A Journal of the Plague Year” by Daniel Defoe. I must confess reading JR will require time and special tecnique, because it’s nearly unreadable (I didn’t say bad, please don’t misunderstand me). I completely ignored the 25 pages intro of JR and all the advices for using a reader’s guide to read it. Hell, I was told to use a reader’s guide to read Pynchon and after I’ve read 3/4 of all Pynchon wrote I thought that “author’s guide” thing to be a real over the top exaggeration. Finding Pynchon readable, I thought “oh well, let Gaddis come.” – I was wrong. I’m still fiddling with this one.
I started with Defoe’s book which is a great account of the plague years in the middle ages. A bliss of shocking reality into the stream of zombie novels I have been reading. So far from zombieness the middle ages were not.



The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson


… or “Män som hatar kvinnor” (original Swedish title) or “Os Homens que Não Amavam as Mulheres” (in Portuguese).

Finally, after watching the three original Swedish films, I’m getting better acquainted with Lisbeth Salander again by reading the Millenium trilogy. I’m currently in the middle of the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire. I rated The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. It could be a few pages shorter and give us less detail about the Vanger family, since many facts were not relevant – neither to characterize the people nor to the crime mistery. Also, I’m no puritan, but at some point during the book it’s already clear enough to the reader that Blomkvist is a ladies man, so there’s no need to waste pages describing his love affairs. But overall the most negative aspect of this book (and the trilogy, so far) is the endless ammount of product placement. At one point it got so annoying that I almost dropped the book. “She took her PowerBook/ his brand new IKEA couch brand x, chairs brand y, cars brand z, etc” – that is REALLY annoying, and I’m no writer, but as an advice to any aspiring writer I’d say don’t do product placement in your book. It may even be a bestseller, but it will piss the hell out of your readers. Despite all that it’s an awesome book, highly recommended.



“Roadside Picnic” by Arkady Strugatsky – Book Review


I read this book because I watched a film based in it, “Stalker” (1979). As usual, the book is much better than the film, and in this particular case, the book has almost nothing to do with the film. Roadside Picnic is not regular easy fiction, with beginning, middle, end, and all the sci-fi tidbits already chewed up and spit there on the paper for the reader’s digestion pleasure. When you start reading it, it feels like you’re in the middle of a book and the first pages are missing, because you can’t quite understand: all these things that the characters are talking about, where do these come from? What are this things? What happened? These questions are slowly elucidated through the characters dialogues. There are only a few occasions in Roadside Picnic where things are actually openly explained to the reader.

Half way into the book I was starting to ask myself “why on earth is this called Roadside Picnic”? Am I missing some big obvious metaphor? Then the answer to my question came in the book’s greatest philosophical passage. And after that the reading only gets more interesting… until we get to the end, that leaves you with the same feeling you had when you started the book: there must be some pages missing. Which is not a bad at all. 🙂



I’m in the middle of reading two books…


One is “The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements” by Sam Kean. It speaks about the development of the periodic table by telling stories the involve the use of the each element. I’m only in the beginning of the book, thus I wasn’t very surprised perhaps because the explanations were aimed (mostly) at lay people (since I studied chemistry for one and a half year…). But I was perplexed by the tale of  the exploration of Niobium and Tantalum in Congo and its repercussion. Niobium and tantalum are fundamental parts of cell phone batteries (or mostly other electronics batteries) , and are part of the root of conflict in this country – yes, the same country of the “blood diamonds”. It seems it’s not only the diamonds that are bloody after all. At this height  is there anything that comes out of Congo that is not blood tainted?

 

The other book I’m reading is another non-fiction called “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebbeca Skloot. 

I’m in the middle, I’m loving it and there’s so much to say about it that my comment alone would make another book! I’ll write a longer review about it after I’m finished, now all I can say is: highly recommended!



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