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Jul. 15th, 2009

Book list time! :) Since the last post on the topic,

    J. K. Rowling - Harry Potter Series (audio)

J. K. Rowling - Harry Potter Series

In general, I liked Harry Potter. I'd probably have liked the series less were I to read the books instead of listening to them in audio format while doing useful things like cleaning, cooking, and practicing contact juggling, but who knows :).

First, the downs. Many characters are one-to-two-dimensional, and a surprising number of them appear to be mentally disturbed: Harry's muggle family, ministers for magic, Rita Skeeter, Snape, Filch, Malfoy and his parents, obviously and purposefully Riddle himself, Bellatrix, Umbridge... I am sure I can continue the list if I think about it. Such an abundance of deranged characters is somewhat annoying. There is also irritating repetition, both in the plot, the details of which are constantly being re-iterated and overexplained, and in the language ("more than ever" is a particularly memorable phrase). I don't really buy "repetition is good for kids" in this context, though apparently it IS true that kids like it :) (see Blue's Clues for reference).

Now, the ups, which are significant. One: the plot is *certainly* gripping. Two: there's probably something for everybody in the world Rowling creates. For me, there were
1) a convincing learning setting - I've always liked stories of study and progress.
2) exploration! Secret passages, the Marauder's Map, Room of Requirement... Hogwarts is fascinating this way, and I am obviously sympathetic :)

All in all, I was willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy the story, though my favorite book remains number two, for the rather light-hearted mood I'd have preferred in the other books as well. (I wasn't very moved by the whole dramatic story line).

An obligatory note about favorite characters: Fred, George, and Alastor Moody*. Constant vigilance!

* Even though the story with the impostor was totally unconvincing :).

    Ф.М. Достоевский, "Неточка Незванова"
    Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

I rather know this to be a good book than feel it. Being human involves lots of fear and pain, but that's not what I was thinking about as I read Flowers for Algernon. I was, instead, dispassionately musing upon the idea of intelligence. This may, or may not, have something to do with me reading this book less than a year after Awakenings by Oliver Sacks. Awakenings is... intense.

    William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespeare is Shakespeare, but I think it may turn out that I prefer his tragedies.

    Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End
    Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Romance overkill is apparently not for me =).

    Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

- Read on a flight to Las Vegas; pilot approved.
- It's a book for children - 12-year-old boys, I'm guessing. When I choose to read such books, I am aware that I am not the target audience and judge the book on whether I'd advise it to whoever it was geared to. This one I wouldn't - there is nothing in it that I could see that would make it particularly worthy (yet lots of people like the book; it is a mystery).
- I won't be analyzing the story in detail since I'm not up for re-reading it; my impression is, however, that none of the characters are believable and neither is the 'psychology' of what goes on. Emotions are named, not... exposed, organically lead to, and so I don't have any emphatic response to the suffering, or non-suffering, of the characters. I am just not at all convinced that they, or anything they do, would work as it does given the conditions.
- The first two thirds of the book are plain dull; plot-wise, it picks up towards the end when more is explained. The plot is childish, of course (except for the violence), but that's all right. It's a children's book, though naturally I consider the plot of The Hobbit, which is also a children's book, infinitely more superior and finer-grained :).
- Beyond the plot, there doesn't seem to be much except cursory glances at things like overpopulation, religion, and the nature of evil - and that only to say 'bad', 'good', or 'oh, it's not Ender's fault'. For a kid new to all these ideas, however, them being on the fringes of the story is at least some food for thought. There's also the idea of the development of leadership.
- The three Wiggins are supposed to be little geniuses, but, again, they aren't believable in this role. Seems more like wishful thinking and saying 'I have no examples of their brilliance, but trust me, they ARE!"
- The inanity of occasional conversations between adults is troubling. Come on, these are ADULTS, give them at least some credit for the years of life experience they supposedly have!
- Though I've been a child, I've never been a boy, and I've been interested in very few strategy and computer games over the course of my childhood. My lack of interest in the plot probably has a lot to do with this.

    Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt

Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt

"Babbitt" is a satire on a society I never knew, was never traumatized by, and hence it's a very frustrating book for me to read. Sure there are common elements between what was then and what is now, but I'd rather have read a social critique less painful to get through. Babbitt's life is boring. So is mine at times; I am part of the working world to which I don't really want to belong. Still, I have better things to do than reading about someone else's dull life and having the tedious details of it repeated to me over and over.

Also: the book doesn't really say anything. It describes the horrors of Babbitt's empty existence well, but... so what? What is the proposed solution and what is the point of complaining without one? Or I may be giving the book too modern a reading; the proposed solution may simply be the then-novel "hey, you don't have to conform to the norms of your uptight society so don't get into the habit! rebel now, start painting your white picket fence black while you are still young!"

Interesting to note, though: at first, there seems to be a juxtaposition between Babbitt's conservative boredom and everything liberal-intellectual-artistic, like French poetry. When Babbitt meets Tanis, somewhat more artistic and liberal than him though not more intellectual, she turns out to be just as boring as him. This leaves one suspecting that the lives of most liberal artistic intellectuals are not much different from the one Babbitt leads.

Very negative:
    Stephenie Meyer, Twilight (audio)

Stephenie Meyer, Twilight

This is the worst book I've read in a long time. No pretense of 'this is my subjective opinion', I think the book is objectively bad =).

The language is, most of the time, insufferably primitive overly accessible. Even 'young adults' are generally capable of parsing sentences more than four words in length and not starting with the word 'I'.

The characters are... well. I'd suspect they were ironically stereotypical, except Stephenie Meyer was probably being quite serious. Also, notice how the vampires have all the coolest cars. Awwww.

Regarding the whole Bella/Edward affair: oh, the message is supposed to be that your adolescent insecurities are illusory and there is someone in this wide wonderful world who will find you fascinating no matter how dull you actually are? I'd have preferred Stephenie picking someone other than a 90-year-old mind-reading vampire to get fascinated with Bella. Alternatively, she could have made Bella into an actual character - with a hobby, or opinions, or anything original at all. And Bella, sugar, if you are seventeen and the most meaningful question your vampire lover can ask you is "what's your favorite color", something is very, very, VERY wrong.

I still see how someone could disregard the problems with the book and get a kick out of a replay of their favorite archetypal love story. With such characters, however, this is not (and at no age would have been, I believe) anything like MY favorite archetypal love story, so I ONLY notice the problems :).

But hey, I got a good dose of hysterical laughter out of some aspects of the book.

Let us frolic!



Jul. 15th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

Novel or short story?
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:23 pm (UTC)
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:54 pm (UTC)
Trash (IMHO). Short story was brilliant and focused, novel is long, over-self-analyzing and boring.

Alas, that's the usual thing to happen with "novelization".
Jul. 15th, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
Maybe that's why! It's the idea that I thought was good, but I didn't feel anything as I read the novel - so maybe 'long' and 'over-self-analyzing' was the problem, not me getting insensitive =)
Jul. 15th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
Прислать тебе рассказ? у меня есть файл.
Jul. 16th, 2009 04:23 am (UTC)
Давай, спасибо!

Правда, боюсь, впечатления уже того не будет. Эх, знала бы заранее, с чего начинать... :)
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:40 pm (UTC)
Мне тоже Sense & Sensibility показалась чересчур романтичной. Pride & Prejudice в этом смысле куда лучше, там хоть юмор есть, и героиня забавная. В S&S остались все недостатки P&P (героиням по 20 лет, жизни не нюхали, воспитаны на романах) и не осталось ничего из ее достоинств.
Jul. 16th, 2009 04:23 am (UTC)
В Pride and Prejudice Элизабет более... современная, что ли, мне кажется. Более смелая. Интереснее.

Sense and Sensibility я с трудом читала, особенно поначалу, потому что одна сестра, натурально, дура, а другая зануда. Но пишет Остин всё-таки хорошо :)
Jul. 16th, 2009 04:37 am (UTC)
У Элизабет еще папочка есть:)
Единственное, что меня удивляет в P&P - как это высокородный Дарси после такого отпора мило-ангельски попытался мнение о себе у избранницы изменить. Как-то больше ожидалось бы, что он плюнет "Какая цаца нашлась!" и пошел бы дальше своей высокородной дорогой. Наверное, давно девушку искал и успел отчаяться, другого объяснения я не вижу.
Jul. 16th, 2009 04:45 am (UTC)
I love the pre-cut formatting! Awesome!

Ender's Game was pretty awesome when I read it when I was 12. But all I cared about were the games themselves. The rest was mostly boring filler between fun tactical puzzles.
Aug. 4th, 2009 01:18 am (UTC)
Hah! I was right! =D
Jul. 18th, 2009 06:07 am (UTC)
Я поражена, что ты решилась-таки прочитать twilight - по-моему, после моего описания, ты решила, что тебе не понравится?.. Что сподвигло?.. :)
Jul. 18th, 2009 06:21 am (UTC)
Я решила, что а вдруг это не так плохо, как показалось по описанию, и вдруг меня описанные тобой вещи не будут настолько сильно беспокоить. Ну и мне нужна была новая аудиокнижка, чтобы под неё практиковаться =)