Weekly Wrap Up

PAGE TURNERS

Well, here we are, another week gone. This has been last week of leave after my surgery and I am not looking forward to going back to work on Monday, but what can you do!

I have posted two reviews this week: By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolano (which I rated 8 / 8 and I definitely recommend that you at least read the review) and The Timeless Land by Eleanor Dark (an Australian novel I rated 4.5 / 8).


I announced a giveaway for Page Turners first birthday which is on 22 June 2010, feel free to enter!

I also finished the Chunkster Challenge and had a chat about my first audiobook experience.

As per usual, fell free to check my features Lights, Camera, Blog Action and Book Beginnings on Friday.

So, it has been a fairly quiet week here, but I think that;s fitting for my last week of holidays :-)

Book Beginnings on Friday

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence. (Thanks to Rose City Reader for inspiring this meme)

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Bethany from Words, Words, Words sent me this book for free and I read it in one sitting yesterday. It was so spooky. Here is the opening sentence:
"The story held us round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remembered no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child."
That is what I love about Henry James, long rambling sentences, the scene is set and so is that creepy feeling that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. This is a great ghost story.

What about you? Leave a link to your Book Beginnings on Friday post in the Mr Linky below.

By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolano

I had wanted to read something by Roberto Bolano for as long as I could remember, so long in fact that I can no longer remember how he came to my attention. At the Sydney Writers Festival this year, I purchased tickets to attend a discussion about Bolano, that was hosted by Hugo Browne-Anderson and Chris Andrews. The latter is one of two people who have been translating Bolano's works from Spanish to English and so was able to add some really interesting perspectives to the discussion. This was the final motivation I needed to visit the library and borrow By Night in Chile, and I wasn't disappointed.

This is one of the most wonderful works of literary fiction that I have ever read. The plot is described thus on the back of the book: "During the course of a single night, Father Sebastian Urratia Lacroix, a Chilean priest who is a ember of Opus Dei, a literary critic and a mediocre poet, relives some of the crucial events of his life. He believes he is dying, and in his feverish delirium various characters, both real and imaginary, appear to him as icy monsters, as if in sequences from a horror film. Among them are the great poet Pablo Neruda, the German novelist Ernt Junger, and General Augusto Pinochet - whom Father Lacroix instructs in Marxist doctrine - as well as various members of the Chilean intelligentsia whose lives, during a period of political turbulence, have touched his own." Not uninteresting, that's for sure.

There is no comparing Bolano's use of language in story telling to anyone else. The language is utterly unique; satirical, lyrical and full of wit. The imagery Bolano uses almost makes the reader part of the story, it feels as if you are seeing and feeling what Lacroix is. Reading the book felt a little bit like being part of a waterfall. The words flowed so rapidly that it was hard to lose control as you were swept along in it's flow. At first, I actually found very challenging to focus on the story. I found that my mind wandered onto other things, in much the same way as the story wandered between the past and the present. As I got used to the language, though, I was able to sink deeper into the story and really appreciate the language.

This is a book about many things; but I would argue that it is largely about literature and the literary establishment. Lacroix is a priest, but he sees himself more as a literary critic and poet. He places little focus on his religious calling in his rememberings, instead recounting his experiences with famous literary critic Farewell, poet Pablo Neruda, author Ernst Junger and his experiences at the home of aspiring author Maria Canales.

Bolano is incredibly critical of the literary establishment in Chile, and Chilean literary tradition, although he is clearly in awe of Pablo Neruda. Bolano's critique is more aimed at the literary establishments complicity in Pinochet's regime. These people see themselves as artists and progressives, but offer no resistance to the violence and conservatism of Pinochet's regime.

Throughout his delirious ramblings, Lacroix talks to a "wizened youth" who if often present in his mind. It never clear exactly who this wizened youth is, but I believe that is a younger version of himself, and his ramblings are really Lacroix attempting to justify his own complicity with the Pinochet regime. The story begins:
"I am dying now, but I still have many things to say. I used to be at peace with myself. Quiet and at peace. But it all blew up unexpectedly. The wizened youth is to blame. I was at peace. I am no longer at peach. There are a couple of points that have to be cleared up."
In my mind, that wizened youth is that little voice at the back of all of our heads, telling us those things that we don't want to hear. Lacroix needs to convince himself, against the whisperings of that voice, that he has nothing to repent for.  

Despite his direct participating in Pinochet's regime, by teaching Pinochet and his Generals about the Marxist doctrine, he tries to justify his behaviour by trying to convince the reader (and himself) that he always attempted to hold himself apart from politics. The following quote is a long one, but describes how he experienced Allende's time in government:
"... and then a pro-Allende general was killed, and Chile restored diplomatic relations with Cuba and the national census recorded a total of 8,884,746 Chileans and the first episodes of the Chilean soap opera The Right to be Born were broadcast on television, and I read Tyrtaios of Sparta and Archilochos of Paros and Solon of Athens... and the government nationalised the copper mines and then the nitrate and steel industries and Pablo Neruda won the Nobel Prize and Diaz Casaneueva won the National Literature Prize and Fidel Castro came on a visit and many people thought he would stay and live in Chile forever... and the first anti-Allende march was organised, with people banging pots and pans, and I read Aeschylus and Sophocles and Euripides, all the tragedies..., and in Chile there were shortages and inflation and black marketeering and long queues for food... and the Bureau of Women's Affairs was set up and Allende went to Mexico and visited the seat of the United Nations in New York... and I read Thucydides... and there were strikes and the colonel of a tank regiment tried to mount a coup, and a cameraman recorded his own death on film, and then Allende's naval aide-de-camp was assassinated and there were riots, swearing, Chileans blaspheming, painting on walls, and then nearly half a million people marched in support of Allende, and then came the coup d'etat, the putsch, the military uprising, the bombing of La Moneda and when the bombing was finished, the president committed suicide and that put an end to it all. I sat there in silence, a finger between the pages to mark my place, and I thought: Peace at last".
He is almost trying too hard to convince us and himself that he is, as he puts it, "on the side of history", that we really see that this a man who knows that he has things to repent.

Ultimately, there are two things about this book that make it a work of art. It is a a literary masterpiece (in my opinion), with an entirely unique style and lyrical use of language. It is also a political critique of the complicity of the literary establishment in the brutal Pinochet regime. 


Summary

What kind of read is this?
Challenging, but compulsive. It is poignant and the language is so beautiful and unique that you will never read another books like it (unless it is another work by Bolano).

Do I recommend this book?
Without any hesitation, this is a book for true book lovers and people who really appreciate the use that language can be put to.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Yes. I borrowed it from the library, and know that I will have to buy myself a copy so that I can re-read it again and again.

Star Rating

8 / 8

One of the best books I have ever read. Everyone should read it - it is totally amazing. I am in love.


Lights, Camera, Blog Action!

This is a special feature dedicated to spreading the word about the other great blogs that are out there! I have found a lot of great blogs through such features and I want to be able to share some book blog joy too!

If anyone would like to participate email me at pageturnersbooks@gmail.com.

Today I am featuring Ilona from The Friande. It is a wonderful blog that I have discovered recently who has a very unique approach to her reading and has a wonderful list of books that she is hoping to read before she dies. Classics, popular fiction - a great variety. I hope that you have the time to check it out. 


Tell us something about yourself

Hi, I’m Ilona! I graduated from uni in Feb the day after I turned 20 (which disappointed me, because graduating at 19 sounds that much more impressive), and am now navigating the super exciting world of job-hunting. Like most uni graduates, I am having an existential crisis about what exactly I want to do with my life. Unless that one’s just me…

What was your favourite book as a child or young adult, and why?

I grew up with Harry Potter – being in a family that didn’t have much money meant that I could relate with Harry’s plight from book one. To me, the series was a source of comfort and a representation of the ultimate dream. I relished each page (particularly those describing the feasts), and fervently awaited my acceptance letter to Hogwarts … Oh, who am I kidding? I’m still waiting for that letter.

Why do you love to read?

That’s easy – escapism. Reading has always been so much a part of my life, that, without a good book, I get withdrawals, act twitchy, and start reading the packaging labels on my food. And not because I’m on some weird, lemon-juice diet.

How do you choose your books?

When I was a kid, I pretty much read any book I could get my hands on – regardless of genre, quality or intended audience. I would literally go through a book a day, sometimes more. Although this ensured I had an excellent grasp of spelling and sentence structure, it had a detrimental impact on both my social life (at the time), and my current book-choosing-abilities. The latter effect being, of course, that I am now jaded. Unless I’m in the mood to read something predictable, finding a book is accompanied with a lot of eye rolls and loud, vocal expressions of frustration.

Perhaps to counteract the above, but also to feel a bit more educated than my fellow public relations classmates and/or bimbos, I am now reading my way through the 100 Books You Have to Read Before You Die list. You wouldn’t believe how many lists there are by this name, but I decided on one that didn’t look like a final-year English syllabus. The reading order of the list is dependent on each book’s availability at my local library, and my mood on that day.

If you had to narrow it down  - who would be your 3 favourite authors and what would be your 3 favourite books?

My favourite authors – Oscar Wilde, because he is the master of the social commentary, and we both have remarkably similar views on the importance of aesthetics; Chuck Palahniuk, because he does a mean twist; and J.K. Rowling because I turn to her books in lieu of the ice-cream-tissues-sad movies thing that Hollywood heroines are always shoving down our throat.

I discovered both Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchells through the list, and they are definitely my favourite books at the moment. My other favourite is Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk. When Panic! At the Disco first came out (before all the annoying little emo kids made me loathe to admit my penchant for the band’s music), I was absolutely in love with their lyrics. Until I found out their entire first album was based on Invisible Monsters. My actions henceforth were to hunt down the book, and promptly pass out from sheer exultation.

When and why did you start your blog?

I started about a month and a half ago. My thought process went something like this: I always read; and I’ve been planning on reading through the 100 best books; and the satisfaction of crossing a book off the list isn’t quite enough; and I miss writing; and… oh! I know! I’ll start a blog. Ta-da!

Also, I needed something to put on job applications proving that I can a) write, and b) understand the social media landscape (these being fairly critical, considering I’m applying for marketing/advertising/media positions).

How did you choose your blog's name?

Friandes are little French cakes, and I like eating cakes at caf├ęs whilst simultaneously reading a good book.

What do you love about book blogging?

Most of my friends don’t really read much, so at least this way I’m not subjecting them to my thoughts. To give them credit, however, they do seem to find it humourous when I’m on a tirade against a craptastic book I’m currently reading. I guess what I love about The Friande is that it’s a place of my own, in which I can articulate my weird fusion of literary criticism theory alongside an irreverent attitude towards what most would call ‘untouchable’ books.

What tips do you have to offer to other book bloggers?

I started exploring the book blogging world about two weeks ago, and was surprised at how predominant it was within the blogosphere, as well as its community-like feel. So, me providing advice to other book bloggers would be akin to a wolf enquiring from a sheep on the best way to kill the flock (forgive the macabre simile, I’m currently reading Charles Dickens). Nevertheless, since you asked, I can only suggest the tip I’ve lived my life by – do your own thing, put your personality into it, and don’t feel pressured by the established order of things. 
                                                      
                                                          *                *              *

I also turn to Harry Potter when everything feels down. When I knew I was going into hospital recently, the first thing I did was get on the phone to the library and book The Philosophers Stone on audiobook. It made me feel so much better! I loved reading your answers, I feel like we have really similar tastes. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is one of my absolute favourites of all time. I re-read it all the time. Can't help myself. Good luck with your blogging, you have an amazing blog already :-)

PS. I don't think you are the only person who has finished uni and has a crisis. There are many of us out there!


A different perspective from an audiobook novice

Audiobooks - a personal perspective

Recently I listened to my first ever audiobook - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I quickly followed it up by Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling and even as I type this I am listening to Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.

I know the merits of audiobooks are often discussed on book blogs, but having now listened to my first audiobooks, there are a few observations that I would like to make about the experience.

The debate about audiobooks usually seems to centre around the question of whether listening to an audiobook counts as reading. I have certainly counted these audiobooks on my list of books that I have read this year, and reviewed them as I would a normal book. But I have to admit that from a personal perspective, the experience of listening to an audiobook was very different to the experience of reading a book.

What I liked about the experience of listening to the audiobook is that it is a nice alternative to watching television. The story also comes that little more alive, at least, the Harry Potter books did, as narrated by Stephen Fry. It also gave me a new perspective of the books, particularly Pride and Prejudice. When I read Pride and Prejudice I am extremely focused on the beautiful language and the tension between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy. When listening to the audiobook though, I was really able to appreciate the comedy of Austen's story. I laughed the whole way through, and I certainly don't laugh out loud when I read the books.

Was it reading though? It didn't feel like it to me. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed listening to the stories as you can tell. I am especially enjoying listening to the Harry Potter series on audiobook and I will keep listening to them. But it just wasn't the same for me. As much as I love listening to the story be told to me, I love the actual act of reading better.

Perhaps this whole debate is artificial? Reading is the act of reading words on the page and listening to an audiobook is just that. That's not to say that the book you have listened to doesn't count as a story that you have experienced, you just haven't read that story. Is there anything wrong with that? I know people tend to have very strong opinions on this subject, but now having listened to and enjoyed audiobooks myself, I can't help but wonder if the question of audiobooks as reading isn't a little bit silly - reading is reading, and listening to an audioboko is listening to an audiobook. They are just two different methods of experiencing a story, and therefore the question of whether of whether listening to an audiobooks counts as reading is mute?

What do you think - am I totally off the mark here or is there something in these thoughts? If you are not too audiobooked out, I would love to know what you think. 

Teaser Tuesday: The Boat by Nam Le

Tuesday Teaser is great meme hosted by Should Be Reading and is a great way to find out about new books.Here are the guidelines: Grab your current read Open to a random page Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Boat by Nam Le

This book comes with a great recommendation from a fabulous Australian author, Helen Garner, who says "A fearless new Australian voice that accepts no geographical limits: these are stories of leaping power and the most breathtaking grace and intimacy". I am enjoying it, even though I am in a bit of a reading slump. This teaser is from a story who's wife has recently passed away, and on the day he is scheduled to meet is daughter for the first time in 17 years, he is given a cancer diagnosis:
"For years after that day, I'd continue to be amazed by the ability of her body to hold light. Even at the end - when she was flat and wooden under the hospice sheets. I'd watch her endlessly: following her body across each foot and nook of my studio; outside, walking through Central Park, lying down, the sun caught in her skin - or in bathtubs, watching  how the water refracted the light on her face."
Can't wait to read other people's teasers.

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday, what are you reading? is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is a chance for us to share with other book bloggers what we have just finished reading, what we are currently reading and what we are reading next.

Just finished

I haven't finished anything different to those books that I had finished last week:
The Timeless Land by Eleanor Dark (an Australian classic)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling, and

I just haven't been able to get into the reading swing of things, which is really disappointing because I have had these 3 weeks of work after my surgery and could have got through so many books!

Currently Reading

After many starts that ended in me giving up the book, I am currently reading The Boat by Nam Le. It is a collection of short stories by an Australian author that has received wonderful reviews. I am enjoying it, and except that I will stick with it, but I am still hardly ever getting around to reading it :-(

Up Next

I hope to read We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shreiver, however I also need to read Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin for this month's book club, so I will see what happens. 

I hope that no one else is on the reading slump that I am in at the moment.

Chunkster Challenge Complete!

I am very pleased to announce that I have finished my very book challenge of 2010, in fact, my very first book challenge ever!

This challenge is hosted at it's own site, Chunkster Reading Challenge, and I knew right away that it was one for me. I read quite a number of large books, so I thought that it would be a perfect chance to put my chunkster reading habits to the test. What I discovered was that I could actually complete this challenge without a problem.

I originally aimed for the middle level of Do these books make my butt look big? (4 books) but I finished that really quickly. I then decided to increase my challenge to the More-book-ly Obese level. I thought that level challenged us to read 8 chunksters, but when I finished my 8 books and posted by final review yesterday, I discovered that it was only 6 books! That means that I actually finished this challenge some time ago and didn't realise :-)

Anyway, here are the links to the books that I read for this challenge:

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver - 507 pages 
This was the first book that I read in 2010, and it was wonderful. It has recently won the Orange Prize I was pleased to discover. The prose was colourful and the story was uniquely told. This one is worth a read.

Capricornia by Xavier Herbert  - 569 pages 
I didn't review this book. It is an Australian classic of epic proportions and it actually the book that inspired the movie Australia with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Don't let that put you off though (actually I didn't mind the movie too much), the book is quite different to the movie. I can't really put my finger on why I didn't review this book, except to say that it had so much truth in it about Australia and the suffering of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, I didn't think that I could the book any credit by reviewing it.

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James - 626 pages
I was inspired to read this book after finishing a novel by a debut Australian novel, The Legacy by Kirsten Tranter. I didn't enjoy The Legacy truth be told, but it was based on this James novel so I couldn't help myself. I did enjoy the book, but it was also very long winded. About half way through I began to lose interest. I am looking forward to giving another James novel a try though.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling - 636 pages
What can I say about this - JK Rowling, I love you for giving us Harry Potter.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - 531 pages
I don't normally read crime fiction, but I couldn't put this book down. Despite the many problems I had with the story and the writing, I was able to suspend all belief and dislike and get totally lost in the mystery,

The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson - 569 pages
Although a lot of the problems of the first novel were amplified in this one, I still couldn't put it down. A real page turner.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - 584 pages 
If you read any review from this list of books, I recommend that this book be the one. I rated this one an 8 / 8 and I think that it will be one the best books I read this year, if not THE best book I read this year. I even suspect it will become one of my all time favourites. It is very special, particularly so for book lovers, because it is about the power of language and story.

The Timeless Land by Eleanor Dark - 620 pages 
An Australian classic that I wanted to love, but just couldn't quite. I did love the prose, and I love the author's background, but this novel couldn't quite hold my interest. 


I am sure that I will read more Chunksters by the end of 2010, and I will keep counting them and give more reviews at the end of the year. I really enjoyed participating in this challenge and I will definitely participate again next year. 


I can't to read everyone elses summaries too.