Sunday, June 26, 2011

One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of SolitudeOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a giant of literature. His first novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude has been called the Don Quixote of Latin America. It has been praised as breathing new life into the form, and ushered into art the form dubbed "magic realism" further mastered by Salman Rushdie.

One Hundred Years of Solitude chronicles seven generations of the Beundia family, founders of the fictional Columbian village of Macondo. In crisply descriptive and florid prose, Marquez succeeds in making us care for the deadly women of the family Beundia. This novel starts out somber, foreboding, with one of the most memorable opening sentences in all of modern literature:

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Beundia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

From that moment on, we are immersed in a world where our causal empirical conceptions are toyed with, keeping us on edge with many wonderful reality-bending suprises. This is a novel in the form of the 19th century masterpieces of English prose, with the steady beat of Latin American mythology infused with Catholic iconology. The result is like nothing seen before, while retaining the ingredients of the best of our poetic tradition.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a modern epic, one that attempts to create the indescribable sound of our connection with reality ripping through to new worlds, and centuries collapsing into milliseconds. Relentless, largely narrative based, skip this tremendous work at your loss.

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 25, 2011


InfidelInfidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A moving account of a brave, stunningly beautiful woman, from African Islamic horror, to the liberal democracy of Holland. Ali shatters ideas of cultural relativism with personal experience that cannot be denied. This woman is a hero of enlightenment principles that we tend to take for granted, and Ali reminds us that for all of the problems of the west, we enjoy freedoms unimaginable to the majority of our planets human population. Intriguing is her first-hand account of the modern rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Africa; a movement of disenfranchised youth.

Ali has been marked for death by the enemies of free expression, and she holds her emancipation with such respect and gratitude that she refuses to be silenced by terror, even if it costs her her life, as it did for her film-maker/friend Theo Van Gogh. Infidel is a brilliant autobiography by a brilliant woman who evades any hint of exaggeration in being called a champion of free speech. When our press cowtows to the sensitive feelings of religious fanatics -- out of exaggerated respect for all things dealing with faith, at the cost of our most hard won freedoms -- Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an example of courage in the face of all forms of religious intimidation.

Powerful, and very important.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The God Delusion

The God DelusionThe God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't praise a book any higher than to call it life changing. That is what The God Delusion means to me. It opened vistas of intellectual exploration to me. It taught me that atheism need not lead to nihilism.

The key argument in this book turns the tables on a deist argument best expressed by theologian William Paley. The argument is called 'Paley's Watch' and its central idea is that only complexity can account for complexity. Dawkin's simple but devastating argument against the existence of God as an answer to anything can be crudely summed up as follows: Complexity is improbable, yet to solve the problem of complexity by positing greater complexity just restates the problem on a larger scale. And we thought that Charles Darwin handled this over 150 years ago.

Richard Dawkins is for evolutionary biology what Carl Sagan was for astrophysics. Both crush the stereotypical view of science with poetic eloquence that evokes a childlike sense of wonder at the edge of reality. As Dawkins asks, "Isn't it enough to admire a garden without having to imagine fairies in it?" With Dawkins and Sagan as guides, the answer for me is a resounding yes.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Third Policeman

The Third PolicemanThe Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Third Policeman is a wonderfully disturbing little book, postumously published, by Irish novelist Brian O'Nolan under nom de plume Flann O'Brien. It could perhaps be described as a sort of exploration of Parmenidean paradox infused with Irish Catholic folklore. Hell is apparantly a place where bicycles are of central importance.

It is said that when the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides advanced his position that movement was illusory owing to the infinite number of spatial divisions and was therefore impossible, best exemplified by his follower Zeno's 'fletcher's paradox', his audience's reply was to simply get up and walk about the room. Yet it moves. The limits of rationality are contrasted with the phenomenological in the Third Policeman to comic heights, but the dark Catholic terror provides this work with a tone of vertiginous dread.

For something very different and refreshing, this is an excellent read. Philosophical satire that rewards close reading, the Third Policeman is Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland for adults.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 20, 2011


Ask most folks what the best Cure album is, you nearly always get Disintegration in response. They are wrong. The correct answer is Pornography, knaves. It's a great way to seperate the wheat from the chaff.

Yes music was literature long before books. Anyone who resonds "who is the Cure?" can safely be disregarded.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On The Road

On the Road: 40th Anniversary EditionOn the Road: 40th Anniversary Edition by Jack Kerouac

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Awful. Full of grammatical errors, On the Road chronicles the stream-of-conciousness of Jack Kerouac (thinly veiled as the fictional Sal Paradise) as he travels with insipid friends, and reveals himself as a handsome bore. Kerouac profoundly lowered American literary standards, and as I read this rambling mass, the criticism of Capote -- that this was less a book than typing-- rang true.

To break new ground in literature; to defy convention, one had better have some power of insight. Without said insight, one may come across as merely disrespectful rather than innovative. Written with the vocabulary and style of an uninspired grade-schooler, Kerouac clearly lacks the genius to successfully depart in the radical new direction he attempts.

I remember as a teen the "grunge music" of Nirvana, and how it seemed so fresh. And it was fresh when compared to the pop music of the time. Now grunge music is considered an artifact that was hyped beyond it's cultural relevance factor. Time will pass, and certain artistic movements become esoteric, and certain people who can't move on become laughable. Think girls with Bettie Page hairdo's and rockabillies in general. Think Beat Generation, hipster moron's with Kerouac at the forefront.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 10, 2011


LolitaLolita by Vladimir Nabokov

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Turgid, pretentious tripe. That Nabokov is a skilled writer seems to be a point he intends to make with every word of this revolting book, which presents a sense of desperation and a lack of humor. It's as if he prepared a wonderfully eloquent cake made of shit, and demands you admire the cake for it's eloquence. Humbert Humbert is a disgusting lecher, and spending time with him is highly unpleasant - as much for his overblown sense of self as his pedophilia.

A Platonist might present this as exhibit A in his prosecution against poetry:

"What is the redeeming feature of this novel? I'd argue that it is as imbalanced to write with eloquence on the subject of garbage, as to write garbage on the subject of eloquence."

Humbert Humbert is a cynical pedophile who commits the unforgivable sin of being boring. Lolita is sensationalism with a thesaurus.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Stranger

The StrangerThe Stranger by Albert Camus

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The abdurdist masterpiece. Meursault is the antithesis of the emotion obsessed post-modernist who checks his feelings as if they were a thermometer registering reality, and not the result of a reactionary culture's indoctrination against the stoical, jingoistic Roman inheritance. He is not immoral, but amoral, and he sees no point to anything other than physical desire. Finally, he arrives at the conclusion that the question of the meaning of life is meaningless, that the only logical response to an indifferent universe is indifference toward the universe.

If a case can be made for the maxim that "less is more", The Stranger would be the literary example. At just over one-hundred pages, and with the most basic vocabulary of our taciturn protagonist, this novel speaks volumes on the absurdity of the human condition. It should not, however, be understood as the philosophy of Camus in microcosm. Camus's myth of Sisyphus is a succinct answer to the problem of nihilism for those with existentialist leanings. The Stranger presents this problem in spartan first-person prose wonderfully.

Best book ever.

View all my reviews