Category Archives: Artistic

The kite runner, Khaled Hosseini

I was going to start this review by saying that I think everyone in the west ought to read this book. But as I started writhing it, I realized that’s not true. I think everyone ought to read this book. Even the people of Afghanistan  – especially the people of Afghanistan. Not because I think they don’t know what their lives are like, but because Hosseini has something quite unusual: the ability to see the Afghan society both from the inside (having grown up there) and from the perspective of Western citizens (having lived for a long time in America).

Through the eyes of a troubled boy-then-man, us western folks get a (hopefully authentic) glimpse at Afghanistan’s history and culture. A depressing matter: Hosseini spares little effort in painting the a picture of a deeply dysfunctional society, of a country that could have become great, but was seized by the Taliban, of a culture in ruins and a people in despair.

Yet at the same time, the story has more than sorrow. There’s always something – his subtle humor, an expression of love, a waft of roses – that prevents me from just shutting the book and resort to crying. This makes the storytelling touching and emotional, but sometimes a bit too sentimental.

I’ve got this song playing in my head…

Why are some songs played to exhaustion, everywhere and always until everyone hate them? It’s not as if the world is deficit of talented musicians who dream of nothing but to be heard.

1984, George Orwell

It’s been a while since my last post… Apologies for everyone! I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging, and not that much inspiration either. My reading schedule has been mostly school related, and thus would be very boring to review. (near the end, there is a plot twist: X comes into the picture! Which completely changes how we viewed the previous information, and force us to think of Y as a mere percentage of the price…)

I choked down one book though! 1984.

It’s kind of like my civics book. It contains a very important lesson, but reading… Well.

It has all the potential! Written shortly after the war, it’s a dystopian novel that takes place in an imaginary 1984. The world as we know it (or, rather, the world as Orwell knew it) has collapsed, and what remains is three monster states with similarly awful governing.

It’s scary how relevant the book still is. While democracy is – luckily – getting more common, to say that lots of people still have little influence over their lives would be an understatement. With internet, there are great conditions to create a control society.

Even if it wasn’t relevant, 1984 could still have been an enjoyable read.

The dullness, though. It would contradict the whole idea if Airstrip One was anything but grey, thus it’s grey. It would contradict the whole idea if Winston was used to thinking for himself, thus he doesn’t. It would contradict the whole idea if Ingsoc was a humane way of governing, thus it is. It would contradict the whole idea if the characters found it easy to express their emotions, thus they don’t. However, it would NOT contradict the idea to let the characters have some emotions. It would NOT contradict the idea to throw in some details and adjectives here and there, spice up or shorten some environmental descriptions, let Winston feel AND think.

Basically 1984 wasn’t very fun to read. Unfortunately.

Divergent series

I want to say that I loved the Divergent series (trilogy by Veronica Roth) but it wouldn’t be true. I loved Divergent, whereas Insurgent was too “slow” and had a few to many plot twists. I was shocked, then sad, when [SPOILER REMOVED] near the end of Allegiant – smart move, Veronica.

Starting from the beginning. In a dystopian future, Chicago is isolated and its citizens are split into five personality based factions. At the age of sixteen everyone go through a test to see which faction will suit them best, and thereafter choose where they want to live the rest of their lives. A person (such as our protagonist, Tris) who don’t get univocal test results, but are partly suitable for more than one faction is seen as a threat to society and is forced to keep their divergence hidden.

That makes well needed social criticism – the world has a sad habit of sorting people into narrow compartments, and those who don’t fit are miserable outcasts. In order to make this spoiler-free I can’t tell you how – at the very end of Insurgent – this allegory is given a new layer, one that I don’t entirely understand.

Love, friendships and enmity add new layers to the story, making it a whole lot better.  Throughout the books these relationships develop, and as we get to know the characters better more complications occur. We loose characters we love, and we realize that those we hate aren’t all that bad.

Roth has a way of writing, that through surprises and cliff hangers keep me constantly  on tip-toes and longing for more. It’s a common technique and she is a master.

Chocolat

Whe I read, I tend to think a lot about the writer. For example, I have come to the conclusion that Nicholas Sparks is a dog lover. JK Rowling is not a big fan of obesity. John Green is a very observant person. Enid Blython loves to eat, and so does Joanne Harris.

With the title chocolate it’s no surprise that this sweet sin has a major role, but all food is described with tender affection, that is sometimes inspiring and sometimes silly. 

The french small town isn’t as charming once you get to know it a bit. Or, rather, its inhabitants – because characters drive the story far more than the course of events. Also the minor characters are allowed space, interesting personalities, and development. 

It would be unfair to write about this book without a mention of Vianne Rocher, the single mother who – despite the villagers’ disapproval – settles in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. She starts a chocolaterie, and little by little begin to change her surroundings with a force that is slightly supernatural. 

Of course, no story would be complete without a bad guy. In this case, obsessive purity seeking, self denial and discipline – personalized by le comte, Francis Reynaud.

L’ecume des jours, movie

A while ago, I reviewed the book that this film is based upon.

My impression was essentially that it was a good book, but it took a while to understand. With the movie, I was a little more “prepared” and my expectations were mostly correct.

It was weird. Just like the book, only not at all similar. More straightforward.

I did notice something I hadn’t before. The setting, “world” is not entirely surreal. It obviously isn’t this reality, it is – sometimes – a metaphor (on another note, I’ve been extremely fascinated by metaphors recently. It really is a wonderful thing to get your point out, but with more elegance and less obtrusiveness).  Jean-sol Partre… seems now like the exact same thing as Fall Out Boy’s “sunshine” or Sixto Rodriguez’s “sweet Mary Jane”. And the water lily… would be cancer.

αφρος-των-ημερωνSkilled actors can enhance any movie quite a bit… Beautiful dresses do something too.

I like reading the book first. Seems that wasn’t necessary this time though, because my friend enjoyed it too, without having read it. I don’t recall either of us touching the bowl of chocolate during the movie. Instead, we sat quietly, absorbed. And that’s saying something.

Against me!

I have a new obsession: Laura Jane Grace.

I found the band browsing around my Spotify suggestions. The tune of Thrash unreal caught me… It didn’t take long before I realized that the band is more than just catchy songs and punk spirit though.

In cosmopolitan, singer Laura Jane Grace talks about growing up as a transgender boy in the 80’s and 90’s. Coming out and transitioning. And my god, it’s a miracle that I didn’t cry. I cried when I read her Wikipedia article though, which is strange because Wikipedia language is boring even for the nerdiest of the  nerds. Although perhaps that’s precisely why I cried – the objective, emotionless descriptions of her divorced parents, gender dysphoria, confusion, that she began experimenting with drugs at the age of thirteen… It broke my heart.

I’m not transsexual, but I kind of imagine these songs would feel very solacing for someone who is. I don’t know the first thing about transitioning, but I can understand the pain Laura must have felt. Or rather, I understand that there was a lot of pain. “One night, a couple of weeks into transitioning, as I was putting her to bed, she said she didn’t want me to be a girl anymore—she wanted me to be a boy again. I had never felt more self-doubt in my decision than at that moment.” she says about her daughter, Evelyn. I mean…

If you read this blog, you probably have something in common with me, and that means you will probably love this song.

(sometimes I wonder if any of the lyrics are written by other band members)

Dear life, Alice Munro

Isn't this cover gorgeous?

Isn’t this cover gorgeous?

Someone once said that there is no such book that it wouldn’t improve from being half as long. I disagree, because I have read many such books. This one is a prime example, because 1) It’s a collection of short stories, and the stories are by definition short. and 2) There wouldn’t be much of a story left if cropped any more.

#2 is one of the traits I love most about this book. Because Munro’s writing is the opposite of in-your-face-ness. There is no over-explaining or unnecessary descriptions, but short and powerful statements that have just enough information to make the stories come to life in my mind (and I hope the mind of any reader). Still, it’s not hard reading, like a physics textbook, that require energy and focus to be understood. I mean, they do require focus but it’s not difficult to find it.

Dear Life sounded like a brilliant title long before I read the book (it’s one of those that are received as a gift, and then left to collect dust until I’m out of more exciting things to read) and even more so after I read it. Because it’s about “ordinary”  life, in all its glory. Or lack thereof.

There is a sort of calm. Even though the plot often revolves around tragedy (mostly on a smaller scale), I didn’t shed any tears. I certainly felt it, but not in a way that made me want to go out and change the world. A quiet sad.

Looking for Alaska & Paper towns

I feel kind of mean clumping these two books together, but they were pretty similar and I read them close to each other (time wise). Similar, in the sense that they were good in the same ways.  Not as good as The fault in our stars, but then, few books are.

Let’s start with the plot, which is pretty much the same in both books: Shy, smart and skinny teenage boy (perhaps inspired by John Green himself?) meets confident, brave, curvy girl with swaying mood and a secret. He falls in love. She is friendly and kind of flirty, brings boy along for one incredible prank, and then she disappears. Teenage boy sets out on search for her. (not to spoil anything, but going looking just might be an allegory), backed up by his epic friends.
I swear I didn’t make that sound boring on purpose – it is a fairly good plot. The real greatness, however, is in the details; John Green has a lovely way of writing. Not only do the words flow simply and without effort. He paints vivid images in my head that really create that sense of “presence”. Some things – such as the way parents usually act  – are easily relatable, no matter how they are described. Other things are far from my reality, but they become close and perfectly understandable. It takes some skill, to move little me to an alligator pitch in Florida next to my crush, trying to break into Sea World. He makes me feel like I’m part of the John Green universe, which is just like this one only slightly more fantastic.
The characters too are kind of like real people, only slightly better, with more good ideas and pranks in store than anyone I know. Or maybe I do know people who plan escapades as wonderful as the ones Alaska and Margo and Colonel plans, they just won’t tell me….

The hobbit: The desolation of Smaug

I feel thin, sort of stretched out, like butter scraped over too much bread. Bilbo Baggins used that sentence to describe his own feelings, but I think they would apply just as well to the recent movies that revolve around him. Because honestly, The Hobbit is not suitable for a trilogy. To be fair it has been a while since I watched the first part, and I might remember that wrong. The sequel, however, I have in fresh memory since yesterday evening.

It is incredible. Special effects are masterly done, make up is flawless. Like, flawless – Smaug looks just like a real dragon.

The story drifts away from the book here and there which I think is kind of insulting to the original Hobbit (and also understandable since they probably had to come up with something new to fill three full movies). My favorite of these additions is Tauriel; female superheroes are just simply more badass than male ones.

The nature is stunningly beautiful (I have to go to New Zealand some day), just as in LOTR and the first Hobbit.

And the actors.

Unfortunately, those things are incredible a little too long. The many battle scenes all take the time to show every little detail, so that after a while they all seem the same. The “transportation” parts and a few other scenes take unnecessarily long too, but I didn’t really mind those for some reason. I didn’t mind the battle scenes at first either, but it only takes so long to show that 1) free running is really cool, 2) martial arts and sword play are really cool  too and 3) orchs are DISGUSTING.