Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Four Mini-Reviews because I'm Lazy

Well... Not all lazy. I've been so busy with various Peace Corps duties that I haven't had time to get on here and review after each book I've finished. So now I'm so far removed from most of these books that I couldn't give them all the reviews they deserve, but here are a few thoughts

Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone
I don't know that I really enjoyed Dog Soldiers as a whole. I certainly enjoyed the writing style: very gritty and matter-of-fact about its violence and depravity. I found the story to be disjointed, however, and I can't say that I totally understood the motivation of many of the main characters. I might recommend it though, as its narrative structure is enough to keep you interested and it tells the Vietnam tale from a POV you might not have come across before. Also, Dog Soldiers reminded me a little of Apocalypse Now with the sophomoric, combat-engendered philosophies preached by various characters.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I really enjoyed Life of Pi. It's one of those books that everyone you know has read and probably recommended to you one time or another. Definitely pick it up if you have a chance. It tells the story of an Indian boy trapped on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with a full grown bengal tiger. It touches on religion, the human spirit, and the will to survive. I also like how the ending (without any spoilers) raises the question of whether or not the entire novel was allegorical or literal. Definitely check it out, it's a quick read and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Lolita by Vladamir Nabakov
Perhaps more than any of the other three books I'll review here, I wish I'd written about Lolita while it was still fresh in my mind so I could have given it a full write-up. I'm sure you already know the tale so I won't go into it at all. This is easily one of the most beautiful works of literature I've ever come across. The juxtaposition of Humbert Humbert's monstrous depravity and the flowery, artful prose could not have been more powerful. Unless you've read it already its hard to explain. But Humberts narration is so perfectly constructed and witty that you actually find yourself empathizing with an admitted pedophile. Do yourself a favor and read Lolita.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Definitely my favorite of the four books reviewed here, Middlesex took me completely by surprise. About 5 different Peace Corps volunteers recommended this book to me before I finally got my hands on it and now I understand why. The story of a pseudohermaphrodite named Cal, Middlesex traces the mutated gene back two generations to Cal's grandparents' village in Turkey. This tale of incest, mutation, sex, drugs, and war would be interesting by itself, but what pushes Middlesex over the top is one of the most entertaining narrators I've ever encountered. Cal is everything a narrator should be: witty, self-deprecating, ironic... You name it. Middlesex won the Pulitzer for Fiction in... I want to say 2003, and it was well deserved. If you only get to read one of these four books, pick up Middlesex.


Nathan said...

I loved Life of Pi, I'm with you there. I like the mini-reviews... hm. Maybe that's how I'll make my grand comeback.

Meagan said...

like the format. loved middlesex.

Christopher said...

Dog Soldiers: B
Life of Pi: N/A
Lolita: A+
Middlesex: B+