Sunday, July 29, 2007

No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy

PLOT Llewelyn Moss, young Vietnam vet out hunting antelope, stumbles into a drug deal gone really, really bad -several dead men, a stash of heroin, and 2.4 million dollars. Even though he knows he's making a potentially fatal mistake, Lewelyn grabs the money and runs, and the chase begins immediately. He is now a the prey, hunted by miscellaneous Mexicans, the psycopath Chigurh and an ex-Special Forces agent. Set along the Texas-Mexico border in 1980, No Country for Old Men is an action-thriller laced with the thoughts of "the good guy," WWII vet, Sheriff Bell, who is himself hunting Moss to save him and his 19-year-old wife.
Why I Picked this Book My daughter, Savannah, recommended it.
COMMENTS No Country has enough action,with elements of old shoot-em-up westerns, to rivet the most rabid of action fans. By the time you arrive at the last page, the body count is quite large. Again, as in The Road, McCarthy's style is lean and quick. The dialogue is rapid fire, often propelling the story, acurately reflecting dialect. But, this novel works on another, deeper level in Bell's observations about the moral decline of our time - our slide into the world of The Road, perhaps. These digressions do not slow the action, but rather provide a moral underpining for the plot. And, there are echoes from The Road, particularly striking as Bell talks about his dead father: "And in the dream I knew that he was goin on ahead and that he was fixin to make a fire somethere out there in all that dark and all that cold and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there." Gave me chills.
FORMAT NOTE I both listened to and read No Country. (Listened in the car during my commute and read at night.) The narrator, Tom Stechschulte, was excellent. His vocal characterizations were superb. I could immediately recognize which character was talking.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Moviegoer - Walker Percy

Plot Synopsis: Binx Bolling is young, affluent, charming and attractive enough to consistently bed his secretaries. But, beneath his "southern gentleman" facade, Binx floats in a void of despair. He lives in fear of becoming an "Anyone living Anywhere," a ghost, and so he anchors himself in the world though movies. Movie going gives Binx the scripts to function in life. Without really comprehending why, responding only to his ennui and emptiness, Binx is on a "search" for meaning and involves his emotionally unstable cousin Kate(now she could be diagnosed "bipolar" or "clinically depressed")in his journey.
Why I Picked This Book for the Southern Reading Challenge When I read the Moviegoer 40 years ago, it was as if Percy were speaking right to me. At the time, I considered it one of the best novels I had ever encountered. The Moviegoer has been compared to Camus' L'Etranger, and 40 years ago, Camus was one of my favorite authors also. (He's from the SOUTH of France. :-) However, I could remember very little about the plot and wondered if it would have the same impact today.
Comments It did. Today we would call Binx a depressed yuppie and quickly recommend that he be put on antidepressants, but Percy has painted a powerful portrait of a young man caught in the malaise of our age - a deadening of the soul and senses. Binx is cut off from truly experiencing the world around him. He is elated when his car crashes because for a short while he really feels alive. Conversing with others draws this reflection, "For some time now this impression has been growing upon me that everyone is dead." In portraying Binx and his world, Percy strikes the right balance between light and dark, humor and philosophy.
The Moviegoer is not a light read, but for me, it was a delight to reacquaint myself with an old friend. The images of the South and of the relationships between black and white were true images of a time long ago. This book will be on college literature lists for a long time to come.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What kind of Intelligence?

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bet Me - Jennifer Crusie

Jennifer Crusie is a master of wit and dialogue. I would enjoy her books for the repartee even without the romantic, fun plots (I'm a sucker for romance and fun). She lets us in on what her characters are REALLY thinking with italicized subtext, while the bon mots zing by on every page. Why, it's like eating a choclate-covered Krispy Kreme donut - so yummy it's just about decadent.
We meet Min Dobbs as her boyfriend of two months dumps her in a crowded bar. We quckly learn that she's obsessed with being thin, never eats carbs or butter, and lets her mother dominate her clothing choices and her self-esteem. Enter the perfectly handsome and eminently eligible Cal Morrisey, a scurrilous bet, and the requisite misunderstanding - the stage is set for pages of delightful fluff.
We know from the beginning that there's more to Min than a pinstripe suit - her shoes give her away - and we have all the fun of watching as her relationship with Cal releases a sensuous and confident woman who can enjoy chicken cacciatore and Krispy Kremes without guilt. Cynical Liza and idealistic Bonnie, Min's two best friends, are her yin and yang, alternately swaying her in opposite directions along the way, adding delicious complications to the mix.
Highly recommended for summer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Confessions of a book junkie

I have a secret compulsion - buying books. I love going online and throwing books into my cart (I read a lot of review journals which fuels the fires of my addiction), and it's so easy to push "proceed to checkout," adding a little more to get the free shipping. AND THEN, the total thrill of the plain, black lettered cardboard box with its nifty zipper strip awaiting me in the mailbox with the brand new books inside. All mine to hoard and fondle. Think Gollum and his precious. Add to this that I'm a librarian with unlimited access to shiny new books I can bring home FREE , and it's pretty obvious that I really need therapy. (the problem with library books is that you have to take them back) Now, here's the true confession: this buying frenzy wouldn't be classified as a compulsion if I actually found the time to read them all.
But I do have an excuse - my book clubs. It's both a curse and a blessing that I'm a member of two book clubs - they keep picking things not already in my bookcase. But that's one of the reasons you join a book club - to widen your literary horizons. (sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of this) So, every 6 to 8 weeks I must digest two books not on my shelves. (In all fairness, I've discovered some all-time favorites this way) In any event, last weekend, I put all my unread Amazon purchases into a bookcase and counted them. Oh, the shame and horror - 93 books I've purchased and haven't read! If I were to drop out of both book clubs and read one book per week, I could finish them all in one year . . . and 41 weeks. Maybe when I retire . . .

Review - The Road - Cormac McCarthy

Our Earth is gone, and all that remains is an alien world of darkness, deprivation and despair. Gaia is dead - hopelessly dead. While the people of Crace's Pesthouse have regressed to a primitive, medieval state, the world of the Road is completely unrecognizable. Sooty rain falls to the scorched earth, and rivers run black with ash. The sun's passage is only evident as the void of night turns to the unrelenting grey of day. Life as we know it is extinct. We are thrust into this nightmare to travel with the man and the boy. They have no names; they do not need names. There is no one else travelling with them but you, the reader. It would be wrong to say that they are wandering. The journey has a purpose, a destination - the ocean. The man has a purpose - to keep his son alive. And the boy has a purpose - to give his father a reason to survive and travel the road. Their love is what sustains them.
McCarthy briefly alludes to the cataclysm that caused a great holocaust and the nuclear winter that followed. A flash of bright light - a world destroyed. His writing is spare. Short sentences and phrases reflecting the death of words. The names of colours and animals that no longer exist and of emotions and ideals that are no longer felt.
Surrounded by madness and mayhem, starved and freezing, the boy and the man keep going. They continue. The "good guys," the carriers of "the fire" in a wet, black Hell. The Road is strong stuff, but at its centre there is a sliver of hope in the father's desperate fight for his son's survival. Humans can transcend fear and hardship if they are surviving not just for themselves, but for another. It's a thought we'd all like to believe. At the end of The Road, I found myself wondering if I would have it in me to be one of the "good guys."