Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Final Testament of the Holy BibleThe Final Testament of the Holy Bible by James Frey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the most hippy book I have read; more hippy than a beat has ever written, with the clear message that “love and laughter and fucking make one’s life better” (pag 259)

Hearing that James Frey has been sued by his readers, I couldn’t wait to read “The Final Testament of the Holy Bible”. But I had to wait three months until the only copy from the Danish Public Library became available. And, of course, I had great expectations, which only partially were fulfilled. The subject is challenging: what would it actually be like if the Messiah arrived, or if Christ returned? The concept is original: a story of Messiah, as that of Jesus Christ from the Old and New Testament. The idea is quite simple: the only religion that should be on earth is LOVE. No matter it is spiritual or physical. Most physical, since the orgasm is “the closest thing any human on earth would ever know about the Heaven “ (pag. 232).

And Messiah, as he came now, is given by the perspective of his family (mother and sister), of acquaintances, friends and followers. And the story is interesting until page 216, after which everything starts to repeat, over and over again. The message of love (love between man and woman, between man and man, between woman and woman, between man/woman and many others) becomes a cliché, a redundancy and a reduction. It becomes really boring to hear the same idea all over again in different circumstances, but almost within the same words: the religion is a shit and the humanity is going to destroy itself in the name of greed and religion.

The characters are sketches, but I believe that Frey did not purposely want to develop them further. He simple counted on the archetypes of their name: Ruth, Jeremiah, Matthew, John, Luke, Mark, Judith, Peter. But not Esther, who, in my opinion, is the most confusing character (she is old enough to sign her mother hospital papers, but “too young” to leave his older brother and live her life!).

I liked the first half and I became bored of the second. It was not only the repetition that annoyed me, but mostly the reductivism of thought that only “love and fucking” can save the world. This book is definitely challenging, but is far away of being a revolutionary book, as the back cover promised us.
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Forty Rules of LoveThe Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After reading “The forty rules of love” I left with ambiguous feelings. There is a form of attraction and interest in the subject (Sufism and the spiritual encounter and companionship between the great Muslim poet and mystic, Rumi and the wandering Persian Sufi Dervish, Shams of Tabriz). But there is also disappointment. I found not only populist the approach with which Elif Shafak introduced the reader in Shams’ “forty rules of love” theosophy, but here and there quite cheap and even vulgar. I disliked, for instance, the way in which Ella imagines Shams - a “macho” who rides a shiny red bike, or how Kimya arose exactly when the Dervish explained her the Koran.

The book started however very promising: with the idea that a modern, wealthy and bored housewife, in the beginning of her forties, awakes due to a manuscript that introduces her to Sufism. There is also a promising pedantry, since Shafak looks to pay attention to details. The number 40 is consistently explained, and each chapter starts with the letter “b” (coming from “bismilahirahmanirahim” word, which should contain the secret of Koran). But very soon, the story looses in coherence. The narrative is created by first person characters’ points of view, and when Shafak misses one, she has no restraint in creating a quick and disposable new character (like Husam The Student). Everything ends in a glossy, soapy story, a kind of “serious” chick lit.

At a certain moment I thought that Elif Shafak was too ambitious with this subject. But then I found out that she actually holds a Master degree in Gender and Women’s Studies and a Ph.D. in political science and she is pretty close with Sufism. Therefore, I presume, she has the “tools” of tackling any subject (and especially one about the forty rules of love) in a more deepen and rigorous way. Thus, I am intrigued and I cannot grasp why Shafak chose to write about “spiritual encounters” in such a consumerist way. Intrigued enough to also read her previous and acclaimed book, The Bastard of Istanbul (btw, is something glossy with her titles as well, isn’t it?).

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Acerca De RodererRegarding Roderer by Guillermo Martínez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With creativity and charm succeeded Guillermo Martinez to explore, in only 100 pages, few of the big literary themes: friendship, intelligence and knowledge. The approach is mathematically philosophic, in the good (and safe) tradition of Borges and Hesse, and with a “Faustian” pinch of Mann.

Being himself a mathematician, Martinez had as premise for his first novel the controversial topic in the foundations of mathematics: the question of what is true versus what is demonstrable. And from here, he started to model two forms of human intelligence: wit and genius, with their reciprocal relationship and their ways of relating to the world. The exponents are two high scholars: the unnamed narrator – a brilliant young man who gets the knowledge by absorbing it, much and quick, and his best friend, Gustavo Roderer – the genius, the one who questions everything, even the proof, the one who tries to go beyond, to reach the unattainability. The genius is however an unearthly quality; at least, it does not belong to this world. Roderer has to first suppress his human knowledge and then his human mind (thanks to the opium) and finally, his human body in order to achieve his goal. To be the first one who is above. On the other hand, the clever narrator has to suppress his small and humble feelings (such envy or vanity) in order to have the chance of understanding, of passing beyond. But this unfortunately is not the case. The only human chance, as Martinez suggested, is love. The pure and unconditional love.

Again I miss halves of star. It’s not quite a 5 stars book, but is definitely more than 4!
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

ChokeChoke by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being my first Palahniuk(thanks to Banned Book Reading Group), I find ”Choke” as an intriguing, hilarious and convoluted book: not only by its subject, but also by its twists. I think the book it is about the antihero Victor Mancini’s effort of anchoring himself in the world, by projecting his “need of the other” upon the others. The need is however an addiction that stresses the limits of dissolution. Victor Mancini is dissolving himself in sex and almost kills himself by choking in fancy restaurants, trying to explain his “numbers” as an act of unlimited generosity, almost a sacrifice. Though the other do not realize, they need him as much as he needs them.

Being more a hostage of his own troubled mother, Victor Mancini felt always as an outcast. All his endeavors of becoming normal were again and again stopped by his mother, who lies now into a nursing home paralyzed and destroyed by Alzheimer. She looks now to be her son’s hostage, but this is not true. She still keeps the secret of his origin that could explain why he is so different. And from this point, the story starts to have a metaphysical meaning as well. It becomes quite obvious why Victor Mancini is changing the world, by changing, though illusory, the life of the others.

And it follows another twist, which “puts down” again Victor Mancini on his place. He still remains a lonely soul that needs the others, but he now probably is freer. Of his mother .. and his/her demons?
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When I Was MortalWhen I Was Mortal by Javier Marías
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A 12 short-stories collection that revealed me another face of one of my loved writers: Javier Marias. He is here more a columnist than a novelist, trying to adjust his rhythm of storytelling to the penurious length of the newspaper’s columns. Therefore perhaps, I feel the stories unfinished and brutal twisted. Marias has a seductive style, with a delicate rhythm that harmoniously leads the story from “the waiting” to “the happening”. But in this collection the happening happens either too early or too late. However, the pretext is pretty smart: mystery and exploration of different “paths” of the same story. And the story is mostly about death or crime.

I cannot tell that I liked or disliked a certain story. I read them trying to find again that seductiveness from A Heart So White (funny, but Heart So White is now a horse’s name). But unfortunately, I didn’t :(
(I would really liked to give more then 2 stars, but since 2 and half do no exist...)
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