Literature Fiend

Every book changes your literary journey.

The Captain is out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship by Charles Bukowski

“Well, my 71st year has been a hell of a productive year. I have probably written more words this year than in any year of my life.”

 

literature fiend The Captain is out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship provides an interesting look  into Charles Bukowski’s personal life.

Most of Bukowski’s novels are written from the perspective of Henry Chinaski – his literary alter ego – which are undoubtedly based on real experiences.

This is a diary – recorded on Bukowski’s computer – which begins in 1991 and ends in 1993 – the year Bukowksi died of leukaemia aged 73.

It’s  great to imagine Bukowski, sitting at his desk night -after-night banging away at his keyboard with dogged determination just to “get the words down.”

Bukowski was always a prolific writer,  but this diary provides a  glimpse into his frustration with the writing process.   On the 20th October 1991, he writes:

“This is one of those nights where there is nothing. Imagine being always like this. Scooped-out. Listless. No light. No dance. Not even any disgust.” (p. 57)

However, In the same entry he writes about his productivity, showing “the block” as a rare occurrence:

“Still, I’ve had a good year. Masses of pages sit in the bookcase behind me. Written since Jan. 18. It’s like a madman was turned loose. No sane man would write that many pages. It’s a sickness.” (p. 57) 

Although most of the entries are filled with the mundane, the diary really highlights the importance of a routine.  For Bukowski is went pretty much like this:

  1. Wake up.
  2. Drive to the Horse Racing.
  3. Write at night while listening to classical music.

BukowskiThe best part of the book  was Bukowski’s  transition from typewriter to computer. The fact that there was to be “No more carbons, no more retyping,” was something Bukowski was excited about. It meant more time to create fresh content.

“This computer that I started using on Jan. 18 has had much to do with [enhanced productivity]. It’s simply easier to get the word down, it transfers more quickly from the brain (or wherever this comes from) to the fingers and from the fingers to the screen where it is immediately visible – crisp and clear” (p. 73)

This passage left me thinking about technology and how easy it is to create a document, edit that document and then print it. Something that is maybe taken for granted by  those of us born in the “computer generation.”

In retrospect, there is also a sad element to this book.  It isn’t clear whether Bukowski knew about his Leukaemia in any of the diary entries, although he is certainly thinking about his own mortality:

“The other day I was thinking about the world without me. There is the world going on doing what it does. And I’m not there. Very odd. Think of the garbage truck coming by and picking up the garbage and I’m not there. Or the newspaper sits in the drive and I’m not there to pick it up. Impossible. ” (P. 107)

The Captain is out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship contains pretty much what you’d expect from Charles Bukowski. Lots of talk about drinking and betting and literature and classical music; all of which is delivered in a raw and honest style.

 

What did you think of the diary? As always Literature Fiend would love to hear any discussions points, or suggestions for further reading. Please contact us, or leave a comment below, it would be great to hear from you. 

 

 

 

 

 

A Visit to the Anne Frank House

Anne-Frank-DeskI’ve just returned from a excellent long weekend in Amsterdam. The place really does have something for everyone.

I – like most, I’m sure – first read Anne Frank at school. It is after all a very important historical document. I’ve also read it again in recent years and I always think the same thing. Here we have a thirteen year old girl who has an imagination and writing ability way above her years.  In her diary she writes:

“One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we’ll be people again and not just Jews!” (Diary, 11 April, 1944)

It was a interesting experience, in that I was surprised at how much space was hidden behind the bookcase, where the three families took refuge. When reading the diary, I imagined a much smaller space. But, I’m sure spending two years with three other families in relative darkness (as the curtains were drawn at all times) was unbearable.

Understandably, from the beginning of the tour the place had an errie feel. As we walked around, in a single file  it was silent, apart from perhaps a few whispers.

Personally, I could almost feel Anne Frank’s imagination bouncing from room to room. In the room that Anne shared with Fritz Pfeffer, there were cuttings of film stars and photos of art plastered on the wall like any normal child may have. Sadly, in Anne’s case it was an attempt to link to the outside world, a world she must’ve felt alienated from.  Her longing to be free is evident in her diary as she writes:

“I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I’m free.” (Diary, 24th December 1943)

Next on the tour came the footage from childhood friends who all spoke about their memories of Anne. Otto Frank -Anne’s father – returned to Amsterdam after the War, not knowing that his Wife and two Daughters were now dead. On one of the TV’s he recounts little Anne writing secretively into her diary and her wish to become a published author.

imgresAnne wrote many short stories and also the first few chapters towards a novel – which are complied in a book called Anne Frank’s Tales From the Secret Annexe – before the families were captured by the SS.

Yes, it was a very sobering experience, but one which I think will enable me to visualise her surroundings when I read the diary again.

It’s important that her writing will continue to be read. In her writings she captures the voice of millions of innocent children who lost their lives throughout the Holocaust.

Holocaust Literature has an important message to share, and many books have been translated into English since the liberation of Auschwitz 71 years ago. Below are a few suggestions for further reading on the subject.  

Night by Elie Wiesel

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

“The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted.”

the-girl-who-loved-tom-gordon-by-stephen-king-L-1mbmQyThe Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a psychological thriller that centres around a nine year old girl – Trisha McFarland – that also has a baseball theme to it.

Yes, you heard that right – a BASEBALL theme.

But relax (those of you who don’t know anything about baseball or hate the sport) because aside from the chapter headings, a fictional player called Tom Gordon and a little bit of radio commentary, this novel is just a good old fashioned ‘girl-gets-lost-in-the-woods-story.’

King informs the reader of this fact in the opening paragraph,

“At o’clock on a morning in early July she was sitting in the back seat of her mother’s Dodge Caravan, wearing her Red Sox batting practice jersey (the one with 36 GORDON on the back) and playing with Mona, her doll. At ten thirty she was lost in the woods.” (p.3)

Trisha, who is on a day out with her mother and brother wanders off the main trail in search of a tree to have a pee… Well you know the rest!

NEVER WANDER OFF THE GODDAMN TRAIL!!!

If you’ve ever been in the woods, then you’ll be familiar with the way it can play tricks on the mind. You may think you are walking in a straight line, but in actual fact you’ve just done a 360 and end up where you started. King captures the characteristics of the forest brilliantly.

The Sounds, The Dark Shadows and The Thing that watches from within:

“The dead trees began to look less and less like trees and more and more like gaunt sentinels standing with their gnarled feet in the still black water. Be seeing faces in them again pretty soon, she thought.” (P.136)

As Trisha struggles through the forest, night after night, the lines between reality and tricks of the mind become blurred. In typical King fashion little voices of doubt begin to creep into Trisha’s consciousness:

“It’s a special thing Trisha – the thing that waits for the lost ones. It lets them wander until they’re good and scared -because fear makes them taste better, it sweetens the flesh – and then it comes for them. You’ll see it. It’ll come out of the trees any minute now. A matter of seconds, really. And when you see its face you’ll go insane.” (p.110)

imgresOn her walkman she can listen to the Red Sox commentary, and seek advice from her favourite player Tom Gordon who materialises as part of her imagination.

Or is it? Can Trisha keep her grip on reality long enough to escape the forest?

These are the questions that kept me reading right to the end.

Overall, I really enjoyed  The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. It’s short with a simple plot and has hardly any characters which makes this an easy read.

Does Trisha make it out? Why not grab a copy, relax, get lost in the woods and find out for yourself.

What did you think of the novel? As always Literature Fiend would love to hear any discussions points, or suggestions for further reading. Please contact us, or leave a comment below, it would be great to hear from you. 

 

 

 

Cujo by Stephen King

c1

“He suddenly understood that THE MAN had made him sick.”

I watched a Stephen King interview once, in which he said that Cujo didn’t turn out the way he wanted. This is the Fourth Stephen King novel reviewed this year on literaturefiend and certainly isn’t one of the best.

There are a number of problems in this novel that constrict the reading experience. Cujo is written as one continuous narrative, which I don’t think worked well at all.

I think the film version of Cujo worked very well. I mean who can forget that image of the huge St Bernard Dog covered in blood!

The main part of the novel – and the best part – focuses on Donna and Tad Trenton (Mother and Son) who become trapped in their old Ford Pinto with Cujo waiting to rip them apart.

These sections of the novel made me feel on edge, and I felt their pain of being trapped in a small space with the unbearable heat from the sun beating down on them.

In fact all the sections of the narrative with Cujo were excellent: the build-up as he gets bitten by the rabid bat, the way Cujo battles to keep the rabies at bay; the fact that Cujo can’t understand why he is feeling so agitated and angry, all add to the compassion I felt towards the dog.

The subplots were very tedious.  The world of Victor Trenton – who co-owns a advertising company – is boring as we’re told about their campaign for ‘Sharp cereals’ or something. This is the reason why Victor leaves his wife and child alone (to go on a business trip), so I can see this as a device from King to make the main plot more plausible but it just went on and on and on and on…

About halfway through I began to skim read the sections that didn’t relate to Cujo. I didn’t loose anything from adopting this method, but it really diluted the reading experience. If the subplots were shorter it would’ve made for a really enjoyable novella, rather than an overworked novel.

The way King portrayed the workings of Cujo’s mind is brilliant. As a reader it makes you feel sorry for Cujo, as he can no longer control the advancement of the rabies virus. King highlights this at the end of the novel when he writes:

“He [Cujo] had tried to do all the things his MAN and his WOMAN, and most of all his BOY, had asked or expected of him. He would have died for them, if that had been required. He had never wanted to kill anybody. He had been struck by something, possibly destiny, or fate, or only a degenerative nerve disease called rabies. Free will was not a factor” (p.420)

cujo2In the ‘Iconic Terror’ editions by Hodder Press, King writes an introduction on each novel and there isn’t one about Cujo.  This is the only novel King – a recovering alcohol and drug addict –  can’t remember writing, and probably one from a period of his life he’d rather forget.

That said, the novel is worth a read, if only for Cujo’s split personality (pre and post rabies) and the unexpected ending.

Section that Stayed 

This section shows how powerful and dangerous Cujo is once the rabies has taken hold:

“With a speed and agility that was terrifying, the big dog changed direction and came at the car. The awkward stagger was gone now, as if it had been nothing but a sly act all along. It was roaring and bellowing rather than barking. Its red eyes burned. It struck the car with a hard, dull crunch and rebounded – with stunned eyes, Donna saw that the side of her door was actually bowed in a bit.” (p. 285)

What did you think of the novel? As always Literature Fiend would love to hear any discussions points, or suggestions for further reading. Please contact us, or leave a comment below, it would be great to hear from you. 

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

“Sometimes dead is better”

Wow, Pet Semapet sematarytary by Stephen King really did live up to expectations. It’s scary as hell; personally the film also scared the crap outta me too.

In the introduction King writes:

‘When I’m asked (as I frequently am) what I consider to be the most frightening book I’ve ever written, the answer comes easily and with no hesitation: Pet Sematary.” (p.xi)

In fact the novel nearly wasn’t published, King continues:

“All I know is that Pet Sematary is the one I put away in a drawer, thinking I had finally gone too far” (p. xi)

Luckily for us, King had one book left on his Doubleday deal before he could leave,  and instead of writing something new, he sent them Pet Sematary.  

Now it’s being review by literaturefiend.

The novel follows Dr Louis Creed and family as they move into a new house in the small town of Ludlow. The house is on a main road and it isn’t long before Jud Crandall (a neighbor from across the road) warns the Creeds about the dangers of the passing trucks. Louis – whose father died when he was young – discovers a paternal connection with Jud. The role of the father is to protect, but it is Jud who shows Louis the Micmac burial ground which ultimately leads to the catastrophic events in this novel.

There is a path which leads from the Creed home to the Pet Sematary. This is a  lovely concept, started by the town’s children to bury their beloved pets; the majority of which killed on the road by oncoming trucks. Death is something all children must come to terms with and you really feel their innocence with little devices, such as the misspelled Pet Cemetery sign which has an “S” instead of “C”. Also I loved the handwritten grave markers with little messages from the children:

“TRIXIE, KILT ON THE HIGHWAY SEPT 15, 1968” and “HANNAH THE BEST DOG THAT EVER LIVED 1929-1939” (P. 38)

Things are no different for the young Ellie Creed who takes her first visit to the Pet Sematary (and experience of death) pretty hard. She has a beloved cat named Winston Churchill (or Church for short) who she would like to live forever.

“He’s my cat! He’s not God’s cat! Let God have his own cat! Let God have all the damn old cats He wants, and kill them all! Church is mine!”

When Ellie’s cat is killed by a trucchurchk,  Jud tells Louis about the Micmac burial ground which lies beyond the Pet Sematary.  This is a place of evil, a burial ground that somehow brings what is buried back to life – only when they return, they aren’t the same.

When Church returns King writes:

“The feel of the cat caused Louis to break out in gooseflesh, and he had to clench his teeth grimly to keep from kicking it away. Its furry sides felt somehow too slick, too thick – in a word, loathsome” (p. 162)

You get the idea right?

The book then gets even darker. Think of the horror, chasing your young son who is running towards the road, a speeding truck coming from the opposite direction. King explores this scenario when it happens to Gage Creed (Louis’ son); would you just accept it, or… exhume your sons grave, and bury him in a place where you know he’ll return?

Read it to see how it plays out…

The central theme of this novel focuses on coming to terms with grief and the loss of a loved one. There is Rachel Creed, haunted by the memory of her sister who suffered from spinal meningitis before her death; Pascow,  a young student who is killed by a truck on the main highway to mention a few.

I can see how Pet Sematary scared King, as much of it is based on personal experience. His own child Owen running for that main highway (thankfully King tackled him in time), his daughter’s cat Smucky flattened by a truck (thankfully, not coming back from the dead) and the real  Pet Sematary (thankfully, the burial ground beyond is fiction).

This all happened and I think it shows King’s creativity at its best. He certainly highlights the notion that “sometimes dead is better.”

Section that Stayed

A university student is brought into the campus surgery after being hit by a truck. The finality of this passage stayed with me throughout the whole novel.

“He was a young man, age approximately twenty, and it took Louis less than three seconds to make the only diagnosis that mattered: the young man was going to die. Half of his head was crushed. His neck had been broken. One collarbone jutted from his swelled and twisted right shoulder. From his head, blood and a yellow, pussy fluid seeped sluggishly into the carpet. Louis could see the man’s brain, whitish-gray and pulsing through a shattered section of his skull.”(p.70)

What did you think of the novel? As always Literature Fiend would love to hear any discussions points, or suggestions for further reading. Please contact us, or leave a comment below, it would be great to hear from you.  

Why Limit the Different Options of Storytelling?

“Mmmm,” said another chewing on a sandwich. “Me too. I like the feel of the pages.”

Here I was feeling battered by an argument I’ve heard and read about many times before. Fair enough, I thought and continued to eat my lunch.

All I’d said was how much I loved my Kindle; I mean come on guys, it’s not like I mentioned a nationwide book burning saga.

It’s not even an “either or” question.

It’s the “either or mentality” that really puzzles me. A kindle, a physical book, or a audiobook aren’t a mutually exclusive thing.

It’s the story that matters.

The story is the juice; the story is the petrol that keeps the car rolling along at 70 mph; the story is the soul of what – we ravenous readers want after all. Does it really matter if it’s told on a piece of paper, a computer screen or through a speaker?

The Guardian recently published a article titled, Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds. You can probably guess from the title that the study found that readers using an e-reader were worse than readers with a physical book at recalling events from a mystery story.

Great. And?

Don’t get me wrong but it’s an interesting factoid – one that may, in time be brought up in a pub quiz – but one that also doesn’t bother me in the slightest. We’ve all done it; Got to the bottom of a page… [a little pause] … and then you think, What the hell have I just read?

This happens, not just on a Kindle but with a physical book, audiobook or in fact when your partner talks to you about their day. This isn’t anything to worry about, it’s just little old life trying to impose on your “quiet time.”

So what do we do? Roll the sleeves up and go back to the top of the page (or re-wind in the case of an audiobook)

So, it’s a mystery as to why people segregate themselves into little groups. “I only read YA,” or “I only listen to Indie music,” or “Oh no, I couldn’t read a book on a kindle!”

Just embrace everything (within reason that is) All three mediums mentioned here hold great and different ways to explore literature. So here are a few benefits for each:

The Kindle

  • The majority of the classics are free to download
  • You can take a vast amount of reading material on holiday without using up your precious EasyJet carry on space.
  • It’s practical (It’s also useful when you don’t want an ‘epic’ straining your arm. I recently made this mistake when I bought Stephen King’s IT  in paperback – All 1,336 pages – meant I had to read at home)

The Physical Book

  • Adds that air of authenticity to the work
  • Is great because it’s easy to pass onto friends or family.
  • There is no better feeling for a literaturefiend than finding a book that you’ve been looking for; in either a second hand store or tucked away at the back of a dusty library shelf.
  • It also enhances the bathing experience. If the book it gets wet, who cares; just sling it on a radiator.

The Audiobook

  • Easily accessible on a smart phone, tablet or computer.
  • If you get a good narrator it can enhance the story.
  • Great for a bike ride, car journey, or just aimlessly walking the streets.

 

So yes. I do love my Kindle, and, in fact my bookcase full of physical books. Also,  I’m beginning to become fond of audiobooks too.

And, of course everyone has a preferred way of ingesting a good old story, but placing yourself in the “Kindle,” “Physical Book,” or “audiobook” camp limits the literaturefiend’s options. Surely there is a place in this world for all mediums of storytelling.

“Story” being the optimum word.

For it’s the story that gets the reader horny, sad, frightened, angry, happy and inspired.

The story is what we – the reader – want to survive, just like they did long before books were even printed. Just feel lucky that we live in a time where we can hunt that book down in a store, receive it with the click of a button or listen to it in the dark.

Did you enjoy this article? Did you hate it? How do you feel about the different mediums of storytelling? Whatever your opinion literaturefiend would like to here it.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck, Cannery RowJohn Steinbeck is a great humanist writer who focuses the majority of his work on the less fortunate members of society, usually in California. His main qualities as a writer lie in the description of landscape and the tender aspects of his character’s. For the above themes, I suggest you check out Of Mice & Men, Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden.

Cannery Row was published in 1945 and is set in Monterey, California during the great depression. Cannery Row is a waterfront street which had a number of sardine canning factories (the last of which closed in 1978.)

Rather than focus on the workers of these factories – many of whom were out-of-towners – it deals with the colourful inhabitants of ‘The Row’ during the time the canning factories are closed:

“It is the hour of the pearl – the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself.”

At the beginning of the novel Steinbeck writes:

“It’s inhabitants [Cannery Row’s] are, as the man once said, ‘whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,’ by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, ‘Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,’ and he would have meant the same thing” (p.5)

A group of men, led by Mack, who have no ambition except to sit around and get drunk and live rent free in an old shed, affectionately called, The Palace Flophouse and Grill. Instead of looking at them in a stereotypical way, Steinbeck has Doc – a well respected marine biologist – describe them in a positive light,

“Look at them. There are your true philosophers. I think. […] Mack and the boys know everything that has ever happened in the world and possibly everything that will happen. I think they survive in this particular world better than other people. In a time where people tear themselves to pieces with ambition and nervousness and covetousness, they are relaxed.” (p.106)

The local shopkeeper, called Lee Chong who’s store is described as “while not a model of neatness, was a miracle of supply” (p.7), has a similar air of affection. The people who work at the local whorehouse are all described with similar fondness. This is Steinbeck’s way of showing the reader how reliant the inhabitants are upon each other.

This novel marked a change in his normal style, in the sense that the novel had no real plot. Just a series of chapters highlighting the “real” Cannery row. Aside from human interaction,  Steinbeck talks about nature; particularly about animal life and how it co-exists alongside human life.

“A well-grown gopher took up residence in a thicket of mallow weeds in the vacant lot on Cannery Row[…] It was beautiful in the early morning when he first poked his head out of the burrow. The mallows filtered green light down on him and the first rays of the rising sun shone into his hole and warmed it so that he lay there content and very comfortable” (p.144)

There are many descriptions like this in the novel, but I think it really highlights the way Steinbeck was thinking at this stage in his life. He is deeply pondering man’s place within the eco-system of the natural world.

Overall, Cannery Row is littered with excellent description, heartfelt dialogue and deeply human character’s. It shows an author who is brimming with confidence,  and who has deep compassion towards the poor. On top of that it is a rapid read at 147 pages; this comes well recommended.

What did you think of the novel? As always Literature Fiend would love to hear any discussions points, or suggestions for further reading. Please contact us, or leave a comment below, it would be great to hear from you.  

 

 

IT by Stephen King

Stephen King IT “This was begun in Bangor, Maine, on September 9th, 1981, and completed in Bangor, Maine, on December 28th, 1985.” Stephen King  (p.1376)

Yes, that quote really is from page, 1376. Not such a big deal in Stephen King world; with The Stand, Under the Dome and Insomnia among the Epic titles.

IT was a great book that kept me gripped all the way through; I was immerssed in the Derry way of life and with the main character’s struggle against evil.  The novel is so long, I don’t really know where to begin…

…Well, how about the little paper boat. It is this object that signifies the beginning and the end of the novel. Little George Denbrough, is sailing the boat when it suddenly gets sucked into a storm drain:

“George blinked and looked again. He could barley credit what he saw… There was a clown in the storm drain” (p.15)

Sadly for little Denbrough that is the end. But for us it begins a story of friendship and revenge spanning over a 27 year period.

The entity – IT – comes in the guise of your deepest fear: whether it be a Spider, Clown, Werewolf or a Giant statue; IT will be waiting. However, IT mainly shows itself in the form of a Clown, to entice young children to “float” in the sewers with him  (AN INVITATION TO AVOID AT ALL COSTS!)

The story is told through the third person omniscient mode which switches between 1957 and present day (1985). King explores the themes of friendship, adolescence and the power they can bring.

As always with Stephen King,  all of the characters are interesting – you can’t help but feel, even for the bad ones –  and the storytelling astounding. King became known for this type of novel: Small town, memory of childhood and monsters preying on common fear.

This “genre placement” – which is unfair as he writes across a wide spectrum –  has largely stuck,  but I think that it’s his ability to create fully functional fictitious town/community that really defines his work.

Even if you’ve seen the film, IT is a highly recommended read. Just be realistic pennywise the clown with the timescale (as it’s looooonnng) and make sure you have easy access to a light switch during the night, as those early childhood fears are sure to come sweeping back.

Section that Stayed.

The first glimpse of Pennywise the Clown is the section that freaked me the most. The Dialogue is excellent in this passage:

“…Therefore I will introduce myself. I Georgie, am Mr Bob Gray, also know as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Pennywise, meet George Denbrough. George, meet Pennywise. And now we know each other. I’m not a stranger to you, and you’re not a stranger to me. Kee-rect?” (p.16)

Which Stephen King novel  makes your hair stand on end?  If you have any discussion points, then contact us, or leave a comment below. 

 

Vinlius.Wilno.Vilna by Kristina Sabaliauskaitė

Kristina Sabaliauskaitė Book Review After my call for more Lithuanian works in translation, I was glad to come across this book of three short stories by Kristina Sabaliauskaitė on my last visit to Vilnius.

Kristina Sabaliauskaitė is a Lithuanian writer and Art Historian based in London. These three short stories are contrasting snippets about Vilnius from the perspective of:  group of young Polish girls, a ex-KGB agent and an old Jewish business man.

I really enjoyed the way the different stories opened up three different ways to experience Vilnius.

The first story, Franco’s Black Pearls really didn’t interest me much at all. I found that the syntax and grammar at times were confusing.  I’m so glad that I didn’t put the book away at this point because the last two stories were excellent.

The Return of Samuel Vilner is a retrospective look on – you guessed it – the life of an 85 year old business man, Samuel Vilner who returns to re-live the good and bad memories it holds.

This story really documents the contrasting viewpoint of Pre and Post War attitudes; as well as Pre and Post War Vilnius.  Samuel Vilner finds that the once thriving Jewish community is not as prominent as it once was:

“…where are all the bakeries, where are the bread shops, why is there no aroma of bread coming from them?” (P.94)

In this quote the cultural differences are felt in his frustration. The simple answer is a sad one; that the quaint little shops have been eaten by the corporate elite.

The last short story, The Weathervanes of Vilnius is told from the perspective of an old KGB agent who is in the hospital. His early purpose was to turn Vilnius into a city that catered for the ‘needs of the Soviet Man’.

One idea of his, which never materialised was to replace all of the crosses on Churches with a weathervane.  We also are told of the time he ruins the career of a talented young lady who is caught taking photos of the buildings about to be destroyed and re-built by the Soviets.

“He had asked her that: why photograph what is going to be demolished. She answered: so that it would survive at least in photographs, after all – it was history, the city’s history and hers, after all our purpose is to preserve history” (p. 125)

This is statement directly contradicts the mantra of the “soviet man” – to look forward not backwards. Our unnamed KGB agent made sure she never worked as a photographer again;  finding out later that she was “working as a cleaner and road sweeper” (p.128)

The Weathervanes of Vilnius, deals with the consequences and the paranoia that comes with being part of a Dictatorship (The Soviet Union) and no matter how strong that system; when it comes to death, we are all alone.

Overall, a really great look into Vilnius. The technique used was excellent; using old photographs and giving them a voice through character and narrative which allowed for intimate storytelling.

I only hope that more of Kristina Sabaliauskaitė’s writing is translated into English.

Section that Stayed

This passage is from The Return of Samuel Vilner and is about how he fled the Jewish Ghetto to avoid being captured by the Nazi regime.

“He had hid in the cellar like a rat, like a non-human. The Germans had wanted to make a rat out of him, a non-human; to exterminate him like a rat. But the irony of fate wanted things to turn out differently, fate wanted him to survive, even though in order to do so he had to eat rats.” (p.98)

 

If you have any suggestions or discussion points then get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

Literature Fiend Book ReviewFirst Stephen King book of the year on Literature Fiend.

I write this review with mixed feelings on Lisey’s Story. Firstly, I’m not sure if I care about the protagonist of this novel – or “little Lisey,” as she is often referred to.

Stephen King on the other hand favors this as the best book he has written, and I think I can probably see why. The main theme focuses on the martial bond, in life and in death.

In the novel Scott Landon, is a gifted writer and Lisey – his wife –  is the person who keeps him grounded. This is probably replicated in King’s marriage with Tabatha. I mean she was the person who pulled Carrie from the wastebasket – the very novel that kick started his prolific career.

Yes, this is a love story but don’t think Mills and Boon!

The story, as the title suggests, is about Lisey Landon who is struggling with the death of her writer husband. King asks the question: What happens to the plethora of manuscripts and unfinished work? Would it be hard to part with?  I think King has his own mortality in mind with these questions.

 

Lisey has the difficult task of sorting through her dead husband’s study –  which is full of papers, manuscripts and unfinished work – and is constantly being pestered by academics who want it.  It is while Lisey is deciding what to do with the material that we are told of their relationship though a series of flashbacks. I thought this device was very clever and enjoyable.

Although it was really interesting getting to know their relationship history, the “pet” names they had  for each other were constantly being repeated throughout and became tedious at times. For example:

“Smucking” and “Babyluv”

To be honest, I hope that’s the last time I hear these words in my life. But it’s only a little quibble.

As it’s a King novel, messed up elements are standard. We’re soon  introduced to Scott Landon’s dark place, which comes in the guise of Bo Ya Moon. It is described as an addictive, yet dangerous place with magical properties.

It is a place that is seen as a metaphor for the everlasting connection between a husband and wife. And it was the descriptive element of the mystical Bo Ya Moon that kept me turning pages.

The most interesting thing about the story was learning about Scott’s hereditary mental illness,  which manifests as either homicidal mania or a deep catatonic state.  In childhood, it is this condition that turns his brother into a unrecognisable monster chained in the basement. This is by far the scariest section of the novel. (See “section that stayed”)

Overall, the novel started slowly. There were points where nothing seemed to happen, except Lisey – understandably – moping around. On reflection this was probably a conscious decision to allow the reader to feel her loss.

The message – of everlasting love – was poignant and something I’m sure most people can identify with. You won’t catch me raving about Lisey’s Story, but if you want to see a different side of Stephen King, then give it a try!

 

Section that Stayed: Is the section that describes Scott’s brother chained in the basement. It gave me the creeps.

“The thing that used to be his brother lies sprawled with its back against the centre-post and its legs splayed. It’s naked except for Paul’s undershirt. Its legs and feet are dirty. Its flanks are caked with shit. The pie-plate, licked clean even of grease, lies by one grimy hand” (page, 404)

If you have any suggestions or discussion points then get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. 

 

 

 

 

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