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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. 

 

 

 

 

Cornered by Charles Bukowski

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I’m 42 pages in to the Bukowski poetry collection: You get so alone at times that it just makes sense, when my eyes fell upon this beautiful poem on mortality.

Often with Bukowski, it’s a case of trawling through hundreds of his poems – the  unforgettable and the forgettable –  until you find the ones that you will probably return to for the rest of your life.

 

Cornered did that for me, so I thought I’d share it with you…

 

well, they said it would come to
this: old. talent gone. fumbling for
the word

hearing the dark
footsteps, I turn
look behind me…

not yet, old dog…
soon enough

now
they sit talking about
me: “yes, it’s happened, he’s
finished… it’s
sad…”

“he never had a great deal, did
he?”

“well, no, but now…”

now
they are celebrating my demise
in taverns I no longer
frequent.

now
I drink alone
at this malfunctioning
machine

as the shadows assume
shapes
I fight the slow
retreat

now
my once-promise
dwindling
dwindling

now
lighting more cigarettes
pouring new
drinks

it has been a beautiful
fight

still
is

To Buy “You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense” by Bukowski please click here

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Reading and Re-reading Stephen King in 2016

maxresdefaultIf you’re regular visitor to this blog then you’ll know how much I like Stephen King as a writer. I think he is a master storyteller who’s work will still be messing with the minds of readers way into the future. Recently, after an evening reading and watching interviews with King,  I came to realise that there are so many novel and short stories I’ve yet to read.

I’m ashamed to say that there are the ones like:  Firestarter, Christine and The Eyes of the Dragon that I’ve never heard of.

Not to mention the Dark Tower series.

I just never got around to reading it, not with the plethora of other Literature in the ethos. I think I missed these titles because King has been, and still is a prolific writer; with books splattering the high street before I was born and then consistently since (now I’m 32 by the way)

This idea prompted me to think about the more ‘well know titles.’ You know,  the ones that scared the hell out of you as a child (well, I was a child) like: Pet Sematary, The Shining, Carrie and Cujo.

Or the ones with the unforgettable characters: Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and Stand by Me.

As I was thinking this over, it dawned on me that it was the films that I remembered from my childhood and not the King novels. I mean, I read some of them but the novel slash film blurs into one (FYI, it was called Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me was adapted from a short story called: The Body.)

To add insult to injury I read an interview where King said that out of all his novels, Liseys Story was the one he enjoyed most.

Well, this one must’ve slipped my radar too.

Right. This is no good I thought to myself; I’m going to read, or re-read a selection of King novels, as I don’t really know him as a writer. The film adaptations are the ones etched into my memory. Many of which according to King completely ignore the message of his novels.

Being born in 1982, means that I was -6 when Carrie was published. This was the novella that granted King the freedom to write full time. He certainly did that alright:  releasing 54 novels to date, hundreds of short stories and two books on the craft of writing.

So, I’ve been to the second hand bookshops.  I came back with: The Stand, Misery, Liseys Story and IT. 

That’s the story; for the first half of 2016, I’m going to get Kingafied.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic Twenty Five

The last review on Sharp Objects was the 25th book I’ve read this year, rrreeeeeeyyyyy!

That was my main reading goal for this year as I knew I’d be busy with work, don’t listen to audiobooks and wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo (which I won by the way)

Looking forward to 2016,  I’d be happy if I read or exceeded the ‘magic 25’ but really want to focus on getting a review for every book I read on this blog; this year I’ve been a bit rubbish om that front.

I’m going to read focus on Stephen King novels I’ve yet to read in the first half of 2016; especially the ones I only know through film; which can be quite lengthy at the best of times.

Other than that, I’m going to focus on promoting LiteratureFiend  and building a presence on BookTube.

So, I hope you enjoyed reading the reviews and look forward your comments and suggestions in the New Year.

 

Here is a list of books read in 2015 (READ, not listened to!)

  1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  2. The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
  3. The Girl who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson
  4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  5. Nine Stories by J.D Salinger
  6. Mr Mercedes by Stephen King
  7. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  8. The Copywriters Handbook by Robert W Bly
  9. The Impact Code by Nigel Risner
  10. The Martian by Andy Weir
  11. The Pleasures of the Damned by Charles Bukowski
  12. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
  13. Ask the Dust by John Fante
  14. Wait Until Spring Bandini by John Fante
  15. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  16. Revival by Stephen King
  17. Mud, Sweat and Tears by Bear Grylls
  18. Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is Ruling Our Lives by Madeleine Bunting
  19. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  20. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King.
  21. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  22. Hot Water Music by Charles Bukowski
  23. The Grown Up by Gillian Flynn
  24. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  25. Hawaii 501: Life as a darts pro by Wayne Mardle

 

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

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Reading The Grown Up made me realise that I still hadn’t got around to reading Sharp Objects; so after caving into the “If you liked this…” section on the Kindle, I downloaded it.

This book was Flynn’s debut novel but she was relatively unknown before the Gone Girl saga.  It follows Camille Preaker, a journalist who reluctantly goes back to her hometown to investigate two missing girls.  She has spent years self harming after the death of her sister which is just part of an unhappy childhood.

But back home she must go, if she wants her name to be associated with career changing ‘breaking headline.’ As is now expected from a Gillian Flynn novel, the young journalist begins to unravel a web of murder that is much closer to home than she could wish.

I must come clean and state that what I thought was the twist, wasn’t in fact the twist. I didn’t pick the novel up for a whole day thinking: How obvious was that, I saw it coming a mile off.

The smugness was soon sucked from within, as I realised I was wrong.

I really have to give Flynn credit, as she really catches you with the unexpected. Especially when all of her audience are anticipating a nice twist.

I can’t wait to see how she’ll catch us out post-Gone Girl.

Section that stayed

“I am a cutter, you see. Also a snipper, a slicer, a carver, a jabber. I am a very special case. I have a purpose. My skin, you see, screams. It’s covered with words – cook, cupcake, kitty, curls – as if a knife-wielding first-grader learned to write on my flesh.”

The Grown Up by Gillian Flynn

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This is the first book I’ve downloaded on my new Kindle – my old one broke about 2 years ago – as I like flitting between print and digital.

It us about 40 pages long, this thriller has a couple of really great twists and kept me hooked throughout. The narrator who is a con artist gets drawn into a twisted revenge plot; but who is telling the truth, well, that’s for the reader to decide.

This got an award for best short story 2015, but I do wonder if it was based on the author’s credentials rather than the story.

I mean everyone is going mad for Gillian Flynn at the moment!

Overall, a really good way to spend an hour-or-so.

Hot Water Music by Charles Bukowski

imgresThis collection of 37 short stories mainly focus on:  Booze. Sex. Horse Racing. And those of you who’ve read Bukowski before won’t be surprised.

Bukowski writes about ‘the low life’ with absolute perfection. The subject matter and simple style may seem easy to replicate, but no one pulls it off quite like ‘The Buk!”

Like any collection of a writer’s work; you’ll love some and loath others. I didn’t loath any in this collection, but some passed through me with a certain ambivalence.

The thing with Bukowski is that he talks honestly about everyday situations. If a story begins with a man walking into a bar; the ending will usually be him exiting the bar.

It’s that simple. The End.  

I imagine that at times the abruptness of the ending may frustrate the reader, but I kinda like it. For example the story, A Favor for Don ends:

“I put the phone back in its cradle and closed my eyes. It was only 10:45 a.m. and I always slept until noon. Life’s as kind as you let it be. (p. 193) 

Likewise, Its a Dirty World finishes with the narrator saying:

“Then they stood and sat and sat and stood waiting for Gloria to get back with the cold beer.” (p. 55)

Simple and ordinary.  The excellent thing about most of the stories is that they are usually no more than 5 pages. The best way to digest them, is by spreading them out, rather than binge reading the collection. Why? Many are based around a simular subject which can get rather tedious – even for a hardcore Bukowski lover.

In opposition to the ordinary endings, there are some captivating openings. In the story, Not Quite Bernadette the narrator opens with:

“I wrapped the towel around my cock and phoned the Doctor’s office” (p.87)

Like the above there are many moments that will  made you  laugh and some that will shock you to your very core.

The protagonist in  The Hangover, awakes to a phone call from his friend about what happened at the previous nights party. He can’t remember what happened at the party and shocked he hangs up the phone and tells his wife:

“Bonnie claims I took JeanJean and Cathy in the closet and took their panties and sniffed their peepees” (P.94)

When you consider that Bonnie is a friend and JeanJean and Cathy are her young daughters, then it’s pretty shocking.  Bonnie decides not to involve the police and it ends with her saying:

“Why do you drink so much?”, The protagonist replies:  “Hell, I don’t know. I guess, mostly, I just get bored.” (p. 97)

The unlikely ending shows the reader that it is just a story, albeit a pretty sick one.

Section that stayed

“Kevin sat down to crap. Crapping seemed so safe, so warm… Kevin finished, wiped, flushed, washed his hands like a civilized man and walked into the kitchen.” (Not Quite Bernadette, p.94)

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

imgresThis novel came to me through the lack of World Literature in translation.

After taking inspiration from the blog, ayearofreadingtheworld.com and my personal link to Lithuania (my wife is from Lithuania) I attempted to find a few titles I’d been recommended. However, I couldn’t find any full works so settled upon this novel.

Much of the history of the Baltic States (especially the war years) isn’t widely known, especially the dreadful treatment by the Soviets in the Second World War. This novel, however, isn’t a work in translation; Sepetys was born in Detroit and continues to live in America.

The story is set in set in 1941 and the majority of the characters are fictionalised but the happenings are based on first-hand accounts and memories from survivors.

“They took me in my nightgown” (p. 3)

It follows Lina and her family as they are forced from their home in Kaunas by the NKVD (Soviet Secret Police) herded like animals onto cattle carriages – marked ‘Thieves and Prostitutes’ to hide what was going on – and forced on a journey that ends in the harsh climate of Siberia. Their only crime is to be considered anti-Soviet by Stalin, in the sense that they were: Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers, musicians and posed a threat to his end goal.

As Lina, a gifted artist, documents the dehumanisation and death of the Prisoners she meets; many of whom will survive and many will perish on her journey. For Lina, the separation from her father is the driving force behind her drawings, hoping that he’ll receive them – wherever he has been taken.

“I saw spruce and pine trees interspersed with farmlands. I looked around, memorizing the landscape to draw it for Papa.” (p.113)

Lina is sentenced to 25 years hard labor. By the time the war ended and the Lithuanian’s returned home (many had been in hard labor for 10-15 years), their houses were occupied by Soviets and consequently the horrific experiences swept under the carpet. Lina’s memories are dug up in 1995 by some construction workers, this shows the fear of those returning from the camps.

“The writings and drawings you hold in your hands were buried in the year 1954….Though we were committed no offense, we are viewed as criminals. Even now speaking of the we have experienced would result in our death” (Epilogue, p. 337)

The lack of material in translation from the Baltic states angered me, as I think the experiences – like the ones documented in this novel – are important. This is a captivating story of love. Love between different families and strangers who are forced together in horrendous circumstances.

I’ve read that this novel is aimed at a YA audience, but I never have and never will categorise novels in this way; I mean, a story is a story right?

Sepetys delivers excellent characters and a captivating narrative; the only gripe I had with the novel is that in one of Lina’s memories, her brother Jonas and his father go to a soccer match together. Having spent a lot of time in Lithuania I’m all too aware of how unpopular Soccer is; it is all about the basketball.

A very unimportant point but I had to mention it.

That said, the novel is very well researched and one that I couldn’t put down for the two days it took me to read the 344 pages.

Section that Stayed

Lina asks: “Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.

 

If anyone has read any Baltic novels in translation, then please get in touch; I’d love to read and review them. 

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