Sunday, January 10, 2010


Man, haven't blogged here since November. That's no good. I've been reading books, but everything I've come across was too disappointing to get through fully.

The book I went to after the last entry was "Shantaram" by Gregory David Roberts. In this semi-autobiographical novel, the main character, a man with a false passport that says his name is Lindsay Ford, finds his way to India after escaping the Australian prison system, in which he was incarcerated for a string of bank robberies, which he in turn was performing in order to support his heroin habit. In Mumbai and on the run, Lin meets a cast of characters that serve to introduce him to Mumbai's underworld culture and guide him to new adventures, including gunrunning for Mujahideen, running a health care clinic for the poor, and tons of other things.

This novel looked promising from the point of me reading about it at some point long ago. I finally got around to purchasing it and started reading. I was fiercely let down at about 20-30 pages in. The adventures in themselves sparked my interest, but the writing was boring, corny and just plain stupid in a lot places. I don't have any quotes to place here from the text as in example of this; it's been a little while since I've attempted the novel and it is now sitting on my shelf collecting dust. It is written from the point of view of the narrator, and so of course, nothing will be stated with the pretense of being matter-of-fact. But when the main character loves everything he sees or gets unnecessarily poetic (if we could even call it that) tries to describe everything like it's a lovely flowing river or gentle flowers, the story gets lifeless quick. So I put that down.

The novel I next attempted was "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth, I believe. The novel takes place in an alternate universe where, in 1940's America during the time of Hitler's invasion of Europe, the American public elects aviator and national isolationist Charles Lindbergh as the next president instead of Franklin D. Roosevelt. As an unfortunate and intricate result for the main protagonist, Philip Roth in his much younger years, the country slowly but surely begins to adapt Anti-Semitism in its culture and spirit. The novel then narrates Roth and his family's struggle with this.
It started off good and was written well as far as historical accounts and details and creating an in-depth social atmosphere of conflict and drama. But ultimately, each page turned produced less and less entertainment. So I put it down.

I next started "Death with Interruptions" by Jose Saramago. It was kind of.......well.....racist of me to have high expectations for this novel. Out of, like, the last 10 or 15 (I'm guessing, you can see for yourself on the posts before this) books I've read, most of the really good ones have been from Hispanic authors. Now thinking about it, I think it was just works by Bolaño and Coelho. But the books I've read from them had huge impacts on me and placed them in my mind as top authors. This did not happen for me with Saramago.

In "Death with Interruptions", for some reason, after the stroke of midnight starting New Year's Day in an unnamed country, people stop dying. The population is shocked that this is happening, and unique religious, political, and social takes on this astounding phenomenon begin to take shape and action. The story then shifts to Death itself as a being, falling in love with someone, and begins to unfold a narrative there.
The novel is heavily philosophical and mathematical in nature, which I did not expect but was fine with. However, it was also almost devoid of imagery and characterization, and, while it worked the brain thoroughly with its considerations of suffering eternally versus death and murder vs. mercy killing and the consideration of death being the same thing to all beings, it ultimately failed to entertain. So I put that down as well.

Now, I am in the middle of "2666", Roberto Bolaño's purported masterpiece. I am at page 70 and am already willing to declare this piece one of the best things I've ever read. Only Bolaño has the ability to have me anticipate reading huge volumes of his work, as this book's page length clocks in at 898 pages, and I look forward to devouring every printed sheet. Will get back here when I finish it. In the meanwhile, you can see what I had to say about Bolaño's other skillfully crafted work, "The Savage Detectives".