Reviews

“Equal Rites” by Terry Pratchett

I should probably start by mentioning that this is my very first Terry Pratchett book. How have I been able to stay away for so long? Well, I must confess I am not really a huge fan of the fantasy genre. At least I wasn’t. I guess the thing is not so much about finding a genre you like, but instead an author you love. It would appear I have found my way in.

Terry Pratchett is absolutely phenomenal. His writing is terrific and his mind is absolutely mesmerizing. I am in love with the way he plays with the fine line between fantasy and reality. It all becomes sort of a blur, but there’s no need to panic, for you will mostly spend your time laughing instead of being afraid of falling into a pit of doubt, or perhaps reason, depending on the point of view.

Granny, meanwhile, was two streets away. She was also, by the standards of other people, lost. She would not see it like that. She knew where she was, it was just that everywhere else didn’t.”

Speaking about Equal Rites in particular, I absolutely adored Granny. I wouldn’t mind having her as a best friend. Her interactions with Cutangle? And the staff? There are no words. I finished the book with a huge, and rather ridiculous from the point of view of someone who has never read this book, grin on my face. It’s such a wonderful feeling…

Well, I guess I need to go shopping for more Discworld. Something tells me I am ready to move in… or am I?

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Reviews

“The Blind Musician” by Vladimir Korolenko

I was lucky enough to inherit quite a few books from my grandparents. They are a treasure I will cherish till my dying breath. I can’t help but wonder… how did they feel when they read this for the first time? Did they come back to it for some reason? Was it perhaps a favourite? How did they find the author? What led to choosing this one over another? Sadly, most of these questions will remain unanswered. One can try to come up with theories, though. And they are rather lovely, you know? For even if long gone, even if always here, they are, for a moment, closer. Not just in your blood, not just in the way you are, but in your mind, alive in your thoughts, but closer.

This one in particular belonged to my grandfather. According to the note on the very first page, he bought it in 1958. And here it stands, now, many years later, in my hands. The pages are yellow, stained by a life that goes beyond its characters. The smell? Palpable wisdom. That’s it.

This is my very first Korolenko. According to my grandmother, and to the amount of books I now own by the same author, he was a favourite in the household. I can definitely see why.

The way Korolenko describes the power of sound is astounding. There’s magic in his descriptions. Both the boy’s as he listens to the world that surrounds him, getting to know it, and Jokhime’s as he finds a way of getting lost in himself by creating a flute that allows him to turn his soul into music. And the softness of Uncle Maximo’s crudeness! You can feel it. All of it. Ah, the wonders of an author that sees the sound of his words, that knows them as the old friends they have become.

I would say my favourite part, even though I absolutely adored the whole book, is when Uncle Maximo is explaining, is showing, Pedro the different colours. It broke my heart. Truly a breathtaking scene. For some reason it made me think of all the things we take for granted… made me close my eyes and feel the colours myself.

The writing in itself reminds me of music, its constant metaphors and analogies the lyrics to an enchanting rhythm that lulls us back into existing at the tip of our fingers.

It might be because this book and I have a lot of history, even if we only just came across one another, but I found it to be absolutely glorious. This review is my attempt at a standing ovation.

Reviews

“A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams

What to say about A Streetcar Named Desire?

It is impossible to ignore the voices of these characters. Even though you are constantly given some background noise that could easily take over, it simply does not work that way. Instead, it lulls you in, even further.

This could easily be a dissertation on humankind. Progress seems to be in the hands of Stanley, Stella’s brute husband. With a physical strength that smells of personal failure, he wears a skin of fake realism. On the other side we have Blanche Dubois, a dreamer at heart. She craves magic and keeps trying to find it no matter how hard people seem to try to convince her, to show her, that it doesn’t exist, that it isn’t possible to achieve.

I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be the truth. And it that’s sinful, then let me be damned for it!

It’s interesting how Stanley goes out of his way to prove her wrong. To be fair, proving her wrong doesn’t even begin to cover what he does. He not only lets her know that she can’t fly away, he also cuts off her wings. Or tries to. Blanche might reach her low points, so low they make you doubt that the floor is a limit or boundary of any kind, but she always seems to find a little bit of fairy dust. And so she goes on!

Whoever you are – I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

I don’t think it’s a matter of who’s wrong or who’s right, I believe it’s a matter of difference and of it being accepted as just that, different.

This was my first Tennessee Williams. I must confess I am rather curious about the rest of his work. I guess it’s time to go book shopping again!

Reviews

“The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories” by Carson McCullers

I bought this book somewhere in Frankfurt while attending the famous Frankfurter Buchmesse (which was quite an extraordinary experience, by the way). There was a 5 books 5 euro deal going on and The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories was my fifth. I knew nothing about its author or its content, but the title seemed to call out for me.

“There, for a few hours at least, the deep bitter knowing that you are not worth much in this world could be laid low.”

The Ballad of the Sad Café was, without a doubt, my favorite. There is something unusual, and rather endearing, about the narrator’s voice. I love how effortlessly it travels across time and space; it’s truly wonderful how it flows so naturally, even while going back and forth. It feels like you are on a guided tour of the universe and, in a Jurassic Park sort of way, you are stopped and told this very particular story that seems to be both the birthstone and the deathbed of this rather eccentric town that is now somewhat… extinct. There’s a certain delicacy in the writing that lulls you into a state that makes it impossible to walk away from these characters. You become a witness to their existence and they remain alive within you.

“Therefore, the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.
It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain.”

I also enjoyed Wunderkind. I love how the main character seemed to be somehow living in the shadow of her own past, soon becoming it, something immaterial with no capability of feeling.

“His own life seemed so solitary, a fragile column supporting nothing amidst the wreckage of the years.”

I can’t possibly go without mentioning The Sojourner. I found it to be heart-wrenching. The writing is so… precious.

“Strange that the music, catalyst for this tumultuous anarchy, was so serene and dear.”

I didn’t know anything about Carson McCullers (her passion for music is evident, though) before, but now I am certainly going to look into her body of work. There’s something truly magical about her.

Poetry · Reviews

“A Season in Hell” by Arthur Rimbaud

I understand, and not knowing how to express myself without pagan words, I’d rather remain silent.

I am not going to lie to you. This is definitely not the kind of book I would randomly read. To be quite honest, I wasn’t even aware of its existence until I found myself reading Patti Smith’s M Train and watching Ed Harris’ Pollock in the very same week. The title, A Season in Hell, was what caught my attention at first; then there was Patti Smith’s dedication to the author and the quote Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden), Pollock’s wife, had on her wall.

This is definitely the kind of book that scares me; and yet I found myself buying a copy and reading it.

To whom shall I hire myself out? What beast should I adore? What holy image is attacked? What hearts shall I break? What lies should I uphold? In what blood tread?

Rimbaud’s writing feels… restless. At first there seems to be a sort of chaos, like he has happened upon a world that sees contradictions as twins in the same womb, sharing one beating heart, instead of distant cousins. He seems to be drowning in an ocean of everything and nothing. You can almost hear his breathlessness, which seems tainted not by wonder, awe, but by adrenalin.

As someone who used to write things, I think I recognize the conflict. I would say that writing poetry is not something someone does lightly. Once you put something down, it truly feels like there’s no turning back, no deleting. What’s done is done. With Rimbaud, it’s as if he’s going through some sort of catharsis, like he has decided to write everything… and then be done with it for life. It’s fascinating how he seems to have gone through all this process before even reaching the age of twenty. And his writing! It’s quite extraordinary.

He made it twenty times, that lovers’ promise. It was as vain as when I said to him: ‘I understand you’.

I am sure I will have to revisit this book later on. First, though, I feel like I need to read more about the author and perhaps some of his other work as well.

Pulitzer Prize Winners · Reviews

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird has been on my shelves for years. It was a gift from a university friend with whom I have not spoken in ages. I will be sure to send her a note after finishing this review.

I truly cannot believe it took me this long to read this book. Then again, I am also grateful that it did, for I think there is a right time to read things and this was definitely the moment, and with the perfect company that encouraged me to give it another go (thank you so much, Cécile).

A lesson on humanity, I would call it. If I had to choose just one word to describe it? I would go with wise.

There is certainly a lot to say about this book, but I am not sure which words to use, for the perfect ones were already used in the writing of this beautiful novel. The best I can do is advise you to read it. If you have tried already and failed to bond with it, give it some time and try again. It took me quite a few attempts to get into it, but once I did, I just could not put it down.

These characters are family now, and I am sure I will one day revisit them for I have a feeling that at every reading they will have something else to add.

Thank you so much, Harper Lee, for believing in humankind and sharing these wonderful words. Even when betrayed, they exhale hope. That is something we need, now more than ever.

LGBTQA+ · Reviews

“Tipping the Velvet” by Sarah Waters

I am going to start by saying that I am still not over the fact that this is Sarah Waters’ debut novel. Tipping the Velvet is a human being’s debut novel. I am sorry, but every single time I consider this fact I just feel like laughing because Tipping the Velvet, this majestically well written novel, is someone’s debut. I mean, how is it even possible? I really do not know what to say.

Sarah Waters is, in my humble opinion, an absolute genius. Her writing style is the perfect lead in the tango that is reading. It is an addiction, urging you on and, at the same time, allowing you to take your time by giving you space to taste every single word. What a breathtaking puzzle! And so gloriously built.

The writing could be it, could be all. It is not, though. Not only is Sarah Waters an amazing writer, she is also a brilliant storyteller. Her characters, their voices, the stories and histories, the places, the smells, the memories… it is all so vivid, so real. It feels almost as if Nan is sitting in front of you, telling you this story. I love how she seems to expect no judgment, how she does not take the time to wonder whom she might have shocked by being her selves. Unless it is someone she cares about.

I need to re-read this book. I don’t think I am ready to say anything else before that.

Basically? WOW.