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April 24, 2011 / kattalyzed

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

John Irving - A Prayer for Owen MeanyJohn Irving is no stranger to me — I’ve read The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire, which can be both superficially described as kilometric readings. I seriously enjoyed both, and I think of Irving as someone who always finds the comic in dark matters. Severing of body parts, rape, and deaths in the family are recurring themes in his novels, and I’m glad to take a quick break from these in A Prayer for Owen Meany, which provides a scrutiny of faith and religion — and an amusing look at the small-town American life — through the enduring friendship of two boys from the fictitious town of Gravesend, New Hampshire. Read more…

April 10, 2011 / kattalyzed

Revival

There’s an ominous ring to it, really, much like someone rising from the dead or reclaiming her piece of the earth. But anyway it’s hard to be prosaic-sounding about it, so I’m just saying that I’m reviving this book blog. It’s been a good year or so, and I figure that I would again need a repository for my book thoughts. It surprises me a great deal that I can still feel strongly about a book or a story even after my long reading hiatus (and that long list of distractions that don’t even deserve to be mentioned), which gives me the impression that you’ll never lose it. It’s right there for you to reacquaint yourself with.

So this is me dusting myself off the non-reading ground, and maybe sending books overseas again! Visit Bookmooch to know how much fun it is.

January 1, 2010 / kattalyzed

Twisted 8 1/2 by Jessica Zafra

Jessica Zafra - Twisted 8 1/2Where to start? Jessica Zafra‘s latest essay collection, Twisted 8 1/2. I wolfed this down in an hour or so. Not because of its size, but because the writer has always wielded that power to make such invested readers out of old fans and fresh converts alike.

I decided to get my friends “generic” gifts this Christmas. I ordered copies from the writer herself via SMS, who willingly agreed to an afternoon meetup. Gahd, Rockwell in Christmas. Everyone was hoarding sweets and pastries like crazy, and the huge cartons carted off by even the most well-meaning gift-givers crept me out a bit. Cupcakes were sold out, “rich fudge brownies” and “food for the gods” seemed to be spelled out on every forehead coming my way. Read more…

September 10, 2009 / kattalyzed

The Yogi and The Commissar by Arthur Koestler

Arthur Koestler - The Yogi and the CommissarI first encountered Arthur Koestler in college, in a local anthology of creative nonfiction where he is quoted on something about the “politics of creativity.” Right then I’ve already found the guy’s ideas brilliant, but it took me a good six years to finally purchase my first Koestler book, The Yogi and the Commissar.

Divided into three parts, this collection of essays written in the 1940s discusses literature and maps out the socio-political terrain of its time. The third part, “Explorations,” specifically lays down a “well-documented survey of the Soviet experiment with the conclusions to be derived from it.”

Koestler isn’t merely a lurker, or perhaps a dabbler in these affairs. Born in Budapest with Hungarian-Austrian roots, he studied science, engineering and psychology and, not unlike the many intellectuals of his time, joined the Communist party in 1931. Disillusioned during the height of the Stalinist purges, he left the party, was imprisoned during the Spanish Civil War, and eventually joined the British Army. His novel Darkness At Noon, set during the Moscow show trials, is said to provide a searing examination of socialism and masterfully reflect the dialectics he had written about for the better part of his life. Read more…

September 7, 2009 / kattalyzed

Book post-its 1

T.C. Boyle - The Inner CircleT.C. Boyle  – The Inner Circle John Milk, not so self-assured and practically sex shy, finds himself working for Alfred Kinsey, a zoology professor known in the university as Dr. Sex. Dealing with his own marital issues, Milk becomes a part of the “inner circle,” and he is initiated into a series of uninhibited sexual experiments. The novel takes on a  searing reexamination of love and carnal knowledge,and what sexual liberation can actually mean within the context of marriage and commitment.

 

T.C.Boyle - The Tortilla CurtainT.C. Boyle – The Tortilla Curtain A scrutiny of the American Dream is always enticing to read. Boyle extends this invitation with this novel on two illegal Mexican immigrants trying to find their piece of the moon in the US. Their lives get entwined with those of American liberals Delaney and Kyra, and the two couples become unwilling players in a series of dark, comic events. I’m a fan of T.C. Boyle and stories on parallel lives and race and immigration, but there’s something amiss in the characterization. At one point you would get irate and wonder about motivation, what probably propels them toward their inaction and all. At any rate, the language and style I came to love about Boyle is a vivid element here. In the final instance, though, I still can’t decide about this book.

 

Nadine Gordimer - A Sport of NatureNadine Gordimer – A Sport of Nature What does it mean to be a sport of nature, especially in apartheid-era South Africa? This novel is a political and sexual awakening spun by a fine literary hand.

 

 

 

Frank McCourt - Angela's AshesFrank McCourt – Angela’s Ashes I find this more poetic than prosaic, every line brimming with the honesty of childhood emotions. Hands down, this is the best and most affective autobiography ever. RIP Frank McCourt.

September 7, 2009 / kattalyzed

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe voice in Mark Haddon‘s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is unmistakable. It is the voice of someone with Special Needs, as psychology and social labels would tell one. It is the voice of Christopher who, in his yawning impotence in the face of complicated human emotions, finds refuge in mathematics and the sciences. It is the voice of a young man who refuses to be touched, disdains metaphors and the color yellow, and spreads out his fingers in a fan to express love for his father and mother.

Christopher, who likes prime numbers and solves quadratic equations in his head out of boredom or panic, discovers the murder of Wellington, a dog in the neighborhood. He embarks on a detective work largely patterned after Sherlock Holmes’s; he interviewed strangers,  picked out a Red Herring and a prime suspect, and adopted a chain of reasoning. He puts to good use his photographic memory. Read more…

September 7, 2009 / kattalyzed

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

Then We Came To The End - Joshua FerrisJoshua Ferris is one funny little possum, but more than the terrific humor in Then We Came To The End (2007), there’s that clear eye in describing the all-too familiar terrain called the workplace. Who else has already ventured in this? Why oh why does it take a full-time fiction writer (though an after-college stint at an advertising agency lent him the experience) to tell us that we office workers are often the “mismanaged inventory,” that there are many faces to that soul-draining corporate citizenship, but that often it all boils down to us being bored and too pampered by the establishment?

There’s the ragbag of characters, too: the Jewish raconteur, the  one who always dishes out the juicy tales even if it’s way past breaktime; the substandard copywriter who keeps coming back even while he was already “walked Spanish down the hall”; the many lovely women who are stuck with ghastly haircuts or are too beautiful or are decisive about keeping some other woman’s husband’s child. Read more…