Archive for December 25, 2007

Book Review: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Truth! Justice! and the American Way!

One question immediately comes to mind when people see a copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay: is a book almost 700 pages long worth the time? And I can think of only one reply: definitely.

There are some writers who try so hard to use highfaluting verbiage to the point that the prose only ends up sounding crude or contrived. Michael Chabon is not one of them. On the other hand, his labyrinthine sentences shine with such clarity and skill that upon reading the first paragraph, I instantly thought, ‘who is this writer?’ He is able to produce cadence with complex sentences and bring together random words into impressive similes and metaphors. His imagery is vivid, his description, detailed. One example of such excellent skill is the line “[g]ray light was smeared across the sky like ointment on a bandage.???

The plot is nonetheless a joyride of Sammy’s and Joe’s exciting travails on the ups and downs of their lives –from starting out small to making it big to confronting their own personal demons – theirs is a story replete with adventures and life lessons. Another lasting impression was Joe’s talent in liberation, which becomes intricately woven into the man’s life as he tries to overcome the pain that fate has in store for him. This very act of liberation fascinated me, because it went beyond the physical level of being able to escape from bonds and chains.

Don’t let the book’s thickness prevent you from reading it. Believe me, if you haven’t read this yet, you’re missing 700 pages of your life. This masterpiece talks about almost all aspects of life –success, fear, sexuality, guilt, joy– and therefore, of life itself. The thickness of the book actually produced a more profound impact on me, like a friend you have gotten to know so well. Suffice it to say that when I closed the book for the final time, I felt a bittersweet sadness welling inside me, an amalgamation of joy upon going through such a marvel and sadness upon reaching its end.

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Book Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones

Living Through Death

Lovely Bones is not your ordinary tearjerker. I picked up the book with a Kleenex at hand, expecting to cry at the slightest dramatic antic. I was in for one major shock.

The book is not all tears and limitless impossibilities that are commonly associated with drama. The story is deeply poignant, yes, but also very grounded on reality. The story is touching because it showed how a teenage girl, Susie, could manage to cope with a horrifying incident which was, and still is, so alarmingly possible in real life. Though the premise of the story (point of view of a dead girl) is unrealistic, the incident which put her into that situation is a reality. What makes it even better is the prose. The book is elegantly written, with none of that overly exaggerated vocabulary used to intensify already-melodramatic storylines of other texts. Moreover, Susie’s tragedy is not treated with tears and solitude, but with a mix of humor and solemnity, so despite the sad premise, it was still far from depressing –which is what books should aim for, since nobody reads to get depressed. I also loved the prose because of its vivid power to connect to a reader’s heartstrings. Alice Sebold just knew how to tug the right strings at the right time. Throughout the story, I was keenly aware of how much the book emphasized the value of life, but only in one scene, which became an instant favorite, did this emphasis present itself at its best. It was the scene wherein the dead Susie desperately wanted to touch her crush, who was taking a shower. This part was written with such intensity that I actually felt how much my own life is worth, seeing as how one dead girl could yearn for mere physical contact (which only mortality could give) so immensely. The prose was so effective that I could feel how much Susie wanted to live again. Sebold’s language perfectly carved out Susie’s great thirst for life. It was only after finishing that part when I realized I was in tears. But then again, who could resist being moved when a book such as Sebold’s is in front of you, so hopeful and poignant without being overdone?

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Book Review: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Kitchen

“I wish to continue living with the awareness that I will die. Without that, I am not alive.”

Other reviews gush about how Banana Yoshimoto wrote about death and personal tragedies sans the wails commonly heard in funerals. I, too, share the same opinion. Yet one thing that confirmed the book’s position in my favorites’ list was the simplicity of the prose. So simple, in fact, that I read it in between Homer and Francis Bacon. The prose reminded me of yoga and gentle breezes. It was such an easy read! This is all the more kudos to Yoshimoto because she dealt with such a serious topic (death), yet she was able to show that writing or talking about death need not be accompanied with gloom. Upon reading Kitchen, it eventually became clear that the text was not merely about death, but was also a coming-of-age story of a young woman who has experienced so much death around her. This makes the story of the female protagonist, Mikage, unique, because she was forced to become independent when she was suddenly left alone to fend for herself.

Coming-of-age stories are usually accompanied with love stories since falling in love is a kind of initiation rite to people coming of age. This situation is not absent in the book. Throughout the process of learning to stand on her own feet, Mikage faced such events that would create a profound bond in her life. The smart juxtaposition of two seemingly incompatible themes (death and coming of age) makes Kitchen one of a kind. With a simple but special writing style to match, this book should just instantly be read.

Overall, the book is a must-read for three kinds of bookworms: 1. to those who want to take a break from the classics 2. to those who think that chick literature is all about silly, materialistic airheads pining away for some hunk 3. to those who do not want to waste their time.

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First Entry

I set-up this blog as another way to communicate with users and visitors of Avalon.ph.  Look for book reviews, news, recommendations, special offers, more Moleskines and miscellaneous articles.

Enjoy!