Eliz M: perhaps the penultimate thread

É uma continuação do tópico Eliz M: it's all downhill from here.

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Eliz M: perhaps the penultimate thread

1ELiz_M
Fev 24, 2019, 11:12am

Hello, Welcome to my third 1001-books thread!

Since finding the 1001 Books list in late 2007, I have focused primarily on reading books from it. I much prefer the 2008 (and later versions) for their expanded international scope. While I (obviously) love lists, I do not feel compelled to read all the books on the combined lists -- just 1001 of them ;)

In addition to this thread, I love keeping track with Arukiyomi's fabulous spreadsheet, even though I can never quite get my numbers to match.

As I tend to read too much too quickly and often forgot the basic plot of books I read not too long ago, I hope to use this space to collect random thoughts about the books I read and to encourage myself to be more mindful of what I read. While I am going to limit the written reviews to the books included in 2008 edition, which I own, I will enumerate the books on all the lists.

2ELiz_M
Fev 24, 2019, 11:29am

814. Reviewed in my Club Read thread (click the picture to read the full review):



Kieron Smith, Boy by James Kelman, pub 2008
Finished 5-Jan-2019

A slow read that presents the interior thoughts as a young boy growing up in poverty might think them; it was perhaps too authentically written.

3ELiz_M
Editado: Mar 2, 2019, 4:11pm

815. Pricksongs and Descants by Robert Coover, pub. 1969
Finished 17-Jan-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Coover takes as his source the fables and myths of our collective psyche,.... A master lederdemain, he plays with the familiar, contorting it into something more complexly sinister than even the grimmest of fairy tales.... He is the ringleader of a universe that operates with the dark and heavy logic of delta-wavelength sleep."

This is one of the more unusual 1001-book entries. A collection of short stories, each story is itself several stories. Coover's writing seems like the literary equivalent of cubism -- attempting to portray all sides of the story, all of the different possibilities and outcomes. And the stories are dark, absurd, gruesome, and occasionally horrific. As spellbinding as the story-telling is, by the end , I was tired of the over-amplification of the male gaze and was ready to be done.

1. The Door - a charming introduction synthesizing "Jack and the Beanstalk" with "Little Red Riding Hood"

2. The Magic Poker - sisters explore an abandoned island and its falling down house. I'd say the author hits one over the head with symbolism, but I was not clever enough to decode the symbols. Intriguing, sensuous imagery.

3. Morris in Chains - Morris (Pan?) a problematic sheep herder is strategically studied and then captured

4. The Gingerbread House - wondrous retelling of Hansel & Gretel, showing many glimpses of the turning points where the story could have gone differently

5. Seven Exemplary Fictions
__a. Dedicatoria y Prologo a don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra - clever. My high school Spanish almost carried me through the many untranslated phrases.
__b. Panel Game - very very odd take on a game show (Hollywood Squares?)
__c. The Marker - unsettling story in which a husband turns out the light to go to bed, but can't find the bed in the dark.
__d. The Brother - an amusing retelling of Noah and his ark
__e. In a Train Station - haunting and on the surface one of the most "normal" stories, in a Twilight Stories sort of way.
__f. Klee Dead - long and rambling, I don't remember much of this one
__g. J's Marriage - an almost fun story about Joseph's marriage to the frigid Mary, who miraculously becomes pregnant
__h. The Wayfarer - passive resistance sparks uncontrollable violence

6. The Elevator - the many variations of one ordinary man's elevator ride to his office. Satisfying ending.

7. Romance of the Thin Man and the Fat Lady - two circus performers that by alternating their external, expected appearances alter the economic and social stability of the circus.

8. Quenby and Ola, Swede and Carl - unsettling story, mostly told through Carl's point of view of one vacation in the north woods and his interactions with the family that runs the tourist cottages. The climatic event is never depicted, only danced around in several fragmented passages showing glimpses.

9. The Sentient Lens
__a. Scene for "Winter" - odd description of a park in winter, with one creature dissolving into another
__b. The Milkmaid of Samaniego - a not very interesting tale
__c. The Leper's Helix - a "cat and mouse game" in a desert

10. A Pedestrian Accident - an absurd version of the aftermath as seen through the eyes of the victim.

11. The Babysitter - every variation of the male fantasy of a babysitter, told in excruciating, squeamish detail.

12. The Hat Act - the most amazing, preposterous magician act ever.

4annamorphic
Fev 25, 2019, 9:21am

>3 ELiz_M: You make this one sound rather charming! I had it pegged as one of the 1001 that I would never read (since I share your philosophy of reading a total 1001 off of any edition of the list), but you've changed my mind.

5ELiz_M
Fev 25, 2019, 12:47pm

>4 annamorphic: What a nice compliment!

My only hesitation is that cumulatively I found these stories to be a bit too much; I recommend spreading them out.

6ELiz_M
Editado: Mar 2, 2019, 4:11pm

816. A House in the Uplands by Erskine Caldwell, pub. 1946
Finished 5-Feb-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Erskine Caldwell is best known for Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre. Both were lauded a reviled in equal measure when first published,.... The publication of God's Little Acre led to Caldwell's arrest on obscenity charges;..."

So basically, this book is included because his other, better known works were so shocking and therefore best-selling. In other words this is a book that one does NOT need to read before they die and I highly recommend that you choose to skip it if you are not reading all 1315 books.

The only good aspect of this book is that it is short and can be read a a few hours. The characters are badly drawn, racist/sexist stereotypes (there is a character named Brad, which immediately reminded me of The Rocky Horror Picture Show -- these characters are less well-rounded than the movie characters), the plot is appalling (I love him and will stick by him even though he is abusive and doesn't love me), and the writing is mediocre at best. I couldn't even cheer at the expected downfall of Grady because even though his terrible traits are really terrible, I didn't care enough to dislike him enough to be glad of his eventual ruin.

7Helenliz
Fev 27, 2019, 2:23pm

>6 ELiz_M: Not taking that as a glowing recommendation then! Sorry it was such a duffer.

8ELiz_M
Editado: Fev 27, 2019, 7:56pm

>7 Helenliz: decidedly not. :) But it made Berlin Alexanderplatz (from which I was taking a breather) so much more pleasant.

9ELiz_M
Editado: Jun 20, 2019, 7:01am

817. Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin, pub. 1929
Finished 7-Feb-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Berlin Alexanderplatz ranks alongside the work of Joyce and Dos Passos both as one of the great urban epics of the 1920s and as an attempt to innovate the novel genre.... The novel is chiefly remembered for its style.... In a conscious rejection of traditional conceptions, the multilayered narrative gives free rein to the competing discourses of the metropolis."

This book has gotten a fair amount of good press for the translation. Apparently, the original German is so set in it's time and place that it has been considered a novel that is quite difficult to translate -- how to capture the rough language and the variety of vernaculars. As I only speak/read one language, I have no way of judging the translation -- I am not sure if I would know if it was good or bad. Some readers were bothered by the Britishisms, but I didn't really notice.

This book also seems to be compared to Ulysses frequently, but I didn't see it myself. Joyce is so controlled and everything is so perfectly, visibly constructed. This novel, and it's protagonist, are a hot mess. The collage-like style with the main character's inner monologue mixed with random advertisements, jingles, snatches of Biblical stories and so on is probably also perfectly constructed, but the structure is so much less apparent.

I did not find it a particularly pleasant or easy read. The main character, Franz Biberkopf, just released from prison (incarcerated for beating his girlfriend to death), is not likeable. Even though he desires to avoid further criminal behavior, there is still little redeeming about him -- he doesn't work to be better, rather he sinks into his previous life and with minimal effort and passively avoids outright badness. As he makes his way through lower-class Berlin, there are glimpses through descriptions, bits of songs, stories, and so on, of the instability of society. It seems in post war Berlin no one is able to get ahead, to do well. It is an interesting depiction of a particular time and place, held loosely together through the narrative downfall of a not-so-good protagonist. The writing is disorienting and occasionally powerful, but overall the feel of the book is unpleasant. Which is exactly what the author intended.

10ELiz_M
Editado: Jun 20, 2019, 7:23am

818. The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe, published 1844 (removed for the 2008 edition)
Finished 8-Feb-2019

11ELiz_M
Editado: Jun 20, 2019, 7:12am

819. The Shipyard by Juan Carlos Onetti, published 1961
Finished 26-Feb-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "An apparently traditional story of disappointed encounters, The Shipyard has a boldness that only later would be exploited in Spanish fiction."

12ELiz_M
Editado: Jun 10, 2019, 12:55pm

820. The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst, pub 1988
Finished 13-Mar-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "By turns enraptured with the present and nostalgic for the past, the novel revels in the company of men and ubiquitous gay sex, while conducting the reader to a finely pitched denouement."

(The 1001 entry is all plot summary, so the quote above is the closest statement for why this novel is included on the list.)

.

This is surprisingly well-written for a debut novel. The story is primarily told through William Beckwith, a wealthy 20-something frittering away his life in 1980s London. His wealth and privilege allow him to exist fully in a homosexual world -- there is not a single female in the entire novel and the only heterosexual males are brief appearances by a brother-in-law and a grandfather.

William, having given up work, devotes his time to enjoying life and the many men he encounters. His world is slightly disturbed one day when he saves the life of an elderly gay man that collapsed in a bathroom and then meets again in his club. The elderly man, Lord Nantwich, entreats William to consider writing his biography until William reluctantly agrees to peruse Nantwich's diaries. Nantwich's diaries provide the secondary narration.

The rest of the novel alters between William's present-day adventures with a new boyfriend (and many previous liaisons) and random excepts the William reads in the diaries about Nantwich's life as an administrator in Sudan and London during WWII. And, of course, the seemingly parallel story-lines, with their similar incidents playing out both the same and yet with telling variations in the the different eras, become intertwined as Nantwich's past approaches the present.

Given my lack of interest in the surface plot-lines, Hollinghurst was able to keep me remarkably engaged throughout.

13ELiz_M
Editado: Jul 15, 2019, 6:59am

821. Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau, published 1947
Finished 27-Mar-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Nothing like {this book} had appeared in French or any other language before, nor has Queneau's feat been repeated successfully since.... It is reminiscent of a whole tradition of antinovel, from Laurence Sterne to James Joyce to Alain Robbe-Grillet, a tradition that insists that what really matters is not the story, but the way in which you tell it."

It is hard to review this book so long after reading it -- I'd almost have to re-read the whole thing to remember which bits i liked and which I didn't. This is a concept book -- the author took a mundane anecdote and then re-wrote it dozens of times in different writing styles. It is wonderfully entertaining and incredibly irritating in turns. For me it worked best to read 3-6 exercises at a time -- enough to contrast the different repetitions without becoming completely bored.

I found the concept fascinating-- which parts of the anecdote are emphasized and which left out during various re-tellings. For me, the "styles" that worked the best, and were the most fun to read, were actual types of writing -- Official Letter, Blurb, Alexandrines, Cross-Examination, Comedy, and so. Although, one only needs to read a dozen or so sections to get the point (and there are so many more versions that are tedious, nonsensical, or unreadable), I am so impressed by both the writing and, more importantly, the translation that i am adding an extra star.

14ELiz_M
Editado: Jul 21, 2019, 8:06am

822. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe, pub. 1929
Finished 29-Apr-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Wolfe is an old-fashioned writer in the tradition of Whitman and Melville; he 'tried the hardest to say the most' wrote Faulkner,... The real quality of the novel, however, lies not in the portrayal of Eugene's struggle to find a place in the world, but in the rich, vivid account of the life that surrounds him."

It took me all month to read the lyrical and dense Look Homeward, Angel. The story of family dysfunction reminded me a fair amount of The Man Who Loved Children although I don't think these are all that similar. At times the story is well-told and provokes vivid images, but at others my mind would glaze over and I would realize I hadn't actually read the words for several pages. The writing is ornate, verging on florid, so there is a lot more description interfering with the plot than I prefer.

15ELiz_M
Editado: Jun 20, 2019, 7:23am

823. An Ethiopian Romance by Emesa Heliodorus, pub. ~300? (removed for the 2008 edition)
Finished 30-May-2019

16ELiz_M
Editado: Jun 10, 2019, 1:32pm

824. Asphodel by Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), pub. 1992
Finished 30-May-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Asphodel is a remarkably complex, innovative, and hugely underrated work of Modernist fiction.... Themes of marriage, infidelity, and illegitimacy all connect the novel with the Jamesian literary tradition. More radically, however, the novel also explores one failed and and one hopeful lesbian relationship."

Asphodel is an autobiographical novel written in the 1920s but not published until after the author's death. It details the experience of a young female expat in France and London, first traveling with a woman friend (with whom the narrator is in love) and the friend's mother and then striking out on her own amidst literary and intellectual circles. The style is difficult to follow -- mostly stream-of-conscious, only obliquely referencing reality (so maybe it shouldn't have been my end of day with a glass of wine book?) The writing is beautiful but I never had a grasp on the events alluded to or felt any emotion. I had no idea there was a hopeful lesbian relationship until after reading the introduction and summary.

17ELiz_M
Editado: Jun 18, 2019, 1:19pm

825. The Midnight Examiner by William Kotzwinkle, pub. 1989
Finished 30-May-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "This is an affectionate farce, impossible to put down."

I am surprised this was published in the late 80s, I sort of associated the absurdity and over-the-topness with a different time period. On the other hand, it seems to be a good precursor to the ridiculousness of J. Evanovich's mid-90s start to her Stephanie Plum series. But this book has darker humor and is weirder.

Set in New York City's tabloid industry, it begins with roughing in the caricatures of the employees of disreputable papers and their approach to life and attitude towards the work they do. So, it starts slow. But as we are getting comfortable with the large eccentric cast, a caper-plot creeps in -- a model comes to them for help and protection after getting into trouble with the director of the porno movie in which she is starring, who, of course, is also a mob boss. We are then treated to a battle between gangsters and newspaper staff, a voodoo priestess, crazy cab rides through the city, kidnapping, and an assault on a gated Long Island Fortress. I loved the way the characters were constantly framing the events narrated with potential tabloid headlines. It may not be great literature, but it was great fun.

18arukiyomi
Jun 18, 2019, 12:18pm

I should have this book arriving at my library literally tomorrow so that's a timely review. Thanks! Looks like a good un.

19ELiz_M
Jun 20, 2019, 6:33am

>18 arukiyomi: I hope you enjoy it!

20arukiyomi
Jun 26, 2019, 5:16am

Not really. Thought he was trying too hard to be Vonnegut. Glad to finish it.

21ELiz_M
Editado: Jul 11, 2019, 7:58am

826. Max Havelaar by Multatuli, pub. 1860
Finished 15-Jun-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Beyond the missionary service accomplished, Max Havelaar remains a work to be read and enjoyed for its satirical humor. Recounting the adventures of a colonial administrator at odds with the government he serves, it takes on and renders laughable the bourgeois businessman and colonial administer alike."

As this book was written by a former colonial official with the purpose of calling attention to the deplorable treatment of the Indonesian people, it is perhaps not too surprising that the book does not read like a typical novel. The author mixes a satirical framing story with the diary/letters/papers of a colonial official who relates stories of and from the the Indonesian people cultivating the coffee, tea, and spices for the Dutch markets. So, at times there are three layers of remove between the protagonist of a vignette and the reader. In addition, there are extensive authorial, not at all objective, end notes commenting on the difficulties in getting the work published and bringing attention to the real-life evidence the author, in other advocacy work, is trying to provide to the Dutch government and/or people.

Framing story: The first few chapters are narrated by Mr. Drystubble, a coffee trader in Amsterdam, who after a chance encounter with a former classmate, has said classmate's papers thrust upon him. In a cursory review of the papers, he sees excerpts that analyze the mechanisms of coffee market and decides he will publish a treatise on the subject. Being far too busy to actually review the papers and edit them, Drystubble delegates the work to Fritz, his 16 year old son son, and Stern, the son of German coffee buyer (hired with the purpose of cementing the business relationship). Of course the young men are much more interested in the poetry and the more "romantic" personal aspects of the story and the work they edit, as presented in the later chapters, is the story of the colonial official, Max Havelaar, and his official struggles to minimize the corruption of the Dutch plantation system in Indonesia.

I never quite got comfortable with this work. There is a clear distinction between Drystubble's narration and the other sections of the book (which makes his sections the more entertaining -- they are a very particular, and slightly ridiculous, point of view). But the sections that are purportedly the writings of Havelaar, have frequent, almost meta, authorial commentary and I never was quite sure which level of story they belonged to -- Havelaar? Fritz/Stern? Drystubble (reviewing Fritz & Stern's work)? Multatuli?

Overall, as a work of political outrage that was supposed to highlight the awful plight of the Indonesian people this did not work for me. Unlike works such as Uncle Tom's Cabin or The Jungle the perspective of the actual people suffering is not presented -- it all told (never shown!) from the perspective of a Colonial Administrator explaining how the system is set up to force the exploitation of the local peasants. The only vaguely personal story, the fate of a young Indonesian couple, is told as a not-true fable.

What I enjoyed was the occasional meta-commentary on the act of writing a story:
"That is probably why novelists tend to present their heroes as either devils or angels. Black and white are easy to paint; more difficult to acheive is the correct rendering of the gradations in-between, in particular when you are bound by veracity and must therefore avoid making the portrait too dark or too light."

"Is it {Harriet Beecher Stowe's} fault -- or mine -- that for the truth to be accepted, it must so often cloak itself in lies?"

And for the final critique, apparently there was a problem with including the translor's note in the published edition. So there was no explanation included for the tone of the end notes. As I am a lazy reader and don't read all the end notes as I go along, I was very surprised when the first one I read was very much not the expected objective, factual additional information, but a peevish whining about issues with publishing the book. And since I live in a post Pale Fire and David Foster Wallace world, where footnotes/end notes can be part of the novel, I was thoroughly confused about what was going on with those until I was pointed to the translator's note on the nyrb website.



22Pfreepest0608
Jul 12, 2019, 3:44am

Group admin has hidden this message. (mostre)
I also red so many books but never count in my life.
Knowledge is not countable thing it is use in our life and go ahead with new experience.

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23ELiz_M
Editado: Dez 4, 2019, 1:20pm

827. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot, pub. 1876 (removed for the 2008 edition)
Finished 30-Jun-2019

24ELiz_M
Editado: Dez 4, 2019, 1:20pm

828. The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by João Guimarães Rosa, pub. 1956
Finished 4-Jul-2019

Why it is included in the 1001 list: "The novel's characters form a tapestry of human relations, and both individual and collective experiences are lyrically scrutinized.... Language is immediately striking in this novel. Even when describing shocking episodes, poetic license is granted by its vivacious originality."

An engrossing story of a man's adventures in the backlands of Brazil as part of the many roving gangs of bandits fighting to conquer the land. Told in retrospect, it depicts his friendships, his respect for some leaders and disgust with others, and most of all his struggle to keep his humanity in spite of the battles. There is a twist near the end that I should have figured out, but I didn't take the time in which it was published into considerations ans social norms have changed enough that it didn't occur to me that the big surprise is the best friend is a woman. i just accepted the homosexual love as a matter of course.

Overall, I did not find it as poetic as the blurb above suggests, and struggled with some sections -- the endless riding around to fight different people was all same-same and a bit boring. But there were a couple of scenes that were unique and for which the writing did stand out.

25ELiz_M
Editado: Dez 4, 2019, 1:20pm

829. Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus by Alexander Pope, John Arbuthnot, others, pub. 1713
Finished 12-Jul-2019

Why it is included in the 1001 list: "The Scriblerians target the modern age as the site of vanity, false taste, corruption, and bad faith. In their critique of modern writing....they contrast ancient grandeur, passion, dignity, reason, and common sense with modern excess and venal behavior."

More a collection of various stories and essays written by a handful of gentleman than a coherent novel, I found this incredibly tedious. Without the extra layer of knowing the society satirized, i just didn't find the ridiculous methods of education amusing and no longer remember most of the "story". The was one one excerpt that i enjoyed -- the description of the legal difficulties of two men involved with Siamese twins, one suing the other for cohabiting with his wife.....

26ELiz_M
Jan 15, 2020, 7:02pm

830. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence, pub. 1913
Finished 15-Jul-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "In Sons and Lovers, D. H. Lawrence compellingly describes Nottinghamshire countryside and the mining community with which he felt such a deep connection.... it tackles the subjects of family, domestic strife, class struggle, gender conflict, sexuality, industrialism and poverty..."

In other words, the quote above describes a fairly typical coming of age story. This is an autobiographical novel and covers about two decades and told mostly through the point of view of Paul Morel, augmented with some third person omniscience. Through Paul, we get an intimate glimpse of the mining town and how the different class backgrounds and expectations of his parents strain the marriage, the poverty both in family farms and factory work, the hints of the rise of feminism through the character of Clara. There is so much life, so very well told.

I always dread D. H. Lawrence, mistakenly equating him to Henry James and each time I am surprised and delighted by the freshness of the writing. It is not quotable, not outstanding on the sentence level but over time a vivid picture of his world materializes.

27ELiz_M
Jan 15, 2020, 7:04pm

831. 10:04 by Ben Lerner, pub. 2014
Finished 22-Jul-2019

28ELiz_M
Editado: Jan 22, 2020, 1:54pm

832. Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse, pub. 1959
Finished 12-Aug-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "When people refer to 'angry young men' of 1950's British fiction and drama,... Billy Fisher, Keith Waterhouse's feckless antihero, gets less of a look-in.... Billy is every bit as thwarted as his peers and this novel is just as telling a document of the postwar crisis of class and masculinity..."

Billy is a twenty-something still living with his parents in a small English town. So at first glance, there is little to recommend this novel -- another never-do-ell white male unsatisfied with his lot. But as the author draws the reader into his world, it is hard to nor be, well...charmed by Billy. Yes, he is a jerk and his troubles are mostly of his own making, but what a weird, wonderful imagination he has! The novel takes place during a single day (with plenty of inner monologues and flashbacks for background, of course, The mismatch between reality, the audacious lies Billy tells, as well as the interior fantasy of his made-up world of Ambrosia becomes compelling. The grimness of the time is leavened by Billy's offbeat worldview and the superb writing contrasts Billy's outward unpleasantness and deplorable actions with a vulnerability and feeling of inadequacy that cause him to act out. Months later, I can still picture many scenes from the novel.

29LisaMorr
Editado: Jan 23, 2020, 4:27pm

You last two of three 1001 reads were good ones!

30ELiz_M
Editado: Mar 28, 2020, 9:13am

833. Jacob the Liar by Jurek Becker, pub. 1969
Finished 26-Aug-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Jacob the Liar manages to do what might seem to be impossible, to tell the story of the Holocaust through humor.... Originally a screenplay, {it} is written in a lucid, clear, and often funny tone with moments of touching beauty."

A resident of a Jewish Ghetto in Nazi occupied Poland, Jacob, accidentally hears a bit of war news in an impossible way. Knowing that he won't be able to keep it to himself and also knowing it will only lead to difficulties once told, Jacob somehow manages to make it worse for himself by claiming he heard the news on a secret, hidden radio. Once this lie is voiced, it cannot be unsaid, especially since the tidbit of good news lifts the pervasive despair, giving the Jewish community a reason to go on struggling and living.

The story is multi-layered, with the narrator, another member of the ghetto, relating the story as it was told to him by Jacob, as well as weaving bits of his own story and those of other residents. The narrator also comments on the story he is telling, pointing out the details that he could not have known and telling the reader that he is filling in the gaps. he even goes so far as to convey a wished for ending to the tragic story as well as the more likely ending.

31ELiz_M
Mar 28, 2020, 9:21am

834. La Bête Humaine by Jurek Becker, pub. 1890
Finished 8-Sep-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "...a vehicle through which Zola explored the power and impact of the railway, bringing together his twin fascinations with criminality and railway life.... Zola's meticulous observation of the physical world is shown in his depictions of the railways, which he paints in words the qualities of light and shadow, fire and smoke, that also acted as a magnet to the Impressionist painters of his time."

A brilliant, gripping story told with vivid imagery.

32ELiz_M
Editado: Mar 29, 2020, 6:07pm

835. The Dead Father by Donald Barthelme, pub. 1975
Finished 18-Sep-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "In this merciless assault upon 'authority', DB systematically slays the sacred cows of Western culture: Freudianism is lampooned, high priest of Modernism such as Eliot and Joyce are parodied, and any notion of objective 'truth' discarded.... With its wholesale departure from reason, its flight from naturalism, and its emphasis on the textuality of text, this novel serves up a heady concoction."

Well, that was an....experience. Completely a product of its time, without any background in Freud, or deconstruction, or other post-modern works I was not the target audience for this. This is not really a book that can be "read. It can be nominally experienced, sort of like the memory of a dream. It can probably be studied and supposedly understood intellectually, but not read.

33ELiz_M
Editado: Mar 29, 2020, 6:07pm

836. Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem by Emilio Salgari, pub. 1900
Finished 26-Sep-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "...the greatest Italian bestseller of all time.... It was not until the late 1990s that {Salgari's} writings began to be revisited and new translations appeared in print.... The adventurous flair of the books has inspired numerous writers, from Umberto Eco...to Gabriel Garcia Marquez...."

I may have enjoyed this more had i read it at a young age. It is a relatively quick read. It tells the adventures of Sandokan, a nobleman whose kingdom was stolen and family slaughtered by white colonizers. He takes to the seas, wrecking revenge as a ruthless pirate until he falls in love with a beautiful European woman. A fun tale that should not be read too closely or with a critical eye.

34ELiz_M
Editado: Mar 29, 2020, 6:08pm

837. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, pub. 1825
Finished 3-Oct-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "At once Gothic comedy, religious horror story, mystery thriller, and psyvhological study the novel is both terrifying and terrific."

An unusual novel, it was written by a self-educated man from the lower classes. It is composed of three sections. The first part is the story of two brothers as related by their father's mistress, the second part is the confessional diary of the second brother, and the third part is supposedly the editor's discovery of the diary a hundred years later. Surprisingly readable, with perhaps the exception of the Scottish dialect of a servant, I enjoyed the doubled narrative of the younger brother's descent into evil.

35ELiz_M
Editado: Mar 29, 2020, 6:07pm

838. I Thought of Daisy by Edmund Wilson, pub. 1929
Finished 1-Nov-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Edmund Wilson is remembered mainly as an influential literary critic and editor.... The book's significance is widely thought to lie in the wayit attempts to bring Proustian sensibilities to bear on the American literary scene. Given Wilson's stature as a literary critic, this attempt was to have a lasting influence."

All I remember is thinking/wishing this was a different book because I confused this author with Edmund White. This novel was forgettable.

36ELiz_M
Editado: Mar 29, 2020, 6:07pm

839. Things: A Story of the Sixties by Georges Perec, pub. 1965
Finished 8-Nov-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "The story shocked the public, who saw in the novel a purely sociological representation of the so-called 'consumer' society--not an appropriate subject for a work of literature.... The unusual character of Things is due in great part to the coldness of the narrator-witness, who refuses to criticize, to judge, and to interpret the attitude of the protagonists."

This was a not the easiest read. Ostensibly the story of Jerome and Sylvia from young couple-hood to the settling into middle age, it is quite a while before the protagonists are even introduced. Eventually I found the rhythm of it and began to enjoy the odd style but the melancholy that began to pervade the book as the couple slowly realized their free way of life was inadequately compensated and they became more and more dissatisfied with living, with never having enough money for the material comforts in life. It was an uncomfortable read, hitting a little too close to home.

37ELiz_M
Editado: Abr 1, 2020, 12:01pm

840. The Path to the Spiders' Nests by Italo Calvino, pub. 1947
Finished 18-Dec-2019



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "While it lacks the obsession with symmetry of his later works, it is beautifully written and represents the response from one of Italy's most famous twentieth-century writers to a singular moment in the country's history."

A coming of age story set during the 1940s of a young foul-mouthed orphan's accidental participation in Italy's partisan movement. The characterization of the young narrator is excellent.

38ELiz_M
Abr 1, 2020, 12:16pm

841. Memory of Fire by Eduardo Galeano, pub. 1986
Finished 31-Dec-2019

. . .

Why it is included in the 1001 list: "This opus is difficult to define as it is neither a poem, nor a chronicle, nor an essay, nor an anthology, nor a novel, but rather a work inspired by various literary forms..... the line up of events and political intrigues, told one after another, is breathtaking and awe inspiring. Each one contributes yet more telling detail to an all-encompassing historical mosaic spanning centuries."

This is a difficult read. At first is is hard because so much of what is relayed is unfamiliar, but also because the early history of the Americas, the one that is documented is bloody and brutal. There are no uplifting stories of "progress', just murder after massacre, after mutilation. The later volumes become more enjoyable, with vignettes depicting well-known artists and writers and moments of triumph for indigenous culture. But it is also hard because the familiar is put in the context of corruption and greed that while less bloody os no less destructive. It is a phenomenal work, but not much fun.

39ELiz_M
Editado: Abr 1, 2020, 12:29pm

842. Pilgrimage by Eduardo Galeano, pub. 1986
Finished 31-Dec-2019

. . .

Why it is included in the 1001 list: "...Richardson understood that, at the center of her novel, her heroine must be alone in her narration. Miriam's consciousness is all we have, though the narrative moves between third and first person narration, and as readers we are fully immersed in the world she touches, feels, hears, and sees."

40ELiz_M
Editado: Abr 1, 2020, 3:12pm

843. G. by John Berger, pub. 1972
Finished 13-Jan-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "G. is an exploration off how the domain of private experience can ultimately translate into a recognition of broader social belonging…. The novel (has an) experimental narrative…. ‘the protagonist’ largely becomes the layered accumulation of perceptions rather than a full defined character at the outset."

G is not a typical coming-of-age story. It has the general shape, but Berger is coloring outside the lines. G., called "the protagonist" in the text, is Giovanni. He is the illegitimate son of a young well-o-do widow and an Italian merchant. When he is six, his mother leaves him with an Aunt and Uncle in England to be raised. there he goes through adolescence (with its attendant sexual awakening) until his restless desire finds opportunity to travel around Europe as the supposed legitimate son of his father with business interests that allow him freedom of movement between countries on the path to war. This young adulthood is portrayed by three episodes.

The novel begins well, with the impressionistic memories of a child and some exquisite writing and imagery: "He knows the fear is inside him. He is carrying it like a full jug. Above all it must not be split, for then it will be uncontained and will flow over everything."

However, the private experience that is supposed to, layer by layer, build-up a fully realized character is just boring sexual encounters. The moments where glimpses of history are shown around and in-between G's encounters can be fascinating and the structure, with paragraphs of interior interspersed with exterior conversations or events, is something I would have found impressive if I cared more about the plot. Last of all, I was disappointed that the author did not have him meet the same end as his operatic namesake. I would have respected he work more if G. had strongly embraced his cad-ness and accepted hell rather than just drifting into an ending.

41ELiz_M
Editado: Abr 1, 2020, 3:22pm

844. The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi, pub. 1986
Finished 1/23/2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Throughout the book, Levi brings to bear the resources of memory, anecdote, and reflection on the questions of survival, communication, and judgement that are part of the legacy of the death camps."

In these essays, Levi attempts to locate his experience of Auschwitz and that of the Holocaust into the broader context. To identify and discuss the historical and societal forces that allowed such a thing to happen; to examine the extremity of the circumstances in the death camps and the effects on people.

I read this paperback mostly on the subway commute, which was not the best choice. Levi’s essay language is very intellectual and exacting. And every paragraph contained at least one word I didn’t know (and couldn’t look up in present circumstances). So, for me, the most powerful section was the conclusion, which was more personal and informal in tone.

42ELiz_M
Abr 1, 2020, 3:22pm

845. The Charwoman's Daughter by James Stephens, pub. 1912
Finished 4-Feb-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Stephens was in love with the idea of the imagination and the Dublin world of his work is at once a place of confines and of liberation, of small rooms and open streets, of the press of necessity and the beauty of a silk dress glimpsed in a shop window."

This is the charming story of Mary, a young woman on the verge of adulthood. the only daughter of a poor charwoman she is protecteed from the harsh grown-up world of work and allowed to roam free during the day. But she can’t remain in idyllic childhood forever.

The story is at its best and most engaging when the world is seen through Mary’s eyes. The perspective of the policeman and the middle two chapters of philosophizing are less interesting. The ending shouldn’t have been a surprise and yet it was – very different from the bleaker, more modern fare.

"Never be a servant in your heart, said she. To work is nothing; the king on his throne, the priest kneeling before the Holy Altar, all people in all places had to work, but no person at all need be a servant."

43ELiz_M
Editado: Abr 1, 2020, 3:28pm

846. Reviewed in my Club Read thread (click the picture to read the full review):



The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford, pub. 1949
Finished 19-Feb-2020

44ELiz_M
Editado: Abr 1, 2020, 3:32pm

847. The Afternoon of a Writer by Peter Handke, pub. 1987
Finished 23-Feb-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Confronted with the depth of the writer's solitude and the consequent richness of his relations to language and to observation, the world 'outside' cannot but pale a little.... and it is the beauty of this small book to make the writer -- and the reader -- hunger for the things of the world."

This dreamy little story, begins with the protagonist's relationship to writing. It is a outside perspective that is also inside. The third person limited narration creates an in-between world -- distancing the reader from the protagonist with the use of he, him, his, but so focused on how the main character thinks about the world that contextual details his name, the town in which he works are supplied. Nothing much happens -- the writer leaves his office, goes, for a walk, has drink in a seedy bar, and returns home, and yet I was utterly charmed by it.


45ELiz_M
Abr 4, 2020, 8:23am

848. Alberta and Jacob by Cora Sandel, pub. 1926
Finished 1-Mar-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "The first part of Cora Sandel's 'Alberta' trilogy, {it} was hailed as a masterpiece by the woman's emancipation movement."

Set in rural, northern Norway, this story of Alberta is a slow story of her young adulthood as her family slides into poverty. The family has not enough money for both children to remain in school, so Alberta, although more studious and with a love of learning, as the girl she is forced to stay home to help her mother with the housework and to tutor her brother who wants nothing to do with learning and desire to be a sailor.

There are gorgeous descriptions of scenery and light and oppressive details of daily life. Well-written, but a difficult read and the wrong timing for me.

46ELiz_M
Editado: Abr 7, 2020, 6:34pm

849. U.S.A. by John Dos Passos, pub. 1936
Finished 16-Mar-2020

. .

Why it is included in the 1001 list: "The three novels collected as U.S.A. are the most successful of many 20th century attempts to write the inclusive story of American life.... Dos Passos is not a 19th century naturalist but a modernist, and the speech of the people is embedded in a narrative that derives from James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway."

What a monumental work! U.S.A. attempts to create the story of a nation over a period of 30 years in a method that I can best describe as a collage. Or to choose a Hollywood allusion, a montage. There is no story here, per se. Instead the narrative is composed of several different types of writing. The bulk of the novel is vignettes from the lives of twelve individuals, six men and six women. Initially they are from different parts of the country and different backgrounds, but their stories interweave in unexpected ways. Interspersed with the characters, there are Newsreels -- snippets of headlines and news stories smooshed together, The Camera Eye -- a stream-of-conscious perspective, supposedly autobiographical, and finally there are biographies -- mini portraits of influential figures of the times.

While I intellectually understand the structure and its purpose, I was really not interested in the Newsreels or the Camera Eye sections. Perhaps they were more evocative at the time the novel was published, but for me they were so obtuse that they did not provide context for the more narrative aspects. For me, the final installment of the trilogy proved how comprehensive the work is -- I was delighted to find a reference to my small, Minnesotan, liberal-arts college in one of the biography sections!

It was in the characters' stories that Dos Passos' brilliance shone. They were compelling and well-done. One woman's narrative, begun when she was a child, had the language evolve as she grew up. I was fascinated by how the characters lives weave together and how a main character becomes a bit player or just a passing mention in another character's chapter. But in the end, it had become too much -- even the characters that were doing well were ruinous. I was just so tired of the more upright individuals being ground down by poverty and the ne'er-do-wells drinking and gambling away their good fortunes. A brilliant work, but too much of a good thing. I should rate it 3.5 stars, as I did all the individual installments, but am adding a half-star for the achievement.

47ELiz_M
Editado: Abr 4, 2020, 8:44am

850. News from Nowhere by William Morris, pub. 1891
Finished 20-Mar-2020



Why it is on the 1001 list: "Morris's vision of a life that is not governed by an oppressive state-apparatus brings a sharp, satirical focus to bear on the irrationality and the contradictions of his own time, ad indeed the present day political conditions."

What a strange utopia to be reading during a pandemic. A young man from 1880s London mysteriously wakes up in 2002 in a utopian socialist paradise. He manages to pass himself off as an ex-pat, recently returned to England after decades away and interested in the changes.

While the ideas of the novel were probably influential and worth considering, it is a product of it's time and hasn't aged well. There is a frame story in 1880s London where an individual sets up the time-travel scenario and then says he will relate his friends experiences in the first person as if he himself experienced it. Modern methods of story--telling have mostly gotten past this need for a frame story and it felt clumsy and unnecessary. But an even worse out-dated technique is used -- almost the entire story is just long, boring lectures. The narrator is taken to meet an elder with specialized knowledge of the history of the transition from capitalism to socialism and the main section of the book is the narrator asking questions and the elder providing a political-historical monologue in answer.

It is really too bad, because once the narrator leaves the elder and continues his journey as a boat-ride on the Thames, interacting with a wider variety of characters, the writing is just lovely and the author proceeds to make his points with a rubber mallet rather than the sledgehammer of the previous section.

48ELiz_M
Editado: Jun 26, 2020, 8:00am

851. Pepita Jimenez by Juan Valera, pub. 1874
Finished 14-Apr-2020



Why it is on the 1001 list: "The narrative structure is free and imaginative; it incorporates the devices of discovered documents, written correspondence, and a narrator who completes what the letters fail to do..."

The novel begins with a frame story: an unnamed narrator is going through the papers of a religious figure and finds a narrative bundled together with some letters. Intrigued, the narrator begins to read the story of the downfall of Don Luis de Vargas, a young man training to be a priest.

Before taking orders Luis makes a final visit to his father, a wealthy landowner in a rural town, whom he has not seen for some time, as Luis had been sent to his uncle, a priest in the city, to be educated when a young child. Through letters written to his uncle and confessor, we learn about Luis' growing admiration for Pepita Jimenez, a young beautiful and pious widow being courted by his father. You can probably guess what happens next, but the outcome may still surprise you.

In many ways, this is almost an utopian novel -- the life style of the wealthy landowners, benevolent overseers of land and town, balanced with faith and propriety resulting in a perfectly bucolic existence.

49ELiz_M
Editado: Jun 12, 2020, 8:45am

852. Forest of the Hanged by Liviu Rebreanu, pub. 1922
Finished 28-Apr-2020



Why it is on the 1001 list: "Forest of the Hanged is the first psychological novel of Romanian literature.... {It} is a war testimony of universal relevance that still makes a strong impression on the modern reader."

Set on the Eastern front of WWI, the novel opens with a vivid description of the preparations for the hanging of a soldier caught deserting. The protagonist, Apostol Bologa, had been a member of the jury and is with the company witnessing the event. Bologa is secure in his duty, but the reaction of another officer plants a seed of doubt in his mind. He begins questioning. When he gets word that his company is to be sent to the Romanian front where, as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian forces, he will be expected to fight and kill his countrymen, his misgivings grow into debilitations and, finally, inevitable actions.

I struggled with this book, enthralled by the descriptive passages and engaged in the events, but could barely pay attention to the the necessary, plodding personal history and the the philosophical dithering (more abstract and changeable than Hamlet).

50ELiz_M
Editado: Jun 26, 2020, 7:50am

853. Homo Faber by Max Frisch, pub. 1957
Finished 2-May-2020



Why it is on the 1001 list: "{It} is a tragicomic tale of the alienation of modern man and the dangers of rationalism.... MF is a master of irony, used to full effect, to produce a troubling, ambivalent work that leaves you torn between feelings of sympathy and contempt for his perfectly realized but flawed creation."

This is an odd book, in plot and tone. The Homo Faber of the title is Walter, an engineer working for UNESCO. As someone who lives his life rationally, everything is in its place -- a moderately successful career, a mistress whom he likes, but is not attached to, and so on.

Then, on a work trip to Mexico things go queer. At first it seems as if it is Walter that has a breakdown, but the novel embarks on a series of coincidences and improbably events that will completely disrupt Walter's stasis taking Walter from the an emergency landing in a Mexican dessert, to a trip into the Guatemalan jungle, then back to the overbearing mistress in New York whom he flees by taking an impromptu trans-Atlantic cruise followed by a road trip through Europe with a young passenger met on the boat, ending in a tragedy of Sophocles-proportions (fitting since the book ends in Greece).

Throughout this all, there is a curious disconnect between the reader and Walter. Although he is narrating the events, he never seems real. So there is a flatness there. I am sure there was a fair amount symbolism and irony that I overlooked. On the other hand, some of the descriptions of the jungle, European sunsets are captivating. I just never settled into this book, was never sure what I was reading.

51ELiz_M
Jun 26, 2020, 7:50am

854. As a Man Grows Older by Italo Svevo, pub. 1898
Finished 10-May-2020



Why it is on the 1001 list: "...now considered by some critics to be Svevo's great masterpiece.... Characterized by a deep humanity, as well as by its humor, and profound psychological insight, {it} is a brilliant study of hopeless love and hapless indecision."

Emilio Brentani is settled into an uneventful life. After some success with an early novel and criticism, he is able to regard himself as intellectual even though earns a living as a clerk in an insurance office. It is a comfortable life with a spinster sister keeping house and long talks with his sculptor friend Balli. And then he meets Angiolina. A beautiful, young flirt enchants Emilio, providing a basis on which he can imagine himself to be another -- a tragic, suffering lover and a smooth Don Juan -- it is a last chance to experience carnal desire.

Emilio become obsessed with Angiolina. Using her youth and beauty he creates a fantasy women, a beautiful good and faithful women, despite all evidence to the contrary. A small part of his mind realizes that this relationship is toxic and periodically it gains the upper hand and Emilio determines to break with Angiolina, but once in her presence the dream takes hold.

Meanwhile, Amalia, his sister and foil, has fallen deeply in love with Balli. She demurely and stoically conceals her feelings, living for the few moments when he is visiting Emilio at home and for her night-time dreams of happiness.But the siblings' delusions are unsustainable and eventually the tragic end of one destroys the other.

The writing at times is beautiful but it can be a difficult book to connect to, almost too much of a different time. While the characters feel very real and I found myself frustrated with Emilio's delusions, even having experienced them to a lessor degree in the past, I just couldn't quite empathize with him.

52ELiz_M
Editado: Jun 26, 2020, 7:57am

855. The Graduate by Charles Webb, pub. 1963
Finished 3-June-2020



Why it is on the 1001 list: "The 1963 novel is so much eclipsed by the 1967 movie...that we should recall that most of its iconic moments already exist in Webb's text.... As fiction, The Graduate is notable for its flat and understated but expressive prose."

I haven't seen the iconic movie. Hoo boy, I see no reason for this book to be on the 1001 list, absent nostalgia for the movie.

Benjamin returns from a successful college career, winning an award/scholarship for teaching that will pay for Grad school (he's been accepted to Yale, Harvard, and Columbia), but poor Ben is disillusioned with the world. The readers know this because he says so, over and over. There is no interiority in the novel so the reader has no context, no reason for Ben's depression and spiral into self-destructive and then predatory behavior. No one feels real and Mrs. Robinson and Elaine might as well be blow-up dolls and mannequins, respectively. Benjamin's treatment of Elaine is despicable and, of course, she seems to go along with it.

My problem with this novel may be a problem with satire in general -- I clearly misread this novel. But at least the overly stilted behavior and 1960s jargon was vaguely amusing. And it was short.

53ELiz_M
Editado: Ago 23, 2020, 12:18pm

856. The Living and the Dead by Patrick White, pub. 1941
Finished 15-June-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "In these truthful yet compassionate glimpses into the self-doubts and self-delusions that motivate each life, White introduces some pf the thematic concerns that came to dominate his later fiction..."

Densely and richly told, this is the story of the socially inadequate Standish family. The story begins with an unemotional and awkward leave-taking at the train station between Elyot and Eden Standish and then flashes back several decades to their mother's coming of age and moves forward from there through three-ish decades, from the early 1900s to the 1930s.

The novel is written in a unique style. It is very much focused in the interior of the characters and events are only discerned through glancing thoughts. Yet, the characters remain oddly opaque and everything is told at a remove. White has an intriguing method of seamlessly sliding from third to second person which somehow makes it less intimate, not more. And this may be the point of the novel -- the characters both long and fear to fit in. They isolate themselves in their shabby gentility, living as strangers in the same house and drifting into relationships with people that they do not seem to respect or even like very much.

54Helenliz
Jun 27, 2020, 3:50pm

>52 ELiz_M: Webb died recently, he had a very unusual life. Not that any of that makes his book worthy of the list, but it has bumped it up my mental list a bit - for curiosity value, if nothing else.

55ELiz_M
Out 10, 2020, 2:27pm

857. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, pub. 1962
Finished 2-July-2020

56ELiz_M
Editado: Out 10, 2020, 2:42pm

858. The Man of Feeling by Henry Mackenzie, pub. 1771
Finished 20-July-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Each fictional episode...is designed with the express intention of exploring a particular emotive reaction.... The emphasis that this fiction brought to bear on the emotional responses of character and reader alike would prove crucial to a range of eighteenth-century writers."

For such a slender volume, I found this a slow read. It begins with a frame story of how the "editor" came into possession of an incomplete manuscript. But even with this I was concerned and confused as to why my free ebook was missing the first section and had the chapters out-of-order....

It is a, perhaps, a book of it's time -- groundbreaking in its demonstration of what a novel can be, but 250 years later it is rather mundane. The individual episodes about young Harley's experiences are well-told, but too far out of experience and modern conventions to elicit much of a reaction, let alone a distinct reaction for each episode. And two weeks later I have no memory of the plot at all.

57ELiz_M
Editado: Out 10, 2020, 2:42pm

859. Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl by Uwe Johnson, pub. 1970
Finished 20-Aug-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "{It}is technically fascinating because of it's complex use of overlapping time levels that shape the narration, but the formidable length of the novel has put off many readers.... his place {is} among the most important writers of postwar Germany, on the same level as Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll."

Told in 366 short chapters, from August 21, 1967 to August 20, 1968, this epic novel details the daily life of Gesine Cresspahl, a German exile in New York City, weaving in mundane details about the newsagent on the corner and the subway commute with current events as related by "Auntie" NYTimes. Gesine's young daughter Marie, has adopted New York as her city and at ten-years of age has a growing fascination for Gesine's past and has insisted on hearing about Gesine's pastr -- from the 1940s coming of age in Nazi-Soviet-East Germany until the move to NYC in the 1960s.

It is a fascinating work with a huge cast of characters that clearly moves back and forth between the two timelines, sometimes narrated in the first person, sometimes in the third. Some chapters are narrated by the NYTimes, some by Marie, and some by the ghosts that haunt Gesine.

The length may be daunting, but it is not a difficult novel. I enjoyed reading it a little at a time -- I found reading a week's worth of entries each week to flow better than reading daily entries, but it is probably best read at faster pace rather than trying stretch it out over a year. Having been part of my life for an entire year, I am going to miss Gesine and the precocious, not-quite realistic Marie and their love of NYC.

58ELiz_M
Editado: Out 10, 2020, 2:48pm

860. One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello, pub. 1926
Finished 28-Aug-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "...the relativity of perception and the fragmentation of reality into incomprehensible pieces is {Pirandello's} philosophical core. Closely connected to it is the reflection on language and the impossibility of objective and satisfactory communication between speakers due to the fact that we all charge words with our own meanings."

Sometimes it is the most trivial of events that upend one's world. An offhand comment from his wife forces Vitangelo Moscarda to see himself differently -- for a moment he sees himself through her eyes and realizes that she sees him as an entirely different person than how he perceives himself. Dwelling on this he falls into a vortex of internal philosophical debates about perception, reality and self. In his attempts to reconcile these one hundred thousand perceptions of himself, to disrupt how everyone else sees him into a one true self, he takes radical actions.

Pirandello is a fairly good writer, in the moments when he is not immersed in Moscarda's internal debates, with a few words he brings a moment, a specific image of the place to life. But as I am not a fan of philosophical novels I wasn't engaged in this story. For most of it, I just couldn't emphasize with the identity crisis and for the rest I couldn't help thinking how access to a video camera would have solved half Moscarda's dilemmas.

59ELiz_M
Editado: Out 10, 2020, 2:55pm

861. The Green Hat by Michael Arlen, pub. 1924
Finished 26-Sep-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Arlen's writing style, with its ambiguous, elliptical descriptions, is clearly influenced by modernism, while the imagery offers some particularly stark, oddly dislocated depictions resembling imagism."

The wearing of the green hat is the infamous Iris Storm. A woman from the former wealthy March family has had two disastrous marriages and now gallivants around Europe (in her yellow Hispano-Suiza) charming everyone she meets.

The narrator first meets her when she pays an impromptu, middle of the night, call on the narrator's upstairs neighbor, her estranged brother. Fascinated by her and her mysteriousness, he questions various acquaintances, slowly revealing her tragic background story. Iris's plot revolves around the narrator's chance meetings with her in ever more melodramatic circumstances.

I found this novel oddly delightful. While the story is ridiculing more typical tragic romances of it's time, some of which went over my head, the slightly offbeat style and unusual turns of phrase were rather charming.

60ELiz_M
Editado: Out 10, 2020, 3:01pm

862. The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa, pub. 1982
Finished 30-Sep-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Fernando Pessoa is best known as a Modernist poet who published his poems as the work of 'heteronyms'.... In a fragmentary text broken up into hundreds of short sections...{the narrator} reflects on art, life, and dreams...meditates upon the futility of existence, and recommends techniques for living a pointless life.... not much happens externally. But the life of the mind is celebrated in texts that are vigorous, rich, aphoristic, and paradoxical."

This is a book and an author with a backstory that is almost as fascinating as the work itself. Pessoa conceived of this work as a diary of observations by one of his fictional alter egos (heteronyms) under whose name(s) he published his work. This composition was done in two main phases, in the 1910s as the work of "Vicente Guedes" and then after setting it aside for years, resumed it in the 1930s as the diary of "Bernardo Soares".

"And I am offering you this book because I know it to be both beautiful and useless. It teaches nothing, preaches nothing, arouses no emotion. It is a stream that runs into an abyss of ashes that the wind scatters and which neither fertilize nor harm – I put my whole soul into its making, but I wasn't thinking of that at the time, only of my own sad self and of you, who are no one.

And because this book is absurd, I love it; because it is useless I want to give it to you, and because there is no point in wanting to give it to you, I give it anyway..."


Primarily written on whatever scraps of paper that were handy, Pessoa never assembled, edited or published this work. Thus, the various posthumous editions can vary dramatically as different editors select different fragments and publish them in different orders. This edition, edited by Jerónimo Pizarro and translated by Margaret Jull Costa, presents the material chronologically.

It is not a book that is lightly read. I found the first section, the first phase, difficult. It is composed of mostly internal musings, with little reference to life. The second phase feels more story-like. There references to the narrator's workplace and tremendous descriptions of the city he so obviously loved. There echoes in the fragments passages that callback to previous entries, themes revisited. But still, there is no story, no plot, and I found it required a certain presence of mind to appreciate, but when in the right mood it clever, evoking smiles and an occasional laugh, thoughtful, provoking and also affirming. It ends with a passage that seems to me preternatural and inspirational for these pandemic times:

"Freedom is the possibility of isolation. You are only free if you can withdraw from men and feel no need to seek them out for money, or society, or love, or glory, or even curiosity, for none of these things flourish in silence and solitude. If you cannot live alone, then you were born a slave....

...I exclude the world and for a moment I am free. Tomorrow I will return to being a slave; but now, alone, not needing anyone, fearful lest some voice or presence should disturb me, I have my own small freedom, my moment of exaltation."


61ELiz_M
Editado: Jan 9, 8:37am

863. The Magician of Lublin by Isaac Bashevis Singer, pub. 1960
Finished 2-Oct-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "...his continuous literary examination of the role of Jewish faith in the lives of hid Polish characters (largely before the Holocaust) pestered with passions, magic, and religious devotion."

Yasha Mazur leads a charmed life. He has devoted wife in Lublin that accepts his many faults and the hardships of his profession, he has steady (although not lucrative) work as a magician, a loyal assistant/mistress, and the ability to mesmerize almost every woman he meets.

He has spent years building his professional reputation, but is encouraged by his gentile mistress to want more; to want a fame that can only be achieved with a success outside of Poland where, known a Jewish magician, he is unable to transcend his provincial status.

A happy-go-lucky man, Yasha has been carefully balancing his domestic life, his profession, his social interactions with thieves and scoundrels and his forays into society, and his many, many mistresses. But now he believes he is in love and must make a decision -- whether to abandon his religion, wife, country for the love of his refined, gentile mistress.

I thoroughly enjoyed the exploits of the Magician and was utterly captivated by the depictions of Lublin and Warsaw. Although a scoundrel, Yasha is good-hearted and has some moral standards; It is when he decides to break his personal code that his life falls to pieces. The epilogue, set a few years later than main story, is quite a different life for Yasha and not as fun. I may not have been paying attention, but I don't think there was enough groundwork laid in the story for the final turn of events to make sense.

62ELiz_M
Editado: Jan 9, 8:50am

864. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, pub. 1924
Finished 2-Nov-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "The novel belongs to the Bildungsroman tradition, though Hans Castrop's initiation is not into the world of action and events....but into the world of ideas.... We experience with Castrop the intensity of the formative moments -- tragic, erotic, mundane, absurd -- of his seven years in the sanatorium, all suspended in the heightened present."

Hans Castorp travels to visit his cousin in a tuberculosis sanatorium. What was meant to be a short visit lasts seven years. Reading about his stay in the Swiss Alps, eating five gourmet meals a day, resting on the balcony in an extraordinarily comfortable chair with gorgeous mountain views, social interactions with other patients (no distancing! thet were all sick and therefore didn't have to worry about infecting each other), a love interest, and vigorous discussions was very appealing right now. The philosophizing was a bit over my head, but the descriptions of time, scenery, and music were stunning.

This is admittedly a facile review given the depth and complexity of the novel, but I red it at a weird time and I loved the surface story even without the greater understanding a more studious read would have engendered.

63ELiz_M
Editado: Jan 10, 8:05am

865. The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark, pub. 1970
Finished 3-Nov-2020



Removed after the 2006 edition.

Lise seems ordinary. A single woman of average looks, working in middle management at an unremarkable firm, heading south for vacation. But from the beginning, there are hints that something is not quite right. And Lise becomes inexplicable, especially as only actions and events are described. Early on Spark reveals the ending, leaving us to puzzle out how and why. But I found the tone too detached and didn't much care. It needs a second reading.

64japaul22
Editado: Jan 9, 8:56am

>57 ELiz_M: You've gotten me very interested in reading Anniversaries. Sounds like a great long-term read! Though I knew you'd been reading it, I had no idea what is was about before your review. Sounds really interesting.

>62 ELiz_M: and I read The Magic Mountain the same way - sort of on the surface - and still enjoyed/appreciated it as well.

65ELiz_M
Jan 9, 9:04am

866. Life of a Good-for-Nothing by Joseph von Eichendorff, pub. 1823
Finished 5-Nov-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Eichendorff infuses his novella with the kind of lyrical prose rarely found outside of the very best poetry. His hero, the ideal 'romantic man', is the most sympathetic of characters and his whimsical story is never less than fascinating and refreshing."

A rather too-cheerful novella. The young, idle narrator is thrown out by his hard-working father, so taking his violin he decides to travel the world. His handsome appearance, good-nature and music ensure every encounter is a happy one. He is either comfortably one with nature or given work as gardener, treated like royalty in a castle, or shown to the beauty he fell in love with. After several botched meetings he is finally happily married.

66ELiz_M
Jan 9, 3:44pm

867. Her Privates, We by Frederic Manning, pub. 1930
Finished 16-Nov-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Unlike the more dynamic constructions of the other war books, ostensibly very little happens here.... In this way {it} is a far more accurate depiction of wartime life and one that still has power to subvert the war experience."

Private Bourne is an exceptional soldier, the type of person that is liked by most everyone and is always able to scrounge and charm what is needed. He is friendly with most everyone, but not friends with anyone. From his prospective, we see the brutality, stupidity, and humanity of WWI. This well-written novel is bookended with battles, but the majority is set behind the front lines and balances mundane events with Bourne‘s thoughts about it all. An ordinary book excellently written.

67ELiz_M
Jan 9, 3:52pm

868. The Manila Rope by Veijo Meri, pub. 1957
Finished 20-Nov-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "The black humor and absurdity of this work of metafiction recal Gogol, Kafka, and Hasek. The Manila Rope asks questions not only about war and human fate but also narration and history writing, fact and fiction."

An odd little book! There is a sort of frame story: Joose, a soldier on leave decides to smuggle home a length of rope by winding it around his body with near deadly consequences. On the train home, he listens to the stories of the soldiers, introduced in a Canterbury-esque fashion. The novel also jumps to an event at the station in Joose‘s town for a chapter. The tall-tales are amusing but the disjointed structure was confusing to this modern reader.

68ELiz_M
Jan 10, 12:28pm

869. Party Going by Henry Green, pub. 1939
Finished 27-Nov-2020



Removed after the 2006 edition.

-------------------------

870. Winter by Ali Smith, pub. 2017
Finished 12-Dec-2020



Added in the 2018 edition.

This reminded me of Iris Murdoch in the matter-of-factness of the fantastical. A mostly realistic story it centers on Art, his mother (both falling apart), her estranged sister and, since he insisted on bringing his girlfriend but she has disappeared into a fit of deserved rage, the young woman Art hired to take her place. The stranger and the estranged offer perspective, clever word play, allusions to art and literature, and maybe a hint of hope.



69ELiz_M
Editado: Jan 16, 8:37am

871. The Christmas Oratorio by Göran Tunström, pub. 1983
Finished 21-Dec-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Göran Tunström explores, in a lyrical and economical style, the themes of lost childhood and the search for identity in the dynamics of extended family."

With a Hardy-like beginning, a woman on her way to rehearse Bach's Christmas Oratorio dies in a freak accident. The novel follows the impact of a her death on three generations. Her husband Aron, unable to work the farm moves the family into town and slowly loses his grip on reality. Her son Sidler, a witness to the accident, lives life at a remove. Victor, his estranged son, closes the circle by conducting a performance of Bach‘s Christmas Oratorio, the beloved music his grandmother never got to perform.

70ELiz_M
Editado: Jan 16, 8:41am

872. Nadja by André Breton, pub. 1928
Finished 27-Dec-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Notionally a 'romance,' Nadja is really a meditation on Surrealism as a way of life, overturning the distinctions between art and world, dream and reality.... Nadja is a rich, textured surface of ideas.... From the mainstream to the avant-garde, and from literature to advertising, Nadja's influence continues to be felt."

Well. I‘m not sure what I read. This groundbreaking surrealist novel describes the narrator‘s obsession with a woman he met in Paris, the eponymous Nadja, incorporating photographs and reproductions of artwork as well as Nadja‘s drawings. On the one hand, the passages focused on Nadja seem ordinary. On the other there are paragraphs where I understood the individual words, but I couldn‘t make the sentences stick in my mind. I found it boring. I think this is a book to studied, rather than read.

71MadeleineReed
Jan 16, 8:38am

Este utilizador foi removido como sendo spam.

72ELiz_M
Jan 16, 8:48am

873. Life Is a Caravanserai by Emine Sevgi Ozdamar, pub. 1992
Finished 31-Dec-2020



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "...while the narrative is about the way in which female identity can be newly constructed in a laden political and social context, the stylistic experiments at first seem disorienting, but come to create a poetic and challenging sort of logic of their own "

The story, while not quite stream-of-conscious is told in one continuous flow – there are no chapter breaks. It is the story of a young Turkish girl, from womb to young womanhood, growing up in grinding poverty in the 1950s and 1960s until her escape as a foreign worker in Germany. Mostly told in first perspective, it mixes in stories, dreams, imagination, repetition, and raunchy details to create a fabled autobiography.

73ELiz_M
Mar 10, 4:29pm

874. Reviewed in my Category Challenge thread (click the picture to read the full review):



Time's Arrow by Martin Amis, pub. 1991
Finished 15-Jan-2021

74ELiz_M
Editado: Mar 13, 8:04am

875. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, pub. 1996
Finished 21-Feb-2021



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Wildly inventive, linguistically original, extravagantly detailed, this text is the one you would take with you to a desert island."

I do not have anything new to add to hundred of webpages, published articles, and personal reviews of this novel. It is a commitment, not just the length and subject matter, but to the method of storytelling. To me, it seemed better to just let the story happen – to not try to remember each character, to take notes, or to understand, but to just live in the altered world created.

Some intricate and/or difficult books can’t be spoiled, but in a first read of this one not knowing is helpful. It is structured with unexpected digressions and endings and the climaxes in the wrong place, so it is the unknowing that is propulsive, not necessarily the plot lines. But I must admit a good, spoiler-free guide, probably would have enhanced the experience

I’ve read a couple of DFW’s essay collections and loved his writing, so I was fairly certain I would enjoy this. And despite the frustration with some of the more esoteric writing experiments and all the negative elements (this book has all the trigger warnings), I did. I enjoyed the subtle (and not-so-subtle) connections between the various characters and plot lines, catching a reference from one milieu in another. And when I was done, I had to repress the urge to read it all over again (this time in chronological order).

75ELiz_M
Mar 10, 5:19pm

876. Reviewed in my Category Challenge thread (click the picture to read the full review):



The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard, pub. 1962
Finished 23-Feb-2021

Although there are strong echos of HG Wells and Conrad, Ballard's narrator is focused inward, and competing forces of law-and-order and a descent into anarchy are backgrounded. The descriptions of the world are amazing and more than make up for the cardboard characters populating it.

76ELiz_M
Mar 10, 5:23pm

877. Reviewed in my Category Challenge thread (click the picture to read the full review):



The Nice and the Good by Iris Murdoch, pub. 1968
Finished 26-Feb-2021

The characters are grappling with love and goodness in one way or another and, as in any proper romantic comedy, suffer minor mishaps (and weirdness. This is Murdoch, after all!) before sorting themselves out.

77ELiz_M
Mar 13, 8:12am

878. Reviewed in my Category Challenge thread (click the picture to read the full review):




She by H. Rider Haggard, pub. 1886
Finished 7-Mar-2021

I was really hoping this would be a more rollicking adventure story.

78Simone2
Mar 13, 8:35am

>74 ELiz_M: I came here as soon as I saw your comment on Litsy. What a review! You kind of stimulate me to read it too. I always thought of it as another Ulysses but now you make it sound so much more intriguing. Kudos for reading (and reviewing!) it so fast!

79arukiyomi
Mar 13, 8:54am

Re Infinite Jest, you mentioned a "spoiler-free guide" would have been useful. I can't think of anything any guide could spoil. There's hardly a plot to speak of.

Ooops... I guess that was the spoiler!

Anyway, did you enjoy the footnotes that spanned several pages in miniscule print?

80ELiz_M
Editado: Mar 13, 11:01am

>78 Simone2: It's not as dense as Ulysses, but more graphic and disturbing. So as difficult, but in a different way.

>79 arukiyomi: Oh come now, there are at least 250 pages of plot in the 1000+ page novel! And the internet guide I tried explained events in the first 100 pages by relating events that happen 700 pages later, which I wasn't thrilled about.

I did enjoy some of the footnotes -- the phone calls between Hal and Orin, less enthralled by his father's filmography.

81arukiyomi
Mar 14, 10:18am

... and we should add for accuracy that it's nowhere near as well-written as Ulysses.

82Simone2
Mar 17, 7:26am

83ELiz_M
Abr 20, 8:16am

879. Leaden Wings by Jie Zhang, pub. 1981
Finished 2-Apr-2021



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "With extensive dialog and a tantalizing lack of narrative conclusion, the short, open-ended stories glimpse fragments of a changing culture.... this novel was one of the first of its era to be translated in the West."

A book of a specific time and place, Leaden Wings is snapshot of the beginnings of a modernization movement in 1980s China. Told from multiple viewpoints, it is the story of reformers in ministry of heavy industry and in a factory pushing against the established order. The novel is cleverly set up, in a “it’s a small world” way, with various narrators realistically encountering and interacting with the others even though from different parts of society. A solidly written glimpse into a different time.

84ELiz_M
Maio 4, 7:23am

880. Reviewed in my Category Challenge thread (click the picture to read the full review):



Wise Children by Angela Carter, pub. 1991
Finished 16-Apr-2021

Wonderfully, zany characters and just enough magical realism to paper-over what would otherwise be ridiculous plot holes. A very fun read.



85ELiz_M
Maio 4, 7:25am

881. Reviewed in my Category Challenge thread (click the picture to read the full review):



Chocky by John Wyndham, pub. 1968
Finished 18-Apr-2021

This turned out to be as much a story of family dynamics and the limitations of language as it is a science-fiction story.



86ELiz_M
Editado: Maio 8, 5:26pm

882. The Unknown Soldier by Väinö Linna, pub. 1954
Finished 21-Apr-2021



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "This is 'Band of Brothers' without the varnish. Linna has written a grim and gritty account of a Finnish machine gun company caught up in a doomed attempt to fight the onslaught of Stalin's tanks and infantry.... {It} became the country's biggest-selling novel and was turned into a movie twice."

I can see why this makes a good movie; it is very much a present-tense ensemble book. While focused on a specific company, the story switches between various members, sometimes focusing on Lieutenant Koskela other times on the various men under his command, from the tony, idealistic Kariluoto to the stubborn brilliant warrior Rokka to the indifferent solider but wily black marketeer Rahikainen. It even includes a passage narrated by a soldier who was killed by a sniper on his first day at the front.

There are many moments of heroism, a few moments of debauchery, but mostly it depicts the degradation and stupidity of war. With a priarmy example being when the company sent into a hopeless battle with many soldiers killed and equipment abandoned because the commanding officer was unable to acknowledge the subordinate's better plan of action.

Apparently in the original Finnish, Linna was brilliant at differentiating the individual soldiers with dialects indicating they were from different parts of the country and different social classes; that did not come through in this 1957 translation. Also, the soldiers are living in the present tense -- there is no background, no flashbacks that would have helped provide more context, so for me they were all unknown.


87ELiz_M
Editado: Maio 26, 7:13pm

883. Under the Yoke by Ivan Vazov, pub. 1889
Finished 7-May-2021



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "...a nineteenth-century historical drama written with patriotic fervor and a fiery passion that has been compared to Longfellow and even Tolstoy.... there is plenty to delight in this novel, which revealed Bulgaria's artistic potential to the West."

Set in 1876, it follows the charismatic Boycho Ognyanov. After escaping from prison, he hides himself in a town where he is mostly unknown, depending on a family friend for help. He falls in with other young firebrands and town folk suffering under Turkish rule and they join other nearby towns in planning a rebellion. He also falls in love and creates enemies.

It is sort of a frustrating read. As the story of a failed rebellion, you know it doesn't end well, but the plot is mostly set-backs after misunderstanding after misfortune; nothing goes right for the resistance. In other words, it is also fairly engaging with sympathetic (albeit some two-dimensional) characters.

88ELiz_M
Maio 27, 8:49pm

884. The Garden Where the Brass Band Played by Simon Vestdijk, pub. 1950
Finished 16-May-2021



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "One of the giants among writers to come from the Netherlands, Vestdijk...was as prolific as he was versatile. His work had a major influence on the Dutch existentialists, and...might have ranked with that of Joyce, Kafka and Proust."

I found this to be a rather typical coming-of-age story. It is well enough written and has some unique moments, but the blurb above feels rather overblown, as if the blurber was getting some sort of kick back in sales of the book or something...

The story is told from the perspective of Nol, the younger son of a judge and an artistic mother in the upper society of a Dutch town, beginning from when he was around five years old. As a young boy, he experienced a moment that seems mundane in description, but it made an impression on him -- a moment of joy in the music of a band playing in the park that enticed him to dance with a girl a few years older than himself.

His life became entwined with the band conductor -hired as his music teacher and the the conductor's daughter, with whom Nol danced, eventually became his first true love. The difference in her family's status and the way in which her father was treated by his class and the town in general defines his transition into adulthood.

The novel has some vivid imagery and leitmotifs. I enjoyed the discussions of music throughout, but in my opinion it was a fine, but not spectacular, read.

89ELiz_M
Editado: Maio 30, 8:31am

885. By the Open Sea by August Strindberg, pub. 1890
Finished 27-May-2021



Why it is included in the 1001 list: "...this psychological novel, which charts the disintegration of a proud and intellectual man into a persecuted wreck, gives an interesting insight into Strindberg's own state of mind at the time."

A generally interesting character study -- Axel Borg, a middle-aged scientific man, is appointed as a commissioner for a fishery on a remote island and as the only person of intelligence and learning on the island suffers many tribulations. His character, an insufferable genius, reminded me a lot of Cumberbatch's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes -- the brilliant scientist able to think through several steps, knowing their precise future actions weeks ahead of regular people. But this told from inside the head of the genius, so there is a lot more pompousness.

What is odd is the novel, through Borg, has phases - a section where he is a personable narrator, interacting with others then long phases of philosophizing. And then his character shifts from one type of person to another and I am not sure the breakdown makes sense.

The best part of the novel was the descriptions, even the scientific ones, of the small islands and the sea.

Knowing Strindberg only as a fantastic playwright, I thought the inclusion of his novels on the list was basically a consolation prize, but this is better than many works on the list.

90japaul22
Maio 29, 8:50am

>89 ELiz_M: That's good to know! Despite really enjoying scandinavian authors, I've never read Strindberg because I also thought his novels might not be as good as his plays.