My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk

I love reading about artists. I can usually identify with those kinds of characters pretty well. This story was an interesting look at the ‘miniaturists’ of 16th century Istanbul. And what held my attention most, was the way they looked at art.

In that time, ‘style’ was seen as a flaw. If anyone could tell your work from that of any other artist, that meant that you were making mistakes. All this is surrounded by a murder mystery, where trying to find out who drew a certain picture is central to the plot…

I also found the connection between art and religion interesting. The miniaturist (painter/drawer) saw himself as trying to depict the ‘essence’ of whatever he drew. For instance, if he drew a horse, he was not trying to draw any particular horse from reality, but the purest form of ‘horse’ that existed, as if the horse that God saw. After drawing a horse a million times, the artist could draw it from memory, using only his minds eye, even if blind… some of the miniaturists would even blind themselves on purpose, to keep their art from being distracted by the outside world…

An interesting and exciting and educational read.

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Mystery on the side

I’m listening to another Nabokov novel, and no surprise, it’s great. This one is about a struggling businessman who also seems a bit mentally unstable, running across a vagrant who happens to look exactly like him.

The instant he sees this face, a plan sparks in his mind. You can tell, but, you don’t know what that plan is… and that is the mystery. Not how he is going to do something (he’s going to do it by using a look-alike in some way) but what he is going to do.

Since it’s Nabokov, I automatically suspect that this guy is way less smart than he thinks he is, and also that there is a lot going on between the lines. I’ve not yet discovered much, but it is fun searching for it.

Mind Hunter

I finished this disturbing series on Netflix recently, and for anyone interested in crime or serial killers, this is a must-watch.

What stuck with me most, though was how they so expertly build up the uneasy anxiety when in the room with these killers. Even though (or perhaps, because) the interviewees speak and act for the most part like normal human beings, there is a tensity, and sense of needing to get the hell out of there is so strong in each of the interviews, that I found myself leaning forward in my seat and clenching my hands. The effect is memorable and unsettling.

I don’t know if it was a movie magic effect, or just my own perceptions, or something somehow conjured by the actor–but Edmund Kemper’s eyes are so dead and empty. And when that emptiness is juxtaposed with the jovial and friendly way that he speaks about murder and rape… the result is sickeningly effective.

The final scene of the final episode really magnifies what I’m talking about…

A great show, recommended!

The Looking Glass War, by John le Carre

The Looking Glass War , the second le Carre novel I’ve read, was much different from  The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. It was about a completely other department, in fact, called ‘the department.’ The department doesn’t usually send spies out into action, but they think, hey, why shouldn’t we do that too? And a huge mess follows.

That is pretty much the book in a nutshell: people who really shouldn’t be doing a thing, trying to do it and screwing up royally. But the way he writes it is so subtle and expert that it is just fascinating. The characters are so well drawn, that you just KNOW people like that in real life. The arrogance, the flippancy, the disregard for people with better knowledge and experience, the hubris. So many times I put my hand over my face and said ‘you idiot.’

But it is not a caricature, or overdone, or a straw-man. I went back and forth the whole book thinking ‘wait, maybe they know what they’re doing?’

This whole novel seems to be a foil for his other characters, to make them look even more competent. Well, it worked.

My only complaint is that reading about incompetence is much less intriguing than competence. But, this was a great read nonetheless!

Spies

I started The Spy Who Came in from the Cold: A George Smiley Novel (George Smiley Novels) which is my first Lecarre novel. It took me a bit to get into it, but now it is interesting. The character, Leamas, Is pretending to be a drunken failure (at least I’m pretty sure he’s pretending) and is currently working at a library as an assistant, and annoying the heck out of the librarian. I think the idea is for him to become an exile, and be looked down on by all his fellow agents enough that he is approached by the other side to try and turn him… I think. Anyway, its fun, and something you have to think about a bit which is always good. Hope it continues that way!

The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley did not end the way I expected, though, if I’d noticed that it was part of a series maybe I would have guessed.

I really enjoyed this book. The protagonist, Tom, is a disgusting creature, but consistently interesting. He, like any good villain, does not realize what he’s doing is wrong, he has perfect justifications for it and only the mildest bit of guilt.

I also liked his constant paranoia about being caught. He’s sure he’s messed up somehow, or forgotten something, or that people will see through his lies. That part makes him likeable enough to keep reading through the terrible things he does. His relief and surprise at constantly not being found out is identifiable, as well as the bit of arrogance and self satisfaction that comes along with it.

The end, though, as far as story structure goes, seems a bit of an anticlimax. He does so much stuff that all builds up to… him not being caught. I was expecting him to come crashing down and get captured, or at least be found out and have to flee. But everything goes exactly as he planned in the end and he escapes with the treasure, so to speak, and no harm to him at all.

I’m somewhat curious about the other books in the series, just to see if there is some kind of arc other than him becoming a soulless killer with no consequences.

Enjoyable book, though!

Repulsive beings

I’m still reading The Talented Mr. Ripley and the character, Tom, has now murdered someone and is in the process of taking over their life.

The descriptions of him trying on the persons clothes, shoes, jewelry, is somehow disgusting. I don’t know what it is in the writing that gave me this uneasy feeling of disgust toward Tom, he seemed a repulsive, slimy thing slipping into a nice persons skin. In the same scene, not only is he trying on the clothes, but he is ‘trying on’ the dead man’s personality, so to speak, practicing impersonating him. Finding that he likes this person more than himself. Something about the whole thing just gave me an unclean, gross feeling even though the author didn’t use any overtly gross words. It was a very memorable and impressive scene. I may have to read it over again to try to pinpoint what exactly it was that gave me that feeling.