Satantango, by László Krasznahorkai

This one was alternatingly intense, uneasy, claustrophobic and funny.

The story takes place in a small Hungarian town where the collective farm has collapsed and the people have no way to make money. They are all looking for a way out, and have placed their faith in a mysterious and charismatic character who may or may not be scamming them. There is also constant rain that has washed out the roads leaving them all trapped.

I loved the way this was written. The long, cramped pages full of texts and long sentences added to the feeling of inevitability and claustrophobia the characters were feeling. There is another layer added at the end, which also makes sense with the style of writing.

 

Advertisements

Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco

This one was a bit of a trial. It took me several months to read because it got so bogged down in historical details that I don’t care about.

In this story, a group of editors decide to create their own conspiracy theory about the Templars in order to sell books. They go about it methodically, with lots of research, making connections between topics and events throughout history, all to support their idea. The problem is the author spends way too much effort detailing all these  historical events and facts and connections. Far beyond what it would take to convince the average reader that ‘yes, these editors are coming up with a believable theory.’

There is so much in the middle section of the book that I started skimming until I found anything actually happening to the characters, or any character thoughts. I ended up skimming probably 30-40% of this 600+ page book, that’s just how much historical babble there is.

That being said, the character stuff is really good and engaging and thoughtful and beautifully written, and the last 20% or so of the book pulled this back up from a two star, to a three star for me.

Highly recommended to historical nerds, or people interested in the Templars, or other secret societies of the occult. But otherwise, it might really tire you out.

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

Love, death, ghosts, and history. What a sad, funny, interesting and heart-squeezing novel.

From Wikipedia:

Many years ago, during a visit to Washington DC, my wife’s cousin pointed out to us a crypt on a hill and mentioned that, in 1862, while Abraham Lincoln was president, his beloved son, Willie, died, and was temporarily interred in that crypt, and that the grief-stricken Lincoln had, according to the newspapers of the day, entered the crypt “on several occasions” to hold the boy’s body. An image spontaneously leapt into my mind – a melding of the Lincoln Memorial and the Pietà. I carried that image around for the next 20-odd years, too scared to try something that seemed so profound, and then finally, in 2012, noticing that I wasn’t getting any younger, not wanting to be the guy whose own gravestone would read “Afraid to Embark on Scary Artistic Project He Desperately Longed to Attempt”, decided to take a run at it, in exploratory fashion, no commitments. My novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is the result of that attempt […].[10]

What must that feel like… to not only finally complete a project you’ve been thinking about for decades, but to also have it be so acclaimed?

I hope he feels proud, because it is great. I never would have though a book written in such a strange way could evoke such strong feelings, but it does. After a few pages of it, you don’t notice the strangeness as much. Or, you do, but it is no longer a hindrance. It blends into the feeling of it. The idea of dozens or hundreds of viewpoints coalescing into a single story of a single night.

I think anyone with an open mind could enjoy this book. The only people I’ve seen saying bad things about it are just complaining about the way it’s written, not what’s written.

The only minor complaint I had was how short it was. The 360 or so pages it claims would actually be probably half that, if each page were covered with words instead of having them spread out as it is formatted.

Read if you want something fresh and interesting and heartfelt!

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!

Happy Death Day

In the style of Groundhog Day, or more recently Edge of Tomorrow, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is a college student living the same day over and over. Except she keeps getting murdered.

I never know what to expect from movies anymore, but I usually default toward expecting them to be dumb. This one was less dumb than I expected, and actually turned out to be a lot of fun.

Different than most slasher, horror flicks, we get a lot more death in this one because the main character can die over and over in all kinds of ways. It’s not very gore heavy, which is great by my standards, but it still manages to be very tense.  The fact that you know she’s going to just wake up each time she dies makes it even more impressive that they kept any tension at all.

I laughed a couple times, smiled more than a few, and cringed and gasped once or twice too. But most of all, my attention was held the entire time.

Only a few things irritated me, one being when she finds out that Carter–the guy who’s dorm room she is waking up in over and over–and she didn’t have sex (which she’d assumed she must have) but that he just put her in his bed because she was pass out drunk. There is a little smile and ‘dawwww moment between them. But all I can think is ‘she’s feeling warm and fuzzy that he DIDN’T RAPE her?’ But I guess expecting not to be raped on a college campus might be a lot to ask these days…

Another thing that annoyed me is, sorry to spoil but, there is never a reason why she is living the day over and over. The opening leads me to believe it has something to do with her mom’s death, but that never comes into play.

In Groundhog Day we find out he had to be a good person, in Edge of Tomorrow it was alien blood/slime, but in this one it’s a big ???

That, however annyoing it might sound, is actually not a big deal though, because the movie is so fun, and Jessica Rothe is so good. I expect she’ll be in a lot more movies soon, she was very charming and convincingly scared or terribly mean as was required of her.

Good stuff!