Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Reviews - a couple more

Time for five new book reviews!

This time, I only cover novels; mostly fiction, except for Dharma Bums, which is kind of a romanticized autobiography, if you will.

So hey, let's start with this one, just after the jump!

Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

A truly wonderful book.

I started reading it just after a breakup and almost devoured it! Few books can claim to having changed someone's perception of life, and for the best, but this one is one of them. It is the kind of book which makes you want to take as few belongings as possible in a backpack and leave your home and job to go trekking along unknown roads, meet new people, and find inner peace. 

It teaches you to be happy with life no matter what happens, for all you need to live is a bit of food, a simple shelter, just enough clothes to keep you warm and safe, a heart full of love and an open mind.

Not the best written book, in fact the story telling is by times a bit clumsy, but a very inspiring and enjoyable read nonetheless. 

The best one I read for quite some time! I can't wait to read On The Road, Kerouac's best known novel. 

The Long Walk by Stephen King, as Richard Bachman

The story of this book is pretty straightforward;

The main character and 99 other boys participate to a walk. In this walk, you cannot stop. You cannot slow down. You have to walk a steady pace 24h/24h. Everytime you stop or slow down, you get a warning.

After three warnings, you get shot in the head.

The walk doesn't end until there is only one boy standing; and the one boy left will become rich and famous for having completed the walk.

If this makes for good TV (at least in the text), imagine what a good book it is!

This story was simply incredible; One of the best of King's works.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

A classic story that revolves around egotism, morality and karma.

This is such a classic that you surely know what it's all about; A beautiful and brilliant young man gets his portrait made. This portrait is not any average painting, though; the young man will never (physically) age nor get ugly. Everytime he acts immoraly, the portrait gets uglier, but the protagonist stays beautiful. It is, in some way, a mirror for his soul.

The evolution of the character, from a dashing, innocent young gentleman to the most revolting of libertines, forces you to think; what evil deeds would you do if there was no consequences at all?

Le Président Mystifié et Autres Contes Licencieux by the Marquis de Sade

Oh my.

Monsieur de Sade. What more can we say.

Probably one of the tamest of the marquis' works, this book is a collection of short, perverted stories.

I read it in french, and you won't enjoy it as much (probably) if you don't. The reason is simple; One of the short stories, for example, is about a priest sodomizing a young boy, while the young boy himself rapes a younger girl. All this to teach the boy the principles of the holy trinity.

Did I mention the word Sadism comes from the Marquis de Sade? :p

Anyways, this is an awful subject matter. But it is written so exquisitely, with such a colorful and delicate choice of words and figures of speech, that one surely will giggle and blush instead of being offended. A true work of art.

If you want to read something written by a true french foppish libertine, this is a good way to start.

La Malvenue et Autres Récits Diaboliques by Claude Seignolle

I won't review all the tales in the book, only the major one: La Malvenue.

Seignolle has a way of portraying rural France in a way that makes you feel cold and damp no matter how warm the room you're in is. Very close to what we could call french folklore, this novel is brutal in its simplicity. To truly understand the unwholesomeness of the story, you've got to know what it is to stay a couple of cold, rainy nights in an ancient rural house, far from technology, at the mercy of your surroundings.

A twisted tale of possession and haunting, revolving around the severed head of a statue, a haunted swamp, and a very strange but seducing young lady, born in bizarre circumstances, unaware of her fate until it's too late to prevent tragedy.

I read it in the original french; I don't know how good the translations are, but I'm sure translating it affects the feel of the book. If you can, read this in french.


Ok, so that's all for today! I'm going to stuff my nose in Foucault's Pendulum for a while, now. 


  1. Foucault's Pendulum! Great, great book, although I like Name of the Rose best. Island of the Day Before is also good, but it's a beast to get through (still trudging through it, as a matter of fact).

    Also, if you like King and haven't yet, you should check out the Dark Tower series.

  2. I've actually never read (yet) Name of the Rose, unfortunately, but from what I remember from the movie, it seems like quite an interesting book! I should look into that.

    As for Island of the Day Before, would you say it is harder to get through than, say, the Brothers Karamazov? (I'm trying to decide whether or not I should wait to mature a bit before getting into it!)

    Oh, and I've started the Dark Tower series about 4 years ago, but never got past the third book... It's such a huge piece that I'll probably wait to have read the few major King novels I still haven't got through before finishing it.

    thanks for your comment!

  3. The book (Name of the Rose) is even better than the movie - I was fortunate enough to read it for an art class, and we spent alot of time discussing how the structure of the story itself was very architectural and labyrinthine, and it was just mind-blowing.

    As for Island of the Day Before...it's very dense. I'm afraid I was a pretentious little snot when I was younger, so I read Brothers Karamazov when I was twelve, and to be frank don't really remember it in great detail. (It's actually on my to-re-read list, I'm sure I'll get much more out of it now.) But I can't imagine IotDB is harder than Brothers Karamazov - it doesn't seem that way to me, anyway. It's also one of those books that has ups and downs - there are passages that it's easy to get sucked into and the reading just flies by, and then passages where it's kind of dry and harder to read if you're not in the right mindset for it. I think part of my problem is actually that art class and NotR - I keep trying to track what Eco's doing on the meta level, instead of just reading for pure pleasure and not stopping to analyze and whatnot.

  4. Aaaah! I see. With such an author, it's hard to keep ourselves from analyzing, though! he managed to make me think a lot, up to now.

    I might look at IotDB later on, but I've got a pretty massive "to read" list already :p

    Thanks for the info!