Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Zahir - #16

I am just going to come out and say it.

Paulo Coelho is a knob.

I dislike this man, his opinions and his writing. I have read The Alchemist and The Fifth Mountain in the past and have felt that they were completely over rated. Then a friend links all these "insightful" quotes from him all the time on Facebook. And then there is this article from earlier this month. But all of these were forgivable. Until I read this book. This book lead me to one conclusion.

Paulo Coelho is a complete wanker.

This book, The Zahir, is about an amazing author who is famous, incredibly successful with the ladies, intelligent, accomplished, and did I mention a brilliant writer? Maybe I need to tell you again how good a writer the author is. He is married, but has many girlfriends as he is incredibly attractive, and his wife who is a journalist goes missing. He mopes for a bit, while being a brilliant, amazing writer, but then gets an actress girlfriend. He then gets approached by a man who knows where his wife is, and he has to rediscover himself, by writing another ground-breaking book and some other stuff, before he can go find her. But the actress stays with him until he leaves, because he's great.

In case you forget how wonderful he is, he points out randomly how many languages (nearly all the languages in the world) he has been translated into. The books themselves, while wonderful, are not him or his ideas. 'Everything that's written in my books is part of my soul...' (p101). Yeah right. Get your hand off it.

Also he mentions the Zimbardo prison experiment at one stage, because he can. Why? No idea. It wasn't important or necessary. It was in fact completely out of place, not to mention wrong, and seemed to be mentioned to show off how intelligent he was.

My "favourite" part, was after he came home from spending all night out wandering Paris with the "Tribe" and then come home and didn't want to turn on the tv because they had "run out of things to talk about" so were covering a story of a rebellion in Haiti. So he goes on this whole rant about how is a rebellion important to him as a rich, incredibly successful author in Paris! Who cares! I just wanted to slap him the narrow minded prick! Urgh.

As well as all of this he seems incredibly unhinged as well. He screams at his girlfriend after being out all night with the Tribe, mentioned above, and she doesn't ask him where he was. So therefore as she is not jealous (not interested, jealous) he screams at her for not loving him any more. Besides the fact he has been moaning on about his wife who he loves who has left him for the whole book. I was beyond loving him at p5, no wonder the girlfriend seemed to have had enough by p200. But she hadn't really. She really thought he was great. You know why? Because this unnamed author is fucking fantastic, just ask him.

Why did I finish it? Because I wanted to find out what happened to his wife and girlfriend as I liked them (not worth it, it ended all about him), it was only 270pp, and it was orange (for a rainbow challenge). It gets 1.5 stars as it was well written for self-congratulatory masturbation. Actually, no. After writing this, 1.


Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Unbearable Likeness of Being - #15

Now I am over my panicked state of last night. Who knew reading for time was so stressful! But fun as well. Ooo we may have created a monster.

So this book was another one for the Olympic themed challenge. And I really enjoyed it. To begin with it seemed like a brag fest about philosophers the author had read. Then a list of sexual conquests. But as the story went on it be much more engrossing than I expected. And not because I was interested in the characters as such, but I was interested in the place and the society.

Part of me does wonder as well if the parts of the book I didn't enjoy was possibly my own lack of understanding of what was being discussed.

Again this book, like Between Shades of Gray, highlighted aspects of the ex-communist states that I had never thought about before. The idea of students having to got to work camps on their university holidays to work in steelworks or some such place. The thought of constantly playing happy music throughout the entire work camp during waking hours, and there not being a place you could go to escape it. To present a facade on how wonderful and perfect the system was... it's brainwashing at it's best! And I sympathised with Sabina who told this story, like I never thought I could with someone who was telling you they hated music. How could you hate music I always thought. How naive I was.

The complacency of the West was highlighted to me in the stories of Switzerland. Especially as I had been musing on them below earlier in the day. The story of Tereza taking her photos to a newspaper in Switzerland of the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia and them not being interested in them anymore as it was old news. Her exclamations that it was still occurring falling on deaf ears as the editors looked at photos of a nudist beach. Her being called a prude as she wasn't interested in the pictures as she has a sense of perspective. And then it being suggested that maybe she should be a fashion photographer... urge... to ... strangle... rising...

Otherwise, besides the usual "I DON'T SPEAK GERMAN DAMMIT!" issues (which to be fair finally did get translated into English around page 220. Would have been useful 200 pages earlier), and the fact that this damn book spoilt the end of Anna Karenina for me (ARGH), it was a really absorbing, incredibly well written read. 4 surprising stars.

Now back to Anna.

Between Shades of Gray - #14

I am actually still reading Anna Karenina. But some of the lovely people who are doing the Around the World Challenge invited me to do their own 24 hour challenge for the weekend. It is all Olympic in theme, and therefore I am reading European books for Team Europe today. Also means no time for relevant pictures for my post.

I picked this up at the start which was midnight my time last night. I ripped through 8 chapters before bed. This quick amount of reading annoyed me. I hate the fact that people who are writing from young adults or children feel like that is an excuse to write badly. Or that if they write badly, then they change their audience to young adults and children. I think that is patronising. And not to mention I feel this must just turn off kids from reading. Thank you J.K. Rowling for cementing this trend (although she obviously didn't turn kids off reading but is a terrible writer).

And that's what I felt with the first 60pp of this book. However picking it up again this morning has made me change my mind somewhat. I couldn't for the life of me work out how we were going to see a happy ending to the book, or even an ending. I was pleasantly surprised that it was accomplished.

The story is of Lina, her brother and her mother who are Lithuanians who are taken from their homeland by the secret Soviet police/military and then are forced in to work camps and hard labour in Russia and Siberia. This occurs during WWII and you have this interesting insight again (like in Purge) of the people dealing with Stalin and hoping that Hitler will save them, only to realise that Hitler is just a monster from the West, as opposed to one from the East.

I feel so sorry for the people of Eastern Europe. They seem to have been forgotten by us in the West after we dealt with Hitler and the Japanese. As long as people were not attacking us and people like us (US, UK, Aus, France, Germany, Austria etc), we were kind of happy to leave them be behind their Iron Curtain. Where is seems that those people who fell on the wrong side of the curtain endured the horrible crimes that existed in the War for 40 years longer. That to me seems inexcusable...

But back to the book. It picked up pace, the flashbacks began to fit, and the writing  began to flow. Despite the few typos (what is with editors these days?) it was an enjoyable YA read. A great introduction to the horrors of the Soviet regime. Well great and enjoyable as it can be in the circumstances. 2.5 stars.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Not Dead ... Yet

Just in case anyone was wondering. Not dead, stuck in Russia. Which some may argue is the same thing...

To tie you over until Anna and I finish with one another, have a picture of a girl and a camel.