Wednesday, September 16, 2009


By Neil Gaiman

What a good story. My happy return to scary stories was satisfactory. In spite of the atmosphere being very Gaiman, which is to say weird and gloomy, the plot is very simple and ingenious. When I grow up I want to write a story like this.

I most admit that at one point of the story I wanted to stop reading, because it seemed very weird. In fact, I thought that it was another crazy, senseless story, but I continued and I had a pleasant surprise.

Michael told me that Gaiman has said, in interviews, that more adults than children think that the story is scary. I think that this is interesting and true. I have to admit that the story seems overly dark for children, but had I read this story when I was a child it probably wouldn't have scared me at all. That shows that we tend to be scared when we grow up.

A day after finishing
the book, I saw the movie, but no, no, no. It's OK if you haven't read the book. But if you have read it, you wouldn't like that they added a new character. There really was no need to do that.

This is the second book I've read where cats are given large roles in the story. I like how cats can be given a big role to play, and, of course, an unrealistic one, while still remaining the cats we know and love and who drive us crazy.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Catching up

I have a stack of unreviewed books. Unfortunately, I read most of them long enough ago that I can now only barely remember when I finished them, much less what they were really about or more than vague impressions. So these reviews will be out of order and even shorter than usual.

If I'm going to review books at all, I should do so as soon after finishing them as possible. The next book will be one recently finished, since it's still reasonably fresh in my mind, but then it's back to things I finished reading ages ago.


Anathem Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Long and, especially in the first half to two thirds, absolutely absorbing.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Iliad and lucha libre

Yesterday, celebrating my father in law's birthday, we were at a restaurant with loud televisions, showing lucha libre, the Spanish term for pro wrestling. The food was excellent, so good that it almost made up for the two televisions blaring offensively stupid content, the acrobatics of the wrestlers notwithstanding.

There's no excuse for the fact that the restaurant was so noisy, except that everywhere else is—not much of an excuse. The TVs should have been muted.

As usual, I had a book with me. Yesterday, it was the Iliad. Impishly, I thought maybe it'd be amusing to attend an afternoon of lucha libre and to pull some stunt to get myself on television, but instead of flashing some leg or bringing foghorns like everyone else does, I'd show up at the arena, pull out my copy of the Iliad, and read.

Not long after having this thought, it occurred to me that nearly every character in the Iliad, a seminal work in Western literature, would be enchanted by the spectacle of lucha libre.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ulysses in comic form

Ulysses to be serialized in comic form. What's not to like?

Well, surely it'd be more fun with a proper background.

So, all I need to do is to read Ulysses, and I have over two weeks to do it. That probably wouldn't be too difficult [1] if Ulysses weren't based on The Odyssey, which I also have not yet read, and which picks up where The Iliad—also unread—leaves off. All three are on bookshelves in our home already, but what are the chances that I'll finish them all before Ulysses' comic adaptation gets going?

Not very likely, I'm afraid. I don't think I'll be ready to read the comic serialization of Ulysses in two weeks. But it'd be nice if I could.

[1] Ok, it probably would be kind of difficult to read in just a few weeks.

Friday, November 14, 2008

another meme

I'd avoided these memes for ages, and now I get sucked into two of them in less than 24 hours. Oops.

This one comes from my friend Mark's blog, which I just discovered.

Anyway, here goes:

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed. Well let's see.
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own LJ blog so we can try and track down these people who've only read 6 and force books upon them.

I can't figure out how to underline with Blogger's editor, so the books I've loved will be asterisked instead. Also, since some entries in this list are comprised of many works put into one I'm counting some (Shakespeare and Holmes) as both unread yet loved.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien *
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling *
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (I read it in school, but I can't remember anything about it.)
6. The Bible (I've read bits and pieces of it.)
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. 1984 - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare * (I've read bits and pieces.)
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien *
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (I actually started it recently, but have been having a hard time getting into it.)
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (I think I read this in school, but I can't remember now.)
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (also in Chronicles of Narnia, #33)
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (I read the Spanish translation, which has the title El código Da Vinci. I doubt I'd ever have read it in English, but at the time it appropriately matched my Spanish ability.)
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez * (I read it in Spanish, where it's called Cien años de soledad.)
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy * (I think I read it and I'm sure we saw a film adaptation in English class in high school. I intend to read or re-read it in the future, in any case.)
48. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert * (Just stay away from the prequels.)
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel García Márquez (I'll read this in Spanish when I get around to it)
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (We have this in French—and I think in English and Spanish too. I'd like to read it in French, but if I do it'll be very slow going.)
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie *
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker *
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte's Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle * (I've read half of the Barnes and Noble two volume edition of the complete works. Holmes is awesome.)
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (I read the French original but didn't understand all of it. Hey, it was my first, and so far only, book in French.)
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare (also in Complete Works, #14. I know I've seen it, but I can't remember if I've read it. I intend to read it in the future, in any case.)
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl *
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Thursday, November 13, 2008

closest book meme

  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open it to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  • Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.
The following comes the book that, I think, was closest to me at the time, although it was hard to tell for sure since there tend to be books strewn around my apartment:

"Taking Burgundy and Provence peaceably by marriage, he proceeded to make Italy the fulcrum of his new empire."

The quote comes from
A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People by Steven Ozment.

Ya te toca, Alma.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Midnight's Children

Midnight's Children
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. Penguin.

I doubt there's much I could say about this book that hasn't said before, so I won't even try.

Pisa y corre

Pisa y corre: Beisbol por escrito. By Vicente Leñero and Gerardo de la Torre (eds). Alfaguara. ISBN:968-19-1304-3.

A collection of short stories by Latin American writers about baseball. The book is organized by innings (the table of contents actually says "innings" and not "entradas"), and as you might expect, the score's tied at the end of the ninth, so there are three extra ones.

One of the editors, de la Torre, is the father of a good friend of Alma's. Small world.

Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Vinage.

As much as I've appreciated Murakami in the past (certainly finding out about an author hitherto unknown to me, liking his work, and discovering that he's prolific is a great thing to happen), this book seemed to me in many ways to be a pastiche of his own earlier works, and as a result not very satisfying. Which is to say: a person who would or does enjoy reading Murakami but hasn't read much so far, should by no means turn down Kafka on the Shore. However, if you've already read a fair amount of his works and are, like me, a bit Murakamied out, you might be disappointed. I expect to continue reading his stuff, but I'm now in much less of a rush to do so.

God's Secretaries

God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible
God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson. Harper Perennial.

A series of short biographies of the Translators who worked on the King James Bible.

While these biographic sketches were interesting in their own right, the book did feel somewhat incomplete: it discussed just the Translators and their close acquaintances, but very little about the process of translating and compiling the Bible itself, which is unfortunate.

Unfortunate for me, anyway; perhaps Nicolson decided, not unreasonably if so, that there are already enough works available that discuss the Bible qua literature and that writing another such work would be redundant. In which case, God's Secretaries serves its intended purpose swimmingly, and I'm merely not quite its intended audience.

Histora de una gaviota y del gato que le enseñó a volar

Historia de una gaviota y del gato que le enseñó a volar
Historia de una gaviota y del gato que le enseñó a volar by Luis Sepúlveda. Tusquets.

So short, but so very sweet. In more than one sense. This was the book that finally sold me on Sepúlveda.

God's Crucible

God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215
God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 by David Levering Lewis. Norton.

A history of Western Europe, particularly the areas of it that today comprise Portugal, Spain, and France, and how conflicts between Muslims and Christians shaped it.

Letter to a Christian Nation

Letter to a Christian Nation Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. Knopf.

My comments about The End of Faith apply equally here.

First Stop in the New World

First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, the Capital of the 21st Century First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, the Capital of the 21st Century by David Lida. Riverhead Books.

A collection of portraits of various people and places in Mexico City. Although Lida loves this place—and, in spite of everything, there is indeed quite a lot to love about it—First Stop's strongest effect on me was to make me want to leave, pronto.

On the other hand, it also made me aware of, in spite of having lived here for over four years, how little I really know about this place. I guess after I got settled in and learned my way around a bit, I became set in my routines, or at least out of the habit of regularly exploring and getting lost.

And, although I was by no means ever a regular cantina-goer, I haven't been into one in ages, and sometimes I wonder if maybe I should.

This copy was probably one of the first not initially possessed by its author in Mexico. (I acquired and read it in July.) A friend who was visiting Mexico City from California brought it for me. Thanks, Arturo.

The End of Faith

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris. Norton.

Sam Harris' take on religion. Reasonable enough, I guess, except he goes off track with new agey crap and other mostly irrelevant bits and pieces.

El hacedor

El Hacedor El Hacedor by Jorge Luis Borges. Emecé.

Half short stories, half poems, including "Poema de los dones" with the famous lines:

...Dios, que con su magnifica ironía
me dio a la vez los libros y la noche.

written around the time of his appointment to the Biblioteca Nacional de Buenos Aires and his final lapse into blindness.

El español en América

El Español En América by Jose G. Moreno Alba. FCE.

A slightly dry yet nonetheless interesting look at the varieties of Spanish as spoken in the Americas, its origins, and its influences.