Saturday, June 4, 2011

Read a Book

  • Look at the Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut - This is the third posthumous collection of unpublished stories from the great writer (the other two being Armegeddon in Retrospect and While Mortals Sleep) and its content conforms to many of the themes he elaborated in his published stories as collected in Welcome ot the Monkey House: the dehumanizing effects of modern life, the underappreciated educator, the insanity of the Cold War. The wry humor, the O. Henry twist, and the spare prose of his best writing is there in some of these pieces, but it's still in development. This book is for the Vonnegut fan, or the student of writing more than for the fledgling in Vonnegut. But for me, weak Vonnegut is better than none at all.
  • It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini - Sophomore Craig Gilner is attending New York's prestigious Executive Pre-Professional High School, the first step to a good college, a good job and a good life; but he can't sleep, he can't eat, he can't keep up in school. Finally, after suicidal thoughts get the better of him, he checks himself into the mental hospital a few blocks away from his house. What follows is the humorous but realistic story of how he starts to get better.
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  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe - Okonkwo is a leader in his Ibo village in Nigeria. He has learned from the example of lazy, perennially-indebted father, and his hard work has given him a large barn full of yams, three good wives and numerous children. A tragic accident leads to his banishment from the village for seven years, and upon his return, not only is his position much lower, but his village has been changed--white man has come, built a church and started to establish white government. Their tribal religion, and tribal justuce are under threat. Okonkwo convinces a few of the elders and other villagers to take a stand, with tragic results. A powerful fable on the theme of man vs society, and an interesting read.
  • Invisible by Paul Auster - Paul Auster has published two dozen books, including a collection of poetry, and I had never heard of him before picking up this book. Weird, yes, but fascinating, and a solid reading experience. The summer of 1967 found Columbia junior Adam Walker preparing for a Year Abroad program, earning spending money as a clerk in the University library and splitting a flat in Morningside Heights with his older sister. He meets a French couple at a party, and soon a random moment of violence alters the trajectory of his life. The story has three narrators, covers forty years, and stretches from Los Angeles to Paris's Left Bank to a Caribbean island. I'll be on the look-out for more with his name on it.

1 comment:

Tanner Brown said...

Awesome summaries; makes me want to read them all.