Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bookworm's (belated) progress report #4, 2008

Last year was not such a good year for this bookworm. I only crossed off 16 books from my reading list, which is a respectable number, but not as impressive when compared to 2007's output of 20 (26 if I count Books 1 to 6 of the Harry Potter series, which I reread prior to reading Book 7). Moreover, the books I read in 2007 were much more... substantial. In 2008, I indulged in lighter fare like Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, and The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie. I also started and stalled on John Updike's Rabbit, Run... twice. The book's just so thick that it's impractical to bring it with me on trips, so I kept bypassing it for slimmer volumes. I hate it when I can't make any headway on a book, but this is even more frustrating because I already have the entire Rabbit series, so that's 4 books I have on indefinite standby that I actually want to finish.

Hopefully the pace of my leisure reading picks up in 2009.
I also want to improve on the quality of my reading selections, so I should forego trivial novels (although I might make some time for Brisingr and *gag* Twilight) and prioritize "important" titles I've been meaning to read for a while now.

In the meantime, here are my reviews of the last 3 books I managed to finish in 2008:

American Psycho

Not since Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted has a book elicited an almost physical reaction of disgust from me. Bret Easton Ellis' critically acclaimed masterpiece features a protagonist so seriously disturbed, there's a sense of surrealism one gets reading about the casual, almost careless way he goes about sadistically mutilating and murdering people. Scarier still is the dissonant double life Patrick Bateman leads: spoiled rich kid by day, sick violent psycho by night. Bateman is obsessed with designer labels, personal grooming, working out at the gym, making reservations at New York's finest restaurants, scoring drugs at the hippest clubs, screwing the hottest "hardbodies", and getting the precise shade of white for his business card. The ludicrous superficiality of his lifestyle provides a stark contrast to the inhumanity of the grisly acts he commits. Set in the 80s, American Psycho is chock full of familiar pop culture references and brand names, but it is unsettling precisely because everything is so familiar, and to an extent, relatable-- if not having intimate knowledge of the decadence and depravity of Bateman's life, then at the very least harboring the unspoken desire for such. The American Dream masks the American Psycho within all of us.

I was expecting more from Bret Easton Ellis' writing, since he's such a celebrated author, but I wasn't blown away. I'm guessing I'll need to read another of his novels to get a more accurate assessment of whether or not his style works for me. With this book, his most popular, I was too engrossed (and grossed out) by the content to focus on the form. All things considered though, it was a stimulating read, in more ways than one.

Gods Behaving Badly


I bought this book by Marie Phillips because I'm a sucker for anything that has to do with Greek mythology, and I found the author's premise amusing: the mighty gods of Olympus, their powers severely depleted after centuries of overuse and abuse (and lack of mortal believers), have been relegated to living in a rundown flat in London, working ordinary jobs and getting on one another's nerves just like any ordinary dysfunctional family. Then they hire a human house-cleaner, and things get even crazier. Beyond the cute concept, I wasn't really impressed by Phillips'
amateurish writing, and the plot complications were a bit lame, like something out of a corny British sitcom. But the witty references to mythology and smart use of the gods' personalities kept it entertaining enough to satisfy the Grecophile in me.

The Complete Persepolis

Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel is truly a gem, and my favorite read of 2008. Persepolis offers a very personal, poignant perspective of growing up in Iran during the 70s and 80s, a turbulent time for the now much-maligned nation. Satrapi shows us a different Iran, an Iran where loving families and good men and women live, an Iran with educated individuals and independent thinkers, an Iran that is home to people who are not very different from you and I. That Satrapi is female lends her story added pathos, particularly in the way she depicts her resentment over having to wear the oppressive veil, and her coming to terms with her self-identity and sexuality in spite of cultural taboos.

Aside from her straightforward and unsentimental writing style, Satrapi's black-and-white art also pleases. Both her words and drawings are at times funny, at times melancholic, and always engaging. I look forward to watching the film adaptation to see if it captures the charm and candor of Satrapi's comics. I highly recommend reading Persepolis to gain a fresh outlook on Iran's modern history and culture, as well as the beliefs and ideologies of its people. And Marjane Satrapi really has had an extraordinary life to write-- and draw-- about.

2 Comments:

At Monday, February 02, 2009, Anonymous sheree c. said...

hi Ms. Lim!
I've come across this interesting new (or perhaps not-so-new) book entitled "Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrisanthemum Palace" (or something similar to that) it's really something quite different because you get a glimpse of the Japanese culture, and the not-so-ideal life that Princess Masako has to endure.
Anyway, you might want to check that out :)

 
At Sunday, February 08, 2009, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Thanks for the book recommendation Sheree! :)

 

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