Review: All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren

All the King's MenAll the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book took me a long while, indeed a lot longer than I would have thought originally. This stemmed from the author’s style which was rather complex and long-winded. I do not mind this, but I caution anyone going for the novel that if this does not sound like your thing, this book might be especially hard going. Continue reading “Review: All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren”

Review: ‘Dangerous Women’, George R.R. Martin

Dangerous WomenDangerous Women by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have to say, rating a collection is tough as it can obviously be very variable in quality. I found this here — a few of the stories were breathtaking in their intensity and beauty while others (the majority, regrettably) not nearly as interesting. For personal reasons, I found the stories which touched on the historic aspect a bit more thrilling but in general the variety was commendable. Continue reading “Review: ‘Dangerous Women’, George R.R. Martin”

Review: ‘Anansi Boys’, Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys (American Gods)Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this a perfect enjoyable story, a good part of it humours with the rest revealing the author’s good grasp of humanity. It is not a terribly witty book, but it is funny it its simple description of life and its annoyances. Similarly, it is not terribly good in any specific part but what it does very well is storytelling. Anansi was a storyteller and so is Mr Gaiman. Continue reading “Review: ‘Anansi Boys’, Neil Gaiman”

‘A Kiss Before Dying’, I. Levin

I can remember reading ‘The Boys from Brazil’ sometime last year. I never thought much else of Ira Levin although I really enjoyed that book. Yesterday, it was time to choose another one, and for some reason my pick fell on ‘A Kiss Before Dying’. The author, again, Ira Levin.

I enjoyed his previous book I read very much—indeed, so much that I had to wonder why I had not written a word on it last year when I finished the title. I wish I knew… However, I definitely wanted to offer a few thoughts on this one.

Ira Levin’s quality, compared to other thriller writers (such as John Grisham), seems to be very good at making us think twice of who we want to come out on top in this particular engagement. Admittedly, I have only read two or three of Mr Grisham’s books, but in those I always rooted for the ‘victim’. I wanted them to escape, and them to ‘win’. With Mr Levin, this simple question is more complex.

The character of the detective in ‘The Boys from Brazil’ was so evil and repulsive and autocratic in itself I did not want him to win. The victims in ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ speak to me on a personal level, however. I wanted them to not die. It was not fair they perished while the murderer lived. Plus, some of the plot twists that came up, I could not have predicted them despite all the books I have read.

The murders in ‘The Boys from Brazil’ did not happen because of personal gain or evil motives.  The murders in ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ happened exactly because of that. Maybe that makes all the difference. I am unsure. All that I know is that it is Mr Levin who made it appear so. Maybe I should feel it for the detective who tries to impose his own black-and-white on the world, and maybe I should feel it for the impoverished man who wants money. I don’t really know.

What made me most sympathetic to the cause of the people in this book was that halfway through the second part, I realised that I did not know who the killer was. The writer had played it well. I immediately appreciated the book that much more. Much like yesterday when I mentioned the importance of characters whose name is not mentioned by the writer, the second part in this work used a similar device. It was something different from the usual and for that it truly deserved my gratitude. There are too many ‘usual’ books.

As the Introduction to the edition I read said, it “It’s not fair.” The culprit in this book might have been that for the reason that the same Introduction postulates, “He hates women.” I really can’t say. The book might make one think different. All that I know is that I have a few friends who would enjoy this book, and that I thought of a few for whom this book might be a good gift. The lines flew by, and their tone made them that much more important.

As it is, I can predict what is to happen in some of the scenes and yet I cannot believe Mr Levin goes on with it. The foreword echoes these thoughts. Or maybe it precedes them. It was written beforehand, after all, even if I did not read it. But that’s that. For now, pick up a book by Ira Levin. Read that book. Think of that book.

‘The Inn at the Edge of the World’, A. Ellis

I chose this book after my previous one because of the name. The name looked promising; I thought I had found a dramatic piece to read. Having finished it, I am less certain in that point, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the book.

For me, the title, ‘The Inn at the Edge of the World’, creates an image of an old house at the very edge of a cliff, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (and I think it would be the Atlantic even if we were to talk about an American book with the same name). I was slightly mistaken since this inn has been placed on an island in the Hebrides. That setting, however, might be slightly more suitable! It certainly does justice to the image of the edge of the world (or civilization).

There are many interesting things going on in this book, but what disturbs me most is the ending. I didn’t think it logical or character-specific (for one of the two, at least). But, in a way, I suppose I understand it. It is, however, synonymous with a book that never describes the people in it in too much detail — always glossing over the details that could matter in understanding.

I would also say that it is worthy keeping in mind the good advice that if an author has not named a character, there must be a reason for it. And in this book there are a few who are without names, so I would suggest people to keep an eye out for that.

One of the impressions I got was that the author very much wanted to write a book about Gordon herself. Is the echo of the man in this work a show of respect and understanding? In many ways, I think it is, for such a literary device is splendid when used properly (and whatever mistakes in characterising people the author may have done, the passages that refer to Gordon are wonderful). Indeed, the way that the intermixed passages pique interest in the man is actually very artfully composed — for some reason it feels that more thought has gone into these lines than into the rest of the book.

So, I would say that in case you want to think of the Hebrides or Gordon, read this book.

However, firstly a word of warning. One part of this book I found very suffocating was the very old fashioned moral and social structure that the characters seemed to be upholding in their minds. The innkeeper is a good example and so are a few of the guests. At times, I nearly found that too much, an echo of times that should have disappeared. Yet, the words and lines felt so strong and real and intended…

In many ways, perhaps, I dare add as a final comment, the book serves as a reminder that we all want to escape every now and then. We want to do something unexpected, out of the ordinary. How many of us go through with those thoughts?

‘J. Edgar’

John Edgar Hoover seems to have been a very interesting man — he more or less created the Federal Bureau of Investigation along with its criminal science methodology as well as the administrative processes. However, the man also had a different side: one of craving power and one ready to go to all lengths to keep himself in the top. For Mr Hoover, there was nothing else except the top.

Clint Eastwood’s movie, ‘J. Edgar’, wishes to bring light to this man, and I would say he succeeds quite well. Throughout the movie, we are introduced to a young J. Edgar who is building the Bureau while being kept in the loop of the story by the old J. Edgar — with the old man juggling Presidents and Attorney Generals to keep himself at his ‘meant’ position.

What I maybe appreciated most in the entire movie was the scene near the end where Clyde Tolson and J. Edgar Hoover were talking about the book that the Director recited for the majority of the film. That scene is a perfect introduction to the question of what is truth and how we find it, and it serves as a warning to anything we may learn from others: for inevitably there has been some sort of bias in the story and it can be quite difficult in trying to figure out where that bias lies.

I am also quite taken in by the way ‘loyalty’ was portrayed in this movie. Nearly any action could be taken as a betrayal by the man in charge, so how would truthfulness and honesty be known? Can we even talk of loyalty in a situation like this? It would seem to me that a man who is as J. Edgar was portrayed in the movie would have a few really good friends — and in these his trust would be unlimited. And, yet, that is not quite what we see: at different points he still mistrusts everyone around himself, and I think that to be a refreshing look.

For it is a look of fear. With nothing set in stone, everything can change at the press of one button or the mention of one word. It is not often that the main character is both as strong and as paranoid as the one we have in this movie, and I think that makes for a very positive difference when watching ‘J. Edgar’.

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