Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time by Hope Larson

I haven’t read the original A Wrinkle in Time, so hard for me to compare. Seems like a decent sci-fi story for teenagers, beautifully drawn and all.

But I won’t give it more than that, a children’s book, an old and renowned one, but still.

 

 

 


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

God gracious, I can't believe I finally finished it. Such a long book, for lazy readers like me, it's pure nightmare, these 775 pages.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad one overall, but my opinion of it went down as the pages went. Could've been and probably should've been shorter.

The beginning and the first half are absolutely stellar, and I see why so many people can see the Catcher in Rye echoed there. The joy of youth, then the tragedy and the soul searching – well, these New York and Las Vegas parts are just stunning, cunning, entertaining, can't get my eyes off that kind of thing. It's a Pulitzer Prize winner, and for a reason it is.

But after that, with Theo coming back to New York again in his twenties, and then to Amsterdam, well, these bits are much less appealing. At first the novel lacks action, and then the action is just too much that it becomes klyukva. All the pretty little cranberries, if you know what I mean.

And the very ending, the long tedious passages, the moral of the story – uff, that made me sweat even. Lame. Unnecessary. In want of something else. Brrr.

To sum it up – when I started it in February (well, I think it was February), I was totally mesmerized by it and thinking – damn, it's so good, I will have to read more of Donna's stuff, maybe all of Donna's stuff. Wanted to buy a copy for my dad. When I finished it yesterday night, May already, in a hotel room in Tel Aviv, I'm not sure I want any more. No, not sure at all.


Red Notice by Bill Browder

It's a page turner indeed. And a well written that one. I still can't believe that Browder did it without a ghostwriter – or maybe he just paid a bit more, and the ghost remained unnamed. Anyways.

This book is a play in three acts, and each act is very different from the others.

Act one, the beginnings of Bill Browder and Hermitage Capital, to my mind, is the best part of all. It is (as rotten tomatoes would put it) certified fresh, a dazzling success story in Russia's raving 90s, a tale how Browder believed in what others did not believe in, doubled down on his bets and in just a few years became the legendary fund manager and shareholder activist he was both famous and notorious for.

Act two, where all the trouble with the Russian government starts, has a feel of a Litvinenko / Tinker Tailor spy novel – only, quite unfortunately, we all know how act two ends, a bruised corpse in a solitary cell, and it ain't pretty. A true scare for the Russian middle class of bankers, lawyers and the rest. No justice.

And, finally, in act three Browder tells his tale how he took the House of Cards down – a detailed recount how he was greasing the wheels of the U.S. lawmaking machine to piss his enemies back in Moscow. His cause was undeniable, and, frankly, I do believe that his results went far ahead of his own expectations.

What this book lacks, though, is a critical view of Browder persona and explanations of certain events.

  • Why was he expelled out of Russia? For past Gazprom shareholder activism? Seems too far fetched. There was a fact that he somehow doesn't want to explain in detail.
  • Did he try to help Magnitsky get out of prison, really tried? Or did he need a postcard boy jailed to justify his cause, and then this posterboy suddenly became a martyr? The fact doesn't exonerate prison butchers who should be in prison in quite another role, but still.
  • Who are the masterminds of the crime? The villains in the book are two policemen – a strange twist for all the people who followed Browder's YouTube campaign, where these policemen as alleged to be acting on orders of a certain Mr. Klyuev. He is named as the main villain on untouchables websites, still up and running – and not even one (!) mention in the book! Huh?

Also, Mr. Browder paints a way too splendid “knight in shining armor” picture of himself – the man who puts people before business. Will that reputation hold in Moscow business circles, with men who knew Browder for years? It's hard to be shareholder activist and successful investor in Russia and not become a hard gutted cynic.

Nonetheless, and despite all that – it's a great book, which is best when read in one day, like yours truly did – I even decided that I will put my Goldfinch reading on hold for a bit, as I've been reading it slowly for over a month and a half already, and here I knew I needed a just day…

 


Sugar Skull by Charles Burns

Sugar Skull, Part 3 of Charles Burns' trilogy, is a comedown of sorts. Had to read all three parts again, by the way, as memory fails.

While both X'ed Out and The Hive were kinda hallucinogenic and mesmerizing in a typical sick and dirty way Burns is known for, Sugar Skull is much more open and sad. It has a NIN Hurt-like halo around it.

With no new nasty creatures (well, not entirely true), this time pieces of the puzzle mostly include real people, their fears and pains, poorly drawn plans and hastily made decisions.

The dream ends, and it ends, and it ends.

Still, to be fair to myself – it took Burns a while to make this book – and this trilogy is indeed a great piece of comic literature. Not sure whether it is a success commercially, but personally, I was waiting for the book to come out – as I will for next one.

Here's a quick interview with Burns from The New Yorker, where he speaks on Herge as his inspiration – and it gives tons of page scans as well. And damn, I need to make sure I read all the Tintin books one day!

 

 

 


Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki

Volume 1 of Mizuki’s fast forwarding epic about both Japan’s history and his own childhood is entertaining. For a reader lacking even basic information on Japan’s history, it shows the imperialist, aggressive and militarist Japan, guided by false high ideas and ideals. I guess I never knew they had that many attempted coups in just a few years.

What I am certain of – I think Mizuki is willing to diminish or somehow not focus too much on some of the crimes of his people in those years leading to the big war – the rape of Nanjing, for instance, deserved just a page, and that page was not graphic enough for my taste.

His childhood stories, though, are much more easy-going and fun. Oh well. Let’s see what volume 2 brings.


The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh

As much as I like all of Irvine Welsh's prolific literary work of the past two decades, it pains me to admit that this is probably his weakest novel.

No, it's still a fun read, as it has the traditional Welsh ingredients in the mix – narrated in the first person by multiple characters, who are full of cynicism, irony and spite. Welsh likes people who defecate in words – and not a single soul spared, oh no.

Plus, given my 4-hour body diet affections, all that get-the-lardass-byatch-to-lose-weight-while-punching-calories-in-the-iPhone psyche stroke a chord with me.

But all of that is not why it's his weakest. The story – the real welshian story, with all its typical shocking brutality, anger and vengeance – it just starts too late. Which, in contrast with a true no holds barred Korean action movie styled chapter one, is a pity. I guess not enough cheap thrills for me, huh.

Still, I wouldn't call it a miss – and I still will avidly consume every piece of Leith or Miami trash that Welsh may throw at me in the future, and chew on it with determination and glee. May strike you as odd, but he is probably the only writer on this sad lonely planet whose every book was devoured by yours truly. I mean, every. Some come close to that – i.e. I read tons of Miller's and Mamet's plays, or Limonov's self praising novels, or Mendoza's barcelonese stories, both serious and funny – but definitely I missed quite a few. Jonathan Littell is in the same league, with every book as well (or so I think at least), but he has written much less. Well, I guess I got too hooked on Welsh's eurotrash stories at high school. Go figure.

 


The Anarchist by David Mamet

Somehow, it's been a while since I last read a new Mamet's play. And it's always been a treat, with very few exceptions.

This time, the book caught me a bit off guard. Set up entirely as a dialogue between two women, one a prisoner, and the another, a warden of sorts, it was a bit difficult to plow through it at the beginning.

A third or so in, this Raskolnikov-like story caught up with me, and I did enjoy it. Not Oleanna, but still, quite nice. Sad no Mamet available in Moscow theaters – and I'm not sure he translates well.

 


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