‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Posts Tagged ‘reviews

The Day of the Locust

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“Scattered among these masquerades were people of a different type. Their clothing was somber and badly cut, bought from mail-order houses. While the others moved rapidly, darting into stores and cocktail bars, they loitered on the corners or stood with their backs to the show windows and stared at everyone who passed. When their stare was returned, their eyes filled with hatred. At this time Tod knew very little about them except that they had come to California to die.” – The Day of the Locust – Nathanael West –

n1800251 The story centers around a group of misfit individuals who work on the outside of the Hollywood Film Industry. The real sadness is that these individuals seem to be unaware, if not unaware, then at least willfully blind of their condition.  The artist, the fading vaudevillian, the starlet, the everyman, the gangster, the cowboy, the child star/prima donna, and the doting mother.

Set in the late 1930’s, just before WWII. What this book presents is the exact opposite of what Hollywood is touted to be for so much of the time. B-Movie stars stuck in a land that only privileges the A.

Despite these sad figures that dominate the landscape of the novel, there is something beautiful, beautiful and vulgar about the way that these characters insist on living their life, in fighting for their dream. I am not sure if that is a hopeful image or a tragic one.

It’s a quick read and well worth your time. There was a definite Hemingway The Sun Also Rises feel to this novel. Some of that same bleak sit around and wander, not really sure where to go. The pacing of the novel was a bit slow but I found it allowed for a more in depth exploration of the characters. The ending of the novel is quite disturbing and presents an image that will not go away anytime soon. Check it out at the library or bookstore. Worth it and as I said, a fairly quick read. I finished this in one day. Penguin: 183 pp.

HMV Idiocy

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It’s really great when you’re checking out at HMV with an album you’ve just picked up and the clerk says to you: “Oh man, this was a real disappointment.”

What the fuck man? Way to ruin my vibe and the excitement of the album. Stupid douche bags. I’ll be calling and speaking with the manager tomorrow morning. It’s one thing if I ask or solicit an opinion, it’s another to have my music vibe ruined for me. Douchery.

Written by thebeliever07

March 27, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Posted in media, music, personal, random

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Top 5 of 2008

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Unlike most Top “Whatever” Lists, these Top 5 Books are books that I’ve read in 2008 and not all were published in 2008.

1. Paul Auster – Man in the Dark

2. Iain Banks – The Wasp Factory

3. Philip Roth – The Ghost Writer

4. Haruki Murakami – Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

5. Jack Keruac & William S. Burroughs – And the Hippos Were Boiled In their Tanks

If you’re interested in some of these fine books, I suggest you make use of the tag-cloud located to the right of this posting, and hit “Book Reviews”. I’d post more but I’m constantly writing book reviews for this blog so just keep on tuning in each week and you’ll always find something of interest that I’ve recently finished or stumbled upon. This year has been satisfying with regards to my pleasure reading. As usual I wish had the time to have read more but alas I am a full time student, worker, and friend. I have noticed that as a result of this life of mine having become busier, I have leaned more towards books of a smaller scale, the majority of the novels being fewer than 300 pages. Well, hopefully 2666 will prove that I still have what it takes to give myself to a book that is all consuming and powerful, cheers.

Written by thebeliever07

December 23, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Posted in book reviews

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Digg this my man…Poetry you can digg my man.

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Here is a list of poetry collections and poets that I am currently enjoying. I urge you to check them out, and if you feel like you have a few minutes, feel free to share some poets you think I might enjoy, I’m always open to new suggestions.

Philip Larkin – Collected Poems

Adam Sol – Jeremiah, OHIO

Lawrence Ferlinghetti – A Coney Island of the Mind

Robert Pinsky – Gulf Music

Rainer Marie Rilke – Sonnets to Orpheus

And because I’m in a good mood, I’ll share some poetry with you, enjoy.

Obedient daily dress,
You cannot always keep
That unfakable young surface.
You must learn your lines - 
Anger, amusement, sleep;
Those few forbidding signs.

Of the continuous coarse
Sand-laden wind, time;
You must thicken, work loose
Into an old bag
Carrying a soiled name.
Parch then; be roughened; sag;

And pardon me, that I
Could find, when you were new,
No brash festivity
To wear you at, such as
Clothes are entitled to
Till the fashion changes.
- Philip Larkin -

Written by thebeliever07

November 2, 2008 at 9:17 am

Posted in poetry, reviews

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William Faulkner:

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I’ve been reading quite a bit of William Faulkner this summer. At first I found his prose a bit difficult, but if you’re persistent then you’ll find yourself pleasantly rewarded. Here is an author that delights in the vernacular of disenfranchised peoples: natives, Negroes, women, and the disabled. For those interested, I’d suggest starting with The Portable Faulkner.

Just picked up the Snopes Trilogy which comprises: The Hamlet, The Town, & The Mansion at one of my favorite used bookstores, Bridgeburg Books located in Fort Erie, owned and operated by Annie. If you have a day to just relax and pick up some books, I’d suggest making a day trip to the Fort Erie, well worth your time.

And just for your amusement, my devoted blog readers: Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s home. Take a virtual tour and see the home that housed one of America’s greatest literary giants.

Written by thebeliever07

August 11, 2008 at 7:19 pm

Walking Away:

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I’ve only walked away from a book in disgust once in my life. Stephen R. Donaldson’s fantasy novel, “Lord Foul’s Bane” the first in a trilogy entitled, “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: The Unbeliever”. This was an odd reaction as I am very much desensitized to most types of violence and horror/gore. Yet, Donaldson’s novel puts the reader in a harsh position. The protagonist of the novel is a modern day leper, spurned and hated by society. When a series of fantastical events occur, Thomas Covenant finds himself in a world where his body has been restored. Pretty standard fantasy so far, a little odd with establishing a character who is a leper. In chapter four a rape takes place, the rape of a very young girl and I had to physically put down the book and walk away from it, not as a result of his writing or descriptions, but simply my disgust at the character. I did return to the novel at some point a few weeks after and finished this series. A side note, this scene has great significance and Donaldson does not treat the subject lightly, due punishment and restitution is handed out further on in the series.

I recently picked up Iain Banks’s novel, “The Wasp Factory”, and I’ve had a similar reaction. The main character is a teenage boy who at the age of seventeen, has already murdered three family members. This is a young man who as a form of entertainment kills small animals with dynamite. There is a particular scene in which Banks’s character, Frank sets fire to an entire field along with the many rabbit inhabitants using a make shift flame thrower.

“The first dazed rabbits came out; two of them bleeding at the nose, looking otherwise unharmed but staggering almost falling. I squeezed the plastic bottle and sent a jet of petrol out of it, over the wick of the lighter, held a few centimeters out from the nozzle by an aluminum tent-peg. The petrol burst into flame as it flew over the wick in the tiny steel cup, roared through the air and fell brightly on and around the two rabbits. They took flame and blazed, running and stumbling and falling. I looked round for more as the first two flamed near the centre of the Grounds, finally collapsing into the grass, stiff-limbed but twitching, crackling to the breeze. A tiny lick of flame flickered round the mouth of the ‘thrower; I blew it out. Another, smaller rabbit appeared. I caught it with the jet of flame and it zipped off out of range, heading for the water by the side of the hill the savage buck had attacked me on. I dug into the War Bag, dew out the air-pistol, cocked it and fired it in one movement. The shot missed and the rabbit trailed a thread of smoke round the hill.


The fire was out everywhere; the grass too young and moist to catch. Not that I’d have cared if it had gone up. I considered setting the whin bushes alight, but the flowers always looked cheerful when they came out, and the bushes smelled better fresh than burned, so I didn’t. I decided I’d caused enough mayhem for one day. The catapult was avenged, the buck – or what it meant, its spirit maybe – soiled and degraded, taught a hard lesson, and I felt good. If the rifle was all right and hadn’t got sand inside the sights or anywhere else awkward to clean, it would almost have been worth it. The Defense budget would stand buying another catapult tomorrow; my crossbow would just have to wait another week or so. With that lovely sated feeling inside me, I packed the War Bag and went wearily home, thinking what had happened over in my mind, trying to figure out the whys and wherefores, see what lessons were to be learned, what signs to be read in it all. On the way I passed the rabbit I thought had escaped, lying just before the sparkling clean water of the stream; blackened and contorted, locked into a weird, twisted crouch, its dead dry eyes staring up at me as I passed by, accusatory. I kicked it into the water.”

Banks, Iain. The Wasp Factory. Abacus. London: Abacus, 1984.

While I am not particularly enjoying the character, the writing is impressive and I think what happens is that the author is doing too good a job of what he’s supposed to do as a writer. I am inside the mind of a psychotic child who has some very serious mental issues and I am not enjoying what I see, and maybe this is the point. I do not think that Banks is writing in a purposefully gratuitous way, yet a novel like this is something that I have to come back to a few days at a time as the mindset of this character is just too insidious for me to finish all the way through without some breaks or lighter reads in between.

So this raises some interesting questions in my mind.I know some would argue that it is dangerous to provide a sense of sympathy for this type of character, yet I would counter it’s more dangerous to forget that such individuals exist in our society. Maybe this is the point of Banks’s character, to frighten, to make us reflect that such individuals are out there and that they are capable of such destruction and horror, and that we need to do more for them, to help these people out.

Regardless, I’m enjoying the novel, it’s just something that I’m having to take my time with. I’ve read for a few days and now I’m going to give myself a few more to read something lighter and not so dark.

Written by thebeliever07

July 31, 2008 at 11:54 am


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There has been much discussion of this the past few years. The start of the summer saw the release of the much anticipated “Amazon Kindle“, a wireless e-reader that syncs up perfectly with Amazon’s massive library. (Over 90,000 titles available and growing, weighing 290g.)

I personally do not see such items moving beyond the realm of “high priced toy” for the wealthy, especially at a price of $359.00. I’ll leave some of the finer features and selling points to the experts.

Overpriced Gadget or the Next Generation of Books?

Overpriced Gadget or the Next Generation of Books?

Yes, it certainly does look sleek and sexy, but would you use such a device to read? I know that I would not. While there are times that I do wish for such a device, (especially with those long treks in the winter from Zone 2), for the most I think I could survive.

For me it’s about the tactile experience of a book. The touch, and smell of a book is irreplaceable. Maybe if the price dropped, I might consider such a toy, but it would be viewed simply as that, a toy, something to tinker around with and impress my friends. I’ll take a book over an e reader any given day.

I’ll leave you my dear readers with a quote, enjoy.

Many people, other than the authors, contribute to the making of a book, from the first person who had the bright idea of alphabetic writing through the inventor of movable type to the lumberjacks who felled the trees that were pulped for its printing.  It is not customary to acknowledge the trees themselves, though their commitment is total.  ~Forsyth and Rada, Machine Learning

Written by thebeliever07

July 27, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Posted in technology

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REVIEW: The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene

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Arthur Rowe is an ordinary man. Scratch that, Arthur Rowe is an ordinary criminal. Scratch that, Arthur Rowe is insignificant. Arthur is all of these things and much more. Arthur is a man trying to forget the past, a past wrought with crime and pain. Arthur does this by way of making his present as small as possible, yet this is all in vain. Arthur Rowe’s life is about to become very complicated. Set amidst the London Bombings, Graham Greene has constructed a world in which the grander more worrisome aspects of war are set aside when compared with the more personal. As Joseph Stalin once notably quoted: “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” Graham has expanded upon this and focuses his story on the tragedy set amidst the millions of statistics.

A chance encounter at a local fair and the winning of a cake are all that is required to turn Arthur Rowe’s quiet world upside down. Soon Arthur is on the run from the police, and drawn into a world of intrigue, suspense, murder, and espionage.

Graham draws the reader into a world where everyone is suspect, the police, the government, lovers, even one’s own memory are not to be trusted. Playing on classic “film-noir” style genre, and the common trope of the innocent man stumbling upon a not so innocent world, Graham turns this novel into a vehicle to comment on the everyday fears of citizens during war time. What makes this novel so striking is that the individual who carries the novel, while seemingly innocent, is a grotesque of society, a castoff, a man of the lowest rungs of society.

Definitely worth checking out at the library or picking up at your local bookstore. Cheers.

Written by thebeliever07

July 27, 2008 at 7:17 pm