Saturday, September 24, 2011

12-Books-in-12-Months Challenge: A book for which you have not already seen the movie

Book: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Author: John Le Carré

Technically this is sort of cheating because I have seen the TV miniseries with Alec Guinness. However, I haven't seen the Gary Oldman movie which came out in the UK this month and the US in November in time to be Oscar bait.

My grandmother had all the Ian Fleming James Bond books and one weekend when I was staying there, I read all of them. The thing that I liked about them compared to the movies was that you get to see some of the psychological toll that Bond's work had on him. I did like his jet set lifestyle but I liked also that the books made him more human.

In Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy the spies are all too human. Not in a bad way just more in the way where you can understand how someone might become and be a spy. The book is the first in LeCarre's "The Quest for Karla" trilogy. It has George Smiley coming back from retirement to ferret out a mole in Britain's secret service, The Circus, at the behest of a government minister. It has to be kept quiet from The Circus itself since the mole is thought to be at the highest echelons of the organization.

The Circus is rather drab. I have to admit I kept thinking a little bit of Kafka as I was reading it. The lives of these spies aren't quite as pointless as the characters in a Kafka novel but they're certainly suffering from a lot of the same existential crises.

I liked the book a lot. There were a couple of characters I really liked in the miniseries that the book gives you more information on - Jim Prideaux and Peter Guillam. I loved how their stories fit in even more with the themes of loyalty and how different generations view each other.

I'm a little nervous for the movie. It has a lot of actors I love but some of the changes I've heard about worry me. Especially the changing of the sexuality of one of the lead characters. But we'll see. In the meantime, I'm in the middle of the second book of the trilogy, The Honourable Schoolboy which is just as enjoyable.

I hope that you, too, will join the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. Details are on Armchair Squid where you can also read up on what he's been reading as well as other who are doing the challenge.

And so you don't think I've given up entirely on hiking, my husband posted about weekend and a hike involving Letterboxing on his blog.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

12-Books-in-12-Months Challenge: A Book You Don't Really Want to Read

But Everyone Keeps Raving About It

Book: Slaughterhouse Five
Author: Kurt Vonnegut

My dislike of Kurt Vonnegut's books goes back to senior year in high school. We had a teacher who was trying to be cool and "connect with the kids" so instead of a survey of English and American literature like we were supposed to do, we read Breakfast of Champions and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Drifters by James Michener. Of those 3 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the only one I like, well love. I feel like we must have read a Tom Robbins novel and thus my visceral dislike of him stems from then as well. However, I went to a Catholic school and it seems unlikely.

I could be using my class as a cover to explain to those who love Vonnegut why I don't like him. His fans seem to be a legion. Truth be told I really didn't like the book or ever want to read another book by him again. But I've felt guilty about it all these years (see I did go to Catholic school) that perhaps I hadn't given him a fair shake. Especially since I have been told by those who love Kurt Vonnegut that Breakfast of Champions is not the book to start with and even some of those who love his writing find it difficult.

Unfortunately, a second shake did not overcome my dislike of his writing. Most of what I dislike about it is sort of encapsulated in the longer title of the book -

Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death, by Kurt Vonnegut, A Fourth-Generation German-American Low Living in Easy Circumstances on Cape Cod [and Smoking Too Much], Who, as an American Infantry Scout Hors de Combat, as a Prisoner of War, Witnessed the Fire Bombing of Dresden, Germany, ‘The Florence of the Elbe,’ a Long Time Ago, and Survived to Tell the Tale. This is a Novel Somewhat in the Telegraphic Schizophrenic Manner of Tales of the Planet Tralfamadore, Where the Flying Saucers Come From. Peace.

If you haven't read Slaughterhouse Five and the whole title sounds amusing and like something you'd want to read, you'd probably like the book. If it just sounds annoying to you, like it does to me, then you should probably continue to skip reading it.

I hope that you, too, will join the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. Details are on Armchair Squid where you can also read up on what he's been reading as well as other who are doing the challenge.