Monday, January 25, 2016

Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society by Mario Vargas Llosa

Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society is a provocative essay collection on the fast decline of intellectual life, and one that manages the dual feat of shedding light while spreading gloom. As with the artful Freudian wink in the title of Mohsin Hamid’s recent collection Discontent and Its Civilizations, Vargas Llosa’s title is a sly reworking of another seminal title, namely T. S. Eliot’s 1948 essay Notes Towards the Definition of Culture. The six essays that comprise Notes on the Death of Culture can be taken as a response to, or even an update on, Eliot’s argument.
Vargas Llosa has thrown the provocative gauntlet into the face of the modern world. He challenges those who defend undefendable "art & literature" by proclaiming that the modern age does not have culture, so much as spectacle and technology.
I’m a fan of reality; I attempt to understand the world. Therefore, I find this essay collection a magnificent piece of critique on the down slope trail culture has taken. There is not a single statement in that I would argue with for for the first time in years I heard a critical voice long forgotten in the world of publishing.
Vargas Llosa is that long awaited knight on a white horse that if strong enough will be able to shake things up in the art world. For year I have been fighting with my own opinions of the modern art and literature, struggling with self doubt and insecurity. Thinking "I must have gone bonkers for not appreciating it" and than here is that wonderful man who agrees with me and who gave voice to the same taughts that have being fighting to get out under my own pen. 
South America's most influential novelist, thinker and revolutionary, writes for the common man a critique of our culture obsessed with itself to the point of self-annihilation. It is accessible, concise, eminently readable, and unforgettable.
Although, very few people with read it, I do believe it is one of the most important books on culture for the last decade.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LaVey

Published in 1969 it is more a collection of essays, observations and rituals than an actual religious ideology. While reading it I didn't find my expectations satisfied. Surprisingly, there is nothing demonic about Satanism, rather it is a humanistic approach towards life that serves to ensure calm and long-lasting existence.
I myself am an atheist by conviction, but reading through this collection of essays I found myself agreeing and nodding to most of the conclusions or advises in it. I would safely advise all mums out there who freak out over seeing their teenagers reading it "Fear Not!".  Satanism is completely different than Satan worship and frankly, this book might be of more help to answer his/her questions rather than turn him into the Devil itself.  If you ever read Nietzsche's philosophy you'd know that Satanism is a very safe rendition of most of his ideas. There is nothing scandalous about The Satanic Bible, which was I admit somewhat disappointing, but yes, all fanatic Christians out there would probably burst into flames.... *evil laugh*.
The first half of the book expounds upon his theories. This section is much more relaxed than I expected. He speaks off the cuff, using slang and humor. It's an interesting approach to the writing of a religious text. Definitely a relief from the stuffy Holy Bible. By the way, any Satanists reading this can relax. Yes, I'm bagging on your boy a bit here, but I also think Christians are ridiculous, too. I'm one of those people who has faith in themselves, that they will do the right thing. So far I'm doing all right. Haven't murdered any one yet!
Later The Satanic Bible gets into the whole "spell casting" thing, the reason I bought the damned book in the first place. Much is made of sex, blood essence, speaking accursed names aloud and none of it was as cool as I'd hoped. I did like that LaVey calls out the people who sacrifice animals as cowards for not having the balls to draw their own blood for these rituals.
The last half of the book is a very short, quick read. There's barely more than a dozen lines on some of the last hundred or so pages. Sometimes it's just a title page or one simple sentence and blank space on the back side. This was done for aesthetics and it's a big waste of paper. The book would be a lot smaller otherwise.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris

This is the fourth book by Joanne Harris that I've read (I've previously read the Chocolate trilogy) and while this was very much a different kind of story from the others I've read, some things seem to carry throughout Ms. Harris' writing. All of the books I've read have been primarily set in small French villages, food and drink play a big role in all, and the relationship between a mother and daughter is a key piece of the plot. Oh yes, and what I call "Frenchness" for lack of a better word.
With the backdrop of the German occupation and none of the magical realism of those books, this book had a darker tone than the trilogy. As so many books have done of late, here Harris blends together a story from the past with a story from the future. Fortunately, both of them belong to Framboise and she is a character well worth exploring, both as a willful, unhappy child and as a sad, bitter adult. Although it lacks some of the charm of the first two books of the trilogy, Harris gets a little carried away with the food names, and it's certainly much harder to feel sympathy for what Framboise suffers as an adult, I enjoyed this book. As did most of the other reviewers found on the Barnes and Noble web page. Except, of course, Kirkus Reviews, which called the book "overwrought" and a "melodrama." And it is, a bit, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable for fans of Harris who are looking for exactly what I found in this, family, and Frenchness.
What a terrific novel. It starts off like a liqueur chocolate: when you first pop it in your mouth, you are not quite sure what it will taste like. Then the further you go, the secret of the interior starts to reveal itself slowly until you are totally absorbed in its content. Couldn't put it down - a simple interwoven story, told beautifully. A must-read.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle

"The Last Unicorn" is a tale that bewitches our reading senses; it is a beautiful story, gentle metaphor, longing and a lust for the beautiful, captivating narrated dream about the dream, it is Swan Lake, it is Casta Diva, it is a Monet.
In this journey of magic that has brought so much grief in transition, through the intelligent humour to the touch of the unicorn. When touched by a unicorn you never stay the same, you become the always looking for his trail, the always employing such deeds that would bring the unicorn delight and occasionally in your eyes green leaves will flash, gurgles will flow and small animals will run. In those minutes or seconds you will stretch to eternity, to the true, unattainable for us humans freedom and Grom red bulls his way.
For me, this story is not fantasy and somehow it did not fit into what we used to expect from the genre, the world of the book is not massive, epic, it is missing in numerous races and original spells. "The Last Unicorn" is a fabulous metaphor of life, quietly touching sense immortality caught by a peripheral glance, art or just the most beautiful appearance.
The style is interesting and unusual, the translation is more than wonderful, and the most amazing is that the story is filled with humour, which balances the pursuit of imaginations, and philosophizing us back to earth. However, even when galloping with unicorns, we remain mostly people.

I'd like to write more things, thoughtful and loud, I wish I could convince more and more people to read it. It's hard to find words, especially when it comes to such work. Indeed, this is just a fairy tale, but it is so current, diverse and real as life. Is not life Red Bulls and rulers who have lost their heart's desire, because it achieved? Such without longing that we offer only the wilderness of their own looted and sold soul? Do not cowards exist, as residents of Hagsgate that make their power possible?
Do not remove bored by hand, do not let them say - these are children's stories, real life is much more complex. Do not be part of that smug majority, which convened with badness in our lives and then justifies the complex life and stock indices. Do not neglect this small but valuable book, take the time for it and it will pay off with a real touch of a unicorn and a flash of green leaves in your eyes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


I solemnly swear I will be up to no good with the new 2016 book marathon. Soon there will be more reviews coming to satisfy your book hunger!!!