Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everbody."

"Don't ever tell anybody anything.  If you do, you start missing everybody."  One of the best, possibly the best last line of novel ever.  Sums up Holden Caulfield's character and stance on everything prior.  A book where your reviews almost have to start with its ending rather than its beginning.  OK now that I've covered that let's start at the beginning.
This is one of those classic novels that everyone has read or has been told to read.  It's one of those classic novels that you're made to feel like you have to read, but not only read it, you are required to like it.  One of those novels that if you don't say you like it, you are immediately ostracized by people.  Some of those people who couldn't tell you why they even liked it, just that they are supposed to like it.  I myself have hesitated even posting a review of it for fear I'll say the wrong thing and be judged by it (like that's ever stopped me b4).  I thought maybe I should read other reviews first, real critics reviews and everything ever mentioned about it so I get my review right, but then it wouldn't be my review.  I would just be mimicking other people's opinions, thoughts and feelings.  I would be in short, guilty of being a "phony" as Holden would say.  So here is my review... I liked it, a lot.  I don't think it's the greatest novel ever written, in fact if it were written today it would just be a bestseller not a legendary classic.  This is not to take away from the novel itself.  I think it was brilliantly written.  For a 32yr old Salinger to write so accurately, not just in lingo, but in every detail to sound like a sarcastic, self-absorbed, at times disgruntled, whiny 16yr old to perfection, is just nothing short of amazing.  It's like John Hughes nailing the angst of the 80's teen.  While you're reading you completely feel as if you are reading a 16yr old's diary.  I mean there is no slip up at all that alludes to this story being written by anyone other than a 16yr old.  This 16yr old being misguided, misunderstood, Holden Caulfield.  Everyone is a phony, no one understands him.  His ramblings are inane and random though affecting and at times spot on.  In short he is your basic teen.  If he were a teen in today's world he'd be diagnosed with ADD and put on Xanax or similar.  I understand that at the time it was written it was taboo, controversial and deemed corrupting and therefore banned.  But by today's standards pretty tame.  I kept thinking how innocent it all was.  When he has a hooker come to his hotel room, he doesn't do anything with her, but still pays her ($5, which is what was agreed on by the pimp, elevator operator Maurice).  I thought when she sent him to get her coat she was going to pick his wallet clean.  Nope.  She does come back with her pimp to get more money ($5 more) and still only takes the $5 she came back for.  He approaches a little kid in the park and I'm thinking oh he's gonna get called a perv or something, nope.  He even asks the little girl to get a snack with him!  I guess there was no stranger danger back in the day cause he takes two little boys that he just meets in a museum to a dark Egyptian exhibit.  I know, I know this written back in the 50's, but still...
Some mentioned or maybe I read it somewhere about the sexual depravity in the novel, so I thought oh maybe he's going to get it on with his classmates mom on the train, when he leaves Pencey, but no.  What was the sexual depravity then?  The guy he sees in the window of a hotel prancing around in ladies garments?  The couple he spies in same hotel, spitting water at each other?  Caulfield waking up to a former teacher stroking his hair?  Oh and the hooker that he doesn't have sex with.  Perhaps I'm over thinking all this or maybe I'm not intelligent enough to get it.  But basically it's a couple of nights in the life of a wealthy, spoiled, inept, insecure, opinionated, self-alienated 16yr old.  What makes this novel a classic, in my opinion, is its prose.  It was so beautifully well written.  Caulfield's random rantings are so absurd their humourous.  It's not the story that I love, it's the way it was written.  I highly recommend it for anyone that loves a truly well written work of art.  And yes I understand the individualism Caulfield represents, the snub of conventionality and f**k it all attitude to "normal" society.  It was not lost on me and I love that about Caulfield.
I'm not sure why it's so popular with assassins except maybe they're misguided nutters (obviously) and feel Caulfield is saying everyone is phony and that if he weren't yellow he'd do something about it, so they are doing something about it.  All I know is I killed a fly while I was reading it so it must have some effect on people to make them want to kill. :)
Overall is it worth reading or just an over-hyped "classic"?  Yes, it's worth reading.  I think it's one of those pieces of art that got more of a boost from "controversy" than anything else, but seriously extremely well written so it deserves that credit.  I give it **** out of 4.  As always I encourage everyone to read it and form their own opinion and please share it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

"The song that comes to me is a simple lullaby, one we sing fretful, hungry babies to sleep with.  It's old, very old I think.  Made up long ago.  But the words are easy and soothing, promising tomorrow will be more hopeful than this awful piece of time we call today..."
I am going to be honest, I truly thought this book was going to be terrible.  I did not give it any chance what-so-ever.  In fact the only reason I read it, was because I let my book club members vote on my next book to read.  And to be perfectly honest, I had already started Catcher on the Rye before the voting was finalized because I just "knew" this book was going to awful.  I am not elitist when it comes to books, but all these "series" novels of late I would say 90% of them are shyte.  This is not to belittle anyone that loves those kind of books, this is, as always, my opinion.  I read the Fever series and thought it was horrendous.  The character development was terrible, the storyline basic and the writing at times ridiculous and I found myself rooting for the heroine to be killed so I wouldn't have to listen to her incessant whining.  I'm 1 book away from finishing that series and to be perfectly honest, I have no desire to ever finish it.  My point?  I looked at The Hunger Games as the same piece of literature as the Fever series before even reading it.  I am happy to say, I was wrong.  Completely and utterly wrong.  This was an excellent book.  I loved it.  In a literary world that has whiny, annoying, cheesy love-struck, ridiculously weak female characters (that are made to seem tough), such as Sookie, "Mac" and Bella it is refreshing to read of true strong female characters like Katniss Everdeen and Lisbeth Salander (from the Millennium series).  Women who have suffered and been wronged, but are tough enough to fight for themselves and not be remanded to a "man's" world as a sex object and plaything.  Are Katniss & Lisbeth desirable women?  Yes.  Because of character not b/c of the clothes they wear or because they are buxom blonds.  They have depth.  They aren't the pity me, I'm always in trouble, someone come save me, then when you save me, ravish me and then I will find some petty reason to be upset.  They are warriors, fighters.  OK enough about that.  Let's get to the story, which is well written and fleshed out nicely.  It it was an entertaining, suspenseful, & captivating with great character development.  I know there are many that said this book moved slow.  I, personally, did not think that at all.  I enjoyed it thoroughly from page 1 to page 374.  
So let me get to the synopsis **from the book: "In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 outlying districts.  Capitol is harsh, cruel forcing them all to sen 1 boy and 1 girl between the ages of 12-18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to death on live TV."
My synopsis:  The reader is introduced to a futuristic dystopian America called, Panem, where 13 districts make up the country.  District 13 is annihilated in the wars (kind of like Atlanta was in the Civil War) and leaves only 12 Districts.  Each district has it's own purpose to serve.  No citizen is allowed to travel between districts.  You're born in your district, you live in your district, you die in your district.  Unless you are chosen for the annual Hunger Games.  The Hunger Games was set-up by the Capitol to remind its citizens of the wars of past and keep them in place.  At the age of 12 every child must register for the Hunger Games and every year 1 boy & 1 girl from each district is chosen to participate.  It is a gruesome fight to the death as there can be only 1 winner, 1 survivor, all televised live.  Which I find ironic and maybe a bit ominous of our "reality" shows of today.  But this show is not done just for ratings it's done to keep people in tow.  What better way to subdue a people then by showing their children kill each other (brutally) on live TV.  The premise itself is not entirely original.  To me it is a hybrid of Ayn Rand and Stephen King.  The difference being (and not solely) is in a SK or Ayn Rand novel, you get the sense the hero/heroine are going to die, need to die because the story dictates it, but at the same time you hope they survive and you hungrily read page after page to find out whether they survive in the end.  With Hunger Games (HG), you know the heroine isn't going to die so in that aspect it lessens the suspense factor, but just a smidge.  HG is suspenseful and I had a hard time putting it down because Collins is a crafty writer.  I kept saying late at night, just one more chapter, just one more then I'll go to sleep.  
We are introduced to Katniss Everdeen.  A scrappy young woman who is supporting her mother and younger sister, Prim, who is 12 and entered into the Hunger Games lottery for the 1st time. (I think we all know little Prim is going to get picked at the reaping).  KatnissKatniss, remembers her fathers hunting training and soon goes off in the forbidden forest to hunt.  She meets Gale, who becomes her bff
The Reaping:  So the reaping is the part where 1 boy and 1 girl (Tributes) are chosen from each district to participate in the Hunger Games.  All citizens must report to their town centres for the "joyous festivities".  Long story short, too late, I know... Prim is chosen, Kat volunteers to take her place, you think Gale is going to be chosen but no, Peeta is.  Who the hell is Peeta?  Well Peeta is a baker's son who we find out is to be given credit for an act of kindness when he and Kat were only children and indirectly setting her on a path of finding herself and saving her.  She attributes his kindness to her deciding to fight for survival where her mother was unable to.  As they travel to the Capitol they learn more about the Games and a little about each other.  When they reach the Capitol they learn even more about the Games and even more about each other, but Kat can't figure out if Peeta is being genuine in his adulation for her or if it's part of his plan to gain her trust and make it easier to kill her later.  Herein lies the setup for the Games.  As we are all informed from the beginning there can be only one survivor and Kat is smart enough to realize this and she is skeptical of everything.  Her hunting skills are a huge asset to her in the Games where most of the other "tributes" are more polished, trained for the Games because they come from wealthier districts.  The bigger stronger, more polished kids form an alliance to hunt down the rest.  I won't get further into the Games because there's too much.  But it's some good shizz and reminiscent of the Running Man.
Another point I know some people have an issue with is the love factor in the book.  And normally I would agree 100%, but I did not have a problem with it in this book.  Had Collins try and force a romantic relationship between Katniss and Peeta this story would have failed immensely (which is why it was better it was Peeta not Gale chosen).  But she did it right.  It was obvious that Peeta was in love with Kat and that Kat was only playing it up to the audience for survival and what I like best is that she struggled even to fake it at times.  This kept it from being schmaltzy and ridiculous.  In a twist by the Game Keepers they change the rules and allow 2 winners this year, but they have to be from the same district.  So Kat & Peeta team up and of course win.  Twist from the Game Keepers, they change the rule back to only 1 winner.  As you can imagine both Peeta & Katniss were not too chiper about that.  But what I love is this, Peeta throws his knife away while Katniss has her bow & arrow all aimed at his heart.  She is a bad ass!  She is willing to do what needed to be done to survive.  Now I know some of us will say "I could never kill a human being" and I'm one of them, but put me in a life or death situation and I'm the only sole provider for my family, um I might get jungle on your ass.  But Kat is clever and in a f**k you to the Game Keepers and the Capitol she suggests to Peeta they pull a Romeo & Juliet/Blue Lagoon and eat some poison berries, this way the Game Keepers and the Capitol will be subjected to humiliation and have to deal with 12 angry districts full of people that are 1 upstart away from leading them into a revolt.  At the last minute the Game Keepers decide to let them both win.  They are the champions and out of danger, or are they...  Apparently the Capitol was none to pleased with the defiant stand against their evil whims and now Katniss is in real danger and to top it all off, she and Peeta are to maintain their "relationship" even when they get back to District 12, only Peeta doesn't know Katniss was just playing the Games.  But in fairness she believed he was too.  So it ends with Katniss in some serious shizz not just with the big bad Capitol but she has also unwittingly torn out the heart of a new friend and did the lambada on it, not purposefully, but heartbreak is heartbreak.  It ends with them on the train back to District 12 and Peeta learning that she doesn't love him the same as he does and he retreats to his own quarters and she doesn't see him until they get to District 12 where they have to continue the love/relationship charade.  You get the sense that Peeta ain't gonna be able to pull it off and put both their lives in jeopardy, but it ends with them holding hands and them about to greet the wave of reporters and Capitol media and we're left to hang until book 2.  So needless to say, I'm hungry (pun intended) for book 2, Catching Fire!  Def worth a read and I give it *** out of ****.  Stay Booked!  Happy Reading!