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Deerskin by McKinley, Robin Reprint Edition (2007) - Robin McKinley

I like Sunshine very much; with a few re-readings and some years of life together, I may come to love it, buy a hardcover and take it with me when I move, which is the definite mark of commitment. I'm still kind of wondering why it worked so well for me, but I could probably pinpoint it if I thought about it long enough: it's related with the cinnamon rolls. I like people who can build things with their own hands, and if it's with food or nature all the better. In one of my favourite childhood books, a group of ten-years old moved to an island and survived on what they could get. Enid Blyton, what followed is so not how a similar situation would turn out in real life. And I don't mind repetition in that context- truth is repetitive. Water a plant, raise a puppy, do your laundry, and you'll be doing the same gesture 1000 times.



Robin McKinley has that inclination; and she also gave a voice to Sunshine that sounded grounded enough to be a convincing backdrop to vampires and general magic hokum. Coupled with a genuinely interesting structure -the first 100 pages work as a very good self-standing paranormal short-story-, and the feeling that McKinley took a pen and the story wrote itself, and Sunshine is way better that any other vampire book that I have ever read. She is such a generous writer: Sunshine has a plethora of characters and themes that could have yielded so much more if she had wanted to, but she never milked anything dry. A sequel seems now unlikely, but it had more justification that the vast majority of fantasy series that do get one.



But I don't like her fairytales retellings. I'm also not sure why, except that things are made explicit that I wish were still subtext. They don't give me the feeling of mystery that I loved when I was a child. Deerskin, which I just read and is the reason why I'm writing this instead of heading off to class, is a fantasy novel centered about incest and rape; and while it's sensitively done, it hasn't worked for me. I don't think the balance between magic, many and various deux ex machina, and horrible reality is as elegant as it could have been. I wasn't that much into Beauty either- I'm starting to believe it's a culture clash with America; maybe it's me. I dislike it if I can't see the forests of France and Germany in the Middle Ages in my fairytales. But I am disappoint- I wanted to be more than a one-McKinley-book kind of girl.

Gaudy Night - Dorothy L. Sayers

This is the sound of me eating my words when I said that I would never include Gaudy Nights in my list of memorable reads. That temerity was uttered on grounds of the first few chapters, a general dislike for detective stories, and the distinct sensation that Sayers was washing her dirty linen in public.


Harriet Vane is certainly the author's alter ego, but perhaps also mine and the one of every woman who wants a college education. She is used to discuss gender, learning, learned women, ethical academicism, marriage and children, professional and private life, love and tradition. Those discussions turn out to be more interesting than the mystery -but I'm the first to admit that I'm not a mystery fan- and miraculously, they don't weigh down the plot.


If I was initially put off, it was partly because Harriet seemed far too judgmental during the Gaudy. But perhaps that is mere realism in a reunion of old students. And perhaps there is a certain amount of bitchiness implied in learning. Wouldn't it be rather bitchy of me to say that I'd very much like to throttle the workman who's humming in the scaffolding of my fourth-floor window, barely 2 meters away from me, when I've got a perfectly good Bernstein Concerto on? It's the truth, damn him.


And of course that exasperating idea that clever women look for cleverer men, and I wasn't looking forward to have it confirmed if Wimsey solved the mystery instead of Harriet. But I think that Sayers ended up making a good case for equality in romantic relationships, and I'm glad, because about that I've got all these opinions.

Guerra y Paz (Modernos y Clásicos)

Guerra y paz - Leo Tolstoy, Lydia Kúper Physiological Particularities of Tolstoi Characters
Russians tourists in Europe are weird.
We conducted two integrated randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials on Anna Karenina and War and Peace, looking for significant peripheral nervous system deviations. Central nervous system particularities, due to the complexity of obtaining reliable results, will be addressed in later trials. Placebo is established as an average mishmash of European XIX-century litterature, excluding Romantics and Emily Brontë.
Response rates at week 12 prove:
- hypertrophy of tear ducts in adult males
- hyperactivity of SNS and SNPS in facial terminals account for inordinate amounts of blushing and turning pale
- significant hepatic degeneration, probably alcoholic
- increased digestive activity. Noted capacity of consuming two entire chickens for breakfast.
Tolstoy characters belong to a different version of human beings.

I was planning to write a review along those lines- flippant, flimsy and inaccurate, because I haven’t found as much evidence of the physiological hokum as I remember from Anna. Perhaps I remember it wrong, or perhaps Levin was more prone to it than the characters of War and Peace. Anyway- I have four major things against Tolstoy:
First, he resents women for the power that he perceives they have over men. He’s mostly a forgiving soul, but he can’t help himself. Elena over Pierre, Anna on Levin, have an unfair influence that barely fails, and occasionally succeeds, to make their lives derail. It’s a dumb force. And unfortunately, the parallel doesn’t apply. I’m not begging for Tolstoy to have a go at female sexuality, but I do think that if anyone was subject to unfair powers, it was the women.
Second, I don’t trust the fact that his “seeker-characters” (Andrei, Levin, Pierre, and Ivan Illich, for that matter) always find the answers they were looking for through sudden revelations and epiphanies. It’s a religious concept. I’m not a fan. They always over think the questions and rarely the answers. I would have it the other way around.
Third, I find the lot of them enormously awkward. Even the handsome ne’er do wells are hard-pressed to express themselves with style. Between sexes, certainly (the felp-declaration, the letter written by Dolokhov have enough comedic elements in themselves), but even the relationships between men and women separately are mostly inharmonious. They must be Russians: they certainly aren’t french. My french sensibilities would require someone sometime somewhere to be smooth. Please. Just a little.
Four and last, the historic considerations. They haven’t aged well. I’m doing my best to ignore the existence of the epilogue- for one thing, it’s awfully reiterative, and conceptually it can be attacked on practically every sentence.

But Tolstoy blew my mind. Why? Sincerely: it was the landscape. May the gods of literature forgive me, I’m a Tolstoy tourist. I’ve got this book all wrong. I loved the war scenes, the dancing scenes, the pre-ball preparation scenes. I loved every bit in which noone was talking. I loved the bear coats, the horses, the gambling parties, the vodka, the banquets in the club, Moscow burning, the flight from the french, the march of the prisoners. I knew before reaching the middle that I had already gone through my favourite scene; I didn’t think the hunting party with the Rostovs, and the balalaïka that follows could be surpassed. See what I mean? I’m a Tolstoy tourist, clapping at folklore and local colour. I should shut my mouth, go read a Baedecker, and leave literature to people who want meanings. Me? A pretty picture! Wo-ho!
Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement - Assia Djebar J'aime beaucoup ça- la littérature liée à la peinture, la peinture liée à la vie, et les deux utilisées comme fenêtres vers des chambres closes. Il est rare de le trouver explicite à ce point.
Eureka Street - Robert McLiam Wilson I joined Goodreads after a bad experience with a collection of loosely tied short stories that shall remain nameless. That book hit me over the head with a bat, kicked me in the gut, drove over me and dropped what was left in a frozen river from a tall bridge. It was a formative experience, but at the moment I hated it so much -so much- fiercely, with passion. And on top of that I thought it was pretty shitty; the proportion quality/effect it had on me was completely off. So I told myself never again: never again to pick up a book based on titles, covers and blurbs. Viva goodreads and previous opinions. The problem of that being, I would have missed this book too.

Curiously, my love for Eureka Street didn't bloom overnight. In fact, after finishing it, I thought it was good enough, but the plot is not exactly believable and I was expecting it to look cheap in hindsight. What happened, instead, is that it became insidiously part of the books that I read just because. And the BBC Northern Ireland mini-series was great too. It's available on youtube, if anyone is interested. But why do I feel so close to Eureka? It's got nothing to do with me at all. I picked up a soft cover edition whose paper had seen more than a little rain for 2 euros in a half open-air second hand bookstore on the corner of my hostal in Berlin and I powered through the german feeling I was missing perhaps 30% percent of the book (as I probably did). This was not meant to be a life companion, by any means. So why? Why? And how can I have it again?

Fire and Hemlock

Fire and Hemlock - Diana Wynne Jones I had a lot of fun reading Fire and Hemlock, and if you like DWJ, don’t miss it. I won’t review it, but I’d like to make an easy reading guide with the products of what I've read and thought that will allow me to remember how things work. The mechanics are by no means simple, but I believe the book doesn’t need the exposure of its guts to be appreciated. Except perhaps for the ending. That can be a bit confusing.
(For DWJ's thoughts on her book, read her essay on heroics in Fire & Hemlock. I rehash much of what she says there.)

Let’s start with the underlying myths: 1) Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer, 2)Hero and Leander, and 3) Cupid and Psyche.
Those three myths give how it should be read on the emotional level. It is a story with a female Hero in a personal relationship. Tam Lin gives the basic plot: a previous attachment with the Queen of the Fairies, solved by holding on to true love.
Cupid and Psyche suggest that the Hero will commit a fault (in this case, like in the myth, it’s spying. Too much holding on. That it is a departure from Tam Lin), and must afterwards seek her beloved; it introduces the theme of the seeker. Tom has Cupid’s attributes (think the bow from the cello and his deficient eyesight) and shows Laurel as Venus, the powerful source of his gifts. It’s also important to understand that, like Cupid’s allegory of profane and divine love, Polly’s journey is that of locating in herself the heroic bits and living up to their standard. That’s essentially why she can never withdraw what she says at the end, despite a priori being free from Laurel’s influence.
The story of Hero and Leander gives the rhythm of Tom and Polly’s relationship: they meet occasionally, then are separated, and it suggests that he must go to hell at the end, and that she’ll follow him there. It is also resonant with Orpheus, the musician, seeking his beloved in Hades, and eager curiosity making him lose her. But the genres are inverted and the timing is off: he’s the musician, but she’s the seeker, and the fault was done earlier in the plot. Here, her betrayal frees him. Orpheus doesn’t actually give plot points.

The structure and tone are from 1)The Odyssey, 2) TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, 3)1001 Nights.

The Odyssey gives its structure as heroic travel told in flashbacks. It also goes back to the hell theme- Odysseus must go to Hades after leaving Circe, the witch-goddess who murdered her husband.
TS Eliot is the underlying music that is either turned up or down when DWJ needs it. It gives the garden, the pond, the string quartet, and the final wordplay. It also gives the literal key to the resolution.
1001 nights introduces the idea of storytelling as lifesaving mean and the blur between reality and imagination (of which Eliot says “human kind/ Cannot bear much reality.”).

By now it should be obvious that Fire & Hemlock strongly relies on trinities. First, the trinity of the setting, based on the permutations of “here” and “now” from the vases.
- The “here-now”, where Tom is an adult cellist and Polly is a child who reads books and has friends.
- The “nowhere”, where Lauren rules and where the train leads. It’s clearly reminiscent of hell, including the persephonic episode where Polly refuses to eat and drink.
- “The “where now?”, inhabited by Hero, Tan Could, Tan Audel, Tan Hanivar and Tan Thare, the giant, the ironmonger, and everything they imagine together.
Each setting is build in with the others like interlocked spirals. You can imagine the DNA with three lines, but I would prefer to see it as a rotating jigsaw puzzle. Each of the three rotations shows a different pattern.

There are also trinities of characters. The one of the “here-now” is deceptively important. Fire and Hemlock is, unlike many fantasies, a book of personal relationships. The characterizations of Polly’s friends is given much attention. We have Nina (the dumb one), Polly, and Fiona (the clever one).
We also have the trinity of ages. It’s one often found, and is one that I particularly enjoy: Granny (wisdom), Ivy (the couch-dweller) and Polly (still the seeker)

In some aspects, Ivy could be replaced by Laurel. They are similar in Laurel’s mistrust of human imagination- Tom is punished with having what he imagines become true and come back to bite him. Therefore, he always tells the truth. Laurel confuses facts and fiction at will. It’s also what Ivy does. We could lump together Ivy and Laurel, have Polly still in the middle, and on the other end her father and his partner, who have outed imagination from their life.

Despite her rigged gifts, Laurel does keep her bargains, and that’s why Polly starts opportunely to remember her "where now?" life. Her pact with Laurel was to forget, but she was to be left alone, and Laurel can’t keep her part because of Seb and Leroy. Then, the problem of identity: Laurel is the queen of the fairies, Venus, Circe, Calypso, Hades. But who are Polly and Tom? The truth is that they’re constantly switching roles: each has his mythic personification, but they’re not fixed. And hence the name Polly, “many”.

And now we come to the ending. This is how I think it can be understood: first, as the literal illustration of Eliot.
“To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,

You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.

In order to arrive at what you do not know

You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.

In order to possess what you do not possess

You must go by the way of dispossession.[...]

And where you are is where you are not.”

She’s in nowhere: she must apply the poem and do the opposite of what she should do, that’s to say, as per the Ballad of Tam Lin, holding on. But that is based on wordgames and is too unsatisfying an ending for any story with emotional resonance. Let’s look at it a bit more.
We see just what we already knew: that Laurel rigs her games. The same way that she inverted her gift to Thomas, she builds a duel based on weakness. The less you have, the more you win. Thomas doesn’t understand it in time (though Ann does) and Polly must strip him of what he has. Only then he can gather his inner strength, and, as the epigraph to Eliot says,
“The way upward and the way downward are the same.”

We can think of the pond as an allegory of imagination: the cello, Laurel's gift (personified in the horse) and Polly bring Tom closer to it, but if he disappears in there he can never come back to the "here now". Or we can blame the fact that he sinks not on the rules of the duel but on his gift from Laurel, that turns what he summons against him. If it was, he’s lucky not to have brought Polly on his behalf, because Leroy might have called on Laurel herself.

And do Tom and Polly end up together, despite the fact that she has to keep meaning what she said? Sure. It just means that she has to keep loving Tom enough to let him go, or she’ll lose him. It’s the same curse under which any sane relationship operates.

You see, I loved the ballad of Tam Lin. Janet is so cool. But it is the story of a woman pregnant by a married man (unhappily married to the Queen of the Fairies, but still) holding on to him despite him being utterly horrible to her (he turns into monsters. That’s a tough ordeal in any relationship). That accounts for the fact that the Queen gets the ominous last words: there is no happy ending in store for Janet and Tam Lin on those premises. That’s also why Tam Lin is such a handy ballad to invert.

DWJ knows that, and she introduces a prop: the Fairy King. In other words, The Queen cheated too! Leroy is the way out for Tom because he hurt him, both textually and in the context of the ballad. If he hadn’t, Tom couldn’t be a moral hero and Polly couldn’t operate the crucial change from holding on to letting go. And Tom is a moral hero; that’s the meaning of him saying “I did my best” at the end, and the interest of the character of Leslie, who has no morals and serves as a counterpoint.

And let’s think of how exactly Polly rejects Tom. She tells him the exact truth; and that’s important, because their relationship previously had been based on fusing reality and imagination. DWJ has already said with Ivy and Laurel that that won’t work. At the end of the book, they leave the “nowhere” and the “here now?” and start to live in reality. It doesn’t mean that they renounce imagination forever, but it does mean that they won’t be swallowed up by it. That’s why book-reading fades away from the narration when Polly grows into adulthood. And thus Diana says: the story is over and we’ve come home (meta! and a bit of the Odyssey in it too); if you want to be in love, keep your facts straight, and go beyond holding on- don’t cling. But she never goes so far as to write that down; she hardly ever writes anything explicitly. That frequently gives a particular brand of what-the-hell to certain passages of her books, but it also makes for the intuitive grasp characteristic of childhood that I really like. I do think that Fire & Hemlock is satisfactorily ended.

There probably is a lot more to see, but I'm practically sleeping on my computer. Perhaps another day.
Tam Lin - Pamela Dean Who implied Dean was unworthy because she was an english major? Who thought she was boring because they didn’t get her literary witticisms? This reads like she's got something to prove. I’ve yet to see a character so undeservingly bullied as Tina. She’s pre-med, she doesn’t read, she doesn’t have the intellectual weapons to be awed by Janet, but that hardly make her deserving of the oceans of irritation that Janet bestows upon her “healthy hair”.

...And I can tell that Dean is angry by this token: When I read what she wrote about non-readers, I thought, not of what she was saying, but of herself. When an arguer argues dispassionately he thinks only of the argument; and the reader cannot help thinking of the argument too. If she had written dispassionately about non-readers and scientists and lacking imaginations, one would not have been angry either. One would have accepted the fact, as one accepts the fact that a pea is green or a canary yellow. So be it, I should have said. But I have been angry because she was angry.

And thus I let Virginia Woolf write my review. Dean’s fair game: it’s exactly what she does herself, namely, quote Keats and Shakespeare and the Iliad and let them do the heavy lifting of giving flesh to her characters. But the only bones in their bodies are to be their appreciation and quoting of said authors, to the point that I begin to wonder if they have any idea of their own to say. Except about food. Oh, they have plenty to say about food. As I’m talking about bones, I have one to pick with the afterword: “It would also be unwise, though certainly in accord with human nature, to identify the author with the protagonist.” Oh come on, Dean! Of course Janet is you! You wouldn’t be so defensive on behalf of someone else. And I don’t appreciate the pat in the head of “in accord with human nature”.

It’s been said that this book is for english majors, and it’s true: it’s for english majors in the same sense that “The Mental, Moral and Physical Inferiority of Women” is for men. If not, you might wonder why you should so lightly be identified with your major in mostly unflattering manner. Or why these works you love should be so cavalierly lumped together (the greek, shakespeare and scottish ballads have little in common), having not seen it in a college education. Perhaps you’ll be irritated that the book sees no need to acknowledge the existence of the laws of science even when it’s dealing with them, for example with unnecessarily magic pregnancies despite hormone treatments. You’ll wonder why this lack of internal coherence extends to ghosts and english actors. And if you do, you will not to forgive the clear writing tics and the fact that the entire emotional scope of Janet seems to include merely interest, maniacal laughter, isolation and crankiness. In other words, she is a bitch.
Do not take me on faith:

“Janet managed not to laugh again; if that had been her own quilt, she would have been furious.”

"Look," said Janet, irritated, "if the thing you liked best to do in the world was read, and somebody offered to pay you room and board and give you a liberal-arts degree if you would just read for four years, wouldn't you do it?"

She’s selfish, conceited, and spectacularly unselfaware. It drove me to distraction; it made me slug through what could have been a fantastic idea.

There also seems to be a problem in Dean’s writing of suspense, which is non existent, and humour, that she refuses to share with her reader. She doesn’t laugh at funny things or quips or jokes, but at situations that she herself creates and often explains after they have their laugh. The Skeat and the Schiller episodes elicit authentic explosions of hilarity in Janet; but the reader is left cold, along with the characters too out of the loop, uncool and antiglamour to know the college folklore.

PS: I liked the book! I liked Keats and Shakespeare and the ballad of Tam Lin! But Dean I didn’t. It’s awkward. If this review feels at hominem, that’s because it is. I’ve got nothing really against the basic events of the plot. And I do recommend it.
For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway It was bad, bad, bad in all the possible inflections of the word. It was drearily, astoundingly inept. It was a turd masquerading as fine jewelry. It was Kevin Costner with a Paul Newman mask. It was a regency romance with a Robert Capa cover. It was a public latrine with a whisky bar.
Let me go over the plot: American goes to Spain, lives in a cave, drinks alcohol, makes vague chit chat with proud, not very bright, colourful locals and falls in love with a previously abused gipsy. John Donne is too good for this tripe: it should have been called "the Gipsy and I", "Eat, Pray, Blow Bridges" or "The Civil War was really fucking exotic".

The characters never even made the two-dimensional status- they hang like pale specters of a postal from the thirties, pure folklore, cliché and poorly digested Goya, Lorca, or whoever fooled Hemingway into thinking that Spain was even remotely like this. Of course, there was never any chance of me enjoying a novel that ponders the qualities of spanish wives (oh, for god's sake), but I might have tolerated it if its male protagonist had been any less than a brilliant paragon of American infallibility AND Hemingway hadn't done his utmost to reproduce some weird jargon in its prodigiously stilted dialogue. Now, I don't know what the hell he was trying to achieve, but the result is certainly not Spanish. Even if it was, what is the point of writing with the grammar of another language? In the best of the cases, it's clumsy; in the worst, it's wrong.

I wantto explain all the things that are wrong with this novel, but I have plans before Christmas. So I'll make a summary: the history? Simplistic. The prose? Repetitive and conceited. The bits in spanish? Wrongly spelled. And he got the idioms wrong. The characters? Pure cartoons. The plot? Insufficient to fill 500 pages.

I did like the end though. Die, Jordan. Good riddance, you smug asshole.
Die Bestimmung  - Veronica Roth, Petra Koob-Pawis Nothing that happens seems like it could happen. One should not overlook the fact that this people are nuts. Why would they knock a friend unconscious just because some stranger told them to? And why is that considered brave? That’s not a question of accepting that I’m in YA and not in a novel that would treat the question of grooming girls into soldiers with some semblance of verisimilitude.

All this blood and guts is not understandable without a threat: a war, an evil government, a fearsome political police... But until the second stage of the initiation, Tris doesn’t even believe that she could die.
Generally speaking the reader should accept the rules of the game, dumb as they may be, and I’m not taking offense with the abundant faults in the concepts; only I wish they would have been better supported by a more interesting cast than Eric, Peter, Janine and the like, all of them stock villains, with knowledge that would allow me to see the gore and not imagine a pair of children pulling each other’s hair, and without moral hindrances like them being on the opposite spectrum of my belief system. The why of anything is a question that never seems to bother Tris that much, perhaps because thinking is a lot less encouraged that punching kids in the head.

I wanted to like it. Cute idea. Unfortunately, glorification of mindless authority, brute force, police and the army can crush my fun. Because there IS a political police and they are it. A political police composed of teens... that’s the stuff of nightmares! It’s the coming of the Antibrain. They cry constantly, in true teenager’s fashion, and every time somebody cries I want to stick a handkerchief down their throats. It can read, again, as high school: leaving your family, finding your group and your first love (he’ll ignore you the day after. That is an unavoidable rule) and finding out that your parents were cool after all.

And the style. This sentence:
“His shirt is just tight enough that I can see his collarbone and the faint depression between his shoulder muscle and his bicep.”
"Deltoid" instead of "shoulder muscle" or “arm muscle” instead of bicep, please. And why do they inject the serum in the neck? Is an embolism one of the risks the Dauntless are trained not to fear?

Go figure.
The Road - Cormac McCarthy Me parece un tour de force; me pensaré como hacer un review adecuado, porque a medida que pasa el tiempo desde que lo leí pienso que debería conocer un poco más a Cormac McCarthy. Ni siquiera he visto la peli de bardem con corte de pelo chachi.
Rechazar el nihilismo; tolero mal a Kafka y a todos esos rusos: no tengo ningún proceso mental en común con el Joker de Batman, ver el mundo sin significado y las Grandes Cuestiones Sin Respuesta Todas me da ganas de enroscarme en bola arriba de una montaña y no moverme. No de reírme frenéticamente, asesinar gente o algo que produzca al menos una módica ración de Shadenfreude.
Coge un libro, destruye el mundo, la integridad moral de la sociedad, el amor romántico, deja al hijo porque no nihilista es una cosa y estúpido otra, y luego pregunta lo de Camus: “un problème philosophique vraiment sérieux: c'est le suicide. Juger que la vie vaut ou ne vaut pas la peine d'être vécue, c'est répondre à la question fondamentale de la philosophie, etc."
Y si hay un impulso en el libro que hace que los personajes sigan caminando: te quiero libro.

caminante no hay caminooooooo
se hace camino al andaaaaar
caminante no hay camino
sólo estelas en la mar.
Die Bücherdiebin - Markus Zusak, Alexandra Ernst While far from being as offensively bad as its companion in the Holocaust YA shelf, the Striped Pajamas shitfest, the Book Thief is not exempt from dumb simplification. I’m mightily annoyed by this brand of pseudo-wisdom:
“I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They’re running at me.”
So says the narrator, Death, in one of its more harmless cameos in world literature, to introduce a WWI anecdote. This evokes the image of a soldier who fails to notice the corpses in the trenches. Heck, they were young, but I bet they could tell the difference between war and a rugby match. The choice of narrator is questionable- I feel it accentuates the flaws, rather than serve as the interesting device it should have been, given the period.

That said, the book has a lot of things going for it. The story is worth being told. The power of words- it is a wonderful theme. The characters are endearing, and the plot can hold its own. I’m very fond of Rosa and I can’t imagine why anybody would dislike Hans, Rudi and Liesel. The little anecdotes about football, the accordeon, are very entertaining. Of course, I’ve been reading it in german, and that makes me impervious to style. I’m willing to believe that the original is not as cutesy as the abundance of short and verbless sentences suggests. I don’t enjoy the lists; I don’t understand list-makers, and I certainly don’t see why Death should be one of them. Or why he should be so fond of synesthesiæ.

I’m also wary of YA with war-driven plots; I disliked that aspect in Hunger Games, Harry Potter and I dislike it here, specially in its depiction of WWI. In war one should be too busy shitting one’s pants and trying to dry one’s boots and kill off one’s vermin to be busy making memories. It’s not YA stuff. The book falls flat when it’s talking politics- the number of deaths in WWII, Stalin’s URSS, that he compares with unpleasant projects in the office; I won’t go so far as to call it callous but I do think it’s tasteless. Also, perhaps because I was reading it so slowly and struggling with the language, the short sentences that he uses every time he wants to invest something with particular pathos kind of made me feel like I was been bludgeoned in the head by someone screaming “FEEL! FEEL! FEEL!”.
Likewise, the first token jew-march reads like an essay for school “imagine what they might be feeling, etc.” This theme just doesn’t leave much room for genre allowances.

Curiously, the german version changes the aryan shopkeeper’s name and more than half of the interjected german words of the original version. I suppose the translator esteemed they weren’t correct or didn’t fit the situation. Lazy editing there.

Markus Zusak can handle very well the story of a little girl who loves books, but he doesn’t have what it takes to tackle death, war and nazi germany, especially at the excruciatingly slow pace of me reading german.
The Secret History - Donna Tartt Secret history me es fundamentalmente antipático; y no es porque no pueda superar que sus personajes sean crápulas porque soy perfectamente capaz de apreciar el concepto de anti héroe, gracias, sino porque aparte de crápulas fracasan en demostrarme que sean interesantes, salvo a lo que el gatillo flojo se refiere. Tienen el gatillo flojo en todos los aspectos, sexo, alcohol y la tendencia a asesinarse los unos a los otros. Yo no saco de allí que sean unos bellos efebos de moral destruida por el choque cultural con el V siglo antes de Cristo... saco que están muy mimados. Y que sus padres no les quieren. Es irritante que confundan la falta de tono de esfínter moral con la genialidad.

Debido a haber tenido tooodo al alcance de la chequera, no tienen fuerza moral suficiente para negarse nada. De allí el castigo final y que Henry considere semi-glorioso su exeunt. Está establecido que es el único, aparte de Richard, que tiene algo de disciplina (gracias a haber tenido una vida marginalmente más difícil que los demás) por lo visto sólo le alcanza para suicidarse. El propio Richard nunca consigue desinhibirse lo bastante para transgredir demasiado, y así es como acaba menos dolido tras haberse emborrachado menos, haber matado menos y haber follado menos. Esto también es un resultado que me irrita; la vida en general no funciona como las mates.

A medida que la gente crece desaparece muchas de las consecuencias negativas de sus actos, cuando los padres retiran la espada de Damocles que han colgado sobre la cabeza de sus hijos durante la adolescencia. Descubres con asombro que si no haces nada de lo que deberías hacer no te fulmina ningún rayo. Pasar a imponerte tus propios límites es la parte interesante de esta desestructuración, y ellos fracasan y reciben un castigo proporcional a la transgresión: Bunny no respeta la ética protestante (curiosamente, después de dejar profusamente a parir a los católicos, que son mucho más laxos en ese aspecto) de ganarse la vida y es baam, muerto. Richard, que huyó de California, acaba en California. Francis, homosexual, se casa con una mujer. Charles, que estaba con un ángel florentino, acaba con una friega platos. Camille, la mujer de hielo, enamorada de un muerto. Todo muy limpito.

Para ser genios del verbo no se salen especialmente. No mencionemos al prota, Richard Papen, cuyo diálogo consiste íntegramente en preguntar por los otros y contar mentiras sobre su pasado. Richard, majo... ¿Nada más? ¿En serio? Esto está muy bien escrito, pero si un profesor me dice la frase de "I hope we're all ready to leave the phenomenal world, and enter into the sublime?" más le vale ser extraordinariamente carismático o pensaré que está dirigiendo una clase de yoga. Por el amor de Dios, es una frase horrible, me da igual si dice exactamente lo que quiere decir.

Las ideas que exponen son ridiculamente erróneas (terror y belleza, pasión y represión, tratados con unos cuantos lugares comunes), pero de todos modos tratan conceptos cada vez menos a medida que avanzan y vamos teniendo establecido que son brillantes y perezosos. De forma que me sienta como si me sacase la lengua, Henry dice que su objetivo es pensar lo menos posible, a lo que yo digo: pues si esta es tu intención, no podías haber situado la novela antes de que se te ocurriera tan buena idea? Porque me resulta francamente más atractivo que pienses, por oposición a beber un riachuelo continuo de unos whiskys fantásticos, pero la gente interesante habla de ideas, la gente aburrida habla de otra gente y la gente insoportable habla de lo que bebió anoche.

Lo que nos lleva a mencionar hasta que punto es esto una imitación de Brideshead, que aunque lejos de mi la idea de sugerir que nadie más tenga que tratar la fascinación por los guapos, los ricos, y los homosexuales al menos tenía la decencia de no añadir la brillantez (aunque si la religión. Nadie es perfecto) y por lo tanto había que hacer menos esfuerzos para evitar la decepción. Y que es un spin off de Brideshead no me cabe la menor duda. No de forma intolerable, pero hay dos páginas concretas que parecen paráfrasis y que si yo hubiese sido su editor hubiese suprimido a la velocidad del rayo. El papel de la bebida es pero que muy similar. Y Charles (el de Brideshead, no el de Tartt) le trae alcohol a Sebastian en el hospital, ¿no? Si no se lo trae, Sebastian lo obtiene por otros medios, pero la escena es idéntica.

Ahora hablemos del incesto gemelar y de porqué estoy hasta el moño de él, y de por qué Juego de Tronos se podía haber metido el zapato en la boca y de por qué es irritante que a Richard le ponga la transgresión del hecho más de lo que le molesta que Camilla, a la que quiere, lo haga con su gemelo. Estoy aburrida de él, desde Luke y Leia, a Sigmundo y Siglinda, a cada estúpida vasija griega con Cástor y Póllux en posiciones equívocas, a Jaime y Cersei, sin contar los intolerables fanfictions de Harry Potter en los que Fred y George se dedican a estos deportes, pasando por Soñadores, la peli de Bertolucci, cuyo título ya era un augurio pésimo. Primero no entiendo el atractivo del acto: menuda fantasía masturbatoria, dos caras iguales. Por qué fantasear con la masturbación? Mastúrbate y en paz. De forma similar, no veo el atractivo de tanto narcisismo. ¿Por qué lo ibas a hacer a con tu gemelo? ¿Por qué está a mano y hay confianza? ¡Efectivamente, eso es novelesco! De confianza y estar a mano están hechas las epopeyas griegas.
Los gemelos no se aportan nuevas perspectivas; piensan demasiado igual. Tener un gemelo es más parecido a tener un avatar que un alma gemela. Creo que parte de lo que les interesa es una idea de ying-yang, seres complementarios. Si tienes un gemelo, sabes que eso es un espejismo.

Secret History se lee a toda velocidad pese a ser bastante más largo de lo que hubiera podido ser. Es francamente divertido pensar que Bunny tenía razón todo el rato y que los insultos que tanto les irritaban, se los tenían ganados a pulso. Probablemente nos habríamos dado cuenta con más claridad si no los hubiese proferido un fresco antisemita y homófobo. Enfin, prejuicios. Respecto a Camilla... “une femme est infâme”, añadamos que no estoy bien situada para sufrir el influjo de su fascinación porque tiene unas tres líneas. Los ídolos femininos rubios y etéreos son de una aburrimiento de muerte, y diríase que un tipo concreto de hombre tiene tendencia a adorarlas en torturado silencio, no llegar a acostarse con ellas nunca pero imaginarlo en todas las posiciones del kama sutra, y dedicarles novelas de 900 páginas, para mi tedio.
The Cove - Ron Rash The cove is settled in the galèrest of all the galères (my sister and I call galères -the french for galley- the nowhere lands of the world.), and this is a case of get out of the cove before the cove gets you. It's the ass of the world, where Christ lost his hat, the fifth pine, except there are no pines, but chestnuts, and these all have the plague and are fated to die shortly.
It is the story of a woman, Laurel, who has drawn the short straw in life; for her "omnes vulnerant, ultima necat" (all of them hurt, and the last one kills); and she has been on the receiving end of fate’s blows for so long that I thought maybe she could survive a bullet in the chest, as if being used to the invisible ones would make her immune to one of real metal. But metaphorical mithridatism only goes so far, I'm afraid.
The beauty of it resides in her single shot at happiness. She grabs her moment hungrily, between awkward daydreaming and musing about birds.
The character that comes to life with more poignant realism is the everyday villain, Chauncey Feith, so small minded and negligible that it's hard to grasp that he isn't in fact harmless. They say “don’t blame evil when you can blame stupidity”, and in Chauncey you can blame both.
Hank, Laurel’s brother, singlehandely (ha.) makes this feel like an old-fashioned romance, one of those medieval ballads in which brother and sister would end up in twin graves. He died because he was a man who would kill his sister’s killer. Wahouu!
Rest in peace, you semi literate corsican-style tragic siblings. I really enjoyed the time we spent together.
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert, Thierry Laget Emma Bovary cierra el trio de grandes adúlteras con las que he tenido el placer de pasar un montón de horas, dado que los tres libros son auténticas armas de guerra que emplearé si un día tengo que enfrentarme con zombis en plan la escena de Shaun of the Dead en que se ponen a debatir precisamente que vinilo tirarles. Si la duda se presenta, preferiré tirarles las obras completas de Tolstoi en cuero y la edición cutre de la Regenta que cargué por medio Marruecos que un vinilo perfectamente correcto de Violent Femmes, que es el único que tengo.

Iba a excluir del club a Ariane d’Auble, de Belle du Seigneur, porque aunque en sí es adúltera y su marido es por lo menos igual de intolerable que los de las otras tres, también es un ladrillo, y tiene sobre Ana Ozores la ventaja de que acaba en, como decimos púdicamente al ingresarlos, “intento autolítico”, el personaje que realmente encarna la novela es el de Solal (su amante). Además, ya es una affaire del siglo XX, y pierde ese toque de adulterio vintage que seguro que todos apreciamos.
El adulterio occidental ha perdido mucho desde que las mujeres pueden andar solas por la calle sin escandalizar a las comadres. Ponerle los cuernos al marido ya no significa hipotecarse la vida para siempre, y como la soltería es distinctamente menos aterradora, ha desaparecido hasta cierto punto esa excusa tan triste: se casó con él porque, de los 5 hombres que la conocían, fue el que se lo pidió... Así que todo el adulterio tiene mucho menos punch emocional.

Si yo estuviese casada con Bovary, Quintanar, Karenin o Adrian Deume, hubiese hecho todo lo que estuviese en mi mano para decorar sus respectivas frentes. El problema de todas estas señoras no reside en el adulterio, sino en que no tienen los cojones de montárselo adecuadamente. Madame de Merteuil habría reescrito la Bovary de forma interesante.

Todas son grandes bellezas, ninguna tiene demasiado seso, y todas se sienten muy dispuestas a morir de tedio antes de que aparezca l’Amouur en sus vidas. Sus amantes se ven investidos con la romántica misión de entretenerlas. Por cierto que unos se dan más trabajo que otros en ese sentido.
Entre los hombres, los hay que valen la molestia de quitarse la ropa y los que no. Los de Emma se clasifican entre los que no. Ni siquiera le gustan demasiado; quiere un amor y necesita una figura para que aquello cristalice. Sin contar con que hay fuertes dudas respecto a la integridad moral de Emma: ya sabemos, la literatura perdona todo menos a una mala madre, y la Bovary es mala malísima.

Me pregunto como vivían las mujeres en esos pueblos. ¿Estaban todas a punto de morir de asfixia?
La descripción de la Francia pueblerina otorga alguna risa, la de la naturaleza a mí no me inspira más que ganas de dormir, y los paseos en la cabeza de Emma son geniales. Alguien dice que si eres una chica con imaginación te identificas con ella, aunque sea un poquito. Yo identificarme... NO POR DIOS. Pero la entiendo, de acuerdo, y entiendo que no soporte al bueno de Charles. El sentimiento mejor reflejado en la Bovary no es una gran pasión, sino una gran repugnancia; esta es, de todos modos, la novela del anti-amor. Emma es la reina de los quejicas. Además, cree que el dichoso sentimiento es una especie de borrachera perpetua. Y como eso es una mentira, nunca tiene la menor oportunidad: al menos Rodolphe sabe lo que va a obtener antes de obtenerlo.

Hay que decir que nadie se salva de la pequeñez y lo despreciable, menos un personaje al que Flaubert llama “l’enfant” y está claramente diseñado para tocarnos la fibra. Se arrodilla sobre la tumba chillando su nombre. En una novela realista, por supuesto. Si fuese Lamartine...
Por supuesto, la Bovary está magníficamente escrito. Flaubert es un prodigio de deliberación. No se le difractan las palabras lo más mínimo. Ahora bien, no digo que eso tenga que ser a gusto de todos... que un tapiz sea complicadísimo y requiera un talento escalofriante no implica que lo quieras colgar en tu salón. La Bovary no deja de ser un retrato del tedio durante las 200 primeras páginas, y durante las últimas, un compendio de malas decisiones.

Supongamos que todos los problemas de la Bovary son por culpa de Charles. ¿Suena injusto? Lo es, porque es el único que parece genuinamente buena persona de los personajes principales. Tanta ceguera y buena voluntad. Sin embargo, la vida no es justa. Y Charles es tonto.

Dijeron una vez en mi clase de genética, de medicina, en 2012, que las mujeres se sienten atraídas por los hombres más inteligentes que ellas, y los hombres prefieren el atractivo físico y quizá que ellas sean un poco más tontas. Daba la clase una mujer. Pretendía que eso era una postura inteligente de parte de su sexo preferir la inteligencia al físico, pero esto es un tópico frecuente, me lo han dicho varias veces; incluso a modo de flirteo (¿?)


Y desde luego, si yo tengo que servir a un hombre, facilitar su trabajo, criar sus hijos y ponerle las zapatillas cerca de la estufa, mejor que sea Einstein. Mejor que su trabajo sea grande, y bello y fundamental. Las tres aversiones irracionales de mi vida: hacia hombres, poco atractivos, con mayor opinión de su inteligencia de la que yo tenía. ¡Era injusto! No eran malas personas -tampoco eran santos, ojo. Cito que son poco atractivos porque es una debilidad humana querer sentirse superiores a los demás, y la gente guapa lo tiene tan fácil que no tiene que recurrir a métodos más insidiosos, por ejemplo, catapultar a un colectivo ajeno a ti hacia la inferioridad. Y los he oído (a los tres) discutir en contra de la discriminación positiva por sexo y descubres lo que sospechabas desde un principio: te están tratando con suficiencia. Y Virgina Woolf dice, y yo creo que es cierto, que las mujeres han servido durante siglos de espejo con la deliciosa propiedad de devolver la imagen del hombre con dos veces su tamaño original. Y Charles no se de cuenta de que no es bastante para su mujer; no se le pasa por la cabeza, y a ella le parece insultante. ¡Y yo creo que lo es! Es insultante. Él piensa que ella es un ángel, pero lo que es es incapaz de sacrificarle su vida. Ella no es exactamente una lumbrera, pero tiene imaginación y presencia. Él es ridículo: es la primera escena del libro. Y su operación del pied bot es criminal. ¿Cómo puedes servir a un hombre así? ¿Cómo se te puede pedir que restrinjas tu mundo a un hombre así?

Y lo bueno de este libro es que es perfectamente posible hacer este rant en sentido contrario, si lo que valoras es el buen corazón o esas cosas.
Perdido Street Station - China Miéville Review del libro en sí: China es muy pulp. Su ciudad es barroca, muchas de sus palabras inventadas y sus descripciones están cubiertas de adjetivos como si fueran mermelada. Pone 50 palabras donde bastarían 5 y inesperadamente me encuentro diciendo : "Claro, cariño, ¿quieres ir a la Luna? Deja que te teja un jersey y después, podrás partir." Cada x páginas me rebelaba: "No, porno de polillas si que no. Demasiado es demasiado. Aprende a editar. Joder." y acababa aceptándolo pensando que semejante descaro merecía que le dejase contarme al menos unas cuantas trepitancias más. Y trepitante era, era fabulosamente palpitante.

El final es un descontrol. Estamos mezclando demasiadas cosas. Isaac tiene que juzgar:
- Si el hecho de haber hecho la promesa de darle alas y haber aceptado el dinero no significa que su oportunidad para negarse pasó. En las primeras 50 páginas, por cierto.
- Si hacerlo por la ciencia no se justifica en si mismo.
- Si la deuda moral que ha contraído con Yagharek no basta para supeditar lo que sea que haya hecho anteriormente.
- Porque recordemos que no es una violación. Es un robo de elección en segundo grado, o no sé que mierdas, así que tiene que dirimir sobre sistemas penales de culturas diferentes. Y eso es dificilísimo.
- Si el hecho de Yagharek sea una persona bastante decente no hace que merezca las jodidas alas. Yo no conozco a ningún violador, me parece, pero tendería a decir que no son personas bastante decentes.

Es un poco mucho cuando acaban de lobotomizar a tu novia, ¿no?

Voyage au bout de la nuit - Louis-Ferdinand Céline Are you a good person? I’m not as bad as the truly depraved, but several of my friends are well ahead of me on the road to heaven [lame talking heads joke averted]. It’s not a diss; I respect them, and I think it’s a proof of my taste to recognize their goodness and forgo calling them naïve, fleur bleues and stupid asshats, as I’m sometimes tempted to do.

I have established my lack of credentials to evanescent harp choruses, and I will go on to prove my assertion by saying that my biggest reproach to Céline is not that he was a furiously logorrheic antisemitic schmuck, and not solely, as I had originally thought, a general enemy of the baboonery of the homo sapiens. The trouble is that his deleterious oral diarrhea is also pretty silly. Like in vomit, there is not much solid meat between the greenish flakes of bilis. Baboonery, by the way, is borrowed from another philanthroper, the angsty misanthrope, courage-sceptic and monologue-prone, and very jewish Solal des Solal.

I’ve glanced over “les Beaux Draps”, one of the pamphlets that Céline’s widow has banned from publication in France, thanks to the Internet’s always remarkable morbid curiosity; it has also recently been included in a volume of controversial writing in Quebec. I will be doing the easiest reductio ad Hitlerum ever done when saying that it sucked balls. It felt like a cap-locked teenage scream, a thunderous ejaculation of bottled up hate and dripping rancour. It was the written product of one of Céline’s brain lobes’s fellatio, where he used to storage his grim outlook of life and his sticky little ideas, all wound up and close together like twin teratomas. It was also punctuated almost exclusively with exclamation points.

The real trouble is that, unlike Hitler’s Mein Kampf, that tract is a good text, and Voyage is an excellent one. Mein Kampf is a mess of a book, satisfyingly devoid of redeeming features; it’s a bad argumentation, it’s unappealingly messianic, and it’s tedious. You’d think that such a charismatic autocrat would at least be troubling; not so. Let’s not begrudge him the entertainment factor, tough, and be thankful that the whole of Europe was manipulated by a dull writer.

My enjoyment of the first part of Voyage was based on the assumption that its bleakness was a joke. The portrayal of his uncompromising hypocresy can’t be taken with a straight face. It’s comedy, when they try to kill Bardamu on the boat for no good reason other that making him walk the plank would entertain the women. I thought it was hilarious to have some poet write an elegy based on made up war feats; also when he eats only canned “cassoulet à la bordelaise” in the jungle (the french comic equivalent of the spanish “fabada asturiana”. Has every culture a funny food?), when he enters the USA through his flea-crushing skills. It all turns sour after he comes back to France, and boom! one note gloom thereafter. He met war and colonialism and made a run from both, but poverty got him. Still, unlike other books that have been accused of catering principally to teenagers’ angst, like Kerouac's, Voyage is funny at least for a while.

The antisemitic tract made me hesitate, because it confronted me with the fact that Céline was dead serious about seeing things in shades of charcoal. The Voyage’s spite was meant, not a parody, more than a product of style and a deep revulsion against war -and he firmly believes that it should be fought by our collective mothers-, and against colonialism and capitalism. Céline, who was an extremely clever man or at the very least a genius writer (can one be the one without the other?), had then given up his capacity for simple reason and was just shouting all the time.

Camus apparently said about him “Si c’est sans doute un pauvre type, c’est certainement un grand écrivain”. Céline sentences are beautifully arranged; his style was a small revolution, and my admiration and his morality are not dependant. He's a great sentence-maker. I like clever jerks, at least when they’re not mocking me (then I recognize them for the silly fucktards they really are). The tendency to say “si non è polite è ben trovato” is not something I’m particularly proud of... The trouble is that if Voyage is meant to be taken seriously, I don’t like it quite as much. I’m unable to see any part where it actually contains reasoning, something like an effort to get from some facts to a conclusion. I do find a lot of effort to get to some facts from already coined conclusions. It’s a flawed stand point.

Some people think Naked Lunch is a bunch of laughs. I have tried many times to stare down one of its sentences into making me at least smirk. I don’t mind extreme sex and orgiastic violence, as long as it’s written, but I really, honestly, can’t see the fun in it. Someday I’ll get someone to spell it out for me, although the trouble with jokes is that they are not usually funny once dissected. Well, I really want to get the laughs in Naked Lunch -I would in fact be happy just to finish it.

Céline and Borroughs (and Arthur Conan Doyle and Chekhov and Baroja and Keats and Schiller and Bulgakov and Somerset Maugham) have another thing in common- they were med students and have some indication of severe mental sequels. I heart you guys, I really do, and I hope I never come across any of your kind in school, except Doyle (he’s cool) and Chekhov, who wikipedia says treated the poor for free. Céline, Borroughs: pssst, stay away.

To conclude, Céline’s credo is as follows:
- war, if fought, should be fought by your mother
- if he’s very lucky, she might abort you while busy fighting it and you won’t be born to crap on his lebensraum
- there are in fact decent people in the world. No less than two of them: a sickly french colonialist lost in Congo and a pretty american whore who used to live in Detroit. If you are either of the two you hit the morality jackpot. Congratulations.
- he’ll probably leave you anyway
- poverty sucks

And many more.

PS: the last part of the book, in Vigny’s Maison the Santé, bored me to tears.