REVIEW: The Death of a Beekeeper

I have been writing my reviews on a fairly long delay. Not intentionally, just because life happens. But, I’ve found it has helped me create clearer views on these postponed reviews.

When I finished Lars Gustafsson’s The Death of a Beekeeper I wasn’t smitten. It certainly didn’t spark the ranter in me, nor did I pinpoint anything specifically flawed in the novel, I didn’t for some reason connect with the narrator on a personal level. So, as I finished the last page I had a general feeling of “eh, alright.”

I was very sad to inform my father of my reaction, since The Death of a Beekeeper was yet another of his suggestions, and, as you know, he has been batting a thousand thus far.

Pops recently brought up the novel again, partially to kindly (impatiently) inquire as to when I was actually reviewing the novel, but also to express his reasons why it struck a chord with him. After this exchange, and the writing of a few more overdue reviews, I realized that much of Gustafsson’s words have, indeed, stuck with me over the 2 ½ months since I finished the novel. (Yes, I’m THAT delayed).

The Death of a Beekeeper truly is a uniquely and beautifully written work. And, no, I couldn’t always get myself to feel engaged with our titular beekeeper, Lars (though I could sympathize with his condition…the title is pretty blunt in what we are dealing with here), but the overall essence never left me. In fact, in rereading sections I highlighted, I became quite emotional.

Now, maybe my sentimentality was heightened because of my association of the novel with my father, or maybe something in myself has shifted over the past couple of months. But, The Death of a Beekeeper has moved up in the ranks for me, and I’m glad I waited to share it with you (something I wish I had done last year with The Road, that book has never left me). And, if you don’t trust my unstable judgement, trust my father’s, he always finds the beauty in hidden gems and brings them to light.

 

Rating: 4 Stingers

REVIEW: The Shining

Stephen King is an author I haven’t revisited in about a decade. Partially because Ive been distracted by other authors, partially because I’m a scaredy cat. But, finally I have conquered the book so creepy Joey hides it in the freezer, The Shining.

The psychological aspects of The Shining are incredible, and far more developed in the novel than the film (I see why Mr. King took many an issue with the latter). If you take out all the redrums and I see dead people moments, what you have is a study of an addict battling his demons, and the impact it has on his family. Not only is Jack Torrence an exquisitely executed character struggling with alcoholism and rage, his wife, Wendy, is an exceptionally well developed, layered character (POORLY depicted in the film). The most fascinating parts of the novel are the inner monologues of the couple – their love for each other and their son is palpable, as is their inner turmoil as they attempt to navigate a relationship in light of the rough hand they’ve been dealt.

The use of supernatural elements and isolation in The Shining, especially when experienced through Danny (the son), creates an even more vulnerable environment for the Torrence family. With the personal battles they are facing it’s only natural for them to be highly susceptible to the otherworldly forces running the show in the Overlook Hotel.

The Shining is a solid piece of literature, and I didn’t even mind that it was over 300 pages. This one has certainly earned a spot on my “Most Likely to Recommend” list.

 

Rating: 4 Unstable Boilers

REVIEW: Slaughterhouse-Five

Last year Kurt Vonnegut came into my life and I fell in love at a Hemingway level (see here). So it was only natural that I would add Kurt’s most famous classic to my list this year, Slaughterhouse-Five. It is now tied with Turtle Diary for my favorite book of the year.

From Vonnegut’s succinct and poignant style, to the plot, to the characters, to the black humor, to the unique perspective on topical issues…I can’t find a flaw. What fascinates me about Vonnegut most is how seamlessly he integrates science fictional elements into novels which would otherwise be characterized as modern realism. Vonnegut uses this tool in Slaughterhouse-Five to bring into focus themes of free will, suffering, warfare, and ethics – very down to earth elements. While Billy Pilgrim (our narrator’s lead) is a relatively fantastical character, his journey is true to human nature.

Slaughterhouse-Five has become a staple of American literature for a reason. Its honesty. Vonnegut takes the dark and complicated aspects of what it means to live in this society and strips them down to their truest form, to expose what is at the heart of life. So it goes.

 

Rating: 5 Poo-tee-weets

REVIEW: Rabbit, Run

John Updike, you’ve left me utterly confused.  Rabbit, Run was one of my “this book (and its sequels) is on every MUST READ BEFORE YOU DIE list so I should probs check it out” books. And it was one I was looking forward to reading – seemed to be my cup of tea from what I knew about it. And, while I was reading it continued to feel that way. Then I put the book down. And now I don’t know what to think about anything.

I read Rabbit, Run in one day. Obviously I was invested, and Updike just as obviously writes with a unique and engaging literary style. But my first thought when completing the novel was “I freakin hate that guy” (full disclosure, that sentence contained more “F” bombs than just the one and of the non “freakin” variety). Now, when I say “that guy” I mean our anti-hero, Rabbit, not Mr. Updike. And when I say “hate” I don’t mean in the fun way we love to hate anti-heroes (what up, Don Draper) or a solid villain, I mean I hate him. He has zero redeemable qualities, there was maybe one moment where I thought “okay, maybe you aren’t THAT bad.” However, I never once rooted for him to turn it around, nor did I care if he did. Pretty much, zero part of me cares about the future of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. And zero part of me understands how there are 5 million other books about this jerk, and why I am expected to read them if I am to be considered well read.

So, now what am I supposed to do? I can’t sit here and say I got zero pleasure from the book and denounce John Updike’s ability to write a clear and intriguing story, but I don’t want to applaud the creation of one of the worst characters I’ve ever come across. Honestly, I would take a slew of Ayn Rand’s horrible creatures over this dude.

Read this book. Or don’t. I certainly won’t be continuing the series, unless it’s to be able to feel further justified in my attitude towards the man. On a positive note, I was very into the supporting female characters and would happily read a novel or two based solely around the character of Ruth.

 

Rating: 2.5 Entitled Bros