As discussed in my reviews for Another Roadside Attraction & Invisible Monsters, Chuck Palahniuk and I have had a long and turbulent relationship. After reading 5 novels of Palahniuk’s with the hope of rekindling our initial love affair which began with Fight Club, I finally found a work that justifies the special and twisted place he holds in my heart.
Survivor, stemming from another warped and satirical Palahniuk premise, has a sensitivity and depth to it, which engages the reader nailing you to your seat from beginning to end.
At the center of this nosedive of a novel is our protagonist, Tender Branson; a misplaced soul, with an intriguing and disturbing narrative. Branson, one of Palahniuk’s strongest characters, worms his way into your mind, gets you hooked, and then heartbroken when you have to part ways.
I expect to weep upon finishing a Hemingway; I never expected to weep when finishing a Palahniuk.
Welcome back to my heart, Chuck.
Rating: 4 Black Boxes
William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist is worth every hour of sleep it will make you lose.
Blatty brings to life a mother’s worse nightmare through an exploration of mind, science, and faith. The Exorcist is certainly more terrifying on the page than on the screen, which relies on visual gimmickry to evoke shock and omits the more horrifying aspects the novel. The novel is more three dimensional: delving deeply into possible mental causes for Reagan’s journey from innocent young girl, to possessed demon as well as the leap of faith required to explain the transformation in terms of religion. The writing is jarring and chilling thanks to Baltty’s sharp skill at bringing every character and horror to life.
The Exorcist is a one of a kind novel with Blatty’s ability to inject heart into the horror genre, much like King does.
Rating: 4 Bowls of Pea Soup
I tried PKD and I loved him.
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick came highly recommended from a trusted source. That source is still trusted.
With an intricate but not convoluted plot and strong conflicted characters, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch offers an exploration of philosophy, religion, and the complex realities of human nature. It takes a moment to feel oriented in the world PKD creates, but once you give in to the surroundings, you are in for one hell of an insightful, colorful, and trippy ride.
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch will leave you wanting more.
Rating: 4 Hallucinatory Escapes
Wanting to take a dip into the Murakami pool of writing for some time now, but not wanting to commit to hundreds of pages off the bat, I thought,”What better than a short story collection to get a feel for his work?”
My love fest for short stories continues with After the Quake, and a new love for an author has been ignited.
Exploring snippets of various citizens’ lives after the 1995 Kobe earthquake, Murakami combines realism, surrealism, and humor to highlight the most basic elements connecting us all: love, loss, longing, etc. In this sense, his writing mirrors some of my favorite South American writers who find the cracks that let the light shine through.
With only six stories making up After the Quake it’s hard to pick highlights, but the two standouts for me are Landscape with Flatiron and Thailand. Murakami hardly misses a beat.
Rating: 4.5 Super-Frogs
Special shout out to AK for the recommendation!
Mary Stewart masterfully tackles suspense and Gothic romance in Nine Coaches Waiting.
With the spunk and poise of Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and the mysterious flare of du Maurier’s Rebecca, Stewart engages the reader from page 1.
Our heroine, Linda, enters a suspenseful world as governess for the Valmy family. The fullness of Linda’s character – her compassion, wit, and curiosity – takes the reader on a layered journey and leaves you wanting more.
Stewart is an expert in her field, walking the tightrope balancing act of love and mystery. Nine Coaches Waiting is a must read for this genre’s lovers, and highly recommended to all others.
Rating: 4 Coaches Waiting
Allen Ginsberg is gritty, obscene, hallucinatory, and honest in Howl and Other Poems. One of the leaders of the Beat Generation, Ginsberg saw the world around him for what it was: the good, the bad, and the dirty. His ability to capture this unique era of American history is unparalleled.
Howl (the poem itself) is a staple in the archives of American poetry, with an interesting ebb and flow leaving you out of breath, but Ginsberg’s other works shouldn’t go unnoticed; in particular:
A Supermarket in California
Rating: 4 Obscenities
Last year we explored the brilliance that is Emma Woodhouse, this year it’s Catherine Morland. Jane Austen can write a heroine like it’s her vocation (well, okay, it kinda is, but you get the point…), and she didn’t disappoint in her debut novel, Northanger Abbey.
Miss Morland is a fascinating character. Unlike, Emma or Elizabeth Bennett, who are insiders trying to break the mold, she is an outsider looking in on a society she knows little of. She is essentially the anti-Emma in the best way possible, overcoming a different set of personal “flaws.”
Experiencing Catherine Morland’s journey in Northanger Abbey from a naïve day-dreamer, to a woman who remains modest and kind, but holds her own, is a delight. Austen also colors Northanger Abbey with some of her strongest supporting characters who add the satirical wit with which Austen continuously wins us.
Rating: 4 High Society Balls