REVIEW: The Princess Bride

I’ve rewritten this review multiple times trying to throw in more of the technicalities of the novel, but I can’t be objective on this one. It is a story that has been too much a part of my heart for so long. This review is in fact a love note to William Goldman.

How a person can currently exist without knowing the truest way to say “I love you” is “as you wish” is a concept I have yet to grasp. But, there seems to be a population of fully grown humans who have never seen The Princess Bride. (Lookin at you best friend.) A film which helped shaped my childhood and foster my off-beat sense of romance; it is one I return to frequently, quote often, and think of when I need a smile. So, naturally, it took me 30 years to read the damn book (inconceivable, I know).

William Goldman redefined the fairytale genre with The Princess Bride. Relating the
main story of romance and adventure to us via an abridgment of the “original” novel, with annotations by our narrator, Goldman himself, sets the tone of whimsy from page 1. Though the framework of The Princess Bride’s plot is quite standard, Goldman zests it up with his over-the-top cast of characters, unconventional humor, and twisted wit. Goldman’s manipulation of a formulaic genre which has spanned centuries makes The Princess Bride an instant classic which speaks to all generations. A classic that is brilliantly executed in both media and print.

While he adds his own flare to the emblematic romance world, Goldman never forgets the root of the tale, the thing we all really yearn for: true love.

Rating: 4 Rodents Of Unusual Size

REVIEW: Invisible Monsters

Last year I did not tackle any of Chuck Palahniuk’s collection, though I did mention my constant struggle with him in my review of Robbins’ Another Roadside Attraction as follows:

“I absolutely adored Fight Club, but none of his other novels has met that bar. Yet, I keep reading him. While I do enjoy most of his works, I am frequently left with a less favorable aftertaste, as they are not as well executed as Fight Club. My extreme love for Fight Club possibly warped my ability to fully enjoy the rest of Chuck’s collection.”

 Invisible Monsters is the closest I have come in my Palahniuk adventures to thoroughly applauding his genius as I did with Fight Club. Closest but still no cigar.

The heart of Invisible Monsters is a beautiful one; an exploration (albeit a twisted, graphic, and gory one) on the struggles of self-identity and body image and the difficult (Tarantinoesque) journey to becoming the person you want to be. The characters, though beyond heightened, evince kernels of universal truths. The overall plot line, engaging and quirky. But. But. But. It just gets to be too much, Chuck. Chunks of the novel involve road trip like expeditions with 3 of our main characters, and after a certain number of these excursions I was done with them. Yet, they kept trucking along. Similar in essence to the road tripping adventures of Humbert Humbert and Lolita, but instead with a newly disfigured former model going through an existential crisis, a pill-popping transgender woman who is the glue holding it all together, and a fairly unnecessary jerk of a guy. 

When the Prozac Nation tour isn’t occurring, we are jumping back and forth in a convoluted time line of our mutilated model. While this backstory ultimately ties some loose ends together, it is once again, TOO MUCH, and hindered my empathy towards our anti-heroine as opposed to enhancing it.

All of that being said, Palahniuk executed the ending of Invisible Monsters masterfully (a trait he often lacks), and, as mentioned before, the overall arch and concept is strong. 

Though this wasn’t quite kissing another Palahniuk frog, it still wasn’t the prince I’ve been hoping for.

Rating: 3.5 Brandy Alexanders

REVIEW: Turtle Diary

I’m back and I’m in love…with Russell Hoban’s Turtle Diary.  This is yet another novel which falls under the “book my father begged me for years to read and I stupidly kept putting it off” category. (Seriously, father really does know best.)

Hoban checks all my boxes with Turtle Diary: short, masterfully alternates narratives, straightforward moving plot, well developed realistic characters. While each of these characteristics is flawlessly executed, the novel as a whole manages to transcend its parts.

Hoban creates magic, and a hint of mystery, with Turtle Diary. Though written in the 70s, Hoban’s depiction of the sobering loneliness that can come of flying solo in modern society evokes an even stronger message today. In a world where majority of our interactions take place through technology, it is easy to fall in line with our narrators’ (William G. and Neaera H.) need to become a part of something bigger than themselves. Something tangible. Something that requires an honest connection, even with a stranger.

Turtle Diary has moved its way to being one of my top recommendations; a novel I would encourage all to read.

Rating: 5 Turtles Swimming Freely

REVIEW: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair exemplifies the power that can be wielded by a well-formed poetry collection. While poetry collections can be tricky to review due to the subjectivity of the art form, it would be difficult for me to do anything less than gush about Neruda.

Infamous for his blatant sensuality, Neruda never employs carnality as a gimmick. Threaded throughout Twenty Love Poems…, is the exploration of the many facets of love, loss, and sexuality. Neruda writes with a raw honesty and a bittersweet nostalgia that is relatable (at least to this reader).  While every poem may not strike a personal chord, it’s hard to avoid Neruda’s power to reel the reader in; especially those with a sentimental heart.

Personal favorites:

So That You Will Hear Me

I Remember You As You Were

I Like For You To Be Still

Tonight I Can Write

 

Rating: 4.5 Hearts

 

REVIEW: The African Queen

I watched the film adaptation of C.S. Forester’s The African Queen many moons ago at the recommendation of my father. I was totally engaged and enamored (how could one not love Kate and Bogey), but, as my memory for plot sucks, my recall of detail was slim. Last year, one of my loyal followers highly recommended the novel (thanks, EK!), consequently, it made the 2017 list. I expected to enjoy the journey, knowing I would be embarking on a classic tale of adventure and romance, but ended up appreciating it for so much more.

As a woman, The African Queen was an immensely inspiring novel. This “classic tale of adventure and romance” (yes, I quoted myself from two seconds ago, just go with it) is actually a badass feminist narrative reaching far beyond its classic realms. Forester did impressively well by our heroine, Rose Sayer, especially considering it was written in the 1930s, and especially considering Forester is a dude. The beauty of literature over film is its ability to reveal the inner monologue of characters, and Rose’s internal narrative is a true inspiration.

Accompanying a woman as she leaves the world where she lives in the shadow of men (and God), to one where she fully and willingly embraces her strengths and expands her comfort zone just because she freakin can, is beautiful. The added treat is the reader’s invitation to be in her head as she goes through these changes. Obviously, Rose is a fictional character, but her thoughts and heart are so incredibly palpable and relatable, she may as well be real.

The excitement of Rose and her companion’s (Charlie) journey contributes plenty to keep the reader engaged, and is well executed by Forester. Even if the novel lacked the additional layer provided by Rose’s feminist character, it would gain top marks from me. But that extra dose of heroine fierceness is what turned The African Queen into a piece of literature I will return to whenever I need some strong feminine motivation.

 

Rating: 4.5 Torpedos