THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE by Orhan Pamuk

In my determination to read translated authors, because then you get a feel for other countries and other cultures, I have come to The Museum of Innocence by Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk.   I was published in 2008, and set in the seventies in Istanbul, Turkey.  It won a Nobel Prize in Literature. I gotta admit, I am not sure why.   Oops.  Wait.  No.  The author won his prize for other work, not for this novel.  Now I feel better.  I thought I was losing my ever lovin’.

I found it tedious and boring.  Maybe I am too old for this type of storyline.  Which is as the official plot descriptions tells us:

It is 1975, a perfect spring in Istanbul. Kemal, scion of one of the city’s wealthiest families, is about to become engaged to Sibel, daughter of another prominent family, when he encounters Füsun, a beautiful shopgirl and a distant relation. Once the long-lost cousins violate the code of virginity, a rift begins to open between Kemal and the world of the Westernized Istanbul bourgeoisie—a world, as he lovingly describes it, with opulent parties and clubs, society gossip, restaurant rituals, picnics, and mansions on the Bosphorus, infused with the melancholy of decay—until finally he breaks off his engagement to Sibel. But his resolve comes too late.

For eight years Kemal will find excuses to visit another Istanbul, that of the impoverished backstreets where Füsun, her heart now hardened, lives with her parents, and where Kemal discovers the consolations of middle-class life at a dinner table in front of the television. His obsessive love will also take him to the demimonde of Istanbul film circles (where he promises to make Füsun a star), a scene of seedy bars, run-down cheap hotels, and small men with big dreams doomed to bitter failure. In his feckless pursuit, Kemal becomes a compulsive collector of objects that chronicle his lovelorn progress and his afflicted heart’s reactions: anger and impatience, remorse and humiliation, deluded hopes of recovery, and daydreams that transform Istanbul into a cityscape of signs and specters of his beloved, from whom now he can extract only meaningful glances and stolen kisses in cars, movie houses, and shadowy corners of parks. A last change to realize his dream will come to an awful end before Kemal discovers that all he finally can possess, certainly and eternally, is the museum he has created of his collection, this map of a society’s manners and mores, and of one man’s broken heart.

A stirring exploration of the nature of romantic attachment and of the mysterious allure of collecting, The Museum of Innocencealso plumbs the depths of an Istanbul half Western and half traditional—its emergent modernity, its vast cultural history.

It is exceedingly long, going into laborious detail of various scenes and his thought processes.  I didn’t find the exploration of  romantic attachment and of the mysterious allure all that stirring.  After reading the storyline, you can understand my ennui in the face of yet another self-absorbed, obsessed young man who basically has too much so has to find distraction in something less than worthy.

The details of life in Turkey at that time I found really interesting.  The author’s descriptions of the city life, the neighborhoods, etc. were so well-served by his eye for minutiae.  The endless ruminating and obsessing thrilled me so much less.  I have little patience for obsession.  Probably because at my age I can clearly see the pointless waste of one’s life and energies on it.

The author has also written Snow and My Name Is Red.   Perhaps I will give those a shot.

Advertisements

SO LONG, SEE YOU TOMORROW by William Maxwell

In a small, rural 1920s farming community, two families become friends.  The bored spouses of each family begin an affair that tears the two families apart,culminating in one of the husbands shooting and killing the other.

It is something of a coming of age book, told in the first person by the friend of the son of one of the men in question.  It is not a mystery.  It is not even a mystery why it happened.  It is just a slow, sad recollection of events of the narrator’s youth,  which slowly and quietly fleshes out the characters in spare descriptions, leaving us thinking of them as unremarkable parts of the unremarkable landscape.  The murder affects everyone, even our narrator, because nothing can be the same after such an act, and his fragile friendship crumbles instantly away.

It is about grief, and loss,  and about how we tell our stories,  and about memory, and how and what we remember.

What we, or at any rate what I, refer to confidently as memory — meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fixative and thereby rescued from oblivion — is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with the telling.

In talking about the past, we lie with every breath we draw.

Lovely book, a joy to read.

 

David Markson was an interesting writer.  He wrote The Ballad of Dingus Magee, which was made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra, three crime novels, of which this is one, and several other later novels which were rather different in style and approach to the normal narrative style.  I am halfway through one of them now, and it is something of a slog, to be frank.

But Epitaph for a Tramp is wonderful.  Hard-boiled 1959 noir crime novel, cleverly written,  Chandler-esque in style.

A couple of years ago,our protagonist, a P.I.,  married a chick he met on the beach, and he  fell in love at first sight.  They marry soon after, but sadness is on the horizon.  Turns out, she is a troubled creature, finding solace in the arms of strangers whenever he is away on a case. He divorces her and carries on with his life.   This is exactly why your mother always tells you to wait a couple of years before marrying, because it takes time for the real person to reveal him/herself.

A year or so after the divorce, she comes to his apartment in the middle of the night, having been stabbed in the street, and bleeds out on his floor.  The rest of the book is him trying to discover who killed her.

It was good,– good writing, a good mystery, an interesting background story, and as usual, I had no clue as to the murderer, so I was happy with it.  More and more often, these days, I only want something easy peasy to read at night before I fall asleep, because I am too close to falling asleep to read anything too heavy.  Well, that’s what happens when you stay up into the wee hours of 7 pm.

OUT OF THE PAST by Renée Pawlish

This is the fifth in an apparently endless mystery series by the Amazon #1 bestselling author.  I know she is the Amazon #1 bestselling author because it says so right on the cover!  She is an extremely prolific author.  Once you get the basic structure down pat of a detective story, you can churn these things out by the dozens.  *I* couldn’t.  I couldn’t write my way out of a paper bag, so I even admire the authors who can continually  come up with a new slant on the fundamentals.

This is kind of a comic mystery story.  Here’s the official blurb:  Compelled by a dark secret from his past, private investigator Reed Ferguson takes on his most unique case yet: bodyguard for young, spoiled trust-fund baby Stephanie McMahon. As Reed tries to protect her from her father’s enemies, he gets more than he bargained for. Things are not what they seem, no one can be trusted, and the past has a way of coming back to haunt us. And when suspicious deaths begin piling up, Reed knows he might be next. With a twisting plot and film noir fun that readers have come to expect.

OK, the big secret from his past is that back in his salad days, he and a few friends set up what amounted to a Ponzi scheme but soon shut it down.  Only a very few people know about this.  A wealthy guys uses this info  (how in the world did he learn of it?) to blackmail Ferguson into bodyguarding his wild and headstrong daughter, who wants no part of being bodyguarded.

But gee, a friend of hers commits suicide, another friend from her college circle dies, and the bodies start piling up.  The dialog is fun, the situations are on the light amusing side, and all in all, it is a decent mystery.  I almost guessed the villain of the piece.  OK, not exactly, but I was closing in on it.  Give a girl a break, will ya?

ANCHOR LEG by Jack Croxall

This little sci fi YA was almost good.  Almost.  Fell a bit short as the ending drew near because the actions became more and more improbable and the plot more predictable.

Official blurb:  Humanity has spilled out into the Solar System, into a succession of giant space stations known as the Relay. Seren Temples is a security apprentice running the Relay’s remote Anchor Leg. When sabotage strands her vessel near another damaged ship, Seren and her team are sent across to investigate. The second ship is a zero-G graveyard. Inside its vast hold, nothing but a single vial of frozen blood.

Seren is 17 years old. Her boss, the head of security, is injured during a riot control, and during that riot, a man steps in and shoots one of the security team, killing him.  Another member of the team goes after the shooter, and kills him.  He is taken into custody and thrown in the brig. The head of security is in a coma in the hospital, leaving only two members of the team still available and functioning — the former pirate turned good guy, and the 17-year-old trainee.  So.  Who does  the captain of the ship make acting head of security?   Sigh.  Yes.  The 17-year-old trainee, because, duh the other one used to be a pirate.   [Insert eye roll here.]

So right there, I am trying to decide whether to just abandon the book at this point, or slog forward.  I slog forward, because it is actually a space mystery/thriller and I usually finish a mystery, no matter how less-than-excellent they are.

The mystery itself wasn’t bad, but really, the star of the show being a 17-year-old?  That wasn’t really working for me.  However, I did like the world building — very creative.  The sci part of the fi was a smidge lame,  but the author wasn’t going for competition with Miéville or Kim Stanley Robinson, so we readers just went along for the ride.

I think I just discovered a new genre:  cozy sci fi YA mystery/thriller.    🙂

 

 

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE by Bessel A. van der Kolk

I bet you thought this was another mystery, right?  Fooled you.  It is a treatise on trauma and its effect on the brain by a noted  trauma expert. Bessel van der Kolk has spent over three decades working with survivors of trauma.  He transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring—specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. He shows how these areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments including neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques, play, yoga, and other therapies. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score offers proven alternatives to drugs and talk therapy—and a way to reclaim lives.

It is beautifully readable, and although fairly long, so interesting so that the reader keeps turning pages.  Yeah, it’s that good.  It is a  thorough exploration of trauma and its effects, written for both practitioners and laypeople.  I have been interested in PTSD for some time, and when I have the opportunity, like to read on the subject.

If trauma and its effects interest you, I highly recommend this book.

ABADDON’S GATE by James S. A. Corey

I love literary allusions.  Some of them I have to look up, like this one.  This one I believe is a reference to a questing game, where Abaddon’s Gate is the entrance to the third and final layer of the prison built by the five gods of this game’s world. Beyond this gate lies the Heart of Abaddon, where the dark god, twisted by centuries of torment, strains against his prison. It lies at the bottom of the Realm of Madness, surrounded by constantly flowing falls, which carry the entire realm’s torment down upon the imprisoned god.

Abaddon’s Gate the novel picks up a year after the events of Caliban’s War, (and in case you have forgotten the gist of that episode of our space opera, you can refresh your memory here)   For generations, the solar system — Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt — was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus’s orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

A young Belter, the space opera counterpart to our teenagers,  tries to thread the ring with his spaceship, and it sets into motion a major interplanetary incident that brings each of the major Solar System factions (Earth, Mars and the Outer Planets Alliance) to the Ring, where they begin to study the construct, and keep tabs on one another.

We lose many of the secondary characters from the previous books, but Miller the detective who died in the first book, shows up again,  a phantasm constantly reminding Holden to check the doors and corners.  A ghost?  Have we gone paranormal?   Holden manages to get the Rocinante through the gate thing without being pulverized by keeping the speed slow.  He then EVAs out to what looks like  a guardhouse, or something, where he meets Miller again, and learns that Miller is just a visual of the entity that is the protomolecule created to communicate with him.  Insert eye roll here … why him especially?  Oh, well.  It’s fiction.  Move on.

Meanwhile, some chick, the daughter of a bad guy who was finally brought to justice and is languishing in jail, is out for revenge on Holden, so that plot thread twists around the investigating the protomolecule thing/ring plot thread, and all in all, it is all good fun.

Several more books to go in this series.  I’ll keep you posted.