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Buddha's Little Finger
Buddha's Little Finger
von Victor Pelevin
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Enjoyable. Forgettable., 20. Juli 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Buddha's Little Finger (Gebundene Ausgabe)
THE CONTEXT. The middlebrow and sligtly less than that reader is finally targeted at the Russian book market. The pre-Perestroika years saw thousands of Moscovites reading poetry and pholosophy in our subway. The quest for material wealth could result in a few years in prison or a brief but deadly rendez-vous with a firing squad. It was much safer to live on a salary, sip your thin borscht and soar into empirea reading Akhmatova and Berdiaev. Vodka helped to enhance the pleasure.
Then the world outside opened up and the flood of Western-style entertainment took these poetic broodings from intelligentsia's hands and replaced them with J.H.Chase,Jackie Collins and other varieties of mass market idiocy.
It was declared that the notion of The Culture as the realm of classic music, poetry and philosophy is outdated and has to be replaced by the bunch of different cultures, much better suited to satisfy the needs of the newly diversified society. And there is no such thing as the cultural hierarchy - just enjoy what you like!
I was stunned seeing what my University pals read these days. The creative penniless misfits of yesteryears earned their first - and for many of them the last - hundreds thousands dollars and turned unashamedly to the worst schlock imaginable.
Of course I was aware that we witness the cultural pendulum's downswing and the situation will become more balanced in a few years.
Yes, everything is stabilized now, good reading is en vogue again, but the urge to "napriagatsya"(i.e. to make an effort) and "gruzitsya"(to immerse oneself into the complex system of images or reasoning) somehow dissolved. So the highbrow works are a losers' fare now. The former intelligentsia is satisfied with reading entertaining creampuffs generously sprinkled with the hints of Pop Buddhism and other kinds of esoterica.
THE BOOK The book is good. It's making use of much-loved anecdotes about the Civil War hero Vasili Ivanovich Chapaev, his sidekick Petka and the very accessible bombshell Anka. There are great chunks of collective soul in any folklore - tackling it you will surely be appreciated. Seeing one tradition from the other tradition's viewpoint will surely result in something very readable, the sordid anecdotes made to look as the manifestations of Buddhist philosophy are shockingly original and amusing. The author throws in the current fetishes - Simply Maria from the Mexican telenovella millions of Russians love to watch, Arnold Shwartzenegger, the New Russian bandits. Evidently Pelevin does not aim for eternity. Many of the "modern day" details are already outdated. Many scenes are really cheap.The things that helped to sell as many copies of the book as possible are slipping into the past, but that does not seem to bother the author - he's already cashed on his disposable masterpiece.
Chapaev and Emptiness (that's the original title) is more journalism that literature. It's not profound but it doesn't pretend to be, it's enjoyable but forgettable - a bestseller, the new phenomenon brought into life when the newborn Russian consumerism ventured into the territories of art. I can not predict the book's impact on anyone from outside the Russian cultural tradition. You have to be compatible to see that book for what it really is. Or you'll end up hailing Pelevin as the new Gogol(he is not) or doing even weirder things.


Every Dead Thing
Every Dead Thing
von John Connolly
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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1.0 von 5 Sternen A text trying to be a book., 18. Juli 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Every Dead Thing (Gebundene Ausgabe)
First of all - I enjoyed this bestseller. It's so contrived, so cliched, so delightfully stupid I liked every minute of contact with these precious pages.
Mr. Connolly is a parasite - the word is not an insult, it defines his writing style pretty well. He snatches the bits from everything to put his book together, many traditions, cuisines and locales are milked for anything he can use. He starts the book a la Thomas Harris, then stops, unable to continue, but he doesn't wait for the inspiration to come - he simply slips into the hard-boiled/noir routine that carries him on for the next couple hundreds pages - all of them unrelated to the main plot. The Bird drives into a SMALL TOWN. He checks in a SHABBY MOTEL. He goes to the LOCAL BAR and fights the LOCAL BULLIES. He has problems with the LOCAL LAW.
In every city we are given a lecture on a warring criminal clans that rule them. There are Italians and Jamaicans in New York, Joe Bones men and Cajuns in New Orleans. Don't know why but Bird is a sucker for coming to a boss's stronghold to be surrounded immediately by the glowering and trigger-fingering henchmen and then invited by a criminal tsar for a conversation. In such way he visits Italians, Joe Bones and Cajuns. Pity he skipped Jamaicans - another exotic tradition to throw in. I liked so much his final trip to Joe Bones castle - he stumbled over so many corpses to get a candid interview. I have a definite impression that Mr.Connelly lives out his most cherished journalistic dream at these pages - to access someone unaccessible at any cost.
It's evident John is a total outsider to the American life. How did you like "F..king Frank" Forbes, the doctor who rapes or attempts to rape ALL his patients? Surprisingly, he spends his life not behind the bars but in a lavish Manhattan office. John, that's weird. It's very, very stupid. And all these shootouts claiming dozens dead! John's car swishes past a "Credibility" sign at full speed and leaves it hundreds miles behind.
Now about the maniac. After Silence Of The Lambs, Kiss The Girls and Seven can you imagine any other kind of monster but an overeducated Biblical weirdo? John can not. So we have to read about all that Valverde-Schmalverde and witness the profiling by the Bird's lady friend, who evidently thinks that profiling and blubbering are the same thing. "He wants to give a lesson in human mortality...bluh-bluh-bluh..." It seems everyone present was embarrassed by these "insights".
Everyone repeats the name The Travelling Man without questioning it's origin. But this traveler operates only in two cities - New York and New Orlean. Not much of a travel. Another pseudo-meaningful name chosen for no reason at all.
And who is the real monster is still a question. If you compare Bird's body count to the number of the maniac's victims Charlie will emerge as the undisputable winner. And the less bloodthirsty of the readers would certainly wish him dead with his wife and child - that would have saved the dozens of lifes.
I flinched every time John decided to come up with a joke. Here is the short anthology: Charles Parker: - I would not let a dog be treated by you because you'd probably try to f..k it...-(p.88) Woolrich: - When I die, they'll find beignet crumb up the crack of my ass.- (p.46)- By the way - did they find it? It's a pity this time Mr.Connolly failed to include the detailed autopsy report. Angel:- I was a kid and looked like him I'd cut my dick off and make money singin' castrato, 'cos it ain't gonna be no use no other way.-(p.99) Rachel:- My last relationship ended six month ago and I think my hymen may be growing back. - (p.362) Since that debility comes from the different sources and there is no other kind of humor in the book I understand that's the way Mr.Connolly himself jokes when he is in the mood.
It's evident he does not see or hear the things and the people he puts in his work, he does not have any images in his mind but the ready chunks of typed text he transfers to a page. " He swallowed the last of his whiskey, the ice cubes rattling against the glass like old bones"(p.60). Now imagine the ice cubes melting in a glass of whisky that was sipped, not gulped. They are solid and moist, they click against the glass with the sound very much unlike the sound of the dry and fragile old bones. "A discarded newspaper skimmed the sidewalk with a sound like the whispering of a dead lover"(p.130) How poetic! How do the dead lovers whisper? "...her shirt brushing my hand with a sound like water sizzling on a hot metal"(p.357) John, you have to download a new, more accurate sound samples archive to your brain.
"Dim light lanced through the curtains..."(p.297) How the dim light could lance through? It seeps. But the second part of that sentence is even better. Even though English is not my native language I feel something's wrong with the phrase -"my watchface glowed the time at 8.35 a.m."
There is a lot of meaningless and very unnecessary passages. One of my favorites is - "If I had been able to turn, I would have seen the lights of Old Orchard Beach, but I was not able to turn."(p.375) - Yeah, if I was flying over Kathmandu at night I would see the city lights but now it's not night and I am not flying over Kathmandu.
And my special little gem shows Mr.Connolly's power of imagination and originality in all it's splendor. On the page 502 Charlie enters the maniac's lair full of preserved victims body parts and what he sees right before his face? - " ...A thick spider web...the brown drained husks of trapped insects shivering in the vibrations from the opening door." John, I hope you blush when you call yourself a writer...
Charles sits in a cafe and flirts with the lady psychologist: "- I know the feeling. I used to be like that with Ben and Jerry's until I realised I was starting to look like one of the cartons.- She smiled again..."(p.154). Ain't we coquettish! The only problem is that just several pages and hours ago Bird's daughter's face was sent to him floating in a jar. Which did not prevent the desperate father from having a good time.
Culturally I can profile Mr.Connoly as the real maniac behind the text. He is painfully aware of his creative impotence. He feels his characters are just paper thin and he wants them to come alive, he flays them to see flesh and blood under the layer of word-splattered paper. He overdoes it. He needs all the compassion and sympathy for his lifeless creature so we learn that Charlie's father took his life - and here is the suicide story - and his mother died of cancer - and John supplies the story of her demise. Then the wife and child are killed. You have to be heartless to feel nothing for the guy!
The book's editors Sue Fletcher and Bob Mecoy either decided to do their work on vacation and forgot the script at home or sweated over the text and what we have now is the result of the superb job they did. But then how weak and pathetic Mr.Connolly's initial offering was if all the editorial efforts resulted in that intellectually inferior and amorphous mass?I just could not believe my eyes reading all these "stunning debut" and "stylishly written tale" comments.
P.S. The page numbers are given according to the Coronet Books Hodder & Stoughton edition of 1999.
Kommentar Kommentar (1) | Kommentar als Link | Neuester Kommentar: Jan 7, 2012 10:43 PM CET


Every Dead Thing
Every Dead Thing
von John Connolly
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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1.0 von 5 Sternen A text trying to be a book, 6. Juli 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Every Dead Thing (Gebundene Ausgabe)
I flinched every time John decided to come up with a joke. Here is the short anthology: Charles Parker: - I would not let a dog be treated by you because you'd probably try to .... it...-(p.88) Woolrich: - When I die, they'll find beignet crumb up the crack of my ...- (p.46)- By the way - did they find it? It's a pity this time Mr.Connolly failed to include the detailed autopsy report. Angel:- I was a kid and looked like him I'd cut my .... off and make money singin' castrato, 'cos it ain't gonna be no use no other way.-(p.99) Rachel:- My last relationship ended six month ago and I think my hymen may be growing back. - (p.362) Since that debility comes from the different sources and there is no other kind of humor in the book I understand that's the way Mr.Connolly himself jokes when he is in the mood.
It's evident he does not see or hear the things and the people he puts in his work, he does not have any images in his mind but the ready chunks of typed text he transfers to a page. " He swallowed the last of his whiskey, the ice cubes rattling against the glass like old bones"(p.60). Now imagine the ice cubes melting in a glass of whisky that was sipped, not gulped. They are solid and moist, they click against the glass with the sound very much unlike the sound of the dry and fragile old bones. "A discarded newspaper skimmed the sidewalk with a sound like the whispering of a dead lover"(p.130) How poetic! How do the dead lovers whisper? "...her shirt brushing my hand with a sound like water sizzling on a hot metal"(p.357) John, you have to download a new, more accurate sound samples archive to your brain.
"Dim light lanced through the curtains..."(p.297) How the dim light could lance through? It seeps. But the second part of that sentence is even better. Even though English is not my native language I feel something's wrong with the phrase -"my watchface glowed the time at 8.35 a.m."
There is a lot of meaningless and very unnecessary passages. One of my favorites is - "If I had been able to turn, I would have seen the lights of Old Orchard Beach, but I was not able to turn."(p.375) - Yeah, if I was flying over Kathmandu at night I would see the city lights but now it's not night and I am not flying over Kathmandu.
And my special little gem shows Mr.Connolly's power of imagination and originality in all it's splendor. On the page 502 Charlie enters the maniac's lair full of preserved victims body parts and what he sees right before his face? - " ...A thick spider web...the brown drained husks of trapped insects shivering in the vibrations from the opening door." John, I hope you blush when you call yourself a writer...
He writes all that line by line and sometimes he just forgets what that's all about. On the page 310 Mr.Connolly describes the effects of ketamine hydrochloride - "hallucinations, distortions in the perception of space and time and out-of-body experiences". The murderer injects his victims with the drug and guess how the chapter ends? "When they were flayed and anatomised...Tante Marie and her son were fully conscious." And that's at the same page! Was Mr.Connolly fully conscious when he wrote that?
Charles sits in a cafe and flirts with the lady psychologist: "- I know the feeling. I used to be like that with Ben and Jerry's until I realised I was starting to look like one of the cartons.- She smiled again..."(p.154). Ain't we coquettish! The only problem is that just several pages and hours ago Bird's daughter's face was sent to him floating in a jar. Which did not prevent the desperate father from having a good time.
Culturally I can profile Mr.Connoly as the real maniac behind the text. He is painfully aware of his creative impotence. He feels his characters are just paper thin and he wants them to come alive, he flays them to see flesh and blood under the layer of word-splattered paper. He overdoes it. He needs all the compassion and sympathy for his lifeless creature so we learn that Charlie's father took his life - and here is the suicide story - and his mother died of cancer - and John supplies the story of her demise. Then the wife and child are killed. You have to be heartless to feel nothing for the guy!
The book's editors Sue Fletcher and Bob Mecoy either decided to do their work on vacation and forgot the script at home or sweated over the text and what we have now is the result of the superb job they did. But then how weak Mr.Connolly's initial offering was if all the editorial efforts resulted in that intellectually inferior and amorphous mass?
I apologize for such a long review but I had to make my point clear with all the necessary quotations. I just could not believe my eyes reading all these "stunning debut" and "stylishly written tale" comments.
P.S. The page numbers are given according to the Coronet Books Hodder & Stoughton edition of 1999.


Breakfast of Champions: A Novel
Breakfast of Champions: A Novel
von Kurt Vonnegut
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 14,76

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5.0 von 5 Sternen The perfect introduction to Zen., 19. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Breakfast of Champions: A Novel (Taschenbuch)
American narcissism can be very blinding. Only a few critics see that Andy Warhol's art deals with something more than American consumerism and pop-culture. Kurt Vonnegut's book is only in part an anathema to American provincial life.
If you want to experience Zen stripped of it's Oriental trappings do not miss Breakfast for Champions.
Just like Andy Warhol, Rusin by birth, Vonnegut is an outsider to the American culture. He takes the items of everyday life, choosing these with the maximum layers of idiosyncrasy - used car yards, KFC joints, Holiday Inns - and regals them with the extraterrestrial's stare.
We are born and raised with a certain mental molding, we see the things as they are supposed to be seen. Then something happens. You see hundreds of Marilyn Monroe's faces in Warhol's painting and the pop icon becomes a weird combination of dots, lines and shades. You read Vonnegut and see his drawings of the most familiar objects - and they become as unearthly as Nasca reliefs.
When I had my satori I rode a bus and suddenly became aware of the weird flesh formations on the sides of a fellow passenger's head. Only a part of my brain was storing the name for that phenomenon - "ears". The rest of me was just looking.
All the happenings in the book are just an excuse for showing you that stare. It is an American province, but could be Nairobi slums or Danish boyscout camp. The prose is detached, laconical. If you are looking for "funny" parts you'll find them. But that would be entirely your fault.


Opera for Lovers
Opera for Lovers
von Kiri Te Kanawa
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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3.0 von 5 Sternen Not what I expected., 13. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Opera for Lovers (Gebundene Ausgabe)
First of all I love the diva. I have almost all of her videos and CDs, opera and all these Kiri Sings Gershwin, Kiri Sings Porter, Kiri Sings In A Shower releases.
She is unique. Every time I try to misuse her singing as a background for reading I close my eyes at the second or third aria, close a book and listen till the end, enthralled.
Of course I was eager to invest in her book, though the title is cheesy. In the next few hours I had discovered that the cheesiness spreads well beyond the cover.
The cover itself is a little masterpiece of cheap marketing pitch. It promises the glance behind the curtains, a gossip about Kiri's colleagues and "wealth of anecdotes, amassed by our(whose?)prima donna".
"Kiri Te Kanawa was born in New Zealand, to the native Maori aristocracy." How do you like that? Do they think we need this stupid lie to treasure Kiri more? Every fan knows that her origins are unknown, she was adopted and raised by Maori parents at the appropriately named Poverty Bay.
Now about the book itself. I do not blame Kiri, who was quoted as saying she prefers talking about shopping and lawn mowing not about music. We love her for the voice, not the eloquence she probably lacks.
But the writer could do a much better job. What was the reason for including the following statement " Personally, I prefer to perform before the audience that cares"(page 22)? What a unique trait! It reminds me of the Russian parodical proverb " It's better to be rich, but healthy that poor, but sick."
Conrad Wilson tried to give the book some structure with all these Act I, Act II, Curtain Call chapters. But the text is set in a paragraphs and Kiri's thoughts wander through them. Sometimes they take 2-3-4 paragraphs, then appear again a couple chapters later. The chapters hardly differ in content - all of them are made up of these random thoughts. None of the advertised anecdotes are worth repeating, none of the ideas can be called penetrating.
I expected that book to be an authobiography, a memoir, something like Placido Domingo's "My first 50 years" but it's not.
What's positive about that book? The photographs are abundant and nice. Better concentrate on them and just skip the text.


Cadillac Jack
Cadillac Jack
von Larry McMurtry
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen When offered a coffeecup do not expect to find a beer inside, 11. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Cadillac Jack (Taschenbuch)
These are the words of our classic Anton Chekhov. Does McMartry advertise Cadillac Jack as another Terms of Endearment? Why it's wrong to be entertained and ask yourself - So what?- when the book is finished? The book is funny,unpretentious and concise. I made myself finish Moving On, dropped all these prequels & sequels to Lonesome Dove and Terms of Endearment halfway through, gasping at McMurtry's productivity, enjoyed his Pulitzer Prize winner and the book the Oscar winner is based on. But it's the books like Cadillac Jack and Anything For Billy that gave me a few precious hours of enjoyment and relaxation. They are well above the mass market fare but they do not plan to enter the Booker's shortlist, perfectly satisfied with being what they are.


Slowness: A Novel
Slowness: A Novel
von Milan Kundera
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 11,82

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1.0 von 5 Sternen Unintentional self-parody., 10. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Slowness: A Novel (Taschenbuch)
As an adolescent I was fascinated with Milan Kundera's work. Life is Elsewhere was one of my favourite books for a long time. Teenage lust, brooding and inadequacy are contemplated there, transformed into art. The Joke's main character - a confused youth, a citizen of totalitarian state also left a trace.
In the following years I read the later books, enjoyed some of them, but there was a definite impression that the author is running out of things to say, the placid French life does not provide him with the necessary stimulation. But still they were worth reading.
Now I feel that Slowness is going to make me discontinue reading Kundera. The degradation is too evident here.
In his earlier books the author was taking something not very meaningful, some banality, an item of everyday life - and supplied an insightful commentary, "looked closer". Now he comments banality with banality. Take that blubbering about the speeding motorcyclists, thinking only about the next moment. What is that? Is it a self-parody or just filling the page?
And these embarassingly uninteresting comments on "the ninth portal". There is a lot of trashy, accidental thoughts flickering through our heads, but lacking something better Kundera take a hold of that one,cites Appolinaire, compares an anus to the "portal" in vicinity in terms of privateness and accessability, claims - very, very mistakingly - that even the pornography leaves it alone. Do we have to pay for these "insights"?
Any honest writer would be embarassed to publish such schlock.
Milan Kundera creates an impression that he exists in a timeless empirea, sitting on a cloud beside Mozart, Bodelaire, Voltaire, etc,etc. He is an intellectual, who crosses the borders of countries and cultures, travels in time. But Slowness makes a big gaping hole in his cloud.
His main trick these days is to pose as the erudite representative of the lost values - thoghtfulness, authentity,etc, to provide the public with an escape from the daily rush.
What is the idea of Slowness? To compare the two love affairs divided by two centuries? To tell us it was all different in the French aristocratic circles in XVIII century? More artful, more beautiful, more meaningful? And all we have these days is just a travesty?
The logic behind that is faulty. Kundera compares life to art. Vincent's fling with the secretary to the Mannerist story of amorous conquest. But I am sure that Vincent's not very meaningful encounter will be embellished in his diary beyond recognition, and the real happenings behind the aristocratic novella are less elaborate. The real life clumsiness transforms into art.
The novel's the satirical transgressions are lame. The Dance described in so many pages with such unmerited enthusiasm is just another obvious pseudo-insight.
I feel I am ready to put together "How to write a Milan Kundera's book" kit.
1) Take an intellectual who is not an expert in getting the girls. Supply him with the friend who is an expert in that art. Set them on a quest for a good lay. Sex is a natural attention magnet.
2) Watch their progress. There must be some embarassing situations, "laughable loves" that will make the guys endearing to the reader, make them care.
3) Comment! They stumble - you comment. They sneeze - you comment.-" There is a thousand ways people sneeze. Some sneeze loudly, they use their nose as a Jericho pipe, announcing the world their existense, their dominating presence. Some sneezes are a little embarassed sounds, the reminders of our imperfection - you are in the middle of a grounbreaking lecture, hundreds of eyes are focused on you - the brilliant scholar - but then you feel the spasm and something repellingly liquid is speeding to erupt from your twin portals, the catastrophy is imminent... blah - blah - blah, blah - blah - blah...". Does it sound Kunderian? I think so.
4) There are names like Mozart, Voltaire, Bodelaire, Stendahl. Put them in your book! Cite them, tell the anecdotes. The readers will appreciate that sanctification, they'll feel in touch with something meaningful - The Art, The Culture. No problem if some of the anecdotes are not relevant to the sory - the readers will think they just unable to see the connection. More credit to you.
5) You have to remind them you are Czhech, and though you live among the Western Europeans there is an exotic tradition behind you. Put in the book an Eastern European dissident - and the public will draw the parallel. More credit for your suffering.
I am not going to read Milan Kundera any more. Why bother? The components are all here, they are very evident. Do we really need them in a new, slightly different combination?


Smilla's Sense of Snow
Smilla's Sense of Snow
von Peter Hoeg
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 14,30

3.0 von 5 Sternen The stillborn hybrid., 4. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Smilla's Sense of Snow (Taschenbuch)
I see Mr.Hoeg rather vividly as a brooding northerner who could benefit from a lot more sunshine and a smile or two. He treasures his intellectual insights too much and would be very displeased if someone calls them halfbaked. To edit his prose for Peter Hoeg is like carving his own live body with a knife. Clarity and restraint are not among his virtues.
His earlier work, pretentiously named The History Of Danish Dreams was published in English after Smilla's success and confirmed my suspicions.
It seems that Mr.Hoeg was disappointed with the public's reaction to that masterpiece and infuriated that someone may like his work less than he does. It's a fact that any writer sees in his book the merits of far grander scale than these accesible to a reader. To evaluate the result the reasonable writer makes that adjustment rather routinely but that's not the case with Peter Hoeg - he is so preoccupied with his Intellectualism and Eloquence.
Writing Smilla he planned to give public what it wants. Peter Hoeg is rather sarcastic to the requirements of commercially successful fiction. That's why well into last hundreds pages the plot looks more and more like a parody - who can take seriously that stupid asteroid!
Smilla is Mr.Hoeg himself. He is so self-centered that in his next novel - Borderliners - the writer did not bother to give a different name to his new incarnation - the main character is called Peter Hoeg, plain and simple.
Ms. Smilla is a socially awkward type, she is a specialist in something of a very limited interest - the structure of snow. Bored with herself, exhausted by these incessant flashbacks, Smilla seeks adventure. Just like her erudite creator, who made a decision to venture in the unfamiliar terrain of mass literature, Smilla goes on a quest that must stop the buzzing in her head and make something happen.
There are the key ingredients of mass literature - the action, the mystery, the exotic. Smilla is a potentially reach heiress, The Mechanic is a former Special Forces hunk - the central figure in 75% of mass market fare. There are corrupt cops, money-crazed villains and quite a few good people, who helped the dark forces unwittingly and now are eager to repent.
The gloomy streets of northern city see killings, blackmail and burning alive. Then the ship sails on to the imminent showdown.
All that is watered down by brooding, flashbacks, ethnography.
Is it a "serious" literature or a thriller? None of these.
I do not think that thriller consumers are happy with the knowledge that there are 673 words for snow in the Innuit language and other equally captivating bits of information. And the serious reader will find a lot of happenings and characters ridiculous.
I was lured by a promising title, read the whole book, that looked for the first third like the literature I normally like, but well into the last hundred pages my appreciation turned to contempt and I was totally devastated by the ultimately stupid finale.


The Captain's Daughter and Other Stories (Vintage Classics)
The Captain's Daughter and Other Stories (Vintage Classics)
von Alexander Pushkin
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 12,14

5.0 von 5 Sternen The dream of life., 30. März 2000
Pushkin is Mozart of Russian verse, prose and drama. That sounds like banality to any Russian but may help a person outside of our literary tradition to deal with the Russia's greatest writer.
Small, less than handsome misfit in a constant and direct dialog with the Muses. A man whose social, financial and matrimonial achievements are no match to his art.
His talents bloomed in the Lyceum, he was hailed by the most prominent poet of Russian Classicism - Gavrila Derzhavin, who had appointed the youngster his poetical heir.
But Pushkin made only a few contributions to the genre - he was a devoted romantic, a Byronite. Mermaids, gypsies and noble robber brothers were the inhabitants of his adolescent poems.
Drinking bouts with local Hussar officers were toppled by the boy's passionate odes to Liberty. Alexander was a celebrity guest.
The guest he remained. The officers - The Decembrists - rebelled against the tsar. Puskin was not invited. The conspirators felt that "the son of the Muses" is fond of the revolutionary rhetorics, not the cause.
Later, asked by the triumphant monarch does he regret his absence in rebellious ranks on that fateful December day, Pushkin confirmed his affinity with his hanged friends. He wanted to be taking seriously, he was ready to suffer. But the tsar was only amused and let Alexander go.
Pushkin soared high in empirea, the verse of unbelievable beauty and clarity was streaming from his quill, but his everyday life was dominated by gambling, drinking and chasing the known libertines. Yearning to be accepted socially he offered his friendship to unworthy and very often had to contend with their condescending attitude. He was not the first socially awkward creator in human history but that understanding did nothing to lessen the pain.
In his final years Pushkin decided to settle down, to accept the responsibilities, to marry, to get the position in the tsar's court.
Natalia Goncharova, the first beauty of Petersburg, consented to marry him - her family was impoverished, Alexander - insistent. He was given the court rank - kamerjunker, nearly the lowest in the hierarchy, fit for a very young man making his very first steps in the court. He was insulted but the wife's acclaimed beauty compensated for that and the other disapointments. They all envy him - the lucky man!
There was never enough money to put that gem in a proper setting. The beauty was expecting her due. If Alexander is incapable there are others.
Art remained the only consolation. Once he woke up in the middle of the night, put on a light and fevereshly scribbled the newborn lines. He read them to the wife. - Don't you ever do that to me again! - said the sleepy beauty.
His art is not able to conquer that perfection, the beauty of verse is nothing to the beauty of flesh.
Pushkin is made fun of, proclaimed a cuckold. His life is nearing the end.
In his last year the tortured genius writes Captain's Daughter. No mermaids here, no gypsies. It's clarity and restrained beauty is unsurpassed in our literature.
A son of old officer Petr Andreevich Grinev turns seventeen. He is enlisted as a toddler in a prestigeous regiment in Petersburg, now he is an officer already. He has no extensive education - just the basic ideas of nobility and some knowledge of French. His name is telling - Petr means a stone, father's name - a man, a male. The father wants to keep the son unspoiled - Petr is refused his ticket to the Petersburg. He goes to the steppes instead, to the fortress in the middle of nowhere.
On the way he gets drunk, loses money, suffers from hangover, abuses his old servant - with no harm to his inner integrity.
He begins to enjoy the simple life in the fortress, captain's daughter is aware if his feelings and seems to feel the same way. Short and ugly comrade-in-arms, Alexei Shvabrin envies him and speaks dirty of the girl. Duel puts Petr in a bed. The love flourishes.
All that a prelude to the Russian rebellion, "senseless and merciless".
The fortress is taken, the captain is hanged, his wife lies naked and dead in a dirt. Petr's life is spared on impostor's whim. Masha, the captain's daughter, is hidden in the local priest's house. Shvabrin is appointed the fortress commander and has the girl who rejected him in his power.
All will end well. The young lovers are ready to sacrifice, their love will conquer all, the empress Ekaterina is merciful - just like her adversary "emperor" Pugachev.
Like a drowning man gasping for air Pushkin had to get in contact with the qualities his life is so utterlly lacking - integrity, loyalty,love accepted and given back. He had experienced all that in Captain's Daughter.
No matter what happens Petr Grinev is true to his nature - the quality respected by friends and enemies. He is always ready to do the right thing - no matter what's the price. There are things more important than life. Or love.
Puskin's life is over, he is not respected, not loved by the woman he chose. So he escapes in art, lives another life, the dream of life he never had.
Less talented writer would have succumbed to the pure escapism, but Alexander Pushkin is a genius, what we have instead is a timeless masterpiece, clear and restrained, very modern prose, the characters we care about. No one succeed in imitating that style.
Puskin is not very well known in the West. The verse is so Russian it defies a translation, the prose is deceptively simple - it's very different from "prophetic" writings of Dostoevsky or Tolstoy, the export variant of The Great Late Russian Literature. The reader used to contemplating "the mysterious Russian soul" will be disappointed.
I am reluctant to recommend that book to a Western reader.But Pushkin is one of the reasons I still live here.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)
von J. K. Rowling
  Taschenbuch

3.0 von 5 Sternen I expected to like the book but..., 28. März 2000
I am a fan of children literature, know a lot about children books illustrators and even draw comics for my 7-year old son. Reading about Harry Potter phenomenon - millions copies are sold, Spielberg wants to direct, etc - I was preparing myself for something really exceptional. I open the book with an anticipating smile and...
Mrs.Rowling is a good mother. She had to provide for her child by every means. And she succeded brilliantly - the transformation of a struggling single mom from Edinburgh into the third best paid woman in Britain is very spectacular.
The problem is the product she sells is not very nourishing. It's a fast food in disguise.
Mrs. Rowling took the most appealing to the common public ingredients to make the chewable version of the Great Late Children Literature.
1) The Cinderella story - Someone who is treated unfairly is finally made aware if his\her powers and gets the ticket to the new wonderful life. That's the very appealing notion - a lot of us think we get much less than we deserve.
2) There is a different, much more exciting world above, below or parallel to ours. Yes, life seems dull sometimes, no pain-no gain principle is buggering and we all ready for a quick dramatic crossover.
3)The author invites you to the club. You'll get a lot of "in" things to enjoy and recognize the other initiated by. You are a part of the brotherhood now. The rest are Muggles.
There are more components but these 3 are the most important.
You can argue that these are the chief ingredients of vast majority of children literature. That's right. Now imagine a master chef cooking the delightful meal with the expertly selected products. And an overworked housewife having a try at that fancy recipe from a glossy exotic cuisine cookbook. You'll get the picture.
J.K.Rowling's prose is utterly amateurish. Characterisation is very inferior. Harry's evil adoptive father is fat and has no neck. Harry's abusive step-brother is fat and has no neck. There are no changes, no nuances in baddies and gooddies behavior - everything is in the same vein. Children love integrity in character but Mrs. Rowling's creations are so one-dimensional! I do not think that well-invented and memorable people are for adult books only and kids have to contend with cardboard cutouts.
Many readers think that Mrs.Rowling is blessed with the incredibly powerful imagination - a lot of "magical things" is happening. But mostly these tricks are emloyed when the author suspects that the readers attention span is nearing the end. Then a chair begins to dance, the pack of earwax-tasting candy (how funny!)is produced and Quidditch game is scheduled.
The prose is very repetitive. As a good housekeeper Mrs.Rowling does not want to use things only once - the situations repeat themselves ad nauseam, many objects and happenings are recycled.
Trolls, dragons, centaurs, wizards - everything is borrowed. There is a lot more blood and death - that's J.K.Rowlings respectful nod in the direction of our childrens obsession with the gory computer games.
I've read youngsters reviews of T.H.Whites books in Amazon. -" Boring, way too many details, boring, too long, boring..." - These delightful books are only the tip of the Arthurian iceberg, there are centuries-old tradition behind them. Alice In Wonderland is a work of genius but it's becoming less and less accessible to our children.
I do not want my son to think that Harry Potter is the only face of todays children literature. Despite all the hype these books will find their real place in the hierarchy.
Everyone likes Coke and BigMac but not because these are the culinary masterpieces.
NOTICE: I ask Harry Potter's young fans to wait for a couple years with their reaction to that review.


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