The title of the novel The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett made me want to read it. When I started reading the novel, I hadn’t read any reviews or synopses and had no idea what to expect.
- The Train Was on Time by Heinrich Böll
- The Clown by Heinrich Böll
“Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18.” (Mark Twain)
About the story: Youth is wasted on the young; isn’t that what they say? Inspired by Mark Twain’s quote, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s amusing and imaginative short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button proves just that. The story was first published in 1922 in Collier’s Magazine. Along with ten other stories, it is also a part of Fitzgerald’s short story collection titled Tales of the Jazz Age.
Summary: When Mr. Button rushes to the hospital to see his new born baby, he is greeted by an angry doctor, who wishes never to see the Buttons again. Just like the doctor, the nurses inside the hospital seemed to be spooked by Roger Button’s child. When Mr. Button insists on seeing his baby, a flustered nurse leads him inside a room. Instead of a baby, however, there appears to be an old man squeezed into the crib.
“Where in God’s name did you come from? Who are you?” burst out Mr. Button frantically.
“I can’t tell you exactly who I am,” replied the querulous whine, “because I’ve only been born a few hours – but my last name is certainly Button.”
“You lie! You’re an impostor!”
The old man turned wearily to the nurse. “Nice way to welcome a new-born child,” he complained in a weak voice. “Tell him he’s wrong, why don’t you?”
The Buttons pretend to be oblivious to the fact that their baby is a disgraceful old man. They decide instead, to raise him as a normal little boy called Benjamin Button, send him to school and make him play with the other little boys. Not wanting to disappoint his father, Benjamin Button obliges. As he grows up, he seems to become younger. In his fifties, Benjamin falls in love and marries a certain Hildegarde Moncrief. It is the fact that he is the only such person on the earth, creates problems for the guy. As everyone around him ages, Benjamin goes from a responsible father, to a moody little teenager, to a child who remembers very little of his life.
My thoughts: I saw the movie version (very loosely based on the book) of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett about two years ago when it was released, over-discussed and awarded three Academy Awards. I thought that movie was ridiculous! They took the idea and turned it into a sad, romantic love story. What I actually loved about the book was the humour.
The glaring difference in the book and the movie is that, in the book, an entire fully grown old man is born; over the years, he grows in reverse, that is, he becomes younger physically and mentally. In the movie, what is born is a baby-sized baby with the appearance and features of an old man; he grows in size but becomes physically younger and mentally older… OR something like that. Now, why would you want to complicate such a perfectly good story!?
A young man trying to pass off as an older guy and an old man going to kindergarten gives the book its dark-ish comedy. When made to play with little children, the old man pretends to break neighbours’ windows. Later, when Hildegarde believes she is falling in love with a mature man in his fifties, Benjamin has been alive for hardly more than fifteen years.
The story shows the relationships between different generations of men (which may be one reason why there are startlingly few women in the plot; the other being the time when this was written.) The main premise, of course, is how great it would be to age in reverse. After experiencing the drawbacks of old age, Benjamin is able to appreciate his youth that much more. Beyond that, it’s a touching story; sad, because, Benjamin is the only one who experiences this strange order of things. The story deals with many themes, of which the most significant are the passage of time and all that is inevitable.
“Roscoe’s son moved up into the first grade after a year, but Benjamin stayed on in the kindergarten. He was very happy. Sometimes when other tots talked about what they would do when they grew up a shadow would cross his little face as if in a dim, childish way he realised that those were things in which he was never to share.”
About the book: So, I only managed to read three of the six Booker Prize shortlisted books. The other day they announced the winner – The Sense of an Ending by English author Julian Barnes. I’d read that one. It’s no Life of Pi, but it’s certainly the best out of the three that I read.
Summary and theme: The narrator, a man in his early sixties, talks about his life. He has had a good career, a marriage followed by an amicable divorce; some achievements and some disappointments, and of course, some mystery. The main theme of the book is memories. It’s about what you think when you grow old and look back at the life you’ve lived; what you do when you realize the truth of what you have done; when you see your actions in a different, grown-up light and realize your mistakes; what you do when you can’t take those actions back.
‘I don’t know, sir.’
My thoughts: I think what held the book so wonderfully together was the dry humour; especially as the narrator recounts his story, you see that he finds it immature, funny even, and you tend to agree with him!
The characters are very engaging and each one unique. The relationships and the bonds the narrator forms over the years (with his four childhood friends, with his divorced wife) are all too realistic not to be true. The book being a narration, the author has a lot of chances to indulge in long monologues about life and such, and he uses these opportunities to the fullest.
Summary: It does seem pointless to give this book a summary. Anyway, the book opens with a couple of letters written by Captain Robert Walton to his dear sister Margaret. Their ship is trapped somewhere near the North Pole and there the voyagers come across a miserable, emaciated man. This man is Dr. Victor Frankenstein and he has a terrible story to tell.
“In the world of homelessness, poverty, and desperation, you fight for survival, and there are no polite limits to the fight.”
My thoughts: Like with most of Stephen King’s books, you feel yourself becoming a part of Carrie. It is a quick read and I loved the unique narration. The book is written in the form of newspaper clippings of the Chamberlain incident, science journal articles about telekinetic abilities, personal stories of the Black Prom survivors and book excerpts, all stringed together by the actual happenings in the form of a story. Starting with the first newspaper article, you know what happened in the town. What you don’t know, is how it got to that. Why did the odd teenage girl described in the articles do whatever she did and more importantly, how? You hear the story from so many different perspectives, scientific and personal, that it’s hard to figure out the truth. That’s part of the magic! You get to pick your own conclusion on the story.
Most of the characters are your regular high school stereotypes. Still, what I love about Stephen King’s books is the characters, and he hasn’t done anything short of a great job with these. From Carrie White to the (almost) real protagonist Sue Snell, the book has some wonderful, albeit slightly dramatic, characters. And if not anything else, King has nailed the horror element; the “makes-you-wish-you-hadn’t-read-it-at-night” horror element.
“They began to back up, and as they did, the dog began to walk slowly forward. It was a stiff walk; not really a walk at all, Ronnie thought. It was a stalk. That dog wasn’t fucking around. Its engine was running and it was ready to go. Its head remained low. That growl never changed pitch. It took a step forward for every step they took back.”
Cujo is a psychological horror novel by Stephen King. It is the story of a rabid St. Bernard. It is also the story of a little boy and his nightmares, a mother and a child, and an almost broken marriage.
Summary: Cujo is a big, five year old St. Bernard, owned by the Cambers; a family in the town of Castle Rock, Maine. Cujo is a good, loyal dog; he loves his owners and they love him! That is, until he gets scratched by a bat and becomes infected with rabies. The dog soon loses touch with reality and turns into a crazy killing machine.
Four year old Tad Trenton lives in the same town with his parents, Donna and Vic. The little family has problems of their own – the scariest being the monster that seems to appear in little Tad’s closet at night. A frightening, wolfish animal that haunts Tad’s nightmares.
Fate brings the two together, when the only thing standing between the rabid dog and the mother and child is the broken down car they are trapped in.
My thoughts: Each book that I read by Stephen King, gives me one new reason to love him. This is not your typical thriller, and there are definitely some side-plots that seem unnecessary. The horror doesn’t start till halfway through the book and when it does start, not a lot happens. Still – I loved the book. For two reasons.
Firstly, as usual, Stephen King never disappoints you when it comes to the lives and the thoughts of the characters. Their stories are so intricately built – it is very fascinating. Even without the dangerous dog, there is a lot of evil in the town; just in the ways that people think, what they do. Each of the side-plots is a message on its own.
Secondly, what I love about King’s novels is that the monsters themselves are victims of circumstance. I pitied Jack Torrance (in The Shining) and I definitely felt horrible for ol’ Cuje when he got infected. I love that King has written parts from the point of view of the dog – the helpless creature, who hurts all over and doesn’t know who else to blame but the humans. The animal lover that I am, I really appreciated that King ended the book saying something positive about the poor dog. He wasn’t trying to be a monster, he was a good dog.