Monday, February 6, 2012

Stacia Reviews Four Europas!

I want to welcome new Challenge participant Stacia; she doesn't have a Google account so I'll be posting her reviews here on her behalf. She's got four to start off with- wow! Welcome, Stacia!

In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut:
I finished In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut. Wow. The book centers on a fictional character, yet Galgut refers to him as both 'he' and 'I' at various points in the text, making it feel like it's really not fiction at all, but rather autobiographical. It also makes you feel close to the main character, then very far away, & back again. Galgut doesn't use traditional punctuation (quotes, question marks), but it fits perfectly w/ the flow of his narrative.

The prose seems simple enough, telling 3 separate stories of a South African backpacker's travels in the world & the people he encounters/is with/drifts away from on these trips. He's an astute observer of humans, himself especially, & has a fine touch at conveying the myriad emotions of travel, meeting others (some good, some bad), the loneliness, the musings of someone traveling alone w/ no specific schedule or destination in mind. Overall, there is a melancholy tone to the book, yet it's riveting, simple, and straight-forward at the same time.

I love to travel, though I've never really done backpacking per se. Reading this book makes me wish American culture in general embraced this idea more (which seems so prevalent in many European countries & various other countries as well). It's not just a journey to a place, it's a journey through oneself.

Zeroville by Steve Erickson:
I loved, loved this surreal, funny, unsettling, unique musing on movies, good vs. evil, the nature of man vs. God, dreams vs. reality,.... This book has a few of the funniest, most absurd (in a good way) scenes that I've read in a long time. And, it's a perfect read in the run-up to the Oscars.

Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky:
Alina Bronsky does a superb job with writing in a teen's point of view. Sascha (the main character) is tough, tender, smart, acid, & painfully realistic. Her story is both heartbreaking & funny as it blows by you at a breakneck pace. (However, there is one point where the pacing changed somewhat & it threw me to the point that I flipped back a couple of pages, thinking I had somehow skipped a page or two....) An unflinching look at an immigrant life lived on the fringe, surviving violent circumstances, moving forward (sometimes backward) in spite of it all....

Hygiene and the Assassin by Amélie Nothomb:
Pretentious repartee. I realize that was a main point of it, the irony of it, but it does not necessarily lead to an enjoyable read, imo. Meh.