Midnight’s Children

I’m a bit of a slow reader to begin with. When I read I take my time and try to engage every page and every word. I don’t skim and will reread sections when I feel like I didn’t understand them. This led to trouble while reading Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. Damn this book took me a long time to finish. First it is fairly lengthy at 500 plus pages. And then there is Rushdie’s writing style. His method of writing doesn’t lend to casual reading. He uses a combination of Indian and English termed “Babu English” that takes a fair amount concentration. Not mention his atypical use of grammar and often distended and laborious sentences. This book is complex. Make no mistake about it. It is a sturdy tangle of thick, and often, obscure words.

Despite its density, the novel was pretty good. It was well written, it was original, interesting and unpredictable and I enjoyed reading it. The setting and characters were exciting well-developed and interesting. The multilayered novel consists mostly of the life story Saleem Sinai. A boy born during the first hour of India’s independence, along with 1,001 other children of India, all of whom were blessed with magical abilities. The trial and tribulations of Saleem closely follow with the actual history of India, from Nehru’s India toward Indira’s India, as well as that of Pakistan and Bangladesh (some of the novel takes place pre-partition). The political reality of the book would be much more rewarding if you have an interest in, or knowledge of, Middle Eastern history and religion.

Rushdie’s story telling ability is definitely notable and his telling tales-within-tales is very enjoyable but also very much like Garcia Marquez, whom in my opinion is more a pleasurable and worthwhile read. The magical realism allows for a surreal and distorted sense of the novel’s people and places. Much of the novel is larger than life and many of the events seem more important than they really are or should be. Adding to Rushdie’s literary complexity are many twists and turns regarding the relationships between the characters. In addition, there are name changes, sub-plots, nick-names, false-starts, tons of symbolism (much of it I didn’t even pick up on) u-turns, and plot twists.

I paid the price of patience with this novel but felt I wasn’t truly rewarded and that’s always a bit of a bummer. The novel just didn’t do it for me. It is by no means a life-changing novel or even near my top 10 best books I’ve ever read. And although a second read would undoubtedly open this story up, that probably won’t be happening for me.
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Book List

Radcliffes List of the 100 best novels

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
9. 1984 by George Orwell
10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
13. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
23. Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
37. The World According to Garp by John Irving
38. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
39. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
40. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
41. Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
51. My Antonia by Willa Cather
52. Howards End by E.M. Forster
53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
55. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
56. Jazz by Toni Morrison
57. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
59. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
61. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
64. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
66. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
68. Light in August by William Faulkner
69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
70. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
71. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
72. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Tokias by Gertrude Stein
79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
82. White Noise by Don DeLillo
83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
85. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
87. The Bostonians by Henry James
88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
93. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
100. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
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Out Of The Girls Room And Into The Night

I just finished Out Of The Girls Room And Into The Night. Thisbe Nissen’s collection of short stories had me from the very beginning. After reading the first story, I set the book down on the bed and thought to myself, “I’m really gonna enjoy this book”. And I did, right through to the last page.

The novel consists of each character recounting love’s triumphs, failures, deceptions, delicacy, destruction, unpredictability, and enormity. Most of these stories concerned themselves with situations in which the heart is acting and the head is watching, thinking to itself, “I hope you know what you’re doing heart.” Although mostly young women, the characters span all types of demographics from dead-heads to anorexics to lesbians to college students to upper-class boarding school girls to a couple on their 25th anniversary. Most of the stories hang in those moments when we are feeling uncomfortable in our own skin, or are realizing that the skin we thought we had on is not what we had thought it was originally.

The majority of the stories that the author offers in this collection are easily consumed and have underdeveloped or uncomplicated plot lines. But it was their ability to engage me emotionally and my ability to relate to them that has made the novel so successful with me. I found myself only reading a couple of stories at a time because a wanted them to sink in and marinate them for a while before they were discarded for the next set of stories. I would have given it five stars if the characters and plot lines were a little more developed. However, I highly recommend this collection.
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Island

Aldous Huxley is a genius. I first read Huxley my freshman year in college. The book was called The Doors Of Perception, from which The Doors got their name. I read this back when I had a solid interest in psychedelics. Then I read Brave New World (complete text) which to this day remains one of my all time favorites. I also read Chrome Yellow (complete text and .mp3).

Last night I finished reading Island. Huxley can often get a little too philosophical for me, such was the case with Island. In addition, much of the book centers around eastern philosophy and spirituality which lost me. As a result, the book took much longer to finish than it should have. Some parts of the novel I had to force myself through. That being said, the novel overall is pretty good and worth reading once. It has the typical of good writing and ideas expected of Huxley, but it’s not one of my favorites. The plot is weak (simply a vehicle for Huxley to explain his ideas on society at large) and the ending is abrupt. But as a social satire, the novel is very effective.

Most of the novel concerns itself with how people in an ideal society would interact with each other and their environment. The novel presents us with a society that conducts itself, in the eyes of Huxley, in the best possible way that humans can, given their physical and spiritual flaws and restrictions. Huxley has always been great at turning the word “idealist” back into a positive by describing with pragmatic knowledge what in our present world is not working, and more importantly, proposed solutions; this novel does a great job of this.
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The Twelve Chief Rules In Love

This list was taken from “The Art of Courtly Love” by Andreas Capellanus, a book that has been recently added to my wishlist.

The Twelve Chief Rules in Love:

1. Thou shalt avoid avarice like the deadly pestilence and shalt embrace its opposite.
2. Thou shalt keep thyself chaste for the sake of her whom thou lovest.
3. Thou shalt not knowingly strive to break up a correct love affair that someone else is engaged in.
4. Thou shalt not chose for thy love anyone whom a natural sense of shame forbids thee to marry.
5. Be mindful completely to avoid falsehood.
6. Thou shalt not have many who know of thy love affair.
7. Being obedient in all things to the commands of ladies, thou shalt ever strive to ally thyself to the service of Love.
8. In giving and receiving love’s solaces let modesty be ever-present.
9. Thou shalt speak no evil.
10. Thou shalt not be a revealer of love affairs.
11. Thou shalt be in all things polite and courteous.
12. In practising the solaces of love thou shalt not exceed the desires of thy lover.
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Reading 5

1. What is your favorite type of literature to read (magazine, newspaper, novels, nonfiction, poetry, etc.)?
I enjoy fictional novels and short stories the most.

2. What is your favorite novel?
I normally answer this question with “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn but also enjoy Orwell, Bukowski, Atwood, Irving, S. Thompson, and many others.

3. Do you have a favorite poem? (Share it!)
I’m not all that familiar with poetry but I enjoy Bukowski, Silverstein, Pound, and of cousre the beautiful but bitter Parker. Right now my current favorite is a short poem titled “Sanctuary” by Dorothy Parker.

4. What is one thing you’ve always wanted to read, or wish you had more time to read?
The one thing that I have always thought about reading but know I will never get around to is the Holy Bible (King James Version).

5. What are you currently reading?
“Island” by Aldous Huxley

How To Be Good

Last night I just finished up reading Nick Horby’s most recent novel “How To Be Good”. Nick Hornby, author of both “About A Boy” and “High Fidelity” (which is one of my favorite movies) has taken a different approach on his most recent novel. I can’t see this book being made into a movie, the book deals with issues and ideas that wouldn’t be easily transferred into the film media. Generally the novel concerns itself with what it means to lead a good life, how can we go about doing it, and how good does a person have to be in order to be happy?
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