Monday, January 30, 2006


"Blindness", by Jose Saramago, the first book chosen for the book club over at prettier than napoleon.

I have to be honest when I say that this book started off incredibly slow for me. Still, as it was one of the books that I voted for, and the cover blurb made it sound intersting, I pushed through. (I think it helped that I was on a flight to Atlanta and I didn't let myself bring anything else to read.) And while I did end up liking it, I'm not really sure how to express that, but here goes...

I liked the way it felt real. The soliders and their "blind" fear of the the blind, the condemnation of anyone who was "contaminated" by them, the way they would yell at the blind when they were searching for food or to get back to the door really struck a cord with me. Even when they shot the thief, and the others, it felt, normal. (For lack of a better word.) I liked the way the doctor's wife tried to hide her sight from the blind, because yes, they would have insisted that she do everything for them. I liked the way the call girl chose the old man to sleep with, before the group rapes, rather than the younger, more insistant pharmacist assistant.

And, while "like" is NOT the right word, I did like the rape build up. The way the men came back with the message, that these thugs have now taken over the food supply, demaning anything of value, and then sexual favors, that felt real. I can imagine all of this happening, if suddenly, everyone here started to go blind. I agree that human nature doesn't change just because something else has.

Also, I liked the dog of tears. I don't know, maybe because I'm a dog lover, but I really liked that. I also liked how the doctor's wife goes blind after everyone else's sight comes back. That it's now her turn to be blind. To be the one who doesn't see the horrors, the damage, the death. To be less able one, now that it's all over. Although, really, it isn't, because I think that after witnessing everything that has happened, that's all she'll see. The whiteness in her eyes won't change that. And I think that she'll have the hardest time, out of anyone, becuase she'll go from being the only witness, to being blind, to seeing, while everyone else experienced it the other way.

I'd be interested to know what the author was thinking about when he came up with the idea for this novel.

As for what I didn't like, I didn't like the way this book was structured. The run-on sentences, the lack of punctuation, drove me nuts. I understood why it was written that way, but I didn't like it. I actually had to use a piece of paper to block the sentences below the one I was reading to help me focus sometimes. Which, I also didn't like.

So that's my commentary on "Blindness". Again, I don't know how to exactly explain what I thought, except, that it felt real, which is depressing, that I could see all of this happening, which is also depressing, and that I expected the doctor's wife to go blind at the end, so I'm glad I was right.

What did you think?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Protest

Well, book number two was started and finished yesterday, in anticipation of my book club meeting on Tuesday. It was The Protest by Dianne Kozdrey Bunnell.

And just like the previous book, I'm not sure I liked it. Or perhaps it's that I couldn't really relate to the story. It's about a girl/woman who's starting to realize that the cult-religion she's been basing her life around is wrong and her struggle to not only break free, but to stay free.

Which, honestly, is where I was having problems. I really didn't have any sympathy for the main character, because I saw her as weak for so long. The choices she made, the way she let herself be pushed around, that's never happened to me. I can't ever see that happening to me. Then again, I've never been a memeber of a cult-religion. The only time I really felt involved in this story was when the main character was remember/talking to/about her dead brother or sister (Lousie, who I really liked), or in the last few chapters, where she finally makes a decision and then deals.

However, as the author of the book is going to be at the meeting on Tuesday, I've got to think of more to say. I really don't think that "I didn't like this book because I couldn't relate to the main character at all, and therefore didn't feel anything for her until the very end" would be productive.

But it would be honest.

Next up is The Blindness for the book club over at prettier than napolean. But as that book isn't "due" until the end of the month...I think I'll take the rest of the weekend off.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ella Minnow Pea

So, first book of the year was Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn.

It was recommended by a friend of mine, so I added it to the tbr stack, where it was promptly forgotten about it until last week, when I needed a book for work.

I liked the premise of this story, set on a fictional island off the coast of the Carolinas, where everyone there reveres the written word and language and this man named Nollop. Sort of their demi-god it seems, as when the letters from his famous sentence start to fall off of Nollop's statue, the town council decides that going forward, those letters are no longer to be used.

The townspeople, for the most part, seem to see this as an amusing quirk oops! 'q' was the first letter to go, something to challenge them, but then it spiralled out of control. As more letters fell, more people were either banished or left in protest and the council began to seize more power over the remaining people and the island. Eventually though, good overcomes evil...I mean, the council is beaten, the entire alphabet is restored, and one has to assume that things will go back to normal for the islanders, since that's basically where the book ends.

After thinking about it for a day or so, I'm still not sure if I enjoyed this book or not. As a vocabulary builder, it's excellent; the Nollopians love the alphabet and use it extensively. It was also a quick speedy read, but I was left wanting in regards to the ending. The underlying theme of censorship was never directly addressed and that struck me as odd.

As a side note, it'd be an interesting choice for a high school English class: starting out quite incredibly vocab intensive, it ends in pheonetically spelled words and some slang. It could also be tied in with a censorship theme, since it's written in a much lighter tone, than say Orson Well's 1984.