Monday, October 20

Reading Challenge 2014: Update #2

 


 
5. Bonjour Tristesse and A Certain Smile by Francoise Sagan

Bonjour Tristesse tells the story of Cécile, who leads a carefree life with her widowed father and his young mistresses until, one hot summer on the Riviera, he decides to remarry - with devastating consequences. In A Certain Smile, Dominique, a young woman bored with her lover, begins an encounter with an older man that unfolds in unexpected and troubling ways.

Of the two stories, I preferred A Certain Smile. Although I enjoyed Bonjour Tristesse, it had an element of silliness to it that I didn't really enjoy, almost like Disney could have turned it into a Parent Trap/Freaky Friday type film, and nobody would be at all surprised. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the characters a lot more than Bonjour Tristesse. I would love to see A Certain Smile developed into a film, that in my mind is a big compliment for a book - I want to see more of it, I want to see the characters, I want to see the story developed and I want to see how someone else interprets the subtleties of the story; And it is quite a subtle story, there's not really much to it at all, it's like my favourite sort of film - people talk a lot about life and feelings, but not much else happens. 



6. Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Rachel Samstat is smart, successful, married to a high-flying Washington journalist - and devastated. She has discovered that her husband is having an affair with Thelma Rice.

I am reasonably new to Nora Ephron, I am familiar with her films and have been for a while, but I don't think I ever really appreciated them until recently - I only watched Sleepless in Seattle for the first time last Autumn. After that I think something 'clicked', I read a little more about her, I read a few articles - some about her work, some about her life some by her - and I realised she was an incredibly interesting woman; it was around this time that I picked up Heartburn in Fopp for £2 (and later found the DVD in CEX for around the same price).

Nora Ephron is funny and I love her writing; I liked reading Heartburn it's an enjoyable, easy read, but I didn't enjoy it as much as all the other Nora Ephron things that I watched/read that month, it was a little underwhelming. It doesn't feel as bitingly funny or revelatory, it just felt like a funny little story about a woman who took too long to leave her terrible husband (same goes for the film, if you were wondering, not even Meryl can elevate that).

“I think I was so entranced with being a couple that I didn’t even notice that the person I thought I was a couple with thought he was a couple with someone else.” -- Nora Ephron, Heartburn



7. Essays in Love by Alain de Botton

The narrator is smitten by Chloe on a Paris-London flight, and by the time they've reached the luggage carousel, he knows he is in love. Essays in Love plots the course of their affair from the initial delirium of infatuation to the depths of suicidal despair, through the "Marxist" stage of coming to terms with being loved by the unattainable beloved, through a fit of anhedonia, defined in medical texts as a disease resulting from the terror brought on by the threat of utter happiness, and finally through the nausea induced and terrorist tactics employed when the beloved begins, inexplicably, to drift away.
 
This is not what I expected an Alain Boton book to be, whenever I look at them on the shelf in Watersones in the self-help/self-actualisation/or whatever section I assume they are lists of someone philosophising about why we don't have the lives we aspire to. This book has lists, which I like, but it was categorised under fiction, because that is what it is, mostly.

I like anyone who has an analytical approach to feelings, possibly because I don't, and I like the idea that how I'm feeling at this exact moment can be explained by lists and a highly detailed cause and effect diagram, for example there is a brilliant part that offers the probability of 'fated encounter', complete with formula and diagrams; I am not an incredibly mathematically minded person, but that made me incredibly happy. Essays in Love brilliantly captures and condenses the complexities of love and human nature into an enjoyable and easy read (almost annoyingly so - I am not quite as complex as I thought I was).

“The most attractive are not those who allow us to kiss them at once [we soon feel ungrateful] or those who never allow us to kiss them [we soon forget them], but those who coyly lead us between the two extremes.”  -- Alain de Boton, Essays in Love



8. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly by Jean Dominique Bauby

In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young children, a 44-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem. After 20 days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking it, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly, over and over again.

I love this book, I feel a little bit guilty about loving it as much as I do, because I worry that I love it in a 'may I be amazed by you' way, but I love it all the same. I love this book because it is poetic, beautifully written and flowing. Bauby maintains an optimism and appreciation for the world around him, despite his condition - that you almost forgot his condition, that it was written in the way it was.

“I am fading away. Slowly but surely. Like the sailor who watches his home shore gradually disappear, I watch my past recede. My old life still burns within me, but more and more of it is reduced to the ashes of memory.”  -- Jean Domique Bauby, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

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I'm nearly caught up on my updates, I'm about to start writing about the book I just finished reading! I am excited about that even if nobody else is. It's interesting to look at these updates (and the books I read) in chronological order, there's a definite connection, I like noticing my change of mood, it feels like a coded diary.

I'm officially in between books, having finished reading Bad Feminist on Monday morning. I'm not sure what I feel like reading next, I contemplated an audio book, but they are expensive, no? More expensive than a physical book (and an ebook put together). I'm definitely in the mood for fiction, Roxane Gay talks about literature in Bad Feminist so much that it almost made me crave fiction, I'm just not entirely sure what I want to read next - I may have to stare at the unread piles of books in my bedroom a little longer.

 

 

1 comment:

  1. Not heard of these and I need a new book. The love plot one sound good
    Lauren
    livinginaboxx

    ReplyDelete

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