Thursday, February 16, 2012

Picnic, Lightning

Currently Reading: The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney

Good morning all! It feels like a random observation day... ready, set, go!
If you ever have the urge to read Lolita, go for it. However let me warn you: reading it is like watching a terrible reality show. It sickens you but you can't tear yourself away. You have to find out what happens, no matter what unfolds. And even though the plot disturbed me, I loved the writing style. This is one of the first books in which that has happened to me. I couldn't stand the main character, even disliked the girl he seduces, and yet the writing (while it does ramble at times) made me grin. How can that be? Humbert Humbert, the disturbing pedophile who narrates this novel, has an absolute gift with words, spinning puns out of thin air and twisting words like a puppeteer manipulates a marionette. He tells his story as though he was speaking, not worrying about perfect grammar or painting a picture. And this brings us to the best part. Many of Humbert Humbert's descriptions or side stories are often merely reduced to a phrase within a set of parentheses as he continues with his tale. It is brilliant in its simplicity. Take this amazing sentence from the beginning of the book: "My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three..." Why I find that so beautiful still astonishes me. It is completely different from the deep and profound quotes I often pepper my Quote Book with, but I could not help writing this one in there as well. In two words, Humbert Humbert has described a major and tragic event in his life, but at the same time, he has left much of it to our imagination. Simultaneously, instances like these fill the reader with unease- how can he discuss his mother's death with such casual diffidence? In one sentence, Nabokov has given his readers one of the best portraits of the character we are going to follow for the rest of the book. Say it to yourself again.... (Picnic, lightning). Poetry in two words. I found myself waiting for sentences like these, refreshing as a cold glass of water on an August afternoon, despite the slight metallic taste. It is strange in its effect on me, but I suppose that is the point of Lolita. The writing is sickeningly sweet, as Humbert Humbert attempts to convince the reader, as well as himself and Lolita, of his innocence, justifying himself through verbage. It doesn't work... but his efforts are impressive. As Humbert himself admits, "You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style."
Is there anything better than a warm scone on a cold morning? I don't even think that warrants a response.
I have been winging myself through Irish history lately thanks to Edward Rutherford and savoring every minute of it. His Dublin Saga books, entitled Princes of Ireland and Rebels of Ireland, follow the generations of several families through 200 years of Irish history- from the days of the Irish chieftains and St. Patrick's mission to the end of the Irish Civil War in the 1920s, with Cromwell, Wolfe Tone, and Vikings in between. I am drawn to history because I love stories. While learning about grand historical events is necessary and fascinating, the stories of ordinary people make history real for me. Rutherford's saga does an amazing job bringing Irish history to life in a deeply gripping way, while also creating characters and families that I enjoyed following through the generations. The books satisfied the genealogist in me, for reading it was like following a narrative family tree. As the centuries passed between one chapter and the next, I enjoyed meeting new branches of a family and reading about the descendants of characters I came to know and love (or dislike) in previous chapters. It brought to life a truth that I have always known- our lives are merely chapters in a larger story; like characters in a play, we enter and exit at the appointed time and our descendants continue the next acts. Dublin Saga reinforces the beauty of this fact, for while it makes us sound insignificant, everybody has an effect, big or small, on the history we live through.
New books I am excited about: The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey and The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney. In addition, I realized I have gone without Jane Eyre for far too long. I plan on going back to Thornfield Hall at the next opportunity. Expect a plethora of Jane Eyre-related posts when that happens. :)
My soul feels so full today- full of "spring is coming" smells, visits with family, chai tea, thick socks, inspiration, Nathan's smiles, my katz's purring, new books, libraries, research, sunlight on a wood floor, Mumford & Sons, and so much more. Happy day. Hope yours is happy too!

1 comment:

  1. “The Last Storyteller”, Ben MacCarthy, plays a multitude of roles and touches a vast number of lives. Set in the troubled Ireland of the 1950s, a time of IRA insurgency and government crackdown, Ben is the son of parents who embarrass him, annoy him, disappoint him, and whom he must reconcile to each other, all while their mutual love never flags and the unwilling accomplice in an IRA action and subject of a police search. Ben is the husband and lover of Venetia, the entertainer whose life he shares with others but whom he never stops seeking or loving. Ben is the protégé of James Clare, his mentor at the Irish Folklore Commission, who taught him how to collect and record stories and told him that “”There’s no story, no matter how ancient, as important as one’s own.” Ben is the attentive student of John Jacob Farrell O’Neill, the consummate Irish storyteller, the seanchai and it is from O’Neill that Ben will learn his craft.


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