Posts Tagged ‘funny’

Book #69: Crome Yellow

Crome Yellow is Aldous Huxley’s first novel. I don’t like to refer to writers like Huxley as “one hit wonders,” because all their stuff is generally pretty good. But when it comes to writers like Huxley who have one book that everyone’s heard of, it feels a little bit like that’s what they are. Huxley’s name is pretty synonymous with Brave New World, just like Orwell, who wrote many other great things, is pretty much only known for/associated with 1984. It’s different than, say, Austen or Dickens, who are known for pretty much every damn thing they ever wrote.

Anyway, I always like when I read a book by a “one hit wonder” author that isn’t that “one hit.” It’s almost like they hid a secret book from me that now I get to read. Like, imagine if J.K. Rowling had written an eighth Harry Potter book, published it quietly, and just waited. Just imagine.

Crome Yellow was a delightful read. It’s such a fun little book. Every character is a parody of some trope or stock character of the time. The main character is Denis, the pretentious would-be poet who can’t quite figure out just how to be a brilliant poet (or how to get the girl he likes to fall in love with him).

Denis visits the Wimbush home, a place known for its gatherings of brilliant young minds and artists. I read that it’s based off of the Garsington Manor, where Huxley, T.S. Eliot, Bertrand Russell, and other artistic minds used to hang out. Huxley playfully parodies the larger-than-life pretension and crazy characters that met there.

There’s Mr. Wimbush, the dull, brilliant-minded historian obsessed with ancestry and the history of the house. There’s Mrs Wimbush, the psychic-obsessed spiritualist who insists on holding seances. There are their daughters, one charming and flirtatious, the other reclusive and thoughtful. The Wimbushes’ guests include flamouyant libertines, literary “giants”, and many other “great minds.”

Denis, all the while, observes the visitors and the high-society, “literary” lifestyle and tries to blend in, adjust, and absorb the ridicule he receives from the others about his failures to write a romantic novel.

The parody and characters are what make the novel, but my favorite part of Crome Yellow was when Denis finds another character’s journal and reads it. At this point, the startled young man realizes that other people exist in the world, and that they have their own thoughts and opinions about everything – including him.

He is startled into a depression when he realizes he never thought that anybody besides him had intelligent thoughts of their own.

This is a funny thing that I think we all realize, forget, and realize again. It’s easy to forget that every other person you meet has his or her own thoughts, feelings, and opinions. They aren’t just the people you think they are. And you never know, they might think things about you, just like you think things about them.

Rating: ****
Up Next: The Island of Doctor Moreau

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Book #64: Mercier and Camier

Mercier and Camier was my first contact with Samuel Beckett. Prior to my reading to this, all I knew about him was from the show Gilmore Girls.

At one point Emily is complaining to Richard about something, but he’s reading and not listening. She whines that he isn’t listening. He says something to the effect of, “Sorry, it takes a minute to emerge from Beckett. He’s a strange man.”

I guess I was expecting something more bizarre than what I got with Mercier and Camier. I’m told, though, that this is one of Beckett’s more accessible works, so maybe that’s the reason. I’ve also heard that people who study Beckett hate this book. They say it doesn’t fit with the rest of his amazing body of work.

I’m not sure what I say.

Though I haven’t read any of Beckett’s other works, I’m fairly comfortable guessing that Mercier and Camier isn’t nearly as profound as other books he’s written.

However, I think that there’s something about the futility of what Mercier and Camier are doing that fits in nicely with (what I imagine) the rest of Beckett’s works. Basically, two men, Mercier and Camier, are compelled to go on a journey. They have to leave. And they have to leave now. Or tomorrow morning. Or after they repeatedly miss each other at the meeting point, as they wait, decide to take a walk and check the meeting point again, and then return to find the other not there.

It’s never clear what, exactly, the men are trying to accomplish or where they’re going. They leave wander around their city, they leave their city, they come back to their city. They never really get anywhere, but it’s dreadfully important that they’re going.

The book is funny (see what I wrote about them repeatedly showing up at the meeting point and just missing each other). The narrator is very dry, and the characters have an odd logic sometimes.

Overall, I think Mercier and Camier is an interesting read. I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t want to accidentally be drawn into contemplating the futility of everything we do, even if we think it’s important, but it’s still pretty interesting.

As to whether it deserves the flack it gets from some scholars, I’ll have to read more Beckett and report back.

Rating: ****
Up Next: The Master

Bossypants

I want Tina Fey to be my new best friend. In some weird, strange way, I feel like she is my new best friend, actually.

For my “break” book, I read her new memoir Bossypants. It was really good. I was laughing and nodding and engaged from page one.

Fey writes both about her career – from beginning as an improv actor for The Second City to 30 Rock – with eloquence, humor, and heart. She doesn’t stray from awkward comparisons – she compares something to being about as gross and uncomfortable as losing your tampon string (and then apologizes to any male readers for their not being able to relate) – or brutal honesty.

She even fits a bit of feminism into her book. She makes plenty of comments about women in positions of power in the workplace, and also about male casting producers and writing who feel like two women in one sketch will never be funny. Normally I’m not huge on reading “feminist” literature or writings that focus on how women need more power. It’s not that I don’t think that women should be equal to men or anything (obviously), it’s just that that sort of thing usually doesn’t interest me or sit well with me for some reason.

But this time, it didn’t bother me at all. Maybe it was because it didn’t feel like Fey was asking me to burn my bra or protest against men in control or anything. She just kind of says it like it is and leaves me to draw my own conclusions.

Anyway, Bossypants had me laughing and smiling and feeling really happy all the way through. I like it when books make me do that.

Everyone should read it, because Tina Fey is awesome.

Rating: *****


Also, since I finished another ten list-books, I’ve chosen my favorite out of the set. It was kind of a rough group. None of them were really SUPER outstanding, but I enjoyed most of them. Ultimately, though, I’ve decided on The Hobbit.  Maybe it was Prague or maybe the fact that I had to read so much Gothic or Victorian this round, but I was glad for a little magic and fantasy.

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