Monday, October 6, 2014

Dark Magic Indeed

The Year of Magical ThinkingThe Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To call Joan Didion cold or even heartless - true as it may be in the light of The Year of Magical Thinking, this monument to the analytical dissection of grief - is itself a cold and heartless condemnation. We all grieve in our own way. This is hers.

After losing numerous family members suddenly and too soon, Didion then lost her husband and daughter within the span of a year. This book is her cathartic contemplation of that loss.

Heartrending, yes occasionally. Heartwarming, no never. Didion's demeanor is all too cerebral. It is as if she has educated herself above emotion. Certainly it can be said that some educate themselves beyond their own well-being. In this case, we see a mind so removed from the everyday reality of man as to answer "a motherless child" instead of "a nut" when asked to fill in the blank for "Sometimes you feel like ____." The result, when pushed to produce a book about grieving for loved ones, is an academic's deconstruction. No, it is not without feeling, she is still human after all, but stoicism is her strongest suit.

Beyond the almost biting cynicism you get beautiful language, great observations and insights to, let's call it, a different kind of emotion.

I assume, and sincerely hope, she never reads reviews like this. She shouldn't care what snarky assholes think of her work, not this work and not after the experiences she went through that brought it about. One who suffers so many visits from Death should not give two shits or even one single flying fuck what the rest of the world thinks.

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Let it go...Let it go!

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn't what I expected and that's a-okay fine, because The Knife of Never Letting Go is a razor-sharp story! (sorry, that was terrible)

I guess I was thinking this would be more cerebral, but it turned out to be a fast-paced, action-filled read that reminded me a bit of The Hunger Games in that it follows a kid in survival mode in a dystopian world.

Here's the story in a nutshell: A boy on the verge of becoming a man via his village's secretive initiation rites, flees the isolated community with an angry mob at his heels, trying to find out what the heck is going on along the way.

Though this was a straight up adventure story heavy on Campbell's archetypal mythology, it did have it's thoughtful moments and ideas to ponder. For instance, men have the ability to hear in their heads what other men are thinking, thus they are tormented by what they call "Noise," the mass of thoughts continuously bombarding them. Women don't give off noise, but can hear the noise of men. I don't know if this was intended, but I thought that was a nice parallel to real life, where generally speaking men's thoughts are not hard to deduce and women are a mystery to men, again, generally speaking.

The narration is first person, so we are constantly in the mind of Todd Hewitt, a young, uneducated, angry, and often frustrated youth. Sticking with a stupid hick for 400+ pages can be trying on the nerves. But Ness' world creation is a good distraction, his plot is intriguing enough and he added in some levity in the form of a pet dog for Todd, so I managed to hang in there. As with most dystopian novels I've read, scenery description is sparse. Ness' desire to keep the ball rolling and only slow it down for a bit of exposition now and then, means that he didn't spend much time with the setting. That's fine, and even preferable for action's sake, but it can leave one feeling empty and colorblind for want of scenery.

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