Monday, August 7, 2017

A Long Wait For Nothing

Unusual Uses for Olive Oil (Portuguese Irregular Verbs, #4)Unusual Uses for Olive Oil by Alexander McCall Smith
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a near ten-year hiatus, the long-awaited (well, by me at any rate) fourth book in Alexander McCall Smith's comedic Portuguese Irregular Verbs series finally arrived!

I enjoyed the heck out of book number one. Then the following two became a little Candide-like or Monty Python-esque in their wackiness as our hero Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld became embroiled in far flung adventures. This fourth book, Unusual Uses for Olive Oil is a return to the sedate wordsmithing of the first book, and perhaps I really didn't want what I'd been wishing for.

This book is boring. There's no too ways about it. It's lacking in a sense of fun. Oh yes, there's plenty of wordplay and that's all very well and good, but poking fun at Germans and how they take everything literally, as well as the pedantic nature of language professors only goes so far before it becomes tiresome.

I can and do recommend this for word-lovers and those looking for some light academic japery. If you like reading satire on the foibles of the learned, have at it! I got a chuckle or two between the covers of this one and you may, too!

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An Adventure in Satire

Gulliver's TravelsGulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So much more than just a fantastical tale of a man journeying to mystical lands. This is thinly veiled satire...super thin.

A seafaring Englishman ends up in four fairytale worlds where people are small, gigantic, smarties in the maths, and where people are horses. By the second journey you'd think he'd be done with all this, but in the end he's done with humans and has trouble living amongst his own kind.

Written in the old style where listing off occurrences constituted an adventure and a perfectly well constructed story, Gulliver's Travels can be at times a tedious read. It's filled with a laundry list of actions ("I did this and then I did this"), and when you think some tension or conflict is a brewin' you get simple expedients flatly stated ("I was faced with an obstacle and so I overcame it by doing this.") After a time it all becomes trying and uninspiring, making the turning of pages ever more difficult.

However, if you've come to this book looking for condemnation of the human race's worst foibles, you've come to the right place. Swift dispatches venom towards the leeches of humanity. Lawyers, for instance, get blasted left, right and center. I'm one of those people that feels we're not much better, and sometimes not any better, than base animals, so I was okay with the author's bashing of my fellow man. Those who don't understand anything beyond "Humans! We're #1!" aren't going to like this.

Regardless of its faults, I'm glad I finally got around to reading the original, full-length version. In school I read an abridged and sanitized version, which left out all the mentions of genitalia and bodily functions. This is much better with all the pee and tits included!

PS: Check out my video review of Gulliver's Travels here:

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