Adventures in Reading

Nonfiction: Resistance, Rebellion, and Death by Albert Camus

“I continue to believe that this world has no ultimate meaning. But I know that something in it has a meaning and that is man, because he is the only creature to insist on having one. This world has at least the truth of man, and our task is to provide its justification against fate itself.”

When I read Camus, I want to underline and quote nearly every word. He is a concise, graceful and charming author in the style of other minimalist authors, but he never lost the poetry in his words that makes the reader’s heart swell and fill the throat. I promised myself I wouldn’t do this, but I can’t help it: I love Albert Camus. My relationship with this author is perhaps the closest I’ve ever come to having a religious experience. If you haven’t read him go. Right now. Seriously.

Resistance, Rebellion, and Death is a collection of nonfiction essays, articles, and speeches from Camus. Many of these deal with perennial questions including warring ideologies, imperialism, capital punishment, and the artist’s creation. In so many ways he offers a unique voice as an existentialist, an atheist, an artist, a French-Algerian, a member of the French Resistance, and much more. As a reader, I was surprised that no part of this collection reads as dated in application to contemporary culture and discourse.

If you’re not much into Camus or philosophy this book may seem rather overwhelming, but at the very least do read, perhaps is most notable book, The Stranger.

Conclusion: Definite Keeper.


Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera
“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”

My (re)reading of Gabriel García Márquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera coincides with Oprah selecting the piece for her book club. If you are unfamiliar with Oprah you have yet to be touched by the hand of god, or so it seems. Her book club started in 1996, and Oprah certainly has the Midas touch as every book she selects flies off the shelf and leaves her fans salivating for the next book shipment. It also does not hurt that a film adaptation is coming out November 16th of this year. I personally selected the book as Oprah’s fan base reminded me it was a novel I failed to finish but had always intended on returning to. However, I must express my growing annoyance with the quickly tiring reference to what a wretched book it must be based on the title. (Personally I am quite taken with the title!)

The book is a rather tender romance that begins in the naivety of youth between Fermina and Florentino, but much to Fermina’s father’s chagrin. The two are separated, Fermina realizes that the relationship was folly, and Florentino spends the next 50 or so years waiting for Fermina’s husband to die. The novel is unveiled in three stages of love beginning with youth and ending with old age, and part of the wonder of the story is the “coming and going” (348). It is an intriguing story and beautifully written – Márquez is a poet with words and description.

One issue that I took with the book was that I was not always satisifed with Márquez’s representation of women. I often felt I was reading something by someone who assumed they knew a lot about women, but who’s knowledge ceases after the most recent edition of Cosmo. Now, Fermina did not bother me in particular, but the majority of Florentino’s lovers really are nothing more than pin-ups: glossy but with no warmth and little reality, but here and there painted with a rather misogynistic brush.

I was rather disturbed by Leona Cassian’s rape, which is described as “instantaneous and frenetic love” (258) and when she later in the same passage refers to it as rape it is as if it is almost in jest. Shortly after this we are informed of Florentino’s experience with incest and statutory rape with Americaná. In addition, Love in the Time of Cholera is yet another novel that places a (brief) spotlight on the idea of no means yes: “He beleived that when a woman says no, she is waiting to be urged before making her final decision…“(188).

Despite these issues I still enjoyed the book, but I must confess that through much of the book I kept wishing I was reading Albert Camus’ The Plague instead. It was a book I am glad I read, I feel it has lived up to the “hype,” but I wonder if I should just stick with Marquez’s short stories (which I adore). The movie, as I mentioned, is coming out in about two weeks and I am very excited to see the adaptation.

I would like to thank the wonder of Flickr and the talent of thepluginguy for today’s image.

Other opinions: Book in Hand, Educating Petunia, Book Haven, In Spring It Is the Dawn, Things Mean A Lot

Judge a Book by Its Cover

shirazI am such a sucker for a good book cover and when I caught sight of The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer I nearly splurged on a book I knew nothing about. Of course the timeless saying of, “don’t judge a book by its cover” popped to mind and in an odd moment of query spent my lunch break searching for the origins of this rather popular (particularly in the book business) phrase:

“To make a judgment of inherent quality on the basis of superficial attributes. The proverbial saying which advises against this … has an air of ancient wisdom but there is no record of it before the 1920s.”

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrases & Fables 17th ed.

Regardless of my superficial desire for this book, I have found the cover art of books to be extremely interesting. Of course book jackets serve as an advertisement space but personally I consider book jackets to be windows into the book (okay, I just made that up). Recently a good number of Albert Camus’ books have received more modern covers and I find myself growingly interested in the evolution of a novel’s many windows.

Currently, I’m a third of the way into The Magic Lantern by Ingmar Bergman and have realized the reason that Bergman was a famous film director (and I’m not) is because his life was insane. I do not simply mean interesting but insane. Last evening I re-watched one of my favorite Bergman films Wild Strawberries and couldn’t resist recollecting so many points from the book. Perhaps what best stuck out in my mind were Bergman’s description of the attempted (and not in a playful manner) acts of fratricide between him and his brother! Pretty compelling stuff. It also has me reconsidering the popular catchphrase amongst some literary academics to never assume the write is the narrator.