Adventures in Reading

R.I.P. Challenge – Fiction: A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

“Charlie Asher walked on the earth like an ant walks on the surface of water, as if the slightest misstep might send him plummeting through the surface to be sucked to the depths below.”

After his wife has passed away, Charlie Asher comes to discover that he is a “death merchant,” or a collector of souls. Caring for an infant daughter and a thrift store, he acclimates to his new “career.” With a variety show cast of characters, Charlie Asher just might have to save the world.

A Dirty Job’s best feature is a curious reinterpretation of death and dying set in contemporary San Francisco. The characters are developed for novelty and amusement, and overall it’s a fairly amusing page-turner.

Moore’s humor in A Dirty Job didn’t always work though, and some of the jokes were just painful to read. At times he was trying so hard to make a joke happen and it simply wouldn’t be funny. Even one of the larger themes in the book, the idea of the “Beta male” that was meant to be humorous, was never effortlessly pulled off. Some of the humor also bordered on fratire or “dick lit,” which is usually just offensive and often relies on stereotypes (read racist and sexist).

With that said, I would still be willing to read another of Moore’s books to see how it compares. A Dirty Job has an interesting plot, was well developed, and was a quick read.

Conclusion: Available on Bookmooch.

R.I.P. Challenge: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

“You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.”

I reread Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein using the same Dover edition from my sophomore year in high school that I originally read from. It’s a green and read marbled cover that looks very much like cellular globules drifting. I also discovered the very likely reason why I’ve disliked this book for so long: my teacher at the time, though I loved the woman, had us highlighting and underlining nearly every thing on every page. Fortunately, this time around I really enjoyed the novel.

Victor Frankenstein is an astute, curious, and persistent man and his eventual chemical expertise, attached with some early philosophies, develops a desire in him to recreate life. He brings forth his monster or his dæmon, which he immediately abandons. The monster, now alone and wretched, haunts and begins to manipulate and destroy those around Victor. The book is written with an interesting frame structure with letters from R. Walton to his sister, within this is Victor’s own narrative of events, and within this is the monster’s telling of his life.

I read the 1831 republication of the novel rather than the original 1818 version (which I am quite interested in reading too). While “the core and substance of it [is] untouched,” according to Shelley, section dividers have lapsed and some more aggressive plot points have been removed, or so I’ve read.

Frankenstein is an easy book to read for the simple enjoyment of reading. Film adaptations have over-glamorized the monster and scientific aspects of the book as Shelley deals with these on a much more emotional and internal level. Victor always appears on the edge of sanity. Despite being an interesting narrative, Shelley’s complex themes and questions are equally potent: When does science go too far? Where does responsibility begin and end?

Conclusion: Keeper.

Other thoughts: marireads, Becky’s Book Reviews, Hidden Side of the Leaf, Pardon My French, just what you want…, Raising Pennsylvania, and Book Nut.

R.I.P. Challenge: Dracula by Bram Stoker
October 3, 2008, 1:14 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , , , , ,

In Leonard Wolf’s introduction of the 100th anniversary of Dracula, he explores the sensation that is Dracula. Though only a century old, Dracula is a tale that seems much older and a story that has seeped into public unconsciousness like any well-known myth or allegory. Dracula is erotically dark and violent, passionate and frightening, sexual yet repulsive.

Told in an epistolary style, Bram Stoker’s story unfolds through letters, journals, newspaper clippings, phonograph recordings, and telegrams. Rather than a solitary narrator, nearly every character within Dracula is allowed a passage to develop the story. Plot wise, and one I’m sure most people are familiar with, the young Englishman Johnathan Harker heads to Transylvania as he has been hired via a firm by Count Dracula. After a terrifying forced visit at the Count’s castle, he returns home only to find that the Count has beat him to England’s shores. The Count proceeds to terrorize the two female characters in the story while the male cast comes to term and plot to defeat the vampire.

Wolf points out that one of the intrigues of this novel, one reason why it is so easy to become fascinated is because Stoker quite deceptively provides his reader with a monolith of complex material and themes: sex, tradition, modernity, science, medicine, folklore, myth, horror, good versus evil, sex. You can read Dracula for the blood tingling gothic horror it is or you can easily spend your time delving into the multitude of layers.

My only real criticism: there is some cyclical repetitions throughout the book (like the men giving blood to Lucy) that become rather repetitive. Personally, I could have done without the American Quincey entirely. But that’s really besides the point, it’s a sensational book and was a perfect novel to read for the R.I.P. Challenge!

Conclusion: Keeper.

Other opinions: Book Nut, Bookworm, 1morechapter, Becky’s Book Reviews, Dreaming Out Loud, Here, There, and Everywhere, and Reading Matters.