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Booksluts Reading Challenge #3.2: Cancer Ward

Cancer Ward

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr

Bodley Head, London

ISBN: 0370006569


Jeez Louise, there’s impenetrable Russian literature, and then there’s this book.

What was I thinking?  My brain is fried enough as it is these days without trying to wade through this kind of thing.  It seems to be the problem that I constantly have with literary fiction, right?  That I just can’t seem to do it, to enjoy it, to not wallow in the fact that what I’m reading is supposed to be hard, to feel martyred (and secretly pleased with myself) because of this wodgey fortress of a book.  To give you an idea, the edition that I got out of the library was the first time that Cancer Ward had been published as a single volume.  A single volume, that’s right cublings – it used to be two books!  It weighs nearly two kilograms! Okay, so I made that up, but it gave me wrist cramp just getting through the first chapter, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This was meant to count towards the Full-Frontal Challenge, because Solzhenitsyn was a Nobel laureate, but damnit, I didn’t read enough of it to even fake having read it.  I did learn some interesting stuff about Solhenitsyn (though, not how to say his name quickly) in the course of researching my next read for the Booksluts Award-Winning Challenge.   But really, I’d just be padding out the post, and it’s nothing that you couldn’t find out for yourselves on Wikipedia.  And I love you cublings too much to fry your brains, so I’ll just content myself to steering dinner party conversations onto gulag’d Russian authors of the 2oth Century to show off my retention skills.

I might start off a bit slower next time and read The Gulag Archipelago instead.


There are Some Things Rats Can’t Do


Gaiman, Neil

Kindle e-book edition

Um.  Yeah.  I don’t know about this one.  Well, okay, maybe I need to come back to it, but I got halfway through and that was all I could be bothered with.  It’s not terrible, don’t get me wrong.  Just… seriously generic. It reads like a bunch of other fantasy books would read if they were written for twelve year olds.  Which is not a bad thing in itself, it’s just not what I was after.  I thought it would be a bit more gritty, somehow.   This was possibly because I read Un-Lun-Dun and King Rat, both by China Mieville, before I read this one – they deal with the same sort of topics, but in quite a different way.

I didn’t actually know that this was written originally as a screenplay, then ‘novelised’ (not sure if that’s actually a word, but you know what I mean, hopefully) after the television series it had been written for had aired.  This was in the mid-nineties, according to the Wikipedia entry on it anyway.  Did any of you cublings out there see the TV series?  It certainly never showed here, at least as far as I remember.  It actually looks pretty good.

And don’t say, Oh, it’s a bit soft like that because Neil Gaiman is English.  There have been lots of rough and tough and gross and horrible novels written by the English.  Of course, now that I’m thinking about it I can only think of comic book guys, but you know, I’m sure I’ll think of some novelists later. I guess, the main reason that I didn’t like it very much is that I thought it was kind of an insipid treatment of a really interesting topic.  Actually, not to put too fine a point on it, but it was a very insipid treatement of several really interesting topics – even the bit where Door finds her brother Arch floating in the pool had me shrugging with meh.  There are some really interesting ideas in it, don’t get me wrong.  Maybe I’ve just moved on from Neil.

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The Guts and the Gory

Haunted: a novel of stories

Palahniuk, Chuck

Vantage, 2006

ISBN 9780099458371

Oh, Chuck.  Where did we go wrong, honey?  Once, your words were like a soothing balm of awesome to my eyes.  Now, I feel slightly meh’d.  Believe me, it’s not you.  But then again, it’s not me either.  It’s Haunted.

This had all the makings of a fantastic read – the parental advisory on the front cover, reports of fainting (fainting!) when one of the stories was read by Chuck at a Borders somewhere on a book tour.  I’m still slightly amazed by that, there must have been some seriously weak-stomached people (or maybe just people with seriously great imaginations) in the audience.  For some reason, I could never find Haunted in a bookstore here at Earth’s End, so I purchased a copy over the interwebs, no big thing.  It’s not on the database of items which freaked the Censor’s Office out (though hilariously, there is a video called ‘My Ass is Haunted’ in there – somehow, I don’t think they’re talking about a donkey there), so who knows where it got to.  Anyway,  it’s weird, I got to nearly half way, bottled out of reading the rest a few weeks ago, but for some reason picked it up again over the weekend.  It’s good writing, the premise is solid… but… but… something is missing.

Like a lot of people, I came to Chuck Palahniuk’s writing after Fight Club (the movie) came out.  The movie was great – I adore Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham-Carter, and that other guy isn’t so bad either – but the book is… genius.  And, okay, I know this happens all the time, but the book is actually loads more deep than you’d ever credit from the movie alone.  For a fairly slim volume (it’s almost a novella), it packs a big punch; aside from the twist in the tail, there is a lot to think about in Fight Club – serious stuff, things like the massive gap between the working poor and the classes above them, things relating to the way men and women see the world differently, and about how the ‘button down world’ of late capitalism cannot scratch every itch.  I guess you could equate Fight Club in some ways to Trainspotting – same kind of feeling around the edges, the characters all in search of something intangable which the society in which they live is no longer capable of providing, and everyone in that society is at a loss to explain exactly where it went.  Phew, that was a long sentence.

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