Romain Gary’s Gros-Câlin (Big-Hug)

Gros-Calin

       

       

                  I must say, I always lacked arms. Two arms, mine, it’s empty. I need another two around me.

 

Storyline:
“Gros-Câlin” – “Big-Hug” is the first book published by Romain Gary under the pseudonym Emile Ajar.
It’s the story of a 37 year old statistician who adopts a python he names “Big-Hug” and decides to write a treatise on living with such an exotic and unusual animal in a Parisian flat.
What I liked: So many things…
First of all:  the surprise. I bought this book with no other recommendation that the name of the author. The fact that “Big-Hug” is actually python took me by surprise and hooked me instantly.
Second of all because the story is just a pretext. What the book is really about is solitude and the need of affection.
And last of all – but not the least- because it is that kind of book that re-reading will reveal it even more and bring to light depths that first reading kept hidden.
Bottom line: It’s a book that spoke to me and of me. So personal and touching at a level that very few books have been. If you ever felt a misfit and a loner in a world that is so big and moving too fast, you should read this book.

 

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Review: Carlos Ruiz Zafón – The angel’s game

eljuegodelangel

“Every book has a soul, the soul of the person who wrote it and the soul of those who read it and dream about it.” 

Storyline: Part of the trilogy Zafón wrote around the “Cemetery of forgotten books”, this novel tells the story of a young writer who sells his soul for the fulfillment of all his “Great Expectations”.
Rough childhood, no bright future to wait for, just a few friends and an undeniable talent for writing, Martin signs a deal with an obscure and strange editor to write a book like no other.
It’s a story about fighting our inner demons and dark side. And, above all, about the fear of dying and love that cannot die.

What I liked: I enjoyed the writing, the way the story unfolded and kept me hooked.
And I loved the fact that Barcelona – la ciudad de los malditos – is a main character and not only a mere setting of the novel.

What I loved less: Too much death. But isn’t just like real life?

Bottom line: Loved it and will purchase the first book of the trilogy that I have yet to read. And I plan to buy it in Barcelona in May…My way of honouring the city which is a main character in Zafón’s books.

Micro-review: Olga Lossky – Requiem for a nail

Olga Lossky

Storyline : A crippled old man lives alone in a small room in a communal apartment in the communist Russia of the 50’s. The nail he founds one day in his shoe is the pretext for a requiem of his youth and his young self, barely out of adolescence.
The story alternates between the present with the challenges and adventures of his old days and the adolescent becoming a man.
What I liked : The novel is beautifully written, alternating perspectives in a chaotic and delicious manner. The paragraphs are small, as measures of the distinct, atomic moments that make up our lives. The voices of young and old Fiodor alternate in a sort of a dialogue that abolishes time.
Bottom line: It’s funny and serious, ironic and nonjudgmental. And I loved it!

Weekly review roundup

I am constantly browsing blogs for books to read, for reviews that unveil a book I would really love reading. Here is the round up of the best I found this week:

Monday:

http://emilyjanuary.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/an-american-masterpiece-wallace-stegners-angle-of-repose/

 

 

 

Tuesday: 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/nov/02/the-eye-alice-munro-short-story

 

 

 

Wednesday:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/books/review/sorry-please-thank-you-by-charles-yu.html?ref=review

 

 

 

Thursday:

http://booksbeccabuys.com/2012/08/31/the-cloud-atlas-by-david-mitchell-book-review/

 

 

 

Friday:

http://ayearofreadingtheworld.com/2012/11/02/latvia-living-with-the-enemy/

 

 

 

 

Saturday: 

http://www.casualoptimist.com/2012/11/05/cruel-britannia/

 

 

 

 

Sunday: 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/books/review/the-cursing-mommys-book-of-days-by-ian-frazier.html?ref=review

 

 

 

Would you like reading such a weekly roundup of reviews that I liked and that I added to my growing reading list?

Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon

“Intelligence is one of the greatest human gifts. But all too often, a search for knowledge drives out the search for love. This is something else I’ve discovered for myself very recently. I present it to you as a hypothesis: Intelligence without the ability to give and receive affection leads to moral breakdown, to neurosis, and possibly even psychosis. And I say that the mind absorbed in and involved in itself as a self-centered end, to the exclusion of human relationships, can only lead to violence and pain.” 

One day I dared to confess to one of my colleagues that I am not a very big fan of science-fiction. After explaining me that not all science-fiction is about robots and spaceships, she took it as personal challenge to prove me my ignorance in the field and the next day she brought me Daniel Keyes “Flowers for Algernon”.

It ‘s a small novel about an experiment conducted on a intellectually challenged man, with an IQ of 68, aiming to increase his intelligence. It has the form of a diary written by Charlie Gordon, the subject of the experiment, who is supposed to write something down everyday (being thus considered scientific evidence of the transformations the subject suffers after the operation).

The different chapters show the evolution of the intellect and life of Charlie Gordon. So, you have the “before” Charlie Gordon:
 “I was her bestist pupil in the Beckman School for retarted adults and I tryed the hardist becus I reely wantd to lern I wantid it more even then pepul who are smarter even then me.” “If the operashun works I’ll show that mouse I can be as smart as he is. Maybe smarter.”
Charlie discovering the joys of punctuation:
 “April 6—Today, I learned, the comma, this is, a, comma (,) a period, with, a tail, Miss Kinnian, says its, importent, because, it makes writing, better, she said, somebody, could lose, a lot, of money, if a comma, isnt in, the right, place, I got, some money, that I, saved from, my job, and what, the foundation, pays me, but not, much and, I dont see how, a comma, keeps, you from, losing it, But, she says, everybody, uses commas, so Ill, use them, too,,,, April 7—I used the comma wrong. Its punctuation…Miss Kinnian says a period is punctuation too, and there are lots of other marks to learn. She said; You, got. to-mix?them!up: She showd? me” how, to mix! them; up, and now! I can. mix (up all? kinds of punctuation— in, my. writing! There” are lots, of rules; to learn? but. Im’ get’ting them in my head: One thing? I, like: about, Dear Miss Kinnian: (thats, the way? it goes; in a business letter (if I ever go! into business?) is that, she: always; gives me’ a reason” when—I ask. She”s a gen’ius! I wish? I could be smart-like-her; Punctuation, is? fun!” 
And “after” Charlie Gordon – having acquired an intellect superior to most of humans:
“I’m “exceptional”- a democratic term used to avoid the damning labels of “gifted” and “deprived” (which used to mean “bright” and “retarded”) and as soon as “exceptional” begins to mean anything to anyone they’ll change it. The idea seems to be: use an expression as long as it doesn’t mean anything to anybody. “Exceptional” refers to both ends of the spectrum, so all my life I’ve been exceptional.” 

In the end…I will let you discover, I don’t want to spoil the pleasure. It’s a really wonderful book, interesting, thought-provoking, who raises important philosophical, social and moral questions. In a period when we try more and more to play with nature, genetics and to built a super human, this kind of book lays on the table relevant questions. Do we really want to temper with nature? What are the consequences and risks? Are we ready to accept them? Can we understand their full impact?……

At first I found the title puzzling but in the end it makes sense. And all that I can tell you about it (without spoiling anything) is this: Algernon is the name of a mouse used in the experiment and on whom the new surgical technique intended to increase intelligence was tested first successfully- the mental performance of the mouse considerably increased. Why flowers for Algernon? Well that I will let you discover for yourself…it’s really worth it.