Archive for January, 2010

My Personal Judgment

January 11, 2010

I didn’t have any idea what “A Long Way Down” is about. I just began to read it because I was fascinated by “High Fidelity” and wanted to get to know more books from this author.

It was surprising to begin to read a book handling straightforward and openly with the difficult topics depression and suicide- but somehow it’s really relieving that the author leaves the social ignorance about it behind and confronts me, the reader, with real problems in real lives.
The four protagonists don’t seem to be very intelligent; at some parts of the book I got annoyed with them because they don’t seem to make improvements for a long time and sometimes the misunderstandings between them are way too exaggerated.

At the beginning the book is very amusing and you don’t bore at all. But Part 2 and 3 aren’t as good as the first part- some things that happen are just too implausible and even if the happenings top each other you can’t find a real progress inside their minds. Also, the book tries really hard not to conform to the typical cliché- endings but it did in some way. The happy ending didn’t satisfy me at all, it was just too less creative and authentic.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this book. It was fun, a little thought- provoking while reading the book but not to think about or to learn from after reading it. I would recommend it as a book to take a break from heavy- weighed literature to people that like and understand black humor.

Impressions

January 11, 2010

You notice just in the beginning that this book is neither a drama nor a tragedy despite the tragic of the topic. It’s written in interior monologues from the viewpoint of four first-person-narrators, in their own way of speaking, with very ironic and macabre parts and drawn from life. I think that’s the main point in this book; it isn’t the series of events but the feeling by reading the text and getting to know the persons and their lives. After a while, you begin to identify and sympathize with them and to feel with them, because they show you their real and honest thoughts without caring about political correctness or something like that.

There’s also the strange relation between the four protagonists who are totally different persons. They live in different living realities, so it seems to be hard for them to understand the others. But there’s a development in the second half of the book; they learn to accept others and to empathize with them. It’s a completely new experience for each of them to realize that there are people under totally different living conditions but nevertheless remain human natures like you and me. The story teaches you not to take the superficial appearance for granted and to see behind the curtain to understand the behavior of others that you can’t comprehend.
Nick Hornby knows how to write in such a realistic and human way about such a serious topic without making you feel bad or sad. It’s also written very funny; mainly the communication problems that exist between them made me laugh a lot.

Reading Experiences

January 11, 2010

When I first started reading the book I was thinking to myself: “Oh my gosh! Why did you take this book.” I had to look up that much words, especialy the Indian and Arabian ones but after a while i got used to it.

Salman Rushdi works out some events in the Muslim history in a very critical way and i started to search these links. It was ver interesting and I learned a lot about Islamic traditions and history while reading the book.

Because the novel is not written in a chronolgical order it wasnt easy to get the story, and even now I am not sure if I realy mentioned the basic objectivs of the story, but I hope so. On the other hand this nonchronlogical order made it more easy to read the novel in small parts, because of the fast switches between the story lines, but also some times confused me. Also the hundreds of Indian and Arabian names which all looked the same to me on the first sight made it sometimes hard to anderstand the woman.

The novel shows Muhammad as an poltical person, that knows how to controll the people around him. And is very critical against the qur´an which is in the book written by person that critisices Muhammad.

I liked that novel is very miscellaneus, because their are many story lines and topics like the conflict between believe and doubt of the two main charactars or the links to the Muslim history.

If some one should ask me if I could recommend the book, I definitly have to say yes, but only if you don’t have write a reading blog. And should their anyone seriously be intersted in the story I think he should read the book and im willing to lend it to every one, because in my eyes it is hardly possible to describe what Salman Rushdi has created with his unique and imaginative language that cobine reality with the magic of the Muslim World.

The Satanic Verses – Summary

January 11, 2010

Chapter One: The Angel Gibreel

The Story begins with two of the main charactars, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, two Indian actors, who fall from the sky over the English Channel, after their hijacked plane explodes. They meet each other on the flight from Bombay to London which is hijacked by terrorists who held the occupants as hostages for 110 days, before they blew the plane apart. In this time Gibreel Farishta is trying to sleep as less as possible because he has weird religious dreams. Miraculously both of them survive the fall and get washed up at an British beach.

Chapter Two: Mahound

The second chapter describes the dream of Gibreel Farishta. In this dreams the prophet Mahound comes into the city Jahilia where he wants to spread his new religion. After a few confrontations with the Grandee of Jahilia and the poet Baal, leaves the prophet the City. This part of the story tells an episode of Muhammad’s life in mecca. It’s linked to the so called satanic verses in the qur´an which aloud praying to three female gods and which where later removed by Muhammad who said it was an failure which was caused bai Shaitan, the Islamic Devil.

Chapter Three: Ellowen Deoween

Rosa Diamond, an elder woman, finds Gibreel and Saladin at the beach and cures them. Saladin begins to transform and becomes the appearance of the devil, while Gibreel gets an halo. Saladin is caught by the police, who think he is an illegal immigrant. During his arrest the police beats Saladin up badly. After he is nursed by an physiotherapist Saladin escapes and goes home, where he finds his wife sleeping with a his friend Jumpy Joshi. At the same  time Gibreel runs away from Rosa Diamond and starts searching his great love Allie Cone in London.

Chapter Four: Ayesha

In this chapter forces the Imam of Desh Gibreel Farishta to help him with the revolution in his homecountry and to end up his exile in London. This part of the story is very similar to the revolution in the Iran in the year 1979. In an other dream Gibreel sees Mirza Saeed Akhtar, who loves Ayesha and tells him that his wife has cancer. Ayesha, who claims to be an prophet tells the her whole village to go to mecca and that the Arabian Sea will split in front of them.

Chapter Five: A City Visible But Unseen

Saladin is taken by Jumpy Joshi to an Bed & Breakfast where he realises that he has lost everything, his wife is pregnant from Jumpy Joshi and he has lost his job. After he finds out that Gibreel is going to make movies out of his dreams he gets in rage and grows. He is take to the Hot Wax nightclub where he loses his demonic appearance  and seeks for revenge on Gibreel. At the same time Gibreel starts to believe he is an archangel and runs away from Allie, after he isn’t able to declare the words of god he returns to Allie.

Chapter Six: Return to Jahilia

This part is again taking place in the dreams of Gibreel. It descreibes how Mahound brings the Islam to Jahilia. Salman the Persian who writes down the words of god for Mahound complains about Mahounds verses, which are against women and tells his critic to Baal. Mahound who has taken over Jahilia doesn’t kill his former enemies, only Baal who talks against him has to hide in an brothel. Before Mahound is able to kill  Baal, Hind, the wife of the Grandee of Jahilia who pretended to that sh has converted,  uses black magic to summon the demon Al-Lat who kills Mahound.

Chapter Seven: The Angel Azraeel

Saladin comes home and stays at his house, allthough the affair between his wife and Jumpy goes on. On a party Saladin and Gibreel meet again and Saladin gets his revenge  by destroying the relationship of Gibreel and Allie. While riots break out in London because of the death of an innocent prisonor, Gibreel believes he is Azraeel the angel of destruction. Saladins wife and Jumpy die during an fire which was was caused by the riots, Saladin who wants to save an family breaks down in the fire and gets safed by Gibreel who noticed that Saladin destroyed his relationship but forgave him.

Chapter Eight: The Parting Of The Arabian Sea

In this Chapter Gibreel dreams again of Ayesha and the villagers, who ar now on their way to Mecca. Mirza Saeed is trying to make the people go home bur nearly all of them follow Ayesha in to the Arabian sea where they die. This part of the story is based on real event in the year 1982 when 38 muslim pilgrim walked into the Arabian Sea believing it would part in front of them.

Chapter Nine: A Wonderfull Lamp

In the last chapter Saladin flys home to his father who lies in deathbed with cancer. Saladin who had an argue with his father since he became an British citizen reconciles with his father and inherits the riches of his father. Meanwhile Gibreel is starting a comeback tour and trys to make films out of his dreams, also he trys to get Allie back but fails. So he throws her down Everest Villa and comes to the house of Saladins father and kills him self with a gun he gets out of an magic lamp Saladin inherited from his father.

The Plot

January 10, 2010

Part 1

As Martin, Maureen, Jess and JJ see each other on the roof and decide not to follow their decision to jump they sit down to talk about their backgrounds eating pizza.
Jess suddenly relapses out of a discussion; she tries to jump of the roof but Martin keeps her from doing so. After that, she kind of blackmails them to come with her searching for the boy Chas.

So, one step follows another. When they solved the Chas- problem with some conversation, they go to Martin’s house to have a few drinks. Meanwhile there’s developing a relation between the four persons. They spend most of the time arguing but actually they want to be with the others.

Part 2

The next morning everyone’s for himself- they decided to exchange addresses and phone numbers and to rethink their suicidal plans until Valentine’s Day. But right the next day the “Toppers House Four” are forced to meet again: Chas had told and sold the suicide-pact- story to a newspaper. That means trouble for Martin and the family of Jess, because of their position in public. Also, everyone knows about them now and that means a lot of concern and lack of comprehension from the side of family members and friends.
As everyone’s involved in the scandal, they decide to benefit from the presence in press; Jess has the idea to affirm they’ve seen an angel on the roof that prevented them from jumping so that they can sell the story to a newspaper to make some money. They also have an interview at a TV- show.
After that day,  JJ and Maureen talk about their wishes. Maureen mentions that she hadn’t been outside the UK before and it would be a dream of her to go on vacation.
JJ proposes a trip of “Toppers House Four” to flee for a while from the problems at home. One week later they travel to Tenerife.
Maureen really enjoys the vacation; she compares the time without Matty with the absence of a third leg; the nice weather, the chilling out and the nice food also are new to her.
In contrast, Martin and Jess don’t have such a good time:
Jess goes to a pub and sees a girl that looks exactly like her lost sister Jen. After having an argument with her (she always annoys people), she gets drunk and the policemen have to get her to the hotel. Martin isn’t pleased with anything and the others get on his nerves, especially Jess. So he decides to spend the last two days at another hotel.
Shortly after coming home it’s Valentine’s Day, their “deadline”, and they want to meet again at the top of Toppers House. But when they arrive there, they see how an unknown man jumps off the building. They can’t stop him.

Part 3

Martin, Jess, JJ and Maureen meet at Starbucks and realize they’re not as ready to part and begin a new life as individuals as they thought. Martin had read in an article that you need 90 days to get over a depression with suicidal thoughts. So they again extend their “deadline” to the 31st March.
Now the time of improving their actual situation begins; at least Jess thinks that. With Maureen, she visits the ex- wife of Martin to ask her to come back to him- but she’s happy with her children and her new partner. She gives Jess the idea that for them it’s not about rebuilding the old state but about the help of family and friends to start a new life or to revive the living will.
So Jess organizes a meeting with the four and people that are important in their lives but aren’t really integrated in them: There are Jess’ parents, Martin’s ex-wife and children, JJ’s best friend (and part of his ex-band) and his ex-girlfriends Lizzie and Maureen’s son Matty with two nurses.
The idea was to talk about them and to find solutions for any of them to have the guts to begin an independent and happier life again.  The meeting ends up in a mess, but it shows them that there has to be made a change.
In the end, they’ve all learned their lesson: Martin gives classes to young pupils, JJ begins to work as a busker (Straßenmusiker) because he needs music to survive, Maureen “resocializes” herself by getting a job and beginning to go to a quiz club and Jess learns to comprehend her parents.
At March 31st they meet on the rooftop again and decide to wait another six months.

The Gingerbread Girl

January 10, 2010

Summary

Emily has lost her child, which causes tensions in the relationship with her husband Henry. She takes up running till she collapses to control her grief. Henry notices her behavior and tries o talk to her. The situation escalates and she runs off, just with her running clothes and a few credit cards. Her father suggests going to their small house on the Keys and she follows his proposal. During the next few weeks she runs 5 miles a day while eating nest to nothing.

One day, Dake, who runs the draw-bridge between Vermilllion and the mainland, tells her that Pickering is back. Pickering is one of the rich owners of the huge houses on the beach. He arrived with a new “cousin” who is young and attractive. Dake tells her that he thinks all the “cousins”, Pickering arrives with, are killed and shipped back with his yacht. A bit later Emily runs past that estate and sees a woman lying injured in the trunk. She walks closer and is knocked down from behind.

Em wakes up and in order to prevent Pickering from killing her, she lies to him. She says that Dake knows where she is. Pickering leaves with the intention to eliminate Dake. Slowly she is able to get rid of the duct tape which ties her to a chair. Emily has almost finished when her tormentor returns. She succeeds in knocking him down, although she is weak and injured by the falling the chair.

Emily tries to find the exit, but she ends up in the bedroom. By jumping out of a window she is able to escape and to gain a lead over Pickering. At the beach she already feels free although he is close on her heels. She seems to be fitter than him, but a Mexican worker, who works for Pickering, catches her. Emily convinces the Latino that she is needs help, but he gets brutally stabbed with a pair of scissors. Exhausted and heavily breathing she limps on.

When Pickering reaches her at last, she jumps into the water as last escape. Em realizes that he is not able to swim and pulls him deep under water. With her last power she swims ashore where she watches him drifting helplessly away in the Gulf Stream.

My impression

“The Gingerbread Girl” is divided into twelve parts. The first three parts form the exposition. The next four parts are the rising action. The climax is in part eight. It is the escape from the house. The moment of final suspense is in part nine, ten and eleven. The solution follows in the last part.

Stephen King describes the story very brutally, but in simple words. He plays with the fear of being kidnapped and killed by a psychopath. The reader is torn between the hope for Em and the fear that Pickering might kill her. In many situations she seems to win, but by chance Picking always stays on her heels. In my opinion the introduction is a bit too long, but I like the happy ending, when she gets her revenge. Em is mentally very strong and tries to think rationally all the time. From the point where Dake tells Emily about Pickering the plot is quite predictable. Most of the story seems realistic, but on the other hand the ending with the Mexican and Pickering’s unexpected fear of water -Pickering as a man who owns a boat and a house on the beach – is not convincing. It makes the reader wonder, if Stephen King wanted to put an end to the story.

Willa

January 10, 2010

Summary

The story “Willa” takes place near Crowheart Springs in Wyoming. David Sanderson notices the absence of his girlfriend Willa. He and a few others are waiting for a pick-up train in the station of the small town. He asks several people and it becomes clear, that she has gone into town, which is dangerous since there are wolves outside. David decides to look for her, against the warnings of the people in the station. Walking along the only lonely road he sees a wolf, which is scared of him. Without wondering about that David reaches a honkey-tonk bar, where “The Derailers” are playing that evening. Without paying David walks in and finds Willa. They talk about music and mirrors and Willa explains the effects of perception and expectation. Slowly it becomes clear that they both died a long time ago and that they are ghosts. The pick-up train the people are waiting for in the station will not arrive as the train they have been traveling with derailed. With the knowledge that David is already dead, he can remember the derailment. Together they walk back to the station. It becomes obvious that David and Willa think they live in a completely different time while they are already in the year 2006. At that point David is able to see different stages of the station building. In the year 2006 the building is struggling to keep up its appearance. To their horror they discover a sign which says, that the building shall be demolished in June 2007. Inside nobody believes them. Willa and David try to do their best to convince the travellers but except for a child nobody believes them. Together they walk back into town to see “The Derailers” again, while they wonder if the group succeeds in making the train arrive with their will power.

My impression

This is the first short story of Stephen King I have ever read. It is written in a simple style and without many stylistic devices. The third person narrator is linked with David’s point of view. While David is described in a natural and human way, Willa seems to be strange at first sight. The plot shows parallels with “The Sixth Sense” with Bruce Willis. At first, the reader asks himself, what the creepy event of the short story might be. Since the reader slowly gets the idea, that they aren’t alive anymore, and the main characters see the positive aspect of being a ghost, there isn’t too much horror effect left. I enjoyed reading the story, because Stephen King invites the reader to an experiment of thoughts – what it would be like to be a ghost- and tries to show the positive aspects of being a ghost.

In my opinion this quotation sums up the idea of the story quite well:

“Succinct, fast-moving …. This collection’s most successful stories start unprepossessingly but then head for unknown territory, off in the far reaches of Mr. King’s imagination.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Graduation Afternoon

January 10, 2010

Summary

„Graduation Afternoon“ takes place on an estate which allows a great view of New York City. Janice is playing tennis and thinks about her relationship with her boyfriend Buddy. He is swimming in his pool. With her exotic last name Gradolewiski it is hard for her to be accepted in the high society. Buddy’s Grandma sneers at her constantly. In three weeks Buddy will go hiking, which seems to be his mother’s diabolic plan to separate them painlessly.

She walks slowly back to the big house, while thinking of the graduation party in the evening. In the distance in the city, she sees an enormous spark of light. It spreads quickly and the whole southern sky is a glooming red. A crimson mushroom slowly forms. Buddy’s relatives come out of the house wondering what kind of light this is. It becomes very hot and the sound of the nuclear bomb reaches them. Janice, almost blinded, looks at the place, where Ney York City had been 90 seconds ago. A hot breeze rises and she thinks of Buddy, his grandma und the evening.

My impression

The beginning of the story is unimpressive and characterized by Janice`s internal monologue. The second part is completely different. A nuclear bomb detonates in New York and changes her life as well as many other lives. Stephen King makes the nightmare of many people come true in his story: a nuclear bomb in a big city such as New York. The events after the detonation are described very vividly. The reader almost feels the radiant heat and hears the incredible noise. The author of a book review in The New York Times wrote: “….showcases King’s almost unholy talent of making the natural world seem like something not of this world…. Unsettling and clever.”
A very exciting story I recommend to everyone, who does not want to read a 500 pages-book, but who doesn’t want to miss a little bit of the Stephen King feeling.

Rest Stop

January 10, 2010

Summary

After five beers in a bar in Jax a man is sitting in his Jaguar. He is on his way home. He is an English professor for American poets and novelists at university and has decided to write a book instead of teaching another term. The protagonist has different identities: John Andrew Dykstra is the name on his passport, the smart professor who tries to avoid trouble. His antagonist is Rick Hardin, who has drunk two additional beers to John’s two. Rick is tough and always causes trouble.

Dykstra thinks about his life and the decision to write a book and about what kind of characters he should write about. Since he has drunk a bit too much, he leaves the interstate for the next rest area. The parking lot is empty with the exception of a PT Cruiser. He stops his car and walks over to the men’s room opposite the women’s room. Dykstra wants to enter, when he hears a woman screaming at the women’s restroom. A guy, called Lee, abuses his girlfriend. Dykstra wonders what to do while listening to them. The scene escalates and John still thinks of his mobile phone which is in his car. To call the police would be a waste of time, the girl would be dead by then. John wishes, he had not stopped.

The point of view changes and shows Ellen Whitlow, the woman in the cubicle of the women’s room. Lee wants to slay her, when a car alarm goes off. He walks outside and is knocked down by a man. Hardin advises the girl to take the PT Cruiser and to drive to the next rest area. He destroys Lee’s glasses. Dykstra returns slowly, but Hardin’s identity pushes him back into subconsciousness. Rick kicks Lee one more time and leaves with his car after calling the police.

On his way home, he realizes what he has done. His identity changes back to Dykstra. At home he sets the burglar alarm.

My impression

At first it is difficult to get why there are two people acting in one, but slowly Stephen King lets the reader find out who is who. The story contains a lot of internal monolog as well as action which make the reader understand the crisis Dykstra respectively Hardin is in. After the change to the third person narrator, the reader does not exactly know which man helps Ellen Whitlow. He is always called “the man”. When the point of view changes again, it becomes clear, that Hardin helped her.

Hardin could be an allusion to Hades (Greek “the unseen” or “invisible”) in Greek mythology. He was the God of the underworld.

The story succeeds in being creepy without supernatural appearances. The atmosphere and the scary character who changes his identity is enough to make the story interesting. At the beginning I was really immersed in Dykstra’s thoughts who thinks all the time of his book and how he could create his main character. His need of a toilet jolted me out of his/my daydreams.

Harvey’s Dream

January 10, 2010

Summary

The short story „Harvey’s Dream“ takes place in the kitchen of Janet and Harvey Stevens. Harvey has Alzheimer’s disease. This is why Janet is afraid of the future. In general Janet is unhappy with her life. One reason for her unhappiness is that she didn’t leave her husband in order to let their children grow up in an idyllic family. Everything seems to be normal that afternoon, till Harvey wants to tell her of the dream, he had last night. He starts but at this moment Janet becomes very angry without cause. Janet doesn’t understand why she reacts like that, she just wants him to stop, but he goes on talking. Like in reality it was Saturday afternoon in his dream. He went to a window, where he saw the car of a friend which was dented. Exactly that happens in reality, too, and Janet gets very scared. In Harvey’s dream their phone rang. It was their oldest daughter Trish, who is drug-addicted. She mumbled something of death and Harvey knew right away that one of their daughters had died. Then reality starts to seep through. Looking outside, Janet discovers something in the dented car, that looks like blood and hair and she gets goose bumps. The phone rings and Harvey takes the call.

My impression

The story is structured very simply. In Janet’s and Harvey’s situation everything seems to be normal. Harvey talks about a dream, which is unusual. By chance his dream might exactly reflect their day. But then Janet discovers the blood and the phone rings. The reader cannot deny the thought that one of their children has died. Janet and Harvey seem to be normal people with normal lives but Harvey’s dream changes the reader’s perception. The open ending is typical of short stories. The reader is left alone with the question if their child has really died.

This is definitely a story I do recommend since it shows Stephen King’s skills to write a very exciting short story in simple words.