Although Andy hasn't mentioned it,1 he?s listed as a contributor at Boldtype, a book review newsletter.2 Not only that, but the book he covered for their October 2004 issue was Blindness, our selection for June 2003. Check out Andy's review by clicking here.3
1It's not surprising that I found this out second-hand by looking at the main page for Andy's site. He's gotten too busy to answer my e-mails since he seems to be appearing1a all over the place these days. The New York Times. MSNBC.com. Reality Blurred.
2To me, most of Boldtype's content feels more like retelling than reviewing. However, I do like the concise format since the literati often go on and on and on for thousands of words. Opinion is usually best digested when served up in small chunks.
3Although I usually like to include hyperlinks directly in the sentence first mentioning them, I separated this one because they're so hard to see. My to do list includes updating the CSS to make finding links less like looking for forensic evidence.
NOTES ON THE NOTES:
1aSpeaking of appearances, I'd like to mention that I can regularly be spotted at work (usually right after hearing, "Miss Marydell is coming. Run!"), at my local gas station mart (purchasing my morning cup of coffee), and in front of my laptop (wasting valuable time).
I had some extra time on my hands today, so I thought I'd do a little bit of poking around to find out if past BookBlog authors have been up to anything interesting recently. They're quite a busy bunch.
Steve Martin [Shopgirl] - The March 8th issue of The New Yorker includes script notes on Mel Gibson's The Passion from funnyman Steve Martin. LawGeek was kind enough to share some of it with all of us ("Possible title change: 'Lethal Passion.' Kinda works. The more I say it outloud, the more I like it.") since The New Yorker is kind of stingy with its online content. (link)
Gregory Maguire [Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister] - Damn, I missed it. This past Friday, Maguire was at the Columbus Circle Borders in New York City to sign copies of Wicked. However, the musical version continues to do well on Broadway, and you can buy $100 a pop tickets through its official web site. (link)
Chuck Palahniuk [Invisible Monsters] - On Tuesday, March 16th, Palahniuk will be live online with The Guardian. The author chat starts at 4:00 p.m. GMT, which is 11:00 a.m. EST. Questions posted include "[I]s it really a good way of meeting hot chicks?" and "There was a bit of graffiti on one of the bridges crossing over the 405 from 13th to 14th street. It read: Be boring. Be deathlike. Be Eva Lake. There was some other good graffiti around town, but I don't want to repeat it here. Have you any favorites?" If you, too, have an inane question for Chuck, get it in now. (link)
Jose Saramago [Blindness] - University of California television will be celebrating National Poetry Month by showing poetry-related programs Thursday and Friday nights throughout the month of April. On April 2nd, they will air From Memory to Fiction through History with Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago, a taping of a talk the author gave at UCLA. According to the UCTV site, you should be able to watch it on demand using RealPlayer, but I couldn't get it to work. Maybe you'll have more luck. (link)
J.K. Rowling [Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone] - Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has been shortlisted for The Butler & Tanner Book of the Year by the British Book Awards. Will she Bend It Like Beckham (Anyone else seen this flick?) and beat out the footballer's autobiography to the top prize? The winners are to be announced on April 7th. (link)
Haruki Murakami [Norwegian Wood] - This summer's Lincoln Center Festival is to include The Elephant Vanishes, a multimedia retelling of three stories by Murakami in Japanese with English supertitles. The performances by Tokyo's Setagaya Public Theatre will be shown from July 21st through July 25th, and tickets for multiple events go on sale beginning April 6th. (link)
Scott Heim [Mysterious Skin] - According to Heim's rarely updated blog, the movie version of Mysterious Skin, which stars the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun, is nearly complete. Andy, who moderated the book and also runs realityblurred.com, should be pleased to know that Heim reports being "utterly consumed by reality TV again." Suggestion for Heim: permalinks. xxmarydell. (link)
John Kennedy Toole [A Confederacy of Dunces] - The movie version of our August 2002 selection continues to have trouble getting off the ground, but still stars Will Ferrell as Ignatius J. Reilly. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about Elf, but IMDB message board posters have come up with some interesting alternatives: Oliver Platt, John Goodman, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. (link)
I havenít kept secret how much I love Blindness.
At Saramagoís Nobel Lecture, he said:
Blind. The apprentice thought, "we are blind," and he sat down and wrote Blindness to remind those who might read it that we pervert reason when we humiliate life, that human dignity is insulted every day by the powerful of our world, that the universal lie has replaced the plural truths, that man stopped respecting himself when he lost the respect due to his fellow-creatures.
To start our discussion, Iíd like to focus on two things (of many) I love about this book.
Craft: As mentioned in a previous post, some who read Blindness found the writing tedious. If youíve read any of Saramagoís other books, youíd quickly realize that run-on sentences, endless paragraphs, and scant punctuation is simply his style. In the case of this book, however, such difficult-to-read writing lends itself perfectly to its subject matter. As you read, itís almost feels like everyone is talking at once and you cannot discern from whom or from where the voices originated. You become as blind as the characters and, in turn, have a vested stake in the outcome of the story.
Allegory: Saramago isnít subtle. The blindness epidemic is a horrifying allegory for losing sight of whatís important. Rationality, dignity, and social order all collapse in the wake of the plague. Yet, hope remains as the group of seven main characters are lead by the one who is still able to see. For me, though, the happy ending doesnít seem quite so happy as the afflicted recover their sight. They must now see what their blindness has wrought.
What do you think?
The new Harry Potter is the talk of Blogtown. While Kate and Mary Carmen have been furiously flipping through their copies, I have been tucked into the couch with Blindness and am just pages away from finishing it in time for tomorrow's discussion. It's my third read, but I wanted it to be fresh in my mind.
And now I wonder: how many will be able to put aside dreaming of a world with wizards, meandering through Hogwarts, and mourning the death of a major character?
In preparation for our discussion of Blindness, Iíve been surfing the Internet for reviews. The one thing that made me nervous about choosing it is Saramagoís style. It seems like some people really hate it.
From Amazonís customer reviews: "The author uses run on sentences that go on forever, and the only punctuation he seems to use is commas. And what REALLY bothered me was that he didn't give the characters real names, and when they were speaking it was terribly difficult to tell who was talking. I don't think he even used quotation marks for the dialogue. Very frustrating."
And another: "I hate the way Saramago mixes up his conversations between people into long sentences separated by commas. He makes it distractingly difficult to tell who said what. I suppose its all nice and nobel prizey as far as literary devices, but I find it annoying. There is some merit in this method, but worse is that the story is beriddled with elements that reveal the lack of insight of the author."
From Epinions: "The writing style has been proclaimed by experts to be Ďnovelí, I found it tedious. When characters speak, I fully expect to see a paragraph break and some quotes around somewhere to give me fair warning. Whenitisallruntogetheryoubegintowonderifthe attemptatstylewasperhapsgettinginthewayofhisstory. Note: I typed that last sentence that way on purpose to illustrate my point."
What they call bothersome, distracting, and tedious, I consider craft. To me, Blindness is one of the greatest novels ever written and Iím looking forward to finding out what you think.
Before the discussion gets going, I just wanted to pop in and post that I hope many members have managed to read A Canticle for Leibowitz. Although I don?t read much science fiction, I did enjoy it, but more for its post-apocalyptic vision than its connection to technology and outer space. I especially appreciated Miller?s use of irony as well as his take on the post- and once again pre-destruction Catholic hierarchy.
It?s very timely to be reading a novel about religion and end times since that LaHaye and Jenkins piece of crap Armageddon is in its fifth week atop the NY Times Best-Sellers List. Although I haven?t read it, I did read Left Behind just to see what all the fuss was about. I found it dull and predictable with some of the most ridiculous dialogue I?ve ever encountered in print. The plot itself is fine, but the characters are flat, unimaginative, and not-very-quick-on-the-uptake and I have to admit I wouldn?t want any of them leading the battle against the anti-Christ if the theory of the Rapture turns out to be true (which it isn?t, but, then again, I am a non-believer). Even their names are trite: "Buck" Williams, Rayford Steele, and Nicolae Jetty Carpathia. Puh-lease.
I?m looking forward to following up A Canticle for Leibowitz with Blindness, which is similar yet not similar. Although it isn?t about end times, it does deal with how humanity reacts to an event leading to the complete breakdown of society. Blindness is very difficult to read since Saramago writes using an unconventional format in which dialogue by multiple characters is embedded in the same paragraph without quotation marks. After a while, though, reading 300+ pages of dialogue-less text becomes easier to bear since it sort of forces the reader into experiencing the characters? dismay at who said what. I hope everyone also participates in this discussion because I found it to be a rewarding look at human nature.
Although Kate knew choosing Shopgirl would not generate much controversy among our members, I felt the discussion disintegrated into an appalling display of mutual respect and affection between Rich and Andy. (Stop it. Now. Please.) Despite my chagrin at the lack of tension in March's discussion, I'd like to send a hearty thank you to Kate for moderating and exposing us a title that was able to, ahem, unite us as a group. (Oh, I'm kidding. I'm glad we can agree on some things.)
That being said, we've got some interesting books coming up in the future. I've already finished Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and am almost ready to get started on A Canticle for Leibowitz. Of course, I've read Blindness, which is one of my favorite books, since I'll be moderating June.
Who's ready to step up to the plate and take on July?