Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Arthur Rex - John Berger
I have no interest in the Arthurian legend, but I was absorbed for all 500+ pages of this book. It’s a unique achievement – one that makes you think, “I could never have done this in a million years.” The vigor and vividness, the unobtrusive scholarship, the consistent use of the vernacular of an ancient time, even the enjoyably fantastic gore. Berger shows man slowly emerging from the barbarism of the Dark Ages to pursue a knightly concept of virtue (a pursuit which is doomed to failure). The novel’s only fault is that the characters, being legendary and much larger than life, aren’t people one can relate to. That said, I found the aging and death of both Arthur and Lancelot to be moving.

The Kreutzer Sonata - Leo Tolstoy (Russian)
Starts out as a rant, an attack on society’s cherished beliefs, particularly love and marriage. This part is a bit strident, though interesting (and some of the rant is valid). Then it becomes the study of a bad marriage, and we’re into the themes of incompatibility and jealousy. Whereas the beginning had originality, this latter section trod familiar ground, and the strident tone became grating. I wasn’t even convinced of the authenticity of the main character’s actions – he’s too distraught.

Leaf Storm - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Spanish)
The long title story was extremely atmospheric – dark, heavy, haunted. Full of strong images. But when I was done I felt a lack of resolution. Maybe it was about misplaced compassion. Maybe – there wasn’t enough focus to reach a conclusion. Not helping matters was the use of multiple points of view. Faulkner’s influence is apparent (with his faults, mainly obfuscation). As for the five shorter stories that make up this volume, they’re good, particularly “Nabo.”

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