Tag: Leo Tolstoy

Distracted by Other Books

Posted July 4, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in June 2018

Being able to reflect on my reading month is one of the reasons I do these wrap ups. It is surprising how much my perception on my month is different to the reality. Like last month, I thought I had a slow reading month, but completing eight books is amazing. I have been trying to slow down my reading to focus on the reading I am doing and I am sure I am doing just that. However, the fact that I finished so many books makes me thing otherwise. We have been housesitting for the past few months and this affected my reading drastically but in reality, not so much.

I started of this month with August by Romina Paula. I originally wanted to read this book because I have been into Argentinian literature at the moment but since it was also translated by Jennifer Croft, it had to be read. As you know, Jennifer Croft translated Flights from the Polish which went on to win the Man Booker International Prize. August was a vastly different novel and while I enjoyed it, it was not the experience I expected. This combination of grief and nostalgia made for an interesting narrative. One I hope to explore in a review soon. Longlisted for the BTBA award, I was interested in trying something from this prize that is a relatively new discovery for me. Also, there is something about all the books being published by Feminist Press the appeal to me. It seems to be a lot of women writing dark and gritty literature that deal with femininity and the treatment of women in their own countries.

I seem to be dedicating some time to crime novels lately, this month it included In the Darkness by Karin Fossum and The Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette. I found In the Darkness pretty generic and I am still struggling to find some Scandinavian crime that I enjoy. I love noir style novels so I thought Nordic noir would be the perfect choice. I am very particular about crime novels and turns out that Jean-Patrick Manchette fits my taste perfectly. While The Gunman was not amazing, I was able to test out his writing style and discovered it was a perfect fit for me. I read The Gunman because it was the only Manchette in my library, now I plan to pick up some of his better known novels. The Gunman has been adapted into a movie starring Sean Penn, but I do not think I will watch it, it feels very B-grade.

I also managed to do some re-reading this month. Picking up both The Possessed by Elif Batuman and The Shadow of the Wind. I was not a fan of The Possessed originally but I could not remember why. It seemed like a book that would suit me perfectly, as it is a book about Russian literature. While I did enjoy it a little more the second time around, it turns out that I felt this way because I never really understood her literary criticism and she never took any time to explain it. For example, I do not know how Batuman connected Anna Karenina to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it feels like a stretch because it never was explained. I had the opposite reaction to The Shadow of the Wind where I loved it the first time but not so much this re-read. I have grown so much as a reader and have found what I love and hate in literature, so re-reading this novel, I discovered it lacked the depth that I crave. I will re-read the other books in the series and eventually finish off the series but I am in no rush.

I do not want to talk too much about Soviet Milk because I still feel like I am piecing together my thoughts. It was a great read, but work was so busy at the time, I found myself lacking focus. I could only read a few pages at a time before I needed to put it down. I want to re-read the novel because I think there is so much to gain from this book, so maybe I will just reserve my judgement until I have read it again. Also, I am unsure how I feel about The Order of Time, it think a lot of the science was well over my head. Carlo Rovelli has given me a lot to think about and he has challenged the how I think about time, so maybe the book has had its intended effect.

June was the month of first for me, my first time reading Manchette, but also my first time reading the great authors Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. The Sound of Things Falling was a great novel and I loved Vásquez’s writing style. This is the type of novels I love to read and it reminded me a little of the style of Bolano. While Llosa had a great writing style with his novel The Neighborhood, I felt conflicted about my feelings. So much so, that I have not been able to finish the book yet. Firstly, the sex scenes in this book are so cringe worthy I struggled to get through them, but also his treatment of LGBTQIA characters felt creepy. The lesbian relationship was such an interesting part of the plot, but it often felt more like the author fantasising about them having sex rather than focusing on the relationship. There is so much political intrigue going on in the background, it was a shame that all this was ruined when it came to the sex, which unfortunately was a huge part of the plot and therefore happening all the time.

I am very pleased with the way this month turned out, as stated in last month months wrap-up, I was housesitting which meant I was not distracted by other books. I only had access to the books I had with me. I will be finishing up The Neighborhood this month as well as Purge by Sofi Oksanen. I have no idea what I will be reading next, probably La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono, They Know Not What They Do by Jussi Valtonen and The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson but you never know, I could be distracted by the other books on my shelves. Also, I plan in participating in Spanish and Portuguese Literature Month this month and then Women in Translation month in August. I hope this will motivate me to blog more. I have so many books I want to review, and I want to get back into a habit of writing more frequently. So, fingers crossed that July is the month that gets me writing again.

Read More


Understanding my Fascination on Russian Literature

Posted January 31, 2017 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

I am not entirely sure where my interest in Russian literature came from. I think it started with a fascination with the Cold War, which lead to a desire to understand the complex nature of the Soviet Union, both its politics and the people. The first Russian novel I read was Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, however my obsession with Russian literature came soon after. When I first became a reader I was using the 1001 Books You Must Read before You Die list as a guide to work out what to read. While I would love to complete the full list, it has served its purpose, which was to expose me to good literature in all genres, allowing me to find where my literary tastes lie.

My Russian literature obsession grew from my interest in satire, beginning with Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, which is a dystopian tale of globalisation. However under all that, it is an autobiographical novel of a Russian immigrant. I loved discovering the story underneath the plot, and I quickly discovered that Russian literature was a treasure trove for that. Russia has a very complex history; this is often reflected in its literature and makes it a big part of Russian culture.

Just a brief history on Russian literature, which has its roots in Chivalric romance, epics and chronicles on the Russian life. It is here at its roots where we establish the importance of irony and satire in the literature. It was Peter the Great’s efforts to modernise Russia that gave way to Russian literature in the 18th century. While I have not read any of these authors from this time, authors like Antiokh Kantemir and Vasily Trediakovsky were notable contributors to its literature. The 19th century is the golden age for Russian literature with Nikolai Gogol, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekov, Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy creating some of Russia’s greatest pieces of literature. It was also where the literary movement Russian Romanticism was established, which explores metaphysical discontent with society and self, from notable authors like Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov. The silver age in the beginning of the 20th century was focused around poetry and the avant-garde. Poets often associated with the silver age include Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak.

This was then followed by the Soviet era, which was the rise of Socialist realism, Russian formalism and futurism. While the Soviet era was an extremely complex period for literature, and covers so many different literary styles, it is easier to put all of the work from the Soviet Era together. If you want to break out the soviet era, you could do that by Samizdat, Tamizdat and Gosizdat. Samizdat ‘self-published’ is the distribution of literature illegally published (often by carbon copies of typescripts) and distributed among other Russians. This is similar to a method used in the Tsarist era, and allowed uncensored literature by authors like Mikhail Bulgakov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to reach an audience. Tamizdat ‘over there’ is when a soviet writer has their works published in the West because they could not publish in Russia. Most Soviet authors had to rely on this method to have their works published, most notable example of Tamizdat is Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Gosizdat ‘State publisher’ was the term used for officially sanctioned publications. In all honesty, I cannot think of a single modern classic from the Soviet Era that was published originally by the state. Although the Russian literature magazines where many works were first published would have been state run.

The post-Soviet era covers all literature published after the collapse of the USSR. Although the censorship of the soviet era was officially lifted, writers still approached sensitive subjects in a similar fashion. In part by the political/economic chaos of the post-Soviet era and partly to follow the traditions of great Russian literature. Although authors like Boris Akunin enjoy huge success in popular fiction, writing a historical detective series. This does not include the authors that fled Russia or the Soviet Union and became authors after gaining citizenship elsewhere, such as Ayn Rand, Isaac Asimov, and Vladimir Nabokov.

While there is a rich history of Russian literature, often there are common themes that appear throughout the ages. Most notably is the struggle for stability; Russian history has been a whirlwind of war and tyranny. This struggle often translates as redemption through suffering. This could be a struggle with religion, philosophy, society or even one’s self. That struggle can be seen in novels ranging from the likes of The Brothers Karamazov to Vladimir Sorokin’s 2006 science fiction novel Day of the Oprichnik. Although my wife might agree with Russian literary critic Viktor Shklovsky, who said “Russian literature is devoted to the description of unsuccessful love affairs.”

Authors within Russia often fall into the social class (I don’t think I need to explain the role class plays in Russia) known as the intelligentsia. This class of intellects are tasked to guide or critique society’s culture and politics. This is why Russian literature plays such a huge role in Russian culture, and also explains why literature was so controlled in the Soviet era. Union of Soviet Writers was formed by Stalin to control the field of literature in the USSR. Membership was not mandatory but if an author was not a member, they would have very limited opportunities for publication. Despite their best efforts, thankfully we still have a rich selection of Soviet literature critiquing the culture and politics of the time.

In both Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union, authors had to be careful of what they said, many were exiled to a labour camp for what they wrote. So literary devices were often deployed to say what needed to be said in a more creative way. Literary devices often found in Russian literature include metaphors, allegories, irony, satire and even propaganda to express the author’s views. Which is why many Russian classics are very philosophical or political in nature. It is the dangerous writing that seems to have stood the test of time.

There is so much to offer in Russian literature, I know I have so much I need to learn and read but I am excited about the prospects. I find it sad when I see “Russian novel” used as shorthand for lengthy or turgid; I never understood that. While War and Peace is often considered a challenging book due to its length, there is a reason why it is considered a masterpiece. I would love to gain some recommendations on Russian literature I should check out. My personal favourites include Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and for something really weird, Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin.


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Posted May 28, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Russian Lit Project / 0 Comments

Anna Karenina by Leo TolstoyTitle: Anna Karenina (Goodreads)
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Translator: Aylmer Maude, Louise Maude
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1873
Pages: 831
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Anna Karenina is the tragic story of the socialite’s marriage to Karenin and her affair with the wealthy Count Vronsky. The novel begins in the midst of their families break up due to her brother’s constant womanising; a situation that preferences her own situation throughout the novel. Running in parallel to this story of Konstantin Levin, a humble country landowner that wishes to marry Kitty, who is Anna’s sister in-law. Anna Karenina is a pinnacle piece of realist literature, exploring a wide range of family issues.

At over 800 pages, Anna Karenina can be a daunting novel to pick up; the large cast of characters does not make it any easier. I look at this classic novel as an exploration into melodrama that just about every family experiences. Born in 1828, Lev (Leo) Nikolaevich Tolstoy was born into a large and wealthy Russian landowning family, and has often been suggested that Anna Karenina is based on a similar social upbringing. While there are vast differences, issues with wealth, religion, farming and morality are issues that seem to parallel between reality and fiction. The story arch of Levin is considered to be autobiographical; Tolstoy’s first name is Lev (although in English he is known as Leo) and the Russian surname Levin actually means Lev.

Leo Tolstoy has been known for adding real life events into his fiction as a way with dealing with current political and social issues. Within Anna Karenina, events like the liberal reforms initiated by Emperor Alexander II of Russia and the judicial reform are used as the backdrop for the novel. This allows him to explore current issues, like the developing of Russian into the industrial age and the role of agriculture in these changing times. Also Tolstoy questions the role of the woman in this changing society and (the ever popular in Russian lit) class struggles.

The story of Anna Karenina is probably the most interesting for me and I enjoyed reading the struggle between love and the public opinion. She was trapped in a marriage and wanted to divorce but Karenin, who was a politician cared more about his public image. Then there is the fact that Anna’s brothers womanising destroyed the family and now she is faced with a similar situation that could cause the same damage. Adultery becomes a big theme within the book and seems to be a common theme within Russian literature to this day. However with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850) and Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1857), these three novels seemed to start a fascination in exploring the themes of passion and adultery in the mid to late nineteenth century.

There is a lot to explore within this book, and re-reading Anna Karenina was such an enjoyable experience. I know big books often scare me but there is something about going back to a much-loved novel that I find enjoyable. Leo Tolstoy intentionally made this novel long, he wanted to replicate life’s journey and the struggles people face along the way. I think he was able to capture that struggle and Anna Karenina will remain a favourite on my shelves and in Russian literature. There are so many more themes that could be explored within the novel but I will leave that for others to discover on their own.


The American Lover by Rose Tremain

Posted March 18, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Short Stories / 2 Comments

The American Lover by Rose TremainTitle: The American Lover (Goodreads)
Author: Rose Tremain
Published: Chatto & Windus, 2014
Pages: 240
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Rose Tremain is a name I have heard so often but never had the chance to read on of her books; in fact her name is familiar but I couldn’t tell you anything about her books. She has published thirteen novels including The Road Home (which won the Orange Prize in 2008) and Music and Silence (winner of the Whitbread award in 1999). She taught creative writing at the University of East Anglia until she was appointed chancellor in 2013 and she is married to Romantic biographer Richard Holmes (not that her marriage affects her writing, just an interesting fact). She has also written five collections of short stories including her latest The American Lover.

While I sometimes struggle to read and review short story collections, I still wish to talk about them (just so I have a record). I picked up The American Lover because it mentioned a story about a famous Russian writer’s (story was inspired by Tolstoy’s life) final days living in a stationmaster’s cottage outside of Moscow. As most people know, I am a fan of Russian literature and books about Russia itself. When I looked at the author’s name, I was excited even more, it was a chance to finally dip into the writing style of Rose Tremain.

Without going into all the stories within the book, Tremain goes into some very interesting topics from transgressive love, sex, reflections of life and even a very unusual story about Daphne du Maurier. What I found in this collection is that Rose Tremain has a great ability to create characters and express emotions. There are some brilliantly dark and sometimes comical moments the she masterfully crafted into her stories. She has produced a collection centred around so many different emotions and skilfully managed to fit them into such short stories.

I really love the characters and emotions expressed in these stories and really makes me want to experience Rose Tremain’s style in long form. However I am not sure which novel to start with and would love some recommendations. The American Lover was a brilliant way to dip into Tremain’s writing and I am so glad to have finally had a chance to do so. If her writing abilities work just as well in her novels, she may have found a new fan.


The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

Posted January 15, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo TolstoyTitle: The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Goodreads)
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Translator: Nicolas Pasternak Slater
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1884
Pages: 256
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Ivan Ilych’s life revolved around his career; as a high court judge he takes his job very seriously. However after he falls off a ladder, he soon discovers that he is going to die. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a novella that deals with the meaning of life in the face of death. A masterpiece for Leo Tolstoy written after his religious conversion in the late 1870s.

Something that was fascinating about The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the drastic change in writing style when comparing it to Anna Karenina and War and Peace. I am not just referring to the length, but that does play a big part. I have read somewhere that Tolstoy intentionally made Anna Karenina and War and Peace so long because he wanted to replicate life and the journey the characters face. Allowing the reader to experience every decision and moral dilemma that the character is facing, exploring the growth or evolution of each and every person within the novels.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich takes a more focused approach, dealing with major questions revolving around the meaning of life, death and spirituality. Leo Tolstoy had a major conversion in the late 1870s and the questions in this novel were the questions he was asking himself. Whether or not Ivan Ilyich found the answers he was looking for is up to the reader but it is believed that Leo Tolstoy was still looking for the same answers well after finishing this novella.

There is a lot of pain and torment that appears in this book, which reflects the authors search for answers and that is what really stood out for me. Not only was I reading a spiritual/existential struggle of the protagonist but Tolstoy’s own feeling really came out within the pages. This is what makes this a masterpiece that explores the tortured artist in great detail. I don’t want to say much more, this is the type of book people have to read and make their own mind up about the themes presented, but it is worth reading.


ArmchairBEA 2014: Introduction and Literature

Posted May 26, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 30 Comments

abea

This is my third year participating in the Armchair BEA event. While I am not an American I do like the opportunity to join with book bloggers around the world and talk about our favourite subject, books. I am sure most people know already but just in case; BEA is the Book Expo of America, held in New York, where people in the book industry of America get to be enticed with new books from publishers. There is an event now known as BookCon where book lovers can experience the same enticement, however they won’t get any diversity. Putting aside the problems with BookCon, I’m pleased to join all the fun with Armchair BEA. This is a virtual conference for the book bloggers that can’t make it to BEA. Over the next few days I will be joining in with this event and their daily blog post topic suggestions.

For the past two years I’ve been enjoying this event, it is a great way to meet new bloggers and show off your own book blog. As this is the first day of Armchair BEA I probably should move on to the topics for the day. Today we are introducing ourselves and talking about my favourite topic…literature. As a way of introduction Armchair BEA has provided ten questions and asks everyone to pick their favourite five and answer them.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from?

My name is Michael, I hail from North Queensland in Australia and I only became a reader in 2009. I started blogging not long after that over at Knowledge Lost as a way to sort my thoughts and explain what I had learnt along the way. I know I need to spend more time on that blog and I’m hoping to get back into it now that I’m forcing myself to write every day. I started Literary Exploration as a way to document my book journey and soon discovered I’m very passionate about books and book blogging. There is one thing I hate about book blogging but for the most part I really enjoy the whole experience.

Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. — so we can connect more online.

Literary Exploration is documentation of my bookish journey as I explore literature in all its forms.

You can normally find me on twitter: @knowledgelost or my blog @litexploration as well as Facebook, Instagram, sometimes Tumblr and Pinterest. I’m also very active on Goodreads (also check out the Literary Exploration Book Club), Literally and Booklikes.

What was your favourite book read last year? What’s your favourite book so far this year?

Highlights of 2013 include;

For more books check out my best of 2013 post

Highlights of 2014 (so far) include;

What is your favourite blogging resource?

One of the best investments I’ve made for my blog is the Ultimate Book Blogging Plugin. This one plugin has saved me a lot of time and makes my life so much easier. I can collect a lot of relevant information thanks to this plugin and it automatically updates my review index. It has a lot of cool features and I highly recommend it to all book bloggers. Of course you’ll all have to move to a self-hosted WordPress platform but that is a good idea anyway.

Spread the love by naming your favourite book blogs:

I’m always happy to recommend some great book blogs; here are some that I’m always happy to see updates from;

Time now to look at that all important topic of Literature: I’m a bit of a pretentious reader, so I’m always interested in reading books that are considered high literature. I’ve even set myself a life goal of reading the entire 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die List, I might even try to review them all too. I find myself drawn to literary more as I become a better reader; there is something about the prose and structure that stands out. As a literary explorer I try not to entrench myself in just one genre, but luckily there is plenty of great literary genre novels out there. I don’t have to sacrifice quality in order to read genre fiction.

However there are so many classics out there that I still have to read and I feel bad for not having read books like Middlemarch, The Brothers Karamazov, The Woman in White, The House of Mirth and so on. I want to catch up on all these great novels and I think classics are an essential part of the reading journey. I recommend every reader try to read more classics and to help you along, I suggest joining something like The Classics Club is a great way to challenge yourself to more classics. I want to take to the conversation to the comments but I’d like to ask some questions of the readers to help the conversation along;

  • What is your favourite literary novel (in any genre)?
  • Which classic would you like to read but are dreading?
  • What genre do you spend most of you time reading?
  • What genres tend to scare you?
  • Finally, are there classics that just seem too hard and why?

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Button by Sarah of Puss Reboots


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Posted March 20, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 2 Comments

War and Peace by Leo TolstoyTitle: War and Peace (Goodreads)
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Translator: Aylmer Maude, Louise Maude
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1869
Pages: 1392
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When people thing of big books often War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is mentioned. This Russian classic depicts the French invasion of Russia in 1812. True to Tolstoy form, War and Peace also looks at classes and the impact of the Napoleonic invasion on the Tsarist society. While this book can be considered an epic historical war novel, for me this was a work of philosophical ideas. This is one of the hardest books to review, not because I have nothing to say but rather there is so much to cover and I have no idea where to start.

Just to put things into perspective, I started this book in October and have been slowly chipping away at it for four months. It is a hard battle and you really need to take your time with a book like this because Tolstoy has a lot to say. This is the kind of book that feels like you‘ve climbed a mountain when you finally finish and you can just feel your pretentious levels rising. For those interested, I read the Oxford World’s Classics edition which has the translations by Aylmer and Louise Maude. Many people debate on which translation is the best but I thought going with an Oxford World’s Classics would be a safe bet; I love this publisher and know I’m always getting a decent copy of the book.

Right off the bat you are flung into this world and you meet so many people. Tolstoy has an amazing ability to give the reader a sense of a person with a few lines, so even the minor characters in this book get some sort of personality. There are hundreds (over 500) characters within War and Peace and I often found it difficult to keep up with them all but thanks to Leo Tolstoy’s writing ability I could relax a little because even if I forgot about a character, when they reappear further in the book I still had a sense of who they are. This is possible due to the way this book was originally written and I will talk more on that later.

Most of the major characters within War and Peace are members of the aristocracy and it is interesting to see them all fighting for a higher position in society, government or the military. People like Boris rise in society while others like the Rostov fall, Dolokhov gets demoted while Pierre plots an assassination. Not only do we have the Napoleonic war happening within these pages, a battle for social standing rages through this novel. It is all about power but paradoxically the people with the most power within this book are the ones that seem to give up control.

If you don’t have the knowledge of Russian or Napoleonic history, this novel accommodates the reader. I found myself at times looking up information about the history just to satisfy my curiosity but as the book progressed, my research subsided. It is in Leo Tolstoy’s style to give you as much information as possible, this does make the book longer but for me I think it was a huge bonus. But you must realise this is a work of fiction and most of the people are fictional. Tolstoy was telling a story of the invasion and the harsh nature of war. You can even look at the second epilogue and read more of the authors thoughts on the subject and the philosophical ideas held within this book.

War and Peace was originally serialised in the literary magazine The Russian Messenger between 1865 and 1867. This magazine plays host to many of Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novels. This means that originally people read War and Peace over the course of three years. This means at times the novel may feel repetitive and covering plot points done before but this is just a result of the original format. It comes in handy with characters as they are reintroduced and because I took my time reading this classic, it became a vital part.

There is so much going on within War and Peace and it took me a long time trying to work out what I wanted to say and what to leave out. This is the kind of book that needs to be revisited in the future, Tolstoy has a lot to say and I’m interested in exploring the themes. I loved this book; it is a roller-coaster of emotions and philosophical ideas. I’ve only scratched the surface of what is happening in this novel and then wrote a small amount of what I discovered. I can’t imagine ever being able to fully understand the brilliance of Tolstoy and War and Peace. For me, Fyodor Dostoevsky is a better writer but Leo Tolstoy has a unique ability to capture the lives of everyone involved in one war.


Monthly Review – February 2014

Posted February 28, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

And the mountains echoedThe Literary Exploration reading challenge is going so well; almost 2000 books have been read from the group so far. I’m so happy with the response and pleased to see people still had time to read And The Mountains Echoed. Some interesting thoughts have come out of this book from the group and while there were people that didn’t like the book (me included), I’m so glad to see so much great constructive criticism in the threads; this is what we live for. For those who don’t know about the reading challenge, there is still time to join in the fun, so check out my post here.

I’m so happy to see that the book club continues to be entertaining and as we move into March, I’m looking forward to seeing what people will say about Middlesex for our literary fiction theme. I’ve not read this book yet but I’m a fan of Jeffery Eugenides’ other book, so I’m excited to try this one. Currently I’ve read eleven books towards the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge and you can find my own record of the challenge here.

I thought I had a quiet month reading but I’m still happy with my effort of seven books (plus a few comics). Highlights this month include My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey, a post-modern take on one of the biggest literary hoaxes in Australia and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy which I’ve been reading since October. One book I will most likely be talking about continuously for the rest of the year is The Dark Path by David Schlicker, a memoir about the battle between his desire to become a priest and his attraction to women. How was February for you and your reading life? Let me know in the comments below.

Read More


First Steps: Russian Literature

Posted July 27, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in First Steps / 0 Comments

literary stepsFirst Steps is a new segment that was inspired by the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. Each week or two we look at what books from different themes, genres or maybe authors and suggest some that are worth trying. Not necessarily all easy to read books but the ones that are worth the time and effort. My goal is to have First Steps guide you to some great books in places you don’t normally venture to.

I’ve been reading this amazing book called A Constellation of Vital Phenomena which is set in Chechnya and it got me thinking about Russian literature. I love reading books set in Russia and written by Russians, I don’t know why there is something about the books that draws me to them. They are often epic, slightly odd and the prose and character development are well worth reading, don’t get me started on symbolism and motifs. But it’s sad to think a lot of people are scared of reading Russian literature and while there are so many I haven’t read yet, including War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, Doctor Zhivago and anything by Anton Chekhov I thought I’d share five Russian novels I would recommend. I have left out Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart simply because they are Russian Americans and it’s hard to work out which country can truly claim them.

Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin

This weird and wonderful postmodern novel is quite frankly so bizarre you just have to check it out. I wanted to add something contemporary to this list and thought this was the perfect choice. Set in a futuristic Russia where the Russian Empire has been restored back to the draconian codes of Ivan the Terrible.

 
 
 

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

If you are fans of the dystopian genre and you haven’t read We, you really need to get onto it. This book is often considered as the first truly dystopian novel and has inspired authors such as Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut. Zamyantin bases this future on his personal experiences during the two Russian revolutions (1905 and 1917) and the First World War.

 
 

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Yet another weird and wonderful Russian novel, this time in the genre of Magical Realism. The whole book is based around a visit by the Devil to two passionately atheistic Russians. While this is an overly simplified synopsis it really is the basis of the entire book; if I really want to write a fully detailed overview of this book it would include a black cat, an assassin, a naked witch, Jesus and Pontius Pilate in one bizarre novel.

 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Don’t let the size of this book scare you, this isn’t necessarily a hard book, just long and like most Russian classics it is worth the effort. The story of love, infidelity as well as a battle of classes and the fading out of an old society to make room for modern one. If you are a patient reader and love a story with well written characters that is beautifully written then this book is worth reading, it simply is a masterpiece.

 

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I love this book so much. Before there were psychological thrillers and books like the Dexter series, there was Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov is a conflicted character; he is showing a lot of interest in the classes and thinks he is of a higher class than others believe. But when he commits murders, guilt, remorse or regret plague him. This is a novel that focuses on the inner turmoil as well as the impact on his intellect and emotions. Beyond perfect and the type of book that you just want to read over and over again.

I know a lot of people avoid the Russian books but I’m drawn to them, I would love to know what people think and if they do avoid them, why. If you have read some great Russian novels, let me know as well because there are so many out there, I would love to know which ones are well worth reading.


Top Ten Tuesday: The Worst Movie Adaptations

Posted July 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Adaptations, Top Ten Tuesday / 0 Comments

I had so much fun doing Top Ten Tuesday last week that I thought I would join in again. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: Top Ten Best/Worst Movie Adaptations. I want to look at ten books that should have never been made into movies because they never work and never will work in this particular format. These are mainly books that have a strong internal monologue, the emotions and inner turmoil is vital to the book and/or they are too many narrators to really work.

10. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
There was a mini-series that wasn’t too bad but the latest attempt at adapting this movie was so bad. I’m a fan of Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Stephen Fry and John Malkovich but no one could save this movie.

9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I’m sorry but the 2005 film just doesn’t work for me, there is none of Austen’s wit and only really covers the basic story. I only recently read Pride and Prejudice and adored it but most of the things I love about this book don’t translate to film.

8. Dune by Frank Herbert
David Lynch was faced with the impossible task of turning this seminal sci-fi classic into a movie and he failed, hard.

7. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
One of those movies, I wish I could unsee. The book was so great, why would they destroy that with a film adaption?

6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The most recent adaptation was a horrible, horrible adaptation of such a wonderful book. It was weird how they did the movie and they left so much out. I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley so I was looking forward to the end. I’ve not seen any of the other adaptations of this classic and I never want to see them.

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I keep meaning to write about the Baz Luhrmann version but keep putting it off. This is a book about unlikeable characters and symbolism, and that never worked. To be honest I don’t think Baz read the book and just tried to remake the old Robert Redford movie.

4. Dracula by Bram Stoker
I’ve never seen a Dracula movie that actually works, it’s hard to be faithful to Bram Stoker’s seminal piece of literature and still try to adapt it.

3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I’m looking at you Demi Moore, Gary Oldman, and Robert Duvall. It doesn’t work and it shouldn’t be tried again. Try something like a modern retelling like Easy A, it’s not The Scarlet Letter but at least it works.

2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Most of this novel plays out in the mind of Rodion Raskolnikov; mental anguish and moral dilemmas don’t translate on the screen, I never have watched a Crime and Punishment adaptation and I don’t think I ever will.

1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
No, just stop it, you will never get it right in a movie, you can’t tell both Victor and Monster Frankenstein’s story at the same time and explore their thoughts and emotion on the screen. Stop trying to ruin my favourite book.