January 2020 | Books & Links
Illegal – Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin
This was brilliant. It’s a fictional account of two brothers as they make their way across Africa to Europe in the path of their sister who has left for Italy. The panels are beautiful and hard hitting, and the story is really powerful. It’s supposedly a children’s book, but one for older children or teenagers I think.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Overrated. The first half pulled me in and I got excited because I thought I’d found an exception to my ‘I generally don’t like the classics’ rule, but then somewhere around the midpoint of the book it all fell apart. My main issues with it are pacing – the second half is too fast and piecemeal – and a lack of character development. I simply didn’t care for any of the main characters or their plights and the rushed, lazy second half didn’t help with this. I finished it because it’s a novella and so it wasn’t a big time sink, but I really don’t understand why it has received such critical acclaim because it’s middling at best.
Zweig does early twentieth century high society drama much better than this. The Great Gatsby lacks urgency and intrigue.
Links & Articles
The Line – a short story set in 1920s Russia.
I normally avoid watching YouTube videos of ‘five year old plays Paganini’ or ‘eight year old performs Chopin’ because they’re often like little robots; note perfect but emotionless. That said, this video from 2015 appeared on the suggested playlist for something else I was watching and I clicked through because I didn’t know what the instrument was, and I’m glad I did. This little girl is rocking out with her electone and clearly loves her music, though I find the crowd’s muted applause a bit sad. She deserves all the whoops and cheers.
A wonderful photo essay about young women and their thoughts on society.
Tiffany Poon plays Chopin’s Nocturne Op.72 No.1.
Another photo essay about the Sorbian festival of ‘Ptaci Kwas’ which celebrates the approaching end of winter. I love secular festivals that celebrate the seasons. We don’t have enough of them in British culture as far as I’m concerned; most of our festivals are just religious.
The Stolen Bicycle – Wu Ming-Yi
I persisted with this one long after I stopped enjoying it because I had bought it – albeit secondhand – and put pressure on myself to see it through. I finally gave up with about 100 pages to go because it was an endurance read. The first chapter is beautifully written and pulled me in, but the story fell apart quite quickly thereafter. There are long sections of military history filled with details of individual battles which I didn’t find interesting at all, but what made me finally admit defeat was the graphic descriptions of animal abuse in the second half of the book. I can’t bare to read about animal abuse so I tried to just skip over those sections, but found myself needing to miss out big chunks of the book to get past it, so I gave up and will pass the book back in to the secondhand cycle.