The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Don’t let the brevity of this book fool you.

2/5 stars.
Paperback, 152 pages.
Read from January 11, 2018 to January 15, 2018.

It is amazing to me that I have not read anything by Pynchon up until this point. His works are common in University classes but perhaps my professors had more wherewithal than I gave them credit. This is your typical ‘English major’ read that most general readers hate. This novel is a challenging read despite its short length and I think for most people, myself included, no one really fully understands what this novel is about by the time that they finish it. This is the type of novel that needs to be dissected and discussed within the post-modern genre to be fully appreciated and unless you are a big English nerd, most people don’t have the desire or the time to do that so the hate that many people have for this novel is warranted. angtft.jpg

Oedipa Maas has recently found out that she has become the executive of a former lover’s estate for which she does not know why. As she proceeds to carry out the will, it leads her down a strange path of new friends, drugs, hallucinations, sex and philosophy.  And yes, I would say all of those things go very well together.  She also discovers a secret mail delivery service and a century-old feud.

“I am having a hallucination now, I don’t need drugs for that.”

This book has some very clever and funny moments. I did enjoy the bit where Oedipa, in an attempt to win at a game of strip poker, dresses in as many layers of clothing that she possibly can. While in the bathroom she knocks over a can of hairspray and it goes flying around the room at high speed causing her to hide. When all that commotion is over and she finally leaves the bathroom, she is wearing a ridiculous amount of clothing, so much so that she falls asleep during foreplay while her partner attempts to remove it all before they have sex. She only wakes up during the act of it, kind of rapey, yeah. Shortly after, Oedipa discovers the symbol of the secret mail service in a bar bathroom and after, I lost all clue as to what was going on and it is where I started to lose interest in the book.

“[Oedipa Maas] awoke at last to find herself getting laid.”

The novel is a perfect example of a postmodern piece of literature. The movement took place after WII and focused on surrealism and a stream of consciousness type of writing. However, for most readers, it is hard to appreciate that timeframe as we did not live it so a book embodying this genre definitely comes across as strange and even unnecessary.

As I found little enjoyment out this book I cannot rate it higher but I am curious as to what I reread would entail if I knew a little bit more about the background of the book and genre. The book is not long so I would say that it is still worth reading if you already have it on your shelf and have been curious about reading it.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

AKA James Frey… the twat.

2/5 stars.
Paperback, 440 pages.
Read from January 4, 2018 to January 9, 2018

This book was a reluctant read. I received this book as a gift and it had been sitting on my shelf for a few years. I picked it up when I was in a reading slump and it left no surprises, this is book was exactly as I thought it would be. I can’t say I hated it as much as others but I can’t sing its praises either.

The remaining Loriens are hiding away on planet Earth after their own was destroyed by the Mogadorians. John Smith, not his real name, is one of these remaining Lorien. He is number four out of nine Lorien’s with legacy powers. They are protected by a charm that will keep them alive as long as they stay apart from each other, though it can be broken if they are killed the corresponding order. Despite the Lorien’s efforts in hiding, the Mogdorians are on a death mission to hunt them down and number three has just died, meaning that John is next. John’s sci-fi story in intermingled with an attempt to appear and lead a normal human life as he and his guardian Henry, move from town to town trying to stay safe.  John falls for the most cliche high school girl, Sarah, and as his powers develop has to learn to keep them under control and not bring attention to himself. Even if the lame high school jock is bullying his friend and pestering his new love interest, which of course John can’t resist and makes a bunch of bad decisions going forward.

20646905.gif
The story felt flat and the characters were massively stereotypical, especially Sarah. It’s so bad it is near degrading in a way. She was a cheerleader who dated the main jock and bully in the school but magically gave it all up to pursue photography and now she is just a nice person who falls in love with alien and needs to be saved and protected. It is just such a shallow and very male-centric way to describe her and didn’t feel necessary.  On top of that, the writing quality is poor. To take an ounce of enjoyment out of this novel you have to find a way to get past that.

Also if you know anything about who this Pittacus Lore guy is, you might feel less inclined to read anything by him. Pittacus Lore is a collective pen name for James Frey, Jobie Hughes, and Greg Boose. While you may not recognize the last two names, you likely recognize infamous liar and businessman, James Frey. Jame wrote a ‘memoir’ about his struggles with drugs and alcohol. quite a few years back. There was massive controversy surrounding the book as it came out in an interview with Oprah, that not all of it was true. Frey has since gone on to create a publishing factory of shitty writing by hiring a bunch of ambitious writers by luring them with the promise of success and fame. This book and the following series is a result of one his business efforts.  You can read more in-depth about it in New York Books.  Frey seems very comfortable with his shady writing methods, provide it brings him fame and fortune, which of course it has.

If you consider all this together it is all pretty off-putting, but many readers are not interested in Frey’s misfit writing endeavours and just want a cool story, which is ultimately what keeps Frey’s success going. I for one, don’t care enough about this mediocre novel to pursue it further and would not recommend that any read or support the man behind it.

 

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

“I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.”

3/5 stars.
Hardcover 343 pages.
Read from June 6, 2017 to June 13, 2017.

Said to be the first of its kind, In Cold Blood, was ground-breaking back when it was first published back in 1965 and was once considered the original non-fiction novel and a pioneer of the true-crime genre.

The novel takes place in Holcomb, Kansas and follows Herb Clutter, a well respected and self-made man, and his family. On November 15, 1959, Herb, his wife Bonnie, and two of their children: Nancy and Kenyon were murdered. Each of them tied up before being individually executed with a shotgun. The police were at a loss as to who would have had a motive to kill such a well-to-do family. As the story unfolds, Capote describes the two fugitives in detail and just how the police were finally able to bring them to justice.

Dick Hickock, a young man with a normal upbringing was sadly disfigured in a car accident in 1950 and as a result of his head injuries he was never quite the same. He married and left numerous wives and children behind and quickly turned to petty crime after his family could not afford to send him to college. It was apparently Dick’s idea to rob the Clutter’s as he was tipped off by a convict that use to work for the Clutter’s claiming that the family kept a safe full of cash.

Perry Smith was a different sort of character. Perry suffered a horrific upbringing of physical and emotional abuse. His father was abusive and his mother was a drunk. After their mother left their father and then passed away from choking on her own vomit, Perry and siblings ended up in an numerous orphanages were they were further abused by caretakers. Two of Perry’s siblings committed suicide as adults. Perry served in the Korean war where injuries to his legs left him in constant pain which he often treated with copious amounts of aspirin. While it may have been Dick’s idea, it was Perry who carried through with the killings of the Clutter family.  With that, Perry’s character is still by far more sympathetic, as he comes across more honest and has even said that he stopped Dick from raping 16 year old Nancy before she was killed. Capote became close friends with Perry during the time that Capote spent interviewing him for the book and it has long be rumoured if there was anything more to the relationship.

“There’s got to be something wrong with us. To do what we did.”

While this book was generally well received a the time, there were some questions as to how concise certain characters and events were depicted. Capote’s long time friend and author, Harper Lee, was his research assistant for this book and contributed more than 150 pages of notes. While Lee was placed in the acknowledgements section of the book she was not credited for her research which, apparently left her with hurt feelings. While the two remained friends after the book’s publication, they grew apart.

Lee and Capote, 1966

Learning about the men who committed such an atrocious act was really intriguing. No wonder people were blown away by its content at the time. However, reading this book in the present day does not have the same effect, making it was easier to criticize Capote’s writing style. I found the novel to be dry and was curious as to how Capote could so easily say that everything her wrote was the absolute truth. The book reads very much like a story and so it is easy to forget that these atrocious murders actually took place and that you’re not just reading another mystery novel. Considering the writing style, it is also hilarious to me that anyone could have ever though that Capote helped Harper Lee write To Kill A Mockingbird, a long held belief that was debunked in one of Capote’s letters to his aunt.

Overall, the novel was decent for its psychological qualities depictions of the murderers but without the shock value of the content, it does not hold up to today’s standards. However, it is still an iconic book, and worth reading if you are true-crime fan or even a Harper Lee fan considering the long history of her friendship with Capote.


References:

http://time.com/4230925/harper-lee-truman-capote-friendship/

http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2016/02/did_harper_lee_help_truman_cap.html

https://www.monroecountymuseum.org/#!myth-buster/ccb7

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Cold_Blood