Annie is reading ~

Annie is reading ~

Officially Anastasia, but Annie, Ana, Nes, Nessie for friends. Pick your favorite one or create your own nickname for me, I'm a large container! But I hope you will not call me.. Nasty

My ID card is trying to tell me that currently I'm 18 years old: the possibility of me agreeing with this statement depends on the day. I discovered some years ago that the best way of filling my free time is reading and sharing the marvelous act. So, yay, boredom has been successfully removed from my everyday life. I'm not English, I'm a citizen of that country often remembered for unforgettable delicacies like pizza. So, you will excuse me for possible grammatical oversights, right? 

Review
4 Stars
July-ish reads: Burial Rites, Hannah Kent
Burial Rites: A Novel - Hannah Kent

Iceland, 1829.  Friðrik Sigurðsson and Agnes Magnúsdóttir have been charged with the murder of Nathan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson, two farmers. The two are sent in specific districts and we follow the (real!) story of Agnes, who is a servant. In fact the discrict commissioner Björn Audunsson Blöndal implictly oblige Jon Jonsson's family to host Agnes in their farm during the wait for the execution. In that wait Reverend Tóti, chosen as a spiritual guide by the same Agnes, will prepare her to face death. This will be the occasion to know more about what really happened to Agnes during her life, from the childhood to the murder, engulfed by malevolent speculations.  

 

Hannah Kent has done a great job: a plot like this if not trated with a valuable approach risks to fall into the already-heard or standard. She has the right cards: an interesting setting, an excellent and very detailed documentation about the facts happened in those circumstances and..a stunning style. She knows how to turn the matter into something vivid and deeply felt. Her eloquent prose hooks you since the first sentence. It is rough like the hard life of Iceland in 1829, particularly for a servant whose hands are signed from the work of ages. And at the same time the inner voice of Agnes permeates the entire novel, always inserted in a fascinating atmosphere, similar to a a whisper full of life in the quiet "Icelandic" dark. Maybe because of the thoguthfullness of Agnes, her sorrows and struggles, the particular situation involved too. 

All these sensation are extremely sollicitated by the masterful read of Christie Morven in the audiobook version. I don't even know if the novel would have given me the same singular sensations without her interpretation. 

The novel itself ends up being also a moving reflection about death and death penalty, once you get to know well Agnes.

It reminded me of that particular sensation, when death happens to someone close to you: I can feel him/her dying, leaving silently their life and then the quiet indifference of the world, the laugh of strangers and the unceased and unchanged life in everything. I realized how much this world can be a emotionless machinery composed by souls that are flailing silently in their bodies for the passions which move them. 

(I don't believe in the real existence of a "soul" separated from the life of the body, I call our inner life "soul" only for convenience) 

One of them is smothered by the end of everything, death, and nothing changes. Particularly if a person is not doomed to be greatly remembered by the collective memory. All they were ceases to exist. And then there's a connection with the remains of the dead person and you, still alive, the only one who can still instill with your thoughts and grief something of what they were. It's a sensation that always wrecks me, one of the few times when silence can be incredibly cruel. 

Quote
The failure of modern culture lies not in its principle of individualism, not in the idea that moral virtue is the same as the pursuit of self-interest, but in the deterioration of the meaning of self-interest; not in the fact that people are too much concerned with their self-interest, but that they are not concerned enough with the interest of their real self; not in the fact that they are too selfish, but that they do not love themselves.

Man for Himself - Erich Fromm

Reading progress update: I've read 543 out of 805 pages.
The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Larissa Volokhonsky, Richard Pevear

Cute situations:

 

- Some days ago I had to go in a town near my place to buy at least a pair of shoes. I'm not the driver in my family (not at all, and honestly I'm not anxious of taking a driver license, even if I''ll be kindly obliged to do it if I don't move my ass "as they say at Oxford"). So, my thoughts run to my "currently-reading" shelf and what I could take with me. Then I said out loud: "I'll take the Brothers Karamazov with me!" and well I laughed, because I imagined Aljosa, Ivan and Mitja entering with nonchalance in an Italian shoe store of 2014. 

Aljosa would say gently "no, no, really, I don't need anything" because he doesn't want to get me buying a pair for him, given that in Italy roubles are pretty.. useless. So, he simply would follow me or his brothers in silence like a good dog, giving opinions when asked him.

Ivan would wander in vain, declaring finally that he wants to buy those shoes and then changing his mind and saying "no, no, I don't like them anymore, they're dull, how can you expect me to like them? I was talking nonsense, you don't have to take me seriously". In the meantime Aljosa would go crazy, thinking angerly that it's not possible that his brother doesn't have clear ideas even on shoes and then he would think about that strange idea of The Great Inquisitor, definitely falling into a crysis. Then he would feel  guilty because he lost his temper, and then I would say to him "you have to freak out sometimes, with a family like yours...". But he wouldn't find my opinion very useful to his standards.

So I'll give my attentions to Mitja, asking him why he doesn't want to try those shoes he likes so much, what's his problem (among the many..)? He would watch me like a crazy person, saying to me "no, no, really, I can't and you can't understand, I can't tell you, it's a long story, an unmentionable one" and he would say other words without a logic order, loosing defiitely my attention. "C'mon, don't do like that, I'll help you" and he would scream "DON'T TOUCH MY SOCKS, REALLY, DON'T DO IT, PLEASE", becoming very violent and rude.

Geeez, calm down, okay... Aljosa would run towards us, exploding in excuses for his brother, he's a good guy but he can't control himself sometimes, presenting to me a long long long speech about his brother and his good nature. 

In the meantime a random person would pass casually, noticing these three strange men and thinking about that unnerving last trend of "beard in Jesus style..", enough, reallly, there's a limit..

 

- I'm posting that because tomorrow FINALLY we'll go to the beach for a day. 

..."I'll take the Brothers Karamazov with me!" 

And then I imagined them on a beach in 2014...They'll have fun.

Should I make them pay for my service of entertainement? ..No, they deserve it, poor souls, they are too stressed out at Dostoevskij's. They need relax and tacky scenarios too sometimes. 

..More sun cream, then! 

Review
4 Stars
July-ish reads: Vicious, Victoria Schwab
VIcious - Victoria Schwab, V. E. Schwab

Victor and Eli are the crème de la crème of their university: both are brilliant minds and..Victor feels that they bonded over something more than a simple shared smartness: something more impalpable. Victor has noticed that sometimes a strange shadow passes over Eli's self-confident smile, the famous dark side. He doesn't known the reason of that obscure phenomenon (!), but soon the cards will be unveiled. When their professor sollicitates them to end their "homeworks" and write this damned thesys, Eli surprises everyone saying that his chosen subject  are EOs. ExtraOrdinary human beings. He silently believes in the existence of the supernatural and so he launches into his research, finding out remarkable answers to some properties of EOs. Soon Victor feels that poisonous feeling of envy and competition, given that 

Victor didn't want to run while Eli was busy trying to fly.

Both will be even too engaged in the research and clearly something goes wrong, if the first chapter is set ten years later in a cemetery where Victor steps towards a grave with a shovel on his shoulder, a mysterious and jump-out-of-nowhere? little girl named Sydney behind and an huge resolution of revenge. 

 Like a character says, "there are no good men in this game" and clearly this is the main element played by Victoria Schwab. Like in others novel, you will root for the villain because essentialy he's the lesser evil between the parts, at least, for me. Let's say that there is a very good character development and we cant't comment it using the "black and white" method of division. 

Apparently the novel doesn't have anything..extraordinary in its single parts (with one or two exceptions, maybe), but it's the whole that makes it very captivating. At a certain point I was so anxious of knowing what will happen to my favorite characters with heart and mind that I was actually scared for them. I was slowly frying. How can we call it: the emotional partecipation that every author hopes to attain.
What can I say: I've ended up really caring about the characters, moreover the shortness of breath in hard situations is supported by "a really good management of plot twists and right combinations of events". (omg, it seems one of those reasons inserted in the Nobel Prize, only less-elevated)
Besides I liked very much the continue alternations between past and present, even if others are not of the same opinion. And usually I don't like too much the abundance of flashbacks, but in this case the run in two temporal lanes salted really the story and not only decomposed it gratuitously. These were right and efficiencly "organized".

I was sufficiently excited after turning the last page of this book to read with pleasure some posts by Victoria Schwab in her blog. I've ended up liking her too, adding to my to-read list her next book that will be released, A Darked Shade of Magic, whose plot sounds creative and potentially great. So at the end I'm frying again because 24th February 2015 seems so far right now.

Review
4 Stars
July-ish reads: Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, Mario Vargas Llosa
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter - Mario Vargas Llosa

The novel unties itself in two clear storylines. The odd chapters are are dedicated to the story of Mario (Varguitas for friends, and yes, the autobiographical reference is clearer than my skin in the middle of July), "a sort of intellectual" who works at Radio Panamericana while he nurtures the "papers" to become a professional writer. The burning issue doesn't concern his career but an "improper" relationship with "Aunt Julia" and all the adventures related. The even chapters are dedicated to an other character, a very curious one, Pedro Camacho, a radio novelist who embodies the tendencies of the average novel in South America. In fact the radio episodes of Pedro Camacho - an idol of the listeners of Radio Panamericana - are masterfuly traced on the genre by Vargas Llosa and they alternate the "real" story of the odd chapters: they naturally include an high dramatic tension in the middle of dynamics and plots which have something extreme or absurd (incets, rapes and so on, all the typical things of a South American soap opera).

Compared to the first book I've read by this author, The Bad Girl, this beats the first for inventiveness, vitality and also eccentricity (even if I was more engaged with The Bad Girl) . This book crackles, it bubbles over the countless ways that intersects the real world of Varguitas and the imaginary world of Camacho. If for an other writer the attempt to reproduce a popular model of the literature like this could have allowed to catch the sight of more parodic and sarcastic implications, it's admirable indeed how Vargas Llosa dedicates a space to them with a perfect sensation of temporaneous dedication, the same with which Camacho should writer these stories. Hither and thither I have laughed at some "umoristic regurgitations" which rages between an absurd situation and another, but Camacho's world is not miserably ridiculous, but crackling and maybe only lightly laughable, without meanness, only with endearment. Also because the wish of knowing is triggered somehow, the same itch of all the listeners who fall into Camacho's abyss episode after episode, maybe because the plot pushes itself in such absurd alleys that their conclusion becomes very tempting for my curiosity.

How would this tragedy of El Callao end?

 

Mirroring the progressive mood of the carachter of Camacho little by little  also in his radio novels has been a superior move, hinting at some incongruent elements at the beginning up to the confusion and mixture of characters and precedent situations which was the same effect blurted out by the puzzled listeners some chapters before. 

Maybe it's how the two worlds communicate and recall reciprocally that makes this book different from a more linear story, like The Bad Girl for example. A pyrotechnical show for which I could clap, and I like how there is anyway a balance that doesn't go beyond the total madness or, worst, the excessive ambition, but even if all "the lovely picture" crackles, it doesn't become an annoying cascade of virtuosities. 

What to say about Mario's story: after reading the Camacho's radio intervals I was always happy to gain the next tile about the narrative progresses between Mario and Zia Julia, in addition all the final part, a total run against time, seemed almost like a "camochian" novel! 

About that the final essay in my italian edition, written by Angelo Morino, was interesting, particularly for the gap between literary fiction and the overflowing abundance of autobiographical references and I'd like to read My life with Mario Vargas Llosa, a memoir written by the same Julia Urquidi Illanes of this book. Julia in fact tell "what Varguitas omitted" about their love story. I'm a bit meddler in these cases (but only in these cases!) and if I can, I'm always curious to known more about the writers I like as persons. 

And in my to-read lists I'll add not only the quoted book, but also all the bibliography of Vargas Llosa, because something sparked after reading these two books, and it makes me say that with this author I'll have to subscribe to these rendez-vous and I don't have to close the shutter. 

Grateful thanks.

Yersterday I thought about all those writers in the world who are struggling to find someone who publishes them, maybe losing faith in theirselves as talents whose words and stories are worthy for someone or something. And I thought about the past, about all those famous writers who beared a lot of "no" and closed doors before becoming the celebrated names we all know.
Well, I thanked them in my mind: I did it because of all the strenght they had in not giving up and because they kept believing that they were having in their hands something at least valuable, worthy of being read. In fact thanks to their moral strenght now I can read them. 
Sometimes it is very easy to think that "they are right, I'm nothing special, I have overestimated myself".
And then we have who has been so strong to not give up, even if sometimes he/she had the same thoughts. Myabe it's all about the strange awareness of knowing that they were born to write, to create stories, if not for who didn't want to read them, at least for theirselves. Nothing could make them happier and more alive. And for that last reason, I thought about all those writers who had not success, not when they were alive, in fact the largest amount of fans praised their names later, when they couldn't appreciate their gratitudes. And I thanked them too, because they kept writing and writing stories even if there was not a desirable audience. In fact now I can read them and I'll have a lot of their works to read in the future. :) 

Here in Italy this is a important topic, because sometimes the writers who are filling the bookstores are clearly a very very dull distraction for masses (not comparable to the English distractions, really! we are very poor even in entertainment) and not remarkable authors (maybe their words are even ungrammatical), and the most precious are hiding theirselves in smaller publishing houses, who have refused to obey only to the market laws. This is unpleasant, because many readers here in Italy don't even know of their existence and so they keep thinking that here in Italy there are no young writers worthy of sincere praises, if compared to the Americans or English and so on. 

That's why I always try to delve where a normal Italian reader would not go, maybe for diffidence or inexperience. Here we are not like you in reading, we are very traditional, classic. ..a bit monotonous and boring, if I can be honest. Aaalways the same titles..

Well, I've bumped into great discovering sometimes and sometimes not, sometimes an unpopular author is rightly less-known, because of many reasons: an unpleasant style or boring ideas..
But I won't stop delving, because I want to know at least some of those authors who are waiting for their audience, or maybe above all, because the more I grow up, the more my curiosity expands its horizons without feeling tired or definitely satisfied. 

I hope that in the meanwhile those authors are not losing faith in theirselves, because maybe tomorrow they'll be in thousands of bookshelfs.

I'm not criticizing the abilities of an editor, but I know that sometimes an author doesn't deserve his refuses. 

Reading progress update: I've read 83 out of 364 pages.
VIcious - Victoria Schwab, V. E. Schwab

Wow, coincidences: between this and The Martian I'm fortuitously absorbed in science applied in extreme situations, like surviving on Mars or surviving to be an EO (...everyday experiences, surely!). Never happened before, so cool, but..for the second case, The Martian, I'm afraid I can't  follow it with the audiobook version. Sometimes I just can't understand what's really going on because I don't know the meaning of specific words used in the story, given that I'm not English and I'm not specialized in English in my studies. I feel ignorant, but what I have to do! :/ I'm thinking about interrupting The Martian and waiting to have the ebook, and in the meanwhile I'll choose Burial Rites for the audiobook of the moment. :) 

Reading progress update: I've read 72 out of 344 pages.
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter - Mario Vargas Llosa

Re-reading Vargas Llosa after longing for it for..well.. a year at least is somehow genuinely invigorating. 

Welcome back, Mario. 

Review
3 Stars
Junish reads: Embers, Sándor Márai
Embers - Sándor Márai, Carol Brown Janeway

I don't know exactly what to say. No emotions, no hate or sharp disbelief, no love. It's that uncomfortable sensation, when you say "oh, it is an interesting novel" but you are cold, and, actually, you don't care much. I don't have particular critics to do, because if I stop and think about what I didn't like, I see how those points were justified in the situation, because of the psychology of the main character, for example.

But, talking about Henrik, the protagonist, I can say I just didn't like him. I didn't like the idea of an entire monologue in front of a friend to explain his anger with long and grandiloquent speech.. which clearly is the way of telling the entire story behind the situation, but also the way for demonstrating a sort of (cheap) dressed up wiseness. 

(And, if I think about that too, I find another phsycological justification and then again my dislike lasts without any solid reason).  

Maybe it is the point anyway: that this can be a novel whose points are right in the context and justified, but I couldn't like the characters and I can't do anything about it. 

 

 

What July could bring
Being and Time - Edward Robinson, John MacQuarrie, Martin Heidegger A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty  Smith Burial Rites: A Novel - Hannah Kent The Islanders - Christopher Priest Siberian Education: Growing Up in a Criminal Underworld - Nicolai Lilin The First Man in Rome - Colleen McCullough Pan - Knut Hamsun, Sverre Lyngstad Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter - Mario Vargas Llosa

School vs my ambitions: 3 - 0 (ouch). In fact the last three books of this month were already in the planning of June, and then.. nothing, I didn't manage to read them in time. A desperate study for my final exam has defeated me. 

But I'm unfliching, I'm stubborn and I set this goal for July, considering it as a feasible purpose and not a dream.

And I have a defence for that. 2 July, 12 pm: Freedom will knock on my door, and I'll open to it and hug it as if it were the most beautiful apparition in my life, weeping tears of joy. 

And I'll have plenty of time to read everything I want, like..for example..these books. 

P-u-r-e happiness.  

 

The GoodReads Tag
Hunger for Knowledge tagged everyone, so..I take the pleasure! 
 
1. What was the last book you marked as 'Read'?
 
When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman.
I'm trying to forget it, please. 

 

2. What are you 'Currently Reading'?
 
Embers by Sàndor Màrai (the accents are in the opposite direction, but..I'm too lazy to search the symbol in the keyboard).
The Martian by Andy Weir.
The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevskij.
The Complete Essays by Montaigne.

 

3. What was the last book you marked as 'To-Read'?
 
Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas.
 

4. What book do you plan to read next?

 

I'm a reader who plans a lot, even if time doesn't agree with my costant and hopeful ambitions. I'd like to read before the end of the month at least Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Vargas Llosa.

 

5. Do you use the star rating system?
 
Yes, I try to be objective the most of the times, but emotions play a big role when they are invasive: extreme frustration or ,on the contrary, a really great time during the read. But I'm very cautious with the fifth star. 

 

6. Are you doing a 2014 reading challenge?
 
Yes, 95 books. There was a time when I read 160 books in one year (cool, but crazy for me now). Then school sucked my time and now I hope only for """"humble"""" goals. Life is hard (insert a dramatic tone here).
 
7. Do you have a wishlist?
 
Sure. And it is disastrously long.
 
8. What book do you want to buy next?
 
LOL, every book of my wishlist? I don't really know: the fate will decide for me.

 

9. Do you have any favorite quotes? Would you like to share a few?

 

"Scipio: How I loathe you! And how I pity you!

Caligula [angrily]: Enough, I tell you.

Scipio: And how horrible a loneliness like yours must be!

Caligula [ in a rush of anger, gripping the boy by the collar, and shaking him]: Loneliness! What do you know of it? Only the loneliness of poets and weaklings. You prate of loneliness, but you don’t realise that one is never alone. Always we are attended by the same load of the future and the past. Those we have killed are always with us. But they are no great trouble. It’s those we have loved, those who loved us and whom we did not love; regrets, desires, bitterness and sweetness, whores and gods, the gang celestial! Always, always with us! [He releases Scipio and moves back to his former place.] Alone! Ah, if only in this loneliness, this ghoul-haunted wilderness of mine, I could know, but for a moment, real solitude, real silence, the throbbing stillness of a tree! [Sitting down, in an access of fatigue.] Solitude? No, Scipio, mine is full of gnashings of teeth, hideous with jarring sounds and voices. "
- Caligula, Albert Camus
 

10. Who are your favorite authors?

 

There are authors that I admire a lot: Camus, Oriana Fallaci, Edith Wharton, Beckett too. 

 

11. Have you joined any groups?

 

Not here on BL. On GR yes and I'm active when I can. 

 

12. Are there any questions you'd like to add to this tag?


Given the hard scholastic times, I'll re-quote Camus: Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee? 

These exams are killing me. I don't even have to do it by myself.
It's an universal question, you can't deny it. 

 

The people I tag are:

 

Everyone without doubt! 

Review
2.5 Stars
Junish reads: When God Was a Rabbit, Sarah Winman
When God Was a Rabbit - Sarah Winman

In substance it's the tragically adventurous story of Elly and his brother, from the childhood to the mature age.

A Jewish neighbor, a lesbian aunt in love with her sister-in-law, an old but lively gentleman, a gay brother, a complexed and paranoic father, and, hear hear, this is only a quarter of the parade.

There is not an uniform line for which I could say "the story is about that": it's like a sandwich without art, where the more stuff you throw in, the more it should sound dense and fanciful. The truth is that when you try to eat something like that, at the least the half of the sandwich slides out of your hands, falling to the ground ingloriously. 

I would call it a series of a thousand episodes which focus on a single and always different event, that naturally has to be tragic, otherwise there is not the necessary drama to make it look like it has something really touching and deep to say. 

Yes, I known too what it wants to tell: it wants to deal with the pain of growing up too much quickly, with time, particulary with the past that knocks always to the door of the present, sometimes longed and sometimes not, obviously it talks about the tragic imprevedibilty of life too, because at the fourth of fifth calamity even an oaf would understand that, maybe, there is a logic sense in proposing all these little human apocalypses.

I would say that it speaks of an out-and-out divine persecution against unaware and mere mortals: obviously the persecutor is one of those remarkable "absences-presences". He's not there, but you known that all this morass could have a sense only if you understand that he has been contemplated and he's clearly one of the main characters.

Because here the only way to justify the author's conduct is taking it with a lot of philosophy. In what other manner I could look at this sort of tragicomic theatre of the absurd if not like that?

I'd like to know only one thing: when Sarah Winman was making plans for this plot, was she smiling at least at this endless series of catastrophes that fall down on the family she has created or did she really took herself seriously?  

Other people who have read this book have even said that the costant humor mitigates a lot the marked drama. Where is it? But these characters are desperated, that's that. They don't even exhale a bitter laugh and if they comment their highly unbelievable situation, they do it only with the discouragement of veterans who take the burden of their tragedies. 

It's this thing that I don't like about the book: Winman believes that she could make her characters deep only if she inflicts to them all the possible pains that come to her mind, creating an melanchonic atmosphere which doesn't nourish itself of a deep analysis of one or two points, but only of events on events which land on the characters, without even giving the time for a more linear and stretched development.

Right, another thing I had difficulties appreciating is the fragmentary structure. How much it doesn't help in a story with burdensome contents. Metabolism is important, woman! You cant' expect me to keep up with your story even emotionally if I don't have the time to say "oh, poor sods, what a bad thing" that another tragedy happens to them, and another one and another one again. I save my breath and I read in silence. And my silence hides differents thoughts at this point: the story is becoming ridiculous. Too many irons in the fire.

Sure: the last exploit with 11th September has to be thrown in too, once that Winman got a taste for it. Even if at the end it has nothing do to with the story of the character in question (let's leave aside the existential why about it, I've given up), it was only a passing event that the author has to insert in her big sandwich, the temptations was too intense. 

On the other hand Elly's reactions are not bad, but if there weren't this ambition and pretentiousness behind her, from the author, it would have been different. 

 

PS: I didn't understand why Joe who breakes his leg playing football is foretold like "an event that will change our lives". Uh? How a plaster of some weeks can be the all this titanic event? One can justify it with a lot of labor, but..Winman lets the thing fall and nothings changes. You are kidding yourself, then! There is no need of my help! 

Review
4 Stars
Junish reads: I Am Livia, Phillys T. Smith
I Am Livia - Phyllis T. Smith

Everything depends on how much Phyllis Smith's "alternative" Livia can be approved or not by the single reader (if aware of the storiography about her). 
Livia Drusilla has been accused of all concerning his husband Octavianus, even his death. She has been accused too of almost all the accidental deaths of the possible heirs of Octavianus. She has been accused of manipulating his husband's political decisions for her benefits (Tiberius, her son from the first marriage, will be the next princeps after Octavianus) and we know for sure from the storiography that Octavianus considered her political opinions and listened to her petitions and suggestions. 

There is no direct testimonies for what there was behind Livia's actions and events with her involved, only external points of view from writers like Svetonius, for example. So the possibility that all the evil voices were false can not be rejected. Smith has the advantage of moving in the territory of speculation and you can't simply say that her Livia is.."wrong". It's a choice like others, that can please or not.
Livia here is a woman in love, caring, strong, smart and shrewd but not an evil genius, absolutely not. She feels and suffers like everyone else. In fact Smith plays a lot on this factor, her humanity and goodness, considering many Livia's intents passed under the cloud of suspicion by history as substantially good and misunderstood by those "evil voices", which Livia comments during the story. Is it naive or inadequate? I don't think so. Like I said before, it's an interpretation. And in my personal opinion behind it there is the will of telling the story of a marriage without giving a little romanticism up and, at the same time, without crashing into the idealisation of the characters.
Octavianus's character risked more than his wife. In fact Smith has been astute: ending the story immediately after Tavius's return from the battle of Actium doesn't allow her to tell how he concentrated all the power on himself, passing it under legitimate acts of the Republican costitution and concealing the evidence: the rise of a monarchy and death of the Republic. Even if it has something evil (his opposition? inexistent, or, better, promptly erased), its strategy was an act of a political genius. 
Clearly telling this part of Octavianus's life with the same tone of this book would have been more difficult and maybe, yes, out of place. So excluding the start of the Imperial Era has been wise if we consider the precedent decisions about the characters and their personality. It is a pity, because it's very interesting, but I understand it.

 

Octavianus is one of my favorites historical figures, so it was easy for me to like this book, even if has the "ghosts of fictionalization", but I accepted Smith's choices and so this version has ben enjoyable. A possible version in which some of the evil voices about Livia were followed? Interesting, maybe with a more controversial character, but I don't see why an author could not propose a bit of romance even in this marriage, if he or she doesn't bump into cheap solutions or banalizations and "selloffs" in the characters. 

When arrogance kills cultural appreciations.

Reading a debate about the World Cup in Brasil in a Facebook page for cinephiles, I had the occasion for remembering how much I can be irked by the snobbishness of some people. 

People convinced in a gerarchy of interests and hobbies, where their cultural inclinations are worth the money spent (even if we talk about colossals like Titanic and actors who take abnormous rewards, particulary if compared with a doctor's salary)  and all this fuss about football not. I'm not interested in football, but I don't think that this makes me a superior person because I don't follow "that rubbish where idiots run after a ball" (like someone else say). This is a superficial prejudice, a total underestimation a priori of an entire sport.

I love culture and I love to learn something new and to expand my horizons, I love it particulary when it doesn't allow an intelligent mind to think about who dedicate his time to something less elevated as an ignorant idiot. I give "epithets" like those only when this "ignorant idiot" is as arrogant as the cultured snob. Everyone is free of managing his free time as he prefers, if it is not a violent way of filling his hours. If he's sincerely happy, why not? 

It's pretty much similar to those readers who try to force others to read because they can't imagine that a "sophisticated" art like literature doesn't fascinate everyone. A person who doesn't read is not automatically a recidivous idiot. 

 

I know a lot of "uncultivated" people who are by far better human beings than some of those "élites", who can't even see further than the end of their golden nose to understand the reasons of people different from them, and I'm not talking only about reading or not, but even different opinions about literature itself and its authors. What have you learned from so much culture if you can't even accept pluralism? 

I don't read because it makes me a "superior" person, I read because I like it so much that I cant' stop doing it, because it helps me to understand myself and the others, because literature captures me and I am always passionately curious of exploring it. 

But I always pay attention to not become one of those people described here, because I know that I would have failed in some way in my "personal path".

I dislike who is fossilised on opinions he can't change because he's too proud for admitting of being wrong and I blame who is not able to understand but only judge, confident about his self-righteousness and sure that he almost never need to call himself into question. And, actually, I think that calling ourselves into question is the key of growing up not only intellectualy but also as admirable human beings. 

 

I don't believe that a person could not judge, but I strongly believe in the ability of understanding as much as we can before judging. At the end of the game I will prefer the company of smart fellows who share too my interests, but only because it pleases me personally, not because the others (if intelligent) are not worthy of my attention. 

Review
2 Stars
Junish reads: Smilla's Sense of Snow, Peter Hoeg
Smilla's Sense of Snow - Peter Høeg, Tiina Nunnally

This is a pretense: actually 150 pages were dividing me from the end, not 0 like the target "finished" would suggest. I hate doing it, I swear, I can bear nails on the blackboard, titanic non-sense, lethal lethargy or even coma just to finish a book completely. 

But recently the time has been tyrannic and I don't have anymore the health for dedicating it to useless readings by now, particulary in cases like those where the books is near to 500 pages. It's already happened with Cloud Atlas this year, and now with Smilla's Sense of Snow.

Given that it passes itself off as a thriller, one would be spurred to give an ultimatum and drag oneself in the last minute of run to the end of this damned book, but in this case I can say lightly that I don't give a fuck about what happened to the poor Esajas.

I would not have claimed it if the story took care of inciting a little interest in the middle of its infinite slowness. Better, this is a specific kind of slowness: a sour mush with all inside.

The acidity is due not to possible annoying characters, but for the intestinal mixing which one bears during the wait for a unhoped twist.

And it is unhoped because at a certain point it's clear that the book does not have the standard intentions of a thriller: a story which works for the tickled mystery, little hints during the plot, bewilderments, twists and maybe an interesting case.

The performed investigations by Smilla are as boring as the bureaucracy in which she immerses herself in order to get to the point. Surely this "point" is what I'm waiting for as much as Smilla, but no satisfactions are given to me. It's possible that the book has made me so giddy with its costant inconclusiveness that I wasn't anymore in my right mind, but after 300 pages I've understood only one thing: there's the mafia behind Esajas's death. The rest is boredom. And this is suggested more or less since the beginning (mafia or boredom? ..both). 

Smilla rings around unendly, cracks jokes that even she doesn't find funny, and then archives on archives, clandestine transfers whose action-pathos treshold is -  , idle traffics of names and readressing, personal lives without any appeal. I mean: a morning in the office is more excting than this book. 

 

We could do a right move, deleting a reductive and rigid reasoning for genres and thinking this novel as a book where the atmosphere counts, but then we enter in an embarassing territory.

What atmosphere? Smilla's inner world? Well then!

Maybe for others it has the charm which Hoeg has hoped to exercise, but to me the coldness of Smilla and her pills of wiseness a bit crude doesn't have much effect. She'll have her reasons and innate features to result like she is, but what she has to say to me was not enough interesting to not sink in the general boredom.

Her indipendence given by her origins creaks with the events, because I wanted the characters near to be treated better than that, because all this psychological portrait seemed to me a bit contrived since the beginning. It's unnatural in an affective relationship that "the mechanic" does not acquires a name, an identity. Poor sod. And I say it because in my opinion calling by name and not by generic epithet who is close to one's heart is spontaneous, beyond a natural coldness. Just to quote a example of her attitude.

I let the pleasure of "an entire atmosphere" definitely to others who can appreciate it, because I pass the ball, the last 150 pages, the "point" of the entire story which doesn't want to arrive and starts to demands too much from my resistance. And, like with Cloud Atlas, I don't think I'll regret it, given that I've read how it ends in a summary and I didn't see anything spectacular, only in line with the irritating "spirit" of the book. 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 49 out of 325 pages.
When God Was a Rabbit - Sarah Winman

A mum with a mysterios lump and eternally in grief for the loss of her parents, a lesbian aunt secretly in love with her sister-in-law, a jewish and pseudo-pedophile neighbour and then two weird little girls with a rabbit called God.
Why do I have the sensation that this new-age melting pot is not completed yet? 

currently reading

Progress: 85/728minutes
Progress: 99/1497pages
The Information - Martin Amis
The Critique of Practical Reason - Immanuel Kant