Saturday, May 31, 2014

“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr – The Morality of Survival

The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – book cover
I’ll begin by saying straight away that yes, there are already countless World War II novels out there, and for all intents and purposes, at the moment, readers everywhere would benefit if authors branched out into other topics in favor of that one.

Nevertheless, once in a while comes a novel which unjustly ends up being classified as something it is not, leading to many simply missing out on it. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is, I believe, one of those novels; though it does take place during the Second World War, very little of the content is actually about the war itself, rather placing the focus on character development.

Friday, May 30, 2014

“Night” by Elie Wiesel – Unraveling the Holocaust

Night by Elie Wiesel – Front Cover
Even though by some standards seventy years is a fair amount of time, in terms of human history it is but a split second. It feels distant, but we must never forget that the Holocaust is something that happened very recently, and it’s something which can certainly happen again; after all, it’s not as if every single person came to suddenly accept peace and love as their primary values once the Nuremberg trials happened.

I believe it is necessary to remember what happened, study it and understand why it happened, so that one day we may prevent such a heinous and indescribable tragedy. A good place to start doing that would be, in my opinion, the acclaimed Night by Elie Wiesel.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

“Just Kids” by Patti Smith – A Punk’s Life

Just Kids by Patti Smith – Book cover
I’ll be the first one to admit that I am not the biggest fan of punk rock there is. While I may occasionally partake in listening to “God Save the Queen”, for the most part it’s simply not a musical genre with which I am in tune.

Nevertheless, I do understand, respect and agree with the main message it seems to send, that of acquiring autonomy, self-realization, and internalized values/morals of your own. I do believe that the punk rock movement had a certain amount of importance, though I never bothered to really study it to its full extent. Well, it seems I have started trekking down that road with Just Kids by Patti Smith.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

“Dancing Fish and Ammonites” by Penelope Lively – A Life of Literature

Dancing Fish and Ammonites by Penelope Lively – book cover
Penelope Lively is certainly one of the most highly-regarded authors out there, churning out one novel after the next for over fifty years, she has made a name for herself and offered us, the readers, countless hours of informative and insightful entertainment. However, she has very rarely opened up about her own life and what led her to take the path she has trudged on for decades… very rarely, until she published Dancing Fish and Ammonites, her own memoir.

In this book, Lively treats her own life as a story arc, beginning at the very start with her early childhood, which was spent in Cairo. She details what she remembers of her teenage years, the time spent living in England in a boarding school, the drastic social changes she came to observe, her infatuation with archaeology and its importance in her life, how she set out on the path of the writer, who influenced her, various personal and impersonal events that marked her life, and more. In the end, she reaches the current place she was at when writing the book, that is to say, aging and nearing the end of her rope.

Monday, May 26, 2014

“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams – Greed, Lust, Loneliness, Death

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams – Front cover
The desire to communicate, to understand someone else, to accept them and to receive the same in return is perhaps one of the most basic human drives and desires there are, which is why it should not be surprising that most spend their lives in search of that… for in the end, if the search proves fruitless, loneliness is what lies ahead.

Going along these lines is the great American classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a play written by none other than Tennessee Williams. For those who’d like a brief spoiler-free description of the story, it is about a few brothers living in a very large family, vying for their dying father’s will.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 54

Good day to everyone, and welcome back again for the 54th issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature, where news from the literary world flow endlessly.

This time around we are going to begin by looking at a 5000 year-old Chinese book, the I-Ching, from which the binary code used in computers today was ultimately derived from. Following that will be a brief exploration of Samuel Beckett's challenging start as a writer. Finally, we will close the article by checking out the ten best literary cities according to National Geographic.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

“A Scanner Darkly” by Philip K. Dick – Loss of the Self

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick – front cover image
The question as to what makes us who we are is one that has puzzled the brightest minds in human history for countless generations, and will certainly continue to do so for the longest foreseeable future. The only way to find a conclusive answer to the subject is to explore it from every perspective possible, and in his classic science-fiction novel A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick does just that, amongst other things of course.

For those who aren’t familiar with the plot of the book (which was also made into a movie starring Keanu Reeves), it follows the lives of multiple junkies living in a run-down house, particularly focusing on one of them: Bob Arctor. Unbeknownst to everyone, Arctor is actually an undercover narcotics agent trying to work his way to the source of Substance D, a severely debilitating and mind-altering drug. When Arctor acts as a law enforcement agent, he reports as Fred and wears a scramble suit, which allows him to hide his identity from everyone in every sense of the word, a security measure implemented to ensure the covertness of operatives such as him. However, when Fred is tasked with taking Bob Arctor down, the lines between reality and imagination begin to blur and identities begin to clash with each other.

Friday, May 23, 2014

“Notes from the Internet Apocalypse” by Wayne Gladstone – In Search of WiFi

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne Gladstone – Front cover
There is no denying that the internet has come to occupy a rather important place for us humans, being relied on every day for everything from important corporate transactions to menial entertainment seeking. In Notes from the Internet Apocalypse, Wayne Gladstone explores the idea as to what would happen in a world where the internet suddenly stopped working.

According to him, anarchy would reign supreme as the addicts would come out of their dank apartments into the sun-filled streets, crowding them with their desperate attempts to recreate the internet, forcing animals to entertain them and speaking in no more than one hundred and forty characters.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

“Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell – The Power of First Love

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Front cover
Eleanor and Park are two young sixteen year-old teenagers in the process of discovering life during the school year of 1986. Neither of them really fits in with the crowd, and they both have one big thing in common: they are desperately in love with each other, and they both know that chances are it won’t last, despite what the moment makes them feel. However, being young, courageous and desperate, they both give in to the temptation and dive head-first into what feels like a love doomed from the very start.

Such is the premise of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and the book is basically the story of how the eponymous characters slowly develop their relationship, how they come to form a connection with one another despite the dismay and disapproval expressed by their friends and family. It is the story of how two isolated and hopeless teenagers find what they so desperately yearn for in each other, of how they choose to simply enjoy the present and reap the opportunities it presents, rather than worry about the inevitable loss looming in the future.

Monday, May 19, 2014

“The Neighbor” by Lisa Gardner – The Deadly Burdens of Lust

The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner – Book cover
In The Neighbor Lisa Gardner brings to us another Detective D.D. Warren novel in the series, and just like the previous ones, it follows the talented inspector as she looks into a rather peculiar case: the disappearance of a young and beautiful teacher in the middle of the night.

Though the police are quick to pin it all on the husband, Warren knows that there is much more going on than meets the eye, and soon her suspicions are proven right; a whole lineup of potential suspects comes out of the woodworks, and those include the couple’s neighbor, the woman’s father, the police forensics guy, and a thirteen year-old computer-savvy teenager.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

“Life in Motion" by Misty Copeland – The Hardships of Ballet

Life in Motion by Misty Copeland (book cover)
The dream of escaping poverty and living a life of fame and wealth, going from rags to riches, is something virtually everyone who lives an economically-disadvantaged life yearns for. Unfortunately, for many people it takes something truly special to achieve that dream, and in the case of Misty Copeland it all came to fruition.

In Life in Motion, Misty Copeland brings to us her autobiography, detailing her journey through life from the crummy motel room where she and her siblings lived like sardines, through the hardships of the unforgiving world of professional ballet, all the way to her current success and stardom as being the only African American soloist with the American Ballet Theatre.

Friday, May 16, 2014

“The Serpent of Venice” by Christopher Moore – An Elusive Murder

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore – Front Cover
The time is long ago, and the location is Venice. The merchant, Antonio, the senator, Montressor, and the naval officer, Lago, have spent their lives in search of wealth and power, and though they have become prominent figures, it seems that every one of their opportunities to climb further is shut down by a very troublesome and loathsome man: Fool Pocket, an envoy from the Queen of Britain. It seems, however, that the three men have hatched a plan to get rid of him once and for all: invite him to a night with promises of wine and debauchery, only to poison him.

However, what they do not realize is that the rather inaccurately-named Fool Pocket didn’t get to where he is due to a lack of brains. On the contrary, the resourceful little man has decks of cards hidden under his sleeves, and countless moves to make before he gives in. Such is the premise of The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore, a tale that peers into jealousy, greed, vengeance, retribution, and giant sea monsters.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

“Five Came Back” by Mark Harris – Molding Life Through Fiction

Five Came Back by Mark Harris – Front Cover
It is no secret that movies have a bearing on us as a society; they not only entertain us and serve as a widely-beloved discussion subject, but also help to instill various ideas and values into society. The people we see on the silver screen are often paragons of perfection, ideals that go above and beyond what is possible for one person in the real world. Though some may argue that this sets unrealistic standards for us, I would say that there are times when such inspiration is needed, as it was during the Second World War.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 53

Good day to everyone, and welcome back for the 53rd issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature. We are getting close and closer to completing a full year of our weekly literary news journal, and things are going as well as they ever have with there always seemingly being more to learn about that world than before.

We are going to open with a look at an old Charles Dickens letter being auctioned off, then look into Justin Rowe’s involvement in the British Academy Literature Week, and finish with an inspiring story on how a bunch of students, a bookstore and a publishing house fought a hard and brave battle in the name of literature, in the name of knowledge.

Monday, May 12, 2014

“I Am Half-Sick of Shadows” by Alan Bradley – Murderous Films

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley – book cover
The Flavia de Luce mystery series hasn’t been alive for all that long (relatively speaking at least), but it has already managed to garner such an incredible following and vast amounts of acclaim, more so than virtually any other debuting book series out there. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley is the fourth entry into the mystery series, and just like all of the other ones, it focuses on our heroine investigating a rather perplexing mystery.

This time around, a film crew has erected a set on the de Luces’ decaying family estate, and the event was so popular that the entire village gathered to watch superstar Phyllis Wyvern perform. However, as the mist from the night settles, a brutal discovery is made as the body of a guest is found, strangled with a roll of film. It becomes rather obvious that the killer is one of the numerous guests to have attended the party, and what’s more, that person is trying to hide in plain sight… so who better than a gifted eight year-old genius to weed them out without arousing suspicion?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

“American Prometheus” by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin – Blood Science

American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin (Book cover)
There are very few things in this world, if any at all, which can only be used for either good or evil. The purpose given to things heavily depends on our personal desires and intentions; in other words, a technology can be used for both constructive and destructive means, and that’s a statement that couldn't be closer to the truth when it comes to nuclear energy.

On one hand, it is a virtually-unequaled energetic fuel, and on the other, a weapon of mass destruction and unimaginable terror. In American Prometheus Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin explore the life of arguably one of those who spearheaded the development of the atomic bomb: J. Robert Oppenheimer.

For starters, the biography was written by two of the best and most-qualified authors in the business: one hand we have a master biographer (Kai Bird), and one the other an expert on the history of atomic energy (Matin J. Sherwin). As you can certainly expect, there are countless facts and bits of trivia about Oppenheimer’s life, from his early days as a student, to his involvement in the development of the atomic bomb and the rather crucial role he played during the Cold War.

Friday, May 09, 2014

“The Virgin Suicides” by Jeffrey Eugenides – The Search for Life Through Death

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides – Book cover
Coming-of-age stories, it seems to me at least, have been rather similar for the most part in these past couple of decades, in the sense that they almost always have to center on an adolescent being put out of his or her comfort zone and forced to learn about the various pleasures and perils of life.

However, in The Virgin Suicides Jeffrey Eugenides takes a completely different approach to the subject, one that surely won’t please everyone. As you can tell by the name of it, the book is centered on a family where a series of suicides occur.

More precisely, it focuses on the Lisbon family where over the course of a year, all the daughters manage to commit suicide in a number of different ways. We are provided with the perspective of more or less distant spectators, trying to piece together a mystery that seems so nonsensical and enigmatic.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

“Standing in Another Man’s Grave” by Ian Rankin – The Thrill of the Hunt

Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin – Book cover
Inspector Rebus is a dying breed of policeman; solitary, rough, and very lax on laws and boundaries as long as morality is maintained and the culprit brought to justice. Though this sort of maverick approach to things has earned him quite a reputation, having reached the end of his rope Rebus finds himself with very few people to turn to for help.

Nevertheless, he misses the pleasure of administering retribution to the scum of the Earth, and in Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin, takes us on a journey with the grizzled retiree as he is called upon for help by a woman who saw her daughter disappear more than twelve years ago under mysterious circumstances.

Furthermore, a number of other girls have vanished in the same area, and though the police are as skeptical as one can expect them to be, both Nina Hazlitt (the woman) and Rebus believe that there is a dangerous serial killer at work under the radar. Being a civilian and all on his own, Rebus must get back on the hunt he loves so dearly, all while himself being the subject of an investigation by District Attorney Malcolm Fox for suspicion of leaking information to criminal elements.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 52

Greetings to everyone, and welcome back for another passionate issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature. We are already at our 52nd outing, and this time we will take things in a lighter direction and avoid the more serious topics in life for once.

As our opener we will present you with an extensive and insightful interview with acclaimed author Jhumpa Lahiri. Following that, we will have a look at some very weird books which strangely became required readings. Finally, we are going to explore a very quaint and charming little Dutch town, inspired by Lord of the Rings.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

“The Anatomy Lesson” by Nina Siegal – The Drive of Death

The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal – Front Cover
Rembrandt’s ever-famous painting, The Anatomy Lesson, has appeared in virtually every way imaginable, from school textbooks all the way to internet humor; it is certainly one of the most influential works of art, not only for its composition, but also for the subject matter it depicts, especially considering at the time it was painted.

In The Anatomy Lesson, Nina Siegal takes it upon herself to write a historical fiction surrounding the painting itself. And thus, we are treated to a rather unusual story happening from multiple perspectives and in two different time periods.

On one hand, the details of the events leading up to that dissection are explored from the point of view of every character involved in the painting, and on the other hand, we are given the opportunity to look at it in hindsight through a 21st century restoration expert.

Friday, May 02, 2014

“The Good Spy” by Kai Bird – No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The Good Spy by Kai Bird (book cover)
There are many ways to make a difference in this world; we all seek it to some extent, whether it is to make a big difference in the world or a small difference in our own lives. If one thing seems certain, it’s that true influence on the course of events comes from action and presence rather than the contrary. However, there are always some exceptions to the rule, and CIA operative Robert Ames was certainly one of them, for it is possible that his absence from the books of history had as great of an impact on the situation on the Middle East as his presence would have.

In The Good Spy by Kai Bird, we are treated to a biography of this rather extraordinary man, detailing the role he played as an intelligence officer in the Middle East during the 1980s, the kind of person he was, as well as the kind of power and potential he held in his hands to create peace rather than the chaos we are witnessing today. For those who have not yet heard of him, Kai Bird is renowned for his exceptionally well-researched, detailed and captivating biographies of political figures, so this subject is precisely what he excels at. The information he provides us in here comes from a number of sources, including: many interviews with Ames’ widow, hundreds of private letters written by Ames himself, interviews with former and current Israeli, American and Palestinian intelligence officers, and the author’s own time spent living as a neighbor to Ames at the American embassy in Beirut.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

“The Target” by David Baldacci – The Assassin’s Gauntlet

The Target” by David Baldacci – book review
Though Will Robie and Jessica Reel are assassins, they keep on existing far past what their line of work entails for two reasons: they work for the “good guys” (that is to say, the government) and are the best at what they do.

In The Target David Baldacci brings to us yet another story featuring the two protagonists; this time around, they are paired up by request of the President, sending them on a very dangerous mission with incalculable potential repercussions to put an end to a global threat. They already have their work cut out for them, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.