Books: little to say about these

Alternate title: it’s mini-review time!

The book: Lisbon – What the Tourist Should See by Fernando Pessoa

The edition: Italian translation by Luca Merlini, 65 pages, as published by Einaudi with an essay on modern-day Lisbon by Maria Teresa Bonafede and pictures by Gianmario Marras, total page count 115

My thoughts:  while it opened my eyes to a couple of things in Lisbon that I had never noticed before, this is nothing more than a dated guidebook. From such an author as Pessoa was, I expected something more, some poetic commentary or some inside knowledge or some social satire. Nothing of the kind.


The book: Stabat Mater by Tiziano Scarpa

The edition: Italian (original) edition as published by Einaudi, paperback, 144 pages, with a note by the author

My thoughts: you may have heard me praise Scarpa’s love song to Venice in Venice is a Fish, but that was the one and only book I had ever read by him up to now; this one, also a winner of a prestigious Italian award, was supposed to be at least as good. But I’m afraid I cannot say so. It is supposed to be a homage to the musical tradition of Venice, and especially to Vivaldi, but all I could see was the pointless and sometimes horrific meanderings of a man’s mind trying to come to terms with the female body. I mean, this is supposed to be the story of a girl on the brink of womanhood, but all the details of her dealing with this change and her body either made me laugh for how improbable they were (think: a girl having a nightmare about water and waking up to find her legs covered in blood from her first period — I have lost count of the male authors believing this is how it happens!) or made me sick with disgust (think: comparing the belly of a woman giving birth and the bubbles exploding in boiling water — and this is just the least example).


The book: The Sacred Night, by Tahar Ben Jelloun

The edition: French (original) edition, as published by Seuil, Points paperback, 189 pages

My thoughts: I read this for the Africa challenge, and because I hope to visit Morocco, and Ben Jelloun is said to be the author to start from. I’m afraid I have to say this one went right over my head, and I understood nothing of it. I guess it is intended to raise the subject of gender, and of identity, but it does so in a way that is completely different from anything I had read before. It’s a kind of magical realism, but full of symbols, and dreamlike details and events that may or may not be symbols, and I can’t say I know what most of them stand for. If you have read this and can help me understand, I’d really like to hear from you!


The book: Fables 11 – War and Pieces, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Niko Henrichon and Andrew Pepoy

The edition: Vertigo edition, 191 pages

My thoughts: this is the closing book for a cycle of the series, with most threads coming to an end. I already mentioned that I did not like the way this particular story (i.e. the Adversary) was being developed, and this may be the one book I liked the least. It read like some war movie, and that’s not a compliment. The series is still great, and I love it to pieces, but I’d have chosen another angle and another story altogether. Now that that is closed, I’m curious to read where the authors will bring us next!

Book: Lord of the Flies

The book: Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

The edition: Faber&Faber centenary edition paperback, 225 pages, plus introduction by Stephen King

The story: a group of boys is stranded on an island during a nuclear war. Left to their own devices, they enjoy the tropical paradise by day, but at night they start to discover their darkest sides (fear of the dark, blood thirst, desire for power) and little by little they recede from civilization into savagery.

My experience with the book & my thoughts: I feel like I was the only one in the world not having read this, so here I won’t go into what the book is or isn’t, into its good and bad. Suffice to say that I found it well written and horrifying. (See links below for better opinions than mine.)
Instead, I’ll tell you about my reaction — that is what classics are for, right? And I do have strong feelings about this novel: either the author had a very “wrong” (from my point of view, that is) view of life, or males and females are so deeply different that they cannot really hope to communicate. (I do hope it’s the first, because I seem to communicate just fine with my husband, my father and male friends.)
According to Stephen King (in the introduction), this is a story “about how kids really are”. But all I see in the novel itself is that kids are inherently evil:

Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry— threw it to miss. The stone, that token of preposterous time, bounded five yards to Henry’s right and fell in the water. Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life.

This is an idea that I cannot buy into. Are kids inherently evil? Are human beings inherently evil? If that was so, humanity would have disappeared long ago, even before a civilization appeared to block those instincts. And in my experience they are not. They are not inherently good either, mind you.
Then again, my experience is somewhat limited. I grew up in a preponderantly female environment. So, while I know it’s preposterous, the only other explanation I can come up with for this book is the following: could boys be inherently evil (as opposed to girls)? I don’t think that’s the point, but I’ll have to ask husband 😉
In the meanwhile, what do you think? If you have read this book, how did you react?

Links to better understand this book:

Counts as: What’s in a Name – creepy crawly; Back to the Classics – 20th century; Summer 2012 – book I’ve always wanted to read