Saturday, December 30, 2017

Chuck Palahniuk "Choke"

I had experienced so many emotions during reading this book. At first, I didn't like, then I tried to convince myself that the novel is not good, but it became harder and harder because I started to understand what is it about. And in the end, I closed with a thought "Yes, I like it!".

First thing I love about "Choke" is narration. Palahniuk gives you short chunks of the story without time connection but intentionally to let you understand the next chunk. Every chapter reveals you more and more puzzle details that in the end form you a whole picture. Every chapter you think that you understood, and then, the next chapter gives you something that let you see the story from a new angle.

I have so many posts blaming different books for a lot of redundant information. "Choke" is just perfect in this sense. Despite it contains a lot of sex scenes, each one reveals some very important information about the main hero and shows why he decided to do the next action. You literally cannot remove any scene without losing the sense of the story. It was quite an interesting trick from the author, by the way, to show how sexaholic thinks through the process of sex.

"Choke" is a short novel but deep at the same time. It is built around one strong idea and every sentence serves to explain it. And the text still doesn't feel dry instead it is very light and artistic. 

Images and symbols are bright. Some of them are quite stereotypical but they still have some zest, that makes the narration interesting. I love the idea of a colonial museum where the main hero works, showing his ignorance and comfort zone, and I love the idea of Dr. Paige Marshall showing literally the hero's future. 

All scenes are made the way to expose the culmination. One small detail, even one exact word turns all the picture that you saw before upside down and it strengthens a lot an effect of culmination. This is really a perfect work of the writer, he did it like a director who shots a movie, but without a movie.

I said a lot about how the book is written instead what is inside because I don't think it is worth to retell the plot - it is much better to read it yourself (it isn't long). The main idea is simple - if life is terrible it is you who you need to blame. You should find a reason and no matter how difficult is it you should get rid of the source of your problems. And then you should decide who you really want to be and build your life as you want. Any crisis has a source and any crisis can be overcome by removing the source. 

If we talk about a modern fiction I think this book is definitely worth to read. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Joseph Campbell "The Hero with a Thousand Faces"

Every time someone notes that he has already heard/seen/read the same story somewhere else, usually he hears an answer “Of course, there is even a book that says that all stories are actually the same and has the same structure!” People usually mean “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and it seems that they have no idea what are they talking about.

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is a work of comparative mythology. Indeed it introduces the term “monomyth” to define the common structure of legends in different cultures. However, at the end of the book, Campbell says that all myths are different. Despite some of them have something in common, some of them share common archetypes, the proportion of equal things is not large.

This book is not giving a skeleton of every myth in a world. Instead, it investigates what different myths have in common and why people who were in thousands of kilometres from each other, without any way to communicate, with contradicting moral foundations still tell stories about same things, with same archetypes.

No matter how different people are, they are still humans. They have same nature and same structure of brains. Apparently, Campbell thinks that it is a reason why myths of different cultures have something in common. He tries to explain plots, archetypes, characters with Freud’s theory of the unconscious. 

However this suggestion makes a lot of sense, and some things really have an obvious connection with Freud’s theory, I could not understand a majority of parallels. Some proofs were not enough for me, others were far-fetched. Sometimes the author doesn’t even try to prove his point of view, he just gives tons of myths fragments and then states the proposition without even explaining it.

And about the myths fragments — the book consists, I guess, by 80% of myths fragments. And I’m not overestimating: the author makes a statement, then adds two or three different myths passages. Passages are very long and take few pages each with verbose dialogs full of redundant phrases (like one phrase repeated three times), synonym, and multiple sentences that describe the same thing. It makes the reading process much more difficult. For effective prove, it would be enough a short retelling and a reference to the original myth. 

Author’s language is very complicated. I reread each paragraph at least five times and sometimes didn’t understand the main thought. And it seems the problem is not in my knowledge of English, because my friend, who read it at the same time but in Russian always complained me that he doesn’t understand half of a book. I think though it can be because of the age of a book. Nowadays literature adapted to the weak attention of a reader and talks with him very gently. Whereas books of start and middle of the twentieth century are very tough. 

The end of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is about modern myth. Campbell says that nowadays when there is no unknown land and science is on top of everything the modern hero goes not to the world of dead or to the mountain of gods, but inside himself. The biggest mystery now is the man himself and the one who is able to descend to his unconscious and meet the inner’s god blessing will be the hero and the savior.