Microviews Vol. 5: Some More Books I Swore I'd Never Read

on Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Daily I sink further into the abyss. At my local secondhand bookstore, stares. Buying the Da Vinci Code, The Celestine Prophecy and Jonathan Livingstone Seagull in one blast? I tried to excuse my way out of it like a teenager in a porno store. Back home, in the garage of my apartment building, I walk with them tucked under my arm, lest a neighbour see me. Perhaps I should take a leaf out of my grandfather's book and wrap the incriminating items in paisley paper. For him, of course, said items included genuine classics such as Portnoy's Complaint, Lady Chatterly's Lover and Lolita. Mine are cheaper, grubbier... I own something by Dan Brown! What have I become?

But remember, open mind. Open mind.

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach
Before reading this much loved classic, I never thought I would relate to a stupid seagull. Now, having read it, I can quite unequivocally say I will never relate to a stupid seagull. Self-empowering mumbo jumbo really reached new heights with this one, if you'll pardon the pun. Fly, humble birdy, fly. Dare to be different. If you just believe in yourself and disregard your limitations you will soar beyond the flock. Those millions who, on the back of this book, dared to be different were just like the massive crowd gathered outside their saviour's window in Monty Python's Life of Brian, cheering in gleeful chorus that "We are all individuals". So here... Let me dare to be different and go against the flock. Wake up! This book is simplistic rubbish, repackaging stoicism and commercialised Eastern philosophy (of the Grasshopper variety), and laying it at the feet of some conventional Messianic deity. Son of the Great Gull indeed. George Lucas did it way better when he made Star Wars, and he at least had the courtesy to throw in some nifty explosions. Bach (who, from what I gather, might have done us a favour by following in the footsteps of his fellow aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery) could have achieved the same with a simple packet of aspirin, but who am I to tell him to suck gull eggs?

Review in Haiku: Dare to soar beyond/ And you will find yourself too/ Watch out for that cliff!

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Doesn't anyone read the bible just for laughs anymore? The Old Testament, the sequel, the fan fiction appendices? I mean, seriously, does 'the greatest story ever told' now only exist as a source for clues in thriller novels and a barrel of quotable apples in which new age fabulists and self-empowerment gurus can bob? Here I was enjoying a seemingly sassy old-fashioned crime thriller when THWAK... I was blindsided by biblical garbage yet again. Please. The world has been seduced by the Stieg Larsson phenomenon, what with the whole dying before his genius was recognised schtick. But who are we kidding? This guy ain't John Kennedy Toole. He was an obsessive workaholic who quite literally wrote himself to death. Luckily, beforehand he happened upon the cliche checklist to help him strike literary gold (well, for his beneficiaries at least). To be fair, I must admit that this book was fun for the first two hundred pages while the religious undertones remained subtle. I mean, I enjoy a violent anal rape scene as much as the next Catholic. And those allusions to the Vanger family's Nazi past... Wow, it had me thinking how much I loved the way Indiana Jones whipped, shot and propellor-chopped his way through those cool films (that does not include The Last Crusade, sorry Leo). Oh and I totally liked the heroine that reminded me of half the goth try-hards I dated at university (and a little of myself). But I draw the line at encoded religious messages as keys to solving the mystery. I hated it when that pile of horse manure The Bible Code was doing the rounds and, frankly, it doesn't stink any less now. In this month of "Books I Swore I'd Never Read", can I just have one that doesn't use the bible as a plot device or thematic crutch? Hmmm, I wonder what this next one on my pile has in store... The Da Vinci Code. Ooooh, that looks like it's about art! I'm saved... in the non-religious sense, of course!

Review in Haiku: Apocryphal tidings/ In some middle aged wet dream/ What would Jesus do?


Bek said...

My biggest problem with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is that it didn't seem to know what kind of book it wanted to be. There was a half-decent murder mystery in the middle; pacy, but not overly novel, with a completely different, also fairly decent story book-ending it. The characters were interesting, but the writing average (although translated), so overall, I have no idea what all the hype was about.
ps. kudos to you for this month's challenge. I will continue to slander these novels with absolutely nothing to back it up.

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