Saturday, November 2, 2013

October’s Books

Hello, Party Peoples!

This is your better-late-than-never reminder that my always exciting Literary Stylings Link Party is coming up on Tuesday the 5th.  If you want more information on this rockin' good time, you can find it here.

So, October was a very strange and stressful month for me and I’m afraid I didn’t get around to reading many books.  In fact, I only read two.  But, I figure this will allow me some room to talk more about them. 

Let me start by saying that, happily, this time around I enjoyed both of the books that I read.  More or less. 

Please to allow me to explain that last bit.

The first book I read is The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan:

According to Wikipedia, “a panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether they are being watched or not.  (Wikipedia goes on to say that Bentham thought the panopticon design would be great for all matter of institutions, including daycare facilities!  Seriously.)

If that definition and daycare suggestion doesn't quite help you picture what we're talking about, this is a panopticon:

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the book.  As I said, I enjoyed this book.  It was heartbreaking at times, but I think that just means the author did a good job.

The novel is about a troubled youth named Anais, who is sent to a panopticon institution.  Anais believes that her life is not really her life but is part of an experiment where she is under constant surveillance by the watchers.  As you can imagine, being sent to an institution designed to keep you under constant surveillance is not easy to handle for someone who already suffers from the sort of paranoia Anais suffers from. 

The author did a good job with this concept and with Anais’ voice.  Really, my only complaint about this novel is that it is written in the Scottish (I think) vernacular and I have the hardest time reading things in vernacular without saying them aloud.  Fagan wasn’t as difficult to read as Irvine Welsh, but I did a LOT of mumbling to myself as I read all the “cannae” and dinnae” statements in this book. 

Also, just as a warning, in case you’re thinking a book about a 15-year old heroine would be a great book for the young reader in your life, this is NOT a YA novel.  At all. 

The other book I read is Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin:

Yes, more Atwood.  What can I say; she’s one of my favorites.  Although, having read both her futuristic fiction (The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood) and her historical fiction (Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin), I think I prefer the futuristic fiction.  Don’t get me wrong, The Blind Assassin is a lovely novel, just as Alias Grace was, but I prefer the others more.

That’s just a personal preference though; The Blind Assassin is really very good.  It’s sort of two books in one and it’s a mystery as well as historical fiction and I highly recommend it.  This was a book that I couldn't stop reading because of how well it was written.  Atwood’s device of setting a novel-within-a-novel added to the mystery and worked very well.

So, why do I prefer the futuristic fiction?  Because I’m afraid of the future.  I don’t mean the future as in tomorrow, or next week or even next year.  No, I mean the future as in 2033 when things get all dystopian and stuff.  And, like anyone else who watches/reads scary stuff, I like that little frisson of fear.   For example, Oryx and Crake?  Just the ChickieNobs Nubbins alone scare the crap out of me.

And don’t get me started on The Handmaid’s Tale; seriously terrifying stuff.  Speaking of which, I guess there is a new cover for it now?  Have you guys seen this?

Isn't that both horrible and perfect for the book? 

Anyway, read The Blind Assassin, it’s good.  And if you like dyslit (dystopian literature), read Atwood’s futuristic fiction; there are frissons galore.

And don’t forget to join in on Tuesday!

Happy Saturday, All!