Fahrenheit 9/11 reviewed

Recently, I watched Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 for the first time. I’ve sighted this doco at the video shop before, back when renting DVD’s was still the norm. However, documentary filmmaking did not hold my attention in those days. Released in ’04 during the height of the Iraq War, 9/11 is noted for being the highest-grossing doco of all time. Raking in $122 M at the box office, it is almost $50 M clear of the second-placer. Furthermore, 9/11 garnered the Palm D’or gong at Cannes, awarded annually for the best film screened at the Festival. This is in addition to the Oscar which Moore won for his work a year prior.

Riveting

All these accolades would indicate a riveting watch. On the other hand, one would wonder if the picture is still relevant. After all, it’s been fifteen years and the Iraq War and George Bush have long disappeared. However, we can learn a lot from retro films – especially those that a guru like Moore has produced. The sombre tone of the movie reminded me a little of The Untold History of U.S. Moore expertly laces army, war, and rally footage with his own interviews of involved subjects. From the bereaved to soldiers, army recruiters to bureaucrats, Congressmen to protesters, there is never a scarcity of intriguing players. The action unfolds in real time and we are aboard as the Secret Service questions Moore in front of the Saudi embassy.

Conspiracy theory

Like Untold, 9/11 aims to bring a long-running conspiracy to the fore. Though one sided in its rhetoric, Fahrenheit delivers its message, dropping a few bombs along the way. The scam of the Iraq War is Moore’s biggest missile. Rather than viewing the invasion as a response to 9/11, Moore advances that the war is the elite’s narcissist and greedy manoeuvre. Moore shows collusion at the highest levels and how Iraq’s oil reserves prompted the American invasion. As one Gordon Babbitt put it, ‘there’s no area for business as Iraq’. The filmmaker uncovers that the government’s tough stance against state-sponsored terror was all a show. For instance, the White House offered no explanation as to why over a hundred Saudis jetted out of the US two days after 9/11. As one pessimist maintained, they deserved to be questioned at the very least.

The War

Moore shows that we cannot trust our leaders. From the outset, he proposes the dodgy 2000 election result as exhibit-A. He focuses on the Florida outcome where Bush claims a dubious victory. He also shows how Bush practically took a five-month break to rehabilitate his image. Bush overlooked more pressing concerns which may have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Despite the War being a farce, the Army needed more lives to waste. They may have been 120,000-strong but must have been thrice as large. So, they sent officers on recruiting trips across the country. They promised hopes of a better life and went to poorer communities in particular, such as Lansing (Moore’s hometown). They swore that the new recruits would serve in America, but they were often the first ones sent to the battle zone. Bush also extended the so-called Coalition of the Willing, which included countries like Costa Rica and Morocco. This was all a ruse to justify the need for more Yankees in combat, as these states had marginal armies – if at all.

Where are the weapons?

Moore asks a lot of questions and he doesn’t discriminate. He heard that only one son out of two hundred Representatives was stationed in Iraq. He then set up outside Congress and tried to sell Iraq incursions to lawmakers. The Solons were dismissive. Speaking of Congress, they passed the Patriot Act without actually reading the bill. When questioned about this, they suggested that it was too much trouble. Moore instead resorted to reading the bill out loud outside the House. He seeks the family of the fallen warriors and shares their grief with the world. He even interviews some returned soldiers, reliving the horrors of war. At one point, he attends a nondescript, informal peace club that was an unwitting victim in the War. Early on, Moore showcased the injustice of government regulation, especially in what you can and cannot bring on planes. The director asserted that the government was sending the wrong memo. In the end, one older lady verbalised what everyone was thinking: ‘Where are the weapons of mass destruction?’

Lessons

Moore ends his film with two terrific quotes, including one by Orwell. The late atheist Christopher Hitchens has interpreted the 1984 quote as equating America with terrorists, the Taliban and jihadists. Others have posited Moore’s film as riddled with lies and half-truths, with little facts in between. I must admit that the movie never presents a balanced view and is clearly an anti-Bush campaign. You would really hate the portrayal if you were a Republican. Regardless, the doco was not only a ringing commercial success but critics likewise adored it upon release. Despite the touchy subject matter and some predictable backlash, the film is often cited as one of the best documentaries ever made. There is no doubt that, while the war is over, Fahrenheit is a relic that holds some important lessons. Fifteen years later, and with the video stores long gone, the message remains strong.   

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Captain Marvel reviewed

In March of this year, Marvel introduced another superhero in its cinematic universe. Captain Marvel might not be categorically fresh, having been featured in other media before then. However, the film adaptation represents the first iteration of the character in the big screen. Just this weekend, I finally sighted the blockbuster. As they say, ‘better late than never.’ I was impressed.

Carol

Marvel follows the story of Carol Danvers, a former pilot from California who gains superhuman abilities. She led a happy, contended life, where she often had to prove herself against tougher competitors. She played a lot of sport and had a small circle of loyal friends. At the picture’s outset, she fails to remember these precious memories. She is on another planet, Hala, where has little control over her powers. She has likewise been dubbed simply as ‘Vers’. Her past only visits her in her dreams. The shape shifting Skrulls are their sworn enemies. Her kindred refer to Earth as C-53.  

C-53

On her visit to C-53, she sticks out like a sore thumb, complete in her extra-terrestrial getup. She crashes into a video store, nicks a bike, and disassembles a pay phone. She catches the eyes of the authorities, including the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. One in particular, a younger Nick Fury, would work closely with her. As the battle goes on, we become versed on Flerkens and The Tesseract/Core, which is the cause of the squabbling. Despite her posthuman attributes, Carol is able to win her friends in her hour of need. Together they dodge the bad guys and journey to infinity and beyond. She visits familiar places in her search for answers. She would go on to uncover her past and solve her nagging questions. She’d realise that she has a place on Earth, that she is well accepted even with her marked differences. She gains a better understanding of her powers, and learns to harness it. She might even uncover a few lies along the way.  

 

Choreography

The movie was beautifully choreographed: the extra-terrestrial sequences, in outer space shots, as well as in the California ambience. The Hala shots were impressive, as were the fight scenes in outer space. The use of alien weaponry reminded me a little of Star Wars. The touch of zero gravity and objects levitating was awesome. I have to admit though that this stretched the boundaries of realism, as in how Carol’s friends managed to hover there without space suits. However, we don’t view Marvel films to stay true to reality. Since the film was set in the 90s, there’s a bit of a retro vibe. The technology in the U.S. was clearly a notch lower than that of today, from the dated cars and pagers to the existence of a video store. The story proceeded smoothly, moving from a confusing present to an obscure past.

Verdict

Brie Larsson was perfect for the role of Marvel. Sam Jackson added a few laughs and some spunk. Jude Law inspired both love and loathing as Carol’s mentor. Goose was on the ball as the feline friend. The movie though belonged to Larsson and she did a marvellous job, steering the picture to open at number one. The production also crested the billion dollar mark at the global box office, one of only a handful to do so this year. The reviews don’t lie: Captain Marvel soars high.  

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Stranger Things reviewed

I have a confession to make. I am Topher, and I’ve been hooked on Stranger Things (ST). There has never been more compulsive viewing than the sci-fi masterpiece. I remember watching every episode of Dexter but that is so last decade. If you want something novel, purposeful, captivating, and suspenseful, I recommend ST. I’ve devoured the first two seasons so far and I’m currently tackling the third. I have to admit that I am a newcomer to the bandwagon. I first heard of the show just recently. Before that, it wasn’t on my radar. Once I got started on the cold-blooded, it was hard to stop. The series is a chameleon: comic relief to fiery drama, edge of your seat thrills to teenage squabbles.

Ensemble

The programme follows four male teens from varying backgrounds: Will Bryers, Mike Wheeler, Lucas, and Dustin.  Set in small-town Indiana, the programme would go on to include more characters: Eleven, the mysterious but powerful girl who captures Mike’s heart. There’s Hopper, the chief policeman who would be a boon to the kids’ cause. Jonathan, Will’s older brother; Nancy, Mike’s older sister, who has her own cosmic struggles. Meanwhile, Steve is the school jock who transforms from Nancy’s boyfriend to a big brother to the troupe. Winona Ryder plays Joyce Bryers, who – while fragile – has a heart of gold. The evolution of the boys from playing Dungeons and Dragons to battling forces of evil, is riveting. Initially reluctant to let anyone else into their party, they open their arms and join forces against a common enemy. This villain goes beyond normal logic, and they occasionally utilise the help of their Science teacher. While at it, they likewise pool the strengths of other townsfolk: including Jonathan, Nancy, Joyce, Hopper, and later, Steve.    

Supernatural

This is not your classical Man v Man or even Man v Nature trope. Rather, this is Man V Supernatural. In the first two seasons, the dreaded Demogorgon is the primary villain. The vicious predator would hit close to home, and the town scrambles to combat the monster. The Demogorgon is a beast who preys on people’s minds and is very tough to stop. Without a thorough understanding, the monster would continue to wreak havoc. Compounding the peskiness of the Demogorgon is the so-called Hawkins Lab, a group of dodgy scientists in town. They separate the wheat from the chaff and take away the best young minds, only to spy on the leftovers. They are cruel to the victims of this arrangement, including the parents who are left without their kids. Moreover, they want their secrets to remain as such and would stop at nothing to attain this.

80’s overload

The show has a real 80s feel, which is understandable since it’s set in the early 80s. From the walkie-talkies to the retro cars, the unfashionable clothes to Polaroids, the nostalgia is on. The corded landlines and absence of mobile phones only add to the mystique; pagers are the exception. Instead of computers, these kids have Atari. They play VHS tapes rather than Blu-Rays. They employed snail mail and not email. They ride bikes as opposed to hoverboards. Even the cinemas and mall are laid out differently. Thus, the movie is very sentimental, like a time machine back to the days of yore.

Nexus

The key nexus is between adventurous Mike and new kid Eleven. It is Mike who christens Eleven as ‘El for short’. He welcomes her into his world, even as others are hesitant. He hides her from his family and tells her that ‘friends don’t lie’ and that promises are to be honoured. He introduces new things to her, like the TV. In like manner, El tears down her defences. Initially withdrawn, she gradually opens up to the gang. Eggo becomes her fave food, and she even steals a whole bunch from the supermarket. Mike has grand plans for them and plans to bring her to the school ball. They have their moments together. Between Mike and El, Lucas and Mike, Dustin and Lucas, even Nancy and Steve, drama abounds. They lose friends, regain them and then add some new pals.

Parallel universe

Maybe it’s the kid theme, the cute ensemble cast, or the retro look; perhaps even the talk of Demogorgon’s and Hawkins Lab. Regardless, I, like millions before me, have discovered the delights of ST. The programme creates an idyllic time, a parallel universe, before the trappings of modern technology. ST’s setup is dreamy, it is picturesque while revealing that even the most perfect landscapes could court unease. The epoch had people playing board games instead of Fortnite, where 5G was a pipe dream like Pluto. Soon, they would be swapping their joysticks for a journey to the Upside Down. 80s America was when you could stretch your dollar, where the tree-lined neighbourhood became a community. Unlike the same telco ad, there was no Skype and certainly no swipe right. If you couldn’t say it in person, then you hope that they’d be home to take your call. The eighties also marked the looming end of Cold War hostilities. Though the battles were drawing to a close, the tensions remained. ST draws on this uncertainty.

Being a teenager

The coming-of-age concept of the show is hard to ignore. We are there as these kids grow from bickering teens to wannabe town saviors. Perhaps they remind us of ourselves, or someone else. The devices and ambience may not be the same, but the teenage angst, procrastination, team building, and struggles are things that we could relate to. Indeed, the critics have spoken and every one of Stranger’s first three season had absurd ratings. So far, the show is not as highly-decorated as say, Game of Thrones, but is surely one of the coolest offerings out there, if not the coolest. Programmes come and go, but never has there been one that exemplifies being a teenager in troubled times more than Stanger Things.  

Rating: 5/5

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Eagle

This post is a little tardy. Last weekend marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Moon landing. Five decades ago, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin supposedly became the first pair of earthlings to step foot on our night orb. There has been some speculation on the veracity of this adventure. What is harder to douse is the elation the world felt as we witnessed two titans in space. Television at its finest, that’s what it was. Virtually everyone with a telly was glued to their screens. It was Endgame before Avengers, Princess of Wales before the demise of an English rose. I have posted about the mission before, while reviewing the Gosling movie, but this is different. This post tackles the real deal.

‘First Man’

I remember reading in World Book many moons ago that ‘space travel is man’s greatest adventure’. There have been dozens, maybe hundreds of manned U.S. missions to space but none that could topple Apollo 11 in consequence. They set out to do what a string of others could not: to put an American on the moon before the sixties was out. It was an odyssey ten years in the making. There were casualties, setbacks, and doubt. Much study and research were needed, and as noted – at the expense of Yankee lives. Astronauts lost their friends, families grieved their loved ones. This was very much the height of the Cold War, the so-called space race. The Soviets and Soyuz were hot on their heels and were first to put a man in the extra-terrestrial. Our satellite remained the next hurdle for galaxy runners. Enter Neil. We have heard of Armstrong’s greatness but of his resilience we may have not. He lost his daughter in the midst of chasing his dreams. He saw his friends vanish as he plotted his journey. His family was against him voyaging, as even he couldn’t promise that he would return after orbit.

Heroes

The epic was treacherous and flighty, but they soldiered on. The blast off from Florida was textbook, and incredibly, the whole affair went down smoothly. The massive audience on Earth was not disappointed. For about a day, the Apollo crew was docked on the moon. The research they undertook and the samples they brought back, greatly enhanced our understanding of our satellite. Of course, there was the American flag, which they famously planted on the lunar surface. It represented a victory not only for America, but for the whole world. The fact that the flag flew off days later doesn’t taint their heroism.

Legends

The first line Armstrong uttered on the lunar surface became stuff of legends. ‘That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.’ This proves his wisdom, and that NASA chose well in picking him for the pioneering task. Of course, Australia had a role to play in this saga. The satellite dish in country NSW was used in transmitting images from the moon to be beamed across the world. They even made a movie about it, titled The Dish. This was a team effort, more than anything. From the suits in Florida to the dispatchers in Houston, this wasn’t anything but a collaborative, Herculean effort. We have been gifted with the story of a lifetime, thanks to all these tireless hands on deck. The heroics of Armstrong has crossed over towards nearly all media. From books to TV to movies, there is no shortage of Moon adaptations. This past decade alone has seen a proliferation of zero gravity movies, from Gravity to Interstellar, The Martian to Arrival. Whether they’re dystopic such as 2001, or dramatic like Apollo 13, space probing comes in myriad ways.

Fifty

That all this transpired in 1969 makes this even more remarkable. Fifty years ago, the anchors on telly weren’t even alive. You don’t need to be kicking to know that the technology back then wasn’t the best. In half a century, we’ve managed to produce hoverboards, electric cars, and wireless charging but no one has been back to the night orb during our time. They wore baggy suits – Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. As time went by, the suits would change and so would the colours. The rockets would shift, the dishes employed, even the targets. These days, we are not merely contemplating a return to the moon, but an even more perilous foray into Mars. Private space companies are sprouting up, trying to convince us that we can buy our dreams without rigorous training and support. Armstrong isn’t even around anymore, but his legacy lives on. Being an astronaut and a part of history remains the coolest fantasy for every kid out there.

Pause and Remember

As we reminisce fifty years since the moon landing, let us pause and remember those who have fallen asleep in the hope of one day seeing mankind rise again. For every Armstrong, there are others who sadly didn’t make it. For every successful Apollo mission, there were those who weren’t as blessed. We could regroup and learn from our mistakes so that someday, the next Armstrong would be inspired to trek new frontiers.

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Mid-winter inventory

It’s been seven weeks since my last list. Since then, Ash Barty has become the women’s world number one. Donald Trump has stepped foot in North Korea. Pinoy fishermen have been amid a ‘maritime incident’. FaceApp and the bottle challenge are the new craze. Meanwhile, through chilly winter, I have steadily chipped away at parts of five works; in all, I perused four novels and one memoir. Here is a recap of the past two months:

The Beekeeper of Aleppo (Christy Lefteri). I wouldn’t dwell too much on this one as I had already detailed this during my Long Weekend post. I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I almost gave up on Beekeeper, until I took it up again. I realised it wasn’t so bad after all. I wouldn’t concur that it is ‘beautifully written’, but it is a worthwhile – if sad – read regardless. 

Rating: 4/5

Shoe Dog (Phil Knight). This represents my only foray into non-fiction for this catalogue. Knight’s memoir is probably the best book in this list. Not coincidentally, JM Boehringer – who co-wrote Open – also ghost wrote this one. Both titles end up being polished, accessible, and a joy to read. Shoe Dog takes us through the journey of Nike’s early days. We are given an insider’s look from Knight’s travels to his trunk business; his struggle with equity and branching out. We empathise with Knight in his scouring for brand ambassadors. We learn about Blue Ribbon, the fledgling initiative that would become Nike, Inc. We are courtside with Knight as he deals with Japanese executives, the backbone of his shoe-importing business. We grasp the social issues that surround his empire, including his search for factories and the revolving door of employees. More importantly, we get to see the faces behind the Swoosh, the early innovators who made Nike possible. All this is done in candid, humorous fashion.    

Rating: 4.6/5

Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton). A bit of a departure from Shoe Dog, the writing style being more challenging. However, this debut novel is just as much-loved as the latter, and is a national bestseller. Dalton’s debut has a bit of everything: bildungsroman, love story, family ties, crime fighting, law breaking, death, and so on. No doubt it packs a lot in its pages. Unlike millions of others, the opening chapters didn’t immediately enrapture me. Boy is something that’ll grow on you. While promoted as a coming-of-age story, the Queensland town could represent Oz in miniature. The actors, players, set designers and director all highlight the concerns, hopes, and dreams of a nation. Dalton uses flawed characters such as August (the mute elder brother) and Slim (the grizzled inmate/escapee) in relaying a message that resonates beyond the limits of this text. I would recommend this book for any adult seeking a challenging but very rewarding read.  

Rating: 4.7/5   

The Crossing (Michael Connelly). It’s back to my fave author; hard to believe but seven books have passed since my last Connelly (The Poet). In this edition, Harry Bosch returns to team up with criminal defence attorney Mickey Haller as they try to vindicate their black client. Newly retired LAPD cop Bosch is adjusting to his new life when Haller approaches him. Doing so (working with the felon) would make Bosch betray everything he believed in, never mind being a pariah in his former department. Horror gives way to intrigue and Bosch enlists the help of Lucia Soto his former partner to get to the bottom of this once and for all. Bosch proves invaluable to the case, getting angles that the defence has so far overlooked. He not only faces opposition but may unearth corruption and a dark side to the department he holds dear. Side note: I saw this novel on the shelf in 2016, but it was far from the first Connelly I read. 

Rating: 4.55/5

The Storyteller (Picoult). I haven’t read a Picoult since two lists ago. This would be her third book that I’ve examined, and my twentieth book of the year overall. I am only a quarter through this one, and it reminds me of Boy. The writing is not like The Pact, and more like Small Great Things. This is unsurprising since she deals with two heavy themes: The Holocaust and euthanasia. In a quiet town in New Hampshire, Sage works the night shift in a bakery to escape from a judgmental world. She was involved in a car accident that left her with scars – both physical and emotional. Crafting bread is the thing that gives her joy and purpose. She would meet Josef, a nonagenarian who frequents their bakery with his dog. All is not what is seems and everyone’s favourite coach turns out to be a former Nazi guard. He singles out Sage, knowing she is Jewish, and asks her to kill him. When does justice spill over onto revenge? Whose is justice to give? Would killing an SS agent ‘be murder, or justice?’ Storyteller is definitely one of Picoult’s stronger efforts. She even uses different fonts for her characters. You’d be wise to pick this up.  

Rating: 4.5/5

So, there you have it: five books, five different authors; four novels, one memoir. Two books were from last year, one was released this fall, and two were from earlier times. I finished Beekeeper in a week, while Boy was done in two. Happy reading! 

Next picture: Rosie Result

Coming Soon:

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Spider-Man: Far from Home reviewed

The second instalment of the new Spidey saga was in its second week when my friend and I checked it out at Burwood yesterday. Far from Home had great hype, with sky-high reviews and audience numbers across the board. I did not catch Homecoming in the cinemas, as I was getting ready for the snow trip. I watched it a little later instead. Missing the latter was a shame since I believe it was a much more polished film than this one. The first film was a coming of age tale with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) only just discovering his great power and responsibility. This one was nowhere near as well-proportioned as Spider-Man 2 (2004), which my pal deems the best one overall. Brace yourself for a spoiler-free Spidey review.

Banal

Don’t get me wrong, this instalment is a good blockbuster that has its moments. However, things have become a bit redundant and predictable, something to be expected since this is the seventh Spidey film overall. In particular, saving his friends and loved ones against evil demons is banal. The piece does introduce a new baddie, Mysterio, one of the few novel concepts in an increasingly ageing franchise. With his use of illusions and drones, the latter is more Matrix than Marvel opponent. He uses his savviness in recruiting a bunch of outcasts to his fold, vowing to nab Parker and friends once and for all. He has the element of surprise.  

New Set

Finding a new set for Spidey was a boon. As seen in the trailer, Peter and his classmates head to Europe, where Parker seeks to win Mary Jane’s affections. Peter’s attempts repeatedly get sidetracked or shot down, which keeps us rapt till the end. Europe provides some dainty shots, from the London Bridge to a Dutch tulip field and a fair in Prague. As a side note, Venice wasn’t portrayed very well. Spidey has evolved from merely your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman who fights villains in Gotham. My bud was reminded of his recent stop at London as we took in the Bridge. Before our viewing, he told me that he found the title ironic. Tom Holland is from the UK, which means he’s actually coming home.

Spidey doubts

Doubt remains a key component in this one, as in the past. While being groomed to save the world, Peter keeps questioning himself, keeps asking whether he is good enough. As his boss, Nick Fury, gives him his orders, Parker struggles to balance his teenage dreams with his Spidey aims. Like in all prior editions, he has to choose: MJ or saving the day; love or the cause. Zendaya plays MJ well, and as my friend noted, is about the same age as Holland. They make a cute couple. He likewise said that Holland is his ideal Spidey, since he could pass off as a teenager. Parker’s life in this edition is something we have all come to know. The nerdy adolescent who couldn’t give MJ his pendant or speak out to his classmates, but who ends up donning his Spidey suit and swings across buildings. As usual, he gets the unstinting loyalty of his friends throughout, something that greatly aids his fight. Will he win her heart? More importantly, can he do this without revealing his alter ego?

Fusion

Spidey is obviously an action flick, but I argue that it has elements of dramedy. While not as drama-heavy as Avengers: Endgame, Far from Home has spurts of theatrics. In general, though, the film was light-hearted like other Marvel pictures. There are also mid- and end-credit scenes that are worth a look. The film’s plot may be cliché but one that proceeds from Endgame and the blip event, something that has curious consequences the world over. These changes are apparent even in Parker’s class, which becomes a microcosm. Jake Gyllenhaal is also solid as Mysterio. Speaking of which, my friend thought it reminded him of his other performance: Prince of Persia. We had seen that movie together. When asked if he’ll see the next Spidey sequel, he said he will. I didn’t feel a similar pull. Personally, they’ve ridden this horse as far as they could. 

Rating: 3.7/5

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DNF Shelf

Camus

Every once in a while, we come across books that are too good for us. Perhaps they are too dense or too descriptive or just too darn ambitious. Regardless, we are better off leaving them. In basketball parlance, these no-shows are called DNP- CD (did not play – coach’s decision). In the readers’ world, these unwanted books are annexed to the veritable DNF shelf. Did Not Finish. This year, my book pool has stretched. With that comes my fair share of bad reads. The following is a list of books that didn’t tickle my fancy.

The Plague (Camus). A literary classic written by a renegade French-Algerian philosopher, this had all the inklings of a must-read. Though he left us rather soon, Camus was one of the youngest recipients of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The language awed many people and moved me to get my hands on a copy. Alas, the hoopla was misdirected. After twenty pages, I can’t see the forest for the trees. After forty, I knew that I was just forcing myself to continue. I thought that the plot and writing would get better, but I was mistaken. Camus’s job title was a giveaway. He finds the reason in everything. I decided that I couldn’t stick around for a bit, as I was taking an unnecessary exercise.

For Whom the Bells Toll (Hemingway). This was my first Hemingway and it was not a good intro. His prose has demi-god status among writers, his works legendary. His maximalist style immediately bothered me. Imagine a paragraph spread across two pages. I guess you could say that we started on the wrong foot, but I quit after thirty pages. Some said it’s best to start with his stories before progressing to novellas and finally, novels. I guess I should’ve gotten the memo. In fairness, the novel had a rather cool plot set during the Spanish civil war. However, this backfires as the translation from Spanish leads to many awkward phrasings.

A Clockwork Orange (Burgess). An instant classic when it was released in the sixties, Orange became a media sensation with its depiction of teen violence and hedonism. It gained even more notoriety after being adapted into a Kubrick film. The most defining thing about the book, apart from the unabashed devilry, was the language used. Burgess being a linguist, the text is peppered with words and phrases that have been given new meaning. The author christens this register of words as the Nadsat. Some say it takes a period of adjustment to grasp the new patois, but that job was beyond me. Though the adaptation was sad to watch, I liked it much better than the text.  

Note: I won’t name-drop living authors on this list.

Many moons ago, I saw the movie with my friend and it was worth it. So, I expected a lot when I grabbed a copy of the 2013 novel which formed the basis of the picture. I did some research and the book was well-loved. Once I started perusing the text, my enthusiasm was quickly doused. The writing reminded me of his next novel, released late last year. No offence, but from my perspective, there was hardly anything beauteous in it. It was hard to read and employed a lot of internal monologues and description, way too much in my opinion. Given that it was 600 pages, I decided to move on.

I borrowed this book by a contemporary Australian writer. She had grand ambitions and charted her journey through the Outback in search of country. There was some hype surrounding this output, so I anticipated a fairly straightforward read. Contrary to her glowing reviews, I disliked it to the point that I dropped it and stopped chipping away. It was nice of her to celebrate her culture and find common ground among Aussies. It just so happened that her valiant efforts failed to strike a chord with me.

Honourable mention: As I shared before, I almost gave up on The Beekeeper of Aleppo. However, upon trying a second time I realised that it wasn’t so bad. I ended up finishing said novel and sparing it of a potential relegation to the DNF. While many people would allege that these books are classics and bestsellers, we are all unique. In the end, to paraphrase a quote, two of us will never ever read the same book.

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