Thursday, January 07, 2016

Challenge Accepted! December Books

Sad confession time.  I only got through 1.5 books in December.

And the only reason I have taken so long to blog about them is because I really wanted to at least finish the second book so I could write about two, not just one.

December is a busy, crazy month, so I'm don't feel too bad about failing the 2015 Reading Challenge. I only missed it by three books. I consider that pretty good!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (A book set during Christmas)

Another sad confession. I've never read A Christmas Carol - until now, of course.  I have, however, seen A Muppet's Christmas Carol, and like most people, I knew the story.

What can I say? It's a Christmas classic. I spent the whole time reading seeing Michael Cain, Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Gonzo.  I could not even remotely imagine Bob Cratchit as a human or the Ghost of Christmas Present anything other than a giant puppet. And there was only one Marley... Even so, kudos to the Muppets for following the book almost word-for-word.

I'm not sure if this is a commentary on the book or the movie.

Daniel Martin by John Fowles (A book with more than 500 pages)

Ahhh. Now this is the book I wanted to talk about.

"A masterpiece of symbolically charged realism....Fowles is the only writer in English who has the power, range, knowledge, and wisdom of a Tolstoy or James." (John Gardner, Saturday Review)

First, a little background. I love background.

I took a modern fiction course in college with Ellen Gilchrist. In that class, Prof. Gilchrist introduced us to a wide array of fantastic novels I'd never heard of. Even the ones I didn't love still made a lasting impact on me. In that one class, she introduced me to three books I'll never forget, two of which have become lifetime favorites, and one of which literally changed the way I looked at literature forever.

That last one was 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But Daniel Martin is one of the two that has become a lifetime favorite.

I chose this book as my "book with more than 500 pages", knowing that choosing it would mean not completing my challenge. I was okay with that. This book is no quick and easy read. The plot develops slowly yet steadily, like life. No details are omitted. Deep introspection of the narrator and thorough psychoanalysis of the supporting characters accompanies every small moment. Reading this book is like reading God's diary. How do I even begin to describe this novel?

It is the most intelligent, intellectual, insightful, raw, honest, and challenging book I can think of. 

To give the plot line almost does the book a disservice, because it is so much more than just a story. Daniel Martin is a middle-aged British screenwriter, living in California, coming to terms with his past, present, and future, all of which seem in some way to take the form of the females in his life: his grown daughter, his ex-wife, his young girlfriend, his ex-sister-in-law. The past he has spent his entire present trying to put behind him finally pulls him back when his estranged ex-brother-in-law/best friend requests to see him one last time before he dies of cancer. Daniel must return to England and face all that he has successfully ignored for far too long.

Daniel Martin is a story. It is also politics. It is religion. It is psychology, sociology, anthropology. Throw in the discreet and moving sex scenes, and it's biology. This is my third time to read it, and like the two times before it, I have learned in it new things about humanity and about myself. It took all of December and a week of January to finish, and that's with steady reading. It is so dense, so rich, it can't be taken in all at once.It has to be read in chunks, chewed on, mulled over, considered.

However, if you have the patience and want to read a really great book, I highly recommend it.

Oh, one more thing. You know that song "Nightswimming" by R.E.M.? I like to think Michael Stipe got the idea from this book. It was listening to that song that made me decide Daniel Martin would be my 500 page book. (More like 640.)

So what did I not manage to read in 2015?

Three books:
A classic romance (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)
A book your mom loves (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson)
A book that came out the year you were born (The Color Purple by Alice Walker)

All of which remain on my To-Read List for 2016.

To see what else I have read this year:

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