6/17/09

A Prayer for Owen Meany


It's been a long time coming to finish Owen Meany. It is a political novel, it is a religious novel, it is a coming-of-age novel. It is about searching for identity, love (both romantic and familial), war, on and on and on.

"WE HAVE A GENERATION OF PEOPLE WHO ARE ANGRY TO LOOK FORWARD TO," Owen said. "AND MAYBE TWO GENERATIONS OF PEOPLE WHO DON'T GIVE A SHIT," he added.

Owen Meany, though he annoyingly shrieks in capitals through the entire novel because of his freakishly high-pitched voice, is equal parts nut and sage, prophet and detective, rebellious and loyal. He's almost too perfect, but he is balanced out by our narrator Johnny Wheelwright.

The book begins as John reminisces about his childhood and his best friend Owen, it continues with huge events that define a lifetime. Own accidentally kills John's mother with a foul ball, Owen at the age of 8 takes the place of the baby Jesus in swaddling clothes, grandma gets a TV, Owen predicts his own death, the Vietnam War begins, etc, etc.

About half-way through the novel, it becomes more obvious that this novel is a flashback. The author begins telling two stories at once, the story of Johnny's childhood and the story of his current adulthood, simultaneously until event begin to overlap and everything falls into place for the reader. Admittedly, I began getting bored of the book during this middle part. I think the the book definitely benefits from this style of writing, because a completely chronological story would be boring and flat. It helps to build and create and shape the characters and helps lend realism and credibility to the fantastic nature of Owen Meany. The end though picked up pace and finished strong.

I can't speak to the religious nature of this book because it bored me. There was a lot of talk about the differences between Catholics and Episcopalians and I am sure a ton of references and metaphors in things that happened in the book, for instance Owen defaces a statue of Mary Magdalene by removing her from her pedestal. There are also decidedly obvious references to Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter.

Since I was not reading this novel for a class, I didn't take notes in it and on it as I usually would, but this book is definitely ripe to be picked apart. I'm sure I'll look up more information on the novel later, but as of today I've only looked at a writer's biography. I've also heard that there was a movie based on this book called Simon Birch, but the premis sounds a lot better. I also read on Wikipedia that John Irving let them write a screen play based on the novel but would not let them use the same names from his novel. Also the Simon Birch character who is based on Owen Meany is a dwarf while the cause of Owen Meany's short-stature and voice is never discovered in the novel.

6/14/09

Pygmy

I am sad that this is my first post....

I imagine the author is going to get a lot of flak for this book. I found the idea for the book obvious and the ending anti-climatic. I like to take "breaks" with books like these from my usual reading. Palahniuk couldn't really be listed as one of my favorite authors or anything, but he is a regular. I have read all of his books- the serve like my version of the romance novel, I'll read it once and then it goes to live the rest of it's life on some shelf at Half-Price Books.

Typically Palahniuk's books are an easy read, accessible, flow quickly.... and they have a level of vulgarity, depravity, etc (think Fight Club). There is usually something memorable about his books, even if it is just the urban legend he creates on the pages. But this book doesn't have it.

Come to think of it, last summer I was in this exact same position with Palahniuk and Snuff. He is failing to live up to his own name. He is relying too heavily on the vulgarity factor- a rape scene between the main character and a bully within the first 50 pages, references to "Pygmy's" turgid member, and constant jabber about impregnating 15 year old girls.

And I haven't even mentioned the voice of the narrator "Pygmy" that Palahniuk chooses to use in this novel. Palahniuk's character is a native of an unknown nation who has come to America. For whatever reason this character cannot speak English and doesn't seem to follow any language conventions. Even a non-native speaker wouldn't do this poorly and even after being in the USA for a few months, his language never improves as might be expected. The language is vague and confusing. I know the purpose of using this style, but when it takes a toll on the clarity and quality of a novel, this device should be abandoned fast.

The only thing this books did for me was forever link the word turgid and penis.

Greetings



Created with every intention to keep track of the great 2009 reading list. Like most college student (I hope...) I read so many books throughout the year, I can't even dream of keeping track. So, the experiment begins....

So far this year- completed since Jan 1, some were started in 2008 so I'm cheating a little.