Tender is the Night

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I read Tender Is the Night just after finishing Schindler’s Ark – I badly needed a change in setting after reading almost 400 pages on the holocaust.

The story begins just as in The Great Gatsby. A newcomer to the French Riviera meets a clique of rich people and discovers their world of wonders. What happens after however is a far cry from what you can imagine.

Expectedly, the exquisite words Fitzgerald uses help create an ethereal world. One memorable event for me is the dinner scene at the beginning, which felt like a dream. I remember feeling exactly what Rosemary felt at that point. It was intense, almost magical. There are also some scenes of immense poetry between the story’s lovers. My favourite scene is the one with Dick unable to play a tune on the piano because Nicole is within earshot. His inability at doing so is a powerful mirroring of his state of mind.  (I don’t wish to give away any spoiler)

I was also impressed with the degree of freedom Fitzgerald allowed himself in writing the book. His style feels even more idiosyncratic; he uses dashes, inverted commas and ellipses whenever he wants to. One can mistake him for somebody gone a bit crazy with the pen, but he’s quite like a Picasso in fact. The leitmotifs he uses throughout the book along with the clues sprinkled here and there show that he is in charge of the story and has a clear idea of what he wants it to convey. Besides, it is for this reason that I think Tender Is the Night is better enjoyed upon one’s second reading and onward.

While I really liked The Great Gatsby, I still thought Fitzgerald was an author who played it safe, despite himself or not. What I mean is, I thought, maybe because of the time he lived in, he would not be too adventurous with taboo themes. But I was mistaken. Badly. There is one particular scene in the book where the term ‘Daddy’s Girl’ takes a completely different meaning, and I was really surprised upon reaching it.

If I was impressed that much with Tender Is the Night, then why did I rate it only 4 stars on goodreads? That’s mainly because Fitzgerald’s writing sometimes makes some passages so abstract and confusing that I found myself staring at a page, trying to make out what was happening in a scene. This somehow correlates with my above statement; the beauty of the book is better appreciated when you read it for a second time.

If asked, I would say I prefer The Great Gatsby over Tender Is the Night. The latter is technically the better book though. However iconic Gatsby’s story is, it is his [Fitzgerald’s] last book that shows how ahead of his time he was. For Tender Is the Night is not just a story rich with intricacies; it is a veritable lesson on the craft of writing by a master storyteller.

It beggars belief that this book was published in 1934!

Read: The Collector (John Fowles)

I noticed this book on a huge table dedicated to compelling reads in Waterstones. The blurb was tempting enough, but I preferred checking it out online first before buying it. It turned out that it is one of the most popular classics published by Vintage. It was easy to find out why.

The Collector is hugely compelling. So much so that it was almost impossible to put it down. I think in recent years this is one of the books I’ve finished really fast. First off, the English is simple and fluid. Then, it is very well structured. I thought Fowles, with such a plot as this, would linger on the kidnapper’s psyche and past, but he is instead very to the point. He uses paragraphs very economically and efficiently. Besides, where this story could have easily gone off the rails and become another absurd Hollywood flick, Fowles keeps to a realism that, ultimately, is what makes this book so intense.  Indeed, the collector is a sick, worryingly sick, persona, and reading his account of events felt just like delving into the mind of a real psychopath. The ending was particularly sick. Sick: I cannot find a better word to describe what I thought of the man. I also liked how Fowles’ painted the kidnapped as yet another of the collector’s preys. Some phrases he used in this sense were very apt and deftly lucid.

I was quite surprised with the narration, to be honest. I knew so little about the story that the peculiarity of the book had a pleasant, unexpected impact on me. I don’t wish to give away what this peculiarity is, and I guess I would advise people to avoid spoilers at all costs when it comes to this book.

To conclude, The Collector belongs to the lot of those delightful modern classics that don’t feel quaint and instead introduces you to novelty in structure, language and plot. I’ve  recently finished The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Schindler’s Ark, two monumental reads, but The Collector is still one of those very good books that have already made 2016 a memorable year.

Alice Munro’s Stories#2: Dear Life

Alice Munro is very easily among the greatest authors to have ever lived. As far as short stories are concerned, I don’t think we will ever see the like of her again. To be so consistent over so many years with so many stories in so many collections, you have to be a once-in-a-lifetime author. Continue reading “Alice Munro’s Stories#2: Dear Life”

5 Authors and Some Creepy Facts About Them

I got spooked yesterday by a kid while coming off the bus.It reminded me that Halloween is nigh and that I should post something relevant to celebrate!

Here are 5 interesting facts I found about some well-known authors:

1.Emily Bronte used to beat her British Bullmastiff called Keeper to a pulp and until its eyes were all swollen whenever it was found napping on one of the beds in the house.Moreover,every time Keeper would fight against other dogs on the street,Emily would pour pepper in the poor creature’s eyes.The funny thing is that she would always nurse the dog’s wounds afterwards,and Keeper would remain loyal to her.

2.Agatha Christie would disappear suddenly on Friday 3 December 1926.She was already famous by then,and her disappearance sparked an unprecedented manhunt: one thousand policeman,hundreds of civilians and airplanes were all involved.She was eventually found in a hotel in Harrogate,11 days after she was last seen.She couldn’t help the police in explaining the incident,for she didn’t remember anything.Christie would never talk about what had happened during those 11 days later in her life,leaving the speculation to the media and her fans.

3.Ambrose Bierce took a trip to Mexico at the age of 71 to cover the Mexican Revolution and was never seen since.Some say that he had been killed by a firing squad while others believe that he never went to Mexico,but committed suicide instead.

4.Charles Dickens was fascinated with dead people and used to visit the Paris morgue to stare at dead bodies.He also liked to watch these cadavers being worked on.

5.Edgar Allan Poe tells the story of four sailors adrift at sea in his novel ”The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”.Having no food on board,the young cabin boy suggests that they draw lots so that the one with the shortest lot will be sacrificed and eaten.The loser turns out to be the cabin boy himself.His name was Richard Parker.Forty-six years later,the Mignonette was ship wrecked,forcing its four-man crew to move on a 13-foot lifeboat.Far from sea and starving,the other men rationalized to kill their young cabin boy who was dying anyway.His name was Richard Parker.