Books catch up: The Leopard, My Happy Days in Hell, Middlesex, Kafka on the Shore

Two more admissions of failure: one for not updating this blog each time I finish a book in the last few months; and the other for not finishing a particular book. But we’ll get to that. Here are the four (or three and a half) books I’ve read recently:

Book 21: The Leopard by Guiseppe di Lampedusa

I came extremely close to giving up on The Leopard, but it was short enough and occasionally interesting enough to power through. I can see its appeal for the politically-minded, but I found that, for every witty and enlightening description of the human condition, there were two more verbose descriptions of wallpaper or wood panelling – and it was this attention to seemingly insignificant detail that completely turned me off.

Book 22: My Happy Days in Hell by György Faludy

I’d read quite a section of My Happy Days in Hell before I discovered it was not fiction but autobiography. The author is a poet, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that his prose is quite lyrical, giving off the aura of a novel. He’s also distinctly unlikeable, which seems so much easier to accept in a work of fiction than in a true story. And, like The Leopard, this is a novel flitting between two styles: on the one hand, an interesting examination of humanity; on the other, accounts of extremely dull conversations about communism and other political topics. I tried, I really tried, but I just couldn’t sit this one out.

Book 23: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

What can I say about Middlesex that hasn’t already been said? Nothing, so here are some quotations with which I agree:

“A vastly realized, multi-generational novel as highspirited as it is intelligent … its real triumph is its emotional abundance, delivered with consummate authority and grace” – Pulitzer Board.

“Thrilling in the scope of its imagination and surprising in its tenderness” – Tami Hoag.

“Epic and wondrous” – Andrew O’Hehir

Book 24: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Really, I have no idea what happened in Kafka on the Shore, and despite incorrectly assuming it was drawing towards a satisfying explanation, I really quite enjoyed reading it. The conversations Murakami’s characters have sometimes veer towards the inanity I so disliked in Paulo Coelho’s attempts at profundity, yet somehow always save themselves, revealed to be poetically fascinating instead. I’d still like to know what happened, but I had a good time nonetheless.

Two books to go…