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All reviews - Movies (25) - Books (38)

[Book] A Wild Sheep Chase

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 30 December 2007 01:03 (A review of A Wild Sheep Chase)

This book came highly recommended to me by Robyn, and it didn't disappoint, not until the end anyway. The story is unique and absorbing, and the author has many insightful observations and a clear writing style (as far as the translation goes). The novel reads at times like a fantasy since Murakami is known for using supernatural and mythical elements in his work. In the case of A Wild Sheep Chase, the story revolves around a mythical sheep for which the nameless male protagonist goes on a search across Japan, and thus ensues an unusual adventure. In the novel, the mythical and the fantastic are often woven together by strings of symbols, subtle or otherwise. Murakami loves his symbolism, sometimes a bit too much (such as the weird thing about 'ears'), and I still don't know how I feel about his portrayal of women. I think one issue I have with the book is that its characters don't seem human, and that is perhaps intentional on the author's part. They are not supposed to be human because they symbolize something larger, something representative, perhaps, of Japan as a nation and the Japanese as a people.

I was entertained and drawn in by the story, but I hated the ending. I was disappointed by the unexpectedly simple resolution to the major mystery in the novel - the identity of the oh so important sheep. I guess I was expecting something less blatant and more subtle. Then again, it might be a bias on my part to judge the book according to the standards of post-modern literature in the west. My lack of knowledge about Japan and its spiritualism might work to my disadvantage when it comes to appreciating the book. Sometimes it is a question of taste, but when reading a novel about a culture I'm not familiar with, I do not pretend I'm in the best position to judge it.

Despite my dislike for the ending, however, I enjoyed most of the novel, and perhaps I would be motivated enough one day to read up on it and then re-read it to see if I still feel the same way. Or maybe I'll try its sequel, Dance Dance Dance


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[Book] Life, the Universe and Everything

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 30 December 2007 12:48 (A review of Life, the Universe and Everything (Hitchhiker's Trilogy))

Overall, the trilogy was an enjoyable read even though the parts are greater than its sum. My favorite is The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which is the only book I've read twice in this trilogy. For some reason, I enjoyed it more the second time around. Guess I could appreciate more the philosophy behind the quirky British humour on a second perusal.

The third book is certainly up to the standards of the previous books, but I wish the authour has developed the characters more. It seems as if the characters are only the tools for the story, and it's hard to sympathize or care about tools.


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[Book] Reformed Coquet & Accomplished Ra

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 30 December 2007 12:45 (A review of Reformed Coquet (Eighteenth-century Novels by Women))

This book consists of three novels written by Mary Davys. I only read Reformed Coquet and The Accomplished Rake for class.

It took me a while to get used to the 18th-century language. The strange spellings aside, it was confusing to read a book where the dialogue was not broken down into paragraphs or assigned clearly to a speaker. Both novels turned out to be interesting reads. I specially enjoyed the subversive nature of the stories and the witty dialogue that constantly called into question gender roles as socially constructed performances. These novels are definitely better than Pamela, which I still can't bring myself to finish.


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[Book] The Adventures of Ali & Ali

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 30 December 2007 12:39 (A review of The Adventures of Ali and Ali and the AXes of Evil: A Divertimento for Warlords)

A wacky play in the tradition of [Link removed - login to see]">agitprop theatre. I read the play before I saw it on stage, and both made me laugh out loud. The play is politically charged and very very silly. One thing I have noticed about the plays I have read and seen is that the play on stage is constantly evolving, changing through time. It's very common for the playwright to modify his or her play depending on the time and place it is performed. Therefore, it seems to me that play is alive and the text is dead, that is to say, the play on the page really can't compete with the live version of it. Plays are meant to be seen first and foremost, and Ali & Ali is no exception and probably particularly so. It updates with current events, so when I saw the play, it had included the recent Prophet Muhammad cartoon controversy (they played a video of a Jesus-like character who ran around in the street half-naked to the tune of "I will Survive" and then got run over by the bus), the latest development with Iraq and the Bush administration, etc. The play only has two characters from a made-up Middle Eastern country who try to sell things to the Canadian audience throughout. My favourite part was the satirical ethnic family plays within the play (which always end up with one character dying and the other saying "Damn you, Canadian dream!"); I found them hilarious for some reason (Robyn thinks I'm weird).


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[Book] Tempting Providence

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 30 December 2007 12:39 (A review of Robert Chafe: Two Plays)

Saw the play on stage first and later read the text for my Canadian Lit paper. The text version does not do justice to the play. A lot of the physical choreography isn't even mentioned in the text.


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[Book] Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasi

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 30 December 2007 12:37 (A review of Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasin)

A very strange First Nations play that is a mix of humour, tragedy, reality and fantasy. It tackles many issues facing the First Nations in Canada, such as the conflicts of religions, the impact of residential schools, the cycle of violence, alcoholism and poverty. Some of the scenes in this play are really hard to visualize because they are just so weird, but the play leaves a strong impression on the reader, and I'm sure it would have left an even stronger impression on me if I was seeing it on stage.


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[Book] Never Swim Alone

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 30 December 2007 12:36 (A review of Never Swim Alone and This is a Play)

Again, I rather watch this play on stage than read it. A very strange play that relies a lot on the choreography of its physical theatre, which the print version is simply incapable of expressing fully. The whole play consists of only 3 characters, and the story involves the 2 male characters competing for the lone female's affection on the strange setting of a beach. It's a surreal story in which the subtext is the text; everything is meant to be taken symbolically. To simply put, the play is about masculinity and how far men would go to prove they are the alpha male; it is a pissing contest (the characters at one point compare the lengths of their penises). There isn't really a plot per se, just rapid gunfire dialogue and intense physical interplay between the two male characters. I liked the play but wished I was seeing it on stage instead of reading it.


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[Book] The Second Maiden's Tragedy

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 30 December 2007 12:32 (A review of The Second Maiden's Tragedy)

/spoilers/ What a morbid play! Written in the 17th-c, the language is of course archaic (think Shakespeare), but the content is kind of risqué in that there are tons of sexual innuendos and the story centers around adultery, suicide, betrayal and necrophilia (Ok, maybe not that risqué ...except for the last item, these are pretty common themes in Renaissance plays). There are two parallel tales, and at first glance it's hard to see the connection between the two, but they have something to do with the comparison between Protestantism and Catholicism, that is, Protestantism is good and Catholicism is bad. Haven't had time to further analyze the play in an academic way, but as far as entertainment goes, it was an enjoyable play even though some parts were kind of disturbing.


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[Book] 7 Stories

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 30 December 2007 12:31 (A review of 7 Stories)

An existential play that has more humour than heart. I was very entertained by the story and the characters were deliciously quirky and funny, but the message wasn't anything new to me. Unlike Polygraph, it is very dialogue-driven, but sometimes the dialogue titters on being patronizing. Still a great play to read though and I enjoyed it a lot.


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[Book] Polygraph

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 30 December 2007 12:30 (A review of Polygraph (Methuen Modern Plays))

A very difficult play to visualize as it relies heavily on visual technology to tell its story. The amazing visual spectacle doesn't really translate well into writing, and it is almost impossible for me to rate the play fairly since, like all other plays or even more so, it is meant to be seen on stage first and foremost. The words on the page didn't impressed me too much, but then again, this play is more about spectacle than it is about dialogue. I would really like to see it live and thus gain a better perspective on it. As it is, it's only just worth reading.


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