Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gomorra by Roberto Saviano

Gomorra - Roberto Saviano

You should read this book if you want to get a glimpse into the world of  camorra, the other Italian mafia from the south of Italy.  In itself the book  is also about the problems of South Italy the underdeveloped "third world" and the poor part of the country whereas the North is industrially developed. But the south is not just that, it  has cheap labour force which is used by the blackmarket and  also by the Italian fashion companies who produce here their famous "Made in Italy" products and also it is used as a garbage dump, a deposit of industrial waste polluting the land and making the people sick.  Probably you ask: what does it have to do with the mafia or with the camorra. Camorra takes part in producing the high quality counterfeit fashion clothes and it's firms deposit illegally the waste in the former farm lands of south poisoning the earth. In the end camorra reinvests the money in the northern firms making their own people poorer and the north richer. The book takes us in a land similar to wild west, where the weapons are at home, Camorra is also a weapon dealer. We read about Neaples where camorra is at home about how the mafia is holding grip of the economy in a "liberal" way, we read about it's drug affairs, we read about Secondiliano outskirt of Neaples which is the poorest and where the fashion clothes of Hollywood are made, we read that this is the region in Europe where the most killings happen, this the region where most of Mercedeses are sold to. It's not a novel or fiction but an interesting page-turner documentary on the lives of the people of Campania region (which includes also Naples) , the lives which are run by Camorra (the System as he calls himself) by his own laws.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Good to be God by Tibor Fischer

Good to be God is the latest novel of Tibor Fischer, one of my favourite authors, a British novelist and short story writer of Hungarian origin. The main character is Tyndale a broke, middle aged lighting bulbs salesman who after meeting again his childhood pal Nelson who is in the handcuffs business and travels often, decides to fly to Miami, Florida instead of his friend. After spending time and having fun in a Miami hotel with policemen who are there for some symposium he decides to stay for good and empties his friend's company credit card. Tyndale wants to impersonate God, to fool those who deserve it and take some of their money and to get rich. This novel is full of colourful characters like Sixto the Cuban landlord and the boss of Tyndale, who works for him as a drug dealer, Napalm the ugly but friendly and ungrateful roommate, Dishonest Dave the Haitian shopowner who attracts mugging and who's motto is "We fully intend to rip you off", DJ Gamay and DJ Muscat who are replaced as DJ-s by a monkey and who think that Tyndale can get them into a multinational crime organisation, Hierophant the reverend of the Church of Heavily Armed Christ and former marine whose congregation consist  of less then a dozen of members. Here at the  Church of Heavily Armed Christ Tyndale becomes the right hand of Hierophant and  replaces him when the marine reverend has to tend to his terminally ill mother. Tyndale by trying to become a deity tries to fix the problem of the parish members from cats gone astray to saving a girl from his abusive lover. In fact by trying to become God, Tyndale tries to do and does  good things even if it's in an unorthodox way. The title of the novel could have been Good to be Good because even if some of the motives of Tyndale are selfish or wrong, he recognizes the goodness in folks and wants to help them doing the good thing. This is true in the case of Gulin, the Turkish immigrant woman, but also when he sees that the Fixico sisters are brainwashing people with their prosperity religion and works against them and topples them not even taking the credit for it. The novel ends in an optimist way: Tyndale is not rich as he expected in the beginnings, but gets a second chance in life by the side of Gulin.
This is not the best novel of Tibor Fischer like Thought Gang or Under the Frog , but I have liked it. It's funny, of black humor, though even so you can find lines which hold truth on religion, society and life. I recommend reading it. Tibor Fischer's novels remind me in a slight way of  Rejtő Jenő black humored writings and underworld characters.
" I had some dealings with the union reps at work and they were all, almost without exception, the most greedy, self centered and vile types you were likely to come across. You should see their expenses. Beware talk of brotherhood and justice. Whereas those, like the Hierophant who trumpet the stand-on-your-own-to-feet  creed are the most likely to give you a hand..."
Support Tibor Fischer´s next book at - crowd funded publishing!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

It has been a long time since I have wrote a review about a book I have read. I will start this year with The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. The novel starts with the 1714  fall of  San Luis Rey Bridge in Lima, Peru by which a dozen of people lost their life. This event makes friar Juníper to research the lifes of the victims in order to find a clue giving away the godly reason behind their tragedy. Were they not good enough, religous and so on? But the research of the friar does not tell their true secrets, passions and love. The writer tries to narrate this hidden story. So we read about a nobel women writing in vain passionate letters to her daughter in Spain who does not love her back and she can never let go any controll over her. Her letters did not conquer the heart of her daughter but  became a masterpiece of the Spanish literature. We read about the twins Manuel and Esteban whose brotherly love is broken by the love felt towards a woman. We read about the childish uncle Pío and  Camilla who we can call his adopted daughter. Juníper could not find the true answer.
His diligence is considered heresy by the Church and ends his life burned on the stake.
What is behind chance, death? One thing is sure death washes all away even any memory relating to us.
One thing is sure we are all going to die. But one who loves does not require to be remembered.

Why did I choose to read this book? Because I gave away this book in my childhood.

One wikipedia about The Bridge of San Luis

"The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927) tells the story of several unrelated people who happen to be on a bridge in Peru when it collapses, killing them. Philosophically, the book explores the problem of evil, or the question, of why unfortunate events occur to people who seem “innocent” or "undeserving". It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928, and in 1998 it was selected by the editorial board of the American Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century. The book was quoted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the memorial service for victims of the September 11 attacks in 2001. Since then its popularity has grown enormously. The book is the progenitor of the modern disaster epic in literature and film-making, where a single disaster intertwines the victims, whose lives are then explored by means of flashbacks to events before the disaster."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

This is the first novel  I have read from John Grisham and it is one of  his books which tackles a different genre and not his usual legal thriller. Having around 200 pages in medium format  it is soft, entertaining and easy to read especially for a day when you have nothing to do. The title "Skipping Christmas" discloses that the novel has to be some kind of Christmas story. And indeed it is a funny one. Luther and Nora a middle-aged american couple decides that they do not want to celebrate this Christmas also because their daughter Blair have left for South America to teach the indigenous children of Peru. And of course Luther intends to avoid the usual Christmas time spendings: no party, no Christmas tree, no more any useless gifts, no more donations, no shopping, no more any needed house decorating. Luther as an accountant used to crunching numbers estimates that he will  spare 6000 of dollars. First he plays with the thought of spending time on the sunny Carribean shores but in the end  he chooses  a Carribean cruise for the hollidays. His wife is not so entusiast about it but she gives in.
The neighborhood does not undertand and does not accept the out of ordinary decision. They mock Luther and Nora labeling the couple stingy failing to comprehend how can somebody give up Christmas. This book is also a  good example on what happens when someone gives up the herd mentality. I stop here with the depicting and if you are interested check out the novel. Skipping Christmas at Amazon. Because I have read the novel in Hungarian I included the cover of the Hungarian edition titled Elmaradt Karácsony. I still have to mention that in 2003 the book was made into a movie titled Christmas with the Kranks, you can watch online the whole movie  at youtube. I have not seen the movie so I can't comment how good or bad it is.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, Hungarian edition

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Shannon's way by A. J. Cronin

In this novel Cronin  tells again the story of a doctor. It is a tale of love, research, religious views, personal tragedies and betrayel. The writer narrating in  first person  makes us acquainted with Robert Shannon a young Catholic doctor in the after-war England. He works as an university research physician but in the meantime he does his own study on an epidemy in the laboratory of his own workplace. Soon he has to leave his job because he is in conflict with the leading professor who can't stand him and wants Shannon to focus on the lab's priority.  Due to this he has to endure hardships and struggles to find a job. He fells in love with Jean Law, but her parents are against this relationship because he is a Roman Catholic and do not share his view on religion. Shannon sais: "Religion is a private affair. We can't help what creed we're born into. It's quite possibile for two people to be tolerant of each other's belief." But her father denies it saying that "She can never commingle with the waters of Babylon". Cronin's novels shows us a world where personal, family or group interests are the most important. The death of the patient is overlooked. The nurse who caused the death by a stupid mistake keeps his job while Shannon is layed off by a commission just because he did experiments in an unused room thus misusing the taxpayers' money. But there are good people like the marginalized professor Challis who supports him even getting him a doctor job  having at his disposal  a good lab for his research. Some novels of A. J. Cronin  do not have a happy ending, I only disclose for the reader that this book has an  open ending with hope in the future. I enjoyed and liked this novel and give it five stars. Found out the ending reading this book!
Check Shannon's Way at Amazon.

Shannon's way by A.J. Cronin

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ambrose Bierce Short stories

Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914) is one of the important writers of the american literature. The main theme of his short stories  is death with the exception of only two. His stories suprise you with unexpected endings and depict supernatural topics, human weaknesses, wickedness, cruelty, fear, insanity, crime, misfortunes, civil war. Even the fate of Ambrose Bierce baffles you: he disapeared in the revolutionary Mexico of Pancho Villa. I recommend you to read Man and the snake, An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, One Summer Night, Oil of Dog , Baptism of Dobsho and the Failure of Hope and Wandel which text is included below the trailer videos of Civil War Stories movie. The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce at Amazon.

PS – @ Erik: Tried adding this comment to your blog but for some reason it won’t let me :-( Have you come across Ambrose Bierce’s DEVIL’S DICTIONARY?
Mary Murphy

"Yes, Devil’s Dictionary is in the public domain"


by Ambrose Bierce

From Mr. Jabez Hope, in Chicago, to Mr. Pike Wandel, of New Orleans, December 2, 1877.

I will not bore you, my dear fellow, with a narrative of my journey from New Orleans to this polar region. It is cold in Chicago, believe me, and the Southron who comes here, as I did, without a relay of noses and ears will have reason to regret his mistaken economy in arranging his outfit.

To business. Lake Michigan is frozen stiff. Fancy, O child of a torrid clime, a sheet of anybody's ice, three hundred miles long, forty broad, and six feet thick! It sounds like a lie, Pikey dear, but your partner in the firm of Hope & Wandel, Wholesale Boots and Shoes, New Orleans, is never known to fib. My plan is to collar that ice. Wind up the present business and send on the money at once. I'll put up a warehouse as big as the Capitol at Washington, store it full and ship to your orders as the Southern market may require. I can send it in planks for skating floors, in statuettes for the mantel, in shavings for juleps, or in solution for ice cream and general purposes. It is a big thing!

I inclose a thin slip as a sample. Did you ever see such charming ice?

From Mr. Pike Wandel, of New Orleans, to Mr. Jabez Hope, in Chicago, December 24, 1877.

Your letter was so abominably defaced by blotting and blurring that it was entirely illegible. It must have come all the way by water. By the aid of chemicals and photography, however, I have made it out. But you forgot to inclose the sample of ice.

I have sold off everything (at an alarming sacrifice, I am sorry to say) and inclose draft for net amount. Shall begin to spar for orders at once. I trust everything to you--but, I say, has anybody tried to grow ice in this vicinity? There is Lake Ponchartrain, you know.

From Mr. Jabez Hope, in Chicago, to Mr. Pike Wandel, of New Orleans, February 27, 1878.

Wannie dear, it would do you good to see our new warehouse for the ice. Though made of boards, and run up rather hastily, it is as pretty as a picture, and cost a deal of money, though I pay no ground rent. It is about as big as the Capitol at Washington. Do you think it ought to have a steeple? I have it nearly filled--fifty men cutting and storing, day and night--awful cold work! By the way, the ice, which when I wrote you last was ten feet thick, is now thinner. But don't you worry; there is plenty.

Our warehouse is eight or ten miles out of town, so I am not much bothered by visitors, which is a relief. Such a giggling, sniggering lot you never saw!

It seems almost too absurdly incredible, Wannie, but do you know I believe this ice of ours gains in coldness as the warm weather comes on! I do, indeed, and you may mention the fact in the advertisements.

From Mr. Pike Wandel, of New Orleans, to Mr. Jabez Hope, in Chicago, March 7, 1878.

All goes well. I get hundreds of orders. We shall do a roaring trade as "The New Orleans and Chicago Semperfrigid Ice Company." But you have not told me whether the ice is fresh or salt. If it is fresh it won't do for cooking, and if it is salt it will spoil the mint juleps.

Is it as cold in the middle as the outside cuts are?

From Mr. Jebez Hope, from Chicago, to Mr. Pike Wandel, of New Orleans, April 3, 1878.

Navigation on the Lakes is now open, and ships are thick as ducks. I'm afloat, en route for Buffalo, with the assets of the New Orleans and Chicago Semperfrigid Ice Company in my vest pocket. We are busted out, my poor Pikey--we are to fortune and to fame unknown. Arrange a meeting of the creditors and don't attend.

Last night a schooner from Milwaukee was smashed into match-wood on an enormous mass of floating ice--the first berg ever seen in these waters. It is described by the survivors as being about as big as the Capital at Washington. One-half of that iceberg belongs to you, Pikey.

The melancholy fact is, I built our warehouse on an unfavorable site, about a mile out from the shore (on the ice, you understand), and when the thaw came--O my God, Wannie, it was the saddest thing you ever saw in all your life! You will be so glad to know I was not in it at the time.

What a ridiculous question you ask me. My poor partner, you don't seem to know very much about the ice business.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Romain Gary Lady L.

The power of this short book lies in it's characters and in it's interesting details even in the historical ones which adds to the exciting story.
In this novel we encounter "Lady L." the old widow of an English aristocrat  sharing with her admirer poet her well kept secret the wrecked love for Armand Denis a French anarchist.  The high society of England - which treasures her as a national asset having her grandchildren in high positions like governmantal ministers, bishops, chairmen in the  Bank of England,  officers of  her majesty the Queen - does not even think or suspect that she is not of blue blood. She is in fact Annette Boudin the daughter of a Parisian laundress and of an alcoholic printer who spends most of his time not  working but  drinking, preaching and printing the anarchist ideas of  Bakunin or Kropotkin. While he preaches against suppression and explotation the family is sustained only by  the mother's  work. Annette hates her father and sees with good eyes everything her father is talking against: governmant, police, church, aristocracy. When her mother dies she has to take on the laundry work of his mother and even becomes a prostitute to ensure the daily ratio of drink and bread for his father who shows even intentions of  abusing her sexually. Soon Mr. Boudin is found dead and Annete is just grateful for that. Working as a prostituate she is taken up by Alphonse Lecoeur the leader of the French mobsters who is involved with the anarchist. Thus she meets Armand Denis the gorgeous man who turned from a Catholic priest into a anarchist terrorist and mobster.  Lecoeur decides to turn her into a bait and spy and pais for her classes which teach her how to act like a countess. Because of her beauty and aristocratic manners she can rapidly mingle in the midst of aristocratic circles not arousing suspicion at all helping to commit terror acts like the assasination of a Bulgarian prince and robberies. Annette who loves  the angelical Armand has a serious rival. For the revolutionary Armand it is more important his passion for the masses for which he commits his crimes. He would never settle and would never want to lead a rich and calm life.
Because of these out of vengeance she causes the arrest of Armand  and marries an extravant English aristocrat  who knows her secret, even if she is pregnant with the child of Armand. But the hope of love never dies and she has the chance to encounter the fugitive Armand again. I invite the reader to discover the strange ending. Lady L. at Amazon.