Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Biittner's Book Review: Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

This was an odd read. I'd read Sedaris' work before. I describe Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk in my 2012 books read post as "kind of silly", which is not a negative thing for me, so was interested in his latest book. It is a collection of story stories or "essays". Honestly I cannot figure out if I liked it or not. I get that it is really tongue-in-cheek at times and outright sarcastic and/or nasty at others, which is usually something I can appreciate, but for this book the overall tone just did not do it for me. I am thinking that this is because I read the whole thing over a single afternoon. I think I might have been able to appreciate the subtle nuances between each essay had I read only a couple a day. All the essays just started to feel the same by the end of the book. I definitely did not pick up on the "common thread" of each essay being a "love story" as described on the book jacket. So it is not that I did not like the book, maybe I just read it wrong.

Some of the essays are just better than others though. I quite liked "Understanding Understanding Owls"; it is dark and funny and lovely at the same time. "#2 to Go" and "Rubbish" are also really good. The ones about his father and siblings just fell flat for me. Some of the essays felt out of order; the last couple are probably the weakest and I was hoping for a strong finish.

In terms of recommending this book I would but with some hesitation. Not everyone is going to like it. Again I'm not sure if I even liked it. I am very curious to see what the rest of my book club has to say about it and may post an update after we've had the chance to discuss it. 

Biittner's Book (and Film) Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

A little late on this one (again!) but I really wanted to write a bit about this book and the recent film adaptation. I actually saw the movie first and enjoyed it enough that I wanted to read the book so put it forward as one of my book club selections.

 I was curious with how the book dealt with the multiple story-lines versus how they were interwoven in the film. The book creates a wonderful narrative arc (or rainbow as it were). It starts with the "oldest" story-line and by midpoint has reached the one that takes place, presumably, in the most distant future, then works its way back through the various stories to connect/tie them all together. Overall Mitchell is very successful in crafting a very wonderful, descriptive, and complex lesson in redemption while still managing to keep everything very clear. This was one of the major criticisms of the film: that it was confusing. I think part of this is that in the book you are provided with the characters names, which clearly lets you know who you are dealing with, while in the film the names of the various characters are often "lost". I failed to catch many of them but for me this was not an issue. I actually found the threads that link all the stories together easier, in some ways, to detect in the film because of how each actor played their various incarnations throughout all the story-lines. I found it really compelling and, honestly, just plain fun to figure out who played each character in each story. The make up to transform the actors was really cool and you must watch the credits to really appreciate how many characters each actor played.

What this all means is that I think the film and the book go really well together. I am actually glad I saw the film and read the book. They each made me appreciate the other, which I think is a first! I am curious if I would feel the same way had I read the book first then saw the film. In any case, I highly recommend the book and encourage those who enjoy it to check out the film too.