#GoMax “…Keep pushing!!”
20. by Garth Stein
Finish date: 22 January 2022
Bad news: Push through the first chapters….sentimental as flowers pressed between the pages of a diary.
Good news: A beloved philosopher dog named Enzo is the one who teaches us everything we need to know about being human. Let the story embrace you…every reader will find a moment to connect at some level. I mean a dog is the narrator…what’s not to love?
Good news: My first impression was wrong. This turned out to be a great book…I loved it! Title The Art of Racing in the Rain was just perfect…captures the essence of the book! Drivers are afraid of the rain. Rain amplifies your mistakes.
Good news: I love the sport of Formula 1 so all the references to great champions of the past Emmo (Fittipaldi), Schumi, Senna etc were wonderful. I didn’t realize so many life lessons can be learned in the paddock and on the grid. My life lesson? No race has ever been won in the first corner…but plenty of races have been lost there.
Personal: New rule…never write the book review on the same day you finished the book! Sleep on it. After a few chapters of sugar-spin sentimentality I hoped the book would get better…and it did. Apart from the ‘tear-jerker’ content (dying dog, newlyweds, baby, dying wife and in-laws from hell) the book had a larger message for me. The Art of Racing in the Rain was a metaphor teaching me (us) how to overcome obstacles in the long race we call life (pg 314). We all race in the rain at some point. Remember the motto in the book:
The visible becomes inevitable.
The car goes where the eyes go (ch 37)
With fresh tires and a full load of fuel he would prove a formidable force.
- Author: Nella Larsen (1891-1964)
- Title: Passing
- Published: 1929 (176 pg)
- Genre: novella
- Monthly plan
- Irene Redfield, a light-skinned African American woman
- …prominent member of the Harlem community,
- receives a letter from an old friend named Clare Kendry.
- Clare is light-skinned, but, unlike Irene,
- …Clare has decided to pass as white
- …and to make matters more complicated
- …is married to a wealthy racist white man.
- Their reunion is tense.
- Larsen’s works are often classified as “uplift novels,”
- the purpose of which was to persuade educated white readers
- that the black middle class was, in fact, not unlike them.
- There was no need to discriminate against such obviously civilized people.
- There are many kinds of secrets,
- …from unspoken feelings and
- …quiet anxieties to hushed-up affairs in this small book!
- This novella is absolutely worth your reading time
- ….3 hrs and you have finished 176 pg of excellent writing!
- Strong point: Love the small twist
- …Ms Larsen bookends her novella ( part 1 ch 1 -> part 4 ch 4)
- See if you can discover how she did it!
- Now…time to watch the Netflix version of “Passing” (2021)
- with Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga
- Hell of a Book goes to the heart of racism,
- police violence, and the hidden costs
- exacted upon Black Americans
- …and America as a whole.
- Tight, intimate, imaginative,
- prescient, and completely heart wrenching…
- This book has taught me so much and there are things
- I’m ashamed of saying I never stopped to think about
- …how life can be for an outsider
- in a white supremacist land like USA.
- This book is brilliant as a talking point on what
- is white privilege and
- how are many white Americans STILL denying
- …that racism exists.
- My, God…read this book!
- Author: Owen Marshall
- Title: Pearly Gates
- Published: 2019
- Score: A
- Bingo card: FREE SPACE (New Zealand)
- List of Challenges 2020
- Monthly reading plan
- This was a delightful novel!
- Pearly Gates is an unforgettable character:
- …a great warm welcoming smile, full of confidence
- ….like the man who keeps friends
- …because he uses the right deodorant.
- But soon Pearly feels a weight he cannot endure.
- He carries it like an egg or a rock.
- “…hating the weight, fearing the knock” ( quote: Penelope Layland)
- No spoilers about the plot...that is how I read the book
- …and I just could not put it down.
- So curious how Pearly was going to solve this
- …existential crisis!
- Author: Jennifer Johnston
- Title: The Christmas Tree
- Published: 1981
- Genre: novella (168 pg)
- Reading time: 4 hours
- List of Challenges 2020
- Monthly plan
- Trivia: Jennifer Johnston (Dublin 1930) was awarded a
- Lifetime Achievement Award 2012 from the Irish Book Awards.
- Rating: A+++++++
- Jennifer Johnston is not a trendy read.
- She is 90…so she is not on the best sellers lists
- But my goodness…don’t let her writing pass you by!
- I won’t even give you a clue what it is about
- …I want you to discover it from page 1 by yourself.
- Her books are about relationships.
- This book was IMO about the sister-sister connection.
- I got goosebumps when I read the following lines….about
- a sister you really cannot get close to
- …try as hard as I have done:
- “We have a lot of genes an some memories in common.”
- Her stories are low key and personal but far from sentimental.
- Jennifer Johnston is underappreciated.
- But she is very good at what she does.
- Roddy Doyle considers Jennifer Johnston Ireland’s greatest writer.
- I had a ‘Trevor-shiver’ after reading the last page.
- The same feeling I have when I read a William Trevor short story….
- PS: Two Moons is another one of her books…not to be missed!
NANCY AT THE MOVIES
- For a change I’ll give you a NETFLIX review instead of a book.
- Well, I had nothing to do yesterday so I watched MESSIAH on Netflix.
- The action is driven by the enterance of an outsider….a Messiah.
- Messiah season two hasn’t been confirmed, but surely it’s only a matter of time.
- Messiah could run for years.
- Now this is great news if you are an evangelical
- ….but if you like a strong plot, dramatic dialogue
- ( …all the CIA agent says when asked what the problem is: “It’s nothing”
- …this doesn’t move the narrativie along!)
- ……you will be sorely disappointed.
- IMDB gave it a 7.9 score…that must be a misprint.
- So, if you want to be bored for hours
- …..I highly recommend it!
- Author: Eduard Douwes Dekker (Multatuli) (1820 – 1887)
- Genre: novel (satire)
- Title: Max Havelaar ( Language: Dutch)
- Published: 1860
- Table of Contents: 20 chapters, 315
- Timeline: 1842 ( Sumatra). 1856 (Lebak) 1860 (Amsterdam)
- Setting: Dutch East Indies
- Trivia: E. Douwes Dekker was one of Sigmund Freud’s favorite writers.
- List of Challenges 2019
- Monthly reading plan
- Eduard Douwes Dekker is better known by his pen name Multatuli.
- It is from latin ‘multa tuli’ meaning I have suffered much.
- This is a satire denouncing the abuses
- …of colonialism in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).
- 1838 Douwes Dekker became a civil servant in Java.
- All the secrets of Dutch administration were known to him.
- Disgusted with the actions of the Dutch in Java,
- …he had begun to about the abuses.
- Threatened with dismissal from
- …his office for his openness of speech.
- Dekker resigned his appointment.
- He returned to the Netherlands and wrote this
- scathing criticism of Dutch colonialism.
- In 2002 the Society of Dutch Literature proclaimed
- ….Multatuli the most important Dutch writer of all time
- This is a grim depiction of life in a European colony, namely Indonesia.
- The description of web of hypocrisy of church-going Dutch.
- …and the repression of the natives under their rule endure.
- The Dutch derived benefits from others misery.
- Max Havelaar was beacon of hope.
- He was in a position of unquestionable power, Assistant-Resident.
- Havelaar struggled with the colonial government leaders ….to no avail.
Theme: exploitation; colonialism
Title: Dubble title “Max Havelaar or Coffee Auctions Dutch Trade Company”
- I had to research this information
- …..it would never have caught my eye!
- Irony: the title tells Mr. Droogstoppel that this book contains
- …information that he would be interested in: coffee auctions.
- He agrees to finance the rewriting of a final draft and publication of the book
- But it appears that there is nothing in the book about coffee or the Dutch Trade Company!
- The author misled Droogstoppel and the reading public!
- In 1860 coffee and trade were in the news.
- Multatuli wanted to have his book read. (pg 57)
- “Mijn boek moet de wereld in!”
- He was probably the first Dutch “whistleblower” !
- He used this ‘clever piece of irony’
- …to capture the public’s interest.
- Multatuli TRICKED the readers with a dubble title.
- He lured them to buy the book and
- …revealed the abuses he thought must be made public.
Narrators: 3 characters
- Droogstoppel: coffee broker at Last & Co.
- Stern: assistant Last & Co. ( = author Multatuli)
- Sjaalman: is thecharacter of Max Havelaar incognito in Amsterdam.
Structure: frame story (stories-within-stories)
- Story: Commentary in journals of Max Havelaar who abhors the exploitation of the Dutch East Indies natives.
- Story: Havelaar returns to Amsterdam with his exposé in rough draft and wants it to be published.
- Story: In the last chapter:
- Multatuli, the author himself, takes over the narrative.
- Droogstoppel is written ‘out of the book’.
- Multatuli writes what he wants to achieve.
- He wants the readers to share his outrage.
Breaking the 4th wall
- Multatuli speaks directly to the reader and ‘confronts’ him.
- Speaking to the reader acknowledges that this is a book or a story.
- Mr. Droogstoppel coffee broker is characterized by exaggeration and bragging.
- Multatuli satirizes the coffee merchant, Droogstoppel, by simply letting him speak!
- The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning.
- Droogstoppel tells the reader ( pg 18) that the Dutch are successful because:
- …they conduct business honorably and maintain exemplary Christian beliefs.
- Irony: Mutatuli reveals that the Dutch say one thing in public and act differently in business!
- Droogstoppel gossips about other business partner’s family. (pg 25)
- Irony: But reminds us that he would never knowingly slander anybody!
- There are some great examples of humor in Multatuli’s writing:
- The repetition in Droogstoppel’s emphatic dialogue
- reminding the reader that he always speaks the truth
- ” heus de zuivere waarheid” (pg 24) and
- conducts himself at all times with civility
- ” fatsoen gaat voor mijn boven alles” ( pg 31).
- In a bouncing carriage over a hobbley road Multatuli brings the choppy conversation
- before our eyes with one-word sentences. You can just hear it!
- I. Did. Not. Dare.To. Agree.
- ” Ik. Durfde. Het. Haar. Niet. Toezeggen.” ! (pg 101)
- Weak point:
- This book was complicated with its intricate narrative structure.
- There is no chronological order, many flashbacks and 3 narrators.
- Weak point:
- Many pages of out-of-date style of dialogue which makes the reading difficult.
- Strong point:
- The shock effect caused by the author in chapter 20.
- This was his pulpit. It would be his chance to send a message to the Dutch and the world.
- Multatuli refers to the barbaric division in American society on pg 103.
- He must have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852, H.B. Stowe) that exposed the abuse in USA.
- Multatuli shares Stowe’s social realism in his writing of Max Havelaar.
- I could relate to this book because
- of my knowledge of the ‘Dutch mentality’.
- I wonder if this book would appeal to
- a wider audience outside The Netherlands.
- I read the book in Dutch
- I liked the book but a recommendation to read it
- …..that’s a hard call.
- Dutch is the 7th most spoken language in Europe..
- The study of foreign languages
- …is simply the gift that keeps on giving.