1. The Shadow of the Wind (2001, Carlos Ruiz Zafón)

    Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind is an enjoyable read, full of twists and likely to stir one’s emotions. I liked the characters and I was moved by their tragic lives, and I can see why the book it was such a success. Two things disturbed my experience, though. One was the fact that I had just finished reading another successful mystery story, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I wasn’t ready for reading yet another one straigth away. The other one was the terrible rendition of don Federico’s beating while in prison. The reason this tale is told is because the author wants to make clear to the reader how ferocious Inspector Fumero is, and how unfairly homosexuals was treated in Spains in the 50s. However, Zafon chose to narrate this delicate story of torture and pain as if it was a joke, ultimately depriving this character and this moment of any dignity.

    2 years ago  /  0 notes

  2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005, Stieg Larsson)

    I bought Larsson’s The Girl with the Draon Tattoo in a supermarket before moving to London, and it rested on my library’s shelf for about three years before I had the courage to start this brick of a book.

    It was an enjoyable, captivating read, but in retrospect I think that a good chuck of it could have been thrown away without hurting the core mystery story, or at least might have been used for another book about journalism rather than one about misoginistic violence.

    The Apple product placement is shameful and hilarious at the same time.

    2 years ago  /  0 notes

  3. What Just Happened? (2002, Art Linson)

    My first contact with What Just Happened came through its adaptation starring Robert DeNiro, an ironic choice given how he is portrayed in the original book. The film was suggested to me by my parents who had caught it on tv, but unlike the little indie masterpiece that is Living in OblivionWhat Just Happened didn’t strike as particularly interesting or engaging, just like Altman’s The Player (whose only virtue is to have a stunning opening long take) and that other boring film starring DeNiro playing a once successful Hollywood producer called The Last Tycoon.

    I later learned that the film was the adaptation of a book, and that the book was based on real life events, some of which weren’t even mentioned in the film. I put the book in my Amazon wishlist as I do with many titles that I *might* be interested in *maybe* reading in the future, and then completely forgot about it… until the day I caught a glimpse of it in my university’s library, and thought that it might be a good present for my aspiring film producer friend’s birthday. I bought the book, but I ended up never giving it to her - partly because I had never read it myself, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to gift a book whose actual quality I wasn’t personally sure about, partly because I was afraid to offend her with “bitter Hollywood tales from the front line”.

    The book stayed in my library, and then I finally decided to keep it for myself and read it. Once overcome the initial repulsion triggered by the Variety speak, the American slang and the listing of producers’ names mortals like me have never heard of, I found an immensly enojable and funny collection of short anecdotes about the harsh, bitter reality behind commercial cinema.

    The film is quite different from the book, so much so that the only recognisable anecdote they share is the one about Alec Baldwin’s beard, played by Bruce Willis in the film - funny, but not the most interesting one. And it’s not hard to understand why that’s so: Linson doesn’t spare anybody, and what emerges from the pages of the book is that each and everyone film coming from Hollywood sold as “art” to the public is merely a commercial move meant to make money for people who understand nothing about cinema and even less about what the audience really wants and likes.

    This book should be worshipped and quoted like the Bible by filmmakers everywhere.

    2 years ago  /  0 notes

  4. Haunted (2005, Chuck Palahniuk)

    I bought Haunted in a train station after having visited a friend of mine who had suggested me it as something to read during the travel to kill time. She warned me, though, that in a few passages it was a tough read, mainly because of the self inflicted mutilations of its main characters. The warning intrigued me even more.

    The book started slow, introducing the gallery of aspiring writers who have gathered together to go in hiding to write their masterpieces, away from the distractions of the world. Then I reached the first of the 23 short stories of the book, Guts.

    Before Haunted, books had made me smile, laugh, cry or long for distant worlds and exciting adventures, but none of them had ever made me feel sick in the stomach and made my head dizzy with nausea. I later discovered that people fainted during public readings of this book, and I cannot blame them.

    And I liked the book because it made me feel sick. Call me a masochist, but the stories I liked the most and I remember best are the ones that disgusted me the most: Guts, Hot Potting and the sad fate of Comrade Snarky’s bottom (which reminded me of the most disturbing part of Voltaire’s Candide).

    It took me a year to finish Haunted (after Guts, I didn’t feel like reading it anymore for a while, and put it aside during my last year of university), but now I want to read more of Palahniuk. Next up: Choke.

    2 years ago  /  1 note

  5. Kiss of the Spider Woman (1976, Manuel Puig)

    Kiss of the Spider Womanwas given to me as a gift to my mother two years ago after I had enrolled for a university course in filmmaking, but I read it only now.

    The book is written as a dialogue exchange happening between the two main characters - Argentinian prisoners who share the same cell - interrupted only yo represent their respective thoughts depicted in italic or to shift to the dialogue happening between one of them and someone else or to the report of a detective following one of them in the second last chapter.

    The relationship between the two characters develops as Molina, a homosexual man arrested for corruption of a minor, tells the story of a few films he has seen outside to his cellmate Valentin, a political prisoner. At the beginning it is interesting to see how the way Molina tells his films reflect aspects of his personality, and how at the same time Valentin expresses his own by analyzing these stories from his point of view. However, the book soon starts to feel like the summary of a bunch of films (some existing, some fictitious) and seems to skew away from the actual plot of the book.

    The first part is engaging, well written and original, but after the first film it made me lose interest (the resolution is also somewhat disappointing). I looked at the trailer of the film that was made in 1985, and it seems that as an adaptation it took itself some liberties. I wonder whether it is better than its source material.

    2 years ago  /  0 notes

  6. Neuromancer (1984, William Gibson)

    The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

    I started reading this book around ten years ago, when I found it while browsing in the science fiction section of a mall library and discovered this book (which I had never heard before) was super-famous. In fact, it turned out this is considered to be the book that started the cyberpunk movement in the mid-80s which later inspired what used to be one of my favourites movies ever, aka The Matrix.

    As I said, I started reading it but I soon had to put it away after struggling to read through the first two chapters. I didn’t understand where the main character was, what he did and what his world looked like - I was disoriented and unengaged.

    I gave it a few more tries along the years, but each time after reading a few chapters more I still felt the same sense of repulsion. This summer I decided it was about time to finish it, and so I did. I’m glad I read it, but for me it’s far from the masterpiece that some people say it is. It didn’t make me care. Although it touched the subject of AIs and of technological singularity to which I feel very attracted to, it didn’t do so in a very credible, engaging way. It was merely a MacGuffin for the adventures of the hacker Case who spent the majority of the book doing silly stuff in the “cyberspace” which looks ridiculous seen from the eyes of a modern reader familiar with the concept of the Internet.

    This disappointment made me crave for more science fiction.

    I’m curious to see what Vincenzo Natali will manage to do with his adaptation.

    2 years ago  /  1 note