Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reviews: Bolaño's 2666 and Hanson's Anthem

Book Review: 2666 by Robert Bolaño 

So my Borders co-worker, Andrew, raved about a work of literature that he had just finished, insisting that it was a magnificent piece, and that I had to read it. Having just closed the page on the last book I had read, I said, "Sure, why not." So I picked up (online, as an e-book on my Kobo), the 795 page tome that is Robert Bolaño's 2666. And it is huge, a book you stand on to reach the cookie jar. (Well, since it was an e-book, standing on my Kobo would result in a cracked screen, but anyway...) First off, this book was supposed to be divided into 5 separate ones, published thus to cover the expenses of Bolaño's children after he died (of liver failure in 2003). His publishers decided, after conferring with his notes, to publish it as one novel. The novel opens with a description of three European literary critics and their love of the writings of one Benno von Archimboldi, a German writer hailed as the next Goethe or Kant. This interested me, as Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther was a major influence in my early reading. So I continued reading.

2666 has all the feel of a Post-Modern masterpiece. Imagine an author, having immersed himself into a world with a given set of circumstances, and thus decides to tell the story of each character, each painting, each event in that world. It would look like tributaries running into a stream, each twisting and turning, but invariably ending into a major river, and into a spot on the ocean. For this novel, the ocean is the Mexican town of Santa Teresa near the US border. Imagine the description of each dream the characters have, the other-worldly hallucinations at sunset on a deserted Mexican highway, the ramblings of madmen in asylums, the horror of Nazi officers and the decisions they make. And you, as the reader, must float down each tributary, knowing that you may (or may not) reach the conclusion. This is Post-Modernism.

I felt the same way about this book as I did with Neal Stephenson's Anathem, that I could keep reading forever, and a whole world would unfold before me, and it would swallow me up. It's not a book I would normally read, what with the graphic detail (I think people could easily call it a 21st century Joyce's Ulysses), but that shouldn't make you not read it, as their are parts of lyrical beauty, of fantastic writing, of arresting adventures in the outskirts of World War II. I would also compare it to David Benioff's City of Thieves, in the absurdist episodes surrounding the second World War. Also, Michael Nesmith's The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora with the mystic realms of literature and art being contrasted with the base world of pornography and worldly pleasures. So, all in all, it was a good book, and I recommend it to anyone who likes a more experimental form of literature, and an open mind.

Music Review: Anthem by Hanson

 Merge the darker undertones of This Time Around with the pop stylings in Underneath, you have Hanson's latest musical offering, Anthem. Hanson's last few albums have had spots of genius as well as mediocre filler. Shout It Out was a 6 song EP with filler in between (the EP is amazing, and well worth getting). This one is a solid record, and Taylor Hanson has learned how to fix some things. In the past albums, his vocals have lacked any enunciation, so that I have to look at the lyrics to understand it. This is a major roadblock to a good song. In this album, AutoTune and other technology have made their voices clear, concise, and understandable. Also, they have worked with their harmony, intertwining voices (with Auto-Tune, I expect) for new sounds. Some critics will say it's overproduced, much like they panned Matchbox Twenty's second album Mad Season. Course, I loved that album, too. In fact, on most tracks, I could easily hear Brandon Flowers of The Killers singing the lyrics, as it reminded me of the band's second album Sam's Town. I've always said that Zac Hanson needs to have more lead vocal songs on each album, because his tunes are so introspective, so different from Isaac's romantic ballads and Taylor's rock and pop tunes. A great album, from a great band, well worth supporting.

Not a part of the album, but I'd never seen the video before, and liked it.

No comments:

Post a Comment