Sunday, June 10, 2007

Book Bug

For reasons unclear, the Boss decided to give the Workers workers an off day on Friday (and Saturday), so I started on J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, a classic published in 1951 that has courted a fair amount of controversy for "offensive language, premarital sex, alcohol abuse, and prostitution". Of course, I wasn't aware of such labels at the time, and post-enlightenment, I don't agree to calling it all that, because... well, times have changed. (Seriously, read it and see my point.)

What I found interesting though, is a bit of related trivia: (i) Mark David Chapman, the assassin of John Lennon, was carrying the book when he was arrested immediately after the murder, and referred to it in his police statement; (ii) John Hinckley, Jr., who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was also reported to have been obsessed with the book.

Ooh, watch out people. I may just turn homicidal.

A day or two before starting on that, I'd just disposed of Yann Martel's Life of Pi, a novel that has won the Man Booker prize. Wassat? Oh, just another literary award. The first problem with book awards is that they almost certainly make me want to buy the damn book. (Note to self: There may be minors reading this. Move along pipsqueaks, you don't belong here!) The second problem is that if a book has won an award, it usually raises my expectations of it, which is fair, surely—otherwise why give it an award? However, this robs a person like me from enjoying a book for what it really is, which seemed to be the case with Life of Pi. Unless:

(i) all the brilliant bits that bowled the judges over were butchered out from my copy;
(ii) I am a daft reader (possible);
(iii) I've read millions of better books in my life (impossible—I don't even know if I've read a thousand books, period);
(iv) all the other books vying for the award that year were crap.

Despite my apparent grouses though, Life of Pi ain't bad. It's a light read and the zoology aspect is pretty interesting (Pi Patel, an Indian zookeeper's son, gets stuck aboard a lifeboat for 221 days with Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger). And... I just realised: the protagonist is sixteen years old, which is the SAME AGE as the protagonist in Catcher during the period the novel talks about. What a meaningless coincidence!

This concludes the reading of three novels in just over a month. I feel so productive. (The Time Traveler's Wife wins my vote.)

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