neděle 3. června 2012

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby (Velký Gatsby)

  We had to read The Great Gatsby for a literary seminar but I had been planning to read it for some time before that. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the book very much.
The story is pretty simple. Nick moves into a house next to a huge mansion whose owner has bombastic parties all the time. He is not terribly well-off himself but has rich friends – Tom and Daisy. When he’s having a dinner with them he meets Jordan – a rich, young girl he likes – and also learns that Tom is cheating on Daisy. He later becomes friends with his neighbor Jay Gatsby and attends to his parties.
   Well, the story actually isn’t so simple so I will somehow shorten it. It is revealed that Jay knows Daisy and that he fell in love with her years before but couldn’t marry her because he was poor and she was damned rich. He actually became rich just to get on the same level as she is and they start having an affaire. Daisy than has a craziest idea – to invite Nick, Jordan and Jay to their house. The whole thing than gets crazier and crazier, half the characters die and it is really pretty fucked up.
   So what is it about? Yeah, well, mostly about money and what it can do to you and what it can’t do for you. Which, as a theme, got used up few centuries ago. It is of course partly psychological novel about relationships and love. The love story is quite strong and an important part of the book. It’s not the most important but it more or less drives the narrative. It partly feels as a detective story because  Nick keeps trying to find out what the hell is going on and ultimately is the only one who knows it.
   The greatest positive of this boos are its poetic description. They are great just as they are but combined with the theme of cold world of big money, they give the book a completely new dimension. I really like this part:

We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.
The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor.
The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless, and with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it — indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in.

   Well, to sum it up, objectively, it is a good book. I just didn’t enjoy it very much, maybe I was reading it too much only on the story level and didn’t really bother thinking about it. But it is an important text, especially as one of these American-dream-breaking books. On the other hand, I could have had led a happy life even if I never read it.

pátek 1. června 2012

Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games Trilogy

   Again, I haven’t written anything in few MONTHS for which I deeply apologize. But having finished my thesis (again) I hope I may be able to write here little something now and then.
   OK, the big craze about The Hunger Games has been more or less over for some time so this review may be coming a little late but…better late than never, huh. I decided to write one review about all three books and say just what I think about them (many other review have described the story so look up one of those if you want).

The Hunger Games (Aréna smrti)

    I really liked the first book, it is no big literature but the story is well written, the characters are greatly described, it’s fun (mostly because Katniss is such a cynic) but what I believe is the most important thing about the book – it’s targeted on different readers than similar stories before. Yes, sure, it is YA literature and it has some Twilight-like features…so what. There have been books and films about utter evilness of reality shows and there have been distopias…and many of them are WAY better than The Hunger Games. But…15 year old kids will not read 1984 or The Brave New World and they will not watch Truman Show. And there are much better let’s-show-the-brutality-of-human-nature books too (again, how many teenagers would read Lord of the Flies). So that is where I see the real merit of this book.
   Another thing is Katniss herself. She isn’t the classic good heroine, she has (piles of) flaws and she’s not emotional (well, she is very emotional, just not in the classic way). I even liked the whole romantic plot because it was very different from what people are used to in romances. The feelings kind of creep on Katniss and when she realizes what is actually happening she…well, she keeps on denying them.
   And I also liked the symbolism of the book. It is not very subtle, especially concerning the flowers and birds. The symbolism of birds is actually mentioned in the story directly (mainly the mockingjay-revolution connection) but it works on other levels too (for example, Rue reminds Katniss of a little bird which brings in a sense of fragility). The flowers create connection between the main heroines (Katniss, Rue and Prim). And let’s not forget about president’s roses.
   I really think it is a worth-reading, enjoyable and pretty well-written book.
   And few words about the movie. I think it’s mostly awful. The first part is pretty good and I loved how they depicted District 12 and the Capitol’s fashion. There are some great bits like when Katniss gets stinged by those hornets but it was mostly boring and the scene in the cave…the unspeakable horror of it. The scene with burying Rue was also almost ridiculous, especially as Rue had very little space in the movie and it was pretty hard to understand what is the big deal. What in my opinion really killed the movie, was Katniss. Not the actress, she was absolutely fabulous, but the way it shows (or rather doesn’t show) her character. Katniss is funny, smart and ironic about so many things. Which got lost completely in the movie. Sure, it’s easy to write it in the book written in the first person and I don’t know how to put such a thing in a movie. But it’s not really my problem, when I want to make a book into a movie, I should see what’s actually important in the book and what is not.

Catching Fire (Vražedná pomsta)

   I will not write a lot about this book. It was mostly boring, nothing really happened and the similar structure with the first book gave the book the last blow. I have to say I expected most of the plot-turns. There were some good bit, I liked the idea of the second arena and some of its traps (the screaming mockingjays being on of the most brutal thing in this overall brutal trilogy). But still, it was kind of a let down. Definitely the poorest book of the trilogy.

Mockingjay (Síla vzdoru)

   This one was much better than Catching Fire. The story and load of new characters (especially that terrible president of District 13) gave the story a new life. I also think that the author herself kind of literary matured and there were very poetic parts, sometimes it seemed there was intentional rhythm in the sentences (but it might have been just my imagination).  I appreciate that it didn’t end up as a total happy end…it actually didn’t end up as a happy end at all (by which I don’t want to say that all happy ending are automatically a bad thing…it just wouldn’t feel right in this case).
    There were also things I didn’t like, especially the battle in the Capitol was really weird. I think somewhere in the trilogy, Katniss says that the rebels didn’t get to the Capitol at all in the first rebellion. And now they just flew there…period. It was just weird.


To wrap it up, I’d like to say something about the Czech translation in Czech.
   V první řadě názvy knížek jsou vážně otřesné, ale překladatel s názvem většinou nic moc nenadělá, takže tohle je spíš výtka nakladateli. Asi se pokoušel o něco, co zaujme a přiměje to člověka koupit...ale názvy jako Aréna smrti a Vražedná pomsta většinu soudných lidí spíš odradí. Co se týče jmen, překladatel se snažil převádět nějaká „mluvící jména“ do češtiny, ale Cetkie místo Effie Trinket je ukázka toho, jak se to nemá dělat (respektive násilně a okatě). Proč se Gale jmenuje Hurikán jde naprosto mimo mě a nehodlám po tom ani dál pátrat. Ze začátku se mi moc nezdálo slovo splátci za tributes, tedy ti, co se mají utkat v aréně, ale nakonec je to celkem dobré řešení (vzhledem k tomu, že mají splácet jakýsi dluh za povstání). Z překladu jsem ale větší kus nečetl, takže kromě tohohle to nemůžu moc posoudit.