Lincoln in the Bardo: an unusual (but fantastic) reading experience

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I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this one before. The idea alone immediately had my attention. Essentially, Lincoln in the Bardo is about the passing of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie Lincoln. It takes place in the cemetery where Willie was initially laid to rest, and most of the characters are the ghosts (so to speak) of the others buried in the cemetery. Many of these ghosts have been living in the cemetery, stuck between the real world and whatever afterlife awaits them, for many years. We see quite a fascinating bunch of characters, including a reverend, a racist lieutenant, former servants/slaves, a printer, and of course 11 year old Willie Lincoln.

Interspersed throughout the book, between the fictional conversations had among the cemetery ghosts, Saunders uses bits and piece from historical sources to tell the story of Willie Lincoln’s passing, first hand accounts of having attended the party that took place while Willie was ill, and the response following his death. To me, it just seemed like a brilliant way to tell a story, using so many different sources and voices (both real and fictional). These historical sources are also used to give some insight into the Civil War, happening at the same time. Saunders even gives Abraham Lincoln a voice in the book (fictionalized of course) where we get to read some of his inner dialogue and struggle to not only accept his son’s death, but also warring with himself about the destruction of the nation. While the bits of Lincoln’s thoughts and inner-dialog are obviously just imaginative, it added a lot to the story and was the most heartbreaking part of this book for me.

Lincoln in the Bardo was just so different. The formatting, constantly going back and forth between historical sources or the fictional ghost voices, was a little hard for me to get used to (I found it annoying at first) but I eventually got into the groove, and I’m glad that I did because this book is worth it. If only for the craziness of it.

One of the other things I really enjoyed about this book, was just how Saunders deals with talking about death and the afterlife. Saunders does take on more of a Christian view of the afterlife, at least for the one character who has had a glimpse at life after leaving the grave, but what I found most interesting was the internal struggle these ghosts/souls are having as they basically hang in the balance (or the bardo perhaps) between life and whatever comes after. Many do not seem to know that they have died, and they are waiting for so and so to come and find them, or to exact their revenge on someone. Those that seem to realize, or at least have guessed at their fate, then are stuck with choosing between moving on, or remaining trapped in the cemetery trying to hang on to any semblance of their past life.

So, if you’re looking for something new/different/imaginative/inventive, I would really recommend this book. I was intrigued, yet skeptical at first, but now having finished the book, I’m finding I really quite enjoyed it and greatly appreciate how creative it was.

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Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend: It’s Basically Exactly What You Would Expect..

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I don’t even know where to start on this one. A co-worker happened upon this book at work and told me I need to look it up. So we immediately pulled it up an Goodreads, because with a title like Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend, you just have to know.We laughed at what sounded like a hilariously bad plot, and the “This is the dumbest book I’ve ever read” reviews. I started to think, “Okay, but this is satirical right? Are they just not getting that it’s satire?” Having just now finished it, I’m still unclear on whether this was actually meant to be satirical or not..
This book is…. something. You could pretty much just read the title and plot, have a laugh, and call it a day.

A pterodactyl randomly appears and starts attending high school. Everyone goes fucking nuts, girls fall in love with him, and somehow everyone knows so much about his feelings and thoughts even though he barely speaks.. It’s just such an absurd plot, and Shiels, the main character, is a total dumbass. Sorry not sorry. I thought/kept hoping that at some point the absurdity of it all would become funny, or at least start to be logical. It never did. Yet I felt compelled to finished this book just because I had to know how one earth this would go. Lessons learned: kids are stupid, don’t have sex with a pterodactyl. The end.

 

The Circle – “Knowing is good, knowing everything is better”

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So, confession, I didn’t really know anything about this book until I saw on a list of books that are being made into movies this year. So naturally, Hubs and I both wanted to read The Circle before its upcoming movie in April. It sounded like an interesting idea, with some interesting similarities to real life big companies. If I’m being completely honest, I probably mostly picked up this book because Emma Watson is going to play the lead in the movie. Sorry.. (not that sorry).

This was a good, intriguing, and thought-provoking book, but it seriously gave me the creeps (and a freaky dream the night I finished it as well). This is in no ways some horror/slasher book, just to be clear, but I get weirded out and paranoid about the psychological stuff that was presented by The Circle. Essentially, The Circle is a huge company that runs/tracks a lot of major areas of its users lives. Think if Google, Apple, and every social media platform melded together. They would conquer the world right? That’s basically what is happening here. The Circle is bent on connecting everyone, every second of every day. Full transparency. Your location, your purchases, what you had for lunch, who you were with, what you like, when you went to sleep, all tracked by The Circle. Creepy, no?

WARNING: My ramblings from here on could technically be construed as spoilers. And I use a bad word.

Like I said book gave me the willies, and I just kept hoping for that moment when more people thought, “hmm maybe trying to know everything about everyone and having absolute transparency is fucking ridiculous and unsafe.” That moment never really came.

All in all, I wish more had happened. Frankly, I kept waiting for more people to resist The Circle and their moves to basically take over everything and become a totalitarian empire, but we hardly get to see any of that. We see our main character, Mae, vaguely start to question what she’s doing, and then become a blind follower once again. I was also disappointed that Eggers never went very far with the “tear” within Mae that would come up in times when she seemed to be on the verge of going off the deep end… I really thought that was actually going to go somewhere and lead to an actual plot twist.

All in all, thought (and paranoia) provoking read. It was all very intrigued, but I wish there had been more to the story. I assume that Eggers’ message was that we need to be careful about being fully transparent, giving up our privacy without suspicion of the powers that be, etc. But I guess I was just waiting for an uprising or rebellion of sorts and it was no where to be found.