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

29906980.jpg

 

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.

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

25728101

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”

the_circle_dave_eggers_novel_-_cover_art

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.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Book Review

51c34qgum0l

 

First things first, the title of the book is amazing, and it was the only reason I bothered picking up this book when I came across it at work. Most who know me, know I’m quite curse-y, and rarely have any fucks to give, so naturally, I was quite drawn to this book.

The first few chapters of this book were fantastic, I constantly found myself think “ohh fuck yes” and “amen to that.” In case the title was not indication enough, this book isn’t really for those easily offended by the F word. Or other fun swear words for that matter.

200-1

Now, while I was totally sucked in by the beginning the book, I was constantly afraid it would sort of peter out, and it kinda did.. for me at least. However, while I lost the excitement of the beginning chapters of the book, Manson still made good points and shared interesting anecdotes throughout the remainder of the book.

A handful of the ideas shared by Manson are seemingly counter-intuitive, ie. we need to fail and experience pain. We spend so much time trying to avoid stressful, painful, embarrassing situations, but what do we learn by avoidance? Not very much. In order to grow, change, succeed, and become a decent human being (instead of an entitled little shit) we need to challenge ourselves and own our choices.

This book serves as a nice reminder that life is what you make it. How we interpret our experiences, and how we choose to deal with those experiences makes all the difference in how we move forward in life. Manson talks a bit about taking responsibility for the things that happen to us and the way we feel. While certain things that happen may not be our fault, it is our responsibility to choose what to do with or how to feel about those events.

Not giving a fuck isn’t about being indifferent, entitled, or belittling others, it’s about choosing what matters to us. It’s about our personal values and how we take responsibility for what happens in our own lives. Manson talks about what he calls the “Feedback Loop from Hell,” which is we make ourselves feel bad for feeling whatever it is we feel, and that emotion just spirals out of control. For instance, the Feedback Loop from Hell comes into play when you feel anxious about something, and then in turn feel bad/more anxious about being anxious, as opposed to asking yourself why you feel anxious and just owning it.

 

“Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.”

 

To not give a fuck, is to take ownership of how you feel and respond to your situation. Don’t be overtaken by the things that stress you and bring you down, but rather accept it for what it is and say “what the fuck ever.”

200-2

 

Or to put it more politely:

200

 

Being Alive Costs: The Invoice

51osjhvtavl-_sx336_bo1204203200_

Imagine you receive an invoice saying you owe some unknown organization 5,700,000 kronor (about $665,000). Clearly, it must be some mistake or a scam, right? But what if it isn’t and you do in fact owe this large sum? How have you acquired such a large bill? Now, imagine that not only is this invoice very real, but it is an invoice for your Experienced Happiness, and you know owe this money to something called World Resources Distribution. As it turns out, everyone has received a similar invoice, of varying amounts based upon their own Experienced Happiness, but somehow you’re debt is double or triple the debt of others.

This is the basic premise of Karlsson’s novel The Invoice. Our narrator, who is never named, receives an invoice for 5,700,000 kronor. Assuming said invoice to be a hoax he ignores the piece of mail until a little while later a new invoice arrives, this time the insane amount plus interest, of course. Upon calling the customer service number provided on the invoice and waiting hours on end to speak with someone, he discovers this invoice is indeed serious and the amount has been calculated based on a survey he filed out absentmindedly in the past to assess his Experienced Happiness.

This was a fun, quick, quirky read. It was a little strange, in a I’m-not-quite-so-what’s-happening way, but I also find it charming at times. The main character is seemingly simple kind of guy who lives alone; a movie buff that works part-time in a video store, and has little family and one close friend. He leads a simple life, so it begs the question, how could he possibly own such a great deal based on his experiences?

The premise of this novel is really quite interesting. People owe a debt based not only on their experiences, but based on how they perceived these experiences. So essentially, those who look on the brighter side and don’t get down as easily having a higher value of life, and therefore their experience costs more. It’s an interesting premise, though at times a little puzzling.

“But how can it amount to so much?” I said, when I could speak again.
“Well,” she said, “being alive costs.”
I said nothing for a while, because I didn’t know what to say.
“But,” I eventually said, “I had no idea it was so expensive. . .”

The main character is a likable guy, and he is part of what makes the story so enjoyable. As a recent-ish college grad, “millennial” who can’t find a decent full time job, some aspects of this book really hit home. For instance, just the premise that “being alive costs” makes my stomach hurt. In The Invoice, every single experience and how it is perceived comes at a price. The stress of that life is unimaginable to me. However, there were some moments in the book that were strangely uplifting. For instance, realizing that even the seemingly small experiences in life matter and/or can mean something, they are all part of the “experience” all a part of the bigger picture. It all sort of came down to a realization that life is what we make it, we each perceive and react to our experiences differently, and that’s sort of what makes life great.

 

 

 

I received a copy of The Invoice from Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review.
blogging_for_books_lockup_1a