Two Very Different Books

How funny. In the last 10 days or so, I finished two of the most completely different books I can possibly imagine. First, I read Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow. Here Be Monsters is the first in “The Ratbridge Chronicles.” While it wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped it would be (like everyone, I’ve been spoiled by Roald Dahl), I’m confident that kids will absolutely love it. It has illustrations on almost every page, and the situations are completely ridiculous. Cheese hunts. Pirates who wear boxes to look like “boxtrolls.” Rabbit women. Cr-azy. I liked the characters, though, especially Willbury, a retired lawyer who rescues some vulnerable creatures, like boxtrolls, cabbageheads, and even our hero, Arthur. And, though the plot is completely asinine, I was very interested in how it would all turn out. Bottom line: I doubt if I’ll read the next Ratbridge Chronicles book myself, but I will definitely recommend them to kids. I hope to enjoy Here Be Monsters with my son in later years.

And now for something completely different. After Here Be Monsters, I read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I’ve wanted to read Lolita for years now. I always hear that Sting song (Is it called “Don’t Stand So Close to Me?”) with the lyric “Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov.” I heard somewhere that Sting used to be an English teacher, which I think is incredibly fantastic. Anyway, I read Lolita. And I love it! It’s a beautifully written book. I’m fascinated, too, by its time period. I love the descriptions of traveling through America in the late 1940s and all the slang of the time, like “she’s a swell kid.” Of course we all know what Lolita is about, and, yes, it is unpleasant. Humbert Humbert, who tells the story, is not a likeable person. But the writing! I was willing to “spend time” with a pedophilic narrator just to listen to his words. This book inspires me to read more Nabokov and read more works published in the 1950s.

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