Monday, 23 May 2016

26 Books: A Book you were Supposed to Read at School... but Didn't.

This would have been number 19 in Bringing Up Burns 2015.

'Catch 22' by Joseph Heller (J):

Well I probably missed the point. I chose Catch 22 as one of my '26 books to read in 2015' and it was the ' book from my shelves that I haven't read' until I realised I don't have it (where did it go; whose shelves am I familiar with seeing it on?) so I got a very cheap Kindle edition (notable for its typos). So, it turned into a book I was supposed to have read at school, because it sounds like the kind of book that one would read at school. I read about a hundred pages, and then decided that my life's too short to waste on something I just didn't want to come back to. Reading is for fun (in some sense, it can be gruelling, but if I don't want to know what happened next or am annoyed and after a good chunk of the book this hasn't worn off, then STOP!).

A little rant.

Back to the book.

I think I understood that it is highly ironic. Every sentence is tortuous and contradictory. It illustrates the life of members of a USAF bomber group in 1944/5 Italy, and the essential conundrum of their lives, which is that they all don't want to be there, they don't want to continue to risk their lives, they are waiting to serve their time and go home, and the central character is trying to get out of further bombing missions by pretending to be 'crazy' but this doesn't work: If you are willing to fly missions, you are crazy. If you don't want to fly missions you are not crazy because that's common sense. You would get signed off having to fly if you are crazy but to declare yourself crazy is self cancelling (see beginning of sentence). This is Catch 22.

Last year I read Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy. It's about the same period, it has a similarly cynical attitude to war and to WW2 in particular, which is especially interesting because this is the war that is generally given as being sainted, almost a holy war because the Nazis were so evil, and because of the holocaust. What we all miss in that long after the event interpretation, is that this was accidental. WW2 was actually just like most other European wars, about territory and alliances. Yes the Nazis were spectacularly horrible in a way that Western civilIsation needs to continue to learn from, but that wasn't why Britain and the US fought them. So it's interesting to read contemporary accounts that weren't pro-establishment. I found Evelyn Waugh much more interesting (if a little turgid) than Heller's really dated comedy method. It was just tedious!


'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare, illustrated by Richard Appignanesi (E):

I found it really hard to think of one for this actually!

So, I was meant to read Hamlet in English for A2 and I didn't. Before everyone jumps down my throat, it wasn't my set text. My set text was The Duchess of Malfi, and our teacher suggested we read other plays written the same period as recommended reading so that we would know the context. Hamlet was one he suggested.

Ive read loads of Shakespeare, so I decided to read the other ones and skimmed Hamlet. I knew the story of Hamlet anyway, so it seemed pointless.

Basically, there's my excuse: it's not quite as bad as it sounds. I've watched it loads!

Okay, onto the book. I decided to read the Manga adaptation because I thought it would be pretty fun. I do like Manga, but I didn't like this. It sounds weird to say I don't like the style, when it's Manga, and I like Manga, but I didn't like this particular one.

Also, I don't think the balance of text and images were right. It was often confusing what was to be read next. 

Oh yeah, and the whole Manga thing. It was set in some future world where they have plugs in the sides of their necks, and connect up to something. But they never even explained what all this was! What was the point of putting it in? Or maybe it was supposed to be this great enigmatic mystery; but that doesn't work either because they only did it about twice at random times. It felt like the author just wanted to add in something to make sure we knew it was set in a future world. We knew, okay?

I've read a graphic novel of King Lear before, which was absolutely fantastic, but this doesn't come close. I think I might try some non-Manga Shakespeare from now on.

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