Ink & Paper

Thursday, December 30, 2004

A Tale of Two Books

Not much to do over here in Kuwait. Except read, and of that, I have been doing a lot. Two books done in the last two days. Thus, two reviews for my loyal readers.

The Da Vinci Legacy by Lewis Perdue

Not to be confused with the hugely successful, soon-to-be-a-movie book The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, this book is flat out awful. Flat out, using-too-many-hyphens-to-fill-blog-space awful. It claims it was written in 1983, which leads me to think that some sort of plagarism lawsuit by Perdue against Brown may be in the future, as the books plot lines are remarkably similar. But I digress.

Because this book was written in the early 80s, and re-released in a very rushed attempt to latch onto the success of Brown's book, some flaws become apparent rather quickly. In fact, at some points throughout the read, I put the book down, furrowed my brow and did some math.

Example A: One character, Kingsbury, is reputed to be a spry 73 years of age. The book states that he was 8 years old in 1916, meaning that the book must be set in the year 1981. (1916-8+73, remembering your order of operations!) Fine. No problem. Except for the mention in one line of the book, that the 9/11 attacks are now 11 years past, making it 2012 in another part of the book. Just a minor descrepancy of 41 years or so that makes one of the main characters a ripe old age of 104, not 73.

Example B: The main character, Vance Erikson, is a geologist who is obsessed with Da Vinci. First one must address the obvious fact that geologists, or anyone else who has ever gotten a 4-year geology degree from the U of A (2000), have no appreciation for anything artistic besides gay porn. But I digress again.

Vance claims to have been studying at Cambridge in 1966, where he met an influential professor one night in a bar, the start of his obsession with Da Vinci. So one can surmise that if Vance was studying at Cambridge in 1966, he would have been about 18 years of age. Yet later on in the book, it is revealed that Vance fought in the first Iraq war in the early 90s. So, let's all watch the old English teacher pull out the calculator. 1990-1966 = 24 +18 (the age he would have been in Cambridge) = 42 years of age. It is not past the realm of possibility that a 42 year old could have seen active duty in the first Gulf War. But if it is 2012 in this novel, then the protagonist would be (2012-1990 estimate = 22 + 42 years of age at the time of service) 66 years of age, not the mid-30s that he is described as in the opening of the novel

Besides these two rather glaring examples of a lack of proofreading, or first reading for that manner, there are many other lines and situations that would make even the Danielle Steele fan retch with misunderstanding. The two main characters, Vance and Suzanne, are bitter bitter enemies at the beginning, a feud that has lasted for many years. Yet Suzanne sees the error of her ways in two or three paragraphs and they fall in love, right before they fly off to Italy to shoot it out (3 or 4 dozen times) with a band of ultra-orthodox priests. The action is fast-paced, lotsa blood, and yet every 3 or 4 gunshots or so, they turn to look at each other dreamily, as bullets whizz over their heads, to declare their love for one another. "I love you." "I love you too." Copy/paste a few thousand times every page, and the ill-informed reader might just start to think that ultra-orthodox priests are some sort of asphrodisiac. Oh yeah, and Suzanne is a great shot with a gun, leading to the discovery half way through the book that she's ex-CIA and saw a lot of action in Beruit. But wait, that math genie is raising his head again....

Beruit was in the early 80s, lots of US involvement. In the current timeline of the novel, 2012 if we go by the 9/11 line, then we have a problem. Suzanne is described as in her early 30s and quite a looker. So if it is 2012, that means that even if we say she is 35, she was born in 1977. Now I have never been involved in the CIA and I don't think they know about me, but I doubt they would hire and train someone under the age of 5, disguise her as a journalist, and send the kid into Beruit as a spy. I know "Spy Kids" was a good movie, and the sequel rocked, but c'mon.

The entire book is 385 pages long. Book 1, the first section of the book, is 297 pages long, leaving Book 2 a paltry 88 pages. I was actually surprised when I flipped the page and read "Book Two, " it caught me that off guard. On top of that, there isn't really a need for a Book 2, as it picks up right after Book 1 ends. If Book 2 has a purpose, and that is a big if, it is to suddenly start thowing around words like Communism, Facism, Islam, and the GPU, which replaced the KGB of USSR fame. None of these words, to my recollection, appear in any great significance in Book 1. Seems rather out of place, as if the author was trying to grasp at straws to keep his readers somewhat interested. "Hmmm, I've had a lot of death, a lot of sex, a lot of terrorism, what can I do to spice this up? Hey. Heeeeyyyy. Communism. That's a good one. Oh oh, and Facism! Yeah that will keep those mouth-breather readers of mine somewhat interested."

This is by far the worst book I have ever read. I could go on and on with more examples. I actually urge you to get it from the library or a second-hand bookstore, just to read it for the laugh. And if you have any worries about getting your novel that you've written on a Denny's napkin published, this novel is proof that any donkey with a pen can fool a New York publisher. I feel dirty....

So I finished The Da Vinci Legacy, which predictably ended with the Vance and Suzanne happily married and sailing in California. I was concerned for my brain, as I thought to myself that I'd best not read another book like this, lest my brain turn to mush and start telling me that "American Idol" is the pinnacle of civilization. Books here in Kuwait are 1. Censored, heavily and, 2. Outrageously expensive. I had borrowed this piece of garbage from another teacher who I thought had better taste, leading me to peer at them with a skeptical eye.

Genius, a flash of thought in my head. The school has a library. Well, we have a room with a sign on the door that says Library. The room itself is 94% empty shelves. The one key to the door is down in the basement with the security guard. And apparently we have a librarian but no one has seen her yet. So dust collects, no teachers or students ever use it. There is no check out system. At best it is a work in progress, at worst, an embarassment. But there is a glimmer of hope, as some of the few books there are of quality. So down I go to visit Favit, the security guard, get myself a key.

I raided the place. If it was possible to make it look more empty, I did it. 6 books in all, including the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy, Surfacing by Margaret Atwood, The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Hey don't shake your finger at me, what, are the dust mites gonna read 'em? No and seeing as how the year is half over and not one class has used the library, I figured the books needed some attention.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Wonderful, like a cold beer in London after five dry months. Renewed my faith that the written word has tremendous power. First published in 1988 by Coelho, a Brazillian, it has sold over 22 million copies in a gadzillion different languages. I had heard this book mentioned for years, yet somehow it had elluded me. No longer.

The main character, Santiago, is a boy of about 17 when the novel starts in Spain. It seems to be set in the past, but as with all most literature, it doesn't matter. Santiago is a shepherd until he begins a trip to see the pyramids of Egypt, a journey that is largely poetic and full of such language as "The Soul of the World." Many people will dismiss this now, after reading that last sentence. Fools. It is an 'out there' book, one that I will read again and again, as I feel that it will only reveal more with each reading. The fantastic is to be believed, perhaps showing the influence Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude) has had on Coelho. But it is Coelho's voice as he describes Santiago's journey of self discovery in remarkbly simple, yet poetic words. A literary style similar to Marquez in the poetics, yet echoes of Hemingway in the scarce use of words, leaving much to the reader's imagination.

This book is amazing, and will now be on my Top Five list, possibly for a long long time. I urge you to read it, only after reading The Da Vinci Legacy. Why? Because there is no better example of the difference between a mass-produced, money-chasing novel and literature. Literature touches your soul, makes you lay awake at night thinking about things bigger than oneself. Money Novels fill empty time with candy, soon to be forgotten and unhealthy for your knowledge. I know I am getting preachy here, but their is a big difference and it should not be ignored. So read well, read smart, and feed thy brain.

Jay's Top Five Novels

1. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
2. Tuesday's With Morrie by Mitchell Albom
3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
4. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
5. No Great Mischief by Alistar MacCleod

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaegue
1984 by George Orwell
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by ­­­­­­­­­­­Mark Haddon
Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordechai Richler
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 8:25 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Rack 'em up, I just keep racking 'em up...

To date, a list of things that Marc, Monday, me, or the shoddy construction of this building/apartment, have broken.

1. Two brooms (Marc x 2)
2. The water faucet in the small bathroom, followed by flooding (Marc)
3. The shower head in the small bathroom (Marc)
4. Jay's beard trimmer (Jay)
5. Jay's battery charger (Jay)
6. Jay's electricity converter (Jay)
7. One soccer ball (Monday)
8. The AC, twice (Apartment)

And today, Jay managed to break the handle off the door of the washing machine, trapping his soaking clothes inside. He then disassembled the door of the machine, stop laughing Cadrin, and removed his clothes, now hanging to dry. Door is still technically 'latched', although the machine is remarkably easy to access, on account that the window, or glass piece, has been removed. Jay now has to talk to the school maintenance guy, who has a grand total of 6 words of English, and attempt to get him to fix it before, oh who knows, let's say, Easter. And if all goes according to logic, if there is such a thing in this country, no one will have to pay for it. More news to come from the exciting, never-ending destruction derby that is life in Kuwait.

Just a few days remaining in the "What's Up with the Square Manhole Covers?" Quiz. Oh and I'm liking the commentary burn. By Dad. On Jeff. Serves that little sob right. Good on ya Pa...

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:55 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Evening all. Man this tsunami death toll just keeps going up and up. A rather blunt reminder that we humans are still, even in this day and age, minor when compared to Mother Nature's fury. Bloody awful, that is all I can say about it.

No one has responded to my query about why the manhole cover shapes matter. C'mon, I'm only gonna give you a few more days, if you cannot figure it out, I'll have to 'teach' you too. Think safety. That is your only hint.

Tomorrow is Wednesday, the last day of a short week, with another 3-day weekend coming my way. I'll be bored outta my mind by, oh I dunno, Friday morning, I'd say. The thing is that, here in Kuwait, there is remarkably little to do outside of work. Yea, I got the Hilton, but only so much before it begins to bore me. Maybe I'll bribe Jan into going to one of the souks, see what kinda animals they are killing in front of me this weekend.....

CKUA is back on non-Christmas music programming, thank god. 2 Christmas seasons in a CD store is more than enough to ruin all the renditions of every damn Christmas song out there. Really, did Run DMC think at all before they stepped to the mic to hip hop my way through the holidays? C'mon.

Tomorrow morning is 22 more sleeps until I see Megan again. This will be the best Christmas in January ever. That's only another 528 hours or so as of 2:00pm tomorrow. I feel like my dog when she sees me come home from work. Shaking my ass all over the place.....

And with that little (big) image in your mind, I bid you good day and be safe.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:02 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Monday, December 27, 2004

One particular student in G6B1 to a "T"

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 6:43 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Well it has been a few days, since before the worst Christmas ever, since I wrote. I am doing fine now, but man, was Xmas ever the dog's breakfast. Nuff said.

Had a nice "Lord of the Flies" vibe/ near rebellion at lunchtime today, after we took the G11/G12 soccer ball away. They were trying to kick it through a closed window; teenagers are apt to find this amusing. So off it goes and suddenly a picnic table is over turned and there is a whole lot of chanting in Arabic. Possibly "Let's use the teacher's head instead" or "It's time for the inmates to run this asylum." Anyway, a minor sit in, a disrupted basketball game, and a 20 min lecture from the admin, seems to have restored whatever order we had before. Not really my fault, as I seek to shift the blame onto someone else. But it felt like the toothpast had been squeezed out of the tube and we few supervision teachers had to put it back in. Not a lot of fun, and I am thinking that the last day of Semester 1 best come as soon as possible.

On a sad, tragic note, many of the other international schools here in Kuwait are on xmas holidays, and Sri Lanka and Thailand are big destinations. With the earthquake, tsunamis, and rising death tolls, the expectation is that we may be seeing a few less western teachers returning in January. Nothing to do but wait. It's stuff like this, act of God kinda thing, that would really piss me off if I were to die over here. Not in the plans, but still it hits a little close to my current home.

Anyway, life here is okay for me, as I count down the days until London. 23 as of tomorrow. I am suffering from my predicted case of Kuwait Kabin Fever, as I struggle to get to the end of next week, when the teaching days end and the exam days begin. I'll make it, of course, but it may not be pretty.

Anyway, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are being safe. Take care, out for now.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 6:39 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


© Ink & Paper 2005 - Template by Caz.