Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children…
I swiped a copy of “Peculiar Children” not just because it has an enticing title & luxuriously thick pages, but also because it was voted “best book of 2011” & was still sitting on the NYTimes bestseller shelf when first I saw it. With a pedigree like that it’s gotta be worth a scan. It starts with Jacob– a worthlessly spoiled 16yr old– fondly remembering the bizzarre stories his grandfather used to tell him as a child. This of course triggers all sorts of fuzzy “Princess Bride”-esque scenes to satisfyingly flicker in front of your mind’s eye. Things only get better when the grandfather is gruesomely murdered. His last words, wispered while bleeding out in Jacob’s arms, are a mystery harking back to the fantastic stories of years ago. Were those stories true? Jacob, determined to solve the mystery, gets some help from his shrink and convinces his father to set off in search of answers. Their destination? A mist filled, crater shaped island off the coast of Wales. So far, so good.
Once on the island, Riggs tosses in some tantalizing details, adding meat to the mystery she’s constructing. Thus far, we’ve been led to believe we’d been exploring a normal, workaday world that might have a bit of believable peculiarity nestled in one of it’s forgotten corners. But then we meet the children & Riggs decides it’s ok to take a giant, Hairy Potter-like dump on the page. Time travelling bad guys come crawling out of the mist. Flaming fingers & flying children become the norm…. I actually stopped at one point, scratched my head & wondered where the thrilling mystery thread went & why we’d entered a flimsy fantasy adventureland?
I finished it out of pure stubborness, but don’t feel satisfied & certainly won’t bother with the sequel.
While perusing the shelves of B&N looking for something to read, I stumbled onto a Hunger Games display piled high. I recognized the book from a few people who’d read it. According to them it’s an addictive, can’t put down sort of book about kids systematically slaying each other in state sponsored gladatorial combat. And after an 8hr marathon lecture, I figured an easy to read, guilty pleasure was just what the doctor ordered. That was Friday afternoon, & by Sunday, I’d devoured the entire trilogy.
To be honest, the first book is well worth the time as a pleasant distraction, though I’ve always been compelled by the siren song of post-apocalyptic fiction (& highly recommend The Road by C.McCarthy). However, this particular vision is marketed towards souls far less.. experienced than I. The heroine (unsatisflyingly dubbed “Katpiss”… ahem… Katniss) is full of dramatic, psychosocial monologues, transparently obvious to anyone who’s ever gotten to first base. Yes sweetheart, he likes you. Sigh… if only Collins had been given the green light to scribble in some real ultraviolence, sex & debauchery, then she’d have something! Regardless, it’s a book well worth powering thru on days where you’ve no illusions or intellectual pretensions.
Afterwards, if you’re still in the mood for something light– beach reading if I may– consume book two, “Catching Fire”. Like it’s predecessor, the plot’s predictable (though satisfyingly so). Heed my warning & tread no farther down Collin’s woven path. The third book of the trilogy, “Mockingbird” immediately takes a turn toward the incoherent. the flaws inherent in the makebelieve nation of Panem grow inexcusably out of control, & the magic that originally makes the characters delightful has been sucked dry.
& back I go to finger thru Moby Dick…
I picked up a copy cause I heard it said that Moby Dick’s one of those books that everyone knows, but no one’s read. Those same folks say the book’s about Obsession, but– after having devoured most of the novel– I might take them to debate.
Melville’s masterwork is as much dry literary travelogue as it is tale of one Captain’s obsession with the Leviathan. The frothy white inner conflicts of the crew is pitched into a tempestuous squall of sentences, only to mix– disenchantingly I do say– with an oft laborious reporting of the workaday details of a whale ship (as interesting and exotic as the theme of those chapters can sometimes be).
Herman would have done well to have listened to his contemporaries who similarly criticized his bipolar inability to maintain the story’s narrative thread. Tatooed savage Queequeg, pipe happy Stubb, and of course, ol’ Ivory legged Ahab are all too often tossed overboard & forgotten in the face of Melville’s monomaniacal quest to immortalize every anecdote & observation that ever crossed the bow of his being.
The glorification of self thru ‘storytelling’, the memorialization
of the soul of one man’s life’s story in all it’s unneccesary detail, this is the gentle tugging undercurrent of Moby Dick. And it just so happens to be an obsession I understand.