Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Non-List Reading in Thailand and Malaysia

I'm back in Canada now, after a fantastic trip to Thailand and Malaysia. Like most of my trips, I am never afforded as much time to read as I think, so most of my reading was confined to airplanes and trains. Fortunately for my reading habits, this trip included two flights over 12 hours and a 15 hour train ride, so I was able to get something done.

Reading over the
Gulf of Thailand
From the list, I read Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust (review to follow), and not from the list, I read The Great Train Robbery and American Psycho; two very different novels, to say the least!

I first read Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery over 15 years ago, and enjoyed it very much. I've also seen the 1979 movie with Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland about 300 times, so it's one with which I am quite familiar.

Quickly, it's about a train robbery in 1855, and based on a true story, although most of the account has been fictionalized. I'm always up for a good caper story, and this may be one of the best I've ever read. But I also enjoy how Crichton explores the historical setting of Victorian England. The background he provides to the story is very interesting, and for those who have only seen the movie, the book explains many settings and characters the movie does not.

Crichton also wrote the screenplay and directed the movie, and as a result, it may be the truest to a book of any movie I've ever seen. Much of the dialogue is verbatim, with the only real change being that Donald Sutherland's character in the movie, is ten different characters in the book.

The Great Train Robbery is more or less a light-hearted, quick read, the exact opposite of the next non-list book I read, American Psycho. I don't think I've ever read a book with as much graphic violence and gore, as American Psycho; at times it would make Naked Lunch seem like a children's book.

I don't say this as a slight against the book at all. Unlike Naked Lunch, which seemed to use sex and violence merely for shock value, American Psycho is trying to explore a deeply disturbed character. The horrible violence which the 1st person narrator describes, with a chillingly-calm tone, was very effective at driving home just how much of a "psycho," Patrick Bateman really was.

Having said that, there were scenes that made me, quite frankly, uncomfortable; as I found myself clutching my thigh as I read, grimacing and trying to get through a passage, yet unable to look away or stop reading.

I'm curious to see the movie now, as I cannot really imagine how it could even come close to depicting as much of the violence as the book describes. It just isn't possible. But having said that, images of violence usually have more of an impact on the viewer than a description does to the reader, so it could be just as effective.

I'll put my review of A Handful of Dust up in the next couple of days, and in the meantime will continue reading Gravity's Rainbow, which I have still have 300 pages left to read. Oh boy.

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