Bright Shiny Morning: Nobody Walks in L.A.

Bright Shiny Morning 2I stand corrected from my earlier post about James Frey’s Bright Shiny Morning–the amoral gunshop owner doesn’t learn a hard life-lesson.  In fact, he never appears in the book again. There are a lot of characters like this in Frey’s novel, which speaks to the disconnectedness of life in Los Angeles, and I’m now more certain than ever that is Frey’s overarching theme.

In most books the various characters and plots would come together at some point and, even if not everything was resolved, at least connections would be made.  Not so in Bright Shiny Morning, and not so in L.A.  Frey throws in a lot of information (only some of it true apparently–he seems incapable of leaving behind his proclivity for making things up) about the makeup of the sprawling California city, its ethnic groups, their neighbourhoods, and the divide between them.  L.A. is easily one of the most diverse cities in the world, but the many people it’s welcomed over its history continue to be divided within its city limits, by race, class and wealth.

Frey’s novel is almost a horror story–so many bad things happen relentlessly to so many people–and there’s very little hope at the end of the tale.  In keeping with his gritty outlook, everything seems dismal, but there is a little hope, sometimes cynical, sometimes misguided, but sometimes spiritual and romantic.  And isn’t it that faint glimmer of hope that keeps people coming to the City of Angels?

The Death of Bunny Munro – delving into the obsessive mind of addiction

This weekend, while I was supposed to be reading The Book of God and Physics I took a break to read something else.  Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Munro.

Great Cover - Creepy - The Death of Bunny Monroe, Nick Cave

Great Cover - Creepy - The Death of Bunny Monroe, Nick Cave

Here’s the synopsis on the back cover of the Harper Collins book:

Twenty years after the publication of his first novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, Nick Cave brings us the final days of Bunny Munro, a salesman in search of a soul.

Set adrift by his wife’s suicide and struggling to keep some sort of grasp on reality, Bunny Munro drives off in his yellow Fiat Punto, Bunny Jr. in tow. To his son, waiting patiently in the car while he peddles beauty wares and quickies to lonely housewives in the south of England, Bunny is a hero, larger than life. But Bunny himself seems only to have a dim awareness of his son’s existence, viewing his needs as a distraction from his own relentless pursuit of sex, alcohol and drugs.

When his bizarre road trip shades into a final reckoning, and when England’s small towns seem to become stopping points in a strange, mythical landscape, Bunny realizes that the revenants of his world—decrepit fathers, vengeful ghosts, jealous husbands and horned psycho-killers—lurk in the shadows, waiting to exact their toll.

At turns dark and humane—and with all the mystery and enigma fans will recognize as Cave’s singular vision—The Death of Bunny Munro questions the nature of sin and redemption, and lays bare the imprints that fathers leave on their sons.

I couldn’t put Nick Cave’s book down.  It was an outstanding read, it was sad in a humorous way and the character development spiralling out of control was intense.

It begins with the death of Bunny’s wife and the obsessive need to have sex to control his emotional well-being.  Sex addicts usually use sex to medicate the pain, the happiness, almost every feeling besides numb – much like an alcoholic numbs the pain.

The story is really about the thought patterns that encompass a sex addict, how the neglect and the loss of income, a stable relationship and how family of origin issues get you there in the first place.  Then bring in some other characters and you see the pattern and how addiction runs from one family member to another, to another.

You can see how Bunny preys on the weak to boost his ego – his ego is so fragile that if he reached out to someone that turned him down he would go deeper into the depths of his addiction.  How the fantasies of an addict unnaturally take over the brain.

To be able to write this way about a sex addict’s state of mind, Nick Cave would have to do a lot of research or have a lot of experience with sex addiction.

The cover of The Death of Bunny Munro is outstanding and creepy.  The book is  a good read overall – Nick Cave is right up there with Chuck Palahniuk and Tom Robbins.

Read this book, but be prepared not to put it down until you’re done.

Witches, Shipwrecks and Losing a Nose: The Book of God and Physics, Enrique Joven

Witches, shipwrecks and losing a nose in a duel!  These are true life events of three characters in The Book of God and Physics, by Enrique Joven.

I’ve decided to read a book out of my comfort zone – something that may be too tech and less story, so I decided to find some interesting history that may make this an easier read overall.  I am, after all, scientifically challenged.

Yesterday I did a wee bit of research about this ellusive Voynich  Manuscript, which, judging by the back cover of the book, is the meat of the story.

Tycho Brahe:

Tycho Brache with nose!

Tycho Brache with nose!

He attended the universities of Copenhagen and Leipzig, and then traveled through the German region, studying further at the universities of Wittenberg, Rostock, and Basel. In a duel with another student, in Wittenberg in 1566, Tycho lost part of his nose. For the rest of his life he wore a metal insert over the missing part.

Tycho accepted an offer from King Frederick II to fund an observatory. He was given the little island of Hven in the Sont near Copenhagen, and there he built his observatory, Uraniburg, which became the finest observatory in Europe.  Tycho designed and built new instruments, calibrated them, and instituted nightly observations. He also ran his own printing press. The rest of the article.

Johannes Kepler:

Johannes Kepler, a real character in The Book of God & Physics

Johannes Kepler, a real character in The Book of God & Physics

He inherited Tycho’s post as Imperial Mathematician when Tycho died in 1601. Using the precise data that Tycho had collected, Kepler discovered that the orbit of Mars was an ellipse. In 1609 he published Astronomia Nova, delineating his discoveries, which are now called Kepler’s first two laws of planetary motion.

He is the Kepler of Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion

In 1612 Lutherans were forced out of Prague, so Kepler moved on to Linz. His wife and two sons had recently died. He remarried happily, but had many personal and financial troubles. Two infant daughters died and Kepler had to return to Württemburg where he successfully defended his mother against charges of witchcraft.

More…

Athanasius Kircher: 17th century Jesuit Priest

Kircher published his first book; it was on magnetism, a field that fascinated him throughout life.Kircher - 17th Century Jesuit Publishing books filled the rest of his life: over the next half century he published some 40 more.

In 1635 Kircher washed up on shore near Rome — he had suffered a shipwreck en route to Vienna. He was to take up the post of mathematician to the Hapsburg court there, replacing the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who had died in 1633. But Jesuit officials decided to change Kircher’s assignment and keep him in Rome, where he remained for the next 45 years. More…

Well, enough research and I’m about to delve into the scientific, storyline abyss – will I read it in one day?  Like I did with Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer (posthumously) or will it be one that is simply a chapter every couple of days?

Before Starting The Book of God and Physics

I’ve chosen to read a book that is completely out of my usual genre of reading styles this summer for the U of T Bookstore Summer Reading Series – The Book of God and Physics, by Enrique Joven.  I am not a trained critic when it comes to literature in any variety, but I am an average Joe Schmo reader.  Love it or hate it – I’ll put it all here – and I want your comments and your own reviews.  I’m always up for a debate!

The Full Volnick Manuscript in PDF

The Full Volnick Manuscript in PDF

To be honest, I know nothing about physics and at a first glance of the back cover the storyline of this book seems to ring of The DaVinci Code.  I did indeed read Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons and enjoyed them, so I’m hoping this book will be less techy and more storyline.

Before I delve into this book I wanted to find out more about this Voynich Manuscript itself, since I had never heard of it.  I found out:

  • It has 6 sections with almost every page containing an image:  herbal, astronomical, biological, cosmological, pharmaceutical and recipes.
  • The code has never been cracked, even by world reknowned code crackers, and there’s a theory that it is gibberish.
  • The writer of the original manuscript is unknown.
  • The Voynich Manuscript was named after the person who originally discovered it and currently resides at Yale University
  • It has 272 pages and is thought to be a book about early medicine
  • Thought to be written in the 15th or 16th century

So if no one has cracked the code I am interested to see what Joven writes about the Voynich Manuscript and I wonder why someone would want to create a storyline around it.   Tomorrow I’ll look up some of the characters in the book.

Then I’ll dive in…wish me luck!

BTW…If you are interested in literary criticism there’s a great site to teach you how to be a book critic.