Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Review Time

(Note - any regular readers of my reviews may have noticed I rarely give a plot summary. That can be read via the link. I prefer simply giving my impressions, my “take” on each book.)

The Keep - Jennifer Egan

The Keep is eerie, spooky and continued to haunt me once I’d finished it. That’s a sign of a good book.

(Check out the link for a detailed and compelling summary of the plot.)

It is a strange and fascinating tale of characters struggling to make sense of the past and the present. We are all steeped in our own histories — as is the world itself. History reaches out and touches all of us. We either learn from it or choose to ignore it at our own peril.

We should also learn to recognize the perils of modern day life. For those of us who spend time communicating with others via technological means (cell phones, the Internet) here are some excerpts I found disturbing. Awfully close to the truth?

“I’m the opposite of all alone. I know people all over the fucking world.”

“What are they giving you, the machines? Shadows, disembodied voices. Typed words and pictures if you’re online... If you think you’re surrounded by people, you’re making them up.”

“What’s real, Danny? Is reality TV real? Are confessions you read on the Internet real? The words are real, someone wrote them, but beyond that the question doesn’t even make sense. Who are you talking to on your cell phone? In the end you have no fucking idea. We’re living in a supernatural world, Danny. We’re surrounded by ghosts.”

Gives one pause. Makes one think.

The castle and its keep are not simply metaphors for the past. Each contain labyrinths — with passages, tunnels and paths. The characters must literally find their way through these labyrinths. They must also explore and confront the complicated passages and tunnels within their own minds.

The opening, closing and locking of doors – both literally and figuratively — are used as a literary device to demonstrate the human condition. We are both prisoners and “keepers” of our thoughts, our addictions, our beliefs and our secrets. Opening or closing these doors can be acts of freedom or ones containing great risk.

I was particularly impressed by the fact that Egan used what is referred to as author intrusion. This is something that pulls the reader out of the story — usually a no-no in fiction. Egan makes it work. She introduces a character who, in essence, tells the tale of the tale. Confused? Sorry. You won’t be if and when you read the book.

What an amazing author. She has managed to write a book that is both realistic, other-worldly and have it all ring true.


oreneta said...

Do we redefine real? I think not. Real is real, I think the author has it right in those excerpts. I made a slip up last night while talking to my husband about the amount of time I spend on line...more than I ever have before, and said that 'well, I don't have a life.' That was really very inaccurate, I have a wonderful life filled with all sorts of fascinating people, and my family, what I lack are friends and family that are handy, and people I can chat too. Hence the heavy internet connection. Staves off loneliness while I develop a real circle of friends in my real day to day life.

So tell me, what's real?

By the way, I am reading Sue Monk Kidds second book, "The Mermaid Chair" and it is awesome. Less disturbing...I am not sure that is the word I want...than "The Secret Life of Bees" Very very good.

2manybooks2littletime said...

Hello there! I have this book on my wish list, it look so great! I appreciated finding your review on it, and I agree that a review should not give the whole plot but just your opinion...at least thats how I do it as well on mine! Anyway, I will be sure to get this one. Have you read "The 13th Tale" yet"? Also looks fabulous. I listened to the audiofile at doubleday and it is beautifully written. Thanks again!

John said...

Hmmm...book review...cool...

Having just finished High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (for the 4th time), I am looking for another read to pass the time until the next Pratchett book comes out. If I can find it, I shall give this a go purely based on your review. Will it be a Keeper or a Charity Shop Donation!

Beth said...

oreneta: Those excerpts made me think about "on-line friends." A daily reading of blogs lets me know more about what's going on in their lives than the lives of some of my "real friends." In either case, people only reveal want they want you to know about them.
I read and liked "The Secret Life of Bees." I'll add "The Mermaid Chair" to my list.

2manyboooks: "The Keep" was definitely worth reading...somewhat eerie and disturbing but well done.
Haven't read "The 13th Tale" - I'll check it out. Thanks.

John: You're going to give it a go based purely on my review??? Wow - what pressure. Perhaps I'll give Nick Hornby's book a go based on the fact you've read it 4 times...

Beth said...

I love your book reviews...I'm going to the library to get that one!

John said...

Yes, pressure indeed!

And if you don't like High Fidelity, I'll eat my hat.

Beth said...

beth: I figure since my blog is called "BooksEtc." I'd better do some book reviewing once in awhile! Glad you like them.

john: I'll let you know - and if you end up having to eat your hat, post some pictures of the event!

Princess Pointful said...

I love this quote you posted: “I’m the opposite of all alone. I know people all over the fucking world.”

Was this the book you were talking about in regards to loneliness in the city?

It sounds fascinating. I really find the whole idea of internet communications as subcultures pretty damn fascinating.

Jess said...

Hi Beth,
So I read it and I will get it back to you asap. You were right it was fabulous and not like anything I've read before or usually read, but a very nice change of pace! We'll have to chat because I think I might have missed something, as per usual.

Beth said...

Jess: Oh, I'm sure I've missed tons of things in this book. And it was quite a change of pace, wasn't it?
We can talk - anytime! (Well, whenever...)

Beth said...

princess pointful: The quotation "I'm the opposite of all alone..." is actually from the "The Keep," not from the book I was referring to on your blog.
This guy thinks he knows people all over the world through the Internet, cell phones - but he doesn't actually see them. So weird.