Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom | Interesting about time

I haven't read Mitch Albom before, who is probably most famous for Tuesdays with Morrie, so I didn't quite know what to expect from this novel. But I must admit that I somehow had formed the notion that I would be served something quite deep. In this regard I personally was disappointed. The beginning was simply too obvious, and I felt that Albom left little for the reader to conclude on her own. In addition, the style of the novel was very un-novelly. At times the narrator steps out of the story and says things like "consider the word 'time' ", and then goes on a quasi-philosophical explication of the concept. This is yet another example of how he makes it too obvious for me personally. That could also be Albom's style of writing, but unfortunately this type of writing doesn't appeal that strongly to me. I prefer the power of implication. That said, I eventually got interested in the story, if only to find out the fate of "father time" Dor.

In the book we meet three characters. Dor, who lived 6000 years ago and who in this novel is the embodiment of "father time". Dor's big flaw is that he invents the concepts and measurements of time, thus cursing mankind with a feeling of never having enough time, or of having too much time. When his wife lays dying of plague, Dor's attempt to stop time leads to his imprisonment by God in a cave where he has to listen to the voices of mankind begging for more -or less -time. 

The other two characters are contemporary people. Victor is dying from cancer and has decided to defeat death through cryonics, where his body will be frozen, to be revived in the future when his disease can be cured. He keeps his plans hidden from his wife Grace, and spends his every waking moment finalizing his plans for his next life.

Our last character is the teenager Sarah who is head-over-heels in love with Ethan. Being a loner, Ethan's attentions are even more worth, but it soon becomes clear that Ethan is not interested. When Ethan not only rejects Sarah, but takes it one step further and humiliates her, Sarah can see no other way out than for it all to stop.

God returns to set Dor free, but has one last task to give him. He must find Victor and Sarah, and he must understand why man's days are numbered. Thus after 6000 years, father time is set free into the world again.

Once more I have to say that Albom wasn't deep enough for me. Of the characters, I only really sympathize with Dor. Neither Victor or Sarah moved me, and I didn't feel that I got to know them well enough to understand their choices. Albom is merely scratching the surface. I feel as if Albom was more concerned about the form of his book, the way the stories of Sarah and Victor were construed as parallels, the way the concept of time was at the core of every scene, rather than getting to the deep-down psychology. Despite its flaws, though, Albom brought up some interesting points and made some fun historical connections which I enjoyed.

The Time Keeper is in no way a deep delve into the concept of time, but it definitely gets you thinking and philosophizing about time and your personal appreciation of the moment. It's a quick read, so I didn't lose too much time of my life reading it;) And Dor made it all worth it in the end.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Zoo Time by Howard Jacobson

Maybe I've just read too many metafictional novels or just wasn't in the mood for so-called "literary" fiction at the moment, but I had a hard time really getting into Howard Jacobson's Zoo Time. Jacobson is heralded as a funny writer, and I could see what was supposed to be funny, but it wasn't for me. Only when I was about 100 pages in did I start appreciating the book, but considering that the narrator Guy keeps lamenting that nobody reads anymore, I think that's fair.

The novel is very much a novel about writing. Guy Ableman is a semi-successful author who is currently going down along with the rest of the publishing industry. Female readers complain that he doesn't understand women, his publisher has just committed suicide, and it seems that the rest of the industry are all constantly constipated. Lacking inspiration, Guy turns to his real-life fantasy for material. He wants to write about having an affair with his mother-in-law Poppy, much to the despair of his agent, who feels that this material will appeal to noone. But when his wife Vanessa finally gets serious about her threats to write, things really start looking dark for our "hero".

The parallels are not lost on the reader. What Guy wishes to do in his novel, Jacobson essentially does in Zoo Time. While Guy is watching the book industry crumble, Jacobson is also commenting on a declining industry.

I have to admit that the more I read, the more I enjoyed the book. Guy isn't easy to sympathize with, but one can still enjoy the read. And the ending is just priceless. I kind of had the feeling that Guy pretty much deserved all the misfortunes that came his way, and this is turned around towards the end.

I didn't laugh as much as the "funny" on the book cover suggested I ought to, but then again, Guy does point out that having that branding on the cover of one's book is a guarantee to make people not find it funny.