Reading Wrap Up 1 | ‘Sweetbitter’, ‘Watchmen’ and ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’

sweetbitter book cover-ის სურათის შედეგი

“Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler (2016)

If you ask me, there should be a genre called ‘city blues’. You know what i’m talking about.. when a book is saturated with strong feeling of nostalgia towards the specific place and time, when the CITY is a protagonist, when the CITY is the place to lose and rediscover oneself, reimagine the inner drive and get inspired, when the CITY is a teacher, seducer and savior. Well, Sweetbitter depicts the classic NYC blues.

Tess, a girl with no personality enters the social ‘scene’ of high end New York restaurant servers and starts learning how to develop her taste in food as much as in people. She slowly gets entangled with the intriguing and wiser (as she thinks) Simone and her childhood friend- ‘bad boy’ Jake. She starts obsessing over both of them and finds herself in a turmoil.

Tess as a protagonist is not an interesting one, but her perspective of a naive young girl works just fine as a blank canvas for the story. There are two main reasons why I liked this one and why I think you should read it (or at least watch an adaptation on STARZ ; Season 2 is coming in July):

  1. I love to observe people being experts in whatever they do. Simone, the most enigmatic character of the book, is not just a server. She opened up the whole new world of enjoying food and serving it properly for Tess and for us, readers.
  2. I enjoy the fact that a ‘bad boy with a heart of gold’ type of a guy is realistically represented as a fuck-up. You probably met Jake, well maybe not a doctoral candidate-perfect lover-insanely book smart kind of Jake, but you met him. You met a boy you thought was a deep thinker, intelligent, enigmatic, unreachable with hot body and dramatic character… But he just wasn’t whatever you thought or simply wasn’t willing to share anything with you. People like to fuck with us just because they can, it’s our responsibility to refuse to play with them or lose the game without regrets.

4/5 ⭐️

watchmen book-ის სურათის შედეგი

“Watchmen (#1-12)” by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons (2005)

Hey, I know i’m a beginner in the world of graphic novels but really, what is the big deal with Watchmen?! As I know how much appreciated this novel is, I find myself scared to pick up some new bestseller graphic novel.

To summarize the plot , in the post vigilante world someone starts murdering ex-superheros. And we’re on the quest of finding out why!

It starts off amazing… sensitive political atmosphere of the 80s, ideological war with socialism blah blah blah but besides the context , the story itself was deadly boring, dialogues chaotic and confusing. By the end of it I was just skipping dialogues and scrolling through images to find out, what the hell is happening. Even the revealing of the antagonist was underwhelming.

2/5 ⭐️

ocean at the end of the lane-ის სურათის შედეგი

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman (2013)

Neil Gaiman is an amazing storyteller, I don’t think anyone could argue. He’s a true humanitarian who doesn’t choose between good or evil, he writes about the shades of gray. Depicting reality with fantastical allegories usually brought optimism to the reader, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane has a taste of a new kind of darkness, hard to handle and analyze.

It’s a story told from the grown man’s perspective, who returns to his childhood home and remembers the dark and mysterious experience he had when he was a boy.

I loved the fact that as a reader you have no idea if the story is true or traumatic memories are altered in his mind. Every horror that he remembers would be so much more painful if not accompanied with supernatural forces. So this raises a question, how much of what we remember is an actual fact and what is merely a fantasy?!

4/5 ⭐️


“Daisy Jones & The Six”, An Intimate Tale of Desire and Dignity

Taylor Jenkins Reid first popped up on a great literary scene in 2017, when The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo came out. Since then whole blogosphere anxiously waited for a new novel and she didn’t disappoint.

Premise of “Daisy Jones & The Six” is simple really, on a dimly lit 70’s Rock scene a brilliant man meets a brilliant woman, and their musical exploration slowly turns into an intimate awareness of one another. The climax of the story is a realization of what wins the war : desire to belong to someone right for you or responsibility towards oneself and others.

If you haven’t read it yet, i STRONGLY recommend the audio book. The interview style narration , that slowly uncovers the tale-like story , pays attention to small details , textures, smells, emotional vibrations of voices and overall, feels like a mesmerizing music biopic ; you just need to close your eyes and see the movie unfold.

The core value of this novel is the intense clash of unrealistic characters with their realistic thought process. Even though it’s hard to relate with the woman everybody is obsessed with, woman who seems like an idealized rock icon… we deeply empathize with her inner turmoil. We understand protagonists’ pain as they realize that meeting someone right, who sees you just how you wanna be seen , isn’t always a Hollywood rom-com material if the timing is all wrong. I loved how the novel didn’t meet the expectations and refused it’s highly wanted ending, cause it’s more real that way.

Sometimes we meet out soul mates at the wrong time, in chaotic circumstances and we lose them. But it’s okay, it’s life. We should be glad we even met them and experienced this metaphysical feeling of being loved.

4 / 5 ⭐️

“The Crow Girl”, The Detective Novel Turned into Manic Character Study

When you hear ‘Nordic Noir’, you expect Scandinavian grim landscapes, disturbing themes, physical and emotional violence, morally complex protagonists- usually female leads and overall darkness or a.k.a everything I appreciate in a crime novel. Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo” remains as the genre (and cult) classic till this day. So when I’ve read the synopsis of “The Crow Girl” it felt like my cup of tea. It said:

In a Stockholm city park, police discover the hideously abused body of a young boy. Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg heads the investigation, battling an apathetic prosecutor and a bureaucratic police force unwilling to devote resources to solving the murder of a nameless immigrant child. But with the discovery of two more mutilated children’s corpses, it becomes clear that a serial killer is at large. Jeanette turns to therapist Sofia Zetterlund for her expertise in psychopathic perpetrators, and their lives become increasingly intertwined, professionally and personally. As they draw closer to the truth about the killings–working together but, ultimately, each on her own–we come to understand that these murders are only the most obvious evidence of a hellishly insidious evil woven deep into Swedish society. As viscerally dramatic as it is psychologically intense, The Crow Girl is a tale of almost unfathomably heinous deeds, and of the profound damage–and the equally profound need for revenge–left in their wake. – Goodreads

And did this 800 page book meet my expectations? NOPE.

Erik Axl Sund is actually a pseudonym of Swedish author duo Jerker Erikssonand Håkan Axlander Sundquist and The Crow Girl is their debut. It’s English translation is a compressed version of the three volume novel about Victoria Bergman, an abused woman with a personality disorder. I know no more facts about them, but the novel felt as if its authors are actual fans of Nordic Noir and wanted their book as violent and perverse as they could. The novel is written really well, I could characterize it with the word – poetic even. It’s language is the only thing that keeps you going . Rather than that I could endlessly name things that bothered me.

Story starts off as a fine crime novel about ritual killings of young boys. Right then you hope it’s gonna introduce you to the interesting investigator , who actually KNOWS what she is doing, who gets into the head of this serial killer, unleashes his motives and traumas and finally haunts him down. But instead we get entangled in the most absurd, complex story with multiple narratives of the most uninteresting police officer, who most of the time doesn’t even know what she is doing; psychoanalyst with personality disorder who narrates as multiple people and takes up in time to make us witness her abuse and transformation of her psyche; child abusers and their revengeful abusees … Narrations change so fast and so often that you lose control over characters, you’re not invested in the story any more. You are not even challenged to think about the criminal mind behind these crimes , you just don’t care.

Only after you finish the book you realize, it was not a crime investigation story at all but merely a close up depiction of series of crimes and reasons behind them.

Main problem of this novel is not the darkness it contains, but the lack of it; Cause excess amount and repetitive nature of ANYTHING can easily lose its meaning.

2 / 5 ⭐️

Christiane F. and Ghosts of Berlin Zoo Station

I always wanted to be a part of the ‘scene’ , in the center of events, among everyone else I thought were ‘cool’. Drug scene wasn’t an option for me though, but a whole generation of kids in 1970’s Berlin, born in families so worked out that giving love and attention to kids was a luxury , gave up their lives for heroin before they turned 16.
“Christiane F. -Kids from Zoo Station” by Christiane F., Kai Hermann, Horst Rieck is a real life memoir of a teenage narrator Christiane , who shows us the scene we wouldn’t want to be a part of.

“Christiane F. -Kids from Zoo Station” starts off when Christiane is 12 years old and we slowly witness her descent from curious, innocent child to a 14 year old heroin addict prostitute, we witness her struggles, attempts to find love and acceptance, we witness her weakness and bravery, we witness her inner struggles and disillusionment , we witness the city haunted by pain and loneliness, we witness the most shameful , raw encounters , we witness lives lost , lives that didn’t matter in the first place.

Child narrator gives this book a special kind of honest tone, that makes us empathize with her. We don’t want to judge her, we’re not disgusted, we want her to survive, to defeat her demons, to find the way out, that she does eventually.

Years passed since I read it but this book still terrifies me… Idea that kids lacking love and care can seek shelter in the most dangerous places makes me anxious. And all these fears and sadness the book awakes is the main reason why it’s so great.

Heroin scene lost its aggressive presence, though it became a part of urban mythology of Berlin and the echos of the lost generation still haunts the halls of Zoo Station.

Zoo Station, Berlin
A scene from a movie “Chriastinae F.” (1981)

5 / 5 ⭐️

Poetry of Perversion in “Crash” by J.G. Ballard

If I could compare this book to the specific sound, I’d say it’s something like avant-garde punk; it’s bizarre and mesmerizing, but does everyone like Velvet Underground? Nope.

J.G. Ballard rose to fame in 1960s as an author of science fiction, but controversy around his two bizarre novels “Crash” (1973) and “High-rise” (1975) , both of which then became Hollywood films, seem to me as the main reason that Collins English Dictionary defines the adjective “Ballardian” as
“resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard’s novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments”.

It’s hard to summarize “Crash” in few words, as a story line is somewhat dreamlike. We have protagonists who experience car-crash sexual fetishism and we follow them to the journey through the darkest of their desires, including destroying themselves.

Sexual perversion has never been a subject I avoid in literature. In contrary, it can become an effective instrument to provide an illustration, social commentary, a metaphor or in case of George Bataille e.g. , an instrument to perform a philosophical act. But in Ballard’s “Crash”, perversion doesn’t work for a greater meta-text, it works on its own, it’s just a filthy ode to the dark human nature. The car crash becomes a trigger for the protagonists, activates their fetishism and they can no longer function as before, only way out of this lifestyle is self-destruction.

Reading “Crash” felt like an experiment but to be honest, it was a struggle.

3 / 5 ⭐️