Going Postal: “I commend my soul to any god that can find it.”

Done reading Going Postal earlier today. It’s my third Discworld book and it was fantastic. I didn’t think I would like reading about the post office and postmasters and clanks and semaphores but Terry Pratchett can do no wrong. That man is a genius.

I’m too tired to write a proper review of Going Postal right now so here’s an animated picture of the Great A’tuin for you to enjoy:

 

Started Colour of Magic but then The Graveyard Book reared its ugly head so I’m gonna finish that one off before going back to CoM. I can’t believe Colour of Magic was first published in 1983, and I didn’t get to read my first Discworld book ’til 2012.

On a side note, I really should check out more British authors. British humor and sarcasm make me laugh the hardest (Douglas Adams, Stephen Fry, Doctor Who?). And they always sound so prim and polite!

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The Wee Free Men: Is that a’? Crivens! Nae problemo!

Why are my recent reads unexpected surprises? I did not expect Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men to be for kids 7-12 years old. Information on the web said it’s a YA novel set in Discworld but with YA, I automatically think Catcher in the Rye, Looking for Alaska, and even Harry Potter; not… Narnia. Target reading levels aren’t relevant though, just saying. Oh well, moving on:

In Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men, nine-year old Tiffany Aching carries a frying pan for a weapon and is accompanied to fairyland by a toad. Reminds you of Disney’s Rapunzel in Tangled, ain’t it? And I quite imagine Tiffany being a younger version of the 2010 Rapunzel, but being a big fan of the movie, I really didn’t mind.

The book had themes I’ve seen of old like a Queen who enamors/kidnaps people into a land of nightmares and who leaves trails of snow everywhere (Narnia’s White Queen?), and standing up to the big boss on your own that is reminscent of Meg Murray’s audacity in A Wrinkle in Time. The similarities end there though, and even with recurrent themes, the book was refreshing and was a delight from start to finish.

The Wee Free Men is named after the Nac Mac Feegles. A bunch of rowdy and drunken theives (pictured above in blue) who aren’t scared of anything (except lawyers) and are always ready for a fight. This bunch of little nuggets are the funniest. They are so inappropriate and rude and just hilarious. I really like the surprise with the toad too. It made me laugh out loud at a really grave time irl, and my family gave me looks that were questioning my mental state.

Even if the prose for The Wee Free Men is catered more for the younger audience, this book can still very well be enjoyed by older readers. It’s wonderfully written and laugh-out-loud hilarious even for adults like myself (sadface). It is also surprisingly deep with its themes of death and despair and losing people you love. I was also pleasantly astonished (lol) with how Sir Terry used mindfullness like it was some sort of powerful weapon. It was a very inventive approach to magical powers.

The book also introduced me to this wonderful painting called, The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke:



It looks so captivating and… pregnant. It was painted by Richard Dadd who was diagnosed with a mental illness, murdered his father and went on to paint this, along with many other pieces, in a mental institution. Dadd took nine years to finish this beast. I want to personally see it someday.

Quotes after the cut:

The skylarks stopped singing, and while she hadn’t really noticed their song, their silence was a shock. Nothing’s louder than the end of a song that’s always been there.

I don’t want to think she’s just… gone. Someone like Granny Aching can’t just…not be there anymore.

The secret is not to dream. The secret is to wake up. Waking up is harder.

Amazon tells me that the reading level for The Wee Free Men is ages 13 and up. Pfft. Challenge your kids. I don’t mean to sound snarky*, but I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was 10, dagnabbit.

The Wasp Factory: Our destination is the same in the end, but our journey – part chosen, part determined – is different for us all.

TIL I have a pretty low tolerance for written grossness.

After the excellent The Crow Road, I picked up another one of Iain Banks’ famous works: The Wasp Factory. I didn’t know what to expect. Well, that’s a lie. I expected it to be a science fiction piece (again) and I was wrong (again).

The Wasp Factory is a first person narrative by Frank Cauldhame – a 16-year old Scot who is quite… odd. Odd is a pretty underwhelming adjective to describe Frank. That boy is fucking sick. And his world, or at least how he sees and describes it, is so dirty and strange and, well, horrifying.

Despite the grossness, I had to give props to Mr. Iain Banks for such powerful prose. The writing was splendid (for the lack of a better adjective), and his deadpan humor for both TWF and TCR has propelled him on top of my list of favorite authors ever. What an excellent writer, and my god what a sick and twisted mind!

The way he wrote and the amount of animal cruelty and grossness in The Wasp Factory made me physically ill. It also didn’t help that we had lots of meat to eat the day I finished it, which is the day after I started it. Yep, I read the darn thing for less than 24 hours. The novel was quite short but that is still a feat for my tiny brain. It was very engaging and you never quite know what to expect. I gasped many times while reading the book and there are images in it that will, sadly, be etched in my mind forever. 😦

I know it might seem like I didn’t like the book but I did. Really. There aren’t a lot of novels so far that has affected me quite as strongly as The Wasp Factory did. It’s best to not know anything about the book before and while reading it, but if you love and are as involved with the written word Iain Banks wonderfully put down as much as I was, you will definitely want to know how everything ends.

Don’t eat while reading this though. It won’t end well for you.

P.S.

I found a gem of a review from the Irish Times when The Wasp Factory was first published:

It’s a sick, sick world when the confidence and investment of an astute firm of publishers is justified by a work of unparalleled depravity.

I laughed.

The Crow Road: What did any of it matter, in the end? You lived; you died.

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I’m fairly sure that I wouldn’t have liked this book as much as I do if I read it at a different time in my life. In Scotland, going away the Crow Road means to die, and death has not been as potent a theme in my reading years as it is right now; and I strongly blame this dark cloud of loss and despair for how much I loved this book. I’m not saying that The Crow Road isn’t good on its own (it is!), it’s just that current mental states often deeply affect how you experience a book.

The Crow Road famously, and quite beautifully, begins:

“It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach’s Mass in B minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach.”

The Crow Road is my first foray into the world of Iain Banks and I didn’t expect it to be mainstream fiction (I don’t like using that term but I don’t like using “non-genre” either). I know Mr. Banks from the Culture series and I expected some straight-up SF in this book but The Crow Road is a beautifully woven masterpiece about a family in Gallanach, Scotland written mostly in Prentice McHoan’s first person point of view. Prentice is your typical male protagonist who transitions from being an irresponsible teen to fledgling adult through booze, religious debates, failing grades and sarcasm. He is very relatable.

Being The Crow Road, the book is filled to the brim with themes of death – from an unsurprising death of an old loved one, to an unexpected and quite hilarious way for an atheist to go, to unrequited love, suicide, etc etc. The book was also wrapped beautifully with a charming piece about passing away, the non-existence of an afterlife, legacies and vanity through death and many other facets of loss that made me see the many ways to experience death and the passing of loved ones in a novel, and sort of refreshing way.

I’m not very good at reviewing books (and everything, in general) but The Crow Road flows beautifully and its prose, though at times verbose, is beautiful and full of witticisms. I highly recommend it.

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