the saddest book I ever read.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)
  “They all—Malcolm with his houses, Willem with his girlfriends, JB with his paints, he with his razors—sought comfort, something that was theirs alone, something to hold off the terrifying largeness, the impossibility, of the world, of the relentlessness of its minutes, its hours, its days.” 

Four young men became friends at college and then move to New York to pursuit different careers, but staying friends. While JB, Malcolm and Willem are sharing everything about their past and present lives, dreams and failures, Jude is a closed book. They know very little of Jude’s childhood and inner life, the only things they know are the things they are able to witness themselves.

Jude was left in the trash as a baby, picked up by a monastery where he was punished for every little thing. And then sexually abused. Things go from bad to much worse as one of the brothers runs off with him. A couple of years later he barely survives something which he himself describes as a car accident to his friends, and his body is severely damaged after it. Once he starts college, things really improve, but yet he feels the need to punish himself almost every night.

 This book is incredibly sad. I cried, cried and cried. And despite the descriptions of all the terrible things Jude went through I couldn’t put it down. Luckily, it’s not all bad, it’s really about the strength of friendship and love. And that’s what makes it so beautiful. It is definitely the best book I have read in years, and it’s a long time since I have been so involved in a book. I had to keep reminding myself that it’s just fiction, and not real. I’m hoping that it will win this year’s Man Booker Prize.

(So much unsaid about this book, so many emotions running wild.)

 “You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.” 

fifty-one.

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan (1997)
Joe and Clarissa are on a picnic, celebrating Clarissa’s return. Suddenly they see a hot air balloon in trouble, and they, along with some other men, rush to the rescue. The accident ends tragically with the death of one of the rescuers as he didn’t let go of the rope and was carried upwards.

Although the accident is very unsettling for the couple, the affairs which take place in the following months are worse. Shortly after the accident, Joe receives a phone call from one of the other rescuers, Jed. Jed claims to be in love with Joe, and stalks him. For unknown reasons Joe hides the fact for a while from Clarissa, and when he finally tells her, she believes that he is imagining it as she never she or hears Jed and his handwriting is awfully like Joe’s.

What drives this beautifully written slow story forward is the madness, and the fact that it’s unclear who the mad one is. I, as always, am never right. Joe is the perfect narrator, and I really like how a lot of the story is left untold. The only thing I disliked about the story is that it felt too rushed towards the end.

I have been holding off for years reading a new McEwan book after I read Atonement in 2008, as I loved that book and I have heard that McEwan can be a hit or miss. But I know he must be a great author as no less than 8 of his books are on the 1001 books list. I’m glad I picked Enduring Love as it didn’t disappoint. Read it if you are in the mood for a passionate story with a crazy stalker.

forty-seven.

the Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (1987)
“and it’s a story that might bore you but you don’t have to listen, she told me, because she always knew it was going to be like that, and it was, she thinks, her first year, or, actually weekend, really a Friday, in September, at Camden, and this was three or four years ago, and she got so drunk that she ended up in bed, lost her virginity (late, she was eighteen) in Lorna Slavin’s room, because she was a Freshman and had a roommate and Lorna was, she remembers, a Senior or a Junior and usually sometimes at her boyfriend’s place off-campus, to who she thought was a Sophomore Ceramics major but was actually either some guy from N.Y.U, a film student, and up in New Hampshire just for The Dressed To Get Screwed party, or a townie.”
Camden, New Hampshire, 1985. Simple version: Paul likes Sean, Sean likes Lauren and Lauren likes Victor. They are all seniors, but haven’t quite figured out their majors yet. But there are always parties to go to, drugs to be taken and people to fuck.
How do you write about your favourite book, a book that you have read so many times that you can quote it? It’s been three years since the last time I read it and yet I know most of it by heart. I’ll admit it is also because the film version is the film I have watched the most. This time around it took about 5 hours to get through the 330 pages.
The film came out in 2002, starred Ian Somerhalder, James van der Beek and Shannyn Sossamon. What I really love about it, is that it differs quite a bit from the book in some parts and then quotes it perfectly in other. I saw the film many times before I realised that it was a book. I’m not sure why I love the film and book so much, nothing much happens except a whole lot of partying. I love the way it’s narrated by many people, but mainly Sean, Lauren and Paul. And the simple fact that the name comes first makes it a whole lot easier to follow than many other books. Some of the chapters are the same scene (or party) seen from various angles and they all reveal something new.  And most of the people in it are mentioned more than once. I love how I connect more dots every time I read it.
I need to see the film again. Now. And read American Psycho so I can get to know Seans big brother, Patrick.

twenty-eight.

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. (1964)


The place is Brooklyn, New York, some time after World War II. The gang hangs around Greeks, a local bar, looking for sailors and military men to rob and pick fights with, girls and fairies to lay and cars to steal.

With this book, Hubert Selby Jr. replaced Charles Bukowski as my favourite dirty old man. I love his introduction to the book where he explained how and why he learnt to write. It is a hard book to read. It took me a while for me to get used to the language, the way he glue the words together, but the book wouldn’t be the same if it was written in standard English.

It was banned in England for being controversial. And it is brutal. Cross dressing, drugs, foul language, violence and very descriptive sex scenes. I will not recommend it to the faint-hearted. But it is definitely a book worth reading.