If you haven’t read Part 1, click HERE.
The Weirdathon goes on, and I’m back with part 2 of my suggestions of hit all of the challenges. I hope your last 48 hours since Part 1 have been weird. Let’s get right into it.
- Read a Book With Magical Realism – The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka – I’m never really
sure how to classify The Metamorphosis because it’s such a strange, surreal read. If I’m feeling that way now, I can only imagine how readers felt back in 1915. In short, Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning dreading going to work, especially when he realizes he’s late. Follow so far? Good. But, get this–he’s a bug. Instead of a human being, he’s something like a big ol’ cockroach. Initially surprised (and who wouldn’t be?) his father chases his back into his room with a newspaper. His life, obviously, changes dramatically as he tries to confront this new reality, and his family at first helps, but they gradually become more and more annoyed with his condition. Touching on themes of isolation, identity, man and nature, and all of those high school-esque thematic focuses, it’s probably Kafka’s best. If you haven’t read it yet, this is a classic for a reason, and I’m quite certain that you have seen some kind of reference to The Metamorphosis in pop culture. Also, it’s a novella, so this is pretty easy pickin’s for an entry.
- Read a Book that Addresses the Reader – The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles – I’ll admit it–it took me quite a while to think of a book that really
addresses the reader in a way that was other than just something in passing. Fowles is a pretty renowned author, and I haven’t read any of his other works aside from this one, but what he does is pretty profound in terms of the postmodern. The French Lieutenant’s Woman is essentially a critique of the Victorian novel that centers around a relationship between the troubled Sarah Woodruff and the orphaned gentleman Charles Smithson. The narrator talks to the reader throughout, and he even appears at the end to present three possible readings to the reader in a real “what-the-fuck?” moment. You have metafiction, unquestionably, but the novel also builds on themes of meta-history, feminism, and a slew of others. There’s a lot to unpack in this novel, and it is absolutely worth a read. If you’re a fan of Victorian novels, well, this is up that alley even though it’s a bit more of a critique than a true Victorian novel. If you like the weird, well, did you read my description here?
- Read a Book with a Cult – You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman – How do I describe this? When I first started reading, with its strange emphasis on food, I thought this novel would be a kind of reflection on female body issues in society. I wasn’t completely off the mark, but the novel ends up being a lot stranger once you’re introduced to a cult that subsists entirely on a kind of synthetic junk food called Kandy Kakes. Add in a game show, some very odd members of the supporting cast, and an overall sort of parody of current consumerist culture in the U.S., and you’ll have something of an understanding of what this novel is about. Honestly, it’s good, and even though it wasn’t a happy story, I found myself really wanting to delve into the world of the novel a little deeper, or at least the world of A. The novel features very skillful psychological development and reminded me quite a bit of Don DeLillo’s writing style, especially in White Noise.
- Read a Book with a Talking Animal – Animal Farm by George Orwell – It’s entirely possible that you’ve read this novel already. I would honestly be surprised if your high school curriculum didn’t mandate you read this and leave half your school chanting “Two legs bad, four legs good.” One of the definitive dystopian novels, Animal Farm is a thinly-veiled criticism of communism utilizing animals, who usurp humans for control of a farm. You have your secret police, your slimy advisers, and your proletariat. Of course, the use of animals made it that much more powerful, and, at times, absolutely laughable. Orwell really zinged ’em. As the animals decide to run something of a communist state, life is initially great, but it then starts to head downhill once all of the rules go out the window and disparities start to become more and more apparent. I’ll never forget Boxer the horse. Damn you, Orwell.
- Read a Book in an Experimental Format – The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia – The People of My Paper was my selection for the Weird-Off, and the strangeness of both format and story are probably the only reasons I won because Cass destroyed me in the rebuttals with some barbed wire wit, and I’m still applying burn cream daily because of it. Still, even with my grizzled veteran status, I can do nothing but recommend this book with every fiber of my being. There are weird characters who, at one point, exit the book into the world of the omniscient narrator, who is based on the author himself. The novel blends fiction, memoir, magical realism, and a long list of other elements that I could write a thesis on here. The format itself is strange in that much of the novel comes in columns in which the narrator and the cast of characters give their own perspectives on events. It’s a really powerful work for an author’s debut, and it sure is damn strange.
- Read a Sci-Fi Book – We by Yevgeny Zamyatin – Have you read 1984? How about Brave New World? Before both of these, there was We. The novel follows D-503, one of few remaining humans following the Two Hundred Years War that reduced the human population to .2% of its numbers. Nature exists beyond the green wall, citizens live in glass houses and work in glass offices under the leadership of The Great Benefactor, and they march in sync and wear identical clothing. There is no creative thought, only logic and mathematics. There are no names, and sex is scheduled. D-5o3 is an engineer working on The Integral, a spaceship in the process of being built in order to colonize other planets. The novel is, essentially, D-503’s journal in the weeks preceding the launch. But then a mysterious girl named I-330 enters the picture and ooh-la-la–everything changes. Read my original review and thoughts HERE.