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On 10/8/2021 at 1:17 PM, phills said:

I finished 红手指  by Higashino.  Thanks @Ori_A for the suggestion.


You’re welcome! You did that much fast than me! 😆

Glad you liked it, and I agree with what you said in the hidden content. I had a similar feeling.

 

兄弟 has been on my list for a long time. I’ve read two of 余华’s books and I loved them.

But 兄弟 is so thick, and my reading speed is pretty slow, so I’m kind of scared to even start.

 

 

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On 10/9/2021 at 3:03 AM, Ori_A said:

兄弟 has been on my list for a long time. I’ve read two of 余华’s books and I loved them.

But 兄弟 is so thick, and my reading speed is pretty slow, so I’m kind of scared to even start.

 

兄弟 1 is not that long, and is a relatively smooth read because 余华 is a writer that uses simple expressions & straightforward language.  It's about 40% longer than 红手指 (140k chars v. 100k).  It doesn't end on a cliff hanger, so it's its own story (the story of the brothers' childhood).  Part 2 is the story of the brothers' adulthood.

 

The only problem with it is it gets really sad in the last third of the book.  Sad, to the point where it's kind of a emotional chore to get thru it.  But that's part of the charm because you've gotten attached to that family, and that's their story. 

 

活着 is kind of that way too, but the sad text is just longer in 兄弟 1, so you spend more minutes/hours reading it.

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On 10/9/2021 at 8:29 AM, phills said:

兄弟 1 is not that long, and is a relatively smooth read because 余华 is a writer that uses simple expressions & straightforward language.  It's about 40% longer than 红手指 (140k chars v. 100k).  It doesn't end on a cliff hanger, so it's its own story (the story of the brothers' childhood).  Part 2 is the story of the brothers' adulthood.

 

The only problem with it is it gets really sad in the last third of the book.  Sad, to the point where it's kind of a emotional chore to get thru it.  But that's part of the charm because you've gotten attached to that family, and that's their story. 

 

I'm reading the final part of 兄弟 now (I'm at about 95% and  I would have preferred not to know that it ends sadly) and I'm finding it to be a very long book. 

Much harder to read than 活着 or 许三观卖血记 as it uses many, many more 成语. 

The whole book is a rollercoaster of emotions alternating between incredibly depressing stories of abuse, desperation and death and page-turning romances.

In general, the callousness of the crowd and its indifference towards other people's suffering seems to be one of the main themes that remains always present in the background of the novel.

 

I wouldn't say it's not a good book but with (many) caveats. I strongly recommend against reading it if you are in a emotionally fragile situation (not too uncommon these days with lockdowns all over the world) because it is at time the most sad and depressing reading that you can imagine. 

At the same time, it is not as easy to read as the other shorter 余华's novels so I wouldn't recommend it if you are not into 余华 already. 

 

In conclusion, I'm looking forward to be done with it and get on to something a bit more lighthearted and entertaining, I've got plenty of books on my list that I'm looking forward to read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tonight I finished the appendices to 巴金’s 爱情三部曲. The novels were better. In the most interesting of the four appendices, 巴金 imagines a contemporaneous literary critic as a smart, “幸福”, out-of-touch scholar who takes great pride in his fancy car and expert driving abilities.

 

Read a long 知乎 article on Cluster B personality disorders.

 

Been reading messages in the WeChat parents’ group for my daughter’s elementary school. I feel like an interloper, reading all this Chinese mom chat. Not sure if this is because I’m a foreigner or because I’m a dad.

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On 10/9/2021 at 9:39 PM, murrayjames said:

Been reading messages in the WeChat parents’ group for my daughter’s elementary school. I feel like an interloper, reading all this Chinese mom chat. Not sure if this is because I’m a foreigner or because I’m a dad.


I take it dad isn't the default parent usually taking care of kids related things in China either... 😅

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On 10/11/2021 at 2:47 AM, PerpetualChange said:

I wonder if there's some way to get a little bit of practice in every day regardless


Short stories are great for this, in my experience. They typically do not require the same degree of concentration that novels do, and you can complete them quickly, which is motivating.

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On 10/14/2021 at 8:35 AM, matteo said:

Now finally on to something more fun! 嫌疑犯X的献身 sounds really good, I think I'll try that!

This is really good! I read the English translation though. Could you update us on the difficulty level once you finish it? 
 

How was 兄弟 by the way? Does it worth your 6 months? I’m taking forever with my current books, just switched twice because I just couldn’t go through with it and started to find excuses not to read but I’m halfway through 我的阿勒泰 which I’m determined to finish. 

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On 10/19/2021 at 4:24 PM, amytheorangutan said:

How was 兄弟 by the way? Does it worth your 6 months?

 

I just finished 兄弟 2.  I didn't like it as much as 兄弟 1, but were sufficiently invested in the characters to finish it rapidly.  I too was concerned about the length of the story at first, but part 1 is its own story, so I tried that on its own at first, and only came back to part 2 a few months later.

 

As to part 2, I thought 余华 ran out of steam after 李光头 made it rich.  Up to that point, I liked part 2 quite a bit, maybe even more than part 1.  But after 李光头 made it, the story got a bit too zany for me.

 

The material after 李光头 made it rich (including 林红's last chapter) seems like it should have been in a separate book of Tall Tales from the boomtown 刘镇, rather than in a story about the brothers. 

 

As for more specifics (including possible spoilers):

 

Spoiler

I read somewhere that an author has to regularly torture his/her characters in order to maintain the drama.  But once 李光头 made it, he no longer really faced any real adversity again.  He stopped being a person and started becoming like a meme-rich guy.  李光头 is not the type of guy who has internal conflicts, and he had no more external conflicts.  And he's just savvy enough not to become hated by others.  So his character couldn't really drive the drama anymore.

 

Meanwhile, 宋钢's downward spiral from a happy family life was a bit too contrived and self-inflicted.  宋钢 didn't seemed to have matured at all from 岁月 or marriage.   I knew 余华 was going to set 宋钢 up for a weepy ending, but the journey was so lacking in realistic motivation that it didn't hit with the same force as the weepy ending of part 1. 

 

Plus, literally everyone in that village seems to get rich other than 宋钢 -- only he is fate's punching bag.  Is there supposed to be some kind of big message as to why all the bad stuff in the world happens to 宋钢?  Was there some flaw in his character or mismatch with the times, or did he just need to be beaten down for his weepy end?

 

I thought 余华 wasted the potential of the later introduced character 周游.  At first, I liked the concept of a 江湖骗子 -- I thought it was a chance to see someone else other than 李光头 (and possibly more villainous) try his luck in the 江湖.  But 余华 didn't really lean into making him a 骗子, which would be more interesting and a more natural way to drag down 宋钢. 

 

周游 is not that nasty; he's turns out less a villain than another 吹牛 artist, in a book full of people prone to 吹牛.  He's not even a better salesman than 宋钢 (up to that point, the worst salesman in the book), which makes him more comedic than threatening.

 

I would have like to have seen 宋钢 make up /or quarrel with 李光头 one more time prior to his downfall.  As written, 宋钢 and 李光头 hadn't been on speaking terms for 20 years prior to the end of the book, which really dilutes the impact of the weepy ending.  I get they really bonded as kids (although they were only together for a few years and then apart again for 5-10 yrs); but with so many years of adult life having chosen to live in very separate social spheres, they could easily have drifted apart even in their own hearts & minds.  They weren't even enemies for much of the 20 years, just nullities to each other, despite both still living in the same small town.

 

If they got together for one more time period during their adult life, the bond would have been more believable to me. Or was the bond supposed to have been a bit illusory (each fooling himself that nothing hasn't changed)?  I didn't get that impression at all -- I thought the bond was supposed to be real.


Curious as to others' thoughts.

 

Next up, 三体 3, Death's End.  Back to the Sci-Fi world. 

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On 10/19/2021 at 10:05 PM, phills said:

Curious as to others' thoughts.

 

In spoiler tags:

 

Spoiler

"They weren't even enemies for much of the 20 years, just nullities to each other, despite both still living in the same small town."

 

Definitely agree. Personally I thought the two brothers were so traumatised by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in book 上 that in book 下, neither of them can really understand other people. One of them acts as if he only thinks of himself, the other as if he only thinks of others. They're both lonely as a result. Arguably they both had these characteristics as children, right at the start of book 上 and before all the horrible stuff started. But perhaps they should have grown out of them as they became adults -  however they didn't, because of their experiences.

 

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@realmayo I like your reading of 兄弟 2.  Response in spoiler tags:

 

Spoiler

"Personally I thought the two brothers were so traumatised by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in book 上 that in book 下, neither of them can really understand other people. One of them acts as if he only thinks of himself, the other as if he only thinks of others. They're both lonely as a result... But perhaps they should have grown out of them as they became adults -  however they didn't, because of their experiences. "

 

That's an interesting observation.  I didn't consider the possibilty that they were both so traumatized by their childhood that they "froze" into their personalities even as adults. 

 

Most of the other people in the town seem to have undergone your typical, expected changes in personality as they aged / got richer (even 林红 and the 江湖骗子) but not the brothers.  That neither brother had kids supports this reading too.  And the book concludes by having 李光头 responding to the tragedy by regressing even more into being like he was in childhood -- basically the adult version of how he 过活 when 宋钢 left the first time (to live with his grandpa), except for rockets in lieu of bathroom adventures.

 

In this light, even 李光头 behaving like a sex-maniac as an adult isn't a result of his becoming super rich and acting like a meme-rich guy.  He was a sex-maniac as a kid too, but just with his favorite lampost & furniture.  He never grew as an adult either, just had better P.R.

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On 10/19/2021 at 9:24 PM, amytheorangutan said:

How was 兄弟 by the way? Does it worth your 6 months? I’m taking forever with my current books, just switched twice because I just couldn’t go through with it and started to find excuses not to read but I’m halfway through 我的阿勒泰 which I’m determined to finish. 

Hey amy, honestly speaking I think I only finished it because I invested too much time on it to just give up 😁 but it was a bit of a drag for me.

Maybe when I have time in the next few days I'll try to contribute to the in-depth critical analysis phills and realmayo have started!

 

The first couple of chapters of 嫌疑犯X的献身 seem very promising, I'm enjoying it and it doesn't seem too hard. Probably comparable to 草鞋湾, which you might have read when it was book of the month a while ago.

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@matteo ah thanks for letting me know about 兄弟! I was also a bit reluctant to start because of the length. Good to know that Keigo Higashino’s book is not too hard as I ordered 白夜行 yesterday. I tried reading the first couple of pages and it seems to be OK nothing too complicated so I’m optimistic. 

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