First Impressions

How time flies… I hadn’t taken notice that almost two weeks went by since my last post here. Many books have been read and several written about since the last review I posted here. Usually I take quite a bit of time crafting each review so it’ll be as informative and well balanced as possible, but I did it differently this time. The following are comments I posted a few days ago on LibraryThing immediately after I’d finished reading Blindness by José Saramago. Raw and *nearly completely* unedited. Here goes.

Well, just finished Blindness in the last hour and am doing something I never do usually, which is skipping ahead of several books awaiting comments/reviews to put down my first impressions. I listened to the audiobook almost all the way through—the narrator did a really great job on the audio with a very sensitive and nuanced reading. Then I read the last chapter from the physical book and was surprised to discover the way Saramago jumbled up all the dialogue and action into long running sentences. Confusing, but that was probably the point; so that the reader might feel some of the confusion felt by the characters in the book who are all suffering from a strange white blindness. What shocks me most about this book is that I did not hate it, and it did not make me feel depressed. Not even a little bit. I have a long history with this book, because it was first recommended to me several years ago by someone who is now an EX-friend. Long story, but he came to stay at my place as a guest for what I assumed was a few days, ended up staying 2.5 months, ate all my food, drank all my booze, ran surcharges on my internet connection, made long distance calls on my mobile phone, used up all my petty cash and left me broke, alone and with an empty fridge during Christmas week. And the whole time, all he kept saying is “You’ll understand everything when you read Blindness” and “You can only get the meaning of life by reading Blindness” and “this book has all the answers, read it”. And so on, till the very last thing I felt like doing was to pick up Blindness of course. Then, in a funny twist of fate, I asked my fellow LTers to pick books for one of my reading challenges, but my instruction was that they had to be picked at random with some system I had devised, and who should pick this book but a dear sweet lady who favours children’s books and who I’m sure must have been taken aback when she saw what she’d landed for me.

So with all that history, I’m sure it’s not too surprising that I was dreading this book. In fact, I was looking forward to it the way I’d look forward to having several teeth pulled without the benefit of local anaesthetic. Funny how anticipation colours so much of what we read. Expect to love a book to bits, and you’re more often than not let down. Expect a book to take you to the depths of hell and despair, and you end up feeling like life, when you take a good look around and it’s a beautiful sunny autumn day with a loving puppy by your side… really is generally really really good. I guess I just took it all as a parable and all the ugliness didn’t phase very much because, I’m sorry to say it, but all too often, seen behind the veil of clinical depression that is my cross to bear, that is sort of the way I view humanity. I liked The Dog of Tears a lot and felt he brought an element of whimsy to the whole thing. And I loved the doctor’s wife. Absolutely adored her. She seriously kicked ass and didn’t let all the horrors get the better of her, though all the while she suffered through it and had what seemed like very genuine feelings and reactions. Somehow I was able to identify with her perfectly, which might be a bit brazen on my part; I haven’t seen the movie, but the cover image of the audiobook shows the movie cast and I was imagining Julianne Moore the whole time, whom I of course ADORE. So yes, a bit presumptuous on my part to compare myself to that incredible lady. The ending was a complete surprise, so that really, the feeling I’m left with is similar to the feeling I had today; waking up grumpy, tired, having had strange and disturbing dreams and not wanting to engage with life and whatever obligations I had, only to discover that really, when you’re able to really look around and SEE the world around you, there is so much beauty there to be found. And though my eyes and inner vision all too often make me see the ugliness and depravity that inhabits the human psyche, I’m also able to fly with the wind and ride on soft, cottony clouds and feel on top of the world because I’ve got a loving puppy who also licks my tears when I cry, which makes it all ok. All the same, I’m not recommending this book unless you’re willing to look at the underbelly of humanity and accept that it is just as real as the sky above and the trees and the sunshine and laughter and forgetting.

I do realize this can’t be considered as a useful review, but there are plenty of those to be found I’m sure.

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2 thoughts on “First Impressions

    • Yes, she carries the whole book on very capable shoulders, yet is still plagued by doubt, fear, insecurity, and all the things that make a hero human and not merely a fighting machine.

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