Friday, January 22, 2016

Bemerkungen: All The Light We Cannot See

What are the defining moments in our lives?  Nine revenants from the once-proud collection of USA war (and pre-war) babies gathered at the Private Rosch Memorial to discuss WW II, WW I, and 2014.  Is it not true that The Great Depression and World War II were the defining events for our parents' lives, and thus directly molded our lives?  What was to like, what was not to like about Anthony Doerr’s tome of young Werner and younger Marie-Laure?  Why do we read?  The revenants spoke their peace:

Charlie:  I really enjoyed the book, and give it an A.  The characters were well developed.  I read it slowly, so as not to miss any of the beauty.  Not as long as the page count indicates, with big print, lots of white space.

Mike:  Why do we read?  I think we read:  1) to learn, and 2) to entertain ourselves.  Both of those objectives are admittedly subjective, but I found that this book worked well for me on both those levels.  Yes, there was some plot contrivance, and yes, some was predictable (didn’t you just know that Sgt Major Rumpel was going to die from his cancer the moment he achieved the Sea of Flames?), but hey, a good A book.  I loved the way Werner was ‘discovered’ for his radio repair talents – makes me think of how many geniuses have been born and died without having come to the forefront of human achievement. 

Ron Bousek:   Let me read to you from the last chapter [2014]:  old people, young people (page 529).  The grandson’s games on the computer, his moped.  The electromagnetic waves are indeed within the light we cannot see.  I give it an A.  Well written, I liked the short chapters.

Bob Woods:  I would give it an A.  Unusual book, interesting job of organizing.  Sympathetic characters.  Up until the 50s or early 60s, ham radio enthusiasts would create their own equipment.  The author understood about radio and electronics.  Refreshing – A

Ken Gillen:  I thought it was a well written book – interesting story line, interesting characters.  Some frustration with the back and forth (to and from August 8, 1944), but overall A

Rob E:  I violated my own rules:  I read the blurbs on the back before reading the book.  I read it mostly this week, mostly in the last 48 hours, somewhat superficially.  I got wrapped up in it and enjoyed it.  I didn’t mind the jumping around.  Still hurrying to read late this afternoon.  I liked it a lot – creative.  It justifies the blurbs on the back cover.  I’ll go along with the group:  A

Dick Arms:  Sounds like we’re all on the same page [529].  I had no trouble with the jumping around.  I was impressed with the writing.  The descriptions were tremendous, and the way he got into the young girl’s mind.  This young author [42] is going places.  I like the short chapters which read as vignettes.  Skillfully done:  A

Keith:  I didn’t get a copy of the book.  I’m looking into the paranormal and magnetic therapy.  I’ve made some headbands that help me sleep.  Charlie will tell you we have a pineal gland in our brain that produces the melatonin to help us sleep, and the magnetic fields may affect this.  After being besieged by about 25 beautiful women, I’m creating more of these headbands.

Dick Jensen:  I read this book when it first came out, and read it again last week.  I loved it the first time, and equally the second.  A great story, characters.  I give it an A or A+.  The dessert is from the Swiss Alps Bakery on San Pedro at Candelaria.

... and from well outside of Saint-Malo:

Dear Dick,

I am so sorry I won't be able to join the discussion of your book choice next week.  It should be a fascinating discussion of a haunting story.  I am in Southeast Asia and will be in Da Nang on Thursday probably looking for what was once known as China Beach. 

I found ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE very engaging and one of the best books we have read in a long time.  The novel reflected an exceptional depth of knowledge of place, time and human nature.  I was taken in by the strength of Marie-Laure's character just as her great-uncle Etienne was and wondered about my own moral strength when reading about how Werner struggled when he faced his dilemmas.  Doerr’s ability as a writer is exceptional.  He is a true craftsman in the way he uses the language.  I found his descriptions of places and people and his metaphors and analogies very powerful.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and will recommend it highly to my friends.  A
Warm regards,


Dear Dick:
I will again find myself drinking wine instead in Taos instead of engaging in stimulating conversation with you on Thursday.
I enjoyed the book very much after I got used to the tennis match swings of the plot organization.  I liked the poetics of Doerr as well as his insight into human nature. Rather like "How Green was My Valley" in feel, temperament, and poetic quality,
Unfortunately, the plot dealt with coming of age as a Nazi rather than in the Welsh coal fields, so not my favorite era.  I don't need to be reminded of how brutishly cruel the Nazis were.  I have been told and seen enough stories to fill a hundred books of horror stories.
I also realized that there was some method to in the initially maddening plot shifts from one character to another and one location to another location.  Sort of like a Shakespeare play on steroids with an ending like Thomas Hardy's, where all the plot lines merge into a glorious finish.
I give it an A-.

Related source material highly recommended by members:
Inline image 1  The German War:  A Nation Under Arms by Nicholas Stargardt (704 pages, of which the last 50 or so consists of bibliography and index; includes many maps).  $21.60 hardcopy, $19.25 for Kindle.
Inline image 3Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege 1942-1943 by Antony Beevor;(1999; 528 pages). $15.26 paperback, $16.99 Kindle 
Führer & The Fog by Poetlaureate, Last Thursday Book Club.  Epic poem (2001; 1 page).  Members can read for free here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Struktur: All The Light We Cannot See

The brain is locked in total darkness of course, children, says the voice. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?

"Fragen Sie nicht, was die Struktur für den Einzelnen tun kann. Fragen Sie, was der Einzelne für die Jungenschaft." - Chapterman, 8 August 1939

                        Aufbau des Buches:
Zero – 7 August 1944
Leaflets (0.3 pages)
Bombers (0.5 pages)
The Girl  (1.5 pages)
The Boy (2.1 pages)
Saint-Malo  (1.6 pages)
Number 4 rue Vauborel (1.2 pages)
Cellar  (1.7 pages)
Bombs Away (1 page)

One – 1934
Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle (4.5 pages)
Zolverein (3 pages)
Key Pound (4.3 pages)
Radio  (2.1 pages – Werner)
Take Us Home (2.1 pages – Marie-Laure)
Something Rising (2 pages – Werner)
page 40:  Light (2 pages – Marie-Laure)
One Flag Flutters Before Us  (2 pages – Werner)
Around The World in Eighty Days (2.7 pages – Marie)
The Professor  (2.1 pages – Werner)
page 50:  Sea of Flames (3 pages – Marie)
Open Your Eyes  (1.4 pages – Werner)
page 55:  Fade (1.4 pages – Marie-Laure)
The Principles of Mechanics  (2 pages – Werner)
page 59:  Rumors (2.1 pages – Marie-Laure)
Bigger Faster Brighter  (2.5 pages – Werner – State Youth)
page 65:  Mark of the Beast (1.8 pages – Marie-Laure – Nov 1939)
***page 67:  (untitled letter to the professor)  (1 page – Werner; letter by Jutta)
page 68:  Good evening.  Or Heil Hitler if You Prefer(1.4 pages – Werner)
page 70:  Bye-bye, Blind Girl (2.5 pages – Marie-Laure)
Making Socks(1.1 pages – Werner)
page 75:  Flight (4.2 pages – Marie-Laure – hoping for a train)
Herr Seidler (7 pages – Werner)
page 87:  Exodus (4.2 pages – Marie-Laure)

Two – 8 August 1944
Page 95:  Saint-Malo  (1 page)
Number 4 rue Vauborel (1.2 pages)
Hotel of Bees  (1.4 pages - Werner)
Down Six Flights (1.7 pages - Marie-Laure)
Trapped (1.6 pages – Werner)

Three – June 1940
Page 107:  Chateau  (4.6 pages)
Entrance Exam (4.6 pages – Werner)
Brittany  (2.1 pages - Marie-Laure)
* Madame Manec  (2.3 pages - Marie-Laure)
You Have Been Called (2.8 pages – Werner)
Occuper  (4.8 pages - Marie-Laure)
Don’t Tell Lies (3 pages – Werner)
Etienne  (2.4 pages - Marie-Laure)
Jungmanner (3.5 pages – Werner)
**Vienna  (2.5 pages – von Rumpel)
The Boches (3.1 pages – Marie-Laure)
Hauptmann (1.6 pages – Werner)
Flying Couch (2 pages – Marie-Laure)
The Sum of Angles (3.8 pages – Werner)
The Professor (5.3 pages – Marie-Laure)
Page 162:  (untitled, censored letters to Jutta)  (2 pages – Werner)
Perfumer (2 pages – Big Claude [Marie-Laure])
Time of the Ostriches (1.7 pages – Big Claude [Marie-Laure])
Weakest (2.1 pages – Werner)
Mandatory Surrender (1.4 pages – Marie-Laure)
**Museum (7.1 pages – von Rumpel)
The Wardrobe (2 pages – Marie-Laure)
Page 183:  Blackbirds (2.5 pages – Werner)
Page 186:  (untitled, duplicate of telephoned telegram)  (1 pages – Marie-Laure)

Bath  (3.5 pages – Marie-Laure)
Weakest (#2) (4.8 pages – Werner)
page 196:  The Arrest of the Locksmith (1.8 pages – Marie-Laure)

Four – 8 August 1944
**Page 201:  The Fort of La Cite  (2.5 pages – von Rumpel)
Atelier de Reparation (1.5 pages – Werner)
Two Cans (1.8 pages – Marie-Laure)
**Page 208:  Number 4 rue Vauborel (1.4 pages – von Rumpel)
What They Have (1.9 pages – Werner)
Trip Wire (1.2 pages – Marie-Laure)

Five – January 1941
Page 217:  January Recess  (7.2 pages – Werner)
He Is Not Coming Back (1.8 pages – Marie-Laure)
Page 227:  Prisoner (2.7 pages – Werner)
Plage du Mole (3.2 pages – Marie-Laure)
**Page 234:  Lapidary (2.3 pages – von Rumpel)
Page 237:  (untitled, uncensored letter from Papa to Marie-Laure)  (1 page)
Entropy (2.3 pages – Werner)
The Rounds (3 pages – Marie-Laure)
Nadel im Heuhaufen (3.5 pages – Werner)
You Have Other Friends
Old Ladies Resistance Club
Weakest (#3)
(letter from Papa, untitled)
The Blade and the Whelk
(untitled letter from Jutta to Werner)
Alive Before You Die
No Out
The Disappearance of Harold Bazin
Everything Poisoned
(heavily censored, untitled letter from Werner to Jutta)
The Frog Cooks
Page 289: (letter to Marie-Laure from Papa)

Six – 8 August 1944
**Page 303:  Someone In The House
The Death of Walter Bernd
Sixth-floor Bedroom
Making the Radio
In The Attic

Seven – August 1942
Page 317:  Prisoners
The Wardrobe
One Ordinary Loaf
The Messages
The Third Stone
The Bridge
Rue des Patriarches
White City
Page 372:  Telegram

Eight – 9 August 1944
Page 375:  Fort National
In The Attic
The Heads

Nine – May 1944
Page 397:  Edge of the World
Hunting (Again)
The Arrest of Etienne LeBlanc
Page 432:  7 August 1944

Ten – 12 August 1944
Page 443:  Fort National
Captain Nemo's Last Words
Final Sentence
Music #1
Music #2
Music #3
Page 461:  Wardrobe
The Simultaneity of Instants
Are You There?
The Second Can
Birds of America

Eleven –  1945
Page 492:  Paris

Twelve –  1974

Page 500:  Jutta
Paper Airplane
The Key
Sea of Flames

Thirteen –  2014
Page 527:  (untitled)  She lives to see the century turn.  She lives still.