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Book Recommendations

Spotlight on: The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
Alternate: The Stephanie Plum Series by Janet Evanovich

To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.

The Tin Drum (Die Blechtrommel) by Gunter Grass Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum (Die Blechtrommel)

All right now, tighten your seat belts, because now we're getting into the good stuff. I have yet to recommend anything that could really be termed "literature." It's mostly been fluff from the beginning (not that three months is a long time). But now we're really going to sink our teeth into a good, solid novel.

In 1999, Gunter Grass "whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history" won the Nobel Prize in Literature. I pay attention to the winner each year and try to sample some of his/her work. Grass was no exception. After doing some research on the Nobel site--and having already heard of it--I decided to try The Tin Drum.

Well, getting it from the library was out of the question. I'd never finish 600 pages in three weeks. I ended up buying a copy of the 1964 printing of the Ralph Manheim translation--published by Vintage Books--from Another Story, a used book store in Worcester, MA. That is the version that informs this recommendation.

This incredible first novel is the story of Oskar, who, at three years of age, decides never to grow past his current height of three feet because the world is such a horrible place. To give it justice, this is as much of a summary as I can give this novel.

Oskar tells us his life story, starting with the histories of his grandparents and parents and continuing on through his own thirtieth birthday, on which he decides to write this autobiography. On his third birthday, he is given the titular instrument, which he uses to communicate instead of speaking. He becomes quite proficient at this. He also discovers that his voice, when used properly, can shatter glass. Through practice he is able to aim over long distances toward the glass he wishes to break. However, he does not do this just for fun, but only when upset (usually when someone tries to take his drum away).

Grass makes Oskar a whole character. Since the story is told through his voice, we really get to know Oskar thoroughly. We follow him through nearly every detail of his life--how he is loved, then ignored; claimed, then disowned; himself claims one man as his father, then another. And through all this he remains his static three feet. We do not know how his family feels about Oskar's decision, we only know what Oskar tells us they say, which isn't much. His family, in fact, as most people would, seem to believe that it was caused by a fall down the cellar stairs, exhibiting "man's understandable desire to find physical justification for all alleged miracles"(p. 410).

Oskar is one of the most interesting characters I have come across. This book takes a long time to read, as it is not written in such a way to be read quickly. One must take care to read every word, lest one miss an important nuance.

This is an excellent novel, and one that, if you are interested in great literature, I would highly recommend. (Not only will you be treated to one of the great works of German post-war literature, but you will also be introduced to the many wonderful uses for fizz powder.)

This book is not for the casual reader, fans of Grisham and Steel should stay away because it is not driven by events, but by character. Great books are as such, and this is one of them. I guarantee that, once you finish this book, you will never forget the time you spent with Oskar Matzerath.

(Other books by Grass include Cat and Mouse and Dog Years [also available with the Tin Drum in The Danzig Trilogy], My Century, Too Far Afield, and his new release-- Crabwalk [Im Krebsang].)

Alternate Recommendation: Janet Evanovich, The Stephanie Plum Series

But sometimes we're not in the mood for something so involving. At these times, the Stephanie Plum Series is perfect. Janet Evanovich's novels about a female bounty hunter are quick and easy reading, just perfect for before bed or at the beach--anywhere you read to relax. She's up to her eighth book, so if you're new to her, you've got a lot of catching up to do. The titles are:
1. One for the Money, 2. Two for the Dough, 3. Three to Get Deadly, 4. Four to Score,
5. High Five, 6. Hot Six, 7. Seven Up, 8. Hard Eight, 9. To the Nines,
and--now in hardcover--
10. Ten Big Ones.
Plus, there's also the holiday romp
Visions of Sugar Plums.

If you prefer to use your local library, make sure to try out the Recorded Books audiobook version read by C.J. Critt. She is one of the best readers; her voices are subtle but distinct. She really makes each character different.

Click on the links above to purchase any of the books mentioned, or use the search box below to find what you like.

In Association with Amazon.com

(Or just email me and let me know what you think.)

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