Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time. As a result, he travels backwards and forwards, in and out of his past, his present and his future. At vario...moreBilly Pilgrim has become unstuck in time. As a result, he travels backwards and forwards, in and out of his past, his present and his future. At various times these travels take him to the fire-bombing of Dresden in WWII, his optometry practice, and a zoo where he is kept and observed by aliens from Tralfamadore.
This would all seem quite odd if it wasn't written by Kurt Vonnegut...and if it didn't make so much damned sense.
Like any good liberal college student, I read Vonnegut's most famous novel as a young man and I enjoyed it - although I can't say that much stuck with my from that first reading. Feeling that I needed a refresher, I picked up Slaughterhouse Five and dove right in. What I found was a very wise and masterful piece of fiction. In telling us of the remarkable life of Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut makes us face our own thoughts about mortality, humanity, honesty...and just about any other "-ty" you can think of.
If I had to give a straightforward summary of the novel, I'm not sure that I could, but that's part of the genius of Vonnegut. It is a novel about nothing...that just so happens to be about everything. I can't imagine how an author can sit and plot such a work that skips in and out of time, making Pilgrim walk from one situation into another that perfectly complements it (though they happened decades apart).
Brilliant, chilling, funny and profound, Slaughterhouse Five deserves its place in the history of great American novels.(less)
In the author's note at the end of The Help, Kathryn Stockett speaks of the dual emotions that come along with being Southern. She acknowledges the sh...moreIn the author's note at the end of The Help, Kathryn Stockett speaks of the dual emotions that come along with being Southern. She acknowledges the shame that comes along with our guilt, but also the fierce pride that has maintained our peculiar way of life. As a Southerner I know exactly how Mrs. Stockett feels when she says that the South is like our mother: we're allowed to complain about her...but nobody else can unless she is their mother too. Reading The Help, I was filled with emotions that ran from anger to elation and back again as I recognized characters I have known my entire life. Once again I face the shame that belongs to our history of racism - but also the pride that belongs to the strength of those who refused to back down until something changed.
The Help is a brilliant novel and deserves a place alongside the works of Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Harper Lee. Kathryn Stockett brings such tenderness and realism to a story that could easily have been made a caricature. While I read I heard the voices of the characters so distinctly that I felt as if I could easily pass them on the street when next I drove through town. A white author takes a big risk when writing in the dialect of another race. We have seen such horribly examples given over to stereotype that we shudder even at of a modern attempt. The portions of the novel told by Aibileen and Minni are so vivid and true that the choice to have them speak any other way would have been disrespectful to their characters.
As I finished the book I found myself savoring the final page in a way that only comes when one has read something great. I hope that the novel continues to be read and that it continues to inspire us to recognize the courage of those who lived through such heartbreaking times....but also that our failings did not end in the 1960's and that there is still much to be done.(less)
I don't know how I missed reading The BFG when I was growing up. I always heard the title being passed back and forth as a suggestion for a great read...moreI don't know how I missed reading The BFG when I was growing up. I always heard the title being passed back and forth as a suggestion for a great read...but somehow I got it mixed up with the Oscar Wilde fairytale The Selfish Giant. Other than the fact that both stories center around a giant, there is no similarity at all. I read The BFG aloud to a class of second graders (which may be the perfect way to enjoy a Roald Dahl novel!). I must say, that I fell in love with the characters in the novel just as my listeners did. How can you not love a giant (though one much smaller than other giants) with big ears who confuses his words and chooses to live on a disgusting vegetable rather than eat "human beans"? When Sophie, an orphan, sees the giant blowing dreams into the windows of a house across the street from her orphanage, she is taken by the giant and transported to his home. Once there, she discovers that the other giants feed on humans and that they must be stopped. Aside from being a genuinely good story, the novel is also very, very funny. The children roared with laughter as the giant misused words and explained his ways to Sophie - I laughed at the clever jokes that Dahl seems to always include for the adults who may be reading his works to children.... This book has made me fall in love with Roald Dahl all over again. I can't imagine a better author to share with children who need a little magic, a little adventure and a little nonsense in their lives.(less)
"It's about rabbits." This is what I found myself explaining most while I re-read Richard Adam's Watership Down. When I read it in the 7th grade I did...more"It's about rabbits." This is what I found myself explaining most while I re-read Richard Adam's Watership Down. When I read it in the 7th grade I didn't have to explain as much...perhaps because 7th graders are still barely clinging to that time of life when one can read a novel about animal protagonists and not have to justify their choice. But is Watership Down really just about rabbits? No...it's as much about rabbits as The Odyssey is just about a sailor trying to get home...or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is just about a boy taking a trip on a raft. In 7th grade it was a wonderful adventure story - but as I read it now, right on the edge of 29 I was much more taken by the mystical/naturalism aspects of the novel. Among the most unforgetable characters in the book is Fiver, a runt and brother to Hazel, the central rabbit in the plot. He is gifted with a mystical second-sight...like the soothsayers of myth. Once scene has him encountering the poet-storyteller of a doomed and rather sinister warren. In this other rabbit he recognizes the same type of gift, and is sympathetic to the burden. Overall, I was taken by the theme of recognizing the inner abilities of others that so often remain hidden to us - until they are most needed. The rabbits live in constant danger and know they are destined always to run from their enemies...but in the course of Watership Down the rabbits learn that they needn't always be so passive. The wisdom of Hazel, the strength of Bigwig, the bravery of Blackavar...each is discovered and celebrated. If only we could take the time to celebrate the hidden wonders of each other as these "simple" creatures do. Perhaps I'm just feeling philosophical and maudlin after having finished this novel, but it touched me for some reason. Though the rabbit is "the prince of a thousand enemies", those of Watership Down certainly display admirable bravery...and inspirational heart.(less)
In my opinion, this is the great American novel. Chabon's Pulitzer prize winner tells the story of two cousins, one American - the other Eastern Europ...moreIn my opinion, this is the great American novel. Chabon's Pulitzer prize winner tells the story of two cousins, one American - the other Eastern European, coming of age and inventing the comic book. No matter how many times I read this book I can't help but be amazed by it's scope, it's emotion and it's sheer brilliance.
I like this book so much that I frequently buy copies just to give them away.(less)