So I visited the Hemingway House on Christmas Day and felt compelled to buy a book in the gift shop. The only Hemingway I'd read was The Old Man and tSo I visited the Hemingway House on Christmas Day and felt compelled to buy a book in the gift shop. The only Hemingway I'd read was The Old Man and the Sea ages ago, so I went with this slim little volume that bills itself as a sort of "greatest hits" of Hemingway's short fiction.
I can see that to the modern reader (aka myself) Hemingway can be a little frustrating. Some of these stories are real gems (such as the finale, "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber") and some are brimming with brutal honesty (such as the title story). Others just seem like examples of literary testosterone poisoning minus the pulp trappings of someone like Burroughs, and a few feel like total word salad - stories with just a middle, no beginning or end.
I feel I would have enjoyed this more if I understood some of the literary context that Hemingway was writing (and revolutionizing) in, but all I've read of his contemporaries are SF pulps. I should probably try one of his longer novels next, or maybe something by one of his "Lost Generation" buddies from Paris....more
Truth be told, I was surprised by how traditionally science-fictional this book turned out to be. I guess I was expecting something more like his lateTruth be told, I was surprised by how traditionally science-fictional this book turned out to be. I guess I was expecting something more like his later, more literary works and less like Invaders from Mars. Don't know why - I guess because the last Bradbury I read was Dandelion Wine. Nevertheless, The Illustrated Man showcases Bradbury from the Golden Age of SF and demonstrates in no few pages why he outshown his contemporaries with his lyrical style and his brilliant new angles on the then still-developing SF tropes. Somewhat jarring are the overtly 40's and 50's mannerisms and biases of his characters, as much as in Silverberg or H. Beam Piper. Also, Bradbury's insistence on using the word "rocket" - and nothing else - for space vehicles comes across as endearingly quaint. Not the best work of the man's career, but it still shows why he's rightly considered a Giant....more
From the "Better read the book before the movie comes out" Dept.:
Absolutely loved it. And the great thing about reading the classics as an adult is thFrom the "Better read the book before the movie comes out" Dept.:
Absolutely loved it. And the great thing about reading the classics as an adult is that you don't have to write a book report to spoil the fun. I'm sure there are many other reviews with much more profound thoughts than I, but suffice it to say that I was shocked what a fun read this "important piece of literature" and "great American novel" actually turned out to be. 1) I love a good mystery, and it's got that. 2) I love Shakespearean plot mechanics, and it's got that too. Not to mention that it's all a perfect time capsule of the 20's - the last decade in which America could take itself seriously and have a blast at the same time....more
So this guy comes into the library and asks what's the oldest book we have. The question gets passed on to me by the library staff who took it, with tSo this guy comes into the library and asks what's the oldest book we have. The question gets passed on to me by the library staff who took it, with the addendum, "Is it the Bible?" I think about it for a minute and say, "Not hardly." Now, the oldest printed book we have in the collection is a latin manuscript from 1511, but if you're asking what's the oldest writing, that has to be the story of Gilgamesh. Once I established that we had a copy, of course I got curious, and since I'm trying to read outside my comfort zone this year, I figured "4,000-year-old Sumerian epic" probably qualified.
I'm not sure how one would go about reviewing something like this, other than to say "Kind of like the Bible, but shorter and with more sex and violence." There are bits that parallel the Adam/Eve story and a Noah's Ark flood story that the Bible writers plagiarized almost verbatim. The first half is reminiscent of any mythological adventure, with the Hero and his sidekick traveling the world and killing mighty beasts, but the second half becomes a quest for the meaning of life itself and is very interesting. That and the slightly dizzy feeling one gets when you keep reminding yourself that you're reading something someone carved into stone four millennia ago, puts the Epic of Gilgamesh on the list of classic titles I'm really glad I got around to.
That said, I probably would have preferred a more poetic translation. Maybe I'll track one down someday....more
The first collection of Holmes short stories is enjoyable, in a disposable sort of way. None of the twelve mysteries included are particularly mysteriThe first collection of Holmes short stories is enjoyable, in a disposable sort of way. None of the twelve mysteries included are particularly mysterious, some of them are pretty damn obvious long before Holmes reveals the who, what, and why. Holmes's irascible personality begins to develop toward the Holmes we're familiar with through TV and film adaptations, and its interesting to see all the little seeds that would later be exaggerated by others into the overblown modern Holmes mythology. I do think Doyle works better with novel-length stories than shorts, but hopefully his short stories will grow a little more complex in later volumes....more
An interesting collection of mostly 19th Century fairy stories with a few "weird" tales of the era thrown in, but for the most part this anthology isAn interesting collection of mostly 19th Century fairy stories with a few "weird" tales of the era thrown in, but for the most part this anthology is only enjoyable from an academic perspective.
These stories have not aged well. Most are trite, precious, wooden, and overly moralistic. Only a handful are genuinely good ("Black Heart and White Heart" by H. Rider Haggard and "Chu-bu and Sheemish" by Lord Dunsany are the best) but several are completely unreadable....more
The second Sherlock Holmes novel is already sliding into formula - Holmes investigates crime, solves it almost immediately but doesn't tell anyone jusThe second Sherlock Holmes novel is already sliding into formula - Holmes investigates crime, solves it almost immediately but doesn't tell anyone just so he can be a smart-alec, hunts down culprit, and then we veer into an extended section depicting the criminal's story from his own point of view. While in A Study in Scarlet this latter section took up a full half of the novel, in the sequel it wisely only takes up a single chapter.
Still, my problem with this one is that the problem Sherlock solves doesn't really seem all that difficult, and therefore there's no real suspense and no "a-ha!" moment at the end. More interesting here are the subplot of Watson's romance with the story's "wronged woman" and the revelation that Holmes is a coke-fiend. I'd heard about his drug use in the original stories, but I'd always assumed that it was something subtly alluded to and not this blatant: the book begins with Holmes shooting up, and ends with him about to do the same. Not that I'm complaining, mind you - I like my heroes with flaws, and this is a big one.
This book also shows quite a bit of racism on Conan Doyle's part in his depiction of the monstrous "black savage" from the Andaman Islands. It's also worth noting that even though the villain they capture in the end is white, every single murder in the story is committed by Indian Seikhs or the islander, Tonga. There's also a healthy dose of arrogant British colonialism in Doyle's depiction of the Great Mutiny, although some of that could be excused because he was relating the events from a criminal's point of view....more
Well, that was cool. Having seen umpteen bazillion variations of Sherlock Holmes in film, TV, and literary pastiche, it's pretty much impossible to coWell, that was cool. Having seen umpteen bazillion variations of Sherlock Holmes in film, TV, and literary pastiche, it's pretty much impossible to come at the original source material "cold," and yet A Study in Scarlet still managed to surprise me.
Even with the recent Cumberbatch and Downey Jr. versions fresh in my mind, the Holmes my brain defaults to is Jeremy Brett. Doyle's Holmes in this first novel is younger than any of those, except possibly Cumberbatch, and his arrogance isn't nearly as abrasive as is usually portrayed nowadays (although from a rigid Victorian standpoint, it may have been shocking). He seems to be a pretty clear cut manic-depressive, though Doyle never uses those exact words (I doubt anyone did yet at the time).
So what's surprising? First, I was amazed how many elements of this story were reused in "A Study in Pink," the first episode of the current TV iteration, although twisted and turned all out of the original context. Also, it was pretty unexpected when the mystery is solved halfway through the story - then Doyle makes a literary u-turn, backs up twenty years, and retells all events of the mystery from the point of view of the perpetrator and a few other characters. Where the story really begins and who the most villainous characters are I won't say, but it was something of a shock for a novel I'd expected to stay rooted in ye merrie olde England.
I guess I'm committed now. Thank goodness these stories are all available free from Feedbooks. On to The Sign of the Four!...more