Something about the pseudonym made these stories a lot better and more deeply upsetting (and memorable) than typical Stephen King (I had a short KingSomething about the pseudonym made these stories a lot better and more deeply upsetting (and memorable) than typical Stephen King (I had a short King phase in middle school)....more
I read this immediately following another well-known 1950s apocalyptic / nuclear holocaust novel "Alas, Babylon." That book, which I gave 4 stars to,I read this immediately following another well-known 1950s apocalyptic / nuclear holocaust novel "Alas, Babylon." That book, which I gave 4 stars to, was an excellent story and made no pretensions to literature; its prose was plain and transparent. The novel in question, "A Canticle for Leibowitz," turned out to be one of the most irritating kinds of genre sci-fi: one with ambitions to beauty and importance that falls far short of the mark.
Now, I hate to put it that way, because I would never criticize anyone for trying. But this is one of those genre novels that somehow attained notoriety for being a step closer to literature than the typical pap, and if we're going to talk about it on that level, I have a lot to criticize it for.
The story is vague, confusing, unfocused, and seems to have some half-baked theme about religious ("objective") morality versus cultural ("subjective") morality. I mean, if it actually had something cogent to say, I would find it more interesting whether or not I agreed with it. But instead, this is another long-winded fiction novel that ambiguously proposes "questions" or moral opinions without enough plot or character to make it interesting.
The novel started off OK, and the general premise seemed interesting enough: the future history of man hundreds and thousands of years after a nuclear holocaust. I can understand the importance and relevance in a time when holocaust loomed large--and I'm not saying that threat has ceased to exist--and it's likely that the story influenced many minds on the epic horror that such a disaster would wreak on humanity. But the novel as written doesn't do justice to the scope he sets out to tackle....more
This is a just plain good story, and the kind of thing that makes you very thankful for your life. It also makes me want to become a post-apocalypticThis is a just plain good story, and the kind of thing that makes you very thankful for your life. It also makes me want to become a post-apocalyptic survival expert....more
Thomas Bernhard's "Gargoyles" is basically a vivid description of the ill people of the Austrian countryside. The narrator and his father, a doctor, tThomas Bernhard's "Gargoyles" is basically a vivid description of the ill people of the Austrian countryside. The narrator and his father, a doctor, travel during one day around the towns and homes of rural Austria visiting patients suffering from one malady or another, concluding with the epic, 100-page continuous rant of Prince Saurau of Hochgobernitz, during which you quickly realize that the man is basically batshit insane. The rant itself is kind of a bizarre literary monument; I didn't even read most of it. He keeps repeating himself and turning on sudden, unrelated topics--it's basically a strange form of babbling that gives the appearance of sense....more
So far I'd consider this to be the least of Eco's fiction novels. I'm not sure about the order in which they were written but this feels "early," likeSo far I'd consider this to be the least of Eco's fiction novels. I'm not sure about the order in which they were written but this feels "early," like a precursor to a more solidified style. It's long and meandering, and all the Eco (read: Borges) elements are there, but less strongly integrated into the story. However, the characterizations of the eponymous character and his adoptive father, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, were strong enough to become attached to and empathize with, and the overall historical context is masterfully painted and authoritatively toyed with, and for these reasons I am happy to have read it. I definitely learned more than I already knew about the end and beginning of the 12th and 13th centuries, spanning what Mike R. called "The Third, or "Silly," Crusades."...more
Lovecraft will always stay with me as a model of prose and insight into the frightening penumbra of the mind. I expect to read and re-read these storiLovecraft will always stay with me as a model of prose and insight into the frightening penumbra of the mind. I expect to read and re-read these stories until I too succumb to madness....more
I'd like to make something very clear with my review of this book. I normally don't go overboard with the whole "the movie vs. the book" argument becaI'd like to make something very clear with my review of this book. I normally don't go overboard with the whole "the movie vs. the book" argument because I'm not interested in making people's decisions for them, even though I'm strongly opinionated about the subject. But this is a case where I have to speak out. Süskind has created here a work of literary art in prose, and I take that seriously. I admire lots of books but I wouldn't say this about any old novel. The movie "Perfume" makes an utter mockery of this artwork, its incredible language (even in translation) and its profoundly disturbing character. The movie is to this book what a smudge of dirt is to a brilliant, glowing star. The movie not only fails to capture the depth and profundity of the prose but also of its unique darkness and unsettling moral bleakness. "Perfume"'s central character (in many ways, its only character) is far beyond some simplistic "good" or "evil." Rather, he is utterly disconnected from humanity. He lacks a fundamental concept of agency in other people, who are essentially conveyors or producers of smells and nothing more. He kills, not with any idea of transgression, but simply as he would break an object in order to smell it. In this he is far more terrifying than any serial killer or other contrived "evil" character, and the story of his incredible and absurd life leaves one with a deep darkness that takes a long time to dissipate after the novel is closed and shelved or passed on.
The movie, as I saw it, conveyed none of this existentially disturbing character, but merely his salient features; i.e., his uncanny ability to smell and dissect smells, and even then can't possibly describe what he senses with the book's vividness and detail. In short, viewers are left with a paltry, thin gruel that denigrates and shames the original book and its author....more
Blood Meridian is an astonishing work. It was recommended to me by the same person who got me into Moby Dick, and now I believe I understand why.
ThereBlood Meridian is an astonishing work. It was recommended to me by the same person who got me into Moby Dick, and now I believe I understand why.
There are two major aspects I'd like to touch on with this book:
1) Prose. McCarthy is one of those rare literary magicians who, like Melville, is capable of sustained and continuous flows of poetry, often jaw-dropping in their scale and scope. Blood Meridian tends to oscillate from narrative action to descriptive passage. The narrative scenes tend towards a blunt delivery, commensurate with the utterly brutal violence that makes up most of the book. The between-passages, however, which are almost always describing the unearthly beauty of the desert landscape they travel in, spiral out into incredible poetical and lyrical digressions that often defy any kind of conscious comprehension. And McCarthy delivers them effortlessly, in long rambling sentences that genuinely evoke a kind of incorporeal desert mystic contemplating the universe.
2) Nihilism. The above being said, the narrative world of the story is as ugly as the prose is beautiful. In Blood Meridian's 1850's Wild West, human life is absolutely without value. Scores upon scores of innocents (and a few guilties) are slaughtered in cold blood: indians, mexican peasants, old ladies, dogs, children, the cowering and the proud. The agents of these massacres are the principal characters of the book: Glanton and the Judge, two different manifestations of total and all-consuming malevolence. The Judge lives by a code that goes beyond mere "might making right"--he is a lodestone of chaos and death, while remaining seemingly invincible and perpetually calm. Some of the book's most amazing passages come from the mouth of this gnostic archon, who delivers sermons on art, nature, mankind, murder and ceaseless violence. The story's overall effect is one of total nihilism, a world in which no life or object has value, only the annihiliation thereof.
Lastly, I must remark that the breadth of McCarthy's scholarship and research for this book is astounding. I cannot fathom how he wrote this without having lived in the 1850's southwest, though I understand much of it is informed by the confessions of one of the real-life members of the story's central gang....more