There are few books which reduce me to emotional breakdown, but this is one of them. Revealing the darker side of compassion, Steinbeck tells the stor...moreThere are few books which reduce me to emotional breakdown, but this is one of them. Revealing the darker side of compassion, Steinbeck tells the story of two friends and what happens when one of them "does a bad thing."
Has this novel become over-taught in high schools? Definitely - and people's perception of the novel suffers because of it. People have to want to read this book because nobody wants such a harsh, violent story placed upon them as an obligation to read.
This is a very different "American Dream" story than what most people think of (which is usually "The Great Gatsby"). It is about turn-of-the-century working men, who live week-to-week and month-to-month, always building better lives in their heads than can ever be built by their work. It about trying to get ahead, but always having a handicap - brutality (Lennie), being crippled (Candy), being unwanted (Crooks), or having to take care of someone else (George). It is about young men and their dreams, and old men and their dogs, and the dream that all Americans carry of running away and living off the fat of the land.(less)
In the name of honesty, I read this book for a class taught by the author. It was a great class, and she used the novel as a great example of things l...moreIn the name of honesty, I read this book for a class taught by the author. It was a great class, and she used the novel as a great example of things like how a writer thinks, approaching symbolism, and the writing and publishing process generally.
Still, this book, although unique, failed to really strike a chord with me. I felt no sympathy or disgust for any of the characters, even though I got the sense that I was supposed to feel SOMETHING. What this book did do well was intrigue me enough to read another one of her books as soon as I can to see if a different novel offers the completeness that this book seemed to lack.(less)
I can't claim that this book was great, by any means. It was witty and informative and entertaining, though, and that's just what I was looking for wh...moreI can't claim that this book was great, by any means. It was witty and informative and entertaining, though, and that's just what I was looking for when I decided to read it.
For those not familiar: "Housekeeping..." is a sort of sequel to Hornby's earlier work "The Polysyllabic Spree." Both of these books were originally published in monthly segments in "The Believer."
The premise of these pieces is to track the contant readers' dilemma: which books do I buy and which books do I read? Each chapter represents a month and begins with two lists - "Books Bought" and "Books Read." Each segment then tells the story as to why he bought and read what he did.
The segments aren't exactly essays. Nor are they really book reviews. Nor are they random ramblings. Simply put, they track his literary life as a reader.
You'd think that this premise would wear thin over the course of two books. But Hornby keeps things fresh and interesting with his fast, colloquial language and pseudo-intellectual interests.
Still - don't read this book without first checking out "The Polysyllabic Spree." It's not necessary, but it helps to know where he started.(less)
A really fun book! Granted, it contains a lot of references to demos and alternate takes that, without access to them, make it hard to fully comprehen...moreA really fun book! Granted, it contains a lot of references to demos and alternate takes that, without access to them, make it hard to fully comprehend. But the background material - especially regarding Andy Warhol's relationship to the band as "producer" and how Nico came to join the group - is especially engrossing. I also liked the mini-essays about each song from the final cut of the record.
I highly recommend that anyone reading this book be very familiar with the album before even trying to tackle it.(less)
I originally bought this book hoping that it would provide insight into the most unique position in baseball - pitching.
And it did have insight, plent...moreI originally bought this book hoping that it would provide insight into the most unique position in baseball - pitching.
And it did have insight, plenty of it. The problem was that the insights were occasionally dull or common sense (so, I guess, not technically an insight), or the information was hidden under piles and piles of other information.
The book claimed to follow two pitchers through one full season. In that, it succeeded. It's success weighed it down, though, as going almost pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning with these two pitchers meant that there are whole pages of unnecessary detail. Some of this detail relates to specific games, but others relate to routines and habits of pitchers - which could have been interesting, but the author chose to waste it on tedious details such as what the pitchers eat for breakfast during spring training. (And if you're into that kind of thing, I won't spoil it.)
There was plenty of interesting information, though. I was especially intrigued by the relationships that develop between pitchers and umpires, as well as what exactly pitching coaches do when they "visit" the mound during a game.
It's also important to note that the book did cover a very special moment - Tom Glavine's 300th win.
Overall, though, there was simply too much detail to keep my attention.(less)
A downright chilling book about the evilness of human tendencies. Told through letters to a devil-in-training from its uncle, the book reveals how eas...moreA downright chilling book about the evilness of human tendencies. Told through letters to a devil-in-training from its uncle, the book reveals how easily the devil can get his fingerprints on our lives. I wouldn't recommend this book to non-Christians, as it's all about leading a Christian life and how the devil is always nipping at our heels. It is a well-written book, though, and raises some interesting points about how we should live our lives. The main thing I learned from this book is the idea that living a good life requires constant attention and improvement, while the descent into sin comes without effort - the devil is simply waiting and watching and pointing to the easy way.(less)
Easily Bukowski's best collection of poetry. Easily the single most definitive work he produced in his lifetime. When people think "Bukwoski," they th...moreEasily Bukowski's best collection of poetry. Easily the single most definitive work he produced in his lifetime. When people think "Bukwoski," they think of this poetry collection.(less)
I really haven't been as impressed with the new "Dune" books as a lot of people have been. Yes, it takes place in the "Dune" universe. Yes, it has a l...moreI really haven't been as impressed with the new "Dune" books as a lot of people have been. Yes, it takes place in the "Dune" universe. Yes, it has a lot of the background of the characters featured in the original books. Yes, it really sets the stage well. But they all seem to lack that subtle spark that the original books had.(less)
One of the best collections of American short stories, even if many of them are technically science-fiction. They still have a deeper sense of the str...moreOne of the best collections of American short stories, even if many of them are technically science-fiction. They still have a deeper sense of the struggles of humanity, regardless of setting - which, perhaps, is that makes them even more powerful and hammers the point even deeper.(less)
One of the most unique works of literature you will ever read! It's generally a graphic-novel, but also has newspaper clippings, book excerpts, and ot...moreOne of the most unique works of literature you will ever read! It's generally a graphic-novel, but also has newspaper clippings, book excerpts, and other media put in between the chapters to create a more vivid world. These extras seem irrelevant at first, but I assure you that they are necessary and reveal much about the climax before the reader even notices.(less)
Personal interests led me to recently revive my interest in the middle-school level book series "Goosebumps." The book series actually follows the cla...morePersonal interests led me to recently revive my interest in the middle-school level book series "Goosebumps." The book series actually follows the classic pulp-horror style, but aimed towards younger readers (3rd through 6th graders). Remembering this one to be one of my favorites, I managed to excavate it from a box in my garage to re-read it. I wanted to see if it held up over time. It did.
The story is only a slight variation on most of the Goosebumps stories. Pre-teen kid, with bratty younger sibling in new environment - notices abnormal occurances, begins investigation of situation, scary revelation, revelation proven not to be horrible, bigger horrible revelation, climax which fixes the problem and restores the universe to order, final twist revealing new trouble related to plot.
In the case of "Stay Out of the Basement," a girl and her brother have been transplanted (if you don't mind the pun) from their original home to an LA suburb because of the sudden departure of their botonist father from his research at an unnamed eastern university. The girl begins noticing odd behavioral changes in her father, catching him eating plant food and slurping water in the middle of the night. When she and her brother catch the dad growing leaves out of his scalp, he explains that his research involves cross-breeding plants and animals and that he has been suffering side-effects and warns them to stay out of the basement. Of course, immediately, strange noises begin coming from the basement and the two kids go to investigate. In the basement, they find their father tied up, and he explains that he's been down there for weeks and that a plant clone of him has taken over the house. In a fight, the two fathers get mixed up and the girl has to decide which one is real and which one is the plant. She makes the right choice, and the family is able to rest with the father promising not to experiment with plants any more. The final twist involves the girl finding a flower in her backyard pleading with her that he (the flower) is really her father, and that the man she saved is really the plant clone.
Is "Stay Out of the Basement" a piece of great literature? No. But was it a lot of fun to read? Yes. It was also a quick read, taking me only a pair of hours to get through it all (if that!). I recommend re-reading it if you were a fan as a kid - it didn't disappoint me to find that it had all the things that I loved when I read it originally. It's also a great reminder that for every Cormac McCarthy, every George Orwell, and every Thomas Pynchon, there's an equally entertaining Stephen King and R.L. Stine.(less)
Finally, things are happening! Which is, to say, this book picks up the momentum where "Wolves of the Calla" left off, both literally (in terms of plo...moreFinally, things are happening! Which is, to say, this book picks up the momentum where "Wolves of the Calla" left off, both literally (in terms of plot) and figuratively (in terms of storytelling).
The ka-tet has been shattered. Susannah has been "kidnapped" by her Mia persona, and taken through the Unfound Door. Roland, Eddie, Callahan, and Jake (with Oy) are in hot pursuit, but when they pass through the Unfound Door, they are scattered across time and reality. (And if none of this makes sense to you, don't worry. It will when you read the book.
There's a lot of action in this book, as well as a lot of suspense - both of which were lacking in books #2-3. There's also some forward momentum in regards to the larger plot (Roland's quest to find the Dark Tower) - which was lacking in Books #2-4 (and to some extent in #5).
Most of the novel centers on Susannah and Mia and their story. There's also quite a bit of Roland and Eddie, and a strange meta-post-modernist appearance of Stephen King himself. Alas, not much of the book is dedicated to Callahan and Jake, although their small section is probably the most suspenseful. Along the way, we learn that Flagg / Walter (of the earlier books) is behind the planting of the Susannah's Mia persona and her ensuing pregnancy. We also learn who the baby's father is and what his purpose is. Finally, for a brief moment, we get to see the Dark Tower, even if it's rather abstract.
One thing Stephen King will never be accused of is a lack of verisimilitude. He goes out of his way to describe what some guy who walks past Roland had for lunch three weeks ago. In some cases, it can enhance the reading experience. In this case (and for most of this series), it causes some scenes to drag on to unnecessary lengths. I'm almost certain that this book could have been cut by at least one-hundred pages, and that the whole series could be shaved to about a thousand (though his estimate is made without having read the final book).
In any case, this book, unfortunately, ends on a cliff-hanger. And I, frankly, don't have the will to power through the last book just yet. Roland and his quest will have to wait a little while...(less)
I still can't quite wrap my mind around this book. I enjoyed it, but I can't quite recommend it as a "novel." It was much more like a philosohpy text,...moreI still can't quite wrap my mind around this book. I enjoyed it, but I can't quite recommend it as a "novel." It was much more like a philosohpy text, which had its ups and downs. Many of the points made were interesting, but I felt, ultimately, it was a bit hollow by not offering any real solutions. Just saying "the world could be a better place, and would look like this" does not strike me as a terribly successful philosophy. Still, this book is a mind-expander - just don't go into it thinking you know it all.(less)
Fante's "Ask the Dust" is great in its simplicity. It does not try to be any more than it actually is.
At times brutal and gritty, at times poetic and...moreFante's "Ask the Dust" is great in its simplicity. It does not try to be any more than it actually is.
At times brutal and gritty, at times poetic and romantic, the book tells the story of two lovers who were never meant to be together, but cannot avoid their lives colliding over and over again. They simultaneously keep each other alive while torturing each other.
I appreciated the novel's clarity and efficiency. Not a word is wasted, but neither is a word used unnecessarily, either.
Hard to call the novel "enjoyable" given the story, but I recommend it.(less)