How did I get through high school and college without this being on the mandatory reading lists?!?
I have a confession to make. Well, a couple, actuallHow did I get through high school and college without this being on the mandatory reading lists?!?
I have a confession to make. Well, a couple, actually: I have been meaning to read this book for years, and more embarrassingly, I hadn't heard of Dorian Gray until I watched a VERY bad movie. No, I'm not going to admit which one, you'll have to message me if you are that curious. In any case, the movie made me really interested in Dorian and what the actual novel was about. I have been meaning to read it since, but for some reason never got around to it until now.
I have been missing out in my life by having not read this novel until now . I knew I enjoyed Oscar Wilde from what I have read of his life, from his witty quotes and from The Importance of Being Earnest. And yet I somehow never embarked on reading his novel. I have cheated myself, friends. The writing is witty, engaging and beautifully done. I have a tendency to skip long descriptive passages in novels, but I found myself reading every word because they were strung together so well. For me, the word choices and the tone of the writing was as captivating as I find Gabriel García Márquez. This would have been worth reading just for the prose, but as it turns out, I loved the plot (well, I loved the themes. But they wouldn't have happened without the plot) as much as the writing.
Wilde's work is the first that I have read or ('cause let's be honest, here) seen that employed an angel and a devil vying for the main character that I didn't find to be boring? played out? stupid? dull. I have no idea if this device actually came from Wilde/ Dorian Gray (although I'd be willing to bet not), but he sure does it better than anyone. Basil (our resident angel) wants to keep Dorian unspoiled although he certainly seems to have his own self serving interests here, but more on that later...; Harry wants to watch Dorian explore a life that is propelled by misogyny, selfishness and addictions. One guess who wins. Right, the angel NEVER wins. So we get to watch what happens when a third party eggs a young man on to embrace the worst of himself and of the culture of his time. It's basically the 19th century's version of reality TV with better dialogue and plot lines.
The plot device of Dorian's sins being seen on the portrait that Basil paints is a little weird, but makes for a more interesting psychological study. I'm not sure if it was a common belief in the 19th century, but the premise is that one's sins can be seen on one's face seems like it would fit into the philosophy of the time. And of course, we still believe that beautiful people aren't evil. I mean, at the very least we give beautiful people a whole lot more slack than we do those who aren't attractive. In our minds villains are ugly and you can spot them from a mile off. And while we have stereotypes of the charming rogue and the seductress, they are minor archetypes, and not our go-to expectations. So Dorian's being able to commit atrocious sins and social faux pas without it reflecting in his face allows for people to turn a blind eye to what his life is really become.
Both Harry and Basil don't want to believe Dorian's actions. Harry chooses to ignore what he sees, and flat out refuses to believe Dorian's confessions. Basil confronts Dorian about what is being said about him and begs to be told its not true. Of course, this doesn't work out so well for him (or for Dorian, either in the end). But its perfectly clear that beauty makes people's vision clouded, as does love/affection for someone you know who has changed. Dorian embraces evil on an increasing scale from when he is 20 until 38 and by the time he's (view spoiler)[ murdered Basil (hide spoiler)] he far from the young man he once was. Its hard for everyone to admit when someone they love has become something not so loveable. I think its harder for Harry to see what Dorian truly is because he'd be forced to admit his own role in his downfall.
But what's really interesting to me about Harry is how much I put society in his place while reading this. To me, Harry was our current entertainment obsessed society and Dorian was our reality "stars". We encourage the absolute worst in people Jersey Shore, Bad Girls Club, Real Housewives of Wherever and then get to both enjoy watching them fall and get to act morally superior. And the worse they act the more fame and attention we lavish on them. Wilde couldn't have known what we would become, but he certainly nailed it anyway.
Dorian's own psyche isn't truly explored for a good part of the novel, but when it starts, it's fascinating. He becomes fixated on both viewing the corruption of his soul (his words, not mine) and strenuously avoiding the portrait at all costs. It torments him, it disgusts him and it completely enthralls him. I can only imagine most people would feel the same way. His push/pull to watching his soul deteriorate gives the novel its horror. The slow descent into madness at getting away with (view spoiler)[ murder (hide spoiler)] drives the final 1/5 of the book. It's captivating.
On a different and final note, it was amazing to read a book from that time period with such blatant homosexuality. Of course, there are no homosexual acts spelled out (or hinted at), but Basil's obsession with Dorian is obviously a sexual one. No man talks of another's beauty like that without being interested in getting in his pants. And of course, we know that Wilde wasn't straight, and I'm guessing 19th Century England knew after reading this, too. (Assuming they didn't already). If this is why this book wasn't on mandatory reading lists for me in school I'm going to scream. Because this is one of the better classics I have read. It is more worthwhile than many of the "literary" works I was forced to choke down (some of them more than once) as a teenager. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Why is it so damn hard to find a genuinely funny book? I've read a LOT of stuff, and this is the ONLY book I've encountered that made me laugh from beWhy is it so damn hard to find a genuinely funny book? I've read a LOT of stuff, and this is the ONLY book I've encountered that made me laugh from beginning to end. Funny movies are everywhere, but funny books are one in a million and Moore hit out of the park with this one.
This book might lose some of its charm if you don't have a good understanding of the New Testament, or at least a passing idea of the story of Jesus. Conversely, if you are uber-religious and lack a sense of humor this might not be the book for you either. Otherwise, Moore's ability to re-imagine the story of Jesus' life and fill in all those missing years seems effortless. Biff is a great narrator, he loves Jesus but isn't in awe of him. In fact, treating Jesus like just some dude is a large part of the hilarity of the book. That and all the antics the two of them get into.
So I recently reread this series of books after not having touched them for maybe 18 years. (This makes me feel immensely old) What I discovered is thSo I recently reread this series of books after not having touched them for maybe 18 years. (This makes me feel immensely old) What I discovered is that I probably shouldn't have picked them back up again. I did continue to love Anne of Green Gables, but I steadily disenjoyed the books more as I plowed on. Anne is charming at 11/12. She is interesting at 16 and tolerable at 18. She is annoying at 22 and insufferable after this.
When I was a girl, I wanted Anne for my friend. She was my kindred spirit because she was silly and fanciful and frequently a mess. She meant well, but it never came out right. She was relatable, particularly for a girl her own age (even if the book was OLD at that point). She looses those flaws and consequently, her charm as she ages. By the time the fourth book rolled around, she was beautiful, everyone loved her and she could do no wrong. In short, she becomes a turn of the century lady and ceases to be interesting. I like my characters with flaws, and while I don't mind them growing and changing, I certainly don't want to end up with someone universally loved and verging on perfect.
The up side of rereading this was I got to revisit how much I loved this book when I was a kid. I loved Matthew (I wanted him for my dad if something ever happened to mine) and I was completely enchanted with Green Gables. I have fond memories of visiting there before it burnt in the 1990s. ...more
I read this book as a senior in high school for my psychology class. I have since reread it several times, although none have been as potent as that fI read this book as a senior in high school for my psychology class. I have since reread it several times, although none have been as potent as that first reading. What struck me about this book was that it so perfectly described some of the experiences I had as an adolescent that I was dumbfounded. I wished that it had been written a few years earlier and that my parents had read it.
However, that being said, it is certainly not a scientific book, whatever research was done seemed to be purely anecdotal. And this book is no longer a current book, it doesn't address what is going on today, almost 15 years after it was written. But what is important from it is the ability to empathize with what adolescent girls go through, what they feel that they must change about themselves and how you can help them navigate the world around them....more
I think Hamlet may be one of the ten most important works written in English. Many people have many things to say about Hamlet, particulary his hesitaI think Hamlet may be one of the ten most important works written in English. Many people have many things to say about Hamlet, particulary his hesitation and the way the play ends.
However, I think it is important for numerous reasons, not the least of which is Shakespear's handling of a subject that is still taboo to this day.
This book addressess suicide in a way that not only makes it palatable for people to read, but makes it inherently relatable. The "to be or not to be" silioquy is possibly the most vivid, personal, moving account of someone pondering their own existance ever put on paper. Reading it immediately makes you consider the times in your life where you have even passingly thought of suicide as the answer. He brings home the longing and indecision and fear about death on a personal level, but also makes it feel alright to acknowledge those feelings.
Suicide is not a subject that is frequently discussed, but in reading Hamlet there are numerous opportunities to contemplate this action. That this play persists in so many high school and college classes is a testament to personalizing a hard topic. That you can read this passage and descend into the pits with Hamlet and feel the decision he makes with him is enough to overcome any misgivings you may have about the ending of the play....more
So I have recently (as in just today) reread this masterpiece. It has been at least 12 years since the last time I read it and probably closer to 17 sSo I have recently (as in just today) reread this masterpiece. It has been at least 12 years since the last time I read it and probably closer to 17 since the first time I read it. I remember thinking how different the movies were from the books when they came out, but I was unaware of just how much the movies had colored my memory of the books. This is for good and for ill.
It was wonderful to find the parts of the story that I had forgotten about when the movies took precedence in my mind. The characters that I had lost and the plot points that had been brushed over. I missed them and the subtleties that I had been missing by letting the movies take over in my head.
I loved this book unequivocally when I found it. It is an epic in the truest sense and a bastion of fantasy writing. Many of the characters are lovable and almost all are memorable. The world is vast with a rich history. It is the blueprint of how fantasy novels are today constructed, and certainly takes the reader into the world and on the journey.
And yet. And yet, I cannot say I have maintained my rosy outlook on this book. I was a kid the last time I read it (or at least not yet at a point where I was deconstructing messages) and I can no longer view it through those rose colored glasses.
I still love this book, but I see that there are themes and messages that I just can't abide. I remember as a teen wishing that there were more women in this book and frankly, now I wish there were any, really. I'm sure there is a room somewhere (or a server) filled with feminist criticism of this book. I'm equally sure that I don't have anything new to add, but I still feel like my complaints should be added to theirs. On top of this world Tolkien created being very strict with the gender roles, there just aren't any female characters who have more than a small role. Arwen is a footnote, Galadriel is so ethereal as to be unrecognizable as human and Eowyen is hugely problematic. They are all described and defined by their beauty, as if there were no other standards by which to judge women. Eowyen is cold and distant and is only interesting to the novel because she is trying to take on a man's role. She doesn't succeed, although she participates in battle. She is pitied, but not empathized with. Placated, but not understood. The basic attitude is "look, how cute". Its enraging.
Further, if the sexism isn't enough to set your teeth on edge there is a classism and racism that runs through this story that might make you ill. With the movie spawning a lot of commentary about the homoerotic relationship between Sam and Frodo it was easy to forget what their relationship was really like in the books. Its a master servant relationship, and frankly, its really uncomfortable for me to read. Frodo is the master and Sam will gladly give his life and comforts for Frodo. It would be one thing if this was a case of truly devoted friends, but its not. There is no mention of a friendship between them before the journey starts (unlike Merry and Pippin who were favorite companions of Frodo), just that Sam (and his family before him) are the gardeners for Frodo (and his family before him). Why would your gardener want to go on a perilous journey to death with you???? Frodo has money and standing, Sam doesn't. Frodo is given information, Sam is kept in the dark. The number of times that Sam calls Frodo "master" is beyond my desire to count, and even after Sam has saved Frodo's life and been more than a friend to him, its still accepted that he will serve Frodo.
If that were the only instance of this type of hierarchy in the book, I might have been able to let it go. But it was really just the most spelled out. Elves are nobler than men, men are better than dwarves and hobbits. All are better than the men of the east (who are dark and prone to evil...don't get me started) and the wild men (the only free people in the damn book). And then after that come orcs and goblins who are evil inherently and can't be taught proper behavior or morality. Further, races don't mix, unless you are Aragorn and Arwen. Not only do they not mix, the mostly don't mix socially or politically either.
I get that Tolkien was born in South Africa, that he lived in a time that colonialism was rampant and racism and sexism, too. His work is a product of his time and experience, and frankly it takes a big person to not bring their own biases into their work. It takes a bigger one to escape the isms of their time, and while it would have been nice, I certainly don't expect it. That doesn't mean that this work shouldn't be criticized or critiqued (no matter what rabid fans say). All great works of fiction are constrained by their authors, and frankly great works of fiction should be read for themes and then deconstructed and debated. This is part of what makes them great....more
I would venture to say that this is the best DT book. I'm sure I'm not alone in that opinion, but this is where the series really gets rolling. This bI would venture to say that this is the best DT book. I'm sure I'm not alone in that opinion, but this is where the series really gets rolling. This book is almost nonstop action and just when you think you can catch your breath, something else crazy happens.
More interestingly is that while you are absorbed with the action you fail to notice all of the character development happening around you. This is the book that Roland becomes relateable in. At least, I finally stopped hating the cold hearted bastard and I didn't even realize it had happened until it was over. Let no one say that King can't spin a good yarn; this book is proof that King can tell a tale with the best of them.
It's so hard to rave about this book without harping on the plot, and we all know how much I hate talking about plot. However, I think the more interesting aspects of this book are the psychological development of Roland and Eddie. We get to watch Roland slowly lose his mind due to the paradox. It is fascinating, and I'm guessing what a lot of people would go through. He knows he's losing his grip on reality and believes he's going crazy, but he's powerless to change anything. I'm not sure if that's better or worse than having a psychotic break...
Eddie's psychological issues are much more normal. He's spent his whole life not being good enough and convincing himself not to be good at anything so that he doesn't upset his family dynamic. Dealing with 20+ years of ingrained self worth and family issues in a couple of months is almost impossible, I'm guessing being dragged into a different world helped immensely. Most people go their whole lives never really getting past the roles they learned in their family of origin, Eddie does it wrenchingly because lives depend on him doing so. It has to have been painful, but he blossoms and is able to change and embrace different roles after it happens. Its like watching years of therapy, but it happens in the background while all of this action is going on.
So in rereading this series I am discovering things that I had forgotten about the DT. First and foremost is that I liked The Gunslinger, but I didn'tSo in rereading this series I am discovering things that I had forgotten about the DT. First and foremost is that I liked The Gunslinger, but I didn't LOVE it. The second is that Roland was an asshole. But what this book reminded me was why I became a DT devotee in the first place: I frickin' love Eddie.
I am not nor have I ever been a heroin addict, but I find Eddie more relateable than any of the other characters in the series. He is almost certainly my favorite character in the DT and he's that way from the moment he came on my page. I love that he's layered and flawed and doesn't take himself so seriously. And how he reacts to Roland being in his head is COMPLETELY real. He thinks he's higher than he thought he was, he thinks he's having a breakdown because of stress, he thinks he's nodding out. It's exactly what I would do if I were in that situation.
In my opinion, its the interactions between Roland, Jake and Eddie that make the series. Roland on his own is completely unlovable, but when you have Jake stretching his heart and Eddie making him think around corners, he becomes more human. Roland might be the driving force of the series, but Eddie is the humanity of it.
Also, the pacing of the DT starts to pick up in this book. I found The Gunslinger a little slow. This one has more action and more consistent pacing. Not that the series maintains it, but this book does particularly well. And this is the book that really drags you kicking and screaming into the world of the Dark Tower....more
I recently reread this book (and am going to reread the whole series) and my first thought when reading it was "why did I ever fall in love with theI recently reread this book (and am going to reread the whole series) and my first thought when reading it was "why did I ever fall in love with the Dark Tower?" . This is a truly uncharitable thought as there is absolutely nothing wrong with The Gunslinger. In fact, there are many things that are right with this book, but loving the characters and being invested in their story is not one of them .
In his forward Stephen King talks about his desire in writing this: to have an epic, sweeping world that is reminiscent of the spaghetti westerns. He succeeds spectacularly. This novel feels like a western (without ever truly being one). It feels BIG . Not as though the book itself is epic or is going to be epic (although the series sure turns out that way), but as in the world it inhabits is FRICKIN' HUGE and sparsely populated. I don't know how he did it, but it feels like the first time you step into a desert. The sense of awe and expansiveness permeates the book. Frankly, it feels nothing like a King book.
The story itself is good, but certainly not his best if taken as a stand-alone novel. Roland isn't as engaging and interesting as he becomes in later novels. Having him age 10 years (or 10 millennium, who knows) at the end of this book is probably the best way he could come up with for the change in a) his writing and b) Roland's characterization. But the ending to this book feels...rushed. For all the build-up to the meeting with the man in black, what Roland was willing to sacrifice, it just feels like a let down. Maybe King is saying something there. Maybe its a reminder that the idea of getting what you want is always better than the thing itself. That you are inherently going to be let down by something that you have been chasing for a long time. Or maybe its just a weird ending. Knowing King, and knowing how the series ends, I'm guessing its the former.
While I loved Jake in this book (and yep, I adored that kid from the first), he alone wasn't enough to make me love this book. Although he does have the best line in possibly the whole series: Go then, there are other worlds than these . If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about the Dark Tower, nothing will. ...more
This has to be one of my favorite books to read when I need a good laugh or to be affirmed. If you are a woman I know personally there is an excellentThis has to be one of my favorite books to read when I need a good laugh or to be affirmed. If you are a woman I know personally there is an excellent chance that I have given you a copy of this book in the past decade.
This is an unapologetic feminist book, and its sassy and tongue in cheek. The section on why women have sex is my favorite part. Gilman spends time debunking the idea that women only have sex because they want a baby or are a slut. The list is in alphabetical order and there are about 4 pages. This section is possibly the funniest and most honest passage I've ever read. ...more
I have been putting off reviewing this book for far too long. Not because I have nothing to say about it but because I'm afraid my ability to put penI have been putting off reviewing this book for far too long. Not because I have nothing to say about it but because I'm afraid my ability to put pen to paper (so to speak) will not do justice to my thoughts and feelings about this book.
Yes, I am aware that this is a young adult novel, but this may be the most important book in my life. I first read it at the age of nine or ten and I'm sure that has something to with my reverence. This was the very first book I read that made me think, feel and question what I knew to be true. Sure the story itself is fantastical and wonderful, but it was never the story that I fell in love with. It was the thoughts and ideas that I loved (Oh, and I loved Jesse too. Hey, I was ten...)
Reading this book was the first time I ever questioned the idea of a Christian afterlife. It was the first time I had ever been introduced to the idea of reincarnation or the circle of life or the changing of life energy (or however you'd like to term that). My eyes were opened to the possibility of something else and it spoke to me so much that almost twenty years later I still hold out hope that reincarnation is what happens to us when we die.
But not just that, I began to see time as its own entity. And for once, time was not on my side. Death isn't something I thought about much as a child; it was a remote possibility and I had all the time in the world on my side before I had to face that. This book made me consider life and death. I began to see death as a natural part of life. Admittedly, re-reading the conversation in the book where Winnie is explained this to is less compelling now. In fact, for an adult its a little too obvious and the metaphor is a bit heavy handed. However, this book wasn't written for adults. I was exactly the right audience the first time I read this and this book rocked my world right down to the core.
This was also my first experience with an ethical dilemma. The idea that doing the wrong thing for the right reason could actually be doing the right thing blew my mind. Until I read this book the world was black and white for me. This was when I began to understand that actions and situations can be grey. That there can be no right answer to hard questions and no good solution to your problems.
I have reread this book every couple of years or so. Each time I do I have two wonderful experiences: I get something new out of it and I enjoy it in that ten year old part of my brain. Every time I read it, this book makes me cry and think and question my assumptions about life. As I get older its a wonderful reminder that I don't have in infinite amount of time in this life and that I should be living to my fullest degree. I think reading this book for the first time as an adult you'll miss the magic I felt when I read it as a child, however, this book is still a charming, thoughtful read and I recommend it to everyone....more
I read this book in high school and then re read it in college. I have since read it again, although it has been years. It is one of my favorite booksI read this book in high school and then re read it in college. I have since read it again, although it has been years. It is one of my favorite books, it is the model for many many books of the adventure genre. However, the Odyssey does it the best by weaving in fate and patience. I would recommend that anyone who reads this book does so with either a guide to the book or with a group, you miss so much when you don't have someone to discuss this with!...more