Last summer I felt compelled to read this book again. This is my definition of the perfect novel. The capturing of the period is like a time capsule,...moreLast summer I felt compelled to read this book again. This is my definition of the perfect novel. The capturing of the period is like a time capsule, the characters so real. The tragic ending. This book reminded me that everything that looks good is not good, and everything that is coveted is not necessarily real. It reminds me of how much of life is actually an illusion. This is a short novel, and everyone should read it. One of my all-time favorites.(less)
"A wine shop was open and I went in for some coffee. It smelled of early morning, of swept dust, spoons in coffee-glasses and the wet circles left by...more"A wine shop was open and I went in for some coffee. It smelled of early morning, of swept dust, spoons in coffee-glasses and the wet circles left by wine glasses."
A Farewell to Arms is a semi-autobiographical novel that Hemingway wrote ten years after his experiences in World War I. Hemingway was an American serving in the Italian army as an ambulance driver. This is the dual-telling of his experiences in the war (he is wounded, he is almost executed), and of his love affair with an English nurse.
Hemingway was a man's man. When I put a face on him...it looks like Humphrey Bogart. He's like that man that cracks a case, or saves the girl, but never changes his facial expression. He does something very brave and heroic, but maintains a very blase attitude about it. He loves deeply, but without being gooey.
Hemingway, or Henry, as his narrator is named here, writes a sparse yet beautifully descriptive narrative. It's easy to get caught up in the flow of his words, and just kind of relax. Henry drinks his way through this book, and paints a bleak picture of many things that most people are passionate about...patriotism, religion, fatherhood.
It seems to me that Hemingway was one of those characters that did things just for the experience. He loved to talk to strangers. He didn't mind lending people money, and he was always asking someone to share a drink with him. I think we all know people like this. He DID, and then he wrote about it. And that's how he knew he was alive.
The story here is interesting enough, but you don't read this for the story, you read this for the style. You read because you want to try to understand a guy like Ernest Hemingway...what he would die for, and what he would desert. This book is more than a "novel"--it's a portrait of a person. You might even find a little bit of yourself in there.(less)
So it's been about 15+ years since I first read this one, and I still love it love it love it. I know that you're supposed to identify with HC when yo...moreSo it's been about 15+ years since I first read this one, and I still love it love it love it. I know that you're supposed to identify with HC when you're that angsty 17 year old adolescent, but sadly, I think I can empathize with him now more than ever.
Oh, and I get it now. This book is so so so funny.(less)
"Later she remembered all the hours of the afternoon as happy -- one of those uneventful times that seem at the moment only a link between past and fu...more"Later she remembered all the hours of the afternoon as happy -- one of those uneventful times that seem at the moment only a link between past and future pleasure, but turn out to have been the pleasure itself."
"You’re a damn good man, sister," he said and went out.
The Maltese Falcon is Dashiell Hammett's take on the hard-boiled detective novel. The novel, w...more"You’re a damn good man, sister," he said and went out.
The Maltese Falcon is Dashiell Hammett's take on the hard-boiled detective novel. The novel, which originally appeared in serialized form in the pulp magazine Black Mask, is widely considered to be one of the best novels ever written, and probably the best detective novel ever.
The story begins as our anti-hero Sam "he-won't-play-the-sap-for-you" Spade and his partner Miles Archer are hired by a Miss Wonderly as private detectives to find her little sister. It is soon discovered that Miss Wonderly has no sister, and is actually seeking assistance in her plot to possess a famous antique figurine, a Maltese falcon, or black bird, that is encrusted with jewels.
We the reader are only allowed to know what actually occurs, as, unusually, no inner dialogue is expressed from characters. What makes the Maltese Falcoln extraordinary is the language, the clean, sparse writing that so efficiently and artfully describes these characters, and Spade's lack of emotion or morals in his life's dealings...so famously portrayed on screen by the perfectly cast Humphrey Bogart.
Noir fiction (James Cain, Raymond Chandler) tends to confuse me with some of it's intricate plot twists, but always hooks me with its beautiful, distinct language and descriptions.
The tappity-tap-tap and the thin bell and muffled whir of Effie Perine's typewriting came through the closed door. Somewhere in a neighboring office a power-driven machine vibrated dully. On Spade's desk a limp cigarette smoldered in a brass tray filled with the remains of limp cigarettes. Ragged grey flakes of cigarette-ash dotted the yellow top of the desk and the green blotter and the papers that were there. A buff-curtained window, eight or ten inches open, let in from the court a current of air faintly scented with ammonia. The ashes on the desk twitched and crawled in the current.(less)
**spoiler alert** I should have liked Brideshead Revisited much more than I did. Widely considered a classic, it's passages are more poetry than narra...more**spoiler alert** I should have liked Brideshead Revisited much more than I did. Widely considered a classic, it's passages are more poetry than narrative, rich, dense, and beautifully constructed. The story is of love, family, and religion (THE BIG THREE!). Unfortunately, toward the end, I lost enthusiasm for the story and it's resolution.
Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder tells of the young Charles Ryder, student at Oxford, and how he becomes aquainted with an aristocratic family--Lady Marchmain and her estranged husband, and their children Bridey, Julia, Cordelia, and most infamously, Sebastian. Like most families, they have their issues, which I won't go into at length here. The most interesting to me was Sebastian, whom we meet at age 19 while he is an undergrad at Christ Church. I HAVE TO MENTION THAT HE CARRIES A TEDDY BEAR...and also, he develops a drinking problem as he attempts to escape from what he considers an overbearing family among other inner demons.
Charles and Sebastian become embroiled in one of those famous are-they-or-aren't-they ambiguous male friendships slash platonic romances. Charles describes his regard for Sebastian in this passage...
"But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiousity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchaned garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city."
Later, we are led to believe that their romance was a "forerunner" for relationships to come.
Themes in Brideshead include religion, family, and relationships, and the part they play in the human psyche; how they influence our decisions, how they free us or bind us, how they strengthen or weaken us. My favorite motif is of memory..."that winged host that soared about me one grey morning of war-time" and how we can truly only understand, accept, and make sense of our experiences as we are looking back on them.(less)
When she got into bed she buried her face in the pillow and wept brokenheartedly. "What is the matter with me? I will do something dreadful if I am no...moreWhen she got into bed she buried her face in the pillow and wept brokenheartedly. "What is the matter with me? I will do something dreadful if I am not careful," she thought, and turning her face to the wall, began trying to force herself to face bravely the fact that many people must live and die alone, even in Winesburg."
If you're like me, and you're thinking of reading "Winesburg, Ohio" because you've heard it's a "classic", or that it influenced writers like Faulkner and Steinbeck, you might be wondering what could possibly be so grand and different about a book of stories. We all have our favorite story-tellers...so what makes these stories so special that although Anderson didn't write much else to speak of, they only seem to be getting better with age? Having now walked through Winesburg, Ohio...I can think of a few things that set these stories apart.
1). Usually when people write stories--they're in the big bad city and the city itself is meant to symbolize corruption and chaos and desperation. These stories are set in a small town, not very different from the town I grew up in, and yet they STILL have a bunch of messed up people--small-town kooks and freaks--lonely and sad and desperate just like in the big old dirty city. For once, small town is not idealized and made out to be where all the good, normal, church-going people live and die.
2). Generally stories tell a narrative--from beginning to end...there's a climax and some resolution and that's how it ended. These stories, however, are more like tiny little pictures of people. It's like looking though a town directory and letting your finger fall on one person...and then there's someone there to give you all the scoop on that person- their background...their finest moments and their saddest.
3) There is a very original style here. Call it naturalism, or realism...but these people are sad, they are lonely, misunderstood, they are confused and frustrated. Their lives are unhappy, and unfulfilled. They are not perfect people...they are very flawed, but mostly they are desperate. Life in Winesburg is no picnic.
4)The structure here is very unique. There is one recurring character, would-be journalist George Willard, that pops up throughout. These sketches stand alone, but they are also interrelated like a novel. I don't know if Anderson was the first to use this technique, but he used it well and I'm sure many people who came after him were influenced by his unique "cycle" of stories.
I LOVE stories. I love that they're short, but they say so much. I love that you can take a theme and carry it throughout. I love looking at these Winesburgians (*twisted apples*, Anderson calls them) and thinking about how their mistakes led up to their regrets which led up to their ultimate unhinging. And I love thinking about how they're not so different from the rest of us.
"The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" is a short novel by Muriel Spark (Scottish) that tells the story of a teacher in an all-girl's school in Edinburgh and...more"The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" is a short novel by Muriel Spark (Scottish) that tells the story of a teacher in an all-girl's school in Edinburgh and her "set"--the group of young girls that she teaches and sharply influences during a period of her life she refers to as her "prime." The story-telling method weaves back and forth from the time the girls are ten until they are adults, giving hints about their fate and their destinies.
Jean Brodie is eccentric and unconventional--the "artistic type" who engages in love affairs, travels, is a lover of art and finds admiration in such historical figures as Mussolini and Hitler--all of which she shares with her pupils in lieu of traditional studies. She believes that education is a "leading out" of certain ideas in young girls that are often not attended too. Not surprisingly, the conservative school wishes to be rid of her.
TPOMJB is a study of character. Miss Brodie, though religious, deems herself above moral law. She could be compared in some ways to a fascist dictator, who sets his own rules, and in some ways to God himself.
The writing style is brilliant but this was a bit boring to me. I don't understand why Miss Brodie is such an important figure, although I do appreciate the original story-telling.
"Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why."
"Fatalism is commonly referred to as "the doctrine that all eve...more"Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why."
"Fatalism is commonly referred to as "the doctrine that all events are subject to fate or inevitable predetermination."
I have always heard of this book and have avoided it because I thought it would be boring and political. I couldn't have been more wrong. It speaks volumes politically, yes, and is a first hand account of war from an American POW in Germany (the bombing of Dresden in WWII to be exact). However, the mechanism of story-telling--via one man's ability to jump through time and visit different parts of his life (war, marriage, death) as well as recounting being abducted by aliens--is ingeniuous, casual, funny, philosphical and tragic all at once.
War. Why do we insist on fighting? Will we ever evolve to a point where we can resolve conflicts peacefully? It's a pointless debate claims Mr. Vonnegut. Life happens, people die...we're powerless to change it, and it's silly to fight it (the forces that work against us...and the battles). Life, death, war...they're tragic (and as absurd as being taken by aliens)yet--inevitable. (less)
"It may not be nice to be good, little 6655321. It may be horrible to be good. And when I say that to you I realize how self-contradictory that sounds...more"It may not be nice to be good, little 6655321. It may be horrible to be good. And when I say that to you I realize how self-contradictory that sounds. I know I shall have many sleepless nights about this. What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him? Deep and hard questions, little 6655321."
Can evil be cured? Can bad be forced into good? If you strip someone of the ability to decide between right and wrong, are they still a man? Or are they a machine (a clock, perhaps)? Does a choice count for right if it's insincere in it's origin?
I have avoided this book for years because I was afraid of the violent reputation that preceded it. I was surprised to find that while ACO illuminates everything horrific and carnal in our society, it also stylishly and a bit comically manages to remind us of the beauty of personal freedom and the gift of free will. ("The tradition of liberty means all.") The language is lyrical and the protagonist and narrator Alex is sophisticated, intelligent, and cultured, yet bold, viscious and uber-violent . He is also a victim... a victim of "the modern age", of a social order that is void of trust, betrayed by his fellow droogs for revenge and by his Governement for political gain.
There are two versions of this book, one containing the final chapter and one not. How does the final chapter change the message of the book? To me, it says that human nature follows a natural course and that over time, the fire and the violence of youth will wane without the need of any unnatural force to quench it. Do I buy that? Not really. Not for Alex. Five stars for the book without the final chapter.(less)
"Except for the shape, she wasn't any raving beauty, but she had a sulky look to her, and her lips stuck out in a way that made me want to mash them i...more"Except for the shape, she wasn't any raving beauty, but she had a sulky look to her, and her lips stuck out in a way that made me want to mash them in for her."
Short, but powerful. A page turner. As Katz in the novel says, "It's not how long it lasts. It's what you do while you're in there."
This is classic crime fiction. There's a twist that felt Shakespearean to me, as if Romeo & Juliet were replaced by a gypsy drifter and a runaway waitress. Great story, great writing. Violent, ironic, philosophical.
I love the fact that the ambiguous title is not explained. It's left open to the reader's imagination. Who is this metaphorical postman, persistent in his delivery of justice? Fate...the "law"...God...the devil?(less)
This is a must-read for anyone who's read and enjoyed "Jane Eyre." It's the story of Bertha...Mr. Rochester's first wife. This short novel (around 100...moreThis is a must-read for anyone who's read and enjoyed "Jane Eyre." It's the story of Bertha...Mr. Rochester's first wife. This short novel (around 100 pages) is divided into three parts.
Part I tells the story of Bertha's childhood in the West Indies from her own point of view. It outlines her relationship to her mother, her few aquaintances, and her homeland.
Part II is from the point of view of Bertha's new husband (an unnamed Mr. Rochester) and details his reaction to disspelled secrets about his new wife. Part III takes place in England at Thornfield. This is Bertha's point of view as experienced from her attic room.
This story is vivdly detailed, beautifully written and very interesting, even more so if you're familiar with Jane Eyre's story. I'm guessing over the years many readers have lamented the literary treatment that Bertha received, and Rhys more than makes up for it here. Bertha and, surprisingly, Mr. Rochester are analyzed sympathetically. Much is said about women and our roles as members of society, daughters, and wives. There's also something mystical here as a classic story is resurrected and Rhys courageously fills in holes left by Brontee.