Paula McLain can flat out write. She has 'the stuff'. Did she channel 'Papa' is not a question worth considering because she tells a story that is uni...morePaula McLain can flat out write. She has 'the stuff'. Did she channel 'Papa' is not a question worth considering because she tells a story that is unique and her own. A few more readings and it will undoubtedly become a ' favorite '.
Being intrigued by works about Hemingway in the past few years more than an actual connoisseur of his writing, this work within the first two pages fell into that and other sub-genre's. It is extraordinarily well done Hemingway-esque writing about E.H. and his first wife Hadley Richardson.
The story of the woman from St. Louis is fairly well known, or once was, but McLain takes the love story to a special level. It is a coming of age and the launching of Ernest Hemingway story. This fictionalized memoir with a supporting cast of the great literary figures of the twentieth century is a requiem too for a magic moment in time for all involved.
It is Paris and Europe as it might really have been through the eyes of a first time mother abandoned and kept and dominated all at once by her about to be famous husband. As all stories of this historical moment, Scott and Zelda Charleston along the fringe, Gertrude Stein holds court in her famous salon, and all of this is a dance like the corrida culminating with exquisite veronica feints of emotion and truth.
If you don't like this book you have been reading crap; or I'll just have to fight you.(less)
John Steinbeck is far from my favorite author or writer, but he is one of my favorite story tellers.
Knowing that I wrote more than one 'report' or se...moreJohn Steinbeck is far from my favorite author or writer, but he is one of my favorite story tellers.
Knowing that I wrote more than one 'report' or serious paper in school about Steinbeck works, to repeat in a typical review what others have contributed before and since is not what I want to do in this brief commentary.
Steinbeck is becoming dated in many ways that I had not real thought of until of late. The timeless content that partially earned him great accolades has for now begun to be nostalgic.
These glimpses or moments in time in J.S. works combined with the writing that many found to be so worthy is much of what elevated him to the pinnacle of American fiction writing. Yet never being a fan of his prose style I was none-the-less captured by the stories. East of Eden, Cannery Row, and Tortilla Flat to name three great stories if not his greatest works all tell American Stories in a unique and captivating way. The more than impressive film catalog that were drawn directly from his stories and his direct contribution as a screenwriter (Academy Award nomination even!) adds to the impressive Steinbeck contribution in American literature. Yet . . .
The stories are great but of an era. Is their a better tale of the twentieth century formative hardship of the new American than Grapes of Wrath? If so what? But I am not a 'fan' of the work. The story though is timeless and truly American if western centric. The Pearl is one of his great human stories, but buried under a lot mechanisms of the period and place setting his chooses or knows to use. The California background of his life colors all his work mechanically and in that lies a frozen moment in American and Literary history that leads to my current feelings that his work are now becoming very nostalgic.
So what is more nostalgic than a story about an aging man and his dog trekking for what may be the last time? What is more American than doing it cross country in the mid 20th century United States at the perhaps the height of the 'Car Culture'? Nothing. This is a tale of rediscovery,revelation, and revulsion. Steinbeck really has lost none of his powers in what would be one of his final major works before his death thousands of miles from home. Though the trip with the poodle of the universal dog name occurred about a decade prior to his death, it is a fitting last bookend to his body of work. His last years are another story and his travels with Charley reveal an America that Steinbeck almost doesn't know. He finds revelation and some redemption in the final wilderness areas of the lower 48 in his search for solace from the homogenization of America in things not worthy of a great nation. Another captivating and important story from Steinbeck. Maybe one of the greatest travelogues ever written can be found in Travels with Charley is what warrants the 5 stars.
Finally a note or two concerning what got me thinking about this work. Yes, off and on I've been indulging in 'dog literature'. That has, along with a few friends who've been looking for suggestions of quality dog stories, been a reason that this work has popped up again. There is also in the nostalgic and historic prescient elements of Steinbeck and other giants of American Letters a curiosity of who will inherit that mantle in the now early 21st Century.
Algren at his gritty urban finest. The Polish immigrant backdrop of the story is classic 'big shoulders' writing that characterized most of Nelson Alg...moreAlgren at his gritty urban finest. The Polish immigrant backdrop of the story is classic 'big shoulders' writing that characterized most of Nelson Algren's social commentaries in the narrative story form. Drugs are not a new problem nor are addictions of all types as an escape from the grinding reality of daily lower class urban life.
These commented anniversary versions are of extra worth to newer or readers of a younger set who may have little or no experiential reference to the era. Whether familial or from an older instructor the disappearance of this landscape put works of this nature at some disadvantage. Not unlike reading about East London in the era of Dickens.
The film of the same name is a magnificent telling of the story and may help the modern reader to grasp more of the genre that Algren excelled at. Still more accessible to the early twenty first century reader than earlier classics of the same type such as The Jungle The Uncensored Original Edition since with that one a longer heritage of successful governmental regulation that solves most of that problem exists.
Social history buffs, and readers of captivating literary styles will most appreciate Algren (less)
A revolutionary book. Topics included by McCullers in this book were brought together by a woman, and a young woman at that, for the first time in a w...moreA revolutionary book. Topics included by McCullers in this book were brought together by a woman, and a young woman at that, for the first time in a way that was at least shocking.
Now for those of us looking back from our comfortable worldly 21st Century viewpoint, racism, suicide, Venereal Disease/STD's and paresis induced psychosis, out-of-wedlock births, euthanasia, riots, intolerance of foreigners/immigrants, gender inequity, mental illness and handicaps of all types seem less daring but in this book they were ground breaking. And by a woman. Don't underestimate even today the still unspoken in many circles the backward beliefs regarding a woman as a meaningful novelist or writer.
I first read this and a later work which I slightly prefer, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe: and Other Stories, more than twenty years ago and the details and power of it had somewhat faded in my memory. Not again. This is one I'm considering to be added to the re-read periodically list. McCullers launched a slow paced tour de force of letters with her tongue in cheek titled work.
The story marches along at the slow deliberate pace of the young women wearing high heels in the pre Air Conditioned South Carson McCullers was at the time of its writing. Pages of slow sleepy descriptive monotony unfold and then someone murders someone or commits suicide. Not a joyous magnolia scented look at Southern America in the immediate pre-WWII era, but a riveting gripping evocation of that repressive era.
A final moment in the New York Cafe ends this tale with a street lamp view of one last moment in the dark night of the soul that is McCullers heritage as a writer. Not a book to take on lightly or less than with serious intent, but a great part of the body of American Literature.
The white whale and I have renewed our acquaintance. After 40 years of reading and re-reading this classic it bubbles to the top once more as an all t...moreThe white whale and I have renewed our acquaintance. After 40 years of reading and re-reading this classic it bubbles to the top once more as an all time favorite.
I don't know that it ever was really a part of any curriculum or formal class other than a 'given' reference but I continue to reference it regularly. The underlying man vs nature, madness of obsession, the 'high technology' world it describes all contribute to the tale.
A short digression for those not familiar with this work. Many pages are spent describing whaling and all of its intricacies. That alone from where you stand in history and time makes this book a must read. What Melville describes is for that moment the space age, the internet, cyberspace, virtualized reality, 'the cloud'. Yes it is that important but now of course is ancient history. What appears deeply rooted in our culture, social legacy, and seems traditional and permanent is fleeting. At best fleeting if not momentary.
Moby has inspired generations with all the themes that it produces for exposition and discussion. For now just remember,
"It is not nice to fool with Mother Nature." (less)
A new addition to the favorites shelf and relatively equally recent addition to my book collection. The cover photograph of Saul Bellow jumped out at...moreA new addition to the favorites shelf and relatively equally recent addition to my book collection. The cover photograph of Saul Bellow jumped out at me and I had to have this for that image if nothing more.
That image is complimented with many more captivating photos of some the greats of the 20 the century pantheon of primarily English language writers. Gunter Grass is as well or better known I suppose in English than in his native tongue.
Novelists, historians, one-hit wonders, poets, and playwrights are included in this somewhat eclectic volume of portraits.
Each writer's image is accompanied on the facing page with a short written commentary by the person depicted of their thoughts on writing or a particular work or facet of their writing life and career. This device pushes the book way up the list of fine works of photographic compilations I have owned or seen.
The selection of prose are rarely self serving and in many cases most revealing. A quote I added to Goodreads list from Susan Sontag comes close to summing up a common sentiment running through many of these authors brief notes:
"If I thought that what I'm doing when I write is expressing myself, I'd junk the typewriter. Writing is a much more complicated activity that that." — Susan Sontag
The very well presented photographs are much more than just another set of head shots. Photography too, is much more complicated.
There is a bookshelf, 104-writers, that this book inspired. Writers: Photographs has been added to that list as a reference alongside the 104 authors whose photos and excerpts are part of this wonderful work.(less)
One of Twain's/Clemens most literate books and best stories. The story is timeless and reaches potentially across all of those barriers of class, back...moreOne of Twain's/Clemens most literate books and best stories. The story is timeless and reaches potentially across all of those barriers of class, background, ethnicity, religion, and gender to name a few. The tale can be adapted or viewed from almost any background and be powerfulll There is an inclusion in the 'film' shelf for this work as so many good/great movies have adapted or told this tale.
I'd recommend this one for almost all ages and tastes as part of the grand survey of great U.S. literature.(less)
I must add to one of my Bellow reviews that I have a built in bias in favor of Bellows works. Having met him and heard him speak a number of times and...moreI must add to one of my Bellow reviews that I have a built in bias in favor of Bellows works. Having met him and heard him speak a number of times and been around him socially I perhaps hear rhythms and read in context that is not always apparent to most readers at first.
Seize the Day is a more difficult tale than many of Bellow works as there is a lot euphemism, analogy, even for lack of a better description, contrary metaphor. The title and its tongue-in-cheek description of what the main character must do with his own life is such a device. I thought once that Bellow titles were simplistic or unrelated to the books except tangentially. Some of them have now finally dawned on me and Carpe Diem, oops, Seize the Day, now has more connection than it once might have. Perhaps I've come to understand actors better too.
So read a few pages, find a stopping point somewhere, and then go back a re-read a day or so later everything you just read. But go further this time in Bellow journey of discovery. Eventually, like an actors moment, it will pop in to focus.
A work for the serious student of the development of the literary form and American Lit history. Dreiser can be difficult to read, though via example...moreA work for the serious student of the development of the literary form and American Lit history. Dreiser can be difficult to read, though via example he demonstrates character development techniques for modern novels.
The story is worthy of reading after wading through the at times dense and editorally weak prose.(less)
And you think your family has problems! Modern and new scholarship into the life of Emily Dickinson that certainly opens several windows into the work...moreAnd you think your family has problems! Modern and new scholarship into the life of Emily Dickinson that certainly opens several windows into the works of ED.
The feud that continued long after her death alone is worth the time to read about in this well constructed work.(less)
This is the second copy of the book I purchased (and still have) and is the one I usually pick up when rereading this classic story. My first copy fro...moreThis is the second copy of the book I purchased (and still have) and is the one I usually pick up when rereading this classic story. My first copy from a literature class is a paperback with lots of notes and is falling apart.
Potok goes beyond the setting of the tight cloistered world of Orthodox Judaism to relate a unique struggle. With a foot in two incompatible worlds, neither familiar to more than a handful of people, Asher Lev journeys to his destiny.
This is a magnificent and easily readable work that should stay with any reader for life.
A seminal work in the historical arc of American Lit. even if it is hard to read for if no other reason than its stream of consciousness approach.
The...moreA seminal work in the historical arc of American Lit. even if it is hard to read for if no other reason than its stream of consciousness approach.
The story behind Kerouac, and the creation of the novel, are themselves a fascinating tale. The book, its time, and the characters, real or not in the autobiographical sense, are a journey within a journey. (less)