Wow! On the whole I dislike westerns, but I really love this book. If it were a more true repesentative of the genre I might feel otherwise about westWow! On the whole I dislike westerns, but I really love this book. If it were a more true repesentative of the genre I might feel otherwise about westernns, but this is one of those rare books that rises above genre.
There have been two movie adaptations, with the old 1969 John Wayne one doing a terrible disservice to this book, mangled as it was by outdated Hollywood cliches and the need to make it a star vehicle fo Mr. Wayne. The 2010 Coen brothers movie comes much closer to capturing the spirit of the book, but even the guys how gave us Fargo failed to capture all of it's spunk and charm.
The heart and soul of the novel is its protagonist an narrator, Mattie Ross, whose deadpan prose is stilted by the exagerated formality of the old south. She's also a complete incongruity. She's only a 14-year old girl but has the personality of a pretty formidable adult. She's totally self-assured, and unsoftened by pity or a sense of humor. She's judgemental, sees the world in pure terms of black & white, right or wrong, by way of an Old Testament value system. Her mind is precise, and her negotiating skill very legalistic. And she spends the whole novel bending adults two or three times her age to do her bidding.
It's a delight to watch her negotiate horse trades, or coerce an aging lawman into puruing her father's murderer. There is grreat humor here, many of the conversations coming close to being these long deadpan jokes that never quite reach a punch line but had me chuckling all the way. Some of it I thought perfect Coen material, much like some of Chigurh's speaches in No Country for Old Men in terms of fascination, if not character. It's riveting too. Even having seen the movies I found it difficult to put down for a desire to see what happens next.
I also recommend chucking out any copy of that old John Wayne version you might have. It's a classic only when measured against the old cliches it was working against at the time. Now it's kind of out of date, and it will give you a false notion about what the novel is all about. From that movie you would never guess that the title refers to Mattie Ross, even though nothing could be clearer from reading the novel....more
Astounding novel. I am not sure any author but Cormac McCarthy with his uniquely lyrical writing style could have pulled it off. The word-pictures heAstounding novel. I am not sure any author but Cormac McCarthy with his uniquely lyrical writing style could have pulled it off. The word-pictures he paints of ruined world and two people travelling through it can be both vivid and subtle at the same time. Brilliant.
On the surface there is not much to love about this book. The setting is frightful: a world destroyed years ago by some unnamed catastrophe in which nothing remains alive except for a shrinking handful of human survivors, where the sun never shines, and nothing remains to eat excep for what remaining canned goods there are to be scavanged or other survivors. The future holds no hope. The narative is dreary: a man and his boy trudge almost directionless through a story with no real beginning toward an ending with no real climax. From this you might think the novel has nothing to offer, and you would be so very wrong.
The core of The Road is the bond of love between the man and the boy. It is the tale of their successful effort to be kind, good, loving, and decent in a world where none of that matters any more. Except for the fact that has always been just what decent people do. In many ways this novel is a grand metaphore for the kind of hopeless struggle families face every day in the real world. Their narative is equally directionless too. There are families in shanty towns and war zones all over this world where parents face prospects scarcely less bleak, yet who still find ways to love and guide their kids.
I expect that anyone who really appreciates the message of this novel be tempted to use his or her copy of something like Lord of the Flies to line the cat litter box....more
What an overrated book! As a depiction of human nature (as it is so often hailed to be) it is dreadful. The characters are wooden, being drawn less frWhat an overrated book! As a depiction of human nature (as it is so often hailed to be) it is dreadful. The characters are wooden, being drawn less from actual people than serving as walking, talking personifications of ideas from Christian theology, Freudian psychology, or mid-2oth Century social theory. The "paradise" is an artificial construct, and the children artificially inserted (by nothing less than a magical plane crash that leaves no wreckage, no baggage, no parachutes, nor any clear memory of surviving the landing). The interior mental lives of these kids is way beyond the scope of any actual 12 year old because that is what being prop for an idea demands of them.
This book is one more artifact of a bias epidemic in western thought that holds mankind up to an impossibly high standard of perfection, and then judges the race guilty of being fallen, wicked, or flawed for failing to live up to this ideal. Social theories and whole theologies are then created to explain why guilty man fails to live up to an overly demanding set of druthers based on the unfounded assumption these druthers represent the true state of things so they invent forces that push mankind away from them. Until modern psychology came along few but the most perceptive ever questioned whether their lofty druthers might be wrong, or contemplated whether an unbiased look at mankind, weighing the positive equally with the negative, might lead to a more accurate understanding. The only lesson The Lord of the Flies has to offer is a peak into the psychologies of authors and readers wedded to an impossible set of druthers. About humanity as a whole it says nothing.
I suppose it does offer a nice review of misguided theories about the human condition, so for that I give it two stars.
If you really want a great apocalyptic novel about human nature try The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It is the polar opposite of this book (right down to having characters that act like people, not social theories) so it paints a picture of human nature that is both more accurate and more noble. ...more
This is one of those "origins of" collections filled with the kind of classic authors that even an English Lit teacher might aprove of. It has all theThis is one of those "origins of" collections filled with the kind of classic authors that even an English Lit teacher might aprove of. It has all the expected writers- Mary Shelly, Poe, Baudelare, Lovecraft, and so on. A bit more interesting are the inclusion of stories from classic authors you might never have expected to write about the walking dead, such as Jack London or Mark Twain. (From the former comes what could fairly be called a science fiction tale, while the latter's piece is another example of his trademark social satire.)
What I enjoyed most was the inclusion of a few stories by people who have been forgotten by the passage of decades since their work saw print. Theirs are names you will not be familiar with. These inclusions are a reminder that in the past, as it is today, it does not take an established literary master to serve up a few good chills....more
Under normal circumstances I am not one to goggle at commemorative editions of novels or stories. For me it is the content that counts the most, not tUnder normal circumstances I am not one to goggle at commemorative editions of novels or stories. For me it is the content that counts the most, not the presentation. But this commemorative edition is just too good not to praise. As a collection of Lovecraft stories in general, commemorative or not, it is very complete. All the essential tales are here, including the Radolph Carter/Dream-Cycle tales, and the often overlooked Herbert West: Reanimator. To any Lovecraft virgin simply looking to find an reasonably complete collection under one cover I recommend this book.
And the presentation is excellent. it has a nice faux-;eather cover, and the famous Gahan Wilson map of Arkham on the endpages. While the paper stock is not up to the standards of a good hardback, it is certainly above average for a paperback. The book is nicely illustrated with pen & drawings. While individual pictures may sport images not directly related to the story they may be found in, they all have a nicely Lovecraftian them to them.
This book would make a fine addition to the restricted section of the Miskatonic University Library....more
Having finished Origin, I am taking the liberty of adding a few comments at the top of what I posted when I first added it to my "currently-reading shHaving finished Origin, I am taking the liberty of adding a few comments at the top of what I posted when I first added it to my "currently-reading shelf."
To the would-be classics reader who is a bit daunted at the notion of tackling a fourteen chapter science book written in 19th Century technical terms I offer the suggestion that the back half of Origin is purely optional and can be let go. The first six chapters are the most enjoyable. Four is the big one, where Darwin presents the big pitch, with One through Three being the wind-up to prep the audience. Six is fairly unusual in science literature, being an effort to admit problems with the theory and making efforts to address them.
Chapter Seven, on instinct, is aumsing but not vital to the core of the work if your attention is already starting to wander. The rest that follow involve technical arguments that may be pointless to most modern readers. To follow why Darwin makes them one would have to conversant in the state of the art in zoology, botany and geology as it was 150 years ago. I skipped much of it.
A few points readers with only a casual knowledge of science may take from this book- Evolution predates Darwin, whose contribution is actually the mechanism of natural selection which explains how it works. He also contributed another mechanism, sexual selection, for traits inherited for their value in obtaining mates. Darwin offers an unexpected chuckle in a quote from Aristotle which suggestive of an understanding of something very much like natural selection.
>What follows is old commentary.
I am reading this one for the historical value, not the science. A big joke is that people of a certain outlook do try to read it for the science so they can refute it. Silly. Origin is as about as state of the art on evolution science as Newton is on 21st Century string theory. Ah, well.
What I have found interesting so far is the struggle Darwin goes through to make his argument in the absence of the kind of modern scientific language or terminology that would have made things simple and clear to his readers. Even more interesting is that Darwin had no clue as to the mechanics of inheritance and admitted as much (the discovery of DNA was a long way off in the future), and yet was able to work out so much on his own without that knowledge.
Cool factoid: Darwin took his time pondering his theories for many years before suddenly rushing to get them into print. It seems that while he was taking his time another naturalist named Wallace worked out natural selection too...and then wrote to Darwin for help in placing his findings in front of the right experts! You know how the science establishment is about giving credit to the first one to publish and forgetting the also-rans who came to the same conclusions just a tad too late. One party gets into the textbooks of future generations, while the other is lucky to become a footnote.
I'll post some stars when I'm done reading....more
Compare the message of this book to the mood of the nation after Vietnamn. I am not sure how much of it really applies any more. Still, it is interestCompare the message of this book to the mood of the nation after Vietnamn. I am not sure how much of it really applies any more. Still, it is interesting to note that in 1953 Michener predicted a struggle that would go on for decades, as teh Cold War eventually did....more
This is pretty much required reading for any fan of Arthurian stories. Any modern writer in the genre is aware of this book, and much of what they wriThis is pretty much required reading for any fan of Arthurian stories. Any modern writer in the genre is aware of this book, and much of what they write influenced by it....more
My expectation upon reading a book often hailed as the first published novel in the history of the English language was a book that would be dreadfullMy expectation upon reading a book often hailed as the first published novel in the history of the English language was a book that would be dreadfully hard to read. My expereinces with authors from the remote past, such as James Fenimore Cooper or Sir Walter Scott, lead me to expect language well removed from what I am familiar with, and therefore difficult to read. I found the opposite was true. Anyone able to wade through Ivanhoe or Last of the Mohicans will find this one a breeze.
Note, however, that that DeFoe's racial and social depictions are not at all PC by modern standards. If you are willing to allow for this you will find a pretty good adventure story.
Note, also, that contrary to modern myth Friday is a Native American. The island in question is off the coast of South America....more
Sometimes we reread and change our minds, and so it goes here. After my most recent pass through this book I am more inclined than ever to rate MachiaSometimes we reread and change our minds, and so it goes here. After my most recent pass through this book I am more inclined than ever to rate Machiavelli as having been a man with an excellent practical insight into human psychology. It ain't pretty but it's real-and comes complete with examples drawn from real events. It will also give you the intellectual tools to reconsider any number of historical heroes, from Constantine to FDR, in a new and far more revealing light.
As infamous as this book is among readers of moral and political philosophy, being the source of the word "machiavellian", there is actually not a lot of what modern readers mean by this word in the book. Well there is, but only second hand if you try to read it as a moral guide, something Machiavelli himself discourages in the pages, instead of as the practical "how to" guide he intended.
That people would read it as a moral guide, and then spend generations arguing over it, suggests some things I find very uncomfortable about human psychology in general, and about moral watchdogs in particular. Just how much of what you go on about did gussy-up so you could complain, and/or distort from the works of writers who dare to point out that the real world is not what you imagine it should be? Sigh.