Not to be a downer, but I thought this book was pretentious and meaningless. There were a few interesting word combinations, but not much I could grab...moreNot to be a downer, but I thought this book was pretentious and meaningless. There were a few interesting word combinations, but not much I could grab hold of. It wasn't clever, it was just trying too hard. (less)
If Nathaniel Hawthorne were alive today, I would attend one of his readings and say, "Nathaniel Hawthorne, go fuck thyself."
According to the Centre fo...moreIf Nathaniel Hawthorne were alive today, I would attend one of his readings and say, "Nathaniel Hawthorne, go fuck thyself."
According to the Centre for Learning and Teaching of Literature, The Scarlet Letter is one of the top ten most taught books in American high schools (2008). I won't even make the argument that this list needs to be updated to include more contemporary novels, as I've read plenty of classics that are equally as compelling as modern literature (anything by the Bronte sisters, Tale of Two Cities, etc.). An adolescent's developing love of literature is too precious to be subjected to the cumbersome dreck that is this book. If I were to use The Scarlet Letter as a baseline for evaluating the quality of classics and literature in general, I would never want to read again. I'm glad I escaped my own adolescence unmolested by this text.
Join me in reading this sentence, wherein Hawthorne indulges in some masturbatory wordiness that I'm sure made him feel quite satisfied with himself:
"The young divine, whose scholar-like renown still lived in Oxford, was considered by his more fervent admirers as little less than a heaven-ordained apostle, destined, should he live and labor for the ordinary term of life, to do as great deeds for the now feeble New England Church, as the early Fathers had achieved for the infancy of the Christian faith."
F. My. L.
To recap the story, Hester Prynne is sent ahead of her husband to New World Massachusetts, where she is to establish their home in preparation of their new life in Salem. Some times goes by, and Hester's ugly old husband never shows up. So she takes it upon herself to get some badly needed ass in the form of Rev. Dimmesdale, one of Salem's most respected Puritan leaders. Unfortunately, the townspeople know she's a married lady waiting for her husband -- but she scandalously gets pregnant with the reverend's child. The book opens with Hester's release from prison after giving birth to her daughter and refusing to name the father. What follows is a recounting of how guilty everyone feels while Hester's husband befriends Dimmesdale so he can slowly kill him with ... herbs? evil telepathy? (Who cares?)
I begrudgingly admit that The Scarlet Letter was probably considered an important book in its time, if only due to controversy. The book boldly explores the inner sexual conflict of a woman who chooses to rebel against oppressive social convention, and I can see it looking to skewer prudish Victorian attitudes toward female sexuality. However, I WISH WISH WISH Hawthorne had not been the one to write a book with such an important purpose. His message is obstructed by his pathetic need to prove himself as a refined artist despite having been the descendant of the very Puritans he criticizes. While reading I could picture him behind me, pointing at each sentence and saying, "See what I did there? That's called foreshadowing." *cue pretentious chuckle*
I'm asking myself why this book is considered a classic. Is it because it was deemed ahead of its time? Is it because it caused controversy when it was first published? Is it because the writing is ... "intricate"? Who decided it WAS a classic? (As in who let this happen? Because I'd like a word with them.) I think "experts" may have let their haughty expectations get the best of them when including The Scarlet Letter on the roster of important literature. Just because a book INTENDS to do something important doesn't mean it actually DOES something important. Hawthorne's critical intentions are obvious, but he's too busy jerking himself off with big sentences and long digressions to actually accomplish anything.
American high schools need to tune this out. I can just imagine how much potential passion for reading has been snuffed out by Hawthorne. Never, ever read this book. (less)
This book was a pretty painful read. It's been a little over a month since I've read it, and it didn't leave much of a mark except that I remember bei...moreThis book was a pretty painful read. It's been a little over a month since I've read it, and it didn't leave much of a mark except that I remember being very bored ... and very happy that it was short.
Siddhartha is self-indulgent asshole. Kind of funny considering he joins the samanas, a travelling group of ascetics who live off as little as they can and deny themselves the most basic of life's pleasures. But he really does come off as a narcissistic dickhead when he tells Buddha that his teachings don't do it for him and that it would be best if he found his own path in life. Fair enough, but then he ends up spending most of his life as a rich sellout. This would be cool if he didn't spend so much time whining about it.
Then he "sees the light." He leaves his rich life to live with a canoe paddler who swears the river tells him everything he needs to know about life. But as far as I'm concerned, the river can fuck off because even after years of listening to it, Siddhartha is still a total loser.
The only thing that somewhat redeems this book is the last ten pages, when Siddhartha finally shuts the fuck up for a minute and stops pestering the reader with his quest to find the meaning of life. But everything before that sucks. SHUT IT DOWN. I don't know what was worse, actually reading the book or wading through the pretentious dribble that was the analytical introduction. It was all pretty dire.(less)
I struggled to appreciate this book in the beginning because I found no beauty in the writing. It was straightforward, simplistic, even a little patro...moreI struggled to appreciate this book in the beginning because I found no beauty in the writing. It was straightforward, simplistic, even a little patronizing at times. (Like we know 1916 was a leap year if the date is February 29. Thanks.) The characters lay flat for the most part, and I scoffed at the suspense Findley was attempting to construct surrounding "the event with the horses", which I knew would probably disappoint me. I didn't come away feeling like I had become acquainted with the main character, Robert Ross, whose brooding nature seemed like a way to escape real character development. He came off as fairly stock, to be honest.
Then Robert Ross went to war and things picked up. While the writing remained elementary, it also strangely managed to describe trench warfare in a vivid way. The Wars contains tiny pockets of prose that made me squeamish, which I both thoroughly enjoyed and didn't expect. But I wouldn't say these parts were compelling enough to make this worth a read, as the novel dies as soon as it looks like it's gaining life. Most of what happens comes off as irrelevant padding, and secondary characters do almost nothing to add to the intrigue except to foreshadow the book's disappointing climax.
In a nutshell: who cares about what Robert Ross did or didn't do? I certainly didn't.(less)
I haven't read a book this dark since Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. But Mercy Among the Children is not nearly as well-written as that ma...moreI haven't read a book this dark since Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. But Mercy Among the Children is not nearly as well-written as that masterpiece of a novel, and sometimes I felt the author was being a little gratuitous with his darkness. "Oh, look at me, I'm so morbid and grim, what else can I do to fuck with these characters' lives?"
The first three quarters of the book were such a slog, if it wasn't for the long(ish) climax of the last 120 pages, this book would have gotten two stars from me. I guess small-town drama just seems petty to me, and that's how most of the book felt--petty and bland. But I finished the last leg of it in one sitting as the underdog started to triumph is his own twisted way.
I should just remember to stay away from books that have won the Giller. I almost never like them, preferring other Giller nominees rather than the actual winner. I just feel like this book has been slotted into that much-debated spot for what the "quintessential Canadian novel" should look like, especially with its nomination for Canada Reads a couple years back. But is this sort of dry, understated exploration of boonie injustice really what differentiates Canadian literature on an international level? I'm not sure about that, but I know I've read other similar Canadian novels that do it much better than Mercy Among the Children. (less)
If this review had a title, it would be "Fiona Doesn't Care."
And that's saying a lot. It's Sri Lanka, mid-90s, civil war, brutality of the w...moreSeriously?
If this review had a title, it would be "Fiona Doesn't Care."
And that's saying a lot. It's Sri Lanka, mid-90s, civil war, brutality of the worst kind. And I STILL didn't care what happened. Because while people are being tortured and beheaded, their heads displayed on sticks for all to see, the main characters are bumbling around the country with some skeleton named Sailor, trying to find out where he worked at the time of his disappearance. I understand that Ondaajte is attempting to whittle down the war's horrors to their smallest form, but in doing so he has managed to strip all meaning from larger-scale events.
The ONLY reason this book gets two stars instead of one is because of the last 70 pages. Most of this portion focuses on Gamini, the book's most interesting character -- a war doctor on speed. Funny thing is, he's a secondary character. Anil was a shadow to me, a mere figment. I didn't come away knowing her at all.
So yeah, don't understand why Ondaatje is worshipped as one of Canada's all-time literary treasures. I'll give him one more chance with In the Skin of a Lion, but after that I am DONE. (less)
Just because this was my favourite Ondaatje doesn't mean I think he's worth all the hype. What is it about this guy that has the Canadian literati dro...moreJust because this was my favourite Ondaatje doesn't mean I think he's worth all the hype. What is it about this guy that has the Canadian literati drooling all over their tweed? To me he's a try-hard: his prose is bogged down by the affected detail of poetry without a single nugget of pithy insight. It makes me want to take a trip down to Cabbagetown so I can ask him what his DEAL is. (Does he still live there? Anyone know?)
My overall feelings about Ondaatje aside, I did *kind of* enjoy this book. In the Skin of a Lion is like a collection of short stories disguised as a novel in that it tells several interconnected stories from multiple characters' perspectives. It takes place in 1920s' and 30s' southern Ontario just after the Bloor Street Viaduct opened to connect the east end of Toronto to what is now downtown. Ondaatje does a good job of using this event to highlight the class divisions between European immigrants and the rich Toronto WASPs of this era, which lead up to small acts of revolt just before the turbulence of World War II. Ondaatje is definitely writing about interesting times, and his characters are intriguing enough to fill out the world he's re-created.
But then there are people/events that seem misplaced, and my old feelings about Ondaatje are quick to resurface. Like what was with that section on Caravaggio? I'm not sure why Ondaatje chose to introduce a new character as the book was winding down, because it definitely didn't serve the novel. I was also hoping for a little more about Ambrose and Clara, who were my two favourite characters. I kept wondering what had happened to them, and then all Ondaatje can muster is a pathetic update on their shitty life together near the end of the book. Thanks a lot.
This marks the conclusion of my exploration of Ondaatje, and I think I'm ending it on as high a note as I possibly can. Three novels later, I now feel just credible enough to refute anyone who chooses to defend him, and that's good enough for me. (less)
I need to just accept that I will never prefer what I now call "distance fiction" over to-the-point, astute stories with knock-it-on-the-h...more2.5, really.
I need to just accept that I will never prefer what I now call "distance fiction" over to-the-point, astute stories with knock-it-on-the-head turns of phrase. Very rarely do I enjoy novels that keep me at arm's length during their entirety, as I grow impatient with digging away at the nuance in order to find some granule of absolute truth, something that will enlighten me or at least cause me to stop and mull things over. This isn't to say that the abstract turns me off--I've actually read several "experimental" and "abstract" novels that have marvelled and enthralled--but there needs to be some concrete within the chaos to win me over.
Not that A Mercy is totally at a distance; the story is clear enough, especially as it unfolds several times over from the perspective of several characters. While the majority of the novel is written in a sort of disjointed, stained-glass-window way, some of the more plot-driven parts are quite riveting. Sadly, for me the novel seemed bogged down by a frustrating game of Peekaboo during which my opponent didn't cooperate. She just didn't show me enough.(less)
It's just one of those things, you know. The writing is beautiful, so many poignant turns of phrase I couldn't possibly list them all. The love sto...more3.5
It's just one of those things, you know. The writing is beautiful, so many poignant turns of phrase I couldn't possibly list them all. The love story was also beautiful, the longing between Jean and Avery so palpable I almost couldn't bear it when they separated. Loss, love, retribution, tragedy, beauty within tragedy ... this novel has it all.
And I can't figure out why I didn't enjoy it more.
Maybe it was just too much. As isolated sentences, the book is unique in its truth. But throw all those great sentences together and it seemed so ... kitschy? overblown? totally emo to the point where you can't help just rolling your eyes already? I'm not sure what it is, and it's perplexing. I haven't felt this disturbed by literary ambivalence since Choke by Chuck Palahniuk.
Whatever, not going to analyze further. Maybe it was the mood I was in. Reviews can be as arbitrary as that.(less)
At the end of his book, Goolrick writes: "The blaze in my heart and brain was caused by the first reading of Micheal Lesy's brilliant book Wisconsin D...moreAt the end of his book, Goolrick writes: "The blaze in my heart and brain was caused by the first reading of Micheal Lesy's brilliant book Wisconsin Death Trip."
Really? Because I thought the plot greatly resembled that horrible Antonio Banderas/Angelina Jolie movie Original Sin.
This book didn't impress me. I couldn't find one original turn of phrase throughout the entire novel, and I quickly grew tired of reading the same overwritten, borrowed words. The writing lacked art. I wasn't allowed to discover anything about the characters that wasn't blatantly obvious, as every event was painfully described to the most redundant degree. The story could have been told using half the words, and it probably would have been better for it. Yes, I understand that Truitt is a sad man who carries a lot of guilt. I also understand that all Catherine wants to do is survive, considering the hand she was dealt. I was beaten over the head with these details, told by way of too much backstory and repetition. At the same time, however, the characters fell flat, which is unfortunate when so many words have been expended to describe them. Odd how that happens...
Goolrick also needs to learn how to write a sex scene. I read a few other reviews that expressed distaste for the amount of sex in the book, but that's not what I've taken issue with. What disturbed me was the quality, not the quantity, of the sex scenes, and the words used to describe certain sexual acts. I was beyond annoyed at the amount of times the word "sex" was actually used to describe genitalia -- "her sex," "his sex," "she grabbed his sex." Seriously? He should be able to do better than that.
There is one reason, and one reason only, that I chose to grant this book two stars instead of one: pacing. I did enjoy watching layers of the story slowly being peeled back, and I felt the timing for this was well executed. The last 100 pages weren't even that bad, and I even enjoyed some parts of the story that were interesting enough to distract me from the sub-par quality of the writing itself. But they didn't last long, and in the end I simply found myself wanting to finish it so I could pick up something else. (less)
I wish I hadn't read reviews for Twilight before I started the book; I also wish I didn't know that Stephenie Meyer belongs to the Mormon faith. I...moreHmm.
I wish I hadn't read reviews for Twilight before I started the book; I also wish I didn't know that Stephenie Meyer belongs to the Mormon faith. I believe these two elements are influencing this review to a certain extent, specifically regarding the way I saw Bella while reading the novel. Her vapid and submissive attitude throughout the entire narrative was disturbing, as was the way Edward spoke to her as what he really is: her elder. Then to mix that with what's being hailed as one of the greatest love stories in contemporary "literature" (had to put that in quotes, as I'm using the term very loosely here) -- well, that's just more than a little troublesome.
The older I get, however, the more I have started to really define myself as a feminist. So even if I hadn't read reviews for the book before reading it, I think my first and main point of criticism would remain. Perhaps I would have allowed myself to enjoy the story a little more, though.
That opinion aside, I felt conflicted about the book's entertainment value. It was a fast, easy read that, believe it or not, kept me turning the pages at an alarming rate. Despite the often ridiculous prose, I still wanted to know what happened. I just thought Bella was an annoying, clingy, pathetic little twit while wanting to know what was going to happen. The writing is by no means brilliant; some things happen that don't even make any damn sense, and I sometimes got the sense that either Meyer gave up trying to be clever or original with her "plot twists" or her editor was falling asleep at the wheel. This point-form summary of the book elaborates further:
Bella: "This guy is super hot. Why does he hate me?" Edward: "I don't hate you, I'm just really dangerous for you." Bella: "I don't care, I love you anyway." Edward: "But seriously, I'm, like, super dangerous." Bella: "But I'm totally in love with you." Edward: "But straight up -- I'm dangerous."
On and on for another 200 pages.
Then there was a vampire baseball game, and suddenly some other vampire shows up to hunt Bella because her smell is oh-so-irresistible. And of course Edward saves her -- and takes her to the prom. It's this type of crap that makes me wonder why so many grown adults have become obsessed with the series, not to mention hoping that young girls are also reading books with stronger female leads.
It's weird, though -- I still want to know what happens in the sequels. But -- and not to sound like a book snob here -- I know I won't be reaching for them, even when I need a light read.(less)
I'm a little at a loss as to what to say about this one. I don't think I've ever felt so ambivalent about a book, unsure about whether I liked it or d...moreI'm a little at a loss as to what to say about this one. I don't think I've ever felt so ambivalent about a book, unsure about whether I liked it or disliked it. I was so perplexed about my lack of opinion that I downloaded the movie--something I NEVER do after I've read a book for which there's a film--to see if any visual association with the literature would spark any sentiment one way or the other. But nothing came out of it.
It was just ... bizarre. I didn't hate the character like so many others did, I just didn't care what happened to him. In that way, I guess he did remain somewhat amorphous throughout the reading, like he would never exist in real life. Perhaps I couldn't relate to a person that seems to NEED so much from others, yet rejects the world at the same time. Funny that a sex addict, who seems to constantly give in to his most primal needs, is actually someone who consciously avoids other human needs, such as love, his own health, etc.
Whatever, I don't know. Someday I might read another Palahniuk, but I'm not dying to.(less)
Okay, so maybe that's not the most productive way to start a review. But that basically sums up how I feel about The Boys in the Trees, a book I h...moreMeh.
Okay, so maybe that's not the most productive way to start a review. But that basically sums up how I feel about The Boys in the Trees, a book I had high hopes for. It reminded me of a fiction version of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote -- and I hated that book.
The reason I gave this book three stars instead of two is because I recognize that Swan's obscure, non-linear style is a matter of personal taste rather than fault. I enjoy flowery, descriptive writing in addition to a good plot, but with The Boys in the Trees I felt that the story was being hidden behind a style that was trying too hard to be ... quiet? edgy? "beautifully" undercut? Instead it just fell flat, and I found myself wanting the book to end so I could move on to something more my taste.
Another reason I couldn't justify giving this book two stars is because I did enjoy certain parts, those rare snippets of concrete story that were sometimes allowed to roam free through the obscurity of the writing. I also loved the concept of exploring the effects of a murder through several perspectives. I liked seeing Heath's execution through Eaton's eyes, finding out what Rachel's voice sounded like, disliking a character like Sarah. I just didn't like having to chase down those parts I did like, having to sift through what I thought to be meaningless prose to get to the meat of the story.