Based on other reviews of this book, I thought I would hate it. There’s a whole lot of focus on what is called ‘80s nostalgia porn.’
See, Ready PlayerBased on other reviews of this book, I thought I would hate it. There’s a whole lot of focus on what is called ‘80s nostalgia porn.’
See, Ready Player One tells the story of this young boy named Wade who spends MOST of his time in the giant virtual world OASIS that has basically become the hub of both entertainment and business in a dystopian future. At the start of the book, the owner of OASIS dies. His will lays out a quest for a magical Egg, the obtainment of which will confer fabulous wealth AND control of OASIS. Since this guy LOVED the 80s, naturally this quest is going to involve a TON of 80s culture. Hence, the ‘80s nostalgia porn.’
Negative reviewers brought this up, asking, ‘Who’s the audience?!’ of this YA-marketed book. Would millennials get or understand the references? Others said that this wasn’t really 80s nostalgia. It was just ‘name-dropping’ that failed to capture the genuine CULTURE of the 80s.
Positive reviewers also brought this up citing an ‘inner geek’ (or just plain regular geekiness). Some called it a ‘celebration’ of geek culture. “Great,” I thought when I saw these before reading RP1, “it’s going to be some stupid golden-age nostalgia nonsense. it’s going to be like a cultural-wide inside joke repeated ad nauseam.”
Then I read RP1 and I was like, um, did these people read the same book I read?
I was born in 1985. I am a geek, if not an obsessive one. As such I got some of the references but only some. I have seen Wargames and Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail – but I didn’t derive especial pleasure from the parts of the quest that required Wade to literally act out a scene from the movie. Likewise, when references were made to things I didn’t get – Modern Family, for example – I didn’t feel left out either.
The thing is, the 80s culture nostalgia, while ostensibly being an integral part of the plot, is ultimately like the parsley garish thrown on top of a delicious meal. Like, yeah maybe if you REALLY LOVE parsley, it’ll be key. Or if you REALLY HATE IT, you won’t be able to eat the meal. But for the rest of us, we’re focused on the meat and potatoes.
In the case of Ready Player One, the heart of the story involves the conflict between real & virtual interaction. It’s about the loneliness of our internet-centric world, about how the virtual face we all present is heavily deceptive, about corporate greed, and about the importance of friendship. Seriously. Importance of friendship. It is also, despite the ostensibly happy ending, extremely depressing.
Can we talk about our virtual world for a bit? I have both a tumblr and a twitter account, as well as a facebook one, and they all disturb me for different reasons.
With Facebook, you can, essentially, edit your life. You can post only your best pictures. You mention only your vacations, your good times – or even just your BIG times. You’re not writing status updates on sitting in traffic for an hour every day. It calls to mind a quote from Ann Beattie’s short story Snow: “Every life is interesting if you omit mention of most of it.” In Facebook (and on other social media outlets), most of a person’s life is omitted. Instead we get this deceptive sense of BIGNESS. Other people’s lives all seem AMAZING. And ours, by comparison, seems less so. \
RP1 talks about this in the sense of avatars and how some people’s avatars look QUITE different than others. In the case of one character, it’s VERY different and for reasons that make perfect sense beyond the usual simplistic "40 year old dude plays 16 year old girl" stereotype.
Tumblr, on the other hand, often strikes me as the opposite of Facebook. It strikes me as incredibly lonely. Check out the poetry tag for example. A solid 90% of the poems represent these lonely cries out into the void, people casting their sadness like a hook into the ocean of the internet, desperately hoping some giant fish will snap it up and save them from their sorrow. I think, if you asked these people, they’d understand that this isn’t going to happen. But the impulse – the NEED to connect – is very real. People want to think their loneliness has deeper meaning.
RP1 explores this loneliness. The main character Wade (aka Parzival) is extremely lonely. His life has consisted of YEARS of studying 80s culture in hopes of finding the mystical Egg. He does this because he has no other purpose in life. He has a few friends, all of whom he knows exclusively through OASIS. The romance of this book – with a fellow egg hunter named Art3mis – is primarily virtual. Does the book dedicate long passages to exploring this real v. virtual? No. Nor did I want it to. This isn’t James Joyce. But it’s there. It’s an implied specter that haunts every chapter, every scene, every character.
The last of the social media is twitter, which is BY FAR my least favorite social media outlet. I’m still maintaining my account – cause I’m trying to think of how to make it work – but I’m so far not a fan. It’s one giant advertising platform. Not just for corporations but for people too. Authors promoting their work. People promoting their ideology. Which, yknow, that’s not a BAD thing. It’s good for authors to have the means to promote their work. It’s good to have this open platform for the dispossessed to have a voice. Unfortunately, it all just amounts to branding. Because of the nature of twitter, there’s little real conversation or deeper engagement. It’s mostly just brand-shots fired back n forth at or with one another. Buy my book, my product, my idea, my existence. It feels – to me – like a conversation between eyeballs. Just one mad zoo of people desperately trying to find some meaning, some legitimization, in the things they do.
It’s because of this that I consider RP1 to be a depressing book. Without giving any spoilers, consider the fate of all the obsessed egg hunters NOT explicitly mentioned in this book. If the evil corporation – IOI - that opposes Wade and his friends manages to win by cheating, then all of these years of obsessed egg hunting have been for naught. They are wasted. And this one thing that gave them purpose & meaning in life… it’s over. But you know what? Even if Wade or one of his friends wins, the same is also true. Yes, Wade or whoever wins gets all the money and such and protects OASIS from IOI, but he is just one of THOUSANDS or MILLIONS of egg hunters who had dedicated their lives to finding the egg. Put like that, this whole quest becomes incredibly sadistic. How cruel to put up such a shining hope, of wealth and escape, knowing that only ONE person can achieve it.
Luckily there is a way out of this interpretation and it lies in friendship. So, yes, regardless of the outcome of this book, there will be thousands of people who had their life purpose stripped away from them. And yet… those people will still have the friendships they’ve formed in pursuit of this egg. They’ll still possess the bonds created by having a common goal.
And that, to me, is the real point of this book, the joy of geekdom in general, and the saving grace of social media. It’s like how, in Watchmen, the world NEEDS something to unite it, or else it’ll all fall apart in conflict. Well Geekdom does unify people. The new stars wars trailer? It unifies people in excitement and anticipation. And social media is the venue by which this unification can happen.
That’s what RP1 is, ultimately, all about. It’s not just some pointless ‘nostalgia 80s porn.’ It’s about how Geekdom unifies people in friendship and how it’s that FRIENDSHIP – not the actual geek stuff – that truly matters.
In short, despite its obvious flaws, I loved Ready Player One....more
This is a noir 'hardboiled' (i.e. wise-cracking detectives, femme fatales, and no twin-brother hiding in a cabinet with a poisoned needle nonsense) myThis is a noir 'hardboiled' (i.e. wise-cracking detectives, femme fatales, and no twin-brother hiding in a cabinet with a poisoned needle nonsense) mystery written in the 1930s. It's about a string of murders, a suspiciously absent mad rich-guy inventor, and the alcoholic detective Nick and his alcoholic wife Nora.
Supposedly it was meant to be something of a comedy. It's not that funny. I never laughed. Maybe had I known it was meant to be a comedy before-hand I might've laughed. But if you need to tell someone it's supposed to be funny for it to be funny, well...
Basically, I'm going to write the same thing here that I wrote for The Maltese Falcon, also written by Dashiell Hammett: He's noticeably inferior to Raymond Chandler. We're not talking Generic Soda versus Coca Cola. We're talking Generic Soda versus that organic, hand-crafted, bottle-carbonated, cane-sugar only, thousand year old family recipe soda crafted by nuns in a monastery situated on top of a mountain. The stuff that is like $10 for a four pack. There's a big difference.
So in the end, while the book was mildly entertaining and the dialogue nothing to sneer at, if you want to read good noir, read Raymond Chandler....more
Perhaps, had I not read this in an airport and on airplane, trapped in that strange limbo between home and not-home, I would not have loved this so.
AlPerhaps, had I not read this in an airport and on airplane, trapped in that strange limbo between home and not-home, I would not have loved this so.
Almost certainly, had I not already known that the author Michael Ondaatje was first and foremost a poet, I would not have loved it so. I would not have known how to read it, but being forewarned, I knew to disengage my normally logical, rational thought processes. Attempting to read The English Patient as you might read, say, The Hunger Games is like trying to hold water in your hands.
No. You must leap into the river and let it surround you.
The poet, you see, is not all that concerned about framing a precise image with precise words. The poet's target is far more ambitious than mere imagination: the poet aims for emotion. And emotion is a wild, reckless thing, hardly logical: love for a grandmother summoned by the smell of cherry pie; the sound of a dog recalling deep-seated fears; the feel of sand against bare feet essential to unlocking the happiness of childhood.
I could say that the English Patient is a story set in pre-, mid-, and post-WWII, about spies and the desert and a young nurse and a Sikh sapper (disarmer of bombs) and the titular man, a bit of a mystery, all holed up in a half-destroyed Italian villa, which is filled with booby traps and a countryside full of unexploded bombs. I could say that, and you might think it sounds exciting, but honestly I'd be leading you astray.
The superficial plot is not the point; that only exists to create a framework for the depths of what is, in essence, a novel-length love poem. But not love in the saccharine teenage-girl sense, love in the sense that most of us know it. No Disney tale here. Rather love as momentum; love as choice and non-choice; love waltzing with war; love as the clash between melancholy and hope. Love as a series of images, like water dripping onto an old sofa; and a girl in a thin dress holding two bomb wires; and a search for a lost oasis; and an old book whose pages have been taped over with poetry.
The English Patient is not a book that you can read in snatches, ten pages here, ten pages there, no more than love can exist as a trickle. It is full on thunderstorm or it is nothing. As such, The English Patient is best read in a single sitting, trespassing beyond your own mind, behind enemy lines into the blurry realms of Fatigue and Emotion. Not all people have the focus and the time and the capacity to switch off their minds. And even those who do cannot always manage to combine them together. But if you can, and if you do manage it, the poetry of The English Patient will stick with you always....more
While it's true that Sam Spade & The Maltese Falcon came first and inspired Raymond Chandler, this is one case in which the original is not the suWhile it's true that Sam Spade & The Maltese Falcon came first and inspired Raymond Chandler, this is one case in which the original is not the superior.
Raymond Chandler could write circles around Dashiell Hammett, and it shows. Chandler's novels ooze with style, with flavor, with voice, with period details and noir delight, but this guy, famous though it is, feels like a stripped down version of all that. Sure the plot is there, the femme fatale, the double-crossing and innuendo, the wise-cracking tough guy detective, but I never felt much delight in inhabiting his world. The prose is clean and serviceable, but sometimes I want more than that. Sometimes I want sprinkles on my ice-cream, and fudge and brownies and bananas. When I read Chandler, every new line is like turning a corner in a Ripley's Believe It or Not. What new delight, what new bizarro, will confront me?
Not so with Maltese Falcon, not so at all. Undoubtedly, I would have liked this guy a lot more if I had read him before I'd been introduced to Chandler. But I wasn't. So instead it just feels like a poor man's Chandler....more
The book was written in tandem with the screenplay for the Kubrick film, which I think is rather unique and interesting.
As for the book itself, it wasThe book was written in tandem with the screenplay for the Kubrick film, which I think is rather unique and interesting.
As for the book itself, it was enjoyable, more enjoyable than the film in my opinion, though I wish I had watched the movie before reading the book. Ambiguity is the movie's lifeblood and the book tends to clear all that up.
Of particular interest is how much time Arthur C. Clarke devoted to explaining the mundane realities of space travel, such as the zero g bathroom or the delicate bone structure & atrophied muscles of those who have grown up in a low-gravity environment. Like all good sci-fi, 2001 A Space Odyssey is more about ideas than it is about space battles, though there's enough malice and conflict in here to make it an enjoyable read.
But if you don't like sci-fi, I would probably avoid....more
Just, ah, terminated Beloved by Toni Morrison and oh how I was disappointed by it.
Now I am faced with the daunting task of writing a negative review fJust, ah, terminated Beloved by Toni Morrison and oh how I was disappointed by it.
Now I am faced with the daunting task of writing a negative review for a book that is beloved not just in name but by the masses, or at least the great storm-eyed literati and those who lionize them.
Though I have never hidden my dislike of them, I have always held a great respect for the literati, the academia, the magi up in their towers. I sometimes see this notion that they are out of touch with the 'common man.' Maybe. I've always been a little vague on what constitutes a common and uncommon person. But I suppose I understand the sentiment and I don't think it's correct.
I think the literati should be likened to Buddhas. Whereas Buddhas have obtained emotional mastery, the academic elite have obtained intellectual mastery. They control their minds and their opinions. Such people might sit through, say, The Dark Knight Rises and be entertained yet nevertheless possess the distance of mind to critique it for its faults. Such people can both love a thing and hate a thing at the same time - not just for brief flares of emotion, but for sustained periods of time. Months, years, lifetimes. Such people do not lose focus, not easily anyway; they can spend five years analyzing a single text or stare through the claustrophobic lens of a microscope for hours upon hours.
That is nothing minor, and you have to respect it. I'd even go so far as to say I agree with it. Your mind and your feelings are yours; even if you cannot control them, you should, in the end, be the one who opens or closes the door on them.
Certainly I am mature enough now that I control my like or dislike of things, it is no longer some wave that simply crashes upon me and I must either accept it or drown. As I read Beloved, there were a few instances where I stopped and said to myself, "I could find this novel really wonderful." Like the literati, I have cultivated an objective, maybe even cold, outlook on things. There are parts of it worthy of its Pultizer AND Nobel prizes. I can see this.
But then I know also that there are parts of ALL things worthy of respect, if not love, and certainly amazement, if not wonder. A nuclear explosion is a terrible thing, yet is it not wondrous that we have managed to harness the power of the stars? A suicide bombing is horrible, but consider the sheer strength of conviction a person must possess to end his own life for an ultimately abstract ideal. Even murderers and rapists and those who perpetrate awful massacres have a little spark in them. Evil, no doubt, yet you need only walk into the Horror section of your nearest video rental store to find row upon row upon row of the depiction of such deeds. There is something about violence that is so very human and only a fool would claim otherwise.
But the presence of good does not make something/someone wholly good, no more than the presence of evil makes something/someone wholly evil.
Is this true of quality as well? Is quality purely a matter of opinion? Is it some vast nebula that can never be charted, only explored largely at random?
I reject absolute relativism, whether it be in terms of morality or quality of literature. Of course I respect how a book read on a cheerful, summer day might alter the reader's perception of its quality toward the better and how a book read on a crowded, dirty subway might alter the reader's perception of its quality toward the worse (or, for some, better). Yet there are certain principles which clearly mark good writing and those which mark bad writing.
For simplicity sake, let me borrow the words of writer Richard Bausch and name two requirements of good literature: Never be boring. Never be muddy.
I wasn't particularly entertained by Beloved but I would never call it boring. But muddy? Ah, yes.
And this is where I believe the literati are lead astray. There is a difference between obscurity and depth, a difference between an honest look at human nature and the undisciplined pandering of human misery. There's just so much STUFF in Beloved. Themes, motifs, tonal and style shifts, surrealism, magical realism, stream-of-consciousness, metaphors, hard-hitting images of rape and slavery. No one can deny that.
But it's not particularly well-blended. It's like a child who thought a gourmet meal could be made by taking a filet mignon, asparagus, pepper, butter, fresh baked Italian round, olive oil, a fine Malbec and throwing it into a blender. But it can't, of course. Every gourmet chef understands that it's not the principal components that make a good meal but how they are combined and how they are presented.
Let me try to state it more plainly:
The principle issue with Beloved is that Toni Morrison is a fine writer whose style (at least in Beloved) lacks discipline. Point-of-view jumps all over the place, in a manner that I found least enjoyable to the reader and most convenient to the writer. Need to explain another character's perception of an event? Switch to em! Never you mind that much of life's love and conflict come from the unbridgeable distances between our minds.
The book's suspense and forward momentum are crippled. There's no sense of... free-fall in Beloved; I liken opening a good book to Alice right before she enters wonderland. I'm on a quick jaunt and suddenly there's a tunnel and down I go! There's a bottom down there, some grand culmination, some grand climax. I know this because I know how gravity works but more importantly I can feel it.
I felt none of that in Beloved. It's not that there weren't mysteries or genuine emotions at stake here. Rather it was that lack of discipline again. Just when I would build a reading fervor, Toni would handicap it by switching to an annoying stream-of-consciousness that wasn't present for the first 200 pages of the book. Five page paragraphs? No problem.
What dealt the final blow to my relationship with this book was this paragraph, which I will attempt to copy as exactly as I can:
"We are not crouching now we are standing but my legs are like my dead man's eyes I cannot fall because there is no room to the men without skin are making loud noises I am not dead the bread is sea-colored I am too hungry to eat it the sun closes my eyes those able to die are in a pile I cannot find my man the one whose teeth I have loved a hot thing the little hill of dead people a hot thing the men without skin push them through wit poles the woman is there with the face I want the face that is mine they fall into the sea which is the color of bread she has nothing in her ears if I had the teeth of the man who died on my face I would bite the circle around her neck bite it away I know she does not like it now there is room to crouch and to watch the crouching others it is the crouching that is now always now inside the woman with my face in the sea a hot thing"
Oh the sheer fucking arrogance of a writer who believes she can approximate human emotion with syntactical gimmickery.
NO. No writer. You cannot force emotion upon me. I am the reader, you are just the writer. You build the path, but I walk it. And this is no path I care to walk. It is a meandering nonsensical path with waterfalls and lilies thrown willy-nilly by a gardener who understands the images of emotions but not the flow.
Already I can foresee the response to that claim, that if anything her meandering narrative & style have perfectly captured the way people actually think, the fragmented narrative of our minds and memories, especially when they are tinged blue and red with deep emotion. I concede that some people may think that way.
But literature is not life. Literature is a telescope which looks at life from a distance and this particular telescope? It's got a foggy lens. Its creator should have cared less about the fanciful engravings on the side and more about its fundamental inner-workings. Perhaps then we could have looked upon the star in all of its mighty glory instead of being blinded by a grand light and simply assuming that beyond it must be something mighty and glorious....more
It's a book about dinosaurs on a resort island. That includes velociraptors and tyrannosaurus rexii, of both adult and juvenile variety. There was alsIt's a book about dinosaurs on a resort island. That includes velociraptors and tyrannosaurus rexii, of both adult and juvenile variety. There was also some promise of ice cream in the Safari Lodge's kitchen. But when we get there, there is no ice cream. Just velociraptors.
As you might therefore expect, this is a rather harrowing techno-thriller.
It is the tale of one nine year old girl's quest for ice cream. A great many things stand in her way, including the aforementioned dinosaurs, a creepy old man, the entirety of chaos theory as explained by mathematician Jeff Goldblum (played by Ian Malcolm), a poisonous loogie, and this insufferably useless know-it-all Norse paleontologist named Dr. Grantenheimer. Also electrified fences!
I have seen some other insufferable know-it-alls making such complaints about this book like, "There is very flat characterization" or "The prose lacks a distinct UV-quality to it which prevented it from imbue-ing my skin with a rich gold lustre" or "sensationalism and misuse of scientific concepts." As best as I can tell, these people must have missed the part with the dinosaurs on the island resort.
You really owe it to yourself to read this page-churner of a thriller....more
I don't get the complaints about Michael Crichton's writing. Take the following complaint about this book:
"It's a boring procedural with flat, uninterI don't get the complaints about Michael Crichton's writing. Take the following complaint about this book:
"It's a boring procedural with flat, uninteresting characters."
Yeah. It's a procedural. That's what Michael Crichton writes. Explorations of a scientific idea. He's an asker of "What If?" What if we were able to recreate dinosaurs. What if we developed nanotech and it got away from us. What if a deadly alien virus came down from a satellite.
I like such stories. When I buy a Michael Crichton, that's what I want to read, and that's what he delivers. Complaining that it's not a character-centric drama is like going to see Transformers and complaining about the lack of a good script....more
I read this a week or two ago, and I keep waiting for some idea of how I would review this. Or even whether I liked it or not.
I don't know. So allow mI read this a week or two ago, and I keep waiting for some idea of how I would review this. Or even whether I liked it or not.
I don't know. So allow me to just talk randomly.
The Outsiders is sometimes credited for creating the Young Adult genre. I mean sure, before then, you had books like A Wrinkle In Time. But go read that book. For a children's book, it's complicated! You didn't really have books for children and books for adults. Rather you had books for adults that just so happened to appeal to children.
The Outsiders, though, yeah this is YOUNG ADULT. If the publishing industry was run by some sort of giant robot-god-like-thing, then it would stamp this with YOUNG ADULT. Yeah that's how I picture the giant robot-god-like-thing: a poorly assembled mechatronic creation like you might find if you stole the tyrannosaurus rex from that Jurassic Park ride in Universal Studios and peeled off its skin. And it would have like ninety arms and have giant stamps with all the genres or judgments like APPROVED or REJECTED. And there would be a lot of steam. I imagine it would have some poor editor slaves, faces grimy but for their eyes, protected by horn-rim glasses.
Anyway. The Outsiders was written by a sixteen year old girl. Very obviously so. It tells the story of the Greasers vs the Socs, or more simply the poor versus the rich. The members of the Greaser gang aren't very scary as gang-members. They slick back their hair, wear tight shirts, and quote poetry. They differentiate between the words 'tough' and 'tuff.' And they arrange fights, sorry rumbles, for, uh, just the helluva it I guess. In fact, they act like gang members if written by a sixteen year old girl.
Which, um, yeah, they are. Yeah there's a nice way to end a review:
As a teacher, I sometimes have to try and convince kids that reading is AWESOME and FUN and GREAT.
The kids tend to go >:O "OH YEAH. What's so greatAs a teacher, I sometimes have to try and convince kids that reading is AWESOME and FUN and GREAT.
The kids tend to go >:O "OH YEAH. What's so great about it, huh?! Is it more fun than CALL OF DUTY MODERN WARFARE NINE!? Is it more exciting than shooting TERRORISTS?!"
"Well, no, maybe not more exciting but it's a nice quiet time to-"
"I don't have TIME for reading. I'm president of the SILVER NEEDLE club! And I have to practice violin! And I have AP calculus and AP psychology and AP basket-weaving! I need to to VOLUNTEER at the homeless shelter. Those help me get into college! What's reading do?"
"Well it helps you maintain an internal narrative and-"
"You know hold a conversation with yourself."
"Talk to MYSELF? Oh Erik you so crazy!"
It's about that time though that I pull out my giant "Cell-phone Smasher" hammer and hurl it across the room. It smashes through the bookshelf, which explodes into a flurry of pages.
"SILENCE! Golden Compass is more exciting than shooting terrorists! It's got talking, armor-wearing polar bears. It's got aeronaut cowboys, who fly in hot-air balloons! It's got witches, who live for six centuries! It's got gun-toting gypsies! It's got child-snatchers! It's got experimentation on children! What's not to like about child experimentation, huh? I THINK THIS CLASS NEEDS MORE OF THAT, WHAT DO YOU THINK?"
"Mister Erik you can't talk to us like-"
"I can talk to you in whatever goddamn way I please. I'm the big cheese here, I'm the bee's knees, I'm the rooster on the haystack. I'm the wolf who will eat you if you don't siddown and shuddup. Reading's good stuff, you see? It takes you on an adventure. The Golden Compass is set in an alternate universe, where science and theology are the same thing. How else you going to travel to another world? Ain't by boat, but by book. And in this world, people's souls are physically manifested in the forms of daemons, of animal familiars. That's what you call a metaphor, and it's a good one for talking about souls, innit? I don't suppose that's important is it? A discussion of the SOUL?"
My students are getting teary-eyed now and snuffling, but I power on.
“The Golden Compass is a thinkin’ book. It’s a thinkin’ adventure book that’s not too deep. About SIN. And religion and free will and good and evil. It’s also about growing up. Lyra’s a headstrong, manipulative, free-spirited wild thing. In fact, she’s a bit like you all. Maybe you could learn something from her. Because yeah you’re right, reading a book may not be as fun as shooting a rocket launcher or as career-advancing as an AP class. It’s about something more than that, it’s about letting your imagination go, about falling deep into something beyond you. And this book,” I drop it heavily onto my desk, “it’s got plenty of imagination.”
"Of course," I add, "it isn't perfect, either."...more
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is basically a book in which two men sit in a room and talk with each other. Really, that's it. And while John le CaThe Spy Who Came in from the Cold is basically a book in which two men sit in a room and talk with each other. Really, that's it. And while John le Carre's good at writing dialogue, he's not -that- good.
Don't get me wrong; the book is tightly written, a thriller, a mystery, a page-turner. It's written with authority. It had a definite Cold War aura to it. But it was just... hollow?
Perhaps my response to the book suffers since I read it immediately after finishing The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Both have very bleak tones, both are written rather simply and to the point. And yet the Book Thief managed to take that bleak tone, the grim palette of war and suffering, and paint something beautiful, something inspiring and grand. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is bleak bleak bleak and then ends on the bleakest note of all.
Do you see my criticism? Without an inner light, a deeper message, an attempt to reach into the heart of mankind and reveal something mysterious, the book's quality rests solely on its writing mechanics. Mechanics which, frankly, are flawed:
The "mystery" was, at least to me, almost patently obvious. It was also absurd. Without giving away any spoilers, a spy agency would not risk its greatest asset on what basically amounts to a gamble on human nature. It was a real shame, for a book otherwise so carefully realistic.
The entire thing, the whole shebang, both the mystery and the character's motivation, rests on a love relationship which was hardly believable. Liz, an "attractive" twenty-something Communist librarian, is supposed to fall madly and deeply in love with the protag Alec, a mean fifty-year-old drunk who hates communists. Uh. What? Thus the parts where Liz talks about her love of Alec (and vice versa) come across the cheapest sort of deus ex machina soap opera melodrama. ...That was a beautiful rhyme.
With all that said, I did give the book 3 stars. It's good, just not as good as I wanted it to be....more
It tells the story of a low-IQ fellow named Charlie Gordon who has an 'operashun' and becomes a geniusFlowers for Algernon felt like two books in one.
It tells the story of a low-IQ fellow named Charlie Gordon who has an 'operashun' and becomes a genius. That's book one. The ascent I'll call it. But of course - and honestly I'm not even going to worry about spoilers, sorry - he eventually realizes that this operashun is not permanent. Then he descends from genius back to his original low intelligence self. That's book two. The descent.
I wasn't a huge fan of the ascent. It reads like the cliff-notes version of 'the troubles of being a smart person' complete with the stereotypes of 'intelligence magically means you don't have to work hard to learn!' and 'everyone thinks I'm arrogant but really just no one understands me!!!' and 'I grow impatient with less intelligent people.' It's not that there isn't an element of truth to these, it's just that they're not terribly insightful. Like a precocious child's perspective on intelligence. He can predict the isolation, but he could not explain it in such a way as to evoke a true understanding of the situation. I daresay that's why, while there exist prodigy piano players and tennis players and composers, I've never in my whole life heard of a ten year old prodigy writer. Maybe that's realistic, considering that Charlie Gordon becomes a genius so quickly, but it's not terribly interesting to me as a reader.
Consider: the height of the ascent is that Charlie Gordon realizes that intelligence without giving back or intelligence without love is dangerous and bad. Gee. Whoda thought?
But this book does have great themes. It explores questions about how we deal with mental disorder & retardation, the many types of intelligence (e.g., emotional vs 'academic' intelligence), the role of intelligence in romantic love, and others.
Now THESE themes reach their peak during the second half of the book, during the descent. That half is simply fantastic. It's emotional and humanizing in a way that the first half simply is not.
I suspect the major differences is that, while few of us (including the author), can empathize or even sympathize with what it may be like to become suddenly smarter, most of us are well aware of what it means to grow dumber. That is, what it means to grow older and to become, well, less than we used to be. Sure Charlie Gordon's degradation is much more rapid, but when we're 90 years old, looking back on the past 30 years of our lives, well, memories have a way of condensing, don't they? It'll feel pretty rapid to us then.
Overall, it was a good book. Not intellectually but emotionally, and I think that's just a little bit ironic....more
Treasure Island is a standard adventure story, which has been copied so often that, while it may have been original when it was first written, it hardTreasure Island is a standard adventure story, which has been copied so often that, while it may have been original when it was first written, it hardly is today. That is the nature of books and time: they become obsolete, they do not stand the test of time.
Treasure Island, however, hardly fails the test of time. If you haven't read it, I would recommend you do so. It's a swift, pleasant read that, yes, feels a bit shallow, but it has plenty of charms to make up for that....more
I found this book surprisingly enjoyable, even though I read it in high school. Jane Austen, though certainly not this poor destitute working-class feI found this book surprisingly enjoyable, even though I read it in high school. Jane Austen, though certainly not this poor destitute working-class female writer that she is sometimes erroneously portrayed as, is quite the masterful writer. A definite recommendation for the fairer sex, and I think many men would not find the material quite as sappy as they might expect....more
I give this book 4 stars, but I do not believe it deserves it.
The other day, I picked up several H.G. Wells' books, and as I read them and write theirI give this book 4 stars, but I do not believe it deserves it.
The other day, I picked up several H.G. Wells' books, and as I read them and write their reviews, I find myself again and again confronted by a quandry, by a philosophical conundrum, whose answer I would not assertively posit.
The issue is this: H.G. Wells' books seem to be primarily an exploration of social issues via hypothetical situations. The stories, that is the actual narration, exist as a delivery method for Wells' ideas and philosophical musings. The Time Machine, for example, is not really an adventure story in its classic sense - in this respect, the character development, the suspense, the thrills, the pacing, and the actual description are mediocre. Rather, Time Machine shines in its disturbing implications. He has taken the social dichotomy of his time, between the worker class and the rich elite, which has since become dulled with the rise of the middle class, and accelerated it into two extremes - the useless, beautiful Eloi and the industrious, brutal Morlocks. There can be no doubt that Wells' picture of the future is imaginative, well-pondered, and depressing.
And yet! And yet... herein lies the quandry. The Time Machine is a novel. A novelist is a story-teller; Wells was not a scientist, he was not a psychologist, he was not a captain of industry. So I've got a book here whose actual story is average, and yet whose ideas and philosophies are not scientifically valid! If I truly cared to explore the truth of such trends in class stratification and technology, then I would read a journal of sociology or investigate the research of famed psychologists.
Thus do I suggest that The Time Machine doesn't deserve the 4 stars I give it.
With that said, however, it's hard not to see that Wells' future is close to the mark. The Time Traveler, spokesman for Wells, claimed that, for the wealthy elite, industriousness would swiftly be replaced by art, which would then in turn be replaced by idleness and eroticism. One need but look at the trends in college majors (engineering and hard sciences go down while the arts go up) and look upon the flesh and physicality displayed routinely in TV & movies to see that this is the way that we go. Though I am far from conservative, I could not wholly deny this, and I am disturbed.
I liked it okay. The literary significance aside, which matters not one bit to me, I basically felt distracted all throughout reading this. You've gotI liked it okay. The literary significance aside, which matters not one bit to me, I basically felt distracted all throughout reading this. You've got a rape casually tossed in, but it's not explored enough to seem necessary. You've got a child's essay that very briefly touches upon Truman's use of the atomic bomb. You've got a tomboy, sexually confused taxi driver and her lesbian girlfriend. You've got the "world's smartest man" making typos in a memo (that, or an incredibly lazy publisher). You've got this strange pirate aside, a very clumsy analogy to one of the novel's main characters. I could go on and on, listing these rough edges, these spiky unnecessary appendages on a beast that is gruesome and terrible and otherwise a delight to behold.
Some may call these details an essential part of fully realizing the world - and you should make no mistake, Watchmen is real and gritty and believable - but I found them distracting. Every time I came upon the sections involving the newsstand seller (and the aforementioned pirate "comic within a comic"), I groaned my frustration. So very clearly symbolic and so very clearly meant to represent a sort of common man perspective - it was just awkward.
So I give it 3 stars out of 5. It's good, possibly great, but I'm too young to have been blown away by its cultural significance. I liken it best to watching Star Wars. Earth breaking then, but now...? The effects are dated and the script is clunky....more
Memoirs of a Geisha, when taken for what it is, is hard to fault.
Memoirs is a story about a young girl's life as a geisha, beginning as the daughter oMemoirs of a Geisha, when taken for what it is, is hard to fault.
Memoirs is a story about a young girl's life as a geisha, beginning as the daughter of a fisherman and going right up through WW2. It is interesting, hard to put down, exotic, and insightful.
Here is what Memoirs of a Geisha is not: this is not the legitimate memoirs of a geisha, nor a perfectly accurate depiction of the karyukai, the "flower and willow world" of the Japanese Geisha. Far too many of the Goodreads reviews on Memoirs focus on how this is not a good book because "Most westerners would view it as accurate." Why would the perceived majority's reception of a book alter mine or your enjoyment of it? The implied elitism is appalling.
Instead, let me suggest that these negative reviews should actually be taken as a positive. Memoirs is so exhaustively researched and so compellingly and believably written that you will be drawn into its world: you will hate Hatsumoto, a rival geisha, who does her best to ruin Sayuri's (the narrator) career and feel, too, the confusing mix of feelings that Sayuri feels toward the hideous man who is often her patron.
In short, is this book a westerner's perspective on an eastern culture? Yes. Is it well researched and largely accurate? Yes. Am I glad that it is a fictional well-written story and not an encyclopediac rendering? Yep!
And, on the plus side, you can now also read the actual memoirs of Mineko Iwasaki, on whom this book was largely based....more