I read this book 35 years ago for the first time when I was fifteen years old. It remains one of my all time favorites. After...moreQue Viva Snuffy Ledoux!
I read this book 35 years ago for the first time when I was fifteen years old. It remains one of my all time favorites. After re-reading - because one of my friends told me I reminded him of Amarante Cordova - and because I always considered myself to be more of a Jose Mondragon - the themes remain contemporary. They remind me why I consider this timeless piece of literature to be such a great demonstration of artistry and craftsmanship.
Milagro Beanfield War is an enchanting story, told by a man who has a deep and abiding respect for the people he wrote about. His descriptions of the colorful characters and the beautiful landscapes reveal a man who is faithful to describing northern New Mexico Latino culture with clarity and sensitivity to all their quirky nuances.
Nichols reminds me why I love the northern part of the state so much. The rugged terrain is as breath-taking beautiful as its hard-scrabble inhabitants. I am convinced their vibrant culture and world view has been shaped by the land in which they live. Their ingenuity and tenacity are not as caricatured as you might be given to conclude according to Nichols' descriptions. Their bravado, sense of pride, chutzpah are not an exaggeration at all. Moreover, extraordinary things do happen up there and what is even more unusual is that is is not seen as anything out of the ordinary at all. Nichols does such a fantastic job of describing the terrain that he reminds me why I love Northern New Mexico - Taos in particular - so much.
Plainly put, this story is entertaining, comical and it sheds light on yet another group of Americans whose peculiarities spice up an already delicious story.
I felt a connection to all of the characters. However, if pressed to choose one, I believe my favorite would be the immortal Amarante Cordova who buys bullets for his antique .45 with food stamps.
Aside from Pacheco's huge, white pet pig that continually escapes and wreaks havoc in Milagro, the cast of characters include;
Joe Mondragon, the sawed-off banty rooster. The protagonist who unwittingly starts the war when he decides to irrigate his little bean field - of course the symbolism should not be wasted here as beans cause gas and Joe's little field caused a big stink.
Bernabe Montoya, the tired though politically astute sheriff whose comic-tragic life is measured by making mountains out of mole hills and mole hills out of mountains,
Seferino Pacheco, the illiterate old man who can nonchalantly critique Steinbeck, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Juan Ramon Jimenez, Platero, Asturias, Garcia Lorca and Pablo Neruda but spends the lions' share of his time haplessly chasing down his wayward, errant pet pig,
Onofre Martinez, the one armed enigma who lost his arm to a fleet of butterflies and whose claim to shame is marked by having a son become a state police officer,
Charlie Bloom, the Harvard Lawyer cum honorary Chicano and publisher of a little news paper called 'The Voice of the People,'
A host of bad guys led by the evil, Ladd Devine III, an equally pugnacious, little white man whose size belies his ambitions, and
the women of Milagro who range from a pebble-tossing granny to loyal, devoted and equally nutty, delightfully powerful women.
These characters represent the tapestry of Milagros' comedic bravado and cloaked angst with its temperaments and dispositions.
I have read that some people do not like Nichols' depiction of the dominant culture and actually take exception to what has been described as the 'white man's burden.' Such detractors are really missing the point because the story is about a nostalgic look at a culture and way of life that is quickly waning. As a case in point, Onofre Martinez articulates the point quite eloquently (p 150)when someone makes an off handed comment about gringos;
"'Wait a minute!' Onofre Martinez stammered excitedly, emotionally placing his hand on Ray Gusdorf's shoulder, 'This is my neighbor, and he is a gringo, not even a little bit coyote [half-breed:]. But he's been in the valley as long as I remember, and I consider him to be of my people. And that white man over there told us these things about the dam and the conservancy and showed us the maps, I consider him of my people too, even though he is a lawyer, even though he speaks funny Anglo Spanish you can hardly understand. But I believe he at least tries to speak the truth,and a lawyer who does that should get a big gold medal to hang around his neck. I don't consider Nick Rael to be of my people because he works against my interests... So, I don't believe this is a brown against white question. This is a only one kind of people against another kind of people with different ideas. There are brown people and white people on both sides...People are people...The brown people and white people on our side are better people because they are on the correct side, that's all..."
While many of the antiheroes in this story happen to be Anglo and the protagonists are mostly Latinos, the story would not change if the protagonists happened to be a group of backwater whites who were facing similar circumstances. Consequently, I don't really understand why someone, anyone would get ruffled about a white author writing about bad white guys. Apparently, Lonesome Dove doesn't evoke the same sort of bristled criticisms and, for that reason, I find the attacks on John Nichols unwarranted.
John Nichols has created a masterpiece, attentively woven with its muted colors of incredulity, tempered fatalism and brilliant splashes of hope.
I sincerely hope his magnum opus is not discounted because he has the temerity to celebrate the true essence of what is unique about being an American; diversity.
Finally, If you like magical realism, this book is perfect for you.
ps: There's nothing wrong with being like Amarante Cordova - although I still consider myself more like Joe Mondragon. And, hey Tony! You are crazier that Pacheco's pig!(less)
This story, with all its unlikely characters and the attendant twists and turns, has John Irving's mark all over it. John Irving is with out a doubt,...moreThis story, with all its unlikely characters and the attendant twists and turns, has John Irving's mark all over it. John Irving is with out a doubt, my favorite living American writer. It therefore comes as no surprise that I would find this book enjoyable.
For me, the characters are believable and their stories come together to reveal the intricacies that tie them all to one another. Patrick Wallingford is a sympathetic enough character in that his initial shallowness makes him someone whom I would like to see get his comeuppances. However, the accident which he had a hand in (pardon the pun) proves to be a point of embarkation where he realizes that such a devastating loss leads to immeasurable rewards.
I found the back story about the 'faux' news network to be particularly apropos because Irving was able to project an absurd sense of reality to an otherwise inane albeit acceptable genre of entertainment in American culture today; news. Mary Shannahan's character was someone who I loved to hate - not so much because of her gender but because of her ceaseless, raw ambition which defies everything her television personality puts forward. It is a matter of image versus substance - the entire theme of this book - who we are as opposed to who we want people to believe that we are.
For anyone who feels jaded by what comes across as news nowadays, this is definitely a book for you. For those who fail to see the irony in news which really isn't; this may not be the book for you. Such critics of this story who point to the unbelievability of such a story as, "The Fourth Hand," are likely to pan it because, "The Fourth Hand" fails to follow a prescribed script more akin to what can be routinely found on any given cable news channel. Ignore the naysayers and read the book. It is good and stands on its own.
As an aside, I'll definitely be picking up, "The English Patient," and "Stewart Little" - the two books Irving mentioned in this story. I enjoy picking up on the ongoing side bar commentary he seems to offer to anyone who is paying enough attention to what he has to say - aside from the obvious story line in his other books. His delivery is subtle and unmistakably John Irving. I suppose this why I enjoy his writing so much.(less)
The subject matter of this disturbing book is the death penalty – more specifically, wrongful prosecut...more***Please note: this review contains spoilers***
The subject matter of this disturbing book is the death penalty – more specifically, wrongful prosecution and the miscarriage of justice.
It is a story about a serial sex offender whose life is allegedly coming to an end because of an inoperable brain tumor. His confession, which could exonerate a young black man - erroneously accused, convicted and doomed to die in Huntsville, Texas - comes too late.
Here is what the book made me think about:
When we are young, it makes sense to see the world in rather absolute terms. Because our experiences are limited, we rely on quick, easy answers as a matter of survival. With the passage of time our life experiences teach us there are few issues that are either ’black’ or ‘white.'. Consequences are measured and decisions are weighted. The greater good is balanced against personal gain and self-preservation. Adult decision-making is a matter of pragmatism versus dogma and reality versus the ideal.
With age comes experience whose continual ebbs and flows slowly soften the boundaries between right and wrong. Our absolutist world segues into the realm where shades of gray predominate. The anticipation of youth molts into the reminiscence of maturity, a longing for a simpler time. Never is it so apparent than when we are facing times of crisis.
Intuitively, we understand that when facing calamity, we ought to slow down. Experience tells us trying times are when reason ought to prevail. Sadly, something about the Human condition prevents such rationality and reliance upon logic. Despite how irrational it may be, in a world that seems ever unwinding and deteriorating - especially in times of stress and deep emotional turmoil – the quickest, the most definitive - the most sought answer lies in simplicity. And, that is where our problems begin.
As a civilized society, our obvious remedy is to dole out justice through legally accepted venues. We have developed a legal system of codified laws prescribing punishment for breaking the law from the most mundane of offenses to the extreme. Understandably - with an eye focused on religion for guidance - we seek a means of how exactly to mete out that justice fairly, equitably and without prejudice. Taking of a Human life is a serious matter and arguments based on religiosity carry great sway over how we - as a society - deal with lethal Human transgressions via state-sanctioned execution.
Now, if the media is to be believed, violence is rampant in America. There is little doubt that they have a powerful influence over the collective consciousness of those who tune in for the news coverage. It seems like there is no limit on just how cruel - even vicious - Humans can behave toward one another. Now I am not solely accusing 'the media' of perpetrating mass hysteria. There is a need and there is a need to feed. This symbiosis plays itself out on a more practical concern. The Media's primary motivation for patronage is ratings driven and the ever present, bottom line dictates of supply & demand. America is enthralled with violence. We can't get enough of it. Indeed, crime does pay. We love the 'shock and awe.'
Couple the ratings-driven pimping of violence and the unlimited supply if politicians who pander to the American public by clamoring for law & order, inciting fear and it is no wonder that God-fearing Americans have become fluent in the double-speak of religion where they can simultaneously lament the murder of a fetus and fervently abide in their belief of the sanctity of Capital punishment all in one fell swoop.
Perhaps I am giving into my own reminiscences here but nowadays, there seems to be a great void in leadership both politically and in houses of worship. I am not only talking about American society. It is being played out all over the planet. Humanity throughout the world - owing to the maladies of emotionally driven responses, swathed in religiosity - account for the more predictable Human condition where vengeance and fear take precedence over rationality, compassion and forgiveness. We opt for the immediate - the dramatic.
Personally, I fail to draw any clear distinction between the Sarah Palins and the Muqtada al Sadrs of the world - well maybe Sarah is right - the difference comes down to lipstick ...more like lipschtick.
I am convinced that is precisely why Cable News and Faux news networks have become so popular: they focus on problems and offer sound-bite solutions. Like snacks, the messages being proffered for complex, difficult issues the solutions are filling, even tasty but completely lacking in nutritional value. Junk news is society’s junk food, its pre-processed agenda.
Grisham weaves a decent story that reveals less-than-honest ambitions and motivations of key players in the process of pursuing justice. Grisham’s character, Robbie Flak – the pugnacious defense attorney - sums it up very well when he says; “Death binds people in odd ways…”
The first killer in this story’s most immediate victims were Nichole Yarber, the seventeen year-old cheerleader he stalked and her classmate, Donté Drumm – the fall guy slated to die. The second story carries larger implications; society is the ultimate victim, and ironically, the perpetrator, the second killer.
I suppose the most disturbing part of this story is how, through legal processes and religious appropriation, something as sacred and high-minded as justice can be meted out so rationally and, with so much slight-of-hand. In order for society to move forward, it does so with a conventionality of thought and unquestioned respect for a process that everyone assumes is working flawlessly and free of the taint of personal agendas. This is a story about process rum amok. Despite America’s best efforts to assure fairness and lack of bias, meting out justice in such a routine manner, there are countless points along the way where rules can be bent, manipulated and ignored outright as a means of affecting the outcome.
The Confession explores the motivations of killers, how they differ individually and how they share a certain commonality. It is an exploration of how the individual offense touches off a cascade of events where posterity reveals, we collectively become killers. The characteristic ideal of blind justice is usurped through winks, blinks, nods and squints; it is anything but just.
Capital punishment is something I do not agree with for reasons philosophical, religious, spiritual, moral and even fiscal considerations. I understand that such a stance nowadays is unpopular because, contrary to exhaustive research, swift and terrible punishment is popularly perceived to be a powerful deterrent for would-be rapists and murderers.
Violence is infectious, it is self-perpetuating. Its beginnings are almost imperceptible. However, once seeded, it lies in wait - like some inoculated virus awaiting the right conditions to manifest itself. It wears many masks - some brutal and others cloaked in righteousness. But, let's not deceive ourselves; it is still violence.
Aristotle said,“Anyone can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way - that is not within everyone's power and that is not easy."
There is a time to be indignant and injustice is something to be indignant over. Robbie Flak is right to be angry just as society is right to be upset at the violence perpetrated upon the innocent. But, we can never forget that - with rare exception - society's monsters are often a product of their environment just as the self-righteous and the indignant are. People who feel powerless relish it wherever and whenever they happen upon it and its intoxicating effects are difficult to restrain, confine or relinquish. Perhaps that is the greatest reason we need to be reminded that we are all connected.
I agree with the Poet John Donne, "Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind..." [For Whom the Bell Tolls], and that is the lasting thought I can take away from this book which serves to remind the reader that extreme reactions, fueled by moments of passion where fear and anxiety are stoked by the desire for revenge - while regrettable, cannot be reversed
I am reminded of a cartoon series character named Pogo, created by Walt Kelly back in the seventies. Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” I think this is what Grisham is trying to get across in his story line.
I haven't read all of Grisham's books. He has touched upon the topic of the Death Penalty in two other books, “An Innocent Man” and “The Chamber.” The former actually chronicles a real-life miscarriage of justice and I have not read it yet. I have read the latter and I did like it, despite the ending.
Thus far, I have read seven Grisham books and for me, The Confession ranks in the top two.(less)
**spoiler alert** If you are looking for a pick-me-up DO NOT buy this book. I'm borrowing a Southpark line, "You killed Edgar you bastard!"
This book h...more**spoiler alert** If you are looking for a pick-me-up DO NOT buy this book. I'm borrowing a Southpark line, "You killed Edgar you bastard!"
This book had the potential to be one of the best books ever and it turned out to be a total waste of time. For the first time in my life, I actually regret spending my hard-earned money on a book. I just want to know who the editor was and what the hell the publisher was thinking when s/he gave the green light for publication of this book.
Admittedly, there are some points in the story that are absolutely mesmerizing. I particularly liked the chapter entitled, 'Almondine'. The anthropomorphic descriptions were great but, in the end, difficult to believe. I love my dog Poe but I just do not see his deep philosophical thought processes behind those coffee colored eyes.
Also, the story about Henry's kindness could so easily have been a turning point. In short, he gets robbed, puts the kid and dogs up for a while and ends up with two expensive dogs for his troubles.
Unfortunately, the book is really a tragedy that has been marketed as a coming-of age-story. That's why I bought the book and that's why I felt ripped off. These are tough economic times so, I must admit, I was looking for a book about redemption. I wanted to read about a hero who overcame great odds and, if it included a little bit of magical realism then so be it. Disappointingly, the author tipped his toe in the water but never just jumped in any of the pools he dabbled in.
According to the jacket, there are breath-taking descriptions that are pervasive throughout the book. In reality, the book has a smattering of descriptions of the variety alluded to in the jacket. Who is the person that wrote such a specious jacket synopsis anyway? Probably the same kind of dolt who writes obituaries in some local rag.
There were several places where word usage was a bit pedantic and sentence structure clunked - so much so that I had to re-read quite a few sentences in order to get the gist of their meaning. At one point I wondered if Wroblewski's phrasing meant to mimic the sentence structure of a deaf person (however, since Edgar is mute and not deaf, I conclude his sentence structure would be like that of a hearing person - then again, I don't sign) but it didn't seem to happen with any regularity, The clunky wording just seemed to happen randomly.
I found the first two hundred pages a bit cumbersome at times and found myself pushing through in anticipation of what was yet to come. While the book did seem to pick up after the half-way point, it got better. Then it seemed to consume itself - much as the fire did at the end. There were too many loose ends to my liking. For instance, the notion that Claude got away with murder didn't set well with me. Yes, he did die in the fire but, how would the rest of his world ever really know to what extent was actually involved in his brother's demise?
I don't necessarily like books that end 'happy.' However, I don't like books that breach a topic and fail to address it either. For me, that is where this work falls. It is loose on the paranormal breaches. They titillate but in the end, they seem to be added for effect and no real purpose. I am still left scratching my head over the old man's ghost in the barn; he spoke with great technical detail to Edgar but remained silent and failed to come through with any advice when Edgar sought it.
I understand Wroblewski's (and many other authors for that matter)desire to establish his own, unique voice. I understand that he wants his work to stand out alone and not be dismissed simply as another story that echoes Shakespeare. I also understand his contention that the story of Edgar Sawtelle is one that preexisted Shakespeare's Hamlet and yet, there is something disingenuous about his claim as he seems to follow a Shakespearean formula with one difference - Wrobleswki's ending. Ironically, the work is kind of like the mysterious poison. Shakespeare is Wroblewski's poison to be handled delicately, used to achieve a selfish end, destructive by its very nature and capable of causing death even when it is disposed of.
It is still Shakespeare but different - somewhat akin to plucking off the flower from the stem and grafting another flower in its place. There is something oddly displeasing about putting a dandelion on a rose stem.
Reading Wroblewski is like going to a four star restaurant and having the chef deliberately sabotage the dessert by piling on a load of salt - ostensibly (in accordance with the author's attached interview responses in the back of the book) because he wants to shake his fist at the universe to declare that he is unique. Plainly put there are stories that are timeless and, there are stories that are not stories at all. The Sawtelle family started out as an uninteresting,simple family whose lives were carefully documented and then summarily dispensed of so that they would once again disappear into obscurity.
No lesson. Nothing. Well, maybe one; guys whose names include the letters 'g-a-r' are doomed to die by poisoning. How did Shakespeare say it? I'll paraphrase - something about strutting and fretting on the stage - a story told by an idiot, signifying nothing.
Doubtless, David Wroblewski has some definite skill in describing his subjects with enviable creativity however, With an ending like that, perhaps sticking to computer programming is better advised. Why tell such a beautiful story and then sabotage it with such a sloppy ending?
Why would anyone who had the potential to reach out to his audience squander such a golden opportunity? I have stated my reason for buying the book and now, I feel like the victim of a 'bait and switch' swindle.
The ending is as enigmatic as Claude's character and, because of that, I say, keep your day job Wroblewski. I'm going to have a tough time parting with my money to purchase any more of your books. (less)
This book is a quick, easy read. Its plot is straight forward and logical.
I appreciate the way Hal Borland was able to convey Thomas Black Bull's eni...moreThis book is a quick, easy read. Its plot is straight forward and logical.
I appreciate the way Hal Borland was able to convey Thomas Black Bull's enigmatic character. While the violence of Tom's existence seemed to be something which drove him to become who he ultimately was, it also seems contradictory that a child whose mother's profound influence was aimed at showing him about the sacredness of life could in turn be so violent. That did not make sense at all to me.
I think, considering his character development, it might have made sense to Tom - that after the first horse died - he had to change his ways. That said, this story might have followed a different path. Never the less, the story is excellent and I enjoyed it so much that I found myself thinking about Tom and how he was going to fare when I was not reading the book. To me, that is an indication that the writer has made a connection and moreover, s/he is doing something right. (less)
In Physics, there is a phenomenon called the "Butterfly Effect." - it is a means of acknowledging how everything is interrelated by demonstrating how...moreIn Physics, there is a phenomenon called the "Butterfly Effect." - it is a means of acknowledging how everything is interrelated by demonstrating how a seemingly inconsequential event of a butterfly flapping its wings in China can influence a hurricane on the other side of the planet.
In a sentence, I see this story as an exploration of cause and effect; it is a "Butterfly flapping its wings in China" kind of story. It is a story about doing the 'right' thing without fully understanding that our decisions are reactive and highly focused upon where we are in our respective life paths.
Edwards reminds us that what we consider to be 'right' usually makes sense, and only to us. The Memory keepers Daughter is character study that explores how we go about defining 'rightness' from our own limited frame of reference. Since our motivations derive their impetus from life experience - and each experience is highly individualized, we are continually at risk of losing the ability to understand how our right to exist is continually at odds with others' right to exist as well.
Self-perception is shaped by our personal exposure to death, poverty, shame. To a person, we have all felt an incessant need to shake our fists at the universe, and how we go about this self-assertion will undoubtedly have an impact on everything and everyone around us. In short, when life is first-person subjective, we fail to grasp the far-reaching consequences attached to spur of the moment decisions.
Edwards' story reminds us all that there are a myriad of reasons why we do what we do, and explores how we go about making up our minds. She explores how our actions can be motivated by doing what we consider right - often oblivious to how our actions impact the rest of the world.
For me the ultimate irony lies in Phoebe's perspective; so innocent yet focused, and far more genuine than any other character.
I'm not sure what all the hype was about. Maybe the fact that it dragged on at least twice as long as it could have, is why I am left scratching my he...moreI'm not sure what all the hype was about. Maybe the fact that it dragged on at least twice as long as it could have, is why I am left scratching my head.
Joseph Heller uses tons of adverbs in each sentence and there is so much redundancy in his writing that, to my way of thinking, it got in the way of his message. Perhaps Catch-22's overall flow is reflective of the book's theme. But, I found most of the characters initially intriguing and eventually unimpressive - even annoying. I tried to like the book and I got that catch-22 is about the insanity of institutions driven by personal agendas. It felt like I was watching an endless loop of M.A.S.H. - or, worse yet, being lost at sea or marooned on desert island - with the likes of Oliver North, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney as my only companions.
While Heller captured various nuances of Human behavior and the insanity of war, in the end, his book just wore me out. Well, President Eisenhower did warn us about the dangers of the military industrial complex. Heller fictionalized it and time has proven both out. I understand it is supposed to be funny - and it might be - if it wasn't so flipping accurate.(less)
This book is anthropomorphism run amok. I'm sitting here watching my lack Lab, Poe and either he is a charlatan or The Art of Racing in the Rain is pe...moreThis book is anthropomorphism run amok. I'm sitting here watching my lack Lab, Poe and either he is a charlatan or The Art of Racing in the Rain is pegging out the bullshit meter.
I really tried to like it. The story just didn't work and was completely unconvincing. Granted, my dog Poe can move his eyebrows twenty different ways - and they are quite expressive but, his retrospective analyses and philosophical capacity seem less plausible when he is obsessively sniffing scat droppings along the ditch banks where we walk or ceaselessly lifting his leg to mark the spot. In all candor, the only thing I have seen Poe display anything like causal analysis is when he occasionally breaks wind and then glances in the direction his back side with a look of fleeting surprise at where the sound emanated from.
Another point in the lack of believability factor is the NASCAR philosophical bent. Having seen some NASCAR fans, and at the risk of being snobbish, they don't come across as great philosophers. Now a dog that waxes poetic on race car driving and the meaning of life? Comparatively speaking, the dog would be more believable for me. Aren't these the same kind of folks that see flying saucers and report how they were abducted and subjected to anal probes?
Since Garth Stein plunged into the deep end of the philosophical pool, I wish Enzo had commented on off-shore drilling, record profits for petroleum conglomerates or even his take on AL Gore's credibility in regarding global warming, as related to auto emissions. Something like that would have been more credible than the comical rants of barkers like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and the other tail waggers at the Faux News Network.
Regarding Enzo's opposable thumb issue; never mind that, the dog's grammar is stellar.
Oh well, it was supposed to be a feel-good story with multiple arrows aimed at the heart and, if you like soap operas, then Enzo the philosophizing mongrel could be your answer.
Thus far, Poe has failed to comment on the plot. I'll let you know when he does. As an aside, the Tour de France is starting this week. I am leaving the TV on for Poe to watch - just in case. I like bicycle racing. It would be great if he and I connected on that topic. I'd love to hear what Poe thinks about the Lance Armstrong controversy brewing and whether the Feds have a case - that is, when he's not licking his naughty parts.
Don't buy the book. Don't borrow the book and for heaven's sake, don't leave it lying around for your dog to read while you are away. (less)
My Antonia, penned by Willa Cather is a story capturing the life of turn-of-the-century America. The Nebraska prairie's newly arrived inhabitants - wh...moreMy Antonia, penned by Willa Cather is a story capturing the life of turn-of-the-century America. The Nebraska prairie's newly arrived inhabitants - who come from varied places bring their dreams, ambitions and culture - go about settling in that harsh, beautiful environment.
Antonia is such a powerful character. I believe the Yiddish term for someone such as her is 'mensch,' - someone who is fundamentally decent and rock solid in her character. And yet, there are other people whose personalities are equally engaging (I'm thinking about Lena in particular). Reading about their lives, evoked reminiscences about my own constellation and the cast of characters who were so significant to me when I was growing up.
Cather's vignettes of the various families and their contributions to who Jim became are powerful examples about how much our lives are affected by our environment and the people around us. More than that, It is a story about how people interact with one another; how they cope with difficulty and the vicissitudes of life. The exploration of actions and attendant consequences is compelling and, where is a melancholy undertone to the entire story, it is not at all maudlin.
It is an homage to the Human spirit. I have been careful not to give anything away here but I do want to mention that ultimately, this is a story about abiding love and relationships.
"...one flew east, one flew west, and one flew over the cuckoo's nest."
I first read, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” when I was fourteen. I remember c...more"...one flew east, one flew west, and one flew over the cuckoo's nest."
I first read, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” when I was fourteen. I remember checking it out at the library and my only reason for picking it out was because I liked the name. The following year, Jack Nicholson starred as Randall Patrick McMurphy, the convict who decided to have himself placed in a psychiatric hospital in lieu of finishing out his prison sentence in a work camp. While no book can ever be matched by a movie, and Hollywood's rendition was not all that bad, it never came close to what Ken Kesey was able to accomplish with his prose.
McMurphy’s fateful decision to take on the ward tyrant Nurse Ratched - a twisted woman whose sinister control was unchallenged untl Randall McMurphy came along. McMurphy's arrival exposed Nurse Ratched's manipulative nature and her undermining the patients ability to improve their situation. This placed McMurphy and Ratched on a collision course.
At first blush, McMurphy appeared on the surface to be self-centered. However, he was soon forced to decide whether to secure his personal interests or sacrifice them for the greater good of his fellow inpatients.
Kesey had a powerful influence on my love for books and, while I typically never re-read a book, I decided to give this book another go after finishing Wallace Stegner's, “On Writing and Teaching Fiction.” Stegner is credited with having been a major influence on Ken Kesey who was a student of his at Stanford University where Kesey started his manuscript of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest.
In the thirty five years that have passed since I first read Cuckoo's nest, I am amazed at how much richer the story has become. At fourteen years old, I was particularly impressed by McMurphy's brash, devil-be-damned nature.
This time around, I was more affected by McMurphy's decision to take a stand. Because of that, the book was particularly disturbing. I suppose because with three and half of more decades of living under my belt, age has afforded me more opportunities to witness Man’s inhumanity to Man.
That said, I have seen far less McMurphy’s in my lifetime than I have seen people of the Nurse Ratched variety. McMurphys definitely seem to be waning in number. I have always had an abiding respect for the McMurphys of the world - more so now that I am older. They are becoming rarer by the day while the Ratched mentality seem to be ever on the rise. I may not like the Ratcheds of the world but I certainly do understand them.
This book continues to be on my short list of books to read if I was forced to be marooned on an abandoned island. I appreciate Kesey because of his ability to point out the intrinsic value of all Human Beings and moreover, his literary admonition that we ought never dismiss people on the basis of our pre-determined, prescriptive notions that tend to be overly dismissive simply because we are obsessed with status and social standing.
It reminds me of Mohadnas K. Ghandi’s observation that, “All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family, and each one of us is responsible for the misdeeds of all the others. I cannot detach myself from the wickedest soul."
The sooner we all realize we are all in it together – it meaning life – the less we will be inclined to diminish one another and basing such dismissal on arbitrary criteria that serve whatever personal or group interest to our own end.(less)
I like Steinbeck. I don't like his portrayal of the characters. This book is definitely a product of its time and not even the great Steinbeck - known...moreI like Steinbeck. I don't like his portrayal of the characters. This book is definitely a product of its time and not even the great Steinbeck - known for his championing of causes for the common man - is immune from deep rooted prejudices. Aside from his depiction of Mexican Americans as lazy, conniving drunks, this book is a masterpiece - or so I have been told.
I wish I had never read it because, John Steinbeck's other books celebrated Humanity and spoke to the ongoing struggles of the little guy. The broad brush Steinbeck used to pan an entire ethnic group in this Tortilla Flat will forever stand as an example of bigotry that is always given a pass especially when it stokes deep-rooted, conventional ethnic hatred.
This book stands more as a an example of the idiosyncratic malaise that plagues America's dominant culture. The xenophobic undercurrents that have this nation paralyzed with paranoia and self loathing.
I didn't like it. Perhaps a better name for the book would be, "A mind-numbing book of stultifying, stream-of-consciousness self-aggrandizing."
I stil...moreI didn't like it. Perhaps a better name for the book would be, "A mind-numbing book of stultifying, stream-of-consciousness self-aggrandizing."
I still don't understand why people are so enthralled by this book. I suppose 'post-modern' means self-indulgence' run amok. The book's title far exceeds its author's claim. Maybe it was an attempt at humor. (less)
This is my first Faulkner book. Wow. It bears a little getting used to and I must admit that I relied on a couple of background books in order to get...moreThis is my first Faulkner book. Wow. It bears a little getting used to and I must admit that I relied on a couple of background books in order to get me into the right frame of mind to understand how the book is set up, but it is an incredible story. I now understand why Faulkner is so highly revered.(less)
I am totally enthralled by America's Southern writers. Wolfe was far easier for me to read than Faulkner, and his sentences are so lyrical. This is a...moreI am totally enthralled by America's Southern writers. Wolfe was far easier for me to read than Faulkner, and his sentences are so lyrical. This is a book that I would re-read again and again.(less)