All the stories in this collection are entertaining, some are really quite interesting, and a few are genuinely great. However, given that this was aAll the stories in this collection are entertaining, some are really quite interesting, and a few are genuinely great. However, given that this was a selection of stories from what was originally a much longer text, I kind of wish that the translator/editor had picked slightly fewer stories about fox spirits and ghosts turning into hot chicks and boning scholars. I always thought that was a cool idea for a story, but honestly after reading this book I could happily go five years without encountering another supernatural love story....more
I really wish Tolkien had written about monsters more often. They're always the most memorable parts of his books. The Hobbit has Smaug, who is arguabI really wish Tolkien had written about monsters more often. They're always the most memorable parts of his books. The Hobbit has Smaug, who is arguably the best dragon, and The Two Towers has Shelob, who is the best giant spider (with the possible exception of Ungoliant). ...more
Milton's choice of subject matter seems to work against his stated goals, since the Fall is a set story and the theological problems inherent in it arMilton's choice of subject matter seems to work against his stated goals, since the Fall is a set story and the theological problems inherent in it are effectively irresolvable outside (I think) of a modern psychoanalytic reading. Apparently the aim of this epic was to justify the ways of God to men. The conclusion Milton draws is that God, being infinite, omnipotent and eternal, can basically do what He wants, since He created humans and as a consequence we owe Him everything, and in any case it shouldn't have been too hard to resist the temptation of the serpent. Well, I call bullshit on that. The innocence of Eve leaves her entirely without the coping skills necessary to deal with being tempted by a talking snake, and in any case God should have created His humans stronger than they are as seen in the poem, knowing as He did that Satan would try and tempt them. The watch set on Eden was a rather poor one, considering the fact that God knew that Satan was going to make a second attempt, and basically resigned himself to the fact. The frequent intercessions of Jesus on the part of humanity kept reminding me of the old Voltaire quote about God being a comedian playing to an audience that is too afraid to laugh. Adam and Eve are, in the beginning, created flawed. Too intelligent to pass for true innocents, they already begin to display the sins of pride and vanity before the Fall, which raises serious theological questions which Milton skips over, instead harping on about free will leading from reason, which displays the poverty of Milton's psychological understanding when compared to someone like, I don't know, Shakespeare for example.
Putting all that aside, this is a great poem. Milton's language is beautiful when he isn't being deliberately obtuse, and there are many astonishing set pieces, like the appearance of Christ in his chariot driving the fallen host out of heaven, or the opening books where Satan and his crew are languishing in Hell and debating whether or not to succumb to the will of heaven (which is very nicely counterpointed when Satan gets back, expecting to be able to lord it over Hell, and finds that God has turned everyone into snakes). That someone should even attempt a poem this ambitious is frankly insane, and that it manages to be not only readable, but contain so many brilliant passages and memorable images is nothing short of miraculous....more
As someone with fond memories of reading collections of Norse myths as a kid, I found The Nibelungenlied to be a surprisingly well-realised attempt byAs someone with fond memories of reading collections of Norse myths as a kid, I found The Nibelungenlied to be a surprisingly well-realised attempt by the poet to integrate disparate pagan and Christian sources into a story of courtly love, vile deceptions, and intrigue upon intrigue. The translator spends a lot of time banging-on about comparisons with Homer in the appendices, and really this is a very fine example of the sort of poem one might write if one was attempting to slowly distance the culture of a region from the superstitions and ceaseless vendettas of the dark ages, and instead provide a somewhat didactic text that could stand to educate as well as titillate ones audience of young, blood-thirsty knights and intrigue-mad ladies-in-waiting in the ways and means of reading about and enjoying the exploits of people one should never, ever emulate. I guess the theme of this book, to me, is: Are you Siegfried? No? Then don't even think about it. Even Siegfried screwed-up from time to time....more
I don't really pretend to understand this book, but I think that's justifiable given that it has about a dozen narrators and the majority of them areI don't really pretend to understand this book, but I think that's justifiable given that it has about a dozen narrators and the majority of them are crazed to varying degrees at different points in the narrative, or even sometimes dead, or speaking from times well before or after the core series of events being narrated (the tragi-comic attempts of a family of Southern farmers to bury a woman some forty miles away from her home, in the town where her family live). Additionally, many of the accounts seem to contradict each other on a number of points, and some important plot elements (there is a plot to this book, and it's actually quite important - something I discovered much to my surprise about halfway through)are gently hinted at for dozens of pages only to have one character come right out and state plainly what happened (or may have happened). Given that this is High Modernism, I fear I may simply too stupid to understand this book.
Anyway I liked it a lot. It raised any number of questions about fate, original sin, cosmic justice, regular justice, love, loss, the seeming meaninglessness of words (something I still think is vastly over-accentuated, and usually by authors of all people), revenge, the nature of madness in a post-Freudian world, and all that High and Mighty stuff, in addition to a lot of old-fashioned musing on the trials and tribulations of ordinary god-fearing folk in a world where God either does not exist, is a sophisticated devil, or is bend on punishing one whole family simply because one crazy bitch may or may not have had an extraordinarily complete understanding of the nature of sin and her own sins in particular.
Anyway this is just some pointless rambling I guess. In brief - slow to get going but more than the sum of its parts. Definitely worth reading and maybe even rereading. I shall now maintain that I am not American enough to truly get it....more
Well this was a strange, yet strangely compelling book. Lauded by William S. Burroughs - an introduction by T.S. Elliot - the better part of its lengtWell this was a strange, yet strangely compelling book. Lauded by William S. Burroughs - an introduction by T.S. Elliot - the better part of its length is taken-up with bizarre monologues against the insanity and artifice of modern society, delivered by an unlicenced, transvestite medical doctor. It has all the markings of a cult classic and couldn't possibly be as good as it sounds - but then it actually is.
I wonder if we can trace modern literary fiction's obsession with writing purely in epigrams to this book? I doubt it, but Barnes' prose style does inhabit a beguiling region between imagist and decadent realms. She has an incredible knack for startling turns of phrase - take perhaps my favourite, "Her face was like something once beautiful found in a river". It's lovely.
In any case, Barnes' book hits on a lot of interesting topics - lesbianism, transgenderism, and, most importantly of all, the necessity of playing a role. Everyone in this book is play-acting, and most people are deeply unhappy both with the role they were born to and the one that they are attempting to make a play for. Barnes seems to have hit upon love as the central topic of the book, if only because romantic entanglements are some of the most stressful and multifaceted going. Similarly, she uses the plight of the Jew-in-hiding as a metaphor for isolation from a community of which one is an integral part. Then she leads the reader on through a morass of disappointments and human stupidity and we end with the saddening, but perhaps not unexpected, revelation that nothing is going to work-out and that people are never going to be able to truly, you know, connect.
So it might not seem like revelatory conclusion at this point, but it was probably a bit more novel in the 1930s. In any case, this is a very strange and fascinating book that is far too complicated for me to have appreciated it fully on a single reading. I don't reread books often, but Nightwood all but demands it.
Well this was a wonderful book. The thing that strikes me the most about it is the extraordinary sense of balance. In many ways, the book's constructiWell this was a wonderful book. The thing that strikes me the most about it is the extraordinary sense of balance. In many ways, the book's construction is tied to it's prose style - both are slightly off-kilter, and yet perfectly measured and considered, so that I found myself compelled to read on even as something in the text left me feeling slightly queasy and put-out. It's an experience I search for in works of art - the experience of something unbearably ugly being turned into something very pretty, and clearing of the head.
The actual matter of the book isn't the most head-scratchingly philosophical - it ties the racial disharmony in the American South, and its roots in historical circumstance, to the individual psychology of a number of profoundly messed-up characters who are all trying to make their ways, but are hampered by events in their pasts which left them doomed from practically the moment they were born. Add to this a pretty damning critique of the small-minded small-town mentality, a strange mix of loathing and pity towards the human race, and healthy dose of subtle-and-not-so-subtle Biblical allegory, and the result is a marvellously rich and, above all, an enjoyable work.
And I know everyone goes on about it, but Faulkner's prose style really is incredible. I could read three thousand pages of the man describing how to best attach fishing lures for the capture of rainbow trout. In fact, it's the main reason I'm giving the book four stars, since while the prose is delightful, it's also often working hard to cover the fact that the book is problem twice as long as it needs to be. There's nothing I'd cut from this, understand - but, if not for the man's style of narration, everything could have been covered in half the time.
I have Faulkner's complete stories, and now I am going to read them!...more
It has a very thin plot, and many of the characters are rather one-dimensional. However, it is also very well-written, very easy to read, and frequentIt has a very thin plot, and many of the characters are rather one-dimensional. However, it is also very well-written, very easy to read, and frequently very funny. That's all I have to say about it, really. ...more
It's nice to revisit Tolkien every now and then. The world of Middle-Earth as presented in this book is such a charming, colourful place, full of talkIt's nice to revisit Tolkien every now and then. The world of Middle-Earth as presented in this book is such a charming, colourful place, full of talking animals and dastardly dragons, yet at the same time a good deal grimmer in aspect, with the humour, pageantry and silly poetry covering up what it really an incredibly bleak tale about humanity's unfailing ability to disappoint you in a pinch. ...more