Admittedly, I viewed the film based on this book prior to reading the work itself (though not recently) which definitely warped/directed my perspectivAdmittedly, I viewed the film based on this book prior to reading the work itself (though not recently) which definitely warped/directed my perspective (hard to NOT imagine Jack Nicholson, Christopher Lloyd, and Danny DeVito assume their respective roles). It was difficult to imagine the ward, staff, and characters outside of the film's rendering (which speaks highly of the casting/acting, I suppose). Furthermore, the "shock factor" (no pun intended) of the more erratic and graphic scenes (at least those not omitted from the film) was reduced in my reading (I sadly anticipated the more catastrophic events).
The added narrative perspective of "Big Chief Bromden" (back to the book!) was a welcome alteration... his internal monologues alone made the book a worthwhile tribute to the inebriation of excessive psycho-drug therapy, EST, cognitive castrations, etc. in the mental health institutions/asylums of the 1960's.
Take the subject matter of Foucault's "Madness and Civilization", update the setting, infuse it with colloquial vernacular (read: "easy reading"), "Keseyian" anecdotes, and a creative non-fictive edge ala Tom Wolfe, and voila! "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"...
Initially, the bravado, lunacy, and extremity of Kesey's characters seems a bit heavy-handed; R.P. McMurphy appears to be needlessly "over the top", Nurse Ratched's subtle manipulations are inexplicably cold and sadistic (unless ALL army nurses over 35 go "bad", Kesey?), and the portrayal of minorities and women (as often noted by critics) is less than politically correct. But below the bombastic exterior, through clever introspective devices like "Big Chief", we get a sense for the dual-madness of the "system" ("Combine") Kesey explores. Who is crazier? Harding, McMurphy, or Nurse Ratched? The deluded PR rep who circles articles from year-old Harper's Weekly magazines for the inebriated patients to read? The drug-cocktail prescribing "doctors"? The pot smoking/cough-syrup ingesting night watchman? Sefelt the epileptic?
"Madness", Kesey would have us believe, is at once subjective, poorly managed (by clinical 1960's standards), and completely misunderstood.
While I gave the work "5 stars" ("I loved it"), I would have preferred a solid 4.5...alas, "1/2" stars are not an option.
For a "first" novel (at 26/27 years old, no less!), "One Flew" is a creative literary legacy Ken Kesey can proudly rest (in peace!) upon.
In terms of criticism, early on, I felt some disjointed dialogue b/w McMurphy and the patients on the ward... basic "flow" issues I would attribute to a relatively "new" novelist / passive editing.
All in all, I would totally recommend this to anyone desiring a more robust appreciation (an unfortunate "update" to Foucault!) of late 60's mental health rehabilitation practices and procedures.
Seriously one of (if not THE) best books I have ever read. All of the things I love about Ellison's "Invisible Man" are amped up inMy cat IS Behemoth!
Seriously one of (if not THE) best books I have ever read. All of the things I love about Ellison's "Invisible Man" are amped up in biblical fashion here in full Salvador Dali technicolor… just incredible. Read it!!!!...more
While I enjoyed Cheever's writing (as a thing in itself), the subject matter of this particular work may be a bit "over-the-top" for more reserved / cWhile I enjoyed Cheever's writing (as a thing in itself), the subject matter of this particular work may be a bit "over-the-top" for more reserved / conservative / thematically sensitive readers (or somewhat age-inappropriate for folks less than 16-18). Cheever explores some interesting aspects of institutional imprisonment, drug abuse, psychology, homosexuality, and violence in such a way (and with such detail) it is difficult to imagine that Cheever is not speaking from personal experience... which is in a sense, the culmination of quality writing.
Clearly, Cheever is a masterful short-story writer... my only "complaint" (more of an observation, really) from a construction oriented perspective is this: Falconer feels like several interesting short-stories cobbled together. In a sense, most novels / books are built this way, but there are usually more connective tissues fusing the "episodes" together.
As a device (a prison setting), Cheever's positioning is nothing short of brilliant. How else could a writer juxtapose so many disparate personalities and get away with it? By using prison as an apparatus / explanation for fusing these aberrant stories/people together, Cheever has free license to do what he does best; tell us interesting short stories rife with palpable details and descriptions. Where else (but prison) would you find such a ripe, unusual, oftentimes revolting cast of players? Cheever has no need to waste time justifying their relationships... he can just "go" and write.
Farragut's nonchalance toward the themes of addiction, sexuality, and freedom (hey, being a prisoner does guarantee 2 hots and a cot!) leaves us with much to ponder.
If you couldn't deal with watching "Brokeback Mountain", leave this on the shelf. Some folks need a happy ending. Falconer is an articulate and interesting nightmare (that you can happily wake from).
While I found the subject matter / circumstances surrounding Chris McCandless' "expedition" to be nothing short of amazing and intriguing, the build uWhile I found the subject matter / circumstances surrounding Chris McCandless' "expedition" to be nothing short of amazing and intriguing, the build up of the novel (flow, organization, presentation) felt rather pedestrian (or heavy-handed in the case of some of the pre-chapter literary quotes; as if quoting Thoreau in excess would lend the text instant gravitas? Too much of a good thing, IMHO). While I understand the need for accessibility in this genre, I don't think "Into the Wild" is the transparent read it set out to become. Beyond extracting the "yes, nature can and will kill you" cautionary repartee, I think Krakauer missed some opportunities with the other aspects of McCandless' tale as a writer of creative non-fiction.
Ultimately, Krakauer's novel exhibited many of the traits I find unappealing about the non-fiction genre... poorly reconstructed dialogue, jagged "reporting style" observations, and a generally clumsy authorial presence throughout.
I did enjoy the chapters detailing Krakauer's trek across the Stikine Icecap / summit of the Devil's Thumb, which proved to me he had the ability to write well... I just wish the entire book was written from a similar perspective! I think a basic one page dossier about Chris' background would have been sufficient to support a more organic (less "Outside Magazine") storyline (did the movie do this?). If I had read this as a serialized magazine story over the course of a year, I might think it was more profound... but having consumed everything crammed together and touted as a "book", I feel differently.
In some ways, Chris' self-imposed asceticism is an important psycho-social commentary; heralding from one of the most affluent parts of the country (Annandale, VA), Chris' rejection of/revulsion with the "system" speaks loudly to those of us inundated with excess and materialism. This "other side of the tracks" mentality is something most fail to even contemplate (they ask: is this even an option?).
I wish Krakauer had spent more time formulating an opinion of Chris beyond "whoa, this kid reminds me of a slightly less lucky version of myself" (save that for your autobiography, bro).
While I wanted to see this book as a modern update to Kerouac, I still have some unresolved feelings about the survival methods of McCandless and the literary approach of Krakauer.
While the delivery is far from perfect, the story is worth a read; for the outdoor-inclined and metropolitan alike, this explores a side of human nature we should all contemplate from time to time....more
Having overheard many disparaging, pretentious, and overtly dismissive critiques of this book for some time, I finally resolved to give John Kennedy THaving overheard many disparaging, pretentious, and overtly dismissive critiques of this book for some time, I finally resolved to give John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer Prize winning novel its due...
Ignatius J. Reilly's exploits are intended to please a particular cross-section of the reading community. Geeky English majors, take note: you'll see frequent allusions to Boethius, Chaucer, Swift, Foucault, Conrad, etc. In addition to a litany of disparaging remarks made about Mark Twain, you'll get an abundance of insane internal dialogue. Sound good? Keep reading...
Non English-major types, proceed at your own risk. Don't get me wrong; this ain't a "New Yorker" cartoon, in fact, far from it. The seedy low-brow antics of the characters will likely entertain you with their face value alone. Then again, with a merely topical or superficial reading, you may just heave the book out of your window in frustrated disgust.
Toole develops rich, multi-dimensional characters and scenery to the extent that the tea-leaf rankness of Ignatius' befouled bedchamber, Jones' nimbus clouds of cigarette smoke and dust, and the atrociously watered-down drinks at the "Night of Joy" become material. There is some originality here that begs for a second or third reading.
"Confederacy" entertains the senses while moving rapidly through a network of easy-to-follow narratives (which is impressive, considering the number of them included in the book). While indirectly commenting on the relative nature of madness (see "Madness and Civilization" by Foucault), the middle class' absurdities, minority rights, homosexuality, politics, worker rights, psychoanalysis, and a variety of entertaining blue-collar New Orleans psychoses, Toole ably paints a portrait of Ignatius' ill-defined agendas, comical verbosity, and his socially inept masturbatory lifestyle. Throughout the book, the aging grandiosity, stickiness, and creole gumbo existence that is the French Quarter is explored in depth. I dig it.
Many readers will be outright annoyed by Ignatius. The rest of us will find levity in Toole's immense hyperbole. ...more
This book was recommended to me by a Steinbeck scholar I met this past summer, something he uses to teach as a modern companion to Steinbeck's tome "TThis book was recommended to me by a Steinbeck scholar I met this past summer, something he uses to teach as a modern companion to Steinbeck's tome "The Grapes of Wrath."
Having nearly forgotten about the book this year, I stumbled randomly onto a T.C. Boyle poem in Garrison Keillor's poetry omnibus "Good Poems" and really enjoyed it… back to my "to read" list I went!
"Tortilla Curtain" brings Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat" to mind (at least the title does). That, for realism's sake, is where the major similarities between the two works stop. Steinbeck's "Tortilla" recalls the relatively ordinary day-to-day antics and light-hearted drunken misfortunes of Monterey's "paisano" Mexican-American-Mestizo population after World War I… I read it as a prototype "Cannery Row" (though it may be closer to Sweet Thursday) in that Pilon, Danny, and Pablo felt like an under wrought (and honestly, meaningless) paisano "Mack and the Boys." Steinbeck's take was an ongoing celebration of friendship, vagrancy, and intuitive cleverness that would have excited the likes of a young Kerouac, Cassady, or Ginsberg.
"Tortilla Curtain" brings all of Steinbeck's fun loving drunken goodness to an abrupt halt. Boyle juxtaposes the "over-privileged-hippocritical-upper-crust-white-bread-Southern-Californian-douchebag" with the no-holds-barred lifestyle of a perpetually anxious and despairing illegal immigrant and his family. Delaney Mossbacher resembles a certain "white American male" paradigm for success--the successful writer, the beautiful and independently successful wife, beautiful luxury car(s), beautiful massive home in gated community in Southern California, etc. Boyle effectively illustrates the great irony of Delaney's life… in spite of being "one of the privileged" (we never really do learn how "hard" Delaney worked to get where he was… another idea Boyle challenges us to participate in contemplating) he is totally emasculated by the environment he is supposedly so in touch with as a naturalist… he "loves the great outdoors" as a novelty. This novelty, Boyle shows us, is a total luxury.
Candido Rincon is your modern day Job.The things Boyle does to this guy (I'll assume they are mostly rooted in research… because if not… ) are cruel and unusual… how low can one man get? I mean EPICALLY, TRAGICALLY, HORRENDOUSLY WRITHING IN DANTE'S INNERMOST CONCENTRIC CIRCLE OF HELL low? In the end… wow… too far?
There are some pretty cool parallels to Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" in this book. Rose of Sharon and America feel like (albeit weakly) kindred spirits and many of the environmental shifts and description (fires, winds, rains, the flood at the end… the "great leveler…") suggest an intentional tribute to Steinbeck's spirit. The alternating chapters and then the final "collision" are redolent of Steinbeck's (Melville's) alternating chapter technique. The unattainable "American Dream" of the Joads is alive and well here, too...Thematically, this book is poignant and relevant (in spite of being written almost 20 years ago) to the ongoing immigration debate. Does this accurately depict the "illegal immigrant" experience in America in its totality? Of course not…
This book (or books like this) should be taught/discussed in schools. While there are some graphic moments, a good English teacher could rationalize using this "for the powers of good." Pairing "Tortilla Curtain" with "The Grapes of Wrath" would make an interesting curriculum. With a well-chosen compendium of non-fiction news source documents / additional "meat," this book could be huge for engaging a high school audience... I think the imperfect (some find Boyle's portrayal of the illegal Mexican immigrants as myopic and outright racist) elements would only fuel discussion. Which. Is. What. Books. Are. For.
I have not read any of Boyle's other works so I cannot compare this to his other stuff stylistically. I will definitely pick up another one soon (maybe Riven Rock?) to see what else is there... There were a few details/language/syntax moments that bugged me in the book… it by no means possesses the fluidity or poetic quality (there are some beautiful moments, don't get me wrong) of a book like "Grapes," (not in the same ballpark, really) but its heart is in the right place, if that makes sense… it evoked a reaction and brings an important issue to the surface for discussion.
Reading "Tortilla Curtain" (for me) was a refreshingly swift kick in the cajones in the midst of the American consumer mayhem of Christmas. A cautionary tale to the over-privleged and a reality check to those who think THEY have had it bad… Egads man! "Here, kitty, kitty!"
Read: if you want some insight into the worst-case scenario "reality" of illegal immigration / just want an interesting modern read with some "meat" beyond wizards and slutty vampires, etc.
Don't Read: If you can't stand realities-other-than-your-own, melancholia, or less-than-happy endings. ...more
At one point I read quite a bit of sci-fi and fantasy. Books from the likes of Heinlen, Tolkien, Bradbury, and Huxley topped my reading lists... I havAt one point I read quite a bit of sci-fi and fantasy. Books from the likes of Heinlen, Tolkien, Bradbury, and Huxley topped my reading lists... I have gotten away from these genres as I've aged, favoring and craving more historical fiction, creative non-fiction, and contemporary literature. This was a nice "escape" from the usual fare.
LeGuin's book was well-written... I enjoyed the preface (more of an essay, really), which articulates her philosophical motivations for working in the "sci-fi" genre. This preface could be used in a writing course. While sci-fi can be perceived as "depressing" or "bleak," LeGuin tells us that this perception (of a fatalistic, mechanical, unnatural, or alien future) is not really intended to be prognostication (at least in her case) but instead something thought-provoking and hypothetical; she is, as many other science fiction authors are, merely playing with a potentiality--something that "might" exist and therefore something we "might" learn from.
Creating an entire world--languages, customs, mythologies, geographies, religions--is a massive undertaking... something most science-fiction writers attempt but (I'd argue) fail at. Understandably, much of this book is exposition--setting things up--and the "action" is relatively compressed. You do, over the course of the book, get a good sense of what "Gethen/Winter" is like and you do have some understanding of the divisions between LeGuin's Karhiders and Orgota peoples. Not many modern (youngish) readers are going to have the mental stamina to work through parts of this book (speaking as a high school teacher...). LeGuin's vocabulary is robust (and surprisingly SAT appropriate) and her philosophical investigations of sexuality (the perception of perversion, duality/non-duality), society (concepts like "shifgrethor" and "nusuth"), colonization (Genly Ai's Ekumen), war/conflict (Sassinoth's land dispute makes me think of the never-ending Israeli/Palestinian land dispute), telepathy (mindspeak), and love/companionship (Genly/Estraven on their sledge trip across the Gobrin Ice) will challenge even the most dedicated reader. LeGuin's construction of an alternate time/calendar (and the accompanying terminology) disorients the reader (and honestly drove me nuts at times).
The book was cool, but (even as an avid reader) was a bit rough to "get into" at times. I'd recommend this to someone who was more prone to enjoy books like 1984, Animal Farm, or Brave New World as opposed to Starship Troopers, Ender's Game, or Lord of the Rings... does that make sense? Good stuff to be had here (again, well written, which is nice to see in this genre) but more prominently intellectual than you'd expect to find from interplanetary exploration-type books.
Great nonfiction collection. I actually picked this up in the midst of building a "nonfiction unit" for my high school students. I'd love to do somethGreat nonfiction collection. I actually picked this up in the midst of building a "nonfiction unit" for my high school students. I'd love to do something with this collection and Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test." The eponymous story in particular would be a great supplement to Wolfe's book.
I also really enjoyed "On Keeping a Notebook" and "On Self Respect."