This was a re-read for me. I read it in a college Gothic literature class, but that was a few years ago and I had forgotten some things, and besides,...moreThis was a re-read for me. I read it in a college Gothic literature class, but that was a few years ago and I had forgotten some things, and besides, reading it from my current perspective provided new insights.
The original Frankenstein novel is very different than the later pop culture portrayals with which we are all familiar. Victor Frankenstein, a young man obsessed with science, creates a monster in college and then runs away in terror, leaving the monster to fend for itself. The monster has to learn absolutely everything, from eating to language, from scrap. He later confronts his creator (on an Alpine glacier that is perfectly, ideally sublime) and tells his sad, pitiful story. He makes a difficult request of Victor, who is already nearly shattered by the thought of what he has created. Some horrific events ensue, but it doesn't really come across as a horror story. It has more of a sad, thoughtful tone.
Frankenstein is a book that everyone should read. It's a complex work that can be interpreted in many different ways. I would highly recommend it.
On this re-reading, what stuck me was the over-the-topness of it all--the stark, sublime scenery, Victor's annoying tendency to go on and on about his misery, the flowery exclamations of undying friendship, and so on. It's really a stellar example of Gothic literature. Everything is just...completely, unabashedly immoderate. This was a book meant to cause a sensation, and I think we can safely say that it did. But besides shocks and thrills, Frankenstein gave us a thoughtful exploration of what it means to be human. There's a reason this moving story has endured for nearly 200 years. (less)
I listened to The Great Gatsby on audio. I had never read the book itself, although I'd seen the movie and read some short stories that were probably...moreI listened to The Great Gatsby on audio. I had never read the book itself, although I'd seen the movie and read some short stories that were probably a basis for it. I had liked these versions and was glad I listened to the book too. It's a tragic tale, but so romantic in its melancholy.
The Great Gatsby is a classic for a reason. It's about the American Dream, and the problematic nature thereof (10 points for using the word "problematic" outside of an academic setting!!) Gatsby represents the dream of coming up from obscure, humble beginnings, reinventing yourself, and "making it" in the world. But there are cracks in the facade, you can see right away.
Here are a few of the ways in which the American Dream isn't quite working for Gatsby. Although it seems like he was a driven, hard worker as a young man, Gatsby seems to have built at least some of his wealth through shady dealings and probably bootlegging. Maybe hard work wasn't enough to raise him to the status he so desired. At any rate, his success is at least a little tainted. And his life has an emptiness to it, as evidenced by the end of the book. He is surrounded by rather vacant people, most of whom just want something from him. And then there's the fact that, as the narrator Nick's last few lines indicate, the dream Gatsby's chasing is not really a dream of the future, but rather the dream of another timeline in which the idealized past is carried out to its fullest potentialities.
But for me, what's compelling about this story is the deeply romantic part of it. Daisy was an unworthy object of affection, but Gatsby loved her so much that he built his whole life around her. He bought a mansion and threw parties all the time, hoping that Daisy would come. He always seemed out of it distracted by the real world, especially when he was around Daisy, because he was so focused on her. He really did sacrifice everything for her. This sort of obsession isn't realistic or healthy, but...sigh. Sigh. So tragically romantic.
A note on the audio version: the audio reader really puts the scorn in Nick's voice. The narrator of the story is Gatsby's neighbor Nick, who seems to (rather justifiably) look down on the people around him--but I might have overlooked some of the bitter tone if I was reading rather than listening.
A note on ennui: I have a long list of ideas for what people with unlimited time and money could be doing (other than driving like idiots). No need to be bored when you can cruise the Greek Isles, learn Swedish, volunteer, train for a Himalayan trek... Alas, Daisy and her circle never consulted me.
Another note, after watching the new version of the movie: What a wonderful portrait of obsession. And also of a particular feeling, which I imagine most adults have felt at one time or another. It's the feeling you get when something you've longed for, worked for, obsessed over, and gotten so close to achieving that you can almost taste it...is snatched away. So good. (less)
I recently listened to The Hobbit on audio. I think I have read it twice before...once as a kid (when I didn't particularly like it) and once as an ad...moreI recently listened to The Hobbit on audio. I think I have read it twice before...once as a kid (when I didn't particularly like it) and once as an adult (when I did).
Won't spend much time summarizing this--most people have probably read it or know the story. It's the tale of Bilbo Baggins, a nonadventurous sort of fellow who ends up going on a pretty epic adventure. Bilbo (somewhat reluctantly) leaves home with thirteen dwarves and the great wizard Gandalf to recapture the lost understone kingdom of the dwarves, along with their ancestors' rich hoard of treasure. They face a wide variety of unexpected perils and difficulties along the way, and a few wonders as well. During a strange meeting with the cave-dwelling creature Gollum, Bilbo finds a magic ring that turns out to be very important indeed, though Bilbo doesn't know it at the time. And at the end of this quest, he'll have to figure out how to get the treasure back from its current guardian, the fearsome dragon Smaug, while remaining in one piece to return to his comfortable home. There, I think that about covers it.
One thing I noticed is how different The Hobbit is from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's part of the same story, and my intention is to hear the whole saga on audio and thus refresh my memory on the details. But upon this review, I noticed that the Hobbit has a much more conversational tone, more fortunate coincidences, and Bilbo is a less tormented character than Frodo is in the end. Basically, it has a different audience--it's certainly more of an all-ages book.
Another thing I noticed (and I'm not criticizing, just observing): there are no women in The Hobbit. None. Maybe a female villager or two is seen fleeing the destruction of Esgaroth, but there are no named female characters. This was something I hadn't remembered. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy you have Galadriel, Eowyn, Arwen, Goldberry, Rosie Cotton...some of these characters are bigger than others, but there are definitely some women in the picture. Not so in The Hobbit. Now, this doesn't necessarily detract from what is definitely a great story. I've enjoyed this book very much several times, despite the fact that I usually prefer books with strong female characters. But this might be important to some readers, and it is interesting to note, at least.
Also, I noticed that Bilbo is in CONSTANT danger of getting eaten throughout the whole book! Not sure what this means.
I had forgotten most of what happens after Bilbo and the dwarves get into the mountain (the back door and the moon-rune map that leads to it are some of my favorite parts of the story--everything coming together just when it needs to and all that). Smaug the dragon is quite a character! He has a lot of personality. He's wily, well-spoken, and proud. And then there are the flaws in human (dwarven?) nature that become apparent when Thorin Oakenshield has to deal with the men of Esgaroth. That part was interesting, and Bilbo once again shows his own wily side when dealing with the matter of the Arkenstone. He's really a bit like Odysseus--a crafty fellow with a sharp tongue, a little devious when necessary...
So many hints of legends and myths in this story. All in all, The Hobbit is a classic for good reason. But it's still not my favorite of the saga, so although it probably deserves 5 stars I will give it 4, so the 5 that I will probably give to FOTR and TTT will make more sense. (less)