In short, this is a book about life. All of us have things that hold us back. In the protagonist Philip’s case they are his clubbed-foot and the lackIn short, this is a book about life. All of us have things that hold us back. In the protagonist Philip’s case they are his clubbed-foot and the lack of guidance he had growing up. Born an orphan and raised by an uncle who never paid him much attention, the impressionable Philip must learn the hard facts of life on his own.
Early on he drifts from study to study, including art and accounting, unbound to any particular discipline due to the fact that each sacrifice of freedom they require makes him uncomfortable. He finally settles on becoming a doctor in his late 20s, but by then he has grown helplessly infatuated with a wretched woman who uses his kindness to get what she wants. The paradox is that he unconsciously becomes bonded to something so hideous that it compromises his judgement after all the drifting he’d done. His attachment to Mildred, which marks the first time in his life when he gave up his progress for someone’s happiness, ultimately made him miserable in all the ways he’d feared. The decision to be constantly forgiving and benevolent to her inspite of all her scandalous ways, suggests that the bonds of the heart are stronger than those of the mind, at least in Philip’s case. When this happens reason takes a back seat to obsession, and for that he is doomed to figure out why his philosophy has crumbled just beyond reaching adulthood.
As a grown man Philip yearns to travel, but once he meets another woman- one who treats him in all the ways Mildred should have- the broken bones of his childhood are finally able to heal. The losses that had caused him to drift from place to place in uncertainty slowly become mended, and he begins to find true meaning in a happiness caused by his decision to finally love a deserving person. It could be said that his bondage with Mildred was a lustful one, while the one with Sally was truly based on love, which I believe is what most of us are trying to find in life.
Somerset Maugham took this simplest of human conditions and created a masterpiece in the genre of coming-of-age classics. Though written over a hundred years ago, it’s still an easy read by today’s standards. There are many tangents on art and philosophy, all of which I found enjoyable, but may be a hindrance to a lesser humanist. Philip’s troubles seemed to run parallel with a lot of the issues I had growing up, so that’s given it some extra sentimental value, as I’m sure it has to many other young men. Reading this at age 30, it’s comforting to know that he finally found things in life worth settling on. I can only hope the novel has the same affect on other readers....more
Behemoth the cat is hysterical. The apartment raid had me laughing so uncontrollably that I had to leave the room where my friends were talking. "I chBehemoth the cat is hysterical. The apartment raid had me laughing so uncontrollably that I had to leave the room where my friends were talking. "I challenge you to a duel!"...more
What a heartbreaking story. Few books have ever made me cry, and this is one of them. To see some of my favorite characters of all time fall into abjeWhat a heartbreaking story. Few books have ever made me cry, and this is one of them. To see some of my favorite characters of all time fall into abject despair after a shocking tragedy was painful for me to read about. It was also eerily reminiscent of a drama I went through a couple years ago, which amplified my emotional response. I can't even write an objective review of without my emotions taking control, so I'm not going to try....more
In the Alps of Bavaria there is a place of wonder and wisdom. Its remoteness welcomes those that are ill, both from treatable diseases and psychologicIn the Alps of Bavaria there is a place of wonder and wisdom. Its remoteness welcomes those that are ill, both from treatable diseases and psychological malaises brought about from living in industrial civilization. Hans Canstorp is a member of this latter group, and he visits the mountains initially to see his cousin, but he finds so much peace and comfort in their solitude that time slows down and swallows him inside their location.
The Magic Mountain is a meditation on time, elevation, genius, sociology, biology, and metaphysics at the beginning of the 20th century, just before the thunderbolt of World War 1 went crashing down across Europe. It’s the coming-of-age story about a young man caught between the ideologies of two talented debaters: Settembrini, a poster child of the Enlightenment, and Naptha, a fascist Jesuit. Like the lost corridors and unpredictable weather patterns of the chaotic mountains, their discussions dish up a storm of contradictions that rattle our minds with the ambiguity of confusion. But somewhere lingering inside the ongoing war between love and reason, a magical philosophy breaths clarity into the minds of those patient enough to persevere through the novel’s length. The mountains know this philosophy, and it is the destiny of our protagonist to find it.
Although we must go through long stretches of disinterest and inactivity, we are served several golden nuggets of literature scattered in between them. Research is what I believe to be one of the greatest chapters ever written- a meditation on the parallels between biology and the cosmos. Walpurgis Night is as seductively memorable as The City of God is intellectually stimulating. Snow is the most famous of them- an atmospheric skiing adventure that blurs the distinction between fantasy and reality. Finally, the book ends with The Thunderbolt- an invasion of the senses from the Underworld.
Fans of plotless literature and challenging structures should enjoy this. If you’re looking for a light read filled with bare-chested warriors, flaming dragons, and cheap romance, then stop what you’re doing and run....more
At the beginning of a long line of Great American Novels, there is The Scarlet Letter . It is the earliest in a group of publications that scholars oAt the beginning of a long line of Great American Novels, there is The Scarlet Letter . It is the earliest in a group of publications that scholars of literature have deemed worthy of "The Great American Novel". Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, Invisible Man, Blood Meridian and American Pastoral are some of its successors. I don't think it's on the same level as some of these other novels, but it certainly helped put American literature on the map.
The Scarlet Letter takes us all the way back into the 1640s, when the colonization of America had just gotten underway. It’s set in a Puritan community, where a woman commits adultery with an unknown man and must face the social consequences of her actions. She births an impish child with the man, and her husband is dead set on finding and getting revenge on who it is that has wronged him.
The depth of character exploration in The Scarlet Letter is its greatest strength. Each chapter lets us venture inside the mind of one of its four main characters- Chillingworth, Hester Prynne, Pearl, and the minister- so that we may be shown their psychological dilemmas in brute form, whether they be the absolving of guilt, the seeking of forgiveness, or the desire for retribution and repentance for or against sinners, the community, and the Church. Hawthorne shows us that while we may be wrong in our actions, mercy will be given to us after we’ve faced their consequences for long enough, and forgiveness is the greatest healer of wounds in our hearts. It seems pretty straight forward, but the iconic symbolism gives it some extra juice....more
Invisible Man is as powerful as any book out there. It's a snapshot of 1950s America, set in the increasingly disruptive district of Harlem. The mai Invisible Man is as powerful as any book out there. It's a snapshot of 1950s America, set in the increasingly disruptive district of Harlem. The main character is the narrator, and he goes through a lot of intense coming-of-age situations involving keen opportunists and the use of his race for their benefit.
In my opinion, it isn't only the color of his skin that makes him invisible. It is also the power and originality of his voice, which is something a lot of people have ostracized themselves over, regardless of race. He knew that his ideas and talents aroused a lot of jealousy and insecurity in people that knew him, so he decided to cut the ties that bound him to them. A lot of us can empathize with this. We've all had to become socially invisible at times, and that's what makes this book a classic for all demographics....more
And Then There Were None is widely regarded as the best mystery novel ever written. Ten people who don’t know each other are summoned to an island a And Then There Were None is widely regarded as the best mystery novel ever written. Ten people who don’t know each other are summoned to an island and they don’t know why. None of them are aware of what they all have in common- they’ve each committed murder and were not convicted of it. After three of them are found dead the surviving members scramble to figure out which of them is the killer while getting increasingly paranoid.
Much of the enjoyment from reading this comes from figuring out who the killer is and what kind of psychological affect an atmosphere of death has on its victims. There are about six solid suspects of the crimes and you always find yourself second-guessing who the killer is by each twist of the plot. Christie had a talent for putting you in each character’s shoes and using that to play with your suspicions about them. First I thought the killer was Justice Wargrave, then I thought it was Blore, then Miss Brent, and about halfway through I settled on Vera (no spoilers- read it for yourself to see who it really is). It’s also easy to read and not a long book by any stretch. In fact, most people could probably read it in the span of a day. Highly recommended for mystery fans and leisurely readers....more