Not too many great books have been written about the desert. It was nice to finally take an adventure through it with a man as passionate for bizarre...moreNot too many great books have been written about the desert. It was nice to finally take an adventure through it with a man as passionate for bizarre geology and hikes with aerial viewpoints as I am. He also has a likable disinterest in the civilized world and a preference for nature, which many chapters are devoted to explaining. Not only that but the style of writing is perfect for an atmosphere of blistering heat, mazes of canyons, and nights alone with the the stars as your only companions. After reading the first chapter I knew it would be an instant favorite. There isn't a single bad chapter in here, but in my opinion the best are “The First Morning”, “Rocks”, and “Down The River”.(less)
Moby Dick is incredible, not only for the adventure it takes you on, but for the way Melville writes and all the symbolism he uses. Unfortunately, lon...moreMoby Dick is incredible, not only for the adventure it takes you on, but for the way Melville writes and all the symbolism he uses. Unfortunately, long ago, the poor reputation it had in the adolescent gossip wars prevented me from fully delving into it and exploring its mysteries. I had always thought it was a generic story until I finally grew up and read the whole thing, disregarding what others felt about it.
Melville foreshadowed many things in this classic novel, which is a testament to its greatness. At the time of its release (1851) it was panned by critics, and did not reach the status of fame it has today until about the 1950s. He seemed to predict that America would eventually become a melting pot of mixed races, since the crew aboard the Pequod contained members of several races and all got along with their white superiors. Keep in mind that this was written just before the Civil War- a time of segregation in America- and Queequeg, a black pagan protagonist, engages in what may be a homosexual relationship with the main character, a white Christian. If that’s not pushing the envelop in 1850s America then I don’t know what is.
Further symbolism can be realized by looking at the relationship between Ahab the whale. Ahab, a madman bound to his fate, is everything that man faces when confronted with the merciless power of nature. The whale, in turn, represents the chaotic cosmic forces that man can never control, no matter how much he tries. Not only is Ahab a prototype of the human condition, but his animated, hysterical dialogue is one of the most quirky in all literature. His descent into madness, along with Ishmael’s yielding of the plot to his perspective, is what keeps us glued to the pages even though we know what will happen to him. With all that in mind, Moby Dick is not only a philosophical treaty on fate, but a prime candidate for the “great American novel” so argued about over the years.
Also, the way in which Melville constructs his chapters had a major influence on modernist writers, including James Joyce and DH Lawrence. If it weren’t for Moby Dick, literature wouldn’t have been as convoluted as it became in the 1920s (well, maybe it would have, but MD was the first to claim the broken streamy style). Especially prominent are the chapters in which Melville’s talent as a poetic pioneer of fractured narratives really shine, including “The Whiteness of the Whale”, “The Grand Armada”, “The Symphony”, and of course “The Chase”. Also, for those interested in whales, there is no shortage of interesting information about whaling in Moby Dick. It almost reads like an encyclopedia sometimes.
Who knew that such praise could be given to an adventure story that is simple and frankly generic? Next to Les Miserables it’s probably the best book of the 19th century.(less)
He was a God among men, a black commander in a time of racial oppression, and one of the finest warriors Europe had ever seen. Alex Dumas, champion of...moreHe was a God among men, a black commander in a time of racial oppression, and one of the finest warriors Europe had ever seen. Alex Dumas, champion of the French army, stood his ground against foreign attackers, the institutions of conservative restrictions, and even his own country. First came the French revolution: the collectivist overthrowing of a Monarchy whose inept actions provoked its people to revolt against it. There was a new concept in the air, an equalist concept called democracy, and this is what gave Dumas the rare opportunity for a man of color to quickly ascend the ranks. Next came the military campaigns of Italy and Egypt when Napoleon, Dumas’ nemesis, took command of the army in hopes of attaining his unrealistic ambitions. It was a chaotic time in the history of a country that had seen too much of the status quo. The fact that a black man was able to rise out of the ashes, briefly, in an almost superhero driven comic-book fashion, seems to pulverize the very notion that some things are impossible. Dreams do come true, and sometimes in epic form.
The life of this man is unfathomable and I encourage everyone to read this book. Ultimately Dumas’ glory was overshadowed by white supremacy, as many of his phenomenal accomplishments were glazed over by the ruling class of post-revolutionary France. He paved the way for the French army, but Napoleon and his generals got most of the credit. What’s even more astonishing is that this is a tale already well known to man. It was dressed up incognito in a novel we all know and love, a famous novel written by Dumas’ son, Alexandre Dumas; The Count Of Monte Cristo. Edmond Dantes is based on his father while Danglars is based on Napoleon. His betrayal & isolation in the Chateau D’ If is based on real events portrayed in this book.
Personally I think this is a landmark in biography. It’s one of the few biographies that reads like an entertaining work of adventure fiction.(less)
Simply incredible. Valente has created an original blend of moving prose, surreal fantasy, and religious adventure. Her mythological sorcery is enhanc...moreSimply incredible. Valente has created an original blend of moving prose, surreal fantasy, and religious adventure. Her mythological sorcery is enhanced by some very profound writing. She is an instant favorite.(less)
A little too much Douglas Adams and not enough Clive Barker. It's funny, but over-the-top randomness is a turn-off for me. The City Of Dreaming Books...moreA little too much Douglas Adams and not enough Clive Barker. It's funny, but over-the-top randomness is a turn-off for me. The City Of Dreaming Books is more subdued in that department (though not by much), and it also has something resembling a plot. First timers to Walter Moers should start with that book, not this jumble of aimless wandering. The creativity factor earned it an extra star, but other than that there's not much going for it.(less)
Shackleton’s Endurance expedition is one of the most unbelievable survival stories known to man. For two years these men suffered through the most inh...moreShackleton’s Endurance expedition is one of the most unbelievable survival stories known to man. For two years these men suffered through the most inhospitable environments; from being shipwrecked on giant ice floes on the Weddell Sea off Antarctica to endless days of stormy weather and journeys through mountainous terrain on obscure islands. Shackleton was a courageous leader and he loved his men, but he wasn't the only one willing to put his life on the line for the safety of all those who endured the journey; this crew had a contagious circle of selfless heroes.
As for the book, it was pretty straight forward and true to the story. Lansing often took facts directly from the journals of the crew. However, I did find that it was way too fast paced. It's a two year voyage packed into a 250 page book, so don't expect a whole lot of detail. I wanted to get to know the characters more and it seemed like Lansing was only interested in outlining the major events; he didn’t put enough detail into the interactions of the crew, so it was harder to identify with them. (less)
It’s alive I tell you, alive! Everything in this book is alive, and even the book itself might be alive, possessed by the Orm and all the astral dust...moreIt’s alive I tell you, alive! Everything in this book is alive, and even the book itself might be alive, possessed by the Orm and all the astral dust in between Earth and Bookholm. Moers conjures up a vast catalog of species and locations in this metafiction-fantasy that is mostly set in the catacombs below a city of readers and writers. Some parts in this book are unforgettable- like the trombomusic, the trash dump, the crystal caves, and the mine-shaft “rollercoaster”, which might be the most intense segment of any book I’ve read this year. For fans of adventure don’t let the metafiction dissuade you; after 100 pages the wild journey begins, a journey that left me scratching my head in between the epic, often horrifying dangers that lurk beneath Bookholm in the dark, mysterious caverns. I’m quite certain that fans of the Abarat series by Clive Barker will love this to pieces. They are very similar in the factors of genre, style, and outlandish creativity. So if you love Abarat, get this!(less)
I've been meaning to read this for years, ever since watching Apocalypse Now, and it was everything that I imagined it would be. Conrad has very inten...moreI've been meaning to read this for years, ever since watching Apocalypse Now, and it was everything that I imagined it would be. Conrad has very intense writing that seems to drain the life right out of you. I'm not sure where the accusations of racism come from; this is definitely anti-colonialist and the author was careful to instill a narrative inside his own voice in order for us to get inside the head of an English expansionist, not inside his own. Kurtz' "horror" wasn't from the Africans, it was from what the English were doing to them and Kurtz' subsequent "enlightenment" that made him realize all the horrible things he stood for. The Africans & the jungle exposed all the imperialist marauding that he did, and he realized that his entire life's work was wrong, evil, and meaningless because the jungle has a way of cleansing modern toxins, helping us see clearly the bestial origins of our species. Darkness is essential for opening up pathways to higher selves, but first you have to muck through it, and that's what Kurtz knew he would face after his death. The great irony of it is that the beings who opened up his mind happened to have dark skin, so the metaphor is like a Mobius Strip, paradoxical and wild.(less)
This is a masterpiece of staggering genius, and one of the best books I've ever read. There are six nested stories in the novel and each of them follo...moreThis is a masterpiece of staggering genius, and one of the best books I've ever read. There are six nested stories in the novel and each of them follow six separate lives of a reincarnated soul(s?) whose archetypal drive is to rebel against the powers that be. David Mitchell uses an impressive repertoire of styles to distinguish each of these lives, from the grammatically elitist english of The Pacific Journal Of Adam Ewing to Zachry’s wild southern U.S. slang-uage in Sloosha’s Crossin’ An’ Ev’rthin’ After. As far as genres are concerned, there’s a little something for everyone including the funny & entertaining Ghastly Ordeal Of Timothy Cavendish and the dystopian-scf-fi-mystery-thriller An Orison Of Sonmi-451. But I’ve never read anything quite like the stream-of-consciousness tragic comedy Letters From Zeleghem, my favorite of the stories. The dark romance between the quirky musician Robert Frobischer and Eva the tease won my heart. Sloosha’s Crossin’ was another unique and beautiful tale set in post-apocalyptic Hawaii, my second favorite. The story I haven’t mentioned, The Luisa Rey Mystery, is by no means weak due its stellar plot, but the narrative is formulaic and easy to understand, so I found it the least intriguing but it’s probably the most accessible to other readers.
Underlying all this abstraction, Cloud Atlas leaves these intricacies & clues scattered about that relate each story with one another sequentially. After reading this great quote from Sloosha’s Crossin’ it all came together: “I watched clouds awobbly from the floor o’ that kayak. Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an’ tho’ a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same, it’s still a cloud an’ so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud’s blowed from or who the soul’ll be ‘morrow? Only Somni the east an’ the west an’ the compass an’ the atlas, yay, only the atlas o’ clouds.” How true n’deed, n’ how relev’nt to th’ scope o' th' novel. It did seem to me that the idiosyncracies in personalities carried through each story, and even multiple ones too. With all the implicit romances it seems like there might have been reincarnated star-crossed soul mates in each tale (I made a chart of all the relationships because I was so intrigued by them, see below). Maybe I think too damn much, but this book's Escher-esque complexity absolutely floored me and I’d recommend it to anyone.
SPOILER ALERT: This is for anyone interested in my soul mate theory. Autua is Robert Frobischer is Isaac Saachs is Timothy Cavendish is Hae Joo is Zachry. Adam Ewing is Eva is Luisa Rey is (Nurse Noakes?) is Snomi-451 is Meronym. The chronological "math" adds up, the behaviorism of them are all similar, and there's an implicit romance between each except for the Cavendish story, which is the only one that could make me dubious.(less)
Get some tissue paper because reading this book will make you sweat (thought I was going to say cry, didn't ya? HA! well maybe it will... fine bring s...moreGet some tissue paper because reading this book will make you sweat (thought I was going to say cry, didn't ya? HA! well maybe it will... fine bring some for that too). What a story, and the mountain-climber writes like a professional too. Very impressive!(less)
This book makes a great connection between extreme sports and meditation, but I would also be interested to know experiments & experiences during...moreThis book makes a great connection between extreme sports and meditation, but I would also be interested to know experiments & experiences during other activities that raise the spirit. Perhaps more connections can be made? In my experience music and sex also have similar effects, minus the fear and pain. Special thanks to Art Belle's Coast to Coast program for interviewing the author - it was mindblowing. Very interesting book. (less)