Faulkner is starting to grow on me like unfamiliar music that gets better each time you hear it. It’s unbelievable that A Fable didn’t get the kind of...moreFaulkner is starting to grow on me like unfamiliar music that gets better each time you hear it. It’s unbelievable that A Fable didn’t get the kind of attention it deserved when it was released in 1954. Although it won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1955, it was panned by critics across the board (is this only possible in literature?). A dark allegory to The Passion of Christ, it’s setting in the trenches of World War 1 was probably unsettling to the vast majority of it’s (Christian) readers. But don’t be fooled; Faulker spent 9 years writing it, and some of the passages in here are as starkly powerful insights on the human condition as have ever been written. You can tell he was trying to write the capstone of his career; a career that as profound as it was couldn’t settle for less than divine testimony. A talent such as his gone through life without a perspective on religion or escaping the South just wasn’t meant to be. Many of his die hard fans dismissed the novel because it wasn’t set in the South, as was his traditional role. But aren’t writers supposed to push the envelope and explore new territory? That’s what writing is. Whenever I’m writing I carefully make sure I’m not repeating myself; and it’s easy because I only get the drive to write when it’s about something I haven’t explored before. A Fable faced a lot of scrutiny for all the wrong reasons and it’s unfortunate that it’s not recognized among Faulkner’s better known works.
My interpretation (SPOILERS): The last scene at the General's funeral might have confused a lot of people. I think The Runner was the guy on the ground and the Quartermaster was the man above him weeping. The Runner represents the influence of the Corporal, who in turn represents Jesus, and the Quartermaster represents the influence of the General, who in turn represents God. To me the most powerful part of the book was the General's monologue to the Corporal before he sentenced him to death; 'forsakes' him if you will. It was as if God, the Father (and he was biologically his father in the novel too) had been talking down to his naive, rebellious son, bargaining with him and demanding conservation. Maybe this was what turned off a lot of Christians: Jesus and God were on the same side in The Bible, but in A Fable God is depicted as a merciless tyrant holding up the infrastructure of a war driven society. It might be safer to say that this is not an allegory but an allegoric interpretation of The Passion. Anyways, in the last scene we see there is a reconciliation between the two men, which suggests that God and his son finally came to terms even though it happened post-mortem through different people.(less)
How does a madman become president of the United States? A man that didn’t even want to be president? It might suffice to say that fin-de-seile Americ...moreHow does a madman become president of the United States? A man that didn’t even want to be president? It might suffice to say that fin-de-seile America was mad itself, burgeoning after the Reconstruction and the manic frenzy of invention. America was young, beautiful, talented and ambitious; a teenager that knew where it was going and didn’t show any signs of restraint. Theodore Roosevelt’s eccentric zeal brought out the embodiment of these traits, and with a little luck, that magic wand of destiny, he was raised on a pedestal to light the torch of a century that witnessed the blazon of America’s influence as a great world power for years to come.
Morris’ style is precious and fluent- a contrast to the bombastic personality of Teddy, but it works nonetheless, and is well-deserving of a Pulitzer. It must be said that this volume only covers only his rise to presidency. It’s the first of a three volume series, and since it’s almost 800 pages long you get the sense of how prolific his life was: there isn’t any one profession or activity he sought to cement himself in.
My opinion on Roosevelt during this period is mixed. His charming, energetic, comical persona came off the pages in waves, and you can see how almost everyone he met seemed to like him (I imagined him as a more aggressive Robin Williams, haha). He was intelligent, diverse in both mental and physical exploration, with an insanely courageous drive to exalt himself despite the odds. But, while he was one of the few politicians of his time to fight corporate corruption (who had infiltrated politics after the insidious Santa Clara County vs Pacific Railroad ruling), he ultimately helped the bigger ones by opening doorways to globalization. He was even an insatiable warmonger who played a huge part in the first American expansionist wars; those being the invasions of Cuba & The Philippines. But during his presidency the U.S. was not involved in any wars, so one might infer that his adventure in Cuba was horrific enough for him to change his mind about warmongering. Another irony was that he claimed to be an environmentalist and established the first Wildlife Refuge in the U.S., yet he hunted animals voraciously and agreed to commence deforestation on American soil. Then, early in his political career he was indifferent to the laboring class, but I know that during his presidency he supported the labor strikes of the early 1900s... and to be so anti-Jeffersonian, yet stand for many of the same ideas, huh?... I don’t know whether or not he was aware of these ironies, or if he changed later on in life- I’ll have to read volume 2 to find out, but these complicated opinions are just a few of the many shades of his ambiguous character, making this both an exciting read and a depressing one. If only I could sit down with Teddy and have a soda to clear some things up. Among other things, I’d probably ask him how it feels to be sculpted next to Thomas Jefferson on Mt. Rushmore! (less)
In my unprofessional opinion, The Grapes Of Wrath should not be assigned to high school students. I can’t imagine trying to relate to homeless farmers...moreIn my unprofessional opinion, The Grapes Of Wrath should not be assigned to high school students. I can’t imagine trying to relate to homeless farmers in the 1930’s as a high school student without any experience as a working man. The essence of this book is economic corruption and the strength needed to survive during times of misfortune, something that anyone without ever having a job and paying bills would not likely find important. Even if they did, it’s written so well that a teenager wouldn’t get the real message behind it. If you are a teenager and you happen to enjoy this for everything it stands for, then kudos to you, young genius!
The Joads are a highly symbolic American family, forced off their land and inspired to start new lives in the promising haven of California. After the Dust Bowl, many midwestern families like the Joads were evicted because they could no longer farm and the land was owned by banks. The Joads head west on Routte 66, finding typical familial hardships more prominent due to the fact they have very little money. The American banner of a better tomorrow gives them hope, but Steinbeck does an excellent job of showing how that banner can be just as much an illusion as it can be a blessing.
I liked Tom a lot. He reminds me of myself in some ways- angsty when treated unfairly, looking out for his friends and family, not afraid to get down and dirty, rebellious against the establishment, newfound spiritualism catalyzed by the ex-priest. When I think back on it I can still see good ole’ Tom Joad roaming the empty flatlands of America, boundless and free yet trapped and hungry, an emblem for all the generations of laborers and unionizers that have stood up to all the exploitative bankers, pinhead politicians, and brutal police forces throughout American (and world) history. Tom doesn’t know exactly how things got to be the way they are, but he doesn’t like it, and he’ll do anything to get even. His spirit lives on in the heart of each and every one of us, even those in the upper echelons of society. For if they were walking in his shoes, you know they’d do the same.(less)
I love this book. Sometimes I'll just open it up at random and find an intriguing passage about art, or music, some mysteriously logical conundrum, or...moreI love this book. Sometimes I'll just open it up at random and find an intriguing passage about art, or music, some mysteriously logical conundrum, or the comical discourse between Achilles and a the Tortoise. Highly unique book, recommended for all kinds of scholars: philosophers, mathematicians, and artists alike.(less)