Finished reading this while in Hawaii last October and it was one of the best books I have read in a long time. I checked it out from the Hilo PublicFinished reading this while in Hawaii last October and it was one of the best books I have read in a long time. I checked it out from the Hilo Public Library and proceeded to spend almost all of my waking hours reading it. I havent experienced the "I cant put it down" syndrome for a long time but this one was so engrossing. It's beautiful, heartbreaking and hilarious. Just read it....more
I must admit that I am having a hell of a time digesting this one. I think I will get the negative stuff over with so I can move on to the the more poI must admit that I am having a hell of a time digesting this one. I think I will get the negative stuff over with so I can move on to the the more positive aspects of this book. I am a big Hesse fan (esp. Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, and Narcissus & Goldmund) and I really wanted to give this one four stars instead of three. What stopped me was how much of a slog it ended up being. I have no problem with long books (or movies for that matter) but there needs to be some sort of justification for it(what that might entail I dont exactly know, but hey, I know it when I see it). The Glass Bead Game just seemed long-winded and rambling in places. The section that treats Knecht's tenure as the Magister Ludi could have been scaled back by 100 pages and been just as effective in describing his growth and his progression towards an "awakening". This particular section of long-windedness also caused me to temporarily lose sight of the character of Joseph Knecht. I no longer felt like I was with him on his journey through Castalia and the life of the mind. Perhaps Hesse intended this disconnect in order to convey the feeling of isolation that came with Knecht's office. That would not have been so bad but I think because this book was written from the perspective of an unknown biographer it seemed to further isolate the reader from the character of Knecht to a degree that was, in my opinion, a little too far removed.
Beyond the unnecessary length of this book and the odd form of narration, my only other gripe is that it was a little too lacking in the sensuality department. I realize that Castalia was a monastic community of sorts but how about a little temptation to make it interesting? The physical world as experienced by Knecht took a back seat to the world of the mind and this kind of made for some boring reading in places. ...more
I have to say that I just couldnt get into this one. I really liked The Quiet American so I decided to check this out and what a disappointment it wasI have to say that I just couldnt get into this one. I really liked The Quiet American so I decided to check this out and what a disappointment it was. I found myself disgusted by the main character and was actually hoping he would be caught. The whole Christ-figure thing just doesnt sit well with me. Although I never met the man, I think its safe to say that Jesus(if he did in fact exist) was a much more interesting person. This "whisky priest" was pretty pathetic and profoundly uninteresting. I didnt understand his decision making throughout the novel and the way he actively sought his own capture and eventual execution just made him out to be a self-centered whiner who was obsessed with his own Christ-like sacrifice. You have a young daughter for crying out loud! Instead of wallowing in your own self-loathing, how about trying to reconnect with her? Although most likely doomed to failure, it would have at least made for an interesting story. And what's with his toleration of the back-stabbing "half-caste"? The interactions and relationships in this book were just completely alien and unrealistic to me. The only character that appeared to be somewhat human was the lieutenant. Although a cold and brutal person, he was at least believable as a human being. ...more
I gave this one four stars instead of five because, like some other readers here, I struggled a little bit with matching up the dialogue with the charI gave this one four stars instead of five because, like some other readers here, I struggled a little bit with matching up the dialogue with the characters. Often times you arent sure who is speaking and in some cases, who is thinking. I found that the best way to get around this is to just give up on trying to figure it out and just try and go with it. Other than that I have to say that I really enjoyed the layout and the unique form that Matthiessen employs. I dont think a lesser writer could have pulled it off as well but Matthiessen is very talented. The way he describes the world of the Carribean is absolutely beautiful. You can almost smell the sea and feel the bobbing of the ship deck beneath your feet. One of the big surprises for me was my evolving opinion about the character of Captain Raib. At first I found him egomaniacal, hard-headed and completely out of his mind. Although these characteristics still applied to him towards the end, I found myself drawn to him and repulsed by most of his crew. He seemed to be the only one aboard with a sense of honor (which isnt saying much considering the overall quality of his crew). Also, I dont know about anyone else but the descriptions of the captured and dying turtles were heartbreaking (especially the gasping). I almost had to stop reading in a few spots because of this. I usually dont react that strongly to things like that in a book but it really made me sad and somewhat resentful of the turtlers themselves. Perhaps it was Matthiessens vivid writing that allowed me to imagine so clearly the suffering of these creatures.
Overall a great book with really cool dialogue and an engrossing story. Gives a fascinating glimpse into a lost way of life and also draws attention to the abyssmal state of our oceans. Kudos to Matthiessen for his efforts in this regard. ...more
Simply a beautiful book. I have to admit that I was expecting a somewhat contrived and hokey "find myself" spiritual journey but this was an unbelievaSimply a beautiful book. I have to admit that I was expecting a somewhat contrived and hokey "find myself" spiritual journey but this was an unbelievably honest account of inner struggle, self-reflection, and loss. The account of his wife's death which he gradually tells throughout the book is heartbreakingly sad and I found myself choked up on more than one occasion. The descriptions of the landscape were vivid and breathtaking. Although its hard to explain, I slowly began to trust Matthiessen as the story progressed. I trusted his sincerity and his motives more than I do most writers. Whether or not that trust is well-founded I cannot be sure but do yourself a favor and pick this one up anyway. You wont be disappointed....more
Another great one by Edward Abbey. This one is a collection of some of his best essays and non-fiction (which I enjoy much more than his novels). A goAnother great one by Edward Abbey. This one is a collection of some of his best essays and non-fiction (which I enjoy much more than his novels). A good introduction to Abbey if you have never read any before....more
I read this entire book in one sitting (which isnt that remarkable considering its a book of poetry). Bukowski goes from a hilarious rant about earlyI read this entire book in one sitting (which isnt that remarkable considering its a book of poetry). Bukowski goes from a hilarious rant about early morning phone calls to dark, visceral descriptions of drunken self-loathing and depression. What I particularly like about Bukowski is his ablilty to give a voice to that mean, bitter, snarky little bastard that lives inside your head (OK, maybe he just lives in my head). The bitterness is just enough to make you pucker and recoil but he somehow avoids dragging the reader down for too long. His somewhat twisted sense of humor is enough to keep your head from slipping below the surface and gives the reader a brief respite before moving back into the darker corners . The final poem in the book made the hair stand up on my arms. To anyone who doubts his poetic ability or dismisses his work as juvenille I encourage you to read this last poem. It is the voice of a man who has finally accepted what is so unacceptable to most of us. It is honest, unpretentious and very powerful. It was an unexpected and (I hate to say it) surprisingly spiritual piece from a man who devotes a good part of his writing to horseracing, whores, booze, and the skidmarks in his underwear (not that there is anything wrong with that:) ...more
This is an amazing book considering it was the author's first published novel. All the more amazing considering Mailer was something like 20 years oldThis is an amazing book considering it was the author's first published novel. All the more amazing considering Mailer was something like 20 years old when he wrote it. I picked it up after reading somewhere that Mailer actually joined the military during WWII in order to gain some life experience so he could write a book. I really enjoyed Mailer's writing style. It was vivid, alive and gritty.
Mailer describes the jungle in perfect detail. You can almost feel yourself being smothered by the dense foliage and overpowering humidity. Add to this the atmosphere of fear and anxiety that Mailer so deftly creates and you've got a great war novel. Some of the flashbacks can become a little drawn out and at times it is a little hard to keep track of who's who due to the large number of characters. I love the fact that there is no hero or character who can be seen as the good guy. Mailer exposes each characters hang ups and dysfunctions and simply shows how each functions under the stress of combat and military life in general. I can see why this book was so controversial when it came out in the 50's (cussing, graphic violence, sexuality, homo-eroticism, etc.). This must have been a wake up call for a lot of people who were used to the sanitized John Wayne style stories of heroism and clear cut moral divides. Good stuff....more
Beautiful, poetic writing that occasionally went over the top and obscured what could have been an interesting story. The plot seems to get lost alongBeautiful, poetic writing that occasionally went over the top and obscured what could have been an interesting story. The plot seems to get lost along the way and what the hell is with the ending??? I guess I dont get it. This book is like a beautiful flower that has no fragrance. I kept saying to myself "I should like this book" as I was reading it and was a little disappointed that I never really could. ...more
A good story. Offers the reader a glimpse into the tumultuous period of war and unrest which dominated the first half of the 20th century in China. MoA good story. Offers the reader a glimpse into the tumultuous period of war and unrest which dominated the first half of the 20th century in China. More interesting to me however was the way the author used the personal experiences of the main character to explain Taoist thought and practices. My interest in martial arts was also a big reason for liking this one. Its packed full of training in various martial arts as well as in mediatation and Taoist alchemy/medicine.
Although the author claims this is the true story of his masters life in China I think it is safe to say that there is a rather large amount of embellishment going on here. Some of the more fantastical scenes will catch you off guard if you are expecting a completely realistic or accurate account. If you can get past the hallucinations and fantasy (which I actually enjoyed) it is a really fun story and an easy read. If you enjoy martial arts, traditional Chinese culture, and Taoist philosophy, then this is the book for you. ...more
Just finished this one and, not surprisingly, it was amazing. The chapter titled "What are we doing?" is by itself worthy of 5 stars. Talk about hittiJust finished this one and, not surprisingly, it was amazing. The chapter titled "What are we doing?" is by itself worthy of 5 stars. Talk about hitting the nail on the head! In about ten pages or so he effectively lays bare the entire root system of Western thought and, more importantly, details the problems and social ills that it brings about.
Watts makes you feel so comfortable with the subject matter. Although this book was no more than a collection of some scattered essays and journal entries it was still amazingly consistent and well written. Watts truly has a gift. He is by far one of my favorite writers.
His ability to so eloquently and simply explain Eastern thought is astounding. His strength is that although he thoroughly analyzes his subject, he avoids the over-intellectualization that is so prevalent in a lot of other works on Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism (some of that crap is so dense as to be completely unintelligible and one cant help but feel that to overexplain Taoist thought is to completely miss its unbelievably simple thrust and profoundly powerful message).
Although one may be able to challenge Watts' objectivity due to his obvious personal affinity for his subject, I actually find it to be much more convincing precisely because of this personal involvement (which is not a usual reaction for me). Its as though you are reading a promotion or, I hate to say it, a pitch for a way of thinking that has brought its promoter great satisfaction and peace and yet throughout his writing, Watts never gives off a sense of moral superiority or preachiness. There is a beautful honesty that puts me completely at ease and allows my mind to open up and relax, knowing that what is being explained to me is not something that can be sold or preached but only experienced. Maybe someday I will read something that will prove otherwise but in the meantime I am happy to say that I have found someone who can communicate not only on an intellectual and philosophical level but also on a spiritual level without triggering my almost knee-jerk skepticism and mistrust. With me that is a rare thing and I am truly excited about reading the rest of Watts' extensive catalog. ...more