At first glance I thought "Yada-Yada" another person trying to 'prove' something about the subject of the Homeric poems. As I started reading, however...moreAt first glance I thought "Yada-Yada" another person trying to 'prove' something about the subject of the Homeric poems. As I started reading, however, I quickly realized Bittlestone was going somewhere with this. Why? Because he doesn't take on the entire Odyssey—just the parts that concern Ithaca, under the rather reasonable premise that to appeal to his audience, whoever wrote The Odyssey could play as fast and loose as he wanted to with Polyphemus's island, or Circe's, but he'd better get the local geography down pat if he really wanted to engage his audience. Furthermore, if this is true, then we should be able to match Ithaca exactly with the descriptions in the poem. The only problem is that Ithaca decidedly doesn't match the descriptions in The Odyssey, something that's given would-be Heinrich Schliemanns fits for decades. But what if the island we call 'Ithaca' today is not the island the Mycenaeans knew as Ithaca? What if it's nearby, hiding in plain sight?
Nor does Bittlestone go it alone. Aware of his own shortcomings, he enlists the help of an expert linguist familiar with Homer—James Diggle—and an eminent geologist—John Underhill—when his own knowledge fails him. Thus the reader is not presented with Bittlestone's suppositions alone, but sees these challenged and sometimes altered. The results of this collaboration are, to me, very impressive.
Any fan of the 'puzzle' Thor Heyerdahl presents in Kon-Tiki will likely enjoy Odysseus Unbound, too. There's not as much hands-on stuff done (onstage—offstage, Bittlestone learns to sail so he can get a sailor's view of his subject—I wish Bittlestone had included more of that, although I understand why he did not), but the logical piecing together of the ancient puzzle is very similar, and just as enjoyable.(less)
Where to start? I suppose with the prose itself. It's lovely, smooth, delicious stuff, always easy and yet deceptively rich, sometimes to the point of...moreWhere to start? I suppose with the prose itself. It's lovely, smooth, delicious stuff, always easy and yet deceptively rich, sometimes to the point of being challenging. If you aspire to be a writer, and especially if you dislike sparse prose, this is a must-read.
As for the sexual content, certainly it is there, but those looking for a hot'n heavy read should probably look elsewhere. Lolita is much less about sex and much more about obsession; it's simply that the two intertwine at many points, as they tend to for many of us, though hopefully without the same destructive results. Then again, I wonder if the difference is purely a manner of scale.
****Spoiler alert (Personally, given the first few pages, I can't imagine how much of a spoiler one can give this book—it's simply not that sort of work. But I warn you, nonetheless, and truly, you might wish to form your own impressions before becoming imprinted by mine.)
A friend of mine said, when I was praising Nabokov's prose after reading the first twenty or so pages, that he was too smooth by half, causing one to almost feel sorry for that monster, M. Humbert Humbert. So, once I had finished the book, I asked myself: do I pity old Hum?
I find that I do. Oh, I don't pity Hum for his obsessions that lead him to his end, and I certainly don't pity him for succumbing to them. But I do pity him for knowing what he wrought, for being acutely aware of the horrible, unforgivable damage he causes to Dolores Haze, and, worse, for being aware that, all things being equal, he'd probably do much the same if given another chance. Someone once wrote (I forget who) that the villain rarely seriously thinks of himself as such. Humbert does.
To me, if one knows one wreaks evil, is aware of no redeeming qualities of one's actions, and is sure that one's nature would not allow one to do otherwise (the sticky point, I'm aware, but Humbert seems convinced of it), then I can find pity for him. Enough to spare him? Certainly not. But the pity is there, nonetheless.
Of course, if and when I read Lolita again, I may well come to a different conclusion. It's definitely that sort of book. But for now, that's where I stand with it.
One last note. I am rarely fond of a book that kills off all the main characters before it's done, but, as it is in other ways, Lolita is an exception. I understand very well why Dolores Haze could not survive childbirth. By his actions, Humbert has trapped her in the 'nymphet stage' in such a way that she can never escape. Indeed, it's the worst of his crimes, by far, or the cumulative result—have it as you will. She has become in too many ways Hum's creation, and so it is not surprising she cannot survive his death by more than a month.(less)
I read this as an homage to a favorite teacher, Dr. George Everett (Modern Languages), who had made a study of Grass and had great affection for him....moreI read this as an homage to a favorite teacher, Dr. George Everett (Modern Languages), who had made a study of Grass and had great affection for him. I was not expecting what I found in this book. Very very strange. This reads as though it would work better were I on recreational pharmaceuticals (if one can read thusly—I wouldn't know). A very strange, very weird book, although not without its charm.
(And, in the unlikely event you ever read this, a tip 'o my hat to you, Dr. E!)(less)
I won't say this is the best book on literary theory I've ever read, but it may be the most straightforward. The main reason I give this five stars is...moreI won't say this is the best book on literary theory I've ever read, but it may be the most straightforward. The main reason I give this five stars is that I think it's compulsory reading if you're going to study literature. Too many people quote this work or reference it, sometimes unconsciously. Being aware of what Aristotle has to say can be a great help in grasping what's being said.
If you're writing, it's not the worst thing you can pick up to read, either.(less)
A much more entertaining book than the The Life of Samuel Johnson. Reading between the lines, it's fairly easy to see why many of Johnson's circle tho...moreA much more entertaining book than the The Life of Samuel Johnson. Reading between the lines, it's fairly easy to see why many of Johnson's circle thought Boswell an idiot—because he was one. He simply happened to be an idiot gifted at writing biography. One tip of the hat I can give him here is that Boswell omits nothing, save perhaps little facts that we know and he does not, such he is the person transmitting VD—not the poor actress he accuses of it.(less)
A very wild, sometimes funny, sometimes deep set of short stories. If you like Flannery O'Conner (whom, I'm the first to admit, one cannot say Souther...moreA very wild, sometimes funny, sometimes deep set of short stories. If you like Flannery O'Conner (whom, I'm the first to admit, one cannot say Southern Gothic without mentioning), Steadman at the least deserves a look for his more secular take on the South.
Personally, I say he deserves more than that: this collection doesn't get the attention it merits. Steadman gives us look after look at the denizens of McAfee County, with various characters moving in and out of each tale, giving us different perspectives on them all. In other words, although it's not a novel, McAfee County's a bit more unified than a simple set of short stories rounded up in one volume. Furthermore, Steadman has a definite vision of the grotesque that permeates the book and, to me, provides a definite counterpoint to O'Conner's exploration of that subject.
If you cannot find a copy, it's also one of the 'three' in [Book:3 By 3: Masterworks of the Southern Gothic].(less)
Every time someone trots out the idea that Marlowe write Shakespeare, I think of this, and shake my head. It's a great concept, but Marlowe's hero is...moreEvery time someone trots out the idea that Marlowe write Shakespeare, I think of this, and shake my head. It's a great concept, but Marlowe's hero is hardly the romantic figure we might expect. Instead Dr. Faustus, at many times seems, ah, rather less than decisive or intellectually gifted
Of course, the real reason for Faustus's indecisiveness and bumbling is that this work is the child of morality plays, and has the same problem that DC comics did when they decided to give the Joker his own comic book in the 70's. The book had a major plot issue: the Comics Code insisted the Joker be captured at the end of every book. Thus no extended crime sprees, no real development, just Joker hatches a plan, almost succeeds, gets caught. Some hahas in between. (I wonder if these writers read Marlowe.)
Marlowe, of course, had people of similar bent leaning on him who played for keeps in a way that the Comics Code people only experienced in their wildest, wettest dreams. Faustus' sin can't be glamorous, has to be futile, and can't be attractive in any way, lest it lead others to sin.
I suppose Marlowe did the best he could, given these circumstances. But I keep thinking there must have been some option better than this.(less)
While I recognize this as an important book, I don't find it to be Hawthorne's best. To me, he's at his most powerful with the short story, the best o...moreWhile I recognize this as an important book, I don't find it to be Hawthorne's best. To me, he's at his most powerful with the short story, the best of which is Young Goodman Brown.(less)