I finally read this novella and have a new grasp on just how dumb movie execs of the 1950s were. Holly Golightly turns out to be a crass blonde, and I...moreI finally read this novella and have a new grasp on just how dumb movie execs of the 1950s were. Holly Golightly turns out to be a crass blonde, and I now can see why Marilyn Monroe (and not the way-too-class Audrey Hepburn) was Capote's choice to play the lead role in the movie.
Other differences between movie and book: No politically incorrect caricature played by Micky Rooney; his character is a actually a combination of two different neighbors in the book: a Japanese artist and a female neighbor who objects to Holly's noisy parties. The unnamed narrator, presumably based on Capote himself, is not Holly's love interest as in the movie, but subtly gay and a quiet observer of life, similar to the protagonist of "The Great Gatsby".
In fact, I found quite a few similarities with "Gatsby" (maybe it's that I just saw the movie), including morally decrepit characters, a previously poor imposter who attempts to climb the social ladder and gain wealth through questionable means, and a passive observer/writer as the narrator. I'm not sure that I could like a book like this, but I respect Capote's fine writing capabilities.(less)
I didn't get very far in this one. I loved the opening pages, they were gorgeous and quotable and idealistic (if a bit arrogant, as when he claims to...moreI didn't get very far in this one. I loved the opening pages, they were gorgeous and quotable and idealistic (if a bit arrogant, as when he claims to have learned nothing from the older generation). Then I got lost in the overly verbose wordiness and had to set it aside. (That's the downside of most Romantic writers!) I want to take it up later, if I can summon up the attention span to read the classics again!(less)
I have read that Pushkin is to Russian literature what Shakespeare is to English literature, and this "novel" that is really an 8-chapter-long poem wa...moreI have read that Pushkin is to Russian literature what Shakespeare is to English literature, and this "novel" that is really an 8-chapter-long poem was the author's favorite work. Compared with Tolstoy, this is light reading, in length and style both.
The rhymed iambic pentameter lines tell the story of a young man named Eugene Onegin, from the author's own perspective. The narrative wanders a bit at times, and is laced with real life references to Pushkin's own friends, society and places from his realm of experience. Onegin is called a "fop", a bored, arrogant, handsome playboy. I thought of him like the Scarlet Pimpernel, only callous and utterly bored with life.
I found it true that Pushkin is an "encyclopedia of Russian life". So many of the scenes and themes of Tolstoy are found here first, including the sensual pleasures of Moscow society, the contrast between the country and city life in Russia and between bachelor and married life, jealous love affairs and dueling gentlemen, love sick girls sighing at balls after dashing young flirts, and so on.
Of course, I feel that Tolstoy takes these simple scenes and delves so much deeper into them. Pushkin also lacks a concern for the spirit or religious themes whereas they are always near to Tolstoy's mind and pen.
It's a quick read and if you don't have the time or attention for longer works, this brief novel in verse might be a good introduction to Russian literature.
I bought this one off the bargain shelf all the way back in college and just now picked it up and read it. It was a little slow for me at points but I...moreI bought this one off the bargain shelf all the way back in college and just now picked it up and read it. It was a little slow for me at points but I'm glad I read it.
Cather sets the novel up in an unusual manner, pretending that every word of the story that follows her brief introduction was given to her by a friend from her hometown, Jim, who is now a successful attorney living, like herself, in New York City. Supposedly, these are his remembrances of an extraordinary young immigrant named Antonia (ANN-tone-eeh-uh).
The novel reads as a bildungsroman, telling of how this young man came as a boy from the east coast to live on the Nebraska plains (much as Cather herself did). He meets a family of immigrants from Bohemia and he grows up alongside them, becoming particularly close with the daughter Antonia. The narrative encapsulates much of that particular place and time, from the loneliness, danger and beauty of isolated country life to the tragedies that befell many at that time, particularly the disadvantaged immigrants.
I can see why the novel has become a classic read, for Antonia exemplifies many essentially "American" qualities that Cather admires: intelligence, a willingness to work, a love of the land and nature, and more than anything, resilience in the face of hardship. (less)
This book, listened to in audio CD format, made me so glad that we no longer pay authors by length as in in the age of Dickens and other serial noveli...moreThis book, listened to in audio CD format, made me so glad that we no longer pay authors by length as in in the age of Dickens and other serial novelists. Let's just say it: This novel is extremely WORDY to the max, but it remains a thrilling and entertaining read.
Who is the woman in white? A madwoman escaped from an asylum? A wrongfully mistreated ghostly figure? A Victorian symbol of mysterious feminine purity? Yes.
This is a good read because it exemplifies the popular "sensationalist" writing style of the 1800's, and the author really does make you curious to discover all of his secrets as the plot thickens throughout the book. The characters are memorable and vividly sketched - I won't be forgetting Fosco or Percival Glide anytime soon. Maybe a bit oversimplified in a post-modern world, but the novel is illustrative of the Victorian ideal of literature as "morally instructive", and satisfies our instinctive desire for justice.
Being a feminist modern reader, I was appalled at one thing above all else. Between the two female protagonists, does the hero (Mr. Hartwright - get it? Heart - right? Clever.) choose the strong, independent, sensible, capable, confident Marion Halcomb despite her unattractive face? No. Does he choose instead the pretty, flimsy, weak-minded woman-child Laura, who requires constant pampering and doting by everyone around her while she swoons and faints at the drop of a pin? Um... sadly yes. Geez, somebody tell her to lose the corset already - how many times can a woman faint in one book? When all is said and done, I'm no Victorian. Give me Marion Halcomb anyday. Substance over beauty.(less)
A single mother and writer living in London in the 1950's, middle-aged Anna Wulf keeps four notebooks:
- Black: Her memories of living as an expatriate...moreA single mother and writer living in London in the 1950's, middle-aged Anna Wulf keeps four notebooks:
- Black: Her memories of living as an expatriate in colonial Africa in her 20's.
-Red: A chronicle of her political activity, and eventual disillusionment with the Communist party.
-Yellow: A novel that closely mirrors her own life, especially her love affairs.
-Blue: A personal diary of her life experiences and emotions.
This 600+ page novel is historically significant (as a feminist work) and compulsively readable most of the time, if a bit long-winded and depressing at times. I think it is an interesting study as a reflection of a certain place and time in history, especially for women who were struggling to accommodate new roles on top of the traditional role of wife/mother, and find a new place in the world without going crazy - literally.
Things that this novel confirmed for me:
- If you live alone with no responsibilities or schedule or associations with other normal human beings, you will go insane.
- If you try to replace spirituality and morality with politics, men, a career, or anything else, nothing else will fill that gap adequately and you may live a miserable and lonely life as a result.
- If you confuse lust with love and have promiscuous sex with useless men so that the very act comes to carry no meaning whatsoever, you will both be miserable and go crazy.
- If you are a self-absorbed, immoral person, you will likely attract friends and acquaintances of the same caliber and will all be miserable together.
- Communism doesn't work.
- There are very few real, responsible, emotionally available, sane, faithful, sexually functional men in the world, even in the 1950's, so if you find one, consider yourself blessed.
- Even so-called "free women" like Anna Wulf, so "free" because she's not married and pays little attention to or time with the child she has, can end up in emotional bondage, because they still need love just like every other human being.
Four stars for a very unique form - the four notebooks that ultimately fuse into one "golden" notebook with all aspects of Anna the individual. Also, for transporting me to a foreign time and place and making me feel like I actually lived there with a character. It may not have always been a pleasant life, but still, I admire the skill Lessing had to achieve that effect.(less)
Northanger Abbey is a novel written early in Jane Austen's writing career but published posthumously years later. The plot centers around a refreshing...moreNorthanger Abbey is a novel written early in Jane Austen's writing career but published posthumously years later. The plot centers around a refreshingly ordinary (truth be told) heroine, Catherine Morland. Fresh-faced at age 17, Catherine leaves her large, happy family (perhaps modeled after Austen's own) to accompany family friends the Allens on a trip to Bath.
Once in Bath, Catherine meets various friends. First, there's flirtatious Isabella, who pursues Catherine's brother James and introduces her friend to Gothic novels (similar genre to trashy beach reads of our day). There is also the charming brother and sister Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who eventually invite Catherine to visit their home in a romantic, mysterious remodeled abbey that Catherine imagines will match the ideals of the Gothic novels she enjoys reading. But things are not as they seem, and Catherine learns in a short time much about the reality of the world, society, and above all, relationships.
In style, I found it more simplistic than some of Austen more famous works, and more tongue-in-cheek. It's a coming-of-age tale that appears to be based on a trip Austen herself took to bath around the same age. Truly she captures the drama, the excitement, and the growing pains of maturing from child to adult, just as freshly as if Catherine were a modern-day teenager on her first trip away from home.(less)
This novel was my first exposure to Hardy, and he is, as Virginia Woolf asserted, a great writer of tragedy. His skill is clear, and I found the langu...moreThis novel was my first exposure to Hardy, and he is, as Virginia Woolf asserted, a great writer of tragedy. His skill is clear, and I found the language very accessible, considering the novel was published circa 1895 (albeit there were some unfamiliar references that the footnotes helped me decipher).
All of the characters were richly drawn and complex. I didn't completely love or hate any one, but I both loved and hated every one at some point in the story. I felt that this reflects a sense of reality, as all real people are composed of both good and bad traits in varying degrees.
The novel takes a hard jab at the Victorian ideal of female purity and chastity, and a withering glance at Christianity- or what remained of it in England at the time of writing. The protagonist, Tess, is relentlessly persecuted and reviled because of her past, specifically an incident from her youth in which her rich cousin seduced her. Her husband, who committed similar sins in his youth, feels he cannot forgive her for her previous misdeeds, thus illustrating the wicked double standard that constituted Victorian morality and perhaps applies in some cases today as well.
Bluntly put, I do not agree with Hardy's morality, i.e. his implication that there is no such thing as right and wrong, only societal expectations. Still, the novel is interesting as a glimpse of life in rural Victorian-era England. Hardy does expose many injustices and socioeconomic difficulties of the rural people. He weaves so much of their local traditions into the fabric of the story, drawing on the pagan roots of the English country people, from old ballads to bad omens and a strong sense of fatalism throughout the novel.
This is the kind of work that I can admire without agreeing with or liking completely.(less)
This is a hard book to explain if you haven’t read it. It’s not the length of the novel so much as the denseness that makes it complex and thought-pro...moreThis is a hard book to explain if you haven’t read it. It’s not the length of the novel so much as the denseness that makes it complex and thought-provoking. Atwood crafts and plays with her words as well as the narrative itself, at times questioning it’s own validity, acknowledging that each story is subject to the memory and bias of the teller.
Published in a wave of popular conservatism in the 1980's, Atwood called her feminist dystopian novel “speculative fiction” in that it explores the possibilities of elements already present in the world we live in (as opposed to science fiction, which focuses on elements that are currently out of reach but could in the future be possible).
Here is the world she creates: Offred, the protagonist, is a Handmaid in the land of Gilead (formerly America). As a member of this social class, Offred is only as valuable her body, and her womb in particular. Using biblical precedence, the law dictates that upper echelon couples unable to have children may use a handmaid to conceive in place of the wife. Thus, Offred must conceive children for the good of the country; this is being her whole purpose, she will be destroyed if she fails in this mission. The story is told in flashbacks to her former life as an ordinary carefree college student, a working woman with her own money, then a mother of daughter who was later taken from her, and wife to a man she loved. She remembers how little by little, the government was overthrown, and ultimately women lost all their rights in this new regime.
The rational for the overthrow: modern sexual freedom had diminished men’s place in society and emasculated them, as well as dehumanized women as sexual objects. The new way supposedly protects and values women; however, by the end of the novel, we see that women are still being abused, subjugated and enslaved. “It’s the way of nature”, claims one Commander.
The novel draws a contrast between two extremes; 1970's over-the-top sexual freedom versus extreme patriarchal conservatism. I don’t feel either one could be healthy or positive for society, and left me pondering how women can truly be free.(less)
A groundbreaking piece of literary realism, I found this classic novel more interesting than enjoyable. Flaubert strayed from the usual didactic, prea...moreA groundbreaking piece of literary realism, I found this classic novel more interesting than enjoyable. Flaubert strayed from the usual didactic, preachy format of novels at the time by merely reporting the events of his story as they occurred. As in real life, characters who are to be pitied are manipulated and abused at the hands of others, while others who should be despised are rewarded by the world for their flaws. It is not a happy tale.
Perhaps one reason why the novel continues to be applicable and read in school is that Madame Bovary is still recognizable in society today. She is found in the ridiculous romantic who always looks outside of herself for fulfillment; the pleasure addict who runs everywhere looking for sensual stimulation; the materialistic spendthrift who ruins her family with debt. Flaubert depicts the eventual destruction that comes to slaves of these human weaknesses.
I also found the book interesting as a true to the times depiction of rural life in provincial France in the early 1800's.(less)
It took me several months, but I persevered and finally finished this beast. Tolstoy's perhaps most famous novel can be divided into three categories:...moreIt took me several months, but I persevered and finally finished this beast. Tolstoy's perhaps most famous novel can be divided into three categories: a philosophical analysis of the nature of history; an epic Napoleonic-era war story; and an exploration of the social interactions of a group of interrelated characters.
The latter was the most accessible part for me, being reminiscent of Anna Karenina. I flew through the passages detailing the interactions and inner workings of the wonderful, fully developed characters. Then, every time it was back to the strategy of war or the author's historical analysis, I had to drag myself through several chapters in order to return to the portion that interested me.
And that part was wonderful. The characters were realistic, their lives interesting and meaningfully developed. For example, I found the way that Pierre finally found God and peace in extreme suffering, and Natasha finding peace and stability in a loving family life, so beautiful. I found it fascinating the way Tolstoy stated the goal of marriage as a family rather than achieving personal gratification (an idea completely foreign to most modern-day readers). His depictions of family life teem with life and real emotion.
I know it would limit the scope of Tolstoy's ambition, but I often found myself wishing I could abridge the novel to just the bits relating to human relation, which were brilliant. Still, I admired this work overall and would probably go 3 1/2 stars if I could.(less)
I listened to the book on CD, and it was an excellent reading. My pet peeves with the story:
1. The innumerable side stories and tangents (ie regarding...moreI listened to the book on CD, and it was an excellent reading. My pet peeves with the story:
1. The innumerable side stories and tangents (ie regarding the rich relatives, the minor characters, etc.) Perhaps the author used these to further drive home his critique of the materialism of British high society, but to me, it merely frustrated my desires to stick to the main characters. The novel seemed to drag on unnecessarily as a result of the author's many side stories.
2. The repetition of certain words and phrases. If I had to hear the word "prodigious" one more time... There's no telling what I might do.
3. Amelia's ridiculous adoration of her cad of a husband had me gagging throughout the whole story.
4. Some of the moments where the author speaks directly to the reader in a moralizing manner were just weird. As a modern reader, I tended to respond by thinking, "I'm reading fiction to be entertained. If I wanted to be scolded, or edified, I'd read the Bible." However, this technique was probably more common at the time of writing. To quote Randy Jackson, "For me, dawg, it was just a little weird."
On the bright side, the main plot between Amelia, Dobbin, and Becky was quite compelling and the very end was a pretty good ending, I thought. Not too unrealistically happy, but satisfying enough.
This was a real challenge, as I listened to this one on audio CD. When the first narrator is mentally retarded (Benjy) and the second narrator (Quenti...moreThis was a real challenge, as I listened to this one on audio CD. When the first narrator is mentally retarded (Benjy) and the second narrator (Quentin) is mentally unstable, obsessive and suicidal, and all narrators have thick Southern accents, it’s a little hard to catch on to the plot at times. I used sparknotes.com to help me decode bits of it, and had no problem understanding Jason or the third-person omniscient final narrator.
This book turned out to be thought-provoking and masterful. Faulkner uses the Compson family to illustrate the fall of the Southern aristocracy from greatness through false pride, female promiscuity and male impotence. Each of Caddie’s brothers are obsessed with their sister’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy, but find themselves impotent and powerless to stop their lives from unraveling: Benjy due to his literal castration; Quentin because his obsession with the past and self-absorption prevents him from connecting with other human beings; and Jason whose cruel selfishness and lack of emotion isolates him.
I felt that Dilsey, the one stable and compassionate character throughout the novel, the one who sees the beginning and the end, could symbolize hope for the future. She says she saw the beginning and the end (of the Compson family), just as the Southern aristocracy was built on the backs of slaves and emancipation began the demise of that social class. Dilsey is everything the other family members aren’t: practical, determined, unwavering, religious, kind, moral. While the white Southerners around her deteriorate, she remains strong and full of faith.
Will the Compson family be “resurrected” or revived now that daughter Quentin has escaped her family? It seems unsure, but Faulkner implies that despite the crumbling morals of the white aristocracy, the faith of the Southern blacks runs strong and will uphold that society, perhaps even conquering age-old racism and degradation. The Bible says, “They who humble themselves will be exalted; and they who exalt themselves will be abased,” and “The Sound and the Fury” illustrates this prophecy as it played out in the South amongst whites and blacks.(less)