This was one of the assignments in a high school European lit class. I seem to recall reading at least some of it before resorting to the Cliffs NotesThis was one of the assignments in a high school European lit class. I seem to recall reading at least some of it before resorting to the Cliffs Notes. The guy stole a loaf of bread, right? I can't remember what happened when Javert caught him. Presumably, from the title, punishment. ;-)
Seriously, this was an eye-opener. Dostoyevsky lived a while ago in a place far away, but he had insights into human nature (even complex, philosophical aspects) that seemed more sophisticated than I would have thought possible. I suppose that’s a common conceit. Each new generation believes itself to be the first to consider the subtle workings of the mind until classics teach them otherwise.
[Note: I inserted the reference to Les Miserables as an admittedly poor attempt at self-effacing humor. I know all about Jean Valjean from Classics Comics.]...more
The following was a review I wrote April 1. I've since come to view it in a different light, and now believe it's one of the finest books ever writtenThe following was a review I wrote April 1. I've since come to view it in a different light, and now believe it's one of the finest books ever written.
It's funny how things can change. I recall really liking this book the first time I read it back in about 8th grade. Maybe I should have just left well enough alone. It was a pleasant memory from my youth. Why spoil things by picking it up again as a more clear-sighted (some might say jaundiced)adult? I probably wouldn't view my favorite book from 4th grade, The Secret Weapon, the same way either. The intense drama of a glue-fingered benchwarmer called in at the end of the big game to catch the winning touchdown might seem shallow and contrived to the current me.
I realize I'm swimming against the tide here, but how many of you have reread this supposed masterpiece in your more mature years? With that perspective, I can't be the only one to see Scout as the rather obvious wish-fulfillment of Harper Lee. Reading since infancy, brave as any boy, inherently fair-minded, a noble spirit well beyond her years... C'mon, Harper; you've got to give her some flaws mere humans can relate to. Now Jem, in comparison, was a run-of-the-mill dullard. As written, he's not necessarily going to grow up to be the depraved male in a Lifetime movie, but it's clear that Ms. Lee doesn't much care for this kid with the penis. And Dill? How can we not think of him as the future Truman Capote, fat and affected?
My real problem with the book, though, now that my blinkers are off, is the pure perfection of Atticus. His progressivity knows no bounds. You're going to tell me that a lawyer is capable of empathy and integrity?!? And where is the complexity of context, you might ask. Wouldn't this son of the South, to be at all realistic, have wrestled a grudge match against himself, his Doppelcracker, if you will? Even modern-day hacks know to include that much conflict.
Clearly, Atticus is a balm to assuage white guilt for a nasty racial past, but I wonder if that by itself qualifies as clothes for the emperor. Ironically, people who are happy to applaud the courage Atticus displayed in standing against popular sentiment will likely castigate me for doing the same.
Whenever you take an extreme view (and I know I have; even defying Oprah, for chrissake), you have to wonder what that says about you more than it does about the work under review. Maybe had this been March 31 or April 2, I would have felt differently, but today I felt a strange need to rock the Goodreads boat. Did anyone fall out? Happy AFD! ...more
Am I being unduly harsh giving this a mere “It’s OK”? Maybe. To hear some people describe it (even people I usually correlate well with), this book isAm I being unduly harsh giving this a mere “It’s OK”? Maybe. To hear some people describe it (even people I usually correlate well with), this book is a laugh-scream riot. Hopes grow even higher when you hear the story about Toole’s mother who, after his suicide, finally gets the thing published, then sits back to watch the prizes pour in. What I viewed as a miss may have been because the bar was so high. It could be, too, that I’m just not predisposed to dysfunctional characters, all bloated with self-importance. The protagonist (or antagonist depending on how you see him) is Ignatius J. Reilly. He’s decidedly offbeat, which is all well and good, but I just didn’t think he was funny. Not all guys with yinged-out hair are brilliant physicists either, much as we might surmise.
That’s just my opinion. Plenty of people disagree. It was a long time ago that I read it, so factor that in as well. Maybe guys like George Costanza have now gotten me used to whiny, self-centered anti-strivers as sources of humor.
I sometimes wonder why certain works are so polarizing. In this case I think lots of people saw a big misanthropic id running roughshod and had to laugh. Others of us were just annoyed. (Do I sound like a terrible curmudgeon right now? I just did a check on my sense of humor and found that it generally goes for sarcasm, irony, and even shtick. Must just have been this brand where I didn’t.) ...more
How can someone who writes so well (like McEwan) make me so ambivalent about his prize winning book? By drawing darker, more degenerate characters thaHow can someone who writes so well (like McEwan) make me so ambivalent about his prize winning book? By drawing darker, more degenerate characters than I would ever hope to know. I just didn't buy that people McEwan imbued with human thoughts and emotions to begin with could turn out to be so void of humanity in the end....more
In my mind, Russo is one of the best authors out there and this is one of his best books. It's something about the way he combines humor, real-life siIn my mind, Russo is one of the best authors out there and this is one of his best books. It's something about the way he combines humor, real-life situations, unpretentious people, genuine empathy, and a plot to tie it together. Oh, and he writes really well, too.
Nobody's Fool has several of the best characters of all time. Sully is hard to beat as a likably flawed, smarter-than-he-seems survivor in a seemingly small world. This world matters plenty to the reader, though, crafted as it is by Russo. The other memorable character is the comically unassuming Rub. He's a luckless but faithful sidekick. It pleases me to imagine that someone like him exists in every American whistle stop....more