In terms of the writing, this book is much better than the first. However, GRRM, do you REALLY think long lists of things can take the place of good dIn terms of the writing, this book is much better than the first. However, GRRM, do you REALLY think long lists of things can take the place of good descriptive prose? Ugh.
Anyway, this whole book feels like a way-station to get you to another point in the story. But there are some surprises and exciting moments to help in the transition....more
I'm not sure if I'll be able to handle this one. I might love the intersecting stories, or they might drive me crazy. Hopefully in a few years it willI'm not sure if I'll be able to handle this one. I might love the intersecting stories, or they might drive me crazy. Hopefully in a few years it will all shake out, and I'll know.
"Get a bigger flute!" "Increase ur Size! 6" "Don’t walk with tail between your legs." "V|agr.a, C|a.li5, and Phen.term.|ne CHeep!!"
Was the Kama Sutra"Get a bigger flute!" "Increase ur Size! 6" "Don’t walk with tail between your legs." "V|agr.a, C|a.li5, and Phen.term.|ne CHeep!!"
Was the Kama Sutra the original idea for spam email?
"Take pomegranate and cucumber seeds, extract the juice of elabāluka (eluva, Gisekia pharmaceoides) and bhatakataiyā (Solanum indicum, eggplant). Cook in oil over a low heat. Use it to massage the penis. It will remain swollen for six months." ...It didn't sound so bad until I got to the last line...
"Ram's or he-goat's testicles boiled in sugared milk increase sexual prowess." ...Can I have some more Rocky Mountain Oyster Pudding, grandma?
"If a man anoints his penis with datura, black pepper [maricha], and long pepper [pippalī], crushed and mixed with honey, its use will allow him to bewitch and subjugate his partners." ...Or at least cause them to be doubled over in fiery pain.
Once you're done mucking about with spicy peppers, priapisms, and testes, why not try this ancient recipe:
"By rubbing one's hand with the excrements of a peacock, which has been made to take haritāla [yellow myrobalan] and manashilā [red arsenic], everything one touches becomes invisible." ...Infallable.
Okay, in an attempt to save you, Dear Reader, a ton of time may I present:
All You Will Ever Need To Know About the Kama Sutra* 1) There are no pictures in the original Kama Sutra, much to the chagrin of reviewers on Amazon. 2) For the naughtiest parts, go straight to Chapter Six 3) You aren't going to learn any new tricks unless you're a sweet, innocent teenager. 4) The Kama Sutra is extremely repetitive. (This explains my low-ish rating - I'd probably put it at a 2.5. And those stars are just there for the aforementioned chuckles at the insanity. Ancient people were batshitcrazy. It's a miracle we're still around.) There is a good reason for the repetitiveness - as a teaching text, a student is supposed to read the original with enlightened commentary. Unfortunately this translation includes 2 extra commentaries after every paragraph. The translator even apologizes in the intro for its "maladroitness." Even with good reason, doesn't make it fun to read. 5) A lot of the advice is violent - scratching, slapping, bleeding, etc. 6) The Kama Sutra wasn't exactly written by Vātsyāyana - he collected the "erotic science" sections of the Kama Shastra (which were becoming harder and harder to find). 7) The history of the Kama Sutra is interesting, as is the background of the three Shastras - go learn about them. Maybe I'm too dense, but I didn't learn much about history by reading the original text. 8) The Kama Sutra tries to explain all sexual practices, even those that are not recommended or are forbidden. Vātsyāyana felt it very important to be complete. Which I can get behind.
*(unless you are an ancient Indian scholar, of course.)...more
Whelp! This kept us entertained on a very long roadtrip. We had to read some while we were at our destination to speed things up. But this wasn't exacWhelp! This kept us entertained on a very long roadtrip. We had to read some while we were at our destination to speed things up. But this wasn't exactly my kind of story. King has said repeatedly that this book is one of his "tapestry of people" with a huge cast populating his fictional town. Sadly I don't think he can handle the scope when so many characters are too similar: Barbie/Rusty, Linda/Jackie, Julia/Barbara. Giving them superficial differences doesn't count! I got the impression the narrator (who did a very good job) was struggling to differentiate the characters, because all the dialog, Big Jim excepted, couldn't have been spoken by anyone.
But we're now ready for the TV show, so there's that!
I plan on giving King's The Shining a go, but I think I'll avoid his books after that....more
A moral thread through Jackson's tales: She who sees evil in everyone around her should look in a mirror. Especially if she lives in a village.
A few nA moral thread through Jackson's tales: She who sees evil in everyone around her should look in a mirror. Especially if she lives in a village.
A few notes on this edition: Although Joyce Carol Oates is the editor, she only selected the included novels and short stories. Sadly, there is no preface or comment from her. Also, the book is printed on exceedingly thin paper, which you can clearly see the type through from the other side. It makes it quite hard to read. I probably won't be reading a similar edition again.
The Lottery: 5/5 An excellent collection of short fiction with recurring motifs and a mysterious and somewhat menacing outlying character, James Harris. Like multi-colored threads through the tales, Jackson unobtrusively challenges the reader to find those connections, and draw comparisons. David Mitchell used this technique in Cloud Atlas, but Jackson is a master weaver. Some stories are outright horrific, but most would be classified as mid-century gothic - full of subtle, eerie charm. The recurring objects, words, names, and motifs were drawn from an old Scottish Ballad "The Daemon Lover," a stanza of which is included as an epigraph.
In an essay included in this collection, "Biography of a Story," Jackson tells about how "The Lottery" (the eponymous story, first published in The New Yorker in 1948) created more hate mail and buzz than the magazine had ever seen. She insists that there is no hidden meaning and allegory in the story. "It's just a story." She republished snippets from these troll-ish letters, and they look so tame and twee compared to today's internet trolls. She was shocked how many people wrote to her insisting on knowing what village, in what State these events took place. With her usual dry humor, she says "...if I thought this was a valid cross-section of the reading public, I would give up writing."
The Haunting of Hill House: 3/5 A fun little haunted house story. A bit divulgative, though. It lacked the subtlety of The Lottery, but quite entertaining nonetheless. It was fun to see a few objects mentioned in The Lottery make reappearances in The Haunting of Hill House. This would be a perfect quick, spooky read around Halloween. You'll spend most of your time trying to figure out "Whodunnit?" and "Who's the red shirt?" Finally, for the last bit of fun, there are lesbian undertones throughout the story, which hints to Jackson's own close relationship to a French student in college. (I'll freely admit, I'm interpolating from the chronological sketch, but it's hard to dismiss.)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle: 5/5 Well, holy crap. Creepy, crazy, wild story. After reading about Jackson's life story, I can understand Jackson's general vitriol towards village residents. In her real life in Vermont, her family was harassed, bullied and house defaced because they were "outsiders." Jackson herself became housebound after social interactions became too difficult to bear.
This story had one of the more interesting male characters - Old, crazy uncle Julian. It's curious how most of Jackson's stories have female protagonists who are either deceptive or going against the grain. Jackson's mother continually referred to younger brother was the "obedient" child and Jackson as the "willful" child. In turn, most male characters are sketches or
Other stories and essays: 3/5 Like most short story anthologies, it's quite a mixed bag here, presented in chronological order. It was fun to watch Jackson's writing evolve and mature - she became sharp-tongued, quick-witted, and a master of twists. The best of the bunch were: "A Visit," dedicated to Dylan Thomas, an admirer of Jackson's; "Louisa Please Come Home"; and The Bus. There are also a few of Jackson's sketches from her own family stories.
After overdosing on Shirley Jackson, if you are only going to read one book of her's, read The Lottery....more
33 years 855 pages (not including index) 9 presidents 12 states admitted to the Union 13.58 million people added to US 1563 references to slave/s 173 refere33 years 855 pages (not including index) 9 presidents 12 states admitted to the Union 13.58 million people added to US 1563 references to slave/s 173 references to Mormon/s/ism 30,000 soldiers killed in the Mexican-American War (approx.) 1 month of reading 20 chapters 1 preface 1 afterword 200+ footnotes (approximately) 19 glorious maps
This is one huge historical review article about a period in U.S. history I knew little about.
I sadly have to downgrade this a star after my initial assessment. I talked it over with friends who are also reading this, and I think Howe gets overly repetitious in parts. My theory: he mentions in the footnotes that he reuses parts from his own previously published articles. Perhaps after the cut & paste, add in some more text, he wasn't as good at seeing those repetitions? I'm being kind of harsh, I guess. It wasn't that bad. But to ask a reader to slog through 900-ish pages, terseness is a virtue....more
I've spent a few days hoping that my thoughts and feelings about Dune will solidify into one coherent and brilliant essay. There's a lot going on in t I've spent a few days hoping that my thoughts and feelings about Dune will solidify into one coherent and brilliant essay. There's a lot going on in the book, and there's been a lot going on in my life, so coherency might not be forthcoming.
Dune is intricate, at times confusing, allegorical and meticulously researched story. Even though I didn't fall in love with the characters, I fell in love with the book. It's easy to see how Dune is a classic, often imitated.
I loved this book, but at least one of my GR friends who I greatly respect hated this book. Which is fine, because, hey, we all have different tastes. (And thank Odin we've got diverse authors and genres for all types!) But I couldn't help ponder which attributes might make Dune so disliked. Sure, it's long, it's complicated, and has a pretty big cast of characters. And despite the Reverend Mothers and their power, the book has that overall masculine appeal - testosterone in overdrive. I don't mind that, but I can see how it could bother some readers.
But I think there might be other factors that would cause people to not just dislike, but really hate Dune. My hypothesis, (which I admit is most likely completely wrong, but I'll put it out there anyhow): Dune will only be loved by hard-core science fiction fans. I don't mean this in any derogatory way, since science fiction doesn't and can't appeal to all tastes. And that's quite all right by me.
A year ago, Jo Walton wrote about a concept that she attributes to Samuel R. Delany, specifically from his book The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction. The thesis is that science-fiction has it's own language and protocols. From Walton's essay: "He then went on to say that one of the ways of approaching SF is to look at the way people read it—that those of us who read it have built up a set of skills for reading SF which let us enjoy it, where people who don’t have this approach to reading are left confused."
For SF fans, it's fun to read a story and not fully understand the language, the technology, the aliens, or what have you. And Dune is extremely challenging in this regard. The desert dwellers, the Fremen, have a culture that can be shocking and overly practical to us Earth-dwellers. There is a whole language and terminology invented, complete with a glossary included with the book. Herbert drops facts about a pre-history into the readers lap as if the reader already has knowledge of those events. It's a challenge to read, and not all readers would find those challenges "fun."
Other fun things in Dune: Huge sandworms! Blue eyeballs! "Do as she says, you wormfaced, crawling, sand-brained piece of lizard turd!" Prophesies! Water-reclamation technologies!
OK, now that I've thoroughly pissed off my non-sci-fi-loving friends, let's totally shift gears here. In my 40th Anniversary Edition, there is a afterword written by Frank Herbert's son, Brian Herbert, who has written many of the Dune sequels. Here's a few of the more fascinating revelations in his essay: * "When he was a boy, eight of [Frank Herbert's] Irish Catholic aunts tried to force Catholocism on him, but he resisted. Instead, this became the genesis of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood." * Herbert researched over a 4-year period, 1957-1961, then wrote the book between 1961-1965. The book was rejected by all the major publishing houses, but was finally picked up by Chilton, the publisher of all those car-repair manuals. * Sometimes Herbert would write passages first in poetry, before he expanded and converted them to prose. * Herbert took some inspiration of the Paul Maud'dib character from Lawrence of Arabia - the outsider who helped lead a desert revolt in Turkey in WWI....more
Here's the thing that surprised me the most about War & Peace: it's extremelyA Review in Three Parts:
I. The Analytical Analysis
II. The Review
Here's the thing that surprised me the most about War & Peace: it's extremely readable. It's not filled with difficult or outdated language. (At least in the P&V translation.) It doesn't have long, hard to parse sentences. The action and dialogue is fairly straight-forward. The characters become easy to follow. If you are freaked out by War & Peace because you think it's hard, it's not. Although you will have to power though the utterly dull and overly-populated intro party scene. Gah.
However, War & Peace is filled with endless diversions, especially history primers and theological discussions of death and minutia of battles. Tolstoy goes off on tangents, and it can take a while to get back to the story. I know some people love those tangents - I didn't. Tolstoy failed to reel me in, and make me care about the logistics of war, or his philosophies of physics in the social sciences.
One quick note on the P&V translation - they left in the original French and German with translations in footnotes/endnotes. I found their annotation style to be clunky at best. In retrospect, I would have chosen the Briggs translation, even though it's not available in ebook format.
What's sad is that for the first half of the book, I read slowly, deliberately, and researched stuff outside of the book. I wanted War & Peace to be a rich experience. I was reading this with quite a few people in a group, and thought I could really appreciate why people call this The Great Novel Evar! But after 650-odd pages and 6 weeks, I still wasn't engaged with the characters, the story, or the history. So I started to read faster just to get through it.
I'm not saying it's a horrible book, though. The characters are well defined, and they grow and change over the years of war, struggle and collective bourgeoisie. Quite a few people in the group read-along fell in love with some of the major protagonists. Certainly for me the "home-front" story was more compelling than any other aspect of the story.
Here's one way I can tell whether a book is rising above an average read for me. Do I think about the characters, the story, or the issues outside of reading the book? For War & Peace, except for our group discussions, this was a resounding No. Discussions of ladies' facial hair was the most thrilling aspect.
I had a hard time getting War & Peace to rise about a "meh" for me, even considering it's proper historical literary provenance.
III. Some Russian* Things I Learned
*Not all of these things are Russian. But they are in War & Peace....more
I'll have to think about whether I want to write a full-on review for Les Mis. I do want to quickly mention that my rApril 1, 2011 Big Read selection.
I'll have to think about whether I want to write a full-on review for Les Mis. I do want to quickly mention that my rating is partly a relative one compared to War and Peace - a similar, sweeping novel that was in part inspired by Les Mis. Les Mis wins the great novel war, hands down. The characterizations are brilliant. The action (when it happens) is compelling. Hugo has a great sense of pacing, timing, and building up climaxes. Both suffer greatly from mostly irrelevant non-fiction commentary and asides. I swear those are there to build up the authors' egos. Mon dieu!...more
For any of you who have yet to read The Count of Monte Cristo, I wanted to point out that it's worthwhile findingOctober 1, 2011, Big Read selection.
For any of you who have yet to read The Count of Monte Cristo, I wanted to point out that it's worthwhile finding the Buss translation. Two reasons:
1) There have not been many (any?) modern translations, and the older (read: free) translations are bowlderized. There is infanticide, lesbianism, suicides, transvestism, drug-fueled dreams and more. Don't deny yourself that kind of fun.
2) Since most of the translations are old, the word from Buss and from smart friends who know (and speak French) is that the typical English translation sounds way more antiquated than the original French does to a French speaker. This was and is a popular novel, so go for the modern translation that tries to keep that mood intact.
I loved reading that within 3 years of the first publication, there was already a parody, Le Comte de Monte-Fiasco. Personally, I kept referring to it either as The Sandwich Book, or Moldy Crisco....more
5-stars for the first third, 3-stars for the middle section, then 4-stars for the end bits. In all, a 4-star read. I rJuly 1, 2011 Big Read selection.
5-stars for the first third, 3-stars for the middle section, then 4-stars for the end bits. In all, a 4-star read. I really liked the writing in particular. Helen is a fantastic, interesting character, and despite my 3-stars for the middle section, I loved seeing her grow and change into the woman she becomes.
I'm still trying to figure out why in a culture where visiting with friends, staying at their houses for long periods of time was normal, those same friends wouldn't travel the distance to attend weddings?...more
My rockin' niece worked hard on this book. It looks really awesome! I can't wait to see it in person. I think this would be the perfect accompanimentMy rockin' niece worked hard on this book. It looks really awesome! I can't wait to see it in person. I think this would be the perfect accompaniment to a brand new, loaded wine rack, and maybe a grape varietal poster?...more
Wherein I attempt to write a review using all the new words I learned whilst reading the book. My made-up-on-the-spot rule is one per sentence, to makWherein I attempt to write a review using all the new words I learned whilst reading the book. My made-up-on-the-spot rule is one per sentence, to make it a challenge. (Glossary at end of review.)
I hope you won’t look upon my review as mere folderol, but the most interesting things to be said about Gone With the Wind have been said over and over: it’s breathtaking, sweeping, American, but also racist and exacerbating. Everyone needs to read the story of one of literature’s best tragic heroines: Scarlett O’Hara, a Southern hoyden who Mitchell has managed to make complex, despite Scarlett's shallow ways. Scarlett normally has pinchbeck pretensions, even towards people she loves. She could inveigle even the most reluctant of men, just to get her way, particularly in marriage. When the reader watches her associate with carpetbaggers and parvenus, forsaking her friends, it’s hard not to cheer when she gets her just rewards. She’s frequently a hypocrite; she criticizes old County farmers who never manumitted a single slave, yet she complains later about the freed slaves in Atlanta.
And then we have Rhett, that dashing scalawag, and the only person who can call Scarlett’s bluffs. He’s a man who has approbation for others with strong morals without pretension. He coolly presents verbal zingers, even against his lover, foe, and termagant. Even though Rhett can be rapacious, he has a strong inner code that endears him to the reader. His sibling-like relationship with Melly, a sometimes pusillanimous character, is especially touching.
Finally, there is the South: Tara and Atlanta, belles and gentlemen, slaves and cotton, portieres and hoop-skirts. Scarlett, as representation of the South, is a product of her parents: her Irish immigrant, stentor father Gerald, and kindhearted but stoic stalwart mother, Ellen. And as the South rapidly changes and leaves behind it’s old ways, so too is Scarlett able to adapt to her new positions – and this is what helps the reader somewhat forgive some of her rankling, vituperative ways.
It was hard not to become lachrymose at the end of Gone With the Wind – I am mourning the loss of these characters in my life.
Word List: * approbation: approval; commendation. * carpetbagger: U.S. History . a Northerner who went to the South after the civil war and became active in Republican politics, especially so as to profiteer from the unsettled social and political conditions of the area during Reconstruction. * folderol: mere nonsense; foolish talk or ideas. Also, falderal * hoyden: a boisterous, bold, and carefree girl; a tomboy * inveigle: to entice, lure, or ensnare by flattery or artful talk or inducements (usually followed by into) * lachrymose: given to shedding tears readily; tearful. * manumitted: to release from slavery or servitude. * portieres: a curtain hung in a doorway, either to replace the door or for decoration. * pinchbeck: sham, spurious, or counterfeit * parvenu: a person who has recently or suddenly acquired wealth, importance, position, or the like, but has not yet developed the conventionally appropriate manners, dress, surroundings, etc. * pusillanimous: lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted; timid. * rapacious: inordinately greedy; predatory; extortionate * scalawag: 1. a scamp; rascal. 2. U.S. History . a native white Southerner who collaborated with the occupying forces during Reconstruction, often for personal gain. * stentor: a person having a very loud or powerful voice. * termagant: a violent, turbulent, or brawling woman. * vituperative: characterized by the nature of verbal abuse or castigation ...more