Does your country have a government? Does it like power? If so, then this novel is for you!
Really, the ideas in this book have become so ubiquitous thDoes your country have a government? Does it like power? If so, then this novel is for you!
Really, the ideas in this book have become so ubiquitous that there's not much of a point in rehashing them here. The only thing I'll note is it is definitely a plot-and-idea book: if you need massively riveting characters to get into a story, you might not get too into this one. But even so, the premise is so gut-wrenching and well-executed that it remains one of the best books of the twentieth century....more
This book is definitely not for everyone. I got through it because I have an interest in sociology (especially youth issues) and it confirms and articThis book is definitely not for everyone. I got through it because I have an interest in sociology (especially youth issues) and it confirms and articulates some of my own beliefs. Otherwise, though, it's a bit of yawner.
By far its biggest limitation is the style. Henry Giroux is the "Waterbury Chair Professor of Secondary Education at Pennsylvania State University," which is evidently academic speak for "a guy massively in love with subordinate clauses." The guy can't keep a sentence under twenty words to save his life. Combine all the ambiguous pronouns with his rich multisyllabic vocabulary, and it's one of the densest books I've ever read in my life.
But the content makes up for it. It wasn't life-changing, but definitely thought-provoking, and it may have had an even bigger impact on me had I not been previously exposed to some of the ideas. Overall he does a really good job of depressing the crap out of you, which is pretty much the point. He's writing about issues that, in my opinion, not enough people are depressed about. I'm personally glad I read it, though I think it's really meant for a socially conscious, abstract thinking, academically-inclined minority....more
For a book that's supposedly the source of "all modern American literature," there's a lot you can pick on. Like the careening plot, or the last ten cFor a book that's supposedly the source of "all modern American literature," there's a lot you can pick on. Like the careening plot, or the last ten chapters of the book (which is kind of like eating Sour Patch Kids after a chocolate souffle). I can just see Mark Twain paging anxiously through the first thirty-one chapters and muttering, "I can't take any more of this literary merit--if I don't bring in Tom Sawyer to screw things up, I'm going to have a freaking aneurysm."
In the end, though, this book is saved by two things. (1) Huck is simply one of the best characters ever created. (2) The unvarnished look at the antebellum Midwest and South, with scathing satire, is staggering. Even with the last fourth of the book being pretty much reduced to a relapse of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, it's still makes my top ten.
There is that whole thing about the explicit language, which has a lot more to do with the nearsightedness of social debates than any substantive dispute. One group offers flat arguments about literary merit while climbing over themselves to belittle other people's emotional trauma; the other group imagines that something so personally painful can't provide any positive service to any other member of society. Can we not just accept differences of effect and let the kids whose parents want to protect them read Native Son instead? No? Sorry, I can't hear you over the shouting....more
This book is just hilarious. I pulled it out to refresh my memory and wound up paging through it until my bladder and stomach made me stop.
Normally yThis book is just hilarious. I pulled it out to refresh my memory and wound up paging through it until my bladder and stomach made me stop.
Normally you'd think a satirical textbook would be as entertaining as, say, a satirical thesaurus, but this book delivers irreverent humor on every page--about our values, educational system, political process, and everything else American.
I totally have a non-sexual man crush on Jon Stewart, and this book totally sends me into a non-sexual man swoon....more
This play is freaky good. Rarely does a work of art so epic follow through so completely. If you liked Rent and want twice the profundity with none oThis play is freaky good. Rarely does a work of art so epic follow through so completely. If you liked Rent and want twice the profundity with none of the singing, this one's up your alley.
I don't really think of it as being a play about homosexuality, although it definitely has that slant. It's really about the 1980s. You've got your elder, greed-is-good lawyer (closet case dying of AIDS). You've got his young yuppie protege (Mormon who leaves his wife to have an affair with a man). And the cast is rounded out by a gay couple (one gets AIDS, the other leaves him), the Mormon's wife (Valium-popper living the housewife's nightmare), and for much needed comic relief, a hilarious fa-laming male nurse. The ghost of Ethel Rosenberg and a few angels also make appearances.
I bought the book because I'm a nerd and wanted to study it after it blew me away. If you're not that committed and can't see it live, there's an excellent movie version with Al Pacino and Meryl Streep that I definitely recommend viewing. Just be careful when you watch it. It's six hours long and shouldn't be imposed on anyone else unless (s)he is also a nerd and has signed a consent form....more
Without a doubt the three best summer reading books ever written for high school students are: Candide, The Old Man And The Sea, and Animal Farm. AllWithout a doubt the three best summer reading books ever written for high school students are: Candide, The Old Man And The Sea, and Animal Farm. All three are less than 150 pages and universally acclaimed works of literature. Two of them are even fun to read.
Animal Farm is one of the fun ones. It's like a fairy tale for grown ups. Oh, those crazy pigs! Watch out horsies--you're gradually falling under the iron-fisted dictatorship of your barnyard overlords! Sure, you know what happens at the end, but Orwell doesn't waste any time getting there and adds all the little touches that make the trip entertaining.
The thing that really makes it worth five stars (to a nerd like me, anyway) is the historical context. Orwell published this at a time when the Soviet Union was being lionized as an ally in World War II and political criticism was nonexistent. But he did it anyway, uniquely and effectively. And of course, he builds on the effectiveness of Animal Farm to write his real masterpiece, 1984, four years later. No matter what view you take--the cutesy short-term talking animal view or the long-term historical view--Animal Farm is eminently worth the hour and a half it takes to read....more
You know how sometimes you try to explain why you think a book is amazing to someone else and (s)he just flat out doesn't get it? This play is like thYou know how sometimes you try to explain why you think a book is amazing to someone else and (s)he just flat out doesn't get it? This play is like that.
Not that you'd think it's crap. You'd probably read it with a raised eyebrow and think it was "interesting." But there's just too much conspiring against a casual reader being able to appreciate what a pupil-dilating, jaw-dropping work of art this is.
First, it's a play, written with specific artistic conventions, meant to be performed at a specific festival to a specific audience of a specific era and culture. Second, it's in translation. You have no idea what kind of linguistic atrocities take place in translation unless you've tried it yourself, and this play is one of the worst. Third, the play takes for granted that you're aware of Greek attitudes about authority, gender roles, and pretty much the entire history of ancient Greek literature and mythology. Fourth, there's a gap of several lines missing at the end--you know, the climactic part--which kind of interrupts the flow a bit.
Anyway, I totally encourage anyone who has a half hour or forty five minutes to give it a read. But deep down, I'll be wishing I could teach a class to you about it. It's that good....more
It's weird how dated books often get remembered for completely different reasons than the author could've possibly intended. I doubt Sylvia Plath thouIt's weird how dated books often get remembered for completely different reasons than the author could've possibly intended. I doubt Sylvia Plath thought to herself, "This semi-autobiographical novel will be a poignant look into my adolescence once I attain a cult following for sticking my head in an oven." Or, "I hope my book becomes regarded as a seminal work of postwar ennui and oppressive gender roles."
In The Savage God, A. Alvarez says Sylvia spoke of The Bell Jar "with some embarrassment as an autobiographical apprentice-work which she had to write in order to free herself from the past." I can forgive her for being so severe on herself. When you're writing the poems that later become Ariel, it's hard not to consider everything you've written before a steaming pile of crap. But there's an element of truth to her self-criticism.
I give it three stars on its own merits. The woman clearly knew how to write, and the imagery is utterly mind-blowing. With so much misinformation about depression being a primitive pity-fest--and the fact that there are so many pills you can take for it now--not many people realize what an expansive and inexplicable experience depression can be. You can't demean or diminish depression after you've read The Bell Jar.
I give it another star for cultural and historical relevance. This book could be read in a history class on the 1950s. While Betty Freidan was writing about "the problem that has no name," Sylvia Plath was creating a character that was acting it out. And Plath's poetic rendering of depression has taken on increased significance given the explosion of incidence rates since 1980.
But the book is very dated, in social setting, cultural references (she mentions the Rosenbergs in the first sentence to set the mood), and to a lesser extent language. These limitations wouldn't necessarily be problematic if the themes were more universal (cf. The Catcher in the Rye), but to some extent the resonance of the book is limited by its roots in specific social contexts (e.g., the gender roles) and its emphasis on describing a state of mind that is very hard to communicate and to which few people can relate directly (e.g., the depression). Although she does an amazing job translating such a specific experience into a novel that can be appreciated by anyone, she's right to point out that it's too rooted in specific themes and events to be as universally applicable as some of her later poems.
But there's no question that it's still worth everybody's time, and it's held up for me over multiple readings. She was a hell of an author. ...more