I cracked this book open thinking I was revisiting it for the first time since childhood. As I read, however, I gained the impression that I was readiI cracked this book open thinking I was revisiting it for the first time since childhood. As I read, however, I gained the impression that I was reading it for the first time, period. Did too many viewings of the Wynona Ryder film version dub over my memories of the original? Shame on Hollywood, really and truly! I wish I could do this review justice, but my newborn-addled brain just isn't up to it. I would simply like to say that, from my experiences growing up in a family of faith, falling in love and marrying, raising young children, and thinking toward the young women and man they will grow up to be, Ms. Alcott was a terribly wise woman. And, although some have attempted to defend the novel against the accusation that it is a 'morality play' (which it is not) by claiming how forward-thinking Ms. Alcott was for her time, I tend to disagree. Yes, she was a female writer, and her female protagnist Jo gets a living through writing, but there is a good deal more that is 'old-fashioned' about her characters, even in their own thinking, than the other way around. From the scene of philosophical debate pitting 'Reason' against God where Jo's world was turned topsy-turvy by Modernist rhetoric to the many references to those 'well-worn little books' that were the girls' guide in life, the standard of true joy and happiness seems to be the oldest one of all, while the cultural backdrop of the Civil War plays only a secondary role. I would be painting a very inaccurate picture of the book, though, if I failed to point out how many times I smiled reading this book--other people's failings and foibles are very funny, especially when I see myself in them. I was particularly amused by the description of Meg's little toddler as an "engaging little sinner" when in action, a "captive autocrat" when being disciplined, and Meg herself as his "tender bondwoman." It's a good thing I never let my children get the better of me... I picked this book up because I was feeling nostalgic this Christmas season, and I found all the comforts I sought and more. This book is a treasure I intend to revisit many times over....more
When I finished this book, I couldn't think of a single thing I would have done to make it better. This book is the perfect introduction for the middlWhen I finished this book, I couldn't think of a single thing I would have done to make it better. This book is the perfect introduction for the middle-school student to the world of high fantasy--maybe if they're trained on the good stuff they won't settle for some of the poorer examples out there--and it's a joy to read as an adult too!...more
There is just something about Lewis that makes you love him--probably several somethings: his genius for metaphor, his humility, his passion for ChrisThere is just something about Lewis that makes you love him--probably several somethings: his genius for metaphor, his humility, his passion for Christ, his creativity, and the list may go on. It would be very difficult to hit all the points that were meaningful to me in this book, and it would be equally difficult to hit all the points of doctrine where he and I disagree (or at least, disagree at this early point in his Christian life). I had the absolute blessing and benefit of sitting in a discussion group of this book with a literature professor who had done her master's thesis on Lewis' space trilogy, and was a wealth of knowledge on his life and works. She (and my learned mother, who was also there) helped me to understand the context of this book in a way that I had not had the time or opportunity to understand yet, and context is everything when understanding Mere Christianity. First, no matter how philosophical and academic Lewis seems to me, the academians of his time hated everything he stood for. They, the "realists," spent much of their time saying how people are "mere" groupings of atoms, how oceans are "mere" gatherings of water droplets, and the like. Mere Christianity is a rebuttal to this idea, and when you read the book you see that there is nothing "mere" about it. Secondly, I, as someone who has grown up in a Christian environment and am still largely surrounded by believers, have had very little experience talking to athiests, and can benefit from the apologetic viewpoint. On the one hand, apologetics are not the Gospel. On the other hand, they can help someone who sees Christianity as ridiculous to recognize that it is reasonable, and maybe even consider picking up a Bible. The audience Lewis spoke to was an unbelieving one, in terror of WWII and in utter rejection of biblical Christianity--most of them products of their postmodern society. His argument is meant to help these people see a glimpse or glimmer of what may await them in Christ. As for the message of the book itself, it is incredibly orderly and covers everything from the Moral Argument for the existence of God to the way a Christian believer may realize his full potential. Lewis uses his gift for metaphor to animate many difficult ideas in beautiful ways. He makes many strong and amazing statments based firmly in biblical truth. There are, as I mentioned, a couple of tendencies toward error in the subjects of free will and evolution that chafed a bit, but I noticed in Surprised by Joy (which was written later) that Lewis pays due honor to God's sovereignty in salvation, and I am assured by my professor friend that his views on evolution changed also. And, in the end, none of us understands God perfectly until we meet him face to face. In the mean time, this book was very beneficial and a real blessing. I look forward to reading about his later life in Letters to an American Lady, and getting to know the everyday C.S. Lewis better. ...more
I've read this one multiple times; the beginning takes a little patience, but the mystery is engrossing and mind-blowing! I never thought I'd enjoy aI've read this one multiple times; the beginning takes a little patience, but the mystery is engrossing and mind-blowing! I never thought I'd enjoy a non-Poirot novel this much, but what can I say? Agatha Christie rocks. ...more
I love Sherlock Holmes! (Not as a man, as a detective and a protagonist.) Conan Doyle's works are genius--the interplay between Holmes and Watson offeI love Sherlock Holmes! (Not as a man, as a detective and a protagonist.) Conan Doyle's works are genius--the interplay between Holmes and Watson offers so much humor and insight, and the cases themselves are always so enticing (in a criminal sort of way). A definite must-read. ...more
I feel a bit inadequate to treat this book as a thoroughly knowledgeable reviewer, and so I know that I will come back and edit my comments as I spendI feel a bit inadequate to treat this book as a thoroughly knowledgeable reviewer, and so I know that I will come back and edit my comments as I spend more time in medieval literature and history, especially Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur. That said, I wanted to have a record of my inital impressions, however ignorant they may be. That White's novel is as much a commentary on medieval England and the order of knighthood in those days as a retelling of the Arthurian legend is wholly evident. His magnum opus is evidence of his own thorough study of medieval history and literature, and of his attempt to understand it both by its own merits and, ultimately, by his own beliefs. The Once and Future King IS a magnum opus, to be sure. White teaches the reader to interact with Arthur's tale on every level--as a beautiful story of humanity, as a foundational piece of literature, and as a commentary on its time. His own interpretation is quite different than Malory's must have been, since he treats war as unpardonable barbarism, knightly quests and tournaments as foppish and pointless, and the ultimate salvation of mankind in a "live and let live" mentality (as long as no one hurts anyone else). White's Arthur is great because of his political innovation and his devotion to right over might, whereas I am sure Malory's Arthur didn't mind conquest quite so much. As for the affair between Guenever and Lancelot, White's Arthur loved his two friends so much that he took every pain not to think about their treachery, and didn't seem to be emotionally hurt by it at all (although in the end it was the source of many evils he had to endure). Perhaps he, like White himself, was not particularly interested in women? But, aside from the elements that make it blatantly modern, White brought tremendous care and compassion to his telling. The reader truly pities each character as his doom grows nearer, and somehow the terrible errors each major character makes do not wholly define him--he is human. Also, White was funny--truly witty and winsome. I laughed aloud more times than I can count, and appreciated his voice as much as that of any other in the story. I truly enjoyed this book, even though I do not share all of White's worldview. It deserved the highest rating and I heartily recommend it to everyone. ...more
I have not been this touched by a book in a long time. I read it as a girl, but a girl whose head was too full of Nancy Drew and Babysitter's Club toI have not been this touched by a book in a long time. I read it as a girl, but a girl whose head was too full of Nancy Drew and Babysitter's Club to appreciate the depth and heart of Anne's world, and I contented myself with the movie version, which was very good (for a movie). What I didn't realize was that Matthew, Marilla, Anne, Diana, Gilbert, and the rest could be more real to me through the pages of this book than even a well-acted movie version could convey. Montgomery's own imagination must have been a well-honed organ to be able to incite mine so well. I was never tempted to cry over the movie (except when going through my "where's my Gilbert?" phase), but I found myself tearing up repeatedly in response to the beauties of this book. Marilla's struggle between her love for Anne and her undemonstrative nature, Matthew's abject fear of the feminine sex but his care for Anne's ability to dress like the other girls, Anne's honest desire and struggle to do what is right despite her inclinations, and her naivete about her own heart with regard to Gilbert--all these things were transmitted so clearly and affectingly from the page to my heart. Even Mrs. Lynde was more endearing by Ms. Montgomery's telling. If this wonderful book has somehow not found its way into your personal library, buy it--put little stars next to the most wonderful parts, read it again. It is a treasure....more
**spoiler alert** I have been through a bunch of emotions regarding this book--nervousness prior to reading that it would be depressing; excitement at**spoiler alert** I have been through a bunch of emotions regarding this book--nervousness prior to reading that it would be depressing; excitement at being drawn into the book so completely upon meeting Charlie Gordon (he is impossible not to care about and like); enjoyment in observing the progression of exciting changes occurring within him and also in the way Keyes wrote him. I felt this book was speaking to me even more poignantly because I was a psychology student in college and the ethical issues surrounding Charlie's case seemed very real to me. About the middle of the book, I was thinking, "solid 4.5." A little while later, "oh well, a 4." By the end, it had become a 3. It's not that I couldn't handle the turn of events--actually, I found Charlie's flashbacks after the surgery to be sadder than the plot development at the end. I just began to be irritated with some of Keyes' philosophy, which was becoming clear to me by that time. But perhaps I'd better elaborate on the things I found good and insightful first. I really appreciated seeing workings of Charlie's mind as a mental retardate: his struggle to learn, his absence of memory, his complete inability to look beyond the surface, and yet his desire to be a part of the group and to be liked. I feel that my understanding of retardation has greatly benefited from Keyes’ insights. I also liked the different views of the people in Charlie’s life as his own vantage point changes. Although at each point in time his views of those around him are too black-and-white, too restrictive, the whole sum of them offers something rare to the reader. And, speaking of characters, I really loved Alice Kinnian. She is warm and compassionate, loyal, a servant, but also a woman with real conflicts and insecurities. I appreciated what she added to the story. On the other hand, there were some really hairy ideas about the universe around and “within” Charlie that irked me to varying degrees. Starting with the smallest, at the peak of his genius Charlie has a couple of “out-of-body,” “one-with-the-universe” type experiences. His being actually experiences the entropy which governs the universe and his consciousness physically expands until he is brought back by the past, which still has a hold on him. It reminded me of several different episodes of Star Trek, which is great for its genre, but why bring in something so sci-fi to a book meant to be plausible? Next to that, Keyes alludes to the story of Adam and Eve multiple times, and builds a theme around the idea that God cursed the two progenitors for eating from the “Tree of Knowledge,” which Charlie had presumably also done by desiring to be more intelligent than his retardation allowed. This was a mistake Keyes' editor should have caught, and that at least a few of his book reviewers might have pointed out as well. The actual tree in the Garden of Eden was called the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,” and had nothing to do with growing in intelligence, but gaining an experiential knowledge or relationship to evil that marred humankind’s ability to understand ANYTHING properly. Keyes’ representation of Judeo-Christian religion was that its followers are either neurotic, pharisaical, abusive, and overflowing with shame (like Rose) or anti-progress and not very smart (like the lady at the bakery). I absolutely hated what Keyes had to say about sex, and he said a lot. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising in a book with lots of psychology that there should also be so much importance placed on sex (we all know about Freud’s obsession with it, at least). But “sexual development,” if it could be called that, was at the beginning, middle, climax, and ending of Charlie’s story. His sexual urges caused his mother to mistreat and abandon him, his sexually repressed past plagued him as his intellect grew, his sexual experimentation with Fay helped him to “heal,” his consummation of his love for Alice “anchored him in the universe,” his freedom to peep across the alley at a woman showering at the end of the story, without the shame his mother had made him feel about such things, made Charlie different at the end—happier—than at the beginning. Sex is one of God’s own wonderful creations, and I’m in favor 100% when it’s the climactic expression of the marital bond, as it was intended to be. According to Keyes’ philosophy (which, in all fairness, does seem to be held by most of postmodern society), the sexual act is much like the necessary biological functions (eating, peeing, sleeping), first, in that it can be (although it doesn’t have to be) separated from the emotions and the soul, and second, if you abstain from it you will curl up and die. In truth, sex has on the one hand a great deal more, and on the other hand a great deal less importance than Keyes et al. ascribe to it, and so the viewpoint ends up being completely and utterly worthless. All that said, I mostly liked the ending. It felt optimistic, which was more than I expected at the outset. I only wished that I was as inclined to root for Charlie by the end as I was at the beginning. Sadly, I lost some of that floating around in Keyes' universe.