The quintessential young adult novel of America complete with a teen narrator speaking in his own repetitive, angsty voice. Like The Great Gatsby, Sal...moreThe quintessential young adult novel of America complete with a teen narrator speaking in his own repetitive, angsty voice. Like The Great Gatsby, Salinger's book is an exercise in recreating oneself for an audience; in Fitzgerald's book, we get the tale of James Gatz going for no one to big shot by adapting and adopting a personality distinct from his own. In Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is the reader's main connection to the story, but he admits it himself: he's a bit of a liar.
It's not so difficult to understand why Catcher in the Rye is a book so highly regarded by high schoolers. Holden objectifies everything, blows everything off, and dreams of escaping everything he knows -- sounds like most people's teenage years. Simply put, his devil-may-care attitude is easy to admire. Of course, older readers recognize that he's a completely unreliable narrator who's as full of himself as he is of excrement.
That said, this book should remain a staple of the high school curriculum for two main reasons. One, that it's always good to have To Kill a Mockingbird joined by a book that is both accessible and, as myriad academics will tell you, has many many layers. Two, as a counterweight to the YA books whose prose is so immoderately juvenile that they are impossible to read without wanting to twine the pages into a noose. In, The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger writes in the voice of a teenager, but in a mode that captures Holden's speech pattern without annoying me. Give this one a prize!
The first and last hundred pages of Moby Dick are perhaps the best pages in all of American literature. They are active, engaging, intelligent, full o...moreThe first and last hundred pages of Moby Dick are perhaps the best pages in all of American literature. They are active, engaging, intelligent, full of beautiful language and meaning. They are what make a classic -- pages that one can consider and reconsider indefinitely. The 250 or so pages in the middle are informative with occasional plot. Not bad, but with some exceptions, not nearly as gripping as the bookends.
What most surprised me about Moby Dick was its apparent levity; Ishmael's narrative was humorous at times, descending into punning even. For a book that is popularly billed as a dark character study, Ahab is sparse, preferring to suffer his obsession in the privacy of his cabin rather than at the forefront of the narrative. Truly though, I almost upturned my lunch table when the sailors on the Pequod broke out into song. Several parts in the book I read aloud to my wife because I couldn't keep Melville's wit to myself.
In the field of big books, Moby Dick is rightly thought an excellent addition. Compared with War and Peace perhaps, the whale book drags. Compared with 100 Years of Solitude it's far less epic. But on its own, as a textbook on the whaling industry of the mid-1800s, a yarn that has entangled the mind of popular culture with its influence, and a book full of depth - heavy with the intelligence of its author but buoyed by the personality of its sub-sub librarian narrator - Moby Dick lives on. (less)
A half-decent travelogue with memorable characters met in Italy, India, and Bali. Had the narrator not felt the need to qualify every other thing she...moreA half-decent travelogue with memorable characters met in Italy, India, and Bali. Had the narrator not felt the need to qualify every other thing she said I am not have felt the need to scream at my CD player. It's okay though, the other people on the road thought I was yelling at them.
In actuality, there are some insightful moments in the story.
This book is probably better suited to women than men, older than younger, preferably divorced. So it is not strange that I did not connect with everything Elizabeth Gilbert delves into.
Still, I can't say I'm completely disappointed with the book. If anything, she's a good reader.(less)
Having read Brave New World in high school, my return to Huxley's book was characterized by certain fleeting expectations; a need for something grand;...moreHaving read Brave New World in high school, my return to Huxley's book was characterized by certain fleeting expectations; a need for something grand; characters who fill out a text. Yet upon my return to this book, I found that while certain aspects (the sexual mores of the Happy Society, the "corrupted" Controller, the herd mentality) remained unchanged in rereading, others (the book's scale, the protagonist, the pacing) have suffered.
Huxley's book envisions a world that is frightening in its rejection of individual thought, and solitude in general. A trend that is becoming all the more present in today's world. In the rampant consumerism promoted to the people in the Brave New World, I see more parallels to our society. In these themes, Brave New World is very much a prescient piece of work. It show us ourselves as seen all those years ago.
Parts of the book, however, can't help but seem quaint. Remnants of Huxley's personal arguments finding expression in his most famous novel. John's worship of Shakespeare's work, for example, is an understandable plot point, but finally an exhausting one. Not because I'm not familiar with the plays alluded to, but simply because for a person to draw his moral compass from the varied works of the Bard is not easy to swallow whole. One would think that John could see past the conflicts of Othello, Hamlet, The Tempest into his own life. He doesn't though, instead, his main responses are anger and frustration.
Every character, it appears, has a sort-of basic psychological makeup that creates characters that, while good enough, aren't altogether memorable. Sure, they work as an ensemble, but individually, we get barely below the surface.
To be sure, there is plenty to talk about in Brave New World. I can see why it remains a book that is still frequently on reading lists. Likewise, it would be as vital a discussion-piece as The Help. For individual reading though, I think there are other dystopian novels that possess more heft. (less)
I have a bit of history with Fahrenheit 451. I first tried to read it in my teenage years and gave up before getting one hundred pages in. Later, in c...moreI have a bit of history with Fahrenheit 451. I first tried to read it in my teenage years and gave up before getting one hundred pages in. Later, in college, I found a recording of Bradbury reading it and savored the story. Most recently, my library joined with the city of West Hollywood in a City Reads program and had a whole month dedicated to F451 in which every week had a program or two dedicated to the book and its author.
My third experience with Fahrenheit 451 still finds me intrigued by the book. Though short, it has many layers of meaning that easily lead to endless discussions. Implications of various plot points can be isolated and enlarged upon...And the poetry. Well, Bradbury wrote poetry as poetry and it was mostly forgettable, but his prose, particularly sections of Fahrenheit 451 (as opposed to his notable short story collections) were truly extraordinary in their dense, meaningful language. No need for line breaks, just read it out loud and the reap the rewards.
So I enjoyed this book and appreciated it. Likely, I'll do it the fourth and fifth time too. A classic is a book that gets better than more you read it. Though it's not in any way epic, Bradbury's book is definitely set to become one in my mind. If only because it's meaningful in addition to being readable.(less)