The gothic horror is eerie, phenomenal, memorable, has quite the ending, and I highly recommend it. So far this is my favorite of what I’ve read by Wi...moreThe gothic horror is eerie, phenomenal, memorable, has quite the ending, and I highly recommend it. So far this is my favorite of what I’ve read by Wilde.
"I can resist anything but temptation" well-defines the book's main theme. Dorian repeatedly gives into temptation, starting with remaining handsomely young. The hedonist makes sure he’s seen among Society at the proper events, becomes enamored with a string of women, takes to visiting opium dens, etc. Even when Dorian knows he’s behaving atrociously, he makes no correction simply because he can get away with it.
Dorian represents the decadence and indulgence of Victorian society. Anybody who was anybody was expected to attend the social affairs. If they didn’t, tongues would wag and they would be shunned. The division between the classes and the snubbing of the lower class are also apparent. It can be said that Dorian was slumming it when he secretly visited the opium dens in the poor parts of London. Of the opinion that only the lower classes commit crimes, Lord Henry says, "I should fancy that crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations".
The Picture of Dorian Gray was ill received and controversial when it was published in 1891. Not only did it portray Victorian society in a poor light, but homosexual relationships went against Society’s genteel grain. Nowadays, Wilde's masterpiece is a classic recommended by many, myself included. (less)
First published in 1983, the Mists of Avalon is a retelling of Camelot’s story from the perspectives of Morgaine, Avalon’s High Priestess, and Gwenhwy...moreFirst published in 1983, the Mists of Avalon is a retelling of Camelot’s story from the perspectives of Morgaine, Avalon’s High Priestess, and Gwenhwyfar, to name a few. Unlike in other versions, Arthur, Lancelot, and Merlin are supporting characters. Among her thoughts in regard to Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, MZB wrote:
"When I read Malory I noticed specially that Morgan le Fay, and the Lady of the Lake (with her many 'damsels') were frequently portrayed as Arthur’s friends and allies — but equally often as his antagonists. Yet their 'evil' was never motivated, except, occasionally, to test the faith of the knights, either in God, or in 'true love'...This whole thing took place in a Celtic milieu, after all, where the women were integral to the whole thing. Malory minimized the women; he made them into villains, nitwits, and evil sorceresses (remember Morgan attacking King Uriens with murderous intent, but when she was held back by her stepson Uwaine, she had no excuse except 'The devil made me do it'). But Malory could not get rid of them entirely."
Cultural and religious beliefs and the shift from the old ways to the new are portrayed respectfully and accurately. One of the reasons the Mists of Avalon is comparable to other Arthurian lore is that MZB’s extra homework shows. Under the pens of MZB and Diana L. Paxson, Avalon became a series, which Paxson continues.(less)
I loved Speaker for the Dead, almost more than Ender's Game. The anthropology stance was fascinating and the plot with its themes compelling. Readers...moreI loved Speaker for the Dead, almost more than Ender's Game. The anthropology stance was fascinating and the plot with its themes compelling. Readers expecting more action and wargames will be disappointed.
Card tends to explore concepts that one can really bite into. The idea for Speaker for the Dead arose because he was dissatisfied with the way funerals are used to:
"make them into a person much easier to live with than the person who actually lived...to understand who a person really was, what his or her life really meant, the speaker for the dead would have to explain their self-story- what they meant to do, what they actually did, what they regretted, what they rejoiced in. That’s the story that we never know, the story that we never can know- and yet, at the time of death, it’s the only story truly worth telling."
It's out of Card working on Speaker for the Dead that Ender’s Game came to be. Although part of the Ender Saga, both of them stand on their own. Recommended. (less)
I spent many nights burning the midnight candle to see what happened next. I'm not usually into mysteries, but really liked and recommend the Woman in...moreI spent many nights burning the midnight candle to see what happened next. I'm not usually into mysteries, but really liked and recommend the Woman in White.
The suspense thriller has a complex plot full of twists and turns, drama, and more questions than answers. As Collins states in the preamble, the story is "told by more than one pen, as the story of an offence against the laws is told in Court by more than one witness". Drawn from his legal training, the narration method makes the mystery move quickly while giving a three dimensional view of everyone involved.
Under the guise of a sensation novel, Collins comments on England’s Victorian society. He shows how easy it was for women to be financially taken advantage of. The notions that one sex and class was better than the other is very apparent. Having read the Black Robe, I can see how the Woman in White is considered to be among his best works. His later social commentaries follow a less thrilling vein.
Written in 1859, the epistolary novel is considered to be among the first English detective novels and a forerunner for modern mystery and suspense. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes didn’t appear until about twenty years later. Collins used devices that are still characteristic of modern mysteries.
It's a shame he only wrote two mysteries, the Moonstone being the other. They're great reads, but I preferred the Woman in White because it's more of an edge-of-your-seat suspense thriller. (less)
Equus has been a favourite for several years. I’ve read the play countless times, saw the same production two nights in a row, and watched the film ve...moreEquus has been a favourite for several years. I’ve read the play countless times, saw the same production two nights in a row, and watched the film version with Richard Burton. It’s one of the few plays that never gets stale, there's always something new.
A teenage boy undergoes therapy after committing a crime on the basis that "what the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve over". How and why could he do such a thing? That’s for the psychiatrist and audience to find out. Intense and dark, Equus is about society’s norms and religion. Shaffer takes a look at how beliefs are formed and what makes them valid or not.
Despite its intensity, Equus is morbidly beautiful. Or perhaps, its beauty is in part because of its intensity. It’s well written and is a relatively quick read. Although I’ve read other, lighter plays by Peter Shaffer, this one is still my favorite. I highly recommend it in any format available.
"The Normal is the good smile in a child’s eyes- all right. It is also the dead stare in a million adults. It both sustains and kills- like a God. It is the Ordinary made beautiful; it is also the Average made lethal. The Normal is the indispensable, murderous God of Health."
Whether one is into fantasy or not, the 430-page collection is a fine edition to anyone's library. It contains the novels "The Last Unicorn", "A Fine...moreWhether one is into fantasy or not, the 430-page collection is a fine edition to anyone's library. It contains the novels "The Last Unicorn", "A Fine and Private Place", and the short stories "Come, Lady Death" and "Lila, the Werewolf". Each is different from the others, showing Beagle's range in storytelling and writing styles.
"A Fine and Private Place" centers around a mausoleum where a recluse who speaks with the dead is offered a chance at happiness. It’s wit, charm, sadness, and beauty make it a fine and memorable piece, and definitely worth revisiting. Impressively, it's Beagle's first novel, written when he was 19.
"The Last Unicorn" follows the Unicorn who teams up with Schmendrick the Magician and a bandit leader’s wife to find out what happened to the other unicorns. It's a fantasy story that children and adults alike can enjoy. As usual the movie adaptation omitted some of the story, including the book’s end.
"Lila the Werewolf" is self-explanatory and was okay. "Come, Lady Death" is a humorous, fantasy-spin about the superficial social politics of the 19th century. It was really amusing.