Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a LonRichard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed. There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them. And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew.
The kind of fantasy I enjoy, which is to say, the kind that consists of a story contained within one book, that actually ends where the book ends, instead of spanning a dozen books, each one stopping right at the climactic point of the story. That I hate. This was pretty good. It was kind of neat because the world Richard falls into is largely the same London he was living in before, just very different. It was a quick read (Though not as quick as the timing of this post might make it seem - I actually started reading this a few days ago.) with a good quest story, with the good guys and the bad guys, and obstacles and challenges to overcome, and betrayals and shifting loyalties, and all that good stuff. Basically, I quite enjoyed it. Gaiman writes a good story with some entertaining characters and wry humour, and it was basically a good time....more
Fifteen-year-old Alex doesn't just like ultra-violence - he also enjoys rape, drugs, and Beethoven's Ninth. He and his gang rampage through a dystopiaFifteen-year-old Alex doesn't just like ultra-violence - he also enjoys rape, drugs, and Beethoven's Ninth. He and his gang rampage through a dystopian future, hunting for terrible thrills. But when Alex finds himself at the mercy of the state and subject to the ministrations of Dr. Brodsky, the government psychologist, he discovers that fun is no longer the order of the day...
The basis for one of the most notorious films ever made, A Clockwork Orange is both a virtuoso performance from an electrifying prose stylist and a serious exploration of the morality of free will.
OK, for starters, let's address the language issue. First, let me say that I understand what he was aiming to do. I understand that he didn't want to use actual current slang, for fear of dating the book. I understand that by choosing another language on which to base his teen slang (Russian), he also indicates that the teen violence issue is a universal one, not just localized in Britain. I understand that by using a foreign language, he effectively cuts the reader off from really identifying with Alex, and casts the reader in the role of the older generation, who doesn't always entirely get what the younger generation is saying. I get all that, and I even respect it. Nor do I have any problems, in principal, with authors inventing their own words.
However. I also feel that one should strive a bit more for a kind of balance between achieving all that stuff and creating a readable piece of writing. The trouble with going crazy with all the Russian words is that it becomes very difficult to figure out what anyone's saying at times. Yes, sometimes it's apparent from context, or because you've seen that particular word before; yes, there are glossaries available online; and yes, you could even consult an actual Russian dictionary. But when you have to consult your dictionary/glossary every other word for some spots, it really sucks a lot of the pleasure out of reading. Particularly as I didn't think it was necessary. Burgess invents so many words for this book that it becomes less of an interesting way of achieving the afore-mentioned results, and more downright irritating. There were plenty of sentences that I felt served no purpose except as a place to use one of his snazzy new words, and that, to me, just felt annoyingly self-indulgent. Also, if you're going to invent words like this, I feel that a) you shouldn't really introduce too many new ones after, say, part 1, and b) you should stick to words that will be used often enough to acclimate the reader to them. If a word is only going to appear once or twice, just use the English word.
And the other thing, if you're going to make up words, is that you should keep track of your words.
Keep track of their meanings. There were numerous instances where he would use a real word, and then immediately double it with his made-up word: "little malenky," "starry old," "good horrorshow," "big bolshy." These effectively translate to: "little little," "old old," "good good," and "big big." Now, one could argue that this was for effect, as we sometimes repeat words for that purpose, but considering the following points, I'm pretty confident chalking it up to carelessness on Burgess's part. Keep track of what you've invented. If you're already going to inundate the reader with scads of unfamiliar words, at least try to keep duplicates to a minimum. There's no need for two or three different unfamiliar words to express one concept. Keep track of your spellings. This one was mentioned in my edition's introduction by Blake Morrison, although I have to admit I only actually noticed one example myself. The word "horrorshow" was spelled thusly most of the time, but I spotted at least one time when he hyphenated it. All this added up to my being severely annoyed while reading this book, which is too bad, because I think the story is quite good. I don't quite know how Burgess manages, but he creates this character who is basically a monster, with no real personality to speak of aside from his feelings of musical superiority and enjoyment of pointless extreme violence, and makes you actually care about what happens to him. For heaven's sake, you actually feel bad for him when the tables are turned and he's the one getting savagely beaten. What the hell? How does this happen? I honestly don't know, but there it is. And then there's the whole exploration of free will, and consequences for actions, and the different paths people take, and the whole thing was just very interesting. Really is too bad about the excessive and irritating use of foreign language.
Oh, and last, I'd like to address the "controversial lost chapter." If you don't know the background, this book is divided into three parts, each with seven chapters, for a total of 21. The last chapter is the one in which Alex basically decides he's outgrown violence for violence's sake. When the book was first released in the US, this last chapter was dropped until 26 years later, and the movie that really made the story famous was also based on the truncated version. I've read a number of arguments in favour of leaving off the last chapter, but I think they're misguided.
First, there's the structural reasons of keeping it. The book is divided into three parts of seven chapters each. Dropping the last chapter messes that nice little symmetry up. Not only does it lose something of the aesthetic, but it also loses some symbolism. 21 is generally the age at which you're a grown-up anywhere in the world (unless you're trying to rent a car). Burgess didn't give this book 21 chapters and have Alex grow up in the twenty-first by accident, and I think it sucks to disregard that just because you liked where things were at the end of the twentieth chapter better. On that note, honestly, you like that better? Why would anyone prefer a book where the author, despite being through a hell of a ride, displays no emotional or character growth whatsoever? If you stop at the end of the twentieth chapter, Alex is in exactly the same place he was at the beginning. He hasn't learned anything, he hasn't grown as a person, he's gained absolutely nothing. Which means that from 15 to 18, he hasn't changed at all. What sense does that make? One's teen years tend to be among the most developmental of our distinct personalities, and how many people do you know came out at the end of them exactly the same as they started them? If there's going to be no change from beginning to end, you might as well just read the first chapter and call it a day. And thirdly, some people feel that by having Alex change his ways, Burgess is leaving things on an unrealistically optimistic and happy-fluffy note. I disagree. For one thing, just because Alex has changed doesn't mean the world has. His world is still full of teenaged hooligans, as evidenced both by his new set of friends, and by his old friend having become a cop who still delights in savage assault. And secondly, when he thinks about having a son, he stops himself from believing that by telling his son his story, he'll be able to keep him from the same path. He realizes that, in all likelihood, his son will be just as horrible as he was, and there's nothing he can do to avert that. He acknowledges that and accepts it as part of life. And personally, I think that's incredibly depressing, and not at all what I would consider fluffy or optimistic. Anyway, so that's that. I feel like what I just wrote is almost as long as the book itself... Glad I read it, because it was worthwhile, even if I really was irritated through most of it....more
Well, Don really wasn't kidding when he said the books get a lot darker as you progress through the series. This one was pretty iHarry Potter. Year 6.
Well, Don really wasn't kidding when he said the books get a lot darker as you progress through the series. This one was pretty intense, especially toward the end. And the way the set up for the final book is left at the end of this one definitely suggests it's not going to be particularly light and fluffy either. I'm not sure what else to say about it, really, except that Ron is still an idiot (although there does appear to be light at the end of that tunnel), and Harry's discovery of his feelings for Ginny were pretty cute. I still really think Ron and Hermione need to shut the hell up and just do it already, because all that ridiculous jealousy-provoking behaviour from the two of them was a little tiresome, but like I said, I think they are getting closer, finally. Hopefully the next book won't be quite so full of them snapping at each other all the time. And now I'm kind of just repeating myself, which is also tiresome, I'm sure. So I'll just leave it at that, I think.
Oh, except to say that I still haven't decided what I figure Snape's deal is. It seems he really is bad after all, but I just don't know. I just feel it would be a little disappointing to have been set up to believe he's a bad guy only to be disproven at the end of very book, and then to have it ultimately turn out that yep, he's been bad all along. But I just don't know.
Oh, and I meant to mention this in my last entry, but I forgot. It's more about the movie, but it's a book movie, so I'll mention it here. In the 4th HP movie, after the Yule Ball, the look on Harry's face is absolutely priceless. Daniel Radcliffe did an amazing job of conveying, with no words: "Hermione, as a girl, you make absofuckinglutely no sense whatsoever to me, and I haven't the foggiest idea what the hell you're upset about, but Ron, I'm quite sure it's your fault. You so suck for making her cry. Whatever it was you did to accomplish that. Idiot."...more
My Father's Dragon and its two sequels are books that Da read to us when we were little, and they're very cute. I'd actually kind of forgotten about tMy Father's Dragon and its two sequels are books that Da read to us when we were little, and they're very cute. I'd actually kind of forgotten about them until I started working with books and saw them again. Then I spotted an edition of all three books in one hardcover volume at a used book sale, and snapped it up. I don't have a blurb for it because it didn't have its dust jacket at that time, but suffice it to say that it's about a boy named Elmer who has adventures with a baby dragon named Boris, who is just about the cutest thing ever. And I figured that, after Moby-Dick, I needed something cute and fluffy. So I read this, which took about a day, but it certainly was cute and fluffy. If I ever find myself in a position to have to read a kid a story (and since I'm moving into my uncle and his soon-to-arrive new baby's building, I just might), I will for sure read these books. Because they're adorable. Especially Boris....more
Goethe's most complex and profound work, Faust was the effort of the great poet's entire lifetime. Written over a period of sixty years, it can be reaGoethe's most complex and profound work, Faust was the effort of the great poet's entire lifetime. Written over a period of sixty years, it can be read as a document of Goethe's moral and artistic development. As a drama drawn from an immense variety of cultural and historical material, set in a wealth of poetic and theatrical traditions, it can be read as the story of Western humanity striving restlessly and ruthlessly for progress.
Faust is made available to the English reader in a completely new translation that communicates both its poetic variety and its many levels of tone. The language is present-day English, and Goethe's formal and rhythmic variety is reproduced in all its richness. With stylistic ease the translation conveys both the sense and the tonal range of the German original without recourse to archaisms or to interpretive elaborations.
This was one that I decided to read for the sake of having read it, although I kind of hoped I'd actually enjoy it, too. I kinda didn't, really. The first half was OK, but the second was just so full of allegory and whatnot that you really lose the train of the story of Faust. And sure, maybe I can read it as "the story of Western humanity striving restlessly and ruthlessly for progress," but I didn't really get that from it, either. All I know is that Faust would just disappear for entire acts, during which we'd be introduced to a whole host of mythical and/or historical figures who would come in, say who they were (or not - this play would be even harder to follow onstage than it is on paper.), talk for a few lines, and then make way for the next one. I'm sure it all has a deeper meaning and everything, but I don't get it.
Beyond that, I'm really not too sure what else to say. It's a little difficult when you didn't have a clue what was going on half the time. Some passages were very pretty - I have a particular attachment to the passage where Gretchen is bemoaning her fate while she spins, because there's a gorgeous German song using that text that I'm just waiting for an opportunity to perform.
One other thing I observed is that I have absolutely no idea how on earth one would actually perform this play - especially in the time it was actually written. Nowadays, with enough money, you could probably pull off most of it. But there is some crazy shit in this play. A mountain erupts, people fly all over the place, burst into flames, there are instant set changes... Not to mention the bazillion characters. Even if you doubled, and tripled, and quadrupled, etc, the casting, you'd still need a massive cast. Perhaps it's not really meant to be performed. I'm sure it has been though, at least a few times, and it would be interesting to see.
In any case, it was a slog, but I got through....more
What happens to us after we die? Chris Nielsen had no idea, until an unexpected accident cut his life short, separating him from his beloved wife, AnnWhat happens to us after we die? Chris Nielsen had no idea, until an unexpected accident cut his life short, separating him from his beloved wife, Annie. Now Chris must discover the true nature of life after death.
But even Heaven is not complete without Annie, and when tragedy threatens to divide them forever, Chris risks his very soul to save Annie from an eternity of despair.
Richard Matheson's powerful tale of life - and love - after death was the basis for the Oscar-winning film starring Robin Williams.
OK, this is definitely one of those books that makes you wonder whether or not the person writing the blurb even read the book. Point 1: "Annie" is referred to as such in the book exactly twice, both times in the same scene. Twice. Every other time, she is Ann. That is her name, that is what Chris calls her, and there's simply no reason to call her Annie in the blurb. Point 2: "tragedy threatens to divide them forever"? "an eternity of despair"? Sounds reasonable, except that if you'd read the book, you would know that "forever" in this case consists of twenty-four years. It is stated explicitly that they will be separated for twenty-four years. Point 3: This lovely-sounding love story really isn't.
And therein lies my main issue with this book. To read the back, you would think, as it suggests, that it's a love story, with kind of a questing bent, as Chris has to go through hell to rescue his wife. Yeah, it's not. It starts out OK, with the accident, and Chris's death. But then starts the part where he tries to convince himself it's all a dream. During this time, he's essentially a ghost, to use more familiar terminology than Matheson uses, and he refuses to believe he's actually dead. This goes on rather too long, if you ask me. Then he finally figures it out, and spends a while (again, too much of a while) trying to stay with his family, and communicate with them to let them know he's still around. Then he finally ascends to heaven, or "Summerland," and the really boring part begins. Pretty much the entire time he spends in heaven is filled with other people explaining to him how it all works. Oh. My. God, the tedium of it all.
About halfway through the book, Ann's tragedy finally occurs, and you think, "Yay! Now that quest part can start." Yeah, no. First we have to listen to more dull explanations of what happens in "the lower realms," and why it's not a good idea for Chris to attempt a rescue. Even once they actually start out on this adventure, it's still very very expository, and Chris (and we) is told repeatedly that "you don't understand how bad it will be," and "this is nothing; it gets worse," leading me to believe that Matheson really never understood the writing lesson of show, don't tell. There are some OK moments during the quest, and in fact, the ultimate resolution was actually really nice. Chris' sudden realization and acceptance of the fact that if he can't save her, heaven won't be heaven for him, so he might as well stay with her. That way, they'll be together, and she won't be alone. And really, that moment, where he gives up heaven for love of his wife, was really beautiful.
And then we go back to heaven, and have a wrap-up consisting of a lengthy and boring explanation of the process of rebirth. So basically, the story part of this book took up maybe a quarter of it, and the rest was more of a... manifesto, almost, about Matheson's views, beliefs, divinely inspired knowledge, whatever, about the afterlife. Only, instead of classifying it as New Age, where the rest of such things usually live, he had to go and cloak it in a veil of fiction, and not even have the blurb written in such a way that you realize this is going to be a load of crap (see The Celestine Prophecy). And that was very disappointing, because the idea of the story is good. Not entirely original (Orpheus & Euridice, anyone), but still good. And this book? Pretty much sucked.
Also, one of Chris's kids (who by the way, apparently aren't worthy of much concern from their deceased father; he's all about Ann, pretty much all the time, even after she dies too - doesn't he give any thought to the fact that his kids are now orphans?), is named Richard. Seriously. And to name a character after yourself - even a minor character - is really kind of weird, as a general rule....more
Long acknowledged as a master of nightmarish visions, HP Lovecraft established the genuineness and dignity of his own pioneering fiction in 1931 withLong acknowledged as a master of nightmarish visions, HP Lovecraft established the genuineness and dignity of his own pioneering fiction in 1931 with his quintessential work of supernatural horror, At the Mountains of Madness. The deliberately told and increasingly chilling recollection of an Antarctic expedition's uncanny discoveries - and its encounter with untold menace in the ruins of a lost civilization - is a milestone of macabre literature.
So, Glenn warned me that Lovecraft is actually a little dry, and the warning was appreciated, although "dry" isn't quite the word I'd use. I can see why one would, though. It's told in a very scientific, analytical kind of way, which means there's a LOT of detailed descriptions of things. Right down to measurements. And that could become tedious at times. That said, it was not quite as tedious as I expected.
The style of writing at the time of this book was much less in-your-face about horrible things, leaving much more to the imagination than more current writers do. Which can be good, but less effective when whatever you're imagining just isn't that scary. Don't get me wrong; if I found myself in the situation of this book, or came in contact with any of the creatures involved, I'd be scared out of my tree. But something about the way it was all presented in this book, just didn't bring me to the depths of horror that a "master of nightmarish visions" should be able to.
The build-up was actually really well done. I got sucked in, I had a certain trepidation about what might be found around the next corner, and despite the interminable descriptions in some places, I really think he did a good job of setting the scene and the mood. The end was just so abrupt, and because it was still delivered in that analytical way, I think it lacked the visceralness that would help provoke the emotional response and fear that one is kind of looking for a in a horror novel. I don't know precisely what he could have done differently other than resorting to piles of gore to make it more scary, but I just felt something was lacking. I think I might add Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket to my list, as it's widely accepted to be a major inspiration for at least part of this book, and Lovecraft himself has said that he was trying to do with the ending of his book what Poe did with the ending of his, so maybe I'd get more out of Poe.
But it was solidly different from the last book, and I can now say I've read some Lovecraft. And it really wasn't too painful....more
I was thinking that this book was rather more like the ones of hers I enjoyed reading some years ago, and then I discovered that it was first publisheI was thinking that this book was rather more like the ones of hers I enjoyed reading some years ago, and then I discovered that it was first published in 1996. That explains it, and does contribute to answering my wondering as to whether her writing has gone downhill or whether I've just outgrown it.
Don't get me wrong; it's still total not-especially-well-written fluff (Among other issues, it included the words "equally as." Automatic fail.). But this was vastly better fluff than the last few of hers I've read. I called most of the twists, but at least they were there and not totally lame, and this book did share a feature with an earlier one that I found very effective: the final-page twist. This one didn't leave me as unsettled as the other one, but it was still reasonably effective.
Also, I don't consider myself especially uptight or anything, but it was kind of nice that the romantic leads did not start the book married to other people. What can I say? It was a nice change from the last few of hers that I've read....more
When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dWhen it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact.
On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun - but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove the Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl.
Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself by Printz medalist John Green, acclaimed author of Looking for Alaska.
I was introduced to the work of John Green by my roommate, who got me hooked on a series of video blogs that he and his brother posted for a year. Finding these guys awesome, said roommate went out and bought John Green's books to date (there's another on the way). This is the first one I've read, and it was pretty awesome.
It's a teen book, so it starts out with your typical teen situation: teenager gets dumped. Being a heart-broken teenager, he behaves like one, which could have become tiresome, but through John Green's writing style, you kind of come around. Sure, Colin's still pretty self-absorbed and prone to the occasional bout of histrionics, but as the heartbreak recedes, who he really is starts to emerge, and he's kind of cool. At least, cool to those of us who think useless-trivia-spouting, painfully geeky boys are cool.
I think I would have enjoyed the book even if I had no idea who John Green was, but having watching his blogs for so long, I can now hear his voice in my head when I'm reading his work, and as his delivery is as good as his writing, I think that adds to the experience. Especially all the footnotes. He's included various tangents and extra bits of information (especially when Colin starts on something and other characters shut him down - you can read the rest of what he might have said in the footnotes) all over the place, and those are particularly awesome. It exactly the sort of information members of my family tend to spout off at random times, or go out of our way to look it up if the subject has somehow arisen and we don't know the answer. Being the huge word geek that I am, I also loved Colin's anagramming ways, and how he comes up with all kinds of eerily relevant anagrams to various things.
The ending was relatively predictable, but sweet, and there were a number of other things that were not - one of my favourites being a revelation relating to some of the Katherines, and as a whole, I really enjoyed this book, and look forward to the next one that pops up on my list. Oh, and I'm so recommending this one to my brother. I think he'd get a kick out of it....more
This one was interesting, with all the glimpses into the past life, but it still felt a bit like more filler. As I said for the previous one, I reallyThis one was interesting, with all the glimpses into the past life, but it still felt a bit like more filler. As I said for the previous one, I really think these two books could have been combined into one. The last one was all introspection and questioning the relationship with Daniel, and this is really just a continuation of that theme, brought to its conclusion. A few of the lives could have been skipped, glossed over or shortened, and nothing crucial would have been lost. Instead we'll have a book 4, which is just not right.
Interesting book. Not a biography in the traditional sense of the word, but more of a comparative study of sorts between the various legends and whatInteresting book. Not a biography in the traditional sense of the word, but more of a comparative study of sorts between the various legends and what is actually known (as little as that is) about him. The conclusion of this particular author seems to be that despite all the horrible stories about Dracula, he wasn't really all that much worse than most other rulers of that time. It was a pretty bloody and disgusting time, and lots of bloody and disgusting things happened to a lot of people at the hands of a lot of people. How Dracula ended up with the worst reputation is not entirely clear. Maybe because he ultimately lost his wars.
Anyway, as I said, interesting book, and worth reading if one is interested in the subject matter....more
The hubby picked this up a little while ago, and I read through it in bits and pieces. It was an interesting read, giving me an overview of many musicThe hubby picked this up a little while ago, and I read through it in bits and pieces. It was an interesting read, giving me an overview of many musicals I don't actually know. I particularly like that he provides recommendations for recordings of the shows (although of the ones I actually know, I don't agree with all his assessments - especially when he states that the Complete Miss Saigon has no weak links. I personally feel that John on that recording is dreadful.).
I also don't entirely agree with his list of the 100 best musicals. He gets credit for including some more avant-garde and modern selections, and he wins my favour by including just about everything Stephen Sondheim has written to date, but he's also left out some that I think should be on there. Of course right this second, I can't remember which ones, but in any case, surprise surprise. His and my lists wouldn't be identical.
Ultimately, it's a handy little reference book, and Inverne provides some amusing little bits of trivia and anecdotes that make it a pretty entertaining read as well....more