The devil went down to Moscow...and then pretty much wrecked the place.
While browsing at The Strand in Union Square, my friend plucked this book offThe devil went down to Moscow...and then pretty much wrecked the place.
While browsing at The Strand in Union Square, my friend plucked this book off a rack and said it in my best interest to read it. I flipped to the back, briefly skimmed the summary and bought it based on the sole fact that it was about Satan going to town on Pontius Pilate and Stalinist Russia.
Admittedly, I love trippy books that make me believe fantastical things could happen in everyday life. If I learn a little in the process, or am forced to reevaluate the way I approach the world, that's a plus. There's no doubt that "The Master and Margarita" has a lot to say about the Stalin era of communism; the book is peppered with references—some obvious, others barely noticeable—to people disappearing at the hands of the secret police. I don't know much about MIkhail Bulgakov, but I wouldn't be surprised if he based The Master a little on himself.
But political context aside, I just enjoyed this book. What's not to love when the book opens with the devil arguing with a group of atheist writers over the existence of God? The Master and Margarita is littered with Judeo-Christian lore and I love Bulgakov's take on Jesus', or rather Yeshua Ha-Nozri's, final days. If you can get behind a story within a story that often veers off into the fantastical, political and philosophical, this is the book for you.
A minor warning: the "plot" of the book is a bit convoluted. For instance, you don't meet The Master until chapter 13 and Bulgakov just kind of plunks you straight down into his wacky devil-induced chaos. And he's so thick and heavy with the Moscow-related and Biblical references, constantly flipping back and forth between footnotes can kinda break the book's flow. ...more
I had never heard of Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South" until my best friend nagged me some years ago to watch the BBC drama. I tried watching an eI had never heard of Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South" until my best friend nagged me some years ago to watch the BBC drama. I tried watching an episode, but I couldn't really get into it at the time. I was never a fan of period literature as a child/teen, but as I've come to appreciate the genre as I've grown older.
After finally watching the drama (and thoroughly enjoying it), I decided to give the book a whirl.
In many respects, "North and South" shares many aspects with Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." Protagonist Margaret Hale is a good deal more snooty and prejudiced than Elizabeth Bennet, but Mr. Thornton is pretty much a self-made Darcy. But whereas Austen tends to solely deal with moral issues and England's landed gentry, Gaskell delves into issues such as class disparity, religious dissent and the effects of rapid industrialization on societal mores.
For the most part, the plot is predictable and like most novels in the genre. But where "North and South" shines is in its characters. Margaret Hale is a plucky heroine, and yet is deeply flawed and often times quite unlikeable. It's almost impossible not to like the stoic and honorable Mr. Thornton. The best scenes generally involve two or three main characters clashing over their differing morales and mannerisms.
Where the book sometimes falters is in its lengthy descriptions. It's all very well to describe daily life in detail, but sometimes I felt the book would drag in areas I had little interest in and rush through events that I thought should be developed more.
All in all, a solid enjoyable read, though perhaps not as memorable as other classics in the same genre....more
I've been on a period drama kick recently and well, one of my best friends said Persuasion, though often overlooked, was one of her favorites in the gI've been on a period drama kick recently and well, one of my best friends said Persuasion, though often overlooked, was one of her favorites in the genre. So I watched the BBC drama, found it alright but somewhat stunted due to time constraints, and decided I would read the book.
Despite knowing what would happen, I found the book to be much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. I'd never been a huge Jane Austen fan when I was younger, so I found myself pleasantly surprised.
The book itself deals with the conflict between staying resolute to one's convictions and letting oneself be persuaded by others. Eight years before the start of the book, Anne Elliot is persuaded to break off an engagement with someone she loves as he has no fortune and an unstable life as a soldier. The book deals with the aftermath and their rather awkward reunion.
I loved that this was a book about an older woman on the verge of spinsterhood (in the Georgian Regency age, at least). A great deal of English period dramas involve people walking around (or sitting) and talking, but what I never noticed when I was younger was how much care people put into their words back then. People weren't as blunt or open as they are today, and courtship was incredibly marriage-driven.
Anne Elliot is no Elizabeth Bennet; she's much more timid and her strength is a quiet one. But nevertheless, you can't help rooting for her in light of her whackjob, frivolous family. ...more
Before reading Dubliners, the only thing I knew about James Joyce was that he had written some monstrosity called "Ulysses." I'd heard so much about hBefore reading Dubliners, the only thing I knew about James Joyce was that he had written some monstrosity called "Ulysses." I'd heard so much about how "unreadable" that book was and so I approached Dubliners with a bit of hesitation.
To my surprise, I was greeted with a pleasant collection of short stories that perfectly encapsulate middle-class Dublin in the early 20th century. They all follow a similar theme of a character arriving at some sort of internal epiphany and often times, subsequent stories feature characters that popped up in earlier shorts.
Off the top of my head, my favorites were "The Dead," "Clay" and "Eveline." This edition of the book has annotations to help clarify some bits that I would've never understood on my own—for instance, the significance of what Maria touches in the bowl in "Clay"—but flipping back and forth through the text and the annotations was at times, extremely tedious. Especially when the notes were to just explain geography.
All in all, a wonderful read that has bolstered my courage about one day doing battle with the great monstrosity Ulysses. ...more