I'm gonna reread this – maybe after I finish On the Road, for the second time, and Desolation Angels – and do a better-thunk-out review, because I thiI'm gonna reread this – maybe after I finish On the Road, for the second time, and Desolation Angels – and do a better-thunk-out review, because I think this book deserves it. After a first read, my impression was that the path of The Dharma Bums has highs and lows, like the mountainous country around which most of the book is based. I liked the first half-ish, the climb with Japhy and Morley; the third quarter was a bit dull (read: hitchhiking and family disagreements); the last quarter I loved and found to be the most poetic, the most poignant and hopeful. A quality of hopefulness is not (in my experience) as common with Kerouac as with Ginsberg or other Beat poets, so I really appreciated it here, though it still made me sad. Made me want to live in the mountains alone myself and find simplicity. But emotional reactions aside, it's good to get into reading Kerouac again. TBC....more
This book is helping me to get my head out of an awful depression and toward self-love and acceptance. I've read similar Buddhist self helpish books bThis book is helping me to get my head out of an awful depression and toward self-love and acceptance. I've read similar Buddhist self helpish books before, since that spiritual path is one I feel drawn to – but none of the other books affected me quite like this one. If anyone could motivate me to meditate – a good habit I always quit in favour of yoga, though I knew that both would be beneficial – it's Cheri Huber and this easily readable, relatable intro to some Zen Buddhist philosophy. Of course, in order to really grow from this book I'll have to maintain a meditation practice. Yet I feel that the boulder in my brain has shifted enough to allow me to do that and not drown in despair first. So I highly recommend you read There Is Nothing Wrong With You – if you feel open to learning that there really isn't....more
For some reason I can't quite five-star this one. I'd give the first two (which I read this summer but have neglected to review, as of yet) five starsFor some reason I can't quite five-star this one. I'd give the first two (which I read this summer but have neglected to review, as of yet) five stars in a second. Maybe the end can't help but be disappointing, though I don't really feel that Endingness is the problem here, if I can even call anything a problem. I was riveted, I laughed a lot, I had my share of moments calling on Oh Fuck to be my cosmic helper.
What I'm able to pin down right now is that it doesn't seem exactly satisfying that so many of those left on Earth after the Waterless Flood came together, knew each other intimately already, were able to restart from sort-of scratch with ease. I know, it's well set up: some of the Gardeners, the Painballers, and the unnecessarily lucky (Ren being safe in Scales & Tails solitary, for example) were all more likely than most to survive the Flood. And hey, so they mostly knew each other beforehand. In Atwood's strongly-woven context it's believable, but somehow it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Yeah, I know, it's great storytelling, not Fusion cookery; so suck it up, Amber. Yet it's obvious that this book is of a far different type than Oryx and Crake is, and even different from The Year of the Flood, intermediary as that one is. MaddAddam is less gritty, more story-like. I somehow wasn't prepared for that difference.
It's still most certainly on my shelf-of-honour. Idiosyncratically, I am obliged to give space on that shelf to anything that makes me cry buckets of salty confusion, the Why-What-Bitter-Happy-Over-Sadness syndrome. I promise myself I'll come back to this review and fix it when I've had more time to examine all of its knots in my head....more
**spoiler alert** "Dammit, well that's Jane Eyre wrecked for me."
Or so probably every one of this book's readers has said upon closing it at the end**spoiler alert** "Dammit, well that's Jane Eyre wrecked for me."
Or so probably every one of this book's readers has said upon closing it at the end. (Or the ones who've read Eyre already and were fans ... so not every single one. I digress.) I stopped saying it myself after giving the book a little time to digest, because I realized that Rhys's novel deeply enriches Bronte's. It is a darkly poetic masterpiece on its own, and improves still more as a commentary on Jane Eyre. Feminists, as most of us intelligent people are these days - in attitude, if not in name - will squirm at their former unawareness, carelessness about the crazy woman in the attic. Of course, awareness or not, the Antoinettes of the world still suffered, still suffer. Unlike Bronte's, Rhys's book remains relevant to us, I think.
A beautiful, beautiful work of denied history and resurfacing spirit....more
Another review I just saw (almost totally unrelated ... oh well) reminded me I should give this five stars. I have loved C&H for years. One of myAnother review I just saw (almost totally unrelated ... oh well) reminded me I should give this five stars. I have loved C&H for years. One of my greatest disgusts with generally-sad newspaper comics is that Calvin and Hobbes are not there.
Chronicling the practically endless exploits of fine young Calvin, his stuffed (?!) tiger Hobbes, and occasionally others: Calvin's wartorn parents (especially his fabulously sardonic dad), the ever-sappy neighbourhood kid Susie, and long-suffering teacher Miss Wormwood. I can't properly describe these comics. Seriously, just go try them. Or retry them. Alternately wry, uproariously funny and heartwarming, they will capture the heart of anyone who's ever had – anyone who's ever been a child. Watterson's illustrations and his dialogues are equally brilliant. There is not one strip that won't have you smiling, at the very least. The very stuff to read when you're at all pressed by negative feelings. Laughter is good for the soul, as hereby proven.
However. One minor cautionary note, potential readers:
Calvin is a freaky kid. Damn realistic, though - nicely caricatured but realistic, hence artistic. Did I mention sadistic? (Apologies.) Reminds me of myself, not too far beyond his age. If he'd owned Barbie dolls, he would totally have played out his unconscious fascination with violence and its emotional ramifications through WWIII pseudo-Holocaust Barbie games.
One of my current book-related sorrows is that I left my copy of this collection at home when I came to university. I just had to pick and choose. This is coming back with me next time I travel home, though.
I found you by chance, my darling, on one of those voracious raids I make on Chapters when lucky enough to get near a city with one. I was thinking neI found you by chance, my darling, on one of those voracious raids I make on Chapters when lucky enough to get near a city with one. I was thinking nervously of starting university in a few months, altogether doubtful of my worthiness to pursue an English degree, and this caught my eye. I knew nothing, or at least believed I did – or was afraid to believe in my grasp of anything at all. I decided it was high time I Took an Interest In Literary Theory. (My, my, aren't we a gung-ho little English major?) So I picked you up, slim volume that you are, and read you over a series of happy, early-morning book-with-coffee sessions. I kept notes while I read through you, silly notes of what was truly a mind-stretching lecture so valuably committed to paper. Immature as I was, you shaped me and deserve the truth, wonderful little book. This tribute cannot be enough, but here is a selection of what I was thinking about you.
"I am thus far hooked. I've read the first chapter through twice, and comprehended that much more for the extra reading. This is, hopefully, just what I need to reaffirm and elaborately develop my knowledge of how important literature... truly is to humankind, individual and social. It makes so much sense. 'The motive for metaphor ... is a desire to associate, and finally to identify, the human mind with that goes on outside it....' Yes, I know he's right, because I've experienced it. I am familiar with, amorous for that sense of connection with the entire world..." - - - - "It's such a basic statement, yet such a broad one... we use the imagination to create joy, and joy is created chiefly through the use of imagination (is basically what Frye is saying.... Note to self: look up D.H. Lawrence [after admiring an excerpt from "Song of a Man Who Has Come Through"].
"This is helping me find new ways to view life and literature in their primary relation to each other... I've always had this sense that most of the 'great' stories are hopeless ones, and that if I lived a blessed and optimistic life, it seemed less and les likely that I could become a 'person of literature.' But how could I bear to live in a world of no happy endings at all – of sad, inevitable pattern? "Now I'm beginning to see, perhaps, another way. We write of our dark times, and of the hope that we may rise above them to be happy again.... the cycle Frye mentions is still happening, "of how man once lived in a golden age .. how that world is lost, and how we may some day be able to get it back again." -- - - "Funny how the stories a child invents are imaginary, while from a writer the same creations are deemed imaginative. Of course, when you think about it, the latter implies far more intention. If a child's games or tales hold symbolic elements that are also within literary convention ... The writer designs, specifically for the purpose of – what? Well, I guess that's what I'm reading this for.... Ah, and now he's connecting religion, science, politics –>allegories –>literature. Trés passionant, à moi. - - - - "So now I've got a good deal ahead of me. Yay. My ultimate goal? To decipherFinnegan's Wake. Without help. And right now? To read the Bible. Kind of makes me feel a tad nauseous. ... so I see that before I go for Paradise Lost I need to have a thorough understanding of the Bible and classic mythology. Damn, will I ever get to read these things? (I expect the same would go for The Iliad and The Odyssey ... god, don't know if I can even spell that....)"
- - - - - - -
"How can this talk have been given in 1962? It's today, it's me, it's us.
"I'm breathing fast and my brain fears to think as fast as it wants to; the dangers of hyperspeed are formidable. Yet I cannot wait to start reading this book again.
"It has everything I need right now, all that I've needed for months and cried about, literally and internally, for countless hours. The answers are here, for me: I hold them in this slim volume that was written forty-seven years ago and I could cry once again, with gratitude and relief and the transformative power of new-discovered insight.
"I know where I went wrong, and why (or most of why ... we are, after all, complex beings – but I can see now what [names of several counsellors] and myself never saw before). I know what's been unproductive over my months of struggling with spirit and mind. And I am beginning to know what to do next.
**spoiler alert** Composed of striking language and equally striking ideas, this book had me hooked by about page two. I loved the time-travel. I love**spoiler alert** Composed of striking language and equally striking ideas, this book had me hooked by about page two. I loved the time-travel. I loved the adventure. I loved the philosophical debating, and wished I was well-versed in modern philosophy to understand more of it. I loved the romance, especially (OOPS, SPOILER) the contrast between Kitty & Richard's and Susan & James's. I loved the socialism. Heck, I loved the full-blown Communism. I loved the accumulating criticism of the occult, the Church, and the government that leave thinking people with nothing to depend on besides themselves.
For me, though, the most memorable part of the intrigue is the heroes who battle through it. James, Susan, Kitty and Richard – I hope that I'll someday know more real people I appreciate and admire this much. They remind me of the best people I already know. Brave, impetuous, insightful, stubborn, witty, vulnerable, strong all in their own ways, relentlessly real through 'their own' voices, so wonderfully articulated by their creators. Steven Brust and Emma Bull have transformed the way I think about characterization. As it would appear from my rating, I see this transformed view as a positive thing. Right? Well, it's maybe bad, in that I'm not sure if it's heightened my discernment or narrowed my mind. I have a new, incontrovertible yardstick by which to measure each literary protagonists I meet and it's going to make me a hell of a lot pickier. But I also enjoy the challenge of unravelling why they're such great characters.
It's partially the merit of the format. Letters and journal entries portray not only how the characters know themselves, but how they know each other; we see how they themselves, and their relationships, transform. We understand them differently, with the strangely distanced intimacy that comes of peering into somebody's personal life. Which is enormously stimulating. Traditional prosaic chapters in third-person or even first-person can't achieve that to the same degree. (The only thing that bothers me is wonder WHEN Susan, in particular, had time to write thirty-odd page letters, sometimes more than once in a day. And was the postal service really as efficient as it appears? That's my thinking, dull & practical. But since unlimited writing time seems to be an oddity with epistolary novels in general, I won't hold it against this one.)
The main four aren't the only ones to almost dumbfound me with admiration. Engels and Mary are fantastic; in a perfect world Brust and Bull would have written a companion novel about those two .... I had thought that Thomas Cavanaugh might end up sacrificing himself to rescue Richard midway through, but luckily I was wrong, as he played an even more satisfying role later on. My heart bled for Henry, because I recognize him – I think we all do – his exuberance and his naïve belief in immortality. I treasured even the briefest sketches, like the one of Marx: "... a good-natured lion that can take your breath away even in casual conversation."
So it was not only the exceptionally intriguing plot, but deep investment in the characters that sucked me through the story. I couldn't help feeling as edgy as Kitty must have, hearing of the action but helpless to affect anything. I was convinced, near the end, that her 'visions' were going to prove wholly irrelevant, and James was fated to die. James's death seemed unbearable, and yet "right" to me, believing the prediction was a simple matter of amassing clues.That he might live seemed too good to contemplate, until it actually happened. If you expected what I did, both the lead-up to the Trotters' Club confrontation and the against-the-odds triumph of the underdogs will awe you. How silly was I? "Fate" doesn't exist in the written world unless the author declares herself God, and I should have seen from the beginning that Brust and Bull did no such thing. Their characters rule themselves, and THAT is why the characters enthral me. They are 'fated' only by the freedoms and necessities that they have chosen, and those which they choose throughout the novel. I'm not saying James "chooses" to live when he's bleeding from an arrow wound (though he does, and that has to be significant). I am, however, saying that nothing is inevitable in a world where human beings take responsibility for their lives.
We delude ourselves by scorning the failure of realism when James lives. "Literary correctness" does not have the power to claim him. Nor are any of us thrown without our permission into a quasi-Gothic universe, or one ruled by Fate, or by the conventions of literature. Such a universe, I would argue, is the one pressed on us by mysticism, politics and institutionalized religion. At the centre is James's fight against the demons of disempowering "Fate." His death would be his defeat, and the defeat of the novel's purpose.
At this point, I have two thank-yous to say. First is to Brad Simkulet, who lent this to me. He is only getting it back because I love and respect him, and because I know our conversations revolving around the book will be even more interesting after we've re-read it. I will buy a copy as soon as humanly possible.
A sheepish acknowledgment: this review is written, or at least guided in large part by my emotional response to Freedom and Necessity. I have tried to be logical, but it deserves more than "pure" logic, if there is such a thing. This book soared past my logical faculties and perched, preening, beautiful, in dim corners that don't lend themselves so easily to my critical flashlight. I count that as proof of its brilliance. I will be re-reading this – more than once, I'm certain – and I will edit/add to this review whenever I do so. Somehow the thought is strengthening, a definite literary challenge and joy that I look forward to. Thank you, thank you, thank you to the authors, for giving us this magnificent story.
Goodnight Desdemona, o'er all others Did not fail this reader to impress. Even Shakespeare's characters could not Leap off the page the way MacDonald'sGoodnight Desdemona, o'er all others Did not fail this reader to impress. Even Shakespeare's characters could not Leap off the page the way MacDonald's do, Though hers are take-offs on th' originals. Even Shakespeare's verse has not endured So well that I did not find hers more fresh. The meeting of her world and the Bard's! The call to revere him, though she dares adapt, Truly I believe is answered well. Playfully done, and with true art accomplished. (I would go on, but pure awe shuts me up.) Hear me, though: you shall enjoy this play! Vibrant life's in this slim tome of drama, And I'll re-read it many a future day At home upon my couch, or – heck – in class; In Constance's dream I'll gladly lose myself – one day, if lucky, glimpse it on a stage? O, eyes wouldn't dare to hear, nor ears to speak. Hey, Anne-Marie! Do you think you could Try something with A Midsummer Night's Dream next?...more
Alex, A-lex or the millicents? The malchick or the rozzes? The criminal or the lawful life-breakers? "What's it going to be then, eh?" That last isAlex, A-lex or the millicents? The malchick or the rozzes? The criminal or the lawful life-breakers? "What's it going to be then, eh?" That last is Burgess's recurring line, and I dare say that it's the theme of the book. And the root of the question, as defined through the course of the book, becomes the scum or the scum? Damnit, this book is about scum. We're all scum. Or are we?
There's no way around it; everything and anything we do is violent. Including opposing violence. Looking at it objectively – and Burgess forces a reader to do so, through the clear unreliability of his narrator – society and social control is all a play of opposites. Opposing forces, neither entirely good nor bad; it is our judgement of one or the other as deserving-of-life or not that creates many of our 'problems.'
Nobody in the book is really likeable. It's hard, though, not to take A-lex's side: what could possibly be more endearing than the ever-confidential address of "O my brothers"? Yep, it helps to sucker a reader in, all right. Of course, I can't write a review without mentioning the nadsat, which absolutely made me swoon. I agree wholeheartedly with Burroughs, on both counts: few other authors have done so much with language, and this is a very funny book. Why do people find it's hard to read? I didn't think so at all. It's so very clear what he means, so flowing, so easy to get into. Within the first third of the book, I found myself wanting to speak in Alex's idiom. (Yeah, Mum, almost set for the nochy's campfire, I just need a malenky wash for my grahzny litso.) If I'd done an essay on this like I had a chance to in university, darn it, I would have investigated the transformation of Russian to nadsat, and all its implications. Ah well... another day.... back to these comments.
As I turned pages in the second half of the book, I was partly musing over a comparison with Nineteen Eighty-Four , and have decided – though that's not quite fair; I haven't read it in years, need to reread – that I prefer Anthony Burgess's take on things. Are humans malleable but limited, open to manipulation and irreparable change (Orwell) or are they creatures of infinite choice (Burgess)? My impression of Nineteen Eighty-Four was that it despaired of humanity all the way though. Such a work has its place. A Clockwork Orange doesn't despair of people, but laughs at them, and in my current mental order, I like this way best. Anybody who can read this book and feel depressed is mistaking Burgess's "point", I feel. Yes, there are certainly issues here, heavy ones, probably the hardest that exist anywhere in this universe. These being thus, I will not touch them. The painstaking prodding of human nature, it's so mind-bending and yet (to some, like Burgess) so obvious, that it's almost a non-issue. Alex's story succeeds in setting this to one side, for the sake of making us shake our heads, half in laughter, half in disgust, only to realize we're doing so at our own society, and at ourselves. The art of irony, O my brothers. And, Burgess hints, in most trying times this is the wisest thing we can do, either at his story or at the world.
'Good grief,' Burgess seems to say. 'Violence is there. We are violence. Life is violence. Get over it.' Which opinion is Zen and Beat and all things wise. It's a daring stand, but one I'm willing to stand up for. Morality does not exist separately from selfishness, and the sooner we realize it, the less muddled we'll all be about who we are and what we ought to be aiming for here. It's not depressing, no. It's freeing, because it's the rock-bottom truth. And it gives us permission to step outside the traditional bounds of morality, nudges us to raise an eyebrow at the legitimacy of any 'moral' position.
(I could go on... but I won't. I'll go read Mr. Morrison's introduction, which I've saved, and discover some sky-high literary-philosophical insights that make me want to take all this back. But if you've read this far, thank you for respecting my own thoughts so kindly, and all that cal.)...more