"'I'm very pleased to meet you,' said Milo, not sure whether or not he was pleased at all. 'I think I'm lost. Can you help me please?' 'Don't say 'think,...more"'I'm very pleased to meet you,' said Milo, not sure whether or not he was pleased at all. 'I think I'm lost. Can you help me please?' 'Don't say 'think,' " said one sitting on his shoe, for the one on his shoulder had fallen asleep. "It's against the law.' And he yawned and fell off to sleep, too. 'No one's allowed to think in the Doldrums,' continued a third, beginning to doze off. And as each one spoke, he fell off to sleep and another picked up the conversation with hardly any interruption."
"What would happen if you stopped?" asked Milo, who didn't quite believe that color happened that way. "See for yourself," roared Chroma, and he raised both hands high over his head. Immediately the instruments that were playing stopped, and at once all color vanished. The world looked like an enormous coloring book that had never been used. Everything appeared in simple black outlines, and it looked as if someone with a set of paints the size of a house and a brush as wide could stay happily occupied for years. Then Chroma lowered his arms. The instruments began again and the color returned. "You see what a dull place the world would be without color?" he said, bowing until his chin almost touched the ground. "But what pleasure to lead my violins in a serenade of spring green or hear my trumpets blare out the blue sea and then watch the oboes tint it all in warm yellow sunshine. And rainbows are best of all—and blazing neon signs, and taxicabs with stripes, and the soft, muted tones of a foggy day. We play them all."
"Don't be too sure," said the child patiently, "for one of the nicest things about mathematics, or anything else you might care to learn, is that many of the things which can never be, often are. You see," he went on, "it's very much like your trying to reach Infinity. You know that it's there, but you just don't know where—but just because you can never reach it doesn't mean that it's not worth looking for."
"It was impossible," said the king, looking at the Mathemagician. "Completely impossible," said the Mathemagician, looking at the king. "Do you mean " stammered the bug, who suddenly felt a bit faint. "Yes, indeed," they repeated together; "but if we'd told you then, you might not have gone—and, as you've discovered, so many things are possible just as long as you don't know they're impossible."
A magnificent triumph of the imagination... I enjoyed reading this fabulous children's adventure story every step of the way, following Milo through his whimsical adventures in the Land Beyond. This book is a superb intellectual accomplishment full of insight as much as it is a treasure trove of literature, for both kids and adults, fantastical and educational, as equally as fun as it is interesting. I didn't have the pleasure of reading this book as a child, but I guess that's okay now because I would need to be re-reading it as an adult any way to fully appreciate its marvels. Like Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Juster's Phantom Tollbooth is a story wildly brought to life by its colorful and fanciful characters and fairy-tale landscapes, set in the format of children's literature, yet saturated with layers of material which offer a more profound appeal to a more discerning and mature audience. It's a truly wonderful wellspring of ideas encompassing a vast realm of knowledge which works to illuminate the enriching power of learning and the priceless value of knowledge on the path to growth, wisdom, and self-discovery. There are too many great elements in this book, everything about it, every page works perfectly to create the storehouse of knowledge and endless word-play and playful humor and zany, brilliantly-conceived characters that comprise the whole harmony of Milo's odyssey-tale. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading wit and whimsy, where here it is orchestrated in some of the most ingenious creativity and invigorated by an output of some of the most dazzling originality which I've ever found in a book. The Phantom Tollbooth reminds me as an adult of how exciting books can be in transporting us into magical lands and opening us up to unbounded domains of possibility in illustrating what things may lie in the land beyond expectations...(less)
An intriguing novel of the Gothic genre with an unforgettable story about narcissism and the dangerous wish for immortality. It is also an interesting...moreAn intriguing novel of the Gothic genre with an unforgettable story about narcissism and the dangerous wish for immortality. It is also an interesting commentary on the values of society in Britain during the late Victorian Era. It's full of wit and colorful language, which at times weigh down the story-telling and make this more a good piece of art than great literature. (less)
A multi-layered, fascinating plot carries most of this play from one scene to the other. The design is well embroiled in a good old tale of forbidden...moreA multi-layered, fascinating plot carries most of this play from one scene to the other. The design is well embroiled in a good old tale of forbidden love, jealousies, and power-lusting machinations. With each twist and turn heightening the dramatic interplay I was compelled almost all the way to the end, awaiting with greater anticipation how it would all climax... And then... Splat. The whole denouement of the final act is one disappointing collapse that makes everything preceding it seem like a con. Rather than the dramatic ending which the whole chain of events seemed bound for, we end up bored in the lackluster and rather disenchanting tedium of a finale which stumbles under its contraptions and artifice rather than masterfully holding together all the interest that led up to it. Just an exceedingly long, convoluted dialogue of explanations and reconciliations which do poor justice to what could have ended as a truly good Shakespeare play. At least at the end of King Lear and Hamlet there is excruciating tragedy and bloodshed to settle the scores. That's the Shakespeare I was hoping for at the end of Cymbeline. And yet there is no satisfying payoff. And so Cymbeline succumbs to its fate of mediocrity among Shakespeare plays, tangled awkwardly on the borderline between tragedy and comedy, all on account of a final act that simply couldn't confect a proper conclusion for the four acts preceding. A shame.(less)
As nice as it is to finally read a Russian "masterpiece" that is less than 500 pages (shy of 200 pages in fact), the subject matter and the material o...moreAs nice as it is to finally read a Russian "masterpiece" that is less than 500 pages (shy of 200 pages in fact), the subject matter and the material of the book is about as bleak as it gets. A day in the life of a prisoner gulag. It's even worse than it sounds. Of course it is worth reading, if not to appreciate Solzhenitsyn's talent in making the narrative about an ordinary day in the stranglehold of the gulag regimen about as well-told and convincing as it should be, perhaps it's even better to read just to appreciate life. Life, in almost any form different than that of Ivan Denisovich or his fellow "kulaks" has to be light-years better. A story of this type should not exceed 200 pages. It was hard enough to read at the length that it is. As we look into a day of Ivan Denisovich's miserable condition, we understand how the human spirit has to come to certain terms with its situation, however oppressive or intolerable it may be. We are made to endure-- even the most exceedingly dispiriting tribulations which should be unendurable. For Ivan Denisovich, the best he can expect from his life in the gulag is for things to be "just bearable". We see Ivan in one of the most extreme of horrible conditions, life in a Soviet gulag, and we nothing more dramatic than the sheer misery of what that entails in its most uneventful monotony, without the unnecessary artifice of any extraneous adversity which would arise in some other work of fiction. In the gulag, what is 'ordinary' or 'mundane' appears to be a worse sentence than any of the most harrowing punishments meted out in the Hades of Greek mythology. For the particular day in the life of Ivan Denisovich which we read about is actually what he calls "a good day". We see the best case scenario of what might be called the worst case scenario. All is relative. For Ivan in the gulag, a "good day" is one where you don't get thrown in the "hole" as punishment, or swipe a hundred extra grams of what your daily allotted meal portion, or enjoy working on a wall during the day labor, avoid being caught with a tiny blade during the night search and buying a little chunk of tobacco. We can only imagine, though probably will try not to, what a "bad day" may be like. This is not a book to read for pleasure or entertainment. This is a book that one reads for the same reason one would watch a film like "Schindler's List." From a global perspective, because it's important to know about the harrowing and demoralizing injustices man is capable of bringing onto his fellow man. From a personal perspective, because it's important to remember sometimes that whatever our worst suffering is probably pales to an absurd degree by comparison to the real horror stories of suffering out there, such as we read about in tales we would prefer to believe are simply fiction, but are all too true-- such as that in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.(less)
"To be sure, I knew my failings and regretted them. Yet I continued to forget them with a rather meritorious obstinacy. The prosecution of others, on...more"To be sure, I knew my failings and regretted them. Yet I continued to forget them with a rather meritorious obstinacy. The prosecution of others, on the contrary, went on constantly in my heart. Of course-- does that shock you? Maybe you think it's not logical? But the question is not to remain logical. The question is to slip through and above all-- yes, above all, the question is to elude judgment." What could be called something like confessions of a jaded soul without an illusion of salvation for a fallen world, this is Camus' own Notes from Underground which differs from Dostoevsky's version for all the reasons that separate the world-views of Camus & Dostoevsky. As in all his other works, Camus has something to tell us and he has little concern for whether or not the implications sit well with your version of reality. Told in the form of a first-person monologue, Camus' fearless and undiminished candor spoken through the voice of his narrator is a harrowing, damning judgment of the human race within a godless and existential realm in which judgment against one's fellow man can only be pronounced by another man. Camus is not attempting to diagnose the universal sickness and create a plan for redemption, but rather to wipe away the mirage of man's greatness, which is more often than not outweighed by his baseness. There is more an effort in the Fall to expose the flaws that tarnish the human condition, from which none of us are really exempt by virtue of our selfish reflexes and the need to insulate ourselves from guilt or judgment. We are a fallen race, according to Camus, not in the Christian view of our defiance against God, but out of our hideous, indulgent, indifferent and hateful ways against our fellow man and our brazen resolve to condemn and impose guilt on anyone besides ourselves. It's a polished, flowing read filled with very insightful and intriguing observations, at times perhaps sullen and a bit discouraging, but never dull. Camus speaks to his reader with an unwavering conviction and forceful style that communicates his message effectively, but without bludgeoning you over the head and with plenty of nuanced shades of grey that the underlying meaning is not necessarily clear-cut. It's a work of complexity, like the nature of man that it is daring to dissect, even if it means spilling a little bit of unsavory details or putting a dent in your rosy-colored glasses through which you conveniently choose to perceive the world. Most importantly it serves an abundant meal for rumination, though it doesn't necessarily taste delicious, it goes down like medicine and is digested with the painful bitterness of a hard-hitting truth. "I had already gone some fifty yards when I heard the sound-- which, despite the distance, seemed dreadfully loud in the midnight silence-- of a body striking the water, I stopped short, but without turning around. Almost at once I heard a cry, repeated several times, which was going downstream; then it suddenly ceased. The silence that followed, as the night suddenly stood still, seemed interminable. I wanted to run and yet did't stir. I was trembling, I believe from cold and shock. I told myself that I had to be quick and I felt an irresistible weakness steal over me. I have forgotten what I thought then. 'Too late, too far...' or something of the sort. I was still listening as I stood motionless. Then, slowly under the rain, I went away. I informed no one." "We are all exceptional cases. We all want to appeal against something! Each of us insists on being innocent at all cost, even if he has to accuse the whole human race and heaven itself." "I'll reveal this secret to you, cher ami, don't fear to make use of it. Then you'll see that true debauchery is liberating because it creates no obligations. In it you possess only yourself; hence it remains the favorite pastime of the great lovers of their person. It is a jungle without past or future, without any promise above all, nor any immediate penalty."(less)
A fantastic read, couldn't put it down. I was riveted from beginning to end and loved how much care and attention King applied to generating the suspe...moreA fantastic read, couldn't put it down. I was riveted from beginning to end and loved how much care and attention King applied to generating the suspense and elements of horror with his firm command over every aspect of the story. The description is delightfully ghoulish, intensely vivid, luridly colorful, terrifying and awesome, the pace and the development are enthralling and the characters are fully fleshed out and compelling. This was my first reading of Stephen King and I must say I am impressed with his talent. He has a great imagination for inventing such masterfully dark horror and has a superb dexterity with his use of language that is sharp, biting, direct and flowing. I felt this book was richly packed with plenty of unforgettable imagery without ever feeling bloated or over-done. I enjoyed the writing style which is able to wander from character to character and zero in on their inner demons which progressively swarm up. The story is no simple blood-and-guts horror tale, but a dramatic tale of suspense set in the most ominously remote enclosure of the Overlook Hotel, lurking with a subtle and pervasive malignity as the plot paces carefully toward its chilling manifestations. The character examinations achieve a certain level of profundity as the story brings out the emotional and psychological struggles festering and escalating in the Torrance family, haunted all the while by underlying disturbances which build up to catastrophic madness at the story's climax. The architecture of the Shining's horror-laden plot (not to mention that of the terrifically diabolic hotel) is well-devised with portentous momentum which doesn't leave the reader feeling shortchanged when at last the deadly secrets fully emerge and the creeping evil delivers its roaring, monstrous final act and the whole pit of nightmares goes up in the blazes (literally) of a perfectly fitting inferno. More than anything, this book is sheer entertainment and I highly recommend it. It has been a long time since I was so bummed to finish a book-- let alone one exceeding 600 pgs.(less)
Well, I actually read another Dan Brown novel... the follow up thriller to his Da Vinci Code, which I read 2 years ago. I knew going into the Lost Sym...moreWell, I actually read another Dan Brown novel... the follow up thriller to his Da Vinci Code, which I read 2 years ago. I knew going into the Lost Symbol all the annoying things about Dan Brown's writing which I lambasted with a no-hold's barred scorched-earth diatribe in my review of the DV Code-- all the bombastic terminology spurted out left and right from the mouths of characters so cardboard they make the characters of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged palpitate with vitality, all the over-the-top machinations and contrivances and superficial intellectualism tinged with a paltry sprinkling of mysticism which Brown has lifted from a wide panoply of sources, etc., etc. I am still wondering which is worse-- the silliness or the "seriousness" of Dan Brown's stories... However, I am not going to skewer the Lost Symbol with the same barbed vitriol I used before. I have matured as a reader and have learned to appreciate Brown's storytelling in spite of their manifest short-comings. I will give him his credit where it is due... For after all, any discerning reader can easily recognize that there is a high-level of skill used in his writing which maintains an engrossing momentum and well-developed intrigue that builds with each new thickening layer of the plot. I appreciate his subject matter and the dedicated scholarship which he explores a mountain of knowledge throughout his puzzle-laced schemes of forward-pulsing action. Using the framework of an action-driven thriller, Brown's stories successfully draws readers into a world of esoterica, which would otherwise be inaccessible to the average reader, but here it is well-served as the reservoir of the story's complex plot-line. I loved the setting in Washington D.C. and thought that all the different places which were depicted throughout the story come to life with colorful and intricate detail. My two main criticisms of the book might be that I'm not sure the ending is a sufficient payoff for all the gusto of meandering through complex labyrinths of mystique and mystery leading up to the discovery of what finally awaits at the core. I also thought the villain was ridiculously overdone with all his superhuman qualities and came off seeming something like a comic book character (I was thinking of Bane from Batman with his description). Dan Brown needs to find a way to make a villain that is a tad more convincing. They can be just as cool and ruthless and sinister without having to be blown up into a hulking, invincible monstrous mass on steroids who also happens to be a voracious reader of the occult and religious arcana. The fact that the villain finding out about an essential piece of the story came from watching a television program came off as totally wacky and unconvincing-- even for Dan Brown standards.(less)
"There is a sort of subdued pandemonium in the air, a note of repressed violence, as if the awaited explosion required the advent of some utterly minu...more"There is a sort of subdued pandemonium in the air, a note of repressed violence, as if the awaited explosion required the advent of some utterly minute detail, something microscopic but thoroughly unpremeditated, completely unexpected. In that sort of half-reverie which permits one to participate in an event and yet remain quite aloof, the little detail which was lacking began obscurely but insistently to coagulate, to assume a freakish, crystalline form, like the frost which gathers on the windowpane. And like those frost patterns which seem so bizarre, so utterly free and fantastic in design, but which are nevertheless determined by the most rigid laws, so this sensation which commenced to take form inside me seemed also to be giving obedience to ineluctable laws. My whole being was responding to the dictates of an ambience which it had never before experienced; that which I could call myself seemed to be contracting, condensing, shrinking from the stale, customary boundaries of the flesh whose perimeter knew only the modulations of the nerve ends. And the more substantial, the more solid the core of me became, the more delicate and extravagant appeared the close, palpable reality out of which I was being squeezed. In the measure that I became more and more metallic, in the same measure the scene before my eyes became inflated. The state of tension was so finely drawn now that the introduction of a single foreign particle, even a microscopic particle, as I say, would have shattered everything. For the fraction of a second perhaps I experienced that utter clarity which the epileptic, it is said, is given to know. In that moment I lost completely the illusion of time and space: the world unfurled its drama simultaneously along a meridian which had no axis. In this sort of hair-trigger eternity I felt that everything was justified, supremely justified; I felt the wars inside me that had left behind this pulp and wrack; I felt the crimes that were seething here to emerge tomorrow in blatant screamers; I felt the misery that was grinding itself out with pestle and mortar, the long dull misery that dribbles away in dirty handkerchiefs. On the meridian of time there is no injustice: there is only the poetry of motion creating the illusion of truth and drama. If at any moment anywhere one comes face to face with the absolute, that great sympathy which makes men like Gautama and Jesus seem divine freezes away; the monstrous thing is not that men have created roses out of this dung heap, but that, for some reason or other, they should want roses. For some reason or other man looks for the miracle, and to accomplish it he will wade through blood. He will debauch himself with ideas, he will reduce himself to a shadow if for only one second of his life he can close his eyes to the hideousness of reality. Everything is endured – disgrace, humiliation, poverty, war, crime, ennui – in the belief that overnight something will occur, a miracle, which will render life tolerable. And all the while a meter is running inside and there is no hand that can reach in there and shut it off. All the while someone is eating the bread of life and drinking the wine, some dirty fat cockroach of a priest who hides away in the cellar guzzling it, while up above in the light of the street a phantom host touches the lips and the blood is pale as water. And out of the endless torment and misery no miracle comes forth, no microscopic vestige of relief. Only ideas,pale, attenuated ideas which have to be fattened by slaughter; ideas which come forth like bile, like the guts of a pig when the carcass is ripped open."
Lechery, debauchery, liquor-laced sexual misadventure, poverty, Paris and the life of modern society all set the backdrop for Henry Miller's masterpiece, which overflows with an unrelenting gusto and seething fervor in its delectable extravagance of prose. There are too many passages to choose from in illustrating the effervescent energy of Miller's style. It's a book more about the general condition of the artist's world and insatiable pleasure-seeking, than the events which occur within it. It describes the wearied state of a penniless American writer in Paris who has long ago sated himself in every wanton pursuit within reach and abandoned any hope of attaining true happiness or meaning-- and yet he continues with an undiminished voracity to plunge himself wholly into the morass of self-degeneration, seeking any kind of ecstasy that might still be out there, even if it may be fleeting. I admit I didn't admire the hedonistic, nihilistic philosophy the author embraces in Tropic of Cancer-- yet I adored every moment of him describing it nevertheless, because his uncompromising cynicism speaks so powerfully through his beautiful outpourings of words. Similar to the way I felt reading Lolita, a bit repulsed by the overall emptiness of the story's worldview and turned off by all the characters and their slovenly behavior the more I read of it-- yeah completely mesmerized by the passion and lyricism oozing throughout the passages. Yes this book has had a controversial history and it is most certainly unabashed in its lewd, bawdy, and vulgar descriptions-- and yet it's a wonderful read nevertheless.It's not a book one reads for the story, a story without any hopeful inspirations or redeeming qualities, but it is a book that can constantly seduce and hypnotize for certain moments with the flowing passages that gush out with all the inner vitality of an artist's soul, bleeding with an intense desire for life and life itself unconditionally, bare-faced, raw, in excessive indulgence, wallowing unapologetically in every cesspool of filth in a continuous, guiltless immersion into the fevered feast of pleasure-seeking, which is all that is left for this jaded malcontent starving for ecstasy in a world drained of passion and purpose.(less)
"In my dreams the world was ennobled, spiritualized; people whom in the waking state I feared so much appeared in a shimmering refraction, just as if...more"In my dreams the world was ennobled, spiritualized; people whom in the waking state I feared so much appeared in a shimmering refraction, just as if they were imbued with and enveloped by that vibration of light which in sultry weather inspires the very outlines of objects with life; their voices, their step, the expressions of their eyes and even of their clothes-- acquired an exciting significance; to put it more simply, in my dreams the world would come alive, becoming so captivatingly majestic, free and ethereal, that afterwards it would be oppressive to breathe the dust of this painted life. But then I have long since grown accustomed to the thought that what we call dreams is semi-reality, the promise of reality, a foreglimpse and a whiff of it; that is, they contain, in a very vague, diluted state, more genuine reality than our vaunted waking life which, in its turn, is semi-sleep, an evil drowsiness into which penetrate in grotesque disguise the sounds and sights of the real world, flowing beyond the periphery of the mind-- as when you hear during sleep a dreadful insidious tale because a branch is scraping on the pane, or see yourself sinking into snow because your blanket is sliding off." Who would have ever fancied that a story about a man's final days in a prison cell leading up to an execution by beheading could be so whimsically and delightfully visionary? The answer is Vladmir Nabokov. To read Nabokov is to partake in a luscious and succulent feast of prose, heaped with massive kaleidoscopic descriptions and a cornucopia of indulgent, poetic revelry no matter what the subject at hand is. He was a man so inordinately talented with language that you needn't approach his work with an interest in his underlying meaning or the arc of his narrative, but purely a wild gusto for the delirious dance and carnivalesque decadence that the power of writing can summon, when imbued with such frenzied, overflowing, and unfettered ecstasy which Nabokov unleashed through his work. While Invitation to a Beheading may not be overall as impressive or as rapturous as the erotic Lolita, it is a story so saturated with a fantastical and oneiric mood of reverie, that the overall experience of reading it was more pleasurable for me. I simply kept wanting to immerse myself into its surreal atmosphere and dreamscapes brought to life by Nabokov's mastery of style and rhapsodic vigor and psychedelic dreamscapes. This is truly a magical hallucination that flowers with unflagging lyricism and evocative composition, I almost literally felt like I was part of the world conjured up deep impressions of color and dream-like visuals which made it a weird kind of literary acid trip. A unique and fun read!(less)
" 'Do you have the password?' was the question. And the answer, the key to knowledge, was 'No.' Not only does the magic word not exist, but we do not...more" 'Do you have the password?' was the question. And the answer, the key to knowledge, was 'No.' Not only does the magic word not exist, but we do not know that it does not exist. Those who admit their ignorance, therefore, can learn something, at last what I was able to learn."
Eco's bestseller Foucault's Pendulum is definitely not a book I would recommend for relaxation or a clearing of the mind as it is more likely to clutter the mind with an affluence of obscure concepts, allusions, and terminology. That being said, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy this book if you are interested by all of the arcane subjects that are explored with highly sophisticated erudition, from the Kabbalah to the Knights Templar to the Rosicrucians. It has been aptly called "the thinking man's Da Vinci code" and is certainly more appealing to those with a zest for intellectual stimulation in their fiction and who fancy the kind of cryptic lore which Dan Brown exploited years after this book came out. Here the subjects are explored with a tremendous depth of academic inquiry which the Da Vinci Code egregiously lacks and seasoned with cerebral humor and a philosophical undertow. So if you want to read about mystery and suspense dealing drawn from the same well of cabbalistic intrigue as Brown's lightning paced thrillers, but in a more ponderous pace and on a more sophisticated wavelength, Foucault's Pendulum would be worth a try. It is a dense book that can sometimes plod in the development of its deliberately overwrought plot. The story and the characters are unique and compelling enough to bring a pulse to the reading, but overall I think my interest in the all the obscure factoids and mystical topics pooled together in this tome are what carried me from page to page. Even if my patience and dedication wavered at some points in the reading, I found the climax and ending very satisfying for all the enormous buildup that precedes it. This book can be classified as a grimoire or a bible of esoterica more than a mystery thriller. You could spend far more time studying up on the vast hermetic anthology if you want a thorough understanding of all the hocus-pocus and mumbo-jumbo dug up from dusty old texts that are referenced throughout. But even if you don't do the thorough research, there are definitely plenty of occult terms that even well-educated readers may not know without a little outside help. For me, this was part of the fun. I found myself more enriched on a scholarly level after getting to the end of this book. Even if this book required some extra effort on my part to gain that deeper appreciation, what great pieces of literature don't do that to the reader, at least in some way?(less)
"Writers talk about the sweet-sick smell of death whereas any junky can tell you that death has no smell... at the same time a smell that shuts off br...more"Writers talk about the sweet-sick smell of death whereas any junky can tell you that death has no smell... at the same time a smell that shuts off breath and stops blood... colorless no-smell of death... no one can breathe and smell it through pink convolutions and black blood filters of flesh... the death smell is unmistakably a smell and complete absence of smell... smell absence hits the nose first because all organic life has smell... stopping of smell is felt like darkness to the eyes, silence to the ears, stress and weightlessness to the balance and location sense..."
"The City is visited by epidemics of violence, and the untended dead are eaten by vultures in the streets. Albinos blink in the sun. Boys sit in trees, languidly masturbate. People eaten by unknown diseases watch the passerby with evil, knowing eyes. In the City Market is the Meet Cafe. Followers of obsolete, unthinkable trades doodling in Etruscan, addicts of drugs not yet synthesized, pushers of souped-up harmine, junk reduced to pure habit offering precarious vegetable serenity, liquids to induce Latah, Tithonian longevity serums, black marketeers of World War III, excisors of telepathic sensitivity, osteopaths of the spirit, investigators of infractions denounced by bland paranoid chess players, servers of fragmentary warrants taken down in hebephrenic shorthand charging unspeakable mutilations of the spirit, bureaucrats of spectral departments, officials of unconstituted police states, a Lesbian dwarf who has perfected operation Bang-utot.... Images fall slow and silent like snow... Serenity... All defenses fall... everything is free to enter or to go out... Fear is simply impossible... A beautiful blue substance flows into me... I see an archaic grinning face like South Pacific mask... the face is blue purple splotched with gold..."(less)
This book is outrageously entertaining and ingeniously conceived, leaving the indelible kind of impact on the reader which only the best of literature...moreThis book is outrageously entertaining and ingeniously conceived, leaving the indelible kind of impact on the reader which only the best of literature can do. I'm so glad I finally read this book and can't believe it took me so long to get around to doing so! One of the greatest American novels of the 20th century and in fact one of the best American books of all time, Heller's critically acclaimed work is superlative in its level of hilarious absurdity and entertaining narratives enriching this book with its abundance of unforgettable material which has cemented its long-lasting success among the reading public. I am not a huge fan, in general, of war novels and in fact I haven't read enough of them to deliver a broad comparison of how Heller deals with the description of war in relation to other writers. What I can do, to perhaps a better degree, is comment on the book itself as simply a work of fiction and discuss its merits and virtues in the wider scheme of literature. Of course Catch-22 is known as a World War II novel, and perhaps it is one of the most important novels, if not the most important (I'm not an expert in this field) from American literature to read about the experience of the American soldiers in WWII. However, the brilliance and enduring legacy of Catch 22 is not that is about a certain theater of operations during World War II, but that it is a book about war itself and confronts with audacious and unapologetic daredevilry the supreme idiocy and incomprehensible logic which warfare entails, beyond the battlefield, underlying the whole conflicted web of human machinery that goes into the execution of war. Heller is not providing some grandiose philosophical inquiry about the evil or goodness of war, but gives a ton of damn good literary pictures of how much the human spirit has to be stretched, refitted, contradicted and knotted up in order to take active part in war. It's all well and good to trumpet the patriotic valor and sacrifice of those who go and fight the war-- but how about the inner-workings of the system that has to breed these warriors and compel them into unthinkable acts of bravery? How much does an individual who has been forced into the savage conditions of warfare, facing the possibility of death every day, really care about the big picture and all the glory which may come of war? Well, Heller goes to great lengths to show how much painstaking and colossal reversals of logic have to be put in place in order to ensure the effective operation of human subjects amidst the devastating chaos of war. Contradictions and machinations of the grossest absurdity are simply part and parcel of orchestrating a successful war effort. In war, all the rules are rewritten in order to manage something which is simply beyond understanding to endure and which assails without mercy any man's instinct for self-preservation. It would be a grossly inaccurate simplification to label Catch-22 as an "anti-war" book, despite its well-known appropriation as such by the counterculture of the '60s. Catch-22 is a book of human experience in the face of war and creates a diverse palate of colorful and whimsical characters to inhabit the stage of military operations on the fictional island of Pianosa, Italy as Heller dexterously gives us a portfolio of harrowing, mind-twisting, demoralizing scenarios which the very nature of war engenders. Perhaps war is sometimes a necessary evil, perhaps it can highlight and nurture the very noblest and most praiseworthy of mankind's glories-- Heller never contradicts these ideas. What he does do, however, is shows us what else war is, besides the obvious onslaught of horror and bloodshed, the other aspects which perhaps war must be as long as it requires the commitment and participation of people, made up of flesh and blood, feelings, thoughts, desires, fears, etc. Perhaps war itself is not necessarily just a Kafkaesque nightmare constructed by delusion, falsehood, nationalistic pride, and empty hopes-- but in the experience of those who have to do the fighting, the ones who have to risk their lives every day and take part in missions which could obliterate them in a split-second-- perhaps it appears that way. In the purview of Heller's Catch-22, we see how despite whatever else war may be, war is also very much the embodiment of a mass hysteria, a nefarious machine of political terror which relies on coercion, paradox, insufferably mind-bending rules and impossible perversions of logic in order to forge and churn out the individual instruments of warfare-- the soldiers, that is.(less)
Clearly this is a key work in the canon of Russian lit. and anyone who is thoroughly interested in the development of Russian literature should apprec...moreClearly this is a key work in the canon of Russian lit. and anyone who is thoroughly interested in the development of Russian literature should appreciate the influence of Gogol, who certainly had an enormous impact on the great giants such a Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. For that reason I felt my exploration of the great Russian works would be scuttled with a gaping hole without delving into at least one work of Nikolai Gogol, and why not make it his renowned masterpiece Dead Souls? I didn't dislike the book, though I admit I wasn't totally enthralled with it. At times I felt that it was a chore for me and that my chief motivation to trudge through it was to faithfully install it in the annals of the great Russian classics which I have conquered. The plotline itself is certainly intriguing and Gogol's most powerful weapon is his satirical tone and his sweeping critique of the social world he knew and well understood. There are good bits of humor which might not make you laugh out loud but can add a pleasantly light-hearted flavor of to the reading and help distinguish Gogol's style from the ponderous severity and melancholic bleakness of other Russian writers. It certainly is informative for anyone interested in Russian history of the 20th century and there's plenty of stuff to take away from Gogol's implicit social commentary. I won't make much criticism of the book's substance. I understand it's a product of its time and for the most part I am one who much prefers to dive into tomes from ages long past than contemporary material. Then there are times when, well, you read a book like Dead Souls, which certainly has its merits and virtues as a literary creation, but feels a bit too onerous to engage the reader with the kind of interest and moving tempo which we have come to expect from our modern writers. For the most part, this isn't a problem for me because I'm a dedicated lover of classical literature and crave to uncover what these long dead writers had to say and I don't begrudge them the lack of scintillating entertainment verve. I have learned to love these classics for what they are and treasure the hidden gems they have to offer in spite of our 21st century compulsions for non-stop simple flowing turbo speed. Yet nevertheless, compared to other laborious reads which I have endured to the last page and came to enjoy perhaps afterwards as a result, Dead Souls may just rank among the least of classics which I have been able to savor-- even afterwards.(less)
I have no doubt that Marquez' widely acclaimed masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude is a great work of literature and probably deserves more than...moreI have no doubt that Marquez' widely acclaimed masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude is a great work of literature and probably deserves more than the 3 star rating I have settled for here. I am certain that there is much I have failed so far to discover in the heaping treasure trove hidden beneath the deep layers of this prodigious story in its prodigious scale of characters and the collections of interwoven stories united into one narrative across a vast stretch of time. I am sure I have overlooked much of the finesse and underlying mechanics which make this work so special and beloved by many. In fact my interest to read this was sparked by from several acquaintances citing One Hundred Years as their all time favorite novel. And so I sought to investigate it myself and try digging up and culling all the precious pieces so that I could share the appreciation. I'm afraid I was not entirely successful, perhaps due to my own unscrupulous reading, perhaps due to the dense and highly unconventional style of storytelling, or perhaps a mixture of both. To be sure, One Hundred Years of Solitude stands out to me as an entirely one-of-a-kind piece of literature. I think the most compelling reason to engage its text is to enjoy the freshness and originality of the storytelling which is so markedly distinct from what we are used to in the "Western" rubric. I appreciate it enough to continue probing it, re-reading parts, using SparkNotes for assistance, and perhaps even re-read the whole book. I believe that this is a book which requires perhaps 2 readings to manage the thorough examination of its complexity and attain a full appreciation for it. Perhaps there was too much hype which poorly primed me for the undertaking of it. Perhaps I could have absorbed it with greater ease had I read it without any expectations of it entailing "best book" status. Here I have to say that readability counts. And by no means is this book alone on the list of great works that demands more sacrifice and scrutiny from its reader rather than freely offering its virtues through a seamless and untroubled read. It's nowhere near as daunting as Joyce's Ulysses in terms of how rigorous the reader must apply himself in order to garner the most modest comprehension. But I can say, however, that I found The Brothers Karamazov and War & Peace more readable, albeit more dense. For Marquez, part of the experience of reading Hundred Years is bewilderment and mystification, being endlessly disoriented in a muddle of interconnected narratives across generations of one family whose countless units share practically the same name, as well as the same traits. Yes, the perplexity serves a purpose in how it conflates the objective and subjective experiences in the remote town of Macondo in order to paint the tableau of its history with all the elements involved, both the mundane and the miraculous, the philosophical and the carnal, the romantic love tales and the bloody warfare, the virtues and the vices, etc., etc. I appreciate the underpinning magic realism which instills the story with its most brilliant polish. Marquez employs his special techniques of magic realism and folklore to heighten the atmosphere of this story far beyond the ordinary and the literary in creating a Bible-like account of the Buendia family and the history of Macondo. The story arc swings across many levels of experiences and gives the reader an overwhelming montage of drama that is certainly no simple task to keep up with. Whether or not one can really digest all the scattered constituents of One Hundred Years' gargantuan mosaic, the reader is easily attuned to the fact that the novel is working to achieve more than one simple end. It's a diverse collection of ends, composed of the real historical experience of post-colonial South America, supernatural wonders, philosophical inquiries into the passage of time and the changing or perhaps repetitive cycle of human nature, and primordial archetypes of storytelling that is as old as Genesis. The end product is certainly something larger than life and something much larger than what I think one simple reading can cover.(less)
Loved it! A lot of fun to read this book... reading this book was charting into a wildly unfamiliar territory, exhilarating in the experience of somet...moreLoved it! A lot of fun to read this book... reading this book was charting into a wildly unfamiliar territory, exhilarating in the experience of something so magically surreal and inventive. Master & Margarita reveals a hallucinatory dreamscape where grim realities and far-fetched fiction commingle in devilish revelry that breaks down barriers and opens up a whole new kind of literary experience. So original that it is even wickedly shocking, hysterical, and entertaining on a level that few books ever dream of achieving, fewer try to achieve, and probably none other has even come close to touching like this one. This blows the roof off and pushes the envelop so far that you can never anticipate just how far it is capable of going and you never lose a drop of curiosity to chase it to its end and find out. And when it's over, you just want more of it. Few books can intrigue and satisfy like this one. Think about all the wonderful ingredients thrown into the mix which make this book so outrageous, interesting, unique, and unforgettable: a far-flinging assault on Soviet society and the repressive Stalinist regime fused with Faust (my personal favorite story of all time in Goethe's version), featuring the devil in cognito as a sneaky and charismatic magician named Woland, a revisionist story of Jesus and Pilate, a vodka-swilling talking cat, a woman flying naked on a broom over Moscow, a masquerade ball, a madhouse, and a whole host of other great elements. How can you tie all these things together and pull it off as a fabulous work of literature? Bulgakov shows you the best recipe in his unparalleled Master and Margarita.(less)