I was going to take a quick nap and thought I'd read a few letters in this while I laid down. I finished it instead, and now it's too late to take a nI was going to take a quick nap and thought I'd read a few letters in this while I laid down. I finished it instead, and now it's too late to take a nap! I don't mind. What can I say about this that hasn't been said? It's a book for book lovers, and while I disagreed with Hanff's opinions on certain literature (Chaucer is "just stories"? "Just stories," indeed!), how could I hold that against her when each letter she writes about a book she adores reads like a love letter? I think they are love letters, to be honest....more
‘. . .if you have read The Magic Mountain once, I recommend you read it twice.’ - Thomas Mann
A tall order for anyone who has actually read the book, a‘. . .if you have read The Magic Mountain once, I recommend you read it twice.’ - Thomas Mann
A tall order for anyone who has actually read the book, and if you took Mann’s advice, I would gladly shake your hand. ‘‘A brick of ideas’ is how I once described it. Mann describes it as a ‘time-romance,’ which is probably more accurate.
I read in a review that no one should attempt to 'climb' (my word) The Magic Mountain until after they turn thirty. I'm not sure why exactly, but it did give me a sense of foreboding, especially seeing as I was already 300 pages in and still within my twenty-ninth year. But having read it, I would like to go back and tell my twenty-one-year-old self to read it. Would he have understood it? Probably not. Did I even understand it? Probably not.
To call it a novel seems like a mislabelling of sorts. This type of book is called a 'novel of ideas,' which clarifies things somewhat. Though, to be fair, there seems to be far more ideas than plot. Of plot, in fact, there's very little. When asked by a coworker what the book was about, I told her that I could talk about that for thirty minutes and still not explain the plot. It's secondary anyway: a vessel to carry the heavy concepts of the book.
And what of the concepts? The main one seems to be time and our understanding of it. He goes back to it frequently, which is fitting since one point he deals with is the circular nature of time. But the more interesting point, to me, is the relative nature of time. There is a quote from the book which is fitting: ‘Great spaces of time passed in unbroken uniformity tend to shrink together in a way to make the heart stop beating for fear; when one day is like all the others, then they are all like one; complete uniformity would make the longest life seem short, and as though it had stolen away from us unawares.’ We feel, along with Castorp, that the time ceases to become a measurable element, and merely a philosophical concept. And who of us hasn’t felt this phenomena? I am toying with the concept that the Berghof Sanatorium is representative of isolation in general, wherein time no longer becomes a factor. It is a trap. We withdraw from the world, and lose consciousness of time and space. We hold to the idea that we will leave one day, but we only sink further and further into our isolation. The body craves connection, but eventually we numb ourselves to the loss and forget that we ever wanted it. I have some basis for this in Mann’s explanation of The Magic Mountain, but it’s a loose theory, so don’t read too much into it. Of course, we can withdraw from the world, but the world will call us forth like 'the shock that fired the mine beneath the magic mountain, and set our sleeper ungently outside the gates.' That is, I think, partially the message at the end of it all. But I'll move on.
Another major element of the book is the dichotomy between--since I can’t think of a better word for it--medievalism and humanism/progressivism. This is mostly done through the arguments between Naphta and Settembrini. Which one Mann sides with is not made clear, but I like to think that, like myself, he holds to both views simultaneously. I think we all tend towards contradiction, and in Castorp’s reaction to these discussions, we can see his flirtation with it. Settembrini might hate the paradox, but Castorp clearly does not, as he seems to embrace both the Jesuit and the Humanist. Personally, I lean towards Naphta’s Catholic and Medieval arguments, but that’s neither here nor there.
I won’t go on much longer. Though, I would like to touch on one other element--completely ignoring the issue of health and illness, which is crucial but also inconsequential to the novel--which is that of alchemy. Mann calls it a '“heightening” enhancement,' but throughout the book we are given discussions--mostly one sided--with Naphta about alchemy. It’s an interesting title, The Magic Mountain, as I literally feel that I have climbed the book, I think that is what Mann meant by a '“heightening” enhancement.' I cannot speak for other readers, but I myself, along with Castorp, rose as we progressed. We are told that Castorp is nothing worth mentioning--not in those words--at the beginning of the story, and yet he spends hours upon hours contemplating deep theological, biological, philosophical, and even, to a smaller degree, political concepts. He is--alchemically--changed into a higher state by his visit to the Berghof Sanatorium, and I feel like I was as well.
‘For man himself is a mystery, and all humanity rests upon reverence before the mystery that is man.’ - Thomas Mann...more
This book seems to garner very mixed reviews. I suppose I'm on one far side of the spectrum, since I loved it. Not so much for the writing, which lostThis book seems to garner very mixed reviews. I suppose I'm on one far side of the spectrum, since I loved it. Not so much for the writing, which lost me sometimes, but the story. I love stories from the late-19th century/early-20th century, and this feels like it comes straight from that period. I half expected it to, considering the kind of music and lyrics Meloy writes, but I'm usually wary about modern novels. I will say this for the writing: I very much enjoyed the vocabulary. I have noticed with most modern novels I read, the vocabulary, while not exactly simplistic, is easier than I would like, especially young adult novels. Not so with Meloy. I commend his choice to use words that most of his target audience are not going to know. I did find myself cringing at some of his writing though. It's not so much that it was bad, but that it could've been better. As for the structure of the story: I've heard from a few reviews and from a few people who attempted the novel that the first part is boring. I have to disagree. I was fully interested throughout. I thought the pacing was well done, with a fine balance of easy storytelling and suspenseful reading. One complaint I've read is that certain questions weren't answered. I didn't really see anything major, but my real response to that is, did you not realize this is the first in a series? I just don't see that as a valid complaint. ...more
I like the story he's crafted and the characters he's populated it with, but his writing leaves something to be desired at times. Some brilliance doesI like the story he's crafted and the characters he's populated it with, but his writing leaves something to be desired at times. Some brilliance does shine through though. Through dialogue mostly. A wonderful example of this is this quote by George Emerson: "It is Fate that I am here. But you can call it Italy if it makes you less unhappy." I love that quote. Another highlight is the conversation between Cecil and Lucy wherein Cecil explains that when he thinks of her he thinks of a view, and when she thinks of him, she thinks of a room--a room without a view. It's also said later that there are two types of men in the world: those who remember views and those who don't.
This room and view comparison is, in my opinion, a metaphor for two types of people. The first being people who are closed off within society, with no access to the aesthetic life. The view is that aesthetic life, but it is also the future--a wide open expanse with limitless possibilities. You'll find none of that back in the room. And so, it is a conflict between the past and the future. Which is interesting, considering the title: A Room with a View. Obviously, this is a combination of both the past and the future. The societal safety of an enclosed room with the aesthetic freedom of a view.
There is another aspect of the room and view comparison. It is stated at a certain point that Lucy says to Cecil, "I won't be stifled, not by the most glorious music, for people are more glorious, and you hide them from me." This is easily a call-back to the notion that Cecil is a room without a view, and he would bring Lucy into the room if she would let him. He would surround her with beautiful things--books, art, music--but he would keep her from people. People are the one thing Cecil cannot stand. He grows tired of every person he meets in the book. Forster isn't saying we shouldn't surround ourselves with these beautiful things, but we should never remove people--the view--because people are the most beautiful things. (As a misanthrope, I'm a little inclined to disagree, but I'm just stating what I think Forster was saying in the book.)
George Emerson seems to embody this notion. His father is obviously a radical and a very strange man. George takes after him somewhat, though he is different in many aspects. He's described as "ill-bred" and that he "didn't do," but he is easily the most likable character and obviously has better morals and understanding than the well-bred Cecil, who finds amusement in putting everyone down, so long as they hold nothing for him to gain. George seems like what one would get from a cross between a country squire and a liberal-minded aristocrat: he is philosophical and gentlemanly, but he'll kiss the girl he loves regardless of her fiance being present not a minute earlier, because he "loves passionately."
I think this is what Forster was hoping for the future gentleman to be like. Free of many Victorian restrains, replacing them with true morals and true philosophy rather than hypocrisy and regurgitated knowledge. (I must point out that I do not hold the Victorian lifestyle to be nearly as bad as many of Edwardians and Modernists did, but that's neither here nor there.) If Forster had understood the Medieval mind better, he would've called George medieval rather than that cold and cynical Cecil.
Or maybe I'm over-analyzing the whole damned thing, and it's just about a girl growing up and falling in love....more
Maybe I missed a large portion of the point of this novel. Maybe I'm not that educated about Spanish culture before, during, and after the revolution.Maybe I missed a large portion of the point of this novel. Maybe I'm not that educated about Spanish culture before, during, and after the revolution. And maybe I only read it because of the influence from Don Quixote. All of that being ignored, this was one of the best novels I've read this year. I've only read Greene's The Destructors, so as an example of Greene's writing style or capabilities, I can hardly give any comment except that I found it easy to read, the characters were well drawn, the story was believable and enjoyable, and the moral was not preached but left to the read to understand or ignore. What that moral was is somewhat ambiguous in my mind, which may be because of those things I mentioned above. Of course, to say that Father Quixote's religion is the same as Don Quixote's knight-errantry is somewhat trite, though true. I have not read many reinterpretations of Cervantes' masterpiece, but most seem to focus on heroes or heroines becoming too much obsessed with literature (Northanger Abbey or Madame Bovary) or simply as an eccentric wanderer (The Pickwick Papers). I could be wrong and would love any corrections, as I'd love to read some more books along this line, but I'm not aware of many books that have used the theme of religion to replace knight-errantry. I'm confused by this, because, unless Greene and I are justt more brilliant than I give us credit, the two have always seemed interchangeably ridiculous. But that's the beauty of it. I don't find Don Quixote ridiculous for believing in the ideals of knight-errantry, nor do I find Father Quixote ridiculous for believing in the tenants of Christianity, despite that the fact that they are. That being said, I respect Sancho Panza for his incredulousness or the ex-Mayor's Communism, despite my disagreement with their views. I find life is more ridiculous in its truth than otherwise though. We have all these cold views of man's behavior, but most persons never seems to follow them. Instead, we act in ways inconceivably ridiculous. Whether that's the point Greene was going for, I couldn't begin to say. That is, however, what I got from the book, and I think it's a worthy moral....more
Sometimes when I finish reading a book, either the book was so good or the ending just blew me away so much, and I can't even comprehend reading sometSometimes when I finish reading a book, either the book was so good or the ending just blew me away so much, and I can't even comprehend reading something else for a couple of hours. I have to let the book settle into me. This has been a good year for me--reading-wise--because so far I've had that experience with four books. Ethan Frome is the fourth, but even more than that, it is the first American novel I've had that experience with. When the book started, there were some obvious allusions to the ending, and I picked up on them. What I didn't pick up on was how the book would actually conclude. I won't give the ending away, but I have to give credit to Wharton. She surprised me, but looking back at the novel, I see that there was no other way for it to end. It's like the end of Jude the Obscure: artistically, it always had to be this way. And speaking of Jude, from the first few paragraphs, I was thinking of Thomas Hardy, as well as George Elliot's Silas Marner. Of course, the obvious link with Silas Marner is that both are stories of an old, broken man in a small town. The writing styles are similar as well. Still, I think the main thing that links the two novels is the feel: a sense of winter is imbued within the pages of both works. I kind of wish it had been winter when I read this, but it has been dark and cold and dreary. The story is, like most novels named after a character, a character piece. And Frome is a strong, sympathetic character. In fact, most of the characters seemed worthwhile. Zeena was especially interesting. While she is technically the antagonist of the novel, Wharton made her not only sympathetic, but believable. She's a sickly, troubled woman who can tell her husband doesn't love her anymore. You can easily see why she'd be cantankerous. But then, the ending threw a whole new light upon her. I could gush over this novel some more, but I think I should call it quits. Writing reviews is so much easier when the novel didn't affect you in the way this one did with me....more