The writing was ok (good for a kids audience), not the great writing found in his "Tales from Outer Suburbia" (but that was geared towards more matureThe writing was ok (good for a kids audience), not the great writing found in his "Tales from Outer Suburbia" (but that was geared towards more mature readers). His usually wonderful illustrations were so simple in this book, and since it wasn't so much a picture book, they were also few and far between....more
A very obvious allegory of British imperialism (particularly in Australia), and it's affect on native peoples and the environment. It's clever that thA very obvious allegory of British imperialism (particularly in Australia), and it's affect on native peoples and the environment. It's clever that the invaders were represented as rabbits when Australia had such a problem with rabbits as an invasive species. The story was fairly banal.
Shaun Tan's artwork was incredibly detailed and imaginative, and a little bit creepy, as usual....more
Does a good job of describing depression through artwork that is surreal, clever, and right on target. On one page there are some messages in Finnish-Does a good job of describing depression through artwork that is surreal, clever, and right on target. On one page there are some messages in Finnish--around the girl's neck, "kuka sinä olet?" (who are you?), and on a sign in the background "mitä sinä täällä teet?" (what are you doing here?)....more
This is the first time I've read anything written by Shaun Tan, having only read his wordless novel "The Arrival" previous to this.
There are only a smThis is the first time I've read anything written by Shaun Tan, having only read his wordless novel "The Arrival" previous to this.
There are only a small handful of authors who write in a way that feels so perfect it's as if their words were coming from my own heart. What a wonderful surprise then, to find that Shaun Tan's writing has this impact on me when I already have so much appreciation for his work as a visual artist. And what a gift to be able to receive these two dimensions of art at the same time. Dr. Seuss is currently the only other artist who I've been able to appreciate as a writer and visual artist concurrently--and I have to say, I think Shaun Tan's work hits closer to home.
Shaun Tan's stories are dripping with emotion, but in an understated way that never seems melodramatic or cliché--no trivial accomplishment for a writer.
I also enjoy how there is always a bit (and at times a lot) of dark themes in his work--but again--never delivered with a heavy hand. How can you write a 1 page story about a man beating his dog to death in a way that feels light and almost airy? You're a goddamned word ninja named Shaun Tan is how.
Good is always woven-in to these stories as well, to balance-out (and most of the time overcome) the dark themes. The darkness is always accompanied by innocent wonder and the striking beauty of the imagination. This balance of dark/good gives these surreal stories the well-rounded and honest feeling of something real.
A lot of these stories are set in a world very similar to ours, but just slightly askew. This combination of the known and the hypothetical (and often magical) allows us to connect to the narrative enough to engage emotionally, but also makes us see things from a unique perspective--as an outsider. Not only is it interesting to be able to see the worlds Shaun Tan creates from these dual perspectives (insider/outsider), but because these worlds often share such a striking resemblance to the real world, it also fosters a type of outsider thinking that we can then apply to our world. Afterwards we are left to consider if what we accept as ordinary could be considered ridiculous if we weren't so numbed by its familiarity.
Needless to say, I am going to have to read and see everything Shaun Tan creates....more
Some amazingly powerful and beautiful woodcuts in this book! Some of my favorite Lynd Ward woodcuts, for sure. The story element was somewhat lackingSome amazingly powerful and beautiful woodcuts in this book! Some of my favorite Lynd Ward woodcuts, for sure. The story element was somewhat lacking though. For a wordless story this is too abstract and disjoined--making it hard to understand the story that ties the images together. After looking up the meaning of the story, I looked back through the images and was able to appreciate it much more. Feels incomplete in and of itself.
The image of starving children behind a barbed wire fence under a swastika is eerily prophetic considering this book was published prior to WW2.
Art is a 5, story is a 2, overall I give it a 4....more
I know a lot of people get very emotional about criticism of this book, because it is a classic so beloved by so many. If poiInternet troll disclaimer
I know a lot of people get very emotional about criticism of this book, because it is a classic so beloved by so many. If pointing out perceived flaws (which are merely my personal opinion) are going to offend you like I'm defiling your religious text, please stop reading this now. I'm not declaring any truths here, this is all just my experience. I'm happy to receive respectful and constructive criticism, anything less will not be tolerated whatsoever.
I don't know much about British lit from this time period, but it is my impression that it was known for being much more verbose and emotive than contemporary literature in English typically is. This is definitely both of those things. Sociolinguistically it's interesting (at least to me) to think about why English writing became more concise and stoic (unlike present-day Spanish lit which carries with it a lot of pasión). I enjoyed the emotional characters, and wasn't bothered by the long-windedness of the prose, but the hyperbole got to me a little. When everything is the best thing ever or the worst thing ever, everything kinda loses meaning. Importance is relative, so with everything constantly being so extreme I found myself not caring about much, somewhat counterintuitively. No one had friends; they had kindred spirits cut from the same cloth. No one had loved-ones; they had flawless manifestations of angelic compassion enriching their lives. No one had enemies; they had wretched nemeses of unadulterated evil. Ok, we get it Mary Shelley, everything is a really big deal because there's no gray in the world. Maybe part of this is due to her being a teenager when she started writing this, and maybe also a prevalent writing style of the time? But kudos to her, all I could summon up at that age was some malt-liquor-inspired emo poetry--so no disrespect Mary, R.I.P..
She uses the word "countenance" A LOT. I counted 48 times in a book with around 200 pages. The word "face" was used only 29 times comparatively. Peculiar. Looks like the use of "countenance" in English peaked in 1827 (per Google's Ngram viewer), merely 9 years after the publication of this book. I wonder how much her prevalent use of the word in this book helped boost it to its max usage in history--food for thought.
There are a ton of beautiful quotes in this book, one of my favorites deals with the sense of guilt one feels when one ceases mourning a lost loved-one:
"The time at length arrives when grief is rather an indulgence than a necessity; and the smile that plays upon the lips, although it may be deemed a sacrilege, is not banished."
Plot and character development
I have a couple of issues with the plot. These are things that I think could have been addressed with a couple of choice paragraphs, but weren't. Had these things been tied together a bit more tidily, I would have squeezed-out another star for this review:
1) A major problem:
Victor Frankenstein is a very intelligent, analytical young man who comes from an affluent and emotionally healthy upbringing--yet he never seems to fully understand or admit that whatever evil exists within the monster (which, it is debatable whether there is any at all) was put there by his own abhorrent neglect and abuse. Frankenstein feels endlessly guilty because he had "turned loose into the world a depraved wretch*," but at no point does he articulate that the monster was not evil by nature (I really wanted to say "naughty by nature" here). It seems inconsistent with his character that he would not have come to this conclusion; he was not an emotionally-stunted and ignorant man.
*Mary Shelley also liked the word "wretch" and its variations, totaling 64 times. "Wretch" peaked in English usage in 1799.
2) Another major problem:
Long before the monster commits any crimes, he is already branded as an evil abomination. Uh, why? Does Frankenstein think that there is an absolute correlation between being ugly and being evil. This simply does not make any sense. Oh yeah, and the monster looks the way he does because Frankenstein designed him to look that way, so... *turns head like a confused dog*
3) Yet another major problem:
Frankenstein spends months piecing together the monster in a manic frenzy, driven by a scientific obsession for dominance over nature that involves a lot of grave-digging and gore, but the moment the monster comes to life (which was the ultimate goal) Frankenstein basically unravels as if he had the most genteel and delicate of sensibilities, and is just incapable of stomaching such a ghastly visage (or should I say, "ghastly countenance" *winky face*). Uh, what? All of that corpse surgery didn't desensitize him even a little?
Throughout the book Frankenstein makes a habit of collapsing on the nearest fainting couch and falling into a "nervous fever" for months each time he faces a tragedy. How can someone who is so dramatically fragile be the same person who slogged through all of the carnage necessary to create the monster? More inconsistent character development is how.
I get that you are supposed to sympathize with the monster and dislike Frankenstein, but that does not give license to have characters contradict themselves on a whim whenever necessitated by the plot.
4) A minor peeve:
At the insistence of the monster, Frankenstein embarks on creating another monster to serve as a companion. He states that in order to make another monster he must first travel to England where a philosopher has recently made some discoveries that are crucial for his success. Even though he has already created a monster, by himself, he needs something from an English philosopher to make another one? Why? This is never explained.
I like the intricate and imbedded format of the narrative. At one point the narrative is a manuscript of a story of a story. Somehow these different delivery mechanisms and layers are not at all confusing, but interesting.
The big obvious one here is mankind's fear of technology; playing God and disrupting a natural order via our arrogance. It's the same thing we see today with the popularity of dystopian themes (especially zombies) in science-fiction.
Another lesser undercurrent here may be the instinctive anxiety brought upon by parenthood. You can do everything right as a parent and still raise a serial killer (although unlikely). I think this fear strikes at the core of what it means to be human and create independent offspring for which one feels eternally liable and responsible, but cannot willingly design or predictably wield. There is a lot of this in classical Greek lit--your child is destined to be the one who displaces you, ruins you, kills you, etc. There's something dreadfully romantic about creating your own destruction with the sincerest intentions. ...more
I would give parts I and II each five stars, and part III one star, for an overall rating of three stars.
The end was a total flop. Not that I need thI would give parts I and II each five stars, and part III one star, for an overall rating of three stars.
The end was a total flop. Not that I need things tied-up with a bow, it just kind of meandered into nothing.
Parts I and II were what I love about Capote, although with some small caveats. I'm not surprised that this was his first book, published when he was so young. There are two telltale features of bad writing here that I haven't seen in his later works:
1) The dramatic over-description of things -There was some flowery description that just came across as trying too hard.
2) Over-doing "clever" grammatical constructions -Using the "-ly" forms of colors: "whitely" (pg 193), "bluely" (pg 42), "redly" (pg 83), "greenly" (pgs 53, 193), "blackly" (pg 108), "goldenly" (pg 29), and maybe others.
Some description and artistic license can be good, too much is just tacky. I like to think that they are like makeup in this way. "Less is more," as they say--more seasoned (quality) writers learn this. Regardless of these quirks, parts I and II were incredibly well-written for a 23/24-year-old author, and pretty good for an author of any age.