A portrait of the inner lives of a particular English family, rendered in prose that is limpid, beautiful, yet also very raw, with a thematic resonanc...moreA portrait of the inner lives of a particular English family, rendered in prose that is limpid, beautiful, yet also very raw, with a thematic resonance that extends far beyond the concerns of the family itself.
Woolf is a serious writer, but also a very playful one. Her characters have very authentic human concerns, and her portrayal of the mother - Mrs. Ramsay - gives us a real insight into the social concerns of any woman with a burden of responsibility (which is most women, whether they desire that burden or not). Many characters, however, also have characteristically Woolfian exaggerations and curiosities of mind, so that we find, for example, Mr. Ramsay with a disaffected, roiling, brooding, poetic mind that seems hard to imagine in reality, but which works effectively in the novel form as a metaphor for men of a certain class and position who have little more than the flights of their imagination to base their self-worth upon.
The novel is divided into three parts, the first being the illustration of the social world, characterized by present possibilities (though also cajoled by present conflicts). It ends with a dinner scene that works as the apotheosis of Mrs. Ramsay's role as a mother, wife, and general caretaker of those around her. She is perfect, radiant, beautiful, exemplary. All human concerns have their place, all desires are satisfied, and everything that took so long to cohere has now been given form and life and meaning. But this subtle artistry of Mrs. Ramsay, while not an adventure or a psychic drama, gives us a strong sense (perhaps a stronger sense than any novel previous to it) what it could mean to be a woman with every conventional expectation of her still in place, yet who still manages to flourish as a fully actualized human being.
The second section of the novel is exactly what the title implies - "Time Passes" and we are drawn into some of the most illustrative and wondrous poetic prose in the English language. The section will speak for itself, and there is little to say here that would not spoil the tragedy or beauty of reading this section for the first time.
Lily Briscoe, though unable to achieve her vision in the first part of the work, provides us with an artistic perspective in the final section of the novel that brings the question of life in aesthetic relief - what can one discover, without love, without family, when one finds oneself at the edge of the world, with only the sea left to take one? It is not a difficult section so far as the language goes, but perhaps the most difficult to understand in its thematics. We also find Mr. Ramsay discovering a kind of center near the end of his life that does not rely on his wife or his vague philosophical ambitions, but which might be authentic enough for us to say of him, 'he knew why he was, if not exactly what he was'. Again, I feel I would need to read this work a few times to really extract the level of detail and meaning behind this section in particular, but I can already say that it is a novel almost peerless in the cascades of its vision, wrought marvelously in its execution.(less)
Very cool to see the original accounts given by sundry sources from the time period where peasants and other small townspeople actually did believe in...moreVery cool to see the original accounts given by sundry sources from the time period where peasants and other small townspeople actually did believe in vampires! It is always good to see the reality behind a popular legend, especially when digger deeper into it gives you an insight into the folkloric roots of the horrors of human imagination. (less)
As a relatively new reader of fantasy, my impressions of this book have more to do with considerations of style and character rather than worries over...moreAs a relatively new reader of fantasy, my impressions of this book have more to do with considerations of style and character rather than worries over how the book inherits or repeats certain traditions within the genre.
Jordan's style is effective, descriptive, and sometimes vivid, with perhaps less ponderousness than Tolkien, though one could argue that Tolkien had a good deal more charm and humour in his writing. There are some imaginative moments when Jordan ignites his style to match the psychological reality of a certain scene, which is quite an enjoyable break from the purely descriptive (and sometimes prosaic) kind of writing that composes over 80% of the book.
The main characters are all likable in The Eye of the World, though the primary antagonist has little to differentiate him from any other generally malignant and omnipresent representation of pure evil.
The Trollocs, while fearsome for their semi-human aspects, are the same kind of disposable fighting fodder as orcs, while the more chilling "Fades" are reminiscent of the Nazgul, though again without much personality to distinguish them as independent characters.
The relationship between Moiraine and Lan, especially after one has read the prequel New Spring, seems to have the most realism and depth out of any of the initial relationships presented in the work, but is unfortunately left woefully undeveloped. Perrin and Nynaeve are also both strong characters who have an authentic conflict that will be carried on well through at least the next three books, though both seem to grow less believable whenever they come into contact with other characters (in particular, Nynaeve's undeveloped 'romance' with Lan along with Perrin's weird bickering with Egwene during their separate romp through the wilderness).
Rand, the main protagonist, is most likable in the first book, and one would do well to enjoy the story presented there, because although the plot seems to require a certain loss of sanity and agreeability, the shift feels altogether too drastic and one is disinclined to give Rand the same sympathy that one did for Frodo, even when he was most corrupted by the Ring.
The work was enjoyable and presented a fairly well developed world in which it is exciting to explore for the first three books and the prequel. Certain moments of borderline misogyny, however, along with Jordan's seeming inability to make any of the characters very interesting when they have to relate to other characters (with the exception, as I noted, of Moiraine and Lan), make me wonder if I would read through those two thousand or so pages again, especially when the arc of the story starts to feel incoherent by Book Four of the work.
I would recommend the prequel along with the first novel to readers of fantasy who have not yet encountered the Wheel of Time, but I could readily understand anyone not wanting to go further in the series, precisely because of its lack of emotional intensity and believability.(less)
Whitman is a writer of uncontested grandeur and power. His poetry spans the entire continent of America, and reaches even beyond to the farther reache...moreWhitman is a writer of uncontested grandeur and power. His poetry spans the entire continent of America, and reaches even beyond to the farther reaches of the earth. I am not in a position to really survey the merits of someone so important to American poetry, but you will remember what it is to be a free man walking in the sunshine of the earth, or else teeming in the city streets among the colorful cornucopia of people our society has to offer.
That said, there are times when the listing seems to lose it's beauty as poetry, and becomes Whitman's grand catalogue of Everything and Anything. If these more expansive lists (and I suspect part of this is due to the length of using the final 'death bed' edition of his poems, which some critics has said is not as important as some earlier editions of the book) were made sonorous through rhyme or some kind of standard meter, I think they would be more interesting or pleasurable to hear. As it is, there seem to be endless lists entrenched among the most poignant works, so that one feels that the work could have been cropped a bit more to make the living, sweetest fruit more easy to find. (less)
James' style is tortuous, in every sense of the word. I don't know if these passive, overly comma'd, lumbering and graceless sentences are purposeful,...moreJames' style is tortuous, in every sense of the word. I don't know if these passive, overly comma'd, lumbering and graceless sentences are purposeful, an attempt to portray the confused character of the protagonist, but they make for quite horrible reading. Kant is a better stylist than James in this story, which is saying a lot. (less)