Will write real review sometime tomorrow, but the major reason for this rating (and for the totally painful experience of reading the novel, which I aWill write real review sometime tomorrow, but the major reason for this rating (and for the totally painful experience of reading the novel, which I am determined never to read again as long as I live) is that apparently this novel's brand of rape culture, misogyny (internalized and otherwise), and tragedy is pervasive and sickening enough to make me reevaluate my previous sense that this kind of material isn't triggering to me.
Nope, actually not gonna write a real review, because I still have to write up formal notes for this one and I only have so much energy for writing about it at all....more
I'm pretty sure Thomas Hardy is just not the author for me. Casterbridge did not trigger my rage and frustration the way that Tess did, but it also juI'm pretty sure Thomas Hardy is just not the author for me. Casterbridge did not trigger my rage and frustration the way that Tess did, but it also just didn't wow me; I can understand a lot of potential scenarios in which someone would want to teach this novel (perhaps even in which I would want to teach this novel?) but it's not something I have an urge to work with as part of a larger scholarly project.
I think if this novel were actually Elizabeth-Jane's story, I would have liked it better, since she was the one character whose narrative arc I found particularly compelling. (It's interesting because apparently it's a critical commonplace that Elizabeth-Jane narrates most of the novel, but I don't feel like she is central to most of the novel -- something important to think about in pondering the typical positioning of Hardy's narrators, who tend to observe action of which they are not really a part.)
Like all of Hardy's novels (at least all that I've read) Casterbridge seems at times more interested in a place than in people -- what interests me about this particular place is that it occupies a strange place between the strictly rural and the strictly urban; I think that's where a lot of the fascination with Casterbridge lies for Hardy (and of course it's based on his home town of Dorchester so the fascination is strong).
Another thing I found interesting on the larger schematic level has to do with the repetitions and parallels that fill the novel -- events mirror each other, reunions (even remarriages) are frequent, and no event occurs that does not contain some sense of its history. It makes the novel feel much more insistently structured than the other Hardy novels I've read.
But at the end of the day it feels difficult to find something worth saying about the novel, and I'm left with the conclusion that Hardy is just not for me. I have a suspicion that if I read some of his less canonical works -- the ones he liked less -- I'd like him better....more
While I don't find the characters as compelling as those in Leviathan, Westerfeld's worldbuilding in this novel is on par with the worldbuilding thatWhile I don't find the characters as compelling as those in Leviathan, Westerfeld's worldbuilding in this novel is on par with the worldbuilding that makes up a lot of my love for his Leviathan series. It's not particularly radical in the realm of dystopia to suggest that a future society will attempt, in some way, to make everyone equal (see for example Harrison Bergeron) and to keep everyone from complaining by getting them addicted to easy pleasure (see for example Brave New World) -- but it does seem unique to me to create a dystopian society where some things are doubtless being done "right." The valuation of physical appearance in Uglies and the use of it as a locus of homogenization is obviously a problem, but this future society has nonetheless developed clean energy and is mostly vegetarian (vegan?), having rejected the destructive ways of the civilization that came before theirs. While that level of nuance only really plays a small role in the story, I think it's a good example of what I liked about this book -- it might be fuzzy on the big picture, at times, but it does get small things right. And I'm certainly excited to get my hands on the next one....more
Maybe you have to be a lit nerd and compulsive annotator like me to love this book, but boy, did I love it! It's fascinating to see Jackson sketch outMaybe you have to be a lit nerd and compulsive annotator like me to love this book, but boy, did I love it! It's fascinating to see Jackson sketch out a humble history of annotation from 1700 to the present, and his conversational tone throughout took what could have been a dull subject and made it a pleasure to read. Also, maybe this is just because I've read too much literary criticism which likes to present its claims as utterly true and incontrovertible despite the obvious impossibility of making an incontrovertible claim in a subjective discipline (sorry, guys, humanities are not the sciences, nor should they try to be!), but I loved his modesty and humility coupled with his obviously personal passionate immersion in his subject.
If we ever needed proof that I would lead the hordes of literary nerd minions, the fact that I have given this five stars may in fact be that proof....more
Usually when I want to give something 3.5 stars it's a holistic judgment -- I more than "liked" it, but I didn't quite "really like" it. Wilhelm MeistUsually when I want to give something 3.5 stars it's a holistic judgment -- I more than "liked" it, but I didn't quite "really like" it. Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship is a different story. Although it was generally a 3-star book, there were brief shining 4-star moments and characters! Unfortunately, Goethe and I apparently disagree about what constitutes a five-star rating, because the very characters and situations that intrigued me in the opening of the novel were those that Goethe's ending undermined and wrote out. It packs a lot of potential, but it didn't follow through on the parts I was most interested in.
Still: better than Tom Jones! (I don't even want to know how many people in my department I would have to debate on that one...)...more
This book deserves 4 stars more for its premise and the idea of its world than for its actual execution at times. It starts out slowly, largely becausThis book deserves 4 stars more for its premise and the idea of its world than for its actual execution at times. It starts out slowly, largely because the details of the world are explained in somewhat clunky ways (at least in my opinion), but the world itself is fantastic and the story is, I think, worth getting into. The characters are vividly drawn and complicated and well worth following on their journeys, and I'm definitely going to be reading the next one!
When I had just finished this novel, I was not in the state of mind conducive to reviewing it. Over a week later I suspect I am still not in that statWhen I had just finished this novel, I was not in the state of mind conducive to reviewing it. Over a week later I suspect I am still not in that state of mind, but may never be, so now is better than never.
I read this book, not out of any personal interest or draw, but because I study the eighteenth century novel and you really can't even pretend to do that at the graduate level without making your way, at one point or another, through Clarissa. I will admit, I was dreading the experience a bit (though that never stopped me from acknowledging its inevitability). I had read Pamela as an undergrad, and despite being taught by a very enthusiastic professor, I didn't fall in love with Richardson. I found the novel interesting from a scholarly viewpoint, but not something that really touched me personally -- not something that made me feel as much as it made me think.
Clarissa is another story.
For one, I was incredibly surprised by the quality of Richardson's writing, which to my mind has taken a definite upturn in the interval post-Pamela, though this may be a function of characterization -- Clarissa is, after all, of a much higher social class than Pamela, and to Richardson, this would rather neatly correlate with their writerly abilities. But it's more than that, because where Pamela's view of events was occasionally compelling, it was also often disappointingly one-sided. Not so Clarissa! If anything, it's the multiplicity of the epistolary structure in this novel that makes it compelling. And while Richardson's purposes are obviously didactic, there are times in Clarissa where I found myself forgetting that (or at least not foregrounding it), in ways that I'm not sure Pamela ever let me do. I respect the novel as a massive, ordered, measured construction, which Richardson obviously spent a great deal of time and effort producing.
And while sometimes the things it made me feel weren't pleasant, this is a novel that got me feeling in ways its predecessor just didn't. I care about Clarissa and Anna in ways I don't about a lot of other eighteenth-century fictional characters (*cough* Tom Jones *cough*). And while, from an academic standpoint, this isn't exactly the standard by which a text ought be judged, I take issue with that standard at times, because what do we read these novels for if not for our sense that they matter, emotionally as well as intellectually?
It's long and it's difficult and I wouldn't actually recommend it to anyone who wasn't planning to teach eighteenth-century literature at the college level, but I have found (and continue to find) this novel rewarding...when I'm not so frustrated that I could throw it out a window....more
It would probably be impolitic of me to say anything particularly mean-spirited about this novel, as it is my intention to study 18th-c novels for a lIt would probably be impolitic of me to say anything particularly mean-spirited about this novel, as it is my intention to study 18th-c novels for a living, but I just could not get into this book. I'm sure that it is incredibly significant for critical purposes -- and as someone interested in the history of novel theory I loved Fielding's addresses to the reader in the first chapter of each book -- but on a personal level it is not a book for me, nor, I think, will it ever become one, no matter how many times I end up reading and teaching it in my future life. And I'm kind of sad about this, because I wanted to like it so much more than I think I will ever find myself able to....more
Why am I done with this already? What will the next one be like? Why do I not already possess the next one so I can find out? WHY DO I READ TOO FAST?
IWhy am I done with this already? What will the next one be like? Why do I not already possess the next one so I can find out? WHY DO I READ TOO FAST?
In other words: lovely follow-up to Leviathan, adds just the right amount of unexpected twists, and has me coming back for more...even if only to know when a certain someone will reveal a certain something that, I am surprised to say, has yet to be revealed!...more