Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life is more of what Herman Melville does best. He offers an intellectually arresting argument about the nature of civiliz...moreTypee: A Peep at Polynesian Life is more of what Herman Melville does best. He offers an intellectually arresting argument about the nature of civilization while going into great detail about the every day life of a group of Polynesian natives in the Marquesas Islands.
Typee was Herman Melville's most popular work during his lifetime. It is a partially autobiographical account of a man's time among a secluded tribe of Polynesian natives. "Tommo" escapes from a cruelly run whale ship and finds himself living among the Polynesian Typee tribe. The narrative is absolutely full of concrete detail about virtually every aspect of daily life among the Typees. Typee has everything from sensual descriptions of bare-chested exotic girls to treatises on island vegetation and edible fruit. The detail is stunning.
Surrounded by all of this plentiful detail is an argument about the nature of "European" (and presumably American) civilization vs the untainted existence of the "noble savages" living in the Typee valley. Melville discusses these differences particularly in chapters 17, 26 and 27. Melville's discussion is earnest in its philosophical questioning and worth reading.
Also of interest is Melville's criticism of Christian missionaries in the South Pacific. Although Melville writes in support of the aim of Christenizing Polynesia, he strongly criticizes the cruel methods of the missionaries.
The Good: Part Castaway-style adventure story, part philosophical questioning of the nature of civilization and part anthropological text on the life of Polynesians, Typee has a lot to offer.
The Bad: Many modern readers will dislike the amount of detail Melville goes into when describing things.
The Bottom Line: Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life is an easier book to get into than Moby Dick. It has a lot of concrete detail, but its themes are simpler. Though lesser known Typee is a must for any Melville fan.(less)
Sinclair Lewis' Babbitt is American Satire at its best. No part of 1920s American is safe from his witty criticism. Babbitt is a middle-aged businessm...moreSinclair Lewis' Babbitt is American Satire at its best. No part of 1920s American is safe from his witty criticism. Babbitt is a middle-aged businessman, living in a small Midwestern city where the chief value is conformity. Lewis satirizes the business of conformity as Babbitt unsuccessfully pursues a climb up the social ladder.
Babbitt grows discontented as his climb and pursuit of material goods doesn't seem to bring him happiness. He experiments with nonconformity, but finds that his forays are both destructive to his own life and are really just a different type of conformity in their own right. Near the end, Babbitt has an epiphany causing event and repents his nonconformity, though he retains some of the empathy and hope for meaningful life that he has learned through his experience. Even though Babbitt has returned to conformity, Lewis hints at the possibility of change through his rebellious son.
Bottom Line: Babbitt remains a popular classic because of its wit as well as the endurance of the issues of conformity/nonconformity and its criticism of the "hollowness" of the capitalism and the American Dream.(less)
The Marvelous Land of Oz is the second installment in L. Frank Baum's Oz series. It follows the continuing adventures of the Scarecrow and the Tinman...moreThe Marvelous Land of Oz is the second installment in L. Frank Baum's Oz series. It follows the continuing adventures of the Scarecrow and the Tinman and a few new friends, Tip and Jack Pumpkinhead as they travel through Oz and try to retake the Emerald City after it has been overrun by a troop of girls.
The sequel has the same wonderful language and colorful, imaginative characters that appear in The Wizard of Oz, with a dash of political intrigue, though done in a lighthearted, fun way.
The Marvelous Land of Oz is weirder than The Wizard of Oz. There's living furniture that wants to be dead, weirdly anti-feminist (or maybe pro, it's too weird to tell) army of girls that want to make the men do housework, gender switching and more. It's really an imaginative book, but maybe lacks the coherence of its predecessor and some of the later books in the series.
Bottom Line: The Marvelous Land of OZ is just too trippy to miss out on.(less)
Ozma of Oz is my favorite of the Oz series so far. The characters are strange, from the talking hen Billina to the wheelers and of course Tik-Tok. Dor...moreOzma of Oz is my favorite of the Oz series so far. The characters are strange, from the talking hen Billina to the wheelers and of course Tik-Tok. Dorothy Gale once again has an adventure through a strange land and sets out with her new friends to save the royal family of Ev from the Nome King, who has imprisoned them in his underground layer and turned them into ornaments to decorate his royal hall. Dorothy also gets to reunite with her old friends, the scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Corwardly Lion.
My favorite part of Ozma of Oz is the part in the Nome King's layer and the puzzle Dorothy and her friends have to solve to free the royal family of Ev. I won't give any spoilers, but I did enjoy that part.
Bottom Line: Ozma of Oz continues the Oz series and is the most enjoyable of the first three.(less)
Anton Chekhov's play The Cherry Orchard is an extremely interesting play that has a duel nature as both comedy and tragedy. However, some non-Russian...moreAnton Chekhov's play The Cherry Orchard is an extremely interesting play that has a duel nature as both comedy and tragedy. However, some non-Russian audiences may have difficulty understanding the sense of futility Chekhov gives it.
The plot of the play centers around an aristocratic woman and her family whose fortunes have gone sour. They are about to sell their famed cherry orchard to pay the mortgage.
Through the course of the play, the family finds several options to save the cherry orchard, but they do nothing. The estate is sold to a former serf, who doesn't seem to appreciate the cherry orchard and cuts it down.
The tragedy is a symbolic one. The aristocracy tries in vain to maintain its social position, while the new bourgeoisie can't find meaning in their new wealth.
Bottom Line: The Cherry Orchard is a fantastic play, both to read or to watch, though parts of it get "lost-in-translation" from the original Russian audience.(less)
The Good: James Joyce's Dubliners is great for both casual reading and more intense study. For the casual reader, Dubliners gives entertaining and rea...moreThe Good: James Joyce's Dubliners is great for both casual reading and more intense study. For the casual reader, Dubliners gives entertaining and realistic stories of mostly lower to middle class life in turn of the twentieth century Dublin. The characters are great, the settings are realistic and the prose is simple, yet lively. The short story format is easy to get through for general readers. Each of the stories is good enough to stand on its own.
In Dubliners Joyce also provides a metaphorical study of Irish nationalism with particular emphasis on the theme "paralysis." All of the stories are connected through this central thread and Joyce's use of "epiphany" moments. The short story protagonists of Dubliners progress with each story from children to older people. The tone also progressively becomes more cynical and disillusioned with its hope for the Irish people and Irish nationalism.
This review isn't finished but I wanted to save it.(less)
Though a short novel, Of Mice and Men is one that everyone should read. Steinbeck's strong moral viewpoint and incredible prose come together in a ter...moreThough a short novel, Of Mice and Men is one that everyone should read. Steinbeck's strong moral viewpoint and incredible prose come together in a terrific novel.
The GoodOf Mice and Men is succinct with a strong moral viewpoint. The migrant workers envision a society where they can have their basic needs fulfilled and work their own land. Their needs are simple, yet they cannot be consistently fulfilled because of their position at the very bottom of the social ladder. As with The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck here concerns himself with the well-being of the worst off Americans. While the basic economic and social system seems to be set against the migrant workers, the workers themselves envision a world where they can live together and share the fruits of the earth they till.
Steinbeck proves himself once again to be a master of unassuming, delicate language. He describes the Salinas Valley in such concrete, yet haunting words. The characters are so vividly real. Their dialogue is so natural and unassuming. The friendship between George and Lennie becomes so real in the text that the ending it simply heartbreaking. Steinbeck is simply a master crafter of the English language.
The Bad Some people might be put off by the sad ending. I do not consider it a drawback. In fact, it is the only coherent ending the novel could have had.
The Bottom LineOf Mice and Men is a novel that shouldn't be missed.(less)