I think I had to read this 6 times before I came to love it. I believe I have read it around 11 times.
"Walden" was required reading in 12th grade Ame...moreI think I had to read this 6 times before I came to love it. I believe I have read it around 11 times.
"Walden" was required reading in 12th grade American Lit. when I was in high school. We only had to read the chapter on 'Economy', but it was described in terms of dread and horror by my fellow students before my section even got to the classroom. I don't remember what the assignment was, but I do remember that a long period was set aside to get through it and that a lot of people struggled to complete it at all. I believe now, that I was so psyched out by what I heard that I didn't understand what I was reading, not because I didn't understand it, but because I thought I must be missing whatever it was that was so difficult and grueling. I remember turning in the assignment and being dazed and needing to be assured that I did in fact do what was required.
I talked with the teacher, described what was in the chapter and, sure enough, it was about a man who wanted to live simply by building a cabin in the woods. Then I was puzzled, because I thought the idea of the book was cool. It was about nature. What could be wrong with that? There was something about it that compelled me to return to it even though it was hard and it took a long time to understand what it was really about.
It helped not to have to read it once the assignment was over in class. I picked up an annotated paperback version in a used bookstore and read and reread that book until it fell apart. I still have it in a bag. The annotations kept referring to an edition of the book from the 1940s that had photographs in it. Once I had reached the point where I really loved "Walden" I remember wondering what was in the pictures that was so wonderful. I never expected to find out.
I would have been happy just to have looked at a copy. But one day I was walking by the sale books in the public library and the photographic edition from the 1940s was there for $1.00. I couldn't believe my eyes. I brought it to one of the head librarians and I explained what the book was and asked if they were sure they wanted to sell it. I was assured that yes, one dollar would do. What a prize.
Things I like in Henry David Thoreau's "Walden". I like the descriptions of nature and his philosophic, and poetic, and humorous voice in which he asks questions like "Do you own your farm or does your farm own you?" I loved the chapter where he describes being out on a boat and a loon plays hide and seek with him. I liked his description of making necessary trips into town and of his long walks across other people's property and of his description of the loud boom sound that the ice on the pond made when it broke in the Spring. His description of life lived deliberately provided much for him to discuss about life for all of us in a commercial society.
I once saw an Amazon review that said it was, "The worst book I have ever had the misfortune to read." Well, I get it, it is a hard book, but then at some point you see his gentle sense of humor, his love of nature and his human view of life that asks that nature be respected and that we don't work the joy out of life in pursuit of possessions. "Walden" is almost poetry, but not quite. It is almost philosophy, but not quite. It is almost nature writing, but not quite. But in the end it is a great piece of literature that defies being pigeon-holed as it gives the reader ideas for how to avoid being trapped into a life lived in quiet desperation.(less)
"The Plague" by Albert Camus is one of my all time favorite books. Camus successfully presented a world view (existentialism) and told a solid, enjoya...more"The Plague" by Albert Camus is one of my all time favorite books. Camus successfully presented a world view (existentialism) and told a solid, enjoyable tale.
I say an enjoyable tale without irony. Quality story-telling craft can be a pleasure to read in itself, and that is what this book is. The book is told from the, sometimes unreliable, first person narrative of Dr. Rieux. He is a bit detached, he's not larger than life nor charismatic. He is just a guy who has a job to do. He relates the narrative because he was in the middle of the action and because he had access to all of he records.
Dr. Rieux practiced in the port town of Oran (approx. 200,000 people) during the 1930s or 1940s. He fought the plague that ravaged his community for about a year. This meant he worked night and day to treat and isolate the stricken. He organized sanitation squads, was liaison between the medical community and local and national governments--kept both informed and helped draft polices to isolate the town--and begged for serum to fight the disease. He was also a good friend and participated in community life.
Why?...well...it was his job. And he wanted to have done more for the people than God did.
I like his spirit.
Back to Camus. With this narrative he drew a detailed picture of life in Oran during the year of plague. He developed a cast of characters that were each distinctive and each contributed to the world view the author was presenting, they all move the story forward, and each contributed to the daily mechanics of the world of the drama. As I wrote above, it is good story-telling craft, and his characterizations are a major element of this as a piece of art.
The book presents different kinds of people and their varying reactions to the plague as it enters and settles into their community. There are multiple changes in the same characters as the plague runs through its cycle. There was the professional man who came to town for a little business and spent most of the year attempting to leave but finally embraced the work of fighting the plague and was a hero by the end. There was the self-absorbed man who came to love the plague because the law would never prosecute his case as long as the city was fighting for its life. There was a Priest whose view of the scourge changed as the year passed. In the end he was at peace, but it is difficult to tell if he had a positive change of heart or if he was simply broken. And of course, there was our narrator who doesn't really change, but he relates a great story of humanity.
This 766 page tome is a great and important book. However, the reader feels the weight of every page. Unlike some long books such as "Against the Day"...moreThis 766 page tome is a great and important book. However, the reader feels the weight of every page. Unlike some long books such as "Against the Day" by Pynchon or "The Lord of the Rings" by Tolkien for which this reader enjoyed each so much that they seem too short. I mention the grueling ponderousness of "The Second Sex", not to steer others from the work, but to prepare them for what to expect. Also, to say, it is worth it.
De Beauvoir observes that women represent 50% of the world population, they are integrated into every social structure at every level of humanity and yet they are still short changed in many ways as though they were a small minority. De Beauvoir searches for the answer to how this inequality can happen throughout the book.
The book is divided in two volumes. The first asks the question "What is the feminine?" Meaning 'Does femininity originate in anatomy or chemistry? Is it a product of social conditioning? It it psychological?' de Beauvoir explores biology and women. Then she discusses women in literature and literature produced by women. Finally, she gets to a sociological exploration of women and femininity.
I found the first volume to be the most difficult to get through. The second volume is about "Lived Experience". Each chapter describes a different aspect of women's lives. De Beauvoir is strongest in this section when she stops describing things she has read and tells the reader what she knows about the experiences of women.
De Beauvoir does answer the question about the inequality between men and women. Her answer is the entire book that describes the many ways that society is male dominated. She says inequality continues because of the complicity of the sexes with each other.
Personally, I hope this new translation of de Beauvoir's "The Second Sex" will attract a new generation of readers. It is a book for all of us. Those of us with daughter's and sons want the best for our children. One way to contribute to the best for everyone is for people to educate themselves instead of simply accepting the way things are around us.
One of de Beauvoir's closing observations is that we should not accept the way things are for fear of losing what is good in the relationships between men and women. She believes this is to lack the imagination to see that equality would lead to something better.
I picked up this book in the summer of 1985. Over the next three years I read and reread it seven times. Once I realized it was going to be a multiple...moreI picked up this book in the summer of 1985. Over the next three years I read and reread it seven times. Once I realized it was going to be a multiple reading event I started varying my approach with each pass by dividing the book up into chunks and reading them in different orders. During my sixth run-through I did it backwards. I started with the last page of the book and read each page until I got to the title page. After that, I really had the content down and during the seventh I was able to comprehend everything like I would any other book during the first read through.
Why would a 21 to 24 year-old be motivated to do such a thing? Because it intrigued me. During each reread I picked up a little more. I liked what I saw, and during each pass I held more of the over-all picture in my mind. What he wrote was and is important to me. Because in the end, I believe Sartre was right more often than not.
He characterized us with the phrase "Man is the being who is what he is not and is not what he is." I think the way he worked that out in theme after theme explains a lot about what humans are, our behavior, and the reason we do the things we do. The last major section is easy to read. It outlines a new psychology based upon his phenomenological existentialism. I have always wished I could find such a thing.
In the decades since, I have returned to the book when my inner compulsion reaches a tipping point. I believe the last time was within the last two or three years. It will probably always be my number one favorite book.(less)