Andersen's fairy tales are not so much fairy tales for children as they are fantasy short stories for teens or adults. Some of the stories are bloody.Andersen's fairy tales are not so much fairy tales for children as they are fantasy short stories for teens or adults. Some of the stories are bloody. Many of the stories contain true villains. Many stories involve shady activities by both the heroes and the villains including lying, cheating, murder, kidnapping, imprisonment, slavery, etc. Many of these tales have little in the way of moral lessons.
That is not to say that the tales are not enjoyable. Many of them are clever and original. It is difficult to predict how any of the stories will end. Andersen has a tendency to animate inanimate objects and tell their story. The "retired" streetlight, the toy soldier, and the wind all have human elements. The result is more fantasy and magic than knights and dragons. Religion is often included. Rarely does God or the angels save the day; but religion is a source of strength for the suffering heroes. Religion is present; but it is not the end result or the moral to the stories.
I cannot overstate the originality of some of the stories. His version of the Ugly Duckling is quite different from the Disney version. He also may be the origin of the saying 'the emperor has no clothes.' The story of the emperor's clothes is rather complex and silly. It is hard to believe that children could understand the story, although the popularity of the expression shows that many adults understand the circumstances very well.
When I read a book, I try to determine the intended audience. In this case, the book clearly is not meant for children. However, the stories are not really oriented towards adults. The personification of inanimate objects and the close attention to natural surroundings suggests a pensive audience. Some stories go on and on, again not a quality in children's lit.
Overall, this is an entertaining collection of fairy tales for non-traditional audiences. They are clever and entertaining; but with themes better-suited to older audiences. ...more
Alexis Zorba is a larger than life character. There is a gloomy and depressing atmosphere in the book as though the book is a eulogy for a type of manAlexis Zorba is a larger than life character. There is a gloomy and depressing atmosphere in the book as though the book is a eulogy for a type of man rather than the story of Zorba. It is similar to Last of the Mohicans in that Zorba is clearly a dying breed of man and Kazantzakis is memorializing him.
The book is one of philosophy and thought. The story is told through a first-person memoir and his interactions with Zorba. The narrator, whose name is never disclosed, represents civilized and repressed humans. He is bookishly smart, knows business, and lives through education. He is reserved and socially awkward. Zorba is the total opposite. He is rough, crude, does not plan, lives for the moment, and exhibits animal-like passions. Through out the book, the narrator calls him an animal. The result is that these two unlikely people become best friends.
Naturally, much of the story is philosophical discussions between these two vantage points: Love, women, nationalism, food, courtesy, God, religion, work, politics, and so much more are presented to the reader through these two lenses. It would make for better reading if there was a more central plot than two men running a coal mining operation in Crete. The coal is just a bare bones means for the two people to meet, live, and work together. There is not much about coal, mining, or profits in the book. The book is just a slow discussion between the two men.
Kazanatzakis clearly admires Zorba and everything that he represents. In a word, Zorba is freedom. Nothing holds him down. He does what he wants, he follows his passions, he does not establish roots, he sort of just flows along with the here and now. There really is no thought of the future. Everything is an adventure. No worries, no concerns. This is the attitude of a man. Zorba boasts that his questionable qualities all signify his freedom and his manliness. Obviously, women might have some objection to the book. The obvious bias in favor of Zorba's beliefs as opposed to those of the learned narrator mean that there is a strong and recurring objection to family and marriage.
Overall, the book is interesting. There are few memorable literary characters as Zorba the Greek. The conflicting viewpoints present an interesting dialogue and debate between extremes. The lack of a strong central plot can deter many readers, especially when the story is constantly interrupted with strange philosophical debates. Nevertheless, it is an unusual read....more
Bloom's book created a stir in the 1980s. People from the left and right of the political spectrum applauded and condemned it. The book is full of matBloom's book created a stir in the 1980s. People from the left and right of the political spectrum applauded and condemned it. The book is full of material that anyone can use to praise education or curse it. It is the controversial nature of the book that makes it classic. People can get really fired up over the book.
Many years ago, in a class on medieval literature, I learned that medieval authors did not write to inform readers; but frequently to prove their knowledge base to their peers or their betters. I get a lot of that from this book. Although it was published for the masses, only those readers with more-than-passing familiarity with famous philosophers from Plato to Levi Strauss would understand half of the book. Therefore, the book speaks controversy to lay audience, and jabberwonky to Bloom's peers and betters. I suppose the idea is that the controversial elements of the book are "proven" philosophically with the agonizing analysis of different philosophers.
In reading some of the reviews about the book, a common theme was that Bloom appears to be the stereotypical angry old man waving his fist at kids in his front lawn. I totally understand the comparison. He is clearly bitter at something. It is the source of his anger leads to the controversy. Bloom is angry that American universities are failing in their mission. What is the cause of their failure? Bloom says it is a forced relaxing of standards and steadily dumbing down the curriculum. The book climaxes when he recalls the events at Cornell University in April 1969.
Bloom was clearly traumatized by the affair. Undereducated and ill-prepared black students turned militant and violent at Cornell, demanding various reforms. Bloom soundly criticized the school for giving in to terrorist demands. In capitulating to blacks, women also demanded changes to the curriculum. The schools accepted these demands. They made new programs of dubious value to Bloom, they cut required classes, they created grade inflation, and they simplified education year-after-year. It is because of those darn kids with ideas of equality, free sex, and rock n' roll. Bloom also has some strange obsession with sexual freedom; but I never could understand how that contributed. It might be a covert jab at homosexuals.
Few people talk about his analysis of Neitzsche, Plato, or Socrates. I guess most readers either assume he knows his subject, or they have no understanding of those philosophers. Most people focus on the chapters where he is writing for everyone. In those chapters he has some great and scathing sound bytes. I especially like his take on young adults who want to better the world by going to some hell hole and making it better with their activities or wisdom. In effect, he accuses such people as wanting to be Col. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now.
It is difficult to imagine him as a teacher. He clearly idolizes Socrates, whose method of instruction was to shatter students' beliefs and prejudices....replacing them with his own. He seems kind of nightmarish to me. He says instructors may be good at breaking prejudicies - not just racism or sexism, but anything, like a belief in Santa Klaus - but not replacing them with anything. The result is that graduates resent college for shattering their world view, they just cannot articulate that sentiment because they took so many bogus classes in stead of useful classes on Plato and Rosseau.
Overall, the book is OK. Much of the book was Greek to me. I can not understand what he is saying. I appreciate the social commentary. I agree that college is failing. However, I think education is failing students long before they get into college. Bloom's book is critical. He does not offer any means to open the American mind. There is a vague talk about "study from the Great Books;" but even he seems to realize that would be ineffective. Great for the water cooler!...more
The story is not about science, but rather about human emotion. Keyes dodges the real science that makes Charlie smart. That is not his goal. He wantsThe story is not about science, but rather about human emotion. Keyes dodges the real science that makes Charlie smart. That is not his goal. He wants the audience to see Charlie metaphorically mature from a child through adulthood and into senility within the space of a few months. As such, it is an interesting story with Charlie learning about friendships, emotion, intimacy, adulthood.
The story follows a mentally handicapped person who works as a janitor in a bakery and takes remedial schooling in the evenings. Through a scientific experiment, he develops the ability to become incredibly smart in a very short time. He begins with a child-like innocence and suddenly finds himself in adulthood. He has not grown emotionally and remains childish in his social interactions. He is eager to experience adulthood, but does not know how.
The intended audience is young adult readers, the same ones who hit puberty, become combative, hostile towards authority, and want to leave the home they know and make something of themselves. Keyes brilliantly illustrates the folly of such thinking. Even the smartest person in the world does not know what to do with his new-found freedom. His only friend and companion is a lab rat, technically a mouse, who underwent the same therapy that he endured.
His friend Algernon was buried in a backyard grave instead of the university incinerator. The story ends with Charlie asking a friend to put flowers on Algernon's grave. This is especially relevant because the reader wonders if Charlie remembers Algernon, or understood the relationship he had with the mouse. Is the genius Charlie still trapped inside the dim-witted Charlie? It is a great book for young readers....more
My least favorite Shakespeare book. There is no depth to any of the characters. We have to accept that Jago is evil, and Othello is a hero. Who knowsMy least favorite Shakespeare book. There is no depth to any of the characters. We have to accept that Jago is evil, and Othello is a hero. Who knows what to think of Desdemona. I think we are supposed to hold her up as the epitome of womanhood. However, she chose to marry in secrecy. Does racism factor into this play? Only Othello comments on his race, and not flatteringly. Even the evil Jago never comments on his race. Consequently, the story is weak. It is nearly impossible to understand the motivations of the characters, and none of them are particularly sympathetic except the prostitute seeing Cascio - and she is only sympathetic in that Cascio strongly refuses to treat her honorably. If anything, I feel disgust at most of the characters. ...more
Some classics are a bit tedious to read through. Doyle's works are much more enjoyable and include adventure, humor, and drama in quantities that stilSome classics are a bit tedious to read through. Doyle's works are much more enjoyable and include adventure, humor, and drama in quantities that still appeal to new generations.
It is interesting to note that Professor Challenger, the anti-hero of the novel, is also Doyle's favorite literary creation. Challenger and his antagonist, Professor Sommerlee, embody the mass perceptions of academics as arrogant, condescending, and 'off in their own world.' The scene where the explorers are hiding from the ape men and the two professors become engrossed in a heated argument over fauna is priceless. Similarly, Challenger and Sommerlee return to London, only to face a new academic challenger. The satire and cynicism of academics rolls off the pages and constitutes the humorous relief in the novel.
The action is enjoyable. Not too bloody in that the worst is not described in detail or in terms of gore and carnage. Rather, there are allusions to violence - the skeleton in the bamboo forest, the dying shrieks of a herbivore attacked by a carnivore, or just a simple phrase such as 'the boat pilot was quickly snatched off the boat by a giant creature with a serpentine neck.' Over in a flash.
It is a delightful little book that has inspired many subsequent books and movies. The only problem is that there was not enough of it. ...more
Written as a first-hand account, by a dog, the story is a metaphor for the human experience. Jack London is best remembered for his gritty stories ofWritten as a first-hand account, by a dog, the story is a metaphor for the human experience. Jack London is best remembered for his gritty stories of life in the Yukon. Perhaps more famous is White Fang, which has a little more appeal to young readers. However, Call of the Wild seems to be more from London's personal emotions.
Having read other books by London, I expected adventure and death; but not on the scale in this book. London is really describing how someone, or some dog, can quickly return to their basic instincts if all of the comforts and security of civilization are taken away. Many people will die in such circumstances. A few will 'fall into line' taking their orders no matter how oppressive. And a rare few will rise to lead. Buck is of course among the later category and he rises to lead more than just a team of dogs, more than a pack of wolves, he leads the spirit world for some natives. He is a larger than life character whose savagery, or heart, takes him away from civilization to the basic instinct of life in the wild.
The book is a bit unusual in that the story ends with Buck's ascendancy to the head of a wolf pack. London typically shows a rise and fall. The basic storyline of rising action, climax, and slow down are barely distinguishable here. The book really ends on the climax. Presumably because Buck has accepted the life of kill or be killed,and the strong eat the weak, there is only one possible outcome for Buck. So, leaving him in myth is perhaps more suitable. But it does not really establish a finality to the story.
As with most of London's books, there is amazing character development in so few pages. Even the secondary characters, from the docile Bilee to the rough and rugged John Thornton are easily recognizable to readers. The dialogue is adequate and does not overshadow or distract from the adventure. The short book is perhaps not suitable for all audiences; but it really is a marvelous and original story that explores the depths of the human psyche....more
After Hunger Games and Catching Fire, this is a real disappointment. There is an attempt to follow the basic storyline set in the first two books; butAfter Hunger Games and Catching Fire, this is a real disappointment. There is an attempt to follow the basic storyline set in the first two books; but it is very awkward and just does not feel right. The final stages of the war are difficult for the reader to envision and that is a problem that is not apparent in the first two books. After completing two excellent books, Collins seems to have decided that the story must end in a trilogy; and the result veers way off from the first two books.
To begin with, there is a deus ex machina feel to the book because of a new superpower that initiates change - it is not the districts or the heroine of the novels. After developing this new group, Collins returns to a running commentary on Kat's emotional ups and downs. Granted, this allows the reader to learn more about President Snow and his rivals; but at the cost of slowly moving the story along.
The macabre pace of the book is also much darker than the previous books. Audiences are used to slow; but grizzly deaths; for select people. This books has that and more. In a similar way, the Harry Potter books also became increasingly dark. The reader is left to wonder what happens to the female authors of successful fantasy novels. I do not recall such darkness growing in the Inheritance Books by Paolini or the Bartimeaus Books by Stroud.
Third, the love aspect of Gale vs. Peeta is hardly resolved. The decision is made for her; not by her. This was a little discouraging and shows a deeper problem that Collins might not have worked through the storyline when she had to turn in the draft. This problem plagues the entire book as it just seems awkward when compared to the other two books, as though the reader is missing at least one other volume.
Finally, the climactic scene in the last battle is sort of left up to the reader to interpret. Who was responsible? How did it happen? Kat returns "home" and is never sure herself what happened. Once again, the reader is left to wonder if something was cut out from the books. This may be because the trilogy is written as a first-person narrative of Kat, so there is some license to leave things blank. However, the result is something like a cliff-hanger until the last few pages teleport the reader to ten years into the future. ...more
I preferred this book to the first in the series. The pace is more frantic and there are fewer dull moments of love. While Collins does progress the oI preferred this book to the first in the series. The pace is more frantic and there are fewer dull moments of love. While Collins does progress the overall story forward with a brilliant twist in the middle of this book, it lacked the detail of the first and focused more on action. The cliff hanger forces the reader to go to Mockingjay better than most books in a series. However, as other reviewers have said, nothing is finished in this book except the Quarter Quell. The love aspect of the trilogy is hardly continued because Kat does not make any decisions and neither suitor really does anything to win her over. ...more
This is a difficult reading for someone with an advanced degree in Medieval History much less lay people. The content may be of the highest caliber; bThis is a difficult reading for someone with an advanced degree in Medieval History much less lay people. The content may be of the highest caliber; but there is so much more detail than in traditional Renaissance studies that most readers are quickly overwhelmed....more
Medieval chroniclers were notorious for getting their facts wrong. Gregory is not nearly chastised as much as Geoffrey of Monmouth or some others. HisMedieval chroniclers were notorious for getting their facts wrong. Gregory is not nearly chastised as much as Geoffrey of Monmouth or some others. His book is a curious blend of history, myth, and religion. While far from perfect, his blending of events is rather dry, except if there is a Christian lesson to be learned. Overall, enjoyable. ...more
Even as a tool for studying the Middle Ages and Carolingian Literature, this book/ poem is problematic. The History is grossly inaccurate and all thatEven as a tool for studying the Middle Ages and Carolingian Literature, this book/ poem is problematic. The History is grossly inaccurate and all that is left is a basic description and glorification of battle. In this case, the losers wrote history. I guess if you lose a minor battle to semi-Christian hill peoples, you might as well as claim the enemy was the ultimate Muslim power of the day....and claim it as a victory....more
Although this book is frequently interpreted as Tolstoy's disillusionment in war; it seems to me to be more of a criticism in the way this war was fouAlthough this book is frequently interpreted as Tolstoy's disillusionment in war; it seems to me to be more of a criticism in the way this war was fought. No where does he say in this book that war in general should be abhorred. True, his fictional characters all become disillusioned, probably feelings Tolstoy felt himself when he went to the siege. But his criticism was for the corruption within the ranks and the impact such corruption and favoritism had on the soldiers.
The third sketch is probably the best one to pound this theme. At one point, there is a truce in the fighting so the two sides can collect their dead and wounded. Some soldiers take the time to commiserate with their foes. There is no malice or hostility. These are the people fighting the war. There is no talk about the causes or attitudes of the war. These are simple soldiers who are seemingly caught in the same battle between aristocrats who care so little for the soldiers.
One of the heroes of the third sketch leaves a group of officers to head to the front thinking about discipline and the chain of command. "Discipline, and its prerequisite, subordination, are only agreeable...in so far as they grounded not simply in mutual acceptance of their necessity, but on the subordinate's recognition that those placed in authority over him are possessed of a higher degree of experience, military prowess, or, not to beat the bush, moral development; as soon, however, as discipline is founded, as often happens in society, on casual fortune or the money principle, it unfailingly ends up as either overweening arrogance on the one hand, or concealed envy and irritation on the other - instead of acting beneficially to unite a mass of men into a single unit, it produces quite the opposite effect. The man who feels unable to inspire respect by virtue of his own intrinsic merits is instinctively afraid of contact with his subordinates and attempts to ward off criticism by means of superficial mannerisms. His subordinates, who see only the superficial aspect of the man, one which they find offensive, are inclined, quite often unjustly, to suppose it conceals nothing good."
This is the attitude displayed throughout all three sketches. Greedy and cowardly officers versus the heroes. Only in a few places does the hero say, or think, positively towards the officers, and very rarely towards the ones at the top. Kornilov was the rare exception, and he died directing the defenses. The heroes tended to use him as a role model.
Overall, this is an easy book to read. Some readers who feel sympathy for Communist or even progressive politics and sociology would like this book. It is also much shorter than Tolstoy's other works. ...more
Written ca. 1914, it is one of the few books written by a classical author who includes gangsters as central figures in the book. They are not very beWritten ca. 1914, it is one of the few books written by a classical author who includes gangsters as central figures in the book. They are not very believable gangsters...but they are there....more