Hugh Howey's Third Shift: Pact disappointed me. I fear that my expectations were to blame more than the book. But my expectations were a bit justifiedHugh Howey's Third Shift: Pact disappointed me. I fear that my expectations were to blame more than the book. But my expectations were a bit justified based on the situation. It was the last book in the Shift trilogy. And Second Shift ended with a huge development that I was excited to see play out in a climactic way worthy of the series' Return of the Jedi book. But, alas, Third Shift: Pact is just a stepping stone leading to the Dust series, so, while I was eager for intense battles driven by fear, then anger, then hate, and shocking revelations about paternity, I got a lot of ambivalent wandering by Solo and ambivalent wondering by Donald.
I may have liked the book better if I liked Donald better. (Light spoilers to follow.) I have trouble attaching myself to a character who, in general, is being blindly carried along by the current all the while muttering to himself that he hates the current. He seems to just be blundering along. Sure, he stops taking his pills. But where's the revolution?! This book handed him the opportunity for a revolution and he acted like an emotional child. And, sure, his actions and attitude in book eight make a statement about the perverse control of the Silo-plotters and explore the corrupting influence of power and highlight just how damaged he is by the system, and that's all important, but I would have more willingly accepted those themes if they had been told through a more compelling character.
Solo, on the other hand, kept my interest, particularly in his relationship with Shadow.
The last reason why the book failed to excite me as much as I dreamed it would is that the Pact--the attempt at a shocking, the reader exclaims obscenities while reading on the subway revelation--wasn't a big deal to me. Books 1-7 have sufficiently proven that the Silo plan (as we previously knew it) will fail and continue to lead to more destruction than salvation, so the great conspiracy unearthed in Third Shift has little to add....more
I'm not enthusiastic about writing my Dust review. Which sadly echoes my feelings about reading it. While the early episodes of the Wool series tuggedI'm not enthusiastic about writing my Dust review. Which sadly echoes my feelings about reading it. While the early episodes of the Wool series tugged at me, Dust became that book I had to finish so that I could be done with the series and move on to something else. Perhaps it is because the early books in the series were all mystery and questions, while this last piece tried to offer sufficient answers and sufficient closure. Both were sufficient. I just wanted more.
I did like that there was a girl who ran around clutching a puppy and a book. Howey somehow put my teacher persona into his story, so that was cool.
Now this is the review I have to finish so I can be done with it and move on to something else. So uninspired. Sorry.
"There was no going back. Apologies weren't welds; they were just an admission that something had been broken. Often between two people."
"That's the problem with the truth... Liars and honest men both claim to have it."
"Were a story ends is nothing more than a snapshot in time, a brief flash of emotion, a pause. How and if it continues is up to us." (from the "Note to the Reader")...more
**spoiler alert** Now that I've finished reading all of the published books of the Twilight series, my mind has quickly moved on. As such, it is with**spoiler alert** Now that I've finished reading all of the published books of the Twilight series, my mind has quickly moved on. As such, it is with less enthusiasm that I write my review of Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse.
The best thing about Eclipse was that Meyer's plot development, which does tend to be a tad predictable--about two hundred pages to the end, the reader knows that that undefined threat is suddenly going to reveal itself,--at least forced the characters into uncomfortable situations that elicited some change. However, while we got into the characters' heads more and watched them stretched to their limits, I'm still concerned that the novels aren't showing enough character development. Although, what can I expect from a nearly-immortal vampire and a aging-stunted werewolf? (More foiling on that count, absolutely.)
From Bella, though, I would hope for more. She's still that fragile girl who's out of her element in a world too powerful for her, wanting to be a hero, but hindered by her weak bones, tasty blood, and sometimes too overwhelming love for Edward. For one book and even, I suppose, the emo-rebound book, I can handle that and admire her predicament. But I'm starting to fear that Meyer doesn't know how to develop a plot if not around a reluctant damsel in distress. Bella, too, is sick of this pattern, which hopefully indicates that Meyer's next novel promises change.
I do appreciate that Meyer's background in "classic" literature touches her texts. Throughout the last novel, New Moon, bibliophile Bella always had Romeo and Juliet in the back of her mind. Throughout Eclipse Meyer uses frequent references to Wuthering Heights to define Bella and Edward's characters and make suggestions about their relationship. I am sure that these references are not lost on her younger readers, some of whom might seek out the texts for further enlightenment. I realize now that the student who lent me the books has been trying to read through Romeo and Juliet and the works of the Bronte sisters. Coincidence? Possibly, but unlikely.
I enjoyed Eclipse more than New Moon but not as much as Twilight, which has led me to reflect on the love story. It's usually about characters meeting and falling in love, but rarely about the preservation of characters' already established relationships. Can anyone think of any love stories (books, movies, plays, etc) about a couple already in a relationship? What does this say about humanity's view on love? Perhaps the lounging around in pjs stage just doesn't play out as well in literature....more
I had heard many people complain about the plot of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot before I read it, so I was prepared for nothing to happen. (It tI had heard many people complain about the plot of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot before I read it, so I was prepared for nothing to happen. (It then started with the line, "Nothing to be done," to utterly confirm my view.) Waiting for Godot is just going to be one of those books that I admire without enjoying. A play depicting passive characters futilely waiting for the arrival of something as their lives become as bare as the set is clever. But I'm not searching Ticketmaster to get front row seats at the next performance.
None of the characters appealed to me. When one of the main two characters would say something jarring or do something strange, I would find myself flipping pages and asking, "Which one was that?" Eventually, their personalities were clarified, though not very distinctly. This was probably so that audience members could see themselves as the characters and reflect on what it is they are looking to the unreliable future for. I didn't connect with the characters at all, and I'm guessing that the two main characters and their visitors were kept at a distance from the sympathies of their audience so the audience could be more critical. These two choices didn't resonate with me much, since I'm drawn to literature where characters come alive through their round and dynamic creation, complexities, and idiosyncrasies.
Horace claimed that the purpose of literature is to delight and instruct. While I'm sure that some parts of the play are entertaining when performed, Waiting for Godot is definitely on the instruct side of the fence. So if you delight in instruction, Waiting for Godot is waiting for you....more
In preparation for my upcoming Mediterranean cruise, I decided to read books that take place in the various cities I will soon visit. To start off, IIn preparation for my upcoming Mediterranean cruise, I decided to read books that take place in the various cities I will soon visit. To start off, I read Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. Because nothing gets you psyched up about visiting one of the most romantic cities in the world than reading about the city itself infecting its visitors with a fatal disease that the business owners try to cover up to continue reaping profits from the stupid tourists.
Actually, despite the morbid and disturbing premise, Death in Venice is quite romantic. It follows a highly celebrated writer, who, nearing the end of his life and the anticlimax of his career, takes a trip to Venice. There, he falls in love with a teenage boy, whom he generally just observes from afar. While I don't want to underplay the protagonist, von Aschenbach's, sexual attraction to the boy by making the whole thing allegorical--there was clear, substantial, physical attraction--in so many ways, when von Aschenbach stays in Venice, he falls in love with youth, beauty, passion, life, and art--all of which are so poignantly packaged in the youth with "marble-like" skin and lips of Narcissus. That the practical protagonist abandons himself to these charms truly speaks to the romance of the city and the power of the Renaissance ideals that helped build it.
A short but powerful read, Death in Venice brings the beautiful city to life (and death), celebrating the overwhelming power of attraction, the tantalizing appeal of youth, and the liberating effects of beauty, all in spite of (or because of) their inescapable end.
"For an important intellectual product to be immediately weight, a deep relationship or concordance has to exist between the life of its creator and the general lives of the people."
"These people are generally unaware of why exactly they praise a certain work of art. Far from being truly knowledgeable, they perceive it to have a hundred different benefits to justify their adulation; but the real underlying reason for their behavior cannot be measured, is sympathy."
"All truly great works exist despite of things, despite distress and pain, despite poverty, abandonment, weakness of the body, vice, passion, and a thousand obstacles."
"Grace under pressure is more than just suffering; it is an active achievement, a positive triumph."
"Even on a personal level art is a form of heightened living. It gives greater pleasures, it consumes faster."
"Do you see that poets can be neither sage nor dignified? That we always stray, adventurer in our emotions?"...more
After reading the uplifting Death in Venice in excited preparation for my Mediterranean cruise, I decided to keep with the light, romantic tone and reAfter reading the uplifting Death in Venice in excited preparation for my Mediterranean cruise, I decided to keep with the light, romantic tone and read Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell's account of the Spanish Civil War. Because what better way to prepare for a romantic dream vacation than reading about disease and war? "Happy anniversary, honey. Let me whisper sweet nothings about a tense standoff that occurred here in Barcelona or about Orwell getting shot in the throat." I am the queen of romance.
I read Homage to Catalonia several months ago, but some key elements resonated.
First, war is messy. Lately, Americans occasionally hear about the precision of our military drones or revel in the covert genius of Seal Team 6, but reading about the broken guns; the days spent scouting for firewood yards from the stagnant enemy line; the first casualty Orwell witnessed, which occurred when an inexperienced young soldier accidentally shot his comrade; the moment when members of the opposing side gestured to Orwell that they didn't want to shoot him, but might have to, if they get the order; the exciting advance after months of nothing that resulted in the discovery of an extremely helpful tool, a telescope, which they had to abandon to escape gunfire; and Orwell's much-deserved leave that was cut short by tensions erupting to violence in the very city in which he was resting, I was forcibly reminded that war is gritty and unpredictable and artificial and boring and terrifying and cold and messy.
Second, war is complicated. Just hearing "The Spanish Civil War" prompts the naive elementary school child inside of me, the one who wholeheartedly celebrates Columbus Day and who watches cartoons with shady villains and perfect heroes, to imagine a war between the fascists and the good guys. However, as Orwell makes abundantly clear (through his significantly less clear explanations of the various Spanish and international factions involved), there were more than two sides fighting in this war. The Spanish Civil War had battles within battles, tenuous alliances with looming expiration dates, and betrayals, all of which lacked the exciting intrigue and romance of the tales of Alexandre Dumas or George R.R. Martin simply because they were so despicably real, and tenuous alliances meant insufficiently armed troops trodding into battle or dangerous slanderous news articles and betrayals meant the imprisonment of war heroes by the very people for whom they risked their life.
Third, George Orwell is awesome. After reading 1984 and Animal Farm, I pictured Orwell as the detached intellectual, sitting in his ivory tower or independent coffee shop, scrutinizing the hoi polloi and the silly little messes they get themselves into with their political allegiances. And I respected that because, well, he was good at it. But Orwell wasn't just a thinker; he was a doer. Assigned to cover the Spanish Civil War as a news reporter and moved by the plight of the worker, he rushed headlong into the war, with the same passion and fervor of Les Miserables' revolutionary scholars, but without their idealistic naivete. He dared, he acted, he risked--but he kept his eyes open and thought critically about what he saw. It's inspiring. And that alone made wading through the inscrutable details of various political camps more than worthwhile.
"And those of us who set store by ideas and ideals have never been quite able to learn that just because they do have power nowadays, there is a direct connection between their power and another kind of power, the old, unabashed, cynical power of force." (from Lionel Trilling's Introduction")
"We tried as hard as we could to believe that politics might be an idyl, only to discover that what we took to be a political pastoral was really a grim military campaign--or that what we insisted on calling agrarianism was in actuality a new imperialism." (from Lionel Trilling's Introduction")
"It has been some time since we in America have had figures in our literature--that is, men who live their visions as well as write them, who are what they write, whom we think of as standing for something as men because of what they have written in their books." (from Lionel Trilling's Introduction")
"We admire geniuses, we love them, but they discourage us. They are great conentrations of intellect and emotion, we feel that they have soaked up all the available power, monopolizing it and leaving none for us. We feel that if we cannot be as they, we can be nothing. Beside them we are so plain, so hopelessly threadbare. How they glitter, and with what an imperious way they seem to deal with circumstance, even when they are wrong." (from Lionel Trilling's Introduction")
"This is what democracy has done to us, alas--told us that genius is available to anyone, that the grace of ultimate prestige may be had by anyone, that we may all be princes and potentates, or saints and visionaries and holy martyrs of the heart and mind. And then when it turns out that we are no such thing, it permits us to think that we aren't much of anything at all." (from Lionel Trilling's Introduction")
"One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting."
"This squalid brawl in a distant city is more important than might appear at first sight."
"I warn everyone against my bias, and I warn everyone against my mistakes. Still, I have done my best to be honest."
"The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such thins as individual liberty and a truthful press are simply not compatible with military efficiency."
"I believe that one such an issue as this no one is or can be completely truthful. It is difficult to be certain about anything except what you have seen with our own eyes, and consciously or unconsciously everyone writes as a partisan. In case I have not said this somewhere earlier in the book I will say it now: beware of my partisanship, my mistakes of fact and the distortion inevitably caused by my having seen only one corner of events."
"Earthquakes in Japan, famines in China, revolutions in Mexico? Don't worry, the milk will be on the doorstep tomorrow morning, the New Statesman will come out on Friday."...more
Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan (with Thomas’ ending as Gottfried never finished it) is the first “romance” I’ve read for my Arthurian Romance clasGottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan (with Thomas’ ending as Gottfried never finished it) is the first “romance” I’ve read for my Arthurian Romance class that I actually enjoyed.
Gottfried’s story is longer than Chrétien de Troyes’ and more focused than Gregory of Monmouth’s, so that he is able to really construct interesting characters and an emotionally intriguing plot. Though generally Gottfried’s characters are the problematic but idealized knights and damsels (both attractive, desired, courtly), his characters differ slightly, as both are extremely well-learned. I particularly enjoyed reading about Tristan’s childhood, where his cunning and varied talents helped him lift himself from the position of a homeless orphan to the king’s heir.
Also enjoyable were the approaches Gottfried took when presenting women. He contrasted a very chauvinistic view of women (though the concept of chauvinism is anachronistic, I’m sure) with a more egalitarian view, as, in one kingdom, women were mere commodities and toys, and in another, the intelligence and skill of a women often led her husband, the king, to recommend that she take charge of a situation in his place.
The story’s plot revolves around the ingestion of a love potion (quite literally, as one literary critic argues that the physical structure of the story is constructed deliberately with the event at its center). Love potions, when dealt with critically, are potentially very interesting, introducing questions about the nature and power of love and the role of discretion in falling in love.
I regret that Gottfried did not finish his story, as, once Thomas’ text comes in, the story becomes much less interesting and more drawn out. Thomas concentrates more on the characters’ emotional turmoil, and, while that usually interests me, in this case, it was just tedious and annoying.
Overall, I would recommend Tristan, especially if you’re looking for something in the genre of authentic Arthurian Romance. Tristanwould also be a good candidate for analyzing in a paper. ...more
I was against Mr. Midshipman Hornblower from the first moment I said its title in front of a classroom of high school seniors. However, in spite of evI was against Mr. Midshipman Hornblower from the first moment I said its title in front of a classroom of high school seniors. However, in spite of everything going against it--its episodic structure, its nautical details, and its protagonist's unfortunate name--I ended up enjoying C. S. Forester's tale of a young boy's gradual acclimation to and growing success in the British navy during the late eighteenth century. It's unlikely that I will end up reading the rest of the books in the Horatio Hornblower series, but I can tell my giggling seniors, with a straight face, that the novel is "good": full of suspenseful action, entertaining, and boasting an extremely likable protagonist.
Even though I usually lose interest with episodic stories--Arthurian Romances and Don Quixote come to mind--Mr. Midshipman Hornblower kept my interest. Each adventure was unique, yet credible, and always centered on Horatio's growing understanding of his role in the navy. I have to say that if, in the future, I were in a seafaring mood, I would choose Forester over Stevenson any day (and this is coming from a lover of nineteenth century texts), for more action, vivid details, greater suspense and surprises, and stronger character development. In spite of the language barrier (the nautical lexicon was sometimes overbearing), Forester had me feeling like I was in the middle of the action.
The main element that kept my sustained interest in the various adventures of Horatio was the protagonist himself. Watching the development of a seasick, shy, and suicidal boy into a noble and capable officer was engaging. Even more so was the portrayal of Horatio's deliberate self-construction. As an intelligent schoolboy masquerading as a man of the king's navy, Horatio understood the show of confidence, assertiveness, and dignity that was expected of him. Forester's narration, which allowed the reader to watch Horatio's show with an awareness of his inner conflict and insecurities made Horatio endearing and the story compelling.
Each chapter of Mr. Midshipman Hornblower presents an exciting adventure and a surprising new side of its admirable protagonist. It was fun to read....more
This Side of Paradise was F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel. And it felt like it. I imagine that the twenty-two-year-old Fitzgerald used This Side ofThis Side of Paradise was F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel. And it felt like it. I imagine that the twenty-two-year-old Fitzgerald used This Side of Paradise first as a way to grapple with his college years and then as a way to try on different styles. Sometimes the reader was so distant from the protagonist, Amory, that it felt as if I were reading the summary of a story rather than a story. Sometimes I was reading a play. Sometimes I was reading a philosophical dialogue. Sometimes I was reading poetry. It's like Fitzgerald was like, "I like to write. Look what I can do!" It wasn't deliberately experimental in the revolutionary style of Ulysses or winking-at-the-audience silliness of Tristram Shandy; it was just a bunch of different styles stuffed into one novel. This, combined with Fitzgerald's lackadaisical, rambling structure--"And then Amory met this girl. And then Amory made this friend. And then Amory went to this place. And then he met this new girl"--surprised me, as two of my favorite elements of The Great Gatsby are its concise plot and thematic unity. Apparently Fitzgerald figured that out later.
My favorite aspect of This Side of Paradise was Fitzgerald's character descriptions. (Though not of Amory. Maybe part of my problem was that I lacked interest in the self-absorbed, entitled protagonist.) But some of Amory's friends and most of his fleeting love interests were described with such precision and elegance that I couldn't decide if I longed to be able to write that way or if I longed to be described in that way.
As I copied down the following quotes, I remembered also that the culmination of the story, which, to me, became a sort of treatise of the Lost Generation, was stirring and felt very pertinent right now.
"A man can be twice young / In the life of his sons only."
"I suppose that all great happiness is a little sad. Beauty means the scent of roses and then the death of roses."
"Summer is only the unfulfilled promise of spring, a charlatan in place of the warm balmy nights I dream of in April."
"I simply state that I'm a product of a versatile mind in a restless generation--with every reason to throw my mind and pen in with the radicals."
"As an endless dream it went on; the spirit of the past brooding over a new generation, the chosen youth from the muddled, unchastened world, still fed romantically on the mistakes and half-forgotten dreams of dead statesmen and poets. Here was a new generation, shouting the old cries, learning the old creeds, through a revery of long days and nights; destined finally to go out into that dirty gray turmoil to follow love and pride; a new generation dedicated more than the last to the fear of poverty and the worship of success; grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken..."...more
For a play written in 411 BCE, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata was quite amusing. Greek comedy, I have decided, is much more accessible than Greek tragedy. AFor a play written in 411 BCE, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata was quite amusing. Greek comedy, I have decided, is much more accessible than Greek tragedy. And in the case of Lysistrata, it is almost too accessible.
Aristophanes’ play was all about sex. All the Greek women, tired of their lovers going off to war, joined together and swore to not have sex with their husbands or boyfriends until they decided to end the feuding between Greek cities. Thus, the basic premise is humorous, and it leads to further, more extreme humor in shockingly blatant and vulgar dialogue.
One specific part made me laugh out loud as I was reading through the short play. Here, the women are deserting Lysistrata in her campaign of abstinence, because they just can’t take it anymore:
1st Woman: I want to go home. My very best wool is being devoured by moths. Lysistrata: Moths? Nonsense! Go back inside. 1st Woman: I’ll come back; I swear it. I just want to lay it out on the bed. Lysistrata: Well, you won’t lay it out, and you won’t go home, either. … 2nd Woman: Oh dear! Oh dear! My precious flax! I left it at home all unpeeled. Lysistrata: Here’s another one, going home for her “flax.” Come back here! 2nd Woman: But I just want to work it up a little and then I’ll be right back.
There isn’t much else to discuss. The characters weren’t especially appealing, as the main concentration of the play was on the humorous plot. Likewise, literary devices were minimal and the setting was unimportant. If I felt like it, I could go through and look at all the feminist implications—possibly that women’s only power and ability lies in seduction and sex—but I don’t. I’d rather just say that Lysistratais a funny play. ...more
John Green's Looking for Alaska was an interesting read for me. "Interesting" is a floppy little word, so I'll clarify. A student recommended that I rJohn Green's Looking for Alaska was an interesting read for me. "Interesting" is a floppy little word, so I'll clarify. A student recommended that I read it. (By "recommended," I mean spent about thirty minutes after school gushing about how great John Green is and showing me her favorite quotes and listing all of his books in the order that they should be read and there was something about video blogs or something...) So then, there I was, reading this book that one of my high school students recommended, transported by Green's writing into the mind of a teenager, caught up in Alaska's allure and the thrill of hiding liquor from the authorities, only to realize, Oh shoot, I'm the authorities and am reading this book on the recommendation of one of those teenagers. And then it was just kind of awkward. But also a credit to Green's writing, which reinvigorated me with a sort of angsty teenage rebellion that I didn't even really know as a teenager but which still felt so familiar.
Looking for Alaska is the combination of a lower class, more heterosexual A Separate Peace and [insert some sort of appropriate modifier because I can't come up with one since I read it during the brief review-less desert in my adult life] Perks of Being a Wallflower. Which makes me wonder how many well-written books about the teen experience are framed around a slightly awkward, introspective teen who is confronted with someone so much more charismatic/risk-taking/attractive/dynamic/cool than he is and deals with it in some consequential way. Maybe that's just how many teenagers feel, so it works.
Looking for Alaska certainly worked. Green writes thoughtfully, from his characters' mundane and/or philosophical dialogue, to the very structure of his novel. I felt like that lost teen searching for belonging and purpose and answers, and, even though I am "the authorities," I'll probably do my job much better if I'm capable of doing that.
"Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia... You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you'll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present."
"Lies are attempts to hide the truth by willfully denying facts. Fiction, on the other hand, is an attempt to reveal the truth by ignoring facts" (From an included interview)....more
**spoiler alert** (I've decided that I can't write this review without spoilers for not only Wide Sargasso Sea but also Jane Eyre. Lame.)
I've been avo**spoiler alert** (I've decided that I can't write this review without spoilers for not only Wide Sargasso Sea but also Jane Eyre. Lame.)
I've been avoiding reading Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea for a few years now. (My MA Exam list put an end to that.) I was certain that it would meddle with Jane Eyre and forever change that book for me. By the time I finished Book One, I felt safe. Rhys wasn't setting out to tear apart an evil imperialist book. (In fact, after reading some of her letters, I admire how she loved Jane Eyre, was ecstatic over the idea of writing about the First Mrs. Rochester, and struggled with writing a book that did not abuse Bronte's work.) Unfortunately, even though Rhys succeeded in winning my trust, I still didn't end up really liking the book.
Critics rave about Rhys' choice to have both Antoinette (dubbed "Bertha" by Rochester) and her husband (Rochester's name is actually never mentioned) narrate sections of the story. I liked the idea, but the narrations just didn't work for me. I never really understood the characters or their motivations. The characters make such extreme choices that they need explanation. For instance, I can understand husband receives letter claiming wife (he hardly knows that is of what he views as a different (strange) race) will go crazy and grows suspicious. I can't understand husband realizing wife gave him a love potion and thinking, I know, I'll have sex with another woman in the room next door so she'll hear! That'll show her! So often I just wanted to tell the two to sit down and talk. But instead one decides not to really speak any more and the other decides that a lifetime locked in the attic is the only way to go. The very structure of the narration suggests that the reasoning for their actions would lie in the text of the book, but, too often, I found myself alone in trying to justify their madness. (Which is the same thing Jane Eyre asked me to do--so then how is this book helpful?)
I'm tempted to say that the best part of this book is the idea of its conception, but I feel like that claim fails to acknowledge some really cool literary techniques that Rhys uses. She very effectively continues and expands on Bronte's use of mirroring, doubling, and bird symbolism. She breathes life into the character of Grace Poole. The way she ends the novel is superb and rather genius. The novel's greatest strength, I think, is that Rhys identifies, very forcibly, the marginalized space in which womanhood (in a patriarchal society) and imperialism forced her heroine to uncomfortably dwell. Poor Antoinette has no place of her own. She belongs no where. That's enough to make anyone's mind wander and not return.
So now that I've written the paragraph on stuff I liked, I guess I can no longer make the claim that I didn't like the book. Because some aspects were just fantastic. I suppose it's just the type of book that's better when you're not reading it and just thinking about it.
Anyone interested in further reading on Wide Sargasso Sea should read Sandra Drake's analysis: "All That Foolishness / That All Foolishness: Race and Caribbean Culture as Thematics of Liberation in Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea." It rocked my world....more
I'm writing this review of Neal Stephenson's The Confusion after finishing it and the final book in his The Baroque Cycle. So you can be sure that thiI'm writing this review of Neal Stephenson's The Confusion after finishing it and the final book in his The Baroque Cycle. So you can be sure that this review is going to be full of the sort of specifics and vivid details that make book reviews interesting. And you can be sure that, if I didn't think the entire concept took away from the art of reading and writing, that last sentence would have an upside down exclamation mark at the end of it, opensarcasm.com style.
My main problem with The Confusion, as with the entire cycle, is the sheer amount of detail. It seems strange that I, as a lover of the nineteenth century novel, should ever voice this complaint. But there it is. There were some fantastic moments in The Confusion, full of action, suspense, and surprise, but I felt like, to get to them, I had to read through chapters and chapters of descriptions--nautical details, explanations of economic theory, or complete prose maps of cities from the arches of famous monuments to the consistency of the gravel streets to the filth of the underground sewers--that slowed my reading to a halting and tedious speed that could only be compared to the speed of a frail woman wading through tar in a heavy velvet ball gown. (It can only be compared to that: no other metaphor will do.) I feel as if I can't really fault Stephenson for this. If I forced my mind to focus, his descriptions or explanations were lively, controlled, and often witty, but my mind wanted to leave the tar-wading woman behind and get to the action.
Though Stephenson's cast grew to include new and engaging characters like Moseh, the clever man with the plan, Dappa, the articulate linguist, and Jeronimo, the hot-headed warrior, and continued to develop characters from Quicksilver like the schemer Eliza and the sergeant Bob, Jack, the king of the vagabonds, dominated my interest in this installment of the cycle. Like the pirate that shares his name in the multimillion dollar motion picture franchise, Jack is a sort of chaotic neutral character with inimitable style that is constantly forced to choose between what is honorable and what the imp of perverse in his mind is selfishly egging him on to do. Though the reader knows Jack well and can likely predict which side he is going to choose, Jack is by no means predictable. He is far too cunning and wild to be predictable. Readers may know what he is going to choose, but never how he will choose it, and Jack's style makes him all about the "how".
My strongest commendation for The Confusion is likely that, as soon as I finished it, I was more than eager to start the The System of the World.
"For every human being who is born into this universe is like a child who has been given a key to an infinite Library, written in cyphers that are more or less obscure, arranged by a scheme--of which we can at first know nothing, other than that there does appear to be some scheme--pervaded by a vapor, a spirit, a fragrance that reminds us that it was the work of our Father. Which does us no good whatever, other than to remind us, when we despair, that there is an underlying logic about it, that was understood once and can be again."
"People could only make sense of complicated matters through stories."...more
I don't have much to say about Bram Stoker's Dracula. I'm sure it deserves acknowledgment for compiling, designing, and spreading the vampire mythologI don't have much to say about Bram Stoker's Dracula. I'm sure it deserves acknowledgment for compiling, designing, and spreading the vampire mythology that influenced the works of so many other storytellers. But as I'm sitting here, trying to sum up the experience of reading it and reflecting on it, I'm finding myself returning again and again to an inarticulate, "meh".
There were indeed moments of heightened suspense and interest in Dracula. I mean, I wasn't sitting all the way back in my seat at some points. I neared the edge. But I think the epistolary novel style combined with the fact that characters' ingenious discoveries about garlic, the host, two strange needle pricks on a woman's neck, mirrors, and coffins were so slow coming to them and so painfully obvious to me (who, unlike the characters, has had the benefit of over a hundred years of cultural development influenced, in part, by the novel) made the novel far too slow moving. I wonder about the epistolary novel choice. If Dracula were written earlier in the nineteenth century, I'd conclude that Stoker didn't know any better. But it was written near the turn of the century! I can see a bit of the appeal--disparate stories and observations (carefully collected in a scientific method, thus playing into the science vs. superstition thing Stoker has going) threading together to help the characters and readers reach thoughtful conclusions--but the negatives so outweigh the positives. The epistolary form destroys the urgency of what could have been a thrilling story. "Wow, this young woman just went through a terrifying experience involving supernatural creatures and the death of someone close to her. Good thing, after witnessing it, she had the presence of mind to deliberately record the entire experience in all of its details before fainting (as, of course, any woman would)!" "OMG! I just figured out the head vampire's plan and, consequently, have come up with a plan to destroy him and save my soul. Before I tell my friends about it and proceed to follow through with my plan, I'm going to write down the whole thing in meticulous detail to present it to them. That will surely make it easier." Perhaps my problem is that I wanted the novel to be about the thrills while Stoker wanted it to be a novel about discovery, investigation, and thought.
The portrayal of gender in Dracula is not surprising. Considering that the count only attacks women (the vampire bite, with all of its lustful connotations, seems to be entirely heterosexual in Dracula), and therefore threatens both their souls and their purity (pre-bite women are Victorian angels in the house and post-bite women grow more and more sexually aggressive and alluring, even down to the descriptions of their increasingly voluptuous lips), the novel, which follows a group of men who all fight to protect the women they adore, is essentially about upright men guarding and checking the sexuality of women--for their sake, of course. I suppose that should annoy me, but more annoying was Stoker's incessant repetition of the idea that the blood of four brave men could save one woman. He really liked that line, so it came up at least four times. (We get it, thanks.)
See, I'm so unenthusiastic, I can't even muster up a weak conclusion. Dracula. Yeah.
"Though sympathy can't alter facts, it can make them more bearable."
"We learn from failure, not from success!"
"A brave man's hand can speak for itself, it does not even need a woman's love to hear its music."
"I suppose that nature works on such a hopeful basis that we believe against ourselves that things will be as they ought to be, not as we should know that they will be."
Disclaimer: I'm reviewing this book six months after reading it. Sad true facts: The primary reason why I review books is so that I can remember themDisclaimer: I'm reviewing this book six months after reading it. Sad true facts: The primary reason why I review books is so that I can remember them better because I have a horrible memory for books. I also make rules for myself that I cannot break, such as, "I must review every book I've read if I have yet to review it, in the order that I read them." The sum of those true facts is this pretty poorly written review for Henry James' The Wings of the Dove, hurriedly written during my Christmas break in the hopes that I'll get through all of my other book reviews--or at least enough so that I reach the point where I remember the book I'm reviewing.
I enjoyed The Wings of the Dove much more than my first foray into the world of Henry James, The Turn of the Screw. Stripped of [potential] supernatural elements and left in public parks, private chambers, drawing rooms, and dinner parties, James's prose invites the reader into his turn of the century world (but leaves them with little guidance or direction--they must make their way in this world of introductions and dissembling and mercenary plotting all on their own).
One of my favorite--and one of the most irritating--elements of the novel is that, in a rather lengthy and sometimes verbose narrative, the unspoken is of greater import than all the words on the page. It is an appropriate technique for presenting an age shackled with an imperious system of manners, and the frustration I felt after reading five pages of meandering dialogue only to discover that the real message hid in the pauses and looks paled in comparison to my admiration of the characters' verbal prowess.
I still haven't settled my opinion on Henry James. I want to like him. He's perceptive and clever and populates his novels with credible characters living in a real world, but, so far, his themes are strikingly similar to Edith Wharton's (and her novels speak to me so much more strongly), and... he's hard. I don't know if that last detail makes me less willing to read his novels or more driven to get them. I guess we'll have to see how long it is before I crack open another. Recommendations, James fans?
"The poet essentially can't be concerned with the act of dying. Let him deal with the sickest of the sick, it is still by the act of living that they appeal to him, and appeal the more as the conditions plot against them and prescribe the battle. The process of life gives way fighting, and often may so shine out on the lost ground than in no other connexion" (Preface).
"Of course, as every novelist knows, it is difficulty that inspires; only, for that perfection of charm, it must have been difficulty inherent and congenital, and not difficult 'caught' by the wrong frequentations" (Preface).
"The enjoyment of a work of art, the acceptance of an irresistible illusion, constituting, to my sense, our highest experience of 'luxury', the luxury is not greatest, by my consequent measure, when the work asks for as little attention as possible. It is greatest, it is delightfully, divinely great, when we feel the surface, like the thick ice of the skater's pond, bear without cracking the strongest pressure we throw on it. The sound of the crack on may recognise, but never surely to call it a luxury" (Preface).
"Though a word to the wise was doubtless, in spite of the adage, not always enough, a word to the good could never fail to be."
"That's the way people are. What they think of their enemies, goodness knows, is bad enough; but I'm still more struck with what they think of their friends."
"I do everything. Everything's this... I'm doing it now. One can't do more than live."...more
Like so many others, I opened Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera as a fan of the musical, eager to delve more deeply into the mysteries of the sLike so many others, I opened Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera as a fan of the musical, eager to delve more deeply into the mysteries of the sordid, yet sympathetic Opera Ghost. Aside from a more stark presence of Western European Orientalism in the formation of the dark recesses of the phantom's sadistic sanctuary and psychotic tendencies, the novel did little to further coax the specter into my presence. It's not surprising, as surely the Angel of Music is most primarily present in his music, which the novel (not being one of those preschool books with colorful musical buttons on the side) lacked. However, the novel did make me feel for Raoul and, most especially, Christine in ways that the musical never did.
One of the most interesting aspects of Christine's portrayal is that, as reader, we often studied Christine through the eyes of others. It broadened the performance aspect of the novel, further emphasizing the uncharted land between fiction and reality as, even in her daily life, Christine was an actress subject to the conceptions and misconceptions of the male gaze. It also brought up questions of identity, and how, in the muddle of the actual and the perceived, the appearance and the authentic, intention and action, it exists, particularly for a female defined by the parts she is given (in terms of her theatrical career and familial relationships).
Notwithstanding my vague (its been months since I finished this book) reflections on Christine's identity and Orientalism, the novel stands in my memory mostly as an adventure book, packed with intrigue, mystery, and action. Though it threatened to be as ornamental and foreign as opera is (to this uncultured reviewer), it was far from it. Once it got going, The Phantom of the Opera was a fast-paced trek through the backstages of the opera house and the hidden corners of the human mind.
"None will ever be a true Parisian who has not learned to wear a mask of gaiety over his sorrows and one of sadness, boredom or indifference over his inward joy. You know that one of your friends is in trouble; do not try to console him: he will tell you that he is already comforted; but, should he have met with good fortune, be careful how you congratulate him: he thinks it so natural that he is surprised that you should speak of it. In Paris, our lives are one masked ball."
"You see... there is some music that is so terrible that it consumes all those who approach it."...more
As I read all these Greek and Roman comedies, I find myself wondering if I find them funny just ‘cause I’m a sick, twisted English major. I remember mAs I read all these Greek and Roman comedies, I find myself wondering if I find them funny just ‘cause I’m a sick, twisted English major. I remember my freshman year of high school, I was reading Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare in my English class and my teacher would talk about how hilarious it was and we would all just stare at her like she was crazy. Well, I assure you that, while my Literaturitis (my neologism for the day: lit “inflammation of the literature;” the madness possessing bibliophiles) may find antiquated works entertaining, Plautus’ The Pot of Gold is really a very funny play.
Comic situations drive the humor in this play. If it was performed well onstage, the audience would be rolling on the floor. I mean, there’s Euclio, who’s recently discovered a pot of gold at his house and is extremely, extremely possessive of it. We see him shoving his slave out of the house like every five minutes to double check that it’s there. Very well done. This character would be an important one to cast well. When his neighbor shows interest in marrying his daughter, he thinks it’s just to get some of his gold, which leads to many hilarious situations. My favorite is when Megadorus, Euclio’s neighbor, sends caterers to Euclio’s house (because Euclio was known for his poverty) and Euclio thinks they are thieves. It plays out a lot funnier than it sounds.
My major complaint is that the entire play didn’t survive, so you’re really into it, wondering what happens, and then all you get to do is read the editor’s summary of what is thought to happen at the end. Big bummer, but you can’t blame Plautus for that.
I only found one quote worth mentioning from this play:
“Let her come with a fine character, and she’ll have dowry enough” (Megadorus).
Don’t be fooled by that quote, however, the play is not revolutionary (for Rome) in its view of women, although Megadorus may be.
So, to conclude this shoddily written review, The Pot of Gold was very funny. If you ever have to perform a play or scene, this one would be one to consider. It is very accessible and the characters would be credible (mind you, exaggerated) even for a modern audience. ...more