I'm not entirely sure if I liked this book. I'm not sure if it's an allegory of Modernist assumptions about the Victorian Period (though it certainly...moreI'm not entirely sure if I liked this book. I'm not sure if it's an allegory of Modernist assumptions about the Victorian Period (though it certainly contains many) or a sad story about a rather confused man. I'm not sure, plainly, how to read the book.
At first I took the narrator to be sarcastic and venomous, and in this way it seemed he was criticizing the main male character. I felt that I should be laughing at the man when, in fact, I felt really rather sorry for him. This sort of mocking critique is one of the reasons I usually avoid this period and particularly this group of writers, but this changed from time and again to a more serious tone. This confusion leads me to wonder how much Garnett needed an editor.
In the end I thought the story good but, again, too dispersed in tone and focus. (less)
A very enjoyable story. In many ways, "The Iron Ring" reminded me of "The High King." There were times when too many characters were introduced in one...moreA very enjoyable story. In many ways, "The Iron Ring" reminded me of "The High King." There were times when too many characters were introduced in one chapter, and at times the plot slowed down a little too much, but in general the story was clean and the characters colorful and interesting.(less)
I did not - nor will - finish this book. There were many problems with "Stranger", from its misogyny to its rather ignorant views on religion, and I c...moreI did not - nor will - finish this book. There were many problems with "Stranger", from its misogyny to its rather ignorant views on religion, and I cringe when thinking about the theories put forth by the characters. But a book is more than its political opinions and ideals: first and foremost a narrative must be a good narrative, and in this respect "Stranger" utterly fails.
When reading "Strangers" I felt like I was looking into the mind of a young boy imagining how he could stand up to a bully. One character (who knew everything and was always one step ahead of any interlocutor) would explain an idea and then belittle anyone who agreed with him. In this, dialogue never became conversation, but always existed to prove how right and how intelligent a particular character could be. Further, descriptions and point of view often shifted without any sign to the reader. Characters, narration, and the plot was cold and empty.
I understand that people take to some of the free love and communistic ideas in this text - I decidedly do not, but I understand that some may. But a book can be good even if the ideas are bad, and beyond anything a piece of fiction should work as a piece of fiction. "Strangers" fails in almost any way. (less)
An amazing addition to Beowulf scholarship. In his commentary on the poem, Tolkien demonstrates the argument of his seminal Beowulf essay: that the po...moreAn amazing addition to Beowulf scholarship. In his commentary on the poem, Tolkien demonstrates the argument of his seminal Beowulf essay: that the poem is best read as a poem, not either as a purely historic document (as it was in his day) nor as a New-historical document (as it too often is in our day). Tolkien's readings keep the poem from fragmenting into a mass of confusion but instead shows it as a work of a variety of interconnected parts: it pulls from historical knowledge and fable/tale traditions, utilizes poetic diction to a highly aesthetic degree, and is, in the end, just simply a good story. I have rarely come across a better group of readings of this poem and, as a student of Beowulf myself, I find the commentary to be invaluable to both my understanding and enjoyment of the poem. Tolkien's two ventures into creative work (Sellic Spell and the Lay of Beowulf) are also extremely enjoyable and act as their own aesthetic commentaries on the world of the poem. (less)
A very enjoyable saga. I had originally read sections of the saga for the sections on Glam and the she-troll, but I've never (until now) read the enti...moreA very enjoyable saga. I had originally read sections of the saga for the sections on Glam and the she-troll, but I've never (until now) read the entire saga. Grettir, though, is a decidedly violent and almost unlikable character. This of course makes him a great saga hero. (less)
A very enjoyable text that is, unfortunately, much too small and short. The text claims itself to be concise and that it is: entries are quick and swe...moreA very enjoyable text that is, unfortunately, much too small and short. The text claims itself to be concise and that it is: entries are quick and sweet, though often almost too quick. Weatherhill mentions in the introduction what will eventually become Oliver Padel's "A popular dictionary of Cornish place-names" and I wonder if this is a more extensive survey of Cornish toponyms.(less)
It is difficult to know what to do with this book. Mostly it seems to be more a commentary of the tradition (especially Malory) rather than a narrativ...moreIt is difficult to know what to do with this book. Mostly it seems to be more a commentary of the tradition (especially Malory) rather than a narrative at all. White skips over some major parts of the story and the end of the narrative seemed to me to be rather unsatisfactory. Often White stops the action to delve into not the psyche of his characters but their potential psyche. This potential, moreover, seems to be based not entirely on Malory or some other writer but the characters as if they were actually historical humans. Thus the book is really a meditation of what Lancelot, Guenever, Arthur, and the rest of the knights may have been like in a space between history, the tradition, and White's own created works. At times this works beautifully; at other times it is very trying, slow, boring, and almost even surface (surprisingly). The book really comes through in the middle with the quest for the Grail; here White is able to balance all his modes and create a very awesome narrative. If the entire book were written like this it would be one of the greatest books in the fantasy genre. Unfortunately, White too often moves quickly over interesting points of character -because- he is so heavily commenting on the tradition. (less)
After reading (and loving) the Sword in the Stone I was sorrowfully disappointed with The Queen of Air and Darkness. The best parts (the tutoring sess...moreAfter reading (and loving) the Sword in the Stone I was sorrowfully disappointed with The Queen of Air and Darkness. The best parts (the tutoring sessions between Arthur and Merlin) harkened back to the most beautiful parts of the first book but were unable to carry the work as a whole. The sections with Pellinore were confusing and strange and those with Gawain and his brothers were, although an interesting alternative to Arthur's world in their horror, un-integrated into the whole. The plot never came to a coherence that gave it any narrative push and, when I came to the end, I was surprised and wondered what I had read.(less)
I love thinking about this book. T.H. White has an amazing ability to allow some rather simple lines to speak depths that stretch through the entirety...moreI love thinking about this book. T.H. White has an amazing ability to allow some rather simple lines to speak depths that stretch through the entirety of the book. Not that the lines are allegories, symbols, or even foreshadowings of things to come later but that they express a fullness of world, character, and story. Merlin's interaction with the Wart, and the Wart's interaction with the world he encounters, is fathoms deep, and in this way it is one of the best children's book I've read: we don't leave time when we read this book in the sense that it is not an escape. As we read we are taught along with Wart - his lessons, though, are not simply facts or knowledge but experience, and White's writing allows us to feel not an experience of one watching someone but the experience itself. The magic of changing little boys into fish or birds is in the text itself, particularly in the chapter on the gulls. It is some masterful writing that can allow the written word to convey so much being.(less)
A rather average book on Shinto, giving most of the basics in a very quick format. I was dismayed, though, that Littleton skipped over some important...moreA rather average book on Shinto, giving most of the basics in a very quick format. I was dismayed, though, that Littleton skipped over some important aspects of Shinto and Japanese history (such as the reason Izanami and Izanagi must go around the spear twice). Littleton also writes, at times, in a journalistic manner, repeating himself within chapters. The book is really only useful to those who want a quick overview for bearings and who -will- go on to read something deeper and more descriptive.(less)
A very, very interesting auto-biography. I came to this book knowing very little about Saint Therese and felt, at first, very distanced from her exper...moreA very, very interesting auto-biography. I came to this book knowing very little about Saint Therese and felt, at first, very distanced from her experiences and her faith. I thought that her fervor and her reliance on love and innocence was beautiful but was something that I did not see in my own life, and thus I began reading this book very much academically. But there are many sides to this text and towards the end (particularly after she became a nun) I found myself being drawn more and more to her thoughts, expression, and experiences. When I finally put the text down I was deeply moved. Saint Therese is not necessarily quotable (although I found a few really beautiful lines here and there) nor does she necessarily "give good advice", something to remember when things are dark and difficult. But the overall experience of reading her text was what brought me to a sort of solace and kindness. (less)
I feel both bad and just fine giving this book two stars. It was recommended to me and, at first, I really enjoyed it. But as the story continued I fe...moreI feel both bad and just fine giving this book two stars. It was recommended to me and, at first, I really enjoyed it. But as the story continued I felt two major problems developed: first, Peters characterizes Celtic Christianity too idealistically but also condescendingly. Peters' Welsh are earthy and intuitively spiritual but also very simple, and this trivializes not only a beautiful tradition (that had a fair amount of austerity and strict organization) but also her own plot: the story becomes a battle between a utopian Welsh and a manipulative English church - indeed a distinction that did not (to my knowledge) exist. And yet, strangely, the most manipulative character is Cadfael, the main protagonist, whose solution to the difficult problem at the end of the book is, to me, detestable (I won't mention what this is in case you haven't read the book yet). At the end I felt the book was just a smug look at a difference (that didn't exist in the way presented here) between two parts of the medieval Christian church (that Peters fabricated). I am not moved to read more of Cadfael's tales.(less)
This book is good in ways that few books reach. This isn't to say that it was a perfect book, nor that it did everything right, nor even that parts of...moreThis book is good in ways that few books reach. This isn't to say that it was a perfect book, nor that it did everything right, nor even that parts of it were very good while others were just alright. What I mean to say is that it is a book that respects itself and what it is about, and through this it is able to relay a sense truly and deeply. It takes its subject matters (boyhood, the South, the early 20th century) and explores them together with open eyes and both an eager and calm heart. (less)
An interesting and enjoyable piece of speculative fiction, but one that, I think, is more successful as a mental exercise than a piece of narrative fi...moreAn interesting and enjoyable piece of speculative fiction, but one that, I think, is more successful as a mental exercise than a piece of narrative fiction. With this book Clarke writes -real- science fiction, focusing on the potential means of reaching other planets, developing cultures away from a "parent" Terran culture, and so on. And while Clarke does a better job than most (e.g. Jules Verne) in weaving the science fiction into the narrative fiction, the story and particularly the characters felt uninspired and empty to me. There -were- some interesting parts to the book: there was a really fascinating tension between the idea to remove any mention of religion from the cultural artifacts that Earth sent with the "colonists" (which, besides being impossible, I must note is deeply inhuman and morally wrong) with the bits of what I would call spirituality (I'm not sure what Clarke would call this "spirituality" but it is present in some of his other works, most notably Childhood's End), but Clarke seemed more interested in process and speculation than actually telling a story. Key plot points became simply excuses to display yet another (interesting) concept that could appear in the future and is linked to our modern concept of the universe and the way it works, but a story ought, in fiction, to take precedence over such concepts. Of course, this is speculative fiction, and the point is, in a way, to talk about future potential in a fictional way. But not in this way.
But what was most disheartening was the mood. There was a certain underlying emptiness to the book. Perhaps it was the lack of full characters or the oddities of the plotline, but I think my problem comes with the sort of empty futurism of the end. The only thing that the characters in the plot seem to be able to look forward to is that science will continue to develop. No one in the novel seems to have a deeper respect for the growth of culture; only the hope of future developments keep them going. And that's just, well, sad.
I have other issues with the book (some arguments against religion are bafflingly simple and even insulting, although these are put in the mouths of characters and are thus complicated by the tension I mentioned above), but in the end I think I am simply less than pleased. The idea of the book sounded (and still sounds) so fascinating, but Clarke's execution and style is just so uninspiring. In the end I would rather have had a conversation with Clarke about the book and the ideas in it than read the novel itself.(less)
It is a pleasure to read Tolkien's alliterative poetry again. His translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the unfinished Children of Hurin...moreIt is a pleasure to read Tolkien's alliterative poetry again. His translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the unfinished Children of Hurin have always been some of my favorite pieces of Tolkien's work, and The Fall of Arthur is much in the same lines. There are certain parts that I don't particularly care for (the second canto is a bit slow and Mordred is rather stocky in character) but there are some lines that are unbelievably powerful. In particular the end of the third canto is rather amazing, and the affinities it shares with the Anglo-Saxon poems The Seafarer and the Wanderer bring a new light to both the poems and the figure of Lancelot. The connections Tolkien's version of the tale makes between Arthur, Lancelot, and the Island to the West are also rather tantalizing although there is sadly not much to bite into.
Besides the poem the text itself is difficult. The short essay on alliterative meter is (even to someone who has studied it in depth) a great deal of fun and very interesting in several respects; Tolkien has a firm grasp on the power of the verse-type but also in explaining that power. Christopher's essays, though, leave a little to be desired. While I enjoyed reading the connections between the tradition and Tolkien's poem (both in finished and unfinished form), the commentary is not as interesting as that in the History of Middle Earth (or even Sigurd and Gudrun). I would not say (as some on goodreads have) that it is merely 'filler' but I simply did not find it as engaging as I did that in Christopher's other editions of his father's work. Perhaps this is because there is so little to go on either in what Tolkien may have talked about and what he left upon his death. Even still the commentary is enjoyable and makes links that (even though they have been made before in earlier editions) are always good to go over again.(less)