Wow. I really enjoyed this. I probably would give it only 4 stars if it were written in 2012, but it is cool to see this as the granddaddy of dystopiaWow. I really enjoyed this. I probably would give it only 4 stars if it were written in 2012, but it is cool to see this as the granddaddy of dystopian fiction. The influence of this book can be seen in The Giver, Matched, Harrison Bergeron, Uglies, Ready Player One, Feed, 1984, and any book critiquing the shallow media consumption of society through fiction.
There is some action and some tense moments as the main character freaks out, but this definitely falls to the lyrical, philosophical side of the genre like The Giver or Harrison Bergeron. It's not an action thriller. The language is fabulous. It's not quite like anything I've read. It manages to be intensely descriptive and uses lots of interesting figurative language both for internal and external description, but doesn't come off as cheesy or wordy. I was Googling lines to see what books were being quoted.
The focus stays tightly on our main firefighter, Guy, but the cast of secondary characters is important too, and the characters are powerfully rendered. Guy is fascinating with his hands that do things on their own, and how powerful his soul-wrenching transformation is even though it's rarely put into words explicitly.
I loved the media addiction that emerges with everything reduced to snippets, and I like how it is revealed that society did it to themselves, with the government just filling the vacuum as the opportunity arose. It's more poignant--and prescient--that way. It also precludes any sure type of ending. Sure, the government can conceivably be undermined, but how can you change a society and human nature?
The book has a heavy message, but gives it to you so smoothly and interestingly through the wonderful narrator. I expected to like this book, but was just pleasantly surprised how much I liked it. 5 stars....more
I am finally reading the Red Badge of Courage in this old school 1960 edition that sat on my bookshelf all growing up. I am enjoying the beginning, buI am finally reading the Red Badge of Courage in this old school 1960 edition that sat on my bookshelf all growing up. I am enjoying the beginning, but I can see how this would be really hard for jr. high kids.
OK, I really enjoyed this. It's kind of hard for me to describe well, but I liked it. It's a very narrow, focused book about one young boy going off to fight for the north in the Civil War. There's a brief part about how he talks himself into going and his dreams of glory, but then it really takes place mostly over two days of fighting.
The language is very dated, but perfect and effective. It reminded me of Faulkner with the imagery and importance of each word, with some Twain with the language of the common soldier. It's evocative: it really makes you feel scared, proud, confused, crazy, etc. It also brings out character despite being outwardly so distant and third person like some other books I've complained about. The boy is called "the youth" 99% of the time he is referenced, and his companions are "the friend" or "the loud one" or "the tall one." But it just worked for me and really complemented the meaning of the story.
I realize as I read it that I really buzz through many of the exciting and interesting stories I read, or even history when it's telling a story. I appreciate good descriptions, but I'm taking it in as a whole more than word-for-word I guess. I had to slow down more than once and really examine and enjoy the language in order to understand even in a description of the scene, let alone the plot. It's definitely different and will not be for everyone.
I thought the main idea in the story was the characterization of the main kid. He is so obvious and easy to criticize in his self-serving self-talk, careening from crushing doubt or depression to supreme confidence and borderline insanity. But I can relate to the way we justify our own behavior and dwell on our fears and worries about what others think. I think many of our politicians do this kind of mental dance everyday. I think there's a lot there to think about trying to understand the experience of a soldier and to think about our own self-justifications. These guys did not have a history book's view of the Civil War and its causes. They went and fought horrible, searing battles in confusion and noise without understanding larger issues or strategy.
So I can see how the boy's thoughts and reactions to his experience could actually be quite interesting to discuss with a class, but I still think the language and pacing would make it hard for them to access and appreciate the insights into life.
So...I am very glad I read it and can see why it's a classic....more
I'm not sure what to say about this. It's one of those old classics I've meant to read forever, but only got to because a book company sent me a freeI'm not sure what to say about this. It's one of those old classics I've meant to read forever, but only got to because a book company sent me a free copy to show off their sturdy bindings. I read this in the midst of some intricately plotted modern fantasy. And I really enjoyed it.
It's simple. The lessons are simple. The symbolism could be any of 100 things, so I guess it just depends on what your high school English teacher thought. I loved the old man and the boy who cared for him. The inner dialogue is repetitive, but realistic and endearing. I like his moral dilemmas and respect for God's creation, his brother, the huge marlin. I am a sucker for lovable old people living out their lives as independently as they can. I just felt moved by the book. Better than I expected....more
This is a collection of bleak short stories about Hawthorne’s Puritan ancestors. Much better than The Scarlet Letter, they explore human motivation--eThis is a collection of bleak short stories about Hawthorne’s Puritan ancestors. Much better than The Scarlet Letter, they explore human motivation--especially to do evil, religion and hypocrisy, and include a lot of historical references. The language is intriguing and at times lyrical, but these stories can definitely drag.
Like other short story collections I’ve read, I’m going to give short blurbs about each as I go. This is really more for me than others.
My Kinsman, Major Molineaux – Didn’t get it. Liked the interactions of the country boy and mean townspeople, but I just had no clue why the person was getting tarred and feathered at the end.
Roger Malvin’s Burial – Interesting. Sad. Self-expectations vs. desires = happiness in life?
The Gentle Boy – Very interesting and heartbreaking. Slow read. Quakers praised/dissed as well as Puritans. Sensitive, loving boy has sad connotations of Adam for me.
The Gray Champion – Revolutionary propaganda? Short and trite protector ghost story.
Young Goodman Brown - I thought this was interesting when I first read it in high school or college, and it was good now too. Brown's life is ruined, but whether the townspeople really are secretly devil worshippers or he was just deceived by the devil is the question. Short and to the point. Good character names and characterization of the devil.
Wakefield - This little gem was hilarious (speaking relatively of course). I would not have guessed this was Hawthorne from the tone and subject matter. A little, vain, run-of-the-mill English husband in London rents a house on the next street from his home, moves in without telling his wife, and doesn't return home for 20 years while spying on his wife. I'm not sure this has a deeper moral, but the story of this "crafty nincompoop" is much lighter and more glib than any of the other stories so far. Fun. (The note at the end of the book compares this story to Kafka. Hmmm.)
The Maypole of Merry Mount - The historical paragraph preceding this story is more confusing than some others. I'm left wondering how true to life his portrayal of the people of the settlement is. I was also confused if there was a point to the story. Hawthorne uses strong words to condemn the puritans as usual, but the ending implies that the captured couple happily adopts the lifestyle and enjoys it. An ambiguous morality tale?
The Minister's Black Veil - Very cool story. Liked this one. Bland, nice minister goes all creepy for life. I get the symbolism as he explains on his deathbed, but it's still not clear what motivates the timing of the veil. (Unless the Poe quote in the notes at the end mean a fleeting thought I had was correct. Precursor to Scarlet Letter?)
Dr. Heidegger's Experiment - It was good. I'm not sure why it's the title piece of this collection, but it's fine. Interesting contrast of circumstances and character. Good story on the constant theme of man's inherent immorality, but not about Puritans. It's also interesting that Hawthorne constantly criticizes the Puritans for their outlook on the evil of man, but shares that outlook.
The Birthmark - Sad, sad story. An obsessed, egotistical scientist falls in love and puts his beautiful young bride in front of his ambitions to understand and master the universe. Except he soon becomes convinced that her distinctive birthmark is symbolic of evil hidden in her soul. She submits to his will and allows him to remove it through science. The outcome and moral are very clear.
The Celestial Railroad - Another witty, funny story that I didn’t realize Hawthorne had in him. It is a parody connected to the famous The Pilgrim’s Progress. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilgrim%... I haven’t read the book and hadn’t read the Wikipedia article until after the story, but it was no problem. I was familiar with Vanity Fair and the basics of many of the characters and could infer the rest easily enough. Before reading this story, read the article first if you have no idea what I just referred too. Anyway, the concept of the easy railroad to heaven, the characters’ names, the humorously naïve narration, and tone of the story were very enjoyable. This and Wakefield are easily my favorites so far.
Earth's Holocaust - Cynical parable of a giant bonfire at a site chosen by the "insurance companies" in order to burn up all the vanities of man. Short, enjoyable read.
The Artist of the Beautiful - Sad story about a guy who only dreams of making an ultimately beautiful mechanic butterfly. Not quite sure about the point; fits Hawthorne’s general tone.
Rappacini’s Daughter – Pretty cool story. Same themes, different presentation. The note at the back explains that the “French” titles from his translation are pretty funny.
Ethan Brand – Interesting. The man who found the “Unpardonable Sin” contrasted with the townspeople he left behind. I don’t think I quite “got” this one, but I liked it.
Overall, some of these stories were exactly what I was expecting from a Hawthorne short story collection, while others were funnier or about different topics than I expected. Worth the read, though not what most of my Goodreads friends are looking for.
I'm giving this one another shot. Hated Shakespeare in high school--now I love him. Hated The Scarlet Letter--read it again and it's still lame. I'm tI'm giving this one another shot. Hated Shakespeare in high school--now I love him. Hated The Scarlet Letter--read it again and it's still lame. I'm thinking the obsessed with money and appearances theme may ring true with today's society. Only a few pages in right now.
OK, finished. And I'm raising my rating. But it's a weird rating. For the sordid insight into dreams constructed on want, desire, money, etc., for the feelings of empty ennui depicted so vividly that the tone just oozes out of the book, for the thoughts and parallels to religious affinity-based Ponzi schemers and what makes a victim vulnerable to that sort of thing (chaste Gatsby's seeking money, or status, or something), the book is morbidly fascinating and gets 4 stars. For the actual fun I had reading it--it's more like 3 stars. I was enthralled sometimes and repulsed sometimes. It is a relatively fast read though once you get going.
There are no truly likable characters. The narrator tries and is noble at points, but is too enthralled in the apathetic, high life scene himself to be truly likable. Gatsby is fascinating. A tiny bit sympathetic, and just utterly self-destructive. His funeral and the surrounding circumstances with the Jewish guy, the drunk library guy, and his father was powerful to me. I think calling this book a depiction of "The American Dream" is too cynical, but "The Wall Street Dream" or "The Enron Dream" or "The Credit Default Swap Dream" or "The Multi-Level Marketing Dream" or "The Rick Koerber Dream" or "The Jeffrey Mowen Dream" might be closer to the mark. The greed and self-absorption are part of America, but I still don't think they define America.
Daisy and Tom are vivid types. I had strong reactions to the scene where Tom breaks Mrs. Wilson's nose and his final conversation with the narrator. At first thought, they're too overpoweringly callous to be real, but sadly, I think there are people just like that.
Very worthwhile book, but not for everyone. I definitely was not capable of seeing/feeling the bigger picture as a high schooler. I don't know what I think about this being so widely studied in high school. I support stretching students to things outside of their experience, but how far is too far? Or when does the time just become wasted because they are not capable of pulling worthwhile insight of the book by themselves?...more
This is short or I wouldn't read it. Melville's language is extremely interesting and boring at the same time. This would make less sense if I hadn'tThis is short or I wouldn't read it. Melville's language is extremely interesting and boring at the same time. This would make less sense if I hadn't already read some fiction and non-fiction dealing with late 18th/early 19th century naval warships.
I liked it. I would have hated this in high school and can see most of the commentors did. I liked the main plot. The writing is just dated. You can see the time period and Melville's obsession with describing the symmetry of faces and figures, especially as compared to some Roman/Greek ideal. The addressing of the reader about the episodes just to come or just passed, the first 1/3 of the novel spent commenting on human character as revealed by or compared to real and fantastical sailors, etc. This is good if you go in eyes open and want to experience some funky Melville....more
This 3 stars is different than most. It is not exactly how much I enjoyed the content. There are more fart jokes than something written by a 7th gradeThis 3 stars is different than most. It is not exactly how much I enjoyed the content. There are more fart jokes than something written by a 7th grader. The Canterbury Tales are something to laugh at rather than with. I enjoy them as an interesting view into culture at the time rather than as stories. Kind of like an old painting that isn't extremely attractive in its own right, but interesting as a piece in the chain of art history.
I also gave it 3 stars because I love getting my brain around the language again. The stories are told in succinctly summarized modern language as captions, but the characters speak a little middle English in their speech bubbles in the comic frames. I had to read a little of this in a linguistics class in college and I just love studying the language differences.
The pictures and brief versions of the stories make this accessible, but I wouldn't want to even go there with my jr. high kids. It could be useful in some context with older students.
Overall, I'm glad my mom lent me to the book, but I won't be hurrying to read it again....more
This is actually in a collected book of Twain here. This is funny if a little anti-climatic. The updates from the detectives in the field are hilariouThis is actually in a collected book of Twain here. This is funny if a little anti-climatic. The updates from the detectives in the field are hilarious. Very sarcastic Yankee in King Arthur's Court type stuff....more
This is actually in a collected book of Twain, but I wanted to rate the story separately. The plot of the story is not actually that great. But the laThis is actually in a collected book of Twain, but I wanted to rate the story separately. The plot of the story is not actually that great. But the language...is awesome. It captures this uneducated, small-town guy so well. Like the Huck Finn accents. I loved the language. It's like 5 pages. Read it just to hear the guy's voice....more
This book is OK. I should make a shelf about books purporting to be deep lessons on life, but really just fluff about believing in yourself. Fun littlThis book is OK. I should make a shelf about books purporting to be deep lessons on life, but really just fluff about believing in yourself. Fun little read--my wife has it in English and French....more