Obviously, this book is significantly dated, people of the time just on the verge of imagining some amazing things. Very little of what we'd currently...moreObviously, this book is significantly dated, people of the time just on the verge of imagining some amazing things. Very little of what we'd currently call science fiction is in this book; the scifi elements are mostly the backdrop against some incisive social commentary which is very relevant for both that time and this. Purely as scifi I'd score this only 3/4 stars, but it's what the authors are saying as social criticism that pushes it higher.
Though this book was written in the early '50s, my mind couldn't help but go forward more than a decade, to the set of television's "Bewitched." I watched that show a lot as a kid. You'll recall that the husband, Darren Stevens, worked as an advertising executive. I got nearly as many laughs from the zany ad campaigns Darren and Samantha cooked up as from any of the magic-related hijinks I saw.
Push the McMann & Tate ad firm into the future, and make them sinister. Now you have a picture of Fowler Schoken Associates. This ad agency goes beyond the art of punchy slogans; they employ psychological manipulation and drugs in their products which make you addicted to them, and to other products they sell. Culture, literature, and true education are deviant and blasphemous; decent people just consume and they're content with it. The advertising elite have the real power in society; even the President of the United States defers to them. They have enslaved a consuming underclass that lives in brutish conditions and virtual slavery. What's worse is that the elite has convinced them to be more or less happy in their slavery, except for a few, like the "Consies" (conservationists), that dare to see beyond the illusion and call for a richer, simpler, more purposeful life.
I couldn't help but think about a few mega-retailers in our own time who seem to have permeated every aspect of our lives. The movie "WALL-E" also forced itself into my memory, as a mega-conglomerate so corrupted the public and the earth that the planet was made uninhabitable by enormous mountains of trash. This book apparently sounded the warning first, a call to seriously re-examine our materialism before it's too late. Well, actually, Thoreau was saying this sort of thing long before, but this is the first time I know of that the warning was presented in the scifi genre.
All in all, a very worthwhile book to read; I see why Library of America (I read this book in their "American Science Fiction": vol. 1) published it as a classic. For our time, it's really archaic, but for the '50s it was great scifi and timeless social commentary.(less)
A disastrously-disappointing book, made more so by the fact that I bought the book in response to recommendations I'd gotten. There's over 20 dollars...moreA disastrously-disappointing book, made more so by the fact that I bought the book in response to recommendations I'd gotten. There's over 20 dollars down the drain, and a new book on its way to the landfill, which is something I NEVER do. I found no other proper response than to treat the book as it is: trash.
I suppose the main reason I was so thoroughly repulsed is that it took something of inestimable value to me and represented it as ultimately devoid of any meaning. Since a year before kindergarten, I have vacuumed up books without stopping. In reading I have found wonder, adventure, fun, touching emotion, and deep meaning. I have sought out the works of great authors not just for their genius in crafting story, but their profound insights into the human condition and human issues. I have stockpiled mountains of wonder, feeling, and wisdom. Books have taught me to THINK. How can you get much better than that?
This book was represented to me as the deep musings of a kindred spirit, a pondering of why books had the ability to weave such magical spells and pull us into an interior universe. The book began that way. Although a bit ponderous in its musings on child psychology theory, I thought that we were well on our way to something great.
As it turns out, I ought to have paid more attention to psychology early on: Spufford's own. By the time I got a bit more than halfway through the book, I realized that he and I were nothing alike in our reasons for diving headlong into book after book. For him, it was pure escapism from family realities that he could not face. He candidly describes how his sister's disease required all the attention and resources his parents could give. The author felt his reality shattered by this, and turned to books first to escape, and then to vent his childish and selfish rage. While I cannot judge a person whose shoes I haven't occupied, I was repulsed by his crassness, insensitivity, phobia, and near hatred of disabled people--by his own admission!
So whereas I find in reading wonder and wisdom, the author turned to books only to vent his insecurity, rage and lust. At the end of a childhood voyage through such luminaries as C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and Ursula LeGuin, we find that as a young man verging on adulthood that he has reached the grand vistas of...erotica. Porn! Since he apparently didn't have the spine to live a real life himself, he chose to spew his undisciplined drives into fantasy women that he could dehumanize in his mind as much as he wished. From the wonders of Narnia and Middle-Earth, with magic and deep meaning, he ends up with....nothing. Emptiness. Sheer instinctual drive reduction. How disgusting, and what a waste of a good mind and potential.
The book ends abruptly, as the author says, (paraphrased) "So then my sister died, and I went off to university. The details from here are none of your business. There. That's my book. The End.". I absolutely could not BELIEVE that this was the payoff toward which I'd labored for over 200 pages. In one fluid motion I closed the cover, walked into the kitchen, and plopped this hardcover waste of my money into the trash.
Do your self a favor. Don't throw away your money on this book. If you borrow it at a library, read the last five or so pages. They will tell you all the takeaway you'll ever get from this book, and you will have conserved precious reading time which you can spend on something worthwhile.(less)
This book provided me with intriguing new perspectives on the period from just before the French and Indian War, through the Revolutionary War and the...moreThis book provided me with intriguing new perspectives on the period from just before the French and Indian War, through the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The unfortunate loss of 2 stars was a result of insufficient organization, lack of clarity, and lack of balance. Yes, I understand that this book has received recognition from those far better versed than I, but this is just one layman's perspective. Also, the subtitle is very misleading. This book is not a treatment of how early America was transformed by Indian warfare. It is very limited in scope, covering only Pennsylvania. As a Midwesterner transplanted to Pennsylvania for about seven years, I was most gratified to learn more of the history of my adopted state. However, Peter Silver fell short of the goal stated in the subtitle. To do a complete job of that, he would have needed to look at how all regions of the Colonies/country were affected by Indian warfare.
What follows is a mostly negative review. I want to point out, however, that Silver raises issues I find most interesting and worthy of further investigation. To demonstrate that I do not reject the book out of hand, you should know that I read this book because it was loaned to me by a good friend. However, I found the book intriguing enough to purchase my own copy. I wanted it in my library. I had never considered how opposition to “Indian” groups would forge a national unity between white European Americans. How could such atrocities on both sides lead to any semblance of tolerance? I was also flummoxed to read that many leaders among the Colonists applied anti-Indian epithets to each other when the other side refused to side with them. How ignorant and slimy! Furthermore to consider that those invectives were used against the British forces to effectively cement animosity toward them--amazing! Silver presented his points in a well-written, captivating manner. His points are quite uncomfortable, but they demand consideration. So I appreciated the added understanding he brought to my favorite period of American history. Still, there were elements of it that bothered me, and that hurt the impact of the book as a whole.
The first difficulty I had with this book had to do with how the material was organized. In an attempt to trace the unfolding of rhetoric between early Americans and "Indians," Silver breaks events out of chronological order to suit his theme. That in itself is not so bad; I recently read Blood of Tyrants: George Washington & the Forging of the Presidency by Logan Beirne , which used the same mechanic, and did so very effectively. The difference was that Beirne did a much better job of reorienting the reader with the overall chronology each time he made a time jump. His reminders were succinct and effective; I hardly found myself lost at all.
By contrast, I'm afraid Silver didn't do as well. He hops around quite a lot, apparently trusting the reader to have memories as sharp as his. I admit it: I don't. Some memory joggers along the way would have been a big help. I kept reading people's names I knew he'd mentioned before, but I couldn't remember exactly where in the book I'd been introduced to them. He'd revisit events that he'd discussed so far back that I couldn't recall some of the important details. I felt lost quite a bit as I jumped backward, forward and sideways in time, with very few signposts to keep me oriented to the overall historical flow. His thesis was interesting enough that I kept pressing ahead, but the book was hard work to read and left me feeling disappointed in myself for not assimilating and compiling the scattered bits of information well enough. I'll own up to my own dimness as part of the blame, but Silver could have done much better in organizing his material. And may I say that I'm not sure that Silver's thesis really required all of that helter-skelter jumping about to effectively demonstrate.
Though the lack of organization in the book made the book difficult to read, the lack of clarity and balance made it really frustrating at times. Silver's main points, as I understand them, are 1) Much of the impetus for war against the "Indian" population was based upon fear and a system of fabricated atrocities, which he names the "anti-Indian sublime"; 2) Anti-Indian fear and hate was applied to smear and marginalize even European Americans who did not favor oppressing and eradicating them; and 3) Somehow, a sense pan-European American unity was forged as over and against the threat posed by "Indians." This fostered a sense of diversity and tolerance...so long as you weren't and "Indian" or an "Indian-lover," I presume.
Let me suggest, however, that in attempting to establish his point, he overdid it to the point of casting doubt on its credibility. Silver showed that to begin with, there were genuine, terroristic attacks upon white settlements which were calculated to spread such fear that the whites would leave. Slain whites were scalped, dismembered, and otherwise posed in genuinely disturbing ways. These attacks certainly made the impression they planned to make, but these barbaric tableaux backfired on the "Indians." The graphic images haunted the imaginations of white Americans so much that they became an obsession. The gory scenes were told and re-told in newspapers, pamphlets and broadsides, and the "anti-Indian sublime" became a literary sensation. These accounts sold like hotcakes.
Tragedy was in the making, however, as further "Indian" attacks were reported or completely fabricated. In the case of actual attacks, the details were promiscuously embellished to include all the macabre scenes that sold the most copy. Silver made it seem like each incident was an opportunity to cut and paste the very same sensational tropes, over and over again. As a result, the barbarity of attacks grew with the telling, generating an artificial fever pitch of fear and hatred for all "Indians." This hysteria would have horrible consequences as it provided an environment in which a great number of non-combatant "Indians" were wiped out to slake whites' appetite for retribution and bloodshed. The actual perpetrators of attacks (if the attacks really happened to begin with) conducted their strikes with lightning speed and disappeared without a trace. Pursuing white militias almost never caught up with them. Having no actual murderers to strike back against, the whites insisted upon a handier outlet for their vengeful impulses: the innocent, women, children, etc. The most heartrending account was toward the end of the book, with the massacre of approximately ninety Gnadenhutten and Salem Moravian "Indians," who were complete pacifists. As a result, some of these peaceful Native Americans forsook the Christian faith entirely and went back to warlike ways.
I cannot express how disgusted I was as I read these things. Blind, unthinking vengeance against the innocent, just because a person needs an outlet for their hatred is one of the worst evils I can think of. I felt newly ashamed at the depth of injustice perpetrated by some of my countrymen in the past. As I continued to read, however, something didn't seem right. The way that Silver portrayed our warfare against Native American groups made it seem like virtually all of the clashes were based on false information or sheer, undisciplined hatred on our part. Every now and then he would drop hints that some "Indian" attacks had actually happened, and that they were pretty bad. However, he played down the real strikes so far as to mention them in passing, mumbling through them and then getting right back to unjust attacks that we had mounted. I started, once again, to feel lost. I found myself repeatedly thinking, "Now wait a minute--was this one an actual attack or a fabricated one?" That is why I am charging Silver with a lack of clarity in his book: I kept wondering whether a particular account was true or trumped up. Silver really should have taken more pains to be clear in this area.
On the other hand, I suspect the lack of clarity might be chalked up to a lack of balance. The reader does not need to look very hard to understand the ideological place from which Silver is writing. His bias speaks loud and clear. I know that it is politically correct to blame America for everything, and politically incorrect to portray oppressed people as EVER having done anything wrong. Most, however, would agree with the common wisdom that in most conflicts, it is doubtful that the all of the blame can be assigned to one party. It is more likely that both parties contributed to the conflict in some way, even if one side deserves more of the blame than the other. In order to fully understand what led up to these horrible conflicts, I need to understand where both parties erred, and how things might have been done differently.
It is here that Silver missed out on the chance to write a truly great book. Early in the book, he states that some of the “Indians” staged terroristic attacks on white settlements, and promptly fled beyond the reach of militias. He documents at great length the unreasoning fear this stirred within the white population, and later relates how whites attacked a large number of innocents. Lamentably, Silver does not connect the dots between these developments! A useful and thorough analysis of these events demands asking some politically incorrect questions. Could it be said that more radical elements among the “Indian” nations, closing their minds to diplomacy and determining to attack in a shocking and graphic manner, actually cast a die which would doom their future as a people in the mid-Atlantic? Could those radical elements, with their hit-and-run tactics, be in some measure accountable for the deaths among their own innocent people? These questions are positively begged by the accounts related by Silver. Yet he seems so eager to press his own presuppositions that he never even entertains such questions. Surely his bias jeopardizes the effectiveness of his arguments.
I want to make one thing abundantly clear at this point: I do not come from the “America can do no wrong” camp. In fact, as I read this book, Silver was “preaching to the choir.” I embarked upon this reading with my own presupposition that for all the reasons we have to celebrate our national heritage, we have nonetheless behaved in shameful, dishonest, and dishonorable ways toward our Native American community over the years. Silver did not need to convince me of this.
Setting aside my basic agreement with that point, I also believe that one cannot allow one’s presuppositions to prevent a deeper understanding of events. If we are to grow and learn from our history, even our tragedies and injustices must be examined from all angles. Even if I am willing to assign the majority of the blame to European overreaction, I also need to understand how various “Indian” factions may have blundered and made things worse for themselves. Sadly, Silver allowed bias to prevent him from investigating the larger picture.
This leads to another major peril of a biased presentation of historical events: pressing so heavily on only one side of an issue tends to cast doubt on a perfectly valid point that is worthy of serious thought. When one refuses to even address alternate explanations, the audience notices the deficiency and begins to wonder if the author “protests too much.” There is a danger of having one’s perspective dismissed out-of-hand, assigned to the trash heap of biased, revisionist pieces of hack-work. I am perfectly willing to entertain alternate viewpoints, but I need to be shown that they arise from deep study of the whole picture.
To summarize, this book was exceedingly well-researched and well-written. The points brought forward are controversial but demand to be taken seriously. I will be thinking about them for years to come, and I am grateful for this. However, the disorganization, lack of clarity, and bias demonstrated by the author seriously undermine the cogency of his arguments. The flaws, however, do not give the reader any excuse to dismiss his efforts, or to fail in giving his arguments serious consideration. So perhaps he has the last word after all.(less)
I serendipitously stumbled across this book as I was shopping on Amazon's Kindle Store. I thought to myself, "A book about why reading is awesome? Sou...moreI serendipitously stumbled across this book as I was shopping on Amazon's Kindle Store. I thought to myself, "A book about why reading is awesome? Sounds like fun!" So I fell prey to that diabolical temptation, the "Buy with One Click" button. That was yesterday. Despite the fact that I have three books open right now, I thought, "I'll read the first couple of pages." And here I am today, and the book is done. It's short and exceedingly readable, but so wonderful in a lot of ways. As a 40-something person, I'm at that place in life where I think about all the books I've yet to read, and that if I'm lucky I'm halfway through my lifespan. Still, it has occurred to me that I'd best get a whole lot more serious about reading books that are important for me to read! So I've been planning out which books I need to tackle.
In waltzes Prof. Jacobs and urgently begs me to forget about any such madness.
It's a rare and amazing thing that a Professor of English Literature would give me this crucial advice: Read at Whim! Read at Whim! He argues that if reading becomes a duty or a thing to get over with, it becomes soul-killing and empty. I keep unconsciously relating "important books" with my educational career: Hurry up! Get these things read now, before someone finds out what a hack you are! You need to be able to tell people you've read these books, or you'll be an intellectual laughingstock!
Jacobs' playful (and I think more than half-serious) suggestion: LIE! Find enough information on these "important" books from the internet that you can evince some basic level of familiarity with them, throw in a couple of knowing comments to your friends....and get back to spending the bulk of your leisure time reading books in which you can truly delight. Get lost in them, experiencing the matchless pleasure that comes with it! This is because in order to truly benefit from any book, you have to take it on its own terms and truly love it for its own sake.
By no means should this be taken to construe that Prof. Jacobs advocates reading nothing but brain-candy novels (though he staunchly defends the worth of such reading!). Remember: he's a literature professor, after all. He is driving at the point that you can get the full benefit of a book only when you are ready to receive what it has for you. If you're not ready to receive Tolstoy right now, revel in J.K. Rowling! (though Rowling isn't my cup of tea, personally). As you learn to delight in reading, you will find yourself ready to receive more of the "important" books, and in not in the manner of flogging yourself until you march through a torturous tome. Instead, you will increasingly be able to identify the truly delightful elements of a book that you have never seen before.
What seems to lie at the heart of all this is to develop one's capacity for "deep attention." This is a way of reading that is rare indeed...all the more endangered by a world driven to insane levels of A.D.D. by digital, social media, and musical distractions. Deep reading is the sort practiced by medieval monks: reading slowly, deliberately...meditating and ruminating on the wise counsel brought to you by excellent books. It takes discipline over time to develop the silence and focused attention that such excellent works require. Obviously, it doesn't take great mental discipline to read a Tom Clancy novel (now THERE'S an author who is right up my alley)...but the good news is that any form of enjoyable long-form reading can help you develop the focused attention over time that will make bring you to the place where you ARE ready to receive the riches in a truly "great" piece of literature.
Jacobs discusses so many intriguing topics in this little book, including the radical idea that our current educational system does NOT provide fertile opportunities to develop this essential "deep attention." Instead it is structured to foster "hyper attention," which is quick scanning to gather information. Ironically, even literature classes do little to develop a deep love of books, because they are time-limited and require exams, essays and papers. In other words, they cannot help but to turn reading into an information-compiling exercise. Now, Jacobs acknowledges the validity of "hyper attention" (quick reading for information-- and indeed many pursuits require just that skill. However, it is impossible to experience the true joys of reading until we discipline our minds to be silent, block out interruptions, slow down, and soak in excellent books. The good news is, those different modes of thinking need not be mutually exclusive!
I got a great deal out of this little book. I cannot help but believe that we would benefit as a society I rich ways by Jacobs' exhortations to silence, solitude, meditation, focus. We needn't become Luddites, throwing way our iPads and smart phones. However, truly great ideas come out of minds disciplined to think deeply and thoroughly. Perhaps the mental disciplines found in the old paths can bring us to the ideas and answers we need for our uniquely modern issues!(less)
A mouth-gaping account of the exploits of the 1/9th Cavalry during the Vietnam War. It is told from the perspective of the pilots, gunners and observe...moreA mouth-gaping account of the exploits of the 1/9th Cavalry during the Vietnam War. It is told from the perspective of the pilots, gunners and observers, as well as the ground assault troops attached to them, the "Blues." The risks taken by this experimental helicopter unit were absolutely horrifying, as we're the casualties they took--especially by the crews of the tiny Light Observation Helicopters (LOH's) which got directly in the enemies' faces and shot them down in spite of the tiny choppers' extreme vulnerability. Still, they were amazingly effective, accounting for a highly disproportionate amount of enemy kills. Few units in the war were as effective, in fact. Along the way, kids were made into men and many broken into wrecks of men. Heroes emerged, then sent home to face nothing but hatred and abuse by the very country that sent them into battle in the first place. Many of these kids had their youth taken from them, made to see and do things that no one should, and have had a very hard time coping with "normal" life since. Still, most of them hold their heads high to this day. They deserve our appreciation, respect and thanks.(less)
A delightful book! I found it really pleasing to find out about Steinbeck himself: his personality, views, life experiences, and warm sense of humor....moreA delightful book! I found it really pleasing to find out about Steinbeck himself: his personality, views, life experiences, and warm sense of humor. (Not to mention his love for dogs; we're kindred spirits in that respect.) I've enjoyed his stories in the past, but it was really nice to get more of an undiluted view of the man. There's been some kerfuffle over the years about the strict accuracy about some of the experiences and conversations he wrote about with this book, but I am not worried about it. The whole book is too unassuming and unpretentious to be a complete fib. I assume that if there are any embellishments, it was to protect anonymity or to present composites of real people and real conversations.
Around 1960, Steinbeck decided he needed to get in touch with America as it currently was. He'd written much of it, based on his past experiences, but he correctly assumed that things were changing so dramatically that he probably wasn't that well acquainted with contemporary America. Think about it: this was the hottest part of the Cold War, with Kruschev banging his shoe and the threat of nuclear annihilation very plausible. Political upheaval was rampant. The "Domino Effect" was playing havoc in southeast Asia. The Red Scare still made people paranoid, despite McCarthy's fall from power. And the Civil Rights Movement was on the march, despite hundreds of neanderthals spewing hatred and violence toward adults and children of color. Steinbeck was right in his instinct that his culture was in a disturbing place, and he thought that a cross-country trip might help him make a little sense of things.
The upshot is that he purchased a tricked-out pickup with a camper top, and loaded up his best four-footed friend, a standard poodle named Charley. Off they went in search of America, and on the way Steinbeck offers very interesting insights on the natures Of Dogs and Men. (Sorry, horrible joke.)
A few themes I found interesting included the pandemic of wanderlust he found in the American soul no matter where he went. People would look at his rig, find out about the nature of his journey, and get all starry-eyed. A few wanted to drop everything and go with him on the spot. Steinbeck himself admitted to having the soul of a hobo. As a homebody, myself, I find people with "vagabond shoes" to be intriguing.
Even more fascinating, and dismaying, was a sort of political and convictional numbness wherever he went. He found it very difficult to get people to come right out and say what they thought about important topics. In fact, a politician friend of his pleaded with him to find some true Americans who had the courage of their convictions and stand up for what they thought was right. The politician couldn't find such courageous citizens anywhere, and it really concerned him for the future of the country.
Steinbeck seemed to share that concern. As he traveled, he found that regional cultural flavors and dialects were passing away. Everything was becoming plastic and flavorless. Interestingly, he seems to lay the blame for this on the Interstate Highway system, which he held in contempt. He found this homogenizing trend in America's culture to have a neutering effect on people's convictions and courage to stand by them.
Ironically, the few outspoken people he did find were extremely obnoxious, including a gaggle of racist hags in New Orleans and a demoniac young man with a life's goal of killing as many black folks as he could find. Steinbeck's description of these people filled me with loathing for them. His disdain for racists is expressed subtly, in reasoned tones, and all the more effective for it. It saddened me that the last real encounters he recorded were with racists in the south. He seemed to head home in disgust and disillusionment after that. I can't blame him, but it was a bit of a downer for the end of the book.
Nonetheless, I came away with a fresh appreciation for the power of friendliness and hospitality, which Steinbeck extended to even the people that treated him with suspicion and mild hostility at first. His extended hand of friendship broke down walls and made friends where it seemed that there would be nothing but suspicion. If you take the time to talk to people, taking initiative in showing friendship, it's amazing how bridges of understanding can be built. I was challenged by Steinbeck's example, and I hope I will have the courage to press beyond the differences I have with people and find the good that lies beneath.
Note: I actually read this book as part of the volume, Travels With Charley and Later Novels 1947-1962by John Steinbeck. I highly recommend the Library of America series, to which I am a subscriber. The quality of the materials (cloth bound, Smyth-Sewn binding, acid-free paper) and the pleasing typeface make these heirloom-quality books a real pleasure to hold, read and own.(less)
A charming little book. Some of it is reasonably accurate information about the behavior of the animals watched and studied by the nature-loving parso...moreA charming little book. Some of it is reasonably accurate information about the behavior of the animals watched and studied by the nature-loving parson, and some of it is quaint anthropomorphism. Regardless, his turn of phrase makes you feel the wonder and variety of the outdoors. I read it by a fire, and could almost imagine myself in the place of the author, sitting at a crackling campfire and journaling about the spectacles he'd seen that day. The book gives you a peaceful feeling...don't be surprised if you drift off into a comfortable doze.(less)
I'd give it 3.5 to 3.75 stars actually, and it would gain another full star if the grammar/usage were better. There are several run-on sentences, forc...moreI'd give it 3.5 to 3.75 stars actually, and it would gain another full star if the grammar/usage were better. There are several run-on sentences, forcing one to read slowly and insert one's own periods where sentence breaks should be. Other than that, the book is a very good explanation of rudimentary survival concepts, and a catalog of skills that must be researched and practiced in order to gain competence.(less)
The Marble Faun was a delightful read. Hawthorne's last published novel finds him at the zenith of his skill as a writer. One can tell that this is Ha...moreThe Marble Faun was a delightful read. Hawthorne's last published novel finds him at the zenith of his skill as a writer. One can tell that this is Hawthorne honed by decades of refining his craft. He is able to communicate with depth, and yet with a clarity that does not imprison you in a mire of verbose minutiae. Compare this with the dry reading of his collegiate venture, Fanshawe (which he later disowned), and his maturing process as a writer is clear. Having read the ponderous, solemn works, The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables earlier in my life, I was pleasantly surprised by the way Hawthorne had by this time learned to intersperse great solemnity with periods of hope and light.
The themes of The Marble Faun are quite numerous, and surprisingly well developed for all of that. Just to name a few: what is great art? What is it about art that imparts life to it and makes it speak to the soul? The figure of the "faun," Donatello, is a metaphor of simple, unencumbered happiness. Throughout the book Hawthorne wonders whether there is any more room for simple joy in this old world, wearied down by time, sin and cynicism. Additionally, the pure, righteous, puritanical (yet quite likeable) figure of Hilda, played off against the worldly, jaded-but-well-meaning figure of Miriam is ripe for deep thinking about the value of uncompromising righteousness (Hilda) that walls itself off against any taint of sin--particularly when the light of Hilda's friendship could have gone so far in attracting Miriam toward light and wholeness. As a clergyman, this interplay between righteousness/judgment and forgiveness/grace resonates quite powerfully to me.
But above those deep issues, I was quite impressed how Hawthorne could tackle deep themes, and yet couch them in a mystery/romance that was a wonder to read. Those who insist on no loose ends might be a bit impatient with this book, as Hawthorne purposely leaves certain details mysterious. Thus the book takes on the air of a myth which ignites the imagination. The very fact that not all is concluded neatly leaves the mind spinning and wondering long after the book is closed. And that is a good thing.(less)
Very nice book for what it is: a children's story (though many children of our age wouldn't have the patience for a 472 page-long story.) It is a very...moreVery nice book for what it is: a children's story (though many children of our age wouldn't have the patience for a 472 page-long story.) It is a very good vocabulary-booster for one's young ones as well. The details of geography, flora and fauna were hilariously outlandish, and the wrecked ship that carried the family must have been an ancient supertanker, given the fact that it had EVERYTHING KNOWN TO MANKIND in its hold, including a supply of shot and gunpowder that would last the family more than a decade. But other than the humorously impossible bits, it was a good children's adventure. I was glad to spend the time with my ten year old son as we read it together. His frequent outbursts, comments and speculations proved that the book had thoroughly grabbed his imagination. For that I am grateful!
I might add a friendly warning for those of a squeamish nature with regards to animals, guns and hunting: the book might have appropriately been subtitled "SHOOT IT!" Every time the boys see a new and interesting animal, their immediate and automatic response is to shoot it dead. One needs to keep in mind that this was a book written in the 19th century, and sensibilities were much different back then. If one reads the book with tolerance, a good story is still very much in store.(less)