This is a great collection of Japanese folktales and horror stories. Two of the four parts of Masaki Kobayashi's movie of the same name come from thisThis is a great collection of Japanese folktales and horror stories. Two of the four parts of Masaki Kobayashi's movie of the same name come from this book...more
I didn't hate To Kill a Mockingbird, but after finishing it, I'm left baffled by its near universal acclaim. Maybe I'm not getting something, but everI didn't hate To Kill a Mockingbird, but after finishing it, I'm left baffled by its near universal acclaim. Maybe I'm not getting something, but everything Lee does thematically was done much, much better by Steinbeck and O'Connor. Her writing is fine, but not particularly remarkable compared to other great, American 20th century novelists.
Given its reputation, I'm fully willing to concede I might be in the wrong on this one, but I simply don't see the novel's greatness. It's a ok read but nothing special...more
It's been a long time since I read a book that was simultaneously this entertaining and thought provoking. By turns hilarious, enraging, tragic, and mIt's been a long time since I read a book that was simultaneously this entertaining and thought provoking. By turns hilarious, enraging, tragic, and moving. It reminded me of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in the best possible way...more
This is a tough one to rate. On the one hand it's a brilliant satire of nobility and the aristocracy, on the other it's blindly prejudiced invective aThis is a tough one to rate. On the one hand it's a brilliant satire of nobility and the aristocracy, on the other it's blindly prejudiced invective against Catholicism. On the one hand the characters are engaging and endearing, on the other the protagonist, Hank Morgan, displays such a shocking degree of arrogance that I was left wondering if he was actually the novel's villain (though Mark Twain, clearly, has no such qualms).
There's a lot to love here - particularly in the novel's second half where themes about the inevitability of history and the powerlessness of the individual come to the forefront. However, I find the novel's prejudice and arrogance impossible to ignore. I normally give classics an automatic five stars (I find the idea of rating classic literature absurd), but in this case I'm leaving the book unrated. ...more
Note: This is not a review of Dante's Purgatorio, which would easily get 5 stars, but of the Marcus Sanders/Sandow Birk paraphrase of Dante.
As with tNote: This is not a review of Dante's Purgatorio, which would easily get 5 stars, but of the Marcus Sanders/Sandow Birk paraphrase of Dante.
As with the Birk/Sanders adaptation of Inferno, their take on Purgatorio is interesting but problematic in places. Most of the same praises and criticisms I had for their version of Inferno apply here: placing the Divine Comedy in a modern Los Angeles is amusing, yet there are times where their understanding of Dante is woefully inadequate.
The biggest offender in Purgatorio comes from the artwork in Cantos 27-29. In this part of the narrative Dante reaches the summit of Mount Purgatory where he at last meets Beatrice in Eden. I found myself perplexed in Canto 27 when Eden was depicted as a strip club in the artwork. Perplexity turned to horror in the next two cantos when Matelda is portrayed as a stripper and the three Theological Virtues as hookers.
My objection isn't to the imagery itself - such lurid portraits were entirely appropriate in Inferno - but in this context they clash violently with Dante's text. Was no thought given to what Dante was actually trying to say in this section? These adaptive choices are in incredibly poor taste and mar an otherwise enjoyable adaptation of the text. Here's hoping their understanding and respect of Dante improves with Paradiso ...more
This is a paraphrase/loose translation of the Inferno. While I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a replacement for reading an actual translation, asThis is a paraphrase/loose translation of the Inferno. While I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a replacement for reading an actual translation, as a supplement its quite enjoyable. The biggest draw though is not the text but the extremely unique artwork, which places scenes from the Inferno in a modern LA. It's every bit as bizarre and fascinating as it sounds.
My four star rating is due to two main deficiencies in the translation. The first is that, at times, the language is too casual or updated. Mostly this updating works, but at times its jarring and feels anachronistic in a bad way.
The more grievous offense, however, is their inexplicable choice to include the names Jesus, God, and Mary in the text. Anytime Dante refers to those three in the Inferno he does so euphemistically. It's a subtle, but important, part of his art and theology. It may seem a minor point, but if you're going to translate Dante this is the sort of thing you need to be aware of. For many readers it will likely go unnoticed. For me it was unbearably obvious...more
Even by Shakespearean standards this play is violent. Murder, rape, dismemberment, self-mutilation, and cannibalism are just a few of the fun surpriseEven by Shakespearean standards this play is violent. Murder, rape, dismemberment, self-mutilation, and cannibalism are just a few of the fun surprises the Bard decided to throw into this one. It's as brilliant as anything he wrote, but it's definitely not for the faint of heart ...more
For this year's Dante reading, I read the John Ciardi, Henry Longfellow, and Anthony Esolen translations in parallel. These are a couple thoughts on eFor this year's Dante reading, I read the John Ciardi, Henry Longfellow, and Anthony Esolen translations in parallel. These are a couple thoughts on each of those translations
Ciardi: I really enjoy the translation, though the rhyme scheme is forced at times (Ciardi himself admits this in some of his notes). When considering not only the text but the accompanying notes and Canto summaries, Ciardi's edition is, in my opinion, the best all around option out there.
Longfellow: This is the translation famous for reviving an American interest in Dante. It's good, though a bit unapproachable for modern audiences. He also has a tendency to scale back some of Dante's more graphic moments. That won't be an issue as I move onto Purgatorio and especially Paradiso, but in Inferno it's distracting. If Dante talks about shit and asses, let him talk about shit and asses.
Esolen: As far as pure translation goes, this is my favorite of the three. It's readable but doesn't lose the poetry. My understanding (as someone who doesn't speak medieval Italian) it's also quite accurate. When considering not only the text but also the features, Esolen's edition has great notes that mix scholarship and faith (he's a devout Catholic and it comes through in his introduction and notes). He also has some supplementary texts in his appendixes that are of interest to the dedicated reader. The one knock I give his edition, and the reason that as a stand alone edition I put Ciardi's ahead of his, is that the canto summaries are too sparse. However, if you're willing to supplement the canto summaries with something like Danteworlds or Sparknotes, Esolen pulls well ahead of Ciardi
I finished Mary Jo Bang's translation. Actually, it's a translation/paraphrase though probably a bit closer to the translation end of the spectrum than the Sandow Birk edition. It's paraphrasing/updating is where it tends to stand out, as Bang includes numerous pop culture and post-Dantean literary references (including the amusing choice to replace Ciacco the Hog with South Park's Cartman in Circle 3). While I wouldn't say this was my favorite translation - and I'd probably put Birk's edition ahead of Bang's for those looking for an updated Inferno - I'm glad I read it and am disappointed that she didn't also translate Purgatorio and Paradiso ...more
At long last I have finished Ulysses. Understood? Absolutely not. Enjoyed? Not especially. But finished? Yes, and I'm happy to hang my hat on that.
ThAt long last I have finished Ulysses. Understood? Absolutely not. Enjoyed? Not especially. But finished? Yes, and I'm happy to hang my hat on that.
This is a wonderfully divisive book, not only in terms of the general public opinion but in terms of my own individual reaction. There were times when I put the book down in awe of its brilliance. There were times when I put the book down and wanted to douse it in lighter fluid, set fire to it, bury it, and salt the ground where the ashes lay. By the end of the book I was completely convinced that Joyce was a genius and that he was insane; that he had written a masterpiece and that he had written 600 pages of incoherent gibberish.
I suspect forcing those dueling reactions in the reader is at least part of the point.
This book is also one that challenged my philosophy of how to approach literature. I'm strongly convinced that in other to properly appreciate great books we need to not hold them to our standards of enjoyment and comprehension, but submit to what their authors present to us. Often times we find literature boring and uninteresting simply because we have failed to approach it correctly.
I've trained myself to read literature in that way, and as a result it's fairly easy for me to read most of the classics.
Then, along comes Ulysses and I found myself as hopelessly lost as a high school freshman encountering Homer for the first time when the most complex thing he's ever read previously is a comic book.
I came out of the book both with more compassion for those who struggle with books that I find more easily accessible and with a renewed conviction in the value of exposing ourselves to things that we don't especially enjoy and don't remotely understand.
I can only vaguely glimpse why Ulysses is considered one of the greatest works ever written, but nevertheless I believe that it is. I don't believe it would have generated the response it has - both popularly and scholarly - if that wasn't the case. Sometimes reading great literature is a matter of trusting those who have spent far more time reading and studying a work and believing them when they tell you it is truly great. Such is the case with me and Ulysses.
That's not to say that I intend to give up on trying to understand the novel. This was, after all, only an initial reading. I suspect there are very few who have come away from their first reading of Ulysses with anything beyond a near total sense of bafflement. Indeed, there's a part of me that would love to spend the next several years rereading the book and studying the scholarship in order to mine its depths. Will I do so? Likely not, but the fact that this is a book where I could do such a thing and have it be worthwhile is all the proof I need of Ulysses greatness.
Great books are great books not because we understand them or enjoy them, but because they transcend our individual responses and tap into parts of the human experience that would otherwise remain unexpressed. Such is the case with Ulysses. It's certainly not for the faint of heart, and if you try to read it you'll like reach a point where you'll wish you hadn't. Yet, despite it's extreme difficulty and the polarizing reactions it induces, I am more than convinced it's worth it ...more