This book put me on the path of being an academic. My mother had it on her shelves when I was a child, and I thumbed through it a number of times. My...moreThis book put me on the path of being an academic. My mother had it on her shelves when I was a child, and I thumbed through it a number of times. My first college paper was a Jungian analysis of the movie Star Wars. (I did not know that Lucas had read Campbell.) If following the cliche, "which books would you take on a desert island," this would clearly be in my top 10. Go, Jung!(less)
Lewis catalogues sin in ways most useful. Instead of making broad strokes and chastizing humanity for its grossest sins, he sweeps out the corners of...moreLewis catalogues sin in ways most useful. Instead of making broad strokes and chastizing humanity for its grossest sins, he sweeps out the corners of the human soul, identifying those oh, so subtle forms of transgression. Over and over again, he points out how phenomena that appear as virtue to the casual observer are often rife with vice. The main message is probably along these lines: be careful of doing the right thing for an utterly horrid reason. Lewis makes it painfully clear how we can easily rot our souls while going through the motions of living a Chrisitian life. A thoughtful read. Take your time going through this one. I tried to read it quickly for book club, and I didn't get it finished in time. (less)
I read this as part of a course on Foucault. As a person who loves definition / classification as a mental exercise, I found it interesting to read Fo...moreI read this as part of a course on Foucault. As a person who loves definition / classification as a mental exercise, I found it interesting to read Foucault's history / analysis of how modern medical practices came into formation. (less)
I think this book is an amazing testament to the human spirit, but I am deeply disturbed that many people use it to blame victims for not rising about...moreI think this book is an amazing testament to the human spirit, but I am deeply disturbed that many people use it to blame victims for not rising about their suffering that is often caused by systematic violence (unjust policies, systematic racism and sexism, racial profiling that restricts civil rights, etc.) I am sure Frankl would be appalled at how people of priviledge sometimes read it and tell people who suffer to "get a good attitude" like that guy in the concentration camp who refused to let the Nazis rain on his parade. (less)
I just wasn't in the mood for this. It's a book of short stories that play with the element of time. It's too abstract for my tastes right now. But I...moreI just wasn't in the mood for this. It's a book of short stories that play with the element of time. It's too abstract for my tastes right now. But I would recommend it to anyone interest in time-space and such. (less)
Dietrich excels and mixing high and low culture, and he demonstrates this in The Assumption, where he uses this ability to penetrate to the deepest la...moreDietrich excels and mixing high and low culture, and he demonstrates this in The Assumption, where he uses this ability to penetrate to the deepest layers of the human psyche. In The Assumption, Dietrich presents a series of poems that examines assumptions, referring not only to the missing line of an enthymeme, but also to holy ascensions of biblical figures. And as a bonus, the title also refers to the many other peoples and cultures who try to climb ladders towards the divine. He also recognizes how these encounters with the sublime happen by accident or by an act of terror. His allusions to various close encounters range from archeological evidence of prehistoric rituals to tabloid reports of alient abductions--and dozens of other irrational, soul-quaking connections between the human and the extra-human.
I can't imagine that any one reader can trace all of Dietrich's influences, so these poems represent for me what would happen if a very large convention center quadruple books itself with these events: MLA, Comic-Con, Society of Biblical Literature, and the National Science Teachers Association. The syngergy of such a fantastical meeting is apparent in these pages, and I can imagine readers from any one of these subcultures enjoying the "cross pollination" of mixing with the other three fields. So if you are a person of letters, a pop-culture vulture, a theologian, or a science nerd -- come on and swim in the primordial soup of The Assumption. The water is fine. (less)
In order to demonstrate the relevancy of the book's ideas to today's readers, Austin starts and concludes this book by discussing the impulse to reope...more In order to demonstrate the relevancy of the book's ideas to today's readers, Austin starts and concludes this book by discussing the impulse to reopen narratives in cinema through the use of sequals. Even though Frankenstein and Dracula die in early films, sequals abound that bring these monsters back to fight another day, and another and another. Then he moves to his area of expertise to discuss why people desire sequals, and how the authors of that era of British literature used sequals and biblical narratives as a means to communicate their developing positions about controversial topics of their era.
Austin deftly weaves together theories from narrative theory in order to perform a close reading of these important 17th C/18th C works: Milton's Paradise Regained, Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Part II, Defoe's The Further Adventures of Robison Crusoe, and Richardson' Pamela in Her Extalted Station. In order to adequately explain each text, Austin situates them in their historical context, explaining the political, cultural and economic forces that shape each work. Or more accurately, the book demonstrates how these authors turned the tables on society and used their writing to serve as a cultural force.
The element that ties each of these works together is the authors' use of biblical tropes to shape both the content and form of their literary works. The book progresses from extremely overt uses of biblical features in Milton to more sublte uses employed by Richardson. Nevertheless, Austin clearly shows how each author was inspired by the major tropes, themes, and archetypes of the New Testament, often supplanting the use of Old Testament devices in their previous work. For example, Bunyan's first work, Pilgrim's Progress, shows Christian going through an arduous set of tests and observing the unclean being punished. In Bunyan's sequal, Pilgrim's Progress, Part II, Christian's wife, Christiana, adds traveling companions as she journeys, forming a community of saints similar to those that St. Paul sustained.
In order to achieve this analysis, Austin employs a number of narrative theorists: i.e., Stanely Fisth, Northrup Frye, Frank Kermode, Claude Levi-Strauss, Georg Luka'cs, and Paul Ricouer. He also draws on criticism of several experts in 17th and 18th British literature as well as a handful of evolutionary psychologists. (less)
I fancy myself as articulate and a competent reviewer of books, but I feel inadequate to the task of describing Green's book. So. just...moreRead this book!
I fancy myself as articulate and a competent reviewer of books, but I feel inadequate to the task of describing Green's book. So. just. read. this. book.
But because I am manic and talk too much and I can never, ever leave well enough alone, I'm going to offer up something anyway.
For thousands of years, people have wrestled with the theodicy question: why do bad things happen to good people? While I not claiming that John Green has provided a satisfactory answer to that soul-gnawing question, he has offered a version of that question that reflects our time.
In The Fault in Our Stars we meet a 21st century version of Romeo and Juliet, teens who are trapped not by long-standing family fueds but by the indominatable, unreasonable forces of cancer. The book does not just feature two young lovers. It also introduces us to their entourage, very young people and their parents dealing with very big issues.
He captures the post-modern feel of hyperself-awareness and ironies upon ironies while still preserving the warmth of humanity. He mocks sentimentalization of illness and death using references from both high and low culture, and yet he conveyes feeling.
Yes, Green perhaps superimposes his own acerbic wit into their voices, but I can tell that he has spent hours imagining their situation and honoring them by using his gifts to give their hopes, sorrows, questions, and observations voice. This book is no Afterschool Special. It's often raw, gritty, painful, angry -- and yet beautiful.
The book is also hopeful through some paradox. Green takes cancer by the shoulders and looks it in the eye and sees all the horror, the horror. Yet his characters respond with humanity--with all its various forms. The good, the bad, and the totally shitty.
I'm not going to say this is a cancer book. The characters invited us to recognize that everyone dies. Everyone has to ask hard questions about suffering and the meaning of life. But those with cancer ask these questions is such concentrated ways, compressed into smaller spaces of time and place. I invite you to walk alongside Hazel, Augustus, Isaac, and the constellation of friends and family that surround them so that you can think and feel and cry about life and about its beauty and horror. And beauty. And horror. (Infinity - because neither beauty nor horror get the last word).