I sincerely doubt that I will ever read this book again, or ever feel any desire to. I can certainly see how and why it has secured its place as partI sincerely doubt that I will ever read this book again, or ever feel any desire to. I can certainly see how and why it has secured its place as part of the canon, but I did not find the characters and their lives compelling enough to overcome the annoyance I felt with Tolstoy's personal vision of history and life in general.
There were moments when I came to care about what was going on in the book. I sympathized with Prince Andrey's broken heart and Pierre's search for meaning and I was genuinely interested in what choice Nikolay would make in regards to Sonya and Marya... some of the time. Prince Andrey recedes into the background in the latter half of the book, only to reappear briefly so that he can die a sudden, anticlimactic and boring death. Pierre meanders so aimlessly between various ideas and goals that I could only become frustrated with him and Nikolay is at times such a flat lifeless character that I could not care at all about him one way or the other. War and Peace is so large that no story line ever comes to fruition and instead of being a truly complex epic it seemed to me that it was only the raw material from which several great books could have been made.
Without any genuine interest in the characters I could only hope that War and Peace would be, in some way, intellectually interesting but I found it even more deficient in this regard. Tolstoy does not believe in free will, great men, the usefulness of rational thought, or military science. I know these things because Tolstoy uses these ideas like a cudgel, beating the reader about the head and shoulders. He does not trust in the reader enough to allow them to draw the ideas from the story and so makes numerous digressions to explain the same opinion as he just explained some fifty pages ago, using almost the same words, as often as not. Worse yet, the second epiloge is devoted exclusively to reiterating them one final time, using only the barest semblance of a rational argument, which is hardly surprising since he has already told us time and again that it is impossible to change any ones mind using words, and the only knowledge that matters is that which comes from ones gut and mystical revelation.
In final summation, the only other book that has ever produced such a visceral exhasperation in me is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Perhaps, as with Atlas Shrugged, time will change my opinion of War and Peace, but I am not hopeful...more
"We do onstage the things that are suppose to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else."
Ro"We do onstage the things that are suppose to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else."
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead can be seen as Stoppard's answer to the question what are the minor characters of the play Hamlet doing while the tragic prince is agonizing and plotting? Stoppard's simple answer is "nothing".
R and G spend there time playing word games, musing on the nature of death and fate, and try--desperately and futilely--to gain some understanding of the grand events unfolding around them. Performed on a bare stage, which R and G never leave, the play is not a story of people but of characters; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are defined entirely by their roles in the play. They have no memory of their past, because they did not exist before they were sent for by the King and Queen. They never appear singly, and so they themselves are not quite sure which of them is Rosencrantz and which Guildenstern. They are trapped in an absurd theatrical world which, while at first witty and humorous, becomes profoundly unsettling until at last Guildenstern is left alone on a dark stage saying as he faces his own death, "There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said--no. But somehow we missed it."
It is short and easy to read but Stoppard's pun laden style means that rereadings are rewarding and go a long way towards a more complete understanding. I also recommend at least a basic familiarity with Hamlet, because R and G are Dead has no plot of its own and never gives more than basic exposition concerning the story going on in the background.
Well worth reading, especially if you can not see it performed. ...more
For modern readers, the most compelling aspect of Flatland is inevitably the philosophical and theological undertones of the book. It is the story ofFor modern readers, the most compelling aspect of Flatland is inevitably the philosophical and theological undertones of the book. It is the story of A. Square, who is the resident of an entirely two dimensional world in which everything exists on a single plane. Flatland, as the narrator names his world, is inhabited various geometrical figures who go about their lives unable to see more than a single straight line. In the course of the book, the narrator is visited by a sphere, who comes from a place called Spaceland to deliver to the narrator "the Gospel of Three Dimensions" and thus enlighten him as to the limited nature of his existence.
Particularly for those of us living in a post-Einstein world, Flatland is a useful exercise in analogy to help conceptualize the idea of a fourth dimension, despite our only being able to percieve three. It can further be read theologically, by looking at the idea of a higher reality in the mathematical sense. However, I would not be honest if I did not admit that these speculations make up only about half of the book. The first half uses Flatland to critique, very specifically, the society of the late 1800's. This satirical aspect, while interesting to me, does not much reflect onto my life or ideas in any truly useful way, and I imagine that most modern readers would have much the same experience.
So, I strongly recommend the book to anyone interested in philosophy, physics, theology, or Victorian society. I imagine that most others would find it a bit dull....more
There are some authors who could write about almost anything and I would follow along quite eagerly. Unfortunately, Saul Bellow is not one of those auThere are some authors who could write about almost anything and I would follow along quite eagerly. Unfortunately, Saul Bellow is not one of those authors.
The victim is a story about Asa Leventhal and his unexpected acquantance, Kirby Albee, who accuses Leventhal of deliberately ruining his life. While the premise was promising, I was disappointed with where it went. The implicit threat that Albee represents is never really carried through, despite the fact that there were myriad oppurtinities for him to cause real harm to Leventhal. At the sime time, I found it extremely difficult to care about Leventhal, who is unbelievably acommodating towards Albee and inexplicably hostile to every one else. His insecurity renders him unable to act, and this might, at least, have made him interesting if it were not for the fact that when he does find the courage to send Albee away, there is not even the slightest suggestion of what changed in him or why.
Stylistically, Bellow is as solid as ever. His descriptions are vivid and occasionally even moving. Unfortunately, his dependable writing did not, for me, carry the story and I will have very shortly forgotten The Victim. From a lesser author, I might have thought the book passable, but I expect more from the author of Henderson the Rain King, and I was disappointed....more
For some strange reason, I was surprised that I liked this book. I had never had much interest in reading his short stories, mostly because I think thFor some strange reason, I was surprised that I liked this book. I had never had much interest in reading his short stories, mostly because I think that the short story as a medium is very hard to do well, and I have to admit that I didn't feel he was up to it.
Most of the stories are, as you might expect, about men being real men, resignedly keeping their emotions inside or dying brave deaths, which I must admit is something that Hemingway does very well. However, my favorite stories from this collection were the shorter and simpler ones, in which Hemingway fills innocous events with unpredictable importance. In one story, a physically and psychologically wounded soldier rants about grass hoppers. In another, a small boy believes that his fever will kill him, through a confusion concerning the difference between Farenheit and Celsius. These stories have none of the hallmarks of traditional plotting; no real conflict, no climax, no dénoument. Or if they are there they are the sort which one finds in real life, small and insignificant to a careless observer. The soldiers mental break is not catastrophic, only a glimpse through the cracks of his facade. The young boys brush with death is illusory and quickly exposed as such, but in his behavior under that very real fear, he shows what sort of person he will be.
My favorite storiy was "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" in which two waiters discuss loneliness and an old man drinks brandy. Hemingway, it seems, has a knack for finishing his pieces with one or two sentences which reflect back on the entire story and give it a force it might not otherwise have had. The final sentence of For Whom the Bell Tolls, "He could feel his heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest," is permanently burned into my memory and I have a feeling that the last two of "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" will remain as well.
"After all, he said to himself, it's probably only insomnia. Many must have it." ...more