Friday, May 8, 2015

Women in Love - Lynn's Take

I can sum up my feelings about the book by adding a subtitle:  Women in Love, wherein the author over-analyzes every thought and feeling of his hysterical, neurotic, jaded, obnoxiously-opinionated characters.

I've never read a book where the characters had more internal dialogue, most of it second and third guessing of their previously held, but possibly never spoken opinions.  I've never read a book where the characters feelings toward a subject changed so violently and quickly: back and forth, back and forth.  The first edition of the book had 536 pages.  Stripped of the (in my opinion) wild over-analysis of the characters' internal states, I'd bet it would have come in at 300.

On the plus side, the prose is pleasure on the tongue and ear.  And some of the descriptions of feelings were exactly, 100%, resonant.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Kim - Lynn's Take

Kim, by Rudyard Kipling, is one of the most enjoyable reads so far of the 100 best modern novels. Set in colonial India, it is the coming-of-age tale of Kimball O'Hare, orphaned son of an Irish soldier and his wife.

Kim has been raised for most of his life by native Indians, and unless someone looks very closely, he himself appears to be a native.  When, at 13, he meets a holy man and becomes his disciple, his adventures across the whole, colorful, cacophonous, sometimes dangerous sub-continent of India begin.

Along the way, Kim is discovered by the English and, because of his expert knowledge of his country, his cleverness, and his ability to blend in, he is drafted to become an English spy.  His mentors, of all ethnicities and trades, shape him into one of the finest young spies that England has ever seen.  When we leave Kim, he has just past the brink of manhood and a future even more wondrous than his past awaits.

Despite some dated and unflattering stereotypes about native Indians, Rudyard Kipling's novel is worth reading for its vivid and detailed portrayal of life in India under British Rule in the late 1800's.



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Brave New World - Lynn's Take

First, a confession:  I realized I was on a path to be 90 before I was done reading Radcliffe's top 100 modern novels, so I allowed myself an accommodation.  It is now OK for me to "read" the books by listening to an unabridged audio book version.  This has added two hours of "reading" time to my day, as I can listen during my commutes to and from work.

The first book I applied my new rule to is "Brave New World,"  by Aldous Huxley.  Published in 1932, the novel is set in the year A.F. 632 (referred to as 2540 AD to you and me).  The world government in this future world controls every aspect of peoples' lives, from artificially reproducing new citizens, to determining each person's caste, from government-sponsored conditioning of children and adults, to censoring all arts and culture.  The only places in the world where the government does not have this control are the savage reservations, which 'civilized' people can visit on vacation.  One such vacation results in an ongoing clash of cultures between the savage John and and the 'civilized' people who brought him from the reservation to their world (London, as it happens).  I won't give away the ending, but let it be known that in, "Brave New World,"savages don't flourish in civilization.

Brave New World is intended as a pointed criticism of Big Government, and many of the things the government imposes are, indeed, undesirable.  However, many of the devices intended to shock the reader no longer have that power.  In "Brave New World," there is no religion; no Christianity.  Maybe this was shocking in 1932, but in 2015 a lot of the developed world is trending that way by choice.  In "Brave New World," free love is not only accepted, it is the norm.  The 60's did away with any shock that might arouse. In "Brave New World," people discard ripped clothing instead of mending them.  Today, we have a consumer clothing segment called "throw away fashion." In "Brave New World," people take a pill to feel better anytime they are anxious or unhappy.  Xanax, anyone?

The author does paint a compelling picture of a future world.  And yes, it's recognizable as a dystopia.  But the "dys" has faded and the "topia" doesn't seem unbearable.  I'll choose the dystopia of "Brave New World" over that of "1984" or "Clockwork Orange" every single time.






Friday, May 30, 2014

A Clockwork Orange - Lynn's Take

Wow, it's been a long time since I finished a book.  I despised this book when I started it.  The narrator is a hateful thug, and all the invented words made it almost impossible for me to follow the plot.  As I stuck with it, however, the story began to grow on me, although the narrator, Alex, did not.

By the end of the novel, I appreciated Anthony Burgess' use of language because it created a palpably real feeling dystopia for his characters and story to inhabit.  In the end, A Clockwork Orange is just a fictional political screed, but it is a well written one.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Death Comes for the Archbishop - Lynn's Take

Set in the American Southwest in the late 1800s, Death Comes for the Archbishop is the story of two missionaries - Jean Marie Latour and Joseph Vaillant - as they bring Catholicism to the native population.

Plot is not the driver in this novel.  The characters and especially the beautiful setting are the reason to read.  Willa Cather has crafted a lyrical, prose portrait of the Southwest and its inhabitants that captures the imagination and that captures the spirit of the place and time.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Invisible Man - Lynn's Take

I actually finished Invisible Man a while ago, and I've been putting off writing my post about it, because I simply do not know what to make of it.

To tell you the truth, I think the narrator didn't really know what to make of it, either.  He experienced so many layers of prejudice, denial, pride, paternalism, indifference, victimization, stereotyping, adventurism, and wishful thinking that I don't think, even at the end of the story, he had a real sense of himself.  I would go so far as to say he was less an invisible man than an indeterminate man.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Wind in the Willows - Lynn's Take

I'm not sure why The Wind in the Willows is on Radcliffe's list of the top 100 modern novels.  I did not hate it, but found it to be dated - it may have charmed generations of young readers, but I doubt it charms today's young readers, who are likely to find the book's syntax difficult to follow and many of the book's subjects unfamiliar (types of carriages, cellar storage, Edwardian social norms).

So, what follows are a few guesses as to why this book is included on the list.  Keep in mind, these are only guesses, as my (very) brief research into the literary importance of The Wind in the Willows didn't turn up anything.  

1.  This book is the first of a genre of human-like animals having human adventures.
2.  This book is the first piece of English children's "literature".
3.  It uniquely captures English nostalgia for pre-industrial revolution norms and traditions.