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 distopia 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.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"The Wind in the Willows" from Kelli

What an insufferable piece of garbage!

I have been tortuously reading The Wind in the Willows since the beginning of the school year and only managed to finish it through sheer willpower about 3 weeks ago.  What is delightful about these stories?  Why is this on the list?  Was there not another token children's book that could've been included on the top 100 list?

I think The Wind in the Willows is supposed to be a lovely, whimsical tale of some animal friends who have some misadventures and learn some lessons in the end.  I found it, instead, to be a pointless, rambling novel about an intolerable Toad who is inconsiderate toward his friends and causes a lot of mayhem.

I disliked this book so much that I don't wish to spend more time thinking about it in order to write a post about how much I didn't like it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Awakening - Lynn's Take

After Sophies Choice took me 4+ months to read, The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, took me only a couple of days.  If I didn't know better, I would consider this an enjoyable trifle.  And make no mistake, it was an enjoyable read.

Set in fin de siecle Southern Louisiana, The Awakening chronicles the self-discovery of a young wife and mother.  Unwittingly ensconced in a proper and affectionate, but loveless, marriage, Edna Pontellier slowly discovers and follows her yearning to love and be loved, despite pressure to conform to societal ideals of  married life.   Utimately, even Edna's lover is more attuned to societal expectations than to his own desires, which proves to be Edna's undoing.

So, what makes this story important?  This is one of the first novels that treated sexual desire with frankness. In important ways, The Awakening set the stage for  novels like Sophie's Choice to follow.

Sophie's Choice - Lynn's Take

Let me tell you a story: In 1982, I was a Freshman in college.  Sometime in early October, a nice boy from one of my classes (a Sophomore!) asked me on a date - dinner and a movie.  There was nothing memorable about our dinner, but the movie we saw was Sophie's Choice (his selection).  I had no idea what the movie was about, and I doubt that he did, either.  By the end of the movie, I was sobbing so hard that snot was shooting out of my nose and I couldn't catch my breath.  The minute the movie ended, I hastily excused myself and ran back to my dorm, crying all the while.  There was no second date.

Fast forward 30 years.  Believe it or not, I decided to read Sophie's Choice because I thought it would be an "easy" read.  After all, I knew what it was about, and despite the sobbing and the snot, I was glad to have seen the movie.  And, in one sense the novel was an easy read.  William Styron's writing is unmistakably modern.  Sophie's Choice could have been written in 2012. With its explicit sexuality, its thorough secularism, and its dissassociative disapproval of the post-bellum South, modern readers will find little discomfort in the book's attitudes.

But in another, more fundamental, sense, Sophie's Choice was anything but an easy read.  In fact, it was the furthest thing from an easy read.  Emotionally, this was the most difficult book I have ever read.  And I mean that in a profoundly positive way.  Books come and books go; some are enjoyable, some are moving, some are exciting, some are thought-provoking. More than a few are duds.  But it is a rare book, a very rare book, that has the intellectual and emotional force to change your outlook on life.  And Sophie's Choice is that good. In my almost 50 years this is the only the second book of that caliber that I've had the good fortune to read.

Beyond the freshness and immediacy of Styron's writing, there are three things that most struck me as the essential messages of the novel:  

1.  Evil is not only banal, it is temporally bounded and geographically isolated. It comfortably coexists with the mundane.  Indeed, it hides in plain sight amongst the prosaic amusements, fashions, and happenings of the world.  

2.  The secret core of evil, as perpetrated by one man upon another, is its ability to encircle both the evil-doer's and the victim's lives and frame every choice as one between the lesser of two evils.

3.  Sophie's "choice" - the enormous, life-choking, horrific, unimaginable choice that Sophie was forced to make  by a Nazi guard - is surrounded by an enormous assembly of choices small and large to which  her fate could, ultimately, equally be attributed.  From stealing a ham, to failing to steal a radio; from continuing her employment with the chiropractor to returning to New York, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of choices that, differently decided, could have altered Sophie's destiny.