Wednesday, January 12, 2011

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - The Man Who Was Thursday****

"Another fabulous book, which like If On A Winter's Night A Traveller . . . defies description. The denouement is as glorious as it nearly defies description."

This book is incredible! It's written by the great G.K. Chesterton who, by the way, is severely underrated. He is one of the finest authors I have ever encountered and it is tragic that he is mostly only known by Catholics. Yes, he was a Catholic and one of the finest Catholic writers that ever lived but beyond that he is simply a fantastic author and it is a tragedy that the majority of the population is not acquainted with his work.
This book is no disappointment, in fact it is one of the best books I have ever read. It does indeed defy description. I came upon a review of this work by Kate Christensen which I think says it best: "It's a wacky, nightmarish, deliriously well-written adventure story for grownups in which nothing is what it seems and everyone wears a mask, whether figurative or literal."
Now, don't let the word nightmare scare you off. After reading Frankenstein I was ready for something a little lighter and this certainly fit the bill. It is positively hilarious in its brilliance.
Also, everyone who aspires to be an artist or author, particularly poet, absolutely must read at least the first chapter of this book. Though by the end of the first chapter you will probably be hooked.

Some great quotes (and it was hard to pick just a few, I literally have 5 full pages of brilliant quotes from this book):
  • "'Your offer,' he said, 'is far too idiotic to be declined.'"
  • "Being surrounded with every conceivable kind of revolt from infancy, Gabriel had to revolt into something, so he revolted into the only thing left - sanity."

  • "It seemed almost as if all friendly words were to him lifeless conveniences, and his only life was hate."
  • "Like any man he was coward enough to fear great force; but he was not quite coward enough to admire it."
  • "But he did feel himself as the ambassador of all these common and kindly people in the street, who every day marched into battle to the music of the barrel-organ. And this high pride in being human had lifted him unaccountably to an infinite height above the monstrous men around him. For an instant, at least, he looked down upon all their sprawling eccentricities from the starry pinnacle of the commonplace."
  • "This very pride in keeping his word was that he was keeping it to miscreants."
  • "The devils might have captured heaven, but they had not yet captured the cross."
  • "Energy, he said, was the All. He was lame, shortsighted, and partially paralytic."
  • "always be comic in a tragedy. What the deuce else can you do?"

Monday, January 10, 2011

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - Frankenstein****

"In an era of genetic experiments, stem cell research and cloning we need a reminder to examine the moral issues surrounding science. Mary Shelley, the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and the wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, wrote a fascinating novel that can do just that."

This book is fantastic! I was afraid I would hate it cuz I'm really not into the whole scary story thing. But you know what I've discovered? I don't dislike horror novels. But here's the thing: I dislike modern horror. In modern horror the sole purpose of the book or movie is to scare your pants off. So the entire "story," if it can be called that, is merely one grotesque scene after another with little or no plot to connect them. Classic horror, like Frankenstein, on the other hand is a story that happens to be horrific. However, it is horror with a point not just a grouping together of terrifying scenes. And the main point of this book, I would say, is that we wreak our own havoc by our sins. Though Mary Shelley never actually mentions God or religion in this book it is chock full of theological gold. And this book can be analyzed from so many different angles. For example: the monster as an allegory for sin.
When reading this book it is important to read the prologue in order to properly understand the story. It is also important to realize that Frankenstein is the name of the scientist who creates the monster, not the name of the monster itself which is never given a name but only called such things as "the monster" and "the creature."

One of the most horrifying parts of the book is when Frankenstein is creating the monster. This intelligent young man withdraws from society, abandons friends and family, and closes in on himself, focused only on his creation. He haunts cemeteries and morgues to find parts for his creature, abandoning the society of all but the dead. Things which had formerly held pleasure for him are overlooked. He can no longer see the beauty in the nature which he had formerly adored. And it is not until he looks his creature in the eye that he realizes what he has done. He is only cured of his sickness of the mind by suffering through physical illness which he attests to when he says: "I felt also sentiments of joy and affection revive in my bosom, my gloom disappeared and in a short time I became as cheerful as before I was attacked by the fatal passion." But even this cannot undo what he has done and he is haunted for the rest of his life by his monster.
Some great quotes:

  • "how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow."
  • "If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind."
  • "I collected bones from charnel houses and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame. In a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I kept my workshop of filthy creation. My eyeballs were starting from their sockets in attending to the details of my employment. The dissecting room and the slaughterhouse furnished many of my materials and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation, while still urged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased."
  • "How dare you sport thus with life?"
  • "Come, Victor, not brooding thoughts of vengeance against the assassin, but with feelings of peace and gentleness, that will heal, instead of festering, the wounds of our minds."
  • "You are my creator, but I am your master. Obey!"
  • "Seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries."
  • "I was the slave, not the master, of an impulse which I detested yet could not disobey."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - Animal Farm****

"This classic Orwell title is both a quick read and a powerful insight into totalitarian regimes. Orwell was himself a Socialist but clearly saw the dangers inherent in the Russian regime."

This is a small, easy-to-read satire of the evils of the Soviet Union. Orwell beautifully simplifies these evils, which have so often been obscured in long, complicated speeches, so that anyone can understand them. As the Complete Woman Blog says, Orwell was indeed a socialist and so it is interesting to see the USSR from the perspective of this purist. He clearly advocates true communism, as evidenced in the early chapters of the book, but sees that what the Soviet Union came to was not Marx's idea of communism. I would be interested to discuss with Orwell how he felt a society could achieve true communism without falling into the vicious cycle of tyranny which seems inevitable in Animal Farm.

This is an important book today as we continue to face the evils of socialism even in America. It is important that we fully understand the consequences of this system.

It is also important, in order to understand the book, to realize from the beginning that this is, as Orwell says, a "fairy story." For example, the animals are able to communicate, not only amongst themselves, but with humans as well.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - If On A Winter's Night A Traveller*

"There is no way to describe this book without explaining the entire thing. It is unexpected, profoundly unexpected. It is literary post-modernism and that is, for it, a high compliment. Go out and get a copy and then read about yourself doing so."

The beginning of this book is positively fantastic. It is a novel about novels in which you are reading about reading. It is a book about the reader. It is different, in fact, I think I can guarantee that you will never read another book like it. After reading the first two chapters I was prepared to give it four stars. In chapter three it got a little weird but I waded through it expecting the novel to get back on track in the next chapter. And then I ran headlong into the fourth chapter which was atrocious and the book went rapidly downhill from there. I continued on because I was determined to read all 100 of these books in their entirety. But then chapter six rolled around and destroyed any final hope of this book's redeeming itself. I have now completely abandoned it, never again to darken my mind with it's absurdities.

Basically, this book isn't worth the paper it's printed on. It could have been but it isn't. I hope the author is happy.

One good quote:
"the novel to be read is superimposed by a possible novel to be lived, the continuation of your story . . . or better still, the beginning of a possible story."