Reviews: The Earlies Part 3

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Really fun. And interesting. One of the best young-adult fantasy novels, I think.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Not my favorite of Steinbecks work, but considering Steinbeck is an incredible Americcan author, that’s not saying much to the negative. It is a great story and very well written. Certainly interesting commentary on early prejudices toward the mentally handicapped.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Nearly flawless.  Beautiful “young adult” about the dangers of oppressive conformity and thought control. Be yourself!

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

This is one of the first truly literary giants I completed, and one which helped me to define myself as a literature student. Getting through this novel and, more importantly, enjoying it ..well, yay for Hardy. Thanks for turning me into a literature student.

The Lost Boy by Dave Pelzer

Wow. Tragic and heartbreaking. Beautiful, honest prose. Disturbing and haunting true story.

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

Very moving story but Boyle seems wrapped up in his own style. That is to say, he comes across as quite pretentious. It distracts the reader from what should be a powerful and painfully truthful story.

Reviews: The Earlies Part 3

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Great. Book.

The Stolen Child by Keith Donahue

This book took me forever to read. It was just… a lot more boring than it should have been, considering the very interesting subject matter and plot. I think it would make a wild movie, but the book lacks something.

Hobomok by Lydia Maria Francis Child

Pretty interesting and fairly realistic (as opposed to The Last of the Mohicans, say?) depiction of the interaction between puritans and native americans.

Wrong by Dennis Cooper

Wow. Dennis Cooper.

Dream Boy: A Novel by Jim Grimsley

One of the first gay novels I ever read – probably picked it up in 8th or 9th grade. It’s well written, fun, sad, cute, tragic, sexy, and beautiful. I’ve read it 3 or 4 times over the years.

The Brothers Bishop by Bart Yates

Very interesting gay fiction.. two brothers, both gay. One responsible, one not. One a high school english teacher, fallen for a student but able to keep his distance. The other, well, doesn’t keep his distance. And all the fun, drama, and consequence to follow.

Haunted: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

Twisted and Bizzare and absolutely wonderful.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Pretty good read. I think I actually enjoyed the movie more, though.

Review: The Earlies Part 2

Freud for Beginners by Richard Appignanesi

Doesn’t go into much depth about Freud’s theories, but it is a fun and fast introduction to all the major ideas. Definitely recommended for newcomers, such as myself. I’m a graduate student lterature and was looking for an introduction to Freud’s thought so that I could then apply/discuss it with regards to literary theory, and this book gives a solid platform.

The Heart is Deceitful Above all Things by J.T. Leroy

Very interesting. Very interesting.

King Richard II by William Shakespeare

Probably my least favorite of Shakespeare’s plays – at least of those I have read. It is one of his earlier plays, and it shows. While the poetry and wordplay is quite fun and definitely the work of genius, the plot and story are quite superficial.. befitting a “history” play, I guess. It really was just an answer to Marlowe’s Edward II – which I found much more interesting. This is called a Tragedy, but I don’t think that’s fitting. His later tragedies are much more interesting in the complexity and psychological study.

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

All I could think of throughout the novel was “name-dropper, name dropper, name drop…annoying!” It wasn’t anybody’s autobiography, least of all that of Alice B. Toklas. In the end, she likens this to what Defoe did for Crusoe, but no. No. While it was interesting learning all about the times and relationships of Gertrude Stein, Hemmingway, Picasso, etc.. well, it just wasn’t enough.

Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Culler

A good start… theory and criticism is an extremely deep pool, and this text is a great way to “dip your toes.” Perhaps the most beneficial section is the Appendix, in which Culler outlines the major schools of theory – a bit more added to these brief summaries would have been perfect for new-comers.

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson & The Olympians #2) by Rick Riordan

Pretty awesome read – as good as the first (The Lightning Thief). Exciting, fun, educational, suspensful… I dig it. Can’t wait to finish the series with The Titan’s Curse.

Review: The Earlies Part 1

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Liked it a lot. Didactic, of course – but not as incredible as I has assumed it would be. Then again, put into historical context, maybe it is (was) quite amazing.

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

Where has this novel gone? It’s quite incredible – and nobody has ever heard of it! Anderson weaves a series of short stories from the same small town together, discussing the deconstruction of provincial, farm life and the advent of “the city.” The bottom line – nobody knows that EVERYbody is different.

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Pretty amazing, especially coming out of the early 20th Century. Hilarious in his obsession with ‘the C word’ and sex and all the dirty diseases that come with it. Also, funny to watch Miller denounce the practice of putting so much importance on the literary geniuses like Goethe, Emerson, Tennyson, etc – but then watch as he quotes them left and right within his own prose. It’s a wonderful experiment with language and stream of consciousness, though. Definitely worth being named a classic, even if a bit bizarre.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

You know, everyone calls this a “boy’s” book – generally speaking, people think the book is for children. I read it when I was a kid, and I didn’t like it. I re-read it a couple years ago and liked it better. Finally, I read it again recently and fell in love with it. The reason? It is not a kid’s book. It’s a very adult book, with themes that were way over my head as a ten, twelve, and even fifteen year old reader. Tom Sawyer, maybe, can be called a boy’s book, but Huckleberry Finn truly is the great American novel. Amazing.

Light in August by William Faulkner

Faulkner is certainly a powerful force and innovator in American literature. I have to say, I was wary of touching his works after my first experience, with The Sound and the Fury. However, Light in August was much easier to follow while remaining just as interesting and even dangerous. They last chapters were a bit of a letdown, they seemed out of place and unnecessary, but this novel as a whole made me re-think my position on Faulkner and …heck, I may even try another of his novels. In a few years.

Review: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

This is a hard novel to review – so much happens, and so little happens. Waugh tackles Catholicism, dogma and paradigms, faith in general. He tackles homosexuality, social stigma, boyishness, growth, and responsibility. Divorce, society, nobility, riches, and innocence. Alcoholism, psychosis, war, nationalism, loss, and the Oedipus complex. All of this, from another writer, might seem overbearing, complex, or pretentious but Waugh somehow makes it all seem normal. Sebastian Flyte is an extraordinarly beautiful character, equally loveable and despised. Charles, the artist and narrator, confuses me in the end. His passion for Sebastian (pardon the rhyme, please, it was unintended) is finally realized in the affair between Charles and Sebastian’s sister, Julia. In a modern novel, or a Victorian, I might find this to be a cop-out. The setting here, though – Oxford in World War I / upperclass Britain of World War II make the displaced love affair seem the only real option, disappointing as it was for me as a reader. The exclusion of Sebastian from the third part of the novel disturbs me, but it leaves room for a renewed focus on Catholocism (personified by Lady Marchmain in the principal portion of the novel) and Reason (embodied by Brideshead throughout). Surprisingly, the concluding death scene makes clear which virtue Waugh finds most necessary (or appealing) – a twist which may have been forseshadowed by Charles’s stubborn rebuttal of Christianity, had it not been for his obvious infatuation with and love for Sebastian (“he was the forerunner”). Ultimately, I’m perplexed and enamored. I will certainly pick up another of Waugh’s works in the near future, and will likely return to this one again sometime down the road, perhaps in wiser days, as I haven’t quite figured out the last page of the epilogue yet. All in good time.


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