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100 Greatest Novels: Of Human Bondage, Heart of Darkness, & Main Street

As we keep moving along, getting closer to the finish line, here’s three more of the 100 greatest novels. Let’s go ahead and get to it…

OfHumanBondageOf Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Have any of you seen the film Boyhood? If so, it would be easy to compare this novel to that film. But only if the film started when the main character was much younger and followed them further into his adulthood. The novel starts with a nine year old Phillip Carey dealing with his mother’s death and follows him for a number of years. Phillip goes off to school, decides to drop school to follow different careers, and has numerous philosophical and physical struggles with who he is and what he’s supposed to do with life. He has numerous frustrating relationships with women and plenty of humorous and frustrating friendships. This novel is actually a pretty lengthy novel but it reads as Boyhood is portrayed. Following the events of a mundane life through the growth of a person. In the movie and this novel, I continuously expected some kind of dramatic event to happen and usually, it didn’t. You could make the argument that this means the novel or the movie is boring or you could make the argument that this means we are so conditioned to expect drama and unbelievable events that we don’t know what to do when a book or movie does not provide us with this. Anyways, while this was a slow moving and undramatic novel, I still really enjoyed reading it and looked forward to each new decision Phillip made about his life. I know I saw a lot of myself in him, not being completely sure what he desires to do for the rest of his life and seeing the easy road and the more alluring road and trying to decide which is better.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conradf94142d1-ebff-41a3-ac4f-d94300d03cdbimg100

This is a short and interesting novella. The story follows Marlow, the narrator, as he transports ivory down the Congo River in Africa. At times a damning presentation of European colonization and a racist depiction of civilization around the Congo, the book can be a frustrating read. But in the end the question is if the racism is there because that was the belief and images of Africa at the time or if it represents the actual beliefs of Joseph Conrad (the story is based on his experiences and travels in Africa). If it’s the former, than this is an important novella to question the importance and effectiveness of European colonization in Africa. If it’s the latter, than it’s an unnecessary story that as long as it continues to be read, it will continue to promote incorrect images of Africa then and now. I don’t really know who’s job it would be to decide this. Maybe nobody’s, maybe everybody’s. That said, if you have any interest in this time period or love a good boating story, it’s a quick read for you.

MainStreetNovelMain Street by Sinclair Lewis

This novel is a complete criticism of small-town life. Because of being raised in a smaller town and moving to a major city as soon as possible, I connected to a lot of what this novel tries to say. The story is about Carol, a young woman from Saint Paul, Minnesota, and her marriage to a small-town doctor. He convinces her to move to Gopher Prairie and ultimately, she could not have prepared herself for how much she disliked the town. But she decides that with her education and experience, she can transform the town into a cultured and beautiful mecca in the midwest. Coming up against small town politics, cliques, conservatism, backstabbing, and hypocrisy, it’s difficult to say she was successful. Then she starts making friends outside of her social class and this will create all new kinds of trouble. Although the story gets long-winded at parts and can seem somewhat meandering, I did enjoy it as a whole. The historical context of being set around World War I and the years leading up to Prohibition and the twenties also added great social insight into America at the end of our isolationism. But the best part of the novel might have been that my edition had pictures of different Main Streets from around the world to showcase how similar they all look and, we can assume, act.

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It’s feeling pretty good getting farther down the list. Next is #69, The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. I hated her novel Ethan Frome in high school so let’s see how this goes.

 

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100 Greatest Novels: A Clockwork Orange

Number sixty-five of the 100 greatest novels has been my favorite book since high school. Recommended to me by the school librarian, I couldn’t even start to guess how many times I’ve read it since then. I’ve gone through two copies of the paperback and have read it on my Kindle multiple times. With as many times as I’ve read it, I’ve never sat down and really tried to explain what makes this book so enjoyable for me and why I love to read it over and over. I’ve been looking forward to getting to it on this list for this exact reason. So here’s my paltry attempt to put my thoughts into words:

Clockwork_orangeA Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I want to look at the novel two ways. First, why I think it’s a great work of art. Second, why I like it so much. Let’s start with the novel as great art. The first thing you notice when you start reading the novel is the language. Mostly that you can’t understand what you’re reading, almost at all. Let me explain. A Clockwork Orange is written in “Nadsat,” a language Anthony Burgess created for this novel. Nadsat is a Russified English used by teenagers in the world created for Clockwork. Nadsat uses a combination of Russian words, English words, made-up words, a few German words, words borrowed from Cockney rhyming slang, and childish English terms like eggiweg for “egg.” I know, that’s a lot to take in. At first it’s fairly off-putting but while reading, you start to learn what most of the words mean using context clues and process of elimination. Honestly, I can’t remember how difficult it was for me to read the first time since I’ve read it so many times. Sorry…

Once you get past the language, the novel gets into the storyline fairly quickly. Following the main character, Alex, and his droogs (friends), the story doesn’t take long to get into the drugs, alcohol, and violence that the novel (and movie) is famous for. Alex and his droogs are a gang of teenagers that go around stealing cars, beating up defenseless citizens, and breaking into houses to rape and pillage. Little is left to the imagination in this novel. It shows teenage-driven violence at it’s most horrible form. Ultimately, Alex is arrested for certain crimes. He’s put in jail or as he calls it, Staja (State jail). While in prison, he’s selected to take part in a new experiment in behavior modification. While drugging Alex, they force him to watch violent films. His body learns to associate his sickness with the violence to the point that any thought of violence will make him want to be sick. His only option is to do the exact opposite, go out of his way to be nice, to counteract the sick feelings. Using a chaplain in the jail and later some politicians that are fighting against the current government, the novel starts questioning some philosophical ideas. What is it to be good? Evil? Where does freewill come in? Is it better to choose to be evil or to have choice taken from you and be “good?”

Really, I don’t want to spoil to much of the novel for you but the story ultimately has a very satisfying ending. And when I say the story I mean specifically the novel. If you have any desire to watch the movie, go ahead. But be warned that the movie ends a chapter earlier than the novel. The movie leaves out the whole denouement of the story. The movie doesn’t have the growth of the character, the reason for the whole novel. If you are interested in reading the novel, make sure you purchase a copy with Anthony Burgess’s introduction titled “A Clockwork Orange Resucked.” He talks about why he hates this novel being his most popular, why the movie ends early and how he feels about it, and the importance of different parts of the novel. The intro is almost as good of a read as the whole novel.

220px-Clockwork_orangeA

Now, quickly, let me try to explain why I love this novel so much, this novel that has so many horrible events. First, this was the first novel I read that really pushed the boundaries of language. High school me didn’t know it was allowed to break so many rules while writing a novel. This book opened up a whole new world of literature for me. Not only language-breaking literature but also stories about dystopian future societies. Way before Hunger Games and Divergent, there was A Clockwork Orange, A Brave New World, 1984, etc. And I quickly read all of these. The other thing that really grabbed me about this novel was the use of music. I later learned that Anthony Burgess was a composer and music plays a large role in all of his novels but I loved how he works Alex’s love of classical music into the story. The dichotomy of this teenager that loves to destroy, rape, and steal also loves to lay in his bed and listen to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is incredible. And it’s not really a dichotomy for Alex, it’s his same desires being played out in two different mediums. And it’s powerful to see.

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Hopefully that came across coherently. Until next time!

 
 

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100 Greatest Novels: From Here to Eternity, The Wapshot Chronicle, & The Catcher in the Rye

Moving a little quicker through the list. I have three more of the 100 greatest novels for you today. I’ve been somewhat ill the last two weeks, taking a few days off of work, so I’ve had some undesired free time to read. So let’s get into them.

200px-JamesJones_FromHereToEternity1From Here to Eternity by James Jones

This long novel has a fairly interesting setting: following multiple members of the military stationed in Hawaii, in 1941, before Pearl Harbor was attacked. The story follows the daily life of a few characters in the barracks. Focusing on their stories, we don’t see as much as sense the build-up of military activity leading to the USA’s entry into World War II. Knowing the date and the inevitable events, each page and each chapter I was just waiting for the attack on Pearl Harbor to start. And it really added to the novel. Reading about these mundane activities and conflicts between members of our military while knowing that everything is about to change. Knowing that these characters are about to join one of the bloodiest global conflicts the world has seen. And they’re upset about whether someone will join the company boxing team or not. Their importance in the company depends on this decision and I’m just sitting there thinking, “You’re worried about boxing!? Your whole world is about to explode into bloodshed and you’re worried about somebody boxing or not!?” It’s a great dichotomy to experience while reading, my future knowledge combined with their focus on everything but.

220px-WapshotChronicleThe Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever

This odd novel I really enjoyed reading. About a family living (the Wapshots) in a small Massachusetts town and their lives, the novel follows the father, Leander, dealing with growing old and his two sons, Coverly and Moses, dealing with going out in the world and trying to figure out who they are and where they belong. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad, the novel jumps around between the three men from chapter to chapter. Some of Leander’s chapters are written as if he is writing his autobiography and he has a very disjointed style with every line containing multiple sentence fragments. Sometimes the truth is hidden behind this false pretense he gives you, which isn’t unique to an autobiography. Coverly and Moses go off to the big cities to find jobs, wives, etc. They are somewhat successful with a few hiccups along the way. Coverly, while dealing with problems with his marriage, also starts to experience feelings of bisexuality which opens up a whole new world of problems for him and his station in life. All in all, the characters present to you an interesting and sometimes humorous account of their lives and the whole novel ends up being a light and fun read.

220px-Rye_catcherThe Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

This is the quintessential novel about teenage angst, identity, and alienation. Loved by many, hated by more, Catcher follows Holden Caulfield as he is kicked out of a prep school and spends a few days around the school and in New York City before he goes home to deal with his parents’ anger. This is one of those novels that your experience with reading it depends on what point in life you are currently in. Reading as a teenager, I loved Holden and agreed with every complaint he had towards society and people. I finally found somebody who has expressed into words all the angst of being a teenager. When I reread the novel in college or soon after, I hated Holden. Here was this annoying little brat of a teenager who was more phony than every person he calls phony in every line of the novel. Was I ever like that? I sure hope not. Now reading again as somewhat of an adult, I still think Holden is pretty much an annoying bastard but I can understand what he’s going through. Whether it’s because I’m far enough from being that age that I’m okay with remembering it or because I deal with children as a teacher who are experiencing lots of the same things, I don’t just write Holden off. And when you don’t write him completely off, you come across some beautiful moments of clarity from him as he deals with his problems:

The best thing, though, in that museum was the everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket. Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you’d be so much older or anything. It wouldn’t be that, exactly. You’d just be different, that’s all. You’d have an overcoat on this time. Or the kid that was your partner in line the last time had got scarlet fever and you’d have a new partner. Or you’d have a substitute taking the class, instead of Miss Aigletinger. Or you’d heard your mother and father having a terrific fight in the bathroom. Or you’d just passed by one of those puddles in the street with gasoline rainbows in them. I mean you’d be different in some way-I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.

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Alright, there you go. Next up is my favorite novel of all time, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I’m already fairly close to finishing so the next blog shouldn’t be too far behind this one. Till next time…

 

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100 Greatest Novels: The Moviegoer & Death Comes for the Archbishop

So we have a new year. 2015. Hopefully this year will bring us great new changes in our lives, great experiences to live through, and great persons to love. Hopefully this year will bring us through many more of the 100 greatest novels. Let us go ahead and get us started with the first two of this year. I’ll try to get more to you soon.

220px-MoviegoerThe Moviegoer by Walker Percy

If you’re looking for a strong, driving plot full of loveably (or hate-able) characters, this novel isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a thought-provoking novel to make you feel like you might not be the only person who really isn’t sure who you are and what you should be doing, than I highly recommend this. Following Binx Bolling throughout New Orleans in the 1950s, this novel watches the protagonist struggle with alienation from his life possibly because of his memories from the Korean War and his alienation from his family because of their multiple problems. Some of his family members are dealing with mental illness, other with physical disabilities, and even a few with the breakup of their relationships. And Binx Bolling is supposed to be the anchor that everybody holds on to. And yet, he doesn’t want to be or is not able to be anything for anybody since he’s struggling with his search for who he is, his search for his inner self. And if the reader cannot find any connections to them, well, they might just be stuck in the everydayness of their own life. At least that’s what Binx Bolling says and I tend to agree with him.

DeathComes_ForTheArchbishopDeath Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

I really, really enjoyed reading this novel. I have never read any novel in this setting and really gave opportunity for some great writing. The story is about a French Catholic bishop and a French priest who are trying to establish a diocese in the newly created New Mexico territory in the mid 1800s. The area is religiously controlled by either Spanish missionaries left over from Spain’s attempt to conquer and convert the area or by local Native American tribes and their religious and cultural ways. The bishop and the priest meet really interesting characters as they go around dealing with the Mexican people, the Native tribes, and the Spanish clergy. A lot of their time and effort is spent trying to convince these people to give up some old traditions for more European ways of doing things. I don’t really know what about this novel makes for such an enthralling read. There’s no love story, no intense story lines with twists and surprises. But throughout the novel you learn to love the two dudes and really appreciate the care and love they have for the people of this strange, new land that they were sent to live with. And what makes it even better is this novel is actually based on the life of the real first Archbishop of Santa Fe, Jean-Baptiste Lamy.

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There you have it. Two more. And I would like to think the wait for the next two won’t be very long.

 

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Favorite Albums of 2014

I always look forward to the beginning of December because I get to start putting together my favorite albums of the year. Just like every year I can’t wait to hear your comments and complaints. Let me know what albums should have made the list and what albums obviously shouldn’t have been there. And I always like to point out that I purposefully used the word “favorite” instead of “best” because I can’t really argue the latter. As usual, I’ll have some videos for you to watch and listen to and the titles of each album are links to iTunes if you’re interested in purchasing the music. Alright, let’s do it:

10. Jason Mraz – YES!

So let’s start the list off with an old favorite of mine, Jason Mraz. I’ve been a fan of his since the beginning and I always enjoy his albums. Each one is different than the last without losing the Mraz sound and YES! is no exception. What makes this record different is the change in backing musicians. YES! was recorded with an all-female band named Raising Jane playing everything except for Jason’s parts. And on the tour (that Halie and I was lucky enough to attend) Raising Jane opened and played with Jason. They had a great chemistry amongst themselves and between them and Jason and the night was filled with an incredibly positive vibe and enjoyable music. As always, Jason’s voice is still one of the strongest in the business even if he doesn’t use it to it’s full potential all the time. Let’s listen to “Hello, You Beautiful Thing” so you can get a feel for the album:


9. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with St. Vincent (stage name of Annie Clark) but she’s really, really good. She started as a member of The Polyphonic Spree and moved on to be part of Sufjan Steven’s touring band. Finally she started her own band under the name St. Vincent and has been making infectious music ever since. This self-titled album is actually her fourth and you can hear the expertise and experience in every note played. She’s an inventive guitar player even though she doesn’t force her guitar into the forefront of her music. With that said, seeing her live consisted of her relying much heavier on the her guitar which created a completely different vibe than her album has. And both are great. Anyways, here’s “Digital Witness:”


8. Lily Allen – Sheezus

Speaking of odd women. This lady makes some really great pop music. And her lyrics are hilarious, thought-provoking, inappropriate, and everything else you’d ever want from words. There are so many things about this album that make me love it. First, the name. As far as I know, she got the name from Kanye West’s album Yeezus. In the song “Sheezus” she sings about all the female pop singers and how awesome they are but she ends the chorus with “Give me that crown, bitch, I wanna be Sheezus.” My next favorite thing about her album is the humor and wit she puts into every song. One of the funniest tracks is “URL Badman” in which she mocks all the online commentators that have only horrible things to say on every youtube video, especially for female artist. But Lily Allen also has the beautiful on her record. There are numerous love songs about her, her husband, and her children. She speaks candidly about the great and the mundane when it comes to marriage and having children. And within all of these, she continues to make feministic statements that really question society’s views on what women artist should and should not talk about. I guess the best way to introduce this album would be to let her tell you about being “Sheezus:”


7. Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love

So when I was in college I regularly would get the iTunes free single of the week. For some reason I forget to do that now but over the years I’ve come across a lot of great music because of this. One example: Paolo Nutini and his first single “New Shoes.” I’ve followed his career since that first single in 2007 and have always jammed whatever he releases. His newest album, Caustic Love, has everything I love about Paolo Nutini: incredibly strong vocals, upbeat funky jams, slow soulful crooners, a great backing band, and music that continuously surprises you about where it’s going next. This year at ACL I finally got to see him perform live (and I was front row). He put on a great performance and I can’t wait to see him again. Listen to “Scream (Funk My Life Up)” to hear what he can do vocally and musically:


6. TUNE-YARDS – Nikki Nack

Now let’s get to a really odd woman. Merrill Garbus, the lead singer of TUNE-YARDS (or tUnE-yArDs), creates percussively bombastic pop music. Her vocal range is anywhere between a manly growl to some of the sweetest high notes you’ve ever heard. Her lyrics can go from nonsensical to depressing in one verse. Her stage performance is a sight to see with most members on stage playing some type of percussive instrument while interweaving intricate harmonies and layering it all over a funky bass line. Which brings us to her new album, Nikki Nack. From “Water Fountains” infectiously funky beat to the smooth vocals all over “Wait for a Minute,” the album gives us an unpredictable landscape of what pop music can be. I want you to listen to “Real Thing” to really hear the range in her vocals and what she can do with pop music:


5. Spoon – They Want my Soul

So if you’ve paid attention to my favorite albums list for the past few years, you’ve might have noticed less and less rock bands show up. And I’ll tell you why. Over time rock music has become bland and boring to me. I just feel like hearing a four-piece rock band play the same few chords has been driven into the ground. That said, there are exceptions. Bands doing something unique, creative, or just so damned well you can’t not like them. I’d say Austin rock band Spoon meets all these exceptional standards. They consistently make great, minimalistic, funky rock music. Every record doesn’t disappoint. And their newest, They Want my Soul, is no different. Here’s the opening track, “Rent I Pay:”


4. A Great Big World – Is There Anybody Out There?

Every once in a while I’ll use iTunes radio’s First Play to listen to an album from a band I’ve never heard just to see if anything good is slipping through my fingers. One day I decided to play this album. And it starts. Piano pop. Almost punk vocals and harmonies. Then it starts sounding like a musical. I almost feel like I’m listening to a Glee soundtrack. Later into the album there’s some incredible piano ballads. A few great lyrics slip into my ear. Then a few hilarious songs. And by the end I’m confused. Then I listen to the whole thing again. And again. And then I pre-order the album. And it’s been on repeat pretty regularly ever since it’s release. You almost need to hear the whole album to appreciate this band. Each song only shows one facet of this larger picture of a great, almost perfect, pop band. They have a few music videos you can look up on youtube but here’s the audio from the first track, “Rockstar,” so you can hear what I heard first:


3. Pharrell Williams – G I R L

Now speaking of pop music, Pharrell Williams. Every freaking popular song over this past summer either was written by, produced by, or featuring Pharrell. And then he released his full album, G I R L, and that was it. That was all the music anybody needed for the summer. One killer jam after another. Upbeat, sexy, and incredibly fun. From beginning to end. It never got old because you wanted to dance to the record over and over. Of course everybody knows (and some hate) his single “Happy” but you can’t judge him off that one song, even though it’s a great song albeit overplayed. But there are plenty of more great songs on the record. And as an ode to all women, how can you hate it? Anyways, I guess we’ll continue with the opening tracks of each. Here’s “Marilyn Monroe:”


2. Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy

So these next two albums are from bands that have taken long hiatuses (announced and unannounced) and have finally released new music. First we have Damien Rice, the musical love of my later high school years. He pretty much disappeared from the spotlight until this past year and released My Favourite Faded Fantasy after a long (and difficult for fans) 8 years. The album is everything I wanted it to be. All the emotion, raw power, and inappropriateness of his earlier work brought up to today with Rick Rubin’s clean and lushly orchestrated production. Even with only 8 tracks, each song gives us so much. His vocal performance is as great as ever, his lyrical genius still shining through. This is the only official video released so far for the album, “I Don’t Want to Change You:”


1. Nickel Creek – A Dotted Line

And finally we have number one. Nickel Creek. Playing their first show in 1989 with the oldest member being 12, they started releasing incredible bluegrass albums with folk, country, pop, and rock influences during the early 2000s. Their last album was released in 2005, a hiatus announced in 2007. And finally, we have a new album: A Dotted Line. If you don’t know anything about Nickel Creek, I’m not really sure how to explain the music to you without letting you listen. If you are familiar with them, get this new record. It’s all the goodness of the last few albums blended in with more drive, more emotion, and more creativity than they’ve ever shown together. I say “together” because during their hiatus all the members have been creating incredible solo work or work with other musicians, my favorite being Chris Thile’s band Punch Brothers. Anyways, Nickel Creek has three members who all sing. So let’s try to get a track for each of them. Here’s violinist Sara Watkins leading “Destination:”


Next we have the oddest track from the record, “Hayloft.” Although Sara sings the chorus, mandolinist Chris Thile sings most of the song:


And last but not least we have the slightly more traditional bluegrass track “21st of May.” Really listen to these lyrics because they crack me up. If you can pick it up, he’s singing from the perspective of Pastor Harold Camping wrongly predicting the rapture on the 21st of May:


And if you can’t get enough of all this awesomeness, here’s their incredible performance for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert. Although two of the above tracks are repeated, it’s worth watching them play it all live to really drive home their musical and storytelling abilities:


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There you go. That’s all of them. Until next year.
Oh, yeah, let me do the honorable mentions. 5 artist (in no particular order) that released really good albums this year that almost made my list: Coldplay, Heath McNease, Elizabeth & The Catapult, Jack White, and Kimbra.

Okay, hit me with your comments. What albums did I miss? Which ones am I completely crazy for having on here? Why am I an idiot?

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Music, Music Review

 

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100 Greatest Novels: The Maltese Falcon, Parade’s End, The Age of Innocence, & Zuleika Dobson

It has been way too long since my last post. I have been able to read four more of the 100 greatest novels since the last post (impressive, huh…) amongst all the other things going on in my life. The Thanksgiving break gave me time to catch up on some reading and I was able to finish the last two novels we’re talking about today.

MalteseFalcon1930The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The first book is a detective novel written in 1929. Considered the novel that created the dark and brooding private detective, The Maltese Falcon follows Sam Spade as he tries to solve a murder while being questioned as a suspect. The novel was a fun, simple read with all the things you expect from a crime novel. While I did enjoy the novel, it did have numerous sexist themes and scenes that I thought were unnecessary to the novel. All in all I would recommend this novel if you’re a fan of the crime genre but if not, you can go ahead and skip it.

Some_Do_Not_(Ford_Madox_Ford_novel)Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford

I was actually really excited about this novel because I enjoyed Ford’s first novel in this list, The Good Soldier. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch played the main character in BBC’s adaptation of this novel and I love him as an actor. With all that being said, I just could not get into this novel. The writing was dense. The story was slow. The characters were unlikeable and unbelievable. The progression of events were disjointed and hard to follow. If you’re wanting to read a British novel written around World War I, there are plenty of other choices to make. Originally written as four separate novels, the tetralogy was later combined under the one title, Parade’s End. Honestly, I was only able to get through the first novel which was published under the title Some Do Not... . I decided not to continue because I wasted so much time struggling through the first one, I didn’t think I would ever finish all four

220px-TheAgeOfInnocenceThe Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The first novel written by a woman to win the Pulitzer Price in Fiction, The Age of Innocence reads like the television show Gossip Girl set in the late 1800s. Following the upper class families of New York, the story is a critic of the morals and traditions of this society. The novels revolves around the introduction of a woman with questionable morals and possible disgraces in her past and how this will shake the society’s belief system of what a woman should be, what a marriage should be, and how people of a society should handle outsiders. Without being a complete condemnation of this society, the novel is a great look into what New York was like in the late 1800s (at least for the wealthy). The details of the society parties, balls, dinners, and vacations make this book’s characters incredibly relatable even 150 years after they are placed. I really enjoyed this book and think anybody who loves New York or a good doomed love story should read it. Also, I don’t usually use this space to try to sell books but amazon.com has the paperback on sale right now for $3.15 (and free shipping if you have Prime like I do). So if you’d like to buy the book, just click on the cover to the left. All the images I use of the book covers are links to purchase the book.

220px-Zuleika-dobsonZuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

This is the first novel I’ve read in a while that had me laughing out loud over and over. I’m not sure how much of the novel was supposed to be funny but it is a satirical look at university life at Oxford University in the early 1900s. The story follows Zuleika Dobson, a beautiful woman who is famous for being a mediocre magician, and her trip to the campus. All the undergraduates fall in love with her and hilarity ensues. My favorite part of the novel is when halfway through, the story starts to be written from a first-person narrator who begins speaking to the reader. He explains how he is able to know the thoughts and actions of all the characters (power given to him by Zeus as a favor for the Greek Muse Clio). He argues with the reader, bargains with the reader, and justifies his decision to the reader all while telling the story. And as the story goes, it becomes more and more ridiculous. But really, just the right amount of ridiculous. And I enjoyed every minute of reading it.

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Alright, sorry to have to drop so many on you right now. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a few more to you before the end of the year. Next is The Moviegoer by Walker Percy, number 60 in the list. I’m getting excited because I’m getting closer and closer to my favorite novel. You’ll find out soon enough.

 
 

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100 Greatest Novels: Light in August & On the Road

Sorry for the long break since the last post. I’ve been reading a few other books and also have been preparing and switching to a new career. I’ll get to that in a few days. But let’s go ahead and get into two more of the 100 greatest novels.

LightInAugustLight in August by William Faulkner

This was a really interesting novel. Set in the 30s in southern America, the story starts off following Lena Grove, a pregnant young girl traveling to find the father of her child. Once she gets into Jefferson, Mississippi, the story shifts to a different character, Joe Christmas. Christmas looks like a white guy but believes he has black ancestry. After a few flashbacks showing Christmas’s upbringings, the story starts to revolve around a murder that Christmas and the father of Lena’s child are caught up in. Adding a few different characters, the story ultimately leads to it’s inevitable conclusion.

What really struck me about this novel was not so much the story but the way it was told. I felt like I was listening to some old Southern farmer tell a story. Every time a new character was introduced, we have to flashback to their story. Every time something in the story reminds him of a previous story, we have to backtrack to that. No matter how small or unnecessary to the plot, it has to be told. Sometimes this was annoying but overall it really puts you into the story and makes you feel like your old neighbor is telling you some community gossip from years back.

OnTheRoadOn the Road by Jack Kerouac 

Honestly, I have a love-hate relationship with this book. I guess I’ll tell you what I like about it before I get into what I don’t. Simply put, this novel is fun. The story follows interesting characters who spend their free time driving around America and partying. Nothing better than a road trip story! Sal Paradise, the narrator, is a likable enough character. The rest of the characters are all interesting.

But here’s my hang-up: the novel is considered one of the most defining works of the Beat poets. This simply written, semi-autobiographical story that can be read in one or two sittings is the defining work! For the Beat generation! This generation was about destroying old norms. Allen Ginsberg was pushing the limits of what a poem could be while being put onto obscenity trials for his works. William S. Burroughs was writing novels that completely upset the concept of chronological writing. He said the chapters of “Naked Lunch” can be read in any order! All this disruption of literature norms and Jack Kerouac is who we’re taught in school, who’s novel is read over and over. I mean, I guess it is the most accessible. But representative of the Beat generation? I don’t think so.

 

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Glad to get that out of my system! Onwards we go. Next is “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett, which I’m not familiar with. So that’s always exciting.

 

 

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