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100 Greatest Novels: The Naked and the Dead, Portnoy’s Complaint, & Pale Fire

So as we continue onwards we’re starting in the second half of the 100 greatest novels. It’s been a long and exciting adventure through some great literature and I’m looking forward to seeing what the back 50 has for us. Anyways, let’s get to it.

TheNakedAndTheDeadThe Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

It’s been a while since we’ve come across a war novel and this was a great one to get back into them. I have yet to read anything by Norman Mailer and I really enjoyed this novel. Based on his experiences in World War II, the novel follows a regiment during a campaign to control an island from the Japanese. The story jumps between a group of men making up the reconnaissance team and the high command on the island. This lets us see the events as they unfold from the men doing the fighting and from the men making the decisions and shows us how events affected each group of men. There’s not really any characters I really loved so none of the deaths had much emotional effect on the reader except for how the death affected the other characters. Other than that, the novel was a great war novel that had the right amount of humor, intensity, exasperation, and frustration you’d except from an event like that.

220px-Portnoy_s_ComplaintPortnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

Now this was an interesting novel. As controversial as Tropic of Cancer, it was less crass and more hilarious. The older narrator tells the story of his childhood and growing up as Jewish in the 1940s and 50s and the sexual frustration and experimentation he dealt with because of his childhood. Most of his “complaints” are directed towards his parents and how he was raised. Through the novel, we come across some hilarious scenes. The whole second chapter is about masturbation and the different devices he used to aid himself. Yes, it’s as hilarious and disgusting and inappropriate as you’d expect it to be. The novel does present to us great examples of how there were still anti-Semitic feelings in American during and after World War II, no matter what events were taking place in Europe. Also, this novel does have some autobiographical elements even though the author never readily admitted to it. So take that as you wish.

Nabokov_Pale_FirePale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

I loved this novel and was ready for something like this. It’s been a while since there was a book on this list that was written differently, broke the rules of the standard novel structure. A good story is a good story, a good character is a good character, but an interestingly written novel (especially combined with the other two) can be life-changing. And we already know that Nabokov can write. Oh, can he write. So what was so interesting about this novel? Instead of a linear story told from some narrator, the story was laid out like this: a 999-line poem by a fictional poet John Shade with a forward and a lengthy notes section (the majority of the book) written and edited by Shade’s neighbor and academic colleague, Charles Kinbote. Throughout the notes to the poem, we get little insight into the poem but more of the story of Kinbote. Although the story is worth telling, using the notes to the poem to tell his own story comes across as fairly selfish. Which I think it’s supposed to. Anyways, this is just a lovely novel written in such a creative and inventive way. After reading this and Nabokov’s Lolita, I just want to sit down and read everything of his. And English wasn’t even his first language!!!

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Just keep going. Next is Light in August by William Faulkner.

 

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Posted by on June 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

100 Greatest Novels: The Heart of the Matter, Lord of the Flies, & Deliverance

Well, the next three novels just got darker and darker. I guess it’s fitting being right before Halloween and everything. Anyways, here’s three more of the 100 greatest novels.

175px-HeartOfTheMatterThe Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

Set on the West Coast of Africa, this was a great look at England’s colonies in Africa during World War II. Major Scobie is one of the few honest English workers at the colony. Whether it’s the strain of his work, the climate of West Africa, Catholic guilt, or all the above, Scobie’s mistakes and actions ultimately lead to his destruction. Even when it seemed unnecessary.

I haven’t read any of Greene’s work before but I really enjoyed his writing style. Halfway through the 20th century, British authors seemed to drop the unneeded over-explanation you find at the turn of the century. The writing became simpler, the storytelling clearer. I’ve noticed this a lot in this greatest novels list, especially ones I was previously unfamiliar with: Greene, Evelyn Waugh, E. M. Forster, and of course George Orwell. The Heart of the Matter is a great example of this clear writing style and it made for an enjoyable read.

200px-LordOfTheFliesBookCoverLord of the Flies by William Golding

Here’s where things start to get a little darker. This novel is about children being stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash. There are no adults and they have to take care of themselves. Their ages range between 5 to probably 12 or so. Early on, the kids try to create a society resemblant of the adult one they left behind. They choose a leader, create rules, etc. Over the course of the novel, things slowly break down. First, the littlest ones cannot or will not follow any rules from the older kids. Then the chosen leader, Ralph, is repeatedly challenged by the headstrong Jack. Finally, the fear of the unknown starts breaking down all the children’s mental state until most of the children embrace a savagery not expected from civilized British children.

Lord of the Flies can be somewhat difficult to read because the rules and the order created at the beginning of the story would be so easy to follow. Simple mistakes made by the children lead to the break down of their “society.” By the time the kids’ savagery leads to deaths, you just want to scream at the children that, well, they’re just children. They seem to forget it and sometimes us readers do too.

Dickey-DeliveranceDeliverance by James Dickey

4 middle-aged men that live in a Georgia city decide to take a weekend trip canoeing down the river in northern Georgia. Simple enough, what could go wrong? After a couple deaths, a broken leg, rapids, rock-climbing, and even sodomy, I guess a few things can go wrong.

This intense novel was written and set in the 1970s. I know I said Lord of the Flies can be difficult to read but that has nothing on this story. Although there are some incredibly difficult passages, this novel actually has some beautifully written narration. Narrated by Ed, one of the four city men, we see his first experience in true wilderness perfectly. The writing is simple yet descriptive which makes for clear understanding, even when you don’t want to understand what’s going on very clearly. There is a movie that was produced a few years after the release of the novel that I’ve heard is as difficult to watch as the novel was to read. But in the end, it was worth it to experience this life-changing weekend with Ed.

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Next up is a series of 12 novels by Anthony Powell titled A Dance to the Music of Time, which I think is kind of cheating. 12 novels getting one spot!? I bought a 4 volume set that contains all the novels. We’ll see if I make it through all 4 volumes before going ahead. It’ll take a week or so for the books to get in so until then, I started reading the 1897 horror novel Dracula by Bram Stoker to get ready for Halloween. Onwards we go.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Wedding, Part I

If you didn’t know, my fiancée and I are getting married in a little over a week (August 5th)!! We’re having a “destination wedding” at Thornbury Castle in England:

When I tell people about our wedding, they always have a lot of questions. So I decided to write this blog to explain how we got here and what we had to do to be married in England. Sometime after the wedding, I’ll make a second post about our wedding and honeymoon. Anyways, here it goes.

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Proposal: At the beginning of January 2012, Halie and I went to Houston for the weekend. I told her I wanted to have a nice night out Friday so I could wear one of my new dress shirts and the tie bar I got for Christmas (believable story). After dinner, I said I wanted to check out William’s Water Wall. While there, I proposed to her amongst the falling water. Here’s a picture of us soon afterwards:

Proposal

Planning: Soon after, we started planning. First, was location. I’ve always wanted to have a destination wedding (I don’t like having hundreds of people looking at me) and Halie wanted to be married in a castle. Choosing England because of being easy to fly into, we started googling, emailing, and pricing castles. Finally deciding on Thornbury Castle, we picked a date and started planning the event. We thought this would be about it but soon learned that England has many bureaucratic hoops to jump through for us to be married.

First we were told we had to book the registrar to officiate the wedding. No big deal. You could only book a year in advance so we had to wait until August. Once we contacted the registrar office in Bristol, we learned that besides booking the registrar, we had to prove residency in the UK since we were not UK residents. We had to stay in one location in England for 8 days, then meet the registrar to announce our intent to be married. Yay, unplanned trip to England!

lionBigBen

So last December we flew to England and enjoyed ourselves experiencing London during the lead-up to Christmas. After 8 days, we took a train to Bristol and met with the registrar. After filling out all the documents, our intent to be married was posted in the office. If nobody had an objection, after 14 days of posting, we were legally able to be married in England. We then took a taxi to the castle for lunch. Once seeing the castle, we were so excited. It was as beautiful as we could have hoped for and the history of the place was incredible. We are incredibly happy with the decision we made off of online pictures. Here is Halie enjoying the incredibly tasty white wine that is made at the castle vineyard:

HalieWhiteWine

Finally, everything was set! Almost. We soon found out that since we weren’t just visiting London in August, but also getting married, we needed a special visitor visa. After much googling and reading, I finally found what we needed to do to get our visas. First, fill out a 11 page document asking us some of the craziest questions (Have you ever taken part in a genocide? [seriously!]). Then we had to go to a visa and immigration office in Houston to have our picture and fingerprints taken. Put the crazy questionnaire, proof of picture and fingerprints, our passport, and any and all supporting documents about our trip and wedding in England into a folder and send it to UK’s Consulate General in NYC and hope everything is accepted. After a month or so, we received a package in the mail with our passport and a nifty sticker on one page proving we have a visa as a special visitor.

Now, it seems everything is done. Amongst all this we picked a photographer based in Bristol, somebody to make our wedding cake, and finalized our trip and honeymoon to Paris after the wedding.

I think that’s about it. If you have any questions about our wedding, destination weddings in general, England, how much this all costs, etc., feel free to ask me anything in the comments. I highly recommend destination weddings. They make your wedding an unique experience and they’re surprisingly inexpensive. We’re spending a lot less than what people spend for local weddings. Anyways.

We leave next week!

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

The Awesomeness that is Kiva.org

Hello friends.

I know I spend a lot of time and words on books and music and I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts on them. But another thing that is dear to my heart is helping those that are less fortunate than us. Any of you reading this are beyond blessed. You have shelter, food, and enough money to have a computer or smartphone to view this webpage. This puts you and I as some of the richest people in the world. Because of that, I think we should be aware and be generous to those that don’t have the chances we did because of something as simple as what country they were born in. I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about an amazing organization that I am a big supporter of: kiva.org.

This simple video really explains everything. But to really see the effects of lending money and then relending it after being paid back, I wanted you to see my statistics. I joined kiva in 2008 and here’s the impact I’ve had:

Screen Shot 2013-05-05 at 5.49.58 PM

So in just 5 years, I’ve helped small businesses around the world with loans up to almost $1,000. That’s insane! And I’ve only put in $159 but I keep reloaning the money. It’s really an incredible concept with such an amazing impact. With most loans, you get updates from the person you’ve loaned to. Here’s an example:

Afghanistan

Ghulam Rasool who is a quilt sewer wants to thank the Kiva lenders from the support. After the loan she bought quilt sewing materials and now she has more clients. She can observe a big change in her business and her monthly income.
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Interested? Kiva.org is a very easy website to make a huge difference in somebody’s life. Also, if you use this link, both you and I will get a free $25 gift certificate to loan to any business of our choosing. Pretty awesome.
 
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Posted by on May 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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An Apology & Update

Okay, I need you to accept my sincerest apologies for waiting so long to post another blog. It’s completely unacceptable for me to expect you to show up here and read my ramblings and not have new ramblings for you to read. And yet, I have excuses! First off, for the 100 greatest novel project, I’m reading through two Henry James novels. They are the least enjoyable books so far and I’m struggling to make it through. I started the second one the other day so hopefully it won’t be much longer. Which brings me to my second excuse…

Downtown-main-art

I got a new job! In Houston! I’m doing clerical work at a law firm. Nothing too exciting but I’m actually enjoying it. I like the atmosphere of the office and love the location. I haven’t done it too often for monetary reasons but it’s really nice to walk around for lunch and have so many options just a block or so away.

Anyways, just wanted to give you a quick update on why I’ve been neglecting the blog. I’ll hopefully have this novel done and can post another 100 greatest novel post. I also should have an album review of an upcoming release from a singer/songwriter out of Silsbee. Be excited, it’s really good. I can’t wait to tell you about it.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

New Music Tuesday – 2/26/13

This morning I picked up (read: bought off iTunes) three great records (read: digital files). They were so good I thought you might want to know about them:

Amok – Atoms for Peace

This band consists of Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and Joey Waronker (Beck). And yes, it’s as great as it sounds. The record, Amok, sounds like Radiohead with funkier bass and synth lines and world percussion thrown in. My favorite track is Judge Jury and Executioner and can be heard below:

A Place at the Table (Soundtrack) – The Civil Wars & T Bone Burnett

Being a soundtrack, this has many instrumental tracks. Similar style to the Civil Wars’ debut record but with more instrumentation than normal. T Bone Burnett adds a lot of interesting flavor and dirty country sounds to the soundtrack. Joy and John Paul only sing on a few tracks. That said, this is still an enjoyable listen. Here’s the single, Long Time Gone:

Back Into the Woods – Ed Harcourt

I’ve been a fan of Ed Harcourt since finding his record at a train station in England in 2006. He’s a British musician that isn’t too popular in America but I love what he does. His newest record is a stripped down album that he recorded at Abbey Roads Studio in 6 hours. Most of the tracks are just him on the piano or guitar and singing. It’s a beautiful record, he’s a beautiful pianist, and his voice is gut-wrenching. Here’s a record player playing the title track:

Anyways, get to it. Go support great music and great artists.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Hello 2013!

Well, 2012 is over and now we have 2013 facing us. I don’t know about all of you but I’m very excited about this new year. There will be many big changes and I can’t wait for them.

-This weekend Halie will be moving to Houston to start her externship at Memorial Herman Southwest. I hope to follow her to Houston very soon afterwards (as soon as I find a job).

-In August, Halie and I and some close friends and family will be heading to England. On the 5th, Halie and I will be married at Thornbury Castle with honeymooning in Paris to follow. I am beyond ecstatic for this trip for two reasons. Joining my life adventure with Halie is a dream come true and traveling is always something to look forward to.

-I started this hyphenated list and don’t really have much of anything else to add. The first two are big enough changes to talk about, right?

Anyways, enjoy celebrating the new year and I hope you have a great 2013. I know I will.

Cheers!

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
 
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