What books leave you feeling misanthropic? And what books lift your spirit, restoring a sense of faith in humanity? In this household we are currently reading Crime and Punishment and Mockingjay, which, in some unremembered way, triggered this discussion. Reviewing the many books we have read in common, we came up with a short list of those at the pinnacle for us. We ruled out anything too obvious, e.g. no dystopian novels, and no… well, I guess we don't even know about novels that are deliberately or obviously uplifting. I presume they exist, but I couldn't tell you the name of one.
Results tagged “literature”
Degradation and Upliftment in Literature
Review: Down and Out
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow is what happens when a classic geek extrapolates the cyberpunk future of a reputation-based economy combined with the extrusion of an open source ethos into the management of everyday affairs, tosses in immortality and lean project management, and sets it all in the context of the semi-religious experience of Disney World.
Thou and Thee in Sacred Literature
The words "thou" and "thee" are unfamiliar to most of us, except in the context of sacred writ (particularly the King James Bible). Thus many of us think of "thou" as very formal. In some Dostoyevsky novel, I encountered something to the effect of "why did you address me with the familiar thou?". That got me thinking: is "thou" is an outdated form of familar address, like "tú" compared to "su" in Spanish? Well, more or less, though that distinction may not do it justice in the context of sacred literature.
Another Chunk of the Star Wars Facade Crumbles
Finished Dune Messiah (2nd time, read 6-7 years ago too?). We all recognize that Tattoine is more than a little Dune-like, and the Sarlac pit is a great nod to Shai-hulud. I'm sure I'm not the first to notice that Annakin had some level of presience. His presience warned him of his wife's death. But he accepted the bargain, became a tool. Thence the jihad and establishment of empire. Slightly twisted – Annakin is right hand, rather than Imperator, and jihad occurs post-death rather than ante-. And then I remembered the twins.
Of what use are stories?
They are the aliment of imagination,
The wellspring of delight.
They turn stars into heroes,
Bring peace to the night.
Fear they can banish,
And in good measure bestow.
All good stories teach;
Even heroes they bring low.
Words are more than letters,
As letters are more than lines.
In the mirror of darkest tales,
Verily even sorrow shines.
When polished in contemplation,
The reflection you will find,
Far eclipses all that
The narrator had in mind.
Inspired by Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Review - Gormenghast
Gormenghast – a word that fills the mouth, that undulates with waves of hard and soft, that tricks the tongue into thinking it can escape with a fading sibilance, only to be brought to heel hard fast with that final 't'. It is a magnificent word for the sprawling thing Mervyn Peake calls a "castle" in the book of the same name.
Review: Midnight's Children
In February I began reading Rushdie's Midnight's Children — a strange sort of historical fiction —but a trip in early March inserted Orhan Pamuk's My Name Is Red before I could finish. Two things I've loved about Rushdie, at least in the two novels I've read: his use of the English language, and his ability to credibly, smoothly bend reality into an absurd yet moving other world. In these he is master. These are so clear that I won't dwell on them (ok, that's actually because my wife has the book up at work so I can't refer to it for examples).
The Diamond Age, part III
The Diamond Age, part II
The Diamond Age: A Review In Three Parts (I)
Review: The Graveyard Book
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a wonderful, delightful, charming story. Plenty suitable for all ages – so long as you don't mind children being introduced to Neil Gaiman's "subversive" take on fairy tales and magical creatures. Fantastic. Some things are simply too good, too valuable, to bother analyzing in depth. Just enjoy.
View all my reviews.
Review: My Name Is Asher Lev
As in painting, so in words, there is a power that transcends our experience of life, a power that can doubly lift us to the sacred and mock us for the profane. So it is with Asher Lev.
My Name Is Asher Lev was one of the few works from high school English that I looked back upon fondly. For years my searches through Half Price Books have been surprisingly without reward, but at last I thought simply to borrow a copy.
Share Some Gris Tea With Me
When I first heard Morrissey's Every Day Is Like Sunday sometime in 1991 (after moving to Dallas and being exposed to "alternative" for the first time), I was terribly confused about one of the last lines of the song: "share some gris tea with me". Of course, I originally thought it was "grease tea," which equally made no sense. When I learned to play the song on guitar, I found the lyrics and stood corrected. But not enlightened. Well, thank you French class! Now I know that gris means "grey" =).
Review: Wisdom Sits in Places
Wisdom Sits in Places is the name of a remarkable little book of linguistic ethnography about "landscape and language among the Western Apache." Written by rancher and professor Keith H. Basso, who had spent decades working with this group of Apache before composing this opus, the book is easy to overlook: file under boring academic anthropology. For anyone interested in gaining a greater appreciation for the diverse ways we humans think and act, both in and about this world, doing so is a certain mistake.
Reading French, First Day of Class
I am going to learn how to read French. Fluently. In seven weeks. Really. And I do not like the University of Minnesota's web site.
Tonight, five of us whipped through grammar basics in the first session — two classes per week on the UMN East Bank campus, extending through early July. The point of the class is to learn how to read French in the arts and sciences. My particular interests are both literary and academic: in literature, I would like to know what Tolstoy's and Dostoyevsky's characters are saying, and perhaps to read Camus in the original; in academics, I am particularly interested in religious studies / sociology, which is a fertile and often un-translated field of study in the French language.
On the Fourth night, Stephen was finished. Stephen looked around, and he was pleased. For JK Rowling had once again put together a stunning, compelling, engrossing novel about the intersection of the worlds of wizards, witches and wizards. About the horrors of warfare. About growing up, about enduring friendship, about dedication and follow-through. But who really knew what a hallow is? Here I was, thinking until the answer was revealed, about a wide shallow wooded area... but that's a hollow (or copse), not a hallow.
Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot"
"The Chief idea of the novel is to portray the positively good man." This object Dostoyevsky has achieved in his 1869 novel The Idiot. It is the story of an invalid, sheltered in childhood, entering high society for the first time. His innocence leads him through fantasy, love, hatred, wealth, jealousy, and all the other attributes of earthly life--especially that life of the elite.