Saturday, March 17, 2012

37. The Vicar of Wakefield

The Vicar of Wakefield
Oliver Goldsmith
Published in 1766
Around 260 pages
Well, that was a very unique kind of boring.  The whole novel consists of good people doing good things and making other people become good and do good things.  As you can imagine, this became frightfully boring after...oh, let's say the tenth page.

The story centers on Dr. Primrose and his loving family.  A series of misfortunes occur which include fires, ruffians, misunderstandings, prison, poverty, and unfulfilled love.  The characters maintain their goodness throughout.  There was one evil guy but for the purpose, of being spoiler free, I will not comment on him.  Anyway, the characters possessed the kind of preachy virtues that are just plain annoying.  For instance, Dr. Primrose is sent to prison so he spends all his time lecturing the prisoners with sermons.  Of course, the prisoners are attentive after awhile and become pious.  Seriously?

Characters that have no faults are not only terribly dry but also awfully unrealistic.  Skip it.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Goldsmith was a good friend of Samuel Johnson's and sent him a message in great distress.  Johnson came quickly and found out that Goldsmith was being kicked out of his apartment for not paying rent.  Johnson took Goldsmith's unpublished novel, The Vicar of Wakefield, and sold it to a publisher then used the sixty pounds to pay his friend's rent.

Referenced in Frankenstein, Emma, David Copperfield, The Tale of Two Cities, Little Women, and Middlemarch.  Woah.

Believe me, you do not want to see the videos on YouTube for this unless you want to venture into the realms of the weird.

Monday, March 12, 2012

36. The Castle of Otranto

The Castle of Otranto
Horace Walpole
Around 300 pages

Hello fellow bibliophiles!  I just got back from a weekend getaway to Philadelphia to see the Philadelphia Flower Show.  It was simply beautiful.  Look, I will prove it:
Was I right or was I right?  Anyway, from being in a hotel and on a plane I got to read a lot.  I not only finished this book but I also read Hard Times (ugh) and started the next book on this blog, The Vicar of Wakefield.

Now to my review.  This book is considered the first Gothic novel of all time.  The story starts with the wedding of Isabella and Prince Conrad.  Conrad does not show up because he is busy being killed by a magic helmet (as you can imagine I had a bit of trouble picturing this scene).  Manfred, Conrad's father, then tactfully chooses to try to rape Isabella.  Will she be saved by the handsome knight, Theodore?  Will the secondary characters that I have not mentioned have a role in the story?  Will Manfred succeed in his wicked designs?  Read the book to find out, ladies and gentlemen!
This novel was a really quick read.  It actually felt a bit trashy to be honest.  I enjoyed reading it but I did not take anything away from it nor will I remember it in a couple of months.  It was a nice junky book to read to take a break from Dickens and the Enlightenment.  Read it if you want something light, not profound.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Walpole was so afraid of the novel's potential failure that he used a pen name and pretended that he was merely translating an ancient manuscript.

Influenced by Shakespeare (which is quite obvious if you read the book).

Inspiration of Edgar Allen Poe.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

35. Emile ou de l'Education

Emile, ou de l'Education
Emile, or on Education
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Approximately 500 pages

Well, that was painful.  I guess I had it coming though since I had a really good streak of books lately.  I have been head over heels in love with the Enlightenment thinkers and I also read Jane Eyre and The Elegance of a Hedgehog which are both absolutely incredible and inspiring.  Yeah, I had it coming.

I want to start by saying that I really liked this book at first.  I had raved about Rousseau in earlier posts and the book's premise sounded interesting enough.  This book is just a series of essays written by Rousseau about how he educated his imaginary pupil, Emile, in each stage of his life.  I at one point even entertained delirious thoughts about using this book as a guide for educating my own children if I ever became a mother.  Then everything went to hell.

First of all, this book wasn't written for women.  Rousseau treated the reader like a future father so I felt like an outsider.  I imagine I would have a similar feeling if I ever went to a Superbowl party.  Not really in on the jokes and completely bored.  Also, he kept yelling at me.  Throughout the novel, he called the reader womanly, hardened, and cruel.  Finally, he treated Emile as if he was his life work; I don't think he ever said he loved him.  Rousseau kept bragging about how much of Emile he controlled and how he was in charge of every aspect of Emile's life (even his wife).  What a nightmare of a father-in-law he would be.

Don't even get me started on the last book of the novel, "Sophie."  This is where he talks about how women should be educated. So I knew going into this that it was going to be offensive.  This was written in the 1760s and Rousseau was sexist.  I get it.  But in spite of myself, I got upset.  Insult after insult for about a hundred pages wears people down.

I thought Rousseau and I were buddies; I feel so betrayed.  He is officially out of the running for my favorite Enlightenment thinker; vote on yours at the top of the blog!

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

This novel was publicly burned in 1762 for the way it discussed religion.

One idea that I do agree with is to let your child pick their own religion when they are at "the age of reason" (which Rousseau said could never be reached by women; ha).

Emile was the inspiration of the educational system during the French Revolution.

Rousseau considered this his best work.

I am happy to see some new followers.:)