Monday, August 27, 2012

50. Justine

Marquis de Sade
Around 200 pages

So my wild dream of finishing the 1700s books before September came crashing down in flames when I realized that that meant working my way through another Marquis de Sade book.  By including books by him on the list, the list makers are actually encouraging me to not read since I never wanted to pick up this novel.

What is there to say about this?  More rape, more torture, more atrocities described in the name of realism.  Even if you are into this kind of subject material, after reading about the twentieth rape in a row, you will get bored.

I hate the idea that this sick, sick man will be praised by English professors and literary critics for years to come.  He is disgusting, vile, and cruel and I would prefer to dance on his grave rather than read any other sadistic tales.

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

A kind of spoof on Pamela but Henry Fielding so had that covered.

Napoleon ordered the arrest of the Marquis who was in jail for the rest of his life.  Napoleon called it "the most abominable book ever engendered by the most depraved imagination.''

Book's destruction was ordered on 1815.

50!!! Woo hoo!

Friday, August 17, 2012

49. Vathek

William Beckford
Around 170 pages

I am on a real roll here; we only have about ten more books until we are finished with the 1700s.  My goal is to finish them before August.  Is that ridiculously unachievable?  Maybe, but then again, so is this list.

All right, so after reading the most horrifying book in literature, I picked up this novel, eager for relief.  However, this book is one of those novels that is really hard to have an opinion of.  It is not especially bad or good.  It is also not really entertaining but not completely boring.  I think we have all read books like this; the ones you will forget about in a month.  Unless of course, you write a post that doesn't have a point at all and can look back at in a month and remember.

This novel follows the fall from power of Vathek who is obsessed with sex and has a terrible temper.  It is very similar to an Arabian Nights tale, which I reviewed many moons ago.  Utterly forgettable.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Capitalized on the success of the translation of A Thousand And One Nights in Europe at the time.

One of the first gothic novels.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

48. 120 Days of Sodom

120 Days of Sodom
Marquis de Sade
Around 600 pages

All right, I am still figuring out this new computer and for some reason it is not letting me put any images up.  Perhaps it is self defense on the computer's part, for every picture concerning this novel is revolting.

Oh god.  What is there to even say?  That was the worst book I have ever read in my life.  It was disgusting and disturbing.  Let me give you a little history here.  This "novel" was written by a rapist in prison.  He has such perverse ideas that they coined a word after him.  Sadism.  Isn't that something?

People that like this book will say that people who don't like it just don't want to face the truth.  Just because I don't see the world like a sex offender does doesn't mean I am oblivious.  It means I am sane. Maybe he wrote this book to just shock people.  Well, newsflash: it does not take that much skill to do that.  In fact, right now I am wearing a hat, pajamas, and rain boots (I am doing some closet cleaning and was inspired).  If I went out in public like this, certainly I would surprise people.  Does that mean I am a genius?  Not hardly.

I realized I have not given you any idea of the plot.  Some crazy people capture a bunch of people to be their sex slaves.  You are then introduced to every weird fetish people have.  So?  I am not interested about what some twisted madman does in the bedroom.  I have no idea why this was on the list.  The ultimate gross out.

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

Part of the book is written in draft form since he never had the chance to finish it.  At least it goes by faster once you hit that part.

Written in the Bastille.  When the Bastille was stormed during the French Revolution, the Marquis believed his work was lost forever.  If only.

God, the movie adaptation of this book is on my movie list.  It never ends.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

47. Cecilia

Fanny Burney
Around 1000 pages

Yay!  Another Fanny Burney!  I have recommended her to several people now.  Some people have just ignored me while others tried her and didn't like her.  However, I am still going to do my best with this review to get you to at least give her a shot.

This novel is actually strikingly similar to Pride and Prejudice; in fact, Jane Austen took that phrase from this novel.  In this book, Cecilia is a charming young heiress with one problem: a clause in her inheritance states that if she were to marry, her husband must take her surname.  I actually imagine that that clause would be a big problem for male egos now, so I can only imagine how huge it would seem during the 1780s.  Anyway, naturally she falls in love with a man who has a lot of family pride.  Will they be able to get over their pride and prejudice (see what I did there?)?

This is a notable book for several reasons.  As in all Fanny Burney books, the secondary characters provide hilarious comic relief during the story.  I tried to explain one of the more amusing scenarios when I was out to dinner and failed so miserably that it is a wonder my face still isn't red.  Anyway, the pacing is perfect.  I guess I should specify that if you don't like Jane Austen you won't like this novel since they are so similar.  Still, I believe everyone can enjoy this book, it is a beautiful combination of humor and social critique.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Jane Austen refers to this novel in Northanger Abbey.

Referenced in Vanity Fair.

Burney was under considerable stress while writing this novel due to her determination to follow up on her success from Evelina.

46. Confessions

Jean Jacques Rousseau
Around 480 pages

Well, this is, at last, the end of Rousseau.  I cannot honestly say I am sad to see him go, though he did have some great insight.  This last work was an autobiography.  I usually avoid autobiographies like the plague.  I really don't care about a famous person's childhood.  Just show me what you did to be remarkable and then kindly shut up.  However, because of this list, we are forced to journey all the way back to the day Rousseau was born.

In my opinion, this book is only motivated by guilt.  He felt like he had to confess random things he did that he always regretted, including framing a servant for a ribbon he himself sold.  Well, I hope this helped alleviate his guilt.  However, I really don't give a damn.  I expected to at least be introduced to some new philosophical ideas he might have had.  But I was disappointed.  He simply talked and talked about his apprenticeship, his female amours, and his regrets.  In truth, I felt trapped and alarmed, like you would if someone you didn't know that well burst into tears and it was up to you to comfort them.  A tedious task, and one that should be avoided.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

You can actually see how hypocritical he is from this book; though he claims he would be the perfect father in Emile, he abandoned five of his children to an orphanage.

Frequently inaccurate (wrong dates, different order of events, etc.).

One of the first autobiographies to be about feelings and events; most were about people's religious experiences.

The quote "let them eat cake" was found in this book, though it is frequently attributed to Marie Antoinette.

45. Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Dangerous Liaisons
Choderlos de Laclos
Around 250 pages

I imagine quite a few people will be relieved that I have finished this book.  I have been endlessly bothering people about it, including my friends, family, boss, and coworkers (no one is safe).  This is owing to the fact that this is one of the most intriguing books I read; it is scandalous, informative, sexy, wicked, and entertaining.

I am sure most people are more familiar with the movie adaptations than the book.  I myself have not seen the movie yet so I will still give a brief synopsis.  This epistolary novel centers on two clever cowards who scorn people who are in love.  Marquise de Merteuil and Viscount de Valmont are actually in love with each other, but as they are too afraid to admit they spend their time making other people's lives hell.  Marquise de Merteuil's ex lover is getting married to the innocent Cecile.  In order to get her revenge on him, she arranges for Valmont to seduce Cecile.  Valmont, however, is more interested in seducing the virtuous Presidente de Tourvel.  Oh, and Cecile falls in love with her music teacher, Chevalier Danceny.  Confused yet?

On a superficial level, it would seem that this book is good with a bubble bath and some champagne. While it can in fact be enjoyed that way, this novel also works on a deeper level.  First of all, Merteuil may just be one of the cleverest, wickedest villains in all of literature.  She seems to control everyone around her, mainly using sex as her weapon.  This makes her fascinating to watch.  This book also has some great insight on love; indeed, it is much more honest than some of the other romantic novels on the list.  For instance, Laclos states that women confuse love and the lover (something that I myself am guilty of).  Finally, the fact that it can still be risque today is amazing.  Laclos accomplishes this by being suggestive which enables you to let your imagination run wild and with this book, it will run in dirty places.

The perfect combination of soap opera and literature.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

One of Marie Antoinette's favorite novels.

The characters of Valmont and Merteuil are often considered the first characters in literature to have acted solely on ideology.

Considered the source of the expression "revenge is a dish best served cold."