Monday, September 17, 2012

52. An Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

An Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah Equiano
Around 260 pages

So right now I am sitting in bed because I woke up with a really bad cold.  I have Good Morning Vietnam playing in the background so hopefully Robin Williams does not make my illness worse, which he has the potential of doing.  However, I did get to finish this novel this morning and have worked up the energy to write this review.  The sacrifices I make for my readers…

All right, so the list has the tendency of representing lots of educated white English men.  This is really not their fault since most minorities didn't have the opportunity to write romance novels…they were too busy being oppressed and stuff (my sickness rears its ugly head).  So it came as a great shock when I saw that the next book was written by a former slave who not only was educated enough to write but actually was wealthy but he married a white woman in England!  Kind of shows how much cooler England is than America; that wasn't socially acceptable until around two hundred years later in the USA.

But I digress.  Anyway, Olaudah Equiano wrote this autobiography about his life, starting from when he was captured as a slave in Africa (in modern day Nigeria) and all the way up to when he was able to buy his freedom.  This is an incredibly, inspirational story.  This is kind of embarrassing but I had never heard of him before.  Why don't schools mention this????

Anyway, the novel lives up to its title.  Absolutely revolutionary and essential reading.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

There is kind of annoying parts about how he gave up heathenism and became a good Christian.  Um, pretty sure the guys who captured you were all Christians but whatever.

Slave trade was abolished in England ten years after his death.

There is a debate to whether or not he was actually born in South Carolina and embellished his African roots to help his movement.

Friday, September 7, 2012

51. The Adventures of Caleb Williams

The Adventures of Caleb Williams
Things As They Are
William Godwin
Around 450 pages

I had to take a break from doing these in order after the train wreck that was Justine.  To become well again, I read The Bell Jar and A Farewell To Arms.  Both were excellent.  Now I am back with Caleb Williams which was merely mediocre.

Let me start by saying this was a really good idea for a novel.  The premise is that Caleb Williams begins working for a man named Falkland and soon realized that he is a murderer.  We get some interesting background into Falkland's history and then proceed with the present.  Falkland finds out that Caleb knows and vows to make his life a living hell.  Which he promptly does.

So far so good.  Actually, it kinds of sounds like an action movie.  Caleb is framed, forced to clear his name, and get revenge on his persecutor.  Unfortunately, it doesn't play out like that at all.  First off, Caleb is a really whiny character.  In fact, the first line of the novel goes something like this: "my life has been a theater of calamities."  Now, of course, if what happened to him happened to me, I would be whining too.  Still, it is not fun to have a hero just sit around moping.  In fact, that is really what he does the entire book.  I will adhere to my promise that I do not spoil but let me just say that once you read the ending, you feel really gypped.  I mean, I expected major ass kicking.  He even says that he exists as a "guardian of my honor".  Well, you suck as a guard, Caleb.

There.  Now that I have bagged on this enough, let's get to the good parts. Godwin does manage to slip in some biting social commentary, especially on the legal system.  He also manages to slip in some Jew slurs. Damn, I am saying the bad things again.  What else was good about this?  Let's see...

All right, I got nothing else.  Good idea, poor follow through.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Godwin chose to publish this novel the same day that the Prime Minister suspended habeas corpus.

Most critics at the time thought he was praising anarchy and attacking the social order.