Saturday, August 31, 2013

86. The Fall of the House of Usher

The Fall of the House of Usher
Edgar Allen Poe
Around 50 pages

I was planning on taking a nap now because of my illness but I then realized that I had read this story and should probably try to get completely up to date on this blog before I go to sleep.  So if this review seems like the ravings of a mad woman…well, I suppose that would go with the theme, wouldn't it?

Roderick Usher invites his friend to come to his house after both he and his sister have fallen ill.  His friend attempts to make him feel better but um, some crazy shit goes down.  This is such a short story that I feel like I would give away the whole thing by saying anything else so that summary will just have to do.  I should really write for book jackets.

I personally love Poe.  I think he is really good at writing horror stories without seeming cheesy.  I also love that his characters always seem somewhat realistic to me, even if they are completely insane or in implausible situations.  Poe is actually one of the few poets I can read without eliciting a single eye roll from me.  Quite an impressive feat.

That being said, this certainly isn't my favorite story.  The whole haunted house concept has never really frightened me(I actually found the novel The Shining to be absurd).  Still, I would recommend this "novel" because of Poe's exceptional writing style and pacing.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Influenced by Castle of Otranto (as seen in this very blog!).

Criticized for being formulaic.

UP NEXT: The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal.

85. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
Charles Dickens
Around 800 pages

I am currently in bed and I fully expect this review to take a couple hours since I can't stop using tissues or coughing.  I believe that Charles Dickens inflicted this disease on me because I kept putting off reading this novel.  Yesterday all I really had the energy to do was lay in bed and finish the book once and for all.  Interestingly enough, today I feel worse than I did before.  Is there a connection?  I wouldn't bet against it.

I feel like I zoned in and out a lot with this novel.  There were some chapters that I was fully invested in and others that I read and have no memory of.  A character died once and I didn't even realize it until three chapters later.  Oops.

This is the story of Nicholas, a stand up guy who tries to protect his mother and sister from his evil uncle.  In typical Dickens fashion, there are actually lots of evil guys.  Mr. Squeers, for instance, beats children for no apparent reason.  Am I the only one who hates all of the characters' names.  There are just so cheesy.

So obviously, I did not enjoy the book.  800 pages of an extremely dull writing style was just excruciating.  All of Dickens' characters are either dirty, weeping, or both.  It is very exhausting and not at all enjoyable to read.

However, I did enjoy the character of Miss Squeers and her friend Fanny.  Miss Squeers convinces herself that Nicholas is in love with her (we have all been there girlfriend) which leads to some comical scenes and perhaps one of the harshest rejections in literature (some rejections I have received in real life could probably trump them all).

Two Dickens down, eight to go.  Oh boy.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Criticized for lack of character development.

Paul McCartney's favorite novel.

Trailer for 2002 version:
UP NEXT: The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe.  I love me some Poe.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

84. Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist
Charles Dickens
Around 450 pages

Well, I can't say I didn't see this day coming.  I just thought I had more time.

Dickens has arrived, ladies and gentlemen.

Dickens is one of my least favorite authors and the problem that I am now facing is that all his books are lumped together (although we do get a few breaks).  I just find him to be incredibly dull and I have have tried all of his notable works at least once.  Well, perhaps it will be like in a movie, where we don't understand each other at first but gradually we come to realize we are not so different after all.  Or maybe I will go on hating him until my dying day.  Either way, the time has come to face one another.

I had already read this book a couple of years ago and as I am certainly not going to reread any CD novel, I will have to recall it from memory.  This shouldn't be too difficult, since this is probably one of the most well known stories of all time.

This is the story of Oliver Twist, an orphan who lives a miserable life in a workhouse.  He manages to escape but falls into the hands of a gang of pickpockets, led by the evil Fagin.

This is the only Dickens novel I have ever enjoyed.  I still think his style is dull, but there is actually an interesting story here, if you can get past the dry writing.  Oliver is probably the weakest, and therefore the most boring character, but characters like Fagin and Artful Dodger make the book worth reading.  Nancy is another strong character, which pleases the feminist in me, since most heroines in the 1800s can't do anything without fainting.

Like I said, though, I hate his style and he is simply not as entertaining as say, Fielding or Austen.  Still, this book kept me hooked and maybe eventually I will convert into a devout Dickens reader.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Called Europe's attention to the child labor problem in London.

Like Henry Fielding, Dickens names his characters after their personalities or origins.

A highly anti-Semitic novel, but I suppose I am use to it from reading such early works all the time.  Still absolutely horrifying, though.

Yes, I used an Oliver and Company picture for this post.  It is the only adaptation of this novel that didn't suck.  I mean, Oliver! was just awful.  In fact, let's all enjoy a tune from Oliver and Company:

UP NEXT: The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens.  Expect some delay here since this is a pretty long novel that I am not too enthusiastic about starting.

83. The Nose

The Nose
Nikolai Gogol
Around 40 pages

All right, so that was sort of weird.  Don't get me wrong, the premise was relatable: a man's nose falls off, develops of life its own, and then safely returns to his face.  I mean, we have all been there.  I just frankly do not understand what the point of that story was and I really don't understand why Gogol wrote it.

I have read some theories that Gogol is comparing the removal of the nose to castration and that without a man's, um, nose he will always be unsuccessful and insecure in his life.  Well, perhaps, but didn't we already know that?

My opinion is that it is just an absurd fairy tale for kids and an early example of magic realism.  Sorry, Gogol, if you had another point, I completely missed it.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Second shortest book on The List.

UP NEXT: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  Dear lord, it is happening.  We have reached the Dickens streak in The Book. NOOOOOOO!!!!!

82. Le Pere Goriot

Le Pere Goriot
Honore de Balzac
Around 380 pages

After conquering the literary Mount Everest, War and Peace, I picked up this book for a quick read. By the way, I loved War and Peace, though that is a subject for a different post.  Anyway, I had high hopes for this novel, having loved Eugenie Grandet.  Unfortunately, with this novel I perhaps discovered one of the most annoying literary characters of all time.  Needless to say, I was very disappointed.

This is the story of Goriot and his daughters, Delphine and Anastasie.  Goriot is pretty much obsessed with his daughters.  Now, lots of loving fathers, mine including, take a huge interest in their daughters lives.  What I mean by the word "obsessed" is that he also, in a way, considers them to be his worst enemies.  If they are not constantly by his side, if he makes a joke and they don't laugh, if they don't take all his money and let him dictate their lives, he hates them.  No wonder none of their marriages work out.

Anyway, it might have been an interesting novel if Goriot was portrayed for what he was: an annoying antagonist.  However, I am pretty sure he was supposed to be the hero and I am sorry, I cannot get behind that.

Balzac, you disappointed me.  Well, it wouldn't be the first time a man let me down.  Get out the ice cream, ladies!

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Includes characters that are present in Balzac's other fiction.

Influenced by James Fenimore Cooper and Sir Walter Scott.

Vautrin tells Eugene that he is "making him an offer he can't refuse."  Sound familiar?

UP NEXT: The Nose by Nikolay Gogol.