Love Philip Roth. Loved American Pastoral.
Portnoy’s Complaint? I have no idea.
The only thing I’m sure of is that this book has been called controversial. And explicit. And lewd. Here’s how the Wikipedia literary experts describe it:
“Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) is the American novel that turned its author Philip Roth into a major celebrity, sparking a storm of controversy over its explicit and candid treatment of sexuality.”
Oh, wonderful. One of those novels.
Like I said, I really loved American Pastoral, so I’ll be interested to see how this one differs, as it was Roth’s big breakthrough novel.
Sexuality aside, the setup is unique: It’s a continuous monologue from the protagonist, Alex Portnoy, as he meets with his therapist.
Here’s a few quick facts about Portnoy’s Complaint and Philip Roth:
Yet again I walk into the unknown.
I’ve never read Ragtime, and I’m quite unfamiliar with E.L. Doctorow, other than simply knowing the name.
So Ragtime, my 56th book from the Time list, will be a journey into unknown territory–although the book should be familiar in that it covers the time period from the turn of the 20th century to the beginning of World War I. This era seems to have produced a lot of novels on the list.
Ragtime is historical fiction that tells the story of a white, upper-class family in New York who have to step out of their comfort zone to deal with issues of race and class. The story includes a wide array of historical figures, including Harry Houdini, JP Morgan, Henry Ford, Sigmund Freud, and many others.
Anyway, a little bit about Ragtime and its author, E.L. Doctorow:
Ah, my dear friend Ernest Hemingway.
In a list filled with the kings and queens of the long sentence—Virginia Woolf, David Foster Wallace, Malcom Lowry, William Faulkner—you, Ernest Hemingway, are a refreshing break.
Having already read The Sun Also Rises, I know what to expect from this novel. The story focuses on a group of American and British ex-pats who travel from Paris to Spain to go fishing and eventually watch bullfighting. Though I know what’s coming from the standpoint of the story, I am curious if I’m still as fond of Hemingway’s style as I was in college.
Reading Hemingway was one of my first experiences thinking that good writing doesn’t have to be complicated and formal and long-winded. College students, like myself at the time, tend to overwrite, to use flowery words, to overcomplicate their writing in an effort to sound “professional.”
But there’s nothing wrong with short and sweet and simple and casual. In fact, a lot of editors prefer that. More on all that in the coming weeks as I dig into The Sun Also Rises and Mr. Hemingway.
For now, some basic facts about this book and its legendary author:
So there’s a woman who writes in four different notebooks covering four different periods of her life. Each of the notebooks has a different color.
But then there’s a fifth notebook. It’s golden. And in the fifth, golden notebook, this woman, Anna, attempts to tie together all of those periods of her life, as recorded in the other four notebooks.
That’s The Golden Notebook.
The story involves themes of Stalinism, The Cold War, feminism, and the spread of nuclear weapons. Sounds like another light read!
Here are a few facts about The Golden Notebook and its author, Doris Lessing:
Here’s how the Wikipedia entry to Snow Crash opens:
“Snow Crash is Neal Stephenson’s third novel, published in 1992. Like many of Stephenson’s other novels it covers history, linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, religion, computer science, politics, cryptography, memetics, and philosophy.”
Um, okay. It sounds like Bill Bryson might have been thinking of Snow Crash when he wrote A Short History Of Nearly Everything.
I’ve been told that I’ll enjoy Snow Crash—which is my second foray into science fiction on the list—much more than Neuromancer. Let’s hope so, because that bar is pretty low.
The good news is that I’m 30ish pages into the book, and I’m loving it so far. The main character’s name is “Hiro Protagonist.” How can you not love that?
Anyway, here’s a little about Snow Crash and its author, Neal Stephenson:
This one apparently needs some explaining.
This novel is comprised of two parts: The first section is a 999-line poem, written by the fictional poet, John Shade. The second, which is a large majority of the book, is a commentary on the poem written by the fictional Shade’s fictional colleague, Charles Kinbote.
So what we have here is Vladimir Nabokov, whom you might remember from Lolita fame, writing a novel inside a novel, which is more like a poem and a commentary about said poem.
Follow? Me neither.
But we have some time to figure this thing out. In the meantime, let’s look at some quick facts about Pale Fire and its famous author, Vladimir Nabokov.
If I could build a Mount Rushmore of novels, The Great Gatsby would be on it.
When I started the Time list in August 2010, The Great Gatsby was my favorite novel. But, if you’ve followed the blog for a while, you might have heard me mention that I was saving this book for later.
Well, now is later. I’ve been saving it for the halfway point, as a small reward to myself for getting this far. So, today, I begin Book #50: The Great Gatsby. I’ve read the novel four times, so this go-round will be my fifth read of the Fitzgerald classic.
And I must say that it will have an excellent chance at overtaking To Kill A Mockingbird in the top spot of my meaningless and highly subjective rankings.
I just love this novel. But there’s plenty of time for me to write about The Great Gatsby in the next few weeks. For now, let’s take a look at some quick facts about the novel and its author, F. Scott Fitzgerald:
I expect my 49th book, A Handful of Dust, to be a nice break from some of the weighty novels I’ve read recently.
This novel, written by Evelyn Waugh, has two things I like right off the bat. First, it’s short–only 230 pages. Second, it’s satirical, and I love satirical novels like Catch 22.
The story looks to be about a mooch who has an affair with a wealthy married woman–a woman who lives in a massive British estate that sounds similar to Downton Abbey. So I’m interested to see how Waugh works satire into what seems to be a somewhat depressing story. But aren’t they all depressing?
Some quick facts about A Handful of Dust and its author Evelyn Waugh:
This will be my second time through Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man–not to be confused with The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.
I last read the novel back in college, about 13 years ago. And I remember really enjoying Ralph Ellison’s writing style and the experimental style of the novel.
For starters, the protagonist in Invisible Man is unnamed. This is fitting, since the book is a statement on the identity of African-Americans in the early 20th century. It’s a story of searching and trying to fit in amidst a culture that considers you a second-rate citizen, even a sideshow.
Some quick facts about Invisible Man and Ralph Ellison:
Any novel authored by an English gentleman named Ian has to be pretty good, right?
Atonement is one of those novels that has always stayed on the periphery of my reading list. I’ve heard a lot about it, and always thought I’d get around to reading it, but never have.
At first glance, it seems a little sappy and sentimental. But that’s why you read the book. And I know Time wouldn’t include it on the list if it was sappy nonsense.
So here’s a few quick facts about Atonement and its author, Ian McEwan.