Generally speaking, western civilization is fascinated with wealthy people—especially dysfunctional wealthy people.
That’s why reality stars like the Kardashians are so popular. That’s why television series like Downton Abbey have such a large following. And that’s why Brideshead Revisited is such a popular and intriguing novel.
What is it about rich people that we’re so fascinated about? Well, I guess it’s their money.
Have you ever been to a restaurant that gives you a palate cleanser?
It’s usually a sorbet, or maybe it’s a drink, like warm tea, to cleanse your palate and prepare it for the next course.
After Naked Lunch, I needed a clean, straight-forward novel. I needed a novel without violent, graphic sex, pedophilia, and heroine use. I needed a light, short story with decent, somewhat coherent characters.
For me, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was a perfect palate cleanser, and it came at the perfect time. Because of that, I might have enjoyed the novel a little more than I normally would have. Read more
I need a vacation.
Naked Lunch is, without a doubt, the most tortured reading experience I’ve ever had. After about 110 pages, I finally just started skimming the novel for the final 100 pages or so.
That sounds like hyperbole. But, no, it’s truly a brutal novel to read. I could barely stomach it.
I’ve already shared a passage from Naked Lunch with you—you know, the one I called the most vile passage I’ve ever read. I won’t re-post it here, in an effort to make sure my blog doesn’t show up on some kind of watch list.
William Burroughs openly admits to not remembering having written Naked Lunch. He wrote it over the course of several years, while binging on heroin. I’ve never taken heroin (true story), so I can’t attest to how one might write while on heroin, but I would imagine Naked Lunch represents the heroin-addicted mind quite well.
Story? Nope. Plot? Nope. Themes? Not much. Characters? Not really.
In Naked Lunch, Burroughs pretty much explains how the novel was written through one of his characters: Read more
I want to say awesome things about Housekeeping.
I want to tell you how much I loved the novel, how much the characters moved me, and how engaged I was by Marilynne Robinson’s story.
But I can’t.
If I had to describe Housekeeping in one word, it’s this: Dull.
Sorry to those of you who love this novel, but I could simply never engage with this story. I’m not saying Housekeeping didn’t have its high points, many of which I’ve shared with you in other blog posts.
For example, I still love this passage. Read more
Finally, it’s done.
I don’t recall taking this long to read a novel in quite some time. I previewed A House for Mr. Biswas on December 9 and I’m reviewing it today. That’s nearly two months.
This is a dense novel. It’s a very good, well-written novel, but it’s a dense novel. I’d compare it to drinking a stout. You don’t sit down and chug a stout, or you’re going to have serious problems, like bloating–and maybe vomiting. You have to drink it in small doses. Read more
Confession: I never got into Lucky Jim like I expected to.
This was a novel I looked forward to since I first learned its premise. Lucky Jim is a short satirical novel. But despite its brevity, I took over a month to read it.
I just couldn’t ever “get into” Lucky Jim. I’d sit down to read and lose interest after about 10 pages. For a 250 page novel, that’s a lot of short reading spurts, which makes it difficult to stay in tune to a novel and its story.
But, finally, I finished the novel, and I report back to you today. Lucky Jim was mildly entertaining, somewhat dry, and somewhat reminiscent of Anthony Powell’s writing style (you might remember him from the dreadful A Dance To The Music of Time).
I’ll give it a C. Read more
As you probably know by now, The Confessions of Nat Turner is loosely based on a true story. And I use “loosely” in the true sense of the word. Very few facts were known about Nat Turner’s life, so William Styron took a lot of liberty in filling in those gaps.
The story is about a massive slave revolt that took place in 1831 in Virginia. Nat Turner was an extremely smart, self-educated, seemingly mild-mannered, polite slave who, after years of abuse, felt led by God to eventually murder as many white people as possible. He recruited a few dozen other slaves and eventually killed 55 white people over the course of two days.
The story is riveting, and Styron is creative in how he approaches telling it. He jumps back and forth between Nat’s confession to his lawyer and the events Nat is describing—his childhood, the different slaveowners he worked under, his “vision” from God, and ultimately the details of recruiting other slaves and the rebellion itself. Read more