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
“If you want to read a book by a man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvelously well, read Appointment in Samarra.” -Ernest Hemingway
That’s pretty high praise from Papa.
And having completed Appointment in Samarra, I must agree. This is a fabulous novel.
I’ve heard Appointment in Samarra called a “Poor Man’s Gatsby,” and I believe that’s a perfect description. Read more
I’ve been looking forward to reading The Sportswriter since the first time I saw its inclusion on the Time list.
At one point in my life, I thought I might want to be a sportswriter some day, until I realized I’d probably be writing about high school lacrosse and women’s softball the first few years of my career, so I decided against it.
But I do read a lot of sports writing. With newspapers, and even magazines to some degree, dying off, I spend a lot of time reading online blogs and sites like Deadspin, SB Nation, and Outkick the Coverage.
But The Sportswriter is set in the 1980s, during a time when newspapers were the predominant way most of us received our information. The story features Frank Bascombe, a failed-novelist-turned-sportswriter in his late 30s—coming off a recent divorce and still dealing with the death of his son.
If you thought Richard Ford simply wrote a novel about sports, you’re dead wrong.
Bascombe is a likeable, brutally honest guy, and he’s one of the most philosophical, introspective narrators I’ve read in a long time, like this passage in which he’s trying to figure out women. Read more
Wow. It “only” took me about two months, but I’ve finally completed the epic known as The Lord of the Rings.
As I’ve said before, I had only read about half the novel before inexplicably putting it down many years ago without finishing. What was I thinking?
The Lord of the Rings is, quite possibly, the best novel ever written.
I don’t say that ironically, and I’m not saying that to troll. I really mean it. But, of course, as is everything on this blog, that’s just my opinion—which is reflected in my rankings.
You know the story, right? Read more
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m not the kind of guy who enjoys reading teenage love stories on my beach vacation, which will be here in a few weeks.
So it’s wonderful timing that I’m wrapping up The Death of the Heart today—just in time to leave it at home when I go on vacation. Won’t The Lord of the Rings be the perfect read for the beach?
I took way too long to finish this book. At first, I thought the novel would be a slog—the opening didn’t exactly give me warm and fuzzies about enjoying The Death of the Heart. But it improved. The novel gets better. Elizabeth Bowen is obviously in her element writing this book. Everything about the story feels natural and unforced. Read more
I don’t know what to do with The Death of the Heart.
It’s a novel that lulls me to sleep, then quickly pulls me back in. It’s a novel with little action and large amounts of character development. I’m still not sure how I’ll rank The Death of the Heart when I review it next week.
If you’re looking for a glowing review of the novel, check out Charlotte Freeman’s take at The Rumpus. She calls The Death of the Heart “the last book she loved,” and has this to say about it. Read more
Red Harvest is a great book.
It’s the type of novel you can sit down and read in a few hours and enjoy every minute. The story is fast-paced and strong and Dashiell Hammett’s writing is on point.
If you haven’t read any of my previous posts about Red Harvest (see them all here), here’s a quick story summary:
The Continental Op is a private detective hired by a millionaire in small-town Montana. This millionaire, Elihu Willsson, wants the Continental Op to come in and clean up a lot of the organized crime activity, including a dirty police force, that has been brutalizing the town for months.
Once the Op gets in town, guess what? You guessed it…all hell breaks loose. Read more