I’ve seen Appointment in Samarra, written by John O’ Hara, compared to The Great Gatsby.
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I consider that extremely high praise–almost impossible-to-meet expectations to put on a novel.
The novel focuses on Julian English, once a member of the social elite in small-town Pennsylvania, and follows his self-destruction.
A few facts about Appointment in Samarra and John O’ Hara: 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
If The Lord of the Rings novel could be summed up in three words, they would be this: “Onward they traveled.”
As you hopefully know, the novel is the most epic adventure ever written (my description).
As I’ve re-read the novel this time around (I’m currently over halfway through The Two Towers), I’ve really grown to appreciate the immensity of the distances these characters travel. I’ve also grown more respect for Tolkien’s writing skill, as he goes way beyond simply saying “they traveled from The Shire to Mt. Doom.”
The novel has an amazing amount of detail, and it’s easy to get lost in some of that detail. So when it comes to the traveling itself, this GIF created by “SiliconeSoldier” and showcased on Reddit is incredible in illustrating just how long their fictional journey took them.
This GIF shows the entire pacing of the novel with one frame per day represented. Read more
I read through your comments on Tuesday’s post in which I gave you the opening to The Death of the Heart and asked for your thoughts on it.
A few highlights: Read more
Today’s kind of a lazy post, but it’s relevant.
Many critics, and even A.S. Byatt herself, have acknowledged Possession is a response to John Fowles’ 1969 novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
So before we jump into Possession, I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the story that provoked A.S. Byatt to write her novel in the first place.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman currently sits at #27 in my rankings of the first 68 books I’ve read from the Time list. Before I read the novel, I thought I wouldn’t like it—thinking of it as a Victorian romance. And it is partly that, but to dismiss it that easily does a great disservice to John Fowles. The man was excellent at his craft.
So instead of me babbling on and on about a book I read nearly three years ago, I thought I’d just repost that review here today. It’s been awhile, so just reading this review again reminded me of why I enjoyed The French Lieutenant’s Woman so much.
And, hopefully, Possession will prove to be as interesting.
I’m tired of reading books about depressed, alcoholic, hopeless twenty-somethings.
I’m just tired of it, man.
I get it. I really do. Your 20s is probably the most volatile, unpredictable decade of your life. It’s a time period that’s easy to write about because it connects with so many people.
We’ve all been there trying to figure out what to do with our lives, trying to figure out what that girl we like is thinking, trying to figure out if we really hate our job enough to quit and pursue something new. For some people, trying not to be drunk all the time.
So I understand why authors like Nathanael West feel led to write about this time period. And I understand why Hemingway wrote about it in The Sun Also Rises or Malcolm Lowry in Under The Volcano or Jack Kerouac in On The Road. But when you put all these books on a list and read them relatively close to each other, the reading gets cumbersome.
Man, movie trailers in the 1970s were all kinds of horrible.
They were cheesy, too long, and with terrible music.
Take a look at this official trailer for The Day of the Locust (released in 1975):