Book 395: Tropic of Capricorn – Henry Miller

Miller, Henry - Tropic of CapricornI didn’t think it was possible, but I liked this one even less than Tropic of Cancer. Seriously, I was in no way a fan of this book. The amount of raunchy sleazy descriptions in Tropic of Capricorn, if possible out weight those in the first novel.

The only thing I can truly say I’m grateful for is that I got it off my shelf where it’s languished since the 2010 Boston Book Festival (it was the last one!). It also counts toward my Classics Club list so yay for that too!

I can’t even pretend it’s hard to say why I didn’t like this book, it really was just too much sex, misogyny, sexual assault and crass language. When you add in the stream-of-consciousness I’m surprised I even got through the book. It’s no wonder the book was banned in America (Wikipedia link) for 30 years. I don’t believe in book banning or censorship, but this really tested my limits.

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Book 390: The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Plath, Sylvia - The Bell JarThis is one of those books that has so much umph in the cultural milieu that it’s a wonder I’ve never read it before. I squeezed it in just in time this month to get a podcast recorded to be released at the end of the month. If you’re in the Boston area and you want to record one let me know! :-D But, more importantly than podcasting, this book counts as the 43 book of my Classics Club journey. (See, I told you I was still chipping away). I’m so far off target it’s not even funny, but I’m glad that I’m still occasionally reading from my list.

Let’s start with the big to-do about this novel. Maybe it’s not that much of a to-do, but it felt like one. I still don’t know how much of this novel to believe is fiction. It’s very clearly labeled as fiction and yet it is very clearly Plath’s own personal story. I mean her mom wrote a letter to the American publishers saying these are real people and real stories thinly veiled as characters! There is one point where I couldn’t help but laugh because Plath writes Esther, the main character, writing a novel about a character doing the same thing. HOW META CAN YOU GET?! This is the same story being told by three different people all of whom are telling/experiencing the same story.

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Book 369: Symposium – Plato

Plato - SymposiumI understand how important this work is, you know, history and stuff (hello sarcasm), but there is no need for the introduction to be roughly half the length of the entire work! Seriously, by time I actually got to the work which I would say is about 60 pages long, I’d read 30 pages and knew almost the entire story! Whoever wrote the introduction quoted almost all of it.

Mostly this book brings back the time in my first year of undergrad where I thought I wanted to study Ancient-Medieval history and then I scrapped by with my worst grade ever in my Greek history class and spent the next three-and-a-half years trying to make up for it and improve my GPA. On the plus side, this book counts towards my Classics Club reading list and I’m slowly chipping away. Finishing this, I’ve now passed the 40 books mark (41/100) and I’m nearing the halfway point. I’m behind schedule, but I threw the schedule out the window ages ago.

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Book 368: Anthem – Ayn Rand

Rand, Ayn - AnthemGoing into Ayn Rand’s Anthem I had very little “real” knowledge of her, her writing or her politics. Everything I know about her is word-of-mouth and I’m sure exaggeration. I have no plans to change that. If I write something incredibly wrong please someone point it out, I’m just writing about my response to this story as a piece of literary fiction. And that response is wow.

I’m not sure why Rand’s masterpieces Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead get all the credit when this is a big piece of work in such a tiny package. I mean Rand was writing about post-apocalyptic dystopias before it was cool. She was contemporaries with Huxley and their bleak views  really must’ve inspired modern-day writers or maybe I’m just seeing connections where I want to see them. Either way, I would be shocked to find that the likes of Atwood, Collins and Orwell to name a few hadn’t read this work.

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Book 359: Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Part 2)

Cervantes, Miguel - Don QuixoteI did it! I finally finished! After almost exactly a month to the day that I started the infamous Don Quixote I finished it. I recapped Part 1 last week because I knew I would struggle to remember everything in it due to how long it took to just read that part but now I’m ready to recap Part 2!

I thoroughly enjoyed Part 2 of Don Quixote. I didn’t enjoy it for the same reasons as I enjoyed Part 1, but it was as great. I think the biggest difference is Cervantes, if possible, was even MORE aware of his works impact on culture and literature. He took the jibes and teasing in Part 1 and turned them into full-blown sarcasm and satire in Part 2. I think a lot of this is in direct response to the “fake Don Quixote,” published before he could release Part 2 and I talk about that in my Reading Spain, AKA an Homage to Miguel de Cervantes post (about half way through under the Biblioteca Nacional Museo section).

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Book 359: Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Part 1)

Cervantes, Miguel - Don QuixoteAfter slogging my way through the first half of this infamous book I decided to break my response into two parts. (Click here for Part 2.) This wasn’t planned, obviously, but coming in at 982 pages it may as well be two books, so I figured why not. (I’m still only going to count it as one book though.) I’ve split this for two reasons: I doubt I’ll remember the first half by time I finish the second and I have so much to talk about related to Miguel Cervantes and Spain, Madrid in particular, it just makes sense.

I first read portions of Don Quixote in my high school Spanish class. It was one of the only works that we read in English and in Spanish. I don’t remember the overwhelming majority of it. The only part I do remember is what has become so much a part of the modern psyche, “tilting at windmills” (Wikipedia link) that I can’t even say for sure it’s from reading the book or just from hearing it so often. It’s sad, but that’s all I remember. What’s interesting is how much more of an analytical reader I’ve become and how I took so much more appreciation from the novel’s absurdity and Cervantes’ critiques on novels and literature in general.

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Book 358: The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka

Kafka, Franz - The MetamorphosisThis isn’t the first Kafka I’ve read. I read Amerika way back in 2011 and my opinion is pretty much the same: the man is a bit weird but he writes well.

I can, with utter confidence, say I have no idea what in the hell I just read. I mean, I know exactly what the words said and can tell you the story pretty much verbatim, but as to the meaning behind it, I haven’t got a clue. (Don’t worry, I’m going to look it up in a minute and see if it in anyway makes sense to me.)

I honestly thought it was some sort about sickness and loss of health, but no one seems to agree on that. There was a lot of talk about dependence and the family needing to learn how to care for themselves and that his metamorphosis resulted in the family being more productive and less lazy. Honestly, I don’t really know.

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