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 365: The Brontë Project – Jennifer Vandever

Vandever, Jennifer - The Brontë ProjectI’m not sure what it is about Brontë fan-fiction, but they’re just not as whimsical as the Austen fan-fiction. Looking at the subject matters and general ambiance of the works and the author’s lives it is fairly obvious, but when you think about it the options for fan-fiction are limitless. I picked this book (Amazon link) up in late 2012 and have finally gotten around to reading it.

The only other Brontë fan-fiction I’ve read include Solsbury Hill and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë and they were both a bit ho-hum. I did enjoy the vilification of Charlotte in Michael Thomas Ford’s Jane Fairfax trilogy (here, here and here), but that could be the problem. Emily and Anne died so early and Charlotte had so much time to cultivate/purge their images in society that it’s all about Charlotte and not the rest of the family. (“What’s more, she [Charlotte] has become adept at spinning her own legend and constructing her image before the public.” (59) – and I would even argue spinning Emily and Anne’s images, obviously). Even this novel, whose main character, Sara, is in love with Wuthering Heights ends up being predominantly about Charlotte.

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Book 362: Mansfield Park – Jane Austen

Mansfield Park - Jane AustenLucky for you I’ve re-read this for our Jane Austen Book Club, so you get to hear about it again, almost exactly three years after I last read it.

Following Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813) this was Austen’s third published novel in 1814 and it is a clear shift away from the whimsy and light previous novels. I talk about this in my last response, but I wonder if this has to do with feedback from the first two novels or if it’s her own personal experience and maturation as an adult. We already know that when Austen published Emma, her fourth work, in 1815 that she was comfortable with sassing her critics. She openly says at the start of Emma that she’s writing a character NO ONE can dislike, because so many people disliked Fanny, or Fanny’s decisions.

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Book 348: In Youth Is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House – Denton Welch

Welch, Denton - In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather's HouseThe publisher, Open Road Integrated Media, reached out to me with this book as I’d previously read Jane Bowles’ Two Serious Ladies, and she is even mentioned in this work.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hesitant at first as Bowles’ work was very well written but I just didn’t like the characters. Thankfully, Welch’s characters were a bit more accessible for me. This is two shorter stories so I’ve separated my response into two parts. The publisher provided a copy of this book and I received no compensation for my honest opinion.

The one over-arching them the two pieces have in common is the idea of sexuality, specifically homosexuality, before it was commonly talked about and/or accepted. I tried (aka did a brief google search) to find out about Welch’s sexuality, but again this was a long time ago before our out and proud mantras of today. Welch died young, he was only 33, and there is only speculation outside of his written works which in today’s society seem pretty explicit. Regardless, I enjoyed both of these snippets of the past for completely different reasons.

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Book 341: Funny Girl – Nick Hornby

Hornby, Nick - Funny GirlThe only other Hornby I’ve read is High Fidelity (the film adaptation was meh). And I loved the film adaptation of About A Boy, so I wasn’t sure where this novel would go. I hadn’t planned on reading it, but one of my favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour, announced they were going to do an episode a few months ago so I put it on hold and timed it almost perfectly to listen! (I missed the exact episode by a little less than week.)

I think the podcast hit the nail on the head when they talked about the story being more focused on “the show [Barabara (and Jim)] rather than the funny girl of the title, Barbara/Sophie. But what Hornby didn’t do, was show us the show; he only ever referred to specific gags, situations or dialogue. Someone on PCHH said it should’ve been called “The Show” and I can’t agree more. It would be a better title and I would definitely have chosen to read it if that were the title too!

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Book 336: A Cold Legacy (The Madman’s Daughter #3) – Megan Shepherd

Shepherd, Megan - A Cold LegacyI’m still torn on this novel. It’s been almost a week since I finished it. The response was delayed due to not knowing how to respond to the novel, but also my having to fly down to NC for family matters. On the plus side I got to visit Highland Books again, which the author’s parents own and run. If you check out the website, you can see her signing books in the shop.

I found it frustrating and satisfying. Most of this had nothing to do with the novel itself, but with the time between this novel and Her Dark Curiosity. I loved it and The Madman’s Daughter when I first read them, but I couldn’t remember enough of the details to truly enjoy this novel. Maybe this just means I’m getting old, but I’ve avoided starting any new series until it is either completely finished or it’s a long enough series I can re-read.
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