Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thoughts: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton sat on my shelf for months, before I finally decided to read it. I hesitated, because I own the movie tie-in edition with Michelle Pfeiffer’s mouth half-open in ecstasy on the cover.

The novel is about Archer Newland, a young man from one of the “respected” families in Old New York. Archer is newly engaged to May Welland, a beautiful but oh-so-boring girl, and generally looking forward to spending the rest of his life attending dinner parties and going to the opera. The return of Countess Olenska, May’s cousin, shakes up Archer’s perfectly ordered life, forcing him to re-examine the New York Society he willingly conforms to.

I hated Archer Newland with a fierce passion—for his indecision, his weakness, his utter inability to do ANYTHING—but I saw myself in him at the same time. Fate trapped him in a loveless marriage, but he could have done something to save himself—if only he was brave enough to face the consequences. This book showed me how doing the right thing—or maybe life in general—can render people utterly helpless at times, how fate and our own actions can force us to sacrifices our dreams.

And The Age of Innocence made my inner romantic bloom and die all over again. There’s a scene where Archer Newland tells Ellen Olenska that he keeps forgetting her face, because “each time she happens to him all over again.” Holysweetjesus. How can you possibly resist a line like that? There’s another scene where Archer looks at Ellen’s figure in the distance, telling himself that he’ll leave if she doesn’t turn around. I think that scene was a wonderful metaphor for Archer’s views on life in general. He was too convinced of fate’s mastery over him that he never thought of actually doing anything.

By now, you can probably tell that I absolutely loved this book. And the ending? If you’ve read The Age of Innocence, sit down and grab a virtual cup of tea or coffee, because I really, really need to talk to someone about it. Was it insane? Did Archer just submit to fate all over again, or was there something heroic in what he did? Please tell me what you think through the comments. *Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.*

Rating: 5/5

P.S.: Ethan Frome’s ending had this same effect on me. Oh, Edith Wharton, how can you so effortlessly reduce me to a bumbling mass of nerves?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thoughts: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

I’ve never truly made up my mind about the term ‘modern classic.’ For me, classics are books that have stood the test of time, so that’s the main reason why I view the term with a bit of suspicion. Books like The Book Thief and Atonement, however, force me to reexamine my views.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides is one of those books commonly touted as a modern classic. Told from the point-of-view of an unnamed narrator, the book chronicles the lives of the Lisbon girls, without actually going inside the Lisbon girls’ heads. The story is pieced together from neighbors’ testimonials, diary entries, notes, and other jagged fragments of the Lisbon girls’ lives.

To be honest, I still haven’t made up my mind if this book is a ‘modern classic’ or not. It certainly seems to have all the requirements for a ‘modern classic.’ The sense of tragedy pervading the almost-mythical Lisbon girls? Check. The excellent use of magic realism? Check. I just feel like I’m way out of my league on this one, because I don’t have that many literary fiction titles under my belt.

I was very impressed by the prose. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Jeffrey Eugenides makes writing good fiction look easy. His writing swings effortlessly from a normal teenage boy’s observations to stark poetry that’s heartbreakingly beautiful. There are so many little details in the book that I absolutely loved, like the fingerprints in a tub of Vicks or the way the Lisbon girls sit Indian-style on a seesaw.

The Virgin Suicides feels like one of those novels I should love, but don’t. In fact, it took me over two months to finish this book, and, by the time I reached the final chapter, I just wanted to get things over with. I’m pretty sure it’s just me, though, since I don’t have a very good relationship with literary fiction.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Am Speechless Friday

This is one of those posts that don't require actual words.

"What was God thinking when he created a guy this handsome? He wasn't a gift to womankind, he was a torture device." — Janette Rallison

For more pictures of hot guys reading books, click here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Gold That Glittered by O. Henry

A story with a moral appended is like the bill of a mosquito. It bores you, and then injects a stinging drop to irritate your conscience. - O. Henry (The Gold That Glittered)

I read my first O. Henry short story when I was about ten or eleven, so I’ve gotten used to the surprise endings of his short stories. That’s kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it? Being prepared for surprises? But that’s exactly how I feel about O. Henry’s short stories. It’s like I’m already expecting a punch, but I don’t know where it’s going to hit.

In The Gold That Glittered, General Falcon of Colombia travels to New York to buy arms for a revolution. Mr. Kelley, a swindler who immediately wins the general’s trust, hatches a plan to fool the general into giving him the money. Mr. Kelley and even General Falcon, however, never expected the appearance—interference would be more accurate—of the blonde Madame O’Brien.

The Gold That Glittered is different from any other O. Henry short story I’ve ever read, and I think that’s because of General Falcon. This guy is self-assured, confident, and na├»ve all at the same time. He speaks in broken English, so you never really know what he’s trying to say, much more what he’s thinking. I think the mystery that shrouds him is what makes him interesting as a character. I didn’t really get to know him, but I think that was deliberate on O. Henry’s part.

And the ending? If you’ve read other O. Henry short stories before this one, it’s not as surprising as you probably expected. There were little clues, and I was just waiting to see if I was right. The Gold That Glittered was definitely an enjoyable read, and I lay all the blame on General Falcon and his misled quest for Winchester rifles.

You can read it here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Walt Whitman's Niece

I'm pretty sure I've talked about my complete adoration for John Green before, but, in case you missed it, he is one of my FAVORITE WRITERS. EVER. I'm still keeping my eyes peeled for a copy of An Abundance of Katherines, because, for some unfathomable reason, bookstores around here don't stock it. *Shakes fist at the incompetence of local bookstores.*

Anyway, I read Paper Towns a couple of months ago, and Green mentioned a song by Billy Bragg & Wilco entitled Walt Whitman's Niece. Being a Literature major, the song title immediately made me giddy. See? This is why I love John Green. Aside from being an amazing writer, he also has great taste in music.

I listened to the song for a while, but then something occurred to me. I own a blog read by people who love books. Uh-huh.

So, for you lit geeks everywhere, here is Walt Whitman's Niece:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thoughts: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Goodness gracious, was this book intimidating or what? Yes, I am aware that I probably sound like your seventy-five-year-old grandmother who knits you pastel sweaters for Christmas. But I digress. I’m supposed to be talking about Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front which collected dust on my bookshelf, until I finally manned up and read it.

This book is about Paul, a nineteen-going-on-twenty-year-old German solider, and his experiences on the front during World War I. Here’s the back blurb: This is the testament of Paul Baumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army of World War I. they become soldiers with youthful enthusiasm. But the world of work, duty, culture, and progress they had been taught breaks into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

I shied away from this book because I view myself as a Jane Austen kind of girl, and All Quiet on the Western Front screams ‘DEPRESSING WAR BOOK’ from ten feet away. Want to know what the funny thing is? I absolutely loved All Quiet on the Western Front, and it just goes to show how classics never fail to surprise me. Yes, it definitely falls under the ‘DEPRESSING WAR BOOK’ category, but it’s also funny, poignant, and so unbelievably BEAUTIFUL at the same time.

This book actually hit me on a personal level. Paul is twenty-years-old, and I just turned twenty earlier this year. He has to worry about surviving, and not getting hit by a stray bullet in the trenches. My biggest worry, on the other hand, is not spending my entire paycheck before the end of the month. Sometimes, I also worry about what I’ll wear the next day (don’t judge me). All Quiet on the Western Front really put things into perspective, and—once again, don’t judge me—I was crying by the time I turned the final page.

In conclusion, GO AND GET A COPY OF THIS BOOK. It is a wonderful commentary on the human experience, and all that other fancy schmancy stuff. Right now, I’m looking at my to-be-read pile, and lamenting the lack of depressing war books, a genre I previously abhorred and stayed away from like the plague.

Rating: 5/5

By the way, have you read this book? If you have, what did you think? Also, how do you pronounce Remarque? LOL.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I'm Alive: The 2nd Edition


Hello? Is anyone still out there?

I know, I’ve been a very, very bad blogger. I disappeared again without leaving a note, and you guys probably wondered if I got trapped in a pyramid in Egypt or something. Kidding, my life isn’t that exciting. *Ducks head in shame.*

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I started my first job a couple of months ago. It took me a really long time to adjust, and I decided to focus on that for a while. Anyway, since I don’t have so much free time anymore, there are going be a few changes in this blog.
  1. Only one review a week. – Hopefully, I’ll be able to review more books, but one is my no-pressure goal. If I review a book week, that’s great. If I don’t, I don’t have to beat myself up about it.
  2. I’ll return all of your comments on weekends. – You guys are, like, the best commenters ever. I appreciate all your comments. They’re all so smart, and point out things about books I never would have noticed otherwise. I also love how my readers and fellow bloggers interact with each other in the comments section of Your Move, Dickens, and I’ve missed that sooo much. I’m definitely going to return all of your comments, but only on the weekends. So, I’m sorry if I don’t get back to you ASAP. :)
The good news is: I’m back! Wow, I have 103 followers now?!? Why didn't I notice that before? Hello, new readers. I'm so glad to meet you. 

So, hi. How have you all been doing? Did I miss something in the literary world? Did Jonathan Franzen get a new pair of glasses? Heh. Heh.

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