Book Book Review, Title A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Author Flannery O'Connor, Rating 3.0,
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories
Within Flannery O'Conner's short story collection, A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories, a good man is not just difficult to find, but impossibly so. Thank God I am not Flannery O'Connor. I would not trade her ability to tell a story, and she was uncommonly good in some ways, for her brutal and dismissive view of the world. Harshness, of circumstance and character, formed her viewpoint; what is also redeeming found little place in her stories. It appears in O'Connor one can only find redemption outside of humanity, and that is dispensed grudgingly, with the great violence of the Old Testament God.
Book Book Review, Title Heart Of Darkness, Author Joseph Conrad, Rating 5.0,
Heart Of Darkness
In Joseph Conrad's classic novella, Heart of Darkness, the sailor Marlow serves as the author's version of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, compelled to tell his story of conscience to whatever audience he finds. The story he tells is indeed dark, and indeed about the heart, albeit mostly the lack thereof. Conrad takes apart the European colonial enterprise, particularly the carving-up of Africa in the nineteenth century, and strips bare all of the tales of adventure from those times and places, along with the high-flown language of imperialism which was used to mask the utter barbarity of the undertaking.
Book Book Review, Title The Sot-weed Factor, Author John Barth, Rating 4.0,
The Sot-weed Factor
The Sot-Weed Factor is a satirical tour-de-force with so much going on that I could hardly follow it all. The style is bawdy, witty, and often funny, a full-fledged imitation of a 17th century novel, complete with the full English vocabulary of the times, which by itself is a welcome challenge to parse. It has been described as a picaresque novel, and the main character is Eben Cooke, an over-educated and under-employed poet and virgin, a Candide-like character constantly bewildered by the world, swept along by events, too curious to make a decision about anything.
Book Book Review, Title The Things They Carried, Author Tim O'Brien, Rating 4.0,
The Things They Carried
O'Brien's Vietnam combat experience and facility as a writer helped to illuminate the pervasive fear he and other combat veterans experienced, and the resulting distortions it had on their behavior. I found it difficult and compelling reading. It is a set of related vignettes, short-story-like, that explore the short bursts of violence and the long periods between fighting that weighed upon the soldiers of this combat infantry platoon. The loss of a comrade produced deep and long-lasting emotional effects for these men, including fantasies inspired by perhaps mis-placed guilt: 'If I only had done this, my comrade would still be alive.'
Book Book Review, Title The Big Nowhere, Author James Ellroy, Rating 2.0,
The Big Nowhere
I decided to read one of James Ellroy's gritty L.A. noir detective novels. His Black Dahlia and L.A. Confidential were both made into films, the latter a very good one. Unfortunately, The Big Nowhere turned out to be not just gritty, but pornographically cruel and soulless.
Book Book Review, Title The orchardist, Author Amanda Coplin, Rating 3.5,
This is a well-structured novel of grief and solitude and of the damage of indifferent manipulation and violence, balanced against the friendship and care that can heal. The author depicts the inner life of people who are mostly isolated, via the point of view of an orchardist, as lonely, sometimes peaceful, and sometimes self-delusional or unaware.
Book Book Review, Title The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, Author Benvenuto Cellini, Rating 4.5,
The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini
Benvenuto Cellini was a master Florentine goldsmith and sculptor who lived and worked during the time of the High Italian Renaissance, and was also, by his lights, tougher and craftier than anyone around him, could take on many men with a sword and live to tell the tale, was a great lover, and so on. His is the most ebullient autobiography I have read, and so wonderful, and so full of life!