Somehow, my thoughts on A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (1929) were never recorded! I finished it quite a few weeks ago. As a novel to enjoy in my free time, A Farewell to Arms fell short. However, as a novel that perfectly captures the era in which it was written and the subtlety of its message with masterful writing, A Farewell to Arms certainly has its place. It is well deserving of its classic status, even though I personally can’t say I was a fan. (more…)
James Fenimore Cooper created an American heritage in his historical fiction novels of the American frontier. For that reason alone I would be glad to say I’ve finally read one of his works. The Last of the Mohicans (first published in 1826) is a romanticized story of the dying days of the Native American culture. Taking place during the French and Indian Wars (also called the Seven Years’ War), The Last of the Mohicans places a few Americans in the midst of a forest full of blood-thirsty Indians. Only with the help of the all-American hero, Natty Bumpo called Hawkeye, do the Americans have any chance of making it through the wilds of America alive. (more…)
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson (Simon and Schuster, 2003) is a fantastic portrait of a complex man. I have always loved Ben Franklin (ever since I read Ben and Me by Robert Lawlor as a child). Reading Isaacson’s biography helped me to see why I liked it him so much: he was, in general, a likeable man.
When I was in high school, my American literature class studied F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (published 1925) for more than a month. After we read it, we read and discussed critical essays, we got in groups and planned papers, and then each of us wrote a paper that was at least five pages about the novel. It was quite an experience. Five pages for a high school student is quite long.
I liked the book. I ended up studying English in college so I got to write plenty more critical analyses of novels. Yet, I haven’t recalled a deep and abiding love for The Great Gatsby. Maybe because we spent too long on it? Reading it this week, however, was a true joy. (more…)
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing in Tender is the Night (published 1934) is impressive. He writes complex sentences with incredible fluidity and rich vocabulary. This seems to give each sentence, each paragraph, and therefore each page a sense of life. Reading Fitzgerald is an exercise in appreciating the complexities and the beauties of the English language. Since I listened to part of the book on audio, I found that as I slowed down my reading, I better appreciated his writing.
However, to be completely honest (because this blog is a record of my honest impressions of what I’m reading), I finished reading Tender is the Night and thought, “Well, what was the point of that?” Even after discussing the book for more than an hour with my book group, I feel no closer to understanding. Although the writing is delicious and satisfying, the characters he creates are nearly unbearable. The story is billed as his most autobiographical, and it is a deeply psychological novel, with occasional action to drive the characters’ inner development.
Tender is the Night is the story of one man’s downfall from greatness into self-absorption, as he loses the drive and the ability to succeed. My problem was that I never felt like Dick Diver was the fantastic man others believed him to be. I felt that he fell from a rather short distance: he just didn’t realize how mediocre he was from the beginning. My book group all seemed to disagree, however. Whether or not Dick was a fallen hero, though, Dick’s story failed to move me to empathy. I wonder what I missed that may have allowed me to really delve in to this classic.