I will not put Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (published 1851) on my favorite books list because it’s simply not a favorite novel (I shudder at each description of whale blubber). And yet, I must give Moby-Dick a solid five stars out of five for the rich reading experience it provides. I simply loved reading it. Much as other great works in world literature, such as War and Peace and Hamlet or (maybe) even East of Eden, Moby Dick gives innovative depth and breadth to a majestic subject, creating a universal epic of good and evil in the guise of a novel about something that may otherwise seem insignificant.
Moby-Dick is about much more than a whaling ship’s voyage, the biology of a whale, or even an insane whale-ship captain’s revenge on a whale. Reading Moby-Dick is a cultural experience, and the novel itself is a marvel in the detail Melville provides to create a composite picture of the mid-nineteenth century America. In addition, despite the clear setting (it could not be the same story without the whale hunting and whale fact digressions), the story is a universal one: fate versus choice, good versus evil, sanity versus insanity, God versus man. (more…)
I have not read many gothic novels. The only one I’ve read is Matthew Lewis’ The Monk, which I was not a fan of (thoughts here). Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo (first published 1831) seemed far above The Monk in terms of quality. In addition to the better writing, there was the symbolic centrality of the imposing image of Notre-Dame, the multi-faceted characters, and the balance of the horrific action of the story with the symbolic and romantic resolutions.
Notre-Dame de Paris is often translated with the title The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I don’t like that title as much as the original. Quasimodo, the hunchback of the story, is not the only focal point: the architecture of Notre Dame and the relationship between the two societal outcasts, Esmeralda and Quasimodo, is what drives the novel.
Although much in the beginning of the novel bored me, the action in the last half brought me around again. By the end, I liked it. The novel is firmly in the gothic Romantic tradition: a medieval setting, a wicked monk, outsiders seeking their place in society, attempted rape, horror and murder, and convenient resolutions.
This post contains spoilers of Notre-Dame de Paris. (more…)
As I think everyone knows, The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkein continues where The Fellowship of the Ring left off. The Two Towers is split in two halves, with the first part focusing on the remaining members of the broken fellowship and the second half focusing on Frodo and Sam’s journey. While I had found some delightful things in Fellowship, this book was dark, and it just kept getting darker. I am delaying starting the final book of the trilogy. (more…)
Welcome to week two of the Paradise Lost read-a-long and Milton in May, a month-long celebration of John Milton’s writings. Below, I have some possible discussion questions if you aren’t quite sure what to write for this week’s post or if you want to “discuss” the book with the rest of us.
Contrary to what I wrote in last week’s post, I’ve decided to just keep this read-along to one Linky. That will remain on the first post of the project. I have a link in the upper right hand column of my site (underneath the Milton in May button) so you can find it again easily as the month progresses.
Discussion questions and my thoughts after the jump.
My interest in rereading East of Eden by John Steinbeck was purely personal: reading it the first time was what prompted me to start a book blog in the first place. I enjoyed my reread, mostly because Steinbeck’s writing is so incredible. The themes of good versus evil in human nature still felt universal to me, although I wasn’t as perfectly satisfied on this reread as I was the first time I visited it. East of Eden is a book I’d like to keep rereading at various points in my life. (more…)