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text 2018-04-18 20:27
Reading progress update: I've read 333 out of 333 pages.
Circe - Madeline Miller

I´m not impressed.

 

[Source]

 

It´s the second book written by Madeline Miller I have read and contrary to everyone else (there are tons of five star reviews on goodreads), this book didn´t work for me. It´s not a boring story, it´s just completely bland and uninteresting.

 

 

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text 2018-04-18 06:07
A very different take from Campbell
The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) - Northrop Frye

I purchased this some months ago, and frankly I expected it to be far more dry and academic than the Joseph Campbell works.  So far, though I've really just started, it's far superior.  I'm feeling much more enthusiastic.

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review 2018-04-17 20:12
Ripping off a thousand masks
The Hero With a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell

After the bitter disappointment of The Power of Myth, I wanted to try Joseph Campbell's original work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  I hoped it would be more illuminating than the pretentious nonsense of Campbell/Moyers collaboration.

 

If anything, it was worse.  I managed to slog through about 50 pages before giving up.  There isn't enough time in the world to waste on this.

 

I was expecting an analysis of myths from around the world to show how they fit Campbell's pattern, but what I got seemed like fragmentary stream-of-consciousness ramblings.  Though his "nuclear unit" of story construction made sense, nothing else did.

 

That nuclear unit posits three main parts of a myth or story.  The hero begins in his/her ordinary world, then leaves that world to have some kind of adventure in a non-ordinary world, and finally returns to the ordinary world with some special knowledge or talent or gift that fixes whatever was wrong in the first place.  Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again - that sort of thing.

 

If he had taken that core and expanded it into the more detailed structure of Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Threshold Guardian and so on, I might have felt there was something of value.  But his examples of myths rarely illustrated his premise.  The last one I bothered to read was about the Chinese prince who didn't want to get married, but Campbell ended the chapter without explaining what the point of it was!

 

The other negative for me was the inclusion of dreams, either from Freudian or Jungian psychoanalysis.  First of all, I'm not all that impressed with either Freud or Jung, though Freud really rubs me the wrong way.  But second, and far more important, was that I just don't feel random dreams, taken completely out of context, are a valid foundation on which to build a theory of story structure.

 

A few nights ago, I had a dream that a volcano was opening up under a portion of my house.  In the dream, I was trying to keep certain objects from falling into the volcano, but they were relatively valueless objects.  As I came to the realization that there were far more valuable objects to be saved, and that I did have the means to save them and escape the path of destruction, I exited the house and began to select items to be packed and taken away with me.  As I did so, however, I discovered that someone was cutting down all the trees and big cactus on my property, with the explanation that he was doing so to stop the volcano.  At that point, I woke up.

 

Because I'm aware of the context in which that dream developed, I know that there's not a whole lot of Freudian bullshit involved.  Were the dreams cited by Campbell also taken out of an everyday context?  Not knowing for sure, I just brushed them aside as meaningless.

 

That, of course, made much of the rest of the discussion equally meaningless.

 

The book was definitely not what I expected, and I really didn't find it useful at all as a basis for analyzing story structure.

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text 2018-04-07 16:17
[Book Review] White Fang & Call of the Wild: Why London isn't a good writer.
White Fang - Jack London
The Call of the Wild - Jack London

Well, well, well. Here we have two books that are classics, as well as absolute disappointments. The only reason I ever picked up a Jack London novel is because they are assigned in 7th and 8th grade honors English. And let's be honest, they are terrible. Why they're classics is a mystery to me. I do know that COTW was one of the first really commercial books (besides things like the Bible or etc.) and had lots of positive uproar. However, that was back then. This is now. Writing has evolved, people have changed. This book should NOT be a classic. Books like Dracula or Murder on the Orient Express are creative enough and written well enough to be a good choice to read now. Absolutely none of London's books are this way, I am upset that in the education system, they believe a 170 page novel about a dog/wolf thing that's written terribly is a good thing to assign to the gifted students in exchange for books like The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird, that, in my school, even if you're an honors student, don't read until 10th/11th grade, and by then you aren't being challenged enough. Not that you were to start with, anyways. 

 

Now, in both White Fang & Call of the Wild, the writing is terrible. Sure, London uses some big words and goes into detail of one thing for three whole pages, but it doesn't make any sense! I'm fine with a paragraph of detail for something that's important, but you don't need more than 2-3 sentences to describe a tree, for goodness' sake. If you take out all of the unseeded filler, you're left with a 50 page book, that isn't worth a read anyways. Also, the plot development is terrible and the actions of each character don't seem to have a reason or explanation. It goes from one scene to another with little to no transition. The dialogue, also, is horrendous. I understand that people used to talk like they do in London's novels, and that's not on him, it's more on the people that make the revised editions before sending them out. They leave it there, and it just seems like a bunch of illiterate characters talking. If the people speak like that, why can the dogs think in perfect English?

 

Now, the plots are fine. The development is fine in the beginning, but by the time London gets to the end of the book, you can tell he was done with it. It's rushed with little to no detail, and comes to an abrupt end. A long beginning, short end, and boring middle does not make an acceptable classic book. 

 

Now, with Jack London's history. I know that the books are more lifelike as he actually experienced many of the things he writes about, but he was never an author. His books were so bad that they got rejected for years by many publishers and magazines, until he finally got COTW published. It was a hit, and so was White Fang, but many of the others he wrote never really got popular. Even though they were famous, though, they were not good. Like the last two Divergent novels, or the couple Harry Potter books that didn't quite live up to the name. But anyway, Jack London was never a writer. He even claimed once that he was not good at reading or writing for a while before he actually wrote his first few short stories.

 

Anyway, if you have the choice, I wouldn't read these. They're a snooze-fest. Unless you want to read them because their classics or you actually have enjoyed London's work. Though, some of his short stories are better than his books.

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review 2018-03-30 00:04
White Tears, by Hari Kunzru
White Tears - Hari Kunzru

It was difficult to read the first half or so of this book because the protagonist (Seth) and his best (and only) friend (Carter) are aggravatingly ignorant of their appropriation of black culture. They're even more offensive for thinking they're woke or genuine in their fetishistic consumption of the rarest blues, at least in Carter's case. Seth is less than sympathetic in his own distinct way; he's such a follower that he barely has a personality of his own. As little as I could bear the privileged Carter, Seth is consequently even harder for me to care about given that he follows Carter like a puppy. I don't know what to make of the fact that both have or have had mental health issues. And I don't know what to make of Seth's thing for Carter's sister.

 

I patiently waited for these guys to get some sort of comeuppance. When it came, it was a whirlwind of genres, a mishmash of past and present, a blurring of identities. Formally, stylistically, this novel took off, grabbing me by the collar. It was hard to put down. I hadn't known what to expect at the beginning, which is a gift for a reader. I do think at times the cues or signals were overdone; we could have been better trusted to follow the shifts in time and perspective. But what a ride.

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