I enjoyed Ms O'Connor's short stories as much or more than I've ever enjoyed any short stories. This is a challenging read because there is so much symbolism and depth to her writing. I advise using online resources such as cliffs and sparknotes so the reader doesn't miss anything. Be aware that Ms O'Connor's pen is cruel and prose is very biting. Her stories have quite a bit of "kick" to them. I'll definitely be reading more from her.
Prior to reading this, I had an idea what I was getting into because I watched the youtube clip of the MSNBC interview with the author and I actually made it completely through the entire book. I made it a point to resist the urge to give Mr. Woodard a 1-star review because the first 2/3 or so of the book was interesting and entertaining. I tip my hat to Mr Woodard for teaching me previously unknown facts and a fresh take on US regionalism from our nation's nascent days. Then came the final 1/3 of the book when Mr. Woodard pulled out his political soapbox and began a relentless intense disparagement of his definition of the Deep South. Prior to the latter section of the book, I noted more than a few obvious biased anti-Southern remarks but at least his earlier denigrating remarks were somewhat sparse and cloaked with an attempt at facts, even if the facts were somewhat truncated and skewed. By the last 1/3 or so of his book, the gloves were completely off and in addition to Woodard's antipathy for all things Southern, we get a nice condescending dose of the typical liberal political planks. The author obviously loves all things New England, climate change, abortion (choice), big government, high taxes and secularism to name a few. He obviously dislikes all things Southern United States, corporations, all forms of warfare (all wars in our history were avoidable-yes, Woodard actually wrote that), and all forms of religion but especially Christianity. After reading this, I thank Mr. Woodard for giving me a tour through the liberal Yankee mind but I only hope all of New England or "Yankeedom" as he calls it, doesn't hold such a haughty attitude toward the South. When I've visited New England, more than once, sitting on a barstool, I've heard New Englanders laughingly refer to the South by saying, "The war's not over down there" and I now agree. The Civil War of 1861-1865 rages on, at least in the mind of Mr. Woodard. Hopefully, someday soon, he'll be able to call the social debt paid and his personal statute of limitations reached. The peoples of the South aren’t disappearing; they’re evolving. And so, we hope, is every other form of American.
I had read in several literary forums that SAGN was lesser known but actually a better book than his more famous One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. I have not yet read Cuckoo's Nest (loved the film) but I have to say that SAGN lived up to and exceeded my expectations and I would have to place it amongst the greatest of the modern classics I've ever read. Starting out, the plain stark bare-bones writing style reminded me of Cormac McCarthy, another of my all-time favorites. Kesey has an incredible gift to put his reader inside the minds of all the characters, both protagonists and antagonists and other, so much so that I found myself sympathizing and empathizing with even the alleged bad guys. Combine that with all the symbolism, brilliant characterization and quest for universal truths and you have an incredibly enjoyable read! This is a challenging book because Kesey keeps switching the perspective from 1st person from character to character to 3rd person omniscient. Also, the narrator's voice was very appropriate for the novel. SAGN is easily one of the more rewarding reads I've had the pleasure to experience on audible. I'm off to more literary adventures with Kesey and I'd advise all other avid readers of challenging modern classics to do the same.
This book had been on my to-do list for years and I'm glad to have finally finished it. It's not the greatest or most thrilling WW2 tale I've ever experienced but I did like it. "Once An Eagle", a similar epic written around the same time, had far more depth. The narrator could not have done a better job.
I had been looking forward to reading this book because I've enjoyed Russian authors-Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky etc and IMHO this novel has a place alongside the works of those all-time greats. Darkness is already on many of the short lists of greatest novels of the 20th century and it belongs there. First and foremost, it's a bitter slam at the evils of Stalin's totalitarian regime seen through the eyes of a man inescapably caught in Stalin's spider's web. I loved the narrator's (Frank Muller) voice. I'd already listened to him narrate several Cormac McCarthy novels and the voice was completely appropriate for the harsh, stark, vicious but beautiful prose. A very rewarding book. Time well-spent!
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