Mesa, AZ, United States
*** First a preamble:
Just so you know, this audiobook contains Books 1 -4 of The Once and Future King AND Book #5 (The Book of Merlin). I didn't know #5 was included, but was thrilled to discover it came with the rest.
*** OK, preambulations are done, on with the real review:
I loved it and my two brats (11 & 13) absolutely enjoyed it, even if many of the jokes, the funky anachronistic blending of the Medieval with the Modern, might have floated a bit over their tiny wee heads.
Anyway, I think White perfectly captured the magic, power, fears and the joy of both youth and myth with this retelling of early Arthurian legend. White's theme of power and justice ("Might Makes Right") seem to perfectly capture the political Zeitgiest of now. Perhaps, White like Merlin was just writing through time backwards and wanted to capture the queer contradictions of Imperial Democracy in the global 21st century, but wanted to write it in the 1930s so Disney would be around to animate it (ugh) in the 60s and thus make his point resonate better in the early 21st century.
You might think a novel that basically focuses on a love-triangle (a quadrilateral if you include God), several affairs, a man's struggle between his love for a woman, love for God, love for his best friend, would not hold the interest of a 13 and an 11-year old for long, but this is T.H. White. The characters are so human, so filled with frailties, heroics, and insecurities that White could have written about cooking for 300 pages and my kids would have been rapt from page 1 to the end.
The story turns, about half-way through, solidly to Lancelot. It is impossible to understand Lancelot without looking at Arthur, Guinevere, Elaine & Galahad. And White digresses throughout TO&FK to capture these stories. The middle of the book pivots as Camelot, under Arthur's leadership, undergoes a change from physical quests (Round Table v. Might makes Right) to spiritual ones (Round Table > Grail quest). This change captures/mirrors the dynamic of Lancelot's own story (the vacillation between the physical and spiritual).
Finally, the weight of the conspiracies, the betrayals, the killings, and the expulsions are all there pushing against the King (I love when T.H. White calls Arthur - England) and his faith in man and justice. It just isn't to be. Do I need to hide the ending? Am I going to spoil the book for you? Come now, we are all mostly adults here. Camelot fails, but T.H. White explores the failure almost as beautifully as he does the magic of Camelot. He captures the magic of Camelot by focusing on the humanity of the people. He isn't satisfied with making (or keeping rather) Lancelot, King A, Guinevere, and even Mordred locked up in the stale symbols they often become. The trite shadows of type is not T.H. White's jam. He wants to humanize everybody. He wants to show the motives, the nuances of character that makes the reader LOVE these figures not because they symbolize things like bravery, chivalry, or justice ... but because they remind the reader of elements, times, moods and flaws found buried within. T.H. White started with a fantasy novel, but ended with an exploration of war, humanity, love, and hope.
Look, I'm skeptical of fantasy novels. They aren't my thing. I want literature. I want something that pushes you against the wall of your own head and dares you to think bigger. I think T.H. White was aiming for that -- and holy anachronisms - he nailed it.
I normally put my review of the production of the audiobook at the end. Except for when the production is bad. The production was bad. So, I've not put the review of the production at the end. The production was bad because it sounded like it was a copy of a tape that wasn't the master tape. It sounded like someone used a cheap Walmart microphone and recorded it on tape that had been left in Gertrude Stein's hot Parisian attic, and was trying to salvage the recording by playing the tape in the bathroom and recording it with a Walmart microphone in the bathroom. They used a Walmart microphone and used an old tape and it sounded so bad I couldn't put the production part of the review at the end. I had to put it at the beginning. Because it was that bad.
These stories were certainly interesting. Each of these stories was interesting. Certainly, after reading them, I thought each of the stories by Gertrude Stein interesting. When I read them, I never knew if I could stand them enough to find them interesting. I did, however, stand them and by the end I did find them mostly interesting.
The second story was certainly the strongest. The second story was "Melanctha" and I think it was the strongest. It certainly was the longest. The flow of this novella, although long and repetitive, was still strong. "The Good Anna" was the first story and wasn't as long as the longest story which was "Melanctha". The last story was "The Gentle Lena" which could have been named "the Passive Lena". Everybody bosses Lena around, which makes her passive. That is why it could have been named The Passive Lena. But it was the last story, and Stein called it "The Gentle Lena" and she is the boss of her own book I guess. She wasn't passive about naming the stories in her own book. It was her book.
I didn't hate these stories and found these experimental stories interesting. I just didn't love them. Each of the stories was interesting. The most interesting was "Melanctha". "Melanctha" was the longest, but also most interesting. Perhaps it was the race theme of "Melanctha". Anyway, I'm glad I read these interesting, repetitive stories which I didn't love. I found each interesting. Just not interesting to read again and while I trusted the stories I just couldn't love them, or keep my mind from wandering.
Herman Melville's first book Typee is a blend of creative memoir, cultural commentary, and good story telling. Melville recounts and elaborates on his experiences among the Typee cannibals on the French Polynesian island of Nuku Hiva (Marquesas Islands) in 1842. Typee ended up being Meville's best-selling book during his lifetime, no doubt due to both his skill as a writer mated with his romantic story of life among Polynesian savages.
The book flows nicely and balances between the chasms of cultural superiority & nobel savage worship that can easily dominate these types of books. Reading this made me think of similar types of long-form journalism that catch fire in our day (Junger to Theroux to Conover to Vollmann). While approachable, it isn't Melville's best work, but shows early signs of motifs that would show up later in Moby-Dick, Billy Budd, etc.
"I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all... "
One of my favorite Vonnegut. Top-shelf. Snug and warm next to Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, & Mother Night. The magic of Vonnegut is he develops an idea to the point where -- just as you start believing it::just as you are comfortable in his absuridty -- he kicks you down another Martian rabbit hole.
He doesn't want you sitting and enjoying yourself. He wants you constantly bubbling with that 'da Fu?' look on your face. He wants you to think -- goddammit. He wants you to understand and that means he has to first confuse the hell out of you. But that doesn't mean his rollercoaster ride has to be boring. No no. He is going to zip you forward and sideways so fast you are going think you are close to sickness, except his funky humor and biting satire seems to balm all nausea ad absurdum. Incredible. Genius.
There are points in this book where if Vonnegut had said he was forming a church, I'd join. If he said he was God the lawgiver, I'd reverently lower my eyes. If he said he expected a tithe, I'd buy Vonnegut book. Yessir, I'd go door-to-door seeking converts to his form of absurd and giddy Humanism. Amen, pass the snuff-box.
A set of 10 short stories: early Gibson cyberpunk and sic-fi that anticipate both his SPRAWL and BLUE ANT series. All the Gibson tropes are there just waiting to bud and bloom. Gibson's cyberpunk, dark and messy near-future; his obsession with technology, music, clothing; his uncanny ability to describe and name the bleeding edge where culture and technology blend; his noirish tribalism; his satire; his slick style; his curvy asians. The book is an uneven group of stories that approximate a pimply and adolescent Gibson sitting confidently on a couch ready to hack your future and steal your dated sci-fi pulp.
I liked this character-driven book a lot. Martin is skilled at making those characters you once detested into new favorites and shifting the sands of his rather complicated characters a chapter at a time. I'm not a big fantasy nut, but I've enjoyed 'Game of Thrones' so far. Here is hoping he can continue this course through to a logical conclusion. I think I've got an idea of where he is heading, but I guess we will all see.
A solid Vietnam memoir from one of the best known writers seasoned by the Vietnam war. Things I liked: cover, Plato, Eric as mirror, dialogue, etc. Things I didn't: didn't seem to add much to the combat veteran memoir, repetitious, risk-free, light. Sure it was updated with the particular nuances of the Vietnam experience, but it was rather safe (a bizarre thing to say about a memoir of a combat vet).
Don't get me wrong. I liked it. I appreciated it, and will read/listen to more of Tim O'Brien. I just didn't think this was on par with Robert Graves, Michael Herr, Guy Sayer, Artyom Borovik, Bob Kotlowitz, etc. Good but just not great. I say this realizing I'm reading this 40+ years after it was first published. I allow that I may think the book is safe only because the road of Vietnam war memoirs was built with a helluva lot of O'Brien's own bricks.
This is a novel that should probably be read by everybody (fathers, sons, mothers, daughters) at 18 years and again at 50 years. I'm somewhere in between, but it still enchanted me. 'Fathers and Sons' themes are universal, but also very relevant to Russia in the 1860s (post Emancipation Reform of 1861).
IT is about the struggles between generations. It is is a novel about beauty, love, relationships, power, social etiquitte, etc. The duality of the generations in 'Fathers and Sons' allowed Turgenev to explore the thesis/antithesis of the human condition. Turgenev shows us the gulf separating the polar shores of humanity, but also the expansive beauty of the seas in between.
"The language game is so to say something unpredictable. I mean, it is not based on grounds. It is not reasonable (or unreasonable). It is there—like our life" - Wittgenstein
Once in Jr. High, I was playing a game of rugby (or as close to a game of rugby as you can get weighing 95lbs at a small private school in Provo, UT) and was totally blindsided during the 'game'. There was a moment after I pulled my face out of the dirt where I tasted both blood and clarity. Everything seemed at once to possess a pure obviousness and explode at the same time. Yes. That is the same feeling I got after I put down 'End Zone'. I shouldn't be surprised. I've been nailed by DeLillo before. Many times before. 'Mao II' and 'Libra' both laid me flat. 'White Noise' and 'Underworld' both hinted at, promised some grand apotheosis about life or the world.
'End Zone' is about language and war and men and death. It is about football. But don't get confused because war is not football, only football is football and only war is war. DeLillo wants to play linguistic games at Logos College. He wants to push language across the field. He wants blood in the syntax and grass in the prose. He wants his gladiators speaking prose poems, taking courses in "the untellable", discussing Wittgenstein, or screaming in German. DeLillo wants a university separated from the world. Isolated in Texas. In a space that exists separate from almost everything but football and fat girls. He wants to explore the chants of men. The dialogue of competition. The book could have easily slipped into a silly farce, a parade of prose, an onanistic literary game, but DeLillo comes at it with such subversive energy that he makes you forget who is holding the ball, or why the game even matters.
"So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth". - Revelation 3:16
'How Jesus Became God' is a good packaging of current scholarship on the historical Jesus for the neophyte. The book basically explores how the crucified Jesus transformed into not just the Messiah, but the Lord of all creation. He examines the exaltation of Jesus from an apocalyptic preacher from Galilee into a figure fully equal with God. He looks at how this type of change happened in Greek and Roman culture, in Jewish culture, and how Paul and later disciples of Christ were influential in transforming their crucified prophet into their risen Lord. He also spends a fair amount of time explaining why it is impossible for historians to validate miracles, a person's divinity or specific religious events like Christ's resurrection.
Perhaps, I was just wishing for a bit more meat on the bones of this book or perhaps I was just not that surprised by many of Ehrman's points (He has covered several sections of this book in previous books about early Christianity and Jesus), but I kinda felt like this was just a watered-down repackaging of some of his better, more academic past efforts. Nothing too revelatory or Earth shattering. For me, it was about the same level of writing as Aslan's Zealot. It just seems these books while aiming for a bit of controversy (controversy sells), don't load their books with enough weight. Those who agree with them have already traveled a bunch of this same ground, those who don't agree with them are served a slim dish that seems a bit too facile. Or maybe it was just me.
I liked the prose and liked the execution, but there was still something a bit off. A tooth is missing in time's reverse cog making this Amis story rock rather than roll in reverse. I enjoyed the narrative told backward; extracting the real meaning while reading the meaning back to front is a funky brain trick. I loved having a Nazi doctor at the center of the story. The movement from physical and moral corruption to a form of innocence uncovered a bit more of the lizard brain for me.
The problem, however, is bending this story without a need for infinite folds in time. There is no gliding back with prose. There are only jumps back with glides forward. Amis is forced to skip back in time, translate, and then relate the narrative forward. Again and again and again. It was a bit like walking the dog with a yoyo. You are unspooling the story one direction, but the narrative SAH|HAS to keep spinning in a reverse direction. The skips are necessary, but still disruptive to the narrative. Anyway, I liked it. It was a good thought exercise, just not great literature. A minor experiment from a very good contemporary writer.
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