Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Great Book List--book reviews

This summer I posted a page called The Great Book List, which is a list of all the books I would like to have read by next year. Since then, I have read three of those books: Macbeth, The Great Gatsby, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


Macbeth is dark. It is full of murder and horribly unhappy people. It is a Shakespearian tragedy that doesn't give you any characters to like and wish to have a happy ending. However, this darkness is part of what makes it a brilliant play. Unlike most stories, this play is about the villain. Macbeth, along with his wife, is a man who allows bitterness and greed and a lust for power to not only control him, but become him. He falls into temptation, and at first what he is doing horrifies him, but soon he accepts it and eventually it defines him. This is a powerful story. When something becomes part of your life, it becomes a piece of your definition of "normal." In this story, a pattern of destruction and death becomes Macbeth's "normal," and he reaps the consequences of that.

Macbeth may be dark, but it is beautifully written. Here are Macbeth's conclusions near the end of the novel, when the things he has done finally turn against him. 
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
 I don't believe this view of life, but I believe that Macbeth believes it, and that makes it important. Shakespeare gives us a door into this character's head and shows us exactly what it feels like to be completely lost.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby sort of danced by me in a whirlwind of color and noise, like one of Gatsby's parties. There is something important going on beneath the surface, but I forget to find it because I am distracted by the shiny things.

This book has been called a "love letter to the 1920s," but I think the author has already seen through the artifices of Gatsby's hopelessly nostalgic attitude and is trying to lead the reader to the same conclusion. Gatsby is trying to reinvent himself, to write a new past for himself in the present. He is so focused on becoming Gatsby and getting Daisy back, that he doesn't see what is going on beneath the surface. He doesn't see that he doesn't love Daisy, he loves the idea of Daisy with all her sparkle and a voice that "sounds like money."

The last sentence in the novel reflects this attitude of relentless nostalgia: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

While somewhat difficult to understand due to the phonetic dialect, the original unabridged version of this book is worth reading. After a chapter or two, you will get used to the writing style, and the story benefits from being written this way.

There is a lot that happens in this book that I don't fully understand yet, because I went through it so fast. What I do want to talk about is the ending. I had heard that Mark Twain got sick of writing this book and rushed the ending, and this may or may not be true. What the ending does do is make me hate Tom Sawyer. I am not sure what Twain intended by the way he wrote these last chapters, but it left me with an extreme dislike of Tom Sawyer, and a nagging shame for Huckleberry Finn for following him. I cannot decide if their pranks in the last chapter were supposed to seem funny, cruel, or both. I can't find anything funny about the pranks of two boys causing needless suffering for another person, and I think perhaps that was Twain's underhanded jab at other children's literature of the time.

What do you think about the last chapters of Huckleberry Finn?

Any thoughts on the other books I reviewed?


1 comment:

AJsMusicMadness said...

i loved the huckleberry fin. every time i read it the place come alive and i can see what he is doing and hear the funny actsents the people in the book talk in. only really good book can connect to a reader like that. there is a reason its a classic.