Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I've Been Reading Part II

The Fountainhead
Ayn Rand has been on my to-read list for years. As I read, I found myself frustrated by the fact that none of the characters appealed to me; Howard Roark, Dominique Francon, Ellsworth-- they are all really truly horrible people. The heartless philosophy! The endless politics! Well, it was a little overbearing. And then, one day, I understood it (finally!). The Fountainhead is a beautiful book. It's terrible in certain ways-- powerful and intimidating and incredibly frustrating. But about halfway into it, it literally changed the way I saw the world, and any book that can do that is worth reading.

The Hobbit
This too is a book I've always meant to read. I've read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I must say I prefer those books over the Hobbit. However, it was a fast read and it was actually extremely funny. Bilbo is often in cold places, and he is also very often wet. I couldn't stop shivering! I recommend reading it in bed, in the bath, next to a fire, or somewhere very warm.

Arden of Faversham
This is an extremely interesting play about a woman in the early 15th century who murders her own husband. Though definitely not as eloquent as Shakespeare, it was well-written. I also delighted in the characters Shakebag and Black Will, who made me laugh out loud. This play didn't take more than three hours to read, and it was surprisingly graphic. It's a story violent enough for an episode of CSI, so it's morbid enough even for me.

The Book Thief
I was fortunate enough to finish this jewel of a book at home where I could cry my eyes out in privacy. An interesting story with an unlikely narrator. Slightly predictable outcome but profoundly beautiful nonetheless.

The Merry Wives of Windsor
All I can say is this: I love Shakespeare. This play had me laughing out loud. If Queen Elizabeth loved Falstaff enough to request his presence in another play, I think anyone would be hard-pressed not to want more. It made me wish my days consisted of scheming up pranks to play on fat old knights too.

The Hunger Games
I only allow myself a narrow taste of popular fiction because
1. I go through them way too fast and
2. If I read too much I'll start thinking like a lovesick teenager.
Despite this, I ate this book up just like I knew I would. It's as mesmerizing as Twilight without the vampires. I haven't read the entire trilogy, but am eagerly anticipating borrowing them and allowing my time at work to fly by while I read them.

The Jew of Malta
I am of the firm conviction that, if he had lived, Christopher Marlowe would have given Shakespeare a run for his money. I mean... with a play like Dr. Faustus under his belt, how he could he not? This play is decidedly anti-Semetic and simultaneously anti-Christian. Marlowe seems to be against religion period, especially in his formation of Barabas, the unbelievably evil Jewish protagonist. I love this quote, look at this:

As for myself, I walk abroad o' nights,

And kill sick people groaning under walls:

Sometimes I go about and poison wells;

And now and then, to cherish Christian thieves,

I am content to lose some of my crowns,

That I may, walking in my gallery,

See 'em go pinion'd along by my door.

Being young, I studied physic, and began

To practice first upon the Italian;

There I enrich'd the priests with burials,

And always kept the sexton's arms in ure 80

With digging graves and ringing dead men's knells:

And, after that, was I an engineer,

And in the wars 'twixt France and Germany,

Under pretence of helping Charles the Fifth,

Slew friend and enemy with my stratagems:

Then, after that, was I an usurer,

And with extorting, cozening, forfeiting,

And tricks belonging unto brokery,

I fill'd the gaols with bankrupts in a year,

And with young orphans planted hospitals;

And every moon made some or other mad,

And now and then one hang himself for grief,

Pinning upon his breast a long great scroll

How I with interest tormented him.

But mark how I am blest for plaguing them;—

I have as much coin as will buy the town.

But tell me now, how hast thou spent thy time?

I mean, really? Kill sick people groaning under walls?
Despite his preposterous badness, Barabas is fascinating, and the language in the play is profoundly beautiful. Truly ingenious.

Cloud Atlas
Wow. Wow!! I don't know how he does it, but David Mitchell somehow manages to flawlessly genre jump from history, to mystery, to philosophy, to romance, and back again. This book was nothing less than fascinating. The language is a little on the scandalous side of things, but if you're willing to take a risk I promise you it's worth it. I have never been more amazed with an author's versatility of voice either: how he manages to procure six completely believable characters (some with accents?!?) and keep them consistent is beyond my own reckoning. A gem of a read.

The House of Mirth
I love Edith Wharton. She is absolutely hilarious, and her characters are warm and memorable. But The House of Mirth is a book that you need to be in the right kind of mood to read. If you are not prepared to read about Lily Bart's lovely complexion next to the tea-house roses in the garden for ten pages, you are not quite ready to take on Edith Wharton. Nevertheless, the social scope and character complexity of the novel was never lost on me. When it comes to understanding Old New York and the nouveau riche, a properly decorated apartment, an appropriate dinner-party dress, and the crushing social norms of the early 19th century, Edith Wharton is key.

I have recently re-read this book, and there's just no getting around it: it's good. Surprisingly good. Probably one of my favorite books of all time. A good social study and delightfully depressing.

Currently in progress last three months and counting: War and Peace.


Pepper said...

I've read like 2 of these books on your list. I guess I have some catching up to do.... which reminds me, don't you want the next book catching fire? Atleast I think that's what it's called... anyway, time for a trip to salt lake? eheh..

A Toast to Kos said...

I haven't read several of these. You know how I love Fountainhead. I think Shirsti would love it--it's just a really good story, even if the politics are crazy in it.

So glad you're reading again! What are you reading right now? I'm on the final Narnia series book. They get better and better. I really hated the first couple in the series...I was laughing out loud. Once Reepicheep is introduced, I'm a gonner. I LOVE him.