books

Not that this is relevant at all, but I’ve read a few cool books that I just briefly want to comment on.

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
The book explores the absurdity of how banal, decidedly ugly personalities, in their casual ignorance/indifference, threaten civilization. Its black comedy derives from the contrast between the enormity of civilization and the seemingly meaningless, nonchalant forces that threaten it.

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
The book creates an undeniably seductive atmosphere where upper-crust English characters (and their traditions and cultural trappings) interact with the African coastal environment – with varying degrees of dominance, submission, and indifference. I just didn’t think that the central romance was believable; it felt forced, and the book frequently flirts with racist characterizations, despite its arguably nuanced view of European imperialism.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Written with economy yet great psychological insight, this book is, in my opinion, a minor masterpiece. Proceeding from its first page with tragic inevitability, Wharton shows deep sympathy for the struggles of the poor in her thorough descriptions of opportunities deprived of the titular Frome (and via coincidence and prescience, offers a portrayal applicable to the U.S. health care crisis). Wharton respectfully conveys Frome’s inarticulate love for Mattie, but crafts an ending that devastates in how it reveals the sad behaviors implied in the characters’ natures all along.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I was not a huge fan of this book, particularly the second half. The story’s mythic power is undeniable but as a work of fiction, it lacks narrative pacing, believable situations, economy of description, and truly vivid characters differentiated by unique personalities and manners of speech. It’s grotesque and horrific, and the imagination of the plot itself makes the book interesting and readable.

Grendel by John Gardner

A brilliant, funny, fucked up exploration of misanthropy, the hypocrisies and beauty inherent to civilization, and the eternal struggle to connect and find meaning. From Unferth to Hrothgar to Beowulf to the Shaper, Gardner expresses man’s desire for violent superiority, glory, security, and peace — as well as spiritual inspiration stemming from myth and archetype. Grendel is both detached existentialist observer and participant, fabricating meaning for the humans via his violent rampages.

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