-from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Thursday, December 25, 2008
-from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I admit that it is hard to get any reading done during the holidays. The shopping, the cooking and the parties all cut in to our already precious reading time. Nevertheless, there are some books that I try to squeeze in every year. Here are some of my favorite books to curl up with by the Christmas tree.
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
Though many modern Christmas stories tend to border on the sappy, the deeper meaning found in this book makes it a pleasant and thought provoking read. See my full review here.
Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies
Not many people are aware that Davies, who wrote the screenplay for the classic holiday film Miracle on 34th Street, also penned a novella version of his story. This is a wonderful and different way to enjoy this heartwarming Christmas story.
A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
This is one that I actually discovered this year. Welsh-born poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) composed this short story as a reflection on his lost, but not forgotten, childhood in Wales. Though it is often found under children's books, I think that it is probably better suited for adults. It's a beautiful collection of reminiscences of Christmases gone by, and the sweetness and innocence of childhood. I think that the opening line is so lovely:
"One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six."
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Finally, we have the grandaddy of all Christmas stories. Charles Dickens' classic tale is so rich and powerful, that it is a must read for EVERYONE each Christmas. See my full review here.Now it's your turn. What are some of your favorite Christmas stories and have they changed how you see Christmas? Sound off!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
'"Don't try to believe it, Arthur; there is joy and glory after, if you will but try to reach it!"
'"What, for me?" he said, with something like a laugh. "Are we not to be judged according to the deeds done in the body? Where's the use of a probationary existence, if a man may spend it as he pleases, just contrary to God's decrees, and then go to heaven with the best - if the vilest sinner may win the reward of the holiest saint, by merely saying, "I repent!"'
'"But if you sincerely repent - "
'"I can't repent; I only fear."
'"You only regret the past for its consequences to yourself?"
'"Just so - except that I'm sorry to have wronged you, Nell, because you're so good to me."
'"Think of the goodness of God, and you cannot but be grieved to have offended Him."
'"What is God - I cannot see Him or hear Him? - God is only an idea."
'"God is Infinite Wisdom, and Power, and Goodness - and LOVE; but if this idea is too vast for your human faculties - if your mind loses itself in its overwhelming infinitude, fix it on Him who condescended to take our nature upon Him, who was raised to heaven even in His glorified human body, in whom the fullness of the Godhead shines."
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Aah, those first impressions. In this novel, Austen reveals how unfortunate it is that we sometimes allow the first few seconds to determine our relationships with other people. This is exactly the mistake that both Elizabeth and Darcy make and it almost cost them their happiness.
"...to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with."
"Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise."
Elizabeth especially has a hard time seeing past her early prejudices when judging people. Her abhorrence of Mr. Darcy stems mainly from his insult upon their first meeting, while her good opinion of Wickham is due almost entirely to his agreeable manners. She soon discovers that her prejudices blinded her both to Mr. Darcy's real goodness as well as Wickham's true colors. It is only once she is at Pemberly, hearing Darcy praised by those who knew him best, that Elizabeth realizes her mistake.
"There was certainly at this moment, in Elizabeth's mind, a more gentle sensation towards the original than she had ever felt in the height of their acquaintance. The commendation bestowed on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of no trifling nature. What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant? As a brother, a landlord, a master, she considered how many people's happiness were in his guardianship! -- How much of pleasure or pain it was in his power to bestow! -- How much of good or evil must be done by him! Every idea that had been brought forward by the housekeeper was favourable to his character, and as she stood before the canvas, on which he was represented, and fixed his eyes upon herself, she thought of his regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before; she remembered its warmth, and softened its impropriety of expression."
There is also a great irony being played out throughout the entire novel. As with Persuasion, Austen attacks the idea that rank determines good breeding. The main reason that Darcy gives for breaking up Jane and Bingley is the behavior of the majority of the Bennet family.
"The situation of your mother's family, though objectionable, was nothing in comparison of that total want of propriety so frequently, so almost uniformly, betrayed by herself, by your three younger sisters, and occasionally even by your father."
Funny thing is, Darcy and Bingley's relatives aren't all that classy either. Bingley's sisters are extremely rude and his brother-in-law indolent and dull. Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, is self-absorbed, vain and demanding. Just as Mrs. Bennett is constantly saying things that betray her absurdity, so is Lady Catherine.
"There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient."
"...and though Mrs. Collins has no instrument, she is very welcome, as I have often told her, to come to Rosings every day, and play on the piano forte in Mrs. Jenkinson's room. She would be in nobody's way, you know, in that part of the house.''
As I said in my introduction, it is truly the characters that, in my opinion, really distinguish Pride and Prejudice from Austens other works. They are so complete, their actions so believable, and their dialogue so revealing, that they can sometimes seem more real than the characters in the other works. It is also a fine example of Austen's writing style at its best, combining the sharp wit of Northanger Abbey with the subtle ironies of Emma. It well deserves its place near the top of many reader's lists (including mine). I can't say enough about it. If you never read any other Austen novel, you must read this one. I'll leave you with a quote from Sir Walter Scott's private journal on his opinion of this novel.
"Also read again and for the third time at least Miss Austen's very finely written novel of Pride and Prejudice. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvement and feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The Big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going, but the exquisite touch which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment is denied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature died so early!"
Pride and Prejudice has been adapted for the screen so many times that it isn't even funny. It has even been adapted into a Bollywood production called Bride and Prejudice. But there are four main adaptations that claim the hearts of many fans.
First, there is the 1940 adaptation starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. I've never seen it, but I do know that the time period was pushed forward to allow for more flamboyant dresses. Not sure how I feel about that.
Then there is the 1980 adaptation starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. I haven't seen this one either, but I would imagine it to be like the other Austen adaptations of the period.
Finally, there are the 1995 and 2005 adaptations starring Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth and Keira Knightly/Matthew Macfadyen respectively. They are both wonderful in their own way. For my review of them, see here.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
"'Don't talk of it, don't talk of it," he cried. "Oh God! that I had not given way to her at the fatal moment! Had I done as I ought! But so eager and so resolute! Dear, sweet Louisa!'" Anne wondered whether it ever occurred to him now, to question the justness of his own previous opinion as to the universal felicity and advantage of firmness of character; and whether it might not strike him that, like all other qualities of the mind, it should have its proportions and limits. She thought it could scarcely escape him to feel that a persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favour of happiness as a very resolute character."
"My idea of good company, Mr Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company." "You are mistaken," said he gently, "that is not good company; that is the best. Good company requires only birth, education, and manners, and with regard to education is not very nice. Birth and good manners are essential; but a little learning is by no means a dangerous thing in good company; on the contrary, it will do very well."
Anne's opinion is, of course, Austen's opinion. Though the British class system of the time would have made Sir Walter Elliot of more consequence than Admiral and Mrs. Croft, it is obvious whose character is the best:
"Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did, nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion."
"This meeting of the two parties proved highly satisfactory, and decided the whole business at once. Each lady was previously well disposed for an agreement, and saw nothing, therefore, but good manners in the other; and with regard to the gentlemen, there was such an hearty good humour, such an open, trusting liberality on the Admiral's side, as could not but influence Sir Walter, who had besides been flattered into his very best and most polished behaviour by Mr Shepherd's assurances of his being known, by report,to the Admiral, as a model
of good breeding."
Austen also tries to denounce the idea of women as helpless, finicky creatures as they were so commonly portrayed in the literature of the time. "But I hate to hear you talking so like a fine gentleman,and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days."
"'If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men." "'Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.'"
"The only time I ever really suffered in body or mind, the only time that I ever fancied myself unwell, or had any ideas of danger, was the winter that I passed by myself at Deal, when the Admiral (Captain Croft then) was in the North Seas. I lived in perpetual fright at that time, and had all manner of imaginary complaints from not knowing what to do with myself,or when I should hear from him next; but as long as we could be together, nothing ever ailed me, and I never met with the smallest inconvenience."
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been,but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, inF. W.
I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."
Friday, October 24, 2008
"Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract by her conduct her most favorite maxims. She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen, and with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship, voluntarily to give her hand to another--and that other, a man who had suffered no less than herself under the event of a former attachment, whom, two years before, she had considered too old to be married, and who still sought the constitutional safeguard of a flannel waistcoat!"
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
In this "mystery without a murder", we learn to be suspicious of the characters, of events and even of our own conclusions. And in doing so, we soon find the story to be suspiciously pleasing.
At 21 years old, Emma Woodhouse is "handsome, clever, and rich" living with her father in the village of Highbury in Surrey where she reigns as queen bee. The only person who is ever critical of her is a longtime friend and neighbor of the Woodhouse family, Mr. Knightley of Donwell Abbey. As the novel opens, Emma is giving herself credit for bringing about the match of her governess, Miss Taylor and a local gentleman, Mr. Weston. She soon decides that she rather likes matchmaking and, despite Mr. Knightley's disapproval, begins trying to find a match for her new friend, Harriet Smith.
Of course, this does not go as smoothly as Emma had initially envisioned, her first attempt going sadly awry. When the dashing Frank Churchill and the elegant but mysterious Jane Fairfax arrive in Highbury, things get even more interesting. Emma soon learns that she may not be quite as perfect as she had always supposed, and that affairs of the heart (especially her own) are more complicated than she had ever imagined.
My Review (Caution-Spoilers):
Often considered by critics to be Austen's best work, Emma is somewhat different from the rest of her novels. It is not only her longest novel, but also the novel that has the lightest tone overall, because unlike Mansfield Park or Pride and Prejudice, there are no horrific scandals and our heroine is never in danger of losing her chance of happiness with the hero. Emma also serves as a more polished example of Austen's wit and irony than, say, Northanger Abbey. But it is the four main characters that really set this novel apart.
First, we have the handsome and charming Frank Churchill. Of all of Austen's "villains", Frank is probably the least villainous. Though he does frustrate Jane Fairfax, treat his father with little respect and fool the residents of Highbury, his behavior is not quite as scandalous as other villains like Willoughby and Wickham. He does however posses that fatal flaw that all of them do; he lacks strength of character. His only concern is to save himself from the wrath of Mrs. Churchill, thereby inadvertently wounding his fiance, Jane Fairfax. He is also rather offensive to his father by never coming to see him until Jane comes to Highbury. It is however, only Mr. Knightley who sees Frank's carelessness and immaturity, as evidenced in this speech to Emma regarding Frank's breaking his promise to visit his father: "There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chuses, and that is, his duty; not by manoeuvring and finessing, but by vigour and resolution. It is Frank Churchill's duty to pay this attention to his father. He knows it to be so, by his promises and messages; but if he wished to do it, it might be done." It is also Mr. Knightley who sees the great irony in Frank's situation after he announces his engagement in what is probably one of my most favorite quotes of the book:
"He is a most fortunate man!" returned Mr. Knightley, with energy. "So early in life--at three-and-twenty--a period when, if a man chuses a wife, he generally chuses ill. At three-and-twenty to have drawn such a prize! What years of felicity that man, in all human calculation, has before him!--Assured of the love of such a woman--the disinterested love, for Jane Fairfax's character vouches for her disinterestedness; every thing in his favour,-- equality of situation--I mean, as far as regards society, and all the habits and manners that are important; equality in every point but one-- and that one, since the purity of her heart is not to be doubted, such as must increase his felicity, for it will be his to bestow the only advantages she wants.--A man would always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals.--Frank Churchill is, indeed, the favourite of fortune. Every thing turns out for his good.--He meets with a young woman at a watering-place, gains her affection, cannot even weary her by negligent treatment--and had he and all his family sought round the world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have found her superior.--His aunt is in the way.--His aunt dies.--He has only to speak.--His friends are eager to promote his happiness.-- He had used every body ill--and they are all delighted to forgive him.-- He is a fortunate man indeed!"
Then there is Jane Fairfax, Frank Churchill's fiance and the one person in the world the Emma is really jealous of (and perhaps the most interesting character in all of Austen's works). In some ways, Jane is actually the kind of woman we are used to being an Austen heroine. She is of good birth, but is poor and faces a horrible life as a governess unless she were to marry. But though she is intelligent, elegant and well-mannered, her lack of openness with ANYONE is really the quality that sets her apart from the other Austen women. In fact, Jane Fairfax as a whole almost belongs more to the works of the Brontes than in Regency literature. Again, it is Mr. Knightley who first sees this: "Jane Fairfax is a very charming young woman - but not even Jane Fairfax is perfect. She has a fault. She has not the open temper which a man would wish for in a wife."
And of course there is Mr. Knightley. At 37, he is the oldest of the Austen heroes, but he also comes the closest to being absolutely perfect (tying with Col. Brandon). He is every inch a gentleman; kind, sensible, and possessing sound judgement. His one fault, if you can call it that, is that his jealousy of Frank Churchill somewhat clouds his view of Frank's true character ("He had found her agitated and low.--Frank Churchill was a villain.-- He heard her declare that she had never loved him. Frank Churchill's character was not desperate.--She was his own Emma, by hand and word, when they returned into the house; and if he could have thought of Frank Churchill then, he might have deemed him a very good sort of fellow."). The other wonderful thing about Mr. Knightley is how he shows his strong love for Emma by not flattering her. He cares for her so much that he is unwilling to ruin her by feeding her vanity. One of the most pivotal (dare I say romantic?) parts of the story is his chastising her for insult towards Miss Bates:
"It was badly done, indeed! You, whom she had known from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her notice was an honour, to have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her--and before her niece, too--and before others, many of whom (certainly some,) would be entirely guided by your treatment of her.--This is not pleasant to you, Emma--and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will,--I will tell you truths while I can."
Monday, October 20, 2008
"Here had been grievous mismanagement; but, bad as it was, he gradually grew to feel that it had not been the most direful mistake in his plan of education. something must have been wanting within, or time would have worn away much of its ill effect. He feared that principle, active principle, had been wanting; that they had never been properly taught to govern their inclinations and tempers by that sense of duty which can alone suffice. They had been instructed theoretically in their religion, but never required to bring it into daily practice. To be distinguished for elegance and accomplishments, the authorised object of their youth, could have had no useful influence that way, no moral effect on the mind. He had meant them to be good, but his cares had been directed to the understanding and manners, not the disposition; and of the necessity of self-denial and humility, he feared they had never heard from any lips that could profit them."
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
"She had reached the age of seventeen, without having seen one amiable youth who could call forth her sensibility, without having inspired one real passion, and without having excited even any admiration but what was very moderate and very transient. This was strange indeed! But strange things may be generally accounted for if their cause be fairly searched out. There was not one lord in the neighbourhood; no--not even a baronet. There was not one family among their acquaintance who had reared and supported a boy accidentally found at their door--not one young man whose origin was unknown. Her father had no ward, and the squire of the parish no children. But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way."
"Yes, novels; -- for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel-writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding -- joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! if the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the Reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers. And while the abilities of the nine-hundredth abridger of the History of England, or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of Milton, Pope, and Prior, with a paper from the Spectator, and a chapter from Sterne, are eulogized by a thousand pens, -- there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of lighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. "I am no novel-reader -- I seldom look into novels -- Do not imagine that I often read novels -- It is really very well for a novel." -- Such is the common cant. -- "And what are you reading, Miss ----------?" "Oh! it is only a novel!" replies the young lady; while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. -- "It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda;" or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language. Now, had the same young lady been engaged with a volume of the Spectator, instead of such a work, how proudly would she have produced the book, and told its name; though the chances must be against her being occupied by any part of that voluminous publication, of which either the matter or manner would not disgust a young person of taste: the substance of its papers so often consisting in the statement of improbable circumstances, unnatural characters, and topics of conversation which no longer concern anyone living; and their language, too, frequently so coarse as to give no very favourable idea of the age that could endure it."
Monday, October 13, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
The Mercer-Williams House
This house was made famous by the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I've never read it (and I don't really intend to), but it is a big deal in Savannah where residents simply refer to it as "The Book". In fact, the statue found on the cover of the book is now kept at the Telfair Museum under a 24 hour guard.
This is the house where Southern writer Flannery O'Connor spent the first 13 years of her life. It wasn't open for tours when we went by, so I'll have to do that when I get back to Savannah. It sits on the lovely Lafayette Square and one can just imagine little Flannery playing there.
One cannot visit a city without checking out the local bookstore, and Savannah has a great one. E. Shaver, Bookseller is located in an old house on Madison Square and has 12 rooms stuffed with books. They have a wide selection ranging from local and regional history to children's books. They also have a pretty good selection of classic literature, almost as big as Barnes and Noble's selection. This is a must visit place for ALL readers. I promise, you won't leave empty handed.
While on vacation, I was also able to pick up some really good books:
-A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor. What better place to pick up an author's work than in their hometown?
-Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. My grandparent's Barnes and Noble was having a great sale (50% off most of their stock) so I couldn't resist picking up a few good reads.
-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Also 50% off.
-The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Also 50% off.
-Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. Found an edition from the early 20th century in wonderful condition at an antique store. Couldn't resist.
-The Crossing by Winston Churchill. Okay, so I thought that this was a novel by THE Winston Churchill. Who knew that there was more than one? This novel is actually by an American writer named Winston Churchill who wrote historical fiction in the early 20th century. Oh well, still a good buy.
And finally I have a couple more things to update you about:
-I am going to begin The Complete (and Unabridged) Jane Austen series either this week or next week, so be on the lookout for that. I hadn't forgotten, I just wanted to get in a Flannery O'Connor review before my trip to Savannah.
-I just joined goodreads.com, which is a great (and FREE) website that lets you basically keep track of all the books that you have read and the ones that you want to read. You can also check out what other members are reading, and get ratings and reviews of different books. If you are already a member, let me know so I can check out your bookshelf. You can see my shelf here. There is also a link on the sidebar as well as a widget showing books that I am planning on reading.
-Today marks the 1 year anniversary of Complete and Unabridged. You can see my introductory post here. Thank you to everyone who reads and comments on this blog. I appreciate it.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
As someone who's main literary passion is 19th century British literature, I was a little hesitant to read these stories, especially considering some of the things that are associated with them (more on that later). Also, short stories have never been my "thing" so that was a bit of a put off as well. Despite all of this, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found between the covers. First off, O'Connor is a phenomenal writer. Her characters are complete and real and her insight into Southern culture is wonderful. The humor in the stories was also a surprise, and it was especially funny for someone who has lived in the South all of their life. Anybody who has ridden on I-95 can identify with the numerous signs advertising "Red Sammy's Famous BBQ" for miles before and after the actual location. And I found the fact that the Grandmother in the title story dressed up for the trip so that in case they were found dead on the side of the road, everyone would know that she was a lady to be hilarious, mainly since that reminds me of my own grandma. It was little comments like these that lightened up the overall tone of the stories.
Which brings us to the main reason that I hesitated in reading these at first. When you look up reviews for O'Connor's works, most of the words that are used are "violent", "grotesque", "dark" and "disturbing". Not being one for blood and gore, this initially made me nervous. But though dark and violent things happen to the characters, the stories themselves are not. O'Connor doesn't use the violence to sensationalise the stories, but rather as a way to open up her characters to Divine grace. In The Habit of Being, a collection of O'Connor's letters, she writes "The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism... when I see these stories described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror." Throughout these stories, O'Connor addresses the idea that being a "good country person" makes you good enough. Many of the main characters see themselves as better than other people (blacks, foreigners and poor people), yet still claim to be "good Christians" who give unselfishly. It is only through violence and darkness that they awaken to the fact that they, like every human on this earth, are in desperate need of grace.
That is probably the most prominent theme of all of the stories in this collection, though it was not always clear exactly how the characters came to that realization. I especially found A Temple of the Holy Ghost and A Late Encounter with the Enemy to be somewhat confusing. But most of the stories are pretty clear, with my favorites being The River and The Displaced Person.
If anything, O'Connor's stories should make you step back and think. I know that for me, it caused me to look at myself very hard and to see just what I am without the grace of God, and believe me, it was more grotesque, dark and disturbing than anything you'll find in the stories. So, if you're up for something different in your literary diet, this is something that I would recommend. You'll never look at yourself the same way again.
Friday, September 19, 2008
My Review (Caution-Spoilers!):
This story is one that I have heard so much about for many years but, for various reasons, had never gotten around to reading it. So, I guess the main question is, did it live up to my expectations? In a word, yes!
Though in the end, I think that The Hobbit was a more pleasant read (less complicated plot, fewer characters, faster pace, etc.), The Lord of the Rings certainly deserves much of the praise that it gets from critics and readers alike. One of the most amazing things about this book is that Tolkein didn't just make up a story, he created a world. His attention to detail shows forth in his meticulous creation of thousands of years of Middle-earth history as well as various languages, especially that of the elves. It was a little hard to pay attention to it all at first, but in the end, it is this detail that gives the story its richness.