Jane Austin is "big" right now, but I cannot jump on the band wagon in adoration of her books. I think they are difficult and tedious. I LOVE her stories. She is a master at drawing room dialogue and, comedy but I think her work translates better for me onto the silver screen. I am sure many people would say the same of Charles Dickens which I totally get because he too is difficult to wade through, but I take my time and enjoy savoring his lengthy descriptions. With Jane Austin, I get confused about who is speaking, and the formal writing style of the day overwhelms me. I have not read Pride and Prejudice in maybe twenty five years so maybe it is time give it another shot, or any of the Austin novels, but until then I will stick the wonderfully romantic and witty adaptations by Hollywood.
Portnoy's Complaint-Philip Roth
Portnoy's Compliant is the humorous monologue of Alex Portnoy, a neurotic and self absorbed Jewish American male living in New York City in the 1960s. The entire book in a candid and funny confession to a psychiatrist about Alex's Oedipus Complex and sexual obsessions. I found it a quick light read which reminded me of a Woody Allen movie, although I am unsure why it made my Librarian's List of Most Influential Novels of the 20th Century. Perhaps it was because of it was one of the first sexually explicit and honest explorations of masturbation? Yoiks! I didn't hate it, but I would much rather watch Annie Hall.
I love short stories. They are the perfect fix when you cannot devote time to an entire novel. Early on I cut my teeth on the quick reads of O. Henry, but wow, this collection of short stories by Porter was anything but light and fluffy. Each story included in Pale Horse, Pale Rider deals with death and disappointment. As explained in the forward of the book, the title is borrowed from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Pale Rider representing death. Katherine Anne Porter has included in this collection three gripping tales of people driven to the brink of despair. The characters reactions differ from story to story, ranging from denial, to quiet resignation to suicide. My favorite of the three was Noon Wine, but I suggest you read all three and compare them. Her writing is beautiful, rich and thought provoking. With very few words, Porter gives life to her characters and you understand and care about them immediately, a skill difficult to accomplish in a short story. She writes in that early 20th Century style that I love, and if you too enjoy books of that era, do read Pale Horse, Pale Rider.
Look Homeward, Angel-Thomas Wolfe
This book reminds me why I love to read early Twentieth Century literature. There are passages in Wolfe's writing where I would not wonder if he was divinely inspired. A "coming of age story", Look Homeward, Angel is the thinly veiled autobiography of Thomas Wolfe's upbringing in the North Carolina mountains. Raised in a troubled, and often violent family, he struggles to understand his parents and siblings but most of all himself. He knows that he is a pariah and even when he comes into adulthood, he finds himself a lonely outcast, too brilliant to be comfortable in any setting. The book is not as widely embraced as it was years ago possibly because it can be racially offensive. Yet anyone who reads the book must consider the time period in which it was written. Throughout the book I was haunted by the fact that Thomas Wolfe only lived to be thirty seven years old, succumbing to tuberculosis in 1938. I wished he had lived to write more. Look Homeward, Angel is among some of the best literature that I have ever read.
Well, I am still working through my Librarian's List of the One Hundred Most Influential Novels of the 20th Century and decided to read Ulysses. Since I am of Irish heritage and write novels about the Irish, I thought that I had better get familiar with the works of James Joyce. I started out with The Dubliners, a series of short stories. They were OK and readable, but Ulysses is not only daunting but down right odd. I recommend, if you want to wade through it, get it on CD and listen to it while you drive. It is 40 discs! There is very little storyline and throughout the book he changes his style six or seven times. There are pages and pages where Joyce strips the meaning of words and strings sentences together or merely utters sounds like dadadada. When he is doing a narrative, he can be funny and give the reader a terrific insight into the Dubliner's character and lifestyle in the early 20th Century, but there is not enough of this included in the book.
I suppose if you are a linguistic major, you could have a field day with his exploration of the English language, but sadly, I am not and found the novel extremely tedious.
P.S. I am still plugging along on disc 27
Amanda Hughes, author of Historical Adventures blogs about her reading, her writing, her appearances and even a few recipes!