Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the SeaThe Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually would rate this book a 3.5 /5 stars, but I am giving it the benefit of the doubt.

My first exposure to Hemingway was in AP English in high school. Yes, back then, our class didn't have a Language or Literature designation. We read The Sun Also Rises and I absolutely hated it. Now, after reading this, I believe that I didn't get it. I wasn't old enough, mature enough to understand what Hemingway was doing. So, eventually, I would like to return to that novel and check it out again.

Now, The Old Man and the Sea is not the greatest classical novel I've ever read, but I really wanted to try Hemingway again and I really wanted to have a good experience. And I would say that I did that. Like I said, it isn't the greatest and I've heard that it isn't even Hemingway's best, but it is very popular for a reason. This book is very accessible and a story that everyone can connect with. Santiago has grit and is a perfect example of perseverance despite setbacks. If only my students had Santiago's level of grit.

The writing is perfect. Now, notice that I didn't say that the writing is beautiful, but often it isn't. These are sparse, utilitarian sentences. Hemingway writes to tell the story without all of the fluffy extras that make me love Faulkner, McCarthy, Morrison, and Fitzgerald. His theory is that the story should be good enough to hold its own without all that extra stuff. Now, there are some beautiful images and metaphors in the book, but they don't pop up very often. Hemingway doesn't write a twenty-word sentence when five would do. And that is what is masterful about his writing. The fact that he can do so much with so little.

I can see why this is the book that gets studied so often in high school. Other Hemingway is more difficult and longer. And this novella is easy enough that high school students could get it. The themes and ideas are simple. I think students would be excited to discuss this novel because it isn't difficult to interpret. But that turns me off. I like the complexity that a well-written novel presents. I like when an author really makes me think.

The biggest success is that this novella opened me up to read more Hemingway. That is the most important thing about reading this one.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: Caliban's War, by James S. A. Corey

Caliban's War (The Expanse, #2)Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What I love about James S. A. Corey is the fact that they have created a truly believable look at the future. Every part of this system is grounded in realism. The "world" feels lived in and gritty, the characters flawed and just trying their best to keep war from destroying everyone and everything.

This volume of The Expanse was better than the first in my opinion. I wasn't too keen on the whole missing girl detective piece of Leviathan Wakes. It was still good enough to keep me reading through till the end, but this book seems to be where Corey reaches stride. The action and plot of this book were top notch. Several moments kept me glued to my Kindle, reading more chapters at a time than I would have originally anticipated. The way Corey brings all of the characters together at one point in the book was masterfully done and didn't feel contrived in the least.

This is space opera at its best.

Not to mention the television show is really fun as well.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Beloved by Luke Hankins

A new year means time for some new poetry. I have noticed that Linebreak hasn't been publishing poetry as fast as they used to. I recall getting poems almost every week and now it seems to be every couple of months. Hmmm.  Well, anyway, here is the poem I would like to talk about.


Drunk and faltering
in my midnight chair,
someone gripped me
by the hair and raised my head.
I saw St. Theresa of Avila,
with St. John of the Cross and Rumi
by her side, arm in arm.
And then through the door behind them
came Rabia Al-Basri and Bashõ,
all with garish, wine-drenched smiles,
blood-purple lips.
They asked me, “What are you doing?”
and I said “No, what are you doing?”
They said, “We are drunk on the wine of the beloved.”
I said, “I am drunk but have no beloved.”
St. Theresa pulled my hair harder
and said, “Oh, yes you do!”–
and smothered me
with her wine-soured mouth.

I want to discuss the poetic turn in this one. Which I believe happens around line 12. The speaker is drunk and sees all of these religious figures as he is stumbling through this scene. But then in line 12 people start to speak and what started as a fairly serious sounding poem becomes one that incorporates some humor. I adore the line "No, what are you doing?" It is perfect in tone and image. I can just picture this person stumbling and with their alcohol soaked voice they lisp out these words. A challenge to these larger than life figures. And then Mother Theresa grabs the speaker and kisses him. An interesting poem.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Book Review: Bloodline by Claudia Gray

Bloodline (Star Wars)Bloodline by Claudia Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been on a Star Wars kick lately, consuming everything new in the Star Wars universe--the new movies, the Rebels cartoon, the new comic books. So, I decided that I would give another Star Wars novel a try. I have problems with Chuck Wendig as an author, but this one had pretty good reviews. Overall, this was a very fun read.

People around me are hailing Wonder Woman as the must-see movie of the summer. Not just because it is good, but because it is meaningful. They say that this movie is so important because finally, we have a strong female lead in a superhero movie. I would echo that about this book. Going in I was skeptical about how much I would like a novel focused on Princess Leia, but it was a really fun romp. Yes, there are parts where we are detailing the political process within the Republic Senate, but Leia is a very engaging character with a wide range of emotions. I learned to respect her more and really grew to enjoy her. So much so that I started to not care as much about the other characters in the book and would rush through their parts.

Like I say in most of my reviews, Gray is no Faulkner. The write was fine for a fast food novel, but this doesn't have the type of deep, substantial, beautiful prose that is going to satisfy a literature lover like me. The book has a job, tell a story, and it just does its job without being overly flashy. It's fine.

I did enjoy the connections this novel made between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. I don't want to go into too much detail, but it did fill in some plot holes and answered some questions that I had after viewing TFA. I thought this book did an admiral job in that respect.

This book features characters that you know and love, Leia, C3P0, Han Solo. But also introduces you to some wonderful new characters. My favorite being the brash young pilot: Joph Seastriker. I mean come on, that is a Star Wars name if I have every heard one. Seastriker!? Sounds like Skywalker to me. And instantly I knew this character would be similar, a dreamy kid looking to get into the action, to go on adventures.

There is a lot to enjoy here, thus why I gave it four stars. I like it. I had fun reading it. I don't know if I will seek out more novels in the new Star Wars universe, but it was enjoyable to continue to hang out in this universe.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Book Review: The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the FuryThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Most reviews of books begin with a brief discussion of the plot. This proves difficult for The Sound and the Fury because it doesn't really have a plot. Yes, there is a story that is going on within the pages of this novel, but the interesting thing here is that the story is happening in the background. The major plot points don't actually happen within the pages of these chapters. These events are mentioned and hinted at through the four different points of view, but are not what we, as the reader, are primarily concerned with.

What then, you ask, are we supposed to be concerned with? And I believe that Faulkner wants us to consider point of view and how limiting it is. Each chapter of The Sound and the Fury is an exploration of a different point of view and as we read this novel we experience this world through four very different sets of eyes. Each chapter the reader has to spend time reacquainting themselves with the world and getting settled in. Each chapter we learn something different about human nature and how we look at the world around us.

This is why this novel is heralded as a masterpiece. Faulkner is playing with the convention of story to show us something about ourselves. It certainly is a radical idea and one that probably turns a lot of readers off to this novel. But the struggle is worth it, people. This book has endured for a reason and totally worth your time. I absolutely loved it and it rekindled my love for Faulkner and desire to read more of this master.

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Sound and the Fury: Helpful Tips

The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner, is a very difficult book. But don't let that detract you. It is worth the effort to read and study. In my own study of this novel, I found the following to be quite helpful...

Family Trees for the Compson and Gibson Families
This family tree goes back several generations in the Compson family.

This one I added primarily so you can see the Gibson family tree as Dilsey's family is important as well.

Chronology of the Novel
One of the things that makes The Sound and the Fury difficult is the fact that the story is not presented linearly. Faulkner is once again playing with time. So, it really helps to understand the timeline of the book, in chronological order...

Chapter 2 happens first. This chapter happens 18 years prior to the other three chapters--June 2nd, 1910. 

Chapter 3 happens next. This chapter takes place on April 6th, 1928.

Chapter 1 happens next. This chapter takes place on April 7th, 1928.

And finally, chapter 4 happens next. This chapter takes place on April 8th, 1928.

Viewpoints in each Chapter
Faulkner is at it again in this novel. Similarly to As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury has different viewpoint characters in each chapter. This can also be confusing because Faulkner doesn't spend time explaining who is speaking in each instance, you kinda just have to figure it out for yourself.

Chapter 1 is narrated by Benjy Compson the mentally handicapped son. The thing that is confusing about Benjy's chapter is the fact that Benjy doesn't experience the world like we do. Time is fluid for Benjy as well. He cannot distinguish between what is happening in the present and what is happening in his memory. Which makes for some incredibly difficult reading. Not to mention the fact that many of the Compsons are named after parents or grandparents and Benjy doesn't help us distinguish between these characters.

Chapter 2 is narrated by Quentin Compson (the boy) on one of his last days in college. Quentin's chapter is difficult because, while he isn't mentally handicapped, he is about to commit suicide and that is affecting his mind. He, once again, frequently jumps in time to events that happened previously and then right back to what is happening right now without any transitions.

Chapter 3 is narrated by Jason Compson. The chapter is more linear in its story, but Jason is a total jerk. It is difficult to be inside his head because of how despicable a person he is.

Chapter 4 is narrated by Dilsey Gibson. This is the breath of fresh air that we have been waiting for. We get those beautiful Faulkner sentences that have been missing for most of the novel and we get into the head of the Compson's servant. This chapter is very linear as well, which is nice. The only difficult thing about Dilsey's chapter is her dialect. Faulkner writes her and her son's lines phonetically so you read it with a southern accent, but sometimes it is really difficult to know what word Faulkner wants.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Yet Another Hiatus

Well, realistically, I've been on hiatus for a few weeks already. I thought I would pop on and just explain before going on "real" hiatus.

The school year is nearly over again and that means summer and taking a much-needed break. During that break, I will not be posting regularly on Mr. Barbaric Yawp Blog. But worry not. I will continue to read and study and will continue in the Fall with more literature analysis and discussion.

Enjoy your summer!

~Mr. Barbaric Yawp