Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"Gulliver's Travels"

It took me quite a while to get through Gulliver's Travels. It might be that I'm not the biggest fan of comedy/satire books, but for whatever reason, the pages weren't turning and I was somewhat relieved when I reached the last page. I don't want to be too hard on it though, because parts of the book I really enjoyed and I think most of my troubles with it were due to my general dislike for comedy/satire books than any actual flaws. I did enjoy it a lot more than Gargantua and Pantagruel, because I felt it was a much more intelligent form of comedy than the incessant scatological humour of Rabelais (granted, this is based on my memory of Rabelais... I'm actually interested in re-visiting him further down the reading list).

Gulliver makes four visits during his travels. The island of Lilliput, of course, is the island of little people and it is on this island that the iconic scene of Gulliver being tied down occurs. The island of Brobdingnag is an island of giants. These two islands played with perception in some neat ways. For example, Gulliver was considered a near god by the Lilliputians and as a sideshow by the Brobdingnagians, showing that size truly matters not. The floating island of Laputa was filled with tyrannical ΓΌber-intellectuals. Gulliver also visited the islands that were subject to Laputa. Finally, Gulliver visited the island of the Houyhnhnms, a race of horses Paradisal in virtue. Also on the island lives a race of brutish "humans" called Yahoos. Gulliver loves the Houyhnhnms, but loathes the Yahoos and by this point in his journey, Gulliver has developed a severe misanthropy, not just for the Yahoos but for the human race in general.

I could say much more about these islands, but like usual, when I get stuck on a certain book, I get anxious to move on.

As a side note, this is my first time using SparkNotes with one of the Great Books. I was hesitant to use SparkNotes simply because my favourite high school teacher, someone I really respect, always made fun of it. However, now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure the reason he made fun of it was because students were reading SparkNotes summaries rather than the books themselves. At any rate, I found SparkNotes really helpful and it helped me to pick up on some things that I normally wouldn't have, gave background information etc. I'll be using it for future Great Books for sure.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Read in October 2013

Only one book this month. Part of the reason is that the book I did read was north of 500 pages, but I've also been reading less for the past little while for various reasons (It's also been a while since I did a post on the Great Books - I'm still making my way through Gulliver's Travels). Anyhow...

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (re-read) *SPOILER warning*

I re-read this book in time for the movie adaptation (releasing Nov. 8). Zusak's real strength is the way he writes characters. The characters in The Book Thief are so well done, with all the details, quirks etc. that real people have. Because of Zusak's wonderful attention to detail and characterization The Book Thief has the hard-to-duplicate feeling of reality. I love the characters in this story to death. And speaking of which... this is a book that deals with death and I don't think a story can powerfully portray death without first powerfully portraying life. Zusak captures life and the duality of human nature in a very unique and real way and that makes the ending that much harder to take. As it should be. I didn't find the other major idea of this story, dealing with the power of words, to be nearly as powerful or interesting, but that could be simply because it pales in comparison to Zusak's masterful portrayal of life, death, and humanity. The Book Thief is heart-warming and haunting.