Doods Reviews Shit He Read

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Doods Reviews Shit He Read

Postby Doodle Dee. Snickers » Wed Jan 24, 2018 11:09 pm

So, I decided that since I'm plowing through classics along with writing, I might as well start reviewing them. Style, message, page-turn-ability, all will be represented here. Anyways, without further ado...

*EDIT* I will be adding a non-spoiler review for each of these, since I have a spoiler review.
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Re: Doods Reviews Shit He Read

Postby Doodle Dee. Snickers » Wed Jan 24, 2018 11:36 pm

Walden/Civil Disobedience - Henry David Thoreau

As a heads up, I buy most these books at Barnes and Nobles, and they have a special selection of classics and sometimes they'll shove two works together. This one was Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau. To provide some context, the former was a philosophy book that caught the attention of such formidable philosophers as Tolstoy, while the latter was a published essay about peaceful protest that's been name-dropped by figures from MLK and Gandhi to JFK.

Non-Spoiler Review: The former may be hit and miss for many people. Not in a pretentious way, but I suspect that people's love of Walden will have much to do with whether or not you agree with him. His writing can be a little too long-winded at times, he can focus on things that are extraneous to the point of his overriding philosophy, but it's still a compelling read if you happen to agree with the premise of transcendentalism.

As for Civil Disobedience, I'd recommend that everyone give it a read. I suspect (though I won't look it up) that there's probably a public version of it, given that it's just an essay, but it's quite an inspiring little piece about the role of civil disagreement against the government.

Spoiler Review
Spoiler: show
Walden
Now, I'm not much a fan of philosophy, as I happen to often find it...not useless, but superfluous in going about one's day. Apparently, having read a Wikipedia entry on philosophy, it's actually kind of a long-running joke that there's no country that is less interested in philosophy yet clearly living by one mostly-shared philosophy than the USA.

However, something about Walden got me, and I'm not really sure what it was. Henry David Thoreau came up in the early-mid 1800s, when it was a feasible way of life to drop two-hundred bucks (in today's money) on a small home out in the woods and just easily buy/sell what you grew off the land and go into town to trade. This was exactly what Thoreau did, going to Walden Pond and buying a small place, resting there, living off the land, going into town to trade, and inviting passersby and friends in to speak all while he was writing this.

It is a book about transcendentalism, getting in touch with nature, living off the land, and surviving by your own hands and intelligence (among other things, and is the closest foil I would peg to materialism). It could be simplified to "You don't need all that shit and all the fancy soirees out there, you can be perfectly happy out here in the countryside as you can be in Paris".

Also, Walden kinda reminded me that old writing can still be really funny. Since I read most the classics while I was in school, I wasn't really able to enjoy many of them (such as my newfound fondness for The Great Gatsby, a book that bored me to tears when I was a kid [Catcher in the Ryestill blows, though]). Thoreau often exaggerates to absurdity in a way that sometimes reminds me of Charles Dickens, and the book often made me grin.

He has a style, unfortunately, that lends itself to paragraphs that span pages, a style I'm not particularly fond of in any work. He can also get a little too bogged down in the process of things on his journey to making the point about them (at one point, he goes through an entire list of the things he buys for his home and what they cost). However, he makes up for it with elegant metaphors and humor. My favorite quote concerned nature and was: "much is published, but little printed".

At the end of the day, though, while I found many of his messages applicable to the current day, he was also a product of his time. A time, more to the point, before penicillin. When there weren't a billion people in every country and you could just easily live a simple life and get by being kinda poor. With all that said, this is still the only philosophical meandering that has ever caught my interest, and I have to give it props for that.

I'd recommend this to people interested in philosophy, and not many others.

Civil Disobedience
Since Thoreau lived in mid-1800s America, the hot-button issue of that time was slavery. When America began expanding into the Mexican Territories, Thoreau refused to pay his taxes as a means of protest against invading foreign countries and expanding slavery. He was imprisoned, and once he got out, he wrote this essay to be published in the papers.

It's not hard to see how peaceful protest came to be guided by this essay. It spoke well of the injustices of the time.Injustices that continue on today, such as how some crimes far less impactful are punished more disproportionately if the government's involved (The example used is tax evasion. Steal from a merchant and you get fined and maybe some jail time. Steal from the government, your ass is getting locked away forever in a penn). This is also the work which utilizes the "The best government is one that governs not at all" quote, though people who use it often forget the follow up: "And when men are prepared for it, that is the government they shall have".

It is far shorter than Walden, understandably, and far more political. At the end of the day, it again is a product of its time more than an ageless communication, but I took to heart some lessons in this essay. Most moving, I thought, is that people should beware that peaceful protest does not simply lead to quiet submission. Anything that makes me think is a plus, so I'll say I definitely liked this essay.

I would recommend that everyone read this at least once if you've any interest in politics whatsoever.


Next up will be either Oliver Twist or Old Man and the Sea (the latter of which I've read many times before, but want to refresh up on before I review). Yes, one is significantly shorter than the other, but I merely read Old Man when I'm out and about and have some time to kill while I commit myself to at least twenty pages of Oliver Twist (a book I'm enjoying a million times more than I thought I would) a day.
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Re: Doods Reviews Shit He Read

Postby Doodle Dee. Snickers » Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:23 am

Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

I got through this one a lot faster than I thought I would, mainly because I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. When I read these books, I always bookmark them with an index card--one side for writing words I don't know the definition of, the other now for notes. So as I dig glass out of my foot because my dumb ass missed a spot sweeping when I broke something a month ago, here's what I thought of the book:

Non-Spoiler Review:

This was a delightful read. It's a book about many tragic things (especially near the end) yet it operates as a dark comedy, perfectly balancing bleakness with moments of hope and good. The narration is on point, and though it can be a bit long in sentence, I didn't find myself having to go back and read sentences over again to get what it was saying. That said, it gets rushed at the end, where plot points that have been constantly hinted at are unveiled in too-rapid succession, shotgunning a conclusion on you instead of easing it out.

I would recommend that everyone give it a read, thought. I'll give it thirteen poor orphans out of fourteen poor orphans.

Spoiler Review:
Spoiler: show
First and foremost, this is a book with probably more humor than any strictly non-comedy book (surprising for a book mostly about the suffering of the poor), because of the narrator's sarcastic tone of voice toward many of the evil and self-centered people around Oliver. That was probably the biggest reason I kept turning the pages, though it slowed down closer to the end (more on that in a minute). Most amusing was the way the narrator spoke of the self-important beadle, at one point going so far as to say that he (Dickens) shouldn't keep the narrative waiting on the eminently important man.

This was also a book with a lot of heart, and it is probably my new standard for how to play grimness in a story. I've railed at length against GRRM-esque writing, which seems caught up in our current climate of cynicism worldwide where there can only be evil and never any good. This is a book that put many characters through the wringer, but all the dark moments are juxtaposed by brief moments of kindness and charity that are written with all the more warmth for how much pain is in this. For all those victimizing Oliver, there are sometimes those willing to stand up for him (Mister Losberne was solidified as one of my two favorite characters of many by invading a criminal hideout and chewing out a man who victimized Oliver, just cuz).

His view on crime was nicely complex, as well. Two characters (one of whom actually ended up being my favorite) ended up with some complexity, finding some redemption in their miserable lives. Nancy, my aforementioned favorite, was a particularly moving character in how much compassion she had for Oliver, yet how she couldn't turn away from her home, a situation that brought to my mind, at least, thoughts of people who've been abused. On the flip side, however, are hardened people who have just closed themselves off from the suffering others in order to get their way, painting crime with shades rather than casting them as noble misunderstoods or horrifying villains.

Unfortunately, for how forward he was in his portrayal of women (he was apparently criticized in his time for daring to allow a prostitute do a good thing), criminals, the poor, and so many others, anti-Semitism rears its head. I understand the times was the times, but its just unfortunate to see one villainous character referred to as only "the Jew" and portray so many stereotypes in a way that reminds me uncomfortably of how Lovecraft talks about black people.

As for the plot structure, it does lean on that most lazy of plot vehicles: cosmic coincidence. Multiple times in the narrative, Oliver just happens to land in front of people who are very significant to him in a way I won't reveal, but he goes through one-in-a-million coincidences so often that he needs to give up on anything else and just ride the lottery to world domination. It also slows down near the end, where it starts to go through big reveal after big reveal, where a complex backstory is revealed a little too quickly, and you actually don't even see Oliver for 20% of the book.

The characters were also perfectly illustrated in the writing. I could practically visualize each and every one of them, many of them in caricature that I would imagine was intended. Since it was written as a monthly serial, it also does you the service of reminding you who a character is if they haven't been around for a while.

The narration, if it isn't yet obvious, was brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that I've thought of trying my hand at a similar style if I can manage it. As I mentioned before, the author was often funny, inserted himself into it in ways that were very good fourth-wall breaks, and often kept the suspense going all through this mystery.

As for the grammar, I've always been something of a layperson when it comes to it. I have no English degree or any formal training beyond the regular classes, and can qualify myself as knowing it insofar as I've researched anything I have a question on, have read a ton, and keep The Elements of Style nearby at all times. I live by the rule of "If I don't know, try to restructure the sentence so I don't need to ask". I say all this to say: there were times in this book where it just felt like commas and semicolons were thrown at the page en masse. Maybe it's just a stylistic thing, since I prefer my punctuation and grammar kept sparse, but I found it sometimes taking me out of the page.

Unfortunately, the message of the book can sometimes be a bit muddled. Oliver is a little too clean, if that makes sense. Instead of a poor boy doing what he has to do to get by before finding redemption, it feels more like a boy resisting the worst of poverty's ills. He feels like a fish out of water, and the conclusion of the series affirms this feeling I had all through the book when the final discoveries are made about Oliver. It's like Charles Dickens wasn't prepared to go all the way to the dark side on this character, instead sticking a too-perfect character in evil until he simply beat it back in a battle of attrition. Understandable, perhaps, given the attitudes toward the poor in that moment in time, but it still felt a little too cheap.

At the end of the day, though, the first 3/4s of this book were some of the most fun I've had with a classic in some time, and the final 1/4, though getting a bit bogged down, was still executed well enough that I can recommend it to most anyone.
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Re: Doods Reviews Shit He Read

Postby Doodle Dee. Snickers » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:18 pm

The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

Every once in a while, when people are shitting all over the Last Jedi and I thought it was amazing, when I was okay with JLA while people jeered it, I quietly wonder to myself if I'm just too easy to please and have bad taste. Then I think of The Great Gatsby, a book that has made a swifter turnaround in my opinion than maybe any work in any medium and conclude that I probably just have weird tastes (though liking this book isn't weird taste, I'm not saying that). I hated this book maybe more than any book I read as a teenager, except maybe Catcher in the Rye, which I still hate. Then I read it again in 2010 or so and really liked it, now I'm convinced that this may be my favorite book ever.

Anyways, to the reviews.

Non-Spoiler Review:
Simply put, this may be one of the tightest books for how much it has on its mind. It reads as a period piece with a full range of characters jammed into what few characters it has. Nick, the protagonist, serves as one of the best narrators for how closely his feelings as the book goes along matches yours. Egos constantly collide, and it does a great job of visualizing everything and everyone without an overbearing verbosity.

That said, it's not a very fast-paced book. It's much more about the characters and the themes, and may be quite boring to those who want a book with plot points and suspense in constant delivery. Still, because it's so tight, it never felt like it wore out its welcome. The 'action' kicked in just when it needed to kick in, and the conclusion is appropriately paced. At just under two-hundred pages (with moderately large print and plenty of margin space), it's not a long book, and you can finish it in an afternoon should you want to invest the time.

Again, I'm not certain there's anything I've gone from completely hating to completely loving this hard, so I'd recommend everyone give it a read. I'll give it two hundred Decaprio's out of five.

Spoiler: show
Full disclosure, I think the reason I hated this book was because there was no action in it. I don't mean guns and bullets action; I liked To Kill a Mockingbird a ton as a kid, but there's a lot more movement in the plot than in a book like The Great Gatsby, which consists mostly of people standing around talking for 150 pages until somebody gets murdered in the end.

That said, I think this complete reversal in my opinion of it comes from growing up and experiencing a lot of what this book is about. Classism, (which I've experience more than a little of), unrequited love, discontent, this is a book that I think should be required reading in every college instead of every grade school.

Anyways, to the book itself.

Story:
I've never read a book that has mastered description with so few words. This stands well in contrast to Hemingway, who describes nothing and nobody with few words. You really feel taken back to this age, able to picture yourself in it, though it probably helps that it's been covered in so many movies and such that it's not so hard. Still, the characters were more vivid than I remember them being. I easily pictured Tom, Gatsby, Jordan, Daisy, and Nick.

With the exception of Nick, these characters are the most easy to hate of any set of characters I've read. Given what the narrative is about, this is a good thing. This isn't the case of Holden Caulfield, who I often find irritating and unlikable, which sucks because I'm stuck with them. Instead, I'm given a cast of characters who seem fantastic at first (with the exception of Tom) yet slowly sour until Nick (and you) grows to hate all of them. Considering the theme of the novel, they represent the theme of classism among other things, and making them slowly turn unlikable and hollow is an excellent device.

Nick, by the way, is possibly the best audience sub of any book. He's in a constant state of discontent with all these people, which is part of the point, and he often feels out of place. He's the lone sane man in a room full of wild egos. His reaction often perfectly reflects mine, when he grows to dislike everyone about at the same pace I do.

Daisy is rather notable in that I never know whether to hate her for her choices or view her merely as a vehicle for the them. Given the themes of this book, her decision to stay with a brutish man who easily admits to cheating on her for the security of his money and status (and the sake of her daughter) makes her something of the zenith of what this theme of classism is about. However, it is still kinda hard not to hate her simply because of how easily she simply lets go of Gatsby and how willingly she allows him to take the blame in the end (even if it wasn't her who put the thought in Mr. Wilson's head).

Themes:
Classism is the obvious theme here, as well as the follies of youth and regional discontent, while also making itself very much a period piece. I already described how effectively he paints the surroundings without too much verbosity, but I should also point out that he makes allegory obvious without directly speaking to it in the way many would (although in the end, he does become very clear about what this is all about).

The line that I've committed to memory, of all the lines in this book, is: "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made..." It's very much an indictment writ large of the wealthy, one that brings to mind thoughts of the 2008 crisis. Nick is never properly in the company of these people, who tend to treat him a little differently as a well-off but not outright wealthy man. Gatsby fakes being Old Money, and is derided when it turns out to be false. Jordan and Tom are athletes (well, Jordan's a golfer, but still), so they're not typical Old Money and never feel comfortable in this world. So all the characters always seem discontent and irritated with the glitzy life of the northeast.

Indeed, part of that is also a regional discontent that feels very familiar right now. All of them also come from the Midwest, and they feel kind of uncomfortable on Long Island. Since this a period piece, it's critical of this particular overindulgent lifestyle and region, which is also part of why everyone always feels out of place and faking their status as Long Islanders.

Lastly, there's the theme of youthfulness, of the death of people's dreams (in particular, the shallowness of the American Dream). Both Gatsby and Daisy dream of being together, but reality is that Gatsby is simply not safely wealthy enough for her and Gatsby hasn't realized that his moment is already gone. Tom is constantly referenced as chasing a youth as a football player that's no longer there. Jordan is...well, Jordan's the only one I'm not entirely sure about, I wonder if her character is less about these other themes and more about the Women's Rights movement.

Structure
Whereas I was irritated by the overabundance of punctuation and grammar in Oliver Twist, this strikes the opposite tone. Often times there are sentences with three or four 'and's that do not utilize a comma, and I do not mean in lists. It shows the Oxford Comma utter contempt (rather funny, considering how often Oxford is mentioned in this book), and I often found myself having to re-read sentences to make sure I got it. I understand that I have the original version, a reprint of Fitzgerald's original copy rather than the re-edited editions.

However, as I've praised multiple times, Fitzgerald uses so few words to describe so much, and I found myself rather taken aback by it. Lately, I've been a fan of writing longer a la Tolkien, but I was surprised how much he could ingrain about his characters and how easily he could bring them alive with only a short sentence. Dialogue tends to be choppy and more realistic, and many themes and issues are explored through dialogue rather than exposition.

Lastly, it's an incredibly tight book for how much it's about. No space is wasted on shit that doesn't matter. Any exploration into backgrounds is simply to continue an ever-winding mystery about one of the characters or make clear why they act the way they do.

Conclusion: All told, there's a reason why this is considered one of the--if not the--best American novels ever written. I found myself more delighted with this book than I ever thought I'd be as a child.
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Re: Doods Reviews Shit He Read

Postby Doodle Dee. Snickers » Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:06 am

Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway

When I was a kid living in South Florida (which, fun fact, really only refers to a stretch of southeast Florida, nobody gives a shit about the west side), my dad had a boat until he couldn't afford it anymore. We'd wake up early one day every month,drive down to the marina, then go out to a reef and drop some lines. We'd listen to the radio, we'd drink our preferred beverages, and we'd just relax as we spent hours out there fishing. I'd dice squid for bait, pull fish off the lines, and generally it remains one of the olnly outdoorsy things I like to do outside of hiking and trail running. If the fish were biting well enough--thus signifying there probably wasn't a shark nearby--we might pull up the lines early and snorkel. We'd toss the fish we caught on ice, I'd go home, and I'd sit with my dad as we cleaned whatever we caught that day by the gutter. It's hard to imagine a more Floridian pastime, in my mind.

I tell this childhood story so that I can give you a point of reference for this novella. I spent roughly the first quarter of this 40-page novella wondering to myself 'why did I ever love this story?'. Yet I started to realize, after a while, that it was probably because I found myself deeply empathizing with Santiago as he caught his marlin, talked about his lines and dolphin, and generally just talked about the sea and things that are pretty sympathetic to a Floridian from down south. This used to be my favorite story, full stop, but now I just think it's a pretty good story.

Anyways, review time:

Non-Spoiler Review

The basic theme of this story is just 'the struggle', as it were. Santiago goes out fishing after a long drought of not catching a big fish, and he hooks a massive marlin. The rest of the book concerns him trying to catch this fish. Such is the theme of this story, the fight of strength against strength, a pure exploration of the struggle of life--and the sympathy he has for this matching foe.

One reason for my affinity with this story may just be the simplicity of Hemingway's writing--not a problem in and of itself, but as someone whose tastes have now moved to the more long-winded and expository, Hemingway doesn't grip me quite the way he used to. His habit of not really explaining much, sometimes disregarding the setting entirely for simply the 'action', can grate against me at times.

Otherwise, it's not a difficult read, and it's worth it to just pick it up for an afternoon to get engrossed in it. I'd give it twenty-five sharks out of thirty-one.

Spoiler: show
There's a lot more packed into this than I used to realize. Chief among the other themes, not mentioned in the non-spoiler review simply because the length of the narrative makes any more exploration a spoiler in and of itself, is the respect he begins to have for this marlin, how he begins to regret that he has to kill it, and how this is his last big challenge as an old man. Like many of Hemingway's works, masculinity is here in spades, and it is constantly explored in the man's recollection of a virile youth that's now meeting its final challenge in this fish.

One thing Hemingway does a lot stylistically that I don't like is that he doesn't format Santiago's thoughts. They're simply inserted in the middle of exposition without any italics or quotations to denote them, leaving me to sometimes have to reread the passage to make sure I got it right. This was also seen in Oliver Twist, and it always annoys me for how it can sometimes be jammed into places that can be jarring. That said, Santiago is a pretty funny character in his internal monologues.

The ending is surprisingly impacting, though maybe that comes from just my personal experience and how pissed I'd be in Santiago's place. At the end, I put down this short story feeling pretty content--I didn't like it as much as I used to, but I was happy to have read it again and enjoyed my time with it.


Coming up: Lord of the Rings (one day), Candide
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Re: Doods Reviews Shit He Read

Postby Doodle Dee. Snickers » Mon Mar 26, 2018 10:09 pm

The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R.Tolkien

I usually do non-spoiler reviews, but most everyone alive has seen the LOTR movies, so there's little point. Speaking of which, the movies will probably come up a couple of times, as I find them useful comparisons since they're the point of reference most people have. The last time I read these books was when the movies were coming out, which would've made me around 13. Back then, I didn't really have the same reading comprehension I do now, so I understood much more of this book than back when I first read it.

First, the writing style. This is written very much in the form of something like Beowulf or a Shakespearean play, but without the poetry. It's all very melodramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, but sometimes feel a little too melodramatic when I'm not in the mood for it. Also, like that style of writing, I've never really cared for the sudden changes of heart or decisions that are endemic to the narratives. That said otherwise, it's written in a way that I would personally strive to emulate were I writing a work of fiction set before the Industrial Age.

And you know, I often think of Tolkien as overwriting in the vein of GRRM, but now that I read it I realized that was really only the songs and the bit with the Shire at the end. For the most part, though it absolutely could've been tighter, the exposition never really got to me and a lot of time was spent describing people and locales in a way that never felt wasteful. That said, I did skip over every song that was sung without exemption.

LOTR often gets guff for not having particularly complex characters, but while it's true that the characters mostly either go through dubiously sudden changes (Aragorn is a good example) or don't change at all, they're characters that are more meant to represent something than to undergo a real complex growth. Frodo goes on a big adventure where he sees a lot of torment and horror and comes home to find that nothing's the same and he no longer feels the same about it (almost like...say...a soldier coming back from WW1). Aragorn represents the idea of majesty even inside the roughest characters, as he goes from a particularly unsavory-seeming guy to king (although his transition from "I don't want to be king" to "I will uphold my line with pride and ensure our existence forever" happens in an instant). Sam represents an enviable simplicity, a person believing in home and love who's so pure that taking the ring fails to even make a dent on his psyche, even when it outright tempts him.

It also tends to receive some disdain for everyone having a happy ending, but that's not entirely true. Frodo is the obvious point here, someone who goes home a broken person who can't really fit in anymore. The Elves and Gandalf are also about the same, people whose time has come to depart forever. Theoden dies at peak badassery but before he can see the war through. Boromir dies just as he realizes how wrong he'd done by everyone (by the way, still the most complex character in the books). Arwen has to leave her family. Eowyn and Eomer lose their father figure. So there is some misery here, even if it's not completely ASOIAF-level misery.

However, it also did a phenomenal job in making the presence of unseen characters felt. I realized as I read through it that Bilbo was the unsung hero of this story, and Boromir always felt like a presence hanging around until the end. Denethor, obviously, makes a lot more sense here than in the movie, though his character still feels a little...too overdramatic, even in books that read like Beowulf. Theoden and Sam remain my favorite characters, because they kinda represent the same thing: the true heroes of the story standing in the shadows of much more prestigious people. Rohan were a bunch of hillbillies compared to the wondrous Gondor, but damned if they weren't the only reason Middle-Earth wasn't under Sauron's control. Frodo was the one who threw the ring into the fire, but damned if he wouldn't have been murdered by Gollum long before without Sam. That bit where Sam is sneaking around after he beats away Shelob remains my favorite stretch of the book.

If I remember correctly, the 'heroes in the shadows of greater heroes' was intentional; Tolkien fashioned Sam, at least, after servants that some officers would have back then, and had said he considered him to be the real hero. I can imagine he meant the same for Rohan on a wider scale, especially given how he held in equal stature the kingly and wondrous with the simple and rustic.

What I do happen to find a problem with is that everything conspires in a way that nobody needs to get their hands dirty. And maybe it can be said that it's a point in the book, and I suppose in some ways it is, but it always feels like everyone but Boromir takes the morally just path every time and it always works out for them. Even Saruman doesn't need to be killed, Frodo and Gandalf spare him so that Grima can kill him later. Aragorn lets Boromir slide when he realizes what he did and it wasn't a problem that didn't have to be confronted because he died. The only real error made here is when Theoden spares Grima, who then helps Saruman attack the Hornburg.

Then there's the ending. Or rather: all the endings. I actually look upon the endings in ROTK (the movie) with more favor now, because this book did take quite a while to end. Even before the non-sequitur in the Shire (for those who've never read the books, the hobbits return home to find that Saruman has taken up residence there, and they have to fight a battle to get him out. It's supposed to drive home a thus-far unspoken point about industrialism and felt a little unnecessary to most people), there's a whole huge bit where the Fellowship slowly breaks apart in Gondor while they wait for Aragorn's wedding, all the elves meet up with everyone, they go in a huge group back through the path to check in with Rohan, then the Ents, then Isengard, then Bree, and THEN comes the part with the Shire, then there's more about settling down in the Shire, then Frodo finally sails off to the Grey Havens. The part with the Shire, I happen to agree it could've been taken wholesale from the book, and it would've felt more satisfying. Even then, I didn't necessarily mind all the endings. That much closure feels needed in a story so large.

Also weird: I forgot how much events in the book are told in the past. You never actually see the Ents crush Isengard, the Ents just march off and then a hundred pages later, they're just sitting on rubble and telling the story to their companions instead of it actually happening. The Battle of the Hornburg was also...a lot less tense than I remember. In fact, if anything, I'd call it anticlimactic. There's a big buildup, but then it's over pretty quickly. Aragorn straight up walks out onto the walls and has a bit of a chat with the Orcs and Uruk-Hai just before the cavalry shows up.

Because of the way these books are constructed in big blocks of perspective (there are 'books' within the books, and each 'book' concerns one part of the story before it moves on to the next perspective), it also jumped back and forth between time periods once the Fellowship separates. The Army of the West show up in front of the Black Gates, the Eagles come to help, then you move onto the next book, which is a week or so before that, where Sam's just about to sneak into the prison Frodo's holed up in. It becomes a little jarring though doesn't necessarily detract from the story.

So: Race. Yep, we're doing this. I often see Tolkien spoken about as possibly prejudiced, and indeed, I can see how these books would give that impression. Non-white foreigners are seen as unsavory or outright enemies, while there's all this talk about pure bloodlines and people are seen as being good the more 'fair' they are, etc. Perhaps I'm simply making excuses for it, but since I know Tolkien had nothing but disdain for antisemitism (Not the same thing, obviously, but one tends to accompany the other) and despised the racism of the Nazis even before they bombed Britain in a time where there were plenty of intellectual apologists for them, I happen to think it's simply an oversight born of the times. I often found myself wondering if Mordor was supposed to be a stand-in for the Ottoman Empire, given the geographical location of it and Tolkien's time in the trenches of the Somme. So I would say it's both simply a product of the time as well as the intention to write a very Nordic/Scandinavian tale. I do think it'd raise quite a few eyebrows in today's times, but within the context of its time, I hardly think it's bad. Especially considering other famous authors who'd written during the WW1/WW2 era and had an outright hostile view of race.

It's difficult to separate these books from the movies, quite frankly, which I tend to find as a positive. I still hold the New Line Trilogy as the gold standard of adaptations, as it achieved the balance of complementing rather than abandoning the books (a la the Shining) with the deliverance of expectations to the audience in a way that made it accessible to newcomers. It's kind of like...well...ASOIAF, where it's easier to read this weighty book with weighty themes because there's a more visual source to help keep names with faces and thus engage with the story on a deeper level since you don't have to expend so much effort keeping track.

All in all, now that I'm reading this at an age enough to have full context of and understanding of these books, I appreciated them a lot more than I did the first time around. Perhaps some of this has to do with the starry-eyed idealism of these books (to say little of an author who encountered more grim evil in the world than most of us will ever know) within our current age of complete cynicism. It was incredible to realize exactly how much these books (I'm sure I probably referred to it as "this book" in here a couple times, it's hard to remember it's three books) formed everything that would happen with fantasy from that point forward, and I do mean everything. So in the end, this book would remain among my top five, if I had such a list, to give you an idea of how high I hold it in regard.

I'll give it Eighty-Three Lazy Tom Bombadils out of Eighty-Five Lazy Tom Bombadils.

Next up: White Fang/Call of the Wild, Candide (I haven't read it yet because it seems like the kind of thing I need to ingest in one sitting)
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Re: Doods Reviews Shit He Read

Postby Doodle Dee. Snickers » Wed Mar 28, 2018 9:08 pm

Call of the Wild/White Fang - Jack London

I'm actually kinda disappointed I finished these so close to LOTR.

If Old Man and the Sea was my favorite story of my childhood, these two would collectively rank third, with only To Kill A Mockingbird in between. It's strange how much children's fiction deals in brutalizing dogs (Where the Red Fern Grows and Old Yeller) and these books in particular are considered required reading in most classrooms. White Fang in particular is noticeably more brutal than its predecessor, featuring savage dogfights, puppy murder, and constant beating of dogs.

Jack London was given to that peculiar socialism of the early 1900s also shared by people like Theodore Roosevelt. Where today it's defined either by hippy flower children or the drumbeat of free college, back then it was about being industrious in your factory, unionization, eugenics, and (for some reason) environmental conservatism. This worldview runs as an undercurrent to much of these books, though I think much of it was also driven by Jack London's love of animals and dogs in particular. Both books could be summed up by the phrase "It's a dog eats dog world. Sometimes literally."

On the whole, both books go in an opposite trajectory: One deals with a domestic dog from California that is stolen and taken to Alaska/Canada, learning to become one with the Wild. White Fang, by contrast, deals with a dog born and raised in the Wild of Alaska/Canada, then among Native Americans, then learns to become domesticated in California. The main themes of both books are about nature and Darwinism--in accordance with Jack London's form of socialism, the strongest and most clever are destined to rule over the weak, humans and animals are often spoken of as being mere fuel for some other animal, and the superfluous is often looked upon with unbridled scorn.

It's a narrative that often duels with itself. For all its effusive Darwinian espousing, justice often intercedes on behalf of the weak, though oftentimes it's also justice interceding on behalf of the strong who are in some way disadvantaged for one reason or another. Make of that what you will.

They're written in such a way as LOTR was where grammar is concerned. Whereas Oliver Twist and the Great Gatsby are polar opposites, displaying too much or too little punctuation respectively in a way that can be distracting, LOTR and these two novels use it in only when the sentence wills it. I appreciate this style of grammar, as it perfectly balances making a sentence easier to understand while not being so dense that it becomes a distraction.

They're not long reads, coming out to 280 pages total. Overall, I found them just as enjoyable now as they were in my childhood. Whereas LOTR and the Great Gatsby are on the ups in my opinion while Old Man and the Sea is on the outs, these two remain as solid as they did when I was a kid, which I think speaks quite well to the universal accessibility of them.

I'll give 'em three English Bulldogs out of ninety English Bulldogs.

Spoiler Review

Spoiler: show
I spent most of my time with Call of the Wild thinking to myself "These dogs have cartoonishly Shakespearean motivations." Most absurd was a dog midway through the narrative that gets sad that it needs to recover rather than pull the sled, and just lays down to die in shame before being put down. That was the point I was like "These dogs are as emotionally complex as human beings."

When I began reading White Fang, London takes many noticeable detours to say something to the tune of "Of course, White Fang didn't understand this in the human way, but in the way that beasts intuit". Working on a sneaking suspicion, I checked out his bio to find out that not only had he been criticized for exactly what I had thought about Call of the Wild, no less than Teddy Fucking Roosevelt singled him out in particular for humanizing animals to absurd lengths.

There was also a point in this where I was like "Is Jack London a cannibal? Can somebody check?" In the opening to White Fang, there's a kind of disturbing part where the lone survivor of the sled trip looks at his hand and observes that he's merely meat for nature to consume. In fact, if there's one big criticism I'd have of the books, it's that he never seems to know whether to humanize or dehumanize the humans of its narrative.

Because running counter to that very dark undercurrent is the sympathy he has to criminals, at least for his point in time. He often speaks to the worst characters in his books as being bullies born of cruelty, of blaming both nature and nature for their unfortunate dispositions. It's rather refreshing to read for the time, especially coming off of LOTR, which argued a similar if more pointed concept about the justice of the universe in the character of Gollum.

I was disappointed when I made it through 1.5 books before the line "These Indians gods (White Fang thinks of the humans as gods) were clearly inferior to these new white gods" cropped up. We almost got through this tale about dogs, wolves, and wild nature without that particular thread making itself known, but unfortunately it does crop up here.

The opening chapter of White Fang might be one of the best in literature. There's a chapter here where White Fang's mother hunts with a pack that are slowly picking away at a sledding team transporting a dead body, before hunting down all but one of the men, who survives by huddling around his campfire. I thought that was the coolest intro I can remember in a book.

Anyways, personally, I was glad to go back and read these books. There will probably be a lull now, since I'm kind of in suspension with my bookcase currently packed away in boxes.
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Re: Doods Reviews Shit He Read

Postby Doodle Dee. Snickers » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:45 am

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

This one is a childhood favorite, and that has not abated as I've grown up. Most every child in America has read this book at one point or another (it's on every school reading list, I believe), the tale of a girl and her family (most notably her father, Atticus) in 30s Southern Alabama. It's also a book that sees occasional attempts to ban it, presumably because it's a very uncomfortable book for children to read.

It's basically split into three acts: the introduction of Scout and her family, and of Maycomb; the Robinson Trial; and the aftermath. Each of these parts is surprisingly engrossing, painting a picture of quirky characters and sympathetic people no matter who they are. The writing is very simple, very clever, and oftentimes very humorous.

It's a book that's a lot deeper than just the central telling of racism, which caught me by surprise because there was a whole lot of that I didn't pick up on reading it my first couple of times years ago. That's the part everyone remembers, but the novel also touches on things like gender roles, regional tensions (depictions of the people of Northern Alabama turning their noses up at Maycomb who in turn talk with derision about the more rural folk might sound kind of familiar), the loss of innocence, and growing up. Most chiefly, of course, it's about racism, but more broadly it's about coming to understand people no matter who they are. Atticus in particular preaches to his children to always understand everyone and see things from their points of view, no matter how much it frustrates them.

The chief villain of the story is dealt with rather sympathetically, as his daughter and the man they both victimized. Atticus in particular stands the test of time as one of the most realistically morally upright characters in literature without ascending to a plane of righteousness that nobody in the real world ever achieves. Scout herself is a delight, with her realistic tomboy ways and constant bickering with her older brother. In fact, there is hardly a character I don't find well fleshed out with one notable exception: the victim himself. I don't know if it's a fault of the writing or just because you don't get much time to know the victim beyond the confines of his trial, but it always felt like that of all of the characters in the book, he strangely got the short end of the stick when it came to characterization.

Still, this one I would highly recommend. It's not a tough read, though it can sometimes be uncomfortable, but such is a mark of its brilliance. It's a book meant primarily for children (though like any good children's property, it can also be read into further as an adult) but it forces them and you to get to know these warm, lovable characters and then have to deal with the stark consequences of their beliefs in a way that eschews much of the crusading moralizing that comes with issues like these.

I'll give it 99 Boos put of 102 Boos.
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