Sep 25 2009

The Awakening

Kate ChopinWhat the hell?! Why does every classic story I pick-up (in my current quest to broaden my literary foundations) have to do with suicide? The Japanese might have made an art form out of sepuku, but western literature isn’t far behind.

I just finished Kate Chopin‘s 1899 short novel “The Awakening”. Why did I choose this book at all? I don’t know. It wasn’t even on “my list”! It was something different I guess, different from what I usually read. Chopin is considered an early feminist. The book is written from a woman’s point of view (like I’m supposed to care about that?!). It has romance (I’m told I should read more romances, go figure). It deals with women’s issues in an unapologetic way, in some respects similar to Tess of the d’Urbervilles (written by a man, 8 years before). Though they deal with separate issues and themes, both books were considered scandalous for their brazen depictions of female sexuality, so I’m lumping them together. See how that works?! I’m the blogger, I say it works.

What did I think about the book? Ummm… I thought it was well-written. It kept my interest (wasn’t sure I was going to continue past the first few pages, at first). The author’s attention to detail gave engaging insights into the lives of affluent New Orleans at the end of the 19th century (seems pretty nice except for the whole hurricane thing).  I was particularly engrossed by the way the author carries the reader through Edna Pontellier’s (main character) evolving thoughts and opinions of her marriage, her children, her freedom (what there is of it), and her life. Her actions and choices do not need to be commended to be understood.

“Ah! si tu savais / Ce que tes yeux me disent—”

4 out of 5


Sep 23 2009

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar WildeMy reading frenzy continues with Oscar Wilde‘s “The Picture of Dorian Gray“. I’ve been wanting to read this for quite some time. I’ve always liked Oscar Wilde’s writing, even if he does resort to formula on a regular basis. Wilde’s purpose for writing books sometimes seems to be nothing more than creating a venue to parade his epigrams. It doesn’t take long to tire of characters stating “There are two types of people…” or “The only thing worse than…”. Despite this, the ageless story moves swiftly, deftly, and enjoyably.

The only part of the book that grinds to a crawl is Chapter 11. The chapter (while interesting) allows Wilde to inundate the reader with a rich history of Luxury, that adds less to the story than to our insight of the author’s own passions. This is a small gripe in an otherwise classic and captivating tale.

When summarizing, I like to end with a quote from the piece. That’s not an easy task with Oscar Wilde as every page seems packed with memorable phrases. The task of finding one to end this review is not unlike throwing a die and accepting fate’s decision. So from a list I culled while reading, that is what I’ve done:

“I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.”

5 out of 5


Sep 22 2009

Heart of Darkness

Joseph ConradToday, I finished Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. A great many things have been written about this short story by people with degrees in such things. I very much doubt there’s much that I can add to that scholarship in the minutes remaining before I go to bed tonight. Let me instead give a few impressions and sum up the story for those of you who find Cliff Notes too long-winded.

The narrative follows one man’s river journey deep into the jungles of Africa (which I don’t think is explicitly named) sometime in the late 19th century. As the continent and its people are revealed to the speaker, he learns of a “man of virtue” named Kurtz who lives deep in the jungle. Everyone seems to think very highly of this man though no one seems to know him well, least of all the person that claims to know him best. If that doesn’t seem like a complete or compelling story, you’re not alone.  As Marlow begins to tell his tale, the narrator calls the impending tale (a tale of a tale?) “one of Marlow’s inconclusive experiences.”

My impressions of the book are mixed. The story is densely written so that even at 100+ pages (your typesetting may vary), the book seemed much, much longer. Conrad’s command of English (his third language, come to find out) is extraordinary. If there’s anyone alive today that can speak like this man could write, people’s brains would combust trying to follow one sentence to the next. Keep in mind, I’m not a fan of stringing words together just for the thrill of flexing one’s vocabulary (I’m looking at you, New Yorker). In this respect, Conrad sits on a throne of OED volumes at on one end of a spectrum while Hemingway and Dr. Seuss sit at the other end with six-toed cats and servings of roast-beast. This is not to say it’s incoherent, far from it… Perhaps all that filler-DNA could hold new insights and purpose upon subsequent readings, I’m not sure. This is not a book to read if you’re looking for a tidy resolution. This is a book that leaves you thinking about what you read long after you’ve put it down.

“We live, as we dream — alone.”

4 out of 5


Sep 19 2009

9

9Spoilers!

As this is the first Lounge Monkey movie review, let’s get this straight from the beginning. There are spoilers. There will always be spoilers. Lots and lots of spoilers! If you don’t want to know anything about the movie itself, go to Rotten Tomatoes, look at the Tomatometer and decide whether you want to see the movie based on that. If you’ve already seen the movie and want to talk about its content, read and post here.

Last night we went to the theater and watched an interesting little computer animated movie titled “9“. The movie revolves around a collection of little sack-people as they attempt to carve out a safe haven in an alternative post-apocalyptic world, circa 1939. The creators of 9 did something that I always feel is risky, combining science with magic. Sometimes it works but most of the time, it doesn’t. I enjoyed watching the small army of para-mechanical homunculi running around fighting against the Soulless Monster-Machines of Science. I was willing to believe a scientist could have resorted to the teachings of Paracelsus once science was turned against him! Why not? I liked the contrast with  Frankenstein, who studied alchemy before entering medical school (not the other way around). In fact, I liked most of what I saw, until the end… The end left me feeling a little empty.

Leaving the theater, I thought of numerous ways the creators could have ended it–but I don’t get a say in these things, except for here… *sigh* I also think they should have developed the scientist more… and made each of the homunculi an aspect of his personality rather than just a collection of standard archetypes (e.g., entrenched patriarch, big dumb fighter, crazy clairvoyant guy, girl-power adventuress, rebellious thinker).  A small complaint, but I think it would have added some depth to the film. Do animations need depth? *shrug*

My last point has to do with what comes afterward. At the ending the remaining heroes stand victorious above a desolate world. There is hope! There is promise! But they are sexless (unless they’re hiding some other things inside those zippers)… Ah well. Hope they know how to build more…

“I’m not sure. But this world is ours now. It’s what we make of it.”

3.5 out of 5


Sep 15 2009

The Metamorphosis

GregorIn my attempt to read through as many classics as possible before the urge abandons me, today I devoured the 1915 novella by Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis.  Despite the book’s title, the story actually starts immediately following the unfortunate Gregor’s hideous transformation (see below). The story revolves around Gregor coming to terms with his new body and the effects this has on his life, work, and family.

One of things I liked most about The Metamorphosis was the fact that the author never felt the need to explain how the change happened. Not only does the author seem completely unconcerned with the cause of this fantastic event, but Gregor’s family seem to accept their loved one’s misfortune as awful, tragic, but not particularly out-of-the-ordinary. It’s almost as if Grete had given birth to a severely retarded son, and moved by compassion and stigma, decided to shelter him away from prying eyes. I found this acceptance of the bizarre even more evocative than the metamorphosis itself.

“One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.”

4.5 out of 5


Sep 15 2009

Siddhartha

SiddharthaLast night I finished Herman Hesse‘s 1922 classic book (translated to English in 1951) Siddhartha. The book tells the story of an insightful young man and his journey to find enlightenment.  Siddhartha eschews the teachings of holy men, preferring instead to learn from his own experiences.

As per usual, I didn’t know a great deal about this book when I started reading it. The lyrical style takes some getting used to. By the time the second book began (the novel is divided into two parts) the story unfolds both richly and quickly. Not knowing a great deal about Buddhism, this book seems to be a great introduction to a wide culture I knew almost nothing about. People more familiar with Buddhism might appreciate Hesse’s incorporation of the four noble truths and eight-fold path into the structure of the story. While the story itself wasn’t particularly compelling, I enjoyed many of the characters’ observances and lessons… Which is sort of the point.

“Let the things be illusions or not, after all I would then also be an illusion, and thus they are always like me.”

4 out of 5


Sep 14 2009

People Who Died

Catholic BoyJust thought I’d post to commemorate the passing of Jim Carroll. He died of a heart attack on Friday in Manhattan, New York. The news claims he was most famous for “The Basketball Diaries” but I’ll always remember him for the 1980 album Catholic Boy featuring the song “People Who Died“.

I guess that song is a little longer now…


Sep 14 2009

Wading In…

Buy War BondsI think most people that meet and talk to me would classify me as Liberal (maybe it’s the limp and thinning middle-aged ponytail? *shrug*). Labels are good for sorting things but often fall short of telling the whole truth. Part of the problem (which I really don’t see as a problem) is that many of my positions are evolving.  Flag-waving mouth-breathers see this as weakness, fence-sitting, and an opportunity to rant and foam about why their position makes so much sense. Usually these arguments mirror (to an alarming degree) something a television or radio personality excreted just the day before over their chosen medium.  Not impressed or swayed… Additionally, I am continually unimpressed with both of the major political parties (e.g., the Republicans frighten me, the Democrats disappoint and worry me) and their Kung-Fu Grip on the American political system. We need more than two viable parties. Choices are a good thing.

So here I am complaining about The Powers That Be without any solutions. Typical. Truth be told, I do have SOME solutions but I don’t think a great many people are going to be signing-up for what I have in mind. There would be a lot of “Oh, you can’t do that!” when in fact, we can do pretty much whatever we put our minds to. I’ll discuss some of these items as the blog grows, but for now… here is a list of topics that I hope to discuss in the future:

  • Military reallocation
  • Overreaching Federal laws
  • Firearms
  • Drug legalization
  • Line-item vetoes
  • Transportation and alternative fuels
  • Dismantling the education system
  • Dissolving social security
  • Original copyright
  • Patent reform
  • Overhauling elections
  • Separation of church and state
  • Marriage versus unions
  • Tort reform, etc.
  • Capital punishment
  • Reforming jury selection
  • Defense versus war
  • And more…

If anyone actually cares enough to read this, they should feel free to comment…


Sep 13 2009

Boobies!

Awww... KittyLounge Monkey goes LIVE! Wow… Breathlessly the world awaits another blog. Hmmm… Maybe not so much.

Sooo… Why bother? That’s a good question. Why bother at all. My initial purpose for Lounge Monkey is to post opinions on books, movies, music, and things I encounter as life unfolds. This way, Steve can reassure himself that my opinions are not in anyway reactive and purposefully contrary to his own. We all want to keep Steve happy, even if it requires unleashing another web site onto the inter-tubes. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Honorable Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) for once describing the Internet as: “a series of tubes”.

I guess I don’t really have any particularly good reasons to do this. Hmmm… Ah well, here goes just the same.