Monday, November 23, 2009

6. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

I have just a few thoughts on this book. It was more enjoyable than I expected it to be, and it was less complex than I expected it to be. (That is not to say it didn't get me thinking!) I know the reason for these expectations--a dark, complicated, depressing novel--are due solely to my reading of other Maguire works--Wicked, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men. This trilogy, dubbed The Wicked Years, is nothing if not dark, twisted, and endlessly labyrinthine. I did enjoy reading those books. It is just that after reading them, one expects the author to be ruthless, leaving no chance for a satisfying, traditionally "happy" ending.

There was enough of a twist at the end of Confessions that I was surprised, but overall this retelling of the classic fairy tale remained true to what a fairy tale must be--the pretty girl marries the prince, the mean stepmother is thwarted in the end. However, the themes throughout the book were compelling and thought-provoking: What IS beauty? Does physical beauty always translate to spiritual beauty? Does physical imperfection always translate to an evil heart--jealousy, rage, and scorn? When a work of art is perfect, does the artist regret creating it?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Modern Library's 100 Best Novels List (and Counter-List)

This link will take you to the site for The Modern Library, whose board has chosen the 100 Best Novels of all time. The list includes such greats as Ulysses (which I've never read) and The Great Gatsby (which I've read about 15 times). It is an ambitious list, and SocrMom78 over at 100 Books in 100 Weeks has decided to undertake the reading of all 100 in just 100 weeks. Good luck and good reading to her!

The parallel Reader's List of 100 books on the Modern Library site is just as good, and includes some great works forgotten on the Board's List. (Ahem, To Kill a Mockingbird!) Anyway, check out the site if you are in need of a good book recommendation.

Monday, November 9, 2009

63. The Time Machine

What I liked the most about this book--what makes any dystopian view of society in science fiction good in my opinion--is that it was slightly crazy yet completely correct. The basic sociological idea behind the story is that if humans continue to separate themselves from all work and strive only for peace, prosperity and luxury in the personal realm, then we will quickly be divided into two groups-- (1)those who must work for (2)those who don't have to. It is the basic proletariat-bourgeoisie argument. However, it doesn't seem that Wells follows Marxism to the letter, as his futuristic realm involves much socialism, which he depicts as dumbing down the species considerably. It is as if he is saying to achieve our goals of social justice will make us lazy and stupid.
I sure felt stupid when I first started reading this book. It is a short novel, and I knew it was some type of science fiction--the title tipped me off there-- but I didn't bargain for having to look up two words in the dictionary before even finishing the first page! (If you're curious, the words are fecundity and recondite.) I also didn't imagine I would have a feminist qualm with Wells when it was all said and done. It is true I had been thinking about feminism during the first few days of reading this book, but I didn't think the two should meet. However one of the first thoughts I had when finishing the novel was about the awful portrayal of women therein. There are only two mentions of women at all: one a servant; one a diminuitive twit, who follows the main character like a lap dog, is treated likewise, and eventually dies as a sacrifice for our hero's escape. Bad form, Wells.
On the whole, though, I did enjoy the book and the thoughts provoked since reading it.