Friday, September 14, 2007

Bunch o' books

Review of some books I've read recently:

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
I read this every summer, and I absolutely love it. One of the best opening paragraphs ever: "Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted." Next stop Goosebumpville! For some proper musical background, listen to Running Wild, particularly with the song based on the book - Treasure Island (Duh). This book has it all - high adventure, suspense, rum and awesome pirates.

Papillon - Henri Charrière
Memoir of Charrière's incarceration and escapes from penal colonies on french Guiana. Right off the bat, I'd never have thought that this book would appeal to me - memoirs of a french guy who calls himself butterfly, and his life and times in prison. More "The Crying Game" or "Memoirs Of A Geisha" than Jack London, from teh looks of it. Still, it's a surprisingly cool story, even though it's painfully obvious that Papillon either had the rosiest recollection in recorded history, or he flat out lies his tiny french self off. Even through the rose-tinted glasses of retrospect and self-aggrandation, dude makes some mighty boneheaded decisions throughout the saga. Still a worthwhile read.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea - Jules Verne
Superclassic about Professor Aronnax, his servant Conseil and Canadian harpooner Ned Land who set out to hunt what they believe to be a mysterious creature larger and faster than a whale, but which turns out to be a giant submarine - Nautilus - constructed and piloted by Captain Nemo. Considering that it was written in 1869, there's some absolutely stunning descriptions of chemical reactions, etc. in here. This is the first time I've read the "proper" version - I read the children's version way back when I was seven or something.

Sexus - Henry Miller
I've read this way back in high school, and stumbled across it again this summer. Gave it a second try, if you will. Nope - still the same trite crap. The problem is that Miller has read Hunger by Hamsun, and tried to transplant this to New York, but it doesn't work. Dude really tries, and it's a blatant Hamsun rip-off, but there is one thing Miller overlooked - Hamsun was a spectacularly talented writer, whereas Miller was a hack. Still - some of the descriptions of people and places are worth reading.

The Picture Of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
Wilde's only novel, first published in 1890. Awesome twist on the Faust storyline, wherein Dorian Gray trades his soul for eternal youth, with a portrait aging in his place. Not your run-of-the-mill crossroads saga, but an excellent and provocative story. Warmly recommended.

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
Actually two books, "The Adventures of" Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, respectively. The latter has been dubbed the "great American Novel", and is certainly the better of the two. Still; maybe I'm letting the fact that I've read, heard and seen Tom Sawyer and his shenanigans in so many dubious children's versions since before I started school cloud my view of this novel. 'Cause Tom Sawyer is a great book, but H to da F totally rules. Both books have almost been banned from use in schools across America on account of their less than politically correct descriptions of race. Y'all know what the books are about, so I'll skip the play-by-play. Read the books instead - especially Huckleberry Finn.


Anders said...

Bunch of classics you've read lately. I most admit that I haven't read neither Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn.

My first Verne book was the courier of the czar, which is not a typical Verne book (no amazaing inventions or such). Still one of my favorite Verne books. What's amazing about the books of Verne, is that they appeal to a wide range of ages: From kids/youths to old people.

Currently reading three books of Are Kalvø. Really likes his writing and humor, but somehow I feel reviewing them here in English would be wrong.

Kjerstin said...

I remember when I was 9 and read all the Jules Verne books they kept at the school library - until the librarian realised what I was doing and tried to stop me, because those books would be far too difficult for me, and shouldn't I be reading something better suited to my age? And then she proceeded to recommend some random children's book, with huge letters and lots of pictures. That was when I stopped listening to people's recommendations.

Wilhelm said...

A-train: Huck Finn is da bomb, as is TS. I've only read one book by Kalvø, but it was well-written fo' sho'.

I'm still working my way through the classics I bought this summer - probably continuing with Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.

Kjerstin: Are you trying to tell me something? ;-) When I read a lot of these books as a kid, I didn't know that I wasn't reading the full versions, etc. Besides, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are pretty useless unless they're accompanied by the original language, ya heah. A body must agree with that something powerful.

Kjerstin said...

Kjerstin: Are you trying to tell me something? ;-)

Not really :-)
I guess I'm commenting on the hopelessness of trying to assign certain books to certain ages. I take great pleasure now in reading the books I read as a child (and in discovering how differently I read them). Also, the incident with the librarian taught me how to read reviews and stuff. Just because someone thinks certain books are good for you, doesn't mean they're right. (It's a big part of the story that I also had significant experience with Christian so-called "oppbyggelig litteratur", books that made me question people's motives in recommending literature even more.)

Kjerstin said...

And this is merely a general observation spurred by your mentioning Jules Verne, not an attempt to accuse you of anything of the above mentioned. Just to make that clear!

Wilhelm said...

That's OK - I'm used to the accusations of recommending stuff just because it is authored by people some cult tells me has exceptional moral standards.