Monthly Archives: October 2014

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Although only a quarter into the book, Kesey has already presented an interesting scenario. The narrator is quite unreliable, and there are many times that I cannot tell what is really happening and what Chief thinks is happening. He does, however, create some amazing metaphors. It becomes confusing sometimes, but it offers an intriguing perspective on how some actions may be interpreted by those with a mental disorder. The book is in first person, and the narrator sometimes goes on and on about barely relevant subjects, and goes off on tangents quite a bit. However, he is a good narrator in the sense that he is quite an observer. Pretending to be deaf and mute allows him a better chance at observing the going-ons at the asylum. There are some points, though, where I have to reread a section to understand what is going on.

The characters all have some sort of mental affliction, but it is not enough to make them unrelatable. Most of the disorders are simply exaggerated emotions, reactions, or habits that many people have. I don’t understand why Randle Patrick McMurphy is in the asylum. He appears to be the most sane of any of them. I suppose he has a gambling addiction and is always cheerful, but those don’t seem like reasons why someone would be in a mental asylum.

The novel does not deal with anything outside the institute, so everything Chief describes is in the building. He mentions a few locations outside the asylum, before he was admitted, most of which are recognizable, at least to me, due to the fact that it is set in Oregon. Characterization and setting descriptions are amazing, albeit being a little hard to understand. The plot, so far, has moved fairly slowly, but the descriptions are engaging to read, and I cannot wait to continue this intriguing, and mildly confusing, novel.

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Killing Lincoln, By Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Post One)

Compared to the numerous novels I have read, Killing Lincoln is the notable outlier of the pool. What separates this book from your usual novel is the 3rd person omniscient perspective. While the story is about the momentous days and thoughts that led to Lincoln’s assassination, the authors don’t feel the need to stay focused to the story, adding in their own insight and biases into it. One aspect that I quite enjoy is the common use of quotes and historical pieces of evidence to seamlessly fabricate more details and imagery into the plot. Along with increased clarity the usage of quotes also gives variety in the ways the authors express the character’s thoughts. The entire book is written in such a way that evidence and commentary is translated on and off to keep readers engaged yet free to make their own opinions.

I will admit at first I wasn’t sure if the book was going to go any farther than list a lot of boring facts but I was proven wrong as I went deeper into the book. One of the major symbols in the story that was introduced was the ides, a term coming from Julius Caesar’s assassination. The ides were known as a lunar cycle in Rome and as the day Julius died. The authors brought this up because they wanted to let the readers know how like Julius’s death, Lincoln’s death was well predicted beforehand and in a sense, inevitable. I’m excited to read Killing Lincoln and to learn more about our history’s darkest times.

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Room by Emma Donoghue, Post 1

Room by Emma Donoghue is truly an “utterly gripping….heart-stopping novel” (San Francisco Chronicle). There are moments in this strange book where I am forced to stop reading and process what is going on for a couple of minutes. It is disturbingly wonderful, a joy and pain to read all at the same time. Donoghue’s choice of writing this book from the perspective of a five year old boy named Jack is definitely an effective and unique decision. It is totally believable, especially when she misuses or skips some words in his narrative. Jack’s thoughts and emotions are clear and authentic. For instance, the fact that his mother changes stories she reads to him to include his name it in, such as Jackie Wackie Pudding and Pie rather than Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie, makes it all the more realistic. I am not sure I would have written the story from Jack’s adolescent, naive perspective, because it is sometimes distracting, but it does not bother me to the point where I do not want to read this book. It actually makes me want to continue to read, for I am curious to see if as he grows and matures, his language will become more developed and intelligent.

A character in this book I am unclear about is Old Nick. Hopefully, in the next few sections, we will find out what role he plays in this story. I would like to know more about his relationship with Ma and Jack.

I am eager to continue reading this unsettling, yet captivating, novel.

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The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Just a quarter into the novel, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd has proven to be worthy of the phrase it has received from awards and book clubs across the country. One of the themes that has surfaced in the life of Sarah Grimke is gender expectations. All her life, she has had ambitions to become a lawyer, just like her father. However this Sarah’s dream is turned down when she is only allowed to take lessons in simpler subjects such as drawing and sewing. When she suggests she would like to become a lawyer, her mother even says, “A lawyer, Sarah? The idea is so outlandish I feel I have failed you bitterly” (Kidd 80). This displays that Southern women have certain morals and standards to live up too, and it would be a crime to defy those standards. Gender expectations is also seen when her mother is forced to run a traditional Southern Household and have religious and social duties in the upper class Charleston Society. Having a women be required to uphold duties that are not desired reveals the pressure that is given with the reasoning that they must act a certain way to not be shamed in their society.

The theme of Gender Expectations is just one of the concepts that overlaps with To Kill A Mockingbird. Because her mother is never around to take care of her, Sarah has a African American slave that takes her role as a mother. This maid, Binah, can be compared to Calpurnia because of the morals lessons they teach their children and their influence in their upbringing. Scout and Sarah are similar characters because they are both portrayed as tomboys. This characteristic brings them both negative attention by society, who tries to conform them to act more like ladies.

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A Confederacy of Dunces: Post 1

John Kennedy Toole’s novel A Confederacy of Dunces is about as comedy as a book can get. It was published in 1980, 11 years after the unfortunate suicide of its author. However, despite the book’s tragic past, it provides itself as a fantastic read. One of the main contributors to the humor of the book is its main character, Ignatius Reilly. Ignatius is a big, fat, melodramatic, whiny, and all around terrible person. If I ever met him in real life, I would hate him. But yet somehow, inside the world of books, he’s one of the greatest main characters i have yet to come across. Ignatius is a highly educated man, which makes me, as the reader, laugh even harder when he constantly complains to his mother and needs her to cater to his every whim. He is almost the typical 30 year old deadbeat living in his mother’s house, but this particular deadbeat actually taught at a university for some time. He is so completely full complaints, judgement, and hot air that he makes you want to spit in his face and turn away. His education level, however makes every complaint and judgement come out almost as if it were a fact. What’s even better, though, is his imaginary health problems. Every time Ignatius is asked to do something that he would prefer not to do, his “valve” closes. He sometimes reminds me of a 6 year old little boy, who throws fits because he doesn’t want to do his chores, but he is a 6 year old boy who throws his fits while using words fit for a university professor’s vocabulary. This all makes Ignatius seem like a completely despicable character, (which he is), but some how he adds to the appeal of the novel.I think that Ignatius’s tantrums and complaints would make for a great comedic novel, but his educated and self-righteous air creates a huge juxtaposition, similar to that of say, “Strange Fruit.” In this case, though, instead of adding an eerie side of the story, Toole’s juxtaposition makes for an even funnier novel.

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The Giver by Lois Lowry

The book The Giver had a great opening that was not at all boring. I found it very interesting to read about the setting of the book. I expect the setting to play a big role in the story as well as the main conflict. One thing that I liked was how the author introduced this fictional society to the reader. There was explanation when necessary, for example, when the evening sharing of feelings was introduced Obviously readers would have no idea what that was, so the author gives a small snippet about it. Then, as the telling of feelings happens, the author lets readers figure out what it is through the dialogue. Plus, in reading about this society’s daily activity, we learn more about the setting. That sort of explanation was something that I noticed the author did throughout the first part of the book and I liked it.

Besides the setting, I also found the characters interesting. They seemed similar to how people would act today. In the book, it says that in their society, the setup of a family is something that is regulated by rules. However, when I was reading about the times that the family was together, I thought that their interaction was not much different than we have today. Finally, the specific character observation that I made was of the main character, Jonas. I noticed that he seems to be generally an extremely normal character, even though strange things happen to him. How I saw it was there is this boy, Jonas, who has nothing about him that is unusual, and he is put in several situations where unusual things occur. It’s as if the author is setting up the story with a “blank slate”, ready to be written on. In the beginning, Jonas is a normal kid that readers can understand with little difficulty. Then he is put in a strict, heavily structured society where he is about to have a big change to his life with the Ceremony of Twelve. I think that Jonas’s “normalness” in the start of the story is going to change later on, maybe even drastically. In the mean time, readers are able to focus on other elements of the story, such as the interesting setting. I predict that is Jonas ever does have a change in his character traits, it will be due to the events that happen to him, and the influence of the restrictive world that he lives in.

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2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke is proving to be a very fascinating read. The novel is written with vivid descriptions of space technology and other aspects of science fiction. This style of writing is very unique in that it draws the reader into a world that they cannot directly experience.

So far, the main storyline has not yet been fully introduced, but two intriguing subplots depicting extraterrestrial encounters at various points in human evolution have been described. In the first subplot a giant monolith advances human evolution by teaching man-apes to make tools. The second subplot takes place epochs later, in 1999, when a similar monolith appears on a man-made moon base. Planet Earth at this time is on the brink of a global nuclear war, and humans are faced with food shortages and overpopulation. The effect of the second object on humans has not yet been revealed. These two storylines have a captivating effect on the reader, making this book a real page-turner.

Since the plot has not developed substantially enough for me to develop an opinion on characters or storyline, I can only surmise what will happen next. However one quote describing human evolution was very interesting: “But now, as long as they existed, he was living on borrowed time.” (37) “He” refers to mankind, but who are “they”? I imagine that this foreshadows events to come, possibly even the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligent life. Again, this book is a real page turner and I am very curious about how the story will unfold.

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