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8:26 p.m. - January 03, 2005
2005 Book Reviews
2004 Book Reviews
2003 Book Reviews

Welcome to Book Reviews by Non-Descript. All reviews are the opinion of the author who either likes the book or not, and will tell you exactly why.

Books on the To-Read Shelf:

-Call Me the Breeze, Patrick McCabe
-The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare (any excuse to refer to Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Garber)
-A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
-Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney
-The Last Crossing, Guy Vanderhaeghe
-Hard Times, Charles Dickens
-The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois
-Kaddish for a Child Not Born, Imre Kertesz
-Light in August, William Faulkner
-Le chevalier au lion, Chretien de Troyes
-Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Nightstand Books, books I read over time by chapter / short story / poem:

Great American Short Stories from Hawthorne to Hemingway
A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World, Georges Duby
The Wonders of Solitude, Dale Salwak

Recommend a Book!


27. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova

26. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling

25. Diaries of a Young Poet, Rainier Maria Rilke

24. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

23. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

22. The Pugilist at Rest, Thom Jones

21. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy

20. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl

19. Going Solo, Roald Dahl

18. Boy, Roald Dahl

17. Danny, the Champion of the World, Roald Dahl

16. James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl

15. A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

14. What the Butler Saw, Joe Orton

13. The Last of the Celts, Marcus Tanner

12. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

11. Hard Landing, Thomas Petzinger

10. Children of God, Mary Doria Russell

9.The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell

8. The Odyssey, Fitzgerald translation

7. The Clerkenwell Tales, Peter Ackroyd

6. Angels in America: Perestroika, Tony Kushner
Pages: 158
Published: 1992

Read this book: I think everybody - gay and straight - can see themselves in Angels in America and for that reason it's a must-read.

Don't read this book: I think Perestroika is more (too?) jarring and discombobulating than Millenium Approaches, rushing from scene to scene and topic to topic that doesn't allow enough room to traverse these great themes. However, I think this was by plan and as such succeeds on that level.

Final Thought: I enjoy - love - Perestroika even more than I did Part One. Good literature, by some definitions, is good when it uplifts, challenges, transforms, or provokes the reader. Angels in America does this in each scene from start to finish in what I call a rare confluence of the questions that make us question and the answers that might not be evident.

5. Rappaccini's Daughter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Pages: 36
Published: 1844

Read this short story: Contemporaries aren't the only ones caught up in the debate over the (abusive?) reaches of science. The times have changed since Hawthorne but the issues are the same - one would think we'd have made some progress over these past 150 years of... progress.

Don't read this short story: I'd never say that for RD.

Final Thought: This has remained one of my favorite short stories since I first read it in 8th grade. I relish subtlety and there's enough in these few pages that make re-reading each paragraph carefully a must. It's just plain good.

4. Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
Pages: 170
Published: 1936

Read this book: To understand why genteel readers were shocked by one of the first pieces of lesbian-love literature.

Don't read this book: Conniving lesbian ruins lives, an early precursor to campy films like Lesbo-killers from Mars - save yourself the time and don't bother.

Final Thought: The prose is elegant, precise yet fleshed out, the characters are memorable (especially the Doctor), and there's enough smatterings of racism, anti-Semitism, and classicism that portray (accurately?) the times. I suspect I've missed something big - like the point - but I can't figure out what it is, but I wasn't enveloped by Nightwood to pursue the mythical deeper meaning. I might read it again if I'm broke and can't afford to buy more books.

3. The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green, Joshua Braff
Pages: 259
Published: 2004

Read this book:Both hilarious and heart-breaking, this one will clarify the definition of bittersweet.
Don't read this book: If you're offended by foul language, talk of pubescent penile-wonder, or hold your Judaism so sacrosanct that irreverence raises your blood pressure, avoid The Unthinkable Thoughts.
Final thought:Loved it!

2. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
Pages: 113
Published: 1903
Read this book: For adventure, a fast-paced novella, for luscious prose:

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this excstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight . . . He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars and over the face of dead matter that did not move.

Don't read this book: If the word frontier doesn't quicken your blood or you believe the only acceptable animals as characters were the ones in Aesop's fables, then you won't enjoy The Call of the Wild.
Final thought: This was the first Jack London I've read, having long taken the stance that books about animals could not be interesting. Call of the Wild was so beautiful and compelling that I'm picking up White Fang soon.

1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll
Pages: 319
Published: 1865

Read this book:For cultural literacy?
Don't read this book:If you dislike children's fancy and plays on words and language, or plain adult-perspective silliness like this:
"Of course it is," said the Duchess, who seemed ready to agree to everything that Alice said: "there's a large mustard-mine near here. And the moral of that is-- 'The more there is of mine, the less there is of yours.'"

"Oh, I know!" exclaimed Alice, who had not attended to this last remark. "It's a vegetable. It doesn't look like one, but it is."

"I quite agree with you," said the Duchess; "and the moral of that is --'Be what you would seem to be' -- or, if you'd like it put more simply --'Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'"

"I think I should understand that better," Alice said very politely, "if I had it written down: but I ca'n't quite follow it as you say it."

Final thought: I'm patching the holes of my childhood. Struck by how much grown-up there is in Alice: Who knew?


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