All the philosophy of a big drink and a foghorn

Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neilllong-days-journey

The story

Firstly, let’s raise the tone. This play is lively, witty and has some of the snappiest comebacks in theatre (if you can survive the Americanisms).

Now I shall drop the bass.

Mundanity. Shame. Bitterness. Can we keep our spirits and our spirits (preferably whiskey) up when beneath the surface we feel so much more than our light-hearted jokes can say? What we get to see in O’Neill’s most personal work is a play that takes place in an American family summer house over the course of a day. Two parents; two sons, and something has been corrupted in each one.

Why should you read Long Day’s Journey into Night? Because the demons we face are sometimes in our head, and sometimes in our loved ones. There has never been such an apt study of this fact.

The back of the book informs us:

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The First Lolicon (AKA the poetic paedo)

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokovlolita

My book

I would apologise for the title of my post, which treats the very serious topic of paedophilia light-heartedly, but this is the sort of mood that you have to be in to be able to read Lolita. The moment you start feeling ill or guilty, it’s no longer an interesting read. I avoided these cumbersome emotions quite simply because I am a teenage girl, and therefore able to understand Lolita, more than I could understand our pervy narrator. Besides, the book’s love affair with language is far more interesting than any love affair with young girls. Trust me, at 309 pages, you have plenty of time for moral reflection, but a book like this is tedious if you are not enjoying yourself.

Other than that short warning, I don’t want to put prospective readers off. Therefore, I recommend Penguin Modern Classics. This version of the notorious novel includes a note from the author himself, which should assuage any conscience that this is puerile sexual gratification (I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Lolita is purity itself compared to certain scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey, though I have admittedly not read the latter). It is instead a book to read, to enjoy and to get you thinking. First published 1959, it is not difficult to read, other than the downright academic terminology that Nabokov slips into every so often, and I believe that it is a rare person who understands every reference or allusion. For all that, try it. I can guarantee that you will most likely enjoy it more than you think.

The story

I find it very uncomfortable to categorize this book as a ‘romance’, or ‘American’. It is technically about a romantic relationship, or several, if you include the beginning of the novel (and technically about rape, though neither term fits well). The author isn’t but, the book is technically American, since the whole world of the book is set there, and you are given quite the tour of the continent during a long road trip sequence and, therefore, Americanisms abound.

OK, so we have established that the book is about a paedophile, but beyond that, not many know what actually happens in Lolita. The blurb has this to say:

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“It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such – such beautiful shirts before.”

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

My book

I have titled this review with my favourite quote from The Great Gatsby, because you will rarely find a more random and cathartic moment in literature. Curious? You don’t have to be. Read it.

Published 1925, there is no better example of the American Jazz Age anywhere in literature (the flapper on the front cover should give you a clue). At 140 pages long, you could read it in a day (that is, a day of intensive reading). For me, it was a set text for my class, and I made the mistake of watching the film adaptation first. Still, despite these awful set-backs (that true book lovers will sympathise with) I managed to have a very good experience reading it. It’s a book that’s not exciting, but rather, intriguing.

The story

The first thing I noticed, if you’ve read some of my earlier reviews, is that The Great Gatsby bears numerous similarities to Le Grand Meaulnes (The Lost Estate), apart from merely the title. Both stories are told by secondary characters, who almost ruin their own lives in following the story of the ‘hero’, who in turn stands to ruin his life chasing after some supposedly perfect angel of a woman.

Since I don’t want to give away the ending (why do blurb writers think they can tell you the culmination of the plot just because a book is a classic?) I have cut at its synopsis a little:

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Would you like a cuppa cwafee?

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

My book

We have here, published 1949, a pretty contemporary play but most American classics I’ve come across tend to be. I’ve read this Methuen copy through a few times, as well as watching the film adaptation since I’ve had to study two Arthur Miller plays for Literature. For stories that feel distinctly small-scale, they deal with some pretty hefty moral issues, but remain relatable enough.

As far as plays go, Death of a Salesman is of a pretty standard length – being 121 pages long. As for my copy, it’s great if you are independently looking at the play. There is a long introduction giving you a few interpretations of it, and ideas about how to look at the playwright’s life (although it seems to expect you to know a bit about Arthur Miller’s other works). However, if you’re a student and you’re going to be doing classwork with it, don’t get this copy. It is edited by Enoch Brater, which means that quite a few lines are completely different to the original script.

The story

To quote the blurb:

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Boy, it was sort of phoney and all. It killed me.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger

My book

If I hadn’t been told to read it by my English teacher, I probably would have brushed past The Catcher in the Rye without a second glance. As well-known as it is, it isn’t a book that entices you. The book cover is dull – I heard that the author felt very strongly about controlling that – and there’s no blurb. It’s also the sort of psychological coming of age tale that I never read, because it hits a little too close to home. I’m glad to have been exposed to it though and at 230 pages long, it didn’t take me too long to read.

The story

Now here’s a story which is like Marmite: you love it or you hate it. It’s very difficult to split into ‘best bits’ and ‘worst bits’ but I’ll do my best. Since there’s no blurb, I’ll try to give a brief summary. Continue reading

I understand women less now

The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

My book

My Literature class (which is almost entirely composed of girls, which is great when we gang up on the lads) were talking about feminism. Although most of us consented that, yes, we were feminists of a type, it seemed such a vague concept in so many ways that I decided to look it up. The Female Eunuch is perhaps the most famous book for feminists; the book that started a whole new movement upon its publication in 1970 (or so it’s said). So I bought it.

Firstly, let’s look at the book cover of my Harper Perennial Modern Classics version. It’s incredible; really bizarre. The symbolism is clear, and disturbing. I admit that it was this interesting little picture that made me look forward to reading it more than anything else though. Maybe I’m just disturbed.

I will give a warning though. This book is 397 pages long if you include the ending notes (but I suggest not reading this since it breaks up the pace of the book to keep flipping to the end). You need committment to get through a book like this, because it isn’t a story- it’s pretty much a textbook.

The story

Obviously, there’s no plot to this book. It is set out in chapters examining the ‘conditioning’ of little girls into crushed women. That’s the general theme of the book. The blurb on the back explains: Continue reading