Review of “Long Day’s Journey into Night” by Eugene O’Neill

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I did not like this play. I’m not sure how anyone can “like” this play. It is terribly, relentlessly, unapologetically sad. Reading this play made me really need a drink – just like most of the characters in the play. 

Although it is sad, this play is fascinating. O’Neill takes the four members of the Tyrone family, all rather unredeemable characters, and makes the audience feel acute empathy for them. I disliked all of the characters in the play, but I was deeply interested in their fate. I wanted good things for them. I wanted them all to be happy, to no longer be sad. The writing is simple but beautiful, and the characters feel much more developed than other characters I have encountered in my limited exposure to drama (mostly Shakespeare and Wilder). I have never read a work of fiction that so perfectly describes a dysfunctional family, or so fully understands complex family dynamics. Long Day’s Journey into Night was difficult and painful for me to read, but I was very glad to have experienced it. 

Review of “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde

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I’ll admit, when I was first assigned this play for class, I was not looking forward to reading it. I expected the play to be as dry as the Victorian writing that my class had just slogged through. But Wilde was completely different. The language Wilde used was still quite foreign for my modern sensibilities, but the language was brilliant. Wilde’s wordplay is exceptional. This is a play that must be read slowly, and over and over. I feel as though I could read this play ten times and still find myself laughing at new lines. It is full of hilarious moments, and it also makes some serious statements about Wilde’s culture at the time. Wilde’s writing seems to be full of a barely contained joy for life and love. I think he was the complete embodiment of his movement, aestheticism, and loved making art for art’s sake.

I can’t say anything about this play that hasn’t already been said. Just read it. It is worth investing an afternoon to read it. 

Review of “A Long Way Gone” by Ishmael Beah

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In A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah recounts his experiences as a child soldier, his rehabilitation, and his ongoing recovery (if a person can ever truly recover from such experiences). This book will rip your heart out. Beah’s memoir is vividly real and quite raw. It almost seems like he sat down and wrote some parts of it right after they happened. Beah’s writing style is basic, yet effective. It is perfect for the YA crowd, and would probably benefit them the most. I know that it was difficult for Beah to write this book, and I think that it took a lot of courage to write about his own actions/experiences. And this is not a popular opinion (the book is a national bestseller), but I do have some problems with the book.  

I wish that Beah would have further developed his war experiences. I understand that these were the most difficult aspects of his experience to write about, but the audience needs to read about this the most. I think that we all understand that the experiences of child soldiers are terrible, but we cannot even fathom the extent of the horror and pain that these experiences cause. The book was supposed to be about his experiences as a child soldier, yet only a very small section of the book is dedicated to this time period. I think that Beah could have shortened his description of the time leading up to his time in the army, and dedicated that section of the novel to further developing the experience of war instead. I also feel as though this novel lacked character development and introspection, which was surprising because it is a memoir. I guess I just wanted more description of how Beah was feeling about his experiences. I think I would have been able to better connect with the novel. Somehow, I was bored while reading this book. I had to force myself to sit down and finish it despite all of its unique/exciting/emotionally distressing content. I’m not sure if I can blame this on Beah’s writing style or on my own mental exhaustion at that time, but something just wasn’t working for me. For this reason, some aspects of the novel feel like wasted opportunities.

BUT

Overall, the book is important, and should have a widespread readership. Americans are too frequently comfortable with horrors happening elsewhere as long as things are fine at home, and that’s not acceptable. It is important to be aware of situations like Beah’s, and this book will help educated individuals who would have otherwise never known that child soldiers exist.

Update

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Hello fellow bloggers/readers!

I haven’t posted a new review in over a month, but that doesn’t mean I have stopped reading! This is my last semester of college classes, and the end of the year hit me hard. But it’s over now, so I can resume reading for pleasure and frequently updating this rarely read account of my reading adventures. 🙂 I will catch up my reviews as quickly as possible. I have finished ten books since I wrote my last book review, so expect to be bombarded with reviews for the next few days. I apologize if anyone has noticed my absence. I had to write so much at the end of this semester that the thought of writing when I wasn’t required to seemed ridiculous. In case anyone was wondering/is interested, I did very well this semester:

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I hope you all are doing well, and are enjoying the first few days of real summer! In the next few days, you will see reviews of A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, plus all of these books:

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I am also currently reading White Noise by Don Delillo, In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders, and The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder.

What are you reading?

Review of “Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation” by Tim Hamilton

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Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation was only the second graphic novel I had ever read. The first was Maus, and I am doubtful that a greater graphic novel exists. I could speak endlessly about Maus. It is wonderful. When I started Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation, I had high expectations. The book did not meet my expectations, BUT I think it is still worthwhile.

The graphic novel was a successful adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. It communicated all of the important ideas/themes of the novel. The novel is relatively short, so it is particularly easy to adapt into the graphic novel form. The novel is also a good candidate for adaptation because it provides many visual opportunities. The best sections of the graphic novel were those involving fire. These sections were drawn in bright, blazing oranges, reds, and yellows. I thought these parts were very powerful. It made the act of burning books seem even more terrible/condemnable than Bradbury could have possibly portrayed in the novel. Even though the adaptation did many things well, I would still have preferred to have just read the actual novel. But, again, I am not a visual thinker, and I would prefer to visualize the events of the novel myself without the help of an artist.

Although graphic novels aren’t really “my thing,” I think it is an excellent idea to use them in a high school classroom. Students that may struggle with or dislike reading may be more inclined to actually read a graphic novel. If a student struggles to comprehend what he/she is reading, graphic novels provide a visual accompaniment to the written storyline. Graphic novels can also be introduced in a classroom to break the monotony (if you want to call it that) of a lineup of straight novels.

The general reader, like me, may want to stick to reading Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. However, if you are a fan of graphic novels, a high school teacher (or potential teacher), or a Bradbury fan, I would suggest checking out this book.

Review of “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski

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House of Leaves is perhaps the most difficult book I have ever read. I have been trying to finish this book for three years. It usually takes me a week or so to finish a novel – two if it’s difficult. But House of Leaves was a special case. The book has followed me, unread, between houses. It has haunted my nightstand, served as an impromptu coffee table (my “coffee table” is currently a large book atom an ottoman), and has been a continual reminder of my inability to persevere, to continue even when something is boring or difficult. I have started reading it multiple times, only to abandon it when I find myself distracted, making excuses to read something else. I decided that this year would be the year I finished it. I started it halfway through January, and only just finished it a week ago. Strangely, even though it took me three months to finish it, I really enjoyed the book.

I think my initial issue with House of Leaves is its unconventional style. I won’t speak much about the novel’s style; it has already received much criticism and praise, and is the main reason that the novel has garnered a cult following. I initially thought the style was slightly “gimmicky,” and I wasn’t impressed. The style is the main reason it took me so long to get into the novel. I quickly grew frustrated with the seemingly never-ending chapters about things like the science behind echoes. I eventually came to appreciate the style. The endless stream of footnotes (usually meaningless, ending nowhere) parody the seriousness of academic papers (as an English student, I can be both amused and offended by this). Near the end of the novel, Danielewski begins using text to visually represent the things happening in the novel, which is interesting, and honestly just really fun to read.

House of Leaves is a horror story, a love story, an adventure, and an exercise in experimental literary form. To read the novel is a big undertaking, but it is worth it. The total effect of this novel cannot be boiled down to a short blog post. However, my favorite aspect of House of Leaves is its portrayal of love, simultaneously beautiful and crushing, and the fleeting nature of life: “and this great blue world of ours / seems a house of leaves /moments before the wind.” I am happy to have experienced this novel. It is a big undertaking, but was worth every hour that I poured into it.