Posts Tagged With: classics

Reviewing a Classic: For Whom The Bell Tolls – 3(ish) out of 5

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.

I first read that quote graffiti’d on a bathroom stall at College Library at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Man, I miss that place.

Anyway, this line turns up in the last few pages of For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s pretty much the only line I enjoyed reading. It’s a good line on its own, but I think my nostalgia helped. Otherwise who knows if I would have even noticed it.

But this book was hard to get though. I probably would have given up but I promised myself I would give Hemingway a second chance. I mean, he loved Spain and I love Spain. And my husband and I just bought a house in Oak Park, Illinois, where Hemingway was born. It’s blasphemous for me to not like him. I do not like him.

Here’s the thing – this book, it’s not like the story is bad. It’s quite decent in fact. There’s Robert Jordan, foreigner, who’s working with a guerrilla Spanish group during the Spanish Civil War. The story talks about their relationships and what it’s like to try to complete a very hard order. I find the relationships sudden and shallow, but overall, it’s interesting.

The problem is, Hemingway mucks it all up with his writing! That’s right, I’m going out there and I’m going to say it. I don’t care what his reputation is, I don’t care that he’s a famous writer and I’m just some shmoe. Hemingway’s dialogue sucks. It’s stilted, doesn’t represent actual development between characters, and to top it off, it’s all full of thys and thees and back-asswards crap wording.

I get it, I speak Spanish too, Hemingway, and I realize that the Spanish language will use formal terms that would, I suppose, directly translate to thee and thy. The thing is, though, we don’t use that in English so it sounds stunted and annoying. And some things are false cognates, Sir, and it’s really annoying to read “I did not mean to molest you.” When in Spanish the verb “molestar” means to bother, not physically grope someone. The direct translation of all of the dialogue is obnoxious and unnecessary.

Okay, sorry, I know that the language has changed through the years and it likely didn’t read as awkward when he wrote it as it does now but it’s still annoying. Because the rest is good. When Robert Jordan is just thinking all normal in his head it can be downright interesting. But that’s maybe 10 pages out of 400. This book was torture.

It’s only the last few pages that held some redemption for me in the story. At the end, as we were back in his head, I had a few feels. So that’s why this made it to a shaky 3 stars.

Overall, if you’re going to try Hemingway, put up this book and read three pages. If you’re annoyed, STOP reading. It will not get better. If it doesn’t annoy you, or should I say molest you?, give it a shot, you’ll probably like it.

Anyway. At least Oak Park is home to Betty White, too. Now that is a celebrity I can stand behind!

Categories: Put Downs, Weekly Review | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reviewing a Classic: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna

With the recent hype of the Anna Karenina movie, I decided it was time to tackle the tome that is Tolstoy – it’s my first real encounter with Tolstoy and I figured this would be the best place to start. After all, I’ve enjoyed many other classic romance novels and Anna tends to fall in among other names like Elizabeth Bennett, Jane Eyre, etc.

One of the biggest complaints I have heard is the inability to keep the characters straight with all those crazy Russian names all over the place. I had no trouble though. No, I side on with the other popular complaint – the damn length. I was so close to liking it, I really was, but there was just so much in-between mucking it all up.

I don’t need to go on and on, Tolstoy has that covered, let me just put it like this.

According to my nook version I read, this story was 1157 nook pages. I legitimately enjoyed 500 of those. Those 500 or so pages were impressive, Interesting, page turning, and heart-poundingly wonderful.

The rest? Well… okay, how about this. Do you know when you’re with a group of people and half of them know each other from somewhere you’re unfamiliar with? Like, maybe they were all in a class together that you weren’t in? Then they start telling stories about people you don’t know? So, of course, you listen because you’re not a rude person, and the stories are kind of interesting, or funny, or whatever but since you don’t actually know the people you’re missing some kind of crucial element to make the experience actually enjoyable.

The rest is kind of like that.

So is it worth you time? If you’re willing to skim, I think so. The story and premise itself is great, it’s just Tolstoy likes his world and he wanted to say a lot about it. It was also written during a time when making a political point in a novel was normal. Hooray for reading it now.

Last night I watched the newest version of Anna Karenina and was pleasantly surprised, for the most part I think they did a great job… until the end. I won’t spoil anything but I feel as though they just missed the mark on who Anna is overall and, especially, why she does what she does at the end. I think the movie implies her motives are out of jealousy when I think it’s more of a realization that she’s wholly and utterly trapped- mostly by herself.

So – all the hours spent reading the book, and the hours I spent watching the movie and I still come back with a shrug and a meh.

Well, at least I know someone cares.

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Reviewing a Classic: Dracula by Bram Stoker

dracula

 

Let me be honest – I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. Even as someone who makes it a point to read a classic every once in a while, I still thought this one would be a struggle but… it wasn’t. Would you believe that this is truly a kick-butt story? I thought I knew the plot going in, but I really didn’t. When it comes to an exciting, suspenseful, heart-stopping thriller, this book has it all.

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First off, the story starts where I always assumed it ended. Jonathan, a man just trying to do his job, finds himself trying to sell a bit of London real estate while in a gigantic castle in the middle of nowhere with its creepy owner. At first Jonathan thinks the man is just eccentric, who wouldn’t be, after all, living in Transylvania alone? But the longer Jonathan is there, the more he starts to see just how unnatural the Count is. By the time he realizes that Count Dracula is something truly unnatural, he also realizes he’s trapped there. I won’t reveal what happens next, but it’s some pretty harrowing stuff, I want you to find out on your own.

Next thing we know, we’re in London with a whole new set of characters. They’re new and interesting and they’re just about the best set of entirely pure people you could ever find. I’ve never read about a goody-two-shoes so darn like-able. Each person against Count Dracula is so wholesome, so always willing to do what’s write that it should be boring but instead it’s endearing, it’s exciting, and it makes you really root for them.

Because, the thing is, when I was about 100 pages in, I realized I had already read everything I ever knew about Dracula. My extremely slight understanding of what this book is just didn’t do it justice. That 1931 movie made destroyed so much of the essence, the coy plot, the sweet trouble and suspense that I never even knew the book, the true book was so good.

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Sorry, I’m getting pretty excited about this. I’m astounded by how much I liked it and just how interesting it really was. It’s so cheap to get a copy of this now – I think it even came free to me on my nook – I highly recommend giving it a try.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Categories: Pick Ups, Weekly Review | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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