Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea

by Yukio Mishima

Buy the book here.
Buy the movie version.


Plot: The story of a widowed mother and her thirteen-year-old son. The mother falls in love with a sailor. Her son runs with a group of boys trying to detach themselves from emotion. Tragic ending.

It's like Lord of the Flies! There are wonderfully uncomfortable Oedipal overtones, tons of philosophy from a young boy's point of view, and murder. In many ways, however, it tends to be much more frightening than Lord of the Flies because this novel takes place within society rather than needing to be removed from it before horrible things start happening. But it is also less harrowing because the character in danger can get away from it easily, if he were to see it.
I found myself sympathizing with the main character, Noboru Kuroda, the son mentioned in the plot. I had many similar feelings around that age. It felt sometimes like the world was conspiring against me on an emotional level and the best solution was to simply have no emotions at all.
I quite liked this book and would like to read it again someday. The copy I just read is from the public library, however, so I will have to buy a copy for my personal library.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Chimes

by Charles Dickens

Buy the book here.


Plot:A poor man tries to make an honest living. One night he has a dream about dying and being shown the future by the spirits who live in the bell tower of a church. Things work out fine.

This story was written by Dickens because he was required to write another holiday story as part of a contract with a new publisher. It shows. The story feels rushed in some places (he wrote it in mere months, with a strict deadline) and lacks the overall charm typical of a Dickens piece. Unlike A Christmas Carol, no lessons are learned here and no one lives their lives differently because of the spirits. It simply shows some unfortunate things that COULD have happened, had the poor characters taken the advice of the rich characters. But none of the poor people in the story were likely to have actually taken the advice of the rich people to begin with. It's all just some silly dream.
     The tone is preachy. I know Dickens always had a message in his stories and it's impossible to ignore that message when reading. But he was usually able to straddle the thin line between getting his point across and still being entertaining. It's not a bad story, but had he taken some more time to smooth things over, build characters a little less obviously, and slow down the pace, this could have jumped back on that aforementioned line and been a truly great story.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

Buy the book here.
Buy the movie version.


Plot: A mean and stingy old man is haunted by a series of ghosts on Christmas Eve, causing him to change his entire life for the better. Yay, happy ending!

     Let me start by saying that I love Christmas. The very idea of Christmas makes me all kinds of warm and happy inside. I also love Charles Dickens. His style of writing, his nomenclature, his intricate plots that always, always work out without anything left hanging: all provide a rich and rewarding reading experience. Being a novella, A Christmas Carol doesn't have an intricate plot. It's more similar to a fairy tale than a typical Dickens novel. We're all familiar with the plot; we've seen it interpreted a million different ways from The Muppets to Doctor Who to every sitcom in existence. And like a true fairy tale, it never gets old and the moral is rarely lost in translation.
     Most recently, I read A Christmas Carol during my breaks at work over the Thanksgiving rush (I work at a grocery store). It certainly helped to keep me in good spirits. I cannot possibly praise this book enough, but it also feels unnecessary to comment on it, considering how thoroughly this story has permeated our culture, our language, and especially the last two months of every calendar year. And so I won't comment on it. I will simply leave this here to encourage you to read it.

Monday, January 17, 2011


by Mary Shelley

Buy the book here.
Buy the movie version.


Plot: A man creates life, which in turn seeks to destroy him and everything he loves.

     The main thing that struck me about this book is that while it may be easy to label the "monster" as the bad guy, Victor Frankenstein is not innocent himself. He created the creature, then abandoned it. All the terrible things that happened to him were entirely of his doing. If he had taken the time to realize that this newly created life was his responsibility and had treated and nurtured it according to that responsibility none of his loved ones would have been murdered. Only once during the entire course of the novel does he even hint that the creature's disposition and not just its existence is his fault, and that's just before he dies.
     It's easy to label the creature as the "bad guy" but I beg to differ. He knows no different. He had observed love and kindness toward others, but horror, violence and disgust were the only things he ever saw directed toward himself. How could he possibly be expected to know the difference between right and wrong? He shows evidence of knowing that what he does is wrong, but only on a theoretical level. Like a child, he cannot just be told that certain things are right and others are wrong, he must be shown those principles through the actions of those around him.
     Naturally the second thing that struck me was that the novel's plot is nothing like the plot of the original movie. I do feel that the movie held true to the theme and moral of the novel, though.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

All Things Bright and Beautiful

by James Herriot

Buy it here.


Plot: The adventures and misadventures of a newly-wed country vet.

This book is a sequel to All Creatures Great and Small which I have also read and quite enjoyed. I didn't like this one as much as its predecessor, but it was still a good read. Like the first book, this one is a compilation of humorous and/or emotional stories from James Herriot's real life. While All Creatures Great and Small took place between the time that he first joined the country practice fresh out of vet school until he married, All Things Bright and Beautiful picks up shortly after his marriage and contains stories from then until he leaves to serve in WWII. The author deftly avoids mentioning the war except where necessary and focuses all his attention on the day-to-day mishaps and wonders of the practice.

Overall, the book is good. Not life-changing, hardly thought-provoking, just a light-hearted snippet of life. I do look forward to reading the rest of the series someday but the reason I gave 3 stars rather then 4 is because I would not recommend this book to everyone. Only for those with a real love for animals and who can handle the surgery scenes without losing their lunch.