MY CRIME, MY PUNISHMENT

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky

My crime?

Posing myself as a Fyodor Dostoevsky fanboy for just about all my adult life.

Why is this a crime?

Because, in all honesty, I never really read Dostoevsky…until recently.

Well, I did pass my eyes over all the words of his NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND (some editions translate it as LETTERS FROM THE UNDERWORLD) back in my early twenties.

But as an early twenty-something, I didn’t stand a chance with Dostoevsky seeing that research has proven at that age brains aren’t yet fully developed. For all intents and purposes, according to science, someone in their early to mid twenties is still an adolescent. Which, in retrospect, explains many things about my life. And which begs the question, how can someone without a fully developed prefrontal cortex truly appreciate or fully comprehend something as complex and nuanced as Dostoevsky’s writing?

As I’ve come to find out, even with a fully developed prefrontal cortex Dostoevsky is still rather overwhelming and abstruse.

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SUMMING UP MAUGHAM’S OF HUMAN BONDAGE

W. Somerset Maugham

W. Somerset Maugham

I suppose the easiest, and quickest, way to sum up Maugham’s OF HUMAN BONDAGE would be to write something along the lines of “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” which is certainly the case for the story’s protagonist, Phillip Carey.

If, however, that was all I wrote, then not only would I be overly brief in this review (which probably is not a bad thing), I would also be overly unoriginal since we all know the above quote belongs to the great Henry David Thoreau.

Unfortunately, because I do not have Thoreau’s genius for writing simply (which requires skill and patience that most writers, to include me, do not possess), I will have to deploy many more words than just Thoreau’s for my own summing up of Maugham’s masterpiece.

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HE AIN’T NO OE BUT THAT AIN’T SO BAD

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami

Nobel Prize winning author Kenzaburo Oe is one of the few contemporary Japanese authors whose writing does what I believe Japanese literature — strike that — whose writing does what I believe all literature should do: that is, it should expose our fears and force us to confront them. Like a shamanistic bloodletting, literature should mercifully, but without mercy, cut deep into our consciousness in an effort to reveal and release, exorcise, the things in life that have come to possess us—our loves, our hates, our envies, our disdains; and afterwards, when the demons are either gone or have regained control, after the blood stops flowing from the wound and after it hardens into a gnawing, itchy scab, it, literature, then forever stays with us and occasionally reminds us of that which we have, if not overcome, then at least managed to suffer through, as the thickened scar forever reminds the wary survivor.

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OUR CANCER YEAR

Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar

I recently finished reading a full-length comic book by Harvey Pekar and his wife Joyce Brabner called OUR CANCER YEAR. Pekar is famous for his AMERICAN SPLENDOR comic book series in which he chronicles his life as a VA Hospital file clerk in Cleveland, Ohio.

Pekar died recently but in 1990 he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. OUR CANCER YEAR is a gritty portrayal of what life was like for him and his wife while fighting the disease. Pekar’s wife is also a comic book writer who focuses on peace projects so there are side stories in the book about Operation Desert Shield and her work with teenage peace activists; and they had recently purchased a home at the time of his diagnosis so there was also the stress that comes with buying a home on top of everything else.

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A LATE TAKE ON THE CORRECTIONS

Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen

In 2001, after reading all the hype and controversy, as well as the fawning reviews of Jonathan Franzen’s THE CORRECTIONS, I thought to myself that I need to read this new It Author and made plans to rush out and buy the book. But for some reason I never did and I soon forgot about both the book and the author. I must confess, I’ve always had a hard time keeping up with literature’s contemporary writers. Heck, I have a hard enough time just trying to chip away at all of the classic literary must reads that are out there and, because I never really feel like I’m reading enough, I live with a constant feeling that I’m always a bit behind in life. Perhaps I need some couch time with Dr. Phil.

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A SUPER SAD LOOK AT WHAT MAY LIE AHEAD

Gary Shteyngart

Gary Shteyngart

In Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, the state of the union is dire. The country is bankrupt and so are its morals and values. It is at war both abroad and at home with itself. Its fall from grace and global dominance is near complete. Its citizens are vacuous, intellectually dead, and have ceded their free will and persona’s to ubiquitous technological devices and the killer apps that power them.

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