Hisietari (hisietari) wrote,

Pocket Reviews pt.2: Random Classics

Hello hello,

finally some reviews again, aye? ^^" I'm sorry this took so long. I wanted to theme them, but my reading habits just won't play along. Mumble jumble it is.

Pocket reviews are five-sentence reviews for books, poems, epics, plays etc. that are old enough to have lost copyright claim. In other words, in most parts of the world it is fully legal to reproduce these texts for free, for example on Project Gutenberg.

Beowulf (unknown), 8th-11th ct.

We first meet the title character as a young warrior who comes to aid the king of the Danes against a terrible monster, Grendl, and later the monster's mother. Amongst many battles, funerals and marriages, by-then king Beowulf finally dies injur
Having been found in its original text form, this poem provides a valuable insight in the mentality and social structures of certain parts of mediaeval northern Europe. Set throughout with dilemmas and conflict, Beowulf is more than an adventure story - it is a thought-provoking lesson about and criticism of a human nature that prevails until today. Not being particularly long, I recommend a rather new and annotated translation.

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley), 1818

Mary Shelley's groundbreaking work tells the story of young, brilliant Victor Frankenstein who, drunk on his own bright mind and the world science opens to him, takes the creation of life into his own hands. In an uncanny allegory on modern science, the creature he brings into the world, despite being gentle-hearted and longing for nothing but love and acceptance, will finally bring ultimate destruction to it.
I cannot deny that I loved this book from the first moment I read it, back in my teens, when I was knee-deep into genetic engineering and needed a good reason to show people as to why I'll keep my fingers out of it. It is the story of Prometheus, Faust, any man who thinks his actions have no consequences - written by a woman in early 19th century. It is not an easy ride, but a short one, which I'd like to see become as wide-spread as Jane Austen's and Shakespeare's works.

Ivanhoe (Sir Walter Scott), 1820

Scott's epic tells the story of young and brave knight Ivanhoe in 12th century England, of the fight between Normans and Saxons, of beautiful maidens and evil villains trying to support a usurping pretender on the throne. It brims over with castles, Sherwood Forest, feasts and jousting, drama and glitter.
As much as I appreciate the try to make Rebecca a heroine, as little can Scott's intentions hide the otherwise extremely antisemitic tendencies in his story. It is full of disgusting stereotypes that I wouldn't want my children to learn from a book that tries very hard to be romantic and exciting, and certainly nothing for 'boys' (because obviously girls aren't allowed to enjoy adventure stories). Apart from that it is probably the comic book format of its time, and if you want to see where Robin Hood got a lot of tights from, here you go.

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë), 1847

Little Jane Eyre grows up with unloving foster parents, then in a sadist school system. Her smartness gives her the chance to break out, to finally reach for her dreams - if it wasn't for the uncanny feelings her new employer seems to host for her.
Apart from the ever-returning governesses in Brontë's works, Jane Eyre stands apart from other heroines of her time and today for being a strong-willed woman of her own mind. She makes her way against all odds, but mostly against men standing in her way, men who cannot understand that no means no. It is easy to interpret her story as the One Twue Wuv thing that has been going on in Young Adult literature recently, of heroines giving up everything just to be with their darlings, but to make Jane Eyre one of them wouldn't do her justice.

The Importance of being Earnest (Oscar Wilde), 1895

In this biting comedy play, two young men and two young women banter and barter over the opposite sex, the opposite's sexuality, and how important the name Earnest is to a lady's mental well-being. Identities are swapped, bent, and utterly made fun of, until bags become mothers and aunts turn into dragons.
Being Wilde's masterpiece, this play conveys an amount of puns and wittiness that is hard to challenge. The characters are lovely self-centered ego-monsters, whilst one plot twist chaces the other. Never has it been more fun to enjoy other people's bickering.

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), 1925

Set in the glistening 20s, a young man is introduced to the world of Jay Gatsby, an impossibly rich mystery of the upper class who throws infamous parties. Yet as the story unfolds, Gatsby's past as well as that of Daisy Buchanan, the love of his youth, are revealed until nothing remains.
Often celebrated as nothing but a portrait of its time, "Gatsby" is also the story of death. I enjoyed the hollowness of it all, the glittering hull around nothing but coffin air, and the sense of foreboding ends. Sadly Jay Gatsby stays the only fully developed character in the novella, but it's enough for a gripping read.

For part 1, Jane Austen, please click here.
Tags: books, pocket reviews, review
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