Top 100 Novel Review: The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene (1948)

Take Control Scobie!

But is our protagonist even capable of doing that? He always misreads the situation, using pity to guide actions. 

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I felt bad at the end of this book. Scobie is a man who mostly wants to be left alone, but others keep pulling him in multiple directions. He isn’t a bad person per say, but his laissez-faire attitude matched with his inability to read the direness of situations leads to a combustable situation; he slowly gets pulled down an unscrupulous path, over relying on pity to guide decisions.

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Top 100 Novel Review: An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser (1925)

Calling BS Early.

Dreiser deconstructs the American Dream. 

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

It’s amazing that his book was written so early.

While still a product of its time, Drieser’s novel is fantastically relevant today. At its core, it’s a commentary on class and the American Dream. The story follows a young Clyde Griffiths from a lowly, street-preaching family through several iterations of social status changes. What follows is an unsettling but cathartic reading; Clyde bears the sin of our own failures allowing us to live free of the American expectation.

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Top 100 Novel Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey (1962)

An Infinite Amount to Think About.

Not only is their a dynamite narrative, the themes and competing ideas could fill a lifetime of consideration. 

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I’ve had a run of books that forgo traditional story elements, like having a plot, meaningful narration, or development of characters (here’s looking at you “The Sun Also Rises” and “Falconer”). While they get heralded as artistic masterpieces, I find both books lacking teeth since they are not only unenjoyable to read, but they can’t coalesce to say anything due to being stripped of narrative devices.

In comes my savior: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” 

Not only does this book have an immensely intriguing story, showing the power struggle between a Head Nurse and an Asylum patient who are both egomaniacs, it has as many themes as you can consider. Like an infinite ball of string, you are free to pull and unwind from any angle as long as your heart desires.

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Top 100 Book Review: Ubik – Philip K. Dick (1969)

Unbalancing Thriller That Makes You Question

Science fiction at its best: taking advantage of temporal-spatial qualities to take advantage of our intuitions. 

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My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

I really think science fiction, the genre as a whole, is under appreciated. There is some really good writing out there, and just because the settings might be geeky, futuristic, or entail allusions to higher level math, it gets disregarded. The format allows authors to explore things that just wouldn’t otherwise be possible; when you don’t have to worry about what is plausible, you are free to explore the human condition unabated without typical restraints.

Where this can go awry is that things can get too zany when authors get drunk off the power of not having to tell a tightly-knit story. This can be a delicate thing to balance, using the unconstrained conventions of the genre but still having to tell a coherent narrative that can be appreciated.

Fortunately, Ubik does both of these well and gets the most out of both sides.

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The Top 100 Book Review: A Death in the Family – James Agee (1957)

Beautiful Writing, Tepid Story

“We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville Tennessee in the time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.”

Rating: smooth-starsmooth-star

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I almost hate myself for doing this: a book that is so beautifully written with descriptions of life that burst from the page getting only two stars. There were times I put the book down and really took a moment to live the words. That’s how good this writing is. Take a moment to take in this excerpt below:

“Before long the city thinned out into the darkened evidences of the kind of flea-bitten semi-rurality which always peculiarly depressed him: mean little homes, and other inexplicably new and substantial, set too close together for any satisfying rural privacy or use, too far, too shapelessly apart to have adherences as any kind of community; mean little pieces of ill-cultivated land behind them, and alongside the road, between them, trash and slash and broken sheds and rained-out billboards: he passed a late, late streetcar, no passengers abroad, far out near the end of its run.”

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