Tag Archives: literature

Review: Lord of the Flies

lordofthefliesbookcoverRecap: The age-old story of a group of people abandoned and trapped on a deserted island basically originated in the 1954 classic novel The Lord of the Flies. A plane crashes on an island, leaving just a group of young boys to fend for themselves without grownups. Their first goal is to be saved. But as time passes, their new goal is to survive, and it proves more difficult than they imagined. After just one day, one of the boys goes missing and is never seen or heard from again. Ralph declares himself the “chief” of the group from the start, using a conch shell as his loudspeaker to call meetings to order and to organize plans, rules and work groups. Piggy, though annoying, becomes his much more logical and intelligent sidekick — or thorn in his side as the case may be. And then there’s Jack, who initially competes with Piggy for Ralph’s attention and then later competes with Ralph for his title.

As time goes on, tensions rise. Ralph is trying to convince the group to bathe every day, go to the bathroom in designated areas and most importantly keep a fire going at the top of the mountain in the hopes a ship will someday see smoke and save the boys. Jack directs his focus in another way: hunting. He becomes obsessed with hunting for pigs. Savagery becomes a source of power for Jack, and most of the other boys follow suite.

AnalysisLord of the Flies is one of the best novels of all time for a reason and remains just as powerful a read for an adult as it is for the teenagers who typically read the book in school. The struggle between order and savagery proves to be the innate struggle in any society, including our own no matter how “modern” we may think we are. That also makes the book particularly relevant now in the United States, a country divided much like the boys on the island are.

Perhaps some of the best parts of the novel come from its symbolism and foreshadowing. As time passes, the conch pales in the sun, which is a clear sign of the conch and the order it represents losing power. The boys are also constantly talking about the desire to hunt pigs, while one of the characters’ names is Piggy. If that’s not a sign of what’s going to happen to him, I don’t know what is. The “flies” in the title represent death, like the flies that typically surround dead bodies. The many “light” references included in the book are obvious signs of the “heaven” that comes after death and/or the heaven that the island appears to be initially, but so clearly is not. The list goes on and on.

There is so much to unpack, interpret and analyze. There’s so much that can be compared to other great classic novels (my personal favorite is the line the “green lights of nausea,” which immediately reminded me of the “green light” in The Great Gatsby). Ultimately The Lord of the Flies remains a great novel because of the one simple and terrifyingly haunting truth it proves: there is darkness in all of us, and when things are as bad as bad gets, we can’t stop it from coming out.

MVP: Piggy. Even Piggy “breaks bad” to an extent, but it’s much less severe than most of the other boys. His intelligence could have saved the boys very early, but his lack of confidence stops him from doing so. His story is a sad, pathetic tragedy, but a fascinating one.

Get The Lord of the Flies now in paperback for $11.48. 

Or on your Kindle for $9.99.

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Review: At the Water’s Edge

Recap: The world takes Maddie Hyde by storm when, in 1945, her husband Ellis and his best friend, Hank, whisk her away to Scotland to search for the Loch Ness Monster. It sounds silly, but the search is very real for Hank and especially Ellis, whose father tried and failed to find it himself, thereby making a national fool of himself. Now Ellis is set on redeeming his father and proving his worth by finding the monster himself.

But as the three leave their socialite home of Philadelphia for a shabby inn/restaurant in Scotland, they realize their lives can’t be any more different from those who live by the sea. Day in and day out, Hank and Ellis spend their time looking for the loch and getting good and drunk. This leaves Maddie to her own devices at the inn, where she eventually befriends the staff. The longer Ellis is gone, the drunker he gets, and the more abusive he acts toward Maddie — both emotionally and verbally. Maddie soon notices many of her prescription pills are missing, and she’s correct in assuming Ellis is taking them. The time spent in Scotland opens Maddie’s eyes to the man her husband truly is and makes her wonder where her life is going from here — her own internal war as WWII rages on in Europe and as her husband struggles to find the Loch Ness Monster and his own worthiness.

AnalysisAt the Water’s Edge is ripe with metaphors in a beautiful, if not mildly overstated, way. Initially, the search for the Loch Ness Monster comes across as silly — surprising at the very least, especially coming from bestselling Water for Elephants author Sara Gruen. But as the story continues, the existence of the loch becomes less important.  It becomes clear that the monster is a metaphor for all of the other monsters in Maddie’s life — Hitler, her husband, her lack of family support. In the end, when she confronts all these monsters simultaneously, it happens — where else? — at the water’s edge. Yet another metaphor for her imminent rebirth and fresh start, of which she is entirely deserving.

While the metaphors are well-devised, so is the structure of the novel, which starts off with a brief scene that takes place three years before the start of Maddie’s story. When those two story lines eventually converge, it’s done in a way that made me say “Ohhhhhhh” out loud. It takes some time, but it all starts to come together, and the book picks up momentum from there. It’s hard to tell where Gruen is going with the novel, but that uncertainty is refreshing, as is the ending of the novel. Maddie’s empowering development is similar to that which Gruen writes about in Water for Elephants, and this book is likely to have the same success.

MVP: Maddie. She grew up feeling so undeserving of anything, but as it turns out, she is the most deserving of good things. It’s just a matter of pushing herself to realize that. When she does, she blossoms, and that self-discovery is exciting to experience.

Get At the Water’s Edge in hardcover for $20.72.

Or on your Kindle for $11.84.

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Book Cover Revealed for Harper Lee’s New Book

It wasn’t too long ago that word got out that the bestselling author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, would be releasing a “new” book. “New” is relative as Harper Lee actually wrote Go Set a Watchman years ago. But with its expected arrival on July 14th, HarperCollins has now released the book jacket for the novel, printed exclusively by People

The cover is rather similar to the cover of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is a prequel to Lee’s latest venture.

With HarperCollins already planning to print 2 million copies of Harper Lee’s latest novel, the publishing company is expecting Go Set a Watchman to be a huge hit.

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Review: The Goldfinch

Recap: When a young boy loses his mother in a terroristic attack inside a New York City museum, it’s hard to picture where the plot will go. But then that boy, Theo, steals a painting, the famous “Goldfinch” painting, and runs off. His chance meeting with an old man after the attack encourages him to get in touch with the old man’s business partner, Hobie, and niece, who was also at the museum during the explosion. The story takes us through the next 15 years of the boy’s life, all spent with his infamously stolen painting as he continues to struggle with the loss of his mother. Along the way, Theo meets and makes new friends. Theo and the painting start their journey together in New York, living with his friend Andy, then a brief, but impactful stint in Las Vegas, where he befriends Boris, back to New York and finally one last life-altering trip. But as Theo works to put his life back together and prove to his dead mother and himself that he’s fine on his own, one question remains: what will he do with the painting? If he returns it, he faces jail time for theft. If he keeps it, he remains involved in the one of the biggest art heists in history — accidental or not.

Analysis: It’s hard to imagine that anyone could have written a 700+ page book about a painting of a bird, but it happens, and dare I say, I’m glad it did. “The Goldfinch” painting is a very obvious symbol and metaphor for Theo. Like the bird in the painting, Theo is chained down, unable to free himself from the painting or the guilt suffered from death of his mother. With both intact, it’s impossible for Theo to move on. The journey he takes to reach that moment of freedom is long and dark, but worth it for the payoff. Theo works so hard to be like his mother — intelligent and kind, but without her there, he becomes more like his father, full of lies and cheating. His life becomes a horrible cycle of bad things happening to him followed by bad choices he makes. The Goldfinch is full of metaphors, besides “The Goldfinch” itself. For instance, Theo comes to love refurbishing antique furniture, but author Donna Tarttl makes it a point to include that he most enjoys taking pieces apart and putting them back together again — the one thing he wishes he could do with his life but can’t. Theo is sad. “The Goldfinch” is sad. And The Goldfinch is sad. But in following Theo’s long, harsh story, we — along with Theo — learn what’s important in life and that it’s possible to overcome the things one doesn’t expect to have to overcome.

MVP: Hobie. One of the few completely likable characters in the novel, Hobie means well and does well. He is the only living person always there for Theo in exactly the way he needs, and in the moment when Theo acknowledges that he’s lied to and taken advantage of Hobie, my heart broke for him. Get The Goldfinch in hardcover for $18. Or on your Kindle for $6.99.

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Unknown John Steinbeck Short Story Published

John Steinbeck is known for his great pieces of literature, like Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. But have any of you heard of his short story “With Your Wings”?

Didn’t think so.

According to Entertainment Weekly, you can now read the short story which was virtually unknown until now. The managing editor of The Strand magazine discovered the more than 70-year-old transcript of the story in the archives at the University of Texas at Austin. The Strand has since published the short story, which is about a black WWII pilot.

Apparently the story went under the radar because it had once been read on the radio by Orson Welles in July 1944, but was never published in a book or magazine. So it just became forgotten.

Now we all get to feast on a new, yet vintage, piece of literary history.

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Literary Prose on Chipotle Cups

I don’t know about you, but I typically think of Starbucks when I think of fast-food joints that sell or use products with noteworthy prose written on them. Not Chipotle. But thanks to author Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), that all has changed.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the author got involved with the fast-food Mexican restaurant when he complained of being bored, explaining in an email to Chipotle’s CEO that there was nothing to read when he ate there. Apparently a famous author complaining via email to the CEO of a company is rather impactful. The CEO and Foer worked together and enlisted authors, writers, and comedians including Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell, George Saunders, Judd Apatow, Sarah Silverman, and Bill Hader to contribute stories, essays, and other pieces — all of which have been printed on cups in Chipotle.

Foer told Vanity Fair that “what interested me is 800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds having access to good writing. A lot of those people don’t have access to libraries, or bookstores. Something felt very democratic and good about this.”

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