Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Animal Farm

Animal FarmAnimal Farm by George Orwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's extremely difficult to find anything original to say about Orwell, so I won't make the attempt. The strong allegory of Animal Farm might tend to make one forget that this novella works marvelously as a "fairy tale". The power of Animal Farm lies in the vertiginous juxtaposition between the child's tale and the tale of dystopian totalitarianism. I have read that some find the story to be very funny, but I can find only very dark humor in the story rising to a crescendo of uncanny dread as I turn the last pages.

The animals think they are human. The men think they are gods.

Powerful, disturbing, and above all a vitally important literary landmark that summarizes the psychology of the Red Revolution with a succinctness that is hard to fathom surpassing, Animal Farm is genius from the socially conscious master George Orwell. Not to be missed.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Leo Tolstoy said that Russians don't write novels, at least not in the European sense of the term, and then sought to create the Russian form. A master craftsman who reworked Anna Karenina several times in the course its composition, Tolstoy's impact with Anna Karenina is much more than aristocratic romance.

Anna Karenina is a study in contrast, two books in one. A tragedy and a comedy mirroring one another. Some of the most powerful feelings are evoked by this amazing epic. There seems to me to be something very ancient about the story of Mrs. Karenina. Tolstoy explicitly denied that this was a morality tale, but it is impossible to suppress the feeling that the unique Christianity Tolstoy evinced was not a very large factor in guiding his hand. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin crudely dropped the Christianity, and praised the novel for the comic half in which Konstantin Levin shows redemption through a proto-socialist work ethic.

I found the story of Anna to be less interesting than the story of Levin. The romance between Kitty and Levin is delicate and strained which tended to make Anna seem all the more unhinged (and at times flat-out obnoxious) by the power of Eros. The highest emotional point in this book, however, is the relationship between Anna and her son. I felt the struggle she was under, the feeling of being torn between duty and passion, and Anna became elevated to near-mythic status.

Tolstoy is the master of emotional realism, creating characters that are more real, and have feelings that are more real than reality. As far as technical craftsmanship is concerned, Anna Karenina is a lesson in the form of the realist novel.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pixies and the Art of Genius

Manta Ray - Pixies
The quintessential Pixies song, if there can be such a thing(hint: there can't be). It begins with Frank, letting you know who is in charge. Kim is second with the thumping metronomic bass. By the third line, you know this will not be handed to you: "trek across the space". It will be fun, something to do with alien abduction paranoia presumably.

Oo-Oo Oo-Oo Yeah!

At 17 seconds, some neurotic sounding humming, which leads to a ripping guitar in the middle of the second stanza.

He has no memory,
Of flyers in the night!

We are now in the presence of general insanity, and if that isn't to your tastes, now would be a good time to quit.

They went away!

Who went away? Who Frank, who? Where did they come from? Where are they going to? I need to know, I need to know, I need to know!!! Make them come back, sir. I would like to meet them please. Or maybe I don't. I just don't know anymore Mr. Francis, or is it Mr. Black? So many unanswered questions.

Police they say,
My mother too,
A fish from ocean blue,
above my head at night.

As always, with Pixies we are left with more questions than answers, and this my friend is one sign that the art we are enjoying is a masterwork. Either that or we are enjoying an LSD trip. Go split the difference. Pixies are neither overly nor overtly complex. This is a good sign. Here we are dealing with a simple expression of delusional thinking, a very good sign indeed.

Certifiably genius.