Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: A Review

14942

I don’t fucking get it, man. I mean, I get it. I can tell you what the story is, but I just do not see the appeal. Perhaps Virginia Woolf is above my taste. I appreciate the way Woolf takes an ordinary day in June, and brings it to life, but there were large parts I found myself impatiently rolling my eyes.

In the early pages Clarissa Dalloway encounters a couple arguing on her walk to get groceries for party, then, a few pages later, everything comes to a halt in Piccadilly because of a car with blinds drawn and Clarissa wonders if it’s the Queen. The narrative continues to go on with details of everything she sees, until the end. Throughout, the reader is given intimate access to the title character’s inner thoughts, however mundane. The character herself is fascinating, and that may be the only point of the narrative: to just show a single day in one person’s life.

The prose is beautiful. Woolf is rightly described as a talented writer. I just didn’t get it. There was no moment of clarity for me when it all made sense. Even when I reached the end, I still felt unsatisfied. This book is escargot and lobster, but I’m craving popcorn and a hot dog.

I’m willing to revisit it in a few years, to see if my opinion has changed. In the meantime, I’ll be reading something more speed. Next week, I’ll have a review of Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison, and the week following, I’ll have a review of  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. No clue what’s after that.

If you’d like to read Mrs. Dalloway for yourself, you can purchase it here.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Listener by Robert McCammon: A Review

mccammon03THCThere aren’t many authors I will buy, and read, sight unseen. Robert McCammon is one of the very few, so when it’s announced he’s publishing a new book, of course I’m interested. But being broke, I can only afford so many books (I’d probably be a lot better off financially if I didn’t buy as many books, but what kind of life is that, I ask?), so I was looking forward to having to wait until it was published to pre-order it. That means, for the second time in nearly two decades, I’ve missed out on a pre-order of a limited edition of a McCammon (no surprise, the other was Swan Song). Oh well, there’s always eBay. Fortunately, I entered into a few contests Hunter Goatley ran through the official Robert McCammon mailing group and the official Robert McCammon twitter, and won not only an audio book for The Listener, but also Mystery Walk and Usher’s Passing.

You get it: I’m a fan. So, what about The Listener? Is it any good? Does it justify my blind faith? Yes.

So what’s it about?

The year is 1934, the Great Depression is entering its fifth year. John Dillinger and Bonnie & Clyde are all dead, and Bruno Richard Hauptmann is still a free man two years after the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. In Louisiana, John Partner, a confidence trickster claiming to be “President of the Holy Bible Partner Company in Houston” drifts from town to town, looking at the obituaries of the recently deceased, and selling the families Golden Edition Bibles for five dollars. Times are tough, and a man has eat, even if someone else has to go without. McCammon paints a sympathetic portrait of a man who is, at best, an asshole, but if you overlook the fact he swindles old ladies out of money, he might be okay to grab a beer with.

Then the rug is pulled from beneath the reader. By the end of the first chapter, Partlow is most definitively painted as the villain of the novel. With a single act, he is no longer a sympathetic character, but he is no less interesting. A sudden flash of anger, which turns turn him into a monster worse than Michael Vick, is in the next chapter with him regretting the action. Not because of the act itself, but because we’re given ample reason to want to see him fail in a few short paragraphs. And when he hooks up with Ginger LaFrance, the novel’s secondary antagonist, and concoct a scheme to kidnap some children, our only hope is that both of them meet a similar fate as each real life villain above.

It isn’t until chapter 7, a full quarter of the way into book, that we are introduced to the protagonist, Curtis Mayhew, a Red Cap for the local train station. He is the clichéd Magical Negro, but McCammon is more than competent in crafting a memorable character. Curtis has the gift of telepathy, something he shares with only a handful of others, whom he calls Listeners. And it is his gift which gives him an advantage over the kidnappers when they take a fellow Listener and her brother.

Both John Partner and Curtis Mayhew feel real, as do all of the secondary characters. When we are inside of the mind of Partner, we can almost feel sorry for him; while we are inside the mind of Curtis, we feel his anxiety as he worries about someone he’s never met. She’s only been a voice in his mind, but they’ve talked before, and he considers her a friend.

McCammon doesn’t shy away from topics of race and segregation, but he doesn’t confront them, either. They are stated as fact, and only approached again when the narrative deems it necessary. This is a strict thriller from start to finish, with no time for in-depth social commentary.

Come back next week, when I’ll have either a review of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, or a review of Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison (I’ll still do both, but it will all depend on if I finish Woolf in time which comes first).

To purchase The Listener, follow this link.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Book Update

Yeah, I know I said I would be back next week with a review of The Listener by Robert McCammon, but this website isn’t named “The Ramblings of a Mad Man” for no reason, so…

Last year, I wrote about how my wife and I write a list of books, or genres we want to explore more, and how my better half makes up bingo boards because she’s crafty, and she likes doing stuff. This year, my dumb ass was no less ambitious with the board than last. I told her I wanted to do our regular boards, plus I wanted to do a research specific board we would share. This was my way of ensuring I could still enjoy the books I wanted to read, as well craft the narrative for my half of our co-venture.

This isn’t another “I fucked up” post, as I’m doing quite well with my progress, despite being behind due to unforeseen circumstances. I just wanted to let you know what all I’ve read this year so far, because, again, rambling.

Since the first of the year, I have finished Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (a biography covering the lives of Abraham Lincoln,  William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edwin Bates, and their crazy antics in the White House), Entanglement by M. Orenda (a work of science fiction which is hard to explain in a single sarcastic sentence, but I highly recommend it regardless), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (the earth is destroyed, there are only two surviving humans in the entire universe, hijinks ensue), A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton (sent to prison for a crime she didn’t commit, a woman hires a Private Dick without a dick to find the real killer, this hard-boiled mystery brings a breath of fresh of air to a long-stale genre) and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty (have you ever wondered what happens to a fat person in a crematory machine? Wonder no longer, and the author goes into Stephen King-levels of description with melting human lard escaping from the newly refloored ovens). I also began listening to Beloved by Toni Morrison, but returned it to the library a third of the way in (simply put, her writing is too far above my understanding to enjoy through audio, so I’m waiting to get a physical copy to try again).

Until next time, enjoy knowing I have ruined your childhood with this meme:

11111_10203691779791369_178837185461007717_n

Posted in General Book Reviews, Reviews, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Update!

After more than a year, I am finally back online (yay!). And, as promised, I will be giving weekly updates to this blog, and to my author page (https://www.facebook.com/JonathanBrettKennedy/). Unfortunately, there is nothing new to report today, but I shall return next week with a review of Robert McCammon’s latest novel, The Listener.

In the meantime, I leave you with this image: 7aa826389eb62cba330504946098caff

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Batman Villain Rankings.

I’m going to say something extremely controversial.

The Joker sucks. He’s a weak villain whose only allure is that he’s crazy. You know who else is crazy? The Riddler. His compulsion to prove he’s smarter than everyone is the only thing distinguishing him from the rest of the rogues.

I know, right? How dare I rip two of the coolest villains? Who could possibly be cooler? Well, practically anyone. In fact, it takes quite a bit to fall further in my esteem than Joker (I’m looking at you Sewer King).

10. Riddler

Okay, so I’m not a big fan of his schtick. I’ve known too many people who feel the desire to be right or first, and that’s just fucking annoying. However, if the story works, then his compulsion to be the best and brightest can actually enhance the story (seriously, imagine Riddler as the main villain of The Dark Knight). An example is the Arkham games by Rocksteady. In order to face Riddler, you have to solve riddles, and look for trophies. If you give up, he wins.

Another example is found in my #4.

9. Ra’s al Ghul

The Demon’s Head is just fucking cool. He’s the leader of a cult-like organization who wishes to restore balance through anarchy.

8. Bane

Bane’s backstory is tragic. He was raised in a prison, and became medical experiment. It’s pretty fucked up. He escapes, and sets out to become a new crime boss in Gotham (it’s an oversimplification, but you get the point). He is smart enough to know he can’t take Batman down alone, and releases every inmate in Blackgate and Arkham, forcing Batman into a gauntlet of villains. Only once Batman is too weak does Bane break his back.

The problem with Bane really lies in that he’s the Man who broke the Bat. There’s really nowhere else to go.

7. Harley Quinn

I hate Joker, but Harley makes my list? Of course! Unlike Mistuh J, Harley has depth. She’s in love with an abusive psychopath, is brainwashed into performing atrocious acts of violence, and is a licensed psychiatrist.

6. Black Mask

He’s a gangster who made a mask out of his mother’s coffin. Creepy, fucked up, and badass all in one.

5. Holiday Killer

Like Bane, Holiday should remain as a one shot. But regardless, The Long Halloween cemented the character’s status as one of the best villains, and far superior to Calendar Man.

4. Hush

A killer who knows Bruce Wayne’s secret identity, this is a character with limitless potential, as evidenced by the events after the RIP storyline.

3. Catwoman

She’s a classic character who has appeared in some classic stories, including Year One and No Man’s Land, and who almost always steals the limelight from Batman.

2. Reaper

A lot of Reaper was used when creating Mask of the Phantasm, but the Reaper is much cooler. Originally a vigilante who patrolled Gotham before Batman, he’s been silent for more than a decade.

The appeal of the Reaper is he can be anyone. In his three appearances, he’s been different. And that makes him fascinating to me.

1. Penguin

Another old school character, I have loved this character since childhood. Watching old reruns of the 1960s Batman with my dad, I just found him the most interesting. Then I discovered The Adventures of Batman, vol. 2: featuring the Penguin, and my devotion was solidified.

Posted in Comic Books, Opinion | Leave a comment

The Allure of the Cuban Cigar

That’s me, smoking my very first Cuban Cigar. A dream fulfilled? Yes, and no. 

Ask almost anyone on the street for the best cigars, and they’ll tell you to get Cubans. Ask cigar smokers, and they’ll tell you the best cigars come from Honduras and Nicaragua. Still, they are the forbidden fruit. 

Was the cigar worth the cost (the market price was $14)? Sure. I enjoyed every one of them that I purchased, but I’ll stick with my Mark Twains.

Posted in Opinion | Leave a comment

New Year, New Me BS Post

As all two of you have likely noticed, I do not keep up this page nearly as often as I should. The same can be said of my author’s page on Facebook. My excuse is I dislike writing on my phone, and that is my only access to the internet at the moment. 
Now, having said that, here is my Resolution to you: until I get internet back in my house, I will update this page, and the FB page, at least once a month, beginning on January 1, 2018. After internet is back, I’ll switch to weekly updates. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment