The Hollow Man – 3/5 Stars
This is not the basis of the Kevin Bacon movie, and we’re all the better for it. This book, which I think is filled with some issues throughout, is very compelling and interesting, even if I think the driving narrative behind it is relatively weak over all.
Jeremy Bremen is a telepath and a mathematician, and we find him on the worst day of his life, as his wife has finally succumbed to the cancer that had been killing her for months. This already terrible event is additionally deepened by the fast that she also was a telepath and their mutual abilities, which is also why they found each other in the first place, worked to cancel out the noise and static of the passive ability and allow for peace and stability. Now with her dead, Jeremy is once again in thrall to the noise and the irritation. He finds himself witness to a scene a criminal violence and now is inculcated in the various plots of this violent act (this is weak part of the story).
In addition to this, we begin to get a lot of flashback into his marriage and how it’s connected to the math he was doing, and the various findings he discovered about the world.
So this book gets pretty weird pretty fast, and one of the reasons is that in addition to the telepathy, we end up talking a lot about chaos theory and alternative worlds before too long. The scope of the narrative is relatively tight, but the expansiveness of the worldview and the world itself is wide and probably too broad.
The Princess Bride – 5/5 Stars
It’s impossible to basically fault this book for anything. It’s an oddly metafictional book — posed as an adaptation of a late 19th century European adventure novel, probably like ETA Hoffman or Rafael Sabatini, but with all the boring stuff cut out. In addition, the humor and the charm and the personality of the movie are all here in perfect detail, and it goes to show in a lot of ways not only how great this original book is, but also how wonderfully adapted the film is as well, as some of the choices we get, the visuals, the casting (duh), and some of the reordering, and of course the frame narrative placed with the grandfather and the grandson to carry us through. I remember the first time I saw the movie, I, like the grandson and the son in this book version, was bored by the whole of it, and when I finally broke though my initial resistance how charmed and magical I felt as a consequence.
The Art of Literature – No Rating
I can’t rate this in part because I was only half listening to it and it’s so piecemeal that I wonder a lot about the broader contexts of many of these articles. In a lot of ways, what this series of short to medium length essays from the German philosopher, writing in the mid19th century is getting at, is an update version of Aristotle’s Aesthetics, but addressing modern forms of writing. (There’s also something to adding in some of the Rhetoric of Artistotle in the mix too).
So each essay tackles a different subject within the broader question of what is and isn’t literature. He talks about genius, about writing for money, about style, about Latin, and various other topics.
The section on style is probably the most relevant aesthetic essay today, and reads a lot like Orwell’s prescriptions on language, along with plenty of Strunk and White tossed in. What I would say it mostly boils down to here is that use the amount of language necessary to carefully convey the ideas you have: no more, and no less. And if the language you have for the idea is insufficient, it’s very likely that your idea is not yet sufficient yet either. I think that’s pretty solid advice over all, outside of incredibly abstract or purposefully complex language. He doesn’t rely so heavily on example the way that Orwell does, but they do cover a lot of the same material.
On genius, distinguished from someone writing with care and skill, he basically sums it up as, a person who is able to invent new ideas without the reliance on others to invent them. I am not sure I fully buy into that, but luckily I don’t consider myself a genius, so I don’t worry about it too much.