Literature Reviews Page 1

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude

    by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (be sure to read the translation by Gregory Rabassaskip to next title)

    • Paperback: 464 pages
    • Publisher: Harper Perennial
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0060740450
    • ISBN-13: 978-0060740450

     "stands at the apex of 20th-century literature"

    Rating *****  5 stars out of 5.  Absolutely magnificent

    I found the experience of reading this masterpiece meaningful, beautiful, unique and at times wonderous. This was the first novel that I felt was the equal of the beauty and significance of a great symphony. I've read it many times, and I can pick it up and read a page at random, and it floods me with the images and memories of the story. It is strange and very curious to me, that this story, which is filled with great pain and loss (the most terrible events include murder, suicide, insanity and often a feeling of utter futility), is also filled with the wonder of life and the transforming power of love and results in such a meaningful, and beautiful (even spiritual) experience. It is the story of life, the experience of all the struggles and complexities of relationships that serve to point out the simple beauty of being alive, the wonder of life.

    I was drawn to read 100 Years of Solitude, when I ran across a review on the internet. A woman reviewing the book said that this was a book that she cherished deeply and  had reread many times. She went on to write that if she would ever become blind or too weak of vision in her old age to read, that she would ask her children to read this book to her once a year as her birthday present. So I was curious, what book, could move someone to such an expression. 

    From the (now so famous) first sentence:

    "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

    I was truly enthralled and mesmerized by the beauty of the writing (I often re-read a paragraph, simply for it's beauty of expression, Marquiz himself greatly admires this translation).

    I entered the story, a 100 years of the history of the Buendia family, an enduring family living in a South American town called Macondo. Macondo is a very mysterious place where every day brings its inhabitants a share of wonder, magic, grief, sorrow, and almost magical opportunities for transformation. It is a world of great beauty and great cruelty; a world where love brings both redemption and pain.

    The book is woven from a rich tapestry of unique characters, each brimming with a life that makes their passions and quirks seem like reflections of us all – it is an emotional swirl that is sensuous and filled with sentiment, but never sensational or sentimental. As we follow the Buendía family through growth and decay, war and peace, hardship and joy, we realize that we a witnessing nothing less than the slow process of life itself – like watching rust form beautiful patterns in the timeless eye of God.

    This was my introduction to "magic realism" and Latin novels (which I'd read deeply since, but never found an equal to this novel). This surely must be the greatest novel of our time, but I can image that many readers will find it puzzling, boring and slow moving. This may be the greatest book you will ever read. The novel says volumes about what it means to be human. Garcia uses the Buendia family to explore fundamental themes related to how we as human beings perceive our reality. The ending was unexpected and perfect. Read this book, it may... stay with you forever.

    Recently, after remembering the lady's review that prompted my reading of this book,  I bought a large print edition.. in case my eye-sight fails in my old-age.. this is one book I always want to be able to reread.

    Others have written about this book.. here are excerpts..

  • This is a book I will read over and over again to savor the richness of its poetic tones and the multiple layers of ironic and dramatic richness. It is like an English trifle, to be visually admired as a whole then to be nibbled away at in bites, each time savoring a new flavor and an unexpected taste
  • This is a masterpiece! Magical and powerful, the story of four generations of Buendias will haunt your soul. You will never forget them, their lives, and their losses. I have read it three times and plan to read it many more times because it is a timeless story, and each time is a new journey....
  • This book is by far one of the most beautiful pieces of art ever created. One of the greatest novels of our time. If you haven't read "One Hundred Years of Solitude" you are missing the sensory journey of a lifetime.
  • This book has greately enriched my life. How many books can that be said of?
  • It has more firmly cemented my belief that the right things find their way to you at the right time. As I read the last words on page 81 of this beautiful book, I broke into a fit of joyous laughter and saddest tears such as I have never experienced in my life! As if all of the pain and joys of living up to this moment had found release.
  • I can find no proper words to describe what I feel, except to say that I feel strangely at peace; with a sense of hope and love for this life that is ours. No matter that all that we work and strive for in life may end in being "tied to a chestnut tree with a shelter of palm fronds".
  • I am reminded that it is the very struggle that makes life worth living and beautiful. I am left with a sense of indefinable courage to go on. I love this life! What a wonderful adventure it is, and how lucky I am to have all that I do. When it comes down to what is important, I shall die happy knowing that my life is filled, and made worthwhile, by the gifts of love and friendship of many wonderful souls. Thank you for your gift my friend."
  • These words were written spontaneously upon finishing the first part of the book. That was over 3 years ago. Although I have not yet reread it, the ghost of this fantastic work has never left me. I would have liked it to end differently, but the magical power was not in my control. Truly one of the most compelling and glorious works I have ever read.
  • The greatest and the most beautiful, moving, and spiritually uplifting book I have ever read.
  • When I finished this book, I closed it and almost started laughing and crying at the same time. Laughing, because it is so wonderfully and joyously alive. Crying, because I would never again have the opportunity to read it for the first time. Simply marvelous. Everyone in the world owes it to themselves to read this book.
  • William Kennedy, New York Times Book Review
    "One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race. It takes up not long after Genesis left off and carries through to the air age, reporting on everything that happened in between with more lucidity, wit, wisdom, and poetry that is expected from 100 years of novelists, let alone one man...Mr. Garcia Marquez has done nothing less than to create in the reader a sense of all that is profound, meaningful, and meaningless in life."


    Atlas Shrugged

     Atlas Shrugged

     Ayn Rand

    Paperback: 1192 pages
    Publisher: Plume; Later printing edition (December 28, 2004)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0452286360
    ISBN-13: 978-0452286368


    Rating *****   4 stars out of 5.  (4 stars for the novel, 3.5 for the message)  October 28, 2010

    Atlas Shrugged: (Centennial Edition) (Kindle Edition)
    Many  reviews remark that reading Atlas Shrugged was a life-changing event. Reviews contrain phrases such as: "Had a Lifelong Impact on Me", "The most thought-provoking book I've read", "A Refreshing Sense of Life", "A tremendously helpful book", "This book made an impact on me!", "Required Reading for all Americans".  "Atlas Shrugged" was recently made into a movie (watchable, but not as good as the book).

    A few years ago I read her biography "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" which shows both the intelligent as well as the mistaken views of Ayn Rand. The section about her writing of Atlas Shrugged, which was the major work of Ayn Rand's life, led me to reread "Atlas Shrugged". I had read Atlas Shrugged 20 years ago and I had enjoyed it, though had found myself skimming thought John Gault's famous long speech.

    No doubt, the book could be edited down to 600 pages and remain as effective. Many passages are too long or restate or overstate the message. I love the detailed descriptions of my favorite characters, while other characters (secondary or the "evil" ones)  are overly-simplified and presented as dim and immoral. I reread the book, allowing for the verbosity, and didn't skip any of the text.

    The book is effective in communicating the message of the bitter struggle of the individual against the collective; of creative accomplishment, even genius, against the mediocre of society, socialism. It rants against the moochers of society --those who beg or demand handouts from those who own and produce goods or values; and against the looters -- those who uses force (legal, political or social) to expropriate values freely from the productive.

    The plot is creative, interesting and strong enough to pull the reader through the verbose sections.  The heroic characters are draw in enough detail, with motives and lifes of interest and strong personalities that resonate with me. By the time I reached the climatic speech (70 pages long), I was still interested in what  John Galt has to say.  This is the essence of Ayn Rand's message and philiosophy, stated directly.

    The final impact of the book was good; it could be better written, there's much to argue with concerning Rand's view of life, there's much IMHO that is "wrong", much that she missed; but there is also much that is inspiring and important for many to hear. There are few books that can have such impact on an individual life as "Atlas Shrugged".

    Great literature, maybe not, but a great reading experience.

    This book has a bold message; an angry, seemingly selfish one, but one that may resonate deeply in today's America. 

    The message is  "Until men learn that of all human symbols, Robin Hood is the most immoral and the most contemptible, there will be no justice on earth and no way for mankind to survive"...

    Postively stated .. it is good for all that a person has freedom and liberty to develop and pursue their purpose, skills, gifts and to be duely rewarded for that achievement as it benefits others... government should never penalize the successful for greatness.

    Of course, I disagree with Rand's priorities.  More important in my life is my compassion for all sentient beings and the spiritual path.

    The Kindle version has been well done. I really enjoy the reading experience on the Kindle.

    Winter's Tale

    by Mark Helprin


  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156031191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156031196

    Rating *****  4.5 stars out of 5.  A great dreamy adventure into magic realism

    Beautifully written, this is another story that I have reread many times simply for the beauty of language. If the author tightened this up (cut 30-50 pages) and strengthened the ending, it would be the great American Novel of the 20th century.. But still great writing, and well worth the read.

    Publisher's Description:

    Winter's Tale, a gorgeous masterpiece by master writer Mark Helprin is a book about the beauty and complexity inherent in the human soul, about God, love and justice and the power of dreams, those that take place while we sleep and those that we conceive while awake.

    The story begins and ends with Peter Lake: orphan, master mechanic, and master second-storey man. One night Peter attempts to rob a fortresslike mansion in New York's Upper West Side. Although he believes the house to be empty, it is not. Beverly Penn, daughter of the owner is home. Home and dying, and thus begins a love affair between a middle-aged Irish burgler and a fatally-ill heiress.

    A simple and uneducated man, Lake cannot understand the love in which he becomes so thoroughly entangled that he is driven "to stop time and bring back the dead."

    Inbetween the story of Peter Lake and his quest to overcome death through the power of enduring love, Helprin shows us a magical view of a New York City that is, at times, so extraoridnarily real you think you are there, and at other times so magical you only wish you could be.

    another review:

    Set in New York at the beginning and the end of the twentieth century, Winter´s Tale unfolds with such great narrative force and beauty that a reader can feel that its world is more real than his own. Standing alone on the page before the book begins are the words, I have been to another world, and come back. Listen to me. In that world, both winter and the city of New York (old and new) have the strength and character of protagonists, and the protagonists themselves move as if in a vivid dream. Though immensely complicated, the story is centered upon Peter Lake, a turn-of-the-century Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young heiress whom he encounters in robbing her house, and who eventually will die young and in his arms. His love for her, and a gift of grace, will allow him after the most extraordinary and painful explorations and discoveries to stop time and bring back the dead. To follow him, his predecessors, his inheritors, and his companions is to experience one of the great stories of American literature.


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    Updated: November 18, 2011 09:03:14 PM