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Book reviews for "Bloom,_Harold" sorted by average review score:

Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (Bloom's Notes Series)
Published in Library Binding by Chelsea House Pub (Library) (September, 1998)
Author: Harold Bloom
Amazon base price: $22.95
Average review score:

Their Eyes Were Watching God The Wes Version
Summary of Their Eyes Were Watching God
This book written by Zora Hurston tells the story of a black lady whose name is Janie. The story takes place in the state of Florida apparently after World War II. Janie grew up with her grandmother, who gave up everything to raise her and her mother. Janie's grandmother lived a hard life, which is the reason why she wanted Janie to marry a wealthy person. Janie had her own ideas about love, but she was not strong enough to stand up and defend them.

Life with Logan her first husband was not good because she married him thanks to her grandmother, who forced her to do so. She did not love him and besides that, Logan did not treat her good. She prayed for the end of this relationship. Latter she met Joe, and she thought that he was the man of her dreams, and the type of romance that she was looking for.
One day when Janie and Logan were arguing really bad, Logan threatened her with an ax and he told her that he will kill her. She ran out of the house with Joe, and that afternoon before the sundown she married Joe. They moved to a town where there were a lot of black people. Joe bought land and then he sold it to black people that were moving to the town, he set a store also. After the years went by he became the major of the city. For Janie life was not easy with Joe either. He treated her as an ornament. He was so interested in becoming somebody important in the community that he did not pay attention to Janie, and eventually he became aggressive. Before he died Janie told him that the problem in their marriage was that he did not listen to her. When he died Janie acted like she was sad, but inside her heart she was happy.
One evening Janie met a guy named Tea Cake in the store, they played and flirted for a little bit, and that was the beginning of a new relationship. Compared to the relationship between Janie and Joe, the relationship between Tea Cake and Janie progressed slowly and playfully. The people in the town criticized her relationship because for them it was too soon for Janie to meet another person. Phoeby, Janie's best friend shared all the secrets of the relationship, and sometimes Phoeby wondered how her friend Janie had such a big change because she did a lot of things with Tea Cake that she did not do before.
Tea Cake was a new world for Janie. He took her to places that her Phoeby latter described as "places where she [Janie] had never been". At this point Janie was so tired of not living the life she wanted. Janie often described her life as her "Grandma's way to live". She decided to sell the store and move out of town.
Janie and Tea Cake got together. It is interesting to see that their relationship as a couple was not easy either, but this time things were different because Janie loved him. They overcame a lot of bad situations such as when Tea Cake took all the money from Janie and spent it with his friends. He latter on recovered the money by gambling, even though they had to move out of town because some people were mad against Tea Cake. Latter Tea Cake had an affair with a woman named Nunkie. Janie even forgave Tea Cake for beating her up because he wanted to show Mr. Turner's brother that he had control over Janie. Then in the stormy night Tea Cake get rabies from a dog that bit him on the face. This caused Tea Cake to become quite bit insane, that he even shot Janie with a pistol. Janie shot him with a rifle and she killed Tea Cake. She explained her cause to the court and she got free from all charges. She prepared a nice funeral for Tea Cake and then she returned to her old town, and she shared her story with Phoeby. The book ends describing how happy Janie felt at that time about how she had lived her life.

Watching Her Life
Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God can hold the attention of many. This novel captures the drama, love interest and the abuse of a southern black woman named Janie in the early 1900s. What's great about this novel is how it shows the difficulties of a realistic woman trying to live a normal life. It shows the influence that family members have on the outcome of a person's life and how it doesn't matter what other people think.This book shows the struggle of a black woman getting the respect and love from a husband that she deserves.

It shows Janie listening to her Grandma's advice and marrying men who have power and wealth. Janie leaves Logan Killicks, first husband, and marries a wealthy man, Joe Starks. Later Janie realizes that she should marry out of love and not wealth. When she meets a man nicknamed TeaCake, she realizes and experiences true love. Unfortunately, it does not last long. While she is sitting on her porch she looks back and knows she had a hard life, but it was all worth it.

Not only does this novel have many strong points, it covers many important topics. It shows sexism, how Joe Starks and Logan Killicks show no respect to Janie. It shows racism, how Mrs. Turner ,a half-white half-black, does not trust black people. Probably most important, it shows the powerful relationship between Janie and TeaCake.

The story is somewhat short and simple, but it has a point. It happens in a way that everyone can understand. Hurston expresses her thoughts clearly in such a way it is hard not to enjoy.

Review by Lorilee Robinson
If you read only one book this year, let it be _Their Eyes Were Watching God_. It is one of the only books I've read that I have truly and completely enjoyed. Your interest will be maintained throughout the entire book in this compelling story about the main character, Janie.

Janie's story takes place in the South just after the turn of the 20th century, and Hurston gives powerful descriptions of the race and gender relations of that era. Janie is racially mixed, and the book explores how she is consequently barred from the white world but excluded in many ways from the black world.

At the beginning of her story, Janie remarks, "Ah know exactly what Ah got to tell yuh, but it's hard to know where to start at." Hurston's charming use of dialect serves to enrich the reader's understanding of the character's culture and adds to the novel's atmosphere.

Hurston paints us a world rich with imagery and symbolism of nature, love, and life. You will not be able to resist Hurston's exquisite accounts of the world, as when she writes, "Oh to be a pear tree -_any_ tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the beginning of the world! [Janie] was sixteen. She had glossy leaves and bursting buds and she wanted to struggle with life but it seemed to elude her."

The most compelling aspect of the novel is the personal journey that Janie goes through. The reader will follow Janie as she embarks on her search for love, with all its disappointments and fulfillments. Janie's experiences teach her about herself and what she wants in life. Through this self-realization, she secures her identity and reaches empowerment. This book will make you cry, it will make you laugh, it will enrage you, but most importantly it will make you _think_.

Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Bloom's Notes)
Published in Library Binding by Chelsea House Pub (Library) (June, 1996)
Authors: Harold Bloom and William Golding
Amazon base price: $21.95
Average review score:

Grim, but beautiful
This is possibly the saddest novel I have ever read. I have been thinking about it ever since I finished it. Few novels have evoked so much emotion in me. Tess makes me feel sad, frustrated, and angry.
Tess of the Durbervilles is the story of Tess Durbeyfield, the daughter of poor, alcoholic parents who learn that they are of a noble bloodline and send Tess off to work for her noble "cousin" Alec Durberville. While there, Alec rapes Tess and she has his illegitimate baby. This event ruins Tess's life. She is no longer pure, and virginal, and therefore brings shame upon her true love Angel Clare when her past is revealed.
It is hard to believe, in this day and age, that Tess is shamed and ostracized because she was the victim of a horrible crime. Hardy's novel is a powerful statement on the questionable morality of Victorian society. Tess, who is a heroic, brave, caring, selfless woman, is not worthy of Angel because she is somehow impure due to the rape. Angel, who has lived with a woman out of wedlock and is clearly not a virgin himself, feels justified in punishing Tess when he learns of her past.
The writing is beautiful, but the story tragic. It will stay with you a long time.

Excellent, timeless analysis of human life and nature
Please ignore the immature high-school student reviews and understand that this book is a masterpiece. Hardy analyzes the relationship between human desire and society's mores to an unprecendented degree. The characters are multi-faceted and very life-like. Hardly aptly avoids the mistake of creating mere carciatures of the pure woman, idealistic intellectual, and spoiled playboy. Moreover, his use of religious allusion is excellent although this may alienate the modern, secular reader. And perhaps this is the problem with some readers. Finally, Tess is an admirable and strong woman who had difficult circumstances. How many people would act as admirably in her circumstance? Not many! The reviewers that criticize her actions should realize this and that they ignore one of Hardy's key points: Don't be so judgemental! This is one of the best books I have read and believe me, I have read a lot of the "good" books.

Haunting and heartbreaking
I'm many years out of college and thought I should start reading some more of the classics. Previous favorites of mine have been The Sound and the Fury, Jane Eyre, and Pride and Prejudice. I saw Tess of the D'Urbervilles on my sister's bookshelf and for about a year I considered reading it. Finally, I picked it up and began. Wow! I read it in about three days. I never expected I would feel so much by reading this book. I cried when she baptized Sorrow herself. Her concerns that he be buried in the churchyard and her efforts to ensure he was were touching. I wanted to help Tess Durbeyfield. I thought she was a very complex character--she was sweet and unworldly but she wasn't actually stupid. And she was strong in many ways--for example, her family relied on Tess for so many things--eventually even their support. In fact, I hated her family for not working harder and making their own sacrifices. All the burden was on poor Tess. I also wanted to shake some sense into Angel. He really did wrong by Tess--although he eventually realizes this, it comes too late. The only thing I really did not care for was the sudden inclusion of a minor character (who we met earlier)into the end of the book and the implication that she would play an important role in the future of a major character. I barely knew this minor character and NOBODY could compare to Tess of the D'Urbervilles. If you are reading this to find a good book, ignore the negative reviews by high-school students and buy this book NOW. It's unforgettable.

Margaret Atwood's the Handmaid's Tale (Modern Critical Interpretations)
Published in Library Binding by Chelsea House Pub (Library) (February, 2001)
Authors: Margaret Eleanor Atwood and Harold Bloom
Amazon base price: $37.95
Average review score:

Scarier Than a Horror Movie
I came upon this book at Waldenbooks about a couple of weekends ago, and I decided to look at it. I haven't read the entire book, but what I did read was truly horrifying. The story takes place in a future where women have been robbed of their rights. They can't hold jobs, have their own money or property, have their own names, and they're no longer allowed to read. They have been reduced to the role of babymakers--literally. The reason for this is that the United States, which is now known as the Republic of Gilead, has been destroyed by a nuclear war. As a result, most of the female population has been rendered infertile. The few who are still fertile are indoctrinated into becoming handmaids, women whose sole purpose in life is, literally, to make babies. They are then shipped off to affluent households to produce children for couples who are unable to have any of their own. The handmaids who, after three tries, don't produce offspring are sent off to the colonies to clean up nuclear waste and are labeled "unwomen."

This scenario is truly terrifying, but it can also make one feel lucky for what we have in today's society. I feel lucky to live in a society where women are valued for more than just bearing children; where women are women, whether they have had babies or not; where women have their own names; and where women are allowed to work, have their own property, read, and get educated.

It is scary to think that a scenario like this could happen in our country. Hopefully, it never will-- not if we don't let it.

Not her best, but very good.
This is the second Atwood novel I've read. While it's quite good, I think it falls short of the The Blind Assassin. Neither as ambitious, nor as fully realized, IMHO. Although most reviewer's focus on depictoin of the 1984-ish dystopian society in which Atwood sets the novel, the heart of the book doesn't lie in political or social commentary. Instead, it's in the human interactions among Offred and the various people, from all levels of society, she encounters, as well as in Offred's own struggle to reconcile her need to reach out to others with her opposing need to protect herself from the grievous harm others could cause her. (In this way, it reminds me of Joseph Heller's comment that Catch-22 was not a "war" novel, but in fact was fundamentally a peacetime novel.) One quibble: Atwood does a terrific job in constructing the fictional world in which Offred lives, and as readers we quickly come to accept it as her "reality". However, I found the scene in which she depicts how the "revolution" actually came about a bit forced. Better, in my opinion to have simply depicted it as a fait accompli. But still, a very good, engrossing book.

"Give me children or else I die."
Dystopian novels abound and one might think that The Handmaid's Tale is just another. Written in the tradition of 1984 and Brave New World, Margaret Atwood takes this genre to a new level.

While many dystopian novels focus on a far distant future when the past is forgotten, Atwood's Tale focuses on the transition period, the primal generation. Offred, a "handmaid" in the Republic of Gilead (the former U. S.), remembers what it was like to hold a job, to earn money, to own property, even to read -- all of which have been denied in this "modern" society.

While the former society was imperfect, women were free, valued for the contributions they could make to society. Here they are not "free" -- they can't travel, gain eduction, etc -- but they are technically "free" from many of the former problems -- rape, sexual objectification, etc -- and valued now only for their ovaries.

Offred is a sympathetic heroine. The story is told in a style reminiscent of stream of consciousness, she is merely thinking her story to herself. The narrative is compelling and the themes are significant. Atwood's style is poetic without being sentimental. All in all, it is a worthy work.

Published in Library Binding by Bt Bound (August, 2000)
Authors: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Walter James Miller, and Harold Bloom
Amazon base price: $11.50
Average review score:

Review from a teenage writer, sort of
Okay, you're probably thinking that I'm just someone complaining about having to read it in my freshman year's honors English class. No, I was not forced to read this. I read it far before it was on the reading list. Just wanted to clear that up. Back to the review. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is an intriguing autobiography of a man obsessed with tampering with the laws of nature by reversing them. This novel shows how man deals with failure and loss. Unfortunatly, Victor Frankenstein dealt with failure and loss the wrong way and... Wait, I don't want to give away the ending. Anyway, Mary Shelley creates a clever plot and adds some gruesome happenings and romance, combining the three to make one of the most famous horror stories. Unfortunatly, for those of you still hooked to video games and fast-paced action, you may have a difficult time reading this for it tends to drag out at some points. But that's how literature is, you'll just have to deal with it. Apart from that, I would definitly recommend this book to just about anyone.

Classic of the Romantic Era.
Victor Frankenstein's creation had murdered members of his family and strangled to death his fiance on their wedding night fulfilling his threat to "be with you on your wedding night" and warned Victor, "You are my creator but I am your master." As Victor centered his life around creating the monster, he would later center it around hunting down and killing his creation. This manhunt would expend Victor's life and prove his efforts futile to catch an untouchable and nameless monster. This novel is full of enduring themes of ambition, friendship, and the conflict between the two, psychology, oppression and rebellion, the dangers of scientific and intellectual advancement, and societal injustice. The writing itself isn't great but it's the story and the themes that make this a great classic.

Shelley wrote this book influenced by the period of time in which she lived, the Romantic Period. This was the response to the previous time, the Age of Enlightenment. In the Enlightened Age, reasoning was deemed of utmost importance and people thought that there were natural laws and that reason plus these natural laws would equal progress. By progress, they meant not only advancement, but unlimited advancement, that society would continue to move closer and closer to perfection. In Frankenstein, we see the result of so much logic and reason- the creation of a monster. In the story there seems to be no natural laws governing the world. The Romantic Period accounted for emotion like reasoning and logic cannot. The monster as the center of the novel shows us as his direst need a companion, as does Frankenstein himself.

When I think of what natural laws would govern the world, Justice comes to mind as the most important. Throughout this whole story, justice is so dearly lacking. Injustice leads to more injustice. The monster is born into unforgiving circumstances that were not his fault. His creator rejects him immediately. Throughout his life, the monster found himself rejected by everyone for the repulsive looks his creator gave him. The monster even suffered rejection of the impoverished family he ardently and sacrificially helped. When he saved a girl from drowning, her father shot him. The monster yearned desperately for a mate of his kind, which Victor denied him for fear the two would breed an entire race of fiends or that she, too would reject him and there would be two fiends. Decide this debate between the monster and Victor for yourself. Even if Victor was right to deny him a mate, it was still an injustice for the monster. After all, the monster could not help the disadvantages he was born into and he strove mightily to be virtuous. He exercised his will and responsibility strongly, but to no avail. The poor thing begs for just one friend and he is denied this. The innocent Justine (a play on the word "Justice") is executed for the monster's crime; the monster eventually slays several innocent people he doesn't even know. Injustice is what moves the plot of Frankenstein.

Shelley's novel disputes the importance and promise of natural laws, reasoning, and the idea of progress. It introduces emotion and intuition. Frankenstein studied laboriously but failed because he left the monster emotionally neglected and rejected. When Victor first learns of the murder of an innocent member of his family, he intuitively knows it was the doing of the monster- he offers no reasoning or deduction as to how he knows. The monster hounds Victor and seems to supernatually know where he is at all times.

One of the many interpretations of Frankenstein is that it was a product of the Romantic Period, which was a response to the Age of Enlightenment. My own evaluation of reasoning vs emotion is that our logic must be in control of us always but that emotions are a part of us too and must be satisfied.

The classics aren't always written well.
Shelly's Frankenstein is pretty well understood to be a flawed work, an amazing first attempt by a young author while also being a classic of literature. It is hard to say how I avoided reading it for so long but was surprised to find my friends negative attitudes on this book. Classics though must be read, so I devoured this over the course of a weekend and found the book quite enjoyable, however, at times I found some of its problems nearly overwhelming.

The first problem Frankenstein has is that it is (as far as content goes) really a short story. I can't imagine it needing more than 60-100 pages, but Shelly inflates it to over 200, and for no discernable reason. The expanded length leads only to additional passages where Frankenstein himself is lying unconscious for months, or needless travelogue scenes which only serve to detract from the story. It might also be said that after 100 pages of melancholic whimperings from Frankenstein the reader has probably lost all sympathy toward the character. There are also certain plot elements that seem to repeat themselves a bit too often, but I the appeal of these elements will be based upon the reader.

Ultimately, Frankenstien seems a great story that you occasionally feel compelled to skim through. There is a certain sloppiness (I am still not clear what happened to Edward--the only surviving Frankenstein, but I do know something about some of the townspeople mentioned in a letter which have NOTHING to do with the story), but when you put all that aside, the very heart of Frankenstein is an enjoyable read. The monster is a sympathetic one and I found myself glued to the pages as he first illustrated how he came to understand the world around him.

Unlike Moby Dick which should never be abridged since so much of its irrelevance seems the primary point of the story (I often consider Ahab and the whale merely a sub-plot in Ishmael's life), Frankenstein could do with some good editing. Despite Frankenstein being a relatively short book to begin with, even 200+ pages feels a bit trying when all you are reading about is landscape and Frankenstein fainting.

Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Bloom's Notes (Contemporary Literary Views)
Published in Paperback by Chelsea House Publishing (March, 1996)
Authors: Harold Bloom and Mark Twain
Amazon base price: $4.95
Average review score:

Not the Great American Novel
Considered by many to be the great American novel, Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is the story of a boy, Huck Finn, and a runaway slave, Jim, as they travel down the Mississippi River on a raft. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is the sequel to Twain's novel "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer". Where "Tom Sawyer" was more a care-free children's book, "Huck Finn" is a far darker less childlike book.

Judging from my rating you can see that I do not agree that this is in fact the great American novel. Twain seemed far too unsure of what he wanted to accomplish with this book. The pat answer is to expose the continuing racism of American society post-Civil War. By making Jim simultaneously the embodiment of white racist attitudes about blacks and a man of great heart, loyalty, and bravery, Twain presented him as being all too much of what white America at the time was unwilling to acknowledge the black man as: human.

However noble the cause though, Twain's story is disjointed, at times ridiculous, and, worst of all (for Twain anyway), unfunny. The situations that Huck and Jim find themselves in are implausible at best. Twain may not have concerned himself too much with the possibleness of his story; but, it does detract from your enjoyment of a story when you constantly disbelieve the possibility of something happening.

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is an important book in that it did affect much of the American literature that followed it. However, this is another novel which is more important to read for its historical significance than for its story.

Two unlikely friends
When I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain in high school, it was possibly the first book I enjoyed that was assigned by a teacher. Twain's imagery puts the reader right beside Huck while he escapes 'sivilization' and floats down the Mississippi river with his slave-gone-fugitive friend Jim. Huck's innocent outlook on the world is both humorous and adorable. Huck's respect for Jim is admirable. Even though Huck was brought up with Jim being a inferior slave, he still looks up to Jim. Also, I think that although Jim's dialect adds to the effectiveness of the book, it is very difficult to understand. I think Twain writes it a little too much how the dialect sounds. I would recommend this book to anyone. It offers plenty of excitement and surprises.

Pretty Nice
I love Mark Twain! I am currently learning English in China. It is really hard for me to learn it here because there is not an evironment. But I tried to read some books in English and it did affect me a lot! From all the books I like Mr Mark Twain's best. Because his stories are mainly all about the childlife and I am also a kid, in fact. I am 14 years old. This helped me to know what American Children thought and lear my vocabularies. I know I wasn't able to win the contest because my English is poor, but I do think Mark Twain's books are nice. I have learned lots of words from it. I have also learned some in Chinese in our Chinese Text Book. One is called " Electing the State Minister", this passage is really nice and it not only is humor but also let us know what the U.S. Society used to be. In fact, I think he is the greatest author in the States. The book "Huck Finn" however, is a continue of the book "Tom Sawyer Adventure", and it shows us what happens next and also tell us what Huck had experienced. It tell me what the 19th Century boys in America thought and helped me to understand that I should not study all the time, as the Chinese students are hard at studying and I will find time to relax. And this did help my study! May I ever thanked him for giving us such good books. May I ever remeber him for helping me to know many things.

Ernest Hemingway's the Sun Also Rises (Modern Critical Interpretations)
Published in Hardcover by Chelsea House Pub (Library) (December, 1987)
Authors: Ernest Hemingway and Harold Bloom
Amazon base price: $37.95
Average review score:

In "The Sun Also Rises," Hemingway, through his alter-ego, Jake Barnes, tells us that the true meaning of "aficionad' is passion. In Spain, there is a more restrictive meaning. 'Aficianado' only means one who is passionate about the bulls. In fact, the concept is so restrictive that some bull fighters are considered to be just 'commercial' bull fighters and are not passionate enough about their chosen profession to be considered 'aficionados.' This is so according to Hemingway.

In the broader sense of the word, Hemingway, in this book, reveals himself (as Jake Barnes) to be an aficionado when it comes to boxing, drinking, fishing, and bull-fighting.

I had a problem with one aspect of "The Sun Also Rises." I found Hemingway's excessive use of negative ethnic stereotyping to be troublesome. For starters, he has created in Robert Cohn, a character who is emotionally unstable and thoroughly unlikeable because of his 'Jewishness.' Following are a few examples of this portrayal:

In reference to Cohn (observations of Barnes and his friends):

"He had a hard, Jewish streak."

Brett's gone off with (other) men, but they weren't ever Jews."

"That Cohn gets to me. He's got that Jewish superiority."

"That kike."

In reference to Jews in general: "She gets five hundred quid a year and pays three hundred and fifty of it in interest to the Jews. They're not really Jews. We just call them Jews. They're Scotsmen, I believe."

There are numerous other instances, but these already cited should suffice as examples of Hemingway's Jewish stereotyping.

He went after other groups too. To wit:

On Blacks: "The n , , , , drummer waved at Brett. He was all lips and teeth."

On gays: "I wanted to swing on one . . . . to shatter that superior, simpering composure."

He didn't quit there either. He went after the French and, on numerous occasions, showed his disdain for all casual tourists.

There is so much of this sort of prejudicial stereotyping throughout the book that it was ruined for me. It's too bad, because his bull-fight descriptions obviously came from an aficionado but were, for me, tainted by his attitudes.

Hemingway, pure and simple
The Sun Also Rises is (in my humble opinion) Hemingway's best. It isn't as poignant as A Farewell to Arms, and it lacks the intensity of For Whom the Bell Tolls, but its beauty lies in its simplicity and emptiness.

Towards the end of the novel, Jake remarks, "the three of us sat at the table, and it seemed as though about six people were missing." The whole book makes me feel like something - a group of people, a place, a reason to live - is constantly missing. Hemingway's characters stun me in their simple-mindedness, until I realize that is just the way they appear to me. Jake and Brett and Mike and Cohn are so incredibly complex, yet are so tortured that they can't find the voice to express themselves to each other or to the reader.

Hemingway's dialogue can be plodding (did anyone ever talk like this?), but his descriptions - of the drive from Bayonne to Pamplona, the feel of drinking from a leather wine bag, the glory of a bullfight - shine.

The fiesta goes on, in both Pamplona and Paris, but according to Jake, it doesn't "mean anything." For Brett and Jake, life will go on, devoid of meaning but full of pain. The Sun Also Rises doesn't need a complicated plot to get that central point across.

Jake Barnes: Grace under pressure
"The Sun also Rises" made a huge impression on me when I read it as a college student a number of years ago. It is true that one must look beyond the surface to get a clear understanding of any book by Hemingway. It is also true that the language that he used was not flowery, nor overly eloquent but the meaning revealed within the lines. It is also true that the characters are often expatriates; living on the fringe of society and hedonistic to the max. All of those elements are visible here, yet sometimes it might require a magnifying glass to see it. However, these are the qualities which make Ernest Hemingway, the seminal writer for a generation and certainly one of the best.

I propose one hint when reading "the Sun also Rises." Pay close attention to the relationship between Barnes and Robert Cohn. Barnes laothes Cohn for being everything that he is not. What drives him over the edge (in the inner sanctum of his own mind and demons) is the success Cohn has insofar as his relationship with Lady Brett. Barnes is impotent and this is a crushing blow to his manhood. The tragedy here is his inability to consummate a sexual relationship with her. It destroys him--yet he is still accepting of his predicament. This is what allows this character to maintain "grace under pressure"-- as Hemingway once coined the term or the ability to stand or hold ones ground when all odds are against you. Certainly this can be a tragic flaw for any of Hemingway's male characters--the total loss of his virility. Yet he stands his ground and never loses it. He just hates Cohn from a distance and rationalizes that he (Cohn) is one who cannot do anything just for the sake of doing it---whether it be drinking, winning the Princeton boxing title, or being in love with Brett. It is complicated but one can come away with these qualities after finishing the novel rather than while reading it.

I think his friend and sometimes rival, F. Scott Fitzgerald, summed him up best when he said of Hemingway: "He's the real thing."

Ernest Hemingway's a Farewell to Arms (Bloom's Notes)
Published in Paperback by Chelsea House Publishing (January, 2000)
Author: Harold Bloom
Amazon base price: $4.95
Average review score:

Bring a tissue
I really enjoyed reading this novel. Once you get through the slow beginning and really get into the plot, it becomes easy to read. Hemmingway has a unique way of telling the story of a young soldier in the war who falls in love. Hemmingway uses a variety of thought and snap shots that paints the picture of this soldier, Tenente, who falls in love with one of the nurses. The two faced many trials and still managed to keep their love alive. During the war it was typical of soldiers to be with many women. Although Tenente has previously been with many women he is completely taken by the nurse. The tale is like that of any other love story although Hemmingway gives it unique twists and turns that separate it from any other. I really liked the book because I feel it was extremely well written. The way Hemmingway leads you through this typical romance of the time and then gives you an unexpected and yet realistic ending is intriguing and keeps the reader interested. You easily get involved in the soldier's life, experiencing his ups and downs, highs and lows, with him. You travel with him as he escapes the army with his true love. And, yes, by the end, you cry with him, too. Anyone desiring a trip to the world in warfare and the struggles that a young couple in love face would greatly enjoy this book. I recommend it to all hopeless romantics.

In the rain...
I am not even going to pretend that I am intelligent enough to discern the symbolism and such in this classic novel. Besides, symbolism is nice, but so is this story. That being said, for those of you who have not read this book, I encourage you to do so. It is a story of love and war. Love between Frederick Henry and Catherine Barkley. The former is an American, but is serving the Italians in their war effort against Austria. The latter is a British nurse who is also aiding the Italians. The two met when Henry was injured from schrapnal that came out of an Austrian bomb. The war is World War I. Hemingway creates an atmosphere that lets the reader comprehend and visualize how devastating this war truly was. He is like a master chief who carefully adds the proper amounts of love and the struggle of war in his story. It's beautiful. It's sad. Hemingway has such an eye for detail that I am willing to assert that he has the ability to tell the reader what it is like to be human during this period. There's no embellishing, no exaggeration. Please let Hemingway tell you his story.

Love and war
Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" is about a love affair between a man and a woman, and a love affair between a man and a war. Only someone like Hemingway would be able to find the right notes to combine these two contrasting themes in a sort of literary harmony, where each complements and augments the emotional force of the other, without resorting to contrived romantic overkill.

The novel takes place in the last years of World War I, in which an American named Frederick Henry is serving as an ambulance driver in the Italian army. He meets and falls in love with an English nurse named Catherine Barkley; after he is badly injured in a mortar shell attack, he and Catherine consummate their love while he convalesces in a hospital in Milan. Using his trademark sharp dialogue, Hemingway shows how the presence of war in Henry's and Catherine's lives intensifies the rapid development of their relationship.

When a crabby hospital superintendent suspects Henry is idly prolonging his convalescence, she gets him sent back to his ambulance post at the front. On his way to a battle ground to pick up wounded, he is arrested by Italian battle police who hear his foreign accent and think he is a German soldier disguised in an Italian uniform. He manages a daring escape and goes to a town where he finds Catherine again. When he is alerted that the Italian army is looking to arrest him for desertion, he realizes his only option is to escape to Switzerland under cover of night.

The notion I get about Hemingway's writing of war is that, to him, it's a sport, a big game, that accepts physical suffering as a fair price to pay for the camaraderie and adventure; a game in which victories are celebrated with a lot of drinking, and losses are mourned with...a lot of drinking. This is not a criticism, just an observation; he writes with so much spirit and conviction on the subject of war that it's difficult to find fault with his style. This is exemplified most in Henry's decision at the end of the novel: At just a time when his life seems to be falling apart, he realizes he must "get back" to the war, not because he likes war, but because it gives him a will to live; it's in his blood as much as it sheds his blood.

Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Published in Paperback by Chelsea House Publishing (April, 1998)
Authors: Harold Bloom and Maya Angelou
Amazon base price: $5.95
Average review score:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Marguerite (Maya) has lived in Stamps, Arkansas for most of her life with her grandmother and out of the blue her father comes forward into her life. In this unexpected visit Maya and her brother are whisked to St. Louis to live with their mother. After awhile, Maya and her brother leave because her mother's boyfriend violates her. Time passes, and they are sent to California where Maya is shipped off to her father and his awful girlfriend. She finally runs away to a wrecking yard where she eventually goes back to her mother. After feeling "finished" with high school, Maya gets a job on the streetcars as the first African-American and some months later becomes pregnant.

I really enjoyed this book and somehow could relate to it, even though I'd never been through any of the same experiences. Maya Angelou has a distinct writing style with an intricate slow pace which I usually dislike although in this book her vocabulary painted a picture which kept me interested. Maya's life has been really hard and reading this now, I wonder how you can overcome all of what she has went through. Her life with her parents was a wreck and yet she still held herself together, probably because of living with her grandmother who helped instill morals, stability, and how the world really worked. It's a remarkable story and that's just what it appears at first. The moral of her life shows how will and determination cannot change your inborn character, that you become stronger through it.

Maya as an inspiration for teachers
While reading "...Caged Bird" I payed attention to Angelou's innovative writing style. She is of a new generation who dares to write about life as it really is. Instead of an autobiography that idealizes and candy-coats life, this book tells about life's embarassing and not-so-enjoyable details. I enjoyed this book. It was a fast and easy read. I would recommend it for older audiences (9th grade--on). Some of the content may not be appropriate for younger readers. Teachers: this book could be coupled with Mildred D. Taylor's "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry". It would be a great complement for authors like Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Zora Neal Hurston, Jean Toomer, Walter Dean Myers,James Baldwin... for a unit on Multicultural American literature. You could address topics like: racism, rape, relocating and its adjustments, teen pregnancy, parental roles, autobiography writing styles... I'm a 21-year-old female studying to be an Enlish teacher.

The struggles of a young girl and how she overcame them.
A quick review by Michelle A. Bejar.......I first read this book in my English class in the University I am currently attending. It became one of my favorites, that I will have in my own library of books. I know why the caged bird sings, is the biography about Maya Angelou herself, a book that helps understand the struggles of a little girl and her brother Bailey. They both had a hard life, living between Arkansas and California, but both overcame those issues in such a young age. Both children in their young age were not living with their parents due to the divorce, but rather were staying with their grandmother in Arkansas. The grandmother took on the father and mother figure for them, they later had begun to call her Mama too. After moving with their grandmother, the children were facing racial discrimination against them. I think that we can all learn from these issues to make life itself easier. Some readers might not realize this, but I feel that this book teaches us the hard facts about racial issues in life. In Maya's life racism was not the only issue she had to deal with. Once she moved back with her mother, she was raped by her mothers boyfriend at a young age. This is another way she shows the reader how she dealt with hard situations in her young life. I personally recommend this book to adolescent readers, it deals with issues that need to be learned at a young age. I feel that the book will help the majority of the readers to cross giant walls of cultures, race and people. It will help us to learn how to treat and learn about others who might not be the same way as we are. At the end, I think that it will strengthen the race relations between people for the better. In conclusion I would like to add that this book can be funny at time, but also heart breaking at other times. It is the genuine story of a girl, where at times we can relate too.

James Joyce's a Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man (Bloom's Notes)
Published in Paperback by Chelsea House Publishing (June, 1999)
Authors: James Joyce and Harold Bloom
Amazon base price: $4.95
Average review score:

Confusion. This novel is for those of educated minds. Stream-of-conscious runs through this book and only stops as you stop to re-read each page to find out what happened. The book runs free from subject to subject, all seen through the mind of Stephen Dedalus. His imagination runs freely throughout the book and it is sometimes hard to pick up whether what your reading is reality or just a thought process. Symbolism. Every word, sentence, and page is key to understanding this novel. If your focus wanders away for one paragraph, you lose, game over and go back to the beginning to start reading again. The thick symbolism makes it hard to read, but Joyce is able to capture many feelings through the symbolism of birds.
I couldn't get into this book. Every time the book was about to pull me in, a sudden change of pace would leave me scratching my head. This novel seemed to drag me nowhere, granted it is a classic, my classic eyes, nose, and ears say "no" to this book.
This is a well-written novel told about a young boy's life as he grows up. You learn side by side as this young boy, Stephen Dedalus, learns of life. You see things as he sees them, experience things as he experiences them, and feel as he feels. Whether it's fear, loneliness, pride or remorse, the feelings are lived as Stephen's imagination and life intertwine themselves together through each page.
This is a great novel if you have a Joyce-code-reader that helps you understand the Irish slang, Latin and symbolism. Irish slang dots this book, Latin develops it, and symbolism flies through it. This plot-less book is very hard to understand, which conveys Stephen's attitude toward life. He, a young man, is very confused in life. There are five stages in which Stephen goes through in this novel. He goes through school homesick, and looking for an identity other than his father's. Joyce depicts the family through debate at the dinner table, showing the strong political views of Stephen's father. Stephen also finds himself in a growing situation at school. After being wrongly beaten by the prefect of studies, Stephen decides to go and tell the rector on him. Fear mounts as he enters the hall across from the rector's room, but joy comes as he excitedly runs to tell his friends what happened. As he continues to experiment with life as he finds himself wading through sin. He struggles with the lusts of the natural man, as he gets involved with the opposite sex. And then it hits him. A power sermon about death, judgment, heaven and hell chain his soul down as he wishes to escape the eternal torment that surrounds him. He wants his soul to be at peace. And so through a battle with his conscience he repents and frees himself from sin. He then devotes his life to religion and purity. Seeing his devotion to the priesthood, a Father offers him a vocation. However, he discovers another path to paint the picture of his life. He journeys away to find his freedom lies in being an artist.

If you're going to read this book, put your code-decrypter nearby and get ready for a ride through the mind of Joyce.

A Portrait of the Genius as a Young Man
James Joyce's semi-autobiographical novel is probably the most read of all his works, most likely due to the fact that it is less bizarre and easier to read than his other novels. Realizing this, most readers jump into "The Portrait" expecting it to be a simple and straightforward story only to find that nothing could be farther from the truth. It is extremely complex and ahead of its time and damn near prophetic. Many readers criticize it because the plot is so realistic that whereas other books are fantastical and overblown, the plot to "Portrait" is so prevelant that it could have happened to anyone, and indeed, similar series of epiphanies do indeed happen to many. Perhaps ironic is the fact that many of the same people who criticize this lack of action enjoy spending their time watching "real life" shows such as "Survivor" and "Big Brother" that are heavy in realism and light in action. The difference of course between those shows and this book is that while the shows are completely and utterly mindless attempts to quench the public's ever-growing hunger for drivel, "Portrait" is one of the most though-out, complex psychological testaments to the life of a human being ever put to paper. It is the story of a young man, growing up in Dublin in the same manner as all other boys, and how, along the way he became different than the rest. In this age, society is obsessed with peering into others' lives, in "A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man," we peer into someone's soul: an artist's soul.

A Groundbreaker
I read this years ago in college and once or twice afterwards though I haven't had the chance to re-read it in recent years. Still it lives on vividly enough in my memory to allow a review, here, I think.

Joyce was a strange one, where writing was concerned, focusing as he did on language as a means to evoke the world rather than merely for telling a "story". Over the years I have come to conclude that fiction requires narrative requires storytelling . . . and yet Joyce successfully broke that rule and he did it first in this book.

PORTRAIT is a book which builds the world of its narrator in the telling, without really following any kind of plot or storyline or giving us a beginning, middle and end. From the opening lines of ludicrous baby talk, where we see the world through the young hero's infantile eyes, to the end where the young lad, after much intellectual wrestling in his school days, steps off into the wider world, this is a book which paints a young man's coming of age, through his very subjective experience of life, with words. Indeed, all good writing "paints" its world to some extent. But Joyce, and several of his contemporaries, set out to re-write the rules of writing by only painting the picture, as though the story (an artificial element in most cases) did not count at all. And they did what they set out to do. Joyce did it most dramatically of all with this book. Like Hemingway, Joyce was a literary impressionist, building the world through bits of language instead of merely describing it or telling us about it.

I think we need to get back to basic story in our day, as theirs was, to some extent, a false trail. But it was a trail worth following and of great value to all readers and writers alike. Aspiring writers, and anyone with a real craving to explore the literary world, ought to have a go at this one. It's an original.


Upton Sinclair's the Jungle (Modern Critical Interpretations)
Published in Library Binding by Chelsea House Pub (Library) (December, 2001)
Authors: Harold Bloom and Upton Sinclair
Amazon base price: $37.95
Average review score:

Obviously still a necessary book!
Yes, this book is relentlessly depressing and falls apart at the end. So why are my students reading it in our class "In Search of the American Dream"? Because Jurgis and Ona and their families could be any of us whose grandparents came over from Europe (though it's true that Sinclair lumped together the horrific experiences of many individuals and visited them upon one fictional family in this novel). Because Sinclair, who was proud to be a muckraker, witnessed an ocean of human degradation and suffering, not to mention appalling food prep conditions, in his time in the stockyards, and it was important to him that readers who thought themselves worlds away from "those immigrants in Packingtown" realized how closely their lives were connected. Because in America, despite our country's problems, including dismissive, privileged ignorance such as the previous reviewer's, we can tell the truth that we are free to speak, and when people actually listen, all kinds of change become possible. (Sinclair knew his ending didn't do justice to the rest of the work, by the way ... a consequence of trying to change a novel into a Socialist pamphlet at the last minute.) But in terms of historical influence as well as its contemporary relevance, The Jungle deserves our attention.

Important historical novel
I am an attorney, and by coincidence I read this novel about a month before I was hired by a labor law firm, where I represent labor unions. In our current extremely politically conservative climate, I hear a lot of anti-Union sentiment. To all the people who regularly tell me that they do not see the need for labor unions in this day and age, I would recommend this book. This book shows what happened to unskilled workers in the days before collective bargaining or minimum wage laws. It's funny that what this book is remembered most for is the resulting food sanitation laws--when it was Sinclair's attempt to display what is wrong with laissez-faire economics. He succeeds tremendously.
No, this book's prose is not beautiful. But the story is gripping. It is the story of a family who has immigrated to Chicago from eastern Europe. They cannot speak the language and do not have job skills. The family members are forced into hard labor under horrific conditions, when they are lucky enough to get work. What little money they are able to earn, they are tricked out of by unscrupulous landlords and lawyers.
This novel is memorable for its message and resulting reforms, rather than for its prose or characters. However, it is a wonderful book that I know I will never forget.

How the Other Half Lives
Millions of immigrants from around the world came to the US between the years 1870 and 1920¡¯s with a promise of a better life, a taste of the ¡®American Dream¡¯. These immigrants had come to America, yearning to be free and comfortable but were soon forced into waged slavery and slums. Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle, wanted to ¡°expose the social, political, and economic problems¡± that a typical immigrant family faces, ¡°¡¦how the other half lives,¡± Upton Sinclair exclaimed. In this novel, a family of nine, like the million others, came from their homeland to take a stab at prosperity in the states in vain.
For this reason, Sinclair wanted society to feel a little remorse for the hundreds of immigrants dying for the progress of this country. His style of writing is very powerful and is a very enduring read, evoking pity and sympathy into the readers¡¯ hearts. Sinclair¡¯s descriptive and sanguinary writing lets the reader take a peak into the factories, showing us what wasn't supposed to be seen. Upton Sinclair gave social economic change an initial push. After reading Sinclair¡¯s book, President Teddy Roosevelt issued the Pure Food Act and labors were given a sanitary work environment.
In contrary with our history books, Sinclair focused on only one, out of a million, family¡¯s struggle to exist in this merciless society. In history class I¡¯ve leaned about these immigrants¡¯ struggles, but when I read this book, I realized that textbooks only touched the surface of the strife and obstacles the limited immigrants went through. I do recommend this book because I have enjoyed it immensely myself.

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