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Pope in his grotto
It's clever, but is it art?
(This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time.)
 
Romanticism, Paradise Lost
Holy hell, saving that Milton essay until the last minute was seriously not a good idea. Jesus Christ. I spent last week reading a couple of hundred pages of literary criticism, then on Friday spent probably five hours typing randomly about the poem until I finally arrived at something that looked like a viable argument for a paper, spent some twelve hours yesterday writing a truly horrible first draft, and then spent literally another twelve straight hours today turning it into something I was not too embarrassed to send to my professor. Seriously, I went to bed at 7:00 PM last night when I absolutely could not look at the thing anymore, got up at 3:00 AM and started writing again, and finally, just now, at quarter to 4:00 PM have at last emailed the file to the teacher. I thought about asking one of you guys to go over the draft, but... I was afraid there would be things wrong with it, and I'm not sure I could have stood going over the thing again. EGADS.

On the bright side, I think I can say I now know Paradise Lost pretty damn well. I mean, there are like three bookcases worth of books about how to interpret PL at the university library, so I'd be kidding myself if I thought I "understood" the poem. But I at least understand it in a few different and probably relatively valid ways.

I was surprised, actually, to find that although I understand the text much better now, and appreciate the art and precision with which Milton composed it, my impression of it still hasn't significantly changed. I spent the whole semester making a point to read the poem, as far as possible, the way I thought Milton would have wanted it read, taking God's goodness and righteousness pretty much for granted, and avoiding the temptation to sympathize with Satan. But now that the class is over, I find that I feel pretty much the same way about Milton's treatment of Christianity as I felt the first time I read it -- I think, first of all, that the task of "justifying the ways of God to men" was hopeless from the get-go, given the text of Genesis and the Christian doctrine that Milton had to work with; and I think Milton made some severe errors of calculation in deciding just how sympathetic to make Satan and just how odious to make God. 'Cause his Satan is pretty much a perfect Byronic hero, aristocratic, arrogant, tormented, flawed and petty and even somewhat despicable, but a lot less ugly even than, say, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. God, on the other hand, goes about doing a lot of the same damn things Satan does, only they're supposed to be viewed as completely different and good merely because it was God and not Satan who did them. Which reminds me of something Milton himself said in his De Doctrina Christiana (emphasis mine):
In short, many visible proofs, the verification of numberless predictions, a multitude of wonderful works have compelled all nations to believe, either that God, or that some evil power whose name was unknown, presided over the affairs of the world.
...Yeah. He then concludes that it must be God, not He-Who-Must-Cannot-Be-Named, who rules the world, because "that evil should prevail over good, and be the true supreme power, is as unmeet as it is incredible." That's the whole strength of his argument for why all the evil in the world has to somehow ultimately be explained as the divine and beautiful will of a benevolent God.

Oh religion. What can one possibly do with you.

(LOLWTF, 24 hours of essay-writing and apparently I wasn't tired of talking about Milton after all. Sheez.)

One more exam to go. There's no food in the house except for like ten zillion tamales, so I think I'll go buy some Little Caesar's breadsticks for $1.50 to celebrate the completion of the Essay of Doom. And then start studying for the most boring linguistics test ever.

...AND THEN FREEDOM OH MY GOD.
Devil: Temptation
Finished To Reign in Hell. The premise was really interesting, but I'm not so sure about the execution... I'm afraid Brust has rather reminded me why I don't generally read sci-fi or fantasy novels. Like so many of them, this one came off more like a really excellent fanfic than like a professional work, I thought. I found it particularly jarring in this case because of how blatantly similar Brust's style is to Zelazny's, yet without being anywhere near as polished or natural as Zelazny is. But besides that, his writing just felt very rushed to me, a bit haphazard, a bit heavyhanded... I mean, I realize it's hard to deal with messiahs and gods and damnation without being heavyhanded, and Brust sure as hell could easily have done much, much worse. But --

Well, enough skirting around spoilers. On to the review.Collapse )

This turned out a bit rantier than I intended. I didn't actually hate the book or anything -- I'm just disappointed because it had so much potential, and I feel like Brust could have done a lot better with such rich material. I'd be willing to try another of his books sometime, though. This one was certainly a quick read, in any case.
23rd-Jul-2009 09:25 pm
Literature
Okay, and on a (mostly) totally different topic, I also just read Lord Byron's Cain, a Mystery. In which I ramble about Byron, Satan, Cain, and Steinbeck.Collapse )
23rd-Dec-2007 03:29 pm - This year's reading list...
Devil: the dark side has books
(I wrote this a few days ago, thinking I'd be able to get online sooner. It's therefore a bit outdated; I've actually finished reading Moby Dick now, and a post about that is forthcoming. In the meantime, I'm leaving this post as it is.)

Contrary to what most people think, I'm not actually a very prolific reader. At all. In fact, I've read exactly ten books this year -- or eleven, if I finish Moby Dick before January -- and that includes three short children's novels. I mean, I read pieces of other things… I read about half of a collection of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short stories, several chapters of The House of the Seven Gables, the first quarter of The 1,001 Arabian Nights (which I'm still reading; at the moment I'm about halfway through the story of Aladdin), and a few chapters of The Iliad, The Red and the Black, and Nietzsche's Antichrist. I intend to finish reading all of these at some point... hopefully within the coming year...

In any case. Some of you have been trying to "read your height" in books, or read a book for every week of the year, or something of that sort, and then commenting on those books in your journal in little blocks. I've entered on no such ambitious enterprise, but now that the year is out, I figure I'll take a moment to comment briefly on the books I did manage to read this year. No spoilers, or at least only very minor, oblique spoilers. In the order in which I read them, then:

The Master and MargaritaCollapse )
LolitaCollapse )
One Hundred Years of SolitudeCollapse )
The Dark Tower: The GunslingerCollapse )
Number the StarsCollapse )
The Devil's StorybookCollapse )
The Devil's Other StorybookCollapse )
Lord of LightCollapse )
Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsCollapse )
Guards! Guards!Collapse )
Moby DickCollapse )
18th-Jan-2007 11:58 pm - The Master and Margarita
Marlowe: "bad revolting stars?"
I finished reading The Master and Margarita about a week ago, but this is the first chance I've had to actually say anything about it. I'm still not sure exactly what I think of it, and this is bound to come out as more of a barely coherent stream of ramblings than an actual discussion of the novel, but I'll give it a shot anyway.

Warning: Spoilers for The Master and Margarita, and also for Goethe's Faust and Stephen King's Needful Things.Collapse )

So, anyway, if anybody has any insights, or just wants to chat about the book, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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