Monthly Archives: June 2014

Review a Classic: The Power and the Glory

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. Published in 1940.Image

Originally published in 1940, under the original American title The Labyrinthine Ways, The Power and the Glory has been widely read (by the general public) and researched (by literary academics everywhere).

The ironic title is a doxology from the Christian’s Lord Prayer. The title is ironic because the main character, a priest half-heartedly avoiding capture in a state where religion has been outlawed, has very little power and no glory whatsoever. This priest, who is supposed to represent God’s message on Earth, is an alcoholic, hopeless, desperate, poor man who doesn’t trust anyone. The obvious irony of it makes the title itself a very powerful statement.

The title is not the only thing that has changed throughout the versions. One area of study surrounding the book is the comparisons of different versions of the texts, where certain, impactful lines vary. (I will discuss this more in depth in a future blog!)

Cycle

**Slight Spoiler** As many plotlines do, this story creates a circle, ending where it began. Without giving away the ending, I will say that minor characters that appear for a short time in the beginning of the novel, appear again in the last few pages, yet nowhere in-between. Also, a very important aspect of the story appears to “start over fresh” in the last few lines, suggesting that perhaps the entire story will occur again to another individual. This type of cycle is a successful plot structure because it creates the sense that the story is eternal and not unique to this individual. 

Message/Theme

I don’t particularly like talking about the “themes” of stories because I don’t think every story needs to or should have one. For example, another of Greene’s novels, Our Man in Havana, focuses mainly on entertaining the reader without a clear theme. However, The Power and the Glory has a common thread that can’t be ignored. The downfall of man is present in every step of the novel. First, the novel is set in a time when the government has outlawed all religion, which is a dominant source of hope and happiness for many people. Without religion, one is led to believe that death is the end, that no eternal happiness or “life ever after” follows. Some characters in the novel even state that they believe death on Earth is the end of being.

Overall

The story was a bit too political and unclear for my liking. Names were too often averted, characters were always hiding the truth and the drama was written in a very calm tone. These things made the story hard to follow at times, and no clear goal was ever established. Even the priest’s goal of not being caught did not ground the reader because the priest himself seemed it was only a matter of time, he did not fear it, and often walked knowingly into situations that could get him caught and killed. His wishy-washy character made me not care if he got caught. Therefore, I had no real suspense or emotion invested in the story.

Most people would agree that The Power and the Glory is a 5 star novel, but my personal taste has to disagree. I’m giving it 3 stars (and honestly, it would probably be lower if there wasn’t so much outside praise influencing me.) If you’re a literary nut like me it is well worth a read and I hope you enjoy it more than I did! If you simply want to read a fun, emotional, entertaining story, I would suggest you grab Greene’s Our Man in Havana instead. Its an entertaining, funny story that incorporates a unique writing style. 

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Previous Book Reviews:

The Shining by Stephen King 

The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Future Book Reviews:

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

 

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

 

 

Yesterday I was surprised and honored to be nominated for my first blogging award, the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. A big thank you goes out to Matilda at matildaallgrownup.wordpress.com! It always feels good to be recognized!

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Here are the rules for this blogger award:

1. Thank and link the amazing person who nominated you.
2. List the rules and display the award.
3. Share seven facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
5. Optional: Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

Seven facts about me:

1. My favorite deserts are ice cream and cookies. DQ Cookie Dough Blizzard? I’ll never turn it down.

2. I love nature! I recently went on a camping trip to the Grand Canyon and was simply amazed by it!

3. I also love playing ice hockey! I started playing in 2nd grade.

4. I love every season! I love the birth of spring, the outdoor activities of summer, the beauty and crisp feel of fall and I love hockey in the winter time.

5. As a very active child I typically would play sports during recess but I remember one specific day when I was so engrossed by a Goosebumps book that I literally sat on the curb with my nose in the book, ignoring my friends pleas for me to come play with them.

6. I can juggle while walking on stilts.

7. I’m an editor by day and writer by night.

My nomination:

Because I believe that awards should not be given out lightly and because I have not been reading many blogs lately, I only have one nomination. This recently-discovered blog is a gem indeed!

The Misfits Closet 

 

A King Classic: The Shining Book Review

Book Review of The Shining (1977 throwback!) by Stephen King.  Published by DoubleDay.

ImageMy favorite kind of Science Fiction is the kind you can believe; the kind that would only require a slight twitch of the universe or the opening of a new connection in the human brain. In 1977, Stephen King balanced that believability with true terror in his novel, The Shining. It captured a vast, wide-eyed audience that couldn’t wait to turn the page. The story captured an even larger on-the-edge-of-their-seat audience when the novel was turned into a film in 1980. Why did the story enthrall and terrify such a vast audience? Because the terror is believable.

After reading the Shining less than a year ago, it immediately jumped onto my list of favorites. The writing incorporates a unique style, the story is one of King’s best (not only in my opinion, but consistently considered so by critiques and fans), and there are just enough twists in the world to keep you unaware of what is to come.

Believable Science Fiction

The setting of The Shining is based on a real location, the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Getting trapped in such a hotel by snow higher than your head may have been a stretch if it was an accident but the Torrance family of the novel chose to stay there for the winter. When the father, Jack Torrance, took on the job as caretaker of the hotel, he and his family agreed to isolate themselves in the hotel for the entire winter.

Danny Torrence, an 8-year-old boy with supernatural powers is the focus of the story. And yes, he does have unrealistic abilities such as mindreading and sending mental messages to a man across the country. But those stretches of reality are balance by smaller, more believable talents. For example, is it so unlikely that an 8-year-old boy has an imaginary friend? Or that he become frightened when a fire hose seems to turn into a snake and chase after him? Is it hard to believe that a man who was once an uncontrollable alcoholic with a quick temper could go a little crazy once being cooped up in an abandoned hotel for months. And, as an avid watcher of Ghost Adventures, I don’t doubt for a moment that most historic hotels are haunted, especially ones that have seen as much violence and death as The Shining’s Overlook Hotel.

There are supernatural happenings in The Shining that do stretch the imagination, but surrounded by a realistic setting with realistic characters, it did not require any sort of leap for me to believe the supernatural. Making a young boy the witness of all these terrifying events also makes them more believable because children are argued to 1) see certain “realities” that adults have long ago pushed into their unconscious and 2) children are more easily frightened, making the scary seem that much more terrifying 

That fictional 8-year-old boy turns into a man!Image

The reason I chose to write a book review on a story I read so long ago was in preparation for the sequel. Doctor Sleep, a 2013 release by King, features the same 8-year-old boy who was tormented by the horrors of the Overlook Hotel. Only now, he is a recovering alcoholic in his 40s who has learned to tame his supernatural powers…until he needs them. My book review on Doctor Sleep will be coming soon! And once again, King does not disappoint.

Recommendation

5 stars! A well-written, entertaining story guaranteed to please, and possibly terrorize. 

A few of the many book covers and images associated with this famous story:

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(I do not claim any rights to these photos.)

“16 Twitter Accounts for Word Nerds”

Everyone can use another great account to follow on Twitter! New follows are what keep our timeline fresh and unique to our own interests. That’s why I was excited to come across this list of “16 Twitter Accounts for Word Nerds” by @mental_floss that I couldn’t not share with you! (However sloppy they may be, sometimes double negatives just seem to get my point across better!) 

Know any Twitter accounts you would add to the list?

Check out my Twitter feed at @SarahSchneek

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Today is Friday the 13th AND a Full Moon!! Ahhh!!

Writing Prompt: Inspired by today’s unique pairing of events, I encourage you to create a superstitious character! You can place them in any situation that inspires you but why not place them in the present day!? Are they able to leave their house? Their bed? If so, how careful are they? Are they scared of every movement their peripheral vision takes up? Hyperaware of their surroundings? Unable to work because their superstitions are literally scaring them out of their seat? The power of being a writer is that YOU DECIDE! 🙂

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Book Review. Stefan Merrill Block=My New Favorite Author

Book Review on The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block. Published by Random House.

In a time when so many novels are rewrites of old stories, The Storm at the Door is strikingly original. It’s plot as well as its writing are fresh, unique and flow with a simplicity that only day-to-day life can convey while contemplating a world that is far beyond our reach. Based on the true story of his maternal grandparents, Stefan Merrill Block has created a piece of fiction that contemplates the imbalance of love, the complexities of sanity, the limits of language and the weight of memory.

SummaryImage

Fredrick Merrill, Block’s grandfather, is placed in a mental hospital by his wife after years of insistence from her family and friends. While Frederick contemplates ways to prove his sanity, his wife, Katherine, doubts her own. She struggles to raise four young girls on a dwindling savings account while constantly doubting her decision to institutionalize her husband. The close up of the family’s daily struggles are just a window to reveal much deeper issues of humanity.

The Depth

The plot of this novel is like the surface of the ocean. It’s vast and beautiful, fluid and translucent but beneath its surface is an unimaginable depth, thousands of seahorse and sharks, plants and animals, volcanoes and valleys. Beneath its surface is life.

This novel is so much more than a struggling love story. It’s about the pain that comes with unconditional love and the fogginess of sanity. It’s about the limits of our language and the limits of our ability to understand the world around us. It’s about deception and truth. It’s about staying connected after being torn apart. The Storm at our Door is a novel that no one will walk away from unchanged but everyone will be changed in a different way.

East-of-Eden-like Narrator

Similar to Steinbeck’s famous novel, Stefen Merrill Block narrates The Storm at the Door through his own eyes. In both novels, the narrators are young boys telling the story of their ancestors from a distant place. 

If you’re not familiar with East of Eden, let me explain. The Storm at the Door (like East of Eden) is narrated in the first person by the author himself, who appears as a very minimal character in the book (he is present maybe 10 out of the 342 pages). In the book, Block is fictionalizing the real-life story of his maternal grandparents. His grandfather was actually institutionalized in a mental hospital and although Block has no firsthand knowledge of the events, he researched his book by talking to relatives, reading his grandparents letters, but mostly by using his imagination.

Characters from a Metal Hospital

ImageThe colorful array of characters in the metal hospital add a unique flavor to the book without threatening the reliability. Block creates a wide variety of believable, insane characters. One, a ex-Harvard professor, is a schizophrenic who believes he is discovering the one true language of the universe. Another character, Robert Lowell (pictured left), is based on a real poet who was institutionalized in the same hospital as Block’s grandfather, the real Frederick Merrill. Block incorporates some of Lowell’s actually poetry in this novel. As the reader sees these characters through the perspective of Frederick, they all seem fairly sane. Although we may not be able to trust the reliability of the characters, the narrator is so distant (in time and space) from the events, we are at least able to trust him.

Overall 

With this book, Block has cemented  himself as one of my favorite authors. His first novel, The Story of Forgetting is a remarkable story and The Storm at the Door stands right beside it. Not many novels touch the soul and intrigue the mind as much as Block’s. Everyone should read this book. FIVE STARS.

 

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CNN’s Books That Changed Your Lives

Did the book that changed YOUR life make the list? Mine didn’t. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is the book that turned me from a Reader into a Lover of Literature. 

How many of these books have you read? Any that are still on your to-read list?

The Words, Stefan Merrill Block

This beautiful paragraph is taken from Stefan Merril Block’s second novel, The Storm at the Door

In the soil of a New Hampshire forest, on a summer day of 2007, the words are no longer words, now only particles of ash. At a Massachusetts pencil factory, on a spring afternoon of 1959, the words are not yet words, only a few inches of charcoal in a rod. At the bottom of a milk crate in a cluttered attic, on a winter morning of 1976, the words fade slowly on yellowing paper. Inside the glow of a Franklin stove, on a July day in 1989, the words curl into one another, embrace one another with their sloping appendages, as they incinerate. Ascending the chimney of Echo Cottage in a plume of white, they could have been anything. Image

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