Tag: Adventure

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares

Posted January 9, 2017 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 2 Comments

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy CasaresTitle: The Invention of Morel (Goodreads)
Author: Adolfo Bioy Casares
Translator: Ruth L.C. Simms
Artist: Norah Borges
Published: NYRB Classics, 1940
Pages: 103
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Never have I read anything like The Invention of Morel, it is beautiful and yet left me somewhat confused. I have spent more time thinking about this novella than actually reading it. While the plot is straight forward, it is the bizarre and fantastical elements that left me perplexed. The novella tells the story of a man on the run, who hides on a deserted island (the fictional island of Villings which is believed to be part of the Ellice Islands, now known as Tuvalu). When people start to arrive on the island, things become a little more complicated.

This is the book that launched Adolfo Bioy Casares’s career, despite being his seventh book. He remains a little obscure outside of Argentina, even though his friend Jorge Luis Borges is known to sing his praises. While this book is sometimes categorised as science fiction or fantasy, for me it reads like a psychological adventure story. Rather than focusing on a plot which is common in genre fiction, he prides himself in making the book plotless and almost formless. This is a unique style for a novel like this but helps explore the inner psyche of the narrator.

The way the novella is written leaves you constantly questioning the reliability of the narrator. This is done in many different ways, from the disease that is apparently effecting the island (symptoms seems to be similar to radiation poisoning) to the hallucinations the narrator experiences from food poisoning and just the bizarre nature of the novella as a whole. I found this to be an effective way to explore The Invention of Morel and the main protagonist. It was these psychological elements of the book that I ended up appreciating.

The Invention of Morel was written in a time where radiation has a hot topic. I do not know much about the history of radioactivity but I know Marie Curie died in 1934 from aplastic anaemia, which is believed to be brought on by exposure to radiation, then in the 1940s there was a race to perfect the nuclear bomb. This I believe had an effect on Bioy Casares’s novella and helped him explore the idea of dying which leads to the theme of waiting for his soul to pass on.

I have to add that the reason Louise Brooks was put on the cover of the edition I read was because Adolfo Bioy Casares wrote this novella as a reaction to the demise of her film career. Take that to mean what you will, I do not know anything about Brooks to be able to draw any connections between her life and the book. Also the illustrations were provided by Norah Borges, Jorge Luis Borges younger sister. I am so please to have read The Invention of Morel, it was such an enjoyable experience and this novella is something I will contemplate for years to come.


Beowulf by Anonymous

Posted October 19, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

Beowulf by AnonymousTitle: Beowulf (Goodreads)
Author: Anonymous
Translator: Michael Alexander
Published: Penguin, 800
Pages: 137
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Beowulf is one of the oldest, complete surviving epic poems in existent. There are a few others from the same era that have survived in fragments, so the significance of Beowulf remains in regards to English literature. Written in Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) the manuscript of Beowulf is believed to date back to the 10th century (1,000AD). This is an example of a heroic poem, which can be defined as a text that deals with heroic actions in battle. Beowulf focuses on three great battles, with Grendel, Grendel’s Mother, and a Dragon.

While this is an English poem it is interesting to note that it is not set in England but southern Scandinavia, half in Denmark and the other in Geatland (or Götaland) which is one of three lands of Sweden. Beowulf does incorporate a large amount of Norse and Germanic history and legends, however I don’t have the knowledge to pick up on this within the text, just information I learnt after the reading. I suspect that this information was added into the poem to help pass on the information to Anglo-Saxon people, like a history lesson or as the poet calls it “the treasured repertory” (line 871). It is believed that Beowulf was composed in a time of stability, in a time of some democracy; an early medieval Christian civilisation. One might say this was an age where art and literature were flourishing and often used as methods of education.

Beowulf was no exception. What I got out of this poem was a reflection of the cultural and, to a lesser extent, political views of the time; a civilisation that values courtesy and formality. Chivalry, generosity and thoughtfulness are valued but still have a strong sense of precariousness, ready of imminent attack and war. Strength is still considered important; Beowulf is a warrior willing to fight against enemies both human and demonic. He even travelled to another country to fight a demonic menace. However you have to look to the other warriors as well, who appear as strong and capable as Beowulf but without their faith are rendered useless.

The role of the poet (or bard) is actually depicted in the poem itself several times. The poet is “…a fellow of the king’s” (line 868) which suggests that he is of a high rank. One who knows old and traditional stories, “Whose head was a storehouse of the storied verse, whose tongue gave gold to the language” (line 870). This allows the poem to have a unique perspective on the events that unfolds within Beowulf, a tactic that doesn’t always get explained within modern literature.

It is said that you can interpret this poem as having both Christian and pagan themes; however for me this had a very strong religious message. A battle of good and evil but I suspect this wasn’t a conflict of morality but an inevitable clash between the two. In a Christian context, Beowulf could be compared to Jesus, coming to save our souls from evil. You can even compare it to the story of Cain and Abel which is referenced within the text of Beowulf.

Given that Beowulf is meant to be experienced a spoken word I found myself struggling to read this as a written text. I had a look for the Michael Alexander translation (which was assigned to me for my university course) but was unsuccessful. However I did try to think about the text as if it was a story been spoken and I found it difficult. For me the narrative felt too slow, it lacked suspense and felt a little awkward (possibly the translation). The obscure historical allusions may not have been an issue back in the 800AD but it was for a modern reading.

I was nervous about reading Odyssey by but ended up loving it; I was hoping I would have a similar experience here. I suspected that Beowulf will remain a difficult text. There is some historical context that would be helpful before going into the poem that I just didn’t get. Reading the epic poem as part of a university course did help but for me it wasn’t enough. Medieval literature will remain difficult for me and would rather enjoy something a little more recent, like the 19th century. If you have read Beowulf and have some interesting insights that might help get my head around it, please let me know.


Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Posted February 10, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DefoeTitle: Robinson Crusoe (Goodreads)
Author: Daniel Defoe
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1719
Pages: 321
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When Robinson Crusoe gets shipwrecked on an island, everything changes for him. Now stuck on the island of despair, Crusoe has to learn how to survive. Daniel Defoe’s classic survival novel has been the inspiration for many stories to come. Most people know the story so I won’t go into too much detail summarising the book.

Some may disagree but I found that Defoe set out to shatter the misconceptions that Europeans had towards colonialism. When Robinson Crusoe lands on the island he adopts colonialism, as it is familiar to him and the political nature he recognises. You see the progression of this social structure from when Crusoe first found himself on the island. He built his shelter, farmed the lands and hunted. Then when other people were introduced, the social order fell into place, putting himself as lord and master. Others like Friday and his father were slaves, but the Spaniard and the Englishmen were treated completely differently.

Another theme I noticed while reading Robinson Crusoe was the idea of isolation; this was portrayed in a literal sense. Stuck on the island, Crusoe had so much time on his hand he spends it contemplating society, religion, politics and the world. What was interesting to note is the fact that there was no real mention of women in the book; there were some but none played a significant role. This detail is something I spent a lot of time contemplating, it felt like with all his reflections, women never were an important part of the world. I’m not sure what Defoe meant by this but I’m sure it is something worth investigating.

I found Robinson Crusoe fascinating; I was studying it for university so I had to look at what Daniel Defoe was trying to say about colonialism. However there is something that really annoyed me about the book and that is the way the writing style kept changing. It felt like Defoe wasn’t sure how he was writing the novel, switching between diary entries and first person narrative. It didn’t feel intentional just changing whenever it suited him and that, in turn, just felt sloppy.

Robinson Crusoe isn’t a great book; I’m glad I read it but it just isn’t something I can praise. It wasn’t a problem with the themes or the style; it just focused too much on survival and missed opportunities to explore other topics. Sure, this is a classic and you have to give a book credit for staying around so long, but Robinson Crusoe just wasn’t for me.


The Literary Exploration Reading Challenge Returns for 2014

Posted December 12, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 9 Comments

The Literary Exploration reading challenge is back, by popular demand. As most people know, Literary Exploration tries to explore all different genres in the hope to become a well-rounded reader and even discover something new. So we are challenging everyone to dedicate either 12, 24 or 36 books that you would normally read during the year to different genres. We have compiled a list which hopefully will give you a chance to explore literature a little deeper.

It’s real simple; below you will see an easy (12 books), hard (24 books) or insane (36 books) challenge. Each genre links to the Goodreads genre page if you need some suggestions on what to read. We want you to have some fun and explore; hopefully you might find a new genre that peaks your interest. To sign up either join the Literary Exploration book club on Goodreads and talk about your progress with others involved or for the bloggers out there, if you want to add it as part of your blogging experience simply let us know with a link (to your Literary Exploration Challenge page) in the comments below so our readers can see how you are going.

This year we have adjusted the insane challenge slightly to make it a little more rounded. The popularity of the reading challenge with overwhelming and we are pleased to see how many people wanted to do it again next year. We have even offered some bonus for those who want to take it to the next level. The idea of this challenge is to have a well-balanced list of genres and not focusing on one genre more than any others.

Good luck all who decide to join in. I personally am going to go for the 36 book, insane challenge and I’m really looking forward to it. While there are some genres I’m not looking forward to reading, it’s all part of being a literary explorer. What could be wrong with that?

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The Hunter by Julia Leigh

Posted May 28, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Hunter by Julia LeighTitle: The Hunter (Goodreads)
Author: Julia Leigh
Published: Penguin, 1999
Pages: 188
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Under an assumed identity of Martin David, Naturalist, M arrives to hunt down the last Tasmanian tiger rumoured to exist within Tasmania. On the edge of the wilderness, he will soon slip into an untouched world of silence and stillness. Hunting the last thylacine, an animal extinct since the 1930’s, but a sighting has been reported.

Julia Leigh, born in 1970 in Sydney, Australia, has received critical acclaim even though she has had a very small writing career so far. The Hunter in 1999; a novella in 2008, Disquiet; and then she wrote and directed the 2011 movie Sleeping Beauty (not to be confused with the fairy tale). I tend to think that most of her acclaim came from people expecting great things from her after she was selected to be the protégé of Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison in 2002 as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts international philanthropic programme.

The Hunter is an interesting novel because it follows a post colonial narrative which is unheard of for an Australian novel. When it comes to Australian adventure novels, most of the time characters just get lost in the wilderness not go hunting dangerous animals.  This leads to an interesting portrayal of the thylacine, which I will look at later. The Hunter may be a stripped back quest narrative but it feels very American and masculine for an Australian female author. American in a sense that the hunt narrative could be compared to Moby Dick, Old Man and the Sea and even The Bear, comparisons which she has acknowledged. Masculine in the way she gives approaches this novel with detachment, contempt and control over the death hunt subject matter. You could compare the paired back minimalist prose to something found in hard-boiled fiction, but not quite.

M is the archetype of a hunter, a figure that inhabits the story rather than one the lives in its world. There are not too many details of this character, but he seems to have similar characteristics as the hero in a spaghetti western. Ruthless, cold, calculating and inhuman but never unethical; though the lack of character development is an important part of this book. It forces the reader to keep him at arm’s length so we can study him. It’s almost like Julia Leigh has been taking active steps so that we never warm to him.

He is never a role model or anti-hero; he is just a faceless man in pursuit of the last remaining thylacine. What does the thylacine represent in this book? Imagination, hope for the future, guilt of the past, living in harmony with nature or a biotech ghost in a Tasmanian gothic novel? It’s up to the reader to decide, but while we are on the subject of the thylacine, does this animal both represents the Australian wildlife, an animal going extinct to raise global awareness as a form of Ecocriticism or is it supposed to be an animal that could harm or kill the hunter? These are the questions that I believe Julia Leigh wants us to ask as readers.

Julia Leigh setups a situation where the reader has to reason with their imagination and emotions in order to get the reader to think about what the author might be saying. I really like how you can read The Hunter as an adventure, a Tasmanian gothic or as ecocriticism. No matter which way you read this you are not wrong. I thought of this more as a western; just with the way the protagonist was portrayed and the people drinking in the bar reminded me of those rednecks drinking in a saloon in those spaghetti western films. I’m interested to see how people read this book and just see what they got out of it.


The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe

Posted March 16, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Childrens, Humour / 0 Comments

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon DefoeTitle: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (Goodreads)
Author: Gideon Defoe
Series: The Pirates! #1
Published: Pantheon, 2004
Pages: 144
Genres: Childrens, Humour
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists follows the story of the Pirate captain and his unorthodox crew. On their adventures they meet Charles Darwin and his highly trained and sophisticated “man-panzee” Mister Bobo. Darwin has been banished from London by a rival scientist and manages to convince the Pirate captain to help defeat his enemies.

While this book and the rest of the series is not aimed at children, it comes as a real surprise that the stop animation movie adaption was. I’ve not seen the movie but I can’t imagine a cannon ball ripping through a woman’s head would make for good movie viewing. Having said that I wouldn’t mind seeing that, the humour would be well worth seeing. The humour really relies on clichés and irony, while will make for a very entertaining experience. While the book has the humour there is a visual aspect to some of the jokes that really would work better in a movie.

I think book really reads more like a script for a movie and while it isn’t laid out that way I can’t help but thing that a movie adaptation was the main goal of the author. I know of people who have seen the movie and then went on to enjoy the books and I think that might be the order required. I can’t help think the humour was a cross between Monty Python and Wallace and Gromit, yet again why I think the movie would work better.

While the rest of the book falls into the realms of cliché, this book is all about the humour and nothing else. I would have liked a better plot and better characters but clearly this wasn’t the focus at all. I’m really not sure if I want to continue with this series but for a bit of light reading I might return, but I have so many other books I want to read so I doubt I’ll be back anytime soon.


Introducing The 2013 Literary Exploration Reading Challenge

Posted December 15, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 52 Comments

logoAs the year starts to come to a close, we readers start to think about what we would like to read next year and for some of us, we look for the reading challenge that excites us the most. As most people know, Literary Exploration tries to explore all different genres in the hope to become a well-rounded reader and even discover something new. So in 2013 we would like to challenge you to explore further.

Instead of increasing the book club to two books a month we decided we wanted people to read what they wanted to read; but we also want people to explore. So we are challenging everyone to dedicate either 12, 24 or 36 books that you would normally read to different genres. We have compiled a list which hopefully will give you a chance to explore literature a little deeper.

It’s real simple; below you will see an easy (12 books), hard (24 books) or insane (36 books) challenge. Each genre links to the Goodreads genre page if you need some suggestions on what to read. We want you to have some fun and explore; hopefully you might find a new genre that peaks your interest. To sign up either join the Literary Exploration book club on Goodreads and talk about your progress with others involved or for the bloggers out there, if you want to add it as part of your blogging experience simply let us know with a link (to your Literary Exploration Challenge page) in the comments below so our readers can see how you are going.

This is the first year doing this and if all goes well we might expand and make it a yearly challenge. If we do decide to do this on a yearly basis and you feel that there are some genres are either too heavily focused on or not mentioned at all, please let me know. The idea of this challenge is to have a well-balanced list of genres and not focusing on one genre more than any others.

Good luck all who decide to join in. I personally am going to go for the 36 book, insane challenge and I’m really looking forward to it. While there are some genres I’m not looking forward to reading, it’s all part of being a literary explorer. What could be wrong with that?

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True Grit by Charles Portis

Posted October 12, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Western / 0 Comments

True Grit by Charles PortisTitle: True Grit (Goodreads)
Author: Charles Portis
Published: Overlook, 1968
Pages: 224
Genres: Classic, Western
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

True Grit is a classic Western novel that seems to have stood the test of time. True Grit follows fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross who sets out to avenge the shooting of her father. She hires Marshall Officer Rooster Cogburn to help her track down the killer Tom Chaney. However, most people will know this story from the John Wayne movie or the recent adaptation directed by the Coen brothers.

This book would be nothing if it wasn’t for narrator and protagonist Mattie Ross. She is a thrifty, strong minded girl that doesn’t let any of the men walk all over her. Her wit and strong personality is the driving force of this novel and you can’t help but root for her when she outsmarts or stands her ground throughout the book. This is a typical western, which means it is a tough environment and the men expect women to know their place, so when a loud mouth, bratty little girl decides to take charge then expect some personality clashes and an enjoyable read.

While Cogburn and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf are two interesting characters with very different styles of tracking down Tom Chaney, their personalities don’t really come through as well as Mattie and while she seems to like Rooster Cogburn for helping her, both men are outshined. This is a very short novel that surprisingly jams everything it needs to in fewer than two hundred pages.

Charles Portis’ writes the book masterfully; the pages are jammed pack with this adventure and this doesn’t detract from the fabulous prose. While this book sometimes feels very blunt and straightforward, I had so much fun reading about Mattie’s adventures and her commentary. I’m not much for westerns but I really did enjoy every minute of reading this book.