Tag: Catch 22

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Posted December 14, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard FlanaganTitle: The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Goodreads)
Author: Richard Flanagan
Published: Vintage, 2013
Pages: 467
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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

The Narrow Road to the Deep North follows the story of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by his past; life in Tasmania, a love affair with his uncle’s wife, World War 2 and so on. At the heart of the story is his horrific time in a Japanese slave labour camp as a prisoner of war working on the Burma death railway. Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho’s travel journal, The Narrow Road to the Deep North is about the impossibility of love.

I started reading this book at the beginning of my recent reading slump, I felt so much pressure to try and get it read before my local book club. As a result, I wasn’t able to finish it in time and I ended up putting this aside half read. I obviously went back to the book and finished it, but I think it did play a big role in my enjoyment of the novel.

This is my first Richard Flanagan novel; I have heard a lot about him, but never had a chance to try him out before. The Narrow Road to the Deep North is about the harshness of war, not just the struggle of trying to survive the battlefield, or being a prisoner of war. This goes further and looks at trying to survive post war. I’ve read some great novels similar to this; Catch 22, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Yellow Bird, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and The Machine come to mind. So I felt that I ended up using these novels as the measuring stick and The Narrow Road to the Deep North just didn’t feel like it covered the topic properly.

I felt like this book also tried to be an epic novel, following the exquisite pain of Dorrigo Evans’s life. Then I got halfway through the novel and wasn’t sure how it could cover the entire life in so little pages. I normally associate epics with great big books and if this book covered more of Dorrigo’s life then it could have fit this genre.

Flanagan focuses on not just the cruelty of war and it’s after effects but the impossibility of love, especially when so damaged. I think this was the major theme Flanagan wanted to explore, more than war and the Burma death railway. The relationship between his uncle’s wife Amy and then his girlfriend Ella play a big role in exploring Dorrigo’s life and the pain he suffers. Forbidden love and the relationship everyone expects from him; this is what I think the author wanted to explore.

I really enjoyed the style of Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, so much so that I think it could have been a future Australian classic. The main problem was some parts go on for pages in great detail and then others were just glossed over. There was no consistency and in a great epic novel, you expect the same amount of detail in everything happening. Sure some parts deserve more time but I think there were something interesting points that needed to be focused on a lot more. This is a good novel that could have been great; I think that is what frustrated me the most about The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Worst Movie Adaptations

Posted July 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Adaptations, Top Ten Tuesday / 0 Comments

I had so much fun doing Top Ten Tuesday last week that I thought I would join in again. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: Top Ten Best/Worst Movie Adaptations. I want to look at ten books that should have never been made into movies because they never work and never will work in this particular format. These are mainly books that have a strong internal monologue, the emotions and inner turmoil is vital to the book and/or they are too many narrators to really work.

10. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
There was a mini-series that wasn’t too bad but the latest attempt at adapting this movie was so bad. I’m a fan of Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Stephen Fry and John Malkovich but no one could save this movie.

9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I’m sorry but the 2005 film just doesn’t work for me, there is none of Austen’s wit and only really covers the basic story. I only recently read Pride and Prejudice and adored it but most of the things I love about this book don’t translate to film.

8. Dune by Frank Herbert
David Lynch was faced with the impossible task of turning this seminal sci-fi classic into a movie and he failed, hard.

7. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
One of those movies, I wish I could unsee. The book was so great, why would they destroy that with a film adaption?

6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The most recent adaptation was a horrible, horrible adaptation of such a wonderful book. It was weird how they did the movie and they left so much out. I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley so I was looking forward to the end. I’ve not seen any of the other adaptations of this classic and I never want to see them.

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I keep meaning to write about the Baz Luhrmann version but keep putting it off. This is a book about unlikeable characters and symbolism, and that never worked. To be honest I don’t think Baz read the book and just tried to remake the old Robert Redford movie.

4. Dracula by Bram Stoker
I’ve never seen a Dracula movie that actually works, it’s hard to be faithful to Bram Stoker’s seminal piece of literature and still try to adapt it.

3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I’m looking at you Demi Moore, Gary Oldman, and Robert Duvall. It doesn’t work and it shouldn’t be tried again. Try something like a modern retelling like Easy A, it’s not The Scarlet Letter but at least it works.

2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Most of this novel plays out in the mind of Rodion Raskolnikov; mental anguish and moral dilemmas don’t translate on the screen, I never have watched a Crime and Punishment adaptation and I don’t think I ever will.

1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
No, just stop it, you will never get it right in a movie, you can’t tell both Victor and Monster Frankenstein’s story at the same time and explore their thoughts and emotion on the screen. Stop trying to ruin my favourite book.

My Experience with the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die List

Posted October 27, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 29 Comments

One of my favourite bookish podcasts is The Readers; if you haven’t heard it before go and subscribe, it offers random book-based banter which has been both enjoyable to listen to and offers some interesting ideas for future blog posts. This post is inspired by the latest episode about the “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die” list.

With the newly revised book being released earlier this month, I thought I would share my experience with this list. As most people know I was never much of a reader, I think I read about one or two books a year. In 2009 something clicked in my head (thanks to Craig Schuftan) and I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on. But I had a problem; I really didn’t know where to start. I found plenty of books that looked interesting but I wasn’t sure if they would fulfil my yearning.

So with no idea of what my literary tastes were and not knowing what books would be required reading. I turned to a “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die” list which I found while searching books that were considered required reading for everyone. The thing I loved about this book was the fact that it was a combination of old and new books ranging from all different genres. This helped start my literary journey and find a real joy in being a literary explorer.

While I don’t read many books from the list now, I discovered the types of books and genres I really like and what hasn’t worked for me. Personally I would love to read every book on the list but as I discovered there are now four different editions. Do you read the entire list from one edition or combine the lot and read every book ever mentioned? I’ve come to the conclusion I would rather use the list as a guide in addition to discovering new books on my own accord as well.

I will always hold this list close to my heart because it did nurture my newly formed love of reading but it also helped my pretentious level as a book critic. I wish the publisher released a list of the books that have been removed from the new edition, I know there was a spread sheet that had the first three lists on it, so you can see which ones disappeared from each update and tick off all the books you’ve read but sadly that was taken down for copyright violations.  The publisher should look into something similar as I’m sure there are people out there that are willing to pay a small fee to have access to all the lists for referencing.

As a point of reference since beginning my reading journey back in 2009, I’ve now read over 400 books and seventy six of them were from the “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die” list. The list is still a point of reference for me when I feel like I’m not reading books that are literary enough. While the list covers most genres and offers an interesting perspective on your reading life, it never really felt like it was full of highly literary novels. For me it was just a way to explore and cover the essentials in reading. Here are ten books from the ones I’ve read that I loved and highly recommend;

  1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  4. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  5. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  6. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  7. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  8. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
  9. Perfume by Patrick Süskind
  10. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Posted September 22, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben FountainTitle: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (Goodreads)
Author: Ben Fountain
Published: Canongate, 2012
Pages: 308
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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

Billy Lynn is a 19 year old Iraq War hero on a P.R. tour for the Army. The team “the Bravos” are on a two week “Victory Tour” stateside that was filmed and widely viewed on TV due to acts of valour in Iraq. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a satirical look at Americans and how they treat and view the war on terror.

I’ve often heard that this book is a satirical book in the vein of Slaughterhouse-Five and Catch 22 and this was the primary reason I read this book. While there were some satirical elements in the book, I found this book a little heartbreaking; in the sense that these soldiers fight for their country and the Americans love them for it, as long as it doesn’t interrupt their football or cost them anything. This was the overall message I got from this book; people will support their troops as long as it takes no effort and doesn’t interrupt their lives.

I wanted to like this book and sure there is a lot to think about in this book but I think leaving me so feeling so bad doesn’t really help with the enjoyment element of this book. There were some literary issues I had, but they could be narrowed down to the fact I’m not an American and I don’t fully understand the American lifestyle.

The entire book really showed the disconnection between the military and civil life in this modern day. Americans wants revenge for 9/11 but they are not willing to sacrifice their Thanksgiving football game. This was a powerful book and while it’s not as funny as Catch 22 it does leave you pondering life like Slaughterhouse-Five did for me. As I’ve stated I’m not expert in American life or politics but this did leave me pondering many aspects of this War on Terror.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

Posted September 20, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 8 Comments

The Yellow Birds by Kevin PowersTitle: The Yellow Birds (Goodreads)
Author: Kevin Powers
Published: Hachette, 2012
Pages: 226
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

Haunted by Murph, The Yellow Birds follows the story of Private Bartle and his time served in Al Tafar, Iraq, the loss of a friend and the aftermath. Every war there seems to be one powerful book that is so heartbreaking but helps readers get an idea of the tragic nature of war; I’m thinking All Quiet on the Western Front, The Diary of a Young Girl, The Things They Carried, and now The Yellow Birds could quite possibly be the one to reflect the harsh reality of the Iraq War.

This is a book of friendship and loss; the novel is broken into two parts which are woven together. First there is the story of the friendship and serving together in the war and the other is of Private Bartle struggling to deal with the loss of his friend and returning from the war. There is a real beauty in the way Kevin Powers has melded the two together and the way he tries to help the reader understand the psychological mindset of a soldier turning from war. There is a wonderful part in the book where a bartender refers to Bartle as a hero and his reaction was basically ‘how can I be considered a hero if all I did was survive.’

I don’t want to sound to cliched with using words like beautiful, stunning, haunting and heart breaking but these words do seem very appropriate for this book. This is a debut novel for Kevin Powers and with his experience serving in the Iraq War and his poetry background, The Yellow Birds comes together for an emotional sensation. The proses of this novel are just wonderful and the characters really do seem to be well developed without showing too much.

I will admit I don’t read many war books but I’ve recently read two wonderful books on the Iraq war; this one and Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk (review up in two days). While both books were wonderfully thought provoking they were in two very different ways. If The Yellow Birds doesn’t become the stand out book for the Iraq war; like All Quiet on the Western Front, The Diary of a Young Girl or The Things They Carried I have a feeling it might be compared to the psychological mindset of war along with Catch 22 or Slaughterhouse-Five. This truly is a stunning book that made me tear up and feel for the soldiers fight in Iraq. Everyone should read this book.

What Would You Read in an Introduction to Fiction Course?

Posted February 1, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Education, Literature / 16 Comments

Currently on the curriculum for the Ohio State University course, An Introduction to Fiction is Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I’ve also heard of some other high schools and universities using it as an introduction to fiction or gothic fiction courses. At first I felt sorry for all the future English majors who will have to read this book. But I thought, instead of bad mouthing the book (which is so easy to do), I would take some time and think about what I would want to see in an introductory course of fiction.

I started by compiling a list of topics I would want to cover if I ever did a course about fiction. I narrowed it down to ten key topics when looking at fiction;

  1. Plot
  2. Characterisation
  3. Dialogue
  4. Point of view
  5. Setting
  6. Style
  7. Narrative
  8. Themes
  9. Genres
  10. Concepts/Issues


It was the last point that stood out to me more than any of the other topics. When looking at good fiction, I would want to look at the issues that drive the discussions about these books. With this I picked out five books that would explore moral, social, philosophical or intellectual issues. When picking the books, I also tried to pick different genres and writing styles that make for a great read.


So if I was to create an introduction to Fiction course, my reading list would include;

I would love to know what you would pick for a reading list if you were to lead a similar course.