Tag: Main Street

My Top of the First Half of 2013

Posted July 4, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top 5 / 0 Comments

top-5It’s that time of year, like most serious readers, we get to half way through the year and we start to reflect on what we liked most in the past six months of reading. I thought I might as well do a post about what I thought was great, but I always struggling with posts like this. Do you pick the best books you’ve read in the past six months or the best books released in that period? So normally I do a bit of both; a top five list of each to make a top ten list (which seems the norm).  When I started doing top five lists on this blog, I picked the number five because I thought I hadn’t read enough books to necessitate a top ten list, but it turns out maybe it was just easier, so I stuck with it.

Top Five Reads Released In the First Half Of 2013

5. TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

4. The Love Song to Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne

3. Tenth of December by George Saunders

2. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

1. The Son by Phillipp Meyer

Top Five Reads Of the First Half Of 2013

5. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

4. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

3. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu

2. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

With honourable mentions to Black Vodka, Gentlemen & Players, Main Street, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Seating Arrangements. Also some great rereads include Lolita, The Great Gatsby and Heart of Darkness (which I really got a lot out the second time around).

Now it’s your turn to let me know of your favourite books, the new releases and the older books. It doesn’t matter; just what you discovered and loved.

Monthly Review – May 2013

Posted May 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

As May comes to a close, like all months, I want to have a quick look at what happened. First of all I managed to get fully up to date with my reviews; a few months ago I was about 20 reviews behind, waiting to be posted. Now when I finish a book the review will go up within a few days (sometimes more) and this frees me up to do other bookish posts. This is so exciting because I really like to write my thoughts about the world of literature without being confined to reviews. Also as you can see we are smack in the middle of being green with envy of everyone attending the Book Expo of America (BEA). I’m participating in Armchair BEA again and this will hopefully mean new blogs and new people to talk to. I’m also currently overseas so I’ve scheduled all these posts, I still have access to internet but I wanted to be free to comment and read instead of writing blog posts.

As for this month, the book club theme was Supernatural and we got to read the classic Victorian Gothic novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. My review went up yesterday and there have been some interesting discussions about the book and its influences in modern pop culture over at Goodreads if you’ve missed it. Next month’s book is going to be a little obscure, something I’ve not heard of; I’m really looking forward to diving into The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy.

Last month I was in the middle of a reading slump so I was worried that May would be a terrible month for me but I’m pleased to say the slump didn’t last long. I was able to read heaps of great books including Invitation to a Beheading, Main Street and The People of Forever Are Not Afraid. Interesting enough the highlight of the month was none of those books, but a reread of The Great Gatsby; I just enjoyed returning to that novel and then picking it apart trying to understand it. I would love to know what your highlights of the month were or even what you read this month.

My Monthly Reading

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

Posted May 10, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

Main Street by Sinclair LewisTitle: Main Street (Goodreads)
Author: Sinclair Lewis
Published: Modern Library, 1920
Pages: 448
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

Main Street; that primary street in every small town that is exactly the same, full of stores and guaranteed to run into people you know. Carol Kennicott finds herself moving to Gopher Prairie, Minnesota with her new husband. Carol is a liberal, free spirited city girl who finds herself appalled by the backwardness of this small country town. Her disdain for the town’s ugliness and smug conservatism compels her to change it.

I grew up in Gopher Prairie; well not exactly but when I was just starting high school I was moved from Sydney to a small mining town in North Queensland called Charters Towers, so I know what Carol was going through. Sure, it wasn’t the 1910’s but for someone that loves city life (even at a young age) this move was devastating. Main Street is a satirical novel by Sinclair Lewis about the pettiness, back-stabbing and hypocrites that make up a small town. I will admit that I had never heard of this book until I read Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Knocking This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald off the number one spot, Main Street became extremely popular becoming one of the major best sellers of its time. Naturally having read about the impact this book had on the Fitzgerald’s and the readers of the time, I looked this book up and immediately added it to my “to read” list.

Carol is the heroine of this novel; enthusiastic and with high hopes for her future, she finds herself in a town that expects her just to play the house wife. Her love of sociology and her degree in English literature appear to be useless to Carol in Gopher Prairie. She feels like an outsider and even when she tries to fit in by throwing a Chinese themed party (where the guests feel bewildered by the strangeness of it all) or joining the woman’s group, the culture shock leaves her unsatisfied. I had to laugh at the woman’s group when they gathered to discuss poetry, Carol felt excited and asked which poets they will discuss. Their reply was ‘all of them’ and she finds herself in a very generic conversation about poets. At the end of the meeting she enquires about other poets which were missed and how they could improve this discussion, in which they decide that one extra meeting devoted to poetry will cover everything.

“I do not admit that Main Street is as beautiful as it should be! I do not admit that dish-washing is enough to satisfy all women!”

Carol struggles to find her identity within this town, she thinks of herself as some sort of artist and intellectual but Gopher Prairie doesn’t appear to give her the stimulation she so desires. She sees the other woman in the town as lacking of intelligence, curiosity or even a personality and never feels like she will be satisfied with all the other women. Living in the small town slowed her path to self-discovery; I feel like in any other circumstance Carol would have discovered her true identity a lot sooner.

The people of Gopher Prairie have grown complacent and comfortable with the familiar. So when Carol tries to make a change, she is met with resistances; not just because she is a woman but also being an outsider. While she is trying to get involved and make the town a better place by proposing they revitalise city hall and turn it into a meeting centre for events and dances, the town is worried she might make young people aware of sexuality while they are still in high school. You have to chuckle at their backwards ideas, I don’t think I ever thought improving the town would ever lead to sexual corruption of the youth.

I really enjoyed this satirical novel; while people thinking this novel wasn’t funny did lead me to write a post about understanding satire, I did think this was humorous. I think this is just me relating to the backwardness of a small town like Gopher Prairie. Times have changed a lot since the 1910’s but in a small town it kind of feels like nothing has changed. Not necessarily an easy book to read, but I really did like the culture clash between the “wholesome” small town and an outsider.  Sinclair Lewis got it right when he wrote about just how difficult it is being an outsider in a town where everyone knows everyone.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Posted February 22, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne FowlerTitle: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (Goodreads)
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Published: St. Martin's Griffin, 2013
Pages: 384
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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

The beautiful and reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre first met Lieutenant Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald at an Alabama country club dance in 1918; she was seventeen at the time. Scott had a big dream, to be a rich writer and he wanted Zelda to join him on this ride of a lifetime. Taking a chance on him, their life soon became a whirlwind of glamour and fame. Z is a fictionalised account of Zelda Fitzgerald and her life with the dashing F. Scott Fitzgerald who everyone wants to meet.

This Side of Paradise (1920)

The novel starts off with Zelda just shy of her 18th birthday, when she meets Scott, a man with big dreams and unlike all the others. The novel The Romantic Egotist was rejected multiple times and almost killed Scott’s dreams, but it was Zelda who kept pushing him to try again. Their attraction blossoms quickly and soon they find themselves engaged. Scott goes off to try and makes a life for them; Zelda doesn’t take too kindly to waiting and with a bit of pushing they are married. Just a little after This Side of Paradise is released with great success. The popularity of this novel turns them into celebrities; everyone wanted to get to know this new author and his scandalous wife.

The Beautiful and Damned (1922)

Life is good with their new found fame for this newlywed couple, but both are passionate people and slowly this started to cause issues. Firstly with the success of Sinclair Lewis’ novel Main Street, the popularity of This Side of Paradise fadeds quickly and soon this couple found themselves struggling to make ends meet. With all the short stories and  eventually the release of The Beautiful and Damned, which was largely based on their marriage, they were able to get back to living beyond their means.

The Great Gatsby (1925)

Scott began working on a new novel, which he was very passionate about. So passionate in fact that their marriage suffered again and Zelda planned on leaving. With a lot of beginning she eventually stayed and Scott continued to work on the novel that would eventually become The Great Gatsby. He was so passionate about what this novel would become, he could envision what was wrong with the drafts and what needed to be fixed to make it work, when it was released with mixed results, it really hurt him.

Save Me the Waltz (1932)

When Scott became friends with Ernest Hemingway, he started to spend most of his time with him. Scott loved truly loved Hemingway (platonically presumably) and with all the time he spent with him, Zelda and their daughter Scotty felt left out. Due to either boredom or isolation, Zelda’s behaviour became increasingly erratic and eventually she was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. Her novel Save Me the Waltz is a semi autobiographical account of her life and marriage.

Tender Is the Night (1934)

The failure of Save Me the Waltz, and her husband’s scornful criticism of her book by calling it “plagiaristic” and her a “third-rate” writer crushed her spirits and she never wrote creatively again. Scott became an increasingly heavy drinker, which caused many health problems for him as well, but while Zelda was hospitalised, he managed to write Tender is the Night, a book about the rise and fall of a promising young psychoanalyst and his wife (who was also his patient). These were the darkest years of their lives together and this was reflected in this novel.

The Love of the Last Tycoon (1941)

Zelda found out her husband had died of a heart attack from her parents, first thinking something was wrong with Scotty. His death, his legacy and her life afterwards were never really explored in this book. We do know that they were in debt when he died and most of his life insurance went towards covering those costs. His unfinished novel The Love of the Last Tycoon was completed by his friend, the literary critic, Edmund Wilson, based on the notes Scott had written but this wasn’t explored either.

I was really interested in reading about Zelda Fitzgerald after seeing Alison Pill’s brief performance of her in Midnight in Paris. I was more interested in her life than his; she seemed like a real fiery person and Z does really explore the first part of her life really well. The major problem I had was that I didn’t really find out enough about the struggles they faced from the 1930’s onwards. The bulk of the book takes place in the 1920’s and then really skips over their marriage and health issues. It completely missed life after his death all together.

I also had issues with the writing style, it just felt too modern and didn’t feel like how a person would talk in the 1920’s. To put it in perspective in the author notes at the end Therese Anne Fowler used the terms “Team Scott” and “Team Zelda” and the novel felt it was using modern phrases like this as well. While it was an interesting look at their lives, I can’t help wonder how much is actually true; fictionalised accounts of historical events are great but sometimes you need to know when creative licensing is in effect. I might have to read the biography Zelda by Nancy Milford and Save Me the Waltz to really know more about her life. I’m not sure why learning more about her life is more important than his life, but I’m just going to go with it.

Z is a great look at the quintessential “Flapper” of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties but for me I wanted more of the other stuff. Glamour and Fame do have their hardships but it looks like they are nothing compared to what happened next. I really enjoyed learning about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald; they had an interesting life and I know there was so much to cover. I know more about their lives than I thought I would and while I’m still not sure how much is true, it’s enough to make me want to continue exploring; right after I read every novel written by the Fitzgerald’s as well as Main Street by Sinclair Lewis.