Tag: Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Posted October 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Fantasy / 0 Comments

The Anubis Gates by Tim PowersTitle: The Anubis Gates (Goodreads)
Author: Tim Powers
Published: Ace, 1983
Pages: 387
Genres: Fantasy
My Copy: Paperback

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

When millionaire J. Cochran Darrow finds The Anubis Gates that will make time travel possible, he quickly assembles a team to go back to 1801. He hires Professor Brendan Doyle to give advice about the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Soon a band of misfits are assembled and they are off on an early 19th century London adventure and throughout time.

If you think the plot sounds a little weird, then you are not the only one. I spent a lot of time wondering about the logic behind the locations and people within The Anubis Gates. This was the steampunk pick for the Literary Exploration book club and true to the group’s purpose; this book really challenged my reading choices.  It was an interesting experience, I had no idea what to expect next and there was no way to predict anything.

The cast of characters was strange; I expected to like the book because Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Lord Byron were featured. Unfortunately they didn’t get enough development and that might be for the best but I was interested in finding out what Tim Powers would do with them. This book also featured an Egyptian wizard, werewolf, crazy clown and so much more.

What I found to be the biggest problem with this novel was the fact that Tim Powers took so many of his good ideas and tried to force it all into one novel. There was a lot going on and it was all over the place. There never was enough time to develop scenes or characters and it just felt like everything was condensed to make room for all his ideas. The concept was great, wacky and fun but the execution did not work for me.

Tim Powers is a well-respected fantasy author; his book On Stranger Tides (1987) was the inspiration behind the Monkey Island video games and also turned into the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film. The Anubis Gates is often considered one of the pioneer sin the steampunk genre (though I am not sure I would class it as steampunk) and also won the Philip K. Dick Award in 1983. Powers seems like an author that you either love or hate. However from my experience, 1980’s science fiction and fantasy are all a bit odd and unusual.

This is such an unusual novel, which makes it extremely difficult to explain and review. I wanted to enjoy this book but for the most part I found myself skimming the pages. There are great concepts and ideas going on in this but the author didn’t want to explore them instead attempting for a fast moving adventure. For me that just made things difficult. I am fascinated by people who love this book, I’d love to know the reasoning. If you love science fiction or fantasy novels, this might work for you; unfortunately it didn’t for me.


The Monk by Matthew Lewis

Posted July 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Gothic / 0 Comments

The Monk by Matthew LewisTitle: The Monk (Goodreads)
Author: Matthew Lewis
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1795
Pages: 456
Genres: Classic, Gothic
My Copy: Paperback

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

When The Monk was first published in 1796 it was surrounded by heated hatred and scandal. One critic claimed that The Monk was full of “Lust, murder, incest, and every atrocity that can disgrace human nature”; a line that now seems to commonly appear in the synopsis. While this novel is a transgressive gothic novel and possibly one of the first books to feature a priest in such a villainous way there is so much more going on within the pages. To begin, we must look at the context, and it is not surprising that this novel had so much anger towards it when it was released. The reader has to understand that this novel was released in a period of time where everything was changing. The church still played a huge role in English society but across the channel the French Revolution was raging on, so in the middle of a changing society came a novel that tried to explore the political and religious authoritarianism of the church.

The Monk is set in a sinister monastery in Madrid, were Ambrosio struggled between maintaining his monastic vows and falling to temptation. We follow this monk as desire turns to obsession, to rape and then murder in order to conceal the guilt. Ambrosio is a celebrated and devout monk of 30 years but we read his downfall due to desire and pride. This novel is a social commentary of everything wrong with the church as the author sees it. The Monk follows the story of Ambriosio’s disillusion, from a well-respected Monk, serving God to a psychologically scared man.

Matthew Lewis wrote this novel at 19 years old and I think it is important to mention that I don’t view The Monk as an indictment of God or the Church but more critique of the corrupting power that comes with the priesthood. When I read this I got the impression that Lewis wanted to explore the hidden struggles that come with the vows of a monk as well as the effects of power. When we think about all the evil the church has done, it is not God or religion that is to blame but rather the people. Guilt and power can corrupt and essentially we are looking at a man going to great lengths to disguise his transgressions.

This is not an easy read and I found myself struggling at times to get through this book but there is so much going on I found it hard to believe that when this was first published it was dubbed this gothic classic to be crude and lacking of depth. In the heavily censored edition of this novel published in 1798 saw all words like lust and desire removed from the text. Even words like enjoyment were removed and any mention of sex; I can’t imagine how the essence of The Monk would have remained with this heavily edited edition. While there was plenty of hatred toward the novel, the critics seemed to have mixed feelings towards it. Samuel Taylor Coleridge both praised and judged harshly in his article found in The Critical Review, saying “[the] underplot… is skilfully and closely connected with the main story, and is subservient to its development” and “The Monk is a romance, which if a parent saw in the hands of a son or daughter, he might reasonably turn pale.”

However The Monk looks at more than just the monastery, it even looks at what seems like an anti-feminist movement going on within the Church. The convent seems like a harsh place to live, the women brutally treated and never allowed to succeed. Woman are seen as the downfall of the monks and other woman but there is so much lust, desire and sexual misconduct that happens inside the walls of convents and monasteries. Matilda posed as a man in order to get close to Ambrosio, at first it wasn’t to seduce but to bask in his brilliance. She is portrayed as a she-devil but is it really her fault that Ambrosio gave into his earthly desires. As one critic stated “It is Ambrosio’s sexual ignorance and hence ‘innocence’ that makes him vulnerable to Matilda’s seduction” (Blakemore, 1998). This made me ponder and question the whole approach to life in a monastery, especially in an era where priests are more likely to be sexually ignorant.

I’ve mentioned a few times that The Monk was met with hatred and I think this is still true today; people tend to see the book as anti-religious, anti-Catholic and immoral but this is a problem with taking text to literally. The Monk is a satire and socially critiques the church in what feels like a comedic kind of approach. It happens that this is also a transgressive gothic novel so we have a very brutal and dark approach to the themes Matthew Lewis wants to explore. Near the start of the book I read the line “She was wise enough to hold her tongue. As this is the only instance known of a Woman’s ever having done so, it was judged worthy to be recorded here” and thought it was a little harsh; I soon began to see a real tongue in cheek approach emerging from this dark novel.

I started off thinking this was a gothic novel and it was going to be dark and serious but I soon found myself adjusting my approach. Once I got past my initial misconceptions I started to settle into this book and ended up really enjoying The Monk. It took a while to get into a groove and found the first part of the book to be particularly difficult to get through. Then the plot started to settle in and I was able to explore the themes and enjoy the journey I was taken on. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this gothic classic, it is weird but wonderful. I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I did.


A Quest for Liberty

Posted February 24, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Culture / 2 Comments

The Mariner; one of the wood-engraved illustrations by Gustave Doré.

On 11th July 1789 the French citizens stormed the Bastille. Their dreams were for a revolution, a dream of liberty. One of the biggest influences of the French Revolution was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau and his fellow philosopher Denis Diderot dreamed of a world where everyone was unique and free. But both these philosophers shared two very different views on the world. Diderot believed knowledge was power and is as a co-founder and contributor to the Encyclopédie and is quite possible the father of the Age of Enlightenment (an era that focused heavily on Western philosophy, intellectual, scientific and cultural life). But Rousseau was focused more on the emotions and humanity; his thinking paved the way for the Romantic Period.

While both philosophers dreamed of liberty and went onto do great things after the French Revolution, liberty was not fully achieved. While the lower and middle classes were now considered people, they never really have the opportunity to have a voice and freedom of expression. It wasn’t until the book Lyrical Ballads did this chance begin to take effect. The collection of poems breathed life into the Romantic Period and the vision of individuality. Lyrical Ballads was written by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and changed the course of English literature and poetry. The book was an intimate look at the rustic lives, written in simple words for everyone to read and enjoy. The poems had a more lasting affect than any political document and were a pure expression of Romantic ideas. The poems placed an emphasis on the vitality of the living voice and used the poor to express their realities. The poems took aim at the harsh realities of life at the time; like The Last of the Flock, which tells the story of a farmer who had to sell all his animals in order to feed his family. One of best known poems from this collection, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner focused on one of the major themes linked with the Romantic Period; the importance of nature.

The Romantic Period and the Age of Enlightenment (both era’s I’ve held great interest in) have helped build society – for better or worse – into what it is today. While both eras were fighting for liberty, it is interesting to note that without the French Revolution we may have never been free to express ourselves.