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Ada (1969, McGraw-Hill) 4 stars

Two young children engage in an inocent tryst only to later discover a wonderful and …


4 stars

I read this book about 15 years ago and am reviewing random books I read a while ago in order to create a body of reviews on the site. Ada or Ardor is an interesting book, although probably (almost certainly) not the best book to start with if you intend to read multiple Nabokov books. I think I read that he specifically intended to shake off the insufficiently dedicated with the somewhat confusing first chapter. It is the third in an implicit trilogy of sex-perversion novels, preceded by Lolita and Pale Fire, and has the most unusual setting; Lolita can and probably should be interpreted as happening in the real world, insofar as any fictional world can be so interpreted, and Pale Fire could be in an alternate universe or could be the ramblings of an insane person. Ada is definitely in an alternate universe, where Russia is in America …

Roughing It (2004, Wildside Press) 3 stars

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), better known as "Mark Twain," left Missouri in 1861 to work …

Rough times

3 stars

Probably, in all honesty, not Twain’s best work, but it helped establish him as a writer so good for those of us who are happy some of his other books, does have some good bits, and its strongest point is probably as a reflection of the author’s time and place. The strongest section is probably while he is settled in Nevada, in terms of stretches of fifty or one hundred pages. Best individual anecdote is a description of some guy on a boat to Hawaii who bothers his fellow passengers by making up brazen stories consisting of horse manure to justify why he supports the Confederates in the Civil War. Finally someone uses the dude’s tactics on him and tricks him into agreeing to some equally tall tale in support of the Union and that gets him to shut up for the rest of the trip.

吾輩は猫である (Japanese language, 1905, Tuttle Publishing) 4 stars

I Am a Cat (Japanese: 吾輩は猫である, Hepburn: Wagahai wa Neko de Aru) is a satirical …

I am a cat

4 stars

Fun book which does what it says on the tin - the narrator is a cat without a name. The cat enjoys catlike things such as sitting in warm cozy spots, avoiding being tormented by small children, and listening to its high-faluting full-of-himself owner and his friends trying to outdo each other in conversation. Also an interesting look at how middle-class Japan of the very early twentieth century seemed to think about itself.

The Third Policeman (2002, Dalkey Archive Press) 5 stars

Awesome book, good intro to Flann O'Brien

5 stars

Delightfully nutty book - a basically anonymous narrator somewhere in Ireland who has done some things which might lead one to want to remain somewhat anonymous; after a benign youth in which his leg was broken on his behalf, he becomes a benign adult who only wants to engage in a little thievery here and there. He and his untrustworthy associate go to relief a house of the valuables in it when suddenly our hero finds himself in a very unusual place. He encounters two policemen at a one dimensional house who tell him about some interesting things like very pointy daggers, the dangers of allowing your identity to flow into bicycles and vice versa, and so forth. Our hero wants to maintain a relationship with his bicycle but the problem with the leg can be unhelpful in that regard. Ultimately a lot of silly stuff happens, with or without …

Gulliver's Travels (2008, Vintage) 4 stars

For the last 250 years people everywhere have enjoyed reading about Lemuel Gulliver's travels in …

Excellent satire

5 stars

I read this book in elementary school; I was a very pretentious child, I guess, and it was laying around the house, so I read it over the course of a few weeks. A lot passed over my head but I enjoyed what I did understand. Reread it years later and got a lot more, and still enjoyed it, understanding now that the horses were not intended to be emulated as the benevolent individuals they portrayed themselves as being.

Homage to Catalonia (Paperback, 1938, Penguin) 4 stars

'Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly …

Underrated book

5 stars

Deserves to be up there with Animal Farm and 1984, which seem much more popular in the public mind. The nonfictional context for why the author felt motivated to write those two other books. It seems like there has been a long pro-war vein among conservatives, and plenty of antiwar books on the left; I have read and enjoyed examples from both, but Orwell is one of the people who is both leftwing and happy to endorse violence. Very different feeling in this book than in, for example, many of Kurt Vonnegut's stories. I don't mean to take a position here since I haven't fought in such a war, but it is definitely interesting to see two authors discuss a similar time frame (midcentury antifascist violence) with very different points of view, while still being broadly on the same side of the political spectrum. Favorite anecdote from the book: Orwell …

Pale fire (1992, Knopf, Distributed by Random House) 4 stars

A 999 line poem in heroic couplets, divided into 4 cantos, was composed--according to Nabokov's …

fun book

5 stars

Designed to be read in any order. It consists of a poem written by one narrator and annotations by another narrator who may be an exiled European king or may be an exile from a lunatic asylum. Pomo, read now.