ONE HUNDRED GREAT MOMENTS in LITERATURE
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE - Phoebe brings a packed suitcase to their meeting place, insisting that she is going to leave with Holden, who angrily refuses, at which point she cries and refuses to speak to him. Knowing that she will follow him, Holden walks to the zoo, letting her anger dissipate. Phoebe starts talking to Holden again, and Holden promises to forget about his plan to run away and return home when they leave the zoo. He buys her a ticket for the carousel in the park and as he watches her ride an old horse on it, his own mood lifts. Soon he is nearly moved to tears with remorse, longing, and bittersweet happiness.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD - The wonderful moment when Scout recognizes Boo Radley, who is standing behind Jem's bedroom door after Boo has saved the children from Bob Ewell, and she says, "Hey, Boo."
THE GREAT GATSBY - Nick and Gatsby have breakfast at Gatsby's pool. "They're [Daisy, Tom, Jordan] a rotten crowd," Nick tells him. "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together." Gatsby smiles his trademark smile, which, in Nick's words, "faced—or seemed to face—the whole world, then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor."
THE GRAPES OF WRATH - Rose of Sharon's baby is stillborn; however, Ma Joad remains steadfast and forces the family through the bereavement. In the end, Rose of Sharon commits the only act in the book that is not futile: she breast feeds a starving man.
THE COLOR PURPLE - Shug informs Celie that she has seen Mister hide numerous mysterious letters in a trunk and suggests that they investigate.
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN - Anxiously awaiting news about his acceptance to the university, Stephen goes for a walk on the beach, where he observes a young girl wading in the tide. He is struck by her beauty, and realizes, in a moment of epiphany, that the love and desire of beauty should not be a source of shame. Stephen resolves to live his life to the fullest, and vows not to be constrained by the boundaries of his family, his nation, and his religion.
ELLEN FOSTER - On the reading list in most high schools, Ellen Foster is the story of an only child and the first person narrator-- a young white American girl, clever and ambitious, but relatively uneducated and very poor--who lives under unfavorable conditions somewhere in the rural South with a father who is "trash" and has a drinking problem and a mother who has a heart condition. From an early age on, Ellen's thoughts center on how she could get rid of her father—she imagines killing him one way or another. When her mother is released from the hospital, Ellen's father treats her as badly as before, and it is up to Ellen to protect her mother from him. Soon, however, her mother takes an overdose of pills and dies while Ellen is lying next to her and Ellen is raped by her father, who, while severely drunk, mistakes Ellen for her dead mother. In a series of placements, Ellen on the run from abuse from her father, lives with other people, seeking protection and peace, and gaining maturity and wisdom. Finally she finds a situation that is good and where her friend who have saved her--Starletta, an African American girl--is welcome.
STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND - Once accustomed to the human race, Smith moves out with Gillian and joins a traveling circus as a magician. Although his "magic" is real—levitation and teleportation—he is a failure as an entertainer because of his inability to understand people's need to be deceived. He eventually learns to understand humanity ("Jill, I grok people!") when he comprehends how painful and unjust life is by watching monkeys mistreat each other in a zoo. He also realizes that most humor is based on laughing at distress or indignities suffered by others.
SOUL ON ICE - Originally published in 1968, "Soul On Ice" shocked, outraged and ultimately challenged the way America saw the civil rights movement and the Black experience. Written while Cleaver, the former Black Panther Minister of Information, was in California's Folsom State Prison, this collection of searingly honest autobiographical essays explores the authors own difficult history and larger issues such as the assassination of Malcolm X and the turbulence of the 1960s. Soul On Ice gives intelligent, insightful testimony to the author's political views, venting his frustrations with and anger at American society in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement's first wave.
GONE WITH THE WIND - On her deathbed, Melanie tells Scarlett to watch out for Ashley and to be good to Rhett because he loves her. Scarlett realizes she never really loved Ashley. Rather she loved the noble "knight" and her memories of her carefree childhood, which he represented to her. She rushes to share her revelation with Rhett, who rejects her overtures and tells her that he is leaving her. Scarlett cries, "But what will I do? Where will I go?" Rhett replies with the famous line, "My dear, I don't give a damn." (The movie inserted the word "frankly.") Devastated by her realization of true love and the consequences of her past selfishness, Scarlett decides to go back to Tara. The book ends with Scarlett's proclamation: "After all, tomorrow is another day!"
RABBIT RUN - Janice, while drunk and afraid that Rabbit has left for good, accidentally drowns their infant daughter in the bath. When Rabbit returns for the funeral, he refuses to take the blame for the baby's death, ultimately running away once more.
INTERPRETER OF MALADIES - Jhumpa Lahiri is an American author of Bengali Indian descent. Lahiri's debut short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies (1999), won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and her first novel, The Namesake (2003), was adapted into the popular film of the same name. Lahiri's writing is characterized by her "plain" language and her characters, often Indian immigrants to America, who must navigate between the cultural values of their birthplace and their adopted home.
FORREST GUMP - is the agreeably sharp story, marked by a biting, tart quality, of a humble, disabled man with a limited mind who manages to change history through his courage and decency while remaining largely unaware of his impact on others. Born in small town Alabama, Forrest is encouraged by his loving Mama and a passel of caring friends and caretakers, including a girl he loves named Jenny, to make the best of his abilities and overcome his limitations, which he does, which leads him into a charmed life: becoming a football hero, a war hero, a running icon, a successful businessman and an international ping pong champion. His love for Jenny carries Forrest along through her terrible ordeals including early molestation, acid drug trips, HIV and death from AIDS. The reader is treated to Winston Groom’s acerbic description of Forrest’s first sexual tryst with Jenny. There is a long saga associated with how this book was turned into a One-billion-dollar-grossing-blockbuster film notable for its amazing special effects along the lines of Back to the Future, by the same director, Robert Zemeckis. Forrest Gump is now considered to be one of the favorite films of all time. The film received thirteen Oscar nominations and was awarded six. A sequel is planned.
GILEAD - Marilynne Robinson's first novel, Housekeeping, came out in 1980 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. It is widely regarded as a modern classic, and for good reason: its luminous prose and detailed descriptions of the physical and psychic landscape of a young girl's coming of age in Fingerbone, Idaho, feel more like a nineteenth-century novel than a contemporary one. Her next novel, Gilead, arrived twenty-four years later, won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and by now, her talent and intellect have won her a devoted readership worldwide. Set in 1956, Gilead is a letter from the elderly Reverend John Ames to his much younger son. Ames has lived all of his life in Gilead, Iowa, and the novel delves deeply into the history of the area through the characters of Ames's father and grandfather, also ministers, but deeply divided on ideas such as pacifism, duty, and the abolitionist movement. And eventually, when John Ames Boughton (nicknamed Jack), Ames's namesake and godson, returns to Gilead, he brings up old tensions and sets events in motion that disturb Ames's formerly peaceful last days.
INVISIBLE MAN - is narrated in the first person by the protagonist, an unnamed African American man who considers himself socially invisible, a character that may have been inspired by Ralph Ellison's own life. The narrator may be conscious of his audience, writing as a way to make himself visible to mainstream culture; the book is structured as if it were the narrator's autobiography although it begins in the middle of his life. “I live rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the basement that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century.” In this secret place, the narrator creates surroundings that are symbolically illuminated with 1,369 lights. He says, “My hole is warm and full of light. Yes, full of light. I doubt if there is a brighter spot in all New York than this hole of mine, and I do not exclude Broadway." A milestone in American literature, the book has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952, and remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, Joyce, and Dostoevsky. The book was Ralph Ellison's only novel published during his lifetime, and it won him the National Book Award in 1953. Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. Ellison states in his National Book Award acceptance speech that he considered the novel's chief significance to be its experimental attitude. Rejecting the idea of social protest, as Ellison would later say, he did not want to write another protest novel, and also seeing the highly regarded styles of Naturalism and Realism as being too limited to speak to the broader issues of race and America, Ellison adopts a crazy style, based heavily on modern symbolism. One can indeed trace this style back to Ellison's encounter with The Waste Land, a poem by T. S. Eliot, which Ellison read as a freshman at Tuskegee Institute.
HAMLET – The great soliloquy “To be or not to be” as Hamlet, hobbled by moral confusion and the desire for revenge, struggles with whether or not to commit suicide.
FEAR OF FLYING - the 1973 novel by Erica Jong, which became famously controversial for its attitudes towards female sexuality, and figured in the development of feminism, is narrated by its protagonist, Isadora Zelda White Stollerman Wing, an unpublished poet, who while on a trip to Vienna with her second husband, decides to indulge her sexual fantasies with another man. In this context, a 'zipless fuck' refers to a sexual encounter with an anonymous stranger; you'll never meet again, and nobody who knows you will ever know it happened. The book resonated with women who felt stuck in unfulfilled marriages, and it has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Jong has denied that the novel is autobiographical but admits that it has autobiographical elements. In 2008 Jong appeared at a conference to celebrate Fear of Flying as a feminist classic. An article recounting the conference in The New Yorker, described how Jong’s sister, Suzanna Daou, née Mann, identified herself as the reluctant model for Isadora Wing, calling the book “an exposé of my life when I was living in Lebanon”. Jong did not credit her sister's account of the book, saying instead that “every intelligent family has an insane member".
TREE OF LIFE - by Denis Johnson is the story of Skip Sands who is given an opportunity to be mentored by his uncle, the Colonel, a man of many theories about intelligence and the geopolitics of the times and a rogue in the eyes of the CIA, knee-deep in the moral greys and unafraid of working with Vietnamese double agents. Skip’s first assignment is in the Manila, where he meets and falls for Kathy Jones, a nurse struggling with her faith in a time of war. Soon the war escalates and the Colonel’s operations become increasingly marginalized. Skip and the Colonel start as the Quiet Americans, working behind the scenes with the natives to achieve seemingly benevolent goals. By the middle of the book, it becomes clear that the Colonel is an Ugly American, isolated and compromised by the blood of war and moral flaws. Eventually, the Colonel and his operatives become targets of their very own CIA.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN - is a 1949 play by American playwright Arthur Miller that is viewed by many as a caustic attack on the American Dream and that made both Arthur Miller and the character Willy Loman household names. The play raises a counterexample to Aristotle's characterization of tragedy as the downfall of a great man, whether through (depending on the translator) a flaw in his character or a mistake he has squandered. Willy Loman, a salesman based in New York City, has been reduced to working for commission alone, depends on the goodwill engendered with customers from riding on “a smile and a shoeshine," travels long distances, and has to borrow money to make ends meet. In order to escape from his own failure, he pressures his sons to make something of themselves, then is crushed when they don't live up to his expectations. The family discovers he's tried to kill himself when Linda finds a tube and "a new little nipple" on the heater, at which point Linda mentions he's deliberately crashed the car on several occasions. By the point in the play of Willie's death and the funeral scene, Biff has learned to accept himself for what he is, Happy still wants to carry on Willy's dream of success in the city, and Linda ends the play with a monologue where she explains that she can't cry, and that she had made the last payment on the house.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY- (1881) is the story is of a spirited young American woman, Isabel Archer, who inherits a large amount of money and subsequently becomes the victim of Machiavellian scheming by two American expatriates. The narrative is set mainly in Europe, especially in England and Italy. Generally regarded as the masterpiece of his early phase, The Portrait of a Lady is not just a reflection of James's absorbing interest in the differences between the New World and the Old, but covers themes of personal freedom, moral responsibility, betrayal, and sexuality.
A DAY IN THE DEATH OF JOE EGG - a 1967 play by British playwright Peter Nichols centers on a British couple who are struggling to save their marriage whilst trying to raise their only child, a small girl, wheelchair bound and unable to communicate, who is suffering from Cerebral Palsy. Taking care of her has occupied nearly every moment of her parent's lives since her birth, and this has taken a heavy toll on their marriage. Sheila, her mother, gives Josephine as much of a life as she can while Bri wants the child institutionalised and has begun to entertain chilling fantasies of killing himself and Josephine
THE JUNGLE - After Ona dies in childbirth — for lack of money to pay for a doctor — and their young son drowns in the muddy street, Jurgis flees the city in utter despair. At first the mere presence of fresh air is balm to his soul, but his brief sojourn as a hobo in rural America shows him that there is really no escape — even farmers turn their workers away when the harvest is finished. Jurgis returns to Chicago, and holds down a succession of jobs outside the meat packing industry — digging tunnels, as a political hack, and as a con man — but injuries on the jobs, his past, and his innate sense of personal integrity continue to haunt him, and he drifts without direction. One night, while looking for a warm and dry refuge, he wanders into a lecture being given by a charismatic socialist orator, and finds a sense of community and purpose. Socialism and strong labor unions are the answer to the evils that he, his family, and all their fellow sufferers have had to endure. Industry needs to value labor instead of just the product. A fellow socialist employs him, and he resumes his support of his wife's family, although some of them are damaged beyond repair. Soon after, the socialist rally is triumphantly chanting "Chicago will be ours!" and Jurgis has caught the eye of a sympathetic young woman.
A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES - written by John Kennedy Toole, published in 1980, 11 years after the author's suicide, through the efforts of writer Walker Percy (who also contributed a revealing foreword) and Toole's mother Thelma Toole, quickly becoming a cult classic. Toole posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. The book is an important part of the 'modern canon' of Southern literature. The title derives from the epigraph by Jonathan Swift: "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." The story is set in New Orleans in the early 1960s. Ignatius J. (Jacques) Reilly, an intelligent but slothful man still living with his mother at age 30 in the city's Uptown neighborhood, must now set out to get a job because of family circumstances. In his quest for employment he has various adventures with colorful French Quarter characters. Something of a modern Don Quixote — eccentric, idealistic, and creative, sometimes to the point of delusion, he disdains modernity, particularly pop culture. The disdain becomes his obsession: he goes to movies in order to mock their perversity and express his outrage with the contemporary world's lack of "theology and geometry." He prefers the scholastic philosophy of the Middle Ages, and the Early Medieval philosopher Boethius in particular. However he also enjoys many modern comforts and conveniences, and is given to claiming that the rednecks of rural Louisiana hate all modern technology which they associate with progress. Ignatius is of the mindset that he does not belong in the world and that his numerous failings are the work of some higher power. He continually refers to the goddess Fortuna as having spun him downwards on her wheel of luck. Ignatius loves to eat, and his masturbatory fantasies lead in strange directions. His mockery of obscene images is portrayed as a defensive posture to hide their titillating effect on him. He has an aversion to ever leaving the town of his birth, and frequently bores friends and strangers with the story of his sole, abortive journey from New Orleans, a trip to Baton Rouge on a Greyhound Scenicruiser bus, which Ignatius recounts as a traumatic ordeal of extreme horror. The book would never have been published if Toole's mother had not found the manuscript lying around the house (following Toole's suicide) and demanded Walker Percy read it. Percy, an author and college instructor at Loyola University New Orleans, became more captivated with each page. Eventually, the book would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Toole had committed suicide in 1969 at age 31 and did not live to receive the award. The original manuscript is currently at Tulane University in New Orleans.
THE MAGUS - Nicholas is gradually drawn into Conchis's psychological games, his paradoxical views on life, his mysterious persona, and his eccentric masques. At first these various aspects of what the novel terms the "godgame" seem to Nicholas to be a joke, but as they grow more elaborate and intense, Nicholas's ability to determine what is real and what is not vanishes. Against his will and knowledge he becomes a performer in the godgame, and realizes that the enactments of the Nazi occupation, the absurd playlets after de Sade, and the obscene parodies of Greek myths are not about Conchis's life, but his own.
THE BELLE OF AMHERST - is a one-woman play by William Luce, based on the life of Emily Dickinson from 1845-1886, and set in her Amherst, Massachusetts home. The play makes use of her work, diaries, and letters to recollect her encounters with the significant people in her life - family, close friends, and acquaintances. It balances the agony of her seclusion with the brief bright moments when she was able to experience some joy. After one preview, the original Broadway production, directed by Charles Nelson Reilly and starring Julie Harris, opened on April 28, 1976 at the Longacre Theatre, where it ran for 116 performances. Harris, who portrayed fifteen different characters in the play, won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play and earned a Drama Desk Award nomination for Unique Theatrical Experience. (Ms. Harris has said "I found God in the theatre.") Beautiful famous last line of the play (and poem) by Dickinson:
This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!
ON THE BEACH - The world is in its last days of nuclear fallout accompanied by the death of all animal life. (The nuclear bombs were confined to the northern hemisphere, but global air currents are slowly carrying the fallout to the southern hemisphere. The only part of the planet still habitable is the far south of the globe, specifically Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and the southern parts of South America.) From Australia, survivors detect a mysterious and incomprehensible Morse code radio signal originating from the United States. With hope that some life has remained in the contaminated regions, one of the last American nuclear submarines, the USS Scorpion, placed by its captain under Australian naval command, is ordered to sail north from its port of refuge in Melbourne (Australia's southernmost major mainland city) to try to contact whoever is sending the signal. The sub continues up the coast and investigates the mysterious radio signals coming from the Seattle area. Lieutenant Sunderstrom goes onshore in a protective suit and finds out the mysterious signal—a source of hope back in Australia—is merely being generated by a broken windowpane that has been teetering on top of the transmitting button whenever the wind blows.
AN EXILE - by Madison Percy Jones, is story of Sheriff Henry Tawes (which became the film I Walk the Line, 1970, directed by John Frankenheimer) who loses his way after falling for a moon shiner’s daughter, risking everything he has stood for, as events descend into illicit desire, violence and shame and end tragically. Gregory Peck plays Tawes; Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" is heard on the soundtrack at various crucial junctures.
THE COMMITMENTS - (1987) a tale about a group of unemployed young people in the north side of Dublin, Ireland, who start a soul band, by Irish writer Roddy Doyle, and is the first episode in The Barrytown Trilogy. Two friends - Derek Scully and "Outspan" Foster - get together to form a band, but soon realise that they don't know enough about the music business to get much farther than their small neighbourhood in the Northside of Dublin. To solve this problem, they recruit a friend they'd had from school, Jimmy Rabbite, to be their manager. He accepts graciously, but only if he can make fundamental changes to the group. First being the sacking of the third, and mutually disliked, member - their synth player. After this, Rabbitte gets rid of their name, (which was And And! And, a name Derek has a hard time comprehending as he has forgotten what an exclamation mark is. "Fuck Fuck exclamation mark Me" is Jimmy's reply to the suggestion) making them "The Commitments", ("All the good 60s bands started with a 'the'.") and forming them from another synth-pop group to the face of what he thinks will be the Dublin-Soul revolution. ("Yes, Lads. You'll be playing Dublin Soul!"). He witnesses a young man singing drunkenly into a microphone at a Christmas party and is struck by the fact he is singing "something approximating music". He decides the band should play soul music and places an ad in the local paper reading "Have you got soul? Then Dublin's hardest working band is looking for you". Eventually, he gets together a mismatched group with seemingly no musical talent, led by mysterious stranger Joey "The Lips" Fagan, who claims to have played trumpet with Joe Tex and the Four Tops. They quickly start learning how to play their instruments and perform a number of local gigs. Tensions run high between the band members, not helped by the jealousy and animosity Joey receives from other male members due to the attention he receives from the female backing singers. The band slowly becomes more and more musically competent and draws bigger and more enthusiastic audiences, but falls apart after a gig when Joey is seen kissing Imelda and a fight ensues -- all while Jimmy is negotiating to record the band's first single with an independent label. Fagan soon goes to America after Imelda tells him she is pregnant (she was actually lying, only saying this for the attention). In the end, Jimmy, along with the band's other founding members and Mickah, form The Brassers, an Irish hybrid of punk and country. They plan on inviting James into the band after he's finished his medical degree, and they discuss getting the ladies involved as well. The film, book, and soundtrack were all hugely popular in the 90s.
BRAVE NEW WORLD - is set in the London of AD 2540 and received nearly universal criticism from contemporary critics, although the book was later embraced. Even the few sympathizers tended to temper their praises with disparaging remarks. The book has been removed from numerous libraries. The novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology, biological engineering, and sleep-learning that combine to change society. The world the novel describes is a dystopia, presented satirically: humanity lives in a carefree, healthy, and technologically advanced society; however, art, science, religion, and all other forms of human expression have been sacrificed to create this "Brave New World". Warfare and poverty have been eliminated and everyone is permanently happy due to government-provided conditioning and drugs. The irony is that all of these things have been achieved by eliminating many things that humans consider to be central to their identity - family, culture, art, literature, science, religion and philosophy. It is also a hedonistic society, deriving pleasure from promiscuous sex and drug use, in the form of soma, a powerful psychotropic rationed by the government that is taken to escape pain and bad memories through hallucinatory fantasies, referred to as "Holidays". Additionally, social stability has been achieved and is maintained via deliberately engineered and rigidly enforced social stratification. The ironic title is from Miranda's speech in Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act V, Scene I:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world
That hath such people in't!"
THE SPORTSWRITER - a 1986 novel by Richard Ford, about a failed novelist, Frank Bascombe, turned sportswriter who undergoes a spiritual crisis following the death of his son. In 1995, it was followed by a sequel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day. A third installment The Lay of the Land followed in 2006. The novel became Ford's "breakout book" and was named one of Time magazine's five best books of 1986 and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Much has been made of Ford’s long marriage, fluid life—he has moved and lived all over the country and in Paris (and his books are set in the places where he has lived). He is famous for his fairness to his female characters.
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY- a writer with potential who, by day, works as a fact checker for a literary magazine for which he had hoped to write, spends his time caught up in, and notably escaping from, the mid-1980s New York fast lane. As the book is one of the few well-known English-language novels written in the second person, its main character is unnamed. By night, he is a party-hound, a cocaine-addict, and a generally confused young man. Bright Lights, Big City is a scathing criticism of superficiality. The title of the book matches that of a 1950s blues song by R&B musician Jimmy Reed, later covered by a number of artists, including The Rolling Stones and The Animals. The first verse of Reed's song ("Bright lights, big city...gone to my baby's head....I tried to tell the woman but she...don't believe a word I said") is a gloss on McInerney's novel. The narrator's wife Amanda is drawn to New York's bright lights, eases into a modeling career that neither she nor the narrator take seriously, and is ultimately seduced by that brightly-lit and vapid world, and abandons him.
GERONIMO REX - Barry Hannah's first novel, is the grotesque coming-of-age tale (1972), which won the William Faulkner Prize and was nominated for the National Book Award, that depicts the life story of its main character, Harriman Monroe, from age 8 in Dream of Pines, Louisiana, to age 23, when he is newly married and enrolled in the graduate English program at the University of Arkansas. Inspired by the great Geronimo’s brash, outrageous rampage through the Old West, Harry takes on the American South of the 1950s and ’60s. Alongside the sex, love, lies, and lunacies of adolescent awakening, Harry also faces a world plagued by violent reality and giddy—like Harry himself—with a sense of unlimited possibility.
LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER-The magnificent scene when Lady Connie Chatterley clamours under Oliver Mellors in sexual surrender and orgasm for the first time.
THE MOVIEGOER - the story of Binx Bolling, a young stockbroker in post-war New Orleans, who had all the advantages of a cultivated old-line southern family: a feel for science and art, a liking for girls, sports cars, and the ordinary things of the culture, but who nevertheless feels himself quite alienated from both worlds, the old South and the new America. The decline of southern traditions, the problems of his family and his traumatic experiences in the Korean War have left him alienated from his own life. He daydreams constantly, has trouble engaging in lasting relationships, and finds more meaning and immediacy in movies and books than in his own routine life. The loose plot of the novel follows Binx as he embarks on an undefined "search," wandering around his home town of New Orleans reflecting philosophically on small episodes and interactions. He is challenged to define himself in relation to friends, family, lovers, and career when he would rather his life and character remain vague and open to possibility. This book reflects Walker Percy’s philosophical bent (existentialism, Southern sensibility, and deep Catholic faith) and his exploration of the dislocation of man in modern age. Percy was born in Birmingham, Alabama, into a distinguished Mississippi Protestant family whose past luminaries had included a U.S. Senator and a Civil War hero. Prior to Percy's birth, his grandfather had killed himself with a shotgun, setting a pattern of emotional struggle and tragic death that would haunt Percy throughout his life. In 1929, Percy's father used a shotgun to commit suicide. The Percy family then moved to Athens, Georgia, where two years later, his mother died in a car crash when she drove off a country bridge—an accident that Percy regarded as another suicide. Walker and his two younger brothers, Phin and Roy, then moved to Greenville, Mississippi, where his bachelor uncle William Alexander Percy, lawyer, poet, and autobiographer, became their guardian and adopted them. “Uncle Will” introduced Walker to many writers and poets and to a neighboring boy his own age – Shelby Foote, who became Walker’s life-long best friend. As young men, Walker and Shelby decided to pay their respects to William Faulkner by visiting him in Oxford, Mississippi. However, when they finally drove up to his home, Percy was so in awe of the literary giant that he could not bring himself to talk to him. Later on, he recounted how he could only sit in the car and watch while Foote and Faulkner had a lively conversation on the porch. Percy joined Foote at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a brother in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, as was William Faulkner (University of Mississippi), and then trained as a medical doctor at Columbia University in New York City, receiving his medical degree in 1941. After contracting TB from performing an autopsy while interning at Bellevue, Percy spent the next several years recuperating at the Trudeau Sanitorium in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. During this period Percy read the works of Danish existentialist writer, Søren Kierkegaard, and the Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and he began to question the ability of science to explain the basic mysteries of human existence. During this time (ca. 1947) Percy converted to Catholicism, as well as deciding to become a writer rather than a physician--as he would later write, he would study the pathology of the soul rather than that of the body. Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.
BELOVED - Beloved is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The novel is loosely based on the life and legal case of the slave Margaret Garner. The Book's Epigraph says: "Sixty Million and more." Morrison is referring to the estimated number of slaves who died in the slave trade. More specifically, she is referring to the Middle Passage.
Paul D cannot cope with Sethe's murder of Beloved -- even though he knows it was an extreme act of love -- and leaves, but returns to "put his story next to hers", a display of his courage and mature love, if crippled by his slavery ordeal. Paul D convinces Sethe that she herself is her own "best thing." In 1998 the novel was adapted into a film of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey. A survey of eminent authors and critics conducted by The New York Times found Beloved the best work of American fiction of the past 25 years; it garnered 15 of 125 votes, finishing ahead of Don DeLillo's Underworld (11 votes), Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian (8) and John Updike's Rabbit series The results appeared in The New York Times Book Review on May 21, 2006. Time Magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.
DR. ZHIVAGO - Set primarily against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent Russian Civil War of 1918-1920, the book is one of the best known political novels of the 20th Century and is named after its protagonist, Yuri Zhivago, a medical doctor and poet, who is sensitive and poetic nearly to the point of mysticism. In medical school, one of his professors reminds him that bacteria may be beautiful under the microscope, but they do ugly things to people. Zhivago's idealism and principles stand in brutal contrast to the horrors of World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the subsequent Russian Civil War. A major theme of the novel is how the mysticism of things and idealism are destroyed by both the Bolsheviks and the White Army alike, as both sides commit horrible atrocities. Yuri witnesses dismemberment and other horrors suffered by the innocent civilian population during the turmoil. Even the love of his life, Lara, is taken from him.
A DEATH IN THE FAMILY - an autobiographical novel byJames Agee, set in LaFollette, Tennessee. He began writing it in 1948, but it was not quite complete when he died in 1955. It was edited and released posthumously in 1957 by editor David McDowell. Agee's widow and children were left with little money after Agee's death and McDowell wanted to help them by publishing the work. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1958 and is based on the events that occurred to Agee when his father died in a car accident returning from visiting his ill father. The novel also gives a look at life in Knoxville, TN during the early 1920s. University of Tennessee professor Michael Lofaro tracked down the author's original manuscripts and notes and has reconstructed a version he says is more authentic. Look at what Will Blythe has to say of Agee’s writing : “'One by one, million by million, in the prescience of dawn, every leaf in that part of the world was moved.' Why don’t our novelists write in Agee’s tender high style these days? Either something has gone out of the world, or something has gone out of them. His book reads like a prayer, an attempt to breathe life into the dead through mighty exertions of language. Everything is consecrated. Trees move in their sleep, stars tremble like lanterns, and a butterfly — yes, a butterfly — alights on a coffin. In the end, all that a writer has to pass on is not myth and anecdote, but scene and character, evoked in memorable prose. The beauty of “A Death in the Family” is that the child’s point of view that begins the book eventually widens until readers may feel they are seeing into the very heart of existence — the utter strangeness of being alive in a particular family at a particular time and place. What more could James Agee leave behind?"
ANIMAL FARM is the famous satirical allegory of Soviet totalitarianism in which animals play the roles of the Bolshevik revolutionaries and overthrow and oust the human owners of the farm, setting it up as a commune in which, at first, all animals are equal. Class and status disparities soon emerge, however, between the different animal species. The novel describes how a society's ideologies can be manipulated and twisted by those in positions of social and political power, including how a utopian society is made impossible by the corrupting nature of the very power necessary to create it. Perhaps the largest overriding theme in Animal Farm is the famous quote by Lord Acton, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
THE CORRECTIONS -revolves around the troubles of an elderly Midwestern couple and their three adult children, tracing their lives from the mid-twentieth century to "one last Christmas" together near the turn of the millennium. Alfred Lambert, the patriarch of a seemingly normal family living in the fictional town of St. Jude, suffers from Parkinson's disease and dementia. Enid, his long-suffering wife, suffers from Alfred's controlling, rigid behavior and her own embarrassment at what she perceives as her family's shortcomings. Their children all live in the Northeast. Gary, the eldest Lambert son, is a successful banker who refuses to believe that he has clinical depression, and, as a result, becomes increasingly paranoid, suspecting that his wife and sons are conspiring against him. Chip, the middle child, is a failed college professor whose disastrous affair with a student sends his life into decline and lands him in the employ of a Lithuanian crime boss. Denise, the youngest of the family, is successful in her career as a chef, but her out of control sexuality causes her to become entangled in a bizarre love triangle with various members of her boss's family. The book was a selection of Oprah's Book Club in 2001 but feelings were hurt when Franzen publicly lamented the fact that, once selected, the club's insignia was printed on the cover of his novel and expressed ambivalence at having been chosen for the club, and made disparaging remarks about the quality of the books chosen, for which he later apologized. The hullabaloo that followed hurt writers and readers, as many had come to depend on Oprah's visonary efforts in getting the world to read. The book club has never fully recovered its former level of promotion of new fiction, relying on the classics as choices in many months, but this may improve with time. There is no argument that the book club is a sterling effort that helped, on a grand scale, literacy, new fiction, writers, educators, students and the general reading public to get back to reading for its powerful and transformative impact, and put many writers on the map and on the road to being able to put food on their tables and a roof over their heads from the recognition and financial success of their work.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE - the story of Mr and Mrs Bennet (minor gentry), their five daughters, and the various romantic adventures at their Hertfordshire residence of Longbourn. The parents' characters are greatly contrasted: Mr. Bennet being a wise and witty gentleman; while Mrs Bennet is permanently distracted by the issue of marrying off her daughters at any cost. The reason for Mrs Bennet's obsession is that their estate will pass by law after Mr Bennet's death to his closest blood relative: his cousin, the Reverend William Collins (a fatuous, tactless and pompous man). Austen's tale is spurred on by the arrival of the young and wealthy bachelor Charles Bingley and his friend, the haughty and arrogant Fitzwilliam Darcy. It is the story of the various affections, affectations and engagement shenanigans that develop due to Mrs Bennet's relentless matchmaking and the dashing Darcy's tempestuous relationship with Elizabeth Bennet who Jane Austen claimed was favourite amongst her literary offspring. The book, considered one of the top five books in the English cannon, took forever to get a publisher (Its 1797 version was turned down for publication and appeared in this form in 1813.). In a great moment, Darcy makes his desire for Elizabeth known in a condescending offer and is rejected with scorn by Elizabeth, and the connection seems over. However, events conspire to bring the various parties together despite the obstacles and misunderstandings that separate them. Pride on one side and prejudice on the other are slowly overcome and the characters come to a better knowledge of themselves and each other, and marriages are made that secure the Bennet estate.
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS - Pilar, "Pablo's woman", is a reader of palms and more. When Robert Jordan questions her true abilities, she replies, "Because thou art a miracle of deafness.... It is not that thou art stupid. Thou art simply deaf. One who is deaf cannot hear music. Neither can he hear the radio. So he might say, never having heard them, that such things do not exist."
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO"S NEST - When McMurphy returns, he is wheeled onto the ward on a bed, in a near-vegetative state similar to its most elderly patients. The Chief realizes that if other patients see McMurphy in that condition, Nurse Ratched will have ultimately "won", demoralizing the patients who were only beginning to assert themselves as men because of McMurphy's influence. The Chief smothers McMurphy with a pillow to suffocate him during the night so that McMurphy can die with dignity rather than lie there as a representation of what happens when one tries to buck the system. Chief Bromden then lifts and carries the shower room control panel to the window, throws it through the window and escapes. Although Ratched's main antagonist has been removed, her vocal cords have been severely damaged, and now the patients can think for themselves without her intimidation.
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE-Twenty-five years later, after May's death, Newland and his son are in Paris. The son, learning that his mother's cousin lives there, has arranged to visit and meet Ellen in her Paris apartment. Newland is stunned at the prospect of again seeing Ellen. On arriving outside the apartment building, Newland, still reeling emotionally, sends up his son alone to meet Ellen, while he waits outside, watching her apartment's balcony. Newland considers going up, but decides that his dream and memory of Ellen are more real than anything else in his life has been; he walks back to his hotel without meeting her.
THE THINGS THEY CARRIED - Widely regarded as the most significant work of fiction to come out of the Vietnam War, The Things They Carried is a collection of related stories by Tim O'Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War - Alpha Company - whose intimacy with death carries with it a corresponding new intimacy with life. The protagonist, who is named Tim O’Brien, begins with a catalog of the variety of things his fellow soldiers in Alpha Company brought on their missions: intangible, including guilt and fear, and tangible, such as matches, morphine, M-16 rifles, photographs, and M&M’s candy. After many deaths from combat and carelessness, and much guilt over draft notices, war avoidance, fear of hurting family and political convictions, the protagonist allows the reader to see that memory disturbs even years later, but imagination provides solace, in facing and sorting out what happened and what the other soldiers were going through as they served in war together. The guilt of taking another's life still haunts the protagonist--he still carries, twenty years later, the war and it's attendant hell, and his guilt related to his actions in it. The use of the imagination through the creative outlet of writing fiction in sorting out his war ordeal has saved him.
OLIVER TWIST - is the first novel in the English language to centre throughout on a child protagonist and is also notable for Dickens' unromantic portrayal of criminals and their sordid lives. An early example of the social novel, the book calls the public's attention to various contemporary social evils involving child abuse and child labor. Oliver Twist is born into a life of poverty and misfortune in a workhouse in an unnamed town within 75 miles of London. Orphaned almost from his first breath by his mother’s death in childbirth and his father’s unexplained absence, Oliver is meagerly provided for with little food and few comforts under the terms of the Poor Law. Around the time of his ninth birthday, Mr Bumble, a parish beadle, puts him to work picking oakum at the main branch-workhouse (the same one where his mother worked before she died). Desperately hungry, the boys draw lots; the loser must ask for another portion of gruel. The task falls to Oliver, who at the next meal tremblingly comes forward, bowl in hand, and makes his famous request: "Please, sir, I want some more." A great uproar ensues. The board of well-fed gentlemen who administer the workhouse, while eating a meal fit for a king, are outraged by Oliver's 'ingratitude'. Wanting to be rid of this troublemaker, they offer five pounds sterling to any person wishing to take on the boy as an apprentice. Mr. Sowerberry, an undertaker takes Oliver into his service and, because of the boy's sorrowful countenance, uses him as a "mute", or mourner, at children's funerals. Others take a dislike to Oliver, and he flies into an unexpected passion, attacking and even besting a much bigger boy who has insulted his mother. Oliver runs away to London and takes up with Jack Dawkins, affectionately known as the Artful Dodger, although young Oliver is oblivious to the hint. Dodger provides Oliver with a free meal and tells him of a gentleman in London who will "give him lodgings for nothing, and never ask for change". Grateful for the unexpected assistance, Oliver follows Dodger to the gentleman’s residence, and unwittingly falls in with an infamous criminal known as Fagin, the "old gentleman" of whom the Artful Dodger spoke. Ensnared, Oliver lives with Fagin and his criminal associates in their lair at Saffron Hill for some time, naively unaware of their criminal occupations. Later, Oliver innocently goes out to "make handkerchiefs" because of no income coming in, with two of Fagin’s underlings: The Artful Dodger and a boy of a humorous nature named Charley Bates. Oliver realizes too late that their real mission is to pick pockets, and, although he doesn't participate, he is chased down and arrested while Dodger and Bates escape. What follows is Oliver's adventures out of crime and into love and being united with his mother and father's relatives. The criminals for the most part come to no good end. A magnificient film and musical have been made from this story with some of the most beloved songs in the theatre musical cannon: "Consider Yourself at Home" "As Long as He Needs Me" "I'd Do Anything for You."
A RAISIN IN THE SUN - The title of this play comes from the opening lines of "Harlem", a poem by Langston Hughes ("What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun?"). Throughout the play, the idea of deferred dreams is a prominent theme, as each member of the Younger family attempts to find his or her place amidst a number of difficult situations. With a cast in which all but one are African-Americans, A Raisin in the Sun was considered to be a risky investment, and it took over a year for producer Philip Rose to raise enough money to launch the play. After touring to positive reviews, it premiered on Broadway on March 11, 1959, to enthusiastic reviews. The New York Drama Critics' Circle named it the best play of 1959, and it ran for nearly two years and was produced on tour. Hansberry noted that it introduced details of black life to the overwhelmingly white Broadway audiences, while director Lloyd Richards observed that it was the first play to which large numbers of blacks were drawn. The New York Times stated that A Raisin in the Sun "changed American theater forever." The play is about the Younger Family, as they dream of leaving behind the crowded, run-down Chicago apartment where they have lived since Ruth and Walter were married. Walter Lee, their son, has big dreams of making a fortune by investing in a liquor store but foolishly gives his money to a con-artist. His sister, Beneatha, a college student, tries to find her identity and embraces the Back-to-Africa philosophy of a Nigerian friend, Joseph Asagai. Lena, mother of Beneatha and Walter Lee, shares her daughter-in-law Ruth's dreams of buying a house, and does so with money from her late husband's insurance policy. However, the house is in an all-white neighborhood, where racist future neighbors send one of their members, a man named Karl Lindner, to try to buy them out and prevent the neighborhood's integration. Walter Lee, having been swindled earlier over his dream of a liquor store, initially contemplates taking the money, but ultimately refuses to be intimidated or bought out.
THE SOUND AND THE FURY - On Easter, Dilsey takes her family and Benjy to the 'colored' church for the Easter service. Through her we see, in a sense, the consequences of the decadence and depravity in which the Compsons have lived for decades. Dilsey is mistreated and abused, but nevertheless remains loyal. She is the only one who cares for Benjy, as she takes him to church and tries to bring him to salvation. The preacher's sermon inspires her to weep for the Compson family, reminding her that she's seen the family through its destruction, which she is now witnessing.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA - Fermina Daza is the strong axis around which the story revolves; she rejects Florentino Ariza in their youth and weds Juvenal Urbino, a physician, devoted to science, to modernity, and to "order and progress", and committed to the eradication of cholera. A rational man whose life is organized precisely and who values his importance and reputation in society to the utmost, he serves as counterpoint to Ariza’s archaic, romantic style. A faithful husband, save for one small affair late in their marriage, the novel suggests however that his love for Fermina was never as spiritually chaste as Ariza's was. By the end of the book, Fermina has recognized a change in Ariza (their communication for years has been limited to correspondence by letter) and their love is allowed to blossom in old age. García Márquez's main notion is that lovesickness is a literal illness, a disease comparable to cholera. His novel is a study of love in all forms, such as unrequited love (Florentino for Fermina), marital love (Fermina and Juvenal), platonic love (Florentino and Leona), young love (Florentino and Fermina in the beginning), adulterous love (Juvenal and his affair, Florentino and many of his women), love from afar (Florentino and Fermina), and elderly love (Florentino and Fermina). The relationships portrayed in the novel are between sex, age, society, art, death, and love. Ariza suffers from lovesickness just as he might suffer from any malady, conflating his physical agony with his amorous agony when he vomits after eating flowers in order to imbibe Fermina's scent. In the final chapter, the Captain's declaration of metaphorical plague is another manifestation of this lovesickness. The term cholera as it is used in Spanish, cólera, can also denote human rage and ire. (The English adjective choleric has the same meaning.) It is this second meaning that manifests itself both on the level of Ariza's hatred for Urbino's marriage to Fermina, as well as the theme of social strife and warfare that serves as a backdrop to the entire story
MOBY DICK - is the story of the adventures of the wandering sailor Ishmael and his voyage on the whaling ship, Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab, who seeks one specific whale, Moby-Dick, a white whale of tremendous size and ferocity. Comparatively few whaling ships know of Moby-Dick, and fewer yet have encountered him. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab's boat and bit off his leg. Ahab intends to exact revenge. Toward the end of the novel, the Pequod nears Moby Dick's territory and encounters the Rachel, whose master rows over to the Pequod and begs Ahab for help in finding a whaleboat crew lost in the previous day's hunt, a crew that includes his young son. Ahab flatly refuses to help the Rachel and takes up his own search for the whale. The story comes to a dramatic and tragic end when the Pequod, sailing despite dark portents, sights Moby-Dick. For three long days the ship battles the white whale. Moby-Dick shatters the Pequod’s hunting boats and then charges the ship itself, sinking it. Ahab and all the crew drown except for Ishmael, who uses the coffin built for Queequeg as a buoy. By pure luck, the still-searching Rachel sails by and rescues him.
EQUUS - Martin Dysart begins with a monologue in which he outlines Alan Strang's case, and divulges his feeling that his occupation as a psychiatrist is not all that he wishes it to be and that he has deep feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment about his own barren life. Alan Strang's crime was extreme but Dysart states that just such extremity is needed to break free from the chains of existence, that in Alan's case involved conflicting viewpoints on religion and sex from his parents. In therapy, Alan reveals that he wants to help the horses by removing the bit they wear (or "chain" or "chinklechankle"), which enslaves them. Enslaved and tortured "like Jesus?" asks Dysart, and Alan replies "yes." Through Dysart's questioning, it becomes clear that Alan is erotically fixated on Nugget (or Equus) a horse in the stable where he works, and secretly takes him for midnight rides, bareback and naked. Alan also envisions himself as a king, on the godhead Equus, both destroying their enemies. After an unsuccessful attempt at intercourse with a young girl, Jill, Alan blinds the horses, whose eyes have "seen" his very soul. The play concludes with Dysart questioning the fundamentals of psychiatry and whether or not what he does will actually help Alan, as the effect of his treatment will remove Alan's intense sexual and religious commitment, and his worship of the horses.
SOPHIE'S CHOICE -As Nathan's "outbreaks" become more violent and abusive, Stingo learns that Nathan is schizophrenic and is not a cellular biologist, although "he could have been fantastically brilliant at anything he might have tried out … But he never got his mind in order." Nathan's delusions have led him to believe that Stingo is having an affair with Sophie, and he threatens to kill them both. Sophie and Stingo attempt to flee to a peanut farm in Virginia that Stingo's father has inherited. On the way there, Sophie reveals her deepest, darkest secret: on the night that she arrived at Auschwitz, a sadistic doctor made her choose which of her two children would die immediately by gassing and which would continue to live, albeit in the camp. Of her two children, Sophie chose to sacrifice her seven-year-old daughter, Eva, in a heart-rending decision that has left her in mourning and filled with a guilt that she cannot overcome.
ETHAN FROME - On the day of Mattie's departure, emotion overcomes Ethan, and he tells Mattie that he wants to live with her forever. They decide to take a final sled ride down together into a bulky tree, so it will kill them instantly, rather than live the rest of their lives separated. Ethan, desperate to escape his loveless marriage and meaningless life, complies. The accident, however, fails to kill them because Ethan "sees" Zeena out of guilt and tries to turn away from her, but paralyzes Mattie permanently and leaves Ethan barely able to walk. After the story is told, the narrator is shown inside Ethan's home, where he finds two old women, one of whom complains in a whiny voice of the coldness. The whining woman turns out to be Mattie, and the other woman is a healthier Zeena who now looks after Ethan and Mattie much as they once looked after her.
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X - written by Alex Haley between 1964 and 1965, as told to him through conversations with Malcolm conducted shortly before Malcolm X's death (and with an epilogue after it), and published in 1965. The book was named by Time magazine as one of the ten most important nonfiction books of the 20th century. Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little; May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965), also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was an American Black Muslim minister and a spokesman for the Nation of Islam. After leaving the Nation of Islam in 1964, he made the pilgrimage, the Hajj, to Mecca and became a Sunni Muslim. He also founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Less than a year later, he was assassinated in Washington Heights on the first day of National Brotherhood Week. Historian Robin D.G. Kelley wrote, "Malcolm X has been called many things: Pan-Africanist, father of Black Power, religious fanatic, closet conservative, incipient socialist, and a menace to society. The meaning of his public life — his politics and ideology — is contested in part because his entire body of work consists of a few dozen speeches and a collaborative autobiography whose veracity is challenged. Malcolm has become a sort of tabula rasa, or blank slate, on which people of different positions can write their own interpretations of his politics and legacy. Chuck D of the rap group Public Enemy and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas can both declare Malcolm X their hero." The book describes Malcolm X's upbringing in Michigan, his maturation to adulthood in Boston and New York, his time in prison, his conversion to Islam, his ministry, his travels to Africa and to Mecca, and his subsequent career and eventual assassination at the Audubon Ballroom near 166th Street and Broadway in New York City. The book contains a substantial amount of thought concerning African-American existence. Haley stated in the documentary Eyes on the Prize that it was difficult to write the autobiography because Malcolm X was quite averse to talking about himself and preferred instead to talk about the Nation of Islam. There are exaggerations and inaccuracies in the book, some of which were acknowledged by Haley. For example, Malcolm X describes an incident in which he pointed a gun with a single bullet to his head in front of his criminal cohorts and repeatedly pulled the trigger in order to show them he was not afraid to die. In the epilogue, Haley writes that when Malcolm was proof-reading the manuscript he told Haley that he had palmed the bullet and staged the act in order to scare the others into obedience. In 2005 historian Manning Marable, for his book Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, claimed that Haley worked with the FBI while writing the book with Malcolm X. He also talked about the existence of three unpublished chapters of the book.
CAT'S CRADLE -The dictator has bribed a son of Felix Hoenikker with a high government appointment in exchange for a piece of ice-nine, and he uses it to commit suicide as he lies dying from inoperable cancer. Consistent with the properties of 'ice-nine' the dictator's corpse instantly turns into a block of solid ice at normal room temperature. A sudden airplane crash into the dictator's seaside palace causes his still-frozen body to tumble into the ocean, at which point all the water in the world's seas, rivers, and groundwater turns into ice-nine in a gigantic chain reaction, which destroys the ecology of the earth and causes the extinction of practically all life forms in only a few days.
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND -The Grandmother—a petty, cantankerous, and overbearing individual—attains grace at the moment of her death, when she reaches out to the Misfit and recognizes him as one of her own children.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte– is the story of a life-long vendetta, played out in the Yorkshire manor homes on the moors of England, by an adopted foundling, Heathcliff, against the family that took him in, as a result of being thwarted in gaining the love of his life, Catherine Earnshaw, his childhood friend and adopted sister. A tale of the all-encompassing and passionate love of Heathcliff for Catherine that runs counter to the known order of things and is effectively opposed thus defeating the hopes of both Healthcliff and Catherine, and eventually destroying them and many around them, is now considered by many to be the greatest love story ever told. Wuthering Heights' innovative structure met with mixed reviews by critics when it first appeared, with many horrified by the stark depictions of mental and physical cruelty. It surpasses Jane Eyre, by Emily Bronte’s sister, Charlotte, as more original in what the writer achieved.
DELIVERANCE -Encouraged by the badly-injured Lewis, who believes they are being stalked from above the river canyon by the toothless hillbilly, Ed climbs a nearby rock face in order to dispatch the suspected shooter using his bow, while Bobby stays behind to look after Lewis. Ed reaches the top and hides out until the next morning, when the shooter appears on the top of the cliff with a rifle, looking down into the gorge where Lewis and Bobby are located. Ed earlier had been psychologically unable to shoot a deer he was tracking and starts to freeze again in spite of his clear shot. As the hillbilly sees Ed and raises his rifle to fire, Ed clumsily releases his arrow as the man's bullet slams into the rock just next to him, and falls down in panic and accidentally stabs himself with one of his own spare arrows. The hillbilly, at first seemingly unaffected and still a threat, now staggers and collapses. Not sure whether the man he's killed is the same toothless man who has been stalking them, Ed checks the body and sees that he is dead, and looks carefully and finds false removable teeth inside of his mouth. Ed and Bobby weigh down the dead hillbilly with stones and drop him into the river. Later they come upon Drew's corpse, which they also weigh down and sink in the river to ensure that it will never be found.
OTHELLO - Desdemona states simply, "I do not deserve this", as Othello murders her.
THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE - Sandy meets with the headmistress and blatantly admits she wants to put an end to Miss Brodie, and suggests that Miss Mackay try accusing her of Fascism, which results in the loss of her job. Miss Brodie could not, until the very end of her life, imagine that it was Sandy, her confidante, who betrayed her to the headmistress. Sandy, however, now Sister Helena and the author of "The Transfiguration of the Commonplace", remarks after Brodie's death that "it's only possible to betray where loyalty is due". When visitors come to visit Sandy at the nunnery, they ask what was her biggest influence in writing her book. Sandy replies, tightly gripping the bars of the grille, that it was a Miss Brodie in her prime.
THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN IN THE MOON MARIGOLDS - Matilda "Tillie", a tomboy, copes with her life by immersing herself in science, hoping to reach a philosophical epiphany. As she prepares her experiment for the science fair--the Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds--she is constantly thwarted by her mother Beatrice, who is self-centered and abusive, and by her sister Ruth, who submits to her mother's will. The paths of the three characters diverge: Tillie wins the science fair through perseverance; Ruth discovers her individuality by finally standing up to Beatrice; and Beatrice—driven to the edge of sanity by her deep-seated enmity towards everyone—kills Tillie's pet rabbit Peter. The uplififting moment in this play is when Tillie, grasping her mother's mental illness, continues to believe that everyone is valuable, an insight and maturity gained from her immersion in science and her studies of the gamma ray--a photon emitted spontaneously by a radioactive substance.
SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE - Billy Pilgrim emerges from a makeshift prison--a deep cellar and disused slaughterhouse in the city of Dresden, originally built to keep meat cool--to discover that he has survived the firebombing of Dresden by the Allies (1,300 heavy bombers dropped over 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices in four raids, over two days, destroying 13 square miles of Dresden, the baroque capital of the German state of Saxony, causing a firestorm that consumed a staggering number of civilians and their homes) --an example of civilian suffering caused by strategic bombing that has become one of the moral causes célèbres of the Second World War.
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE - Lily Briscoe, an unmarried, 'modernist' painter, at last completes her picture. The Lighthouse is reached, a picture is finished, and the book ends with Lily Briscoe's 'vision'.
NATIVE SON - In the last scene, while he waits for death in the electric chair, Bigger tells Max, "I didn't know I was really alive in this world until I felt things hard enough to kill for 'em."
TEHANO: Allen Wier (a writing professor at the University of Tennessee/Knoxville who is known for his humanity) has written an intricately plotted story that could be summed up simply as the "War and Peace of the American Southwest". An epic tale lauded by many of the greatest writers of his generation (Barry Hanah, George Garrett, Richard Bausch, Lee K. Abbot, David Madden) there are four major story lines and several minor ones, all of which play out between Manhattan and Matamoras, Mexico in the latter part of the Civil War and the early postwar years. The characters include soldiers and ex-soldiers both Blue and Gray running from the war, native Americans under siege once the war no longer occupied the whites, slaves escaping their masters, and multitudes of Midwestern farmers, speculators, and freebooters of all kinds looking for a new start or a quick killing. This is multi historical fiction in the tradition of Annie Dillard, Larry McMurtry and Charles Frazier containing many wonderful scenes of characters on the move—you can taste the salty bite of oysters as Knobby and Elizabeth eat seafood for the first time. A fantastic depiction of Frontier, Comanche and Native American Life is woven throughout with heart stopping depictions of brutality, sex and human bravery. The book has several "character transformations" that are surprisingly convincing: the young, uncertain Dorsey Murphy who becomes the self-assured Blood Arrow, wife of Wahatewi; and the conniving, red-haired Orten Trainer who re-invents himself as the scalped, tongueless, authentically pious Preacher Orten. In the study of who is teaching what in university writing programs, one is vastly reassured by the scope and craft of TEHANO, and understands why Wier has received accolade after accolade for his graciousness toward his students.
THE GLASS MENAGERIE - The most autobiographical of Tennessee Williams' plays is introduced to the audience by Tom as a memory play. Tom's father has left the family long ago, and his mother, Amanda, remains stuck in the past. Tom works in a factory, doing his best to support his family. Amanda is obsessed with finding a suitor for Laura, who spends most of her time with her glass collection. Tom eventually brings Jim home for dinner at the insistence of his mother, who hopes Jim will be the long-awaited suitor for Laura. Laura realizes that Jim is the man she loved in high school and has thought of ever since, but he dashes her hopes, telling her that he is already engaged, and then leaves. Tom abandons his mother and sister, and never returns to see his family again, although we see the decision cripples him in the gorgeous last scene, where he begs Laura in his mind to "blow out your candles".
WHITE NOISE - A chemical spill from a rail car releases an "airborne toxic event" over Jack's home region, prompting an evacuation, and rightened by his exposure to the toxin, Jack is forced to confront his mortality and realizes that Babette has been cheating on him in order to gain access to a drug called Dylar, an experimental new treatment for the fear of death.
ROMEO AND JULIET - one of the most magnificient scenes in literature of Juliet on her balcony vowing her love to Romeo in spite of her family's hatred of the Montagues, and Romeo below in the Capulet orchard making himself known to her, and the two declare their love for each other and agree to be married. The gorgeous language throughout: (Romeo in the Capulet's orchard) "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun! . . . It is my lady! O, it is my love! O, that she knew she were! She speaks, yet she says nothing. What of that? . . . See how she leans her cheek upon her hand! O, that I were a glove upon that hand, That I might touch that cheek!" As they part from one another after spending the night together: "Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day / stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops." And as Mercutio jests with Romeo, musing that Mab, the bringer of dreams, has visited his lovesick friend: "O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you. She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes In shape no bigger than an agate-stone . . . . . . Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers. And in this state she gallops night by night..."
THE HANDMAID'S TALE - Human sexuality in Gilead is regulated by the notion that sex is fundamentally degrading to women. Men are understood to desire sexual pleasure constantly but are obliged to abstain from all but marital sex for religio-social reasons. The social regulations are enforced by law, with corporal punishment inflicted for lesser offences and capital punishment for greater ones. "The Ceremony" is a non-marital sexual act sanctioned solely for the purpose of reproduction: " My red skirt is hitched up to my waist, though no higher. Below it the Commander is fucking. What he is fucking is the lower part of my body. I do not say making love, because this is not what he's doing. Copulating too would be inaccurate, because it would imply two people and only one is involved. Nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven't signed up for." Once a Handmaid is pregnant, she is venerated by her peers and the Wives. After the baby is born, it is given to the Wife of her Commander, and she is reassigned to another household.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S - Holly Golightly, a young woman with an unknown past living in 1940's Manhattan/Upper East Side has reinvented herself and is trying to find her place in the world when she meets her neighbor, Paul, whom she calls Fred, an unemployed writer. The novella follows the young writer's affections for the charming but strange Holly, who escapes her hillbilly husband, the Mafia, legal charges from the city of New York, a pregnancy with Jose, a Brazilian diplomat, and committment to Fred by leaving the country and is never seen again. Months later, however, a common friend comes back from Africa, and tells Fred that he had seen a sculpture of Holly by a native sculptor who admitted to a casual affair with a beautiful woman, whose statuette he later sculpted. The friend attempted to purchase the statuette; however, the sculptor refused, even after a very generous offer. In a bittersweet ending, Paul muses that he hopes that Holly will find her happiness, even if it means sharing a hut in the savanah.
MADAME BOVARY - often cited as one of the two greatest novels ever written, was attacked for obscenity by public prosecutors when it was first serialised in La Revue de Paris between 1 October 1856 and 15 December 1856, resulting in a trial in January 1857 that made it notorious. The novel focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. The story begins and ends with Charles Bovary, a stolid, kindhearted man without much ability or ambition. As the novel opens, Charles is a shy, oddly-dressed teenager arriving at a new school amidst the ridicule of his new classmates, who later struggles his way to a second-rate medical degree and becomes an officier de santé in the Public Health Service. Charles visits a local farm to set the owner's broken leg, and meets his client's daughter, Emma Rouault, a beautiful, daintily-dressed young woman who has received a "good education" in a convent and has a latent but powerful yearning for luxury and romance imbibed from the popular novels she has read. Charles is immediately attracted to her, and when his wife dies, begins courting Emma in earnest and they are married. Emma grows disillusioned with married life and Charles consequently decides that his wife needs a change of scenery, and they move to Yonville, where Emma gives birth to a daughter, Berthe; however, motherhood, too, proves to be a disappointment to Emma, and she becomes infatuated with a young law student, Léon Dupuis, who seems to share her appreciation for "the finer things in life". Out of fear and shame, however, Emma hides her love for Léon and plays the role of the devoted wife and mother. Léon departs to study in Paris. One day, a rich and rakish landowner, Rodolphe Boulanger, brings a servant to the doctor's office to be bled and casts his eye over Emma and decides she is ripe for seduction, and invites Emma to go riding with him for the sake of her health; solicitous only for Emma's health, Charles embraces the plan, suspecting nothing. A three-year affair follows. Swept away by romantic fantasy, Emma risks compromising herself with indiscreet letters and visits Rodolphe, who has no intention of carrying Emma off, and ends the relationship on the eve of the great elopement with an apologetic, self-excusing letter delivered at the bottom of a basket of apricots. Emma falls deathly ill, and briefly turns to religion. When Emma is nearly fully recovered, an evening at the opera reawakens Emma's passions and she reencounters Léon who is now educated and working in Rouen. They begin an affair. While Charles believes that she is taking piano lessons, Emma travels to the city each week to meet Léon, always in the same room of the same hotel, which the two come to view as their "home." The love affair is, at first, ecstatic; then, by degrees, Léon grows bored with Emma's emotional excesses, and Emma grows ambivalent about Léon, and given over to vanity, purchases increasing amounts of luxury items on credit from the crafty merchant, Lheureux, who arranges for her to obtain power of attorney over Charles’ estate, and crushing levels of debts mount quickly. When Lheureux calls in Bovary's debt, Emma pleads for money from Léon and Rodolphe, only to be turned down. In despair, she swallows arsenic and dies an agonizing death; even the romance of suicide fails her. Charles abandons himself to grief, preserves Emma's room as if it is a shrine, stops working and lives off of the sale of his possessions. When he accidentally comes across Rodolphe's love letters, he tries to understand and forgive, becomes reclusive and dies, leaving his daughter Berthe to live with distant relatives.
THE NAKED AND THE DEAD - Hearn becomes the lieutenant of the squad, to the extreme anger of Croft, their ambitious regular sergeant, and to the detriment of the men and the work of the platoon. The novel questions the competence, motives and impact of high-ranking officers and their decisions on the outcomes of military campaigns. The squad suffers mental and physical hardship and some deaths, but there is little mourning or kindness. There is no mercy shown to the Japanese.
ANNA KARENINA - "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." The famous first line of this novel, often cited as one of the two greatest novels ever written, refers to the Oblonsky family of Moscow which is being torn apart by adultery. Dolly Oblonskaya has caught her husband, Stiva, having an affair with their children’s former governess, and threatens to leave him. Stiva is somewhat remorseful but mostly dazed and uncomprehending. Stiva’s sister, Anna Karenina, arrives at the Oblonskys’ to mediate and all hell breaks loose as she falls for the dashing Alexei Vronsky, stealing him away from the affections of Dolly's youngest sister, Kitty, resulting in a denied divorce, an adultrous pregnancy, scorn and seclusion, and Anna throwing herself under a train.
ON THE ROAD - After reuniting with Dean, Sal begins to sense Dean’s decline and labels him “the HOLY GOOF”, when earlier he was called holy in a reverent tone. Dean’s abilities falter. When confronted with his abandonment of wife and child, he is silent. Sal explains, “where once Dean would have talked his way out, he now fell silent.... He was BEAT.”
LOLITA - Humbert Humbert is a pervert, rapist and murderer, but the writer Nobokov charms the reader into sympathizing with Humbert's obsession with the twelve year old Delores Haze, whom he calls Lolita, the 'nymphet' daughter of the woman he marries in order to gain sexual access to Lolita. In time, after much tragedy including the death of Lolita's mother, Humbert receives a letter from Lolita, now 17, who tells him that she is pregnant and in desperate need of funds. During a subsequent conversation, Lolita reveals that the father of her unborn child is Clare Quilty, who threw her out after she refused to perform in a pornographic film he was making. Leaving Lolita forever, Humbert surprises Quilty at his mansion. Quilty goes mad when he sees Humbert's gun. After a mutually exhausting struggle for it, Quilty, now insane with fear, merely responds politely as Humbert repeatedly shoots him. Humbert is left exhausted and disoriented. Arrested for murder, he writes the book he entitles Lolita, while awaiting trial, and dies of coronary thrombosis upon finishing his manuscript. He is thus unaware that Lolita dies, during childbirth, on Christmas Day, 1952.
GRAVITY"S RAINBOW - The story (criticized as unreadable and self-indulgent by many critics) ultimately reveals that the 00000 was fired in the spring of 1945, close to the end of the war. Slothrop spends much of the time as his invented alter-ego Rocketman, who wears a white Zoot Suit and the cone of a rocket-nose. Rocketman completes various tasks for his own and others' purposes, including retrieving a large stash of Hash from the centre of the Potsdam Conference. This continues until he leaves the region for northern Germany, continuing his quest for the 00000, as well as answers to his past. It becomes steadily apparent that Slothrop is somehow connected to a Dr. Laszlo Jamf, and a series of experiments performed on him as a child (Though in typical Pynchonian fashion, we are repeatedly led to doubt even this).
THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ - The Wizard persuades the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion that what they lack are not brains or a heart or courage, but faith in themselves.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS - At the edge of the Cracks of Doom, the temptation of the Ring proved too great for Frodo; he placed the Ring on his finger and claimed it for himself. While the Ringwraiths flew at top speed toward Mount Doom, Gollum struggled with Frodo for the "Precious" and succeeded in taking the Ring by biting off Frodo's finger. Crazed with triumph, Gollum lost his footing and fell into the fire, destroying the Ring. With the end of the Ring, Sauron's armies lost heart, the Ringwraiths disintegrated, and Aragorn's army was victorious.
GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN - John falls to the floor in a spiritual fit. Curiously, he is overtaken by the spirit right after his friend Elisha is. He has a series of dreamlike visions, seeing visions of hell and heaven, life and death, and seeing Gabriel standing over him. When he awakes, he says that he is saved and that he has accepted Jesus. Yet even as the group leaves the church, old sins are revisited as Florence threatens to tell Elizabeth of Gabriel's sordid past.
CATCH 22 - The horror begins with the attack on the undefended Italian mountain village, with the chapters involving despair (Doc Daneeka and the Chaplain), disappearance in combat (Orr and Clevinger), disappearance caused by the army (Dunbar) or death (Nately, McWatt, Kid Sampson, Dobbs, Chief White Halfoat and Hungry Joe) of most of Yossarian’s friends, culminating in the unspeakable horrors of Chapter 41, in particular the rape and murder of Michaela, who represents pure innocence.
HERZOG -Herzog's plan to murder Valentine goes awry when he sees Valentine giving Junie a bath and realizes that Junie is in no danger. The next day, after taking his daughter to the aquarium, Herzog is in a car accident, and his brother,Will, picks him up. Herzog heads back to Ludeyville, where his brother meets up with him again and tries to convince him to check himself into an institution. But Herzog, who had previously considered doing just that, is now coming to terms with his life. Ramona comes up to join him for a night - much to Will's surprise - and Herzog begins making plans to fix up the house, which, like his life, needs repair but is still structurally sound. Herzog closes by saying that he doesn't need to write any more letters. Through the flashbacks that litter the novel, other critical details of Herzog's life come to light, including Herzog's sexual molestation by a stranger on a street in Chicago.
THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD - After Starks passes away, Janie finds herself financially independent and beset with suitors, some of whom are men of some means or have prestigious occupations, but she falls in love with a drifter and gambler named Vergible Woods who goes by the name of Tea Cake, after he plays the harmonica for her. She sells the store and the two head to Jacksonville and get married, only to move to the Everglades region soon after for Tea Cake to find work planting and harvesting beans. While their relationship has its ups and downs, including mutual bouts of jealousy, Janie now has the marriage with love that she had wanted. The area is hit by the great Okeechobee Hurricane, and while Tea Cake and Janie survive it, Tea Cake is bitten by a rabid dog while saving Janie from drowning. He contracts the disease himself. He ultimately tries to shoot Janie with his pistol, but she shoots him with a rifle in self-defense. She is charged with murder.
THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK - The black notebook is for Anna's memories of her life in Central Africa, which inspired her own best-selling novel; the red one for her experiences with the British Communist Party; the yellow one for a fiction she writes that is based on the painful ending of her own love affair; and the blue one for recording her memories, dreams, and emotional life. The writer Anna Wulf, attempts to tie them all together in a fifth, gold-colored notebook, thus producing the story of a writer's life.
INFINITE JEST - The book's plot centers on a lost film cartridge, titled Infinite Jest by its creator James Incandenza, and referred to in the novel as "the Entertainment" or "the samizdat". The film is so "entertaining" to its unwitting viewers that they become lifeless, losing all interest in anything other than endless viewings of the film. In the novel's future world, North America is one unified state composed of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, known as the Organization of North American Nations (O.N.A.N.). Corporations purchase naming rights to each calendar year, eliminating traditional numerical designations; e.g., "The Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment", "The Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland". Much of what used to be the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada has become a massive hazardous waste dumping site known as "The Great Concavity" to the Americans and as "The Great Convexity" to Canadians.
SALVATION - During a church revival, a young Langston Hughes resists his family and his congregation's urgings that he "get on up there to the altar and get saved' but then gives in to their urgings and is 'saved', but then laments that he has entered into a lie by faking his moment of salvation to take the pressure off and save everybody trouble, while praying prayers that are never answered to a Jesus who never comes.
PORTNOY"S COMPLAINT - Structurally, Portnoy's Complaint is a continuous monologue as narrated by its eponymous speaker, Alexander Portnoy, to his psychoanalyst, Dr. Spielvogel. This narration weaves through time and describes scenes from each stage in Portnoy's life, with every recollection in some way touching upon Portnoy's central dilemma: his inability to enjoy the fruits of his sexual adventures even as his extreme libidinal urges force him to seek release in ever more creative (and, in his mind, degrading and shameful) acts of eroticism. Roth is not subtle about defining this as the main theme of his book. On the first page of the novel one finds this clinical definition of "Portnoy's Complaint", as if taken from a manual on sexual dysfunction: Portnoy's Complaint: A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature. Emblematic of the times during which it was published, the book's sexual frankness was both a product of and an inspiration for the sexual revolution and a huge departure from the stately, semi-Jamesian prose of Roth's earlier novels, and has often been likened to the stand-up performances of 1960s comedian Lenny Bruce.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE - "a clockwork orange—meaning that man has the appearance of an organism lovely with color and juice, but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil; or the almighty state." This title alludes to the protagonist's positively conditioned responses to feelings of evil which prevent the exercise of his free will, and is demonstated in the book when Alex responds to the playing of a symphony by the fictional composer Otto Skadelig next door to Alex's locked room that drives him to throw himself out of a window rather than continue to endure the sickness which the treatment induces in him upon hearing music.
MISS LONELY HEARTS - Miss Lonelyhearts is an unnamed male newspaper columnist writing an advice column which is viewed by the newspaper as a joke. As "Miss Lonelyhearts" reads letters from desperate New Yorkers, he feels terribly burdened and falls into a cycle of deep depression, accompanied by heavy drinking and occasional barfights. He also suffers from the pranks and cynical advice of his editor at the newspaper, named "Shrike", which is also a type of predatory bird. Miss Lonelyhearts tries several approaches as a way out of this depression (including religion, escaping to the countryside, and sex) but only ends up more confused, and has an affair with one of his readers but ends up striking her in an effort to fend off her advances. In the last scene, the woman's husband comes to kill the columnist, but he, in the grip of a kind of religious mania, fails to understand this. The man shoots Miss Lonelyhearts, and the two men roll down a flight of stairs together. It is implied, but not stated outright, that Miss Lonelyhearts is killed in this encounter.
THE SCARLET LETTER - Sin and knowledge are linked in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and sinners are forced to toil and to procreate—two “labors” that seem to define the human condition--for the sin of pursuit of knowledge. But sin also results in knowledge—specifically, in knowledge of what it means to be human. For Hester, the scarlet letter functions as “her passport into regions where other women dared not tread,” leading her to “speculate” about her society and herself more “boldly” than anyone else in New England. As for Dimmesdale, the “cheating minister” of his sin gives him “sympathies so intimate with the sinful brotherhood of mankind, so that his heart vibrate[s] in unison with theirs.” His eloquent and powerful sermons derive from this sense of empathy. The Puritan elders, on the other hand, insist on seeing earthly experience as merely an obstacle on the path to heaven. Thus, they view sin as a threat to the community that should be punished and suppressed. Their answer to Hester’s sin is to ostracize her. Hester and Dimmesdale contemplate their own sinfulness on a daily basis and try to reconcile it with their lived experiences. Yet, Puritan society is stagnant, while Hester and Dimmesdale’s experience shows that a state of sinfulness can lead to personal growth, sympathy, and understanding of others. Paradoxically, these qualities are shown to be incompatible with a state of purity
THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES - is a story about ambition, racism, class politics, and greed in 1980s New York City and centers on four main characters: bond trader Sherman McCoy, Jewish Assistant District Attorney Larry Kramer, British expatriate journalist Peter Fallow and black politician Rev. Bacon. The plot centers on Sherman McCoy, a young, married multi-millionaire, WASP, bond trader on Wall Street, whose extravagant partying lifestyle and wasteful spending habits--upper East Side apartment, Hamptons vacation home, "Master of The Universe" career on Wall Street is destroyed when he and his mistress, Maria Ruskin, accidentally enter the Bronx at night while they are driving to Manhattan from Kennedy Airport, and while fleeing from black would-be muggers strike young Henry Lamb, one of the miscreants, with the vehicle. Peter Fallow, a washed-up, drunken British journalist for the tabloid City Light, is given the opportunity of a lifetime when he is persuaded to write a series of articles about the case of a young black man who has been the victim of a hit and run by a white driver, but is skeptical as he suspects that he is being used by a local religious and political leader, Reverend Bacon, to improve his own political standing among New York's black community. Bacon uses the mother of the now comatose victim of the hit and run to benefit himself politically as a protector of the black community from the supposedly racist white establishment as well as financially through civil lawsuits against the hospital and McCoy. When McCoy is identified as the owner of the car from the hit and run attack, Fallow begins a biased series of articles that insinuate Sherman McCoy's guilt (a series for which he is ultimately awarded a Pulitzer Prize). McCoy becomes the most hated man in New York City and the focus of relentless attacks from leftist demonstrators. Abe Weiss, a self-absorbed Bronx District Attorney up for re-election, decides that McCoy must be convicted by any means necessary (including obtaining false testimony from Sherman's mistress) so that he can use the conviction of McCoy to sway the black residents of New York City to re-elect him. Assisting him in the process is Assistant District Attorney Larry Kramer who sees this as an opportunity to rise above his mundane personal and professional life as well as to impress his new love interest, Shelly Thomas, who was a juror at a previous trial. When Ruskin flees the country with another man in order to avoid having to admit to being the real driver, McCoy's private investigator discovers a recording of an incriminating conversation made by the landlord of Ruskin's apartment. McCoy uses the tape (which he claims to have recorded himself) to have the initial charges against him dropped. The main narrative of the novel ends with a near riot outside the courtroom in which McCoy loses his temper and almost knocks down several protesters. In a fictional New York Times article at the end of the book, we learn that Fallow has married the daughter of City Light owner Gerald Steiner, and Maria (the mistress) has escaped prosecution, while Sherman McCoy is penniless and estranged from his wife and daughter as he awaits trial for manslaughter. Bonfire was Tom Wolfe's first novel. His works before the novel were mostly non-fiction journalistic articles and books. His fiction and non-fiction styles have much in common; specifically a fascination with the seemingly fantastic stories and surprising details in American life. Wolfe did not intend his work to be a roman a clef; most characters in Bonfire are not fictionalized accounts of real-life figures, but are composites of many individuals and cultural observations. However, some characters were based on real people. Wolfe has acknowledged the character of Tommy Killian is based on New York lawyer Edward Hayes, to whom the book is dedicated. The character of Reverend Bacon is not indiscreetly based on the Reverend Al Sharpton. It has also been suggested that the character of Peter Fallow is based on British expatriate journalist Christopher Hitchens. However, Hitchens himself has disputed this, saying that a more likely candidate is the British art critic Anthony Haden-Guest. Additionally, it is likely that Gerald Steiner, the owner of the "City Light", is based on Australian media mogul, Rupert Murdoch. In 2007, on the book's 20th anniversary of publication, The New York Times published a retrospective on how the city had changed since Wolfe's novel.
THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE - The young soldier, Henry Fleming, survives a battle by running away and we are led through his emotional journey, as he tries to make sense of the reality of battle and his own role within it, often reaching rather self-serving and egocentric conclusions. He escapes into the forest and meets up with a group of injured men who asked where he is wounded and he is embarrassed that he does not have any wounds. He learns that his battalion has won and he returns to his battalion and is injured by another fleeing soldier who hits him on the head with the butt of his gun. The other soldiers think that he was harmed by a bullet grazing him in battle. Afterwards, he goes into battle for the third time the next morning. While looking for a stream to get water from, an officer talks casually about sacrificing Henry's regiment because they have a terrible reputation. Henry becomes one of the best fighters in his battalion as well as the flag bearer. By mastering his fear and eventually leading a charge, young Henry becomes a man.
THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY - Started as a comedy radio play on the BBC and expanded into a TV series, a series of novels, and a feature film, the story follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, the last human who hitched a ride off Earth moments before it was destroyed to make way for an interstellar bypass, and with his alien friend goes on a truly strange adventure as space hitchhikers.
DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP - This novel is notable for its portrayal of two well-meaning and devout French priests who encounter a well-entrenched Spanish-Mexican clergy they are sent to supplant when the United States acquired New Mexico and the Vatican, in turn, remapped its dioceses. Several of these entrenched priests are depicted in classic manner as examples of greed, avarice and gluttony, while others live simple, abstemious lives among the Indians. Cather portrays the Hopi and Navajo sympathetically, and her characters express the near futility of overlaying their religion on a millennia-old native culture. Cather's vivid landscape descriptions are also memorable. A scene where a priest and his Indian guide take cover in an ancient cave during a blizzard is especially memorable for its superb portrayal of the combined forces of nature and culture.
MARCH by Geraldine Brooks - As the North reels under a series of unexpected defeats during the dark first year of the war, one man leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. From Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has taken the character of the absent father, March, who has gone off to war, leaving his wife and daughters to make do in mean times, emerging as an idealistic chaplain in the little known backwaters of a war that will test his faith in himself and in the Union cause as he learns that his side, too, is capable of acts of barbarism and racism. As he recovers from a near mortal illness, he must reassemble his shattered mind and body and find a way to reconnect with a wife and daughters who have no idea of the ordeals he has been through. Spanning the vibrant intellectual world of Concord and the sensuous antebellum South, March adds adult resonance to Alcott's optimistic children's tale to portray the moral complexity of war, and a marriage tested by the demands of extreme idealism --- and by a dangerous and illicit attraction.
THE OPTIMIST"S DAUHTER - When Laurel Hand, a Mississippian living in Chicago, is summoned to a New Orleans hospital to join her father, a 71-year-old Judge who is about to undergo a critical eyes operation, she clashes with his new, and second, wife, Fay. Laurel is a withdrawn widow still mourning for a husband killed in World War II, and Fay is a childish vulgarian embarked on the one secure relationship of her life. The conflict between these middleaged women begins a war between worlds hopelessly at odds.
THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South. Although McCullers's oeuvre is often described as "Southern Gothic," she produced her famous works after leaving the South. Her eccentric characters suffer from loneliness that is interpreted with deep empathy."I first met Carson McCullers during the war when I was visiting Paulette Goddard and Burgess Meredith in upstate New York," said John Huston in An Open Book (1980). "Carson lived nearby, and one day when Buzz and I were out for a walk she hailed us from her doorway. She was then in her early twenties, and had already suffered the first of a series of strokes. I remember her as a fragile thing with great shining eyes, and a tremor in her hand as she placed it in mine. It wasn't palsy, rather a quiver of animal timidity. But there was nothing timid or frail about the manner in which Carson McCullers faced life. And as her afflictions multiplied, she only grew stronger." In a discussion with the Irish critic and writer Terence de Vere White she said: "Writing, for me, is a search for God."