Monday, June 20, 2011
Given the theme of European colonialism, the novel is broader than Apocalypse Now in the scope of its treatment. And because it focused more specifically on the inherent duality within each human soul, the novel is also more terrifying. Conrad is a master of prolonged tension and in the subtle treatment of difficult and controversial themes--including colonialism--and both the topic and the prose gradually work their way under the reader's skin until he's strung as tight as a bow. But there's never a release, at least not one that completely diffuses the tension, and the reader is left with a feeling of unsettling anxiety long after the work is read.
Truth be told, Heart of Darkness is one of those few works that keep us up at night, not simply because of the story or its basis in colonial reality, but because of its undeniable application to human existence. Does anyone share this reaction to the work? What other works, if any, keep you up at night?
Thursday, June 16, 2011
But I couldn't let Bloomsday pass without recycling TLM's reviews of Ulysses from late last year. There were two: one relating reflections at the halfway point and one presenting a final review. June 16, 1904, was the date that Joyce chose for Ulysses' protagonist, Leopold Bloom, to go rambling about Dublin and provide us with some of the most colorful scenes in all of English literature. It also happens to be the day that James Joyce had his first date with his eventual wife, Nora Barnacle. In any case, the date is celebrated worldwide (and particularly in Dublin) as Bloomsday in honor and recognition of Joyce's epic work and enduring genius.
So raise a pint to Ulysses, number seven on TLM's Top Eight Novels for Men, and to James Joyce, one of the most honored (and divisive) authors in literary history.