The Essential Paradise Lost is a book by John Carey that seeks to condense the legendary epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton into a length more accessible to modern-day audiences by cutting out and summarizing the less relevant passages of the poem in order to focus more on the characters and the central story. Along with this new condensing of the poem comes several analytical essays about the meaning and impact of the poem, all penned by John Carey. The Essential Paradise Lost is a valiant attempt at making Milton’s dense poem more accessible to the general public; however, it doesn’t quite succeed. (more…)
When Mars Attacked: Orson Welles, The War of the Worlds & the Radio Broadcast That Changed America Forever is a book written by David Accord that examines the making of, and the fallout from, Orson Welles’ legendary War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938. When Mars Attacked is a gripping account of the events that led to the broadcast of the adaptation. The first few chapters briefly outline the history of Orson Welles, how he became involved in radio, and the circumstances that led to the program having the kind of impact it ultimately had.
The first thing to note about this book is its writing style: it’s written in the same style as most fictional books are. By that, I mean, it reads like a novel, with details and nuances littered throughout, instead of a dry biographical work. Accord utilizes this technique with stunning skill. From page one, he makes you feel like you’re watching a movie based on his book. The way he can build up an entire world around a small scene, getting you to feel what the characters are feeling, is an accomplishment that any nonfiction writer should strive to achieve.
What can I say about 1984 that hasn’t already been said? Nothing much, really. It certainly deserves its status as a literary classic. It’s a bit slow, to begin with – the first part is really an exposition dump that’s designed to accomplish the majority of the world-building that occurs throughout the novel – but once it gets started, 1984 moves like an out-of-control freight train; it never stops moving forward.
Winston is an amazingly developed character. He starts off the book as somewhat of a hollow shell, allowing the audience to place themselves in his shoes. But as the novel goes on, he becomes more three dimensional as the audience learns more about him. By the end, we’re examining how we would react if put in the situations that Winston was put in.
As a book designed to make you think and evaluate the trajectory society is going, 1984 succeeds on all counts. And it’s an enjoyable read, too!
(4 out of 5 wands)