Dedicated to classics and hits.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Threepenny Novel (1934) by Bertolt Brecht

Book Review
Threepenny Novel (1934)
 by Bertolt Brecht

  Bertolt Brecht's canonical work is the Threepenny Opera, a musical that he co-wrote with Kurt Weill- most Americans know the Bobby Darin song, Mack the Knife- which originally appeared in the German language musical.  Threepenny Novel is most appropriately described as a sequel to Threepenny Opera, with the main characters appearing several years AFTER the events of Threepenny Opera.

  The low life criminals of Threepenny Opera have matured, in Threepenny Novel Jonathan Peachum, the beggar king owns a line of retail shops, as does Macheath (AKA Mack the Knife.)  Polly Peachum, winsome daughter of Jonathan Peachum, marries Macheath, a business competitor of her daughter, and all hell breaks lose in terms of plot.  Like many other novels of the 1930s, Brecht creates a portrait of "modern" capitalism which is simply crime by other means.  

 If you aren't clear on it going in, you will understand by the end that Brecht is no fan of consumer capitalism.  His critique is something like a literary equivalent of the writers of the Frankfurt school: that consumer capitalism is low.  Since the captains of industry in Threepenny Novel are literally the criminals of Threepenny Opera, Brecht does little to disguise his critique, and perhaps this explains the lack of interest from contemporary American readers.

Monday, February 23, 2015

At the Mountains of Madness (1936) by H.P. Lovecraft

Horror writer H.P. Lovecraft is best known for his "Cthulhu" mythos.  His novella At the Mountains of Madness essentially created the "ancient astronaut" genre of fantasy/crazy.

Book Review
At the Mountains of Madness (1936)
by H.P. Lovecraft

   H.P. Lovecraft is one of those authors where it's like, if you've never heard of the guy, you are probably better off, because the people who like H.P. Lovecraft are a bunch of creeps and weirdo's.  The Lovecraftian aesthetic of tentacles, aliens, mysticism and "Nameless horrors" continues to remain vibrant and has a real and vital influence on Hollywood sci fi and genre fiction.  Like many sci fi/fantasy titles on the 1001 Books list, Lovecraft is included for the strength of his vision, not as a master of the prose form.  

  As such, At the Mountains of Madness has both the good and bad of Lovecraft in its 100ish pages. Plot and character development are minimal, but his ability to integrate recent (as of the late 1920s) archeological discoveries and the breathtaking setting- Antarctica push this particular story out of the realm of normal sci fi fantasy and into something deeper. 

  Readers note- good luck finding a stand alone copy- look at his story collections, At the Mountains of Madness is typically included but not always. 

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