29 April 2010
1. Count Dracula (Bram Stoker's Dracula): *cue organ music* I have a certain standard when it comes to vampires: I like my vampires mean. None of this mamby pamby sparkly crap. I want an honest-to-goodness bloodsucking vampire who sports a shiny black cape and has no problem with sinking his fangs into helpless victims. The venerable villain Count Dracula meets all of my requirements and is the main reason I adore Bram Stoker's classic vampire novel, the aptly named Dracula. The Count also gets bonus points for the cool Romanian accent. (Please tell me I am not the only one who reads his lines with a Bela Lugosi voice.)
2. Iago (William Shakespeare's Othello): The Bard has given us many great bad guys, but Iago is, in my opinion, Shakespeare's best villain. True, he isn't one of those scary axe murderer type villains; Iago is actually much worse. Instead, he's an insidious, deceitful scoundrel who worms his way into friendship with Othello and wages a ruthless (but absolutely effective) war of mind games with the sole intent of bringing Othello down. Give me a choice between confronting a crazed ax murderer and an Iago, and I'll take the axe murderer. You may at least be able to outrun him. Good luck getting away from the seemingly charismatic and loyal Iago.*shudder* And, if Iago has no other redeeming personal qualities, he is at least good with hilarious Elizabethan insults and putdowns. :D
3. Mrs. Danvers (Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca): Who says maniacal rogue scientists have a monopoly on being evil? Creepy British housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, who is hellbent on tormenting the young second wife of her employer for having the audacity to replace her beloved mistress, is about as nightmarish of an opponent as you can get. The fact that Du Maurier keeps comparing her to a skeleton in a formal black dress doesn't help matters . . .
4. Bill Sikes (Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist): Fagin may be the main villain in Oliver Twist, but the unhinged Sikes makes Fagin look as docile as a tranquilized guinea pig. A burglar, thief, murderer, Sikes isn't literature's brainiest villain, but he is certainly one of the most remorseless vagabonds to appear in fiction. Whenever I read about Cockney crooks, Sikes always comes to my mind.
5. Heathcliff (Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights): Pop culture perceives Heathcliff as the brooding British heartthrob of Victorian literature. And, I must confess, I have always pitied Heathcilff, what with his troubled childhood and thwarted romance with Cathy. That being said, Heathcliff's personal sufferings do not in the least negate the malicious, sadistic revenge campaign he unleashes upon any and all who dare anger him. Heathcliff is a puzzling character with no rhyme or reason to much of his behavior, which is one reason he's so disturbing.
6. Vito Corleone (Mario Puzo's The Godfather): This is sort of a cheater's pick on my part. I like the film version of this story better than the book (The movie has my boy Brando!), but Vito is still one of my favorite bad guys. Vito Corleone is a loving father, husband, and friend. Vito is loyal, generous, and wise. Vito is also one of the most feared Mafiosi in New York. When he, ahem, makes you an offer you can't refuse, you better take it, if you get my drift. *wink wink*
7. Anton Chigurh (Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men): This is a pick where I adore the film version of the villain, but I also like the original literary portrayal, too. I am not really quite sure why I like Chigurh so much. He's a quirky, coldblooded hit man who is prone to philosophy. I think I like him so well, because he's so unusual...and has so many catchy lines. What's it to you, friendo? Whatever it is, it makes me forgive his questionable taste in hair styles.
8. Roger (William Golding's Lord of the Flies): Yes, Jack is the leading meanie in this classic tale of British school boys gone wild, but Roger is the major psycho. Roger is a creep not because he is the brains of the outfit, but because he enjoys whatever he's tasked with doing far more than is mentally healthy. If you don't believe me, check out the part where he starts rocking his classmates before Jack forms his tyrannical choir regime.
9. Nazguls (J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings): Sure, Sauron is the villain and the nazguls are the minions. But they're such cool minions! The scene where they enter the Shire hunting for Frodo always struck me as the scariest scene in the Rings trilogy. They get bonus points for the intimidating cloaked appearance. If I ever get minions, they are so wearing cloaks! ^^
10. Roger Chillingworth (Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter): You guys have probably noticed I prefer villains who aren't stereotypical and the more psychological ones. Chillingworth definitely falls in both categories. Puritan physician isn't the most insidious occupation that comes to mind when casting villains, but there is no doubt from the moment Chillingworth appears that he is a most dastardly fellow. If holding grudges were a team sport, Chillingworth would be my first round draft pick. If he doesn't have you cringing, especially in that creepy scene when he tells Hester he knows exactly where she's going and that it isn't happening, I am not sure who will.
Who are your favorites?
By the way, due to finals, I won't have a book review up next week, either. How do you guys feel about a list of my favorite hereos to balance this list out?
21 April 2010
My coworker Darcie recommended this delightful book--The Eyre Affair--to me; when I hinted at reviewing this book last week, Serena not only correctly guessed the title, she also recommended the book as well. When one reader with great taste in books suggests a book to me, I always get excited. When two readers with great taste in books suggest a book to me, I cannot resist. Thank you both so much! I loved this book and can't wait to read the rest of this series.
One reason I loved this book was the pithy British sense of humor that author Jasper Fforde brings. His witty style and outrageous plots remind me of some weird fusion of Terry Pratchett, Monty Python, and Lynne Truss. (It also reminds me of my beloved TV show Pushing Daisies. It has the same darkly funny mix of humor and escapist fantasy. Random Zella tangent: I will never, ever forgive ABC for cancelling Pushing Daisies. If ABC is reading this: I have not forgotten that retaliation riot I threatened. Consider yourself warned.) I am especially impressed with the skill that Fforde handles a plot that could very easily be dismissed as too silly. Instead, he crafts a gripping thriller and a sharply humorous alternative universe that is not so very different from our own, yet is worlds away, in a good way. The characters are likeable, quirky, and complex, especially Thursday, who is a truly wonderful heroine. She's neither a pathetic damsel in distress nor an over-the-top action heroine stereotype, both of which I despise in fiction. I also enjoyed the twisting plot that features elements of several genres. Sci fi, fantasy, mystery, alternative history, and humor fans will all find something to love here. Fforde puts clever twists on timeworn cliches from each genre, which helps add to the inventive tone.
However, the real draw will be for those who love classic literature. That's not really a prerequisite to reading and enjoying this book--it certainly stands alone--but this book will definitely be more appealing to those who have read and loved Jane Eyre and those who recognize all of the literary allusions that Fforde inserts within the text. (My favorite is Thursday's Uncle Mycroft. I named my laptop after Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's older brother, a couple of years ago. I had a moment of extreme nerdy happiness when I read Mycroft's name in this book..)
If you're looking for a light-hearted, clever, and highly original read, of either the spec fic or literary variety, try The Eyre Affair. Jasper Fforde is a talented writer with a highly original outlook on fiction. Beware, though: You may find yourself scrambling to find his other books, just like Darcie, Serena, and myself.
Next Week: Um, I have no idea. Maybe some Cormac McCarthy. Or a YA thriller set in World War II. Or Treasure Island. I have no earthly idea. Don't look at me! *hides in corner and cries*
14 April 2010
07 April 2010
I adore Kafka's work, especially his short stories, and this novella is one of my favorites. As a reader, his recurring theme of alienation has always struck a chord with me; as a writer, his superb craftsmanship has always been an inspiration to me. I also find his personal story one of literature's most quietly tragic (Poor lonely Franz...), but that's a story for another post. I love the way Kafka combines mundane reality with out-of-this world fantasy, which is certainly showcased in The Metamorphosis. One of the main reasons I love this story is that Kafka never explains why Gregor is turned into a bug. I think that would have ruined this story, because, really, the fact that he is a bug is one of the least of his problems, though it does complicate things. Kafka, instead, focuses his attention on the fall-out from Gregor's change, and the result is a tragic, absurd, disturbing allegory, though exactly what Kafka is allegorizing is fodder for endless debate.
Gregor is a somewhat pathetic character that I can't help pitying, but his dysfunctional family and their reactions to his state are also key components of this story--ones that are both amusing and heartbreaking. Their vain attempts to cope with Gregor's transformation forms a vital crux of this novel, particularly the ever-present alienation theme. The tragicomic interactions between Gregor and his relatives, and the world around him in general, are the highlight of this story, precisely because they ring true. I also love the surreal atmosphere that Kafka creates with his droll, meticulous style. This novella amuses me, saddens me, and creeps me out all at once. I never can read it without getting that creepy-crawly feeling I get when a bug crawls on me. (I have to read this several times this week for lit. to prepare for quizzes. This is making my homework sessions memorable...)
Though I love this story, I will admit: It's weird. It may be a bit too weird for everyone's personal taste. (I once read a comment on Sparklife that said certain things just should not be thought up. And Kafka's The Metamorphosis was one of them.) I disagree with the aforementioned sentiment--obviously. I love the originality of Kafka and think the uniqueness of his work is the point. But I can't deny that his work, and this story in particular, won't freak you out.
I highly recommend Kafka's The Metamorphosis, if only because the premise is so innovative and the execution of it is so masterful. Kafka is one of the premier voices in modernist literature...and for good reason. If you've never read Kafka before, this thirty page novella is the perfect introduction.
Next Week: Not sure. My schedule is going to get crazy. Maybe a review. Maybe a list. We'll see. If it is a list, it will probably be a list of the books I'd want with me if I were shipwrecked.
However, as busy as I will be, you can catch up with me at my second blog: Grammatically Motivated. I have been meaning to start a second blog, to post non-book related articles, but haven't had time. My faulty logic is that now that I am going to have limited time, it may be easier to write articles that don't require me to read ahead of time. Tis the theory, anyway...
Also, I am thinking about ending "The Unblogged Chronicles". I have been disappointed with this series. I think they're too long without being in-depth enough and lack a unifying theme. Therefore, I am considering halting that series. Any thoughts? Want me to kill the "Chronicles" or do you request mercy?
Don't forget: I can pester you on Twitter now. :D