Welcome to my worlds!

I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Classics update

I mentioned in a previous post that I was devoting this year to reading classics I've somehow skipped over in my literary education. I started with Pride and Predjudice, The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moraeu, and Tarzan of the Apes.

The most recent books I've read are The Jungle, Wuthering Heights, and Frankenstein.

Frankenstein was the most tedious to the projects. The only interesting part of the book is the monster waxing poetic from time to time. To much of the plot relies on Victor just being a dolt.

Wuthering Heights was also something of a slog, but it did contain sufficient levels of emotional drama to keep me going. Heathcliff is a pretty interesting character, and the scenery described in the book is a character itself.

The Jungle was the best of the three, and also the worst. The first half of the book was amazing. But, after a while, the deck feels stacked. The characters experience so many tragedies that they stopped being real people to me and just started being object lessons, puppets being manipulated to make the authors larger argument. It was very similar to Atlas Shrugged in that aspect. The last few chapters fo the novel are just dreadful. Does anyone actually read all the socialist lectures at the end? My eyes just glazed over. The protagonist, Jurgis, just absolutely disappears as a distinct character. He's just a cog in the machinery of socialism. Of course, in the early parts of the book, he was just a cog in the machinery of capitalism, but at least in those chapters he had dreams and ambitions of his own. At the end, he's just a brainwashed, broken, and ghostly as Winston at the end of 1984. The book makes a convincing case that unrestrained capitalism is a cruel system for the poor, but it unintentially makes the case that socialism strips men of their identities and individuality. It's a pity; it really was the most readable and interesting of the books I've read this year, if only I'd stopped midway through the book.

Coming soon: Dracula and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. After that, I'm contemplating something really big, like War and Peace. But, I don't know if I want to devote myself to one big book, or choose a couple of small ones. We'll see what mood in in come April.


Unknown said...

I avoided the classics during school to as great a degree as possible. I got an 'A' in avoidance. I tried the classics project a time or two since and failed. I got through "To Kill a Mockingbird," but wasn't greatly impressed, too much hype maybe. I not only read "Tarzan of the Apes," but several other volumes in the series. Again not great, but I loved Tarzan movies and TV shows as a kid. Not much similarity there. Anyway, just wanted to say congradulation on your efforts. You're doing much better than I did. Stay Stone Green

James Maxey said...

I've never read "To Kill a Mockingbird." Will probably get to it in the second half of the year. For now, I'm mostly reading stuff at least a century old.

Curiously, my decision to dedicate the year to classics started as more to do with improving my body than my mind. I'm trying to walk at least 10 miles a week, and have done 20 miles on some weeks, so I've been downloading audio books to listen to when I walk. I discovered a site called Librivox that had hundreds of public domain novels available as free audio books. I download the free ebooks to my kindle, then switch back and forth between reading at bedtime and listening while I walk. I actually look forward to walks that last two hours because I know I can listen to a big chunk of my latest book. I'm going to listen myself thin!

What does "Say Stone Green" mean?

Unknown said...

Listening to audio books while walking...awesome...damn, I might have to start walking now. I recommend reading Mockingbird. It earned the right to be called a classic. I was expecting the great insight on southern culture I'd always heard about. Of course I was disappointed. I was born in Charlotte and have lived here for sixty years.
"Stone Green" is the philosophy on which my blog "Stone Green Writer" is based. "Dedication must be a stone; solid, permanent, and immutable. Talent must be green; alive, growing, and active. To be a novelist I must be a Stone Green Writer." Not published yet, but staying Stone Green.

Mr. Cavin said...

Well, I loved To Kill a Mockingbird to a huge degree. But then again, I'd say the same about Wuthering Heights, so your mileage may vary. I like Frankenstein too, but agree that it's a slog. I'm trying to decide what my big project is going to be once I finally finish all this Dumas (which I'm reading intermittently so it'll last). I've considered War and Peace, too. Or Proust.

Robert Paul, the Harper Lee book is kind of like a young adult novel, like Tom Sawyer, right?; so I can see why after decades of build-up it might feel somewhat shallow. If you haven't read Carson McCullers I recommend it. That'd be the meatier, Huck Finnier, southern insightier stuff. But then again, I've only been a southerner for forty years, so I might be an easier sell.

James Maxey said...

Cavin, if you don't mind me asking, what was it about Wuthering Heights that made you love it? The book has obviously endured and plenty of other people love it as well. So, I'm always left wondering what it is I'm missing when I have such a flat reaction to things that other people consider classics. I'm not asking in any kind of challenging sense; I'm genuinely looking for insight into what makes the book work for so many people.