Friday, June 21, 2013

Keeping Up

If you stop by during the summer, leave a comment.

During the summer, this blog becomes mine.  I can write about whatever I want - and I may not update it.  You've been warned on both counts.

That said, I've been keeping up with my summer goals - one of which is reading.  I review every book I read, and post them to

Here's my latest.

The Scarlet LetterThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*Goodreads is weird... since I read this before, my status says: "Began June 13, 2013 - Finished January 1, 2004..."

I guess as soon as I write this review, I will no longer be credited with reading this book in 2004. I was there, though. It happened.*

Book club books are great. If you're not in a club, I suggest you join one - and not some online forum (although those can be good as well) but a real club - where you sit down face-to-face with people you love to disagree with (or be disagreeable with...)

We read The Scarlet Letter just after finishing Philip Roth's book: Sabbath's Theater. These two VERY different books have some very similar themes. In fact, I'd argue that the central message of both is the same thing:

(If you don't want the central message of either of these books, avert your eyes now. I'm serious, you may regret it if you keep reading. Just head down to the bottom and click "like" out of appreciation for this warning...)

The central message is this: We try to hide it, but we're all depraved beings.

In the Philip Roth book, Mickey Sabbath isn't just depraved - he's totally depraved. I don't mean that in any theological sense, it's just... that guy is bad news. But (I believe) the point Roth was making is that we're all that way. We have hidden desires that we don't act on. And while we're in no way envious of Mickey or what he becomes, we are a little jealous that he has the uhhh... ...guts... to live life on his terms - without remorse or guilt.

The Scarlet Letter is the exact opposite of that. Whereas Sabbath's Theater was a book of excess; a book of sexual deviancy - The Scarlet Letter is a Puritanical book. The most heinous act occurring before page one.

This isn't a spoiler, I'm only putting it in here because it's boring: (view spoiler)[Page one? PAGE ONE?!?! I ordered my book from an independent book store (as I always do for these books) I started reading it, and wasn't 2 pages in when I realized: I'm missing the first 50 or so pages. I had an edition that left out the introduction. Now, the introduction is fairly boring, but it has it's purposes - and a number of good quotes. Why would a book do that? (hide spoiler)]

Yet the theme is still the same: we are the townspeople. We're judging Hester, thankful we have someone to take the focus off the secrets in our own lives.

Obviously, both books were about much more than that. I'm sure you've already beat this horse to death in 9th or 10th grade English.

The Scarlet Letter's about coming clean. It's about the freedom in the truth, and facing adversity head-on. It's about the differences in gender-roles and punishments. It's about hypocrisy (most blatantly with the good Reverend, but also with the townspeople - from wearing the ornate clothes that Hester herself made to the dirty looks they gave.) (...I know, I know, back-to-back parenthetical asides... May I just add that the scarlet letter - the letter mind you, not the book - served as a nice advertisement for Hester's abilities...)

Reading it now, I also see why it's a staple of high school classrooms. It contains all kinds of literary devices: irony, metaphor, simile, symbolism, etc... I mean, Pearl? It's a challenging read, but not overly-so.

If you weren't forced into reading this during your teenage years, consider picking it up.

Or, if you were forced and didn't like it - consider giving it another shot. (Although, I'd skip the intro... apparently it's not worth it.)

View all my reviews

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