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American Psycho

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A tour de force in brutal language and imagery, "American Psycho" is breath-taking. The clinically detached narration of a murderer is hardly a new concept, but never has it been so brilliantly executed as in Ellis' novel. Horrifically funny and ironic from the amount of cream and lotion Pat applies to his face each morning to the raincoat he puts on to prevent his clothing from being stained by blood as he axe-murders one of his acquaintances.This is not an easy book to read, nor should it be; it is a blindingly strong statement about the American culture's insensitivity to suffering and the promoted worthlessness of human life. Most find it overly graphic and patently disturbing. This book chronicles a man who has everything, and has reached the point where his only pleasure stems from taking away what others have, even to the point where their lives become just another of those possessions. While many are quick to focus on the explicit gore in the novel-- which is only natural, considering the impression it leaves on the reader's mind-- this book has a great deal more to it. The social critique speaks for itself, but perhaps it takes a certain type of person to see the (jet) black comedy in plotting to kill a man for having an elegant business card.Bateman puts just as much energy into describing his lifestyle as he does to his murders; the insights he offers into this peculiarly American culture are fascinating. This is a gripping and disturbing book, even if it isn't for the squeamish.
Beloved

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Shocking, graphic, and hypnotically beautiful, "Beloved" draws you in and never releases you.
An American Life: The Autobiography

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A warm and appealing account of Ronald Reagan's life in his own words; it assumes a great deal of knowledge about the events that occurred during his presidency and while he was governor (something that might be difficult for those under the age of 21), and you can expect some of the self-promotion inherent in a politician. Despite that, however, the account gives great insight into the mind of the man who is perhaps one of the most posthumously worshipped/vilified leaders the US has ever had.The book is large but not in the least difficult to get through. It is very enlightening, both politically and personally, as Reagan details how he and Nancy met, what caused him to "convert" from the Democratic to the Republican Party, his childhood, his acting career, and his work against the Communists in Hollywood before and during his time as governor. I recommend it to anyone who doesn't howl with unchecked rage at the mention of Reagan's name.
The Bell Jar: A Novel

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It is perhaps ironic that a book so wholly rooted in a woman's emotions could provoke an intellectual rather than emotional response. Plath is bitter, catty, neurotic, prone to whining and suicide attempts without much incentive, and, on the whole, a beautiful and stirring protagonist in this silent autobiography. She describes in lucid prose her thought processes as she sank into a deep depression; she describes her pseudo-promiscuity (she "collects" men with interesting names) and her education (as a presumably brilliant student). This book, in its capacity as a novel, is recommended for younger readers; I appreciated it most in high school. This is perhaps because Plath lacks a compelling idiosyncracy of style that usually draws me to authors. She is polished and perfect in her prose-- it is the experiences she describes that hold the greater appeal. However, insofar as this book tells the story of Plath's own understanding of her depression, treatment, and family, it is an invaluable resource. If you like Plath for her poetry but don't think you need to understand anything about her life-- well, firstly, you are just wrong. Because she writes in the confessional style, her biographical information is critical to understanding and appreciating her poetry. And secondly, the latter notwithstanding, this book is a glimpse into the mind you so adore.This is not an uplifting tale, despite its seemingly promising ending. It is philosophical and contains some of the most concise and precise descriptions of depression and its symptoms in all of literature.
Gentle Rogue

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As something of a connoisseur of romance novels, I have read my share of simply bad books. I would not normally have expected one from Lindsey's heyday to arise in that category, but "Gentle Rogue" confounds all expectations and does just that. The book is well-written, the characters reasonably well-developed, and the plot no less plausible than is average; the reading does not drag too tediously, and there are numerous opportunities for really heart-wrenching romance; unfortunately, Lindsey fails to capitalize on any of these. The extreme popularity of this book bewilders me.Georgie, the heroine, is not generally unlikable. Her failure to realize that Captain Malory discerned her gender does nothing to recommend her intellect, and the way she childishly mimics Malory's habit of sarcasm, which "was not her forte," (among other things, e.g. a British accent, a manner of raising her eyebrow, and an entire style of humor) suggests childish infatuation. But for all that, her personality is not particularly offensive. Her naïve description of sexual arousal as a type of "nausea" is even endearing.This sentence summarizes my frustration with Georgie: "Her temper wanted to flare, but when James rested between her thighs, anger was the farthest thing from her mind." This sentiment is repeated with shocking frequency, no matter how he deliberately humiliates or hurts her. I understand the ease in rechanneling anger into lust, but Georgie's legitimate problems repeatedly disappear when James kisses her into submission. He refuses to let her see her own family and her response is to rage at her brothers for "kidnapping" her when they (very naturally) attempt to help her. He refuses to let her call herself his wife, and when she asks if that makes her his whore, he says yes. Her anger at this doesn't last more than a few sentences; instead she does an admirable job of proving him right. He, in effect, sexually manipulates her into being pliable and content, and… it works. With no apparent resentment or even realization on her part. Nothing explains her devotion to him, as he treats her like a valueless sex object for the duration of the novel. At some points it appears that she is near to calling him out on his blatant use and abuse of her, but nothing ever comes of it. Instead, she settles for the "tenderness" she senses when they make love, a cringingly classic female mistake. His final declaration of love is unconvincing, but she doesn't care—she begs to return to him even before it's issued—and she proceeds to gush that "he is her life" and further inflate his impossible ego. (This ego is, admittedly, nothing out of the ordinary; but the delight I take in these novels is that the female usually manages to take the hero down a peg. Georgie only lowers herself.)Making Georgie's ludicrous gullibility even more obvious is the comparison drawn to her brother-in-law and his wife. James mockingly refers to the way in which his brother's wife withheld sexual favors from him during a fight (occurring in a previous book), and can confidently assert that his own wife would never do such a thing. Tragically, he is right. Georgie's internal dialogues, depicted as between herself and "her conscience," are invariably lost by her conscience and won by some hedonistic part of herself with no practicality and less self-respect.In short, this book was difficult to finish; I had absolutely no desire for Georgie to have her foolishness unpunished, and I could not bear for James to have his misogyny and manipulativeness forever unchecked. If I were Georgie's brothers, I would have followed through on the threat to beat some sense into her. Perhaps she could have used it.
1984

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Orwell's futuristic novel is often referred to as frighteningly accurate in predicting the mindset of the latter half of the 20th century. That may be due to the universal themes he employs. This book is memorable and conceptually strong; it spawned the infamous term "Big Brother" and has perhaps one of the strongest last lines in all of literature, made all the more powerful by its brevity: "He loved Big Brother." For all the pathos that this statement implies, the work is often simplistic in language and trips over a sense of self-importance, much as do Orwell's other works. Hyper-aware of his own use of symbolism, the author attempts to add third and fourth and fifth dimensions to concepts that would have been pleased enough with their lot if they had rested at two. His characters are alarmingly less developed, testifying yet again to the all-consuming nature of his Ideas. It isn't necessarily a negative assessment to say that his thoughts are strong enough to do this, however. This is certainly a book everyone must read and determine the merit of for his or herself.
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