Book Club: Hamlet.

I’m renaming my book reviews to Johnson’s book club. That way I don’t have to clarify that I’m not really reviewing these books. I’m enjoying them, and talking about what I like about them.

That being said, let’s dive into it.

I enjoyed this book. I’m hopelessly lost when it comes to reading books in ye-old-English, but the parts that I understood more or less I really enjoyed.

It fascinates me how much of our modern language and even phrases come from Shakespeare. My favorites being, “To be or not to be” and “Get thee to a Nunnery!” I mean, I haven’t heard “Get thee to a Nunnery!” that much before, but I can guarantee that it’s going to be a thing from now on with me.

Shakespeare has a way of writing characters that really makes you feel connected with them. They are intense, emotional, and they say exactly what is on their mind. Some of the characters are more one dimensional than others, like Ophelia compared to Hamlet, but you can still see where the smaller characters are coming from, and relate with them.

Hamlet himself is obviously the most interesting and standout character. He’s got problems. His mom’s a hoe, his dad is dead, his uncle murdered his dad, you know stuff like that. Hamlet is the prince of Denmark though, so you know what they’d say in the middle-ages:

“MO PROVIDENCES MO PROBLEMS”

Shakespeare is the master at crafting characters that you want to listen to. You want to hear their opinions and feel their intensity. They each come from a different place emotionally, yet you still want to hear each and every one of them when they get up for their turn to speak.

Hamlet is meant to be performed. While I was reading it I imagined every character standing in the spotlight and speaking their lines. It really made me desire to go and see more plays. It’s a method of entertainment and expression that I hope never dies, because while it is similar to books, or television, or movies, or whatever, it’s really in a league of it’s own.

It’s a special art, I hope it is always with us, just like Shakespeare.

Book Review: The Magician’s Nephew.

Throughout my childhood if anyone asked me what my favorite book was I would always go straight to C.S. Lewis’ classic book about two children hopping between worlds. I had only read it once, and that was very early in my reading years. So obviously the book has some sentimental value to me. I had feared that re-reading this book was going to somehow tarnish the wonderful memory I had of this amazing adventure I went on as a child. 

That didn’t happen. What did happen was I got to relive a special time in my life. I rediscovered Narnia, I flew with a Pegasus, I watched as the great lion Aslan created a world with a song. I watched these two kids hop between worlds on an incredible adventure, which ends in a surprisingly grounded and emotional way. 

As an adult who loves to read, at times I felt as if there should be more. There should have been more detail, there should have been more history, “oh the kids end up in Narnia at the perfect moment where some lion is creating it with a song? Well that’s convenient.” you know, the more cynical side of me appeared at times. Though now looking back, I can’t help but reprimand myself and be truly inspired by the simplicity of this masterful and well thought out book. 

If you’re a writer or a creator of any kind you should be inspired by the people who created simple things that are beautiful. That’s exactly what the magician’s nephew is. It’s a simple children’s book that is absolutely beautiful.

Be inspired by this book to do something simple, and do it well. The idea behind this book is this: “what if there was magic that took you to a different dimension?” It’s essentially the same as the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, right? C.S Lewis takes two characters and throws them in this portal to a different world. He doesn’t flash a bunch of details about how it works, he says it’s “magic”. He doesn’t take you to a wild assortment of worlds; he takes you to two. One that introduces the villain, and one that introduces Narnia. 

The end result of this adventure is that the protagonist gets to save his mother, but this takes a backseat to the setting. It’s not the goal of the story, but it’s a consequence of the hero doing the right thing, which I thought was neat. C.S. Lewis does an amazing job at throwing you into an adventure with no goal besides discovery. The end goal is revealed as the world is fleshed out. There’s no “Frodo taking the ring and setting off on an adventure” moment. You’re thrust into a weird situation and you follow the main characters as it unfolds. It’s brilliantly simple. 

Complex narratives with winding plots and intricate stories are great, but the truly great stories take a simple premise and make it impossible to put down.

C.S. Lewis knew how to do that.

Photo by Julia Joppien on Unsplash

*BOOK REVIEW* MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS.

SHOUT OUT TO MY FREAKY FRIDAY LOVECRAFT FANS OUT THERE. I just love that scene where Lindsey Lohan grows a bunch of squid arms and her and her mean girl squid squad eradicate the human race.

At The Mountains of Madness is a book by famous cosmic horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. It’s a book about a group of scientists who discover an unknown and alien world in the unexplored dark regions of the Antarctic.

This book was my first taste of this strange world that Lovecraft invented.

I quite enjoyed it.

I had a conversation recently with a friend on what the actual point of reading is. I told him that in my opinion, books are a way of learning and experiencing ideas and worlds that you wouldn’t have thought of yourself.

Not only is it a powerful tool to expand your mind, you can also experience vast and incredible universes similar or completely different from our own. This escapism is a window into the world and ideas that the author has created.

I would recommend escaping to the interesting and curious world Lovecraft has created. Here’s a few reasons why:

World building and atmosphere.

Let’s talk about ATMOSPHERE. It’s inescapable, curious, and fear filled. This book sucks you into a visceral and imaginitive world. The author does a great job of taking something plainly from our world and blending it realistically with the weird and alien.

The characters are a tool for you to view this strange world, the author doesn’t dwell on developing them or giving them much personality. That isn’t their purpose. Their purpose is to explore this finely crafted world and to show you what they find.

This writing style is called Antiquarianism. Yep, it’s a thing, I looked it up. It means that the characters or writer is more concerned about the imperical evidence rather than feelings or character development. This writing style works incredibly well for cosmic horror, because it allows us to gain a ton of information about this fictional world. The characters are not wheezing and fear stricken sheep, they’re scientists or reporters on a mission to discover. They put themselves in danger regardless of fear so they can learn about an ancient, alien, and hostile environment.

(By the way, this book is about aliens. Aliens with adorable little squid arms. Squishy, murdery, intelligent little aliens. Cosmic aliens. . . There’s also a big-ol’ Penguin or two.)

This book shows a brief moment in time in a fleshed out and ambitious fictional world. You travel through a dead city in the Antarctic, and learn about an ancient and supreme civilization. The book may be scary at points, but that’s not the point. The “idea” is the fear of the unknown. The insatiable lust for knowledge that pushes humanity into danger. The fear of things that are bigger than yourself. The book becomes tense and thrilling because Lovecraft is a great world-builder.

At The Mountains of Madness is an experience. It’s a pretty slow paced book that focuses on the details. While the details make it a bit dryer, it also steeps it in a heavy and realistic atmosphere that really makes the reader feel like the unexplainable and unrealistic events that are happening in the book could have happened.

Solid recommend. Love squid people? Love intelligent plants that come to life and eat all your dogs? This book might be for you.

You’ll also learn a ton about mural decorating and alien archetecture.

I’m gonna start a Cthulu Pinterest soon.

“Here’s how to make a hand-made squid bracelet”

“Here’s how to paint a mathematically perfect mural about the downfall of the elder ones”

Oh God I’ve become one of those weird Lovecraft people that makes strange references that nobody else understands.

And I’ve only read one book. Oh dear.

Staples.

*Book Update* The lead character’s name will be Dale. That is all.

Today’s been good. I’ve started a new book, I’ve gone to church, I made some chicken. Staples of a good day: books, church, chicken. Though, I’m starting to suspect I cooked the chicken improperly because my stomach is aching. I also fell asleep in church. . .

The book is great though!

Certain things you do in life might be staples for you. You might eat ice cream every Friday in celebration for the weekend. Maybe you have a show that you like to watch on Thursdays. Maybe on Tuesday’s you take psychedelics and dance in the moonlight. . .

Just don’t catch a cold.

Routine is great for finding your staples in life. My friends and I like to play games on Sunday night. We sit in circles, roll dice, talk, you know, game stuff. That’s a staple I enjoy. I also enjoy actual staples. They’re useful.

Wait am I talking about staples or rituals? Or both? I think game night is a ritual, and chicken is a staple. I’ve figured it out people. I’m also leaving all the above in for reference. So now we can all know the difference between staples and rituals. We’re all learning. Together.

Let’s talk about staples

I’m going to give you some staples for a good life. We’re back to lists ladies and gentlemen. It’s gonna be a fun one.

 

     1. Books.

Did you think I was finished talking about books? No. Because when all the other staples fail you, when your chicken is bad and your ice cream is melted, books will still be there for you.

I seriously cannot stress enough how important reading is. Reading makes you smarter. It lets you look at worlds unknown and learn things that you might not have ever learned before. It’s like magic. You read some words on paper in a pattern that someone else made up, and you learn things about people and about yourself. It’s just magic.

I especially think it’s good to read fiction. Non-fiction is good too; all those self help books and history books and autobiographies and such and such and such. . . Fiction, though, that’s where the world of reading really opens up. Fiction allows you to temporarily experience someone else’s life. It broadens your perspective on life.

Books are like friends. The more time you spend together, the more you become like them. If you read smart books, you become smarter. It’s just like that.

Plus, if you read dumb books you’ll still be smarter than the person who doesn’t read at all.

So that’s something.

Second staple: You think I’m going to say chicken, and I would say chicken. Chicken is great.

The last chicken I ate made me feel bad. I’m done with chicken. I’m going straight beef from now on. I don’t care how bad for me it is. Never again will I eat chicken. I know it’s my fault for either not cooking it properly or by not checking the date to see if it was expired, but it’s not my fault. It’s the chickens fault.

     

     2. Coffee

That’s right. Coffee can’t poison you. Nobody’s ever said to themselves, “I think i had some bad coffee today. It’s making me sick”. Nope. Coffee will never let you down that easy. It always gives you that little boost you need, and if you didn’t get it on the first cup you can easily have another! And another after that!

Creativity runs on coffee. In my mind, people who don’t drink caffeine and have normally functioning brains are amazing to me. Their either demi-gods or superhumans. I just know I’m not one of them.

Thus, coffee is a staple. It’s a wonderful addiction and I think everyone should be part of it, and enjoy it.

Most coffee drinkers have that opinion. I think we’re almost cult-like, actually.

The Cult of Coffee.

Good lists come in threes so here is the final staple for a good life.

     

     3. Music.

If coffee is my lifeblood, music is my heart. It pumps inspiration to my brain every day. There’s nothing like a good song to lift me up, and nothing like a sad song when I want to feel just the right kind of sad.

I’ll listen to anything, and I hope you do too. Music is like books in a way. They both make you think, and they both inspire you in different ways.

Sure, maybe you only listen to the same two bands from the nineties. You like what you like, and nothing can change that. I mean, that’s cool. You’re a different person after all.

I’ll think you’re a robot, though.

 

And you probably like Ska, too.
You monster.

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BOOK REVIEW. THE PRINCESS BRIDE.

Here I am again, I read another book. This is my second time reading The Princess Bride. Revisiting a good book is like reminiscing with an old friend. You go over experiences you loved, and you learn new things.

 

The Princess Bride

S. Morgenstern’s

Classic Tale of True Love

and High Adventure.

This is a book that wants to be read. Right there in the title: True Love and High Adventure. What’s better than that?

And it delivers.

From swashbuckling sword-fights to daring escapes, from life to almost-death, from the zoo of death to the Princes castle, this book has heart and style in the way that not many books have.

It’s hilarious and heartwarming. A tale of true love in it’s purest form, told by a man who still want’s to believe that true love exists in his world.

While True Love may be the focus of this story, it’s not the theme. The theme of Princess Bride is pain. Specifically, life is pain.

That doesn’t sound like a heart warming or uplifting subject, it’s not, but in the pen of William Goldman the harshness of this theme is told with a smiling face and laughing lips. He tells the truth, too. Life is pain. In life, we all have to endure pain along with the joy and happiness. Pain is huge part of life. Without it, we wouldn’t really be alive.

This fact is exemplified in the fantastic characters in this story. Inigo, who commits his life to revenge after the pain of losing his father. Fezzik, who while strong and undefeatable, deals with the pain of not really getting to think for himself. Buttercup, the most beautiful girl in the world, who has the pain of having her only true love torn from her again and again.

Then there’s Westley. Westley almost seems as if he’s immune to the pain of the heart. He has endless hope and truly believes that love conquers all. He then experiences the worst pain of all.

This book may sound like a bit of a downer. It’s not. It shows how through pain, we all become better. And striving to conquer pain, we reach higher and better things. Like love.

This book shows that even though life is pain; it’s worth living.

This book is a blast to read. It will constantly have you laughing, and maybe even bring a tear to your eye.

I highly recommend it.

If you’re looking for a fantasy novel that breaks the fourth wall a lot and has you laughing the whole way through. Look no further. If you have a couple days and want to go HAM on a book. Go buy this right now.

10/10.

Would read a third time.

Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash

BOOK REVIEW. BROTHERS KARAMAZOV.

BOOK *CLAP* REVIEW *CLAP*

I’m not a critic. I’m especially not a literary critic. Those fools spend so much time tearing apart literature in order to get to deeper (and certainly more contrived) meanings. I’m going to tell you what I thought about a book. At face value. From a regular Joe. I mean Johnson. A Johnson who’s a regular Joe.

It took me well over a year to finish this book. I’ll credit that to being busy, poor time management, and having a girlfriend. And let’s be honest, if you want to relax and read a book, Dostoyevsky’s books aren’t exactly gripping in the same way that modern books are.

This is a book about characters. A clash of ideals; where every one of them has their world view challenged, and all of their lives are shaken to the very core.

Shockingly, this is a slow moving book with lots of characters involved in a very intense story. All of it revolves around the three sons, Alyosha, Ivan, and Dimitry. All of the characters have a different way of dealing with their father, and adjusting to life without him. Alyosha is a devout priest whose faith gets challenged. Ivan is the atheist who loses all sense of meaning and hope in the world. And Dimitry, at the center of it all, gets framed for his father’s murder.

That’s it. That’s basically the entire book. The way that it twists and turns, and slowly worms it’s way through the story is amazing. Every action of every character means something, and the consequences for their words and actions are often surprising.

While the content of the book is heavy and complicated, you never feel like you are in the dark about what’s going on, because the plot itself is very simple: The Father is dead. Someone killed him. It was probably Dimitry.

While the premise is simple, the characters are complicated. Dostoevsky has a special ability of being able write complex and emotional characters that just seem so real. Alyosha is so committed to the church, and has such a vast love for God, but at the same time he has inner demons and doubts that he is constantly dealing with. He calls this turmoil his inner “Karamazov” that seeks to turn him like his father. Then, on top of all this his faith becomes challenged by an external event.. He isn’t perfect, and his faith has  to go through a crucible of doubt.

The same can be said for Ivan: Who is so tormented by his choices that he becomes physically ill. He believes that since God does not exist,  everything is permitted, so it blurs the lines of morality. This belief becomes challenged, and we don’t know whether he keeps this belief, or it grows into something better. I hope that he changed his ways.

What I loved so much about this book is all throughout it, it taught me about humanity, and about myself. It is a story that looks at the soul of a man, and asks questions that we will often ask ourselves in our own lives. The characters are constantly second guessing their own actions, and hoping that they are making the right choice.

In your life, your beliefs will constantly be challenged. This story is a great example of why that’s a good thing. Alyosha’s faith was challenged, and in the end he became wiser and stronger in his faith. It grew him as a person and pushed him forward in life. When Ivan’s belief was challenged, it showed him where he was wrong. When Dimitry was thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit, he became better through the trial of belief. Because even though he did not physically kill his father, he was shown how he was partly responsible.

This book is like looking into the soul of humanity. It shows you what drives us, and how ideas or beliefs alter our entire lives for better or for worse. If you read this book I hope it makes you just as introspective as the characters in it.

It’s an opportunity to strengthen your beliefs

Read this book. It’s good.

Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash