Reviews by Michael Steen

Don Quixote

by Miguel de Cervantes

Get this book and read it. It's everything that everyone says--and more. There are not only the famous windmill and flock of sheep episodes, but there are many stories within stories. Everyone that Quixote and Sancho Panza meet has a story, and they're more than willing to tell it. And even as Cervantes "mocks" the fantastic tales of chivalry that have addled Don Quixote's mind, he nonetheless puts more than enough such tales in the mouths of the characters who tell their own histories.

It's funny and poignant. Best of all, it's episodic. So if you don't want to read the whole thing straight through, don't worry about it. Just get to a major division and stop. The rest of the novel depends only a little on what went on before.

Reviewed on 2009.04.06

Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences

by Mark Twain

Don't worry if you've never read J. Fenimore Cooper (you're lucky in that respect at least), because Twain's sendup of him is funny as heck without it. From the incredible slow motion toss of the tomahawk to the bizarre inability of a Cooper Indian to board a slow-moving river barge, every one of Twain's criticisms is spot-on and hysterically funny. This is one of my favorite short pieces of Twain's.

Reviewed on 2009.04.06

Paradise Lost

by John Milton

Mark Twain said that a classic is "a book that everyone wants to have read, but nobody wants to read." For no book, perhaps, is this more true than for "Paradise Lost." But those who recognize its greatness without reading it are missing out on one of the great literary experiences of a lifetime. The grandeur of the conception, the magnificence of the language, the depth of the philosophy/theology are just staggering.
Milton was imprisoned for a while by Charles II for being a supporter of Cromwell and the Puritans, and Milton's perception of his tyranny is apparent in such lines as "the mind is its own place and can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven" and "better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven."
It is apparent that, though God and Christ are supposed to be the heroes of the poem, Satan stands out as the most heroic and magnificently drawn character. Arrogant, proud, indomitable, he strides through Hell as its lord and owner--never for a second bending his will to God's greater strength.
Read this poem--even if it takes you a year. You won't be sorry.

Reviewed on 2009.03.07

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