Saturday, August 27, 2016

Three Ancient Chinese Drinking Songs- Li Bo

Li Bo (also known as Li Po and Li Bai) was a classical Chinese poet during the Tang Dynasty also known as the “Golden Age of China”. He never attempted to take the civil service examination, which was the primary but not sole venue for advancement for the middle class in imperial China. Thanks to his connection with an influential Daoist at court, Li Bo gained a post at the eminent Hanlin Academy, an institution founded by Emperor Xuanzong to support alternative academics and literary gifts. But Li Bo’s drinking habits and caustic personality caused him to be dismissed after two years. During the An Lushan Rebellion he joined the cause of a prince who attempted to establish an independent regime in southeast China, and after the rebellion was suppressed he was arrested for treason. Sentenced to exile, he was pardoned before he reached his remote destination. He died a few years later.
There are many legends about Li Bo’s life, aided by the blasé stances of his poetry. According to one legend, he drowned while drunkenly trying to embrace the moon’s reflection on the water. For someone who claimed in his poetry to converse and drink with the moon such an end is a very poetic story, if completely ridiculous. Most likely his death was caused by a degeneration of his body due to massive alcohol consumption and his known use of Daoist longevity elixirs, which often contained mercury, very probably had more to do with it.
The poems were models for celebrating the camaraderie of companionship and the joys of drinking wine. Author John C. H. Wu observed that, "while some may have drunk more wine than Li, no-one has written more poems about wine." Classical Chinese poets were often associated with drinking wine and Li Bai was part of the group of Chinese scholars in Chang'an his fellow poet Du Fu called the Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup.
Presented below are three of my favorite of his poems about drink. As they were originally written in was is called Middle Chinese and I’m afraid might lose some of its beauty in the translation. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.
Drinking Alone with the Moon
A pot of wine among the flowers.
I drink alone, no friend with me.
I raise my cup to invite the moon.
He and my shadow and I make three.
The moon does not know how to drink;
My shadow mimes my capering;
But I’ll make merry with them both—
And soon enough it will be Spring. 
I sing—the moon moves to and fro.
I dance—my shadow leaps and sways.
Still sober, we exchange our joys.
Drunk—and we’ll go our separate ways. 
Let’s pledge—beyond human ties—to be friends,
And meet where the Silver River ends.
 
Waking From Drunkenness on a Spring Day
Life in the world is but a big dream;
I will not spoil it by any labor or care.
So saying, I was drunk all the day,
lying helpless at the porch in front of my door.

When I awoke, I blinked at the garden-lawn;
a lonely bird was singing amid the flowers.
I asked myself, had the day been wet or fine?
The Spring wind was telling the mango-bird.

Moved by its song I soon began to sigh,
and, as wine was there, I filled my own cup.
Wildly singing I waited for the moon to rise;
when my song was over, all my senses had gone.
 
Bring in the Wine
Look there!
The waters of the Yellow River,
coming down from Heaven,
rush in their flow to the sea,
never turn back again
Look there!
Bright in the mirrors of mighty halls
a grieving for white hair,
this morning blue-black strands of silk,
 now turned to snow with evening.
For satisfaction in this life
taste pleasure to the limit,
And never let a goblet of gold
face the bright moon empty.
15Heaven bred in me talents,
and they must be put to use.
I toss away a thousand in gold,
it comes right back to me.
So boil a sheep,
  butcher an ox,
make merry for a while,
And when you sit yourself to drink, always
down three hundred cups.
Hey, Master Cen,
  Ho, Danqiu,
Bring in the wine!
Keep the cups coming!
And I, I’ll sing you a song,
You bend me your ears and listen—
30The bells and the drums, the tastiest morsels,
it’s not these that I love—
All I want is to stay dead drunk
and never sober up.
The sages and worthies of ancient days
  now lie silent forever,
And only the greatest drinkers
have a fame that lingers on!
Once long ago
the prince of Chen
  held a party at Pingle Lodge.
A gallon of wine cost ten thousand cash,
all the joy and laughter they pleased.
So you, my host,
How can you tell me you’re short on cash?
Go right out!
Buy us some wine!
And I’ll do the pouring for you!
Then take my dappled horse,
Take my furs worth a fortune,
50Just call the boy to get them,
and trade them for lovely wine,
And here together we’ll melt the sorrows
of all eternity!
 
 
 
 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Marat/Sade: A Play About a Play About the Marquis de Sade


            The full title of this truly unique film is The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. For obvious reasons it tends to be shortened to Marat/Sade. This play is without a doubt one of the finest commentary on revolutionary politics and man’s inability to resolve the critical issues of our existence. It fully captures the unending struggle between the politics necessary to obtain freedom versus that which enslaves, and demonstrates how one could easily become the other.
Set in the historical Charenton Asylum, Marat/Sade is almost entirely a "play within a play". The main story takes place 15 years after the French Revolution, when de Sade was indeed committed to the insane asylum. It depicts the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat by Charlotte Corday.  The actors of the play within the play are all meant to be inmates of the asylum, with various nuns and guards around who occasionally step in to maintain order when the action gets out of hand. It is directed by de Sade himself, who take parts in it- offering up his philosophies and debating with Marat on the merits of his claims (or lack thereof) and revolution in general. It is overseen by the bourgeoisie director Abbé de Coulmier who occasionally steps in to object to some of the material presented in the play.

This is all based on actual events (though the substance of the play was entirely created by the author Peter Weiss. De Sade did perform plays with the inmates at the asylum at Charenton (now called Esquirol Hospital), encouraged by Coulmier- who viewed it as a form of therapy. Coulmier incidentally was widely praised for his new revolutionary ideas of asylum reform, as opposed to the old ways of just locking them up.
The Death of Marat (1793)
Jean-Paul Marat was one of the most radical voices of the French Revolution. His first political work, Chains of Slavery: A work in which the clandestine and villainous attempts of Princes to ruin Liberty are pointed out, and the dreadful scenes of Despotism disclosed was hailed and hated throughout France, depending on your social status. His other works contained many radical ideas, including the argument that society should provide basic needs such as food and shelter if it expected all its citizens to follow its laws, that the king was no more than the "first magistrate" of his people, that there should be a common death penalty regardless of class, and that each town should have a dedicated "avocat des pauvres" and set up independent criminal tribunals with twelve-man juries to ensure a fair trial.
During the revolution he started a newspaper championing it, after he continued attacking (and promoting violence against) those he considered too moderate or those he deemed counter-revolutionaries. Advising, "five or six hundred heads cut off would have assured your repose, freedom and happiness." During the turmoil that occurred after the execution of Louis XVI, Marat was arrested, acquitted, arrested again, acquitted again and the political landscape shifted from one dictator to the next. His life was eventually cut short by Charlotte Corday, who gained admittance to his home under false pretenses of having information on his political enemies. He stabbed him to death in his bath, where he spent much time due to a skin disease.
Donatien Alphonse François, the Marquis de Sade- from whose name the word sadism is coined- was a proponent of extreme freedom, unrestrained by morality, religion, or law. He was one of the seven prisoners freed when the Bastille was sacked by the crowd and numbered among the few aristocrats to survive the French Revolution. During his imprisonment in the jail he had been working on his magnum opus The 120 Days of Sodom (which was made into the film Salo). To his despair, he believed that the manuscript was lost during his transfer, but he continued to write. Indeed for a time he even thrived, acting as a judge, part of a hospital reform committee, and was elected to the National Convention as a member of the far left.
His works were, and still are, provocative to say the least. He often dealt in terms of sex, rape, and the abuse of power by the wealthy elite class. These were applauded by the founders of the revolution, then condemned by those same men after they took power, realizing that the vilification of the powerful now applied to them. He eventually was committed to Charlenton by Napoleon after the printing of Justine and Julliet- which were published anonymously. He stayed there until his death, apparently having an affair with the 14 year old daughter of an employee. After death his skull was removed from his grave for a phrenological examination. The bumps on his head showed nothing of interest.
The use of music in the film comments on themes and issues of the play. Unlike a traditional musical format, the songs do not further the plot or expositional development of character in the play. By contrast they often add an alienation effect, interrupting the action of the play and offering mocking historical, social and political commentary. Richard Peaslee composed music for the original English-language production of Marat/Sade directed by Peter Brook in the film below. There is no official score to the play in any language.
Marat/Sade is the best example of avant garde in the style known as “theater of cruelty” ever put on film. If you are looking for something truly different then you can do no better than this.
 The entire film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!
 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Shock Corridor- Exploitation in a Madhouse


            Shock Corridor is a low budget film of a journalist going undercover in a mental institution to uncover the facts surrounding a mysterious murder. He achieves this by getting himself committed by his girlfriend, who poses as his sister, claiming that he has been trying to sexual assault her.
            If you think this is a little extreme for a 1960s picture, you are correct. But controversial is a stable diet for director Samuel Fuller’s films. The director started off writing pulp novels before moving onto films. The term “narrative tabloid” was used by critic Grant Tracey to describe the director. He never shied away from topics of prostitution, child molestation, mental illness, incest, racism, police corruption, etc. All somewhat taboo topics at the time. And while his films were not highly praised at their initial release, time has given them a second life. The French New Wave claimed his work as a major influence.
Though there certainly are noir elements
            There has been a discussion for years on whether Shock Corridor should be classified as film noir or exploitation, or both. While it certainly does have that striped down film noir feel, the sexual element- very shocking for the time- is often played here for shock value. Particular a scene where the protagonist accidently stumbles into the ward dedicated to the treatment of nymphomaniacs and is nearly torn apart by a dozen in a violent sexual frenzy. Not only was it ridiculous, but also totally unnecessary to the plot.  It is touches like this, and the reason he’s committed, which tip the balance towards to exploitation.
            Apparently the director wrote the original draft of the screenplay in the 1940s, while working for Fritz Lang, under the inferior title Straitjacket. The filming itself was incredibly cheap. It was shot over ten days. There was only one set and no exterior locations. Which helps to give the film a closed in claustrophobic feel. In fact the sound stage was so small, Fuller hired midgets to walk around in the distant section of the corridor to give the illusions of depth.
            As the film progresses, the protagonist comes into contact with the three witnesses to the murder, each suffering from bizarre delusions. The first is Stuart. Who was captured in the Korean War and was brainwashed into becoming a Communist. Stuart was ordered to indoctrinate a fellow prisoner, but instead the prisoner's unwavering patriotism reformed him. Stuart's captors pronounced him insane and he was returned to the US in a prisoner exchange, after which he received a dishonorable discharge and was publicly reviled as a traitor. The character imagines himself to be Confederate States of America General J.E.B. Stuart.
            The second is Trent was one of the first black students to integrate a segregated Southern university. The constant barrage of bigotry drove him over the edge. He imagines himself a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and stirs up the patients with white nationalist dogma and attacks the other black inmates. Third is Boden, an atomic scientist scarred by the knowledge of the devastating power of intercontinental ballistic missiles. He has regressed to the mentality of a six-year-old child.
Now while the protagonist is trying to get information out of each one, they eventually lapse into sanity and begin talking about the murder. While this is happening, the film shot in black and white, is spliced with hallucinogenic color footage. This is the part that actually makes the film, which causes it to stand one. One little artistic touch. The hallucination sequences include footage shot on location in Japan for House of Bamboo (1955), and footage shot by Fuller in Mato Grosso, Brazil for the unfinished film Tigrero.
After a hospital riot, the protagonist is straitjacketed and subjected to shock treatment. He begins imagining that his girlfriend really is his sister, and experiences many other symptoms of mental breakdown. He learns the identity of the killer and violently extracts a confession from him in front of witnesses. He then sits down and writes his story. Immediately afterwards he lapses into a catatonic state from which it is believed he will not recover.
Shock Corridor is a bizarre film that rises high above its low budget. In fact, the lack of budget is what caused the director to try innovative new techniques to make the film stand out. Which he succeeds at brilliantly.
The entire film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.
                    

Friday, July 22, 2016

First Transsexual in Literature- Tiresias: The Blind Sage of Thebes


            Most of us will probably only remember the character of Tiresias from his deus ex machina appearances in the Sophocles’s dramas of Antigone and Oedipus Rex. He arrives already blinded, being led by a young boy on a tether and announces that the king at that time (either Oedipus or Creon) has their head up their royal rectum. The king rejects his advice, only to discover that lo-and-behold he was right all along. The blind man who can see further than those with sight, cheap irony at its finest.
          Unemployed English majors will also recall that his shade shows up in The Odyssey as well. Odysseus, completely lost, travels across the Acheron, the river of death, to commune Tiresias and find his way home. He fills up a hole with goat’s blood and beats back the other spirits until Tiresias shows to let him know the travel arraignments.
          But little known is Tiresias’s constant troubles with the Greek female deities.  Specifically the one where he is turned into a woman for seven years. The story of how this occurs revolves around Hera, the wife of Zeus and goddess of home and hearth.
 One day the young Tiresias was walking the woods at the foot of Mt. Cyllene, near the cave where the god Hermes was born, and came upon a pair of snakes copulating in the grass. In disgust Tiresias picks up a stick and bashes the female snake to death, allowing the male to flee. Hera, enraged by this blatant sexism, transforms the young man into a young woman so that he will better understand the role of a woman.
 The significance of the two snakes has often been linked to the caduceus. The staff of Hermes, messenger of the gods, guide of the dead and protector of merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars, and thieves. But it is also linked to messengers in general and one story shows it being held by Iris (for whom that part of the eye is named) herald of Hera. It was often in ancient times used as a symbol of commerce.
The other interpretation is that Triesias in killing the female snake only, disrupted the natural need for both sexes to continue the propagation of the species. That is, he saw the male aspect as more important than the female. This leads to the idea that if he had killed the male, nothing would had happened.
 In despair and penance Tiresias becomes a priestess of Hera and takes a husband. The mate is never named, but apparently it was a legally binding ceremony in Greek tradition. And from this union she has three children: Historis, Daphne, and Manto. The last is significant because she becomes involved with the Apollo, who sends her on a quest to find an oracle dedicated to him. She later appears in Dante’s Inferno in the fourth bolgia of the eighth circle of Hell, suffering among the diviners, fortune tellers, astrologers, and false prophets.  She has her head twisted around and is forced to walk backwards for all eternity, blinded by her own tears.
          After seven years as a woman, Tiresias is once again walking on the same road and spots a pair of snakes rutting in the grass. Now she either leaves them alone this time, or stamps on them both (stories differ on this matter) and thus transformed back into a male. If he stayed in touch with his family is not mentioned in any other stories and they don’t pop up in any of this other appearances.
          This experience ties into making him a better sage as he could now understand both the male and female perspective. How he lost his sight is another story. One of which ties into his transformation. Apparently one day Zeus and Hera were having an argument over whether men or women enjoy the act of sex more. Since Tiresias had been both, they asked him the question. He replied, “Of ten parts a man enjoys one only." Meaning that women have the better end of the stick in sexual relations.
          For this act of impiety, Hera smacks Tiresias blind. Zeus, not being able to undo the curse, gifts Tiresias with the ability of augury and the lifespan of seven people. From there he goes on to be the Tiresias of Oedipus and Antigone.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Cannibal Spell for King Unis


Estimated to be written around 2325 B.C.E., the Cannibal Spell is one of the earliest surviving Egyptian texts. It was inscribed inside the pyramid of King Unis (or Unas- depending on interpretation), in a place where it could never be read by human eyes after the building in which it was carved was completed. Spells (or utterances) of these types were common in pyramids and were primarily concerned with protecting the pharaoh's remains, reanimating his body after death, and helping him ascend to the heavens. This one however is a bit more bombastic than others.
Full of violent imagery, it presents the deceased king as ascending to the sky and taking on the role of the creator god in a perpetual cycle defined by the daily rising of the sun and the disappearance of the night sky, imagined as the king’s devouring of the stars, which are themselves deities. By consuming the other gods, the king assimilated their magical powers. It has been suggested that the Cannibal Spell was composed to be recited during the sacrifice of a bull or ox before a ritual meal that would have formed part of the king’s funeral ceremonies.
Inner Tomb of King Unis
The Cannibal Spell describes how the dead king —assisted by the god Shezmu—slaughters, cooks and eats the gods as sacrificial bulls, thereby incorporating in himself their divine powers in order that he might negotiate his passage into the Afterlife and guarantee his transformation as a celestial divinity ruling in the heavens
Of Unis himself, little is known. He was the ninth and last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty that ruled the Old Kingdom of Egypt (Upper Nile area) for 15 to 30 years. Who exactly his father was and how many children he had is unknown (He had at least one daughter that did not ascend the throne after him). He is primarily remembered for his near intact tomb which was unearthed in the last century.

                                  Cannibal Spell for King Unis
The sky has grown cloudy, the stars obscured; the (sky’s) arcs have quaked, the horizons’ bones shaken; and those who move have grown still, having seen Unis apparent and ba as the god who lives on his fathers and feeds on his mothers.
Unis is the lord of jackal-like rapacity, whose (own) mother does not know his identity:
for Unis’s nobility is in the sky and his power in the Akhet, like Atum, his father who bore him—and though he bore him, he is more powerful than he;
for Unis’s kas are about him, his guardian forces under his feet, his gods atop him, his uraei on his brow;
for Unis’s lead uraeus is on his forehead, ba when seen and akh for shooting fire; for Unis’s powers are on his torso.
Photograph of the Spell inscribed on the tomb walls
 Unis is the sky’s bull, with terrorizing in his heart, who lives on the evolution of every god, who eats their bowels when they have come from the Isle of Flame with their belly filled with magic.
Unis is an equipped one who has gathered his effectiveness, for Unis has appeared as the great one who has assistants, sitting with his back to Geb.
Unis is the one whose case against him whose identity is hidden was decided on the day of butchering the senior ones.
Unis is lord of offering, who ties on the leash (of the sacrificial animal), who makes his own presentation of offerings.
Unis is one who eats people and lives on gods, one who has fetchers and sends off dispatches.
Grasper of Forelocks in the kettle is the one who lassoes them for Unis;
Serpent with Sweeping Head is the one who guards them for him and bars them for him;
Overview of Unis's tomb
Gory All Over is the one who binds them for him;
Courser, the lords’ knife-bearer, is the one who will slit their throats for Unis and takes out for him what is in their belly—he is the messenger he sends to confront;
Shezmu is the one who will butcher them for Unis and who cooks a meal of them for him on his evening hearthstones.
Unis is the one who eats their magic and swallows their akhs,
for their adults are for his morning meal, their middle-sized ones for his evening meal, their little ones for his nighttime snack, their old men and women (fuel) for his ovens;
for the sky’s great northerners are the ones who set fire for him to the cauldrons containing them with the bones of their senior ones;
for those in the sky serve him, while the hearthstones are poked for him with the legs of their women;
for both skies go around (in service) for him and the two shores serve him.
Unis is the most controlling power, who controls the controlling powers; Unis is the sacred image who is most sacred of sacred images; anyone he finds in his way he will devour.
for Unis’s proper place is in front of all the privileged ones in the Akhet.
Unis is the god who is senior to the senior ones,
for thousands serve him and hundreds present offering to him;
for he has been given title as the greatest controlling power by Orion, the gods’ father;
Inside the tomb of King Unis
for Unis has reappeared in the sky and is crowned as lord of the Akhet;
for the vertebrae of spines have been broken up for him and he has acquired the gods’ hearts;
for he has eaten the red and swallowed the raw.
Unis will feed on the lungs of the experienced and grow content from living on hearts and their magic as well.
Unis will spit out when he licks the emetic parts in the red, for he is replete and their magic is in his belly.
Unis’s privileges will not be taken from him, for he has swallowed the Perception of every god.
Continuity is the lifetime of Unis, eternity is his limit, in his privilege of “When He Likes He Acts. When He Dislikes He Does Not Act,” which is in the Akhet’s limits forever continually.
For their ba is in Unis’s belly and their akhs are with Unis, as the excess of his meal with respect to (that of) the gods, since it was heated for Unis with their bones.
for their ba is with Unis, and (only) their shadows are (still) with their owners;
for Unis is in this (state), ever apparent, ever set.
Those who do (evil) deeds will not be able to hack up the place of Unis’s heart among the living in this world forever continually.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Ten Great Works of Literature Being Sold on Amazon for a Penny


Reading great literature doesn’t mean you have to cough up a huge chunk of change. While pursuing through the Amazon lists I came across these classic pieces of literature begin sold for a mere penny. These books are constantly on the top 100 books of all time, so if you come across one that you haven’t read you might want to consider grabbing it. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A novel of the Jazz age when Prohibition was nigh, yet everyone still drank. Gatsby is the new rich off of the bootleg business and tries to parlay his new wealth to fit into WASP society and the love of his life Daisy Buchannan. Much of this is eloquently articulated by Nick Carraway, Gatsby's modest Long Island neighbor who becomes his most trusted confidante. Nick is responsible for reuniting the lovers who both have come to different points in their lives five years after their
 aborted romance. Amazon Listing 
2. The Scarlett Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne. An excellent look at the hypocrisy of the religious rule of Puritan society.  Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, Massachusetts, during the years 1642 to 1649. Beginning with the foundation of the town, this “place of Godliness”, yet the first thing they build as a community is a gallows and a graveyard. It tells the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an affair and is forced to wear a red A on her clothes, to mark her as an adulteress- despite the fact that her husband was presumed lost at sea some ten years prior. She struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity and it all comes to a horrible end.  Amazon Listing 
3. 1984
by George Orwell. The dystopian novel set in an alternate reality where the socialist political structure has taken over the entire world. This tyranny is epitomized by Big Brother, the Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality but who may not even exist. The Party "seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power." Set in London, England (renamed Air Strip One by the party), the protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party, who works for the Ministry of Truth which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to rewrite past newspaper articles, so that the historical record always supports the party line. At the very least this book is responsible for bringing several new words into the English lexicon. This is a must read for everyone in Western society. Amazon Listing
 
4. Darkness at Noon
by Arthur Koestler. Another warning to the West. It is the story of an old Communist who is arrested, imprisoned, and tried on trumped up treason charges against the government that he had helped to create. In truth he is swept up in the periodic purges ordered by the leader Number One (an obvious analogue to Joseph Stalin). Semi-autobiographical this story sets in personal detail the monstrousness of the socialist/communist structure, which required widespread destruction of its citizens and constant fear in order to function. As the pressure to confess preposterous crimes increases, he re-lives a career that embodies the terrible ironies and human betrayals of a totalitarian movement masking itself as an instrument of deliverance. Amazon Listing
 
5. The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger. Nothing in this novel made me want to shoot a celebrity. Taking on the themes of alienation in a young man struggling against the reality that he now has to grow up and fully take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Holden Caulfield, 17, has just flunked out of an elite boarding school. Holden tells the story from a tuberculosis rest home, 1 year after the events take place. A young man who cannot stand anyone, yet cannot be alone, the protagonist is a mass of contradictions. In his struggles against maturity he runs afoul of a number of people who show him both ends of the spectrum. One a stable life of banality, the other a flophouse degenerate existence. Neither appeals to him and he sees that he must make a change in himself in order to exist in modern America. Amazon Listing
 
6. Lord of the Flies
by William Golding. Set during an evacuation of an unspecified nuclear war (or a war, it might be WWII), a plane load of preadolescent boys crash lands on a tropical island. After recovering and grouping themselves, the boys begin unknowingly begin creating the rudiments of a culture- with rules, roles, and even a mythology (ie. A monster in the woods). At first it seems as though it is all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death. As ordinary standards of behavior collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses and the savage beast in them comes out. Amazon Listing
 
7. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The novel tell of the journey of the narrator, Marlow, up the Congo River on behalf of an ivory trading company. Marlow tells his story to friends aboard a boat anchored on the River Thames, enabling the author to create a parallel between London and Africa as places of darkness.
He encounters the mysterious Kurtz, an ivory trader who exercises an almost godlike power over the natives of the region. The book demonstrates that there is little difference between so-called civilized people and those described as savages and explores the themes about imperialism and racism.
8. A Clockwork Orange
by Anthony Burgess. Another dystopian novel (why are they so great?), where the protagonist is a gang leader who enjoys cruising around with his buddies robbing and raping until his heart’s content. That is until one night where he accidently kills a woman, is beaten up by his friends, and left for the police. Inside he volunteers for a new experiment and is then conditioned to become unable to commit acts of violence and sex- leading him to become a victim of society. The book, narrated by the main character, contains many words in a slang argot which Burgess invented for the book, called Nadsat, and it really makes this work stand apart. By the end it feels as if you have learned a new language. The novel takes on the idea that if morality is imposed, is it truly moral. Though the author himself has dismissed the book as "too didactic to be artistic", he is wrong in this case. Amazon Listing
 
9. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
by Ken Kesey. For those who have only seen the film, the novel is significantly different. Primarily the novel is told from the perspective of The Chief and it demonstrates that he is indeed mentally ill. He narrates the story of McMurphy, a rowdy, brawling, fun-loving rebel who tricks his way into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. In this he struggles against Nurse Ratched (known as the Big Nurse for her large breasts) who rules the ward with an iron fist and is more interested in control than therapy. This strife, which started out as sport by the bored McMurphy, end in disaster and destruction. Amazon Listing
 
10. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The seminal semiautobiographical novel of the author, and THE book to read of any on this list. Taking place in a small town in Alabama during the Great Depression, the center point of the novel is of the trial of a young black man who is accused of rape by a white trash girl. The book deals with racism and bigotry of the times with sympathetic verve through the eyes of the protagonist Scout, an eight year old tomboy.  Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, you cannot help but be touched by this novel. Amazon Listing 
 
  Hope you've found something to read on this list. For more suggestions check out the What I've Been Reading Page and Readings from 2015. Enjoy.