A double-whammy of darkness for you today, you lucky people. In the form of two quick reviews of books I have recently finished, namely The Darkening by Chandler McGrew and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad…I will attempt to do this regularly with each book I read now, as well as crossing them off my ‘To Read List’. Enjoy!
I picked up this book as an impulse buy, attracted mainly by the cover and the title. McGrew is actually a horror writer that hails from Maine, but sadly I have to say that he’s not quite Stephen King. The book is enjoyable enough, but the main problem is there’s quite a lot of build-up without too much pay off. Despite the end-of-the world/’world slipping into darkness’ situation touted in the book’s blurb, the stakes don’t ever really feel high enough, and I found the descriptions became somewhat confused and muddy as the book went on. It’s not terrible by any means, just merely passable. I’d say about a 3/5 from me.
I was well aware of this book’s reputation as a classic, so I was quite eager to discover it for myself. I must confess, however, that I found it extremely hard-going – the style of writing often makes it confusing just what exactly is going on, and the narrative can often be difficult to follow. As one reviewer on the Goodreads page points out, however, it would seem the book is intended more as an allegory or essay on the human condition rather than a conventional story. To read it with this mindset may make it easier to understand, I suppose. I was struck by two passages in particular, however, that really tap into the darker urges of man;
…They only showed that Mr Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts, that there was something wanting in him – some small matter which, when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence. Whether he knew of this deficiency himself I can’t say. I think the knowledge came to him at last – only at the very last. But the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude – and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating.
(p.83, Penguin Popular Classics edition)
This proclamation about the struggle of life, and then the emptiness and futility in the face of death is also particularly chilling…
Droll thing life is – that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope for is some knowledge of yourself – that comes too late – a crop of unextinguishable regrets. I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable greyness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamour, without glory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fear of defeat, in a sickly atmosphere of tepid scepticism, without much belief in your own right, and still less in that of your adversary. If such is the form of ultimate wisdom, then life is a greater riddle than some of us think it to be.
(p.100-101, Penguin Popular Classics edition)
Again, I think this gets a 3/5 from me.
And, the To Read List has been accordingly updated! Watch this space for more reviews. Until next time folks…
Check out my first poetry collection, ‘The Awakening’, available NOW for download as an eBook on Amazon. Check it out here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B017BZBH6M