Jonathan Swift was an Irish-born Tory who possessive of a famous aversion to humantiy in general. (Or so I am apt to classify him. There is something charming about misanthropes, one can really sympathize with them when one is cranky.) His Captain Lemuel Gulliver ends up stranded in various wondrous and edifying lands. I needn't tell you about Lilliput (six inch high people) and Brobdingnag (giants), but you might have forgotten Laputa, the floating island, and the land of the H----'s (don't bother me with the bloody spelling), those uber-intelligent horses. It's that last part, with the H----'s that is pretty shocking even today. You and me are both Yahoos of a kind, and Gulliver sails back to his people in raft with a sail made from Yahoo-skins. With Yahoo meat as provisions.
But there are lots of disturbing, warped things in this book. I remember passages in Brobdingnag with the most fondness. There Gulliver, reduced to the status of a plaything, is quite helpless, and delightfully so. He is dropped into a bowl of cream by a dwarf and embarrasingly discommoded by a pet monkey. The ladies at the court take a perverse delight in bouncing him up and down on their breasts. Gulliver, being tiny, is able to note the physical human imperfections of his captors magnified--cancerous lumps, blemishes of the skin, moles and wrinkles appear in all their sordidness. And what interesting things these are to read about, in retrospect.Read more ›
Despite the preface of the Baronet Books edition, which claims that Gulliver's Travels is a "masterpiece of satire", I found the irony to be blatant and trite, and, as a result, predictable and boring.
While certainly not a great read, it was worth the half hour I invested in it (barely).
March 18, 2002
What I will say about this particular edition is that it is very beautifully done. (If you can get the hardcover edition instead of the softcover, all the better.) The typeset, color engravings and supplemental material in the appendices add up to an excellent edition of this classic. I highly recommend it either as a gift or as a copy for your own library.
If you have to read this book for a class, I suggest that you get at least a month's head start. It is not easy getting use to reading 'an horse' 'an house' 'an human' 'an hole'.