on June 28, 2003
In the literary world it is perhaps blasphemy to say a bad word against Daniel Defoe's most acclaimed novel. So here goes. The fact that the book was originally titled The Life And Strange Surprising Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe illustrates the major flaw in Defoe's literary form. Put simply, this would be a far more interesting and gripping story were it not so superfluously lengthy. The author makes a habit of repeating himself, especially when it comes to the act of dispatching kittens, which seems to be more of an obsession here than octogenarian ladies are to MatronsApron. It is difficult, you may think, to keep the subject matter fresh when describing the daily tribulations of a fellow stranded on an island for thirty years, without occasionally repeating yourself. True, but perhaps a straightforward solution to this diminutive quandary would be to simply truncate the duration of the story. There are some wonderfully intriguing and suspenseful moments, and some juicy action to boot, but sadly these are gratuitously diluted by lengthy descriptions of the unremarkable everyday goings on in Crusoe's life, and rather than serving to build up the suspense, they merely obstruct the reader's relationship with the more exciting parts of the story.
However, those with more patience than my ignorant self will find in Robinson Crusoe a delightful tale, which as well as being a fictional documentary of the most unusual thirty years of Mr. Crusoe's life, also has time to ponder upon philosophical and theological ideas, in a style that makes the reader feel as if they are involved in the conflicts between the functionalist and cynical thoughts going on in Crusoe's mind. It may not be a gripping white-knuckle adventure, being rather more leisurely and acquiescent, but it is still rather easy to see why Robinson Crusoe is regarded by some as one of the greatest novels of all time.
on May 13, 2003
The book 'Robinson Crusoe' is one of my all time favorite books. I was turned onto classics recently when I started to look into the classics section of the books store. I wanted to know what all the hype was about books and stories such as this one. Being a classic tends to give way to the idea that the book has a lot to offer, and that is no different for 'Robinson Crusoe', a remarkable story of remarkable circumstances that present themselves to the main character. Although the story, often dubbed 'the story of a man stranded on an island for 26 years', sounds dull and uneventful, nothing could be further from the truth. Those who've never read it refer to it as that, a story of a man stranded on an island for 26 years. Those of us who have read it understand that it's much more than that. This may be the best story ever composed. The swift current of the novel is quick-paced and could include nothing more to keep a reader entertained.
Regarding the moral implications such as those of slavery, the novel heavily disfavors the ideas we have in society today by condoning and thinking only once about slavery. I believe this further treats us in a piece of literature that also acts as a diary of times. What better way to tell a story, than to simply tell the truth? And in those times the truth was that slavery was a part of society and nothing more shameful than modern day coffee drinking. It was a business and although unfavorable today, it was the truth of the times. I have the same feeling about the references to religion. Those times were different and act today as a time capsule for readers to understand what things may have been like only 300 years ago.
Literally, the novel uses (by modern standards) odd English and can be difficult for novice readers. However, even for a novice reader the novel can be a challenge to learn about how the writers of our past wrote novels. As the reader proceeds through the story, more is understood and eventually the story flows as freely as a morning newspaper. I would encourage users to read this knowing that it is almost three hundred years old, and that the slang is thick and different from ours.
The storytelling is nothing short of a masterpiece. The story itself touches down on many aspects of the human condition; hatred, happiness, courage, perseverance, loyalty, love, treachery and friendship. We can all relate at one point or another with Robinson Crusoe.
Regarded as possibly the first English novel ever, this tells the story of a man who's found himself alone and shipwrecked on a deserted island; the many years he spends making a new home for himself, the many times he tries to escape his paradise dungeon and the thick courage it took to outlast the immeasurable feat of solitude. This is the story of a man who finds one footprint on a deserted island.
on February 26, 2003
Written like a narrative biography, this popular Defoe tale has been abridged to appeal to younger reader. It is set in the mid-1600s in England, as young Robinson considers his future. His father warns him about the perils of sailing. Robinson, undeterred, finds his way to a ship leaving from London.
Various adventures ensue, including being captured as a slave by a wealthy Turk. When he breaks for his escape, he manages to board a ship with a kind captain who assists him.
The real adventure begins soon thereafter, eight years after he first left home. He is shipwrecked:
"Nothing can describe the panic I felt when I hit the water... I looked up and saw an island before me." That island becomes his home for many years. His only book is his Bible which he reads daily. He makes what he needs from items he finds of the island, and later, meets Friday, whom he saves from death.
The illustration by N. C. Wyeth are beautiful, and have been seen in many earlier editions and versions of "Robinson Crusoe."
Few books hold the charm and swagger that "Robinson Crusoe" does, and lesser still tell it so well. The abridgment retains the excitement, and hopefully, as your child or student grows older, they will want to read the original version.
I fully recommend "Robinson Crusoe," by Daniel Defoe.
on January 21, 2003
After reading Glyn Williams' trenchant 'The Prize Of All The Oceans' I had an overwhelming desire to read this classic once again. I first read it when I was a mere 10 year old and it completely mesmerized me; I find that it still held the same power over me thirty years later. It is difficult to put this tale down once the title character becomes a castaway on the "island of despair" (as Crusoe refers to it) and he begins the battle against the odds to survive. Facing extreme tropical heat, torrential storms, a dreadful loneliness and the struggle to master some of the simplest of skills we take for granted Crusoe wages his one-man crusade for survival. Beginning his desolate existence steeped in woeful self-pity he slowly realizes through a series of trying circumstances, devotional reading of the Bible and finally relief from his isolated state that the experience proves to be one of reverie. In the process Crusoe becomes quite possibly the most inspirational figure to spring forth from the pages of literature.
Though it is annually listed by literature scholars as one of the 100 finest works of fiction, today primarily adolescents read Defoe's enduring tale as part of their required reading for school; very few others rarely bother with this nearly three century old tale. 'Robinson Crusoe' it seems is a classic awaiting a renaissance of rediscovery by adults who regularly read for either leisure or as a part of continuing education. While the novel's approach to morality may seem a bit old fashioned by today's contemporary standards, the character's awakening to wisdom, inner strength and faith will inspire any reader of any age. Crusoe's ability to steel himself against the onslaught of natural elements, his own self doubts and finally a band of savages who discover his "island empire" should win over even the most jaded of us. This Norton Critical Edition is the perfect package to gain a deep appreciation for this masterpiece of the English language. So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book today and transport yourself back to your youth and also to a time long past. It's a journey you won't regret taking.
on September 16, 2002
One of the best works of fiction I've read. I listened to this work unabridged and the narrator's tone and cadence were excellent. The narrative in the novel was very easy to follow as the majority of the book involves thoughts of Crusoe and very little dialogue. This is where its similarity with the movie "Cast Away" ends. It's an enduring story not for its Swiss Family Robinson detail but for its character development. Defoe does an excellent job of writing the impetuous, self-reproaching, humbling, ambitious and regretful thoughts of Crusoe.
The reflections and insights Crusoe contemplates while on and then later off the island provide an insightful template on how experience turns from foolish trial and error to wisdom. For example:
How frequently in the course of our lives, the evil which in itself we seek most to shun, and which when we are fallen into it is the most dreadful to us, is often times the very means or door of our deliverance by which alone we can be raised again from the affliction we are fallen into.
We are rarely cast into any condition of life so low or any misery so great but we may see something or other to be thankful for and may see others in worse circumstances than our own.
A few reviewers have criticized the book for its approbation of Robinson Crusoe's irresponsible behavior: he disobeyed his parents, pursued deplorable occupations (by today's standards), held racist attitudes and was cruel to animals. Yet it is just this behavior which is the strength of Crusoe as a character-he is the quintessential human---irresponsible, fallible, cowardly but not incorrigible.
on September 7, 2002
RC's status as the 'first novel' is hardly a given - there are those who have convincingly argued for Don Quixote, written 100 years earlier, or Oroonoko. That being said, we shouldn't privilege a text because it's (arguably) the first anything, especially when our High School and College canons are, by necessity, too exclusive. I don't think very many people consider RC to be Defoe's best book - Moll Flanders is engaging on many more levels and Roxana might also give a good fight. This story is, at points, little else but a list - even in its best moments (the heavy-handed and sometimes silly 'revelations' that, to be fair, were symptomatic of much contemporary writing), it's hardly a 'masterpiece.' Call it influential, call it important, call it a classic (whatever that means) - but please, do not read or teach this book in lieu of Aphra Behn or even one of Defoe's later books. I doubt even Defoe would want that.
As for the Modern Library edition - swanky packaging, nice large print, fair price - but no footnotes and only a smattering of 'big-name' criticism. This is good for most purposes, but if you want a great edition, get the Norton. The Modern Library should be boycotted anyway for that silly list of the 100 Best Novels they published. Where was Zora Neale Hurston? Sigh. That's neither here nor there, I guess.
on August 25, 2002
This is one of those books in which I feel that those who give it one star are right on the point, as well as those who feel that it is a masterpiece.
It is obvious that almost none of us knows what sort of interpretations will receive in the year 2560 a novel written in 1990 and held in our time, by both, popular opinion and literary circles, as a msterpiece. Maybe future readers will feel that is a bunch of rubish and that the nature of the character is not that of the hero but that of an obnoxious artist. The same way some people see today Robinson Crusoe as a repelent friend of slavery.
Judging the moral merits of a novel more than 300 years after it was written is sort of futile because we can not demand from the author to be attuned to the cultural beliefs, world views, literary technique and metal structure of today's reader. But all the critics of whether it is fun to read or not, are perfectly valid, since being entertained is powerful reason to pick up a book at any time in history.
Now, for me Robinson Crusoe is a great book because it can be read at several levels, that is for some people is just the story of a guy stranded in an island. For others is a parabole about the reediming power of the faith. Some see an existencialist struggle between the freedom of the individual versus the complex workings of society and not few percive a shameless propaganda for white supremacy and slavery, and will gladly have the book banned as compulsary reading in schools.
The fact is that by the end of the XVII Century, a writing of this characteristics was unknown, nobody wrote like that. Such spark of originality is recognized and deserves attention, because it creates a turning point in the history of literature. If for today's reader is fun to read or not, that is really another issue. As you will see for many of Amazon.com's reviewers the answer is quite extreme between the opposites of 1 and 5 stars. I invite you to know why.
on August 25, 2002
Robinson Crusoe is an enjoyable story. I thought it was a nice plot. Also, Daniel Defoe spoke of survival skills and how Robinson applied the techniques as means necessary for his survival. There was no analyzation of Robinson at least on psychological levels. I can see that he examined himself religiously. That really slowed the book down and became boring in the process. Also, the plot was not strong as the author had too many focuses: the home, the Brazils, the Shipwreck, the wolves incident, the aftermath, etc.. I prefer the introduction and the solitude on an island for the story. The wolves incident completely threw the book out of track. I will call it a nice classic story with a lot of flaws in its novel. It also skims a lot in the novel, not providing a lot of concrete details. When years went by, it didn't really focus on the years, but what happened that seems to happen the same too often. I felt there should be some kind of change annually. One thing I must point out is: How did Robinson took care of himself in regards to the excretion system? How did he go on to take care of the excretion matter?
P.S. I recently visited the new spy museum in Washington D.C.. By coincidence, I was also reading Robinson Crusoe at the same time. I happen to notice the fact that Daniel Defoe was a British spy and was credited being the first to set up the spy espionage network in all of Britain.
on July 19, 2002
Though I'm happy to say that I've read this book as a member of the English-literature canon, it has been a dry read. Inspired to approach it by the movie Castaway (Note however that the film is not based on the novel), I'm confronted by a overwhelming need for a modern interpretation of the stranded-isle genre.
Slow in action; ponderous with 18th century circuitious, flowery and repetitive prose; haphazardly concerned with supportive plot details -- it wasn't a long read, but about as enjoyable and juicy as a Mexican pastry.
I'd be surprised if this is still on school reading lists today considering it reflects an appauling stance on slavery and white supremacy (though true to the era). Furthermore, it openly espouses a fundamental, Calvinist theology that most school districts would altogether avoid.
Crusoe's spiritual journey is the sole theme of the book that addresses any sort of intellectual character development. Even though it grows distastful in some respects, expunge this topic from the novel and your left with a comic book. And if reduced to a characture, why wouldn't you opt for something like Stevenson's child-friendly Swiss Family Robinson? Something filled with adventure, intrigue, humor and drama?
To make this novel more enduring it would certainly have benefitted to analyze Crusoe's enduring lonliness and its effects on his psyche. Until the character Friday appears, Defoe barely mentions solitude even being an issue for Crusoe. Is not man a fundamentally social creature? Would there not be painful, enduring mental extirpations to work through?
Sigh...what else is there to say but it's a book to check off the list and move on.
on May 22, 2002
I like this book because Daniel Defoe can grasp your attention within the first two chapters. He had caught mine with Robinson Cruesoe's ways.
Defoe makes his character stand out, and lets you see the relationships in which Cruesoe makes. You feel like you know what Cruesoe is like, after only a few chapters.
The development of this book, and its characters is extraordinary. With Cruesoe, throughout the book, you see his tenacity, and how he just won't quit, he won't let go of survival. You also see how Cruesoe's friend can learn English, and understands so he can communicate.
The action in which Robinson goes through is incredible. He battles storms, and gets in fights with cannibal hunters, and fights with survival. With Cruesoe, you wonder how one man does it.
The plot, having action packed pages, out standing vocabulary, excellent development, and interesting twists, makes you sit at the edge of your seat, and want to read faster.
Though the book is fiction, it still has a moral. The moral that I think is having a lot to do with colonial times. Having no refrigerators, no computers, no television, and no microwave dinners. This book shows that man can live without modern conveniences. He doesn't need any of the fancy electronics we have made to be content.