1. Eugene Rocklin
    Offline

    Eugene Rocklin Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2014
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    2

    Metamorphosis, what of it?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Eugene Rocklin, May 16, 2014.

    I've recently taken an interest to Franz Kafka, so I started reading Metamorphosis, judging by the first few pages he's already looking to be quite the surreal storyteller. But jeez I don't know... What does the forum think?
     
  2. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    I gather from this that you're not liking it so far. Am I right?
     
  3. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    Kafka in my opinion is pretty overrated, but he's still important and very much worth reading. It's just necessary to keep in mind that he actually published very little during his life, most of his output he only in manuscript at best. Metamorphosis, though, is a good story, as is Penal Colony, Country Doctor (which is my personal favourite), The Hunger Artist and The Trial are more than worth your time, but most of the rest of Kafka I would be more careful with.

    The thing is, and I'll just say it, if you jump straight into Kafka you'll quickly find yourself very uncomfortable, but you are supposed to just enjoy the ride at first. Kafka is very funny, if you read him right, and it might be worth reading some of the literary essays around Metamorphosis to get a feel for how to read him. Especially the one by Nabokov, in fact, here's a lecture on the story you should watch:

     
    Last edited: May 16, 2014
    123456789 and Eugene Rocklin like this.
  4. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Oh God, I don't like the way Christopher Plummer is talking here. It's way too British. This is what Nabokov really sounds like:
     
    Eugene Rocklin likes this.
  5. Eugene Rocklin
    Offline

    Eugene Rocklin Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2014
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    2
    Yeah that obvious huh? Well it's just, I never did know how to approach this sort of thing (literature I mean).
     
  6. Eugene Rocklin
    Offline

    Eugene Rocklin Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2014
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    2
    Wow dude thanks a bunch. Appreciate the response, yeah I'm very much a new guy, to the world of literature so this is very helpful more ways then one again thanks a bunch.:D

    I'll be sure to check out the lecture and the essays
     
  7. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    For what it's worth, I don't think Kafka is overrated. I began to appreciate him a lot more after I read his diaries and some of his letters. You really do see his work in a new light once you know more about him. In my opinion, the best way to go about tackling Kafka is to read his major works and stories first. Then move on to his diaries and letters. Finally, read his major works and stories again (along with his minor stuff if you're interested). After that, you'll have a much better understanding of Kafka.
     
  8. Eugene Rocklin
    Offline

    Eugene Rocklin Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2014
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    2
    Cool, cool, duly noted "Thirdwind" thanks a bunch.
     
  9. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    Jumping into literature is at first very difficult, even for those of us who had a guiding hand. Not many people would be equipped to deal with a writer like Kafka from the off, so at first it's easy to dismiss him as a writer of the pretentious. It's difficult, because unlike books like Stephen King, the book requires you to do work to fully understand it. Not many people know how to read a writer like Kafka, because he's not writing to entertain you, you are reading to be entertained by Kafka - I guess that's the best way to put it, you have to meet him half way, and on largely his terms. But if you do meet him, and are prepared, you'll find him far more interesting than someone like Stephen King, who just wants to come over to your house for a beer, eat nachos and watch some TV.

    With someone like Kafka, you are even supposed to feel weirded out, that's the point, but what is the point? Why does Gregor Samsa turn into a beetle? What is that representing? These are the questions you have to ask yourself, and it does become easier the more you do it, but going from something like the Stephen King (not saying you like him - I'm using him as an example of easily accessible literature) to a writer like Kafka is like being asked to judge a really fancy restaurant if all you've ever ate is McDonalds.

    It's just like poetry, in pretty much every way I can think of. The more you read of it, the better your understanding of, skill with, and appreciation for quality will grow.

    When I say I think he's overrated, that's being a bit unfair on Kafka. It's really more a reaction to his reception. Considering how small his output is, and how lavishly it's been taken up, I guess I'd say he merits that word, but that still doesn't mean he's not good. Oh no, Kafka kicks ass!
     
    Eugene Rocklin likes this.
  10. Eugene Rocklin
    Offline

    Eugene Rocklin Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2014
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    2
    Again thanks for the advise, it helps out a bunch. Yeah it does seem rather nutty to just jump straight into Kafka like that, from what I've read so far. He seems like a pretty intense dude.

    I've never read a Stephen King novel, is there any you recommend?
     
  11. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Consider yourself lucky.
     
  12. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    HAHAHAHA! No. :D Well, I suppose Misery is a good novel, and some of his short stories (and, actually, his poetry too - weird huh?) are worthy of being read. But other than that, dude, good literature is where it's at! :)
     
  13. Eugene Rocklin
    Offline

    Eugene Rocklin Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2014
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    2
    Laugh out loud,

    thanks I'll be sure to check it out, and yeah that is weird, Stephen King poetry how about that.

    Yeah I'll be sure to keep that in mind, laugh out loud.

    Interesting, usually I'm hearing nothing but praise about this guy. I'd like to hear your perspective, that is if you feel like sharing.
     
    Alexa C. Morgan likes this.
  14. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,724
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I haven't read much Stephen King, but by far the best thing I've read of his is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, a novella included in his collection called Different Seasons. You've probably seen the movie version. This is where King writes way above himself - he gets hold of a good idea and applies all the skills he's ever learned to it. I'm not a King fan, but I'll call this his masterpiece. It deserves to stand with the prize winners.

    Many people say The Stand is his masterpiece, but I've tried to read it and it's boring. I gave up after 350 pages out of about 1200. Jeez. Dull.
     
  15. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Well, he has some cool ideas, but his prose is fairly ordinary and unimaginative. Part of the reason for that is that he's writing for large audience, so he's pandering to the least common denominator.

    He's someone I would read if I don't want to think too much and just want a relaxing read.
     
  16. Xueqin-II
    Offline

    Xueqin-II Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2014
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    24
    Don't act like you need to.

    The Shining was incredibly boring and wasn't even so much as tense. All it really shows is King's inability to write things outside of characters cut from cinema of the period. Should you want to read a book indulging heavily on 80's personalities, It I actually consider decent. That said, it is bloated, and a little strange at times. There were times in reading it that I felt I was legitimately enjoying myself, only to feel a little cut-off for the story dragging pages onward only to suit the commercial reader's length standards.

    Thinner was awful. His fans like it for some odd reason.

    I actually liked Rage. King does not. Probably because it reflects pretty heavily on his own emotions as he wrote it, and so "inspired" some school-shootings. Funny how he wrote of a high-school shooting in high school, and then also wrote of a college-shooting whilst at college. Interesting.

    The Stand was self-indulgent and boring.

    If you like The Green Mile, we will not be friends.
     
  17. Okon
    Offline

    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2013
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    389
    So much King hate:( I think he excels at violent scenes and character building...

    Duma Key is really good; it's his only book that's actually scary, but it's really scary. I recommend Desperation, Dreamcatcher, and The Green Mile, too.

    The Stand and The Dark Tower are really only for King fans. I enjoyed both, but they are an investment. Dark tower IV Wizard and Glass was a true slog, though far from a series-killer.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2014
  18. Xueqin-II
    Offline

    Xueqin-II Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2014
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    24
    I think that he's rather inaccurate at violent scenes and only good as far as character progression goes when compared to his movie adaptations. He's good, do not misconstrue this, but is he great? It could be argued that King made a far more cohesive book out of The Shining than Benchley made with Jaws, but with the amount of needless repetition and filler, I simply began to wane in interest. Jaws, though it was bogged down by ill-conceived narrative threads, was artfully drawn, closely following the physical and biological capabilities of a shark, with every sequence involving the shark. The action was not only threaded carefully, it was accurate. Then again, the Great White in question is 25 pounds, so I suppose realism should not be an argument to make unless you're a firm believer in the still-beating heart of the megalodon. As far as character progression goes, he's good when compared to commercial fiction writers nowadays. Reading so much as easy examples such as John Steinbeck, Harper Lee or Charles Dickens, Dickens being one of King's own sources of inspiration, you would not say that he is a master at the craft.

    It would be a mistake to say that criticism is synonymous with hate. I am far from hating King, however, I am very much in hate with The Green Mile. It's one of the few books I would rather not exist, and I don't wish that on the Da Vinci Code. King, I still come back to. King has offended my senses before, surely, but I have enjoyed his work as well. I consider It a damn good time, which is why I feel so inclined to say that yes, it would have been better if it was slightly less fat. It also would have been better if he had slowed down on crudely injecting his own opinions of art, or possibly had shown them in a more respectable way, instead of catering to those who feel intimidated by academia. It is because I want all books to be good that I speak about how they disappoint me.
     
  19. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    You know what? I actually enjoyed the first 3 books of The Dark Tower series. I haven't read anything beyond that, however. Like I said before, King is good for when you want to enjoy what you're reading without having to think too much. It's like your typical action movie in a way.
     
  20. Eugene Rocklin
    Offline

    Eugene Rocklin Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2014
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    2
    Interesting perspectives.
     
  21. Okon
    Offline

    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2013
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    389
    I'm not a fan of thinking in general, so that's probably why I prefer the 'action movies' of books:D.

    @Xueqin-II I'm not trying to disagree; I'm actually just curious now. Why didn't The Green Mile work for you?

    (Please post it in a spoiler button if it involves much plot detail):)
     
  22. Xueqin-II
    Offline

    Xueqin-II Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2014
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    24
    I found it incredibly insulting, and nothing more than publisher bait.

    King took a Disney plot and added in all of the most controversial things in order to make simultaneously the most accessible and hot topic thing he could create, causing people to think that they're thinking, to think that they're moved by artificial emotions. The scenes are jumbled and ill-thought out at every moment that is supposed to get a gut reaction from the reader, and would you take a timeline to them, they would make little sense geographically, logically and physically. This is because little thought was put into the creation of the story; every scene was crafted to be as shocking as it could, ignoring the fact that if you really paid attention, it all fell apart.

    Literally every idea and theme is shoved down the reader's throat, and the book is rife with the most insulting forms of cliches. The book is a mish-mash of different scenes from different tearjerker tripe across cinema and books alike, all shoehorned into each other. The work is nearly that of plagiarism. Not to mention that Stephen King has two voices, King, and "Wise King," his wise narration, however, really grates on me.

    What I absolutely do not tolerate is shock applause. You can write of any subject you please, but you must do so with understanding, and respect. You can even make jokes, as long as it abides by these two rules. The Green Mile drives itself to the lowest level because it uses a series of incredibly traumatizing events simply as a utility to farm fake emotions. This story was not inspired, King just wanted to make money and get credit for making a sad story. So, he came up with the worst possible scenario, and went with it, and the publishers ate it up. By this, it is not a work respectful of the material it handles, and is a shock fic made for cash and cred. This is why I cannot tolerate it.
     
  23. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    This is exactly why literary criticism is so interesting, because you do get other perspectives. As has been rightly pointed out, criticism is not hate, though many fans of fiction like Stephen King will think otherwise. It's boring though, very very boring, to both confine yourself to books like that, and become tribal about books like what we saw with Harry Potter vs Twilight a good few years ago.

    For the record, both series were worthless - both as literature and as phenomenons. Harry Potter just doesn't work, at all, the characters are all idiots, and the setting is one that defied all logical rationale, and barely existed to do more than give the narrative a 'magical' setting. To wittle down entire articles and essays into a few words: nothing about it is good - the best parts of Potter are on the lower slopes of mediocre at best.

    So how does all this relate to Kafka? Well, take a story like The Metamorphosis: A guy wakes to find himself turned into a beetle. This is not outside of King's usual area of fiction to be honest, since he wrote a short story about a weird, elongated finger coming out of a sink to torture some random guy by scratching around as if feeling what is around it. I actually enjoy reading King's own comments on his short stories, often over the stories themselves. I remember the introduction to that story I outlined, (called The Moving Finger, found in Nightmares and Dreamscapes) and King states (I've not read the book in 3 years, so I'll be paraphrasing, my memory is not great) that he likes it where something is happening in a short story, and the author doesn't know why - something cool just happens and he thinks it's sort of fun to watch a character deal with it. Apparently in the scenario in King's story the What arrived on the scene drunk while Reason wants to try and step past the bouncer of common sense and get into the nightclub without paying.

    So you have two stories, each following the same essential element, of something happening to an ordinary man that seems to be supernatural in nature, and it ends up destroying him both physically and mentally. In the King story it's played pretty straight. I don't want to rely on any comparison to cheap movies, I'll make it difficult for myself and treat this story like serious literature. All the way through the King story there is a constant reference to some TV game show or other; which is used as an ironic counter to the weird, supernatural event. Also, the event is something happening at the character, rather than happening to him. There is no connection between character and event, it's just something that's happening. Throughout the story the narration barely leaves the protagonist's flat, and the constant references to the TV show, I forget what it is, some quiz show I think, anchors the story in a contemporary, working class Americana. But here's the thing, aside from giving the story a contemporary setting for the reader for very cheap horror purposes none of these details matter at all. It's not doing anything to enforce some higher goal for the story, and that's boring as fuck.

    Now, with the Kafka story the strange, supernatural event is turning the character Gregor Samsa into a beetle. The first question anyone with a brain would ask is 'how?', and the first sentence of the story practically demands it. The better question is 'why?' Well, do we get any clues in the story? Reading the story we find out more about Gregor's situation, he's a travelling salesman who has became the only sauce of income for his family, he's tired, lonely, he's under appreciated. One of the things his metamorphosis makes clear from the start is just how much his family have grown to depend on him to bring home the bacon. This is part of the reason why Nabokov's observation that Gregor never learns he has wings is so astute. Gregor is in every way trapped, he's trapped socially, emotionally, financially, sexually, and physically. All his metamorphosis does is bring all this to the surface. The story, again, as Nabokov observes, is like a dream, a bad nightmare, positing Gregor's small hopes for happiness (seemingly embodied in his musically talented sister) with his ever present concerns (providing for his family). From the off we know that the sky is dark, it's a dismal day - and we never learn of the weather again until the ending when it suddenly clears and becomes sunny. Again, does this mean anything? What does all of this mean? And what does Gregor represent? That last question is the most important of all.

    What's the answer? I don't know it can be easily narrowed down to an answer. I have my own, Marxist interpretation of the story. I know other people (even people on this forum) who have different interpretations. That's the point of good literature. Not only is it unique to the reader, it's what can push us to ask complex philosophical problems that we as a species are still trying to work out, while giving us characters as metaphors to help us visualize the problems. This is why a writer like Kafka beats a writer like King in every way. Imagine a tropical beech at night: Kafka has some fire he wanted to share around to help us light our own torches, and illuminate our lives. King, on the other hand, is smoking a cigarette. Sure it's a source of light, but it's too small to be of any use to anyone, and whatever nicotine rush you'll get from it will be fleeting and quickly forgotten.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2014
    Burlbird, minstrel, thirdwind and 2 others like this.
  24. Eugene Rocklin
    Offline

    Eugene Rocklin Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2014
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    2
    • Lemex: that was awesome. Well I've just been given a completely new out look on Stephen King (and I've never even read the guy yet) consider me riveted kind sir. I also love your spill on the Harry Potter/Twilight scare, just out being a casual observer I've honestly tried reading them, but for the life of me I just couldn't endure them. It is fascinating to see how stories like that progress.
     
  25. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,215
    Likes Received:
    4,225
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    @Lemex - I admit, I read Harry Potter when I was younger, bought into the whole 'greatest literature ever!' deal. :D Now that I look back at the series, I feel there was something missing. The only time it held me was when it was pretty much a mystery story set in a magical universe. Once it got into prophecies and saving the world, I quit. Not even Harry could hold me in, which must say a lot about the characters. I think back to characters like Draco or the Dursleys and cringe at the lost potential. Draco could've very easily been the one to show readers that ambition does not always mean evil. You can be ambitious without turning into Voldemort/being an egotistical jerk.

    Regarding Metamorphosis, we actually read this in my literature class a semester ago (before I graduated). One of the students offered that Gregor's transformation was a subtle representation of what happens if a breadwinner became disabled and the family just stopped caring about him/her. Gregor can't even take care of himself and is now at the very mercy of the people he once had to care for, who now have to take care of him.

    What are your thoughts on that?
     

Share This Page