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I like big books.


Grendel - John Gardner Not my cup of tea, I guess. In spite of the high ratings and glowing reviews, the ultimate problem for me with Grendel was that I just didn't care about anything or anyone in the story. I guess since, nihilism is a major theme of the work, that shouldn't surprise me, but I found myself slogging through to finish. Gardner's idea was novel at the time of writing: why not retell a classic story from the villains point of view? The idea has certainly spawned an entire sub-industry since the 1970s, and in my opinion, a sub-inhe sdustry of much, much better stories. Grendel is very much a physical creature in Beowulf, a mindless brute of unquestioning evil because of his one-dimensionality. Gardner tries to complicate things by introducing a rather introverted and existential creature who's searching for meaning in his life and struggling with a desire to fit in with the only creatures that he seems to share a sense of value with: humans. The humans don't want to have anything to do with him, obviously, and he soon learns to derive meaning in his life through polarities. Gardner develops the idea that definitions only exist in contrast to things and Grendel believes that he makes or creates goodness and humanity in humans by his existence as the opposite of those qualities. It's a fine sentiment, but, again, I just didn't care. None of the characters were interesting, with the exception of the dragon, and even then, I think I cared more about the philosophical points he presented than him as a character.