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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by

4.43 rating

Comment 1: Adolescence is not an easy stage of life. I remember when I was a teenager I would often find myself having fits of anger without any reason at all. I would be pissed with people that I did not even know, I would antagonize my parents and friends just for the sake of doing it. As Harry is now a fifteen year old, we find him going through all this hormonal problems. Throw in the mixture the fact that there is a psychopath trying to kill him while no one believes what he says and, to worsen the situation, his friends have ignored him during all summer, and you have a perfect recipe for explosive behavior.tThe atmosphere of this book is, since the beginning, much more mature than in the predecessors. As in Goblet of Fire, here Harry starts being attacked by his enemies already at the beginning of the book. Because of these attacks, he is summoned to a hearing at the Ministry of Magic. So, after having passed the whole summer without a word from friends and even from Dumbledore, he is “rescued” from the Dursleys’ by a bunch of people, some of which he has never seen before. He ends up being transported to the old mansion of Sirius’ family, which is serving as headquarters to the people that want to oppose Voldemort and his followers.tHere is where I started noticing the big difference in atmosphere on this book in comparison to the previous ones. There is no staring at everything that is magical in awe anymore, there are no more long descriptions giving background to every little magical thing that pops up in the story. It is clear that Rowling is expecting everyone to know their whereabouts while reading her story already, so she focuses more on character/relationships development than in any former book.tRegarding the Black mansion, while it was fun to explore a new place, I found it particularly hard to accept that such a nice sensible person as Sirius is related to someone as nasty as Bellatrix Lestrange. It’s just… not right. tAnyway, soon enough we are led to Harry’s hearing, which allow us to see for the first time some parts of the Ministry of Magic. I actually liked the Ministry, in general, but didn’t like most people working there. Especially at Harry’s hearing, everyone was treating him harshly, even those who were supposed to support him; really sad. Here we are also introduced to one of the character who would become hated by almost everyone: Dolores Umbridge, but I will talk more about her later.tWell, after this events everyone is soon enough on their way back to Hogwarts. This is when we are introduced to one of my favorite characters ever: Luna Lovegood. I like her so much! Yes, she is lunatic, but she is so essentially good and innocent, being at the same time extremely wise, that I can’t help the feeling that we would be really good friends if she was a real person. As the story goes on, she unknowingly acts like a wall of stability in Harry’s life, even when darkness seems to be winning, and that is really sweet.tAs for the normal school affairs, there is a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, as usual, only this time it’s a woman: Dolores Umbridge. Yes, a former Ministry agent as a teacher. She soon makes it clear that she is going to teach following strict guidelines given by the Minister of Magic and no one else’s. That gradually leads some students to act rebelliously, trying to learn how to defend themselves properly on their own. When this fact comes to Umbridge’s attention, she manages to pull a few strings of her own, what makes the imperative influence that the Ministry had been imposing over Hogwarts to grow even more. Things soon get out of Dumbledore’s control, Hogwarts becomes almost like a military school. This is what makes me hate Umbridge so much; she manages to, for almost an entire book, destroy that welcoming atmosphere that made me think of Hogwarts as home, and this is unacceptable. Sooner than later the students get their little piece of revenge on her, though, and that is amusing to see.tAnyway, political conflict isn’t the biggest problem during Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts. Comparing to when he starts having very vivid nightmares and those start coming true, that is nothing. Yes, the evil lurking outside is not only outside anymore, it’s tormenting him from inside his own head. This peculiar situation leads to a few very especial lessons and impressive discoveries about Harry’s father past in Hogwarts. It’s interesting to get to know a little bit more about his parents under a different, not so friendly, perspective.tDespite his lessons against mental rape, though, Harry is not strong enough. Evil uses the window of opportunity created by his young mind to lead him and his friends into the most epic adventure in the series so far, in my opinion. Unfortunately, not everyone gets out of it unharmed and the outcome of it changes not only Harry’s life forever, but also the whole world’s. We were used to the customary pattern on the former books: Harry is with the Dursleys during the summer; at the end of the summer he would go to the Weasleys' or some other place and then to school; something serious would happen during his stay there and he and his friends would try to solve the problem. Not anymore. Not after this book. There’s no safe place any longer, not even Hogwarts.tI like this book a lot. It’s my favorite after The Prisoner of Azkaban, actually. Despite the darker tone, which is present since the beginning, it still contains some very sweet parts and hilarious scenes that made me laugh hard. My only advice would be to people be prepared to lose some favorite character here and there, for in this book Rowling starts to display some symptoms of what I call the “George R. R. Martin syndrome”. Beware. Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review: Wit beyond measure is a man's greatest treasure. Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike. Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect. Youth can not know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young. The Last Passage(view spoiler)[ `Well…' said Moody, pushing back his bowler hat to reveal his sinisterly revolving magical eye. Uncle Vernon leapt backwards in horror and collided painfully with a luggage trolley. `Yes, I'd have to say you do, Dursley'He turned away from Uncle Vernon to survey Harry.`So, Potter… give us a shout if you need us. If we don't hear from you for three days in a row, we'll send someone along…'Aunt Petunia whimpered piteously. It could not have been plainer that she was thinking of what the neighbours would say if the't caught sight of these people marching up the garden path.`Bye, then, Potter,' said Moody, grasping Harry's shoulder for a moment with a gnarled hand.`Take care, Harry,' said Lupin quietly. `Keep in touch.'`Harry, we'll have you away from there as soon as we can,' Mrs. Weasley whispered, hugging him again.`We'll see you soon, mate,' said Ron anxiously, shaking Harry's hand.`Really soon, Harry' said Hermione earnestly. `We promise.'Harry nodded. He somehow could not find words to tell them what it meant to him, to see them all ranged there, on his side. Instead, he smiled, raised a hand in farewell, turned around and led the way out of the station towards the sunlit street, with Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and Dudley hurrying along in his wake. (hide spoiler)]

To Kill a Mockingbird

by

4.24 rating

Comment 1: This is one more book which I read during a summer break. I actually had not read any classics by my own volition until I grabbed this one, so I will always cherish To Kill a Mockingbird as my first. At first, I didn’t even know what the book was about, really. I just remember choosing this one because I had heard its title a bunch of times, plus it had a really beautiful cover (yes, I am one of those guys…). I remember thinking that it was bound to be, at least, average, otherwise it wouldn’t have acquired such fame. And it was much more than that. To this day, few books have had the same general impact on me as a human being as this one. The powerful lessons expressed through every character, especially Atticus Finch, are unique and everlasting.I could say that this book is nothing more than a coming of age story about day-to-day life in a small Alabama town during the Great Depression, but it is. To Kill a Mockingbird, in its simplicity, emanates waves of warmth through totally believable and relatable characters. Enduring characters like the Finches, Calpurnia and Boo Radley are rare, but when they come up they tend to stay with the readers for generations. Atticus Finch, by being such a beacon of righteousness to the kids, has done the same for me as well. The most admirable thing about him is his ability to influence the kids, constantly leading them to the right direction regarding moral and general behavior, while letting them interact with society and find out the workings of the world on their own. Also, the way Atticus talks to the kids is something that everyone should learn: to interact with children as if they are adults; by doing so, Atticus makes sure the children know their opinions are being taken seriously and that they are respected. I wish every parent was like that! God knows how disgusted I get whenever I see parents interacting with their kids as if they are some kind of injured puppy or something… Well, to wrap this all up, I wish I could have read To Kill a Mockingbird sooner so that I would have been inspired by its awesomeness from a younger age.Regarding the narrative, I found it light and easy flowing; there is no excess of detail descriptions, no sudden unexplained events or anything poorly executed. Everything makes sense and fits the rhythm of the story perfectly. Still, it was only a third or so into the book that I began to understand why it is what it is. When I got there, the first part felt really less significant than I had thought. In fact, it only served to introduce all the characters – their relationships, personalities, motivations and moral standpoints. After that, though, the core of the story is slowly built until it comes to the famous courtroom scene – and I found it to be as remarkable as everyone had said it would. The events that come right after are equally shocking. Even though our society, unfortunately, still is not near being prejudice free, the lengths to which people of that time would go to ascertain that their prejudicial views were being hold by legal authorities left me astounded.To Kill a Mockingbird was truly beyond its time and I find its messages very much relevant. That is what characterizes quality literature: the property of transcending time and having the same impact on several generations as it had on the first reader. All things considered, this is an incredible book that reminded me, once more, of how important it is to at least try to treat everyone with equal respect. Also, this book is extremely powerful in its discussion of racism, tolerance and human behavior. Considering that I come from a town where most people will look at you as if you are trash if you don’t suit up to go to the mall to watch a movie, I can’t possibly read too much about such lessons. I really do not ever want to turn into one of those people. Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review: You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience. People in their right minds never take pride in their talents. The Last Passage(view spoiler)[ He guided me to the bed and sat me down. He lifted my legs and put me under the cover."An' they chased him 'n' never could catch him 'cause they didn't know what he looked like, an' Atticus, when they finally saw him, why he hadn't done any of those things... Atticus, he was real nice..."His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me."Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning. (hide spoiler)]

Pride and Prejudice

by

4.23 rating

Comment 1: Some years back in one of my APAs, someone castigated Jane Austen's books like this: "All those daft twits rabbiting on about clothes and boyfriends and manners."Since then, I’ve encountered other variations on the theme that a modern woman ought not to be reading such trash because it sets feminism back two centuries.Well, much as I laughed over the first caveat, that isn't Austen. It sounds more like the silver fork romances inspired by Georgette Heyer. Austen's characters don't talk about clothes at all, outside of air-headed Mrs Allen of Northanger Abbey, who doesn't think of anything else. Austen sticks her satiric quill into young ladies who think and talk about nothing but beaux, such as poor, luckless Anne Steele in Sense and Sensibility. Manners are emphasized but not manners without matter; Austen saves her spikiest irony for hypocrites.I think it's important to remember that whereas Heyer was writing historical romances in the silver fork tradition, Austen was writing novels about contemporary life, especially the problems facing young women in her own walk of life, the country gentry. She criticized herself in a much-quoted letter to her sister Cassandra, saying in effect, 'the problem with Pride and Prejudice is it's too light and bright and sparkling.' Many have misinterpreted this remark. It seems to me, on close reading of her elsewhere, that she meant the novel to be taken more seriously than it was.What is it about, really? It's about the wrong reasons for marrying, and how those can affect a woman for the rest of her life. Of course a hard-line feminist can point out that novels about marriage are hideously retro for today's woman, who has many choices before her. During Austen's time, marriage was the only choice a woman had, unless she was rich enough to shrug off the expectations of her society, or unless she was willing to live on as a pensioner to some family member or other, which more often than not meant being used as an unpaid maid. Of course there was teaching, but the salaries for women were so miserable one may as well have been a servant. The hours and demands were pretty much equal.If one looks past the subject of marriage, the novel's focus is about relationships: between men and women; between sisters; between friends; between family members and between families. As for marriage, Austen sends up relationships that were formed with security as the goal, relationships that were sparked by physical attraction and not much else, relationships made with an eye to rank, money, social status, or competition. And, with abundant wit and style (or as she’d say, with éclat), she offers some truths about the differences between love and lust, and what relationships based on either mean to a marriage months—or decades—after the wedding.The fact that Austen doesn't use modern terminology doesn't make it any less real than a contemporary novel that has a supposedly liberated woman romping from bed to bed for forty pages while in search of the perfect relationship. The message is the same, that women who mistake falling in lust for falling in love are usually doomed to a very unhappy existence. And in Austen's time, you couldn't divorce, you were stuck for life.I've had dedicated feminist friends give me appalled reactions when I admit to liking Austen. I don't consider reading Austen a guilty pleasure, as I do reading Wodehouse. I consider Jane Austen a forerunner of feminism. She doesn't stand out and preach as Mary Wollstonecroft did. Her influence was nevertheless profound. Again and again in those novels she portrays women thinking for themselves, choosing for themselves—even if their choices are within the conventions of the time. What the women think matters.In Austen’s day (and too often, now) female characters were there as prizes for the men to possess, or to strive for, or as catalysts for male action. These days we call them refrigerator women. Jane Austen gave her female characters as much agency as a woman could have in those days, and the narrative is mostly seen through their eyes.The famed relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy makes it very clear that they were first attracted by one another's intellect—those two were clearly brain-snogging before they ever got to the fine sheets of Pemberley. It is also clear that the man—his higher social and economic status notwithstanding—had to earn the woman's respect, and rethink some of his assumptions, before she could see in him a possible partner. There is no dominant male making the decisions: those two are equal right down to the last page, and Austen makes it clear that it will continue to be so after the marriage. Each time I reread the novel, I notice something new, but in the meantime, will I continue to recommend it to young women just venturing into literature? You bet.

Animal Farm

by

3.82 rating

Comment 1: مزرعة الحيوان ربما هو شعور طفولي مدفون، ذلك الذي يجعلنا نستمتع دائماً بالقصص الرمزية، ربما هي فرحة الطفل بلعبة توصيل الخطوط ما بين الأشياء، أو ربما هي شهوة النميمة التي تجعلنا نتحرق ونحن نقرأ قصة رمزية إلى معرفة المقصود بها. وهذه قصة رمزية كتبها أورويل بهدف يحدده بنفسه عندما يقول "ما من شيء ساهم في إفساد المعنى الأصلي لمذهب الاشتراكية أكثر من الاعتقاد بأن روسيا بلد اشتراكي، وأن كل فعل يصدر عن القادة السوفيات ينبغي تبريره بل محاكاته، لهذا السبب أصبحت مقتنعاً في السنوات العشر الماضية بأن تدمير الأسطورة السوفياتية من خلال كتابة قصة يسهل على الجميع فهمها كما يسهل ترجمتها إلى لغات عدة"، حتى نفهم هذا نحتاج إلى أن نتعرف على أورويل قليلاً. ولد أورويل في الهند حيث كان والده يعمل هناك سنة 1903 م، وأورويل ليس إلا اسمه الأدبي، أما اسمه الحقيقي فهو ايريك آرثر بلير، عاد إلى إنجلترا وهو في الرابعة من عمره، حيث تلقى تعليمه هناك حتى تعين في الشرطة الإمبراطورية الهندية في بورما، حيث عمل هناك لخمسة أعوام. نلاحظ أن أورويل في هذا كله كان يعيش حياة أي شاب بريطاني من طبقته في ذلك الوقت، الطبقة الوسطى، طبقة موظفي الإمبراطورية البريطانية، وكان يمكن لأورويل أن يستمر في هذه الحياة لولا أن هناك شيئين غيرا مسار حياته، الأول هو رغبته في أن يكون كاتباً، والأمر الآخر هو كرهه للإمبريالية التي كان يخدمها وهو في بورما، فلذا استقال من عمله سنة 1927 م وعاد إلى إنجلترا. سأترك الآن سيرة أورويل قليلاً لأعبر عن فكرة جانبية صغيرة، فيما مضى عندما كنت اقرأ أي سيرة ذاتية لشخص ما، سياسي، مفكر أو كاتب، كنت أمر على مثل هذه الأحداث التي عاشها بطلنا مروراً سريعاً، وأظن أننا جميعاً نفعل هذا، مسيرة حياة الرجل الذي نقرأ عنه تبدو لنا حالة دائمة من التقدم، تحقيق الذات، وهذا هو الوهم الذي يتسلل إلينا من قراءة السير الذاتية، أورويل الذي نعرفه الآن من خلال كتبه (مزرعة الحيوان) و(1984) و(متشرداً في باريس ولندن)، لم يكن أورويل الذي استقال من عمله، حياة الإنسان ليست خطاً يمكننا رسمه من لحظة الولادة إلى لحظة الممات، ومن ثم تعيين نقاط عليه لنقول هذه النقاط التي حقق فيها ذاته، حياة الإنسان خط متقطع، متعرج، ملتوٍ على ذاته أحياناً، بحيث أننا في حالات كثيرة نكاد ننفي وجود خط من أساسه، ربما نحن نفعل هذا لأننا نظن أن سيرة الإنسان هي ما حدث له، بينما جزء من حياة الإنسان هو ما لم يحدث، في حالة الكتاب مثلاً، لماذا نادراً ما تذكر أعمال الكاتب المجهضة، غير المكتملة؟ أعماله التي مات وتركها في أدراجه؟ لأننا بكل بساطة نحاول أن نقدم سيراً ذاتية تجعل صاحبها يبدو وكأنه كان يعرف ما يفعله في كل لحظة، ويتجه إليه بلا تردد، وهذه سير تخنق قارئها، لأنها تقدم له الشكل النهائي، تقدم له النموذج، بحيث أن قارئها الشاب الذي بالتأكيد لا يدري أين سيأخذه مساره في الحياة، يشعر بالنقص، يشعر بأن من يقرأ عنهم مختلفون عنه تماماً، مكتملون نوعاً ما، وهو أبداً لن يكون كذلك. من حسن الحظ أنني لا أكتب سيرة لأورويل، وإلا لكنت وضعت نفسي في موقف حرج بعد سطوري السابقة، لأنه كان عندها لازماً علي أن أتجاوز الهوة التي وصفتها، وأحاول نقل روح الكاتب وأفكاره بلا تدخل وملأ للفراغات الموجودة. نعود إلى أورويل الذي عاد إلى إنجلترا، وبما أنه كان قد انفصل عن طبقته عندما رفض الوظيفة الحكومية، التي سيخدم من خلالها الإمبريالية، فلذا عاش متشرداً ما بين لندن وباريس، وهي التجربة التي سجلها في كتابه (متشرداً ما بين باريس ولندن)، هذه التجربة، هذا الاقتراب من الطبقات الدنيا في المجتمع البريطاني، جعلته يعي الظلم الواقع عليها، وهو ما جعله يتبنى الاشتراكية، ويقوم بنفسه بزيارة عمال المناجم في ويغان، حيث يعيش معهم ويسجل تجربتهم في كتابه (الطريق إلى رصيف ويغان)، وعندما قامت الحرب الأهلية الأسبانية، انتقل إلى هناك وشارك في الحرب، وسجل تجربته في كتابه (الحنين إلى كاتالونيا). نأتي الآن إلى كتابه هذا الذي نشره في سنة 1945 م، قبل نهاية الحرب العالمية بأسابيع، في العبارة التي أوردناها في الأعلى، نفهم غرض أورويل من الكتاب، عندما نتذكر كل الأحلام والشعارات الاشتراكية، وكل الوعود بالعالم الذي سينتهي فيه صراع الطبقات، كل هذا ذرته الحقبة الستالينية في الهواء، إن أورويل من خلال هذه الرواية يحاول إنقاذ الاشتراكية من السوفيات الذين دمروا سمعتها تماماً، ومنحوا الرأسماليين بكل بساطة حجة لا تقهر على سوء الاشتراكية وفشلها. ليفعل هذا يحكي لنا قصة مزرعة تثور الحيوانات فيها على صاحبها السكير الذي كان يستغلها لمصالحه من دون أن يعطيها حتى كفايتها من الطعام، هذه الثورة تأتي لتحقق نبوءة حكيم الحيوانات وهو خنزير اسمه (ميجر)، والذي تنبأ بالثورة ومات قبل أن يشهدها – شخصيته هي مزيج من ماركس ولينين -، يقود الثورة بعد هذا خنزيران أحدهما يدعى سنوبول – شخصيته مزيج من لينين وتروتسكي - والآخر نابليون – ستالين -، ويتم وضع سبعة قوانين لمذهب الحيوانية الذي ستسير الحياة في (مزرعة الحيوانات) على أساسه، تبدأ الحيوانات في العمل الشاق، وخاصة بناء طاحونة تهدف الحيوانات من بنائها إلى توفير الطاقة الكهربائية للمزرعة، تبدأ الخنازير التي تولت القيادة في تمييز نفسها عن الحيوانات الأخرى، وكسر بعض القوانين السبعة، بل إعادة كتابتها لتتناسب مع الوضع الجديد، يطرد نابليون سنوبول ويسيطر على المزرعة بقوة، محيطاً نفسه بخنازير محدودة، وبكلاب شرسة لا تدين بالولاء إلا له، مع الوقت تصبح حياة الحيوانات أسوأ مما كانت في ظل صاحبها الإنسان السابق، ولكن لا أحد يتذكر، والدعاية الدائمة التي يقدمها الحكام الجدد، تمجد الإنجازات التي قاموا بها، وويل لمن يشكك في هذا، في النهاية تكسر الخنازير آخر القوانين السبعة، وهو قانون غريب كانت الحيوانات أقرته، يفرق بين الحيوانات والإنسان وهو باعتبار أن من يمشي على قدمين عدو، ومن يمشي على أربع صديق، ولنلاحظ أن الخنازير لم تكن محتاجة إلى كسر هذا القانون، ولكنها تفعل، وتعلم نفسها المشي على قدمين، لتميز نفسها عن بقية الحيوانات، وهكذا تمحى القوانين السبعة التي ولدت مع الثورة، وتختم الرواية على مشهد الخنازير وهي تتبادل المصالح مع أصحاب المزارع المجاورة من البشر، بحيث لم تعد الحيوانات تفرق ما بين البشر والخنازير، وبحيث لم تعد المزرعة للحيوانات، وإنما تحول اسمها إلى (ضيعة الخنازير). الرواية كما نرى هي القصة المؤلمة لتبدد الحلم الاشتراكي على يد السوفيات، أما المستقبل المرعب الذي كان أورويل يتوقعه لهذه التجربة فسنقرؤه في روايته التالية 1984.

Gone with the Wind

by

4.26 rating

Comment 1: I kind of don't want to give this book 5 stars. I'm going to, because it was epic. Seriously, it's a really, really good read and Margaret Mitchell was a fantastic storyteller. She captures the feel of a lost generation and a bygone world and makes it real, pulsing with life and bittersweet memory and pride. Her characters are wonderfully vivid and complicated and conflicted, larger than life archetypes symbolizing the different elements of society each one represents. And the story is sweeping and grand. If you've seen the movie and thought it was gorgeous and epic, Hollywood only barely did justice to the source material. Gone With the Wind is deservedly one of the greatest Civil War novels ever written.But... there is a really big "but" here.Here was the astonishing spectacle of half a nation attempting, at the point of bayonet, to force upon the other half the rule of negroes, many of them scarcely one generation out of the African jungles. The vote must be given to them but it must be denied to most of their former owners.There are a few things that Hollywood rather prudently left out in the cinematic version, like the fact that every white male character joins the Klan to oppose Yankees and freedmen in the period of Reconstruction following the war. And this is described in approbatory terms by the narrative viewpoint. In the book, unlike the movie, Scarlett finds Rhett Butler in jail because he killed a black man, for being "insolent" to a white woman. And this is treated as an example of how shocking, lawless, and hateful the Yankees are: they actually put a white man in jail just because he killed a negro!Indeed, throughout the book, Mitchell compares African-Americans to monkeys, apes, and children, describes slavery as a benevolent institution in which kind slave owners took care of their "darkies," and when the slaves are freed, society crumbles because black people are destructive children who can't function without white people telling them what to do. Reconstruction (in which the South learns that yes, you really aren't allowed to own slaves anymore and yes, you really did actually lose the war) is a horror beyond enduring, but we're meant to mourn the lost world of balls and barbecues attended by rich white plantation owners and their loyal, happy slaves.Now, you may be saying, "Well, sure, the characters are racist, of course former Confederates are going to be racist." And that's true, I wouldn't have a problem with the characters being racist and flinging the n-word about. That would be historically accurate. But the authorial viewpoint makes it very clear that Margaret Mitchell shared the POV of her characters.Aided by the unscrupulous adventurers who operated the Freedmen's Bureau and urged on by a fervor of Northern hatred almost religious in its fanaticism, the former field hands found themselves suddenly elevated to the seats of the mighty. There they conducted themselves as creatures of small intelligence might naturally be expected to do. Like monkeys or small children turned loose among treasured objects whose value is beyond their comprehension, they ran wild - either from perverse pleasure in destruction or simply because of their ignorance.Everything about the antebellum South (except its sexism, which is treated with satirical amusement and thoroughly lampooned by Scarlett in everything she does) is glorified and painted in a rosy hue. All sympathy is with rich white Southerners when Reconstruction destroys their world. Their former slaves? The author takes pains to describe how much happier and better off most of them were before being freed. Black characters are all offensive racial stereotypes who are constantly described (not by other characters, but in the narrative POV) as apes, monkeys, and children."Gawdlmighty, Miss Scarlett! Ah's sceered ter go runnin' roun' in de dahk by mahseff! Spose de Yankees gits me?"I don't think you have to be overly "politically correct" to find Gone With the Wind to be a hard book to get through at times, with really glaring evidence of the author's Southern sympathies and unquestioned racism.And yet I'm giving it 5 stars. I suppose in the interests of political correctness I should knock off at least a star, but I have to be honest: I was just enthralled by this long, long novel from start to finish. Even while I was sometimes gritting my teeth at the racist descriptions and all the "Wah, wah, poor plantation owners, the Yankees took away all their slaves, life is so hard for them now!" I wanted the story to keep going and going. I wasn't bored for one moment.The protagonists, of course, are what make this a timeless love story. Note that's "love story," not "romance," because there's very little romantic about Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler.What Melanie did was no more than all Southern girls were taught to do: to make those about them feel at ease and pleased with themselves. It was this happy feminine conspiracy which made Southern society so pleasant. Women knew that a land in which men were contented, uncontradicted, and safe in possession of unpunctured vanity was likely to be a very pleasant place for women to live. So from the cradle to the grave, women strove to make men pleased with themselves, and the satisfied men repaid lavishly with gallantry and adoration. In fact, men willingly gave the ladies everything in the world, except credit for having intelligence.Scarlett exercised the same charms as Melanie but with a studied artistry and consummate skill. The difference between the two girls lay in the fact that Melanie spoke kind and flattering words from a desire to make people happy, if only temporarily, and Scarlett never did it except to further her own aims.Scarlett is an evil, conniving drama queen who if she had been raised in a society where women were actually allowed to do things would rule the world, but since she wasn't, she just learned to wrap the world around her finger and tell it to go to hell. She is absolutely the most self-centered character you will ever meet: in her mind, she is literally the center of the world. She sees nothing, understands nothing, and cares about nothing that isn't of direct and immediate importance to herself. And yet within her narrow, blindered view of the world, she's brilliant and adaptive and resourceful and unstoppable. The destruction of that glittering world of ball gowns and parties and negroes waiting on her hand and foot, in which she was raised to expect the world to revolve around her, is harrowingly depicted in her trials during the war and after it, and in her downright heroic accomplishments keeping not only herself but her extended family alive. Never mind that she never actually cares about anyone but herself, she does what has to be done, which is largely why her sister-in-law, poor Melanie Wilkes, believes to her dying day that Scarlett is a wonderful, noble, loving sister, even while the entire time Scarlett hates her and covets Melanie's husband Ashley.Then there is Rhett Butler. The most brilliant Byronic rogue ever. Rhett kicks Heathcliff and Rochester's prissy white English arses. He is a first class scoundrel and anti-hero with a dark, brooding swoon-worthy heart. Because he's ruthlessly pragmatic and mercenary, smart enough to know right from the start that the South has started a fight it can't win, and he makes millions as a "speculator," enduring the wrath and hatred of his peers and gleefully, smugly giving them the finger, and yet in the end he goes off to be a hero. And survives, and becomes a (very, very rich) scoundrel again, and his reputation keeps going up and down throughout the book. He is the only man who is a match for Scarlett, because as he points out, they are so much alike. Like Scarlett, he's awesome and caddish and hateful and the best character ever.Scarlett and Rhett's relationship is so much more tempestuous, conflicted, and compelling than in the movie. Every time they are together, it's like watching two grandmasters drawing knives and sparring. They were truly made for each other, they deserve each other, they could be happy together, and yet how could it end in anything but tears?Oh yeah, I loved this book. Parts of it are so offensive, it will not bear scrutiny to modern sensibilities (it was pretty darn offensive when it was written, even if they did make a toned-down Hollywood movie based on it a few years later), and if you can't stand reading Mark Twain and all his uses of the n-word, then Gone With the Wind will probably make you want to throw the book against a wall (which will make a big dent, because this is a big book). But it is powerful and moving, the drama is grander than any epic fantasy doorstopper, the romance is definitely there, and the characters are fabulous and melodramatic and you care about every one of them, even (especially) the African-American characters, despite Mitchell's offensive treatment of them.This is certainly not the only "problematic" book I've ever enjoyed, but never have I so enjoyed so problematic a book. If it weren't so damned racist, I'd give Gone With the Wind my highest recommendation. If it weren't so damned good, I could castigate it as a well-written but really offensive book whose author misused her gifts. But it's both, so I recommend it, but my recommendation comes with a big fat warning label.There was a land ofCavaliers and Cotton Fieldscalled the Old South...Here in this pretty worldGallantry took its last bow..Here was the last ever tobe seen of Knights and theirLadies Fair, of Master and ofSlave...Look for it only in books,for it is no more than adream remembered.A Civilization gone withthe wind...

Wuthering Heights

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3.8 rating

Comment 1: When my book club picked Wuthering Heights, I had the vaguest of notions of what it was about. A romance in the moors, I thought. I recalled a movie trailer from the past, people standing in the rain, staring at each other with smoldering eyes; people standing in the fog, staring at each other with smoldering eyes; people staring at each other, staring, staring, staring. Also a snippet of dialogue popped into my head, overwrought and purple, the twist of phrase that sends teenage lit nerds into paroxysms: “My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”My book club is composed of six guys. We started the book club because we were tired of our wives having all the fun and drinking all the wine at their own gatherings. After our second time cycling through the club, with each member picking a book, Adam’s wife pointed out that we’d yet to read a female author. Adam decided to remedy this by picking Wuthering Heights, which had struck some kind of chord with him in high school. Based on my recollections, as noted above, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. I believed in romance once, a long time and two kids ago, but it’s hard for me to get excited about notions of love resembling the eternal rocks. Lucky for me, this isn’t anything like a typical love story. Wuthering Heights is set in the bleak, chilly, forlorn Yorkshire moors. The story begins in needlessly-complicated fashion with the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, a man named Lockwood – who narrates in the first person – going to meet his landlord Heathcliff, who lives at Wuthering Heights. Lockwood is taken aback at the odd characters he meets at the Heights: the rude, taciturn Heathcliff; a young woman; and a strange young man who appears to be a servant. There is a snowstorm and Lockwood is forced to spend an uncomfortable, nightmare-ridden night at Wuthering Heights. When Lockwood returns to Thrushcross Grange, he asks his housekeeper, Nelly Dean, about the strange goings-on at the Heights. At this point, Nelly takes over the first-person narration to tell the bulk of the story. (In other words, this is a Conrad-esque nested narrative, where there are stories within stories within stories. Frankly, I find this literary technique irritating and confusing. Just use the third-person! It’s much more believable!) Nelly’s sprawling tale begins as a love affair between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. It was Catherine’s father who came upon the homeless Heathcliff while on a trip to Liverpool. He brought Heathcliff back to Wuthering Heights to live with him, Catherine, and Catherine’s brother Hindley. Heathcliff and Hindley don’t like each other, but Catherine and Heathcliff do. A neighbor named Edgar Linton joins this crowd, wooing Catherine. At some point, Heathcliff runs off, Edgar marries Catherine, Heathcliff returns, and the melodrama begins! At this point, I’m going to stop with the plot points. For one, I’m not SparkNotes, or CliffsNotes, if you’re of a certain age (and no, I won’t help you write your term paper). For another, I can’t keep the convolutions straight myself. This is a tangled book, filled with characters who are similarly named (Heathcliff and Hareton, Lindley and Linton, Catherine and Cathy). Suffice to say, there are EMOTIONS involved. Very strong emotions. As in character-in-a-Russian-novel strong. Wuthering Heights is one of those Romantic novels in which spiritual or emotional illness will manifest into a physical illness that can literally kill you. My initial emotion, since we’re on the topic, was one of dislike. I didn't like Wuthering Heights. I did not like the long, tedious introductory chapters narrated by Lockwood. I did not like the characters who all – with the exception of the saintly Nelly Dean – came across as either cruel, stupid, or both. I hated the character of Joseph, an old coot with a religious bent who speaks in an indecipherable colloquial dialect. (At first, I used the annotations at the back of my Penguin edition to translate Joseph’s mutterings. Eventually, up against a book club deadline, I started skipping everything he said). I did not care for the hyper-passionate dialogue, or the occasionally murky prose. The more I thought about it, though, the more I came to respect Wuthering Heights. It is exceptionally sinister, with long sections of the story an epic mind-f—k coordinated by a vengeful Heathcliff. It is psychologically dark, if not especially deep. It is a work of fiction that demands discussion, and explodes with dozens of meanings depending on who is doing the reading. No one will ever know what Emily Bronte intended when she wrote Wuthering Heights. She died shortly after publication, and due to her gender, and her famous sisters, it was sometimes hard to convince people she even wrote it. Regardless, it is a work of imaginative genius. I’ve always loved reading but I’ve always hated being told what to read. It’s my only real authority issues. Even in book club I sometimes get sulky and resentful when certain titles are chosen. I trace this issue back to all my English classes, and all the turgid “classics” I’ve been assigned throughout the years. When I finally finished my last class in a pedagogical era that lasted twenty years, the first thought I had was I can read whatever I want! (True story: after I finished the bar exam, most of my classmates gathered for an epic drunk. I stayed home and fulfilled my dream of reading a book while eating Pizza Hut pizza). Every once in awhile, I’d try to throw a classic into my reading list, mainly for that sense of intellectual superiority that comes with being highbrow, if only for a fleeting moment. The younger, mid-twenties version of myself still felt a residual resentment. I’d read something like Moby Dick and almost be angry at it. Angry at its difficulty; angry that people thought it was so good, and kept saying so, when it was self-evidently so ponderous and syntactically tortured. Now I’m coming to realize the value in wrestling with a book. For the most part, I still value a certain level of clarity when I read, because reading is fundamentally about communication. But the older version of myself can appreciate that extracting the meaning of something is worthwhile in itself. So I fought with Wuthering Heights, and the battle ended as a draw. And unlike Moby Dick, Wuthering Heights did not end up in the fireplace.

The Da Vinci Code

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3.74 rating

Comment 1: OKAY PEOPLE…someone let me in on the gag because between the cries of "Greatest Book of Greaty Greatness EVER" and the screams of "Lamest Load of Lamey Lameness EVER", my itty bitty brain is left very… So post Hype-a-ganza, I finally got around to reading this popular, polarizing, pop culture icon and thought it was….drum roll……………………FINE(sigh). It was a solid read with a slight lean towards the “eh” side of MEH and few moments of genuine “that’s neat.” I don’t see all the love and I don’t see all the rage. Other than the obvious religious flavor of the content, it reminded me of your typical page-turning, popcorn beach read and I thought it accomplished its goal in decent, if unremarkable, fashion. Now I have a strict “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t mock, don’t preach” approach when it comes to religiousness so I am going to ignore the bird-flipping Vatican bash aspects of the story, though I can certainly see people on both sides of the fence having “epic rah rah” or “epic fail” reactions and I respect that. For me, it didn’t move my needle much in either direction beyond my fondness for the “big hidden history mystery” which is something I generally really enjoy. The plot of this one has been talked to death and beyond so rather than adding one more jelly bean to the jar, I thought I would just run down a few likes and dislikes about the story and leave it at that. TURN ONS1. Conspiracy theories: are just fully fun and I am a major sucker for plots concerning “shadow” histories and secret people doing secret things behind secret doors for reasons that are SHHHHHHH. I love a good conspiracy. Find me a rumor involving Kim Kardashian being a Bilderberger and using a secret banking pipeline running from Area 51 through Microsoft to the Saudi Royal Family and laundering vast monies to be used to coordinate the sale of Boise, Idaho to a mysterious consortium headed by Jay Z and Justin Bieber who will then turn the city into a giant quasi-government facility used for the testing of alien “cloning” technology………….and I am glued to my seat and ONE HAPPY FELLA. 2. Knights Templar: As much as I love conspiracies in general, when you throw the Knights Templar into the mix, it’s gonna perk me up better than a latte enema. I am always in favor of having them show up as a lynch pin to any massive global plot. The Knights Templar are like caramel on ice cream and just make a good conspiracy better. I had a lot of fun with the rehash of the Templar’s place in the center of EVERYTHING. 3. Symbology, Da Vinci and the Holy Grail (the IDEA): I thought the major plot components themselves were interesting and I enjoyed following the hidden clues, messages, riddles and the tie in to all of the famous historical artifacts. It was fun. I also liked the “historical significance” of the search (i.e., the “big reveal”) and the implications to the world if revealed. TURN OFFS1. Symbology, Da Vinci and the Holy Grail (the EXECUTION): As much as I enjoyed the plot concept, the execution of the story was often frustrating and occasionally insulting. I’m not talking about the clunky, “serviceable at best” prose as that’s gotten enough play without my squirting lighter fluid on the bonfire. My issue is more with Dan feeling the need to “spoon feed” me details about his “oh so clever plot” so that my economy-sized brain could grasp it. For example, there would be a “reveal” that I thought was interesting….and then Dan would exhaust me with explaining EXACTLY what that meant and EXACTLY what the implications were and make sure I knew EXACTLY what he had told me. I get it Mr. Brown, heard you the first time. 2. THRILLer killing amounts of PLOD: For a page turning, actiony thriller, there was just too much sideways movement of the plot and some really unnecessary amounts of plod to the narrative. Part of this has to do with the excessive “hand holding” Dan does with his audience mentioned above. However, there are also WAY too much time spent slowing down to take a look around and where we are and where we’ve been. I started getting the impression that Brown was trying to hit a particular page count for the book and didn’t have anything but filler to loan the pages with. This is never a good thing for this kind of story. 3. The End: Not a big fan of the final resolution of the story and I found it very un climaxy and a bit of a let down. Once we have the big reveal, very little new information ever really got added to the picture and I felt like my curiosity should have been stroked a few more times than it was in the home stretch. This lack of satisfying climax left me with a serious case of “blue brain.” Still, overall, this was a good, serviceable mystery-thriller that seems tailor-made for a warm afternoon on the sand. It isn’t great literature, or even good literature, but it is a good thriller, a good concept and, for the most part, fun. It seems to accomplish pretty much exactly what it set out to do. 2.5 to 3.0 stars.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

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4.05 rating

Comment 1: Alice nel paese dell meraviglie 3/5Attraverso lo specchio e quello che Alice vi trovò 2/5 “Vorresti forse sostenere che la frase vedo quello che mangio ha lo stesso significato di mangio quello che vedo?»“O vorresti sostenere” proseguì la Lepre Marzolina “che la frasemi piace quello che prendo ha lo stesso significato di prendo quello che mi piace?”“E vorresti forse sostenere” concluse il Ghiro (il quale sembrava che parlasse dormendo) “che la frase respiro quando dormo ha lo stesso significato di dormo quando respiro?”Incontrai Alice per la prima volta a 8/9 anni: era nel mobile di ingresso della casa di mia cugina. Era lì, insieme all’elenco telefonico e alle pagine gialle (tempi preistorici in cui tutte le informazioni era tangibili e per trovarle dovevi, quantomeno, conoscere l’alfabeto nel giusto ordine.) Lo ricordo come se fosse accaduto ieri perché casa di mia cugina non era un luogo dove trovavi libri in giro; presi il libro e iniziai a leggerlo ma dopo poche pagine capii che io e Alice non potevamo essere amiche, il nostro modo di vedere la realtà era troppo diverso. Io sempre a chiedermi perché e percome, Alice scivolata in un mondo fantastico senza neanche domandarsi perché e senza cercare di attribuire un senso al mondo in cui era capitata. Quella ragazzina era troppo strana perché non si faceva domande, non cercava il significato nascosto, non svelava metafore (ok, lo ammetto: a otto anni non ero in grado di formulare questi giudizi, ma il succo era questo.)Con mio rammarico (abbandonare i libri non è mai stato facile per me) decisi di interrompere quella frequentazione. Rimisi a posto il libro nel posto in cui lo avevo trovato (e dove probabilmente sarebbe ancora se i miei zii non avessero traslocato.) Non ho più cercato Alice e non ho mai voluto guardare il cartone della Disney (va beh, non fa testo perché la Disney snatura tutti i classici: basta vedere cosa ha fatto a Pinocchio) e non ho mai voluto che lo guardasse mia figlia. Neanche il mio amato Tim Burton mi ha convinto a cedere ad Alice (e anche in questo caso ho fatto bene). Durante una promozione ho comprato per mia figlia il libro di Alice tratto dal cartone, ma non gli e l’ho mai letto: l’ho preso soltanto perché abbiamo quasi tutti i libri dei cartoni Disney. Eppure a volte basta poco per dare una sferzata a un rapporto e passare dall’insofferenza alla curiosità. Alice è rientrata nella mia vita un giorno mentre spulciavo la sezione dedicata ai libri per bambini di una grande libreria: nascosto in uno scaffale ho trovato un’Alice totalmente diversa nella raffigurazione: non una leggiadra bambina con pizzi e merletti (era stato questo a rendermela così antipatica?) ma una ragazzina con i capelli neri a caschetto e uno sguardo triste vestita con un semplice abitino azzurro a disegni geometrici neri (l’autrice delle illustrazioni è Emma Chichester Clark). Ho deciso che era arrivato il momento di riprendere un rapporto interrotto molto bruscamente. Purtroppo la lettura non ha dato grandi soddisfazioni e a questo punto faccio una domanda agli editori di libri per bambini: perché non stampate le edizioni originali illustrate? Ma illustrate sul serio non con qualche figura sparpagliata qua e là ogni dieci/quindici pagine. I bambini piccoli hanno bisogno delle illustrazioni per mantenere la concentrazione, ma non è un buon motivo per abbinare delle illustrazioni molto belle a delle versioni ridotte brutte e noiose da leggere (ribadisco: sono piccoli, non stupidi). Non si può ridurre Alice nel paese delle meraviglie e una mera elencazione di fatti saltando dei passaggi (quelli poi che rendono il libro interessante). Ormai, se volevo dare una speranza al mio rapporto con Alice, dovevo per forza leggere la versione originale. Ci sono voluti più di trentanni ma alla fine ho fatto la cosa giusta: ho letto il libro così come Carroll Lewis l’aveva scritto.Dopo tutta questa lunga (e forse poco interessante) confessione, vi starete chiedendo se il libro mi è piaciuto. Sì, mi è piaciuto ma non lo annovero tra le letture più entusiasmanti della mia vita. Il punto è che io devo per forza attribuire un metasenso a quello che leggo: cosa vuole dire l’autore? Cosa rappresenta questo libro per me? Per rispondere alla prima domanda, ho fatto scorpacciate di articoli su internet ma non sono giunta ad alcuna conclusione convincente. Né le interpretazioni psicoanalitiche (francamente le ritengo delle forzature, anche se non c’è dubbio che l’autore avrebbe fornito materiale ghiotto per un’analisi) né quelle psicologiche mi hanno convinto. Penso che la strada sia quella di approfondire la cultura vittoriana perché la vicenda di Alice è ricca di modi dire e di richiami alla cultura dell’epoca: per questa ragione ho deciso di rileggere nella versione annotata da Martin Gardner. Esiste la probabilità che semplicemente Alice sia una storia senza significati nascosti, anzi (come ho letto da più parti) sarebbe proprio questo il suo pregio: non voler veicolare nessun significato, nessuna morale in un’epoca (quella vittoriana) in cui ai bambini non veniva permesso di divertirsi senza un fine. Sul piano più soggettivo, invece, non riesco a rilassarmi e a godermi le avventure di Alice: devo confessarvi che un po’ mi annoiano, soprattutto le parti in rima. Ciò che invece mi affascina sono i singoli personaggi di Alice nel paese delle meraviglie: Carroll e riuscito a tratteggiare delle creature che rimarranno per sempre vive nella mia mente (badate bene, ho scritto nella mente e non nel cuore). Attraverso lo specchio e quel che Alice vi trovò, invece, non mi è piaciuto: sarà che non so giocare a scacchi e quindi mi sfuggono tutti i riferimenti a questo gioco. Sarà che la diversa nascita di questa opera (meno spontanea e chiaramente progettata nei minimi dettagli) fa sentire tutto il suo peso e la penna di Lewis Carroll non è riuscita a sopraffare del tutto la tristezza e la monotonia di Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

Les Misérables

by

4.11 rating

Comment 1: إنها من تلك اللحظات التي تغلق فيها آخر صفحة من الكتابوتبقى ذاهلا مشدوها مما فيه ..!في البداية كنت أقضي خمس ساعات متفرقة في القراءةفقط لكي أنتهي، ثم أصبحت أقضي الساعات نفسها وزيادةرغبة في الاستمتاع وملاحقة سير الأحداث..قالت لي إحداهن: أنصحك بألا تضيعي وقتك في قراءة مثل هذا الهراءهذه الرواية لا تعدو أن تكون سوى مسلسل تركي تافهبمجرد تصفحها لبضع صفحات قالت رأيها هذا ..وبين همتي الضعيفة لقراءة رواية بهذا الحجم، وبين هذا الرأيكنت أقرأ تحت الإكراه والجبرية نزولا عند رغبة صديقتي أحلامالتي منحتني هذين المجلدين من باب التبادل..الآن ناقمة أشد النقمة على تلك المتفلسفة الرعناء <_<"..لقد رافقتني هذه الرواية في كل مكان تقريباكانت كطفلٍ صغير أضعه على حجري وألقي على  مسامعه تهويداتهي عبارة عن انفعالاتي بين الأحداث.."ثورة البؤساء".. هذا ما أُفضّل إطلاقه على هذه الملحمة الرائعةرواية شوهتها تلك الأفلام والنسخ المختصرة التي تركزت على إظهار جانبوإخفاء جوانب أخرى لا تتجزأ..كل تلك السنين التي قضاها ڤيكتور لإنتاج رائعته لم تذهب سدىفصداها لا يزال يتردد حتى هذه اللحظة..رواية تاريخية اجتماعية اقتصادية مأساوية ..كل بيت وكل شارع وكل بالوعة وكل حجر في فرنسا له تاريخه الذي ساهم بشكل أو بآخر في صياغة هذه الرواية فما بالكم بالشخوص الذين كانوا هم المحرك الأساسي لها..!..جان ڤالجان، كوزيت ، ماريوس، غافروش، وبالطبع المفتش جاڤييرهذه أكثر الشخصيات تأثيرا وأكثر الشخصيات التي غاص فيكتور في مكنوناتها..لحظات اليأس والألم والعوز والحاجة والنشوة والغيرةنزاعات الخير والشر، النور والظلام، الفضيلة والرذيلة، الأنانية وحب الآخرينالقوة والضعف، الرغبة والحاجة، الفقر والغنى الإيمان والإلحاد وغير هذا الكثييير..الثورة الفرنسية، الجمهورية الفرنسية، الشعب ، الوطن، المتشرد والجندالبؤساء والثورة...نعم.. جميعنا وضع ديستوفيسكي محامي الإنسانية وهو وحده من أجاد وصف الإنسان ووصف خلجات الإنسانلكن فيكتور في هذه الملحمة اعتلى قمة المجد واحتل عرشها بل وتربع أيضا....كل ما كان يزعجني في المجلد الأول بت أرائه حسنة من الحسنات وأحد أهم دعائم الروايةتماهيت مع الشخصيات ..أحببت جان اخلاصه يقينه تفانيه بذله للخير وتكفيره للخطاياصراعه مع أفكاره وضميره..وأعجبت بجافيير رغم سلطته ومع هذا كانت للشفقة نصيبها الأكبر في سبيل نهاية جافيير الغريبة..كان ييير اعصابي ويرهقني في كل مرة يخرج فيها أمام جان كعفريت العبلة حتى أن الحماسة تأخذنيوأصرخ غاضبة : ( ولك حِلّ عن هالزلمة بقى ) ^^"أما ماريوس.. فكم نقمت عليه لكن من الجيد أن الحالة لم تأخذ في الاستفحال فهو سرعان ماتدارك خطأه..غافروش.. وموت استشهاده الغنائي كان مؤلما بحق .. أقتبس منها هذا المقطع((بيد أن رصاصة أشد غدراً مصوبة على نحو أفضل من سابقاتها بلغت الطفل الشبيه بالشهاب الغازي. لقد رأوا غافروش يترنح, ثم يقع, وأطلق المتراس كله صيحة, ولكن كان ثمة آنتييوس في هذا القزم, لأن مس المتشرد الرصيف أشبه شيء بمس العملاق الأرض. لم يقع غافروش إلا لينهض من جديد, وظل قاعداً على مؤخرته وقد جرى على وجهه خط من الدم طويل, ورفع ذراعيه في الهواء ونظر إلى الناحية التي أقبلت منها الرصاصة, وبدأ يغني :لقد سقطت على الأرضهذه خطيئة فولتيروأنفي في الساقيةهذه خطيئة ….ولم يكمل. لقد حالت بينه وبين ذلك قذيفة ثانية من القناص نفسه. وهذه المرة خر على الرصيف مكباً على وجهه, ولم يتحرك بعدُ قط. كانت تكل الروح العظيمة قد فاضت.))كوزيت.. كانت خليقة بكل تلك السذاجة والطيبة التي لفت حياتها فما عانته لم يكن قليلا أبدا..ماذا أقول أيضا ؟ وعن ماذا أتحدث؟ بودي أن أسرد التفاصيل وأحللها وأسكب فيها كل ماجال في ذهني وقتهالكن أخشى أن أفسدها بهرائي هذا ..المهم أن هذا التقرير لا يعني في النهاية سوى أن هذه الروايةلم تكن غارقة في الرومانسية بل احترمت خصوصية العاشقين بتلك الوصوف الراقية المذهلة التعبيروصف فيكتور لعلاقة الحب القدسية التي لفت كوزيت ماريوس كأنهما روحان هبطا من الجنةلن أجد مثلها أبدا في كل الكتب .. هذا الاحترام وتلك الحشمة في انتقاء الكلمات تجعلني أتسائلسبب تدني وصوف الكُتّاب إلى حد البذائة والحقارة والتعري الفاضح !!!هذا الريفيو لا يعني سوى أن هذه الرواية أعمق بكثير من كل النسخ المختصرة الأخرىومن كل الأفلام ومن كل الكلام الذي قيل وسيقال عنها..هذه الرواية لا يعبر عنها سوى بقرائتها كاااااملة ....أحلام.. كلمة شكر أخرى أعمق وأكبر أن كنت محقة في رأيكوأنك أثبتي نظريتك في أني سأغير رأيي بهذه الرواية بمجرد قرائتي لهافشكرا لك أن منحتني هذه المتعة المؤلمة... ^^خمس نجو م أمنحها حبا وكرما ..أختم هذا الريفيو بهذه الكلمات التي اختتمت بها هذه الرواية:(( إنه يرقد، بالرغم من غرابة قدره.لقد عاش. لكنه مات عندما فقد ملاكه.الأمر يحدث ببساطة، من تلقاء نفسه،مثلما يأتي الليل عندما يولي النهار.))

The Picture of Dorian Gray

by

4.03 rating

Comment 1: “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” I find myself in agreement with Italo Calvino regarding classics, and in the particular case of Oscar Wilde I find the story of Dorian Gray still relevant today, answering questions of morality, the role of art and the artist in defining our world, ethics and tolerance. There are still attempts to legislate morality and to punish what are ultimately private choices of the individual. There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. More than a gothic novel, this is Wilde’s manifesto and artistic credo, his whole raison d’etre, provocative and liberating, going from sparkly wittycism (“You would sacrifice anybody, Harry, for the sake of an epigram.”) to passionate defense of liberty of expression.The novel opens with a series of barbed arrows launched at his Victorian contemporaries and at their staid, tightly corsetted atitudes. (“The costume of the nineteenth century is detestable. It is so sombre, so depressing. Sin is the only real colour-element left in the modern life.”) This bitter preface is probably the result of the harsh criticism received by the first, shorter edition of the novel, and the author feels the need to justify himself: As for being poisoned by a book, there is no such thing as that. Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire to act. It is superbly sterile. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame. I have my own confession to make: I didn’t ‘like’ the damn novel! I consistently fell asleep after every four or five pages. It took me almost a month to read a book I would normally finish in a few days. I got bored by the interminable dialogues and the thinness of the plot. I waited almost another month before writing down my impressions. Most of all I really didn’t care about the personality of Dorian Gray and about the stance embraced by him and by Lord Henry putting hedonism and the worship of sin before the care for social justice. It was only in retrospect, as I spent almost three hours going through my notes, that I have come to appreciate the work of Oscar Wilde properly. We don’t always read for escapism, and we do need to be shaken out from time to time out of our comfort zones. I didn’t say I liked it, Harry. I said it fascinated me. There is a great difference. Dorian discusses in the last quote a book that changed his life, an account of a French aristocrat’s experiments with sin and with a self-destructive lifestyle. The title is not revealed in the text, but according to the footnoes this book exists and was one of Wilde’s favorites, “A rebours” by Joris Karl Huysmans. Another source of inspiration is Charles Baudelaire, who claims boredom is the ugliest and foulest of all vices. Earlier Wilde claimed that books are not moral and immoral, but here he sort of argues for the power of words. It is left to the reader to exercise his judgement and take a position pro or contra this decadent stance, but the attraction exercised by sin is undeniable throughout the history of literature: It seemed to him that in exquisite raiment, and to the delicate sound of flutes, the sins of the world were passing in dumb show before him. So what is the skeleton, the actual plot, that holds together Wilde’s decadent manifesto? It is basically a riff on the myth of Faustus, of innocence destroyed by cynical reality, of a soul sold to the devil for a life of epicurean delight. The three corners of the triangle are the Devil, the pure soul and the artist : the dangerously charming Lord Henry Wotton, the beautiful young aristocrat Dorian Gray and the earnest painter Basil Hallward. Basil paints the portrait of the young Dorian, capturing on canvas the beauty and the purity of an unspoiled mind, coloured by the artists’ own feelings of love for his subject (later edits by the author tone down the initial erotic passages in Basil’s dialogues, as too revealing and too controversial for his Victorian audience). Lord Henry sees the picture and befriends Dorian, fascinating the young man with his bon-mots and his selfish, elitist, hedonistic lifestyle. Dorian wishes that the moment captured on canvas will last forever, that he will never grow old and bitter, that his life will be spent true to the ideas of Lord Henry in praise of beauty, youth and the pursuit of pleasure. ‘How sad it is!’ murmured Dorian Gray, with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. ‘How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. It will never be older than this particular day in June ... If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that – for that – I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!’ SHAZAM!, his wish is granted (nevermind how, this is a parable), and like all the gifts of the genies, there is a price to pay. Dorian becomes the darling of the London high society, a role model for other young aristocrats and an assiduous pursuer of pleasure in all its forms : music, literature, fashion, interior design, hallucinogenic substances, etc. The years pass, and the influence of Dorian destroys many of his acquaintances, yet his face remains unchanged, trustworthy and youthful. All the rot is hidden from view, and I don’t think it is much of a spoiler to reveal that the changes are reflected in the portrait he keeps locked in an attic: What the worm was to the corpse, his sins would be to the painted image on the canvas.Henry, Dorian and Basil for me are three faces of one character: Oscar Wilde himself. This novel is probably the most authentic and the most sincere of his whole oeuvre. He put in everything he had, all his most intimate feelings and convictions, and it must have been painful to have it savaged by critics who only picked up on the scandalous bits. It is easy to recognize the author in the subversive aphorisms of Lord Henry (caled Prince Paradox in one conversation) and in the painter Basil: Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself. , an affirmation reinforced a few pages later in a transparent response to the criticism of the first edition: ... and I will not bare my soul to their shallow, prying eyes. My heart shall never be put under their microscope. There is too much of myself in the thing, Harry – too much of myself! It is less easy to identify the author in the personality of Dorian Gray, but for this very reason, I believe Dorian reveals the most intimate and precious aspects of Wilde’s personality: his fascination with the high society, his interest in the French Decadents, his awareness of the moral pitfalls of such a lifestyle, coupled with an unwillingness to conform to a moral code he despises. My dear boy, the people who love only once in their lives are really the shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect – simply a confesion of failure. Faithfulness! I must analyse it some day. The passion for property is in it. There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up. The last attack on the establishment comes from the voice of Lord Henry. He is to me responsible for most of the funny and provocative bits in the novel, as I found Dorian rather bland until the final chapters. The fascination for words and controversy produces some gratuitous paradoxes better suited for a laugh around the dinner table, but among them the reader can discover true gems and deep insights into the workings of the mind. The technique is highlighted at one such dinner table, as Lord Henry lets fly with all guns to the fascination of his audience: He played with the idea, and grew wilful; tossed it into the air and transformed it; let it escape and recaptured it; made it iridescent with fancy, and winged it with paradox. The praise of folly, as he went on, soared into philosophy, and Philosophy herself became young, and catching the mad music of Pleasure, wearing, one might fancy, her wine-stained robe and wreath of ivy, danced like a Bacchante over the hills of life, and mocked the slow Silenus for being sober. Facts fled before her like frightened forest things. I will dump Lord Henry’s mots here wholesale, letting you pick and chose, like me, the ones that rings truer to each of you. And remember, for each one that I selected here there may be ten more that I skipped:“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”--- “Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one.”--- “I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.”--- “Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”--- “I never approve, or disapprove, of anything now. It is an absurd atitude to take towards life. We are not sent into the world to air our moral prejudices. I never listen to what common people say, and I never interfere with what charming people do.”--- “There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.”--- “Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.”For all his rebellion, Wilde was still born and raised in a Victorian environment. He still wanted the appreciation and the approval of his peers. In an effort to please the audience, Wilde did massive edits and additions to the intial novella, and I’m not sure these changes are for the better. I particularly disliked some of the scenes with the young actress Sybil Vane and part of the final chapters for the heavy handed Victorian melodrama. Other chapters, fleshing out the back history of Dorian and his aestethic hobbies, feel unnecessary. Hardest to swallow is probably for me the atitude towards women, although I would caution against equating the words of the characters with the convictions of the author. And remember the book was published in 1890, when such views prevailed: Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals. or this one: I am afraid that women appreciate cruelty, downright cruelty, more than anything else. They have wonderfully primitive instincts. We have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their masters, all the same. They love being dominated. Trying not to spoil the ending, the author draws back from his fascination with Lord Henry’s nihilism and with the French ennui, trying to give an answer to the moral question: if everything is permissible, where do we draw the line? The same question that Dostoyevsky tackled some decades earlier in Crime and Punishment. Behind the nonchalant facade, Oscar Wilde hides a thorough research into psychological studies : There are moments, psychologists tell us, when the passion for sin, or for what the world calls sin, so dominates a nature, that every fibre of the body, as every cell of the brain, seems to be instinct with fearful impulses. Men and women at such moments lose the freedom of their wills. They move to their terrible end as automatons move. Choice is taken from them, and conscience is either killed, or, if it lives at all, lives but to give rebellion its fascination, and disobedience its charm. For all sins, as the theologians weary not of reminding me, are sins of disobedience. When that high spirit, that morning-star of evil, fell from heaven, it was as a rebel that he fell. ... and returns with a conclusion close to that of the Russian titan. We hold the answers inside ourselves, but we often try to drown the voice of the conscience:Actual life was chaos, but there was something terribly logical in the imagination. It was the imagination that set remorse to dog the feet of sin. It was the imagination that made each crime bear its misshapen brood. In the common world of fact the wicked were not punished, not the good rewarded. Success was given to the strong, failure thrust upon the weak. To close a difficult review of a book I didn’t like, but that still fascinated me, I have chosen one about the need, the imperative of communication, an ode to the written word that gives shape and purpose to our lives:Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?

Lord of the Flies

by

3.61 rating

Comment 1: Over the years I must have read this book five or six times. Last night I was reading it on a train with a highlighter in my hand, because I decided to teach it this year again. Teachers wreck books, of course. We all know that. On the other hand, whatever you have to study-read, you tend to carry a bit of it with you. You don't forget that book, at least. Although I must add, that it's quite risky introducing to a Scottish classroom a book with the memorable words: "The English are best at everything...."I wasn't sure how much it would have dated. I must have read it for the first time 30 years ago. Published in 1954, the phrasing would have been pretty modern then. Even now, most of it has work well. The phrase that jumped at me -- and it only appeared once -- was when Piggy (I think) compared the boys detrimentally to 'niggers', instead of just 'savages'. Ouch. Mental note to make them look hard at this bit. After all this is such a horrible little group of boys. As complacently white as can be, one group of them from a choir school (or a public school with a choir), no less. And Ralph, the 'hero', son of a naval officer. Golding, as a teacher in an upmarket school, presumably knew those sort of boys all too well. The boys being prepared to carry the empire forward.Except the setting suggests the empire may not be going forward. Somebody somewhere is fighting a war that is evidently nuclear. It's never quite clear what is going on or how the officer turns up cool as cucumber on a naval cutter at the end.Most of the young people in my class this year have (sigh) seen the film, so they know what happens. The group of boys marooned on an idyllic Pacific Island first start off having a sort of cheery adventure. There are references to Coral Island, Swallows and Amazons and Treasure Island too. They want to have fun, and one of their number -- Jack -- talks a great deal about 'fun', though his idea of fun is killing pigs.They arrive a fairly civilised little group but they gradually degenerate. Golding's moral message is about the "darkness of man's heart" and it's a good moral companion to Heart of Darkness now I come to think about it. The boys natural fears escalate and the younger children create a mythical 'beast', which then seems to materialise as a fact when the body of a dead airman, killed a war fought in the skies overhead, floats down to the island in a parachute.But the real beast is their own desire for control and domination, as well as an interesting bloodlust -- the word 'lust' is used of this, and the killing of the first pig is certainly described with unmistakable sexual resonance. One of the boys pushes a sharpened stick "up her ass". There are no girls in the group -- what a different novel it would have to have been if there were! -- but the pig they kill is a sow, and they interrupt her in suckling a brood of piglets. What a strange, strange thing to put into your novel. Not just the killing, but the slaughtering of a mother pig and a kind of sexual frenzy. Yuk!But hey -- he's intending to shock. He's intending to show that this blood lust thing isn't far away from human kind, or male human kind at least, and that it doesn't take much to call it out. Even Ralph, the Aryan protagonist, feels himself getting caught up in it. Paint your face, start whooping and chanting and you can do, it seems, almost anything.The kind, poetic, imaginative Simon gets butchered (teeth and nails at this point -- not spears). PIggy is despatched by Roger, the executioner. The whole of their little society is clearly turning into a Stalinist regime, with each boy taking his place, as prescribed by Golding, which is what you get to do when you write an allegory.It's a powerful read, though more repetitive, in linguistic terms, than I remembered - almost as repetitive as D H Lawrence in places. At the highpoint, towards the end, when Ralph is completely isolated and being hunted down, the word 'ululation' is done to death. But at least you can't read this book without learning what it means!What I both like and don't like about it is the way it makes me want to argue. The whole thing is completely manipulated. Is this what would happen? Would the darkness of man's heart take over? I have not much doubt that man's heart is dark, I guess, but when I got off the train I left my very lovely reddy-orangy furry scarf, and the chap who was sitting opposite me (I didn't speak to him during the journey) ran after me with it. It brightened my day. Perhaps he was a 'Simon' and would quickly get trampled if our civilisation were to decline.But look Golding, my lad -- that bit where you allow the man in the parachute to get dumped, dead, on the island, scaring the boys out of their wits -- if that hadn't happened -- your choice plot element -- well, the three boys Jack, Roger and Ralph, would have established Absence of Beast. It might all have turned out very differently.If Piggy hadn't been wearing glasses, there would have been no fire....If it had started raining sooner....If Ralph had been a bit more intelligent....If the pigs had been a bit better at getting away....On an island, living on fruit and getting scratched and cut, one or two of them would have developed fatal infections and their main enemy would probably have been illness and death, which would have drawn them together a bit. Even the biting insects would probably have driven them potty. One or two of them, it's my bet, would have descended into depression and just dwindled away.It wouldn't have been like The Coral Island, but it wouldn't have been the inevitable collapse of civilisation either. Steven King likes this book. It fits beautifully with his love of dramatic thriller, increasing isolation of central brave character, and underlying opposition between good and evil. Here evil wins, though. Ralph is about to be exterminated when the officer arrives, so the deus ex machina is just there as an ironic way to end the book. That bastard is even 'embarrassed' when Ralph bursts into tears. That's British stiff upper lippery for you. I don't believe, in the boys' behaviour. I don't believe that Jack, the killer (I nearly said Jack the Giant-Killer), is there just below the surface, although I do believe that wars bring out the worst in us. I don't believe that Roger -- just a little boy -- is the natural henchman, with a desire to execute his peers running just below his veneer of civilisation. But then perhaps I do. I've seen it, haven't I? Seen nasty young people doing nasty young things nastily. Conditioned into that, in their turn, by not very delightful adults, damaged adults.Oh bloody Golding -- go away! I put my money on man's intelligence. You gotta use your head to survive, whichever allegory you seem to be inhabiting. And sometimes you do survive and sometimes you don't, but the 'darkness of man's heart' is offset by the light, which always returns.The trouble is, the dark heart goes for power - doesn't it? And the desire for power and control over others can be wielded quickly and wrongly by just a few people. It's what's happening all over the world at this minute.And yet -- the majority are good-hearted souls, who will pick up your scarf on a train and return it to you. There are more good guys than bad ones. Some of them are quietly and happily reading books at this minute. Otherwise, what would be the point?

The Alchemist

by

3.77 rating

Comment 1: Timing is everything. If I'd read 'The Alchemist' four years ago, I'm sure I would have loved it. It deals in big, bold pronouncements of 'follow your dreams' et cetera et cetera, and it certainly makes you think about your own life and the pursuit of your own "Personal Legend" if you will. But maybe I'm older and more cynical now, or maybe it's not cynicism so much as just seeing a reality that isn't so mystical and black and white as Paulo Coelho's, but in any event, I just wasn't buying what 'The Alchemist' was selling.It's a good, quick read, I'll give it that. I enjoyed myself, and I definitely thought a little bit about my own life in the process, which I appreciate from my literature. And while I was more or less with it for a while, I just couldn't stay on board with an ending that left me saying, "that's it? Really?" Be forewarned, there will be spoilers after this point. The whole book Santiago is in pursuit of his "Personal Legend", which he is told is a great treasure found in the pyramids of Egypt. Along the way he befriends many people and makes a great sum of money, while also meeting a beautiful young woman who agrees to more or less be his life-partner, Romeo and Juliet-style (which is stupid in and of itself, but more on that later). It is at this point that he determines he has achieved a greater treasure than any he had ever dreamed of, and would go no further. Beautiful. Cue the music and themes of recognizing treasure in all its forms. Santiago has a wonderful, fulfilling life laid out before him, and would most likely die a happy man by the side of his lovely wife and adoring children, all while living comfortably as village counselor of a beautiful desert oasis. Sounds pretty nice, no?Well, that's where the book lost it's footing. Santiago is urged, coerced even, into continuing to follow his "Personal Legend", leaving behind his "love" (who, it should be mentioned is a "woman of the desert" and so is completely fine being abandoned by her "love" and will simply wait and wait and wait for him, whether he ever returns or not) traversing the desert and (bizarrely) evading a hostile army along the way by turning himself into the wind (it makes about as much sense as it sounds). In the end though, Coelho reveals to us that Santiago does, indeed, reach his "Personal Legend" in a two and a half page epilogue, where it is shoddily revealed that Santiago's long-sought after treasure is...treasure. Literally. Buried treasure. A box in the sand filled with gold coins and diamonds and jewelry and crowns, and all the other cliche treasure images you can think up. What the hell?So what message are we supposed to take from this book then? Money is the most important thing in the world? Women are objects meant to be seen and valued for their beauty, there to serve you and wait around forever while you go on wild goose chases across continents in search of money? Obviously I'm being facetious, and Coelho intended to say that one should follow their dreams no matter what, even if it transcends a nice, content life, so long as you are in pursuit of a life that would be even greater than you can ever imagine, sacrificing what is good now for what can be great later. But he did so in an extremely simplistic way, and the revelation of the Santiago's treasure being literally treasure was a major disappointment.The thing was, despite his simplicity, the book had a nice message going for a while. If Fatima was Santiago's treasure, that I could have gotten behind, even if it shows a good deal of contempt for the role of women in relationships (beauty being the most important factor in deciding on a mate, as Santiago is struck by her beauty and immediately professes his love; Fatima more or less acquiesces immediately and pledges herself to Santiago no matter what, even if he must travel the desert forever in selfish pursuit of his own dreams, with no regard for her), because that is something intangible that is meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of financial standing. But then Coelho basically goes on to say that that is just a roadblock in the way of real achievement, and that one should selfishly pursue their own dreams with no regard for those closest to them.How a book can go on and on talking about seeing the everyday symbols and omens in life and taking heed of them, presumably leaving metaphors for life all along the way, and then have what was presumably the biggest metaphor of them all, Santiago's treasure, turn out not to be a metaphor at all, but just money? To me, that summed up everything. I suppose Coelho realizes this, as he begins the book with a brief fable about Narcissus falling into the river because he loved staring at his reflection, and the river's disappointment in this, as the river loved gazing into Narcissus's eyes and seeing the reflection of itself. This is a horrible little story implying that everyone is obsessed only with themselves, a sad, empty little thought that Coelho spends 167 pages endorsing wholeheartedly, under the guise of following your dreams.I understand that other people love this book and find it inspiring, and I think I would have felt the same way years ago, when I was just out of college and it appeared I had my whole life ahead of me and a lifetime to live it. I'm older now, and I've found someone who I consider to be a real treasure, and while I still have dreams, I'm not willing to sacrifice the happiness that this life brings me every day in a single-minded pursuit of something that I want for selfish reasons (fame, fortune, etc.). If I was Santiago, I would have never left Fatima in the first place if she truly made me happy, as Santiago claimed she did. Perhaps that makes me a coward in Coelho's eyes, not unlike the Crystal merchant from the story. But it'd also make me not the sad Englishman, whose single-minded pursuit of his "personal legend" had cost him all his money, friends, and family and left him alone in an oasis burning lead in a tent in the vain hopes it will turn to gold.I guess what I'm trying to say in this long-winded review, is that this book is all about being selfish and doing what you think will make you happy, regardless of everything else. I can see why that appeals to people, especially those who want to show the doubters and find their own treasure beneath a sycamore tree, but it's sad, in a way. We live in a culture where everyone wants selfish things like fame or money or power, just to satisfy some gaping hole in their own souls, ignoring the real problems that lead to these compulsions in the first place. To me, this book feeds and even encourages that misplaced ideal, and that's a shame.

Crime and Punishment

by

4.15 rating

Comment 1: ‘To go wrong in one's own way is better then to go right in someone else's.’I have been giving a lot of thought to this novel lately. Despite the three years that have gone by since reading Crime and Punishment—three years in which I’ve read some outstanding literature, joined Goodreads and written just over 100 reviews of the books I’ve journeyed through—Dostoevsky’s novel still resides on it’s throne as my personal favorite novel. No other web of words, brushstrokes or music melody has ever struck me so deeply and consumed me so completely as this book did. The author’s collection of works as a whole has left such a mark on my soul that I felt it necessary to permanently affix his likeness on my arm. Over a century has passed since its initial publication, yet Dostoevsky’s message is still as poignant today as it was when it was first inked onto paper. Crime and Punishment features an immensely engaging blend of intrigue; philosophy; political, social, moral and religious commentary, that all thread together to create a masterpiece of literature that captures the deep, raw core of the human condition when it is at it’s most gruesome and vulnerable. The exquisite literary genius of the novel evoked a strong emotional resonance in me and the timing of my reading was just right to forever wed me to my love of books.Initially envisioned as two separate novels, one following the inner turmoil of a murderer and the other chronicling the melancholic destruction of a family due to a flighty, alcoholic patriarch, Dostoevsky deftly weaves together a multitude of unforgettable characters as they interplay through their tangle of plotlines. There are some incredible scenes that will forever haunt and delight me in my memory, such as the narrow escape from the scene of the crime which had me holding my breath in anxious anticipation, the darkly comical disaster of the funeral feast, or the emotionally charged and grim meeting between Dunya and the vile Svidrigaïlov. Each character is carefully balanced with their foil, each character is written with their own unique style of speech and language, and the novel seems to tie every thread together with such perfection and care as it churns forward, raining destruction on the lives of it’s characters to bring them toward their own personal redemption or demise. This was a book that I was unable to put down as the words flowed from their pages to deep within my heart. Dostoevsky brilliantly straps the reader to the emotional states of his characters and is able to create seamless transitions between scenes or from the minds of one character to the next by riding the wings of an emotion. Most often this emotion is guilt, and the murder scene and it’s feverish follow-up is so expertly crafted that the reader feels they must share in Raskolnikov’s guilty burden. During the course of reading this book, I was overwhelmed by a crushing sense of guilt that was disconnected to any of my own actions. Yet, had police officers confronted me at any given moment, I would have held out my hands in surrender since I was so burdened by the guilty residue of the novel. What further linked me to the book was Raskolnikov’s illness following his crime. Maybe it wasn’t the novel taking root in my soul, perhaps it was due to the cold fall weather that was creeping in at the time, or perhaps it was due to my lack of sleep and early rising to embark on 10-12hr shifts in an unheated factory where I would work away amidst a cloud of aluminum dust, but I felt feverish and ill alongside Raskolnikov and his fever dreams. I don’t think I felt well again until after finishing the book.I believe I read Crime and Punishment at the ideal moment in my life. I had spent the summer going through several of Dostoevsky’s other novels and falling madly in love with his writing. Then my whole life was uprooted. At the time I began C&P, I had moved across the state away from all my friends, family, and everything I knew and recognized, to live in Holland with my brand new baby daughter and work in a factory that could easily serve for a modern day sequel to Sinclair’s The Jungle. Looking back, I think I can see why I so easily soaked up Raskolnikov’s feelings. Dostoevsky shows how we are a product of our choices, and it is how we deal with our consequences that makes us who we are. I was placed in the new situation because of choices I had made, like choosing to skip class to smoke and read by the river, and Raskolnikov was faced with the guilt of his own actions. It was the most dramatic shift in my life and I am not a person who enjoys change, yet here I was without a familiar face and nobody to talk to. Crime and Punishment was there in my hand every morning and night as I walked between my home and car, like a friend holding my hand to comfort and encourage me in my exhaustion. It rode shotgun on my hour commutes like a faithful companion, and was the friendly face in which I could take refuge in on my breaks. When stripped of all I knew, there was literature to keep me sane and give me something to hold on to as my world spiraled out of control around me (my daughter was also a tether of sanity for me, but fatherhood was still new and intimidating at the time). Dostoevsky and his beautiful words became my friend and my passion, and in my solitude (because, let’s face it, I was very much an oddball in that factory and it took awhile to find my place there) I plunged myself deep into books, something I am very thankful for and feel that all the strangeness and loneliness of the existence is washed away by the glow I feel from grappling with my favorite authors. Then I discovered Goodreads and you all became incredibly dear to me. I don’t think I would have survived my time in that dark pit without you all, so, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.I apologize that this isn’t really much of a review, I’m very excited for this review, as it was seeing this GR friend—one of which I hold in the highest regard and am always incredibly impressed by—reading Crime and Punishment that brought back a flood of memories of my times with the book as if I were Proust with his madeleines. I highly recommend this novel, and firmly stand by my choice of it as my favorite. Recently, I had to make a list for work of my top 5 favorite books, which was difficult to do, damn near impossible, but I realized how simple it was to put a book down in the #1 slot. I have read some incredible books since, Hunger (my love of which stems from the similarities to Dostoevsky I noticed in the book), Gravity’s Rainbow, or To the Lighthouse to name a few, yet nothing has ever left as deep of an impact on me as a reader and as a human being as this book. This is a fantastic book about the human spirit, about our deepest, darkest impulses, and shows that our own inner consciousness can dish out a far greater punishment than any legal system can. Now I need to sleep and sober up.5/5‘ I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity.’

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by

4.2 rating

Comment 1: (this review has been rewritten in july 2013. The ultimate opinion and meaning is the same, though the communication of it, has changed.) DISCLAIMER:I did not like this book. I am about to try to explain why that is so, here, in my own, personal review space. I am critiqing this book, based on my own opinions, personal taste, experiences and perspective, criteria and standards for literary work. It is entirely subjective, as I think all reviews, per definition, are.I mean no disrespect to the people who like this book, and who have found in it something of value. You are as entitled to your own opinion, subjective readingexperience, and standards, as I am, and yours is just as valid. And you have the same opportunity as me, to use your own review space, to clarify that. We don’t all have to agree. One opinion isn’t ‘wrong’ and the other ‘right’ – they are both right, because it is personal.If you are a big fan of this book, and have difficulty in understanding or respecting people, who disagree with you, especially on issues that are important to you, I advice you not to read any further. I will not be saying nice things about this book.A note regarding my own viewpoint:I have a background in psychology and work in this field. The knowledge that I have of some of the issues handled in this book, and the real people I’ve met working in this field, of course affects how I view the book, and is actually one of the reasons I think, that the way this book was written isnt a very good approach to or description of some of these very real issues. I want to underline that I look at Charlie as a written character, not a real person, and I value the book as a literary piece of work, not as a real life story. To me, there is a huge difference between the two.That doesnt make my opinion any more 'right' it is only to explain where i am coming from. ------------------------------Some of the things that matter most to me in books are prose/writing style, storytelling and message. It’s one of the things that can make or break a book for me.In this case, the writing style just didn't work for me.It was just too lacking .Maybe it's the whole premise of the book, a story narrated by someone who is emotionally inhibited as Charlie, that didn't work for me? Maybe, but it didn't have to be. That issue and Charlie’s character could have been explored and dealt with, literary, in other ways.The book could have had Charlie’s narration interact with someone else’s (like an answer to the letters for example), or it could have been written in the 3rd person, maintaining Charlie’s point of view, but also being able to draw in other views, and how they collide with Charlie’s.I find it a bit concerning, that Chbosky wrote a book with so many serious issues like suicide, death, rape, social exclusion/inclusion, relationship violence, abortion, drugs, homosexual adventures, childmolestation/incest, parties, fights, without really dealing with any one of them in depth. To have all of these issues crammed into one book, without giving it the time and place it deserves, I felt, was a huge fault. Each one of these issues needs to be taken seriously, not pointed out on one page, just to be forgotten on the next. If you are going to write about these things, write about it well, give it the space and the in-depth exploration it deserves. To make the reader care for these characters, for these issues, the author and the characters involved must care too. I had a hard time stomaching that both Chbosky and the characters seemed to care so little, for something that is so very very real and so very very difficult, for so many people. It was almost making a mockery of them, which was very off-putting to me.The staccato writing and Charlie’s detached narrating, made me feel detached as well.The story is written in a very plain, very dull, very simple language, with the same sentences reoccurring over and over (eg. "..I don't know why.." , "He/she looked sad.")The emotional description amounts to 'sad' or 'happy'.The portrayals of Charlie and everyone else in the story was so lacking that they felt like cardboard cutouts and simply came off as what they were; made up characters in a fictional story (and not a very good one at that if you ask me).The main character, Charlie, is 15, but comes off as much younger than that. He seems very immature, more like a 7 year old. How a boy can live to be 15 in this time and age (yes, I know it was written in the 1990’s but still, even then, masturbation was a wellknown phenomenon), without knowing of (not practicing) masturbation, is quite a wonder in itself.Charlie also cries a lot, which wouldn’t be a problem, if it was more nuancedly described. I don’t want to see /read about just the surface tears. I want to be taken behind the tears, into the pool they stem from, the pain they are a symptom of and maybe a release from? I want the author to show me what these tears mean, I want to understand them, to be touched by them, to be moved with the ebb and flow of them. In this case, that didn’t happen. The sentence "I/he/she started to cry" alone, just doesn’t stir much emotion in me. Especially not when thrown about on every other page. Then it just gets bothersome and tiring.It's not that I have an aversion to tears (my own or others'). Crying is normal, and can be very healthy and soothing. But when it comes to a literary work, I expect the author to give more nuanced descriptions of feelings than just bucketful of tears. Okay, so they are sad. Very, very sad. Very often. Now, show me what that sadness does to someone, besides producing tears, tears, tears. I am not interested in the tears alone. The sadness is the root, the tears are a symptom. Many people are filled with sadness, but don’t produce many tears. Sadness can overflow in many ways. So: the sadness is the key. Which is why I was so disappointed that Chbosky never digged deeper than this very very thin surface. All I got was tears. And I wonder if all the crying came down to Chbosky simply not knowing how else to describe emotions, or how explore them.Much thought and debate has been given to the question why Charlie is, the way he is. There is the fact that he suffered from childhood trauma, and then there is the question of whether or not Charlie might be autistic. The latter is hinted at and up for interpretation, but never explicitly stated/diagnosed.The autistic spectrum is a varied one, and it comes in many forms, very few fitting the standard, but classic ‘rainman’ syndrome of a very intelligent but socially closed off person. It’s admirable to want to write about autism, a difficult diagnosis to live with, sure. I just don’t think Chbosky is doing autistic people any favors or justice with his depiction of Charlie as someone who might or might not be autistic.Again I must say: if you are going to write about it, write about it with care. Don’t make it into a guessing game, but own it. Don’t glamorize or deride it, but show its many layers and nuances through the particulars and the concrete. The same goes for the psychological trauma. It wasn’t given the care and attention it deserved. It was left at the end as an easy way out, like 'hey, he suffered/suffers from this and so i'm excused for writing a terribly boring book'.No.Whatever made Charlie the way he is, it doesn’t compensate for how the story was written and pulled off.To me, it's really besides the point, since I don’t base my rating/review on pity for a character.SO whether Charlie has any form of autism or not, doesn't really matter, because I thought he and the story was very poorly written. and let me be clear about this: It's not the disorder I have a problem with, it's the writing of it.Note (November, 2013): I recently saw the movie, and thought it was better than the book.Maybe because it fixed some of the issues I had with the book, like it left some of the drama llama out and it wasn't as heavily centered on Charlie's narration and perspective, and emotions and reactions was expressed through expressions instead of just (bad) writing. Different type of media - different possibilities. For this story, i think movie worked better than writing.

Of Mice and Men

by

3.8 rating

Comment 1: Of Mice and Men: I am my brother's keeper"In every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other."— John Steinbeck in his 1938 journal entryJohn SteinbeckFirst Ed., Covici-Friede, Ny.,Ny., 1937John Steinbeck based Of Mice and Men on his own experiences as a bindlestiff in the 1920s. The source of his title is "To a mouse" by Robert Burns."But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,In proving foresight may be vain:The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley,An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!"George Milton and Lennie Small had plans. Lennie delighted in hearing of them.“George's voice became deeper. He repeated his words rhythmically as though he had said them many times before. 'Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. They come to a ranch an' work up a stake, and the first thing you know they're poundin' their tail on some other ranch. They ain't got nothing to look ahead to.” John Malkovich as Lennie Small and Gary Sinise as George MiltonFrom the time I first read Cain asked God if he was his brother's keeper my answer has always been "Yes." Perhaps that is why Of Mice and Men has remained one of my favorite novels and John Steinbeck has remained one of my favorite authors. It is a philosophy by which my family lived and which they instilled in me.I have often wished that Steinbeck had told us how George entered the lives of Aunt Clara and Lennie. However, over time I have come to believe the answer to that question is not important. It only mattered that Lennie was another human being who needed help and care because of his limited mental ability. Small, he was not, though his reason was.Steinbeck casts the end of this short novel with unmistakable foreshadowing as the two unlikely friends camp before heading into yet another ranch during the great depression. George tells Lennie that if he should get into trouble as he did in Weed he should come back to their camping spot and George will meet him there.Aunt Clara had unwittingly built into Lennie a fetish for the touch of soft things at an early age, a piece of soft velvet, mice, which Lennie kills because he does not know his own strength. In Weed he has seen a girl in a red dress. All he wanted to do was to touch that red dress. But the young girl who wore it raised the cry of rape. George and Lennie were on the run. That's the reason for George's warning.Steinbeck deftly paints a multitude of themes with a relatively small cast of characters working on the ranch to which George and Lennie come. There is every form of prejudice one could imagine on this ranch in the Salinas valley. Candy who has lost a hand is old. He could be kicked out at any time. He is a swamper, sweeping up and washing dishes. Crooks is a stable buck with a crooked back and black. He doesn't come into the bunk house, nor do the whites enter his separate room. He is the target of isolation and discrimination. The boss's son is Curly, a small man, filled with hate and violence, a bully. He is recently married. Curly's wife is a young girl with a past. The men in the bunk house have two sexual outlets, a prostitute or Curly's wife. Curly's wife has a roving eye. Merely being a woman is weakness. Sexism is rampant.Steinbeck paints the American vision of hope and dreams. George and Lennie plan on getting a little place of their own. They seem so close to realizing the dream when Candy joins them, providing the greatest part of their stake. One month of work will provide what they need.But it will not happen. Curly's wife turns her eye on Lenny.Lara Flynn Boyle and John Malkovich in the barn"Feel my hair. It's soft." It will be the last mistake Curly's wife makes. Curly forms a lynch mob to track down Lennie. George can only hope to get there first to save Lennie from the terror he knows Lennie will face. Lennie is waiting for him by the river. He asks him to tell him how it's going to be. George tells him to look across the river. George commits the ultimate act of being his brother's keeper at the cost of a tremendous emotional toll.“I see hundreds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches with their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads. Hundreds of them. They come, an’ they quit an’ go on; an’ every damn one of ‘em’s got a little piece of land in his head. An’ never a God damn one of ‘em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out there. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody never gets no land. It’s just in their head.”--Crooks, Stable Buck

The Great Gatsby

by

3.86 rating

Comment 1: Casual, self-absorbed decadence, the evaporation of social grace, money calling all the shots and memories of the past holding people hostage from the future that lies before them. Yes, Mr. Fitzgerald has nailed it and written one of THE great American novels. This book was a surprise. I LOVED it and all of the deep contradictions swimming around its heart. At once a scathing indictment on the erosion of the American Dream, but also a bittersweet love letter to the unfailing optimism of the American people. Call it dignified futility…obstinate hopefulness. Whatever you call it, this novel is shiny and gorgeous, written with a sort of breezy pretension that seems to mirror the loose morality of the story. Rarely have I come across a book whose style so perfectly enhances its subject matter. Set in the eastern United States just after World War I, Fitzgerald shows us an America that has lost its moral compass. This fall from grace is demonstrated through the lives of a handful of cynical “well-to-dos” living lavish but meaningless lives that focus on nothing but the pursuit of their own pleasures and whims. Standing apart from these happenings (while still being part of them) is our narrator, Nick Carraway. As the one honest and decent person in the story, Nick stands in stark contrast to the other characters. “Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.” Nick relays the story of the summer he spent in Long Island’s West Egg in a small house sandwiched between the much larger mansions of the area. His time in Long Island is spent with a group that includes his second cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her rich husband Tom who live in Long Island’s East Egg. At one point in the story, Nick provides the following description of the pair which I do not think can be improved upon: They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. In addition, we have Jordan Baker who is a poster child for the pretty, amoral, self-centered rich girl whose view of the world is jaded and unsentimental. Basically, she’s a bitch.The most intriguing character by far is Jay Gatsby himself, both for who he is and for how Fitzgerald develops him through the course of the narrative. When we are first introduced to Gatsby, he comes across as a polite, gracious, well-mannered gentleman with a magnetic personality who our narrator takes to immediately. He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself. However, from that very first encounter, Fitzgerald slowly chips away at the persona and peels back the layers of the “Great” Gatsby until we are left with a flawed and deeply tragic figure that in my opinion ranks among the most memorable in all of classic literature. Nick’s journey in his relationship with Gatsby mirrors our own. “It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment.”Through a series of parties, affairs, beatings, drunken escapades, the lives of the characters intermesh with terrible consequences. I don’t want to give away major parts of the story as I think they are best experienced for the first time fresh, but at the heart of Fitzgerald’s morality tale is a tragic love that for me rivaled the emotional devastation I felt at the doomed relationship of Heathcliff and Catherine in Wuthering Heights. In general, Fitzgerald’s world of excessive jubilance and debauchery is a mask that the characters wear to avoid the quiet torments that haunt them whenever they are forced to take stock of their actions. Rather than do this, they simply keep moving. "I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others--young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life." In the end, Fitzgerald manages the amazing feat of creating a sad, bleak portrait of America while maintaining a sense of restrained optimism in the future. Both heart-wrenching and strangely comforting at the same time. I guess in the end, this was a book that made me feel a lot and that is all I can ever ask. I’m going to wrap this up with my second favorite quote from the book (my favorite being the one at the very beginning of the review): And as I sat there, brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out Daisy's light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. 5.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!

Brave New World

by

3.94 rating

Comment 1: Brave New World: Be careful what you wish for(Also posted at Fantasy Literature)We all know Brave New World (1932) as a classic dystopian tale of a world bereft of conflict, pain, hardship, but also lacking individuality, free will, and intellectual thought. You were probably forced to read it in high school (I somehow missed it) and if you were a normal teen it must be have been either very weird or strangely appealing (unlimited free drugs and sex, a carefree life). Granted, it's a brilliant critique of the early socialist utopias penned by H.G. Wells. After that the Europe was engulfed in World War I and the Russian Revolution. So it was with much cynicism that Huxley must have wrote his story in 1932 to debunk the naive fantasies that socialists and libertarians had that humanity would solve all economic and social ills and create a perfect society.Brave New World centers on the post-scarcity World State, where everything from reproduction and social interactions to education, work, entertainment are ruled by a rigid hierarchy, and society is separated into five genetically-engineered casts. Only the upper casts, the Alphas and Betas, are allowed to develop normally, while the lower Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons fill the more menial tasks of society. Children are engineered in labs and raised in group facilities and the hypnopaedic method is used to condition children to accept their allotted roles in society and not question the status quo. Consumerism is at the core of this society, and individuality is considered an aberration that can be cured with the freely-available feel-good drug “soma”. This drug allows for harmless group bonding without the potential danger of religion or independent thoughts.The story begins with Bernard Marx, an Alpha Plus psychologist who somehow is not fully satisfied with his regimented and stress-free existence, and Lenina Crowne, a hatchery worker who is fairly content with life. Bernard insists on taking Lenina to a Reservation where some Savages are allowed to live in a state of simple existence, cut off from the wonders of the World State. Here they observe many strange and disturbing rituals conducted by the Savages, and encounter John, the son of a civilized women who became stranded on the Reservation and bore a child there. Bernard takes John back to civilization and becomes the toast of society, enjoying his celebrity status for parading around a Savage who has been ironically raised almost exclusively on Shakespeare’s works. The Savage becomes increasingly disturbed by the hedonistic and mindless society of the World State, which is at odds with the romantic and passionate ideals of Shakespeare. In particular, the vapid promiscuousness of Lenina shocks him. Eventually he causes various uproars and is brought before Mustafa Mond, the World Controller for Western Europe. John and Mustafa have a very profound debate on religion, morality, and the principles of the World State. In the end, John rejects the empty happiness of this society, and elects to go into self-imposed exile. However, he discovers that it is not so easy to escape the modern world, which refuses to leave him alone. Suffice to say, things don’t end well. This book owes a great debt to We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which to me is a superior book, and George Orwell thought that Huxley was being dishonest when he claimed no knowledge of that book while writing Brave New World. And of course it will always be compared with that greatest of all totalitarian dystopias, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, which is a much more powerful book. Where Orwell feared the dangers of totalitarianism, total control of information and personal freedom, along with doublethink and newsspeak, Huxley was more worried about humanity succumbing to hedonism, rampant and emotionless promiscuity, and systematic brainwashing/conditioning of the populace.I think that all three books (We, Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four) form a scathing critique of the dangers detailed above, each with a different perspective. For example, We and Nineteen Eighty-Four are clearly directed at the horrors of Russian totalitarianism, while Brave New World is more opposed to the excesses of capitalism, consumerism, and hedonism. And while the authors of We and Nineteen Eighty-Four could probably breath a sign of relief to some degree (posthumously) when the Iron Curtail and Soviet Union fell, in some ways Huxley's vision was the most accurate. What could be closer to the Brave New World of "feelies", soma, and endless entertainment than our current world of brain-dead Hollywood blockbusters, lowest-common-denominator reality TV shows, rampant drug use among both affluent and the poor, social media, ubiquitious digital devices, etc. Sure, the modern world is very far from being a utopia for all but the most wealthy and indolent, but each in our daily lives can escape to our own private fantasy worlds via an electronic device and close their eyes to the problems of the world.At the same time, though Huxley seems to have been most afraid of us losing our individuality in a flood of mind-numbing consumerism, I would say that hasn't really come about. The proliferation of the Internet has certainly allowed a great deal of trashy consumerism to spread around the world, but at the same time we are drowned in waves of different ideas and perspectives, so that people are probably more exposed to diverse ways of thinking now than they ever were at any point of history. So Mr. Huxley, were you right after all?Why the 3-star rating, you might ask? Well, this book was so relentlessly satirical and contemptuous of all the characters in the book in order to bludgeon its points home that I couldn't identify with anyone except the evil, super-urbane Mustafa Mond, whose arguments against culture, art, literature and individuality in favor of stability, uniformity, and brain-washing are remarkably convincing despite their obvious shortcomings. In particular, by making John such a foolish, misguided and unhappy individual, though he is one of the few champions of literature, individuality, and free thinking, it makes you wonder what Mr. Huxley wants us to think. Is he trying to get us to sympathize with Mustafa, or are we supposed to see through that and embrace the pained Savage who cannot tolerate this Brave New World of soma-induced happiness? I for one would much rather spend time with the World Controller than the Savage, who is unfortunately a self-punishing, Shakespeare-spouting nut-case. At least in the case of We and Nineteen Eighty-Four, we can fully sympathize with the downtrodden D-503 and Winston Smith as they are ground under by the juggernaught regimes that oppress them. So perhaps Mr. Huxley has outsmarted himself and his readers. Certainly this book is required reading for all serious readers of dystopian works, but for my money We and Nineteen Eighty-Four are better works of literature.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

by

4.01 rating

Comment 1: Many years later, as the most beautiful girl in town disclosed the book from her folded arms and revealed its brilliant glow to his eyes, Francisco Rodriguez de la Campiña was to recall that distant, savage summer when his grandmother first taught him to read. At that time, he would spend hours under the cockspur coral tree behind their bark and leaf house while his grandmother, Pilar Popa, lectured him on the finer points of grammatical etiquette. Peering over his shoulder, grasping his elbows with her leathery hands, she would adjust the way in which he held his book: upper arms parallel to his body, forearms bent at a forty-five degree angle, his back stock straight. Fransisco Rodriguez never wanted to read and held onto a particular rancor for what his grandmother made him do every morning. His bitterness, however, extended well beyond his grandmother. For he held nearly every other person in town in a particular contempt. The kind that was reserved for those who deserved it, as Francisco believed. This thought, a complex cocktail of hurt feelings and indignation, was born out of Francisco’s ostracism and estrangement from his immediate family. All occurring well before Francisco came of age, it was set in motion, Francisco reasoned, long before the gypsies had first discovered that wide clearing in the woods that would become the town Lugar Agradable. Surely it was sown within the fabric of the universe by the great creator Himself the curse that would afflict and destroy Francisco’s life, that long causal chain of events, rippling through time and history that would bring about the specific genetic mutations among the alleles of his parents that were to become his deformities. Yes, God had a bone to pick with the soul of Francisco Rodriguez and he was the unfortunate victim caught within the whims of a malicious and manipulative deity. Pilar Popa took it upon herself to beat such self-aggrandizing nonsense out of her grandson. It began with a belt and a reinforcement of vocabulary, ¿herméticamente? she asked him one morning’s lesson. Francisco’s eyes looked toward the ground. His grandmother snapped the two strips of her leather belt together. At the sound of the firm crack and her grandmother’s piercing voice, Eyes on me! Francisco looked up at his grandmother, tears already leaking out of the corners of his eyes. She had given him a long list of words and her oldest dictionary the previous night, but Francisco had shirked off his homework. He had opted instead to stare out of the hole in his bark wall, the one that overlooked the neighbor’s yard. For the most beautiful girl in town lived in that yard and Francisco would watch her with a grin spread across his face, content in this voyeuristic venture. Her name was Alejandra Hermosa and she tended to her family’s garden. She grew enormous eggplants that fed her many siblings—seven brothers and five sisters. Alejandra hardly spoke, especially when her father came outside to observe her work. She would only nod demurely to her father’s instructions and continue to work the soil. Her fingers delicately patted the ground around the stems of the plants, after pouring the proper amount of water she fetched from the town well. Whenever a plant began to shake and glow that off-white, yellow color of a ripe eggplant, she would gently remove it from its stem before it would shake itself overripe and withered. Francisco loved to watch the way she took care of the eggplant, with love and care. Never to rush her work, she drew upon some deep reserve of patience with her every action, laying out huge stockpiles of eggplants everyday to feed her siblings. Caught in the recesses of present moment’s regret, Francisco could only think of Alejandra and the way she took care of her eggplants. His daydream was shattered when his grandmother screamed and slammed her hand down on the table. She asked once more ¿herméticamente? Francisco did not speak. He turned away from her and presented his bare bottom to her anticipating hands, wrapping the leather belt around them. His grandmother brought the belt across his cheeks. His whole body convulsed from the force of impact. The belt left its stinging bite every time. No matter how many forgotten words Francisco earned lashings for, the pain never lessened. Thankfully, Pilar Popa found two hits to be sufficient in disciplining her grandson. Francisco turned back to face her, leaning all weight on his thigh when he sat. The bruises on his bottom would never heal, as any dark blue of old bruises discolored, fresh ones would readily take their place. Pilar looked into his eyes that were sunken into their sockets from tears and felt a pang of pity for the boy. His entire body was a broken display begging for pity: his right leg splayed crooked in the grass, his miniature nose, two sizes too small, and lengthy oval face that was covered in blood-red sores and pockmarks. All of it guaranteed Francisco’s place as the biggest eyesore of the town. Few could look at the boy for long without feeling a great sadness plunge through their insides, an abstract mass of blackness that seated itself around the solar plexus. It would take a thorough cleansing at the river to wash the black sadness out of their system, as it slowly leaked out in osmotic diffusion from their skin. This same abstraction now, began to weasel its way into Pilar’s intestines. She disregarded it immediately. They had to begin his writing lessons.Over the years of Francisco’s tutelage, he was to labor over reams of parchment. Pilar designated time for him to study in his room where surely he would have learned to practice all the things she lectured on: how construct a proper sentence, abstaining from comma splices, knowing when to use a semi-colon when called for; he would have learned by then how to discriminate between using one sentence-lengthening punctuation mark over another, how to judge between the use of a period or a conjunction, never misspell a word, remember to capitalize every first word and proper noun, and learn the structure of any good sentence: simple subject/predicate form, compound, complex and compound-complex. But he did none of this. He didn’t look for a single moment at the reams of notes Abuela Pilar entrusted to him every night because he was spending all his time staring at Alejandra and the eggplants in her garden. What combination of sights, senses and emotions were coming to him when he peaked through that hole in his wall? He didn’t know. Nor did he spend much time to analyze these thoughts and compulsions coursing through him. All that he knew was that he was in raptures at the sight of her; he was in love with her, slayed by the mere recall of her face, her gentle grace. When the time came to prove his writing to Pilar, Francisco failed miserably. He began writing Hoy es la día. He only had to pause for a second before Francisco felt the blunt force of a hand beat the senses out of his head. He whimpered slightly and crossed it out. Hoy es la dia and instead Hoy es el día. But as he wrote the next few words, they came out malformed. Her attempts to rectify his poor grammar came in fierce slaps upside his head whenever he made the slightest mistake. He had to write out, on the large leaves of a logwood tree, his and his grandmother’s name: Yo soy Francisco Rodriguez de la Campiña. Mi abuela se llama Pilar Popa. But his jotas got squibbly and they lost themselves across the page. His ge never found itself back to where it was supposed to, never making a perfect loop and his hache was pitiful, hardly resembling what it out to be. All his failures were met with punishment—Pilar’s ruthless hand and the shame of watching the logwood leaf crumble up and burn away with every grammatical error. All of this immediate punishment conditioned his mind to associate the written word with pain and embarrassment. It imbued an ingrained sense of paranoia with every letter he wrote. As each one landed on the surface of the logwood leaf, there was a twinge of uncertainty, as if each word was a condemnation of his soul, each one threatening to result in severe physical punishment. Whenever he would write forever after, it was never without a tightening in his shoulders, a queasy feeling in his stomach. It was that same feeling that was to manifest itself in every atom of his body, every fiber of his soul when he attempted a love poem addressed to the most beautiful girl in town, Alejandra Hermosa. He wrote the poem as by means of a two-pronged attack, on the one hand to express his gratitude for showing him the book that he loved so much and on the other to tell her how he could not live a single day without her, without seeing her carry her beautiful self from place to place, calming the stormy seas of his insides. All of which had rocked and turned in the pages of the book she had entrusted him. He would smile with every character description, laugh with the narrator and revel in the wealth of detail inside, associating every good memory with his thoughts about Alejandra Hermosa, ensuring the fact that if she would ever break his heart, the recall of any memory he had of the book would cull up all the emotional attachment he felt for Alejandra. He had spun and twisted her with the words of the book. If he spent enough time in introspection, he could see it inside of himself. All the memories labeled Alejandra Hermosa had found themselves in a tangled, knotted mess with the memories labeled the book. He frowned at the mess that love had made of his insides, the words flowing in and out of one another associated with the images of her face and her silky black hair that occasionally bobbed to the surface of that qualia pool. And every now and then, the dark clumps of knotted memories would form a blackened knot. Some disturbing black mass that portended only pain and anguish if potential heartbreak were to be on the horizon. The black knots threatened to metastasize and infect his heart and mind. Memories were what would surely crack open the delicate container of his mind when his sanity would flood out of the space it opened up. But he had to persevere. He had to tell Alejandra Hermosa what she truly meant to him. He ignored the tangle of memories and thought for a moment on the book.It was a magical one, one where dreams and reality had no distinction. The supreme would pop up in the mundane. Epiphanic realizations of meaning emerged from its labyrinthine paragraphs. Seemingly insurmountable gaps of time, easily bridged by inter-textual association that created the gestalt of beautiful significance. Francisco could not overcome the feeling of awe he felt every time he was submerged into the waters of the book’s words. Its ability to communicate some obfuscated human truth in its fractured reality. The book had its own logic that was influencing his mind, changing its structure. And all that he knew was that he must write the same, and give his words the same aphrodisiacal power that would force Alejandra Hermosa to love him.He began writing, slowly and painfully. Each word had to be forced out of his mind, like shoving putty through a pin-sized hole, only a spaghetti-strip of a word emerged from the overwhelming number of thoughts that were crammed into his mind. For every hour of thinking and toiling, only a sentence would emerge: Tu eres el alero de mi vida / que salva la flor de mi corazon / desde la lluvia. With each word dribbling slowly from his pen, he still felt that anxiety of creating the perfect sentence, the perfect word which would surely force her to love him. The image of Pilar Popa terrorized him then. Forever it would remain, in the background of his mind, to plague all his writing forever.When he finally finished, he had written across four full logwood leaves. He collected them together and set off to find Alejandra. There she was in her backyard. She was standing beneath her eggplants, as she always did for as long as Francisco could make memories. Her face was concentrated on one eggplant in particular that was making a giant fuss of itself. It was shaking mightily, about to rip out its insides and die right there on its branch before being plucked. Alejandra was quick to the draw as she pulled the eggplant off its branch before it could be finished. Francisco cleared his throat. He was standing only a few feet from her and Alejandra jumped from fright. She had only talked to this boy once before, when her mother told him that he had no friends and spent all his time alone in his room. She figured that she should be nice to the boy and that God sometimes wasn’t fair all the time to everyone. Pity is all that she felt for him and had figured that there was nothing quite like a book that helped fight loneliness. Otherwise, she kept her distance from him. He was deformed and hideous. Despite all the lectures her mother had given Alejandra on compassion and empathy, deep down, she was frightened and repulsed by him. Shortly after giving him the book, she limited all her interactions with him to the occasional moment of eye contact. He would catch sight of her from afar and she would busy herself with something else. But then there he was, standing only a few feet away. She was stuck. He was silent save for an intense breathing that was pulling his shoulders up and down in rapid succession. Anxiety heightened inside of her. She began to walk backwards, ready to call out for her father to come protect her. Francisco cursed his deformed body that was frozen in the immediacy of the moment, trying with all his might to pull his muscles and nerves into action. When the silence was broken, it was Alejandra’s voice, recoiling in self-defense ¿que quieres hijo? Francisco was mumbling. All that Alejandra could make out was a muffled no sé. no sé. This lasted for about thirty seconds until Francisco, lifted the four leaves with his hand. She pulled them from his shaking fingers, saying ¿que es esto?. Francisco didn’t even attempt an answer as he turned away and ran, limping on his crooked leg, back to the house.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

by

4.31 rating

Comment 1: Like diamonds and roses hidden under bomb rubble, this is a story of intense beauty and strength buried under the surface of the cruel and capricious life imposed upon two Afghani women. She remembered Nana saying once that each snowflake was a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how people like us suffer, she'd said. How quietly we endure all that falls upon us. Staggeringly beautiful and deep and rich and sad and frightening and infuriating. There’s a lot I want to say about this book and so I cry your pardon if this review is a bit of a rambler. You should definitely read this book. I’ll probably repeat this again, but I want to make sure I don’t forget to say it. Buy the book and read it.I love good historical fiction, especially when set in places and/or periods of which I am not very familiar. Afghanistan certainly fit that description, which makes me feel a significant amount of personal shame given how intertwined the country has been with the history of the U.S. over the last 30 years. That same time frame is also the primary focus of the novel so I feel like I got a real taste of the history of this mysterious time. That said, the historical events described in the novel are merely spice for the narrative and are clearly not the entrée at this literary feast. However, I would likely recommend this book for the historical component alone even if I didn’t like the rest of the novel…oh, but I did so much like the rest of the novel. The story revolves around two women, Mariam and Laila, born 20 years apart, but whose lives are intertwined through the events of the novel. Mariam (born in 1959) is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy merchant named Jalil who has 3 wives and 9 “legitimate” children. Mariam’s mother, Nana, was a servant in Jalil’s house whose affair with Jalil resulted in Mariam. As you might expect, the 3 wives were less than enthused and Nana and Mariam were forced to live on the outskirts of town, making Nana a bitter often cruel person to Mariam. The other main character is Laila (born in 1978) who lives in the same area as Mariam. Laila’s story begins with her close friendship with a boy named Tariq who loses a leg to a Soviet land mine when he’s 5 years old. Years later, with Kabul under constant rocket attacks, Laila’s family decides to leave the city. During an emotional farewell, Laila and Tariq make love. Later, as her family is preparing to depart Kabul, a rocket kills her parents and severely injures Laila. I don’t want to spoil the plot by giving away too many details, so let me just say that through a series of mostly tragic circumstances, Mariam and Laila both end up married to a serious scumbag named Rasheed. I want to clarify that last remark because I think it goes to the most chilling aspect of the novel for me. One of the novel’s primary strengths is the bright light the author shines on the nasty way women are treated in countries like Afghanistan. Now not being knowledgeable enough about the culture to make a well-informed analysis, I strongly suspect that the character of Rasheed, while made somewhat worse for dramatic effect, is close enough to what was “the norm” as to be positively sickening. Thus, when I say scumbag (which I whole-heartedly mean), part of the emotional impact of Rasheed’s actions came from my not seeing them as cartoonish, but as part of an “institutional evil” that was all too common. Bottom-line, Rasheed is an ignorant, mean-spirited, petty little pile of assbarf who will make even the most serene and passive reader feel like loading the .45 with hollow points and performing a gunpowder enema on his sorry, wretched chair cushion. Anyway, once Mariam and Laila find themselves together, the story deepens as these two women slowly learn first to live with each other and later to depend upon each other as they face almost daily challenges, mostly from their abusive husband. She lived in fear of his shifting moods, his volatile temperament, his insistence on steering even mundane exchanges down a confrontational path that, on occasion, he would resolve with punches, slaps, kicks, and sometimes try to make amends for with polluted apologies, and sometimes not. The lives of these women is an epic journey in every sense of the word and I felt like I was on a journey of my own as I road along with them. While there is much of darkness and pain throughout the book, Hosseini never allows the emotional tone of the story to descend in melodrama. There is little self-pity or wallowing in grief. There is pain, there is loss but there is no surrender. Instead, these women absorb tremendous blows (both figuratively and literally) and continue to live. There is a great passage near the end of the book that I am going to hide with a spoiler because it reveals the final fate of one of the characters, but it is simply a perfect summation of the strength and dignity that is the heart of this story. (view spoiler)[ Mariam wished for so much in those final moments. Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, a guardian. A mother. A person of consequence at last. No. It was not so bad, Mariam thought, that she should die this way. Not so bad. This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate belongings. (hide spoiler)]

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by

3.78 rating

Comment 1: Whether it's the gods smiling on me, blind coincidence, narcissism, or a combination of the three, world events sometimes have a way of coinciding with whatever I'm reading. For instance, the week after I finished reading All the President's Men, Mark Felt revealed himself to be Deep Throat, bringing an end to a guessing game that had gone on for over 30 years. You're welcome.Now, weeks after I finally read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the literary world is aflame over a new edition which changes the 200 plus usages of the n word to the seemingly more non-offensive word slave. Since I read this book for the first time last week, I consider myself an expert on this controversy, and what follows is my unsolicited opinion.The Drive-By Trucker's album Souther Rock Operais organized around the concept of what Patterson Hood calls the duality of this southern thing. Like Hood, I was raised in Alabama, and have had a ambiguous relationship with my home state and the whole concept of "The South." Down here, things are particularly Janus faced. For instance, a in the classroom I'm sitting in, not paying attention to Products Liability, is the composite of Alabama Law School's most infamous alumnus, George Corley Wallace*. However, Wallace is a more complex individual than you might suspect on first glance. The day the ex-governor died, Patterson Hood wrote the song "Wallace," which is written from the point of view of the Devil welcoming George to hell. As Hood points out, Wallace started his career as a progressive, New Deal inspired, judge. In his first run for governor, he spoke out against the Ku Klux Klan and was endorsed by the NAACP. However, after losing in the primary to a candidate who didn't hesitate to play the race card Wallace vowed never to be "outniggered" again. The rest is history. However, another thing the general public doesn't know is that Wallace had a late-career conversion. In the late '70s he admitted the error of his ways and asked forgiveness from civil rights leaders. Under his latter terms as governor, Alabama was better than most minority states at minority hirings. Wallace won his last term as governor with over 80% of the black vote. I'm not by any means a Wallace apologist. His actions during the Civil Rights movement were inexcusable, and the fact that he may have been more progressive than many men of his time just makes him more unprincipled. As Hood points out, racism is a national problem, but because of Wallace, it's convenient to associate race issues with an Alabama drawl. Yet, however much Wallace's dark side overshadowed his better angels, it would be a mistake to ignore the latter completely. Wallace is just one example of the Janus face nature of Southern culture. After the same environment that produced Wallace, David Duke, and Lester Maddox produced William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren and Mark Twain. History here is difficult, filled with subtle distinctions based on perspective. Therefore, the subject is particularly susceptible to the uses and abuses of demagogues. Which brings us to the present controversy. Like many, my initial reaction to the new edition of Huck Finn was disgust. But the more you think about this issue, the more nuanced the controversy becomes. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is arguably the most important American novel ever written. As Hemingway said in an oft-repeated quote, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. This sentiment leads one to two conclusions: 1) the novel should be taught as a part of any course dealing with American literature and 2) it takes a lot of gall to edit the author of such a work. However, I also cannot reconcile the issues that these two conclusions lead to. No teacher in my southern high school assigned Mark Twain, so this wasn't an issue. However, this book presents great difficulties to anyone who wishes to teach it at a modern high school.This all boils down to Twain's over two hundred uses of a specific word, which happens to be the most enigmatic word in the American lexicon. We would probably be better off if the word could find its way to extinction, but any hopes of the word's imminent disappearance are delusional, it's most likely here to stay. I'm keep bringing this allusion up, but the n word is the epitome of Janus-faced. I can't think of another word where so much depends on pronunciation. Anybody who has heard the word in a certain way can tell you there's a huge gap between ending the word with a -guh and ending it with a -ger. I also don't buy any arguments where one group of people are "allowed" to use the word and others aren't. Language isn't exclusive. My generation is the first generations who grew up with hip-hop in the cultural mainstream. Yet there is still the paradoxical situation involved here. A white kid may be thinking he is reciting one of his favorite rap lyrics, but to someone else he is doing something that is horribly offensive. So the problem presented by Huck Finn is a uniquely American one. The n word is something every kid has heard by the age of high school. Depending on your circumstances, you have probably have heard uttered with racism behind it by a friend, or a friend's parent, or even a relative. So this isn't your usual school censorship issue. But at the same time, I can't think of any way of rationalizing certain aspects of Twain's book that isn't in some way condescending. However, I still think that the sanitizing of the book is pure whitewashing. I also don't like the idea that this book should only be taught in college. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is exactly the type of book that needs to be taught in American literature courses, and one of the reasons for this is specifically because the language Twain uses. In most cases involving school censorship, the censorship is motivated by ignorance, or naiveté, or wishing to foist religious values on the community as a whole. Here, censorship is motivated by something more akin to cowardice. The aspects of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that cause problems are the same aspects that make the novel more than a children's story. I think there would be less of an issue if Twain made the story more melodramatic. The problem is that Twain ignores the melodramatic for the sake of a sense of realness.Huck Finn has been criticized for not exploring the nihilism of the plantation system. I'm sympathetic to a lot of arguments surrounding this book, but this criticism is patently ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, slavery and 19th century racism was undoubtedly both brutal and real, the stuff that justifies the melodramatic. However, Huck Finn was written twenty years after the Emancipation Proclamation, it's not an abolitionist polemic. Instead, it's more concerned with the fallacy of racism. Most encounters with racism don't involve the inherently evil backwoods hick who lives in the double wide. What makes racism so sinister is that it is far more sneaky than that. Far more frequently, you see racism in the sweet little old lady who, quite suddenly, utters something that leaves you thinking, "shit, that was really racist." Racism isn't a learned doctrine. You don't wake up one day and decide that you're going to start hating black people. Racism is a kind of indoctrination. There are no evil, sadistic slave owners in the novel. The shocking thing about the book is the people who own slaves and throw out the n word without a thought are otherwise completely decent, even friendly, people. The assumption that all racist people are somehow malevolent is a cousin of the assumption that all people of a different skin color or ethnicity are of a better value than an other for precisely those reasons. Both conclusions are assumptions made in the absence of nuance. The main narrative thread of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finnis Huck's rejection of a bias that had been he had been subconsciously indoctrinated in by the circumstances of his native culture. Although the slavery and racism Huck is exposed to is mostly benign, this should be treated as a denial by Twain of the inherent inhumanity of either. Having Huck's redemption caused by expose to cruelty would be the easy way out. What Twain does is far more complex and interesting. The action's of white people have nothing to do with Huck's conversion, instead it is achieved through his recognition of the humanity of his friend Jim. After all, it's not Mark Twain who uses the n word, it's Huck Finn. That Jim starts the novel as nothing more than "Nigger Jim" is a crucial aspect of the story. The n word signifies a prejudice beyond the status of "slave." By sanitizing any offensive racial terms, the redemptive power of the conclusion is weakened. There's a reason nobody reads Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin anymore. The evilness of slavery is a settled issue. What makes Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn still relevant is that it is one of the first works of American art to go beyond this to the next step towards racial equality. Changing the term "nigger" to "slave" might offend less people and it might make it easier for teachers to teach to high schoolers. But who said it was supposed to be easy? Problems associated with race have the most difficult problems America has faced since the first shipment of African slaves arrived in Jamestown. Confronting these issues should be uncomfortable. Great literature should be filled with nuance and subtlety. The place for good versus evil, black or white, you're either with us or against us is in fairy tales and children's stories. If The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has to conform itself to comfort modern readers, we might as well permanently assign it to the children's section.* Fun fact: Back in those days, they ordered pictures on the composite by class rank (Thank God they stopped doing this in the '60s). Wallace's picture is the last on the penultimate row. I'm not sure if George displayed a similar lack of effort and/or apathy, but this is a comfort to me.

The Catcher in the Rye

by

3.77 rating

Comment 1: J.D. Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ was published on July 16, 1951. It was his first novel. It became very popular among young adolescents yet not so popular with older generations. I personally thoroughly enjoyed every part of this book. I felt very close to Holden Caulfield, the main character in the story, as I read it. Holden Caulfield, a sixteen year old boy from New York, was quite unlike kids his age. He had no interest in being popular or social. From the very beginning he lets us into part of his personal life. His parents are very touchy and his mother is especially protective. It becomes clear very quickly where Holden’s interests lie and where they start to veer off. He tends to lean away from the fake in the world and is a teller of what is real. Holden is not a fan of the movies at all. He saw his brother, D.B., throw away his natural writing talent all for a large Hollywood check. Any other boy Holden’s age would have been absolutely ecstatic to have a sibling working amongst the stats in Hollywood, but not Holden. It was all far too “phony” for him; and phony is his worst enemy. Salinger’s use of sarcasm and irony is beautiful and hilarious. As I read through each chapter I found myself highlighting funny, sarcastic things Holden would say or think (and trust me, there are DOZENS of time where this occurs.) One specific time in Chapter 8 he is talking to a cab driver who is acting like a real fool. Holden says to the readers, “He certainly was good company. Terrific personality.” Salinger’s character Holden is actually a lot like Salinger in his real life. Like Holden, Salinger was known for his reclusive nature. Uninterested with the fakeness of the world, Holden keeps his distance from phony people. After Salinger’s success of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, he slowed down his publishing and slowly but surely drifted out of the public eye. To this day Salinger refuses any offers to have ‘The Catcher’ put on the big Hollywood screen. Salinger’s ex lover, Joyce Maynard, even once said that, “The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J.D. Salinger.” It seems to me that it is no coincidence that Holden is no fan of Hollywood and that Salinger in real life and doesn’t want anything to do with turning his popular novel into a movie. Holden says, “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies, Don’t even mention them to me.”Since I have learned more about Salinger’s personal life, I recognize a lot of Salinger’s personality in Holden. In the story, Holden has overbearing parents much like Salinger’s parents. Salinger said his mother was over protective. Salinger has one sibling, a sister, which is ironic because it is Holden’s sister Phoebe who has a profound influence on Holden. He often talks about her with very high regards.Holden is not a character who tried to sugarcoat the way he sees the fakeness around him. Holden, making fun of the people around him, often says things like “you would’ve puked” and “it was very phony”. I think that is another one of the reasons I like his character so much. For example, he is quite upset with the fact that his brother D.B. is selling his work to Hollywood instead of using his talents for his own pleasure. Holden even says that his brother is his favorite author. Salinger himself is a man who wrote for his own pleasure and likeness. I made a similar connection to a girl named Sally that Holden likes in the book, to a real life lover of Salinger’s named Oona. Oona O’Neil was self-absorbed and stuck up, according to Salinger, yet he still phoned and wrote her letters quite often. Holden’s “Oona” in the story was a girl named Sally Hayes. Though he found her extremely irritating he thought she was very attractive as well. After spending a day with her, he pointed out about a dozen instances where he thought she was being “phone as hell”. By the end of their only meeting in the book, Holden says to Sally, “You give me a royal pain in the ass if you want to know the truth.” The real life Oona O’Neil ended up breaking it off with Salinger and married the famous actor, Charlie Chaplin.Despite Holden being a sixteen year old teenage boy he acts much older than his age. One time in the story he has the chance to be with a prostitute but instead of acting like a pig, he starts to feel sorry for her and instead tried to have a conversation with her. He even offers to pay her for good conversation instead of for sex. He also stays alone in hotels randomly, drinks at bars and clubs often, and even tells people he’s older than he really is. But the reason I find his character mature and intellectual is for other reasons.Holden does not hold money or material things to be really important. He is more excited to hang out with his kid sister than he is any other time in the entire book. He is content with something that would probably be boring to other guys his age.Like many teenagers, Holden is often depressed. The way he deals with it most times actually breaks my heart in a way. He likes to talk to his deceased kid brother, Allie. He will take a real event that he can remember where he was talking with him and pretend he is talking to him again. He says, “I started talking out loud to Allie. I do that sometimes when I get very depressed.” It is really very heart wrenching to hear Holden talk about his brother. One of my favorite moments in the book is when Holden and Phoebe are talking in Phoebe’s room and she points out that Holden doesn’t like anything. Holden responds quickly by saying, “I like Allie. And I like doing what I’m doing right now. Sitting here with you and talking and thinking about stuff…” Phoebe says to Holden, “Allie’s dead-you always say that! If somebody’s dead and everything, and in heaven then it isn’t really--”. Holden interrupts her with his final comeback, “I know he’s dead! Don’t you think I know that? I can still like him, though, can’t I? just because somebody’s dead, you don’t just stop liking them, for God’s sake- especially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that’re alive and all.”One of the most beautiful things about ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is the way Salinger uses symbolism. From Holden’s red hunting hat, to Jane Gallagher’s checker playing technique, Salinger wrapped up more than meets the eye into things you never would have dreamed. The main thing that drew me into this story is the realness of Holden’s character. He is a teenage boy with a teenage boy’s mind but seems to have far more common sense than anyone else around him. He is not a jock. He is not a math whiz or a science whiz. He is not really interested in sports. He sort of makes up his own category; a category that I call ‘the genuine’. He is on his own a lot and loves it at first, but happiness and love are meant to be shared with others. It has a much less meaning when by itself and he realizes it by the end of the novel. He is growing intellectually little by little throughout the whole book. He realizes what really makes him happy. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone and everyone who would like to read a story that could possibly change the way they view the world. I have honestly laughed outloud to myself as I read this story. Yes, there is talk about drinking, sex, and lots of cussing, but if you are going to avoid reading this story because of that then your missing out on a beautiful masterpiece.

The Little Prince

by

4.24 rating

Comment 1: "A narrow mind begets obstinacy; we do not easily believe what we cannot see." -- John DrydenAntoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 mega-seller classic, The Little Prince, has inspired cultic devotion. It's been translated from the original French into some 250 languages and dialects and has been selling over 1.8 million copies a year. It has inspired films, sequels, a Japanese museum, and works of opera and ballet. The narrator begins the tale with an explanation of his disappointment with and dislike of adults. He believes they are very strange and way too practical. "I have spent lots of time with grown-ups. I have seen them at close range...which hasn't much improved my opinion of them." When the narrator was six, he wanted to be an artist. He saw a magnificent picture in a book about a boa constrictor swallowing a wild beast. The book said that constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing, and then sleep for the six months of their digestion. The narrator was so fascinated by this that he decided to draw the 'outside' of the boa constrictor during his digestion period, after it had swallowed an elephant. When he showed his picture with pride to adults, they rejected it and said it simply looked like a hat. So the narrator then drew the 'inside' of the boa constrictor so the adults could understand. Sadly the adults were just as disinterested and instructed him to put away his drawings and concentrate on more important things. "Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again."As the narrator grew from boy to man, his chosen profession was to pilot aeroplanes. He next tells of how his plane crashed in the Sahara desert, where he met the Little Prince, a mystical boy from another planet, asteroid B-612. The narrator tells why the Prince left his planet and where he visited before coming to Earth. His adventures on different planets are recounted, including encounters with a king, a very vain man, a drunkard, a businessman, a lamplighter, and a geographer. The narrator and the Prince share a rewarding relationship on the desert, and when the Little Prince departs, the narrator misses his company. He writes the novel in memory of the Little Prince. At the end of the book the reader is instructed to send word immediately should The Little Prince return.The Author's relationship with this bookAntoine de Saint-Exupéry, born in June 1900, was a French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator. He became a laureate of several of France's highest literary awards and also won the U.S. National Book Award.He was a successful commercial pilot before World War II, working airmail routes in Europe, Africa and South America. In December 1935, Saint-Exupéry, along with his mechanic-navigator André Prévot, crashed in the Sahara desert. They were attempting to break the speed record in a Paris-to-Saigon air race and win a prize of 150,000 francs.[Saint-Exupéry with one of his planes - 1933}Both Saint-Exupéry and Prévot miraculously survived the crash, only to face rapid dehydration in the intense desert heat. Their maps were primitive and ambiguous, leaving them with no idea of their location. Lost among the sand dunes, their sole supplies were grapes, two oranges, a thermos of sweet coffee, chocolate, a handful of crackers, and a small ration of wine. The pair had only one day's worth of liquid. They both began to see mirages and experience auditory hallucinations, which were quickly followed by more vivid hallucinations. By the second and third day, they were so dehydrated that they stopped sweating altogether. Finally, on the fourth day, a Bedouin on a camel discovered them and administered a native rehydration treatment that saved their lives. Saint-Exupéry's classic novella The Little Prince, which begins with a pilot being marooned in the desert, is, in part, a reference to this experience. All illustrations are his, based on those hallucinations.At the outbreak of war, he joined the French Air Force, flying reconnaissance missions until France's armistice with Germany in 1940. After being demobilised from the French Air Force, he travelled to the United States to persuade its government to enter the war against Nazi Germany. During this period The Little Prince was written. In April 1943, following a 27 month hiatus in North America, Saint-Exupéry departed with an American military convoy for Algiers, to fly with the Free French Air Force and fight with the Allies in a Mediterranean-based squadron. He disappeared over the Mediterranean on his last assigned reconnaissance mission in July 1944. Salvage teams located the remains of his aircraft in the Mediterranean sea off the coast of Marseille in 2004.The Little Prince was published posthumously. Saint-Exupéry never had the opportunity to enjoy the book's success.ReviewThe Little Prince is a beautifully illustrated novella for children, written for grown-ups. It can be read on many different levels to provide pleasure and food for thought for readers of all ages.The narrator — an aviator who crashes in the desert as Saint-Exupéry once did — aspires to the condition of childhood because grown-ups, in his view, can’t really see past the surface of things. The prince has that gift of seeing: with each of his encounters he recognizes the planet's types; he even teaches the narrator to see. Each planet the Little Prince visits can be seen as an allegory of human nature. "All grown-ups were once children...but only a few of them remember it."All his life, Saint-Exupéry thought that grown-ups cared mostly about inconsequential matters, such as golf and neckties. When they talked about important matters, they always became dull and boring. They seemed afraid to open up their hearts to the real issues of life; instead, they chose to function on a surface level.The Little Prince's lasting appeal has been guaranteed by its sometimes complex philosophical themes: about the nature of friendship, the search for knowledge, and the loss of innocence. "At heart we are all innocent. We recognise this innocence in children but, as we have grown up, many of us have struggled to hold on to this innocence and have hidden it under a hard and cynical attitude. Life can be tough and this can shatter our innocence in many ways but it is so important, for our own happiness and for peace in the world, that we do not forget this innocence." -- Lorna Byrne

Life of Pi

by

3.87 rating

Comment 1: هي رواية للأديب الكندي "يان مارتل", وحصدت جائزة "Man Booker" الأدبية في عام 2002؛ وهي جائزة ذات مستوى عالي تُقدَّم سنوياً لأفضل رواية كتبت باللغة الإنجليزية لأديب من دول الكومنولث أو من الجمهورية الأيرلندية, ترجمة لأربعين لغة وإلى العربية عام 2006مقدمة الكتاب تخبرنا عن سر النهاية لو كنت أعلم لقرأته بعد الانتهاء من قراءة الرواية , لكن وبالرغم من معرفتنا لأحداث النهاية إلا أن الرواية لذيذة بشكل خرافي أحببتها حد أنني لم أستطيع الكتابة عنها بالرغم من مرور أكثر من أسبوعين على قراءتي لها , أغرق أنا في التفاصيل الكثيرة التي تسحبني للعيش داخل الرواية وكأنني حاضرة في كل لحظاتها ,يتحدث يان عن نفسه في البداية يقول بأنه سافر إلى الهند من أجل أن يتفرغ لكتابة رواية عظيمة ويلتقي بشخص في أحد مقاهي الهند يدله على باتيل ( بطل القصة ) فيسردها على لسان البطل , حيات باتيل في الهند بحثه عن الله باعتناقه ثلاث أديان ( الإسلام , المسيحية , الهندوسية ) ويفسر ذلك بقولة : أريد أن أحب الله ,كان حديثه عن الأديان جميل جداً ويدعوا للتأمل,التفاصيل الصغيرة في الرواية تحبس الأنفاس وتسرب لذة خاصة خصوصاً بأن تلك التفاصيل مليئة بالمعلومات عن عالم الحيوان تفسير لتصرفات الحيوان يقدمها باتيل نتيجة لـــ قربه وخبرته بحياتها لأنه يسكن حديقة حيوان في الهند والده يعمل مدير لها, نتيجة لتردي الأحوال السياسية في الهند ,تتخذ العائلة قرار وكان هذا القرار فاصل في حياة "باي باتيل". الرواية لو فهمناها بطريقة مباشرة آسرة وحتى لو أسقطنا معانيها على الحياة عموماً فهي ذات مغزى , الرواية تحرض القارئ على التفاعل مع تفاصيلها والتساؤل بين كل منعطف وآخر ( ماذا سيحدث ؟ ) , من أجمل ما قرأت عشرة نجوم :) من الرواية : *سبب التصاق الموت بالحياة إلى هذا الحد ليس الضرورة البيولوجية بل الغيرة ,فالحياة رائعة إلى حد أن الموت واقع في غرامها ,غرام استحواذي غيور يتشبث بكل ما يمكنه الحصول عليه , لكن الحياة تتغلب على النسيان بكل خفه ,خاسرةً على الدرب تفصيلاً أو اثنين تافهين أما الكآبة فليست سوى ظل غمامة عابرة .*يبدو أن ثمة قدرٍ من الجنون في كل الكائنات الحية يحركها بطرق غريبة وغير مفهومة أحياناً هذا الجنون يمكن أن يكون عامل إنقاذ أحياناً إنه جزءٌ من القدرة على التأقلم من دونه لا يمكن لأي جنس الاستمرار بالعيش .* صلينا معاً وأنشدنا الذكر , كان حافظاً للقرآن عن ظهر قلب ويرتله بصوت خفيض وبسيط لم أكن أفهم اللغة العربية لكنني أحببت إيقاعها تلك المقاطع الصوتية الطويلة التي تتدفق من الحنجرة كجدول رائع حدقت طويلاً في هذا الجدول ومع أنه لم يكن عريضاً فقط صوت رجل واحد لكنه كان بعمق الكون . * لا يدرك هؤلاء أن الدفاع عن الرب يكون من الداخل لا من الخارج وإلا لوجهوا غضبهم إلى ذواتهم , ذلك أن الشر الظاهر ليس إلا شراً ينبعث من الداخل أرض المعركة الأساسية من أجل الخير ليست في المجال العام المفتوح , لكن في تلك الفسحة الصغيرة داخل كل قلبٍ بشري , في الإثناء يرزخ الأرامل و المشردون تحت وطأة قدر شاق وينبغي أن يسارع الأشخاص للدفاع عنهم لا عن الله .*ماجدوى العقل إذا يارتشرد باركر , ؟ أوظيفته الوحيدة تدبير الأمور العملية فحسب ؟ تأمين الطعام والثياب والمأوى لماذا لا يقدم العقل أجوبة أكبر ؟ ولماذا الأسئلة التي نطرحها تفوق الأجوبة دائماً لماذا الشبكة كبيرة إذا كانت الأسماك قليلة إلى هذا الحد ؟ * فكرة الموت المحتم رهيبة في الحد ذاته ,لكن الأسوأ منها بلا ريب أن تعيش منتظراً الموت حيث تروح تستحضر بجلاء تام كل صور السعادة التي عشتها وتلك التي كان يمكن أن تعيشها ,تدرك فداحة الخسارة فيسبب لك ذلك لوعةً عميقة , لا توازيها قوة السيارة التي على وشك تصدمك أو المياه التي على وشك تغرقك إحساس فادح حقاً كلمات ...أبي أمي رافي الهند واينيبج أخذت تلسع فمي* إذاً تريدان قصة أخرى ؟ آه لا نريد معرفة ما حدث حقاً , أليس إخبار شيء ما يصبح دائماً قصة ؟ ربما الإنجليزية لكن في اليابان القصة يكون فيها دائماً عنصر متخيل نحن لا نريد أي ابتداع نريد الوقائع المباشرة كما يقال في الإنجليزية أليس استعمال الكلمات لأخبار شيء ما سواء كانت هذه الكلمات إنجليزية أو يابانية أمر فيه اختراع أساساً أليس النظر في هذا العالم أمرٌ فيه اختراع ؟ هممممممم !العالم ليس كما هو , بل كما نفهمه أليس كذالك وفي فهم شيء ما نضيف شيء إليه أليس كذلك ألا يجعل هذا من الحياة قصة.

Fahrenheit 451

by

3.95 rating

Comment 1: The writing wasn’t great; it was sometimes very boring and hard to go through even with the small amount of pages in the book, although the dialogues were fairly better. The setting was rather weird and badly explained, I thought it would have been better for the readers to have some kind of backstory about this dystopian society. Being so short, I felt the book didn’t really focused a lot in certain themes that should have been explored. They were there, of course, but some more development wou Comment 2: Un libro que con sus personajes y mensajes nos recuerda la importancia de los libros y más aún, de lo que contienen. Tan maravillosos como peligrosos es esta distopia que me encanto. Toca tantos temas y los aborda de una manera tan adecuada que me atrapó sin darme cuenta. Un mundo donde son los bomberos quienes provocan incendios y destruyen libros, pues estos interfieren con la felicidad de las personas y eso al gobierno no le conviene. Montag lleva una existencia monótona, predecible, feliz y Comment 3: Some books are about great ideas, and some are about great characters, with a powerful, well-crafted plot. Some books manage to do both. Farenheit 451, the temperature at which paper will burn, is one of the former kinds of books, I think. Science fiction, it’s a kind of allegory of democratic ideas, a warning to mankind in the shadow of WWII and the Holocaust and Hiroshima, written in 1953, less than a decade after that horrific war ended, and in the midst of the McCarthy hearings, which had a

A Tale of Two Cities

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3.78 rating

Comment 1: Who are your gods? Whom do you worship in actions, and whom in words? Charles Dickens waggles his finger in my face, the finger of a crone, of a maiden, of a businessman. The polished finger of a marquis, the calloused finger of a knitter. He makes his point with the appropriate number of adjectives and with enough humor to break through the polished shell of morality and reach something true. When you dress your Good up in robes and worship it, maybe what you truly worship is Death. And Dickens graciously bows his way out of the room.It is confusing to talk about successes and failures in A Tale of Two Cities because what doesn’t really work for me actually does, and there’s something beyond what really does work that I can’t quite get at. Maybe on my fourth or fifth reading I will have nestled into what I can’t quite get, but until then, I will have to rely on something contrary to my instincts. The thing that puts me off, but then, ultimately, makes the story what it is, is this image of the shy, humble nuclear family – the blond girls named Lucy and the unassuming, faceless father. The easiest shorthand for goodness, the celestial, angels.That is not my god, and even though I mistrust it, deeply – I mistrust it to whatever marrows up the marrow of my bones – it makes sense for what it is in this story. It is a symbol for something not grasping about humanity, a symbol for something that wishes happiness, not destruction, on people, and that does seem like a symbol of Good to me, even if its trappings are soaked in the suspicious. Where to me the Darnay-Manette family is code for abuse and for valuing security over integrity (the apologetic wife who so desperately craves her husband’s affection that she pretends helplessness; the husband who grovels to his father-in-law and otherwise has no remarkable personality traits), for Dickens it was not that. And I can see it and respect what he was doing here. I don’t know, maybe I don’t think a hopeful family has been written, just like I haven’t seen a real-life family that would fit me right. But, where the girl action hero is a symbol of hope to me, I can see how Lucy Manette is a symbol of hope in reverse of that, but not in a bad way. She is a symbol of, “What if people were generous?” And she does not really have enough contrast to be an interesting character, but she, in herself, is a contrast. Because is this book about her or is about Madame Defarge? Really, it is about neither and the one is only a contrast to the other. Madame Defarge is more interesting to me, knitting revenge, but Lucy is still functional, and she still has meaning. She is the innocence that a person saves if we can. But, back to our gods. The various choruses running through this book of sacrifice and resurrection, execution and revenge, wove together with the worship of the gods cleanly and in a way that resonated with me and made me think about how our actions reveal what gods we worship, if we, today, could call our gods by the helpful, honest names of the ancients – Wine, Beauty, Love, War, Freedom, Death, etc. The refrain of liberte, egalite, franternite, or death rings through the story like “my husband, my father, my brother, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, hush.” It is about the hopelessness of the death penalty, and it counts down from resurrection to death. It questions all of our gods, with the goddess Liberty riding on a chair over a blood-soaked, rioting crowd; the sacrifice of Christ made by a dissipated drunkard; the British bank seeking execution, like the French aristocracy and serfs. None of us are safe; none of our hands are clean. In the words of the Biblical Christ, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” Even honest tradesmen.We know our gods, not by the names we attribute to them to make sure we have VIP access to the coolest back-stage events with our friends who call their gods by the same name. We know our gods by our own actions – how we act to ourselves and how we act to others. The revolutionaries in this book chant, “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, or Death,” and Dickens makes it clear that the people worship “or Death” even while they name it Liberte. In that same way, when we destroy our bodies and souls in the name of love by starvation, mutilation, or cultivating mental illness, we are not worshiping Love, even if we name it that. Today, for example, girl who starves herself, and a man who wins on steroids, do not worship Beauty or Strength through those actions; they worship Self-Destruction, Death. Because when beauty and strength are gone, that is the monster, the god, who thrives on your sacrifice. Be the best version of yourself, this book pleads, and if you cultivate self-destruction, at least let your sacrifice be voluntary and for something noble, not blind and hungry. Know the god you worship. But, do we ever? And how can it be anything but sympathetic when we do not? Because this life is all of our crazy mess, with all of our gods wearing halloween masks of another god.As with any Dickens, the best parts of this book are in the common people. Mr. Cruncher and his honest trade of resurrection, and the good Ms. Pross and her noble work as executioner, are the best moments. The good, rough English folk are where Dickens truly shines. But, the political commentary of this book is very strong, as well. The parallels of London and Paris; the executions in both cities, by the rich and the poor; the self-descriptions of Mr. Cruncher and Mr. Lorry as honest businessmen, honest tradesmen, are all powerful statements about thinking of any class of society as subhuman – the poor, the rich, criminals. Everyone is someone’s husband, brother, someone’s father, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, hush. We may talk about our wrongs as though they were the “only harvest ever known under the skies that had not been sown,” but they are ours, sown by what we have worshiped. Or so judges Dickens . . . and he is a just executioner.

A Game of Thrones

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4.43 rating

Comment 1: عندما تلعب صراع العروش..فأنت إما تكسب، وإما تموتهذا أساس اﻷغنية ،أغنية الجليد والنار، و أنشودتها اﻷولي 'لعبة العروش' الملحميةحيث يلعب السادة والحكام حول عرش الملك بالمكائد والخيانة والمؤامرات ..ودائما الأبرياء والشرفاء فقط هم أكثر من يعانيوبأنشغال الحكام بلعبتهم تزحف اﻷخطار مهددة عالمهم ، خطر الغرباء القادمون من أرض الجليد بالشمال , وخطر عودة التنانين ونيرانهم من الشرق..ولتبدأ أغنية الجليد والنارهو عالم كامل بناه المؤلف العبقري جورج آر آر مارتن ,وأبتكر له تاريخه ومعتقداته, جغرافيته وأساطيره..سادته وملوكه, والعرش الحديديسلسلة روايات عن الظلم البشري والعدل.. عن الصراعات علي الحكم والسلطة..الأستخدام الخاطئ للقوة والحكم والدينعن عائلات من الشرفاء وأخري من مشتهي النفوذ والقوة..عن نبلاء حقيقين وأخرين مزيفين..عن الفتيات الرومانسيات الحالمات وعن الفتيات الشجاعاتعن معوق وقزم وابن غير شرعي ..لكنهم أفضل وأشرف من أبناء ملوك والأغنياءكل فصل يروي من وجهة نظر لشخصيات مختلفة تماما, لهم عيوبهم ولكن لهم عمقهمشخصيات مثيرة لها أكثر من بعد شاءت الأقدار أن يفرق بينهم ويجمعهم لعبة العروشقد تكون خيالية تماما ولكن بعض أحداثها تتشابه مع العصور القديمة أو العصور الوسطي وسياستها، ربما تجد فيها من السياسات الحالية، ربما تراها في صراعات العائلات الكبري وحتي العاديةأعترف المؤلف نفسه بأستلهامه بعض الأحداث من وقائع تاريخية .. وملحمات أسطورية أخري سابقة كبناء عالم ضخم كما فعل تولكين .. ولهذا جائت النتيجة النهائية ملحمة متميزة .. مثيرة ولها أبعاد وعمق وفكرة قوية فريدةستشعر أنها كأدب الرحلات , تتجول في خريطتها بين الشمال والجنوب والشرق والغرب..مع ثقافات وعادات وأماكن مختلفة حتي تحفظ خريطتها"ربما أجلت دائما قراءتها لترددي من فكرة دخول عالم ضخم له خرائطه كهذا ولكن صدقني الأمر يستحق , وستجد بنهاية الكتاب الأول أنك حفظت خريطة ذلك العالم كظهر يدك"لغة ليست صعبة , لكن تقلق إذا ما واجهتك صعوبات في البداية ,بعد ذلك ستجد إنك أعتدت مصطلحاتهاأبتكر أيضا لها المؤلف مصطلحات مختلفة لتجعلك تشعر أنك تركت عالمك تماما وصرت في عالم أخر..عالم أغنية الجليد والنار-------------------------ولكنها في نفس الوقت رواية مرهقة ، تروي من خلال وجهة نظر 8 شخصيات مختلفة تماما وكل فصل خاص بشخصية له طرازه وأسلوبه الخاص حتي أحيانا تشعر أنها ليست تروي من نفس المؤلف، حروب مرهقة وصراعات غير شريفة.. غموض وألغاز ...قصص حب حالمة...وروابط أسرية ترهقها الحروب والمؤامراتقد تكون هذه الشخصيات كلها مثيرة وعميقة دراميا..ولكن مازال هناك شخصيات مثيرة أخري ولكن ليس لها فصول خاصة..وستعشقها بالرغم من قسوتها وقبل أن نبدأ بتقييم الأحداث مع الشخصيات الثمانية الرئيسية سويا -لتقليل مساحة الريفيو - أليكم مقال كيف تستمتع بقراءة الروايةسأكتفي بذكر نبذة بسيطة "!!!" عن خيوط وأحداث القصة فقط لمن لم يتابعها من قبل لتكون أساس الريفيوهات التاليةويشرفني الرد علي أي استفسار او توضيح علي قد مااقدر عن اي شخصية او اي حدث في المسلسل في اي وقتفرواية كتلك من الضخامة التي من الصعب ذكر نبذة عن كل خيوطها في ريفيو واحد بحق** الأحـــــداث و الشخصــيات **~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~تستقبل عائلة ستارك من مدينة وينترفال بشمال الممالك السبع ,الملك روبرت والذي جاء وأسرته لزيارة لورد إيدارد ستارك لورد وينترفال كي يعينه كمساعد "يد" الملك بدلا من المساعد الذي توفي مؤخرايتردد إيدارد ستارك في قبول التكليف, خاصا وأنه لا يود ترك أرض الشمال ,فأسرته العريقة من أهم سادة الشمال..ويتطيرون من الإنتقال للجنوبولكن زوجته كاتلين ستارك يصلها رسالة من أختها تشك في أن زوجها , مساعد الملك السابق قد تم إغتياله ولكن من قام بقتله؟ لذلك يقبل أن يذهب...ليفك غموض قاتل صديقه القديم وزوج أخته ,المساعد السابق, وأيضا ليحمي صديقه الأخر الملك روبرت لأن معني إغتيال مساعده أن هناك مؤامرة تحدث في أراضي الملك ضد الملك روبرت تهدف أكيد لإنتزاع العرش منه إيدارد 'نيد' ستارك ------------------هو كما وصفه المؤلف مؤخرا الشخصية اﻷهم ليس بالجزء اﻷول فحسب وإنما السلسلة تقريبا كلها، بالرغم حتي من عدم تواجده في اﻷجزاء اللاحقة..ولكنه هو وزوجاته وأبناءه وحتي ذئابهم من أهم شخصيات الروايةفي 'لعبة العروش' الجزء المروي عن ند ستارك هو الجزء 'البوليسي' بالرواية "اﻷغنية" حيث سيضطر نيد ستارك ترك الشمال و مدينته وينترفيل بناء علي نصيحة زوجته ليقبل منصب يد الملك ليعرف سر مقتل جون آرين ، زوج أختها و يد الملك السابق له...ويبدأ تحقيقاته في بلاط الملك من خلال مجموعة من الشخصيات التي في مجلس الحكم ، شخصيات معقدة ومثيرة وغامضة في نفس الوقت ، فلا يعرف نيد ستارك من معه ومن ضده في ففي بلاط الملك تنسج المؤامرات والتحالفات السرية والخيانة ولكن في طريقه للسر سيجد نفسه مشاركا رغما عنه في لعبة العروش...وكما قال له لورد الهمسات, العنكبوت, فاريس أحد مستشاري الملك “الكاهن اﻷعلي قال لي ذات مرة أنه كما نخطئ ، نعاني. إذا كان هذا حقيقي ، لورد إيدارد، قل لي ..لماذا دائما اﻷبرياء هم أكثر من يعاني عندما تلعبوا أنتم إيها السادة الكبار لعبة العروش خاصتكم؟The High Septon once told me that as we sin, so do we suffer. If that’s true, Lord Eddard, tell me…why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones?"فعلا اﻷبرياء هم من يعاني...ففي لعبة العروش، لعبة السياسة النجسة، للأسف من يلعب بشرف لا يمهله الخبثاءفهل سيكتشف ستارك السر ؟ أم سيعاني هو وأسرته؟----------براندون "بران" ستاركولكن أبن إدارد ستارك الصغير بران عرف السر وراء إغتيال مساعد الملك السابق ..بالصدفة رأي سيرسي الملكة في وضع مخل مع أخيها,حارس الملك مع أنه ذابح الملك السابق المجنون جيمي لانستر والإثنان من عائلة لانستر ,أغني مدينة بالسبع ممالك وللأسف يدفع بران ستارك الثمن قاسيا بشهادته لتلك الواقعة قبل أن يتمكن من الإبلاغ عنها...فلم يعرف أبيه لورد ستارك خطورة ماهو مقدم عليهفكيف ستكون حياة بران ابن إيدارد ستارك ذو السبع سنوات بعد ذلك الحادث الذي سيغير حياته، ربما يكون الجزء المقدم من وجهة نظره ليس طويلا ولكن من خلاله سنتعرف بعض من تاريخ الممالك السبع بالأخص الشمال وأساطيره.. هذا غير ما سيحدث في وينترفيل من بعد رحيل أبيه لمهمته ، وأمه من بعده لتبحث عن سر من حاول إغتياله ----------كاتلين ستارككاتلين ستارك زوجة نيد تضطر لترك وينترفيل لتبلغ زوجها الذي ذهب لبلاط الملك جنوبا عن محاولة إغتيال بران ، وهناك يستقبلها أحد مستشاري الملك 'لورد باليش' 'ليتيلفينجر' والذي كان بينهما ماض حيث تربيا سويا وشغف هو بها حبا، ويخبرها لورد باليش أن المسئول عن محاولة الإغتيال هو تايرون لانيستر او 'القزم' ، أخو الملكة سيرسي، فتحذر كاتلين زوجها قبل أن تتركه لتعود إلي وينترفيل...ولكنها في طريق تقابل تايرون بالصدفة لتنقلب اﻷحداث رأسا علي عقبجزء كاتلين جزء صعب دراميا وأيضا ثري بالأحداث المثيرة لترحالها لأكثر من مكان وفي ظل صراعات كبري فهي الزوجة التي بالرغم من أختلاف أصلها عن زوجها إلا أنها صارت مثله ، قوية وصلبة، وهي اﻷم التي تحاول الثأر لأبنها الصغير، وتقف بجوار أبنها اﻷكبر وتسانده وفي نفس الوقت يتقطع قلبها لبعدها عن بنتيهاوكما نجح المؤلف في وصف كل مشاعر كاتلين المتعددة ، فتجده أيضا يميل للأسهاب في وصف كل الطرق وقلاع وحتي الملابس -وهذا ليس في جزئها فحسب بل في كل الرواية- ولهذا كان جزئها جزء شاق بحق، لوصف رحلتها الصعبة في طرق مختلفة تربط بين شمال المملكة وجنوبها وشرقها وغربها -بلا مبالغة -يكفي أن أبلغك أن هناك10 صفحات وصف طريق صاعد لقلعة فوق جبل حتي تدرك كم هذا الجزء شاق ولكنها لم تكن وحدها في هذا الطريق... بل كان معها المتهم في محاولة أغتيال أبنها، تايرون----------تايرون لانسترتايرون لانيستر هو الشخصية الثرية نسبا ودراميا في تلك الرواية...شخصية حكيمة وهذا يظهر منذ البداية , بالرغم من أنه "قزم" او كما يسخر منه البعض, العفريتصار شخصيتي المفضلة وربما أغلب من يقرأ الرواية سيتيقن أنه شخصية المؤلف المفضلة أيضارحلته أيضا ربطت بين شمال وجنوب وشرق وغرب السبع ممالك، من رحلة لحائط الشمال للحرس اﻷسود كزائر، لقلعة اﻵيري كأسير...ثم كمحارب في...دعنا لانحرق اﻷحداث هناهو القزم ، الذي لم يكن وسيما كأخيه ذابح الملك 'جيمي لانيستر' ولا يحظي بحب أخته الملكة سيرسي ولا أبيه تايون لانسترولكن علي اﻷقل كان أسره سببا كافيا لقلب اﻷحداث في المملكة كلهاقد يكون قزما ولكنه من أذكي شخصيات الرواية وأكثرهم حكمة، وأكثرهم حنكة ودهاء وربما أيضا يشترك مع آل ستارك في الشرف بعكس آل لانسترعاشق للكتب والقراءة ، وربما يبدو في المسلسل كشهواني ولكنه في الكتاب علي اﻷقل أكثر أحتراما واﻷهم، أخلاصا برغم خداع اﻷخرين لهتتميز رحلته مثل كاتلين بالتنوع، اﻷرهاق..بل والحرب بالرغم من عدم خبرته أطلاقا بالمعارك..فهل سينجو من ويلات لعبة العروش؟---------------ونعود ﻵل ستارك سانسا ستاركسانسا ستارك أبنة ستارك الحالمة ذات اﻷثني عشر عاما، تعشق اﻷغاني الحالمة عن شجاعة الفرسان وقصص الحب...تتمني أن تكون حياتها كهذه اﻷغاني، عندما يجري الأتفاق بين الملك روبرت وأبيها ستارك علي قدوم اﻷخير لأراضي الملك وهي برفقته وأختها اﻷصغر ، يجري الاتفاق ايضا علي زواجها من ابنه اﻷكبر جوفري باراثيون عندما تبلغ سن الزواجومن وقتها تزداد أحلامها بالزواج من اﻷمير جوفري الوسيم -الذي يشبه عائلة أمه آل لانستر أكثر من أبيه- ويزداد شغفها بتحقيق أغنيتها الحالمة...ولكن هل تعتقد أن أحلام اﻷبرياء دائما تسير مسارها وقت لعبة العروش؟أعجبني جدا أسلوب المؤلف في الجزء من وجهة نظر سانسا... تشعر كأن المؤلف تغير وتحول لمؤلفة روايات مراهقة فالوصف هنا حالم يليق بفتاة مراهقة تتعلم لكي تكون 'ليدي' وأميرة مستقبلاولكنها سرعان ما تتعلم أن الحياة ليست كاﻷغنيات ... خاصا عندما يبدأ السادة في صراع عروشهم----------------آريا ستاركالجزء اﻷلطف والأجمل ، هي أبنة ستارك الصغري ،عكس اختها الكبري سانسا تماما, فهي ليست ليدي رقيقة تهتم بتعلم الأتيكيت والخياطة , وأنما تهتم جدا بألعاب السيوف والمبارزات واللعب بالسهام بالرغم من معارضة أمها دائما لأسلوبهالكنها تنتقل مع أبيها إلي الجنوب مع أختها سانسا ,حيث يوافق وقتها أبيها علي تعلمها المبارزة بالسيف الذي أهداها أياه أخيها الغير شرعي "جون سنو" قبل أن يذهب لحائط الشمال ولكن ماذا قد يفيد فتاة لم تتجاوز السابعة حتي وإن كانت ماهرة في المبارزة بسيفها "الأبرة" في صراع العروش بسيوفه العملاقة ؟خاصة بتحديها لجوفري براثيون , وكشفها لحقيقته كجبان ومستبد أمام أختها سانساهل سيجعل هذا آريا في خطر وسط لعبة العروش؟--------------جــون سنــوفي الشمال يوجد جدار ضخم...حائط الشمال هكذا يطلقون عليه, بطول أراضي الشمال كلها ويحمي الممالك السبع مما وراء الجدار, من أرض الجليد حيث يعيش قبائل غير متحضرة "بربرية" تحت رعاية ما يسمي ب"ملك ماوراء الجدار" وهم قبائل همجية من وقت لأخر تهجم علي بعض قري الشمال إذا ما تسللوا من خلف الجدار ولكن هناك الكثير من الغرائب وراء الجدار في تلك الأرض الجليدية..نوع من الموتي الأحياء..يظن البعض أنها مجرد أسطورة ولكن في بداية هذا الجزء الأول من أنشودة الجليد والنار يبدو أن الموتي الأحياء أمرا حقيقيا..وخطر يهدد الممالك السبعوهنا يأتي دور الحرس الليلي والذين يحموا الممالك من الهمج ..أو من أي خطر من خلف الجداروفي بداية الأحداث ينضم جون سنو الأبن الغير شرعي الوحيد لأيدارد ستارك للحرس الليلي "الغربان السود" ولينضم مع عمه بينجامين ستارك والذي من فرقة الجوالين بالحرس الليلييشعر جون سنو أنه سيفتقد وينترفيل ,مدينة أسرته في الشمال, ولكن بقرار ذهاب والده ستارك للجنوب سيشعر أنه ليس مرحبا به خاصا مع عدم قبول زوجته "كاتلين" لأبن زوجها غير الشرعي وأيضا هو دائما يشعر أنه ليس ستارك كاملا..فهل سيشعر بذلك عندما يقسم قسم الأخوية مع الحرس الليلي؟المعضلة هنا أنه عندما يذهب عمه للبحث وراء الجدار حول حقيقة الموتي الأحياء "الأخرون" وهروب بعض الهمج من الأراضي خلف الجدار وغزوهم للمدن الشمالية فأنه لايعود بعد فترة..مما يزيد من القلق عما قد يأتي من خلف الجدار..وأرض الجليد جزء جون سنو من الأجزاء التي بها دراما جيدة جدا أيضا لصراعه النفسي كأبن غير شرعي لأحد كبار "لوردات" الشمال ومكانه في الأسرة بين أخوته و أبتعاده عنهم لينضم لحرس الشمالهو من عثر علي ذئاب الشمال الوليدة وجعل لورد ستارك يحتفظ بها لكل أبن من أبناءه الشرعيون ذئبا وأحتفظ هو أيضا بذئب مختلف عن أخوته وكأنه يميزه كأبن غير شرعيالذئاب تلك أيضا لها دور قوي بالأحداث لكل أبناء ستارك وحتي جون سنوهذا غير ما سيواجهه من غرائب في الجدار في ظل الخطر الذي يواجهه الشمال من أرض الجليدجزء ثري أيضا بالمشاعر عن الأخوة والصداقة-----------كل هذه الشخصيات تشترك أحيانا في فصل أو أثنان عدا الشخصية الأخيرةوإلي الشخصية الأخيرة البعيدة عن تلك الشخصيات المتشابكة .. وإن كان لها تأثير نوعا ما في سير الأحداث بالنسبة لنيد ستارك----------دانيريس "داني" تارجيريانفي الشرق ,الدول الشرقية , تتابع د دانيريس تارجاريان وأخيها فيساري رحلتهم البطيئة في محاولة جمع جيشا للعودة والجلوس علي عرش الممالك السبعفقد تم نفيهم منذ صغرهم للقارة الشرقية والمدن السبع الحرة بعد مقتل الملك المجنون , فهم أخر ورثة أسرة تارجاريان, ورثة العرش الحديدي الأصلي ,ملوك السبع ممالك منذ قرون .. وأخر أسرة أصحاب التنانينويصل الأمر بأخيها أن يبيعها كزوجة لزعيم قبيلة الدوراثكي ,قبيلة من ممتطي الجياد ,همجية فقط كي يمنحه جيشا ليعود وجلس علي عرش الملكبينما داني تشعر أن أخيها الأناني القاسي لا يصلح لإعتلاء العرش..ولكنهم أخر خلفاء الملك الغازي..والعرش حقهم الشرعيونتابع رحلتهم بين مدن الشرق بينما حلمهما للعودة لبلادهم ووطنهم لأستعادة كرسي العرش الذي أغتصبه منهم روبرت بارثيونولكن مالا يعرفانه هو أن روبرت بارثيون له جاسوس وسطهم...قد لايتردد في أي لحظة لقتلهما بناء علي أوامره, فكل الغدر متاح عندما يلعب الملوك صراع عروشهممن فتاة لم تبلغ الخامسة عشر ,خاضعة لأخيها العصبي المجنون, الفخور بدماء التنانين التي تجري بدمائهم إلي زوجة زعيم قبيلة همجية كبري..تتطور شخصية دانيريس تارجاريان تطورات مكتوبة بطريقة وجو مختلف تماما عن جو باقي الشخصياترحلة لمدن وحكايات غريبة مختلفة عن الفصول السابقة وعالم وثقافة ومعتقدات جديدةألم أقل لك أن الرواية تشبه أدب الرحلاتوهذا الجزء الثري يكفي أن أخبرك أن المؤلف قام بأستخراجه من الرواية وجعله كرواية قصيرة منفصلة بعنوان "دماء التنين" وحازت علي جائزة أفضل رواية قصيرة عام 1997 قد يعيب هذا الجزء , وأيضا بعض الأجزاء السابقة بعض الأجزاء الجنسية الصريحة ولكنها أقل بمراحل عما في المسلسلتطور شخصية دانيريس في الرواية يوضح أكثر كيف سيكون دورها لاحقا في الأحداثوبالرغم من أنها فتاة صغيرة ولكنها تتعلم الكثير عن الحياة...ولعبة العروش قالت داني " مهما يكن, مازالت عامة الشعب ينتظرونه. الماجيستر إيليروس يقول أنهم يحيكون رايات التنين ويصلّون لفيساري أن يعود من البحر الضيق ليحررهم""عامة الشعب يصلّون للمطر, أطفال أصحاء, وصيف لاينتهي," قال لها سير جوراه . "بالنسبة لهم لا يهتمون عندما يلعب السادة الكبار صراع عروشهم, طالما يتركونهم في سلام , هم لايهتمون أبدا" tDany rode close beside him. “Still,” she said, “the common people are waiting for him. Magister Illyrio says they are sewing dragon banners and praying for Viserys to return from across the narrow sea to free them.”t“The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends,” Ser Jorah told her. “It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.” He gave a shrug. “They never are.”إليس هذا حقيقيا؟كما قلت هي رواية سياسية, درامية, أجتماعية ورومانسيةهي أدب رحلات..أدب سياسي..تاريخي وجغرافي وإن كانت جغرافيا وتاريخ من عالم أخر, موازي..ولكن ستجد المشاعر نفسها في عالمنا, والأحداث السياسية أيضا نفسهاإليس هذا هو جوهر أي رواية ؟ولكن كما قلت هذه ليست رواية..بل أغنية..أغنية الجليد والناروهذا كان أول نشيد بها, صراع العروش "عندما تلعب لعبة العروش, أنت إما تكسب وإما تموت. لايوجد حل وسط"Cersei insisted. “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”وإلي النشيد الثانيمحمد العربيمن 7 مارس 2015إلي 24 مارس 2015"قد يكون وقت قراءة طويل, اللغة صعبة في البداية لكن بمجرد أنتهاءك من نصف الرواية ستجد الأمر أسهل بكثيرولا تنس مقال كيف تستمتع بقراءة الرواية

Lolita

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3.87 rating

Comment 1: Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece.Opening a book is a unique conversation with another, the chance to enter and occupy the headspace of a writer, a character, a voice screaming out into the void. We see life—our own world or fantastic realities that function as elaborate metaphors for our own—through another’s eyes, walk a mile in another’s skin as Atticus Finch would say, and learn that despite the differences between individuals, we are all part of the same chorus of humanity. There has been much research into showing that reading assists the building of empathy in children, and many fine publications such as articles inThe Guardian or a similar one in Scientific American. Reading is a fresh perspective that helps us to shape our own. Lolita, a masterpiece by Vladimir Nabokov, takes us into the mind, heart and soul of a man none of us wish to become, yet Humbert Humbert’s voice is as important to the human comedy as is anyone else’s voice. Nabokov is a master of literary games and jokes, and Lolita is a work of art that often evokes knee-jerk reactions even just by mention of the title, which is precisely what Nabokov loves Nabokov has a fascination with literary games, detail and jokes, and Lolita is a gorgeously complex work that touches on taboo subjects to force our reaction and is loaded with allusions and important details and clues that invite us to play his game and learn. Vanity Fair called Lolita ‘The only convincing love story of our century,’ yet is it the relationship between Hubert and Dolores that is the love story (and tomes could be written debating the topic), or the love of literature? Lolita is a love story to language that soars through the stratosphere with some of the finest attention to detail in prose and plotting to seduce the reader into Humbert’s literary vision of events as justification of the horrors that transpire.I’ve no ideas to exploit, I just like composing riddles with elegant solutions - Nabokov*Nabokov is a supreme maestro of language. Few authors since Joyce have such acute attention to the supreme specifications of each word choice to build the maximum potential of a sentence. ‘I only have words to play with’ insists Humbert, and Nabokov uses words like playthings with the very best of them. Each noun, verb and adjective are precisely picked to elevate the tone of a scene through connotative commentary as well as attention to poetic flow, puns and general atmosphere. Even the names are exquisitely invented, from Lolita chosen for ‘the necessary note of archness and caress’ and the last name Haze being a pun on the German word hase, meaning rabbit, which is suggestive of her as prey. There is also the music of the name Humbert Humbert: the double rumble is, I think, very nasty and suggestive. It is a hateful name for a hateful person. It is also a kingly name, and I needed a royal vibration for Humbert the Fierce and Humbert the Humble. The double rumble also exists with couples like John and Jean or Leslie and Louise to denote a cohesion of two individuals into a cumulative force of The Couple. Nabokov often rejects any interpretation of his work, insisting that it is just sheer creative force with nothing undermining the themes and symbols, a mere game of words being projected onto the page. While this may be a shirking of any Freudian (which he so detested) or deconstructionist interpretation, it is comforting to know that an author would pay such attention to words to build the perfect game board for the reader to immerse themselves in. America comes alive in his words and descriptions as Humbert and his charge travel the nation seeking any excuse for a sightseeing adventure. Even in the author's afterword Nabokov rejects the notion that Lolita is a commentary on America, or an examination of ‘young America debauching Old Europe or vice versa. As intention is often overshadowed by interpretation, the reader may find much to discuss in the matter, but what is most important is to see Nabokov constructing a linguistic America through the observations and experiences of Humbert as he travels. ‘It had taken me some forty years to invent Russia and Western Europe, said Nabokov in an interview discussing the creation of the novel, ‘and now I was faced with a similar task, with a lesser amount of time at my disposal.’ Nabokov set about inventing America in prose in Lolita, drawing on his travels and hotel stays with his wife on a butterfly hunting quest through the states to color the world of Humbert and create a true-to-life game board for his literary puzzles.You can always count on a murder for a fancy prose style.While the scintillating cacophony of words are the invention of Nabokov’s, they are also of and through the character of Humbert Humbert. The aforementioned affection towards naming is part of Humbert’s method of pseudonyms that both protect the ‘real’ in-novel people but also nudge towards Humbert’s own literary bent This is a character that quotes and alludes to an erudite array of fiction in order to seek an authorial immortality of his own by putting his deeds to paper in eloquent fashion, both his immortality and that of his relationship with Dolores: ‘and this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.’ One is left to question the validity of truth—truth of the assertion of the novel as a realistic portrayal of the Novel’s reality—as expressed by its narrator. Humbert is unquestionably an unreliable narrator, much like many of Poe’s narrators such as in The Cask of Amontillado through which every undergrad writes their first essay on unreliable narration.In a kingdom by the sea. The allusions to Poe’s work is highly critical to the understanding of Lolita. As Humbert would wish it to be understood, Humbert’s nymphomania stems from a romance pruned by death with Annabel Leigh during his youthful years. The two star-crossed pre-teens shared a summer fling before her untimely death, leaving Humbert’s sexual attraction stunted to those of similar budding maturity. The name and the constant references to a kingdom by the sea allude to the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe, an author who married his 13 year old cousin. In fact, Humbert repeatedly reminds readers that romance with young girls is rampant in literature, such as Dante and his nine-year-old Beatrice or Lewis Carroll’s (another author frequently alluded to in the text) fixation with young girls, and that many cultures historically saw no qualms with union between man and pre-teen girls. Humbert is attempting to justify his actions by seeking sanctuary in history. However, his history of amourous occasions with Annabel Leigh should be called into question for validity as the aptly named Annabel may only exist in Humbert’s literary vision of how things ‘should be’. Funny how Ms Leigh is only captured in a photograph where she is blurred and indistinguishable, a photograph that Humbert is unable to produce. Perhaps she is merely a justification, a romanticised fantasy befitting of her name.She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.It must be questioned then as to what we can believe from Humbert. Lolita is a name given to Dolores by Humbert alone, her mother preferring the diminutive ‘Lo’ (ponderously parallel to ‘Hum’). We understand Dolores only through the filter of Humbert and rarely do we even see her dialogue other than summarized by him. He insists that she was the one to seduce and sexualize him, but we are not present for the scene. Perhaps the seductive Lolita only exists in the mind of Humbert to accommodate his rationality and distract us, and himself, from the grisly truth of his statutory rape¹. It would be interesting on a re-read to note every time Humbert refers to his step-daughter as Dolores, Lo, Dolly, or Lolita, as she seems to be Lolita only in the sexual moments. While Humbert insists upon his love for Lolita, often to win the heart of the reader by asserting genuine love, his love lands solely upon physical elements. She is repeatedly eyed over for her physical and sexual traits, but never for her personality or intellectual qualities (the latter of which he tends to condescend). The Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘lolita’ as a precociously seductive girl, though a more accurate definition would be a precociously sexual girl as affected by rape. Nabokov teases the knee-jerk reaction in the reader, and while many refuse to read the novel due to it’s taboo sexuality, it is equally disquieting how many thrive on it.²If, as Nabokov insists, the novel is not about the intermingling of Europe and America, perhaps the generational gap is the true investigation. While Humbert and his Lolita may have a relationship, there is an emotional gap of maturation that is evident even to Humbert. He sees in her stories an assertion of maturity that seems comical to adults, and her experimentation with sexuality reeks of juvenility to him, yet he pounces upon it like a lion lurking in the tall weeds. Humbert is highly vain and egotistical, constantly reminding the reader of his good looks. He even tells the reader that he looks similar to a music icon of whom which Dolores has a crush, a Dolores that falls victim to believing every magazine and commercial advertisement that falls her way. While Humbert is much older, he reflects the youth culture of intellectual and physical attraction and uses this to his advantage.[W]e are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader’s mind.If Lolita is a joke, then the reader is the butt of it. As Dolores is seduced by Humbert, so is the reader by his charismatic ways. We are drawn into his world. into his justifications, enamored by his prose and then held in sick bondage to his will. We know that his story is a manifestation, yet we cannot escape it, practically don’t want to escape it as a sort of perverted Stockholm Syndrome. We are even made implicit in his crimes. ‘I need you, the reader, to imagine us, for we don't really exist if you don't,’ he tells us, bringing us into his first sexual experience with Lolita to make us a part of it. If we condemn him, then we must condemn ourselves since we complicit with the act. We are bonded to him and unable to escape by the time we realize he has wooed us with his words as he has wooed Dolores with his looks and intellect. We, the reader, are his judge and jury as he sits in prison with a fatal heart condition (he slips so far into his literary reenactment of his crimes that he writes himself to be literally dying of a broken heart), and he seduces us to both pardon him of his crimes and immortalize both himself and his love-lust for Lolita through our eternal reading and remembrance of him. Everything we read has been tweaked to literary perfection to accommodate his fantasy in our minds. Even Dolly's socks become a metaphor through his retelling. When she is his pure nymphet, her socks are pulled up and pure white. Yet as she fades in his eyes, her socks are always described as rumpled and soiled. Socks are a permeating motif of the novel that is both a indication of Humbert's literary assertions and a thermometer of his passion and opinion of his step-daughter.Nabokov was obsessed with detail. In teaching he insisted upon maps of Dublin or Samsa’s apartment to understand Joyce and Kafka respectively. He made students visualize a train car to understand Anna Karenina. This is the sort of book to rub in the faces of anyone who insists that a blue chair can be a simple blue chair and not a symbol. Those sort of writers, if they are published, are not remembered because we have writers like Nabokov where every blessed word is another beautiful piece to the puzzle. Nabokov invented his literary America to give a map for his character’s to race across, and filled their travels with allusions, names made of anagrams, puns, jokes, and moral investigations. We cannot help but be seduced by Humbert become a further victim in his fantasy of Lolita drawn from the sensuality stolen between the legs of Dolores. While Humbert is a clear villain in a comedy of moral errors³ we realize that his illness is just one facet of him. We must remember when we condemn someone that there are many other facets of their personality and lives that aren’t that unlike our own. This is Nabokov’s joke on us all. ‘The rest is rust and stardust.’100/100I loved you. I was a pentapod monster, but I loved you. I was despicable and brutal, and turpid, and everything, mais je t’aimais, je t’aimais! And there were times when I knew how you felt, and it was hell to know it, my little one. Lolita girl, brave Dolly Schiller.*All quotes from the author, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the interviews and essays of Nabokov collected in Strong Opinions. Furthermore, biographical information on Nabokov is lifted from Speak, Memory.¹ Later in the novel Humbert drops his guard and recalls the sexual relationship between Hum and Lo as her left with hollow, sad eyes. I recall certain moments, let us call them icebergs in paradise, when after having had my fill of her –after fabulous, insane exertions that left me limp and azure-barred–I would gather her in my arms with, at last, a mute moan of human tenderness (her skin glistening in the neon light coming from the paved court through the slits in the blind, her soot-black lashes matted, her grave gray eyes more vacant than ever–for all the world a little patient still in the confusion of a drug after a major operation)–and the tenderness would deepen to shame and despair, and I would lull and rock my lone light Lolita in my marble arms, and moan in her warm hair, and caress her at random and mutely ask her blessing, and at the peak of this human agonized selfless tendernessThere is a sense of remorse for his actions that sprout through his narrative in the later portion of the novel and ask us to rethink our earlier perceptions. This account of intercourse reveals one that is not as one of willful harmony but aggressive assertion of dominance over a passive partner. ² Perhaps more people thrive on the Humbert justification than we’d like to admit, or at least have learned how to capitalize on it. The New Republic once ran a fascinating article highly worth reading that addresses the ‘lolita culture’ in today’s world of pop icons like Brittany Spears posing with a teddy bear in the nude (we acknowledge that she is not underaged but invokes the image of a young girl) or Katy Perry singing about copulation in a living room blanket fort like a child. Also of interest in the article is the town of Lolita, Texas where officials considered changing the town name to distance themselves from the novel.³ This novel is essentially a comedy, and is quite funny when you let your guard down. However, it is also a tragedy. Martin Amis provides a wonderful introduction that points out that the tragedy is not Humbert’s fate, which he deserves, or his murder of Quilty. Nobody seems to pass judgement on his murder, enacted in a sick yet hilariously slapstick scene. The true tragedy is Dolores in her role as Lolita. ‘He broke my heart. You merely broke my life.’

Slaughterhouse-Five

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4.03 rating

Comment 1: A Tale Unstuck in Time26 May 2015tThe thing that really captivates me about Vonnegut's writing is its the simplicity. In fact it is almost as if he is writing a book aimed at a much younger audience (sort of the age where they don't need pictures but still require simple sentences and a limited vocabulary), that is until he starts talking about men filling women with sperm and other concepts that some parents (such a mine) probably wouldn't want their eight or nine year old reading. I guess that is were a lot of Vonnegut's comedy lies and why I appreciate his writing: its simplicity and in turn its complexity. Vonnegut is certainly not a writer of children's fiction, particularly since his writing borders on the absurd, a philosophical concept that I would be surprised if children would even understand: at the age of eight I doubt many middle-class children would have lived much of life to be able to appreciate its absurdity.tSlaughterhouse Five is first and foremost a story about war, in particular the firebombing of Dresden in 1945. In fact the entire book revolves around that one event during World War II (and event which Vonnegut personally witnessed since he was a prisoner in Dresden at the time). His personal experience of the horror of war in the form of the firebombing adds quite a lot of weight to the telling of the story of Billy Pilgrim because in many cases he is able to describe Pilgrim's emotions from his own personal experience. However, Slaughterhouse Five is not just about the war, it is about quite a few other concepts as well, such as the absurdity of life, and the nature of time, as I will explain.tPeople have debated about whether the bombing of Dresden was necessary ever since the event, though Vonnegut suggests in his book that the US government kept it hidden simply due to the utter destructiveness of it and the huge death toll that resulted (in fact he suggests the death toll in Dresden was almost twice as much as Hiroshima, though the official figures, according to Wikipedia, say otherwise). I have refrained from using the term atrocity simply because in the midst of total war it can be really difficult to judge whether an action was right or not. While we may believe now that there was nothing of military importance in Dresden at the time of the bombing, can we be certain that the Allies were aware of that during the war? This is debatable, and in many cases we can never be certain of the truth. Was Dresden simply an action by the Americans to literally bomb Germany back into the stone age to prevent them from ever being able to wage that type of war again, or did it happen through faulty intelligence? In the end we will never know.tI've actually been to Dresden, though it was only for a couple of hours. We were passing through on the train on our way to Berlin and we decided to jump off just to have a look around. I was particularly interested in seeing what the city that had become famous because of the firebombing looked like now. Unfortunately we didn't spend all that much time here, and ended up just wandering around a park where an elderly German man pointed out this large black cube and told us that it was called Frederick's List, and if with relieved ourselves on it then it would give us luck. Needless to say that we politely declined. tAnyway, from what I remember of Dresden was that it is, like most parts of Germany, a fairly modern city with quite a lot of the old communist era apartments. Anyway, the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) still looks like its 19th century original.tAnyway, I would like to touch on a number of things that come out of this story, but before I do so I think I should give you a bit of a warning:WartSlaughterhouse Five is predominantly a war book, but while some suggest that it is an anti-war book I don't necessarily believe that this is the case. Sure, Vonnegut is critical of many aspects of human nature, and no doubt considers war as horrific as many other aspects of our life. If you have read some of his other works you will note that he refers to the pilgrims that colonised North America as little more than sea pirates. Yet Vonnegut doesn't rant and rave as some authors do, or paint incredibly horrific pictures, but rather brings about the absurdity of the situation. Life, in Vonnegut's eyes, is absurd, and war is just another aspect of this absurdity. When I speak about absurdity I speak with the idea that it simply makes no sense, and in a way I agree – war simply makes no sense – it is stupid, pointless, and ends up causing more trouble that it is worth. Just look at invasion of Iraq.tVonnegut also calls his book the Children's Crusade. The term Children's Crusade comes from one of the Crusades during the Middle Ages when the children were given weapons and sent to march on Palestine (though apparently they all ended up being sold into slavery – children, remember, never talk to strangers, and never go with them if they invite you to go and liberate the promised land). The reason that the children were sent was because all of the able bodied men have already met their fate in the previous crusades so there were effectively nobody left.tHowever, in World War II Vonnegut is referring to the idea that many of the American soldiers were little more than children. It was not that they were eight or nine, but rather that they were not mentally mature. It was much the same with the Vietnam War, and I even remember songs about how the average age of the combat soldier was 19. Okay, many 18 and 19 year olds believe that are adults and that they should be treated as adults (namely because the law says so) however many of them do not have the life experience that others of us have. To a thirty, or even forty, year old they are still children.tIt is also interesting how Vonnegut describes the American Army. He describes the soldiers as being clothed in ill fitting uniforms suggesting that the average combat soldiers are little more than a ragtag bunch. This is brought out a lot with Billy Pilgrim since by the end of the book his clothing is nothing short of absolutely bizarre. Vonnegut tells us how in former times the foot soldier would be dressed up in very colourful uniforms, which is not doubt the origin of the handsome man in uniform, however uniforms these days are very bland and boring. What Vonnegut doesn't seem to realise is that in the modern army the state provides everything to the soldier, where as in earlier times if you wanted decent equipment in the army, you had to pay for it out of your own pocket.tAnyway, while I don't normally do quotes, I did want to quote this passage because I felt that the imagery was brilliant:tBilly was marching with his hand on top of his head, and so were all the other Americans. Billy was hobbing up-and-down. Now he crashed into Richard Weary accidentally. “I beg your pardon,” he said.…tAt each intersection Billy's group was joined by more Americans with their hands on top of their haloed heads. Billy had smiles for them all. They were moving like water, downhill all the time, and they flowed at last to a main highway on a valley's floor. Through the valley flowed a Mississippi of humiliated Americans. Tens of thousands of Americans shuffled eastward, their hands clasped on top of their heads. They sighed and groaned.DeathtSo it goes. This is the most common phrase in the book. Whenever Vonnegut tells us about somebody who has died he will append it with that short sentence – so it goes. This is another example of the absurdity of his writing. To many of us death is shocking and horrifying, but to a naturalist world death is simply another part of the order of things. Death happens, people die, so it goes. In a way by using this little phrase he effectively dulls the impact of those hundreds of thousands of deaths that have occurred throughout history. Yet in a way, in our comfortable Western world, that is what death is to us. Sure, some guy over the other side of town is hit by a bus – so it goes. We might be shocked and horrified by it at first, but then our mind puts it to the back of its consciousness so that we no longer need to feel confronted by our own mortality. It is not so much Vonnegut trying to make light of death, but rather how we simply try to ignore it because our own mortality literally fills us with dread.tYet death in a sense is almost as absurd as war. Throughout the book we are told about this one soldier who was executed because he got caught stealing a teapot, so it goes. Yet we are told that every other surviving American, including Billy Pilgrim, returned from the war with spoils that they had looted from the dead. In fact the engagement ring that Billy's wife wears bears the diamond that Billy found in Dresden. Yet, despite all of this looting going on, the one soldier that is caught for stealing a teapot is executed. Mind you looting is a serious offence, and what wholesale looting demonstrates is a complete breakdown in law and order. Look what happened in Iraq when Saddam fled Bagdad – law and order completely broke down the the population ended stealing anything and everything that was bolted down.TimetWhen I was in Brisbane recently I was sitting in this club that was playing techno and was reading an article about philosophy on my mobile phone (the club was empty at the time, with the exception of me, the bartender, some guy dancing on the dancefloor, and a couple hidden in the corner – the reason being was that it was a Wednesday night). Anyway, one of the ideas that this article proposed was that time isn't linear. In fact it suggested that time exists in a way where it can all be viewed simultaneously, which is a concept called Eternalism. For those interested in the article you can find it here. For those interested in the nightclub it is called 'The Beat' and its details can be found here.tAnyway, the reason that I mentioned that (the article, not the nightclub) is because it reminded me of Vonnegut's concept of time in Slaughterhouse Five. The book begins with Billy Pilgrim becoming 'unstuck in time'. Basically he ceases to live life in a linear fashion and begins to experience all parts of his life from his birth to his death whenever he choses to experience them. In a sense he becomes immortal. Okay, his immortality is constrained by the period in which he is alive, but as the book progresses he begins to learn how to travel to various parts of his life when he chooses. He no longer lives life in a linear fashion, but his life becomes like a movie. For instance, with modern technology we can either watch a movie in its linear form, or we can watch whatever parts we want. We can watch the movie from the end to the beginning, and even random parts that to the casual observer looks completely absurd.tVonnegut even suggests this during the book as Billy watches a World War II movie about the Dresden bombing backwards. Instead of the materials being dug up, turned into bombs, loaded into planes to be dropped onto Dresden and destroying it, the bombers fly over Dresden, suck the bombs up turning Dresden from a ruined landscape to the city it was prior to the bombing, fly back to base to unload the bombs where they are subsequently dismantled and the contents buried in the ground where nobody can find them. What Vonnegut has done is that he has turned a tale of destruction into a tale of creation simply by reversing the footage.tI should also mention the events on the planet of Tralfamadore. The thing about the Tralfamadorians is that they exist in time the same way that Billy exists in time. They don't live a linear existence but rather an existence where they can see all of time simultaneously. Billy's exposure to their world is what I suspect caused him to become unstuck in time, though he became unstuck long before he ever went to Tralfamadore, but that is because to the Tralfamadorians, and to Billy in particular, time does not exist in a linear function but rather can be seen all at once.tOf course this does cause some problems because time becomes set. Vonnegut mentions that proverb about changing the things we can, accepting that which we cannot change, and having the wisdom to know the difference. The problem is that when time is not linear there is nothing to change – everything is set. However this is the problem when one lives a linear existence in this concept of time – we do not realise that time has been set and that we are simply observers. Because we cannot see the future, we live with this absurd belief that we actually have some control over the future, when in reality we do not. We are simply blind to that fact and we fool ourselves because the future is unknown to us and convince ourselves that we have power over how it eventuates.tNeedless to say that is not how I view time, but then again I am stuck in its linear progression much like I suspect everybody else who is reading this.

Catch-22

by

3.97 rating

Comment 1: t”You mean there’s a catch?”“Sure there’s a catch, “ Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. “That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” He observed.“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed. Originally Catch-22 was Catch-18, but because Leon Uris was publishing a novel called Mila-18 that same year Joseph Heller’s agent decided the title needed to be changed so as to not confuse the book buying public. Also given that 22 is a double 11 they liked the way it represented the many déjà vu moments that occur in the book. The East Coast publishing intelligentsia really embraced the book even though there were doubts if it would ever gain traction with the American public. It did.I understand the frustration that publishers feel with the American book buying public. They have all been scorched by a book they felt should have sold by the wheelbarrow only to have it crash and burn with the majority of the first printing sold off to a remainder company. Sometimes a book needs a lightning strike in the form of Oprah or a school banning the book (thank-you Strongsville, OH), but for Heller all he needed was the 1960s. The book is set during WWII, the last good war according to everyone from Tom Brokaw to the school janitor at Phillipsburg High School. Fat novels glorifying the war, some extraordinarily good, were hitting bookstores at a fast clip from the late 1940s on. By the time Catch-22 came out in 1961 the world had changed. So those people who bought this book who thought they were in for another “weren’t we great” novel about World War Two were in for a shock. A typical reaction was:WTF????Some thought it was irreverent, but there were a growing group of people who thought it was among the best American novels they had ever read. Both reactions helped juice the novel and sales began to climb. Joseph Heller in uniform.At the tender age of 19 in 1942 Joseph Heller joined the U.S. Army Air Corp. By 1944 he found himself on the Italian Front as a B-25 Bombardier. He flew 60 missions most of which he categorized as milk runs; these were flight missions that encounter no or very little anti-aircraft artillery or enemy fighters. Heller admits that his disillusionment with the war in Korea colored the novel. It gives me the shakes to think how different the novel would be if he had published the book in 1951 instead of 1961. Little did he know how prophetic his novel would be regarding the Vietnam War. Yossarian has reached the end of his rope. He has flown the required number of combat missions several times, but each time Colonel Cathcart keeps raising the number of missions required to go home. A similar circumstance plagued Hawkeye Pierce and his fellow doctors in the Korean War based TV series M*A*S*H. The pressure of thousands of people he doesn’t even know and hundreds he does know trying to kill him is just too much for him to bear. As he becomes more and more insane(sane) he becomes more and more qualified to fly combat missions as far as the military is concerned. He comes up with various ailments to keep him in the hospital. He shows up to receive his war medal naked except for a pair of moccasins. He finally refuses to fly any more missions and begins parading around the camp walking backwards. This does start to foment rebellion among his fellow flyers and drives Colonel Cathcart to distraction. ”Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian’s fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.”Heller surrounds Yossarian with a wonderful cast of detailed characters of which I will only be able to mention a few. Lieutenant Nately is one of Yossarian’s best friends, a trust fund baby with red, white, and blue blood running through his veins. He is a good looking kid and could have any woman he wanted, but he falls in love with an Italian prostitute who begrudgingly sleeps with him when he pays for sex with her, but would rather he just disappeared. He has this great discussion with her “107” year old pimp. t”Italy is one of the least prosperous nations on earth. And the Italian fighting man is probably second to all. And that’s exactly why my country is doing so well in this war while your country is doing so poorly.”Nately guffawed with surprise...”But Italy was occupied by the Germans and is now being occupied by us. You don’t call that doing very well, do you?”“But of course I do.” exclaimed the old man cheerfully. “The Germans are being driven out, and we are still here. In a few years you will be gone, too, and we will still be here. You see, Italy is really a very poor and weak country, and that’s what makes us so strong. Italian soldiers are not dying any more. But American and German soldiers are. I call that doing extremely well.”Nately continues to be the straight man for the old man as they discuss the absurdity of risking one’s life for their country.t”There is nothing so absurd about risking your life for your country.” he (Nately) declared.“Isn’t there?”asked the old man. “What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many countries can’t all be worth dying for.”“Anything worth living for,” said Nately, “is worth dying for.”“And anything worth dying for,” answered the sacrilegious old man. “is certainly worth living for.”Milo Minderbinder is in charge of the mess at the U.S. Army Corps base. As he learns more and more about how goods are moved around the globe he begins a business of supply and demand (war profiteering). He becomes the ultimate capitalist with no allegiance to any country. He trades with the enemy and as part of contract negotiations he also warns the Germans once of an impending attack even to the point of guiding anti-artillery against American planes and in another case bombs his own base to fulfill another contract. The absurdity of his position is that he is too important to the American high command to get in trouble for any of these acts of treason. He tries to explain one of his more successful schemes to Yossarian. t”I don’t understand why you buy eggs for seven cents apiece in Malta and sell them for five cents.”“I do it to make a profit.”“But how can you make a profit? You lose two cents an egg.”“But I make a profit of three and a quarter cents an egg by selling them for four and a quarter cents an egg to the people in Malta I buy them from for seven cents an egg. Of course, I don’t make the profit. the syndicate makes the profit. And everybody has a share.”Yossarian felt he was beginning to understand. “And the people you sell the eggs to at four anda quarter cents a piece make a profit of two and three quarter cents apiece when they sell them back to you at seven cents apiece. Is that right? Why don’t you sell the eggs directly to you and eliminate the people you buy them from?”“Because I’m the people I buy them from.” Milo explained. “I make a profit of three and a quarter cents apiece when I sell them to me and a profit of two and three quarter cents apiece when I buy them back from me. That’s a total profit of six cents and egg. I lose only two cents an egg when I sell them to the mess halls at five cents apiece, and that’s how I can make a profit buying eggs for seven cents apiece and selling them for five cents apiece.Hungry Joe keeps meeting the flight standards time and time again only to have his paperwork take too long to process before the flight standards have been raised again. He packs and then he unpacks. He is a fat, pervert who convinces women to take their clothes off to be photographed by telling them that he works for Life Magazine and will put them on the cover. Unfortunately the photographs never turn out. Ironically he did work as a photographer for Life Magazine before the war. Women do play a role in this book mostly as objects of lust. Heller has these wonderful, creative descriptions of them. ”She would have been perfect for Yossarian, a debauched, coarse, vulgar, amoral, appetizing slattern whom he had longed for and idolized for months. She was a real find. She paid for her own drinks, and she had an automobile, an apartment and a salmon-colored cameo ring that drove Hungry Joe clean out of his senses with its exquisitely carved figures of a naked boy and girl on a rock.”And then there is a nurse that brings Yossarian nearly to his knees with desire. ”Yossarian was sick with lust and mesmerized with regret. General Dreedle’s nurse was only a little chubby, and his senses were stuffed to congestion with the yellow radiance of her hair and the unfelt pressure of her soft short fingers, with the rounded untasted wealth of her nubile breast in her Army-pink shirt that was opened wide at the the throat and with the rolling, ripened triangular confluences of her belly and thighs in her tight, slick forest-green garbardine officer’s pants. He drank her in insatiably from head to painted toenail. He never wanted to lose her. ‘Ooooooooooooh,’ he moaned again, and this time the whole room rippled at his quavering, drown-out cry.”.You will probably need to google the next one. ”He enjoyed Nurse Sue Ann Druckett’s long white legs and supple, callipygous ass.”Paradoxes abound even when Heller describes a character he will have countering characteristics like she was plain, but pretty or he was handsome, but ugly. Aren’t we all a sum of those characteristics anyway? Joseph Heller looking handsome and ugly.This book is hilarious, (I laughed out loud at several points.)but wrapped with increasingly more tragic circumstances. As Yossarian’s friends die or disappear his desperation increases. His behavior becomes more and more erratic. The absurd traps him time and time again. There are a whole host of reasons why everyone should read this novel. I’m not saying that everyone will like it as much as I did, but it is IMHO one of the top five most important American novels ever written. It impacted our culture, added words to our language, and gave voice to a generation of people dissatisfied with the war aims of this country. More importantly don’t be the one person in the middle of a Catch-22 discussion who hasn’t read the book. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

The Pillars of the Earth

by

4.27 rating

Comment 1: I did not hate this book (hate would be too strong a word, and I can't hate it because I applaud the fact that Ken Follett attempted to write an epic novel). But I did not like it. I didn't like it from the start; his writing style hit me like a brick, but Jim thoroughly enjoyed the book that I kept trying to convince myself that I ought to give it a chance, hoping it would get better. When I was about 500 pages in, he saw how miserable I was and asked why I didn't just stop reading it, but at that point, I was invested in it; I had spent all that time getting that far, that I needed to finish it, and I couldn't wait to come to the end. I kept counting down: "Only 450 pages left; only 300 to go; last 200 pages...yay, I have 50 pages left!" Those fifty pages were the toughest to get through. By the time I was at the end, I thought it was a wasted effort - both on his part and mine. It's so much easier to explicate on what I did not like because there were so many things: - I loathed the writing style (he vacillated between pages and pages of highly complex architectural discourses to third-grade level simple sentences grouped into short paragraphs). Sometimes it was bearable. Other times, I wanted to pull my hair out. There were times when I felt the only time he came alive as an author was when he was discussing architecture, but these parts were so didactic in nature that it couldn't hold my interest for long periods of time.- I did not like the author's narrative style. He had to tie everything together (causality was so prevalent throughout the text that I wondered how he didn't work in how the killing of a fly affected events 60 years later). Every single storyline was wrapped up - too neatly for my liking, in some cases. Everyone was tied to someone else (it was like playing Six Degrees); every single character had to have a denouement; every little plot twist had to be explained; closure had to be achieved, no matter how preposterous the circumstances, over time and space.- The characterization was poor. In fact, it was appalling how two-dimensional these characters were. Good people were good. Bad people were loathsome. As time went on, the good were always suffering one thing or another; they were put upon; they were harrassed; they were constantly challenged and put to the test like Job (something Follett actually used as a sermon!). The badfolk became more oppressive over time; they were not only detestable, but they had absolutely no redeeming qualities. And to go with a typical medieval stereotype, the good were always excessively beautiful, honorable, intelligent (geniuses or savants, even!) - and if they weren't rich, they would be at the end (I half expected Havelok the Dane and his refrigerator mouth to pop up somewhere, proving once and for all that in the medieval period, to be good was to have the purest light shining out of your mouth each time you opened it). Nevertheless, the bad became uglier, became more despotic, scheming throughout life to get the better of their enemies (the goodfolk). But in the end, good always triumphed over evil; those who could, repented and were forgiven. Those who couldn't, were killed off somehow, because apparently, death is the only way an evil person gets his (or her) dues. And then everyone had a happy ending. I hate happy endings when they're so obviously contrived. And this work was so elaborately, exhaustively, thoroughly contrived. (Maybe it's not too late for me to change my mind and say I hated it. *grin*)- Historically speaking, there was so much left to be desired. Granted, this novel was written two decades ago, and there have been new discoveries about the medieval period since Follett started his research. But he got it all wrong anyhow. His idea of medieval life was so...off, that it hurt my head to continue reading sometimes. I had to pause periodically and rant to Jim about what I currently found off-putting (for example, there weren't many literate people at the time; at the time this novel was set, there was still a distinct divide between England and Wales; reading and writing were two separate skill sets, and people who knew how to read did not necessarily know how to write and vice versa; orality was a prevalent part of storytelling back then and books not so much and yet somehow, he conflated much of both; manuscript writing was either orally dictated or copied tediously by the monks - his concept of a scriptorium was incomplete, defective - and there has been so much written about this that it saddened me; he used modern translations of medieval poetical/verse works and couldn't explain even alliterative verse form effectively - I even wonder if he knew what it was; his understanding of the languages of the period - Old English, Middle English, Latin, Norman French, Old French, Middle French, etc. - and what was spoken by the aristocrats vs. the peasants vs. the growing middle classes disgusts me; he showed a lack of understanding of medieval law, medieval rights, the social classes, gender roles, even the tales and legends of the period, in both England and France; priests were quite low on the totem pole, in terms of the religious hierarchy, and were quite disparaged yet somehow, that didn't quite come across in this novel...I could go on and on, but I won't). And the historical part of the novel I just found lacking. There are enough histories and chronicles, contemporaneously written, of the time, that he did not have to deviate much from history. There is so much written about the period between the death of Henry I through the civil wars between the Empress Matilda and King Stephen, to the time that Henry II ascended the throne (including the martyrdom of Thomas a Beckett), that I don't quite understand how he couldn't have mined the chronicles for better material. I understand that this is why it's called historical fiction, and that there will always be some element of fiction interspersed with historical fact. But the fictional aspects usually have to do with surrounding characters and situations that bolster the history. The fiction is not necessarily to the history itself. Many times, when writing historical fiction, the author has to beware the pitfalls of creating a revisionist retelling, interspersing his or her own ideals or beliefs of what should have been to what was. If this novel had been marketed as a revisionary narrative, it would have been okay. But it wasn't. I'm just glad that the historical aspect of the novel just served as the background and not the real story. Because then, I probably would've stopped reading.The premise was a good one and held a lot of promise. It could've been a great historical epic had it been handled by a more assured writer. By someone who was more of a visionary, someone who had the patience to do exhaustive research or who knew how to craft richly developed characters. It needed an author who understood the epic genre, who knew how to mold the epic, who knew how to keep the narrative going, seemlessly binding time with narration and the human condition, without resorting to stereotypes and grating drama. And most importantly, it needed someone who understood when the story had been told; that while there will always be other stories to tell, that each book has its own natural end, and that these stories may not belong in this book.Ken Follett may be a bestselling author of suspense novels (and even historical fiction such as Pillars of the Earth and World without End), but he is no writer of epics. Compared to writers of historical fiction such as Edward Rutherford, James Michener, Bernard Cornwell or Margaret George, Ken Follett has a long way to go.

Dune

by

4.15 rating

Comment 1: Dune: The greatest SF novel of all time, never to be matched by later sequelsWhat more can be said about Frank Herbert’s 1965 masterpiece? This massive epic of political intrigue, messianic heroes, vile villains, invincible desert fighters, telepathic witches, sandworms and spice, guild pilots who fold space, and a relentless action-packed narrative that still has ample room for beautiful descriptive passages and copious philosophizing on the mythology of the messiah/savior. In short, Dune is a perfect SF novel that both entertains and engages the mind, a book frequently cited as the greatest single work of imagination produced in the genre, rivaled only by J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.And yet the book had a troubled birth, being rejected by over twenty publishers before being accepted by Chilton Books, better known for publishing repair manuals. How could a book later considered a masterpiece be so roundly rejected? The answer lies in the status and expectations of the genre in the 1960s. At the time, SF was still mainly known for its most famous practitioners, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov, who represented an older Golden Age of SF, focused mainly on science, technology, and space adventure.Dune was a completely new creature, so far ahead of its time with it’s emphasis on a baroque far-future universe dominated by competing Great Houses bound to an Emperor, a guild of space pilots, the matriarchal Bene Gesserit witches, geneticall-modified humans called Mentats that served as computing devices, and the complexities of a galactic economy dependent for commerce on a substance known as the “spice“ mélange that extends health and lifespan, expands consciousness, and most importantly allows the guild pilots to fold space and connect the disparate planets of the Empire. In addition, Frank Herbert was very interested in Middle Eastern cultures and Eastern religions like Zen Buddhism, as well as in desert ecologies and the preciousness of water. Weaving this massive and complex group of themes into a coherent, exciting, and moving narrative following the fate of messiah Paul Atreides, later known Muad’Dib, was a feat that few authors have ever achieved since then, including Frank Herbert himself. In fact, Dune spawned five sequels directly written by Frank Herbert, and then over 10 books that fill in the numerous details of his universe, written by his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, who seems to specialize in co-authoring various series such as Star Wars, X-files, and all kinds of novelizations. Most recently his book The Dark Between the Stars was a 2014 Hugo Award nominee. I'm not really interested in reading these spin-off books, when there are so many other books to be read. I did read the five sequels written by Herbert back in high school, and it was a punishing experience, as the first two books (Dune Messiah and Children of Dune) deliberately debunked the messiah mythology established in Dune, showing how the Fremen used Paul Atreides’ status as messiah to wage a destructive jihad across the universe. It’s interesting to hear comments that Herbert intended all along to show what happens when the masses believe in a messiah, and how they participate in the process of creating one. His view is actually quite skeptical, but since Dune is about the rise of the messiah, it benefited from the positive early stage of Paul’s story arc. However, his follow-ups quickly drained my enthusiasm. I guess it should come as no surprise that we prefer to be swept along with the rise of a messianic superbeing, rather than observe the messy aftermath after his rise to power, and various political and religious divisions complicate the world after he takes over. Herbert wanted to explore these themes in great detail, but they were certainly much less commercially-appealing that Dune. I found the next three books (God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, Chapterhouse Dune) more interesting but also very complicated and hard to enjoy. Herbert wrote quite a number of other SF novels outside the Dune universe, but he will always be known best for Dune to the exclusion of his other works, and this must have weighed heavily on him as a writer.The story itself focuses on two feuding families, the House Atreides and House Harkonnen. The latter has been in charge of administering the production of Spice on Arrakis, but as House Atreides has gained in power, the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV decided to place the Atreides in charge of Arrakis, with the intention of drawing them into conflict with the Harkonnes and keeping both in check. House Atreides is led by Duke Leto Atreides, his concubine the Bene Gesserit Lady Jessica, and Leto’s son Paul, who is part of a secret breeding program to create a Kwisatz Haderach, a male messiah with incredible mental powers who will lead the Bene Gesserit and humanity to greater heights.The levels of intrigue and complexity are staggering, and though a description cannot do it proper justice, Herbert’s complete dedication to his creation recalls the massive world-building achieved by Tolkien in Middle Earth. Despite all the alien concepts, politics, intrigues, warring groups, desert warriors, and mish-mash of Zen Buddism, Islamic and Christian mythology about messiahs and jihads, and the complex economic and ecological implications of the sandworms and spice, the reader is completely drawn into this world and believes in it. It is truly an amazing achievement, recalling how fans embraced George Lucas’ Star Wars universe, but so much more complex, dark, and mature in its themes. It was inevitable that Dune captured the imaginations of film directors, but the scale and complexity of the story made the transition to film extremely difficult. Film rights were acquired in 1971 but little progress was made until 1974, when a French group acquired the rights and Alejandro Jodorowsky, a Chilean avant-garde film maker, writer/poet and spiritual figure. His ambitious plans for the film would have reached about 12 hours in length, and featured roles for Salvador Dali, Orson Wells, David Carradine, and even Mick Jagger. The artwork would involve the legendary Jean Giraud (of Moebius fame) and H.R. Giger (of Alien fame). Alas, such an ambitious and sprawling project was doomed to failure, and this story is detailed in the 2013 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, which I would love to see if I could rent it.After plans for Ridley Scott to direct fell through, it was not until 1984 that Dune finally made it to the big screen, with David Lynch at the helm. Wait, you mean the director of Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, and Twin Peaks? That’s right. It’s still a mystery why Lynch chose to direct Dune, since he had not shown interest in the SF genre and had not even read the book. But to his credit, he made a valiant effort to put on film this notoriously difficult and sprawling work.As could have been predicted, the Lynch film was severely panned by film critics, moviegoers, and fans of the novel. It was dark, confusing, and incoherent (due to excessive cutting to get it to 2 hrs 17 min in length), and the Baron Harkonnen was so physically revolting to look at that I had to turn away from some of his scenes. But it did feature a pretty cool soundtrack by Toto (especially the haunting closing credits) with the prophecy theme penned by Brian Eno. And it I will never forget Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides in the final climactic scene, a knife fight to the death with Feyd Rautha Harkonen, played perfectly by Sting! Even Sean Young and Patrick Stewart have important roles as Chani and Gurney Halleck. But this was another doomed attempt. Try to imagine cramming all the plot details, background information on the political machinations of the dozens of characters and factions, details on the complex ecology of Arrakis, the relationship of the sandworms and spice, the Fremen and Bene Gesserit, into a film just over 2 hours long. The studio’s demands for cuts were so drastic that Lynch has since dissociated himself from the film and refuses to talk about it. That’s a shame, because many have revised their view on the film and I consider it a valiant attempt at scaling the Everest of SF films.It’s essentially an impossible undertaking, though there was a later 2000 Sci-Fy channel miniseries (4 ½ hours in length), which I have yet to see, that has some adherents. Judging from the recent prominence of big-budget cable TV productions like Game of Thrones, and the vast improvement in special effects, it strikes me that Dune is ripe for another adaptation, and could easily fill several quality seasons in the right hands.Finally, as this was the first time I revisited Dune since high school, I decided to get the ensemble-cast audiobook version. It’s complete with sounds effects like the sound of desert winds blowing and ominous music, and these are carefully done not to detract from the narration. A note on the narration, however: the books starts out with a full cast of voice actors, but then switches to a single narrator (Simon Vance?) midway and towards the end, with a few scattered scenes with the full cast. It’s a bit disorienting, especially as the voice of Baron Harkonnen switches from a simpering evil character to a deep-voiced and powerful voice akin to Michael Clarke Duncan. It would have been better to kept the full cast for the entire book, but for some reason it got a bit jumbled. Still, it’s an excellent audiobook production.

Frankenstein

by

3.72 rating

Comment 1: Spoilers!Frankenstein is the first book written by Mary Shelley (daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, friend of Lord Byron), and her most famous. First published in 1818, she later revised it for its second printing in 1823, adding a preface that cleared up conjecture as to what she was writing about, changing the relationship of Elizabeth to the family (in the original, she is Victor Frankenstein's cousin, in the second she has no blood relation but was adopted by the family) to remove any suggestion of incest, and she also removed any hint that Frankenstein created the creature out of vice.If you're not familiar with the story as Shelley wrote it, Frankenstein is about a young Swiss man, Dr Victor Frankenstein, who is a student of the natural sciences. He becomes absorbed by the idea of creating a living being and spends two years collecting body parts from the deceased and feverishly working in his laboratory. But when he instils it with life and it wakes and looks upon its creator, Victor is horrified and flees from his creation.He spends months in illness, nursed by his best friend Henry Clavel, before returning to his father's home in Geneva, Switzerland, where his two brothers, Earnest and William, and his adopted sister Elizabeth live (his mother has already passed away). Before leaving Ingolstadt in Germany, where he was living and studying at the university, he receives a letter from his father telling him that his little brother William has been murdered. On his arrival to his home town, he sees his creature in the dark wilderness, and becomes convinced it murdered William. A servant girl, Justine, is accused and hanged for the crime, and Victor goes traipsing off into the wilderness with his depression. He encounters the creature, who begs him to listen to his story, and we learn what has passed with the monster since Victor created and abandoned it. It is a heart-breaking story, and goes some way to explaining the monster's mind.The monster's main purpose in telling Victor his story is to beg him to create a companion for him, a woman of his own species. Victor at first agrees, going to Britain with Henry and collecting new body parts. But he destroys the being before bringing it to life, and in retribution the monster kills Henry. Victor is accused, and spends some months in an Irish gaol before being released. Upon returning home to Geneva with his father, he marries Elizabeth, who the creature strangles to death on their wedding night. His father dies from the shock of all these tragedies, and Victor chases after the monster, determined to end it once and for all. The chase takes them to the northern Alps, and continues across the ice in sleds, before Victor is rescued from an accident and taken on board a ship that has been trapped in the ice. He tells the Captain his story, who writes it all down to send to his sister back home, before he weakens and dies. The monster returns and pledges his own suicide by fire, since there is no more reason for him to live.I did enjoy this, though it's not an easy read in the sense that the writing style is, for want of a better word, awkward, often clumsy. When I think about it, it's accurate enough for a story retold by one man (Captain Waldon), as told from memory by another (Victor), who in turn retells other people's stories (namely, the monster's). In such a case, details are bound to get lost in the retelling, though of course the dialogue is accurately remembered. But it does make it hard going at times: I kept getting pulled up short by glaring omissions, or confusing jumps. As someone in my bookclub put it, the story is good, the book not so great.Frankenstein could easily be described as timeless, since there's little that anchors it firmly in the period in which it is set (1700s), and you can read all sorts of relevant themes into it. Shelley apparently wrote it as a warning to scientists and against the Industrial Revolution in general, reminding them that they are not God and of the dangers of over-reaching themselves. I would take it a step further, and say it is a warning against not taking responsibility for your actions, especially those of science in delving into new and strange areas (like nuclear weapons, cloning etc.). Right up to the end, Victor thinks he is blameless:During these last days, I have been occupied in examining my past conduct; nor do I find it blamable. In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature, and was bound towards him, to assure, as far as was in my power, his happiness and well-being. This was my duty, but there was another paramount to that. My duties towards the beings of my own species had greater claims to my attention, because they included a greater proportion of happiness and misery. (p.235) So although he can acknowledge that he was responsible for the creature, he does not see any connection between his neglect of the monster and the way the monster turned out. In other words, if he had stayed by the creature's side, taught him ethics, morals etc., he would have preserved the lives of his own loved ones and the greater populace in general.The nameless creature was abandoned by Victor because it was ugly. That's it: he was f'ugly:I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room. (p.51-2) Talk about shallow. The creature, left to his own devices, with no language and no knowledge but that Victor is his creator, yearns to be loved and wanted. Stumbling through the countryside, he discovers fire, discovers berries and things to eat, but is persecuted and beaten by any humans he comes across. He tries so hard, and while he does not make the best decisions, he has the mind of a child in a giant's body, and with his unusual circumstances should hardly be judged along the same lines as anyone else. Victor creates a monster by seeing only a monster, without taking the time to learn its true nature, as does everyone else. They could not look beyond appearances. Even today, we would probably react in the same way: that doesn't make it any less our fault for creating a being with so many faults. In this case, it is the lack of nurture - i.e. it's environment - that created the ture monster, not nature. It's not that I seek to justify the murders the creature committed. But the creature wasn't born evil, he was turned evil by humans. Grrr. I just didn't like Victor and wish he had been more accountable for being so irresponsible. Yes, he was young, enthusiastic, and thought he could take God's place:A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. (p.47)This is the meaning behind the subtitle: the Modern Prometheus. Prometheus was a Titan whom Zeus punished eternally for creating men out of clay, and bringing fire from the heavens and gifting it to humans. Zeus chained him to a rock and every day a bird would peck out his liver, only to have it grow back so the next day a bird could do it again. Nice. So is the loss of Victor's family, his best friend, and his bright future his punishment?Another reason why I don't like Victor Frankenstein is that he is so selfish, arrogant, self-centred, self-indulgent, melodramatic and egotistical. Aside from wanting to bring dead body parts to life so that he could be worshipped like a God, the fate of Justine, for example, brings out his true character:Despair! Who dared talk of that? The poor victim [Justine:], who on the morrow was to pass the awful boundary between life and death, felt not as I did, such deep and bitter agony. (p.87)Yes, not even poor innocent Justine, sent to the gallows for a crime wholly Victor's fault, suffered as much as he. He could have stepped in and confessed, but did not want people to think him mad. Add "proud" to the list of his sins if you please. Later, he marries Elizabeth, despite the monster's threat that he will come to him on his marriage-day. It's always about him, he doesn't notice the pattern of the monster murdering his family and friends in order to make him feel this misery, and so realise it's his bride the monster will target: no, it's all about him, Victor. He marries Elizabeth, making her just as miserable as he is, and took her to a secluded place where he intended to go head-to-head with the monster, only to find Elizabeth strangled to death in the bedroom. He puts people in danger, then whines about how miserable and wretched he feels when they die, yet doesn't seem to regret anything.This is just my take on the book, and like true art, it can be read in a number of ways. It's definitely a good idea to read the book to know the story, though, because the movies that have been made about Frankenstein since the 1920s are way off the mark. Though I would imagine studying the popular culture side of the story would be just as fascinating as studying the book itself. A note about this edition: This is a handsome book, with nice thickish yellowish old-style paper and print, it looks exactly like how it was originally published. But there are no notes or appendices or introduction, so if you're studying this book you might want to get a different edition. It's also the revised edition, not the original 1818 one, though the revised one is more common now.

Watership Down

by

4.03 rating

Comment 1: "I announce with trembling pleasure the appearance of a great story."In 1972, an unknown British novelist named Richard Adams published his debut novel with a rather misleading title, Watership Down. After being rejected 13 times by various publisher it was finally accepted by Rex Collings, a one-man company which worked on a shoestring and couldn't pay Adams any advance, but had important connections in the London literary scene and made sure that it was read by everyone who mattered. Rex Collings believed in Watership Down; Adams credits him as the person who helped give the book its title (apparently he thought that Hazel & Fiver didn't do it justice). Everything seemed to suggest that the whole affair would be an abject failure. Watership Down was a debut work by an unknown novelist, published at a high price by a small fry who could afford only a plain dust jacket. Collings published his books in small print runs, which were then sold in specialist bookshops with little or no publicity, and the initial print run of Watership Down amounted to just 2000 copies. But this seemingly ugly duckling soon transformed into a beautiful swan; It sold quickly both to children and adults. Britain fell in love with Watership Down, and with time so did the whole world. Now tourists from as far as Japan journeying to Richard Adam's homeland to see the areas which inspired their favorite book. The quotation which opens this review comes from London's The Times, where the reviewer was barely able to contain his enthusiasm. Watership Down originally began as a serial bedtime story told by Richard Adams to his two little girls, Juliet and Rosamund. Adams later expanded it during long car journeys that he took with the girls to Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of the world's most famous bard. The story was improvised, but based on Adams's real life experience in the British Army. Adams served as a lieutenant in the 250 Company of the 1st Airborne Division, and named the Battle of Arnhem as inspiration, and the officers he served with as models for Hazel, Bigwig and other rabbits of Watership Down. When the story was finished, young Juliet said "you ought to write it down daddy, it's too good to waste!". Although Adams initially resisted, being busy with work in the Civil Service, she and her sister were very persistent in urging him to write it as a book until he finally surrendered, and then urged him to get it published. Watership Down is rightfully dedicated to these two girls, who were so generous as to make sure that their dad would share the story they loved with the whole world.Watership Down was initially rejected on the grounds that older children wouldn't like it, since it was about rabbits - which they thought was good for babies, and younger children wouldn't like it because it was written in too adult a style. Before Rex Collings decided to give it a try, Richard Adams experienced plenty of frustration with explaining that he didn't even had children in mind and that Watership Down was really about Hazel & Fiver and their rabbits, a book which anyone, young or old, could buy and enjoy, and that the age group of his audience could roughly be contained between 8 and 88. It is interesting to note that Watership Down is sold also as a children's book only in the UK - everywhere else in the world it's sold purely as a mainstream title for adults. "El-ahrairah, your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so. All the world will be your enemy, Prince With A Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first, they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed."Rabbits are prey animals, and in the wilderness almost everything will try to capture and eat them; predators include foxes, dogs, hawks, racoons, owls, snakes - and humans. Luckily for them, nature has provided the rabbit with several features allowing for survival against these odds. Rabbits have eyes on both sides of their heads which give them nearly panoramic vision, allowing for detecting predators from all directions - even from behind. They can hear and smell exceptionally well, and are able to turn their ears to better capture the sounds they're listening to. Since making noises is a dead giveaway of their position, rabbits communicate with each other quietly, with the position of their ears being an important part of the rabbit language.As useful as these may be, rabbits cannot survive on sight, smell and hearing alone. And this is why nature has endowed the rabbit with its best feature - ability to achieve amazing speed very quickly. Most of their mass consists of muscle, and their strength is focused in their long hind legs - they allow them to leap as high as one meter and as far as three. An average rabbit can run between 25 to 40 miles per hour, make quick turns and even turn directions while in the air, leaving other animals in the dust.However, even this magnificent speed is not enough to protect the rabbit. Due to their low skeletal mass rabbits are very delicate and prone to injury, and can easily break their own bones if they struggle. If they kick to hard, they can even break their own backs. Stress can have a long lasting effect on a rabbit, even after its source is removed - and fear can cause a heart attack, even if the threat is not real. Their physical and psychological fragility and proneness to being preyed upon made the rabbit need a safe place to live. Some species live above ground, but the best know one - the European rabbit - digs burrows underground, and connects them into a network which is called a warren. In these warrens rabbits find safe shelter from their predators and harsh weather, store food and have their young. When they're not feeding, European rabbits spend most of their time underground.The rabbits of Watership Down are very much like ordinary rabbits - Richard Adams has studied Ronald Lockley The Private Life of the Rabbit - but at the same time they're human like, with each having a distinct personality and different characteristics. While Adams clearly anthropomorphizes his bunnies, he doesn't go the easy way of making them humans in bunny suits. His rabbits' understanding of the world around them is carefully limited to make them lapine enough - men are identified by the "white sticks" they leave behind (almost every human character in the novel smokes - it were the 70's). human inventions are understood through the mind of a rabbit, and the challenges they experience on their way are also of the type which would trouble one. All of it works splendidly though, and the language that the rabbits developed to describe everything is a small joy to see.Among many things which I found lovable and admirable in the rabbit protagonists of Watership Down is their love of stories. Rabbits love gathering together and listening to the tales of the legendary rabbit hero, their beloved El-ahrairah. El-ahrairah was a rabbit trickster and the legendary Prince of the Forest, who lived long before Hazel, Fiver and the rest of all rabbits. Together with his fellow rascal, Rabscutle, El-ahrairah uses his ample wits to commit plenty of mischief: getting lettuce out of an impenetrable fortress, outsmarting bigger and stronger creatures to achieve his goals. El-ahrairah is fast, cunning and proud, but he's also honorable and loyal to his people. The stories of El-ahrairah and his adventures are sprinkled throughout the main narrative, and serve as inspiration and entertainment for the rabbits, and as a way to find courage in hard times.A reviewer in the New Statesman praised Richard Adams for writing a big, tense, picaresque story; these three adjectives probably best describe Watership Down. People have seen in it a riff on The Oddysey, an allegory for human struggle against totalitarian oppression, fascism, the Cold War...but at its heart it is a wonderful story about a group of rabbits searching for a new home, and their efforts at establishing a warren. They provide for interesting protagonists, and as they journey goes on so do their respective roles develop. These are to a degree archetypal, but Richard Adams is careful to make sure that each rabbit retains its individual characteristics and grow as the story progresses. Relations between the characters are not black and white, as in many books for children - even though the villain figure is portrayed with obvious negativity Adams makes an effort to show why it would be influential and admired by many other rabbits, all the way to the very end. Occasionally Adams will do some authorial intrusion and explain the rabbit habits of his protagonists, but he did write this book based on the stories he told their kids, and they probably asked many questions concerning these matters - as most kids would. It's not a big problem at all and can actually be seen a nice reminded about the roots of Watership Down.It feels as if I have been writing this review for a very long time and have barely said anything I wanted to say. This happens when I encounter something which moves me and inspires me, and which stays with me and makes me experience and think and feel my humanity by doing so. Curiously, these feelings have been aroused by a book about a group of talking rabbits. But it works! By God, people, it works. Since it's summer I started to enjoy reading in a park near my home, just sitting on a bench away from the main lane in the quiet and the shade. This was where I started and finished Watership Down, and after I cleaned my eyes I wanted to immediately begin it all over again. I can't remember the last time that happened, and it's a great feeling. I can't wait to run down this burrow again and see what else I'll find there.Praise be to Richard Adams for being a wonderful father to his two little girls and a great writer who shared his beautiful book with us. 5 stars.Be sure not to miss an interview with Richard Adams, which made me like and appreciate Watership Down even more and want to seek out all his other works. It was filmed in November 2012 at Whitchurch Arts Show in the UK, where he's rocking the house at the age of 92. What a wonderful and lovable man! May he live a thousand years.

My Sister's Keeper

by

4.04 rating

Comment 1: If you haven't read the book it's about a girl (Kate) with leukemia whose parents had a second genetically matched child (Anna) to help with blood and bone marrow to save their first daughter. As the girls grow up, more and more is required of Anna until she's had enough of being nothing but an organ donor. There are a lot of interesting points in the book, like what do you do when you have to pick one child over another, how do you balance your time and love between children especially when one requires more from you, and at what age can you be responsible enough to make choices about your own body instead of letting your parents word go as law. Even at a young age, a child's sense of self and decision making should always be respected. Even a three-year-old should be asked, not even such catastrophic questions as do you want to donate blood, but would you like to give your teddy bear away. If a child even considers emancipation, then you have crossed the line. Use your persuasion skills with children, not force or games. When you read a second book by an author it's easier to pay attention to the writing style and not get so carried away with the story. Her techniques were a distraction from the story. Picoult is very good at doing research to get statistics on paper, but that's all her characters feel like it. None of these characters had a real breathing personality. They were just stereotypes of what she wanted to portray and therefore not very deep. Even the little memories of the girl's childhood felt like stock photographs set to these vague lives. Throw in a politically correct tendency to add variety to your characters with random stereotypes and I enjoyed the story more for the case study it could be then the story it was. The character I enjoyed the most in the book was Jesse, the older brother who had fallen off the deep end in an attempt to get his parent's attention and still went unnoticed. I liked the quiet things he set about doing to help his sisters. Although I did not find him very well developed, I liked the father, Brian, too. I think he truly did love both his daughters and wanted to set out to do good by both of them. Even though Sara kept saying she loved both her daughters, I failed to find the evidence. All I got was a brazen woman who bullied everyone, especially Anna, into saving the only daughter she did care about. I found her completely unsympathetic, even the chapters written in her perspective, especially then. When she told Anna she couldn't go to hockey camp because she had to be around in case Kate when into relapse, I was disgusted. Yes a sick child would take up more time and emotion, but not to the exclusion of other children. How hard is it to yank Anna out of camp if necessary? Picoult wanted to show a woman who loved both her daughters but had to make tough decisions in order to keep both of them alive, but it fell flat. She tried to credit her with too many contradictory emotions and never fully justified her behavior. I wasn't satisfied with the family dynamics. I found the emotional neglect completely at odds with the scenes of a loving huggy family Picoult threw in to convince us that it was a good family with good intentions. Sara and Anna constantly saying they loved each other just didn't jive with the way Sara treated Anna. I could not picture this child on the verge of growing up wrapped up in her mother's arms when she's being scolded and manipulated by that very woman. But if I found Sara a hard character to pin down, I found Anna even more elusive. Again, too many contradictory motives that just didn't make sense. I got why Anna and Kate loved each other, but I didn't get why the rest of the family did. I think the idea of the story was a good concept, but I think it was under developed. Spoiler:I found the twist at the end unnecessary. I keep asking myself it is the most tragically beautiful ending and I'm not sure it is. Even though I get the point of it, I think I would have rather had a resolution that required a decision, a choice. I liked what Kate said at the end that Anna took her place and how it showed how much of a shadow she was, but it felt a little like a cop out. I want to know what Anna would have done and how her parents would have reacted if she said no or how belittled she would have felt had she said yes.

The Kite Runner

by

4.22 rating

Comment 1: Finished this book about a month ago but it's taken me this long to write a review about it because I have such mixed feelings about it. It was a deeply affecting novel, but mostly not in a good way. I really wanted to like it, but the more I think about what I didn't like about the book, the more it bothers me. I even downgraded this review from two stars to one from the time I started writing it to the time I finished.Let's start off with the good, shall we? The writing itself was pretty good when it comes to description, in that I really felt the author's descriptions of scenes, and in terms of moving the story forward. That said, it's not particularly challenging writing to read.The very best part of the novel is its warm depiction of the mixed culture of Afghanistan, and how it conveys the picture of a real Afghanistan as a living place, before the coup, the Soviet invasion, and above all, the Taliban and the aftermath of September 11th created a fossilized image in the US of a failed state, petrified in "backwardness" and locked in the role of a villain from central casting. Now for the not so good.== Spoiler Alert ==... because I don't think I'm going to be able to complain about what I didn't like about the book without revealing major plot points. (Not to mention, some of what follows will only make sense to someone who has read the book.) So if you don't want to spoil it for yourself, read no further, here be spoilers:My overwhelming emotion throughout the book is feeling entirely manipulated. Of course, one major reason for this is that the author's attempts at metaphor, allegory, and forshadowing are utterly ham-fisted. When he wants to make a point, he hits you over the head with it, hard -- Amir's split lip / Hassan's cleft palate comes immediately, resoundingly to mind.But I feel manipulated beyond that. The members of the servant class in this story suffer tragic, unspeakable calamities, sometimes at the hands of our fine hero, and yet the novel seems to expect the reader to reserve her sympathies for the "wronged" privileged child, beating his breast over the emotional pain of living with the wounds he has selfishly inflicted upon others. How, why, am I supposed to feel worse for him as he feels bad about what he has done to others? Rather than feeling most sympathy and kinship for those who, through absolutely no fault of their own, must suffer, not just once or twice, but again and again? Of course this elevation of / identification with the "wounded"/flawed hero goes hand in hand with an absolutely detestable portrayal of the members of the servant class as being at their utmost happiest when they are being their most servile and utterly subjugating their own needs, wants, desires, pleasures -- their own selves, in fact -- to the needs of their masters. (Even when they are protecting their masters from their own arrogance, heartlessness, or downright stupidity.)I don't see how the main character, Amir, could possibly be likeable. Amir's battle with Assef, momentous as it is, is not so much him taking a stand because he feels driven to do so or feels that he must. Rather, he acts with very little self-agency at all -- he is more or less merely carried forward into events. (And, moreover, in the end it is Sohrab (Hassan again) who saves him.) I finished the novel resenting Amir, and even more intensely resenting the author for trying to make the reader think she's supposed to care about Amir, more than about anyone else in the story.A couple other points: I'm wondering if one theme of the novel is that there are no definitive happy endings, no single immutable moments of epiphany or redemption. Because Amir's moral "triumph", such as it is, over Assef, is so short-lived. He manages to crash horrifically only a week or two later, when he goes back on his word to Sohrab about his promise not to send him to an orphanage.And lastly, I don't understand why Baba's hypocrisy is not more of a theme. He makes such a point of drilling into his son's head that a lie is a theft of one's right to the truth. His own hipocrisy there is a profound thing, and it's a shame the author doesn't do more with it. Nevertheless, after all the bad things I had to say about it, I do have a couple quotes worth keeping:"Every woman needed a husband. Even if he did silence the song in her." (p.178)"'That's the real Afghanistan, Agha sahib. That's the Afghanistan I know. You? You've always been a tourist here, you just didn't know it.'" (p. 232)=== UPDATE ===I originally posted my review The Kite Runner in February 2008. Since then, my review has generated a very robust response from other Goodreads members. I have responded a couple of times in the comments section, but I realize that by now, the comments section has gotten long enough that some folks may not realize that I have added some clarifications to my review. So, although the extended reply that I posted in the comments section in October 2008 is still available in the comments section, I am re-posting it here, so people don't miss it.I also want to offer my continued thanks to those who have read, liked, and/or comment on my review of The Kite Runner. This kind of back-and-forth conversation on books is exactly why I signed on to Goodreads! I appreciate the feedback, and look forward to engaging in more such discussion. Finally, one more quick reply. One recent commenter asked how I could have given this book only a 1 star rating, if I was so affected by it. As I replied in the comments, the short answer is that I am guided by Goodread's prompts when I rate a book. Two stars is "It was OK;" 1 star is "I didn't like it." While I have praised a few things about the book, the bottom line is, overall, I didn't like it. -- Linda, 22 July 2011Posted 24 October 2008:There have been many comments to my review since I first wrote it, and I thought it might be about time for me to weigh in for a moment.Before I get into my response, I must start off with a great thank you for all those who have felt sufficiently moved (positively or negatively) by my review to comment and respond. I appreciate all the comments, whether I agree with them or not.First of all, I'd like to address the question of whether we're "supposed" to like Amir or not. Yes, I do realize that sometimes writers create and/or focus on a character that the reader is not meant to like. Here, though, the story is clearly meant to be about some kind of redemption -- but I found Amir so distasteful, that I simply wasn't interested in his redemption. The focus of the story was entirely on how Amir's life had been corrupted by the despicable things he'd done - when the things he'd done were entirely part and parcel of the position of power and privilege he occupied over Hassan.Which brings me to my second point, the insufferable current of paternalism that runs throughout the story. The members of the servant and poorer classes are consistently portrayed as saintly, absurdly self-sacrificing, one-dimensional characters. Regardless of what terrible things befall them, they are shown to have nothing but their masters' interests at heart. Granted, it may be unlikely that the powerless would be overtly talking back and setting their masters straight; however, the novel gives no indication that they even have any private wishes of recrimination, or much of a private life, for that matter. Given this portrayal, it is even more difficult for me to muster any interest in Amir's suffering. But to suggest that perhaps we're misinterpreting the servants' subservient attitudes because we approach the story from a different time, place, or culture, is simply to engage in a cultural relativism borne out of -- and perpetuating -- the very same paternalism.To clarify my point, let's look at some comparable examples from US culture. Consider any one of a huge number of films such as Driving Miss Daisy, Clara's Heart, Bagger Vance, or Ghost (all simply continuing a tradition that reaches back to Shirley Temple's days) in which noble servants or similar helpers have absolutely no concern in their lives other than making sure the wealthy people they are serving have happy, fulfilled lives -- while they themselves never seem to have any of their own personal hopes, desires, triumphs, tragedies, or even any hint of a home, family, personal, or romantic life at all. Their total happiness is bound up entirely with serving the lives of their rich counterparts. It is this quality, present throughout Hosseini's book, that bothers me most.In the end, however, a beautifully written story could have overcome these criticisms -- or at the very least, I would have been able to temper or counter my points above with lavish praise for the writing. However, here, again, the novel falls flat. It is not particularly well-written. As some other commenters have also pointed out, the storytelling is quite heavy-handed, and the narrative suffers from implausible plot twists and uncanny coincidences, and a writing style that relies far too heavily on cliches and obvious literary devices.I wish that I could say I liked the book more. To answer [another commenter's] question, I haven't read A Thousand Splendid Suns; I'm afraid I wasn't particularly motivated to do so after my reaction to this one. However, I do believe, as that commenter also suggests, that there is something to be gained from the debate and discussion that the book has inspired.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

by

4.17 rating

Comment 1: I have no obvious vices like smoking or drinking but this year, there were two books so far which had compelled me to indulge in these things. Upon finishing Patrick Suskind's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer two months ago, I immediately went to the nearest convenience store and bought a single cigarette stick to corrupt my lungs with; even just for that night because the reading experience was quite exceptional and I needed the taste of nicotine in my mouth to preserve it somehow. Now, as I write this review, I suddenly had this overpowering craving to drink booze, and vodka, I find, has always had a soothing effect on me which was exactly what I needed to suckle on once I did finish the end of this novel. "The story is always about someone, a man or woman, who didn't seem to fit into the world and always shocked people by misbehaving. There is the rebel who tries to destroy the social order and the follower who tries to please it. And then there was the witness; one who is transformed and enlightened from all this. The rebel, the follower and the witness. The two extremes and the resulting compromise."I suppose like most people, I know of this book because of the movie starring Jack Nicholson in the lead role but I barely remember that film adaptation now because I think it had almost been a decade since I last saw it; which was great because at least I get to read this book with fresh eyes with only remnants of what I have watched from the movie sometimes resurfacing when I read a particular scene that I can somewhat recall seeing before. Nevertheless, reading Ken Kasey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has been really thrilling in spite of the narrative's slow-burn tendencies. Told in the first-person perspective of the Native American Chief Bromden, the book reads like a journal of personal experiences and interactions of this said character with the people he is co-existing with inside the 'loony bin' where the story majorly took place. There were even quick sketches of certain in between the pages which gives the narrative an authentic 'diary' feel to it.Chief Bromden as the narrator for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is someone I would consider the most reliable of all the unreliable narrators out there (if that even makes sense). Because of his heritage, he usually keeps to himself, content on people assuming he's either deaf, mute or dumb--or all of the above. This is a man who prioritizes self-preservation and keeping up with the status quo, more so than any character in this book and that's mostly because he knows first-hand how being different will get one into trouble. He had been in several other mental institutions before and know of the small horrors and limited compensations that people who are considered 'unfit' have to undergo. Through his eyes, readers get to acquaint themselves with the overall routine and the ridiculously inhibiting way of life that patients at the mental hospital he is currently committed in have no other choice but to live by. In charge of all this is the middle-aged re-inforcer of the most precise of rules, Nurse Ratched, whose staunch ways re-define a whole new level of totalitarian matriarchy.I find Bromden's descriptions of her physical appearance, habits and eccentricities to be rather chilling since he always compares her to something of a detached automation than an actual living, breathing person with feelings of her own. Because of this limited perspective and insight, we never really get to see any kind of vulnerability or sympathetic trait from Nurse Ratched unless of course her perceived weaknesses are interpreted rather antagonistically not necessarily by Bromden himself but by the other male characters. If this was truly a nest of cuckoos then Nurse Ratched may as well be their mother bird and she governs every facet of their life and she often demonstrates her power and influence in the most gratingly passive-aggressive manner ever imaginable. There is certainly a matter of questioning the author's intent that somewhat demonizes female authority and I personally can encourage that discussion because any criticism regarding its chauvinism towards its only main female character can now be raised and argued by readers of my generation. I do think Nurse Ratched is portrayed in a harsher light than needed. It's worth a discussion most probably because of her gender and what she directly (and in latent terms) symbolizes in relation to that.Like any promising and compelling story on overthrowing the oppressive regime or taking away the control from the most inhumane of overlords, this book's knight-in-shining-armor is a less pristine version of said trope and this is realized in no other than Randle Patrick McMurphy, a gambler and recently diagnosed 'psychopath' who is all kinds of charming and disarming, much to the initial dread and eventual relief of the other patients including Bromden. McMurphy's very role and participation in the book is to create a shift in power dynamics among Nurse Ratched and her blabbering, passive and frightened patients. Through McMurphy's carefully cultivated chaos, the other male characters of this book started to recognize the seemingly small injustices and that they shouldn't have to put up with Nurse Ratched's deliberate manipulations. The maltreatment they are suffering was often described as rather mundane or inconsequential--such as the lack of enough free time to do other activities, or the refusal of the staff to cater to some more humane methods to pacify them--but their rights are still being violated little by little until these men are reduced into spineless fools who would quiver at the sight of Nurse Ratched's shadow as it passes them by.Clever and more than a match to Nurse Ratched's imposing authority, McMurphy quite literally gets the patients riled up, waking up these men from their once restful and lethargic states so they can have a more meaningful purpose than just take whatever the medical staff would give them, mediation or otherwise. McMurphy is not a saintly liberator, however, and Bromden recognizes that there is ego and impulse in every action that McMurphy commits; sometimes he deliberately tries to rattle the one in charge either to know that he could or to reap whatever kind of benefits he will receive if he did succeed. Nevertheless, Bromden becomes fond of him and so do the other patients because for the first time in a long time they have someone to look up to, someone to defend them and someone they can consider their friend against a nameless, overreaching system that oppresses them and makes them feel less human and more burdensome creatures who can never fully function outside the confines of the facility.It's a rather poignant affair especially when McMurphy realizes what he meant to these men and that he himself is beginning to care about them beyond seeing them as an audience he can perform his anarchist tricks for. Bromden also grows midway through the book, realizing that he doesn't have to hide under 'the fog' anymore, not when McMurphy has shown him that the only person standing in the way of his freedom and self-esteem issues is himself and once Bromden overcame his insecurities and fears, his trauma of his past concerning his father has lessened, and he began to fight back against the same oppression that has him kneeling down for a very long time. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has some riveting social commentary regarding the function and tension of power constructs that also happens to include a scathing indictment of the health care system back then when it came to treating mentally damaged patients. The book also examines in a quite humorous but still piercingly philosophical way this inherent inclination of humans to rebel against an authority or refuse a system they perceive as demeaning and aggressive. There are plenty enough layers in this novel that readers can freely discuss and argue about for days. Deceptively slow in establishing its key players and moments, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is guaranteed to be very satisfying midway and until the very unexpected end.RECOMMENDED: 8/10DO READ MY REVIEWS AT

The Giver

by

4.11 rating

Comment 1: Lowry's book is a piece of nationalist propaganda, using oversimplification, emotional appeals, and dualistic morality to shut down her readers' minds. More troubling is that it is aimed at children, who don't yet have the critical faculties to defend themselves from such underhanded methods.Unsurprisingly, Lowry adopts the structure of the monomyth, equating a spiritual journey with a moral one. Her Christ-figure uses literal magic powers to rebel against his society. This rebellion and the morality behind it are presented as 'natural', to contrast with the 'abnormal morality' around him.Lowry doesn't seem to understand that we get our morality from our culture, it isn't something in-born that we 'lose'. This is the first hint of Lowry's misunderstanding of the human mind. She assumes her own morality is correct, and then builds her story to fit it.She also makes the character act and think like we do, despite never adequately explaining how he came up with such unusual notions. It's the same trick many historical fiction authors use, leaving us scratching our heads as to why a Fourteenth Century French peasant speaks like a second-wave feminist. I'd suggest that Lowry falls to this fault for the same reason they do: she has no talent for imagining how others might think differently.Lowry's book ends with the standard nonspecific transgressive spiritual event that marks all monomyths. Since the book is not a progressive presentation of ideas, it does not suggest any conclusion. Instead, the climax is a symbolic faux-death event (symbolic of what, none can say). Confusingly, Lowry later redacts the ending in the sequels, undermining the pseudo-spiritual journey she created.Though some call this book 'Dystopian', it's closer to the truth to say Lowry borrows elements from the Dystopian authors, attempting to combine the spiritual uplift of the monomyth with the political and social deconstruction of the Dystopia. What she doesn't recognize is that the faith of the one conflicts with the cynicism of the other. She draws on ideas and images from many other authors: Bradbury, Huxley, Orwell, Burgess, but doesn't improve upon them.These authors created novels that reflected the world around them. They based them on the political events of the times, presented with realism and careful psychology. Though they presented the struggle between the individual and the society, they portrayed morality as grey, and suffering as the result of individual human faults, not political systems. Lowry doesn't realize that the best way to critique Fascism or Communism is not to present it as 'evil', but to simply present it as it was.But Lowry's world is not based in reality, it is symbolic and hyperbolic. Instead of writing about how poverty makes the world seem small and dull, she has the characters magically unable to experience life. Instead of an impersonal government, she presents a sort of evil hippy commune. The only political system it resembles is a school, which is a neat little trick to get the kids interested. The idea that 'school=unfeeling totalitarian hell' is not an uncommon one, but it's one I'm surprised teachers would support. The book also suggests a creche, but lacking similarity to any real-world system, it doesn't work as a political criticism.Lowry creates this artificial world to suit her purposes, but it is not a symbolic exercise like 'Animal Farm'. We understand that the pigs of animal farm are symbolic, because there are no talking pigs. Lowry's world is more insidious, since its oversimplification is hidden. She builds an artificial world to support the dualist morality that she's pushing. She presents the same knee-jerk fears about euthanasia and abortion that people use against Women's Rights or Health Care.Worse than these Straw Man arguments is the fact that she never deals with the economic causes of totalitarianism. Tyrants don't just rise up and take control by their own force of will, they come into power because of the socioeconomic situations that surround them. Lean times produce strong, fascist leaders while profitable times produce permissive, liberal societies.Strong, centralized leadership simply doesn't self-propagate in cultures where everyone is clothed, fed, and housed. The Holocaust was socially about some ideal of 'change' and 'purity', but it was economically about the transmission of wealth from Jews, Poles, and Catholics to Germans (and more specifically, to those Germans who had elected the new ruling party).The atrocities of war are, for the most, part committed by normal people to other normal people. By presenting the power structure as 'amoral' and 'inhuman', Lowry ignores the fact that people will willingly cause others to suffer. Painting the enemy as 'evil' and 'alien' is just an unsophisticated propagandist method.She contrasts her 'evil' with the idealized 'goodness' of emotion, beauty, and freedom. This is nothing more than the American dream of 'specialness' that Mr. Rogers was pushing for so many years. We are all special, we are all good, we all deserve love and happiness. Sure, it sounds good, but what does it mean?Where does this 'specialness' come from? If it is just the 'sanctity of human life', then it's not really special, because it's all-encompassing. If all of us are special, then none of us are. There's nothing wrong with valuing life, but when Lowry presents one mode of life as valuable and another as reprehensible, she ceases to actually value humanity as a whole. Instead, she values a small, idealized chunk of humanity. 'People are good, except the ones I don't like' is not a moral basis, nor is it a good message to send to kids.If the specialness is only based on fitting in with a certain moral and social guideline, then Lowry isn't praising individuality, she's praising herd behavior. The protagonist is only 'special' because he has magic powers. His specialness is not a part of his character, it is an emotional appeal.The idea of being a special individual is another piece of propaganda, and its one kids are especially prone to, because kids aren't special: they are carefully controlled and powerless. Giving a character special powers and abilities and then using that character to feed a party line to children is not merely disingenuous, it's disturbing.There is also a darker side to universal specialness: giving a child a sense of importance without anything to back it up creates egotism and instability. Adults noticed that children with skills and friends had high self-esteems, but instead of teaching their children social skills and knowledge, they misunderstood the causal relationship and tried to give them self-worth first.Unfortunately, the moment unsupported self-worth is challenged, the child finds they have nothing to fall back on. Their entitlement didn't come from their skills or experiences, and so they have nothing to bolster that sense of worth. Instead, any doubt sends them down a spiral of emotional instability.A single book like this wouldn't be the cause of such a state in a child, but it does act as part of the social structure built to give a sense of worth without a solid base for that worth. People like to believe they are special, kids especially so, but being a remarkable person is not a result of belief but of actions. If the book had informed them, then it would leave them better off, but giving them a conclusion based on emotional appeals does nothing to build confidence or character.Many people have told me this book is good because it appeals to children, but children often fall for propaganda. Children develop deep relationships with pop stars, breakfast cereals, and Japanese monsters. This does not make them good role models for children.Feeding 'specialness' to kids along with a political message is no better than the fascist youth programs Lowry intends to criticize. The obsession with individuality is just another form of elitism. It's ironic that people in America most often describe themselves as individuals when pointing out the things they do to align themselves with groups.But banding together in a community is not a bad thing. For Lowry and other 'Red Scare' children, any mention of 'communal' can turn into a witch hunt, but we all give up some personal rights and some individuality in order to live in relatively safe, structured societies. There are benefits to governmental social controls and there are drawbacks, and it's up to us to walk the line between the two. Anarchy and Totalitarianism never actually exist for long: we are social animals.It's not difficult to understand why Lowry is so popular, especially amongst educators. The message she gives aligns perfectly with what they were taught as kids, from Red Scare reactionism to the hippy-dippy 'unique snowflake' mantra. These ideas aren't entirely misguided, either. It's good to recognize the benefits of difference and the dangers of allowing other to control our lives.If a reader believes that fascism and socialism are inherently wrong and that their own individuality is their greatest asset, they will likely sympathize with Lowry's work. However, this doesn't make the book honest, nor beneficial. One of the hardest things we can do as readers is disagree with the methods of authors we agree with ideologically.It makes us feel good to find authors who agree with us, but this is when we should be at our most skeptical. Searching the world for self-justification is not a worthwhile goal, it simply turns you into another short-sighted, argumentative know-it-all. 'Yes men' never progress.Lowry is toeing the party line. She does not base her book around difficult questions, like the Dystopian authors, but around easy answers. She doesn't force the reader to decide for themselves what is best, she makes it clear what she wants us to think. Her book is didactic, which means that it instructs the reader what to believe.Even if her conclusions about Individuality vs. Community are correct, she doesn't present arguments, she only presents conclusions. Like rote memorization or indoctrination, she teaches nothing about the politics, social order, economics, or psychology of totalitarianism or individuality. The reader is not left with an understanding, just an opinion.The baseless 'individuality' of the book lets the reader imagine that they are rebels--that they are bucking the system even as they fall into lock-step. By letting the reader think they are already free-thinking, Lowry tricks them into forgetting their skepticism.She is happy to paint a simple world of black and white, and this is likely the world she sees. I doubt she is purposefully creating an insidious text, she just can't see past her own opinions. She writes this book with a point to make, and makes it using emotional appeals and symbolism. She doesn't back it up with arguments because she doesn't seem to have developed her opinions from cogent arguments.In the end, she doesn't show us that the structure of this society is wrong, she says nothing poignant about individuality vs. community; instead, she relies on threats to the life of an innocent infant. Yet nowhere does she provide an argument for why communal living or the sacrifice of freedoms for safety must necessarily lead to infanticide.In politics, making extreme claims about the opposing side is called mud-slinging, it is an underhanded and dishonest tactic. It works. Arguing intelligently is difficult, accusing is easy, so that's what Lowry does.She is another child of WWII and the Cold War who hasn't learned her lesson. She quickly condemns the flaws of others while failing to search out her own. Even after the Holocaust, there are many racist, nationalist, violent Jews; conflict rarely breeds a new understanding.America condemned the faceless communal life of the Second World, and yet America created The Projects. We critiqued strong governmental controls, but we still have the bank bailout, socialized medicine, socialized schooling, and socialized charity. America condemned the Gulags and Work Camps, and yet we imprison one out of every hundred citizens; far more than Stalin ever did. Some are killed, all are dehumanized.As a little sci fi adventure, the book isn't terrible. It's really the pretension that goes along with it. Lowry cobbles together religious symbolism and Dystopic tropes and then tries to present it as something as complex and thoughtful as the authors she copied. Copying isn't a crime, but copying poorly is.Like Dan Brown or Michael Crichton, she creates a political pamphlet of her own ideals, slaps a pretense of authority on it, and then waits for the money and awards to roll in--and they did. Many people I've discussed this book with have pointed to those awards as the surest sign of this book's eminent worth.Award committees are bureaucratic organizations. Their decisions are based on political machinations. This book is a little piece of Nationalism, and so it was lauded by the political machine that Lowry supports. The left hand helps the right. If awards are the surest sign of worth, then Titanic is a better movie than Citizen Kane.What surprises me is how many of those who brought up the award as their argument were teachers. If a politically-charged administrative committee is the best way to teach children, then why do you take umbrage when the principal tells you that bigger class sizes (and fewer benefits) are fine? Listen to him: doesn't he have award plaques?The other argument is usually that 'kids like it'. I usually respond that kids also like candy, so why not teach that? Some people also get angry at me for analyzing a book written for children:"Of course it's not a great book, it's for kids! If you want a good book, go read Ulysses!"I prefer to give children good books rather than pieces of political propaganda (even if they agreed with me). Children can be as skeptical, quick-witted, and thoughtful as adults if you give them the chance, so I see no excuse for feeding them anything less. Kids aren't stupid, they just lack knowledge, and that's a fine distinction. It's easy for adults to take advantage of their naivete, their emotionality, and their sense of worth. Just because it's easier for the teacher doesn't mean it's better for the child.When we show children something that is over-simplified, presenting an idealized, crudely moralizing world, we aren't preparing them for the actual world. If you give a child a meaningless answer to repeat, he will repeat it, but he won't understand why. Why not give the child a book that presents many complex ideas, but no rote answers, and let them make up their own minds? If they don't learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff and form their own opinions early, in a safe, nurturing environment, what chance will they have on their own as adults?In all the discussions and research regarding this book, I have come across very little analysis. It's especially surprising for a book with such a strong following, but there aren't many explanations of why the book is supposed to be useful or important.This lack of argument makes sense from a political standpoint, since there is no reason to analyze the worth of propaganda: its worth is that it agrees with society and indoctrinates readers. Analyzing it would defeat the purpose; political diatribes do not stand up to thoughtful attention.Perhaps someday someone will create a thoughtful, textual analysis of this book that will point out its merits, its structure and its complexity. I've gradually come to doubt it. I never expected when I wrote my original review of this book that it would garner this much attention.I still welcome comments and thoughts, but if your comment looks roughly like this: "You should read this book again, but this time, like it more. You think you're smart but you aren't. You're mean. Lowry is great. This book won awards and kids like it. It's meant for kids anyways, why would you analyze what its about? I bet you never even read the sequels. Go read 'Moby Dick' because you are full of yourself."I've heard that one before. If you do want to comment though, you might check out this article; I find it helps me with presenting my ideas.

The Bell Jar

by

3.95 rating

Comment 1: وكانت فكرة أن أقتل نفسي قد رسخت في عقلي بهدوء مثل شجرة أو زهرةـــــــــــــــــفي عام 1963 كانت سيلفيا بلاث قد حسمت أمرها‏أطلت على طفليها اللذين لا يبلغ عمر أكبرهما العامين بعدأطعمتهما وتركت مزيدا من الطعام واللبن ‏فتحت النوافذ عن آخرها ثم تهادت بخفة إلى المطبخ وسدت كل منافذ الهواءوفتحت صمامات الغاز‏وأرقدت رأسها المعذّب المختنق بناقوسه الزجاجي‏ في الفرن‏ وتركت نفسها تتسرب ببطء إلى العالم الآخر‏;;;;;;;;;;;من الصعب أن تقرأ كتابا لكاتب انتحر دون أن تبحث به ‏عن كل الاشارات التي قد تدل على أنه سيفعلها قريبارغم أن ذلك يبدو طفوليا وساذجالا يمكنك أن تفصل بين الرواية وسيلفيا‏لا يمكنك تقييمها تقييما أدبيا محايدا ‏فهي شهقات سيلفيا الأخيرة قبل اقدامها على الانتحار;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;‏-أتعرفين ما هي القصيدة يا إستر؟‏-لا ، ما القصيدة؟‏-إنها شيء من الغبارــــــــــــــــــالناقوس الزجاجيهذا العالم المشوه الذي ينتج عن مرض الادراك الحسي الفصاميبأعراضه المدمرةبغلافه الزجاجي الذي يحرق ويمزق ويميت‏أن تموت الأبجدية أمام شاعرةفتستحيل الحروف طلاسمًا ‏وكل ما حولها يبدو خطرا وغير حقيقيفهل لك أن تتخيل أن تتهاوى الأبجدية أمام شاعرة فلا تستطيع الامساك بها؟بل تخرج لها لسانها في تحد وسخرية بينما ترقد هي تتعاطى صدمات الكهرباء ومرارة الخوف؟؟هكذا حاولت سيلفيا تصوير عالمها والناس فيه مثلما رأته في العدسة المشوهة للناقوس الزجاجي -على حد قولها;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;كل شيء يبدو أكثر حدة مع أوجاعك النفسيةتغدو أعصابك عاريةكل تفاعل يمر بك يتشوه بداخلككل مشكلة حياتية تغدو لغزاً فلسفيًا ولعنة من السماءوطبيعة إستر التي تتشقق –على حد قول سيلفيا تحت الضغط ‏حتى تبدو وجهة نظرها المنحرفة عن العالم المحيط بها هي الطريقة التي تنظر بها للأشياءويصير الانهيار العصبي وجلسات الكهرباء وقتا شديد السواد كما جحيم العقل الانسانيهي نفسها التي لسيلفياهي نفسها سيلفيا في وقت ما من حياتها‏-لاحظ حتى أن الأسماء سيلفيا ، إستر ‏ثم إيلين الشخصية التي تتخيلها إستر في روايتهاكلهن تتطابق حروف أسمائهن في الإنجليزيةكلهن سيلفياتقع إستر –بطلة روايتنا فريسة لمرض يحيط دماغها المسكين بشرائح زجاجية ‏تصبحٍ كل ذكرياتها المصهورة بألف لون وطعم ورائحة هي منظرها الطبيعي ‏وليست الألوان المشبعة بها الطبيعة الخضراء التي قد تبدو لنظرها سخيفة وفي كل مرة طريقة جديدة وفشل في اتقانها حتى كانت اللحظة التي شقت فيها رسغيها واختبأت لتموت في قبو المنزل;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;لا شيء يوطّد عرى صداقتك مع شخص آخر أكثر من التقيؤ في حضورهــــــــــــــــــوكانت سيلفيا بخفة دم غريبة تتحدث عن أفكارها عن الانتحار وعما قد يعوقها عنه فلا تملك إلا أن تقع في حبهاكأن تقطع شرايينها في ماء دافئ فيكون الماء أكثر برودة مما ينبغي مثلا‏‎:Dلسيلفيا عالمها الرائع الخاص بها وحدهاوستكتشفه بعمق مع قصائدها المذهلةأكره الأفلام الملونة حيث يبدو كل شخص وكأنه مضطر لارتداء أزياء رهيبة في كل مشهد جديدوالوقوف في الجوار كمنشر الغسيلــــــــــــــــــ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;قرب النهاية قال بدي لإستر ببساطة :‏‏ أتساءل من ستتزوجين الآن يا إستر وقد كنتِ...هنا –يقصد المصحةوعندما تشابك قدري سيلفيا وتيد ‏لم تكن تعلم أنه بشهوته لمطاردة النساء واتخاذ عشيقات ‏قد سطر الحرف الأخير في حلم سعادتها ‏‏ الذي انتهى سريعا كشهاب في حياتها القصيرة البائسة‏كما تشابهت الجملة التي قالها بدي لإستر"هل هناك شيء في يحيل النساء مجنونات؟"‏بحياة تيد نفسه بطريقة مثيرة للاستغرابفقد انتحرت زوجته ثم عشيقته كلتاهما بالغاز‏" فهل هناك شيئاً في تيد يجعل النساء تقدمن على الانتحار وبالغاز تحديدا؟؟!!"‏دعنا نحاول الجواب هنارسائل عيد الميلاد..ديوان تيد هيوز إلى سيلفيا بلاث;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;‏"كان علي أن أكتب لأتحرر من الماضي"‏هل استرجعت سيلفيا الماضي وغاصت فيه مجددا؟ ‏هل تحولت تجربة الكتابة إلى استعادة الوجع كله بدلا من أن تكون طريقة شافية ناجحة؟ألم تستطع اغلاق صفحة الماضي وتتطلع إلى حياة أكثر استقرارا؟؟يبدو أنها أجابتنا عن هذا السؤال‏.......‏هامش#‏الأخطاء في اللترجمة لا تغتفر ‏أحببت أن أمر على الترجمة كي أنقل منها بعض السطور للاقتباسات هنا‏ فوجدتني مندهشة من الأخطاء الغريبة ‏واللامبالاة التي صيغت بها الروايةكما لفت نظري هذه الطريقة الغبية في وضع أقواس للكلمات التوضيحية الزائدة‏ التي لم ترد في الرواية وكتابة كل اسم ورد فيها بعد العربية ‏وأصبحت بعض الصفحات ممتلئة بأسماء انجليزية بشكل مشوه وغبي ‏وكأنني أقرأ كتابا علميا كان ضروريا فيه المصطلحات‏!!

The Handmaid's Tale

by

3.99 rating

Comment 1: I guess Atwood doesn't believe in quotation marks.. I don't think I've ever come across a novel yet in which there is no distinction between the narrator and the character. It took me quite a while to get used to that type of style of writing. I had to go back and re-read sentences again and again, which doesn't really lend itself to a relaxing reading experience, and it slowed me down quite a bit..First 100 pages:Really annoying..why? well because I felt like a juicy bone was being waved in front of my face. Like when someone asks you, "guess which celebrity died today?" and you ask, "who?" and they say, "well why don't you guess?" and you answer "I don't know, I give up, just tell me", and this keeps going back and forth, back and forth, and finally you just want to say, "forget it, it's not even worth it" and walk away. That's how I felt reading this book. Kinda like Atwood was being childish about withholding the plot information because it gave her literary power and control over the reader, and keeps them hostage.Then I couldn't ignore this overwhelming feeling that the philosophy of this story was going to be something that didn't sit well with me. However, I slowly realized it was just a typical novel, with no outstanding profundity whatsoever.One of the reasons I despise contemporary literature, and basically ceased reading it years ago is because contemporary writers almost always, almost 100% of the time, revert to the all-essential shock value elements, what I like to call the "cheap grabber". In the back cover of "The Handmaids Tale", it goes on to say: "Atwood takes many trends which exist today and stretches them to their logical and chilling....blah, blah, blahhhhhh..." ...and let me just state that I noticed the review by Newsweek long after I had already started reading the book. It was probably noticed during one of those moments of frustration where I single-handedly flipped the book around wondering, "whatthefuckingfuck?".I'll give you a perfect example of how she used this "trend".I'm reading about women in habits, who seem to be pious and obedient, living in the Republic of Gilead. They walk with their heads bowed down, two by two whispering words to each other, such as "blessed be", "may the Lord Open" and "I receive with joy". And this goes on say for about 100 pages or so. Then suddenly out of the blue you read, "He's fucking me". Now it's not that I don't like the word "fuck". In fact I LOVE the word "fuck". Not as in "I like to fuck", but as in, "Fuck, my food is burning", or "Fuck, I got my period on the mattress again". So it's not like I'm a "fuck" prude, cause I'm not. It's just that it didn't seem to fit in with the theme of the book and it was cheaply thrown in for shock value to keep up with the "trend". Now can anyone sit there and tell me Atwood couldn't have better and more eloquently described that scene? Halfway through the book, I stopped and assessed what I had gotten from it so far.. still nothing.It certainly had moments of intrigue, I give it that much. Of course it had to have had intrigue because it's a pretty popular book. But Atwood's writing from the beginning is so flawed. It's as if it went straight from her hands to publishing without being proof-read or edited.I'm not a writer, but I am a reader, and I think I'm certainly capable of recognizing whether a book flows or not, and this book just doesn't flow at all. And what pisses me off the very most is that Margaret Atwood is presently supposed to represent one of Canada's top leading modern authors. Just because a book sells a lot doesn't mean squat. It's just a trend, a fad. It's like when The Philadelphia Inquirer stated that "PUSH a novel" might find a place in the African American Literary canon. I was like, WHAT!!?? are you kidding me? that shit? no effin way, no. Look at The Davinchi Code. Yes, I enjoyed the novel a lot, but I also recognize that Dan Brown probably won't be included as part of the American literary canon in 100 years either.Margaret Atwood, in my humble opinion is not the greatest of writers. I've seen reviewers on goodreads who are better at writing than she is.The only decent thing about this novel was the story-line, and even that seemed like Daniel Steel fluff. Oh and the other thing that got me was that the entire female democracy has fallen apart and all Of-Fred could think of was her need to have sexual intimacy with a man. Not to mention that she never seemed appropriately upset about the fact that her husband and daughter have been taken from her. Has Maragaret Atwood ever seen the Movie Red Dawn with Patrick Swayze? The wolverines? c'mon, man!!The other major problem with this novel is that there were so many questions unanswered. What political reason behind the president day massacre? Who were these people? why were women targeted? Why didn't women (and their men) fight back? Those are questions I'm asking just to humor the book. At this point, the book was so leaky that It's not even worth asking questions about, because there aren't any answers. I thought this book was going to have some psychological depth, but to me it was just like reading a cheap novel. I can go on and on about other things that make this not a great novel, but it's not even worth it.I'm extremely disappointed.. I thought this was going to be one of the good ones.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

by

4.22 rating

Comment 1: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a quiet, gentle, understated and yet at the same time unexpectedly scathing at times book that offers a window (or a view from a fire escape, if you please) into a little corner of the world a century ago, and yet still has the power to resonate with readers of today. After all, the world has moved forward, yes, but the essential human soul remains the same, and the obstacles in human lives - poverty, inequality, cruelty, and blind self-righteousness - are in no danger of disappearing. "The one tree in Francie’s yard was neither a pine nor a hemlock. It had pointed leaves which grew along green switches which radiated from the bough and made a tree which looked like a lot of opened green umbrellas. Some people called it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement. It grew lushly, but only in the tenements districts."It's not easy to answer what this book is about, to answer it in a way that would manage to capture the heart and soul of this story. If you ask me, I think it's a story of people simply being people, the good-bad-and-ugly of humanity. There are so many things coexisting in the pages of this not-that-long book. On one hand, it's a classic coming-of-age and loss-of-innocence tale centered around the experiences of a young girl growing up in Brooklyn in the first couple of decades of the 20th century. On another hand, it is a social commentary taking on the uglier parts of human lives and human nature - the parts that Francie was cautioned against writing about as they are quite 'sordid': poverty, vice, exploitation, intolerance. On yet another hand (yes, I'm running out of hands here) it's a story of American dream - hopeful and determined. “I want to live for something. I don't want to live to get charity food to give me enough strength to go back to get more charity food.”On a different hand, it is also a story of how American dream can be used exactly against the same people that it's supposed to inspire. On yet another hand (apparently my 'hands' example may as well involve an octopus) it is a chronicle of a struggling Brooklyn family with the love and resentment and strong ties that only the members of the family can try to understand. On some other hand, it's a story of what it meant to be a girl and then a woman in the world of a century ago in America. And, on yet another hand, it is an ode to Brooklyn that through the prism of this book appears to be a universe of its own.It is also a story of opportunities lost and opportunities gained despite the odds. It's a story about the will to survive no matter what, about iron-clad will and determination, about hope despite the odds, despite being, for all intents and purposes, on the bottom of the barrel. It's a story about learning to love and respect and compromise and give up - and frequently all at the same time. It's a story about being able to open your eyes to the world around you as you grow up and learning to see this world for what it is, and accept some of it, and reject some, too. It has love and loss and pain and happiness and wonder and ugliness - all candidly and unapologetically presented to the readers allowing them to arrive at their own conclusions just as Francie Nolan has arrived at hers.Apparently when this book was published in mid-1940s, it caused a wave of disappointment and disagreement with the subject matters it raised, the subject matters that some of the public, like the well-meaning but clearly clueless teacher Miss Garnder in this book, probably found too 'sordid' for their taste: the poverty, the pro-union message, the lack of condemnation of female sexuality, the alcoholism, the treatment of immigrants unfamiliar with their rights, the exploitation of the poor and weak ones by those in power - you name it. It seems there was too much of the social message presented with not enough of polishing it and coating it with the feel-good message. "In a flash, she saw which way the wind blew; she saw it blew against children like Francie."The part that probably resonated the most with me out of everything I mentioned, however, was the way Betty Smith describes the poverty of Francie's family and Francie's neighborhood ("... in the Nolan neighborhood, if you could prove you had been born in America, it was equivalent to a Mayflower standing" and where "Kids grow up quick in this neighborhood.") - the area populated mostly by immigrants not quite aware of their rights, selling their votes for the chance to survive another day, and slaving at their jobs just to survive another day in which they can go on slaving for pennies to survive. And yet the system - as well as the still-not-understood undershades of human psyche - instead of uniting these people in their hardships ends up somehow pitting them against each other. "She had been in school but half a day when she knew that she would never be a teacher’s pet. That privilege was reserved for a small group of girls... girls with freshly curled hair, crisp clean pinafores and new silk hairbows. They were the children of the prosperous storekeepers of the neighborhood. Francie noticed how Miss Briggs, the teacher, beamed on them and seated them in the choicest places in the front row. These darlings were not made to share seats. Miss Briggs’s voice was gentle when she spoke to these fortune-favored few, and snarling when she spoke to the great crowd of unwashed."You see, the poverty presented in this book, the poverty in which the Nolan family lives, is far from the innocent, idealistic, noble and 'cleansing' way it's often presented. No, this book does not fall into the pitfall of somehow glorifying poverty. The Nolans are decent people DESPITE their poverty and not in any way thanks to it - the message that is presented subtly but clearly through Francie's understanding that there's little point to it, that there's really nothing to be gained from it no matter how you can later justify it to yourself through the idea that 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'¹.Allow me to quote Terry Pratchett here:-"Remember - that which does not kill us can only make us stronger.""And that which *does* kill us leaves us dead!"And, of course, denigration of poor people and worship of money, as well as the stark gap between the rich and the poor in the American society did not go away a century after the events of this novel. Neither did the fact that if you live in a poor neighborhood and get an education there, you are at a disadvantage as compared to your peers (Francie tried to combat that by finding a way to attend a better school in a better area - but using the ways that would surely condemn her in the eyes of the general public had she done it now, like quite a few people try to). And the fact that as we continue to proclaim the benefits of Democracy (as Johnny Nolan did his whole short life) while poverty continues to run rampant and the rich continue to be rich is perhaps one of the saddest things that you take from reading this book. "They think this is so good," she thought. "They think it’s good— the tree they got for nothing and their father playing up to them and the singing and the way the neighbors are happy. They think they’re mighty lucky that they’re living and that it’s Christmas again. They can’t see that we live on a dirty street in a dirty house among people who aren’t much good. Johnny and the children can’t see how pitiful it is that our neighbors have to make happiness out of this filth and dirt. My children must get out of this. They must come to more than Johnny or me or all these people around us."Another part is the deconstruction of American Dream - to a point. On one hand, Francie and her mother Katie and her grandmother Mary all support the idea of education eventually being able to help you get out of the cycle of poverty. On the other hand, through Francie's eyes we see the flipside of this believe in American Dream - the shrugging off the problems of the poor by those who are a bit more well-to-do under the mistaken beliefs that (a) they understand exactly what the poor are going through (like Francie's teacher Miss Garnder 'understood' poverty because - oh the horror! - at some point in her life she lived on tea and toast for three days and her family did not always have a maid) and (b) assume that the only reason the poor stay poor is because they have to be lazy (again, like Miss Garnder, the well-meaning soul who nevertheless was in position of power to pass on her flawed beliefs to the impressionable young children she educated). “But poverty, starvation and drunkenness are ugly subjects to choose. We all admit these things exist. But one doesn’t write about them.” “What does one write about?” Unconsciously, Francie picked up the teacher’s phraseology. “One delves into the imagination and finds beauty there. The writer, like the artist, must strive for beauty always.” “What is beauty?” asked the child. “I can think of no better definition than Keats’: ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty.’” Francie took her courage into her two hands and said, “Those stories are the truth.”This book is simply written and slow-moving - but in an enchanting, engrossing way that allows the characters to shine through its pages. There's really little plot in the way we, modern readers, frequently think of such. Most of the book seems to be comprised of little vignettes connected to each other, placed to shed light on different aspects of the lives of the Nolans and the Rommelys, to present different edges of their personalities and to show the wider picture of the time and the neighborhood where they live. We get to experience Katie's determined strength, Johnny's unabashed hopefulness mixed with weakness, Sissy's love and disregard for arbitrary societal limitations, and Francie's curiosity and desire for life and learning. "Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way."And a word about Francie herself, of course. Yes, she is far from an ideal heroine. She is naive and impressionable, sometimes frustratingly so. She can be meek and allow others to take advantage of her and direct her life - to the point when we, readers from the time when women can vote and have achieved some resemblance of equality, start getting frustrated with her. But she has this insatiable curiosity for life and desire to rise above her low station in life, and inner backbone and character steel that she appears to have inherited from her mother Katie (Katie, who is a true cornerstone of this book, the source of its inner strength and resilience that allows the Nolans to have hope for the future) - all the traits that make the reader cheer for this quiet and yet determined young woman who will ultimately find out what's best for her in life while always remembering where she comes from. “Dear God," she prayed, "let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry...have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere - be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” I'm glad I read this book now and not back when I was a kid. Back then I would have judged so many characters harshly, seeing the world from a quite privileged perspective of a person who had the luxury of education and only experienced a few years of significant poverty that was followed by a reasonably comfortable life afterwards. Now, with a bit more life experience on my shoulders, I cannot help but adore the quiet heart of this story and the different shades of life and people that it portrays. 4.5 stars without a bit of hesitation.

Outlander

by

4.17 rating

Comment 1: I gave up on this book because I was sustaining permanent damage from reading it and I was afraid I'd start hitting back. And it's a borrowed copy, so that wouldn't be cool.In fairness, I should say there's a lot of good writing here. I really enjoyed the beginning chapters. They even kind of cracked me up, because I have friends who love genealogy and their husbands always get that look when they start talking about it and that's exactly how I imagined Claire looking when her husband Frank started droning on and on about his ancestors.And Claire is a nurse, which is a really good transportable skill if you're going to be thrown back in time which it turns out Claire is. (Sorry. Spoiler alert.) Can you imagine if you were one of those Nerds On Wheels computer repair people and you got sent to eighteenth-century Scotland? You'd be totally screwed.But Claire's skills come in handy without seeming out of place. A woman who's a dab hand at healing is always welcome in Olden Tymes, so Claire is able to land on her feet and kind of get a job once she figures out what happened to her and comes to terms with it.Which is pretty much immediately. Which is when the book started to lose me. There's, like, no culture shock whatsoever. She gets knocked back two hundred years or so. She goes, "WHOA. What the flimminy?" She starts being The Lady To Go To With Your Eighteenth-Century Scottish Boo-Boos. That's it. There are a few mentions of things like how shoes fit differently back then and anachronistic language, but there's no sense of the kind of thing a person from the future would be startled by. Not the food, not the weird underwear, nothing. Claire just settles in and starts being the resident nurse at a castle. She keeps half an eye out for a chance to get to the place that can take her back to the future, but it has all the deep emotional urgency that I feel when I really should stop by the grocery store on the way home but it won't kill anybody if I go tomorrow instead. Like, whatevs. Still, there was plenty to keep me interested. Like – leeches! The stuff about leeches was cool. And the info about healing herbs. And that kid getting his ear hammered to a board because he was caught stealing.Really, this book would have worked fine for me if it hadn't been for what everybody else seems to love about it, which is the Romantic Interest. Which still would have been fine, even with the whole SHE'S MARRIED ALREADY thingy. But, okay – let's say that she has to marry that guy. They aren't in love when they get married and so the whole point of the book is to watch their relationship develop, while Claire struggles with guilt and fear and thoughts of how her real husband must be worrying about her and how the heck does time-travel work in this book and WHY IS SHE JUST ASSUMING THAT TIME IS GOING BY IN THE FUTURE AT THE SAME RATE IT IS FOR HER? WHY, I ASK YOU?(Sorry. I'm a minor-league nerd, and this part really bugged me.)So what I just described would have been a book I could read and enjoy, or at least read and not scream in pain. But apparently someone gave Diana Gabaldon the creepiest piece of writing advice EVER, and it was this:"Listen – you know how if you're cooking and you're worried it's not turning out very well, just add bacon if it's savory and chocolate chips if it's sweet and everybody'll love it? Well, if you're working on your first novel and you don't know what to have happen next, just throw in some rape! Or attempted rape! Works like a charm!"She follows this advice to the letter, and I'm sorry but I have to go home now. I managed to read the "she disobeys him so he beats her with his belt" scene. I almost punched the book right in the face, but as I said, it's a friend's copy so I had to be nice.Then I managed to get through the "she forgives him for the beating, like, the next freakin' day" scene. I started fantasizing about this book getting stuck in the elevator of a burning building, but I was able to hold on and keep going.Then there was the scene where Big Kilted Oaf – I mean, Jamie – starts laughing about the whole beating thing and reminiscing about how hot she looked when he was holding her down beating the crap out of her and she forgives him for that, too. Like, instantly. And I'm all, "WHO AM I AND WHAT AM I DOING HERE?" And still I staggered on. Heaven only knows why. And how did the author reward me for my perseverance? What is this book all about? What's the recurring literary theme?Rape. Attempted rape. More attempted rape. Marital rape. A little more marital rape. Conversations about rape. GIGGLING during conversations about rape. And I'm all, "I'M OUT OF HERE AND I DON'T CARE HOW MANY OF MY FRIENDS HATE ME."I read 444 pages in a row, plus I skimmed a lot of the rest of it including the creepiest, rapiest Chekhov's gun I've ever seen fired. Do NOT tell me I didn't give this book a fair chance. I TOTALLY DID.In case you need proof, here's a list of all the things I learned about rape from Outlander.1. It's a bummer for the woman involved, but save your sympathy for her brother. (Assuming you have any emotional response at all, which you won't if you're Claire.)Jamie tells Claire about his sister Jenny being raped by a dastardly redcoat. He has a good chuckle talking about how Jenny punches and kicks her attacker. She isn't able to hold him off forever, though. And Jamie gets flogged for trying to defend her. Claire's response?"I'm sorry. It must have been terrible for you."It is terrible for Jamie to have his sister "dishonor herself wi' such scum." (Nice.) So terrible that he can't bring himself to go back home to her when he gets out of prison, and "see her again, after what happened." She's impregnated by the rape. Left on her own both emotionally and financially, she is forced to become the mistress of another English soldier. Jamie finally sends her what money he can, but can't bring himself to write to her. Because, you know, "what could I say?"Claire's response?"Oh, dear."(Really -- how could I give up on this book when the main character is so sympathetic?)2. Rape can lead to comically inaccurate ideas about how people do "the nasty!"After Jamie and Claire consummate their marriage, Jamie confesses that he "didna realize that ye did it face to face. I thought ye must do it the back way, like; like horses, ye know." Claire tries to keep a straight face as she asks him why on earth he thought that."I saw a man take a woman plain, once, out in the open. But that...well, it was a rape, was what it was, and he took her from the back. It made some impression on me, and as I say, it's just the idea stuck."So of course Claire flips out and asks him what the heck that was all about. Who was it? Why was he witness to a rape "out in the open"? Was he able to help the woman? What happened to her?Oh. Wait. This is Claire the Emotionless. She doesn't ask him anything, and he doesn't say anything else on the subject. Instead, they cuddle and talk about how much fun what they just did was. Because a story about rape out in the open is just the kind of pillow talk a woman wants to hear when she's relaxing after a nice bout of bigamy. I mentioned I loved this book, right? I didn't? Good.3. Nearly getting raped turns you on for Mr. Right!Jamie and Claire are off on their own in the woods for a spot of marital bliss when they're set upon by highwaymen. Claire is nearly raped, but manages to kill her assailant. Yes, she was a nurse during World War II, but I think there's a difference between witnessing violence and inflicting it yourself. She kills the guy in the nick of time. He's on top of her, so she undoubtedly gets his blood all over her. Meanwhile, Jamie manages to dispatch the other two guys.And then Claire flips out about the fact that she was just attacked, and she had to kill a guy, and she had to kill a guy at close quarters with a knife.Oh. Wait. This is Claire. She has no response to any of this, now or later. Well, she does have one response:When I put my hands on his shoulders, he pulled me hard against his chest with a sound midway between a groan and a sob. We took each other then, in a savage, urgent silence, thrusting fiercely and finishing within moments.If your marital love life has been a bit blah lately, why not get attacked and then kill the guy? It'll spice things right up!4. It's not rape if it's your husband and he promises he'll hurry..."Jamie! Not here!" I said, squirming away and pushing my skirt down again."Are ye tired, Sassenach?" he asked with concern. "Dinna worry, I won't take long."(next page):He took a firm grip on my shoulders with both hands."Be quiet, Sassenach," he said with authority. "It isna going to take verra long."I gather it's especially not rape if your husband has an ethnic-slur nickname for you. He should use this at least three times a page. (Yes, "Sassenach" is derogatory. It'd be like if you were white and your husband called you his little gringo. Although that would actually be kind of funny if he's white, too. I think I want to get my husband to start calling me that now. But I digress.)5. ...or if it's your husband and he just really, really wants it.Claire is saying no, and no again. She's still in pain from the last time they did it, because he didn't take no for an answer even when she told him quite honestly he was hurting her. So how does our romantic lead respond?James Fraser was not a man to take no for an answer. ...Gentle he would be, denied he would not.I quoted that last line to my husband, and he got the same look on his face that I had on mine all through a two-day bout with food poisoning.If this book works for you, fine. I'm not here to judge. I'm just asking that you understand how completely creeped out I was by all this, and not tell me I didn't give it a fair chance. I did. I really hate not finishing a book once I start it, but I just couldn't stand it any more.

Anna Karenina

by

3.99 rating

Comment 1: As a daughter of a Russian literature teacher, it seems I have always known the story of Anna Karenina: the love, the affair, the train - the whole shebang. I must have ingested the knowledge with my mother's milk, as Russians would say.............My grandpa had an old print of a painting hanging in his garage. A young beautiful mysterious woman sitting in a carriage in wintry Moscow and looking at the viewer through her heavy-lidded eyes with a stare that combines allure and deep sadness. "Who's that?" I asked my grandpa when I was five, and without missing a beat he answered, "Anna Karenina". Actually, it was "A Stranger" by Ivan Kramskoy (1883) - but for me it has always remained the mysterious and beautiful Anna Karenina, the femme fatale of Russian literature. (Imagine my childish glee when I saw this portrait used for the cover of this book in the edition I chose!) **Yet, "Anna Karenina" is a misleading title for this hefty tome as Anna's story is just the tip of an iceberg, as half of the story is devoted to Konstantin Levin, Tolstoy's alter ego (Count Leo's Russian name was Lev. Lev --> Levin), preoccupied with Russian peasantry and its relationship to land, as well as torn over faith and his lack of it, Levin whose story continues for chapters after Anna meets her train. But Anna gives the book its name, and her plight spoke more to me than the philosophical dealings of an insecure and soul-searching Russian landowner, and so her story comes first. Sorry, Leo Levin.Anna's chapters tell a story of a beautiful married woman who had a passionate affair with an officer and then somehow, in her quest for love, began a downward spiral fueled by jealousy and guilt and societal prejudices and stifling attitudes. "But I'm glad you will see me as I am. The chief thing I shouldn't like would be for people to imagine I want to prove anything. I don't want to prove anything; I merely want to live, to do no one harm but myself. I have the right to do that, haven't I?"On one hand, there's little new about the story of a forbidden, passionate, overwhelming affair resulting in societal scorn and the double standards towards a man and a woman involved in the same act. Few readers will be surprised that it is Anna who gets the blame for the affair, that it is Anna who is considered "fallen" and undesirable in the society, that it is Anna who is dependent on men in whichever relationship she is in because by societal norms of that time a woman was little else but a companion to her man. There is nothing new about the sad contrasts between the opportunities available to men and to women of that time - and the strong sense of superiority that men feel in this patriarchial world. No, there is nothing else in that, tragic as it may be."Anything, only not divorce!" answered Darya Alexandrovna."But what is anything?""No, it is awful! She will be no one's wife, she will be lost!"*No, where Lev Tolstoy excels is the portrayal of Anna's breakdown, Anna's downward spiral, the unraveling of her character under the ingrained guilt, crippling insecurity and the pressure the others - and she herself - place on her. Anna, a lovely, energetic, captivating woman, full of life and beauty, simply crumbles, sinks into despair, fueled by desperation and irrationality and misdirected passion. "And he tried to think of her as she was when he met her the first time, at a railway station too, mysterious, exquisite, loving, seeking and giving happiness, and not cruelly revengeful as he remembered her on that last moment."A calm and poised lady slowly and terrifyingly descends into fickle moods and depression and almost maniacal liveliness in between, tormented by her feeling of (imagined) abandonment and little self-worth and false passions which are little else but futile attempts to fill the void, the never-ending emptiness... This is what Tolstoy is a master at describing, and this is what was grabbing my heart and squeezing the joy out of it in anticipation of inevitable tragedy to come."In her eyes the whole of him, with all his habits, ideas, desires, with all his spiritual and physical temperament, was one thing—love for women, and that love, she felt, ought to be entirely concentrated on her alone. That love was less; consequently, as she reasoned, he must have transferred part of his love to other women or to another woman—and she was jealous. She was jealous not of any particular woman but of the decrease of his love. Not having got an object for her jealousy, she was on the lookout for it. At the slightest hint she transferred her jealousy from one object to another."Yes, it's the little evils, the multitude of little faces of unhappiness that Count Tolstoy knows how to portray with such sense of reality that it's quite unsettling - be it the blind jealousy of Anna or Levin, be it the shameless cheating and spending of Stiva Oblonsky, be it the moral stuffiness and limits of Arkady Karenin, the parental neglects of both Karenins to their children, the lies, the little societal snipes, the disappointments, the failures, the pervasive selfishness... All of it is so unsettlingly well-captured on page that you do realize Tolstoy must have believed in the famous phrase that he penned for this book's opening line: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."Tolstoy is excellent at showing that, despite what we tend to believe, getting what you wanted does not bring happiness. "Vronsky, meanwhile, in spite of the complete realization of what he had so long desired, was not perfectly happy. He soon felt that the realization of his desires gave him no more than a grain of sand out of the mountain of happiness he had expected. It showed him the mistake men make in picturing to themselves happiness as the realization of their desires. "*And yet, just like in real life, there are no real villains, no real unsympathetic characters that cause obstacles for our heroes, the villains whom it feels good to hate. No, everyone, in addition to their pathetic little ugly traits also has redeeming qualities. Anna's husband, despite appearing as a monster to Anna after her passionate affair, still is initially willing to give her the freedom of the divorce that she needs. Stiva Oblonsky, repulsive in his carelessness and cheating, wins us over with his gregarious and genuinely friendly personality; Anna herself, despite her outbursts, is a devoted mother to her son (at least initially). Levin may appear to be monstrous in his jealousy, but the next moment he is so overwhelmingly in love that it's hard not to forgive him. And I love this greyness of each character, so lifelike and full.And, of course, the politics - so easily forgettable by readers of this book that carries the name of the heroine of a passionate forbidden affair. The dreaded politics that bored me to tears when I was fifteen. And yet these are the politics and the questions that were so much on the mind of Count Tolstoy, famous to his compatriots for his love and devotion to peasants, that he devoted almost half of this thick tome to it, discussed through the thoughts of Konstantin Levin. *Levin, a landowner with a strong capacity for compassion, self-reflection and curiosity about Russian love for land, as well as a striking political apathy, is Tolstoy's avatar in trying to make sense of a puzzling Russian peasantry culture, which failed to be understood by many of his compatriots educated on the ideas and beliefs of industrialized Europe. "He considered a revolution in economic conditions nonsense. But he always felt the injustice of his own abundance in comparison with the poverty of the peasants, and now he determined that so as to feel quite in the right, though he had worked hard and lived by no means luxuriously before, he would now work still harder, and would allow himself even less luxury."I have to say - I understood his ideas more this time, but I could not really feel for the efforts of the devoted and kind landowner striving to understand the soul of Russian peasants. Maybe it's because I mentally kept fast-forwarding mere 50 years, to the Socialist Revolution of 1917 that would leave most definitely Levin and Kitty and their children dead, or less likely, in exile; the revolution which, as Tolstoy almost predicted, focused on the workers and despised the loved by Count Leo peasants, the revolution that despised the love for owning land and working it that Tolstoy felt was at the center of the Russian soul. But it is still incredibly interesting to think about and to analyze because even a century and a half later there's still enough truth and foresight in Tolstoy's musings, after all. Even if I disagree with so many of his views, they are still thought-provoking, no doubts about it."If he had been asked whether he liked or didn't like the peasants, Konstantin Levin would have been absolutely at a loss what to reply. He liked and did not like the peasants, just as he liked and did not like men in general. Of course, being a good-hearted man, he liked men rather than he disliked them, and so too with the peasants. But like or dislike "the people" as something apart he could not, not only because he lived with "the people," and all his interests were bound up with theirs, but also because he regarded himself as a part of "the people," did not see any special qualities or failings distinguishing himself and "the people," and could not contrast himself with them."========================It's a 3.5 star book for me. Why? Well, because of Tolstoy's prose, of course - because of its wordiness and repetitiveness. Yes, Tolstoy is the undisputed king of creating page-long sentences (which I love, by the way - love that is owed in full to my literature-teacher mother admiring them and making me punctuate these never-ending sentences correctly for grammar exercises). But he is also a master of restating the obvious, repeating the same thought over and over and over again in the same sentence, in the same paragraph, until the reader is ready to cry for some respite. This, as well as Levin's at times obnoxious preachiness and the author's frequently very patriarchial views, was what made this book substantially less enjoyable than it could have been. --------By the way, there is an excellent 1967 Soviet film based on this book that captures the spirit of the book quite well (and, if you so like, has a handy function to turn on English subtitles): first part is here, and the second part is here. I highly recommend this film.And even better version of this classic is the British TV adaptation (2000) with stunning Helen McCrory as perfect Anna and lovely Paloma Baeza as perfect Kitty.

The Color Purple

by

4.14 rating

Comment 1: This is one of my new favorite books.The Color Purple tells the story of Celie, a black woman who finds herself in one abusive situation after another. Her stepfather molests her, her husband beats her, and she is worn down by bearing and caring for children. Over the course of the book, however, Celie learns to stand up for herself and, more importantly, learns to love. Celie's personal development is prompted by her relationship with Shug Avery, a singer and her husband's former lover, who comes to live with them for a while during an illness. Their relationship shifts dramatically, from competitors for Celie's husband to friends, then lovers, and finally family. As Shug says, "Us each other's peoples now" (189). Her personal development is helped along even further through her correspondence with her sister Nettie, who is working as a missionary in Africa with Celie's children that she was forced to give away. Through Shug, Celie learns about love, physical pleasure and desire, and the possibilities of creative outlets; through Nettie, Celie learns about the larger world and begins to see that her life is only one of many possibilities. She learns that her life could be different and through that gradual realization, she makes her life different.Some of this may sound corny, but it really, truly works in this novel. Walker is able to provide a vision of redeeming love that isn't simplistic or even easy for the characters involved. Celie's growth comes with pain, as does the growth of her formerly abusive husband into a real human being who is able to love both Celie and Shug and his children in a way that he could not before. What is most meaningful or moving for me in this book, though, is the vision of God and faith that Walker provides. At one point in the book, Celie announces that she no longer believes in God. She tells Shug, "the God I been praying and writing to is a man. And act just like all the other mens I know. Trifling, forgitful and lowdown" (199). Shug responds by telling her about her form of God. She says, "God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. . . . God ain't a he or a she, but a It" (202). Furthermore, she describes her experience of God by saying, "one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. . . . It sort of like you know what, she say, grinning and rubbing high up on my thigh" (203). For Shug, God is love, joy, pleasure, beauty. God wants admiration and wants us to enjoy the things it has created. "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it" (203). This kind of pantheistic version of God in nature and in our experiences is one that resonates with me and one that provides plenty of opportunities to use religion in positive, life-affirming ways (as opposed to the sometimes frightening ways in which traditional religion--with its white male God and its proscriptions against sex and other forms of pleasure--can be used). This version of God is not distant and judgmental; it is internal and pleasurable, creative. Shug illustrates one way in which this God can be useful: "Whenever you trying to pray, and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lost, say Shug. Conjure up flowers, wind, water, a big rock. But this hard work, let me tell you. He been there so long, he don't want to budge. He threaten lightening, floods and earthquakes. Us fight. I hardly pray at all. Every time I conjure up a rock, I throw it" (204). In this way, prayer and God become part of a larger struggle for self-determination and the ability for women like Celie to fight back and claim their own lives back from those who would abuse them or take advantage of them. Some people object to The Color Purple on the grounds of its pantheism or its lesbianism or its frank sexuality or its violence and abuse or its representation of men. Some people see Celie's attitude toward men (she is totally uninterested at best, with the exception of the friendship that finally develops between her and her husband--and that bonding occurs over how much they both love Shug) as a condemnation of men in general. But Walker's real concern here is love--love for oneself, love for others, and love received from others. As Celie's husband says while they sit and talk and sew together, "When it comes to what folks do together with they bodies . . . anybody's guess is as good as mine. But when you talk about love I don't have to guess. I have love and I have been love. And I thank God he let me gain understanding enough to know love can't be halted just cause some peoples moan and groan" (276-7).

The Road

by

3.94 rating

Comment 1: The Road is unsteady and repetitive—now aping Melville, now Hemingway—but it is less a seamless blend than a reanimated corpse: sewn together from dead parts into a lumbering, incongruous whole, then jolted to ignoble half-life by McCarthy’s grand reputation with Hollywood Filmmakers and incestuous award committees.In 1996, NYU Physics Professor Alan Sokal submitted a paper for publication to several scientific journals. He made sure it was so complex and full of the latest jargon terms that the average person wouldn't be able to make heads or tails of it. He also wrote its conclusion so it would deliberately flatter the preconceptions of the journals he submitted it to. As he predicted, it was accepted and published, despite the fact that it was all complete nonsense.The Sokal Affair showed the utter incompetence of the people trusted to judge work for publication. They were unable to recognize good (or bad) arguments and were mostly motivated by politics. The accolades showered upon works like The Road have convinced me that the judges of literature are just as incompetent (and I’m not the only one who thinks so). I don't imagine that McCarthy did this purposefully, like Sokal, but that he writes in the ostentatiously empty style which some judges of literature find safe and convenient to praise.Many have lauded McCarthy’s straightforward style, and though I am not the most devoted fan of Hemingway, I can admire the precision and economy of a deliberate, economical use of words. Yet that was not what I got from The Road: "He took out the plastic bottle of water and unscrewed the cap and held it out and the boy came and took it and stood drinking. He lowered the bottle and got his breath and he sat in the road and crossed his legs and drank again. Then he handed the bottle back and the man drank and screwed the cap back on and rummaged through the pack. The ate a can of white beans, passing it between them, and he threw the empty tin into the woods.Then they set out down the road again."Simple? Yes. But precise and purposeful? Certainly not. Most of The Road is as elegant as a laundry list (if not as well punctuated). Compiling a long and redundant series of unnecessary actions and descriptions does not make a work straightforward, it makes it needlessly complicated.I know we're supposed to find this simplicity profound--that old postmodern game of defamiliarization, trying to make the old seem new, to show the importance of everyday events--but none of it ever manages to seem important, because McCarthy isn't actually changing the context, he's just restating. There is no personality in it, no revealing of the characters, and no relationship to the plot. Perhaps it is meant to show the weariness of the characters: that they cannot even muster enough energy to participate in their own lives, but is the best way to demonstrate a character’s boredom really to write paragraphs that bore the reader? A good writer can make the mundane seem remarkable, but The Road is too bare to be beautiful, and too pointless to be poignant.Once we have been lulled by long redundancy, McCarthy abruptly switches gears, moving from the plainness of Hemingway to the florid, overwrought figurative language of Melville: "The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a traveling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves."There is no attempt to bridge the two styles, they are forced to cohabitate, without rhyme or reason to unite them. The metaphoric language is equally jarring, as in one sentence he describes 'dead ivy', 'dead grass' and 'dead trees' with unerring monotony, and then as if adding a punchline, declares them 'shrouded in a carbon fog'--which sounds like the title of a bland cyberpunk anthology.Then we have this example: "It's snowing, the boy said. A single gray flake sifting down. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire like the last host of christendom."Where McCarthy seems to be trying to reproduce the morbid religious symbolism of Melville when he plays the tattered prophet in Moby Dick. But while Melville's theology is terribly sublime and pervasive, McCarthy's is ostentatious and diminutive, like a carved molding in an otherwise unadorned room. Nowhere does he produce the staggeringly surreal otherworldliness Melville achieves in a line like "There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within".Many times, McCarthy's gilded metaphors are piled, one atop the other, in what must be an attempt to develop an original voice, but which usually sounds more like the contents of a ‘Team Edward’ notebook, left behind after poetry class: ". . . Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?Dark of the invisible moon. The nights now only slightly less black. By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp.People sitting on the sidewalk in the dawn half immolate and smoking in their clothes. Like failed sectarian suicides. . . ."I love how he prefaces that like an Asimov robot. Sardonic Observation: I'd almost believe he was one, since he has no understanding of beauty or human emotion. Biting Quip: However, he violates Asimov's first law of robotics, since his work allows harm to come to humans.Sometimes, right in the middle of a detailed description of how a character is scraping paint with a screwdriver, we suddenly get a complex jargon term which few readers would understand. These terms are neither part of the world, nor are they aspects of specialized character knowledge, so I cannot assign them any meaning in the text.One of the basic lessons for any beginning writer is 'don't just add big words because you can', it's self-indulgent and doesn't really help the story. It would be one thing if it were a part of some stylistic structure instead of bits of out-of-place jargon that conflict with the overall style of the book--more textual flotsam for us to wade through.The longer I read, the more mirthlessly dire it became, and the less I found I could take it seriously. Every little cluster of sentences left on its own as a standalone chapter, every little two-word incomplete sentence trying to demand importance because it actually had punctuation (a rare commodity in this book), every undifferentiated monosyllabic piece of non-dialogue like a hobo talking to himself--it all made the book overblown and nonsensical.It just stared me down, like a huge drunk guy in a bar daring me to laugh at his misspelled tattoo. And I did. I don't know if my coworkers or the people on the bus knew what 'The Road' was about (this was years before the movie), but they had to assume it was one hilarious road, possibly with a busfull of nuns, and one a convict in disguise on the run from a bumbling southern sheriff and his deputy; a donkey is involved.Though I won't mention specifics, I will say the notorious ending of the book is completely tacked on, in no way fits with or concludes any of the emotional build of the book, but instead wraps everything up, neat and tight. Though it does bear out McCarthy's admission on Oprah that he "had no idea where it was going" when he wrote it. We can tell, Cormac; well, some of us, anyway.As you may have noticed from the quotes I have used, another notorious issue is the way the book is punctuated, which is to say, it isn't. The most complex mark is the comma, and it is pretty rarely used. It's not like McCarthy is only using simple, straightforward sentences, he uses plenty of conjoined clauses and partial sentence fragments, he just doesn't bother to mark any of them.He also doesn't use any quotes in the books, and rarely attributes statements to characters, so we must first try to figure out if someone is talking, or if it's just another snatch of 'poetic license', and then we have to determine who is talking. Sure, Melville did away with quotes in one chapter in Moby Dick, but he did it in stylistic reference to Shakespeare, and he also seemed to be aware that it was a silly affectation best suited for a ridiculous scene.But it is not only the structure, grammar, figurative language, and basic descriptions which are so absurdly lacking: the characters are likewise flat, dull, and repetitive. Almost every conversation between the father and son is the same: Father: Do it now.Son: I'm scared.Father: Just do it.Son: Are we going to die?Father: No.Son: Are you sure?Father: Yes.Remember, you won't get little tags so you know who's speaking, it'll all just be strung out in a line without differentiation. Then they wander around for a bit or run from crazy people, and we finally get the cap to the conversation: Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?Father: (Stares off in silence)Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?Father: (More silence)And that’s it, the whole relationship; it never changes or grows. Nor does it seem to make much sense, based on the setting. The characters are always together, each the other's sole companion: father and son, and yet they are constantly distant and at odds, like a suburban parent and child who rarely see each other and have little in common. McCarthy never demonstrates how such a disconnect arose between two people who are constantly intimate and reliant on one another.But then, McCarthy confided to Oprah that the is book about his relationship with his own son, so it makes sense why the emotional content is completely at odds with the setting. Perhaps he just sat down one say and thought “I’m an award-winning author and screenwriter who has a somewhat distant relationship with my son. You know what that’s like? That’s like the unendurable physical suffering of people in the third world who are trying to find food and escape crazed, murderous mobs.” So then he wrote a book equating the two, which is about the most callous, egotistical act of privileged self-pity a writer can indulge in.At least now I know why the characters and their reactions don’t make much sense. The boy is constantly terrified, and his chief role involves pointing at things and screaming. His constant screams punctuate every conflict in the book, like a bad horror film. But things aren’t scary just because the author makes a character react histrionically over and over again--it just becomes silly.Cannibals and dead infants are an okay place to start when it comes to unsettling the reader, but just having the characters point and scream does not build tension, especially when the characters are too flat to be sympathetic. Another Creative Writing 101 lesson: if you have to resort to over-the-top character reactions to let the audience know how they are supposed to feel, then your 'emotional moment' isn't working. It's the literary equivalent of a laugh track.You know what’s more unsettling than a child screaming when he finds a dead infant? A child not screaming when he finds a dead infant. And really, that’s the more likely outcome. The young boy has never known another world--his world is death and horror. Anyone who has seen a picture of a Rwandan kid with an AK-47 realizes that children adapt to what’s around them. And you know what would make a great book? A father who remembers the old world trying to prevent his son from becoming a callous monster because of the new one.But no, we get a child who inexplicably reacts as if he’s used to the good life in suburbia and all this death and killing is completely new to him, even though we’ve watched him go through it half a dozen times already. The characters never grow numb to it, they never seem to suffer from post-traumatic stress, their reactions are more akin to angst.Every time there is a problem, the characters just fold in on themselves and give up. People really only do that when they have the luxury of sitting about and ruminating on what troubles them. When there is a sudden danger before us, we might run, or freeze up, but there’s hardly time to feel sorry for ourselves.There is no joy or hope in this book--not even the fleeting, false kind. Everything is constantly bleak. Yet human beings in stressful, dangerous situations always find ways to carry on: small victories, justifications, or even lies and delusions. The closest this book gets is ‘The Fire’, which is the father’s term for why they must carry on through all these difficulties. But replace ‘The Fire’ with ‘The Plot’ and you’ll see what effect is achieved: it’s not character psychology, but authorial convenience. Apparently, McCarthy cannot even think of a plausible reason why human beings would want to survive.There is nothing engaging about a world sterilized of all possibility. People always create a way out, even when there is none. What is tragic is not a lack of hope, but misplaced hope. I could perhaps appreciate a completely empty world as a writing exercise, but as McCarthy is constantly trying to provoke emotional reactions, he cannot have been going for utter bleakness. The Road is a canvas painted entirely black--it doesn't mater how many more black strokes he layers on top: they will not stand out because there is no difference, there is no depth, no breaking or building of tension, just a constant addition of featureless details to a featureless whole. Some people seem to think that an emotionally manipulative book that makes people cry is better than one that makes people horny--but at least people don’t get self-righteous about what turns them on.This is tragedy porn. Suburban malaise is equated with the most remote and terrible examples of human pain. So, dull housewives can read it and think ‘yes, my ennui is just like a child who stumbles across a corpse’, and perhaps she will cry, and feel justified in doing so. Or a man might read it and think ‘yes, my father was distant, and it makes me feel like I live alone in a hostile world I don’t care to understand’; he will not cry, but he will say that he did.And so the privileged can read about how their pain is the same as the pain of those starving children on mute during commercial breaks. In the perversity of modern, invisible colonialism--where a slave does not wash your clothes, but builds the machine that washes them--these self-absorbed people who have never starved or had their lives imperiled can think of themselves as worldly, as ‘one with humanity’, as good, caring people.They recycle. They turn the water off when they brush their teeth. They buy organic. They even thought about joining the Peace Corps. Their guilt is assuaged. They are free to bask in their own radiant anguish.And it all depresses me. Which makes me a shit, because I’m no more entitled to it than any other well-fed, educated winner of the genetic lottery. So when I read this book, I couldn’t sympathize with that angst and think it justified, just like I couldn’t with Holden’s. I know my little existential crisis isn’t comparable to someone who has really lost control of their life, who might actually lose life.But this kind of egotistical detachment has become typical of American thought, and of American authors, whose little, personal, insular explorations don't even pretend to look at the larger world. Indeed, there is a self-satisfied notion that trying to look at the world sullies the pure artist.And that 'emotionally pure, isolated author' is what we get from the Oprah interview. Sure, she's asking asinine questions, but McCarthy shows no capacity to discuss either craft or ideas, refusing to take open-ended questions and discuss writing, he instead laughs condescendingly and shrugs. Then again, he may honestly not have much to say on the topic.Looked at in this way, it's not surprising he won the Pulitzer. Awards committees run on politics, and choosing McCarthy is a political decision--an attempt to declare that insular, American arrogance is somehow still relevant. But the world seems content to move ahead without America and its literature, which is why no one expects McCarthy--or any American author--to win a Nobel any time soon.This book is a paean to the obliviousness of American self-importance in our increasingly global, undifferentiated world. One way or the other, it will stand as a testament to the last gasp of a dying philosophy: either we will collapse under our own in-fighting and short-sightedness, or we will be forced to evolve into something new and competitive--a bloated reputation will carry you only so far.But then, the Pulitzer committee is renowned for picking unadventurous winners--usually an unremarkable late entry by an author past their prime. As William Gass famously put it: "the prize is simply not given to work of the first rank, rarely even to the second; and if you believed yourself to be a writer of that eminence, you are now assured of being over the hill"Of course, to readers of genre works, this book will have a familiar and unpleasant taste: that of the big name writer slumming. They pop into fantasy or sci fi with their lit fic credentials to show us little folk how it's really done, but knowing nothing about the genre or its history, just end up reinventing the wheel, creating a book that would have looked tired and dated thirty years ago. Luckily for such writers, none of the lit fic critics that read the book know anything about other genres, either--meaning that any sort of rehash is going to look fresh to them, as long as you have the name-recognition to get them to look.So, McCarthy gets two stars for a passable (if cliche) script for a sci fi adventure movie, minus one star for unconscionable denigration of humanity. I couldn't say if McCarthy's other books are any good; I will probably try another, just to see if any of his reputation is deserved, but this one certainly didn't help. All I see is another author who got too big for his editors and, finding himself free to write whatever he wanted--only proved that he has nothing of value to say. "Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are merely lists . . . Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what's always distinguished bad writing--flat characters, a narrative world that's . . . not recognizably human, etc.--is also a description of today's world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world . . . most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is?"-David Foster Wallace

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

by

4.07 rating

Comment 1: Larsson takes what seemed at the outset to be a juicy 'locked-island-mystery plot' and turns it first into an insightful family saga and then into a scathing political and social commentary that forces us to think about such a wide variety of themes and aspects that we normally refuse to accept as part of society. It takes an author like Larsson to shove it in our faces in all its stinking ugliness for us to stop turning the blind eye at these atrocities.Do not mistake this for a mere fictional work with imagined crimes. It has firm foundations in reality. In my opinion, the whole plot is a thin wrap-sheet thrown around the brutal truths of real crimes. Larsson has extensive knowledge of the most heinous crimes and he has written extensively about them for his entire professional career. This expertise shows through in his description of such acts of unimaginable cruelty with an almost nonchalant objectivity, with a careless leaving out of the gory details and focus on the trivial aspects of the act that sends shivers down our spine.Larsson uses his investigative style of presentation and his two main characters and an extremely dysfunctional family to work in an amazing variety of potent themes into his first book. I cannot wait to see what he’ll do in the second one. Some of the themes explored in detail are:Online PrivacyThis is not part of the plot but Larsson seems to be sending out a warning about how deadly information can be in the wrong hands and how easily accessible any private info about you stored in digital form is. You are exposed and absolutely naked to a determined digital assault and there is nothing you can do about it. Of course in the novel it is never misused but the threat is always hanging in the air - if an uneducated girl and her friends can get the most private information about the most protected individuals in the country, what kind of a world are we heading into? And is it really bad? Food for thought...FeminismNo matter which way you look at it, this work will have to defined as one of the most wrathful outcries against society's attitude towards women. The entire story is about the enormous acts of cruelty committed against women and the absolute indifference to it by everyone who is supposed to care. It is also about the different responses that these women have in such an uncaring society. Which brings us to the most important theme of the book in my opinion:Morality and Allocation of BlameThe book is truly about three paths that a victim can take after an abused childhood.One of the characters suffers abuse and decides to become an abuser himself and embrace it as a fact of lifeThe second one suffers abuse and decides to run away from that life and live faraway and sheltered. No attempt is made to punish the abuser or to report it.The third character too suffers abuse but decides to confront it and return it with a vengeance. No violence or abuse is tolerated and any reaction is justified for this character.The fourth is the invisible character of what we expect a person to do in such a situation - report it, seek help from the authorities who are supposed to protect them. The society around and the grim reality that prompted the book gives the outcome to this course of action.Now the key point to me was that Larsson does not condemn any of them - he makes different characters speak in defense for each of these responses and lets us wonder about which course can ever be called right. in the end he manages to condemn both the society as a whole as well as us, the individuals who allow the society to be so. A caricature of morality.Law, Crime & BDSMLarsson's extensive knowledge about the worst forms of crime and the procedure of law allows him to give a gruesome reality to what we usually consider to be just sadistic fiction. He convinces the reader that it is real and all around us if we only cared enough to look.Nazi History, Military Training, Religious Extremism & Apologetics These are also touched upon at various points in the books and provides a background, especially of Swedish Nazism, from which the excuses for all the real crimes in the books could spring from.Journalistic (Professional) EthicsThis too is quite obviously one of the favorite topics for Larsson and it forms a strong undercurrent throughout the book and comes to a head with the firm conviction of the lead character that he is finally a corrupt journalist. He is reassured that he has done the right thing by choosing between being a professional and being a human being. But we as the readers, the character and the author, all know that this is not remotely convincing. Justice was meted out selectively and subjectively in the end and even though it feels right, that is only because of personal knowledge. Is that enough?Financial & Economic Commentary, Industrial Espionage and Hacker-loreLarge parts of the book goes into great detail about industrial politics and machinations and is sometimes quite boring to be frank, but it adds credence to the plot and has to be borne out. The elaborate hacker methodology too is a drag at times but remains mostly interesting and strangely disturbing.The financial interplay and the economic commentary sounds a bit forced but Larsson still manages to give out some forceful ideas such as:“We’re experiencing the largest single drop in the history of the Swedish stock exchange—and you think that’s nonsense?”“You have to distinguish between two things—the Swedish economy and the Swedish stock market. The Swedish economy is the sum of all the goods and services that are produced in this country every day. There are telephones from Ericsson, cars from Volvo, chickens from Scan, and shipments from Kiruna to Skövde.That’s the Swedish economy, and it’s just as strong or weak today as it was a week ago.” He paused for effect and took a sip of water.“The Stock Exchange is something very different. There is no economy and no production of goods and services. There are only fantasies in which people from one hour to the next decide that this or that company is worth so many billions, more or less. It doesn’t have a thing to do with reality or with the Swedish economy.”“So you’re saying that it doesn’t matter if the Stock Exchange drops like a rock?”“No, it doesn’t matter at all,” Blomkvist said in a voice so weary and resigned that he sounded like some sort of oracle.His words would be quoted many times over the following year.Family & IncestWhat it means to be a family and the inevitable nature of family relationships too seem to haunt Larsson and he gives free reign to his fears and troubles about family life, incest, indifference and corporate life affecting personal relations. He also asks the question of whether we can ever truly judge a person based on corporate success without knowing his relationships with his family and his personal life.There are probably other important ones that I have failed to mention but these were, in my opinion, the things that the book was meant to shine a torchlight on.On The CharactersI found this in an interview with Larsson and it captures the enigma of the two amazing main characters:“I considered Pippi Longstocking,” he said, referring to the most famous creation of the Swedish children’s author Astrid Lindgren, a girl so strong she could carry a horse. “What would she be like today? What would she be like as an adult? What would you call a person like that, a sociopath? Hyperactive? Wrong. She simply sees society in a different light. I’ll make her 25 years old and an outcast. She has no friends and is deficient in social skills. That was my original thought.” That thought evolved into Larsson’s formidable heroine, Lisbeth Salander.But he felt Salander needed a counterweight if his story was to be a success. Once again he turned to one of Lindgren’s characters, this time to Kalle Blomkvist, boy detective. “Only now he’s 45 years old and a journalist [called Mikael Blomkvist]. An altruistic know-it-all who publishes a magazine called Millennium. The story will revolve around the people who work there.” Personal ImpressionsWhile I loved the book wholeheartedly, I still had a few unfavorable impressions:Some of the side characters are a bit sketchy not fully realized. Especially some of the family members including Martin who did not get a gradual transition that a character like him deserved for maximum impact.The stylistically simple nature of the chapters and the book structure too takes away from the sophistication of the detail and plot. A bit more variety in the technique than a simple shift-of-perspective would have been better and less obvious. Also the tension eases off at all the wrong moments, primarily because Larsson has given a portent of things to come later too easily for a whodunnit. The pace too is not consistent and we spend a lot of time seeing scenery and almost every chapter opens with making coffee or with long uneventful walks.In the end, the reader does not get the pleasure of a proper whodunnit as there were no hidden clues spread across the book and in spite of homages throughout the book to masters of crime and mystery fiction, Larsson at some point decided to make his book not fit to the thrill of that genre and moved instead to far more sinister territories.The last section of the book felt much like a filler and had way too much detail and predictable action and could just as well have been left to the reader's imagination. The long winding down has put me off from any tension that would have made me run for the second book immediately. Now that everything is calm and quiet in the Millennium world, I too can take an idyllic break from it all...A good editor and more time to polish would have made this into a definite modern masterpiece, which I strongly suspect it to be already. But in spite of the flaws we still have an opus and some unforgettable characters that will stay with us for a long time to come. One Final Note:All the villains have a Windows PC and all the heroes have an Apple notebook. Splendid thing to use in a book about corporate morality among other things. I think this tipped the scales for the book to be a bestseller!

A Clockwork Orange

by

3.96 rating

Comment 1: 4.5 stars My oh my, what a difference time and format can make. I remember the first time I read this book. It was probably 2005, maybe 2006, and I was working in the "Consumer Relations" department at my customer service job. Basically, I was the helpdesk, tech support, and the person you talk to when you call somewhere pissed off about something and ask for a manager, but you aren't connected to a manager - you're connected to me. (Believe me, we hate that just as much as you do - we got all the shit and none of the pay. But I also hope you believe me when I say that usually talking to me was the better option. Not all managers know or can do customer service. Just sayin'.) Anyway, I remember that we had a really slow period, and one of my co-workers had this book on her desk, and so I read it between calls. And... Meh. It was OK. I could see why some people would really like it, but for me, it just didn't do much. Now, I should mention that the copy she had was the American version with only 20 chapters. I'm not sure if that last chapter would have really made a difference to me way back when... but I think it does now. So, when this was selected for my bookclub for May, I was actually really excited to read it again and see if I felt the same way, or if maybe reading it in fits and starts while at work had been the problem, or if maybe getting back into an appropriate mental place after getting yelled at on a call had given me trouble. Who knows? Back then, I was 23 and I likely assumed the fault was in the book, not in my reading of it. This time, I also made sure to get the author's preferred version with 21 chapters, and opted for an audiobook. Of course, I still listened to it at work, but I have a different job now, and interruptions are less frequent and much less angry. ;)I think listening this time allowed me to really experience the story in a way I hadn't before. Nadsat was hard for me to wrap my head around when I read this before (though that could have had to do with HOW I was reading it), so I probably skimmed, and probably didn't get as much out of the text as I could have. It was like there was no connection there between the slang and the meaning, and I didn't take the time to put them together. But listening, I couldn't skim. I listened to every word, and in context, it was perfect. It no longer felt like work to figure out what Alex was saying. It no longer felt awkward at all - it was just this boy telling me his story, and me drinking it in. I will say the reader read extremely slowly. I understand this, actually, because if I were to read this book out loud, it would be a catastrophe. The language just doesn't roll off the tongue easily - it's like a tongue twister in another language. So he took his time reading it, and I can't blame him for it, but it was hard for me to listen like that. Thankfully though, I could adjust the play speed to 2x. At that setting, it was maybe just a hair faster than normal talking speed, and sounded SO much more natural for Alex, him being, like, used to the lingo and all. If it was only Alex that was read so slowly, I'd think it was intentional to make him seem more relaxed, more in control and sure of himself. He's the brains and the leader of his little band of droogs, and even at home he speaks and others listen... if they know what's good for them. But, the other characters in the book were read at the same slow pace, so I think it was more a concern for reading clearly and not tripping over the Nadsat.Anyway, moving on to the story itself, I was really impressed this time around. (Fair warning, I discuss the plot from this point on.) The book jumps right into showing us Alex in all his unapologetic depravity. He's a real shit. And at only 15, it's frightening to think of how long his reign of terror could go on if it weren't for his friends turning their backs on him and turning him in. Let's be honest here, he's a little naive in thinking that his leadership is absolute - but he is extremely smart, and had the potential, if he were only a little more observant of human nature, to put down the quiet plot against him and continue in his ways for as long as he cared to. But his way has always been one of smash and grab. Take what you want, don't ask, and it doesn't matter if the person doesn't like the taking - strength and audacity are key. Subtlety is lost on him, except in music, and to him, it's impossible that any of his group could be harboring resentment toward him for anything - or if they are, that they'd ever act on it. But they do, and Alex finds himself caught, and now on the receiving end of the brutality. And here's where things get impressive for me - because I knew I was being manipulated to feel certain ways, but I couldn't stop it from happening. I started to feel sorry for Alex, and want to stand up for him, especially when it comes to the Ludovico treatment. Actually, I'm not sure if it's Alex specifically, or human nature and choice and freedom, that I felt this way about. Alex was just the representative body showing the extremes... as well as the danger of an uninformed decision. It was kind of heartbreaking for me to watch his reconditioning being flaunted and praised, because his freedom of thought was taken from him. He had no choice, and even thinking of defending himself against the man they hired to attack him, or having sex with the woman they hired to entice him, made him so sick that he felt like he was dying. That's a much worse fate than simply being in prison. At least there, your mind is still your own. And it bothered me, a lot, that he was basically told not to complain about the process or the horrifying fact that the music he loved and appreciated would carry such awful associations and cause such sickening physical reactions (though he couldn't express it in those terms), because "he made his choice". Ugh. It probably seems ridiculous, considering some of Alex's crimes, but for me, this was one of the most horrifying concepts in the book. That they wouldn't tell him exactly what he was signing up for, and that they'd use the process on a teenager, is criminal in itself. Yes, he is a criminal, and one of the absolute worst because he does it for fun. His M.O. is random mayhem and destruction of lives, and that's unforgivable. But the adults, the doctors who hold his whole future in their hands, are the ones who really frighten me. And if you consider the implications of music being used, it really hits home just how terrible this could be. Hearing music isn't something that one has control over. It's not a conscious decision, robbing someone, or beating or raping them. There's music everywhere, and using a popular classical piece of music that one might hear in a store, or museum, or in a movie or any other innocuous place or event is just short sighted and horrific. Even if the treatment worked, and Alex completely retrained his thought processes to avoid triggering the sickness, he could be subjected to it time and again, without warning or any means of prevention. And of course, what happened is pretty much exactly that, only used purposefully against him rather than him just encountering it accidentally. In that situation, his only means of escape was to try to kill himself.Is it any wonder that as soon as he was healed from his attempted suicide he'd go back to his old ways? He wasn't cured of anything - he was just tortured every time he thought. Of course he'd want to go back to "normal" after that! Stanley Kubrick ended his movie there, and for American editions of the book, that's the end of the story. That some people are unable or unwilling to change and are unrepentant and irredeemable. But Burgess's story doesn't end there, and Alex does grow out of his rampaging ways. He just loses the "mood" to tear things down. This epilogue, for lack of a better word, seems almost too abrupt for such a change of heart. But I didn't think so. He likely wouldn't have had it if he hadn't gone through the Ludovico Fiasco, but he did, and I think it made him see pain in a new way - not as something done for fun to others and never thought of again (as he'd likely always seen it before), but as something that can ruin lives - including his own. And I think that seeing the grovelling, begging thing he became in the midst of his Ludovico sickness made him feel too close to his victims, and it was no longer fun. I'm just speculating at Alex's feelings here - the final chapter is brief, and really all that happens in it is that Alex meets his old droog Pete, and Pete's new wife. He visualizes himself married, and has a vision of his own son, of what it would be like to be a father, trying to teach your kid right and wrong, and realizing, I think, how his own father must have been frustrated by his failure to do so. But he embarks on this new chapter in his life anyway, which, I think is rather commendable and wise for someone only just turned 18 and so used to the ultraviolence on the streets. Sometimes, it just takes a little perspective to make a change, not being forced into it. Go figure that.

The Brothers Karamazov

by

4.28 rating

Comment 1: Note: This review was written on Nov 18th 2007, a week after my twenty-first birthday. Excuse the youthful clumsiness of my style.Matters of Life and DeathOften I used stop people in the streets, shake them frantically on the shoulders and slap them on the face, shouting again and again: “Is there a God? Is there a God? For God’s sake, just tell me if there’s a God!”You would be surprised at the results I gathered from this. One or two of them confirmed that there is indeed a God, and that his name is Jack Daniels, whereas the others fought me off and beat me to a pulp (which I interpreted as an emphatic no). This marked the beginning of my long period of agnosticism. I was fed up of the bruises, quite frankly.In The Brothers Karamazov, one of thee Great Russian novels, I found characters who shared my plight. For within this Herculean tome, I found discourses in which the author wrestles with notions of the hereafter, the supposed everlastingness of God, and the point of it all. It tackles the most impossible philosophical arguments that will visit each and every mortal on this earth at some stage, and offers the most incredible arguments for them all, proving universal to all types of being on this earth. All in a succinct and accessible 974 pages of literary delight.Historical FactsFyodor Dostoevsky wrote this book at a time when he had been lionised in Russia as one of the most important writers in the motherland. Not necessarily from a critical standpoint—his books were still unpopular among the status quo—but within the academic and greater reading public, he was tantamount to an emperor. He should have been a megastar within his lifetime, in this reviewer’s opinion, but no one was ever going to warm to an author as uncompromising and academically volatile as he was. Except perhaps his stenographer.In 1880, after this (his final book) was released, he made a speech to mark the erection of a monument to Aleksander Pushkin, celebrating a milestone in the progression of Russian literature. One year later, he passed on at the solid age of 60, leaving a canon of work more sensational than one-hundred free trips to Glasgow’s Water World. His swansong novel was quite a note to bow out on. An often quoted but scarcely read masterwork, it made the biggest impact of all his novels on the world at large, and pushed him into the echelons of literary immortality with 19th century contemporaries Dickens, Balzac and Tolstoy.On top of this, Sigmund Freud was his biggest fan. Not bad, eh? That nefarious little wench Susan Sontag also likes him. Which is less impressive in comparison.Themes & PlotFor those unfamiliar with this work, it is an accessible and none too unmanageable text to read. The conceit is that the Karamazov brothers, Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha are all to some extent dependent on their grudging old scrote of a father in the small village of Skotoprigonyevsk. These three brothers are used to symbolise the tripartite nature of man: body, mind and spirit. Each also harbour opposing teleological views which puts them at odds with one another throughout the entire duration of the text. When Dmitri, a hedonistic wastrel (representing sensual pleasures of the body) asks his father for three-thousand roubles with which to support himself, he is refused and is unable to find another benefactor. Here we have the setup.What transpires is a murder mystery yarn, the crux of the plot to the novel, where Dmitri is incorrectly arrested for the murder of his father following a dark night of carousing. The action in The Brothers Karamazov takes place over four days, and is centred (for the most part) around the interactions of these brothers and additional characters, most of whom sink to various levels of despair, confusion, helplessness and sorrow over the course of this short time. The continual themes of deceit, abandonment, torture and suffering are never far from the narrative, and the dialogue is very much in the melodramatic tradition of the era.Central to this basic narrative are the discourses around God and the Devil, whose presences cast a continual shadow over the narrative. In this desolate and rather awful village in North Russia, the characters wander through their miserable lives with uncertainty, seeking examples of God’s existence and to prove their individual theories of life just so they can understand the absurdity of the world around them. It is a place of petty tortures and brutal co-dependence, where the follies of man are shown for what the stupidities they are, and the sad desperation of life is rendered almost transcendent.CharactersOne suspects, given Dostoevsky’s own faith, that he intended Alyosha (the spiritual and naive brother) to be the real centre of this piece. It was easier for me to empathise more with this character, one of the few gracious, forgiving and angelic presences in the novel, and without his voice the book would lack a hopeful presence. He is taken on a journey that tests his faith in a proper John Bunyan idiom, forced to contemplate the idea that the monk Starets Zosima was not as pure and divine as he trusted him to be. We are also shown the extent of his knowledge and wisdom with an exceptional sub-narrative revolving around a precocious child and a group of troublemaking schoolchildren.The brothers Dmitri and Ivan are destructive and irascible characters, seldom likeable and halted in their lives through their mutual dislike of both their father and one another. We are forced to watch these brothers scold one another and fester in hatred, and for their views and desires to drive them apart. The Father Fyodor (while he is still alive) is also intolerable, and it is only through religious voices such as Starets Zosima whom we can take some kind of solace.The object of the feuding brothers’ affections is the more well-to-do “lady” of the village Katerina Ivanovna whom is torn between her hateful relationship with Dmitri and her uncertain affections for Ivan. Grushenka is the “local Jezebel” of the village with whom the brothers are also besotted. It is clear that part of their mutual downfall has to do with the indecision, torment and deceit these women place upon the brothers, but this is more in relation to the untrustworthiness they have placed upon them. Alyosha expresses affection for Lise, a secondary character who also occupies the one home in which these women reside. He is unsure of his affections in the novel, however, and his love goes unresolved within the narrative.The purpose of these characters is to torment one another. It is rare that a character within this text is not breaking down into a hysterical outburst at one moment or another. Barely five pages have past before a Karamazov is tearing someone apart in a moment of feverish excitement. The shame of asking for money (for grovelling and sacrificing dignity) seems to hang over the brothers at all times (especially Dmitri), and there are procession of niggling villagers such as Miusov, the bothersome theology student Rakitin and the dangerous epileptic Smerdyakov (who is roundly abused throughout the novel) to fester their lives.Style & LengthThe Brothers Karamazov does require a few weeks of consistent reading and demands those who undertake it to be prepared for all manner of devious arguments pertaining to the existence of God. The author was a devout believer in He Above (meaning there are Bible quotes aplenty to be found) but presents the opposing arguments in a lucid and accessible manner through Ivan’s own atheism and Dmitri’s agnosticism. Given how the two non-believers are forced to confront their own demons to an extreme degree, and to follow through on their godless decisions in times of great strife, it would seem the sensible people are those on the side of God in Dostoevsky’s opinion. Ivan is forced to confront the Devil towards the end of the book, and in contemplation of a life without love, he is driven to delirium.Critics often liken the long-windedness in the text to the structural principals Dostoevsky derived from music. It is thought that the development of the novel thrives on the extended use of subordinate themes and variations of these themes. Victor E. Amend argued that, similar to the dialogue between piano and orchestra in Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, the development is accomplished by the alternate presentation of the themes until the dominant one prevails. While his style is an oral, often freewheeling and “unedited” it is a very readable and thoroughly accessible style.Some might quibble about the extended time spent dwelling on inappropriate scenes, such as when the schoolchildren gather around Alyosha or the 70-odd pages spent on legal speeches towards the end, but these all contribute to this musical “theme and variation” style that makes Dostoevsky such a fulfilling author. To trim material as psychologically prodigious and insightful as this would be akin to chopping out the last ten minutes of a Beethoven Concerto or losing that extended guitar solo in Stairway To Heaven. It must remain as it stands. However, I should confess for the sake of honesty that I did find myself restless towards the end. This does not diminish the flow and brilliance of his style, in fact—it seemed appropriate to bring such a mighty work to its conclusion.Translation & Other WorksThe finest version of this book is the translation from Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, who also did a stellar job on Crime & Punishment. It is available in Penguin Paperback. This version, alas, was an Oxford World Classics print, translated by Ignat Avsey. This Latvian louse converted a great deal of the text into Present Day English, incorporating phrases that seem inappropriate to the time period of the novel. He also had the audacity to change the title to The Karamazov Brothers instead of the original title on the proviso we don’t say “The Brothers Marx” when referring to a brethren. Pah! His introduction is also littered with erroneous observations (such as that the town name of the text is said once – it is in fact said twice in the text). His translation is to be avoided at all costs.The oeuvre of this great Russian author is to me vitally important. What I take from his novels is this profound sense of redemptive catharsis; that there is nothing so awful from which a person can never return. His novels, in all their unrelenting gloom and Russian thickness, present a vision often of a world in squalor-filled chaos, but from this chaos he shows us that the solution for all our problems lies in our own collective freedom as individuals. This makes him timeless and cherished in the eyes of this reviewer, and I have yet to find a novel to match the incredible Crime & Punishment or a novella to equal Notes From Underground. Both are also recommended to those unversed in his canon.ConclusionThe Brothers Karmazov achieves that rare feat in 19th century literature in that it remains infinitely readable, gripping and vital to readers to this very day. Even those intimidated by its considerable size will be surprised just how immersed in this magnificent masterwork they will become. As a rule, I avoid these mammoth doorstoppers when making book choices, but this one had me entranced from beginning to end—despite those indulgent moments of excessive erudition. I recommend this to all readers prepared to tackle its complex subject matter and who wish to put themselves at the hands of a master.The rewards are abounding.

The Poisonwood Bible

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3.99 rating

Comment 1: On one hand, there is nothing new here, and on this same old tirade, I disagree strongly with the author. Examples:* Relativism. I'm sorry, I believe infanticide to be wrong for all cultures, for all times.* Missionaries, particularly protestant missionaries to Africa were entirely the endeavor of egotistic, abusive, colonialists who were merely out to change Africa into either a western society or an exploitative factory for western society. Wrong again, read Tom Hiney's "On the Missionary Trail" for a non-fiction perspective that documents ways in which many missionaries were actually upsetting the colonial balance by preparing native peoples for independence, tutoring leaders on negotiation with world powers, recording native history and cultural practices and transcribing their languages, ; see also Philips Jenkins' "The Next Christendom".* Marriage is an oppressive institution that consumes women; they need to escape. Certainly SOME marriages are, but that doesn't mean we go the way of disregarding it as a foundational institution of society. * America is an evil power of which we should all be ashamed. False again. I cannot deny mistakes have been made in American foreign policy, and certainly events of the Congo, as presented in this book, would appear to be this way. But, there are also many things America has done that are good (such as preserving freedom for those who live here to write books ripping on America), and these shouldn't be ignored.* All cultural traditions should be preserved because they have merit in and of themselves. I do not agree with this at all. Female circumcision should not be, regardless of whether it is a cultural tradition. Not only does it serve no purpose to enhance the lives of either men or women, it is destructive to them. At the same time, the American high-fat, high-sugar diet, while traditional (burgers, fries and shakes) should be changed. American isolationalism that doesn't consider other cultures and peoples should also go too.* The work is hailed as an "examination of personal responsibility". Clearly all Belgians, American, colonialists, businessmen, husbands/fathers, missionaries, and mothers (to a lesser extent) are to be found culpable in the downfall of the Congo, as if this type of situation has never occurred in history before. But the truth is often far more complex, and the events in Congo, while horrible, cannot really be understood outside of their larger context. Was Congo the only African nation to suffer? Was there truly not a single benefit of colonialism? Were all businessmen/ westerners culpable or colluding? Were all involved in the downfall of the Congo Christians? Were not the African leader, Mbuto (funded by the US, yes) and his followers not equally guilty of selling out Africans for personal gain? Were there not some westerners (like the noble parents of the author mentioned in the prelude) trying to make life better for Africans? Is this not the same thing we see currently in Zimbabwe? If we are going to examine evil and exploitation, let's remember that no one person, country, or even time, has a lock on it. And lets not paint extreme pictures of those we chose to reject, while painting those we agree with in glowing terms. As with many fictional accounts, we don't like to admit the good and the bad falls on both sides.*Christianity is merely a tool people use to exploit others and promote their own agenda. I fundamentally disagree with this perspective. Christianity is a relationship with Christ that involves following after Him and becoming more like Him.The extreme situation the author creates in this fictional account allows her to proclaim her philosophies of life with vigor, particularly anti-Christianity and anti-Americanism. In the foreword, she makes effort to point out that her parents (who went to the Congo in the same time period) have NOTHING in common with the main subjects of the work, essentially preparing the reader for the assault upon the southern baptist missionary and his 4 children from Georgia who are the main characters.With such flaws, a work should be easily dismissed. However, there are some glowing strong points. The writing is exceptional, and there are many rich scenes that are not soon forgotten. The understanding of African life, customs, language and landscape as well as the ability to portray this amazingly beautiful land as a living organism were compellingly impressed upon my mind. The character development and interaction of perspectives (each chapter is the perspective of one character, the book being a series of their interwoven stories), is extraordinary; though it is noteworthy that the author doesn't include a single chapter from the perspective of the husband/father/missionary zealot of the family, but only permits him to be defined by the others. I really cared about the characters and wanted to know what would happen to them.The examination of cross-cultural interaction and communication is powerfully illustrated as we begin with a purely American perspective that slowly opens (through the eyes of some, not all, characters) to an African perspective.While it might be a helpful work to those longing to know Africa or understand cross-cultural disconnects, I cannot give it more than two stars because of the blatant agenda referenced above.ADDENDUM: For those really wanting to understand the history of the Congo, including the dark side of it's formation, I recommend "King Leopold's Ghost" by Adam Hochschild. Hochschild's work is well told, enjoyable even to non-historians, and will give an excellent picture of the dynamics (both the good and the evil) at work in the Congo. Looking back, compared to the exceptional "King Leopold's Ghost", Poisonwood Bible was an incredible waste of time - i'm lowering it to one star.Tom Hiney's "On the Missionary Trail" is also excellent in content, though not as well written, for those interested in the lives of ordinary (meaning not generally famous) missionaries around the world.UPDATE:Research quantifying the impact of protestant missionaries around the world. A summary:http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentar...Scholarly publication in American Political Science Review, here:https://www.academia.edu/2128659/The_...PS. I believe this to be the WORST review I have ever written on Goodreads, yet it is the most discussed! I was so annoyed by the material, I didn't want to spend the time to polish my thoughts - I just wanted to be done with it! Yes, now I regret it.

Atlas Shrugged

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3.66 rating

Comment 1: This review will please absolutely no one. Indeed, this rating sorely tests me and tests all the standards that I set for myself when evaluating books. It is important to me to be fair and to purge my own inconsistency and hypocrisy whenever I find it. My knee-jerk reaction is to assign this one-star to proclaim my objection to objectivism. I value compassion and altruism, and I do not think "selfishness a virtue" as she famously stated. Ms. Rand’s ideas contradict the Sermon the Mount, the Jewish prophets and all the social justice traditions to which I aspire as an ethos. I side with human beings not with abstract notions of economic ideology. Moreover, I don't think her writing, her plotting, or her characterization particularly strong. Why then do I rate this with 3 stars, which is a "good" rating? As I said, it is important to me to be fair, consistent, and not hypocritical. 1. Atlas Shrugged challenged me to think differently.I say in my profile statement: "I prefer books that challenge my understanding of the world and force me to rethink my opinions." I am rather proud of that statement. How then can I penalize Ms. Rand in a snit when she does just that?2. All voices should be heard. I have said repeatedly that all voices should be heard. How then can I now say that the voices of PRODUCERS do not deserve to be heard? I do think that it would be valuable for people on the left to understand some of the intellectual arguments of the right.3. I like novels of ideas.What is “Atlas Shrugged” if not a novel of ideas? Some would say bad ideas, but why quibble about religion or politics? If the ideas are interesting and provocative, which hers most surely are, I think I can overlook flaws in writing technique because I have done so for others. 4. I believe in the market place of ideas.I am an admirer of J.S. Mill’s “On Liberty,” wherein he argues that all ideas should be tested in the marketplace of ideas. How then can I penalize Ms. Rand for placing her ideas in the marketplace? 5. I believe in empathy.I understand why Ms. Rand may have had such a fierce hatred for all forms of socialism. It is my understanding that her family's fortune was confiscated by the Soviets and her family was forced to flee their homeland. Therefore, I can understand why she might take a dim view of it--even the exceedingly minimal variety of it she found in the USA with its New Deal and social security. Why then can I not afford Ms. Rand the same empathy that I have given freely to other characters and writers, some perhaps less deserving than she? If one of my main complaints against her philosophy is that I believe it lacks empathy/compassion for others, am I not hypocritical for not extending some to her? (Let's not quibble over the semantics of empathy vs. compassion. I understand the difference.)6. I believe in the Golden Mean.I believe in social safety nets, but I also believe it is self-evident that society must reward the industrious for the fruits of their labor. I think history has proved that both principles are necessary to a successful economy. Ms. Rand has a truth, but it is only one truth, in reality, a half-truth. Regardless of how enamored Ms. Rand is of her half-truth, it must be modified to accommodate other truths against which it smashes in the real world of starvation and sickness and brutal unfairness. With Aristotle I say, “In the middle of extreme truths stands virtue.”7. I didn’t come to Goodreads to argue.I read Atlas Shrugged a long time ago, and I am not really interested in arguing about its details or merits of Objectivism. Atlas Shrugged is one of those books that people approach with the dead-ass certainty that I find uncongenial, and is almost impossible to debate constructively in this forum. In short, this is one of those books that is capable of starting but not ending wars and feuds. Thus, I give this book a middle-rating which assuredly will endear me to no one—but myself, the most important person to please as it involves my own self-respect. Yet, I give a favorable rating somewhat begrudgingly. Like Galileo I mutter, under my breath, “It still moves.” If Objectivists fear or fantasize about a revolution (or disappearance) of producers, I personally think they are looking among the wrong people for a revolution (or a disappearance). Her dire predictions are almost laughable when we examine them now, in 2013, where the rich have gotten fabulously richer, and it is the middle class which is disappearing. As to the question seen on the occasional bumper sticker, “Where is John Galt?” I respond that, in 2013, he is in a luxury penthouse sleeping very soundly on a bed made of money. I ask instead-- Where is my brother? Who is my neighbor? What does he need? August 18, 2013

Siddhartha

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3.96 rating

Comment 1: Siddartha is an allegory; a story wrapped around the ultimate premise 'Happiness for Dummies'. Okay, maybe not so simplistic, but it deals with the attainment and nature of happiness nonetheless.PremiseLike its eponymous protagonist, the novel breaks down in several milestones or turning points that signal the development of the story and the growth of the character, marking the changes that have been wrought at each stage by happenstance or when the central character experiences, what they generally call, 'awakening.'Now, I have generally never been fond of that word; I look upon it with slightly cynical eyes that have been tainted long ago with the endless and ubiquitous New Age slogans and advertising jingles and other such byproducts of a spiritually-hungry-but-commercially-eager-to-cash-on-in-that-hunger culture that is so pervasive. For that reason, any word (especially buzzwords like awakening, purpose, destiny, soul - to name just a few, which must surely count as eternal favourites of those who specialise in Spiritual Quests) - any word bearing resemblance or connection to this New Age school of thought immediately props up red flags in my mind and, in response to that, my mind reciprocates my sentiments with a certain two-syllable word, namely, 'bullshit'.However, being as wary of this as I am, I am compelled to acknowledge that Siddhartha does not bear resemblance to those works proffering liberation and claiming to offer answers to your spiritual questions, at least, not in the typical sense. Hesse is not trying to sell you happiness in a How-To-Guide book form wrapped with a ribbon on top. Hesse isn't trying to sell you anything. What he is doing, though, is telling a story that puts this search, this spiritual hunger in an allegory form and examines the ways it comes about and the way it is resolved.A historical perspectiveWe must put Siddhartha in its historical context to achieve a full perspective towards understanding this work. Herman Hesse was a German writer who, aside from being a pretty depressive kid and showing signs of serious depression even in childhood, was also the winner of Nobel Prize in literature. Bam. His parents had served as Christian missionaries in India. His exposure to the work of Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher, renewed his interest in Indian culture. Hesse's work is informed with tenets of Buddhist and Hindu philosophy and, in the case of Siddartha, forms the setting of the story itself.Siddhartha is important because, published in 1922, way before the Beat movement and the hippiedom of the 60s, it was the first major work dealing in Eastern philosophy and thought written in the West. What many of the world now knows or may appreciate as Buddhist/Zen philosophy as a school of thought, Siddhartha put forward first. Hesse influenced the work of Jack Kerouac, and many others of the Beat Generation ahead of its time. It witnessed a resurgence in the counter-culture movements of the sixties.Underlying themes and meaningHesse examines the search for spiritual fulfillment by having his characters embody aspects of personality and living that are unified, at various stages, by the protagonist Siddhartha himself. Govinda, like Siddhartha, is a seeker and then a Samana, or an ascetic who has renounced all wordly possesions. Kamala, the woman who instructs Siddhartha in the art of physical love and later, the mother of his child, embodies hedonism and sensuality. Kamaswami, the merchant, signifies the chief example of the 'child people', the materialist. The ferryman, Vasudeva, exemplifies quiet understanding and wisdom, just like the Gautama Buddha, the Sublime One.At various stages of his life, Siddhartha experiences the different aspects of these different personalities himself; he changes and grows as a person by becoming and unbecoming these traits. He is first and foremost, a seeker, who leaves his home to become a Samana, an ascetic giving up the ways of 'the child people'. He is then the lover, basking in the pleasures of love and sex. Then he is the trader, the materialist, consumed by worldly woes. He is the gambler, giver and taker of riches, losing sight of what he was before. Then he is the suicidal depressive who has reached a breaking point, a crises in life, realised that the journey he traced out until this point left him empty, hollow, broken. Then he is the awakened, the conscious, the curious. He is the child, born-again, who laughs to himself realising that he has been given a blank slate to begin anew.Siddhartha's journey is one of trial and error. He sets of with the one goal of escaping the 'ego', the vanquishing of the Self to achieve oneness with the universe, the Brahman. Yes, that sounds a bunch of wish-washy terms strung together to sound fancy. Admittedly, they wouldn't look that great on a resume, or seem out of place in daily conversation. 'What do you want to do with your life?' 'Oh, you know, just vanquish the Ego and stuff...and become one with the Universe. Can you pass the ice-cream, please?' Yup. However, let's give the Brahmin kid a break.To that end, he traces out a path that wavers between two extremes - two opposite paths that might lead to one destination that is his goal. The first path, of course, is the one of renouncing of the worldly wealth, the path of the Samanas, the path of hermits, one of patience and fasting and suffering and simple living to overcome material wants and excesses. The second path, which he embarks upon after meeting Kamala, is directly opposite to his former one: instead of giving up pleasures and possessions, it encourages him to pursue them with active desire. When it turns out that this was not working either, Siddhartha runs away from it too and reaches that dreaded dead-end, suicide. This breakdown is the culmination of another lesson, heralding a new beginning, a clean start.Siddhartha's mistakes are numerous and his teachers many; from his Samanas, the Buddha, Kamala, Kamaswami, the ferryman, and ultimately the river. His loves, much like his paths and means to the journey of fullfilment, know many faces and forms. At one point in the novel, Siddhartha asserts to Kamala: 'Maybe people like us cannot love,' and yet in time he himself comes to experience the many aspects of love. He knows platonic love, in relation to his best friend Govinda, brotherly love suffused with profound respect to Vasudeva, romantic love to Kamala, and familial, fatherly but unrequited love to his son.ConclusionCompared to other books tackling existential angst such as the likes of The Stranger by Albert Camus, or Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Siddhartha is different in that it is uplifting and somberly optimistic in tone. Hesse's prose is languid and well-written, with a tendency to become simple at times, but not simplistic. The central message of the novel is exemplified in the final meeting of Siddhartha and Govinda, fraught with the difficulty of Govinda seeking to glean understanding from the learning of Siddhartha, and Siddhartha asserting its impossibility: Wisdom cannot be taught. Knowledge can be passed on, but wisdom cannot. That Siddhartha spent his entire life trying to learn it himself, and made many mistakes along the way, but fumbling and falling, made it through, underlies this claim.Different people will interpret novel differently. Some might think it is trite, some might think it changed their life. It didn't change mine. But it gave me some nice things to think about.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

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4.4 rating

Comment 1: It's Always Great, Coming back Home...There is a reason us, the Fans, feel like we're connected, no matter where we from, different culture, ethics...ages..we're all like graduated from there....Hogwarts..we're even been like in the same class..We're classmates, no matter which edition we read....Cause Harry Potter is not just a story..it's a Life..One of the most important novels in the modern history, Sorry, it's The Most Important ONE.This Review also for those who hate the series !نفس المقالة بالعربيةWithout it,most of the Book stores and publishers may have the same fate of the Video stores Blockbuster LLC, which despite being super popular in the 90s, closed all the stores by 2013 ,shutting down forever.Yes, without this novel, and with the rapid change in technology, the ease of making e-books and reading it in PCs, Smartphones,Tablets ,etc, the publishing and trade of new paper books may decrease rapidly. It'd be limited for religious or some educating books, classic and small novels., even these kinds of books goes just electronic…. and the books be just like an old Video Tape.A Dystopia ,right? very gloomy idea to the world without This novel, The One.Well, in the case you think I'm exaggerate..Let's haveA Brief !!! History of Literature in the 90s-----------------------------------------------------Well, let’s back to the early 90s , where TV is in every house,even in every room ,Video sets are there too, rental video stores everywhere and satellite receivers and cable channels growing fast, with many channels for kids and teenagers making them attached more and more into screens, not to mention Video Games, Game boy and Nintendo… Those from this new generation who read are “weirdos" or "nerds” to the rest of their peers.And for those “few who read” book stores mostly got for them just comics and graphic novels, which most of them created early this century.The classic novels they read just for schools and education, otherwise they merely know the movies that based on.The new novels that make a best seller are the ones which made ,or will be made, into movies for Julia Roberts, Tom Cruse or any of the 90s Hollywood celebrity , or the ones by Stephen King because ,of course, will be made into movies too.Even these novels didn't live up the selling numbers of Tolkien, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie -what’s with the British authors and selling numbers :)?- also in Russia no more Dostoevsky and Tolstoy , no more Hugo in France.Also in Egypt no more like Naguib Mahfouz and the great authors of the 50s to 70s...No new big hit for novels, most of the selling books are those of Speculation about strange and mysterious things in the world or in religion,Dreams explications , cocking books or just celebrities rumors.While in US and UK it selling books mostly the self help books, or those which teach how to make Computers programs or even web sites -this brand new huge technology leap back then.No new novels to attract the new generation of kids and teenagers, just some few successful highlights like R.L.Stine’s Goosepumbs in 1992 which make a very good success, and translated in many countries including Egypt.And in Egypt there’s also a very successful project made by The Modern Arabic Institution for Publishing & Distribution which made “Pocket Novels” for youth , by brilliant Egyptian writers,who presented excellent variety of novels of many genres, Sci-Fi, Action Thriller, comics, Romance .etc.There’s also “Reading for All”,project by the first lady “Susan Mubarak” which printed a huge verity of important books and novels from all over the world in very cheap prices.But all these effort didn't attract “more and more” of new youth readers ,it just made more and more books for those few who already reads.The vast numbers of those who don’t just read will increase if there isn't a big new attractive reading experience to get them into reading, specially with the more channels, more movies.But the BIGGEST Obstacle for them to read came out in 1994and became a real phenomenon by 1995...it’s the Playstation , the giant Japanese gaming leap..Football, Crash , Pepsi man, and the comics heroes also have their games , so why reading Superman , Batman’s comics when you can play them....**************************************************************************************************So by 1996,with this growing leap in Gaming, as also the Computer 3D games getting even much improves, Books get replaced bit by bit by a gaming controls.So do you think it’s wise for publishers to publish a book for new writer?Of course not, it may even cover it’s publishing cost.So it was very normal when in this year, 1996, when Joanne, a 31 years old lady from England , handed the manuscript for her first novel to 12 publishing houses, all of them rejected it...A manuscript of over 200 pages of a novel, that she had hard times in her personal and professional life while writing it, and for children??? Seriously is there still any who still read? it’s 1996, the era of Playstation and Video Games.But then, the Modest “Bloomsbury“ agreed to publish it ,with 2 advises for her, first that she’d get a day job, since it’s a little chance of making money in children's books. - later she received a grant from the Scottish Arts Council to help her continuing writing.-But the significant advice was to change her pen name cause young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman..so with her name and her grandmother’s "Kathleen" come the 2 initial of her pen name…J . k . Rowling And in 26th June 1997 ,with 1,000 copies, 500 of which were distributed to libraries..come out in UK, to our world The Greatest Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneAnd Baam , everything happened so fast..Before the end of this year the novel awarded many important litural awards in the UK, an American important publisher , Scholastic , won the rights to publish the novel in US, with a huge check Rowling would never dreams of.Just with small change, The title changes from Philosopher's Stone to the Sorcerer's Stone , as the American publisher saw that Philosopher's may not be that attractive to young readers..And Thanks to Harry Potter ,now Every young readers know much more about Philosopher's Stone from their other reads.In 1998 Book 2 released in UK ,1999 in US, winning more literary prizes. Becoming a Top Selling books in UK, US and many other countries which start to publish the translation for the first book. And on 8 July 1999, The First Breaking Record made when Book 3 sold 68.000 copies in just three days after its release in the United Kingdom..and more copies when it released late 1999 in US..With the fast growing popularity of Harry Potter among readers , more records had been broken both in UK and US.... The 3 books takeover the top spot in the charts of best selling books for weeks and months, and it was still the hardcover editions.This conquer made some literary magazines and newspapers separate the Harry Potter books selling records from the rest of the top selling books, splitting its lists into children Books and adult books sections under pressure from other publishers who were eager to see their books given higher ranking. And then it was year 2000 , where everything is about to change .... forever..The Playstation 2 is out there, and even higher leap in Computer Games..But even with this much of temptations, thousands of children, teens and parents gathered in the midnight of 8 July 2000 in UK and US at the same day in front of stores, not electronic stores or Apple stores -as theses days- , it was Bookstores, for may be the first time in the Book Stores History , to buy a copy of ... Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireAnd They didn't mind to find out that the book is over 700 page, it was even for their pleasure, more than double the size of any of the first 3 novels..double the thriller, double the fun..Over 3 million copies sold at that day only in the US , a new world record...a totally unexpected one.huge story, bigger plot , mysterious and very well written. more literate prizes for Rowling... more translated editions to more than 40 language. And huge budget for the upcoming first movie of the series, which beautifully visualize the magic of the novel by the faithful producers and the director...and it also made some records , but that's not our subject now. ************************************************************************************By the announcement of pushing the publishing date of book 5 to mid 2003 , and even by 2 movies out so far, the hunger for reading Harry Potter kept on.. Also , as more readers start to increase into this generation, Publishers and book stores start to promote for more books for those readers who are hungry for more..Older fantasy books , like Lord of the Rings -which was a super successful movie by then too- Narnia , Golden Compass and many other novels which finally getting more reprinted editions...and so Book stores to get more and more readers.More countries welcomed the Harry Potter phenomenon.. The English edition AND the local translated ones ,both been sold everywhere worldwide. Even in Egypt English edition sold at many books stores and,hopefully some new book stores specialized in English novels start to open in Cairo and Alexandria by 2002-2003..and finally in summer 2002, Nahdet Masr for publishing and distribution got the rights and published the Arabic edition, although it cut some of the lines for the length issues, fearing it may won't attract more readers , but the edition still hold the magic of it..making a very good sales.****************The good news is,the literary movement didn't stop there, more new books come out for the increasing demand from the readers..Life of Pi , the 2002 man Booker winner make very good sales numbers by.And in April 2003 Dan Brown (previously published 3 novels, making good sales) released a novel that made huge fuss around and making a new sales records , The Da Vinci Code.. The funny thing that there's a reference in this novel that Harry Potter is the second most selling book in history after the Bible..., a speculation that happens to be true in less than 5 years after that. A month later,May 2003, Khaled Hosseini released his first novel -do you think publishers would agree if there's no Harry Potter before? ,He'd may be rejected by 12 publishers like you know who :)- , The Kate Runner which also made a very good records too.And that's didn't affect the main reason for this new 'literal renaissance'.All that didn't affect the Records Breaker to break records one month later..On 20 June 2003 book 5 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' comes out , ten thousands of all ages conquer the book stores in UK, US and other countries too to get the one they been waiting for at least 2 years... shipping agents like FedEx made the delivery to many countries to get the book at the same time.A New world Record ,5 millions copy at the first day only..For the first time in France a non french language book placed in no.1 of the bestselling book....Some kids got a headache called 'Harry Potter Headache' as they read the whole 850 pages of the book five, the biggest so far, at the same day without resting.And in Egypt, in September the same year, the Arabic edition of book three comes out with unexpected sales records, first edition run out of the stores by the first week only although it's nearly the beginning of the School year, and the movie of this 3rd book still filming. ِAnd the price of the book get higher 20% in 2 days and still with increasing demand..More English books and novels sold in Egypt too, along with the Arabic ones, publishing more books for new Egyptian writers along with more of the famous ones , Alaa El Aswany's first novel 'Yaqubean's Building' makes very good selling numbers.. 2004 the Arabic edition of Book Four makes a price war between book stores and magazines stands.January 2005 , an abridged translated edition of Book Five make many readers angry in Egypt , specially that many already read the English edition before, so the publisher release an unabridged one by May.And in the same year's summer, on 21 July, A higher record that breaks all the previously ones 6.9 million copy of book 6 sold in US in its first day... A huge book, may didn't fans' expectations of being full of action , but it get a twist that blow minds about one of the most interesting characters, Professor Snape.That made many fans and even big authors like Stephen King and Salman Rushdie talk about for months..****************The pre-final book followed by a massive variety of new novels, new authors....Twilight series, Percy Jackson series, and more new novels, more books sales not only in US, UK but worldwide...But still Potter is the Records Big Breaker... At the midnight before 21 June 2007, everywhere around the globe the scene of thousands of people lining in front of book stores was repeated...even bigger than any time before.. A huge record for pre-orders online reach to one million copies by Amazon, and total sales of 11 millions copies in UK and US in the first day only.The book sold at the same day almost in every country,even in Israel which made a big religious fuss about the book stores being open in their holy Saturday, But it's Harry Potter after all, the world's most unusual, unexpected phenomenon and sales records breaker.And that's not bad, it was the Miracle of bringing back readers to book stores, thousands of topics went online asking 'what to read next'....Indeed, although there's the ebooks, ereaders , etc , still there's thousands of new books and novels published and sold every year , in every where in the world.The gaming devices is increasing yes, not as expected though by the 90s and early 2000s "remember Nokia N-Gage"- but so do the reading devices which first come out by Sony in 2004,make big step by Amazon's Kindle in 2007...the ebook applications on every device.New books and series come after that , and still on, making super sales, attracting more readers... more writers come with more books and novels, some are just a rip off others and some are really original and brilliant. in UK, US , Egypt ..ever where all over the globe..No matter a Playstation 4 is out, or new xbox, the books still there...with its most beloved magic..The magic of books is back and , I believe, to stay..Don't you see with me that the magic of Harry Potter is one of the main factors of this magic? “This boy will be famous. There won’t be a child in our world who doesn’t know his name” That's what Rowling wrote at the very early pages of her first book..The one that rejected by 12 Publishing Houses in 1996...Well, what about now?God, Talked too much in the "Brief" introduction , didn't I?Well, that's it for this review... I guess some still think it's just the Propaganda that made that all....Well I'll try to prove them worng by the upcoming next 6 reviews at the other 6 Books of the series..Links will be here as soon as it'd done .. وللمقالات العربية ايضا Now I'll be back to go around Hogwarts.....For the Zillionth time I guess..Hope to see you there too, come on and try first year :)From HogwartsMohammed ArabeyRe-reading the new edition -Guess I'm addicted to new editions BUT this one really rocks.."Bloomsbury-2014"from 12 Sep. 2014till 23 Sep. 2014

Don Quixote

by

3.83 rating

Comment 1: This is the story of Don Quixote: Alonzo Quixada, an avid reader of tales of chivalry, decides one day that it is his destiny to become a knight-errant. He finds himself a knight-like name, some armour, a horse, a name for the horse, and a lady-love, and later a squire (the wonderful Sancho Panza), and sets off to do good deeds. This makes up the entirety of the content of Cervantes' masterpiece.To be honest, until recently I wouldn't have called this a masterpiece - in fact, the only reason I enjoyed this book at all was because I approached it not as a fun novel to read for relaxation, but as an intellectual challenge, a problem to be solved. I wrote summaries, I asked questions. The slightest, most irrelevant inconsistency warranted a note in the margin and a dog-eared page corner. But despite my perseverance, Cervantes' supposed genius largely eluded me. Having heard that it was really a very sad tale, I filled my notebook with naive ruminations about which part of the plot might turn out to be the 'sad bit'. Fascinated by the character of Sancho Panza, I underlined his every quotation, searching desperately for some hint of complexity, of charactorial depth. I found it not - every quotation seemed to prove that Sancho was exactly what he seemed to be: a stupid, greedy simpleton.And yet, there were some things that stood out, questions which I kept coming back to and which seemed to be important. Why are there so many irrelevant stories woven into the plot? Why are the women as they are? Why is it so self-referential, so self-aware, in a way more similar to post-modernism than anything else I've read? And I started, slowly, as I thought about it, to realise that there was much more to this book than I had thought.And then I went to the good old Melbourne University library and pulled out a stack of books of literary criticism, some of which turned out to be good enough to be read in their own right ( not my usual opinion of literary crirticism). And I was swayed! When you read something as beautifully written as this, and true besides, can you not help but be moved, to tears and to hugs and to monuments to Cervantes' eternal genius?"Like a butterfly from a chrysalis, Don Quixote emerges from his mediocre past with bright coloursa nd a strange costume, ready to leave his friends and neighbours behind, ready to fly away. One day he looks around in his own backyared in his village and finds nothing that can compare with his readings. Surely the real world has sunk very low; certainly something must be done to lift it to a higher level. Don Quixote mounts his horse and goes forth. We know, as his readers, that he will fail time and time again in his quest for justice. But should he not have tried? Should no one have tried to bring a little justice, a little beauty, a little love to a sad world?"(Fighting Windmills: Encounters with Don Quixote, Duran and Rogg, 2006, p69)And I realised also that in my obsessive scrutiny of Sancho's character, I had completely neglected to notice the extraordinary way that he, and also Don Quixote, grows and changes throughout the novel (though probably this was also due to the rather stilted, exam-interrupted way in which I read it). I also learned a lot of other interesting and useful things, some of which I will relate:In Cervantes' time (the late 1500's) there existed a genre of fiction known as the chivalric romance, a type of book in which heroes go off to do battle against giants and armies of thousands to win the love of their pure, fair, dull-as-ditchwater lady waiting in a tower at home, waving a white handkerchief out the window and crying dulcet tears of rosewater and lily petals into an ewer of pure crystal. Or whatever. Anyway, this type of book was the trashy romance of the day - it was immensely popular (in fact, Cervantes has two characters discuss the dismal state of literature and theatre for the entirety of two chapters, and in the margin of the copy I borrowed from the library someone has written in beautiful Edwardian script 'Cervantes is truly a writer for all ages!'), and essentially a hangover from the Medieval period. So Cervantes sets out to write a parody of this genre, presumably to reveal to the masses the error of their ways and encourage them to read something decent for once, for god's sake. This is no secret; he announces it proudly and rather big-headedly in the preface to Part I.But the chivalric romance is not the only thing influencing Cervantes. Two other genres of the time also make their appearance: that of the pastoral novel (shepherds, sheep, Arcadia, unspoiled wilderness, sheep, etc.) and that of the picaresque adventure story (danger, excitement, deprivation, courage, etc.). In Don Quixote, Cervantes combines these three different aesthetics and effectively reinvents them, the alterations he makes revealing his dissatisfaction with the way they represent life, and truth. Life is quite clearly none of these three genres, even though it may occasionally possess elements of them (which, I posit, is the answer to my first question: "why so many irrelevant stories?" Many of these asides are textbook examples of the chivalric romance, pastoral fantasy or the picaresque. I would like to think that the somewhat clumsy way they are interwoven with the main story is an indication of their inability to represent reality - in contrast to the hard-headed grit of Don Q, the difference really shows). None of these genres, alone or even combined, is enough to describe life with any semblance of accuracy. Hence, Cervantes satirises them, and reveals their essential futility by having his main character attempt to live one. And Don Quixote is forced to abandon his illusions one by one by the hard reality that surrounds him, to the point of his renunciation at the very last. This, my friends, is tragedy at its finest.Don Quixote was written in two parts, the first published in 1605 and the second in 1615, just a year before Cervantes' death. The difference between the two is extraordinary. Part I is an amusing farce with some interesting aspects; Part II is a masterpiece that anticipates centuries of literary endeavour. It is deeply psychological, it treats its female characters in an entirely new way, and it is devastatingly self-reflective. And probably many other things that I haven't realised, too.For me while I was reading, the most interesting aspect of the book was its metafictional qualities. It is confusingly self-aware, with the opinions of the narrator (Cervantes, whose books are mentioned in the prose and who also appears as a character at one point), the supposed 'author' (Cid Hamet Benengali), and the unnamed translator (Cid Hamet was a Moor, so of course it was originally written in Arabic) all appearing in the course of the text. Furthermore, the story is temporarily interrupted because a part of the manuscript is apparently lost and only found by sheer luck, and at least one chapter is suspected by the translator to be apocryphal (which means, of course, that Cervantes put it in deliberately). In Part II, it is announced that Part I has already been published, and thus the other characters are aware of Don Quixote and his madness - a narrative decision with very interesting consequences. Moreover, it emerges that a fake Part II has been published in which Don Q and Sancho have been portrayed most unflatteringly (and, it must be said, unfairly). (Amazingly enough, as an unusually helpful footnote of Edith Grossman's informed me, this actually happened, and this aspect of Part II was written in part as a rebuke to the guy who did it. A better example of life imitating - or complementing - art I have never encountered.) All these things and, I'm sure, many more that I've forgotten draw attention in a most conspicuous way to the problematic nature of fiction, and of texts in general.So why does Cervantes do this? Tempting as it is to assume his motives were the same as those of the post-modernists who were to use similar techniques over 350 years later, I'm not sure that this is the correct answer. Is it possible that one man, writing in a way that had never been seen before (with the possible exception of The Tale of Genji, written six centuries earlier and on the other side of the world) (um, by the way, Cervantes is widely credited with the invention of the novel, I should probably have mentioned that earlier), could be making the same points as people who were writing to challenge the traditionalism of a medium that had existed for over three hundred years, a medium invented by Cervantes himself? (the mind boggles.) Maybe. After all, many people (numbering among them Thomas Mann, Vladimir Nabokov, Michel Foucault and Harold Bloom), claim Don Quixote to be a work of genius (or words to that effect; I'm leaning towards that opinion myself); or even the greatest novel ever written (I hesitate to make such a claim, but it may well be true). Nonetheless, I suspect it to be unlikely (that Cervantes' and the pomos had the same motives; can you even follow my argument with all the brackets I'm using?); in any case, it is much more likely that Cervantes had entirely different, but still valid, reasons for doing what he did. I have a few theories:1. Just for fun! Although I personally never found Don Q to be a total laff-fest (the underlying poignancy was too strong to completely dismiss, though my subconscious certainly did its best) it is most certainly written in a light-hearted, even playful way. Maybe this is just his friendly way of messing with his readers' heads. If so, he certainly succeeded - four hundred years later, the critics can't agree.2. To reinforce the main theme of the book, which, in case you haven't picked it up already, is most pithily summed up here. As an example, we are told, practically simultaneously, that all Moors are liars, cheats, idol-worshippers, incapable of understanding rational argument, and prone to criminal levels of exaggeration, and that the Moorish author Cid Hamet Benengali is an honest and truthful chronicler (at one point, he also swears on his faith as a Catholic Christian, whatever that's supposed to mean). "Don't trust everything you read!" is Cervantes' perpetual refrain (Wikipedia deniers, behold your new Messiah). "The truth is less straightforward than you think!"3. He is simply engaging in some healthy parody. Another helpful Edith Grossman footnote (two in the same book! I would never have believed it) informs me that telling the story as if from the point of view of a traslator who happened to find a manuscript was a common trope used in, you guessed it, chivalric romances. So maybe Cervantes was just exaggerating this trait to the point of farce.4. He wanted to create a sense of distance between the characters and author, and by extension, change the way they are perceived by the reader. By presenting the story as a history (even if the reader knows that it isn't really), he in a sense releases the characters from the restrictions of fiction. They are no longer creations of the heat-oppressèd brain, but independent entities who have control over their fate.5. An interesting theory that I read is that Cervantes, like all authors who lacked a wealthy patron, existed on rather precarious finances. Perhaps, Duran and Rogg suggest, he constantly draws attention to the presence, or existence, of an author as an appeal to the reader to give him some money or something. Whether this is conscious or unconscious, Duran and Rogg do not specify.In short (finally! you declare), do I recommend that you read this book? The answer, dear reader, is YES. However, don't expect it to be a walk in the park (to use a Sancho-esque proverb). Maybe I'm just stupid or whatever, but a lot of people on here seem to have given it four or five stars without appearing to have had any trouble at all. I don't get that. For me, it was hard work, and it took two and a half months. BUT: incredibly rewarding.If you do choose to read it, think carefully about the translation. I mainly read an 1868 translation by Charles Jervas, which had wonderful engravings and was basically wonderful, and which I sort of cross-referenced with the Edith Grossman translation. The Grossman translation seems to be widely acknowledged as the best (it was just the one that happened to be in the bookshop, for me - also it had a prettier cover than the Penguin edition), but I don't like it nearly as much. It is, I can tell, highly accurate, but the Jervas translation is so much more fun! It's much more idiomatic, much more lively, and feels much less like reading a translation. I've heard the original 1755 Tobias Smollett translation is good for the same reason, and it's probably much easier to find than the Jervas. There are certainly good arguments for accurate, literal translations, but who gives. Also the Grossman has tonnes of footnotes, most of which are useless and highly irritating (who cares how many US cents a maravedi is equal to? It's screamingly obviously a unit of currency, and that is ALL I WANT OR NEED TO KNOW), but every now and then comes along one that is incredibly useful, like the ones I cited in this review.(Excellent) References (that you might want to consider reading yourself because they are so good)Fighting Windmills: Encounters with Don Quixote. Manuel Duran and Fay R. Rogg, 2006.Beyond Fiction: the Recovery of the Feminine in the Novels of Cervantes. Ruth El SaffarThe Wit and Wisdom of Don Quixote de la Mancha. ed. Sieber, McGraw-Hill, 2005.I apologise profusely for my bizarrely inconsistent recording of bibliographic details.___________________________________Finished (finally). But how on earth to translate such an experience into a rating from one to five? I declare all such endeavours to be utterly futile.

Fahrenheit 451

by

3.95 rating

Comment 1: It was a pleasure to burn.It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of historyThus begins Fahrenheit 451, through this act of destruction which guides the life of fireman Guy Montag, in a future where the firemen profession is not about containing fire anymore. Instead, they are responsible for retaining knowledge from being spread through society. We are shown a degenerate society on which the mere fact of owning a book might lead directly to jail, or to your grave. The drastic change may be understood once we accept the new society presented by Bradbury: an industrialized cacophony driven by technology obsession; everyday life has been simplified to such an astounding degree that the majority of the population has completely lost their ability to judge situations critically. In this new world, human beings are encouraged to act without thinking too much, to set aside any emotion or judgment which might prove to require too much emotion or rational effort; the new way of life encourages people to be happy, even if they have to be totally self-indulgent to achieve that. School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?Moreover, against all hopes, such corruption of a healthy way of thinking didn’t come from some law imposed by social and political authorities; it comes from natural technological progress, as explained further on the book. The only thing the Estate did was give a little push to the masses of population who were already losing their moral values, soaked in so much entertainment options and technological knick-knackery. At this point, of course, I was already finding myself wondering about the infinite possibilities that might lead to this situation actually happen to our contemporary society, given that we reached the point where smartphones are closer our heart than friends and family. Oh well, that might as well be my dreamy mind talking too loud, though. Anyway, as the society gets more and more crammed into the same pattern of behavior and personality, books start to be considered a dangerous form of entertainment/information, given that they make people think differently from the rest of the herd. We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. Fortunately, Montag finds one of the few who are different from the herd. His neighbor, a young and weird girl gets closer to him and starts, little by little, intriguing his mind by asking him questions he has never asked himself before. Consequently, he starts to wonder about the meaning of life and, eventually, he realizes how completely alienated he has been during all his life. Such revelation awakens dormant emotions, like fear and insecurity; at the same time, however, Montag lets reason triumph over his instincts, which gives him a sense of free intellectual reign over his own decisions as he has never possessed before.Over fifty years after the first edition, Fahrenheit 451 remains scarily relevant, presenting an intriguing question: is it necessary that we destroy ourselves to be able to change our path as a race? Do we possess the ability and intelligence necessary to atone for our mistakes? If not, do we have to perish so others can take control of our future? If on one hand the author allows a glimpse of hope in this dystopia, on the other, the price to pay for this fragile hypothesis has been quite high. Closer to the end the author compares human kind to the phoenix, being we able to reemerge after a downfall; according to Bradbury, we have an advantage over the phoenix, even: we can learn from our mistakes to not commit them again, so, hopefully, progress for the sake of progress won’t be further encouraged.In a few pages, with a fluid and simple prose, overdone, maybe, for the overuse of metaphors, the author has created a book which message will echo through generations, in an eternal and powerful warning about the dangers of being ignorant, thus encouraging the reader to roam the path of knowledge: - That's the wonderful thing about man; he never gets so discouraged or disgusted that he gives up doing it all over again, because he knows very well it is important and worth the doing. Needless to say, I loved this book, it kept me guessing, at the same time opening my mind to the possible future we may yet face. In addition, it made my theoretical driving lessons way more bearable. Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review: Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime. We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real? If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn. The Last Passage(view spoiler)[ Montag began walking and after a moment found that the others had fallen in behind him, going north. He was surprised, and moved aside to let Granger pass, but Granger looked at him and nodded him on. Montag went ahead. He looked at the river and the sky and the rusting track going back down to where the farms lay, where the barns stood full of hay, where a lot of people had walked by in the night on their way from the city. Later, in a month or six months, and certainly not more than a year, he would walk along here again, alone, and keep right on going until he caught up with the people.But now there was a long morning's walk until noon, and if the men were silent it was because there was everything to think about and much to remember. Perhaps later in the morning, when the sun was up and had warmed them, they would begin to talk, or just say the things they remembered, to be sure they were there, to be absolutely certain that things were safe in them.Montag felt the slow stir of words, the slow simmer. And when it came to his turn, what could he say, what could he offer on a day like this, to make the trip a little easier? To everything there is a season. Yes. A time to break down, and a time to build up. Yes. A time to keep silence and a time to speak. Yes, all that. But what else. What else? Something, something...And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.Yes, thought Montag, that's the one I'll save for noon. For noon... When we reach the city. (hide spoiler)]

A Prayer for Owen Meany

by

4.22 rating

Comment 1: Come un disegno di EscherAvvertenze.Prima di iniziare questo romanzo, siete pregati di munirvi del seguente Book-kit:-Un vasto, quanto variegato campionario di espressioni facciali, da sfoggiare di pari passo con le molteplici emozioni di queste quasi 600 pagine. C'è di tutto, ma proprio tutto; dalla faccia angosciata a quella incredula, da quella divertita a quella intimamente commossa, da quella riflessiva a quella estasiata, e così via.- Google o Wikipedia a portata di mano.Il contesto politico e religioso di questa storia, se banalmente interpretato, produce una superficiale comprensione del testo, che può scaturire sì, in recensioni negative, ma avallate da tiepide argomentazioni legate all'anti-americanismo dell'autore, o all'effetto catechesi del libro. Viceversa, se letto con una sensibilità appena sufficiente,(che mi rendo conto non è cosa da tutti avere), fa l'effetto di voler andare oltre ciò che c'è scritto, e se si ha un computer vicino, fa venir voglia di documentarsi.-Ultima cosa, fondamentale, portatevi a casa un amico di vecchia data che al momento in cui chiudete il libro, vi prenda a schiaffi ripetutamente e vi dica con voce ferma e decisa: "RASSEGNATI!!-I-PERSONAGGI-DI-QUESTA-STORIA-NON-ESISTONO.-I-PERSONAGGI-DI-QUESTO-LIBRO-SONO-IRREALI.-I-PERSONAGGI-DI-QUESTO-ROMANZO-NON-SONO-VERI-E-NON-SONO-NEPPURE-I-TUOI-VICINI-DI-CASA.Per un effetto più convincente, badate a che il vostro amico sia dotato di abbondante dialettica, in modo da potervi consolare e allo stesso tempo riportarvi alla realtà della vostra banale e misera vita.Detto questo, dichiaro aperta la lettura.Nel mio caso, trattasi di una rilettura, fatta a distanza di nove anni dalla prima (implicito ringraziamento + applauso in onore della mia migliore amica, che oltre alla dedica stra-personalizzata ha pensato bene di scrivere bello in grande anche la data).All'epoca avevo trovato questo romanzo magnifico.Attualmente lo trovo oltre che splendido, corposo, struggente e profondo, e siccome non ho voglia di aprire il dizionario dei sinonimi e contrari, mi fermo qui, tanto avete capito. :)Il mio debito con Irving è lampante.E' come se nel 2002 mi fossi sfilata di dosso la mia sciarpa preferita, e gliel'avessi data in pegno. Ed è come se l'altro giorno ci fossimo incrociati per caso al bar e me l'avesse restituita. In un baleno riconosco la sciarpa, la trama larga e confortevole della lana, ricordo con precisione perché era la mia preferita. L'odore è sempre quello, il contatto della lana sulla pelle è il medesimo di allora, pungente quanto basta per ricordarmi che ce l'ho addosso.Se dovessi dare, in occasione di questa mia seconda rilettura, un altro pegno a Irving, gli darei un forte senso di arricchimento unito a una gloriosa soddisfazione, assolutamente certa che a una terza rilettura, le sensazioni mi verrebbero restituite intatte come adesso.Chi ha letto le mie recensioni nel tempo, saprà per esempio che ho una smodata passione per Haruki Murakami.Il tentativo di cercare di capire quale sia l'elemento comune che mi rende piacevole allo stesso modo il classicismo romanzesco di Irving, e la delicatezza orientaleggiante di Murakami, mi ha portato a fare una considerazione generale sugli scrittori.Esistono penne fortunate (veramente poche), che ti fanno innamorare.Ma è l'oggetto amato che fa la differenza.Murakami ad esempio , ti fa innamorare di sé.Ogni sua frase, è intrisa del suo modo di vedere le cose, della sua costanza e della sua logica fluida. Alla fine di ogni suo libro, vorresti sposarlo. Lui, non i suoi personaggi.Irving ti fa innamorare dei protagonisti dei suoi romanzi.A suo modo, è un piccolo Tolkien; manca solo che metta una cartina geografica all'inizio del libro e hai l'impressione che le storie che racconta, siano popolate da personaggi fisici, reali, che puoi andare a trovare seguendo, neanche tanto pedissequamente la cartina.In questo libro tutto torna.Per 590 pagine, si assiste al movimento perpetuo di miniature che sono causa ed effetto di altrettanti tasselli finemente cesellati.E' Irving stesso che svela a chi lo sa cogliere, il segreto della sua bravura:"Un buon libro è sempre in moto: dal generale al particolare, dalle parti al tutto e viceversa, avanti e indietro." (Pag. 316)Esattamente come con le scale di Escher. Un fluire continuo e circolare, ipnotizzante quanto basta per riuscire a crederci. Irving non lascia niente al caso.E se tutti, con un pizzico di fantasia, siamo bravi a inventare una trama complessa, ciò che eleva Irving e ne fa uno scrittore con gli attributi, è la sua capacità di contestualizzare la storia, proprio attraverso quelle farciture ecclesiastiche e politiche, che per i pressapochisti rallentano invece la lettura.Sono proprio i "paesaggi di sfondo" che impreziosiscono la storia.Sarebbe decisamente banale descrivere e raccontare Owen, un piccolo grande uomo che corre dietro il suo destino, "scontornato" dagli eventi del suo Paese. Sarebbe banale ma non lo è.Perché Irving gli ha donato l'arguzia e la sagacia di criticare la società in cui vive, con riflessioni che hanno la stessa profondità delle venature del granito a cui Owen è tanto legato.Senza pretendere di essere informati sui fatti passati o presenti, basterebbe ad esempio, saper cogliere la genialità dietro il paragone tra l'America e una diva come Marilyn Monroe."Lei era come il nostro Pese: non più tanto giovane, ma neanche vecchia; un po' avventata. Molto bella, forse un tantino stupida, forse più intelligente di quanto non sembrasse. Ed era in cerca di qualcosa, credo che volesse essere buona. Guarda gli uomini della sua vita: Joe Di Maggio, Arthur Miller, forse i Kennedy. Guarda quanto desiderabile era lei! Ecco cos'era: era desiderabile. Era spiritosa e sexy, ed era anche vulnerabile. Non era mai del tutto felice, era sempre un tantino sopra peso. Era proprio come il nostro Paese."Basterebbe saperne "vedere" la sempreverde attualità.Se io non vi dicessi che stiamo parlando di Marilyn e dell'America anni '60, poteste tranquillamente pensare che parlo dell'Italia, come di qualsiasi altro Paese sufficientemente in crisi tra storia e politica.Mentalmente ho persino provato ad applicare il parallelismo. Peccato che la prima faccia che mi sia venuta in mente pensando all'Italia, sia stata quella di Maurisa Laurito, sforzandomi quella della Ferilli.Ma ritornando a noi, lettori attenti, e a Irving, sarebbe stato ugualmente banale raccontare della fede assoluta di un ragazzino stravagantemente intelligente, se lo scrittore non ci avesse fatto capire altrettanto bene, attraverso le parole di Owen, che a prescindere dal nostro essere credenti, atei, agnostici, o semplicemente distratti, l'insegnamento universale( come se non fosse già abbastanza schiacciante l'evidenza che il credere o il non credere in qualcosa, è una scelta che facciamo tutti i giorni, a seconda della convenienza), è molto più semplice.Cioè che "se ci tieni a qualcosa lo devi proteggere. Se sei tanto fortunato da trovare un modo di vita che ami, devi anche trovare il coraggio di viverlo."E quindi, alla fine, quante stelline si possono dare a un libro del genere? Ovviamente, il massimo, qualunque esso sia; il massimo più una. Che idealmente con l'anima in ginocchio dedichiamo al piccolo grande Owen.Owen e il suo senso dell'amicizia.Owen e l'amore dietro le parole.Owen e la memoria dei sentimenti altrui.[Noce Moscata e l'overdose da Owen]Owen e i dubbi che lo rendono umano e più vicino a Dio.Owen e la sua fede.Owen dopo la fine di tutto.Owen dopo la fine del libro.Owen che manca come l'aria.[Noce Moscata e l'astinenza da Owen]Non posso che augurarvi Buon Owen a tutti.Non vi preoccupate se non sono rose e fiori.Probabilmente sarà granito, e quindi, fortunatamente, "ad imperitura memoria".

The Old Man and the Sea

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3.67 rating

Comment 1: العجوز والبحر يترجم عنوان رواية هيمنغواي الشهيرة هذه عادة ً بالشيخ والبحر، ولكني أفضل هذه الترجمة (العجوز والبحر)، فكلمة الشيخ محملة بالوقار، بالحكمة، فالشيخ لا يفتش عن ذاته، لقد وصل إليها وحازها منذ وقت بعيد، بينما كلمة العجوز تحمل دلالات أخرى، فالعجوز هو الرجل الذي وصل إلى مرحلة العجز البدني، بدايات تهدم القوى، ومن ورائها البصيرة والحكمة، إنه نموذج الإنسان الذي يعيش صراعه الأخير، صراعه مع جسده الذي يفنى، ذاكرته التي تضمحل، وهو صراع للأسف غير بطولي، ليس في نظر الناس على الأقل. كتب أرنست هيمنغواي هذه الرواية وهو في الثانية والخمسين من عمره، هل كان في شيخوخته؟ أم كان في عجزه؟ أظن أنه كان في نهايات الأولى، وبدايات الثانية، ففي العام التالي لكتابة هذه الرواية يذهب هيمنغواي في رحلة صيد إلى أفريقيا، وهو نشاط حركي عنيف عشقه هيمنغواي منذ اللحظة التي أهداه فيها والده بندقية وهو في العاشرة من عمره، هذا النشاط الحركي العنيف ضم له همينغواي فيما بعد صيد الأسماك، الملاكمة – وهناك صور تصوره حتى وهو شيخ في وضعيات الملاكمين، وبقفازاتهم الثقيلة -، ومصارعة الثيران وهي نشاط اهتم به هينغواي كمتابع ولم يمارسه فيما أظن، على أي حال نعود إلى رحلة أفريقيا، ذهب هيمنغواي مع زوجته سنة 1952 م، وكان موسم صيد طيب استمتعا به، ولكنه انتهى بحادثي تحطم لطائرتين استقلهما همينغواي، الأول تسبب لهيمنغواي بإصابة في رأسه، بينما الثاني والذي كان رحلة إخلاء طبي يفترض أن تنقل هيمنغواي إلى أقرب مستشفى تسبب بحروق نتيجة اشتعال الطائرة حال الإقلاع، هذان الحادثان خلفا آلام بقيت مع هيمنغواي إلى اليوم الذي وضع فيه بندقية والده في فمه وقتل نفسه، ولكن هذا كان بعد تسع سنوات. بعد سنتين من حادث أفريقيا حصل همينغواي على نوبل للآداب، عن سنوات من الكتابة التي تناولت موضوعاته الأثيرة، والتي كانت في أغلبها معبرة عن صراع الإنسان مع قوى مختلفة، فتارة يصارع رجال آخرين في حلبة الملاكمة، وتارة أخرى يصارع الثيران، أو وحوش البحر، كما كتب عن الحرب أيضا ً وهي مجموع لصراعات البشر، من واقع مشاركته في الحربين العالميتين، حيث أصيب في الأولى إصابة خطرة، كما عمل مراسلا ً خلال الحرب الأهلية الأسبانية، والتي كتب عنها روايته (لمن تقرع الأجراس؟). هذه الرواية (لمن تقرع الأجراس؟) كانت أول ما قرأت لهيمنغواي، ذات صيف بعيد، في مرحلتي المتوسطة، كنت حينها قارئ نهم ولكن بإمكانيات متواضعة، قارئ لا يجد الكتب في المكتبات المحيطة التي يمكنه أن يصل إليها، فلذا كانت الكتب التي تقع بين يديه تكتسب بعدا ً أسطوريا ً وتقرأ مرارا ً، لم أكن ملم حينها بالحرب الأسبانية، ولكن هذا لم يمنعني من متابعة المتطوع الأمريكي الذي يصل إلى معسكر للجمهوريين في الجبال حيث تخاض حرب عصابات شرسة، مكلفا ً بمهمة نسف جسر هناك، والعلاقة التي تنشأ بينه وبين الفتاة الأسبانية ماريا، وهي ضحية من ضحايا الفاشيين، حتى النهاية الحزينة. قرأت بعد ذلك مجموعات قصصية لهمينغواي، وروايتيه (الشمس تشرق أحيانا ً) و(وداعا ً للسلاح)، الغريب هو أن أهم وأشهر رواياته وهي (العجوز والبحر)، والتي عادة ً يستفتح بها أي قارئ لهيمنغواي تأخرت إلى هذا الوقت، رغم أنها متوافرة وشاهدتها مرارا ً، ولكني لم أحصل عليها، كانت لدي قناعة لا أدري من أين وصلت إلي، أن (الشيخ والبحر) رواية تأملات، العنوان خدعني حينها، شيخ وبحر !!! ما الذي يمكن أن يحدث بينهما؟ هذا جعلني أشيح عنها، وفي تلك الأيام لم يكن هناك انترنت، ولم تكن هناك وسائل أقرأ من خلالها مراجعات للكتب، أو أعرف نبذة عن المواضيع التي تتناولها، كنا كلنا في القراءة فراداى كجزر معزولة.ما سيأتي قد يكشف شيء من أحداث الرواية: موضوع رواية (العجوز والبحر) هو الصراع، أو بالأصح هو صمود الإنسان عندما يخوض صراعا ً، عندما يصمد إنسان رغم قسوة الصراع وطوله، حتى عندما يخسر في النهاية، لا يكون قد خسر كليا ً، إنها خسارة جزئية، إنها خسارة ومكسب، فقد صمد وتعودت روحه على التحمل والصبر، وانتظار اللحظة المواتية، لهذا الصراع اختار همينغواي بحارا ً عجوزا ً يدعى سنتياجو يعمل على مركب صغير على شواطئ هافانا، يعمل مع سنتياجو صبي صغير كمساعد، ولمرور فترة طويلة لم يصد فيها العجوز شيئا ً – أربعة وثمانون يوما ً -، يقرر أهل الصبي سحب ابنهم من هذا العجوز المنكود وإلحاقه بصياد آخر، يحزن هذا العجوز كما يحسن الصبي الذي نرى في الصفحات الأولى مدى بره واهتمامه بمعلمه، يخرج العجوز في اليوم الخامس والثمانون وهو يأمل في كسر النحس واصطياد شيء، لهذا يبحر أبعد من العادة ويلقي شباكه، حيث تعلق بها سمكة ما، في البداية لا يدري الصياد ما هي، ولكنه يأمل أن تكون سمكة مارلين ضخمة، والمارلين نوع من السمك الذي له ما يشبه المنقار أو الرمح الطويل، يصل طوله إلى الخمسة أمتار، ويزيد وزنه على النصف طن، هذه السمكة العملاقة تمثل تحديا ً حقيقيا ً للصياد، فحجمها وقوتها الكبيرة تجعلها تجذب المركب خلفها، وتحتاج من الصياد متابعة مستمرة بحيث لا تقطع الحبل، الأمر الآخر أن حجم السمكة وطولها تجعله غير قادر على جذبها، ليس لوحده، كما أن لو جذبها واستطاع قتلها كيف سيرفعها إلى داخل المركب؟ الأمر كله يبدو غير ممكن، ولكن العجوز لا يستسلم، يضع قوته في يديه، ويترك السمكة تسحبه ليومين، تصاب يده فلا يتوقف، بل يظل يذكر نفسه بقوة يديه عندما كان يتغلب على البحارة في تحديات قوة اليدين، كما يستعيد ذكرى لاعب بيسبول أمريكي مشهور، كان يلعب وهو مصاب في كعبه، لقد تحامل على آلامه وانتصر، والعجوز الذي يعشق البيسبول ويتابعها يتخذ هذا كمثال للصبر، ويقارن صبر هذا اللاعب العظيم به هو، وصبره على إصابة يده، كما يمني نفسه بالمبلغ الذي سيحصل عليه من بيع السمكة الكبيرة، في اليوم الثالث يفلح في جذب السمكة إلى الأعلى ثم يطعنها، ويربطها على جانب السفينة، ويفرد أشرعته عائدا ً إلى هافانا، ولكن الصراع لم ينتهي لازال على العجوز أن يبقى مستيقظا ً ليحمي غنيمته من القروش التي تبدأ هجومها وقد جذبتها رائحة الدم، يبدو المشهد أسطوريا ً، والعجوز يطعن القروش التي تقضم السمكة الجميلة، تشوهها، يفقد العجوز الرمح، فيرتجل آخر، من مجذاف وسكين، ويواصل صراعه، وتواصل القروش هجومها، عندما يصل العجوز أخيرا ً إلى الشاطئ تكون سمكته قد فقدت لحمها، وصارت هيكلا ً عظميا ً لا يظهر منه إلى الرأس والذيل، يذهب العجوز إلى مسكنه، هل خسر الصراع؟ ثلاثة أيام من الجهد وما عاد به ليس إلا هيكلا ً عظميا ً؟ لا... فالصيادين يتجمعون حول مركبه يقيسون طول السمكة، حتى السياح يهتمون بهذا الهيكل المعلق إلى المركب، والصبي يأتي لزيارة العجوز ويعد بأنه سيعود للإبحار معه، لازال يريد أن يتعلم منه. من الأشياء التي تبرزها الرواية العلاقة الوجدانية بين العجوز والبحر، وبينه وبين السمكة التي يصطادها فهو يحترمها، ويخاطبها وهي تسحبه ورائها، بل حتى القروش التي تهاجمه وهو عائد يمتدحها، في لحظات معينة يتمنى العجوز "إنني الآن أود أن لو أن ذلك كان حلما ً، وأن السمكة لم تعلق بخطافي، وأنني كنت وحدي في فراشي" ولكنه يعود سريعا ً ليقول: "ولكن الرجل لم يخلق لكي يهزم، قد يتحطم الرجل ولكنه لا يهزم".

Great Expectations

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3.72 rating

Comment 1: ....Σε αγάπησα από την πρώτη στιγμή που σε συνάντησα. Από τότε είσαι μέσα σε κάθε σκέψη. Είσαι μέρος της ύπαρξής μου. Μέρος του εαυτού μου. Είσαι μέσα σε κάθε σκέψη, σε κάθε γραμμή που έχω διαβάσει από τότε που συναντηθήκαμε. Είσαι στο ποτάμι, στα πανιά των πλοίων, η θάλασσα, τα σύννεφα.. Μέχρι να πεθάνω θα παραμείνεις μέσα μου, με τα καλά και τα άσχημα. Κι εγώ πάντα θα σκέφτομαι μόνο τα καλά.... Comment 2: Manieji lūkesčiai „Didžiųjų lūkesčių“ atžvilgiu buvo dideli. Kad ir kaip tai keista, turint omeny, kad Dikensą skaityti prieš kokius aštuonerius metus, kai reikėjo mokykloje, bandžiau, bet su Oliveriu Tvistu pasistūmėjau vos keletą puslapių, kol sužinojau, kad vietoj šitos galima skaityti kitą knygą ir su didžiausiu džiaugsmu atsisveikinau su Dikensu. Dabar jau suprantu, kad šita knyga turbūt ne kažin kuo ir skiriasi nuo ano bandymo – tiesiog per tuos metus įgyta kantrybė net ir nelabai patinkan

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

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3.42 rating

Comment 1: In 1819 in Manhattan, a strange trial was commencing. A merchant of that great city had been found in possession of barrels of spermacetti, the fine-quality oil which may be obtained from the head of the Sperm Whale. When an inspector demanded he pay the proper taxes on his goods, the merchant, who apparently made a hobby of science, declared that he had no fish product in his possession, and so the tax did not apply. He was duly arrested and, contending the charges, a trial was begun to determine, once-and-for-all, if whales were indeed, fish.This was becoming an increasingly important question in the wake of Linneaus' great work and the recent codification by numerous biologists of the many families in which plants and animals numbered their descent, which would soon culminate in the great discovery of Darwin. Is it possible there was some familial connection between whales and dogs? Or more troublingly, between these alien monsters of the deep and humans? It was important to determine an answer, but it is singularly strange that the venue chosen to answer this question was not the halls of academia, or even the wild world of the working naturalist, but a courthouse, with judge, lawyers, and jury arguing the question.Certainly, numerous scientists were brought in to testify, and so were experienced whale-hunters, who tended to give contradicting accounts. As D. Graham Burnett puts it, in his book on the trial, Trying Leviathan, these were men with 'lay expertise'--they dealt everyday with the subject at hand, but had no grasp of the history or theory behind it. One might point to the difference between the man who drives a car every day to work, and the man who knows how a car is built.So it is somewhat strange that, thirty-two years later, Moby Dick seems to show us relatively little progress on this question. Melville first declares that whales are definitely fish (though he does not discount their mammalian structures), laments the many futile attempts to depict them accurately, and then embarks on an attempt to classify members of the species which is hardly scientific.His approach was not a modern, thoroughly-researched analysis of the subject as it stood, but a conceptual exploration, and in the end, a flawed one, a failed experiment, and not the only one in Melville's great work.There are mistaken details, dropped plotlines and characters, vast shifts in style and tone, changes in point-of-view, as if several different sorts of book were combined together. This is not a classic lauded for its narrow, precise perfection, but for its wide-reaching, seemingly-fearless leaps into waters both varied and deep.Reading Melville's letters, it is clear he knew his experiment was not an entire success, but he pressed on boldly despite his doubts, refusing to write anything less grand just because he feared it might, in some parts, fail. It is a difficult thing for an author not to give in and write something smaller and safer, something certain. It is Achilles' choice: to live a small and easy life, which will be long and passing pleasant, or to strike at the skies, to die in the flame of youth, and become a song. Like Ahab, Melville attempts something grand, dangerous, and unknown.'Like Ahab'.It is a phrase we hear, which we understand, something pervasive. There are a number of reasons that Melville's great work, ignored and sneered at in his lifetime, is now preeminent. For all the flaws of his book, it is still full of remarkable successes.It begins with several strange, ominous notes, like a Beethoven symphony, calling us to attention, with the mystic and dark theology of "There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within". But then it strikes away--there are still some dark shadows which flit across the scene, but for the most part, we are following Ishmael, in all of his funny, bumbling, pretentious, self-deprecating little adventures. It is, at the first, fundamentally a Sea Story in the old tradition, and we should not forget that it is a grand Romance, not serious-minded realism.One thing I was not prepared for was this book's often subtle and sometimes uproarious humor. Sadly, that part seems to be missing from its great reputation. As a Romance, it is not precisely concerned with developing holistic character psychology, it is enough to have types and archetypes, though they are often twisted. The individual pieces on the board act less like individuals and more like different aspects of one mind, the central mind of the book itself, of which each character forms a small part.So if relationships are sometimes rushed, or lapse, or are unfinished, those may be flaws in pacing, but each relationship is building together, contributing to the vision Melville gives us of his little world, so they are hardly pointless elements. It is more that Melville takes shortcuts here and there to tell the central story, for as he himself points out, to tell the whole story of Moby Dick is more than any one author could do.Much has been made of the vast symbology of the book, probably too much. It is not an allegory, there is no one thing that the whale stands for, or Ahab, or the ship. They are all parts of a story, and while we may understand them by thinking about evil, or good, or fate, or faith, to try to boil them down to some simple meaning is to miss the point, and to turn a great story into nothing more than a fable. It is a mistake to go in asking 'what does this represent', it does the book a disservice. Asking this question is not necessary for us to understand the work.Melville's bleak vision captured the imagination of the emerging post-modern thinkers who had seen the world wars tear apart concepts and assumptions which been long unchangeable and taken for granted. But it is not that this is a dark, hopeless book, but rather that it is a book which lacks simple, familiar answers. It does not wallow in the notion of hopelessness, but rather seems troubled by the fact that hope seems so often leads us to an inescapably hopeless place.In the thirties and forties, this book became a sort of 'test' for intellectuals. It gives no easy answers, yet it displays a wide array of ideas, conclusions, conflicts, and worldviews. So when one literary critic asked another what he thought of Moby Dick, he was asking what he was able to create from this basic toolset of ideas which had no simple, right answer. Unfortunately, this open-endedness has given the book an undeserved reputation of being inaccessible and requiring some vast store of knowledge in order to 'get' it. It is fundamentally a story about characters, and the only thing required to get it is to be a human being with an interest in other human beings. In fact, at one point, Melville makes a parody of the idea of the text which is full of allusions that only experts will understand, with the tale of 'Darmonodes and the elephant', which is not actually a real reference to anything, but was made up by Melville to tease those who are obsessed with dissecting every allusion.Certainly, it does slow down around the middle, when we start getting various explanations about the history and methods of whaling, but the book is not a series of dry explanations, these are the collected stories and ideas of men. Though Melville, himself, only worked as a whaler for less than two years, he researched and compiled many different accounts to create his book. And these explorations of whaling, like the characters, all contribute to our understanding, they build meaning and help to color certain words and actions.There are some terms which Melville likes to re-use throughout, and some of these seem to be stylistic oversights, but his repeated use of the term 'monomania' (monomaniacal, monomaniac) is a reference to a specific psychological condition, which is how Melville intends it to be taken, instead of as a simple description, so I don't count this as a 'favored word' of the author's but an example of specific use of a term.Another of his experiments is to play around with the voice of the book, which starts as a first-person narrative by Ishmael, but also includes Shakespearean soliloquies and choral scenes (complete with stage directions) and a number of scenes which it seems impossible for Ishmael to have witnessed. As with most of the book, these are not obscure, nor do they make the action difficult to follow, they are just more example of Melville's playful experimentation.Indeed, there is much of Shakespeare here, from the speeches of personal intent to the broad humor, the crew's sing-song banter, the melodramatic, grandiose characters, the occasional half-hidden sex joke, and the references to Biblical and Greek myth. But being a modern author, Melville's writing is easier to comprehend, particularly because much of his styling and pacing has passed into the modern form of books, movies, and television.There are also some particularly beautiful passages where the prose begins to resemble poetry, and between the grotesque, funny characters and the thoughtful, careful writing in some scenes, I began to compare the work to The Gormenghast Novels, though while Peake maintains this style throughout, Melville often switches back and forth between styles and tones.So, with all his mad switching about, his vast restlessness, Melville reveals that his own is more of a 'polymania'--an obsession with varying things--and while this does mean that his work has many errors, many experiments which didn't quite pan out, it also means that the book as a whole is completely full of remarkable, wonderful, funny, poignant, charming, exciting, thought-provoking, philosophical, historical, and scientific notions, so that even taking the flaws into account, there is just such a wealth of value in this book, so much to take away from it. And yet, don't worry about taking everything away--that's a fool's errand--Melville did his best to write what he could, trying not to worry about whether it was all perfect, so the least we can do is to be bold enough to read it as it is, and take what we can from it, without worrying whether we've gotten all of it.Walk the beach, and do not worry about picking up every stone you see, but take a handful that please you and know that it was worth your while.

The Red Tent

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4.14 rating

Comment 1: Are you ready to go into the Red Tent? JACOB’S DINASTY: THE REALITY SHOW We have been lost to each other for so long. My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust. This is not your fault, or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed to the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing.Disfunctional family falls short to describe Jacob’s household.Nowadays, it would be easily a high-rating TV reality show!Jacob, a weak man put into the stressing place of being a patriarch of his race, manipulated by his scheming mother and later by his insidious sons.Leah, mostly a good woman BUT willingly played her role in a mean scheme to marry her sister’s boyfriend.Zilpah and Bilhah, with a image of “not killing a fly” but they make surgical comments with the sharp edge of a knife, whenever they can.Simeon and Levi, a couple of homicidal psychos, which they don’t hesitate to kill every single man in a settlement when those men were even unable to defend themselves or even selling one of their own brothers to slave traders.Rebekah, a mother who doesn’t hesitate to favor a son of hers over the other or throwing out a granddaughter from her tribe.Good thing that God already did a flood to rid of all the bad people! Geez! THE FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME FOR DINAH If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully. Stories about food show a strong connection. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows about the details of her mother's life - without flinching or whining - the stronger the daughter.It’s odd that in many descriptions about the book, The Red Tent, it’s mentioned that one of the intentions is to denote a different scenario for the “rape” of Dinah, and while obviously I am not a Bible Scholar, one thing that I did was to read what my Bible says about the brief mention of Dinah on it. And as I understood, indeed Dinah was a fleeting line in the middle of the huge recollection of stories in the Bible, but it was clear (at least to me) that she wasn’t raped, and clearly her brothers were a bunch of psychos (with the exception of Joseph, of course).Besides, Dinah's brothers were clearly psychos but also men of short vision, since if they were so greedy, they could take the "rape" of Dinah into their own economical benefit, and therefore, instead of asking a massive circumcision, they could ask for better lands, with water's supply and a real potential to farm and to pasture, so they could gain something tangible out of their "ruined honor".What they gained killing every single man in that fortress? Nothing!Psychos and stupid! Very bad combination!Clearly, there are several versions of the Bible and all of them are subject to translations and interpretations. My bible is the MacArthur Study Bible, basically since I wanted to have a bible with footnotes and additional info to give a deeper understanding about what’s shown in the Bible.So, I don’t discard the scenario that my Bible’s version isn’t as many others. But taking is account that the Bible (any version) has been subjected to editions, censorships, exclusions, translations, etc... so who can say what really happened?It’s amazing the vision of Anita Diamant, the author, of choosing Dinah, an ephemera, easy-to-forget Biblical character and to develop such rich and complex story around her, to expand her original Bible’s fifteen minutes of fame to her deserved epic legend about her.Because it’s really unfair to see how the twelve male offspring of Jacob became nothing less than THE patriarchs of the Twelve Tribes of Israel......and Dinah? Oh, just the daughter who was raped, having barely a paragraph and disappears from Bible’s records.When you think about Dinah’s role in the middle of Jacob’s direct offspring, it’s clearly odd that the Bible didn’t give her a better position, since she was the only girl between several boys, it was obvious that if God would think in somebody as special in that generation, it has to be Dinah and not the boys.But again, it’s no shock that the Bible (or rather the people who manipulated it) gives importance (in the most cases) to men’s stories only and if a woman was ever mentioned, she must be guilty of something and/or playing a discreditable line of work.It’s amazing that nowadays there are still women in the Catholic’s faith (and to be clear, I am in this religion, but I am open minded and I like to question stuff) since it’s unfair that a woman who goes into the service of God, her highest chance to climb in Catholic Church’s chain of command is to be a Mother Superior, that it’s barely one upper step from being a Nun, BUT a man? Pftt! He can be potentially the Pope!Certainly one of the best things of Anita Diamant’s approach to Dinah’s story is that while she is clearly a likeable character, she isn’t perfect, with or without justifications, she has a dark side in her soul... but don’t we all? And the story isn’t a blind feminist propaganda or a men-hating pamphlet, since if you are objective in your reading experience, you will find in the book, as many sins made by women as by men, but also great women as great men... as in real life.And at last......Dinah won’t be a forgotten Biblical paragraph anymore!Now, not only women but also men will be able to get inside of the Red Tent, to learn Dinah’s story, to keep her legacy, to celebrate her life, and to share it with others.

Middlesex

by

3.95 rating

Comment 1: This is a book about transition.Transition from child to adult to parent and grandparent.From native to immigrant.From brother and sister to husband and wife.From rural dweller to urbanite.From modest affluence to poverty and up again.From loving language to losing the power of speech.From geek to hippie.From war through peace to civil unrest.From belief to unbelief.From rescued to rescuer.From moral probity to corruption and crime.Oh, and one character transitions from female to male.The last of those is the book's USP, but don't let that fool you: it's no more limited to those with niche interests in intersex conditions than it's limited to those of Greek heritage. It is an unusual story, but with universal themes, told by a wonderfully engaging, lyrical, narrator.Few of us fit neatly into binary categories. We all go through many transitions in our lives; the final one is "only another kind of emigration". This book speaks to everyone, not just those like Cal's family who "have always had a knack for self-transformation".PlotThe family originally raised silkworms, so metamorphosis and long threads are at the heart of their lives as well as the story. No fear of spoilers: the key aspects are summarised in the opening paragraphs, starting with: "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl... and then again, as a teenage boy." The rest of the book brings two strands together: Cal's grandparents, Lefty and Desdemona, fleeing the Turks in 1922 as siblings, and arriving in the US as husband and wife, and how that meant Cal ended up with a recessive intersex condition, and is now telling his story. He sometimes addresses the reader directly (shout outs to deus ex machina, Checkov's gun etc).In many respects, it is a conventional sweeping family drama, of the ups and downs of the American Dream: building (and rebuilding) businesses against the backdrop of the Vietnam war and civil rights movement, but with an extra dose of teen angst about puberty (or lack thereof). However, the final few chapters strike an oddly different tone. Octopussy's Garden is partly to hammer home the parallels with Greek mythology (and echo a passage in the middle where Cal muses on the transformations of puberty, using sea creatures as an analogy), but the final intrigue and chase felt very off-key, compared with the rest of the book.There is also "an innate female circularity to the story", perhaps because Greeks believe "that to be happy you have to find variety in repetition; that to go forward you have to come back to where you began." This is compounded by some reversal (like Amis's execrable "Time's Arrow"): in old age, Lefty's mind and memories go into reverse, and in an early section, Cal describes his birth like a film on rewind.Destiny: The Known and UnknownCal is omniscient, not just when he remembers things he wouldn't be able to recall (including being a foetus), but also in terms of how much he knows about other people's inner thoughts and private actions. On a few occasions, it feels a little weird (the erotic significance of the grandmother's corset, for instance), but it's how he makes the more extraordinary aspects of the plot credible: he has already conjured believable characters the reader cares about. Nevertheless, the lack of knowledge often displayed is staggering - yet just about plausible. The most significant examples are that Desdemona and Lefty get away with their relationship, and that no one realises Calliope (as he originally is) is not a girl. There are others, though, such as teenage fumblings and more, at which point Cal "clearly understood that I wasn't a girl but something in between", though the boy involved did not.Some of the ignorance is cultivated. When Desdemona and Lefty fake a courtship on the boat, "Lefty never discouraged any speculation. He seized the opportunity of transatlantic travel to reinvent himself... Aware that whatever happened now would become the truth... Playing out this imaginary flirtation... they began to believe it... it wasn't other travellers they were trying to convince; it was themselves."Forgetting also matters: "Everything about Middlesex [the house] spoke of forgetting and everything about Desdemona made plain the inescapability of forgetting."There are echoes of Greek mythology throughout, which gives a certain weight and tone to how Cal tells it. For instance, "An infinite number of possible selves crowded the threshold" as Cal's parents prepare to conceive him, and it's no coincidence that his childhood church was the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, and that they later move to Middlesex Boulevard. It also creates an additional layer of foreshadowing. Cal's father is conceived after his parents see a play about a hybrid monster, and at a significant medical appointment about Cal, Milton (Cal's father) wears traditional Tragedy and Comedy masks as cufflinks: which way will it go?SexSexual identity is key. Desdemona is obsessed with predicting the sex of unborn children, and Cal himself was only conceived because his parents really wanted a girl (they already had a son) and believed they had found a way to improve the odds of that. He was born at the women's hospital and "It was all around me from the beginning, the weight of female suffering, with its biblical justification and vanishing acts." Nothing unusual was noticed by the elderly doctor, so "Five minutes old, and already the themes of my life - chance and sex - announced themselves."There is relatively little about Cal's adaptation to living as a man (though there is a sweet sideline in learning how to date women, the perils of what to tell them when etc). Most of the story leads up to that realization: the agonies of not developing when her friends do, then growing oddly tall and awkward, struggling with infatuation with girls etc. However, there are glimpses of the adult issues: "I'm not androgynous... when Calliope surfaces, she does so like a childhood speech impediment... It's a little like being possessed. Callie rises up inside me, wearing my skin like a loose robe... But then, just as suddenly, she is leaving, shrinking and melting away inside me". Cal is currently in Berlin and "This once-divided city reminds me of myself." A childhood trip to Cyprus was cancelled by annexation "Cyprus was being cut in half... like all the other places in the world that were no longer one thing or the other."It is incest that causes Cal's condition, but there is no rancour in the telling of the story, perhaps because it's not just Desdemona and Lefty. Other cousins married each other (Cal's parents are cousins, conceived on the same day, who grew up together), and even some couples who are not related by blood have a rather incestuous aspect: a much older husband who treats his wife - in some ways - like a daughter; an engaged couple who split, only for the spurned man to marry the sister of her new boyfriend; one sibling suggesting another experiment with masturbation; a first sexual encounter with a best friend's brother, followed by intimacy with the friend. But none of it's salacious. A quiet irony is that the English test at Ellis Island is about eunuchs. DesdeomonaCal's grandmother is central to the book. In many ways they have very contrasting lives, but there are surprising parallels too. After an initial coldness, there is a special bond between them: Desdemona disapproved of Milton and Tessie marrying, of trying to choose their sex of the baby, and was then upset when her prediction of a boy was wrong. However, she was quickly won over, at which point, Cal "gave Desdemona back her original sin".She had been an innocent village girl, surprised by developments of her own body as well as her heart (and that of her brother). Her "body was a constant embarrassment to her. It was always announcing itself in ways she didn't want to sanction...[her] body was still a stranger to its owner", which applies just as much to Cal. Similarly, just as Desdemona had to reinvent herself as wife instead of sister, and forge an identity in a new country, Callie becomes Cal, "Like a stroke victim [as Lefty was], I was having to learn all the most simple skills" and "I was like an immigrant" to the world of men. Diagnosis and Treatment: What Determines Gender?"From my birth when they went undetected, to my baptism where they upstaged the priest, to my troubled adolescence when they didn't do much of anything and then did everything at once, my genitals have been the most significant thing that ever happened to me."Gender is not always clearcut, "determined by a variety of influences: chromosomal sex; gonadal sex; hormones; internal genital structures; external genitals; and, most important, the sex of rearing." The last is the belief of the doctor, who saw it as "like a native tongue... imprinted in the brain during childhood." Cal, raised as a girl, proves otherwise.Cal's father looks to medicine to "fix" her problem, and both parents react differently: "Milton heard the words that were there. He heard 'treatment' and 'effective'. Tessie, on the other hand, heard the words that weren't there. The doctor hadn't said my name... He hadn't said 'daughter' either. He didn't use any pronouns." Cal is left "poised between the print of genetics and the White Out of surgery." But "we're all made up of many parts."Controversy: Appropriateness and SensitivitySome question Eugenides' right to write a book like this. He is Greek-American, but does not have any intersex condition and is not a trans person. Furthermore, Cal (and his doctors) uses the term "hermaphrodite", which many find offensive when applied to people.As a straight cis woman, with no medical background, I guess I am not really in a position to defend against such criticisms. Nevertheless, I think those who actually read it would find it hard to take offence at the sensitive and insightful way this aspect is portrayed. As for the H word, I expect it's what doctors in the 1960s would have used and there are still places where 5-Alpha-Reductase Deficiency is described in such terms. Eugenides has said: "The story of Hermaphroditus, the beautiful son of Hermes and Aphrodite, is one I retell, in modern guise, in two different sections of the book." and "I'm referring not to a person or a group of people but to a literary character." (From http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/M...)For me, one of the bigger issues is the focus of mid-teen Cal's desires, "The Obscure Object". Calling a girl or woman an object can't be good, can it? Yet it doesn't come across as objectifying in the usual sense. It's more a way of preserving anonymity and distance, reflecting her special, idolised, position in Cal's life. More troubling is the the issue of consent. Minor spoiler follows:If one parter is apparently asleep but enjoying things, and the pattern is repeated over many nights, is that OK? As a plain question, I'd say not, but the way it's described, I'm inclined to sit firmly on the fence. Another tricky aspect is the exploitation (or not) of sex workers; even if it's dressed up as empowerment, I'm not convinced it is. Chapter ElevenCal's brother is only ever referred to as Chapter Eleven (a US statute relating to business bankruptcy); we never learn his real name. This is different from some other characters who are referred to by a nickname, but whose real names are stated.Quotes* "His shortness had a charitable aspect to it."* "A sick person imprisoned in a healthy body."* "She'd spend a decade in bed trying with vitality to die."* "You used to be able to tell a person's nationality by their face. Immigration ended that. next... footwear. Globalization ended that."* "Sparks fly across the city, inseminating every place they land with a germ of fire."* "Motorcars parked like giant beetles... smokestacks rose everywhere, cannons bombarding the atmosphere... stacks in regimental rows or all alone puffing meditatively away."* The Ford factory, "that controlled Vesuvius of chutes, tubes, ladders, catwalks, fire, and smoke known, like a plague or a monarch, only by a color: 'The Rouge'."* African-American area of Detroit in the 50s, "The gloom of front porches and apartments without electricity seeped out into the streets and the thundercloud of poverty... directed attention... toward... forlorn, shadowless objects."* Joining the Nation of Islam, "Women exchange the maids' uniforms of subservience for the white chadors of emancipation."* "A group of boys whose main bond was their unpopularity."* "There is no evidence against genetic determinism more persuasive than the children of the rich."* "In the cedar swamp, verticality wasn't an essential property of trees... everywhere the grey skeletons of trees."* Tranquillizers provide "a kind of viewing platform from which she could observe her anxiety."* "San Francisco, that cold, identity-cleansing mist."Apparently German is bad for conversation because the verb is at the end of the sentence, which means you can't interrupt (wouldn't that make it good?)!.............................................Review from 2008Pulitzer prize winning story of a Greek-American hermaphrodite! Evokes sympathy for the most unlikely things (incest) and plausibly documents Callie/Cal's coming to terms with growing up and then discovering her/his true nature. When telling the family history, Cal sometimes uses the first person, and sometimes her/his name at the time, paralleling her/his feelings of empathy or detachment. Although close to her/his family in some ways, s/he more often refers to them by name (Milton, Tessie) than relationship (father, mother). Takes a slightly unexpected turn towards the end.

Great Expectations

by

3.72 rating

Comment 1: ”I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose had shrunk to skin and bone.” How do you do Miss Havisham? She makes many lists of the twenty greatest characters from Dicken’s novels.I hadn’t ever met Miss Havisham officially, although I knew of her. I have heard of her circumstances, discussed her in English Literature classes, and even referenced her in a paper. She is a tragic figure tinged with true insanity; and yet, someone in complete control of her faculties when it comes to talking about HER money. She was jilted at the altar and like a figure from mythology she is suspended in time. She wears her tattered wedding dress every day and sits among the decaying ruins of her wedding feast. We meet our hero Pip when in an act of charity born more of fear than goodwill he provides assistance to a self-liberated convict named Abel Magwitch. It was a rather imprudent thing to do similar to one of us picking up a hitchhiker in an orange jumpsuit just after passing a sign that says Hitchhikers in this area may be escaped inmates. Little does he know, but this act of kindness will have a long term impact on his life. Pip and the Convict.Pip is being raised by his sister, an unhappy woman who expresses her misery with harsh words and vigorous smacks. ”Tickler was a wax-ended piece of cane, worn smooth by collision with my tickled frame.” She also browbeats her burly blacksmith husband Joe into submission. Mr Pumblechook, Joe’s Uncle, is always praising the sister for doing her proper duty by Pip. "Boy, be forever grateful to all friends, but especially unto them which brought you up by hand!” In other words she didn’t spare the rod or the child. Mr. Pumblechook is one of those annoying people who is always trying to gain credit for anyone’s good fortune. He intimates that he was the puppet master pulling the strings that allowed that good fortune to find a proper home. Later when Pip finds himself elevated to gentleman’s status Pumblechook is quick to try and garner credit for brokering the deal. Things become interesting for Pip when is asked to be a play companion of Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter Estella. The girl is being trained to be the architect of Miss Havisham’s revenge...on all men. She is the brutal combination of spoiled, beautiful, and heartless. She wants Pip to fall in love with her to provide a training ground for exactly how to keep a man in love with her and at the same time treat him with the proper amount of disdain. As Pip becomes more ensnared in Estella’s beauty Miss Havisham is spurring him on. "Love her, love her, love her! If she favors you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces,— and as it gets older and stronger it will tear deeper,— love her, love her, love her!" Never had I seen such passionate. Estella, the weapon of man’s destruction, walking with Pip.Pip is fully aware of the dangers of falling in love with Estella, but it is almost impossible to control the heart when it begins to beat faster. ”Her contempt for me was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it.” His hopes, almost completely dashed that he will ever have a legitimate opportunity to woo Estella properly are buoyed by the knowledge of a benefactor willing to finance his rise to gentleman status. No chance suddenly becomes a slim chance. Pip is not to know where these great expectations are coming from, but he assumes it is Miss Havisham as part of her demented plans for exacting revenge by using Estella to break his heart. He is willing to be the patsy for her plans because some part of him believes he can turn the tide of Estella’s heart if he can find one beating in her chest. "You must know," said Estella, condescending to me as a brilliant and beautiful woman might, "that I have no heart,— if that has anything to do with my memory."The book is of course filled with Dickensonian descriptions of the bleaker side of Victorian society. ”We entered this haven through a wicket-gate, and were disgorged by an introductory passage into a melancholy little square that looked to me like a flat burying-ground. I thought it had the most dismal trees in it, and the most dismal sparrows, and the most dismal cats, and the most dismal houses ( in number half a dozen or so), that I had ever seen.”As I was reading the book it felt like the plot suddenly sped up from a leisurely world building pace that permeates most Dickens novels to the final laps of an Indy 500 race. I was not surprised to discover that Dickens had intended this novel to be twice as long, but due to contractual obligations with the serialization of the novel Dickens found himself in a quandary. He had a much larger story percolating in his head, but simply out of room to print it. Nothing drives a reader crazier than knowing that this larger concept was realized, but never committed to paper. The rest of Great Expectations exists only in the lost dreams of Dickens.Pip is a willing victim; and therefore, not a victim because he fully realized that Miss Havisham was barking mad, and that Estella had been brainwashed into being a sword of vengeance. He was willing to risk having his heart wrenched from his body and dashed into the sea for a chance that Estella would recognize that happiness could be obtained if she would only forsake her training. Pip like most young men of means spent more than his stipend allowed and as debts mount he is more and more anxious to learn of his benefactor’s intentions. It will not be what he expects and provides a nice twist to the novel. There are blackguards, adventures, near death experiences, swindlers, agitations both real and imagined, and descriptions that make the reader savor the immersion in the black soot and blacker hearts of Victorian society. Better late than never, but I now have more than a nodding acquaintance with Miss Havisham, Pip, and the supporting cast. They will continue to live in my imagination for the rest of my life.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by

3.87 rating

Comment 1: I truly feel that if Tom Sawyer were ever a real person, there is not one single method of torture that he could endure that would satisfy how much I want to see this person suffer. All I know is that death would be too kind. Tom Sawyer is a bully. He is insufferably mischievous for no good reason, and the only act(s) of heroism he manages to pull off are to fulfill his own selfish motivations. He has absolutely no value to humankind. He is a conviction character with no arc and no personal growth in the most irritating ways. If I met him in real life, I would not hesitate to break his kneecaps with a crowbar.Have I made it clear how much I hate Tom Sawyer?Now that doesn't mean you shouldn't read the book. The book itself is written well, and it's a significant window to our own past or some such shit, and Mark Twain is an American treasure, blah-dee-dee-blah-blah. Or you can just go read Twain's follow-up, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn instead, because it's all that without having to put up with the unbearable bullshit of Tom Sawyer.Just skip the last few chapters of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when Tom Sawyer shows up again and cocks up everything for his own personal, evil amusement. And no I'm not hiding this for spoilers, because trust me, I just did you a huge favor.-----------------------------------------------------------------------EDIT 6/13/15: Wow, some of you folks are taking this waaay too personal. It's a book review based on a personal opinion. I'm not threatening your children, or stalking your families, or abusing actual people. So relax.Yes, it's maybe a little too scathing (I take back the bit about the crowbar). I honestly did not expect this many people would read this review, or I probably would have toned it down. But I still stand by the basic premise of what I say about the character: Tom's an ass.Now hear me out. I'm not ignoring the idyllic nature of the time period some of you have suggested, nor am I comparing it with any kind of present notions about child behavior. I'm strictly comparing the character of Tom Sawyer to another character whom I adore, one that grew and learned in-story, and touched me and became a big inspiration for me as a threshold for excellent character development. That character is Huck Finn. But, admittedly, not the Huck Finn of this book.So, to those whose cherished book I have unfairly criticized, I'm sorry. I realized my mistake: this review isn't a critique about the character Tom in the The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at all. It's a criticism of Tom at the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I have been unfair to the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as a standalone work, or the character in the context of this book. Instead I have allowed my anger and disgust of the character's behavior to retroactively bleed back from the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Tom's treatment of Jim at the end of the latter book is deplorable, and for me, it tarnished any "fun" the character may have led us through in this first installment. I wonder if those who agree with me aren't judging it from the same perspective as I am. I can't help but look at Tom's treatment of Jim at the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn through the lens of our modern world, when racial tension and abuse (yes, I went there) of blacks and minorities is anything but funny. To me, Tom represents every priviledged so-called Christian that has no moral issues with exploiting others for their own benefit. You can't read the end of Huckleberry Finn and honestly think Twain was just having some "wholesome innocent fun" vicariously through Tom. No, my guess is that Twain did that deliberately and consciously, to make us examine our own actions and treatment of individuals as little more than animals. He chose Tom as the vehicle to make that point. Why? Because Tom is a fundamental representation of privileged little shits who do just that! Meanwhile Huck, the everyman, the one we identify with and grow with, stands by and lets it happen. We hope we wouldn't do that, that we'd stand up to our peers, even those we trust and idolize, to defend what we know is morally right. But it's as if Twain is criticizing all of humanity and saying that, no, even the best of us, who do know better, won't. Because laziness, fear, ignorance, or what have you, we stand by and allow idiots like Tom to run over everyone's life. It's not the outcome or the ending we want for that story. But it's the one that's most realistic....either that or Twain was just looking to make a buck and threw in Tom as product placement. Regardless, the end result is less than flattering. So don't blame me for disliking the character; blame the guy who wrote him that way!

On the Road

by

3.65 rating

Comment 1: There are people, I’m quite prepared to admit, that I am more than happy to spend time with – even an entire week if needs be - as long, that is, as they agree to remain within proper and predictable boundaries. And often those boundaries are pretty well fixed by the covers of the book that I find them in. Look, I don’t mind if you don’t wash or you get so drunk or stoned or both that you find yourself fast asleep hanging onto a toilet to make sure you don’t fall off the world. I don’t care if you wake up in the morning after your head has slid down the side of the toilet and you find yourself covered in proof that US sailors aren’t as accurate shots as they make themselves out to be. I don’t care if you turn up your jazz records so loud that it wakes every single bloody kid down the street so that they bawl out at the full stretch of their lungs from midnight right through to 6 am - just as long as all of those kids and everyone else living in that street who’s bleary eyed and up half the night shut the hell up as soon as I close the covers of the book.Ah yes…I’m not proud, I’ll admit it, I’m infinitely too straight to ever spend any real quality time with Mr Kerouac and his assorted friends. If I was there with them you’d have no trouble finding me. I’d be the guy in the back seat of their car with his eyes tight shut trying to pretend to be asleep, even if I would be listening, listening intently. Just the same, I already know that the bad driving would force my eyelids open just as surely as if matchsticks had been propped in there under the lashes. Yes, yes, I would find the driving the most difficult thing to deal with. I’ve never taken any sorts of objective measurements or done the comparisons that would need to be done, but I just don’t think my penis is small enough to make me need to risk death by car accident so as to prove my manhood. Shit no.Still, this novel rings out and over and through a million imitations. It might well be a sad-but-true fact I’m telling you here, but my bet is that outright plagiarists have made ten gazillion times more than Kerouac ever did out of his beats. They’ve copied him in film and in book and in song. And I’m prepared to say here that there is no question that some of those imitations are nearly as good as Pepsi and some, well, some are more like home-brand Cola, but there have always been others that are not just the real thing, but they’ve even had a splash of whisky added – all pure and inspired. Those imitators taste like originals, either that or they have had their ears whispered into as if by the devil himself (so that it’s just like walking down the middle of a street where all lampposts have their streetlights smashed, but you’re okay and you’re going to be okay because right beside you is Tom Waits himself, and it’s Waits with a saxophone moaning low from an open window of a tenement building here-abouts – like he did that night on track nine from Nighthawks at the Diner). This is a book affected by the rhythms of Jazz and it shows in virtually every sentence. He even mentions one of my all time favourite songs as he’s heading down the road somewhere on a particularly good night – Billie Holiday’s version of Lover Man sticks in his head (and can you really imagine a better song to have stuck there?) It is hard to read this book without a soundtrack of Dizzy Gillespie or Thelonious Monk or maybe even the Lady herself humming in your head, though maybe not singing, maybe just vamping one-handed on some just out-of-tune upright piano while the bass man taps his stings half-heartedly, half-heartedly and no more. Come here and find me a blindman for this piano. Still, there’s always music here, lots of music. And I don’t mean just in reference, but in the beat of the words as they hit the page. Christ, maybe even as residue sound from the keystrokes tapping against the paper scrunched up in an old manual typewriter.Ah yes, ah yes…Like I said, I’m just too straight for the madness of all this. The crazed brothel scene near the end with the young Latin American girls plastered and passed out and violated in expectation of little more than enough money to buy a pack of cigarettes – even if, perhaps, they received much more than that, you know, in the end, even if no one seemed to know how much was actually spent. It was clear from the beginning how much would be taken from all of these all-too-young little angels. Yes, that was all too much for my all too dull and far too prudish categorical imperatives. I struggled and I felt for those young girls and for what was being taken from them for a fist full of paper worth virtually nothing.There was lots of that – lots of the sorts of things that good sons and good employees and good fathers struggle up against and fight up against and find just all too confronting. And I won’t hear any of your half-baked psychological bullshit about repressed desires. I’m not in the least trying to run away from what I want the most. I’m just warning you, that’s all; especially since while reading this book you’ll be brought up smack face-to-face close and right up far on the inside of this guy's head – and some of the places he has plans to take you, well, they aren’t on any Women’s Weekly package plane and bus tour itinerary. I mean that for sure. And your passport, well, that not going to do you any good either, not where he’s taking you. It is best you know right now that if someone asks you for your passport along this road then it’s just as likely that they’re planning to steal it from you. Like I said, I’m warning you, that’s all.Listen to that. That trilling on the piano. That isn’t just there to show off the virtuosity of the guy with his fingers a blur over the keys; no, it’s not that. That’s there to remind you that round about midnight you’re going need to skip and step and jump onto a fright-train and to not forget that you’ve only got one shot and that’s when she slows up just a little bit on the bend. The trill is to remind you that every drink you have between now and then is going to cost you double as you run for that open door, the one with the hand sticking out of the dark and with someone you think you know calling out your name. But think nothing of it now, my friend, put it right out of your mind.Although, if it was me I would recommend you remember – for there’s not a single person here who doesn’t love you, who isn’t your brother; just as there’s not a single person here who won’t leave you for dead out in the freezing cold of the night or abandon you in a strange city with your head stuck down a toilet bowl because the ice cream they recommended you eat this morning, the ice cream they said was a health food, really didn’t agree with the whisky they passed you this afternoon just as they nudged you in the ribs and pointed out that pretty little 15 year old Mexican girl sitting all alone and lonely and lost somewhere deep down in almond brown of her own eyes. The same brown eyes she used to furtively check you over with – what? Has that been for the third time now? Remember, there’s not one of them that won’t leave you to fend for yourself even as they drive off in their fifteen cent taxi with a quick glance back over their shoulder to see you walking stark naked and crying down the street because the Mexican dream girl you'd been talking to finally did get on her Greyhound Bus after she turned away from you spilling your guts into the gutter all almond coloured from the vanilla icecream and whisky you'd mixed together for their health giving properties. And damn it if you weren’t certain, as certain as you’ve ever been, that you had finally and for the first time in your life fallen in love and this time, this time it was for sure. For sure.You’ll either love this book or hate it – cos that's the way this book is. Do you understand what I saying to you? You don’t have to love it just because it’s seminal – if you’re going to love it the fact it is seminal won’t add anything to the pleasure, just as if you are going to hate it the fact it spawned other works of art isn’t going to help in any way either.Ah, I say, ah yes, that’s got to be me now, yes…

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by

4.58 rating

Comment 1: This review contains spoilers.2011 REVIEW - 2ND READINGI made a promise to myself that I wouldn't read my review from 2007, when the book first came out, until after I'd published this one. I want to see how they compare - what thoughts/reactions etc. had changed, if any, and any additional insights - but it does make me nervous, because I reckon my first review will prove to be much better written - and what if I seem dumber this time around? I find I get a bit muddled from watching the films, too, in that after watching them I can't remember if bits were in the book or the film and vice versa. Oh well. Really must stop over-thinking things! [Scroll down for my first review, from 2007.]The final Harry Potter book always looks too short to me, like, how could everything possibly be wrapped up in a book that's not as long as The Order of the Phoenix, when there's still so much to do?! I felt that the first time, and I felt that again. But once again I admire Rowling's skill in crafting a tremendous story and a powerful ending for what is to me one of the best fantasy series out there. There's a lot going on in this novel, but it's nicely balanced with quieter, slower parts and you really get that last chance to really know Harry, Ron and Hermione. Rowling never lets plot overpower her characters or her story, and she won't be rushed: the pacing is steady and consistent throughout, which only adds to the tension-filled scenes where you start biting your nails.This is a book that makes me cry, and I'll tell you why - in a bit. I wondered how I could share all the things I love about this particular book, and figured listing them was probably the best option. Hedwig dying. I had completely forgotten, and it's so, so sad. I like how they did it for the movie, giving her a role and using her as a visual means of identifying Harry, since in the book it's more complicated. Hermione erasing her existence - removing knowledge and memory of herself from her parents' minds and sending them off to Australia under new identities so that they aren't a target. There is something incredibly tragic about this, though it doesn't get much attention. I can't imagine the kind of strength and resolve it would take to do that, though the realities of the world would probably help give you the resolve. Kreacher becoming an ally. And all for an act of genuine kindness (Harry gives him "Master Regulus'" locket after hearing his story). And what he was made to do for Voldemort. Nothing, not even Kreacher, is black and white, and that's an important lesson to learn. He betrayed Sirius at the end of The Order of the Phoenix, but when you learn more about him, you realise it's not a simple matter at all. Dobby's death. He was such a brave, selfless elf, and as characters, he and Kreacher really brought into sharp relief the whole issue of house elves and their mistreatment. The mortality of the Weasley's. Until this book, they always struck me as one of those solid features who come close to utter tragedy but always manage to avoid it, like with Arthur getting attacked by the snake. Here, though, George loses an ear and, at the end, Fred is killed. Fred's death is one of the saddest things for me. Likewise, Lupin and Tonks' deaths at the final battle - I remember reading that the first time and feeling that sense of utter disbelief. I felt it again here, like someone had surely made a mistake, especially when Harry sees their bodies next to Fred and their described as sleeping. But with a newborn left behind, and the fact that Lupin only recently found the first real happiness he's ever known - to have that cut short, it makes me want to cry just typing this. The deaths of these characters had a much bigger impact on me than the death of Dumbledore - as big a surprise as that was on first reading - at the end of The Half-Blood Prince. In a way, Dumbledore had to go so that Harry could come into his own. But these characters, their deaths are so needless, and they were too young and left too much behind. Snape's love for Lily. I knew there was a good reason why we forgave Snape at the end, but I was glad I couldn't remember exactly what it was. Snape is another complex character, who shows that it's not a simple matter of right or wrong, good or evil. He's not someone to be judged at face value or first impressions, though obviously that's what everyone has been doing all his life. It's not even pity that I felt for him, but empathy at losing the woman he loved and sacrificing everything in memory of her. He never stopped loving her. Timeless love. No wonder Dumbledore trusted him implicitly: he understood the power of such emotions and never dismissed them as insignificant. The truth about Dumbledore's past, and his sister Ariana. So sad. I haven't seen the second half of the movie version yet but I hope they include these details. Harry walking to his impending death, supported by the ghosts of his parents, Sirius and Lupin. I cried when James and Lily and Cedric appeared at the end of The Goblet of Fire, and they had no less power here, bolstering their son and being there so he wasn't alone as he went to Voldemort, knowing he was going to be killed - and not knowing that he would survive it. The dragon kept imprisoned in Gringott's Bank. I felt so bad for the poor tortured beast, and so happy when they freed it. Xenophilius Lovegood. The position he was in, having his daughter taken away and used as a threat against him, to betray his beliefs (i.e., in Harry as the Chosen One). Petunia Dursley, Harry's aunt, is a sad figure in her own right. It becomes clear in this book why she was so anti-magic: she was jealous of her sister Lily's ability. The scene where Lily mentions that Petunia wrote to Dumbledore, asking to be let into Hogwarts, and Petunia's feelings of embarrassment and shame and longing, of feeling excluded - you can't help but feel for the little girl who grew into a resentful woman in denial. There's lots of happy things here too, like Fleur and Bill Weasley's wedding and Ron and Hermione finally getting together, as well as great mini-adventures that all lead up to the final show-down. The plan to get into the Ministry of Magic, and later the Gringott's Bank break-in, for example, were really fun and exciting and scary. And one of my favourite scenes is the Neville Longbottom snake-killing scene - really, I just love all the Neville scenes but that one in particular really stuck in my head all the intervening years since first reading it.And underlying it all is this Hitler-like race and class war that Voldemort is enacting. Muggles and Mud-bloods become demonised and terrorised and everyone has to prove their "purity". The film captured this really well in the set design, especially inside the Ministry.I loved that there was so much I couldn't remember when I started this book - I couldn't remember what the Hallows were, or what was inside the Snitch, or how they found the other Horcruxes. I had forgotten Dobby died until I watched the film a few months ago. It was wonderful to read it almost like it was the first time.And then there's the epilogue - I'll mention it because I remember how much fans railed against it when the book first came out. I'm still not sure why, except maybe it wasn't up to the standards of the rest of the series. I read somewhere that Rowling wrote it at the beginning, which is kinda cool, and shows just how well she planned it all out. The line that I love is this one, where Harry tells his son: "Albus Severus, [...] you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew." [p.607] It gets me every time.2007 REVIEW - 1ST READINGSo, there were huge expectations - and quite a few bets, debates and demands - for this last book, and personally I thought it was a great ending to the series. One of the things that I love about these books, that has always impressed me, is how tightly plotted they are, how detailed. Others have complained about the plotholes in Deathly Hallows, but I didn't see any. Granted, I wasn't looking for them, and I didn't succeed in my intention to re-read the previous books before this one (managed Philosopher's Stone but left it too late for the others) so I had forgotten some details. Deathly Hallows made me laugh, made me cry (seriously, I bawled - and there were no tissues at the cottage so had to mop my face with paper towel...), had me pressing my knuckles to my mouth (the closest I come to biting my nails), and kept me on the edge of my seat. What more could you ask for? Quite a few characters die in this book, but everyone knew there would be some deaths because Rowling said there would be. She's also said, apparently, that the books are about death, though, having read the last book, I understand now that she doesn't mean they're about death, but about death. The whole idea behind The Boy Who Lived was that his mother's sacrifice protected him from the killing curse, and when Harry in turn sacrifices himself, he protects everyone at Hogwarts (where all the characters assemble for the big show-down) from Lord Voldemort. I also liked how the death of Dumbledore (in the previous book) and Snape's betrayal are resolved; I liked that Snape did it all for love of Lily, Harry's mother. It worked, brought out the humanity that has always lurked deep beneath Snape's corrosive veneer. The saddest deaths were of Fred, one of the Weasley twins, and Lupin and Tonks, only weeks after the birth of their baby. Is it any wonder that I cried? And even though there was always the hope that Harry would survive, still the section leading up to his sacrifice was written so convincingly, so non-melodrammatically, that I actually had to put the book down for a minute and do a quick turn about the house to calm myself down a bit. The only bit that looked like a glaring plothole at first was when Neville pulls the sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat to lop Voldemort's snake's head off with. That confused me - last we saw of the sword, the goblin had taken it and disappeared into the depths of Gringotts with it. Then I remembered: Harry had pulled the sword out of the Sorting Hat in the Chamber of Secrets, too. The last lingering doubt is why the hat was on fire and why exactly Voldemort wanted to non-sort them then and there. Ah well, it works for dramatic effect! Another part of the book which has received a lot of flak: the epilogue. Saccharine, it's been described. I have to agree, and it's the only bit of saccharine in the entire series. Apparently it was written way back in the 90s, but I don't think that excuses it. It was like icing on the cake - sickly sweet, not at all filling or satisfying, hiding the cake beneath which is what you really want to eat, as long as you can have the icing too. So we learn how they paired up and what their kids' names are, that Neville is a Herbology professor and, well, very little else. Noticeably, Harry's conversation with Dumbledore in King's Cross Station shows how much Harry has grown and matured. He's moved through his teenage angst and become reliable, responsible, thoughtful, more patient. By not going after the Deathly Hallows, his first impulse is tempered by a new, cooler head. Aside from the humour, reminiscent of Roald Dahl, and the plotting, the character development of Harry is another reason why the books are so enjoyable, and long-lasting.

The Stranger

by

3.93 rating

Comment 1: Let me begin my review with a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre :“At first [Man] is nothing .Only afterward will he be something ,and he himself will have made what he will be”One more quote ,this time from Dostoevsky’s ‘Notes from the Underground’ :“What Man does is not done by his wiling it, but is done of itself, by the laws of nature”‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus is a powerful, riveting novel, where you may feel like an insect caught in a cobweb of thoughts and confusion. It has to be noted that, this novel elicits a blend of ambivalence, tentativeness and solipsism, which, needless to say, is a convoluted framework where Camus started building this mind-racking short novel. The most singular and dominant characteristics of humans are the vivid nature their minds possess, and their profound calibre to draw up conclusions and interpretations of their own. Free will is a lethal possession; If the entire human race was free to use their will, the results would be catastrophic, as you can imagine. Thus religions and cultures have played a pivotal role in bringing the world to an equilibrium of thoughts, so as to pacify their vivid nature, through indoctrination of the human lot with sets of ‘pre-determined’ principles and teachings. As the generations passed by, these very set of principles and morals became embedded in people ever since their infancy. Such people with conformist ideals, eventually, became the ‘majority’.Meursault was very much like you and me, outwardly. Meursault was a ‘Stranger’, an ‘Outsider' because his perceptive view on life was not based on any morals or principles. In a nutshell, his views/disposition were contradictory to the views of the ‘majority’. The word majority, as the word suggests, always has an ‘upper-hand’. They think they are right with the strength of their numbers. Thus the people who don’t belong to the majority have to lapse into the ‘underground’ to speculate their ideas and views (remember 'notes from the Underground ‘?) . People who oppose the conformist or established ideas or people who try to topple the existing ideals are often termed ‘revolutionaries’. They are always a threat, as their existence always poses a threat of bringing about a ‘change’ – distortion/hindrance to the general course of events. Thus, such people are subjected to oppression, they are down-trodden, and they are considered ‘fiendish elements’. Meursault knew for himself that his feelings were dominated/maneuvered by his general health condition (strange!). His feelings tend to cloud/clog when his physical well-being is disturbed. This is too complicated, unfathomable of a reason for the majority to stomach. He is “Strange’ …he is erratic… he is an ‘Outsider’. Why?1,He didn’t mourn for his mother during her funeral because he was tired and sleepy.2.He made love to a woman the very next day after his mother’s funeral because he had a very peaceful sleep, and he was feeling light and jubilant.3.He killed a man because of the ‘scorching’ sun.4.He was reluctant to move to Paris because he didn’t think it was necessary to change his course of life which was satisfactory, and, after all, what’s the difference it makes?Dear people, I have been reading philosophies for quite a long time. So kindly allow me a small digression, which, I think, could be very useful in explaining what I feel: Existentialism is a philosophical idea that expounds, emphasizes, the colossal significance of ‘existence’, ‘freedom’, and ‘choice’. Life, no matter how people may define it, is an uncertainty between two certainties – Birth and Death. Thus existentialism expounds that individuals are entirely free and must take personal responsibilities for themselves. They are bound to derive ‘their own meaning of life’, which indeed is considered as their right.Existentialists never believe in any supreme power or ‘Deity’; they are never pious. They narrow down all their focus to existence, which, to say precisely - ‘Embracing Existence’.Main Review:1. Mother’s funeral:The Novel kick-starts with the news of Meursault’s mother’s unforeseen death . The erratic demeanor of Mersault starts to pick up from the very first page. When he reached the Old age home, where his mother had died , he was sleepy and travel worn . His desire to sleep exceeded his capacity to grieve. This caused a significant turn of events in the latter parts of the novel. Instead of these trivial ratings about his erratic behavior during this scene , I weaved up a short imaginary conversation with Meursault, that might show how his indifference and outlandish behavior manifested itself :Me: Bonjour, Meursault !Meursault: hmm..Me: Why didn’t you shed even a drop of tear at your mother’s funeral?Meursault : I was sleepy and my leg was aching ( feeling embarrassed at the question).Me: Still... She is your mother!Meursault : What’s the difference it makes if I cry or don’t cry ? It all comes to one thing – Nothing!Me: eh!? (confused)Mersault didn’t reply, he was indifferent and longed for me to get out of his room.What!!? Everyone says the same whenever he talks something. He is outlandish, he is strange.. he is an ‘outsider’ ..2. The scene at the court.This scene showcases Meursault’s indifference and ennui, hearing the long tirades and tiring procedures of ‘his trial’. When he saw himself the chief subject of this huge gathering, where people greeted each other convivially, he felt himself to be out of place, a sort of ‘gate crasher’. He was evidently bored of all these conventional wave of events taking place which was trivial to him. He longed to surrender to deep slumber, and to finding solace at his cell .His concentration was solely focused on the countenance of the young journalist and the robot woman, which, to him was more interesting than the actual event happening around him – his trial. He even picked up a sound of a passing ice-cream van which brought him back flashes of enticing reminiscences of his past. How profound and diligent Camus had been in sketching the very details of these scenes in an impeccable and moving fashion!.3. The scene with the Chaplain.This is perhaps the most fascinating and eventful of scenes in the novel. This is the part, where, I think a transformation of the Indifferent Meursault to infurious Albert Camus takes place. This is the major turning point of the novel where Camus (Meursault) grabs the chaplain by his collar and spews out his welling emotions.“In his view, man’s justice was a vain thing, only god’s justice mattered.I pointed out that the former condemned me.‘Yes’, he agreed, ‘but it hadn’t absolved you from your sin’.I told him that I wasn’t conscious of any sin, all i knew was, I had been guilty of a criminal offense.”The scene with Meursault and Chaplain, according to me, was a cogent bout with existentialism on one side and other philosophical ideologies like Theism, Theological Determinism, Conformism and Fatalism on the other side. This confrontation was merely symbolized in the form of Meursault and Chaplain.Also you must have undoubtedly noted that, the background, where the confrontation took place was a ‘Cell’, where Meursault was a prisoner. The whole novel seems lucid on the outside but it actually is a whirlpool of obscure, yet, clear symbolisms, and conflicts between ideas. Camus had deftly layered his novel like a painting of Leonardo Davinci.Part ‘Finale’:Let me bring to you the closing paragraph of the novel. Don’t hurry yourself while reading the last paragraph. In all great, intriguing novels, the final few pages can do a great deal of help in making you arrive at a conclusion-A positive, well formed conclusion that shows justice to your judiciousness. I read the last page of this novel several times, meditated upon it, and formed a conclusion of my own as to the essence of the story .“Almost for the first time in many months I thought of my mother. And now, it seemed to me, I understood why at her life’s end she had taken on a “fiancé”; why she’d played at making a fresh start. There, too, in that Home where lives were flickering out, the dusk came as a mournful solace. With death so near, Mother must have felt like someone on the brink of freedom, ready to start life all over again. No one, no one in the world had any right to weep for her. And I, too, felt ready to start life all over again. It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I’d been happy, and that I was happy still. For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.”I think nothing has to be said more. The last paragraph impeccably articulated what this so-called ‘Outsider’ thought at the brink of his ‘execution’ , how he, ’the stranger’, visualized his final moments – ‘they should greet me with howls of execration’ .4.5 stars on 5 ! -gautam PS : Sky is the last resort of a struggling man to unload his luggage of suffering!It had caught my attention how ‘the sky’ had a great effect on writers - how they find solace in gazing at the calm sky, or how they compare sky to the eternal peace.. I have taken some notes verbatim from some great novels I had the luck to read, so I thought I would share some of it with you.“Above him there was now nothing but the sky- the lofty sky, not clear yet immeasurably lofty, with grey clouds gliding slowly across it. ‘How peaceful, quiet and solemn not at all as I ran’, thought Prince Andrew-‘not as we ran, shouting and fighting ,not at all the gunner and the Frenchman with frightened and angry faces struggled for the mop ; how differently do those clouds glide across that lofty infinite sky! How was it I did not see that lofty sky before? And how happy I am to have found it at last! Yes! All is vanity, all falsehood, except that infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing, but that. But even it does not exist, there is nothing but quiet and peace. ‘Thank God!’”…. – Prince Andrew Bolkonski (War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy)“Gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I’d been happy, and that I was happy still” –Meursault( The Stranger , Albert Camus)“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years,how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of god which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty ,and light the universe with their admonishing smile.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson ( Nature, Selected writings)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

by

4.09 rating

Comment 1: Tonight I just finished reading Charlie and the Chocolate factory with my son. This is the first chapter book I've read all the way through with him. And it was a ton of fun. First off, I'll admit that I love the movie. I grew up with it. (I'm talking about the Gene Wilder version, of course.)I'll even admit to liking the movie better than the book. Which is something that doesn't happen very often with me. That said, the book is really, really good. It held my four-year old's attention. It's silly, and it's fun. And it's DARK. For those of you who haven't read the book, let me underline this fact for you. Dahl takes pains to really detail the fact that Charlie and his family aren't just hungry and poor. They're destitute. Charlie sleeps on a mattress on the floor. In the winter they are cold, and they're starving to death. And if you think I'm exaggerating on that last point, I'm not. One of the chapters is titled: The Family Begins to Starve. But you know what? I like this book better because of that. It's not sanitized pablum written by committee to be inoffensive. It's the story of a little boy who is in a fucking awful situation, but he is still good and kind and polite and then something really nice happens to him. That's a trope I can get behind. Its it a good book to read with your kids? Absolutely. That said, allow me to tangent off and share my thoughts as a total bastard:If Willie Wonka actually hired workers and paid them a living wage, maybe Charlie Bucket wouldn't be starving to death in the first place. Follow me here. Wonka is effectively running a company where everyone is paid in scrip. The Oompa Loompas are paid, quite literally, in beans. Beans that I'm guessing he has the Oompa Loompas themselves growing in some huge underground cavern. Let's not even get into the ethical tarpit of the fact that Wonka uproots an entire indigenous culture and enslaves them. Let's just look at this from a raw numbers point of view. Pure economics. The Oompa Loompas work in the factory. They are not paid. They never leave the factory. That means they don't pay rent. They don't buy groceries. They don't go to the movies, or take taxis ,or buy clothes. But *everyone* buys Wonka's chocolate. That means that money goes into the factory, but it doesn't come back out into the town. As a result, the local economy is crap. And it's because of this that Charlie's dad can't get a decent job. What's more, it's because of this that his dad *loses* his shitty job, and his family is starving to death. Willie Wonka isn't a childlike magic maker. He's a billionaire corporate fuckwit. He's the candy equivalent of Monsanto. There's no government oversight there. Osha would never have approved that bullshit boiled sweet boat and chocolate river. No. Dude is untouchable. And don't tell me he isn't. That shit that goes on with the other kids? Nobody even *thinks* of suing him. None of the parents even *hint* at it. He probably owns half the judges in the state, and a handful of senators, too. He's a fucking supervillian. And I would paid serious money to see a story where Batman kicks his ass. *End Rant* In closing, let me share something that Oot said while I was reading him this book: "Dad, Willie Wonka is just a regular human, but he *is* a little bit of a wizard like you."

The Master and Margarita

by

4.32 rating

Comment 1: This review is dedicated to Mary, the very model of a perfect co-moderator and GR friend.Unlocking the Meaning of The Master and MargaritaMikhail BulgakovIn the decades following the publication of The Master and Margarita, myriad critics have attempted to find a key to unlock the meaning of Bulgakov’s unfinished masterwork. Some viewed the novel as a political roman à clef, laboriously substituting historical figures from Stalinist Moscow for Bulgakov’s characters. Others posited a religious formula to understand the relationships between good and evil in the novel.After giving myself time to think, I believe that any attempts to reduce the novel to a formula reflect some readers’ desire for neat, safe boxes to contain the world. This approach is at odds with the fear-ridden, desperate, and yet transcendent reality of Bulgakov’s experience in writing, revising, destroying, reconstructing, and then revising the novel, up to his death in Moscow on March 10, 1940. The Master and Margarita shows evidence of Bulgakov’s struggles to complete it, especially in part two, which illness prevented him from revising. I believe that the novel’s profound humanity stems from these imperfections, these facets not quite fitting neatly together, these jarring movements from scene to scene. In the end, The Master and Margarita is, by virtue of its own existence, a testament to the necessity of art in times of repression, and to the urgent need for artists to veer from cowardice and hold firmly to their commitment to living a true human life, with fantasy and reality combined, with history and invention feeding into each other, with good and evil providing the shadows and depth that make life meaningful and real.The Master and Margarita as Fairy TaleOne approach to The Master and Margarita that appeals to me is understanding it, in part, as a fairy tale. In the novel, Bulgakov threads together three different storylines, which intertwine, especially at the novel’s conclusion: the often slapstick depiction of life in Stalinist Moscow, seen in part through the antics of the devil Woland and his demonic helpers; the story of Pilate, with names and details transformed from the familiar Biblical versions; and the story of the Master and Margarita. The action takes place in a compressed time frame, so readers looking for character development will be disappointed. Instead, Bulgakov develops an extended allegory where flight equals freedom, where greed and small-mindedness are punished, and where weary artists are afforded some mercy and peace.The Master and Margarita provided Bulgakov with a lifeline to the imagination in the midst of the stultifying culture of Stalinist Russia. There are healthy doses of wish fulfillment in the novel, especially in those sections in which Woland’s minions, Azazello, Behemoth, and Koroviev, wreak retribution for the petty-mindedness and greed inherent in this political and social system. There also is a desperate attempt to resist the Stalinist bent towards monotony and flatness, and instead to weave dizzying strands of magic, fantasy, and power into life in Moscow.BehemothThese attempts to use a story as wish fulfillment, criticizing a social order by turning it upside down in fiction, and recognizing how to use an audience’s sense of wonder as a fulcrum for change, resonate with the historical and cultural functions of fairy tales as described by scholars including Jack Zipes in The Great Fairy Tale Tradition and Marina Warner in From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers. Magic and wonder force the reader to acknowledge other possibilities outside of a reality of political repression, poverty, and war. When fairy tales reveal challenges to misplaced authority, whether in the guise of an evil queen or a greedy government official, they may take on one of two roles: a subversive threat to authority, or a valve to release the pressure of living under severe constraints. Perhaps most important, fairy tales remind their readers that life is miraculous, and that certain freedoms, such as the freedom to imagine and dream, can be nurtured and honored even under the most restrictive regimes. For Bulgakov, the blend of the fantastical and the everyday in The Master and Margarita serves as his manifesto. Throughout his life, he fought to preserve the full human experience, not the two-dimensional totalitarianism in the Stalinist USSR, where human life was flattened of any sense of wonder, creativity, exuberance. Instead, he advocated for human life with all its shadows and colors, with a foundation in imagination and wonder. The freedom he sought was not simply freedom from communal housing or repressive government policies. Instead, he sought the freedom to imagine, to dream, to infuse his life with wonder, and to share his vision. For this reason, any attempt to read The Master and Margarita as a simple satire of Stalinist totalitarianism is misguided. Instead, Bulgakov sought to fly free along with his characters, and in doing so to tap into the universal human need for imagination, wonder, and freedom of the intellect and spirit.“For me the inability to write is as good as being buried alive”Bulgakov and his wife Yelena, c. 1939Although Bulgakov universalized his quest for artistic freedom in The Master and Margarita, he drew inspiration and a sense of urgency from his experiences. A playwright, he faced censorship as his plays were banned and productions cancelled. He saw his fellow writers imprisoned for following their calling. (In response to one of these cases, Bulgakov destroyed one version of The Master and Margarita, which he later reconstructed.)In desperation, between 1929 and 1930 Bulgakov wrote three letters to Soviet government officials, including Stalin, to protest his censorship and beg for a chance to practice his art, if not within Russia, outside it. In the final letter, dated March 28, 1930, Bulgakov movingly describes his ordeal, arguing that his duty as a writer is to defend artistic freedom, and pleading that being silenced is tantamount to death.Although the letters provided Bulgakov with employment after receiving a favorable response, and saved him from arrest or execution, he still faced his works’ being banned and suppressed. He devoted the last years of his life to revising The Master and Margarita, knowing he would not live to see it published, and sometimes despairing it would ever be read outside of his family circle. His widow, Yelena Shilovskaya, worked tirelessly after his death for decades, preserving his manuscript and finally seeing it published, in a censored version, in 1966 and 1967. Planes of Reality: The Fantastic, The Historical, and the TotalitarianAzazello, Behemoth, and KorovievSome criticism of The Master and Margarita comes from the abrupt transitions and changes in mood among the three storylines: the actions of Woland and his minions in Moscow; the transformed story of Pontius Pilate, with some striking changes to the names of characters and the sequence of events which simultaneously make the narrative seem more historical and keep readers off-balance; and the story of the Master and Margarita, which includes Bulgakov’s central concerns about cowardice, artistry, duty, loyalty and love. I believe that Bulgakov purposefully constructed his novel so that the reader would be pulled from dimension to dimension. The effect, although jarring, is one of constant instability and surprise. The reader is immersed in a world where a Biblical past seems more historically based and less fantastic than 20th-century Moscow, where characters who are petty and greedy are meted out fantastic public punishments, at times literally on a stage, and where in the end characters with the most substance and loyalty have their lives transformed through magic.By carefully building this multifaceted world, with all the seams showing, Bulgakov forces us as readers to consider the intersections among these worlds. Bulgakov reveals how we cut ourselves off from the wellsprings of magic and wonder, and invites us to join him in mounting a broomstick and riding off into the night sky, free from the constraints of our everyday lives.The Necessity of Shadows: WolandWolandJust as Bulgakov confounds his readers’ expectations of a unified and seamless world, so he also makes us question our assumptions about good and evil. A key character is Woland, the devil at the center of the magical action. From his appearance in the first chapter, Woland presents an arresting and disconcerting figure. Woland immediately inserts himself into a conversation with Berlioz, the editor of a literary magazine and chair of MASSOLIT, a prestigious literary association, and Ivan, a poet also known by his pen name Bezdomny, engaging in a debate with them about the existence of God. Berlioz parrots many of the current arguments against the existence of God, but Woland deftly counters his arguments in a manner that veers between the charming and the sinister.This debate introduces a theme that runs throughout The Master and Margarita: a cosmos in which good and evil each have their jurisdiction, but work together to ensure that people get the rewards or punishments that they deserve. In a famous passage later in the novel, Woland provides the following cogent description: “You pronounced your words as if you refuse to acknowledge the existence of either shadows or evil. But would you kindly ponder this question: What would your good do if evil didn't exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared? After all, shadows are cast by things and people. Here is the shadow of my sword. But shadows also come from trees and from living beings. Do you want to strip the earth of all trees and living things just because of your fantasy of enjoying naked light? You're stupid."Throughout The Master and Margarita, Woland metes out justice to wrongdoers. However, he does not simply punish -- instead, he also rewards Margarita for her devotion, intelligence, loyalty, and bravery. He rescues the Master from his exile in the asylum and ultimately grants him and Margarita a destiny of peace and rest together. In doing so, Woland overturns our expectations. Bulgakov describes a world where good and evil powers work together to provide some justice and balance in our lives, in spite of the thoughtless and cruel ways that humans behave. As Woland tells Margarita at one point, “Everything will be made right, that is what the world is built on.” The true evil in The Master and Margarita does not rise from Hell, but instead comes from the pettiness and greed of flawed, small-minded humans.The Master and Margarita: Responsibility to ArtThe Master makes his appearance relatively late in the novel, in chapter 13, “Enter the Hero.” However, he is not the traditional hero. He is a broken man, living in an asylum, remembering his love for Margarita, while at the same time turning his back on the art that Margarita loved, protected, and honored: his novel about Pontius Pilate.In a lengthy conversation with Ivan, the Master paints an idyllic portrait of his life with Margarita, who creates a cozy sanctuary full of roses and love, in which the written word is treasured and respected: “Running her slender fingers and pointed nails through her hair, she endlessly reread what he had written, and then she sewed the very cap he had shown Ivan. Sometimes she would squat down next to the lower shelves or stand up on a chair next to the upper ones and dust the hundreds of books. She predicted fame, urged him on, and started calling him Master. She waited eagerly for the promised final words about the fifth procurator of Judea, recited the parts she especially liked in a loud sing-song voice, and said that the novel was her life.”However this idyll comes to a crashing end when the Master completes the manuscript and looks for a publisher. He provides harrowing descriptions of his brutal treatment by the literary world in Moscow, as editors, publishers, and fellow writers publicly criticized him for his novel. These descriptions bear the pain of Bulgakov’s personal experience with censorship and rejection, culminating in the Master’s paralyzing fear of everything around him.Finally, in a scene inspired by events in Bulgakov’s life, the Master attempts to destroy his manuscript. Although Margarita salvages some pages, this scene marks the end of her life with the Master, who turns his back on Margarita and his art. He describes himself as a man without a name or a future, marking time in the asylum. Bulgakov depicts the Master as a broken man, whose loss of spirit and cowardice in the face of adversity led him to lose everything of value in his life.MargaritaMargarita poses a stark contrast to the Master. When we finally meet her in part two, she is grieving over losing the Master, but she also shows herself to be intelligent, energetic, and fearless in her determination to find him and rebuild their life together. In doing so, Margarita is not taking an easy path. She is married to a successful husband who adores her. The two live in a large apartment with a great deal of privacy, a true luxury in Stalinist Moscow. She is beautiful, but she cannot put behind her deep dissatisfaction with her life, apparently perfect on the surface, but with no depth. She is living a lie. Her despair starts to break when she has a dream about the Master, which she views as a portent that her torment will soon come to an end. After rushing from her home, she has a fateful conversation with Azazello, whom Woland has tasked with inviting her to officiate as his queen at his ball. Margarita handles the interaction with spirit and courage, agreeing to follow Azazello’s mysterious instructions in hopes of learning the Master’s fate.Margarita’s Night RideMargarita is transformed and embarks on a night ride, flying naked on a broomstick over Moscow. After wreaking havoc at the apartment of a publisher who had tormented the Master, and comforting a small boy who awakened, terrified by the destruction, she participates in a moonlight gathering of other magical creatures. Afterwards, she returns to Moscow in a magical car, “After all that evening's marvels and enchantments, she had already guessed who they were taking her to visit, but that didn't frighten her. The hope that there she would succeed in regaining her happiness made her fearless.” The night ride is a symbol of Margarita’s freedom and power.Her fearlessness propels Margarita through her meeting with Woland and his minions, and a surreal evening as the queen of Woland’s midnight ball. Her devotion is rewarded by Woland, in scenes full of magic and moonlight. Although the Master crumbles in the face of adversity, Margarita becomes the ultimate hero and savior through her courage and commitment to the Master and his art.The MoonThroughout The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov uses key symbols to tie together the different chapters and storylines. Perhaps the most important symbol is the moon, which appears frequently in practically every chapter. The moon conveys a kind of otherworldly truth. Characters are bathed in moonlight at critical points in the novel, especially when making entrances, as when the Master first appears in Ivan’s hospital room. Moonlight imparts insight and truth even to the most delusional of characters. The moon lights the night rides of Woland, his companions, Margarita and the Master.Woland and company: Night RideThe moonlight also features prominently in the Pilate chapters, serving as a lynchpin between them and the rest of the novel. Pilate looks up at the moon for solace in the face of his agony from his migraines and his cowardice, with his faithful dog Banga as his sole companion. Bulgakov uses the moon to illuminate Pilate’s torment and his final peace, granted to him by the Master, his creator:"[Pilate] has been sitting here for about two thousand years, sleeping, but, when the moon is full, he is tormented, as you see, by insomnia. And it torments not only him, but his faithful guardian, the dog. If it is true that cowardice is the most grave vice, then the dog, at least, is not guilty of it. The only thing that brave creature ever feared was thunderstorms. But what can be done, the one who loves must share the fate of the one he loves."In response to Woland’s prompting, the Master stands and shouts the words that complete his novel, and end Pilate’s torture:“The path of moonlight long awaited by the procurator led right up to the garden, and the dog with the pointed ears was the first to rush out on it. The man in the white cloak with the blood-red lining got up from his chair and shouted something in a hoarse, broken voice. It was impossible to make out whether he was laughing or crying, or what he was shouting, but he could be seen running down the path of moonlight, after his faithful guardian.”Pilate, Banga and the moonBulgakov follows this transformative scene with Woland’s gift of peace to the Master. As she did throughout the novel, Margarita remains by the Master’s side, his loyal companion through eternity. Bulgakov cannot give salvation to the Master, perhaps because of the enormity of his cowardice against art, perhaps because he has been so damaged by a hostile society. In these final passages, Margarita gives the Master, and the reader, a soothing picture of a peaceful life, perhaps one Bulgakov himself longed for:"Listen to the silence," Margarita was saying to the Master, the sand crunching under her bare feet. "Listen and take pleasure in what you were not given in life—quiet. Look, there up ahead is your eternal home, which you've been given as a reward. I can see the Venetian window and the grape-vine curling up to the roof. There is your home, your eternal home. I know that in the evenings people you like will come to see you, people who interest you and who will not upset you. They will play for you, sing for you, and you will see how the room looks in candlelight. You will fall asleep with your grimy eternal cap on your head, you will fall asleep with a smile on your lips. Sleep will strengthen you, you will begin to reason wisely. And you will never be able to chase me away. I will guard your sleep."

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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Comment 1: لا اعرف ان كنت سعيدة من الانتهاء من قرأتها أم حزينة ؟ كانت رواية رائعة .. عميقة ..دفينة ..واقعية ..فلسفية..بعدها الإنساني في دواخل المرأة والرجل ،علاقتهما المصيرية ،و دواخل الإنسان التائه في هذا الكون ...الرواية تستاهل رفيو مرررتب :)------------------هذه الرواية كالحلم تعبر به الى عوالم الداخل الانسانية تساؤلات عظيمة طِرحت عن ... المصير...الاختيار... المسؤلية …. الحمل "ثقيله وخفيفه"...حاله من الافكار الوجودية مع خلفية سياسية اقتصادية ذات ايقاع انساني يعرج على الثقافة والحضارة والإيمان والفن.... رصد داخلي لذات الإنسان رجل أو امرأة ..تسمع حوارات داخلية تجزع من واقعيتها ،الرسم التفصيلي والتحليلي لواقع الروح والجسد وتاريخها ،تصطدم معها ضد النظام .... وتؤلبك على حالة الإستسلام للأفكار الموروثة ...تسألك وتسأل معك عن ماهية المصير .. اشكالية الوجود ... كارثية الواقع .... تفاهة التمسك عذراً بالبداهة ،تسأولات عن ذلك الثقل او تلك الخفة ؟ هل الخفة التي لاتُحتمل ايجابية ام سلبية في واقعها ميلان ابهرني في هذه الرواية، لقدرته العجيبة في اسماعنا فلسفة مليئة بالأسئلة ، توقفت كثيرا عند القسم الثالث حين اورد معجمً صغير للكلمات الغير مفهومة مثل : امرأة، الموسيقى ،الضوء والظلمة، المواكب ، جمال نيويورك ، المقبرة ، القوة ، العيش في الحقيقة "عن الشخصيات "كنت اتوقف احيانا لأ تعاطف مع تيريزا فلم استطيع ، كيف لمرأة ان تتحمل الخيانة ؟؟ تساؤل ظل يراودني كثيرا في الرواية، أعتقد ان خيانات توماس ليست فقط عرضية بل نزعة داخلية اصيلة ، اكتوت هي بنارها طوال حياتها .لا فكاك ان تحملها ماكان الا نتيجة اتكالها على فكرة ان لا أحد لها بعده.تعاطفت حقيقة مع فرانز ، أعتقد انه متورط وضحية "لأفكاره النبيلة "دائماً"بعض الاقتباسات التي أعجبتني "مرة ليست في الحسبان ، مرة هي أبدا،ألا تستطيع إلا حياة واحدة كأنك لم تعيش البتة.---------------------- كانت غير قادرة على إغماض جفن طيلة الليل. أما بين ذراعيه فكانت تغفو دائماً مهما تكن درجة اضطرابها. كان يروي من أجلها بصوت خافت قصصا يبتدعها أو ترهات وكلمات مضحكة يعيدها بلهجة رتيبة. كانت هذه الكلمات تتحول في مخيلتها إلى روئ مشوشة تأخذ بيدها إلى الحلم الأول .كان يملك تأثيرا خارقا على إغفائها وكانت تغفو في الدقيقة التي يقرر هو أن ينتقيها.----------------------لاشأن إلا لماهو ضروري، ولا قيمة إلا لما له وزن----------------------في اعتقادنا جميعا أنه لا يعقل لحب حياتنا أن يكون شيئا ما خفيفا دون وزن . كلنا نتصور أن حبنا هو قدرنا ,وإن حياتنا من دونه لن تعود حياتنا. كما وأننا نقنع أنفسنا بأن بيتهوفين شخصيا بجبينه المقطب وشعره الآشعث ، يعزف من أجل حبنا الكبير لحن : ليس من من ذلك بد ----------------------لا توجد أية وسيلة لنتحقق أي قرار هو الصحيح، لأنه لا سبيل لأية مقارنة. كل شيء نعيه دفعة واحدة، مرة أولى و دون تحضير----------------------ولكنها فهمت فيما بعد أن كلمة"امرأة" التي تلفظها بفصاحة مميزة لم تكن تعبر بالنسبة له عن صفة تميز أحد جنسي الصنف البشري، وإنما كانت تمثل"قيمة".إذ ليست كل النساء جديرات بأن يدعين "نساء".---------------------- الرؤية يحدها حدان : الضوء الباهر الذي يعمي البصر والظلمة التامة. ربما من هنا مصدر كرهها لكل تطرف.فالحدود القصوى ترسم الفاصل الذي تختفي من بعده الحياة.ثم وأن الشغف بالتطرف سواء في الفن أو في السياسة رغبة مقنعة في الموت----------------------الحياة التي تعاش فوق السلم العظيم للخطر والشجاعة والموت المهدد .كانت سابينا تعيد له الثقة بعظمة المصير الانساني ----------------------حين يتكلم القلب لايعود لائقاً أن يصدر العقل اعتراضات .----------------------اذا كنت اقول ديكتاتورية فاني اقصد بذلك ان كل مايطعن ب "الكيتش" ملغى من الحياة: كل اظهار للفردية،(لأن اي نشاز هو بصقة في وجة الاخوة الباسمة) وكل شك (لأن من يبدأ بالشك في التفاصيل الصغيرة يتوصل في نهاية المطاف لان يشك في الحياة بحد ذاتها ) كذلك السخرية (لان كل شىئ في مملكة الكيتش يؤخذ محمل الجد )----------------------ان يكن المرء جراحا ،فمعنى ذلك ان يشترط ظاهر الاشياء ليرى ماالذي يختبي داخلها . ربما هذه الرغبة هي التي حدت بتوماس للذهاب لروية ماوراء الذي ليس له بد، وبكلمة اخرى ، للذهاب لرؤية ماذا يبقى من الحياة حين يتخلى الانسان عن كل ما كان اعتبره حتى الان رسالته.----------------------الحب يبدء في اللحظة التي تسجل فيها امرأة دخولها في ذاكرتنا الشعرية من خلال عبارة----------------------الحياة الانسانية لا تحدث الا مرة واحدة ولن يكون في وسعنا ابدا ان نتحقق اي قرار هو الجيد واي قرار هو السيء ،لاننا في كل الحالات لايمكننا الا ان نقرر مرة واحدة.لانه لم تعط لنا حياة ثانية او ثالثة او رابعة حتى نستطيع ان نقارن بين قرارت مختلفة .----------------------وحدها الأسئلة الساذجة هي الأسئلة الهامة فعلا.تلك الأسئلة التي تبقى دون جواب. ان سؤالا دون جواب حاجز لطرقات بعده.وبطريقة اخرى : الاسئلة التي تبقى دون جواب هي التي تشير الى حدود الامكانات الانسانية وهي التي ترسم حدود وجودنا.----------------------اللحظة التي يولد الحب فيها : حين لا تستطيع المرأة أن تقاوم الصوت الذي ينادي روحها المذعورة ، والرجل الذي لايستطيع ان يقاوم المرأة التي تصير روحها منتبهة لصوته .----------------------لكي نتحاشى العذاب نلجأ في أكثر الأحيان إلى المستقبل.فنتصور أن ثمة فاصلا ما على حلبة الزمن يتوقف بعد العذاب الحالي عن أن يكون موجودا.----------------------علاقات الحب مثل الامبراطوريات ، ما ان يختفي المبدأ الذي بنيت على اساسه حتى تختفي معه ايضاً.----------------------النهر يجري عبر القرون وقصص الناس لاتنفك تحدث على ضفافه، ولكنها ما ان تحدث لتنسى في الغد والنهر لايتوقف عن الجريان .----------------------الانظمة المجرمة لم ينشئها اناس مجرمون وانما اناس متحمسون ومقتنعون بانهم وجدوا الطريق الوحيد الذي يؤدي الى الجنة.فاخذوا يدافعون ببسالة عن هذا الطريق ومن اجل هذا قاموا باعدام الكثيرين ثم فيما بعد اصبح جليا و واضحا اكثر من النهار ان الجنة ليست موجودة وان المتحمسين كانوا اذا مجرد سفاحين.----------------------هل كان يعير هولاء الناس اهمية الى هذا الحد ؟اطلاقا.فهو لم يكن يبالي بامرهم وكان ياخذ على نفسه انه سمح لنظراتهم بان تشوش على افكاره .فهل يمكن لمن كان لايقيم اي اعتبار للاخرين ان يجعل مصيره مرتبطا الى حد بعيد بحكمهم عليه ؟----------------------الحب هو تلك الرغبة في ايجاد النصف الاخر المفقود من انفسنا.----------------------إنّ ألمنا الشخصي ليس أثقل من الألم الذي نعانيه مع الآخر و من أجل الآخر و في مكان الآخر , ألم يضاعفه الخيال و ترجّعه مئات الأصداء ..----------------------لم تكن تملك في مواجهة عالم التفاهة الذي يحيط بها إلا سلاحًا واحدًا : الكتب التي تستعيرها من مكتبة البلدية وخصوصًا الروايات كانت تقرأ أكداسًا منها ... كانت هذه الروايات تمنحها فرصة للهروب الخيالي و تقتلعها من حياة لم تكن تمنحها أي احساس بالرضى .----------------------من يبغي "الارتقاء " باستمرار , عليه أن يستعد يومًا للإصابة بالدوار . و لكن ماهو الدوار ؟أهو خوف من السقوط ، و لكن لماذا نُصاب بالدوار على شرفة السطح حتى لو كانت مزوّدة بدرابزين متين ؟ذلك أن الدوار شيء مختلف عن الخوف من السقوط . إنّه صوت الفراغ ينادينا من الأسفل فيجذبنا و يفتننا . إنه الرغبة في السقوط التي نقاومها فيما بعد فُنصاب بالذعر !----------------------أفلا تُقاس أهمية حدث وكثرة معانيه بارتباطه بأكبر عدد ممكن من الصدف ؟وحدها الصدفة يمكن أن تكون ذات مغزى .. فما يحدث بالضرورة , ماهو متوقع و يتكرر يوميًا يبقى شيئًا أبكم وحدها الصدفة ناطقة .----------------------للصدفة وحدها هذا السحر , لا الضرورة .. وكي يكون حبنا غير قابل للنسيان , يجب أن تجتمع الصدف من اللحظة الأولى مثلما اجتمعت العصافير فوق كتفي القديس فرنسيس الأسيزي ..----------------------إن حياتنا اليومية مفخخة بالصدف وتحديدًا باللقاءات العرضية بين الناس و الأحداث , أي ما نسميه المصادفات : و المصادفة هي لحظة يقع حدثان غير متوقعين في الوقت نفسه .... في أغلب الأحيان تمر مصادفات كثيرة دون أن نلاحظها اطلاقًا ... لكن الحب المُبرعم عزّز في داخلها الشعور بالجمال و هي أبدًا لن تنسى هذه الموسيقى و في كل مرة ستسمعها ستنفعل و سيكون كل ما يحدث حواليها في هذه اللحظة محاطًا بهالة هذه الموسيقى , و جميلًا ." عيوب في الرواية ” قفز شخصية مثل شخصية فرانز الى الاحداث بدون تمهيد ، وكشفه لنهاية حياة اثنين" من أهم الشخصيات في منتصف الاحداث، لم يجعلك ننتظر للنهاية ..فجأة يصطدمك!!!،ومن ثم استشهاده بعملين ادبيين ...بعض القراء مثلي لم يقرؤها من قبل مثل " اوديب ، وآنا كارينا " انا شخصيا لم اقرأها فاذا كان هناك اسقاط معين لاختيارهما فآنا جازمة انه لم يصلني ،للأسف، اكيد لجهلي"هل انصح بها " نعم ، محبي الفلسفة، محبي الروايات ذات الابعاد "النفسية"العميقة. مع الأخذ في الاعتباران الرواية لها بعض الاسقاطات السياسة للفكر الشيوعي

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

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3.83 rating

Comment 1: OverviewFirst person tale of Christopher, a fifteen-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome or high-functioning autism, and a talent for maths, who writes a book (this one - sort of - very post modern) about his investigations of the murder of a neighbour's dog. He loves Sherlock Holmes and is amazingly observant of tiny details, but his lack of insight into other people's emotional lives hampers his investigation. Nevertheless, he has to overcome some of his deepest habits and fears, and he also uncovers some unexpected secrets. It is primarily a YA book, but there is more than enough to it to make it a worthwhile adult read as well. Prime Chapters and Structural QuirksThe structure of the book (chapter numbers are all primes; inclusion of maths puzzles and diagrams) and narrative style (attention to detail, excessive logic, avoidance of metaphor) reflect Christopher's mindset and way of viewing life. It is peppered with snippets of maths and explanations of his condition: how it affects him, and what coping strategies he adopts. The effect is plausibly stilted and occasionally breathless, which is reminiscent of people I know who are on the autistic spectrum and tallies with my limited reading about the condition. (Note that neither autism nor Asperger's is mentioned by name in the book, although in my first edition, neurologist Oliver Sacks does mention it in a quote on the front cover.)Honest but Unreliable Narrator?Christopher's condition makes him very literal - something he is aware of. He can analyse a joke, but still not "get" it. Truth is paramount, so he hates situations where he can't tell the truth (e.g. for politeness) and indeed the fact that "everything you tell is a white lie" because you can never give a fully comprehensive answer to anything. He also hates metaphors (even "the word metaphor is a metaphor", meaning "carrying something from one place to another"), but he doesn't mind similes because they are not untrue. Christopher's feelings about metaphors are highly pertinent to a very different book, China Mieville's wonderful "Embassytown" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), which is about how minds shape language and how language shapes minds, and focuses on the relationship between similes, truth and lies.Many novels are about uncovering what is true, but Christopher's quest takes the idea to a deeper level, and even though we know this narrator is almost pathologically truthful, his condition means his observations sometimes miss the real truth of a situation.There is plenty of humour, and it usually arises from Christopher's naive misunderstandings of situations and the conflict between his lack of embarrassment and desire to be unnoticed by unfamiliar people.Logic and TruthChristopher loves maths because it is safe, straightforward and has a definite answer, unlike life. He's also good at explaining some aspects, ending an explanation of calculating primes with "Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away". His apparent deviations from logic are justified with ingenious logic. For example, having favourite and hated colours reduces choice and thus stress, counteracting the effect of his inability to filter or prioritise: he notices (and remembers) every detail of everything, and can rewind it at will, whereas other people's brains are filled with imaginary stuff. He is a little like his hero Sherlock Holmes, who is quoted saying "The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance observes". Similarly, defining a good or bad day on the basis of how many red or yellow cars is no more illogical than an office-bound person's mood being dictated by the weather.All of this means animals are a better bet than humans: "I like dogs. You always know what a dog is thinking - it has four moods. Happy, sad, cross and concentrating. Also, dogs are faithful and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk". People are more of a mystery: when having a conversation, people look at him to understand what he's thinking, but Christopher can't do likewise. For him "it's like being in a room with a one-way mirror in a spy film". Love is even more unfathomable: "Loving someone is helping them when they get into trouble, and looking after them, and telling them the truth, and Father [does lots of things for me]... which means that he loves me".ComparisonsI reread this during a rather stressful journey, including the passages when Christopher is making a stressful journey. It helped me empathise with him - to the extent that it exacerbated my own stress!It's worth comparing this with Iris Murdoch's The Word Child (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), whose main character has tacit Asperger's tendencies, and The Housekeeper and the Professor (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), which is also about finding number patterns in everyday life, and involves a protagonist whose brain does not work like other people's.

Looking for Alaska

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4.14 rating

Comment 1: Wow. I must've skipped a bunch of pages or read the Hebrew translation or was having root canal or something because that was one terrible book. All those awards-- WHAT??? Such a clumsy story— every move of the author was heavy-handed and so transparent I felt like I was a fly on John Green's ceiling watching him go "Oh that's good-- oh that's just precious" and fall asleep in his soup again. Miles—I mean "Pudge,"as he is deemed within minutes of his arrival at his School of Great Perhaps— may be looking for Alaska throughout this story but I sure knew her right away. She's the pretty girl who's even prettier because she's a bit damaged and makes you feel like you have a chance with her because she's a flirt. Yes, she's a hopelessly thin character, as are they all (with the exception of The Colonel). Takumi, for example, who is supposed to be one of the Big Four around whom this story revolves, is completely characterized by his unrealistic rap improvs ("My rhymin' is old school, sort of like the ancient Romans/ The Colonel's beats is sad like Arthur Miller's Willy Loman") and basically disappears from the story until required by the plot to re-emerge with More Information. Lara, Pudge's first girlfriend, is so bland she is given a Russian accent complete with long e's for short i's ("I put the stuff een the gel... and then I deed the same thing een Jeff's room") to prevent her from evaporating off the page and into THEEN ARE. In fact, each character is carefully provided with a shtick, often a savant-like "talent" that would in reality win game shows but is meant to be That Thing That Makes Him Special: The Colonel can remember capitals of countries to the point of extreme autism! Pudge knows the last words of famous people— only he's so doggone quirky that he reads the biography but not the work of the famous person! And our precious Alaska? She keeps stacks and stacks of books in her room that she intends to read (when she's done selling cigarettes to high school kids, I guess), called her life library (or something), but has wrestled with life's Big Questions alongside some very Heavy Thinking Authors, and can recite poetry, of course. Everybody is way too philosophical and literary for their own good, but god forbid the reader is allowed to think. Lest you miss the point, every moment is interpreted for you: I finally understood that day at the Jury: Alaska wanted to show us we could trust her. Survival at Culver Creek meant loyalty, and she had ignored that. But then she'd shown me the way. She and the Colonel had taken the fall for me to show me how it was done, so I would know what to do when the time came Ok, then—I guess that's what happened, except that's just not the way high school kids work.Even word choice reveals fear we won't get it; if an author has to tell you FIVE TIMES in the book that the character "deadpanned" instead of "said" (the Colonel"deadpanned" three times and Pudge, just a little less dry I guess, "deadpanned" twice) then either the dialogue is not written well or the author believes it is not written well. (The former, at least).So just hanging with these kids leaves one searching for a third dimension, but then the story itself pretty much jumps genres halfway through, from slacker-YA-Holden-mentioned-on-the-back-cover to straight mystery. Why'd she do what she did? Lest I "spoil" this story for you, I won't go into this part, but suffice it to say the above question is left out in the sun to rot while we are forced to look on, sniffing the decay. The story doesn't work in any genre anyway. I know what the story is supposed to do— make me fall in love with Alaska, feel all warm and cozy when the four friends smoke cigarettes, shoot the breeze, and look out for one another, and care when one of them screams with cosmic agony, but alas. Maybe if I wasn't basically tapped on the shoulder and demanded these reactions I would be better at having them, but lines fall flat and soggy like cigarettes tossed casually into some cliche prep-school lake:The Colonel let go of my sweater and I reached down and picked up the cigarettes. Not screaming, not through clenched teeth, not with the veins pulsing in my forehead, but calmly. Calmly. I looked down at the Colonel and said, "F— you."My first Kindle read, too!

Flowers for Algernon

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4.01 rating

Comment 1: "She said for a person who God gave so little to you did more than a lot of people with brains they never even used. I said that all my friends are smart people and their good. They like me and they never did anything that wasnt nice. Then she got something in her eye and she had to run out to the ladys room."Ah! Right in the feels! (Don't worry about the typos, they are supposed to be there!).I read Flowers for Algernon decades ago in its original short story form, this is one of those stories that will always stay with you. If you are a science fiction fan and this story has somehow been overlooked you don’t even need to read the rest of this review, just grab a copy and read one of the all-time greats.The short story version is so memorable that I never really felt the necessity of reading this longer novel length version. Until now that is, I was looking at NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books list and it occurred to me that one of the three top 40 books that I have yet to read is the novel length version of Flowers for Algernon. There are numerous other “Best sci-fi books ever” lists online and practically all of them include “Algernon”.Flowers for Algernon is the story of Charlie Gordon a mentally handicapped young man with an IQ of 70. He volunteered for an experiment to boost his intellect with the result that his IQ is more than tripled. The story is narrated in the first person by Charlie in epistolary format, in the form of Progress Reports for the brain boosting project. Prior to the experimental operation Charlie was living almost blissfully as a "retard" (this very blunt word is frequently used throughout the novel, so I won't employ a euphemism here) he had a simple job he could do and friends. However, he is understandably frustrated that he can not understand most of what is going on in the world. What people are talking about, the jokes he laughs along with, the news etc. After his operation his intellect develops fairly rapidly and he begins to understand that people are not as smart or as nice as he had hitherto believed them to be.The first salient theme of this book that I noticed is that possessing an intellect is a mixed blessing. Ignorance is indeed bliss. As Charlie’s IQ begins to jump by leaps and bounds he finds that his EQ is lagging far behind. Being intelligent does not equip him to deal with people. What happen later on in the book is tragic but definitely ventures into spoilers territory so I won’t go into it.The book is beautifully but unpretentiously written, making for a fast, emotional reading experience. The characters are all believable, Charlie himself, Alice, his former teacher at a school for “special children” and the love of his life, and the various professors. Special mention must be made for the eponymous Algernon, the mouse that has his intelligence boosted before Charlie and become a sort of mini-Charlie, or a trail blazer for Charlie to follow. Daniel Keyes has made the mouse a very vivid character even without speaking parts. His eventual fate is one of the saddest parts if the book.I find that the original short story is a more intense reading experience and has a stronger emotional impact. This is due to the conciseness of the story. The novel, however, fleshes out the story with much more background details about Charlie’s family members, his childhood, his changed attitude toward the scientists and even his sex life. The additional details are interesting enough not to be superfluous but they do not make a great story greater.While the science of the intelligence boosting project is not explained in details this is not actually a “soft sci-fi” novel, there is enough discussion of “competitive inhibition of enzymes”, “cortical control”, “blocking the metabolic pathway" etc. to lend the book some verisimilitude (and to keep hard sci-fi fans happy).There are several notable profound passages in this book, I particularly like these two: “But I've learned that intelligence alone doesn't mean a damned thing. Here in your university, intelligence, education, knowledge, have all become great idols. But I know now there's one thing you've all overlooked: intelligence and education that hasn't been tempered by human affection isn't worth a damn.”Also this existential question: “Who's to say that my light is better than your darkness? Who's to say death is better than your darkness? Who am I to say?”Read it and weep my friends.__________________________________________EDIT June 18, 2014: I have just heard that Daniel Keyes died on June 15. It is sad to lose yet another great author, but I also envy him to have achieved immortality of sorts through his works. Flowers for Algernon especially. R.I.P Mr. Keyes, thank you for this beautiful story which I will always cherish.

The Name of the Rose

by

4.08 rating

Comment 1: إن كنت ستقرأ إسم الوردة فاترك خيالك وراءكفأنت بكل تأكيد لست بحاجة إليهفهنا ستجد دقائق الأشياء تتجلى وكل تفصيلة صغيرة تتوهج أمامكلست بحاجة لتخيل شكل الغرفة أو حجم المتاهةأنت بحاجة لعقلك واعٍ ولكل ما تحمل من حنكة لكي تحاول أن تفهم عند تتمة القراءةما مدى رمزية المتاهة تلك وما هي التأويلات التي يمكنني أن أستقيها من ذلك كله؟;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;هذه رواية امتزج فيها كل شيء بحكمة بليغةفلقد اجتمعت حالات عدة شديدة الاختلاف وتبتعد عن بعضها في الزمان والمضمون وكونت بفضل صياغته الماهرة عالماً واحداً متسقاًإن ما هو أساسي في هذا النص يعودوأستعين هنا بمقدمة كتاب حاشية على إسم الوردة-"التصور الإبداعي الذي يجعل من النص فرجة معرفية لا تنتهي ، أو يحول المعرفة إلى وضعيات إنسانية ترقى على الفردي وتتجاوز اللحظة العرضية الزائلة";;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;إن كان إيكو يخدعك طوال الرواية بأنها بوليسية ويجعلك تبحث وراءه عن اللغز فهو لم يبخل عليك ببعض التلميحات ، تاركاً وراءه بعض الأدلة لك أنت وحدك كي تصل إلى ما أرادك أن تصل إليهأن تعرف ما هو نوع هذه الرواية بالضبط ولما قد تبدو سخيفاً حين تركض وراء اللغز تاركاً الشفرات تداعبك هنا وهناك دون أن تتمهل لحلها؟ !في الحقيقة ولهذا الزخم ولذكاء المؤلف الغير عادي لم أكن أقتفي الأثر كثيراً وانشغلت لبعض الوقت بحواراتي الداخلية جاعلة منها نصاً متوازياً مع الرواية بحين أناقش هذه وتلككان ما بداخلي يفور ويتجلى أمامي بنقش عجيب يجاور منمنمات الرهبانوهناك يد ما تسلط بقعاً ضوئية على النصين بحيث لا أدري أهي من صنع خيالي أم ما أراده المؤلف ويتداخل النصان أمامي فأضطر للتمهل كي أترك إيكو يتلاعب بي قليلاً حتى أستمتع أكثرولكن للحقيقة أظنني خلال قراءتي كنت أتناقش جواره،لا معه;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;عندما تقرأ كماً لا يُستهان به من الكتب تدرك أن ما أورده إيكو هنا عن نص النصوص هو حقيقة غريبة قد لا نعيها أحياناًألا تشعر أحياناً أن كل ما قرأت يمكن بسهولة ضمه في كتاب واحد كبير قد نطلق عليه كتاب العالم مثلاً؟ألا تشعر بمدى وحدتنا أحيانا عندما نعود كلنا للأصل كمجموعة من البشر تقطن على كرة أرضية ضئيلة تكتب وتقرأ في نفس الوقت وتصنع تاريخها؟غالباً ما تتحدث الكتب عن كتب أخرى و تتحدث الكتب نفسها فيما بينهايقول إيكو على لسان غوليالموبدت لي المكتبة مخفية أكثر من ذي قبل فهي مكان لتهامس طويل وسحيق لحوار لا يدرك بين رقّ ورقّ ، وهي شيءٍ حي و مأوى لقوى لا يقدر الفكر الإنساني على السيطرة عليهاهي كنز من أسرار أبدعتها عقول كثيرة وبقيت حية بعد موت من أبدعها أو من كان رسولهاوفكرة ان يصنع إيكو فصلاً هو نصوص كثيرة من كتب كثيرة برطها ببعضها لتصنع وحدة واحدة كانت من أهم ما وجدت في هذه الرواية العجيبةوأعجبني في مقدمة الصمعي لها ذكره بأن " نص إيكو يشبه مكتبة الدير أوالمكتبة المصغرة التي تكونت لإدسو بعد جمع مزق الرقوق وبقية المجلدات التي خلفها الحريق"أحببت هذا التشبيه وأتفق معه كثيراًالصورة لقاموس لاتيني من القرن الرابع عشر;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;كيف صنع إيكو هذا النص؟أرجح أنه خلق عالمه المادي وترك شخصياته تقوده إلى الأحداث ، وترك المجرم ينقاد إلى جريمته دون تدخل منهوهكذا قد تجد نفسك أنت هو المجرم الحقيقي هناوربما تبدأ بالشك في نفسك!في الحقيقة مدى براعة إيكو في خلق نصه تدعو للإعجابفعندما ذكرت أنه خلق عالمه المادي فقد عنيت أنه فعل ذلك بالفعللقد صنع هذا الدير وأراد له هذا المكان الجغرافي وفكّر مطولا في كيفية بناء المتاهة وكيفية تخزين الكتب فيهاكان يعد الخطوات بين كل غرفة و يعد درجات السلموهكذا اختلط التاريخ بالحكاية بالجغرافيا بالفلسفة وكل ذلك في إطار قد تدعوه بوليسياًوأعطيك مثالاًلنفرض أن راهبين في الرواية يتحاوران وهما يتمشيان في رواق قاصدين غرفة معينةفإن المسافة التي يقطعها الراهبان تكون منضبطة تماماً مع عدد الكلمات في الحواربحيث ما إن يصلان وجهتهما حتى يكون الحوار قد انتهي;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;قديماً قال شكسبيرماذا في الاسم؟إن الوردة تعطي نفس العطر بأي اسم شئت أن تعطيهاويختتم إيكو روايته المذهلة ببيت شعر لفيلانكانت الوردة إسماً ونحن لا نمسك إلا الأسماءوالتي يعني بها أن كل الأشياء تندثر ولا يبقى منها غير الإسمما الذي قصده إيكو بذلك وما مدى علاقة ذلك كله بعنوان الرواية ؟في الحقيقة إن القراءة عن تفكيره في العنوان ذاتها ممتعةربما قد تكتشف في النهاية أنه " لا وجود لأي وردة " وأنه يمكن للغة أن تكون قوية كفاية كي تتحدث عن الأشياء الموجودة والغير موجودة بنفس القوة وتمتلك نفس التأثير للإقناعوفي نفس الوقت ربما تكتشف أن الرواية لا علاقة لها بالكلمات!والكثيرون قد رأوا أن التأويل الأنسب للوردة هو فكرة الدوائر وعلاقتها بشفرات إيكو اللامتناهيةفالشفرات تتحول لدوائر تدور حول بعضها وذلك يثير في القاريء العديد من الإيحاءات التي أرادها المؤلف والتي ربما لم تخطر له على بالفالوردة كبنية جمالية تبرهن على ما يحاول إيكو أن يصنع بهذا النص أي التاويل والتاويل المضاعففإيكو أساساً دارس ومهتم بالسيميولوجياأي علم العلامات والإشارات والرموز;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;هذا النص كنت أحاول قراءته منذ ثلاث سنوات وكل مرة كنت أقرأ بضعة سطور ثم أغلقه قائلة العام المقبلعندما أكون أكثر نضجاً ، وجاهزة لهلذا إن شعرت بهذا افعل مثليانتظر حتى تكون مهيئاً له ثم اقرأهلأن الفكرة ليست في أن أول مائة صفحة هى التي ينبغي تجاوزها كي تستمتع بباقي الكتاببل عليك أن تشعر أنك تقرأها مستمتعاً بهذا الإيقاع لأن على ذلك يترتب مدى استمتاعك وتفاعلك مع الروايةولقد استغربت أن ما فكرت فيه كان يقصده المؤلف وذكره في دراسته الشخصية حول كتابته للرواية!;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;لا يمكنني الاختتام إلا بالحديث عن بورخس الذي امتد تأثيره ليشمل الفكر العالمي كله والذي لا ينفك يمتعني بعبقريته لما قام إيكو بهذه الإحالة إلى بورخس؟في الحقيقة حين قرأت وجدته يقول أنه لا يدري وإن كان تأثره البورخيسي واضح تماماً في بنية الرواية عندما توضع في يدك رواية يخترع صاحبها وجود مخطوط غير حقيقي وتقابل فيها حارساً للمكتبة لا يبصر والمكتبة عبارة عن متاهة و تمتليء بالمخطوطات واسم الحارسJorge of Burgosما الذي يمكنك التفكير فيه إذاً خاصة وأنت تتفرج على طبيعة خورخي الأعمى الكاره للضحك ؟لما أراد إيكو منحه هذه الصفات وهذه النهاية؟أية صفات وأي نهاية؟ممممماقرأ لتعرف;)هامش#1قراءة حاشية على اسم الوردة مهمة للغاية وأنصح بها#2بعض اللوحات المختلفة التي تصور الرهبان في العصور الوسطى

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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3.88 rating

Comment 1: Joelle Huertasttttttttt 904ttttttttW.A.t Book Review On The Five People You Meet In HeavenThe Five People You Meet In HeavenBy Mitch Albom208pp Passaic, New JerseyISBN-13: 9781401308582Hyperion $10.80 This book was so amazing that it remained on the New York Best Seller List for 95 weeks. If the book wasn’t that marvelous why would it have remained there? Mitch Albom’s book The Five People You Meet In Heaven is an extraordinary book. You might think it’s a religious book because the title itself, but it isn’t. It is a captivating book that deals with fait, death, and how everything you do affects someone else. I found myself comparing little choices or decisions I made to the ones Eddie, the main character made. I’m not into books about heaven or death but I found myself loving every minute of it. I found myself gasping, crying, and laughing with the characters because of the way Mitch Albom portrays Eddie is so moving. If you want a good fiction book, this is a MUST read!tEddie is a character who is alone in life, no family, no friends, just his job at the amusement park as janitor. It breaks your heart how alone he is. It’s so poignant the way it is written that it makes you want to befriend the aged lonely man.t The way the book starts is like the saying the end is only a new beginning. The beginning is the tragic, horrifying death of Eddie, and the death, or end, is only the beginning to his afterlife and the entry to heaven. The book puts such new perspectives on life to you and gives you knowledge of how to live life to the fullest.tSo many quotes can apply to your life, or help you out. For example Ruby, one of the five people Eddie meets in heaven, says to Eddie “Holding anger is a poison...It eats you from inside...We think that by hating someone we hurt them...But hatred is a curved blade...and the harm we do to others...we also do to ourselves...” I personally love that quote because it help me let go of things because I was filled with anger. I learned to let go, appreciate what you have and to have faith. The book is like having a mentor or role model who teaches you how to deal.tWhile reading the book you find yourself astound on how every little thing one does can alter someone’s life. Take Eddie for example. He is playing ball in the street, when the blue man is in a car. Eddie drops the ball, and chases it into the street where the blue man suddenly has a heart attack due to the scare he is facing of hitting this little boy in the street.tEddie goes through so much in the book. With deaths of every one he loves, to his own death in the very first chapter. He has to learn to accept death, fait, letting go, there are no random acts in life, and that love always wins! The way he learns is so amazing because he is so realistic, he’s a kind, old, and he would sacrifice himself for others. The way Albom shows this it makes you feel like you know him, to me I felt as if he was my grandfather. tEssentially this book is a must read whether you believe in heaven or not. I guarantee you will be moved by this book. There is even a movie too! One thing you will wonder after you finish reading this book is who will be your five people you meet in heaven?

The Metamorphosis

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3.75 rating

Comment 1: “على الكتاب الحقيقي أن يحرك الجراح، بل عليه أن يتسبب فيها. على الكتاب أن يشكل خطراً ما ..” والحق أن (فرانز كافكا) نجح بجدارة في جذبي إلى عالمه الخاص .. نجح في أن يحرك ذلك (الشئ الآخر) في داخلي مرة أخرى بعد أن تناسيته ، ونجح - في الوقت المناسب- أن يظهر ببساطة العلاقة بين الإنسان ونفسه أولاً ثم بين الشخص ومن حوله .. " يقول روجيه جارودي عن " كافكا " وعالمه السوداوي أنه خلق هذا العالم بمواد عالمنا مع إعادة ترتيبها وفقاً لقوانين أخرى تماماً كما فعل الرسامون التكعيبيون في نفس الفترة " - هذا العمل لا يخرج إلا من شخص غارق في بحار الغربة .. ترى كم مرة شعر كافكا بهذه الغربة ، كم مرة شعر أنه غريب عن كل ما حوله .. غريب حتى عن نفسه ..! وكم مرة قادته غربته إلى الرغبة في الموت .. بإعتباره الطريق الوحيد للهروب من هذه الغربة !- في البداية شعرت بغرابة الفكرة ..شخص يستيقظ ليجد نفسه حشرة مقززة .. ثم شرح للمعاناة التي يلقاها للتأقلم مع الوضع الجديد ، فكرة غريبة فعلاً .. لكن البراعة أن كافكا لم يترك المجال للغرابة أن تسيطر على عقلي .. فسرعان ما أدركت عبقرية هذا الكاتب .. كافكا هنا يضعنا بين طريقين لا ثالث لهما .. إما أن تخضع لقوانين حياة فُرضت عليك منذ الولادة فباتت كأنها طبيعية وصحيحة وبهذا الطريق ستفقد إنسانيتك بالتدريج إلى أن تتلاشى تماماً .. وإما عدم الخضوع لهذه القوانين وهذا يعني الفناء والموت .. إما الموت بسلاح الغربة والحزن والصمت ، أو الموت الحقيقي بأن تفارق الحياة التي فرضت عليك .. إلى حياة أخرى تجهلها تماماً وهذه الـ (قوانين) لا تقتصر فقط على الحياة الاجتماعية .. بل كل جوانب الحياة !! وهذا ما حدث لجريجور بطل الرواية لما حاول الخروج عن هذا القانون .. تحول إلى مسخ لا تقتصر مأساته في عجزه عن التأقلم مع الوضع الجديد .. بل في موقف جميع أفراد أسرته منه ونظرتهم اليه لن أخوض كثيراً في الأأحداث .. ولا الشخصيات .. ولن أفسد على أحد متعة التفكير في كل شخصية .. فإدراك قصد هذه الرواية ربما يكون نسبياً .. أو ربما يتوقف على حالة القارئ .. أما أنا فرأيت فيها حقيقة يتظاهر البعض بأنها غير موجودة .. هي حقيقة وجود الإنسان الحزين في عالمٍ ليس بإختياره .. هو فقط مرغم على الاستمرار في العيش مع جماعة من المنافقن والموهومين والكذابين .. مرغم مع عدم وجود طاقة تكفيه لإحتمال كل هذه السفاهات وفي نفس الوقت عاجز حتى عن البوح بما يربض في قلبه من حزن ، فيختار الصمت دائماً للتعبير عن صرخته الداخلية ، ربما يتعاطف معه البعض (كما فعلت أخت جرجيور) .. ربما ساعده البعض ، لكن في النهاية سيتركه الجميع في لحظة هي الأصعب تقريباً .. سيتركه يرافق حزنه في صمت .. كأن لكل شخص جحيمه الخاص ، وجحيم الحزين هو الوحده ، هو الجحيم الذي يجد نفسه فيه أكثر راحة .. حتى يسلم روحه في صمت !! - لفت نظري الوضع الذي صور فيه كافكا الإنسان الحزين أو الغريب (شع ما تشاء من الألقاب ) وكيف أنه دائماً يستسلم للأمر الواقع ، ويظهر الخنوع والضعف لما يحدث .. هذه حقيقة دائمة في كل من تمكن الحزن او الوحدة من قلبه يكتفي دائماً بالوقوف بعيداً عن الأحداث ، والنظر الى ما يحدث بعين الضعف يفشل حتى في التعبير عن حاجته إلى أحبته .. يفشل في إخبارهم بأنه في أمس الحاجة إليهم .. وحتى عندما يتقدم لفعل شئ .. يجد كل شئ ضده !! كما فعل بطل الرواية مع أخته لقد صمم على مواصلة زحفه حتى يبلغ مكان شقيقته , ليجذب طرف جونيلتها , لعلها تدرك ان عليها ان تجىء بكمانها الى داخل حجرته - ذلك ان احدا لا يتذوق عزفها . كما يمكنه هو و لن يدعها تخرج من حجرته ..على الاقل , طالما بقى على قيد الحياة."هل كان سيوران صادقاً عندما قال أن :... “الموسيقى هي ملجأ الأرواح التي جرحتها السعادة ؟ غالباً في النهاية سيرجع مرة أخرى إلى وحدته .. بعد أن يتأكد من أن الجميع لا يهتم بحزنه ، وأن هذا العالم لن يتوقف لمجرد أنه في لحظة ضعف أصبح غريب .. تذكرت مقولة خوان خوسيه مياس في " هكذا كانت الوحدة" ـ“القبول بأنني لا أنتمي لأحد, و لا لشئ, و لا ثمة شئ ينتمي إليّ, قلل هذا من شأني و جعله مثل شأن شبح ما.هذه يجب أن تكون الوحدة, التي تكلمنا و قرأنا عنها كثيرا دون أن نصل حتي إلي معرفة ماذا كانت أبعادها الأخلاقية. حسنا الوحدة كانت هذا: أن تجد نفسك فجأة في العالم كما لو أنك قد انتهيت لتوك من المجئ من كوكب آخر لا تعرف لماذا طردت منه.سمحوا لك بإحضار شيئين يجب أن تحملهما كلعنة ما حتى تجد مكانًا تصلح فيه حياتك انطلاقًا من تلك الأشياء، والذاكرة المشوشة عن العالم الذي أتيت منه !- الوحدة هي عملية بتر غير مرئية ، ولكنها فعالة جدًا” كما لو كانوا ينزعون عنك السمع و البصر, هكذا هو الأمر , في معزل عن كل الحواس الخارجية, و عن كل نقاط الصلة,و فقط مع اللمس و الذاكرة يتوجب عليك أن تعيد بناء العالم, العالم الذي يجب أن تسكنه و الذي يسكنكفرانز كافكا .. يبدو أنني سأزور عالمك كثيراً :))t

1984

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4.11 rating

Comment 1: درحقیقت من این کتابو نفهمیدم. با خوندن ریویوهای دوستان هم بیشتر فهمیدم نفهمیدم. درباره تنها چیزی که میتونم بنویسم، داستانه. اونقد برام سختخوان بود که کلی طول کشید تمومش کنم و وقتی کتابی بیشتر از سه چار روز دستم میمونه، حس میکنم دارم از فضاش فاصله میگیرم و باهاش کلنجار میرم. ولی واقعاً 1984 چیزی بود که شکنجهم میکرد. هر بیست صفحهش قدر صد صفحه ازم انرژی میگرفت. من درباره خیلی چیزا نمیدونم که این داستان سیلی محکمی بهخاطرشون بهم زد. هرچند که صد صفحه آخرو یه روزه خوندم و دیگه متوجه خیلی چیزاش شده بودم Comment 2: فضای آخرالزمانی رمان ۱۹۸۴ از همان ابتدا خواننده را مجبور میکند که تحتتأثیر قرار بگیرد، دلش مچاله شود، رنج ببرد از زمانهای که انگار دیر یا زود فرا میرسد و او را هم مثل وینستون اسمیت مجبور میکند که به ناظر کبیر مهر بورزد! تمام کتابهایی که در سبک سایبرپانک نوشته میشوند قرار است خوانندگانشان را به فکر فرو ببرند و وادارشان کنند به تأمل درباره اینکه چقدر تا ظهور این مدینه فاسده زمان مانده؟ با این همه نمیتوانم بگویم که ۱۹۸۴ کاملاً من را مبهوت کرد.

Fight Club

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4.19 rating

Comment 1: Well, now I reckon y'all have seen the movie, so there's probably not a whole lot that you need to know about this book.You know Tyler Durden.He's the Id, the unchained spirit that wants what he wants and he wants it now. He's the voice in your head that tells you that everything is worthless, that chaos, death and the end of civilization would be better than anything our so-called "society" could ever create. He's the one standing over your left shoulder, whispering "Burn it all down. It'll be fun." He acts in secret, he has an army of minions, and he has a plan.Oh yes, you know Tyler Durden.The narrator of this dark and strange cautionary tale knows Tyler all too well, and tells us of how he and Tyler tried to change the world. It all started very simply - with basement fight clubs where men could let out their rage and frustration on each other. There were very few rules to fight club, but that was okay. Rules were, in fact, the problem. The regimented society in which we live imposes constant rules on us - social rules, cultural rules, corporate rules - that tell us who to be and what to think. The rules of our society have sapped us of our strength and purpose, making us soft. Pliable. Weak.But Tyler's plan doesn't end there - the fight clubs morph into Project Mayhem, a well-oiled anarchist movement, determined to bring down the very fundamentals of our society. With an army at his beck and call, Tyler is sure that his plan will succeed.It's a book with a couple of very powerful messages, one overt and incorrect, the other subtle and accurate. The overt message is Tyler's message - we are a generation with no cause, no purpose. Our lives are governed by what we buy and what we wear, and none of us will die having done anything with our lives. In order to be Real Men, we need to strip away the veneer of civilization - our Ikea furniture, our make-work jobs and our cornflower blue neckties - and rediscover the inner core of ourselves. The brutal, unafraid, unapologetic beast that is Man.This, to no one's surprise, appealed to a lot of people when the film came out because it's a very believable world view. Those of Gen X and beyond are reminded over and over again that the generations before us were the ones who actually did things. The Baby Boomers got herded into the slaughterhouse that was Vietnam, toppled a President, faced down the chaos of the Sixties and fought to change the world. Their parents, of course, were the Greatest Generation - a label that I have come to despise - who fought Hitler and freed Europe. Their parents struggled through the Depression, and their parents fought in the trenches of World War One.What have we done? Until the beginning of the 21st Century, how had we suffered? What had we sacrificed? Not a whole lot, and I think a lot of us secretly believe that we're not only not pulling our weight in the world, but that since we have not suffered, we're not really adult. Our miseries have not been those born of chaos, war and destruction. Ours have been tiny, personal tragedies that are, in their way, insignificant.I can see where Tyler Durden is coming from on this point - I do sometimes look around me and ask, "Where are our great challenges, our Normandy or our moon landing?" And I fear that without these milestones, my generation will never really be taken seriously. Unfortunately, this is about where most folks stopped thinking and decided, "Shit, man, he's right! I wanna start a fight club!" And short-lived fight clubs sprang up all over the country, lasting about as long as it took for people to realize that while Brad Pitt on the movie screen can get beaten within an inch of his life and still look cool, a normal human cannot. They missed the subtle message because it wasn't one that they really wanted to hear.The book is not about the triumph of nihilism over a consumer-driven culture. It's not about being a Real Man. It's not about being a unique snowflake or a space monkey. It's about overcoming both the desire to destroy society and the desire to be completely subsumed by it. It's about the need for purpose, and the need for connection with other people, and what can happen when one is deprived of those things. Tyler doesn't show up because the narrator is rootless or bored - Tyler shows up because the narrator has forsaken people for things. He has replaced personal achievement with material gain, and that's not a very fulfilling way to live.It is a cautionary tale for our generation - you are not your tragedies. You are not the club you belong to. You are not your scars. You are neither worthless nor undeserving.You are what you make yourself to be, no matter what Tyler Durden wants.

Lonesome Dove

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4.45 rating

Comment 1: All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream.This is an epic novel, and the quotation by T.K. Whipple which I provided above is indeed an appropriate epigraph. It's interesting that Larry McMurty originally devised it as a screenplay in 1972 - but the project never went through. Luckily for us the man did not scrape the idea, and decided to turn it into a book. He finally published the complete novel in 1985 to great acclaim, which culminated in it being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1986.The titulary Lonesome Dove is a small town at the very end of south Texas, near the Mexican border. It's 1876 - just eleven years after the end of the Civil War, and a short while since the Mexican-American war which ended up with the U.S. annexation of what is now New Mexico, California, Nevada, and Utah, and parts of Arizona and Wyoming. The U.S. annexation of Texas in 1845 provoked the war - Mexico still considered Texas as a part of its territory, despite Texas revolving against the Mexican government and becoming an indepentend republic in 1836. As a result of the war, Mexico lost about half of its national territory, and the U.S. gained an enormous amount of land which now forms the American Southwest, with the Rio Grande becoming the national border. This was a great loss for Mexico, considering the discovery of silver in Nevada and the fabulous gold mines of California with its gold rush, along with the rich agricultural potential of the region. The war also had a tremendous psychological effects on both nations - the U.S. confirmed its vision as a continental empire, stretching from coast to coast, a land of rich and plenty. For Mexico, the war was a tragedy - as the country has just won its independence from Spain in 1821 the indignity of having its capital occupied and losing half of its territory to the enemy was a deep blow, from which it never really recovered.Big as it may be, Lonesome Dove is not a political novel. The Mexican-American War and the Civil War are relevant to both the setting and timeframe - but never overtake it. The town of Lonesome Dove is populated with Texas Rangers, who used to guard the border against a possible Mexican invasion - and are not getting bored, since the invasion is question is less and less likely to happen. One of the characters mentions that Lincoln freed Africans, not Americans - and that's about it for the politics of Lonesome Dove.Set in a border town, Lonesome Dove seems to be more focused on the shrinking border between civilization and wilderness. The novel opens with the image of two pigs eating a rattlesnake. They are holding it together, by the neck and the tail, "having a fine tug-of-war with it, its rattling days were over". This image - of two domesticated animals swallowing a wild one - is an accurate representation of man's progress in the West: the western expansion of civilization, resulting in expulsion and extermination of natives to pave the way for the settlers - wilderness and nature literally being swallowed by civilization.Lonesome Dove is also a road novel - which I would consider a particularly American branch of fiction. The sheer physical size of the country is irresistible for people who dream of a long journey of exploration and discovery, both of the country and themselves; novels such as On the Road are a testament to that. However, the journey is not always motivated by such desires - sometimes it is a forced journey of desperation and escape, such as the one taken by Oklahomans to California in 1930's after the Dust Bowl, which John Steinbeck chronicled in The Grapes of Wrath. After the Civil War, Texas was almost overflowing with cattle for which there was no local market - but there was a demand all the way up in the northern region in the country. Cowboys herded the cattle and went on cattle drives to Kansas, from where their cattle was shipped to Chicago stockyards via rail. In Lonesome Dove the cattle trail stretches from the border in southern Texas all the way to another border in northern Montana - a truly epic journey, considering the fact that a large part of the trail would have to run through what was still then Indian Territory, with many hostile inhabitants. Indians would not be the only hostile inhabitans as the deserts were full of bandits waiting for easy prey, and the country itself provided plenty of natural obstacles - scorching heat and thunderous storms, deceitful rivers and swarms of insects, the impenetrable darkness of the night.(the expansion of the railorad system eliminated the need for such long cattle drives - notice that none of the characters see any railroad track in the whole book).McMurty manages to walk on the delicate line which divides the romantic from the ridiculous: The West is full of dirt and scorching sun, and the work unpleasant and pays low; the civilization is still in its infancy, its cities and megacities are a vision of the distant future. Still, there is a dreamlike aura hovering around it, pointing our attention to the beautiful bonds and friendship formed between the cowboys and the beauty of their life on horseback on the vast, empty plains, and the bravery of the people who came to settle them, conquering hard conditions which welcomed them with their own hard labor. Sometimes it must have felt like they were the only people on earth, with the vast emptiness of the great plains stretching around them in all directions. But more and more people came, and eventually the land had to give in - as much as they could make it.The novel excels at characterization, bringing to life some of the most memorable characters in Western fiction. Of particular interest are two former Texas Rangers, Augustus McCrae and Call Wood: One is loves a good talk and moving around, and the other is taciturn and still. Augustus is the owner of the two pigs who eat the snake in the opening scene. When Gus is preparing a sign which will advertise their horse trade - which he has no problem stealing from Mexico on night-runs, despite hanging people for the same crime in America - he makes sure to emphasize that the pigs are not for rent.Then, as another afterthought, he had added, “We Don’t Rent Pigs,” which occasioned yet another argument with Call.“Why, they’ll think we’re crazy here when they see that,” he said. “Nobody in their right mind would want to rent a pig. What would you do with a pig once you rented it?”“Why, there’s plenty of useful tasks pigs can do,” Augustus said.The rest of the cast is also beautifully drawn. The novel is not solely focused on the characters of Gus or Call, and features an ensemble cast, where even the minor characters are given an unique voice and characters; it's easy to forget that they are constructions made of words, as they sound real, act real, and all but jump off the page.I found myself thinking about the meaning of the title - (view spoiler)[McMurty says that he thought of Newt as being the Lonesome Dove: an innocent, young and lonesome man, never recognized by his father. But I think that basically all characters are unable to form a relationship - Call refuses to acknowledge that Newt is his son because and give him his name, and is "afraid to admit that he's human"; Lorena is a dreamer, captured by the vision of San Francisco, refusing to pay attention to the feelings of men in the town of Lonesome Dove; Gus is unable to settle down anywhere and have a meaningful relationship with anyone; he was rejected by Clara because of that. Clara is unable to have a son as they all died early; her husband also dies, leaving her alone on the prairie with their two daughters. Even the Mexicans, Bolivar and Po Campo are alone - Bolivar is separated from his family in Mexico and has a strained - putting it mildly -relationship with them. Po Campo is a loner, who keeps mostly to himself. It is perhaps the reason why these characters form a bond, and reach out bravely for the unexplored frontier, hoping for it to be the land of happiness, where their dreams would be realized. (hide spoiler)]

The Godfather

by

4.34 rating

Comment 1: I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse.قد تكون هي الجملة الأشهر فى تاريخ صناعة السينما , ولكن قبل أن ينطق بها العظيم مارلون براندو , كان قد خطها قلم روائي مبدع فى أحد الروايات الخالدة .الفيلم الذى نادرا ما تجد أحد يكرهه (خاصة لو رجل ) فهو سحر السينما مجسدًا , فله تأثير السحر ومفعوله وبريقه الذى لا يُقاوَم. قرأت نسخة إنجليزية لهذا العمل من حوالي سنتين , وللحق فهي أكثر القراءات الأجنبية التى استمتعت بها رغم أنها كانت تجربة مرهقة جدا بالنسبة لي , المهم أننا هنا لا نتحدث عن مجرد عمل روائي بل نتحدث عن نص عبّر عن فئة كا وتم تحويله لأعظم عمل سينمائي على الإطلاق .فنحن هنا أمام نص أدبي مذهل لماريو بوزو , واضطلع بمهمة اخراجه على شاشة السينا المخرج العظيم فرانسيس فورد كوبولا وقام بتأدية الدور الرئيس فيه الممثل الأعظم على الإطلاق وهو مارلون براندو فى الجزء الأول , وروبرت دي نيرو فى الثاني مع ثبات دور المبدع آل باتشينو. وموسيقى هى الأعظم على الإطلاق لنينو روتا.فنحن إذن أمام حالة أدبية فريدة وحالة سينمائية أكثر تفردًا وهذا ما عبّر عنه دو كوبولا بوضوح حينما سُأل عن رائعته فقال : كان لدينا نص أدبي هو الأعظم وأداء مثيلى هو الأروع وموسيقى هى الأفضل , فسأله صحفي : وماذا قمت به أنت ؟فقال له : لقد قمت باختيارهم وجمعهم .أما عن الرواية : فهي عمل أدبي معجز , قدّم فيه الكاتب تصوير شامل كامل لعالم المافيا وخفاياه ممثلة فى عائلة فيتو كوريليوني وشخصيته الأسطورية نادرًا أن تقابله فى عمل أدبي , شخصية العرّاب , فمن خلال هذه الشخصية استطاع المؤلف أن يقدم لك الإنسان من مختلف الاتجاهات والأهواء , استطاع أن يقدم لك شر الإنسان وخيره وكيف من الممكن أن يتحول الإنسان ويمر بتطورات عديدة عبر مختلف مراحل حياته, مع توسيع تلك الدائرة بالقاء الضوء على باقي العائلة والتي تشعر من جودة تصويرهم أن كل واحد فيهم هو بطل للعمل مستقل بذاته.أما عن رسم الشخصيات فمن المستحيل أن يُذكر اسم فيتو كوريليوني دون أن يُذكر اسم مارلون براندو : الذي قام فى هذا الفيلم بأعظم الأدوار في تاريخ السينما على الإطلاق , فإذا أردت أن ترسم صورة للبطل فتذكر براندو وإذا رغبت فى عمق ما لشخصية براندو فى الفيلم تذ1كر رسم الرواية المذهل. العمل قُدم فى 3 أجزاء للسينما وقد شارك المؤلف فى كتابة السيناريو لل3 أجزاء وحاز على جائزة الأوسكار فى أول جزئين , وقد ساهمت مشاركة المؤلف في كتابة السيناريو للسينا في أن يخرج الفيلم قريب جدا للرواية وليس بغريب أن تُعتبر الثلاثية هي أعظم ثلاثية في تاريخ السينما على الإطلاق من وجهة نظر الكثيرين , ويعتبر الجزء الأول هو أعظم فيلم فى تاريخ السينما على الإطلاق (من وجهة نظري) كل ذلك ساهم فى أن يكون النص الروائي والفيلم السينمائي متكاملين لبعضهما البعض قريبين جدا , وان كان النص الروائي يتفوق فى اظهار بعض التفاصيل الممتعة فإن للفيلم بريق التركيز واظهار الأحداث الجلية وتقديمها ببريق هولييود المعهود ولا يستطيع أحد أن ينسى مشهد رأس الحصان والذي كان حقيقيا بالمناسبة :وباقي شخصيات العمل المرسومة من قِبل المؤلف بتمكن مذهل ومعرفة دقيقة بتفاصيل المافيا من مايكل (آل باتشينو) وسانتينو وفريدو وغيرهم من الشخصيات , تصوير المؤلف للأحداث كان مثير جدا ويدل على تعمق فى الدراسة منقطع لها .أما عن لغة العمل : فكانت مرهقة بالنسبة لعدم تمكني بالشكل الكامل من اللغة الانجليزية , وفي بعض الأحيان تبدو لى بسيطة وفى الحين الآخر تبدو لي معقدة صعبة ولكن فى المجمل كانت واضحة القوةفي المجمل : أنت أمام عمل لن يتكرر ولن تقابل مثله فقد كاد أن يبلغ الكمال من لغة قوية وأشخاص مرسومة بدقة وتوصيف مدهش للأحداث , والاهم من كل ذلك هو أن العمل قد نقلك لقلب الأحداث وجعلك تتفاعل معها وقدم لك لوحة كاملة للمعيشة التى وصفها .عمل خالد وتم تحويله لفيلم خالد شارك فى صناعته الأشخاص الأعظم فى تاريخ صناعة السينما على الإطلاق .

All Quiet on the Western Front

by

3.87 rating

Comment 1: … all the memories that come … are always completely calm … They are soundless apparitions that speak to me, with looks and gestures silently, without any word … They are quiet in this way because quietness is so unattainable for us now … Their stillness is the reason why these memories of former times do not awaken desire so much as sorrow – a vast, inapprehensible melancholy. Once we had such desires- but they return not. They are past, they belong to another world that is gone from us.4 ½ Remarque in the WarI got to wondering how much action Remarque had seen in the war. Not much, it turns out. Conscripted at age 18 (he became 18 on 22 June 1916); so in the second half of 1916, or early in 1917. On 12 June 1917 he was transferred to the Western front, the Field Depot of the 2nd Guards Reserve Division at Hem-Lenglet (northern France, somewhere around Cambrai).Two weeks later he was posted to the 15th Reserve Infantry regiment, Engineer Platoon, stationed between Torhout and Houthult. These towns are both in West Flanders (Belgium), not far north of Ypres, in the area that the Germans referred to as the “Flanders Position”.On 31 July, about a month after that, he was wounded by shrapnel (leg, arm, neck) and spent the rest of the war in an army hospital in Germany. July 31 was, probably not coincidentally, the opening day of the battle known as Third Ypres, or Passchendaele. The bombardment preceding the battle had started fifteen days earlier, and by the time the shelling ended at 4 am on the 31st, over 4 million shells had been fired at the German positions. It seems likely that Remarque received his injuries as a result of the bombardment, or the ensuing British advance that day. Aerial view of Passchendaele village before and after the battle We must assume that this was fortunate for young Remarque. Not only did he miss most of Third Ypres, which lasted over three months, into November, and likely resulted in between 50,000 and 100,000 German deaths; but he also missed the German last-gasp offensives of 1918, in which the German Army sustained close to a million casualties.Thus the battle scenes which are related in All Quiet do not likely describe things that Remarque personally experienced in the war. It is a work of fiction, not a memoir of a surviving soldier who experienced battle in the trenches (as is Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That).The writing and reception of the novelAll Quiet is the story of Private Paul Baumer’s experiences in the Great War. Remarque knew some of these experiences first-hand; the rest, at least in their general outline, he no doubt heard from survivors of the war who he talked with in later years.The story first appeared in several issues of a German newspaper in 1928. It was then published in book form in early 1929. In the ten years after the war Remarque no doubt thought repeatedly and deeply about what we find in the story. In my copy of the book, a brief essay appears after the story by G.J. Meyer. Meyer points out that this delayed appearance of the novel worked in its favor, at least in the English speaking world. Had the novel appeared in the early ‘20s he thinks it would have found a German audience almost exclusively. In both America and Britain, Germany was still under the pall of the “relentless propaganda” of the war years – the narratives claiming that the war was Germany’s fault, that the German armies had acted in “loathsome” ways, that the Allied victory had been necessary to “save civilization”. A story eliciting sympathy for a German soldier would have found few receptive readers. By the late 1920s such notions were fading. The novel has found a place at the forefront of anti-war fiction. Within a few years of its publication it was being burned by the Nazis, who viewed its anti-war sentiments, and its depiction of, in Meyer’s words, “a disillusioned and demoralized German soldiery” to be “intolerably offensive.” Remarque himself, living in Switzerland, was out of their reach, but his sister was beheaded by the Nazis in 1943 after she had stated that she considered the Second war lost. (See Wiki.)For more on reactions to the book, see Receptions.All Quiet on the Western FrontThe world of Remarque’s war story can be divided, neither surprisingly nor originally, into two separate areas of reality, internal and external. External reality, the outer world, is the world outside of Paul Baumer, the world he perceives through his senses. Internal reality, the inner world, is a separate place, inhabited by Paul’s memories, emotions, and thoughts. There is also a part of the outer world which forms a connection between these two realities: the part comprised of other people, most importantly of his fellow soldiers. People in this third world are of course external to Paul. But because they each have their own inner world, they can communicate their thoughts and memories and emotions to Paul and to each other.The outer world of the Great WarPaul Baumer’s outer world, even this world of war, includes many different human experiences and their corresponding play on the emotions – comprised as it is of … medical care in military hospitals … roasting a young pig, with all the trimmings … seriously considering shooting a young fellow soldier … being under bombardment … amputations by the bushel … bodies blown apart … swimming a river nude, clothing held high, to meet French lasses … inheriting coats, boots and other belongings from friends no longer in need … being shelled in a graveyard … rain and mud, being wet for days on end … constant lice infestations … making love to a strange young woman … a nude legless torso in a tree … guarding miserable food from rats … injured soldiers drowning in water-filled shell holes … the hell and humor of boot camp … cadging or stealing food … playing cards … screams of agony from wounded men and horses. Near Hooge in the Ypres salient, 29 October 1917 Most persistently it is a horrifying world, tilted precariously toward experiences which work dreadful injury on the inner world. For me the worst of the experiences was related thus:Kat looks around and whispers: “Shouldn’t we just take a revolver and put an end to it?”The youngster will hardly survive the carrying, and at the most he will only last a few days. What he has gone through so far is nothing to what he’s in for till he dies. Now he is numb and feels nothing. In an hour he will become one screaming bundle of intolerable pain. Every day that he can live will be a howling torture …I nod. “Yes, Kat, we ought to put him out of his misery.” … We look round - but we are no longer alone. A little group is gathering …We get a stretcher. The world of comrades: a transition from outer to innerWithout other human beings to share that outer world with, could any person survive? If all the rest were machines? Or shut you off from contact with them? Comrades, the soldier’s lifeline to sanity … Paul’s fellow soldiers - some friends from home, others met during the war … simple camaraderie away from the battle … sheer unthinking valor to rescue a comrade when under fire … the only ones who know what you do of the outer world, because it’s their outer world too … deflecting and attenuating the horror … At a prisoner of war camp, guarding Russians, Paul begins to sense that the enemy too could be comrades.They stand at the wire fence … Most of them are silent … I see their dark forms, their beards move in the wind. Their life is obscure and guiltless; - if I could know more of them, what their names are, how they live, what they are waiting for, then my emotion would have an object and might become sympathy. But as it is I perceive behind them only the suffering of the creature, the awful melancholy of life … a word of command might transform them into our friends … I take out my cigarettes, break each one in half, and give them to the Russians.Then the revelation, under duress, that one enemy is also a comrade, a brother-in-arms. Paul attacks a French soldier who has stumbled into his shell-hole, mortally wounding him, and listens to him dying hour after hour.He opens his eyes. He must have heard me, for he gazes at me with a look of utter terror … I bend forward, shake my head and whisper: “No, no, no,” I raise one hand, I must show him that I want to help him, I stroke his forehead … “I want to help you, Comrade, camerade, camerade, camerade – “ eagerly repeating the word, to make him understand … In the afternoon, about three, he is dead … My state is getting worse, I can no longer control my thoughts … The dead man might have had thirty more years of life … I speak to him and say to him: “Comrade, I did not want to kill you … you were only an idea to me … It was that abstraction that I stabbed. But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me … For