Books That Everyone Should Read At Least Once

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16

Memoirs of a Geisha

by

4.05 rating

Comment 1: Memoirs of a Geisha is an American novel, and as such the attempt at West does East, especially on the complex and delicate subject of the geisha, is compelling, interesting, but also heavy-handed and ultimately ineffective (even more so in the case of the film). It is a wonderful introduction to geisha, Japanese culture, and the East for the uninitiated Western reader, and I can see why the book is popular, but I found it disappointing. For the reader already familiar with the culture, western influences are all too clear and the book comes off as a bit clunky and imperfect. I also had some problems with the general perception of the characters by readers versus the way the characters were actually portrayed in the book--Memoirs is far from the good-willed fairy tale that people assume it is. By all means, read it, but leave it open for critique and remember that a more authentic representation of eastern culture, especially in the details, will come from the east itself.A lot of my critique stems from the fact that this movie has attained such wide-spread fame and been made into a movie, to be sure. I feel like it is being perpetuated as something it is not. Even the introduction to the book (a faux translator's note) perpetuates the myth that Memoirs is an accurate, beautiful, in-depth reflection of the life of a geisha, when in truth it is no more that historical fiction and is written by an outsider. Golden has done his research and is well-educated on his subjects, and I have no problem with people reading from, taking interest in, and even learning from this book; I do, however, think it is important that readers don't conflate the American novel with Japanese reality. They aren't the same thing, no matter how much research Golden did, and if we take the book as an accurate representation we're actually underestimating and undervaluing geisha, Japan, and Japanese culture.Because Golden attempts to write from within the geisha culture, as a Japanese woman, he must do more than report the "facts" of that life--he must also pretend to be a part of it. Pretend he does, acting out a role as if he has studied inflection, script, and motivation. He certainly knows what makes writing "Japanese" but his attempt to mimic it is not entirely successful. The emphasis on elements, the independent sentences, the visual details are too prevalent and too obvious, as if Golden is trying to call our attention to them and thus to the Japanese style of the text. He does manage to draw attention, but to me, at least, what I came away with was the sense that Golden was an American trying really hard to sound Japanese--that is, the effect betrayed the attempt and the obvious attempt ruined the sincerity of the novel, for me. I felt like I was being smacked over the head with beauty! wood! water! kimono! haiku! and I felt insulted and disappointed.The problems that I saw in the text were certainly secondary to the purpose of the text: to entertain, to introduce Western readers to Japanese culture, and to sell books (and eventually a film). They may not be obvious to all readers and they aren't so sever that the book isn't worth reading. I just think readers need to keep in mind that what Golden writes is fiction. Historical fiction, yes, but still fiction, therefore we should look for a true representation of Japanese culture within Japanese culture itself and take Memoirs with a grain of salt.I also had problems with the rushed end of the book, the belief that Sayuri is a honest, good, modest, generous person when she really acts for herself and at harm to others throughout much of the book, the perpetuation of Hatsumomo as unjustified and cruel when she has all the reason in the world, and in general the public belief that Memoirs is some sort of fairy tale when in fact it is heavy-handed, biased, and takes a biased or unrelatistic view toward situations, characters, and love. However, all of those complains are secondary, in my view, to the major complain above, and should be come obvious to the reader.Memoirs goes quickly, is compelling, and makes a good read, and I don't want to sound too unreasonably harsh on it. However, I believe the book has a lot of faults that aren't widely acknowledged and I think we as readers need to keep them in mind. This is an imperfect Western book, and while it may be a fun or good book it is not Japanese, authentic, or entirely well done.

17

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

by

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.

18

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.))

19

Romeo and Juliet

by

3.72 rating

Comment 1: Who does not know the story of Romeo and Juliet? And these immortal lines,"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?""But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.""Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow,That I shall say good night till it be morrow."The very word "Romeo" has become synonymous with "male lover" in English, and the idea of the doomed romantic lovers, whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families, is famous world-wide. It has been adapted numerous times for stage, film, musical, opera and radio; the latest film went on general release just a few months ago in 2013.However, Shakespeare did not invent the story of Romeo and Juliet. He reworked a long poem by Arthur Brooks, called "The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet", written in 1562. The tradition of tragic romances had been well established in literature - in particular Italian literature - for almost a hundred years, but what may be surprising is that many of the plot elements of Romeo and Juliet were all in Brooks' poem. The first meeting of the lovers at the ball, their secret marriage, Romeo's fight with Tybalt, the sleeping potion, and even the timing of their eventual suicides, are all episodes which we usually attribute to Shakespeare. This is characteristic of the author, who often wrote plays based on earlier works. Shakespeare's text is believed to have been written between 1591 and 1595, and as such was one of his earliest performed plays, although not published until later. It was an immediate success; so popular that Shakespeare continued to rework and hone the notes from the play's performances. It was then first published in 1597, with later editions improving on it still further. It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during his lifetime, and has remained so, now being the most performed of all his plays alongside "Hamlet." Although the initial idea for Romeo and Juliet came from the earlier text, it is Shakespeare's wonderful play which is credited with having had such a profound influence on subsequent literature.It starts with a short prologue, in sonnet form, which tells the audience what is to follow. Nobody can be in any doubt that the story is a tragedy about young love, and that it will take their deaths to bring an end to family feuds. We are then straight into the action, which is a masterly piece of writing, full of bawdy references to ensure his audiences' attention, while providing all the background information needed to understand the world of the play. We are immediately told about the long-standing hatred between the two feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues, and then immediately find ourselves engaged by an exciting brawl. Shakespeare cleverly establishes some of the major themes of the play, right at its start. He also portrays all of the layers of Veronese society starting with the servants, right through to Prince Escalus. Many of the secondary characters important to the play are also introduced here; for instance, Romeo's friend, Benvolio, thoughtful, pragmatic and fearful of the law, and Juliet's cousin Tybalt, a hothead, professing a hatred for peace as strong as his hatred for Montagues. A modern audience becomes aware that in the Verona of this play, masculine honour is not restricted to indifference to pain or insult. Tybalt makes it plain that a man must defend his honour at all times, whether the insult is verbal or physical. Mercutio is established as another friend; one who who can poke friendly fun at Romeo quite mercilessly. Benvolio is not nearly so quick-witted. Mercutio is confident, constantly joking, making puns and laughing. He is a passionate man, but his passions are different from Romeo's love and Tybalt's hate. Their passions are founded respectively upon two ideals of society - love and honour - but Mercutio believes in neither. He comes across as the character with the clearest vision. Just as Mercutio can see through words to other meanings, he can also see through the ideals held by those around him. He understands that often they are not sincerely held, but merely adopted for convenience. The characters in this play are multi-layered and complex, and Shakespeare is adept in revealing their subtleties by means of the action. Even as Mercutio dies, he utters his wild witticisms, cursing both the Montagues and the Capulets, "A plague o' both your houses! They have made worms' meat of me!""Ask for me tomorrow, and You shall find me a grave man."The character of Romeo develops significantly from the first impression we have of him as a stock callow youth. At first he is melancholy, distracted and lovelorn, as we expect. But surprisingly he is not lovesick over Juliet, but is in love with Rosaline. This love seems to stem almost entirely from the reading of bad love poetry! We understand from this that Romeo's love for Rosaline is an immature love, more a statement that he is ready to be in love than actual love. Perhaps Rosaline, who never appears in the play, exists only to demonstrate Romeo's passionate nature, his love of being in love. We meet Juliet in scene 3, and learn that in the Verona of this play, her status as a young woman leaves her with no power or choice in any social situation. Juliet at 13 years old is completely subject to parental influence, and is being encouraged to marry her parent's choice of Paris. Lady Capulet observes wryly that that she had already given birth to Juliet herself when she was Juliet's current age, before she was 14.In this way the forces that determine the fate of Romeo and Juliet are laid in place well before they even meet. Parental influence in the tragedy becomes a tool of fate. Juliet's arranged marriage with Paris, and the longstanding feud between Capulets and Montagues, will eventually contribute to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. The reader enjoys the tension, and knowledge that terrible events are about to happen. Events and observations continually reinforce the presence and power of fate. Juliet's speeches have many different facets, and are capable of many interpretations. She often professes one thing, whilst we know she has an ulterior motive, and another intention. This is particularly evident when she is speaking to her parents, knowing that she intends to make her own decisions, she perversely wants to speak her mind, but deliberately couches her words in double meanings so that the truth will remain hidden. Juliet is a strong character in the play, particularly fascinating to a modern reader as she seems almost contemporary. She repeatedly goes against what is expected of women of her time and place, and takes action. The best example of this is when she drinks the sleeping potion. She comes up with many reasons why it might cause her harm, and recognises that drinking the potion might lead her to madness or even death. Yet she chooses to drink it anyway. This demonstrates a willingness to take her life into her own hands - and also hints at future events. There is never just one side to, or interpretation of, any event in this play. It is a portent. Juliet drinks the potion just as Romeo will later drink the apothecary's poison. Another instance of ominous foreshadowing is when the Nurse teases Juliet by saying that she is too tired to tell her what happened when she first met Romeo. This delay in telling Juliet the news is mirrored in a future scene, when the Nurse's anguish prevents her from relating news to Juliet and thereby causing terrible confusion. Another example of delicious dramatic irony is when Romeo is proclaiming his love to be the most powerful force in the world. Friar Laurence advises caution, saying, "These violent delights have violent endsAnd in their triump die, like fire and powderWhich, as they kiss, consume". The reader knows that the play is a tragedy, and that Romeo and Juliet will die. Shakespeare ingeniously manipulates the plot, so that we feel the impending doom, and are swept up in the inevitability of it all. Even the characters themselves are sometimes aware that they are pawns. Romeo cries, "O, I am fortune's fool!"when he realises he has killed Tybalt. He knows that by killing his new wife's cousin, he will be banished from Verona, and feels the inevitability of the situation. This emphasises the sense of fate - or fortune - that hangs over the play. Juliet also indicates in her speeches the power of fate and predestination. In her final scene with Romeo, the last moment they spend alive together, she says that he appears pale, as if he were dead. She looks out of her window and cries, "O God, I have an ill-divining soul! Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low, As one dead in the bottom of a tomb."This vision blatantly foreshadows the end of the play. The next time she sees Romeo, he will be dead. Friar Laurence is a pivotal character in the play. When we first see him he is collecting herbs and flowers for medicinal purposes, demonstrating a deep knowledge of the properties of the plants he collects, and alerting the reader to what may be to come. He meditates on the duality of good and evil that exists in all things; another clearly portentous speech. Referring to the plants, Friar Laurence says that, although everything in nature has a useful purpose, it can also lead to misfortune if used improperly, "For naught so vile that on the earth doth live But to the earth some special good doth give, Nor aught so good but strain'd from that fair use Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse: Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied; And vice sometime's by action dignified". Friar Laurence ruminates on how good may be perverted to evil and evil may be purified by good. By making plans to marry Romeo and Juliet, he hopes that the good of their love will reverse the evil of the hatred between the feuding families. Shakespeare portrays him as a benign, wise philosopher. But his schemes also serve as tools of fate; secretly marrying the two lovers, sending Romeo to Mantua, and staging Juliet's apparent death. The tragic failure of his plans are outside his responsibility, and due to chance.The structure of the play is carefully controlled; it would be interesting at this distance to read the earlier versions. Different poetic forms are used by different characters, and sometimes the form changes as the character develops. There are many instances of the sonnet, as the reader would expect, because it is a perfect, idealised poetic form often used to write about love. The play starts with a Prologue in sonnet form, a masterly precis of the story. As it describes Romeo and Juliet’s eventual death, it also helps to create the sense of fate that permeates the entire play.Romeo himself, develops his expertise in the sonnet over the course of the play. When Romeo and Juliet meet they speak just fourteen lines before their first kiss. These fourteen lines make up a shared sonnet, which creates a link between their love and their tragic destiny, as told in the introductory prologue. There are numerous instances of such tightly written formal structure, which is remarkable in such an early play. Even the dramatic action of the play has a tight schedule, spanning just 4 days. Perhaps this is why many of the most important scenes, such as the balcony scene, take place either very late at night or very early in the morning. Shakespeare makes great use of effects such as switching between comedy and tragedy to heighten the tension, and bringing minor characters into the foreground to increase depth and interest. His additional use of sub-plots to enrich the story, is often cited as an early sign of his dramatic skill.This play has everything; love, beauty, and romance, but also sudden, fatal violence early on. Viciousness and danger are continually present, yet just at the point when they threaten to overcome the reader, the action will be tempered by wit, comedy and humour. We are in a masculine world in which notions of honour, pride, and status are prone to erupt in a fury of conflict, but there is a strong female who defies her confined expectations. Rashness, vengeance, passion, grief; they are all here. The motif of fate continues to the very end of the play. Romeo proclaims, "Then I defy you, stars" and"I will lie with thee tonight" in a last desperate attempt to control his own destiny by spending eternity with Juliet.Yet in this ultimate example of tragic irony, this defiant act seals both his fate, and their double suicide. Shakespeare tells his audience that nothing can withstand the power of fate. The neat twists of the ending are supremely ironic, devastating and heart-wrenching. Here is Romeo, in despair,"O true apothecary!Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die."And on waking, Juliet,"I will kiss thy lips;Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,To make die with a restorative...O happy dagger!This is thy sheath...There rust and let me die!"It is said that the best way to appreciate Shakespeare is to go to a live performance of a play. Of course in one sense this is true of any play; the live action is how the play was intended to be experienced. But there is a lot to be said for reading Shakespeare on the page. The structure and poetry of the language is so much more evident. The puns and in-jokes are so much clearer. The reader can give pause to properly interpret the manifold meanings of both the exciting events and the rousing speeches. And above all we can marvel at the mastery of a writer who can still speak to us with relevance, move us with poetry and story, and entertain his audience well over 400 years later."For never was a story of more woe Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

20

Divergent

by

4.29 rating

Comment 1: Okay, so the movie came out on disk, and I was surfing one of my favorite channels on YouTube, when I found this video by CinemaSins. It's a fun and irreverent bit of criticism. Enjoy!Since I managed to get 100 likes before the movie came out, I will be reviewing Insurgent and Allegiant in the future. It may be a while though. Life is a bit in the way.Okay, time to get serious. I wish I could be funny like my Mortal Instrument reviews, but my intellectual has kicked in because this book manages to be defined as part of a genre that I have always adored, especially in short stories.Before I begin, my usual disclaimer that this review will contain logic, griping, complaining, spoilers, and the general deconstruction of everything that the fans hold dear. If you wish to berate me for this, don't waste your time. Nothing you say will convince me. This book is just that bad.So, my initial reaction was thus:Dramatic, I know. But not as dramatic as wanting to take a shot gun or lighter to a library book. I'm at least glad I didn't pay for it.To get into the mood, some foreplay.Beatrice - the main character - lives in a Chicago where everyone is divided up into six groups. The Abnegation (selfless people), Dauntless (brave people), Erudite (intelligent people), Amity (friendly people), Candor (honest people), and the Factionless. When a child reaches sixteen, they must take a test that will tell them what faction they belong into, but then they still get to pick the faction. Now, each faction has a specific lot in life.Let's break it down, shall we?Abnegation: (Noun) The act of instance of abnegating, or denying oneself some rights, conveniences, etc. This is Beatrice's faction. They are supposed to be entirely selfless. They wear all gray, eat insipid food, and everything is considered self-indulgent to them. You could say they are beyond Amish. Oh, and every member of the government is Abnegation. Every member. Yeah. They're referred to as "selfless leaders in government" at one point, but when is it ever smart to have one faction in control? Here is the kicker, they aren't the bad guys. They actually don't do anything wrong that an oppressive regime would do, like make the rest of the factions give up "indulgences" or go to mass every day. They are doormats.Dauntless: (Adjective) Not to be intimidated; fearless; intrepid; bold. This is the faction Beatrice joins. They are defined as "protection from threats both within and without." They are the security forces of Roth Chicago. The truth is that the Dauntless are reckless idiots. Their transportation is a train that never stops, so they must jump from it. They dye their hair, get piercings and tattoos, and wear tight clothes. They are more like rebellious high schoolers than a militant force. I'll write more about them later since the reader spends the most time with this faction. I'll at least add that they are proof of Roth's lazy writing.Erudite: (Adjective) Characterized by great knowledge; learned or scholarly. The faction Beatrice's brother, Caleb, joins. The book defines them as "intelligent teachers and researchers." If a society could have and R&D department, this would be it. I'm sad to say that smart people are not depicted well in this story. They are shown to be smug, mean, and power hungry. There are no scientists who understand that scientific break-throughs are a double edged blade; one side will do good and another evil. This faction is the bad guy because they believe the Abnegation are holding back prosperity and progress. That would make sense if their way of going about it wasn't so stupid. Slander and brainwashing never works in the end.Amity: (Noun) (1) Friendship; peaceful harmony. (2) Mutual understanding and a peaceful relationship, especially between nations; peace, accord. Book defines as "understanding counselors and caretakers." They do the farming and smile a lot. That's the extent of it.Candor: (Noun) (1) The state or quality of being frank, open, and sincere in speech or expression; candidness. (2) Freedom from bias; fairness; impartiality. Most of Beatrice's fellow Dauntless initiates are from Candor. The book defines them as "trustworthy and sound leaders in law." Yes. They are all lawyers that we know of. They're supposed to be honest people, but they're honest to the point of being rude and come across as being quite judgmental. They also dress like Mormon missionaries because they believe the truth is black and white. How has a faction full of completely honest people not killed each other already? It would be like living with a bunch of Sherlocks in a John Grisham novel.The Factionless: Those that did not pass the initiation for their chosen factions or dropped out. They are essentially homeless day laborers who are paid in food and clothes. They live in old subway tunnels. No body loves them or wants to be them. The only thing people fear more than being factionless is the prospect of war. No executions or murders or anything like that. Just being factionless and an abstract idea of war. I have a headache now.Okay, now that we have the basics, what is the economy like? Oh, Roth doesn't tell us. Then what world shattering event led to the formation of the factions? It says they were formed by different people who believed those were the most important traits, but not why? No bad weather. No nuclear war. No civil war. No raising tides. Nothing. Nada. Then why is Lake Michigan an effing marsh? Not only that, but do you know how many cities there are on the edges of Lake Michigan? How are they not fighting Chicago over water if it's scarce?Okay. Okay. Maybe I'm over-thinking her TOTAL LACK OF WORLD BUILDING. I mean, I've seen more world building in short stories, and the short story format isn't even set up for world building. Despite the little bit of information on the factions, the reader knows almost nothing about this society Roth has set up. None of it makes a lick of sense. If I sat down and mapped out how the different functions interacted and what held them together, there would be squat. It's more entirely dysfunctional than a dystopia. And what makes a dystopia exactly?I believe this paragraph from John Joseph Adam's Introduction from his anthology of dystopian short stories, Brave New Worlds, sums it up the best: The roots of the word dystopia, dys- and -topia, are from the Ancient Greek for "bad" and "place," and so we use the term to describe and unfavorable society in which we live. "Dystopia" is not a synonym of "post-apocalyptic"; it also is not a synonym for a bleak, or darkly imagined future. In a dystopian feature, society itself is typically the antagonist; it is society that is actively working against the protagonist's aims and desires. This oppression frequently is enacted by a totalitarian of authoritarian government, resulting in the loss of civil liberties and untenable living conditions, caused by any number of circumstances, such as world overpopulation, law's controlling a person's sexual or reproductive freedom, and living under constant surveillance.Now, I would love to put almost the entirety of Adam's tiny essay here, but there isn't enough room for it with this stinking word count limit. My point is, Divergence isn't a dystopia."But what about Tris being a Divergent, and not being able to see her brother, and being torn from her family? How is that not a dystopia? It's bad!"Not necessarily. You see, because the Abnegation run the government, technically they can control the other factions, but they don't. They're inept. They actually have no way to enforce the rules that everyone follows. They have no security force of their own, or punishments. This society could not exist because it could not function."But the Erudite were in charge! And the brainwashing!"The Erudite weren't in charge at first, and even then, not everyone would have been behind it. Also, the Abnegation's viewpoint on the world doesn't give them the back bone to push against at least three factions of obnoxious individuals. They should have toppled from power generations ago, but since Roth never gives us an idea about how long her Chicago has been around, the reader doesn't know. This society is not plausible. At. All.Watch. Get five friends together and each have them represent a faction. Then have Selfless tell Intelligence, Honesty, and Muscle what to do. Think about it. Even the US Armed Forces push back against Congress. "But she explains all your gripes in Insurgent."Then let me talk about Tris, the main character.She is the daughter of an Abnegation government official. She is small for her size and built like a boy. She wishes she was more selfless like her family, but instead lies and wishes vengeance on just about everyone that hurts her. She is a giant hypocrite.Take her fight with Molly after she's "pantsed" in the dorm. Tris keep's kicking her while she's down out of vengeance. That is just petty and mean. If she keeps wishing she's selfless, that would be a moment where she could demonstrate it. And Al after he apologizes for trying to hurt her, she doesn't forgive him. Tris is a horrible, horrible person. She isn't Divergent. She's Dauntless through and through. She is not selfless, honest, smart, or friendly. She's suspicious, spiteful, and dense. If she was the least bit pretty, I'd get why Four was into her. But she isn't, so I don't.And that brings me straight to our hunky hero who is oh, so dreamy. He's a virgin, hot, wounded, and mysterious. He only has four fears. That is why he has a nickname reserved for science experiments. Isn't he the best!Four has about as much life as a Ken doll. Probably the genitals of one too. His real importance is that he's also a Divergent.Now I will talk about Divergents and the nuances of Dauntless now that I've brought up Tris and bitched about how this is not a dystopia.I've already said that Dauntless were crazy people that do stupid stuff to seem brave. Roth tries to make the initiates go through a difficult training regimen, but they only beat on each other. There is no learning of throws, holds, or grabs. No learning of efficient ways to take down enemies without killing them or brutally beating them. Roth doesn't even know that most fights are won in the grapple. It's like she did no research about how to train security based forces what so ever.It's even more apparent when she brings in guns. Yes, guns. To Roth, they are never rifles or pistols. They are never semi-auto or bolt action. She doesn't even know what a magazine is. Need an example?"She pushes the bullet chamber open and peers inside. Seeing how many bullets she has left. Then takes a few out of her pocket and reloads."Unless the gun is a revolver, which is unspecified, the magazine would have to be removed to see how much ammo is left and to reload it. And if I'm running around with a semi-auto pistol, I would try to carry loaded magazines with me instead of individual bullets if possible. Seriously, just the technical knowledge alone was torture to get through. I don't need to know how to field strip a P-90, but at least the basics is needed when you are writing about a militant faction.And the Divergent thing. Basically, they can't be brainwashed. Roth tries to justify it wish an explanation given by Tris' mom:"But our minds move in a dozen different directions. We can't be confined to one way of thinking, and that terrifies our leaders. It means we can't be controlled. And it means that no matter what they do, we will always cause trouble for them."Do you see the problem with that one? Do you?First off, they are Abnegation. THEY ARE THE LEADERS.Second, I don't think Roth has ever read 1984, Brave New World, or Fahrenheit 451 where a bulk of the population's way of thinking was quite successfully controlled through fear or bliss. Sure, there were a few outliers, but in two of the three, they were dealt with through discreet means. And the sad thing, all three of those futures have come true in some sense or another. We will never come anywhere close to the world depicted in Divergence.So, to sum it all up because I don't have enough words to keep going into the massive problems this book has, don't bother. Read The Hunger Games if you haven't yet (even though I thought Collins kind of dropped the ball in Mockingjay). Or you could pick up the anthology I mentioned earlier since it has awesome dystopia shorts written by women like Shirley Jackson, Usula K. Le Guin, and Carrie Vaughn. Or read anything else really.And if anyone wants me to do Insurgent, I would have to get 100 likes on this review. Even if I do, I can't guarantee this wouldn't happen after I read it.So it's been fun. I'm going to go bleach my brain now.Edit 8/16/2013: There is this thing I've been thinking of for some time now. The Dauntless are always trying to have these kids get rid of fears. There is this saying that I think people should keep in mind, "Those without fear are missing a good friend."If you don't quite understand it, it means that those who are fearless don't have an important survival mechanism. Fear is what stimulates the "fight or flight" response that sends adrenaline coursing through our veins. Bravery is controlling your fear, utilizing it, not getting rid of it. It really bothered me that this book interpreted bravery as the absence of fear. Bravery, courage, is taking a step forward and facing the thing that makes you want to piss yourself and dive for cover.But fear should also be listened to. If someone says you have to jump off a building to prove yourself, and you know you could die, true bravery would be to look them in the eye and tell them it's stupid and pointless. It's to stand up for yourself.Take the fact that Four turns down the position that Shower Curtain (Eric) takes over. That was cowardly. It would have been braver for him to take the position so he could protect the students from the corruption. He could also try to dismantle the corrupt from the inside out. Yeah, it's more dangerous, but if this book is supposed to be about utilizing your fear for change, then that would have been a perfect little parallel sub-plot. It's a shame Roth isn't a more talented writer.