Comment 1: Twilight follows what I think has become one of the great traditional plotlines: star-crossed vampire/human truelove. So, move aside, Jack London. In acknowledging my friend Ms. Meyer’s role in developing this new tradition, I feel like the first important thing to say is that Stephenie Meyer is not The Man. While most criticisms of the Twilight series are empirically true, it is nevertheless also true that this series is ubiquitously influential in culture right now, and I don’t think it’s influential in the same way as the War on Terror, or even Sarah Palin. The War and Palin are both The Man in ways that I refuse to believe Ms. Meyer is. I do concede, however, that Stephenie Meyer is a polished and packaged product of culture, and that she is the same package, in almost every way, as me. I don’t care about age or cynicism, I am the audience for this book. If you want to see my reaction summed up much more quickly than I plan to, I refer you to Paul Bryant’s Georgia . To introduce you more thoroughly to the audience for whom this book was written, I’ll start with a little summary of the story.Bella arrives, at the opening of the story, in the small town of Forks, Washington, and she’s not thrilled. She’s like, A little town, oh, it's a quiet village - ev'ry day like the one before. Little town full of little people, waking up to say, bonjour!She checks in at school, which is awkward because everyone’s staring and whatnot. They’re all, Look there she goes that girl is strange, no question, dazed and distracted, can't you tell? Never part of any crowd, 'cause her head's up on some cloud. No denying she's a funny girl that Bella.Even her father doesn’t really get her and goes around thinking, Look there she goes that girl is so peculiar. I wonder if she's feeling well. With a dreamy far-off look and her nose stuck in a book, what a puzzle to the rest of us is Bella!Even when she makes friends, they still just don’t understand that she’s an old soul – too old for dances and shit like that. Everyone still wants to be her friend, though, and they go around whispering, Look there she goes a girl who's strange but special, a most peculiar mad'moiselle. It's a pity and a sin, she doesn't quite fit in, 'cause she really is a funny girl – a beauty but a funny girl. She really is a funny girl – that Bella!If, after that brief summary, you don’t have a very particular song (and maybe some dance moves that you made up to go with the song at one time or another in your life) stuck in your head, then you are not the designated audience for Twilight. I’m not even intending to be disrespectful or critical when I say that the resonance people feel with Twilight is the resonance of Disney. It is the dividing line between those who fall in love with this story, and those who can’t stand looking at the cover art. Interestingly, though, I think most of the people who cringe at the mention of The Twilight Saga would still go see a new Pixar movie or even Beauty and the Beast if it was re-released on the big screen. It’s got the candlestick and the teacup, right? Who doesn’t like to see inanimate objects sing and dance? It’s just awesome. Disney, however, is totally The Man. Disney is, like, whatever is above The Man telling The Man what to do. I would call it The Superman, but I don’t want it to get a big head.Disney is smoother than Twilight because it knows that you can’t just present the story of a young, beautiful girl falling in love with a potential abuser without including a catchy tune and some dancing flatware. In that way, I guess it’s a mixed blessing that the movie version of Twilight is so freaking boring and awkward. It gives you time to reflect on whether it’s not a little convenient that our girl thinks it’s so groovy to have a vampire stalk her in her own bedroom. It lets you stop and think that undying for love might not be all it’s cracked up to be. The book version has lots of sparkles, though, and cars flying in every direction, so you don’t have to dwell on the unfortunate implications of the central relationship unless you’re inclined to. But, let’s face it, most of us have contemplated that at one time or another. If you haven’t, now’s your chance. What do you think about a cartoon that encourages little girls to stay in abusive relationships because underneath the gruff exterior of the abuser lies the heart of a prince? What do you think about a book that has women across the country swooning at a cadaverous stalker watching a teenage girl sleep?I’ll tell you what I think: it totally doesn’t bother me. I mean, if those aren’t the implications that the storytellers were intending (and I don’t necessarily think they are), then oops!, but that’s the extent of my criticism. On the other hand, I think it’s equally possible that those are the implications that the storytellers intended, and, if so, they are both pretty effective in being persuasive and single-minded in their goals. The messages might be sugar-coated, but they’re still obvious. They’re not sneaky or underhanded. I don’t like it when I feel like an author is trying to sneak around with themes, but if I just disagree, it’s not so bad. I think they’re good stories, too, despite their unfortunate messages, and they are made all the better by their singing and sparkles. Whether we like it or not, stories that idealize stalking and teach girls to try reforming their abusers through patience and fancy dresses are deeply ingrained in (at least) Western culture. It seems possible that these stories are even products of a conflicted nature in humanity. Men want the virgin/whore; women want the beast/god. But, also, none of us really want those people because they’re freaky. We don’t know what we want.(Arguably, the moral of Beauty and the Beast is that looks aren’t everything, and the moral of Twilight is that true love waits. I think those are less interesting messages within the stories, so I’m not going to address them. They are obviously there, though, so disagree as you wish.)Maybe there is a little Harold Bloom in all of us, mentally applying for the role of literary gatekeeper every time we read a book we don’t like. I have read criticisms of Twilight that are both hilarious and poignant, and, like I say, this book has a very specific audience. When I hear criticisms, though, they usually just make me really sad. A girl I know is a mother of three young kids and lives out in the middle of nowhere. At the time she read Twilight she was mostly staying home (again, in the middle of nowhere) and being a mom. She hated the book and had two criticisms. First, she thought that the clothes were really dorky (and, it’s true, the clothes are distracting). Second, every time she looked at Stephenie Meyer’s picture on the back, it bugged her because she thought about how Meyer is “just a mom,” as though a mom shouldn’t have a valuable voice in literature. I hate that on a lot of levels. I hate the idea of limiting literature to what I agree with, and I hate the idea of taking the voice of moms out of any part of culture. It also seems like a creepy excuse for nonparticipation to say that an entire group of people, to which you belong, shouldn’t be respected in the literary world. I’m not trying to say that Stephenie Meyer represents all moms, but I do think that a lot of criticism I have read of her writing either dismisses her as The Man or as a mom. It reflects the idea that literature should be a table at which only the cool kids sit – or at which the cool kids can’t sit. I don’t know who’s supposed to sit there. There are a lot of totally valid reasons to dislike any book. I recognize this book’s faults, but I think that one of its greatest strengths is that it was written by a mom. I think it is a fun, hilarious, action-packed story. I think that Stephenie Meyer has story-telling skillz and that you can’t teach that. Henry James might have had a big vocabulary, but he couldn’t tell a story to save his life. Ms. Meyer could benefit from reading the dictionary once or twice, but she already has what you need if you find yourself sitting around a campfire. Possibly, she could use just a dash of self-awareness, but too much self-awareness can ruin any good story – just look at Dave Eggers. Honestly, I would rather be brave enough to write Twilight than smart enough to criticize it.It’s funny to say, but this book actually inspired a real crisis of faith in my life. I’ve had some occasions where I’ve had major fallings out with God and then other occasions where I’m a big fan – like ya do. A crisis of faith is not unusual for me. There’s this thing that goes down in mainstream Christianity that is really annoying (I’m sure it happens in other religions, too, but I’m talking totally pop culture Christianity here so that my point makes sense). It’s this thing where people will frame a story as though the hero’s dreams are sure to fail, but then, suddenly, through the power of prayer, God swoops down and fixes everything in a magical money donation. Don’t get me wrong; magical money donations are the bomb. But does that mean that for those whose magical money didn’t come through, God’s showing that he’s angry with them? Does God speak in a reward/punishment system? I don’t think so, but I don’t really know anything about it. I know that in that situation, you’re supposed to say that God has a better plan, but that lacks something to me, also. To be clear, this isn’t a criticism that I’m making of religion in general, or even of Christianity in general, but of this Disneyland Christianity that is everywhere in America. It’s a religion of total convenience where everything has a vague, cliché explanation and, if it doesn’t, we don’t look at it. And the way people tell these stories is like they’re telling the plot of the newest movie about a down-and-out kid’s sports team. The stories are all informed by the plot development of Disney movies.Like this Disney filter, Edward and Bella’s relationship is very convenient. Edward is immortal and can give immortality. He watches over Bella. His desire for Bella is consuming both physically and emotionally. Bella’s maturity alienates her from other humans. She is physically vulnerable. She is smart and values passion over care for her life. Edward is the Disney god and Bella his disciple. I really don’t mean to be disrespectful when I say I’ve heard God and His people described just this way many times. I don’t know why I hadn’t really thought about this before I read Twilight, but from thinking about the silly convenience of the Edward/Bella relationship, a lot of real things fall apart for me. Like, if we believe that God is really real (not just abstractly real) and we think that God is with us all the time like Edward is with Bella, why isn’t that creepy? I know I think it’s creepy with Edward, but why not with God? I think it’s because we believe God is there when we’re thinking about Him and not when we’re not. I think Jesus has become a sparkly, romantic immortal with super-strength who thinks you’re so awesome he can’t take his eyes off of you and gives you cars sometimes. This is obviously a problem, but I think any generation will interpret traditional writings through a contemporary cultural lens, so it’s not shocking. It’s just, perhaps, not the lens most of us would prefer. On the other hand, if we think we’re completely alone when we aren’t with humans, no possibility for anything supernatural or spiritual, that seems limited and conveniently clean, too. I don’t have an answer, and it seems like it’s not really possible to have an answer that’s not annoyingly convenient on some level. Also, I'm not saying this because I think Stephenie Meyer invented the Disney Jesus, but because I think it helps explain Twilight's resonance in society. I think Meyer expressed something very simple that both culture and religion have prepared people to receive.It is probably important to say, again, that I’d be surprised to find out that Stephenie Meyer is part of a vast conspiracy to subdue Western civilization by reducing our worldview to clichés. Plus, I think that when someone’s worldview is a cliché, patronizing them out of it isn’t really the way to go (yeah, you know who you are. No, not you – you in the back. That’s right). Also, what do I know? Maybe, Jesus really is sparkly and has a warehouse full of new cars. It is just as legitimate to say that I don’t believe that because I don’t want to as that someone else believes it because they do want to. *sigh*This may seem backwards, but I started reading Twilight in the mood for something fun and silly and not well written, and so I enjoyed (almost) every minute of the series. In a more anti-Disney mood, I probably I would have wanted to burn them for the weak and whiny heroine and glorification of stalking. I think of these books like the show Friends, though. Everything works out well for everyone by the end of the episode, and so despite appalling personal choices and caricatured personalities, the stories are comforting. I don't know whether I think it's worse to be comforted by stories that present unhealthy worldviews, or to expect books to represent literal reality. Both seem suspicious, but the first seems more fun. I appreciate and think it's hilarious that Meyer loves her characters so much that she'll sacrifice anything in the plot to make things turn out well for them. I never feel like she is trying to impress me, but only writing what she wants have happen.The main criticism I hear of these books is that the love story is completely unrealistic. This is absolutely true, but it is also a series about vegetarian vampire superheroes, so I think it's important to have a little perspective about realism. I hope that we are not so culturally bankrupt as to go to Friends for dating advice or vampire stories for authentic representations of love. Unfortunately, we actually might be that bankrupt, and I sadly acknowledge my own experience with teen girls and grown women taking these books VERY seriously. I am reluctant, however, to be angry with books I thought were so silly and fun only because of other people being silly in a not fun way.To conclude, I’m planning to petition Tim Burton to do a song-and-dance version of the Twilight movie. It will be awesome. For the vampires, we will cast all professional dancers, and for the normals we’ll cast normals. I mean, we gots a meadow scene, fast cars, and a baseball scene in here! Not to insult the My Dinner With Andre version, but my version is going to kick ass. We’ll throw in a little irony, music up the melodrama, and show the haters what a story looks like. You’ll love it.
Comment 1: I was in college the first time I read all the Chronicles of Narnia. Eight years later, I was ecstatic to get the whole set for free through the Goodreads first reader program. (Thanks to Harper Collins.) This time around I enjoyed them quite a bit more and understood the symbolism a little better. Rating on story alone I probably would give them three or four stars. But because all the stories are so deep in meaning and strike a chord with Christians everywhere, I've bumped the series up to AMAZING.I've reviewed each book individually (in order.) Don't expect to find anything profound or insightful in any of my comments. I just recorded how the books made me feel and what I found particularly great (or not-so-great) about them.The Magician's Nephew, the first book in the Narnia series (which was actually the sixth published) receives 5 stars from me. (Here they are: * * * * *)Although I read this book only a couple years ago to my wife, I found it just as enjoyable the second time. The first half of the book (Polly and Diggory's discovery of magic travel and struggles with the witch) is basically the main story, while the second half (Founding of Narnia) is a very long denouement. Although the falling action is full of annoying animal conversation and endless description of landscape, the symbolism is quite poignant. If the book was split into two I would give the first 5 stars and the second 4. But together the first half easily makes up for the meandering finish. Why do I love the beginning so much? Very clever writing, a terribly gripping plot (I've said before that the Wood between Worlds is the most exciting concept I've ever encountered in any book), and of course the great one liners. For example, "That's absolute bosh from beginning to end."The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the most well known of the seven books, and it's one of my favorites. Even so, I grew a little bored reading this one, and I attribute it to the many readings and countless film adaptations I've ingested over the years. Unlike the Magician's Nephew, this has a great cohesive plot from beginning to end. And even if Aslan does come in at the end and save the day a little easily, the Christian symbolism is nicely done. Five stars.A Horse and His Boy was an incredibly engaging story from beginning to end. (5 stars) The symbolism of God helping us through our tough times brought me close to tears, and it was so satisfying to see justice served in the end. It took me until now to comprehend the cleverness of the title. (My mind always just switched the horse and boy around.) I'll end with one of my favorite lines uttered by King Lune: "Have we no more gravity among us than to be so chafed by the taunt of a pajock?"Prince Caspian was a great book (four stars), although in general I enjoyed the movie more. The duel between Miraz and Peter, however, was actually better in the book. Lewis has an incredible knack for making you feel like you're there watching. One of my favorite lines: "That's the worst of girls," said Edmund to Peter and the Dwarf. "They never carry a map in their heads.""That's because our heads have something inside them," said Lucy.Something else that I found funny was the difference in language and meaning. This line for example would probably have to be cut from any of today's children's books: "Of course, if the children had attempted a journey like this a few days ago in England, they would have been knocked up."One thing I didn't understand was this: The Pevensies are called into Narnia by the horn and then it takes them a few days to get to where Prince Caspian is (I think they sleep at least twice.) But then when they get there they hear Caspian saying he blew it just that morning. (p.391) Did I just read it wrong? Can someone explain this to me? After re-reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader my hat goes off to the three screenplay writers that adapted this for film. Lewis's original is rich with originality and symbolism, but destitute in storyline. The movie somehow brought together all the episodic "lessons" and turned it into a cohesive whole. Now I remember why this book wasn't one of my favorites. Not enough story to sink my teeth into. Still, it was an enjoyable read. I would probably get more out of the novels if I was astute enough to understand all the symbolism. With this book, I quite often said to myself, "I know that last story was supposed to mean something...oh well, let's see if anything cool happens on the next island."The best line of the book was also the first: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."Three stars for Voyage of the Dawn Treader. * * * And three cheers for me for getting through these so quickly with three kids and a full time job.I enjoyed The Silver Chair much more the second time. (4 stars) I'd remembered the Marsh-Wiggle as being exceptionally annoying. This time I found Puddleglum's constant pessimism exceptionally funny. (I'm not sure what that says about me now.) The plot was very well formed with a beginning, middle, and end (this one should convert very nicely to film.) I really liked the symbolism of the Queen trying to convince them there was no overland (akin to unbelievers trying to convince us there is no God or heaven.) And I now know this is immature, but I just have to share a few more of the tidbits that sound funny in our modern culture. (Apologies to Clive Staples.) "Gay," said Puddleglum with a deep sigh. "Thats what weve got to be. Gay." ... "All right. Gay's the word," said Scrubb. "Now, if we could only get someone to open this door. While were fooling about and being gay, weve got to find out all we can about this castle."I'll finish with one more passage and just let you wonder what it's really about. (Hint: Lewis's intentions were rated G.) She made love to everyone - the grooms, the porters, the housemaids, the ladies-in-waiting, and the elderly giant lords whose hunting days were past. She submitted to being kissed and pawed about by any number of giantesses, many of whom seemed sorry for her...The Last Battle started out with a great story, but then kind of threw the plot away to make room for the powerful end of the world allegory. Although I did appreciate Lewis's amazing insights into what the end of the world will be like (and the profound symbolism of Christ as Alsan), I would've also like to have seen the characters find a way out of their predicament without being magicked away. I guess in this last book at least, I can't satisfy both my need for story and need for meaningful symbolism. Overall, C. S. Lewis does an amazing job crafting stories that ring true to Christians and Story Lovers alike. The writing is good enough that you can choose to ignore all the deeper meanings. Why anyone would do that, however, makes as much sense to me as a Liberal watching Fox News to get the weather.
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.
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.
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.
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