Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thoughts: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

I’ve got a ton of stuff to do, so I’m just going to babble a bit. Off the top of my head, here are some of my thoughts on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion:

  • Who needs Google Earth when you’ve got Henry Higgins? Seriously, this dude can determine where you’re from just by listening to the tone of your voice. I can differentiate between a Brooklyn and Southern accent, but that’s the extent of my abilities. Professor Higgins can determine which district a person is from. Awesome.
  • I loved the arguments/discourses/discussions about language, and Shaw showed how superficial people can be. When Eliza Doolittle talked and dressed like a duchess, nobody cared about who she really was. They just accepted her, but I bet they would’ve been horrified if they found out she was a “common guttersnipe.”
  • I love Colonel Pickering. That is all.
  • Freddie, Eliza’s main love interest, was boring. He had no gumption, and I could totally imagine Eliza bossing him around.
  • There’s a hilarious essay (??) at the end of the play where Shaw discussed marriage prospects, and why Eliza couldn’t end up with a character who shall remain nameless in this post
  • Totally entertained by this play, particularly by the repartee between Eliza and Henry Higgins.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thoughts: Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

I’ve been hesitant to read another one of Shakespeare’s plays without a modern translation. To make my second dip into Shakespeare a little easier, I chose to read Much Ado About Nothing, a play which can be called a “romantic comedy” by today’s standards.

Don Leonato hosts Don Pedro of Aragon and company in his estate. One of Don Pedro’s soldiers falls, Claudio, falls for Leonato’s daughter, Hero, and proposes to her. Don John, Pedro’s bastard brother, plots to destroy the union. Meanwhile, Don Pedro intends to bring together his soldier, Benedick, and Leonato’s niece Beatrice. That might be a problem, since the two completely loathe each other…

I think I read somewhere that Hero and Claudio were supposed to be the main couple, but they were ridiculously boring. Hero had no personality, at all, while Claudio had no gumption or opinion of his own. He let other people’s thoughts and opinions cloud his judgment, without even thinking things through.

Benedick and Beatrice were the real stars of the play for me. I enjoyed every scene they had together, particularly in the beginning where all they did was trade barbs.
Beat. A dear happiness to women! They would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that. I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.
Bene. God keep your ladyship still in that mind! So some gentleman or other shall scape a predestinate scratch'd face.
Beat. Scratching could not make it worse an 'twere such a face as yours were.
Buuuuuuuuuuuuurn. I never thought Shakespeare would be able to make me laugh out loud, but the Bard proved me wrong once again. He’s so witty, and Benedick and Beatrice’s repartee could still be used in modern conversations.

This was the first time that I REALLY read Shakespeare. I read Hamlet before, but my edition also contained a modern line-by-line translation. I surprised myself by understanding most of the dialogue, but there were some parts where I felt like I was just floundering around. This problem was remedied when I saw the film version starring Kenneth Branagh. Most of the dialogue I didn’t understand before—including a whole lot of innuendos—suddenly became clear to me.

I really enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing. The only thing I didn’t like was Don John. He wasn’t that bad of a villain, and I guess the characters really made much ado about nothing.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thoughts: Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

I first heard about Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla when Mel over at The Reading Life mentioned it. Two things mainly caught my eye. Sheridan Le Fanu was actually Bram Stroker’s contemporary, and Mel mentioned something about lesbian vampires. These two things combined really fascinated me. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the thought of lesbian vampires during the prudish Victorian era.

Laura lives with her father, a nanny, a governess, and a host of servants at a remote castle in Styria. Their closest neighbors live miles away, so Laura lives a life of isolation. Through an accident, a visitor named Carmilla arrives in their midst. Unbeknownst to Laura and her family, Carmilla is a bringer of sinister tidings.

I thought Carmilla was very predictable. It didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, like I first thought. I predicted how it would end, and didn’t feel gratified that I was right. I did consider, though, that today’s pop culture has desensitized me in a way. I’ve seen so many horror movies and read so many thrillers that nothing feels original anymore. I’m pretty sure that Carmilla must have shocked readers when it was first published, and I tried to keep that in mind while reading.

I did like Le Fanu’s portrayal of a “lesbian” relationships—a little peek into a Victorian’s views on same sex relationships. Sure, the whole “relationship” was justified by the fact that vampires tend to attach themselves emotionally to their prey, but the attachment between Laura and Carmilla was very believable.

Overall, Carmilla was a fun, little novella that completely entertained me. You can download a free copy from Project Gutenberg if you have the time.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm 20 Today

Since I turned 18, birthdays haven’t really been that big of a deal for me. I usually eat out with friends and family, and that’s it. This year is different, since I’m turning 20. I’m beginning a whole new decade of my life, which is kind of appropriate since I graduated from college 18 days ago.

Here are my most prevalent birthday thoughts:

  • I can finally refer to myself as a twenty-something, which I’ve been waiting years to do. In chick lit novels, the protagonists are always referred to as twenty-something single women searching for love and climbing up the workforce ladder. Heh. Heh. I find that very exciting.
  • Hitler and I share the same birth date. This makes me feel weird.
  • I hope I get a lot of books as presents. HAHAHAHAHA.

Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, April 18, 2011

101 Great Books Recommended for College-Bound Readers

While jumping from one blog to another, I found College Board's list of 101 Great Books Recommended for College-Bound Readers. I've read less than twenty books in this list, but I like it more than Modern Library's 100 Best Novels. It's more diverse with books written by colored and female writers, while the books in Modern Library's list were mostly written by white male American writers.

The books I've read are in bold while the ones in my TBR pile are italicized.
  1. A Death in the Family by James Agee
  2. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
  3. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  4. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
  5. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
  6. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  7. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  8. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  9. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  10. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  11. Antigone by Sophocles
  12. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  13. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
  14. Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
  15. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  16. Beowulf
  17. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  18. Call it Sleep by Henry Roth
  19. Candide by Voltaire
  20. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  21. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
  22. Collected Stories by Eudora Welty
  23. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  24. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
  25. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  26. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  27. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  28. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
  29. Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  30. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  31. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  32. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  33. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  34. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  35. Inferno by Dante
  36. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  37. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  38. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  39. Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill
  40. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  41. Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  42. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  43. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  44. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  45. Native Son by Richard Wright
  46. Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
  47. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  48. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  49. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  50. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  51. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  52. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  53. Selected Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  54. Selected Tales by Edgar Allen Poe
  55. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  56. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
  57. Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  58. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
  59. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  60. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  61. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  62. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  63. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  64. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  65. The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
  66. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  67. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  68. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
  69. The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
  70. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
  71. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  72. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  73. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  74. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  75. The Iliad by Homer
  76. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  77. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
  78. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  79. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  80. The Odyssey by Homer
  81. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  82. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  83. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  84. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  85. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  86. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  87. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  88. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  89. The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
  90. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  91. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  92. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
  93. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  94. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  95. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  96. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  97. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
  98. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
  99. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  100. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  101. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thoughts: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway is known for his machismo and, because of that, I’ve stayed away from his work. When we were required to read The Old Man and the Sea in one of my classes, however, I had no choice, but to suck up my unexplainable dislike for the man.

The Old Man and the Sea is about, well, an old man who hasn’t caught a single fish in eighty-four days. A boy named Manolin used to go fishing with him, but Manolin’s parents thought the old man was salao, the worst kind of bad luck. On the eighty-fifth day, the old man decides to go farther than the other fishermen. He encounters a majestic marlin, and that’s where the story really begins.

I didn’t understand some of the “technical” fishing terms in this story, but the rest of it was told in really simple language. I guess that’s what impressed me most about Hemingway’s writing. In one passage, Santiago, the titular old man, accepted the other fishermen were stronger then him, but added that he had unique tricks. With a few simple words, Hemingway managed to show Santiago’s humility and confidence at the same time.

During our class discussion, my lit teacher said that the thesis of the novel is basically this quote:

“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

For me, the quote is all about human endurance, about not giving up even if the problems and obstacles in our lives are proving to be more than difficult. I find it particularly interesting, since Hemingway committed suicide. Maybe he couldn’t deal with the issues in his life anymore, I’m not sure.

I asked my teacher if the maxim could still be considered weighty or of value, even if its creator, Hemingway in this case, failed to live up to it. My teacher said yes. It all depends on how we apply such maxims or quote to our own lives. Reading The Old Man and the Sea showed me, once again, how knowing something about an author’s life can really enrich the reading experience.

The only things I didn’t like about The Old Man and the Sea were the allusions to Christ. I didn’t think they were necessary, and were, to be frank, as subtle as a sledgehammer to the knees. Overall, though, I think The Old Man and the Sea is a great introduction to the works of Hemingway. It’s just not my cup of tea, since I’m a Bronte/Austen kind of girl.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thoughts: The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Gah, I was completely bowled over by Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men—which I loved, loved, loved—so, I guess, I was just waiting be impressed again. That didn’t happen. The Pearl didn’t bowl me over. In fact, it was more like a slight irritation.

The Pearl is about Kino, his wife Juana, and their baby Coyotito. Kino works as a pearl diver, and one day finds The Pearl of the World. He dreams that the pearl will buy him and his family peace and happiness. He soon learns, however, that peace and happiness are two things that can’t be bought.

Steinbeck is as subtle as a kick head in the head in this book. Everything started going downhill for Kino the second he laid eyes on the Pearl of the World. Everyone wanted a piece of that pearl—the other villagers, the greedy doctor, the pearl-buyers, and even the parish priest. Steinbeck keeps telling the reader over and over that it’s WRONG—almost evil—to aspire to be something more than you are. In fact, he spells it out for the reader in this excerpt:
“And the Father made it clear that each man and woman is like a soldier sent by God to guard some part of the castle of the Universe. And some are in the ramparts and some are in the darkness of the walls. But each one must remain faithful to his post and must not go running about, else the castle is in danger from the assaults of Hell.”
What is so wrong with wanting to move up to the ramparts? If you’re poor and you want a better education for your children, that’s not wrong. If you strive hard to get a better life for yourself and your family, that’s not morally questionable. That’s being a decent human being.

But I did like how Steinbeck depicted Kino and Juana’s lives before he found the Pearl of the World. The first chapter, in particular, is quite beautiful. There are so many little details that you almost feel like you’re sitting next to Kino on a dirt floor, eating corn cakes.

Overall, I still love Steinbeck, but I didn’t like the message of this book and how often he repeated it. Too preachy for my taste. I’m still looking forward to his other work, though.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, April 8, 2011

Thoughts: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

"Owing to the fact that he was a mute they were able to give him all the qualities they wanted him to have."

Before I started writing down my thoughts on Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, I looked the book up on Goodreads, and was surprised by the summary provided in the website. Here it is:

"The heroine is the strange young girl, Mick Kelly. The setting is a small Southern town, the cosmos universal and eternal. The characters are the damned, the voiceless, the rejected. Some fight their loneliness with violence and depravity. Some with sex or drink, and some -- like Mick -- with a quiet, intensely personal search for beauty."

Yes, it’s true that Mick Kelly is one of the central characters, but I wouldn’t call her the “heroine” of the novel. The main protagonist in fact is the deaf-mute John Singer.

Just as the spokes of a wheel revolve around a hub, the lives of four other people revolve around John Singer—including Mick Kelly, a thirteen-year-old girl who wants to be a musician, the alcoholic socialist Jake Blount, the black physician Doctor Benedict Mady Copeland, and the owner of the New York CafĂ© Biff Brannon. They’re all as different as people could possibly be, but they have one thing in common. John Singer is the one person who could assuage the loneliness, the sense of isolation, they’re drowning in.

I don’t think I can babble about this book like I usually do in this blog. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter touched me on a deep level. When I put the book down, I felt like I learned something new, something deep, but I didn’t know what. Once more, the novel’s true meaning kept eluding me, and I’m still thinking about it until now.

Yes, I loved it, but it was also depressing beyond belief. The characters all strove to lessen the loneliness they felt by confiding in John Singer. All they wanted was to be understood, and, somehow, they believed they found understanding in John Singer. What they didn’t know was that he felt that the only person who could understand him was Antonapolous, his deaf-mute friend who was sent away to an asylum. It’s a never-ending cycle where the characters seek to stop feeling lonely, but are disappointed. The novel was almost devoid of hope.

Overall, though, I felt that the novel showed me that we’re all lonely, which really means we’re not. Do you think that makes sense? The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is definitely a novel I’ll reread in the coming months.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thoughts: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

When I first picked up Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, I thought the book would be ridiculously boring. The cause? My copy’s tedious Foreword. I’m really glad I persevered—i.e. skipped the Foreword and started reading the first chapter—because the book is now one of my all-time favorites.

At the age of seventeen, Janie's grandmother urges her to marry an older man for his huge property. Thinking that love automatically comes with marriage, Janie agrees, and is disappointed when she learns that he wants a farm hand, not a wife. She runs away with the smooth-talking Joe, who, once again, doesn’t want a wife, just a beautiful trophy. When Joe dies, Janie becomes a well-off widow, and meets the younger Tea Cake. Despite the age difference, they fall in love, and Janie finally begins to discover who she really is.

I can’t rave enough about this book. Hurston’s writing is so beautiful, and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The whole time I was reading, I felt like I had a piece of pink cotton candy in my mouth—for some reason, Hurston’s prose just tastes sweet. She puts the most unexpected words together, and infuses them with profound meaning that made me stop to think A LOT. At first, I was intimidated by the use of Ebonics in the novel, but it was actually pretty easy to read after the first couple of pages.

Janie is a wonderful female character. As a young girl, she allows other people to make crucial decisions for her. Joe, for example, wouldn’t let her laugh and talk to the other men in town. He wanted her to stay in their store, and to keep quiet. Slowly, she learned to stand up for herself, and discovered who she really was. That’s saying a lot about a novel first published in 1937. Next to Janie, Tea Cake, her third husband, is also a great character. Except for one incident in the novel, they treated each other like equals, and he was the first person who let her come out of her shell.

The edition I own has an Afterword, and I skipped that one, too. After reading the last page, I simply put the book down, and thought about people whose eyes are still watching God. Personally, I think we all wonder why certain bad things happens to us, and we all have a lot of questions that God will probably never answer. But that’s life, though, and Their Eyes Were Watching God is still making me think long and hard about it.

Rating: 5/5 I will definitely reread this book.

P.S: If you’ve read this book, what did you think of the ending? I really need to talk about it. *Starts jumping up and down.*

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Sunday Salon: I have to edit my About Me...

I know this isn’t a book-related post, but I graduated earlier today. Woohoo! This is just one of the things I REALLY, REALLY have to document in this blog.

The typical Philippine school year is from June-March. I officially stopped being a college student a couple of hours ago, and I now hold a degree in Literature. It feels surreal. I can’t believe college is finally over, and I have to enter a whole new world, clichĂ© as it may sound. I feel scared and excited at the same time.

Here are some photos from my graduation:

I look like a total dork in the photo below, but I was caught unaware. Sad excuse, I know. Dork or not, I just look so happy, though.

I'm posing with two of my closest friends, Jeff and Donna.

The only male in this photo is Sir Sid. He once called himself my mentor, and I was ecstatic. Seriously, this person made Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shakespeare come alive for me. And I hated poetry. He's also an extremely talented writer, and has won tons of prestigious artsy-fartsy awards for his writing. I can only hope that my writing will be half as good as his someday.

I’m thinking about taking it easy for a while, and then applying to law school. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. I know law school is going to be expensive, and I have to be a student for another four years. I do think it’s worth the effort and money, though, since I really, really want to be a lawyer.

The seeds of my decision to go to law school were planted about two years ago, during my Argumentation and Debate class. Standing in front of that podium and finding the weak points of my opponent’s argument felt good. Sure, studying could help you, but you really needed to think on your feet.

So, here’s to the future!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Latest Acquisitions: Part Six

Okay, I know posted my Latest Acquisitions only a couple of days ago, but I couldn’t help myself. At this very moment, I am a camper of the ridiculously happy variety. I went to my favorite bookstore this afternoon, and was overwhelmed by the number of classics in store. There were a couple of books by Henry James, numerous copies of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and two copies of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Here are the ones I did buy:
  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse – I’ve been eying this book for quite a while now, but, as usual, it was ridiculously expensive for such a short book. Luckily, I found a somewhat battered but still readable copy today.
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck – Since I completely loved Of Mice and Men, I immediately grabbed this one when I saw it. So excited for this one.
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – This book, folks, is the reason why I’m a camper of the ridiculously happy variety today. I’ve been looking for a copy of this book for sooo long. I have no idea why local bookstores don’t stock anything by Virginia Woolf, Kurt Vonnegut, or Jonathan Tropper—that, however, is a subject for an entirely different post. I’m so glad I found a copy today. Boo yeah!
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy – I’ve heard that this book is beautiful but quite depressing.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy – I’m also quite excited for this one. The cover just screams adventure and daring. I’m expecting something along the lines of The Count of Monte Cristo.
  • The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington – I read once that this book was one of Fitzgerald’s inspirations while writing The Great Gatsby, one of my favorite books of all time, so I had to read this book.
  • The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene – The last book, which can’t be seen in the photo because I… Gah, I can’t think of a proper excuse.
And I bought all this for PHP 110 which is about two dollars. Once more, I am a camper of the ridiculously happy variety today. :)


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