Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thoughts: The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

Want to know how this book starts? I don’t think you can guess, unless you’ve already read it.

In the first page of the book, Arthur Conan Doyle describes how Sherlock Holmes happily shoots cocaine up his veins.

Now, that’s what I call an eye-opening experience.

At this point, I know I’m supposed to write about the mystery and what the hell the sign of four is, but I’m going to skip all that. See, it’s best to go into a Sherlock Holmes novel or story knowing virtually nothing about it. It keeps you guessing, on your toes so to speak. I’m just going to say that, like with A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle used flashbacks to pile a whole lot of backstory on the reader, but I think he’s the only writer I’ve ever encountered who can do it without seeming like a bore.

In A Study in Scarlet, we’re just getting to know Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but, in The Sign of Four, we become more intimate with them. Exhibit A: We become aware of Sherlock Holmes’ cocaine habit. Exhibit B: We discover that Dr. Watson has a heart, and also happens to be a bit of a romantic.

In The Sign of Four, we meet Mary Morstan who might or might not be an heiress. I have to applaud Arthur Conan Doyle for his portrayal of her, because she’s not just another piece of fluff. She’s level-headed, and doesn’t faint at the slightest hint of murder. I can actually see why Watson likes her so much.

Meeting Mary Morstan actually made me more excited about meeting Irene Adler (no, I’m not talking about Rachel McAdams). Irene Adler is The Woman, the person said to be Sherlock Holmes’ equal in brains and cunning. I can’t wait to see how Arthur Conan Doyle portrays her.

Arthur Conan Doyle, methinks you might be a feminist.

Overall, I didn’t like the mystery that much, but I loved the more personal look at Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Friday, April 27, 2012

On Losing and Gaining Interest

This April, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I intend to do with this blog. I had reached a point where blogging and even reading stopped being fun.

I blame George Orwell’s 1984.

My blogging and reading block started when I reached the middle of the book. I thought it was pretty good, until I realized there was a thesis on economic quality right smack in the middle of it. The semi-not-really thesis I’m talking about is thirty pages long, and the main character is supposed to be reading it. Well, guess what, Orwell? Your hipster-rebel character might have to read that stupid-thesis-but-not-really, but I don’t. I get what you’re saying about the unfairness of it all, but you don’t have to stuff your beliefs down my throat. I hate it when authors are this manipulative. *Shakes fist at Orwell.*

I also won’t hesitate to point a finger at George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the book. All the characters are so wonderfully fleshed out with believable flaws and perfectly logical motives—so rare these days. I just keep putting it down, because I’m afraid one of the characters I love so much (Forget Sansa. I love Jon Snow, Eddard Stark, Arya Stark, and Tyrion Lannister.) will be killed off or something. If you’re wondering, I haven’t seen a single episode of the HBO series yet.

However, I am thankful for The Princess Bride by William Goldman.

Before I read the book, I was getting really antsy, not to mention depressed. I was reading 1984 by George Orwell, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, and A Few Green Leaves by Barbara Pym, and I couldn’t finish a single one of them. It was so frustrating, and not finishing a single book also meant that I didn’t have anything to blog about. The Princess Bride was the perfect book for my mindset at the time. I finished it in a couple of hours, and, in the end, I wanted to babble about it (through my blog, of course). I might have forgotten how much I love reading, but The Princess Bride definitely made me remember.

I can’t believe I actually thought of writing a farewell post for this blog. I can’t do that. I just celebrated my first bloggiversary a couple of months ago, and I just turned twenty-one. This blog has become a huge part of my life, and I’ve written about all the important things in my life here.

So, believe it or not, you will still be seeing (or reading?) me

Saturday, April 7, 2012

How I Became a Nerd

Being called a nerd used to hurt me, like nerd was on the same level as “moron” or “bad person.” In the small microcosm of high school, it meant that you participated in activities that were not socially acceptable—like fighting with someone because they got the names of the Hogwarts founders wrong or joining The Booklovers Club when all the popular girls joined The Dance Club. It meant that you were strange, different, and were not likely to receive heart-shaped cards on Valentine’s Day.

Throughout the years, I’ve come to terms with my nerdiness, and have even come to embrace it. While the popular girls in high school gyrated to the latest dance remixes, the world of the Lord of the Rings enveloped me. Now, I know that both activities can be equally fun, but, almost five years later, I think they’ve forgotten the names of the songs they danced to, while I’m looking forward to Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit like nobody’s business.

So, I’m writing this post to somehow chart my path into nerdom.

I think it all started in third grade, when someone—I forgot who—but me a bunch of Nancy Drew novels. I don’t know anything about the Nancy Drew novels of today, but the Nancy Drew of my youth was no literary giant. The books were entertaining, but they stereotyped Asians, women, practically everybody, and could sometimes be very, very offensive. Nonetheless, I devoured them like Chiclets.

The reign of Nancy Drew ended when my father took me to the bookstore on one of our rare outings together. I was supposed to buy another Nancy Drew book, but the book with the boy on a broomstick on the cover caught my eye.

The era of Harry Potter started, and it still hasn’t ended. I became obsessed with Harry Potter throughout most of my elementary and high school years. I wore oversized Harry Potter t-shirts to every important school function, had a Harry Potter notebook I wouldn’t let anyone else touch, and made myself a wand using a barbecue stick.

I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t found Harry Potter at that time in life. My parents were still in the middle of a bitter separation at the time, and I just wanted to float away into a world where squabbling parents and terms like ‘legal custody’ did not exist. But, then, here was a boy who was even more miserable than I was. Both of his parents were dead, and his aunt and uncle gave him socks for Christmas. At least, I got awesome presents like toys and books.

When I reached the ninth grade, Stephen King took over my reading diet for a while. I started with Misery which I absolutely loved, and ended with Dreamcatcher which I will always refer to as DA BOMB. I loved some others like The Green Mile and Room 308. I haven’t touched his works in years, because I got distracted by other writers. There were just so many I hadn’t discovered and read yet that I could focus on one writer, even if I wanted to.

My obsession with classics started about two years ago when I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’d read a smattering of classics before the like Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and Jane Austen books, but The Great Gatsby became my gateway book to the classics. I could get a lot of them at my favorite secondhand bookstore, and, if I could get my hands on a paper copy, I could easily download an e-book from Project Gutenberg for free. I was addicted.

Books have been a part of my life, for as long as I can remember. They helped my nine-year-old self escape to the magical world that was Hogwarts, and they opened my eyes to the mysteries of human nature when I got hooked on classics like The Great Gatsby. Yes, I’m a gigantic literature nerd, and I’m proud of it.

What about you? How did you become a nerd?


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