Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thoughts: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes is slowly becoming one of my favorite fictional characters.

Like, ever.

When I read A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, I thought, “Nothing really sets Sherlock Holmes apart from other characters I’ve read about before. Sure, he’s kind of a nut, but there are TONS of nuts in classic literature.”

I was wrong.

I realized that little factoid right after I finished reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. The book is a collection of short stories (cases?) all featuring Sherlock Holmes and, of course, Watson. The cases are all very interesting—ranging from incriminating photos of royalty to an engineer’s severed thumb—and you get the feeling that only Sherlock Holmes can possibly solve them.

I always thought Sherlock Holmes was a flat character, a mystery-solving machine with very little personality. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sherlock Holmes is brilliant, arrogant, and, even if he’ll never admit it in a million years, he does have a heart. In The Copper Beeches, for example, one of his clients goes to work as a governess for a strange family. Holmes keeps thinking about her, and I like to think it’s because he’s worried about her, not just because he’s hankering after another case to solve.

Believe it or not, Holmes can also be very funny. His sense of humor comes out in the most unexpected of times. In this scene, for example, Holmes is being threatened by Dr. Grimesby Roylott, and he decides to be a smart ass:

“Ha! You put me off, do you?” said our new visitor, taking a step forward and shaking his hunting-crop. “I know you, you scoundrel! I have heard of you before. You are Holmes, the meddler.”

My friend smiled.

“Holmes, the busybody!”

His smile broadened.

“Holmes, the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office!”

Holmes chuckled heartily. “Your conversation is most entertaining,” said he. “When you go out close the door, for there is a decided draught.”

This book proved a lot of my preconceptions regarding Sherlock Holmes wrong. I always thought he was brutally honest, ready to spill out his thoughts at any moment. It never occurred to me that he could also be brutal but in a completely subtle way. In this scene, Holmes coolly takes his arrogant client a notch down or two:

“A most painful matter to me, as you can most readily imagine, Mr. Holmes. I have been cut to the quick. I understand that you have already managed several delicate cases of this sort, sir, though I presume that they were hardly from the same class of society.”

“No, I am descending.”

“I beg pardon.”

“My last client of the sort was a king.”

Oh, before I forget, I just want to say I loved how Arthur Conan Doyle portrayed female characters, especially Irene Adler (also known as The Woman). The fact that the only person who managed to beat Sherlock Holmes was a woman earned Arthur Conan Doyle a ton of cool points in my book. Let me just say that Irene Adler beat Sherlock Holmes not because of her looks or her hot body. She managed to beat him by using her BRAINS. Now, that’s someone the females of today can look up to.

I loved The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. When I finished it, I immediately started reading The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (the next book in the canon if you go by publishing date), because I could not get enough of the brilliant detective.

I am definitely turning into a Sherlockian or whatever you call it. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch—two actors I would not hesitate to fangirl over any day.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thoughts: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

I've always viewed Rudyard Kipling with a somewhat suspicious eye, mainly because of The White Man's Burden and partly because I hated The Jungle Book when I first saw it as a kid.

So, I dived into The Jungle Book with little or no expectations at all, and I was pleasantly surprised. As soon as I started reading about Mowgli and the wolves, I forgot about Rudyard Kipling and the literary baggage that he came with. It was just me, The Jungle Book, and the wonderful characters inside it.

Mowgli's stories were funny and kind of sad at the same time. His adventures with Baloo and Bagheera were hilarious, but there was always an undercurrent of something rotten beneath the surface. When Mowgli finally has to live in an actual, human village, we see the all-too human struggle to fit in, to belong somewhere. Mowgli didn't fit in with the wolves because he was too human, and he didn't fit in with humans because he was too much of a wolf. In the end, he ends up a nomad, stuck between the two worlds.

There were other stories too, like The White Seal (about an almost mythical white seal who leads other seals to safety), Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (about a mongoose who has to fight a cobra couple--I'm not kidding), and Toomai of the Elephants (about a boy who is allowed entrance into the elephants' ballroom).

I didn't like these stories as much as Mowgli's, but, through them, I saw how Rudyard Kipling loved and understood animals. I'm not saying that all his portrayals of animals were accurate, but you get the impression that he knows a thing or two about the heart of the jungle and how it beats.

This reading experience taught me that, sometimes, not knowing anything about a writer can help you enjoy his work more. I avoided reading anything by Rudyard Kipling for so long because of his beliefs that I almost missed out on something as amazing as The Jungle Book.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Thoughts: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

But, mostly, I was crying because I was suddenly very aware of the fact that it was me standing up in that tunnel with the wind over my face. Not caring if I saw downtown. Not even thinking about it. Because I was standing in the tunnel. And I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite.

I first read this book two years ago, and I managed to unearth my thoughts from my old Tumblr account. Here they are:

When the novel starts, Charlie is fifteen and about to embark on his freshman year in high school. He has the whole world ahead of him, and he’s only beginning to shape his life. I’m now a college senior, and I miss the feeling of having my whole life ahead of me, ready to start a brand-new adventure. Charlie’s innocence made me realize that I started the said adventure years ago, and that I might have screwed it up.

After reading this, I wanted to smack my ninteen-year-old self on the back of the head. How could I possibly think that my adventure was over? I was nineteen, about to graduate from college and about to embark on a completely new adventure with new faces and new rules. How dare I even think such a thing?

I finished rereading The Perks of Being a Wallflower a few days ago, and I was amazed to find that I have more in common with Charlie at 21 than I did at 19. Two years ago, I thought I was perfectly normal (doing all the normal college things like getting drunk with friends and trying not to flunk any of my classes), but, now, I've come to realize that I have a tendency to hide behind books, to not participate.

And participating in life? It's pretty damn important.

When I get invited to parties or any other social event, most of the time, I'd rather stay home and dive into another classic (most likely another Sherlock Holmes book). There's nothing wrong with that, but, sometimes, it wouldn't hurt it if I decide to get up, make an effort to look nice, and actually interact with other people, to experience new things.

That, I think, is the main point of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Yes, there's something to be said about stepping back and merely examining people's motives--the things that drive them--but stepping up to the plate and doing something, going after the things you want, is important, too.

On the surface, The Perks of Being a Wallflower seems like your typical coming-of-age novel, but it is so much more than that. It's about living in the moment, not worrying about the future or carrying baggage from the past around. It's focusing on where you are right now, at this very moment, and feeling infinite.

- - -

I know that this has been made into a movie starring Logan Lerman as Charlie, Emma Watson as Sam, and Paul Rudd as Bill (Charlie's teacher), and I'm very excited to see it.

When I read this book two years ago, I actually imagined Logan Lerman as Charlie. I always thought he would be perfect for it, and you can't imagine my delight when I found out he had been cast. And Emma Watson? I always imagined someone with a wilder image as Sam, but I'm sure she'll do a great job (I guess I'll always have a soft sport for Hermione Granger).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Does your significant other have to love books as much as you do?

While trolling through the Internet, I came across nerimon's video entitled Nerdy Personal Ads. The video is composed of personal ads contributed by nerds from all over the world, and one of them, in particular, caught my attention. Must value book space over living space.

This led me to wonder: Do bookworms search for fellow bookworms as life partners?

Personally, I don't think I could ever date someone whose reading diet is composed solely of Maxim magazine, someone who thinks the Harry Potter series is composed of eight books just because there were eight movies. I shudder at the thought of ending up with someone who does not understand why my bookshelf is bursting with unread books, and why I keep lugging two books around in my purse, even if I barely have time to read them.

I do, however, see myself with someone who has a soft spot for Rudyard Kipling or maybe even Neil Gaiman, and someone who understands why the name F. Scott Fitzgerald itself is simply epic. Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere? J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit? Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet? My ideal life partner has probably read them all (I know I sound completely idealistic).

In a nutshell (before I start rambling again), it would be great if the person I end up with in the future loves books as much as I do, but it's not a necessity. I'm only 21, and I have all the time in the world to figure out what I want. My priorities may change, and, someday, I might rank 'not bald' higher than 'reads books' in the list of qualities I want in a life partner. Nothing is set in stone for me yet.

But what about my fellow bookworms? If you're single, do you think finding someone who loves books as much as you do is very important? If you're married, does your husband/wife like to read, too?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thoughts: The Lifted Veil by George Eliot

"Just a month from this day, on September 20, 1850, I shall be sitting in this chair, in this study, at ten o’clock at night, longing to die, weary of incessant insight and foresight, without delusions and without hope."

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot begins when Latimer, the protagonist, tells us about the day of his death. He even gives us specifics, like the exact date and the fact that he’s going to die of angina pectoris (had to look that one up). He then continues to tell us about his “gift” of foresight, and how it affected his life.

The only thing I’ve read by George Eliot is Silas Marner (because I’m lazy like that), so I’m really no expert on her style and common themes. However, I can say that no two works could be more different from each other than Silas Marner and The Lifted Veil. Silas Marner made me feel like I was sitting by the hearth, a warm fire merrily burning away. The Lifted Veil, on the other hand, made me think of candlelight, dark hallways, and mad scientists—a bit like Frankenstein, to be honest.

The book made me wonder about the effect knowing the future would have on my life. What if I saw how relationships would end before they even began? Would I be brave enough to risk getting hurt or would I run like hell? It’s hard to tell. Latimer is actually kind of fascinating that way. He saw how he was going to end up, but he still, excuse the cliché, went for broke. The crazy bastard.

Ergo, the lifted veil.

The veil was lifted for Latimer. He didn’t attempt to change things (which, I think, was admirable and stupid at the same time), but he became obsessed with his visions, especially when he found out he was getting what he wanted. He ended up living in his foreshadowed future more than the present.

This is basically what I learned from this book: No matter how hard we try, we can’t lift the veil, which is actually a good thing. We can stay focused on the present, and realize how important every single moment is. Why worry about a future you can’t control, when you can sing along to Katy Perry’s The One that Got Away?

To end this post, I’m going to quote my fifteen-year-old hipster cousin: YOLO. You only live once. So, go do something stupid now. Like tell your co-worker you think he’s one sexy beast or book that flight to the exotic country (Thailand? Sweden? Panama?) you’ve always wanted to see. YOLO.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thoughts: The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo

While typing this post, I am simultaneously shoving rocky road ice cream down my throat. Ice cream is the only thing right now that can possibly put me in the right frame of mind to write about this book.

Kate, the protagonist of The Jane Austen Marriage Manual, loses her job and home in the middle of the recession. To make matters worse, Kate is still single at forty (horror of horrors!). Still reeling from the loss of her childhood home, Kate accepts a freelance job where she has to write an article proving that, in today’s time, a rich man is the only must-have accessory. Just like in Jane Austen’s time!

I usually have difficulty saying this about books written by writers who are still alive (what if they somehow unbelievably stumble across this blog, read my post, and decide to hunt me down with a butcher knife?), but I’m going to go right ahead and say it. I thought The Jane Austen Marriage Manual was awful. *Warily looks around.*

Kate is supposed to be a gorgeous forty-year-old woman fully capable of catching a billionaire, but she felt paper-thin to me. There was a lot of backstory about her mother and grandmother’s marriages which made sense in the context of the book, but didn’t really seem necessary. The fact that Kate lost her job and home all in the same month tells us why she’s so eager to get a rich husband. We don’t need to find out how her mother and grandmother depended on men financially.

All the things that happened to Kate felt forced. For example, Kate meets this guy she supposedly has an amazing connection with. I’m a romantic, I could believe in that kind of chemistry. I just didn’t find it between the two characters. The book went on and on about how Kate and Griff were building this so-called connection, and the effect he had on her. I couldn’t see it, because, cliché as this may sound, the book was telling me, not showing me.

Seriously, I don’t want to read about how his touch made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. I wanted to see it in my head. Where did he touch her? Did he have calluses on his hands or were they baby-smooth? I wanted details, mostly because I like seeing things unfold in my mind like a movie and partly because I have a dirty mind.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you probably know that I’m a huge Jane Austen fan. Mansfield Park is the only novel of hers that I haven’t read and reread yet, so I’m a little worried about finally running out of things to read by one of my favorite writers. Like, ever. That’s probably why I’ve been reading Austen-inspired novels.

I really should have learned my lesson from Alexandra Potter’s Me and Mr. Darcy. The book tried to make me believe that a modern man with a paunch can possibly surpass Mr. Darcy.


Like that’s really possible.

Don’t get me wrong, and start thinking that I hate The Jane Austen Marriage Manual because I’m a snob and only like classics, and blah, blah, blah. I love chick lit. Helen Fielding, Sophie Kinsella, and Jill Mansell write great books that are fun, and their heroines don’t make me want to bang my head on a desk for the sake of womankind.

Alas, The Jane Austen Marriage Manual did not transport me to fabulous places like New York or Palm Beach. It merely made me want to do violent things like step on the grass in the park, right in front of the ‘Do not step on the grass’ sign. Badass things like that.

Monday, July 9, 2012

On Intimidating Authors

Literary fiction has always terrified me.

This all started when I read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami in college. One of my literature classmates said IT WAS THE BEST BOOK EVER, and threw around words like ‘metafiction’ and ‘postmodernism’ to describe how amazing it was. I immediately got my hands on a copy of the book and started reading it.

Guess what?

I didn't understand a thing. What the hell does this little cottage in the middle of the mother effing woods stand for? Is this woman his sister, his cousin, or his three-headed mother-in-law? I could not grasp what Murakami was trying to tell me. Since I’ve always thought of myself as pretty smart, this was a huge blow to my ego.

Never wanting to feel stupid again, I simply decided to stay away from literary fiction (or maybe just Haruki Murakami, I’m not sure).

I guess my decision wasn’t that firm, because literary fiction novels seem to have accumulated in my shelves. I’ve got The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (who is gorgeous, by the way), Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I’m sure these books will be filled with awesome but hard-to-comprehend ideas, and I’m preparing myself for unexpected things galore.

I’ve always been comfortable with the classics, because these books have already been dissected and discussed by other people (some of these people even had PhDs). Every time I can’t figure something out by myself, there will always be another book or another article to turn to enlighten me.

Literary fiction is completely different. These books are filled with ideas from people living and breathing at this very moment. Yes, people have also dissected these books, but, most of the time, I will have to comprehend the themes by myself. So, I’m going to buckle up and finish The New York Trilogy and all the other literary fiction novels I own, because it’s time for me to stop being scared of my own ideas, of looking stupid because I might’ve interpreted something wrong.

What about you? Which literary fiction authors do you find intimidating?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A New Look: (Literally and Figuratively)

I’m almost ashamed to post this after more than two months of absence.

This is the part where I should start making excuses, but I don’t want to go there. I could say I was busy with school, but I’m not actually a student anymore. I could say I was busy with work, but who isn’t?

I guess I started hating this blog, because it turned something I loved (reading) into an obligation. I became obsessed with writing, at least, three reviews every week. I sped through books, so I could write a review or a post about it.

When I disappeared from Your Move, Dickens, I had no intention of coming back. Don’t get me wrong. I will always treasure the people I met through this blog, but I simply wanted to get away from it. The obsessing over the number of daily page visits. The counting of followers. I knew that book blogging was about more than that, but I couldn’t get a grip on myself.

I read a lot of old posts last week. I cringed over the number of typos (sometimes, I typed ‘warm’ instead of ‘warmth’ which made me look like an idiot), but, overall, I realized how much I missed babbling over books, how I can’t shake this blog off no matter what I do.

So, I’ve decided to revive this blog. For good, I think.

Here are some things I’ve decided to change:
  • Unless it’s really necessary, I won’t post pictures from other sources. Most, if not all, of the photos you’re going to see on this blog from now on will be my own.
  • I will respond to five comments from other bloggers per day. I was really bad at returning comments before, but I hope to improve on this.
  • I won’t pressure myself to review something if I have absolutely nothing worthwhile to say about it.
In order to make this whole ‘revival’ thing seem even more concrete in my mind, I created a new layout. My old one was a bit harsh on the eyes. This one is simpler, and easier to navigate (I think).

Basically, I’m back. Prepare yourselves for more snarky/sappy posts about the classics.

How about you? What’s going in your blog right now?


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