A mask of piety can often lead to a dark story underneath. The higher the religious fervor often covers up the guilt and shame from a dark history. JaA mask of piety can often lead to a dark story underneath. The higher the religious fervor often covers up the guilt and shame from a dark history. James Baldwin’s classic work unearths a history from each character. Starting with the innocence of John and his fear of inadequacy at the pulpit, we see the story of his parents. This high Godly bar seems insurmountable, but John finds his own path to God.
Baldwin’s semi-autobiographical novel is a soul-searching narrative on the nature of sin, the oppression of race, and the desperate need to be saved. Through his eyes we see John’s innocence, his father’s dark history, and the trouble of migration from the rural south to the urban north. It is a north with a promise to give, but never fulfilling that promise. It is a story of struggle against the desire of self.
It’s easy to see why this is such a masterpiece. Outside of just the compelling story, the prose itself and narrative tension make the work completely absorbing. This is the book on how to teach someone how to write. It pulses with energy.
“But to look back from the stony plain along the road which led one to that place is not at all the same thing as walking on the road; the perspective to say the very least, changes only with the journey; only when the road has, all abruptly and treacherously, and with an absoluteness that permits no argument, turned or dropped or risen is one able to see all that one could not have seen from any other place.”
“There are people in the world for whom "coming along" is a perpetual process, people who are destined never to arrive.” “…the North promised more. And this similarity: what it promised it did not give, and what it gave, at length and grudgingly with one hand, it took back with the other.” ...more
To Kill a Mockingbird is a slow exorcism of a dark past viewed through the eyes of a small girl and her Christ-like father. Atticus Finch would be theTo Kill a Mockingbird is a slow exorcism of a dark past viewed through the eyes of a small girl and her Christ-like father. Atticus Finch would be the man who would be the catalyst for change that was still far away in the South in the 1930s. The book itself would be a catalyst of confrontation in the 1960s, 25 years after the events in the book. Even with this dark and cruel racism throughout the book, Lee understands the people in the community, not their reasons behind the bigotry, but seeing them as folks. There is certainly more empathy for Southerners than other writers have given. Flannery O’Conner for one creates a very gothic twisted narrative of the south. For Harper Lee it does seem like she doesn’t see an “Us vs. Them” mentality when dealing with her fellow Southerners, but sees everyone as “just folks”. She lays out the story and lets the events themselves while the reader bears witness.
The trial of Tom Robinson only takes up a small section of the book. Most of the story is a character study of each family in town and how they relate to one another. From the Yule family, living near a trash heap, to Boo Radley, who lives next door to the Finches, we see the history of the town and how everyone interacts with one another. Once the trial begins, the ugly racism appears with taunts to Jem and Scout about their father’s defense of Tom Robinson. This brings Jem and Scout into a new world, broadens their perspective, and demonstrates how different they really are from most of the town. After the trial, there are even comparisons with the racism in that small town with the actions of the Nazis. It’s this dawning awareness that things need to change as observed by Jem and Scout that is a sharp contrast to the people in Macom that will be forever mired in the past, unable to move forward or change their ways. It’s as if these long family traditions will forever freeze and only families like the Finches to start to thaw their perspective.
I think my favorite part is the portrayal of Atticus Finch. It is very difficult to be the person who knows right from wrong when an entire community doesn’t understand it. It comes at a great personal cost to him emotionally, but even knowing “he will be licked” he continues to push forward for the right thing. This is by far the best part of the book. I also listened to this as an audiobook from Audible with Sissy Spacek narrating which was very excellent. So many actors are reading audiobooks now it is like having a lengthy movie version of the book. ...more
Food can often set the mood in classic literature. The reader is more aware of the protagonist disposition or what he can afford simply by describingFood can often set the mood in classic literature. The reader is more aware of the protagonist disposition or what he can afford simply by describing a meal he or she is eating. I often can remember these fictitious dishes when I am eating the same food. It feels like I am back in the story. The concept of the book really resonated with me as I have keen memory for two particular books when it comes to food.
When I eat eggs, I think of Catch-22 when Major de Coverly is being convinced to use his military planes to get his fresh eggs fried in fresh butter. I also think of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest when McMurphy is talking about the conditions in the insane asylum: “ “Look at me now,” he tells the guys and lifts a glass to the light, “getting my first glass of orange juice in six months. Hooee, that’s good…Look at me now: bacon, toast, butter, eggs–coffee the little honey in the kitchen even asks me if I like it black or white thank you–and a great! big! cold glass of orange juice. Why, you couldn’t pay me to leave this place!”
The most famous food scene is in the first book of Remembrance of Things Past, Swan’s Way. In eating the madeleine, the writer is transported back to different time all of a sudden. It is an involuntary memory. It is this concept that has created this wonderful book.
Dinah Fried has painstakingly recreated famous food scenes from classic literature from Oliver Twist to Swan’s Way. If you have read the book, you will be transported by viewing the photo and reading the line that is associated with the scene. There are even footnotes with each section describing the inspiration for the literary scene, or describing the history of the food. She has brought in detail and background where the passages are less descriptive. It is a wondrous experience for the avid reader and a great Father’s Day gift. ...more
James Agee’s classic work A Death in the Family is an in-depth account of how a turn of the century family deals with the death of a loved one. The hiJames Agee’s classic work A Death in the Family is an in-depth account of how a turn of the century family deals with the death of a loved one. The history, dialogue, and customs are all covered. The most remarkable aspect of the book is how he can get into the heads of the characters. You can feel their pain, what they think, and how they interact with others. It even covers the perspective of the young children who are affected. The narrative voice isn’t necessarily third person omniscient, it jumps from character to character. As one family member makes a comment, it is quickly followed by their inner thought pattern. While reading it, it makes the pain everyone feels that much more intense. The experience of the children, in some cases not fully understanding what has happened, is the most poignant.
The book is one giant character study. We move back and forth in time with each character. We know how they think, how they feel even before anything happens in the book. Very little does happen in the book itself and the action is very, very slow. The entire time only covers 72 hours, from the day of the death until after the funeral. The details involved make this story drag a bit, but it really captures how a family would react and how things would be prepared. The historic merits alone, along with the in-depth character study make this book move. It’s like poetry. ...more
This one's been on my to-read list for some time. It's only after reading How Children Succeed did I pick it up. In the book Paul Tough mentions how iThis one's been on my to-read list for some time. It's only after reading How Children Succeed did I pick it up. In the book Paul Tough mentions how it is used in the student's curriculum as an example of someone having too much grit. Indeed, the character Okonkwo is a classic example of someone overcompensating for a perceived weakness. He spends so much time being tough, trying to be a powerful man that he fails to see anything else. His story seems innocent at the beginning, an ambitious man who wants to disassociate from his lazy and indebted father. He goes too far, becoming a menace to his tribe and to his own family, with tragic results.
The story also parallels the introduction of the white man to Africa. The colonialism of the white man starts with Christians and their “sweet talk”, gaining tribesmen into their faith and taking apart old customs in the process. That perceived weakness becomes a strength that would subjugate both Okonkwo and the African people.
I was more interested in the first half of the book. Okonkwo’s wants power and respect, but he doesn’t understand what it takes to be a true community member and leader of the tribe. His perspective is always to show strength whereas if he showed weakness he would have been welcomed more in the tribe and better handled the missionaries in the second-half of the book. I also liked how the second half parallels Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Though it is not as thorough as that book, the same message is conveyed so brilliantly in the end of this book.
"Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious kids and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo's fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father. Even as a little boy he had resented his father's failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was acjbala. That was how “Okonkwo first came to know that acfbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken no title. And so Okonkwo was ruled by one passion—to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentleness and another was idleness.” P. 23
“Then listen to me," he said and cleared his throat. "It's true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother's hut. A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you. She is buried there. And that is why we say that mother is supreme. Is it right that you, Okonkwo, should bring to your mother , a heavy face and refuse to be comforted? Be careful or you may displease the dead” P. 208
“He sighed heavily, and as if in sympathy the smoldering log also sighed. And immediately Okonkwo's eyes were opened and he saw the whole matter clearly. Living fire begets cold, impotent ash. He sighed again, deeply.” P.221
“Does the white man understand our custom about land?" "How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad,- and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” P. 272
“He condemned openly Mr. Brown's policy of compromise and accommodation. He saw things as black and white. And black was evil” P. 282 ...more
I’ve always been intrigued with the subtle knife of conversation that’s prominent in Austen books. A subtle remark, a right phrasing and your enemy isI’ve always been intrigued with the subtle knife of conversation that’s prominent in Austen books. A subtle remark, a right phrasing and your enemy is vanquished, cast off out of good society. It seems to be an analysis on the power of language over those who are more interested in appearance than reality. So goes Persuasion, an Austen work with a little less of the drama and more about the connection of two people. It’s a detail of how family and friends kept their true love apart, a sort of Romeo and Juliet had cooler heads prevailed.
Overall, it’s the same Austen fair, family is fallen on a bit of hard times. A handsome and wealthy man would solve the problem, but beware of the ones with long engagements or those who want to manipulate you for their own ends. Anne is able to easily evade these false attempts even though one of them would have meant a restoration to her home. She knows she was always meant for Wentworth even though those many years ago she was persuaded otherwise. It’s a story that could be told today with families pressuring their impressionable children to marry or not to marry when instead, standing up for what you want is the only thing that will lead to happiness.
"Anne Elliot, with all her claims of birth, beauty, and mind, to throw herself away at nineteen; involve herself at nineteen in an engagement with a young man, who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining affluence, but in the chances of a most uncertain profession, and no connexions to secure even his farther rise in the profession, would be, indeed, a throwing away, which she grieved to think of!" p. 21
"Soon, however, she began to reason with herself, and try to be feelingless. Eight years, almost eight years had passed, since all had been given up. How absurd to be resuming the agitation which such an interval had banished into distance and indistinctness! What might not eight years do? Events of every description, changes, alienations,removals--all, all must be comprised in it, and oblivion of the past--how natural, how certain too! It included nearly a third part of her own life.Alas! with all her reasoning, she found, that to retentive feelings eight years may be little more than nothing." p. 48
"She had used him ill, deserted and disappointed him; and worse, she had shewn afeebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure. She had given him up to oblige others. Ithad been the effect of over-persuasion. It had been weakness and timidity." p. 49
"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you." p. 183
This is a dangerous book in the wrong hands. Read by a mind too young and it could create a self-righteous jerk. However, there are so many truths toThis is a dangerous book in the wrong hands. Read by a mind too young and it could create a self-righteous jerk. However, there are so many truths to the book, that it can help one navigate through political situations. Change is very difficult to implement and in this way I really connected with the Fountainhead. Of course, Roark's purpose isn't to get the world to embrace his ideas, he just loves the work, the creation. In order to read this, I had to set aside the politics of Ayn Rand as they are thinly veiled and the perspective is rather unsophisiticated. What makes this book great is a tendency of human nature to resist the new.
Howard Roark is an independent man, he needs no one, and cares only for his work. As an architect, he only cares about the creation process. His strong-willed nature gets him expelled from school, but pushes him to New York to work. He works for another modernist, Henry Cameron, another independent man who ignores the wisdom of the crowd. Throughout the book, Roark builds despite the continued criticism from the general public. Rand sets the stage of the world against Howard Roark.
Dominque Francon is cut from the same cloth and one of her lines best describes both of them, "I take the only desire one can really permit oneself, freedom, Alvah, freedom. To ask nothing. To expect Nothing. To depend on nothing." This is part of Ayn's politics of Objectivism. I found the story was more interesting when I ignored the finer tips of those points.
I look at Roark as a man just trying to do something new, to push the boundaries not for anyone, but just to see what can be done. In the story he is pushing new "modernist" ideas that the world isn't ready for. They much prefer the crowd pleasing Peter Keating who mashes up familiar likable styles. People just want the perception of the good, not what is really good, and good is whatever someone else tells them. They are all empty shells just repeating whatever an expert says instead of what they think themselves. No one dare think outside the box and to try something new. It reminds me of a funny quote from the movie King of California, "Do you know why people eat at Applebees? The fear of the unknown, that's the scariest thing to people." And taking the Objectivism and politics aside, people don't like what is new, they only like new enough if it is watered down. People just don't like change. Yet there are many who want change and do try new things, but they aren't Objectivists and those that resist them aren't Collectivists, it's more of a basic human nature rather that a political philosophy. However, this part of the story I really connected to. I could understand trying to pitch a new service and getting people to adopt and getting resistance. I know what that feels like and Rand's book describes it eerily well.
The first 3/4 of the book seems to emphasize these actions of change and resistance to change, but she goes off the deep end in the last quarter of the book. Some of the scenarios are pretty ridiculous in order to demonstrate society's resistance to Howard Roark. He is found guilty of building an ugly building (even though he was not given instructions on what should be built other than a temple), but yet he is found not guilty of blowing up a building even though he admitted he blew it up. That just leaves me scratching my head. I feel that her book Anthem better describes her politics and fear by placing it in a future distopia. People who claim an ideology, while not believing in it, in order to gain power is nothing new. Rand describes Elsworth Tooey correctly in his grab for power over society, and his description on how to break men to be compliant is also very accurate. The motivations behind him is clumsy though.
Roark ends up villified for being an imaginative thinking, but gains a following for those who are independent thinkers (who also happen to be wealthy) not from Roark's own promotion.
It's a good message to think for yourself, be confident, and to know that people are afraid of new good ideas or things and people they cannot control. They don't want to be shut out or controlled (even though that fear allows them to be controlled). Rand's goal and philosophy seem silly to me, but the facts of her story and how the characters would act and react seem solid (if a little wooden at times) and very real.
For once, she expected some emotion from him; and an emotion would be the equivalent of seeing him broken. She did not know what it was about him that had always made her want to see him broken. Chap 1
But the best is a matter of standards and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one. chap 1
The substance of them is hatred for any man who loves his work. That's the only kind they fear. chap. 4
He had learned that it was so simple. His clients would accept anything, so long as he gave them an imposing facade, a majestic entrance and a regal drawing room, with which to astound their guests. It worked out to everyone's satisfaction: Keating did not care so long as his clients were impressed, the clients did not care so long as their guests were impressed, and the guests did not care anyway." chap. 6
The girl was so obviously more deserving of love that it seemed just to deny it to her. chap. 9
No man likes to be beaten, but to be beaten by the man who has always stood as the particular example of mediocrity in his eyes, to start by the side of this mediocrity and to watch it shoot up, while he struggles and gets nothing but a boot in his face, to see the mediocrity snatch from him, one after another, the chances he'd give his life for, to see the mediocrity worshipped, to miss the place he wants and to see the mediocrity enshrined upon it, to lose, to be sacrificed to be ignored, to be beaten, beaten, beaten not by a greater genius, not by a god, but by a Peter Keating--well, my little amateur, do you think the Spanish Inquisition ever though of a torture to equal this? chap 7
All I mean is that a board of directors is one or two ambitious men and a lot of ballast. chap. 10
Don't worry, they're all against me. But I have one advantage: they don't know what they want. I do. chap 10
But to get things done, you must love the doing. chap 8
all were united as brothers in the luxury of common anger that cured boredom and took them out of themselves, and they knew well enough what a blessing it was to be taken out of themselves. chap 13
Whatever the legend, somewhere in the shadows of its memory mankind knew that its glory began with one and that one paid for his courage. chap. 18
The dead are always a part of our past. We are their living ghosts. We must learn not to be overwhelmed by them and let them overshadow us. It is thisThe dead are always a part of our past. We are their living ghosts. We must learn not to be overwhelmed by them and let them overshadow us. It is this inability to step out of shadow and to merge the past with the future that hinders the main characters in Thousand Cranes.
Kikuji’s parents have recently passed away. He is surrounded and constantly reminded of them. Mrs. Ota and Chikako, both mistresses of his father hover around him. He begins an affair with one, while the other attempts to arrange a marriage for him. Kikuji is unable to sort out which feelings are manipulations from the past, and which decisions are his own. It’s this confusion, this inability to make his own decision that eventually decide his future as well as those close to him.
I really devoured this novella. I loved how Kawabata juxtaposes history and the dead upon the present. The constant admiring of tea sets become metaphors. We can uphold and rest upon the beauty of the past and continue that legacy, or we can allow the ugly sides of that same past to drag us down. We are ultimately in control of that and must break free, like a comet. The end of this book is a warning for those who cannot build upon that past nor escape it.
Worrying oneself over the dead--was it in most cases a mistake, not unlike berating them? The dead did not press moral considerations upon the living. p. 75 Death only cuts off understanding. p. 77 The Dead are our property, in a way. We must take care of them. p 81 ...more
A confederacy of dunces This book is quite hillarious. Ignatius J. Riley is 33 and lives with his mother. He is a Don Quixote of 1960s New Orleans as hA confederacy of dunces This book is quite hillarious. Ignatius J. Riley is 33 and lives with his mother. He is a Don Quixote of 1960s New Orleans as his delusions of grandeur and strange worldview. It seems his time with his mother is a retreat from the world. He has spent ten years in college, at his mother's expense and recently broken up with his girlfriend Myrna. Now he just spends his time at home, in the tub, going to the movies (specifically to mock the "debauchery he sees), or scribbling in his journal, his great work. When Ignatius's mother gets in an accident she forces Ignatius out of the house to find a job in order to pay for the damages. During his search the author is allowed to desribe the wonderful and hillarious environment of the French Quarter.
Ignatius pretty much destroys everything he touches through his strange ideas or his huge girth. He almost collapses a million dollar industry, attempts to take over the world using degenerates, and finally is used himself for a little sabotage. In the end, villains are foiled, victims become the victors, and Ignatius his rescued at the last minute in a daring escape. It's a beautiful book.
"I don't feel much sympathy for you. You have closed your mind to both love and society."
"You see, Ignatius, if you would just decide to cut the umbilical cord that binds you to that stagnant city, that mother of yours, and that bed, you could be up here having opportunities like this." Chap 3
"I am the avenging sword of taste and decency" chap 10
"You could tell by the way that he talked, though, that he had gone to school a long time. That was probably what was wrong with him. George had been wise enough to get out of school as soon as possible. He didn't want to end up like that guy." chap 11...more
A London family of four is in crisis. Michael, a professor, has been having affairs with his students, which now might cost his job. Eve, a writer ofA London family of four is in crisis. Michael, a professor, has been having affairs with his students, which now might cost his job. Eve, a writer of historical fiction, has been using the stories of real people for her books, and now those people are angry about the exploitation. Magnus, a high school student, has unwittingly participating in a bullying that resulted in the suicide of the victim. Astrid, seems to want to hid permanently behind a camera, witnessing life instead of participating in it. They go on Summer holiday so that they can regroup and leave their troubles behind them, but during their stay, a mysterious young woman shows up and implants herself into the family's daily life. Her involvement will change the family forever.
A strange book told entirely by the inner thoughts of four family members, plus one. A character's motivation or thoughts are rarely revealed in stories. In a way this is looking at an underpainting of a story, all the inner dialogue, the motivations behind a characters actions are all revealed. However, this makes it is a bit difficult to read and reminded me a bit of Ulysses in that style (which I had trouble starting a few months ago and gave up for now).
The writing is beautiful, but there isn't much story, just the playing out of the technique. Overall, the technique was interesting, but the story wasn't.
Astrid isn't totally broken yet, but if a window could throw a brick at itself to test itself that's what she'll do. She'll break herself, Magnus thinks. Then she will test how sharp she is by taking her own broken pieces on herself. Everyone at this table is in broken pieces that won't go together. Pieces that have nothing to do with each other. Like they all come from different jigsaws all muddled together into one box that someone's assistant who couldn't care less in a charity shop or wherever the place is where old jigsaws go to die. ...more
I'm on a Bolano kick after reading his 2666, but I thought The Savage Detectives would be more cohesive story. 2666 Having three major stories that weI'm on a Bolano kick after reading his 2666, but I thought The Savage Detectives would be more cohesive story. 2666 Having three major stories that went off in different directions. It was foolish to think The Savage Detectives would be any better. It's two stories, the story of a young poet and the story of Arturo Belano and Ulisses Lima. (I'm realizing that Belano and Bolano are the same to no surprise).
The Savage Detectives starts off with the story of a young poet in law school. A sort of obnoxious Know-it-all who feels his poetry teachers are inadequate because they don't understand obscure technical poetry structure. Then he meets Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, two literary and poetic mythical creatures. They turn his world upside down. He is suddenly thrust from a calm orderly world of school, family life, and his plans for his future to involvment with the underground movement of visceral realists. He gets involved with pimps, drug dealers, mob bosses and more and is lost in this new world.
The story cuts off right in the middle a dramatic scene in order to tell the reader about Belano and Lima. Their mythical status seems emphasized by their names Arturo (King Arthur) and Ulisses (Odysseus). Their stories are told by journal entries and vignettes by those who knew them or were affected by them. Mentors, lovers friends, enemies and more all tell their stories. In some cases, they are like villains always challenging a protaganist, in others they are the heroes, showing up in the nick of time.
It becomes a rambling read at this point. It's like the author wanted to put a bunch of different stories and ideas into a book and made this rambling storyline to accomplish all of them. The stories work though, it's like these guys represent Young Turks that never grow up, never back down and believe even when their is nothing to believe in. In some cases, a smug knowing that annoys most of the characters in the book. We go back to the original story after these vignettes. 20 years of their storyline are told, from before the story starts to almost 20 years after the story ends.
There are some beautiful passages in these stories. After reading two of his books, I have found that it's best to read his books and absorb them. Read too fast and you'll miss the poetry, but read to slow and get lost the connections.
I turned around and saw a shadow in the middle of the street. All the sadness in the world was concentrated in that shadow. Framed by the strict rectangle of the Impala's window. chap. 5
Which goes to show how relative memory is. Like a language we think we know, but we don't, that can stretch things or shrink them at will. chap 7
let's take, for an instance,an average reader, a mature educated man leading a more or less healthy life. A man who buys books and literary magazines. so there you have it, this man can read things and buys books for when you are calm but he can also read any other kind of book with a critical eye, dispassionately and without complicity.
Let's take the desperate reader, whose interest is reading the desperate literature, what do we see? First the reader is an adolescent or immature adult, insecure, all nerves, he's the kind of idiot who committed suicide after reading wurther. Second, he's a limited reader. Why limited? That's easy, because he can only read the literature of desperation or books for the desperate which amounts to the same thing. the kind of person or freak who is unable to read In Search of Lost Time or the Magic Mountain, a paradigm of calm complete literature in my humble opinion or for that matter Les Miserables or War and Peace Am I making myself clear?
Further deseperate readers are like the California Gold Mind, sooner or later they're exhausted. Why? It's obvious. One can live one's whole life in desperation. In the end, the body rebels. THe pain becomes unbearable. Lucidity gushes out in great bold spurts. THe desperate reader, and especially the desperate poet, is a reader that is insufferable and ends up turning away from books.
Inevitably, he ends up becoming just plain deseperate or he is cured. and then, as part of the regenerative process he returns slowly, as if wrapped in swadling clothes as if under a rain of dissolving sanities He returns to a literature of cool serene with their head set firmly on their shoulders. This is what's called the passage from adolescence to adulthood. It's not that readers only become bold readers, but that this literature bores him. Ultimately that literature of resentment full of sharp instruments and messiahs, doesn't pierce his heart the way a calm page a carefully thought out page and a technically perfect page does. chap 10
Of all the islands he'd visited, two stood out. The island of the past, he said, where the only time was past time and the inhabitants were bored and more or less happy, but where the weight of the illusion was so great that the island sank a little deeper into the river every day. And the island of the future, where the only time was the future, and the inhabitants were planners and strivers, such strivers, said Ulises, that they were likely to end up devouring one another. p. 388.
"...and I would whisper in their ears: non olet. It doesn't smell. The coins earned in the urinals of Barcelona and Madrid don't smell. The coins earned in the toilets of Zaragoza don't smell. The coins earned in the sewers of Bilboa don't smell. Or if they smell, they smell of money. They smell of what the giant dreams of doing with his money. Then the young poets would understand and nod, even if they didn't entirely follow what I was saying, even if they didn't comprehend every jot and title of the terrible, timeless lesson I'd meant to drum into their silly little heads. And if any of them failed to understand, which I doubt, they understood when they saw their pieces published, when they smelled the freshly printed pages, when they saw their names on the cover or in the table of contents. It was then that they got a whiff of what money really smells like: like power, like the gracious gesture of a giant. And then there were no more jokes and they all grew up and followed me....All except Arturo Belano... p. 466
For a while, Criticism travels side by side with the Work, then Criticism vanishes and it's the Readers who keep pace. The journey may be long or short. Then the Readers die one by one and the Work continues on alone, although a new Criticism and new Readers gradually fall into step with it along its path. Then Criticism dies again and the Readers die again and the Work passes over a trail of bones on its journey toward solitude. To come near the work, to sail in her wake, is a sign of certain death, but new Criticism and new Readers approach her tirelessly and relentlessly and are devoured by time and speed. Finally the Work journeys irremediably alone in the Great Vastness. And one day the Work dies, as all things must die and come to an end: the Sun and the Earth and the Solar System and the Galaxy and the farthest reaches of man's memory. Everything that begins as comedy ends as tragedy. p. 513...more
I could hardly put this book down. There are so many life lessons in this book and so much Wilde is stating between the lines about how we treat peoplI could hardly put this book down. There are so many life lessons in this book and so much Wilde is stating between the lines about how we treat people, what we value by how we act, and how we delude ourselves when we act poorly, in this case maliciously.
Dorian Gray is the subject of an art piece. A beautiful boy, who doesn't realize his power until Lord Henry fills his head with it, and makes him vain. After looking at the piece, he is angry that the piece will always retain his beauty, but he will grow old. If only he could stay young and the portait could age. Dorian gets his wish.
It seems that Lord Henry and the portrait are enablers to Dorian's behavior. He is engaged to be married, but then breaks off the engagement when he is embarrassed by his fiance's performance in a play. He causes her to commit suicide. Thereafter, a mark is made on the portrait, an evil twisted face that represents the evil in Dorian's soul. However, instead of repenting his evil ways, he seems to think he can get away with anything he pleases since the portrait will reflect it and not himself.
quote "A sense of infinite pity, not for himself, but for the painted image of himself, came over him. It had altered already, and would alter more. Its gold would wither into gray. Its red and white roses would die. For every sin that he committed, a stain would fleck and wreck its fairness. But he would not sin. The picture, changed or unchanged, would be to him the visible emblem of conscience." end quote
It leads to many horrible acts, not detailed in the story. It won't be the last time he murders someone.
The book reminded me of many politicians and I am sure that anyone who reads it can relate Dorian to someone they know. People that can do atrocious things but then seem to compartmentalize it, as if it never happened. Isn't there some inner part of them that is injured by their acts? It was interesting to read how the main characters can reason away their acts and justify their nasty actions.
Favorite passages from the Book:
“every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the colored canvas, reveals himself. The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown with it the secret of my own soul.”"
“Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all.”"
"Now, the value of an idea has nothing whatsoever to do with the sincerity of the man who expresses it. Indeed, the probabilities are that the more insincere the man is, the more purely intellectual will the idea be, as in that case it [9:] will not be colored by either his wants, his desires, or his prejudices"
Because I have put into it all the extraordinary romance of which, of course, I have never dared to speak to him. He knows nothing about it. He will never know anything about it. But the world might guess it; and I will not bare my soul to their shallow, prying eyes. My heart shall never be put under their microscope. There is too much of myself in the thing, Harry,–too much of myself!"
"Perhaps you will tire sooner than he will. It is a sad thing to think of, but there is no doubt that Genius lasts longer than Beauty. That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place. The thoroughly well informed man,–that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-à-brac shop, all monsters and dust, and everything priced above its proper value"
"Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly,–that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one’s [14:] self. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry, and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion,–these are the two things that govern us. And yet–“"
"Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also."
"Don’t frown. You have. And Beauty is a form of Genius,–is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it. You smile? Ah! when you have lost it you won’t smile."
“Yes, Mr. Gray, the gods have been good to you. But what the gods give they quickly take away. You have only a few years in which really to live. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left [17:] for you, or have to content yourself with those mean triumphs that the memory of your past will make more bitter than defeats. Every month as it wanes brings you nearer to something dreadful. Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses. You will become sallow, and hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed. You will suffer horribly."
"Yes, there would be a day when his face would be wrinkled and wizen, his eyes dim and colorless, the grace of his figure broken and deformed. The scarlet would pass away from his lips, and the gold steal from his hair. The life that was to make his soul would mar his body. He would become ignoble, hideous, and uncouth."
: "The real drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are colorless. They lack individuality. Still, there are certain temperaments that marriage makes more complex. They retain their egotism, and add to it many other egos. They are forced to have more than one life. They become more highly organized. Besides, every experience is of value, and, whatever one may say against marriage, it is certainly an experience. "
"He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize.”"
This is one of those books I should have been assigned in high school. I probably would have enjoyed it had I not changed my English class during my sThis is one of those books I should have been assigned in high school. I probably would have enjoyed it had I not changed my English class during my senior year so that I would get an open hour in the morning. I didn't enjoy the one I switched to, and the one I switched from read this and many others like it.
I enjoy these types of dystopia novels that explore human nature in a new environment. The general theme of these types of books is that whatever controlling system is in place to make things better, human nature is to always resist it, to gain control over his or her destiny is ingrained in human nature. Whenever I read a book like this one, or 1984, or Fahrenheit 451, I always wonder about human nature. Wouldn't an individual resist this collective fight against the individual? Of course, with models such as the Soviet Union and Communist China how they come about. This book shows the ultimate goal is the definition of the self against the nature of we. Taking out the futuristic environment, it's a novel that can be applied today and everyday.
"There is no life for men, save in useful toil for the good of all their brothers. But we lived not, when we toiled for our brothers, we were only weary. There is no joy for men, save the joy shared with all their brothers. But the only things which taught us joy were the power we created in our wires, and the Golden One. And both these joys belong to us alone, they come from us alone, they bear no relation to our brothers, and they do not concern our brothers in any way. Thus do we wonder." Chp.9
What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey? chp. 10
Here, on this mountain, I and my sons and my chosen friends shall build our new land and our fort. And it will become as the heart of the earth, lost and hidden at first, but beating, beating louder each day. And word of it will reach every corner of the earth. And the roads of the world will become as veins which will carry the best of the world's blood to my threshold. And all my brothers, and the Councils of my brothers, will hear of it, but they will be impotent against me. And the day will come when I shall break all the chains of the earth, and raze the cities of the enslaved, and my home will become the capital of a world where each man will be free to exist for his own sake.
For the coming of that day shall I fight, I and my sons and my chosen friends. For the freedom of Man. For his rights. For his life. For his honor.
And here, over the portals of my fort, I shall cut in the stone the word which is to be my beacon and my banner. The word which will not die, should we all perish in battle. The word which can never die on this earth, for it is the heart of it and the meaning and the glory. The sacred word: