Tenderness is what I feel after reading this book. And compassion, the kind that stays with you, the kind that's hard to forget.
The Heart is a LonelyTenderness is what I feel after reading this book. And compassion, the kind that stays with you, the kind that's hard to forget.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is about the deaf-mute, silverware engraver, Mr. John Singer who, after losing his only friend to an institution, finds himself in the company of four lonely strangers: an adolescent girl who dreams of becoming a successful pianist, a jack of all trades who hates the capitalist system, a colored doctor who believes that his race must uplift themselves, and a cafe owner who doesn't say much, but has longings of his own.
Set in 1930s Georgia, less than a century after the emancipation proclamation and in the beginning of WWII, the story touches on themes that depict the southern landscape at that time such as poverty and injustice and just the general desolation of the place.
The problem in the story is that each character struggles to deal with the loneliness brought about by their pursuit of their dreams. And in John Singer, the strangers thought they found a friend who believes in them, not knowing that the deaf-mute, who can't relate to them, has longings of his own.
I like this novel because it's easy to read----McCullers has no grand ideas, but the way she describes the secrets and desires of her characters are just too precious without being sentimental.
I imagine the writer following each character onto his own darkness and just letting him do all the moving and thinking. There's freedom in the writing here----the author poured everything she got on the page. Her youth was her advantage.
But what drives the imagination is the understanding, and that's what impressed me most about McCullers. She understands loneliness. She knows lonely people in their most unguarded moments that there's no other way for her to tell their stories, their longings, but with compassion and honesty. One would think she was describing her very own family or friend. Or her lonely twenty-something self.
Mick Kelly, the aspiring musician, is my favorite, she who goes into the night with only music in her head. And if I were her, I'd follow John Singer too. Dreamers feel safer with people who don't criticize or judge quickly.
She has this sad scene with her father, Mr. Kelly, who summons her one night for no reason. She was only twelve years old and was in a hurry to go to her secret place, but because her father was lonely too, she stayed with him for a while, just letting him cry in the comfort of her presence.
My god, I thought. How does one get to be so lonely? How can one suffer so much from isolation?
Jake Blount, the jack of all trades, turns to alcohol to deal with his loneliness. Biff Brannon, the cafe owner, opens his restaurant until the late hours of the morning. Dr. Copeland treats his patients all day and night. John Singer walks all around town.
But Mick, who is not too young but not too old, what can she do, aside from smoking and dreaming?
McCullers doesn't blame anyone for her characters' sufferings. She knows not to judge her race when Willie, Dr. Copeland's son, gets into trouble. She simply told things as they are, but with one exception: she gave each character ideals and passions that we would normally not see among the loners in us.
If McCullers had any message, it's that the world is too real and too common for our dreams and loves. There are not enough dreamers and lovers to accompany us in the dark. ...more
Before I saw this (the 80th anniversary edition) in the bookshelf that will be bequeathed to me by a generous aunt, I was first an owner of a Disney sBefore I saw this (the 80th anniversary edition) in the bookshelf that will be bequeathed to me by a generous aunt, I was first an owner of a Disney stuffed toy of the same name bought on temporary madness while visiting an amusement park abroad.
Why I chose Winnie-the-Pooh as souvenir from that trip, I can't recall.
But now that I've read this classic children's book, I'm glad he's just there, sitting on my bed. He must have been waiting for this moment when I'll finally take notice of him, the fate of stuffed toys in the hands of adults being precarious and subject to last minute gift ideas.
To be honest, it's hard to choose which chapter of the book is my favorite-----I'm partial to 1) when Kanga and Roo arrived in the forest; 2) the expotition to the north pole; and 3) when Piglet was surrounded by water.
The author, Mr. Milne (and his illustrator, Mr. Shepard), has this quality of delighting the readers with his playfulness.
He makes Pooh Bear appear silly, but lovable in his modesty and humility and in his love for honey.
With Piglet, he is funny by making the character tiny and nervous.
Eeyore, he creates as morose as his gray mane.
He gives Rabbit the tongue as quick as his legs can run.
And owl, the wisdom that is wasted on forest animals.
Christopher Robin, who was Mr. Milne's son in real life, inspires order,adventure, and heroism as the highest order of animal in the company of his forest friends. His love for Pooh is that of an indulgent father and friend.
Highly recommended to children and adults with or without children. ...more
Remember, wherever you are, you must be the lowest and the last.
Such is Fanny Price's fate in Mansfield Park, where, as the consummate poorer relatiRemember, wherever you are, you must be the lowest and the last.
Such is Fanny Price's fate in Mansfield Park, where, as the consummate poorer relation, she grew up in constant reminder of her position in her mother's sister's family, the Bertrams. There she lived with her four cousins, the kindest of whom is the younger son, Edmund. He calls her My very dear Fanny and treats her like his very own sister and friend.
When Sir Thomas Bertram leaves Mansfield Park to attend to business abroad and when the Crawfords arrive in the nearby parsonage, a series of events take place.
Edmund falls in love with the witty Mary Crawford. His newly-engaged sister, Maria Bertram, is seduced by Mary's brother,the exciter, Henry Crawford.
Fanny is aware of the wickedness of the Crawfords, but keeps her observations to herself, until she becomes Henry's object of affection, a project that would soon fail because of his vanity.
Much has been said about Fanny Price's being the untypical Austen heroine-----she's not witty, she's not daring, she's content to sit silent when in company. She only becomes interesting when the worldly and independent Crawfords see in her the qualities that Edmund Bertram has long recognized.
Still, there's something about Fanny that Jane Austen didn't want us to forget.
She is incorruptible, which is why Edmund continues to regard her, to confide in her, to seek her opinion and judgment. She'd rather be thought ungrateful by her uncle, Sir Thomas, than marry someone whom she knows she can't love. Unlike Mary Crawford, she doesn't aspire to be rich nor to lead in any way for personal gain.
Jane Austen gave Fanny not wit, but principles and their application, which endeared her to the Bertrams, to Mansfield, her home. And to someone whose place in society is not warranted and who has little claim to her poor parents' affections, her high morals and goodness of character have given her the thing she wanted most.
That, to me, is heroic.
Though nowhere near the preciousness of Persuasion or the excitement and drama in Pride and Prejudice, this novel is still a joy to read.
The misguided Crawfords, compared to the fortune-seeking Wickhams or even Mr. Willoughby, are more interesting antiheroes because of their sophistication and vanities.
Also, lookout for shifts in the first person POV. It's a nice diversion, Jane Austen referring to herself as "I" or to her characters as "my" (My Fanny).
P.S. There's nothing wrong in being ultra feminine like Fanny Price. It's most attractive, most appealing. And that is why we still read Jane Austen today----she knows women's deepest secrets: )...more
A girl orphaned since birth is cast away by surviving kin and is sent to a school that is more like aThe story of Jane Eyre begins like a fairy tale.
A girl orphaned since birth is cast away by surviving kin and is sent to a school that is more like a prison for the obscure and unwanted. In there, she is nearly starved, always freezing, and bored to death with religious rituals, but Jane finds some comfort in the company of fellow student, the believer of endurance, the stoic, Helen. Death by consumption interrupts their friendship and soon Jane finds herself alone again, but living in better conditions than when she first arrived. She grows up, becomes educated enough to teach at sixteen. When her beloved teacher leaves the school to marry, she sets out to find a new situation as a governess. She was eighteen.
Then she meets Mr. Rochester, a gentleman and the master of Thornfield.
He is the typical Byronic hero---sophisticated, playful, but brooding and dark at times. They fall in love, are almost married, and get separated by Jane's own decision, by her need for self-respect. So she runs away, with few possessions, and suffers the consequences of anonymity until she reaches the home of the Rivers family, who helps in her pursuit of independence.
Jane Eyre is unlike any other heroine I've read. With no wealth or connections, she is forced to apply herself to achieve a certain level of freedom. She knows her place in society. She embraces it. And that in itself is admirable, making this classic novel one of my favorites.
I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.
Love for love's sake is nothing to Jane, especially if it places her at a disadvantage. Her faith in her talents and in the future allows her to escape from a potentially disastrous union. She exerts her own power and influence from sheer knowledge of self.
Charlotte Bronte's writing is beautiful in that usual Victorian way where you read more words than you know their meaning. Where ecstasy means senseless joy, not the party drug. And for that, aside from the strength of Jane's character, this book definitely deserves to be read again. ...more
In victorian era, how does a lady get back her former admirer, once rejected?
a. Accept his indifference and coldness until the sight of you in danger
In victorian era, how does a lady get back her former admirer, once rejected?
a. Accept his indifference and coldness until the sight of you in danger of collapsing renews his former sentiment.
b. When you see him in a room and he comes to you, engage him in conversation. Don't just talk about the weather.
c. Be perfectly useful when an accident involves the lady who might replace you in his affections. Be the better woman for not jumping from heights.
Jane Austen's Persuasion has just become my favorite. It's more serious and insightful about a man and a woman's love for each other, about their constancy.
The story is about Anne Elliot's anxieties in meeting Capt. Wentworth, eight years after she was persuaded to break her attachment with him. Now that she's twenty-seven, past the age of blushing, but not of emotion, she can't help thinking that maybe she made a mistake---- that perhaps she would have been happy with the naval officer, despite his lack of wealth and connections.
She is persuaded that Capt. Wentworth is the only man that she loves.
But he is changed, it seemed, when they meet at the Musgroves' many dinner parties. He is unaffected by her presence.
Once so much to each other! Now nothing!
My only complaint is Mrs. Clay, the chosen companion of Anne's elder sister, Elizabeth.
I don't see why she's in the story at all if her designs for marrying Anne's father was never explicitly revealed. If she's not a threat, I think Elizabeth getting all the attention as first daughter and failing at it, and their removal from their estate as consequence of lack of economies, was enough to tell the story of the Elliots' vanity and foolishness.
Overall, the novel is a celebration of Ms.Austen's gift in realistic and romantic fiction. Here, the heroine doesn't charm her suitor with witticism, but with maturity and the beautiful evolution of her once easily persuaded mind.
If one must read Jane Austen, it should be this. ...more
And then there was this book, and like some beacon the image of Henry Tilney scolding Catherine Morland immediately cameI behaved badly to a friend.
And then there was this book, and like some beacon the image of Henry Tilney scolding Catherine Morland immediately came to my mind, adding another layer of self-awareness to the sometimes painful, sometimes liberating remembrance of the event.
In Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, the young hero Jesse jokes about getting a gut transplant to deal with his fear. I have a preferred elective medical procedure myself that I discovered years ago from the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But poor Catherine Morland doesn't have those choices, fictional or not. Her road to redemption is much simpler, much better for her person. And perhaps for me.
The story goes like this. Girl meets boy. Boy likes girl. One day, they talk about novels, Catherine being a fan of Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho. And in here, through Henry Tilney's defense of the novels, Austen famously declares:
The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
Henry's sister, Eleanor Tilney, notices that Catherine is in love with her brother so she invites her to their home in Northanger Abbey. And there she would meet a harsh awakening of the effects of her fantasizing.
Not particularly gifted in anything, the seventeen year old Catherine is not as grounded on reality as Lizzie Bennet is. But she displays the beginnings of Lydia Bennet when she goes on a trip with her neighbors, the indifferent Allens, in whose company she becomes in danger of failing in the art of attracting the good society that she deserves.
To make things complicated, Catherine has none of Anne Elliot's maturity or Fanny Price's strong moral education so she struggles to deal with the ills of the society, the Thorpes. And it would take her several attempts to do as her conscience dictates and when she triumphs, it brings her closer and makes her appealing to the Tilneys.
In other Austen novels, this pattern of putting the heroine in the society of grotesque characters is what gives her works that tartness, that give-us-the-dirt quality that makes you think twice about the norms in that era. It was almost painful to see how Isabella Thorpe embarrassed herself and her friend, Catherine here in her attempts to attract men she thought she could fool. But Austen gives her the rightful ending, bringing to mind Mr. Wickham's laughable fate.
To my delight, Henry Tilney is not the prototype of Mr. Darcy. Unlike Darcy, he's gentle and firm and intelligent and very respectful of Catherine right from the start. That he's a younger son who would inherit little compared to his older brother might have something to do with his overall, unassuming appeal. Not even Mansfield Park's Edmund Bertram, also a clergyman and a younger son, can compete with Tilney. He's my perfect Austen hero, pending my reading of Emma.
First to be drafted, but last to be published, this novel is the perfect introduction to the more famous and polished works of Jane Austen. It has romance, satire, and insights into the psychology of women. ...more
First reaction: Very readable, but the narrative is not simple. Any story about the effects of war is not simple.
This book is also a metafiction, toFirst reaction: Very readable, but the narrative is not simple. Any story about the effects of war is not simple.
This book is also a metafiction, to my surprise. The first chapter, for instance, is a preface, a long one. So expect to be rewarded by the intimacy of Vonnegut explaining to the reader why he wrote Slaughterhouse Five and how he wrote it in such a way that makes sense to him.
The story starts with Billy Pilgrim who goes to war as a chaplain's assistant and on an assignment, finds himself caught in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge, which he barely survives. He has no proper weapon and clothing and suffers from shock, from exhaustion, from the general ill effects of war so he insists during the escape to be left alone on the field to sleep or dream or just to stop moving. He wants to die, in short. But instead, he becomes a prisoner of war and a slaughterhouse number five in Dresden, Germany is to be his new home.
If this book was conventionally constructed, the climax would be the bombing of Dresden or the plane crash, both of which Billy again survives. But because this is also a story of Billy's time travel adventures, the climax is irrelevant. In its place are moments in Billy's life, arranged in such a way to suggest the jumping from time to time, from past to present and vice versa.
It is clever. It is perfect. It does what Vonnegut intends to do, this non-linear storytelling.
We get a sense, we begin to understand the sad reality of Billy's life after the war. The inescapable memories combined with the heartbreaking justification of their occurrence in his mind makes this novel worthy of its message: The cost of war is not the loss of human life. But the loss of humanity of those who survives it.
One of my favorite passages was when the post-war Billy asked the Tralfamadorians this question, made more poignant and revealing because of his obvious disconnect from reality:
So tell me a secret so I can take it back to Earth to save us all: How can a planet live at peace?
I think the whole of mankind will benefit if we ask that question from time to time. Solutions are many. But it's the asking that must be done first.
And the barbershop quartet. How can I forget about the barbershop quartet after this novel? Just when you thought that Billy was enjoying himself, acting like a normal husband celebrating his wedding anniversary, images of war haunt him in the most unexpected moments.
This is one of the greatest modern novels I've read. I don't want to spoil it for you I've said enough. Read it for the art. Read it for the soul. It has both.
*** I've been curious about Kurt Vonnegut's books since I found them in an obscure shelf at a bookstore during my mad new-book-buying years. His name sounded foreign enough, his book covers were strange, and the titles stranger still. Who writes a book called Breakfast of Champions, if it's not about Alexander the Great's breakfast of raw eggs, honey, wine, etcetera? Clearly, there's a hint of underlying humor, only, the critical or ironic kind.
But if Vonnegut's books can wink and produce a lopsided grin, I wouldn't be persuaded until I became familiar with his writing tips and only after I've read a letter by Kurt to a school board who ordered that copies of Slaughterhouse Five be burned. You can read the letter here.