I wish someone could bottle you up, so that each person in the world could have a little bit of you. (Okay, m...moreOh, Augustus Waters.
I wish you were real.
I wish someone could bottle you up, so that each person in the world could have a little bit of you. (Okay, maybe not bottling you up, per se, but your essence, maybe...but only because bottling you up would not only be cruel but gross. And you're not real, so it would be impossible.)
But if you were real, then you would be pretty close to perfect.
You are absolutely yummy (your words), infinitely interesting, grotesquely irreverent (which makes you even yummier despite your 1.4 legs), and just so darned multidimensional that if it were possible, I'd want to travel the multiverses just to get a chance to meet you. And maybe hang out for a day...or an afternoon. Heck, even an hour, even if it were in the Literal Heart of Jesus.
Is it wrong that I like you so much?
Is it? Because it doesn't feel wrong.
I have no idea how Hazel held out for as long as she did, but thank goodness that girl came to her senses. Because you are, quite intolerably, just plain wonderful.
Because you did more in your short (fictional) life than most (real) people ever do...or try.
Because you look at life, at the universe, and you thumb your nose at it, with a smirk. I wish I could do that, instead of getting bogged down by...everything.
Because you put into words your fear of oblivion, so succinctly, so simply, that I teared up when you first uttered those words. That most everyone has that fear is a given. But very few could even string together the right words to voice that fear, much less share it with the world at large and make it mean something. So bravo to you, Augustus Waters (and by default, you, John Green, as well). Bravo.
Oh, how I wish you were real, because...
Well, because we'd all be just a smidgeon better for having known you. For having had the chance to catch a twinkle or two of your starlight.
Oh, this was so beautiful. Beautiful and painful. Painful and real. Real, so real, it left my insides raw.
I had a difficult time with the beginning. N...moreOh, this was so beautiful. Beautiful and painful. Painful and real. Real, so real, it left my insides raw.
I had a difficult time with the beginning. Not because it was unreadable, not well-written or hard to muddle through. On the contrary, it was a well-written book, evenly paced. The child-speak didn't bother me (I know it bothered some readers). I really couldn't find anything wrong with the book, technically.
No, I found it difficult because I was feeling too much and I didn't want to get too entangled in the story, in the characters.
After all, this was a story that was meant to be disturbing. It is not a subject matter many people are comfortable with. And yet...
And yet I felt so attuned to Jack, from the very beginning, that it hurt to go on. I didn't want him to hurt or be scared. I didn't want him to worry, didn't want him cold or hungry. I didn't want him sleeping in a wardrobe. Didn't want him obsessively counting each time Old Nick came by.
The problem was that Jack had become real, for me. And his fears, his life, his needs made me uncomfortable. That's why it was difficult.
For certain books, as a reader, it is inevitable that at some point, you will insinuate yourself into the story. You recognize part of yourself in a character (or three). You identify with one or two or a few, see things from their perspective, feel things even though it's not your story, not your journey.
And when you can lose yourself in a story like that, lose yourself in a character, that's when a book and its narrative truly succeeds. But it's not always easy.
I don't want to give too much away because I don't want to take away from other readers' experience. I will say this, however: as I kept reading, I realized I had created two distinct time frames for the events in the story. Before The Plan (BP) and After The Plan (AP).
I found things more heartbreaking BP. And while the heartbreak is still there AP, it was more heartwarming also.
Five things that hit me, BP: - the wonder in seeing and hearing everything from a five year old's perspective - the joys of empty cans, tissue paper rolls, five crayons and a child's limitless imagination - the strength a mother achieves to keep her child whole and alive - the strength of a child who only wants to please his mother - this is a twisted, cruel, ugly, beautiful, complex world we live in
Five things that hit me, AP: - how terrifying real reality can be - yes, it is possible to go through childhood without Legos! - Steppa and crocs - how resilient children are, when adults around them are falling, failing, flailing - how twisted, cruel, ugly, beautiful and complex people are
I wasn't a huge fan of Emma Donoghue's Slammerkin, but after Room, I'm certainly a fan now.(less)
David Levithan's use of an alphabetical narration was, in my mind, seminal and a very novel approach to telling a very...moreSo beautiful, so real, so raw.
David Levithan's use of an alphabetical narration was, in my mind, seminal and a very novel approach to telling a very old, very common story. I'll be honest: I was a tad bit concerned that I wasn't going to like how this narrative---this relationship---played out non-chronologically, but surprisingly, it worked. It worked so well, in fact, because throughout, I had this sense of dread, this sense of not knowing what was going to happen. The suspense was killing me and I had to turn the page, to find the next word, to find out what was happening.
And I think, part of me still doesn't know for sure what happened. I think I know, and I know what I'd like to believe, but I guess that's the truth for most relationships anyway: you never know. You just are. You're in one and each day can bring up a new question, a new word, a new potential future and you may or may not end up alone.
This biographical story about Isabella Robinson broke my heart. Imagine that you are Isabella: you are a Victorian lady and have had a privileged upbr...moreThis biographical story about Isabella Robinson broke my heart. Imagine that you are Isabella: you are a Victorian lady and have had a privileged upbringing. Nevertheless, you were married off not once, but twice. Your first husband died, leaving you with a small child, and your second husband is avaricious, cruel and a philanderer.
Since you live in Victorian times, anything you own is the property of your husband's. Your father gave you £5000 as a wedding gift for your first wedding; he gave you another £5000 as a wedding gift for your second wedding. This is a good sum of money (not counting the inheritance you received after your father passed away), and with interest, you earn around £400 a year. Since these were your father's gift to you, your husband cannot touch any of your money. Except that your second husband, Henry Robinson, cajoles then insists that you sign over all your blank checks to him, so that he has access to all your money. Eventually, to keep the peace in your marriage, you relent.
You also find out that your husband has been cheating on you; he has taken on a mistress and has fathered daughters with her. Furthermore, he spends most of his time away from you; he is gone for months at a time, doing business (spending your money), building houses (from the earnings of the businesses you have essentially financed) and being with his other family (his mistress' family). You want out of the marriage, but can't leave, since English law will more than likely award your husband sole custody of your children. You have no choice but to remain with Henry.
You live an unhappy life, empty and lonely, save for the time you spend with your children and when you visit friends. Your friends are an intellectual group, and offer you an escape from the tediousness of your quotidian life. It is a refreshing escape, and makes the monotony of your life bearable. Every time your husband comes home, however, he finds fault in everything you do and say, as well as in the children's behavior.
The one thing that offers you true solace is the time you spend writing about your life in your diary. You describe all your hopes and dreams, and yes, even your attraction toward other men -- crushes, in today's parlance -- such as your children's tutor or a neighboring doctor, because you simply are not receiving the respect, love and attention you crave and desire from your husband.
You write about your husband's atrocious behavior, and you also document every time you have had a conversation or a visit with a good friend you have fallen in love with, Dr. Edward Lane. You and Dr. Lane have long conversations about poetry, literature, philosophy. In other words, he stimulates you intellectually, makes you feel like a woman by igniting all these feelings you never felt in either of your marriages, and unlike your husband, he is a devoted father and husband.
When your husband discovers your diary -- and remember, anything you own, including any of your papers, are considered his property -- he uses that as a means to take your children away from you. It is also his way of gaining a separation from you at first, then again to obtain a divorce later on, on the grounds that you had committed adultery, and that the proof was in your diary. What's worse, the contents of your diaries are laid out not only to the judges at the trial, but are provided to newspapers and magazines as well, so that everyone in England, Scotland and Wales now has access to your innermost thoughts, to the collapse of your marriage, to your fears regarding separation from your children.
It is salacious reading; so much so that some newspaper editors are reluctant to publish what occurred in court or excerpts from your diary, lest children inadvertently read the paper at the breakfast table. Nevertheless, others will publish it; your writing becomes a daily topic of conversation, and not in a good way. The boundary between truth and fiction are discussed, argued, and deliberated in the courtroom, and you have no choice but to remain silent. The man you were in love with, Dr. Lane, denies ever having had any relations with you, and in order to save him and his reputation (as well as to prevent Henry from receiving a monetary amount from Edward, if you and he are proven guilty of adultery), you must admit that everything you wrote about him in your diary was nothing but a fanciful lie. Your lawyers plead insanity -- because why else would a perfectly sound and normal woman write such things in her diary, if not because she couldn't distinguish between fact and fiction, and also because she was suffering from erotomania and/or nyphomania -- and again, you remain silent.
This was a really good work of narrative non-fiction. It showcased how powerless women were, in a time when women were actually becoming their own persons, holding down jobs, having careers and were regarded as esteemed writers, philosophers, nurses and business women. The double standard that was prevalent at the time was disheartening. The fact that for a woman to request a separation or a divorce, she had to prove unusual cruelty, abandonment or physical abuse but not adultery was ridiculous. On the other hand, the primary reason a man could file for separation or divorce was...you got it...adultery.
This book had me livid at times (in a good way). While it is still unclear whether Isabella Robinson had an affair with Edward Lane, what is sure is that in her mind, and by her own admission, and ultimately, in the minds of everyone else at the time, she committed adultery of the heart. By loving someone else, regardless of whether it was physical or not, her husband was able to take her own words and use it against her, taking her children, her money and her life away from her.
There were so many jaw-dropping moments in this book, but I don't want to go into them since they're all spoilers. Suffice to say, as much as the Victorian era is one of my favorites, I don't think I could have abided the double standards as far as marriage went. It's a shame Isabella hadn't been born just sixty or seventy years later: her whole life may have been different if she had been.(less)
Shall we make a new rule of life...always try to be a little kinder than is necessary?
In that one sentence is wrapped the premise of Wonder: to be kin...more
Shall we make a new rule of life...always try to be a little kinder than is necessary?
In that one sentence is wrapped the premise of Wonder: to be kinder than is necessary. That it's not enough to be kind but that one should be kinder than needed. That the decision to be kind is a choice each and every single one of us faces, but that not every one chooses to do so, because, let's face it, it's hard.
I don't really want to say too much about this book, only that it is simultaneously beautiful and ugly and all too real. I think each person has to discover it for themselves and take whatever meaning they want to from it, because each person is different. Each person is flawed, and those flaws -- whether real or perceived, regardless of whether they are physical, emotional or psychological -- almost always affects how we behave and are perceived by others.
This is an adult book that I think children should read. Many will say this was written for young adults (and I think that's probably true as well) but I believe adults would benefit from reading this anyway. It's very easy to lose sight of things when people, regardless of age, are caught up in the drudgery of their own quotidian existence. It's easy to lose sight of how lonely life can be even when you're surrounded by so many people, or how uplifting it can be when someone notices you.
There's much to be learned by everyone from this novel, least of which is this: we all have a choice about how we are with others -- and everyone, to a degree, is imperfect, flawed, damaged -- and that being kind or nice is not easy, even if you love someone very much. Sometimes it's easier to be cruel or mean or even neutral. That sometimes, in the need to want to belong to a group, in the desire to be accepted, it's easier to do something atrocious and demeaning just so you're not alone or ostracized. And sometimes, part of growing up is making the hard choices and not conforming, that we all need to accept and love our flaws.
Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world. -- Auggie
I could've finished this book in one sitting, but I didn't. I wanted it to last. I re-read a few chapters again and again, because it touched me so much.(less)
While I may be a bit biased (I played Doc Gibbs!), I have to say that I loved this play, I loved the story, I loved the simplicity of everything about...moreWhile I may be a bit biased (I played Doc Gibbs!), I have to say that I loved this play, I loved the story, I loved the simplicity of everything about it. I loved how raw the emotions were, how simply and truthfully they were conveyed, and more than anything, I loved the fluidity of bringing together grief and joy and sorrow, anger and loss, and just showing how people live in a continuous state of "being". We read it in our junior year of high school and we adapted it for a Thornton Wilder competition. It would've been wonderful to see how Wilder - ever the traditionalist AND the Puritan - would've reacted to seeing how a bunch of girls (from an all-girls Catholic school) interpreted his writing. (less)
I think this one of the most underrated novels in literature, and that Anne Bronte is one of the most underrated authors, as well. If I didn't love Ja...moreI think this one of the most underrated novels in literature, and that Anne Bronte is one of the most underrated authors, as well. If I didn't love Jane Austen so much, I would say this one is my favorite Bronte novel!(less)
I am not a linear book-reader. That is, I rarely ever read a book contiguously, from start to finish. I have a very bad habit of reading the last doze...moreI am not a linear book-reader. That is, I rarely ever read a book contiguously, from start to finish. I have a very bad habit of reading the last dozen or so pages first, just to see if I will like the story. (It's a bit irrational; I don't know what I'm looking for, but somehow, reading those last words gives me an impression of what to expect, of whether I should buy a book or pass on it, or even if I will like a book or not.) Personally, I don't think that reading the end first takes anything away from the story since I don't know what led up to it, and I often feel (strangely) rewarded at the end by those "aha!" moments when what I know of the ending becomes evident. Still, I know it drives some people (i.e., Jim) crazy, and for that, apologies. Once I start reading, I also have a tendency to go back to certain sections repeatedly (including the ending), thus prolonging the experience while also gaining more insight into the characters, situations, the language used, etc. So in many ways, my style of reading probably suited the way how this novel was written: the beginning presupposed the end, and the time traveling aspects of the story - jumping back and forth through time - did not detract from my going back and forth through the novel, either. It complemented it very well, in fact, that I am now a proud owner of a very dog-eared copy, with the binding a bit ragged and very nearly unglued. :-)
That said, I must say I really enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife. I stop short of claiming that I loved it only because there were parts of the novel - specifically towards the end - that bothered and frustrated me. My discomfiture, however, did not take anything away from relishing the narrative itself: I loved the characters, I loved the writing style, I loved the intelligence of both the author and the narrative. The prose - her writing, the attention to detail, the exquisite imagery - was sublime and oftentimes visceral. Sometimes what she wrote was almost too painful to read (in a good way). Similarly, the poetry was heartwrenching; it made me want to re-read Rilke, Homer and Dickinson (as well as Byatt's Possession) with a different lens. I did feel as if there were a few questions left unanswered in the end, such as, what happened to Alba? (Yes, the title of the book is not The Time Traveler's Daughter; I suppose what happened to Alba, in the grand scheme of things, is irrelevant since we find out what happens to Clare.)
The parts that troubled me the most occurred in the third part, at the end. Her one-word chapter titles, "Dissolution," "Dasein," and "Renascence" said more than enough. I found these last chapters the hardest to get through (I was telling Jim I could've finished the book 2 weeks ago, but I had to keep putting it down because there were parts I found extremely upsetting), even though they were probably the most critical chapters in the novel because, for the first time, it finally dealt with Clare after Henry. For as much as the novel was about Henry's wife, it was also his story, and a majority of the book dealt with their lives. They were inextricably linked through time and space for most of the book, but here, at the end, it was all about Clare. Clare alone, Clare lost, Clare trapped, Clare waiting.
Throughout the novel, Clare typified her art as being, simply, about birds and about longing. But as her story unfolded, her art became a metaphor for freedom: it became about finding her wings (and Henry's), and gaining freedom from the body, from time, from its intricacies and paradoxes, from the problems it caused, from the world. What was so unnerving, however, was the meaning behind those three chapter titles, and what happened in each chapter. Dissolution: disintegrating, breaking bonds, falling apart. Dasein: a being that is constituted by its temporality, something that illuminates and interprets the meaning of "Being in Time" and a way of choosing to either remain engaged in the world or distanced from it, all the while questioning what it means to be (now there's a throwback to my literary criticism days when we were studying Heidegger - I never liked Heidegger because everything was a circular argument; everything seemed paradoxical because everything seemed causal). And then Renascence: a rebirth, a renaissance.
There's a passage in the book, towards the end of the second part, when Henry says "The pain has receded but what's left is the shell of the pain, an empty space where there should be pain but instead there is the expectation of pain." During Dissolution and Dasein, Clare lived these words. Clare never achieved the freedom she longed for; her life and her freedom were directly linked to Henry's, and when he was gone, a part of her died with him, too. She becomes nothing more than a shell; someone who gives up her art, someone who just drives her daughter around, someone who is a part of the world, but is not engaged in it. Someone who just is. In Renascence, Clare finally creates something new. After decades of creating birds, wings, angels and drawings of Henry and Alba, she finally creates one of herself. And this new art form surprises her because it takes on a much bigger scope than anything she had created in the past: this time, it's a constellation, a galaxy, a universe of stars, and she's lost in the vastness of something so huge, so intangible. At the end, she states, "I regard my likeness, and she returns my gaze. I place my finger on her forehead and say 'Vanish,' but it is she who will stay; I am the one who is vanishing."
There is beauty in such tragedy, and that's what made it so hard to read, so hard to end.
Loved this novel so much, I gave it to two friends as presents and forced Jim to read it! I'm telling everyone I know to read this book - it's just fa...moreLoved this novel so much, I gave it to two friends as presents and forced Jim to read it! I'm telling everyone I know to read this book - it's just fantastic. Very quick read, too.(less)