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gatsbyThe Great Gatsby tells the love story of the rich Jay Gatsby and the childish, wealthy Daisy Buchannan. Set in the Jazz Age following World War One, it chronicles the attitudes of the new arising society. After five years, Gatsby finds the chance of accomplishing his dream: winning back his old lover Daisy, with the aid of the new outsider, Nick Carraway, who comes to Long Island to sell bonds but becomes deeply involved in the story. Gatsby is disappointed in the end after discovering that the notion that Daisy deeply loves him was untrue.

I think that Nick Carrway’s point of view was a very good way of describing the new period after World War One because it showed the attitudes of its people from another detailed perspective.

 

“That fellow had it coming to him. He through dust into our eyes just like he did in Daisy’s, but he was a tough one”.

Tom Buchannan says this after he and Daisy confront Nick for the last time; but more importantly, after the shooting of Jay Gatsby. After vainly trying to convince him otherwise, Nick loses hope of making them understand the truth. Tom doesn’t seem to know that it was Daisy who recklessly killed Myrtle, the wife of George Wilson the garage owner, with whom Tom was having an affair. Daisy, who knows that she killed Myrtle, doesn’t tell Tom the truth and follows along. In my opinion, knowing the truth wouldn’t have changed anything on the behalf of Tom. Although he doesn’t know the truth, he doesn’t want to know. He is content with living luxuriously and care-free in his ignorance.

When Gatsby becomes rich, he turns into a material man. Before the war, Daisy leaves him for the wealthy Tom Buchannan. The past five years, during which he turned himself into a millionaire, he has been thinking of fulfilling his dream of getting Daisy back, with the dreamy notion that she still loves him and had been faithful to him all those past years, like he had been. In the movie and in the book, his confusion is shown in this moment:

“Oh, you want too much!” she cried to Gatsby. “I love you now—isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past.” She began to sob helplessly. “I did love him once—but I loved you too.”

Gatsby’s eyes opened and closed.

“You loved me TOO?” he repeated.

“…It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…”

This is still relevant today. Tom and Daisy both have narcissist attitudes, and when they are engulfed in their own depressed worlds, they care not what they do around them, and they have no guilt over their doings.

The 1974 movie a good companion to the book. To me, it focused more on the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy. Mia Farrow performed an excellent portrayal of Daisy Buchannan. I didn’t think that she overacted. She visually showed Daisy’s character as it was. Robert Redford also very-well depicted the “cool” and mysterious character of Gatsby. However, some silent moments in the play seemed like gaps to me, they were awkward.

The people of the Jazz Age, as Fitzgerald depicted them, were fascinating:

“I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited, they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them out to Long Island and somehow they ended up at Gatsby’s door. Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission.”

After not even having Gatsby (but some “acquaintances” of his) and even enjoying themselves at his great mansion, they accuse him of being a German spy and of killing somebody. This shows the immorality and vicious gossip in the 1920s.

I find Gatsby’s situation sad because he has always genuinely loved Daisy, perhaps something rare in that period, but he thought he could win her back and please her through material and his great house. Gatsby was so determined in achieving his dream that he thought he could repeat the past (“Why of course you can!”) He reminds me of Florentino Ariz, in Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, who waits fifty-one years, nine months, and four days for his lover’s husband to die. The difference is that Florentino achieves his dream, proving the power of enduring love and patience, unlike Gatsby, who has been patient also. Florentino did not attempt to change himself or his status; but Gatsby thought he could win back Daisy through the wrong way; millions and materialistic luxury.

A brief introduction of the book: In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet, the fussy and sometimes inappropriate mother of the Bennet sisters, aims to have her five daughters married. The novel starts with the arrival of the wealthy Mr. Bingley to town, who has newly rented a Netherfield estate. Mrs. Bennet wants him to marry her eldest and most beautiful daughter, Jane. However, the novel centers on Elizabeth, the clever and sharp-witted second oldest sister, and her relationship with, or “first impressions” of Mr. Darcy. He is the wealthy taciturn and superficially cold friend of Bingley. Issues of wealth and class are apparent in Pride and Prejudice: The Bennets live reasonably well, whereas Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are extremely wealthy.

Pride and Prejudice also focuses on the silly, and often funny, social behaviors of people. Jane Austen displays how people, especially females, can manipulate their acquaintances and be aggressive toward others through social gestures (such as ignoring somebody or refusing to enter one’s house) and conversation.

At their first ball in Netherfield, Mr. Darcy shows total disinterest in dancing with anybody, and Jane forms an obstinate negative impression of him from that point, not even allowing him to prove otherwise. Pride and Prejudice deals a very wise issue, which is judging people by negative thoughts on them. This is displayed through Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. Elizabeth makes the grave mistake of believing everything she hears, especially when it adds to her original opinion. Through a deceiving Mr. Wickham, Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship worsens, leading to an utterly unjust and harsh judgment of Darcy from Elizabeth, and to Elizabeth’s shameful regret for harming Darcy.

Although not my favorite of books, Pride and Prejudice is nevertheless very engaging, but it goes beyond that. Pride and Prejudice confronts very important social issues: prejudice and misunderstanding. Most of the novel is about Elizabeth’s misunderstanding of almost all of Darcy’s relationships, actions and intentions, and her prejudice toward him. He is a most pitiful character, in my opinion.

I think that throughout the novel, Darcy has been victimized by Elizabeth, the evil-intentioned Mr. Wickham, and all the people who dislike him, with the thought that he is proud. I never thought Darcy to be a vain or proud man. He is merely observant and solemn. First, Elizabeth despises him for breaking the relationship between her sister Jane and Mr. Bingley by advising Bingley to leave town, but after reading his long letter, she comes to face the truth that Jane never showed deep affection toward Mr. Bingley. This brings me to the conclusion that Mr. Darcy only cared for the happiness and best interests of his friend. After Jane learns more about him, she discovers that Darcy is a very sincere and kind man.

 

“Anyone who has gone along with the notion that the pride highlighted in the title of the novel in embodied in Darcy now has to contend with the discovery that both this quality and its pair are being attributed to Elizabeth.”

-Introduction in Oxford World Classics edition of Pride and Prejudice.

 

Regarding the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Kiera Knightley, I find it a pretty good interpretation of the book, enjoyable by readers of the book and nonreaders also. The movie wasn’t exactly accurate compared to the the book, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think that Matthew Macfadyen excellently performed the role of Mr. Darcy, making his character even more lovable. Although set in the 18th century, I felt the movie was modern. The style of the novel is formal, and I think the movie added a touch of satisfaction and fun for viewers. But to really appreciate the story, one should read the book in addition to watching the movie. One must put in mind that the movie is short, and many important scenes, such as Mr. Darcy’s letter, had to greatly shortened.

The movie did not ignore the issue of wealth. The glib Elizabeth seemed somewhat humbled and at the same time amazed as she gazed at Mr. Darcy’s extravagant paintings and sculptures at his colossal mansion, after roughly rejecting his marriage.

I must add that Mr. Collins, the man who is to inherit the Bennets’ estate, was overly caricatured. Elizabeth was not a very likable character throughout the movie. She was very mean to Mr. Darcy, and had a tendency of sticking her eyes where they shouldn’t be; but after all, she is a proud and prejudiced woman, and wasn’t meant to be admired in the novel. But she still gets a happy ending: a man with high merit, and a lot of money.

Mattew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy

"Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us."

Pride and Prejudice

Kafka on the Shore is about a young teenager named Kafka Tamura who runs away from his father in search of his unknown mother and sister. Parallel to Kafka’s story is that of Nakata, an elder who lost most of his intelligence during a mysterious incident he went through as a child. As a result, Nakata gained the ability to speak to cats, and he finds people’s missing cats as a job. Although these two characters never meet, they are somehow related by a force beyond this world.

The Structure of Kafka on the Shore is very creative. Kafka and Nakata’s stories are narrated parallel to each other, and they run alternatively. Kafka, the runaway, narrates his own story in the first person. Nakata’s story, on the other hand, is narrated through the third person, but that narration, in a subtle way, approximates to Nakata’s own manner of talking and thinking. Since Nakata’s accident made him lose a part of his intelligence and maybe made him less eloquent, the author gave him a voice through the third person, but personalized it to suit Nakata himself. I found that very impressive.

Kafka on the Shore is a dreamy novel, yet it is sophisticated and modern. In this story, characters encounter ghosts, it rains fish and leeches, and the characters visit completely different worlds, such as a place hanging between life and death. Sometimes the characters’ subconscious minds narrate parts of the story. Murakami’s writing makes the reader actually live in his dreamlike world. He very well manages to put you in the situation of his characters, and when you begin reading the stories of those two characters, especially Kafka’s, you will soon drift inside their worlds and share their feelings and thought.

Kafka on the Shore is rich with allusions to old theories, Greek Gods, literature, and Franz Kafka. Not only that: Kafka is haunted by an oedipal prophecy during his escape. The supporting the characters in Kafka on the Shore are very memorable; they stand out. The theme of this novel is gloomy and depressing, but it has a great sense of humor in some parts.

Kafka on the Shore is not the type of book which one will forget after reading. Although I found some parts of the novel tedious, I find it is sophisticated and grand. There are many mysteries still remaining in this book, and Murkami makes the reader feel there are elements blended in the book way over the top of one’s head.

Haruki Murakami writes in a sort of Kafkaesque style, and his world is fully believable and livable. If you would like to escape, this is the book to read. Not everyone might enjoy Kafka on the Shore; however, there is no denying  Murkami has a dexterous hand at writing, and his technique is worth mentioning.

One review said, “…[Kafka on the Shore] attempts to tap into the same fevered dream-logic as Franz Kafka’s novels and stories, but unlike those metaphysical dead-ends, Murakami’s narratives offer his characters a way out. (Though never a way back.)” —Scott Blackwood, Austin American-Statesman

I find this true; Murakami’s not-absolutely-innocent characters are spared, for they are only human, and they have a second chance to live their lives all over again and start from the beginning.

Buy from Amazon

Haruki Murakami’s website

New York Times review

New Yorker review

In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley chronicles the story of the controversial civil rights leader, Malcolm X. In his youth, Malcolm X engaged in issues such as drugs, robberies and gambling. While spending time in prison for 5 years, Malcolm converted to the Nation of Islam, inspired by Elijah Mohammed, whom his siblings had told him about. Through spending time in jail, he changed his life by vigorously studying several subjects and completely changing his life habits. After he was released, Malcolm X worked for Elijah Mohammed to spread the Nation of Islam and later became a powerful speaker for black people’s rights.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a very rare and inspiring book. By showing the prejudice and racism Malcolm X faced since he was young, the reader understands what he advocates for more. I think that Malcolm X is a focused man with sharp perspective. His story is a remarkable one; he progressed from a “hustler” to a serious and educated person. He went through various changes in his life. While he was under the influence of Elijah Mohammed, who changed his life by introducing him to the Nation of Islam and later betrayed him, Malcolm X agreed and advocated that white people were “blue-eyed devils” and that they couldn’t help African Americans in their fight for equality. He was attacked for this, but his views changed after he visited Mecca. He came to the conclusion that problems could be overcome by brotherhood that not all whites were racist. He came to these conclusions on his own through experience. Although he may have said wrong things which he admitted to and later changed his views to the better and the wiser, the public still attacked him by calling him “reverse racist” and an extremist.

In the Autobiography, Malcolm X discusses the subtle and mixed feelings about color. He thought that his mother was specifically harsh on him because he was fair-skinned.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a very honest book. Malcolm X sparked anger and hatred because he revealed the hard truth about racism and had great faith in justice and truth:

““I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.””

He advocated for brotherhood because he understood that it was the only way to overcome racial barriers.

“I am in agreement one hundred percent with those racists who say that no government laws ever can force brotherhood”.

Malcolm X is an important figure because he reminded people that history cannot be forgotten or ignored, and reading his autobiography will increase one’s appreciation of Malcolm X and make one realize that what he preached was correctly said.

 

Malcolm X also said,

“I know that societies have often killed the people who have helped change these societies.”

http://www.malcolmx.com/index.html

book cover image: http://i43.tower.com/images/mm102134021/autobiography-malcolm-x-x-paperback-cover-art.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_x

watch a PBS Documentary, Malcolm X: Make it Plain


image: 101725293

Their Eyes were Watching God is a novel by the African American writer, Zora Neale Hurston. It is about a woman named Janie who becomes free after surviving three marriages, each one having its own problems. In the beginning, Janie is married to Logan Killicks when she is still a teenager by her grandmother, who thinks that the fate of black females is hopeless. She ends up living unhappily with a man who harshly tells her to work all the time. Then she marries Joe Starks, who becomes mayor of Eatonville, a black town. Although she lives a comfortable life, she is not allowed to engage in activities or talk with others and should represent the image the public wants her to see. Her third husband, Tea Cake, a confident, easy-going man, gives her more freedom as an independent person, engages in several activities with her which she would not have been able to do with her previous husbands, and takes her around the country

Their Eyes were Watching God raises several questions for the reader to think about. As the the wife of the mayor Joe Starks, her second husband, who cares only about how Janie appears in public and wants her to play a simple and docile role as a mayor’s wife, should Janie stay with him and enjoy the privilege of having a rich husband or should she leave him? In my opinion, the phonetic dialogue in the novel makes it a unique book, and really gave character to the persons in the novel.

I think that Janie finally becomes completely free and independent after her last husband Tea Cake’s death. Although Tea Cake treated her the best compared to her previous husbands and didn’t undermine her, Janie depended on him and went along with all his plans. She also worried a lot whenever he used to return home late. However, I don’t think it would’ve been possible for Janie to become fully independent without Tea Cake, who was the one who encouraged her and showed her how to be free. I think that Tea Cake was  one of the people whom Janie had to leave to become free. The death of Tea Cake was sad, since he played a large role in Janie’s personality and experience and had good intentions toward her, but if you look at the whole picture, Janie’s motive was to be free and fully independent. If every single one of her husbands was horrible, I guess that eaving them wouldn’t have been emotionally difficult for Jane. Tea Cake was a good person whom Janie had to leave (or in this case, kill in self defense), to reach her goal. When you are on an adventure to accomplish something, you meet good people and bad people. Unfortunately, it is especially difficult to leave the good people. Janie wouldn’t have left Tea Cake on her own. She wouldn’t have been who she was had it not been for him, and he had made a final act that proves his devotion to her. To get rid of Tea Cake and be free, Janie had to be in a “had-to” situation which could cost her her life. Although Janie shall always remember Tea Cake and appreciate him, she will gladly enjoy her self-made independence. Although Tea Cake was a loving husband, who got himself bitten by a dog (later receiving Rabies which led to his illness) in order to save Janie, he was still a burden to her. After shooting him to defend herself from his mania,  she felt some regret since he risked his life for her. Janie is better off without a husband.

http://zoranealehurston.com/


http://www.trouparchives.org/spg06news.html

Anne Frank’s diary is more than a witness to the oppression Jews faced during the Holocaust, but it is an intimate account on the details of adolescence. I think that Anne Frank represents teenagers around the world, no matter what their situations are.  Not only is The Diary of a Young Girl an important document in a historical context, but it is also important in a personal context, I’m sure all teenagers can relate to it. Anne Frank symbolizes adolescents universally, and she proves that even a Jew during the Holocaust has the same feelings as any other teenager. The Diary of a Young Girl is a great insight into the mind of an intellectual, brilliant and friendly person who loves to learn. Anne Frank’s character is so strong and powerful that her account is very inspiring. This is a great book because it gives you a close view of the characters of the victims of the holocaust, such as Mr. Dussel, who is always irritated by Anne, and Mrs. Van Daan, the pretentious and judgmental wife who is living in “The Secret Annex” with her husband along with The Franks. Anne’s Frank’s diary should not just categorized into “holocaust studies” because it will forever remain a relevant and important book, with very deep and truthful observations of life. This diary is evidence that people can maintain their lives and manage even in the worst of situations. Living in hiding behind a bookcase, in a secret branch of an office building, having to speak in whispers and not use water so that the people downstairs don’t discover them, all the people in The Secret Annex manage to have dinner, deal with the issue of sanitation, etc. even in the most awkward of situations!

As Anne Frank matures, so does her writing, and she gradually becomes more and more articulate. I think that, and she says so too in her diary, that Anne’s experience, although unfair and horrible, has made her a stronger and wiser character.

Anne puts into words what all adolescents feel at one time or another, such as not being understood or appreciated by others and wanting to be independent.

Of course, this book has its issues. The beginning may not be very interesting or engaging, it’s filled with everyday details and can be a bore to the reader, but things start to deepen in the end,where she describes her relationship with Peter van Daan, how she feels toward her mother (also in the middle of the book), and what she thinks of herself. However, I don’t think that the book should be judged so critically because, first of all, Anne has already gone through, among millions of others, horrible situations. Imagine being in hiding for 2 years and not being able to go outside, fearing any knock on your door is somebody who wants to take you. Also, Anne Frank only thought of being published in the end, and what was written before that was, in the beginning, thought to be for her only.

Anne Frank’s is a very sad story because it you read about what happened to her later, you’ll notice that had things happened a little later, everything would have turned out differently. I think that her situation was actually very hopeful and optimistic. I’m mentioning again that The Diary of a Young Girl is a major book. I think that for both teens and adults, it will either inspire them to write their diary or encourage them to continue writing. It will make people look at life with a different perspective, one which is more optimistic and intelligent.

Note: be sure to read the Definitive Edition of the diary, because it has a couple of entries that are not in the older version.

Shmoop: The Diary of a Young Girl

http://www.annefrank.com/

buy from Amazon

 

"…On the surface, I seem to have everything, except my one true friend”

“Riches, prestige, everything can be lost. But the happiness in your own heart can only be dimmed; it will always be there, as long as you live, to make you happy again.”
Anne Frank

Memories of my Melancholy Whores is an interesting narrative by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It still contained Marquez’s dry wit and humor. I liked the way the main character’s misery, loneliness  and agony was depicted:

“…I’m ugly, shy, and anachronistic…”

Marquez’s characters are very complex, and he has a way of of giving you more insight on them by showing you their everyday, usually repetitive but detailed, habits. After reading this book, I came to the conclusion that Marquez has a fluent talent of wrapping up his stories, specifically his novellas. I felt that Memories of my Melancholy Whores was very well structured. The book was an easy read, despite the main characters pain and agony. This story was not captivating or exciting, but a relaxing, slow novella which shouldn’t be underestimated. I think that Marquez shows his high literary skills and abilities in this comic and artful book (not to forget the title).

This is “The First New Novel in Ten Years from the Author of ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE”, but I think that Marquez has more to offer.

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