review: catcher in the rye

28 June 2013

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: book trade at school library
pages: 277
review written: 15/6/13-
edition read: First Back Bay Paperback Edition
originally published: 1951

Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories? Particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme ? With Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is fully of children. The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, second-hand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvellously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

My thoughts:
This is the one book, apparently, that everyone has to read once in his/her life. I didn't know how to feel going into the book, knowing that it was summer reading. I hate required reading because I have no choice in  whether or not I want to read it. If I had picked this off the shelf and flipped through it, I would've put it back right away and browsed the shelves for something more interesting. Unfortunately, I had to read this and it was shitty.

It took me WAY too long to read this, even when I was trying every single night. I got a page done a day: that's how bad it was. There were, however, good parts to this book that I would have enjoyed a lot were it not written so poorly. Holden made observations of people on his journey through New York and he described them in a way that I completely agreed with it. His observations apply to modern day as well, and despite being from the first-person point-of-view, I felt as if it were third person.

"..Arthur Childs. Old Childs was a Quaker and all, and he read the Bible all the time. He was a very nice kid, and I liked him, but I could never see eye to eye with him on a lot of stuff in the Bible, especially the Disciples. He kept telling me if I didn't like the Disciples, then I didn't like Jesus and all. He said that because Jesus picked the Disciples, you were supposed to like them. I said I knew He picked  them, but that He picked them at random. I said He didn't have the time to go around analysing everybody. I said I wasn't blaming Jesus or anything. It wasn't His fault that He didn't have any time. I remember I asked old Childs if he thought Judas, the one that betrayed Jesus and all, went to Hell after he committed suicide. Childs said certainly. That's where I disagreed with him. I said I'd bet a thousand bucks that Jesus never sent old Judas to Hell...." (131)

I don't like all the comma splicing. And the way he keeps saying "and all" and "Anyway" and "old" behind everything. The entire book is written in colloquial language, as if Holden were talking directly to me. I found it a bit anything, with all the repetition and rambling. I was confused for the greatest time at what the point of this whole book was, and whether or not a plot actually existed.

The story begins in Pencey Prep, a very "preppy" school that Holden absolutely loathes. He's been expelled for poor grades and his parents are completely unaware of this. They just expect him to be home for break on Wednesday, but Holden can't wait until then. So he gathers up his vast amount of money and leaves the dorms early on a trip through New York. Holden is really the only ever-present character. He has no "side-kicks" or foils or anybody to keep him company. He simply walks around and complains. Holden reminds me of a condescending, aloof Frenchman that observes the world for far-away eyes. To me, Holden felt detached, thus my early note that the book appeared to me to be written in the third person, not the first.

The actual story itself I did not enjoy. I don't know what else to "review" in this review, so I'll keep it brief. As a standard "classic" that almost every high-school student must read for school, my recommendation of "Don't read this for pleasure, it's worthless" will go to waste.  If you haven't read this already, and you have the choice to, don't read this. It's not worth your time.

giveaway: follow me on bloglovin!

14 June 2013

Hello readers!
  It's been ages since I've done a giveaway, and I thought with Google Friend Connect going away, I'd like to ask you all to follow me on Bloglovin! This giveaway is for a hardback (with jacket and all), perfectly brand new like copy of The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey.

When her widower father drowns at sea, Gemma Hardy is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland to live with her kind uncle and his family. But the death of her doting guardian leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and it soon becomes clear that she is nothing more than an unwelcome guest at Yew House. When she receives a scholarship to a private school, ten-year-old Gemma believes she's found the perfect solution and eagerly sets out again to a new home. However, at Claypoole she finds herself treated as an unpaid servant.

To Gemma's delight, the school goes bankrupt, and she takes a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands. The remote Blackbird Hall belongs to Mr. Sinclair, a London businessman; his eight-year-old niece is Gemma's charge. Even before their first meeting, Gemma is, like everyone on the island, intrigued by Mr. Sinclair. Rich (by Gemma's standards), single, flying in from London when he pleases, Hugh Sinclair fills the house with life. An unlikely couple, the two are drawn to each other, but Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin: a journey of passion and betrayal, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life of which she's never dreamed.

Set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and '60s, The Flight of Gemma Hardy--a captivating homage to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre--is a sweeping saga that resurrects the timeless themes of the original but is destined to become a classic all its own.

I thought it was a great book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

review: brave new world

02 June 2013

Print Giveaway Coming Soon
book info:
on sale: now
copy from: book trade at school library
pages: 259
review written: 24/5/13--2/6/13
edition read: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
originally published: 1932

Far in the future, the World Controllers have finally created the ideal society. In laboratories worldwide, genetic science has brought the human race to perfection. From the Alpha-Plus mandarin class to the Epsilon-Minus Semi-Morons, designed to perform menial tasks, man is bred and educated to be blissfully content with his pre-destined role.

But, in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, Bernard Marx is unhappy. Harbouring an unnatural desire for solitude, feeling only distaste for the endless pleasures of compulsory promiscuity, Bernard has an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) was born in the upper-middle class of English society in Surrey, England. He attended Eton College (where he lost sight for two years) and then moved on to study at Balliol College where he receiveBd a BA in English He is the writer of Crome Yellow, The Doors of Perception, and Island. Initial reactions to his book Brave New World were negative. One of the worst was "[He] has money, social position, talent, friends, prestige, and he is effectively insulated frm the misery of the masses. Of course he wants something to worry about--even if he has to go a long, long way to find it...Mr Huxley must have his chance to suffer and be brave" This may have come from the fact that Huxley did not fight in World War II, but nonetheless was a cruel remark. "With the rise of Facism in western Europe and a world shaken by massive economic depression, perhaps the novel hit too close to bone"

my thoughts:
Brave New World is a modern classic, a fiction work intended to warn readers of a possible but "unimaginable" future. The title is quite interesting, and comes from a bit of dialogue that a character says in wonder "O brave new world...O brave new world that has such people in it" when he "falls in love" with another character. I think he must have meant a new world in that love changes his perception of the world, or more obviously the "utopia" (or "dystopia") that the whole book depicts. There's an interesting epigraph before the book starts that was originally in Russian, but translated in the book to French, of which I got translated to English.

Les utopies apparaissent bien plus réalisables qu'on ne le croyait autrefois. Et nous nous trouvons actuellement devant une question bien autrement angoissante : comment éviter leur réalisation définitive ?… Les utopies sont réalisables. La vie marche vers les utopies. Et peut-être un siècle nouveau commence-t-il, un siècle où les intellectuels et la classe cultivée rêveront aux moyens d'éviter les utopies et de retourner à une société non utopique moins "parfaite" et plus libre.
"Utopias seem to be much more achievable than we formerly believed them to be. Now we find ourselves presented with another alarming question: how do we prevent utopias from coming into existence? …Utopias are possible. Life tends towards the formation of utopias. Perhaps a new century will begin, a century in which intellectuals and the privileged will dream of ways to eliminate utopias and return to a non-utopic society less “perfect” and more free.”
– Nicholas Berdiaeff, translated from the French by Shmoop
Epigraphs are key in knowing what a book is about, and unfortunately, I didn't translate it before I read. If I had, I think I would have read the book differently. If Brave New World was an essay, then that quote would be the thesis. Now the cover of the book, the one shown next to the summary, is my favourite. It shows pale, vague forms of humans in marching position, imitating soldiers, which go with the time period this was written in, with the rise of Facist Italy and Socialist/Nazi Germany. I thought of Nazi Germany when I saw this cover (I read the book with the cover as a man in a suit with a machine contraption on his head) because in this book, there are massive numbers of "twins" synthetically produced to create the perfect "work-force" and large amounts of people look exactly alike. This could be similar to what Hitler attempted to do by creating the "perfect Aryan race" of blonde and blue-eyed Germans. At the time of its publication, it's understandable why people didn't like his book.

Taking place in modern-day London, the book begins with a tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. The tour takes the reader through how humans are mass-produced and conditioned to believe the same things, following the saying "If a lie is told enough times, it becomes the truth". After that really interesting introduction, the characters are introduced. First, Lenina Crowne, a beautiful and popular girl who has slept with hundreds of men. Then Bernard Marx, the outlier, and lastly the most important character: John the Savage, the "uncivilised" outsider who to us would appear the most civilised.

Some of the minor characters include Fanny, Lenina's friend to whom she blabbers to about men and clothing ("He's so ugly!"). There's Helmholtz, Bernard's fellow social outcast. And there's Linda, John the Savage's mother. Now humans are artificially produced, and the family unit is a taboo occurrence of the past. John having a mother is shocking, and equally shocking is that Linda, who grew up in this utopia of London, is the mother. All these supporting characters are crucial to understanding the main ones. There's a term for them that I forgot that means "a character that brings the good or bad out of another character". They're all foil characters.

There's one thing about this book that makes me not like it. I don't think I can blame Huxley for it, but the role of women in this novel is degrading. Is it so impossible to imagine, I asked myself, that in the future (the utopia) that gender equality could exist? Lenina's role in this book is like all wimpy, supporting-actress, damsel-in-distress, "oh dear, oh my! how positively horrid!" kind of women that existed back in the 1920s, The Roaring Twenties, the age of flappers. Lenina is depicted in one scene as a "whore" but there isn't one where the men are depicted as say "man-whores" and there isn't anything explicitly degrading them for sleeping with tons of women. In fact, in this society, that's still considered a level of one's status: number of girls a man has slept with = popularity.

Apart from the blaring issue of gender inequality, the "warning" of the story was clear, but a bit wasted, I think. Mass production today is certainly de-humanising the world, ever since the 1970s I think (or way back to 1800s (Industrial Revolutions). French graduate students protested not being able to find jobs after getting out of university, shouting "Métro, boulot, dodo" or "train commute, mindless work, sleep" highlighting the new age. Though we haven't come to the point of artificially "birthing" human babies large scale, advances in science can definitely do just that.

Overall, I think Brave New World was a so-so book. I liked it enough, but I don't recommend this. If you've read this, what do you think?

armchair bea: keeping it real

01 June 2013

my road of blogging, there's many more posts to come :)

Hello readers and visitors!
   I feel awful because I haven't been visiting as many blogs as I'd like to. I'll definitely put more of an effort today! And for those who haven't been lazy like I have and have found your way to this post: I admire you so much. Thanks for stopping by!

How do you not only grow an audience, but how do you keep them coming back for more?

I'd like to say I've only lost 1 follower since reaching over 650. And I keep saying that the only reason I seem to be able to keep this many is by being myself and being honest. I know that sounds absolutely over-said and sappy, but its true. Honesty is key in keeping an audience.

If you have been around for years, how do you keep your material fresh?

My material consists of reviews, and reviews are always fresh. They're just my analysis and opinion about a book: it varies for each book. There are some things that I repeat way too often, like how characters are key, how cheesy YA romances are, weak female heroines, unrealistically hot guys, how amazing The Shadow of the Wind is...all of these things I'm completely aware of. I haven't mentioned a few of them recently, except for The Shadow of the Wind (as you read earlier). I think all bloggers have similar experiences to mine. Those repeated things I listed above were only problems I reported when I read young adult fiction. Now, with classics, I don't have that problem, which is why I love classics and modern classics so much. I almost felt diseased when I kept reading pretty much the same things repeating over and over in different books, like a cacophony of bad literature (no offense) when I suddenly took this magic medicine that "cured" me. I'm diverting from the actual question: my apologies.

How do you continue to keep blogging fun?

Fun for me, or for my readers? I've kind of detached from the blogging world and my readers. I don't comment as often or visit blogs as often. I fear that it's what happened to me after reading too much young adult books: I became bored. I became over-critical and exhausted. I might still be, but I'm putting an effort into blogging again: thanks to Armchair BEA's schedule and topics given to me with deadlines. More than fun, I find blogging (more precisely, reviewing) crucial to me. The hiatuses I took...I completely forgot about blogging and didn't even think about it. But when I came back, I...enjoyed it. I enjoy formulating my thoughts into words and solidifying my opinions on a stable outlet. Why I need to keep blogging:

  • I'm more aware of who I am (as weird as that sounds). My honest thoughts can no longer hide in my head once their online. Like I said before, blogging solidifies my opinions. Not only on books, but on occasion I'll type something up and be like "Wow, that's deep. Do I really think that way?" After all, my typing is loads faster than my writing, and always easier to read than my "fast-writing".
  • I can keep track of books and my initial thoughts to them: My primary motive for blogging was to keep track of books. And of course, its interesting to see how my perspective changes later on when I look back at books I've read. This blog is like road of time: I can go back to certain dates and look at what I wrote, how I sounded like, who I was. Sadly, I wish I had kept another blog about my personal life. My diaries have been neglected for months, even years. My last entry before writing in it two days ago was last year.
I've never considered my blogging to be fun to others. I hope my readers enjoy what I write, and I'd like to think they stick around because they do. Another over-repeating motto I keep spewing out is "If you truly enjoy reading my blog, you're welcome to follow. If for any other reason you wish to follow my blog, I would reconsider". I don't want to make it seem like I'm some amazing blog that only exclusive people can read, no I just don't want to bother or waste other peoples time. Do something because you truly want to.

Ah, now that I have given you all my sagely, old-blogger wisdom (which totally went off-topic), what's your response? Leave a comment and I'll visit your post!

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