Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Female Quixote: Or the Adventures of Arabella by Charlotte Lennox

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The Female Quixote: Or the Adventures of Arabella
Hah, what a lovely little book this is. What a lovely, deliciously ridiculous book this is. Seriously, it's a romp.

From the title itself, you can discern that it involves some kind of delusional mis-adventurer. Quite right, as the story revolves around the life-story of the Lady Arabella, who is as beautiful as she is intelligent, graceful and kind-hearted. It is a pity that, with all her admirable traits, she is possessed with a mind too swayed by the romances stocked in her library.

In this book, you will see the beautiful lady think that each man she meets has an intention to carry her away, while each woman she beholds has a sob story about a passionate lover or two. She is almost too silly in thinking that the world is still full of the antiquated notions of unregulated passions and murderous violence, but still she is much charming in her pleasant speeches and very elegant grace.

It was somewhat pleasant to hear of her tales, but it was rather sad to see how such an accomplished lady could have such notions of love. I felt quite sorry for her zealous lover for keeping his stead. I laughed with much zest at the story of a man who, wanting to woo the lady by his mastery of the romantic stories of then, saw that his plans backfired on him. I was rather glad at seeing that there were some understanding personalities who tried to help Arabella see reason. (The Countess is just so lovely!)

My only complaint: The climax was very near the end, and the ending seemed rather rushed :/ While I was happy about how it ended, I felt that it would have been nice to see all the rich niceties there.

Delightful, humorous, and with such engaging story-telling. A very happy read for me :D

[Notes: Randomly picked... Arabella's just so oblivious and unconscious, it's simply delicious reading of her "adventures". SRSLY.]


The Female Quixote: Or the Adventures of Arabella by Charlotte Lennox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars



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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

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The Metamorphosis
(I have read, in particular, an edition that was translated by Ian Johnston.)

Let me start off by saying this: I have a deep aversion to insects, so I was rather squeamish while reading more than one passage here. Eeeeek.

I applaud the book for having been able to agitate me into learning more about it. I am also impressed on how simply narrated the circumstances were discussed-- from Gregor managing to adapt to his new life (from trying to get out of bed to hiding under the "coverlet") to Grete changing her stance from love to something probably akin to hate towards her brother. I was appalled by how human the family reacted to Gregor's new identity-- from fright to love to indifference to, finally, annoyance. I just find it so richly entertaining and vaguely disturbing how the family could be so complacent about letting Gregor do all the work, then complain when they have to then work and take care of Gregor in turn. (highlight for spoilers)

(Warning: I may ramble from here on out. Beware.)

This book perplexed me. Not just in the fact that I have no idea on how the premise of the change of Gregor Samsa happened, but also in how the story progressed, from one chapter on to another. The ending certainly didn't help explain anything in the end.

The storytelling is, admittedly, great. I am held in suspense (and aversion) as I watch the interesting happenings in this story unfold. I am constantly wanting to question the author headlong about what so and so of such and such part of the book means, but I am always held back, lying in wait as Gregor himself does, patiently watching to see if my questions will at all be answered. I dare say that little, if any, have been answered to my satisfaction at all, by the time I got to the last few words.

One of the questions I'd so want to be answered is related to this: If 'metamorphosis' means a "process of change", then where oh where is the change that is being talked about here? I see Gregor's change, all right (I, in fact, cannot un-see that), but is that really the metamorphosis being talked about here? I personally believe it has something to do with the family... Maybe of Grete herself! Oh, how I would love to read more about this, if only to satisfy my curiosity about this book!

An interesting read, but I'm incredibly agitated by how unsatisfied I am by what I've read. Curious... Very curious.

(To satisfy my curiosity as much as I can, I took a look at Vladimir Nabokov's lecture on Kafka's The Metamorphosis here:  http://www.kafka.org/index.php?id=191,209,0,0,1,0 I am somewhat happy I read it :D)


The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars



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Madame Butterfly by John Luther Long

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Madame Butterfly
The story is quite simple, and I dare say quite realistic. After all, we have all probably heard of the story of a charming provincial girl (in this case, a Japanese seventeen-year-old dancer) who was lead to believe that she was the ultimate love of a sailor (in this case, and in probably most cases I've heard of, an American), who left his pretty princess in hopes of his return. While her behavior and personal changes were amusing at first to behold, I cannot but help notice the delusional waiting, the gradual change of customs and traditions, and the forgotten family which haunted Madame Butterfly as she waited for the robins to nest.

The little nuances of (age-old?) Japanese culture are easily seen in the story, from the way Madame Butterfly addresses her beloved, to the front she puts on in front of a stranger who wants her to be his wife. Death, honor and ancestry are given particular detail in the last few chapters, and it's almost heart-breaking to see how Madame Butterfly tried (though eventually failed) to protect her sanctity by "a long, beautiful sleep".

I have a feeling that this story is more than just the drama of a young girl who fell in love too easily; I think I see a wide-scale frontier here, one that involves Americans, a war with China, and Japan as a springboard... But that may as well be the social scientist in me talking.

At any rate, 'tis a quick tale on love (and, possibly, betrayal), with interesting insights on Japanese culture.

[At the end of this book, I ardently wish I could see Puccini's play of Madame Butterfly :D]


Madame Butterfly by John Luther Long
My rating: 4 of 5 stars



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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Don't Know Much About Literature: What You Need to Know but Never Learned About Great Books and Authors by Kenneth C. Davis

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Don't Know Much About Literature: What You Need to Know but Never Learned About Great Books and Authors
Note: This book is part of the Don't Know Much About series (which I only found out about when I looked this up on Goodreads, lol).

What I thought would be a definitive and extremely wordy guide to well-known books and authors actually just turned out to be a bunch of trivia about well-known books and authors. So, basically, it 1) disappointed me when I saw the contents, but it also 2) astounded me on how simply placed and interesting the facts were mentioned in this book. It gives little background on a certain book/author/topic (say, for instance "Agatha Christie" or "Moby-Dick" or "Pen Names"), then enumerates a few questions about the category in question. The answers to the questions may then be seen on the back of the page.

I suppose the book was made to anticipate and answer the first questions anyone new to the world of literature may have, and I can say it does so efficiently enough. I wouldn't call this a perfect reference guide though; I'd just say that it's a decent trivia book... And, I guess, who doesn't like trivia?


Don't Know Much About Literature: What You Need to Know but Never Learned About Great Books and Authors by Kenneth C. Davis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars



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The Man Book by Otto DeFay

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The Man Book
I've flipped through some pages, and already know that I'm going to be laughing out loud (while learning a lot on HOW TO BE A MAN) on about every page. It has dictionary terms ("A Thousand Names For Your Penis (Not Counting Your Penis)", etc.), interesting lists ("Great Professional Wrestlers And Their Signature Moves", etc.), jokes ("The Alligator Joke, Part 1" (and 2! I LOL'ed at them, haha!), etc.), tips which are honestly helpful & useful ("Words of Wisdom: Resumes", etc.), and some other random bits and pieces ("The Finest Insults Ever Made", "Terms for Sexual Intercourse", "Manned Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo Missions", etc.).

The most (if not all) thoughts here are meant to inform (wine terms, weather, how to hot-wire a car, poker hands, major crimes, how to tie a tie, ivy league schools, etc.), though admittedly an idea not meant to be taken seriously (well, that's what I think anyway) is found here and there. I dare say that more often than not, the machismo oozing in this book was not exactly meant to degrade women, but merely to celebrate and definitely educate the reader (preferably a man) the well-known ideas of "being a man". It's up to the reader on how to react, but I definitely enjoyed this-- both for its being a very informative read, as well as its humor.

Pro-tip: Read the introduction. SRSLY. I mean, it says there plainly: "Women's books have names like Our Bodies, Ourselves... Men don't have books- they have magazines. Most of these magazines you can't read in public after the age of thirty... So it's time for a book. This book. This book is for men." So revel in the fact that there's a book like this (probably among others, but this is THE MAN BOOK, and how could you go wrong with a book with such a telling title?), and read on.

[To clarify: I'm not a man. I just bought this book out of interest, plus it was on sale. Sweet deal, I'll say.]


The Man Book by Otto DeFay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars



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