Farewell, Edward Casaubon. Never think you will end that much miserable

I wish Edward Casaubon can make it longer than he is in Middlemarch. There is a kind of disappointment that he passes away much sooner than I expect. If you have read my previous post you know why I hope the clergyman lives longer in the masterpiece. Yes, he reflects so much about my personality. It is not because that he says so much about my trait that I wish him surviving through his deadly illness. But it is more because I look forward how he deals with his pride, jealousy, and seriousness in his marriage with Dorothea, his wife.

Yet, George Eliot ends this character too soon, at least according to my opinion. He dies in the morning while sitting in a bench under a tree. Peacefully on the surface but full of turmoil on the inside. The night before his passing, Dorothea can’t decide whether or not she is going to keep her words of obeying her husband’s will. She is confused thus delays telling her decision to her husband. Before she says her words, Edward passes away.

From Dorothea’s point of view, she must be glad that she doesn’t say anything about it. Had she known the will, she would regret it so much because the will declares she would not inherit all the properties left by her husband if she marries Will Ladislaw.

Eliot ends the fate of Edward in such depressing, wicked way. His envy and hatred to Will Ladislaw swallows him so much that he doesn’t want to see his wife happy. Eliot brings such unthinkable finale to the character, much worse than my expectation. He dies while holding a deep grudge. An inexplicable one. I think that is the worst ever fate an individual can withhold.

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Congratulations, George Saunders!

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US author George Saunders has snatched this year’s Man Booker Prize for his book, “Lincoln in the Bardo” last night by the UK time. He defeats five remarkable writers along with their books; ‘Elmet’ by Fiona Mozley, ‘4 3 2 1” by Paul Auster, ‘Autumn’ by Ali Smith, ‘History of Wolves’ by Emily Fridlund and ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid.

Citing from guardian.com the book is based around a real event: the night in 1862 when Abraham Lincoln buried his 11-year-old son Willie in a Washington cemetery. Imagining the boy trapped in the Bardo – a Tibetan Buddhist term for a kind of limbo – Saunders’ novel follows the fellow dead, also trapped in the graveyard and unwilling to accept death, who observe the boy as he desperately waits for his father to return.

I honestly just knew about the name of George Saunders after I read an article about this year’s award a few weeks ago. Pardon my very limited literary knowledge and reading scope, my fellas. For my brain and taste can’t move on from the Victorian reading materials, hehe.

A panel of the award’s judges say ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ is unique and extraordinary that makes it deserving the title. From the synopsis of the book and how Saunders tells it, I can’t agree more. And I think, just my silly prediction because I haven’t read the book, ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ is quite depressing.

The storyline is about kids passing away at early age. And that they or their families find it so difficult to cope with all of that. Reading about this idea has made me mournful. Two things that quickly cross my mind: the innocence of children and grief that is inevitable in our lives.

Thanks to my habit of reading books mostly about the life as the way it is (read: happiness is as important as sadness), I am not shocked by this sort of choice. What makes Saunders’ idea is remarkable is his focus on bringing up children death which for me, is even sadder. Also, the angle from which he presents the story is I think distinctive and quite new for me.

If one thing that makes me taking a few steps back from putting ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ into my upcoming to-be-read list is Saunders’ storytelling technique which mostly consists of dialogues. I dislike this type of conveyance. I prefer to reading stories with a lot of descriptions, metaphors, the sort of reading-beyond-the-lines because I have been accustomed of reading fictions by the Victorian writers.

But since I am up for literary challenges, I will give it a try. After I complete reading ‘Middlemarch’ which is 300 something pages away from completion, LOL.

Anyway, congratulations, Saunders! Creative, exceptional ideas really deserve top prize, like yours!

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Who will win this year’s Man Booker Prize? *Drum rolls*

Next Tuesday Indonesia time, a panel of judges of Man Booker Prize is going to announce the winner of this year’s leading literary award. While I don’t pay much attention to the award in the last few years, this year I am like ‘reminded’ on its importance after I accidentally come across an article about it.

The mentioning of Fiona Mozley whose debut novel ‘Elmet’ makes it to the short list of the award thrills me. I remember after I read the article I straightly seek articles about her. What makes me curious about this candidate is firstly because she is as young as I am. Secondly, it is because she works part-time in a bookstore. Lastly, because she is now on her education to pursue her Master degree. She is like Hannah Kent, an Australian writer whose ‘Burial Rites’ is so popular. Call it subjective but I think it doesn’t really matter if you have special interests on people or writers who are in the similar group age as you are.

Plus, ‘Elmet’ tells about the relation between people and land or home. I quickly associate this theme with the similar one happening in Jakarta. My memory brings me back years ago when I work as a journalist that requires me covering some conflicts about houses in Jakarta and regulations.

For your information, owning a house in Jakarta is very expensive, probably this also happens in all capital cities in the world. What complicates this topic is that in Jakarta, there are still some vacant spaces that are left abandoned. No reasons are provided. Some of them are owned by Indonesia’s firms, some are by private. The thing is people come to these lands, mostly from outside the capital. They set up houses, many are permanent, some are makeshift ones. They live there for so long, some even decades. They pay rent, they pay electricity bills and so forth. Years go by and they live peacefully. But they are illegal. So after some years, there come officers from the capital administrations who want the land back. In most cases, violence is inevitable.

That’s how Fiona’s story sticks deep in my brain because it is so relatable with people in Jakarta.

Anyway, her competitors are ‘4 3 2 1’ by Paul Auster, ‘History of Wolves’ by Emily Fridlund, ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid, ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders and ‘Autumn’ by Ali Smith.

I don’t search about the themes of the other five books so I am sorry that this post is completely unbalanced, LOL. The thing is I am excited about the award is because I believe whichever wins the prize, the quality of the fiction is definitely out of question.

This is because I read some books that are named as the prize champion and they are all awesome. I read ‘The God of Small Things’, ‘Life of Pi’, ‘The White Tiger’ which are the winners of the prize. Each novel brings out something which is so unique. Each of them polishes one or two things that make it distinctive.

‘The God of Small Things’, for instance, steals my heart with its wondrous way of telling the story, so poetic yet sad at the same time. I really adore Roy for this technique.

‘Life of Pi’ surprises me as how short sentences and straight plots can slowly lead readers grasp such a heavy topic as survival, belief, faith and religion. Yan Martel confronts readers with the very fundamental matters that have embedded human beings for centuries. I personally salute how the author crafts the difficult, subjective ones through simple way of telling.

‘The White Tiger’ is one of the smartest fictions I have read so far. Aravind Adiga punches me so many times. The book is witty, full of critics, comical. Beyond the story readers can understand how serious the themes Adiga wants to put forward. Poverty, corruption, social gap between the rich and the poor, politic and the like. Since Adiga is a former journalist I can see why he chooses writing about this kind of thing. Brilliant book I must say!

So yeah, I can’t hardly wait for the announcement. I hope I can read the novel who’s going to be this year’s best fiction.

The unexpected thing that surprises yet makes me reading ‘Middlemarch’ faster than before

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Dr. Tertius Lydgate says to Mrs. Dorothea Casaubon that her husband, Mr. Edward Casaubon, is severely ill. The sick man may not live longer if he takes his life too seriously, not wanting to take leisure time. If he continues doing so, the disease will get worse.

Prior to Mr. Casaubon’s almost faint, he finds himself so caught up in jealousy over his own niece, Will Ladislaw, who wishes to come at the couple’s residence in Lowick. The patient’s unwillingness to declare his envy turns him into having an argument with his wife who doesn’t sense any jealousy taking place in the heart of her middle-aged husband.

And so it goes. Self-dissatisfied upon his failed research coupled with unexpressed envy strike his health, or to be precise, makes his body weaker than it already is.

This is the scene where I find myself mostly captivated so far (for I don’t even reach the half of the overall book which takes almost 700 pages by the way). When I have decided reading the novel I think I will find Dorothea as the perfect representation of my character or my view on the purpose of the life, which is makes one’s life useful to others. This is actually one of the reasons why Dorothea marries the clergyman.

But in fact, it is Mr. Casaubon who best describes my personality. When I firstly meet this figure right as the novel begins, I think his traits will be like other scientists’, serious, quiet and smart. As the book progresses, I later discover his dark sides match my own.

When he and his wife are on a honeymoon trip in Rome, I start feeling his negativity matches my own. He finds it so hard to separate his professional life with personal, happy time that he definitely deserves to experience. So instead of having a joy, spending most of the time with his wife, Mr. Casaubon gets busy with his job. Dorothea is desperately feeling lonely.

This is the start of my putting special attention to this character, who is actually not the protagonist. I begin thinking how this man resembles my trait, particularly a few years back then. I am a serious, curious person who has spent years of learning and working so hard for me and for my family. Sometimes when I am on a holiday, I am still attached with jobs or at least I use the spare time for reading something thought-provoking once in a while. I know this is unfair for my brain but I can’t help it. I was born this way, man. All I can do is loosening it bit by bit and now alhamdulillahirobbil’alamiiiin (praise to God Almighty) I start successfully taking time to get relaxed and enjoy life through small things.

That’s the first point.

The second one which slaps me on my face is Mr. Casaubon’s relationship with Will Ladislaw. It’s not about the former’s jealousy over the latter but his inability to take criticisms as something objective. Before Will Ladislaw meets his wife, Mr. Casaubon already hates the painter. The reason is very simple. Will Ladislaw has different opinions with Mr. Casaubon about knowledge. He often criticizes Mr. Casaubon about his failed observations and things related to that.

Mr. Casaubon takes the opinions too far into his heart that he despises him so much that he doesn’t want Will Ladislaw to come into his house. His jealousy makes his stance even stricter.

The fact that Mr. Casaubon can’t stand of criticisms and think that he is the best of all is so me. I am so hard on myself and perfectionist. I think these go hand in hand with perfectionism. These make me stubborn, underestimating others’ opinions. I still feel people’ opinions that go against my views ‘attack’ me.  I get irritated. In the past, this feeling is so strong but now thankfully I learn to accept what people say about me or whatever they wish to say about what I do or what I say. I learn so much not to take things too seriously.

I am curious what happens in the life of Mr. Casaubon then. Can he cope with and control the devilish parts of him? Or will he get carried away with them and let them ruining his marriage life?

Well, those questions are just small pointers that make me wanting reading the masterpiece faster than before apart from bigger aspects that turn this book is so awesome, like the fate of the doctor’s life himself, who is also a perfectionist on his own.

This book is about ambitious people, perfectionists, and idealistic persons. No wonder I love reading it because the book is mostly about me. Thank you so much for writing this, George Eliot!

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Entrepreneurship isn’t my thing

A thin line makes it all the difference. At least for me. In social media world that enables every one making money in much simpler and less costly ways, I am not part of it. Or to be precise, I don’t know how to eat a little bit portion of the big pie. I am an extended arm of those who employ me generating money from the internet. Not even a small part of the delicious cake is at the tip of my tongue.

I am a consumer, a faithful one, to be honest. What if I say I was born to be a pure buyer instead of entrepreneur? Oftentimes, I tell to myself that is just an excuse in exchange of my unwillingness to give it a try. Create, promote and sell things or services.

I tried doing those things for a couple of times. Unsuccessfully. First and foremost because I was not serious. I was and am still ashamed of doing so. There is a mental mindset that needs to be changed. I know that but I don’t want to do that. In today’s world when every one can actually attempt to set up a business in easier ways, I still don’t want to do that.

Many of my friends have businesses, be they small or big. They sell clothes, foods, cosmetics, chocolates, a lot of products via internet or not. The thing is, they sell, be independent ones instead of relying only on monthly salaries from the companies they work at. Some open business accounts that display the products, create signature logos, have business bank accounts and such. In short, they are really eager to be businessmen.

While some buy goods from certain sellers then they resell them with specific profit sharing. And I? Well.. I am remain a devoted costumer. Sometimes I buy their products and sometimes not.

Let me tell you my failed attempts in setting up businesses.

First, when I was a very small kid back in my hometown. I and my best friend were trying to sell daily products and toys to our fellows and neighbors. Some were sold but others were not. We were thinking we were just playing with the idea so we didn’t resume it. I have no ideas where the goods were gone.

When I was a university student, I and my close classmate were trying to sell our expertise in translation. Well, it was just I who actually was wishing to pay tuition fees on my own then I forced my friend to have helped me realizing my dream. My pal was too kind not to have rejected my wish so she was assisting me copying paper-based advertisements that should have been put in public walls or electricity poles. In Indonesia, you will see a lot of advertisements posted in those materials because placing advertisements in newspapers are very expensive.

But I never did that. I was too ashamed. Anyway, smartphones hadn’t existed at that time.

A few years ago, when I had a handsome job I was trying to sell again. This time around, I was putting some advertisements of old magazines and books in Indonesia’s prominent online market like Amazon.com. This, too, was fruitless. Even in the time when smartphones and social media could have helped me a lot, I was too embarassed to do that. I didn’t want to fill my friends’ Facebook walls with my offered items. I was also not serious with this idea.

So, here I am. Though I am quite (read: still have so much to learn) enthusiastic about creative writing I am sometimes disappointed with myself on my stance of not giving another shot to promote all the skills that I have. Too poor that the transparant line still exists between my creative writings and self-promotion. The tiny space that needs to be bridged. And I still haven’t had any guts to build it.

Instead, I apply to some freelance jobs. I set up this blog and another one in other platform in a hope people will subscribe, follow or attract advertisements by which they will pay me for what I write.

I know, and thoroughly understand that I am left behind. I haven’t completely tapped my potential. I don’t have any courage to transform it into money on my own ways. So to speak, I haven’t been independent. Somehow, this is where I am at. The phase of life that I have to appreciate. Then, hopefully I can go from this bit by bit to be a fully independent employee. Writing about this dream still sparks joy as it has already been in the past few years. This, at the moment, is more than enough to get me through hard days as recent ones that passed me by.

The number 1 challenge in ‘Middlemarch’: plentiful characters

Middlemarch ... New edition

Just when I am curious about the life of Dorothea Brooke after she marries with Reverand Edward Casaubon, George Eliot presents me with the new major character, Dr. Tertius Lydgate through events involving Rosamund and Fred Vincy. Eliot suspends the life of Dorothea with the coming of this brilliant doctor in Middlemarch.

While Dorothea’s part runs simple, the doctor’s ways of adjusting himself in the county is broad and complicated. Eliot introduces what motivates Lydgate becoming a doctor, what shapes his medical belief and what kind of mission he carries in the small town.

Plus, Eliot mentions Lydgate’s brief obsession toward a Parisian theater actress who influences his preference about woman. The complicated one is in regard with the mention of several prominent Middlemarch figures, such as Mr. Bulstrode and Mr. Camden Farebrother, Mr. Chichely and the Vincys.

In addition, I get a glimpse on the matters involving Fred who is said to have been in a huge debt. His laziness makes Mary doesn’t count him as a potential husband. There is a tension, too, between Mr. Vincy and Mr. Bulstrode.

While Rosamund and Mary are close friends yet they both have different views. Eliot states early in this novel that Rosamund and Lydgate hit it off the moment they get the first sight of each other at the Mr. Farebrother’s house.

Within the first 135 pages of this very thick book of 668 pages, I already get so many things about the people in Middlemarch. Again, they emerge when the novel is only 135 pages young.

I slowly digest the materials every time they contain a lot of figures like in ‘Middlemarch’. I need better concentration to memorize who are they all as the novel progresses. Sometimes I forget the roles some of them play in the book then I have to recall them back. Or, I just resume the reading process while not really remembering the minor characters knowing what matters most are those concerning Dorothea and Lydgate, Eliot’s grand focus of her masterpiece.

Now I comprehend this book is quite heavy as I need to put steady focus reading it. If not I will get lost in the whole story. The tough thing about reading canon literature such as this one is that the authors bring up a lot of characters whose contributions are necessary to the lives of the major ones.

The interactions of the minor people become the avenues through which the authors inject their overall views about life, love and humanity, as I can get from how Eliot describes the dialogues involving the minor people in the book.

The novel contains stories behind stories. I need to cleave apart layers after layers while the book is very far from closure. Anyway, I enjoy reading it so much. Through conversations between Rosamund and Mary, for instance, Eliot presents me two kinds of women. Rosy is a clever, elegant yet as Mary says, she is blameless, or in my word, a naive one. Mary, on the other hand, appears strong in front of anyone, including feeling no care to Fred, the man she loves, but she is a very sensible person.

‘Middlemarch’ is very entertaining book so far. It is witty, wonderfully-written, deep.  Eliot blends idealism as one of its central themes, with comical languages once in a while. No wonder it is regarded as one of the best novels ever written of all time for I can feel a lot of things within just one package. Thank you, Eliot!

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YES! I completely enjoy reading ‘Middlemarch’ after some failed trials

This is one of the pleasantest posts I have ever shared here. Last night, I was so happy because I retook Middlemarch that has been standing in the bookshelf for as many months I can barely remember. I couldn’t believe myself that I have been immersed in the classic since then. I am so fascinated and grateful for myself because, hell, I bought the book in 2008, been tempted to read it for like, two or three times, but none of which leading me exceeding page 25, LOL!

I have survived until page 30 so far. What makes me joyful is that I have been enjoying reading it until now. This is a miracle! The recipe is forcing myself reading the words although I don’t exactly what all words mean to me (please underrstand that English language is not my mother tongue, hehe).

While the key is also applicable when I read ‘Sense and Sensibility’, how does ‘Middlemarch’ gets more exciting the more I take in words?

In ‘Sense and Sensibility’, I find it a little hard to thoroughly enjoy all of its contents somewhere in the middle of it. The first pages are easy to be understood. As the story progresses, I can’t help feeling a little bit puzzled.

On the contrary, ‘Middlemarch’ is not easy to read from the very first pages although they describe the beauty of Dorothea and Celia and how both siblings differ from each other. But once I pass through them all, everything becomes delicate to taste, hehe.. Can’t hardly wait to read more of it very soon. The novel is more than 600 pages, probably as thick as ‘Wives and Daughters’ whose fonts are much bigger than ‘Middlemarch”’s. It’s going to be a huge work for me given the very thick volume but I am sure I am going to have a very fascinating adventure as long as I enjoy reading it. And so far, it has been hell of a good one.

Very much thanks I would like to say to Joshua Becker, the founder of becomingminimalist.com, who reviews an article by Emily Esfahani Smith about what makes one’s life actually happy and meaningful. Not only her story is  very interesting to read, Emily cites a very fine example to support her view from ‘Middlemarch’.

If I already know what ‘Middlemarch’ is all about then why the hell must I read it again? You may ask me that question.

It’s because I have been long curious what makes the book is very widely-accepted as one of the best novels ever written of all time. Plus, George Eliot writes it. I love her writing style and her ideas though not all of her works end in happy notes. I still remember the joy I have reading ‘The Mill on the Floss’. Although ‘Adam Bede’ a little bit confuses me, I am enchanted by its happy ending. All in all, Eliot’s works never fail satisfying my curiosity. That what makes me idolizing hers.

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