How Reading Teaches Me A Lot About Self-Commitment

reading

Currently, I am reading ‘Thrawn Janet’, still by Robert Louis Stevenson. It has been taking me a few weeks for reading the short story which is just less than 20 pages. Worse, I don’t even really understand what I am reading about. It’s a triple embarrassment. I have never been this awful.

The hard thing about this short story is that the author, again and again, writes so many dialects in it. It also presents so many writing symbols, such as . Then, it writes the words exactly as they are uttered, like ‘likit’ for ‘like it’. I think they are all about the Scottish language. And you know what? I am so dizzy reading all about that. I really am.

As much as the author wishes to compose the story as original as it is, the method completely drives me insane. But I keep reading it despite the adversity. The experience has been torturing me in the past few weeks but I have kept doing it.

Why?

Because I want to be a damn responsible person. I have to complete what I start, no matter how miserable thing turns out to be. I never expected one of the author’s short stories would be this full of Scottish dialect, how would I know back then?

But deciding purchasing the collected short stories means I have to finish reading all works. I don’t want to put this book into the list of the unfinished novels in my book shelf. There have been some titles and I hope this book won’t be one of them. I am so sick with myself if I don’t keep my promise of reading books that I buy. I can get angry with myself because of that. I can feel so guilty to myself each time I don’t finish reading books.

After years reading books, I have learned how much I can value my self-commitment. In fact, you can measure the level of the self-commitment or train your own commitment through reading books, any kind of reading materials that you purchase then stick at it until the last page.

As a result, I can shamefully tell you that my self-commitment is fluctuating, but mostly I can keep my own words. There are amazing titles that I miss, including Middlemarch by George Eliot, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Really, I don’t know how I can resume reading the titles. I did try continue reading them but gave it all up, partly because I wasn’t into the writing styles.

If I can give comparison my reading commitment level is 80% to 20%, the lesser percentage is for those partial reading trips. Still pretty good score but I need to work on and reduce the 20% into a lower point.

What about you guys? Do you feel ugly if you don’t finish reading the books you decide buying?

Thank you so much for providing the thumbnail.

The hard life of a distinctive reader

Last Sunday, I and my best friend, who is also a bookworm, headed to my favorite bookstore. The bookstore was located in an upscale shopping mall in the heart of Jakarta. The mall is such a high class one that I go to the place because of the bookstore and its food court. Only the products at the two chains that are affordable for my pocket, LOL! Others are luxurious materials, too expensive for me.

My pal was coming back home bringing two novels, one of which was my recommendation; ‘Wuthering Heights’. I was happy she purchased the book. I told her the novel was by far the best novel that had ever been written. She trusted me.

She seemed joyful but I was not.

The bookstore is the only place in Jakarta where I usually find my treasures (best classics I have always been looking for). While I found it amazing the bookstore was still flocked by visitors since reading habit in Indonesia is saddening, particularly for imported books, I was disappointed that it didn’t provide various book titles from the Victorian Era that Sunday. It was displaying famous novels, the ones that had been reproduced into a lot of versions, such as Jane Austen’s popular books and those of Charles Dickens.

If not the popular titles, the bookstore sells overlooked short stories, which are not my thing. I prefer novels anyway.

I was sad because no more titles by Thomas Hardy other than those I had read; ‘Jude the Obscure’, ‘Far from The Madding Crowd’, and so on. I was hoping his lesser-known books were there, like ‘Two on A Tower’ or ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ yet they weren’t.

I have been longing for reading those unpopular novels by Hardy for quite so long. And I was not really surprised that I didn’t get what I wanted that day. The trouble being a classic reader like I in Indonesia is that I always feel like an anomaly.

Either my fellow bookworms are lovers of novels in Bahasa Indonesia or most of my pals are not avid readers, I always find it difficult whenever I want to read novels by my favorite authors. I can buy them online but for a conventional reader like I, coming to a good bookstore then looking for titles that I like is such a bliss. Looking at the many titles, admiring the books’ covers then feeling my eyes sparkle whenever I find books that I want to buy or new titles suddenly capture my eyes..

You can call overly dramatic but I always love going to a bookstore. It feels like I am about to have an adventure.

I almost bought ‘Sylvia’s Lovers’ by Elizabeth Gaskell that day but I cancelled it because it was too pricey. Sadly, there was only one book at the shelf, which made me even more sober. I also almost purchased ‘Jane Eyre’ but the faces of Mia Wasikowska and Micheal Fassbender really disrupted my intention. The thought they were on a screen for a movie adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre’ was not my favorite.

I went home empty-handed. I preferred not reading books that didn’t completely fit my interests to being forced enjoying novels that were so-so. If you guys living in countries where reading is very common you guys are so lucky because in Indonesia, reading habit is quite alarming.

Most youngsters here tend love reading popular books, the kind of stories that ‘sell’ romance or motivation. Canon literature is an alien, especially those in English Language. Reading books in public parks is very rare here. Book clubs are scarce, too. I am happy with my reading preference though despite the fact that I have to struggle finding my desired novels.

Savoring the comedy of manners in Jane Austen’s Emma

emma-and-george

Emma is my first experience reading Jane Austen’s books. In one word I’d like to sum it up: I love the novel. It is very entertaining, comical, light, fun. Compared to works by Thomas Hardy, George Eliot and Charles Dickens, reading Emma is such a joy. The kind of happily live ever after story that amuses me so much.

Reading the title is like watching a romantic comedy movie that though for movie-freaks this is ‘shallow’ film, still.. you need watching this kind of movie to loosen your nerves. And Austen has so many things to offer other than just the happy finale.

First and foremost, I’d like to say what I slightly dislike about the writing. As a huge fan of Hardy’s exquisite, sophisticated writing style, Austen’s does not quench me. It is too straight-forwarded, linear, simple. I don’t find many beautiful depictions about scenery, places, wise words and the like. That’s the minus part of the book.

The plus ones? Well.. a lot!

I really love the comedy of the manners in the book. A few instances that made me laugh are the scenes when Frank Churchill going all the way to London just to cut his hair! The most ridiculous one is when Emma rumbles about how Mrs. Elton trying to ‘fix’ Jane Fairfax. I remember I was at the train reading the part Emma wonders what if Mrs. Elton trying to Woodhouse-ing her! I was laughing for a moment. I didn’t care if other passengers were thinking I was nut or something.

The way Austen presents misconduct of the characters, most of whom are wealthy, is outstanding and witty. It seems like for some characters, such as Mrs. Elton, money can buy you house and carriages but it can’t guarantee you good behavior. Austen mocks, I think, each and every character in the book, even for Emma.

I like Emma, honestly. With all of her selfishness, all-knowing, prophecy, misjudgement, I think Emma is a very dear friend. She learns her mistake by comparing Harriet and Jane. I am happy reading on the part that it is Harriet who should be her best pal, not Jane. This, I can relate to myself on days when I tend to put more love to the one who ‘leaves’ me but disregard the friend who is always by my side. You can learn very precious lessons about friendship by looking at the relationship between Emma, Harriet and Jane.

How does Austen ridicule the heroine, then?

Austen makes fun of Emma’s presumption regarding the love life of Harriet. And if you read it carefully, all the lifelines seems going against her conjecture. The fact that Mr. Elton does like her in spite of her suspicion that he has a crush on Harriet is the first of all. Her judgement proves fruitless, too, when it comes to the traits of Frank.

Emma is made to laugh at her own falsehood. But thankfully, she accepts her flaws, mend them before it is too late. That’s how Austen creates one of the most lovable heroine who grows up and learns a lot from her own mistakes. So humanly and that what makes me so fond of her.

The bond between Mr. George Knightley and Emma is beautiful in unthinkable ways. What I like so much about this couple is how Austen opts to unite Emma and Mr. George Knightley, two people with big hearts. I prefer Frank, at first. He is handsome, talkative, sociable person. But as I learn how he is so messy about trivial things, such as getting furious after going out under the hot ray of the sun, I agree with Austen when she makes Emma’s romantic flame dies.

Don’t get trapped with people’ physical traits, that’s the conclusion.

While Mr. George Knightley is very gentleman. Although he speaks satirical, his judgement is correct like when he suspects something’s special is going on between Frank and Jane. Despite his firmness, Mr. George Knightley is an observant. If he is suspicious about something, he doesn’t act. He just knows, unlike Emma who chooses to believe her own suspicions. It is such a pity when he confesses that he is envious with Frank who still wins the acceptance of the people despite the fact of his secret engagement with Jane.

I call Emma as a girl with a big heart due to her relationship with Jane. She keeps on liking Jane, forgiving her in spite of the latter’s ignorance. Also, she forgives Frank although he mistreats her. When Mr. George Knightley and Emma does end up together, I think this is the best kind of love of all in the novel. Austen is very fair on this and the way their story unfolds is very beautiful.

Picture is from here. Thanks for that.

Taking a novel reading break

How are you my fellow bloggers? Oh, well, looking at the last post in this blog, I didn’t update it for about two months. Phew…

So, where did I go during the time? Hmm.. Let me recall the days.

I was concentrating my thoughts on this website www.Inspirasi.co with my co-workers. This website is our main product where you can write, post pictures, upload videos, share audios and collaborate. Mostly are in Bahasa Indonesia. Only a very few of the articles are in English language but just in case, you’d like to drop by..

I have been taking a break from reading Bleak House. The book captures very interesting stories about social condition in London when industry revolution strikes England. Although the core of the story lies on heritage but to a larger extent, the novel is so rich.

Somehow, Charles Dickens’ way of writing doesn’t attract me anymore. Too many ideas within a few pages. I can’t really get into the traits of the major characters. Probably, this is a subjective issue for I prefer reading books by Thomas Hardy.

I will probably resume reading the novel after July or I think I need an ice breaker, a short, lighter novel or may be a magazine to just rekindle the spirit within me to read classic books again. We’ll see…

 

Surprise! Surprise! ‘Bleak House’ isn’t bleak thus far

As the title suggests, I thought ‘Bleak House’ would be all about tears, sadness and disappointments. I was preparing myself to feel that way after I bought the novel. I had read bunch of sad stories so reading another one  wouldn’t be a great matter for me, said I.

I’m still 1/8 of the total pages of the book. I can’t help writing down here what I got so far from the book although my reading is very far from over.

While the book does contain a mournful story about Esther Summerson, one of the main characters in the book, about her childhood, what I instead remember most so far is the presence of two minor female characters who are very comical.

I can’t help smiling when reading parts regarding the two characters. The first one is Mrs. Jellyby, say, an activist about Africa. She aims at educating and improving the lives of the natives of Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of Niger. She spends a lot of time taking care of other people while her children, mostly are little, don’t get attention as they deserve. I laugh when coming to the part that one of Mrs. Jellyby’s sons falling down. The part when Mrs. Jellyby’s daughter ‘leaves off biting her pen and makes a return to Esther, Ada and Richard’s recognition’ thus making her looks ‘half bashful, half sulky’ is amusing, too. I can tell these parts signify Dickens’ critics to aristocrats ladies who put so much efforts helping people they may not know all but neglect their own children.

Best laugh, so far, comes when Dickens mentions Mrs. Pardiggle, one of Mr. Jarndyce’s correspondent. Mr. Jarndyce is Esther’s guardian, the owner of Bleak House. If I were not in the train by the time I come to the part regarding this lady, I would laugh out loud. So I chuckle while imagining the faces of Mrs. Pardiggle’s sons when she introduces them to Esther and Ada. The mother introduces Egbert (12), the eldest son, as the boy who sends some parts of his pocket-money to Tockapoopo Indians. She presents the remaining four boys with similar statements, except the youngest one, who swears won’t ever use tobacco and eat cakes.

What entertains me so much is when Esther says how the boys look so ferociously discontent and unhappy. When her mother mentions Tockapoopo Indians, Egbert gives Esther a savage frown. The youngest kid looks even more miserable. It turns out that the children are violent. They pinch Esther when she doesn’t give Egbert a shilling as his pocket-money is ‘taken’ from him. Felix (7), the fourth kid, stamps upon Esther kid and the youngest one terrifies her by turning his face into purple after passing through a pastry-cook shop, absorbed in grief and rage.

I can’t believe Dickens can be this funny after those sorrowful events in ‘The Old Curiosity Shop.’ Truly entertaining. Now, I can’t wait for more surprises and hopefully more foolish parts to come.

 

 

 

Stepping Out From Reading Comfort Zone

Over the past few months, I have unconsciously stepped out from my reading comfort zone.  I just realize about this today. Books by John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy are my comfort zones. I love almost everything they write. Especially for Hardy. His writing style matches my fondness. Hardy’s books steal my heart away only by reading their few pages.

It has all started with Anne Bronte and now Charles Dickens. I disliked first-person narrative yet I love Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’ and ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’ despite they are written in first-person method. They impress me in different ways. They touch my heart deeper than I expect. They move my emotion.

I used to avoid reading any Dickens’ novels because I know his writing style doesn’t suit my preference. I have to seek Dickens’ titles that I believe will meet my liking and after some attempts I find ‘Our Mutual Friend’ then ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Although Dicken’s decision not to further discuss emotional problems regarding Nell Trent’s grandfather stealing behaviors disappoint me, I am profoundly disturbed by the poor girl’s sufferings.

I can’t deny that Dickens is a very great, wonderful storyteller. I am completely amazed by the way he crafts so many characters along with their problems that speak much on what happen at the time. All those fictitious characters, various plots into one just book. Dickens is very brilliant.

After that, I force myself to read ‘Bleak House’. A little bit of force, I mean. I know the novel won’t entertain me as much as I want but I strongly believe it will present me with memorable trip once I finish reading it. I look forward to see what kind of impression that I will obtain after completing reading the book. I gradually learn to cope with things that I dislike because I know I mustn’t get stuck with Steinbeck and Hardy if I want to get more knowledge.

I have to start setting more adventures with authors or writing styles whose books I previously decline to read. The foremost reason is simple; I have to learn about myself on how further I can make peace with things I dislike and that includes books.

‘Bleak House’, my second literary trip with Charles Dickens

Although I had considered buying Thomas Hardy’s novels I ended up putting ‘Bleak House’ in my bag last Friday. I had really wanted to buy Hardy’s lesser-known novels but when I read the first page of ‘Bleak House’ I somehow loved it. I thought I had to broaden my reading horizon, meaning that I shouldn’t read only romance novels.

Therefore, I bought ‘Bleak House’ instead of Hardy’s ‘Two on A Tower’ or ‘Desperate Remedies’. After all, I had completely enjoyed the love story between Helen Graham and Gilbert Markham in ‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ that I thought that day I had to embrace heavier topics. And so my choice was ‘Bleak House’.

I didn’t Google what the novel was all about prior to the purchase. I just once heard the title. And it has turned out the novel is indeed super rich. I even can feel the weight of its content upon my brain at the moment. The thing is Dickens puts so many information within a book. You can find a lot of characters carrying different stories in a novel. And each of it signifies serious problems, deep concerns upon social or legal affairs.

And so is ‘Bleak House’. As I compose this post, I am still far away from the ending of the book but my brain has complained of receiving too many stories. Thankfully, I told myself to be really patient when it comes to read Dickens’ books before buying ‘Bleak House’ so whenever my heart wanted to stop my brain whispered it then said, “hi, be patient”.

Apart from the severe themes in ‘Bleak House’, I am grateful that, at least for now, the book isn’t as heartbreaking as ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Hence, I don’t have to deal with a sort of emotional fight while reading the book unlike my experiences with Nell Trent, which is completely sorrowful.

So well, that’s the introduction of my second reading journey with Dickens. I’ll update in this blog what I find, feel and think about ‘Bleak House’. Till then, let’s read again!

 

On the 7 greatest Victorian writers

Oscar Wilde

This Irish playwright, writer is notable for his plays. ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, which I studied back at the university, is one of my most favorite plays other than ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.’ Oscar, as I read from his ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, is a the kind of writer who doesn’t like going in circles when it comes telling stories. His way of writing is straight-forwarded, you may find a lot of descriptions, idiomatic phrases but it won’t take long for readers to get the point of what he says. His writings is deep, sometimes thrilling, breathtaking as in ‘Dorian Gray.’

Elizabeth Gaskell

A little bit too bad that Elizabeth Gaskell is not as highly lauded as her compatriots, such as Thomas Hardy or Anthony Trollope. The fact is that her writings is so beautiful, vivid, authentic, as you can read in ‘Wives and Daughters.’ Her ‘Mary Barton’ is one of the most magnificent books I have ever read so far. In addition, the novel says a lot of the struggles of the poor, especially laborers. For those who are seeking books by Victorian writers which touch serious issues but are delivered in lighter languages without losing its charming, lovely words and phrases, Elizabeth Gaskell is definitely the best option. What I love most from Gaskell is that she includes day-to-day, small, simple things as mode of observations in her works.

Anthony Trollope

Trollope doesn’t showcase beautiful language as Gaskell or Hardy, at least as seen from ‘The Warden,’ but readers can still enjoy his profound values in the novel. Indeed, he is a serious writer who doesn’t apply pleonastic approach to convey his messages. If you look for uncomplicated story lines then Trollope’s works may be the best for you.

George Eliot

Mary Ann Evans or George Eliot is probably the most difficult Victorian novelist I have dealt so far. On the surface, her language is as delicate as her compatriots but on the deeper level, she writes difficult topics, even more sorrowful than Hardy’s. While you can label Hardy as a realist novelist, Eliot is a dark thinker. She clearly puts her personal stories in her books, for instance ‘The Mill on The Floss’ where many say tells her troubled relationships with her brother, Isaac Evans. I also believe Eliot is a complicated writer who takes religion as a serious theme that influences her work, as in ‘Adam Bede.’

Anne Bronte

In my opinion, Gaskell and Anne Bronte are two Victorian writers who are ‘on the similar lane’, which means that they are both lovely novelists in terms of language, fair themes. They voice topics that are not overly controversial at that time. Anne Bronte’s writing is much simpler than Gaskell. If I can compare ‘Wives and Daughters’ and ‘Agnes Grey’ since both of them talk about feminism and women roles in the society, the latter is more straightforward.

Charles Dickens

Now I know why some call Charles Dickens is a difficult writer after I finish reading ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. His labeling as a difficult one is different with Eliot. Dickens brings serious topics in his books, which is different with Eliot who experience personal turbulence in relation with her affairs and also her religious views. While Dickens discusses many topics on the life where industry takes its toll in London. Apart from his concerns about industry, child laboring and poverty in general, Dickens’ way of writing is sophisticated. Though he uses circular plots, his story lines are not straightforward, his writing requires me to devote a lot of focus and time. His writing is not the kind of words that will soothe your soul or blow your mind away like what you may feel when reading Gaskell’s or Hardy’s despite Dickens’s splendid narration. I think this is because heavy topics he is about to deliver.

Also, credit to his characterizations. Completely rigid, each character seems alive.

Thomas Hardy

Hardy is my most beloved Victorian novelist. Although he uses a lot of idiomatic phrases, his story lines are not straightforward mind you for his plot is mostly linear, doesn’t bring up many characters. And his language is really beautiful that usually doesn’t bore me even when I feel a few of his story lines get out of the lines. Reading Hardy’s is truly what it means as enjoying the beauty of literature, savoring the peak of literature as many say happen in the Victorian era. Hardy is a realist or even sometimes pessimist. His writing reflects much of his views about life in general. He likes adoring women, he definitely uses nature as one of the sources of his imaginations. His writing is hard but once you get the flow of his ideas you’ll get hypnotized, just like I.

‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’, my second experience with Anne Bronte

tenant
picture source: en.wikipedia.org

Reading the first few pages of ‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ after long struggle for completing ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ makes me feel like finding an open road after months inside a humid, vast forest. So refreshing!

It took me by surprise finding the novel at the Kinokuniya bookstore last Saturday for prior visits proved nothing interesting in its classic literature bookshelves. So, I didn’t expect it so much. I thought my options would be books by Charles Dickens, again and again. Good thing about life is that it surprises you when you least expect it to happen. And so it did.

I read the title and although I glanced at other titles, I knew my eyes stuck at the book and I brought it to the cashier. I didn’t know much about ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’, by the way, but somehow the information that I read that the book is the best by Anne Bronte intrigues me. Besides, my first experiences with Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’ is quite impressive so why don’t I read her another book?

Without further consideration, I bought the book. Along with the English edition of ‘Supernova’, I got two books for payment. I couldn’t be happier than that day. By the time I write this post, I am at the page 28 out of 590, LOL. A very long way to go. Yes, I know that. But given its straight-forwarded writing method, first person narrative, and definitely a much easier language than Dickens’, I believe I’ll finish the book sooner than the time I took for ‘The Old Curiosity Shop.’

Hopefully!

 

 

Nell’s grandfather; a shocking picture of one’s loss against ill-wills

If you have read “The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens you may resume reading this but if you haven’t, I suggest you shouldn’t because this post contains the most shocking, the most terrible sample of one’s struggle against ill-wills.

What I will talk about can be read in the 9th paragraph of this link: https://enywulandari.com/2016/01/14/the-old-curiosity-shop-by-charles-dickens-part-3/ .

Nell’s grandfather addiction to gambling is the source of all their misery. Apart from Daniel Quilp’s wickedness, Nell’s grandfather is the one who should take the blame for their impoverishment. I am really, really shocked when I find out how he holds his belief that gambling is the best shortcut to wealth even after he and Nell runs from the shop-cum-house.

My feelings are mixed up when I read the part.

On one side, as I said earlier, I am astonished with the fact that his addiction remain strong, so strong that Dickens describes the old man’s eyes sparkle when he hears the sounds of some people playing cards as one of the gambling method. It feels like the old man’s life spirits come back.

On the other one, I as a reader, am happy because coming to the part wakes me up from the previous reading journey that almost bores me, honestly. Prior to the part, most plots are about their trips and sorrowful stories all along the path that they take. So, this part, particularly on the point when he steals Nell’s money, refreshes the reading process.

I give credits to Dickens who is able to raise my anger to this old man. I can’t believe what he does to his own granddaughter who rescues his life that far. It doesn’t make sense for me to know there is an old man who is so beaten up that he takes away essential things that Nell saves just to keep their stomachaches filled. The scene when he forces Nell to give her purse when he is about to join a group of gamblers at the inn is really frustrating, makes me so furious. It’s like, how could he?

Later on, I try to take a bigger picture on all this. As usual, as a reader of classics which sometimes portray unthinkable characters, I have to view things by using a lot of parameters; psychology, economic, social, etc, which helps me understanding what he does. The fact that they are both poor though Nell actually has a job as the assistant of the wax-working owner doesn’t make him any less happy. He has problems much more than just making ends meet or paying off his debts. His addiction, self-battle against wrong deeds is the root of all his restlessness, whether or not he realizes it. The peak of it all by taking Nell’s money away, not admitting on what he does is more than enough to sum it up with one word: what?

Sadly, Dickens doesn’t say much about this old man annoying trait and his gambling addiction. This topic is out of the plot after Nell successfully persuades her grandfather to leave the wax-working caravan so as he won’t meet with the gambling group, again. It would be more interesting if Dickens adds explanations on the old man’s bad habit. Because for me, it doesn’t really all about the way of making him rich instantly but it tells more about the old man’s personal problems.

If there were any one ask for my opinion what lacks in the novel, I would say about that thing; that Dickens hasn’t really finished or solved the psychological matters that cause the old man so addicted to gambling. Such important matter ends loosely with the finale that sees him dies in the graveyard of Nell’s. After all the torments that he brings about since the beginning of the book, it remains heartbreaking seeing him feeling so gloomy after her death. The fact that he realizes Nell is all that he has in the world and how he no longer argues her decisions as the book comes to its end is I think the most proper reprisal he could have done to pay off his wrongdoings.

Dickens’ way to make readers forgive what the old man has done? May be.