Five things I learn about Robert Louis Stevenson from his short stories

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I was biding farewell to Robert Louis Stevenson as I closed the final page of ‘The Treasure of Franchard’, the last piece of his popular short stories anthology a few weeks ago.  Thanks to ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, ‘The Merry Men’, ‘Will O The Mill’, ‘Markheim’, ‘Thrawn Janet, ‘Olalla’ and ‘The Treasure of Franchard’, I gather these following ideas about this beloved Scottish author:

  1. Philosophical and reflective

Reading Robert Louis Stevenson can be a hard task. His works invite me to reflect so much, even when he writes something funny. It’s like watching Adam Sandler’s dark comedy, the kind of laugh that tears my heart because something serious and ironic is in it, too. ‘Will O The Mill’ proves me this. This tells a story about Will, a very generous and kind-hearted person, who spends his lifetime staying in the same place until the day he dies. For me, Will is the type of person who is very close to all of us, the sort of a good-boy-next-door, the man whom you would like to make friends with. He is so nice that he doesn’t fight for the girl that he loves when another man approaches her. His story is very touching, a kind of calm, sombre one that leaves very impressive mark in my reading list.

  1. You reap what you sow

Although wrapped in cheerful tone, ‘The Merry Men’ teaches me a lot of life lessons, each and every thing that I throw will come back to me in abundant ways. Gordon Darnaway, the uncle of Charles Darnaway, is the perfect example of this. From the very beginning of the short story, it prompts me to think how can this old man is very serious about his life. He seems distant and takes everything so heavy. After I read on the part where he murders now I understand that he probably reaps what he sows. He feels uneasy because of the crimes he does before. His life seems unpleasant because he runs away from his guilty for so long. The last scene where he is seen jumping off the sea makes my heart breaks. So ironic for his life.

  1. Oh, the Gothic style

‘Olalla’ brings me back all about Gothic things, the stuff that I learn during my university years. The mysterious, horror, thrilling tones are strongly felt in the story. Although some of key questions remain unanswered, the short story successfully keeps me going completing it. Robert Louis Stevenson is really good at presenting the Gothic idea in it although does not executing it all as smooth as I expect.

  1. ‘Markheim’ proves his work can be unsatisfying

From ‘Markheim’ I learn that even a master like Robert Louis Stevenson can produce deficient writing. I can feel his writing misses a number of scenes. Disorganized. The last scene when Markheim indicates he will surrender himself to the police after a thoughtful conversation with a man doesn’t make any senses to me.

  1. ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ remains his exceptionally masterpiece

‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ is by far his brilliant work, which completely sticks in my heart in different ways despite the fact ‘Of Mice and Men’ is my most favorite book and ‘Wuthering Heights’ is the best novel I have read so far. ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ stands out from the crowd not only because of it tells about someone’s split personality but also because of his very, very subtle language with huge focus on details. This story runs really delicate that if you don’t pay enough attention, big things will slip away.

Thank you Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson!

Thanks for providing the picture.

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I’m afraid of reading ‘Lolita’

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“Lolita, a light in my life, the daughter of my wife. My friend, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: a slippery trip for the tip of my tongue, tough and rewarding, like our friendship, and fun to say, even in anger. Try it: Lo. Lee. Ta.”

The first lines of the novel have stuck in my head ever since I knew it. I know they sound a bit cheesy but somehow they are beautiful, poetic, aren’t they? I have been thinking of reading the book for quite a long time but each time I go to my favorite bookstore then find the title lingering at the bookshelf my hands don’t carry it to the cashier.

The thought of knowing the essence of the book discourages me. As much as I love the language put by Vladimir Nabokov, the author of the book, my brain isn’t yet ready to dig deep into the book.

Although I have been actually trying to dissociate my mind from any displeasing feelings that may come up while reading the book, I still find it a little bit too challenging. I have been attempting to put my mind as mere literature reader but the thought of an elderly man falling in love then possessing a girl much younger than he is remains so disturbing.

And despite the fact that I once read Nabokov’s introductory statements for ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ then knowing how magical his words are, I remain reluctant to give ‘Lolita’ a shoot. (Nabokov’s statements are really amazing. Witty, smart ass, thought-provoking. I love him already).

I hope one day I have the gut to read it or to be precise, I am brave to try enjoying the book under one condition that my heart and my brain are united to view ‘Lolita’ as a beauty, a good art, an expression of literature brilliancy a la Nabokov.

One day, one day.. till now. I am still with Robert Louis Stevenson.

The picture is taken from this.

Mumbling about ‘Markheim’

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When I firstly read the first few sentences of the short story I thought it would be similar to ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ not because that the story turned out to be a murderer one but it was more because of the setting and simply because of my imagination.

The story was set in the heart of the city. Since the first scene was all about the business transaction between Markheim and the store dealer, a little bit similar with the first view of the famous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When I finished the story I found that they told readers about murderers. I am always fascinated by Robert Louis Stevenson’s ideas of putting forth stories about criminals, like Markheim and the other title, because through Robert’s writings I can at least dig deep into what the outcasts’ think about themselves; how do what they do; and what makes them doing so.

At this, I salute the author’s grand idea which brings up the topic of getting in touch with what are called as ‘bad people’. Somehow, ‘Markheim’ was no fun reading if I related it to break the heart of the criminal. Too straight-forwarded. Too naive. Markheim was telling everything about his motives of killing the dealer out of money to a man who was about to enter the room Markheim was in to unlock the drawers’ key. Markheim wasn’t without stories however. His bitter past was pushing him doing this mischievous.

Yet, the way Robert unraveled it all was too linear. So truth to be told, I got bored easily. Another thing that turned me off was the part when Markheim stabbed the dealer. I understood that Markheim was pushed to the limit because the dealer did not want to sell a Christmas gift Markheim was wishing to buy. But the main actor’s way of boiling it up was not smooth.

I felt like a bit of sudden Markheim was pushing the knife into the dealer’s body. He wasn’t that furious though.

So, all in all, I don’t really like the story. It didn’t run well compared to ‘The Merry Men’ and ‘Will O The Mill’. The story was a little bit flat and seemed the writer forced it to be a murder story. Well, that’s just my opinion.

The picture is taken from this.

Understanding the works of Robert Louis Stevenson is always a huge task

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Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson are hard to digest not because they carry metaphors or symbols but really, his writing technique is so exquisite. My brains always works at its hardest trying to catch the meaning of his words.

The challenge lies on how he makes his writing so full of details, even small objects are unmissed. My experience reading his short story ‘The Merry Men’ proves this. His story is just a few pages but it takes a relatively long time to get it all done. Not only because this short story marks my first experience reading stories about sea and storms and the like, but also because his descriptions are very thorough. I have to slow the reading process down so that my brain can work better to shape imaginations as exactly as described in the short story.

Another thing that adds to this complexity is the insertion of Scottish language in the story. Oh God. When it comes to dialect or local language, my head starts feeling so dizzy. This reminds me a lot when reading ‘Wuthering Heights’ a few weeks ago and some books about American-African novels back at the university. To tell you the truth, I skipped all parts when Emily Bronte presents the dialect in her most enduring novel. I couldn’t stand it. Luckily, the local language in ‘The Merry Men’ is much more understandable and I can comprehend almost all sentences spoken by Gordon Danaway and his servant, Rorie.

His ‘Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and My. Hyde’ is also one of the most difficult books I have ever read so far for it is so smoothly crafted that the transition between the two opposite traits of the same person is barely detected. The language remains polite, the description is full of details, as always. A smooth criminal, as the late Micheal Jackson says.

This is what makes the thin book remains a challenge for me even after two times reading. May be my English proficiency is still poor that I need to read it for the third time, LOL. All in all, though, this Scottish author is one of the best writers and storytellers that I have ever known. When I decide reading his stories that mean I am up for a challenge, a huge one.

The picture is taken from this.

 

 

Three novels that inspire me to write my own

Although ‘Of Mice and Men’ is my all time most favorite novel it’s not one of the books that encourage me to create my own one day. Here I’d love to share three novels that I quickly take inspirations from when it comes to write a novel:

  1. East of Eden

This title is the door of all the novels that I have read so far. It’s true that “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is the first one that leads me to read more about classics but ‘The East of Eden’ is the first that opens my perspective in understanding the truest value of great novels. I love the book, and it remains one of the titles that is very memorable. The story between Caleb and Aron which is inspired by Cain and Abel from the Bible is the part that interests me so much. The different reactions from the brothers when it comes to receiving the fact that their mother, Cathy, is a prostitute, suggest me in learning that imperfection is what makes humans so natural. That’s the grandest message of the book that I don’t only remember but also get my views right. What I’m trying to say is that I have to firmly understand the most essential point of writing great books lies on characterizations. No matter how big topic or social circumstances that become the background of the story, still, stunning novels are all about humans. Thankfully, I read the book at the beginning of the years-long literary trip thus I am not carried away with various, historical events that form some titles that I have read along the way because what I have on the top of my mind is characterization.

 

  1. The Mayor of Casterbridge

 

I think there is no better book to enjoy human inner journey from a bad to good one than ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge.’ What makes the book more fascinating lies on the way Thomas Hardy flawlessy transforms Micheal Henchard through ups and downs, unexpected events, foolishness, wise acts throughout the book. I think Henchard’s life journey perfectly reflect that of us, as human being, though we may not as goosey as him by selling his wife and daughter to a stranger when he is so drank. What I like more from the book is that it doesn’t sound preachy. It describes Henchard as a normal person with all of his mistakes and dark sides. His effort to fix the wrong things that he has done in the past is one of the best lessons that I can draw from it.

 

  1. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

There are three sensations that I get by reading the book. The atmosphere, criminal acts that are mentioned in the book successfully terrify me as I read along the book. Robert Louis Stevenson deploys everything that later on produce thrilling, frightening effects to all its readers. While this has been sufficient for making me glued at the book, Edward Hyde’s struggles to tame his devious side has made the story becoming more complicated. How he acts as a good person in the day then turns into a monster in the night is a good thing to observe. The fact that the evil side eventually triumphs becomes the climax of all and this turns out to be so devastating. Isn’t this so common? That oftentimes are are bound to either follow our good or bad side? The last one if feeling high over heels with the beautiful, civil words despite illicit tone and the puzzled story plot that keeps me reading the book until the last page.

 

 

Rereading “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

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picture credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Initially, I thought rereading novels, no matter how great they are, would be such a waste of time. Why bother your time by reading books that you already know their plots, their endings? What’s the point for that activity? This view stuck in my head after I tried to reread Tortilla Flat a couple of months ago. I gave up reading the book for the second time. I didn’t get any hilarious sensations I once enjoyed during my first attempt. But don’t get me wrong though. I love this novel a lot but I think this won’t be in my reread list in the future. Probably, I wasn’t in a good mood at that time.

Given the failed attempt, I did not know what went through my mind when I bought Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when I entered Kinokuniya bookstore last month. All I can remember was that I needed a kind of intermezzo as I got stuck in reading The Return of the Native, a classic book by Thomas Hardy. So I believed that reading the horror, mysterious novel would later pump my spirit to resume my reading of the classic romance story.

I first knew the book during one of my reading classes in the college. My lecturer introduced this novel to us and this fascinated me so much. I always love this kind of book theme; split personality, a battle between good versus evil in one’s soul, etc. After about eight years or so, I stumbled again this novel and found my love goes deeper than ever.

During my first reading (because my lecturer asked for us to read the book), all I digested was mere about the plot and the characters. And after the second attempt, I fully understand why the book is hailed as one of the best classics of this genre. All I can say is that the novel is very beautiful despite its horror theme. It amazes me how Robert Louis Stevenson wrote this epic novel about a wicked person called Edward Hyde without putting the words, like fuck, shit, damn or such harsh words.

The core of the story is about Dr. Jekyll who transforms into Hyde, someone with a truly opposite characteristic of the doctor. The doctor formulates chemical reactions to shape Hyde’s physical appearance so much different with his. The mystery opens with a curious accident when Hyde tramples a girl in the dead of the night when lawyer Utterson and his friend accidentally walk across the place where which the incident takes place. Hyde’s strange physical appearance drags the lawyer into questions and since then the story is on. The murder of Sir Danvers takes the novel to its peak coupled by the death of Dr. Lanyon, Jekyll and Utterson’s best friend.

How the writer develops the overall plot and how he ends this you should find it by yourself (for those who haven’t read it). The language of the book is too beautiful to be told here. *lame excuses*

Every word, sentence is carefully crafted to deliver mystery after mystery that occurs to the main characters. Each depiction of scene is perfectly fitted with the overall story. In particular, I am so enthralled by the author’s way in describing the doctor’s transition, both physically and emotionally, as Hyde. I don’t what else can I say about the book other than the word: brilliant!

Plus, the book that I bought is equipped with “difficult” analysis from Vladimir Nabokov, the writer of Lolita.  So, you can imagine that the relatively thin book leaves me with heavy thoughts in my head I can almost hardly be able to bear. I think I’ll read the novel again for the third, fourth, fifth time in the future because the last few pages contain wonderful confessions from the doctor that I find it so hard to understand. Poor me!

Anyway, the novel is completely worth reading no matter how many times you take. It’s always interesting to see how your views may change after you read a particular book for more than once.