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.

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

eliot

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!

The picture is taken from here

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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I wish I were Austen’s Elinor Dashwood

I wish I were a mysterious being like Elinor Dashwood. I hope I have a lot of masks to put on whenever I need it the most just like her. Of all fictional heroines that I have enjoyed so far, Elinor is the one who makes me envious. She is the one of the kind who knows how to handle her heart with so much care. You can call her a hypocrite for frequently hiding her emotions. Once you realize letting them out in whatever moments you are in may cost you a lot, you understand Elinor behaves the way she does.

Elinor is a very interesting character because she is so reserved. She is the sort of person everyone loves being around with. She knows how to interact with the so-knowing-it-all-people affairs like Mrs. Jennings. She can, too, befriend with the woman who steals the heart of the man Elinor admires so much, Lucy. As much as she wants to cry it all out when she knows Lucy is engaged and later is married to Edward Ferrars, Elinor keeps her promises of not telling every one about the secret engagement.

When her heart is still broken because of Lucy and Edward, Elinor manages to console her sister, Marianne, as Willoughby leaves her for another woman. Elinor puts forward her brain and logic when it comes to love that results in the despises from her mother and Marianne. It turns out that Elinor’s suspicions about Willoughby are indeed true.

The way Elinor is so patient with everything happening to her life and those around her is amazing. She isn’t trapped in materialistic view of the people surrounding her. Elinor is very strong woman, so tough that she can withshield the sadness in her heart for months. Even so, her life is so full of patience. On the surface, Elinor’s life seems flat and boring as she has to wait and see for all things to come into her life. Not many active actions she actually does to pursue her dreams, unlike Marianne to Willoughby.

Yet in her circumstances, she has no other better options. She can’t force her feelings to Edward while Colonel Brandon, as I come to the page of 279 out of 367, remains attached to Marianne. So Elinor keeps trying being cool and patient while watching things turning out as they are. And that is the damn difficult thing one can ever have to do.

For this particular reason Anne Bronte is my most favorite Bronte writer

anne bronte

Hail to the Bronte sisters who have left enduring legacy in English Literature. I wish they write more books so that I can go inside their unbelievable minds. Though I know I can never reach their super high imagination level put into magical words at least I can enjoy more of their works. They die relatively at young age because of sickness.

So far, I read four books; ‘Agnes Grey’, ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’, ‘Wuthering Heights’ and the last one is ‘Jane Eyre’. I know some titles remain unread, particularly by Charlotte Bronte but I believe reading them is sufficient for me to draw a conclusion that Anne Bronte is my most favorite one.

I agree to most literary fans who say ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Jane Eyre’ stand higher than ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’. I sum this up because of what I feel after I read each of them. I go crazy when I read ‘Wuthering Heights’. I am so moved when Jane Eyre becomes a beggar then so relieved when she eventually becomes Mrs. Rochester. I still remember I find it hard to put ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ down because the plot completely moves me. I get addicted to the book but if you ask for my opinion the novel remains below the other two titles in the paragraph. I think this is perhaps due to Anne’s writing technique which doesn’t dramatize Helen’s life as tragic as Jane Eyre or as horrific as ‘Wuthering Heights’.

Anne Bronte is my personal favorite because I find pieces of my personality in her two stories. The reason is so private. As much as I adore Jane’s trait that is so rebellious and as much as I am blown away with the wildness of the love between Cathy and Heathcliff, Anne’s characters are engraved in my heart. The simplicity, patience and strong-willingness of Helen Lawrence Huntingdon and Agnes Grey are what make them ordinarily outstanding.

You may call them boring because they don’t pose one or two particular traits that make them distinctive. Jane Eyre is very notable for her obstinacy and independence while Agnes Grey and Helen Huntingdon are both hardworking women but not that very stubborn. Agnes Grey and Helen Huntingdon are so-so if compared to Jane Eyre or Cathy. But beneath their average qualities lie endurance and strength. In my own words, they are very humane. Not just I but I think a lot of women or people out there will easily relate their characteristics with theirs.

‘Agnes Grey’ is the second novel that bedazzles me after ‘Wives and Daughters’ because of their ordinary protagonists who experience simple lives. Like Molly Gibson in ‘Wives and Daughters’, ‘Agnes Grey’ follows the life of Agnes Grey, all the choices that she makes and how they contribute to the final trait of the female leading figure by the end of the novel.

Agnes Grey wants sufficiency for her and her family needs. The problems she face during the life in the book seems ordinary; the difficulty in finding jobs, the negativity she has to receive as a governess. She sometimes hates her job because she has to deal with naughty children and some even put her position as a maid. But a job is a job. She has to complete her tasks for the sake of making ends meet. Her simple thought in job is also applicable in the romance side. She doesn’t pursue her crush but chooses to be patient and wait. Until when the universe goes in favor of her feeling, he comes and proposes her. There lies indescribable power beyond Agnes Grey’s simplicity.

Helen Huntingdon lives a more complicated life compared to Agnes Grey thereby she is a lot of tougher than Agnes Grey. Not only she has to deal with her alcoholic husband, Helen must go against public norms; fleeing from her husband while they are still married. Unlike Jane Eyre who is completely obstinate, Helen’s firmness is understandable, that she escapes from her husband to save their only son. Helen does this by force. Jane, on the other hand, could have stayed in Thornfield Hall while teaching Adele, for instance. Jane still has other choices that Helen doesn’t. Similar to Agnes Grey, what Helen wants is her son security and good moral sample that he will never get that from his own father.

I can’t imagine what strength Helen poses when she has to take care of her ill husband. She completes the duty of a devoted wife (I know the term ‘devoted’ here stirs debate at that time) by returning back home. As much as she hates him, she performs the responsibility until he dies. This part is so mixed. I feel that in this part, Anne Bronte softly brings up two opposite climaxes at the same time: the downfall of masculinity as portrayed by Arthur Huntingdon and the victory of feminism by Helen Huntingdon. Again, Anne Bronte describes this part in slow, soft ways that makes it very powerful.

Agnes Grey and Helen Huntingdon.. For some they may be boring, plain and not spontaneous. But you and I can’t bet they are beautiful souls because they stick at what they believe to do. They are stubborn because of strong reasons. Though patience and hardworking, they live the lives they dream to have no matter how many bumpy roads they have to undergo. They are awesome fictional characters and for myself they describe my personality.

Thank you for providing the picture.

The Bronte sisters and the dream elements in their masterpieces

the bronte sisters

The night before her wedding, Jane Eyre dreams something so horrific that leads her feeling frantic and unquiet throughout the remaining night. She sees a woman looking ghostly coming into the chamber she previously sleeps in. Jane never sees her before the night. She surveys the wedding dress, takes the wedding veil. No damage is done but she stares at Jane’s eyes that lefts the bride-to-be feeling frightened.

According to her future husband, Mr. Rochester, Jane is half awaken when that takes place. The woman that she sees is not a ghost or whatsoever but rather a human being. On the planned big day it turns out the dream is not just a dream.

The wedding is aborted. Mr. Rochester is still the husband of a woman namely Bertha Mason whom he has been married for 15 years. He argues that his still living wife is a maniac or a mad person whom he doesn’t know about when he marries her. He later blames her family for hiding the truth about his wife. To make it bitter for Jane to swallow, the woman has been staying in Thornfield Hall for a couple of months. I bet the woman Jane sees is the wife of Mr. Rochester!

When I come to this part not only I am a little bit shocked but also I am intrigued to question what makes Charlotte and her elder sister, Emily Bronte, inserting dreams into their novels. Before writing this post, I read several articles that inform me about the lives of the Brontes. Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell are fond of telling stories to each other. They are talented story creators since childhood.

I haven’t found any commentaries from literary experts about this topic but I think their fantasies become like a solid ground from which they base upon their dreams. As their skills mature, the fantasies turn into complicated forms, like the one I mention above. If you already read Wuthering Heights the kind of dreams emerge several times. And in the Emily’s novel, the dreams are much more terrifying.

The blend of fantasy, psychological issues and reality lead to best sort of dreams that make the Bronte sisters are the masters of it. As a result, I, as a reader, find it harder to differentiate whether the characters’ dreams are real, surreal or mere delusion. What is left as a reader is the sensation that sticks so long in my mind and again makes the sisters are exceptional writers.

I feel frightened and disturbed at the same time. Then I will question what the dreams mean to the rest of the story. What will come next. And you know what? Every time I find the scenes where the main characters dream, I feel a little bit afraid. I can still remember well when Heathcliff dreams of Cathy wearing white dress after she dies. Also the conclusion of Wuthering Heights mentions the ghosts of Heathcliff and Cathy!

This particular aspect of Charlotte and Emily makes me realizing they pose very advanced writing skills. Every detail are paid attention that slowly leads the stories snowballing into something greater without leaving readers, I included, feeling bored.

The source of the picture: https://voolas.com/facts-about-bronte-sisters/

‘Jane Eyre’ and I; a special literary comeback journey

janeeyre

I have been immersed myself in reading ‘Jane Eyre’ since last Saturday evening. Oh my.. I have loved it so much. I can’t believe the novel has entertained me, heart and mind, after I watch its movie version then find myself hating it.

It takes me years to have finally given it a try. This is because the film after effect. I dislike it a lot because I despise watching Mia Wasikowska pairing with Micheal Fassbender in Jane Eyre (2011). I like Mia but not Micheal so yeah.. Plus, there’s nothing special for me about it. Just an orphan girl surviving as a governess then falling in love with a manly person performed by Micheal.

As flat as this film leaves a mark in my mind I ignore the book each time I go to Kinokuniya bookstore in Central Jakarta. I mean like, why should I? The novel is considered as world’s greatest literature treasure but its movie version proves there’s nothing fantastic about it so why should I follow people’ choice?

Years before I am deeply into ‘Jane Eyre’, I enjoy reading her sisters’ works; ‘Agnes Grey’, ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte and ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte. I love all of their masterpieces. It is not surprising that I am eager to read books by Charlotte Bronte. I firstly want to read her lesser-known books; ‘The Professor’ and ‘Vilette’ but I turn my eyes on other titles at that time.

Shortly to say, I decide reading ‘Jane Eyre’ mostly because I don’t have many reading choices about Victorian Literature in the bookstore. I am a traditional reader who prefer buying books in stores to ordering them via websites because I look forward shopping books in bookstores! The kind of shopping that makes me feeling so much happy, refreshed and confident.

After a series of wonderful experiences reading books by the Bronte sisters I automatically have ‘Jane Eyre’ on the back of my mind. So you may say I read the novel after not many classic books left in the Kinokuniya bookstore. A kind of forceful reason coupled with nature conspiracy regarding the series of experience reading books by the Bronte sisters but hell yeah!!

Now, I am so happy that I buy ‘Jane Eyre’ that rainy Saturday afternoon. The weather was wet but my heart was so cheerful for the first words stole my heart away, as what Victorian writers always do. My reading relationship with ‘Jane Eyre’ is unique, anyway.. It’s like I meet a special man but do nothing to even admit the crush feeling. Just when my heart is sort of empty I meet this guy again, I try approaching him then voila! We click then enjoy our journey at the moment.

That is all I can write at the moment. I share this because I and ‘Jane Eyre’ has an extraordinary linkage. It’s called “I can’t deny my first literary love for wherever I go I will return to it. Always.”

The picture is taken from here