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.

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.

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.

My current battle: reading paper books vs online articles

How tremendous the impacts of smartphones are. I have been using a Chinese-made smartphone less than one year and I can’t believe how much it has changed my daily life. I used to have underestimated the influence of smartphones but now I can’t count how many hours have gone unnoticed while browsing articles in the smartphone. While I can still satisfy my curiosity in various fields by reading online articles, I feel guilty for neglecting some good novels at the bag. I currently reading “The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens, a very wonderful, funny, touchy book yet I prefer online articles.

The problem with an avid reader like me is that I am curious on many things. I can read almost all kind of topics. Positive psychology is currently my field of interest. While that brings a lot of benefits, I easily get distracted. It’s hard for me to focus on one article let alone on one novel for just one hour. My eyes can’t stand of reading one article or a few pages of a novel within certain amount of time. As a result, I am struggling reading “The Old Curiosity Shop” simply because I find online articles are so irresistible.

Before I have the smartphone, I made use of my daily commute as the best time to read novels. I mostly read “The Mill on The Floss“, for instance, inside a Transjakarta bus. But now, I prefer reading online articles or check social media accounts while I am on the ways of going to and from the office.  I don’t know how many books that I am going to read this year. Actually, I have some great to-be-read novels in my mind but unless I can return to my old reading habit they will be mere plans.

 

 

 

My views on life as told by these Victorian writers

qupteOne of the greatest reading benefits is knowing that I am not a solo fighter to affirm my perspectives on life. From religion, social status, gender… writers share what they think about the world, which in coincidence, matches with my own. And I can say there are things from each of the book that I have read which are just what I feel. As my latest reading experiences are, still, on Victorian era, I’d love to highlight what I and the fantastic four authors have in common:

Thomas Hardy

Oh yes, there he is, again and again. He remains my darling for the Victorian era. His books are endless resources for my writings. What makes me liking this writer is definitely due to his views on life which are similar with mine. Below are some of his works that best describe my thoughts:

Far from the Madding Crowd
Feminism is the first word that emerges in my mind the first time I read about Bathsheba Everdene. She’s the kind of feminist that I adore. I don’t exactly know well the definition of feminism. All I agree is that a woman must be independent, capable of doing her tasks and making ends meet on her own but she, one day, will be a wife and a mother because she wants to be like that. And she does that out of love, not by force. When she is at home, she respects her husband wholeheartedly.

Jude the Obscure
Whenever I think about Jude, the main character in the book, introversion is the first word that perfectly characterizes him. I and Jude both agree that reading is the key to the world, or even, the tool that crafts our beings. Introversion and reading are best partners in life. Perfect mates to live up our dreams. Jude is the reflections of my characterization as someone who sticks at his introversion, lives the life according to his idealism amidst the world that prefers looking at extroverts.

The Woodlanders
Sometimes, the best thing falling in love with someone is limited as standing by his side, giving a helping hand when he needs that, being his best friend even when he’s in love with another woman. So painful yet that experience has brought so much joy for Marty South, one of the characters in the book. The death of Giles Winterborne doesn’t encourage her to immediately find another lover. Is being faithful to an unrequited love is a pathetic romance? You have your say. But for me, her decision to love, to have her heart crushed, to fall until she reaches the very bottom  of her life is a very brave, risky thing to do. She doesn’t mind being so vulnerable and that what makes her heart is so precious.

Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell is really sweet. She’s the kind of writer that nourishes your soul with her poetic, beautiful phrases. She is, what I call, as moderate realist. Neither skeptical nor an optimist. She’s such a refreshment.

Wives and Daughters
Molly Gibson, the heroine of the novel, speaks my stance about womanhood very well in Wives and Daughters. I used to really hate table manners, ladylike sort of things when I was a teenager. I hated make up, wore dresses and girly accessories. They were so nonsense. They took up so much of my priceless time. Womanhood used to be so annoying for me. I even wished I were born as a boy, LOL. At that time, I thought boys were so free. No norms, public statements that would limit their movements. While girls were born with so many duties, stereotypes. And if they went against public norms, their lives would be doomed, filled with gossips.

But that was then. Just like Molly, now I understand the nicest things of becoming a woman. I enjoy them all by the time I was turning, may be, 25. Sounds a bit late but each and every of us has a wonderful journey of his or her own. My time happens when I was 25 years old. But still, I keep my tomboyish trait and let it flourishes once in a while, like when I do exercises and watch sport games.

Anne Bronte

Agnes Grey
By the time I write this post, I almost complete reading Agnes Grey and I really love reading it. I usually prefer to read books with third person narration but Agnes Grey proves me that reading novels using first person narration method can be awesome, too. I am so fond of Agnes, the heroine of the book. Apart from the fact that she’s a bookworm and introvert, just like I am, she’s so bold and brutally honest. She’s so firm with her belief although that means she is risky of losing her jobs.

She does not give up easily pursuing her dreams despite the fact she faces hatred, unfair treatments, harsh words from her bosses and their families. She knows some people view her profession as a governess is no more than a servant but she keeps doing what she feels correct. Oh the last thing I really like about Agnes is that she’s not a people pleaser.

George Eliot

Adam Bede
Dinah Morris, one of the major characters in this novel, amazes me because of her religiosity. She devotes her life for her religion then share what she has with the poor, the depressed or those in need of spiritual help out of love not for the sake of good impressions. She knows well what she wishes in her life, she practices her religious rituals because she knows what they mean to her life.

I, too, my ultimate goal in life is getting closer and closer to Alloh swt. I want to make Him as the best ever friend in the world and the hereafter through questioning, self-learning, doing religious rituals under His guidance as stated in Koran and the sunah from the Prophet Muhammad saw (peace be upon him). To make my life much more meaningful, I’d like to share good things and help people out of love and because Alloh swt wishes me to do so. I’d love to make Islam as my way of life, fully implement it to live the days full of peace even as days go wild because I have Alloh swt in my heart. (the source of the picture: http://www.azquotes.com)

Five fictional characters whose personalities resemble my own

fictional characters

picture source: virtualvictorian.blogspot.com

One of the most surprising things that can happen when reading novels is knowing that one or several characters in the books have personalities that resemble my own. When this occurs, I have mixed feelings; sometimes I feel my weirdness is no longer special because there are even artificial people who behave or think like what I do. On the other hand, I feel that I’m not alone in embracing my oddity; that there are a lot of people who are just as unique, melancholy, overly sensitive, whatever kind of traits that label my personality.

So, these are the characters whom I find some parts of my overall personality are embedded in them:

  1. Jude Fawley

I discover most parts of my personality in this character; a deep thinker, an introvert, a loner, a hard worker, an overly sensitive person. One thing that we share in a common; we work hard on our goals no matter how often we get confused on whether we are pessimist or realists. Oh not to forget: we are both bookworms.

  1. Cynthia Kirkpatrick

She is one of the puzzled characters I have met so far; elegant, educated, very pretty,classy woman. No.. I’m not that physically charming or may not be as intelligent as her. What shocks me when I read about her is that she’s moody and is full of masks. One moment she can be so happy in front of her parents but in another moment she can be look so down in front of Molly Gibson, her stepsister. She seems calm, cool when she talks with Mr. Gibson, her stepfather, whom she respects highly but she looks disrespectful when she is with her mother. She wisely chooses her words when speaking in front of her stepfather or strangers but she does not watch her mouth when she has discussions with her mother.

And she’s so smart in hiding her problems. She won’t tell her matters unless she is forced to do so. Even if she does that, she is opened to certain people only. My similarity with her lies on our mood swing trait. Sometimes I can be extremely joyful then quickly be gloomy. But oftentimes, I can control emotion. On average, I’m a peaceful person.

  1. Molly Gibson

Molly is a very loveable character. She is innocent and super kind person who becomes the best confidante for almost all characters in the ‘Wives and Daughters’. I’m not that agreeable loveable like her but yes I’m a nice person. I see my tomboyishness in Molly. And her rebellious character is just like me. She dislikes ladylike conduct, fashion mode and table manner that are highly held by her stepmother. I have the same saying for this matter as well.

  1. Marty South

It’s too bad that Thomas Hardy does not put her as a major character in “The Woodlanders’ for I think her loyalty to Giles Winterborne is outstanding. Although I can’t foresee myself to be so faithful as Marty South when it comes to romance but I regard myself as a loyalist almost in all aspects of life. I have only John Steinbeck as my most favorite novelist, Juventus as the sole football club, Alessandro Del Piero as the one footballer that sticks in my heart and Westlife as the once-and-for-all musician in my music preference after all these years. And I’ll be way much more faithful when Alloh swt finds me and him one day, ameen..

  1. Tess Durbeyfield

Tess is the perfect person once could ever be in the Victorian era. Among the positive list of her characteristics; decent, patient, good-tempered, Tess properly suits with this trait: the love that I have to my family. And as hard as she works for her family, I do the same thing all for the sake of the ones that I unconditionally love until the very bit of my heart.

Let me be honest. Four things I dislike from Victorian novels

Reading less than 30 Victorian novels from four different writers is, I know, insufficient to call this dislikeness list a representation of the overall canon literature era. I have created this list, however, according to my readings so far that will likely change in the near future for I promise to myself to read more books written by authors, except Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot and Oscar Wilde.

Too women centric

This may sound too subjective but I always feel women bear too much in almost each story that I have read. Even if they are heroines I find women during Victorian era suffer too much. The first sample is Molly Gibson in ‘Wives and Daughters’, a super thick novel that has been completed this week after a 3.5-month of an on-and-off reading process. She is a flawless character; honest, really good-tempered, compassionate, very tender, lovable girl. She is too soft-hearted that she acts kindly to her stepsister Cynthia who gets engaged to the love of the former. Even when Molly becomes the subject of gossip among Hollingford people as resulted from her intention to fix the relationship between Cynthia and Mr. Preston, Molly remains in good terms with Cynthia. What distresses me while reading the novel is how much Molly disturbed by the Victorian womanhood standards set by, particularly, her stepmother, Clare or Mrs. Kirkpatrick who later changes her last name as Mrs. Gibson. The stepmother is so noisy and annoyed with Molly’s curly hair, messy dress and her relatively tomboyish traits. I feel this kind of similiar disturbance when reading ‘The Mill on the Floss” in which Maggie Tulliver is often teased by her relatives and is compared to her girlish cousin because of her tomboyish personalities, too. How hard it is to be a good woman in the eyes of the soceity at that time even if Molly and Maggie come from rich families. How complicated their lives are…

For women from low social status their sitution is much more difficult, for instance is Tess Durbeyfield. This heroine is my most unforgettable one because of her tragical, depressive life story. It’s her real life struggles that are just beyond my senses. Not only her romance is so heartbreaking but also her impoverished family forces her to do whatever she can to make ends meet. Although yes she marries the love of her life, Angel Clare, yet their sweet tale lasts so quick, incomparable with their long separation.

Excessive details

There are some novels which I think contain too many details, some of which are unnecessary, making the reading process sometimes burden my mind. For instance in ‘Adam Bede’. George Eliot allocates a number of pages about Methodist whenever she wants to describe the characterization of Dinah Morris. Apart from my limited knowledge about Methodist, I think that it does not really shape Dinah Morris as a distinctive character compared to, say, someone who is a Catholic follower but not a Methodist one in particular. She is really a religious person who spends a lot of time to help those in need but what makes her especially distinctive to those who are close to God without any certain sect is uncertain. Or may be you can shed another light on this topic for this is beyond my understanding.

Another sample for this point is in ‘Wives and Daughters’. As this super thick book wants to depict the growing period of Molly and another character, needles to say that Elizabeth Gaskell needs to write this really long story. Yet there are some chapters which I think are insignificant to the formation of the characters. For instance is when Gaskell puts a chapter on Cynthia’s visit to the Kirkpatrick family in London which although she meets Mr. Henderson whom later she marries with, I don’t think this should be a certain chapter for another visit to the family takes place later on.

Too depressive

Some stories in this Victorian era proves to be too somber with “The Mill on the Floss” is my leading example. It is very miserable to recall what happens between Maggie and Tom Tulliver for it costs their lives to eventually realize how much the latter loves the former.

Another fine example is of course “Jude the Obscure”. Very desolate, dark, pathetic. Sorrowful tone is all over the book even if yes, there are some lovely moments between Jude Fawley and Susanna Florence Mary Bridehead or called as Sue. Hardy’s attempts to go against social norms by presenting the affairs between Jude and Sue, who are distant relatives, turn out to be disastrous. Their decision to elope then register their marriage only after they get sick of people’ gossips make the matter even worse. You can find almost all tartness here: divorce, poverty, sickness, death, rumours, forced reunion. And the finale sparks my anger as Sue gets back to her old lover Mr. Richard Pillotson while sadness leads Jude to death.

Some of you may choose “Jude the Obscure” as more depressive than “The Mill on the Floss” but I select the other way around because “The Mill” is very heartbreaking while “Jude” is sometimes like a karma as they should not get married given their relative status. While Hardy ignites controversy at that time due to their forbidden romance and illegal union the end of the book suggests you that he advices readers not to go against the norms.

Where is the romance?

 

If you want to read Victorian novels for finding romance story, like major scenes about romance, well I think you’ve got a relatively wrong reason although this depends on which books you choose. I think most of Victorian writers put society norms, family mattters, materialism, manner aspects above love stories. From Oscar Wilde to George Eliot, they have the same tendency; that society completely influences characters’ personal affairs. Worse, there are some books that reveal happy love stories after the novels almost come to a close. For instances are ‘Mary Barton’, ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ and ‘Wives and Daughters’. Elizabeth Gaskell reunites the love of Mary and Jem just after they have gone some misunderstandings and have escaped from death penalty.

In ‘Tess”, things get much wretched. While the joy between Tess and Angel begins at the center of the novel when they meet in a dairy I think their most enduring lovely moments start only when they have separated for quite a long time. Their joy lasts too quick for Tess is later executed for killing Alec.

Although ‘Mary’ and ‘Far’ are written by different authors yet Gaskell and Hardy’s views on romance is similar in a way that the love story can only tasted only when characters have gone through difficult moments that test their faith. In ‘Far’, Batsheba and Gabriel Oak gets married in a very quite, modest ceremony just when the book is about to end.

I get dissapointed with the ending bond between Roger Hamley and Molly Gibson for they don’t even verbally confess their true feelings. In the last chapter, Roger is seen to have given gestures that attract Molly’s attention. It’s too bad Gaskell leaves this novel unfinished after 766 pages long yet readers can fancy that both Roger and Molly share the same feeling. And that happens just a few pages after the book ends.

How I wish to complain to those authors who give little enjoyment when it comes to real romance!

A New and Improved Relationship with the Victorian Literature

During hectic daily activities as a reporter covering legal issues at the Corruption Eradication Commission, my former best office mate Erwida Maulia invites me to join her weekend gateway by visiting Kinokuniya bookstore on an uncertain weekend I forget the date is.

I have no intention of buying books at the time given my super busy daily life as a journalist. But I can’t help admitting myself that I arrive at an artificial paradise once I am inside the bookstore. Looking at the literature section brings my memory back to the years when I was a student of the English department at the Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. I remember almost all the titles, the novelists, but I soon realize that I have yet to read most of the titles. If so, I must have done that for the sake of getting good grades.

After a few moments of title selections, I decide to give a try for Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. I know the title from my most favorite lecturer, Pak Dayat. I always admire Wilde’s drama but have yet to read this (if I’m not mistaken) only novel he has written. And you know what? This title is the first one that kicks off my pure, new and improved adventure not only with the Victorian literature but also with the literature in a large extent.

The book is the first English novel that sets out my journey as an outsider, a refreshed likeness from a literature great fan. The novel is the first that I completely enjoy, the one that later brings me to so many titles during the span of six years of the so-called reading trip. Needless to say about the book. It’s so marvelous. I can recall the gothic feeling each time I remember about the novel. I really wish Wilde writes more books than drama but he does the other way around.

In between tight working schedules, I always try to find time to read books. I can’t remember exactly which books that I read after ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. After the awesome first reading experience, I quickly remember the name John Steinbeck. I don’t have any ideas why I didn’t read any of his books when I was at the college. Again, thanks to Pak Dayat, what I firstly remember about Steinbeck is ‘Of Mice and Men.’ Pak Dayat once tells to the class how powerful the novel is and I am left being so curious. However, it’s not quite easy to find the book.

Again, me and Wida visits the store and this time around I come with one name in my head: John Steinbeck. I am quite surprised to have found some of his books in the store. Since I haven’t seen ‘Of Mice and Men’, I grab ‘East of Eden’ instead. Prior to the visit, I browse about the book and enough to say, the title itself makes me peculiar. The more I read its synopsis I get even more curious. The core of the story lies on two brothers with opposite characteristics. Steinbeck takes the essence of the book from Adam’s sons whose tragic story becomes the first ever murder in the world.

The novel is quite expensive but it is so much worth it. It takes less than a month to complete reading the book and I totally loooove it! It is so surprising to read the novel saga which is full of wisdom, family issues and human flaws as Steinbeck is greatly associated with social and labor issues. ‘East of Eden’ pulls me deeper into this reading journey. So far, I have read seven of Steinbeck’s novels and will definitely read his remaining books later on.

I finally read ‘Of Mice and Men’ and I can’t agree more with Pak Dayat’s statement on the power of the book. It remains my most beloved book until now. So thin yet so mind-blowing. It tears my heart apart.

In between the so-called Steinbeck’s literary experience, I taste Asian culture through Arundhati Roy, Aravind Adiga, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai with the most favorite one is Amitav Ghosh. ‘Life of Pi’ teaches me a bit about philosophy. ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ tells me that a teenager’s naughty side can instead be the truest voice ever. The novel represents modern generation that is so lost, so divided between personal choice and future consideration.

After feeling enough with post-modern themes, Asian culture, I don’t know what goes through my mind that I return to the Victorian novels. ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ is the second Victorian novel that brings me back to the vintage era. It is less fantastic compared to ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ yet ‘Far from Madding Crowd’ is more than enough to eventually guide me to where my real, final reading taste is, Victorian literature, despite the fact that John Steinbeck remains my most beloved author. I really love his boldness in writing, straight to the point. So far, no authors can surpass the way he emotionally kills readers through ‘Of Mice and Men’. All in all, my general preference is Victorian novels.

After I have read Hardy’s six novels, I move on to George Eliot, now Elizabeth Gaskell. I don’t really care about moral values or social issues as seen in the Victorian novels actually. What makes me glued to the books written in this era is as simple as its language. Once I open the Victorian novels I feel like I see an abundant, very beautiful landscape in front of my very eyes. I can write down authors’ quotes or beautiful phrases. The Victorian novels are indeed such an art.

Given my experiences as a journalist, I would like to dig deeper into the Victorian books then put them down into pieces of interesting writings that won’t merely discuss on the content or characterizations of the books as the ones you may always find in school textbooks. That’s so boring. I know that. Rather, I’d love to play with some dynamic topics, like comparing Hardy and Eliot’s writing type. Also, I’d love to take out several significant characters from the Victorian authors as topic of discussions. I will be so happy to make the Victorian novels as everlasting topics, not too old to be talked about when you meet friends. The books can be in sync with modern era, though.

It’s been three years since I have started out my second reading trip with the Victorian literature. Firstly, I kick it off as a reader, no longer seeking good grades, but simply as pleasure activity. Now, I start thinking to learn making creative stories from all the Victorian novels that I have digested with the help of relatively short experiences as a journalist because reading alone can be worthless if I don’t share it with others. I have done this since 2011 but this time around I want to be more elastic without leaving the Victorian novels’ serious issues.

From obligatory to literary satisfaction now comes to the time when I try to get committed to blend the two. This mission is surprisingly giving me so much fun!

Thank God I Am Done with ‘Adam Bede’, Thank God!

What a great struggle to have finally completed reading ‘Adam Bede’. The effort does not lie on its 561 pages. It goes way more than that. Apart from personal problems that have caused me to abandon the reading process for a while, I still may find it unable to understand few topics in the book.

As I have written in the previous post, this novel discusses a lot about Methodist. As a Moslem, though I know this should not be an excuse, this kind of sect is a bit confusing. And since this is a romance novel after all, I don’t really pay a lot of attention to this topic. Somehow, understanding this sect would indeed help me along the way with Dinah Morris. Or religion situation when which the book is written. That would contribute to a much better post because I strongly believe George Eliot, the author of the book, wants to signify something by discussing much about this. Given its super thick novel, I have no intention and time to do that somehow.

One thing that completely distracts me along the reading process is the use of language of several characters in the book; particularly the one spoken by Lisbeth Bede and Mrs. Poyser. Their language reminds much of the language of those I have read in novels that take place in the southern part of the United States. I’m pretty much sure their utterances lead to something, not just a mere verbal expression. I wonder if their language depicts a social background of the people at that time.

Well, yeah, those are two topics that slightly keep on spinning in my head until now. But since I read the book for pleasure I don’t do further research on those topics. May be one day I’ll go for that for this time being I want to enjoy the novel as the way it is. I mean, digesting the novel on the surface. Enjoying the language, the plot, the characters and delving into Eliot’s mind.

In Goodreads.com I give three out of five stars to this novel. I don’t know what to say. I feel the novel is hard. The language is actually as stunning as I read in ‘The Mill on the Floss’. I think the presence of abundant informal dialogues with too many aposthropes really hinders me from completely enjoying the novel. But you can’t argue that Eliot is the master of putting her imagination into this super novel. I have no doubt on how she can put her soul into each of the character she wants to present.

The core, the best, the heart of the book lies on the page 300 onwards (in my book edition). When you come to the point when Hetty abandons Adam on the days leading to their marriage until she faces her execution day, you’ll get raptured, shocked, wowed, amazed. You’ll get KNOCKED DOWN! You won’t get alarmed that the plot will turn out that sadistic, wicked, shocking as ever given Eliot’s wonderful, beautiful, smoothing words. That’s Eliot’s magic, just any other Victorian writers do, though I must frankly say Eliot’s spells work more efficaciously than her peers.

I can completely fancy how dark, bleak, frustrating the climax of the novel is. I can imagine how depressed Adam knowing Hetty can be that cold. And I can fully comprehend on how Hetty can be that way. And I can get into her soul, I can understand her anger toward Arthur. And if Arthur stands in front of me right now I will punch him in the head! Yeah, the novel is such powerful that I, as a reader, can feel such emotions. It’s George Eliot anyway. No one could ever doubt her proficiency.

Somehow, the enjoyment stops there. The novel is still long way to go but I can easily guess the ending. The union of Adam and Dinah is so easily to be predicted in the early book when Dinah, who is dressed in a sleeping gown accidentally meets Adam when she spends a few nights at his house. The way they look at each other in that morning is sufficient to explain how they actually feel a kind of love at the first sight. Eliot saves their affection when the novel is about to come to a close.

It’s a happy ending for the book. A good guy, who initially sets his heart to a wrong girl, eventually wins the heart of a good girl. On the other hand, the wrong girl who commits a adultery with a player ends up in a distress while the player’s fate is a bit lucky for his name remains undisturbed although he has to leave his hometown. Eliot is too kind to Arthur Donnithorne and I strongly reject her standing on this matter.

Surely, this novel is a satisfying one for those who wish for a happy ending. However, I would not like to emphasize the greatness of the book according to that factor solely. That doesn’t mean I am against happy closures since I get used to read books that end in sad or even depressive endings. What bothers me is that the book does not completely satisty me. My pleasure stops when Hetty is transported. The rest of the story is too clear while the novel is still a bit long way to go.

It’s different with ‘The Mill on The Floss’. I don’t even get bored reading the thick novel not only thanks to its amazing words but also to its unpredictable ending till at least a few last pages of the novel. When I have known the destinies of the major characters I really want to throw the book away. It’s like you have finished watching a great movie with mixed feelings as you leave cinema. It’s like what happens to me after reading ‘The Mill on The Floss.” I feel satisfied yet devastated at the same time until the last pages of the book. I don’t get that kind of feeling as I close “Adam Bede”, unfortunately.

“Adam Bede” by George Eliot

Adam Bede

picture source: inabookshelf.blogspot.com

Adam Bede, a young craftsman in Hayslope, is an extraordinary son, worker and definitely lover. He really masters his profession. His co-workers and villagers put high respect on him because of his skills and kindness. His sibling, Seth Bede, helps him with the job. They both take care of their loving yet childish-kind-of mother, Lisbeth, who find it so difficult to cope with the death of her husband, Thias Bede, who commits suicide.

Then, we have this super beautiful, attractive, young girl called Hetty Sorel. She spends days working at the farm belonging to her uncle, Mr. Poyser. Adam falls so deep in love with Hetty but his improverised condition becomes one of the factors that cause Hetty not to set her heart to him. Rather, she is high over heels with Arthur Donnithorne, a rich young man from a well-respected family in the village. Lisbeth never agrees with Hetty for the former does not think she won’t be Adam’s good wife. She believes that marrying Hetty will only cause Adam not to care about her anymore; that Adam will only pay attention to Hetty only.

To make it more complicated, George Eliot, the author of the novel, presents us with a very religious Methodist woman namely Dinah Morris, a far relative of Hetty. She is that kind of angelic, super tender-hearted person who is like everyone’s favorite. Dinah feels her life is to serve the poor, the sick, the brokenhearted, the mourners. She wants to devote her life to God. Seth really loves her but as you know, she rejects her as she dedicates her life to God.

Arthur loves Hetty but he puts his dignity and good name above all else. He can’t escape from the truth that Hetty is completely nobody compared to his high standing in the society. But Arthur keeps on courting her. They meet several times, being involved in super romantic experiences until Adam catches them. Adam almost kills Arthur for the former believes the latter plays only with her heart. And Arthur, after a heart-to-heart talk with Adam, decides he will leave Hetty.

Arthur trusts Adam to convey a letter conveying his decision about the fate of his love story to Hetty. Her heart is devastated upon reading the letter. But Hetty manages to put a brave face after the heartbroken news. She works as usual and no one in the family is curious with her condition.

That is the best time for Adam for trying to get into Hetty’s heart once again. Adam’s prospective future and his tenderness slowly win her heart till they decide to tie a knot. As the D-day approaches, however, Hetty can’t help being true to her heart that she can not marry Adam. Her love is always for Arthur. She decides to seek Arthur. To camouflage her plan she tells her uncle family and Adam that she is going to Dinah’s place. Her high expections are dashed away. She travels so far away, spends all her cash, walks aimlessly but to avail. Arthur goes to Ireland. Hetty even tries to commit suicide by drowning into water at night but she cancels her plan.

A fews has passed but Hetty is still not at home. Adam starts to get panicked then he visits Dinah’s place. He gets more confused for knowing that Hetty never goes to her sibling’s place. It’s easy for Adam to conclude that Hetty goes for Arthur; that all her feelings to him has never been changed. As such, Adam comes to Mr. Irwine, a rector who is also Arthur’s best friend.

Mr. Irwine tells what happens to Hetty while she is absent from Hayslope. As shocking as it gets, Hetty is facing a trial for being alleged to have killed her own baby. You’ll never guess how Hetty faces her doomsday. She is as quite and pale like a living corpse. Whenever she is in the court she remains silent, her face does not pay any attention to witnesses who testify against her. Even when Adam, who looks as miserable as ever, is present in the court, Hetty does not look at him at all. All that she does is being in a silent mode while listening to the testimonies. No witnesses are in favor of her. To make it worse, Hetty does not even say guilty. The judge then decides she has to be hanged.

Arthur returns home after learning his grandfather’s death. Not long as he arrives at his home he immediately flees to where Hetty is jailed. No one can ever open Hetty’s cold, broken, stubborn heart than Dinah. On the days prior to the execution, she comes to visit and spends a night at the prison with Hetty. It is to Dinah that Hetty tells about her ill-fated baby; that she does bury the kid and when she comes back to the burying site the kid is already gone. Hetty is so damn homeless with no money and hungry as hell. She admits her recklessness and seeks apology from Adam.

Adam is beyond sadness when he meets Hetty on the day before she is hanged. He forgives her already. When the short meeting ends, it’s time for Hetty to get carried to the execution site. As the carriage carrying her is on the way to the site, Arthur stops the entourage while bringing a death release sentence. Hetty is then instead transported as convicts.

Arthur meets Adam again for reconciliation some months after the incident. Arthur decides to leave Hayslope and choose to go into the army. Before he goes again, he has to ensure his good relationship with Adam remains intact. Dinah, meanwhile, stays with the Poyser family. And as usual, after the storm passes, she intends to leave the comfortable zone then seek another place where she will help the needy people. Despite strong rejections from the Poyser family, Dinah sticks at her heart.

Before she goes again, Dinah visits Adam’s family to fulfill Lisbeth’s requests. Lisbeth is fond of Dinah thanks to her pious, sweet attitude. She then persuades Adam to invite her to be his wife after she suggests there’s something different within Dinah’s heart. Although Adam initially thinks this is a mere joke, he later realizes that he starts liking Dinah but the fact that Seth loves her, too, pulls Adam away from declaring his love to Dinah.

Somehow, Adam openly discusses his intention to marry Dinah to his closed brother. Surprisingly, Seth is not objected. He is satisfied to regard Dinah as his sister after all. So all is set, no jealousy may occur among the two, the problem is: will Dinah want to get settled and get married to Adam?

It’s not easy for Adam to convince Dinah. Although she honestly admits her truest affection to him, Dinah prefers to go into the service again. They both decide to go on their own way for a while till Adam’s patience runs out. He needs an assurance. He then decides to seek Dinah without telling her on his intention beforehand. At the top of the hill, they both meet once again and to this point Dinah can’t run away from her feeling anymore. She agrees to be Adam’s best companion till the end of time.

The novel is closed with such a happy ending where the people in Hayslope attend and celebate the wedding of Adam and Dinah. Two kids add super extra joy to their happily live ever after marriage story.