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

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The number 1 challenge in ‘Middlemarch’: plentiful characters

Middlemarch ... New edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How Reading Teaches Me A Lot About Self-Commitment

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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.