‘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

I wish I don’t know that Hardy is a sad married man

thomas hardy

I have long known some bad rumors regarding Thomas Hardy, one of my most favorite authors. He is said to have neglected his wife, Emma Gifford, as they aren’t blessed with any children. They grow apart, emotionally. Hardy is told to have visited other women, including Florence Dugdale, whom later becomes his wife after Gifford passes away.  Hardy regrets of making his wife unhappy then spends his remaining years living in remorse. This state of emotion is told as one of the factors that shade his second marriage with Gifford.

As much as they are true, I wish I don’t know about that. Now I know but I don’t want to make the fact lessens how much I adore Hardy’s writings. Thankfully, I know about all of this after I read his masterpieces. Fortunately. It is like knowing you were actually in danger after you escape from it.

Because I don’t know how would that be if read the books knowing Hardy is unhappy with his marriage. Probably I would discontinue reading his books.

It is still hard to believe that Hardy is a sad married man. That is probably reflected from his books’ tone, which is gloomy, realistic cum pessimistic. Looking at the ways he portrays his heroines, I disbelieve that he is responsible of making his wife unhappy. In my opinion, Hardy’s women are feminists who have super power. The women in his fictions are stubborn but with intelligence, rare ones when they are created in the 19th or early 20th century.

That is why I hardly digest Hardy’s real romance life is quite saddening. That his marriage doesn’t make him satisfied as well. One can barely tell personal lives, problems don’t influence their writings. But I find it difficult to grasp his unhappy marriage life in his novels have I not known about his real life via Wikipedia.

May be Hardy can skillfully separate between the two (his own life and his artificial worlds in his books). Or probably I just don’t get that enough. I am too absorbed into his words. All I know his stories are all very realistic. That’s why I love him so much.

And sometimes I wish I don’t know about his own doomed marriage. Sometimes all I know is his beautiful words, poetic phrases and such. And now, I try to not remember Hardy’s life each time I enjoy his words. I hope I can do this as long as I can.

The picture is taken from this.

When you read a lot but you’re not a writer

What a writer anyway?

Do you have to produce a book to be entitled as a writer? What about writing essays? So you are more as an essayist than a writer? Then, what if you write a lot of posts in your blog, like this blog. You’re a blogger, not a writer?

Sometimes I assume the name of a writer is exclusive, still. That you can only be called as one only after you get your books published. Other than that, you are a blogger, essayist, columnist, depending on what media you put your words on. At least, that what happens in Indonesia. I don’t know in other countries.

I read a lot. I edit every day. Commas, punctuation, periods. I correct writers’ words on a daily basis. That’s my job. Other than that, I curate. I even know the term just lately. Curator. I give critics to people short stories, but mostly I praise with lots of notes here and there. People praise my wide knowledge about literature, reading and book in general.

Sometimes they applaud my editing ability, the skill of clarifying contents. My job is carefully looking at words, finding faults (if any) then correcting them. I can’t tell I am a good editor but I practice this every day because I adore words. I believe words convey wisdom, power and ideas.

I love writing way above editing. I write to feel alive. But what I write is not books. Blog posts, loose articles, opinions or ideas. Lately I realize I prefer writing those because of random, various information that I get by reading, various kinds of topics. I get easily distracted because of my high curiosity level.

That’s why I prefer writing different topics. I know a lot and that is sometimes not good if I have to get committed to long-term projects, like the novel I wish will be published one day.

I sometimes compare myself with my best college friend. She doesn’t read as much as I do. She doesn’t know literature as much as I know. But hey! She is an author. She has one book about children tales. Though the book doesn’t sell well she makes it anyway! And I?

I get too much trapped on theories, best works I have read so far that I think too much before I actually put down my pen into papers. May be I just do what my friend do, write then forget about the rest!

 

I read an Indonesian novel again, at last!

batavia 1936

I have been reading ‘Batavia 1936’ for the past a few weeks. This is the first novel in Bahasa Indonesia, my second language (my first one is Javanese language) that I read after Ayu Utami’s Lalita back in 2012/2013, if I’m not mistaken.

As I write in this post, I have been struggling reading novels in Bahasa Indonesia because I spend much time reading books in English language. Reading books in Bahasa Indonesia feels awkward.  It really is.

I can’t remember how enjoyable reading novels in Bahasa Indonesia when I was a university student, which means some 10 years back. Pragmatically, since I want to write books in Bahasa Indonesia, I have to read novels in the language, whether or not I like the idea. Yes, I know. The motivation sounds money-oriented. Sometimes I feel guilty reading books in Bahasa Indonesia out of money. Genuine writers who happen reading this piece will hate me. I’m sorry.

Anyway, I want to regain the delight of reading local literature though, yes again, it’s more because of money. What you may think as incorrect motivation has guided me learning again how to read stories in Bahasa Indonesia. I kind of enjoying the process.

‘Batavia 1936’ is a romance story that takes social background in Menteng area, Jakarta’s elite neighborhood when Indonesia is still under the Dutch occupation. Batavia itself is the old name of Jakarta before Indonesia gains independence from the Japanese troops on August 17, 1945.

The novel, which sadly doesn’t sell well, is quite rare. The writer, Widya W. Harun, opts writing a novel that doesn’t match with Indonesia’s literary enthusiasts preference who mostly like reading books about modern love story.

I salute the author for sticking at what she believes in. I bet she does a hard job matching her idea with the historical and background at the time. I believe she works hard collecting information to support her book. This makes me liking her already.

‘Batavia 1936’, as I read so far, tells about Kirana and Kirani, two siblings who have their hearts set on one man, Hans van Deventer, a Dutch doctor whose mother is a Javanese. While the essence of the story is not something extraordinary,what makes the novel worthy of my time is because the author brings me back to what happens in Jakarta before it is freed from colonialism.

As I go through page by page, my mind attempts to visualize the houses where the major characters live. I let my imagination wanders through time and space when Jakarta, which is now so crowded, is once a peaceful city. No bus, no trains. But horses and carriages.

As I read the book I try to put myself at the era where women, although like Kirana and Kirani who come from wealthy family, are restricted. I mean the two figures aren’t described as having jobs to do.

Male figures take the helms of the families. They work to make ends meet. While women, for instance, the mother of Kirani and Kirana, is skilled at household; cooking and sewing. The life of the rich people in the book is so glamorous even when television doesn’t exist. They throw expensive parties. They are like celebrities.

So far, the novel is a pleasant one to read. Because I can wholly sense the restriction of culture in it. Though Kirani and Hans love each other they don’t touch or kiss. People at that time holds culture so much that they can respect each other before they tie the knot.

The language is so soft, much different from today’s novels. From it, I can draw the conclusion that the language itself has grown so much. Although I am still a little bit struggling putting all of my heart into the book, I’d love to know how the story unfolds. Will Hans be with Kirani or her sister, Kirana?

Guess my efforts of making a good comeback as a national literary lover has been proven fruitful so far. Yeah, I think myself so.

The picture is taken from this

Another shade of fantasy in fiction

I used to think fantasy is all about the future, something in far, far away land across time and space years ahead. On top of my mind, fantasy stories are one of the hardest genres one can create because it takes superb imagination to put whatever inside our heads into words. Our goals is to make people believe our fictions are worthy-to-read although they are purely out of visualization. You won’t find the background of fictions in any kinds of historical books.

As such, I think The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are genius works. Because J.K Rowling and J.R.R Tolkien create their stories in such detailed and complex ways that they look as if they were real. Each and every little thing is described so exact; the characters, the houses they live, the clothes, the strange creatures in the story… Entertaining, wild but are still meaningful. Their stories are sometimes out of my reach. My realistic nature and my brain can’t cope with their brilliancy.

During the past few weeks I’ve got a lesson about fantasy that broadens my knowledge and shows me another shade of imagination that almost slips away from this little brain. It’s called the fantasy of historical fiction.

Actually, fiction is about fantasy although what you may write happen in the now. Historical fictions challenge me more thinking about the past, hundreds of years before I come to this beautiful world. I can’t stop giving credits to all authors who can create the sort of stories because they don’t live in the actual times and places when the background of the stories take place. All they have are reliable manuscripts, data from newspapers, interviews or researches from scholars about specific time and condition where the stories occur.

But still, they don’t live at that time, in the situation. They make plots, adjust the stories with historical backgrounds. Not only that. They also have to know the kind of language that people use, say, in the 1940s. Since, you know, language also develops over time.

The places may change their names, too. The streets may no longer exist. Also, the social condition. Do the gap between the rich and the poor remain steep? Reading two books about history (one is real and the other is fictitious) informs me how fantasy is indeed sooo diverse. Though yes, you can track the names of the characters in the fiction in historical books or know exactly where this place is located, making stories that take place before you were even born is as much as hard as Lord of the Rings that don’t relate with certain historical timelines.

Although historical fictions are artificial you have to check and double check the years, the title of people with high social status, the names of the places that don’t exist anymore, and many more. Presenting interesting story is a difficult task.. Supporting it with correct facts is challenging, probably require you thinking harder than producing the story itself.

Even John Steinbeck can be dull sometimes

It takes many months for me to have completed reading ‘In Dubious Battle’. After enjoying marvelous stories by John Steinbeck in ‘East of Eden’, ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, it is hard to believe that ‘In Dubious Battle’ is written by the same author who is my most favorite author, in par with Thomas Hardy.

‘In Dubious Battle’, now a major motion picture, is so vocal about labor movement and its relation with politic at the time when the book is composed. I don’t really mind about that. John Steinbeck is said to put much focus about politic. Reading ‘Travels in Charley: In Search of America’ makes me realizing his huge love for his country. He is a nationalist by the heart.

What disturbs me so much is how the plots are woven. They are like cut shorts here and there. Dialogs are made so frontal. John Steinbeck lets his writing style so straight-forwarded in the work that I don’t enjoy reading it at all. Despite the tone of the book that is ‘furious’ I instead feel unmotivated because of his technique.

I hope ‘In Dubious Battle’ is as emotionally-moving as ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. Both speak much about poverty and labor issues. Yet, the ways each of the novel tell stories are way different. ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ completely stresses me out in good ways. I am so absorbed by the plots. The book leaves me with mixed feelings. John Steinbeck’s way of writing is superb. Beautiful, deep, philosophical. No wonder that the title brings him wining Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. He is so total in producing the story in terms of plot, message and storytelling style.

But in ‘In Dubious Battle’ I can sense that he seems in a rush. He looks like forcing himself doing the work. The finale is clear yet he doesn’t work well in bringing readers into imaginations. Lack of emotion as well.

Looking at the two titles somehow reprimand me that even brilliant author like John Steinbeck can mess up. Not all his ideas are well-executed. I haven’t researched what prompt him creating ‘In Dubious Battle’. Whatever reasons behind the book all I can tell to myself that being good writers take a bloody efforts. Doing so doesn’t necessarily guarantee your books will score massive successes. Well, defining success can be relative but at least you can sense whether you make it or not by reading your own books.

“East of Eden’ is his first title that really wows me. The self-influenced novel grabs my attention to his name. It so moving, the words are so wonderful, and the message is so related to my life and I think people’ lives in general.

As much as I love ‘East of Eden’, John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ is my most beloved title of his, as a matter of fact, ‘Of Mice and Men’ is my most favorite novel thus far. It cuts so deep. It is better than ‘East of Eden’. ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ gives me another chill because the book is so powerful. It is a boom!

Reviewing all experiences regarding all of the titles I can sum up that proficient authors like John Steinbeck can sometimes have hard times. He can make very wonderful fictions but not free from making bad ones. Men, he is a human being after all. Being at the top throughout his whole life sounds godly, too good to be true.

Lessons learned is this: while worldly-proven authors can be bad sometimes then why can’t I be? This doesn’t mean to aide myself whenever I am lazy to write or read but the point is creating fictions is a very long process. I can be at the high but down sometimes. Or in between. The key is accepting who I am and what I can achieve at whatever level I am at.

 

Reading by intention

I have seen my reading circle has grown much smaller in the past one or two years. Articles about current affairs, business, politic, national issues, topped daily reading lists. I followed what was going on in my country ranging from serious to trivial things. What went viral in social media caught my attention, too.

After I stopped working as daily news translator my reading habit gradually has changed. I read stories that interest me only. These include football, books, self-development, literature and the like. Business and world affairs are no longer within my focus. I devote much time reading things that support my job and hobby.

As days go by, my reading preference becomes much narrower that it was years ago. Now, I visit websites about literature, positive psychology, books, creativity. I even often reread articles that speak about motivation whenever I feel lazy or hesitant to keep writing that I really love but I’m afraid to do.

Websites on latest issues, such as local news portal and international ones (TIME, BBC, Reuters and Bloomberg) have been occasionally visited. If you ask me what happens around the globe now, I hardly can answer your questions.

Themes, like corruption and politic that are always the favorites among Indonesians, don’t catch my attention as dazzling as they were. Sometimes I don’t know what goes on viral. Sometimes I just don’t care about why people or my friends rumble about specific themes or people that are frequently-talked at certain times.

This is so crazy, I often say so to myself. Because I now ask for my friends’ information on what happens currently, something which was in contrary with what I did years ago. As a journalist, I mostly became the first one to have known issues or gossips because that was my duty. I knew the people behind the scenes and everything so I told my friends most of the times. But the reality is now in reverse. I occasionally have no ideas what happen on the outside world.

It’s not that I turn becoming an ignorant person. The truth is my world becomes small and smaller without me intending to do that. Once I start learning to look within me, organizing my life, seeking what I really want, chasing after my personal dreams, everything seem fall into its place accordingly.

I still read latest issues but not as thoroughly as I did. I only need to know what happens and that’s it. I don’t pursue the issues any further unless they interest me so much. Much of my reading time is for stuff that helps me improving my life as a person and a novelist-to-be.

Doing this for almost two years have opened my eyes in amazing ways I couldn’t ever imagine. I used to think nothing was as important as politic and economy. I used to believe daily life is boring. I used to think my life would be grand if I pay attention to things outside my world.

The truth is reading (what I used to think as silly topics) like self-discovery, happiness, daily tips, can be not only refreshing but also influential as a creative writer as I’d like to call myself so. This habit prompts me thinking harder than I used to be as a journalist. Because I have to dig deep from scratches. I have to produce materials from everything that I read from many weeks or months before. This encourages me to work extra miles. While when working as a journalist, source persons and issues were abundant. The challenge was trying to come up with newsworthy articles. I think the latter one is harder because that requires more than asking for information. In that case, creativity does turn out very complicated sometimes because it triggers me to think and research harder.

After two years, this reading habit starts becoming a daily ritual. This makes me feel calmer, more peaceful and resourceful. The first two words happen because I read articles that intentionally support my well-being. Instead of reading things about people debate on religion or politic scandal (which surely won’t lead to any solutions for all sides), I stumble upon articles on DIY, my most favorite one is reorganizing bookshelf (LOL). Or gathering ideas on weekend-to-do-lists that don’t involve spending a lot of money at the malls.

I feel resourceful because now I get more knowledge about books and literature. I now know literature can be very up-to-date. It is not boring at all. As such, I can develop writing skills out of this much-beloved theme to make all things bookish can get along with today’s generation. That reading can be very fun. And writing about books is not always old-fashioned.

My stories when this blog firstly appears are boring. I share about book reviews and my opinions. I don’t do a lot of creative writings about them. After I read some websites I begin creating posts about what I read in as trendy, fun ways as I can.

Shifting the reading preference has done a lot of good things. I never thought reading selection should be organized but now I guess this is important thing to do because my brain and my energy is limited. As age adds up, I realize my brain can no longer accommodate all things readable. All I want and need is materials that can support me growing better and wiser every day not only as a writer but also as a human being.