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.

‘Pot-Bouille’, the big laugh I have this weekend

pot-bouille

I have had Pot-Bouille for several years. But I abandoned the novel until just last weekend when I was cleaning my small room, rearranging books in the bookshelf then I found it. At first, I didn’t want to read it (still). I attempted to read the novel but catching the first page cushioned me away. The words were not beautiful, I thought at the time. It was a translated version nonetheless (the original one in in French language written by Emile Zola).

So I never considered giving it another try. Until last Saturday when I didn’t know why my hands got the book then opened it. My eyes were sparkling reading the first page. They were quite entertained by the words; short, descriptive. More than enough to get me through the weeks.

So, the first page that used to be very narrow and unpleasant turned to be literary-worthy. The novel has become a good companion on my daily commute. How comical!

I was happy at that day. The money that would be used to purchase Thomas Hardy’s novels are still in the wallet. That’s trivial advantage by the way. The relieved one is that this has become the second or may be the third time I have given myself a chance to prove myself wrong.

For a person who mostly believe in first sight, what happens between me and Pot-Bouille and me and The Return of the Native serves like an anomaly, which is a good thing because my experiences with the two novels show me that my mind can change. I am a reader on a progress. Anything can happen in terms of reading preference.

What used to be the most-avoided reading materials can nourish my soul later on. The thing is letting myself open to any kind of books although the writing styles do not match up my taste. It is important becoming a flexible reader because I still have a lot of things to learn. It is too soon to close my eyes, limited only to things that catch my attention from the beginning only.

So, Pot-Bouille has been nice so far. The plot moves quickly. The language is straight-forwarded. The theme so far has been about the manner and the lives of middle-class people in Paris, probably in the middle of the 19th century. I really love this sort of theme by the way.

The first pages of the book introduces me to the grand apartment where the characters reside. I can visualize how magnificent and elegant the place is and Paris in general. The extravagant life it has to offer, the rich people and the problems they have to face amidst the wealthy lives they experience.

So, I currently enjoy reading the book. Wish me luck guys! What books are you in right now? I’d love to read from yours.

The picture is taken from this.

The missing piece: Thomas Hardy’s less popular books

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I completed reading the short story anthology by Robert Louis Stevenson a few weeks ago and I haven’t bought any new novels. This makes me feel a little bit hollow. On one side, I feel lighter because I have no commitment of reading a number of pages within a day or a week. I have no self-appointment to be met. I can read online articles whenever I want without feeling guilty.

On the other hand, something is missing. An important piece of my life is wandering, waiting to be found. And I know I need to read a decent book. In particular, I want to read another title by one of my most favorite authors, Thomas Hardy. I want his books BADLY. The problem is I don’t know how I can find them in the offline bookstores in Jakarta. The store I frequently visit sells only his popular works, such as The Mayor of Casterbridge, Jude the Obscure and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I read all of them years ago.

The point is I have to buy his lesser known stories via online, something that I haven’t done. May be you wonder why should Hardy’s books? Well, I have to admit that there are no writings that suit my taste better than his. I like Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing style and his descriptive writing technique yet his chosen themes don’t match up with my likeness. They are incomplete, some things remain unresolved, as seen in Olalla and The Treasure of Franchard. Although, yes, they definitely entertain me so much.

In addition, I think it is because Hardy’s works or say, Hardy’s viewpoints are similar with my own; idealistic, realistic and pessimistic (I am working on the latest point to be more positive tone). His view of life and society and romance are comprehensive and contains a lot of critics. His writings are very reflective, prompting me to think on issues in broader ways possible. Romance in his eyes are not just a matter of feelings. And I am always captivated by his fictitious characters, so humane with flaws here and there.

For the sake of enjoying good writings, I am going to buy Hardy’s books. Let’s see how can they fill up the voids in my heart for I can’t take it anymore. I am really in dire need of beautiful words, thoughtful writings.

The picture is taken from this.

Reading canon literature makes me snobbish

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If you were a serious reader like me, I’d like to invite you reading this piece of shit. Whether my personality (a blogger says personality is a shitty affair) affects my reading choice or not, it is no wonder that canon literature or say, novels from Victorian Era, is my thing. I have been reading books from American authors with John Steinbeck as my most favorite one and been enjoying stories from Indian writers, but my heart has never been this happy once it has met novels by Thomas Hardy.

It’s like I and those books have finally found each other. How romantic I sometimes think about this.

It’s funny how serious minds are indeed meant for heavy books. See? Romance is not just for less serious or funny people. Even a distressing person like I can have my own love story.

Many have said that novels from Victorian Era set high benchmarks for literary works. You can’t count how many books by Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and definitely Charles Dickens have been adapted into movies, theaters or other popular shows. There have also been a lot of critics who say how their writing styles or issues are amazing. If I say their works are ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging’ I bet some will agree with me.

So, what happens after years reading books from this era?

At first, what I have immensely loved by reading the novels are the beauty of words and how skillful those authors in describing things and people. Reading this type of novel is like viewing a very wonderful panorama. Later, I call this reading experience as a sort of relaxing trip. The more I read the more I then learn what makes a good novel. Their stories teach me that good books are about people, about who we really are.

I have taken personal lessons just by reading their stories and I have put them into practice. Reading their books have made me a better person. That’s so true.

I still read books by writers from the era. Currently, I read ‘Markheim’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. As I enjoy more novels, a devilish thing sneaks in. The part of me who yearns for recognition, praise shows up. It is called arrogance.

It has been years that I reject books written not by authors by the period. I’d say because I still want to read classic books but sometimes it is more because I think popular novels are rubbish. If they are easy readings, I have no time for them. That’s my principle.

If you said I am smart or anything let me tell you I actually act naive. It’s like opting something difficult for the sake of ‘being who I truly am’ instead of trying to ‘entertain my soul’ via funny or lighter books.

It’s like why am I addicted to hard things while it’s really not sinful to occasionally read something popular. Why do I keep choosing tough lines over mild ones?

Knowing your reading preference is good, always bright thing to do. But putting barrier or walls over things beyond the preference is what makes your ego running wild. That may shield you away from fantastic stories that probably are in easy books you always underestimate.

The picture is taken from this.

When you neglect reading novels in your native language

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As a non-native English speaker, preferring reading novels in English Language is like holding a double-edged sword. People praise me for my knowledge about the foreign language. They wonder how I can speak so fluently. A lot of friends often ask for advice related to English Language. They want me to share some tips to be good at grammars. They wish they were able to speak in English smoothly.

A close friend of mine recently wants to meet me because she wants me to help her writing in English Language. Every time people ask for suggestions how to master English Language skills, my answer is very simple: practice, practice and practice. I tell them that I have learned the language since I was a small kid, probably 10 years old. What they regard as amazing thing is an ordinary one for me because I have grown up learning the language. It is the skill that I have developed entirely out of curiosity.

For a kid growing up in a remote area, very far away from Indonesia’s capital, what I have experienced with English Language is weird. It was love at the first sight. The first time I knew the word ‘the’ my eyes sparkled. I and the language have entwined an intimate relationship since then.

My love for the foreign language has grown deeper when I was accepted as a university student majoring English Literature in 2002. Studying for almost five years in a culture city namely Yogyakarta, I found ‘my tribe’. I have made good friends with classmates, lecturers, seniors, juniors and fellows from other majors who encouraged me loving culture, language and social sciences in general. Spending years in academic environment that puts more focus on math and physics from elementary until middle levels, what I obtained during the college years is enlightening.

If you think my connection with English Language always brings nice stories, let me tell you that is not always the case.

After years reading novels in English Language, especially books from Victorian Era, I now forget how to enjoy reading books in my own language. As strange as it may sound but I can’t ‘read’ books in Bahasa Indonesia or Indonesian Language. Each time I try reading books in Bahasa Indonesia, I can’t put my soul into it. I find a lot of words or expressions that are strange or illogical because my mind has been too westernized.

I limit myself to read short stories in Bahasa Indonesia. I can no longer enjoy digest thick novels. I have spent years reading books by John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy but not those by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia’s most leading novelist. Not only this makes my understanding about local literature is very narrow, I, too, find it difficult every time I attempt to write my own novels in Bahasa Indonesia. How would I write books in Bahasa Indonesia if I knew I wouldn’t enjoy doing it?

The picture is taken from this.

Diving into the depth of Gothic literature in ‘Wuthering Heights’

cathy

After Catherine Linton dies, Emily Bronte inserts abundant scenes that combine fantasy and horror. Heathcliff imagines seeing Cathy in white gowns. The late is seen everywhere. The deceased follows him.

When Heathcliff is dying, his servant, Nelly Dean, tells the readers that her master once smiles while looking at empty space. It seems Heathcliff hallucinates. The atmosphere surrounding the days before his death is queer. Heathcliff shuts himself down, alienates from the family. He spends most of his days alone. He lives inside his mind.

While that fantasy already produces goosebumps because I strongly sense horror since then, Emily makes it even more frightening. According to Nelly, Heathcliff’s face looks strange as he approaches the day of his passing.

One of the scenes that shocks me is when on the part she finds his eyes black when he looks at her. Nelly even says Heathcliff becomes more like a goblin. The scene when he dies, too, is ghastly. Nelly finds his eyes staring at her as she opens the door where the deceased closes him off.

At first I think Heathcliff is still alive but, as Nelly proceeds, his hands are cold, he dies. My heart jumps as I try visualizing this. Scary.

The finale of the book puts the ghosts of Cathy and Heathcliff roaming around Wuthering Heights. The house they once live in is now left vacant.

The illusion world of Emily Bronte leaves me puzzled for they are hard to grasp. I know the scenes where Heathcliff seeing Cathy is definitely out of his imagination but Emily Bronte’s excellent writing skills make it as though they were real. The description is very smooth. Reading these parts confuse me as a non-native English speaker. At the same time, I can’t help feeling so astonished with Emily Bronte. The book, not thick enough compared to Jane Austen or Thomas Hardy’s, yet it is so wealthy, you can’t find it enough to use it as an object of study.

The picture is from this.

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.

Taking a novel reading break

How are you my fellow bloggers? Oh, well, looking at the last post in this blog, I didn’t update it for about two months. Phew…

So, where did I go during the time? Hmm.. Let me recall the days.

I was concentrating my thoughts on this website www.Inspirasi.co with my co-workers. This website is our main product where you can write, post pictures, upload videos, share audios and collaborate. Mostly are in Bahasa Indonesia. Only a very few of the articles are in English language but just in case, you’d like to drop by..

I have been taking a break from reading Bleak House. The book captures very interesting stories about social condition in London when industry revolution strikes England. Although the core of the story lies on heritage but to a larger extent, the novel is so rich.

Somehow, Charles Dickens’ way of writing doesn’t attract me anymore. Too many ideas within a few pages. I can’t really get into the traits of the major characters. Probably, this is a subjective issue for I prefer reading books by Thomas Hardy.

I will probably resume reading the novel after July or I think I need an ice breaker, a short, lighter novel or may be a magazine to just rekindle the spirit within me to read classic books again. We’ll see…

 

Stepping Out From Reading Comfort Zone

Over the past few months, I have unconsciously stepped out from my reading comfort zone.  I just realize about this today. Books by John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy are my comfort zones. I love almost everything they write. Especially for Hardy. His writing style matches my fondness. Hardy’s books steal my heart away only by reading their few pages.

It has all started with Anne Bronte and now Charles Dickens. I disliked first-person narrative yet I love Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’ and ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’ despite they are written in first-person method. They impress me in different ways. They touch my heart deeper than I expect. They move my emotion.

I used to avoid reading any Dickens’ novels because I know his writing style doesn’t suit my preference. I have to seek Dickens’ titles that I believe will meet my liking and after some attempts I find ‘Our Mutual Friend’ then ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Although Dicken’s decision not to further discuss emotional problems regarding Nell Trent’s grandfather stealing behaviors disappoint me, I am profoundly disturbed by the poor girl’s sufferings.

I can’t deny that Dickens is a very great, wonderful storyteller. I am completely amazed by the way he crafts so many characters along with their problems that speak much on what happen at the time. All those fictitious characters, various plots into one just book. Dickens is very brilliant.

After that, I force myself to read ‘Bleak House’. A little bit of force, I mean. I know the novel won’t entertain me as much as I want but I strongly believe it will present me with memorable trip once I finish reading it. I look forward to see what kind of impression that I will obtain after completing reading the book. I gradually learn to cope with things that I dislike because I know I mustn’t get stuck with Steinbeck and Hardy if I want to get more knowledge.

I have to start setting more adventures with authors or writing styles whose books I previously decline to read. The foremost reason is simple; I have to learn about myself on how further I can make peace with things I dislike and that includes books.

‘Bleak House’, my second literary trip with Charles Dickens

Although I had considered buying Thomas Hardy’s novels I ended up putting ‘Bleak House’ in my bag last Friday. I had really wanted to buy Hardy’s lesser-known novels but when I read the first page of ‘Bleak House’ I somehow loved it. I thought I had to broaden my reading horizon, meaning that I shouldn’t read only romance novels.

Therefore, I bought ‘Bleak House’ instead of Hardy’s ‘Two on A Tower’ or ‘Desperate Remedies’. After all, I had completely enjoyed the love story between Helen Graham and Gilbert Markham in ‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ that I thought that day I had to embrace heavier topics. And so my choice was ‘Bleak House’.

I didn’t Google what the novel was all about prior to the purchase. I just once heard the title. And it has turned out the novel is indeed super rich. I even can feel the weight of its content upon my brain at the moment. The thing is Dickens puts so many information within a book. You can find a lot of characters carrying different stories in a novel. And each of it signifies serious problems, deep concerns upon social or legal affairs.

And so is ‘Bleak House’. As I compose this post, I am still far away from the ending of the book but my brain has complained of receiving too many stories. Thankfully, I told myself to be really patient when it comes to read Dickens’ books before buying ‘Bleak House’ so whenever my heart wanted to stop my brain whispered it then said, “hi, be patient”.

Apart from the severe themes in ‘Bleak House’, I am grateful that, at least for now, the book isn’t as heartbreaking as ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Hence, I don’t have to deal with a sort of emotional fight while reading the book unlike my experiences with Nell Trent, which is completely sorrowful.

So well, that’s the introduction of my second reading journey with Dickens. I’ll update in this blog what I find, feel and think about ‘Bleak House’. Till then, let’s read again!