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.

Goodbye ‘Janet’ now welcome ‘Olalla’

happy

I finally bid farewell to ‘Thrawn Janet’, the first short story ever that confuses me because of its writing style. You can read about the reading struggle of this writing here. I get through it, eventually, after a few weeks.

I can’t tell you how relieved I am now. It feels as if I just pass very dark, dense forest with no helps at all. All in front of my eyes are now clear path with the sound of river nearby where I currently stand. The sun shines so bright. The land looks so vast.

I am so ready to resume the journey of this short story collection by Robert Louis Stevenson. Well, in fact I have been enjoying the first three pages of ‘Olalla’ another short story in this book anthology. And I quite like it.

At least, the writing style is my kind of favorite. No Scottish dialect, all is written in formal language. And oh yes, what I have been missing from this author shows up again; his beautiful writing style, the one that contains vivid descriptions that encourage my mind to visualize.

I can’t tell you much about what this story is all about other than the protagonist of the story is a handsome man from well-to-do family who wishes to seek therapy in a fresh, beautiful village in Spain in exchange of better health condition.

‘Olalla’ is the name of the characters in the story, the wife of Felipe, the narrator’s servant. What goes after this? I don’t know yet. I am going to share it all after I complete reading it. In the meantime I just want to say that I am happy I fulfill my commitment to finish reading ‘Thrawn Janet’ which completely confuses me. But I manage to keep my words and somehow I am proud of myself because of that. Also, I am happy to say here that I enjoy reading ‘Olalla’ so far.

Thank you for providing the above happy picture.

The hard life of a distinctive reader

Last Sunday, I and my best friend, who is also a bookworm, headed to my favorite bookstore. The bookstore was located in an upscale shopping mall in the heart of Jakarta. The mall is such a high class one that I go to the place because of the bookstore and its food court. Only the products at the two chains that are affordable for my pocket, LOL! Others are luxurious materials, too expensive for me.

My pal was coming back home bringing two novels, one of which was my recommendation; ‘Wuthering Heights’. I was happy she purchased the book. I told her the novel was by far the best novel that had ever been written. She trusted me.

She seemed joyful but I was not.

The bookstore is the only place in Jakarta where I usually find my treasures (best classics I have always been looking for). While I found it amazing the bookstore was still flocked by visitors since reading habit in Indonesia is saddening, particularly for imported books, I was disappointed that it didn’t provide various book titles from the Victorian Era that Sunday. It was displaying famous novels, the ones that had been reproduced into a lot of versions, such as Jane Austen’s popular books and those of Charles Dickens.

If not the popular titles, the bookstore sells overlooked short stories, which are not my thing. I prefer novels anyway.

I was sad because no more titles by Thomas Hardy other than those I had read; ‘Jude the Obscure’, ‘Far from The Madding Crowd’, and so on. I was hoping his lesser-known books were there, like ‘Two on A Tower’ or ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ yet they weren’t.

I have been longing for reading those unpopular novels by Hardy for quite so long. And I was not really surprised that I didn’t get what I wanted that day. The trouble being a classic reader like I in Indonesia is that I always feel like an anomaly.

Either my fellow bookworms are lovers of novels in Bahasa Indonesia or most of my pals are not avid readers, I always find it difficult whenever I want to read novels by my favorite authors. I can buy them online but for a conventional reader like I, coming to a good bookstore then looking for titles that I like is such a bliss. Looking at the many titles, admiring the books’ covers then feeling my eyes sparkle whenever I find books that I want to buy or new titles suddenly capture my eyes..

You can call overly dramatic but I always love going to a bookstore. It feels like I am about to have an adventure.

I almost bought ‘Sylvia’s Lovers’ by Elizabeth Gaskell that day but I cancelled it because it was too pricey. Sadly, there was only one book at the shelf, which made me even more sober. I also almost purchased ‘Jane Eyre’ but the faces of Mia Wasikowska and Micheal Fassbender really disrupted my intention. The thought they were on a screen for a movie adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre’ was not my favorite.

I went home empty-handed. I preferred not reading books that didn’t completely fit my interests to being forced enjoying novels that were so-so. If you guys living in countries where reading is very common you guys are so lucky because in Indonesia, reading habit is quite alarming.

Most youngsters here tend love reading popular books, the kind of stories that ‘sell’ romance or motivation. Canon literature is an alien, especially those in English Language. Reading books in public parks is very rare here. Book clubs are scarce, too. I am happy with my reading preference though despite the fact that I have to struggle finding my desired novels.

Mumbling about ‘Markheim’

markheim

When I firstly read the first few sentences of the short story I thought it would be similar to ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ not because that the story turned out to be a murderer one but it was more because of the setting and simply because of my imagination.

The story was set in the heart of the city. Since the first scene was all about the business transaction between Markheim and the store dealer, a little bit similar with the first view of the famous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When I finished the story I found that they told readers about murderers. I am always fascinated by Robert Louis Stevenson’s ideas of putting forth stories about criminals, like Markheim and the other title, because through Robert’s writings I can at least dig deep into what the outcasts’ think about themselves; how do what they do; and what makes them doing so.

At this, I salute the author’s grand idea which brings up the topic of getting in touch with what are called as ‘bad people’. Somehow, ‘Markheim’ was no fun reading if I related it to break the heart of the criminal. Too straight-forwarded. Too naive. Markheim was telling everything about his motives of killing the dealer out of money to a man who was about to enter the room Markheim was in to unlock the drawers’ key. Markheim wasn’t without stories however. His bitter past was pushing him doing this mischievous.

Yet, the way Robert unraveled it all was too linear. So truth to be told, I got bored easily. Another thing that turned me off was the part when Markheim stabbed the dealer. I understood that Markheim was pushed to the limit because the dealer did not want to sell a Christmas gift Markheim was wishing to buy. But the main actor’s way of boiling it up was not smooth.

I felt like a bit of sudden Markheim was pushing the knife into the dealer’s body. He wasn’t that furious though.

So, all in all, I don’t really like the story. It didn’t run well compared to ‘The Merry Men’ and ‘Will O The Mill’. The story was a little bit flat and seemed the writer forced it to be a murder story. Well, that’s just my opinion.

The picture is taken from this.

‘Markheim’ a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson

Markheim enters an antique store. He wishes to buy a Christmas gift for his girlfriend he will soon to marry. The dealer of the store instead offers him a mirror. By the by, the dealer is infuriated with Markheim’s coming from the very beginning. The dealer looks busy and encourages the visitor to cut things short.

Yet Markheim keeps talking to the store seller. He says he doesn’t want the mirror, thinking the gift would insult him in front of his girlfriend. Markheim even offers a friendship with the dealer which definitely meets with an objection. The dealer gets even more furious, asking Markheim to either buy the mirror or leave.

Just when the seller has his emotions heated up, Markheim stabs him from the back. He is now dead. Instead of running away to far places, Markheim goes upstairs. He takes the dealer’s keys, goes into a room wishing he would find abundant amount of money.

But just when he attempts to unlock a drawer, he sees a man standing behind the door of the room Markheim is in. To this man, Markheim says that he has been murdering in the past few years to make ends meet.

This man makes Markheim realizing his mistakes and somehow after he leaves, Markheim goes downstairs then tells the dealer’s servant that he kills his master.

 

Reading canon literature makes me snobbish

read

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.

Thoughts on ‘The Merry Men”

As previous post states clearly what the short story is all about, I’d like to just share what I feel reading it. No analysis whatsoever.

Reading ‘The Merry Men’ is like watching a dark comedy and I think the main actor is not Charles Danaway but his uncle, Gordon Darnaway. This old man keeps a lot of secrets that makes him that weird, guarded, serious, hardly smiles. At the beginning of the story, I thought Gordon Darnaway seems so hard on himself because of the harshness of life to make ends meet.

After I finish reading the story, I realize he has so much inside of him that contributes much to what he is. I guess this remains mystery to Charles Darnaway, too, until the sinking of an unknown boat opens up all the riddles.

From the first page of the story until the scene where Charles, Rorie and Gordon are in the hill watching the ill-fated boat sinking down, swallowed by the Merry Men, all I feel is seriousness. Probably this is also because of the difficult, detailed language that R0bert Louis Stevenson applies.

My favorite scene is when Charles comes across a grave when he is about to go deep underwater. What shocks me even more is he unintentionally touches the hands of a dead body under the water. The description of this fragment is so smooth that it startles me when reading it.

What I really mean as dark comedy is when uncle Gordon escapes from the home after he knows the negro man is in it. It’s comical to watch the negro man chases after Gordon until they become uncontrollable. At this, the scene seems funny but when they both plunge into the sea, I know the story is about a tragedy.

As much as I am sad about the fate of Gordon, I can totally understand the deep message behind it: that you take responsibility on things that you do. In this case, Gordon ‘deserves’ the punishment because he murders a marine man. That’s how he pay his sins.

 

 

Summary of ‘The Merry Men’ by Robert Louis Stevenson

Large winter waves crash against cliffs at Butt of Lewis, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

After his graduation from Edinburgh University, Charles Darnaway visits his uncle living in Aros, Scotland. Deep in his mind, he wants to seek for treasures hidden beneath the Spanish ship, ‘Espirito Santo’, plus proposing his cousin, Mary Ellen, to marry him.

His uncle, Gordon Darnaway has been tested by the adversity of life that he becomes stiff, hardly smiles and becomes serious person. From his uncle, Charles knows about the miseries regarding the wave and the sea nearby the place they live. The story of the Merry Men gets more emphasis for it refers to breakers that roar around rocks and make extensive noise like shrieking laughter.

On the day Charles gets to the place, his uncle looks flat. Something about the sea and the past bothers him. Charles tries to persuade Marry to not only marry him but also leaves the house. But Marry can’t leave his father.

Charles tries his luck. He goes down the sea, wishing he can find treasures that will enrich him. Much to his surprise, his discoveries are instead graveyard, remains of shipwrecks and human bodies!

On the way back home, he spots a group of strangers rowing the boat on sea. While he tells about this to his uncle, Charles is surprised to learn Gordon’s panic. Gordon realizes the stranger Charles just sees is the marine whom he kills yet he comes back alive.

Upon this, Gordon leaves home carrying wine. He gets drunk while standing on the edge of a cliff. His eyes watch the ill-fated boat. Charles and Rorie seek for his whereabouts. They can’t do anything to make Gordon coming back home or help the ship. Not long after that, the Merry Men are back in action. “Their laughter” swallows the ship, leaving no remains of it and Charles, Rorie and Gordon can just stand still.

After this incident, Gordon looks frightened until Charles learns that his uncle is sinful for murdering the marine man. After Charles utters his disappointment on his uncle wrongdoing, suddenly a black man is visible. Gordon gets even more terrified. He flees, so does Rorie. While Charles tries to speak to him whose language seems so alien. Charles brings him back home though.

Mary and Charles feeds him and provides him a shelter. On the other hand, Gordon still escapes. He doesn’t want to return home as long as the black man is still in the house, so Charles thinks. Rorie brings Gordon meal but the old man doesn’t want to leave his place. Mary is very sad finding her father behaves like this.

Until one day, Charles wishes to let the black man go. When he meets Gordon, the latter runs away then is chased by the black man. Gordon is unstoppable. He thinks the black man is the ghost of the marine man whom he murders before. They chase one after another until they jump off the cliff then the Merry Men engulf them all.

The picture is taken from this.

Five benefits of reading long novels you probably don’t notice

reading-novels

I prefer reading thick books to short stories. As long as the books are good, the longer they are the better. As such, I have to carefully select which books I am going to read. The process can be as tricky and nonsense as in this post.

But if I get good, even great books, I can’t tell you how merry my heart will be. The romance between I and the books are on. The joy of reading fantastic books is having a lot of time to enjoy, learn, and simply be in the books. I can understand each and every character, even relate their traits with mine. Not only that. The plots, the conflicts face me with new viewpoints, different perspectives.

After a number of years opting to read long books instead of short stories, I get surprised by how much the preference help me becoming a more grounded person. This can be broken into these points:

  1. Becoming more understandable

The more I read diverse characters, some are even so ugly, the more I shield away from judging persons, be they good or bad. I learn not all coarse people are completely bad. Their past experiences, family issues contribute much to what they are in the books. Not all protagonists are angels, too. They make stupid mistakes. They can be stubborn, hurt the ones they love with or without their intentions. Reading long novels provide me with so much chances to learn each character as simply human being who are meant to make mistakes then learn from them. And oh I pity very cruel character, like Heathcliff. Those who are very hard at hearts are usually the ones who need love at the most.

2. Becoming more patient

I have found this benefit lately; patience. When I have good books at the palm of my hands, I completely get into them that I don’t realize how time flies by so fast. I don’t pay any attention that I have to be very patient to digest that 300 or even 600 pages long. All I care is reading page per page, enjoying what the author say in it. I am not very sure that my patience, some friends of mine say that I am a patient person, is partly because of this habit. I can’t judge myself. I let others say so.

3. Becoming more skilled to enjoy stillness

Again, I am not very certain that reading long books contribute much to my skills in dealing with solitude. That’s may be true since reading makes me just facing hundreds of papers. I make good friends with the dead objects. I learn the art of becoming my own company. Each time I find vacant moments, just grab books or read online articles.

4. Becoming okay in what others may perceive as ‘boring’ activity

Like point number 2, I have recently come across someone’s opinion who said reading is boring. Well, I can’t deny that opinion. On the surface, readers face hundreds of pages containing words, words and more words. It’s amazing to think that beyond the books, whatever the titles are, unbelievable trips await readers. We are transported into unknown worlds at different times and spaces. We have our own trips at the back of our minds. Others may say that’s boring but for us, what we feel each time we glue at our novels is full of adventures.

5. Becoming much more imaginative

I never believed I was a creative person until I read a lot. Reading opens up my mind like I never thought it could be. Enjoying books written in foreign language challenges me even much harder but it is so worth it for my brain does exercises at its best. My mind works hard picturing what these characters look like in real lives. When you are provided with descriptions you will automatically try to picture them in your minds; rounded-face, blue big eyes, curly hair, etc.

Talking about scenery, social life as the backgrounds of the books is advanced thing. I can’t believe there are so many things that I can learn from just one book, thick or thin. You are free to imagine everything. Your imaginations can be as wild as you want them to be. Again, reading is a mind adventure, and isn’t that more than enough to say readers have so much fun doing this hobby?

The picture is taken from this. Thanks for providing it.