Monday, 27 April 2009

"Death of a Salesman", by Arthur Miller

I think I prefer this one to "All my Sons," also by Miller. Yet still, it was not a very enjoyable read. Plays are meant to be acted out, and no matter how wildly my imagination is, it can never recreate in my inner eye how it's supposed to look.

What I liked about this play specifically is the way Willy Loman switches between past and present, like a delirious and senile old man that he is. It really confused the hell out of me, as I am sure Willy must have felt confused about everything that was happening.

Also, he is one bitter character. His head as big as a hot air balloon, and just as empty with nothing but air, he thinks he and his sons are actually going to achieve something big and successful. And not just that, but he is in constant denial that there is anything not right with his theories. But no matter how he is fixed on things, and how much he is in denial, I still cannot deny him that bitterness. He was dreaming the American Dream, to become successful, rich, famous. To have so many people at his funeral. And for him, that didn't work out, even though the people around him prospered.

What I do not understand is why he cheats on his wife. Why he dares say that he is lonely. I do understand that being alone and being lonely are two totally different things, but... His wife understood him, obeyed him, loved him; in short, she's been everything a wife "should" be. Should between quotation marks, seeing as this is society's standard, and what everyone expects of her, basically. She even lies and chooses to live in ignorance only to let him have the life she thinks he wants. She puts up the facade more easily then Willy or their two sons.
But then... I will never understand cheating, so yeah.

I do like how his son stood up for himself in the end. How Biff, regardless of Willy and Happy's wishes to live the Happy-go-lucky kind of life, full of wishful thinking and dreams that will never come true, still manages to admit that he never really was important, and probably never will be. I think that's a very big thing for him to do, really.

It definitely got me thinking.
The Gypsy.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf

I thought I was going to dislike Woolf, I am not sure why. I think it's because I've only met one because who didn't scowl whilst mentioning her name. But now I realized that's a really stupid thing to base a prejudice on, and I'm never doing that again.

The whole novel discusses simply one day, presenting a slice of life, as it were. The most interesting thing about it is how V. Woolf manages to enter someone's mind, so the reader gets to hear their thoughts, then exits it and enters someone else's mind just as easily, so that you have to be completely focused who is thinking what exactly, because she doesn't actually straight out tell you. I do like that, though. Because otherwise it would have been one boring story, it barely has any actual active plot.~

Ever read the poem "The Road Not Taken"? It's exactly that. Clarissa Dalloway gets up on the day she is going to hold a party, and on the first page she already has flashes of memory of herself more than thirty years ago, before she married Richard Dalloway. When a man called Peter Walsh was in love with her. When she had had a choice between two lives: Marrying Peter, living a life full of passion, emotion, love, yet financial insecurity, or marrying Richard, and at least knowing she would have both status and wealth, if not love. She ends up choosing "China and silver" above love, but throughout the book she keeps trying to convince herself she made the correct choice, which means she is not really convinced, to begin with.

The other main character in the book is Septimus Warren Smith, a soldier suffering from "Shell shock", from the war. Traumatised, and knowing not what to do or how to cure it. Neither his wife nor the physicians actually /listen/ to him, or give him the chance to say what is on his mind. He and his wife are happy enough together, though, and they plan to run away from "humanity", as it were, but it catches up with him, and out of sheer panic he throws himself out of the window. (One of the ways Woolf herself had tried to commit suicide)

What is striking is that Septimus and Clarissa never actually meet. Clarissa hears about his death at the end of the day at her party, and she defines it as something beautiful. A good way to go, to die when one is most happy.

It made me think even more about my "roads". Which ones I can take, and what I'll have to sacrifice to get through them. It's pretty deep stuff, really. But it was very familiar in that way.
I liked it.

The Gypsy.

Monday, 30 March 2009

"The Great Gatsby", by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I wasn't looking forward to reading this, I'm not sure why.
But it's been both interesting and enjoyable a read. That quite surprised me.
In the beginning it's slow paced, it doesn't get mysterious until the second or third chapter.
But at a point suddenly everything happens.

I liked it.
Not much more I can add~

The Gypsy.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

"Cocktails and Camels", by Jacqueline Cooper

Witty, sarcastic, honest, and very true.
That's about as accurate as I can describe this joy of a book.

Lebanese and Alexandrean Jacqueline describing in hilarious details the things that make Alexandria exactly that: Alexandria.
A place where, some fifty years ago, all foreigners and Alexandreans were combined into one big happy family. Cosmopolitan city.

The way her family lived, how it was going to a French convent, then being transferred to the English Girls College (which, at that, still exists.) How the British and American soldiers came here, and how one specific American changed her whole life. How she "stepped into a new world of subways, no servants, and American-style housework -- a world for which her preparation consisted of a faultless education on nineteenth century French literature, perfect French, very English English, and fair Arabic."

I would love to quote some parts, but I would go crazy trying to decide which ones, all of the work being so great.

What I found typical was that even though she describes her life the way it was before WWII, and that it has been at least fifty years ago, a lot of things still haven't changed a bit. Lebanese are still the same. EGC is still a popular school, upholding the same system. Alexandria lost it's foreigners, mostly, but it's still either very rich, or very poor people. There is only a minority that is neither rich nor poor. Apparently that has been like this years and years ago.

Haven't enjoyed a book like this in a while.
The Gypsy.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Heart Of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

I am very very torn about this one, I don't have the vaguest idea whether or not I should like it. Basically because it's all basic speculation when there are important questions concerned.
It's being told like a boxed story, a narrator telling of Marlow, who begins, in turn, to tell his story; Marlow visiting Africa for a certain Company.

It seems to be written very carefully, ever word weighed in utmost precision. Sometimes, I felt it was almost forced, like poetry, into something that had to be "perfect". I'm not sure whether I'm pointing this out in the positive or the negative sense, for although I thought some of the phrases sounded absolutely beautiful, most of the reading proved pretty tiresome.

The whole book is full of the effects of colonization, not only on those colonized, but the colonizers as well. It addresses hypocrisy, misogyny, power, instincts, at face value, very critically. It seems like Marlow condemns it all, but looking closer, he keeps, time and time again, justifying it all. He himself, in my opinion, is the biggest hypocrite of them all, seeing as he is satirical of not only colonization and hypocrisy but also nepotism, yet he gets his job because his aunt knows someone who knows someone else who... etc, who got him the job to begin with. He finds it odd that people should think of the Africans as anything but humans, yet time and time again talks about them himself as objects, or masses of "shapes". Faceless beings, without character, without personality. It's only the white men that he cares to describe in closer detail.

I'm still not sure as to why some of the things Conrad mentions are mentioned at all, but he seems to be ridiculing society at large with it. The fact that he got the job before the person who held the job before him was killed in a dispute about two chickens is one example.
The pointless way a man is trying to put out the fire with a bucket that has a hole in it, and the way the doctor measures the skulls of his patients, even though he himself admits that it is the internal "psyche" he is interested in, yet more futilely so because he adds that he wants to see the changes that happen, yet none of his patients return to him after (or if) they come back.
Or that Kurtz, meaning short in German, is quite a ridiculous name for someone so tall.
Marlow seems to ridicule everyone and everything, except, that is, for Kurtz, and his Intended.

Whether he justifies them or not, at least Conrad points out all these flaws.
And that is something.

The Gypsy.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Look Back In Anger, John Osborne

I found this drama genius. It's full of cropped up anger, for one, just as the title suggests.
Jimmy, the "anti-hero" of the play, is the one who is angry. Angry at everything and everyone. Or almost everyone, he seems to care a lot for those who have suffered, just like he has.
He can't stand the "posh" and aristocratic members of society, those with a seemingly easy life. Those who have money should never complain, he thinks. He is married to someone of that group he hates so much, and although he loves her personally, he takes out all his anger on her. Not very fair, because I don't think the poor girl ever wronged him.
I could go on and on describing how it's brilliantly woven into a story full of bitterness, hurt, confusion, and love, but you'd be missing out on a lot if you don't just read it.

The Gypsy.

Monday, 9 March 2009

"The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man" By James Joyce

A mouthful, the title. And a handful, the book itself.
From being a baby till around twenty years old, give or take, Joyce has written semi-autobiographically about an artist: Stephen Dedalus. Not only more sensitive to words, colours, and the world in general, Stephen notices things nobody else does. He feels physically weaker, yet mentally stronger. "They don't understand" is a recurrent theme throughout.
There are five chapters, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly watching little Stephen grow up.
Not, like traditional novels, in third person, objectively, or even in first person, but basically Joyce shows us the inside of Stephen's mind. What he thinks, why he thinks it.

Personally, I enjoyed the book up to the fifth (and last) chapter. I happened to have read the first page for our translation three years ago, and I found it silly, it made no sense whatsoever. Now, in content, reading the same page, it is brilliant. It portrayed the inside of a baby's mind, much more so than anyone else ever could. The fifth chapter however, is confusing, full of philosophical ideas he does not even bother to explain further, as he jumps from one idea to the other and back again, making no sense unless you're interested in the exact same ideas.
Glad I finished it.

The Gypsy.