Book Review: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

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“Two eyes were fixed on Margarita’s face. The right one with a golden spark at its bottom, drilling anyone to the bottom of his soul, and the left one empty and black, like the narrow eye of a needle, like the entrance to the bottomless well of all darkness and shadow.”

The Master and Margarita tells the tale of the devil, Woland, as he comes to Moscow with his cohorts and wreaks havoc. It’s told in the style of a fairytale with a lot of dark humor and political satire. There are three stories that intertwine, one is the literary uppercrust of Moscow that Woland & co. take particular pleasure in tormenting, the second is the tale of Pontius Pilate set in the time of Christ, and the third is the story of the Master and Margarita. This book, simply put, is the most brilliant thing I’ve read all year. Bulgakov makes a mockery of the literary society that suppresses truth in favor of conforming to the Stalin government, his portrayal of Moscow society is over the top but the exaggeration not only adds to the humor, but is actually quite revealing and thought provoking.

I read the Peavar/Volkhonsky translation and while I thoroughly enjoyed it (and I love this gorgeous cover), the edition I have unfortunately doesn’t have any notes or an introduction. I would have liked reading some context to the political times Bulgakov wrote in before diving into the novel. It turns out that the manuscript of The Master and Margarita was heavily revised by Bulgakov but he was unable to revise the second part before he died. I think this is a book that I could re-read over and over again. I want to read it again relatively soon but I’d like to give the famous Burgin/O’Connor translation a try. The Peavar/Volkhonsky translation, while grammatically and technically accurate, is reportedly not as lyrical and poetic as the text could be. I definitely felt that in my reading.

Three: An Anthology of Flash Nonfiction

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It’s been more than a month since my last update. I know, bad blogger! But I plan to catch up with lots of posts soon. I have quite a large backlog of book reviews now. But in the meantime, here’s something exciting that happened recently. I was published in an anthology! It’s called Three and it’s a collection of flash nonfiction. Inside you’ll find three paragraph short stories, haikus, and collections of three black and white photographs that tell a story.

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We had a book launch for it where the contributors gathered with their friends and family. I feel really honored to be a part of this. And it’s my first published work so it’s really exciting. Three can be purchased on Amazon in physical book form or ebook.

More posts to come soon!

Book Review: The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

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“I created various personalities within myself. I create them constantly. Every dream, as soon as it is dreamed, is immediately embodied by another person who dreams it instead of me.

In order to create, I destroyed myself; I have externalized so much of my inner life that even inside I now exist only externally. I am the living stage across which various actors pass acting out different plays.”

In The Book of Disquiet Fernando Pessoa writes as Bernardo Soares, one of his many heteronyms. Bernardo Soares expresses his thoughts on life, love, art, insomnia…It reads like a journal or a long essay but Soares’ thoughts are incredible and piercing.

I really enjoyed reading this but it was also difficult. There are things that Soares writes I feel like could have come out of my own head, especially his thoughts on solitude and loneliness. Reading his words made me feel like I was understood in a way that I’ve been searching for my whole life. It’s amazing that someone who was born nearly a hundred years before me could feel the way that I feel and had thoughts so similar to mine. But that’s the beauty and power of literature, it transcends distance and time to connect people. Through all of the advances in society and technology, humanity is still essentially the same. Of course, I don’t agree with everything that Soares thinks and writes. There are some things that I just flat out disagree with but having a differing viewpoint rounds out my understanding of Soares. Just like with my friends. I can be friends with people who don’t have the same taste in literature as me, or differing political viewpoints, or different religious viewpoints…I connect with Soares on some things and I don’t on others, it makes his thoughts even more interesting to read.

You know the ‘if you could invite anyone to dinner, even dead people, who would you invite’ question? I would love to have Fernando Pessoa at my dinner table. He has such a fascinating and a truly brilliant mind. I’ve bought a book of his poetry and I can’t wait to read it.

Book Review: Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

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“I have invented the thing we are traveling in, which I call Professor Steg’s Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier.”

“I call it a balloon,” I said.

“Professor Steg’s Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier is the original name,” he said.

This is an illustrated book for children and a really funny and wacky at that. I love how Neil completely turns around the ‘kid-goes-on-an-adventure-and-adults-don’t-believe-him’ trope and has the Dad be the one with the crazy adventure story that his skeptical kids don’t believe. It’s great and it shows that imagination doesn’t die in youth.

It’s a fun to read story and something hilarious to read to your kids, if you have any, or to younger siblings. Or, in my case, just to myself. Neil Gaiman’s wit and imagination can never be denied.

October To Kill a Mockingbird Re-Reading Project

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I’m horribly behind on making this post, we’re already more than halfway through October. But I do still plan to read this. The hitch is that I can’t find my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and I’ve looked everywhere for it! I don’t know how books can just disappear from my shelves but it always happens somehow.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books ever and it’s really important to me. I wrote about it here. So I’m really happy to be reading it again after a really really long time. I think the last time I read it I was in high school. Since I’m so behind on posts and on my reading, I’m only going to make one analysis post instead of the two that I did for The Great Gatsby. Join me in reading an analyzing To Kill a Mockingbird if you’d like.

Day 16: Favorite Female Character

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Viola Eade (Chaos Walking Trilogy)

This was a tough one. There are a lot of great female characters in books that I’ve read but Viola comes to mind immediately. She’s smart and rational, brave but also vulnerable. I think she truly shined in Monsters of Men. I appreciated that she had the most difficult decision in the world on her shoulders and she’s self-aware enough to know that she’s human and the choice that she wants to make is probably the wrong one. She loves Todd but Viola and Todd spend the majority of The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men apart and Viola takes charge and gets shit done. She also serves as Todd’s conscience, the one pure thing in him that the Mayor can’t touch. Viola’s just really great.

*Image belongs to Shorelle on Deviantart

September 2014: My Month in Books

Books Read:

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing – M.T. Anderson

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald*

Books Bought:

An Appeal to the Toiling, Oppressed and Exhausted Peoples of Europe by Leon Trotsky

The Gallic War by Cesar

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Confessions of a Crap Artist by Philip K. Dick

Augustus by Anthony Everitt

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

In Ashes Lie by Marie Brennan

Midnight Never Came by Marie Brennan

This is a Love Story by Jessica Thompson

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik

*Re-read

This post is quite a few days late. I’ve been falling behind on posts for this blog and I promise to try to get on top of things. I write these blog posts when I have the time to devote to it because I’d rather update every couple of days with well thought out posts than update everyday with rushed, hurriedly written posts.

September was a slow reading month for me compared to the last couple of months. One Hundred Years of Solitude took a long time for me to read and I spent a lot of time on The Great Gatsby, despite it being a re-read, because I wanted to read it carefully for the analysis posts that I would be writing on it. I may be falling behind on my Goodreads reading goal and have barely made a dent on the To-Be-Read pile on my bedside but that’s alright. Quality over quantity. I want to devote a lot of time to books like One Hundred Years of Solitude and properly process it rather than rush through it. Reading isn’t a race, it’s an experience. It should be savored.

I said in last month’s post that I’m going to try other book formats such as ebooks and audiobooks. That hasn’t been going so well. I don’t really like reading on my small phone screen and when I have the choice between picking up my phone to read something or picking up a physical book, I choose the book all the time. I’ve been trying to listen to an audiobook as well but that hasn’t gone so well because I always fall asleep while listening to it. I guess it doesn’t help that I listen to it late at night in the dark while lying on my bed but there really isn’t any other time in the day that I would want to listen to an audiobook. I don’t drive far enough everyday to warrant listening to it in the car. I don’t know, maybe audiobooks just aren’t for me. For the particular book I’ve been listening to, I’m a bit irritated by the voice of the reader so that’s also a factor. There’s just really nothing that can beat a physical book for me. That being said, I’m not ready to give up on ebooks. I’m getting an iPad Mini pretty soon and I’ll see how I feel about reading on a tablet. I’ve also traded in my current iPhone for the iPhone 6 Plus but it won’t arrive for another 3 weeks or so. Maybe I’ll like reading on the bigger phone better.

I want to thank you all for reading my analysis posts on The Great Gatsby. It may not have generated comments and discussion but the two posts have been my most consistently viewed posts in the last week and brings daily hits to my blog even when I’m not posting daily. This month I’ll be reading and analyzing To Kill a Mockingbird and I hope you will all join me for that. I’ll make a post about it in the next couple of days.

I’m already anticipating that October will be an even slower reading month for me than September. I’ve started an internship at a publishing company recently and I’m still adjusting to a new schedule. I’ve also decided to join Nanowrimo next month (for the first time in 3 years) and so I’m preparing for that as well. However, I’ve already built up a small backlog of books I need to write reviews on so there will still be plenty of reviews and fun posts popping up this month.

Hello October! Let’s do some reading. 🙂

P.S. I know I bought a lot of books this month. In my defense, I went to Moe’s Bookstore in Berkeley for the first time early last month. It’s a used bookstore that is 4 floors of books. How could I walk away empty handed? I can happily say that almost all of the books listed above were bought at independent bookstores and not bought on Amazon.