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.

Day 15: Favorite Male Character(s)

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I’m cheating because I can’t choose just one!

Will Parry (His Dark Materials trilogy) – I fell in love with Will immediately in The Subtle Knife. He was the perfect foil for Lyra’s character. Having had the responsibility of caring for his mom, he was mature way beyond his years and the events in The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass allowed him to grow even more as a person. I love that even though he’s like an adult in a kid’s body, he’s still really vulnerable and scared, and it was really nice to see him be able to react as a kid at times. But in times of crisis he’s wholly responsible and take charge. He also shows good moral judgments and great character. Will Parry is the perfect adventure partner because I know he’ll always have my back.

Peeta Mellark (The Hunger Games trilogy) – Sweet Peeta. Who doesn’t love Peeta? He’s one of those nice guys that’s just impossible to hate. There are a lot of things to like about Peeta: he’s selfless and so purely good. He thinks of others before himself. But what I really loved about him when I read the books is that even though he loves Katniss and ideally he would want her to love him back and be with him, he’s willing to set aside his own romantic feelings for her to be happy. If she wants to be with Gale, then he’s willing to accept that and do whatever she wants and whatever is best for her. There are people who say they can do this for the person they love but when it comes to practice, it’s extremely hard to set aside one’s ego and jealously and to truly step back and let the person you love be happy with someone else. Peeta is able to genuinely love Katniss without expecting anything in return.

Ron Weasley (The Harry Potter series) – Over the course of the 7 books we see Ron grow from an eleven year old boy into a man. We’ve seen ugly sides of Ron like his jealousy and insecurity, his ability to be mean when he’s hurt and lashing out (often at Hermione and Harry). But we’ve also seen him be fiercely and unwaveringly loyal and incredibly brave. He’s the boy who constantly picks on, teases, and insults Hermione and yet gets super angry and defensive the minute someone else does it (especially Malfoy and Snape). He’s the boy who stood up on a broken leg and told Sirius Black that if he wants to kill Harry, he’ll have to kill him too. Ron Weasley is my favorite character in the books. I think it’s because I feel like I understand him the most. I like seeing his flaws just as much as his strengths because it makes him an even better character to me. I once declared that I would name my future son Ronald, lol. That’s how much I loved him. Who knows? I still might. :p

The Great Gatsby Analysis Part 2 (Chapters 6-9)

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“And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter-tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning—-

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (189).

This passage is possibly my favorite ending to a book ever. People always talk about great opening lines in books but what about ending ones? This is just beautiful and poetic and gah.

Okay, so in the last half of the book Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, Jordan, and Nick all gather in a New York City hotel room on a really really hot day and Gatsby and Daisy confront Tom with their relationship. This is the point where Gatsby could have gotten Daisy. He could have gotten her to leave Tom and run away with him. But that’s not what Gatsby wanted. Gatsby wants Daisy to tell Tom that she never loved him. But Daisy can’t do it because she did love him. She loved Tom and she loved Gatsby too, because emotions aren’t simply black and white. Tom, who for all his faults and general assholishness, can be said to have a tighter grasp on reality than Gatsby does, quickly senses Daisy’s weakening resolve and reminds her of the good times that they had. Tom susses out his victory against Gatsby and arrogantly sends Gatsby and Daisy back home together in the same car, knowing that Daisy won’t be leaving him for Gatsby.

We’ve also learned in this half of the book that Jay Gatsby was born as James Gatz, son to poor midwest farmers. Even as a kid James had dreams and aspirations to be more and to have more. Jay Gatsby is the ultimate American self-made man. Some might argue that Gatsby got what he deserved because he didn’t come by his money honestly. His wealth is the result of bootlegging and a number of other illegal activities. But who, in this story, really came by their money honestly? Nick is well off because his grandfather paid someone to go to war for him so that he can stay home and get rich off of business that was being neglected while most men in the country were at war. That’s not an honest and decent thing to do but he made money and Nick reaps the rewards of it, without having had to work for it himself. Is Tom a better man than Gatsby because he inherited his wealth instead of working for it doing illegal things? I’d argue that no one really has the moral high ground over Gatsby in this story. He is the “Great” Gatsby because, despite whatever he’s done to make his money, his ideals and his dreams have remained pure. He bought a great big mansion across the bay from Daisy, he let people come over and party every weekend in the hopes that Daisy might wander in to one of the parties, he provides free booze to the party goers and never drinks himself. In a corrupt society marred by the pursuit of excess, Gatsby had in his heart one incorruptible dream. On the surface that was the Daisy that he knew as a young man. Really what it was is the version of himself when he first fell in love with Daisy. The young man who had had a taste of wealth and all the grooming for it but had no money himself. The young man who fell in love with Daisy’s mansion and dreamed of the life he would have if he had money. The thing is, it’s one thing to dream of becoming a millionaire and to have all these ideas of what you would do with the money and another thing to actually become a millionaire and to have all of the responsibility that comes with it. It seems that Gatsby was never satisfied with his reality, even when it seems like his childhood dreams had come true. Gatsby was always chasing the elusive green light, the version of himself that had been left in the past.

The first half of the book is filled with foreshadowing. When Tom and Nick stop by Wilson’s on their way to New York, we get the description of the eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg. The eyes framed in golden glasses that will be witness to Myrtle’s death. The accident itself is foreshadowed in an epic drunk driving scene where one of the partygoers at Gatsby’s drunkenly attempts to drive, crashes the car in the driveway causing one of the wheels to fall off and then attempts to continue to drive the car with 3 wheels. Don’t drink and drive, kids. That’s the lesson here. And that scene, while comic, clearly foreshadows a car accident that will be much more disastrous and tragic. Jordan also talks to Nick about her driving skills, or lack of them, and says that a bad driver is only safe until she meets another bad driver. Again, foreshadowing a scene of bad driving and also bad luck.

I think The Great Gatsby kind of set the bar for tragic irony. Myrtle sees Tom, Jordan (who she mistakes for Daisy), and Nick in Gatsby’s yellow car on their way to New York. Tom sends Gatsby and Daisy home in the yellow car and Myrtle thinks it’s Tom. She jumps out to wave him down and Daisy, driving the car, runs her over and speeds away. Gatsby takes the fall for Daisy and hides the car. Wilson believes that whoever was driving the car is the man that Myrtle was having an affair with. He goes to Tom and Tom tells him that the car belongs to Gatsby. Wilson kills Gatsby and then himself. Newspapers report that Gatsby was having an affair with Myrtle and that he ran her over and Wilson killed him. The world, or the upper crust society of New York, believes he got what he deserved. Where his mansion was once filled with people enjoying his music and his liquor, Gatsby’s funeral is attended by no one but Nick, his dad, and owl eyed man.

“I couldn’t forgive him or like him but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…”

Tom and Daisy aren’t inherently bad people. They are, as Nick says, careless. Growing up with the wealth and privilege that they did, they’ve never had to be truly accountable for their actions. Money and influence can take care of pretty much anything for them. And so it is here, they walk away publicly unscathed while Gatsby loses his life taking the blame for Tom’s affair. And he loses his reputation taking the fall for Daisy’s reckless driving. The Great Gatsby.

Day 14: Book Turned Movie And Completely Desecrated

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I could barely sit through this movie, it was so bad. I haven’t read the book in a really long time but it was obvious that they changed a lot. The dialogue and acting was flat. Jace was just completely wrongly casted. I mean, look at him, he looks so creepy and just nothing like Jace described in the book. His acting doesn’t even justify the casting choice. The only thing I remotely liked in the movie was Simon, and that’s saying something because I hated Simon in the books. I don’t know if they plan to continue on with the series but I really hope not.

The Great Gatsby Analysis Part 1 (Chapters 1-5)

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Here it is, The Great Gatsby analysis that I promised in this postThe Great Gatsby is often taught in schools but since I attended high school in the Philippines, it wasn’t part of our required reading. I haven’t taken it as part of a college course either. So all analysis here is just my own reading and interpretation of the book. I could be wrong so don’t take my word as bible or jack it for a school paper. Well, you could but you do so at your own risk.

This post is going to focus on chapters 1-5. I’m going to avoid making references to the end of the novel or any events beyond chapter 5, even though I know what’s going to happen since I’ve read it many times before and seen the movie a lot of times (it’s always on HBO!).

“Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn…This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the “creative temperament” – it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No – Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men” (6-7)

The end of this paragraph is one of the most famous lines in the book and deservedly so because it is really, truly beautifully written. “What foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams…” *shivers*

Right. So, the novel opens from the point of view of Nick Carraway. What do we find out about Nick? He’s from the midwest, a mid to upper middle class guy with a good education (Yale), he served in the war, came back and decided to move out East to try his hand at selling bonds. The events of the story happened in the past and Nick is telling it to us from his own recollections, or rather, he’s writing the story down. I know there’s a literary term for this type of storytelling but I can’t remember what it is. Bad English major. Anyways, Nick was in New York but something happened that made him move back to the midwest. Whatever that something is, it has to do with Gatsby. Because of Fitzgerald’s captivating prose, Gatsby is an immediately intriguing figure within the first couple pages of the book, even though it’ll take awhile for us to meet him properly.

First we have to get to know Nick and Daisy and Tom Buchanan. One of the common critiques or complaints of the novel is that the characters are unlikable. Daisy? Shallow and selfish. Tom? Adulterer and all around asshole. Jordan Baker? She’s kind of just meh. She seems more like a device to get Daisy and Gatsby together than an actual character, despite the fact that she and Nick date for a little while. The only likable character is Gatsby himself, who is shown with layer and depth and, ultimately, tragedy. Sorry, I said I wouldn’t reference the ending. But come on? Who doesn’t know the novel ends in tragedy? Nick even implies it himself in the paragraph above. Anyway, even Gatsby’s likability is debatable since some people really don’t. So why read a novel full of characters that we can’t care about?

Well, if you’re in high school and it’s part of your required reading, the answer is: because you have to. Haha. But no really, there’s a reason why English teachers assign this book and I swear it’s not just to torture readers. I’ll pose this question: If you were a character in a novel, would you be likable to everyone that reads the book? I know I wouldn’t be. I’m not Daisy; I don’t ignore my child, cheat on my husband (though to be fair, he deserves it), I don’t let other people take the fall for wrong things that I do, and consistently run away from problems. But I’m not perfect either. I probably wouldn’t like myself very much if I were in a novel. People are good in some ways and flawed in others, that’s what makes them human and that’s what makes them interesting. Literature (like life) is full of people that you can hate and love, sometimes even at the same time.

“‘All right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.'” (21)

That’s Daisy’s most famous line and she’s talking about her daughter. You might think “what kind of mother wants her daughter to grow up to be a beautiful fool?” But, for her time period, Daisy actually has a point. Daisy wants her daughter to go through life the way that Daisy, herself, goes through life: carelessly and free of responsibility. The easiest way to do that? Marry rich. How do you surrender your life to parties and superficiality? Empty your mind. Does doing this free you from pain and heartache? Clearly not, if we’re going by Daisy. But to her, it’s better to live a miserable life as a rich person than an unknown life as a poor person. Daisy is a lot of things, but she’s not stupid. She knows very well what she’s doing. And that does make her more reprehensible as a person, but also interesting. She’d rather have her perfect little rich world rather than take a chance at actual real happiness. Personally, I can’t hate Daisy. I just feel sorry for her.

Let’s talk about color. Fitzgerald utilizes certain colors a lot in The Great Gatsby. Green, yellow, white, and blue. Of course there’s the famous green light.

“I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and that would do for an introduction. But I didn’t call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone – he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and as far as I was from I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.”

The more I read this book, the more in awe I am of the sheer beauty of Fitzgerald’s prose. The unquiet darkness…

Anyways, we see Gatsby literally reaching towards the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. The green light represents Gatsby’s dream. On a larger scale, it can also be interpreted as being the American Dream. The green light sits there, within sight but out of reach. Getting to that green light is Gatsby’s entire purpose in life.

We also see an almost overwhelming amount of yellow. Gatsby’s car is yellow, two girls at Gatsby’s party wear yellow dresses, the band at the party is playing yellow cocktail music…How can cocktail music be yellow? Fitzgerald has a tendency to put color to things that you normally wouldn’t describe in colors but it works. Obviously, yellow is associated with gold and represents wealth.

Another dominant color is white. Gatsby’s front steps are white, the younger Daisy that Gatsby fell in love with is associated a lot with white. White represents purity and innocence.

Gray is used a lot as well and so is blue. Fitzgerald fills his prose with all these vivid colors and images.

And then there’s Doctor T.J. Eckleburg. The eyes of God watching over the valley of ashes. I’ll talk about this more in my next post when I discuss the end of the book.

Gatsby and Daisy meet again in this part of the book. I really like this encounter and I think it was portrayed perfectly in the movie. They really brought the scene to life, particularly when Gatsby loses his nerve and leaves the house then comes back soaking wet. Gatsby’s so precious.

“Almost five years! There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.” (101)

Is Daisy a manic pixie dream girl? I can argue yes. Gatsby seems to be more in love with the idea of her than with Daisy herself. In five years he’s built up this perfect picture of her in his mind, preserved in a time where she wasn’t married to Tom. But it’s more like Gatsby wants to return to the person that he was in that time when he loved Daisy. I think this is where I identify with Gatsby the most. I spent all of my teen years and most of my early twenties obsessed with my past, desperate to return to it. But, as Nick tells Gatsby “You can’t repeat the past.” And Gatsby replies: “Why of course you can!” Gatsby’s refusal to let go of the past ultimately becomes his undoing.

Banned Books Week!

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As most of you may already know, right now it is Banned Books Week. Right now I’m re-reading The Great Gatsby for The Great Gatsby Re-Read Project. It’s one of my favorite books ever and, incidentally, it tops the list of Banned/Challenged Classics as found on the ALA website here. In fact, 4 out of 5 of the classic books that I plan to re-read and analyze over the course of the next 5 months are on this list. The only book that didn’t make it on there is Pride and Prejudice. I didn’t plan it this way, it just turns out that some of my favorite books ever are books that have been frequently banned or challenged.

Here’s a little story. I first read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was 9 years old. I had a friend who was 4 years older than me and in middle school. When I was hanging out her room I saw To Kill a Mockingbird on her desk and read the first 2 chapters. I really liked reading it but I couldn’t take it home because she was reading it for class, so I found it in the library and borrowed it. To Kill a Mockingbird completely changed my reading experience. Before I picked it up, pretty much all I was reading was The Baby-Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twins. Not that there’s anything wrong with those books, but they didn’t open my eyes to social issues and challenge my sheltered worldview. After To Kill a Mockingbird, I read books like Little WomenThe Secret Garden, Oliver Twist, Pride and Prejudice, Robinson Crusoe, The Chronicles of Narnia, and had a rather premature experience with The Hunchback of Notre Dame. At the time my parents didn’t let me buy books because I could borrow them for free in the library. In addition to my frequent visits to my school library, my dad took me at least once a week to the library on a Naval Base and he would sit and read newspapers and magazines while I wandered the stacks and searched for books that I wanted to read. Soon after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, I went from solely perusing the Children’s/Teens section to the adult books. My growth as a reader would not have been possible if those books were not available to me in the library. Was I too young to read To Kill a Mockingbird? Some might argue yes but it was a book that came to me at exactly the right time. It was what I needed at 9 years old in order to grow as a reader and as a person. I might not have become an English major if I hadn’t read that book. I might not have this blog now. I don’t like the idea that it might not have been freely available to me because some random Board or whatever made the decision to not put the book in my school and in my library for reasons that probably have more to do with their own personal world views than with the book itself. I don’t believe that it’s an educator’s job to enforce their own opinions and views of the world through controlling and limiting the reading materials made available to children and young adults. It is their job to provide the proper open discussions and free discourse on books with a variety of themes and issues presented in them, even and most especially the difficult ones.

Check out the various lists of banned/challenged books on the ALA website here. Pick up a banned book this week and encourage others to do the same. Join me in reading (or re-reading) The Great Gatsby if you’d like. I’m almost halfway through it and I’ll be making the first part of my analysis post in the next few days.