Tag Archives: Classics

A Christmas Dinner by Charles Dickens

I love this story! It’s what Christmas spirit is all about! And HoHoHo!!! Today’s Christmas!!! May this Christmas bring peace and joy to all! <33 Read the story here. 

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude is about the seven generations of the  Buendía family, who lives in a town called Macondo. After reading this book, I have learned one thing: Knowing a story, and understanding a story, are two different things. I know the story, I know what happened, yet I cannot fully understand many of the messages that Márquez is trying to convey.

I cannot make little goldfishes. I cannot kill 3000 people. But I have passions in life just like the characters in the book. Would I eventually end up with nothing but solitude? Would other people read my sincerity as self-flattery? Perhaps one day when I actually experience the kind of solitude in the book, I’ll can better understand and relate to it.

By the way, the names in the novel are very confusing, which I had no intention to sort out.

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Hello! Hope everyone is having a stress-free holiday season and is enjoying all the winter fun! I’ve been in the mood for reading short stories lately, so I read 3 short story books this week. 😀 I’ll post one short story that I particularly liked from each book over the course of the next few days.  The story I am posting right now is called “The Tell-Tale Heart” and it’s written by Edgar Allan Poe. I read it in a book called The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings.


TRUE! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily –how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees –very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded –with what caution –with what foresight –with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it –oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly –very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously –cautiously (for the hinges creaked) –I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights –every night just at midnight –but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers –of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back –but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out –“Who’s there?”

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; –just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief –oh, no! –it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself –“It is nothing but the wind in the chimney –it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel –although he neither saw nor heard –to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little –a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it –you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily –until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open –wide, wide open –and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness –all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense? –now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eve. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! –do you mark me well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me –the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once –once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eve would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye –not even his –could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out –no stain of any kind –no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all –ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o’clock –still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, –for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, –for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search –search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: –It continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness –until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale; –but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased –and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound –much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath –and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly –more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men –but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed –I raved –I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder –louder –louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! –no, no! They heard! –they suspected! –they knew! –they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now –again! –hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! here, here! –It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm
is like the barnyard version of the Russian Revolution. As the animals in Manor Farm (later renamed as Animal Farm) became more and more aware of the fact that they were capable of so much more than working like slaves for the Jones family, they started a revolution and chased the humans off of the farm. However, it soon became a revolution gone wrong as some animals became more equal than others.

The reason why Animal Farm is such a success because it focuses around animals, instead of human beings. And the characterization of these animals remind me of little children. They had a good intention at first, but somehow it turned into a society full of violence and tyranny. I believe that the basis for this is the inability of the commoners to determine truth, because most of the animals can’t read. Thus, Orwell is suggesting here than in any society where the commoners have no control over communication & media will bound to be controlled by those in power, because reality then becomes subjective concept and can be easily manipulated.

This book only took me three hours to read, but it was three hours well spent. I recommend this book to everyone who haven’t read it yet because the lessons in this book are worth remembering forever.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

 Set some years after Bonnie Prince Charlie’s failed rebellion in Scotland, Kidnapped is a timeless classic about David Balfour, whose uncle cheated him out of his inheritance and schemed to have him kidnapped and sold into slavery. A great majority of the story is about his journey in different parts of Scotland with his acquaintance Alan Breck Stewart. They have very interesting affiliations; the main one being that Alan is a Jacobite (someone who is unhappy with King George and hopes that a Stuart rules Scotland again), while David is a Whig (a supporter of the English Government). Several historical characters are included in the novel (such as Cluny Macpherson), though Stevenson is not aiming for historical accuracy and tells us that  “This is no furniture for the scholar’s library, but a book for the winter evening schoolroom when tasks are over and the hour for bed draws near.”

I picked this novel up because after reading the back of it I thought it would be about David coming up with some smart strategy to reclaim his inheritance. And to that, I was slightly disappointed because the inheritance part of the story is only the subplot. But Stevenson’s way of “building things up”  kept me reading. For example, there are so many things that lead up to David and Alan’s quarrel which makes it so real, not just all-of-a-sudden.

This novel is rich in dynamics and characterization. It is originally intended for young children. Sadly, young children today might find it a bit difficult to read, since it is written in Scots English. As for me, I didn’t read it with ease, but I didn’t find it really challenging either. Ay, I actually learned some Scottish words by reading this. ^_^

Though showing “buddy love” is very common in the past, it is not so common now. Nowadays, guys just “act cool” and show little care for their friends (though they probably care for each other on the inside). I actually don’t like that…What do you think?

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”

This is how Lolita starts. Because of my vocab deficit, I can’t even describe how brilliant the writing is; so brilliant that it keeps the readers engaged even though this novel is about a pedophile named Humbert. However, if you are looking for pornography, you might be disappointed, because everything in this novel is about Humbert’s unconditional love for Lolita.

I find this novel really sad. Although I don’t agree with Humbert’s ways, I feel for him. He is just a poor victim of his memory and the reality. His memorable first love story made him try to seek for the same thing in reality. Finally he meets Lolita, who perhaps could be the bridge between his memory and the reality. He knows there will be consequences, he knows his Lolita will grow up some day, but his memory made him develop this mentality. Even the very reason why Humbert “wrote Lolita” is because he wants to preserve his memory of Lolita, in the past, present, and the future:

“It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.”

But how can we tell if what we are really reading is true and not a product of his imagination? Nothing is true if you don’t get enough people to believe it’s true.

No one can go back in time. The only way to remember is to write it down, or to keep it in your memory.

Thus, if you want to remember something, write it down. If you want to forget something, keep in mind that when memory fades away, no one can look into the past to validate it. Whatever happened supposedly will be gone just like that.

Should You Actively Seek Out Challenging Books?

Since I am finally finished my exam, I have a lot of time on my hands now, which is why I picked up Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Judging from the reviews and the size of the book, I figure it would be one of those hard and challenging books, which I am right about. I can’t read this book without a dictionary around. Sometimes, I even have to reread parts of the novel. Then it occurred to me: Is it worth the effort? Should I have avoided this kind of book in the first place?

Reading this novel is really rewarding. In fact, it’s not like any other novel out there, because it intertwines 6 short stories from different settings. I am not done reading yet, but I have already learned a lot from reading this. I’ll write a review about it once I’m done, but I digress.

It’s not like I can’t understand what’s going on. I can. I just need to put a lot of time and effort into it, but this makes me feel like I am just trying to enjoy someone else’s good read. What makes a book good in the first place? To me a good book conveys thoughtful ideas in a clear and interesting way. If it needs rereading and a dictionary to convey the idea, does it mean that the author failed on my part and I should try to avoid this kind of book for future reference?

The thing with challenging books is that the more you read them, the better you’ll become at understanding them. But is it worth it? I am quite undecided.

What’s your opinion on this? Do you actively seek out challenging books, or do you tend to avoid them?

Update: turned out Cloud Atlas was worth reading. Check out my review of it here.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudiceis about a bourgeois family of five daughters, with no male heir. This means that their estate will be passed on to their cousin someday. Hence, the girls’ material survival will be dependent on finding a wealthy husband. The book begins with a rich new neighbour, Charles Bingley. He has an even richer friend named Fitzwilliam Darcy. Being both rich and unmarried, I think you can pretty much see where this is going already ^_^. This is one of those books where the title says it all. Every character’s emotional response in the novel can be explained by their pride and prejudice. Take the main characters’ first impression on each other as an example. Elizabeth Bennet, the second daughter of the family, thinks that Darcy is too proud. Darcy, on the other hand, is prejudiced against Elizabeth because she is of a lower class. The novel revolves around their slow-growing love for each other as they learn to remove their pride and prejudice, allowing them to see each other for who they really are.But never mind the plot. The thing that made me fall in love with this novel at first sight was Austen’s elegant writing style, which I am going to imitate now for the rest of this paragraph for fun. Ahem, here it goes :D: and though she found it rather against the rules of writing in the modern times, a feeling of fascination was expressed towards such a satirical style. Austen’s ability to give a dramatic scene with such full description, and her ability to shift to the next scene of importance in so quick a manner thereafter had roused a general astonishment, in which she would have had the pleasure of distinguishing herself as one of the greatest writers in the history of English literature. To what Elizabeth was wearing, and to what they had for dinner, Austen saw no necessity in these details which were of no importance, for too much was to be thought and said and felt for attention to any other objects, as Darcy had once said at the time when Elizabeth made an agreement to his proposal (lol I think I can write like this all day).

Another thing that stands out in the book is how the characters seem to be reading too. In fact, many important developments in the novel are revealed through the form of reading letters that one character gives to the other. Austen shows us that reading is not merely downloading words on a page to your brain. It is about interpreting what you have read. This is what Mary, the third daughter in the family, fails to do. Although she reads the most, she does not learn like Elizabeth because she doesn’t read between the lines. Elizabeth, on the other hand, enables herself to grow because she is capable of forming her own insights and revising it. Isn’t this what we are guilty of sometimes? So the next time you want to finish a book for the sake of finishing a book, keep in mind that you are losing a chance to feed your mind with antioxidants and a chance to provide your soul with vitamins :P.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye tells the story of a teenager named Holden Caulfield who just got expelled from yet another school. It’s basically about the 2 days he spent in NYC before he returns home to face his family. This book is not big on the plot though, it’s really more about his attitudes and the signs of his mental disintegration.

I like this book because there is a bit of “Holden” in all of us. By that I don’t mean swearing and underachieving, but the fact that we want to be sincere in an insincere world, or the fact that we want to escape from the path that was laid out before us. What I like about him is that he didn’t compromise like the others. Instead of relying on them, he tries to make the change himself. He’s not perfect either. For example, he is hypocritical at times which he realizes but doesn’t know what to do about it. Now I am not saying that Holden is right and the society is wrong—but I do think that Holden is far more human than many of us. That’s what I like about him.

It’s hard to not think about Holden at times because he is so complex. Maybe Holden is crazy. Or maybe it’s the rest of the society that’s crazy. Maybe he doesn’t like anything. Or just maybe, he only likes the things that are truly worth liking. Nevertheless, this book is really relatable because everyone will go through a stage where you are stuck in between childhood and adulthood just like Holden at some point in their life. Salinger has done a great job describing the feelings of going into the society, finding out that it’s not what you expected, and eventually accepting the difference between your expectations and the reality of it.