Tag Archives: Literature

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Not that it makes much of a difference, but I have to read a lot of books this semester for school. Some of them pulls me right in like a vacuum, while others, unfortunately, I have not much of an interest in reading.

Anyway, my favourite out of all the books that I am studying right now would have to be George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. This books is kind of like a continuation of his Animal Farm. It describes a totalitarian dystopia ruled by a figure by the name of Big Brother.

There are many things that can be said about this book, but the most important thing is this: Nineteen Eighty-Four is not supposed to be an instruction manual!

What struck me the most is the manipulation of language. In the book the government makes each edition of the dictionary shorter and shorter in order to prevent its citizens from expressing themselves. I don’t see how this is any different from the world we live in today. According to Dictionary.com, “…scientists discovered that in the past 40 years more words have died than during any other period in their data (from 1800 – 2008). At the same time, fewer words are being successfully introduced into the language.”

And what kind of words are we introducing into the language? Words like LOL. Like what does words like LOL even mean? Type something on chat, press enter and the other end will respond with a LOL like an automatic machine. Or the word WOW. This is a word for when you don’t know what to say. Yet these are the words that are being used more and more.

So dear readers, let us never stop reading, because the day when we stop reading will be the day when we start to lose the ability to express ourselves. It will be the day when we will be manipulated and exploited without even being aware of it. The ability to use and understand language is so important. And no, merely knowing words like LOL and WOW does not count.

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.

How to Talk to Girls At Parties by Neil Gaiman

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.

I quite liked Neil Gaiman’s How to Talk to Girls At Parties, which I read in Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders. I love how the story allows the reader to develop his/her own thoughts about it. To me, this story seems to say that behind all those pretty faces, they are all aliens on the inside.

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.

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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.

A List of My Reading-related Pet Peeves

Not in any particular order =)

  • When a book becomes a best-seller and the next thing you know, the book gets a sucky sequel. Please don’t write a sequel for the sake of writing a sequel…
  • When I am reading, and someone comes up to me and asks me a million questions about the book. “What are you reading?” “What’s it about?” Well, I’d tell you if you would let me read it!
  • Typos in books. And I’ve noticed that it’s becoming more and more common as well. I even found some typos in my school textbook…facepalm.



  • When I read a book and my mind wanders off. By the time I know it, I have no idea what I just read so I have to go back and reread.
  • Since when are blurbs and reviews supposed to contain spoilers? Well maybe you can have spoilers in reviews but there should be some sort of warning at the beginning…
  • I refuse to read books with teeny, tiny fonts!


 

  • When a character talks non-stop about how he/she feels about his/her crush…like I think I get the point…now let’s move on.
  • People who can’t understand that some people actually read for fun…major facepalm.
  • Books that have a lot of characters, because I keep on having to go back to check who they are again.
  • Books without chapters, because I usually read chapter by chapter.

I am pretty sure I am missing some, but I think that’s all I can think of for now…what are some of your literary pet peeves? ^_^

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

A heavy subject matter, and a very familiar story. It has no cultural or time restraints. We see re-enactments of The Grapes of Wrath everyday. “‘I’m learning one thing good,’ she said. ‘Learnin’ it all the time, ever’ day. If you’re in trouble or hurt or need – go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones.'” Steinbeck successfully captures the horror of the Great Depression and the conflict between the powerful and the powerless. I can definitely see why it’s considered to be a landmark of American Literature.

The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the Joads family. The dust bowl has made farming unprofitable, so the bank forces the Joads to leave their farm. They decide to travel west, because money and work are being promised there. As we follow along on their journey, we see the hardships and oppression suffered by migrant laborers which are very common during the Great Depression.

The character that I remember the most is not Tom or Ma or any of the major characters in the book. It is a minor character named Noah Joad (which is probably a biblical reference to Noah and the Ark, since both Noahs have not been very well understood by other people). He is the older brother in the family and is seen as being strange and aloof in the book, because he does not share the major values and goals of the society. As the family reaches California, he finds something in the cool and clear river, something he can’t find in the society. He then decides to live by the river and catch fish for survival.

My interpretation of this is that he does not want to become the people who make money out of other people’s misfortune, like the cheating car dealers or Willy Feely. At the same time, after hearing about the starving people, he does not intend to be ranked as one of them either. His thinking is that even if all the poor people supported each other, the rich will still get richer, and the poor will still get poorer.

He can’t do anything about it and he can’t change the people, so he decides to go with what he believes in and live by the river, where a “Fella can’t starve”. Perhaps this takes just as much courage as characters like Jim Casy, who tries to organize a strike to prove his point. I mean, it takes a lot to even think about living by yourself without anyone supporting you.

Ever felt like walking your own path and letting the people talk, hoping that one day they might understand you? I think this is how Noah felt.

I really liked how the book ends. As I was reading the book I kept wondering how it will end. I figured it will probably “just end.” But Steinbeck is such a brilliant writer. He made my mouth go wide open in amazement and awe. The ending was beautiful.

I will definitely read this book again. If I read it after several years, I will probably see it differently than how I see it now.

What are some books that you will definitely read again in the future?

Using Templates to Write Essays?

In the introduction to They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Persuasive Writing, Gerald Graff and Cathy Birenstein talks about the importance of using templates in academic and persuasive writing. They believe that you can improve your writing if you use templates such as “What I am saying is not ___, but ___,” or “I agree with you that ___, and would even add that ___.”

I was a little bit skeptical about it. At school you might have learned about things like the basic model of an essay (i.e. the five paragraph essay structure), but never templates. I thought this would discourage creativity in writing so it made sense. How can you write like yourself if you are using a formulaic device developed by someone else?

However, this little book has made me change my opinion about this. By following the exercises in the book, it actually encouraged me to write what I would not otherwise write down. The templates in the book are a great help to me because I am often unsure of what to say. I tend to think all my ideas are self-evident and end up not putting enough of them on the paper. The templates prompted me to write down all these seemingly self-evident ideas that are actually needed in the essay.

This is quite useful for beginning writers like me because I have yet picked out enough  moves from people’s writing to apply it to my own writing. Even though it’s a short book, it is loaded with examples of what works and what doesn’t. I like how it has exercises at the end of every chapter which allows the reader to practice and apply the guide.

The book claims that it is still possible to carry out your personal voice with templates. After all, even great writers like Shakespeare learned to write through imitation.

If you are looking for a guide to academic writing, I recommend this book to you. 😀

Room by Emma Donoghue

I am not quite a fan of novels narrated in a kid’s perspective. They are interesting but they tend to be a bit too simplistic, so the novel must be very good for me to like it. Room is one of the few books that are narrated in kid’s perspective which I liked. Here’s the book trailer:

In the first half of the novel, the author tries to create a strong mother who’s love for Jack has allowed her to raise him under almost impossible conditions. The second half of the novel is about Jack getting used to the world.

I really liked Ma in the novel because she shows us what a mother is like. She tries to protect Jack from all the ugliness in the world, and she sets rules like making sure that he watches T.V. for only a certain period of time. But she is not a saint. Like all mothers she gets tired, there are days when she doesn’t want to get up and cook for Jack, but nevertheless Jack is her top priority in life even though she doesn’t show it sometimes. And that’s what makes mothers great!

This novel is really thought-provoking. Does stories like this only happen in books and not in real life because no one proved that there are indeed real life examples of this? Does miracles only happen in movies and T.V.? Lack of evidence to something does not necessarily make the contrary true. This book is not perfect, but it did make me think and see the world in a different way:

“But the things is, slavery is not a new invention. And solitary confinement — did you know, in America we’ve got more than twenty-five thousand prisoners in isolation cells? Some of them for more than twenty years.’ Her hand is pointing at the puffy-hair woman. ‘As for kids — there’s places where babies lie in orphanages five to a cot with pacifers taped into their mouths, kids getting raped by Daddy every night kids in prisons, whatever, making carpets till they go blind — ”