Category Archives: Books

Favorite Quote of the Postaday: Magic!


The air was soon thick with flying gnomes.

–Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

How can anybody outgrow the Harry Potter books?!

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Romance


“You pierce my soul. I’m half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I’m too late. […] For you alone I think and plan.”

–Captain Wentworth, in the best-loved love-letter of all time in Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’.

 

Do you ever feel that you’re an anachronism? That you’d rather have been born in a time and place where romance was simpler and yet more complex than now? I get that whenever I watch or read period romances. Like I’ve been doing for the past few days. I started with ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’, moved on to ‘Lost in Austen‘, then watched all the four episodes of BBC’s adaptation of ‘North and South’, got worm-holed (my friend V’s expression, I hope you don’t mind me borrowing, V!) into watching my favorite scenes of ‘Emma’ (Jonny Lee Miller playing the gorgeously correct Mr. Knightly), and rounded up by watching Ciaran Hind in ‘Persuasion’. And WOW! I just can’t ever get enough of historical romances in general and Jane Austen in particular.

 

Amanda Price, I totally empathize with you!

 

Lost in Austen

Lost in Austen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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Sigh!


“Not a heartbeat will I forget.”

–Mr. Darcy, Lost in Austen

Anything I say or write is superfluous.

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50 shades of me?


*Spoiler alert* for ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’

I’m a relatively open minded person. I don’t judge people, don’t take sides. So much so that my friends accuse me of diplomacy. But then I read something like ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ and all my tolerance goes out the window.

I have read only the first few chapters as yet–Christian has just shown Ana his ‘playroom’–but it all felt so wrong that I had to take a break before I go back to it. And during the break I realized that my open-mindedness was actually self-deception. I’m more conservative than I think, or would like to be.
Come to think of it, I should have realized this earlier. Because I can’t read gay romances either (at least those found on Goodreads), specifically their MSM part. Even though I love the gay couples on TV, e.g. in ‘Modern Family’.

Maybe it’s just fear of the unknown rather than intolerance. Okay, I give in to curiosity. I’ll go back to ‘Fifty Shades..’ now. Test my–at least theoretical–upper limits.

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Vainglory and Metaphorical Blindness


To continue with my (self-congratulatory at best and vain at worst) series of Coursera essays, here is the 340-word essay on H.G.Wells I wrote for my free online ‘Fantasy and Science Fiction’ course.

One of the major elements of science-fiction literature is to attempt to predict or speculate about possible future events which might come to pass if mankind traverses a certain scientific and moral path. Wells, however, forces us to stop on the way and consider the journey itself—what happens when we presume to being enlightened, as the masses in ‘The Star’, but in fact, are as blind as the people of ‘The Country of the Blind’.

“Common-sense was sturdy everywhere” [1], Wells writes sarcastically. In the face of catastrophe, nine out of ten men on earth are “scornful, jesting, […] inclined to persecute the obdurate fearful” [1]. He even equates common-sense to “barbarism and savagery”; the men, with “unalterable convictions”, scorn the respectable mathematician and go about their businesses unheeding the star[1]. Similarly, the blind men mock Nunez and steadfastly stick to their beliefs—”it was an article of faith with them” [2]. So much so that in order to cure Nunez of what they think are delusions, they decide to surgically remove his eyes and thus make him “perfectly sane” [2]. “Thank Heaven for science”, Yacob says [2], and again Wells hints at the dangers of vainglory.

In both the stories, Wells warns us against intolerance and self-aggrandizement. Science enlightens mankind so that at any point in time we know more than we did in the past, but we should also realize that knowledge is illimitable, that there are many things we haven’t yet discovered. Just as the blind men lived in a world of their own making and limitations, so can we live either in a blind valley of a world or choose to open our eyes to truth and wisdom. Like the mathematician, we can hold “all the universe […] in the grip of this small brain” [1], the only requirements are acceptance and humility. Otherwise, one day someone will truthfully say that “Man has lived in vain.” [1]

Works cited:
[1] The Star, by H.G Wells
[2] The Country of the Blind, by H.G. Wells

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Favorite Quote of the Postaday


“Every once in a while I think (jogging) might be good
for me. But I just take two aspirin and lie down
until the thought passes.”
Bernie Rhodenbarr (Burglar in the closet, Lawrence Block)

 

 

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Alice: Through the Looking Glass


My 300-word essay on Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ for my course, ‘Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, our Modern World’ provided by coursera.org.

Anthropomorphism is one of the many interesting literary devices seen in the “Alice” books. In ‘Through the looking glass’ especially, the humanized chess-men and the chess-set world are an analogy for real people and the real world respectively. “It’s a great huge game of chess being played all over the world”, Alice says.

In the beginning, Alice receives instructions from the Red Queen, like we receive instructions from our elders before setting out into the world. On her journey she meets many people and learns many things: the White Queen tells Alice to keep an open mind (“I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”), from Humpty Dumpty she learns semantics and that a word means “what (you) choose it to mean–neither more nor less”, she learns self-belief in the face of doubt when Tweedledum tells her “you’re not real” and she realizes that he’s “talking nonsense”. The chess pieces themselves stand for the various types of people in our world. Some, like the queens, go “running wildly” hither and thither; they have great power which they may or may not use wisely (e.g., the White Queen is powerful but helpless and rambling). Some, like the Red King, stay on just one square all their lives. There are the White Knights, kind and helpful; and finally there are people like Alice who sometimes go where fate takes them, and sometimes make their own way, but always have their goal in mind and humility in heart.

We wonder whether the author is telling us to live as though we really were in a chess game. There are specific rules by which we have to play (or live); as a pawn one can only move forward, for one “certainly won’t go back”, and always there is the ultimate goal: that of reaching the eighth square; of fulfilling one’s destiny.

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