Thursday, November 28, 2013

Guy de Maupassant’s Short Stories Collection

I must thank Serambi—one of Indonesian biggest publishers—for collecting and translating these nine fine treasures of Guy de Maupassant’s short stories. Being never a fan of short stories—although I still like to read them sometimes—I have not expected to like this book too much when I first read it. It was a gift from Serambi when they invited us in a gathering last year, and it has since been in my to-be-read pile. I included this book only to complete a challenge, and I have postponed reading it until last week. However, to my astonishment, I did really like it. Maupassant really deserves to be called “one of the fathers of the modern short story”, as his short stories are short but not without certain depth that would throw us in some deep reflections.

As Serambi has picked the first story—Lasting Love (translated: Cinta Sejati)—as the book title; and as Maupassant is identical with sweet stories—at least in my mind—I half expected the book would be full of sweet love stories. I was wrong! Most of them are about love, and I think we can find love in almost all aspects of life, for love is the seed of life, isn’t it? But Maupassant didn’t write only about sweet love. He presented several aspects of love; love that brings life, as well as love that brings death; love that brings joy, as well as love that brings sorrow. I will try to breakdown each story here without revealing too much of it (hopefully!).

#1. Lasting Love (Cinta Sejati) – A story about unconditional love of a working woman, who loves a boy since she was a little girl, and despite of his refusal, loves him still until she dies. Her love is always giving, and never demanding. Her love is the purest kind of love: sacrificing for the happiness of the loved one, just as our Lord’s is. Note: Besides about love, Maupassant also criticizes human greediness and discrimination towards the poor. Score: 4.75 of 5.

#2. A Widow (Seorang Janda) – It is an unordinary story about an over-sentimental boy who dedicates his life only to love a girl, and is prepared to kill himself if she ever betrays him. Although it is similar with story #1, this is a selfish and demanding love. While dying for love to save others is noble, dying for love to force others to return it, is not love but greediness! I can’t but remember a song from Queen: Too Much Love Will Kill You. It will indeed! Score: 4.50 of 5.

#3. My Wife (Istri Istimewa) – This might be the shallowest type of love of all the stories. An easy going man accidentally enters—and sleeps in—a bedroom which turns out belong to the daughter of the host, in whose house he was invited to stay. This incident brings huge scandal and he is forced to marry the girl. The forced marriage turns out to be a happy one for the (lucky) guy. Note: Seems there’s no moral value in the story rather than: make sure you enter your own room when staying at other’s. But there is still a bit of love here; that love can grow from unexpected circumstances, even when you least expect it. Score: 3 of 5.

#4. The False Gems (Perhiasan Palsu) – I still cannot solve the mystery of this one. A respectable husband has a lovely wife who can provide a fine lifestyle over small salary, but has an acute fondness of false gems. After she died, the destitute husband wants to sell his wife’s false gems, but surprisingly finds that the gems are not false! I can’t imagine where she had gotten them; they can’t afford it, so it must be a gift, but from whom? Does it mean she has been cheating? That she got them from a secret lover? Is this just another irony, that infidel woman brings happiness while the loyal one is dull? Maybe, Maupassant wanted to criticize how men often praise money more than love. Score: 3.50 to 5.

#5. The Diamond Necklace (Kalung Berlian) – This is a reverse story from #4; about a wife of a moderate husband, who loves gems so much. To attend a grand party she borrows a diamond necklace from her friend, but alas! She’s accidentally lost it. Now they—husband and wife—tumble from moderate life to poverty. They struggle for ten years to return the diamond necklace, only to find out that the lost one is in fact false! Oh…what an irony! But I prefer to highlight the husband’s love here. He never reproaches his wife for having too high an ambition, not even for losing the necklace that ruins their life. This is another example of unconditional love. Score: 4.50 of 5

#6. A Vendetta (Dendam Kesumat) – Now, this one is far away from sweet; it’s actually a macabre. This is an example how love that brings death instead of life. An old poor widow loves her son very much, so when he is stabbed by his rival in a duel, the mourning mother swears that she will avenge his son’s death. It’s not much for a macabre, really, but the way the widow execute the revenge is what shuddered me when reading. Is that really love? Absolutely not. But the ending is really great, and just reminded me of Poe! Score: 4.50 of 5.

#7. Babette – This one is about passionate love, or more precisely, madness in love. Babette is a woman who lives in a sanatorium for mental illness. She has a sexual appeal to men; and, just as women like her, she tends to bring catastrophe for men who desire her. It’s only another example of how love which is led by passion is disastrous; it’s not the real love, and can only bring death and sorrow. And the end is…another irony. I liked this one the least of all. Score: 2.50 of 5.

#8. Mademoiselle Fifi – Mademoiselle Fifi is actually far away from a girly story! It’s one of two great patriotic stories in this book. When Prusian troops are occupying France’s area, five of its high rank officers are boring, and called five prostitutes to entertain them. One of the officers, the cruelest of them, is nicknamed Mademoiselle Fifi since he has slender figure like a girl’s. He tortures the bravest patriotic girl of them, and the girl stabbed him with a knife, before she runs away and hunted by the army. It seems like an ordinary patriotic story, but the end—the slightly twisted end—is really touching. This story reminds us that patriotism has two sides: violence and love. It can done in a most risky act or just in silence. But both need a great courage to execute it. Score: 4.75 of 5.

#9. Boule de Suif – Another patriotic story about French prostitute, but with much deeper irony and a touch of humanity. Boule de Suif is the nick name of a female prostitute, she is on the way to Le Havre when France is colonized by Prusia. With her, some other rich and respectable couples, and two nuns, take the same chaise. Boule de Suif is shunned by the others because she is a prostitute, but nonetheless she happily shares her lunch basket with everyone when they don’t have anything to eat—and they gladly accept her hospitality. However, when a Prusian officer retain them all from leaving until Boule de Suif agrees to sleep with him, the others selfishly force her to sacrifice herself (she is a prostitute anyway, why rejecting this particular man?); while Boule de Suif resists because of her patriotism. This is the longest and deepest story of all, and the best choice to end the book. It tells about patriotism; hypocrisy; and about sacrifice. Score: 5 of 5.

Over all, this book is about love—all shape of it—and the consequences. There are also some irony in the humanity aspect, hypocrisy and greediness. In short, it’s about men and what are deep inside their masked appearances. What I like most from Maupassant are his irony, his intense ending, and his variety of theme with still one big issue: love and life. They are light at the start, but make you reflect at the end.

Weighing on the nine stories’ scores, this short stories collection gets my four stars. Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Maupassant!


*I read Indonesian translation edition from Serambi*

*This book is counted as:*

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Moby Dick: Logic-Stage Inquiry

What does Ahab want? What is standing in his way? And what strategy does he pursue in order to overcome this block?

Ahab wants to make peace with himself, and so, just like any human being, he wants to seek God. After forty years of sailing, Ahab too was weary. But he has something that is standing in his way to the peaceful unity with God; it is his anger of life’s injustice that has snatched his happiness (in the shape Moby Dick who has snatched his one leg). There should be two alternatives to overcome the block: either compromising with life, or pursuing the unfinished business. Unfortunately, despite of chance of repentance given to him, Ahab persists to follow his passion to revenge.

Which point of view does the writer choose to use? What does he gain and lose through it?

It’s a combination of third person-limited—by using Ishmael to narrate the whole story; and the omniscient POV—because through Ishmael Melville questioned often about morality.

Beginnings and endings

Melville used the mystery approaching for starting the novel, by hinting about the mysterious enigmatic Captain Ahab—a person whom people talk both with fear and admiration. The ending is a resolution—as the Pequod and its passengers were swallowed by the ‘sea’ (and the sea is indeed a metaphor, as I hinted below).

Images and metaphors

I think Melville used a lot of whaling-related metaphors here to convey his philosophy, but I’d only analyze one of them that touched me most (and the most intriguing too) – from chapter 132: The Symphony.

‘The snow-white wings of small unspeckled birds’ which represents the gentle thoughts of feminine air is a metaphor of Good; while ‘mighty Leviathans, sword-fish and sharks’ which represents the strong, troubled, the murderous thinking of the masculine sea is the metaphor of Evil.

“…Though thus contrasting within, the contrast was only in shades and shadows without; those two seemed one.” It represents us, human, inside whom there are always the Good and the Evil; and the two powers merge in one soul.

And this following passage is, I think, particularly about Ahab’s condition of soul.

“Aloft, like a royal czar and king, the sun seemed giving this gentle air to this bold and rolling sea.” It might represent how the Good in Ahab’s soul is working to win him from the Evil. And that’s why Ahab suddenly becomes melancholy; it is when love is touching his soul, that he remembers his wife and child, and how he had selfishly treated them. But unfortunately, Ahab had let his revenge passion stays in him. He is too stubborn to unleash the anger; that the Evil might overpower him, and so he can’t but submitted—as we can find it here:

What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? (…) Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm?”


Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Kaleidoscope 2013 - Announcement

At about the same time last year, I started a new feature in this blog called Book Kaleidoscope 2012. This feature was my way of wrapping up and rewinding my reading for the whole year, at the end of it. For fun, I have invited my followers to do the same. Unexpectedly, many bloggers were excited to participate and submit their posts. So this year, I decided to host the Book Kaleidoscope 2013. This time I extend it to five criteria (five top five!) and each post will have their own linkys; each linky will be opened until January 31st, 2014. I will post according to my scheduled date, but you can choose your own most convenient time to post it, as long as it’s not later than January 31st.

Day 1 - Top Five Book Boy/Girl Friends

From all the books you have read throughout the year, rank five male characters (if you are female) or five female characters (if you are male) you love the most. Tell us the reason, and it would be great if you use images to describe them (if the book has been made into movie, you can share photo(s) of the best actors/actresses to perform them).
My post schedule: 26 December 2013

Day 2 – Top Five Most Memorable Quotes

Do you have any quotes that touched you deeply or reminded you of something special? Pick five that are most memorable to you, rank them, and let us know why they’re special to you.
My post schedule: 27 December 2013

Day 3 – Top Five Best Book Covers

Rank five covers of books you have read in 2013. Pick the edition that you really read, but if you read ebook, at least pick the one that you used for your post. Tell us why you think them gorgeous.
My post schedule: 28 December 2013

Day 4 – Top Five of Your Own Criteria

Last year, several bloggers initiatively created their own criteria for the kaleidoscope (besides the existing three I created then). So, this year, I decided to dedicate day 4 as a freebie day. Pick your own criteria (besides the existing four)—any aspects from books; rank five of your most favorites, and tell us why you choose them. If you don’t have any (better) idea, you are welcomed to join mine: Top Five Underappreciated Secondary Characters.
My post schedule: 30 December 2013

Day 5 – Top Five Most Favorite Books

No explanation needed for this criteria, of course…; just rank and let us know books you find most awesome, and you have enjoyed the most! (and why…).
My post schedule: 31 December 2013

  1. The linky will be opened below each of my posts on the scheduled date.
  2. You can use any books to join (don’t have to be classics), but it MUST BE FICTION.
  3. You are free to join all criteria, or just one or more criteria.
  4. For Indonesian blogger, you are free to post in English or Bahasa Indonesia.
  5. I’d be grateful if you put a link back to this master post in your Book Kaleidoscope posts, but it’s up to you, of course.
  6. You are free to put the Book Kaleidoscope button on your blog.
  7. Let’s rewind it and have fun! :)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Moby Dick: Grammar-Stage Inquiry

Here again I’m working on the inquiries from The Well-Educated Mind. As part of this first level inquiry, I have posted six summaries of the book:

Next we are required to summarize the story by creating our own title and subtitle (which is different from the book’s). But before that, we must conclude this one….

Is there some point in the book where the characters change? Does something happen that makes everyone behave differently?

Now, this is quite a tough question, because I really didn’t find much alteration from the main characters throughout the book. Ahab consistently stuck to the plan of killing Moby Dick. Starbuck kept contradicting him, though not too strong. Ishmael kept being an outsider. Stubb…well, he kept being indifferent as ever. But without solving this problem, I might be struggling through the next inquiries. So, after some moments of reflection, I decided that there might be slight changes in Captain Ahab (as the main and central character) and Starbuck.

The point of change is the night before their first day of Moby Dick chases; the only moment when Ahab shared his troubled soul to Starbuck. Before this Ahab was always self-possessed and full of determination, but that particular night he was more human. He thought about how vain and foolish it was for him, to leave his wife and children, to sail solitarily in the sea for forty years. He felt pity for his wife that he has widowed to chase his prey. At that moment Ahab came to a point of repentance; he was inspired by the divine air that was lurking at that precise moment (chapter 132 – The Symphony). God’s power appeared in the shape of “snow-white wings of small, unspeckled birds” which represented the ‘gentle thoughts’ (I’ll analyze this deeper in the next stage inquiry). He appeared to in the eyes of Starbuck, who up to that moment keep his conscience clear (I see my wife and my child in thine eye)

This change changed Starbuck’s view too towards Ahab. Before this, he saw him as a wicked power which will ruin their lives with his monomaniac revenge. But now I think Starbuck regarded Ahab with some pity. Oh, he is just a man, who cannot hide from God’s presence. Ahab’s heart is not completely frozen; he still has affection towards his family. So Starbuck’s approaches to Ahab changed too; he even called him noble.

Give the book your own title and subtitle

Ahab’s monomaniac revenge to a whale – How a whaling ship Captain who was possessed by revenge passion, killed his conscience and against God, given a chance to repent, but discarded it, and so his life is doomed.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Moby Dick, Finally!...: Moby Dick Chapter 93 – 135

Captain Ahab aiming his harpoon to Moby Dick

When money is more important than humanity

Pip was Pequod’s one clumsy crew. One day, when he was stationed on Stubb’s boat during a lowering, he jumped accidentally to the sea. At first Stubb took an effort to row back and picked him up, but the next time he abandoned poor Pip stranded on the sea for sometimes because they were too busy hunting a whale, before the ship finally picked him up. The incident changed poor Pip soul; he got mad after that.

Ahab’s restlessness madness was increasing

When they are approaching Moby Dick’s location, Ahab asked the blacksmith to build him a deadly harpoon from special iron, which was baptized with the hapooners’ blood in the name of the Devil. However, on the other side, Ahab has strangely touched by the mad boy Pip, that he let him stay in the same cabin. And afterward, Pip could never part from Ahab.

The Pequod met another whaling ship—the Rachel—which has just met Moby Dick and lost several boats and crews because of it. Its captain pleaded Ahab to help them in the search, but Ahab abandoned them, now that the sign of Moby Dick’s presence has finally appeared.

Ahab vs Starbuck

One day the cask containing sperm oil was leaking; Starbuck asked for Ahab’s command to hoist the ship to Burtons, but Ahab rejected it. Starbuck bravely countered him, and finally Ahab consented to it. When the Typhoon storm attacked Pequod, the ship was shook severely; Starbuck insisted to change direction homeward, but Ahab insisted to go through the storm to chase Moby Dick. The lightning burnt a part of the ship, but instead of frightened, Ahab cursed and worshipped the fire.

Finally the storm subsided; when Starbuck was going to report it to Ahab, he found him asleep. He almost tried to kill Ahab with his own musket to ship the ship, but, struggling with his consciences, he finally declined the plan.

Finally….hunting Moby Dick!

The Pequod finally entered the Pacific oceans and headed to Japanese sea, in where it is suggested that Moby Dick was now swimming. For days the sea was so calm and serene, just like the strange calmness in the air before storms. 

In order to see Moby Dick first, Ahab located himself on the highest mainmast head. He need to secure himself by ropes, and must trust one of his men to handle it. Strangely, he picked Starbuck, the man who often contradicted him and whose loyalty thus should have been the least. Nonetheless, Ahab put his life into Starbuck’s hand. With Starbuck too did Ahab express his sadness. It was on a bright sunny morning, when Ahab’s heart was softened and he felt weary of forty years of whaling, leaving his wife and children. Starbuck—for the umpteenth time—persuaded him to go home, but Ahab persistently went on. But before that, he insisted that Starbuck must stay onboard while he would be lowering for Moby Dick.

Moby Dick finally appeared! On the first day of hunting, it survived after having broken Ahab’s boat in two and thrown the old man into the sea. The old man drenched but survived too. On the second day, Moby raised again from the sea, attacked again the boat, turned over Ahab’s boat, again—as if it knew who’s its real foe!—and this time he lost his ivory leg. It turned out later that his Oriental crew, Fedallah, has killed. At one point Ahab realized the vanity of the pursue; he also feared the dark omens himself. Still, he’s too stubborn to let the revenge go, and strove to Moby Dick the next day.

The final day was the superb climax of this book.

My random thoughts

Stubb’s abandonment of Pip only shows, that indifference is in fact another shape of moral corruption. The interesting thing is how the monomaniac Ahab—while he could abandon another ship’s pledge to search its missing crew—could be touched by Pip, that he treated him like a son. So, in a way, perhaps indifference is even worse than monomaniacness? Ahab might be cold against anything that hindered him from his revenge, but somewhere in the corner of his heart, he might still have room for humanity. While Stubb….well, I doubt it that he ever have a pity or affection towards others. After several reflections, I think the following passage from the end of chapter 96 highlights this idea.

There is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.”

If I understand it right, Melville wanted to say that a person should be noble or virtuous; that although he might one day fall into sin, he might still has chance to rise again. While an indifferent one, without any principles in him, is much worse, because he is just indifferent whether he does right or wrong, and thus there is no hope to bring him to salvation. Do you think that’s what it means? But whatever it is, by the above quote, I think Melville did not explicitly put Ahab as a wicked villain. Rather, he showed us what an irony, for a man as noble and clever as Ahab, to fall like that just because he has let himself led by passion of revenge. Do you agree?


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Brutality in Whaling: Moby Dick Chapter 67 – 92

'The Pequod', Used in the Film 'Moby Dick', c.1954
by Jack Sullivan

The whale’s anatomy
(part 2 – the 1st part is in the previous chapter post)

After being killed, a whale’s body would be slain. Its head would be hung on the side of the ship. One remarkable aspect of sperm whale is how it can live both at equator and at the pole with the same lungs and warm blood as in human being. It is because the nature provides it with thick ‘blanket’ as skin, which is called ‘blubber’. The more interesting analysis is about sperm whales head—which is more noble than the right whale’s—and its eyes, which are located on both sides of the head, instead of on the front.

One aspect of sperm whales that nobody knows, is the substance of its spout; is it water or vapor? As sperm whale’s outer skin is poisonous, men cannot touch it to investigate, and so it remains a mystery. But Ishmael believed it’s vapor, which signified with deep thoughts, and thus makes sperm whale a profound being :D. He also thought sperm whale is the most devoted animal because of its ‘fluke’ tail.

One very important article comes from sperm whale is ambergris, a waxy and highly fragrant substance used in perfumery and other cosmetics products. It is actually produced from the bowels of a whale with dyspepsia!

The noble creatures that are treated barbarianishly

Whale hunting used to be much more honorable in the past when they treated whales as noble creature. Now they were cruelly slain after being caught. The Pequod met a blind whale one day; this too was killed cruelly by Stubb. Ishmael also criticized the use of lance pitch-poling, which produced an even crueler effect to whales than harpoons. Stubb could even made jokes about the poor whale while it was slowly dying.

One day The Pequod met a herd of whales which swam in a giant circle. Ishmael’s boat was carried away into the centre of the circle; where he saw an amazingly calm group of young and nursing female whales with their babies. It was an amazing sight, but then one wounded whale entered the circle and replaced the calmness with panic moves, from which the boat could narrowly escape at the end.

The dark ‘superstitious’ of whale hunting

The Pequod met another whaling ship—Jerobeam—whose passenger was a lunatic man who believed himself as the incarnation of Gabriel the Archangel. He prophesied once that hunting and killing Moby Dick would be doomed as it was the Shaker God incarnated. And the prophecy came true, as a mate was killed while the Jerobeam was hunting Moby Dick.

Though not its assignment, Captain Ahab instructed his men to hunt a Right Whale too. It turned out later that Ahab—of Fedallah’s advice—wanted to hung its head on the opposite side of the sperm whale’s to ‘protect’ the ship.

My random thoughts

In many occasions, Melville has explained about the nobleness in whales, especially Sperm Whales. Now the question is, can killing a whale be justified by our conscience? In an occasion the Pequod hunted a blind whale—quite a pitiable view—and killed it. Look at how Melville described about it:

“For all his old age, and his one arm, and his blind eyes, he must die the death and be murdered, in order to light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all.”

Is killing an animal is really wrong, then, while we can utilize its organs for our daily lives? Didn’t God create them for our needs? Why killing a whale is brutal while killing a cow isn’t? Why eating whale’s meat means cannibalism while eating a cow’s isn’t? I think, to answer these questions did Melville wrote this book, well….one of his purposes. I believe the only answer we can get is our own conscience. When we kill the animals to feed ourselves, it’s natural; but killing them for enriching us, or for putting the blame of our misfortune, that is a murder! Why killing a blind-pitiable whale is right for someone (Flask) but wrong for the other (Starbuck)? Again, it’s all about conscience, as illuminated by these dialog right after the blindness of the whale be known:

Flask: “A nice spot! Just let me prick him there once”
Starbuck: “Avast! There’s no need of that!”

Sperm whale’s ambergris is another proof of Melville’s genius in finding deep philosophy in whaling:

“Now that the incorruption of this most fragrant ambergris should be found in the heart of such decay; is this nothing? (….) that we are sown in dishonor, but raised in glory.”

And isn’t that how we are in the presence of God? Sinners but redeemed nonetheless to see His glory.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Whaling Philosophy: Moby Dick Chapter 48 – 66

Finally…some actions!

When the first sign of whales came, the crew looked at five mysterious strangers besides Ahab, but had no time to mind it, as they must immediately lower their boats for the whale hunt. Unfortunately thick mist fell upon the sea, and through the mist and the increasing wind before a storm, they went nearer to the whale. Starbuck instructed Queequeg to attack, but the whale escaped, only with a scratch from Queequeg’s harpoon. Their boat collapsed and drenched all the crew before help from other boats came, and took them return to the ship. This was Ishmael’s first experience in whale hunting, and after the life and death moment, now he realized and was much prepared for the great risk of the voyage.

It was clear now that Ahab has snuggled those five crews on board. Fedallah, the Oriental hair-turbaned, was the most interesting mystery around. Meanwhile, for several nights a single white jet often appeared within the waves, seemed to taunt the Pequod to sail further to follow it. It felt ghostly, and everyone thought it was Moby Dick. Ahab often stayed sleeplessly for nights because of that, and on the whole, it created a ghastly aspect for the crew.

One morning the Pequod’s men had an apparition of a giant white creature which they thought at first was the White Whale, but it turned out to be a giant squid. Nonetheless the apparition has struck them. And finally, their first catch was done by Stubb, who caught and killed a Sperm Whale.

Have any other ships met Moby Dick?

The Pequod met another whaling ship, the Albatros, and on their question about the White Whale, Captain Ahab suddenly looked terrified. Ishmael then told the strange affair of the Town-Ho whaling ship that has once had an encounter with Moby Dick, and it turned out to be a divine moment in their trouble.

The fishery handling system

Ishmael criticized the fishery system invariably used in whaling ships, where harpooners, not only were they needed to pitch darts to the whales with all their power, they were also responsible to pull the oar during a chase, which often exhausted them already before the fight. Ishmael believed that harpooners must be relieved from pulling the oar job in order to save their energy. He also pointed up the danger of using the second (back up) harpoon which was connected to the first one with a line.

Consumption vs cannibalism

Ishmael also remarked sailors who ate sea creatures he has just killed as outlandish. He questioned whether this was not—in a way—a cannibalism. He also criticized how sharks were massacred only to get its skin (?).

The whale’s anatomy

It is difficult to draw the exact structure of a whale, and for centuries people have failed to do that. They could never catch the majestic and noble aspect of whale, and thus it remained unpainted, unless in whaling voyage though with a very high risk. (to be continued in next chapter post)

My random thoughts

Chapter 51 is my most favorite chapter so far! It makes me quite shudder to imagine the serene atmosphere on Pequod at those nights when the single white jet appeared. I wanted to quote some phrases here, but it’s impossible to get the exact feeling without reading the whole chapter. I believe I haven’t read one so intense chapter like this one, of which, every words and sentence brings deep meanings.

Melville’s point of view about cannibalism is early interesting. I have been wondering why he described Queequeg’s savage side very detailed, but now I understand his real aim. I think he wanted to highlight the irony of how civilized people despised cannibalism, while they often do worse things than that. They perhaps don’t eat their own kind, but couldn’t rapaciousness and brutality in killing innocent creatures be regarded as savagery?


Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Own History Reading Challenge 2014

As you might have known, I will be hosting a new challenge next year: History Reading Challenge 2014. Actually, history is one of the book genres I’ve been dreading all these times. But lately my curiosity over histories has been increasing; partly because The Well-Educated Mind, in which there are a lot of reference of good history books. So, I was encouraging myself to create and host this challenge. All but one book I have picked for this challenge are from WEM’s recommendation, and the other one is related to my interest in ancient Rome theme, particularly Cicero.

For now I will take the Scholar level, and plan to read at least these 6 books.

The Professor and the Madman – Simon Winchester
This one (I will read Indonesian translated version) is the only existing history book in my shelf before I decided on the challenge. I have been collecting the other four one by one during the last several months.

Roman Lives: A Selection of Eight Roman Lives – Plutarch
Actually The Well-Educated Mind recommends reading  both Roman and Greek Lives, but being dreadful of histories, I’m not sure whether I will enjoy Plutarch. So, I will try the Roman’s first (because Roman is always my weakness :D), and if I like it, I might go for the Greek’s too.

Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician – Anthony Everitt
Among the many Roman statesmen and heroes, Cicero is my favorite. This book is one of my most exciting choices!

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – Edward Gibbon
I have a mixed feeling about this one. I bought it right after I decided on the challenge, and have been my most exciting choice, but having browsed a few first pages, I realized that this book would need a very thorough reading. Hopefully I can enjoy it at the same time.

The Prince – Niccolò Machiavelli
This one is in my The Classics Club list, so….it’s killing two birds with one stone.


I have finally decided the sixth book for this challenge:

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West – Dee Brown
Since reading Winnetou series, I have a tender spot in my heart about the Indian, so I think this book would be a perfect read for the challenge, to understand more about the Indian history.

If I still have time, I might read Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra as well, and that means I can take an upgrade to the Historian level.

How about you? Interested in reading histories? You are invited to join the challenge: History Reading Challenge 2014. You only have one history book on your bookshelf? That’s OK, you can register in the ‘Student’ level, and can upgrade the level later on if you like.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Personal Readathon

As I have mentioned in my The Classics Club Sync Read post the other day, I have been determined to have a personal readathon from Monday evening to Tuesday evening, as it was a national holiday in Indonesia on the 5th of November. Twitting my intention, one of my Indonesian blogger fellows, Astrid, expressed her interest in joining me. So, from Monday evening we were on our silent readathon; being determined to read as much as we could, while texting each other our progress every now and then. 

My choice was David Copperfield, and what a choice I've made! David Copperfield turned out to be a very enjoyable reading from the beginning. I was mixed between crying and laughing during the readathon, and at the end, found myself to have swallowed not less than 177 pages! It might not be very impressive to you, but in my lately pace of reading, it was an achievement. And I'm proud of myself for it.

My complete readathon progress is like this...

Monday, Nov 4th
18:56 - Started p. 11 (I have read the first ten pages few days ago).
20:16 - Stopped at p. 31, I was too sleepy to read those tiny fonts, and so I stopped and got to sleep early.

Tuesday, Nov 5th
06:45 - Began p. 32.
11:05 - Stopped at p. 97 to prepare for lunch, and had lunch.
11:28 - Started again from p. 98 after lunch.
13:00 - Stopped for a while at p. 122, to give my tired eyes some rest, while I was tidying my bedroom.
13:43 - Resumed the reading from p. 123.
14:44 - Stopped again to have some rest at p. 140.
15:39 - Started from p. 141.
16:10 - Stopped at p. 149, took a bath and had some 'bakso' (meatballs) snack :)
16:56 - Started again from p. 150.
18:13 - Stopped for dinner at p. 167.
18:37 - Restarted from p. 168.
19:37 - Stopped at p. 187, my eyes were very tired, and the story met a new phase here, so I guess it's a best point to end the readathon.

So, overall, I have read 177 pages during 24 hours, with all the pauses. I must thank Astrid for accompanying me in this readathon. Really, knowing that someone else was reading with me at the same time, encouraged me to keep going on. It was really fun, Astrid! Let us do another readathon some other time!

Monday, November 4, 2013

History Reading Challenge 2014 – A Sail to the Past

 photo history-reading-challenge-2014_zps6c378035.jpg

It’s now two months before New Year; time to think of another challenge! ;) After long enough being in the comfort zone of novels and plays, I decided to challenge myself next year to move onto non-fiction, but still in the story-of-the-past area; meaning that I’m going to read HISTORY. Would you like to accompany me in this yearlong sail to the past? This is the general outline of the challenge:

What books to pick?
Challenge levels
How to join?
Optional analysis – more challenge!

**What books to pick?**

1. Pick one or more History books written by historian(s)—must be pure non-fiction; historical fiction is not allowed.
2. It has to be a work through investigation and researches, and not only collecting and listing historical data.
3. Biography is permitted, but not Autobiography, as I think autobiography lacks the objectivity of a history.
4. I’m not an expert in this area (history), so you are more than welcome to correct or add something if I’m wrong.
5. Frankly speaking, I don’t read many histories yet (and that’s why I’m creating this challenge), so I might not be the right person to consult with, about whether this or that is a pure history or not. For reference, you can consult these lists:
100 Best History Books
Goodreads’ Best History Books

Note: The 100 Best History Books is more reliable than Goodreads list, as Goodreads created the list from people’s labels, and it is proved sometimes not accurate. So, be careful before picking a book, you better check the synopsis first or even better…google it! :)

**Challenge level**

I have set several levels to challenge ourselves along the year:

Student : read 1 to 3 books
Scholar : read 4 to 6 books
Historian : read 7 or more books

**How to join?**

1. To join in, you must have either blog/Facebook/Goodreads where you can post your thoughts.
2. Pick one of the level suits you, and post about this challenge in your blog, or just comment in this post. You can mention books you’d like to read too—but no obligation (I’m only curious!). Of course, you might change the level or the books later on along the event.
3. Register through the linky below (you might put the link to your challenge post or just your blog/FB/Goodreads URL).
4. Place the challenge banner somewhere on your blog, linking to this post, in case others want to participate too.

**Optional analysis – more challenge!**

After reading and reviewing, you might want to add more challenge to your history reading. As I am working on WEM project, I picked these analysis questions from the project that would be interesting to work on. Go to the analysis questions

Of course you can choose to work on all of it, or parts of it, or none at all. It’s optional, anyway. But….your efforts would well rewarded, as in the end of the challenge, every analysis post would be included in….


I will provide a master post with a linky, where you can put all your posts (review and/or analysis). At the end of the challenge I will pick randomly 2 (two) winners (one from review posts and one from analysis posts) to win: history book(s) of your choice max. $15 from The Book Depository.

**Analysis Questions**

Note: The questions might not suit all history books, so you’d better pick only the related ones for each book.

Who is this story about?
Guiding questions: (you don’t have to answer all questions, you can answer your own way)
- Are they individuals, group of people, or entire nations?
- If individuals: Is the history focused on a single person, or on a network of individuals who may be related by blood or some other tie?
- If group of people: How does the historian distinguish them: by nationality, gender, age, class, job, economic status?
- In both cases: Is the historian telling you a ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’ history? In other words, is it focusing on wealthy, influential people, political power? Or on ordinary people and their daily lives?
- If entire nations: What is distinctive about each nation? How do its people envision themselves: as warriors, men of learning, farmers, free people? And how (in the historian’s eyes) is the nation better (or worse) than other nations?

What challenge did this hero/ine (from above question) face?
What challenges the ability of the central character(s) to lead full lives?

Who or what causes this challenge?
The historian’s task is to answer this question; does he/she succeed in doing so?

What does it mean to be human?
Guiding questions: (you don’t have to answer all questions, you can answer your own way)
- A history always highlights one particular aspect of human beings as central.
- In this history, how are men and women portrayed?
- Are they essentially workers, patriots, members of families, businessmen, rational animals, children of God?
- What is their central quality?
- To what must they aspire in order to be human?

Why do things go wrong?
Guiding questions: (you don’t have to answer all questions, you can answer your own way)
- What causes one set of people to be challenged or persecuted by another?
- What motivates the oppressors?
- Why do people live in squalor?
- What motivation does the historian give to his/her wrongdoers?

What is the end of the history?
Guiding questions: (you don’t have to answer all questions, you can answer your own way)
- How is the end different from the beginning?
- What is the goal of the historical story?
- What does the historian see as the ultimate shape and form of humanity?

And now, have a good sail to the past for the whole year! (don’t forget to register via the linky below!)

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Classics Club Sync Read: David Copperfield

This is my first participation ever in The Classics Club Sync Read. David Copperfield is in my list, and is one of the books I’ve been longing to delve in. Last year I also read a Dickens (Great Expectations) in December, and it was very enjoyable moment. So, I think I will repeat that again this year. Perhaps Christmas holiday is the best time to read Dickens? :)

Fortunately, The Classics Club is hosting a sync read from November 1st through December 30. So, I will start reading David Copperfield today, but this will be a very slow read because I’m still with Moby Dick too at this moment. I’m really looking forward to the Christmas holiday, though, when—I hope—I can dedicate most of my time at home with Dickens! :) A very tempting way to end the year, don’t you think?

the copy I'll be reading

So, do you want to join the Sync Read? Or have you read David Copperfield? Do you like it?

P.S. Just realized that November 5th would be a national holiday (moslem's new year) in Indonesia, so I'm going to have my personal readathon of David Copperfield starting at 7 pm on Monday, and ending at 9 pm on Tuesday. Let's see how many pages/chapters I'd be able to swallow! ;)

Let’s Read Plays: Wrap Up Post

The saddest moment of hosting an event is…. when you have to end it. :( For twelve months we have been having fun with plays: reading, exploring, discussing, or even shopping! :D. I am very grateful I have ever started this event and challenged myself to read plays; something I was dreading years ago—“how a drama script could be read as a book?” But in the process, I began to enjoy plays as well as I do with novels. Special thanks to Dessy, my co-host who created such a beautiful button (oh, I wish it doesn’t have to be plugged off from my sidebar), and to all participants; your reviews introduced me to so many plays I want to read, and your enthusiasm is really infectious.

Now, the statistics….

Signed up participants = 24
(including me & Dessy)

Active participants = 16
(two of the signed up participants have erased their blogs, the others never submitted their reviews :D)

Participants completed the challenge = 3
(read at least 12 plays)
Listra = 12
Fanda = 13
Melissa = 12

Plays reviews = 84
(Most read plays):
Julius Caesar = 5
The Importance of Being Earnest = 5

Character Thursday for Plays Meme posts = 22
(I stopped the meme unexpectedly on June—my fault! :( —otherwise it could have been more than that)

My own result….

Plays read: 13 (9 Shakespeare; 1 Greek—Euripides; 1 Oscar Wilde; 1 Anton Chekhov, 1 George Bernard Shaw)
Most favorite: Julius Caesar
Most failure: Romeo and Juliet
Plays I’d like to read next: Aeschylus’ Agamemnon; Aristophanes’ The Birds; Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus; Ibsen’s A Doll’s House; Wilder’s Our Town; Williams’ A Streetcar named Desire; Miller’s Death of A Salesman; Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral; Wilde’s and Chekhov’s plays and many more… :))

Last but not least…. we still have the…


From 22 posts, here is the winner (picked by random dot org):

Maria (Hobby Buku’s Classic)

Congratulations Maria!

If you haven’t participated, there are still one whole month to prepare the requested task, jump to Dessy’s post to learn about it!

So now… :( I guess it’s time to say good bye to Let’s Read Plays, and all the yearlong fun of reading those plays! Again, thank you all for participating, for sharing the fun, and for inspiring each other! Love you all, guys….

P.S. You are welcomed to post a wrap up in your blog if you like (not mandatory) and share the link here. Or at least, you can share your outcome, your experience, your feeling, even your critics during Let’s Read Plays, via the comment box.

P.S.S. (sadly) I won’t host another plays event next year, but you can count on me that I will be hosting ANOTHER intriguing reading challenge—just keep on checking my blog for the next few days ;)