Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Coriolanus

After delving into plays for a year last year, I thought another Shakespeare would have been enough for me this year. However, this particular play has interested me since my last year plays event: Coriolanus, so when The Classics Club announced January to be Shakespeare theme of our Twelve Month of Classics Literature, I instantly decided to give it a try. Historical-tragedy has been my most successful theme of Shakespeare, and although Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra are much more famous, Coriolanus turns out to be another gem from the Bard!

The play depicted a Roman general named Caius Marcius, who lived in around 5th century BC. While he was fighting against the Volscians in Corioli, the plebeian were lamenting about grain price which was at that time controlled by the senate. They put the blame on Marcius, and hated him for that. Things were getting worse because Marcius faced the plebeian in an openly contemptuous manner.

While he was not good in social life, Marcius was highly successful in his military campaigns. He won the Volscian battle very bravely, where Cominius—his commander—gave him the name of Coriolanus: the conqueror of Corioli. With the win, he also won Senate’s respect and appreciation, and they supported him to run for consul. However the tribunes: Sicinius and Brutus provoked the citizens to oppose it. Being under-pressured, Coriolanus was enraged and insulted the people. He was banished from Rome, and finally decided to join his enemy, Tullus Aufidius of the Volscians, to retaliate against his own country.

Coriolanus is a typical portrait of the patrician-plebeian conflict, which is still relevant in any country in any era. I read in Sparknotes analysis, that Shakespeare may have gotten the inspiration for the plot from the actual conflict between King James and the Parliament in England’s early 17th century, the time when Shakespeare wrote this play.

Coriolanus was perhaps a great military commander, but he was far from a good state leader (consul); he even had contempt for plebeian or the common people. So I think this is not a pure tragedy, because it was Coriolanus himself who made the circumstances against him. His fall was caused by his pride and ambition; he failed to gain people’s respect, and he was blinded by his ambition for revenge that he could not detect Aufidius’ betrayal.

The play is very engaging; the plot is flowing nicely, the stage arrangement is very good and helps us to learn the actual situations. The war is very lively, but most of all, the speeches are very strong! Although a secondary character, Volumnia—Coriolanus’ mother—is an influential figure in Coriolanus’ decisions. Her speeches are so noble, touching and inspiring. Even Coriolanus was very moved by his mother’s speech, that he changed his mind about destroying Rome. His anger was replaced by tears under her mother’s words.

This time Shakespeare is succeeded in controlling my emotion to the play’s climax, and I finally found a new favorite play. Five stars for Coriolanus!

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I read e-book from Feedbooks.com

This book is counted as:






Monday, January 27, 2014

Aesop’s Fables

Aesop is a slave and story-teller who was believed to live in ancient Greece around 620 to 560 BC. He collected many tales from diverse origins, and from generations to generations, Aesop’s tales had been retold and reinterpreted in many media. The first printed version of Aesop's Fables in English was published on March 26, 1484, by William Caxton [source: wiki]. Fables were advocated by John Locke to be targeted to children only on 1693, while previously they were targeted to adult only.

When I first opened the book (I read Wordsworth Classics’ edition), I was amazed by the table of contents. I had no idea that there were so many fables! There were probably more than 200 titles. The fables are usually very short; one page could contain two to three fables, with illustrations every few or more pages. And browsing all the titles (and they are stretched to eleven pages alone!), I can see that the ‘characters’ are quite varied; but the lion, fox, and wolf appear most often.

Plunging into the fables, I quickly realized that most of them have similar themes, and after around 40% I have got bored already. It felt like reading a same thing over and over again, with only the characters or the circumstances were changed. And so, I must pick another book as a change to be read along Aesop’s Fables. In the end I felt more exhausted than entertained by the fables, but realizing that I am reading some works which have been inherited for generations, I could appreciate it more.

There are few gems, anyway, from the 200+ tales, which I found inspiring and encouraging. Especially because some of the stories are equipped with the moral value as quotes. Some of my favorites are:

The Slave & the Lion – A slave run away from his master and finds a cave where a wounded lion stays. The slave takes care and saves the lion’s life, and they become best friends. Later on the master finds what the slave has done; and he is to be thrown to beasts as punishment. You could guess, I think, which beast would find the slave, and how the tale ends. I am always touched by the friendship between men and animals, and that’s why this tale becomes one of my favorites.

The Apes & the Two Travelers – Two travelers, one is a liar, while the other is an honest person, are treated by the King of Apes. The King is proud of his noble monarch and asks the travelers their opinion. The liar praises the apes and gets reward. The honest one, who feels that his honesty would get him more rewards that the liar, tells the truth, that he thinks they are merely apes. Again, you must have guessed the outcome. There is a difference between telling truth for the sake of the truth, or out of greediness. Anyway, virtue only comes from goodwill.

The Eagle & His Captor – A man catches an eagle then clips his wings before he sells him. The buyer takes the eagle home and lets his wings grow. When he is recovered, the eagle catches a hare and presents it to his benefactor. Now a fox tells him that he should have presented the hare to his first captor rather than his benefactor, so the captor will be his friend, and won’t clip his wings again if he catches him the second time. This is something we never, or rarely, consider. Good advice, indeed. And this time comes from a fox! :)

Three and a half stars for Aesop’s Fables.

~~~~~~~~~

I read the Wordsworth Classics paperback edition

This book is counted as:


January theme of Baca Bareng #BBI: Fable


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Birthday Celebration & Reading Dickens February 2014

February is a special month for me—no, it’s not because of the Valentine’s things!—firstly, since it is the month I celebrate my birthday; but in the last few years February also means the birthday month of one of my favorite authors: Charles Dickens. For two consecutive years I have been reading Dickens (and hosting Dickens event) during February, but I am declined to do it this year as I have been hosting the History Reading Challenge—and reading histories is already quite challenging for me. However, this year I’m going to read a book about Dickens: The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin; and approaching my birthday, I suddenly have the itch to host something simple to celebrate mine and Dickens’ birthday. Between a birthday bash and reading Dickens, I finally come up with…


Birthday Celebration & Reading Dickens
February 2014



I would host a book giveaway during February, opened for International participants starting February 1st. Everyone is welcomed to participate!

For you who want to read books by or about Dickens during February to celebrate the author’s birthday, I will provide a linky below where you can submit your reviews during February (will be opened on February 1st). In the end of the month, if there are five or more participants (not reviews), every review in the linky would be eligible to join my second giveaway!

In short, you can all join my birthday giveaway, but if you read Dickens with me, you’d be eligible to join in two giveaways.

About Reading Dickens, you can pick books by Dickens, or books about Dickens (biography, historical fiction, history, etc.). Rereading is allowed, but not reposting (reviews from the past).

So…..would you be in? Are you excited? Would you read Dickens? What book(s)? Tell me! ;)


LINKY FOR REVIEWS:

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Turn of the Year Readathons: Wrap Up

The turn of the year has been quite exciting, in terms of my reading life. I have done two readathons, the first one was My Personal Readathon on 30-31 December 2013 with my fellow (mostly) Indonesian bloggers, and the other was The 2nd Annual Classics Club Readathon on 4th January 2014. A bit details of them:

My Personal Readathon



It was a 36-hours readathon, beginning at 8 am on 30th December, until 8 pm on 31st December. I have prepared two books for this event:

 

I began at sharply 8 am with Aesop's Fables, but after few hours I was getting bored (it contains so many fables with very similar topics), so I decided to read the two books simultaneously. I was glad to find that The Jungle Book was very amusing, so I made it a sweet refuge whenever I found Aesop's Fable slightly irritating. I restrained myself to only read one chapter of The Jungle Book before going back to Aesop's Fables. And doing this, I have successfully finished the two books (total 441 pages) three hours before the readathon was over. I was thinking about grabbing another book, but could not decide which one, so in the end I ended my readathon anyway. I was satisfied with the result, especially as I have been neglected The Jungle Book for few years, before finally had chance to read it, and found it a new treasure! Here is my review of The Jungle Book; while Aesop's Fables' would be following.



2nd Annual Classics Club Readathon



I have enjoyed our last year 1st readathon, and was very excited when The Classics Club announced this event for the second time. But unfortunately for me, it didn't go as I have expected. It was a 24-hours readathon, and I planned to continue the book I have been reading since 1st January: Roman Lives by Plutarch.



The time difference made the readathon slightly more interesting. I chose to begin at 8 am my time (GMT+7), as I would have go to bed earlier for the Sunday early morning mass. I began at page 54, and planned to read until around 8:30 pm. However, an unexpected thing took place, my mom got another asthma attack, and despite of her usual medications, she still could not breath easily. My dad and I was rather panic as it has been many years since my mom's last attack. I contacted our family doctor who knows my mom's asthma history, and luckily her practice was opened that day (Saturday afternoon). And so we immediately rushed to the doctor, and in the restless hours in the waiting room, I could not think of reading any book. I continued my reading only after settling up everything for my mom when we were home again, and I could only manage to finish that night at page 138.

Preparing for the readathon, with a glass of water, a pot of Elle & Vire
Fraise Strawberry yoghurt, and the Roman Lives on my side table
in my bedroom:)

The second day, after Sunday mass, I was quite busy with household works my mom usually takes, so I had only limited time to resume my reading, and must take a stop at page 174. So, with all the obstructions, I have managed to read 120 pages (at least I have read four of the eight Lives, and am now excited to get into the four remainings: Sulla, Pompey, Cesar and Antony!). I have expected more than 200 pages, but I am glad anyway because I can read classics with all of the clubbers around the world, which is a rare and exciting chance! 

Here are my answers to the questionnaire:

What book(s) did you read during the event?
Roman Lives by Plutarch

What book(s) did you finish?
None... :( I only managed to read 121 of 608 pages.

What did you like about our event?
The feeling of togetherness, that although I read alone in my bedroom, I know that many of the clubbers around the world are reading with me at the same moment.

Do you have suggestions for future Readathons through The Classics Club?
As we are spreading in different time zones, how about stretching it to 36 hours rather than 24 hours?

Would you participate in future Readathons?
Yes, definitely!!

Anything else you’d like to share? (Favorite quote from your reading? Funny anecdote from the event?)



"While doing wrong was demeaning, and doing good when there was no risk involved was unexceptional, it was an indication of true virtue to do good when there was a risk involved." ~ Metellus

Thanks again for The Classics Club for hosting it.

What about you? Have you enjoyed your readathon? How many pages/books you have managed to read?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling amazed me once again with his fables. After Just So Stories last April, now he amused me with the even better one: The Jungle Book. The main story of it is of Mowgli, a little boy who is adopted by a pair of wolves after his parents died. When Mowgli first appears before the wolves’ cave, Shere Khan—the Bengal tiger—is haunting him to make him his dinner. Father Wolf saves him, and brings him to the wolf pack conference. He is at first rejected by the forum, until Bagheera—the black panther—guarantees him. Bagheera then becomes Mowgli’s best friend, along with Baloo—the bear—who teaches him the law of the jungle.

Shere Khan is angry of losing Mowgli; he wants to kill him but could not do that as long as Akela becomes the leader. Right after Akela is dethroned by his people, they repel Mowgli who is not a wolf like them—thanks to Shere Khan’s provocation too—and Mowgly doesn’t have any choices than leaving the jungle to live with his own kind. So now Mowgli must live by his own while Shere Khan keeps haunting him. At the end, Mowgli must have a fight with Shere Khan; what will he do? And will he survive it?

Thanks to the Disney version of Mowgli, I used to imagine The Jungle Book as childish as what we see on TV. But I was surprised and amazed at the same time, finding that the original story is much deeper than that. What Kipling portrayed in The Jungle Book is what we find in our own world. How difficult it is for us to accept others who are different from us, who have not the same origin or culture. We used to be suspicious of them, that we could not see a villain with wicked plan among us, because he is ‘one of us’; just like the wolves who blindly trust Shere Khan more than Mowgli.

The fight of Mowgli and Shere Khan is both thrilling and emotional. It is in difficult times that love and friendship would be purified. I was touched by Bagheera’s and Baloo’s love to their little friend, and their respect to old Akela. Kipling also highlighted how men praise freedom, but at the same time they could not live without a leader. The law of the jungle is something we should adopt in our society too; look how the entire animals work together to help Mowgli, although he is not their own kind. Humanity surmounts differences. The goods fight together against the bad, each contributes his talent.

Apart from Mowgli’s adventure, this book also contains three great fables. There is Kotick—the white seal—who persistently searches a new saver home for his people after he saw his friends being slaughtered by men. It portrays our society too; we often refuse to see the injustice among us, just because it ‘has been like that for a long time’. Most of us accept that as faith, and we surrender our dignity and life in the hand of more powerful authorities. When there is finally someone brave enough like Kotick, who is willingly to take risks for our salvation; instead of helping him, we laugh at him as a foolish dreamer. That makes us an easy victim of colonialism and oppression.

The second one is about a young mongoose called Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, who is carried away by flood—separated from his parents—to a bungalow, where he is finally adopted by a human family as a pet. From his new friends in the garden—a tailorbird and a mouse—he gets acquainted with a pair of huge cobra: Nag and Nagaina (they reminded me of Voldemort’s Nagini! :D). The cobras plan to kill the humans for taking the garden which they have been previously dominated. Rikki-Tikki is angry when he overhears their brutal plan, so he builds a strategy to fight both cobras. The attack scenes are quite horrible; I was shivered imagining how the family must have been terribly terrified while a huge cobra suddenly showed up while they were dining. You would not know whether you should run away or keep still; well…normally you wouldn’t escape that brutal attack, if you don’t have a protector. Rikki-Tikki is an example of real hero; even though he is a stranger, he fights bravely to save the family and the inhabitants of the garden, simply because it is wrong to kill the innocent who is weaker; and so it is his duty to protect them.

The third story is my most favorite: the story of Little Toomai, the son of an elephant hunter. His father drives Kala Nag—an old elephant, the cleverer and most senior among the others. One day the boss, Peterson Sahib, is amazed by Little Toomai, and professes that one day he might become a good elephant hunter. When Little Toomai asks his permission to enter the stockade (which is normally too dangerous for a little boy), he promises that he can do that only after witnessing an ‘elephant dance’, which in their culture means ‘never’. It is believed that numbers of elephants sometimes dance in a clearing. Nobody has ever seen it, but some flattened grounds are the proof.

One night Kala Nag seems to ‘hear the call’ from the native elephants. He slips out of his pickets, and picks Little Toomai on his back as the boy is excited to go with him. Kala Nag walks towards a clearing up in a hill where many other elephants are gathering too, while Little Toomai is watching silently from the elephant’s back. There he witnesses the elephants stamping their feet up and down, making the ground tremble; that is the elephant dance, a dance no other human being have ever seen.

I like the story mostly because of the mystical air surrounds the elephant dance. Kipling writes wonderfully Kala Nag’s journey in the dark and foggy night when the jungle seems to be alive, and especially when the elephants start moving, ‘talking’, and finally dancing for two hours, making the ground a dance floor. The sensation is really amazing!

And finally I closed the last page of The Jungle Book totally entertained and amused. Bravo to you, Mr. Kipling, for making my end of year reading so enjoyable, intense, and interesting. Without any doubt, I grant five whole stars for The Jungle Book. Really, I have never thought that I would love a children book (which I have never read as a child) this much!

~~~~~~~~~

*I read the translation edition from Atria (part of Serambi Publishing group)*

*This book is counted as:*



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

History Reading Challenge 2014 – Master Post


Attention! Passengers on board of the Sail to the Past: History Reading Challenge 2014….it’s time for us to start our yearlong voyage. For you who haven’t got the ticket subscribed for this voyage, please do so in the sign up post. You can also find all detailed information about this challenge in the same post.

There will be two linky below this post, the first is for REVIEWS, and the second one is for ANALYSIS. Be careful not to put your linky in the wrong place!

Just to remind you, if you’d like to challenge yourself to analyze the history you’ve just read, I have provided several questions that you can pick randomly. Please check it in the sign up post. The analysis is optional, and you are free to pick the questions that suit you. If you are doing WEM project, you might post the questions in more than one post—it’s OK, you CAN put more than one analysis post for every book in the linky.

There will be two giveaways at the end of the challenge, one for review posts, the other for analysis posts.

Every two or three months (depending on my schedule), there would be check-in posts here. Maybe it’s just to check how far our progresses are, or whether we have problems with a book or two, or anything I can think of then. So it’d be better to follow me or this blog one or other way, so you’d be updated of every news. You can also follow my twitter: @Fanda_A, I'll twit about this challenge using hashtag #HistoryRC.

Now, let us just kick-off the challenge, and start the reading!

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LINKY FOR REVIEWS




LINKY FOR ANALYSIS POSTS