Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Classics Club's CC Spin #26


Classics Club Spin is back! And about time too! After the usual hectic of the first four months of the year (not mentioning the two reading events that I'm hosting this year), I really need a refreshing kick to calm my nerve and to be back to my usual reading vigour.


What is CC Spin?

It’s easy. At your blog, before next Sunday 18th April, 2021, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.

This is your Spin List.

You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period.

On Sunday 18th, April, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by the 31st May, 2021.



And here's my list:

1. My Antonia - Willa Cather
2. Return of the Native - Thomas Hardy
3. The Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan
4. Watership Down - Richard Adams
5. Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
6. Elizabeth and Her German Garden - Elizabeth von Arnim
7. The Custom of the Country - Edith Wharton
8. Barchester Towers - Anthony Trollope
9. Eugenie Grandet - Honore de Balzac
10. I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
11. One of Ours - Willa Cather
12. My Cousin Rachel - Daphne du Maurier
13. The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane
14. Casino Royale - Ian Fleming
15. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
16. The Crucible - Arthur Miller
17. The Imitation of Christ - Thomas A Kempis
18. The Scarlett Pimpernel - Baroness Orczy
19. Red Pony - John Steinbeck
20. Under the Net - Iris Murdoch


Some of the list are from my 2021 Reading Schedule. I will definitely read no. 1 in May anyway, so any number I'd get, I will read it alongside My Antonia. But if no. 1 gets picked, then I'm lucky! :)

Do you join CC Spin too? Is there any title you expect me to get, or is in your list too?


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Okonkwo is a young man of Igbo ethnicity who lives in Umuofia village in Nigeria in the late 19th century. He grew up witnessing his lazy and cowardly father brought disgrace to the family, so it's no wonder that he becomes a fierce and strong warrior with toxic masculinity. Okonkwo resents weaknesses and femininity, beats his wives and children, to show off his manliness (and I think to convince himself that he is the very opposite of his father.)

One day the Umuofia clan took a boy, Ikemefuna, as a "settlement" (the boy's father has killed an Umuofia's woman), and selected Okonkwo as the guardian. He gets to like the boy, while worrying for his son's (Nwoye) lack of manliness. Unfortunately, the clan then decided to kill Ikemefuna due to an Oracle. An elder chief warned Okonkwo not to participate in the murder, as it would be like murdering his own son. But Okonkwo ignored it, so as not to be regarded weak by his people.

After the murder, Okonkwo's life turns from bad to worse. Things begin to go wrong, and Okonkwo and the whole family are eventually exiled by his people. At the time of the Okonkwos' return to Umuofia, their land has changed. White missionaries had been coming to introduce Christianity, and slowly but surely changed the whole society. One of the first converts is Nwoye, Okonkwo's own son, who had never forgiven his father for killing his best friend Ikemefuna, and who is more inclined to Christian's teaching than his people's violent way of life. Okonkwo bitterly sees how his people do not hold on to their tradition as tight as he, and begin to embrace a new one; he sees that his world is changing, and things fall apart.

Things Fall Apart is not an entertaining read. I do love reading about foreign cultures - and Achebe's writing is flowing beautifully in telling the story - so I really enjoyed the earlier part of this book. I disliked Okonkwo's toxic masculinity, but I sympathized with his disappointment on his father, and how he worked hard to dispel the bad "legacy". I understood that Okonkwo is shaped by his society. However, my sympathy's gone when he committed the murder. To let his people do it without fight from his side is cruel enough (but still understandable considering their views), but committed the crime with his own hand... I just can't! I lost my respect for the main protagonist of the book I'm reading, so what remains?

Besides the women, Obierika (Okonkwo's friend and neighbor) is the only one character I can stand. He's the neutral voice of the book, the common sense. He considers, reasons, questions their tradition, he sees beyond their little world, and does not think something is right just because the "oracle" said so.

Moral of the story:
✔Changes aren't always bad, as we never know what might happen in the future.
✔Better use our common sense and consider everything proportionately.
✔When change is inevitable, embrace it wisely, or we'll get "extinct".

Considering all aspect, here is my rating:

3,5 / 5

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Zoladdiction 2021: Master Post



It's April! And it means Zoladdiction 2021 begins this very day! 

This is the 8th Zoladdiction I have hosted in this blog. For you who are not familiar with, Zoladdiction is an annual reading event during the month of April, to celebrate the birthday of Emile Zola. It is mainly because we love Zola's writings, and also to get more and more people to appreciate his works.

As usual, we will read Zola's works, or works about Zola during the month, and of course, to share our thoughts (or anything related to Zola) to the world.

A formal sign up does not really required for participating, just let me know that you're in. And please tag or mention me on Twitter, or just leave a comment here, whenever you post anything for Zoladdiction. That way I can share/tweet/retweet it.

Now, let the fun begins.... 


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens | #NicholasNickleby2021 Wrap Up


Two weeks ago is supposed to be the last weekly part of our Nicholas Nickleby Readalong 2021. However, for some reasons (strained right arm was one of these), I have failed to write any post at all until this weekend. Thus, this post will serve as my final review of the book, as well as a wrap up of our #NicholasNickleby2021 Readalong.

Nicholas Nickleby is by far the most comical novel by Dickens I have ever read. The Pickwick Papers is another comic piece that guarantees to make you laugh, but I categorized it more as a series of picturesque journal of a club which were compiled to make a novel - it lacks a significant plot to make it a whole one. Nicholas Nickleby, on the other hand, is a wholesome novel with satisfying plot, memorable characters (even the minor characters are interesting and colorful), and, even though presenting a grim subject such as the cruelty of faulty schools in Yorkshire, it is highly entertaining with all the extremely hilarious scenes!

Summary of the previous chapters:
Chapter I - XI
Chapter XII - XXI
Chapter XXII - XXXI
Chapter XXXII - XLI
Chapter XLII - LI

The last sixteen chapters tells Nicholas' strategy to save Madeline Bray from her doomed marriage with Arthur Gride - a scheme by Ralph Nickleby to gain money, which Madeline's father owed him, as well as to snatch Nicholas' lover, and thus avenging him. It is nice to read how the rescue operation involves all the good people - Nicholas' friends. It seems to represent the battle of the bad v the good, of which, the good always wins. As usual, Dickens rounded up the ending of each characters "beautifully" for the good ones, and most especially for the wicked ones - though I think Sir Mulberry Hawk needs more sufferings before his death: some excruciating painful illness perhaps?... 😎 And then... there's the epic breaking up of the Dotheboys Hall - thanks to John Browdie! Apart from the wretched condition the boys must have been in after the breaking up, that was perhaps one of the most satisfying fictional "closures" ever!


Love is in the air, indeed, as three of the female characters finally meet their future husbands. Yes, I love how Dickens found a match for Miss La Creevy - not that she won't be happy without, because when you have love and gratitude, you'll have peace and happiness. I just hope that she'll keep her miniature painting business just to keep her busy while Tim Linkinwater is working at the counting house. That will give her the utmost happiness and satisfaction, which she fully deserves.

I've been discussing several topics covered by Dickens in the weekly update posts. The main topic is corrupted educational system in Yorkshire for unwanted children, which Dickens had write it so convincingly, that public investigations were held upon the real schools, and many of them were closed for good. Bravo Dickens! I'm more interested, however, in one minor topic which Dickens, unintentionally perhaps, has hinted in this book, that is: social treatment towards women in 19th century (and how the women perceived it).

Interestingly, five women are subjected to special interests from men throughout the book, though with different intensity: Kate Nickleby (from Sir Mulberry Hawk), Henrietta Lilyvick - neé Petowker (from old Mr. Snevellici), Mrs. Nickleby (from the gentleman with the small clothes 🤭), Miss La Creevy (from Tim Linkinwater), and in a way - Madeline Bray (talked of by a registry office clerk). When Kate Nickleby became the topic of free gossips by Sir MH in a drinking house, Nicholas Nickleby thought it abominable (and attacked the assailant). The same happened when Frank Cheeryble heard the clerk was talking (admiringly but perhaps jokingly?) of Madeline Bray in public. These gentlemen were indignant that the ladies are talked of publicly without respect. The clerk protested that he only praised Madeline's beauty, which was strongly supported by the bar maid. Two different classes view the case differently.

Then there is the indignant Mr. Lillyvick, who was angry with Mr. Snevellicci's openly flirt with his (Mr. Lillyvick) wife, while Mrs. Lillyvick accepted it as normal, and was even angry with her husband for being insensible, for it's only a joke (the same woman who later eloped with a man - poor Mr. Lillyvick!) Mr. Lillyvick, though comes from working class, is quite gentlmemanly-minded. The same subtlety is showed by the clerk Tim Linkinwater when wooing Miss La Creevy; he never forced himself on her, only using his affectionate tone (poetic and funny!) WHEN he's assured that the lady reciprocated his feeling. The very different manner is showed by the gentleman with the small clothes, who, ignoring Mrs. Nickleby's polite implore to leave her alone, kept forcing himself on her, though romantically hilarious. Mad as he was, I don't believe he'd be any better when he's sane. These instances only proof that honor doesn't always come with wealth nor class - it's something you can never earn by yourself.

Over all, Nicholas Nickleby is a very entertaining novel with satisfying plot, hilarious scenes, and most memorable characters. It instantly becomes one of my favorites.

I thank all of you who has participated in this Readalong, for your accompany, posts, and comments. It has been a memorable and also inspiring reading event. For you who didn't or haven't finished, don't be disappointed - it's just not your time yet, but I'm sure you'd pick it up again some other time, as it's really a fun reading. I wish I could wish we meet again in next readalong, but for now, I'm not sure at all there will be another. Let's just see!

Final rating: 4,5 / 5

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Zoladdiction 2021: Announcement - #Zoladdiction2021



Zoladdiction will be back next month! This would be the 8th Zoladdiction I've hosted in this blog. For you who are not familiar with it, Zoladdiction is a reading event on April, to celebrate the birthday of Émile Zola. It is mainly because we love Zola's writings, and also to get more and more people to appreciate his works. For the whole month we will read, post, and talk about Zola - his life, his works, and his influence.


What's in Zoladdiction 2021?

  • This year I encourage you to go beyond reading.
  • Yes, we will still read Zola, but during April we can also share/post/tweet/talk about just any thing that is related to Zola. A book you're reading reminds you of Zola? Share it! Found Zola's quote/picture on Pinterest? Share it! Watched movie about Zola? Share it! Anything at all.
  • If you chose to read quietly, it's OK. You can pick one of Zola's works, or Zola's biography, or any books about Zola by other writers.
  • To participate, simply leave comment, or mention me on Twitter, using hashtag #Zoladdiction2021, and tell me your plan for Zoladdiction (it might inspire others).
  • If you blog about your participation, leave the link in comment box.

This time I will not be reading alone. Brona will be my reading buddy; we will read The Sin of Abbe Mouret (it's a reread for me). I plan to read one more book, but haven't made up my mind of the title. Either a biography or short stories collection, it will depend on how much time I'd got left before end of April.

So, are you in? What's your plan?

 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Nicholas Nickleby Readalong 2021 Week #5 Update

This is the fifth weekly update of Nicholas Nickleby Readalong 2021, and we are approaching more and more near the end. How do you progress so far? What chapter are you in?

The story's getting better and better, that I actually read through some chapters of the next week portion! But here are some of the most important scenes/events from Chapter XLII to LI:

- Enter the scene: Mr. Frank Cheeryble, nephew of the Cheeryble Brothers. Nicholas accidentally witnesses him striking a man who is insolently talking of a young lady of Frank's acquaintance - exactly what Nicholas himself had done to Sir MH! And as if Dickens approved of our discussion on week #3, he included these conversations:
The man struck by Frank (by the way, he's Tom, the clerk at the register office): "A pretty state of things, if a man isn't to admire a handsome girl without being beat to pieces for it!" A girl, waiter, agrees with him, while Nicholas, John and Tilda Browdie, agree with Frank - whose reply is: "But beauty should be spoken of respectfully - respectfully and in proper terms, and with a becoming sense of its worth and excellence." The girl concerned is actually Madeline Bray, the beautiful young lady Nicholas is fallen in love with.

- When Charles and Frank Cheeryble visited the Nicklebys, Smike is, again, distressed. I have suspected from last week that he is secretly falling in love with Kate, and now notices painfully that he wouldn't be able to compete with Frank Cheeryble. Poor Smike!

- Ralph Nickleby is blackmailed by his former clerk, Brooker, but Ralph coolly dismissed him. Unabashed, Brooker approaches Newman and seems to tell him some interesting secrets.

- Ralph and Squeers attempt to reclaim Smike by forging a letter indicating that Mr. Snawley (the man who submitted his wife's son to Dotheboys Hall in earlier chapter) is Smike's biological father. Fortunately Nicholas and John Browdie throw them away.

Good quote about parental affection:

"Parents who never showed their love, complain of want of natural affection on their children - children who never showed their duty, complain of want of natural feeling in their parents - law makers who find both so miserable that their affections have never had enough of life's sun to develop them, are loud in their moralisings over parents and children too, and cry that the very ties of nature are disregarded. Natural affections and instincts, my dear sir, are the most beautiful of the Almighty's works, but like other beautiful works of His, they must be reared and fostered, or it is as natural that they should be wholly obscured, and that new feelings should usurp their place, as it is that the sweetest productions of the earth left untended, should be choked with weeds and briers."

- Nicholas becomes the Cheeryble Brothers' agent to help poor Madeline Bray-who has lost her mother and must support her deeply-in-debt father-by (pretending) procuring her artworks to provide her money.


- Another episode of the old gentleman with the small clothes. It happens when Frank Cheeryble and Tim Linkinwater are visiting Mrs. Nickleby and Kate (Miss La Creevy is there, and she is flirting with Tim.. ahem!) The mad man makes an entrance by the chimney and throws all of them in panic, but at least this episode puts Mrs. Nickleby back to reality (not without jealousy when the mad man switches his attention to Miss La Creevy!)

- Vincent Crummles & co. is leaving England and moving to America to start a new chapter, but of course they don't go without a proper party with Nicholas.

- Sir Mulberry Hawk still insists on taking revenge against Nicholas. Lord Frederick Verisoft doesn't agree, and their quarrel ends in a duel. It's a pity that it's Verisoft who's killed; I was hoping very much it'd be Sir MH. He flees to France, instead. For good? Let's see..

- Enter a new vilain: old moneylender Arthur Gride, who offers to pay Walter Bray's (Madeline Bray's father) debt to Ralph, in exchange of Ralph's help to get him marrying Madeline. Gride possesses (illegally) a will of her grandfather, that she will inherit the money upon her marriage. Newman Noggs heard Arthur and Ralph's discussion, but doesn't realize at that time that Madeline Bray is one and the same lady Nicholas is falling in love with. The catastrophe is known to Nicholas only one day before the wedding day - what will he do to prevent it?

TOPIC OF DISCUSSION

Of the numerous villains in this story, who do you think is the most corrupted and heartless, who you hate the most?

I think Sir Mulberry Hawk is the most heartless of all. I hate him from the beginning, and I don't see any chance redemption from him. He's been living a dissipated life for too long; adding that to his high egotism, fuelled by idolatry from his pupils, Sir Mulberry Hawk has become what he is. 

Ralph Nickleby is the main antagonist here, I know, but I'm still hoping for his redemption, a deep regret in the end, at least. He is quite moved by Kate's miserable situation in earlier chapter, anyway. The problem is he is too attached to money. He had two choices, but he picked his business first. While Sir MH... I don't believe he ever thinks about anything else beyond getting what he wants. Regret? Maybe never...

Now let us hear your opinion! You can leave comments below, or you can post on your blog if you feel like it, but don't forget to leave the link here so we can visit and comment.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Nicholas Nickleby Readalong 2021 Week #4 Update

This is the fourth weekly update of Nicholas Nickleby Readalong 2021, and the story gets more and more spiceful, doesn't it? How do you progress so far? What chapter are you in?

There's a lot going on for me this weekend which, in the end triggered my depression. So this time I will only breakdown here some of the most important scenes/events from Chapter XXXII to XLI just to refresh our memories.

- Nicholas accidentally hears Sir Mulberry Hawk talking rudely about Kate. He confronted him, and it ended in a carriage crash, badly injuring Sir MH.

- Nicholas renounces his uncle's financial support for the family for good (yes, Nick!)

- Nicholas impresses a cheerful, kind gentleman, while looking for job. And here we are acquainted with yet some new characters: the Cheeryble Brothers (who owned a counting house and offered Nicholas a job) and Tim Linkinwater (the clerk). They also provide a cottage for the family. The Nicklebys' honor are finally restored!

- The Kenwigses' reaction on the marriage of Mr. Lillyvicks is pretty hilarious!

- Then there is the eccentric neighbor of the Nicklebys, an old gentleman who likes to throw vegetables over the wall to express his love to Mrs. Nickleby, which reminded me of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot who throws a marrow over his garden wall in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Both scenes are hilarious, by the way, especially when it turns out that the gentleman is actually mad! LOL!!

- Miss La Creevy notices that Smike becomes dejected lately.

- Ralph Nickleby enlists Sir MH and Mr. Squeers' assistant in a scheme of punishing Nicholas. Surprisingly, Lord Frederick Verisopht hates the way Sir MH has treated Kate. Good for you, my lord!

- Smike is caught by Mr. Squeers, but fortunately John Browdie is visiting, so he helps Smike to run away.

- Nicholas recognizes the pretty girl he encountered earlier at the agency office, who is visiting Mr. Cheeryble. Everyone keeps her identity secretly, that Nicholas employs Newman Noggs' help to investigate her name and address. He did, but it's the wrong lady!

TOPIC OF DISCUSSION

Nicholas Nickleby is widely regarded as one of the greatest comic masterpieces of 19th century lit. Do you agree? What is your favorite/most hilarious/most memorable comic scene so far?


For me, the most hilarious one is the "old gentleman in the small clothes" scene in the last chapter. Then there is also the scene of Mr. Kenwigs when he heard from Nicholas that Mr. Lillyvick is married:

Mr. Kenwigs started from his seat with a petrified stare, caught his second daughter by her flaxen tail, and covered his face with his pocket-handkerchief. Morleena fell, all stiff and rigid, into the baby's chair, as she had seen her mother fall when she fainted away, and the two remaining little Kenwigses shrieked in affright.
"My children, my defrauded, swindled infants!" cried Mr. Kenwigs, pulling so hard, in his vehemence, at the flaxen tail of his second daughter, that he lifted her up on tiptoe, and kept her, for some seconds, in that attitude. 'Villain, ass, traitor!'


LOL! Oh Dickens...!!

Newman Noggs is very funny too. I love several of his scenes everytime he gets excited!

Now let us hear your opinion! You can leave comments below, or you can post on your blog if you feel like it, but don't forget to leave the link here so we can visit and read your post! But If you have read ahead, please make sure to restrain from any spoiler.

Hopefully the next chapters are as funny as these. I, for one, am looking forward to read more about the old gentleman in the small clothes. What does it mean by small clothes, anyway?...