Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas, my dearest friends!

Merry Christmas to you, all! My warmest whiches to you, familiy, and friends. Hope your Christmas is as merry as mine! 

This is my last post for 2018. Thank you for visiting this blog, reading my posts, and saying hello or discussing books with me throughout this year. It has been a happy year for me, and now I am excited to start the new year with more promising things! So... Happy New Year too! ~ Fanda & family

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 - Wrap Up

I've done it! I am so happy, proud, but also relieved to have completed this one of my favorite challenges ever. Here's my entries for twelve categories of Back to the Classics Challenge 2018:

A 19th century classicDombey and Son by Charles Dickens
A 20th century classicEast of Eden by John Steinbeck
A classic by a woman authorThe Tenant of the Wildfell Hall by Anne Brönte
A classic in translationThe Sin of Abbe Mouret by Émile Zola
A children's classicFive Go Off on a Caravan (The Famous Five)  by Enid Blyton
A classic crime story, fiction or non-fictionTowards Zero by Agatha Christie
A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fictionJourney to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
A classic with a single-word titleResurrection by Leo Tolstoy
A classic with a color in the titleThe Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
A classic by an author that's new to youHowards End by E.M. Forster
A classic that scares youThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Re-read a favorite classicThe Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Thank you, Karen, for hosting this challenge. I won't do it in 2019, but hopefully I will return the next year more ready and fresh (if you would host it again - which is my sincere hope). [Twitter: @Fanda_A) ]

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Mr. Dombey is a proud gentleman. And being proud in Victorian-England terms also meant calculating, stiff, unyielding; without passion, love, or affection. For Mr. Dombey, money and honour are his gods, and he lives solely to achieve them. Mr. Dombey has founded a counting house, and if this company should have had a vision-mission, it would have been: "Dombey and Son"—a company ruled by father and son. To that end, he has married a lady, not because he loved her, but to have a son, why, you'd need a wife! Mrs. Dombey was soon pregnant, and when the time came, she gave birth to.... a girl!

What? Mr. Dombey was dismayed; a girl is not what he has ordered! 'Just ignore her, and now make another baby; this time it's better be a boy!' is what Mr. Dombey has probably said to his wife. And as Mrs. Chicks (Mr. Dombey's sister) used to say, Mrs. Dombey 'made an effort', and with her last breath, she finally gave Mr. Dombey the son he has ordered.

Being a good businessman, Mr. Dombey took no time to plan, shape, and mould baby Dombey into the perfect-partner he has been envisioning; forgetting all along that his son is not a robot, but just a child who needs love and care. And as you can probably guess, his plan was eventually failed.

That was just the beginning; nevertheless from that short little summary you can see that pride would be the main theme of this book. And to emphasize that, Mr. Dombey is not the only example. There is another proud character, a lady, who was Mr. Dombey’s equal: Edith Dombey nee Granger. Can you imagine what would happen when two proud persons are tied in one institution: marriage? Disaster! And as usual, Dickens contrasted the proud couple with several humble characters: Florence Dombey—the unwanted daughter, and another main character in this story, as well some other secondary characters. Their faiths are intertwined in the numerous consequences of the major crime in this story: pride.

Unlike his usual style, in this book, Dickens mercilessly judged and punished the proud unloving father for neglecting and rejecting his daughter's love. He even 'slaughtered' the villain antagonist quite brutally (at least for Dickens' style). Sometimes it even felt almost Zola-ish. It’s not only the brutality, but the way Dickens described Mr. Dombey's psychological struggles with repetitive rhythmic sentences, is also very similar to Zola's. However, Dickens' unique comical characters, his witty satirical prose, and abundant of love—which were his trademark—help making the story more cheerful and warm; the quality which always makes his novels a perfect choice for holiday season’s reading.

4,5 / 5

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2019 Reading Plan: No Plans!

December is usually time for planning next year’s reading list and challenges. I have done some thinking about 2019 for some time, and finally decided that my plan for 2019 would be….. NO PLANS. While I am certain I would complete all 2018 challenges in time, I doubt if I will be able to make another next year. There has been too much on my plate lately. Next year, I expect, will be no different. And for once I want to do my readings as a relaxation, instead of a goal. I enjoyed this year’s challenge (TBR Pile and Back to the Classics), and I know I will miss, for example, the excitement of finding that some books I’ve been meaning to read actually fit some of the 2019 challenge’s category! But, again, I long too, to be free to pick any book I want to read, and read it as fast as or as slowly as I need to, or the luxury of having a reading slump without worrying that I might have to catch up later… In short, I will NOT take any challenges in 2019 except Goodreads and The Classics Club—which I never take as challenge anyway... :)

These are what my 2019 reading will look like:

Zola is a must!
Despite of all, good news is, I WILL host the 6th Zoladdiction next year, yay! And I have pile of books ready for that. In fact, I am thinking of doing a little Zola project, if not during Zoladdiction, then within the year. What is it? Let it be a secret for the time being…. ;)
My list for Zoladdiction (I might just read all, or just few of them, through 2019)

Books by Zola
The Bright Side of Life
His Excellency Eugene Rougon
For A Night of Love (stories collection)
The Attack on the Mill & other stories
The Dream (don’t have the copy yet)
Doctor Pascal (if OWC publish it next year – let’s hope!)

Books about Zola or Zola themed books
Zola Photographer – Zola’s photography collection
The Pen and the Brush by Anka Muhlstein
The Dawn of Belle Epoque by Mary McAuliffe
Emile Zola: A Biography by Alan Schom

Herman Melville’s Bicentennial
Do you know that 2019 marks Melville’s 200th anniversary? It would be perfect to celebrate it by rereading Moby Dick. Brona has mentioned that she might host a readalong or something… *fingercross*. But, readalong or not, I think I might do it anyway.

My 3rd  year of The Classics Club part II
Like I said before, this one will continue. I will read about 12 books along the year, but will not decide the titles. 2019 is my third year for the second round of The Classics Club, and I have about 35 titles to choose from. And of course, I am looking forward to next year’s #CCSpin, which will help me picking the titles I shall read.

My TBR Pile
Finally, there are a lot of non-classics in my TBR pile still. I might pick one or two, or more, whenever I feel like it, during 2019. Besides, I might want to read fresh-bought books, instead of the existing TBR! :P

Well, doesn’t my 2019 look quite fun? I’m excited to start it!

Friday, December 7, 2018

A Spiritual Canticle by St. John of the Cross

I have been meaning to read this book for some times, but I have always dreaded I won’t have enough time to plough the depth of the canticle. So, I have decided to read the forty stanzas in forty weeks—one stanza a week. I read the Indonesian translation, along with comments that St. John added later, which I found very helpful to understand (a little more) the canticle.

Let me give you a peek of some earlier stanzas:

Stanza #1
Where have You hidden Yourself,
And abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved?
You have fled like the hart,
Having wounded me.
I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.

It’s about a soul’s search for unity with God—pictured as a bride who is seeking her bridegroom. It loves God so much that it hurts—longing for the perfect happiness, which is unity with God in Heaven. But when it is still on earth, it must be satisfied by just getting a glimpse of Him. Right when it feels Him, He would flash out of its reach; and this bleeds the soul so much more.

Stanza #2
O shepherds, you who go
Through the sheepcots up the hill,
If you shall see Him
Whom I love the most,
Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die.

The soul needs an intermediary (pictured as shepherds) to express its love lamentation to God (pictured as hill—or the highest peak). Here the commentator suggests that the intermediary could be its own longing and affection; or it could also means the angels—I am more inclined of the latter. So the soul begs the angels to speak about its sorrowful love to Him (whom the angels could reach easier than the soul) when the time is right for Him (or if God is willing) to listen to it (“if you shall see Him”). Here the soul does not demand anything; it just gives hints about its anguish and let the Lover do what He desires. By humbling itself, God would take more pity to the soul.

Stanza #3
In search of my Love
I will go over mountains and strands;
I will gather no flowers,
I will fear no wild beasts;
And pass by the mighty and the frontiers.

Laments and intermediary does not suffice the souls to reach its Beloved; it must move and take active action [‘searching’], i.e. by exercising contemplative life towards wisdom (mountains—higher place) and self-denials (strands—lower place). The soul decides to purify itself from vain pleasures which would block it from God (gather no flowers). Besides that, there are three other enemies that put the soul away from God: 1) The world (wild beasts)—which threatens the soul of losing its friends and belongings; 2) Satan (the mighty)—who will strive the soul from unity with God; 3) The natural rebellion of the flesh against the spirit (the frontiers)—the flesh is the frontier that hinder the soul on its spiritual journey. The soul determines to pass through all these obstacles to find its Lover.

Stanza #4
O groves and thickets
Planted by the hand of the Beloved;
O verdant meads
Enameled with flowers,
Tell me, has He passed by you?

After preparing the long journey to reach God (on stanza #3), the soul starts its spiritual journey by getting to know Him through His creations. It’s as if the soul begs the nature: show me how beautiful He has created you! It reflects the soul’s longing to grasp His traces/His touch on the creation. While it is still far away from the Lover, at least it can touch and adore His works. Just as a lover loves to touch or kiss a shirt belongs to the absent beloved one.

Stanza #5
A thousand graces diffusing
He passed through the groves in haste,
And merely regarding them
As He passed,
Clothed them with His beauty.

Nature answers the soul’s entreaty by revealing that God has created the creatures in a very fast [‘He passed…in haste’] and simple action, yet abundant in graces [‘a thousand’]. He created the creatures ‘in haste’ reflects that the universe is just a small act compared to the Incarnation of the Word and the mysteries of the Christian faith. ‘Regarding them’ means that God regards us through His Son. He bestows us graces and gifts to make us perfect (as is in the book of Genesis). [Clothed them with His beauty] means that when Jesus incarnated to man, God exalted mankind, and bestows them with beauty and dignity.


And the journey continues on till the fortieth stanza, where the soul finally united with God.

This is probably one of the most difficult books I have encountered. I could relate with only the early eight or ten stanzas. While I could imagine the soul’s longing for “marriage” with God (like in the Book of Song of Songs), I still can’t get how it possibly happen to ordinary people like us, whose focuses are much occupied by worldly matters. However, it is gratifying to learn that it is possible for man to achieve that holy unity with his Creator. And it certainly encouraged me to be a better person day by day.

3 / 5