Thursday, May 5, 2022

Zoladdiction 2022 & April Wrap Up, Reading Plans for May


For me personally, April seems to come and go in one swing. I got quite a severe mental exhaustion during the first half of the month. I didn't know what it was at first, but lately I had been easily irritated, which then grew into cynicism and violent thoughts. I was pretty scared for my health, so I googled it, and found that they are symptoms of mental exhaustion.

While removing the cause (as suggested by some articles) is impossible, I have resolved to make some changes to make my current life more balanced. The long and short of it is that I decided to pick only cozy readings and losen my reading challenges for a while. First step is to discard Zola's L'Assommoir (I know the ending too well, and it's not good for me at this moment) which I've intended for #Zoladdiction2022, and replace it with some light and comfort books; books that I really want to read.

Second step, I'm reducing my blogging time, and only focusing on what matters most: my fulltime work, caring for my Parkinson's father, and the never-ending household stuffs. I thank you all who have joined me in #Zoladdiction2022. I have done my best to retweet or tweet your posts, but I might not be able to read them, let alone leaving comments. Please don't feel me rude if I don't respond to some of your comments on this blog. I would love to keep reading your comments, though (I'd feel less stressful to know that there're people out there who still care for me 😊), but I also understand that some of you might feel unproductive to comment on inactive blog. It's perfectly understandable, don't worry about me. I wish I could say how long this will happen, but I can't, and so, for the time being I'll just read for leisure, and blog about it whenever I feel like it. (Painting: Woman Reading on Couch by Michael Shane Neal, 1968)


πŸ“š What I've Read in April

For a Night of Love is my first (and only) book for #Zoladdiction2022. I read it right before the mental exhaustion took over me. It's so-so, but short story has never been my cup of tea anyway.

While cancelling off L'Assommoir, I've been thinking what book should I read next, when I stumbled upon this book on Twitter: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. I googled it, and the premises of an elderly club in a senior house investigating murder, intrigued me right away, that I immediately bought an e-copy, and read it. It was entertaining - a little humorous, but a little sentimental too.

Next I picked a newly arrived book order - another warm and cozy read which I enjoyed very much: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (review will follow soon). And it is perfect to replace Bhagavad Gita, which I've picked earlier for Non Fiction entry for Back to the Classics 2022. Splendid!

My last April read is: Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (review will also follow). It's my third of fourth read, so there's not much I can add, other than Christie's neat and genius plot (which, I'm sure, many of you have realized too).

What about you? How's your April reading? Were you having fun?


Statistics

πŸ“Š Total books read: 11
πŸ“Š Challenge progress:
2022 TBR Pile Challenge5
Back to the Classics Challenge 20227
2022 Chunkster Challenge1

And so, I am now ready to face the new month!


πŸ“š What's happening in May


I've decided to keep my seasonal reading of Willa Cather or #CatherInMay on. A Lost Lady is my pick.

I will also keep my original plan of 18th century reading for 2022, and am now reading: Frances Burney's Evelina, or, A Young Lady's Entrance into the World. I love it so far, a comical satire of inexperienced young girl among the English society.

I think both books will be enough to amuse me during the whole month.

Do you have plans for May reading?

Monday, May 2, 2022

For a Night of Love by Γ‰mile Zola


πŸ’œ For a Night of Love is a collection of three stories with one similar theme: love. But, this is from Zola, so don't expect anything romantic - it's far from it! πŸ˜„

πŸ’œ Title of this collection is lent by the first story, which is also the longest - it might have been between short story and novella: For a Night of Love (Pour une nuit d’amour). It tells a story of a shy and unattractive young post office clerk, Julien, who lives in a small flat, and loves to play tunes in his flute. Opposite his flat is a large building occupied by a wealthy family with a beautiful daughter. Julien often watches her from his window, plays his flute for her, and eventually falls in love with the girl. But the girl, ThΓ©rΓ¨se, usually ignores him. One day she throws him kisses from her window, and summons him to come; not out of love, apparently, but to help her getting rid of the dead body of her lover.

πŸ’œ This first story sets the tone of the whole book - or at least the first two stories - which is the excessive crave to be loved.

πŸ’œ Nantas is the title of the second story, but also the name of its protagonist. He's a poor but intelligent young man with huge ambition, who comes to Paris to reach his dream, but desperately unsuccessful. On the brink of committing suicide, someone offers him a huge sum of money to marry a prominent young girl who is pregnant from a married man. He accepts the "business proposal", makes himself the most powerful man in France, but is unhappy because his wife doesn't return the love he eventually comes to feel for her. This one is my favorite from the the three stories. It is written superbly, and the ending is quite unpredictable.

πŸ’œ The last story is rather anticlimactic and rather out of theme. Fasting is about religion hypocrisies. In a church, a baroness seems to be fascinated while listening to her favorite priest's sermon about fasting - except that she is struggling to stay awake. The priest, on the other hand, seems to be preaching earnestly about fasting - except that all he's thinking all the while is going to a concert and having dinner with a countess. It's rather a funny satire, which talks nothing of love. Or, maybe, this whole thing is not meant to be about romantic love after all, but more about unsatiable desire, Zola's main topic in most of his other books.

πŸ’œ I am never a fan of short stories, as I always find them lacking of depth. They are usually sharp, yes, but it's like when a thorn is pricking your finger - you definitely feel the pain, but an hour later you won't feel anything, and would completely forget the incident. Though I appreciate Zola's brilliant writing in this collection, I still think his novels are much better.

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie


πŸ’š I've said this a couple of times before: reading Agatha Christie for the 1st time when I was a teenager has changed forever my perception on good vs evil. It's also struck me that it's so easy to commit a murder - so easy that what one need is, apparently, only the decision itself. Most of Christie's novels proved this. But this one: Murder is Easy, seems to highlight it.

πŸ’š There have been some "incidents" that led to deaths in the village of Wychwood for the last several months. Everyone took them as natural - everyone except Lavinia Pinkerton, an old intelligent spinster, who'd remind you to Miss Marple.

πŸ’š Miss Pinkerton had noticed a peculiar look everytime the murderer (a respectable personage in the village) looks at someone. Then that someone will be found death from some sorts of accident not long after that. She can't report it to the local police because no one would believe her, so she decided to go to the Scotland Yard.

πŸ’š On the train to London, Miss Pinkerton confided her purpose to a symphatetic retired police officer: Luke Fitzwilliam, who first took it as an old woman's babbling. But when he read in the newspaper the death of a doctor, whom Miss Pinkerton said would be killed next, and followed by the spinster's own deadly accident, he smell something fishy, and decided to investigate it.

πŸ’š So, is murder that easy? Yes, if you are a respectable person with blameless character whom no one suspects you; clever and lucky enough to make it look like accidents; and mad enough that conscience won't get you! That's the murderer in this book. Unfortunately, the madness aspect isn't revealed until the last chapter, and that provides a nice plot twist in the end.

πŸ’š This book is categorized under "amateur detective", though Luke Fitzwilliam isn't that good, considering he's a retired police officer. Superintendent Battle made his appearance too, but only as an insignificant cameo.

πŸ’š Overall, as a crime novel, this  is an okay one. It won't ranked on the top list of my favorites, but I still loved it for the English rural village vibe, and a pinch of straightforward romance between the main characters.

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

March Wrap Up & Zoladdiction in April


While March is rolling on towards the end, my life in general is a little bit calmer than before. This month I have managed to read three books (which is a bit productive for me), and one of them was a solid five star! (Painting: credit to centuriespast.tumblr.com)


πŸ“š What I've Read in March

I originally picked Go Tell It on the Mountain for March, but changed my mind after reading the synopsis. I thought it's too depressing for my mood, and so opted for something more 'colorful and spicy' - if you know what I mean. Scanning my bookshelves, my eyes finally rested on Wharton's The Custom of the Country. That would be perfect, thought I. And it was!! I loved it immensely. I think it's the best book to read right before the upcoming Zoladdiction. Why? You'll find the answer in my review.

The buddy read of Orang-Orang Bloomington was rather fun (reading with others is always fun), though the book was too gloomy for my present mood. Nevertheless, I'm quite happy for having read it at last.

Last book I've just finished is another Agatha Christie - the second of this year - Murder is Easy. It's a reread, though I remembered nothing from the 1st read. It's another story in the 'amateur detective' line, and although I won't classify it with Christie's great novels, I enjoyed the little village atmosphere with the usual mixture of local doctor, major or colonel, and a spinster. Its end twist also adds another nice element to make it a perfect round up reading experience. (Review will follow).

What about you? How's your March reading? Were you having fun?


Statistics

πŸ“Š Total books read: 7
πŸ“Š Challenge progress:
* 2022 TBR Pile Challenge: 4
* Back to the Classics Challenge 2022: 3
* 2022 Chunkster Challenge: 1

And so, I am now ready to face the new month!


πŸ“š What's happening in April




Zoladdiction 2022 is coming!! I feel awful, though, that I didn't work much to arrange or promote the event. But nowadays I'm constantly feeling exhausted and need more and more time to recover, and reading is my only solace. Maybe reading quietly is the best approach at present.

For Zoladdiction I will reread my second favorite of Zola's Rougon-Macquart series: L'Assommoir. After about ten years, it's exciting to see my impression on this second read.

Zola's short story collection will be my second entry for Zoladdiction. I picked For a Night of Love, rather than

The Attack on the Mill
 which was my original choice, as the latter I've found too dark for my present mood (the first is much shorter too! :P )

If you are interested to read Zola next month, you are welcomed to join us in Zoladdiction 2022. Here's the announcement post for more info and details.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton


πŸ”Ά️ I always believe that Edith Wharton is the female Γ‰mile Zola, in terms of the Naturalism movement in her writing. This remarkable novel, The Custom of the Country, is the perfect proof of it. Not that Wharton is less in writing quality compared to Zola, but because she applied the naturalism theme in a more subtle way, while Zola was more ferocious.

πŸ”Ά️ Why makes me think that The Custom of the Country is the perfect proof? How about Wharton's other famous novels, like The House of Mirth or the one that gave her a Pullitzer prize - The Age of Innocence? It's because the significance of human's inability to resist their circumstances is portrayed in almost every character in this book. More significant than in The House of Mirth (which is relying almost solely on Lily Bart's character). How about The Age of Innocence? Well, to be honest, I've completely forgotten its story. And to this day I'm still puzzled over how that book could win Pulitzer, instead of The House of Mirth or, even, The Custom of the Country.

πŸ”Ά️ Undine Spragg is a selfish spoilt girl from middle class background, but with an upper class taste. Her sole desire is always having the "best" in life. By the best, it means the most luxurious and glorious lifestyle. However, her perception of the 'best' keeps changing.

πŸ”Ά️ Undine Spragg reminds me of a little girl who longs for a beautiful doll she plays with at her friend's. She'd do anything in the world to have that beautiful doll, and it's a happy day when she finally gets it and plays with it. Then, her other richer friend brings a Barbie doll with the most magnificent dress she'd ever seen. Now she thinks her present doll is ugly, and that having that Barbie doll would be her next sole purpose in life. And it's repeating again and again. Undine Spragg could be the grown up version of that little girl, but instead of dolls, her 'commodity' is social fortunes, and her means of procuring it is... a husband-no, husbands.

πŸ”Ά️ Undine's first husband is Ralph Marvell, a pleasant young man from an old money family. She presumed at first, that this set of family is the highest in the society ladder. Soon, however, she found that the Marvells are too conventional, neither wealthy nor fashionable, and she began to despise her husband.

πŸ”Ά️ From this first stage of her career we witness our anti-heroine's egoistic, heartless and ruthlessness. She never cares for anyone else, not even her own son. Undine whole universe is herself. And that would certainly bring ruins to people around her.

πŸ”Ά️ Ironically, other characters in this book (particularly Undine's husbands) show the determinism in their inability to think or respond beyond the principle values in which they have been brought up. While in Undine's case, her determinism is in herself; while her values kept re-shaping.

πŸ”Ά️ Edith Wharton had written this story brilliantly. The irony, the tragedy, and of course, her portrayal of the New York society in the turn of the century are poignantly beautiful.

πŸ”Ά️ I am, probably, more captivated by the character of Paul (Undine's son with Ralph Marvell). Following the hereditary doctrine of Naturalism, Paul should inherit both parents' characters (flaws). But fortunately, Paul seems to disinherit Undine's, and is more like his father. His politeness, reserved manner, and fondness of books are all of Ralph's. Her mother might have left him the evasive and uprooted feelings in him, as a result of her ever changing world. I wished Wharton wrote another book about Paul Marvell - what becomes of him when he's grown up - it would certainly be an interesting book.

Rating: 5 of 5

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Orang-Orang Bloomington (People from Bloomington) by Budi Darma


πŸ”·️ Budi Darma is one of Indonesia's prominent modern writers. He graduated with an MA from Indiana University Bloomington in 1976. His experience and observation during his college days are the inspiration of this collection of seven short stories, titled Orang-Orang Bloomington, or People from Bloomington in English. Now Penguin Classics is translating this book in English, and it is due to publication in April.

πŸ”·️ Orang-Orang Bloomington is a realist book, tinged with absurdism in several of the stories. Though all of the stories are told from an anonymous narrator's point of view, it is clear that each has its own narrator (or at least there are more than one narrator). Nevertheless, they seem to have some similarities in personal character; they are all inquisitive and lonely. Indeed, loneliness seems to be the single theme that connect all the stories.



πŸ”·️ First story: The Anonymous Old Man (Pak Tua Tanpa Nama) sets this tone for all the rest. Residents in the houses and apartments are mostly individualists who lack touch of human compassion; they mind (too much) their own businesses, full of cold suspicion and prejudice, and some, even, have violent temperament.

πŸ”·️ The narrators aren't perfect either. The one in Joshua Karabish, for example, shamefully claimed his dead friend's poems as his. Another in Keluarga M (M Family) cowardly attacked a small boy in burst of rage after his car was scratched at the parking lot. But the worst is probably the narrator in Orez - it's way too cruel for me, though the one in Ny Eberhart (Mrs. Elberhart) is no less heartless either - bullying an old woman?! Though in the end they realized their mistakes and perhaps felt sorry, it's only a silent proof that the society of Bloomington (which represent our own modern society) aren't okay - there's a latent hatred and evil hidden beneath our struggles in life.

πŸ”·️ My favorite of all is the first story. The last two or three stories are too absurd for my taste, and the last one - I felt it inconclusive. I really admire the crude beauty and poignancy in Budi Darma's writing (he reminds me of John Steinbeck - but Steinbeck's is way more eloquent), but not his absurdism side.

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

πŸ’° If I have to categorize Dickens' novels into favorites and non favorites, then Martin Chuzzlewit would definitely go to the non favorite (along with Hard Times and Dombey and Son). Not only that Its humour is dry - exaggerated sarcasm rather than comical - its plot is also weak and felt weird. There're abundant characters but lack of development, and the story is dragging on in the first two third; only started building pace in the last third. I honestly thought of DNF-ing it, but decided in the end to plough on - which is quite paid off, for at least I can check it off from my Dickens-unread list. Only one Dickens novel left now to read!

πŸ’° Tired of his greedy and selfish family, wealthy old Martin Chuzzlewit lived a secluded life with only a companion - a pretty young girl called Mary Graham - to whom he said quite frankly that he will pay her wages generously, but she will not be left anything in his will. By this arrangement the old man hoped that she will serve him best without wishing him dead (in the hope of inheriting something).

πŸ’° His grandson, young Martin Chuzzlewit fell in love with Mary (the feeling is reciprocated), but when he uttered this to his grandfather, the old man was enraged, and grandfather and grandson separated ways in anger.

πŸ’° Then young Martin was apprenticed to a gentleman by the name of Seth Pecksniff. He calls himself a surveyor and architect, but all he ever produces are the works of his pupils which he claimed as his own. Yes, Pecksniff is what you call a sanctimonious person - a hypocritical swindler in a gentleman disguise. He accepted Martin because of his rich grandpa, but then banished him when the fact of their separation was known to him.

πŸ’° Humiliated and poor, young Martin left for America with the jolliest young man on earth as his servant-slash-companion: Mark Tapley. Here is a chance for Dickens to reflect upon his own visit to America. And boy, didn't he smash those Americans with ugly picture of mean, selfish, greedy, hypocrite and opportunist people! Martin Chuzzlewit might be considered as Dickens' personal favorite, but I doubt if it would be an enjoyable read for American people. Is that one of the reasons why this book becomes one of Dickens' least favorite? Hmm...

πŸ’° Anyway, the America period in young Martin Chuzzlewit's adventure changed him considerably when he touched English land months later. And meanwhile, we were introduced to another villain-even more evil than Mr. Pecksniff: the coward heartless scoundrel: Jonas Chuzzlewit, nephew of old Martin Chuzzlewit. The cruellest villain in Dickens' novel so far.

πŸ’° Martin Chuzzlewit is a story about greediness, excessice pride, and selfishness. It is also the first appearance of a detective in Dickens' novel. It could have been a promising story, but like I said before, the first two third is rather flat, and only the last third is really enjoyable. It has some memorable secondary characters: Tom Pinch - the naive and tenderhearted pupil of Pecksniff who failed to see his hypocrisy; Ruth Pinch - Tom's little energetic sister; and John Westlock - another alumni of Pecksniff academy, and a kind-hearted young man. Unfortunately Dickens included too many characters in this story that he hadn't had enough space to develop them further.

In the end, while the story is conclusive enough to be satisfying, it's far from making it memorable. I have even forgotten some of the plots while writing it!

Final rating: 3 of 5

Saturday, March 5, 2022

1st Story from "Orang-Orang Bloomington" by Budi Darma

I was so impressed by the 1st story from Budi Darma's Orang-Orang Bloomington (People from Bloomington - the English translation will be available in April - published by Penguin Classics) that I need to post exclusively about it.

The seven stories in this short story collection are told from the narrator's point of view. We know not his name; he's just mentioned as 'young man', an Indonesian student lives in Bloomington in the 1970s.

In this first story, titled "Laki-Laki Tua Tanpa Nama" (The Anonymous Old Man), the narrator rented an upstair room from an old widow Mrs. McMillan, in a lonesome street called Fess, with only two other houses along the street, owned by two other widows. These women prefer to live seclusively; always minding their own businesses. That's their way of living peacefully.

A strange old man, veteran of World War 2, rented the upstair room nextdoor (Mrs. Nolan's). He's always carrying and pointing a gun, and, sometimes, threatening to shoot people. On the other hand, his landlady, Mrs. Nolan, owns also a gun, with which she often shoots birds or other small animals that annoys her.

The narrator, whose habit seems to be curiously watching his neighbors, is a little concerned with the old veteran's alarming behaviours. However, his neighbors take it all easy. One day, the mounting tension finally broke, and something bad happened.

πŸ”« The center theme of this story is, first, that appearance can be deceiving. When the incident occurred, who was an easy blame? An nervous old war veteran and a total stranger, or a respectable widow whom everyone knows? Then there's the second theme - the psychological background. Whoever pulled the trigger, he/she could have had a dark secret no one knows. It's easy to judge a person as mean, but we never know that person deep down, beyond his/her appearance and our own perception of him/her - which is often very far from the truth.

πŸ”« Privacy or indifference?

Being born and live in Asia, one of my biggest pet peeves is curious people who like to know private things about you (shamelessly asking your age or marital status, while you never know them before, jeez!). Maybe that's why I chose to live in an apartment. At least I can get various neighbors all the time without really knowing intimately each other, and just having enough courtesy to share polite nods when we pass each other at the lobby or in the lift.

So I can relate to and quite agree with the three widows' policy to not interfering with other people's business. But I think there's a certain limit between privacy and indifference. We can still maintain privacy while at the same time being warm and friendly to others. We just need to set a certain barrier between things we can afford to share with others and things that we want to keep to ourselves (or family). Living alone is often the best choice - especially for introverted people like me - but that doesn't mean we should stop being a kind and loving human being that God has intended us to be.

Will the remain six stories be as intriguing as this? Let's hope so. So far, I'm quite enjoying it. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Zoladdiction 2022: Announcement | #Zoladdiction2022

 


Zoladdiction will be back next month! This would be the 9th 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 Γ‰mile 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 2022?

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Don’t have time to read one book? Fine, a short story or essay is equally good.
  • To participate, simply leave comment, or mention me on Twitter, using hashtag #Zoladdiction2022, and tell me your plan for Zoladdiction (it might inspire others).
  • If you blog about your participation, leave the link in comment box.


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

Mine is to re-read L’Assommoir and The Attack on the Mill (Zola’s short story collection).

 

Monday, February 28, 2022

February Read & An Exciting Buddy Read in March

I am now on the way of finishing my only read for this month: Martin Chuzzlewit - only 50-ish pages left to go. February has been a hectic month - as usual - but I'm beginning to be adapted to this new condition. I'm quite proud that in between chores and work, I can still squeeze 25 minutes of exercise and 60 to 90 minutes of reading every day. And these days, when everything looks gloomy, I feel that reading is getting more and more important to keep me peaceful and stay away from depression. (Painting: Woman Reading By A Window by Gari Melchers)


πŸ“š What I've Read in February

I've picked Martin Chuzzlewit to read for my #DickensInFebruary this year. And while I haven't entirely completed it, just considered it done, haha! At least, after reading quite many Dickenses, I think I can roughly guess what the ending will be, anyway.

I have to say, Martin Chuzzlewit isn't my favorite. The first two third is quite boring; the humours felt dry, and Dickens created too many trifle characters that I felt weren't necessary, except to prolong the story, rather than developing more of the main characters.

Statistics

πŸ“Š Total books read: 4
πŸ“Š Challenge progress:
* 2022 TBR Pile Challenge: 2
* Back to the Classics Challenge 2022: 3
* 2022 Chunkster Challenge: 1

And so, I am now ready to face the new month!

πŸ“š What I Will Read in March

March is promising to be an exciting reading month! My fellow Indonesian book, Melisa,  is hosting a buddy read of a short story collection from one of the most prominent Indonesian writers: Budi Darma. The book is: Orang-Orang Bloomington (or People from Bloomington in English).

 

It's exciting for me, not only because I haven't buddy-read with Melisa for years, but also because this book is being translated by Penguin Classics, and will be published next April, yay!

Excerpt from Penguin Classics:


An eerie, alienating, yet comic and profoundly sympathetic short story collection about Americans in America by one of Indonesia’s most prominent writers, now in an English translation for its fortieth anniversary, with a foreword by Intan Paramaditha.

In these seven stories of The People from Bloomington, our peculiar narrators find themselves in the most peculiar of circumstances and encounter the most peculiar of people. Set in Bloomington, Indiana, where the author lived as a graduate student in the 1970s, this is far from the idyllic portrait of small-town America. Rather, sectioned into apartment units and rented rooms, and gridded by long empty streets and distances traversable only by car, it’s a place where the solitary can all too easily remain solitary; where people can at once be obsessively curious about others, yet fail to form genuine connections with anyone. The characters feel their loneliness acutely and yet deliberately estrange others. Budi Darma paints a realist world portrayed through an absurdist frame, morbid and funny at the same time.

It promises to be an interesting read (I have tasted the 1st chapter, and really liked it), and it would be such an honor for me to read it to celebrate its forthcoming recognition as one of most important Indonesian canons.

Next book I plan to read next month:

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

I picked that up simply for Back to the Classics challenge, and it's in my 300 Books to Read list, so I have no expectation at all. Sometimes it might be good to start an unexpected journey, and to be a little surprised at what one might find from it. Let's hope it'll be a good one for me!

Saturday, February 12, 2022

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond


🐻 This is my first read of Paddington (and certainly not the last!) It seems to me that the more you aged, the more you need children books for comfort reading. Do you think so too?

🐻 I loved Paddington instantly when the Browns met him for the first time at Paddington Station, sitting alone on his battered suitcase, with a note attached to his coat that reads "Please look after this bear. Thank you."

🐻 Paddington is a young spectacled bear, who's just arrived from Darkest Peru (where his species used to be found). After a huge earthquake killed both his parents, he was raised by his Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo. Before Aunt Lucy entered a retired home for bears, she sent Paddington in a lifeboat to London.


🐻 The Browns decided eventually to let the bear stay with them as a family member, and named him 'Paddington' from the station where they've found him.

🐻 I never like aggressive or mischievous children (both as a child and adult). That's why I'm very fond of Paddington, because he's wonderfully polite - rising his shabby hat (inherited from his Uncle Pastuzo) - when first greeting the Browns. He's also respectable and gentlemanly in manner and appearance.


🐻 But a very quiet bear is rather unappealing in a story, you might think. Don't worry! Besides his politeness, Paddington has another quality: a tendency to please others and right what he innocently thinks is wrong. And from this latter, came endless troubles and hilarious adventures; of which, somehow, Paddington seems to bring more good in the end for himself and for others.

🐻 I loved all the Brown family members, but especially Mrs. Brown and Judy Brown - the daughter. Mr. Brown was hesitate to have anything to do with a bear at first. Nevertheless, he's so sweet in buying the creamiest buns for Paddington, knowing how fond he is of marmelade, when they were waiting for others.

🐻 I also loved Paddington's best friend, Mr. Gruber, the owner of an antique shop on Portobello Road, who always treats him with nothing but respect, discussing serious things with him, and calls him Mr. Brown. Oh, how cute is that?


🐻 Paddington Bear is now a famous character from numerous novels (initially a compilation of several stories), picture books, and - later on - TV series and movies. You can even find his statues at Leicester Square, as well as at Paddington Station. And he truly deserves it. A smart talking bear with unique character and fine manner, with a hard stare that'll melt you when you say something disagreeable, how could one fail to love - and want to hug - him?

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

πŸ’‰ For the first time since I read my first Agatha Christie at the junior high school library, more than thirty years ago, I did not immersed myself into the most important aspect of every detective story: the crime itself, while reading Appointment with Death. Instead, I was mostly enjoying the more interesting psychological theory and discussions around the mentality of both victim and suspect-to-be. For that, I must applause Dame Agatha Christie: Bravo! In fact, I'd prefer to categorize this book under psychological thriller, rather than crime/detective.

πŸ’‰ Old Mrs. Boynton is a sadistic tyrant. She used to work as prison warden when she was young, because she likes to dominate others. Now, instead of the prisoners, she tortures and bullies her own family. Instead of the prison, she imprisons them in the family house. In short, she is an evil person. Her children hate her, but they cannot free themselves from her domineering power.

πŸ’‰ We get to learn these facts from the observations of two fellow travellers (a psychologist and a fresh graduate doctor) during vacations to Jerusalem and Petra which the Boyntons and several others are taking .

πŸ’‰ Along the way to the end of Part One - where the murder takes place - we can feel how the psychological tension is culminating. The atmosphere is ripen with a foreboding climax. And it's safe to say that nobody will have doubt that the victim would be Mrs. Boynton.

πŸ’‰ The most interesting part is that after Mrs. Boynton was found dead (weapon is poison through injection), all I can think of is not who did it, or whose alibi is false, and all the usual stuff related to murder mystery. No, I felt so happy and relieved that her children and daughter in law can now finally be free; that they are still young enough to have a happy normal life; that their "war" is over. I went even further to think what they each should do to start a new life. You know, I was so absorbed to their earlier afflictions, thanks to Christie's genius way of portraying their mental agony. It almost felt like reading Zola, but with modern setting!

πŸ’‰ Not that I didn't enjoy Poirot's investigation process- the usual talking and the grey cell working - I always like them! But it seems almost not important anymore, because their common "enemy" has been defeated. Who cares whodunit? Anyway, subconsciously (because I was not focusing my mind on the crime), I already knew who the murderer is before the revealing chapter. It's so obvious, I believe many mystery fans would be disappointed with this book.

πŸ’‰ Plot wise, it's not Christie's usual standard, but psychology wise, it's wonderful, and it easily becomes my new favorite!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Saturday, January 22, 2022

January Reads & What's Coming in February


The first month of 2022 has been a productive one for me so far, reading wise. I have read 3 books, and will soon start the 4th. The above painting might perfectly reflect my reading mood right now. Not that I read a lot at the cafe - I love that, but since Covid-19 I can't do that anymore *sigh.. - but I often read while it's raining outside (my office, my apartment, my online car). I don't know, but the sound of raindrops is really soothing, and perfect for reading. It's monsoon season here in Indonesia, and I expect to do the reading-while-raining a lot during next month! - (painting: Alicia en el cafe, 2012 by Antonio Varas de La Rosa)

πŸ“š What I've Read in January

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu - ⭐⭐⭐

Who would've guessed that the first novel ever written in the world was actually a work of a Japanese woman in 11th century? It's a romantic glimpse of court lives (and politics) in Heian period. My review will tell you more about this classic. It's my only entry for Japanese Literature Challenge # 15.

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another gem I've rediscovered from Christie! It's more of a psychological thriller than a murder story. For once, I didn't even care of the whodunit! And the investigation seems only to make it eligible to be considered a crime story. Review will follow soon.

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

After a slow start with a an Asian classic, then followed by a psychological thriller, I naturally craved for a comfort reading. And what's better than a children classic? I've never read Paddington before, and was instantly hooked by the first chapter! It's funny and warm. I just finished it yesterday, review will be following.

Statistics

πŸ“Š Total books read: 3
πŸ“Š Challenge progress:
* 2022 TBR Pile Challenge: 1
* Back to the Classics Challenge 2022: 2
* 2022 Chunkster Challenge: 0

And so, I am now ready to face the new month!


πŸ“š What I Will Read in February

February is always special for me. No, it's not because of Valentine's and all the 'love is in the air' crap, no. See, my birthday is in February, and how cool is it that I get to share the same birth month with one of my favorite authors, Charles Dickens?

Therefore, every February I celebrate this special author's birthday with the coolest thing I can think of, that is, reading his book the whole month. And that's how #DickensInFebruary was born.

This year I will read Martin Chuzzlewit. That is one of the last two Dickens' I haven't yet read. Next year will be Barnaby Rudge's turn. After that, I plan to re-read Dickens novels every February.

My copy of Martin Chuzzlewit is of 762 pages, and I'm pretty sure I'd spend the whole month reading it... while raining. Jolly, isn't it?

Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Tale of Genji by Murashaki Shikibu

πŸ‘‘ Murasaki Shikibu was a lady-in-waiting (court lady) in the 11th century Imperial court on the Heian period. And Genji Monogatari (translated to The Tale of Genji) - which is written based on her service period in court - is considered one of the first novels which had ever written in the world.

πŸ‘‘ Genji is the Emperor Kiritsubo's son with his favorite but low ranking concubine from Pauliwnia Court, whom he loved more than the others, more, even, to his wife, Kokiden. The little son was a prodigy (handsome, intelligent, and very talented). And the Emperor would have liked to make him royal prince, but decided not to, because a boy without high rank maternal backing would be tortured by court political backlashes. That was exactly what his mother had experienced (and presumably the cause of her premature death, which caused sadness to the Emperor). Therefore he was brought up instead as a commoner, named Minamoto or Genji.

πŸ‘‘ I couldn't help thinking how lonesome it is being at the top. When one loves a person, the loved one would be hated by others, thus one just causes only grieves to the loved one. Then both would be unhappy.

"Happy are they whose place in the world puts them beneath such notice!
The great ones of the world live sadly constricted lives."


πŸ‘‘ Don't quite understand too why parents at that era (most often the father) thought that sending their daughters to the court would make them happy. But then, that's typical of Asian parents, apparently - telling their children to be so and so "because they know what would make the children happy", while ignoring what the children must have thought for themselves.

πŸ‘‘ And it's also typical of Asian children to obey their parents. Disobeying means disaster, but obeying often leads to another disaster. And it's amazing how generation after generation repeat the same thing, while they know the consequences.


πŸ‘‘ Anyway, a princess called Fujitsubo, whose resemblance with Genji's late mother is uncanny, was brought to the court and won the love of, not only the Emperor's, but also young Genji, despite of his (Genji's) recent marriage with the Minister's daughter (political marriage without consent of neither bride nor groom), right after his initiation as an adult.

πŸ‘‘ By the second chapter, it is clear that Genji is a womanizer, and that the whole story would center mainly on his numerous amorous adventures. His interests extend from young girls to older women, from high rank princess to girls from far lower rank. Of all his women, he respects his wife most, but there's not warm affection from both sides.

πŸ‘‘ Though disapproved of Genji's immorality, I was prepared to tolerate it, as it was the imperial's way of life at the 11th century. However, when he took a beautiful little girl of ten y.o. to "shape" her to resemble Fujitsubo (whose love he cannot have) and to be his future wife; well...I lost a little respect I've reserved for him. Even the little girl's people thought it inappropriate.

πŸ‘‘ I was relieved then, that he kept his promises, to treat Murasaki (the little girl) more like his protegΓ©. She continued to be his favorite lady, though it didn't prevent him from having an affair during his exile - which, by the way, was the result of his other scandalous affair with the Emperor's consort. In short, the tale is about Genji's love affairs, with a little glimpses of court politics at that period, composed neatly with lyrical poems and prose.

What I loved most about this book:

The Poems - I quote one here for you:

"The lady was sad, and more beautiful for the sadness, as she recited a poem:

'They say that it is dawn, that you grow weary.
I weep, my sorrows wrought by myself alone.'


(Genji) answered:

'You tell me that these sorrows must not cease?
My sorrows, my love will neither have an ending.
'”

The art of communications - carefully chosen paper colors and materials for letters, implying different meanings; the handwriting and gradations of ink, intensifying the writer's feeling. Sometimes they exchange fans with some handwriting on the corner.

The musics - They play koto (eight or thirteen strings instrument) and flute, and the best players often brought tears to the listeners. I could well imagine the beauty of such musics. The sounds of Japanese or Chinese Koto and Flute, or Indonesian gamelan, always bring peace into your soul.

πŸ‘‘ Tale of Genji's original manuscript actually composed of fifty four chapters. The one I read is the abridgment, of Edward G. Seidensticker's translation, containing twelve chapters. I've randomly chose this version, mainly because its availability on Google Playbooks. But after small researches through google, I'm glad I'd pick this up in the first place - it's considered quite following the original rather strictly, but not too scholarly to cause you headache. 386 pages of Genji is the perfect dose, I guess, and with all the beautiful poems along with prose, one can follow nicely the tale.

If you need more references to which translations to pick, check this blog's helpful and thorough comparation of half a dozen versions of Genji's.

πŸ‘‘ The only setback is its inconclusive ending. But again, I didn't feel like reading further of Genji, so I guess, this is it. It's worth to read for its literary value and classic beauty, but not more.

Rating : 3 / 5


Sunday, January 9, 2022

Back to the Classics Challenge 2022

I'm so glad that Karen have decided to host another Back to the Classics Challenge this year (it's the ninth!), since it's another of my most favorite reading challenges. Basically it challenges you to read classics for twelve categories. Here's my list (it may change along the way, according to my reading mood):

1. A 19th century classic:
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

2. A 20th century classic
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster 

3. A classic by a woman author
A Lost Lady by Willa Cather

4. A classic in translation
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

5. A classic by BIPOC author
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

6. Mystery/Detective/Crime Classic
Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

7. A Classic Short Story Collection
For a Night of Love by Emile Zola

8. Pre-1800 Classic
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

9. A Nonfiction Classic
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

10. Classic That's Been on Your TBR List the Longest
Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

11. Classic Set in a Place You'd Like to Visit
Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie (English rural village)

12. Wild Card Classic
Evelina by Frances Burney (18th century classic)

Will you participate in this year's challenge too? Which books from my list interest/intrigue you most?

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The 2022 TBR Pile Challenge




My first post of 2022 is for one of my most favorite reading challenges: TBR Pile Challenge, hosted by Adam @ Roof Beam Reader. For me personally, it's not really a challenge, since I rarely read newly published books (if any, it's not more than one or two a year), thus my reading plans are mostly based on books from my TBR pile.

The 2022 TBR Pile Challenge - the Master List

  1. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
  2. Orang-Orang Bloomington (People from Bloomington) by Budi Darma
  3. Evelina by Frances Burney
  4. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
  5. Mrs. Osmond by John Banville
  6. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  7. For A Night of Love by Γ‰mile Zola
  8. Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  9. Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
  10. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
  11. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
  12. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier


Alternative

  1. The Bhagavad Gita by Anonymous
  2. Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim