Sunday, June 26, 2022

Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald

๐Ÿ”ต If you've been following my latest blog posts, you'd notice that I had shrunk before from reading this short story collection for #JazzAgeJune2022. I was daunted, at first, by my bulky Penguin Classics copy - 643 pages and, uh, so many stories (it's pictured in this post; gorgeous, isn't it? Probably the most gorgeous book I've ever owned!) However, browsing on google I realised that my copy isn't the Flappers and Philosophers originally published in 1920, which contained only eight stories, 200-ish pages only! And of those eight, only three stories appeared in my copy. So, I decided to keep reading Flappers and Philosophers as I've originally planned, but reading it from the original version - for which I reluctantly bought another e-copy from Play Books.

๐Ÿ”ต Readers, it's totally worth it! The eight stories are all awesome, and I think this is the first time that I enjoyed a short story collection this much! Each story is memorable and worth reading (usually there will be at least one or two 'meh' stor(ies) in a collection that throws off the whole book).

๐Ÿ”ต I will discuss about each story here, so be prepared, 'cos this would be a long post... The first one, The Offshore Pirate reminds me a lot of The Great Gatsby. The prominent theme is the American Dream. Just like Jay Gatsby, Carlyle started off in the world as poor nobody, but he was obsessed with aristocracy. To obtain it, he becomes a pirate. Ardita, on the other hand, is a wealthy young girl who is bored and craved for excitement. She is on board of the yacht that Carlyle is about to rob. This story is about the young generation who was lazy, careless, egostic; whose monomania is to get rich instantly without caring of morality. It's also about the fading away of a dream... Overall, it's a delicious story to start a book! I enjoyed the ragtime and the adventurous sea journey vibes. And when a story begins with "a sea that was a blue dream, as colorful as blue-sky stockings, and beneath a sky as blue as the irises of children's eyes"... why, I'm sold instantly! This is actually one of my favorites, the most adventurous one.

๐Ÿ”ต Still on quite similar theme, The Ice Palace tells about a young girl, Sally Carol, who, bored with stagnant and lazy air of the hot Southerner, but longed to get excitement, engaged to a Northern young man, who brought her to his hometown in the cold North. They visited the Ice Palace, where Sally Carol got lost and almost frozen to death. And that experience kinda open her eyes of what she really wanted. This story is the most thrilling of all eight.

๐Ÿ”ต The funniest story is definitely the third one: Head and Shoulders. Horace Tarbox is a young prodigy of Princeton. However, his much predicted bright future changed 180 degree after a dancer, Marcia Meadows, comes to visit him one evening. This one is extremely entertaining and hilarious, witty and ironic. And I believe, only Fitzgerald who could bring it so perfect.

๐Ÿ”ต Don't laugh too much, though, because right after the last sentence of the third story, Fitzgerald plunged you to the most serious and tragic story of the book: The Cut-Glass Bowl. A newlywed couple, Harold and Evylyn Piper, received a large cut-glass bowl as wedding present. Their marriage was hit by disaster after disaster, which somehow, were always connected with the cut-glass bowl. I think Fitzgerald has wonderfully portrayed marriage in the wedding presents metaphor. The chinas, punch bowls are all beautiful at first, but sooner or later things would happen that would defect them; just as marriage. "...even the dinner glasses disappeared one by one like the ten little niggers.." - hey, did Fitzgerald just borrowed the same nursery rhymes that Agatha Christie also used for And Then There Were None?

๐Ÿ”ต Bernice Bobs Her Hair is the most "feminine" story of the book (I think it's also appears in Tales of the Jazz Age). It tells the story of Bernice, a mixed-race rural young girl who visited her cousin, a popular girl in the city named Marjorie. Bernice isn't popular with the boys at first, but after successful lessons from Marjorie, she begins to be center of attention; however, not without consequences. Jealous of Bernice, who attracted even Marjorie's beau, Marjorie challenged her to bob her hair. Girls' hair is considered to make a girl feminine and innocence. Bobbing hair means that the girl will lose certain qualities that attract men. Now I understand why Daisy in The Great Gatsby wanted her daughter to be a fool, "a beautiful little fool", because that's a guarantee to get a good husband, and good husband means good future. This might be one of my least favorites of the collection.

๐Ÿ”ต Benediction brings you yet another aspect of 1920s youths. I guess Fitzgerald's Catholic upbringing must have had influenced this story. On the way to a love tryst with a young man, Lois (not a devot Catholic) visits a seminary to meet her brother Kieth, who is to be ordained as priest. While attending a Benediction in the chapel, Lois experiences a kind of spiritual change. Not a very interesting plot for a story, perhaps, but it gives Fitzgerald opportunity to discuss the 1920s youths' views of religion.

๐Ÿ”ต Dalyrimple Goes Wrong is the opposite of its predecessor. It's about a war veteran, Dalyrimple, a lazy and immoral young man, who contemplated that to make ends meet, "cutting corners" or being "at the other side of the fence" is not wrong. It's just of "being hard" in order to have a better life. But is it so? This one, I think, is the most boring of the collection.

๐Ÿ”ต Now, I believe that to be a good short story collection, the last story must at least act as some sort of closure of the various themes presented through out. In this case, The Four Fists did a good job. Samuel Meredith comes from a wealthy family, and growing up, he always lives a comfortable life. Unconsciously, that quality can easily make a person to be arrogant and selfish - two characters that lead to evil. Samuel was nearly there too, but he's saved by the four punches he'd received during his life; in school, in college, when he's falling in love with a married woman, and the last, at work. Each of these punches wakes him up from selfishness, and steer him to be more considerate to others.

๐Ÿ”ต All in all, I felt that this is a beautifully written, cohesive short story collection, depicted the Flappers (careless youths) of its time, but also a reminder that youths also had choices to be "on the right side of the fence". Flappers and philosophers seems to be a yin and yang of the Jazz Age era.

Rating: 5 / 5

Monday, June 20, 2022

Paris in July 2022


Paris in July is back again this year! As a Francophile, it's one of my most favorite reading events of the year. This time Tamara @ Thyme for Tea will collaborate with Deb @ Readerbuzz to host the event. For you who are not familiar with it, here are what's going to happen during the month:


The aim of the month is to celebrate our French experiences through reading, watching, listening, observing, cooking and eating all things French!
There will be no rules or targets in terms of how much you need to do or complete in order to be a part of this experience – just blog about anything French and you can join in! Some ideas might include;

  • reading a French themed book – fiction or non-fiction,
  • watching a French movie,
  • listening to French music,
  • cooking French food,
  • experiencing French, art, architecture and travel
  • tasting French wine, or testing French cocktails
  • celebrating le quatorze juillet or Bastille Day

And here are what I'm planning to do:

Books

I will take a month break from classics, and will have fun with these contemporary books - fiction and non fiction:

* My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream by Janine Marsh
* The Girl, the Dog, and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad
* My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life by Janine Marsh

My plan is to read book-1 and 2, and if I really like book-1, then I'll go on to book-3. If not, I'll perhaps grab another book.


Movies/TV Series

For months I have added some French TV series into my Netflix "My List", and Paris in July 2022 would the best event to binge watch them all. Here're some from the list that I will choose from later (I might only watch 2-3 from them - any suggestion?):

TV Series
* The 7 Lives of Lea (supernatural thriller)

      * Standing Up (comedy about comedians)
* The Hook Up Plan (romance)
* A Very Secret Service (comedy)

Movies
* Midnight in Paris - of course, I have to re-watch this one every year, because I love Paris, but especially Paris in the 1920s!
* Stuck Together (comedy)

Other French Things To Do...

* Recently I love a YouTube channel: A walk in Paris. It's basically a video where a Parisian takes a walk in certain area. Watching it makes me calm, and I feel like taking the walk myself. I'd do more of it during the month!
* Listening to some French music? Maybe...

It would be full of fun, I can't wait!! :)

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Evelina by Frances Burney

♦️ Evelina, or A Young Lady's Entrance into the World is the complete title of this epistolary novel by a 18th century female British author: Frances Burney. This is my first time reading Burney, and I guess I'd like to read more of her. Though, like any other 18th century literature, Burney's flowery sentences often overwhelmed me, I enjoyed her witty satire very much.

♦️ Evelina can be considered a "half" orphaned girl. Or what would you call a girl whose mother has been denied by her husband (Sir Bellmont), and who then died after giving birth to her (the girl); while the father has never owned her, and so she was raised and educated by a village Reverend?

♦️ This story starts when Evelina's grandmother (her mother's mother) came to claim her. She brought Evelina - until then being sequestered under the Reverend's protection - out in the society; the opera, dinner parties, and what not. You can imagine how she made foolish blunders after blunders, especially in handling young men's attentions.

♦️ There are two particular young men who would take an important influence on Evelina - and kind of shape her future. The one is Sir Clement Willoughby, a boisterous, impertinent young nobleman who pesters Evelina wherever she goes, and forces her to love him. The other is Lord Orville, a charming, polite, and a truly gentleman, whom Evelina sees as a perfect character. And of course, it is this young lord who steals Evelina's gentle and kind heart.

♦️ Most of the chapters seem to be dedicated to tell us how the smitten Evelina, a high educated young woman, is ashamed of the shallow people with whom she is forced to associate with, and tries hard to conceal it from Lord Orville. But circumstances always plunge her to the worst incidents, right when Lord Orville is around to witness it. And that's what make the story more interesting.

♦️ These series of blunders was at first felt tedious to me, but along the way I quite enjoyed the hilarious comical scenes, particularly when I have got used to the tedious sentences.

♦️ It is interesting to learn about society mechanism in 18th century. I was confused, particularly, by the letter from Lord Orville that Evelina thought is impertinent, that she feels thoroughly insulted. I read it twice, and found nothing's wrong. I thought it's over-sensitivity on Evelina, but later on the Reverend has also the same opinion. I guess written communications are more intriguing because we can't hear the "tone", and just have to "read between the lines" to measure the exact sentiment that the writer means to convey. One thing I would've loved to keep from the 18th century is the art of correspondence!

♦️ Overall this is a very enjoyable novel, but only when you read slowly, savoring every passage. Otherwise, it's be just a bunch of tedious letters.

Rating: 4 / 5

Saturday, June 11, 2022

A Lost Lady by Willa Cather


๐Ÿ‘’ The lady suggested by the title is a Mrs. Marian Forrester, wife of Captain Forrester, a noble pioneer of a prairie town called Sweet Water. She is an exceptional woman with elegant beauty and lively spirits; gracious, warm, and kind. People respect the couple, and the boys, in particular, always praises Mrs. Forrester.

๐Ÿ‘’ One of the boys who grows up idolizing Mrs. Forrester is Niel Herbert. It is from his point of view that we witness her gradual social decline, which, at the same time represents that of the American West frontier, amidst the rising of industrial capitalism.

๐Ÿ‘’ At first I thought Niel is falling in love with Mrs. Forrester, but it turns out that it is only what she represents that charmed him: elegance, dignity, and nobleness of a lady. How sad he becomes when first witnessing Mrs. Forrester's love affair with Frank Ellinger, and later on, Ivy Peters, the coarse, vulgar businessman.

๐Ÿ‘’ Mrs. Forrester wants to reach the glorious past which she missed, and to achieve that, she is ready to sacrifice her own self. Morality, dignity, are not important anymore, but that vague and glittering thing - the American Dream!

๐Ÿ‘’ And that's essentially what this novel (novella?) is about. It is a dreamy, poetic, and charming story of the glorious past, on the brink of modernization. It has the similar quality of The Great Gatsby - in fact, Fitzgerald himself owned that this book was his great inspiration for The Great Gatsby.

๐Ÿ‘’ As always, Cather never disappoints me; her writing is calming and beautiful. It's another of my favorites.

Rating: 5 / 5

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie


๐Ÿ–ค I don't think this is a book which many of you will be interested to read what I thought about. It seems that at some points, everyone has read this one of Christie's masterpieces, at least once. Or have you never read it? Then you should! If you only plan to read only a few from Christie, pick this as one of them.

๐Ÿ–ค As for myself, this is probably my fourth reading, so I doubt I could add anything new to write, but as I always write about what I read..., here we go...

๐Ÿ–ค I won't put a proper synopsis here, for most of you might have known the story already. But for those who haven't, it's about ten strangers who are invited to spend holidays in a deserted island (Indian Island), where one by one was mysteriously murdered, to the last person standing.

๐Ÿ–ค It seems like a usual crime story, but what makes it outstanding, is how Christie crafted it in a dark, superstitious, looming-danger atmosphere, that will send chills down your spine during the entire reading. That aspect, perhaps, is what makes it so beloved by fans, and gives it title as one of the best mystery novels ever written.

๐Ÿ–ค As I have read it many times before, the whodunnit aspect gave me less thrill than for first time reader. I didn't care whether the murderer is one of the ten, or perhaps an 'invisible' stranger on the island. I know who the murderer is, I know who would die next, and how. This time I was focusing more on the psychological aspect of each character, and more importantly, how Christie crafted her ingenious plot without, for once, revealing the murderer. Considering the motive - which was revealed on the guests' first night on the spot - we should have easily guessed which one has the most interest, and therefore, the most probable murderer. But I bet many of you, like me, can't! ๐Ÿคญ And that only highlighted Christie's admirable genius.

๐Ÿ–ค I believe this might be my last reading of this book, as I have feeling that this book's charm will keep fading on every further rereads I'd do in the future. And hence this post/review. Let me just remember Christie's genius which, years ago, has once given me one of the best reading experiences I'd ever had in my life.

Rating: 4,5 / 5