Friday, 28 September 2012

Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

Date of Reading: 25/09/2012
Author: Thomas Hardy
Publisher: Peacock Books
Place: New Delhi
Year: 2010

          At last I found something enjoyable in Hardy. Oh! That he is a great author is indisputable, yet no one wants to be reminded of the wretchedness of human life or fate's play in all the books. He can be humorous, if he wants it seems.
          I won't put Bathsheba in the same pedestal with Tess; Hardy's prejudice against women is evident in her character creation also. Though brave, her mood shifts too much and so the lack of firmness of  character, much important to a woman, leads her to all these troubles. At times we suspect that the fate of Isabel Archer ('Portrait of a Lady') awaits her too, but it is lucky that Hardy was determined to make a happy ending. He tries to make some amends in the end saying that "she was of the stuff that great men's mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises". But here also she is just a great man's mother, not a great woman.
          No wonder the villain is named Troy. Like the Paris of Troy, he only knows how to woo women and create trouble. The war he and his Helen makes here almost destroys the life of poor Boldwood. Its pity that his fate is not much improved at the end too. Hardy is not without pessimism after all.
         All in all, I will recommend this to anyone who is interested in a different reading of Hardy. The music and beauty of rustic life, their idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies makes this the most humorous of Hardy's novels.
          The story revolves around young and amorous but capricious Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors. At the beginning of the story she is but a poor maid and Gabriel Oak, then a farmer, proposes to her. Alas! she holds herself a little more worthy and rejects our hero. Later Oak is financially ruined when his sheepdog drives his folk over a cliff and on seeking the job of a shepherd, he finds it under the now wealthy Bathsheba.
          When she unwisely sends an anonymous valentine to her neighbour farmer Boldwood, he takes it seriously as to fall in love with her, though until then he was immune to the charms of the fair sex. Ashamed of her conduct, Bathsheba almost agrees to marry him, but then the dashing Sergeant Troy enters the scene. He was in love with Bathsheba's maid Fanny Robin but they fail to marry when she enters the wrong church for the ceremony. With a sudden impulse our heroine marries Troy.
          After several months Troy meets the pregnant, tired Fanny on wayside. She dies later on giving birth to a dead child. Bathsheba comes to know of her husband's former relation and she properly buries Fanny. Troy erects an elegant tomb for his beloved and wanders away. A rumour spreads that he is drowned.
         Boldwood uses the opportunity to renew his suits, but when he organises a Christmas party in honour of her, the supposed-to-be-dead husband reappears. He forces Bathsheba to return and she screams; Boldwood on losing his mind at this, shoots Troy dead. He is convicted to gallows but later Queen's mercy changes it to confinement. Bathsheba buries her husband with Fanny on the same place.
Thomas Hardy
         All through her troubles the hand that supported her was Oak's. When he resigns his job and tries to go away to work in his own farm, she realises that her friendship to him has turned to love. Novel ends with their quiet marriage.

Something to think about:

"He had passed the time during which the influence of youth indiscriminately mingles them in the character of impulse, and he had not yet arrived at the stage wherein they become united again, in the character of prejudice, by the influence of a wife and family. In short, he was twenty-eight, and a bachelor".

"It may have been observed that there is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has been known to fail".

"We learn that it is not the rays which bodies absorb, but those which they reject, that give them the colours they are known by; and in the same way people are specialized by their dislikes and antagonisms,whilst their goodwill is looked upon as no attribute at all."

"Women are never tired of bewailing man's fickleness in love, but they only seem to snub his constancy".        

Friday, 21 September 2012

Into Deep Waters - Kaje Harper

Date of Reading:25/07/2012
Author: Kaje Harper
Publisher: M/M Romance Group
Rating: 4/5

          This book is a product of the 'Love is Always Write' promotion sponsored by the Goodreads M/M Romance group. You can download it as a free e-book from goodreads website. The group invited the members to choose a photo and pen a letter for a short M/M romance story inspired by the image. Authors in the group is encouraged to select a letter and write an original tale. Kaje Harper's is one of those.

          A word of caution before proceeding; if you are in anyway prejudiced against gays don't even think about reading this book. Book is an excellent choice for gays and neutral ones. Prose is beautifully written and it feels like a romance like any other. The two lovers do everything a man and woman do together and the author hasn't censored anything also. So those who believe this is something unnatural, beware!, you might actually vomit.
          Daniel Acardi and Jacob Segal meets in 1942 
during World War II as officers of Navy and soon finds mutually attracted. Their relationship flourishes secretly behind empty locker rooms and rented secluded hotels. When their ship comes under attack, Jacob is hurt but timely saved by Daniel. Jacob is sent home to heal, while his lover's fate is to fight some more.
          War ends at last and they move in together. Jacob's family pretends that Daniel does not exist and Danny is not welcome to his own home either. Jacob works in his father's medical shop and as a commercial artist Daniel also finds a life. Like any other normal family they also has little fights -- once Jacob even doubts his lover spends time with other gays. 
         Years pass by and the gays begin to come to the public unafraid, voices are raised for the right to marriage. Attitudes of the younger generation is also changing. Jacob's sister is tolerant and his nieces enjoy the luxury of two uncles.
         At last on July 25, 2011 at the age of eighty-seven they marry with the permission of New York state in the presence of family and friends.
"As their hands parted, the ring fell. For a moment it floated on the surface of the water, catching little glints of sun in the interwoven silver and copper strands. Daniel reached for Jacob's hand again, and laced their fingers together, watching it. . . Slowly the ring of their entwined hair slipped below the surface. Another moment and it was gone from sight, heading downwards, carrying his love and Jacob's down safely this time, into deep waters."

Friday, 14 September 2012

Movie Review: Thor

Title : Thor
Directed by : Kenneth Branagh
Starring : Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman
Year : 2011
          In my English class it is taught that intonation does matter. So if you ask me whether I like this film, I will say 'yes'. Ask again, 'Do you like this?', the answer will be 'Hmm... it's OK'. The thing is nothing here is completely developed; this is not a full fledged love story, no great actions to talk as a superhero movie, and Thor hasn't got a chance to show his worth (nothing to make the spectator love him, well... other than good looks).
           On the other hand, look at his villain brother, poor chap! I wouldn't mind if he is made the hero. Another pathetic example of a hybrid figure (same condition of the colonised people).He is lead to believe that Frost Giants, his own people, are bad but he won't be accepted as an Asgardian (Asgardian in manners and clothing seems to be not enough). The condition of being neither here nor there, is enough to make anyone a villain.
           Another irritating fact is the canonisation of the father, Odin. 'Father won't do anything without a reason', chimes his wife every day. Then why did the all knowing Odin All Father brought up a child ignorant of his identity! It didn't turn out well too.
          May be we have to blame the script. But on the whole film is entertaining. Nice setting and costume for sure. Now to the story.
           Frost Giants of Jotunheim is about to conquer the whole world, beginning with earth and Asgardians led by their king Odin comes for the timely rescue. The evil is defeated and their source of power, The Casket of Ancient Winters is taken.
         Odin's elder son Thor is about to take the throne, but the ceremony is interrupted when some of the Frost Giants attempt a break through. Against his father's orders, Thor with his brother Loki and his friends attacks Jotunheim, and as a result Odin expels his son to earth as a mortal. Only on proving worthy he can wield his hammer again. Jane Foster, an astrophysicist takes him in and they fall in love.
         Meanwhile Loki realises that he is a Frost Giant, therefore the adopted son of Odin. When his father falls into some sort of hibernation, he takes power and tries to destroy the Frost Giants himself to prove his worth. He tries to kill Thor too, but when Thor sacrifices his life to save his friends, his power returns.
          The new Thor who has learned tolerance at last, prevents Loki and he falls to an abyss. Thor can never return to his mortal love. 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

Date of Reading: 31/08/2012
Author: Umberto Eco
Translated by: William Weaver (from Italian)
Publisher: Warner Books
Place: San Diego
Year: 1980

          Once I had to face an exam which they said the most important in my life, and consequently the serious faces around made me panic. So now when I read this book I know what Jorge (the villain here) says about the second book of Aristotle which is said to be dealing with comedy is true. Laughter can dispel fear, it may change everything (possibly the outcome of my exam too, which was by the way, disastrous).
         Detective novels are usually considered by the so-called scholars as not worth reading and so not in anyone's academic curriculum. But here Umberto Eco has succeeded in producing a scholarly work within the frame work of crime fiction. All these facts about the Dark Ages of the Catholic Church is pretended to be non-existent, so a common reader will have to struggle hard to make some sense of this religious dilemma. So what keeps the pace is the frame story, the seven murders and the mystery pursued by William, the follower of Roger Bacon (a monk who upholds scientific belief is a strange combination indeed!), who reminds us often of Sherlock Holmes.
          The year is 1327. Adso a young novice of the Benedictine order is placed under William of Baskerville as a scribe and disciple by his parents. Church is going through what we now call the dark ages; Pope John XXII presides over Avignon and is in conflict with Emperor Louis. Factions are arising, condemning the Pope and is consequently burned as heretics by inquisition committees.
        Pope is now turned against the Franciscan order too, as they proclaim their faith in the doctrine of poverty of Christ. So William, an English man and Franciscan is to find a suitable place for the meeting between the leaders of the Franciscan order and the envoys of the Pope. As per this intention they travel to this distant abbey where terrible events are to take place in seven days.
         Adso's memoir is divided into seven days describing everything in detail. By the time they reach the abbey the death of the first man - Adelmo - has already taken place and William as a former Inquisitor is charged with the enquiry by the abbot. Secret seems to lie within the library which functions as a labirynth and is forbidden to the free roaming of others. Two more deaths follow - Venatius and Berengar - and the meeting of the envoys convene under the shadow of these recent events. Soon the herbalist, Severinus is also killed and the cellarer and his companion is mistaken for the crime. The meeting ends in vain.
         The death of Malachi, the librarian clears the mist and William succeeds in finding the clue to enter the secret place in the library, named finis Africae. Abbot becomes the sixth victim and William and Adso finds Jorge, the old blind monk, in the finis Africae. The brain behind the murders is discovered at last. He was preventing the second book of Aristotle which deals with comedy to come to the public eye.
          The book enhances the virtues of laughter, its power to quench fear and consequently Jorge feared that it could ruin the power of Church as it governs on fear. So he hides it all these years, but when the young people with their lust for knowledge, begin to search for finis Africae, he smears the book in poison and all who read it got killed. Only Adelmo's death was a suicide as a result of his sinning with Berengar.
         When he fails to convince (or kill) William, Jorge tears the pages and gulps it down. In the fight that ensued, a lamp is toppled over, the library catches fire and soon it spread to the whole abbey. All the deaths that occurred had corresponded to the signs warning the arrival of Antichrist which was only a coincidence. But as William says towards the end, we see the Antichrist in Jorge, "the Antichrist can be born from piety itself, from excessive love of God or of the truth, as the heretic is born from the saint and the possessed from the seer".

Umberto Eco
          William and Adso parts ways never to see each other again. Adso returns to the monastery at Melk where he writes down this manuscript as an old man. William, it is informed that, dies in the great plague.

Something to think about:
"The idea is sign of things, and the image is sign of the idea, sign of a sign".

"The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things. Without an eye to read them, a book contains signs that produce no concepts; therefore it is dumb".

"A dream is a scripture, and many scriptures are nothing but dreams".

--- the book is made into a film in 1986 starring Sean Connery as William and Christian Slater as Adso
--- the title is said to be neutral, nothing related to the story 
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