Tag Archives: literature

What we should all choose to read

4 May
200px-ChaimPotok_TheChosen

The book is set in Brooklyn, New York in the 1940s. Historical events that provide the backdrop for the story are the end of World War II, the holocaust in Europe, and the creation of the state of Israel.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok is by far the best book I have read in a long time. Not only is it well written but deep as well. Anyone who has ever experienced the depth of true friendship will find this book a treasure. The themes are profound and universal; you don’t need to be a Jew to enjoy this story.

The story is about two Jewish fathers and their sons. A baseball game gone crazy makes the two sons meet. They become fast friends. Each discovers the other; what they stand for, their hopes for the future, their family inclinations. Despite their differences, they are very good friends. This book teaches friendship and empathy in the deepest level.

I particularly liked the two quotes that I found at the beginning of the book:

-When a trout rising to a fly gets hooked on a line and finds himself unable to swim about freely, he begins with a fight which results in struggles and splashes and sometimes an escape. Often, of course, the situation is too tough for him.

In the same way, the human being struggles with his environment and with the hooks that catch him. Sometimes he masters his difficulties; sometimes they are too much for him. His struggles are all that the world sees and it naturally misunderstands them. It is hard for a free fish to understand what is happening to a hooked one. -Karl A. Menninger

-True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in the worth and choice. -Ben Jonson

Little women by Louisa May Alcott

11 Dec

I’ve just finished reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. It was such a delight. The story is simple: four little girls growing up and finding their feet in the world. But such simple plot is told in such sweetness and truth that the reader wipes the tears that gather as he closes the last page.

Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March are as different as north is from south. Meg with her motherly instinct guards all the girls; Jo, a tomboy is always frolicking around with her friend Laurie and doing “larks”; Beth, always happy to be calm and to mind the others; and little Amy is the model of propriety. Even their talents are very diverse; Meg is a natural homemaker, Jo writes, Beth is sweetness itself and Amy plays and draws. Yet, they get on so well together, that it seems a miracle, until we discover their mother’s hand in the not so little miracle.

Grow up they must, and face the world, but only after facing their little battles within. They flourish beautifully, and their families at the end of the book are a real work of art. It is what I call a really GOOD story, in the real sense of the word and I thank the little Marches for such a delightful read. Truly, the story went straight to my heart, to be cherished forever!

Real life lessons from fantasy!

3 May

I never knew that I would enjoy fantasy this much!

Until I came across Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. Now,  Orthodoxy is not a fantasy book, but as I was perusing the book I have had in my shelf for a long time now deciding whether to read it or return it to the library, something about fantasy caught my eye. Since I am reading Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, I stayed glued to the spot, eager to hear what Chesterton had to say about fantasy and fairy tales.

He was talking about his life in nursery. “The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. They seem to me to be the entirely reasonable things… fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense.”

I could hardly believe my ears, oops, my eyes. It felt as though he was cracking a joke. I felt justified in pushing away those textbooks I have to study in favour of Brisingr (if we put fantasy in the same category as fairy tales). Later, however, I got to the crux of the matter when he explains the ethic and philosophy contained in the fairy tales. Here are a few examples: the lesson of Cinderella is that the humble shall be exalted, Beauty and the Beast teaches us that a thing, or a person, must be loved before they are lovable, the terrible allegory of the Sleeping Beauty which tells of how the human creature was blessed with all birthday gifts, yet cursed with death; and how death also may perhaps be softened to a sleep.

This left me thinking: is there more to the story, especially fantasy, than possibly meets the eye? Are there any moral lessons?

What could I possibly draw from Brisingr, or Eldest or Eragon?

Then a thought hit me. If I tried I could possibly come up with a moral lesson or two. Many are the times that Eragon wishes to have an answer to a tricky situation and asks those with him of what he ought to do. Now Saphira, his dragon and Oromis, his instructor, tell him many times that he ought to think and come up with the solution himself. It would not help him if they told him what to do at all times. In fact, regarding his training, he asks if Oromis can let him have the qualities he need to have by magic, which would be a lot easier and would certainly save on time. But Oromis replies that he would not understand his new abilities as well as if he had gained them the ordinary way: by hard work.

On another occasion, he asks to be told his true name, but Oromis is reluctant. “If I gave you it, you might profit thereof, but you would do so without the wisdom you would otherwise acquire during the journey to find your true name. A person must earn enlightment. It is not handed down to you by others, regardless of how revered they are”

I somehow felt consoled that I have to sit and do my assignments, and put in hours of study for the forthcoming exams. After all, knowledge has to be acquired the hard way, otherwise it is not appreciated! (According to Brisingr)

I could go on and on, but you get the picture, and to tell the truth, I would like to catch up on what happened next in Brisingr. On second thoughts, maybe after finishing my assignment!