Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
"A chair, a table, a lamp. Above, on the white ceiling, a relief ornament in the shape of a wreath, and in the center of it a blank space, plastered over, like the place in a face where the eye has been taken out. There must have been a chandelier, once. They've removed anything you could tie a rope to. "
About the book: The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood, which was first published in 1985.
Summary: (from Goodreads) Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining fertility, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...
My Thoughts: This may seem like a very halfhearted review and I do not blame you for thinking that. I don't usually tend to write reviews about books I don't like, unless they're review copies, in which case I have to. It's because I am mostly unable to think of anything to write. But since I read this book as part of a challenge, I decided to go ahead and write the review.
I have seen this book compared to Orwell's 1984 countless times. I won't try to tell you how wrong those comparisons were; I merely want to show how wonderful I expected this book to be. What I got, instead, was very clumsy writing; not to mention very little character development and an average plot.
The book starts out painfully slow. The writing is childlike, with short pretentious sentences, too many metaphors, an inconsistent narrative and for some reason, no quotation marks. The authors tries too hard to sound beautiful, scary, touching. Throughout the book, the reader is kept in the dark about most important things, and instead presented with a whole lot of irrelevant details. Till the very end you don't get a clear explanation of why the world is this way, what drove the characters and we never find out what happened of half the characters.
So much of the plot is withheld for so long, and I can think of no other reason why the author would do this than to attempt to keep the audience intrigued. I wasn't intrigued, just confused, slightly irritated and sort of amused. The only reason I kept reading the book was because I had to find out if the mystery ever ends.
I wish the book had a more intricate plot, or better developed characters. The book would make a much stronger statement, if only all the underlying themes such as gender, sex, caste, class and patriarchy were, in fact, underlying. I like books that have a point to make, but not if the message starts to hinder the plot and character development. I appreciated the basic premise of the book, the world that the author has tried to create and the impact she's tried to make; but that basic idea was the only thing I am completely certain I liked.
If someone asks me how I find this book, I won't say I hate it, because I don't; I would just call it okay.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Monday, February 13, 2012
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Willow - The one boy that’s really liked me, and he’s a demon robot. What does that say about me?
Buffy - It doesn’t say anything about you.
Willow - I mean, I thought I was really falling…
Buffy - Hey, did you forget? The one boy I’ve had the hots for since I’ve moved here turned out to be a vampire.
Xander - Right, and the teacher I had a crush on? Giant praying mantis.
Willow - That’s true.
Xander - Yeah, that’s life on the Hellmouth.
Buffy - Let’s face it, none of us are ever gonna have a happy, normal relationship.
Xander - We’re doomed!
Willow - Yeah!
[They all laugh, though their laughter quickly becomes nervous and stops..]
This post may be ten years late, (and ten pages long... sorry!), but I'm still going through with it.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) is probably my favourite television show ever. If this makes you roll your eyes or smirk or go 'ew, really', then you've never seen the show, or worse, only seen the movie. I don't like love stories, which diminishes my stock of Valentine's Day themed posts considerably. What I do like are witty, romantic sub-plots, which this series is full of. I know it's old, but what the show lacks in effects and technology, it makes up for in the ingenuity of the plots and the amazing script. It's not a love story, because it's more like an action-story about the Slayer and all her fighting and saving the world stuff. The trio, Buffy, Willow and Xander, fight demons on a regular basis, guided by Watcher and high school librarian, Rupert Giles. Sunnydale high is situated directly on the Hellmouth, a place where all the evil in the world converges. And isn't that what high school is like, anyway?
Still. BtVS has got a lot more to do with romance than it initially lets on. A witch in love with a werewolf; a witch losing control of her powers, using dark magic, and wanting to end the world when the love of her life dies; a thousand year old demon girl falling for a human boy; a vampire restoring his soul for a human...
The vampire-in-love-with-a human concept is old news, now. I haven't seen it as deep and insightful ever as in Buffy. In Buffyverse, when a human is turned into a vampire he loses his soul or conscience, his ability to care, making him just a ruthless killer. Angel, however, is a vampire who is cursed with a soul, to make him eternally suffer for his sins.Buffy can't help being attracted to him (I mean, have you seen David Boreanaz?) They kiss and he turns into his vampire self. Being the slayer, she sets out to kill him, until she finds about the curse that keeps him "good". Their relationship develops and when they have sex, in that moment of perfect happiness, the curse on Angel is revoked, turning him ruthless again. He begins to terrorize Buffy and her friends, and plans to destroy the world. Prior to a huge fight, Willow somehow restores Angel's soul, but it's too late. Buffy kills Angel. He is banished to a Hell dimension, where he seemingly spends an eternity before mysteriously returning to Earth, a few months later. Though Buffy and Angel get back together, noticing the effects he has on Buffy's life, Angel decides to leave her; hoping that she would be happier without him. And unlike most vampire-human love stories, he goes for good. He loves her enough not to risk her life. She keeps loving him till the very end, though. I think Buffy and Angel make the perfect example of forbidden love, the most real one at any rate.
With Angel gone and high school over, Buffy is at a turning point in her life; soon, she meets the perfect guy, Riley Finn. Riley is an agent in a top secret government operation to capture, study and incapacitate demons. Riley already knows about the supernatural world and Buffy finally finds a human boyfriend, whom she can be completely honest with. Soon, though, Riley begins to think of himself as a liability to Buffy. Seeking thrills (and also, assuming Buffy loved Angel because he was a vampire) Riley lets a female vampire feed on him, which later turns into a sort of addiction. Buffy finds out and their relationship ends when Rileys leaves Sunnydale.
The third big romance for Buffy is another vampire, Spike. After Buffy is magically resurrected from the dead by her friends, she feels lost and lonely. Spike is everything Buffy hates about this world, and the only one she can talk to. They start a violent, sexual relationship. Buffy breaks it off, when she realizes that she is just using him to get over her own suffering. Afterward Spike almost rapes her, losing her trust completely. Wanting to prove that he is good enough for Buffy, Spike undergoes a series of trials and - wins back his soul.
Spike returns to Sunnydale completely crazy. He is haunted by the memories of the people he tortured. When Buffy learns about his newly-acquired soul, she lets him back into her life. They never develop a relationship again, though they are close. He is her only support, when everyone else turns their back on her. In their very last fight, Spike dies to save the world. And when's he's about to die, Buffy holds his hand and tells him that she loves him. He goes laughing in the face of death, becoming a true champion.
Spike: A hundred plus years, and there's only one thing I've ever been sure of - you. Hey, look at me. I'm not asking you for anything. When I say I love you, it's not because I want you, or because I can't have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are. What you do. How you try. I've seen your kindness and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you, and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You are a hell of a woman. You're the one, Buffy.
Now that's true love, or unconditional love, or sometimes true love, which doesn't really work out because the time isn't right. You know, some love stories end happily, some not so much. But the thing is, I love they way they are written. It's not that original, true, but it's very grown-up, mature, well thought out.
I love how every single thing has an in-depth explanation, how carefully every single action is filmed and how all the seasons are sort of related and tied together. It's what I feel when I read Harry Potter, like the entire plot was planned first and then divided into seven parts. Which is crazy, because, of course they didn't plan the tv series beforehand! But must be some show if it makes you think that...
More than anything, this is one of those shows that knows it has to become super-intense and dramatic at times, but makes up for all the cliches by laughing at itself the next moment. You may think that the dialogues are cheesy, you're just not in on the joke.
Angel: I saw you before you became the Slayer.
Angel: I watched you, and I saw you called. It was a bright afternoon out in front of your school. You walked down the steps... and... and I loved you.
Angel: 'Cause I could see your heart. You held it before you for everyone to see. And I worried that it would be bruised or torn. And more than anything in my life I wanted to keep it safe... to warm it with my own.
Buffy: That's beautiful. Or, taken literally, incredibly gross.
Angel: I was just thinking that, too.
Friday, February 10, 2012
'Come outside then,' she said. 'I'll give you lesson one. It's the only lesson there is. It don't need writing down in no book with eyes on.'
She led the way to the well in her back garden, looked around on the ground and picked up a stick.
'Magic wand,' she said. 'See?' A green flame leaped out of it, making Tiffany jump. 'Now you try.'
It didn't work for Tiffany, no matter how much she shook it.
'Of course not,' said Granny. 'It's a stick. Now, maybe I made a flame come out of it, or maybe I made you think it did. That don't matter. It was me is what I'm sayin', not the stick. Get your mind right and you can make a stick your wand and the sky your hat and a puddle your magic... your magic... er, what're them fancy cups called?'
'Er . . . goblet,' said Tiffany.
'Right. Magic goblet. Things aren't important. People are.' Granny Weatherwax looked sidelong at Tiffany.
If it were only the plot that mattered; I would have chosen the Harry Potter series over the Tiffany Aching books a thousand times. The theme of the books and the detail and insight that Pratchett provides in everything that he writes makes his books much deeper and more commendable than the Harry Potter series. The Harry Potter books may be more accessible to the general public, and easier to relate to or to understand than the Discworld series. First: You don't face that problem with the Tiffany Aching novels. Second: If you could get through seven enormous volumes, you do definitely like to read enough to give one of these a try. More importantly, do note that reading the Tiffany Aching series makes for an amazing experience!
P. S. - If you compare the Harry Potter wizards with the Discworld wizards, the Harry Potter ones seem so much cooler. Then again, when it comes to magic schools, you would be crazy to think that Hogwarts could beat the Unseen University!
Thursday, February 9, 2012
We had gone to visit my aunt tonight, and we were in the car on the way back. We were chatting about my sister's wedding, which happened last week and is the reason I have been so busy lately. I thought about writing an entire post about the awesomeness that the big event basically was; but I scrapped that idea, what with this essentially being a Book Blog and all. The wedding was preceded by weeks of shopping and other dull activities like that, though I did soon learn to enjoy them. And I happened to socialize quite a lot during the actual ceremony, which was fun too. Plus, of course, I am so very happy for my sister!
Getting back to the point, we were crossing this bridge and I noticed the huge moon. It was a particularly, notably huge moon. Only, it was not quite a half moon, but not really round at the same time. It was this "gibbous" moon which instantly reminded me of (from Terry Pratchett's Discworld) Tiffany Aching."Tiffany knew it was gibbous because she'd read in the Almanack that gibbous meant what the moon looked like when it was just a bit fatter than half full, and so she made a point of paying attention to it around those times just so that she could say to herself: "Ah, I see the moon's very gibbous tonight...."
It's possible that this tells you more about Tiffany than she would want you to know."
If it were just a couple of years ago, I would have, observing the moon awhile, thought of (from J. K. Rowling's Wizarding World) Bane or another centaur repeatedly and monotonously stating "the moon looks unusually bright tonight" or something of the sort. Definitely not gibbous.
You see what I am getting at? This is not another Harry Potter vs. some other fantasy series post. Fine, it may be. But it's also an appreciation post... appreciation of fantasy fiction in general, how hugely books affect my thinking, and of course, the great Terry Pratchett for creating the fantastic Discworld.
Harry Potter was a great introduction to fantasy fiction for me - no, I hadn't read Lewis or Tolkein before Rowling. I have always thought of it as the ultimate book because of all the memories I have attached to it. It basically defined the better part of my childhood. Being a complete novice when it came to fantasy fiction, I was utterly fascinated by every single thing I read.
My love for Discworld, on the other hand, has much more to do with the actual book than how much fun I had reading it. It is a work of pure genius. There are puns and word-plays I had to read twice (initially) to work out, every sentence makes you laugh, every line makes you wonder about the symbolism and double meaning. What, on the outside, seems like a completely new, original world is full of subtle parodies of and references to the real world wherever you care to look for them - that's great writing. You cannot compare a novel written for adults and children alike to a book you'd have to be a very intelligent and well-informed child to completely understand and enjoy. (The latter is Discworld, by the way.) You cannot compare J. K. Rowling to Terry Pratchett. Consider this: Pratchett had already published twenty Discworld books before the first part of the Harry Potter series was written.
You can, however, compare two young adult fantasy series, both written by British authors, both published around the same time. The Tiffany Aching sub-series of the Discworld is a lot like the story of the Boy Who Lived. Tiffany is barely nine years old when she discovers that she is a witch, just like her grandmother who happens, also, to be a very powerful witch. Her grandmother isn't alive any more though, and Tiffany has to learn to use her magic powers and save her brother from an evil Queen of the Elves all by herself. When she defeats the Queen, Tiffany earns herself a teacher and a lot of respect. Throughout the series, Tiffany grows up a great deal, and it is rather wonderful to read about it than have me give a not-good-enough summary.
Like the rest of the Discworld series, it's a series of four amusing books; but quite unlike the rest, it's also touching. I know people who love the Harry Potter series but don't quite get the Discworld. (Well, it's pretty difficult not to get this one.) The Tiffany Aching series has less satire and more action, drama, whatever. The plot is much more significant here than in the usual Discworld book and the writing is much more young-adult-ish; easier to get into. And I found it better than/as good as Harry Potter for all the reasons that makes Discworld a more evolved story; the experienced writer and the intended audience being the more important of those. Tiffany Aching tells us that witchcraft is as much about helping people and doing all the things no one else will do as brewing potions and reciting spells. It is, on the one hand, the coming-of-age story of a lonely little girl who grows up to find her charming knight and on the other, an amusing adventure of the girl who dances with Winter.
Also - Tiffany is a very lovable character.
Tiffany thought a lot about words, in the long hours of churning butter. 'Onomatopoeic', she'd discovered in the dictionary, meant words that sounded like the noise of the thing they were describing, like 'cuckoo'. But she thought there should be a word meaning 'a word that sounds like the noise a thing would make if that thing made a noise even though, actually, it doesn't, but would if it did'.
Glint, for example. If light made a noise as it reflected off a distant window, it'd go 'glint!' And the light of tinsel, all those little glints chiming together, would make a noise like 'glitter glitter'. 'Gleam' was a clean, smooth noise from a surface that intended to shine all day. And 'glisten' was the soft, almost greasy sound of something rich and oily.
If you're as great a Harry Potter fan as I am, do make it a point to read the Tiffany Aching series! And while you're at it; don't miss the footnotes - they are some of the best parts of the books!
P. S. - The Nac Mac Feegle could beat every Wizarding World creature.
- The Gold Bug, a short story by E. A. Poe
- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
- The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
- The Prince's Tale is SO overrated
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Love
- Why I love the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Prat...
- Why I love the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Prat...
- ▼ February (7)
- ► 2011 (171)