and so it begins

I just started reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It’s been about two weeks, and I’ve just finished Part One. I honestly don’t know what the whole story’s about (that’s my preferred way to read classics – or any book, really – I never really extensively research about the storyline, themes, characters, etc beforehand) so I’m just talking about Part One here.  Continue reading


Jane Eyre

Alright, I’m going to attempt to write about this book without making it sound too much like some grade 10 English assignment deconstructing a classic novel. Please be warned that this post does contain spoilers. Please also be warned that you quite possibly won’t enjoy reading this post if you haven’t read Jane Eyre.

Also, these are mostly just my random thoughts on the book. I’m not going to make a recommendation to read or not read it because I feel like Jane Eyre is one of those books that you kind of instinctively know you’re going to like/dislike, even without knowing a lot about the story, etc. But, then again, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if it wasn’t presented to me, so who knows…

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beautifully tragic

One or two weeks ago, I got a song stuck in my head. Well, not so much a song, but a fragment of it; and when I say “fragment”, I mean the tiniest fragment. All I knew was that fragment – a sort of “mmm-Mm” humming sound, which I couldn’t even Google, as I would for other song lyrics – and that it was by Rudimental, as I remembered hearing it at their concert.

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out of the fog

Over the week-end I finished reading Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This is a novel that I’ve wanted to read since I can’t remember when, but it’s always just been on the TBR list somewhere, and not at the top. However, when it was recommended (and lent) to me by a friend from work who has a particular interest in psychiatry, I pretty much ignored my reading plan for the remainder of the year and bumped it up to the top of the queue.

And when she told me there were a few drug references and the like, I was even more eager to read it. I’m a bit of a pharmacy nerd like that – I like novels/movies with factually correct drug references. Plus, I reckon psychiatry is an interesting field – and this is about psychiatry in the 1960s! (Despite forgetting the majority of what I learnt in high school History, I still have some interest in the subject in general. Gotta learn from the past and all that, right?)

I’m guessing most people are familiar with the story – quite a few people who have seen me carrying the book around have commented about having also read it, or having watched the film – so I won’t summarise it here (I realise that I hardly ever do that, anyway, even if the book I’m writing about is a bit more obscure).

From the very first chapter, I knew this wasn’t like anything I’d ever read before. I feel like I say that about every second book I read, so maybe that’s a good indication of the broad variety of books I’m reading…? Maybe I should try to read more books that are similar to the ones I like…?

Cuckoo’s Nest is narrated from the perspective of one of the patients, “Chief Bromden”, and sometimes it takes a while to realise whether he’s describing something that’s actually happening, or if it’s just in his head. For example, near the start somewhere, Bromden talks about this fog machine that the hospital ward uses to, well, make a fog that blocks out his vision, etc. At first, I thought this was “real”, but I soon realised that it wasn’t really real… And same goes for the noises he hears in the wall – all the things that make him paranoid. Or maybe it was all real!? Either way, I thought it was all really fascinating.

Something else that made Cuckoo’s Nest a bit different was the inclusion of sketches of various characters. It makes for a nice change. But I was a little bit disappointed that they were fewer and further between, the further in to the book you got. But it must’ve been alright because I didn’t really notice the lack of sketches in the later parts, and pretty much only realised after finishing the book.

There were some really good quotes and insightful life lessons/observations throughout the novel, and I would include some here, but I’ve returned the book already. You should probably just go read it for yourself. One that I can kind of remember (because I was re-reading it a bit on my way to return it) goes something along the lines of “It’s the truth, even if it didn’t happen”.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s not something that everyone would enjoy reading, but it’s certainly a worthwhile read if you have even just a vague interest in psychiatry and the minds of others. It’s truly, truly fascinating. Almost makes me question my own thoughts, perceptions and reactions.

story of my life

I don’t usually do those “personality quizzes” that people keep sharing on Facebook because I generally consider them to be a waste of time – not just because they’re probably not incredibly accurate, but also because I usually have other things to do (like browse blogs…)

But when a link appeared on my news feed, asking which classic novel best describes my life, I could hardly resist. Well, I probably could have but, you know, curiosity and all that… And, despite my slow reading progress (I still can’t believe I haven’t finished reading any of my books in so many months), I actually really like to read.

(This might not make sense to a lot of people, but today I randomly had a thought that I could heat-seal and irradiate a novel so that I could read inside the clean rooms at work (not that I go in that often). And then I started to realise all the reasons why it wouldn’t work out – reasons like it’d take a long time to finish the book if I could only read inside the suite – not reasons like it’s an altogether odd idea.)

So, anyway, I took this quiz, on a whim, hoping that my answers would actually point toward a novel that I’ve never read before, hence giving me a fabulous book recommendation in addition to the eleven-question analysis of my life. But I actually got ‘Lord of the Rings’ as my final result, which means my life has something to do with adventure and triumph and blah, blah, blah… I didn’t pay much attention to the description/justification thing at the end. Definitely not because I don’t like LOTR, but because I’ve read the books (and watched the movies!) and I don’t think that my life is anywhere near as epic as they are.

I’m so glad that I bought the trilogy (with matching covers!) at the Lifeline Bookfest earlier this year, though. This is just an added reason to re-read it. I first read LOTR when I was still in school, so I’ve forgotten a lot of what happens. I do, however, remember how awe-inspiring the series was, and just thinking about it makes me so eager to start reading it again.

But I should probably finish my current in-progress books first… And then there’s a novel borrowed from a friend that I should probably read and return before starting something like LOTR… There’s just too many books to read, and not enough time for reading! It’s one of the many frustrations of life…

Out of interest, and because the whole quiz was only eleven questions long, I also did the quiz again with answers that were the complete opposite of my original answers, or at least as far from the truth as possible. Interestingly, I got ‘The Great Gatsby’ as the final result when I did it that way. I’ve never read it before, and people I know who have read it seem to have mixed opinions of the novel, but I actually do want to read it now – if only to juxtapose it with my own life. It is kind of low on the priority list, though, so, who knows, I might never actually get around to it…

rewriting the classics

The other day, I was skimming over the book reviews in the newspaper (yes, I’m probably one of the few people of my generation who still read newspapers in this technological age), and noticed that one of the books being reviewed was titled “Sense and Sensibility”. My first thought was that maybe this was some sort of special edition with new introduction and notes and stuff in honour of some sort of Austen anniversary. Fair enough. But then I looked at the author’s name, which turned out to be not Jane Austen (can’t remember the actual author’s name now – too much shock).

Two more thoughts occurred to me: This person was either doing one of those adaptations of a classic (like making the setting and characters all modern while keeping the basic skeleton of the story the same), or they were outright stealing the name of a famous novel for their own, unrelated novel.

The review started with a warning – something along the lines of “if you don’t like people re-writing classics, don’t bother reading the rest of this review or this book”. I stopped reading at the end of that sentence and turned the page.

Why would anyone want to attempt to rewrite a classic novel? They’re classics because they’re timeless and they should be read as they were originally written.

Ok, sure, the author of this new version is probably a hardcore Austen fan who probably wants to modernise the language a bit (or whatever – remember, I didn’t read the review) and make the story more accessible to current generations. That’s probably an admirable thing to try to do. But, even then, I still couldn’t stop the question playing over and over in my mind: Why would you rewrite a classic?

And then it occurred to me that people remake classics all the time. Well, they seem to nowadays. People are always remaking classic songs, giving them a new voice, a new beat, a new audience. The lyrics may be the same, or they may be mixed with other/new lyrics, but the original source is clear. Some of the songs I really like were remakes that I didn’t even know were remakes. “Summer rain” and “Boys of summer” are two examples just off the top of my head (probably just thought of those because it’s getting pretty hot around here).

I wonder if true fans of the originals approve of the remakes of those songs. It’s like how, several years ago, I heard a remake of a Savage Garden song (can’t remember which one – I think I’ve successfully blocked out that memory) and I really didn’t like it because I thought it was nowhere near as good as the SG version. And now I’m wondering, if some of the “classics” from, say, the mid ’90s to now were remade and re-released in 20-30 years’ time, would today’s fans be fans of those too?

Remaking classic movies seems to be a bit of a thing now, too, but I’m not sure that this is a good thing. I recently watched a remake of “Carrie” and found it to be a bit boring and predictable – not because I already new the story, but the whole thing just didn’t seem worthwhile. (But I bet it was original and exciting when it first came out…)

Going back to books, I just want to say that I am certainly not against those books that add zombies and random stuff into classic novels that are otherwise relatively voilence-free. I’m even ok with those parody books and people who write fan fiction and stuff like that. I can understand if people want to make a movie or TV mini-series based on classic books. But plain rewriting a classic? I can’t say that I’m entirely ok with that.